Saturday, November 24, 2007

Monkee-ing around Saturday

Here's a classic bit from the 60's if there ever was one-probably somewhat appreciated by people from Clarksville like my good friend Adam Groves.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Talking Frank with David Massengill

This afternoon I'll be joining former Anderson County Republican Chairman David Massengill, the producer and broadcast engineer for Let's Talk Frank as we fill in for the vacationing Lee and Terry Frank. My slot on the show will be from 4-6pm.

Among the topics we'll be discussing this afternoon:

The now-ongoing campaign in the Presidential Primaries, and the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The state of the Fred Thompson campaign.

How the early start to the election campaign impacts the process.

The state of affairs in Knox County Government and on the Knox County Commission, and whether it is wise to delay appointments for vacant county offices.

You can tune in via the Horne Radio Network.

1140AM WLOD-Loudon
1290AM WATO Oak Ridge
1400AM WGAP Maryville

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Burnout and turnout

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that I enjoy politics. I've been involved in some fashion with things political since I was 16. Growing up, my parents would take me to the polling place with them on Primary Day and for General Elections. My Mama and Daddy would always take the time to show me who they voted for, though it was left to my maternal Grandfather to explain in that country wisdom that only he could articulate how to vote ("vote straight Republican or go straight to Hell"). I've worked on all kinds of campaigns-though I have come to enjoy local and State politics the most over the years. The only things I haven't done are to be paid for my efforts as some are, or to run for office myself. At least one of those things may change in the near future.

After an exhausting 2006 campaign where all but one of the candidates I was personally supporting actually won, I was really hoping for a breather. A few months away from the political hub-bub while I rested up for a long Presidential slog. It wasn't to happen, largely because the Primary season isn't just starting earlier than ever before, the major contests are so closely packed that there is to be little rest. The nominees of both political parties could be decided as early as February 5th, which essentially means that the General Election campaign could last from February to November.

In talking to a few political contacts, friends, and associates in recent days I'm hearing the same thing: All agree that they are sure that there will be plenty of moments in the coming year worth remembering in years to come. Certainly, we'll all have a quite a bit of fun during the process, as people who like politics tend to do during an election cycle. Nearly everyone I talked to also said they were already worn out. One close friend who is by now a political veteran told me the other night "I'm tired of it already."

With the Iowa Caucus set to take place on January 3rd, and the New Hampshire Primary set to occur at its earliest date in history on January 8th, the 2008 campaign is already well underway. If the General Election campaign really does begin on February 6th, it is very easy to see that burnout is going to be a major factor in all political camps.

If political hacks who enjoy this sort of thing are already tired and feeling strained, think of how Joe Sixpack-the average voter-is feeling. Think of how Joe and Jane will feel come November.

How could this impact voter turnout?


Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Mayflower Compact-1620

IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience.

IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620.

Mr. John Carver,
Mr. William Bradford,
Mr Edward Winslow,
Mr. William Brewster.
Isaac Allerton,
Myles Standish,
John Alden,
John Turner,
Francis Eaton,
James Chilton,
John Craxton,
John Billington,
Joses Fletcher,
John Goodman,
Mr. Samuel Fuller,
Mr. Christopher Martin,
Mr. William Mullins,
Mr. William White,
Mr. Richard Warren,
John Howland,
Mr. Steven Hopkins,
Digery Priest,
Thomas Williams,
Gilbert Winslow,
Edmund Margesson,
Peter Brown,
Richard Britteridge
George Soule,
Edward Tilly,
John Tilly,
Francis Cooke,
Thomas Rogers,
Thomas Tinker,
John Ridgdale
Edward Fuller,
Richard Clark,
Richard Gardiner,
Mr. John Allerton,
Thomas English,
Edward Doten,
Edward Liester.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Give it a rest, it's just a ride

The latest stink in the "State is wasting money" department comes from those angry over the fact that former Governors and other former high ranking State officials have the privilege of being offered rides in unmarked cars from the Tennessee Highway Patrol. The sitting Governor, the Lieutenant Governor/Speaker of the Senate, and Speaker of the House are given a car and driver and can request a ride at any time. The Highway Patrol also offers this service to their predecessors on request.

Here's a shocker for you: I don't have a problem with this in the least.

