Friday, August 1, 2014

The Daily Links: Relatability, the Sale of Sex, and the Children of Gaza

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From Al Jazeera America: Gaza’s kids affected psychologically, physically by lifetime of violence

From The Nation: Should Buying Sex Be Illegal? The so-called “Swedish model” banning the purchase but not the sale of sex is catching on in Europe. But does it work? And for whom?

From The New Yorker: The Scourge of 'Relatability'

From Wondering Sound: Is Country Radio Ready for a Song about Date Rape?

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An Update on Political Donors of Ill-Repute

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 2:36 PM

To go along with our election guide this week, I looked into the political spending of payday lenders.

It turns out they spend quite a bit, and with pre-primary financial disclosures starting to go online, we have some more figures on their most recent contributions to democracy.

Take Advance PAC, the political action committee of homegrown Advance Financial, which has 56 locations around Tennessee and more than a dozen in Nashville. They handed out $31,000 in June and new disclosures show they contributed another $22,000 to candidates and PACs in July. The new round of generosity includes $5,000 to RAAMPAC — the committee that was founded by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and is currently bankrolling the effort to oust three Tennessee Supreme Court justices — and $2,500 to House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick's McCormick PAC.

Since we're on the subject of political contributions from companies that make money from bad things, the latest filings show some new spending from Corrections Corporation of America too. In recent weeks, the private, for-profit, prison giant gave $10,000 to RAAMPAC, $2,500 to McCormick, $1,000 to Republican state Rep. Charles Sargent, and $500 to Republican state Rep. Terri Lynn Weaver (sponsor of last year's first-in-the-nation bill allowing women to be criminally charged and possibly sent to prison for drug use during pregnancy.)

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Nearly $164,000 Flows into District 8 School Board Race

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Of the nearly $348,000 raised in this year’s four school board races, nearly half of those dollars are flowing into campaigns for two women looking to running for election in the Hillsboro cluster.

Mary Pierce and Becky Sharpe, two former PTO presidents fighting a neck-and-neck battle to win the school board seat, have collectively raised just short of $164,000 since April.

Pierce leads the duo having raised just shy of $100,000 in that time, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Davidson County election Commission. Sharpe has raised just under $64,000.

Campaign disclosures capturing spending and fundraising activities from July 1 to July 28 show Pierce has also outspent Sharpe. Pierce has spent close to $46,000 in the last month, while Sharpe has spent just under $29,000, both focusing most of their money on mailers and handouts.

As the races stretched through the heat of July, new money found itself into campaign war chests across all four school district races.

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#MayoralChatter: The First Billboard In The Mayor's Race Is Up

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 12:26 PM

In Jeremy Kane's mayoral announcement, there was an interesting bit of imagery as scenes of It City cascaded along: the entrance to the fairgrounds. Given the Dean debacle and subsequent affirmation of the fairgrounds/racetrack complex by the electorate, you had to expect that candidates would reach out to that audience.

Charles Robert Bone will see your 2 second video clip and raise you a billboard in turn four.

The blue and green billboard will greet racers as they turn down the stretch for the finish line (no right turns, please) and is visible from the pits and grandstand. The timing is good because it's "Back to School Family Night" this Saturday with a full set of races and all grandstand tickets are $5. Pith correspondents at the track noted that there are two spots still available if any of the other candidates would like to reach the speedway crowd. It will run you about $2,000 and there are three race weekends left after this one.

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Wait ... Diane Black Just Endorsed Jim Tracy?

Posted By on Fri, Aug 1, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Action Andy Sher has a fascinating bit of news in the Times-Free Press this morning. 6th district congresswoman Diane Black has not only come out publicly for Jim Tracy, she's attending a fundraiser for the state senator trying to unseat 4th district congressman Scott Desjarlais

Both Black's and Tracy's offices Thursday confirmed Black will attend an Aug. 5 fundraiser for Tracy in Sumner County, which is in Black's 6th District.

"Congressman Black and Senator Tracy have been friends since they served together in the General Assembly," Black spokesman Tom Flanagin said via email Thursday. "He asked her to be his special guest at a fundraiser and she agreed."

Asked if that meant Black is supporting Tracy in the Aug. 7 primary, Flanagin replied, "Yes."

Tracy said in his own statement that "Diane and I came in to the Tennessee State Senate together as part of the group that flipped the Senate to a Republican Majority."

This type of Representative-on-Representative violence is rarely seen. It's no surprise that Black wants Desjarlais, generally considered an embarrassment to the GOP no matter his conservative voting record, out of Congress. But to endorse his rival, who she beat four years ago in a very messy primary, is pretty surprising.

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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Daily Links: Jon Bon Jovi, Guardians of the Galaxy, and the Gambler's Fallacy

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From New York: The Strange Year of the Posthumous Performance

From the BBC: Goalkeepers 'gambler's fallacy' impacts penalty shoot-outs

From the Village Voice: A Note to the Guardians of the Galaxy Fans Who Are Calling Our Critic a "Harlot"

From New York: Jon Bon Jovi Is the Most Hated Man in Buffalo

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Humphrey To Leave The Hill — Who Will Succeed Him?

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 3:36 PM

  • Knoxville News-Sentinel
A couple of decades ago, Tom Humphrey walked into my college classroom and started talking about wars.

There were wars on the Hill — the political landscape of the Tennessee Legislature that Humphrey covered during the day for the Knoxville News-Sentinel — between the people who ran it, and the people who covered it. Tough but fair, Humphrey earned the respect of many of those legislators even when he was asking questions they really didn't want to answer. He told us about the responsibility of journalists to question political leaders and to hold government officials accountable.

