Friday, April 20, 2007

People need to control themselves

Seeing the signs at Virginia Tech. Is "gun control" the answer? (Great discussion)

Oatney On the Air-April 20, 2007


Ethics and leadership in Nashville

Finally, a glimer of fairness from the editorial board of the Knoxville News-Sentinel, who have not always been fair to State Rep. Stacey Campfield. Today the KNS ran an editorial rightly saying that our legislators in Nashville do not take ethics seriously. They used the treatment of Rep. Brian Kelsey and Rep. Campfield earlier this week as prime examples.

As I pointed out, I really don't have a problem with the receptions themselves, since-as I pointed out-these events are open to most anyone hanging around the Plaza, not just legislators. They are a chance for legislators to become more informed about an issue-and someone who already has good morals and ethics (read: The kind of people who informed voters should be electing) is not going to let a free sandwich and Coke (or similar fare) sway their vote.

Alcohol, however, is quite another matter. If one legislator wants to take another one out for drinks and they happen to discuss a bill or two before a committee they both sit on, there is really nothing in Campfield's amendment that would have stopped that. Clearly, however, easing somebody up with their favorite adult beverage-free of charge-is a way to get them to say things and make deals or commitments they may not otherwise make. For lobbyists to have the ability to use strong drink to sway a legislator is a great concern.

Up to now I have refrained from overly harsh criticism of Jason Mumpower since our interview and since Bloggers' Day On the Hill. I thought that Mumpower treated us all with great kindness and civility, and I hope he'll renew the event next year. My desire to continue blogging events, however, must not interfere with what I see as a duty to state the obvious: Mumpower is not standing up for his members. He went out of his way to try and convince me (and since me, a lot of other folks) of his conservative credentials and his willingness to take on Jimmy Naifeh. Bill Dunn's loss was a hard pill for me to swallow, but after talking to Jason Mumpower, I became convinced that the ability to fight the establishment would not go to Hell under Mumpower's leadership.

In these waning weeks of the legislative session, it is not Mumpower's actions that have caused me to again question his willingness to fight for the majority that he claims to seek above all else, but his inaction. He has failed to defend the Caucus against the rudeness and parliamentary shenanigans that Speaker Naifeh has pulled and continues to utilize. A strong defense against these tactics will not stop them by itself, but will expose for the State and the world just what kind of Speaker Naifeh happens to be. Naifeh's rediculous tactics and the way that he has managed to kill legislation can be used as an issue in the 2008 legislative elections in a way that has never been done before, if Mumpower plays his cards right. That process could have begun with a strong Point of Order denunciation of Naifeh Monday night.

This unwillingness to fight Jimmy Naifeh does make one wonder: According to the House Journal for the First Organizational Day, Jimmy Naifeh received 59 votes for Speaker on the floor. Jason Mumpower received only 36. That means that six Republicans voted for Jimmy Naifeh over their own Leader. Bill Dunn would have experienced a similar phenomenon, since Naifeh has gotten many Republican votes before. These traitors to the Caucus did have the right to vote in the Leadership election (though I am of the belief that you ought not vote for Leader if you will not support them for Speaker in a minority situation)-I wonder who they voted for?

(Note: As has happened before, I am always willing to hear Jason Mumpower's side.)


Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Pope and Briley

The second anniversary of the election of Pope Benedict XVI. The miracle of Rep. Rob Briley (D-Nashville) amending legislation to loosen gun restrictions.

Oatney on the Air - April 19, 2007


Long Live the Pope!

Today, orthodox and believing Catholics everywhere celebrate the day when, two years ago, theological, political, and social liberals everywhere defecated upon themselves at this important announcement:

I remember my reaction when the Dean of the College of Cardinals announce the Holy Father's election. I screamed "WE GOT HIM, WE GOT HIM, WE GOT HIM-THANK YOU JESUS AND MARY!"

He has not the least bit been a disappointment. Every millisecond of his Pontificate has been a needed cleansing to the Church and a blessing to the world.


When not to elect

As many Tennesseans know, there has been a clamor among many conservatives in this State for both an elected Lieutenant Governor and elected judges. Insofar as the latter goes, I think that it is pretty evident from any reading of the Tennessee Constitution that our current method of selecting judges is unconstitutional. However, I am not certain that the general public is informed enough about our judicial system to make good choices-no matter what a particular voter or judges ideology may be.

