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‘State’s Rights’state, folks States have all the rights, we get the
Boomer's Corner - By Charles "Boomer" Winfrey
Now that all the drama surrounding the attempted
impeachment of Finance Director Moneybags Marlow is past, perhaps the county
commission can get down to the real work at hand, finalizing a budget and
It won’t be easy and it won’t be painless. I tried to
make that point a few weeks back with one of my typical humor columns,
suggesting ways the county could raise revenue without the hated tax
increase. All the suggestions were ridiculous, of course, such as operating
a chop shop out of the county garage.
The column backfired and I was raked over the coals when
it became evident that 1) some of our squires, like the FBI, have no sense
of humor and 2) some folks including a commissioner or two, obviously slept
through high school English when the teacher discussed the short stories of
Mark Twain and the literary art of satire.
So I’m going to stick to being deadly serious this time
folks, or as serious as I can manage whenever discussing the Campbell County
Commission. Let’s face it, these budget dramas have been going on longer
than any of us have been alive, and they never seem to get easier. I was
tempted to pull out one of my old stories from the Campbell County Times,
circa 1984 or so, and run it this week with all the names left blank. I
wager few people would notice the difference and would try to plug in which
current squire said what.
Moneybags and Mayor E. L. Morton spent most of the day
together Wednesday, not trying to strangle one another but attempting to
come up with a balanced budget they hope a majority of squires can live
with. I caught a glance of the result. The mayor is abandoning, for now, his
hopes for hiring an industrial recruiter. The unavoidable deficits in the
ambulance service fund and a couple of other spots are covered by “equity,”
which I presume to mean taken from the fund balance.
They are leaving a little less than half of the proposed
$1.2 million for road paving, just enough to pave a few more miles of
highway this year and cover anticipated shortfalls in state education money
over the next couple of years. The proposed budget eliminates some
positions, such as maintenance workers at the courthouse and one of the two
litter control officers, but those were already on the chopping block. The
commission’s discretionary fund is eliminated as well. The bottom line is a
proposed tax rate of $2.24 or 2.25, I forget which.
That may be the best the Mayor and Finance Director can
come up with, but you can bet it won’t satisfy some of the commissioners
such as former Mayor Cliff, Whit Goins, Scott Stanfield and a few others who
have been clamoring for no tax increase at all. It certainly won’t satisfy
James “No more property tax, no more sales tax, no illegal wheel tax”
Slusher, who will undoubtedly not be satisfied no matter what the squires
decide to do, and it won’t please many of those misinformed citizens who
have been depending on Slusher, Cliff and a few others to tell them the
Personally, I wish Moneybags and the Mayor would give the
$1.99ers their way and take it all out of the fund balance. Need more
jailers to avoid a federal lawsuit? Take it from the fund balance. Need to
make up a quarter million dollars the State shorted the school system? Fund
balance. Need to make up $300,000 that Medicaid shorted the ambulance
service? Clean out the ambulance service fund balance (Oh, I forgot, they’re
actually doing that!)
We can use the fund balance to pave twelve miles of road
between White Oak and Duff, more fund balance to give county employees that
overdue raise that Mr. Slusher complained they need and deserve, and go
ahead with the dream of an active industrial recruiter and enough money to
buy up some land to locate new industry. Just borrow the money from
ourselves by raiding the fund balance.
Before you know it we will be right back where we were in
the early 1990s, before the county had a Financial Management System for
commissioners to blame. If one of the garbage trucks gets sideswiped by a
drunk driver or worse, blows an engine, we can get a replacement from the
rainy day fund. What, no rainy day fund? No problem, Waste Management, Inc.
will be happy to haul our garbage to Chestnut Ridge. . . for a price.
Oh no, the county commission gets into another one of
those protracted squabbles over the budget next year, tax notices are late
going out and tax revenues are late coming in so the county runs out of
money because we’ve drained all our fund balances dry? No problem, there are
plenty of banks around willing to loan the county money to keep the
courthouse open and deputies on the street . . . . for a price.
The scenarios are endless. Ron Dilbeck uses up every dime
in his 10 mile paving budget before cold weather starts, then we have
another Winter like the last one. Spring rains bring May flowers and twenty
miles of tire-busting potholes. Well, we can always take some money from the
fund balance to patch those potholes . . . . if we only had a fund balance.
