Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reality Check for Bloggers

Anytime you start to get carried away with just how important you are because your blog is regularly linked by Instapundit, just remember that in his own hometown, Glenn came in third in a "Best Blogger" contest to a pornstar and a morning radio personality.

We tend to take ourselves a bit too seriously sometimes, and this is an excellent reminder that boobs win out over snarky commentary every day of the week.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, October 27, 2007

Coach Johnny Majors Still Haunting the Vols.

Appropriaely enough for Halloween, the ghost of Johnny Majors visited Neyland Stadium Saturday night and may have cost Tennessee the game and a shot at the SEC Championship.

Early in the second half, the Vol defence came up with a brilliant goal line stand. Unfortunately, the UT offence went into a coma, running up the middle three times and punting.

Spurrier capitalized on Fulmer's timidity by driving 40* yards for the Gamecocks first touchdown in over eight quarters. The Vol offence responded quickly by throwing four straight screen passes and punting.

Chavis is doing his part by playing a very soft, prevent defence that true to its name will prevent the Vols from winning.

South Carolina just scored again, and unless Fulmer and Chavis get their collective act together, this game will go from a Tennessee rout to a loss.

And you can chalk it up solely to the coaching.

Posted by Rich
College Football • (3) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, October 25, 2007

R. Neal is at it Again.

At least he's being honest about his aims this time. His terms of usage makes it clear that his new site, TennViews, (no link since Randy would just redirect it anyway) will be just as narrowly focussed and ideologically restrictive as his current site.

Which is actually a good thing, come to think about it. It keeps the lunacy confined to a small portion of the bandwidth, freeing up more space in the blogosphere for rational debate by responsible adults who are not afraid to be exposed to differing points of view.

Keep on speaking truth yourself, I guess...

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Bama vs UT

Can you smell the home cooking?

Wow. It'snear the end of the first half, and I'm starting to wonder of Knox County Commissioner Scott Moore is one of the refs, because something sure smells bad with this game. Tennessee gets called for pass interference on a beautiful pass breakup, and the very next play, Bama gets away with a clear offensive pass interference that gives them a touchdown.

I'm still picking the Vols to win this one, 38-37.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, October 07, 2007


UT whipped up on the Bulldogs so badly that I had to check the coaching roster to see whether Michael Vick had become a Vol.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

They Still Don’t Get It

David Oatney says that he's certain that Jack McElroy had an ulterior motive in filing the Open Meetings Act lawsuit against the Knox County Commission. That's a view shared by many on the commission and their supporters, who defend the actions of the commission by claiming that this whole thing was a witch hunt aimed at returning control of the commission to County Mayor Mike Ragsdale.

At several points during the trial process, I talked to commissioners and their supporters who were eager to point out that there was really nothing new in what happened on Jan. 31st. The only reason the Sentinel made a fuss about it was that their side lost. A couple of commissioners made that argument on the witness stand.

The fact that's lost on all of these people is that the Sentinel's motives in filing the suit are completely irrelevant to the merits of the suit. The fact remains that the Commission violated the law, and they got caught at it.

Having watched the commissioners during their testimony, and more importantly,listened to their conversations during the breaks,one thing is clear; many, if not most of them,believe they did nothing wrong, and that this was all a big waste of time.

Depending on how Chancellor Fansler rules, they could be right.

By the way, we're already hearing about how much this trial cost the county. Don't believe it for a second. Fansler, Stackhouse, and Owings are all on salary. The bailiffs, and court stenographers are hourly, but they would have been covering another trial if not this one. Moncier and Hollow will be paid by the Sentinel. The only extra costs associated with this trial will be meals for the jurors. So when you see numbers like $300,000 dollars for the trial floated around, remember that the overwhelming majority of that money would have been spent whether we had this trial or not.

Posted by Rich
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The Verdict is In; Clean Sweep for the Plaintiffs.

3 weeks of testimony, pages and pages of phone records, hours of video and audio tape, all boiled down to 29 questions that would determine the outcome of the lawsuit filed by the Knoxville News Sentinel against the Knox County Commission.

29 questions put together by the lawyers for the plaintiffs and defendants that go to the heart of how Knox County government operates. Attorney for the plaintiff, Richard Hollow, made the case that sitting County Commissioners had violated the Open Meetings Act both before and during the January 31st meeting that filled 12 vacant seats. Herb Moncier, representing the 9 citizens allowed to intervene in the KNS lawsuit went further. He said that the sitting commissioners stole the government from the people of Knox County. Attorney for the defendants, Chief Law Director John Owings, said that the commission did nothing wrong, that it was just politics as usual.

