Category Archives: Chattanooga

November Election Analysis

Early voting in Hamilton County starts tomorrow, so it’s time for my election analysis. So, here goes…

President

We have seven candidates on the ballot. I am evaluating them in the order in which they appear.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence

I can’t make this any simpler or any more blunt: There is no good reason to vote for Trump. He’s reckless, he lies constantly, he thinks he knows and understands more than he does, he’s a horrible role model, and he cannot be trusted. I’ve heard people say that they are voting for him because they don’t trust Clinton to make acceptable Supreme Court nominations, but this argument doesn’t hold water. First, the GOP will not have fewer than 41 senators, so they will be able to block anyone Clinton nominates–and the leadership is indicating that they will do just that. (I’m putting aside the dereliction of duty argument.) Second, there’s no reason to believe that he will keep his word and nominate judges acceptable to the right anyway.

Where Donald Trump truly frightens me is in the area of nuclear weapons. He doesn’t seem to grasp why we don’t use nuclear weapons–if we use them, other countries, such as India, Pakistan, and North Korea will see their use as fair–and he doesn’t understand even the most rudimentary things about our nuclear arsenal. Yes, Russia has more warheads than the U.S., because we agreed to that in numerous treaties, because they know and we know that U.S. delivery systems are more accurate and more reliable than Russian delivery systems. (The Bulava missile has about a 40% failure rate, for one example.) Putin’s rapid modernization of his nuclear arsenal needs to be considered with the fact that Russia did almost nothing with their nuclear arsenal from 1990 to 2010. It will take him a long time to catch up, and the Russian economy isn’t exactly robust.

But if there’s anyone I like less than Trump, it may be Mike Pence. Pence is so far right that he signed a bill as Governor of Indiana that requires mothers who miscarry to bury or cremate the fetus. He’s advocated for government resources for conversion therapy for homosexuals. When in Congress, he voted against raising the minimum wage to $7.25. He’s solidly anti-science, denying climate change, evolution, and repeatedly voting against most environmental legislation. He’s as far right and away from mainstream America as any politician out there.

Like I said above, there are seven candidates on the ballot here. Trump and Pence are my seventh choice. Given some of the ones I describe below, that’s an achievement.

Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine

If this were just about the issues, my choice would be a no-brainer: I would vote for Hillary Clinton. Of the four major candidates, she is the only one who is consistently pro-science in her policies, which is pretty important for me. I want candidates who vote based on research, not gut feelings or blind faith. And there is a scenario in which I will vote for her: If the polls in Tennessee get close–right now they show Trump with a ten to twelve point lead–but the national polls show the electoral vote remaining close–currently FiveThirtyEight is predicting 343 for Clinton to 194 for Trump–I will vote for Clinton just to make sure that Trump isn’t elected. Otherwise, I will cast my vote for a third-party candidate as a protest vote to show my disgust with the Republicans and Democrats and their failure to work together on anything.

My problem with Clinton is based on two things. First, she has changed her position on many important issues. This, in itself, is a net positive. I want candidates who will change their minds when they learn new information. My problem is that Clinton consistently lies about having changed her mind. The most egregious example is her position on gay marriage. For years she said she was opposed to it, now she’s in favor of it, but she says that her position hasn’t changed. (I haven’t changed my position on gay marriage: I have believed, for as long as I can remember, that government should get out of the marriage business. Where my position has changed is that I now believe that sexual identity and orientation should be a protected class under civil rights laws.)

Second, I believe that Clinton is too entrenched with the establishment to necessarily do the right thing, even when she knows it to be right. She’s obviously pragmatic and knows who supports her–*cough* Goldman Sachs *cough*–which makes her more pro-big business than she probably should be. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the status quo. The status quo is better than what we would get with Trump, but I can’t give anything better than a room temperature endorsement. If you are in a swing state, please vote for Hillary Clinton, because Donald Trump is literally World War III-level dangerous.

“Rocky” Roque De La Fuente and Michael Steinberg

Rocky is an interesting character, and the Reform Party nominee. He ran an unsuccessful campaign for Senate in Florida this year as a Democrat, and his policies–where I can find them–have a left-leaning tilt. Having said that, he does seem to be a moderate Democrat, but, like the other candidates, he has had some ethical problems. His policy pages are a series of “what if?” questions, which really don’t say what the answers are.

He doesn’t stand a chance of getting elected, but he’s more moderate than the other independents, as you will see below. As such, he might get my protest vote.

Gary Johnson and William F. Weld

Johnson is the Libertarian candidate. In general, I like Libertarians on spending issues and civil rights issues and dislike them on foreign policy, and things are no different here. Johnson is far too isolationist for my liking, wanting to detangle the U.S. from international commitments, except in the area of trade. In an era of increasing isolation and nationalism worldwide, disengaging from the world stage is a path to regional or even global conflicts. As I consider foreign policy to be the single most important job of the president, I have a hard time voting for Johnson.

Beyond that, my problem with Johnson is my general problem with Libertarianism: It is a philosophy of extremes. President Johnson would have a hard time working with either party in Congress, but his positions are far right in some areas and far left in others, so he wouldn’t be the man-in-the-middle helping to get things done. Johnson and Weld are Republicans running as Libertarians, and their policies don’t differ significantly from Trump and Pence. Having said that, if you’re a Republican looking for a better option than Trump and you can’t bear voting for Clinton, you could do much worse than Johnson.

Alyson Kennedy and Osborne Hart

Kennedy is a former coal miner who is the candidate for the Socialist Workers Party. Her campaign is a textbook anti-capitalist rant, including holding up the Cuban Revolution as a positive example.

Still, not as bad as Donald Trump.

Mike Smith and Daniel White

Mike Smith is, for lack of a better description, a Tea Party candidate. Unlike many of the Tea Party people I have met, Smith doesn’t seem to have any of the underlying racism, and he seems like, underneath it all, a good person. His positions mostly fit within the Republican platform. As such, I don’t agree with much of what he supports, because of his desire to change policy to integrate religion into public life through the expansion of school vouchers and allowing businesses to discriminate based on religious beliefs.

Still, not as bad as Donald Trump.

Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka

Stein is the Green Party candidate for President. In the past, I have supported some Green Party candidates, because they tend to be pro-science and pro-environment. Stein cherry picks which science she supports, and some of her stances result in anti-environmental positions, such as her opposition to nuclear power and GMOs. Stein is solidly isolationist in her foreign policy, which, as with Johnson, deeply worries me.

Stein wants to ban GMOs until they have been proven safe, but that’s not how science works–and a doctor should know that. GMOs have been extremely rigorously tested, and there is absolutely no evidence that they are any more harmful than their non-GMO counterparts. As far as they can be, GMOs have been “proven” safe. Stein is not against vaccinations, but she has pandered to anti-vaxxers by softening tweets where she has expressed support for vaccinations, saying things like

In the US, however, regulatory agencies are routinely packed with corporate lobbyists and CEOs. So the foxes are guarding the chicken coop as usual in the US. So who wouldn’t be skeptical? I think dropping vaccinations rates that can and must be fixed in order to get at the vaccination issue: the widespread distrust of the medical-industrial complex.

Of the eighteen members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, two work for pharmaceutical companies, while eight come from academia, four are government researchers, with the remainder being private researchers or work for hospitals. Despite strong evidence to the contrary, she has weakened her support of vaccines to bring anti-vaxxers into her tent.

Still, not as bad as Donald Trump.

Conclusion

Right now, I’m still undecided. I will not vote for Trump, Kennedy, Smith, or Stein. I will only vote for Clinton if there’s a reasonable chance for her to win Tennessee and those electoral votes matter in the election. Of the two remaining candidates, I’m leaning toward Rocky, but I might swing over to Johnson.

House of Representatives, 3rd District

Me.

Yeah, I’m voting for myself.

Now, if I weren’t running, who would I vote for? Well, I can rule out Rick Tyler, obviously. If you held a gun to my head and made me vote for a Republican or Democrat, I would vote for Fleischmann over Shekari, because, while I agree with Shekari on more issues, Fleischmann has significant seniority on the House Appropriations Committee, and as he gains seniority, that brings money to the district. Yeah, sometimes power matters. But, frankly, it’s a choice between a party loyalist lawyer and a party loyalist lawyer. I really haven’t seen anything from either one of them that makes me think they are the least bit independent.

That leaves the other independent, Cassandra Mitchell. We had a good Skype call a few months ago, and I recently inaccurately portrayed her as a Green Party supporter. She is, but she’s not just that. She tends to lean socialist on a few issues, such as thinking price controls and rent controls are necessary, while we are in agreement on the need to raise the minimum wage. We agree on far more than we disagree on, such as access to real sex education and contraception and legalization of marijuana. She is more pro-government than I am, certainly. Most importantly to me, she’s a fellow gamer, a qualification for which I have a significant bias. Gamers, in my experience, tend to think more strategically than non-gamers and, because of the diversity of characters in games like Dungeons & Dragons, they tend to place a higher value on diversity of skills and backgrounds, which are good traits for a politician.

So, if I weren’t running, I’d probably vote for Cassandra Mitchell. But I’m also under no illusions: Fleischmann is going to be re-elected, barring a massive explosion in the Republican Party, and there’s very little Shekari, Mitchell, Tyler, or I can do about it.

If you’re thinking about voting for Tyler, do us all a favor and stay home on Election Day. Every Election Day.

Tennessee Senate District 10

Khristy Wilkinson (D) is challenging incumbent Todd Gardenhire (R). Wilkinson is a leftist Democrat and Gardenhire is a right-wing Republican. I tend to lean a bit left of center when compared to the majority here, so I agree with more of Wilkinson’s positions than Gardenhire’s, but that’s not why I will be voting for Wilkinson. Like I said before the August primary: Gardenhire isn’t terribly tolerant of those with opposing views, and I’m not a big fan of name callers.

I recommend that you join me and vote for Khristy Wilkinson as well.

Ordinance No. 13007 Amendment

This one seems to me to just be a paperwork clarification on city employees needing to live in Chattanooga. I can’t find any reason to oppose it.

Ordinance No. 13039 Amendment

This amendment eliminates a requirement for the city to hire a “management analyst.” Yeah, we can do without that, so voting for the amendment makes sense.

 

Conclusion

I hear people say all the time that if you don’t vote, you don’t have the right to complain. Despite the fact that I vote in every election–barring a couple of minor elections where work crises kept me from the polling place on election day–I don’t agree with this. I know exactly how this election is going to turn out. Trump is going to win in Tennessee, Fleischmann and Gardenhire will be reelected, and both amendments will pass. None of these races will be close. I wish I was wrong, but I know I’m not. I’ve been doing this for a long time.

I wish that I could get everyone to do their research and vote. That’s not realistic. Most people are too busy living their lives to put sufficient time into educating themselves about the candidates and issues, so they trust their trusted news sources, which are always biased. (I’m biased, so believe what I say at your own risk.) As a result, I think many voters make bad, or, at least, ill-informed decisions.

Please do your research and vote. If you can’t, I won’t hold it against you, and I will never say that you don’t have the right to complain about the government if you don’t. Some people will say that if everyone has that attitude, we’ve lost before we started. Maybe they are right, but we can’t and shouldn’t force people to vote, especially if they don’t take that responsibility seriously.

I hope that you find this analysis helpful. As always, if you have any questions, comments, or if you think I got something wrong, please let me know.

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Chattanooga Primary Analysis

As I do for most elections, I’m going to analyze almost all of the races in the August 4th election. Early voting has started, so here’s my breakdown:

Sample ballots

Congressional Race

I’m not going into too much depth on this one, since I have to face the winners of the primaries. I expect those will be Chuck Fleischmann (R) and Melody Shekari (D), but I wouldn’t be disappointed with an upset either.

Republican Primary

Of the various races, only one Republican race has a contested primary. In the Tennessee House of Representatives, 29th District, Ethan White is running against the incumbent Mike Carter. There is no Democratic opponent, so the winner of the primary will run unopposed in November.

There are only a few things to differentiate the two, but I think they are important. Carter led the charge to change the law that allowed cities to annex areas without a vote from the people being annexed, so we do know that he is capable of getting things done. His education policy is pretty good: “Letting Teachers Teach,” more instruction/less testing, and increased funding. White calls for “choices in education,” which is commonly code for vouchers and charter schools, neither of which are policies that impress me. White spends time on his campaign site talking about being pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-veteran, which are good positions to have for a candidate in this area, but which really aren’t the key issues for the office he seeks.

