Saturday, August 26, 2006

Terry Frank for queen of East Tennessee

I've seen the video clip of tomorrow's Tennessee This Week. Great job Terry Frank! Everyone needs to watch this program tomorrow and see, in the ever so gentle manner of a true Southern Lady, make Mike Cohen look down in disgrace at the table. Let's keep pushing until this is investigated and there is justice.

How far will Bob Corker reach out?

Bob Corker has lately been attempting to "reach out" to some of the folks who opposed him in the Primary by calling them up (or at least having his aides do so) and offering to have coffee and lunch with them. He has had lunch with Rob Huddleston, who has been among his harshest critics, and he apparently made quite an impression. Corker had coffee with Jay Bush and has at least convinced Jay that he has seen the light on the pro-life issue-or at least that he'll vote right on it to keep us all pacified about it, one or the other.

I am glad that Corker is being good enough to come after some of those who were his critics during the Primary, especially when some criticised him so harshly (he deserved every last word of it). I do think his outreach efforts are selective, however. As far as I know, Corker has yet to put in a call to Bill Hobbs, who let him have it a number of times during the Primary campaign and told him not to expect Hobbs to jump through hoops for him. I dropped the John 8:44 bomb on Corker after Corker ran ads that didn't just twist the truth, but told outright lies about his two Primary opponents. I meant every word of what I said-every last syllable. I think Corker out to reach out to people like Hobbs and myself. I can't speak personally for Bill Hobbs, but in my life, conservative principles are not things that are mere matters of politics, they are principles that are lived out every hour of every day. Everything that we profess to believe, we live those beliefs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in our home-I suspect the same is true for Bill Hobbs. It is because I try to live as I believe that I have had such a problem with Bob Corker the candidate. The people in the conservative movement that most need to be convinced are the hard-core true believers who hold to conservatism not merely as a set of political beliefs, but as a way of life.

I have yet to receive a call from Mayor Corker. I am not suggesting that I am owed a lunch or coffee session as others have gotten. A personal e-mail, a note, or even a lengthy comment on this blog would be just as good in my eyes.

I do not expect to get attention from Corker, and I suspect that Hobbs and others like him won't either. Why? We will ask serious questions. We will be listening for his answers. I somehow suspect that he doesn't want that kind of scrutiny. If he is willing to be scrutinized, however, and finds my vote and the votes of other true believers valuable, I'll be glad to listen to him. The question remains: Does Bob Corker even care about our votes?

Friday, August 25, 2006

The party

I have been asked privately why I think there is such a division in the Republican Party in East Tennessee. For those who do not believe such a division exists, look at the recent Knox County Mayoral Primary and the U.S. Senate race for two prime examples of why this division exists.

Inside the GOP there is a struggle that is partly ideological and partly practical. The group that says "we will do what it takes to win at any cost." This group is concerned primarily with the raw political state of affairs and the advancement of themselves and their associates. Then there is the second group-that group is not only ideological in nature, but has the desire to use politics as a means to change society for the better. Those who belong to this group desire first to uphold the Constitution of the United States and (for us in this part of the world) the Constitution of Tennessee, and then to represent the people they might be elected to represent.

It appears to many that those who identify with the former group have achieved some form of temporary victory. I would encourage members of the latter group not to give up the fight.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The State of Executive Power

Most of the news watchers in Tennessee are aware that Governor Phil Bredesen hightailed it to the Mayo Clinic for the treatment of his "tick bite." It's nothing big, we're told, just some medical treatment. Yet the Governor didn't bother to be treated at Vanderbilt, he went to Minnesota instead. I agree with Bill Hobbs (and by extension, with Kleinheider) that there is more to the story here.

Vandy has just as much ability to treat Bredesen's illness as the Mayo does. The only good explanation for why Jersey Phil headed out of town so quickly is to avoid press coverage about poorer health than what he is letting on in an election year.

