Tag Archives: Bill Haslam

Haslam and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Monday

 

The mirage of integrity and honesty that Bill Haslam’s high-priced handlers have built around him drew major blows Monday.

Haslams_Alexander_words

Republicans for Healthcare (GASP!)
First, a group of Republican state senators in Tennessee turned the pressure up on Haslam to expand Medicaid — or at least unveil the “expansion plan” he’s been hiding for nearly a year.

The Republican doctors and pharmacists in the Senate announced they want to do “something” for the working poor. In this case, “something” is, in fact, better than nothing.

And while their plan is hazy at best, it’s a sure sign they recognize there’s a big problem brewing on the horizon if Tennessee continues to reject more than $1 billion worth of annual healthcare funding — widespread hospital closures.

When a hospital closes, it can take a whole community down with it. Some hospitals have shut down services in rural areas.

Yet Haslam has does nothing but blame Washington for his refusal to produce a plan like more than a half dozen Republican governors have already done.

More Guilty Pleas at Haslam’s Pilot
Secondly, three more employees of Pilot Flying J, the company owned by our “trust me, I’m a businessman” governor, pleaded guilty to stealing millions of dollars from company’s customers.

Ten — 10 employees of the governor’s company! — have plead guilty to fraud for scamming Pilot customers with a jacked fuel rebate program.

This is important because Haslam ran for office on his business credentials. Only to find out his company has been cheating working people and small businesses for years.

Now Haslam has routinely said he has nothing to do with Pilot’s management. A convenient answer. And maybe so, but it’s worth noting that Haslam’s Pilot holdings are the only piece of his vast investments that were left out of his blind trust. It’s a sign he wanted to stay involved with the family business, and he’s never answered for it.

Facts Enter Education Discussion
Third, on Monday, the top-down, one-size-fits-all education policies Haslam has been pushing through the legislature met a formidable roadblock — a TREE.

As has been custom the past few years, corporate education organizations have trotted out their privatization policies at the beginning of each legislative session. Their glossy, well-funded presentations always grab headlines and typically re-affirm Republican efforts that privatize public schools, divert money from our students’ classrooms and devalue educators.

This year, however, a new group, Tennesseans Reclaiming Educational Excellence, kicked off the week with some analysis that threw cold hard facts into the discussion of reforms trumpeted by Haslam’s administration.

Several points of interest:

Elaine Weiss of the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, was TREE’s featured presenter. From TNEdReport.com:

“Weiss discussed recent Tennessee education policy in the context of the drivers of educational inequality.  She pointed to research suggesting that poverty is a significant contributor to student outcomes and noted other research that suggests as much as 2/3 of student outcomes are predicted by factors outside of school.”

The beauty of TREE’s press conference was two fold — one; they took some media coverage away from corporate education groups, and, two; they empowered our reporters with facts that have largely been missing from the education debate in Tennessee. Hopefully this presser will pay dividends for the weeks to come.

Sweetheart Deal for Haslam’s Business Pals Continues to Blow Up
And last, but not least. Perhaps, Bill Haslam biggest reason for a terrible Monday: the sweetheart contract he gave his Chicago-based business partners to rearrange state office buildings, which has outsourced Tennessee jobs and millions of tax dollars, has missed his self-proclaimed projected savings by $80 million and counting.

Haslam gave his business partners, Jones, Lang, LaSalle, a real estate corporation, a $330 million non-compete contract to shuffle state offices. Under the cooked agreement, the real estate company gets paid to make recommendations and sign leases for new office space, which creates an incentive for the company to recommend moving offices and selling buildings — even if it’s not in the best interest of taxpayers.

For instance, Haslam’s business partners got paid to recommend the Tennessee Lottery move out a building in MetroCenter the company called inadequate. Then got paid again to recommend the Department of Children’s Services move into the same building.

Haslam sold the plan by saying he’d save taxpayers $100 million. Just two years later, projected savings are already $80 million short, and anyone can see why. Haslam’s administration is decommissioning office buildings owned by the state in favor of renting space, which also has added costs. If renting produced such big savings in business, why doesn’t Pilot Flying J rent its truck stops and headquarters?