I am not in this district, but if I were and if I were voting in the Republican Primary, I would vote for Mike Carter.

Democratic Primary

Tennessee Senate, 10th District

There are three Democrats competing to run against Todd Gardenhire in the November election. Gardenhire isn’t terribly tolerant of those with opposing views, and I’m not a big fan of name callers. So, in the November election I will vote for whichever Democrat wins the primary.

There are three candidates running: Ty O’Grady, Khristy Wilkinson, and Nick Wilkinson. I have met and listened to all three of them at candidate events.

Khristy Wilkinson is a Bernie Sanders Democrat, with a strong focus on equality and social justice. Nick Wilkinson leads Chattanooga’s Office of Economic Development, and as such has a pro-business, specifically entrepreneurs and small business, focus–but very little information on other issues on his website. Ty O’Grady advocates for “scientific management” in government:

“I mean that if we try to get measurable results and we aren’t getting them, then we need to do something else. But our current legislators are not doing something else. Instead, they’re doing more of the same. And we will only keep dropping in the rankings. It takes courage to admit mistakes.”

But there’s one quote that really sold me on Ty O’Grady:

“Although I agree with Democrats on most issues, here’s where I differ:”

O’Grady is not going to knee-jerk vote party-line with the Democrats in the Tennessee Senate. He has solid independent principles–which you can see on his campaign website–and that’s why I will be voting for Ty O’Grady in this race.

Tennessee House of Representatives, 28th District

Incumbent JoAnne Favors is running against Dennis Clark. Favors is currently the House Minority Whip in the Tennessee House of Representatives and has served in the House since 2004. Dennis Clark is young (32), but he is the CEO of his own public relations firm in Chattanooga and has previously worked as a legislative policy adviser.

This is a difficult decision, because there are two important factors competing for my vote. First, Favors is House Minority Whip, which is a position of significant power in the House. Voting her out causes my neighborhood to lose some political clout. (And, yes, I know that this is a solid argument to vote for Fleischmann, as his seat on the House Appropriations Committee is worth quite a bit to Chattanooga.) On the other hand, I think we would benefit from some new blood and some new ideas. I don’t know what Favors’ positions on the issues are, except from her voting record, because her campaign site is offline, but Clark’s positions are clear–and he’s made it known that he is willing to reach across the aisle to get things done, which is something I always like to hear.

As such, I will be voting for Dennis Clark.

General Election

Assessor of Property

Marty Haynes (R) is running against Mark Siedlecki (D). This one is pretty simple for me. Haynes is running on the basis of modernizing the office and getting rid of the take-home car for the assessor. Siedlecki also wants to modernize the office and improve efficiency. Where the candidates differ is on one key issue: A senior property tax freeze.

Haynes has responded to Siedlecki’s campaign for a senior property tax freeze by pointing out that there is already a property tax assistance program for low income seniors, but he continues to argue that there hasn’t been a tax rate increase in years. The problem is that while the rate hasn’t increased, property values have increased, causing a significant increase in tax revenues. Siedlecki proposes to freeze senior property taxes to not burden them with increased taxes as the result of higher property assessments. Personally, I would prefer a softer freeze–Limit property tax increases to the rate of the Social Security cost-of-living increase–but that’s splitting hairs.

I will be voting for Mark Siedlecki.

School Board, District 1

Incumbent Rhonda Thurman has two challengers, Patti Skates and Jason Moses.

I don’t like Rhonda Thurman because she is too focused on taxes and not enough on making sure schools are properly funded. I also don’t like that when some students at Soddy Daisy High School enlisted the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation to end the illegal pre-football game prayers, she suggested that they “stick their fingers in their ears.” I want school board members to be focused on students, not on low taxes.

Patti Skates is a former award-winning teacher in Soddy-Daisy, where she is currently vice-mayor. Jason Moses is a firefighter and substitute teacher. Either of them would be a huge improvement over Thurman, but I would recommend voting for Dr. Skates in this race.

School Board, District 2

Kathy Lennon is running against Board Chairman Jonathan Welch. Welch voted for Normal Park Principal Jill Levine for interim superintendent, but, unfortunately, was outvoted.

There aren’t policy recommendations on Lennon’s site or her campaign Facebook page, but she does want our schools to be innovative, which is a good thing. Welch demonstrated that he was for innovation in his vote for Levine, which is enough to recommend that District 2 voters vote to retain him on the board.

School Board, District 4

Incumbent George Ricks has three challengers: Montrell BesleyTiffanie Robinson, and Annette Thompson. Ricks was key in the backroom dealings that made Dr. Kelly interim school superintendent. (I am not a fan of Dr. Kelly, due to our email correspondence on the abominable TNReady testing failure.)  This alone would be enough to vote against him.. Thompson seems to be inactive in her campaign, so that leaves Besley and Robinson, either of whom would be an improvement over Ricks. Besley is an elementary school health and physical education teacher, while Robinson is self-described as a “parent and community leader.” Speaking with people who know Besley, I have learned that he is an extremely hard worker who knows District 4 and the problems with the schools there–and he has good ideas on the causes of and solutions for those problems. I am a bit concerned that Robinson’s call for “Establishing regular benchmarks for both self-assessment and community-assessment of progress” might include more testing than I am comfortable with. Robinson seems to have most of the endorsements in this race, but I’ve never relied too heavily on what the media thinks about a candidate..

I recommend voting for Montrell Besley, as he knows District 4 as well as anyone and will work harder than anyone to improve it.

School Board, District 7

Joe Wingate is running against incumbent Donna Horn. Like Jonathan Welch, Horn voted for Jill Levine for interim superintendent, which I supported. Joe Wingate is running on increased transparency and accountability, but I don’t see much on how he would work to actually improve schools. As such, I would like to see Horn remain in her seat.

Judicial Retention

Short version: Retain them all.

