Tennessee Politics

After being born and raised in Northern Kentucky and then traveling the world while serving in the Navy and Air Force, I have put down some form of roots in East Tennessee.  In Knoxville, to be more precise.  My wife has a thriving practice as an Obstetrician/Gynecologist here in Knoxville and, even if we were inclined to move back to Kentucky (we’re both from there) or anywhere else, my stepdaughter’s dad is not about to let her leave East Tennessee.  Furthermore, both of our mothers live with us and we’re not looking to move them either.

So, I think this is going to be the place I call home for a while.  Maybe a long while and maybe for the rest of my life.  But that’s ok.  We’re close enough to be able to drive back home if we need to visit or want a taste of some Cincinnati chili.  Side note, while I prefer Gold Star, I almost always have Skyline.  Why, you ask?  Because the MadDoc is allergic to Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and Gold Star puts it in their chili, but Skyline does not.

And Knoxville is a nice town.  Yeah, it’s full of Vol fans, but I find that they’re not as obnoxious as some Kentucky fans claim.  Plus, my son – let’s call him MadZee for our purposes – is going to be attending the University of Tennessee starting this fall.  We’ve got a nice house here, good neighbors and the weather is relatively mild.  I could do a lot worse.

So, with all that said, since I’m doing this blog thing and I consider politics a hobby of sorts, I figure I ought to write some about the politics of this place I call home.

For today, let’s just stay at the federal level.  We’ve got 9 congressional districts in Tennessee.  2 Dems and the rest are red.  The Democratic representatives are in Memphis and Nashville.  Here in Knoxville, the Tennessee 2nd District, we’re represented by Tim Burchett.  He’s serving in his first term.  The second district is drawn in an odd shape and extends up to the Kentucky border.  It includes some of the towns nearby that I hear about all the time, Maryville, Alcoa, Lenoir City.  Representative Burchett is 54 years old  (a year and a month older than me) and previously served as the Mayor of Knox County (not the same as Mayor of Knoxville).  He served in the Tennessee State House and the Tennessee State Senate, starting in state politics, evidently, when he was first elected to the state house in 1994.  I guess that means he has been in politics for 25 years, if that matter to you.

Looks to me like Representative Burchett is pretty safe for reelection in 2020, absent something extraordinary happening, since he won his seat in 2018 with 66% of the vote.  I guess I won’t keep my hopes up.  At least now I know a little about my representative and you do too.  And, dear reader (because there’s only about one of you, after all), don’t be surprised if you hear about Mr. Burchett again on this blog.  He votes with Trump about 95% of the time, so it seems like he’s an ardent supporter.  That’s sure to put him in a precarious position at some point, right?


Top 10 Candidates for the Democratic Nomination – Guns Edition

I think we might be in a different world since the horrific shootings in El Paso and Dayton last weekend.  A couple of candidates have shown up in the aftermath, so I thought it was time to update my rankings.  Remember, this list is based on my preference and not a ranking of the candidates based on their polling.  This is who I want to be the candidate, that’s all.

  1. Elizabeth Warren – Staying steady.  Senator Warren hasn’t done anything special since the last ranking, but I’m still a big fan, so she stays #1.
  2. Joe Biden – up 3 – The former VP does a good job with set pieces.  He went after Trump hard in a speech this week.  I want to see some more assertiveness from my candidate and he is, after all, the front runner with lots of support throughout the party.  I’m still worried about the age and his ability to be quick on his feet in the debates.  The September debates are going to tell a lot.
  3. Beto O’Rourke – previously out of the rankings – Didn’t waste his chance to make points after the shootings, but he did it with sincerity, rather than being calculated about it.  I still see him as a VP candidate rather than in the top spot, but, for now, he’s earned my support.
  4. Julian Castro – Down 2 spots. I like him and he brings something to the overall debate.  The tweet with Trump donors was, as the kids say, a baller move.  Still think he’s a VP candidate, but I like what he’s been doing.  I’ll probably donate in the next month or so to help him get on the next debate stage.
  5. Pete Buttigieg – up 1 spot.  Has been solid in the aftermath of the shootings.  Another VP candidate, but a bank shot away from being a serious contender for the top spot.
  6. Kamala Harris – down 3 spots.  She’s just getting outpaced by some other candidates now.  She’ll need a comeback at the next debate.  Has a high ceiling, but I’d like to see her fine tune her message, instead of trying to walk the line between progressive and moderate.
  7. Cory Booker – down 3 spots.  He’s in a good position to get some attention on the guns issue when it plays into his criminal justice and race issue focus.
  8. Bernie Sanders – down 1 spot.  Bernie needs the gun issue to go away, because he has some baggage in this area.  As long as Biden is viable and Warren is solid, Bernie has no shot.
  9. Amy Klobuchar – up 1 spot.  She’ll be in the next debate and I’ve got her as the leader for Biden’s VP.  Too many flaws for the top spot, though.
  10. Kirsten Gillibrand – down 2 spots.  She’s probably not making the next stage.  Not sure I see how she gets to Iowa.  Also a contender for Biden’s VP.