From healthcare to education and business fraud to business fraud, these are questions and issues I’m sure Haslam would prefer to not talk about.

But he asked for this job. And if he’s going to waffle, claim ignorance or push destructive policies, he should have to answer for it.

Opportunity Hamstrung

Not much chance of getting out of poverty in the south

Not much chance of getting out of poverty in the south
Click to see the full map.

Friday, Knoxviews mentioned an ongoing study on the equality of opportunity in the United States.

The results shouldn’t be all that surprising if you’ve been paying attention…especially here in the south.

According to the report, economic mobility…or the chances of someone starting at the bottom 20% of income earners and ending up in the top 20% of income earners is incredibly remote…especially in the southeast US.

When ranking the top 100 largest metropolitan areas in the US…three Tennessee cities appear: Nashville is 79th, Knoxville is 87th and Memphis is dead last…again.

When you look at all the areas in the US, Tennessee has 19 “places” which include urban, suburban, and rural areas all over the state. The best place in Tennessee for upward mobility? Cookeville, TN…which ranks 471st out of 709 places listed.

So while Marsha Blackburn sees a “thriving economy” and Bill Haslam trumpets Tennessee as an “Economic Miracle”, the reality for people who grow up in less fortunate situations is, they aren’t experiencing the prosperity they’re talking about.

The lack of opportunity in these areas is due to systemic problems that include: racial and economic segregation, income inequality, educational system, the strength of social institutions, and family structure.

Its interesting that the areas that are most adversely impacted are also areas that actively seek to attract low wage/low skill jobs. The problem with focusing on these low skill/low wage jobs is, there’s also less opportunity for more highly skilled individuals to find the jobs they’re looking for…which often leads to them moving from the area.

Their departure ultimately serves as a drag on the ability of folks who are trying to work their way up because the intellectual capital of the community has been diminished.

Its been a quandary for urban and rural areas alike for decades…especially those that once relied on the steady stream of high paying low skilled jobs that were a staple in the 1960’s and 70’s.

But jobs alone aren’t the primary factor in fostering this opportunity gap, its wages. Wages have dropped 12% for low income earners. Efforts to increase wages for these individuals have been hampered by conservative politicians who think CEO’s deserve a 762% increase in pay while the folks on the line only get 5.7%. After all…they built it, right?

So while the tippy-top of the income spectrum enjoyed nearly 95% of the economic growth since the dawn of the economic downturn, the rest of us have been left to fight for the 5% or so that remains.

An ABC/Washington Post poll released in December showed that 64% of Americans believe current economic policy favors the wealthy. That same poll showed 66% of Americans favor raising the minimum wage.

Since the 1980’s we’ve been told that prosperity would trickle down if we worked hard enough…yet even large low wage companies are being forced to admit that working for them won’t pay the bills. Its bad enough that even folks who try to better their circumstances are met with more hurdles than they can overcome.

Clearly, the preferred economic policies that we’ve been pushing for the past several decades have failed us. Unfortunately, those policies haven’t really changed in the past several years…and even if they had, we wouldn’t have felt the impact of those changes yet.

It takes a long time to turn a $15,700,000,000,000 economy around.

But we have to start sometime.

As the President prepares for the State of the Union on Tuesday, I hope he focuses on the real issues that have helped bring the debate about income inequality into the mainstream.

This isn’t about putting one group over another. This isn’t a war on the rich. Its about adjusting policy so people can realize the American Dream in a new world.

I hope that’s something we can all get behind.

Strolling And Rolling

As you know, we are getting back into the swing of things over here. Bear with us as we dust ourselves off.

This Picture Is Unrelated To Anything In This Post. I just like it.

Let’s take a stroll, shall we:

Katie Allison Granju, who just got honors as a best blogger at Knoxville.com, writes of an epidemic. One that you may not know anything about unless you are living through it in your family. And it’s not getting much media attention.

