Poker Madness 

No joke, a Scene contributor was invited as a guest—but did not attend—that West End poker game busted by Metro police last week. Lucky for us.

"In response to complaints from residents of Continental Condominiums about ongoing illegal poker games operating on the ground floor of the 3415 West End Avenue building, Special Investigations Division detectives Tuesday showed up with a search warrant at 9 p.m. and found a game in full progress," reads the police department's press release, which came complete with photographs of the poker table, decks of cards and cash.

In full progress?

Should this be troubling?

Were it not for the chance to discuss this during a social setting over the weekend with a gaggle of lawyers, judges, journalists and others—all of whom were equally befuddled by both the occurrence of this raid and the self-congratulatory way in which it was publicized—we'd be more willing to second-guess our instincts here. But news watchers seem to be furrowing their brows in unison over this one. We at the Scene are more inclined to penny-ante games of gambling, rather than the $50 No Limit Hold 'Em Tournaments these guys were playing, but this bust nevertheless seems like overkill.

Kudos to the police department for keeping crime down, but why not live and let live over a game of five-card draw?

Thanks, Barry

You'd think that the notorious John Ford's crooked antics would inspire righteous indignation from more than a single government watchdog, a Clarksvillian and TennCare enrollee whose typed, 32-page ethics complaint filed this week against the Memphis senator was all the more remarkable because he has severe vision complications.

Barry Schmittou is the only person in Tennessee—at least as of our press time—to step up and file the onerous paperwork and make a sworn statement against this public official, who has defied disclosure laws and, worse, used his Senate position to benefit himself personally. Everyone in the state should be grateful for the fact that Schmittou took the time to call it like pretty much all of us see it.

It's not the first time Schmittou has been willing to passionately challenge his government. He was pushed out of a corporate job a few years ago after learning he had a malignant melanoma in his eye that worsened after his employer refused to report it to its disability insurance company. It then became a workers' compensation injury, but he was denied this benefit and couldn't get state officials to stare down what he compellingly argues was patently unjust behavior on the part of his employer.

Schmittou went on a rampage, appeared at public meetings to raise hell, sent ranting e-mails calling both former Gov. Don Sundquist and Phil Bredesen all manner of names ("Sundscum" anyone?). While those screeds undermined his credibility, he says he had nothing to lose. And we frankly can't hold that against a guy whose life story of the past few years goes like this: he loses his job because he becomes ill with a doctor-diagnosed work injury to his eyes, then he's denied compensation from a system he paid into, then he spends his entire personal savings to survive as he fights a potentially fatal illness, before ultimately moving in with family members and enrolling in TennCare—unemployed, ill and stripped of his dignity.

We'd be raging mad too. So thanks to Schmittou for his courage, and we too hope the Senate will clean house.

Go Tennessean Go

Call it an unholy alliance, but we respect The Tennessean's legal challenge against the state Bureau of TennCare, not so much because we're absolutely convinced the Bredesen administration is deliberately stonewalling the media outlet, but because we think it may very well border on incompetence that the state can't produce the basic information the newspaper is seeking.

In fairness, the TennCare Bureau has responded that it doesn't maintain certain information being sought in the form the newspaper is requesting it. But this is cold comfort. Quoting from the court filing, The Tennessean has asked for "the number of prescriptions per TennCare enrollee, the number of TennCare participants in each of the TennCare categories listed on the TennCare Web page, and the amount of money spent by the state per category listed on the TennCare Web site."

If this information isn't readily available, we've got bigger problems than we all thought.

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