Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Supreme Court ruled

Today's radio podcast is a reaction to the Tennessee Supreme Court's ruling on the Knox County Charter yesterday.

Oatney On the Air-January 13, 2007


Retaliation for murder

Nashville has sometimes been called "Hillbilly Hollywood" because any young man or woman in the South with any discernable singing talent longs to go to Nashville and launch a country music career. Making it to the Music City is tantamount to making the big time on broadway in a cultural sense. A great deal of the reason for this is because of the institution of the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry is the longest running radio program in the world, it began in 1925 and continues every Friday and Saturday night on Nashville's WSM Radio-to achieve Opry membership is generally seen as the pinnacle of a successful country music career-perhaps only the Country Music Hall of Fame carries as much prestige as does the Opry, and that only because most Hall of Fame inductees were Opry members first.

That's what makes country singer Stonewall Jackson's age discrimination allegations so galling. Unfortunately, they are also believable. I am not associated with the Opry, nor am I one who actually works on music row, but I can tell you from having observed as a country music afficionado and lifelong fan that Nashville's atmosphere has indeed changed, and as the Travis Tritt son goes "Country Ain't Country No More." The great old talents of the genre are no less talented today in most cases than they were in their prime. In the case of the offending Opry General Manager Pete Fisher, his goal is apparently to "appeal to a wider audience."

I am not opposed to all change, contrary to popular belief. As times change, country will slowly change with the times where change is appropriate. However, you can't add new branches to a tree by destroying the roots of that tree-destroy the roots of the tree and the branches will also die. I believe Stonewall Jackson when he says that he was told by Mr. Fisher that he was "too old" and "too country." You actually hear those words floating around some quarters in Nashville (usually from outsiders)-too country. If you don't want to be country but would rather be something else, try Los Angeles or New York.

The Opry is perhaps the crown jewel in Tennessee's many contributions to the lexicon of American music. So important is the Opry to the music world that the late James Brown believed that one of the highest honors bestowed upon him was being asked by Porter Wagonner to appear on the Grand Ole Opry-an honor previously unheard of for an African-American who did not have a country music background. It was revolutionary at the time, and people winced, but the Godfather fully understood the Opry's place as a living shrine to American music-exactly why he was so honored to do a number there.

Many different kinds of musicians and even different kinds of music have made their way to the Opry stage, but only recently (relatively speaking) has the Opry began to lose sight of its roots, and some would say its very soul. Artists like Stonewall Jackson are the foundation that built country music. These greats do not deserve to be thrown aside as mere items for Trivial Pursuit. Country music can't remain country if the roots of the tree are killed. For once, I'm all for fighting to keep the roots in the ground-go Stonewall!


Friday, January 12, 2007

Unfortunate side effect of the Knox County Charter ruling

One of the most unfortunate downsides of today's Tennessee Supreme Court ruling on the Knox County Charter will be the departure of Sheriff Tim Hutchison. Hutchison has been one of the few Knox County public officials to relentlessly pursue the truth in the Tyler Harber Affair. After Hutchison is gone, my bet would be that the new Sheriff in Knox County will not pursue the issue with near as much resolve as Hutchison did.

I would also be willing to wager money that Mike Ragsdale is rejoicing on the scale of Sir Edward Heath, who shouted "rejoice, rejoice, rejoice" when Margaret Thatcher was deposed from the Conservative Government she led in Britain.


KnoxCounty Charter is valid-I'm so glad I now live in Jefferson County

In a surprising "oh s**t" moment, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the Knox County Charter is valid, and booting eight Knox County Commissioners, the Sheriff, the County Clerk, and County Trustee Mike Lowe.

Let the Chaos begin!


The Charter mess

Today's radio show discusses the term limits controversy and the Charter mess in Knox County in detail. I thought this would be quite pertinent since the Tennessee Supreme Court is set to rule on the validity of the Knox County Charter this afternoon. I discuss the reality that no matter which way the Court might rule on this matter, the people of Knox County will be the ultimate losers-since either way the Court might rule could create some form of Governmental chaos in Knox County.

I also discuss Rep. Jason Mumpower's speech from the floor of the State House yesterday.

Oatney On the Air-January 12, 2007.

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An opening shot straight at Hogg

House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower was kind enough to send me a copy of his opening remarks to the House, which were a response to Boss Hogg's opening address Tuesday after being re-elected as Speaker. I have to admit, I was surprised and impressed at just how gutsy the speech actually was. Here are some of the juiciest bits and my thoughts on them:

Mr. Speaker, I’ve heard it said that “great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss things. [And,] small minds discuss people.”