Perhaps my biases are coming through here. I live with a disability every day, and I frequently have to find transportation whenever I am asked to attend a political function, fundraiser for a candidate, or a public event. Nicole and I keep different schedules and I can't always expect that she will be available to ferry me some place that I need to be, and I don't expect that of her (bless her-whenever she is free to do it, she always does). Just this past week I had to tell a candidate that I could not attend their fundraiser. This was not because I didn't have the time or the wherewithal to attend, I had scheduled it on to my calendar to be there. The reason was solely due to the lack of ability to arrange a timely ride. Oftentimes I can arrange a ride to important political or other events where my wife can't be present, but sometimes it proves logistically impossible. It happens frequently enough to be both a personal pain-in-the-rear as well as a political headache, and I haven't been elected to anything yet!

A former Governor's political life doesn't end when he leaves office. He is still expected to be seen at fundraisers, party functions, official dinners, and lots of events in or around his hometown or home county. In case we've all forgotten, some of these ole boys are getting up there in years and they may need a little assistance.

We have enough respect for the Presidency to give former Presidents secret service protection and an official car. Is our respect as Tennesseans for the office of Governor so low that we can't even muster a ride for our former Governors to the doctor, out to dinner, or to Nashville? Former Presidents get the royal treatment, but all our former Governors have asked for is a ride.

Winfield Dunn, Ned Ray McWherter, and Don Sundquist didn't always make the wisest decisions while in office, but I certainly don't question the devotion of any of those three men to the well-being of Tennessee. McWherter and Sundquist each served the State for two terms. We aren't talking about $3.86 million for an underground party bunker, we're talking about a ride when one is needed for people who put many years into the service of our State. Not secret service protection, not millions upon millions of dollars-just a ride.

Dunn, McWherter, Alexander, Sundquist and (yes) Bredesen all deserve that small courtesy for their years of public service. It isn't a lot to ask.


The Hobbs debate

No small controversy seems to have arisen about whether Tennessee Republican Party Communications Director Bill Hobbs can or should continue to operate one of the oldest blogs in Tennessee while serving the State Party. The controversy was begun by John Rogers of The City Paper in Nashville and fanned by A.C. Kleinheider, who was himself silenced by his employer in a disgraceful act of censorship.

I wondered how long it would take the mainstream press types to shut A.C. up. They want to use his blogging talents to try and control the blogging medium in Tennessee (which they can't do), but they don't want him to exercise his considerable writing abilities to express well-written and thoughtful opinion pieces that draw people to his blog and ultimately to the WKRN web site. When A.C. was censored, the blogging community in Tennessee cried foul, and rightly so. Tennessee political guru Adam Groves wonders if A.C. harping on Bill Hobbs keeping his blog was a bit of jealousy, since Bill's employer isn't censoring him.

I doubt there is jealousy, but there is certainly irony in all of this.

Most of the complaints about Hobbs having his personal blog while working for the Republican Party seem to be coming from Democrats in the blogosphere-and seemingly whiny ones at that. I wouldn't expect any less coming from the political formation that claims to be the paragon of diversity-unless you happen to be a pro-life Christian (if the late Governor Casey were with us, I am sure he could share his experiences). When I look and listen to our Republican candidates for President, I see a diversity of views that represents America. Indeed, the gambit runs from Rudy Giuliani to Ron Paul and everything in between, and some of these men have radically different visions.

When I hear the Democratic candidates speak, they all sound like a broken record. They may not look alike, but they all sound so much the same that one would think their debates are run on a soundtrack and the CD is dirty, so it is skipping.

Somehow, I am not surprised that these people would advocate censorship.


It's time to really want it

Those who read my work regularly can vouch for the fact that I don't always write about what is comfortable. There are times that I am forced to discuss things that I would rather not, and confront the hard truth in regards to people and causes that I really believe in. I noticed this comment posted at The Tennessean's forum in regards to Fred Thompson's presidential campaign on Friday:

Fred Thompson is the only real logical choice for the Republican party, he is the only candidate in either field with common sense, and a no nonsense mentality.
Fred has got to hit the campaign trail hard though if we really wants to win. Listen to his views, ideas, and where he stands on the issues, that is enough to win most people over.

Truer words were never spoken-on both counts. Clearly this commenter believes in Fred Thompson in the same way that a lot of us do. We want to see the man who energized Tennesseans over two Senate campaigns and served in the U.S. Senate with great distinction. Most importantly, the voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina want to see the barnstorming Fred-the Fred that can woo a crowd with his homespun way of speaking and could charm a snake to death. Fred's message is right, but it just isn't getting out to many voters in early Primary States in the way that it needs to. The Iowa Caucus is six weeks away, and New Hampshire will vote the following week. We are no longer awaiting a presidential election cycle, that campaign is well underway. It is game on-right now.

