Friday, February 03, 2006

The mixed bag in Nashville

I just finished a tiresome (if only because of lack of familarity) first week in my new position, and I get home from work tonight not knowing what to think of Republican fortunes in the State of Tennessee.

There was some extremely surprising news from the State Senate today, as State Senator Don McLeary of Jackson officially switched parties and joined the Republican Caucus. That may not be all that surprising considering that McCleary often votes with the GOP, but we all know that in this part of the country, it isn't all that uncommon to see legislators cross the aisle to vote with the other party without crossing the floor to join the opposite political formation. I can't read Senator McCleary's mind, nor have I had any sort of contact with him, but I would venture to say that his decision to cross the floor has as much to do with the Democrats' shameful and hypocritical conduct on what we can now call the "Ethics Question," as it does with any ideological affinity he may feel for the Grand Ole Party.

Just as the Republicans manage to increase their Senate majority to two, their largest majority in that body since the conclusion of the Late Unpleasantness, we learn that many Republicans in both Houses have signed on to key provisions of Bredesen's non-plan. There is now a compromise measure that will be voted on by both houses Monday, and it is questionable whether that measure will change the heart of the ethical situation in the Legislature or not.

I said from the beginning that this Special Session may be a waste of time and dollars. With each day that passes, it proves to be just that. Just adjourn before you cause any further damage-you can at least claim you were being fiscally responsible.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The ethics of wasted time and money

AS it turns out in the end, the State House and Senate passed different versions of the ethics bill, the differences between which may be so great in some cases that they are not reconcilable. That means, of course, that after the conference committee tears the two bills apart and then pieces something together between them for good looks, the final result will likely be so watered-down that the special session on ethics will prove to be a collosal waste of time and taxpayer dollars. Governor Bredesen even postponed the State of the State address (as constitutionally required) until the end of the special session, saying he was "giving [the General Assembly] time to finish their work.

In the end we are really forced to ask "what work." What fruit has been borne by paying the legislature to stay in Nashville to debate ethics reform when so many members lack a real idea of what "ethics" are all about. You cannot legislate effectively about any matter about which you have no knowledge.

One positive from all of this is that Rep. Ulyses Jones withdrew his amendments, one of which would allow lobbyists to donate to campaigns and hold fundraisers (what got us in this mess to begin with). I suspect that he did so under pressure from his own Party Caucus. It wouldn't make the Democrats look too good if they were remembered in the fall as the Party that was the primary sponsor of the ethics bill that wasn't. As a result, I think the ethics bill may have no teeth, but its gums will not be rotten.

A morning note

My post from some days ago about winning the battle over the television show The Book of Daniel has turned into quite a comment festival, and has managed to become a debate over biblical exegesis and whether or not Christ would support a culture war. (I am still waiting, by the way, for an answer to my question about what a certain reader thinks I mean when I say "culture war," I am curious as to the response.)

I want everyone to know that narry a comment in that thread offended me, and I have enjoyed the good-natured spirit in which people posted, and I hope it continues.

Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I am not going to be able to answer every post from now on, but do continue to comment away.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Union

There have been a lot of state and local developments today, including the delay of John Ford's extortion trial by a federal judge, while another one attempted to dictate to the Tennessee Senate what standards it should set for seating its members. Perish the thought that the legislature should tell the federal government where it can take its big nose.

This orgy of federal nosiness comes against last night's State of the Union address, which I have to give mixed reviews. Briefly, here are three things I liked and three concerns I have in the wake of the President's remarks.

The Good:

1. Iraq-Whatever we thought about the war beforehand, it does America little good in the eyes of the world if we go to Iraq and pull out when things get tough. If we were to pull out of Iraq now, I really fear we would end up with a blow to the national psyche matched only by the blow suffered after the catastrophic end of the war in Vietnam. America can never afford to repeat that kind of national nightmare again.

2. Ending foreign oil reliance-If the President is really serious about this, it is a wonderful development. I know it isn't traditional Republican or conservative orthodoxy, but we as a nation need to do serious research into not only alternative fuels but ways to build engines so that they guzzle less gas.

3. Educational standards-I am not a mathemetician by any stretch of the imagination, but I do understand the need to get ahead of the rest of the world in math and science. I also think that while we're at it, we need to set higher standards for history and civics.

The Bad:

1. Excessive interventionism-The President's constant railing against "isolationism" would have made George Washington spin in his grave, not to mention the other founders. Part of the reason we have ourselves in a collective national mess is that between 30 and 50 years ago, we decided to poke our nose into a few places where it would just lead to a bigger fight. I'm not suggesting we cut ourselves off from the world, just that whenever it is possible, we ought to leave well enough alone.

