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Dispatches from the health-care battlefield



Afraid of Tea Party bullies, Congressman Jim Cooper canceled a speech at Nashville's West End Middle School. "I was worried that students and parents might be alarmed by possible disruptions of the opening day of school," he said. The protest organizer, a guy named Tom Kovach who was fired from his job at Whites Creek High in 2007 for going all ninja on a student, held the demonstration anyway. It was a lonely vigil. He was the only one there.

In Memphis, Sen. Bob Corker shook hands with protesters seeking health care reform. We don't think any of them were armed. "I don't think you want 100 senators, like me, in 60 days to revamp the medical system," Corker said. That's a good point, we have to admit.

In another West Tennessee event, somebody turned up the volume on the crazy. A woman carrying a baby insisted the president thinks white people are terrorists and plans to send the government into their homes to perform abortions.

"We're considered domestic terrorists, everyone in this room, in the eyes of our own government. If someone gives the word we could all be rounded up," she said as the crowd cheered.

"A bill that gives the government the ability to come into people's not a bill I will ever consider supporting," Corker responded, declining to explain that it's also not a bill that anyone in Washington would ever propose.

Congressman Zach Wamp launched his "Vision 20/20" tour of state. In Knoxville, he advised members of Congress to take their medicine in town hall meetings. Easy for him to say: "I would say they are doing that at their own risk and their own peril because I think if you duck it, no matter whether you are voting for or against it, if you duck it, they might just duck you next year."

Congressman Bart Gordon figured this out for himself. Called out as a cowardly twit by his hometown newspaper, he announced he'll stand up to the mobs in three town halls. In a further attempt to prove his manhood, he'll also go one-on-one with teabaggers all day long in his office before the town halls. This guy must really like it in Washington.

"If you want to speak to Bart about an issue, whether it is veterans' issues, health care, Social Security, whatever, he's going to be doing face-to-face meetings, come in talk to him tell him what's on your," Gordon chief of staff Kent Siler said.

This decision has earned Gordon a pat on the back from the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal. But after kicking sand in Gordon's face and turning him into a tiger, the newspaper suddenly seems to be worrying about the little guy's safety.

"This is a great opportunity for people of the 6th Congressional District to come together and put the spirit of democracy on display in Middle Tennessee," the newspaper wrote optimistically. "It's also a chance to stay above the fray and show the nation that civil and responsible debate can be held on the key issues this country is facing without the event deteriorating into shouting, finger-pointing and even violence."

Dean Learns to Play Politics of Past

We don't often agree with Councilman Eric Crafton, but we think he's onto something with his latest claims about the city's new convention center. It takes a veteran conspiracy theorist like Crafton to wrap his brain around this little game of Mayor Karl Dean's, so follow closely now.

It looks like Dean hopes to finance the project with revenue bonds, even though the debt service would run the city $10 million more than general obligation bonds would. Why would Dean add to the cost? Crafton knows the answer: To avoid putting the convention center to a referendum.

You see, if the city used general obligation bonds, which are backed by property taxes, the Metro Council could require a referendum. But if revenue bonds are used, the council is helpless under state law.

That's one reason Dean is so anxious to create a new board to oversee everything. If a new board takes over, then general obligation bonds are prohibited. Convention Center Authority = no referendum. It's as simple as that.

And here's the kicker: While derailing any possibility of a pesky referendum, which he might well lose, the mayor also puts the lid on complaints that MDHA, which had been managing the project, is incompetent. The agency made Dean look bad by letting McNeely Pigott & Fox rip off the city for a half-million dollars in flacking fees. That's right, we were paying a PR firm exorbitant fees to do what we're already paying any number of city employees to do.

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