Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Cubs are in a pennant race

Harry posthumously celebrates with us the fact that the Cubs are just a game out of first and we are in August. Once again in my long years as a die-hard, dyed-in-the-wool, true blue Cub fan, I have pennant fever, just like I did in:


So close and yet so far away. Yet with all these close calls, you know we have to get there one of these days soon.

Are you a Cub fan with a favorite Cubs memory (mine is a home run by-of all people-Mitch Williams)? Tell us about it in the comments below. Sing it Harry!


Friday, August 03, 2007

Tragedy happens and the press incites panic

In writing about this week's tragic bridge collapse over the Mississippi River between Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, some of you may think that I am demeaning the significance of the event in saying that the mainstream press is engaging in a festival of panic inducement and over-reaction, but all we really need to do is examine how the national press is dealing with the story to see that in the wake of the terrible tragedy the mainstream press seems to enjoy spreading panic.

To believe CBS News, all of our bridges are going to collapse and we are all going to die since our national infrastructure is crumbling. We shall daily read of headlines that this or that bridge has collapsed. NBC tells us that so many of our bridges are old and decrepid that none of them are safe to travel on. Indeed, not just the bridges, but the entire highway system is in need of repair, and the only way to solve the problem is to raise the gas tax. Meanwhile, ABC warns us that the disaster in Minneapolis may intensify a widespread phobia of bridges, while just above that story they ran one warning everyone that their local bridges may not be safe (I suppose ABC News thinks that their story will somehow not contribute to the phobia they speak of). CNN also adds to the climate of fear, and of course U.S. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada got his licks in:

"There is crumbling infrastructure all over the country," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

To be fair to Senator Reid, he joins a bipartisan chorus of leaders all over the country now calling for bridge inspections and highway scrutiny. I do find it funny that we weren't hearing this kind of talk much at all (especially from Democrats) until the Minnesota bridge collapsed. Now it is point-the-finger and shift-the-blame time, so let us use the opportunity to score cheap political points for ourselves off of the injuries and deaths of innocent people, shall we?

Don't get me wrong, I am glad that our State government has finally found the time to inspect East Tennessee bridges. It took a bridge collapse almost 1,000 miles away to trigger what should be a routine inspection? TDOT has work crews all over the place around here working on all sorts of road projects, not all of which are necessary (here in East Tennessee, we are in a perpetual state of Road Construction Eternal), and yet we are just now getting around to a bridge inspection? I can smell the pandering from here.

The bridge collapse in Minnesota was not only a terrible tragedy, but it has triggered a much needed discussion on the state of our bridges and roads. Let's not let this important moment turn into a needless exercise in fear and cheap political point-snatching.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Accessability at Panther Creek

When you live in East Tennessee, dealing with the rugged landscape of mountains and hills is a way of life. Most people I know own vehicles that are capable of driving on the harshest roads imaginable in this part of the country, and that includes Nicole and myself. In much of East Tennessee, a morning or evening stroll will be a walk uphill or downhill.

The need to deal with the beautiful but less-than-perfect lay of the land where mobility is concerned extends to those with disabilities as well. As people make certain that their motor vehicles can handle the stress of mountain roads, so must those with disabilities make sure that they have personal body transport that can move over all kinds of terrain. When I got my current power chair, I made certain that it was built to handle a large amount of stress and could move up and down the steepest hill. The chair has performed admirably under the harshest "driving conditions" that East Tennessee can dish out to it-and it has a life-saving set of spring shocks. The little chair probably can't make it up Clingman's Dome, but it has handled some real whoppers without so much as the threat of tipping over. I have had more trouble with sidewalks than the mountains in my power chair.

Even so, the hill country can make some things difficult, and I learned today that there are things the State of Tennessee could do to lessen the burden where its own facilities are concerned.

Nicole and I had some spare time as both of us had the morning off, and we decided to join Nicole's Grandmother's husband, Joe (it is her second marriage, as she had been widowed) for breakfast. Afterwords we went up to Panther Creek State Park just outside of Morristown for a look at the beautiful view of the Holston River and Cherokee Lake. I've been to Panther Creek before, and since much of the trails at the park are well-paved I thought nothing of not taking my chair there since I never had trouble getting around the park before-especially since you can drive up to the overlook. When we got there today, I had no more trouble than usual at first. There was one twist that would make today different than other days: Today I had to use the restroom.

What I did not know what that someone apparently decided that it would be a good idea to put the park restrooms in the non-camping area on a high hill above the hill the overlook happens to sit on. Sure, if I had my chair with me I could have navigated that hill without a problem. I didn't have my chair though, and I had to hike up the hill instead. Not only was I not wearing hiking boots, I had no idea that getting to the restroom would be so much trouble. Had Nicole and Joe not been there to assist me I surely would have fallen. Three different times I lost my footing, and Nicole saved me from slipping on the dirt and rolling down the hill. To keep my balance I had to hold my walker in a cockeyed position, which itself could have in turn caused me to lose my balance anyway. I made it to the top, but Joe brought his car up the hill to get me down. This was in violation of park rules, but at this point we did not give a damn.