Dropped out: – Andrew Yang



Political Donations and Openness

So, Joaquin Castro, the twin brother of Democratic Presidential candidate, Julian Castro, is getting criticized for tweeting out the names and employers of Trump donors in San Antonio.  Joaquin Castro is a member of Congress who represents a district in the House of Representatives that includes San Antonio.  He’s also the chairman of Julian Castro’s campaign for President.  Despite the criticism, predictably from Republicans, Joaquin Castro is standing by the tweet.

I think I’m with the Castros here.  The information he provided is publicly available in the FEC database of political donations.  He provided names and employers, but no other personal information in his tweet.  Seems to me that is the point of the law and the database.  These donors know in advance that their information is going into the database and that the information will be available to the public.  Having a little bit of sunlight into the issue of money in politics is a good thing.

And, I encourage everybody to go and give the database a whirl.  By using the database, I was able to find the 71 separate donations from people in my zip code (it looks like some people are in the results multiple times for multiple separate donations).  The time period for the search was for 2019.  Interested to see the results?  I was.  Joe Biden got, one, count’em, one donation in that period.  It was the only donation in my zip code for the maximum allowed for an individual donation – $2800.  Bernie got four donations. Warren got 28 donations and Trump got 38, but they both had multiple donations from the same people.  Read into the numbers what you will.

Now I’m not going list the names of the Trump donors in my zip code.  Heck, they’d probably be quite happy for everyone to know they donated to Trump’s campaign since this state is awash with Trump voters.  But maybe the one person who donated to Biden at the max amount wouldn’t want that info out around here.  Does this openness drive the money into PACs where donors don’t have their names disclosed?  I don’t know, maybe.  But then again those people who don’t want their donations known are probably already doing that.  I figure, if you support a candidate, then you should be OK with people knowing you’re giving that campaign money.  And if you don’t want people to know you gave money to Trump for his reelection, then don’t give him money.  I say this public database is the least we can do and I support the Castros, if for nothing else, that they’re bringing our attention to this.

A Couple of Thoughts on Guns

  • I’ve liked what I’ve heard from Beto O’Rourke since the shootings over the weekend.  Sure there’s some political opportunism at work, but he doesn’t strike me as someone who is triangulating.  He’s from El Paso, so he can speak with some authority on the subject of this shooting.  I listened to an interview with him on Pod Save America.  He’s not mincing words and I like that.  I’m going to be a fan of any of the candidates who are going to call out Republicans, Trump, the NRA and gun manufacturers in STRONG terms.  So far, Beto and Mayor Pete have stood out.  I’m thinking these two might be getting part of my next $20 donation.
  • Just because some of the gun control measures will not fix all of the problems we have with guns in the country is not a reason to do nothing.  I will be dismissive of anyone who makes such an argument.  I put that argument on the level of the “video games are the cause” arguments that have popped out of the mouths of some Republican lawmakers.
  • I’d like to see Democratic politicians take on the sacred nature of the 2nd amendment.  It’s not a third rail, or at least should not be treated as such.  There are limits on freedom of speech in the 1st Amendment and goodness knows that conservatives like to put limits on the 4th and 5th Amendments.  There’s no reason to be afraid of arguing for limits on the 2nd amendment.
  • You know you’ve got Republicans on the ropes on an issue when Trump is forced to give a speech and everyone comments about how he stuck to what was written in the teleprompter.  Right, Toledo?  But, when he eventually gets sick of being handled by his aides or bristles at the criticism or tries to change the subject, don’t let him.  August is a slow month.  Let’s make this the month and the moment where we can make some progress on this issue!

