Saturday, June 17, 2006

Lunchtime with Del

I had the pleasure to spend the noon hour yesterday listening to my favorite Bluegrass band at the WDVX Blue Plate Special-indeed I believe that The Del McCoury Band is the greatest active band in Bluegrass music today. In the past, I have expounded on this weblog about my belief that Del McCoury is the world's greatest living musical genius. I believe that in the annals of music, Del and his mentor, Bill Monroe, are right up there with Bach, Mozart, Handel, and Beethoven. Del may be the greatest Bluegrass musician that ever lived, I certainly think he is one of the greatest musicians that ever lived, period.

In days past, Aaron Harris and I used to follow the Band around. If Del was playing anywhere within driving distance of the Dayton area, where we both lived at the time, Aaron and I did our best to make the show. Indianapolis, Ann Arbor, Columbus, Cincinnati, Bowling Green-if there was a show and we could make it, we were to be found there.

I was fully prepared to declare that the Band was not quite its former self after the untimely departure of bassist Mike Bub for reasons that are still unknown and mystifying (this is the first time I have been able to see the Band since Bub's departure). Although I do not believe that the Band's new bass player Alan Bartram can even begin to compare with Bub, I also realized after yesterday's show that to fail to give Bartram his due is entirely unfair to him. Sure, Bartram is no Bub, but the fact is that there are few in the bluegrass world that are anywhere near as good as Mike Bub-thus it would be like comparing apples to oranges. There is also the fact that the rest of the Band remains entirely intact, and has within it one of the greatest high tenors of all time (Del), one of the best mandolinists in the business (Ronnie McCoury), one of the world's best banjo pickers (Rob McCoury), and one of the best fiddlers I have ever heard (Jason Carter). If Bartram is among that kind of company for as long as Bub was, he is likely to get really good by default-and besides, he was pretty good in the first place.

I found the Band's new Gospel songs to be soulful and true, and I wanted to shout "Amen!" in the middle of the performance. I'll be getting Del's new release, and from what I heard yesterday, Del sounds as high and lonesome as ever. If you've not experienced Del live, you haven't experienced Bluegrass in its fullness just yet.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Ein volk, ein Reich, ein Bredesen

King Phillip Bredesen, who occasionally plays a semi-conservative on radio, television, and in the papers, now says he is "sympathetic" to a bill which would dramatically increase the number of signitures that it would take to get on the ballot as a write-in candidate. House Minority Leader Bill Dunn has rightly called this legislation the "incumbent protection act," and I believe he is absolutely correct, this is precisely what it is. Even though I personally do not believe in term limits, the ability to challenge incumbents through general ease of access to the ballot is the way that we can defeat incumbents in the proper manner. If we are deprived of access to the ballot, government becomes the perview of the wealthy and well-born alone.

Government also becomes, under such a situation, a place where the chosen few have a place in the decision-making process over the many, who then must pay through their taxes for the foul and often inconsiderate decisions that those in the elite elected club might choose to make.

I have long thought that Bredesen was a wolf in sheep's clothing, that the appearance that he gives the people of fiscally responsible government is a facade to hide rampant corruption within the State executive branch. The truth of the matter is that while the Governor is made to look like a saint in the press, his entourage is composed largely of wild swine who wallow in the mud of public tax money and executive incompetence. Bredesen himself is a vulture who looks like a beautiful bird from a distance, but a closer look shows him to be a flesh-eating beast who preys upon the politically weak and vulnerable.

If he signs this Act of Wickedness, it will at least expose him as a tyrant, not because he supports a measure that by itself thwarts the popular will, but because he supports it in spite of the fact that it was "passed" in a way that is at best immoral and at worst illegal.

Leaders who behave in such a way are pompous jackasses. Leaders who endorse such behavior as a way to further the power of government, as Mr. Bredesen is apparently inclined to do, are authoritarian brutes who are disposed to think that tyranny is not tyrannical. Such a mentality is reminiscent of George III in colonial times, or worse-of some third-world despot in our own day.

Such a person is unfit to hold a public office of any trust over a free and sovereign people. Informed voters should pay close attention: This is what your Governor thinks of the ability of ordinary people to participate in government-he thinks we are all totally uncapable.

Is a man who would limit the ability of an ordinary citizen-a political novice-to involve themselves in government really worthy to serve in public office in a free State?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Another real estate offer

I had an extremely busy day yesterday, much of it spent house hunting. We did find another house on which we made an offer, and it was a really good offer (more than what was being asked) on a fine house with lovely wooden siding and a huge garage and a garden-and several blackberry vines.

Since I prefer home-grown vegetables and fruits, the ability to garden and grow them en masse is a blessing. I am sure that if we get this house will will enjoy it thoroughly. Like the last house where we were hosed on a good offer, this house is also in Newport. In house hunting today, I may have inadvertantly uncovered a great political issue: Unusually high property taxes in Cocke County.

