Saturday, February 24, 2007

Beginning the world over again

On my internet radio show yesterday, I had Nashville blogger and former NBC News Southeastern correspondent Sharon Cobb as a guest. What made Sharon's appearance so unique is that it wasn't merely a matter of me having a Democrat on the program-Sharon and I come from completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. She is liberal enough that it can safely be said that she is to the left of the average Democrat on the ground in Tennessee.

In addition to discussing the upcoming Presidential Primaries (I had wanted the perspective of a Democrat after having two different Republicans on the show), we also discussed the power of the blogosphere.

We agreed that the elites within both parties aren't quite sure how to deal with the blogosphere. Prior to the advent of the blogosphere, people's involvement in politics was limited to what they might be able to do during an election year-unless they were an elected official or a candidate. The mainstream press filtered information through to the majority of citizens, and if you wanted to find information about what your legislators were doing, you needed to spend hours of time and perhaps do mountains of research. Now, that information is available to you at the touch of a button, and it empowers people to take a stand.

One of the things that I mentioned on the show was that the only thing I cared for in the case of Democratic U.S. Senate nominee from Connecticut Ned Lamont was that Lamont showed that the blogosphere could nominate a candidate. If liberals could do this with Lamont in Conecticut, conservatives in Tennessee could have done the same with Ed Bryant had we been united behind one candidate-the one major difference is that Bryant stood a likely chance at victory.

In the days of our forefathers, the printing press fell into the hands of the common man, and books-especially political tracts-became the way that ordinary folks of those days communicated their political ideas. The distribution of political tracts became so widespread on the American continent between 1760 and 1790 that such tracts helped spark the American Revolution, and the printed page was the way that constitutional government as we know it was promoted to the American people.

One of those pamphleteers was Thomas Paine, who once wrote that "we have it in our power to begin the world over again." The blogosphere is to us today what the printing press was in the mid-to-late 18th Century to the founders of our Republic. Like our founders, we can use this unique tool as a way to promote our ideas, and like them, we have the power (if we choose to use it) to begin the world over again.

Let us use that power wisely.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Sharon Cobb

Today's radio podcast is a wonderful hour-long interview with former NBC News correspondent Sharon Cobb about the Democratic Presidential Primaries-and a lot of other topics too.

Oatney On the Air-February 23, 2007


The blogging caucus controversy

The proposal from House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower for a "Bloggers' Day On the Hill" has created no small controversy among some on the Left that they may not be invited to this Republican Caucus event and some on the Right who say they won't attend because Bloggers' Day shouldn't be partisan.

As a matter of principle, I think there should be a day for bloggers in Nashville where everyone is welcomed, regardless of your political persuasion. If I were running things, this is what I would do. Caucuses ought to be free to have activities for bloggers as well, however. Let's face it, political bloggers tend to have a slant-We are liberals or conservatives, and tend to favor one party or the other. It is perfectly fine for the Republican Caucus to have a Bloggers' Day of their own considering that reality of the blogosphere.

What is not fine, however, is for the Democrats not to follow suit and have Bloggers' Day on their side. If they were intelligent about it, they would even want to do this on the same day(s) that the Republicans have their special recognition for bloggers. Pay close attention, liberals. Do you really think that Democratic House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh will consent to Bloggers' Day? I am not holding my breath, since the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus has not historically gravitated toward real openness. Sure, Naifeh put the General Assembly on the web, but he was reacting to a trend and the beginnings of a public outcry. It took the GOP getting a majority in the Senate before we started to see greater moves toward real open government and a reform of the General Assembly website to make it easier to look up (and for bloggers to report on) legislation.

As for how Bloggers' Day has been handled by the GOP leadership-I chalk this up, quite frankly, to House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower's inexperience with the blogosphere. As bloggers, we know that even though we may disagree with one another vehemently about issues, we tend to stick together when it comes to our free speech and free press rights, and my experience has been that we tend to stand up for one another and even befriend those on the other side. Those without experience in the world of what we do are not aware that inviting one side and not the other might raise serious eyebrows-dealing with the blogosphere is not the same as dealing with the traditional media. Perhaps Mumpower has this left to learn-but I am more than willing to give him credit for trying.

After our interview in January he asked me for a good list of conservative blogs, and I happily obliged him. If he isn't reading, I would bet his staff probably is. I think he wants to use the blogosphere as a means to energize the grassroots, but he is likely unsure as to the best way to do this. The Democrats should want the same thing, but I wouldn't expect it were I a Democrat or liberal blogger.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Blog Day controversy

Today's radio show deals with the latest controversy surrounding "Blog Day On the Hill."

Oatney On the Air-February 22, 2007


The never-ending chaos in Knox County

Chaos would seem to be the new rule for public service if you live in Knox County. Eight Commissioners and constitutional officers were ousted on January 31 when the Knox County Commission appointed their replacements since they were term-limited and had been replaced by vote of the Commission.

