Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hello Walls

Faron Young made this song a hit, but Willie Nelson is the man who wrote it.

It so happened that I was sitting in the audience at the Grand Ole Opry the weekend that Faron Young died. His son came to the Opry that night as a tribute-to sing Hello Walls.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Woe Unto You Gary Odom, Ye Hypocrite

How dare Brian Kelsey do what people in Nashville do all the time-how dare he raise the notion that he should be granted some committee Chairmanship in return for keeping quiet about the underhanded way in which Kent Williams became Speaker of the House. Democrats and Naifehcans engage in this kind of behavior all the time. "I'll give you a Chairmanship in return for your vote for Speaker (or vice versa)," or "you will get the committee you want if you just be quiet." It is more common than pigeon turds for those kinds of bargains to be struck on the Hill.

When the right people do it, it is normal procedure. Brian Kelsey isn't allowed in on the bargaining, as he is a conservative. Now House Democratic Leader Gary Odom is calling on Kelsey to resign. Really? Is this the same Odom that made his way up to Carter County on Tanksgiving to bargain with Kent Williams about being Speaker of the House? I wonder if it is the selfsame Gary Odom who has served as the Executive Director of the Tennessee Optometric Association, which employs lobbyists on the Hill (what conflict of interest)? Since Gary Odom is now so big on purity of ethics, because of these backroom dealings and conflicts of interest, I call on Gary Odom to resign. Oh, I forgot, Odom's standards do not apply to himself or other Democrats, only to conservative Republicans, hence Odom will go nowhere-but we should all demand that Brian Kelsey should resign for asking for a Chairmanship...

Matthew 23:24-28

Blind guides, who strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but within you are full of rapine and uncleanness.

Thou blind Pharisee, first make clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, that the outside may become clean. Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites; because you are like to whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones, and of all filthiness. So you also outwardly indeed appear to men just; but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

The words of Our Lord to the Pharisees also accurately reflect the mentality of the Tennessee House Democratic Caucus, an entity filled daily with its own self-righteous bullhockey about rising above partisanship and forming coalitions, but inwardly it is filled with partisan rancor and will do anything to maintain control, even after losing an election.

If a Democrat sent such a text message, it would be shrugged off at least and complied with at most. Brian Kelsey can't bargain for himself, though, as he isn't part of the club.

I'll make a prediction: Brian Kelsey isn't going away. If he should choose to run for the House again in 2010, he will be re-elected, and that means that our Democratic friends had better get used to dealing with Brian Kelsey as part of the expanding Republican majority.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Disquiet Was Not All Kelsey

Accusations are flying all over the blogosphere that Rep. Brian Kelsey is the real party responsible for the stress-induced illness of Rep. Susan Lynn. Of late, Rep. Mike Turner has gotten in on the act, himself declaring that Kelsey caused all of this, because Kelsey is the one who filed the complaint against Kent Williams which formally alleges an event which all involved acknowledge occurred, and which Williams admitted happened at the time and now denies. In declaring that Lynn is under stress because of the Kelsey complaint, Turner seems to be acknowledging the truth of the allegations against Williams whether he intends to or not. Susan Lynn would no doubt be under the very same stress whether the complaint was filed by Kelsey or by her and she had to dredge this up before the Ethics Committee.

Where bloggers on the Left and Democrats who just want to keep all of this quiet may be erring is in the idea that Susan Lynn would not have eventually filed a complaint herself. From her planned statement to the Ethics Committee:

“On Tuesday, January 13, as the member [Williams] in question was being
nominated many of us were very angry but I maybe more so. Sitting with my
husband and our newly married daughter who both knew about the events of two
years earlier, I struggled greatly with the grave injustice.”

“I curiously watched the news to see what the speaker would say.
I expected him to state that it happened, he apologized and that as far as he
knew it was over. And truly, if he had said that it would have been
over. What a tremendous shock to hear him deny the events and the
apology. Essentially, he is calling me and everyone else that witnessed
his deeds a liar.”

