Saturday, September 08, 2007

Farewell Luciano

Nessun Dorma

Schubert's Ave Maria

You probably don't have to guess which of those two is my personal favorite, but I obviously enjoy both.

Luciano Pavarotti liked to say of his own talent "I know that God kissed my vocal chords." He understood that his talent was a gift from God, and he used that gift to touch the world through music. He turned a lot of people on to opera that wouldn't otherwise be fans-I was one of them.

I fear that music fans will never know another who is anything like him. When Pavarotti is laid to rest today, it will be with a white tie and tails, and a rosary in his hands.


Friday, September 07, 2007

Fred and the blogosphere

From the beginning-back in March when talk of a possible Fred Thompson Presidential bid first began to bubble inside the State of Tennessee, either Thompson or his supporters would often say that a Fred for President campaign would be "a different kind of campaign." Thompson's delayed entry into the race has certainly ignited a lot of passion among Tennessee Republicans, who are breathing a little easier since they believe a Thompson candidacy can help them gain control of both houses of the General Assembly. Before Fred Thompson's entry into the campaign became a possibility, I was ready to forgo active involvement in the federal election and concentrate all of my energies on Mike Faulk's State Senate campaign, and on the possibility of running for Alderman in White Pine myself next year.

The possibility of Fred Thompson winning the Republican nomination changes the equation for every Republican running for anything in Tennessee in 2008. Regardless of the outcome in the rest of the country, that Thompson will win the Tennessee Republican Primary on Super Tuesday (February 5) is almost a forgone conclusion. If he is nominated, he can also be expected to carry this State so easily in a General Election that Al Gore would be envious. With that kind of political power could come some huge coattails.

That this campaign is a different kind of race is already making itself apparent. In what could be viewed as a very odd move, Thompson made the most important announcement of his campaign-that he was officially a candidate-not at a public venue such as the Ryman Auditorium or the grounds of the State Capitol, but in a webcast on his campaign's internet site. It is clear that if Fred Thompson does not believe in the power of the New Media, someone in his campaign does.

The Thompson almost-campaign apparatus has been doing extensive networking on the internet from the very beginning of the Draft Fred movement. In blog-rich Tennessee, this is a necessity. However, it should be noted that Fred Thompson has been everywhere to be seen on the internet in recent months, but his public appearances have not kept up with his internet activity. Thompson's public appearances will doubless dramatically increase, but up to now Thompson has relied on the internet to an unbelievable degree to get his message out. There is no reason to believe that he will not continue to do so.

The Fred Thompson for President campaign will thus be a real test for the power of the internet and the blogosphere. We have already seen in Connecticut that Leftist bloggers were able to succeed in nominating a man who they saw as the perfect candidate in that State's Senate race. The Daily Kos has proven to all of us that the blogosphere can nominate a political candidate, and Thompson's inner circle may be hoping that the conservative blogosphere takes a leading role in Thompson's run for the Republican Presidential nod. What the Kos crowd could not do was elect Ned Lamont to the Senate, and in that effort they failed disastrously.

The blogosphere is a wonderful and influential organizing tool for the grassroots of both political parties, and its roll in our politics at the State and federal level will only increase with time. Whether one can win an election in the blogosphere is another matter. Winning will take more than a keyboard, but will take (to paraphrase Churchill) blood, toil, tears, and sweat.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Fred factor

Fred Thompson finally enters the 2008 Presidential campaign.

Oatney On the Air-September 6, 2007


Fred is in

Well, it is official-Fred is in as of last night. He pulled a double whammy...announcing on Tonight as well as on his website.

We've been waiting for this for months, but now that it is here it almost seems as though the initial excitement I thought I would have on announcement day wasn't there-it is replaced by a simple desire to roll up the sleeves and get cracking.


Craig should still resign

Oh the times they do change-for Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig, they apparently change overnight. Craig had announced that he would resign after the resulting firestorm from having plead guilty to propositioning an undercover police officer for gay sex in a Minneapolis restroom. Craig has maintained his innocence since the story broke, saying he only pled guilty because he believed that a guilty plea would "make it go away."

Since the man is a United States Senator, I am having a great deal of difficulty understanding how a guilty plea is going to make an allegation like this go away. Logic would dictate that a guilty plea would result in the kind of controversy that we are now seeing unfold around him.

Larry Craig has now decided that he may not resign after all because apparently Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania has decided that Craig has been railroaded. Arlen Specter is hardly the poster child for upholding morality in the Senate, and he is more likely than most Republicans to simply ignore any standard of morality that he might have. Even if Specter has a point about the press and the public prejudging Senator Craig in this case (and he very well may), how much with Senator Craig's personal fight for vindication cost the people of Idaho?

