Saturday, July 21, 2007


If you like humor and-like me, you are a huge fan of Ray Stevens, you know this song is merely exaggerated fun-poking at fraternal conventions-especially if you have ever attended a convention for a fraternal organization.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Al and the News-Sentinel

Yesterday I wrote that I agreed with the Knoxville News-Sentinel editorial staff about something, and today I am back to disagreeing-or at least not knowing where the paper stands editorially.

Today's editorial seems to encourage Al Gore to run for President. Now the KNS is being careful to couch their language so that is doesn't sound too obvious that they really like the idea, but from the wording of the piece, it seems to me that the News-Sentinel editorial board can hardly contain their glee at the thought of Gore running for President again. There seems to be another factor at work here, however: I wonder if the cause of the sudden Goremania on Western Avenue is really Fred Thompson?

With every passing day, people become more and more disenchanted with the Republican field, and it becomes more and more likely that former Senator Fred Thompson will enter that field and carry Tennessee (and perhaps the rest of the South) along with him. Democrats, on the other hand, seem happy with their field of candidates, and most have chosen a horse to run with among the current top three: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or John Edwards. The problem is that among those three, only Edwards has much of a prayer of doing well in the South and some parts of the Midwest-and Edwards seems to be far enough behind that it will be a struggle for him to win the nomination.

A Gore entry changes the equation only because a fight against Thompson would place Tennessee in play in a way not previously considered, and may be the Democrats' best chance to stop Fred. I still think Fred Thompson would carry Tennessee, but it would be a much closer race with Gore as the Democratic nominee.

As with Fred Thompson, there is a Draft Gore movement, but the difference between the two seems to be that the movement to Draft Gore is built on the hope that Gore will change his mind (he has already said several times that he isn't running). Thompson, on the other hand, not only hasn't ruled out running, he has a campaign apparatus in place (complete with outgoing Tennessee GOP Chairman Bob Davis) and all he needs to do is say the word.

With the movement for Gore fizzling, perhaps the News-Sentinel, the newspaper that endorsed Mike Ragsdale for Knox County Mayor (thus giving the strong impression that their idea of a good Republican is a crook), felt the need to rehabilitate Gore with a commentary that might as well have just said "oh please run for President Al."


Thursday, July 19, 2007

Lack of concern is the worst ethical problem

Today's editorial in the Knoxville News-Sentinel reflects a widely-held and agreeable popular viewpoint that County Commissioners and other countywide elected officials should not be an employee of the county in an occupational capacity. I agree with the assertion and it makes common sense, but there is a much deeper reason why local elected officials should not work for the unit of government that they are elected to other than in the elected capacity itself.

Something you don't see every day is me in agreement with the Knoxville News-Sentinel editorial board, so this is a banner event-and it was this statement that hit on the larger question:

While state law does not prohibit county commissioners from working for the county government, legislation introduced last session sought to end or at least curb the practice. It certainly raised questions about how widespread the practice is in the state. What is legal is not necessarily ethical.

No indeed-and this is a distinction that seems to be a difficult one not only for Knox County officials, but for local elected officials all over this State and in many parts of the country at-large.

The much larger problem, one that the News-Sentinel seems to address only in passing, is the problem of public apathy toward local government. This is an issue that affects not only East Tennessee, but also much of the country. People tend to be far less informed about what is happening at the local level, and I would venture to say that most people don't know who their Aldermen/City Councilmen/City Commissioners or County Commissioners are, let alone why these individuals should or should not be allowed to remain in office.

Many local pundits have predicted that because of the disgraceful events of January 31, in which many of the Knox County Commissioners were chosen for the people of Knox County instead of by them and-far worse-were chosen without allowing for public input, it would create not only the outpouring of public anger that it did but increased interest in the coming 2008 Primany and General Election at the local level.

While voter turnout is likely to increase somewhat, that may be due to the fact that the Primary is also a Presidential one, and the General Election is one in which we will also elect the next President. Whether this actually translates into increased interest and concern about local political affairs remains to be seen. I wish that I could say that I believe that is the case, but I am very skeptical. The true test will be not how many vote in a Special Election held alongside the one for President, but whether the number of voters in 2010 (the regular year for most local elections in Tennessee) dramatically increases over the number of voters in 2006.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Truth and Hope

A Tuesday Morning roundtable on the Presidential race and Iraq with Adam Graham on The Truth and Hope Report.

