Saturday, September 01, 2007

Don Williams



Friday, August 31, 2007

The entitlement mentality

Sean Braisted wrote a post the other day about his disagreement with some controversial statements that Tennessee Republican Chairman Robin Smith made about the nature of the war in Iraq. My concern is not so much over what Sean said about Chairman Smith's comments about the war, but a one-liner that seems to indicate that the ever-idealistic Braisted is falling into the trap that the Tennessee Democratic Party has laid for itself of thinking that it is forever entitled to majority status:

Now, nobody of course really cares all that much about what the Chair of the TNGOP thinks or says...the group itself struggles with it's irrelevancy on the State level.

Irrelevancy? Braisted would have us believe that a party that did not lose a single seat in the General Assembly in a year when dissatisfaction with Republicans was extremely high, a party that managed to buck the national trend of a large Democratic majority by sending a Republican Senator to Washington, and a Party that has given Tennessee its first Republican Lieutenant Governor since Reconstruction is irrelevant? By that logic, Democrats must be a non-entity in Tennessee-they couldn't carry Tennessee for her own favorite son for President in 2000 (who won every county in the State ten years prior in his Senate re-election), they couldn't win the 2006 Senate election with the most electable candidate they could have fielded amid widespread dissatisfaction with the Republican nominee, and when the General Assembly is in session many of their members vote with Republicans on key legislation.

The truth, of course, is that neither party organization in Tennessee is irrelevant. Political parity in this State is an increasing reality, as Republican influence makes its way into the former Democratic bastions of Middle and West Tennessee. The Democratic base (both traditional and modern) should not be taken for granted by the Democrats or written off by the GOP (and vice-versa).

The notion that Republicans are irrelevant is a widespread one among Democrats in Nashville. This same mentality also leads to a sense that they are entitled to perpetual majorities and eternal control. The GOP is but five seats shy of control in the Tennessee House (I am counting Chris Crider's traditionally Democratic West Tennessee seat, since Crider has announced he will leave the House after 2008 whether he is elected Mayor of Milan or not), and what will bring them to control is a continued sense of entitlement to their positions on the part of the Democrats. This way of thinking is one that the Republicans developed at the federal level, and we see where it got them last year.

The sense of being able to deal with anything and survive anything that results from assuming that your opposition is irrelevant and that you can get whatever you want is part of the reason that the majority of people who got nailed in Tennessee Waltz were Democrats. The notion of invincibility that results from seeing your opposition as irrelevant is part of the reason that John Ford is spending an extended period of time as a guest at the Graybar Hilton.

It should never be assumed that the other political party is irrelevant, for when you make that assumption, you unintentionally begin the long, slow process of writing your own political obituary. I am surprised and disappointed that Sean Braisted would begin to fall into that trap. As much as I disagree with Sean's politics, I think him to be a politically savvy and gifted young man. I would have thought that he would know better.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

President Fred

Fred is IN ON SEPTEMBER 6th! It was made official earlier today in a conference call.

Congressman Jimmy Duncan may be set to accept a key campaign position as well.


Larry Craig and sex scandals

Washington sex scandals and how they play out. The Left's reaction to the allegations against Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig.

Oatney On the Air-August 30, 2007


Forgivness and resignation

The reactions all over the liberal blogosphere to Idaho Senator Larry Craig's guilty plea to a lesser charge regarding a homosexual encounter with a man in a Minneapolis public restroom at the airport are garnering the many and predictable liberal outcries of "hypocrisy" that come when such things occur and a Republican is involved. Let us note with care here that if Craig were a liberal Democrat, many a conservative and/or Republican would go out of their way to use the situation to their political advantage, labeling Senator Craig as a pervert-and perhaps not-so-covertly trying to label the national Democrats as the Party of Perversion. This is a political routine so predictable when something like this hits the fan that depending on the party and the person, one can accurately predict the reaction of both sides as soon as the story breaks.

Where the Left misses the point when they accuse people on the pro-family Right of "hypocrisy" is that the vast majority of these people are Christians. One thing that nearly all stripes of Christianity have in common is the recognition that humanity has a fallen and sinful nature, and that no man or woman short of Christ (and for Catholics His Mother) has ever lived a life free from sin. The need to atone for sin and seek God's forgiveness for our imperfections is the very reason that Christians believe Christ existed to begin with.

