The Putnam Pit
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Seduced by the Chamber of Commerce spin and the Dark Side of building code enforcementFrom Danny Newton: The Chamber of Commerce and the City seem to be is such a symbiotic relationship it is hard to tell them apart. The City apparently bought them a lot and a house to operate the Chamber thirty years ago and now they have real fancy digs courtesy of the city and county. Allegedly, the Chamber is coming up with some of the money but it is not clear exactly who pays for the gas lights and water. It must be nice never to have to worry about getting those services shut off by your friends. Spin is rampant. Originally the building was only going to cost $1.4 Million. Now it is 1.7 Million, but no one is calling that a cost over run.
They also have done some quick shuffle to prevent including the cost of the land ,the architects fee and cost of demolition in the total cost. I am trying to find out if they pulled a permit on this project. I doubt it. I stopped in today and looked at the construction. I was really looking for code violations. There were no serious ones. It is a nice building and it is a no frill application of the building arts. The city expects the county to throw in it's half interest in the original Chamber of Commerce building before the old property is sold.
According to an inflation calculator, the worth of the county half of the old chamber building would be about $167,000 in 2001 dollars If the old property sells for $500,000, the county would make still make money on the deal. The way I look at it, if the county just throws in it's deed for the old property, it would be like giving the city a quarter of a million dollars. It's easy to make money in real estate if you use other people's money and don't have to pay capital gains and other taxes.
One other interesting thing I found out is that part of the motel tax,1%out of a total 5%, goes to the Chamber of Commerce for promotion of the city. They buy billboard space with it. It boggles the mind. I can't wait for that civic center. Come on down and we'll go to a mud wrestling match or a tractor pull.
I have had nearly thirty years of experience with contractors working in different cities in the south and I have rarely heard any good stories about how happy building code enforcement has made the general population of anywhere. The idea that people are protected is so popular and so pervasive, it is a waste of time to try and convince well-intentioned people of the potential Dark Side.
Already, the Dark Side of code enforcement has shown itself to me, the casual and so far unaffected observer. The first time was when someone was quoted in the Herald Citizen, and I will paraphrase, that there would be plenty of money generated in the start up of a codes program for the county. When making money is the primary purpose of a government activity, I cringe. Plenty of money could be made by tripling or quadrupling the cost of water or sewage disposal, and it would still be worth the price. More money could be made without hiring anyone. Let's put up a toll booth on Willow.
Most contractors complain about inconsistent inspections, late inspections, demands for ineffective hanges that the contractor is expected to bear, and mostly, the added paperwork burden of keeping records of changes. Owners generally say little until a hidden deficiency arises that generates unplanned additional expense.
Eventually people learn to tolerate these happenings but the one complaint that rarely sets well with any group is the one that centers around giving preferential treatment to favorites. Municipalities often exempt themselves from the rigors of their own inspections.
Misuse of code enforcement has been known to keep out "foreign" or out-of-county contractors. It has been known to prevent the introduction of new building technology like PVC pipe and Ground Fault Interrupt breakers. Proper Code enforcement is known to be a factor in the collapse of the WTC on Sept 11. In my experience, it has caused some rather exciting lapses in air safety. Some cities wisely avoid harassing critical facilities out of fear of being involved in law suits.
It may seem cruel to warn the inexperienced, and under-skeptical of the impending Dark Side. But, a second warning came in December when it was decreed that a $50 per day fine be levied for not finishing a job on time. To show invulnerability to the Dark Side and a loathing to play favorites, the city might consider fining itself for the late completion of Town Centre. Instead of writing a check to itself, it would be more logical to forego all codes enforcement income until the amount of the fine ( $7500 ) is taken off future permit applications. This will be a long-awaited proof of pure intentions and an investment in public support for future city projects.
Danny L. Newton
1018 Rose Garden Lane
Cookeville, TN 38501
Pit inspires Grandma to study journalism
I've always felt there was something we could do about political problems, and here you are to guide us. I'm a 53-year-old grandmother of 12 and you've inspired me to start Tech this fall in a four-year journalism course. Maybe, by the time I'm finished, I'll still
have a few good years left to.... go get em.
What every local paper should be
The Putnam Pit . . . is a rarity: A local paper that is of interest to people outside of its circulation area. There is a sense of outrage in every word, telling you that the writer knows the difference between right and wrong -- even if the subjects of the stories do not. You are, of course, free to disagree with Davidian, as many locals presumably do. Still, this point of view in news stories is refreshing. It requires you to work harder, and make up your own mind.
Comments: FINALLY SOMEONE HAS THE GUTTS!!! THANK YOU PIT!!!!!!!