The primary reason I had no idea of the extent of the overdose problem in my own community is because of the way drug overdoses are treated by medical, law enforcement and prosecuting authorities. For a variety of reasons – many of which might seem to make sense considered in isolation from the others, or outside the context of a problem this urgent – the agencies that deal with drug overdoses – paramedics, law enforcement, physicians and medical examiners – generally treat each individual overdose as a discrete, isolated occurrence. In our community, virtually all overdose injuries and deaths are treated as unfortunate accidents suffered by individuals who bear all responsibility for illegal behaviors they should have known to be risky.

Because overdoses in my community and from what I am learning, many others around the country, are generally treated as private medical events suffered by individuals rather than as potential crimes that have claimed the life of a victim, these deaths rarely garner any media coverage, no matter how suspect the circumstances of the overdose may be.

Chris Sanders is writing on his Facebook account on candidates to watch who support anti-bullying all across the state. It’s a good read and it’s more than just wearing a purple shirt today in honor of LGBT rights.

There are helpful candidates in every part of Tennessee and they come from both parties.  If we live in a state where we have a law that these issues CAN NOT be discussed at all, then we have a major obstacle to addressing the specific types of bullying occurring in grades K-8.

These are my recommendations and not those of any organization, but I hope some of you will consider them.  Working to elect these folks involves voting, volunteering for, and funding them.  Let’s do what we can to make sure we don’t have any legal hurdles to moving toward safe schools in TN.  And then let’s take positive steps toward safety and equality for all our students.

Southern Beale is writing that there is an effort to suppress the Latino vote:

I guess the Republican Party has conceded the Hispanic vote, judging by this ad telling Latinos not to vote. The ad is running in Spanish and English.

Seems the guy behind this “don’t vote” campaign is linked to the Republican Party and his organization was once connected to a prominent Swift Boater.

I know, y’all are shocked.

And for a few quick morning hits of stuff we might have missed.

Morning Coffee – You Put Your Left Foot In Edition

That IS what it's all about

During our long break, I’ve had some time to think about what’s going on with all the dissatisfaction from voters out there.

For over a year we’ve been hearing about the Tea Party and whatnot, as if that’s the only political movement that’s energized in the nation. Certainly there’s some evidence out there that shows conservatives are energized this year. That’s not particularly unexpected. When one party takes the White House, the other party typically gets fired up to wrest control. 2002 was a notable exception, primarily because of 9/11, but by and large, the rule holds true.

But is all this supposed energy really widespread support, or a refutation of the status quo articulated through voter outrage? That’s a question that likely won’t really be answered until November.

Chris Clizza at the Washington Post reported last week that voters don’t really like either party. From my perspective, both parties, particularly in the federal government, have become agents of the status quo, which, by the way, hasn’t been too kind to average folks, rather than advocates for their constituents. It’s no wonder people feel disillusioned.

In this environment, the reality is that people want reform more than they want “same” regardless of what the much more vocal opponents of reform would have you believe.

A recent AP poll on healthcare bears this fact out. By a 2-1 margin more Americans think the landmark healthcare reform should have gone further. While this particular issue may not resonate with Tennessee voters, chances are we can apply the same kind of benchmarks for voter dissatisfaction with “same” here as nationally.

There are other issues feeding into this feeling of a need for reform. Unemployment is SUPER HIGH and not likely to decrease that much for several years. This means that people are suffering far more than they were even in 2008. The fact is, income disparity is at the highest rate it’s been since the Great Depression. Furthermore, those heralded “Bush Tax Cuts” that Republicans are running on, turn out to have sucked about $2.7 TRILLION from total income in the US. For some point of reference, $2.7 trillion is about 21% of the total federal debt and about half the debt that the Bush administration ran up in it’s eight years in office.

So what do voters REALLY want? In 2008, Obama ran on “Hope” and “Change”, but neither of these things are necessarily what voters were really asking for…”REFORM”. However, Obama can’t be blamed for the lack of comprehensive reform on many issues, nor can he be held accountable for a recalcitrant US Senate, which is where progress goes to die it seems.

The largest burden Obama bears is that he hasn’t used his bully pulpit effectively to provide direction and reframe the debate in a way that serves his mission of “Hope” and “Change” which can manifest itself as “reform”. Until he learns this lesson and uses his political power to at least try to reframe the debate he’ll continue to see downward pressure on his job performance.