How do we know that the message isn't clicking? The latest CNN/WMUR poll of New Hampshire Republicans shows Fred in sixth, with both Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee leading him. This is not a place where a man considered to be one of the frontrunners for the GOP nomination should be. He's down to fifth place in Florida with eight percent of the vote (six months ago, he was in second and hadn't even declared). The Florida Primary takes place right after South Carolina, so if Fred is running that low in Florida, the momentum from a South Carolina victory must be what convinces Republicans in Florida that Fred can get nominated.

South Carolina is the great Southern bellwether. The first State to secede is rightly the first in the South to hold a Primary. A victory there could save a campaign heading into Super Tuesday, and several campaigns have all but admitted that it will make them or break them. Yet in South Carolina, the State where Fred Thompson once held the lead, the aggregate of polls now shows him second behind Rudy Giuliani. Victory is still attainable for Fred in South Carolina, but to get there he must do something more beyond raising money.

Fred Thompson must do more than run television ads, he must get out and spend extended amounts of time in the early States. People in those places have grown accustomed to seeing the candidates, as well they should. It is a privilege more Americans would enjoy were it not for our insanely packed 2008 Primary schedule-but that schedule is what it is. That means that the States of Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida will set the pace. If Fred Thompson is well behind in Florida, he must win South Carolina to save his campaign. To do that, he must do better-than-expected in Iowa and New Hampshire. In short, he has to show up there and spend some serious time with the folks.

To be elected President in our day and age, at some level you have to want to be President, or at least want to serve. It is wonderful to have the notion that someone would give of themselves without really wanting something in the mere name of service. Yes, a person should be in public life for the mere sake of service-but the Presidency is a bit different. There is so much responsibility and so much effort involved in running for President, let alone serving in the office, that at some level you have to want it the way your supporters do.

I have said it before and I will say it again: Fred Thompson can be the Republican nominee. To achieve that milestone, he needs to clearly express to voters in early Primary States that he wants to be President of the United States, why he wants it, and why they should choose him and not the other candidates who want it. Further, he needs to go to those people personally over and over and over again and preach truth to power.

Fred's campaign is lagging and it shouldn't be. Rather than make excuses and try and explain it away, Fred Thompson needs to turn himself loose and give the people of Iowa and New Hampshire "Fred Unplugged." They need to see the homespun Fred the liberals love to hate. If that Fred comes to the podium (and does so often) then this campaign can indeed turn around.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The primary appointments

The Knox County Commission adopted one of the most creative methods they could have in filling the 12 county offices (including eight Commissioners) vacated by the term limits ruling-they have chosen to wait until after the February 5th Primary, so that the voters will have already had at least some say in the matter:

Knox County voters will have direct input into appointments to 12 vacant county offices after County Commission voted tonight to wait until after the Feb. 5 primaries to fill the seats.

The effort to delay the appointments was spearheaded by Commissioner Mike Hammond, who proposed holding public forums starting on Feb. 6 for candidates to make their cases, with actual appointments on Feb. 20.

It is somewhat disingenuous for the Knoxville News-Sentinel to say that voters will have "direct say" in the appointment process. County Commissioners clearly intend to use the results of what will clearly be a well-attended Primary (the Tennessee Presidential Primary is being held on the same day) as a guidepost in the appointment process. The local General Election in Knox County isn't until August, and clearly the Commission can't wait that long to fill critical constitutional offices. This is probably the best deal that voters could hope for under the circumstances, and also virtually guarantees that the Knox County Commission cannot violate the Open Meetings Act the way that they did on January 31.

It is possible that some folks will be appointed who do not please the voters. If Commission waits until after the Primary to appoint new officeholders for the vacant county offices, voters can oust the appointees in just a matter of months.

The appointments for the vacant Knox County offices will take place February 20th.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Free Mr. Jack

If you aren't from Tennessee, there are probably a few things you've come to know about this State by reputation, some things that make it famous: Davy Crockett, Lookout Mountain, Dolly Parton and Dollywood, Rocky Top, the Grand Ole Opry, Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, the Delta Blues, and Graceland and the King who lived there. These are just a few of the things that make Tennessee a unique and special place to live-there are too many others to mention here. If the world is unfamiliar with the rest of those things, it is at least familiar with the most famous beverage Tennessee produces-a distilled liquid that is amber in color after years of aging, is made in Lynchburg, and always has a Number 7 attached to it.