Susan Lynn was indeed outraged that day, as was Rep. Debra Maggart who sits next to Lynn on the House floor. The two women were among the unhappiest people to be seen on the floor, and that is saying something because Stacey Campfield looked as though he would go postal on the Democrats, Frank Niceley looked like he could punch a hole in the wall, Bill Dunn just looked disgusted, and several people told me later on that I looked so red-faced that they feared I was going to snap. While I am sure my Irish was showing in a myriad of ways, I kept my cool and saved the griping for a beer and a sandwich after the session.

Lynn and Maggart, however, were extremely distraught, and at first I did not know why. Lynn muttered something (I did not hear what specifically) about sexual harassment, and she scurried out of the chamber almost as soon as the session was over. Maggart was equally as upset as Lynn, and I soon learned that she had witnessed one of the incidents in question. In talking to Representative Lynn later, she seemed to indicate that her primary concern was that bringing forth a complaint at this time might seem like sour grapes and would not be taken seriously. She, Maggart, and others all showed a genuine fear that Williams, now that he was Speaker, might engage in similar behavior again.

With this in mind, I do not necessarily share the opinion that others do that Susan Lynn would simply not have filed an ethics complaint, and that this would not be an issue without Brian Kelsey. Instead, I think that if Lynn chose to file a complaint, she may simply have waited to do so in her own time and on her own terms.

Yesterday I said on Twitter that I believed Brian Kelsey had overstepped his bounds in filing the ethics complaint against Kent Williams. I have great respect for Kelsey and his zeal for doing what is right, and I truly believe that was his intent in this case. However, this complaint gets nowhere unless Susan Lynn is the one who brings it. Further, in taking the preemptive action to file the complaint himself instead of Lynn, Kelsey has made it nearly impossible for any future complaint by Susan Lynn to be taken seriously.

The one good thing about all of this is that perhaps it has scared Kent Williams straight about what is appropriate professional behavior in the Legislature. A lot of us do not trust Williams and believe that he became Speaker in an ill-gotten way, but he is legally the Speaker of the House. The best that anyone can do under the present circumstances in the 106th General Assembly is roll up their sleeves and try to work with what they have. The acrimony is there, but it can't be allowed to run the House of Representatives.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who Is to Blame?

There seems to be a thread in the blogosphere developing among commenters, many of whom like to remain mysteriously anonymous, blaming Jason Mumpower for Kent Williams' betrayal of the Tennessee House Republicans:

Here's a news flash, Kent doesn't like Jason Mumpower. A
bunch of people don't like Mumpower. Get over it.


This is how you tell a good Republican from a bad one, or someone who is not really a Republican at all. You support the nominees of your party for legislative leadership positions. Sometimes this requires swallowing one's pride and sucking up one's gut, but this is what you do. Why? A house divided against itself will not stand.

As anyone who actually makes a habit of reading this weblog knows that when Jason Mumpower ran against Bill Dunn for the House Republican Leadership, I enthusiastically supported Dunn. When Mumpower defeated Bill Dunn, I was not a happy camper-and I pretty much made that known to the world. However, I reached out to Leader Mumpower and Leader Mumpower did the same for me. He has been gracious and kind, even when we have both acknowledged from time to time that we do not always see eye to eye. Jason Mumpower is the Leader duly elected, and in an election for Speaker of the House, were I a member of that Caucus my vote would go to Jason without any reservation or purpose of evasion-because that is what you do on votes like Speaker of the House-you stand behind your Leader as a show of unity. Leave your disagreements with the Leader for another time. As Frank Niceley pointed out to me after the infamy on the House floor “you don’t hold those things, otherwise I’d have a problem with everybody in the Caucus who ever campaigned against me or said something bad about me-it is childish and people need to grow up and vote right.”

One has to hand it to the House Democrats-they did what they had to do and did so with no moral qualms about the deception involved, or what such a maneuver would to to the personal, professional, or political climate of the House. The initial Democratic response to this concern is "what about Rosalind Kurita?" I don't know if Kurita personally guaranteed her floor vote to John Wilder or not-if she did, Wilder was indeed wronged. However, Kurita did not attempt to set herself up as Speaker of the Senate, nor did Ron Ramsey offer that to her. The Democrats did more than the Republicans have been able to do-they united to achieve a working majority. That is something that Kent Williams really doesn't seem to care about, but he sure is happy being Speaker.