Longer version:

  • Jeffrey Bivins was appointed to the Supreme Court by a Republican and to the Appeals Court by a Democrat. I can’t find any reason to vote against him.
  • Holly Kirby also seems like a competent member of the Supreme Court.
  • Roger Page was confirmed unanimously by the Tennessee Legislature in February–a bit early for a retention vote, I think.
  • Kenny Armstrong is a judge with a degree in electrical engineering as well as a law degree: I can’t vote against that.
  • Brandon Gibson also has a good reputation, having worked her way up from growing up on a soybean farm.
  • Arnold Goldin has a little bit of controversy, but seems to make solid decisions.
  • Robert Montgomery was considered for the Supreme Court (the seat Roger Page got), and seems to be solid.
  • Timothy Easter struck down a Tennessee law allowing stronger sentences for gang members because the law violated due process, so I wouldn’t vote him out.
  • Robert Holloway ruled for a retrial in a case where the defense argued that particularly gruesome photos unfairly influenced a jury in a vehicular manslaughter case, which makes sense to me. I can see gruesome photos in a first-degree murder trial, but not vehicular manslaughter.
  • J. Ross Dyer has been on the bench since June 10, so voting him out after less than two months is just a silly idea.

There you have it. I will continue my Republican Platform review tomorrow, being careful not to plagiarize.

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I really wish I could have thrown a For A Few Dollars More post into the mix before skipping to the third film in the trilogy, but yesterday’s events screamed for this title. So…

The Good

TheGood

Last night I attended a candidate forum hosted by the United Community Action Alliance. The UCAA is an organization devoted to helping inner city Chattanooga people and businesses get the resources they need to succeed, both in grants and in government assistance. They are a recent creation–only about a year old–but they are off to a good start. Last night was their first candidate forum.

There were a dozen candidates at the forum, running for five different races: House of Representatives, State Senate District 10 and 28, School Board District 4, and Hamilton County Assessor of Property. School Board is a non-partisan race, but all of the other candidates present were Democrats. As such, there wasn’t a huge amount of disagreement last night. I was a definite outsider, but that’s the role I want to be in.

During the question and answer section, one audience member asked the Congressional candidates if the losers in the primary would support the winner in the general election. All of my opponents said yes, but I waited a moment and said “No…obviously,” which got a few chuckles. I do think that Michael Friedman, Ryan Love, or Melody Shekari would all be a significant improvement over Chuck Fleischmann, since Fleischmann has done very little in his time in the House.

I do think that it was cowardly and irresponsible of all of the Republican candidates not to attend. (Note: I believe the forum organizers only invited Chattanooga-based candidates, so I would not expect Geoff Smith, Allan Levene, Cassandra Mitchell, or Rick Tyler to attend.) If you are going to represent everyone in your constituency, you need to listen to everyone in your constituency. Ignoring those who oppose you on some issues means that you miss opportunities to find common ground elsewhere. It increases divisiveness.

I was reminded, during the school board introductions, that people who send their children to schools the state considers to be failing schools don’t consider them to be failing schools themselves. In a very important sense, they are correct.

State testing is deeply flawed in that it cannot measure how effective schools and teachers are. By only conducting end-of-course exams all you get is one data point. To know whether a teacher is effective, you need to test what the students know at the start of the year, test again at the end of the year, and compare the difference. Currently, a student scoring 65% is judged as a failure, while a student scoring 85% is passing, but if you know the first student started at 20% and the second at 83% you would know that the first student’s teacher is likely much more effective. Howard and Tyner may be great high schools with great teachers, but we don’t have any data to support or refute that.

What I learned last night is that we have a bunch of people running for office who want what is best for their constituents, and I think Chattanooga would be well-served by electing any of them. I’ll do more in-depth analyses of each race before primary early voting starts next month.

The Bad

TheBad

I stayed up far too late last night listening to BBC Radio 5’s coverage of the Brexit vote. I won’t go into too great of detail here–I think the voters got it wrong–because I want to focus on what this means for US politics.

The Leave campaign used people’s frustration with their personal economic situations to convince them that leaving the EU would bring back jobs that had left for Eastern Europe. What I think may have pushed them over the top was a fear of immigration and immigrants and, perhaps, some racism. Until the results started coming in, most people thought the Remain campaign would win a narrow victory.

It’s easy to see why many pundits have compared the Leave campaign to the Trump campaign, and it provides us with a cautionary tale: If you look at current Electoral College projections, Clinton has a significant lead…

Sabato's Crystal Ball, June 23rd, 2016, University of Virginia Center for Politics

Sabato’s Crystal Ball, June 23rd, 2016, University of Virginia Center for Politics

…but I have been predicting for a while that Trump will make a sharp left turn after the convention. If he can peel off enough of the Leans Democrat states, he can win.

Don’t think that Trump can’t win, and, unfortunately, don’t think that appealing to reason will work. Fear is what is driving people toward Trump, so if you want to fight Trump, fight fear.

The Ugly

TheUgly

Rick Tyler posted a message last night. As his website is currently unstable, I have posted the message in its entirety. I will insert my comments where appropriate.

A MESSAGE FROM RICK TYLER

by Ezra Tyler

Let me begin by thanking everyone that has gotten involved in the controversy spawned by the “Make America White Again” billboard on Highway 411 in Polk County.  I am persuaded that the overwhelming majority of you are sincere and well intentioned.   Obviously, there are the “frothing at the mouth lunatics” who react in a completely irrational, emotional, Pavlovian dog fashion.  Fortunately, they are a small percentage of the whole—and even they are passionately sincere albeit ignorant, misguided and lacking in self control.

Nice of him to start with the name-calling.

A PREDICTABLE AND DESIRED RESPONSE

Be assured, the response that has been engendered by the billboard is precisely what was expected and hoped for.  You see… this is not a mere publicity stunt, but rather a calculated maneuver to dispense hardcore truth while simultaneously doing an end run around the iron curtain of censorship.  As Orwell stated, “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”    Unfortunately, a globalist cartel has long held power in our nation, and in effect, there has already been a soft revolution wherein lawful constitutional government has been supplanted by a rogue band of oligarchic criminals.  Those who seek to set things aright are actually counter-revolutionaries, endeavoring to facilitate the restoration of lawful, constitutional government.

“(I)ron curtain of censorship”? Really?

I think I may need to create a conspiracy theory buzzword bingo board for Mr. Tyler’s posts. I will freely admit to being a globalist, but I’m not a member of any group, much less a cartel. I believe that isolationism was a significant contributing factor to both the Great Depression and World War II, and global cooperation has kept us from having another world war. I do grudgingly agree with Mr. Tyler that Citizens United has led to an oligarchy having too much political power.

