Saturday, November 04, 2006

Tennessee could pay for California's problems

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger approved a plan this week to ship more than 2,000 prisoners this week to other States-several of the prisoners will be coming to Tennessee. Many of these prisoners came from corrections' institutions that are privately run and will be going to institutions that are privately run, but it highlights a trend that I am not overly fond of.

What should happen if one of these prisoners escaped once they arrived here? Who would be ultimately responsible for the whereabouts of these prisoners and the safety of the public? The law enforcement authorities of the State of Tennessee would be, that's who.

The prisoners are being shipped here because of overcrowding in California prisons. California's overcrowding problem is not a problem for the State of Tennessee to take on-it is not our problem that California refuses to do their part to enforce immigration laws-a big reason why their prisons are overcrowded. Governor Bredesen conceivably could block this prisoner transfer, but I have not heard of any attempt on the Governor's part to try and put a stop to this.

Tennesseans should not have to bear the burden of California's failures.


Friday, November 03, 2006

The cat problem

Nicole and I have a bit of a problem and I was hoping that those of you who are regular readers and animal lovers as we are might be able to offer some good suggestions to us. Some of you may know that we raise rabbits, but they live outside, so does our dog Daisy. We do have an inside pet-a cat we call Casper.

Casper is about six months old and since we brought him home, he has a history of being quite bratty-he'll get into things he isn't supposed to, or scratch things he shouldn't, but if you tell him no and push him away, he'll cut it out. One thing he has never had a problem with in the four months he has lived with us is knowing where he needs to go to use the bathroom. He has gone in his litter box almost instinctively and we've barely needed needed to so much as show him where to go-until now.

For the past three days he insists on using the bathroom somewhere other than his litter box, and always in an area where he would never be permitted and where his litterbox simply would not and should not go. We are at a loss what to do to get him back in the right habit of going in his litterbox. For now, we've locked him in the bathroom with his litterbox and the absolute necessities of life. If he doesn't quit using the bathroom where he should not go, he won't be able to stay with us. As much as I love him and I know we're a good home, my house is not a barn. Even though we own our home now and the plot of land around it, I am afraid to let him outside because we live very close to the railroad tracks, and I fear he'll be run over by a train.

Anyone have any suggestions what we might do to break him of this awful habit?

In a worst-case scenario, we might be looking for a good home for him, perhaps a place where he can safely be outdoors. Obviously that is a last resort.


Long distance information, get me Memphis, Tennessee...

Much ado was made in Tennessee last night over whether NBC Nightly News should have broadcast in Memphis, Nashville, or Knoxville. Many Republicans complained that the choice of Memphis showed bias toward Harold Ford, but believe it or not I don't believe that is the case. I don't know how much input anchor Brian Williams had in the decision to choose Memphis, but usually the anchors do have some say. There are two things I know about Brian Williams, that he is a huge fan of NASCAR, and that he makes occasional appearances on Sean Hannity's radio program. While there are liberal NASCAR fans out there, a flaming liberal would know they are going into a hostile environment on Hannity's show.

I think we can reasonably deduce that Williams is not overly biased toward the left, and in fact if I had to choose between the four major network anchors (I count The News Hour with Jim Lehrer in that group) Williams is my favorite by far and away. I think his explanation for why Memphis was chosen rings true (that it is the largest city in the State), because Columbus, Ohio was likely chosen last week for the same reason. Note that you didn't hear many complaints coming from that State that a location closer to the traditional Republican base in Cincinnati would be more appropriate.

