Saturday, July 18, 2009

McKinley's Gone

The ETSU Bluegrass Band breaks it down on the White House Blues


Friday, July 17, 2009

God's Rightful Place

My fellow conservative and Jefferson Countian Frank Cagle expresses concern about what he sees as a proliferation of conservative politicians who beat their proverbial religious drums, but live another way when the cameras aren't rolling. Cagle believes that these elected leaders are merely using Godas a political prop, and he doesn't think religion was as important in our government in years' past:
It’s interesting how Tennessee attitudes toward religion in public life have changed. In the original state constitution, Article IX, Section 1, preachers are forbidden to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly. That’s because “their profession dedicated to God and the care of souls ought not to be diverted from the great duties of their functions...” It was sound advice then and it’s sound advice now. Not that preachers ought to be banned from public service, but rather the attitude that if your mission is to care for souls and serve God, you don’t need to be doing it in politics.

Frank Cagle is correct that using the Almighty as a political crutch is neither sound theology nor appropriate for the political arena. One does not need to make a flashy show of one's faith for the world to understand that a person has faith. The framers of the Tennessee Constitution clearly did not intend our Capitol to be a church.

At the same time, the constitutional fathers also didn't mean for people in our State government to check their faith at the entrance to the House or Senate Chamber. How necessary is faith in God to holding office in Tennessee? Our State Constitution says that it is a requirement:

No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.

While the Tennessee Constitution says that ministers may not serve in the Legislature, atheists are not to be welcomed into any department of State government. Clearly, having a conscience that is informed by faith in a Higher Power-known more popularly as God-was very important to those who laid the foundations of government in Tennessee. Obviously, these men did not believe that it was right for someone to compartmentalize their life because they enter politics. We were not intended to live under a regime made up of people who say "I shall worship and serve the Almighty one day a week, and ignore the principles of my faith when I enter the halls of government, lest others be offended." Tennessee's founders wanted people in public life who believe in God and are willing to conduct themselves accordingly.

As Frank Cagle shows us in his column, we have the same problem today that governments throughout modern history have had, the hypocrisy of some of the so-called faithful:

Sin is not the exclusive province of either political party. What most of us find disturbing, however, is not the sin. We understand it. All have sinned and fallen short, the New Testament tells us. What we find particularly disgusting are politicians who get elected and reelected mouthing Biblical platitudes and family values, and attacking the private lives of others while they are busy getting it on with a staffer or a south of the border mistress.

Our Lord was quite clear that none of us should concern ourselves with the splinter in our neighbor's eye without first removing the plank in our own. The Church is not a political party, and its purpose in this world is the salvation of souls, not electoral success at the polls. Neither does GOP stand, as some seem to believe, for "God's Own Party." The difference in the modern age in America, however, is that while some in one party use God in a way that is politically inappropriate, a great many in the party opposite run from God like the plague, ridicule those whose politics are informed by and rooted in their sense of faith, and make a mockery of God's rightful place in the public square. One attitude is both unhealthy and unwise, while the other is ungodly and uncalled for.

God is neither meant to be used for political gain, nor is God to be ignored by those in power. Perhaps the best advice on the place of God in anyone's life, but certainly a public figure, comes from that very public (and very flawed-he had an affair too) figure King David in the First Psalm:

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Democrats in Fantasyland

Tennessee Democratic Chairman Chip Forrester is already busying himself with making excuses for that party's lack of fundraising fortune:

Forrester also said "Republicans traditionally have deeper pockets" that Democrats can offset by "boots-on-the-ground activist support."

Forrester, however, noted that the most of the Republican candidates started much earlier than most of the Democratic candidates. More fundraising time, he said, has translated into more money and the GOP lead will likely be reduced "as we get downstream."

While I will be the first to say that I am no fan of our election process starting as early as it does, it is no one's fault but the Democrats that they haven't raised any money until recently. Arguments can be made for those people who are members of the Legislature and were under financial restrictions while the General Assembly was in session, but not for people like Kim McMillan or Mike McWherter-one no longer in the Legislature, and one that never was.

It is understandable that Forrester is the Chairman, so he must make a bad situation sound better than it actually is. However, Ned McWherter certainly had no trouble raising money going up against a well-funded former Governor Winfield Dunn. Phil Bredesen raised plenty of money to compete with former Congressman Van Hilleary, who ran a very fine campaign considering that the outgoing Republican was so unpopular. To use the excuse that the Republicans just have deeper pockets, so that accounts for the discrepency in money raised between the two parties is simply a kind way to disguise the reality that no one with the money to give believes the Democrats have a snowball's chance in Hell next year. If enough deep-pocketed Democrats believed this (and yes, there are quite a few in this State), at least one Democrat would already have over a million dollars raised by now.