The Knoxville News-Sentinel, in its pious concern for
Mayor Mike Ragsdale the community filed suit against the Knox County Commission for violating the "sunshine law," legally known as the Open Meetings Act. If a judge rules that the County Commission did violate the Open Meetings Act, then Knox County Government would revert to its state prior to January 31, 2007, and Commissioners and constitutional officers (including the Sheriff and clerk) would need to be reappointed.

The KNS is right to call the Knox County Commission for its violation of the sunshine law-the violation did happen and that means that likely the results of the Commission appointment fiasco on January 31 will be overturned. I don't think there is any doubt, however, that the newspaper has motives of its own here. For the News-Sentinel, nearly everything that Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale does is gold, and this suit further enhances the buddy-buddy relationship between Ragsdale's office and East Tennessee's supposedly unbiased major metropolitan newspaper.

Mayor Ragsdale's reasons for wanting a special election, or at the very least a "redo" on the Commission appointments, has less to do with his concern for the desire of the people of Knox County to have public input into their government and more to do with his desire to keep people more friendly to the Sheriff's office off of the County Commission. Now the News-Sentinel says that it will drop its suit if the Commission reverts to government pre-January 31. A new fix is in-this time it appears to be a blatant attempt to engineer things so that the other side in the power struggle (the Knox County Mayor's Office) gets their way.

The scandal over term limits in Knox County has already made East Tennessee a political laughing-stock akin to Louisiana in the 1930's. Neither side in this struggle has the interests of the people at heart-the sentiments of the public are merely used as pawns in a political chess game in which both sides will use whatever means necessary to obtain and then maintain power. Those left hurting are the people that these so-called public servants are supposed to serve.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A penance on Ash Wednesday

It often seems that when you are trying to do the most good is when you get shot down. A week ago (plus a day now) I had scheduled with Adam Graham to do a podcast "conservative blogging class" yesterday around 3pm Eastern. However, what I was not betting on was that my old college friend Kevin O'Brien would not arrive here until Monday night (we had expected Kevin Saturday) for a visit after returning from his annual two week deployment.

To top it all off, shortly after Kevin's arrival, I seem to have contracted what I can only describe as "the crud," a disorder which seems to involve my sinuses draining and a very heavy amount of chest congestion. Since I felt fine except for a stopped up nose Tuesday morning, I decided it wouldn't do me any harm to commence a full day of entertaining SSGT. O' Brien.

As it turned out, by the time we returned to the house yesterday, I was having trouble breathing due to the congestion in my chest. Upon going to bed, I could barely breathe at all. I got up and took a very hot shower and this seemed to clear away the worst of the problem. I awoke with a tightness in my chest by I am breathing a bit easier (if laborious).

All of this presages the fact that it is February 21st, this year today is Ash Wednesday on the Catholic liturgical calendar-Lent begins on this day.

It is a penitential season when Christians are called to renew their lives of service to God, through returning in a more vigorous way to the continual virtues of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving to the poor and less fortunate. Customarily, in addition to rededicating ourselves to these virtues, we also have some sort of penitent act that indicates our own sorrow for our sins and shortcomings.

I suppose my Lenten penance involves being reminded of what it is like to be sickly the way that I was when I was young. I am still going to try and carry on as full a day as I am able-it is part of the sacrifice, I think.

This is the nature of sacrificing for others, and even for yourself-hardship refines you and makes you a better person


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Bloggers On the Hill

I have been discussing the idea of Bloggers' Day On the Hill with Kara Watkins, House Republican Press Secretary.

Here is a tentative schedule:

Monday-- Bloggers can attend session at 5pm
Tuesday-- Bloggers are invited to coffee and donuts reception in the Leader's office; all reps would be invited to drop by that morning as well to meet and greet.

Tuesday, all day is committees, so I would be able to kind of direct/escort those bloggers around that wanted to visit certain committees; also, this would be a good time for bloggers to sit down and talk with individual reps in their offices.

A late March date seems to be the Leader's first choice. Do any bloggers have ideas of when a good date would be?


Monday, February 19, 2007

Dinner wrap-up

Today's podcast is a review of the Jefferson County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner.

Oatney On the Air-February 19, 2007


Conservative bloggers meet up at Jeff County Lincoln Day

Saturday night's Jefferson County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner was not unlike other such festivities around Tennessee, except that not every such event will have a table filled with some of the area's most notable bloggers. A lot of thanks ought to go out to Mike Faulk for making that happen, because he felt that the blogging community needed to have a little recognition for the unsung work he feels we collectively do for the conservative cause. He invited Nicole and I to join him at the Jeff County Lincoln Day, and Terry Frank, Stacey Campfield, and Rob and Angela Huddleston joined us as well.

