Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bill Gaither sings Bluegrass

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage with Bill Gaither. A classic.

From Bluegrass Homecoming


Friday, August 10, 2007

The insanity of 2008

I have long said that our frontloaded Primary and Caucus calendar for 2008 was going to cause voter fatigue, and in a year when many people are dissatisfied with candidates it will simply cause voters in many States to stay home. What reason is there to go to the polls to select delegates to your party's Convention when the meat of the contest has already been decided in some earlier States? Further, if you feel you had utterly no say in the nomination of your party's candidate and the outcome doesn't agree with you, why should you vote in the General Election?

I don't personally advocate that line of thinking because I believe that everyone should make their voice heard in the ways in which our system allows. It is easy to see why someone would feel that way when the process could essentially be over by the first week in February.

There was a time-and it was a time not long ago-when States and State political parties were less concerned about who went first as they were about voting-period. Primaries and caucuses were spread out so that in a tight race, any State might have an impact, and some that thought they would often did not. The process was unpredictable and the primaries or caucuses were spread out so that you didn't know how the conventions would go until they happened. That could be seen as late as 1980.

I have grown to respect the custom of Iowa having the first-in-the-nation Caucus and New Hampshire having the first-in-the-nation Primary. It also makes historical sense for South Carolina to have the first Southern Primary. Fine. Who says everyone has to bunch up their Primary to be as close to New Hampshire and South Carolina as possible? State parties are complaining that they will be "forgotten." This is nothing but cheap jargon designed to convince the gullible that their State needs into this mega-Primary so that they could be in on the money pool. Few seem to have given any thought to what might happen if States said no to a mega-Primary en masse.

States that now complain of being forgotten or having no influence really won't have any with the coming Super Tuesday on February 5th. Candidates will not have time to visit every State or to interact with the voting public. Instead those of us who will be voting on February 5th or sooner will be bombarded with television campaign advertizing right around Christmas. The very thought just makes me want to deck the halls with boughs of holly.

Because South Carolina is intent on keeping its first-in-the-South status, it moved its Primary to January 19th after Florida moved to January 29th. New Hampshire law dictates that its Primary must be at least a week before any others, but it must also be on a Tuesday, which would mean New Hampshire would vote on January 8th. Iowa law says that the Iowa Caucuses must be held at least eight days before New Hampshire, and since New Year's Day is a holiday, and Hawkeyes are are unlikely to caucus on New Year's Eve, they could vote as early as mid-December, or (even worse) the Tuesday after Christmas.

I love politics-my wife has even said that I live for it. Even I have my limits, however, and when my limits for political exposure begin to be pressed then you know that it is too much too soon.

When the voting process for 2008 could begin in 2007, there is little doubt that the public will be fatigued with anything to do with politics long before September. This raises interesting questions for any of us who are considering hyper-local races in 2008: When do you begin to campaign in such a climate? How much campaigning is too much? How can you campaign effectively when people have been hearing "politics, politics, politics" since last year and they sure as Hell don't want to hear it from you? How will the lengthy Presidential campaign affect turnout and voting numbers for local races in November? Local candidates never had to ask questions like this with such frequency, but they will in 2008.

The record early start to the 2008 Presidential campaign is not only bad for the process on a national level because of the burnout that it will cause, but it could deal a terrible blow to the local process as well on so many levels. No one with any authority seems to care about that, and everyone seems to be content to let the process spin out of control.

By 2012, we may begin voting as early as October 2011.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Barry Balco and 756

The Son of Bobby Bonds cheated his way to 756 home runs on Tuesday night. I didn't write about it yesterday because frankly I found the entire matter to be too depressing to discuss-I needed a day to cool off.

Everybody who knows that I did sportswriting and sports commentary in the past usually asks me for a myriad of opinions about football at the college and professional level. That's fine, because I truly love football and I have a passion for it-but my heart has always been at a ballpark somewhere in the center field bleachers. I have a passion for football, but the only things in the world I love more than the game of baseball are my God and my wife.

