Saturday, December 02, 2006

Everyone's window should face the South

I believe it is true that we live in the greatest part of the greatest country on Earth. I think it is fair to say that there is no place in America or the world quite like the South. I don't think you can find a part of our country where the climate is more agreeable, the cookin' is any better, and the people are some of the finest folks you'll find anywhere in the world.

That's one reason why people who have lived in the South or have heritage in the South always, in the deepest recesses of their mind, dream of "coming home, and why everyone's window should face South.

Here's BR549 with the song of every Southern expatriate or those who are Southerners at-heart.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Tennesseans: Callous to corruption?

It seems that almost daily we Tennesseans hear stories of corruption in our local and State governments. Bloggers especially have chronicled these allegations in great detail, and of late the work of many bloggers on all sides of the political spectrum to expose "dirty dealings" in the workings of our government.

The story of the Tyler Harber Affair, a sickening expose of the level of corruption in Knox County government that uncovered the reality of a County Executive who was so obsessed with maintaining power that he sent his political hacks to tap into the e-mails of people who he thought were potential political rivals, was first picked up on by Betty Bean over at the Halls Shopper News. It was pressed hard by Terry Frank and myself in the blogosphere after the mainstream press simply ignored it, and it finally made it into the Knoxville News-Sentinel after Gene Patterson (a news man in the same class with Cronkite and Murrow) started to say something about it. Despite what some in the Knoxville City-County building may be saying, the story is not dead.

The evolving story of possible corruption involving federal grants in the City of Knoxville involving former Community Development director Renee Kesler reaches all the way to the office of Mayor Bill Haslam himself, where the Mayor allegedly helped arrange grants for organizations wich both he and Kesler were involved in, or where their friends were serving. The problem was that the grants were often not applied for in the proper way and funds were not dispersed in a way that could be considered above-board.

At the State level, Governor Phil Bredesen carried all 96 counties in Tennessee despite the fact that his Highway Patrol has been deeply embroiled in a scandal where promotions were given to those who contributed to his campaign, and my own State Senator was given the second highest-ranking post in the Senate in return for defying his Party and thwarting their majority in that body.

Do Tennesseans not care about corruption, or have we as a people become so callous to it that we simply ignore it and shrug it off? It permeates the political culture of this State within both parties and at every level of government well beyond the stereotypical "dirty politicians" tag, and for the most part, we collectively shrug it off. I don't think this is because people want bad government, but it may be because we have given up on expecting such a thing as a good government.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

KAT, property theft, and Billy Haslam

Knoxville's city government, long notorious for its seemingly never-ending abuse and neglect of the property rights of its citizens, has now sunk to a brand new low: Now it wants to take property from businesses on Church Avenue downtown at the site of the Church Avenue Bridge in order to widen the area and build a new KAT transit center (a bus station) there. Some readers may ask: Wouldn't the transit center be considered a public good, and taking this land for public use would therefore be justifiable under constitutional eminent domain doctrine? It might be considered a public good if KAT actually operated like a real urban transit system-it does not. Most thorough urban transit systems have enough busses to cover the entire city (at the very least), and KAT not only doesn't, they aren't looking to any time in the near future. Most real urban transit systems run busses well into the night. With the exception of KAT's very scarce "Night Rider" service, the busses that can actually take you home from work stop running at 6:00pm (this was such a chronic problem for me when I worked in downtown Knoxville that while I took the bus to work every day, my wife had to come pick me up and waste gas to do it-all the while I was perfectly capable of boarding a bus and getting home myself if the busses ran late enough). KAT is so unlike a basic urban transit system that my transportation needs as a person with a disability are now better served here in rural White Pine (where I don't need a bus to get around) then they were in North Knoxville. Something is wrong with that picture.

I have written about the inefficiencies of KAT before, and I also questioned the need for a new transit center when KAT could use the money that it would cost to build the center to expand its daily schedule and/or add routes and drivers, something that KAT desperately needs to do before a bona fide bus station is really needed. I am not opposed to the idea of a transit center in principle, but before one can be considered, KAT needs to build its system so that a transit center really is necessary. As it stands now, a transit center/bus station is really a fancy and expensive toy that drivers and KAT personnel could use at their pleasure, and would likely function as a de facto homeless shelter for the ever-expanding homeless population in downtown Knoxville.

Billy Haslam and his friends are threating to use eminent domain to move businesses from downtown so that the city may be credited with building an expensive rain shield and homeless shelter.

Haslam's potential Primary opponents (should he choose to run for Governor in 2010) should take note that his administration as Mayor of Knoxville is one marked as a monument of inefficiency, excessive expenditure, eminent domain abuse, and use of the office as a cheap prop for the Governorship. Haslam's attitude toward property rights is in the mold of Victor Ashe, who may be a Republican on paper, but Ashe had a mentality about property rights that could be termed quasi-Communism-it is apparent that Haslam has a similar attitude.