Nicole and myself arrived first among Faulk's invited guests, and very shortly after Mike led us to our table, Stacey came in with Terry Frank in toe (Lee, it turns out, was not feeling very well). Stacey had expressed some hesitancy about attending, and I think he feared some kind of party backlash among those who thought he was grandstanding on his abortion legislation. I reminded him that this was Jefferson County we are talking about, where they proudly boast of being the reddest county in a red State, "I believe you will be a celebrity among this crowd," I said. It turned out that I was right, and I will explain more in a bit.

I should mention that Chairman Hobart Rice seemed genuinely glad to have us there, and Nicole and I were the only Jefferson County residents at that table. Chairman Rice made certain that I got a card and had all of his contact information-greeted us as we entered and begged us to please be careful of the weather (it did not co-operate) as we left. Indeed the weather was so bad here that I wondered several hours beforehand whether the dinner would happen at all.

My wife Nicole and myself with our next State Senator, Mike Faulk.

While the snow was keeping things cold outside, the atmosphere at our table was warm and friendly. Rob Huddleston got a choice seat immediately next to me. This creates a problem because whenever Rob and I get together, it is a giant chatterbox. My wife commented on the way home that she felt badly for Stacey...he got the seat to her right and that didn't put him in on the continual chatter and she said she could tell that he wanted to be. The table was large and square, and was large enough that it made it impossible for all of us to carry on a conversation at once. Mike Faulk later commented to me that he was sorry we all could not have visited more than we did. Even though the logistics made a large-scale conversation impossible, we did all get to talk to one another-just some more than others.

Frank Niceley introduced the Lt. Governor. He pointed out that power is finally shifting to East Tennessee and said "we aren't asking for more than our share, we just want our share." He called Ramsey's election by the Senate "a political earthquake" that "slid all the power from West Tennessee" and sent a bit more in our direction, making things evenly distributed.

Governor Ramsey impressed me deeply-I believe he is a man of sincerity and conviction. He said that change is afoot in Nashville and one of the first things he mentioned would change is that "pro-life legislation will be given a fair hearing in the Senate," and he mentioned Stacey Campfield by name. He said that he asked his wife if, back when she married him, she imagined in her wildest dreams that they would be where they are today. "I don't know aren't in my wildest dreams." The line produced raucus laughter. He said that for him, politics was not a job, it was a calling. You could tell that Ramsey has a real sense that he is doing the Lord's work, and he seems to conduct himself with that in mind.

Ramsey introduced David Davis. Davis' speech was a good one-to be honest, it was far better than I had expected. His points about immigration were spot on, and he said he was going to push for a pardon for the border control agents who are being held in prison for doing their duty. He then said that if the President would not pardon these men, he would lead the way in trying to find out if there was any way that Congress could exercise a similar power.

Davis also discussed being unabashedly and unashamedly pro-life. He also mentioned Stacey Campfield.

The one part of his speech that did not agree with me was his war line. He continually uses the phrase "cut and run" in a way that sounds like an echo chamber for the administration. If Davis believes that the war in Iraq is prosecuted for good reasons, fine (well not fine...but he would not be alone in that belief) but we cannot pretend things are going well in Iraq. This is the First District, his seat is safe (in theory), and that means that like Jimmy Duncan, he can be critical of the administration without giving the Democrats traction. I would venture to say that voters here have come to expect that independence in their Congressman. If Davis has a plan for how to improve the situation in Iraq (no, stay the course does not work) now would be the time to present that.

Congressman Davis is right that radical Islam is an enemy to our religion and our way of life. However, he compares Iraq to Korea or Vietnam, and seems to take the attitude that we will lose out if we do not "finish the job" in Iraq-in fact he used those words and pointed to Korea and Vietnam as examples of that policy. Whether one believes we should have gone to war in Korea or Vietnam, there were ways to win those wars militarily and we did not utilize the proper strategy. There is no way to achieve military victory in Iraq as we understand it without total genocide-and that is the difference, and it is why Davis' war argument is seriously flawed.

Congressman Davis' other great problem is articulation. I agree with nearly all of his other positions aside from his war stance, but he articulates himself poorly. You can get away with that in the General Assembly, but in Congress it will come back to bite you. I do think that he is probably somewhat aware of this problem, which would explain his inordinately high number of early floor speeches-practice perhaps?

Rob Huddleston and myself

One person of note who was there and whose presense was very odd was Van Hilleary. I could not help but wonder why Van came, but he was introduced with the other dignitaries. I didn't notice him speaking to many folks aside from Chairman Rice and a few people at the head table, and he left very early and did not socialize.

The real action occured after the speeches were over. Davis' District Director, Paul Chapman, sought me ought and apologized for not having answered me for some months after he had begun a correspondence with me of his own initiative after the November election. He gave his card and all kinds of contact information. Davis' staff were working the room really good, and I talked to a couple of them in the course of the evening and discovered that apparently this weblog is read in certain quarters among the good Congressman's staff.