Date: 01:43:35, January 10
Subject: Good Work!
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000 11:32:27 -0800
From:"Michael A. Quarles" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization:California State University Fresno To: <email@example.com>
This is MAQ in Visalia. I am attending CSU Fresno studying towards a B.S. I am a Crim. major and can't help but think that the C.J.system is failing. One of my professors last semester (Fall 99) who happens to be a Fresno Police Lt. made the statement that the system works because the prisons are filled to capacity and new ones are being built. (Not an exact quote) I disagree! Hitler's prison camps were also filled to capacity as well. I was not his favorite pupil, especially after my
presentation concerning civilian review boards. I think all law enforcement agencies should have one. He did not like the idea at all. I made "A's" in three classes and a "B" in another but received a "C" from him. I felt I earned at least a "B"....but it was his decision.
I AGREE WITH YOU! There needs to be more verification of powers used by
police agencies and government.
thank you for your work
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000 01:45:52 -0800 (PST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Brian Coomer)
It is important to provide the facts to the public, however your
information is usually unfounded.
j. brian coomer
Disabled vet says he was thrown in jail, doused with pepper spray and City Mismanager Jimbo Shipley didn't bail him out
From Buford C Grizzle
Dec. 6, 1999
My name is Buford C Grizzle and I live here in Cookeville TN. but its getting to be Avery hard thing to Deal with so any way I think you might be interested in an incident that took place on the 12 of Sept-99 me being a service connected disable veteran with broken down nerves and Parkinson---D---disorder Rheumatoid Arthritis and cancer eating my face away
I was took to the county justice center and put in a holding cell for 12 hours me on medication and telling them I could died with out it they came in and sprayed me with pepper spray and me with nothing on but a pair shorts of Crosse it went in my eyes my mouth and nose and cancer and told me to lye down and shut up for I was getting nothing well couldn't sleep for the pain of the pepper and had to go in front of the judge at 9 am with the pepper spray still on me then they force me to hare a bails bondsman to get to my medication witch was out off reason set the bail at $5,000 and it cost me $400.00 before they let me out while I own property with my wife and son owns property would not let them make my bail and would not let them or take my medication and give me and it all came down to me spending about 17 hours in there with out my medication which I need ever few hours and one is critical for my bad heart but did they care hell no and all I was arrested for was domestic violence but really did nothing to anyone and my wife and family told them I had did nothing to be arrested for and they are all disable also and will not live long at al either but that is not the hafe of it had to have a attorney which cost $500,00 which may me sign forms that I would not sue him and then had to let him go for he tried to help the DA prove the case against me and then I ask for the arresting officer they would not present him then told them to listen to what my wife had to say then the DA wanted it put off again for 14 days this made four times they had drug us threw the mud to court and us law-abiding citizens which sure help our name then they threw it out after they could not prove a thing on me for I would took a polygraph test if nessary but those folks over there are something and a friend of mine was done worse than me but not a soul has offer to help us ..
In another case with the same charge the man was a former city councilman they went to his home and got him and he got into a battle with them and like to broke ones jaw but did they spay him hell no they took him to the hospital for he clamed he was having a heart attack but then refuse treatment so he goes over to the jail where his wife and the city manger was waiting and they set his bail at $3,000 and then the wife and the city councilman signed his bond he didn't have to stay the mandatory 12 hours when he was drinking so thats 3 things they decremnated on me gainst compared to his case and a public official is not suppost to sign anyone else's bond for he is under bond himself but they do anyway they want here and and the people don't seem to even care the shame is that we let it continue Thanks and now I see the lite keep up the good work
Buford C Grizzle pH= 931-520-0534
Believe it or not, this is something someone really wrote us!4463 south creek road Cookeville TN38506
of government only cause locals to band together in opposition to the speaker
even if the message is true.
Sun, 01 Aug 1999 15:34:18 -0700
Info Avenue Internet
letters to the editor <email@example.com>
PERHAPS THE READERS MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN THE SOURCE OF MR. DAVIDIAN'S IRE TOWARD THE CITY OF COOKEVILLE AND HER CITIZENS. HE CHOOSE NOT TO OBEY THE TRAFFIC LAWS OF OUR TOWN, THEN REFUSED TO ACCEPT THE CONSEQUENCES OF HIS ACTIONS, MAKING A TOTAL ASS OF HIMSELF IN OUR COURT SYSTEM. I DO AGREE THAT THERE IS POLITICAL CORRUPTION IN PUTNAM COUNTY AS THERE IS ANYWHERE THAT WE ELECT POLITICIANS TO PUBLIC OFFICE.