Truth and Hope Roundtable-Recorded July 17, 2007


A sad death of media competition

I hope my local readers will forgive my personal lament of the demise of The Cincinnati Post, as a great institution of journalism that made its competitor a better paper and vice-versa. I lived in Cincinnati for two years, and during that time I threw myself into the community and its institutions and newspapers as best I could. It was a two-newspaper town: The traditionally Republican Cincinnati Enquirer and the staunchly Democratic Post.

During my time in Cincinnati I was a sworn and staunch Enquirer man. I had the paper delivered to my door every morning and would read it on the way to work by bus. I despised the Post mostly for its terrible editorial page and its support for everything that was bad about the city. It continually supported a raw at-large Council system that under-represented people and (of course) favored Democrats. The editors eschewed splitting respresentation into Wards and Precincts because they said Councillors needed a citywide focus. What they really meant, of course, was that such representation would favor the Republicans in a traditionally Republican city (one of the few with a history of a Republican "machine" that functioned similar to the way Democratic machines functioned in Boston, Memphis, New York or Chicago), and of course that could not be tolerated.

The Post kept the Enquirer honest, however, and the quality of journalism in both papers was vastly superior to anything we have here in East Tennessee in the print media. I believe this is because the papers competed against one another for over 120 years and if they were going to stay in business, they had to produce a top quality product.

To stay in business, the papers made an agreement 30 years ago that The Enquirer would handle the printing for both papers, as well as advertizing and subscriptions, but both news departments would compete against one another. It worked well in the 70's and 80's, but in the 90's it began to unravel with-you guessed it-cable and the internet. On December 31, The Cincinnati Enquirer will end the agreement with Scripps that had it printing both newspapers, and The Cincinnati Post will publish its last edition.

It is bad news for competative journalism.

Says Post editor Mike Phillipps:

"In that world, three major networks fought one another to bring their version of what was most important into our homes. We watched because there wasn't much choice.

If you wanted to buy a car, rent an apartment, find a job, move into a new home there was one place to go ... the classified section of your daily newspaper.

Today, cable TV firms advertise more than 300 channels. Satellite TV providers tout more than 250. Satellite radio? 130.

A generation has grown up not just with wireless telephones ... but with wireless phones which deliver a breathtaking selection of news, entertainment, information and, yes, advertising.

Choice is everywhere. Media, instead of drawing us together, split us into smaller and smaller slices, indulging our individual interests, instead of our collective interests."

I agree with Phillipps that the New Media is challenging the newspaper model and is breeding a whole new generation of community activist (bloggers on the Right and Left here in Tennessee are a classic example). Competition from the New Media is part of the reason for the Post's demise, but the larger reason is that its news and editorial competitor The Cincinnati Enquirer decided it was time to be the only game in town and end the old agreement. As a monopoly, The Enquirer will make tons of money, but I don't have to go out on a limb to predict that the quality of its news and editorial content will likely sink through the floor in very short order-it will no longer have the newsroom at the Post to compete with.

It is in these instances of the lack of competition in local news that the internet has filled a void, and that is why, for example, so many East Tennesseans are turning to the 'net as a news source. The Knoxville News-Sentinel is the only game in town. The Knoxville Journal, the oldest newspaper in in Knoxville (it was once called The Knoxville Whig), is now reduced to a weekly paper with more advertizements and little to no hard news. Knoxville badly needs a second competative daily newspaper. If The Cincinnati Post is any example, that won't be happening anytime soon.

(Hat Tip: Michael Silence)


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Freedom of religion and the U.S. Senate

Much ado has been made on the Left and the Right of the shouting down of a Hindu holy man who was invited to give the opening prayer before the United States Senate. While I have no doubt that the entire episode was an engineered "multicultural" stunt, the reaction of certain people on the religious right to the entire affair has been at the very least inappropriate and at the most has been hideous.

In advance of the spectacle I received an e-mail from the American Family Association asking that I call my Senator and demand that a stop be put to what the message called "blasphemy." My wife rightly pointed out that if a Hindu can be prohibited from saying a prayer before Congress, what is to prevent a priest or a minister from also being forbidden? Nothing, of course-in fact it could be argued that forbidding the man from saying his prayer sets a very dangerous precedent.

