Archive for March, 2005

GOP Gate Continues

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2005

Just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder, they do:

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office seized the county-owned computer used by Republican political operative and former county employee Tyler Harber after officials found it hidden on top of an air duct in the basement of the Andrew Johnson Building.

Officials said Tuesday that investigators want to review its contents as part of the probe into the apparent cyber-theft of e-mails from former county GOP Chairman Chad Tindell.

Harber led officials to the computer Monday after being confronted by Todd Cook, his former supervisor in the probation office. Dick Moran, the county’s senior director for information technology, later turned the computer over to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office.

Cook said Harber repeatedly lied to him about the computer’s whereabouts and only led officials to its hiding place after being told they planned to report the machine as stolen.

On Tuesday, Harber said he had hidden the computer after sheriff’s deputies had detained him March 16 and conducted an “illegal search” of his vehicle.

“I was scared, and I believe I’m the target of a political shakedown,” Harber said. “Until I could establish my own safety and security, I did not tell anyone about my PC.”

Harber said no one from the Sheriff’s Office has told him he’s under scrutiny.

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On Thursday, Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale “pointedly requested” Harber’s resignation, said Ragsdale spokesman Dwight Van de Vate. Harber sent Ragsdale a lengthy resignation letter via e-mail that evening.

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Cook said he asked Harber several times about the computer over the weekend, and each time Harber said he didn’t know anything about the machine’s location. Van de Vate said Harber also denied knowledge of its whereabouts to Ragsdale and Ragsdale’s chief of staff, Mike Arms.

Cook said a check with officials of the Public Building Authority, which manages the Andrew Johnson Building, showed that Harber used his passkey to enter the building after hours on March 16. Video surveillance cameras also recorded Harber’s entry, he said.

After Cook confronted him on Monday, Harber led Cook, Moran and other officials to the basement of the Andrew Johnson Building. The computer was on top of an air duct in a janitorial area.

“It was obvious he was untruthful with us in the beginning,” Cook said. “It’s a shame. We have a lot of good employees in this department doing a good job for Knox County.”

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“The longer the fact-finding goes on, the more disturbing it becomes,” Van de Vate said. “We’re going to continue to provide the Sheriff’s Office with everything they request and facilitate their investigation. If this crosses the threshold of a criminal act, we’ll support them in any prosecution.”

Tyler Harber is not taking these accusations lying down. In an e-mail sent to myself and others, he offers this response:

Wednesday night I moved my office computer to a more secure location inside the Andrew Johnson Building, less accessible to the persons who illegally arrested, detained, and searched me. The computer never left Knox County property. I still fear that these persons will go to any length to frame Mayor Ragsdale and me, and that was my sole reason in securing my computer. I have nothing to hide. I was forthcoming to my superiors about the location of this computer after I was certain that protocols were created to prevent those who wronged me from possibly using it to frame Mayor Ragsdale and me. I have yet to be notified by any law enforcement agency that I am a suspect in any criminal investigation. Furthermore, nothing gives the Knox county sheriffs office the power to breach our constitutional rights and other state and federal laws. I do fear for my life and safety and I have no idea to what extent rogue Knox County Sheriff’s Officers will go, to shame Mayor Ragsdale and me. It was and still is important to me not to provide them an opportunity to frame Mayor Ragsdale and me. I will fight for my rights and the rights of others who may not be on the right side of the sheriff politically, because he and his people had no right to arrest, detain, and search anyone illegally. I have done nothing illegal and I expect that this is not the last time you will hear about this, because we have rights that not even the Sheriff can breach. I do have an attorney and I will fight to protect my family, friends, and myself.

We shall see what happens. Stay tuned, this could get interesting.

P.S. As a Republican, I am glad all this is happening now, instead of six months ago…

Illegal Immigration

Monday, March 21st, 2005

It is difficult to imagine that these bills are controversial:

One proposed law would require drivers license exams be given only in English, and another would deny public benefits such as TennCare and driving certificates to foreign nationals. One bill would prohibit immigrants from getting any state government services if they cannot show they’re in the country legally.

A spokesman for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition said the bill restricting drivers license exams to English makes no attempt to distinguish between illegal immigrants, legal immigrants and refugees.

Obviously, these bills should distinguish between illegals, legals, and refugees – such distinctions are fair. But is it really so unreasonable to legislate that people who are in this country ILLEGALLY should not be able to receive government benefits or driver’s licenses? Doesn’t granting such privileges only encourage more people to break our laws?

Only an academic or a politician could fail to understand this.

GOP Gate, Continued

Friday, March 18th, 2005

The GOP Gate saga continues.