As Adam Graham points out, if Senator Craig really isn't guilty of any wrongdoing he could move to have his guilty plea set aside, but should do it on his own time. Not only is Idaho-along with its Senator and people-the butt of the late-night joke machine, but Senator Craig's personal fight for vindication could very easily get in the way of his ability to effectively serve his constituents for the next year-and-a-half.

Let him do it on his own time.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Democrats going to college

Some readers who don't personally know me very well are often shocked to find that I have among my list of personal friends and acquaintances a number of liberals and Democrats. They find it shocking largely because they don't quite understand how an admittedly hard-core conservative like myself can associate with people so diametrically opposed to my world view. (Note to these folks: It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness). I don't think I've been closer to any Democrat in terms of personal friendship, however, than I am to an old college buddy of mine-one Kevin Michael O'Brien.

As a matter of full disclosure, I should point out that Kevin is fully pro-life, is a member of the NRA, and is a devout Catholic. Indeed, we met for the first time at Mass. For some people on the Left, those three factors alone would disqualify Kevin as a bona fide member of their number. However, we disagree on far more than we agree about, on everything from immigration policy to foreign policy to education. Kevin ran for the Ohio legislature in 2006 and managed to get 40% of the vote in an overwhelmingly Republican district against one of that State's dynastic political families. His performance surprised many local Democratic officials there.

One of the things that Kevin and I do agree on is that the Constitution actually means something. We usually disagree about the meaning of the Constitution, but we agree that it ought to be followed as best we understand it. For this reason, we are both opposed to initiatives such as the PATRIOT Act since such legislation tends to trample on people's basic constitutional rights. In a position that sets Kevin apart from many Democrats, he also believes firmly that when it comes to voting for President, the Electoral College must be maintained in order to insure that the diversity of our country is properly represented in the process.

Many on the other side tend to complain that the Electoral College does not accurately reflect the popular will. Of course, if the Union moved to a directly popular election, it would mean that nearly all of the political power in the nation would rest in 10 to 15 large cities. The votes of smaller States, cities, and towns would be significantly diminished in influence, if not completely irrelevant. Such a scheme would almost uniformly favor the Democrats. As Kevin has pointed out to me, if the reverse were true, Democrats would be ready to wrap themselves in the mantle of the Electoral College and the Constitution-and were ready to do so in 2000, as they anticipated that the election might yield Bush winning the popular vote with Gore winning in the Electoral College. In the run-up to the 2004 Election, Kevin told that me he hoped Kerry would win the Electoral College and Bush the popular vote, largely to prove the value of the college to his fellow Democrats.

I did not join Kevin O'Brien in his wish for a Kerry Electoral Vote victory (not in the least), but I did see his point. Angry liberals call for the abolition of the Electoral College in the ultimate insult to Middle America. It is as if they are giving up on ever winning the Heartland of the country-"we can't win your States, so we don't even want to try." The Electoral College as we use it does reflect the popular will, after all, but does so by allocating Electoral Votes to the candidate who wins the most votes within each given State-it gives every State some say, and gives a voice to every kind of voter-urban, suburban, and rural.

Attempts to trifle with the system are also misguided. Republican attempts to break down the Electoral Vote in California by Congressional district could trigger Democratic attempts to do the same throughout the South and upset the balance of power, causing mischief in nearly every Presidential Election henceforward. Similarly, a recent Maryland bill to tie that State's Electors to the winner of the national popular vote would have given Maryland's Electors to George W. Bush in 2004, despite the fact that Marylanders voted for John Kerry by a sizable margin. How would that be fair to those folks?

For all of the talk from some on the Left about the greatness of diversity, many liberals would do away with the one part of our system of electing a President that, for all of its faults, truly represents via the vote the diversity of the American people and the nation as a whole. It also helps preserve authentic federalism in our republic. We shouldn't let election results that we might not like cause us to scrap a system designed to insure that the votes of people in little Wyoming have as much power as voters in Lower Manhattan.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


I'd like to take a moment to urge my readers to check out T-FIRE News, a new cooperative blogging venture started by members of T-FIRE-Tennesseans for Immigration Reform and Education. If you are at all interested in the movement to slow the tide of illegal immigration, this new blog is well worth the read-especially since there are links there to help you become more involved and to take action.

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McElroy doesn't like for the law to be enforced

As Donna Locke is sometimes keen to point out, being involved in the movement to bring a halt to illegal immigration can be very taxing at times, primarily because of what people have been conditioned to believe about the movement. If you speak about illegal immigration being a problem, and you attempt to take actions to stop it, you are deemed by many people as a racist in today's political climate.

The press does not help matters when the Editor-in-Chief of East Tennessee's largest newspaper writes a column that declares of local attempts to enforce the law:

"None of this is good."

