Saturday, January 07, 2006

Speedway in Lights

Last night, Nicole and I had the opportunity to go up to Bristol and see the Speedway in Lights, an annual Christmas light display in which Bristol Motor Speedway is completely decked out in billions of Christmas lights, even along the drag strip and the main track itself. As part of the fun, visitors are even invited to drive their car around the ½ mile oval (at slow speed, unfortunately) that is almost, but not quite, a perfect circle to complete their light-viewing experience. In the infield, hot chocolate, cappuccino, Christmas candy, and other beverages can be found.

Some of the light displays we saw were among the most unique I have ever seen, including one of a toy soldier firing a light cannon at a huge sailing ship made of lights. Another was a jack-in-the-box, fully animated, made of Christmas lights. Along the drag strip, there was even a simulated dragster moving down the track made of lights.

If you’d like to see this magnificent display and you’ll be in the Tri-Cities area, it concludes tonight and tomorrow night, January 8th. Next year, the display begins after Thanksgiving and runs through the week after the New Year.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Foxes minding the hen house

Governor Phil Bredesen will address the General Assembly at noon Tuesday, an hour after the State legislature convenes for the special session Bredesen called for the purpose of dealing with ethics reform.

Both houses of the General Assembly will take up a series of legislative proposals supposedly designed to reform Tennessee's ethics laws in the wake of last year's Tennessee Waltz scandal, including a 93-page proposal drafted by a joint House-Senate committee before the end of last year's session.

Bredesen calling a special session and Jimmy Naifeh presiding over votes on ethics reform smack of foxes guarding a hen house. Even though Bredesen was never implicated in the Waltz, there have been plenty of ethical issues within executive departments during Bredesen's term. Some of these things were happening before Bredesen took office, to be fair, but the fact that he stood by and continued to allow the behavior to go on is indictment enough that while he has the physical authority to demand the legislature engage in a series of politically pleasing exercises, he has little moral authority to fancy himself the champion of ethical purity in Tennessee politics. Oh, and Highway Patrol officers promoted after having given contributions to Bredesen’s campaign looks awfully suspicious to…well, to most people with a brain.

If Tennesseans want ethical reform in their government, it seems to me that the only way to insure that the government has a mandate to act is to overhaul the government at the ballot box. If you swallow lethal poison, you need to have your stomach pumped to be free not only of the toxins, but of any toxic residue. The current government is toxic residue, and Nashville needs to have its stomach pumped.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Note to miner's wife: You are not stupid-the media is

"This is a sad story, the lady they interviewed overnight. I feel sorry for and when she said we are West Virginia and not very smart is an indication that the question their self worth.

I will go on record that I would choose a West Virginia Coal Miner to be on my side than some others that I know."

Brian Hornback is certainly right about that, as I can attest.

I saw the interview he alluded to in these comments, and the dear lady actually said “pray for us, we are West Virginians, not very smart.”

Brian is right that such comments indicate a feeling of low self-worth, but beyond that, such a comment would seem to indicate that entire communities feel this way in some subconscious fashion. Why is this?

It isn’t just a West Virginia problem. Many Appalachian people from the Blue Ridge all the way to North Georgia have subconsciously accepted the idea that they are not as intelligent or as sophisticated as their lowland countrymen. People have always made fun of “hillbillies,” even in the early days of the Republic, but the period of Reconstruction has been said by some to be at the root of the current problem.

Appalachian people were bitterly divided during the War Between the States. A significant number supported the Federal cause out of opposition to the low country planter class, as well as the traditional dislike of being ruled by a state capital so far away from them. The Unionists had no clue, however, that the Feds they were helping during the war would turn on them when it was over.

Yankee treatment of mountain people after the war was so bad that in many cases, whole families that had supported the Union denied taking sides in the war. Still others made the false claim that they had supported the Confederacy. Occupation forces believed that the mountaineers needed to be reconstructed just like everyone else-they were still Southerners, after all, and Southerners couldn’t be Southern anymore. Among my ancestors, it could justly be claimed that our family fought for the Confederacy-we have the enlistment papers for many of them. I only know of one who supported the Union. Appalachian families who were bona fide Confederates were envied in some circles because they never accepted the presence or the motives of the Federals to begin with (hindsight is 20/20).