Update: Do not miss Georgiana Vines’ column this week.

Politics and Pro Wrestling

Friday, March 18th, 2005

A recent Instant Messenger conversation…

Friend: wow….I think your the first poli sci major I’ve heard who’s ever expressed desire to merely observe
Me: and teach
Friend: well, yeah
Friend: that too
Me: politics are dirty
Me: like watching pro wrestling.. it may be entertaining and fun, but you don’t want to be in the ring!
Friend: good analogy
Friend: though some people DO want in the ring
Friend: stupid costumes and all
Me: i know, but you have to be a little stupid to want to get in there

Harber Resigns

Friday, March 18th, 2005

The arrest and resignation of Tyler Harber, aide to County Mayor Mike Ragsdale, has caused quite a stir in the Knox County political community. I am not sure exactly what is going on, who is right, wrong, etc.; but I have obtained a copy of Harber’s letter of resignation to Ragsdale. I reproduce it here in its entirety so as to avoid any accusations of taking things out of context. I’ll let you be the judge.

The Honorable Mike Ragsdale
Knox County Mayor
400 Main Street
Suite 615
Knoxville, TN 37902

Dear Mike,

I cannot express my debt of gratitude for your friendship and for the numerous opportunities that you have provided me over the past five years. It is with a heavy heart that I tender to you my resignation.

Over the past few days the safety and well being of my friends, family and I have been compromised by the vengeful and illegal actions of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Last night, after I was followed by undercover officers and then forcefully removed from my vehicle, I was handcuffed and confined in the back of a Knox County Sheriffs vehicle, officers refused to show proper identification, read me my rights, or notify me of why an illegal search of my vehicle was conducted, or why I was taken into custody. I decided that I could no longer endanger myself and my loved ones.

Shortly before my incident, Knox County Sheriff Officers invaded my close friend, Adam Groves’ house and conducted an illegal search and seizure of his computer and illegally and forcefully interrogated him while showing no warrant, receipt of property confiscation, and without demonstrating due cause.

After these incidents, I was then aware that the Knox County Sheriff’s Office was tracking the whereabouts and actions of many of my close friends and family.

I resign today because the safety and security of my friends and family far exceed that of the responsibilities of my job, and that the blatantly illegal actions of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office is unbearable and is reminiscent of Nazi Gestapo tactics.

I have known for some time that I was a political target of the Sheriff or at least persons in the Knox County Sheriff’s Office. Since Knox County Sheriff’s employee Lee Trammel leaked false or misleading statements to the media concerning last year’s Copper Cellar incident, I became painfully aware that I had become an enemy of the Sheriff by ways that I cannot identify or understand.

Similar actions are now being taken against me, my friends, and my family in an attempt to discredit and shame you, and I will not allow the Sheriff or his misguided and highly unethical employees use me as an avenue to attack you or others.

Being active in local politics for six years, I have made many friends, but I have also made several enemies. Chad Tindell is one of them. It is obvious that Chad has tried to discredit and undermine both you and me in a variety of different ways, while not remembering that we were among his biggest fans in the beginning. Without evidence and based only on hatred and contempt, Chad has been in close contact with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in an attempt to inflict damage on both of our political futures.

Little does his so called friends’ know is that in the beginning of his Chairmanship, he knowingly and willingly provided or allowed to be accessed Knox County Republican mailing lists to the campaign of his friend long before allowing the opposition access to the same information. He also consulted on numerous occasions on a campaign that he, as Chairman of the party, had no business in doing so. It has become apparent to me that Chad has become hypocritical in several ways including allowing a paid electioneer (Gary Drinnen) access to “sensitive or protected party data” while denying other professional electioneers access. In fact, Drinnen had access to the Knox County Republican Headquarters and all it’s information well after the Bush Campaign and after Drinnen went to work for Knox County Government and pledged to work for United States Senate candidate Bob Corker. I am sure Mr. Tindell will probably say it’s because Drinnen was helping coordinate volunteers, etc, but the truth is that Mr. Tindell never had a problem yielding the data to Drinnen and only had a problem yielding the data to you and I.

Contrary to popular belief, I have never and will not start to view Gary Drinnen as an enemy. I consider Gary a friend and colleague and he has the potential to be as good electioneer if he rids himself of disloyal people like Chad Tindell and makes friends with people like you.

Many appalling things can be said about me, my actions, or perceived actions, except for the fact that I was never disloyal to you or anyone else I have ever befriended. Even Chad, who made himself my enemy–I never lashed out, I never attacked, I never attempted to discredit or shame him like he did you and I. What ever Chad’s problem, I hope that with some heavy self introspection, that he realizes that he let a “kid” nearly 20 years younger than himself get under his skin so much that he lashed out.