Whether you realize it or not, you are all participating in this counter-revolutionary exercise irrespective of where you stand on the matter!
Indeed, the brainwashing may well be too far advanced, and there may be no chance of restoration, rejuvenation, and revival in our once great nation.   Like the watchman spoken of in Ezekiel 33, some of us must sound the warning of the advancing and ominous peril that is encroaching upon our civilization as a whole.  Like Nineveh, there could be great repentance and revival in America.  If not, we will succumb to the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I knew he would get to his Biblical fear mongering sooner than later. OK, Mr. Tyler, put the Old Testament down. Try rereading the New Testament. Start with Matthew 6:5-6.

For those who are posturing in a high and mighty stance of ostensible moral superiority, I would caution you against falling into the trap of modernism and the liberal watering down of truth.  Your fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers would have been entirely sympathetic and supportive of the preservation of a white super majority in America.

No, your fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers would have been entirely sympathetic. Many of my ancestors were actually decent human beings.

They would have been utterly hostile to the concept of the mass nonwhite immigration that has ensued over the past half century.  They would have never acquiesced to the schemes of forced racial integration foisted upon the states by a usurpatious federal government.  By capitulating on these and other related issues, you are dishonoring your fathers and mothers of old in a flagrant and treacherous violation of the 4th Commandment.  In the fulness of time, God will surely hold you accountable for this violation of his sacred law.  As Isaiah 5:20 states, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Fortunately for us, the Bible is not the law of the land. But even if it was, the prescribed ways to honor parents after death are to pray, study the Torah, and donate to charity in their names. Ancestor worship via clinging to outdated and immoral societal prejudice is not included in that.

AM I A RACIST?

The charge of “racism” is the most flagrant and abusive canard of our time.  Absurdly, those who bandie about the charge never bother to define its meaning.  Is a racist one who harbors antipathy toward someone simply based on their ethnicity?  If so only a foolish person would fit such a description.  If, on the other hand, we are talking about someone who demonstrates greater affinity for his own racial family  (your race is the extension of your biological family) then the charge would be truly preposterous.  Ethnocentricity is completely healthy and normal and all races, except the white race, are encouraged to engage in and express it.  The glaring double standard is all too obvious.

No, ethnocentricity is not healthy. It may be normal, unfortunately, but that doesn’t make it right. All races are not encouraged to engage in and express ethnocentricity, but people are encouraged to have pride in themselves and to not feel inferior to others because of their ethnicity. There’s a big difference between embracing the traditions of your ancestors and declaring yourself to be superior to others because of them.

ABOUT THE BILLBOARD’S MESSAGE

The “Make America White Again” billboard is a takeoff on Donald Trump’s slogan of “Make America Great Again.”  In a nutshell, it is stating that the “Leave It to Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet, Mayberry” America of old was vastly superior to what we are experiencing today.  It was an America where doors were left unlocked, violent crime was a mere fraction of today’s rate of occurrence, there were no car jackings, home invasions, Islamic Mosques or radical Jihadist sleeper cells.
Additionally, government was much smaller, responsible, and accountable to the people.  Yes, that Norman Rockwell America was immensely preferable to the rapidly deteriorating culture now engulfing us.  Only the ignorant and misguided would resist its restoration and resuscitation.  As set forth on the Tyler for Congress website, (www.ricktylerforcongress.com) a moratorium on nonwhite immigration and the abolition of policies that subsidize nonwhite birth rates would be two constructive actions toward beginning the long journey back toward sanity and stability in our beleaguered and foundering nation.

Violent crime was not a mere fraction of today’s rate of occurrence. First, FBI statistics are much more thorough than they were in 1960 (the earliest year for which data is available), because all local law enforcement agencies didn’t report crimes to the FBI. Even considering that, violent crime in the US is at its lowest level since 1970, and property crime is at its lowest level since 1967–and both are on a sharply downward trend. (Source)

 WHITE SUPER MAJORITY

It is no coincidence that every nation being inundated by the teeming multitudes of the third world is a white nation.

Um, no. In the case of Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan have all accepted at least twice as many refugees as the first “white” nation on the list (Germany). Most refugees prefer to stay closer to home rather than traveling to Europe or the US, as they would like to return home when the conflict ends.

It is indisputable that the white race has achieved infinitely more in the way of technology, culture and innovation than the nonwhite civilizations of history.

I’ll dispute it. Algebra was invented by Al-Khwarizmi and algebraic geometry by Omar Khayyam. The printing press was invented in China during the Song Dynasty long before Gutenberg got around to it in Europe. The printing press would be worthless without paper, also invented in China. Gunpowder was also invented in China. I would argue that much technological development was disrupted by colonization imposing white culture on advanced societies. Today, most inventions are created by diverse teams–and, in the past, white “leaders” often stole ideas from minorities and took the credit.

As far as white culture being superior to non-white culture, no. I like fish and chips as much as anyone, but I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t eat tamales, sushi, and goat saag. I like classical music, but I enjoy jazz, reggae, and rock. I appreciate Van Gogh and Leonardo, but I also like Hokusai and Diego Rivera. It’s the diversity of cultures that makes life interesting. Many of the best parts of “white” culture are the things it appropriated and adapted from other cultures.

The racial component of this phenomenon is all-important.  In a blind, suicidal manner modern man overlooks this profound truth while plunging headlong toward destruction.

Diversity is critical for survival. On a genetic level, inbreeding often leads to devastating illness. When creating or innovating, a diverse team will create better ideas due to the larger pool of starting concepts. The only time diversity is bad is when you want to make sure everyone agrees with you–which is often a pathway to destruction.

SOUNDING THE CLARION CALL

The Caucasian race has been inordinately blessed and favored by the God of scripture.  It was among this people that the new covenant gospel of Jesus Christ took root, blossomed, and flourished.  Western Christian civilization evolved in the ensuing centuries leading to the eventual rise of our beloved America of yesteryear.  As time progressed however, our nation and people lost their way.   America forsook the God of her fathers and turned to the false gods of the heathen world.  Now we are a people under divine judgment with a very grim future staring us in the face.