NOTHING DRAWS SOUTHERN FOLK TOGETHER LIKE AN ATTACK BY AN OUTSIDER, ESPECIALLY
A CARPETBAGGING YANKEE LIKE DAVIDIAN. AS FOR OTHER LETTER WRITERS, ESPECIALLY
THOSE FROM ALL OVER, IF CONDITIONS ARE SO TERRIBLE HERE PLEASE FEEL FREE
TO LEAVE AT THE EARLIEST OPPORTUNITY.
Putnam Pit Editor Geoff Davidian could not understand why a reader sent us a letter saying really mean stuff about us and why the reader would tell people who are not here to go away if they don't like it here. So he asked someone he can trust to answer honestly -- his wife.
Click here for the whole, ugly "Yankee carpetbagger" response.
Christine B. Davidian
Putnam Pit managing editor
Construction costs, contractor coziness with officials raise ire of informed reader
From: carl w <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The main thing wrong with your Cookeville items is that there isn't enough of them. I live in Cookeville after living all over the country. I must say this place is second to none in its political corruption per capita.
The account of one parent's run in with the juvenile truancy issue is all too typical. My niece had a similar experience with the guy who runs that agency trying to seize her daughter from her. The guy has mental problems and shouldn't be allowed in 10 miles of a child. But not only is he around them, he has the right to seize them at will and does so. The public is largely unaware of what's going on.
Why don't you report on the nexus of power and contracts between J & S Construction, the city council, the hospital board and the state legislators?
Subject: my on going battle with putnam juvenile court
Are you aware that the Putnam County Jail cost three times as much as the second jail on the list in the Southeast when it was built on a per bed basis? This was one of the most corrupt contracts let in a very corrupt city in years. With the extensive road building we are about the undergo with no citizen input, the corruption of the jail is going to look like a piker compared to what the highway contractors are going to do to us.
Date: Wed, 02 Jun 1999 23:21:36 -0500
From: RICHARD AMARAL <email@example.com>
To: how-i-do-it <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Gee, nice to read that the city manager of Cookeville's house hosts parties where adults smoke pot with juveniles. I wonder why i am being charged with contributing to the deliquency of a minor because my daughter switched home schools. Must be that Bible-belt mentallity i guess. See, in Tennessee, if you dont attend a Christian school you are violating the law.
...hummmm..let me see; smoke pot with kids acceptable no crime, change daughter's school and I'm a criminal. Well, Geoff, the court couldnt
come up with an indictment on me so it got postponded till next month i will keep you informed keep up the good work.
Our Story of home school busts
By MATT WELCHNo one wants to hear the truth
No one wants to hear the truth
Date: Wed, 2 jun 1999 11:53:03 -0700
Thank you!!! Finally someone can tell the truth about what goes on in a City with small town politics! Most People here turn their heads. No one here seems to want to see or hear the truth. The power hungry politicians, the rich, and Cookeville's police department seem to be able to cover up anything. The people of Cookeville are too afraid to speak up. The cops will bust them, and the judicial system will drill them. Cookeville needs to weed out the good from the bad. But to much money seems to be involved. It is so sad that people can be manipulated by money. Especially when it involves other people's lives! Again, thank you! You do have a faithful reader.
When you go to the doctor do you want to be told how nice your hair looks when you really have a problem that needs immediate attention? If your spouse is critically ill, do you want your doctor to pretend there's nothing wrong because you love your spouse so much? Or do you want to start treatment immediately? Would you thank the doctor for finding the problem? Think about what you'd really want your doctor to tell you if you loved your spouse. Now, think about what you'd really want your newspaper to tell you, then click here.
Subject: great site
Date: Wed, 03 Mar 1999 10:29:04 -0500
From: Joe Surkiewicz <email@example.com>
Organization: freelance writer
Are you the future of journalism? I'm banking on it. I'm sitting here in Baltimore, a town that may match the corruption of Putnam County, writing a media watchdog site, Sun Lies/Tracking Pro-Corporate Bias in The Baltimore Sun. Baltimore is one weird fucking city, but you'd never know from the white-bread reporting of The Only Paper in Town.
The Putnam Pit is showing the way for the internet to be something other than a new way to shop for books (or as a showcase for my heartfelt yet pathetic attempts to show how worthless most mainstream reporting is). I've already linked you to my web page and emailed Sonoma State U. about their summer institute for investigative reporting (I'm a reporter, but haven't done the kind of nuts-and-bolts digging it takes to put politicians, bureaucrats and corporate scum on the run--I'm wondering if the Sonoma program would help me). It's like I .F. Stone said: it's all there in writing.
You just gotta read. Thanks for the inspiration.--Joe Surkiewicz
Your Investigative Reporting
Wed, 10 Feb 1999 13:25:54 -0500
Larry Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hey, I like this. We need one of these in Western North Carolina.