The other side of this is the people who are currently running for re-election, those congress-critters. It’s not really fair to paint all 535 of them with a broad brush as agents for “same”, but there are enough of these “same agents” out there that a whole bunch of them are going to suffer defeat.

This is not a “Pro-Republican” year, but an anti-incumbent year. People want to see clear distinctions and effective solutions, and when they don’t they disengage. In both Federal and State elections, the lack of clear contrasts between the various parties and real solutions on key issues that impact voters (jobs, economic development, education) will ultimately hurt members of the party which is perceived to hold the power. In Federal elections this means that Democrats will suffer. In State elections it SHOULD mean that Republicans, who hold majorities in both the State House and Senate will suffer. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for several reasons.

First, Democrats held solid majorities in the House and Senate until quite recently. Most Tennessee voters are relatively disengaged from state politics as they don’t dominate the media the same way national politics do. Taking that into account, I would wager that if you conducted a “convenience store poll”, which is unscientific, but I think, a good indicator of how engaged regular folks are, few would know that Republicans hold the majority in Tennessee.

Second, a Democrat has held the highest position in the land for the past 8 years in Tennessee. This further feeds the perception that Democrats have been in power even though they haven’t necessarily had control of the legislative agenda over the past two years. This isn’t Phil Bredesen’s fault. He didn’t create the national problems that are impacting us stateside, however, because people see executive power as ultimate control, it feeds the perception that Democrats are the problem.

Third, and this is something I’ve been preaching for years now, from a practical perspective, voters perceive little difference between many state Democrats and Republicans. The absence of these clear distinctions, as I’ve stated before, puts negative pressure on Democratic candidates which translates into what we saw in the August elections here in Shelby County… an energized right and an absent left.

With just 36 days to go until election day, if Democrats don’t get it together and start drawing clear distinctions between themselves and their Republican counterparts and providing solutions they’re going to suffer dire consequences that will likely result in decades of life living in the shadows of political power. This isn’t about “Hope” or “Change”, it’s about “reform”. Democrats have to re-form the way they do business with their constituents and re-connect with them to re-gain their trust, ultimately showing them they are not the agents of “same”.

Same ain’t working for anyone right now. It’s past time we recognized that and acted on it. Old habits die hard, and barring some divine intervention, so will a lot of longtime legislative careers.

I, and many other people, have been preaching this since the after 2008 state legislative losses that gave Republicans the State House and solid majorities in the State Senate, but few have actually listened. I’m not sure why I’ve gone to all the trouble to put this out there again, but here it is. Same will give you a more devastating repeat of 2008.

While many current elected officials won’t be around in 20 years to feel the effects of this election, I (God willing) will. This isn’t about running to the left, or right or anything like that. In fact, I think we need to stop quantifying things in this manner. It’s about being trusted advocates for the people rather than trustees that assume to know what’s best. It’s about educating your voters instead of trying to justify your votes. It’s about flipping the relationship between representative and constituent around from the plantation mentality scenario that currently exists between many elected officials from both parties and their constituents.

Voters don’t need their current representatives as badly as those representatives need the voters. That’s reality. If something doesn’t give, a lot of people are going to find this out the hard way come November.

Ok, I think I’ve stepped in it good enough for a Monday morning. On to the Coffee!

I can’t wait to see someone try and sneak up on the “Stealth Tax”. Since when was closing a loophole a bad thing? Since the world went mad.

Bill Haslam’s pick for President in 2008 famously said, “Bomb, bomb, bomb…bomb, bomb, Iran.” Tom Humphrey reports on Haslam’s Iran Connection and other developments in the Tennessee Gubernatorial race.

With all the racket about the Murfreesboro Mosque, it’s good to see some sanity brought into the conversation. And right here in Memphis, no less.

The City Paper in Nashville looks at the race for State House District 60.

Southern Beale on privatizing libraries, and Andy Meek on Shelby County libraries that are privatized.

Who left West Tennessee out of the electric car?

Finally, the debate over Metro Government rages on in Shelby County. In this episode, black political power is the topic of the day.

