Saturday, May 05, 2007

Romney and faith

Should Mitt Romney's religious faith affect how we judge his candidacy for office? (This was yesterday's intended topic, but the show was interrupted.)

Oatney On the Air-May 5, 2007


The 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby

The First Call

All horses carry 126 pounds. Horses in post position order with the morning line odds.

1. Sedgefield --Darrin Miller -- Julien Leparoux -- Beaten by Hard Spun. Has seen few other contenders. 50-1

2. Curlin --Steve Asmussen -- Robbie Albarado -- Bucking tradition, but could be super horse. 7-2

3. Zanjero --Steve Asmussen --Shaun Bridgmohan -- Consistent pro. Will come from off the pace. 30-1

4. Storm in May --Bill Kaplan --Juan Leyva --Blind in right eye. Has grit. Will try. 30-1

5. Imawildandcrazyguy --Bill Kaplan --Mark Guidry --Closer with little speed. Owners thrilled to be here. 50-1

6. Cowtown Cat --Todd Pletcher --Fernando Jara --Has speed. Two graded wins. Don't discount. 20-1

7. Street Sense --Carl Nafzger --Calvin Borel -- Deemed perfect at birth. What's not to like? 4-1

8. Hard Spun --Larry Jones --Mario Pino --Has speed. Had blazing work. Trainer says he's ready. 15-1

9. Liquidity --Doug O'Neill --David Flores --Hasn't won since breaking his maiden at age 2. 30-1

10. Teuflesberg --Jamie Sanders --Stewart Elliott --Asked will Teuflesberg win, lead pony nods yes. 30-1

11. Bwana Bull --Jerry Hollendorfer --Javier Castellano --Exceedingly good luck is his only shot. 50-1

12. Nobiz Like Shobiz --Barclay Tagg -- Cornelio Velasquez -- Blinkers on. Ready to roll. 8-1

13. Sam P. --Todd Pletcher --Ramon Dominguez --Resembles sire Cat Thief. Could surprise. 20-1

14. Scat Daddy -- Todd Pletcher --Edgar Prado --Style. Grace. Gets results. Could run big race. 10-1

15. Tiago -- John Shirreffs --Mike Smith -- Has stamina in a race without major speed. Giacomo II? 15-1

16. Circular Quay -- Todd Pletcher -- John Velazquez -- Pletcher wants him closer to the pace than in past. 8-1

17. Stormello --William Currin --Kent Desormeaux --Disappointed in Florida Derby. Has he recovered? 30-1

18. Any Given Saturday --Todd Pletcher --Garrett Gomez --Hits board in every race. Has he something left? 12-1

19. Dominican --Darrin Miller --Rafael Bejarano --Being gelded helped put his mind on the game. 20-1

20. Great Hunter --Doug O'Neill --Corey Nakatani --Has kept pace with top contenders. Needs some luck. 15-1

Via today's Baltimore Sun


Important poll

Here is an important poll on the Governor's proposed tobacco tax. This poll is being sponsored by members of the House Republican Caucus, so please cast your vote.


Friday, May 04, 2007

Frank has high speed internet-how awful!

Very occasionally the Knoxville News-Sentinel will run a story that will show its bias against real conservative thinkers and true believers. Today the KNS ran a piece attacking my State Representative Frank Niceley for-of all things-having high speed internet at his house in Straw Plains.

According to the KNS, Frank's neighbors are griping because Frank falls just inside the line where AT&T Digital can service him with DSL, while folks half a mile down the road can't get DSL, they fall outside the line. Quotes from the article include lines like this:

"The peons out here are torn up, "Because I've lived here for 45 years, I've paid this phone bill for 45 years, I've had this number for 45 years, and if anyone should get this service, I should."

I don't disagree with the woman. I don't like it anymore than she does that she can't get the same high speed internet access that Frank gets. However, I buy Frank's story which is that:

"It sounds to me like somebody's trying to stir something up, some of my Democrat neighbors or something."

I will not speculate as to the political persuasion of Frank's neighbors five miles away, but this does sound like somebody (or a group of people) trying to raise a stink over something that can't be controlled by Frank or anyone else-at least not yet. The people between the DSL terminal and Frank's house can get the service, but Frank is on the edge of the service area. There is a big digital "hole" between Strawberry Plains, Dandridge, and Jefferson City where people do not get high speed internet service because Charter, Comcast, and AT&T all say that the population is simply not high enough to run the lines. Frank lives on the edge of a population center, so he gets the service at his farm. Those who live in the "hole" in Eastern Jefferson County do not have the option of high speed internet service.

This is a common problem in these parts, unfortunately. I can get high speed internet at my house and so can everyone else in White Pine because we are close enough to Morristown. However, in certain parts of Cocke County to our east people still can't get high speed. There are some places between here and Dandridge where high speed access can't be had, either. No one likes this and a lot of people (Frank Niceley included) are trying to change that.