What last night's broadcast showed was actually a frightening thing: The limits of our choice as Tennesseans in this Senate election. For a great many of us, we will vote for a candidate we do not like in order to keep another candidate we really do not like from winning, while others in our number will select a candidate who has no chance of winning in order to feel that they have a choice. No matter what the outcome is on Tuesday, I hope both political parties learn something here (though I doubt they will): Voters like stark choices and real right and left differences, voters want to make hard choices, they hate having what they perceive as a Hobson's choice far more.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

My beef with Jefferson County

On this last day of early voting in Tennessee, I have a bone to pick with the Jefferson County Election Commission. As regular readers may be aware, my wife and I bought a house here over the summer, and as is customary for me, one of the first things that I did was change my voter registration to Jefferson County to insure that I would be able to exercise my franchise in this important election. In addition to never missing an election, I have a custom of always voting early-usually on the first or second day of the early voting period.

However, since moving to Jefferson County, it has become apparent that I will not be able to continue this tradition unless the county makes a change in it's early voting habits. Like other counties in Tennessee, Jefferson County has early voting, but the only regular designated polling site is the County Courthouse in Dandridge. I live in White Pine, and for those of you who don't know your East Tennessee geography very well, White Pine is on the northeastern edge of Jefferson County and faces Morristown and Hamblen County to the north and east. I am closer to Morristown than I am to Dandridge, and in fact we go to church in Morristown and often do our grocery shopping there.

Regulars probably also know (I know those of you who are personal friends do) that I have a disability which I have had from birth. Early voting has made it much easier to insure that I would be able to cast my ballot. In terms of ease, everything in town here in White Pine is accessable to me so it is just as easy now for me to go to my designated polling place at White Pine Elementary School.

Ease is not the only reason I like to vote early, however. What if some emergency comes up or some unforseen circumstance that makes it impossible for me to get to the polls on election day? Early voting insures that I've cast my vote no matter what might come up in the days ahead. If you vote early, it is like having a sort of voting insurance. Because the county only has one regular designated early voting site, it is virtually impossible for me to find a way to Dandridge while that polling place is still open.

"Oatney, why not get an absentee ballot?" I should not need to go to the trouble of asking for an absentee ballot. I feel that I should have equal access to an early voting place just like every other citizen. There are places right here in White Pine that would make great early voting sites, such as White Pine Town Hall, just a short walk from my house. How about the Methodist Church? Another short walk from my house. I'll bet you could even get Allen-Surrett's Hardware Store to agree to put an early voting place in the back of the hardware store. As unorthodox as that might sound to some, the back of the hardware store is a major community gathering place. I believe the law forbids polling places in a place of business, but Town Hall is an obvious option.

I will vote on Election Day-but we have early voting in this State, and I should have the same option to vote early as every other voter.


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Rocky Top Brigade

Just a note to let everyone know that I finally got around to officially joining the greatest blog aggregator in the world-the Rocky Top Brigade.

As soon as I have the time, there will be appropriate links in the sidebar.


All Saints Day (Hallow Mass)

Today, November 1st, is the Feast of All Saints. Let me first remind all Catholics that today is a Holy Day of Obligation, wherein you are required under the pain of mortal sin to attend Holy Mass and receive Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.

All Saints is when the Church remembers all the holy people-Christians-who have died in a state of grace having the hope of salvation and of the Ressurrection.

During this election season, a particular Saint comes to mind, Saint Chad. Chad was appointed Bishop of Mercia in what is now England in the year 662. At that time, there was a great controversy in the Church in what at that time were all-Celtic lands over whether the Church in that part of the world should continue using the old Celtic calendar, or adopt the calendar that was approved by the Council of Nicaea. The bishops decided to take a vote, and Chad originally favored maintaining the Celtic calendar. However, when it became clear that the vote would be split, Chad voted with the Nicaean side and in favor of maintaining unity throughout the Church on the issue of sacred time.

St. Chad is the patron of elections and election workers.


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pettigrew campaign gets desperate

There is no denying that the race for the Tennessee House of Representatives in the 18th District is close, but it is also clear that Schree Pettigrew is behind and that she is losing ground. Apparently, some folks in Mrs. Pettigrew's campaign are aware of this reality because they are once again resorting to lies and distortions in order to try and garner votes.