Have a great day out there. Not sure if I’ll be able to do this daily, but I promise to try and get at least a couple a week until my schedule calms down.

Morning Coffee – Quick Hit Edition

I said hit, not punch. Sheesh.

Busy morning this am. No time for strange screeds or anything like that.

School started for me yesterday, and I have more reading to do than a speed reader tackling the federal tax code. We’ll probably be experiencing some lighter than the already light schedule of blogging over the next few weeks.

Of course, last time I said that I posted a whole bunch the very next day…so I guess it just depends.

In any case, that’s the plan for now until the plan changes.

On to the Coffee!!!

McWherter recognizes illegal immigration for what it is, a supply and demand problem. As long as there’s strong demand for illegal workers, they’ll keep coming. His proposal, ratchet back demand.

#TNGOOBERS on the Mosque arson.

Its hard to drop anchor when you’re working all over for votes. Truth is, McWherter has been to Shelby Co. more than Haslam since the primary.

The Big Dog to campaign for McWherter.

What? They want to hold credit rating agencies accountable for instilling false confidence in shaky investments? Next thing ya know they’ll be demanding that FICO scores be more transparent. Hey, that’s not such a bad idea…

Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell will be sworn in today. First item on the agenda, instill trust in government. How’s about making the Mayor’s office more transparent then? That’d be a good way to instill some trust.

Memphis fights nepotism.

Memphis City Councilman Jim Strickland learns about unintended consequences.

Enjoy your day!

Morning Coffee – Sick Boy Edition

Honestly, I felt like death warmed over

It started last Thursday. I was on my way to Jonesboro, when I choked on some coffee, as I am prone to do from time to time. Actually, I can find a way to swallow just about any drink “down the wrong hole” sending me into a coughing fit that would shake your faith in the full credit of the United States.

I actually had to pull over to deal with it, as massive coughing spells and driving a crappy old van with no air conditioning don’t mix. After about 15 min. the coughing subsided, and I was certain that I had expelled all of the offending liquid. By now, I think it was about 10am.

By 4, after completing our primary set-up, I was starting to feel the effects of what I call “the lung”. This is that kind of watery feeling you have in your lungs when you breathe in. Yeah, I knew I was gonna get sick. Still, I soldiered on. Having spent some time in the early 90’s at Jonesboro hospitals, I have less than zero desire to make a return appearance. We finished the show, and drove back to Memphis. I was hacking the whole way.

The Friday I had scheduled for myself didn’t allow for illness. An early morning call, followed by an afternoon of setting up equipment that was larger than the space allowed. I didn’t have time to be sick. By 2pm I was asleep in a parking lot with the car on awaiting my next assignment. I felt horrible. Thankfully, we got it done fairly quickly and I called it a day. By now I knew that I would be spending the next 24 hours mostly on the couch.

I don’t do “sick” well, but I know pretty well how to knock it out when I need to. After procuring my “tools of the trade” which consisted of Sudafed, lots of soup, saltine crackers, various juices and Emergen-C, I retired to the couch to be pitiful for a while. Really, I needed to get over this because the next day I had crap to do, and I couldn’t afford to be sick then either.

My 1pm meeting on Saturday came all too quickly. I still felt like death warmed over, and the Sudafed and nearly 24 hours of forced sleep had my brain feeling like someone had covered it in plastic wrap and left it in the back of the freezer. I could tell I was feeling better, but I didn’t want to over-do it, lest I fall back into the sickness that had been the past 24 hours. By 4 I was done for the day and got back to sleeping. I’m not much of a sleeper, but when I don’t feel good you’d be hard pressed to get me to do anything else. I slept pretty much non-stop until Sunday morning.

By then I was sick of being sick. Like I said, I don’t do sick well, and I hate feeling like I can’t do something when I want to do it. The congestion had subsided somewhat, a box of Kleenex later, the chest pain was at a manageable level, it was time to do some work. Ellyn and Frannie were set to return from vacation in the early evening and the last thing I wanted was to be sick when they got here.

I worked my way through it, doing menial, but important chores around the house that didn’t require too much brain power or stamina. By 5pm I almost felt like my old self again. Chores nearly done, I anxiously awaited their arrival back from “Arkansas with a beach” aka Florida.