12 men and women of Knox County had to answer 29 questions to determine which side prevailed.

And on every single question, they agreed with the plaintiffs. That makes County Law Directer Owings 0-lifetime regarding term limits and the Open Meetings Act, a fact I hope plays heavily in his upcoming battle for election. His early advice on the quorum defense killed the Commissions case before the trial even began. His anemic close, after letting Deputy Chief Law Director Mary Ann Stackhouse carry the burden of the three week trial certainly didn't help matters. I've said earlier that the commissioners were arrogant in their assumption that they could get away with this kind of thing, but that pales beside the arrogance of Owings, who tried to pass the back room deal making and vote trading as just politics.

But before the citizens of Knox County claim victory, there are few things to look out for.

First, Chancellor Fansler must decide the remedy for the situation. By law, he has two routes he can go. He can set an injunction against the commission,forbidding them from repeating their offenses. The principle benefit of the injunction is that if they do repeat, they can be charged criminally, instead of civilly. Unfortunately, the prosecution would face a substantially more difficult burden of proof, making it extremely difficult to prosecute. His second option is to nullify some or all of the appointments, and tell the County Commission to start over. What he cannot do is order a special election to fill the vacancies. That will require special legislation from the State. He can, however, issue rulings to force the Commission to amend the rules of the process to allow real public input, but as far as I know, there's nothing he can do to prevent the commission from putting the same people right back into the same offices. They would just have to do so in full view of the public, an act which would probably end their political careers.

I say probably because there is one more reason why the people of Knox County have no cause to celebrate just yet.

This whole mess is their fault.

The folks in Knox County elected commissioners they knew were term limited. Sure, now they want to sit back and jeer at the commissioners, but during the election, they either pulled the lever for them, or stayed at home on election day. What we can't be allowed to forget is that the twelve people who vacated their offices were openly elected by a populace who knew they were likely to be found term limited.

And given that only 8% of eligible voters voted in the City Primary a week ago, I don't see anything getting any better.

So if you're looking for huzzahs and hoorays, look elsewhere. The problem is still here and it's just as bad.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

We Have a Verdict

I just got a call from Jack McElroy and the jury is coming in with a verdict. We'll know their findings in less than half an hour. This isn't good for the defendants.

Remember, all the jury will do is answer questions about the process, and determine if any violations of the open meetis act took place. It will be up to Chancellor Fansler to determine what the remedy will be. That could range from throwing out the entire meeting to simply enjoining county commission from future violations of the Act.

Stay tuned!

Posted by Rich
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Monday, October 01, 2007

John Owings Speaks

1:40 Court reconvenes with John Owings giving his closing.He may have spoken at other times during the trial, but this is the first time I've heard him. Mr. Owings starts by listing all the folks whose appointments are being challenged. He's stressing that the jury has to evaluate appointment by appointment. He says that the meeting on Jan 22 and Jan 31 'cured' any private deliberations among members because the outcome was made public.What a crock. If a burglar robs your house while you are away, it isn't less of a burglary because you come home and find your stereo missing. He's arguing that this isn't an easy case; it is very complicated.

1:44 Mr. Owings starts by citing the Tennessee Constitution that vacant county offices will be filed by the county legislative body. This is why Hollow's close was weak; the law says the county commission was to appoint people to fill the vacancies.

1:48 Mr. Owings is pointing out that there were repeated references in public meetings to the idea that the term limited commissioners should be able to select their own replacements. He also points out that not all commissioners agreed with this idea.

1:56 Mr. Owings makes the point that nominations were made by both commissioners

1:57 Mr Owings says there is no requirement that commissioners discuss or deliberate prior to a vote, so the absence of discussion cannot be used to infer private discussions or deliberations.

1:59 Mr. Owings is arguing that the meeting on the 31 was public, and that the nominations were made during that public meeting, so county commission complied with the law. Owing's argument appears to be that the County Comission did not violate the Sunshine Law because they fulfilled all the requirements for holding a public meeting. He's neglecting to talk about the things the commissioners did outside of the meeting, and that's where the problem lies.

2:03 Mr.Moncier objects to the citation of cases during the closing argument. Overruled.

2:04 Mr. Owings calls what happened "raw politics."Raw sewage is more like it.