I lived in Cincinnati for a couple of years and I thought Charlie Luken was a terrible mayor. When I once complained to his office about the city plow trucks piling snow on the sidewalk in front of my apartment (thereby making it impossible for me to get to the bus stop and get to work) he responded with "we'll try to do better next time,"-nothing was ever done about this very basic problem. Charlie Luken has nothing on Bill Haslam-Haslam is such a bad mayor that if Charlie Luken lived in Knoxville, I'd take Luken seven ways to Sunday over Billy Haslam.

If Haslam is that bad as Mayor, Governor Haslam would be the ruination of our great State. We must do all in our power to stop it in the 2010 Republican Primary. Haslam will make Don Sundquist look like a saint.


The danger of sitting legislatures

Adam Graham does not agree with my supposition that Congress should not conduct useless lame-duck sessions. He wrote in a comment on Where I Stand yesterday:

I'm going to disagree with you, somewhat. A legislature and a president are elected until January. Democrats are elected to govern this country beginning in January. Republicans are using the time to which they've been duly elected and there's nothing wrong with that. What they do with that time other hand can be an issue of concern.

There is plenty wrong with it when there is no useful business to conduct, or nothing that cannot wait until the next session convenes. A legislature should not be convened the year-round and they certainly ought not to be convened after an election except in a case of great urgency. I believe Mark Twain was quite correct in his words:

"No man's life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session."

To quote an anonymous Tory sympathizer at the outbreak of the American Revolution:

" I should rather deal with one tyrant 3,000 miles away than 3,000 tyrants one mile away."

An elected legislature, though absolutely necessary for any functioning free government and vital in our system of checks and balances, is also equally as dangerous to our liberties as an overbearing executive. It is to our advantage that a legislature should sit only for as long as it takes to complete business that is absolutely necessary-then they should adjourn. The langer they sit, the more they are prone to legislate, and the more they legislate, the more of our freedoms are restricted. Lame-duck sessions are especially abusive on the public purse because they are not necessary for the conduct of government.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tennessee Democrats' double standard

Terry Frank rightly pointed out the reality yesterday that the Tennessee Democratic Party has a major double standard when it comes to people who cross the floor. About former State Senator Don McLeary, a longtime Democrat who crossed the floor and joined the Republicans last year, Democratic Party Chairman Bob Tuke had this to say, declaring that McLeary should return all monies that Democrats contributed to him:

“Those were dollars contributed by good Democrats in good faith,” Tuke said. “By accepting our support and then switching parties before his term expired, Don McLeary acted in bad faith. At this point, the only honorable thing to do is to return those funds. If Don McLeary doesn’t return that money, then he’s not an honorable man.”

Wow...not an honorable man-those are strong words indeed. Since I am a person who believes that people ought to do their best to deal squarely with one another, I might believe that Tuke had a bit of a case in asking the converted Republican McLeary to return some of that cash. Tuke took it a step further by essentially saying that Senator McLeary was morally bankrupt:

“Clearly, Democrats made a bad investment in a candidate who turned out to be bankrupt of character,” Tuke said. “Like any creditor dealing with a bankruptcy, we’re going to seek to recoup our investment.”

There is one hitch-what the same Tennessee Democrats (remember, this has been the Party of power in Tennessee since Reconstruction) are eagerly awaiting my turncoat State Senator Mike Williams' vote for Senate Speaker and Lt. Governor, which they hope will again go to Democrat John Wilder-a vote that effectively thwarts the ability of the GOP majority in the Senate to control the floor. Now rumors abound that Williams is considering a run for Lincoln Davis' Congressional seat-as a Democrat. If that happens, I somehow do not expect the Democrats to cry over Williams' supposed hypocrisy.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Welcome Stephanie Richer

I'd like to take just a moment this morning to welcome a new member to our blogroll to the right. Stephanie Richer titles her orthodox Catholic blog The Digital Hairshirt, and like many of those on my blogroll, Stephanie has a conservative bent to her thought. Like me, Stephanie is a devout, practicing, and observant Catholic.

The addition of Ms. Richer to the blogroll is significant, however, because she will soon be liberating herself and her family from the shackles of the Left Coast and will be a brand spanking new citizen of Rocky Top. I'm up for suggestions on how we can welcome Stephanie and her family to East Tennessee and "inculturate" her...ideas, anyone?


