Saturday, December 09, 2006

Radio, me, and WKRP

As some of you may know, I am a veteran of the radio booth. I love radio and every chance I get to be back on the air, I jump at that opportunity. Occasionally, people who have heard me on the air will ask me what inspired me to get interested in radio to begin with. I certainly had influences, one of which was my Grandfather, who was blind later in life when I came into the world. He needed radio hosts to be descriptive so that he understood exactly what was going on-especially when it came to sports. His favorite broadcasters were Cincinnati Reds stalwart Marty Brennaman and Atlanta Braves regular Skip Caray, son of Harry. My Grandfather was a staunch conservative (gee, I wonder where I get it from), and he also enjoyed his talk radio, and he knew good radio from stuff that just wasn't up to snuff.

One of the other influences that I had may surprise you: A television show, namely WKRP In Cincinnati, a late '70's sitcom about a third-rate radio station that was once a top-rated station looking to turn things around. What was amazing about this short-running show is how true-to-life it was about the radio business and even the lifestyle of people who work at a radio station. Having been there and done that, I can attest that the program took the life of DJs and radio people and made light and humor of it on a grand scale.

Yes, those are real pictures of Cincinnati. Having lived there for a couple of years, I can point out most of those landmarks and places in the opening theme to the reader. I can even tell where those people are crossing the street at (it looks to be the corner of Sixth Street and Main downtown). Just as in the television show, the radio business in most cities is extremely competative. In Cincinnati, it is a cutthroat affair, and one where Clear Channel rules the roost. (Note: I know there are a few people from the Cincinnati area who read my work. As much as I loved WLW, and still do, I felt the station went downhill when Clear Channel gained total control-as did the other Clear Channel stations in the town.) Good radio people are often over-worked, and put in extra hours of preparation before and work after their shows. I have heard some of the best radio personalities that America may never hear because the big conglomerates wouldn't give them a chance. They are underpaid for the amount of work they put in, and that is especially true for news and sports people-and at some small stations, the talent aren't paid at all,and have to find sponsors just to get on the air. Radio is truly a labor of love for those who involve themselves in it.

WKRP had many hilarious episodes, but my favorite has to be the very first one, where the station changes format from dry "elevator music" to what we in 2006 would call Classic Rock. Dr. Johnny Fever (Howard Hesseman) had to live with the sour music, and was overjoyed with the change, but didn't think he was quite up to doing rock anymore-at least not at first.

This was classic-it has also been the dream of many a DJ to "pull a Johnny Fever"...I can attest to that.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Bill Frist said more than he bargained for

In watching Bill Frist deliver his farewell speech the other day, I found the address to be somewhat predictable, as much of what Frist said, though bad by no means and certainly commendable, are things that are often said by Senate leaders as they depart the chamber for the final time. I thought his thank-yous were gracious as usual and I do believe the address was heartfelt, just that he said a lot of things that were to be expected.

In light of my recent comments on this weblog regarding the
17th Amendment and the problems with the direct election of U.S. Senators, there was one small portion of the speech that really stuck out:

“Speaking to the Convention, Virginia’s James Madison set forth the reasons to have a Senate: “’In order to judge the form to be given to this institution, it will be proper to take a view of the ends to be served by it. These were, first, to protect the people against their rulers; secondly, to protect the people against transient impressions into which they themselves might be led.’ “Let us remember this vision of the Senate—that the Framers established the Senate to protect people from their rulers, and as a check on the House and on the passions of the electorate. And let us not allow the passions of the electorate be reflected as destructive partisanship on the floor."

Frist is right that the founders established the Senate as a check on the passions of the electorate. To believe some people who commented on my
post at Kleinheider's, I am the great enemy of "democracy," as if this country was ever intended to be a democracy. Several generations of children have been sold the democracy lie-well I will tell you the truth-the United States of America was never founded to be a democracy. The founders of this country quite correctly understood that democracy is dangerous to liberty, so they placed safeguards in place, such as a Senate that was not popularly elected, to insure that we did not have democracy. We do not pledge allegiance "to the democracy for which it stands." Those of you who are fond of Yankee marching songs do not sing "The Battle Hymn of the Democracy." The Constitution of the United States does not "guarantee to every State in this union a Democratic form of Government."

