Tag Archives: opinion column

History and Art in Bluff View and beyond – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Current debates about preserving history can be toxic, but our Bluff View Art District illustrates an important dimension to that debate: Art. One of Bluff View’s treasures is its oldest building, the Houston Museum of Decorative Arts. The museum’s collection of antique glass, porcelain and pottery is one of the finest in the world. And the story behind the collection is as fascinating as the artifacts themselves. 

Visiting the museum, I heard about Anna Safley Houston who was supposedly born in 1876. I say “supposedly” because written records were iffy back in the year that Alexander Bell invented the telephone and the art of glassworks was emerging. Born in a small rural town, Anna was an unlikely collector of that art which she stored in an East Ridge barn.

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Stranger Politics Shopping at Walmart – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

As I was leaving my neighborhood Walmart yesterday morning a total stranger stopped in front of me and announced, “The Biden family is living off millions while the rest of us are poor!”  He just stood there waiting for my response. I smiled sweetly and said “ You mean poor Trump – forced to live at that Mar-a-Lago place and living off all those contributions folks send him because he’s such a nice man.” I continued my sweet smile and the gentleman, confused, finally walked away and I breathed a sigh of relief. It was disturbing to have a perfect stranger approach me like this. I worry that given the wild ride of this 2024 presidential election, I need to prepare myself for a tidal wave of such strangeness.   

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On the road to what? – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

I was surprised to see the photos of Ron DeSantis’ motorcade multi-car pile up on I-75 near Brainerd Road. Frankly I’m skeptical about the rumors saying that a dog had caused the accident. In the more than 20 years Ive traveled that road, Ive never seen a dog cross that road. I wonder if his cars got entangled in some of the orange traffic cones along the way. Or maybe they got caught in heavy traffic on that section of the highway when folks careen across lanes.

It wouldn’t have been surprising if either had happened. Whatever the cause, we may never know. DeSantis was using state government vehicles and a new law was just passed shielding his travel records from public view. But we do know about our challenging roads and we’re learning more.

First lesson: Note this quote from Patrick Rothfuss, Safe roads are the bones of civilization.” Key for keeping those bones safe is how people drive on them. Alas, what were once civilized and polite driving has given way to the equivalent of the pushing and shoving by kids in school hallways. I am forever grateful for those drivers who let you onto the highway in front of them. And for those who don’t speed up to cut you off as they cross lanes. They have a slightly saintly aura.

Second lesson: Construction is the new normal. I wonder if DeSantis’ team had driven around East Ridge and the Brainerd area. The drive can be mind-numbing. Ringgold road is continually under construction with orange traffic cones everywhere. Digging equipment have decorated various sides of the road for longer than I can remember. Main roads are blocked. Some ramps on and off to the highway are gone. My favorite mess is the circular path now made by metal shafts that lead cars on Terrace in a circle around closed I-24 ramps. A driver unused to the area had gotten on the circle by mistake and just sat there in his car, mystified at the traffic coming coming at him. Yeah, buddy…I feel your pain.

We all know that Chattanooga is growing by leaps and bounds. You only have to look at the number of grey and white apartment buildings going up all over town, transforming once distinctive areas into lookalikes. Water mains and sewer systems are being updated, often leaving raised planks and covers that click loudly driven over into the night.

As we grow and roads get more congested, the modernization process that widens and adds highway lanes can be confusing. For example, if you don’t know that the extra lanes on the highway will quickly merge and disappear, being mystified is the least of your worries.

Governor Bill Lee has responded with a statewide campaign to promote his $3 billion Transportation Modernization Act.  He recently gave a speech at Alison Pike site that’s part of a larger project to widen Apison Pike from Interstate 75 to East Brainerd Road and more safely connect Ooltewah, Collegedale and Apison to Chattanooga’s urban core. An admirable goal…except for one thing. The Act explores public-private partnerships for “Choice Lanes”. That’s a divert-and-deflect euphemism for toll roads. Supposedly this will decrease congestion, save taxpayer dollars and make road projects more efficient.

The urban planner in me wants to know exactly how toll booths would be a plus for transportation. And who would own these Choice Lanes, and could sell them to whom. I hear echoes of that old saying, The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. If you hear that, too, ask questions. Lots of pointed questions. And don’t settle for divert-and-deflect answers.