Outsiders have always come to Appalachia believing they could educate the “poor ignorant mountain people” and make them “sophisticated.” In that vein, the media has always managed to portray Appalachian people as a bunch of ignorant hillbilly crackers with no brains and narrow ways, and who all live in run-down shacks and eat black-eyed peas and cornbread (Author freely admits to loving black-eyed peas with greasy fatback, cornbread, and cooked cabbage). Even Charles Kurault, great journalist that he was, contributed to the negative image in his 1964 special Christmas in Appalachia…nothing positive was shown about Appalachian culture, even though the intent was to bring attention to the great poverty of the region. That show re-enforced cultural stereotypes and did more to perpetuate an image of poverty and ignorance than spur positive action to eliminate those scourges.

The modern media has done little to portray the truth: Yes, there is great poverty in the Southern Appalachians. Appalachian culture, however, has contributed more to the nation’s cultural heritage than perhaps any other group, from traditional music, to dance, to art, to beverages, to chapter upon chapter of early American history. People like the lady in that news footage aren’t told that reality by the New York-based press.

Perhaps it is time that highlanders are told that they aren’t dumb, they ARE cultured, and they have more common horse sense than all those damn Yankees put together.

Boycott WBIR!

It pains me to officially call for all Christians of East Tennessee, Southeastern Kentucky, and Lee County, Virginia to boycott WBIR-TV. The reason for this boycott is because WBIR has chosen, over the objections of many and varying members of the Christian communities of Knoxville and East Tennessee, to air the blasphemous program The Book of Daniel, a show about an Episcopal priest who lives like a heathen and who has an unruly daughter and a sodomite son and who “talks” to Our Lord, the figure of which in the program is hardly like Christ. As the News-Sentinel reported, local religious leaders and other Christians are justifiably outraged. I am outraged as well.

Boycotting a station that has previously been so family friendly is a tough decision. I have always felt that Channel 10 had the best news operation in town, and the station has shown great respect for local culture (Who doesn’t love the Heartland Series?). WBIR has chosen to air this anti-Christ show, however, and because they have done so, the only way to protest this lack-of-a-stand (that’s how it sounded when the General Manager appeared on the five o’clock) is to boycott the station. If no one watches, advertisers will not run ads and the station will lose money. If the station loses money, they will quit running the blasphemy in order to bring back the viewer-ship.

I guess I’ll have to watch Brian Williams online, since neither ABC nor CBS have national news nearly as good.


I owe regular readers an apology. I didn’t notice until this afternoon that yesterday’s post Re: Harold Ford, Jr. had a terrible typo: A major sentence was missing part of its intended wording. I edited that post to better reflect my original intent, although it is not the original wording.

I normally write posts in a word processor and copy those words into this web log. As it turns out, some critical words were missing from the Ford story for over 24 hours. I am profusely sorry for the error.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Harold Ford, Jr.: Scalawag?

An interesting tidbit from The Tennessean about this year's U.S. Senate race. Republican Bob Corker has managed to out-raise Harold Ford, Jr., who raised at least 42% of his money out-of-state, including a Manhattan gala for the super-rich liberal artsy-fartsy crowd. The guest speaker at the New York gathering was none other than Bill Clinton himself.

We are all beginning to see just where Ford's bread is buttered, and it is not in Tennessee. Rather than ask the good people of the state he wishes to represent for money, he runs off to New York for money.

Politics is like everything else in life in one critical respect: Money talks. That isn't always bad, as elections are very expensive undertakings indeed. Since money does talk, however, wouldn't it make sense that the man who takes his money from the people he is supposed to represent, as opposed to people who are outsiders, be able to represent those people in the best manner possible? When the time comes for a return on their investment, Harry's New York Yankee friends are going to expect him to do their bidding, as opposed to the bidding of the people of Tennessee.

One man alive

By now, if you've seen any of the morning newscasts, you know that of the 13 stranded coal miners in the mine in Tallmansville, outside Buckhannon, West Virginia, only one was found alive. After the testing of the air quality in the part of the mine where the men were believed to be, the fact that one survived at all can be viewed as miraculous.

The difficulty here is that initially, word got out that 12 men were found alive. That word is said to have come from coal company people who were searching for the men. Well, few in West Virginia trust the coal companies, with good reason, so now the families believe the company men deliberately lied to them in telling them the men were alive.

