If you don't like Del McCoury, you just ain't right as far as music goes. I have long believed that Del is his own genre...there is country, there is bluegrass, and then there is Del. Here is some classic Del from 1994.
In today's Knoxville News Sentinel is to be found a story about Congressman Jimmy Duncan and his consistent record of opposition to the Iraq War. The prolific former judge (whose father was Knoxville mayor) has lately been accused by a few people of not having a conservative voting record, and these folks usually base their criticisms of Duncan on his opposition to the war.
John J. Duncan Jr. is not a pacifist, however. He voted in favor of authorizing the President to use force in Afghanistan, and has supported force when it has been necessary throughout his Congressional career. What he has never been prone to do is support the use of force when it is not necessary, and no one can accuse Jimmy Duncan of being liberal because of that. To wage war is an extremely expensive proposition, both in the financial cost as well as in the more important expense of human life and suffering. It is never a matter to be entered into lightly or without proper planning. Further, our Founding Fathers believed that war was such a heinous activity that we should not willfully enter into combat on foreign soil. Congressman Duncan holds firm to that very conservative belief.
When we look at the raw data about Jimmy Duncan's voting record, we see a man who has a more conservative voting record than either Lamar Alexander or Bill Frist. I don't always see eye-to-eye with Duncan, nor did I have any particular appreciation for how he has handled the Presidential campaign so far. Saying "I endorse Romney," and then bolting to help lead a Draft Fred Thompson movement did not speak well for Duncan's normal steadfastness-he should have waited until the field was more definite. Somehow you could just tell that he was uncomfortable with Romney, and rightly so. In spite of this, however, all one needs to do to appreciate Duncan's fidelity to conservative principles is examine his voting record.
There are many so-called conservatives who change their position with the political wind. Blanket free trade (as in agreements such as NAFTA or GATT) aren't really based in conservative principles, because those agreements are a plethora of regulation. They break down protections while imposing new and restrictive rules on sovereign control. Conservatives have historically opposed those kinds of agreements, yet many so-called conservatives today say that it is conservative to support them-this is not ideologically consistent. Similarly, conservatives have historically opposed interventionist foreign wars, as the Founding Fathers did-it is the conservative thing to do. Yet many so-called conservatives want to play world policeman in a way that threatens our economy, our sovereignty, and the lives of our service personnel. This is not a conservative way to think.
Jimmy Duncan has told East Tennesseans and the world that he is a conservative. When he votes against the war, he is trying to show his constituents that unlike many others, his conservatism is an ideologically consistent one.
Word seems to have gotten out that outside of Nashville and Memphis, Representative Frank Niceley's bill to expand the number of places where citizens who have handgun carry permits can carry them is a pretty popular one. The vote on this bill will force many people in the legislature (especially those who are members of a certain political formation which presently occupies the majority in the House) who say they favor greater gun rights to go on the record. For those members who are part of that certain political formation, such a bill would be a moment of truth-voting for pro-gun legislation would please many of their constituents, but voting against it would please certain groups that give the Democratic Caucus lots of money.
I understand that certain of our Nashville and Memphis friends may not realize this, but by introducing this bill and others like it, Frank Niceley further solidifies his hold on our district's seat in the House-it is a popular bill here, and I would posit that it is probably popular in the Tennessee outside of urban fearland (it also makes sense). For many Democrats from suburban and rural districts are in favor of this bill-or their constituencies are, but some organizations that support their caucus may not-hence, the bill has to be brought down without members having to go on the record as being in favor of gun restrictions or gun control. The best way to do this is to change the bill so that the fiscal note, which is one of minimal or no impact, becomes exorbitant.
It has been recommended that an amendment be added to post signs at public parks alerting people that they may carry their firearms therein. On its face there is nothing problematic about that, but it would suddenly make the fiscal note on the bill unusually exorbitant-this gives the Democrats an excuse to hill the bill in the Finance Committee and none of them will have to go on record on the floor.
A convenient way to kill a bill and not have to go on record about the whole thing.