Fact is, most every community needs a brave alternative news source to
root out the corruption and ferret out the scoundrels in officialdom.
I went to law school in Knoxville at UT in the seventies and practiced
during the seventies and eighties in Asheville, NC. The political
stench---making me wonder if there was really any law left---finally
drove me out of the courtroom and back into private life.
I remember reading several years ago in USA Today, a smarmy little
rag, about how arcadian and eminently livable the town of Cookeville
was. I thought about relocating there once. I'm glad I didn't.
I was in Knoxville recently and attended court in Knoxville's
municipal courtroom. What I noticed was that the hearings, which by
the Constitution must be kept public, are held out of the earshot of
the courtroom spectators. The judge and witnesses huddle, speak
quietly, and even the judgment pronouncements are inaudible. I wrote
a letter to the Knoxville News-Sentinel complaining about it, but of
course they didn't publish it. The trend is for insolent bureaucrats
to continue stealing rights and immunities away until they are gone.
Keep up the good work.
My experience in Putnam County Jail
By DAVID Q.
Justice system needs to be scrutinized as the Looper case proceeds
By SAMUEL J. HARRIS
Former communications student dislikes
cookie case ramifications
Subject: Bold statement from an academic
Date: Thu, 18 Dec 1997 10:46:56 -0500
From: "Jodi Lasky" <email@example.com>
My name is Jodi Lasky and I have just completed my MA degree in Communication,
Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University. My thesis dealt
with legal issues surrounding the Net, including cookies information (temporarily
I was reading about your suit against the government of Cookeville in today's New York Times (on-line) and, while I admit I read through the 2 articles quickly, I do not understand why you are requesting to look at these files. Quite honestly, if you win your case, I think the ultimate result will be more bad than good.
I agree that journalists have an obligation to report the full truth, and that they should, to some extent, act as the fourth branch of government, requiring accountability of politicians, etc.
But I also have a fear of cookies files. This fear comes from several different places and angles, most of which developed while writing my thesis.
I used various different computers, and therefore had various different cookies files with sites from doing research. If you were to compile them all (before I deleted the contents, which I have now done, and anyone can do), I would have appeared to be a total sicko. (pardon the colloquial, but what else would you call someone who visited porn sites--adult AND child--illegal software sites, and KKK/Nazi denial/hate sites?) Someone who only saw my cookies file--and yes, many of these sites DID leave cookies -- without knowing about the research I was doing probably would have had me arrested. I most definitely would not get elected to a high-ranked position like mayor in small-town Tennessee.
My other fear comes in looking at the kinds of political campaigns that are waged these days. How easy would it be to fabricate a cookies file for an opponent, using all of the kinds of sites I mentioned above, and "leak" it to the press? This could be damaging, and difficult to prove . . . "He must have deleted his cookies file when people found out about it."
I'm sure I have not changed your mind. However, I felt I had an obligation to speak my mind. I urge you to take a look at your own cookies file. You may be surprised at what you find there.
Jodi, thanks for your note. I share every concern you state. We have expanded the suit to include browser and cache files, too. What you do at home, for research or otherwise, is certainly your business. What a public official is doing at work is another thing. I am not trying to get the cookie files of someone who is a private person seeking election. I am trying to find out what bureaucrats do with government equipment at work.
If nothing else, the likelihood of them screwing around on public time will be lessened if their records are public, just like they make fewer personal long-distance phone calls because their phone logs are public.
I, too, have a master's degree in journalism and I've been a reporter since the 70s. I intend to do the best I can to shine a light on corruption and incompetence in city hall. If they have not been wasting time, they would have nothing to be afraid of. But if you read the legal papers you will find that they argue that while they do not retain browser or cookie files, they are nevertheless not public.
Why, then, have they spent $60,000 to fight having to reveal that which they do not have?
Finally, you ask how easy would it be to fabricate a cookie file in an election. I don't know. How easy would it be to fabricate a letter or photograph in an election, to come up with someone who claims to have been sexually assaulted or to have been in the KKK with the candidate?
Hey, I am a reporter covering corruption. I'll seek it out. That's what I do.
I will include your letter in our letters link, if you don't mind.
Thanks for taking the time to write and for showing an interest.
Go forth. Do journalism.
Love your publication and wish we had one here in dear old Tassie,
Tasmania that is at the bottom of Australia.
I'm working on clerical fraud in the public service and municipal
agencies and have made the rather disturbing discovery that clerical
workers, lawyers and a cabal of property developers are basically
subverting land registration in this state.