Forrester's problem is that if when the Democrats lose the election next year, his will be the head on the chopping block after a number of prominent Democrats warned what would happen if Forrester and the Leftist elements he leads took control of the State Democrats. A defeat will be-for better or for worse-the legacy of Chip Forrester's leadership of his party. Forrester's writing is already on the wall.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Odom Already Plays the Sore Loser

Tennessee Republican Chairman Chris Devaney has apparently enhanced his lower anatomy by writing an open letter to Tennessee House Democratic Leader Gary Odom in response to Odom's grandstanding over the implementation of the Voter Confidence Act. Apparently, in Leader Odom's reckoning, Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett has power from on High to make federally-acceptable optical scan machines appear from thin air in order that paper ballots may be counted in a manner that the Federal Election Assistance Commission deems appropriate.

The next time that I happen to see the Secretary of State in the hallway at the Capitol, I will be sure to look for the pillar of cloud if the sun is up, and the pillar of fire should it be eventide. Perhaps I need to ask Moses Hargett if he would extend his rod to rid the Legislature of the whiniest members of the party opposite.

Chairman Devaney hit the nail on the head in his words to the Minority Windbag:

It appears that politics are playing more of a role in your party’s actions than those of concrete public policy. It is doubtful you would be raising such an issue if you had not lost your legislative majority and retained a Democrat as Secretary of State and a Democrat majority on the State and County Election Commissions. Your leadership in overseeing these losses for your fellow party members certainly appears to be intensifying your misleading attacks towards the current Secretary of State and is unproductive in moving our state forward.

Democrats in this State are not used to losing legislative elections, but last year they lost one for the first time in any of our lives. If current political trends continue they appear to be on their way to two election defeats in a row, the blame for which would be laid squarely on Gary Odom and his lack of political acumen.

Odom's strategy for the 2010 election currently seems to be for the Democrats to lose and then blame that loss on the lack of vote-counting machines which have yet to exist according to law. How the mighty have fallen! It wasn't long ago when I really believed that despite my political differences with him, Gary Odom was a man of character. Attempting to blame the vote counter for the strong potential that one may lose is not indicative of good political character. Rather than fussing like a baby who is about to have its lollipop taken away, Odom should be campaigning to turn the fortunes of his beleagured party around. Instead, he already sounds like a sore loser, and the election is still almost a year and a half away.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If Those Old Walls Could Talk: 1859-2009

Tom Humphrey points out that the Tennessee State Capitol is celebrating its 150th Anniversary this year, and it has seen some interesting times indeed:

One of the legislator-selected historical displays set up in a wing of the Tennessee State Museum this summer features a pair of dueling pistols said to have been made sometime between 1830 and 1860.

And while it's probably been many decades since the guns were put to use, the Capitol is still functioning and beautiful, especially since a facelift a few years back. The House and Senate still meet within its walls.

Rep. Jimmy Eldridge, R-Jackson, displays a letter written by an angry Davy Crockett to a man who owed him $200. Among other things, Crockett threatens to reveal the fellow as a cheater in playing cards.

Sen. Doug Henry, D-Nashville, exhibits a copy of the legislative acts of the 33rd General Assembly in 1861, including the state's secession from the Union. There's also a handbill signed by then-Gov. Isham Harris, who after the Civil War, became speaker of the United States Senate.

Rep. Joe Armstrong, D-Knoxville, features an 1876 engraving of an "African-American political convention" held at the Capitol and a print of people celebrating the ratification of the 15th Amendment prohibiting slavery to the U.S. Constitution.

A couple of corrections to the historical record are necessary. Isham Green Harris did not become, as Humphrey alleges, the "Speaker" of the U.S. Senate. There is no such office-Harris was President pro-Tempore of the federal Senate from 1893-1895. The 15th Amendment did not abolish slavery-that was the 13th Amendment. The 15th Amendment guaranteed that no man may be denied the right to vote on account of race.

With that said, as the Capitol celebrates its sesquicentennial we should be reminded how truly blessed we are to have a living testimony of sorts to the history of our great State in our midst, and so accessible to every citizen.

She was completed and put into use as the sectional conflict was beginning to boil over. Two years into the use of this beautiful new building would tear the Union apart. The Capitol walls bore witness to Tennessee's 1861 Ordinance of Secession, and the subsequent federal occupation of Nashville. The Union would transform part of the building into a field hospital for its wounded soldiers. Isham G, Harris, Andrew Johnson, and Parson Brownlow all walked the halls of the Capitol at some point-three men whose politics were as different and diverse as the State they represented.