This is a sad commentary about how poorly informed about government that the average citizen tends to be. Although the influence of the blogosphere is clearly increasing, political bloggers as a group tend to be far more informed than the rest of the population. I'd also be willing to bet the ranch that State Senators know these people better than we do. While the Constitution is clear that we should be electing our judges and we are not, I would propose that we take things a step further and amend the Constitution of Tennessee to allow for the Governor to appoint judges and the Senate to confirm them.

The similar movement in some quarters to elect the Lieutenant Governor is also misplaced, in my humble opinion. If we elect the Lt. Governor, and divorce the position from that of Speaker of the Senate, what sort of job will our Lt. Governor have? He or she would be a non-entity in day-to-day affairs of the State of Tennessee, and their primary job will be to simply wait and see if the Governor dies. Under our current system, our Lt. Governor, like his predecessor and all those before them serves as Speaker of the Senate, and is a State Senator with a real district and real constituents who he has to please. He serves an extremely valuable function in the affairs of the State.

He may have signed on to the proposal, but that doesn't necessarily make it a good idea. The Speaker of the Senate, whomever that may be, ought to continue to serve as Lieutenant Governor.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Intestinal fortitude

The Supreme Court decision in Gonzalez v. Planned Parenthood. Republican Leaders in the Tennessee House of Representatives need to Fight the Power.

Oatney On the Air-April 18, 2007


And so it begins...

All five Catholics on the United States Supreme Court voted this morning to uphold the federal ban on partial-birth aborticide. Justice Anthony Kennedy delivered the Opinion of the Court. Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito joined in the opinion. Thomas filed a concurring opinion in which Scalia joined.

And so it begins...

The long awaited beginning of the unraveling of Roe v. Wade started today with a bang. I suspect it will end with a whimper.

The wheels of justice may have been turning slow all these many years, but they are turning indeed.


Insuring fair and more fraud-proof elections

State Senator Bill Ketron has introduced a bill that which passed the Senate Monday that would require all persons to present a photo identification when entering a polling place to vote. Democratic reactions to the bill were predictable, with several members, including Beverly Merrero, railing on about how people who did not drive would not have proper identification. Senator Roy Herron complained that were the legislation to become effective, his 90 year-old mother would have great difficulty voting (even though the law which would allow her to procure an absentee ballot would not change under the proposed legislation).

I took offense to the idea that a non-driver can't get proper identification. As regulars to this blog and to my radio podcast may know, I am a non-driver by choice, preferring to put the safety of others before my personal desire to drive. Yet I have the two forms of identification needed to vote under this legislation: My voter registration card and a photo ID-issued by the State of Tennessee no less. Senator Merrero spoke of those who use public transit. As an old veteran of the public transit system in Knoxville, and someone who has ridden a bus in Nashville in the past, I speak truthfully when I say that if you can catch a bus to the shopping mall, you can catch one to a place where you can procure proper ID. In Knox County, there is even such a place at the mall (yes, the bus goes there)!

One area where I could see a problem is that of women whose name change due to marriage, as was pointed out during the debate. I propose a compromise here, even though it would cost the State a bit of money (we have upwards of a half a billion dollar surplus), it wouldn't be near as expensive as some of the Governor's other proposals and it would resolve the issue: Amend the final version of the bill to allow for all new voter registration cards to be issued with a photo ID. Those who have a current ID issued through your local Department of Public Safety office via your county clerk, your picture that is already in the system can be used on your voter registration card when it is mailed to you. Those few (like Senator Herron's mother) who can't get out to have a picture made, why can't someone from the local DPS office or County Election Commission come to your home at your request and snap your picture, then put the picture on your new card?

Yes, it would cost the State a bit of money. However, it would be a very small price to pay indeed to insure that our elections are free, fair, and that fraudulent voting practices are reduced to an
absolute minimum.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hokie sadness

The tragedy at Virginia Tech and its aftermath.

Oatney On the Air-April 17, 2007


Roll, roll, roll your bill

My beloved Representative Frank Niceley's crusade against mandatory participation in the USDA's Animal Identification Program seems to have taken yet another blow today before the House Agriculture Committee. Frank's bill has been rolled for yet another week, this time supposedly because some farmers were coming to testify about the bill and were supposedly coming to today's session.

