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Capitol View Commentary: Friday, June 27, 2014

Capitol View Commentary: Friday, June 27, 2014

CREATED Jun 27, 2014

CAPITOL VIEW

By Pat Nolan, Senior Vice President, DVL Public Relations & Advertising

June 27, 2014

THE LOSS OF A STATESMAN; BOB CORKER: TO THE WHITE HOUSE OR THE STATE HOUSE; CHANGING THE AMP…AGAIN; POSITION PAPERS; A KICKOFF; A POSITIONING; STINKS TO HIGH HEAVENS; LINING UP BEHIND LAMAR; STILL IN HIS CORNER; INSIDE POLITICS ON IRAQ, SYRIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST; TURNING TWO

THE LOSS OF A STATESMAN

With the passing of former Senator Howard Baker this week (at age 88), Tennessee has lost one of its greatest public servants, certainly in my lifetime, and perhaps in the whole history of the Volunteer State. When you think of all the others who would be on that 200-year old plus list that would be quite an accomplishment.

It was not just his legislative achievements in the Senate (such as The Clean Water Act) or how he helped the country focus and understand what was at stake in the dark hours of the Watergate scandal (“What did the President know and when did he know it.”). It wasn’t just the key role he played in making Tennessee a two-party state and mentoring so many of Tennessee’s current day leaders. It wasn’t just how he stabilized President Reagan’s second term after it was in the ditch due to the Iran Contra scandal or how served other presidents in foreign appointments.

What made Howard Baker so uniquely special was how he did it all; how he was “The Great Conciliator,” so many times bringing differing parties together (sometimes with a bit of a push) to work out a “compromise.” That’s a word that is almost reviled in today’s Washington. But Howard Baker knew it was how democracy works best, and how things get done. He was the kind of leader (as Governor Haslam said) who even if he disagreed with someone always seemed to keep in mind, the other guy still be right.

I tried from time to time over the last couple of years to get Senator Baker to come on INSIDE POLITICS to share his wisdom. I knew his health was declining but I so enjoyed talking with him when I was a reporter (covering his re-election in 1978 and his presidential campaign in 1980) and I wanted that chance again.

My favorite memory of being with the Senator was coming to Huntsville to cover his re-election announcement in 1978. Hurrying to get the story done, I fell down and ripped the pants of my new suit. The Senator spent so much time making sure I was OK and making suggestions on how my clothes could be repaired, I never forgot it.

I worked with Senator Baker’s daughter Sissy when she was a producer at Channel 5 back in the early 1980s (maybe that’s another reason he was so kind to me). Later in the early 1990s, I got to know Senator Baker as a doting grandfather when we served together on the board of Saint Bernard Academy. I will never forget him coming to a school assembly with all the parents and teachers present too, telling great inside stories about his experiences in public service and displaying the wonderful photography he produced over the years ( I thinking taking photographs was perhaps second only to politics as the love of his life).

It’s easy to say at a time like this that we will never see the likes of someone like Howard Baker again. And that’s true. He was special, unique and irreplaceable.

But in terms of being a “conciliator” I hope that’s wrong. If we’ve ever needed more of how elected officials to be like Howard Baker, to respect their principles but to also respect and work with “the other side,” now is that time. May he rest in peace and may he always be an example of how the best way to do politics in Tennessee (and this nation) is to follow the words of Howard Baker’s step-mother, Irene Bailey Baker. According to THE NEW YORK TIMES (June 26) in describing her step son she once said: “He’s like the Tennessee River. He flows right down the middle.”

By the way, I highly recommend reading the NYT article, especially some of the what-if stories and speculation about the other political opportunities of Senator Baker’s political life (being considered as Nixon’s VP in 1968, being offered a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, being the head of the C.I.A.)

BOB CORKER; TO THE WHITE HOUSE OR THE STATE HOUSE

It began with a couple of occasional rim shots (including an endorsement from of all people, THE NASHVILLE SCENE’s Bruce Dobie). Now it’s becoming an increasing drum beat in the national media including a recent article in THE NATIONAL JOURNAL (June 26). Is Tennessee Senator Bob Corker running for the Republican nomination for President in 2016?

In my lifetime Tennessee has had (about every decade or so), a bevy of our elected officials looking in the mirror and seeing themselves in the Oval Office; from Estes Kefauver to the Albert Gores; from Howard Baker and Lamar Alexander to Bill Frist and Fred Thompson. Is Bob Corker next?