This is mainly being achieved by multiplying land records. In
words the individuals who think they hold the title to the land are
actually being adversely possessed by various groups who hold the
original deeds to the land. It really is quite extraordinary. I am
very interested to know if you have any instances of this type of
complex land fraud in your town. Any examples?
Once again I really appreciate your style and hope you continue the
work. Gill Maguire
Subject: attacks on city officials
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 1997 12:22:32 -0600 (CST)
From: chris burian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I'm not a friend of any bureaucrat anywhere. Most government jobs are the mere flushing away of taxpayer money and should be eliminated. But while I have no problem attacking officials who abuse their authority to harm free individuals, I don't think they should be attacked for being human beings. You would deny a city official 10 hours a year (less than two minutes a day) to use the phone for personal calls even when the cost is reimbursed? You would deny a city official a few minutes to post a usenet message about baseball cards?
I think your demand for cookies and cache files is completely out of line. If the door to the rest room was electronic, and it incidentally logged who came in and when, would you demand those records, too? If public employees shouldn't be granted two minutes a day to make phone calls then they shouldn't be allowed to use the bathroom either! Right?
Looking at smut is not "official business" by any stretch of the term, and therefore is not covered by Tennessee law, plain and simple. Personal phone records should be denied release to the press as well, because something personal," by the definition of the term, is obviously not official business.
Plaintiff's attorney Harris was quoted in a news article as saying:
"To me, this is really a First Amendment case. Can public officials subvert the press simply by storing information using modern technology?"
"To me, this is really a Ninth Amendment case. Can the media subvert individuals' rights to privacy simply by claiming that every scrap of personal, private information that is incidentally recorded in the ordinary course of the use of modern technology is a "public record" of "official business?"
If phone calls weren't recorded for billing purposes, there wouldn't be any records. Nosy muckrakers couldn't justify asking for installation of automated recording devices just to supply them with ammunition for their smear campaigns.
If Marc Andreesen hadn't invented cookies for the purpose of making the web easier to use, nosy muckrakers couldn't justify installation of computer-monitoring software just to supply them with ammunition for their smear campaigns.
Toilets in government offices do not have badge readers attached, and as much as you'd like to, you can't force the city to install them so that you can sift the records to find out and publish the names of public employees who are taking a crap on "city time."
Therefore, it directly follows that using phone records for anything but billing and using cookies for any reason but aiding web browser users are wrongful misuse of those technologies.
Civil libertarians are on constant alert for Big Brother-ish government
schemes, but obviously the liberty and privacy of individuals are threatened
not only by authorities, but by other
individuals as well--like you.
The next e-headline might read: "Tennessee Tabloid Teams with Gov't Spooks to Eavesdrop on and Embarrass Unsuspecting Users."
The issue to me is that the city denied me access to public records because over a period of 14 months I required, in their allegation, 6.5 hours of time. Now if 6.5 hours of city time is sufficient to deny someone civil rights, why is it ok for the one denying those rights to make personal phone calls for a longer period? Shouldn't his civil rights be denied, too? If not, then the denial was an arbitrary act meant to harass and punish me for exercising my rights. I call that harming a free individual. What do you call it?
Thanks for your comments.
I usually only read the Herald-Citizen about 2 or 3 times a week. If I'm lucky I might find a copy every day while I'm 'dumpster diving' for tin cans and other recyclables. But, when I came across a copy of the H-C dated 11-16-97, I was surprised to find an article about the 'Cookie' lawsuit filed by yourself and the Putnam Pit. Needless to say, I was shocked that the H-C would report on such a controversial issue.
While Mike O'Mara says, in this article, that cookie files are 'dumped'
at the end of each day, I would have to question this practice. Most users
don't even know what a cookie file is and in most cases would never even
have to deal with a cookie file unless Internet use is extraordinarily
excessive. He also states that "We don't believe they are public
records because they are not anything made in the official course of business".
So when are they made, if not in the official course of business?
Cookie files are so small that they probably
would never have to be 'dumped' to make room for other files anyway.
Whatever the outcome of this lawsuit is, I feel that you have already been successful in that you have brought this issue to light. Mr. O'Mara's statements have made him look like a computer non genius.
[Editor's note: Mr. Cary: You don't understand. Mr. O'Mara makes $125 an hour coming up with brilliant positions he can later charge the city to defend. This is about sucking tax money as fast as possible, not cookies. Clearly, if the city doesn't even have cookies, why are they spending thousands of dollars to argue that they shouldn't have to make them public? This is just like the way the city moved the case from Cookeville to federal court in Nashville, so O'Mara could drive all the way there -- at $125 an hour -- to ask that it be sent back to Cookeville. Why won't O'Mara make public proof that the costs he bills the city for are legitimate? Because he doesn't care what anyone thinks so long as he keeps sucking the money out of the treasury. Remember, he made more than $10,000 prosecuting a single speeding ticket. Feel the wind up your leg? That's O'Mara sucking the change out of your pocket. Hold City Manager Jim Shipley and the city council responsible, if this offends you.]
