Saturday, October 27, 2007

When the Stars Go Blue

A lot of folks in our part of the world mistakenly think that Tim McGraw is the person who first made a hit out of Ryan Adams' When the Stars Go Blue. Tim made a hit of it to be sure, but the distinction of first having a hit recording or video of this song went to The Corrs-and a certain other famous Irish singer:

Brother Bono is the envy of many a bachelor, as he not only gets to dance with Miss Andrea, he helped produce her new solo album.

I recall when The Corrs released their first album Forgiven, Not Forgotten in the U.S. in 1995. I was a senior in high school and had a huge crush on each of the three Corrs sisters! My youthful infatuation ultimately led me to become a big fan of this great band that is on hiatus and that so few Americans have ever heard of.

If you haven't had the pleasure of The Corrs' music, you seriously need to get thee to a record store.


Friday, October 26, 2007

Phony conservatives think everything's fine

Former Walter Mondale speechwriter Charles Krauthammer is trying to go out of his way in The Washington Post to convince conservatives that the present Presidential field is perfectly acceptable. I mean no personal offense to Mr. Krauthammer, but I have never found his work to bring me great comfort when it comes to reinforcing conservative thought or values. Krauthammer's political philosophy as recounted in his writing indicates that he is a "true" neoconservative-a convert from liberalism who was never able to shed the vestiges of his former ideology, and who probably doesn't identify with many of the American founders except Alexander Hamilton-the "big government" man.

Krauthammer's argument is that none of the Republicans in the field are as substantially different from Ronald Reagan as the true believers would care to admit:

As governor of California, he signed the most liberal abortion legalization bill in America, then flip-flopped and became an abortion opponent.

The difference is that Reagan meant it and showed that he did. He gave the pro-life movement virtually everything that he legally could have during his eight years in office, and that is one of the reasons Reagan is still the darling of the pro-life cause. He once said that signing that abortion bill was one of his worst regrets in his political career.

We can't expect Krauthammer to admit that, however, since he himself is pro-abortion.

Krauthammer's remarks about Supreme Court Justices seem to indicate that he is going senile.

[Reagan] gave us Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, the two swing votes that upheld and enshrined Roe v. Wade for the last quarter-century.

To be fair to both Reagan and Sandra Day, Reagan had no way to know that Justice O'Connor would flip-flop herself on the pro-life question. Her record prior to being appointed to the Supreme Court would certainly not have given him any indication. Further, Sandra Day O' Connor didn't just flip-flop on abortion once she got to the Supreme Court, but did so several times while sitting on the Court.

What about Anthony Kennedy? Kennedy was actually Reagan's third choice for that seat on the Court. His original choice was the great jurist and constitutional scholar Robert Bork, a man whose knowledge of the Constitution and whose strict constructionist interpretation would have been invaluable on a Reagan Supreme Court (it also bears noting that Kennedy has come to his conservative senses of late).

Contrast this with the present Republican field in 2008. Rudy Guiliani is openly pro-abortion. John McCain says he is pro-life but has yet to prove himself trustworthy on the issue. In Mitt Romney's case, I actually believe the man when he says he is pro-life-I think he lied to the people of Massachusetts when he told them otherwise in 2002. Since I think that is the case, I am equally uncomfortable with Romney, for at least Guiliani has been honest about his views from the beginning.

Krauthammer and his ilk are precisely why I no longer subscribe to The Weekly Standard, for I quickly figured out that they should have called that magazine The Recovering Liberal, because the editors and many of the writers couldn't quite get liberal thinking out of their head. Bill Kristol is essentially (by his own admission) non-ideological. His conservatism is a matter of economy, not genuine belief in a set of unshakable conservative principled. Hence, those writers who think like he does (such as Krauthammer) cannot fathom why many conservatives see a problem with the Presidential field.

Add to this yet more confirmation, in the form of James Pinkerton's column in New York Newsday yesterday, that illegal immigration is becoming the defining issue of the 2008 campaign, and we begin to see the reason for Krauthammer's attempt to sing the siren song to conservatives-the Presidential field is fine for those who think like him. Real conservatives had best hush up.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

The scoop

The news has been all over the Tennessee blogosphere-and in the Nashville press-over the last few of days that the former lobbyist Mary Littleton, late of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association cum Justice Alliance, is no longer listed as employed by that group. Ms. Littleton was made famous by her very friendly relationship with Democratic House Judiciary Chairman Rob Briley.