I have long been in agreement with those who say that the decline of Christianity as the great religious force in our society has ultimately led to the exacerbation of nearly every social problem that we face as a nation (Note that I am not saying that these problems would not exist in a more Christian society, merely that the lack of one worsens the problems we have.). Further, I believe that the founders of our country were very clear in their intent by their writings and statements that they intended to establish freedom of religion in America, but not freedom from religion. A prime example of this principle would be in my own hometown, where I have never attended a city council meeting that did not open with prayer, nor heard a prayer there that did not specifically mention Christ in this very Christian town-if you don't like it, you don't have to pray and no one will make you.

Because we have a society in which there is freedom of religion, many religious groups will flourish within it. If a minister or priest of the Gospel has a right to pray before Congress by appointment-as surely they do-then so does a person of the Hindu faith, or otherwise we have no right to proclaim the name of God in a public setting. If you don't like it, no one is forcing you to agree with it by praying along. My freedom to believe in Christ is dependent in part on this Hindu's freedom to believe as he does.

Those who made a fuss over the prayer should remember how they might feel if a minister of Christ were treated in the same fashion.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Note to Fred: Make up your mind

The story of the increased interest in Fred Thompson's personal papers appeared in both the Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Tennessean this morning. The report highlighted seemingly contradictory positions allegedly taken by Thompson during his Senate campaigns and years in the Senate. I fully expect such digging, as well as to hear all kinds of allegations being thrown around against Fred Thompson whether they are real, half-true, or imagined. A lot of this is, in raw political terms, being cooked in a teflon skillet: It sounds political to the untrained ear and therefore it will not stick.

It is of far greater concern that Fred Thompson continues, with nearly every speech he makes and every appearance in which we find him, to delay his official entry into the Presidential race. He delayed the formation of his exploratory committee until the last possible moment, and I suspect finally formed it when he was told by his inner circle "you must do this now, or there will be no getting in later." In years' past, a candidate could well afford to wait this long before announcing, and it was not uncommon for those who announced in September or October to become the front-runner in both parties. The early start to the Presidential campaign has damaged the equilibrium so much, however, that continued delay in announcing will put even the best and most obvious political candidates behind in the game.

Simply put, Fred Thompson could be personally more popular than George Washington, but if he continues to delay his official entry into this race the vast money pool that he undoubtedly has recourse to (and does not yet have to report) at the present time will begin to dry up as people turn their attention to candidates who have clearly made up their mind. I think that is unfortunate, and I think it is a tragic result of the current system of things because no decent candidate of either party should be forced to make such a decision two years before the business goes down. That is the present system of things, however, and it is the reality under which the grassroots also must labor.

Yes, Fred Thompson has essentially been drafted into this campaign, and I do not believe that he had an original intention of entering. When the right people called, Fred took the bait and has thus chosen to open himself up to the publicity and attention that a candidate for President of the United States would receive. Conservatives want Thompson because many believe that while there are a few good candidates running, none of those have a real chance to win at this point-but Fred Thompson does. The longer Thompson delays a de jure entry, the more likely his personal popularity will become a non-factor. He looks like a serious candidate now because the Draft Fred movement has made it so, but the longer Thompson goes without making it official the less serious he will appear to the people with dollars to give.

If Fred Thompson has it in his mind that he can afford to wait much longer, I will submit that many people in the grassroots feel as I do. They do not want to be kept dangling in the wind-either Thompson gets into the 2008 Presidential campaign, or he withdraws from it in enough time to give the people a chance to find another ship to sail on (even one that they know will sink). I am not suggesting that a gun be held to Fred Thompson's head and he be told "make a decision now." I am stating the reality: The system put that gun to the head of every candidate in both parties by roughly April of this year. It is by the grace of God and sheer charisma and popularity that Fred Thompson is not already a footnote in the history of this coming election.

Getting into this election late is like taking a late ante in a poker game: You may win a few hands, but you aren't likely to win the game because you started well behind. Fred Thompson will get to a point where his entry may win a few hands, but he will lose the game merely because he did not enter when the first hands of the game were dealt.

The hour is now. Fred Thompson must get in the game, or stay out and go home.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

St. Michael the Archangel

Many people have asked me in the past if I have a favorite Catholic prayer-I do. I love prayers of all kinds, but my personal favorite invocation of a Saint is the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.


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