Subject: Cookie files
Date: Tue, 16 Dec 1997 23:00:40 EST
From: LowellS460 <LowellS460@aol.com>
Organization: AOL (http://www.aol.com)
Their computers should be programmed so no deletion could be proformed.
Government employees and officials, forget who they are working for, and us sheep allow it.
Lowell in Cincinnati
Date: Sun, 30 Nov 1997 15:19:21 -0500
From: "Billy Wright" <email@example.com>
Subject: Whatta site!
Date: Wed, 12 Nov 1997 06:48:22 -0600
From: PAT McJURY <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: THE OFFICE CO.
Subject: Web Site Etc.
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 1997 14:33:24 -0800
From: "Bruce Boyers" <email@example.com>
Dear Putnam Pit,
Like many others, I heard about you through the CNET report, and then
a lengthy visit to your Web site.
It takes guts to do what you folks are doing!
I have an odd similarity to Mr. Norman, which I will briefly go over.
I grew up in Southern California, mostly in Los Angeles. When
I was 17, my
mother decided I was incorrigable (truth: I was) and sent me to live with my
Dad in Goldsboro, North Carolina. I had never lived outside California,
and moving to this steamy southern tobacco-farming community was much like
moving to a different planet.
This was in 1973. The schools had only been desegrigated for a
times were bad. Tensions were high. The racial dividing line was still very clear.
I ended up living in Goldsboro for 3 years before I managed to work
back to Los Angeles. Lots happened, enough that I've started my own novel on that period of time, much like Mr. Norman. I work on this novel periodically (I have another that's currently being shopped to publishers that has nothing to do with any of this).
Having seen this Web site, I sort of wish I'd had the presence of mind
do something similar to The Putnam Pit when I lived in Goldsboro. I certainly
saw enough. But then again, I was barely 20 when I left and seriously
going against the grain in that place could get you killed.
So, I'm glad somebody's doing it somewhere in the South, at least!
mentality down there can be so unbelievably thick that I never thought such
an undertaking would be worthwhile. But it appears you're garnering support for your efforts, and that's grand!
Regarding your Cookie efforts, I think the law would have to fall on
side. While I've seen some letters to you citing "privacy" issues, these
computers are public property and paid for by taxpayers. It's not the same
as requesting the same records out of somebody's home - we're talking about
government employees on the clock and what they're doing while they're
there. It's the same as requesting other public records, on-computer or
off. I doubt, however, you'll get much out of this - as others have
pointed out, Cookies are very easy to delete.
Of course, you could hire a skilled hacker who could break in via network when nobody's looking, and perchance swipe these records before anyone can delete them. But then you wouldn't have a legal leg to stand on, I don't guess.
Anyhow, good job! I'll be regularly visiting your site to keep
up with the
Los Angeles, California
[see cookie suit]
This is a great idea. I think it's fabulous you're going after this.
I for one am watching to see what happens here because of the implications.
I am skeptical that you will find anything simply because of the ease of
deleting such files. I agree, there is
little we can do about that. But certainly an empty history folder, cookie folder, internet cache folder, etc. would obviously indicate something was amiss and might be worth reporting. I do agree with you that these are NO DOUBT public records.
It it is important that we have the ability to track what employees are doing with their time on our (the citizens, residents, taxpayers, et al) dime. What if a government worker, or mayor, or governor, or other public official is surfing porn sites? Is it not a public issue if we paid for the computers, the Internet account, the official's salary, and
on and on and on? It is.
I agree that going overboard and conducting witch hunts is not fair, nor feasible. It's not a good use of our time as journalists. But that Mr. Davidian is taking the lead to go after this type of information is positive and praise-worthy. We can make minimizing comments that make his request sound silly now. But what happens when something contained in those files is a key to a major story that serves the public interest. An example escapes me now, but I guarantee that when it happens, we'll be glad to know that someone has set a precedent for us on this.
When in doubt - ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS - err on the side that something
a public record. Surrender nothing on this issue. The burden is on public officials to prove that anything done on public time, with public equipment, with public money and while representing the public OUGHT TO BE PUBLIC.