You get the picture. I’d like to give the $1.99ers their
way just one time so everyone could finally see the error of going down that
path, but it ain’t gonna happen. That danged Finance Director simply won’t
allow himself, as manager of the county’s finances and answerable to the
State Comptroller of the Treasury as well as Campbell County citizens, to
let the county go into default. He won’t deplete fund balances that are
required by state law to borrow from Peter to pay Paul, cuss his ornery
Marlow just isn’t a team player, which is probably why
some county commissioners, for the fourth time in his tenure, have tried to
fire him and get somebody in there who will tell them what they want to
hear, whether or not it’s legal, ethical or sound business. After all,
that’s what politicians are expected to do, isn’t it - tell the voters what
they want to hear rather than the truth?
But I feel sorry for the squires as well, even though I
love to needle them as a body. This mess is not of their making. Yes, they
kicked the can down the road last year by making up a $1.3 million budget
deficit from the fund balance. They had to make that hard decision because
the previous county commission delayed the budget until after the election,
when most of them weren’t returned to office.
But don’t blame the previous
commission either. They didn’t eliminate the coal industry in Tennessee,
costing the county $300,000 a year in severance tax. They also didn’t create
the maintenance of effort policies that require local government to spend no
less on education, highways and law enforcement than in previous years. The
county commission did not decide to decrease the amount of money state
government gives counties for education each year, nor did the county
commission set minimum guidelines for how many prisoners can be housed in a
jail cell or what the reimbursement rate will be for hauling Medicare
patients by the local ambulance service. Commissioners also didn’t decide to
close THP drivers’ license offices and hand that responsibility off to
What county commissions all
over the state must do is sit powerlessly by and watch while members of the
Tennessee State Legislature meet down in Nashville,
thump their chests and brag about how they are cutting state spending and
holding the line on taxes. Then they simply pass the costs of running
government down the line to the county commissioners to be the fall guys and
gals and take the heat from irate taxpayers and voters.
Welcome to a “State’s
folks, where the State has all the rights and the rest of us just get
fleeced. (08/27/2015 - 6:00 AM)
For your kids’ sakes, vote “no” on Amendment
The poor newcomers on the county commission and the
mayor’s office have survived their first trial by fire, the annual budget
dance, and by some miracle have come out bent but not broken.
They reversed a potentially explosive $30 wheel tax hike,
held the property tax increase to a manageable level and took a pass on
raises for county employees and paving more roads. They also dodged the big
budget deficit by using the rainy day fund balance to kick the can down the
road until the next budget, when they will have to go through it all over
In the immortal words of
former Tennessee All-American and Yale football coach Herman Hickman, they
managed to “keep the alumni sullen but not mutinous,” the alumni in this
case being Campbell County
With the budget behind us, it’s time to concentrate on
the next important thing, the November election that is already well
Of course you would barely know that early voting is
almost complete, so slow has the turnout been compared to the mobs that
voted in the August county elections. Can’t say I blame a lot of voters. In
this cherry red state, the results are pretty well set in concrete as far as
races for U.S. Congress and Senate along with Governor and state legislative
The TEA Party crowd has stopped attacking moderate
Republican Lamar Alexander and he is now portrayed as President Obama’s
number one enemy, while his Democratic opponent is portrayed as an Obama
clone. Lamar’s re-election is a no-brainer.
So is the re-election of moderate Republican Governor
Bill Haslam. Democratic voters had so little prospect of defeating Bill that
they nominated Charlie Brown as their candidate for the office. This Charlie
Brown is a real person, although the Peanuts comic strip character would
stand a better chance of being competitive.
The only thing that really seems to attract voters to the
polls this fall are the four constitutional amendments on the ballot, and
there is more than enough controversy there to satisfy the news media,
political action junkies and advertising agencies.
Amendment One is contentious
enough to suit everybody’s tastes. I’m not even going to take sides in that
one, not with a family Thanksgiving right around the corner. I have one
cousin who once served as the national clinic coordinator for Planned
Parenthood. I have another cousin on the same side of the family who once
got arrested in Knoxville
for chaining herself in protest outside an abortion clinic.
We males are fortunate that in Mother Nature’s miraculous
plan, it is the drone bee that mates and then flies off to die. Human males
get to hang around on the couch watching football and drinking beer and
constantly leaving the toilet lid up. As a drone, I deserve no say
whatsoever in a question that involves women and their consciences.
It does disturb me a bit that proponents of Amendment One
are encouraging people not to vote in the governor’s race because of a
clause in the constitution that requires a successful amendment to receive
one more vote than the number of votes cast in the race for that office.
This could backfire big time on the Republicans, who I
assume are for the most part in favor of the amendment. What if most
Republicans fail to vote for Governor Bill while most Democrats vote for
Charlie Brown? Let’s see, Linus could be the Attorney General, Lucy could
head up the Department of Health and Human Services and Snoopy could be in
charge of state parks. The Great Pumpkin, of course, would become the new
Commissioner of Agriculture.
