Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Rocky Future for Newspapers?

Lent is a time for serious reflection and spiritual renewal, and it can be a time for reordering of a person's life priorities. Certainly it is becoming this for me. It can also be a period of serious shock, when a person comes to understand that things cannot remain as they are. Such is the feeling, I would imagine, of people at The Rocky Mountain News on Thursday and Friday. E.W. Scripps closed Colorado's first newspaper-a property that it owns-yesterday, citing the economic reality that it could not afford to maintain The Rocky at a loss when The Denver Post appears unwilling to continue its role in the Denver Newspaper Agency in the fashion that it has in the past.

I first heard the news Thursday from Tennessee GOP Communications Director Bill Hobbs, whose dream job in the world of journalism was once to work at The Rocky Mountain News.

It hit home primarily because the announcement brought about a deja-vu of sorts of the kind that I felt when I heard that The Cincinnati Post had gotten the axe from Scripps because The Cincinnati Enquirer decided not to continue a long-standing joint operating agreement with Scripps. The Post was the first Scripps newspaper, and was the company's flagship publication. When I lived in Cincinnati, I wanted badly to wipe my rear end with The Cincinnati Post on a daily basis. However, I thought the very existence of the Post made the Enquirer a better newspaper. Further, on those rare occasion that the Post was right in an editorial sense, they were very right.

The Rocky Mountain News was different than the Post. I read it online occasionally, and it is a great paper, something sorely missing in today's market. Well-written stories, hard news, and solid editorials that leave readers asking questions and writing letters. Further, the tabloid format it published in makes it handy to read and portable. The Rocky should probably have been seen as the new flagship-the jewel in the Scripps crown with the demise of The Cincinnati Post.

I watched the short film Final Edition at The Rocky's website. On it, investigative reporter Laura Frank seems to allude that bloggers and blogs are at least part of the reason we are seeing newspapers in such trouble-and they are in real trouble. While I am sure blogs play a small role in the newspaper crisis, I didn't begin to cover Tennessee politics here in an attempt to compete with the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Instead, I write to offer both my unique perspective, and an alternative editorial voice to the News-Sentinel and The Tennessean. Those papers have staff that can put out tens and hundreds of stories a day. I write one or two editorial posts a day, perhaps more when I am at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville. I do what I can, but I am a staff of one.

Truthfully, this crisis has much more to do with newspapers' ability to successfully make a transition that is profitable from print to digital and online news production. We live in an age when the news is available free to anyone, even local news. Why should people pay for what they can get for nothing? Newspapers must learn how to make online advertizing work in a way that keeps them afloat. It is often forgotten that The Denver Post is in serious financial trouble, and there are rumors that The San Francisco Chronicle may close. It won't be long before one-newspaper towns with respected news outlets begin to lose those papers as well.

That being the case, and Scripps admitting in the midst of its sale of The Rocky Mountain News that its newspaper division is in a very serious financial situation, it is fair to ask: Will the Knoxville News-Sentinel be around for all that long?

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Friday, February 27, 2009

Opposing the Tyranny On the Plaza

In less than ten minutes from now, citizens will gather at the Legislative Plaza in Nashville for a "Tea Party" to oppose the federal government's endless set of "bailouts" which began under the last Administration, and are careening toward the dangerous path of nationalization under the present one:

Struggling banking giant Citigroup Inc., moving aggressively to shore up its equity base, announced a stock swap Friday that if successful will leave the government owning more than a third of the company and wipe out nearly three-quarters of existing shareholders' stake.

Under the deal, Citigroup said it will offer to convert nearly $27.5 billion in preferred stock sold to private investors and the public and up to $25 billion in preferred stock bought by the government into common stock. The exchange, if fully executed, would leave the U.S. government with 36% of the bank's shares. Existing shareholders' stake would be cut to 26%. Shareholders will have to approve much of the common stock issuance.

The agreement marks the third time since October that Washington has come to Citigroup's rescue. Since then, the government has pressured Citigroup to partially break itself up by selling big chunks of its businesses and to overhaul its board. But U.S. ownership has also created a murky situation in which it's unclear who's in charge, leaving Citigroup executives often groping for guidance.

The founders of this federal Republic did not risk their lives, fortunes, and honor for this country to have a nationalized business sector. What is most frightening about what is presently occurring is that President Obama's most ardent supporters know that they are literally about to destroy the federal Constitution, and those young people who supported Obama in the name of such vague slogans as "hope" and "change" do not understand what is happening, and hence do not care (they will care when their Savior destroys their country and their lives with it).