From punked to pummeled – by Deborah Levine

originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Over the weekend, Trump assured us that he had illegally leaked information that he’d be arrested on Tuesday by Manhattan’s Attorney General regarding hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.  He wasn’t. A team spokesperson agreed that no such information was received, but rushed to justify Trump’s announcement, saying it was “rightfully highlighting his innocence”. As usual, truth wasn’t the point. The past Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele explains, “former President Donald Trump used a well-worn page from his playbook to punk everyone over his expected indictment.”

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Murdoch’s mess: Fox News, lies and defamation – by Deborah Levine

originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press. 

I’m transfixed as the Fox News circus unfolds with the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit by voting machine maker Dominion against ringmaster, Rupert Murdoch, and his son, Lachlan Murdoch. We’re now told that the Murdochs and their carnival acts like Tucker Carlson all knew that claims of a stolen 2020 election were fraudulent. Yet they spread the lies that led to the violence of Jan. 6, with Carlson now perpetuating that date’s bunch-of-tourists theory. And we Americans are stuck with the divisive mess. Maybe if we’d paid more attention to the Murdochs’ history, we’d have halted the Fox circus before it fueled our culture wars.

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Climate debate shows no signs of subsiding – by Deborah Levine

originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

I rather liked the 80 degree weather in our winter, but not fond of the storm warnings last week. I’m delighted that Chattanooga dodged any tornadoes and really sorry for the folks who didn’t, including those in New Jersey a few weeks ago. New Jersey? Not exactly part of tornado alley! But then, weird weather is becoming the new norm. Cars floating in a river through a city’s downtown and icicles on Southern California palm trees. Oy! What’s going on here?

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Child labor making a come back – by Deborah Levine

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press   

Have we time-traveled back a century when child labor was a thing? That’s what I first thought when I heard that a food sanitation company was being sued for illegally employing over 100 children ages 13 – 17. The kids cleaned razor-sharp saws with caustic chemicals while working overnight shifts at 13 meat processing facilities in eight states including Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennessee and Texas.

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“Domestic Infant Suppliers” buckle up – by Deborah Levine

originally published in  The Chattanooga Times Free Press

Writing about abortion is like leaping into a tornado, but here goes. I’ve always hated the idea of abortion, the term evokes pain and suffering as well as sorrow and mourning, whether you’re pro or anti-abortion. But I’ve advocated for giving women choice over their bodies since joining the many Jewish women involved in the first Women’s Liberation March in Manhattan in 1970.

While the protests of the seventies were a revolution, touching multiple area of our lives in the workplace and community,  anti-abortionists saw us as irrational, unattractive feminist shrews. They called us “anti-family,” “angry battle-axes” and “radical Commie lesbians.” The “Domestic Infant Supply” language in the current supreme Court draft doesn’t just echo those sentiments, it magnifies them.
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It’s called war, folks – by Deborah Levine 

 Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press

In the days since Russia invaded Ukraine, we’ve tried to avoid World War III. There’s no doubt that the economic strategies are impressive. Putin is right to call out the sanctions as war. The Russian ruble has lost much of its value.  The Russian stock exchange closed for days with one financial analyst toasting its death saying, “Rest in peace dear comrade”. Corporations exited in droves including Ikea, Exxon, Boeing, Ford, Harley-Davidson, Volkswagen, Disney, Nike, Apple, Dell, and Google. Visa and Mastercard suspended their Russian operations.

As devastating as these sanctions have been, Russia continues to demolish cities, take over nuclear facilities, and bomb neighborhoods. And while we’d hoped for a cease fire, plans to bomb Ukrainian military-industrial complex to smithereens were just announced.

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Ukraine’s aching pain: Cold War 2.0 – by Deborah Levine 

Originally published in The Chattanooga Times Free Press
(First of 3 columns on Russia-Ukraine war)

Back in 2019, my opinion column called, Don’t Underestimate Putin’sThreat, was published. I quoted Ukrainian-born comedian Yakov Smirnoff’s joke about how the KGB, Soviet Russias secret police, stood for Kiss Goodbye Your Butt. Today’s Russia is “…a world erupting with new money and new power” says British producer Peter Pomerantsev in his book, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible. Not much has changed. Russia still uses the KGB false flag” strategy, claiming that the current conflict is Ukraine’s fault, pseudo-annexing Russian-leaning parts of Ukraine and sending in its military as “peace keepers”.

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