Many of you are saying: "But Oatney, it is Cocke County-land and property is nearly all they can tax, otherwise there would be no services." That's true enough, but my retort to that would be: "It is Cocke County-what services?" Newport is a town of 7,500 people. If we move to this house, you could be from my front door to the middle of downtown in less than five minutes. There is no public transit, I suspect because the City of Newport sees no need and never has-they would be correct in that assessment, there is no need and likely never will be. The only services of warrant are Cocke County Schools and the Cocke County Library-water and sewer through Newport can't be as expensive as the city charges in taxes. How do I know this? White Pine in Jefferson County is also a small town. Smaller than Newport, true, but it has water and sewer and all of the necessary city public utilities-its city taxes are nearly negligible.

Perhaps high taxes could be a great political uniter, but it could be an interesting political issue nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A note on the tip jar

Those of you who visit The World on a regular basis will notice if you glance a bit down the sidebar that you will find a PayPal tip jar that you can click on to make a donation to the work and time that it takes to keep this weblog going on a daily basis. As those of you who are regular visitors are quite aware, I keep this blog updated daily. I enjoy writing it as much as many of you tell me that you enjoy reading it, and if I didn't enjoy it I wouldn't keep going. I write at other venues for pay.

However, because of my disability, it is worth noting to you that when you see a post from me here it takes me twice as long to write a post as it would a person who were not in my position. I am not saying that in any way as a move to generate sympathy of any kind, because I do not desire to be given lauds or attention for anything other than the things I write here. I mention it only as a way to point out the reality that keeping this blog takes a tremendous amount of my time and energy. Indeed, it presses so hard on my regular daily schedule that you sometimes find that I post a day in advance.

This is hardly the first time I have thought of the idea of accepting PayPal donations for the work of this weblog. Until now, I have avoided doing so out of fear that it might turn some folks away, but Bill Hobbs takes donations and so do many others I have found, yet no one seems turned off by the tip jars-I'm certainly not. After doing this for a good long time now (nearly two years) I have come to understand that monetary support for this labor of love is as much of an expression of appreciation for it as saying "thank you for doing this," though I can tell you that both gestures are equally appreciated.

In time, with your donations, we may be able to upgrade to better quarters. Blogger is a great server, but as those of us who use it are well aware, it can be a pain in the rear end. Aside from that, your support would allow me to fund subscriptions and other research tools to make the news you get from this site even better.

Whether you choose to donate or not, and whether your donation is great or tiny doesn't have any bearing on whether I continue to publish this blog. As long as people keep reading, I will keep writing and posting. I do this because I love to do it, and I have never had any other motive except to use what I write to advance conservative causes that I believe are right. If this blog does that in even the smallest way, then all the work that I have put into it will have been worth it.

Thank you for reading and commenting, and for your continued support and encouragement.

Commission meeting Monday

The Knox County Commission is slated to meet next Monday to "discuss" and "decipher" the decision regarding the Knox County Charter by Chancellor John Weaver last Friday. Having read the decision, I simply do not know what there is to discuss here. I thought Weaver's wording was about as plain as you can get in his saying that the Charter was not and never has been valid. Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale says he is going to ask for a stay of the decision while he and the other officialdom try and figure out what to do.

You have to wonder what the real purpose of this meeting Monday is, because there is absolutely nothing the Commission can do immediately to change this decision, and as I have written here over the last few days, I do not expect the Tennessee Supreme Court to change course since much of what Weaver said in his judicial opinion was not opinion at all but was based in simple fact. That being the case, it seems to me that there is going to be little that the Court will do to change the decision.

So just what will the Commission be doing this coming Monday?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bring back tax protests

Regular readers who are from East Tennessee have doubtless read and understood my not-so-veiled criticisms of the Knox County wheel tax. My protests in words of that tax and many other taxes at the local, State, and federal level that I believe are either unjust or are at least unjustly applied have recently gotten me to thinking: Modern Americans have lost a key aspect of the American character-the willing tax protestor.

The fires of the American Revolution were first ignited by American opposition to the Stamp Act of 1765. The protest was so widespread-and civil disobedience became so much the norm-that it forced Parliament to repeal the Act. At the height of the protest, an entire convention, the Stamp Act Congress, was called to write a formal protest to the legislation and a Declaration of Rights. The Stamp Act Congress was composed of some of the most prominent businessmen, farmers, tradesmen, lawyers, and community leaders in America at that time. All were united in the sentiment that an unjust tax needed to be undone.

The Townsend Acts of 1767 were similarly protested with nearly equal vigor. Colonists organized boycotts of taxable goods and began to take imports from countries where the tax did not apply, and to organize smuggling rings so that goods could not be taxed at all. This time, it was British merchants angry at the loss of American business that pressed Parliament to repeal the Acts post-haste. When Parliament repealed all the Acts except for the tax on tea (merely to send a message to the colonists that said "we can tax you") Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty reminded the British that "we can just not take your damn tea" by throwing a shipload of it into Boston Harbor in 1774. The colonies thereafter began to import coffee, a substance grown in those days in Indonesia, then under the perview of the Dutch East India Company. The Dutch were not at all interested in losing American trade. Gradually, we would become a people on a great caffiene rush.