Sometimes I wonder if some of us aren't our own worst enemies on public
The Shelbyville News
I recently learned of your paper and web-site (which I just visited)
from a news.com web article
(http://www.news.com/News/Item/0,4,15871,00.html?dtn.head) about your
attempt to obtain the cookie files from your local government's PCs
under the auspices of the state's open records law. After reading your
online articles, and some of your editorials, all I can say
is...bravo...and attaboy! People should not be obstructed from finding
out what they're government is doing. Nor should they be wary of
speaking their mind ("In the end your silence will not help you.") for
fear of what their government might do in retaliation. People should
*not* fear their government, but rather, to the contrary, government
should fear the people. Government officials and workers are supposed
to be our servants, answerable to us. Government and the people have a
contract that stipulates that government must operate within the limits
defined by the constitution and other laws, and in return the public
will respect that government as lawful, and respect and obey its laws.
But if they step outside their lawful, constitutionally defined bounds,
then they have broken the contract, and the public then has the right,
and duty, to ignore that illegal government, form a new one, and
overthrow the old one, if necessary. Those are strong, extreme words,
but the contract we live by, outlined in the Constitution of the United
States, and the Declaration of Independence, is meant to cover all
situations, from the vaguely annoying ones like refusing to turn over
cookie files, to the most extreme ones requiring a complete change of
government (note that it does not say a change in the form of
government). The contract recognizes that power corrupts, and a
government has power that will quickly corrupt it from the degree of
being vaguely annoying to the degree requiring its removal. Its
unfortunate, but government, be it federal, state, or local, in many
places across this country today has become nothing but organized crime
with a flag on the wall, and answerable to no one but itself.
In response to some critics of you and your paper that have said that
you don't share "Confederate values", I say the following : States do
have rights that limit the power of the federal government, and those
rights must be safeguarded and the power of the federal government must
be limited. But the people have the ultimate rights that limit the
power of both federal and state and local governments. Those are the
rights that must ultimately be defended, and the power of all levels of
government limited to ensure continued liberty and freedom. If the
rights of the people are ignored and infringed upon by government, then
there is no help or hope for the rights of states.
Finally, I am from Pittsburgh, so I am a "northerner". However,
traveled extensively in the south and love it and have always been made
welcome, especially in Tennessee. Likewise, I have been host to and/or
worked with many from the south, and have done my best to make them
welcome, and show them a great time here in western Pennsylvania.
Patriots come from everywhere. I just hope they keep coming.
P.S. Pittsburgh has a radio version of your paper that is broadcast
over the internet as well. You (and your net readers) might want to
take a look at the web site of Jim Quinn's morning show at
http://www.warroom.com. Each day's show is archived so you can listen
to it at any time, and on weekdays from 6 AM - 10 AM, Pittsburgh time,
you can listen to his show live. The show always starts off with 2
minutes of news and sports (at the top of every hour), so you have to
wait a couple of minutes to get to the good stuff. Quinn has had
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Pittsburgh several times over the past two
years to give talks. I mention this because I noticed you have
Ambrose's "warning to Americans" letter on your web site. Keep up the
good fight. And remember, patriots come from everywhere, including
England. Just hope they keep coming.
Visited your site (newspaper) today after seeing the story on CNET.
amused to see you placing the 14th ammendment alongside the first 10 (Bill
of Rights). In the South, where people could read, the 14th ammendment was
enacted at gunpoint after the South lost the Second War for American
Independence. (In the GREAT LIE of American History it has been made out
to be a slavery thing you know.)
Well, we lost that war the first time but I would offer that if we can
educate young AGGRESSIVE skulls like yours maybe we will not lose the next
time and Americans can once more address their problems (many of which you
enumerate in your last link: A Warning....) with a truly representative
government. (One that is local and accountable)
Anyway, since you are in the South now and seem to want to do good why
don't you start by getting your history straight, analyzing the meaning of
the first three sentences of that greatest of documents - The Declaration
of Independence - and then educate the masses. If you would like, let me
know and I will send you a small educational packet of materials. Whatever
you do, don't place those immortal ten alongside the one that enslaved us
If you deign to lead, you must know. To paraphrase Hendrix are
experienced? Give it some thought O Enlightened One.
--Wes Drawdy, South Carolinian
Thu, 30 Oct 1997 19:32:05 -0500
Pat Gunn <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hello. This message is regarding your recent intentions to
request the cookies file from government employees' computers.
According to www.news.com's article about your demand, your
intention is to use the cookies file as a way to ensure that
government workers are not visiting non work-related sites. This
blind trust in the cookies file is probably not wise -- the
1) Easily be altered by the users after they visit any
questionable sites, by opening up the
cookiefile(s) with a text editor
2) Be blocked with an intelligent web proxy, such as Internet
Junkbuster (available at www.junkbusters.com)
3) Be disabled on most recent versions of Netscape
I think that now that your request is known, any evidence that
you might be looking for is likely to be deleted by their network
administrator, and their network administrator is likely to advise
the workers to disable cookies and/or is setting up an intelligent
web proxy (perhaps even a transparent one) that will block all or
Just thought you might want to know.