Come to think of it, that could be an improvement.
I do have an opinion on
Amendment Three, which would for now and forever forbid the State of
from invoking a state income tax.
I know, that sounds so tempting, to set in concrete in
the state constitution that there will never be a hated state income tax, no
matter how many wimpy tax and spend liberals get elected to the legislature.
But think about it for a moment before you push that
“yes” lever. That sounds really good right now but what about 20 or 25 years
down the road, if Tennessee’s sales tax grows to double digits or the
legislature decides to impose, as some other states have, a state property
What if the legislature, in
desperation, hits us with a personal luxury tax? In
a former girl friend had to pay an annual luxury tax on her automobile and
jewelry. Every time I bought her a necklace or pair of earrings for
Christmas, I increased her tax burden, which may explain why she dumped me.
legislature, as incompetent as it often appears, has managed to reject an
income tax every time it has been proposed. The Democratic majority
legislature during the days of Governor Don Sundquist rejected it and no
doubt the Republican supermajority legislature of today would also reject
But to say “never,” no matter what the circumstances?
That strikes me as being akin to climbing up on your roof to avoid unwanted
company, then kicking the ladder away. Might seem like a good idea at the
time - until you grow hungry or need to answer the call of nature.
A person with a lick of common sense should never limit
their own options. Situations change. Far down the road, the fact that you
can deduct a state income tax off your federal income tax might make that a
preferred option to paying state taxes on your purchases, your home, your
pickup truck and your wedding ring.
And what right do we, living here in 2014, have to limit
the options of our children in 2030 or 2040 when many of us will no longer
be earning an income if we’re still here at all?
Do your children and
grandchildren a favor and vote “no” on Amendment Number Three.
(10/30/2014 - 6:00 AM)
Boomer’s plan - maybe we really can get
more for less or something for nothing
The newly-elected county commission finds themselves, as
expected, stuck in the quagmire that is a budget seriously under-funded
while the cost of doing business as a county continues to go up.
The squires seem to be hoping that Finance Director
Moneybags Marlow will pull a rabbit out of his hat or that the Tooth Fairy
will pay a visit to the courthouse some evening while the commissioners are
in their beds fast asleep.
Unfortunately, Marlow doesn’t wear a hat while the Tooth
Fairy, aka the Tennessee General Assembly, has already visited and taken
money away instead of leaving any behind.
The squire formerly known as Mayor Cliff took the bull by
the horns Monday night and insisted that the courthouse fee offices should
be forced to share in the pain. “Let ‘em sue,” Cliff commented.
Even if all of the courthouse offices manage to trim
their budgets by a smidget, even if the squires hold the line and refuse the
requests for money to provide security in the schools, raises for school
employees and asphalt to pave more county roads, will that satisfy the
Of course not. The county is stuck with a tax increase of
at least eighteen cents, from the new certified rate of 1.86 to 2.04, just
to stay even with last year. Oh, and that “certified” rate of 1.86 is up a
dime over last year’s rate already because our county’s net worth has
But the public that will be unhappy with a tax increase
will also be unhappy when their roads continue to deteriorate. They will be
unhappy when they read about another school shooting somewhere and realize
their children and grandchildren attend schools without trained security
personnel. They will be unhappy when they’re forced to stand in line for a
half hour to renew their car registration or driver’s license or pay their
property tax because of under-staffed offices.
That is because the public is human, and we humans have a
bad habit of expecting something for nothing, or at least more for less,
when it comes to our government.
Well, any mathematician can tell you that “more for less”
just doesn’t add up. You pay more for more or pay less to get less, perhaps,
but more for less only works in used car commercials and we all know how
that usually turns out.
I have given the whole budget
thing a lot of thought and my first inclination was that
should legalize as much sin as possible and then tax it, since sinners
seldom complain about taxes.
However, it was quickly pointed out to me that the State of Tennessee
already has a corner on that market. County governments can’t tax tobacco or
impose new taxes on alcoholic beverages, the state has cornered the lottery
racket and only the state government could legalize prostitution.
So much for sin taxes, we’ll need to find another way to
make everybody happy. Then it came to me. We can make everybody happy by
eliminating some taxes and to a degree, still make sinners pay for their
the challenge of providing security in our schools. I read somewhere that
the military is not only donating surplus equipment to law enforcement
agencies around the country, but has also given military equipment to some
school districts. Eureka!
The Campbell County School Board can apply for some of
that surplus military hardware, say a few dozen M-16s, a grenade launcher or
two, ammunition and maybe an armored Humvee. Turn all that gear over to our
JROTC program, arm the cadets and let them provide security at CCHS. We
could also re-establish the JROTC program at Jellico High and provide them
with enough armaments to fight a small war.
