As my regular readers know, I've been blowing the whistle on Ragsdale for well over a year and a half now and it has not been an easy thing to do. I supported Steve Hall for Knox County Mayor (I was still a Knox County voter during that race) while much of the establishment supported Ragsdale. Ragsdale won because he had well-funded establishment support, and because many Knox County voters were simply unaware of the scale of abuse in his office. My support of Hall was also much to the dismay of my friend Brian Hornback. I remember on election night Rob and Angela Huddleston and myself shared a table with Brian. We didn't have straight numbers coming in, but we did have precinct reports. When the first of those came in, I turned to Rob and asked rather gloomily: "We gettin' beat?" Brian said "well, it just depends on who 'we' is." Unlike certain bloggers in East Tennessee, I have always liked Brian because his beliefs are genuine-even if I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with the man. His biggest fault has been believing that Mike Ragsdale is out for anyone other than Mike Ragsdale.
Those of us who have continually been on the other side of the intra-Republican civil war over Ragsdale have some serious vindication now that the press is beginning to report on some of the abuses in his office. The News-Sentinel reports on this information as if it is new or surprising. This is the same paper that endorsed Ragsdale for re-election, so if course I am sure that Jack McElroy doesn't particularly like the idea of having to eat crow. Which brings us back to Mr. Cosby-I wish we had this man keeping track of Ragsdale's waste last May, because had we been able to put such a hard paper trail to the deeds of the Knox County Mayor's office at that time, we'd be calling Steve Hall "Mr. Mayor."
“I think that I would be one of the handful of front-runners on the Republican side,” Ramsey, a Blountville Republican state senator who represents Sullivan and Johnson counties, said of that thought. “Obviously the most important thing right now is to be re-elected in November 2008. But I am making a name across the state, so it’s not something I’ve ruled out for sure.”
Governor Ramsey also admitted that it is "a hard time to raise money.
“You have (former Tennessee U.S. Sen. and expected presidential candidate) Fred Thompson who is doing all he can to raise money,” Ramsey explained. “You have (current Tennessee U.S. Sen.) Lamar (Alexander who is running for re-election in 2008) who will soon be doing a fund-raiser where I will be one of the co-hosts. Everybody right now is asking for money, and I’ve not started my own campaign. I need to make sure I have a pretty good nest egg by the time we go back into (legislative) session because from January on we can’t raise money until we get out of session.”
I have known for several months that Ramsey has been considering a run for Governor. By the time the Times-News report was released (I saw it in a link at Volunteer Voters), what the story contained was old news. In spite of the money problems that Ramsey was extremely honest about in the piece, I also think that he would be the most viable conservative option of any candidate in a GOP Gubernatorial Primary, and he would likely have my support.
The great problem that I see for Ron Ramsey, however, is that the field may be too crowded for him to run a winning campaign in 2010. If Bill Frist is anywhere near the 2010 Gubernatorial race the establishment will back him, and that would likely leave conservative votes split between Ramsey and Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (if she should run). I also do not believe Ramsey could win a one-on-one Primary against Frist because Bill Frist will always have better name recognition (and yes, in such a race my personal support goes to Governor Ramsey).
Ramsey's best chance at victory in 2010 will come if Bill Frist does not run. Then it would stand to reason that he becomes the frontrunner by fiat even if he is still battling issues of name recognition. Perhaps the reason Ramsey is considering a run in spite of the possibility if facing Frist is that he just may not feel up to doing it four years later-maybe he feels that when it comes to running for Governor, it is now or never.
Is the Jefferson County Commission failing in its duty?
Many outside of Jefferson County may not be aware that Jefferson County Sheriff David Davenport has filed suit over recent budget cuts in the Sheriff's Department-cuts that have forced Sheriff Davenport to lay off needed personnel. For his own part, the Sheriff says that he was required to file the suit under State law because the cuts leave his department unable to effectively function. In the suit, Davenport names Jefferson County Mayor Alan Palmieri as the Defendant.