The Tyler for Congress candidacy is a last ditch effort to challenge the descendents of America’s founders to “return to the ancient landmarks.”  Scattered throughout the land are the proverbial seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.  (I Kings 19:18)  The remnant of God may not be large enough to facilitate restoration of that which has been lost…  but we will proceed to carry the torch in the hope of miraculous and divine intervention.

The incumbent lawyer and representative of the 3rd Congressional District voted for the 1.1 trillion dollar spending bill in December; which among many nefarious expenditures allocated funding for the importation of 100,000 Syrian refugees,  a large number of which are straight off of the Jihadist battlefield.  A full-blown Muslim invasion is underway while a criminal, runaway federal government gobbles up what remains of liberty at breathtaking speed.

Yes, the Syrians are often “straight off of the Jihadist battlefield”–because they are running for their lives from an ISIS that they fear and loathe.

CONCLUSION

Amazingly, while being oblivious to the aforementioned circumstances plaguing our nation, a substantial number of low information citizens are easily whipped into a frenzy by the mythological enemy of “racism.”  Sadly, it never occurs to the reactionary mob that they in fact, are guilty of the grievous sin of rejection of truth.  Yet, just as Jesus was able to miraculously give sight to the blind, God is still in the business of peeling the scales off of men’s eyes.  Yes, he gives grace to the humble but resisteth the proud.  (James 4:6.)

Concerning the hostility emanating from various directions I would say the following:

We believe in Libertarian principles of free speech and freedom of association.  All are free to go where they desire as well as refrain from going where they do not want to be.  Of course, these same individuals will continue to patronize all manner of franchises and national chains that truly are the embodiment of corruption and exploitation.  Yet another example of hypocrisy and double-standards.

Will the Rick Tyler for Congress campaign gain traction and become a force to be reckoned with? Only time will tell.   When all is said and done however, the truth will prevail.   Of that we can be assured.

Tyler’s truth simply isn’t true. He sees the world he wants to see and wants people to accept his fears as realities. He is afraid that his shenanigans will lead people to stop patronizing his restaurant and destroy his family’s way of life. He complains that “franchises and national chains…are the embodiment of corruption and exploitation” but I cannot imagine him calling for an increase in the minimum wage or other legislation to help end this.

Rick Tyler’s campaign will not gain traction. I was pleased to see all of my opponents last night express their revulsion for his billboard and his beliefs. I have reached out to the Republicans and Cassandra Mitchell for comments.

Now I need to go wash my hands.

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Apparently, I’m a racist, classist pig

Dick Culbert from Gibsons, B.C., Canada - Sus Barbatus, the Bornean Bearded Pig

Well, not exactly.

Last night I attended a meeting held by Causeway, where they are looking for people to apply for $3,000 grants for projects to encourage parental involvement in education. Prior to the meeting there was a board where people could post “If Only…” ideas. I posted one of mine:

If only successful schools could adopt failing schools to share resources and insights.

After the meeting, I discovered that someone had left a comment, which I, unfortunately, neglected to copy exactly, but the essence was that I should leave my racist/classist ideas at home. At first, and for a while after, I was angry about this, because it was precisely to combat racism and classism in Hamilton County Schools that I made this suggestion.

Background

Zari attended a very good, but somewhat expensive, preschool. When it came time to try to figure out where to send Zari to kindergarten, we were most interested in the magnet schools. To apply for two of the magnet schools, Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences (CSAS) and Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA), the school system created a series of hoops for parents, which required about eight hours of time to learn about the schools and their methods. After this, the lottery drawing admitted approximately 15% of the non-faculty, non-staff, non-sibling of current students applicants. We also put Zari into two other lotteries for schools that were part-magnet, part-zoned. (The school we were zoned for was also part-magnet, part-zoned, but we were in the process of moving to another zone with a poorly-rated zoned-only school.) Most of the parents of Zari’s classmates did the same thing we did.

None of us got lottery slots for our kids from the CSAS/CSLA lotteries.

At that time, I learned two things:

  1. A contact with the Hamilton County Department of Education (HCDE) told me that she estimated that there would only be a single lottery slot for one kindergarten student for Normal Park Museum Magnet.
  2. My relationship fell apart, so I needed to move.

The day of the Normal Park lottery, I signed rent papers to rent the house I currently own in the Normal Park zone. While I was signing, four other families called to inquire about the house.

None of Zari’s classmates’ parents had any inclination to move, so all of them–to the best of my knowledge–decided to send their children to private schools instead.

Over the summer between Zari’s kindergarten and first grade years, we took a long road trip to Las Vegas and back, stopping at many National Park Service sites. One site we visited was Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site. It was an enlightening visit, but after that trip I decided to follow all of the sites we visited on Facebook, and the Brown v. Board of Education Facebook page is particularly good at engaging the public with articles about the current state of race and education in America. A couple of years ago, they featured a ProPublica article on the resegregation of schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. After reading that article, I concluded that similar things were happening in Chattanooga and throughout the South.

I believe that the main reason Chattanooga’s magnet schools are successful is that there is enormous parental involvement, something often missing from the schools in low-income areas. I think there are several reasons for this: A missing culture of education–I read a study a few years ago where they found one in four households with children only had one book in the house, the Bible, a feeling of resignation, and a lack of time and financial resources. Two of the speakers last night addressed these issues, but a look at the audience illustrated the problem: 90% were middle-class white parents.

At the risk of going a bit conspiracy theorist, I have a few theories on why the system is moving in the current direction:

  1. A faction of the school board is mostly concerned with keeping taxes down, often to the detriment of our schools.
  2. This same faction believes that forcing students into private schools helps keep taxes down.
  3. Having a certain number of failing or barely passing schools encourages parents to choose private over public.
  4. I hate to say it, but there are racists in Chattanooga who would prefer to send their kids to mostly white schools.

Last year, CSLA applied to the school board to expand to K-12 from K-8. The request was denied, but I thought it was obvious that it would be. There are a ton of parents of students in private schools who resent that there are a privileged few in Chattanooga who get a quality inexpensive (not free, as fees run around $300 per year) public education while they pay thousands of dollars annually for the same quality. There’s a ton of resentment out there.

So, why did I make my suggestion?

