Monthly Archives: March 2010

The Gripe Over The Grape

Paula Kelly moved to Nashville 8 years ago, and tells a story that captures the essence of the consumer experience here in Tennessee:

My husband and I were in the process of building our house, so there were four of us living in a small apartment while we awaited it’s completion.  One particularly stressful day I headed to the grocery store for a few dinner items and a nice bottle of wine.   I quickly located the meat and vegetables I needed but walked back and forth in that store for 15 minutes before finally asking a sales clerk where on God’s green earth did they hide the wine?!!  The clerk stifled a laugh and informed me that I could not purchase wine there, and gave me directions to the nearest package store.  I was shocked and by now more than a little miffed, but I made the trek across town to the store that offered wine and liquor.  I made my selection, took it to the register and prepared to pay for it.  No big deal, really, until I remembered that my corkscrew was still packed away in storage.  I asked the young woman where they kept the corkscrews and that was when I learned that I would have to travel back the grocery store to purchase one.  I’m pretty sure I slung every swear word I know (and even invented a few) at that poor clerk yet she just smiled and said, “welcome to Tennessee.”

Like it or not, the demographics of this State are a-changin.  Transplants from all over the Lower 48 are coming to Tennessee, lured by our mild weather and the relatively low cost of living.  They bring with them certain expectations of convenience.  I understand this, as I too am a transplant.  ( Its probably worse for me, since I used to live in Las Vegas, where you can buy liquor almost anywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.)

It seems there is now a movement afoot to help consumers find their precious Pinot Noir in their local grocery store aisle.  It is by no means grass roots, as it is coordinated by the Grocers lobby.  The effort is serious and well run, and makes good use of Social Media. Nonetheless, when I first heard about it, I said to myself that it was about time.  What could be the issue here?

There are issues.  Tons of them, in fact, and a few that gave me pause.  So, intrepid reporter that I am,  I decided to dig around a bit. Maybe I should have opened that bottle of 1999 Chateau Le Pin Pomerol I have squirreled away instead.  (Nah, I can’t really afford a wine that nice, what with its luxurious fullness derived from the downy levels of mocha, black cherry and currant flavors, after all. Usually, I just mix equal parts Champagne and Ripple to make what Fred Sanford used to call Champipple.)  But I digress.

My first call was an obvious one…what do the liquor stores think of the proposal?  Wow, the vehemence would make a Tea Partier cringe.  In short, they don’t like it one bit.  Who could blame them?  For years they have enjoyed a monopoly on the sale of wine and spirits in Tennessee.  Some expanded, some hired extra help.  Then, after years of investing time and money, corporate grocers threaten to cut a wide swath through their market share. A real concern for them is that giant retailers will be able to negotiate favorable bulk purchases from suppliers and undercut their price.  Except, not really, which I’ll explain later.  By itself, that is not going to persuade lawmakers to vote it down, after all, where were these lawmakers when thousands of mom and pop hardware stores and pharmacies went under once Walmart came to town?

Speaking of laws, it helps to know what a couple of them are here in Tennessee.  I’m listing them in no particular order.  First, an individual may only own one liquor store at a time.  A married couple can own one in each of their names, as is the case with Bentley Parrish and his wife, who own Warehouse Liquors and Express Liquors, respectively, here in Springfield.  They may only sell wine and spirits.  No mixers, no cigarettes, and by God no corkscrews.  The one exception seems to be lottery tickets, which the Parrish’s elected not to do.  (Mr. Parrish told me it seemed silly to ask the man trying to buy a $40 bottle of vodka to wait while he helps another customer decide which $2 scratch-off “feels lucky” that day)  In addition, store owners may not buy more product than they can warehouse on-site.  It is illegal for them to store product somewhere else, as it must be transported by a licensed distributor only.  This is important, because unless the law is re-written, big box retailers would be bound by the same rules, and this would prohibit them from making those favorable bulk purchases I mentioned above.  (I could not get a single large grocery chain to comment on this, but its unlikely that Kroger or Publix would be granted a blanket license, besides, they might not want it as sanctions against an errant store could be imposed chain-wide)