There are those who are ignorant enough to say that I am playing with semantics-I am not. If the United States of America are in a democracy now, then we have strayed from the Constitution itself, our liberties are in great danger, largely because people can be easily swayed to believe what their popularly-elected leaders want them to believe. These folks will do what it takes, after all, to stay in office. Our freedoms are at the mercy of demogoguery. That's okay, though, we're a democracy-ain't it grand?

Lord, save us from our own collective short-sightedness. Bill Frist did not realize the weightiness of those few lines in his speech-but I did.


Immaculate Conception

A reminder to those readers who are Catholic that today is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a Holy Day of Obligation, wherein you are required to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. It is the patronal feast of the United States of America.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Declarations of War

Today, December 7th, commemorates the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the event which propelled the United States into the Second World War. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for all of the actions that he took that may have pushed our enemies into war (such as a peacetime draft and a military buildup before any commencement of hostilities) certainly did one thing exactly right: He went to the Congress and asked for a Declaration of War-something his successors have all failed to do. "Use of force" resolutions are not Declarations of War.

The difference in the national mentality between 1941 and today is quite stark. When Congress declared war in 1941, they asked for all of the collective resouces of the United States to be utilized in the name of defeating the enemies of America. As a result, all of our collective strength as a people was put into doing something for the war effort. Entire factories were changed over from making the products they normally made and were converted to make tanks, bombs, guns, jeeps, uniforms, helmets, packaging food for the troops-if it needed to be done for the war, people took it as their patriotic duty to help America bring the war to as speedy and successful a conclusion as possible. It wasn't a mere matter of giving this contract or that contract to this or that company (although companies certainly got war contracts). The entire nation was mobilized to do something. People quit using butter so the troops could have it-margarine was invented as a result. People grew "victory gardens" so that produce could be shipped overseas. People gave their rubber, aluminum, and other scraps over to make the materials of war. Civil Defense was mobilized to guard against attacks on the Continent-there was not a person alive in America left untouched by the war.

Yet in our "War on Terror" that we are told has the Iraq War as an extension, we are not being asked to truly sacrifice as a people. We are sending our men and women overseas and they are fighting and dying, and we are being told that there is a good reason for this undeclared war. If this reason is real, then put all of the people into the war effort and make us all sacrifice for the cause as our grandparents did in World War II. If this cause in Iraq is not worth the same level of sacrifice as the "
Greatest Generation" gave to win World War II, then perhaps it isn't worth the fight at all.

Freedom is not free, and causes that are right and just are worth fighting for-and they are worth mobilizing a nation to fight as well. If we aren't ready to fight a war as a nation, and our leaders are unwilling to tell us
Why We Fight, then is this a cause that is a matter of our freedom, or is it a bill of goods we've been sold?

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bringing Statesmanship back to the U.S. Senate

Yesterday I talked about the need to repeal the 17th Amendment and return to the original intention of the framers of the Constitution and allow federal Senators to appointed by State legislators. In addition to the reasons I discussed yesterday, all of which are valid in my mind, there is another reason that legislative appointment to the Senate might be considered: The quality of people we send to that august body.

In today's Senate, we have people on both sides of the aisle who hardly fit the mold of good stewardship or Statesmanship. Their concern with their voting record only extends as far as whether it might help them get re-elected or help them with future political ambition. When I think that the best Tennessee could do is Bob Corker or Harold Ford, Jr., it makes my head spin and nearly makes me want to vomit. I can think of at least ten people at various levels of State politics and in both parties that would make for a fine United States Senator. One of these was defeated in the Primary by Mr. Corker. The other nine, however, are persons who seem to be utterly disinterested in their own advancement (at least where federal politics are concerned) and seem more interested in the welfare of the State of Tennessee-that is the kind of person who should be serving in the U.S. Senate.

In years past, the Senate has given our nation some of the greatest figures, Statesmen, and heroes we have ever produced. People like Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, John Sherman, and Charles Sumner. From Tennessee came men like Andrew Jackson, William Blount, and Isham Green Harris. The politics of these men were radically different, but they were the best men their States could put forward at a time when they were needed the most.Contrast this with today's Senate. The best we can do are people like Ted Kennedy , Barbara Boxer, Bob Corker, and Mitch McConnell? In Tennessee's case, I would argue that we haven't had a real disinterested Statesman who really looked out for this State in the popular election era.

