Ear to the Ground

Logjam Averted

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe has withdrawn his retirement announcement as Ambassador to Poland and will remain in his post until the end of President George Bush 's term of office in January 2009.

The Democrats now control the U.S. Senate and the confirmation process. Given the number of current investigations and the weekly abuse of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales , it is not a congenial atmosphere. The White House wants to minimize Senate confirmations and distracting political battles. That's one reason given for Gonzales staying at this post, that being the difficulty of confirming the next AG nominee.

The White House has asked Ashe and other presidential appointees to hold on until the end of the term rather than leave their posts. The jobs could very well remain unfilled for the balance of the term due to a congressional logjam. Ashe had announced he was leaving the job in Poland this summer and was believed to be in line for another posting before Bush left office.

Threats a Concern

Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and several county commissioners have received threatening email and abusive phone calls from white supremacists in the wake of a protest in front of the courthouse last weekend. Alex Linder , head of a white supremacist group, was arrested and released on bond after he challenged police.

Commissioners have had personal information and contact information posted on the group's website. Some commissioners have removed biographical information normally posted on the county website. Officials are reluctant to discuss security issues except to say they are aware of the threats.

The group is planning another protest for June 16.

No Money

The supplemental funding bill for the war in Iraq passed last week with only two House Republicans voting against it. Those would be presidential candidate Congressman Ron Paul and Congressman Jimmy Duncan of Knoxville.

Duncan has voted against funding for the war before and he voted against giving President Bush the authorization to go to war in Iraq in the first place. Paul, who once ran for office as a Libertarian, is an isolationist who also opposes the war in Iraq.

The rest of the Tennessee delegation, Republicans and Democrats, voted for the latest funding bill. The bill passed without the timetables for withdrawal Democrats had proposed earlier because they did not have the votes to override a Bush veto.

Cormac on Oprah

We have it on good authority that Knoxville-raised author Cormac McCarthy 's astonishing appearance on Oprahâ"it's the famously reclusive 73-year-old author's TV debutâ"will be aired this Tuesday, June 5. In his 40 years as a novelist ( Suttree , All the Pretty Horses , The Road , etc.), McCarthy has granted only two media interviews that we've heard of, both for print magazines. McCarthy apparently agreed to the in-person interview with Oprah Winfrey at about the same time that his fellow former Tennessean anointed his book as an Oprah Pick for her well-known global reading club. The interview was reportedly pre-recorded and conducted at his home near Santa Fe.

It's About Timing

Knox County Commission Chair Scott Moore had to move up his announcement that he will be running for Knox County Clerk next year. Moore planned to wait until next month to make the news known, after county budget hearings. But Foster Arnett Jr. , the long time spokesman for former Knoxville Police Chief Phil Keith , went to the Halls Republican Club last week to campaign for the office. That's in Moore's district and is his political base. The maneuver forced Moore to tell the Halls Republicans that he too is running and to get the word out to the news media a few days later.

Moore is in his second term on Commission and is term-limited in 2010. Should he be elected clerk it will be up to Commission to name his replacement. Former county Commissioner Mike McMillan , who lost re-election last year, has also expressed an interest in the clerk's job.

A bitter primary fight among Republicans may help George Stooksbury , a Democrat, who was chief deputy for former County Clerk Mike Padgett in a run for the post. The job is currently held by Billy Tindell , who was term-limited off Commission in January and named to the post with the promise he would not run for the job.     

Knoxvillians Abroad

A couple of far-flung old friends who made major mid-life changes happened to arrive back in their shared hometown this spring.

Charlie Thomas , sometime Knoxville attorney who ran a noble campaign for City Council a couple of years ago, is coordinating volunteers for an effort to help endangered children rescued from extreme conditions in Guatemala City. These people on the fringe, who had been living off the refuse of the city, were the subject of the recent Oscar-nominated film called Recycled Life .

Charlie has also worked for the Guatemalan human-rights organization Fundacion Nahual, which monitors the 1996 peace accords that ended a long civil war there.

He still owns a home in Lincoln Park and wouldn't be surprised if he re-settles here someday.

On the other hand, Mike Dotson , once best known locally as one of WUOT's main jazz disk jockeys, is selling his downtown condo. For the last few years he has lived in Beijing, working at various jobs in information sciences, much of it on the web. He may leave Beijing, which he describes as becoming dirty and stressful, but expects to stay in China indefinitely.

Meanwhile, local musician and UT Library writer-in-residence RB Morris has been touring the British Isles, where the musician has a following. He does intend to come home soon, and in fact, he's marrying a local girl later this year. A story's been going around that he was in a pub on the Isle of Man, presumably in the capital town of Douglas, when he stepped outside and announced, â“These streets are made for poets!â” and hence vanished into them, disappearing for several hours, only to reappear barely in time to catch a boat.

Things Not to Say to a Live Camera: #427

WBIR has our thanks for delivering our favorite TV quote of the year so far: Out-of-towner Nazi demonstrator, declaring that blacks are â“50 timesâ” more likely to commit violent crime than whites, to cameraman: â“Don't quote me, I'm not accurate.â”

Bug in Our Ear

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