Their arrival made the transformation complete. If I felt sickly before, that feeling was replaced with the joy of having them home after over a week away. I missed them so much, I can’t tell you how happy I was to have them back.

Yesterday was our one year anniversary. What a great present to have them return. It was a long week without them, made longer by my untimely illness. I’m so happy to have them in my life, and don’t want to have to go another second without them.

I love you guys. Happy Anniversary Ellyn, here’s to many more.

Ok, how’s about some coffee…

There was a fire at the proposed site of an Islamic Center in Murphreesboro. Yeah, it was arson, big time. Tom Humphrey also with the coverage.

Tonight at 7pm there’s a candlelight vigil against intolerance sponsored by Middle Tennesseans for Religious Freedom.

Dreamday Cafe on religious intolerance.

Folks are none too happy with how the whole Making Home Affordable Program hasn’t been working. I can tell you first hand that borrowers are doing everything in their power to NOT help people.

Looks like Bill Haslam is putting his family’s billions to work. Shiver.

HFJ says he has no political future in Tennessee. Well not now, especially after that book!

The former face of the TNGOP is popping up a lot since the primary. I don’t know if this is a good or bad thing.

Coal Ash is worse for you than originally thought. I’m sure that’s comforting to no one. Has TVA fixed that yet or are they still dragging their feet?

The search for the mystical $57 million begins. I smell another tax bill.

Wendi says history will put Glen Beck in his place. History still has working sanitariums? Who knew?

Is it time for local third parties? Personally, I think the majority of the American public is stuck in binary.

Ok, off to the races. School starts this week and it’s busy as all get out anyway. have a good one!

Morning Coffee – Blank Stare Edition

I’m feeling a little blank today.

Nothing bad has happened, in fact, yesterday I got some REALLY good news about my Financial Aid for the upcoming semester. But, for whatever reason, this morning I’m just kinda blank.

It happens. Most of the time when there’s too much going on I thrive. All the activity keeps me moving like a perpetual motion machine. Sometimes it doesn’t work like that. I guess this morning is one of those cases.

So, rather than fight it, I’m just going to embrace it and get to the Coffee!

Matt Pulle at the Nashville Scene is taking a deep look at Islamophobia.

McWherter slams Haslam on leaky tanks.

With all the election controversy, the TNDP points the finger at the guy who gutted TVCA.

Speaking of elections, Election Administrator Mark Goins is blaming all the problems on human error, errors that might have been avoided if his office hadn’t pushed so hard for the gutting of TVCA.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton is downplaying his recent visit with Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Haslam.

Nike Inc. is all about the Memphis NDO and Jonathan Cole talks about some surprise opposition that cropped up during the first reading of the proposed ordinance.

The second reading is Tuesday, August 24, at 3:30, 125 N. Main in Memphis.

The Shelby County division of Community Services has launched a campaign to inform people with HIV/AIDS about area services.

Ahh, the good ole days…weren’t really all that good.

Have a great day and an even better weekend!

Morning Coffee – Problems and Solutions Edition

This is not a black and white world
To be alive
I say that the colours must swirl
And I believe
That maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The Beauty of Grey
– Live – The Beauty of Grey

We live in a world with lots of complex problems. Some are more complex than others. Yet despite the complexities, we, as a whole, seem more than willing to focus on one or two things, to prescribe a solution. And even though we know that said solution will not solve all the problems, we often bill it as such to help persuade those who also recognize there problem even though we may not all agree on what that problem is.

While reducing an argument to this lowest common denominator may be useful in the rhetoric of campaigns or persuasion, it is also somewhat intellectually dishonest. No solution is a panacea. No solution is going to make things magically better. In fact, the only way to make things better is through a lot of hard work and concerted effort, though the people who present their solutions to problems would be loathe to admit that, because we all know no one likes hard work, or concerted effort. We just want it fixed and we don’t want to have to do much to achieve this state of “fixed”.

In government, most solutions are a balance of plusses and minuses. There will be those who believe they are losing something, and those who believe they are gaining. Once the solution is implemented, the problem may not actually be solved, which creates a whole new round of “winners” and “losers”, except this time its not based on perception.