The experience raised a number of questions, not the least of which was why on earth they could not simply have put the restrooms right near the overlook instead of up the hill-at the very least they could have had a portajohn or two nearby. I could have brought my chair that would have made it up that hill, but there may be visitors who would not have that option. Yes, there was a sidewalk on the opposite side of the hill that we were on, but it was still steep enough that some people may not have been able to climb the hill (and I could not have gotten to it from where I was without walking all the way around the hill).

This is a State Park, so why hasn't someone thought of this glaring legal violation before the State of Tennessee gets sued to kingdom come by somebody who can't make it up that hill to relieve themselves (or worse, falls while attempting it)? Are our parks officials just that ignorant, or do they even care?

Yet another day in the saga that is our ever-corrupt and high-handed State government. They can raise our taxes to kingdom come, but they can't put restrooms where all visitors can access them in a popular State Park.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cawood resigns...sort of

If there is nothing right about the infamy described here in past entries that occurred in Knox County, Tennessee on January 31 (and I believe that to be the case) I think Knox County Commissioner Sharon Cawood has to be applauded for at least deciding to resolve the long-standing conflict of interest of working for the Knox County Juvenile Court Clerk's office while also serving on the County Commission.

“I am resigning as I wish to enlarge upon that commitment and end any controversy arising from recent events,” Cawood wrote.

Cawood's resignation will not end the controversy, largely because her appointment stems from having been appointed by her husband Mark, who she replaced on the County Commission. However, the larger controversy seems to be that Mrs. Cawood worked in the County Juvenile Court while serving on County Commission-which has authority over the county budget which could decide her pay. The entire Cawood saga seems to be one not only of nepotism, but of political stupidity. In a participatory system, the Cawoods apparently believed the voting public would overlook these conflicts of interest because so few people seem to care about local government, let alone understand its importance.

I suspect that enough of the citizens of the 6th Commission District of Knox County have let Mrs. Cawood know that they do care about local government, they are aware of the conflicts of interest which surround her appointment to the Knox County Commission, and they will be voting in next year's General Election. Mrs. Cawood is obviously hoping that the political axiom that the electorate have short memories proves to be true in her case yet again.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Let the coaches coach

High school and college football season is upon us, and as everyone who reads my work is aware, I truly love all sports-and yet I have always felt that there was something special about football time.

I have always been more than just a fan of sports, especially baseball and football. Nicole will be the first to tell you that I am what she calls obsessed. I watch games whenever I can, I think over plays and strategies in my head, I second-guess the coach, and I scream at the television-in my case with a hollered explanation of what should have been done.

For all of that, however, I've been around sports for years and have developed a healthy respect and admiration for the job that a coach has. Coaches of every sport have years of experience as players, assistants, and as head coaches. If you dig a little deeper you will often find that coaches have been involved in nearly every conceivable athletic or academic situation during the course of their career-you name it, and the coach has probably seen it.

I found the Prep Xtra story about parents who put pressure on coaches over playing time to be especially disturbing. I realize that most parents think their son is special and deserves more playing time than he might often get. A good coach is interested in only one thing: A winning program. In this regard, the coach is a third party whose job it is to find the best talent and put that talent in prominent positions on the team.

Parents used to understand that the coach was a professional who was determined to win-his job depended on it. As a consequence, the coach led a team whose primary motivation was victory. Now, parents are trying to tell the coach how to do his job in many cases. While not a new phenomenon, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when parental attempts to derail a coach's program would simply not be tolerated. Now, nosy parents who often know little about a coach's plan for a team (they often don't ask, they just think that whatever it is, Johnny needs to play more so he can get a football scholarship) are costing coaches their jobs instead of on-field performance of the team being the deciding factor.

Instead of being the professional molder of a young man's (or woman's) sporting future, the coach is now seen by entirely too many parents as that stupid idiot who doesn't know what he is doing because their kid can't play, or because they don't get their way.

I do not subscribe to the school of thought that says that a coach is God. There are some bad (downright rotten in every way) coaches out there, and I have certainly seen my share. In fact, over my years as a radio commentator-beginning with my days in high school covering sports for the school paper-I developed a reputation as "the coach firer" because it was said by some people inside athletic departments that I was "into firing coaches." I am certainly into getting rid of bad coaches, but I am old school. Just because things are not done the way that I (or anyone else) likes them does not mean they aren't being done right, and I am a firm believer that you have to give a coach the benefit of the doubt unless his way is proven wrong.

I would probably know very little about sports were it not for the fact that I've had occasion to meet a few coaches over the years who taught me something about the games they coached. Because of these wonderful educators I developed not only a lifelong love of sports, but a deep appreciation for the intricacies of certain sports as well as a respect for what it means to be a coach.

As we near the start of another football season, it would do us well to remember the men in the headsets and the ballcaps on the sidelines. They have the hardest job on the field, because not only to they have to pray that their offenses and defenses work, their games are won, and that their players behave, but now they must be concerned about parents who think they can do their job for them.