For those of us who love the game-those who believe that baseball is as much a part of our collective national soul as the Declaration of Independence or the Winter at Valley Forge, that it is part of what it means and what it is to be American-we are putridly sick, and we have been since about ten minutes to nine on Tuesday night. That night will go down in history as the night that the most hallowed record in America's national game was broken largely due to the influence of illegal drugs.

Like ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski, I can't pretend that I have it in me to congratulate Barry Balco on creaming 756 home runs and breaking Henry Aaron's home run record. Because Hammerin' Hank is a man of class, he videotaped a congratulatory message to Barry the Cream-but the fact that he didn't attend spoke volumes.

Tuesday night the holy grail of American sporting records was eclipsed by a cheating criminal. His engagement in illegal activity is in large part what got him to the record, just like Mark McGwire (we now know) seems to have "broken" the single-season home run record, also shattered the same year by Sammy Sosa who finished just behind McGwire, who is also under a cloud of steroid suspicion. In case anyone forgot, Barry Balco is now the single-season record-holder, yet another steroid-induced feat. Legitimate record-holder Roger Maris spins in his grave.

And that is what Baseball has now become-a game so cheapened by the cheating of performance-enhancing drugs that you just don't know what is real anymore.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Fred brings out the bomber

After today's announcement that former Senator Fred Thompson has hired Bill Lacy to join his campaign team and run day to day operations, there is little doubt that Thompson really does intend to run for President. For all of the talk about the dangers of continuing delay in an official announcement (something that I tend to agree with) the fact that Lacy is joining the team is a likely signal that the recent reshuffle at the almost-Fred '08 campaign was less a move of desperation and more of a preparation for the long and hard slog of a long-term campaign.

It was Lacy, after all, who took Fred Thompson from a 20-point deficit in 1994-when the race against Jim Cooper looked all but lost-to an overwhelming victory. With Lacy's guidance, the underdog crushed his Democratic opponent with a Statewide majority of over 320,000 votes and over 60% of the overall vote total. Lacy also made Fred Thompson a marketable candidate. The red pickup truck for which Fred Thompson would become so famous as both a candidate and a Senator was the brainchild of Bill Lacy, who is a real believer in shaking hands, holding babies, and pounding the pavement to reach out to the grassroots.

Lacy has real Presidential Primary experience as well. In 1980, Lacy ran Ronald Reagan's campaign in the Maryland Primary, which that year proved to be a pivitol test for the Republican nomination. Mr. Lacy knows how to lead underdogs to victory, and his depth of experience should be seen as a sign that Fred Thompson is ready to wage a come-from-behind effort to win the nomination if that is what is needed.

Just when I was prepared to say it was getting too late for Fred Thompson, he doesn't hire a Big Gun-he hires the political equivalent of a B1 Bomber. There is little doubt at this point that Fred Thompson is running for President-the only question now is whether he will wait too long to make it official.

Correction (Thu. 8/9 12:40 pm): Adam Groves points out that Tom Ingram is who suggested the red pickup truck, not Lacy. Lacy, he points out, actually opposed the idea.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Margie Loyd and Mike Ragsdale

The word is out that Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale's former Executive Assistant has filed a racial discrimination complaint with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission. Ms. Loyd alleges that she was forced to resign from Mike Ragsdale's office because she is African-American.

I have to admit that I think Loyd's official complaint-that she was fired because she was black-probably lacks real merit because she was fired in the wake of a scandal that has engulfed the Knox County Mayor's office over improper use of public funds. What I do not doubt, however, is that Ms. Loyd was treated unfairly. She would have gotten the same treatment if she were a white woman, and she would have been treated in the way in which she was precisely because the Mayor would have needed a scapegoat to insure that he escaped greater public scrutiny for the wrongdoing in his office.

It is worth noting that according to Ms. Loyd, Mike Ragsdale reportedly told her that Chairman Moore and the other County Commissioners were racists and "wanted her gone."

In her complaint Monday, she said Ragsdale told her on at least two occasions that Commission Chairman Moore and other commissioners “did not like African-Americans.”

“I was so concerned that I informed the Knox County human resource director about the comments,” she said in her complaint.