Everyone has been in a race to say how they had the scoop on Littleton getting the boot from the Hill. I think that is quite funny, because I posted that she may have had the boot some weeks ago, then I retracted the story when told by one of my sources (a very reliable one) that they could not confirm it.

I have a hunch that my original bulletin was probably correct. What likely happened was that Littleton got the can on the day that I heard of it-but a deal was probably agreed upon that this would not be made public in any way until the worst of the publicity surrounding Ms. Littleton had passed.


The sleeper issue strikes again

The United States Senate yesterday failed to reach cloture on a measure that threatened to seriously undermine the sovereignty both of the United States and of each State therein when it nixed the DREAM Act, a bill that would have given amnesty to illegal aliens under the age of 30. The most dangerous provisions of the legislation were those that would have allowed for subsidized in-State tuition for the aliens in such a manner as to give them greater advantages than those who are natural-born American citizens.

Some pundits are saying that the defeat of the DREAM Act is evidence that a united Democratic majority in the Senate does not yet exist. I doubt that the lack of unity among Democrats was the real cause of defeat for this preposterous legislation. The real reason for the demise of this Act was the fact that enough of the American people called, wrote, e-mailed, and petitioned their Senators to insure this result. What the result proves is that if we take action, the process can still work for us, but the ball is in our court.

Many of the Democrats who voted against the bill are up for re-election next year, like Max Baucus of Montana, Marry Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas. The angry calls many of the Senators received, not to mention the threats from many constituents to work against them during next year's election doubtless played a role in the outcome in the final hours leading up to the Senate vote.

As I said yesterday, immigration is the great sleeper issue in 2008. It is the issue that Democrats would love to buck the popular will over, and many Republicans would simply prefer to ignore it-both sides take those stated actions at their own peril.

All over America-but especially in the South-people are tired of ignoring the law where illegal aliens are concerned. Not a day goes by in our part of the country now where some illegal alien is not arrested for a serious crime, yet the proponents of open borders and amnesty want to gloss over that reality and pretend there is not a problem. Fred Thompson has figured out very quickly that it is in his best interest as a candidate not to ignore the problem, but to take action. The rest of the Republican Party would do well to follow his lead.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The immigration plan

Last week I pointed out that illegal immigration was the primary issue that was killing the campaigns of candidates who would otherwise have easily garnered the support of the pro-family right. Kansas Senator Sam Brownback's campaign was brought down not because of his social conservatism, but because of his support of amnesty for illegal aliens. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee supports amnesty and his otherwise conservative campaign has failed to pick up steam among the very voters that he is trying to court. The immigration restrictionist vote is divided, but is strong enough to cripple or even bring down the campaigns of certain candidates.

As if on cue, Fred Thompson unveiled an immigration plan yesterday in Florida that, were it enacted, would please many activists on the illegal immigration front. Thompson proposes enforcing immigration law through attrition, which is a viable alternative to the "all or nothing" philosophy of those who say that we either must have amnesty for illegals or no immigration at all. The key, as the Thompson team says, is to enforce the law:

Reduce the number of illegal aliens through increased enforcement against unauthorized alien workers and their employers. Without illegal employment opportunities available, fewer illegal aliens will attempt to enter the country, and many of those illegally in the country now likely will return home. Self-deportation can also be maximized by stepping up the enforcement levels of other existing immigration laws.

The uncomfortable yet realistic hyphenation "self-deportation" is used here because that should be the ultimate goal. Pro-amnesty advocates are quite right when they say that it is impossible to find and to deport 12 million people at once, but that is hardly an excuse to do nothing. Therefore, life for someone who has come to this country in violation of the law should be made at the very least a massive hassle, and at the most a highly dangerous proposition-so much so that the best option for those who come here illegally will be for them not to remain among us unless they do so in accordance with the law.

The raw political implications of the Thompson plan should also not be underestimated. Fred Thompson is doubtless acutely aware that illegal immigration has become a core issue to millions of Americans, but it has become the primary issue of concern for the part of the country likely to compose Fred Thompson's electoral base: The South. If Fred Thompson does not do very well in the South, he absolutely will not win the Republican nomination. He has a quality team of people behind him who are not only aware of that reality, but they have surely studied the statistics which say that the votes on the immigration issue among Republicans are heavily divided, and that voters who view this as a key issue are still looking for a consensus candidate.

