Saturday, June 24, 2006

Bill Monroe 1957 Opry Saturday

Here's a Bill Monroe classic for the weekend from the Grand Ole Opry in 1957.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The untimely war

There are often times when I wish that I had begun this weblog sooner than late 2004. If I had, many of you would be able to make a note of the fact that before the Iraq War had begun, I was absolutely opposed to the idea that the United States needed to enter combat there. I warned of the mounting losses that would occur, and I constantly reminded some very good friends of mine who were determined to march to Hell and back with the President on this issue that since the Truman administration, U.S. involvement in Near Eastern affairs has been tainted by partiality toward Israel, and this is the root of nearly all American difficulties in the region. Much of the reason we are assailed by Arab terrorists from without and found both Iran and Iraq to be our enemies (as well as being extremely unpopular with the "man on the street" in the Arab world) is because it is perceived that we are not a friend to Arab people-not just Muslim Arabs but Christian Arabs also-because we will support the Israelis at all costs and ignore their manifold human rights abuses while we attack Iran, Iraq and other Arab countries for their human rights abuses. It should also be pointed out that it was a Democrat, Harry Truman, who first recognized the State of Israel over the objections of many Congressional Republicans and his own State Department.

In making such a recognition, the U.S. showed a willingness to take sides in a dispute that was destined to create enemies where none had previously existed. Some of you are saying "but Oatney, Israel is our friend." Yes, but had we taken the opposite side, all of the Arab states would have worshiped us-that doesn't mean we should have. We entered into business that was none of our concern, and we are still paying the price for it. The deed was done, however, and being people of our commitments, we are bound to carry through with that recognition and all that comes with it.

Israel has an old enemy in that part of the world-Iraq. Iraq's defeat certainly would help the Israelis a great deal, yet we do not see them sending large numbers of troops and money to support this effort. I warned many people over and over again that our men and women would bear the brunt of the burden, and that our so-called "friends" would abandon us like men leaving a jobsite at 5:00pm on Friday. I warned that the war was unwise, untimely, and unnecessary. Unwise because our forces were already deep into a war in Afghanistan. Untimely because despite repeated promises, the administration had done little to increase American troop strength or peacetime military spending-certainly nothing like the Reagan era-and we weren't ready for a two-front war. Unnecessary because the fact was that because we were already aggressively policing the region (no fly zone, anyone?) Saddam was well-contained. I also remember telling several people who asked my opinion in the days leading up to the outbreak of war that it could cost the Republicans control of part or all of Congress, and if the war was not brought to an end in 2008, it could cost the GOP the Presidency.

However, I also believed that if war came, we must then give our men and women in uniform our full support to carry out their mission. I still believe this today...and the war did come.

Unfortunately, things have panned out in much the way that I thought they would. I did not wish this to be the case, because I do not wish calamity upon our forces, but victory after victory. I do not wish for the Republican Party to lose control of Congress, because I believe it will lead to terrible domestic policy decisions that could wreak havoc on the constitutional framework of the Republic itself. However, we cannot expect that poor decision making and support for bad policy will not come back to bite us at some point, whether this November or at some future time. Our own President spends and often governs as if he were a liberal Democrat, yet people who have reputations as champions of conservatism just shrug their shoulders, turn their backs, and continue to prop up his ineffective leadership.

If Al Gore were President and he was governing the way that President Bush presently does, Republican leaders in Congress would be calling for his head.

We need to re-examine the way we do foreign policy business. No, I don't mean we need to consult the United Nations more-to Hell with the U.N. What the conservative movement, the Republican Party, and America as a whole need to do is to return to the time-honored principles of the Founding of this country as it relates to foreign policy. What are those principles?

From George Washington's Farewell Address:

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.

You could substitute "Europe" for any region of the world in those words, but the principle is the same. Defend American interests first, put America first, and do not entangle yourselves in the political and military affairs of others. Nearly all of our foreign policy difficulties in the world can be traced back to 1917 when Woodrow Wilson decided that a European War was America's business. Look at the international mess we have created by not doing something as simple as following the advice of the Father of our Country.

