October 2006

Bellsouth? Hello??

Bellsouth e-mail isn’t working this morning; after making sure that the internet connection is up, I tried to go to their webmail site to see if maybe it was just a problem with my e-mail client. The webmail site is down.

Next, I tried to go to Bellsouth.net, and that’s down too. As is Bellsouth.com. I’m beginning to wonder if “Magnet hands” from AT’s old web host has gotten loose at the phone company.

Fortunately, I have access to several other webmail services, so I can send the one thing that really has to go out this morning. But if anyone’s trying to reach me, I’m not just being unresponsive.

Comcast’s comedic commercial claims aside, DSL from Bellsouth is fast and stable. I think we’ve had maybe two service outages in six years or so (lasting only a few hours each), and this is the first time I’ve seen the mail server go down. That was not the case with Comcast, to whom we subscribed previously.

Wonder what happened?

County Commission Today

In a quarterly daytime meeting today, Anderson County Commission had yet another opportunity to drop their lawsuit against Clinton over a pending annexation issue. In my opinion, the lawsuit was ridiculous to begin with, given that the annexation request came from the property owners themselves… no one was being taken against their will.

But, reaffirming my lack of confidence in most of them,they defeated the motion to dismiss by 10-6. Kudos to Oak Ridgers Robin Biloski and Scott Gillenwaters for being among the six — since the 5-year moratorium on annexation is either expired or nearly so, voting to keep the suit alive is simply wasteful.

Also on today’s agenda was Judge Murch’s request to move the General Sessions Court, Division I, to Clinton (where the Division II court also meets). It has been passed on to the Operations Committee, of which Oak Ridge Commissioners Robin Biloski and Scott Gillenwaters are members.

Early this morning, I wrote to my two commissioners asking that they oppose this move (which would cost Oak Ridge more, while reducing services). Also an early riser, our newest commission member, Whitey Hitchcock, responded with the following points that he planned to take to the meeting:

Assisting law enforcement agencies and the community in addressing crime – especially drug-related crime – is extremely important to the residents of District 6 in Oak Ridge.

The majority of arrests occur in Oak Ridge.

Court involves more than perpetrators and police. It involves victims and the community. They must also travel or be left out of the justice process.

Physical separation of the victims and the justice system lessens the potential for restorative justice; i.e. assisting the offended.
The cost of moving Sessions Court may entail greater overall expense than finding a new and appropriate facility.

Therefore, I believe that it is in the best interest of the county, as a whole, to find and fund more suitable accommodations, within the City of Oak Ridge, rather than transfer court to Clinton.

I urge the County Commission to make this option a priority and to include a detailed cost analysis as part of any decision.

Then after the meeting, he followed up and let me know that the matter had been assigned to committee, and which Oak Ridgers are on that committee. Thanks, Dr. Hitchcock.

It seems that new commissioner (by one vote) John Shuey spent time huddled in the hallway with the Buildings & Grants director, Alan Beauchamp. Suppose he needed help figuring out how to vote? After all, he is the bailiff for the Div. I Sessions Court… seems like he might have some useful suggestions for improving security, if that is in fact the real reason for the suggested move.

Court moving to Clinton?

Bob Fowler reported on Thursday that the Division I General Sessions Court, which has met in Oak Ridge for 13 years, is likely moving back to Clinton.

With the County’s highest population density in Oak Ridge, it makes sense to have one of the sessions courts meet here. If both are to meet in Clinton, then why have two sessions judges at all? The reasoning for the move is purportedly “security concerns” about the Oak Ridge courtroom, but it would seem that the renovations required to convert the County Commission room to a courtroom would cost at least as much — if not substantially more — as improving security in the existing courtroom in Oak Ridge.

Furthermore, moving the court to Clinton will cost Oak Ridge taxpayers more, as city police officers will be required to travel further, and will be away from patrol longer (probably resulting in an announcement of need for more officers).

And, from the perspective of Clinton taxpayers, there should be some concern about converting the Jolley building (which now houses Regions Bank on the first floor) to entirely public, non-taxpaying use.

Government office reshuffling may reshape the future uses of the five-story Jolley Building, said Alan Beauchamp, the county’s buildings and grounds director.

“Do we want to turn this building into a county services building, a criminal justice center? That’s what we have to decide,” Beauchamp said.

The Jolley building was originally built as a bank, and the first floor is currently occupied by Regions Bank. While I can appreciate the County’s need for office space near the courthouse, there’s something discomforting about the nicest office space in Clinton being reserved entirely for County government.