Recently at a meeting with the GOP Office volunteers, he stated that I was the epitome of the divisive and destructive elements that the party should get rid of. While this statement does not hurt me, per se, I feel that Chad is the force that brought this to a breaking point. First, Chad betrayed his party by passing information to one campaign before others, he betrayed his friends and allies that worked to start a newsletter, open an office, provide an email list, and construct a website, and then he became so dazzled with media play that he felt that he should air the party’s dirty laundry to the press on numerous occasions.

Chad has mentioned to both you and I that he wishes to run for office someday, and while I think he would be an excellent public servant, I hope that he uses this event to change his view of local politics. First, politics is war and there is no other example more fitting that this event.

Soldiers from different factions will line up to attack, discredit, and destroy their enemy, however it is usually kept professional and rarely delves into personal issues (which it should not). I have been party to such “wars” and have seen first hand the tactics, and strategies surrounding them and there are things that I regret doing or saying and there were mistakes made, and I, just like everyone else, have learned from them.

Secondly, sometimes the line between friend and enemy is unclear, but you must never allow yourself to become disloyal. I never knew Loy Smith, but his lessons are clear to me about Knox County politics, especially about loyalty. Smith, as it was described to me, said the number one value of any political person or operative was his/her ability to be loyal and the second that they become disloyal, they have not only become a disgrace to themselves, but also brought dishonor to those who had helped them.

Winston Churchill said, “politics is almost as exciting as war, and quite as dangerous. In war you can only be killed once, but in politics many times.” I am down, but not out. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office was successful in intimidating, coercing, and driving me out of this battle because I value the safety and well-being of my friends and family more than the infantile political games we play daily.

Many will say that I have breached the line of ethics and morality, and in a way they may be right, but in politics, like war, the lines are blurred, and unclear. There are casualties in politics also, and we learn that political deaths are not permanent. I do not harbor ill feelings against Lee Trammel, Butch Bryant, James Hammond, and the other Knox County Sheriff Office employees who broke the law and infringed the safety and privacy of my friends and family, but I hope for their sake that they keep future political battles just between them and their opponent without coercing and striking fear in people who had no involvement.

There is honor among political professionals and operatives just like there is honor among thieves, but sometimes, as in this situation, which honor is corrupted and innocent people get hurt.

I will never leave politics, despite what my enemies say. In fact, the reason my enemies are so mad is because of the many successes I have marked. I have consulted on 38 political campaigns and only lost 4, and although those four are the only races that people talk about, they are not the ones that matter. I have worked for good people, and except for one, all of my candidates are still my friends today – even the ones who lost.

At the end of the day I can be proud that I kept my word, my honor, and my loyalty and I vow to return in the future much to the dismay of our enemies. My resignation will not affect our relationship and I look forward to spending time with you, Claudia, and David in the near future.

With the deepest respect and gratitude,
Tyler Harber

Summers vs. Churchill

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

Evan Coyne Maloney compares the Ward Churchill situation to the Larry Summers situation:

The Arts and Sciences faculty of Harvard University passed a no confidence referendum on university president Larry Summers. The vote was seen as a rebuke of Summers’ controversial remarks on women in science.

It is odd that the faculty–which presumably has an interest in seeing academic freedom remain intact–would try to shove Larry Summers out the door over controversial remarks. Right now, faculty from all over the country are defending Ward Churchill on the grounds that his dismissal would erode academic freedom. But if comparing the September 11th dead to Nazis is defended in academia, why aren’t academics also coming to the defense of Summers?

We defended Churchill’s academic freedom here on this site, not because we agree with him, but because we understand the danger that occurs when freedom of speech and thought are not respected. While it is true that a university president is in a slightly different position than a tenured faculty member, we would like to think that academic freedom protects everyone in academia, not just those who’ve managed to get through the tenure process. It is a dangerous precedent to set when a community creates a privileged class that enjoys rights not afforded to anyone else. Faculty who argue for their own academic freedom do themselves a disservice when they undermine the same freedoms for everyone else in academia.

Academic freedom only cuts one way, apparently.

Academic Freedom Update

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

The Student Government Association of Middle Tennessee State University two weeks ago passed the Academic Bill of Rights. The vote was near unanimous. It is good to see the SGA of MTSU take such a stand. I wish that UT’s SGA would follow suit.

Blogging from Nashville

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

Newly elected state Rep. Stacey Campfield now has a blog. Do not miss his first entry about waste in Nashville.