Recently, I saw a post from a fellow parent asking parents at Normal Park to donate clothes to children at a nearby school, because there were a significant number of kids who did not have appropriate school clothes. The school isn’t a failing school–it actually falls in the midrange of Chattanooga schools–but it doesn’t have the level of parental involvement that Normal Park does. I felt that getting Normal Park parents involved with this school’s parents could help boost them from a mediocre school to an exceptional one by sharing with them some of the steps Normal Park has taken during its renaissance.

For historical reasons, Normal Park is whiter than this other school (80/20 vs 50/50), and, largely because of the renaissance of Normal Park driving real estate costs upward, Normal Park does have a slightly wealthier demographic. I can’t be upset that someone read racial and class undertones into my suggestion, even though my intent was the exact opposite. I don’t want magnet school parents to go out and tell parents at other schools how to do things, but rather, I want magnet school parents–and parents from other schools with strong parental involvement–to show parents at schools lacking in parental involvement how to get more of their parents involved in improving their schools. Hopefully, in the process, Normal Park parents would bring back good ideas as well. I think my big mistake was using the word “adopt” in my suggestion. That implies a parent-child relationship instead of a partnership.

Not that I expect the parent who wrote that comment to read this, but if they do, I apologize for creating the misunderstanding. I hope that the above clarifies why I wrote what I wrote. The incident reinforces a personal guideline I try to follow: Don’t judge people by their words or their actions, but rather by their intentions.

Thanks for reading.

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National Parks and Education

This afternoon I will be attending Andrew Jackson – American Hero or Scoundrel? at Moccasin Bend National Archeological District.

National Parks have been called “America’s Best Idea.” I tend to agree. I have taken Zari on two epic National Park road trips, one to Las Vegas and back and the other to North Dakota and back, along with many weekend trips to National Park Service sites within easier striking distance. You can learn much about the world from books and online, but there are some things you just can’t really understand unless you actually visit.

I remember one day that we started at Fort Laramie National Historic Site in Wyoming, where we learned about life at a frontier fort and trading post. After a visit to Guernsey State Park, where we learned about the CCC and saw Oregon Trail Ruts, I took Zari to visit Wounded Knee. We listened to a Lakota man explain the Wounded Knee Massacre and looked at his album of pictures and articles about it. We could see how, over a hundred years later, that event still affected the lives of the Lakota. You don’t get that personal touch from a book.

Zari in the Oregon Trail Ruts at Guernsey State Park

Zari in the Oregon Trail Ruts at Guernsey State Park

Going out and seeing places, touching things, and talking with people is a much better way of learning than being stuck in a classroom all day. It’s probably the main reason I moved to get Zari into the zone for Normal Park Museum Magnet School. However, this past couple of weeks have not been good for Normal Park. Last week, we were notified that the big Atlanta museum trip would be cancelled because the TNReady fiasco caused the testing to be moved to that day. Yesterday, we learned that the testing would be moved again to the following week, meaning that the cancellation was for naught and, even worse, another trip will be cancelled as a result.

I’m not particularly happy with livid about TNReady right now. Testing should not detract from education, and that is precisely what it is doing. The system is failing our children, and the only reason it is failing is because politicians are more concerned with data they can use against teachers, schools, and districts than they are about actually making sure our kids get taught what they need to learn.

Thanks for reading!

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Americans Suck At Math

This morning, as is my habit, I went through my news sources on my phone. One story in particular got my attention:

Why No One Wanted A&W’s Third-Pound Burger

The answer: Because Americans don’t understand fractions. A&W was competing with the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder, and because four is greater than three, people felt that a quarter-pound burger must be larger than a third-pound one.

I’m lucky: I don’t suck at math. It was always my best subject at school, and my nearly-perfect math SAT score helped get me my college scholarships. Like anything else, part of this is likely natural ability, part of it teaching, and part of it parenting. One of the things my parents did for me when I was young is they made sure books of puzzles were around for me to discover. My favorites were the ones by Martin Gardner. What these puzzles did was force me to think differently and to find new ways to look at and to solve problems.

Most Americans were taught in school to solve problems one way. This is bad, for two reasons. First, if a student has trouble learning how to solve a problem using the method they were taught, they will think that they are bad at math, when, in actuality, they may just be bad at one method while being great at another. Second, not all problems are created equal. While one method may work well for all problems, another method may be an incredible shortcut for a certain subset. The best analogy I’ve heard is that when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. When taking standardized tests with a time limit, knowing shortcuts gives students an edge.

Being the father of an eight-year-old daughter, I see the debates over Common Core and standardized testing on social media very often. They reactions are very emotional, very passionate, and, unfortunately, often quite misguided on all sides. Here’s my opinion of what works, what doesn’t, and where we could improve.

Common Core math is, as I see it, an attempt to put my self-teaching via Mr. Gardner’s books into textbook form. We’ve all seen online examples of “bad” Common Core math problems:

CoreExample

The problem with this is that the assumption is that Common Core is only teaching the “new” way, and that the problem selected was specifically chosen to pick a problem that was easy to solve using the “old” way and a time-waster solving it the “new” way. The truth is that Common Core teaches multiple methods of problem solving. Different methods work better for different students and for different types of problems. What Common Core tries to do is fill students’ toolboxes with lots of tools instead of just handing them all hammers.

Where Common Core has failed is in marketing. They changed things without adequately explaining it to parents. I will admit that I don’t know how this could have or should have been done better. One possibility is to add some content to the textbooks to explain why certain methods are being taught. Show examples of where those methods work really well. Maybe offer some night classes to teach these methods to parents who weren’t that good in math so that they understand and can help teach their kids.

tnready-test-logo

A group of parents at my daughter’s school organized an opting out from Tennessee’s new standardized testing program. They had many excellent reasons for doing so, and I joined them by opting out Zari. The computer-based testing was deeply flawed, to the extent that the system crashed statewide during the first day of testing. The test also had other problems, such as needing to teach third-grade students how to type, spending time–wasting time, as it turns out–testing the stability of the system, and the nearly 50% increase in testing time over the previous year. All of these were valid concerns…but they weren’t my concerns.

I am a poster child for standardized testing. I have benefited tremendously because I am an exceptional test taker, and I am confident that Zari will also perform exceptionally on standardized tests. As such, deciding to pull her from the testing was not a decision I made lightly. Frankly, she wanted to take the test.

The reason I pulled her was that the testing methodology is deeply flawed.