Is this a symptom of Tennessee's digital divide? No question. Was Frank singled out for special treatment, as some of these folks (and apparently the News-Sentinel) are alleging? I don't believe he was. I get high speed but some of my neighbors across the Cocke county line do not-I suppose I got treated special because I am a fairly well-read Tennessee blogger (Yeah, right).

Frank does have certain people and groups, however, who would like to bring him down. In the last Republican Primary, the Farm Bureau (which Frank and I are both members of) put up a candidate to run against him because of his strong stance against mandatory computerized animal identification. They tried to make a big issue of it, while Frank tried to tell them that most of the farmers in our district are opposed to this infringement on their property rights. The Primary came and Frank got 75% of the vote-some challenge! He was easily re-elected to the House.

Now Frank's detractors are falling all over themselves to try and find an issue to pick on Frank with. Since he is one of the most forthright and open Representatives in Nashville (he has an open-door policy-any constituent can meet with him at any time and he'll make time for you if he doesn't have a hearing to attend), they can't say Frank is insular. They can't accuse him of having a voting record out of line with the majority of his constituents because he does not. Rather than bring up legitimate issues, all they can do is harp on the fact that Frank Niceley has a high speed internet connection? Frank has access to the internet, so he'll be even more informed to serve the people of the 17th District even better-oh no!

This is all you've got? Frank has high-speed internet? Please...while a few grumpy stooges at the Farm Bureau and the News-Sentinel try to think up phony complaints against him, the rest of us enjoy the good fruits of the leadership of the plain-spoken jeans-wearin' farmer from Strawberry Plains.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Education Last

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's new so-called "Basic Education Plan-"BEP 2.0".

Oatney On the Air-March 3, 2007


Legal does not equate to ethical

The new so-called Knox County Ethics Committee took up charges of nepotism and cronyism yesterday. The result was that the Committee found the complaint "not credible."

I am not certain what members of this so-called ethics body think qualifies as credibility. The reason that I don't know is because the question deserves to to be asked: Does widespread public knowledge of reality need more credibility than the mere attendance at a Knox County Commission meeting? If someone attends such a meeting, they will find not one, and not two, but five Commissioners who work as employees of the County in another capacity aside from their seat on the County Commission. That means that if the Knox County Commission had something like a Rule 13, these Commissioners would have to declare it the vast majority of the time.

In addition, another eight Commissioners have immediate relatives who work for the County, and that means that these people vote on things that directly affect their families not occasionally, but all the time. Reverend Ron Stewart, the Chair of the Ethics Committee, had it right:

"I believe Knox Countians are looking to this committee to reinstate their trust...This issue is important to the majority of citizens and if we don't deal with it now because the i's aren't dotted and the t's aren't crossed, we will deal with it later."

Knox County Commissioner Mike Hammond, a committee member, apparently thought the complaint was worth dismissing because "nothing illegal has been done." That is very true, nothing illegal has been committed, but just because something passes the muster of the civil law does not make it the right thing to do ethically or morally. For something to be ethically right it must pass a much higher standard, and in this case the civil law allows for an unbelievably broad conflict of interest that is hardly in the best interest of the people of Knox County or the residents of any county in America.

The work of the Ethics Committee interests me not only as a former resident of Knox County, but for the fact that surrounding counties like my own, and perhaps counties all over the State, will be looking to this Committee to see how it deals with issues like nepotism-perhaps the most important issue it must deal with.

Jefferson County Government is far from perfect, but it is worth pointing out that while people complain about its ineffectiveness all the time, rarely (if ever) does anyone make the kinds of complaints that people make against Knox County, nor does the public complain with the same veracity. A big part of the reason for this may be that the Jefferson County Commission meets quarterly instead of monthly (though there are several more meetings if work sessions and special meetings are counted), so there is much less opportunity for them to engage in mischief.

The larger problem is that even members of this Ethics Comission seem to consider themselves above the standards of what would normally qualify as ethical behavior. Until this mentality is changed, Knox County Government cannot be expected to fundamentally be changed.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Early bird may not get the worm

How the early Presidential Primary that Tennessee will have can unfairly affect the vote.

Oatney On the Air-May 2, 2007


Insuring a free and fair Primary

The fact that I am not fond of our frontloaded Presidential Primary system for 2008 because it inherently prejudices the system toward those who can raise the most money is widely known. Some of you might be saying "gosh Oatney, hasn't it been that way for awhile now? That's just the nature of the game."