He’s doing the kind of high profile things in Washington Senators do to get attention and he could get even more if the GOP takes the Senate and he becomes Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But right now it’s all just media talk. Senator Corker isn’t saying yes (or no) and he’s not showing any concrete signs of mounting a national campaign. There are also media rumors he will come home to Tennessee in 4 years to succeed Bill Haslam as Governor. (And don’t forget the talk about how Governor Haslasm has future national ambitions too).

If Corker does decide to go national he will need to start ramping up quickly after the first of 2015 (which seems to be the deadline he’s given himself). Coming home to Tennessee might be complicated as well. With Senator Lamar Alexander re-elected in all likelihood, will he complete his new full 6 year term? And if not, would Haslam appoint himself to that open Senate seat, opening up the Governor’s chair to Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey who could seek (re)election in 2018?

Wish I was a fly on the wall in some places these days.

CHANGING THE AMP…AGAIN

I told you some months ago more change was coming.

The controversial proposed AMP bus rapid transit project has some slope issues it can’t overcome along Broadway (in order to meet the standards for the Americans with Disabilities Act). So the route is being modified…again. This time, downtown

It would now go to 8th Avenue and Broadway then up to Commerce Street. At that point, reports the NASHVILLE SCENE’s PITH IN THE WIND blog (June 4): “It’s (down) to 5th Avenue (up) to Gay Street then around to James Robertson Parkway before taking a right on 3rd Avenue, then a left on Union Street, before crossing into East Nashville via the Woodland Street Bridge.”

Lost yet?

Well don’t commit that all to memory either. The Blue Ribbon Citizens Panel studying the project took a bus ride of the AMP route this past week and some are suggesting staying on James Robertson and going straight across to East Nashville via the Victory Memorial Bridge. They believe that would make a lot more sense especially since Victory Memorial is much wider.

The bus tour also brought concerns from the panel about some other changes being recommended. That would include a loss of on street parking, new road widening and sidewalks being built in a couple of locations. Combine this with continued opposition to the project on the west end of the route (where rubber tired buses, not the AMP would be used) and this pet project of Mayor Karl Dean seems to be becoming more of an orphan child with each passing month.

POSITION PAPERS

Indeed the AMP controversy plays a prominent role in the first round of position papers issued by one of the candidates in the slowly emerging 2015 Nashville mayor’s race.

In her paper on Transit, Metro Councilwoman At Large Megan Barry says the AMP “mixes good intentions with questionable strategy” adding the planning process for the project has lacked “adequate transparency.”

Saying that “seeking federal funding is fiscally sensible,” she adds the AMP could be a reasonable first step” to meet Nashville’s transit needs. But she adds; “With key project specifics including design and funding not yet determined, I cannot say if I will cast a vote for it. The “it” is not yet sufficiently defined.” Note: Barry has been a strong supporter of Mayor Dean in the Council.

Barry also issued a position paper (you can find all of them on her web site www.meganbarry.com) regarding the Economy. She puts her finger on a tough but critical challenge Metro faces. “We may be a city with more investment, more jobs, more newcomers, more tourism, more energy, and more good press than ever before, but we are also a city with more poverty.” She cites figures showing Nashville’s poverty level is 19% overall and 28.6% for persons under 18. She also says our poverty rate was 20% lower in 2007 and 36% lower in 1999. While pledging she will be a mayor who “actively factors the need to alleviate poverty and inequality into the decisions we make about all the issues before us” she offers no specific anti-poverty plan in her position paper.

On Justice Issues, Barry states (invoking the recent controversy she was involved in regarding Judge Casey Moreland): “Our justice system is as good as perceptions that the system is procedurally fair and even handed.” She praises the current sharp decline in crime in Nashville which she says is due in part to increased resources. But she adds she will make a budget priority as mayor to provide more pay for fire and police, using “creative ways.” No specifics were given but Metro police and fire do have their own pay plan separate from other city workers.

Barry also used her Justice position paper (Immigration) to take some shots at a potential mayoral rival, Sheriff Daron Hall. She says she is “pleased Nashville withdrew from the onerous 287(g) program (that) gave Sheriff’s deputies too much authority to detain immigrants.” She also criticizes the current “Secure Counties” program used by Sheriff Hall saying it “separates families and deports people who are not public safety threats. A number of cities are backing away from Secure Counties and my view is Nashville should join them.”

Finally, Councilwoman Barry has a position paper on Education where she praises the progress in Metro Schools but adds that many still find the gains have been “painfully gradual and hindered by a school administration bureaucracy, that while leaner and more effective than a decade ago, remains insufficiently nimble, unresponsive to countywide concerns, and slow to innovate.”