I rise today, not to discuss people, those of us who were - or who were not - assigned to various House committees or appointed committee chairmen.

This is an opening shot straight at Speaker Naifeh. While Naifeh talks the language of bi-partisanship, in practice he runs the House as if it is his personal fiefdom. The people that he wants in chairmanships are who gets appointed to them, and unless it happens to be one of those Republicans who takes a "go along to get along" attitude with Spinnin' Jimmy, it is hard for a Republican to get a hearing with the man. As Mumpower told me in our interview, that is one of the privileges of being in the majority-which is true. Naifeh, however, speaks the language of power sharing while he does not practice what he preaches, and that is the problem.

Many political pundits thought the same would be true for the Tennessee House. With House Republicans facing a deficit of 9 seats vacated by the retirement of our incumbents, some predicted us to return with only 40 Republican members of this body.

But, Mr. Speaker, House Republicans took a stand on those issues of importance to our constituents and we asked for their trust in our efforts to stand up for their values and beliefs.

The remarkable record of retaining House seats when we were supposed to lose them was, I had said here, a reason to keep Mumpower's predecessor on as Leader. He recognizes how miraculous the accomplishment is. If he acts in practice the way he talks in this speech, we will not call Mumpower "Leader." Instead, we may soon address him as "Mr. Speaker."

And now, House Republicans in Tennessee, not losing one single seat in this chamber, have a mandate from the citizens in our districts to reform the state’s immigration laws, to improve our state’s education system, and to make sure Tennessee is a low tax state. Let me make clear, a statewide property tax is a non-starter with House Republicans.

Obviously, Mumpower gets no disagreement from me on this score. If I had been in his shoes, I might have mentioned that an income tax in any way, shape, fashion, or form is not either-just for good measure.

And as I close, Mr. Speaker, I recognize for myself and wish to highlight for all members here, that according to Machiavelli, “It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”

House Republicans have certainly had long experience with the old conditions of state government. But, a new dawn has risen and a new order of things is at hand. And I, on behalf of the House Republicans, am anxious and ready for the challenge of leading change and am confident in our success.

Mumpower told me he was "sick" of being in the Minority. These remarks sound as if he is taking an all-or-nothing attitude for his tenure as Leader-Majority or Bust. As Kleinheider has said on more than one occasion, the Republican wave is coming. The only question at this point is whether that wave will occur before or after the 2010 census. Mumpower has four years to insure that we (the GOP) get our majority before Naifeh and his minions can try to gerrymander it away.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iraq and Tennessee Democrats

Today's radio podcast gives an hoest assessment of the war in Iraq in the wake of the President's speech last night. We also examine Democratic reaction to the Republican takeover of the Tennessee Senate.

Oatney On the Air-Jaunary 11, 2007


The plan...for what exactly?

The President's plan for "success" in Iraq is, it seems to me, a non-plan. From a raw political point of view, it is a non-starter even among many Republicans and conservatives. From a military point of view, if "victory" or "stability" was the goal of this war from the beginning, troop levels should have been massive from the beginning of this conflict-we needed something on the level of the First Gulf War in terms of numbers.

When the war began, I remember having the discussion with my Dad as to what would happen in Iraq. Dad is, like his Dad before him, an Army man. He long ago left the Army, but I don't think the Army has ever left him. When I was growing up, Dad was the man to talk to in the house about any matters military-as a former staff NCO stationed at Fort Knox, my Dad could tell you what was happening on the ground or going through the mind of the foot soldier better than anyone that I knew of.

When the war began, I remember asking my Dad in a conversation on the phone how he thought the war would go. He plainly said "in the beginning it will appear as though we have won." He explained how he believed our troops will march straight to Baghdad with little resistance. He compared the situation, though, to the German advance into Russia in 1941, when German panzer divisions surged deep into the country with little resistance and believed they, too, were essentially victorious. When the Germans made it as far as Moscow and Stalingrad, the people began to resist and winter set in. The Iraqi people clearly do not want us there, and our "Russian winter" would seem to be the ongoing terrorist insurgency that is often led by people who are not Iraqis at all.

One hundred and fifty thousand troops is simply not enough of an invasion force to conquer an entire country-we needed three times that number. On top of that, we have not finished another war that we needed to finish to really win the war on terror: As a result of our negligence of a far more important conflict, the Taliban are making a serious comeback in Afghanistan.