My next call was to some distributors, who I was certain would be all for this legislation.  I talked to the owner of Horizon Wine and Spirits, Mr. Tommy Bernard, who, it turns out, is also the President of the Wholesale Wine and Spirit Association of Tennessee. Mr. Bernard was patient and accommodating and answered my questions between meetings.  I started out by asking him what he thought about allowing wine sales in grocery stores.  “I’m a businessman, to be sure, so the opportunity to sell more product will likely be good for me and my employees.  But I enjoy a good relationship with hundreds of store owners that I have been doing business with for years.”  That was not his only conflict with the proposal.  He had sincere concerns about “creating” more wine drinkers by mainstreaming (my word) wine.  “We, more than most people, understand the pitfalls of this product.  I’ve seen the damage done to relationships and lives, and my worst nightmare is waking up to a photograph in the paper of dead teenagers and a bottle of our product on the floorboard.”  He went on to talk rather openly about some other problems that would have to be resolved beyond those grounded in and by his sense of morality.  For example, what constitutes a “grocery store”?  Is a gas station/convenience store that sells milk a potential new customer?  If so, while that might seem like thousands of new accounts, he has only X number of trucks, drivers, and hours in a day.  After the initial order, is he just spreading out the number of accounts he has, but making roughly the same money?  It isn’t like once this law passes, millions of new wine drinkers would suddenly appear.

Proponents of the bill like to point to the increased revenue flowing into State coffers, but, really, after all these new accounts fill their initial order and the subsequent spike in tax revenue occurs, what evidence is there that suggests it will continue month after month?  My opinion is that it will increase tax revenue, both on the wholesale and retail side, but it will take decades to be realized, since it will in fact be dependent on new wine drinkers moving here or coming of age.

I decided to go and visit my local wine and spirit store and ask a few more questions.    I arrived at Warehouse Liquors armed with ideas on how to best write a new law allowing grocery stores to sell wine.  What about a floor on prices, for instance?  What about allowing him to offer other products in his establishment?  What if it were written into the law that wholesalers could not tier their prices beyond x number of cases?  I may have even chastised him a bit for being unwilling to consider how to forge ahead if and when this becomes law.  (A bold move on my part, considering I bummed a smoke from him while I ranted, and I kept expecting him to push a button to summon his Kobe Bryant-sized counter clerk to forcibly remove me from his office)  He waited until I was finished, shook his head, and asked me a simple question:

“What is it that I could stock here that would make this a destination for you?”  (I soooo wanted to say, rubbers?)  But honestly I couldn’t think of a single thing that wasn’t available in any grocery store.  He shot down each of my ideas about working out an equitable new law by stating, “there is no way to structure this new law that will eliminate the impulse-buy”. And he was right.  I thanked him for his time and left even more confused.

Now, long-time readers of The Chronicles will tell you I’m slightly left of Che, and that is probably true.  I do think that certain industries should be tightly regulated.  Energy companies, banking and securities, food and pharmaceuticals to name a few.  But wine?  In the end, I’m inclined to think of wine as more than a commodity, or an alcoholic beverage.  It may not be food, but to some people, its as crucial to a meal as the right spices.

Wine is a culture as much as it is a business.  It has its own language and etiquette.  It may share some of the same fermented properties as scotch or gin, but dammit, its just different.  I know small retailers will have to scramble if this law passes, they will have to sell the idea that the service they provide is worth a buck or two a bottle, and that local dollars should stay local.  Small farms are facing that fight as I write this.  But the reality is that we consumers want choice, and convenience,  and a buck or two saved when we can.  It also strikes me as unfair to prohibit grocery stores from selling an item people clearly want, in an effort to protect a handful of other businesses.

But thats me.  If you want more information from either side, you go here to visit Red, White, and Food, and you can go here to see what the Tennessee Wine and Spirit Retailers Association has to say on the matter.

Good luck.

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Important Work

I can’t tell you how much this appeals to me.  My friend and local over-achiever John Lamb has launched a new blog dedicated to changing the way the Left employs language. His mission statement is simple:

Framing is what this blog is about – finding the part of your audience’s heart that already agrees with you and switching it on.

For decades now, Progressives have been lagging behind when it comes to public opinion, even when the majority of the public agrees with their ideals and positions.  I’ve long admired Lakoff, but I usually dismissed his solution as incomplete.  One of the reasons Luntz is so effective is that he is able to find the lowest common denominator and package it for mass consumption.  I’m not sure that nuanced answers can be boiled down to fit on a bumper sticker.  At least not always. But sometimes they can, and we miss opportunities.   For the life of me, I don’t understand why the Left never completely adopted the idea of The Patient’s Bill of Rights when framing health reform.  Pretty hard to argue against anything that has “bill of rights” right there in the damn title.