Our States have better men and women than this, and our legislators who are close to these people know who these men and women are. Let's give those folks a chance to really serve their home States in the Senate-where Statesmanship should be the rule of the day.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Restore the Republic-repeal the 17th Amendment

Adam Graham has written a great post at Where I Stand about an issue that I care deeply about but often feel like I am either A.) Preaching to the choir when I mention anything about it or B.) I get blank stares from people who don't understand the concept. Adam is right on the money that the 17th Amendment has been an absolute and utter failure. We need something we are not going to get in this country and that is a thorough national debate on whether the direct election of Senators has a good idea for our union.

When the framers of the Constitution designed Congress, it was specifically designed with two houses to deal with two very important issues-popular representation and State oversight. The larger States wanted popular representation based on numbers alone in both the House and the Senate because that would, of course, give them more clout. That was the gyst of the
Virginia Plan. The Connecticut Compromise was the plan under which the Constitutional government was formed, and it called for a House of Represenatives to be apportioned based on population. The Senate would be designed so that there would be an equal number of Senators from each State, and Senators were to be designated by their respective State legislatures because they were to represent the interests of not only their States, but the governments of those States as well. Senators served a six-year term, but were subject to recall by the same legislature that appointed them. The system was purposefully designed to reflect the interests of the population of the Union at-large (the House) and the interests of the States at the same time (the Senate).

In choosing to popularly elect Senators, we have perverted this intention of the framers. We have turned the Senate into a virtual carbon copy of the House, with the only difference being that there are two Senators for each State, except that Senators can filibuster legislation. Far worse, perhaps, is the reality that Senators today are virtually free from State oversight. The recall process, while legally possible, is in reality much more difficult in most States than it would have been for a State legislator to recall a Senator.

The most devastating side-effect of the popular election of federal Senators is that the importance of State legislatures and State government has been greatly diminished in the eyes of Joe Sixpack on the street. There are many voters who only vote in a Presidential election year and may vote for a Senator in that year. Many others do vote in all federal and State elections, but when they complain about the problems with government, they often blame whoever is in power in Washington for the problem when often part (and often all) of the blame may lay in Nashville. If Senators were chosen by the State General Assembly, elections for those Houses would suddenly become extremely important in the eyes of many voters. Who is selected for a federal Senate seat may be determined by who controls the State legislature-and accounts of elections in many States during the period of legislative Senate selection bears this out.

People would likely take a far greater interest in who their State Representative and Senator are, what those people's positions are on the issues that affect voters' lives, and of course who their man or woman is for the U.S. Senate. That doesn't diminish democracy-it enhances it at a State and local level-it localizes the federal government.

I should note here for skeptical liberals that had the vote been party-line,
Harold Ford Jr. would have been sent to the United States Senate from Tennessee by a vote of 69-62 (then again, if people knew that their legislature was selecting their U.S. Senator, perhaps the composition might be somewhat different).

We need greater power in the hands of the States, and the easiest way to guarantee that is to return to a system that was intended to make that happen.


Monday, December 04, 2006

A fine one to talk about ethics

In what is perhaps the most stunning piece of irony I have heard of in a long time, Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale can be found in this morning's Knoxville News-Sentinel talking about what a good idea the draft ethics proposal for County Governments formulated by the County Technical Assistance Service at the University of Tennessee:

"This is making certain there aren't any conflicts of interest you're voting on, by you or your family members," Ragsdale said. "It makes sure you don't get involved in taking gifts that influence policy. For example, every year the senior citizens present me with a cheese ball. I would not view that as a conflict. If they wanted to fly me to the Caribbean with hopes of getting a new senior citizen center, that would be a conflict."

Aside from stating the obvious (something that is already a conflict of interest both morally and legally) what is Ragsdale hoping to accomplish by putting this legislation into effect in Knox County? Mike Ragsdale is a fine example of ethics in government...I'm sure there is nothing specific in the new proposal to prevent County Executives from
sending their hirelings hacking after confidential intra-party e-mails in order that they might fish out potential political opposition, is there?

I'm not saying that these new ethics proposals are a bad idea-they aren't. What is at issue here is whether proposals like these are really going to change our political culture at the local level in Tennessee, an environment swimming with influence-peddling, dishonesty, greed, and even hatred in some cases. I know that when people have friends who work in government, they might put in a call to their buddies in order to get something done a little quicker or bring something to their attention-it happens, I have done it myself on several occasions. That will always happen in government as long as elected officials have real lives with families, friends, and a social circle. That is not the real issue here-the real issue is whether these local and State elected officials are out for their own advancement, or if they got into public life to serve their community, their State, the country, and the people they were elected to represent.