The way out is now uncertain, but I am quite certain that as far as Iraq goes, the United States should never have found a "way in" to begin with.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Kurita, Ramsey, Williams, and Faulk

Today's radio podcast discusses, among other things, what Rosalind Kurita's motus might have been for voting for Ron Ramsey. We also discuss the future of Mike Williams and Mike Faulk.

Oatney On the Air-January 10, 2006


History made-local press doesn't care

Tennessee's new Lieutenant Governor is still the talk of the blogosphere, but what really got me going was the fact that when this first happened, it was not treated as a major story in the Knoxville press. Granted, there was the horrible specter of a murder that rightly should have been the top story, but Ramsey's election by the State Senate was way down the list. I watched the news on WBIR last night at six and WVLT at eleven and the history-making story was way down the list. On the six o'clock news, the newscast went through two advertizing cycles before Ramsey's election was mentioned.

"Blah blah blah blah blah...oh, we have a new Lt. Governor."

To be fair, the State Senate vote did get top billing in the News-Sentinel today.

A change of power on the Hill in Nashville should always be big news, no matter what the historical connotations just happen to be. In this case, however, it is big news because this is the first time Tennessee has had a Republican Lt. Governor who rose to power legitimately (I would seriously question the legitimacy of anyone who served during Reconstruction considering the sheer number of Tennesseans who had been citizens of the State who were denied the right to vote during that period), and the first since 1869. It is huge news, and considering that Ramsey is from East Tennessee, you would think East Tennessee media would be all over it. It just shows the twisted nature of East Tennessee's mainstream press. They know this is a Republican area, and since they don't favor the GOP (and worst of all, the conservative wing) they dismiss or downgrade any good news that happens to Republicans, especially in Nashville. This is not merely a case of being far-removed and isolated from the business of the State capital. This is 2007, not 1807, and I have access to everything that goes on in Nashville at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse.

There are those who do not, however, and the press here seems Hell-bent on keeping access from the people in an era when they themselves enjoy that access in their newsrooms. That is why blogs are becoming so important-more people have access to this medium through public access to the internet in schools and libraries. Though our reach is still relatively small, it is growing-and blogs are one of the best sources of coverage around for the General Assembly. As the mainstream press continues to fail in doing its job, I expect the influence of Tennessee's blogging community to grow.

I do think that Jason Mumpower may have known on Monday when I interviewed him that something was up with Rosalind Kurita in the Senate Speaker vote.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It started with an audible gasp-Lt. Governor Ramsey

By now, nearly everyone in Tennessee's blogosphere is aware of the historic events that occured today in the Tennessee Senate. It would be the case that on such an important day in the history of our State, Blogger was down for an extended period. This proved to be significant because I had planned to live blog the Senate session this afternoon, at a time when the words I write here would have had a bit more impact-largely because you the reader would have been able to glean the precise nature of my reaction to today's events in Nashville.

Even though the problems with Blogger did not allow me to blog events live as they were occuring (and Talkshoe was down so I could not be on the air as the Senate was in session), I was able to watch the Senate session live.

Did anyone else catch the prayer from that African-American lady preacher? I believe that was the longest invocation at any public meeting that I have ever seen. I'm not saying it was bad-quite the contrary. I am glad that someone is unafraid to invoke the name of Christ in the halls of power. After all of that rebuking the devil, casting out of demons, and denouncing the spiritual enemies of the State, I was beginning to believe I was watching a televangelist on TBN at a Sunday Service. When the prayer finally ended, I was called back to reality when Speaker Wilder called for the roll, and Senators signified their presence by electronic divice.

I knew something was up when the Democrats called for a recess to have a Caucus meeting in the Speaker's Room. Any meeting the Democrats (or the Republicans) needed to have should have been taken care of before the Senate met today. Wilder called for a voice vote on the yeas and nays on the recess motion and I don't know if the ayes really had it or not, but Wilder said so. I figured the Democrats were either trying to pull some shenanigans or they didn't have the votes to re-elect Wilder.

When the Senate returned, Mike Williams presided over the election of Speaker and Lieutenant Governor. I thought of the irony of that since it was Republican Williams' turncoat vote that kept Wilder in power. As the voice vote commenced, I was shocked as Jerry Cooper decided to vote for Wilder after he reportedly demanded that Wilder step aside in the sudden caucus meeting the Democrats called. However, the shock came when Rosalind Kurita, one of the most liberal Democrats in the Tennessee Senate, voted for Ron Ramsey. I don't know exactly why, but I have heard from a couple of sources that she was peeved at Wilder for pushing many of her bills to the back burner, and at the way the Democrats treated her during the U.S. Senate Primary. Whatever her reasoning, her vote both doomed Wilder and produced an audible gasp in the room and a smattering of applause. Mike Williams' vote for Ron Ramsey assured that he (Williams) may be re-elected-especially since the vote did not come down to him.