If Fred Thompson is prepared to make illegal immigration a key issue in his campaign and is willing to run on his plan, he could walk away with the GOP nomination. He needs to be careful however, because if by chance he is elected and does not carry out the plan he spelled out yesterday, the backlash against both him and the GOP from their own Right could reverberate for many years to come.

No guest worker plans.
No amnesty
No welfare benefits
No free entry
No citizenship unless you come here legally
No tolerance for breaking our law
No backing down

That is what the American people expect, and we had better be ready to deliver.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

EXCLUSIVE: Knox County Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert On the Air

EXCLUSIVE: Knox County Commissioner Greg "Lumpy" Lambert tells his side of the story in the Knox County term limits/Sunshine Law controversy. He discusses where he thinks things went wrong and what the Knox County Commission can do right. His political background.

Oatney On the Air-October 23, 2007

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A rare compliment

Today I have the chance to do something unusual-compliment the Knox County Commission on doing something constructive to bring government closer to the people. After all of the scandal and public outcry surrounding the events of January 31, the Knox County Commission decided yesterday to take an action rich in symbolism that could have long-lasting effects. It was an incredibly simple action-they changed the meeting time:

Knox County Commissioners voted today to move their regularly monthly meeting to 5:30 p.m. to allow more citizens input on commission business.

The meetings are currently held at 2 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month.

This seems like a superficial change because the reality is that a change in meeting time that would allow greater public attendance at meetings is not likely to yield the desired result. I don't say that because I think the Commission is going to continue to be exclusionary, but rather because I have come to believe after years of involving myself in politics and in political campaigns that people are just that sadly apathetic about local government-and that tends to be the case anywhere in the country.

The reason why this is a positive move in spite of the general apathy of the public toward local civic affairs is probably best summed up by one of the commenters on the Knoxville News-Sentinel's website:

Not only will the employed public get to attend, but perhaps some employed citizens can now run for office. How many people can take a half day off to attend a meeting? Many people who would consider running for office have to choose between work and serving. This is not an easy choice if you are responsible to bring income into your household.

I can speak directly to what this person is saying. When I lived in Knox County, I lived right on a Knox Area Transit bus route that ran Monday though Friday. I could have made it to nearly every Commission meeting if these meetings were actually held at a time more convenient for me to attend.

Holding meetings at a time of day when most people would be working makes running for office locally and serving your constituents effectively very difficult-unless you are already a county employee. I struggled with this very issue when I considered running for the Knox County Commission. I had obligations to meet and responsibilities to fulfill on most Mondays at 2 pm. In the end, that was not the issue that caused me to lay down the idea of finishing a race in Knox County-moving did that. Nonetheless, it was something that I struggled with long before filing those initial papers.

Perhaps without realizing it, Knox County has just set an example for other local governments around the State and the nation to follow. Some local government bodies have had the foresight to place their meetings at times when folks are better able to participate, but many others have yet to do so. The principle involved is not merely one of greater public input, but allowing for the possibility that any citizen-regardless of their occupation or background-might have the opportunity to run for local public office and for that citizen to know that they could effectively serve if elected.

Government should not only be open for citizen input, but it should encourage greater citizen service. Even if that turns out to be an unintended consequence of the Commission's move, they have come a long way in one fell swoop to insure that increased public involvement becomes a reality in local government-at leasy in Knox County.


Monday, October 22, 2007

A tax policy that is Farr from normal

It takes an issue of The Tennessee Cooperator to get me to notice that our pseudo-fascist Governor and Revenue Commissioner, not content with planting agents at the border to harass travelers who dare purchase a carton of cigarettes across State lines (as if nobody lives in Bristol, Clarksville, or Chattanooga, and has good reason to regularly shop across State lines), it seems that they-along with their Democratic friends in the Legislature-also decided that Tennesseans who raise their own food now have to pay taxes on it. If you do as Nicole and I do and raise some of your own food and sell some to others, you can no longer do it tax free after January 1.

Like many Tennesseans who live in rural areas, Nicole and I regularly shop at (and are members of) our local Tennessee Farmers' Cooperative. Not only is the Co-op the place to go for the equine supplies that Nicole needs, but all of our gardening, planting, and seed materials are bought there, because you simply can't get those things cheaper anywhere else. We even have a credit line through the Co-op, though we rarely use it. We also buy chicken feed (we raise hens and have our own fresh eggs), and we raise rabbits for meat. We often sell the rabbits, but the meat just as often goes into our freezer-we love rabbit meat and think it makes a fine meal.