She also wades into the ever heated controversy regarding charter schools. She says they “are here to stay (and) Charter skeptics should not pretend otherwise.” She says charters are an “important piece of school reform and improvement (but) they are not all the pieces…The vast majority of public school students will be in non-charter environments for the foreseeable future. Charter enthusiasts should not pretend otherwise.”

Well, all this ought to start a little debate.

A KICKOFF

While Barry was staking out some turf on the issues, the only other announced candidate, attorney Charles Robert Bone became the first mayoral want-to-be to officially kick off a campaign. In an event that also doubled as Bone’s first major fundraiser, it appears the candidate may have been upstaged by the introduction he was given his oldest daughter, Margaret.

Both THE TENNESSEAN (on-line June 25) and the campaign itself (through a follow up blast e-mail) featured her comments. They included: Her dad is a math genius in solving 6th grade homework; he manages the household budget well; he keeps his commitments and he is a “crier” when they watch movies together such as Charlotte’s Web).

Hey, I can relate. My two daughters always outshine me, in public or otherwise.

Trying to read the political tea leaves, early on, the focus in events like these can be who’s there and who’s not. In this case there was also speculation about what it means, if anything, that the Bone campaign is using the same colors as Mayor Karl Dean in his two successful mayoral elections.

But I am not sure how completely helpful it was that THE TENNESSEAN’s lead sentence described the event as “full of entrepreneurs, lawyers and lobbyists.”

A POSITIONING

While Bone was jumping in with his first campaign event, another potential mayoral candidate, Jeremy Kane seemed to be positioning himself to join the contest. After a relatively quiet period publicly, Kane drafted an op-ed piece in THE TENNESSEAN (June 22) and sent out a blast e-mail to friends and others as he made the final transition out of his eight-year long work as founder and CEO of the very successful LEAD Academy charter school.

In the e-mail he writes: “We could only have only done this work in Nashville and with your faith, support and love. I look forward to sharing our next commitment together.” In the op-ed he dropped still more vague hints about his future. Saying doors open when people feel included, he adds: “Not only in our schools, but with our transit system, our housing, our economic development, our neighborhoods and our public safety, we can accomplish so much more, together. Opportunity is knocking. Now is the time. Let’s open the door.”

Sounds like it could come right out of a campaign announcement or news release? Maybe so

STINKS TO HIGH HEAVENS

Republican efforts this week to use a State Senate Committee meeting to prove that Tennessee‘s Chief Justice Gary Wade (and by inference two other high court Justices up for retention elections in August) were guilty of unethical conduct by “endorsing” other members of the bench, just didn’t work.

It’s hard to believe this format would have done the trick anyway. Legislative hearings are more a cure for insomnia than a spark to ignite a statewide campaign. Besides while this race has attracted huge interest in the legal community and among the news media and political junkies, I think most voters are still tuned out or confused about what ‘s going on (although the August voter turnout overall may still favor Republicans).

Even the committee’s chair, Senator Mike Bell (who also lodged the first ethics complaint about the matter) more or less admitted his failure to reporters (CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS, June 25) following the session: “Maybe what he (Wade) did was not illegal or unethical, but it stinks to high heaven.”

Actually what really stinks is this whole retention/ouster effort. Both sides seem intent on proclaiming right and virtue are on their side while claiming the other folks are engaging in partisan politics and unethical behavior. It’s an election, folks. Of course everyone is trying to seize an advantage and demonize the other side. But do we really have to try to kill the present judicial appointment/ retention system in order to save it?

There are still strong indications that along with this race becoming heated and partisan, it could also get very expensive with lots of money (both from in and out of state) being spent on TV attack ads and direct mail scandal sheets in the final days to sway the electorate. In that regard, knowing where that money is coming from (the donors) is critical.

Both so far neither side has disclosed and there are indications from at least one NO side group (to oust the Justices) that they won’t do so (and aren’t required to under law). “Dark money” is the new and deadly mother’s milk of American politics thanks at least in part to a couple of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings. We may soon we see its poisoning impact on our political system here in Tennessee.

In the meantime, be sure and proof read those news releases. TENNESSEANS FOR JUDICIAL ACCOUNTABILITY told Phil Williams of NEWSCHANNEL5 INVESTIGATES that the way it is set up by law they can’t directly urge voters to vote NO, only raise questions and concerns for the electorate to consider. But I got the same news release Phil did (dated June 16). In the last sentence it says about the “seven deadly Democrat sins” of the judicial candidates: “This is just the tip of the iceberg for why Tennesseans should vote to replace them in August.”