The fact that Dep. Gov. Dave Cooley has announced the formation of a Transfer of Power Task Force does not bode well for the reality of the situation, especially when we DO have a transfer of power provision, Article III Section 12 of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee declares:

In case of the removal of the governor from office, or of his death, or resignation, the powers and duties of the office shall devolve on the speaker of the Senate; and in case of the death, removal from office, or resignation of the speaker of the Senate, the powers and duties of the office shall devolve on the speaker of the House of Representatives.

So it is Wilder and then Naifeh. The thought of either man exercising executive control is frightening beyond belief, and I suspect I am not the only Tennessean who believes that. Hence, this is why Bredesen's "people" need to keep the state of his health as quiet as possible.

(Hat tip: Jay Bush)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Tennessee Political Bloggers' forum

I'd like to take the opportunity to introduce my readers to my latest internet project, the Tennessee Political Bloggers' forum . Tennessee Political Bloggers (TPB) is not a blog aggregator like Rocky Top Brigade, for example. Rather, TPB is an internet meeting place for political bloggers from all over Tennessee. Bloggers and those interested in political blogging in Tennessee are welcome to join TPB, and it doesn't even matter whether you agree politically or not with Yours Truly. In fact, I am looking for a suitable liberal to moderate the "From the Left" board at TPB.

TPB is hosted by Proboards, and it is open 24 hours a day. I have yet to meet a serious political blogger who wasn't a very busy person, so everyone should know that TPB is there for you at your convenience to exchange information and views with your fellow bloggers. All Tennesseans (even expats who still have an interest in Tennessee politics) are welcome at TPB, regardless of their political views. If you are a Tennessee political blogger, this forum was designed for you and for all of us.

The introductory rules at TPB are simple:

1. Please keep the debate and discussion civil at all times-no "flaming" is allowed.

2. Watch your language-I will be watching and if you cross the line you'll be warned. Do it again and you'll be banned. Youngsters can access these forums, and I don't want foul and dirty writing to be their first exposure to politics.

3. When discussing news stories and stories from the blogosphere, link liberally so as to cite your source.

I invite everyone to enjoy TPB, and to please register and join. If you are interested in helping moderate, please send me an e-mail.

Asking the critical questions

Over at Frankly Speaking, Stacey Campfield makes the following statement:

As of yet they have failed to tie the acts of Harber and associates to Ragsdale. The question, “What did Ragsdale know and when did he know it?” has not been asked. So far besides giving a political job to a kid who stepped over the line I dont see much of a story.

Thus far, it is true. One of the few things coming out of Ragsdale's office about all of this is that Harber is a "deeply troubled young man" and they are saying no more. Several Ragsdale apologists (as well as members of the press) are pointing out that Harber has a history of making "outrageous" claims. Nothing in part one of the Bean piece was outrageous, however, if you've ever seen the inside of a political machine.

This in only part one, however. From what I am hearing, we've only just begun to hear the meat of the Harber story. The "dirt" will come in part two, three, and four. I have to wonder if the local press (exempting Gene Patterson's weblog, perhaps) is deliberately avoiding this story because of the shake-up it could cause. I'll just be honest here: I know Harber has a shady history, but I believe he is telling the truth when it comes to his experiences in Ragsdale's administration as it relates to the Bean story. I believe he is because what I have heard from sources plus read in the HSN, this story sounds like the classic example of a political machine desperate to hold on to power at all costs-the old story in 21st-Century packaging.

If the two critical questions get asked (what did Ragsdale know, when did he know it) then it could get sticky. The press knows this, which is why it is being ignored.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mike Ragsdale: Crook, fraud, and political sham?

Part one of the Tyler Harber story officially broke in yesterday's Halls Shopper News. Here are a few juicy tidbits from the story and my comments based on what I know about all of this:

The day after the Aug. 3 county general election, an e-mail titled "Ragsdale missing me now" appeared in various local in-boxes and on Web sites. It listed the defeats suffered by candidates supported by county Mayor Mike Ragsdale and contrasted this string of losses with wins rung up when 24-year-old political operative Tyler Harber worked for Ragsdale. Soon, message boards and courthouse hallways were buzzing with conversation about Harber, who disappeared from the scene 17 months ago under a cloud of scandal that included a police chase, a missing computer and allegations of computer hacking - none of which produced any charges against him.