Up to now, we've been allowed to purchase livestock feed tax free, as has everyone else who buys feed at their local Co-op, because Tennessee tax law says that livestock feed is not to be taxed. Contrary to popular belief, the clientèle who buy feed at the Co-op aren't just farmers who own large tracts of land to farm, but many people who are just like us-people whose yards are turned over to the animals-literally.

Now the State of Tennessee says we have to apply for a Certificate of Exemption from the Department of Revenue in order to buy feed without paying sales tax. That would be fine, except that they have attached the condition that you must "own land on which $1,000 or more of farm products were produced or sold during the last year." It may be that all-told we have produced $1,000 in rabbit meat-maybe-but considering the price of both rabbits and chickens, that would be difficult to prove.

What this is really going to mean is that the little man or woman who has the ability to raise some of their own food but they aren't in it to make money for themselves will now be taxed for the food they raise. That is what the State is really trying to do here. You aren't buying eggs at the grocery store because you raise your own hens. You don't buy as much meat because you raise your own chickens, rabbits, or other small livestock. The State does not get as much of your money, so they'll figure out a new way to take it: Tax the feed that you need to keep your little flocks/herds/colonies alive.

I spoke with my State Representative Frank Niceley about this and he was as angry as I was about it. He said that it was yet another example of government screwing over the little people to the advantage of Mr. Big. He pointed out that something far more sinister may be at work. The "national streamlined sales tax project," the "program" under which Tennessee is justifying these changes, was instituted as a "first step" in the late 90's to try and see if the internet could be taxed. In other words, if you don't live in a rural area and therefore think that this doesn't affect you, start thinking again.

There was a time when the Tennessee Farm Bureau could be relied upon to stand up for the little man and fight the State tooth and nail to prevent what amounts to a tax increase on people who raise their own food. The Farm Bureau hasn't done a lick to stop this from occurring, and the Tennessee Farmers' Cooperative hasn't done much to speak out either, merely to publish that the changes are coming.

Apparently, I pay Farm Bureau dues so that my lobbyists in Nashville can have my State Representative kicked off of the House Agriculture Committee (thereby less able to represent his heavily-agrarian district) because he opposed them on mandatory animal ID-as did any of us who know what H*ll that is. They then utterly fail to represent my interests on a key issue that directly impacts my daily affairs and the very sustenance I put in my body. Oh, what a joy to know your dues money is going to such good work!

As for the taxes I will have to pay on my rabbit and chicken feed come January-well, it isn't that I can't pay them, it is that I should not have to-but somewhere, there may be someone who really can't afford them. Their little hens are really helping keep them alive, and they really can't afford to pay any more for that feed.

Everyday people don't matter in Bredesen World, just the political heads of Phil and his friends.


Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Angelus

The thought has long occurred to me that if Christians had the same zeal as Muslims do, we would likely not be engaged in a struggle against the Islamic world for the survival of Western civilization.

Even if you do not agree with the war in Iraq (and remember that I did not), it is hard not to see that there is such a struggle, and their was long before 9/11. It goes beyond merely the political, because the jihadists have admitted that their desire is to restore the influence of the Caliphate and destroy Western civilization-especially Christianity. For all of their anti-Semitic hate spewing, note that while they may want to wipe Israel off the map, they don't call Israel the Great Satan. That title is reserved for America, which in their eyes is mostly Christian.

Muslims, whether they are "extreme" or not, are a devoted bunch. They pray five times a day. They read their Koran. Christians? In most cases, we are collectively lucky to get a prayer in here and there. We take God for granted, we can't even make time for Him.

There was a time in Christendom when Christians could be counted on to go to prayer at the sounds of church bells three times each day. There are still a few places left in the world where you can hear the Angelus before Mass at least at noon, and sometimes more. What stopped the habit? The Protestant Reformation? It is easy to shrug it off in our part of the world that is heavily Protestant, but even Catholics don't pray the Angelus anymore-not the way it is meant to be prayed, and they certainly don't hang around the church for more prayer.

What would the world be like if Christians were zealous enough to drop what they were doing, just for a couple of minutes, and pray three times a day habitually?

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