Whoops!

LINING UP BEHIND LAMAR

There are the kinds of endorsements Tennessee GOP U.S. Senate candidate Joe Carr would have walked across the hot political coals to receive.

But both nationally recognized economist Art Laffer and former U.S. House Speaker, presidential candidate and cable TV political pundit Newt Gingrich went strongly for incumbent Lamar Alexander instead this week. Gingrich says he made the endorsement because: “we need Lamar’s experience and shrewdness in Washington.” The nod to Alexander also came despite Carr, a state representative, being a Gingrich delegate in the Tennessee GOP delegation to the Republican National Convention back in 2012. Ouch!

President Ronald Reagan’s “favorite economist” Art Laffer moved to our state a couple of years ago and he has gotten increasingly involved in state politics. That includes efforts to repeal the state’s death and gift taxes as well as ongoing efforts to eliminate the Hall Income Tax on dividends.

This week, Laffer, who is also a former board member of the conservative Club for Growth, issued a ringing endorsement of Republican incumbent Senator Lamar Alexander. In an Alexander campaign news release it says the endorsement was made because “Alexander has demonstrated a strong conservative record on a range of issues, including states’ rights, fiscal policy, education and labor.”

The endorsement also shows why, despite Carr’s insistence to the contrary, that this Tennessee Senate race doesn’t really compare to others in Mississippi or to the Virginia congressional primary where House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost in a major upset. In both cases, the incumbent was clearly out of touch with his voters and/or conducted ineffective campaigns. That’s not been the case with Alexander who has not let any grass grow under his feet or a conservative issue go unaddressed.

It should also be pointed out that Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran did pull a surprise and win his primary runoff this week against a Tea Party favorite. The reason he rallied seems interesting too. With 20,000 more voters coming to the polls compared to the first election, it appears the minority vote in Mississippi, normally strongly Democratic, “crossed over” to be the difference for Cochran. Political wisdom usually holds that “crossover” efforts are often rumored but rarely happen or are effective. This time maybe it was.

THE NEW YORK TIMES in an article this week said some relatively positive things about Carr’s efforts but it also credited Senator Alexander with running a “model” campaign over the last couple of years to ward off the chances for an upset.

As you read first in this column a couple of weeks ago, Joe Carr has started his TV ad campaign, running what appears to be a limited schedule in Nashville and maybe one or two Tennessee markets. I thought the spot, given the campaign’s continued limited resources, had some good production values and focuses on an issue (Alexander’s vote one year ago in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform bill) that perhaps has the most promise to get votes for Carr.

But I am not sure it will get enough visibility and repetitions to make all that much difference. Carr has not really had the money to introduce himself to voters and lack of name ID is still likely his biggest challenge. And if voters don’t know who you are, it is almost impossible to get their vote and win.

Meantime, Senator Alexander was boosted by a unanimous Supreme Court decision this week ruling unconstitutional President Barack Obama “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. This is an issue the senior Tennessee Senator has been outspoken about from the beginning. He immediately issued a statement trying to put the court victory in terms he thought conservative GOP Tennessee voters could relate to: “Our founders wanted a President, not a king, and our Constitution is written to protect against precisely the kind of overreach this president demonstrated.”

The issues, the organization, the money all continue to strongly favor Alexander in his re-election race. However, at the end of this week I am sure that was not important to the Senator in some ways as he grieves the loss of Senator Baker, his former boss, mentor, advisor and “indispensable friend.”

LATE BREAKING: The hits (endorsements) just keep on coming! Friday afternoon (June 27) the Alexander campaign announced support from another conservative heavyweight, former Arkansas Governor and GOP Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee (he won the 2012 Presidential primary here in Tennessee). The endorsement will be backed by a statewide digital media campaign.

I can see the strong hand of Chip Saltsman in this move. He managed Huckabee’s 2012 national campaign and has been a strong supporter of Alexander. In fact he left the Carr campaign when the state lawmaker switched from running for Congress to taking on Lamar. Double ouch!!

STILL IN HIS CORNER

Returning to the States after a week-long overseas trade trip to the Far East, Governor Bill Haslam is defending his State Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman. While he was out, 15 GOP state lawmakers (from the Tea Party wing of the GOP) sent a letter to Mr. Haslam urging the state education leader’s removal. Huffman has also been targeted for sharp criticism by leaders of the state teacher’s union and a number of local school superintendents

The Governor told reporters (CHATTANOOGA TIMES FREE PRESS, June 24) that: “I understand Commissioner Huffman is controversial. I also understand we’re doing a lot of things in education….we don’t have a year to waste…I think you always start with how we are doing in helping Tennessee students learn more and…when you look back and say we made more progress than any state ever, that has to be the criteria” (referring to Tennessee’s number one all-time single year improvement on last year’s ranking on the National Report Card).