I have known John for years, and one of the things about him that tickles me so much is that I will sometimes get a call from him, and before I can finish saying hello he has already launched into his pitch for a way to frame a particular issue.  “I’m fine, John, and you?”   That type of dedication, coupled with his unconventional approach and solid ethical center, is why I am excited that he has taken on this project.

He’s looking for like-minded people to chime in.  Bookmark his site and share your ideas anytime.

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Homework Done On Open Letter To Conservatives

Dear Conservative Americans,

The years have not been kind to you. I grew up in a profoundly Republican home, so I can remember when you wore a very different face than the one we see now.  You’ve lost me and you’ve lost most of America.  Because I believe having responsible choices is important to democracy, I’d like to give you some advice and an invitation.

First, the invitation:  Come back to us.

Now the advice.  You’re going to have to come up with a platform that isn’t built on a foundation of cowardice: fear of people with colors, religions, cultures and sex lives that differ from your own; fear of reform in banking, health care, energy; fantasy fears of America being transformed into an Islamic nation, into social/commun/fasc-ism, into a disarmed populace put in internment camps; and more.  But you have work to do even before you take on that task.

Your party — the GOP — and the conservative end of the American political spectrum has become irrepsonsible and irrational.  Worse, it’s tolerating, promoting and celebrating prejudice and hatred.  Let me provide some expamples — by no means an exhaustive list — of where the Right as gotten itself stuck in a swamp of hypocrisy, hyperbole, historical inaccuracy and hatred.

If you’re going to regain your stature as a party of rational, responsible people, you’ll have to start by draining this swamp:

Hypocrisy

You can’t flip out — and threaten impeachment – when Dems use a prlimentary procedure (deem and pass) that you used repeatedly (more than 35 times in just one session and more than 100 times in all!), that’s centuries old and which the courts have supported. Especially when your leaders admit it all.

You can’t vote and scream against the stimulus package and then take credit for the good it’s done in your own district (happily handing out enormous checks representing money that you voted against, is especially ugly) —  114 of you (at last count) did just that — and it’s even worse when you secretly beg for more.

You can’t fight against your own ideas just because the Dem president endorses your proposal.

You can’t call for a pay-as-you-go policy, and then vote against your own ideas.

Are they “unlawful enemy combatants” or are they “prisoners of war” at Gitmo? You can’t have it both ways.

You can’t carry on about the evils of government spending when your family has accepted more than a quarter-million dollars in government handouts.

You can’t refuse to go to a scheduled meeting, to which you were invited, and then blame the Dems because they didn’t meet with you.

You can’t rail against using teleprompters while using teleprompters. Repeatedly.

You can’t rail against the bank bailouts when you supported them as they were happening. (It was Bush who came up with that one.)

You can’t be for immigration reform, then against it.

You can’t enjoy socialized medicine while condemning it.

You can’t flip out when the black president puts his feet on the presidential desk when you were silent about white presidents doing the same.  Bush.  Ford.

You can’t complain that the president hasn’t closed Gitmo yet when you’ve campaigned to keep Gitmo open.

You can’t flip out when the black president bows to foreign dignitaries, as appropriate for their culture, when you were silent when the white presidents did the same. Bush.  Nixon. Ike. You didn’t even make a peep when Bush held hands and kissed (on the mouth) leaders of countries that are not on “kissing terms” with the US.

You can’t complain that the undies bomber was read his Miranda rights under Obama when the shoe bomber was read his Miranda rights under Bush and you remained silent.  (And, no, Newt — the shoe bomber was not a US citizen either, so there is no difference.)

You can’t attack the Dem president for not personally* publicly condemning a terrorist event for 72 hours when you said nothing about the Rep president waiting 6 days in an eerily similar incident (and, even then, he didn’t issue any condemnation).  *Obama administration did the day of the event.

You can’t throw a hissy fit, sound alarms and cry that Obama freed Gitmo prisoners who later helped plan the Christmas Day undie bombing, when — in fact — only one former Gitmo detainee, released by Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, helped to plan the failed attack.

You can’t condemn blaming the Republican president for an attempted terror attack on his watch, then blame the Dem president for an attemted terror attack on his.

You can’t mount a boycott against singers who say they’re ashamed of the president for starting a war, but remain silent when another singer says he’s ashamed of the president and falsely calls him a Moaist who makes him want to throw up and says he ought to be in jail.

You can’t cry that the health care bill is too long, then cry that it’s too short.