Many years ago, it used to be the custom on February 22nd (Washington's Birthday) to read the Farewell Address alound in the House and the Senate. Is it any wonder why that custom ceased to be?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Thoughts on a charter form of government

Steve Mule asks:

What's the difference between a charter government and a non-charter government?
I wasn't living in East Tennessee yet when the charter was passed and am unfamilar with why we (Knox Countians) voted for it.

Goodgirl responds:

There are two counties in TN that are considered home-rule counties--Shelby and Knox. The basic difference between home-rule government and the consitutional form that the other 92 counties have (Davidson has metro) is that home-rule county commissions have the authority to pass legislation that has the force of law.

In other counties, if a commission wishes to pass a law, they must first take the issue to the State Legislature where it is passed as a "Private Act," or a law that applies to only one county.

In essence she's right, except that the legislature can (and does) still pass Private Acts that relate to Knox County, mostly initiated by Knox County legislators. What a Charter does is allow for the county to not have to wait on a Private Act to do something.

The constitutional form of government (the non-charter, non-metro form of nearly all other counties) operates on the theory that the primary purpose of county government is to execute the laws of the State. Clearly, the overwhelming majority of folks are satisfied with that, because there hasn't been a huge move to charterize a bunch of counties.

I'm not against charter government, but I question A.) Whether it is necessary and B.) does it lead to an overly expansive county government as bad or worse than the overly-expansive state morass (i.e "5,000 tyrants one mile away")?

It does allow for greater freedom for the county government, but what does that mean? If it means that a bloated State government turns over home-rule to a very limited county government, it is a great deal. If a bloated State government allows for home rule and then the county government becomes big, bloated, and wasteful (Knox County) then it is no benefit at all. Indeed, in the case of Knox County, having to wait on a Private Act in order to enact an ordinance may inadvertantly check the power of the county government, even though the legislature may not have that intent.

A charter government was sold to the people on the basis that they would have greater home rule. On its face, that is not a bad thing to desire or achieve. I think what we need to ask is whether it (a charter government) has created more problems than it has solved.

Federal intervention

A federal judge has said that he will ask the Tennessee Supreme Court to intervene and rule immediately on the validity of the Knox County Charter.

I am not normally a fan of federal intervention except in some emergency of the most grave sort (no, this does not qualify as an emergency of any sort), and in most circumstances I think the federales should keep their grimey hands off of our State and out of our business. However, the very purpose of having the federal government in a strict constitutional sense is so that we might enjoy a common currency, weights and measures, a common defense, and that the federal government may act as an intermediary in a conflict such as this one.

U.S. District Court Judge James H. Jarvis has elected to send a "certified question" to the State Supreme Court. The Court is in no way obliged to answer him, which is why this sort of mediation is something that I find acceptable. The Justices will likely answer Judge Jarvis' question, and probably rule on the validity of the Knox County Charter.

If nothing else, this action will bring some finality to the issue of the Charter so that people know what the state of county government is in Knox County.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Charter politics

Knox County asked Chancellor John Weaver to put a 180-day stay on his June 9th decision which declared the Knox County Charter invalid. Mayor Ragsdale says he wants to "focus on restoring term limits." Obviously, I have great trouble believing that this is Ragsdale's real motivation. I can't read Mike Ragsdale's mind by any means, but I suspect that at the very least he does not care whether term limits exist in county law one way or the other, and at most he would prefer that they did not exist at all.

I suspect that Mike Ragsdale's real motivation is the fact that he does not want to return to what we in Tennessee would call a constitutional form of government-he does not want the primary motus of the county to be to enforce state law. What is not often mentioned in the local press is that this form of government is the form used by 92 of our 95 counties. There is no great push Statewide for counties to rush into charter government.