The Governor also joined his staff and took a shot back at the letter from lawmakers saying (TENNESSEAN, June 24): “If you’re going to write a letter instead of coming into talk to me, it says you’re not really concerned with getting to the right answer.”

In a late week news story (TENNESSEAN, June 25) one of the organizers of the Huffman letter, Representative Rick Womick says he originally had 20 signees but calls from the Governor’s office pulled them off. No names were given for the other potential signees.

Back at his news availability, the Governor declined to say whether Huffman is sure to remain as Education Commissioner in his second term beginning next year. The Governor says it’s “too early” to speculate about that (NASHVILLE PUBLIC RADIO, June 24).

Commissioner Huffman finally spoke to reporters late in the week (NASHVILLE POST/PITH IN THE WIND, June 26) saying all these calls for his resignation or ouster are “both disappointing and an ill-timed distraction.” But he too declined to speculate about whether he will stay on in a second Haslam administration.

On another topic, the Governor seemed to indicate he finds merit in the proposed federal gas tax increase introduced by Tennessee Senator Bob Corker. “Would it help Tennessee? Sure it would.” But he stopped short of an actual endorsement of the bill, which also includes reinstating and making permanent the right of Tennesseans to deduct local and state sales taxes (among other tax breaks), adding: “Whether that’s the right thing or not, Congress will have to debate that out.”

The Governor told reporters as well that granting same-sex benefits to state workers is “not something we as an administration will be pushing.” He added he didn’t think it was “imminent” the General Assembly would get involved either.

Really? With at least four cities statewide now granting such benefits to employees (including Nashville where Mayor Dean signed the bill into law this week with a special public ceremony), it certainly seems possible, if not likely, that conservative lawmakers will want to “nip this in the bud” and pass legislation to prohibit local governments from acting in this manner. That would be much as they did a few years ago when the General Assembly vetoed anti-discrimination legislation Metro had approved.

Several reporters commented in their stories Mr. Haslam seemed not to remember too much about that matter (he signed the veto bill). Maybe it’s out of sight, out of mind for the Governor, hoping similar legislation to ban same sex benefits never comes to his desk next year.

Finally, the Governor expressed a bit of amazement at the furor over the lack of information given out to the media at the beginning off his trip. “I’m not sure, quite frankly, how it turned into such a big secret. In terms of sharing who we were meeting with, I don’t think we were ever going to do that because we don’t for obvious reasons. But I don’t know that the rest of it was a big secret (who went with him and a general topic about what at least some of the meetings were about, i.e., better airline connections).

The Governor also “jokingly” blamed (says THE NEWS FREE PRESS) the “fertile imagination” of the Associated Press reporter who filed the first story last week for re-starting the disclosure controversy which has flared before (and probably will again in the future).

INSIDE POLITICS ON IRAQ, SYRIA AND THE MIDDLE EAST

If you are at all like me, you’ve been surprised, puzzled, even angered by the recent developments in Iraq, a country which seems to be all but imploding before our eyes. All this is happening after a decade plus war waged there by the U.S., which cost the nation thousands of lives and billions in treasure. Iraq also joins Syria next door which remains engulfed in its own devastating civil war.

In the past on INSIDE POLITICS we’ve brought in two local experts, Professor Marc Schwerdt from Lipscomb University and Dr. Thomas Schwarz from Vanderbilt University to explain and put it into perspective what’s happening in the Middle East, an always tumultuous part of the world.

We’ll do it again this weekend. So join us for the show and what I am sure will be a very timely and insightful conversation.

INSIDE POLITICS can be seen several times each weekend on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS. Those times include 7:00 p.m. Friday; 5:00 a.m. & 5:30 p.m., Saturday; and 5:00 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. THE PLUS is on Comcast Cable channel 250, Charter Cable channel 150 and NEWSCHANNEL5’s over-the-air digital channel 5.2. Portions of INSIDE POLITICS interviews are also later posted on NEWSCHANNEL5.com.

And don’t forget you can now watch INSIDE POLITICS in real time with live streaming video on NewsChannel5.com. That means if you have a computer and internet access, you can see INSIDE POLITICS anytime it airs on the PLUS. So it no longer matters what cable or satellite service you have or where you live. It’s very easy to see us now live! Log on and tune in.