Just how all-encompassing do Christians believe God's mercy to be? In the time of Christ, tax collectors were among the most hated sinners of all, and with good reason. Like today's IRS, the Roman tax collectors robbed the people blind, and they did a step worse-they pilfered some of the money off the top for themselves. Frequently, they collected far more taxes than were actually due in order to make a handsome profit. They represented the height of public wickedness at that time. Yet Jesus took the time to illustrate that even a tax collector, called a publican in older translations, could receive God's mercy.

Luke 18:10-14:

Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in a week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven; but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down into his house justified rather that the other: because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled: and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.

God's mercy is so infinite, and the depth of His love so great, that anyone can be forgiven if they are truly contrite. Murderers can be forgiven, adulterers can be forgiven, anyone can be forgiven by God of any wrong, and in spite of what certain people say, so can Senator Craig. Senator Craig was never any freer from sin than the rest of us, and that means that he was just as susceptable to sin as all of us are. Christians recognize this weakness where sin is concerned because we have all sinned to a man or woman. (Yes liberals, I have sinned!)

Forgiveness of sin entails true contrition and a willingness to try and amend your life and remove the offending sin in question. It is not for me to judge whether Senator Craig has this true contrition and firm purpose of amendment. We do know that he swears he isn't gay.

Being forgiven of sin, however, does not mean that a person is then suddenly immune from the consequences of their actions. Indeed, Senator Craig's homosexuality or lack thereof has no bearing on the need for him to face the consequences for this wicked deed. Engaging in intimate relations with another man in a public restroom is a perverted, shameful, and uncalled for act. It would be equally perverted and shameful if Senator Craig had been discovered engaging in such an act with a woman in a broom closet at the airport. It is a disgraceful thing that constitutes conduct unbecoming a United States Senator, and tarnishes the honor and dignity of the Senate itself. Senator Craig may have asked Almighty God, his wife, and his family to forgive him, and all three entities may have done so, but this in no way removes the temporal consequences of the thing he has done-consequences that ought to be expected regardless of party or ideology.

Because Senator Larry Craig has engaged in conduct that is grossly unbecoming a United States Senator, I agree with Boise, Idaho Republican Precinct Captain Adam Graham that Senator Larry Craig should resign immediately.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

St. Mary's and Baptist

This isn't the most political of topics, but it is major news in hospital-rich East Tennessee that St. Mary's Health System and Baptist Health System are merging. The press is concentrating on the obvious community benefits to the merger. Baptist's tremendous cardiovascular research and health unit will likely combine with St. Mary's great rehab unit. One thing that is being mentioned only casually is the faith heritage of these two great institutions. St. Mary's is still a real Catholic hospital, not just one in name only (a rarity these days). Baptist is still controlled and overseen by Baptists.

That maynot seem like such a big deal to those who aren't from those faith traditions, especially it doesn't matter what your religious beliefs are when you are ill and need treatment-the hospitals are there to heal the sick regardless of their religious faith, but it does matter in ways you may not even think about. I refuse to be treated anywhere except St. Mary's, not only because I know it is the best hospital in East Tennessee (which it is), but because I know that if I have to stay in the hospital, they will offer Holy Mass in the hospital chapel on Saturdays and Sundays. If I am nearing the hour of death, and I beg to see a priest, they will not merely send me the closest available chaplain (that has happened), they will find me a priest come Hell or high water. If I just need someone to pray with me, it isn't uncommon to find a Sister of Mercy roaming the hallways at St, Mary's who knows how to pray the rosary. There are people at St. Mary's who know what a brown scapular is.

They may seem like silly things to some, but these are important things in a hospital if you are a person of faith. They are little things that have a big spiritual impact at a time when you really need a serious experience with God. These aren't the only reasons I choose St. Mary's, but I would be lying if I said they didn't play a role. I feel so strongly about St. Mary's that I have chosen to forgo closer hospitals in case of an emergency and would be going straight to St. Mary's in Knoxville.

I am also sure that many of our Baptist friends feel the same way about Baptist Hospital and for the same sorts of reasons. One of the things that has been announced is that the name of the system will change as a result of the merger. I sincerely hope that a name is not chosen that dilutes the spiritual heritage of either place.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Blaming the children

I just love it how Knox County Mayor Mike Ragsdale tries to deflect attention from the issue at hand when it relates to him with something totally unrelated to what is being discussed. Yesterday, we learned that the reckless spending in the Knox County Mayor's Office didn't occur because Mike Ragsdale allowed it to go on. No-it happened because the Mayor was minding more important matters-he was reading to schoolchildren.