I suspect that the reason Mayor Ragsdale (and other county officials) are really all that interested in preserving a charter that is defective is that it increases their power and authority. I do not believe for a second that the preservation of home rule from far-away Nashville is the reason county officials want to maintain the charter. Home rule is a great thing, and I'm not opposed to the principles behind it. However, it has to be necessary, because while the States created the federal union (and have, I believe, the ultimate check-and-balance against the abuses of federal power), the counties did not create the State of Tennessee, they were wholly a creation of the State.

Since 93 of 96 counties do not have charter government, that leads me to believe that the State is not all-powerful in many of our counties, and if the State desires to abuse its constitutional authority, it is not very successful at doing so (and no, I have no faith at all in the present regime in Nashville-I just don't think they are doing much to flex their muscle at the county level so as to merit a mass movement toward charter government).

Those of you who support term limits-beg off of that question for a moment and consider the deeper question of charter government. Is a charter necessary to insure good county government, or can we be better served by reforming the present constitutional system?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Why we do not need President Gingrich

R. Emmett Tyrrell, who I greatly respect for his years of dynamite work at The American Spectator has written a piece explaining exactly why Newt Gingrich is unfit to be President. As Tyrell points out, Newt quite clearly confuses being a policy wonk with being learned or intellectual. I'm not questioning Newt's intellectual abilities here, but I do not find many of his ideas to be original.

Much of what he spearheaded in the 1994 Contract With America were actually ideas that conservatives at the grassroots had been championing for years. Congressional conservatives, such as former California Congressman Bob Dornan, had long championed the kind of spending moratoriums and welfare reforms that Newt championed in the Contract. Prior to the Revolution of '94, the people who advocated these things were called "extremists." As Tyrrell says:

When all the brag and bounce of Gingrich's intellectual pretense is anesthetized, and the corpus of his intellectual work is subjected to scholarly analysis, what do we see? An eternal graduate student at a mediocre state university has been playing with bits and pieces of the large ideas of Milton Friedman and like-minded political scientists, for instance Edward Banfield. Down the hall is Bill Clinton. The bits and pieces that he plays with are those of Ira Magaziner or Robert B. Reich. Gingrich is a more adventuresome graduate student.

Just as Bill Clinton did his best to convince all of us that character did not matter when he perjured himself before a Grand Jury, Gingrich attempts to make us believe that being twice-divorced and divorcing your wife on her deathbed for a younger staffer is something to be ignored. I know quite a few good conservatives that are ready to simply ignore these things-matters that should be important to any conservative.

I may be the only conservative that thinks this is a big deal, but this does matter. If a man can't keep his own house in order, he hardly qualifies to keep the federal house in check. If he leaves his wife on her deathbed, how do we know he will not leave America for dead also?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Not left behind

Write this down: Steve Mule and I have reason to agree about something. His comments in response to my post about church music really got me to thinking (which usually leads to writing) about eschatology. In part, Steve says:

Disclaimer: I despise the "Left Behind" series - the writing is of hack quality, the characters cardboard and 2 demensional, the plot predictable and plodding.

I agree-its bad. I say that trying as hard as possible to divorce my theological opinions from a critical review of the books. The Harry Potter books are more well-written than Left Behind, and that is pretty sad considering that many Christian leaders of all churches agree that the Potter books are influenced by the occult, whether intentional or not.

For several reasons too involved to get into here I engaged in a study of Eschatology reveiwing Amillenialism, Postmillenialism and, of course, Premillenialism and it's Evangelical derivative "Premillenial Despenstationalism." (Note: I'm not Catholic so Catholic Eschatology is a real weak area of mine).

If Catholic eschatology interests you in any way, you might give my old series on biblical prophecy during the Interregnum a parousal. Your thoughts have given me pause to perhaps take up the subject again in the coming weeks, as controversial as it may be.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Church music

A couple of weeks ago, Nicole and I had the pleasure of attending Holy Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Morristown. It is a lovely spacious building with a side chapel where the Eucharist is held in reserve, and where there are many rooms to be used for its various Parish programs.