When it was over, Ron Ramsey had won-and I have to wonder if Jason Mumpower knew something of this when I interviewed him yesterday. So ended the reign of the longest-serving leader of an elected legislative body in the world.

Oatney On the Air-January 9th 2007 (Before the Senate vote)

Oatney On the Air-January 9th 2007 (After the Senate vote)


Will Wilder survive again?

Today we will find out just how much staying power Lieutenant Governor John Wilder actually has. In my pre-interview phone conversation with him, Tennessee House Minority Leader Jason Mumpower called Republican turncoat Mike Williams a "lost cause," but he said nothing about whether any Democrats might cross over in a similar way to what Williams did in the last session and is likely to do today.

Mumpower is close to Senate Majority Leader Ron Ramsey, John Wilder's nominated Republican opponent. Ramsey is, Mumpower admits, the man who is largely responsible for his entry into politics to begin with. Because of their close relationship, I think that the learned observer can reasonably assume that Mumpower would have some knowledge if there were some backroom negotiations to get a Democrat or two to vote for the Republican Leader. In our radio interview yesterday, Mumpower hinted at the fact that such negotiations may indeed be taking place, but of course he was not definitive-he called the situation "delicate."

This much appears to be the situation: Senator Jerry Cooper won't vote for Wilder. The indicted Senator sought "help" from Wilder to secure a bank loan for the buyers of his lumber mill. This ultimately lead to a federal indictment for bank and mail fraud, as Cooper was accused of securing the loan under false pretenses. Cooper says that Lt. Gov. John Wilder, a BankTennessee Director, told him that he would help him. Wilder later claimed he did not talk to Cooper about the loan. I tihnk it is fair to say that Cooper has reason to blame John Wilder for part of his troubles. The only question at this point is whether he will abstain from the vote, or give Ron Ramsey 17 votes.


Monday, January 08, 2007

The Mumpower interview

Last night I was finally able to corner Rep. Jason Mumpower via telephone. In the irony of ironies, Mumpower tried to call me first (yet more phone tag), but I was on the air with the Sunday show when he tried to get through. As soon as the show was over, I returned Mumpower's call, and he answered the phone himself.

I'd say we had a good phone call. He got the initial question set that I had sent him, and said that he didn't think that any of the questions I was asking were unfair-Rep. Stacey Campfield had told me that when he spoke to Mumpower about doing an interview with me that Mumpower expressed a fear that I would "submarine" him. I never had any intention of doing so, and I think Mumpower probably figured that out during the course of what I think is a very candid and straightforward interview.

I do come away with the impression that Mumpower is uncomfortable with the blogosphere, but that is a fear that remains unspoken-I think it is something you can hear between the lines. After hearing Mumpower out, I can't help but wonder if this is a fear based merely in the reality that Mumpower doesn't know how to handle the new medium, or the new political influence on State and local politics that comes with it-in this regard he may be no different than many other politicians on both sides of the aisle. Mumpower says he is not a blog reader, and claims never to have seen a blog until he saw
Stacey Campfield's.

Whether he is uncomfortable with the blogosphere or not, he was extremely co-operative in setting up the interview. He was willing to accomidate me in every way possible with the exception of writing out written responses, which I had intended to post here when I received them. He was quite clear that he didn't have time for that, but that he would consent to a radio interview-so long as that interview were recorded. Mumpower also invites all bloggers who have questions about him or his tenure as Leader to call him-directly. One thing I'd love to hold him to is the idea of "Blog Day on the Hill." He first mentioned it to me in our phone conversation last night-so I brought it up to him today.

Mumpower also indicated a willingness to return to the show, so look for a sequel-perhaps sometime in March or April.

Oatney On the Air-January 8th, 2007 (Exclusive interview with State Representative Jason Mumpower-Republican Minority Leader)

Here is the original question set I had sent Mumpower which both he and I referenced on the show:

1. What motivated you to run for the House Republican Leadership?

2. As you are probably aware, many grassroots conservatives in Tennessee were disappointed at Bill Dunn’s defeat as House Minority Leader. Conservative bloggers, including myself, former Anderson County Republican Chairwoman Terry Frank, Knoxville Attorney and conservative activist Rob Huddleston, Nashville conservative activist and blogger Bill Hobbs, and even the far more moderate (and some would say liberal) Roger Abramson were all in agreement initially that Dunn’s defeat was bad news for the Republican Party at the State level.