2. Failure to deal with excessive and illegal immigration-All the President really said to me last night was essentially that illegal immigration is a bad thing. He then explained that we need a "guest worker program" that is going to invite more illegals to come here and sponge off of our country.

3. No solutions to deficit-The President said he wants to cut the deficit in half. He did not do much to tell us how.

With Congress on the block in the fall, someone needs to remind the President that a heap of Republican seats are riding, in many cases, on the actions he takes.

I realize that this is a late post, but I want regulars to know that late posts or posts at odd times will be a reality for some time to come. If you check in and I haven't posted just yet, know that timely commentary will come in a fashion that is equally timely for me.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you keep coming back.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Democrats and the democratic process

The ethics reform bill made it through the House Ways, Means, and Finance Committee yesterday, but did so significantly watered-down from its original form thanks in large part to, what else, the influence of lobbyists. It really makes one wonder just what it is we sent these people there to do. They have no intention of changing their corrupt and contemptable behavior, and never had any such intention. The only goal of a majority of the legislators present at the special session is to make us think their behavior has changed.

Meanwhile, officials inside the Governor's office have clearly launched a vendetta against State Rep. Judd Matheny of Tullahoma, with the now-former assistant Lottery Commissioner Butch Lewis using a bogus e-mail to threaten Matheny, and Deputy Governor Dave Cooley admitting he once made comments that threatened Rep. Matheny.

Matheny defeated Butch Lewis in the 2004 General Election.

Democrats just love democracy, don't they?

Alito cloture and confirmation

The Senate overwhelmingly rejected a Democratic filibuster attempt led by Senator Edward Kennedy by a vote of 72-25 yesterday. This means that today's vote to confirm Justice Alito will be a mere formality.

A quick glance at the sorts of people who were behind this attempt at a filibuster show us that Kennedy, the leader, was supported in his fight by the likes of People for the (un)American Way, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, all agents of the extreme left. The Democratic Party as a whole is quite aware of what would happen if word got out that their people were filibustering their nominee at the behest of those groups.

The Democrats' acceptance of Justice Alito is a great long-term victory for America, but in the short term, this victory has just taken the issue of obstructionism off the table as a possible election issue in the fall. Since a lot of people (myself included) voted for George W. Bush solely because of the judges he would appoint, judicial obstructionism is a major issue with many of us, and it will get the Republican base out.

Knowing that fact, if the Dems hope to win the fall General Election, obstruction has to be removed from the table as an issue of use to Republicans.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Notice to Democrats: Filibuster Alito and pay

The Democrats' desperate tactics to stop the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito continue unabated, with several Democrats going so far as to change their tune on whether to vote for the cloture motion today. If fewer than 60 Senators vote yes, debate on the nomination of Judge Alito will continue, setting the stage for a serious filibuster attempt by the Party Opposite.

The doublespeak runs deep as Senator Barak Obama and Senator Joseph Biden both admitted, at the very least, that the use of a filibuster in the case of Judge Alito is "abuse of the parliamentary tool," with Obama going so far as to say "the only way to get our kind of judges on the bench is to win elections." He further said that the only good way to have an effort like this filibuster attempt succeed was to "convince the American people that our values are at stake.

I could not agree with Obama more, our values are indeed at stake. If we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked and trodden under foot by these agents of the Underworld, we will forever be condemned to the same fate that the nations of Europe are now beginning to experience: A Godless, indeed in many respects a God-hating society. If you believe in protecting the unborn, defending marriage, and upholding religious liberty in America, then Obama is right: Your values are at stake.

In years past, many Republicans voted in favor of Supreme Court nominees like Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, even though our Senators knew what the end result would be, because they recognized the principled notion that the President of the United States has the electoral mandate to appoint judges of his choosing, and that a "no" vote is only warranted when there are eggregious questions about a judge's character. The Democrats have failed to extend to us the same courtesy-so if they move forward with a filibuster attempt today, it is time to play real hardball.

I am a believer in the filibuster, as long as it is not used as a mere tool of the special interest. Blocking judicial nominees via a filibuster is one of the most dirty, foul, underhanded, shameless political tricks that could possibly be divised, because it makes the judicial process into a political one.

So Republicans need to do the same. If the Democrats proceed with a filibuster today, go nuclear on them. Push for the rules change and tell Judge Alito to wait it out. What's more, remember this when a Democrat is in power. Block every judge, every piece of legislation, bring government to a halt if need be until the Democrats learn that we will fight back.

You take our judges and we will take you down.