If the Pettigrew camp is to be believed, Stacey Campfield favors an income tax and is somehow responsible for the Iraq War. The first claim is a bold-faced lie, since Mrs. Pettigrew and her supporters are well aware that Stacey opposes an income tax. In fact, while Mrs. Pettigrew has met on more than one occasion with pro income-tax forces in Tennessee, Stacey Campfield will not so much as sit in the same room with these people as a matter of principle.

Attempting to somehow pin the war in Iraq on a freshman in the State House is nothing short of a desperation tactic, and is how the casual observer can glean that Mrs. Pettigrew is running behind and that the members of her inner circle are quietly aware that she is losing, and while putting on the brave face and even telling the press that the numbers say otherwise, they know that their only hope is to resort to the tactics of a desperate campaign that is in its final days.

Last week, a third party poll was taken on this race. The numbers that poll revealed were quite telling, and have not been released to either candidate's campaign because giving the numbers away would amount to an in-kind contribution under Tennessee's campaign finance laws. I have now seen the numbers, however, and I can tell readers this much: The Republican leads, but presently falls within the margin of error.

Democrats and supporters of Mrs. Pettigrew may see that as wonderful news, but if I were them, I wouldn't see it as great news at all. Why? Mrs. Pettigrew's supporters have poured nearly $100,000 dollars into her campaign, an amount utterly unheard of in a local race...and the best they can do with all of that money, and all of those salacious TV propaganda pieces, and all of those rediculously false telephone dialers, (things that her opponent has not had the money to do up to this point) is the margin of error?

That is one for Make Me Laugh, folks.

Well Mrs. Pettigrew, I must admit that for a political novice you have mounted a very impressive campaign. Of course, if you didn't have all that big time cash from those trial lawyers you work for and their friends, I suspect it might not have been nearly so impressive. Nonetheless, you play the game very hard, and we see that you have learned how to play the game the filthy dirty way. I hope you don't continue to play the game so dirty should you choose to run for office again-after you are defeated at the polls next Tuesday.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Playing Hardball without all the facts

I was watching Hardball this past Friday when the discussion on that program inevitably turned to discussion of the Tennessee Senate race. One of the panelists, commenting on how effective negative ads have supposedly been, said "Corker has gone from being nine points down to pulling nearly dead even." At that moment I became convinced of the reality that much of the press or pundits outside of Tennessee (or at least outside the South) has utterly no idea what is happening on the ground here, or else they would not make such rediculously misleading statements on the air.

At no time in this race has either candidate enjoyed a lead that high. Since the end of the August Primary, neither candidate has enjoyed a lead higher than six points in any poll, and the aggregate of all polls has never shown any candidate ahead by more than two points. Knowing all of this, it makes you question what planet these folks are on, or at least what country they are from. What have they misreported about races in other States on programs like Hardball?

As much influence as the blogosphere has on political organization on all sides of the political spectrum, we know that the majority of people who will vote on November 7th do not read blogs-yet. (I think they will in time as internet access continues to improve. It is already improving and the organizational abilities of the blogosphere are just beginning to be realized.) Since they don't, it is reasonable to assume that the average voter does not regularly peruse websites such as RealClearPolitics, Electoral Vote, or the National Journal to give them some idea of what is going on. The point is that if a program like Hardball gets it wrong and misreports even a former poll, it could encourage some voters from either side to stay home.

In saying this, I am not speaking as a Republican or a Democrat, but as a concerned citizen who has never missed an election. It has become clear to me that a lot of the journalists and pundits that are based in New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, try as they may to give us all good information, often fail to do their research when it comes to what the "real" numbers are or what internal factors might decide a given race in certain States. Here is a suggestion to Chris Matthews: When talking about some of these Senate or Governors' races around the country, how about bringing in some local reporters or even campaign volunteers who can give you some idea of what is happening live on the ground?

If accuracy is the goal, shouldn't the national political talk shows try to paint the most accurate picture possible?