No nut case potential school
shooter is going to mess with a high school where the students are capable
of shooting back, with heavier weapons. With security firmly in the hands of
the JROTC, the security guards at Jellico and
High School will no
longer be needed and can be transferred to the elementary schools. Problem
solved at little or no cost to taxpayers!
But how do we deal with that nagging question of paving
the road in front of your porch more often than once every 70 years? And
then there’s the request for raises and need to offset all those revenue
shortfalls while at the same time not upsetting taxpayers, at least those
Ahh – those that vote. That’s the real point here, isn’t
it? First, eliminate the county’s hotel/motel tax – it’s a challenge to
enforce and monitor anyway since only the state has the power to audit
Instead we simply change the property tax assessment on
all those fancy lakeside homes that are being rented during the summer for
$1,500-$4,000 a week. Instead of being assessed as “residential” at 25
percent of the appraised value, we assess them as “commercial” property at
Let’s see, if there’s roughly a hundred lakeside homes
being rented and the average value of those homes is conservatively half a
million dollars, increasing the assessment from 25 to 40 percent would bring
in close to $200,000, which is about what we collect from the hotel/motel
But where’s the gain in that?
I’m not finished. We then install toll booths on all roads leading to
Lake and turn them
into toll roads. Anyone who displays a
wheel tax sticker gets a free pass on paying the toll. All those tourists
Michigan and Abu Dabai
pay through the nose every time they drive to the lakeside home they’re
rented for the week. Remember, tourists don’t vote for county commissioners.
Next we install toll roads at strategic points around the
county. We would need to work out a partnership with the towns but I’m
thinking a hundred yards either side of Adult World up on the mountain, and
a hundred yards in either direction from the county’s numerous taverns,
clubs, liquor stores and similar watering holes. There’s more than one way
to collect a sin tax, after all.
give anyone with a
wheel tax decal a free pass on those toll booths as well, restricting
collections to truck drivers and Scott
deacons visiting Adult World and residents of the Town of Rocky Top
visiting the booze outlets in Caryville.
We could also set up a toll
booth near the exit ramp at Caryville to collect money from numerous
out-of-county residents who work or shop in
they want to avoid the toll, let them purchase a wheel tax sticker.
Now you’re getting the picture. Wheel tax sales will
skyrocket, and enforcement will no longer be a problem. We can eliminate my
job as administrator of the Office of Tax Enforcement, since everyone will
eagerly pay their wheel tax to avoid the tolls and there will no longer be a
hotel/motel tax to enforce!
The excess revenue and savings should be more than enough
to pave a few additional miles of county road, give raises to cooks and
janitors and maybe hire a few more cashiers in the County Clerk’s office to
deal with the long lines of non-residents lining up to pay their wheel tax,
which we could probably get away with increasing to $60, even $75 without
too much complaint. It beats stopping at a toll booth several times a day,
What, you say this is the most
ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? Businesses will suffer, traffic will be
backed up paying tolls and tourists will stop visiting our lake? Well, you
didn’t really expect to get something for nothing, did you?
Being sworn in comes first, being sworn at
You couldn’t stir the crowd with a stick last Friday down
at the courthouse. The occasion was the swearing-in of fifteen new or
recycled county commissioners, five new school board members, a new mayor,
two new judges and various and sundry other office holders.
The swearing-in was on Friday and as I pointed out to
Commissioner Forrester Baird, the swearing-at will last for the next four
years. The new county commission will likely be the first to be sworn at, as
they must grapple right away with a $2 million deficit caused by revenue
shortfalls and increased insurance costs.
We’ll soon see how long those “I’m against increasing
taxes” campaign promises hold up. Out on the campaign trail it’s easy to
tell voters what they want to hear. Then when one actually gets elected,
there is reality, staring you squarely in the face.
Forrester is an example of the challenge that I must now
face. I’ve got to think of new political nicknames for all these new office
holders. Forrester Baird, you might recall, was once part of the
commission’s infamous “Three Bairds.” We had Carl “Papa” Baird, Adrion
“Mama” Baird and Forrester, the junior or “Baby” Baird of the trio.
Alas, Papa and Mama are no longer with us, so Baby Baird
needs a new moniker. We do have another Baird, Charles “Goat” Baird held
over from the previous commission. Let’s see, the name Forrester lends
itself to something plant-like. Goats eat plants; they’re especially fond of
one particular plant. I think I’ll call Forrester “Kudzu.”
