And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine:
Controversy in Music City, Nashville tinkers with the idea of adding ''sexual orientation'' to Nashville's list of classes protected from job and housing discrimination. As a result, the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention may reconsider staging its 2005 annual meeting in the city. SBC Vice President Bill Merrell said the plan "alters the nature of Nashville as a convention city for us.'' He added the ordinance could turn Nashville into ''the San Francisco of the Southeast.'' Opponents of the proposal insist it would violate the U.S. Constitution by requiring religious groups who consider homosexuality a sin to hire gays and lesbians and thus violate their religious beliefs But the measure's lead sponsor, Councilman Chris Ferrell, says he doesn't want Baptists to turn away from their faith, and promises a religious exemption before the final vote on Jan. 21.
Alabama State Rep. Johnny Ford says he's switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party, a move that makes him the first black Republican in the Alabama Legislature in the last century. Why's he switching? Ford says, "I strongly feel that in Alabama we need to put partisan politics behind us and join hands as one." Despite the switch, Democrats still will hold a 63-42 majority in the Alabama House.
And finally, a bizarre story from Montana, where a judge has decided that schizophrenic criminals should not be held responsible for crimes committed by some of their alternate personalities. The split decision comes in the case of Tessa Haley, who stands accused of stabbing her roommate last year. At the time of her arrest, Haley reportedly made several statements implicating herself, but District Judge Thomas Honzel tossed them out, saying the damaging remarks had been made by Haley's alternate personality, "Martha," who had not been given an additional advisement of her Miranda rights. Some legal experts are not amused. Richard Ackerman of the United States Justice Foundation said, "That's absurd! If you use that as a precedent, then anyone with a remote history of mental illness will use it to avoid criminal liability. It's just crazy! Just crazy!" Well, at least that's something on which he and the judge agree.