Lame-duck sessions are the Devil's playhouse

If there is one thing Tennessee has right and the federal government has completely wrong, it is the idea that legislators need to spend the overwhelming majority of their year in the capital. When aligned together in one place for too long, legislators may conduct a great deal of the public business behind closed doors and out of the reach of scrutiny by the constituents they are serving. Indeed, when a legislative body is inclined to meet in session to conduct regular business after an election of Representatives has taken place to fill seats in the next session, that body has entirely too much business and its calendar ought to be trimmed down to size.

Such is the case with the United States Congress. There is nothing on the legislative calendar that has been dealt with since the election that is absolutely necessary to the maintenance of sound public business-in other words, there has been no good reason for Congress to meet during this "lame duck" session other than for members to collect a paycheck. If the sponsored legislation has not been completely useless, it has all been composed of matters that could just as well wait for the next Congress-and nothing overly pressing.

"But David, shouldn't we squeeze as much time in as we can and as much legislation as we can since the Democrats are going to take control?"

There has been an election, and in that election the people at-large chose to elect a Democratic Congress. Obviously I do not approve of that choice, and my district overwhelmingly voted for and elected a Republican. However, the next Congress deserves the opportunity for a fresh start-let the policies and politics that take place now be credited or blamed on the folks who have been duly elected by the people to create those policies and engage in those politics.

These lame-duck sessions have become common practice no matter which party is in power. In 1994, the Democrats held one and it was the session where GATT passed both houses out of conference committee. A lot of folks point out that GATT would have been even more likely to pass with the GOP in control the following spring. While true in theory, the fact was that anti-globalist sentiment was running very high in this country in the wake of the 1994 General Election-the new Congress would have been under a great deal of pressure to heavily modify the flawed trade treaty-or nix it altogether.

Lame-duck Congressional sessions are the epitome of idle laziness and a breeding ground of shady and underhanded business-the Party in control of the session is of little consequence. Unless there is a bona fide national emegency requiring the President to convene Congress, both Houses of Congress should adjourn sine die if a national General Election is about to occur. After that election, Congress should reconvene only when the Clerk of the House calls the first session of the new Congress to order to swear in the members and elect the Speaker of the House.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Did Williams try to cover his own rear?

Recall that last Wednesday we had a discussion on this weblog about State Senator Mike Williams' "follies" as I called them at the time. The fact that not only did Williams vote for Democrat John Wilder as Speaker of the Senate and Lieutenant Governor (thereby thwarting the Republican majority the people had elected-of which he was and is a member) at the beginning of the last session, but with a second Republican majority in of equal numbers he is threatening to do so again. On top of that, we now learn that he has used campaign money for personal use in a fashion that is at best ethically questionable and at worst illegal.

When I wrote about this last week, Steve Mule warned in a comment:

Be careful. This may get to the point where, knowing he can't get re-elected he votes for Wilder just out of spite.

Indeed it may, and as I said in my response to that comment, it may have already gotten to that point. The exposure of Williams' behavior raises questions of all sorts, however. The kind of thing Williams stands accused of (using campaign money for personal use) has been nearly standard practice on the Hill in Nashville for years. Since the Democrats have essentially been the party of power there before anyone reading this blog was alive, it means that the Democratic leadership has allowed such practices as a matter of course for a very long time. As a member of the new Senate majority that has made attempts ethics reform a top priority, it might behoove Williams to flee to the leaders of Tennessee's Ancien Regime in order to cover his own rear end.

Think of it: Williams uses campaign money for his own use, something Ron Ramsey would likely shun. Knowing that he has done it, he votes for Wilder for Lt. Gov., thereby making himself Speaker Pro Tempore of the Senate by prearranged agreement. Since he is now buddy-buddy with Wilder and the second most-powerful officer in the State Senate, he's covered from any serious ethics inquiry.

I'm not saying conclusively that things happened that way, but knowing the Democrats' ethics record, if I'm Williams and I don't want to get nailed, I'm voting for Wilder in a Good Ole Boy agreement to give myself cover.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

College football Top 25 for November 26th

Here are the votes I submitted in this week's IRACF college football poll:

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

USC's decisive victory over Notre Dame last night vaulted them to the number 2 spot and as far as the BCS is concerned, it may have taken Michigan out of the running. The Wolverines aren't totally out of the picture, though-they have one more game to wait on. USC's traditional season-ending showdown with UCLA is next weekend, and if the Bruins were to pull off the upset, Michigan could be put right back at #2-especially if Arkansas beats Florida in the SEC Championship Game next week also.

Realistically, however, I do not expect that to happen, and I believe Southern Cal is all but guaranteed to be the team that will now face Ohio State. The BCS gurus can rest easy that their system has not yet managed to produce a matchup that is wild and bizarre-but I fear the day is coming.


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