Sun, 28 Sep 1997 22:53:16 -0500
As a Journalism student at TTU, let me say "You guys RULE!"
I've just been turned on to your August issue that is available at the
library and have just visited your website for the first time. Why haven't
I heard of this great paper before?? It should be in news stands along
with the Tennessean, Nashville Banner and Herald-Citizen.
I wish you continued success in your efforts to reveal the truth to
Wed, 29 Oct 1997 20:28:48 -0800 (PST)
Dave Wickham <email@example.com>
Suing for access to cookie files as public documents is great.
include browser history and cache files?
I have been working on controlling internet use at the state level and
be very interested in hearing how you do with this suit.
If possible please keep me up to date.
State employee's internet abuse page http://www.adsnet.net/states.htm
Cle Elum Wa
Saw article about you on CNet
Thu, 30 Oct 1997 23:55:01 -0600
Jack Fields <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I was looking over your site after seeing an article about you on CNet.
Your 8/9/97 article didn't contain a lot of details but left me
wondering exactly what happened. The 4th amendment says, "The right of
the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,
against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated."
the question is visiting a web site an unreasonable search? If the
intent of a web site is to attract visitors, where is an expectation of
privacy? Was the URL with the warning the 1st part of your site visited
and did they go past it?
Keep up the good work!!
Mon, 03 Nov 1997 16:16:46 +0000
John Havard <email@example.com>
Got your page from a link on newshub about the lawsuit on "cookies".
Please keep in mind that these "magic cookies" can be deleted very
easily - they reside in the cache folder inside the preferences folder
on a Mac and can be deleted by dragging to Trash. I assume a Windows
machine handles them in a similar manner so don't be surprised if there
are no files there when they make the computers available.
I wish we had a watchdog paper like yours here in Mobile.
Re: [Fwd: webpage]
Thu, 23 Oct 1997 21:17:35 +1000
Timothy &Sandy McDow <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Geoffrey Davidian <email@example.com>
I was selecting newspapers to bookmark on my
web provider. I am a international distribution analyst speciallizing
in intrenational maritime trade. As a fellow "Volunteer", I was looking
for papers from Tennesse as a home reference (a look at "No where
America") to contrast with the bussel of everyday chaos.
One article captured my attention and aroused my political prowness.
The Guerrilla Law column is really a look at America "gone astray". Be
forewarned that Law has inflicted upon the citizens a brotherhood of
power mogerals who are cruel and deviously self-serving. Many countries
in the world have taken the very essence of what the U.S. has stood for
the past 200 years and restricted any deviations from those principles.
Australia is now considered to be a better place to live compared to the
U.S. How did this happen? Just look at our justice system and our
legislature; Who controls and administers these powers of government?
Police? Lawyers? Politicians? or lobbyists?
This is due to "Professionalism" in the public service community and
mere professional service to the community. Who said that a Judge must
be a Lawyer??? It is time we consider the direction we are headed and
look for more simplistic paths. The control of government no longer
resides in the hands of the people.
U.S. Territory Guam
Mon, 29 Sep 1997 15:53:34 -0700
Geoffrey Davidian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Putnam Pit
Jerry Samon <email@example.com>
Jerry Samon wrote:
> I have been reading your publication, and I find it very interesting.
> was wondering if you have a subscription policy. If so, how do I
> and how much? Thank you
Thanks for you interest.
We are having a rough time because the city is making it hard to get
public records and we don't know how many more issues there will be. We
try to be monthly.
A subscription is $30 for 12 issues.
send $30 to
The Putnam Pit
c/o Chris Grant
4101 N. Prospect
Milwaukee, WI 53211
Re: Your paper
Thu, 31 Jul 1997 08:37:04 -0700
Geoffrey Davidian <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The Putnam Pit
Jeanne Schmitzer <email@example.com>
Jeanne Schmitzer wrote:
> Do you print a paper version of your paper, or is it only available via
> the web? If you print paper versions, where can they be obtained?
> Thank you
> Jeanne Schmitzer
Yes, we print a paper version. You can find a copy of every past Pit
the Cookeville Public Library. I think they keep two copies of each in
the collections office.
We put them in the post office every so often, but people were stealing
them and tossing them in the trash.
If you check the web site from time to time, I post where they are
available when I publish. I'm working on the July issue now, and I guess
I'll have to change it to the August issue because I can't keep up with
all the scandals.
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