Sunday, October 29, 2006

Monsignor Mankel

A few of you who are regular readers may know that before Nicole and I moved from Knoxville to White Pine, we were members of Holy Ghost Catholic Church on Central Avenue. The pastor at Holy Ghost is Father Xavier Mankel, OP. In addition to being pastor at Holy Ghost, Father Mankel serves as the Vicar General of the Diocese of Knoxville. Father Mankel does and has done so much work for the Catholic community in East Tennessee that I have long thought that he deserved a title that reflected the life of service to others that he has lived. Since I know how humble Father Mankel is, I somehow doubt that the thought of receiving the honors due to exceptional clergy ever crossed his mind.

It certainly crossed my mind. Considering that Father Mankel serves not only as pastor of Holy Ghost but also serves as Vicar General of the Diocese (that makes him Bishop Kurtz' right hand man, for those of you who aren't Catholic) he is a busy man. Shortly before we moved, Father Mankel was helping to oversee a renovation project that will make it even easier for persons with disabilities to access the church at Holy Ghost. When there is a diocesan function, you are likely to find Father Mankel there. Yet in spite of his busy schedule, Father Mankel makes time for everyone. He serves as chaplain for the Knoxville Council #645 of the Knights of Columbus, and he rarely misses a meeting. Father Mankel always takes the opportunity to visit the sick who are in the hospital and who need to know that the Church is praying for them. The parish community at Holy Ghost has coffee and doughnuts twice a month in the church basement. Father Mankel always comes down and visits each table and says hello and asks how you are doing and tends to ask specific questions-largely because if there are problems in your life, Father Mankel needs to know about them. Need to get your spiritual life in order? Its okay, Father Mankel will make time to hear your confession and bring the Lord's forgiveness into your life-nevermind what else he had planned.

In this day an age when the priesthood is mocked and maligned by our selfish culture, and priests are viewed with suspicion or hatred, Father Mankel is one of those who can be held up as an example of what being a priest is supposed to be. Some months ago, I remember having a conversation with Nicole shortly before we moved after Mass one Sunday, and we talked about all the things Father Mankel does for the Catholic community. I commented "Father Mankel does so much, they ought to make him a Monsignor."

The title of Right Reverend Monsignor makes a priest a member of the papal household, and is a great honor for any priest who has not been elevated to the office of Bishop. In years past, it was a bit more common for priests who had rendered many years of service to the Church to receive the honor-today it is far less common.

Apparently, word has gotten to Rome that Father Mankel might deserve a little recognition. It was announced today at Mass that several Catholics in the Diocese of Knoxville will be receiving Papal Honors for service to the Church and the community. Among these would be two clergy, one of which was Father Xavier Mankel, OP, V.G., who will receive the honors of the title of Right Reverend Monsignor.

Monsignor Mankel recently celebrated his 50th anniversary in the priesthood. I can't think of a better anniversary present or a more deserving priest for this honor in our local Church.

Congratulations, Monsignor Mankel!

Monsignor Xavier Mankel, OP
Vicar General of the Diocese of Knoxville


College football Top 25 for October 29

Here are my votes in this week's IRACF college football poll

1 Ohio St.
2 Michigan
3 West Virginia
4 Texas
5 Louisville
6 Auburn
7 Tennessee
8 Florida
9 California
10 Southern Cal
11 Notre Dame
12 Arkansas
13 LSU
14 Boise St.
15 Rutgers
16 Boston College
17 Wisconsin
18 Oklahoma
19 Clemson 7-2
20 Georgia Tech
21 Texas A&M
22 Wake Forest
23 Virginia Tech
24 Oregon
25 Washington St.

It sure felt great to see Tennessee defeat Steve Spurrier's South Carolina, after years of Tennessee trying to really get one over on Spurrier.

USC's loss to Oregon State certainly changed the complexion of things-now Michigan has a lock on the #2 spot.


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