TURNING TWO

Tomorrow (Saturday) is my second birthday.

No, not chronologically.

I am 62 turning 63 in December.

Actually I am two years old this weekend in marking (and sticking to) the major life styles changes I began after I suffered a significant stroke on June 28, 2012.

It’s truly been a new life for me.

Now I still owe a big debt of thanks to Tam Gordon and Janie Conyers who were working in Mayor Karl Dean’s office that day. They were the ones who persisted in urging me to call 9-1-1 and go to the hospital and get medical assistance.

They could tell what I couldn’t. I was having a stroke even if I was avoiding my symptoms (slurred speech and leg cramps). They could also see what I couldn’t. The left side of my face was curling down. If I hadn’t gotten the help I needed quickly, I could well have died that day and any changes would have been left for my next life (if you believe that sort of reincarnation thing).

But I did get a second chance and while I fought adopting some of the changes in my life (it still took me a while to get into using the sleep apnea machine), the moves I’ve adopted have made all the difference.

I exercise twice a week, watch my diet (sodium intake) and my blood pressure closely, and take all my medications (even though it’s like supplying and keeping a small drugstore around the house). I have also kept my weight down (30 pounds less) while keeping my diverticulitis condition until control too.

Thanks to the continuing and loving encouragement of my family and friends (along with my health care providers, my rehab instructors and my current personal trainer) I have acquired a lot more determination to keep going and not slack off from what I need to do.

My grandchildren help in particular even though they don’t know it. Much like my 92-year old father in law, I want to hang around to see his great-grandchildren grow up, graduate from high school, college, get married, the whole nine yards.

To do that, I’ve learned it’s doesn’t come easy (plus you just need a little good fortune in terms of accidents). I don’t have really great genes of my side (based on family history) but I hope to do all I can now to maximize what I have and keep on keeping on.

Two years later I still see progress in my recovery. I will never be 100% but most days I am maybe 95% or better. Even some of the things I have struggled with are slowly improving. I don’t lean left as much when I walk and my posture is improved. I have more range of motion with my left arm above my head and my strength and stamina are off the charts compared to some months ago.

Last week I was working with a client at the Music City Center. Over an hour and a half period I had to slowly walk around the huge exhibit hall there twice. In the past being on my feet that long (on a hard stone surface even though it was carpeted) would have killed my legs and left me completely worn out for the rest of the day. But that didn’t happen this time and I consider it a bit of a milestone. Let’s see if it continues.

My blood pressure readings continue to improve. In the mornings it’s always in the low 100s over 65 or 70, while at night it’s now usually in the 120s or even in the teens over 75 or 80. Of course every once in a while at night it spikes up into the 130s or higher (those Vanderbilt World Series games for example). But after a good night’s sleep its back to those low readings in the morning.

Of course I am still taking a couple of blood pressure medications twice a day so I am not cured or anything. Still my BP does seem to be under good control. I now don’t freak out if I eat something with a lot of cheese or high sodium content for lunch or dinner. I just don’t make a habit out of it like I used to in my previous life.

I still have days when my walking gait is not right and I cheat by favoring (or not pushing) my left side to exercise as hard as my right (although it’s much better). I also get tired sometimes and need an afternoon snack (trying to keep it healthy like low sodium crackers) to tide me over. But my changes are working!

That’s particularly true of using my sleep machine. I think it has done more than anything to keep my blood pressure low every day and get a good night’s sleep. I know it also helps my energy level and endurance. I am of a mind that if I had started using it a few years before I had my stroke (I bought the machine but refused to use it because I felt smothered) maybe I would never had had a stroke. So I urge anyone who has or even thinks they might have an apnea problem, get it checked out with a sleep study and use the machine if recommended (there are alternative technologies that make the sleep mask and the air the machine blows up your nose at night much less smothering or bothersome).

I don’t have any particular plans to celebrate my “birthday” this weekend. I will go to the Y as usual early Saturday morning for a workout. But otherwise there’s nothing much on the schedule.

Overall, despite my improvements, I am still no “prize” to live with sometimes, so maybe my birthday resolution will be not fall into the “terrible two” habits for which this age is so infamous. But I may just get something big and chocolate to eat too. That would be just like a two year old!

Actually I think I got the best “present” I could get courtesy of a dog pile in Omaha Thursday night. I know I cried like a baby to see it. Like a two-year old! Go Vandy Boys!