We are not, for the most part, privy to the thought process of all members of the Republican Caucus, however. How would you do things differently than your predecessor?

What could you do differently (aside from the obviously better goal of attaining a Republican Majority in the House) that might better advance a conservative agenda?

3. How do you respond to the rumor circulating in the blogosphere that House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh and his cronies in the Democratic Caucus prefer you as Republican Leader to your predecessor?

(Perhaps you might give us an example here of why you think Naifeh is not so pleased that you are running the show for the GOP.)

4. Illegal immigration is one of the most difficult issues facing Tennessee today. In the last session of the General Assembly, Democrats killed a number of good bills-including legislation that required proof of citizenship to vote in Tennessee, and legislation that would have done away with the practice of issuing driving certificates to persons with no proof of citizenship.

How do you, as Leader, plan to move the Republican Caucus in a direction to address this vital issue for the future of Tennessee and the Union at-large?

5. The enactment of laws to protect property owners from seizure due to abuse of eminent domain laws (ex: seizing people’s houses and lands for “economic development” projects, or declaring someone’s property to be “blight” merely so that a government entity can seize it) was also a huge issue in the previous General Assembly. The legislation that was agreed upon, while certainly better than having nothing at all, was viewed by many people as not having done enough to protect private property in Tennessee.

Would you be willing to move legislation forward that would protect private property owners in a much more comprehensive way to insure property is not unjustly seized sans Victor Ashe?

6. Last year, Tennessee enjoyed a very large budget surplus. Many (myself included) would like to see an elimination of the sales tax on food in Tennessee for as long as the State is running such a high surplus. Will the GOP introduce legislation to that effect in this session?

7. Are you open to the introduction of legislation that expands Tennesseans’ right to keep and bear arms-such as laws that allow for greater freedom for concealed-carry?

Would you be willing to consider legislation in the future eliminating the registration of firearms in Tennessee?

8. You’ve made it clear that a State income tax is off the table for the Republican Caucus. Is the proposal that has floated out of some quarters of the executive branch for a Statewide property tax also off the table?

Considering Tennessee’s present fiscal health, should the GOP Caucus allow for any kind of tax increase to be on the table at all?

9. What further ethics reforms, if any, will you be pushing for in the new General Assembly?

10. It is January of 2009 and Republicans have control of both Houses of the General Assembly for the first time in the post-Reconstruction era. You have accomplished the ultimate goal of any Republican Leader-you, Jason Mumpower, are sworn in as Speaker of the House.

What are your first priorities going to be as Speaker of the House?

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Stay tuned for Mumpower

Sorry for the late post...we did a live interview with State Rep. Jason Mumpower this morning, and I will post that here, along with my thoughts, in about an hour.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

First Sunday sports show

Today's radio podcast was a long time in coming and produced a bit of a happy reunion. My old radio partner Matt Daley and I did our first sports show together in three years. From this point on, we've vowed to try and make one show a week, usually on a Saturday or Sunday, an all sports show. This doesn't mean the format of the show is changing, it will still be a primarily political program. I have decided, however to make at least one show a week focus on something other than things political. On top of all that, it was great to get together with an old friend and do a radio show again.

Oatney On the Air - January 7, 2007


Now go forth

Today marks the Baptism of the Lord, the traditional end of the Christmas season, as we hear the reading of Christ's Baptism in the Jordan in Luke 3:15-22:

And as the people were of opinion, and all were thinking in their hearts of John, that perhaps he might be the Christ;

John answered, saying unto all: I indeed baptize you with water; but there shall come one mightier that I, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to loose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire. And many other things exhorting, did he preach to the people. But Herod the tetrarch, when he was reproved by him for Herodias, his brother's wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done; He added this also above all, and shut up John in prison.

Now it came to pass, when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also being baptized and praying, heaven was opened; And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape, as a dove upon him; and a voice came from heaven: Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.

Some churches may celebrate the Epiphany today also, but the purpose is the same. Through the Epiphany, Christ first became known as Christ to men. In celebrating the Lord's Baptism today, we are reminded that we must take the miracle of Christ's birth that we mark at Christmas into the world, and use our faith in that miracle to do the work of God in the world-as Jesus did in being baptized in the Jordan.


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