These folks were told (I do not know by whom) that the bill would not be discussed today-how convenient. They were not present and hence Chairman Stratton Bone asked for the legislation to be delayed yet another week.

I am all for interested parties being able to testify before Committees of the House about legislation that pertains directly to them-in fact, I think it is a necessity. However, considering the crap that Frank has gone through just to get this legislation a hearing, I can't help but wonder if this is a delaying tactic so that the bill will be "rolled" right on into Summer Study Committee and out of existence in this session. This is all the more ironic considering Rep. Johnny Shaw's remarks in the same committee session about bills being rolled ad in fin item until the end of the session when the Committee's workload then becomes too great (he is right, by the way).

Anyone want to take bets on whether the supposed interested parties will show next Tuesday? If they do not, how long shall they roll the bill for this time?


Kelsey, Briley, and legislative shenanigans

Some readers to this weblog may think I am just being overly partisan when I speak of the arrogance of the Democratic majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives. At yesterday's session, that arrogance was on full display for the world to see.

Three amendments were introduced, two by Representative Brian Kelsey of Germantown, one by Representative Stacey Campfield of Knoxville. Kelsey's first amendment was a "bill in the form of an amendment" added to House Bill 2076 (which requires background checks for those entering teacher training). Kelsey's amendment would have created the long-awaited school choice initiative, allowing Tennesseans to use their tax dollars to send their kids to whatever kind of school they choose. No more would a parochial education, for example, be the purview only of those who can afford one.

It is no secret that the Democrats would attempt to stop this amendment from passing, since virtually the entire party is in the pocket of the public school teachers' union (not the students, not the parents, not even all teachers-the teachers' union). The Dems do not want to go on record as opposing this measure in Tennessee, since nearly every poll taken on the issue indicates that people support school choice, and the numbers get even higher the closer you get to urban areas-key Democratic constituencies. Jimmy Naifeh put his pet minion Rep. Rob Briley up to tabling the amendment.

Since I fully expected Kelsey's amendment to be tabled, I was less concerned with the fact that the amendment was about to be tabled and more concerned with the snotty and arrogant way that Rep. Briley addressed and treated Rep. Kelsey. The way that Rep. Kelsey introduced this legislation is a common parliamentary tactic, and it is one that the Democrats have used many times before. Hence, it is a double-standard for Briley to accuse Kelsey of introducing an "off-topic" amendment when it is something that happens all the time, with members saying "the topic of this bill is (whatever the broad topic is) and this amendment is about (broad topic). For once a Republican tried that tactic and was accused by a Democrat of straying off-topic. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

I do not know Rob Briley personally, he may be a very nice man-but he came across on the House floor as a stuck-up spoiled rich kid who has to have his way. Since he is from Nashville, it might do him well to know that this isn't a good persona to have with people from other parts of the State if he is ever interested in Statewide office-especially people from East Tennessee.

The right thing for Briley to do would have been to say "Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to this amendment..." and then explain all of his reasons, even the "off-topic" one. The right thing to do is not to stand up and try and run down your opponent. I won't say what my wife called Briley (the wealthy son of the former Nashville mayor) when she saw his conduct, but I will say that she was far less charitable than me.

I didn't agree with Kelsey's second amendment (to the imfamous Ulyses Jones Act) which would have banned legislative receptions. I thought it too harsh. I had lunch via one of these receptions while in Nashville and took a quick snack at another, and I noted that I was by far not the only non-legislator who was doing so. The receptions must be open to all legislators, so by fiat they are open to just about anyone else who happens to be there as well-I see no harm in them. I noted, however, that those rising to oppose this amendment could teach Briley a thing or two about parliamentary civility.

I did not find myself opposed to Stacey Campfield's amendment to ban free alcohol at these same receptions. As readers know, I have no problem with an adult beverage from time to time. However, I can easily see where a lobbyist or an overzealous constituent could use a Representative's love of Jack and Jim as a means to have their way with them. If a Rep. wants a drink, buy it yourself. Immediately upon the amendment being introduced, Naifeh banged the gavel and said that it dies for lack of a second. What Naifeh really did was bang the amendment dead before having to recognize the (at least) four members raising their hands for a second on the amendment. I guess Jimmy didn't want to give up the free whiskey.