By law, Palmieri must serve as the Defendant in this case because he is the county's chief executive. Both the Sheriff and the Jefferson County Standard Banner -the twice weekly publication that passes for a local newspaper in these parts, admit that the suit isn't aimed at Palmieri, but is aimed at the Jefferson County Commission which authorized the cuts. It would be very easy for someone outside the county to say "guess that means you need a tax increase." Well, we are about to have one-property taxes will be raised this year. The Commission is already anticipating the additional revenue from that increase. There was the obvious initial argument over whether the increase was needed, but now that it is certainly coming, we really ought to ask the question as to where the money is going.
In Jefferson County, there are five incorporated municipalities: New Market, Jefferson City, Dandridge, Baneberry, and White Pine. Outside of those places (which encompasses most of the county) the Sheriff and his men are the only local law enforcement. Without significant county coverage, it is very possible that crimes could be committed and the Sheriff would not be able to respond for lack of adequate manpower. It is simple to say "the county is in a budget crunch (again, something the Commission should be able to anticipate well ahead of time) and the cuts have to come somewhere." Perhaps this is so, and everyone wants their piece of the pie and everyone else to suffer except them. The problem with shifting the budget cuts to the Sheriff's Office is that the enforcement of the law is a basic and required function of county government-there is effectively no county if there is no law enforcement.
Under the Tennessee Constitution, the County Sheriff is a constitutional officer, meaning that his office must exist and operate effectively in order for the government of the county to function in the manner in which State law requires. In filing this suit, Sheriff Davenport is telling the State that the cuts made by the County Commission leave his office unable to function in the way that the Constitution requires it to do. What does it say about the County Commission's ability to manage our money effectively if it cannot adequately fund the most basic and necessary office of local government in this State-that of the County Sheriff-but it can increase our taxes while failing in this most basic duty?
After the Knox County Commission raised questions about Community Services Director Cynthia Finch's questionable distribution of grant money to non-profit organizations that she herself has a vested interest in, Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale sent the Commission a letter defending Finch. In the letter, Ragsdale likened Finch, whose obvious conflict of interest is glaring in this case, to Jesus Christ.
“I mention these things because her success is not built on her family’s wealth or good fortune, but rather through years of hard work and dedicated community service,” Ragsdale wrote.
The mayor cited Finch’s work on various nonprofit boards, including the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership and the Knoxville Symphony, and her status as the first known black woman to serve as a Knox County director.
In response to comments from commissioners and an unidentified columnist suggesting that Finch resign, Ragsdale referred to Matthew 27.
Although he didn’t cite a specific verse in the first gospel of the Christian New Testament, the chapter details the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ
Believe it or not, I don't doubt that Cynthia Finch may personally be a good Christian woman, and she may indeed have a heart of gold. I also don't find it surprising or even wrong that she would want non-profit agencies of which she happens to be a part to get their share of grant money that is floating around. The problem is that as Knox County Community Services Director, she is placed in a position where she was responsible for the impartial disbursement of that grant money while having ties to several groups receiving large amounts of grant money.
Ragsdale cites the reality that Ms. Finch is the first black woman to serve as a county director in the over-200-year history of the county. Does this mean that Ragsdale thinks that all of these charges are mere race-baiting? I can't speak for others, but I think Ms. Finch earned her position as Community Services Director, and not one bit of her getting where she is today was based on her race or gender. Similarly, race or gender should not be a factor is someone has a conflict of interest or engages in wrongdoing while in office. Using race as a tool to avoid having to answer the charges against her does not befit Cynthia Finch or Mike Ragsdale. Indeed, with every communication on these matters, Mike Ragsdale sounds more desperate not to have officials of his administration answer for anything-the trail, after all, ultimately leads back to him.
Meanwhile, Knox County law director John Owings says he may ask the Commission to redo the entire process of January 31, and this time perhaps citizens will be able to speak and be heard. Failure to do so could result in a jury trial against the County for the Commissioners having violated the sunshine law after the shady process at the end of January whereby term-limited County Commissioners were replaced after the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that term limits were valid in Knox County. Under the Owings proposal, the term-limited Commissioners would return to office temporarily to re-appoint their replacements.
Would Sheriff Tim Hutchison also return? How about former Knox County Clerk William Mike Padgett? Anyone want to take bets on how long it will take for the process to degenerate into a circus?