You can’t support the individual mandate for health insurance, then call it unconstitutional when Dems propose it and campaign against your own ideas.

You can’t demand television coverage, then whine about it when you get it. Repeatedly.

You can’t praise criminal trials in US courts for terror suspects under a Rep president, then call it “treasonous” under a Dem president.

You can’t propose ideas to create jobs, and then work against them when the Dems put your ideas in a bill.

You can’t be both pro-choice and anti-choice.

You can’t damn someone for failing to pay $900 in taxes when you’ve paid nearly $20,000 in IRS fines.

You can’t condemn critizising the president when US troops are in harms way, then attack the president when US troops are in harms way, the only difference being the president’s party affiliation (and, by the way, armed conflict does NOT remove our right and our duty as Americans to speak up).

You can’t be both for cap-and-trade policy and against it.

You can’t vote to block debate on a bill, then bemoan the lack of  ‘open debate’.

If you push anti-gay legislation and make anti-gay speeches, you should probably take a pass on having gay sex, regardless of whether it’s 2004 or 2010.  This is true, too, if you’re taking GOP money and giving anti-gay rants on CNN.  Taking right-wing money and GOP favors to write anti-gay stories for news sites while working as a gay prostitute, doubles down on both the hypocrisy and the prostitution.  This is especially true if you claim your anti-gay stand is God’s stand, too.

When you chair the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, you can’t send sexy emails to 16-year-old boys (illegal anyway, but you made it hypocritical as well).

You can’t criticize Dems for not doing something you didn’t do while you held power over the past 16 years, especially when the Dems have done more in one year than you did in 16.

You can’t decry “name calling” when you’ve been the most consistent and outrageous at it. And the most vile.

You can’t spend more than 40 years hating, cutting and trying to kill Medicare, and then pretend to be the defenders of Medicare.

You can’t praise the Congressional Budget Office when it’s analysis produces numbers that fit your political agenda, then claim it’s unreliable when it comes up with numbers that don’t.

You can’t vote for X under a Republican president, then vote against X under a Democratic president. Either you support X or you don’t. And it makes it worse when you change your position merely for the sake obstructionism.

You can’t call a reconcilliation out of bounds when you used it repeatedly.

You can’t spend tax-payer money on ads against spending tax-payer money.

You can’t condemn individual health insurance mandates in a Dem bill, when the madates were your idea.

You can’t demand everyone listen to the generals when they say what fits your agenda, and then ignore them when they don’t.

You can’t whine that it’s unfair when people accuse you of exploiting racism for political gain, when your party’s former leader admits you’ve been doing it for decades.

You can’t portray yourself as fighting terrorists when you openly and passionately support terrorists.

You can’t complain about a lack of bipartisanship when you’ve routinely obstructed for the sake of political gain — threatening to filibuster at least 100 pieces of legislation in one session, far more than any other since the procedural tactic was invented — and admitted it.  Some admissions are unintentional, others are made proudly. This is especially true when the bill is the result of decades of compromise between the two parties and is filled with your own ideas.

You can’t question the loyalty of Department of Justice lawyers when you didn’t object when your own Republican president appointed them.

You can’t preach and try to legislate “Family Values” when you: take nude hot tub dips with teenagers (and pay them hush money); cheat on your wife with a secret lover and lie about it to the world; cheat with a staffer’s wife (and pay them off with a new job); pay hookers for sex while wearing a diaper and cheating on your wife; or just enjoying an old fashioned non-kinky cheating on your wife; try to have gay sex in a toilet; authorize the rape of children in Iraqi prisons to coherce their parents into providing information; seek, look at or have sex with children; replace a guy who cheats on his wife with a guy who cheats on his pregnant wife with his wife’s mother.

Hyperbole

You really need to dissassociate with those among you who:

* assert that people making a quarter-million dollars a year can barely make ends meet or that $1 million “isn’t a lot of money”;
* say that “Comrade” Obama is a “Bolshevik” who is “taking cues from Lenin”;
* ignore the many times your buddies use a term that offends you and complain only when a Dem says it;
* liken political opponents to murderers, rapists, and “this Muslim guy” that “offed his wife’s head” or call them “un-American”;
* say Obama “wants his plan to fail…so that he can make the case for bank nationalization and vindicate his dream of a socialist economy”;
* equate putting the good of the people ahead of your personal fortunes with terrorism;
* smear an entire major religion with the actions of a few fanatics;
* say that the president wants to “annihilate us“;
* compare health care reform with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, a Bolshevik plot the attack on 9/11, or reviving the ghosts of communist dictators;
* equate our disease-fighting stem cell research with “what the Nazis did”;
* call a bill passed by the majority of both houses of Congress, by members of Congress each elected by a majority in their districts, an unconscionable abuse of power, a violation of the presidential oath or “the end of representative government”;
* shout “baby killer” at a member of Congress on the floor of the House, especially one who so fought against abortion rights that he nearly killed health care reform (in fact, a little decorum, a little respect for our national institutions and the people and the values they represent, would be refreshing — cut out the shouting, the swearing and the obscenities);
* prove your machismo by claiming your going to “crash a party” to which you’re officially invited;
* claim that Obama is pushing America’s “submission to Shariah”;
* question the patriotism of people upholding cherished American values and the rule of law;
* claim the president is making us less safe without a hint of evidence;
* call a majority vote the “tyranny of the minority,” even if you meant to call it tyranny of the majority — it’s democracy, not tyranny;
* call the president’s support of a criminal trial for a terror suspect “treasonous” (especially when you supported the same thing when the president shared your party);
* call the Pope the anti-Christ;
* assert that the constitutionally mandated census is an attempt to enslave us;
* accuse opponents of being backed by Arab slave-drivers, drunk and suicidal;
equate family planing with eugenics or Nazism;
* accuse the president of changing the missile defense program’s logo to match his campaign logo and reflect what you say is his secret Muslim identity;
* accuse political opponents of being totalitarians, socialists, communists, fascists, Marxists;  terrorist sympathizers, McCarthy-like, Nazis or drug pushers; and
* advocate a traitors act like seccession, violent revolution, military coup or civil war (just so we’re clear: sedition is a bad thing).

History

If you’re going to use words like socialism, communism and fascism, you must have at least a basic understanding of what those words mean (hint: they’re NOT synonymous!)

You can’t cut a leading Founding Father out the history books because you’ve decided you don’t like his ideas.

You cant repeatedly assert that the president refuses to say the word “terrorism” or say we’re at war with terror when we have an awful lot of videotape showing him repeatedly assailing terrorism and using those exact words.

If you’re going to invoke the names of historical figures, it does not serve you well to whitewash them. Especially this one.

You can’t just pretend historical events didn’t happen in an effort to make a political opponent look dishonest or to make your side look better. Especially these events. (And, no, repeating it doesn’t make it better.)

You can’t say things that are simply and demonstrably false: health care reform will not push people out of their private insurance and into a government-run program ; health care reform (which contains a good many of your ideas and very few from the Left) is a long way from “socialist utopia”; health care reform is not “reparations”; nor does health care reform create “death panels”.

Hatred

You have to condemn those among you who:

* call members of Congress n*gger and f*ggot;
* elected leaders who say “I’m a proud racist”;
* state that America has been built by white people;
* say that poor people are poor because they’re rotten people, call them “parasitic garbage” or say they shouldn’t be allowed to vote;
* call women bitches and prostitutes just because you don’t like their politics ( repea - ted - ly );
* assert that the women who are serving our nation in uniform are hookers;
* mock and celebrate the death of a grandmother because you disagree with her son’s politics;
* declare that those who disagree with you are shown by that disagreement to be not just “Marxist radicals” but also monsters and a deadly disease killing the nation (this would fit in the hyperbole and history categories, too);
* joke about blindness;
* advocate euthanizing the wife of your political opponent;
* taunt people with incurable, life-threatening diseases — especially if you do it on a syndicated broadcast;
* equate gay love with bestiality — involving  horses or dogs or turtles or ducks — or polygamy, child molestation, pedophilia;
* casually assume that only white males look “like a real American”;
* assert presidential power to authorize torture,  torture a child by having his testacles crushed in front of his parents to get them to talk, order the massacre of a civilian village  and launch a nuclear attack without the consent of Congress;
* attack children whose mothers have died;
* call people racists without producing a shred of evidence that they’ve said or done something that would even smell like racism — same for invoking racially charged “dog whistle” words (repeatedly);
* condemn the one thing that every major religion agrees on;
* complain that we no longer employ the tactics we once used to disenfranchise millions of Americans because of their race;
* blame the victims of natural disasters and terrorist attacks for their suffering and losses;
* celebrate violence , joke about violence, prepare for violence or use violent imagery, “fun” political violence, hints of violence, threats of violence (this one is rather explicit), suggestions of violence or actual violence (and, really, suggesting anal rape wth a hot piece of metal is beyond the pale); and
* incite insurrection telling people to get their guns ready for a “bloody battle” with the president of the United States.