Early this morning I proceeded, as is my morning custom, to the Sanitary Drugstore for morning coffee with several other men of White Pine. Town gossip-political and otherwise- is the real reason for these morning gatherings, and they occurred long before I ever arrived on the scene around here. Everyone meets down at the drugstore around 8:30 or so. Some began their constitutional in the back of the hardware store and moved over to the Sanitary, while others just came straight to the old drugstore counter.
Each morning when we gather, we all get there at about the same time (sometimes the drugstore opens late, as it did this morning), but leaving is another matter. Most of us stagger out one at a time or in small groups as we finish with what we deem to be our portion of the coffee and conversation. Usually one or two of the guys and I will get on a hot topic and be there for a bit longer than others-this morning I was the last to leave. As I was finishing up my coffee and cleaning up, I noticed a large white truck that looked a bit like a small fire engine pull up to the drugstore and a nice fella get out. I couldn't help but overhear that he was having a conversation with the pharmacist in the back of the store that sounded jovial and friendly, and I couldn't tell what was being said but I did hear something about a book. The side of the truck said "TENNESSEE METHAMPHETAMINE LAB TASK FORCE."
I made the mistake of parking my chair too far away from the pharmacy door this morning, and so this gentleman was kind enough to help me step down to get to it. He had a list in his hand-the list of those who buy medications such as Sudafed, which possesses a base ingredient of meth. By law now in Tennessee, pharmacists must make those who purchase those over-the-counter drugs which may contain the ingredients for methamphetamines.
Meth use is the plague of small-town America, and especially the rural South. We are fortunate in communities like the one where I live to enjoy relatively low crime-but but a good deal of the serious crime we do have can be traced to drugs, and usually that means meth use and distribution. I am glad to see that the State is taking a serious and proactive role in addressing this very real problem. I have to admit that I question this particular means, however.
I asked the man with the truck if the list was what I thought it was, and he confirmed that I was correct. I was then forced to ask questions in my mind:
What happens to this list of names when this guy gets where he is going with it?
I am sure that addresses are on the list, and perhaps phone numbers-is this really a registry of who takes certain over-the-counter medicines?
The State of Tennessee gets to know who in White Pine takes what medicine, whether that is the intent of the law or not. Do I like that idea?
Who gets this list and where do the names go? Do people call these folks?
Do the people on the list all become suspects or persons of interest because they bought NyQuil or Sudafed? Does someone go scope out their house to determine if it is a meth lab?
Is this Constitutional?
Some of these questions may indeed seem far-fetched, but when a State agent (even a very friendly one) comes to the local drugstore and takes a list of names from the place, a conscientious citizen concerned about the maintenance of their liberty really ought to be asking them.
If this is all proven at some point to be Constitutionally suspect (and I must admit that I think it may very well be), we need a backup plan to deal with the meth problem in our rural communities aside from a list of names and addresses of likely-innocent citizens.
When I saw the headline and read the projections in this morning'sKnoxville News-Sentinel, even I could not believe my eyes. I had to read and then re-read the story to make sure that I got the total right. The Tennessee State Funding Board was told by economists' yesterday that Tennessee's total surplus will come to $1.3 billion dollars. I couldn't believe the total, $1,300,000,000-and some change (and no small chunk, either) on top of that. That is a lot of money, and the Governor's Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz is making the push to put all but $200 million of it in the "rainy day fund."
I am certainly not opposed to having a sizable State savings fund, and Tennessee has had the long-standing goal of having five percent of our general revenues set aside for a time when they may be needed in the future-that goal has now been achieved with room to spare. Now that we've gotten to this needed milestone as a State, Governor Bredesen and Commissioner Goetz are now telling us that we really need to set 11 percent of revenues aside. Of course if we do this, that leaves the overwhelming portion of this massive revenue "untouchable," and that gives the Governor an excuse to raise taxes.
