Saturday, July 14, 2007

Now that's real honky tonk music

Here is a classic Jim Ed Brown song from the late 60's.


Friday, July 13, 2007

A pattern of abuse and corruption

There were many media outlets that didn't think the Tyler Harber Affair was noteworthy enough to follow up on-they did not think, apparently, that someone of Harber's arguably shady reputation could be indicating corruption on a much larger scale in the Knox County Mayor's Office. Only one major media personality kept the heat up constantly. The rest of the press didn't even get on the story until the furor was already fading. Virtually no one in the major local press (the Knoxville News-Sentinel has previously been known to treat Ragsdale as if he were the Second Coming) recognized that this story could be an indication of much larger problems in the Ragsdale regime in Knox County, Tennessee

Mike Ragsdale wanted Tyler Harber to "help me be Governor,' and whatever one might think of Harber personally, his story about corruption, cronyism, phony job appointments (such as his own), and misuse of public funds should have triggered a widespread media investigation of improprieties in the Knox County Mayor's Office. The signals were there, Harber blew the whistle, but no one except the local blogging community really bit.

Now we learn of the depth and breadth of abuse of Knox County purchasing cards by officials in the County Mayor's inner circle. Ragsdale's own Executive Assistant Margie Loyd charged $227.56 for two lobster tail lunches at Regas-and two more lobster tails to go! Loyd also charged a cruise she took to the county at $900. She has since had to reimburse that money, but likely would not have had all of this not been discovered.

I understand that county and State officials have a need to build relationships and have lunch or dinner with Commissioners and community members as part of doing business-that's politics. Does it have to cost the taxpayers that much? Regas is delicious and all, but it is also East Tennessee's most expensive restaurant. It is the place you take your friends to celebrate when you have plenty of money to burn. If I am going to lunch or dinner on government business and I know the taxpayers are footing the bill, Red Lobster will do just fine, thank you-and even cheaper than that if possible.

Knox County Finance Director John Werner has been forced to resign over the repeated misuse of public funds in the Mayor's Office.

“I’m disappointed and frustrated at recent events,” Ragsdale said. “I’ve made it clear that the misuse of public dollars will not be tolerated.”

Mr. Mayor, where is it that you suppose that so many people in your inner circle got the idea that it was perfectly fine to use their county cards for everything under the sun?


Thursday, July 12, 2007

A sad commentary on our politics

State Senator Ward Crutchfield, who took bribes and accepted cash from undercover federal investigators posing as members of a phony company called E-Cycle as part of the Tennessee Waltz investigation is reportedly going to change his plea today. Under the circumstances, I think it is a fairly safe bet that Crutchfield will enter a guilty plea.

I ought to be rejoicing at the impending Republican gains that will likely result from Crutchfield's downfall. Even though Tennessee Waltz showed us that corruption was occuring within both parties, it was the party of legislative power for nearly a century and-a-half, the Democratic Party, from whence most of the guilty participants have come. Yet I find myself with mixed feelings.

I had similar bittersweet emotions the day that Ron Ramsey was chosen by the Tennessee Senate as Speaker of the Senate and Lieutenant Governor. I was joyous that Ramsey had won, and I thought that it was a change that was long overdue. However, I found myself genuinely saddened that such a distinguished Tennessean as John Wilder, who had served for 36 years as Lieutenant Governor, and who may truly be the last of a dying breed was now really in the twilight of his lengthy and noteworthy political career.

In the case of Ward Crutchfield of Chattanooga-Army Veteran, graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, American Legion member, Shriner, former Democratic Leader of the Tennessee Senate, and former Chairman of the Hamilton County Democratic Party-he came from an old and distinguished Chattanooga family and led what might be called a privileged life. He wasn't really in want of anything and didn't have to live on a tight budget. He gave much of himself in service to our State and to the community of Chattanooga, especially (by all accounts) to those in need. He was well-liked and had he not taken cash for legislation, the man would likely be in the State Senate until the Second Coming.

Tennessee Waltz began when people anonymously complained that bribes and kickbacks were already taking place and John Ford and Ward Crutchfield were reportedly right in the thick of it. All of this begs the question: Why did someone like Ward Crutchfield feel the need to engage in such activity? What about that kind of thing made Crutchfield think it was fine? Most importantly, are the politics not only of Tennessee but the entire country so filled with filth and corruption that the best men of our communities-men of distinction like Ward Crutchfield (the kind of men that we would normally send to the State Senate), are not immune from participating in the dirt?