The Capitol bore witness within its walls to the ratification of female sufferage, it will forever be known as the place where votes for women became the law of the land. Frank Gorrell and Jared Maddux bore witness to the political intreagues and power of the Tennessee Senate and the office of Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the Senate which it controls. Jimmy Quillen began his long career in Tennessee public service not in the halls of Congress, but in the Tennessee House of Representatives. Bill Jenkins became the first Republican Speaker since Reconstruction in a House that was divided 49-49-1-partly because of the vote of a friendly Democrat. The longest serving leader of a legislative body in the world during his time was to be found serving inside the Tennessee Capitol, the bulding where he cobbled together several coalitions to hang on to power, finally trying to stay just long enough to fall. Historic political intreague can happen in the Capitol every day-could you imagine what the walls would say if they could actually talk?


Monday, July 13, 2009

Not Ned Ray, Democrats, and East Tennessee

Not Ned Ray McWherter declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor of Tennessee at Rocky Mount, along with three other Democrats. Of the Democrats present, it is widely believed that Not Ned may have the best chance of winning the nomination merely because of name recognition.

While Democrats have shown in the past that they can carry chunks of East Tennessee in a Statewide race, or in the case of Al Gore and Phil Bredesen, carry every county in the State, including the heavily-Republican East, Democrats only tend to do extremely well in East Tennessee when they run candidates who are right-of-center moderates or outright conservatives. After all, the Al "I've Hoed-It-and-Hung-It-In-the-Barn" Gore who ran for election to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and again in 1990 was a far cry from the Gore we know today. That Gore ran as a populist, Southern, right-of-center, pro-life moderate before becoming a serious national Democratic figure (if Gore were really the "raging Southern moderate" that he portrayed himself as being, he sold his soul to achieve national stature-and we wonder why he couldn't carry Tennessee in 2000). Phil Bredesen won and was re-elected by running as a right-of-center Democrat, even attempting in certain instances to run to the Republicans' right.

This is why it is so funny to watch some of these Democrats come to East Tennessee and have a dog-and-pony show. A few of them might be sincere about some of the things they say, but if they are they also know that they could never achieve national prominence as Democrats, since they sound too much like Republicans. Most all of the serious Democrats in the area were probably in Piney Flats the other day eating barbecue. Meanwhile, they haven't run a real candidate for Congress since Robert Love Taylor, who would probably be a Republican if he were alive today.

Their political offerings work hard, and get crushed like a wet noodle at General Election time. The Democrats they do manage to elect to the Legislature (Eddie Yokley, John Litz) from this part of the State vote with the Republicans on all the major issues somewhere between 80% (Litz) and 90% (Yokley) of the time. Most of the bills which the Statewide Democratic party is presently decrying passed with a large number of Democrats-most from rural, red-meat parts of the State-voting in the affirmative.

Few people in these parts even know who Kim McMillan is, despite her years of leadership in the House. Ward Cammack is someone who only political hacks are aware of, and a few more know something about State Sen. Roy Herron-but not enough. That leaves only Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and Not Ned Ray. Of those two, only Not Ned has the Statewide name recognition to concievably survive the General Election of 2010.

Ned McWherter is not a man whose political ideas lend themselves to agreement from the likes of me, but I do believe that Ned McWherter carried himself with a level of class and dignity that the Democratic field of today-indeed the entire Tennessee Democratic Party-is sorely lacking. He set an example for Democrats around the country that they failed to follow over the long-term. While Mike McWherter may be a fine person, it is hard to see Daddy's common touch in his son, because unlike his father, Mike didn't grow up in the hardships that his father did, and I doubt that he has the understanding of life for everyday Tennesseans that his father seemed to have. On top of all that, the political acumen that Ned McWherter displayed throughout his career doesn't seem to be there for Mike. Mike was never a State Representative, nor has he had much experience in State government. Mike was never elected Speaker of the Tennessee House of Representatives, and Mike's role in State government prior to running for Governor was not so influential that the Tennessee House of Representatives still uses rules and procedures he established as Speaker-those things were all Ned McWherter's legacy, not Mike's.

The Democrats' most well-known candidate is a Legacy with an uphill climb, and they are talking about a 2010 House majority.

A lot can happen between now and next November, but I somehow doubt the Democratic brand is going to get much more popular in the current climate, especially in East Tennessee. The Democrats can keep on dreaming, though.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Immortal Invisible God Only Wise

One of my favorite hymns...

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.

All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.


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