Governor Bredesen (who was once seen as Presidential material by some) wants a 40-cent tobacco tax increase that he says will go to fund educational improvements and school construction. Keeping to the original five percent goal, the remaining surplus money could fund the Governor's education proposals on its own without any additional taxes, and we would still have almost half a billion dollars left over. At some point, you have to scratch your head and ask how much of the Governor's policy is aimed at fiscal responsibility, and how much is aimed at raising taxes for the sake of taking more of the people's money.
Even so, an increase in the "sin tax" on tobacco or even alcohol would be acceptable if it means that there will be a corresponding decrease in the grocery tax. You don't need a pack of Marlboro's, but your family may need a gallon of milk or a pound of cheese. Currently, groceries are taxed the same as non-essential items, a practice that Tennessee can afford to end. Now that we know just how high the surplus is, there is little excuse for the Governor not to be more amenable to this common-sense proposal-we know we have the funds to make it happen and improve our education system as well.
This can be a lesson to those elsewhere that a State can amass a sizable surplus to meet its financial needs without an income tax, as Tennessee has successfully done. Once a surplus of such massive proportions is reached, however, speaking of relieving the tax burden is not an unreasonable proposition in a State where revenue is raised via taxes that everyone must pay. When the State rakes in enough revenue to make that kind of surplus a reality, talking about relieving the tax burden on ordinary Tennesseans is not only reasonable, it is right. The Governor must be willing to give serious grocery tax breaks, or even eliminate the grocery tax altogether, and the General Assembly must hold his feet to the fire until he does so.
TheTennessee General Assemblythis week will get the official numbers on just how large this year's budget surplus will be. Some sources are saying 300 million, some sources 400 million, and at least one person I've spoken with over the last few weeks expects that it may be even higher than that. TheState of Tennesseeis already sitting on a surplus of nearly half-a-billion dollars from last year, so this year's tally could put the total combined surplus at nearly a billion dollars-for any State Government, that is a whopping total.
There are few who disagree that some of that money needs to go toward infrastructure improvements, especially Tennessee schools. When you are fortunate to have that kind of money just laying around-amounts that would make some of our friends in Northern States seethe with envy-there is little excuse not to use some of it for needful improvements long delayed by the irresponsibility of the Legislature in the days of theNed Ray McWherter andDon Sundquist administrations. Both McWherter (a Democrat) and Sundquist (a Republican and a far worse Governor) had much larger Democratic majorities in the General Assembly. AlthoughPhil Bredesenis a Democrat, he came to power with Republican numbers dramatically increased in the General Assembly due to theSundquist income tax debacle. In his second term, he has a de facto Republican Senate who chose a Republican Lieutenant Governor for him.
These political factors can be said to be part of the reason for the fiscal restraint we've seen that has led to the surplus. This restraint has led many people who might otherwise support Republicans to vote for Bredesen, believing that he is a Republican in Democrats' clothing.
Real liberals show themselves by not being able to avoid raising taxes even when it is not needed, and Bredesen (sure enough) put a 40-cent tobacco tax increase into his initial budget proposal, saying that the money would go to schools. Since the budget surplus is so high to begin with, many people on both sides of the aisle didn't understand why such a large tobacco tax increase was needed to fund education improvements when the State has such a large surplus that could fund these things on its own. The Governor bristled at the notion of tying these new tobacco tax revenues to a decrease in the grocery tax, or in providing any relief to working Tennesseans at the grocery checkout.
Now, with the numbers on just how high the surplus is about to be released,the Governor is changing his tune. Now he says he would settle for a tobacco tax increase fazed in over several years. Rumors abound that he may even be willing to a lower tobacco tax hike, and good forLt. Governor Ron Ramsey-he's sticking to his guns in saying that Bredesen is not getting a 40-cent tax hike. Ramsey says that with such a high surplus-with the State taking in far more money than it needs to fund even the most ambitious programs, we should be talking about tax relief instead of tax increases. I would go so far as to say that if the surpluses continue coming at this rate, we as a State need to consider eliminating certain taxes altogether-and the grocery tax should be at the top of the list.
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