I plan to ask my county commissioners to oppose moving the court to Clinton.

Parting notes

The week in DC has been both fun and educational. With Hubby in meetings for three days and my children safe with their (exceedingly patient, wise, and tolerant) godparents, I’ve had a marvelous opportunity to explore the most extensive libraries and archives in the country. Yes, I carped about the security and inconvenience, but I’ve really enjoyed the chance to see what I wanted to see at my own pace.

I also had a great time in the evenings, when my favorite date escorted me to some neat places for dinner. Neither of us is particularly into the “see and be seen” type joints, but we quickly found a couple of reasonably-priced places with great food and beer.

Capitol City Brewing CompanyThe Capitol City Brewing Company in the Postal Square (across from Union Station) was a lot of fun, with a great casual ambiance. I highly recommend the Blackout Stout — the history of this traditional oatmeal brew includes the fact that it was used as a safer alternative to water at a time when English water purification wasn’t what one would expect today. Dinner was extremely good, and afterward, we took a brief tour of Union Station.
The Elephant & Castle pub didn’t feature any microbrews, but they did have an excellent selection on draft, along with a menu of traditional pub fare — shepherd’s pie, Guinness stew, pot roast, fish & chips, etc. Given that the weather turned rather cold last evening, comfort foods were very appealing… good thing there was a 12-block walk back to minimize how many of those calories I have to take home with me.

At the E&C, three women sat near us, animatedly talking about how the Foley scandal would bring about a change in control of the House, and one jumped up suddently pointing to CNN, where she recognized herself on one of the news clips about the day’s hearings. I know better than to think one can identify R’s and D’s by appearance (having been told that I don’t “look like” a Republican), but seriously, these women looked like Democrats. Generally, the E&C was a lot noisier than I usually enjoy, but the food was excellent.

There’s so much more I would like to do here, but it’s time to pack and go home. If we’re lucky, we can make kickoff for the Wildcats game tonight vs. Soddy Daisy.

I’ll be sorry to miss AT & GAC’s renewal of vows tomorrow, but I wish them a marvelous weekend and decades of marital bliss to come. Hubby’s and my 19th wedding anniversary is coming up in about 12 days, and I can easily say this: marrying the right person is the best thing in the world. We have more fun together now than we did when we first fell in love, or at any time since. So, although I won’t be at the farm this weekend, I’ll be raising my glass to them nonetheless.

Gone too far?

One should expect security to be tighter in the nation’s capitol than the average small town (even one like Oak Ridge), but this week has been enlightening — in a bad way, in addition to the good fun that I admit I’ve had taking pictures.

It’s no longer possible to tour the White House, unless you submit all your information three months in advance. Touring the capitol requires at least a week’s notice, although you can get a gallery pass (which wouldn’t be worth much this week, since Congress is in recess so there’s nothing going on to watch) on short notice through your congressional office.

The National Aquarium, in the basement of the Commerce building, hasn’t been publicly funded since 1981. Still though, patrons are expected to go through a metal detector and have all purses, backpacks, etc. searched before entry. I’ve gotten used to metal detectors and having my purse rummaged through this week… to the point that I now don’t carry my purse most places. I just put my drivers license and a debit card in my pocket and go on. Every single public building has metal detectors and guards who rummage through purses all day.

To actually look at any books in the Library of Congress — the nation’s most public of public libraries — one must go to a separate building, wait in line to show a drivers license, wait in another line to fill out a form electronically (asking for all the same information as was on the aforementioned drivers license), then wait in yet a third line to have one’s picture taken. Then, you cross the street again to the building with actual books, wait in line for about 20 minutes to be allowed into the line for the metal detectors and searching again.

Posession of the photo library card does not entitle one to check out books from the Library of Congress, just to look at them under the watchful eyes of guards, librarians, and video surveillance.

For all my complaining, I spent the whole morning and part of the afternoon in the local history & genealogy room at the Library of Congress today, and enjoyed it very much. There were a couple of things I would have liked to make copies of, but to do so, one had to purchase a “copier card” and put money on it. Having left my purse at home, the 75 cents in my pocket wouldn’t work — there’s a paper-money minimum for the card.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours in the DAR library, and found some more interesting things. At least two relatives on my dad’s side served in the Revolutionary War.

I wonder what they’d think about where we are now, when the people’s government is no longer open (at least in a practical sense) to the people. Is this the end for which they left home in England or Northern Ireland, fought in the cold, and staked out claims to government-lottery land for veterans in the wild indian country of what is now the East Coast (from Pennsylvania to Georgia) of America?

