Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Open Letter to Gov. Bill Haslam, the Great Journalistic Benefactor

Posted By on Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 4:11 PM

From this week's "Hey Thanks" cover story in the Scene, offering open thank-you letters in the spirit of the season:

Are you The Great Pumpkin? Santa? Or did one of them send you?

Because what you have given journalists is nothing short of wondrous. In fact, you have singlehandedly made me question my choice to quit the profession. And not just because of that vaguely pretty boy face of yours. (Yeah, baby, you’ve got a little something. Crissy’s not the only one who’s noticed. But take it with a grain of salt: I think Art Garfunkel is hot.)

I was once the editor of this newspaper. And I left. Damn it, I left. Then a little time passed, Crissy smiled for 10 months straight, you were elected, and finally, because of some combination of self-destructive political malpractice, constitutional ignorance and tragically (for you) incompetent advisers, your Tennessee Highway Patrol goons went and arrested citizens lawfully expressing their right to protest in a public space. Even richer, they roughed-up and cuffed a baby-faced journalist working honestly and diligently in the freezing cold for really crappy money.

And then, praise be, you defended it, claiming something that not one human being or authority on the planet could confirm: that the reporter was publicly intoxicated. From ink-and-Internet-cookie-stained wretches everywhere: Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was so beautiful, governor. It contained all the ruinous, mean-spirited, wrong-headed government overreach that every red-blooded journalist prays for. Not as citizens, mind you. But as storytellers.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mayor Dean in Japan: The Case For and Against

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 8:09 AM

The City Paper's Joey Garrison passes along the answer to a question we've heard asked a lot in recent days: Why did Mayor Karl Dean follow through on an economic development / family trip to Japan at the moment the country faces a succession of toppling-domino catastrophes?

Joined on the Japan trip by his wife and daughters, but no Metro officials, Dean said he was invited to the country by the Japanese government because he’s the mayor of a city with a number of Japanese investments. Dean’s family paid for the trip themselves. No Metro tax dollars have gone towards traveling expenses.

Dean said there hasn’t been any specific company visits during the trip that involves looking for actual investments in Nashville, adding that several meetings have taken place but some were canceled because of the natural disaster. He said he’s met with members from the Japan External Trade Organization and the Foreign Ministry, has traveled to the city of Kamakura and is visiting Gibson Japan, among other groups. ...

“It’s not about any sort of specific project,” he said. “What will come of this is I will have a greater familiarity with the Japanese government, the Japanese people and Japanese business, but there won’t be any specific announcement. And plus, everybody is focused right now on what’s going to happen here in the next six months to a year in terms of recovery.”

Asked about criticism back home, Garrison writes, the mayor said via teleconference from Japan, "I haven't heard any." But in today's Scene cover story, an examination of Dean's handling of the fairgrounds controversy, Liz Garrigan puts it bluntly:

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

On BP, in 1999

Posted By on Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 3:10 PM

Friend and former Scene colleague Matt Pulle was combing the archives earlier today and found a stellar piece of journalism I penned in 1999, the perfect companion to this breathtakingly insightful bit about Diane Black, parts of which are now being used in her campaign ad.

The subject: British Petroleum. Here's an excerpt:

"Easily the most meticulous, intelligent and responsible energy company in the world. Their devotion to the environment and to safe oil drilling is without rival. Recently, I met a few of BP's executives at the Palm for a power lunch. I was most impressed by their sincerity, their humility and, finally, their competence. They're honorable, each and every one. I trust them. So should you."

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Monday, March 22, 2010

On John Tanner: 'He Blew It'

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 6:15 PM

From the inbox -- a longtime political observer on Congressman John Tanner's vote against health reform.


John Tanner has been in the Congress for nearly 22 years. He really doesn't have much to show for it - mainly voting against arts funding and helping lead the residual segregationist-Democrat faction known as the Blue Dogs. If history remembers him for anything, it will be for being named in the Starr report as the person with whom Bill Clinton was speaking on the phone while getting his first servicing from Monica Lewinsky. (Clinton was a big multi-tasker.)


Tanner could have reversed that slide into historical obscurity by voting for the health reform bill and being one of the key figures in its passage. But he blew it.


I guess he turned out to be just who we thought he was.


Oddly, during the 1980s, Tanner and Jimmy Naifeh were known as the leading party boys in the state House. Tanner has said that he believed getting away from Naifeh saved his life. We think that going on to bigger things in Congress should have led to Tanner growing into more of a statesman. Ironically, it was Naifeh who grew, not Tanner.