Over at Volunteer Voters, Mack has an interesting response to my post of last Friday describing the bizarre situation about a first-responder call, aid that was never given, and the non-English speaker who was apparently at the heart of the whole unfortunate situation. He commented:
Well, I agree that illegal immigration should be curtailed. So lets change the tone of the debate, find some ways to account for who is here, and then allow as many immigrants to come as we need. Trust me, by the second generation, they know English, probably better than most of those who reside in White Pine.
Mack seems to make the assumption that all of the illegal aliens coming here intend to stay here and Americanize themselves. If Americanization is the goal, why not come here legally in the first place?
Beyond that, however, is the larger notion that the illegals presently coming here intend for there to be a second generation in America as we know it. As we have learned, there are plenty of illegal aliens who have no respect at all for the sovereignty of the United States or their borders. Those who might have that respect are egged on by those who do not.
I have observed many immigrants, including people of Latin American descent, who clearly love America, they love what we are about and want to be a part of it. They learn English, they teach their children about America and American history in addition to their own cultural heritage. I even know of several instances of Hispanic people and other immigrants here in East Tennessee who made sure to go through the legal process of entering properly. I know of one personally who served his country in World War II and was a Prisoner of War, denied the accolades of his country for many years because of his Hispanic origins-now that is a patriot in every sense of the word.
I have also observed many others who are making no effort to be integrated into the local community or into American society. I have personally witnessed efforts to be inclusive and to assimilate be balked at by those who were on the receiving end of those efforts, as if they had no desire to be included, to have "Anglo" friends, or to be integrated into society at-large. I have found with increasing frequency that this group has become more and more numerous. If this continues, there will be no English-speaking second generation. We will be a segregated people by the aliens' choice.
Many non-Catholics as well as many well-meaning Catholics mistakenly believe that the Church is completely opposed to capital punishment. Hence, the question often arises when a Catholic politician is opposed to abortion but favors the death penalty whether that person is really pro-life. Liberals not only like to use the death penalty as a way to avoid having to deal with the abortion question, but as a way to try and harangue pro-life Catholics with the notion that they are somehow holding a double standard when they vote for a political candidate who is opposed to abortion but favors the death penalty.
But what does the Church really say about the death penalty? The most recent edition of The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
2266 The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and the duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party. 2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
The Catechism goes on to say:
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
In further explaining this, The Catechism goes on to point out that there are other means of punishment available to the State today short of taking life, and that cases where execution is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not non-existent."
That is the Catechism as promulgated by Pope John Paul II. It does not condemn the death penalty, but essentially says "the State has the right to use the death penalty, but we would really rather you didn't." As a former professor who was a friend of mine-Dr. David Matual-once pointed out,the Church can't prohibit in its teaching something that is scriptural, so we are not going to see the Church condemn the death penalty outright as a matter of dogma, since its use is scriptural.
On the other hand, what does the same authoritative document say about abortion?
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. 75 God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes. 76
2272 Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. "A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae," 77"by the very commission of the offense," 78and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. 79The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society.
2273 The inalienable right to life of every innocent human individual is a constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation:
"The inalienable rights of the person must be recognized and respected by civil society and the political authority. These human rights depend neither on single individuals nor on parents; nor do they represent a concession made by society and the state; they belong to human nature and are inherent in the person by virtue of the creative act from which the person took his origin. Among such fundamental rights one should mention in this regard every human being's right to life and physical integrity from the moment of conception until death." 80
"The moment a positive law deprives a category of human beings of the protection which civil legislation ought to accord them, the state is denying the equality of all before the law. When the state does not place its power at the service of the rights of each citizen, and in particular of the more vulnerable, the very foundations of a state based on law are undermined.... As a consequence of the respect and protection which must be ensured for the unborn child from the moment of conception, the law must provide appropriate penal sanctions for every deliberate violation of the child's rights." 81
Grave offense? Excommunication? Ouch!
We just don't see that kind of language when dealing with the death penalty-so the Church does recognize one as being worse than the other. The aborted child is always completely innocent. The convicted murderer is often not. The Church has consistently recognized abortion as a grave sin-and that is why there is no double standard where Catholic doctrine is concerned.
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