Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel on national political conventions:
National political conventions ain't what they used to be.
Once upon a time, they were events where deals were cut that made or broke careers, fights broke out and factions struggled for control of the party's soul. The switch to a reliance on primaries and caucuses to select delegates pledged to particular candidates pretty much precludes suspense.
Conventions have become coronations. Mitt Romney sewed up the Republican nomination long before Tropical Storm Isaac was named, much less threatened to swamp Tampa before turning toward Louisiana and growing into a hurricane. And there was never any doubt President Barack Obama would be the Democrats' nominee. ...
Conventions used to be like carnivals; now they resemble infomercials. And their predictability is bipartisan.
It wasn't always this way.
GOP delegate and former chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party Susan Richardson Williams of Knoxville recalls going to the 1964 GOP convention in San Francisco. On the convention floor, conservatives backing Barry Goldwater battled with moderates supporting Nelson Rockefeller for the GOP nomination. Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton launched his own bid for the nomination but came up short.
It was "a really raucous convention," Williams told the News Sentinel, and "literally what you would think of as smoke-filled convention rooms and halls. People were lobbying delegates for their votes."
The contrast between that contentious convocation and this year's precision-tuned affairs is striking, and shows that conventions have become anachronisms. Not only are the nominations a foregone conclusion, but the development of party platforms is an exercise in irrelevancy. The winner will rip out inconvenient platform planks at will. ...
Conventions have become pep rallies. There is value in that to both parties — energizing party loyalists to sway undecided voters during the final push to Election Day could make a difference in a close race — but the value diminishes every four years.
Chattanooga Free Press on a new nursing home database:
If you have a loved one, someone you care about, or if you are approaching that time when you may have to select a care home to effectively and humanely see you through your later years, this item is relevant.
If not, well, clip and hang on to it until you do. Aging has that way of creeping (or more likely, racing) up on all of us who live long enough.
It's difficult — at best — for many folks to choose a capable and caring nursing home when they need it. Ones that look pretty and neat sometimes can have the worst records of care. But, man, is choosing a good one an important decision, especially here in Tennessee with some of the dubious history we have enjoyed over the years.
Thankfully, the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom known as ProPublica has generated an Internet application, Nursing Home Inspect, to help make this decision much easier. The database this group has perfected greatly simplifies the process of reviewing nursing-home inspection reports compiled by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The application is simple to find on any Internet search engine under "Nursing Home Inspect ProPublica."
While the federal government also has an official website for nursing homes, ProPublica's new interactive application allows anyone with a computer to search every report using any keyword (such as injuries, deaths or rapes) to reveal whether a nursing home has been cited for such violations and, if so, how many times.
The site can be searched for specific nursing homes in any state and the severity of violations as well as other noted deficiencies. ProPublica notes that having the reports searchable online helps identify problematic trends and encourages homes to make needed fixes faster.
As you might suspect, and sadly enough, ProPublica's findings rank Tennessee as the state with the ninth-highest number of serious nursing home violations.
Today, ProPublica's database lists nearly 118,000 deficiencies cited during government inspections at 14,565 nursing homes across the country. And regular updates will be posted as they are available. Until recently, you had to file a formal Freedom of Information Act request to see this data, or visit in person, because nursing homes are required by law to make them available, says ProPublica.
The Tennessean, Nashville, on educating voters:
With Election Day only 65 days away, can we as Tennessee voters make a pledge, to ourselves and to each other?
Here's the pledge: "We Tennesseans believe in our state and care about its future. We will no longer vote for candidates based only on campaign ads or whether the candidate makes a nice photograph.
"We will make a serious effort to learn about whether the candidates understand important issues, who may be sponsoring them, and whether they have any character flaws that suggest they are unfit to be public servants.
"And we will not sit out an election because of cynicism, thus allowing well-financed groups with an agenda to hijack our government."
All of the above has been happening with frightening frequency, and our bad choices at the polls are starting to bite us. We've managed to populate our Legislature and Congress with individuals who either personally flout the law; who write or support laws that discriminate against whole segments of society; or who show utter disrespect for their colleagues. And many of their challengers in this fall's election appear to be cut from the same cloth. ...
Even though we, the public, have howled with discontent at the agenda of the Tennessee General Assembly and at the do-nothing Congress, there are few signs that we are accepting any responsibility for all of this. If we don't, and soon, it is going to get worse. Just look at how Gov. Bill Haslam — decidedly not one for the rogues' gallery — has been savaged from within his own party for choosing to have an open and diverse administration. And look at how the state Democratic Party has torn itself apart over the choice of an ultra-conservative as its nominee for U.S. Senate.
The contrast between Tennessee's elected officials today and those of 30 to 40 years ago is stark, as was noted in a recent Tennessean report. Then, our state produced national leaders — Howard Baker, Al Gore, Lamar Alexander, Bill Frist. Yes, leaders have emerged in other states, but it's more than that: There is a shortage of qualified, educated and ethical Tennesseans seeking public office. ...
Unscrupulous politicians and their sponsors polarize and poison our government. It's not an environment for ethical individuals. But it's up to the electorate to root out the bad characters first, and deny them the opportunity to abuse the public trust.