Congressman Davis did come over and shake everyone's hand and said he was glad to see us. I am quite certain that if he did not know who I was, his staff made him aware. I had wanted to talk to him some more, but by the time he got to us, he was clearly on his way out.

Meanwhile, Stacey had become preoccupied. I had wanted to get everyone together for a group picture, but Stacey had admirers and supporters coming up to him when the rest of the group was free to do this and I was free to talk to him, and when he was finally free, I was in the middle of a conversation. If you don't think Stacey Campfield is now well thought of in conservative circles in this State, you should have seen him Saturday night.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Frank Cagle for the first time. I have long admired Frank's work from a distance, but the man is as admirable in person as in print-I also got the impression that he had read some of my work, though he did not speak of it specifically.

One person who did was Frank Niceley. This was the first time we had met in person, but Niceley is a man who would be hard not to like even if you didn't like his politics. He comes across as a real down-home sort of person, and he has a charm that reminds me of my Granddaddy-that's a high compliment. He also admitted that he reads my blog (and he brought that up, not me), and he invited me to Nashville as soon as I could come. He also made sure I had all of his contact information and let me in on when the best times are to contact him personally-since I am a constituent of his.

I am not sure if Mike Faulk was gladhanding, or if the folks just wouldn't leave him alone, or both-but he seemed to be constantly talking to someone during the post-speech social hour. He personally introduced me to one of the people he was talking to, Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey. When I tell you I got a good impression of Ramsey, that was cemented during our all-too-brief meeting. I asked Ramsey a tough question-what the difference was between what Mike Williams did, and how he became Speaker Pro Tempore, and what Rosalind Kurita did, and how she became Speaker Pro Tempore. "There is one key difference," Ramsey said, "Mike Williams, a member of the majority, voted to keep the minority in power. Rosalind Kurita voted that the majority should be the majority." He further pointed out that Mike Williams was given the post of Speaker Pro Tempore after having decided on his own to support Wilder-leading me to believe that Speaker Pro Tem was put on the table for Kurita, but she would not have jumped if she did not want Wilder gone. Ramsey also said that very few people knew that there was a deal in the works with Kurita, but one person who did know was Jason Mumpower.

The Lieutenant Governor and I shook hands as he left. His eyes hinted at an inner integrity and his smile was spoke to his happiness with his calling in life. I think the man believes he has a purpose to do right by the people.

Mike Faulk and I talked for a couple of minutes before he left and I made sure to get a snapshot of the two of us for the occasion. I told him how much I appreciated the invite. Should Mike choose to run for the State Senate (a move that I think is now all but certain), I will be glad to help him in whatever way I can.

Before we left, Chairman Rice handed me his contact information, and I told him I would be interested in one of the Precinct delegate or alternate positions in my precinct as the Jefferson County Party reorganizes. Ultimately, that isn't really up to me so we will see what comes of it.

Rob, Angela, Nicole, and I walked out together, again the chatter continuing (the conversation with Rob is always good). The last bit had to do with Mark Albertini's alcohol problem. Rob and Angela waited with me so that I would not slip on the ice as Nicole brought the truck around.

From left to right: My wife Nicole, myself, Mike Faulk, Angela Huddleston, Rob Huddleston, and Terry Frank.

Stacey wasn't in this picture when Cecile snapped it because he was in the middle of a conversation. He was one of the most popular guests of the evening. Before the dinner, Stacey pointed out that a well-placed bomb could take out East Tennessee's biggest conservative bloggers in one fell swoop.

This photo courtesy of Hawkins County GOP Chairman Cecile Testerman


Welcome Jim Bryson

Our 2006 Republican nominee for Governor "Big Jim" Bryson has started a blog, Tennessee Front Porch.

The mainstream media may have seriously overlooked Bryson, but I can promise you that if he keeps his blog regularly updated, the blogging community will not-and yes, Senator Bryson, the press reads blogs.

Welcome to the conversation (and our blogroll) Jim Bryson!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Daytona 500 and college basketball

Today's show is the Sunday Sports Final with guest co-host Matt Daley

Oatney On the Air-Fubruary 18, 2007


Ramsey impressive

Both Nicole and I throughly enjoyed last night's Jefferson County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner last night-and I will have a full description (complete with pictures) tomorrow. I will start by saying this: Our new Lt. Governor is the real deal folks, I was deeply impressed by the man. So was my wife, and she is not an overly political person. For Ron Ramsey to have impressed her is a sign that he is no ordinary politician.

David Davis
made a reasonably good speech that I assume is his stump speech on the Lincoln/Reagan Day circuit-I will have plenty to say about that, too.

I want to thank Mike Faulk for graciously inviting us to his table.


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