Then he started talking about the other war, the one to get the story into print. Reporters were the ones out there on the front lines, he told us. The people back in the newsroom were a different class. "Droolers" he called them, his term for editors who got in the way.

How could you not want to be a part of that?

For the last 30 years, Humphrey has been one of the most insanely productive and impactful journalists around. The Internet era seems perfect for him (even if social media isn't), as his Humphrey on the Hill blog is a constant stream of all-things-political in Tennessee.

"The institutional knowledge that Tom Humphrey has … there isn't anyone on staff with that kind of knowledge," said News-Sentinel managing editor Tom Chester, one of Tom's droolers. "In fact, if you put 10 of us together, we wouldn't have the same amount of institutional knowledge. He knows the names, he knows the numbers and he can say, 'Hey, this is the way you need to approach it.' "

Sadly, today is Humphrey's last day, as he's retiring.

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Why The Tennessean's Endorsement of Gary Odom Undermines Endorsements

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 2:20 PM

With this morning's endorsement of Rep. Gary Odom in the House District 55 Democratic primary, The Tennessean's editorial board has done a disservice to voters, further diminished its already-shrunken significance, and confused the hell out of us.

Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised. The daily would be better off replacing its opinion pages with more imported content from USA Today. They don't matter. They had a columnist who was provoking discussion and debate in pieces people read instead of reacting to it in pieces people ignored. Now he writes for us. Getting Frank Daniels to spend more time on local issues and less on Wikipedia-like 'Teachable Moments' columns is a start, though.

But so strong is our desire for this town to have a daily paper with a voice that's worth listening to that we retain the ability to be let down. And so we were this morning, when the Leading Leaders at 1100 Broadway endorsed a candidate who couldn't even be bothered to seek the endorsement, and made a weak case in doing so.

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#Lamarwatch: Internal Poll Shows Alexander Up Big Over Carr

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 9:55 AM

After an internal poll showed up in the Wall Street Journal this week showing Lamar Alexander up big over Joe Carr, we asked the campaign for the poll. They provided an updated memo last night.

To: Steve Smith, Finance Chairman, Alexander for Senate
From: Whit Ayres, President, North Star Opinion Research
Date: July 30, 2014
Re: Alexander Enjoys Comfortable Lead Over Six Opponents With Eight Days to Go

Our firm conducted a survey of 600 likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee from July 27- 29, 2014. The sample was drawn from a list of all registered voters in the state, and all respondents indicated that they are absolutely certain, very likely, or somewhat likely to vote in the Republican primary for state and federal offices on August 7, or they have already voted. Forty-two percent of the calls come from the east grand division (compared to 46 percent in 2010), 37 percent from the middle (33 percent in 2010), and 21 percent in the west (the same as 2010). Calls were conducted using live interviewers, and 30 percent of the interviews were completed on cell phones. Including a substantial proportion of calls completed on cell phones is a critical step for obtaining accurate numbers in this era when so many voters, especially younger voters, no longer use land lines. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.0 percent.

Senator Alexander stands at 53 percent on the seven-way ballot. Alexander stands at 53 percent in a head-to-head ballot test, compared to 24 percent for Joe Carr, 5 percent for George Shea Flinn, 1 percent for Erin Kent McGee, and 0 percent for Frank Christian Agnew, John D. King, and Brenda Lenard, with 17 percent undecided or refused. George Flinn is both better known and better liked than Joe Carr in the western part of the state, so polls that do not include Flinn fail to capture the full picture of this race.

Three-fifths of Republican primary voters approve of Alexander's job performance. Fifty- nine percent approve and 32 percent disapprove of the job Lamar Alexander has done in the U.S. Senate. Alexander's job approval stands at 66 percent in the east, 52 percent in the middle, and 60 percent in the west.

Undecided voters typically break disproportionately to challengers in incumbent reelection campaigns. Even if that occurs, Senator Alexander's lead is sufficient to produce a comfortable margin of victory for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on August 7.

Of note, Ayres has some experience this cycle in contested primaries. He was Lindsay Graham's pollster when he won a very contentious South Carolina GOP primary in June.

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The Skinny on MNPS' TCAP Scores

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 8:30 AM

Children in Metro Schools scored higher in most of this year’s state standardized tests, and in many cases made greater gains than the state average — but more than half of them are still below grade level.

“I am not satisfied that we’re where we need to be,” said Director of Schools Jesse Register about the test scores released by the state and district Wednesday. “Really, the trend is what’s really important there. We have higher standards, our overall achievement is going up. And we see in a number of our schools where we had a lot of low performing kids, we see kids moving up with their test scores.”

Register argues the scores are not a true reflection of student achievement given the test is off base from the Common Core education standards teachers have shifted to in the last few years. The state isn't expected to switch to a new test until spring of 2016 at the earliest.

Here are four takeaways from Metro’s district-level results on the high school End of Course exams and the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program tests:

As a whole, students in Metro’s middle schools struggled to make solid gains. Students in grades 3-8 made marginal gains on this year’s test, posting 2 percentage point climbs in math and science but struggling to move the needle more than a percentage point in reading, social studies and U.S. history.

High schoolers did better. They posted a 7.2 percentage point jump in English II and the number of English I takers who scored at or above grade level climbed by 6 percentage points. However, English III scores took a hit, dropping by 2.6 percentage points from last year.

But math was a mixed bag for high schools. Algebra I scores dropped 3.6 percentage points, while Algebra II climbed 4.4 percentage points. In Biology I, students climbed 3.2 percentage points.

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