I’m sure other nicknames will come to me as the year
progresses. Some new squires already have well-established monikers such as
“Mailman” Kitts. Depending on how the budget ends up being resolved, we
might have to change Dewayne’s nickname to “Postage Due.” Of course I’m
always open to suggestions.
Everyone was present at the ceremony to take the oath of
office, including four of the five elected constables. The fifth new
constable, representing the First District, didn’t bother to show up. He
also didn’t bother to run for the office but was elected as a write-in
candidate when nobody qualified to be on the ballot from District One.
This is probably the only constable who has a proper
grasp for the true meaning of this office, which is that it has no meaning
whatsoever but is purely a ceremonial title. Unless an elected constable is
deputized by the Sheriff, they have no more powers to arrest someone than
your average WalMart cashier. Unless they obtain a handgun carry permit and
are bonded to carry a weapon, they have no more powers to use that a weapon
than anyone else.
On occasions in the past, sheriffs have given some
elected constables real authority by hiring them as deputies, process
servers, litter control officers or some other position. That is the
exception rather than the rule and for the most part “constable” is an
office that is woefully outdated and should be eliminated from the state
constitution and the ballot.
Another person who was present at last Friday’s ceremony
was local Internet and television pundit Jerry Chadwell. I took the
opportunity to thank Jerry for finally recognizing me on his weekly talk
show as I was beginning to feel unloved. After all, Jerry has criticized
nearly every county official and employee from the former mayor to the
lowliest clerks, but he has only now gotten around to attacking the county’s
tax enforcement official, arguably the most unpopular job in county
Jerry and his guest
commentator, former squire Thomas Hatmaker, apparently couldn’t find
anything to criticize in my job performance so they concentrated on the fact
that I have a county job but live in “distant”
Alas, I must plead guilty as my home is a mile and a half across the county
Reminds me of a conversation I
once had when I was editor of the LaFollette Press and my late friend Larry
Dilbeck was the advertising manager. We were discussing the changing
demographics of Campbell
more people of Hispanic heritage moved in, along with doctors from India,
restaurant owners from the Orient and so on.
“There’s only two kinds of
people in Campbell County,”
Larry pointed out. “There’s Them and then there’s Us.”
Intrigued, I asked Larry what it took to be an “Us.”
“Generally, it means people know who your grandparents
were,” Larry replied, “although other factors could have a bearing on it.”
Now I felt challenged, so I continued, “Well, I was born
in LaFollette, have worked most of my adult life in Campbell County at one
job or another, lived at various times in Elk Valley, Caryville and Shady
Cove and both of my parents and my grandmother are buried in Campbell
County. Does that mean I’m an Us?”
“You’re a big fellow. Did you play football at Jacksboro
or LaFollette?” Larry then asked.
“Uh, neither. I graduated from
City High School,”
Larry narrowed his eyes into an accusing stare and
concluded the conversation, “You’re definitely a Them.”
Alas, dear readers. I’m doomed to forever be a “Them.”
Can’t help it, it’s simply a flaw in my upbringing that I cannot overcome.
Jerry Chadwell also asked his guest if he thought I
brought in enough county tax dollars to cover my salary, to which Thomas
replied, “I have no idea.”
That answer confirms a suspicion I’ve had for the past
four years, that Thomas, who prided himself on being the squeaky wheel on
county commission, never bothered to read over the commission agenda packets
containing minutes of meetings, reports and other documents.
If he had, he might have occasionally noticed my
quarterly reports, summarizing how many enforcement letters had been sent
out, how many people had paid their wheel tax after receiving letters and
how much revenue had been generated, how much had been collected in
officer’s fees for serving delinquent property tax warrants and so on.
Of course it’s always easier to
criticize through ignorance. You don’t have to back up your opinions with
- 7:30 AM)
With courthouse antics on hold, it’s time to give
out “Boomer Awards”
While we’re all waiting for
the new Campbell County
government to do something - or fail to do something - worth talking about,
I’ve decided to fill my column space by commenting on the world at large.
Well, perhaps not all of the
world. I see no need to discuss things over which we have little control,
such as the Ebola Virus, the mess in the
or the bigger mess in the
puts me in mind of the words of that witty American sage of times gone past,
Mark Twain. When he took his family on a tour of the Old World and wrote
about his travels in “Innocents Abroad,” Twain had this to say about the
“There will be no Second Coming. Christ has been here
once, not likely to return.”
So, having no answer for the
crisis in Iraq,
or the crisis in Syria,
or the crisis in Afghanistan,
not to mention the crisis in Libya,
the ones in
and Atlantic City,
we will confine ourselves this week to giving out some awards instead.