Barack Obama's disrespect for the Constitution goes well beyond anything that occurred during the Bush Administration, bad as some of Bush's policies were. In the case of Obama, he may as well just have a public ceremony and torch the Constitution, since he now demonstrates by the minute that it will mean nothing.

Our economy will be run by a series of czars (how appropriate in this new despotism) of which the Vice President appears to be the leader. The blind lead the blind and they shall all fall in the ditch.

The worst offenders for Tennesseans are the members of a certain political party who have used the floor of our State House of Representatives this week as a platform to announce that they would like to lead in sucking from the teet of the federal swine, while having the unmitigated gall to threaten to remove the swine's money from the districts of members who oppose it. Of course, the people of the opposing districts still have to pay for their freedom to be slowly sucked away. Meanwhile, those who think it is fine that the federal government should take away even the authority of the State of Tennessee to determine how it is governed shall crouch down and lick the hand that feeds them. As Samual Adams said of those too afraid to stand up to tyranny in an earlier time, "may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Divisions We Do Not See

When future generations of Tennessee schoolchildren read of our public history in 2008, one thing that they will not likely be able to say is that our politics lack drama. Put more simply, no one many years from now will accuse our politicians of being boring. Up to now, Tennesseans were led to believe that House Democratic Leader Gary Odom was the primary personal force behind the elevation of Kent Williams to the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives amid great deception. Now we are hearing a different story via Colby Sledge:

The who's-the-real-kingmaker soap opera surrounding House Dems has taken
yet another turn as discontent grows over House Democratic Leader Rep. Gary
Odom's comments that he — and not former Speaker Jimmy Naifeh —
was the architect key Democrat in the Kent Williams Plan.

Rep. Mike Turner, the House Democratic Caucus Chairman, and Rep. John
of Morristown sat down with reporters to give a new timeline, one that
leaves Odom almost completely out of the picture. In this version, Litz begins
asking around about a Republican candidate who could play the foil to Rep. Jason
Mumpower. By the second week of December, Williams comes to Litz to see if the
Democrats can deliver, but Litz only tells "Speaker Naifeh and one other
individual that day," according to a timeline he released.

According to the Sledge report, the primary movers and shakers behind the Williams coup d'etat were Democratic Caucus Chairman Turner, and John Litz, who is nothing if not a Jimmy Naifeh network man and who is continually re-elected to his seat for no other reason than that everyone thinks he is such a nice guy and a good ol' boy-which he is both (if you don't believe me, ask anyone who lives around these parts who resides in Litz's district-there are people who will vote straight Republican but vote for Litz because he is such a nice person). What makes this story believable is that the Kent Williams saga just sounds like something that John Litz would involve himself in to a very personal degree. At the end of the day, for all of the talk about how "bipartisan" Litz is, when he is on the Hill he is a party man through the bone to the core.

What is comical is the notion, carried on by The Tennessean and some in the Leftist blogosphere that Jason Mumpower somehow represents the so-called "hard right" of the party and the GOP Caucus. From the beginning, Mumpower was the initial choice of the "moderates" and the Naifeh Republicans, and it is believed by many conservatives that the Naifeh Republicans were the deciding votes in Mumpower's Leadership race against Bill Dunn.

Most East Tennessee newspapers were reporting that John Litz may have played some part in Kent Williams being nominated by the Democrats for Speaker. This is complicated by the fact that the pro-Naifeh elements of the House Democratic Caucus appear to be in open rebellion against the increasingly clueless Gary Odom. At this point, it seems that the struggle to take credit for what is increasingly becoming a debacle for both parties is emblematic of a larger battle for control inside Democratic ranks.

That might be something Republicans could take advantage of, but Colby Sledge reveals another tidbit not widely known by the public:

Turner said if House Republicans had selected Nashville Republican Rep. Beth
— and not Mumpower — as their Speaker candidate of choice, the plan to
elect Williams likely never would have happened.