“I suspect that instead of going to read with school kids, I could have spent more time in the office making financial decisions,” said Ragsdale, who was moved to tears at the end of his speech.

“Our record keeping wasn’t good, but our results were great.”

Since my wife is a former employee of Knox County Schools, I have had the opportunity to see the Read With Me program in action. It is a great program, and I do think it is wonderful that the Mayor set it up-but it also doesn't require a penny of taxpayer dollars and it depends on community volunteers to make it work. Mayor Ragsdale is just one of these volunteers, and it may shock him to learn that there are now programs like Read With Me all over the country. Surely Read With Me has enough volunteers that if this were what was keeping Mayor Ragsdale from doing right by the taxpayers of Knox County, someone could fill in for him.

Give us all a break, Mr. Mayor. Everyone or everything else is responsible for the wrongdoing in your office except you. It was all Tyler Harber's doing when he hacked into the e-mails of your intra-Party rivals to dig up dirt (he was a "troubled young man"), then it was Requitta Bone's fault that she overused her county purchasing card wining and dining while you do the same. It was former Finance Director John Werner's fault for engaging in practices that were so commonplace in the executive branch that he saw no problem with them. Then it was Margie Loyd's fault for those lobster lunches at Regas you approved. Those defending Community Services Director Cynthia Finch after Ragsdale likened her to Christ last week had better not hold their breath. If Mikey thinks it will save his hide, he will gladly play the role of Judas to her Jesus.

Since everyone else but the Mayor is responsible for the Mayor's troubles, including accountant Lewis Cosby, who the Mayor allegedly called a "showboat" under his breath at yesterday's Commission meeting, it should come as no surprise that in the Ragsdale blame game, we can throw the children of Knox County somewhere in that mix. After all, they are very nearly the only ones who haven't had a finger pointed at them.

That all changed yesterday, when Ragsdale said that the pattern of abuse of taxpayer money in his office occurred because he was off reading to the county's children. Give the kids a rest-they don't deserve to be brought into this mess.


Monday, August 27, 2007

The illegal immigration problem in Tennessee

Fabian Story, President of Tennesseans for Immigration Reform and Education (T-FIRE) discusses the illegal immigration crisis in Tennessee and the U.S., and what we can do about it. Among the issues covered is whether the movement to curb illegal immigration is racist. Check out Fabian's podcast here.

Oatney On the Air-August 25, 2007


The theocracy myth

One of the most patently rediculous charges that the Left (and by that I mean those significantly Left-of-center on the American political spectrum) levies against those of us on the Right is that it is our desire to set up a theocracy in America. The first few times I heard that charge made, I laughed my fool head off, as we like to say in East Tennessee. Nowadays you hear the charge so often that much of the time it is worth ignoring. However, in reading the blogs of many on the other side (and not a few so-called "conservatives") this notion of a theocratic establishment or conspiracy seems so pervasive that I have often wondered if some of these folks even understand what they are saying.

In recent years, many on the Left have begun to lump Catholics in the "religious right" camp (I don't like that term, but I will use it for the sake of illustrating my point). In terms of theological conservatism as we have come to understand it in our time, there is certainly some truth to this labeling-at least in the sense that Catholic opposition to the moral and familial disintegration in our society has caused many Catholics who would be inclined to support the Democrats to abandon the donkey. This is a choice that the Democratic Party has made-traditional, believing, church-going Catholics are obviously no longer a constituency that they care much about-not enough to keep from offending the Church. Contrast this with 50 to 100 years ago, when it behooved local Democratic establishments to be in good graces with the local Catholic establishment in many large cities (the notable exception was the German Catholic Republican order of things in Cincinnati). So tight was the collaboration in some quarters between the Democratic Party and the Catholic Church that one commentator referred to the Catholic Church in America as "the Democratic Party at Prayer."

As a result of the Democrats' desire to either abandon their traditional base, or simply to anger Christians of all stripes (I believe some on the Left to derive joy from this), believing Catholics have abandoned the Democrats in droves. Among Catholics who attend Mass at least once a week (read: faithful) there is an 80% likelihood that those people vote Republican. If this were 1957, that number would likely be reversed.