And parents: Unless you are a football coach, let the coach do his job, and you do yours. Be a supportive parent and fan. Support your coach, don't run him down.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Sharon Cobb On the Air

Former NBC News correspondent Sharon Cobb discusses the Presidential race from the Democratic perspective. Also, the Tennessee U.S. Senate race. Jessica's Law. Political involvement of the blogging community.

Oatney On the Air-July 30, 2007

Mercifully, I was not there that awful day

Today's Knoxville News-Sentinel details what more about what supposedly happened in the lead-up to the January 31 Knox County Commission meeting that became infamous for the appointment of eight Knox County Commissioners without public input. The paper has sued, claiming that the Open Meetings Act (more popularly known as the Tennessee Sunshine Law) was violated repeatedly that day by nearly all Commissioners present.

The News-Sentinel does manage to detail somewhat accurately the reality of the struggle between backers of corrupt Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale and former Knox County Sheriff Tim Hutchison. I have openly admitted my sympathies for the Sheriff and his backers before, but two things become clear as the story of what happened that day becomes more apparent. The friends of the Sheriff-however just I believe their cause might have been-behaved in a way that did great discredit not only to the very concept of free government, but to the man whose ideas they represented, Sheriff Hutchison. Hutchison served Knox County as Sheriff for nearly 17 years, and has been a bulwark against the corruption in Ragsdale's office-precisely the reason for the political showdown between the two sides. That Hutchison would have sat back and allowed his supporters to behave in the manner in which they did tarnished his own character in the eyes of many who had previously thought well of him.

Then there was the Mayor, who was no less vocal about the fact that if he didn't get his way, he would not assist the districts where Commissioners didn't vote with him.

“He asked me who I was going to support — Lee Tramel or Scott Davis,” Ivan Harmon recalled. “I said, ‘I’m supporting Lee Tramel.’ The mayor more or less said, ‘Well, if you support Lee Tramel, I can’t support your district.’ Of course, he says he didn’t say that but I had no reason to lie to him about it or anybody, but he just didn’t feel like Lee would be a good team player.”

"Team player" in Ragsdalespeak means "he will not always do as I want or bend to my absolute will." So as the Sheriff and his backers were making manuvers to use the process to clean the Ragsdale people off the Commission, Ragsdale was equally busy threatening those who would not do as he wanted with cutting their districts off from his plans for the county. This shatters the myth that Ragsdale set about perpetuating after the fact that he-the living Saint of the whole affair-was completely opposed to this backroom wheeling and dealing. He himself was actively engaged therein.

The tragedy is that people who I believe are good people with the right motives for being involved in public service-folks like Lumpy Lambert-got caught in the trap of self-interest that this entire proceeding created. Lambert was not alone in his belief that the process of replacing these term-limited Commissioners was a golden opportunity to run the Ragsdale crowd off and render the county's shady chief executive powerless.

“I said, ‘OK, if you are not a Ragsdale man, will you go find yourself a judge, get sworn in and cast a vote and break this tie for my buddy, Lee Tramel?’ I said, ‘The press will eat you alive for that, but if you are really not a Ragsdale man’ and he said, ‘Oh, no, no, I won’t do that.’ I’m like, ‘OK, that’s what I thought.’ ”

Lumpy became so concerned with beating Mike Ragsdale that getting the County Mayor's pants in a wad became more of a concern than doing what was in the public's best interest. Both sides became so obsessed with being the immediate political winners that they cared not what the public might make of the way they were conducting the people's business.

By the way, for those who think that Mark Harmon is the one with clean hands in all of this, I have heard from multiple sources that Harmon made it clear that day that he would only be pleased if liberals were appointed to these Commission seats. Mark Harmon has his own agenda, too.

As for me, I hate to say that I am glad I never finished my campaign for the 2A seat. I might-just might have beaten Harmon because unlike David Collins, I never had the specter of flouting the wishes of the people over my head. However, had I been serving on that day, I fear that no matter which way I might have come down, the people would have been the losers. I am thankful in the end that I was never in a situation where I had to come away feeling that I had "blood on my hands." When I realized our family could be moving, I remember how disappointed that I felt that I couldn't finish the campaign. I was sore over it for several days after I made the decision because I had wanted to serve so badly-and serve was all I had in my heart to do.

As the events that led up to January 31 in Knox County unfolded, I began to see that the Lord knows far better than we do when certain things ought to happen. I now see it as an act of God's mercy that I was not on the Knox County Commission in January. I do not have to deal with sleepless nights and endless trips to the confessional as a result. I leave it to Mark Harmon to try to avoid going to the commode to vomit after every Knox County Commission meeting, for the conscience of any man or woman in that corrupt government should surely cause them to throw up.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Brickyard, Michael Vick, and seroids in sports

The Brickyard 400. Continuing developments in the Michael Vick dogfighting case. Baseball Hall of Fame inductions and the contrast with the steroid era. The evolving steroid scandal in World Wrestling Entertainment.

The Sports Pack-July 29, 2007

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