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Outtakes: Mayor Dean Won't Take Sides in Lineweaver Race

Posted By on Mon, Mar 22, 2010 at 11:28 AM


If you haven't yet, go read Joey Garrison's excellent City Paper piece today on Juvenile Court Clerk Vic Lineweaver and his political struggle to keep the $115,000-a-year job. Like many other characters who have come and gone in the history of Metro government, Lineweaver is a complicated guy -- both maddening and endearing. One moment he's a caricature of old politics, the next a rational spokesman for common sense.

In the meantime, as part of an unrelated interview, Pith asked Mayor Karl Dean whether he has any plans to weigh in on the race. (No dice.)

As a lawyer and public official, what are your thoughts on the juvenile court clerk race and whether the incumbent deserves to keep his job?

"I'm not going to get involved in the juvenile court clerk's race. There are a lot of candidates in it, and I'll let the voters decide. The only, um ... I'm just not going to get involved."

It affects families and children, and represents a crucial part of the local criminal justice system, so I thought you might have some thoughts on it.

"It affects families and children, and I'm sure the voters of Davidson County will have an opportunity to judge all the candidates and make the right decision in the Democratic primary, and I'll leave it to the voters. I haven't really gotten involved in other elections this cycle, although I'm a big fan of [public defender candidate] Dawn Deaner's -- she's unopposed."

Way to go out on a limb, Mayor (laughs).

"But I was out there long before she was unopposed. I hosted her first fundraiser. I know a lot about that office, and I hired her, so it's a little bit different."

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Morning Roundup

Posted By on Fri, Mar 12, 2010 at 8:54 AM

Rest in peace Sgt. Jonathan J. Richardson and Pfc. Jason M. Kropat. These young men, Ft. Campbell soldiers, are the latest American lives lost in Afghanistan. ...

Preds go down hard last night. ... John Rich will serenade Country Music Marathoners at the arena's post-race concert. ... School custodians fight to keep their jobs from being outsourced. Batter up -- again. The Sounds want to get back to talks for a new ballpark. ...The money quote here: "Grease don't bother me." ... Vice President Joe Biden to be keynote at Democrats' Jackson Day dinner.

Also, you could scroll, but why should you have to: Betsy Phillips on some tit for tat with Rep. Joe Towns Jr., and Hargrove on whether Congressman Jim Cooper will allow the "best to become the enemy of the good." ...

And as Chapter 16 editor Margaret Renkl notes, local Adam Ross's forthcoming novel Mr. Peanut is giving Stephen King nightmares, high praise from the master of darkness. Ross's reaction: "Oh, my f***ing God." Yeah, that sounds about right.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Nothing Funny About This Monkey Mail

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 9:37 AM

Walt Baker, the prominent CEO of the powerful Tennessee Hospitality Association who was a key figure in gaining approval of the controversial $585 million convention center, sent the kind of "joke" email last night -- comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to Tarzan's Cheeta -- that might stop even Michael Richards in his tracks. (The entire email on the jump.)

Baker forwarded the racist missive -- introduced with this: "Quoting Larry the Cable Guy ... I don't care who you are, this is funny" -- to 12 prominent Nashvillians, including mayoral legislative aide Toby Compton, Nashville

Convention & Visitors' Bureau head Butch Spyridon, lobbyists Joe Hall and Peter Heidenreich, former Scene editor and publisher, respectively, Bruce Dobie and Albie Del Favero, and Nashville Post reporter Ken Whitehouse.

Coming from a hospitality czar, the post didn't strike recipients as particularly hospitable.

"I don't think it's funny -- period," Dobie says. "Anything else I have to say about it I've already let Walt know."

Whitehouse calls the email "disgusting."

Del Favero was on the way to his office when we reached him and says he hadn't yet opened the email. "It's probably in my inbox waiting on me. But I've never known Walt to send anything that is politically incorrect."

"Who all got it?" Del Favero asks. When told, he responds, "Oh, how stupid!"

UPDATE: Baker says he meant no offense and sent it to what he considered to be "a select group of friends." "If anybody wants to make a political agenda out of it, they're wasting they're time," he tells Pith.

"It's not a political statement," Baker continues. "It was done in the spirit of having some fun with some close friends. It was something that was forwarded to me, and I forwarded it to a couple of people that, quite honestly, I thought might find some humor in it like I did."