The truth is, in any solutions someone’s “giving something up”, and someone’s “gaining” something. There is no solution, in government or anything else, where everyone benefits equally. In fact, it may take many years for the “winners” to realize their reward, giving them ample time to get frustrated and chart a new course away from this reward.

We all want instant gratification which is impossible.

An honest assessment of any solution will clearly state the problem that it seeks to solve, and additional problems it may create. For whatever reason, we’re not allowed to have that level of discourse in this county on most issues. Instead, we buy into short-term solutions from long-term problems, and maintain a permanent state of disappointment when they are never “solved”, or when they create another “problem”.

Nothing is as black and white as we want it to be. Nothing can be reduced to that level if we’re honestly looking at the entirety of the problem. The key is to find peace in the grey, and be willing to make adjustments so neither side of the see-saw bottoms out shaking the whole system.

Maybe we need to learn to appreciate grey a little more. The wild swings between black and white haven’t been serving us that well.

That was too much bar room philosophy for this early in the morning. On to the coffee!

I’m sure this will be a love fest.

Should we change our name to the “I wanna be sedated” state?

I’ll take hijacking for $1000 Alex.

Free speech can have costly consequences. Goldni on how the First Amendment doesn’t protect you from being an idiot.

Have a great day!

Morning Coffee – Way Too Early Edition

The dial on the clock says 5:30, even though this isn’t going to publish until around nine, this is how the day begins just about every morning. This morning is a little different. Now that schools out for a few weeks I have more time to work, which is good for my bank account, but not good for plenty of other things.

So since I’ve been a little out of the loop for the past few days, I want to take this opportunity to riff on something that’s near and dear to my heart, going to college.

Way back in fall of 1990 I started college for the first time. Even though my parents weren’t able to contribute much financially, I qualified for several scholarships that made it possible to go to school. One scholarship was based on my ACT score, and basically paid for my tuition, which at the time was just $700 a semester. The other was a scholarship that I received from the Music department. I was a music major at the time and they recruited me pretty hard. Finally, I was also eligible for some Pell grants and other financial aid.

At the time, I was like most entering Freshmen, young and stupid, away from home for the first time. I over-scheduled myself and basically did everything wrong imaginable. Still, my GPA wasn’t that bad even though my attendance in class was spotty at best. Sometime in the Spring of 1992, then President George H. W. Bush pushed for tightening the requirements on Pell Grants. Suddenly, that money was gone in Fall of 1992, and between that and several other circumstances, I dropped out.

Flash forward to almost exactly a year ago today. Nearly 18 years after I left school I made the decision to go back. There are a lot of reasons for the decision, but mostly, I realized that while I liked my job, I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing. I was merely going through the motions. I was unhappy, and I wanted a change. I spent August through December winding down my business, and in January I took a part time job and enrolled in 9 hours at University of Memphis.

There were some things I wasn’t prepared for, but the biggest thing was the cost. At $300/credit hour, taking one class now costs more than a full time load at ASU in 1990. I thought maybe, eventually, I would qualify for some Financial Aid, but as of right now, that’s not happening. The best I can hope for is to loan my way through this school year, and hope my income is high enough to survive, but low enough to eventually qualify for something.

My GPA is hovering around 3.25 (transfer and current), and my income has been cut in less than half. When school starts in a couple of weeks, I will have paid nearly $8000 in tuition this year. But even though I’ve appealed my FAFSA score, its looking like loans are the only option, for at least another year. This is discouraging to me.

On Sunday, Sen. Jim Kyle wrote an op-ed in the Knoxville News that talked about the lottery scholarship. I had hoped that after my appeal I would qualify, but now three weeks after the appeal process, it looks like that isn’t going to happen. Based on the criteria on the TN Lottery Scholarship site I should qualify based on my income appeal. Maybe there’s something I’m missing. This whole financial aid thing is highly confusing to me.