It’s easy to see where all the homeland security funding has gone, but not so easy to equate it to our being secure. Planes still fly into buildings, school shootings still occur, and crazy little men are still rattling their sabers.

But the US Government is seemingly safe from tourists for the moment.

Photoblogging

Capitol at night

Jefferson Memorial

WWII Memorial

Republicans in Trouble?

I’ve been kidding myself that Republicans aren’t really in trouble — that the takeover by the wingnuts was simply a local phenomenon.

Apparently, it isn’t. Kleinheider at VolunteerVoters links to a post at the Johnson County (Kansas) Sun, where the author writes of why, for the first time in decades, the paper will not faithfully endorse Republican candidates as it has done for 50 years. He begins,

The Republican Party has changed, and it has changed monumentally.

You almost cannot be a victorious traditional Republican candidate with mainstream values in Johnson County or in Kansas anymore, because these candidates never get on the ballot in the general election. They lose in low turnout primaries, where the far right shows up to vote in disproportionate numbers.

To win a Republican primary, the candidate must move to the right.

Then, he articulates what “to the right” means — gay bashing, immigrant bashing, restrictions on stem-cell research that would save lives… the list is long. Moderation brings common ground that all of us can live with, but “moderate” is an epithet to these folks.

Most republicans like myself have not changed, but our party has been taken over by people so driven to extreme social conservatism that they’re willing to disregard the core principles of the Republican Philosophy. Not just here, but possibly everywhere.

We’re in trouble.

All Well at Home?

PunkHP noted in a comment to the Sightseeing in DC post that he had a monument in his yard worth “explorering.” Explorer1
It seems that my newest licensed driver (Beta) had a little difficulty backing out of her godfather’s driveway as she headed for school yesterday. It was dark outside when this innovative parking job occurred, and there were one or more younger siblings in the car.

And, in a classic display of teenage angst, Beta managed to be quite unapologetic and worse, began demanding that someone fix the problem.

I selected their godparents wisely: the “fix” was that she was taken to school, and the monument remained in the yard for the day. It was clearly the greater punishment for her godmother, who then had to take her to school, pick her up, take her to work, etc., but it gave her a bit of time to (I hope) reflect on how one should behave when one is in dire need of assistance.

Explorer2 PunkHP, LilPunk, and Delta obviously had a little fun with the monument before PHP and his older son managed to rescue the vehicle (I’m glad I wasn’t there to see it) later in the day.

Hopefully, Beta has acquired a little humility through this incident and will be a little more careful, and a little more respectful, in the future.

I owe PunkHP and Miss Dixie big time for taking on three of the girls for me (and taking care of the house and the menagerie therein) for the week. I’m not sure how to repay them, but I’ll have to think of something.

New Ed Funding Model

The BEP Review Committee meets again on Wednesday in Nashville, where there are several items of interest on the agenda. One is a discussion of the impacts of alternative fiscal capacity scenarios, including a proposal by Jim Guthrie of the Peabody Center for Education Policy at Vanderbilt.

The basics of Guthrie’s proposal are in the tax base methodology document, but there are no numbers yet. I’m working on it.

I won’t be able to attend this one, but I’ll get a report from someone by Thursday.

Sightseeing in DC

Jefferson MemorialAfter driving all night, we spent most of yesterday sightseeing around the nation’s capitol with my brother-in-law and niece, who live in nearby Gaithersburg, MD. It was a perfect Fall day… although I’ve been here a few times, it seems there’s never enough time to see everything.

WWII Memorial The WWII Memorial is one of those things I’d never had a chance to see, and it was impressive. Located between the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument, it’s partly an interpretive information center, and partly park — people sat on benches by the pools and fountains eating lunch, reading, or just resting in the pleasant afternoon sun.

FDR Memorial The FDR Memorial was another that I had not seen before; my niece snapped a picture of us in front of the waterfall.

One of the things I enjoyed here were several of his sayings carved into the brown granite — like “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear.” I’m not sure we can be free of want, but I do appreciate the sentiment.

The last new display we took in was the Holocaust Memorial… one that leaves me somewhat at a loss for words. Yes, I know the history. I’ve heard Mira Kimmelman’s talk (once as a student, and once as an adult), and read her book — both of which are deeply moving. But the Holocaust Memorial has a profound effect on people. Almost no one spoke; people wiped tears from their cheeks as they read and listened, and as we left, other groups behaved very much like the four of us: walking away in silence.

Everyone needs to see this memorial, to remember, to understand, to ensure that it never happens again.

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