Ragsdale told Loyd that Moore “wants you gone,” the complaint states.

I think that is a heaping pile of BS-I don't think Moore was responsible in the least for Margie Loyd's firing, but Mike Ragsdale was. What is perhaps the most sickening part of this whole story is that it would appear that Ragsdale sold Loyd this story about the County Commission being racist in order to use Loyd's firing as a tool in his war with the County Commission which opposes him.

None of this is to say that the Knox County Commission is devoid of problems, but public racism is not the Commission's difficulty-it is public illegitimacy instead.

Margie Loyd was not fired from her job in the Knox County Mayor's Office because of her race, she was fired to try and cover the Mayor's increasingly air-conditioned rear end. To use a tired old expression, Ms. Loyd knows where the bodies are buried and can be easily blamed.

This is the latest political problem to plague the Knox County Mayor's office, and using the logic of "anybody is at fault but me," someone had to pay the price for Mike Ragsdale's abuse of power-so long as that someone was not Mike Ragsdale. Ms. Loyd has been done rather dirty in all of this mess, so perhaps filing a racial discrimination complaint was the only way to get back at the man who is ultimately responsible.

If you've never lived in Knox County and you ever do one day, be careful about opposing Mike Ragsdale, he might say you are a racist too.


Monday, August 06, 2007

A Democrat might run..."if there are enough independents"

Word has come down that Democrats in the First District are considering putting up another sacrificial lamb for Congress in 2008 against Congressman David Davis. Both WNPC Radio in Newport and the Knoxville News-Sentinel are reporting that Knoxville-based Attorney and Cocke County native Gordon Ball is considering running. Ball isn't even going after Democrats, according to the interview he gave WNPC news director Ray Snader that aired this morning. Ball's exact words were "we're going to do some polling and see if there are enough independents."

I think we have to take it for granted that Ball isn't stupid. He ran for Congress 30 years ago and was quickly dispensed with, so he is doubtless aware that he has about as much chance of unseating any Republican in the First District (which has not elected a Democrat since 1881) as Sanjaya has of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I think Ball has two other motives for running and neither is victory.

In the interview I heard this morning, it became clear to me that Ball's primary campaign theme will be how the Administration has mishandled the War in Iraq. I have mentioned before that you can sense a latent anti-war (not pacifist or even anti-military) sentiment around here that is deep-seated. People are angry with how the war has been handled, they are angry about being misled about the war, and angry that soldiers and Marines from the Fighting First are being injured and killed in a war that was not necessary in the first place. Mr. Ball has doubtless sensed this and wants to play on it politically-something that he can't be blamed for in the least.

The ever-growing anger about the war will not be enough to turn the reddest Congressional district in America into a Democratic seat. To even hope for a respectable showing (40% or higher) Mr. Ball must run on a platform that is identical to his opponent Congressman David Davis on social issues like abortion or marriage, and he must be opposed to any form of gun control. My guess would be that when it comes to these kinds of issues, he will sound exactly like Davis or even attempt to run to his right in some cases. If he sounds too liberal, he won't even be remembered after November of 2008.

I would go so far as to say that if it looks for one minute like the Democratic Party is actually going to contest next November's Congressional election and not just run a token candidate, the entire Republican apparatus will unite behind David Davis as never before in order to insure the Democrats' destruction at the polls.

The second reason Ball may be running is that a respectable showing is something that Democrats in Upper East Tennessee can build on for the future. As much as I personally enjoy watching Democrats get whipped like mayonnaise in nearly every election in these parts, even I must admit that the de facto one-party system that exists in much of East Tennessee isn't good for Republicans because we get plenty of liberals and Democrats who run as Republicans in order to hold office and then sell the Party out. (Mike Williams is the most glaring example of this phenomenon).

It might do well to at least have token Democratic opposition so that we have someone other than each other at which we may direct our ire.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Coaches poll, and whether fans have had enough

The game-fixing referee scandal in the NBA. Have fans had enough of the perpetual problems in the sports world? NFL Hall of Fame inductions.The ESPN/USA Today College Football coaches' poll is released.

The Sports Pack-August 5,2007

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