Oh, and I’m not alone:  One of your most respected and decorated leaders agrees with me.

So, dear conservatives, get to work.  Drain the swamp of the conspiracy nuts, the bold-faced liars undeterred by demonstrable facts, the overt hypocrisy and the hatred.  Then offer us a calm, responsible, grownup agenda based on your values and your vision for America.  We may or may not agree with your values and vision, but we’ll certainly welcome you back to the American mainstream with open arms.  We need you.

(Anticipating your initial response:  No there is nothing that even comes close to this level of wingnuttery on the American Left.)

By Russell King

(H/T: TPM and Street Prophets)

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Savor Indeed

Peggy Noonan in 2004, in a horribly condescending article in WSJ:

I do not know what the Democratic Party spent, in toto, on the 2004 election, but what they seem to have gotten for it is Barack Obama. Let us savor.”

After I stopped laughing about it, it occurred to me she and all the other neo-cons underestimated Mr. Obama then, and they continue to do so now, even after he got to add CIC to his list of accomplishments.   (I stumbled upon Noonan’s quote in the comments section of David Frum’s rather frank article lamenting the GOP’s failure to reign in the crazies after betting the ranch on killing HCR.)  Almost from the beginning, it was obvious that this protracted and prolonged “debate” over the bill was pure theater.  Didn’t DeMint tip his hand last July with his whole “Waterloo” analogy and claims that a defeat of this bill would “break” him (President Obama)?  That is what they wanted.  That is all they wanted.

I don’t want to judge that.   I don’t understand it, but I know that the Party I vote with can also be myopic and petty and vindictive, and politics at that level (maybe every level these days) is brutal.  But dear God if you intend to derail a piece of legislation that most Americans want and need…you had better hitch your effort to people other than DeMint, Bachman, and Palin, especially against a guy who has proven he can out-maneuver you at crunch time.  Maybe, though, they had no choice.  The GOP has, for so long, sat back and allowed the whores of talk-radio and Fox News whip it’s listener’s (and their constituents) into a frothing frenzy at every turn, and well, that beast must now be fed, it seems.

You just can’t allow protesters to mock a disabled person by throwing money at him without distancing yourself as quickly and as publicly as possible.  If I was at a rally and heard someone on my side hurling racial slurs at a Congressman my sign would be wedged up their fat ass in a heartbeat.  Then I would put out a press release demanding my so called supporters behave like human beings.  Instead, they did this.

Where is the Republican Leadership?

Don’t get me wrong, I am appalled by my own Party’s feckless response to bullies.  I supported the idea of “reaching out” and efforting bi-partisanship to a point, but I long ago stopped caring if they even let this current crop of Republicans into the House Chamber.  Nancy, bar the door.  In 2000 a handful of khaki-clad thugs intimidated us so badly we still get the shakes if someone raises their voice to us, it seems.  Regardless, we proved that we can, when led by a resolute leader, out-fox our opponents.  And make no mistake, Mr. Obama is a closer.

Well, my guess is their next strategy will be a legal challenge.  That, however, carries a bit more risk than meets the eye, and I have to wonder if there is truly a political upside to prevailing in the court.  For now, we have a bill, and while I am not celebrating it’s contents, rest assured I’m celebrating it’s passage.

Pardon me, I’ve a little savoring to do.

UPDATE:  Oh!  I almost forgot to answer Ms. Noonan’s question.  478.5 million dollars.  Quite a bargain, if you ask me.


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I-65, 65 degrees, And I Shot A 65

What an awesome day it was.  Warm, just a little bit breezy and sunny as hell.  In preparation for my trip to Bowling Green, I had, the night before, lovingly sanded my discs, rolled some cigarettes, and packed my golf bag with band-aids.  I was ready.  Just as I hit I-65 north, I popped in a DaDa CD and set the cruise control at 73 mph.  I decided to play Keriakos Park first.  I really like this course.  Big, mature trees force you to determine an approach early and stick with it.  It is very challenging but not ruined by a lot of weed stands or harsh thickets.  If you stray off the course, it will cost you strokes, but not a drop of blood.

