Friday, June 03, 2005

From the Nashville Alt-Weekly

I rather like Nashville's Roger Abramson, who writes for the Nashville Scene. You can sorta think of him as their Jackson Baker, but without the pronounced leftward tilt. In his latest Political Notes column, he offers his "Waltzies," for the Tennessee Waltz scandal. Since the above link will change in a few days, I'll cut'n'paste the relevant bits here.
The Delicious Political Irony Award goes not to a person, but to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Evans v. United States, which allows authorities to apply the federal "Hobbs Act" to incidents of bribery by public officials, even though the original intent of the legislation was to crack down on big-time federal racketeering and extortion (labor unions, mobs, etc.). We're going out on a limb here, suspecting that Democrats John Ford, Kathryn Bowers, Roscoe Dixon and Ward Crutchfield aren't big fans of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his preference for the strict construction of statutory law. But, ironically, it was Thomas, joined by fellow conservatives Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who dissented in Evans based upon that jurisprudential philosophy, arguing that the majority of the court was stretching the meaning of the Hobbs Act well beyond its original intent. If just two more justices had joined with them, the federal government couldn't have prosecuted this case. (State officials could have, but the question is, would they have?)
Had we had a conservative Supreme Court, John Ford would even now be facing a mere Tennessee State Senate Ethics Committee hearing. Would they vote to expel him? Not likely. But Ford would likely have retired over the summer anyway.
The Most Insightful Observation to Come Out of Memphis Award goes to the anonymous individual who posted the following on a Memphis television station's website: "Although I've been in Memphis only three years, I've watched and listened to all the commentary about local politics. Most of it has both disgusted and saddened me. Almost every comment, editorial and interview I've seen vilifies the Fords for their corruption, yet they and others like them are still elected. Memphians truly deserve what they've gotten. Let's face it folks: until we stand up, shut up and do something about it, its not going to change." Amen to that—a refreshing departure from the ludicrous they-were-busted-because-they-were-black excuses coming from other quarters, including one of the defendants themselves.
I am also baffled by our ability to be our own worst enemy.

I'll present here an idea I've held for many years. Black America was brutalised and violated for centuries in America through slavery, Jim Crow and racism. But since the Sixties, black Americans have had unprecedented freedom and access; not perfect, admittedly, but far, far better than at any other time in our nation's history. So, if a person came out of a household where they had been beaten, deprived and brutalised for most of their life, would we just send them out into the world with "It's all over now. Be free!" Of course not. There would be years of counseling and therapy to help them. So, where's the counseling and therapy for black America, coming out from under slavery and Jim Crow? Don't say welfare and affirmative action, as that's just money and open doors. It doesn't address the underlying psychological damage. Again, where's the counseling and therapy for black America's consciousness?

There's something, and I have no idea what it is, that's not happening for blacks that needs to happen. Until that social pathology is treated, black America will always underperform taken as a group. Not individuals, but the whole. The next question is, what to do and how to do it?
The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time Award goes to the following six poor saps who joined as sponsors of the legislation that became the McGuffin for the entire operation: Sen. Jeff Miller (R-Cleveland), and Reps. Ulysses Jones (D-Memphis), Charles Sargent (R-Franklin), Larry Miller (D-Memphis), Paul Stanley (R-Memphis) and Joe Armstrong (D-Knoxville). It appears that none of these people did anything wrong and that their names were on the bill for the usual innocent reasons. (They supported the general concept, they did it as a favor for the main sponsor, they wanted to have their name on something that would pass, etc.) In fact, the inclusion of these folks actually helped the investigation, given that they added to the verisimilitude of the sham bill. Regardless, the principle of guilt by association ensures they will be forever linked with legislation that brought down four of their colleagues, making it easy for campaign opponents to put them on the defensive whenever they please. Our recommendation to these guys: request an official statement from the feds affirming that you were neither suspects nor "persons of interest" in the investigation.
What Abramson misses is that at least Jones and Miller (both from Memphis, sigh....) have said that they were approached by E-Cycle and offered bribes. They declined the bribes but still sponsored the bill! What?! It speaks to the culture of Legislative Plaza in Nashville that bribes are seen so casually. Are they really that prevalent that it's not an immediate deal-breaker when some lobbyist tries to bribe you?

I'm not sad that Tennessee Waltz happened. It didn't come soon enough and doesn't yet appear to have affected enough people. More investigations, please. Lots more. Clean house and let us start over. If we can. (See previous award above....)
The Thanks Ever So Much for Your Half-Baked Holier Than Thou Conventional Wisdom Award goes to every political pundit, newspaper editorial writer (not this newspaper, it should be noted) and every other self-appointed deep thinker out there who told us all at the start of session just how wonderful Lt. Gov. John Wilder was and just how perfectly awful those nasty Senate Republicans were for wanting to replace that not-so-grand old man with GOP Sen. Ron Ramsey. Never mind that Ramsey was a perfectly logical choice given that he was the leader of the senate's majority party and given that he was not a meandering octogenarian with a penchant for saying head-poundingly ridiculous things. Thanks to you folks, we all had the privilege of watching Tennessee's most embarrassing state senator (now that you-know-who has resigned) make a perfect fool of himself by implying that the arrestees were victims of a federal entrapment scheme and offering the following observation: "public sentiment is not constructive, it's destructive." That's right, according to John Wilder, public sentiment is destructive to our representative democracy.
You can thank Republican Senators Mike Williams (Maynardsville) and Tim Burchett (Knoxville) for that sorry state of affairs. I hope that their local GOP will find someone, anyone, a plank of wood even, to run against them in the primary. Remind voters what they did and what it brought on. Get them the hell out of office.

Wilder made his career through an intricate series of personal debts. He gave Republicans the illusion of participation in leadership so he could have their votes on the important stuff. Idiot Republicans fell for it, as any whipped dog will curry the least pat on the head. Ron Ramsey seems to be the new breed of Republican leadership Tennessee needs. Give him the people to support him. (And thank heaven Curtis Person of Memphis saw the light before he, too, fell for this game.)

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