This is quite true-Harber has never been charged, but the allegations he is making could bring charges against him, and potentially others.

One of Harber's de facto duties was to keep his hands on the political campaigns of Ragsdale yes-men and make sure that those opposed to Ragsdale were taken down.

"He took me to his office and told me, 'The first day I was elected to Commission, I started working on being elected county executive. Now, the first day I am county executive, I'm going to work on being governor. I want you to help me be governor.' "

Read that again. At the time, Harber was 19 years old and was cutting his teeth on politics. I was 19, in college, and cutting my teeth on politics once-not all that long ago. I was a young idealist and I wanted to change the world. If someone with power, like a Ragsdale-type, had come to me and said "I want you to help me be governor," I would have eaten that up. My guess is that Tyler Harber did just that. This confirms what several of us have known for some time. Mike Ragsdale had plans for Nashville, and Knox County was a trainstop along the way for him. Perhaps those train tickets have just been cancelled.

Harber went on the county payroll as an employee of Information Technology Services, headed by Dick Moran. "But, most of my time, I spent with Mike," he said. "I would pick the man up from his house. I would be with him all day long, and I would drop him off at the end of the day. I was his body man. We would talk politics, policy and everything else in between. It sort of ‘married’ me to him."

You really can't blame Harber here. He was living the life that most of us who have ever been political activists or involved in the arena dream of-especially at that young age. He was close to a power circle and was part of the action. In his mind, I am sure he believed he was making a difference for the better.

"After I moved over to probation, the cover story was that I'm there to make sure the electronic monitoring (ankle bracelets) were working. That was my cover story. I had zero caseload and never saw a single probationer. I had no obligation or task relative to IT or Pretrial Release and Probation, although I did help Todd and Dick with some things, when they asked. "I even learned how to put on and operate an electronic tracking device in case a journalist ever asked me to do so (they never did). When there'd be a TV story about electronic tracking, I made sure I was there. … Eventually, I was moved to an office on the 6th floor of the Andrew Johnson with Community TV, where there were not so many eyes."

So the whole thing was really a cover-Tyler had a job, but it wasn't doing what the official documents said he was doing. What was Tyler's job?

Perhaps emboldened by the docile reaction to the $6 fee hike, Ragsdale proposed an additional $30 wheel tax. Once again, the commissioners gave him what he wanted, but this time with a little opposition - it passed 16-3. Rumors swirled that Ragsdale swore to take revenge on Mark Cawood, Paul Pinkston and Mike McMillan, the three commissioners who voted against the tax.

A big part of Tyler's job was to dig up dirt on Commissioners who were representing the people of their districts as opposed to the interests and political aspirations of Mike Ragsdale, and put plants in the mostly conservative Republican anti-Ragsdale anti-tax groups.

"When we started pushing our allies to vote for the property tax, we put them in jeopardy, and that is something you never want to do. Everything was going good up until then, but we got a whole lot more paranoid and a whole lot more power hungry, and got involved in a whole lot of things we shouldn't have gotten involved in," Harber said. "We raised a lot of money under the table and behind closed doors for our anti-wheel tax referendum campaigns. "No one is pro-tax. That's where this anti-Ragsdale sentiment came from. It's the way we forced the issue that caused the opposition. "I prepared an opposition report and the idea was floated that we put some 'plants' into the referendum organization to get information as to how many signatures they were getting. Our information was dead-on." This assessment was validated by none other than Ragsdale's chief of staff, Mike Arms. In a March 20, 2005, News Sentinel story by Scott Barker, Arms said, "Lo and behold, when it was all said and done, (Tyler) was pretty close. He knew how many had signed it at the Halls Wal-Mart.”Harber says his 'plants' (whom he would not identify) were able to make at least 2,000 signatures go away. "We decided to subvert, steal and destroy as many petitions as we could get our hands on. We were trading real petitions for fake petitions so they would think they had more names than they actually had."