2:05 Mr. Owings revisits his opening argument that the actions of the commission, lobbying, discussing nominations, etc. are not deliberating.

2:06 Mr. Owings says that commissioners are allowed to have fixed opinions as long as they don't change them due to private discussions.What about Diane Jordan changing her vote on the 4th district seat?

2:08 Mr.Owings points out that the plaintiffs have the burden of proof.

2:10 Mr. Owings is arguing that the votes that changed after recesses didn't really matter. He points out that when Diane Jordan switched her vote,Guthe changed his and the issue remained unsettled. When Bolus was sworn in, Tramel won by more than one,so his vote didn't matter.So an unsuccessful robbery is not a crime?

2:13 Mr. Hollow closes. He explains the history of the Open Meetings Act. He stresses the 'spirit' clause of the act, and that it precludes private deliberation and decisions. He's arguing as a framer of the Act.He is effectively countering Mr. Owings's argument.

2:20 "Don't throw me in that brier-patch!" Mr. Hollow says he has been forced to read from the transcript of Jan 31 by Mr. Owings's close. In fact, he's dying to read these portions of the transcript that make the commission look bad.

2:22 Mr. Hollow's demeanor has changed from the scholarly lawyer of his opening to a firebrand worthy of Moncier himself.

2:28 I wonder how much of Hollow's close was planned and how much is in reaction to Owings's close? Hollow spoke for about 1:15 this morning, then Owings spoke for just over 30 minutes. Hollow has been speaking for 15 minutes and I'm not hearing any signs of him wrapping up.

2:33 Mr. Hollow once again claims that no person nominated from the floor received a single vote from the commissioners. Not true. Tom Salter was nominated from the floor for seat 5C and received one vote from Commissioner Mark Harmon.

2:34 Mr.Hollow points out that the commission rules are subordinate to state law, and the rule against public discussion violated the Open Meetings Act, and should have been waived.

2:35 Mr. Hollow is emphasizing the Jordan vote switch to Tramel did matter, because of how her vote was changed.

2:39 Mr. Hollow is examining the 'curative' meeting defense, and reads that a perfunctory re-enactment of the original decision does not count. He also points out that the public must be involved in the curative meeting.

2:44 Mr. Hollow points out that any action taken at a meeting in violation of the Open Meetings Act is void.

2:47 Mr. Hollow revisits the admissions under the quorum arguments, and stresses that many commissioners admitted to deliberating, using the defense that they were less than a quorum, so the Open Meetings Act didn't apply. Mr. Hollow pointed out that this defense was struck down.This legal miscue can be laid directly at the feet of John Owings, who was caught trying to be too cute with the law. His quorum defense backfired in a big way.

2:55 Mr. Hollow concludes after a 30 minute close.

2:56 10 Minute Recess

3:12 Mr. Moncier begins his close, promising to keep it to 30 minutes.I'm not putting any money on it.

3:30 We're not hearing anything new, except that Mr. Moncier says that part of the jury instruction will be that if they fid that actions were taken to circumvent the Open Meetings Act, then those actions by definition are violations of the Act.

3:34 "...the most asinine decision ever made by a public official in East Tennessee" referring to the email sent by Larry Smith, documenting Scott Moore's statement that he was going to do the exact opposite of whatever the mayor wanted.

3:38 Mr. Moncier begins going through the questions for the jury.

3:43 Mr. Moncier goes over his time.

3:48 Chancellor Fansler swore in Chuck Bolus. Isn't that worthy of recusal? Not only is there a strong appearance of a conflict of interest, he might also be offended by having his name dragged into this mess. Either way you look at it, his objectivity could reasonably be suspect.

3:52 Mr. Moncier finishes.

3:53 Chancellor Fansler charges the jury.IMAGE_118r%20%282%29.jpg

3:57 Fansler reads sections of the Open Meetings Act to the jury.

3:58 Fansler reads the section of the Open Meetings Act that states that electronic meetings are covered by the Act, and shall not be used to conduct public business.

4:00 Fansler reads from the County Charter, including a decision that allows private conversation, but not deliberation.

4:06 Fansler lays out the conditions for weighing the fact that Commissioner Lambert failed to turn in his phone records. This is nowhere near the slam dunk Moncier portrayed it as. Among the conditions, the jurors must conclude that the defendant had the ability to turn in the records, and that the records were not equally available to the plaintiffs.

4:30 Fansler excuses the jury to begin deliberations.