I played the front nine by myself.  It was relaxing and I needed to warm up anyway.  By the time I arrived at the tenth tee, the course was so crowded that I elected to hook up with two local students and a guy on lunch break who were ahead of me.  Each of these guys had, as the kids say, (used to say?) mad skillz.  Danny, Mike, and Sean each had their own style, yet consistently out-drove me.  I learned quite a bit from them.  Danny had grown up playing this course with his dad, and knew every blade of grass on every fairway. Later we picked up a guy named Bo and his ridiculously energetic Pit Bull named “Shade” who by far the happiest soul out there.  Crazy assed dog never stopped running, and a couple of times he bumped into me so I would throw a stick.  He was trained to leave the discs alone, and he never bothered them.  Cool dog.

Some volunteers were on hand making changes to a couple of “holes” (baskets) and we all stopped to chat them up.  Turns out, one of them was Dr. Rick Voakes, a local pediatrician and disc golf legend.  He is a World Champion, and designed several of the courses in Bowling Green.   As it turns out, he is married to a woman who is a also a world class disc golf player.  He shared some info about how to get your local municipality to cooperate with you to build a course.  He and C.B. Clark just finished building a new course in Clarkesville.  I will travel there soon.

After 27 holes at Keriakos, I drove down to Lover’s Lane, and played a quick 18.  I like this course just as much.  There were families playing disc golf together, some of them 7 or 8 strong.  Watching little kids learn was fun for me.

Around 4:30 I headed back, a little stiff, a little sore, but feeling pretty good about my day.

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Spring Break

We are smack dab in the middle of Spring cleaning.  Hate it.  I don’t mind the cleaning up part, mind you, its the process of letting go of useless crap that I loathe.  Left alone in this pursuit, I would pile everything up, douse with a flammable liquid, light it, pour myself a scotch and watch it burn.

So, its also pre-garage sale organization as well.  Separating, pricing, boxing.

Goodwill gets the clothes and knick knacks we don’t have the courage to price, for fear someone might actually hand us money for them. (I got it in my head that I actually rent clothes from Goodwill, since they get them back eventually anyway, but I’m embarrassed a little to admit that I think I bought an item I had previously donated.)

I have made it abundantly clear that I am down with this until Thursday, when I am taking my ass to Bowling Green to play disc golf, on two of the nicest courses known to man.  It should be noted that I am past my personal plateau.  Its very frustrating to practice conscientiously and make no progress, but, I stayed at it, and I am happier with my distance and accuracy.

Can I get anyone anything while I’m in Kentucky?

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More On Change

Ha.  Well.  Every once in a while, I’m lucky (or blessed, if you prefer) enough to experience a feeling of being connected, even if only for a nanosecond, with another human being.  Of course I’m not talking about the kind of connection we experience through the familiarities of family or friendship, or even marriage, but rather the unexpected and often unrecognized connection that occurs when you and another being’s thinking is identical and simultaneous.

I woke up this morning questioning my need to, well, question.  Sometimes friends tell me I tend to over-think things, that perhaps it is preferable to just accept the conventional wisdom and move on.  Its certainly easier, I can tell you that.  Anyway, as is my habit, I went to read a paragraph of “The Book” by Alan Watts, and it was both comforting and unsettling that in it he talked about the virtue of questioning everything.  Not five minutes ago, a good friend sent me a link to this article about a book written by a Nashvillian named David Dark.   The title?  “The Sacredness Of Questioning Everything.”  I can’t wait to read the book.  But the timing was uncanny.

Still, I hope to learn a process, a framework, if you will, for this endless soul-searching.  (The church never even came close to providing it, so please forgive me if I dismiss any advice that I seek it there.)  I’m pretty sure that we cannot do any real introspection or conscienciously question anything if we don’t develop the process for it ourselves, as I have stated before,  a roadmap does me little good if I’m not sure of my destination.

Yesterday, I was laughing with a friend about that day’s post at The Chronicles.  I’ve been struggling of late to complete a posting and hit the “publish” button.  Anyway, in a world beset by widespread poverty, genocide, war, and living in a country plagued by crippling partisanship, rampant hostility and economic crisis, I chose to write about the sale of wine in grocery stores.  That tickled me.  I think I did that because I thought (erroneously) that I knew the right answer, and all I would have to do is talk to a few people, then stake out a position and defend it.  So, I did that.  Satisfied, I grabbed a handful of discs and headed out to the back pasture with the dogs to practice my back-hand.  I launched maybe three drives before the voices in my head started.  “Look at you, all smug because you think you’re right”.  “What if that were you in that position?”  “By the way, shouldn’t you be repairing that fence over there?”  This was when I picked up my scattered discs, and slinked back inside to collect my scattered thoughts.