Traditional Catholics have joined with evangelical Protestants to form a united front on a range of issues that both groups care about. Among these issues are abortion, school choice, the sanctity of marriage, public decency, and even things like the public expression of the Divine (such as keeping the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance or allowing for prayers or religious expression at public events). Because these groups form a mighty (and often unstoppable) political engine when acting in unison, some on the Left begin to scream that we are conspiring together to form a theocracy.

I struggle to discern how this theocracy we are forming is going to work. While orthodox Catholics and believing evangelicals agree on a whole host of issues and tend to vote that way, how can we form a theocratic state when we don't always agree on what is sinful or not? The ongoing debate about liquor laws in Morristown is a prime example. A slew of Baptist pastors and some members of their congregations think it is a crying shame that some stores and restaurants near their churches will soon be able to sell beer. I can guarantee you that the members of St. Patrick Church in Morristown (where I attend) not only could care less about this, I am sure that some got a good laugh right before they called their city councilman and urged him or her to approve the new ordinance. Catholics generally have no problem with the consumption of alcohol in moderation and do not view it as sinful or threatening. Hence, we not only have no problem with beer being sold near the church, from time to time we have been known to consume it on church property.

Gambling is another example of disagreement. I don't like the lottery anymore than many of my Baptist or Pentecostal neighbors do-but that is only because it is a State-run gambling apparatus. I have no problem with easing up on the gambling laws in a major way. I would hazard to say that many Catholics agree with me for an obvious reason: We'd love to be able to run a regular bingo game again at our church-it is the biggest treasury boon we could possibly have. Back when the State turned a blind eye to bingo games, it was bingo that saved Knoxville Catholic High School from bankruptcy. There is a Knox Catholic today because of the bingo the Church can't use anymore as a regular (not just once-in-a-blue-moon) fundraiser.

Similarly, to the believing Catholic, artificial contraception for the purposes of birth control is a mortal sin. It is an evil on the same scale as an abortion (because you are "playing God" with the creation of life, among other things)-it is that bad. Yet many-if not most-evangelicals have no problem with artificial birth control and often use it themselves.

I don't bring up these differences to debate them, but rather to point out that you can't exactly have a theocracy when you have two groups who disagree on such basic things as alcohol, gambling, and birth control (just three obvious issues), so we couldn't agree on how the law ought to be written about those matters.

Where Catholics and evangelicals agree on the basic social premises, we do work together and we should always do so. When we do come together to take action for the betterment of our country, I suppose the Left will continue to scream "theocracy." When they do, it is a testimony to just how vastly uneducated about Christianity that many of them really are.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Straight the gate, narrow the way

Luke 13:22-30:

And he went through the cities and towns teaching, and making his journey to Jerusalem. And a certain man said to him: Lord, are they few that are saved? But he said to them: Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I say to you, shall seek to enter, and shall not be able. But when the master of the house shall be gone in, and shall shut the door, you shall begin to stand without, and knock at the door, saying: Lord, open to us. And he answering, shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are.

Then you shall begin to say: We have eaten and drank in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. And he shall say to you: I know you not, whence you are: depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. And there shall come from the east and the west, and the north and the south; and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. And behold, they are last that shall be first; and they are first that shall be last.

Here Jesus deals with the harsh reality that not only is everyone not going to Heaven, but in fact relatively few (compared to the people who could go) are going there at all. This isn't because God doesn't want people to be with Him, and it isn't because God is a meanie. The reason that so few people are going to Heaven is because many have chosen a path outside of the one that God ordained-a path separated from God.

God respects our choices in this life, and if we choose to live a life separated from God, He will respect that choice and allow us to be separated from Him for all eternity. That is, in fact, the real definition of Hell: The final and eternal separation from God. The very reason that the Bible describes Hell in such stark and painful terms is because it is a state of existence that has no love-it has no love because God is not there and God is love.

Several people have told me over the years that they do not believe God would send anyone to Hell. They are right, He will not send anyone to Hell. Rather, people send themselves there because they have made the choice that they want to be separated from God. In their desire for freedom, they have enslaved themselves to sin. They have adopted in their minds the notion that living a life free of God's law will make them free. As surely as liberty cannot survive without law to buffer it, our individual freedom is worthless without Divine Law to keep us from becoming slaves to our own desires.

God is ever-merciful and forgiving, and he wants all people to "enter through the narrow gate." The way through the narrow gate is through the Body and Blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. As the map guides the traveler on the right road, Christ guides us on the narrow way and through the narrow gate.

Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood Soul and Divinity of your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.

For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us, and on the whole world!

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