If you wonder why so many people in East Tennessee complain about the House of Representatives and the way business is done there, I invite people to watch a session live online.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Virginia Tech

In honor of all those who died in today's senseless tragedy at Virginia Tech-VPI Spirit will live on.

Note: Tomorrow's radio podcast will deal with the tragedy in Blacksburg today.

Tech Triumph


What has the Governor been smoking?

Governor Phil Bredesen's proposed smoking ban in Tennessee.

Oatney On the Air-April 16, 2007


A cigar with Fred

I was reading The Weekly Standard's latest piece on Fred Thompson and discovered this interesting little tidbit:

Thompson's work space looks just like what the home office of a successful politician or CEO should look like--though a little messier: a large desk, dark wood, leather furniture, lots of books and magazines and newspapers, a flat-screen TV, and box upon box of cigars--Montecristos from Havana. The presence of the cigars and the absence of a press chaperone were clues that Thompson is taking a different approach to his potential candidacy. A campaign flack would have insisted on hiding the cigars--Senator, how did you get those Cuban cigars? Isn't there a trade embargo?

Now here is a reason to love Fred Thompson. This man isn't just folksy and charming, he obviously has good taste. I have only had a real Montecristo once in my life, and it was by far the most heavenly cigar I have ever indulged in. Now I really want to meet Fred just so that I might sit and have a cigar with him. Hey, I can fantasize, can't I?

(Hat Tip: Adam Groves)

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The enforcement problem in Mayberry

Early this morning I took breakfast at Hannah's, a favorite hyper-local eatery here in White Pine and a place where I can sometimes be spotted enjoying the first meal of the day once a week or so. It so happens that Hannah's has a smoking area much larger than its non-smoking area. Many, if not most of the regulars at Hannah's are smokers, and if you don't like the smoke, you can either eat in the back room (the non-smoking area) , or you don't have to eat at Hannah's. Hannah's has no problem getting good regular business, and if tobacco is going the way of Fat Sam, nobody who eats at Hannah's knows about it.

It occurred to me this morning over my bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit that the Governor may have a bit of a problem with his precious smoking ban. Who is going to enforce it in rural Tennessee?

The Police Department here in White Pine consists of seven officers, much of whose time is spent charging people with speeding or minor traffic violations. The worst I have seen or even heard tell of since we came to White Pine was a meth bust in the Food City parking lot, and if my memory serves me correctly, there was also a Jefferson County Sheriff's Deputy and a Morristown Police Officer present for that. A lot of the serious work that our Department does usually involves doing the work of other agencies. A friend of mine told me, for example, that the police were at his house the other day because a missing person from an out-of-State jurisdiction had written his phone number down as a point of contact-he did not know the person.

It is not the least bit uncommon for code violations that are considered minor to go unnoticed, or noticed but simply ignored, because whatever the person or persons may be doing is not harming anyone else. I have a strong sense that this is the general attitude adopted by small-town and rural law enforcement all over Tennessee: If no one is being bothered by it, whatever it may be, than why bother with pursuing it unless someone should complain?

Call me crazy, but I have a hunch that if the smoking ban passes, the local police may not fully enforce the ban at every place in town. If the State wants the ban enforced here, it may be that the State will have to enforce the ban themselves.

Places like Hannah's exist in small towns and wide spots in the road all over this State, and while the smoking ban may be very easy for the authorities to enforce in Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga, it will be much more difficult to enforce this ban in small town and rural jurisdictions. Local authorities will not be inclined to waste their time harassing smokers at the local diner when they will have more important things to do like patrol the traffic through town and do legwork for nearby agencies on more important investigations.

The State may come in here and attempt to enforce the smoking ban. Can the State of Tennessee really justify sending State agents into every hamlet and burg to enforce a ban on lighting up when there are far worse crimes to deal with? If the answer is no, it bears recalling that 60% of our fair State is still considered rural or "small town." This means that in roughly 60% of the State, the proposed ban may only be enforced when local law enforcement has nothing better to do. Why would anyone in their right mind pass a law that will only be selectively enforced in 3/5th of their jurisdiction?

It is a question worth asking as this anti-freedom bill careens toward passage.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Sunday Sports Final

The Sunday Sports Final with guest co-host Matt Daley. Alabama media harasses Coach Nick Saban. The Brentwood Academy vs. TSSAA case. A baseball progress report.

Oatney On the Air-April 15, 2007


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