My first award goes out to the
University of Tennessee Athletic Department for bad timing. UT, you may have
noticed, is making all kinds of waves about the $1.6 million it must shell
out each year to the City of
for the city’s amusement tax on tickets to athletic events, concerts and the
UT, it appears, would like
to waive the tax, just as the tax-hating Knox County Commission has done,
and allow the University to keep the money to pay for upgrades to athletic
facilities. UT argues that among other things, many of the men’s restrooms
at Neyland Stadium (gasp) still have urinal troughs instead of individual
Presumably then, UT has no intention of lowering ticket
prices if Knoxville waives the tax, simply letting Knoxville taxpayers foot
the bill for new toilets that most will never see.
Why does this rate an award for bad timing, you ask?
Simple, if the University had made this same demand two years ago, they
could have argued, perhaps successfully, that there was nothing amusing
about UT football or basketball teams and games at Neyland Stadium should
therefore not be considered “entertainment.”
Now that the Butch Jones era is fully underway, fans are
being entertained again, making an amusement tax justifiable.
My second Oscar, uh, Boomer, goes out to thirteen members
of the Tennessee Legislature, Republicans all, who have successfully beaten
a dead horse until it actually came back to life and kicked them where it
Those thirteen lawmakers went on record this week as
insisting that candidates for the position of State Attorney General should
answer the question of whether or not they would have joined the Attorney
Generals in other states back in 2011 in filing a lawsuit challenging the
Affordable Care Act.
The loudest fruitcake, uh, legislator is Senator Mike
Bell of Riceville, who was quoted as saying, “Along with a great many
Tennesseans, we want to know whether the other applicants would have pursued
a case like the majority of other states to defend our sovereignty.”
Well, that’s the first time I’ve heard barely over
one-third described as a “majority,” but we’ll ignore Senator Bell’s
apparent lack of mathematical skills and concentrate on the Dead Horse
The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.”
Get over it.
Former Attorney General Bob Cooper is one of the
candidates, hoping to retain his position. He simply explained that, “We
were pushed by both sides in the Affordable Care Act lawsuit to join their
position. We said no to both sides. It would not have been a wise use of
state money. Its only purpose would have been to make a partisan political
statement on a divisive national issue.”
Was Cooper, who is a Democrat, also playing partisan
politics in his refusal to join the lawsuit against Obamacare? Of
course. His decision turned out to be a wise one, however, when the U. S.
Supreme Court upheld the Act and sent all those Republican attorney generals
home with egg on their faces.
Note to Senator Mike Bell:
“Defend our sovereignty”? Check your history books, Mike. The South lost the
Civil War. Lee surrendered, Sherman
the slaves were freed and it took the “sovereign” State of Tennessee
the better part of a century to heal all the wounds.
I don’t know about Mike Bell,
but last time I checked, I was an American who happens to have been born in
not the other way around. Come to think of it, Stacey Campfield hails from
the Governor’s brother bought the Cleveland Browns and half of Ohio has
moved to Norris
Join the 21st
My final Boomer Award is
presented to America’s
airline industry, for “Greed and Hypocrisy Above the Clouds.”
You have no doubt read or heard about the numerous
incidents of late where airplanes have been diverted from their scheduled
flight plans so that unruly passengers could be taken off after
seat-reclining disputes. In the most recent incident, a male passenger
engaged a forbidden “Knee Defender” device to block the female passenger in
front from declining her seat while he used his laptop.
Words were exchanged, the woman tossed a cup of soda in
the man’s face and both were removed from the plane while other passengers
had their arrivals delayed.
Despicable behavior? You betcha, as Sarah Palin would
say. Predictable behavior? You betcha, considering that airlines continue to
shrink the size of seats, lower the number of flights to insure packed
airplanes and charge big bucks for window or aisle seats. In a sense,
airlines are charging two passengers for the same space. The passenger in
front pays for space to recline a seat into a more comfortable position
while the passenger behind pays to provide comfortable space for their legs
When things get out of hand, irate passengers are evicted
from the flight while everyone else suffers as well. The airlines punish the
passengers but who punishes the airlines? In the business section of the
Sunday News sentinel, it was reported that airline stock prices have soared
sky-high, to borrow a pun. Most major airlines are so flush with cash that
they’re staging stock buy-backs and paying dividends, while their stock
index rose 186 percent.
All of that extra cash comes from making passengers pay
for checked bags, pay for carry-on bags, pay for aisle or window seats, pay
for alcoholic drinks, pay for non-alcoholic drinks and snacks. What exactly
is an “airline meal?” Haven’t seen one of those since 1974.