That a person has to raise a boatload of cash to even consider considering a run for the White House has been the case for a rather long time indeed. However, in past Presidential years, the fact that you were fourth, fifth, or sixth in fundraising didn't mean you couldn't compete. Primaries were spread out enough that if a relatively little-known candidate could get a decent campaign apparatus together in one or two swing States, they could make a serious run at the nomination. This was the case as late as 1992, when a little-known Governor of Arkansas that no one favored to win much of anything was able to capture the Presidential nomination.

There may be a much more difficult problem this year in Tennessee, however: Respecting the wishes of the voters themselves. Since some candidates tend to drop out of the race earlier than others, the Democratic and Republican Parties within each State get to decide what happens to those votes for candidates who have already dropped out of the race but remain on the ballot-and very often, votes for those candidates will not count at all.

This is a special problem in Tennessee because of the widespread use of early voting here, especially within the larger metropolitan areas. Early voting takes place in all 95 counties, but in most rural counties like mine, early voting takes place at a central location like the county courthouse. In heavily populated counties, however, there are usually multiple early voting sites. Whether the Primary takes place on February 12th, as it is currently scheduled, or on February 5th, as proposed (as part of Super Duper Tuesday), Tennessee law allows for early voting 20 days before the Primary, which means that early voting for the Primary will begin January 23rd and end February 7th (five days prior to Primary Day). If the Primary date is moved back, then the early voting period would begin even sooner. As things stand now, people would begin voting in the Tennessee Presidential Primary the day after the New Hampshire Primary takes place-it could be moved back to the time between Iowa and New Hampshire.

Under such circumstances, it is highly conceivable that great numbers of Tennesseans may cast their Primary vote for someone no longer in the race for President on Primary Day-their votes may not count. What should be done to insure that the votes of all Tennesseans are counted in the coming February Primary, regardless of what day it is officially held on or what days people vote? No one's vote should go unrecognized or uncounted. Regardless of whether or not a candidate has withdrawn from the race, the votes for that candidate should still be counted as normal when ballots are tabulated. In the highly unlikely even that a withdrawn candidate should muster enough votes to win the Primary, that candidate should still be awarded the State's convention delegates, and it should be the preference of the candidate whether or not to release his or her delegates.

Our Primary system has come to a wretched situation in which the voice of the grassroots is barely heard. At least we can make certain that while that voice is a still small one, it is not drowned out completely.

NOTE 5/2/2007 4:54pm: It is official now-Tennessee's Presidential Primary has been moved to February 5, 2008. God Help Us.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007


Welcome home to Corporal Brad Walker. The problems for fraternal societies in the 21st Century.

Oatney On The Air - May 1, 2007


Elect Moxley to the House

Kelvin Moxley of the Tennessee Conservative Union has given an oration before the House Agriculture Committee on the proposed smoking ban. I believe he stunned many of the legislators with his fiery words. Rep. Mike Bell asked Moxley how he would take a total ban (something Moxley mentioned), Moxley spoke the truth when he said "a total ban is well within your power, but if you do that, I would urge you to be ready to forgo the revenue you will lose as a result."

Of course they do not want to lose the revenue, hence the wretched hypocrisy in this case.


Corporal Walker's morning

White Pine welcomes home a war veteran and hero today. Marine Corporal Bradley J. Walker, who lost both of his legs in the war in Iraq, will pull into town at about ten this morning on a 30-day leave. What Cpl. Walker may or may not be aware of is that this little town of just less than 2,000 people has prepared a welcome for him with all of the pomp and circumstance that it can muster.

The signals of a patriotic celebration are everywhere to be found this morning. Up and down Main Street flags are hanging from every business, church, and public building. Red, white, and blue bunting is festooned from rooftops and facades. Small flags held in place by yellow ribbons are on nearly every pole in town. Out in front of the U.S. Bank branch a short walk from my house on the corner of Main and Creamery Streets is a huge homemade sign that reads "Welcome Home Brad." The White Pine Board of Mayor and Aldermen have declared today "Bradley Walker Day."

It may seem like somewhat of a common occurrence in this time of an unpopular war for those who live in larger and more metropolitan places. This celebration is quite remarkable, however, for the fact that support for our war policy in Iraq is really far from unanimous here. A good way to figure this out is to listen to the men who gather at Allen-Surrett's Hardware Store or at the Sanitary Drugstore every morning. Groans of collective dissatisfaction and disquiet emanate from the room whenever someone mentions the war. The war makes everyone in this heavily-Republican stronghold uncomfortable, and among those who I have heard be vocal in their opposition, even angry.

Few believe, however, that this anger should be reflected upon heroes like Corporal Walker. Many people here are old enough to remember Vietnam, and how returning troops were treated in the wake of a disastrous policy over which they had no control. These men and women have, in many cases, committed acts of self-sacrifice and heroism we can only imagine in our finite minds. The commitment to country of our fighting men should not be questioned, even as we evaluate the wisdom of the war itself at home.