Prior to the Speakership vote, I talked to a few conservatives in the House Republican Caucus who told me they personally would have preferred Beth Harwell as Speaker at this time. There is no way to know that the Democrats would not have done the same thing to Beth Harwell, since we know from January 13th that the House Democrats have no trouble engaging in open deception. However, if the Republicans do not pick up enough seats to insure Mumpower's election as Speaker in January 2011, his days as Leader may be numbered. Jason Mumpower needs to run candidates that will unite his own Caucus completely behind him in order to assure victory.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday

And so today begins the season of penance...

During this time our hearts, minds and souls are called to a deeper reflection on our own sins and shortcomings. Although we are reminded with ashes both of our own mortality and our need to remove ourselves from the temporary pleasures of sin, Lent is even more a time of deeper reflection of our own relationship with God and how best we might strengthen that bond between ourselves and Christ. As we sacrifice for the sake of Lent, we remember the sacrifice of Christ for us.

For my own part, I pray that God grants me the grace to use Lent to let go of my pride, vices, grudges, and grant me the ability to be an example of how a Catholic ought to live to others. That Lent becomes a time not merely to fast from those things which I would like or enjoy, but to renew my own faith in a revival of personal spiritual life.

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We Were Here All Along

During Monday's session of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Rep. Steve McManus (R-Cordova) rose under personal orders to decry the runaway spending practices in the President's so-called stimulus package, and why he believed Tennessee should take very little of this money, if any at all. McManus said that he was especially concerned that the United States will be selling much of its Treasury debt to Red China in order to finance the President's plan, and the next generation will be left holding the tab for this. What happens, asked McManus, the day the Chinese and other quasi-hostile powers decide "we have the United States where we want them, let us quit buying their securities and call in our bonds?"

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner gave the rather simplistic response:

"All these people who are concerned about spending, where
were they the last eight years."

That might be a fair question, except that it is doubtful that Mike Turner has engaged in many lengthy discussions with his colleagues on the other side of the aisle about the ridiculous spending habits of the late Bush Administration. If he had, I strongly suspect that he would have found widespread concern about the problem, especially among more conservative members of the Republican Caucus like Frank Niceley, Eric Swafford, Glen Casada, Jim Coley, Gerald McCormick, or Stacey Campfield-just to name a few. Further, since I know Rep. Turner visits this site on a regular basis, he is quite aware that this is not a place where anyone who favored that kind of reckless spending could come to read plaudets about how wonderful it was that they were running up the deficit to the outer reaches of the known universe. There were many Republicans and conservatives, both in and out of Tennessee, who expressed deep concern and reservations over the fiscal policy of the Bush Administration-yours truly was deriding these habits long before it was cool.

Rep. Turner also knows that the Tennessee House of Representatives is not a place where members regularly engage in lengthy colloquies on matters of federal politics. There are very good reasons for that, of course, but Monday's exchange was so rare that I found myself wishing that the Speaker would not move on to the next order, I thought Turner's remarks deserved a suitable reaction and response. It is not often that members of the Tennessee House discuss such matters of grave national importance.

The President's speech last night was very long on generalities and cheerleading slogans, but was extremely short on specifics (in fairness, so was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's Republican response-not that the mainstream press was actually listening). Often, State of the Union messages are like that regardless of who is delivering them-and that is precisely what this was, despite what many said to the contrary, because the President is about to present a budget. If there were ever a situation when the people of this country need to know exactly what is in a spending bill and why, this is the time. Our future depends on it.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Chain Reaction

The on-again, off again candidacy of Governor Phil Bredesen for federal Health and Human Services Secretary just may be moving toward the "on" button again:

Q: Are you out of the mix for HHS secretary?

A: I don’t think so…but I don’t know…They certainly told me I was on a
fairly short list of people being considered. I refer all further questions to
them. I’m just really not sure where the process is.

Although the continued procrastination on the part of the Obama Administration in appointing a Health Secretary would certainly lead one to believe that with each minute that passes, a Bredesen appointment becomes much less likely, it does bear noting the chain of political events in Tennessee that will likely occur if Phil Bredesen does take a post in the President's cabinet. Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey-already the State's most powerful Republican-will become Governor. Ramsey's ascension to the Mansion in which (unlike his predecessor) it can be hoped he will actually live will eliminate concerns about his name recognition leading into the 2010 election cycle. Sitting Governors don't have as much of a problem with folks in other parts of the State not knowing who they are.