Random Thoughts

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

A few random thoughts on the political scene as we approach a much needed spring break:

Senator Ted Stevens is a major disappointment. The Alaska Republican has announced he favors increasing the power of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to allow it to regulate cable television. The FCC is bad to begin with, but giving it power of cable television, which is a private industry people receive only if they subscribe, shows a clear disregard for the constitution.

Senator Stevens is not stupid; he knows that such legislation will not pass, and, even if it did, would almost certainly be struck down by the Supreme Court. What Stevens is trying to do is pander to a particular demographic (i.e. social conservatives) whom he thinks support such legislation. Unfortunately for him, most are intelligent enough to see this move for what it is: a brazen political move designed only for political reasons, and one that will surely generate more charges that conservatives do not support the First Amendment.

A friend told me an interesting story. It seems during a thunderstorm, a man entered her place of employment (which is on campus). The man was understandably not pleased with getting soaked. Who did he blame for his misfortune? God? The weatherman? No, no, silly; he blamed President Bush, explicitly stating that “this wouldn’t have happened if Kerry had won.” It’s possible that he was joking, but no sarcasm could be detected in his voice. I can’t say I’m surprised by this accusation; after all, some particularly loony liberals claimed President Bush was responsible for the hurricanes that rattled Florida last year. Apparently, the most powerful man in the world is even more powerful than we though.

An era ended last week, when Dan Rather’s final news broadcast aired. Rather gave a rather emotional closing monologue about his 24 years as the CBS anchor. He will be missed by many, including myself. Since he has been anchor of the “CBS Evening News” longer than I have been alive, it will be tough to get used to not seeing him on TV. Still, I am glad to see him go. He screwed up royally on the Bush National Guard records, an infraction that probably would have gotten any other journalist fired on the spot. Here’s hoping his replacement is much more objective than the outgoing Rather.

Why can’t “celebrity trials” just go away after the verdict is read (or, better yet, before charges are even filed)? The Scott Peterson trial is long over, and yet it’s still all the buzz on the cable news networks. Not to downplay the murder of two innocent people (which was extremely tragic), but such crimes occur everyday to people less attractive and affluent than the Petersons. These victims barely even get mentioned on the local news, let alone national news. Justice has been served, so let’s move on. There are plenty of more relevant news items that could be covered.

A book I highly recommend is Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror.” Sharansky, a former political prisoner in the Soviet Union, makes a strong case as to why democratic societies are in the best interests of America, and the entire world. In this way, he is both a realist and an idealist. He dismisses any arguments that liberty is not for everyone by contending that human beings have a natural desire, even a need, to be free.

If you doubt that what we are doing is right in Iraq, this is the book you should read. Democracy has the potential to spread like wildfire in the Middle East, just as it did in Eastern Europe following the fall of the Berlin Wall and Communism. Already, we see evidence of this, from massive protests and the withdrawal of Syrian troops in Lebanon, to local elections in Saudi Arabia. If democracy fails in the Middle East, it will be because the free world failed to see it through.

Senator Hillary Clinton has been casting herself has a “moderate” in recent months, pandering to pro-lifers and “red state America.” No one could imagine that she could ever make herself appear moderate when she was first elected to the senate, but such is the case. What does this tell us about the Democratic Party? That it has become so dominated by the far left that even borderline socialists like Hillary Clinton now appear “moderate.”

Deserter Speaks to History Class

Saturday, March 12th, 2005

Nathan Fortner offers some thoughts on the deserter who spoke to a U.S. History class at UT:

The biggest thing that has been bothering me is the welcoming of a deserter from the US Army to our campus by a professor, a professor whom I originally had but dropped because of the materials used in the course (Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” and Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine”). This fellow, a professor by the name of George White, invited this deserter to speak to his US History class against US foreign policy and the war in Iraq. What this has to do with US History, I do not know. The deserter, Carl Webb, was a high school dropout who joined the Army because he couldn’t get any other job, not out of any want of serving his nation or bettering himself. He says that he started reading on US history at age 13, which obviously makes him fully qualified to be a self-delcared expert. Yes, that’s right, a professor at a major university has invited a man who dropped out of high school and then not only abandoned his brothers in arms, he has the gall to flaunt his obviously superiour knowledge (no sarcasm, of course…).

After this outrage, how could anyone be against the Academic Bill of Rights legislation? This is the kind of professor that needs to be dealt with by the university, and students should have legal recourse for having these ideologies shoved down their throat as pure fact.

And I implore any person in a position of authority to do some more research on this person, he should be brought to justice immediately before he brings any more shame on the honorable members of the armed forces.