Ladies and gentlemen, stealing election petitons and/or tampering with them is a crime akin to vote-tampering, it is a felony that can garner prison time. In admitting to this, Mr. Harber is opening himself up for said prison time. He didn't have to do this in the least, but I suspect he is interested in justice, and that he will likely talk to authorities who may now want to know what Mike Ragsdale knew about these activities. In the weeks ahead as this story continues to be published in parts in the HSN, Harber will tell more about hacking computers to dig dirt on opponents of Ragsdale, his wheel-tax, and his political aspirations.

One interesting note from the story:

One of Cawood's constituents, Greg "Lumpy" Lambert, showed up the day of the final wheel tax vote wearing a giant screw through his body. Come Sept. 1, the Powell used car dealer will be known as commissioner Lumpy Lambert and will join Cawood in representing District 6. Considering that Cawood fended off a general election challenge from county employee Chuck James, a Ragsdale-backed candidate who had supported the wheel tax, and Lambert beat Ragsdale-blessed opponents in both the primary and the general elections, these two seatmates probably won't be harboring any warm fuzzy feelings toward Mayor Mike.

Long Live Lumpy. I sincerely hope that Lambert does exactly as I expect he will do and fights Ragsdale every step of the way to bring justice to the people who were sold a bill of goods on the wheel tax. Democrats should pay close attention to this. Those of you who are Democrats (especially in East Tennessee) know that I am a Republican and my politics are different than yours, usually quite radically. Note, however, that the Democratic Party is so weak in Knox County that Ragsdale and his minions have been known to clandestinely back Democrats in order to prevent anti-Ragsdale people from being elected. There are some who believe that the whole Randy Tyree for Sheriff campaign was a set-up to try and bring down Sheriff Tim Hutchison, who is an opponent of Ragsdale-and of course, Democrats wouldn't know the wiser, they would simply be happy to have a candidate.

I'm not saying that I believe that (or that I don't), but I have heard the idea floated in more than one place.

It is also worth noting that some of the anti-Ragsdale candidates would be less likely to support the sham industrial park deal for East Knox County that a whole lot of people in that heavily Republican part of the world oppose. Hence, do not be surprised to see the business rammed through before Lumpy and the Gang are sworn in September 1st.

One of the things Harber alleges is that the pro-Ragsdale candidates did badly in the Primaries and elections because in losing Harber, Ragsdale lost his dirt-digging abilities.
Lumpy Lambert was one of those anti-Ragsdale candidates who won. Another candidate that the Ragsdale machine tried to defeat was State Represenative Stacey Campfield, and they did so by putting up Gary Drinnen, who is a long-time GOP hack who had Ragsdale's blessing and who is apparently quite familiar with Tyler Harber. Now that Drinnen got his arse kicked, don't be surprised if the Ragsdale people now try to back Schree Pettigrew in a secret or underhanded sort of way in order to try and oust Campfield.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Knox County Government could sink in the Harber

Terry Frank blogged on Friday about an upcoming series in the Halls Shopper News to debut today about Tyler Harber, who is a former Knox County "politico" (in Knox County that means GOP hack) and was a political gofer and bagman (officially emplyed by the office of Probation and Pre-trial Release) for Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale. My hunch is that Terry is not writing everything she knows about Harber or the "work" he did-in fact I'd bet a million dollars she knows a heck of a lot more than she is ready to tell us right now.

However, I do know some of what Harber will likely reveal in his tell-all to Ms. Bean. I have been made privy to this information from sources that I deem highly reliable. None of my sources are a liberal or a Democrat, and none of them were involved in the things that Harber will reveal-but know people who were. I have not been told not to reveal most of what I've been privy to, but I do want to be cautious because I believe much of what Harber will reveal will soon be the subject of a major investigation if it is not already.