Busses or a bus station?

Every day I use Knoxville Area Transit busses to get to and from work. Indeed, for most people with a disability, living in a town with even a halfway decent transit system is not a preference, or even a personal choice. If you want to hold down an occupation of your own the bus is your lifeline. To not live where there is effective transit is to say “I shall not work for a living.”

As a result of having to depend on the KAT bus system, anything that involves the bus system and how it will function is of immediate interest to me. This is the one issue that has a very direct impact on my life, and the decisions KAT officials make can determine my ability to provide for my family.

In the case of KAT’s present line of thought, nothing will fundamentally change in the short term for me, but it does leave me scratching my head. A few months back, KAT raised fares beginning this year, supposedly because of higher fuel prices. In the last couple of months, KAT has decided to eliminate a few routes because of low rider ship. Fortunately for me, they didn’t axe the route that goes right by my home, even though they considered it. Again, the reason for these cuts is a shortage of money, we are told.

Yet in the wake of these cuts, KAT can afford to build a downtown transfer center, another name for a brand spanking new bus station, right in the center of town. I’m not saying that the transfer center/bus station isn’t a good idea. In fact, if you use the bus system here in Knoxville (or in any city with a public transit system) you know just how useful such a bus station can be. Often, you need to switch busses to get where you are going, and it might be raining or cold, and you’d like to be in a place that is warm and dry while you wait on your connection. Maybe your bus will be along in fifteen minutes and you are hungry. You have time to eat a quick lunch, but in the time it would take you to run to the nearest restaurant and stand in line, your bus will have come and gone. With a bus station, you can grab a quick bite while you wait. There are advantages to building a facility like the new one downtown KAT proposes.

I have lived in two other cities on my own besides Knoxville. One, Dayton, Ohio, was about the size of Knoxville in terms of area and population. Like Knoxville, Dayton had a significant population of college students who attended either The University of Dayton or Wright State University. Dayton has one of the most accessible transit systems for people with disabilities to be found anywhere in the country, and RTA had many more riders than KAT. Yet when I lived there, Dayton did not have a bus station like the one KAT wants to build. The closest thing they had to this was a small building where you could go to purchase bus tokens and passes, often through a window.

Rather than have a fancy transfer station, Dayton transit officials preferred to spend money on things like more drivers and routes that ran longer into the evening. Often, my day is not over at 6:00pm, but that is when the last KAT bus comes by my home. After six, I have to ask someone else if they will take me where I might need to go. Thank God I am married.

I am not opposed to the idea of a downtown transfer station, but before we invest in one, wouldn't it be better for KAT to get their priorities in order, and use some of that money to hire more drivers and run more routes?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Governor's race update: Potential candidate

Fortunately for Tennessee Republicans as well as all Tennesseans of goodwill, I have reliable information that the GOP may have a candidate for Governor after all. Readers will recall that I made an angry plea with State Republican leaders two weeks ago here to find a candidate to oppose Governor Bredesen.

From the sounds of it, I am not so sure if the State Party found this potential candidate, or if this potential candidate simply may be responding to the need to oppose Phil Bredesen. I am not mentioning the name of the potential candidate because that person has, as of yet, made no public declaration of their intent to run for Governor, nor have they said in public that they might run. However, I happen to know that this person may run because this individual has personally corresponded with me and expressed an interest in running for Governor. This person has also spoken with Tennessee Republican leaders in recent days about the possibility of running, and may be in the Knoxville area in the next couple of weeks.

I won't say that this is exclusive information, because this individual has told others, I am sure, but I am also sure that this possibility is not widely known. Although this potential candidate is not a well-known name to every Tennessean, I have no hesitation in saying that they are a more prominent Tennessean than I am, and they have quite a vitae, of which they bothered to send me a copy. I was quite impressed with this individual's accomplishments, and based on the little I know about them (I have just become acquanted with them in the last few days), I believe they would make a fine Governor.

We'll reveal more in the coming days and weeks about the person who just might be Tennessee's next Governor

The Stat Man is back

I wanted to take a moment to inform readers that the blog of my old college friend Matt "the Stat Man" Daley is again up and running. Matt pulled his blog some time ago in an effort to completely revamp it. Now, the finished product has returned, and that link to the right will take you to a functioning (and very good) weblog.

I don't just recommend Matt's blog because he and I are friends and old radio partners. I recommend Matt's work because he has some of the best sports commentary that can be found anywhere in the blogosphere-and his political views are pretty solid too.

If you haven't checked out The Stat Man's Ramblings in awhile, you may want to do so-I think you'll be in for a real treat.

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