I do not wish ill upon Kent Williams, but I do hope and pray that he comes to understand that the hurt which he brought about impacted so many more people than merely Jason Mumpower or even the House Republican Caucus. Even Kent Williams is capable of seeing the light.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Roller Coaster Legislature

Stacey Campfield has published word that Kent Williams may soon be removed from the Tennessee Republican Party. If true, there is some debate, even among conservatives, as to the wisdom of the move. Some have said that it is better to keep him in the party until the next election, that this will isolate him politically. For my own part, I have come to the conclusion that Williams must be removed for no other reason than that it shows those members of the House Republican Caucus who might be tempted to vote for Democrats for Speaker or Speaker Pro Tempore of the House of Representatives that there will be political consequences in a negative way for their actions.

One thing that many on all sides are coming to see that the events of January 13th at the State Capitol created a caustic climate in the General Assembly in which it will be very difficult to do business. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey has said that at least he had a good working relationship with Jimmy Naifeh, that he has no trust for Kent Williams.

Among members of the House, many Republicans feel that their efforts to gain a majority have been nullified by an organizational vote. Kent Williams was untruthful with Republican leaders, none of whom now believe that he will ever be completely straight with them. Democrats cannot really trust Williams, as he has already demonstrated that he will lie to them as well-he had said he would vote Democratic for constitutional offices. Further, many Democrats doubtless know that if Williams would deceive his own party, he wound have no qualms about stabbing the Democrats in the back as well.

There is very little trust and much suspicion among all parties in the 106th Tennessee General Assembly. Hence, there is likely to be little in the way of a middle ground in how this session will progress. This is entirely speculative on my part, but I believe we will either see an incredibly short session, where legislators scurry to pass a bare-bones budget and then go home, or a very long one marked by heavy scrutiny of nearly every bill and delays in the normal progress of daily business on the Hill. As one legislator told me "I've cleared my calendar until the 4th of July."

The First Session of the 106th General Assembly will very likely be something of a political roller coaster ride.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

Gridlock is Good

There has been much discussion in some quarters about the faulty committee system created for the Tennessee House of Representatives for the 106th General Assembly by Kent Williams. It is a system that will, more often than not, bring about confusion, deadlock, and make the progress of bills extremely slow. Many pieces of legislation introduced this year may not even be heard before next January at the pace which things are likely to move in the Confused 106th.

However, things may not be as bad as they appear on the surface for the Republicans in the House under this arrangement. For one thing, even though Stratton Bone will continue to Chair the House Agriculture Committee, Frank Niceley returns to the Aggies, and that's great news for anyone from Jefferson County. Certain lobbyists won't like the move, but it means that some of Frank's bills which were sent to Summer Study Eternal after Jimmy Naifeh booted him from Ag and he had to go before the Committee to plead and beg will now get a more fair hearing. How do we know this? Well, guess who is Chairman of the Ag General Subcommittee-why yes, how Niceley done.

On Judiciary, another Democrat Chairs, Kent Coleman, but four of the House's most conservative voices-Brian Kelsey, Judd Matheny, and freshmen fireeaters Chad Faulkner and Vance Dennis-are all to be found on this important committee.

Susan Lynn will be Chairman of Government Operations, but she won't be the only conservative holding down the fort. Stacey Campfield, Glen Casada, Mike Bell, and Jason Mumpower will join her.

The most powerful, and one of the most populated committees in the House is Calendar and Rules. It is clearly organized so that nothing gets done, but what does occur will be DUNN very well with C&R's new Chairman. Pro-life legislation might actually get a floor vote thanks to Chairman Bill Dunn.

An overview of the House committee structure makes it clear that these committees have been designed in such a way that little new or substantive is liable to pass committee scrutiny, since the Williams committees appear destined to gridlock, even on much good legislation. However, I am not sure that won't be good in the end. Do we want a great many bills passed, or should Tennesseans demand not many laws, but fewer statutes of far greater quality. If very little gets passed at all, Tennessee may just be better off.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Credo in Unum Deum

The faith of Christ, and of the Church

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