Appreciation for self-sacrifice does not know opposition here, and I am glad that it does not. Corporal Walker deserves a hero's welcome for his commitment to serve far beyond what this town can give him.

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Up in smoke

Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen's proposed Statewide smoking ban, and the support of certain Republicans for the proposal.

Oatney On the Air-April 30, 2007


A little less talk and a lot more action

I have written in these pages over the preceding days about how glad that I was House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower finally stood up to the Governor of sorts in his press conference last week and said that Republicans favor tax relief for working Tennesseans. He is right that we will have such a massive surplus by July 1 that we as a State can afford to give the kind of tax breaks to working people that many in the House and Senate GOP are proposing without even touching the Governor's education proposals (proposals that do have problems and should be debated on their own merits), or his other proposed programs. When the State of Tennessee has nearly a billion dollars just sitting around, one of the highest surpluses of any State government in the Union, then refusing to eliminate the sales tax on food is not only irresponsible, it is bordering on oppressive taxation against rich and poor alike.

The Governor and his staff say they are concerned that eliminating the oppressive grocery tax may cost the State great deals of money and eliminate the surplus. Even though it would take a flat-out reckless spending spree in order to burn such a massive surplus on what would amount to a 4 to 6 percent tax cut, several Republicans have obliged Governor Bredesen's concerns and presented tax swap legislation that would replace the grocery tax with a tax on something else.

One of these common-sense proposals was one by Rep. Beth Harwell of Davidson County, to lower the Governor's cigarette tax proposal from 40 cents to 20 cents, then wait a year to see how much revenue the tax generated. As the tax generated revenue, the grocery tax could be correspondingly lowered. Indeed, Harwell has sponsored or co-sponsored House legislation that would decrease the grocery tax based on increases in the tobacco tax.

Knoxville News-Sentinel columnist Tom Humphrey pointed out in his column yesterday that when asked about whether or not he favored Harwell's bill, Jason Mumpower replied that Harwell's bill was one of many options. As Humphrey rightly said, Harwell's proposals are doubtless the most fiscally responsible before the General Assembly, yet Leader Mumpower refuses to take an outright public stand in support of Harwell's ideas. While I believe it highly likely that Mumpower is supporting the efforts of Harwell and others like her behind the scenes, we are now past the point where backroom support is enough. There needs to be a very public stand that says "yes, we support these ideas."

The reason is because there is a General Election in 553 days that very well could decide the direction of the Tennessee General Assembly for many years to come. As we approach a constitutionally mandated census in 2010, the party that controls the legislature at that time will redraw constituency boundaries that will affect the 2012 Election. If the Democrats continue to hold the majority in the House, it is a virtual certainty that Jimmy Naifeh will exert his influence to draw districts in such a way as to solidify the Democrats' hold on power. This makes 2008 especially important, because it is highly likely that the party that controls the legislature after the coming Election will be the one that continues to do so at census time. Both Mumpower and the Democrats are keenly aware of this reality.

The problem is that while most Tennesseans who are in any way aware of what is happening in Nashville know that the Democratic majority is no longer working for their interests, if they do not see a real counter-plan from the Republicans, they will shrug their shoulders and wonder why change needs to take place when there will be no real change at all. Within such a climate, the Democrats are far more likely to retain control of the all-important House of Representatives.

It is understandable that Mumpower and the GOP Leadership would feel hamstrung since their lack of a majority means that they can't actually accomplish the program of action they put before the people of Tennessee. However, the public needs to see a vibrant Republican Party that is very openly fighting the power. People need to see not merely Republicans filing good bills that the Democratic majority kills, but the GOP Leadership putting forward good bills that are a part of their program of action that the Democrats correspondingly kill. The Republican Leadership can then rightfully say to the public "look at what we have attempted to do for the public good that the party opposite has destroyed..."Press conferences and charts showing surplus and waste, while important tools, will not be what exposes the Democratic beast to public scorn. It will be the Republican Leadership's very open exposure of every Republican bill the Democrats have killed that would have changed the way things work in this State that will cause the public to determine that they need to remove the majority that is blocking these changes from happening.

I believe Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada understands these realities, but even though he is doing much of the real legwork for the House GOP, the ultimate decision about how the Caucus is to manuver politically rests not with Casada but with Jason Mumpower. Mumpower has lately demonstrated that when he wants to, he can fight with the best of them and he has a keen political mind. It is time to use those skills to the fullest.

The time has come to step up to the plate and swing for the fences.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

NFL Draft

Today's sports show is one of my favorite shows of the year. It is the NFL Draft Special with my Sunday Sports Final co-host Matt Daley. Click on the link for Draft coverage.

NFL Draft Special-April 29, 2007

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