It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in American politics in 2007.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Three cheers for Sheriff Enoch George

A group of eleven immigrants from Mexico is suing the Maury County Sheriff's Department alleging that the department is engaging in racial profiling because the Department is working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to help round up those who are in the country illegally.

In other words, the Sheriff of Maury County, Enoch George, is being sued for (of all things) attempting to enforce the law. Perish the thought!

Well, were those who were arrested and interrogated wrongly accused of being illegally in the country? Are they legal residents and citizens who were "profiled" merely because they are Hispanics? One key statement in this story may give us all the information we need about whether that is the case:

The attorney who filed the lawsuit, Elliott Ozment, declined to say whether those arrested were legally in the country, saying it has no relevance to the lawsuit.

“Any person, regardless of their legal status, whether they are U.S. citizens, temporary visa holders or undocumented ... have basic, fundamental, constitutional rights,” Ozment said. “One of those is the right guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment against improper searches and seizures. The other is the right to due process.”

Someone who is in this country illegally has no protection under a Constitution that was intended for those who are in this country legally, living under the law by their legal residence here. If you are not in the United States in a legal capacity, you have no constitutional protection, nor any right to expect any such protection unless or until you take the necessary steps to become a legal resident of the United States. Once you obtain legal status, you then have every right to expect full constitutional protection, but not before. The very fact that Mr. Ozment refused to answer the question of these people's legal status and declared it not to be important leads me to believe that it is an open question and that these 11 people are in fact illegal aliens who are already in violation of the law and not subject to any pretence of protection.

If these folks had just produced legal documentation such as a green card or citizenship papers, none of this would be an issue and the Sheriff really would look like a bigot. It sounds to me, however, like the good Sheriff was enforcing the laws of the United States of America, and if these people really don't like being treated this way they can solve the problem: Go back and come in legally.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007


Yesterday I discussed some of the problems with arbitrary tax increases at the local level and also putting high versus low taxes and value for your tax dollar into perspective when a tax increase does occur. That discussion leads to a much broader question that applies to all levels of government: When is a tax increase justified?

There is a school of thought among the Left, and even among so-called "moderate" Republicans that there ought to be a tax increase every time a government sees itself running low on money, or desiring to implement some government program. There are those who do not bother to ask whether a program is absolutely necessary, let alone do the math to know how much it will cost when they pledge to implement the new initiative. A classic example of this is former President Bill Clinton, who in 1992 promised a laundry list of rosy-sounding new federal programs, and made it all sound really great when he said "I will not raise taxes on the middle class to pay for these programs."

I am not the best in the world at math, but I do have a brain. Those of us with a brain who know a little something about how government works also knew that when Clinton said this he either had no clue what he was saying, or that (more likely) he was lying through his teeth. Sure enough, in 1993, Clinton comes before the American people and says "I know I promised I wouldn't raise taxes, but I can't keep that promise." He then preceeded to try and blame his predecessors when it is he who should have been blamed for deceiving the American people into believing they could eat lunch for nothing. His deceit-whether intentional or not-cost the Democratic Party control of Congress the following year.

Governments should never promise the public something that it cannot already deliver within its existing budget-it should not promise them that it will give them things that it can't deliver without a tax increase. If the program is something that the public demands, people need to be made aware that unless this is something that the government has the money to spare for, it will require more taxes to implement. Often, this drives the point home that this is not a "free" program, and forces people to think about what is absolutely necessary from government and what is not.

Ideally, new taxes for programs on a local level ought to be put to a public vote. If a program is important enough to require public funding, let the supporters of the program put their case before the people of that local city or county for the increase to pay for that initiative. Those on the Left who so often accuse conservatives of trying to suppress the vote by daring to require that someone present identification at a polling place are the same ones who are utterly opposed to the public having votes on local tax increases to fund particular programs. There is a fear that no one will ever vote for a tax increase, even for something important. In jurisdictions in this country where such votes already take place, the voting public has shown remarkable discernment about what initiatives to pay for and what to vote down. This is largely because many of these votes take place in off-year elections where those who vote are there because they always vote, are aware of the issues, and they know very well what is important to them-and are just as likely to approve a tax levy as to vote one down. Whether or not an issue is supported or rejected depends both on sensibility as well as how it is presented to the public.