Time for a diversion…

A few years ago I noticed I was having memory problems, so I went through a battery of tests to diagnose and figure out a treatment. (Problem solved, by the way.) One of the tests was a brain scan.

24249_343791466942_4328568_n

This is my brain. I have 270 pictures from this scan in a folder on my Facebook account. The reason for this is that I’ve had a concussion–I foolishly made a trust fall–and in the event I suffer another head injury, I want the doctors to be able to be able to access my previous scan so that they have something for comparison. Where brain injuries are concerned, diagnosis is often much more difficult without a baseline.

End of diversion.

My biggest problem with TNReady is that there’s no baseline. Completely made-up examples:

Downtown Elementary School – 3rd Grade End-of-Year – 62%

Suburbia Elementary School – 3rd Grade End-of-Year – 81%

Happyville Magnet School – 3rd Grade End-of-Year – 87%

Looking at these scores, we can see that the best school is Happyville, followed by Suburbia, with Downtown being a failing school. Obviously they have great teachers at Happyville and Suburbia and washouts teaching at Downtown. However, you’re missing a big part of the picture:

Downtown Elementary School – 3rd Grade Start-of-Year – 27%

Suburbia Elementary School – 3rd Grade Start-of-Year – 78%

Happyville Magnet School – 3rd Grade Start-of-Year – 75%

By setting a baseline with Start-of-Year testing, we can see that the teachers at Downtown did an incredible job teaching their kids, while the kids at Suburbia barely improved at all. (One other advantage of Start-of-Year testing is that it would also give an indicator for how much students retained from the previous school year.) By having tests at the start and end of each school year, we now have the data needed to truly measure how well students, teachers, schools, and districts perform. Without Start-of-Year testing, all we see are data points without trends.

There’s your Saturday school posting. Enjoy your weekend. I’ll be back tomorrow with another fun-filled post.

Thanks for reading!

Topher

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Chattanooga

I moved to Chattanooga in 1996. I had left Orlando, having lost my wife, my house, my job, and pretty much everything else as a result of my divorce. I was fairly miserable, and, as a result, I didn’t like Chattanooga very much. I had a very hard time meeting people, so, once I abandoned trying to meet people in the local bars, I spent most of my free time online. The pace of Chattanooga drove me crazy. I hadn’t adjusted to the slower pace of Orlando compared to Los Angeles–I had only lived in Florida a little over a year–and Chattanooga was much more relaxed than Orlando. In both Los Angeles and Orlando I knew a dozen ways to get from Point A to Point B that all took roughly the same time, but in Chattanooga, very often there’s one good choice and two or three “emergency” alternates. In short, Chattanooga drove me crazy.

It took me a couple of months, but I found a job, and with that job came co-workers, and those co-workers became friends. I started to learn that there really were things to do in Chattanooga besides the tourist attractions, since, having just left Orlando, the last thing I wanted to do was anything resembling something touristy. Yeah, I still made semi-frequent road trips to Atlanta whenever I needed to get my “city” cravings satisfied, but Chattanooga was growing on me.

A Necessary Diversion

During one of my trips from my parents’ house in Wisconsin to my college apartment in Los Angeles, we had more than our fair share of car trouble. We had a flat tire driving through Des Moines, Iowa, on a Saturday afternoon, but got it replaced in a timely manner. We were not so lucky that night, when we got two flat tires fifteen miles outside of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. Let me restate that: we were stranded at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, fifteen miles outside of a town of about a thousand people. This was in the late 1980’s, so we didn’t have a cellphone, and even if we had, I’m assuming we’d have been out of range. We changed one of the tires, then we started discussing how to proceed: Do we wait here, or does one of us start walking toward Pine Bluffs? At that moment, a truck driver stopped to offer assistance. Short version: He drove my uncle to Pine Bluffs with our bad tires, waited with him while the truck stop (miraculously!) changed the tires, then drove him back and stayed behind us so we could use his headlights to change the last tire. He wouldn’t accept any reward, but was happy to have our thanks, and we got back underway by 4 a.m.

The People of Chattanooga

I discovered that the people here were almost always nice and helpful, something I really valued. Last week, I made a mistake and ran out of gas about fifty feet from the gas station. As I hopped out to start pushing, two young men ran to my car, told me, “Get in and steer!”, and pushed me to the station. Almost before I could yell, “Thanks!”, they were gone. In other places I’ve lived, people would have honked at me as I was trying to cross traffic, but here, everyone patiently waited while we moved across.

I’m not relating that story because it’s rare; I’m relating it because it’s not. People in Chattanooga go out of their way to help strangers all the time. Because of my Wyoming incident, for years I’ve made a habit of helping stranded motorists, asking only that they “pay it forward” as my reward, but in Chattanooga that almost seems insulting, because it is safe to assume that they’d do it anyway. I have had times in other places when I needed help and couldn’t get it, so knowing that the Chattanooga “safety net” is here is a wonderful feeling. I’ve read that Chattanooga has one of the highest per capita charitable giving and volunteerism rates; based on my personal experience, I can’t imagine it being any other way.

Chattanooga’s Problems

Of course, Chattanooga isn’t perfect. As I’ve said before, I’m not entirely pleased with the public schools–not that that’s a problem unique to Chattanooga–and there are problems with gangs, allegations of corruption, and it does seem to me that, while unemployment is lower than in many places, underemployment is still a problem here. I have noticed a disturbing trend here in relationships, where people seem to start new relationships before breaking off the old ones, but this could just be an anomaly among people I know. (In any case, it seems to bother me more than others, so maybe it’s none of my business.) Unlike other places, people here seem to be working very hard to try to make things better, whether by attracting large companies like Volkswagen, Amazon, and Wacker, organizing diverse groups to attempt a recall of Mayor Littlefield, or by organizing or participating in one of Chattanooga’s seemingly endless supply of successful charity fundraisers. Frankly, if more places were like Chattanooga, the world would have many fewer problems.

So, Topher, You’re Not From Here?

Nope. I realize that some people might have a problem voting for someone not from Tennessee to represent them in Congress. They’d rather have someone who has grown up here, gone through Chattanooga schools, has their whole family here, and knows the community inside and out. I can understand and appreciate that view, so I’ll leave you with a simple question:

Is it better to be a Chattanoogan by birth, or a Chattanoogan by choice?

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