Last summer, when Sen. Kyle announced his candidacy for Governor, he talked about making lottery scholarship money more available to people like me, who are less that 60 hours away from a degree, to finish school. Like the Op-Ed, he noted at the announcement speech that the fastest way to increase the number of people with bachelor’s degrees was to get people who have started back into school. He also noted that increasing the overall education level of the state was one way to attract more economic development, better higher paying jobs, to the state. His speech was part of my inspiration for going back.

I’m not giving up, but I am discouraged. I knew this would be hard when I started it, but I had no idea it would be financially crippling. If Tennessee is serious about increasing the percentage of people with college degrees, our legislators have to stop looking at the lottery scholarship fund as a means to whatever short term end they have at the moment, and make those scholarships available to more people like myself, who are trying to finish school, but have limited earning potential due to the time commitment of school.

I don’t think anyone realizes just how much of an investment, in time and money, it is for a nearly 40-something to go back and do this. It’s been hard, but also rewarding. The key is to not make it so hard, so financially crippling, that people can’t make the decision to go back and finish. Based on my experience so far, that is the case.

Hopefully in the next session they’ll make it easier…if not for me, at least for the next guy or gal that decides to take the plunge.

Ok, on to the Coffee…

Mike McWherter was in Memphis yesterday and talking about expanding pre-k programs in the state as well as business poaching that Mississippi seems to be so god at.

Haslam’s still running away from his GOP nomination. I wonder why he didn’t include Don Sundquist in that list?

Both of my parents are on Social Security, and they’ll come down on these people like a ton of bricks if they don’t shut the hell up.

Joe Powell with part 2 of his indentured servitude series.

And finally, someone please go pull a petition against this guy. No, not you Richard Fields.

Have a great day, see ya on the flip!

Morning Coffee – Faith in the Process Edition

There are a lot of things in this world that require people to have faith. Much of our financial system is grounded on the “full faith and trust” that debts will be repaid. In fact, were it not for this trust, our money would just be nicely decorated bits of paper.

In our spiritual lives, the faith in a loving God gives people of many traditions the hope of better things to come.

In politics, there are many levels of faith from many different positions, but perhaps the most fundamental is that our elections will be carried out in such a way that there are few, if any questions about the outcome.

Certainly, every election has problems. The fact is, we’re human, even though some seem loath of acknowledge that, and humans make mistakes more often than not. But mistakes alone don’t shake one’s faith in elections. There are many other contributing factors that ultimately lead to a shaken faith in the system that go far beyond mistakes.

That seems to be where we are now in the ongoing saga of the Shelby County August 2010 elections. As Jackson Baker reported over the weekend, when you add mistakes to a lack of transparency and openness, along with a dash of what appears to be stalling tactics, people lose faith in the process.

As Jackson notes in his article, the Election Commission tweeted on Saturday morning the phrase:

Our silence is us protecting your votes & voting rights while following strong advice from attorneys.

On the face of it, that may seem all well and good, but silence ≠ protection. More often than not, silence = hiding something. Adding that silence to the mistakes, lack of transparency, and stalling tactics, and you’ve got a recipe for ongoing questions, which runs counter to anything requiring faith.

Hopefully things will be different this week. Hopefully, the system, and the people charged with administering the system will be able to withstand scrutiny and faith in our system will be restored. But based on early reports, that’s not likely to happen, leaving faith in our system of elections in limbo or worse.

The hard thing about faith is that once its gone, its difficult to restore. Regardless of your political affiliations, we should all want to have faith in our election system. In order for that faith to either be restored or maintained, some unnecessary barriers must be removed. Hopefully that will happen soon, so those of us with questions will have answers.

At the end of the day, if you have nothing to hide then you have no reason to try an hide anything. The system probably can hold up to scrutiny on its own, if the people in charge will let it.

On to the Coffee…

Haslam runs to the left in a new ad. One of his great governors says he’s overstating the challenges the state faces. And look, here’s another conflict of interest for the Knoxville Mayor.

Republicans are thinking sweep, but can they do it without the 11th Commandment?

Kyle v. Campfield

Looking at the challenges facing rural west Tennessee.

Joe Powell looks at a TDOT contractor’s employment practices.

Wendi goes for TEA.

Alright, that’s all for now. More later as time permits.