Not every State or local elected official in Tennessee is rotten-I am willing to be so bold as to say that most are well-intentioned and are in public life for all the right reasons. The problem is that we seem to put the rotten sorts in higher office and keep them there in large numbers. When we complain about ethics problems in government, before we run our mouths condemning politicians we ought to look in the mirror, because in many cases we are the people who vote these folks in and out of office.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bowl Championship Screwed-up

Well, leave it to USC to ruin the BCS National Championship picture by losing to UCLA yesterday. With USC out of the picture with two losses, the question now comes to the table as to who should face Ohio State in the National Championship Game January 8th.

The choices are 11-1 Florida, the newly crowned SEC Champion, and 11-1 Michigan, whose only loss is to Ohio State. I am partial to Florida because the Gators won their conference, Michigan did not do so. Then there is the notion that Michigan and Ohio State already played at the end of the regular season and Ohio State settled that score.

Granted, it would help the Big Ten if it had a 12th team so that it could split into divisions and have a Championship Game similar to the SEC. If it did, Michigan would not likely be in any position to remain in contention for a national title after losing to the Buckeyes.

We'll all find out tonight when the BCS Bowl selections are formally announced at 8pm Eastern. For the record, the Coaches poll has Florida in the number two spot.


First Sunday of Advent

Today is the First Sunday of Advent. As we both celebrate and anticipate the Lord's Advent, we should be reminded that as we prepare to comemorate the Lord's birth, His second Advent is a reality that will occur and we should live each y as if it could be the last day. We begin a new Year of Grace with the realization that it is purely by the grace of God that we live, breathe, and have our being.

It is quite common during the Advent Season in many years to hear readings that focus on John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ. While I am certain we will hear from the Lord's cousin at some point in this year's Gospel Readings for Advent (next Sunday in fact)-this Sunday the Lord speaks to us quite directly about His return:

Luke 21:25-36:
And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, by reason of the confusion of the roaring of the sea and of the waves; Men withering away for fear, and expectation of what shall come upon the whole world. For the powers of heaven shall be moved; And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud, with great power and majesty. But when these things begin to come to pass, look up, and lift up your heads, because your redemption is at hand. And he spoke to them in a similitude. See the fig tree, and all the trees: When they now shoot forth their fruit, you know that summer is nigh; So you also, when you shall see these things come to pass, know that the kingdom of God is at hand. Amen, I say to you, this generation shall not pass away, till all things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. And take heed to yourselves, lest perhaps your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly. For as a snare shall it come upon all that sit upon the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man.

I find it more than a bit timely that the Church chooses this reading in this cycle for the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Liturgical Year 2007. Of course no one knows the day or hour of Our Lord's return, and there have been many a man and woman in our age to say "Jesus is coming soon, the signs are here," and yet the Lord is not here just yet.

The Lord Jesus is indeed coming soon and all the signs that he
spoke about in the scriptures are present that would point to that reality. We somehow continue to try and place God in human timeframes, and that can't be done-God is everlasting, and in eternity there is no concept of time as we know it. Centuries pass by as a blink of God's eye-so when the Lord said "surely I come quickly" He wasn't kidding...if He were to return today, 2,000 years is awfully quick to Him. As believers we need to get it through our head that God does not operate on our human timescale. That said, the signs are indeed here and the Lord will return very soon-just recall that God's timing of what constitutes "soon' and "quickly" is nothing like our own.

Advent is also a good time to reflect on our sinfulness, our failings, and our general unworthiness to receive the Lord. In this respect, St. Paul and I have a lot in common. Paul said that he was "chief among sinners," and I say the same. In this vein, I speak with no hypocrisy. My wife often admits to me that she wonders about what I say in the confessional because when we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, my confessions are notoriously longer than hers. I am a Christian, and I love the Lord, I love the Saints, I love Our Lady-but I am far from perfect, though I strive every day for it, I fall short often enough. Advent is a good time to remember that we very often fall short of doing what is right, of living the kind of life on a daily and hourly basis that the Lord expects of us, and that the Lord came as a Man so that we could be reconciled to God in spite of ourselves.


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