I thought about the title of my last post.  Change is Painful For Some.  It should have just said Change Is Painful.  I know that the word “painful” seems subjective, that its use suggests I have already determined that change is something to be endured rather than embraced.  But much like the pain that accompanies the rebuilding of muscle, sometimes pain is rewarding and necessary.  But I’m pretty sure I used the word yesterday because I could sense pain in the man’s voice as he explained to me why he was against the proposed legislation.  I could shoot down his arguments in no time flat, sure, but I took no joy in it.  Seriously, it took me the rest of the day to decide that it had to be enough that I could feel empathy, that hearing this man and considering his feelings were gifts he gave me.  I’m telling you, I feel way better today about it than I did yesterday.

So, whats next?

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Change Is Painful For Some

I called a number of local liquor store owners this morning to ask for arguments against allowing wine sales in grocery stores.  I’ll say this…they are all on the same page, short as it is.  I heard the exact same arguments each time, and I have to admit even the most compelling is probably not enough to stop this legislation.  As a former small business owner, I am well acquainted with the night sweats that occur when you have placed everything you own into your business, or borrowed heavily to start in the first place.  One owner told me he invested in the liquor business based on the laws in place at the time, that is, that only licensed liquor stores could sell wine and spirits.  Changing the rules after the fact seemed pretty unfair to him.  That seems reasonable enough, but as I stated above, absent a viable class-action lawsuit, probably not convincing enough to stop this legislation.

The “what about the kids” argument falls flat.  End of argument.

But the whole approach to liquor sales in this state and in Georgia strikes me as unfair.  One example:  As a bar owner, i was forced to buy certain products from certain distributors.  If the sales rep failed to come by to take my order, I wasn’t allowed too buy that product from anyone else, at any price.  Thats a pretty cozy arrangement for the distributors, is it not?

Another argument that seems a bit of a stretch, but certainly not impossible, is whether or not big box grocery chains might be able to qualify for rebates based on bulk purchases like they do with certain soda manufacturers?  If Publix agrees to purchase 20,000 cases of Ripple, the winery agrees on a 10 cent rebate per bottle, thereby allowing Publix to sell their product slightly cheaper.  Isn’t that what all big box stores do?  Walmart doesn’t negotiate the purchase of a dozen hammers…they buy a couple of boatloads of hammers at a time, right?

I like the idea of local dollars staying local, but I don’t think you can mandate that.

The last owner flat out said that deregulating alcohol sales was a bad thing, period.  He then proceeded to say that in a “conservative” State like Tennessee, we should be leading the charge against.  I didn’t have the heart…

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How My Evening Went

Its my job to prepare meals around here.  The thing is, it isn’t like I ever had any training in cooking, unless you count the work I did in restaurants, which is decidedly different.  Anyway, I try.  Yesterday afternoon, a cousin I didn’t even know I had showed up, and he offered to cook the night’s meal.  This was at 4:30.  We headed to the store after picking up my daughter from her post-school activities.  Now, when i grocery shop, it is pretty predictable, that is, I have a system, I know my prices, I know where everything is.  I take a list, and seldom vary from it, and I stick to the perimeter of the store as much as possible.  I can do it in my sleep.

Not so, with this weird cousin of mine.  He grabbed the cart and started throwing groceries in at a break-neck pace.  In my head, I was wondering if I should call to have my credit limit raised on my Visa.  Anyway, we’re home at 5:30, and by 7:30, eight of us sat down to the following meal:

Chicken and dumplings, made from scratch, no pre-mixed dough for my crazy-ass cousin.

Roasted herb potatoes.

Home-made cornbread, prepared in a cast iron skillet that, I swear to God, he carries in the trunk of his car.

Some kind of cucumber dish, tossed in some kind of seasoned oil.  (I wasn’t paying attention)

Apple pie, with crust on the top and bottom, with little slits in it so a little gooey stuff escapes, and then, on top of this crust, he layered a mixture of sugar, cinnamon, oats and butter, so that before you even work your way to the top crust, you get to eat a sweet crunchy layer of deliciousness.

I ate two three helpings.  I’m broke, but I’m still full.

Oh, and btw, I’m never cooking again.  My kids can survive on happy meals and frozen pizza.

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Bringing This Back

Because there are new people to share this with:

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