I personally can’t do a thing
about most of the fools in our legislature, UT football or the
Middle East. I
do have an answer to the airlines. I no longer fly the not-so-friendly
skies. If I’m planning a trip and can make my destination in two days of
driving, I drive. If I want to travel further than that, I’ll consider a
bus, or driving to the nearest AmTrack city to catch a train. If I ever
decide to visit Europe,
I’ll have my head examined, or look into a leisurely trans-Atlantic cruise.
The one exception might be a
visit to the Carribbean. I understand Air
still has comfortable seats and a complimentary Rum Punch for each tourist
visiting their island. Of course I’d drive to Miami
to catch the flight.
election results make strong argument for non-partisan local politics
The August elections may be past, but the fallout is
still coming down from some of the results, especially in Knox and Anderson
Long-time Chancery Court Judge
Daryl Fansler lost out to a Republican challenger who, it turns out, only
recently graduated from an unaccredited law school. The News-Sentinel and
practically every lawyer in East Tennessee is up in arms over the election
of Clarence “Eddie’ Pridemore, complaining about the “blind partisanship”
that led Knox
voters to support a supposedly unqualified candidate for an important
Over in Clinton, Anderson County voters ousted veteran
General Sessions Judge Ron Murch in favor of a Republican, Roger Miller.
Miller is no newcomer to the legal profession, but it turns out he is in
default on unpaid state and federal taxes, has unpaid local property taxes
and owes $13,600 in past-due child support payments.
Donkeys asked that Miller not be certified, citing a law that says the
election of a person in default to the treasury at the time of election
shall be voided. The Anderson County Election Commission, like others in
this state controlled by a Pachyderm majority, ignored the Democrats’
complaints and certified Miller last week.
Democrats continue to take a beating at the polls, one of the unintended
consequences of electing a person of color, and Democrat, as President of
the United States.
Anyone who thinks that racism in the South is a thing of the past need only
compare election results in southern states including
for the past six years with results in the pre-Obama era to receive a harsh
lesson in reality.
Of course, Knox
voters are an exception to this rule. If the late Osama bin Laden ran for
Knox County Mayor with an (R) next to his name, he would stand a fair chance
of being elected as long as his opponent had a (D) next to theirs. I offer
as proof the example of Stacey Campfield, arguably the looniest in a long
line of lunatics we Tennesseans have elected to represent us in Nashville.
Campfield finally was sent
packing by Knox
voters – in the Republican primary. Despite Campfield’s growing list of
embarrassing public antics, a Democrat would never have stood a chance of
defeating him in his district. It took another conservative Republican to
finally rid the state of that transplanted New Yorker.
Democrats have nobody to blame but themselves for their current lowly state.
As soon as the national Democratic Party and the news media painted
Tennessee as a
“red” state on the national political map, the Donkeys wrote Tennessee
With no national campaign
money flowing into the state,
Democrats threw up their hands and capitulated. Serious contenders for
office either switched parties, gave up on politics for the foreseeable
future or moved to
There were so few qualified Democrats interested in
running for Governor against Bill Haslam that the Donkeys nominated the
first name on the primary ballot, Charlie Brown. On his twitter account,
Brown thanked the Tennessee Democratic Party because “without their
incompetence none of this would be possible.”
Bucking this Pachyderm
stampede was our very own Campbell County.
Here, three Haslam appointees were defeated, with the Chancery Court
position going to Elizabeth Asbury who I presume like her late father, is a
I can picture Judge Lee Asbury, sitting up on Cloud Nine
next to late Chancellor Billy Joe White, also a Democrat. When the election
results came in, Lee and Billy Joe, their feet resting on that old
pot-bellied stove, clinked glasses of Bourbon and swamp water.
“Time to pay up on the bet,” Lee says to Billy Joe. “I
told you an Asbury would have your job one day.”
run counter to the Republican avalanche that put unqualified judges in at
least two seats? Anderson County
voters re-elected a county mayor who has been a center of controversy,
fighting with law directors, the sheriff and the commission, but she had an
(R) next to her name. Campbell
voters turned out of office a county mayor who had served several terms in
the legislature as a Republican. Why?