In parousing the parish bulletin, I couldn't help but notice that the 9:00AM Mass was what they termed "traditional," while the 11:30AM was deemed "contemporary." I have no problem with contemporary Christian music, and I do believe that this genre can play an important role in getting today's young people interested in Christianity-but it has its time and its place. When I was in college, we had to be contemporary-by-default-we had no organ or piano, the closest we could get was an occasional Yamaha keyboard. However, I seem to recall that the music selected was still respectful, doctrinally sound, and well-fit for worship.

Most so-called "contemporary" Masses I have observed inside an actual Parish church building are filled with music that sings of God or Christ in some generic fashion, recounts in song very little doctrine, and sounds more fit for a hippie "togetherness circle" than for Divine Worship of any sort. I once attended Mass at a parish where the opening and closing hymns sounded like something from Woodstock, and the Agnus Dei was sung to the tune of the Simon and Garfunkel song Scarborough Fair. If this was designed to appeal to the young, I felt it a poor representation of Christianity, especially to a newcomer.

Once I went to a so-called contemporary Mass where the closing hymn was a song called Yes I Know (my evangelical friends should know that this was not the song by the Gaither Vocal Band), and at the conclusion of the song I had yet to figure out what it was I was supposed to know.

Many teenagers and younger college students who attend these so-called "contemporary" Masses have lost touch with their liturgical and doctrinal roots. In with music that sounds like a rock concert, out with the great reliable standards of faith. Many of the really young folks barely know the words to such stirring anthems as Faith of Our Fathers, Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones, At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing, Salve Regina, Crown Him With Many Crowns, and Holy God We Praise Thy Name-just to name a few. God forbid any Latin be introduced into the equation, then the poor teenagers are totally lost. I have found that the only teenagers who can survive anything remotely resembling traditional music and worship are those raised in homes where the Faith of the Old Church is still practiced-Mom and Dad lead children in prayer every day, and that often involves the rosary.

Lest any evangelical Protestants think this is some sort of Catholic problem, I have visited many evangelical churches that are so obsessed with the contemporary that they've lost touch with their roots. I once attended a service at a church which claimed membership in the Southern Baptist Convention (I have been given to understand that this congregation has since removed themselves from that affiliation). The songleader announced that the congregation would now sing Leaning On the Everlasting Arms, which is an old evangelical classic. Knowing the words by heart, I tore into the first verse-"What a fellowship, what a joy Divine..."-and immediately after the word "Divine" I was forced to stop because I was singing it on the traditional beat and time, while the rest of the congregation was singing to a backbeat that sounded remarkably like Eddie van Halen's Poundcake. After this nauseating episode I did not leave immediately because I was with a friend, but I also didn't want to be rude. I was then subjected to a sermon about how the church needed to "change" to bring in young people, and the first change that was needed-the congregation was told-was new music. "Are we to bring back Gregorian chant," the minister asked. Of course, being Catholic, I wanted to jump up and say "Amen, sounds great to me." If what I was experiencing was a part of this new revolution, I resolved then and there that I would forever remain a religious reactionary. Both my company and I were in search of a suitable vomitorium after such henous torture of both our ears and the Three Divine Persons.

I understand that many young people find inspiration and comfort in contemporary Christian music. I think that's fine, and I enjoy some of it too. However, in our Divine Worship, we ought to give the last two generations (many of whom have no clue what the religion of their grandparents and great-grandparents was like) some taste of the classics-the hymns that are beautiful to sing and also tell of the things we believe.

Welcome the Legend-Bill Hobbs

I just wanted to take a moment to welcome to the blogroll the great Bill Hobbs, whose blog is an inspiration to everyone in the conservative blogosphere in Tennessee, including myself. I have recently learned that "the Man, the Legend" rather enjoys my poor screed. I am honored by his confidence, and I welcome him to the roll of great blogs to the right.

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