I don't know if the company deliberately lied to these folks, and I have great trouble believing human beings could be that heartless, but I equally understand why the miners' families feel the way they do-they deserve a lot of answers.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Major development in Congress

There is a major story developing in Congress: Lobbyist Dan Abramoff has agreed to cooperate with federal authorities and name names in what could be the biggest bribery and fraud scandal in Congressional history.

Make not your fortune down in the mine

There are few in the country this morning whose minds are not turned to Tallmansville, West Virginia, just outside Buckhannon. That's where rescuers are trying to rescue 13 trapped coal miners who have been pinned in a coal hole since early Monday morning.

I have somewhat of a personal interest in this: My Grandfather worked the coal mines of Southern West Virginia when he was a young man. Most of his brothers did this, also. This is a family that has produced two governors of West Virginia, members of the House of Delegates, and three of my great uncles served as local elected officials. This is noteworthy because it has been said of West Virginia years ago that the entire state was one huge Company Store. Perhaps the most telling proof of the truth of this statement is the fact that members of my family had attained or were attaining some measure of social status within the world of West Virginia politics, yet even most of them had to work in a coal mine at some point in their life. Grandpa got no break because of who his brothers were...that didn't matter to the coal barons. I will say that he and his brothers got out of the mine pretty early in life compared to some of their friends, but the family didn't enjoy immunity from being touched by life in the coal mine.

Back in those days, coal mining was the only source of work for many a young man in West Virginia because so many could not afford the education needed to better themselves, nor could they afford to leave. The coal companies knew they were the only game in town, and they paid the men slave wages and monopolized everything. Nowadays the coal mines are the only game in town for a different reason: The unions came up the mountain and demanded better wages and benefits commiserate with the hazards of this kind of work-and those who could leave the mines after World War II did, and they often left West Virginia altogether. The unionization combined with the shortage of hands forced the coal companies to increase wages and offer benefits. As a result, a coal mining job isn’t the only job you can get in many parts of West Virginia, but it is probably among the better-paying ones in many places, so it is still the only game in town in much of the Mountaineer State.

The wages are better than they used to be, the benefits exist at some level where there were once none…but the miners are still not paid what they are worth and they may never be. West Virginia boys generate about a third of the nation’s power supply by digging down in those holes. The day they stop digging, so many in our country would have no light or heat. The fruits of their labor are worth so much more than their pay.

The news this morning is discouraging for the families of the miners: The air in the part of the mine where the trapped miners are said to be located has been tested and the amount of carbon monoxide there is said to be at lethal levels.

Pray for the miners and their families.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The last day off

My wife works for Knox County Schools, so today is her last day off. Considering this, and considering that it is the last opportunity we will have to relax together for an entire day for quite some time, I am most appreciative that she has consented to endure for yet another year my annual New Year's wall-to-wall football Bowl Bonanza, postponed for a day because the New Year fell on a Sunday. The Bonanza, long a part of my annual New Year's festivities, gave rise in the years of my bachelorhood to some pretty interesting parties, perhaps the most memorable being the New Year's weekend I spent in Findlay, Ohio with my old friend Matt Daley just a few months before I was married. The folks at Makers' Mark are still reaping the profits from that weekend.

Now I am a married man, and my bowl festivities have calmed considerably, as my wife can attest. It is funny how, as we age, we no longer have quite as much taste for the over-exertions of youth. What I found somewhat exciting at 20 or at 25, I now see as exercises in ignorance and folly. Tastes, oh how they change with time...and experience.

Yesterday I happened to see one of those year-end restrospectives on WATE-TV. When the panelists were asked their predictions for 2006, they all predicted that Governor Bredesen would be re-elected by an overwhelming margin, with widespread support from the business community. I sure hope they give the people of Tennessee more credit than that after everything that has happened in Nashville in just the last twelve months. I hope the Republicans at the Statewide level can learn how to effectively attack Bredesen where he is weakest. He does not deserve a second term. There are ways, and as Brian Hornback has said at his blog, there may even be a candidate. There is more to come in the days ahead in 2006.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

Just want to take a moment to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope your celebrations this weekend have proven save, fruitful, and joyous.

I wish all of my readers a Happy and Blessed New Year, and I hope that in the coming year, a very important one politically, you’ll stay tuned in to the World.

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