Apparently, they didn't.

"I've gotten some emails back from folks," he says, "and that's fine too."

UPDATE II: The CVB's Spyridon calls the email "unacceptable and not representative of our organization and what we stand for." He says he telephoned Baker and "chewed him out."

UPDATE, 3/6: Baker sent a one-word follow-up email to the original recipients Friday afternoon. It read only, "Sorry." And today, the publicly funded CVB announced it's canceling its $50,000 marketing contract with Baker's company. Here's the statement today from CVB president Butch Spyridon:

"On behalf of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, I apologize for the offensive email sent yesterday by Tennessee Hospitality Association CEO Walt Baker. As a recipient of the email, I am embarrassed for my organization and myself. The content is deeply hurtful to all Nashvillians and beyond. The attitudes expressed in the email are both appalling and unacceptable, and are not shared or condoned in anyway by the NCVB or by me personally.

Nashville's hospitality industry has worked tirelessly to create a welcoming environment for our visitors and this behavior discredits the work done by so many. After serious consideration, the NCVB has terminated its contract with Mr. Baker's marketing agency, Mercatus Communications. I have communicated this action and my deep regrets about the email to the Mayor's Office and other hospitality industry leaders."

See too Baker's apology, also in the comments below and in an email to the Metro Council.

"Thursday night I spontaneously forwarded -- to a small group of people -- an email that had been sent to me as political humor. As I forwarded it, I did not think or consider its implications, other than that it was political humor. I am saddened that anyone misinterpreted the sentiments behind the email. I deeply apologize to anyone who is offended by this action. I hope that those who know me realize that the message was not intended to be malicious or hurtful in any way and can find it in their hearts to forgive me."

LATEST UPDATE, 3/8: Walt Baker was terminated today from his post as CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality Association. "Walt's email reflects a deep misunderstanding of the nature of hospitality and our role as an association," said THA board president Bill Mish. "His email was sent in his personal capacity and not in his connection with the hospitality associations."

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Another Event You Won't Read About in Your Diocesan Church Bulletin

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Joan Houk
  • Joan Houk
The group of local Catholics called Anawim--a word from the Hebrew scriptures for "the poor" or "lost and forgotten ones"--are among those hosting a talk tonight at Vanderbilt that would send Nashville Bishop David Choby right to his Rosary.

But having been here before, Anawin didn't even try to book a local parish for the meeting venue. Instead, the talk titled "Prophetic Obedience: The Experience and Vision of Roman Catholic Womanpriests" will be at the Vanderbilt Divinity School (in the arts room on the ground floor) at 8 p.m.

Bishop Joan Houk will be subbing for Andrea Johnson, who is
Andrea Johnson
  • Andrea Johnson

snowbound in Annapolis. Both are women who have been ordained by Catholic bishops, but neither are recognized by Rome as rightful priests or church leaders. Quite obviously, Houk's talk will focus on why the church's hidebound adherence to celibate male priests serves only to limit Catholicism's reach and charitable influence in a country (and world) where there is a troubling shortage of clergy and where more and more community parishes are priestless.

"We feel that canon law, which does not represent the people at all -- only a few guys in Rome -- is unjust," Johnson tells Pith. "We're breaking canon 1024. Like Rosa Parks, we're saying, 'No, we are not going to sit on the back of the bus.' "

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ronnie Steine Says 'Offensive' Hitler Video Backfired

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2010 at 4:39 PM

Ronnie Steine didn't like Channel 4's poll.
  • Ronnie Steine didn't like Channel 4's poll.
Somewhat buried in this observation of how Nashville's capital projects have historically gone down (which is to say, the Metro Council always capitulates and approves them) are predictions about whether last week's WSMV-Channel 4 poll showing scant public support for the $585 million convention center proposal will move any lawmakers to the "no" column.

For his part, Metro Council Budget and Finance Committee Chairman Ronnie Steine -- admittedly, a project supporter -- tells the Scene it won't. This from the cutting room floor: "I think it may shore up some 'no's, but I don't think it moves anyone."

Steine says major concrete icons with sophisticated financing via dedicated revenue sources are "always going to poll negatively." Besides, he adds, one of the independent poll's questions to respondents was a "cheap shot."

Among them was, "Would you be more or less likely to re-elect a politician who votes in favor of the Music City Center project?"

What more Metro Council members are talking about, he says, is this video that Steine says is "offensive" and has rallied the pro-MCC troops.

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