Veronica Mars

Hulu just put out a long awaited 4th season of the Veronica Mars show.  I didn’t watch the show when it came out originally, but caught up thanks to streaming at some point later.  I gobbled up the three seasons and also watched the movie they put together in 2014.

I figured since it’s been a few years since I watched the show, I should rewatch from the beginning before I watch the fourth season.  As Professor Mondo knows, I’m someone who likes to read or watch things in order.  I just don’t like coming into the middle of something.  There have been a number of times that the good Professor has turned me onto a book series, but I was unwilling to start it until I could go back and start from book one.  This was especially difficult when I was trying to find the first books in the long running Remo Williams series.

Anywho, I’ve just finished my rewatch of Season one, getting the Maddoc hooked in the process.  As I recall, Seasons two and three don’t hold up as well.  I’ll have to do a top ten list for my favorite TV shows and best seasons of a TV show at some point, but I think Season one of Veronica Mars is going to be on both lists.  The show suffers only a little bit from the fact that it was done in the mid 2000s.  Some of Veronica’s investigation techniques are a little quaint at this point.  But, she’s spunky and fights for the down trodden.  She’s a poor kid in a rich kid’s world.  She had a taste of the rich world when she had an 09-er boyfriend and best friend, but then she lost all of that when her best friend was murdered and her sheriff dad went after the parents of the best friend/boyfriend.  The mystery weaves throughout the season with your usual PI case of the week to fill out each episode.  The supporting characters are great and all get their moments to shine.

A small quibble I had was the Logan/Veronica relationship.  I remember not liking that on my first viewing.  Maddoc says she likes them as a couple, so I’m giving Logan a second chance.  Veronica’s relationship with her dad is the cornerstone of this show.  The last episode of Season one is great because Veronica gets to wrap up the story lines with her dad, mom and the murder mystery.  We just finished the final episode of Season one today and I’m not ashamed to say that I shed a few tears.

No matter what happens in the other seasons, I’m really happy I went back and rewatched from the beginning.  Here’s the theme song to the show.  It’s been stuck in my head on repeat for a while now.

Thoughts and Prayers are not Enough

By now I’m sure you’ve heard about the terrible shootings in El Paso and Dayton yesterday/last night.  These shootings follow on the shooting on July 28 in Gilroy, California.  So, about 32 dead and 54 injured combined in mass shootings in about a week.  I saw a tweet which pointed out that the US has had 250 shootings in 2019 and the next highest number in a country was 3.

Usually, I don’t find it useful to point out the Hilary Clinton/Barack Obama rule of hypocrisy with regard to what Republicans would do.  You know, for example, how Republicans would scream bloody hell if President Clinton or Obama had done or said any single thing of the thousands of things Trump has done and said and about which they have said nothing.  Well, consider if these shootings had been done by other that white men.  President Trump would be instituting martial law and Republicans would be calling it a national emergency.  Just saying.

I heard a clip from Pete Buttigieg on Fox this morning talking about the shootings.  He pointed out the usual Democratic talking points about mass shootings, but he also brought it to a place that I don’t think has been usual in the past.  He went after the NRA and gun manufacturers, tying it to the corruption of our political system by money from big business is a smart move.  Hearing that coming from the more moderate Mayor Pete, I expect Elizabeth Warren to jump on board, since that’s definitely her lane.  And this is an area where she can differentiate herself from Bernie, since he has a mixed past on gun rights.

It also makes me wonder if these three shootings, with sufficient pressure from Democratic politicians, can’t be the place where something can get done.  I think there could be a consensus on certain gun control measures.  Background checks.  Maybe assault rifles.  The NRA has been able to shut even those kinds of things down with their influence over legislators.  Now the NRA is scandal-plagued and, perhaps, Republicans won’t be able to get away with doing nothing.  Maybe it’s just wishful thinking.  And if Republicans continue to stonewall on this, Democrats should be merciless in attacking them non-stop for the next 15 months or so.  Let’s see if we can’t get some forward progress on gun control out of these tragedies.