Some are saying "but Oatney, the only problem with those taxes is the fact that Americans were not represented in Parliament." Not really true. Yes, "no taxation without representation" was a great rallying cry in pre-Revolutionary America, but Congress made it clear to Benjamin Franklin (colonial legate to England at the time) not to accept any deal for representation at all, since America could still be out-voted and taxed unjustly.

After independence, settlers in Western Pennsylvania protested a federal tax on liquor by openly rebelling. The federal government put the rebellion down and tried to enforce the tax in Western Pennsylvania. They weren't very successful at it. Many Western Pennsylvania distillers still refused to pay the tax, and many more fled to Kentucky and Tennessee where they kept on making that good ol' mountain dew-their decendants still make it. The tax was repealed in 1802.

Most people think that the initial cause of the War Between the States was slavery. Slavery was one of the great catalysts, to be sure, but the first cause was protests by South Carolina and other Southern States over tariffs that were unreasonably high, and remained so until the outbreak of war.

We as a people have a long tradition of tax protests, so much so that politicians still make tax cuts a cornerstone of their campaigns. It is a fair question, then, to ask: What has happened to our will as Americans to protest unjust taxation? We complain about it, we vote against it, but we have lost our intestinal fortitude to protest it. If we as a people protested high taxes by rufusing-in very large numbers-to pay them, I guarantee that this would cause our local, State, and federal governments to begin to rethink their tax policies.

"Oatney, are you advocating not paying taxes?" I could never do such a thing alone, it takes a mass movement to have any effect. Otherwise, I just go to jail, and that is profoundly stupid. I am merely asking the question of my fellow citizens: Rather than just complain about the government taxing you to death, would you be willing to join together to force the end of unjust taxation?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Stalling on the question

Certain high county officialdom, namely Mike Ragsdale and his fellow-travellers, are now saying that they will appeal Chancellor Weaver's ruling of this past Friday. Among their excuses for continuing to uphold an invalid form of government is that they believe that the Tennessee Supreme Court will somehow see fit to reverse Chancellor Weaver's word.

Among the reasons that Chancellor Weaver gave for why the Charter is invalid is because the Charter does not identify or define the functions of constitutional officers. He is correct, it does not. Ragsdale says he wants to "fix" this. That is lovely, but since the Charter will likely require some pretty major revision in order to be "fixed," are we to believe that Ragsdale and the County Commission will try to "fix" the charter without putting the new and revised version before the people of Knox County? Further, the Secretary of State never approved the original document. Knox County cannot legally function under a charter form of government without the approval of the appropriate State authorities, including the General Assembly which presently stands adjourned awaiting the November election.

Since those are the facts and the circumstances which explain why the Charter is invalid, they will not change if the Supreme Court exercises its option to hear the case immediately. As a matter of points of law, the facts of the case which cause the Charter to be deemed illegal are not going to change. This means that unless the Supreme Court has a brain flatulation, they are going to reach the same conclusion as Chancellor Weaver did. Ragsdale and friends are stalling, plain and simple.

Acting above the law

The advocates of tyranny are now informing the people of Knox County that they will not suffer the wheel tax to be undone despite the fact that the Knox County Charter has been ruled invalid. The common argument coming from the downtown establishment is that the wheel tax was passed in a county referendum, and that the fact that the Charter was in force does not apply. Nevermind the fact that the Charter was presumed to be in force at the time and that charter government in Tennessee presumes to remove from the General Assembly (by the Assembly's consent) the power to pass most acts as they specifically pertain to the chartered county.

The prime facts (that the wheel tax was passed under a form of government now deemed to have been invalid from the beginning, and that by giving the people only two options with which to fund education in Knox County when Tennessee law allows for many other options made the referendum bogus) are to be ignored. This is typical behavior of people whose primary interest and concern is the maintenance and expansion of government, not the defense of the Constitution of the State of Tennessee.

Some brave soul should challenge the validity of the wheel tax-I believe they would have a very strong case.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Brian Hornback: Please explain

The Tennessee Republican Senate Primary is not over by any means, and will not end until August. That being the case, local supporters of both Ed Bryant and Van Hilleary deserve to know why I happened to see a huge Bob Corker sign on the front lawn of the building as Nicole and I passed by Republican Headquarters on our way home this afternoon.

The Republican nomination is not yet decided, and our Party has a longstanding custom of making no official endorsement during a contested Primary. Why is there a huge Corker sign in front of the building housing the headquarters of our great Party?

If Corker becomes the nominee, I can understand this-begrugingly-though I shall post no sign for Bob Corker on my person or property even if he is the nominee. If the nominee is Corker, I can see there being a sign for him at Party headquarters. However, unless the Primary has already taken place this blatant favoritism is uncalled for.

Real hot...

I think, judging by the weather, that summer has arrived. I now have a good sunburn from being out in this heat working for much of the day yesterday. My face has the appearance of a cherry, and when it is darkened, it is likely to resemble a prune in complexion.

The heat makes me tired and lazy, and affords me to be in great want of sleep at times of the day when I would not otherwise be desirous of the bed. Nicole and I are up and off to Mass this morning earlier than usual-9:00AM start time. Today is Trinity Sunday.

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