Finally, when a governing body does vote for a tax increase, it should be not only for something that is absolutely necessary (a pay increase to adjust for inflation for emergency personnel might be a good example), but should only be considered after all other means to pay for the necessary function of government have been explored first.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

The campaign and the press

A discussion of the Presidential campaign and the conduct of the major press with John Cox campaign aide Adam Graham. Recorded Saturday.

Oatney On the Air-July 7, 2007


Property taxes in perspective

There is no small amount of discussion and anger among the folks here in White Pine about the impending county tax increase that would increase taxes by $2.22 on a $100,000 piece of property. Nobody likes the increase and everyone (myself included) thinks that Jefferson County should learn to more effectively live within its means before asking the people for more money. Being opposed to the tax increase does not mean, however, that we shouldn't put what is happening in our county and the amount of taxes we pay in perspective.

There seems to be a fallacy floating around in some circles that if Jefferson County had a major industrial park that this would bring taxes down and keep them there, since it would deepen the tax base significantly. Further, this line of thought proposes that the Jefferson County Commission would be predisposed to lower property taxes if such industrialization came about-I do not believe that they would do so. Governments by nature are not inclined to take actions which reduce their power, especially unilateral tax cuts (as opposed to reductions in the rate of increase). I would gladly vote for one if I sat on the County Commission, indeed it would be my desire to bring one to a vote, but sadly I do not believe that it would pass. Jefferson County could industrialize all day long and I would bet the ranch that our taxes will not go down-there would likely be those who would move to raise them again (and I would oppose them again).

Jefferson County is not only known for its rural character, but within it remains a place where there is still plenty of unspoiled farmland, not scarred by over development and a desire to bring ruination to the county by doing nothing but build. Further, Jefferson County has lower taxes than all of our surrounding counties, with the notable exception of Sevier County. Sevier County is being held up as the model that we now need to emulate. Been to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevierville lately? Do we really want to become such an overbuilt tourist trap?

Our taxes are very low, among the lowest in the State, and for those low taxes we get great value. I pay half the rate of taxes that my in-laws down the road in Hamblen County pay, and I live in town, while they don't. My trash gets picked up every week, and I have the professional police protection of a well-trained force with a highly experienced police chief. Even though our fire department is all-volunteer, it is one of the most responsive and well-trained in the region.

Yet in Hamblen County they are more industrialized, but their level of services aren't the least bit improved over what I receive (and are in some cases worse) but the taxes there are nearly double. I'll take Jefferson County will all of its faults and its lower taxes any day of the week.

I am not opposed to industrial development, but it ought to be responsible, planned, and limited.

As for the coming tax increase-I am very much against it, but our taxes will still be extremely low, and that is a reality that needs to be emphasized. What will keep taxes low is a county government that knows how to live within its means.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Letter of the law of faith

The press seems to be in a tizzy over the Holy Father's new Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum and the accompanying explanatory letter to the bishops of the world. To hear some people tell it, the Pope is completely against the reforms of the Second Vatican Council-something he himself refutes in the text of the document.

What the Pope does do is reaffirm realities that Catholics the world over have forgotten about the way that we worship as a people.

The first reality that the Pope deals with is the fact that the Church never abandoned the traditional Mass that was codified at the Council of Trent, the Tridentine Mass. Because of this, the Pope takes the position that if enough of the faithful request the use of the Missal of 1962, the last under which that form of the Liturgy was promulgated, then they have a right to it. Further, Benedict makes the decree that the priests celebrating that form of the Sacred Liturgy must have the knowledge of Latin and of the Missal necessary to do so.

Rather than abandon Mass in the vernacular tongue, the Pope affirms that Mass in the tongue of the people is the ordinary norm, but that the people have a right to the traditional Mass (and Benedict affirms that it remains the traditional Mass of the Roman Rite, but it is used in extraordinary, not ordinary norms), and its use should not be discouraged.

This is not crazy my friends-this is part of the faith of the Church.


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