Jack McElroy refers to what he calls a "blatant disregard for civil rights" when dealing with illegal aliens. Pardon me, but people who are accused of already violating the law have the right to counsel for their defense and the right to remain silent, but they do not have the right to continue breaking the law. The Blount County landlord who evicted illegal aliens from his property and the Maury County Sheriff (who was trained by the feds to enforce immigration law) acted well within their rights as a citizen (a citizen!) and their duties as a law enforcement officer, respectively.

As Jack Lail has pointed out on a comment on this blog in recent weeks, I do have a passion for newspapers and newspapering. I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press and the right of newspapers to take an editorial line, even if it is a line that I strongly disagree with. (Indeed, I think papers like the Citizen-Tribune that take no public line, but run everyone else's editorials are completely gutless and usually worthless and aren't worth my time). The Knoxville News-Sentinel has as much right to take a line that is out of step with the majority of East Tennesseans as anyone else.

But it is out-of-step. Few people that I talk to on a daily basis believe the Blount County landlord or the Maury County Sheriff were in the wrong, mostly because it is agreed that not only is illegal immigration a problem, but people simply do not want other folks waltzing across our borders with no checks or restrictions on who is coming here. If the federal government will not do its duty to protect our country from breeches of its borders, we will act to enforce the laws locally.

That is not racism, nor is it a violation of civil rights. It is a simple policy that says that those who break the law by coming to this country illegally will not be harbored in East Tennessee. Those who go through the process and come here in the correct and legal fashion will not have a problem. Neither the KNS nor McElroy help the situation by stoking the fire even further by their insinuation that enforcing the law is bad.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Mother Teresa's letters

Ina Hughes' August 30th column in the Knoxville News-Sentinel decrying the fact that Mother Teresa's private correspondence was not destroyed per her wish was very well intentioned. I respectfully submit that Hughes is right in one regard and wrong in another-even if it is a well-meaning wrong.

Hughes is absolutely right that Rev. Father Brian Kolodiejchuk, Director of the Mother Teresa Center, should have respected Mother's wishes that her correspondence remain totally private and should not have published them (in fairness to Kolodiejchuk, he was the preserver of the letters because he is the postulator of Mother's cause for sainthood). This act, though it may have been meant to help strengthen the faith of others, violated Mother Teresa's expressed wish that she take her private doubts (which all of us who have faith have had at some point in our lives) with her to her grave. Publishing them in such a public way clearly violates Mother's intent.

However, there was a perfectly good reason why the letters should not, and could not have been destroyed: Mother Teresa's correspondence has been kept with us because the Church has need of them.

In her humility, Mother Teresa probably could not have envisioned that she might one day be publicly declared a saint-the highest honor that the Church on earth can bestow to one of its own. In a very real way, of course, all who enter heaven are saints. For the Church to publicly declare a person to be a saint is its way of recognizing the holy life that they lived, and declaring that it (the Catholic Church) believes beyond doubt that this person is in Heaven with God. For non-Catholics-think of it as the Holiness Hall of Fame, people the Church believed lived a Christian life worth emulating.

People began to demand almost immediately upon Mother Teresa's death that the Church issue a declaration of her sanctity. Because the popular appeal for this was so great, the late Pope John Paul II ordered that the process be expedited. That simply meant that the process of publicly placing someone on the Church's official role of saints was trimmed from possibly taking decades or even centuries to just taking a few years. Just because John Paul did this (Benedict XVI has done the same thing for John Paul's cause for sainthood), doesn't mean that the rules don't apply to Mother Teresa. One of the rules is that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints does a full investigation into the relevant person's life, hence the Vatican needed those letters preserved. Mother Teresa's fellow religious sisters doubtless knew that a cause for Mother's sainthood was going to come up in a hurry, so they did the right thing by the Church and by Mother (who would have wanted the Church to be obeyed) in preserving the letters. The letters are needed as long as Mother Teresa's cause for sainthood in the Catholic Church remains open.

The publication of the letters is another matter, however. This is something that the Congregation for the Causes of Saints would likely not have promoted. The Vatican is notoriously tight-lipped about the inquiries of that body precisely so that the privacy of candidates for sainthood can be preserved and their wishes respected as much as possible within Canon Law. Rev. Kolodiejchuk would have done better to leave the investigation of the letters up to the relevant bodies of Church authority and leave all decisions as to their future after the investigation is complete to the Missionaries of Charity as a whole, and to the Vatican. Publishing them now certainly violated the spirit of what Mother Teresa would have wanted.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Appalachian State

Yesterday's surprising day in the world of college football, including Appalachian State's shocking upset of Michigan.

The Sports Pack-September 2, 2007

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