The reason is simple. Here in
local races are non-partisan. There are no Donkeys or Pachyderms, only
independent candidates for office who must depend on their qualifications or
their personal appeal to the voters to be elected. Voters are therefore
faced with choosing the best person for the job, with no regard for party
We don’t always get it right, of course. The fact that
four incumbent school board members, six incumbent county commissioners, an
incumbent county mayor and county clerk were all defeated points to voters’
desire for a “do-over” from the last election. But at least we can rest
confident that voters supported the candidates that they think will do a
good job, rather than candidates who belong to the “right” political party.
makes a strong argument for doing away with partisan politics altogether in
local elections. I imagine, if all of those candidates in Knox and Anderson
counties had an (IND)
next to their name on the ballot, results would have been remarkably
'You break it,
you buy it’ fits Iraq,
hopefully not Rocky Top
The battle for Rocky Top
officials prepare for their big vote/celebration this evening, followed by a
of July party at the town’s athletic field next week. (This may be an
appropriate place for the party since rumors continue to fly that the Rocky
Top entrepreneurs want to turn the athletic field into a parking lot).
Meanwhile, the House of Bryant has appealed the federal
judge’s decision that cleared the way for the name change, hoping for a last
minute decision by the Federal Court of Appeals that would halt the madness.
meanwhile, has already sprung for enough money to print up “Welcome to Rocky
Top” signs to replace the old corporate limit signs, as well as doubling the
budget for this year’s fireworks extravaganza. In the immortal words
of Admiral David Farragut, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” . .
. . and let the party begin.
I’m hosting my own party on the other side of Coal Creek,
open to all curmudgeons; old Lakers and Doubtful Thomas types. We’re
holding a “P on Rocky Top” party. We’ll grill meat, pick blackberries,
baptize babies and watch the fireworks. I thought about having some
T-shirts made that read “P on Rocky Top” but figured with my luck, the House
of Bryant would sue for copyright infringement. Maybe we’ll settle for a
banner reading “Future Home of The Rocky Topless Lounge” instead.
Seriously, since the city fathers appear determined to go
through with this buffoonery, I wish them well. I hope their dreams of a
bigger, better town pan out. If they don’t, of course, the taxpayers
including yours truly, will have to pick up the pieces. Unfortunately, the
motto “You break it, you buy it” only works in china shops. In the world of
public policy, its “we break it, the taxpayers buy it.”
Nothing could possibly fit
that description better than the latest happenings over in the Middle East,
specifically in Iraq.
Remember the warning from then- Secretary of State Colin Powell when
President (and I use the term lightly) George W. Bush the Younger invaded
in the aftermath of 911?
Powell was out of step with
the rest of the Neocons who surrounded President Shrub and thought it would
be a wonderful idea to punish that despot Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi people
would greet American liberators with bouquets of roses, they fantasized, and
we would set up a U.S.
puppet state right smack in the middle of the Middle East where we could
keep a wary eye on
Colin Powell cautioned, “You break it, you buy it.” He
seemed to be the only member of the Bush administration who realized that
Saddam Hussein, nasty though he was, could not possibly be behind Al Qaida
since they hated Saddam almost as much as they hated us.
Powell also realized that fear
of the despotic Saddam was the only thing keeping Iraq’s
Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds from slaughtering each other in a bloody civil
So, Bush held his infamous
“Mission Accomplished” press conference on the deck of an aircraft carrier.
Americans continued to fight and die in
for the better part of a decade afterwards, and it was left to Barrack Obama
to finally bring the troops home.
Not so fast! Now that we Americans are no longer over
there to provide convenient targets for both sides, the various factions are
busy slaughtering each other again. Obama has been forced to send a few
troops back as advisors and the Pachyderms in Congress are screaming “It’s
all Obama’s fault,” presumably for bringing American boys and girls home too
I’ve grown accustomed to the
constant sniping between the two political parties up in Washington.
I do resent being taken for stupid. The Obama-bashers seem to think the
American people are stupid. If we pressure the administration into sending
Americans back into Iraq
to keep the two sides from killing each other by again giving them a common
target, we will be stupid.
We broke it once, and bought
it with the lives of thousands of American servicemen and women lost or
disrupted. It’s time to let the
stew in its own fat.
I was at a gathering a couple of weeks back where another
Obama-basher began ranting about another sore spot, the trade with the
Taliban to bring Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl home. He had found another
conservative, who he presumed would share his opinion, and was bashing the
administration for negotiating for release of the “traitor.”
It amused me, then, when conservative number two turned
on the Obama-basher.
“Don’t matter whether he deserted his post or not.
That’s for the Army to decide, not us,” number two insisted. “Bottom line
is, you never leave a man behind. You bring ‘em home, dead, alive,
wounded or disgraced. You bring ‘em home, period.”
out the second fellow had a right to his opinion. He was a decorated
veteran and former POW. The media is now uncovering facts about Bowe
Bergdahl that suggest he had mental problems and should more than likely
never have been allowed in the military, let alone placed in the line of
fire. You never know how to judge another person unless you’ve walked in
their shoes. (06/26/2014 - 6:00 AM)