Tennessee's ridiculously arcane liquor laws may soon require that a stash of Mr. Jack's finest that was apparently being sold without a license to be totally destroyed, despite the fact that some or all of it may have been stolen from the distillery. Rather than give it back to the people who made it, current law requires that the State destroy it. Meanwhile, they can make a profit off of other stolen property:

Tennessee law allows law enforcement agencies to sell and profit from expensive cars, yachts, jewelry and other high-end toys confiscated at the homes of drug dealers. Yes, even their homes can be sold.

But not a bottle of ill-gotten sipping whiskey.

The very idea of pouring a perfectly preserved bottle of Jack Daniel's from 1914 (one of the many old finds in the raid that produced the stash) down the drain smacks of desecration of the sacred soil of Tennessee. Committing such an act is no different than trashing the Ryman Auditorium or dumping your home's entire weekly trash load into Cades Cove. It is an act of supreme disrespect for this State. Unless the legislature steps in come January to save the pride of Lynchburg, law enforcement officials will destroy some of the rarest of the Volunteer State's most famous product.

Contrary to popular belief, Tennessee's antiquated liquor laws are not kept on the books in order to placate certain religious groups. There is no great outcry from the Tennessee Baptist Convention to destroy the rare whiskey to save countless souls from the devil's drink. Gone are the days when Protestant churches and bootleggers would join together at the polls in the great unspoken alliance to keep counties in Tennessee and throughout the South as dry as a bone.

Instead, the power behind insuring that the people of Tennessee cannot buy wine at the grocery store or beer at the liquor store, the reason that "dry county" often doesn't mean completely dry and "wet county" doesn't mean truly "wet" is none other than the liquor lobby itself. The liquor lobby fights not to insure that we may purchase liquor as we may choose that the distilleries may make a profit, but instead to insure that package store owners do not have competition. It is also for this reason that Tennessee law does not allow for the ordering of liquor on the internet (no, it is not for any feigned reasons of concern that someone might present a fake ID to the delivery man-they can just as well do that to a store clerk). Anything that would allow for competition to the established order of liquor purchase in this State must be crushed under foot before liquor stores are forced to lower their prices because consumers finally have options.

It isn't conservative religious groups that need to be shaken down politically in order to scrap Tennessee's antiquated liquor laws-but the liquor lobby itself.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The new parity

If you’ve been following this year’s college football season even remotely, you’ve probably figured out that this year, what have come to be the “normal rules” of who competes in the sport’s top tier don’t apply. Fans have said for years that “anything can happen on any given Saturday” in response to a Saturday with a number of major upsets. This year, nearly every Saturday has been “any given Saturday.”

Whether it was tiny Appalachian State beating Michigan in Ann Arbor, or USC falling to lowly Stanford, or South Florida being ranked #2 in the nation for several weeks, week in and week out this season has belonged to the little teams that no one thought could-but did. Kentucky and Mississippi State are going to bowl games-that’s the Mississippi State that is normally lucky to win two games in a year. The Bulldogs are also coached by Sylvester Croom, the SEC’s first African-American head coach.

Before being upset themselves by Illinois last week, even Ohio State got in on the act of surprising the critics. Everyone now says the Buckeyes were over-rated, but some of these same pundits forget that at the beginning of the year, no one in their right mind was picking Ohio State to compete for the National Championship, and most experts picked Michigan to win the Big Ten. The reasons for this were realistic: Michigan is a team filled with veterans and packed with senior experience. Ohio State only returned two starting seniors from last season, and were starting a sophomore quarterback. The losses by others who weren’t supposed to lose placed Ohio State back at number one in the land, and they remained there until they were upset themselves last week. At the end of the year, the Buckeyes still did something they weren’t supposed to do-they won the Big Ten Championship.

It would be very easy to say that this has just been an odd year in college football, but the truth is that the 2007 season has likely signaled a sea change in the nature of the game itself. After the seasons that many small and mid-major college teams have had, they will likely be able to compete with the big boys in the years ahead for the quality recruits around the country. What 2007 has heralded is the new reality: Every Division I team now has a shot at a national title, regardless of how small their school might be or the size of their athletic department.

It’s a wonderful development for college football.


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