Among the things Harber may reveal today is that he was a Ragsdale "bagman," and acted as a "mole," spying on the internet activity of opponents of Mike Ragsdale. Harber had an accomplice in this, as he didn't know much about computers. His accomplice did, however, and that person is currently a promenent member of Tennessee's blogging community. I will say that I read this individual's work quite regularly, and they've always struck me as the genuine sort, so it wouldn't surprise me if this individual cooperated with any ensuing investigation that may come out of all this.

One of the people that may have been the target of Ragsdale's ire is Tennessee Conservative Union Chairman Lloyd Daugherty. Now I don't have the personal relationship with Daugherty that many other East Tennessee conservatives are fortunate to have, but I have done a couple of shows (editions of the old Tennessee Confidential) on Daugherty's Southern Roots Radio, and we have talked on the phone a couple of times when I've called into his morning radio show. We don't always see eye to eye, but Lloyd strikes me as a very genuine person, a straight shooter, and an individual who has a heart-and-soul commitment to conservative ideals. Daugherty, who has been known to be critical of Ragsdale (along with many other true conservatives) may have been the target of a clandestine "investigation" that Tyler Harber was responsible for carrying out. From WATE reporter Gene Patterson on his blog:

Expect a quote or two from the head of the Tennessee Convervative Union, Lloyd Daugherty. Harber alleges Daugherty was the target of a clandestine investigation.

Daugherty joins us for the Final Word segment Sunday on
Tennessee This Week. He says you can hear more about the Halls News series from Betty Bean Monday morning on his radio show, “The Voice.” Frank Cagle will also join the discussion.

This is all very serious business that we have to believe that Mike Ragsdale and his cronies are hoping simply blows over. The facts seem to be that Ragsdale received information that was obtained in this illegal fashion and at the very least attempted to use it to entrap his political opponents. Whether he knew that his bagman Mr. Harber was obtaining information through computer hacking is still an open question, but I believe Mr. Harber will likely tell us that Mike Ragsdale did know.

One person who will likely want to find out if Mike Ragsdale knew that people in his administration were involved in computer hacking to find damaging information on people Ragsdale perceived as a threat is Sheriff Tim Hutchison. Contrary to the beliefs of some local liberals and Democrats, there is utterly no love lost between Hutchison and Ragsdale. I'd bet the ranch that Hutchison is chomping at the bit to turn Ms. Bean's story into a wholesale investigation, and you can bet he'll be looking straight at his nemisis (that certain local politicos don't want you to believe is his nemisis) Mike Ragsdale. If something is rotten in Knoxmark and Ragsdale is in any way involved, Hutchison will be looking to find out about it, and he'll be looking very hard.

One of two things is going to happen here. Either the Ragsdale machine will do everything they can to discredit Harber and try to throw Ragsdale's critics and any potential investigation off-track (something they already seem to be trying to do), or Hutchison will press on and we will get to the bottom of this.

What did the Mayor know, and when did he know it?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Broken down Ford

Harold Ford Jr. is apparently taking a hint from Republicans who were critical of Bob Corker during the Primary, as he used a Pilot station in West Knoxville as a backdrop this past week to question Corker's trustworthiness on the issue of gas prices considering Corker's strong friendship with and heavy campaign ties to Jim Haslam (who is the real power behind Corker). Asked Ford:

"Do you trust him (Corker) to lower gas prices, or do you trust me and a new generation of leaders in Washington?"

Well, to be honest Harold, I don't trust you in the least. Yes, Bob Corker is Jim and Bill Haslam's b****. There is little doubt in my mind that Corker's candidacy for the Senate is being used as a test run for a Bill Haslam for Governor campaign. If we look at some of your known contributors, we see Hollywood mogul-types, and trendy New York fundraisers with Bill Clinton. Why, I'll bet if we look really hard, we can find some oil money (and God knows what else) in your warchest. After all, we know about all the unsavory business your family is involved in.

Would you buy a used car from this man?

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