If a Bredesen departure makes a Governor out of Ron Ramsey, it will set off an instant race within the Senate for his replacement at Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate. The question will likely be decided de facto within the Senate Republican Caucus between Speaker Pro Tempore Jamie Woodson of Knoxville and Senate Republican Floor Leader Mark Norris of Collierville. A Governor Ramsey would be the first Republican Governor to also have a Republican Lieutenant. However, once Ron Ramsey becomes Governor, another post would need to be filled-Ramsey's own seat in the Tennessee Senate.

The obvious choice would be current House Republican Leader Jason Mumpower, Ramsey's self-described protege. Both men are not only friends, but represent one another in their respective legislative bodies. However, if Ramsey becomes Governor, Mumpower will become the most powerful man in the House of Representatives by fiat, effectively circumventing the Democrats' political manuver of January 13th. With a Republican Governor and a Republican Senate, Jason Mumpower will carry all of the major bills that a Ramsey administration and the Senate would require. The House will have its hand forced along by the Senate and the Governor, and neither Kent Williams nor Gary Odom will run the House, but Jason Mumpower will.

If Mumpower will not take Ron Ramsey's vacant Senate seat, the only remaining question would be who would replace Ron Ramsey in the Senate in the event that he should become Governor.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

The Test

Colby Sledge of The Tennessean seems almost shocked that the Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly are going to pursue the agenda they promised the voters. Perish the thought! Elected officials who carry out that which they pledged the voters to pursue if elected:

State Republicans hoping to tackle everything from education reform to
passing an anti-abortion constitutional amendment this legislative session
appeared eager to roll out the party's social agenda after they gained control
of the House and Senate in the November elections.

But then last month's surprise election of House Speaker Rep. Kent Williams
— voted in by Democrats and later thrown out of the state GOP — left Republicans
wondering how such bills will fare in a split chamber.

Now they're going to get a chance to find out.

In the coming weeks, legislators will vote on several previously killed
bills, but split committees could make things harder for Republicans hoping for
sweeping changes. In many cases, House Democrats have offered compromise
legislation that they hope brings hot-button topics closer to the political

"I hope this grand experiment that we're beginning will create more
than gridlock," said House Majority Leader Jason Mumpower, who was in line to
become speaker before Williams' victory.

"I'm optimistic, but I think the impact voters wanted will be somewhat diminished."

The present situation in the Tennessee House of Representatives actually provides an excellent opportunity to put Kent Williams to the test. It is important that this be done, because Williams has been adamant that he is, always has been, and so remains philisophically a conservative Republican. Further, Kent Williams has said that he favors measures such as a constitutional amendment declaring that there is nothing in the State Constitution that can be construed to grant any "right" to aboticide. If he does favor this legislation as he claims, he will see to it that it gets to the floor of the House and will do all in his power to see that it passes.

Kent Williams says that he is pro-Second Amendment and would see a series of bills expanding gun rights in Tennessee be enacted. Severals of these acts are before the House, so whether any of those which are more advanced and controversial make it to the floor will likely be up to Kent Williams.

Legislation ranging from firearms to abortion to illegal immigration to removing the grocery tax all currently awaits a hearing before some committee of the House or Senate. Kent Williams has said that he is a conservative, and that these are ideas which he favors and is prone to support.

Since I pledged to give Williams a chance, then I am looking forward in the coming weeks to seeing Williams bring these conservative ideas to votes by the force of his tie-breaking vote on committees and 50th vote in the House. If these things fail to happen because Williams, someone who supposedly supports a conservative agenda for Tennessee, bottles up the appropriate legislation or presides over its death, we shall all know to whom Kent Williams is beholden.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Forgiving Sins

Luke 2:1-11:

And again he entered into Capernaum after some days. And it was heard that he was in the house, and many came together, so that there was no room; no, not even at the door; and he spoke to them the word. And they came to him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four. And when they could not offer him unto him for the multitude, they uncovered the roof where he was; and opening it, they let down the bed wherein the man sick of the palsy lay. And when Jesus had seen their faith, he saith to the sick of the palsy: Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.

And there were some of the scribes sitting there, and thinking in their hearts: Why doth this man speak thus? he blasphemeth. Who can forgive sins, but God only? Which Jesus presently knowing in his spirit, that they so thought within themselves, saith to them: Why think you these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the sick of the palsy: Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say: Arise, take up thy bed, and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)

I say to thee: Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And immediately he arose; and taking up his bed, went his way in the sight of all; so that all wondered and glorified God, saying: We never saw the like.

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