4:37 Fansler is going over the final interrogatories with the attorneys.

4:45 We're done and it's up to the jury.

Posted by Rich
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Monday Morning Coming Down

With apologies to Kris Kristofferson

9:35 Fansler gives the jury instructions about the closing argument process.

9:35 Mr. Hollow goes first. Hollow says that his case is that the Open Meetings Act was violated by the Knox County Commission between Jan 12 and Jan 31. He arrived at his case by reviewing video and audio tapes of the Commission meetings,and reviewing the depositions of the people involved.

"systematic,studied and deliberate exclusion of the citizens from the process of government."
"Orgy of political power."

Cites Commissioner Hammond's testimony.

Surprisingly few Commissioners in attendence, but several members of the election commission are here.

Reviews the history of the charter and the term limits fracas. Stresses that there was no time limit imposed by the Tennessee Supreme Court on replacing the term limited commissioners and county wide officers.

9:46 Scott Moore shows up.

Mr.Hollow claims that the "gentleman's agreement" to allow the term limited commissioners to pick their successors was "an abdication of their {the whole commission] responsibility," as it took the burden that the state constitution granted to th "legislative body"and placed it on only two people. That argument strikes me as pretty weak. If two people decide for their district, then the whole commission ratifies that decision,then the whole commission was involved.

Mr. Hollow goes into detail on the Scott Moore written letter calling for a special meeting of the commission on the 31st, how he had commissioners electronically sign the letter without ever reading it. Then he goes into the agenda for the meeting, pointing out that the agenda never went through a committee; it was written and accepted solely by Chairman Moore.

Mr. Hollow talks about the rules of the Jan 31st meeting, pointing out that the rules promulgated by Chairman Moore excluded the citizens. This argument is relying on an emotional response rather than the law. The Commission was well within its authority to appoint the commissioners without public input. The case is that the appointment process should have been public and open.

Mr. Hollow now points out that the rules forbade deliberations in the public meeting of Jan 31st. He asks if there could be no deliberations during the meeting, then the only time commissioners could have deliberated was during breaks and before the meeting.This argument speaks to the heart of the case. If no deliberations were allowed during the meeting, then when did they deliberate?

Mr. Hollow points out that J. J. Jones knew well in advance of the meeting that he would be the sheriff, based on the invitations sent out, no other nominations, 18-0-1 vote.

10:05 Mr. Hollow goes over the fee office appointments. He reminds the jury of the testimony from Mr. Emgee who was interested in the Register of Deeds office. He was told by his commissioner, Greg Lambert, that the deal was already done, and the vote on the 31st bore that out.

10:07 Mr. Hollow then looks at the appointment of Billy Tindell as County Clerk. Tindell will not run for re-election, and Scott Moore, who is term limited as Commissioner announces that he will run for Clerk.This finally explains to me why they voted Tindell into the Clerk's position even though it created the deadlocks in the 4th district; Moore wanted his future job held safely.

10:11 Mr. Hollow moves on to the 4th district. He points out that there was no motion, second, and vote to amend the agenda to handle the 4th district first. He points out that Diane Jordan changed her vote from Davis to Cate on the seat 4a balloting.

10:14 Mr. Hollow discusses the recess. He shows a photo of Pinkston talking to Jordan during the recess,and says that they were obviously talking about football. The crowd chuckles.The gallery is now full. Notes that after the recess conversation with Pinkston, Jordan switches her vote to Tramel. Then after another recess, the vote on seat 4b is moved to the back of the agenda.

10:20 Mr. Hollow points out that two commissioners recall that Josh Jordan was the predetermined candidate for the 1st district seat, even though the commissioners from the 1st, strickland and Jordan, do not remember it that way.

10:22 Mr.Hollow brings us to District 2 and Chuck Bolus. Points out that on the third ballot, Mr. Bolus has only 6 votes. Then there is a recess. No debate, no discussion, no deliberation inpublic, but them Mr. Bolus gets 11 votes. "During that recess, he picks up 5 votes. But do they bother to tell you how he got those 5 votes?"

10:25 Revisits the attempt to swear in Richard Cate early. Points out that this in itself was direct evidence of deliberation outside the public eye. Connects it to Bolus swearing in.

10:28 Mr. Hollow points out the "mystic appearance" of "Prince" John Valliant and the sudden materialization of the oath form without any act of volition on Chucky Bolus's part. "That stinks to high heaven."

10:31 Mr. Hollow points out that Scott Davis was allowed to speak when he withdrew his name.

10:34 Mr.Hollow goes into the Leuthold-Sisk situation and calls the $17k raise a "coincidence."

10:38 Mr. Hollow goes through the other appointments and points out when and where commissioners have admitted to deliberating under oath.

10:39 Mr. Hollow details the nominating committee process from the 9th district. Mr. Hollow says there was no number two man on the list of two. He must not have been listening to Hubert Smith's show on Sunday, where the second name, Charles Swann, was broken by Hubert on the air.

10:44 Mr. Hollow is harping on the fact that the commissioners in the 9th abdicated their responsibility.Again, this argument is weak, as the commissioners had the legal right to appoint whoever they wanted.

10:46 Mr. Hollow closes by pointing out that the statute says no deliberations or decision can be made in chance meetings, then points out how all the seats decided without controversy were evidence that decisions and deliberations made outside the public view. "What we're looking for is some sort of message through the only vehicle we have to tell these defendants to obey the law...Give us the courtesy of allowing our government to let us see how it is being run."

10:49 10 Minute Break.

11:00 Mr.Moncier begins his closing.
Again reviews the history of term limits. Moncier stresses the actions of the commissioners in holding on to their seats, challenging term limits, challenging the charter, and so on. "They fought it with every piece of your tax dollars."

"The people were the pawns of the people who owned your government."

11:09 Moncier gives a multimedia closing. "This trial is the equivalent of the American Revolution in Knox County."Wow. Herb is pulling out all the stops for this close. He's not arguing the law at all, making a purely emotional appeal to the jury.

11:14 Mr. Moncier disagrees with Commissioner Guthe. Friday the 12th was not Black Friday, that was Liberation Day. Friday the 19th was Black Friday.

11:19 "What the people have done is...put their government on trial."

11:22 Mr.Moncier is using slides to point out the inconsistencies in Chairman Moore's testimony. Then he attempts to quote Bismark about the law ans sausage, but it doesn't go very well.

11:26 Mr. Moncier takes on the gentleman's agreement by pointing out that we don't have nine counties in Knox County, and since commissioners from one district spends every district's tax dollars, then all commissioners have to act on all issues, including appointments.This argument is more entertaining coming from Moncier, but just as weak.

11:28 Mr. Moncier references Josh Jordan's issues twice without identifying them.

11:37 Mr. Moncier reminds the jury of Pinkston's testimony that he couldn't remember what he talked about with Moore and Lambert, but it wasn't about appointments.

11:30 "They stole your government, pure and simple."

11:40 Mr. Moncier deals with the Sisk Leuthold deal. again with the innuendo without any prof of wrong doing.

"...the immaculate conception of the oath..."

11:44 Mr. Moncier points out that Chairman Moore testified that he didn't know that Bolus was getting sworn in, despite testimony from Commissioner Smith. He also asks why Moore didn't end the 2 minute recess until Bolus was back from the swearing in.

11:47 There's a new sheriff in town, and his name isn't J.J. Jones; it's Scott Moore. Mr.Moncier is charging that if Tim Hutchinson has truly left the political scene, then Scott Moore has filled the power vacuum.

11:52 Again with Josh Jordan's background.

11:55 Mr. Moncier makes the point that all of the commissioners violated the Open Meetings Act.

11:57 Mr.Moncier points out that he likes Frank Leuthold, but believes the process by which he was appointed was wrong.

12:02 Mr. Moncier says he's almost glad Commissioner Lambert didn't give up his phone records because it would have taken him forever to investigate it. He points out that Pinkston and Harmon didn't turn over all of their phone records either.

12:05 The jury is beginning to look bored again. Moncier is running a series of pictures of the major players and commenting. There's no continuity to his close, making it hard to follow.

12:08 Mr. Moncier points out the Ms. Mary Anne Stackhouse said in her opening that she would cal all the commissioners,and he wants to know why she didn't call Lee Tramel or Richard Cate.

12:09 "Where is your defense Ms Stackhouse?"

12:11 Commissioner Schmid is a hero.

12:14 Mr. Moncier concludes. He wants to know what gave Chairman Moore the right to deliberate and discuss the appointments in private, thereby depriving the Knox County citizens of their rights. He also wants to know who proposed the rules of the agenda, and who voted on it.

"Chairman Moore said,'Here's how we're going to do it,' and 12 kangaroos followed him!"

Posted by Rich
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