May 2008

When one lives in the country, it doesn’t take much to get the neighborhood excited. A cow got loose? We’re gathering in front yards to talk about it. Mormons came through? We’re watching to see who lets them in! Cops are down the road? We’re on the phone trying to find out what’s going on. So, when door-to-door magazine salesmen (or so they called themselves) came through the neighborhood yesterday, everyone was in a tizzy.

It’s not that the magazine salesmen on our street was just an irritation. This guy was banging on doors, yelling through windows, and being downright rude to those of us who refused his fishy sales pitch. After some internet searching, I became increasingly convinced that this was some sort of scam.

We called the police, although I don’t think they ever caught the fellows (I saw another salesman a few streets down when I went out to return a movie…).

So, this is a just a warning – a little Public Service Announcement, if you will – they’re here, so watch your doorstep.

The sad truth is that we live in very different times. The days of inviting door-to-door salesmen into your home for dinner and a bed for the night are long gone. For all we know these guys were checking the neighborhood to see who’s home when. The funny thing is, if this was the case, they would certainly be surprised when they tried to hit the pregnant lady’s house – little do they know that I’m packing as much heat as my husband. I pity the fool who thinks I’m an easy target!

I miss the Mormons. At least they’re friendly, fun to chat with, and leave politely when we ask them to…


Just an FYI…

Jonesborough, Tenn. (May 26, 2008) –The committee to elect Todd Smith to the Tennessee State Legislature will host a fundraising soup bean dinner and dessert auction for the candidate at the Metro Kiwanis Park in Johnson City on Thursday from 5 to 8 PM.

“This election is about building opportunities for Washington County,” said Smith.

“Effective leadership in Nashville will lead to building job and education opportunities in the seventh district.”

Metro Kiwanis Park is located at 817 Guaranda Dr. in Johnson City.

The event is free and open to the public.

Smith announced his candidacy for the state’s seventh district House of Representatives seat in November 2007. He is an Air Force veteran, serves in the TN Air National Guard and is currently employed by the City of Johnson City in economic development. More information on Smith can be found at

I’ve been having a conversation (as we have conversations nowadays – through email) with a certain prominent local Republican about Republicanism and whether or not I would consider myself a Republican. I assume this fellow is going through the same sort of political identity crisis I went through (am still going through?) not so long ago. So, it brings up the question: What is a Republican? And how many Republicans are really Republican?

There was a time when I would have answered the question “Are you a Republican?” with a resounding “YES!” I was raised thinking that there were only two options in politics (and I’ve been interested in politics for longer than is probably healthy – I think I started paying attention to such things as soon as I started reading the newspaper. At age 6. Not kidding.) In my world, you were either a Republican or a Democrat. Republicans stood for lower taxes, less spending, and a weaker central government. Democrats wanted to tax you silly, spend the country into oblivion, and increase the power of the Federal Government until you had to have Congressional permission to pee. Sounds simple, right?

As I’ve become more involved in government and politics, however, I have learned that things aren’t quite so simple. Power corrupts. Even Republicans are corrupted by power and the desire to be in office. This has led to fewer and fewer members of government who actually care about what they stand for. They pander. They do what it takes to get reelected. They tell us what we want to hear. “Republican” doesn’t mean what I thought it meant.

In their purest forms (in all seriousness – no more cracking on the Democrats), our two political parties represent two different ideals on the best way to run a nation. The Democrats ideally – favor a pure Democracy, i.e., everybody votes, everybody has a say, and the Federal Government keeps everything in check. They would favor a strong Central Government over states’ rights. This would be the party of Alexander Hamilton.

The Republicans on the other hand – ideally – favor a Republican form of government. The Central government prints money and acts as the “glue” that holds the states together, while states’ rights are favored over absolute Federal power. This would be the party of Thomas Jefferson.

Based on these ideals, I would be a Republican. Whole-hog, through and through, I would wear the Republican banner proudly. But this is not what the Republicans or the Democrats stand for anymore. When did the parties stray so far from their ideals? I’m not sure, but it was well before Abraham Lincoln invaded his own country “for the good of the Union” (someone should have told him that the Constitution made membership in the Union voluntary, so the states had every right to secede. But I digress.)

The fact is that the pure opposition parties of Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton don’t exist anymore. The clear dispute between the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans has become muddled, corrupted, and altogether unidentifiable.

What we have now in the United States is two sides of the same coin – two parties who believe in the same sort of governmental power, but who are beholden to different special interests. Sure, there are those in each party who could truly be called “Hamiltonian” or “Jeffersonian,” but those are few and far between.

More often than not I am going to agree with a Republican over a Democrat, but can I call myself a Republican? Not really. Sadly (or maybe not so sadly) this is the state of many members of my generation – those of us in our 20’s and 30’s who, for whatever reason, have associated ourselves with the Republican party. I think most of us believe (or at one time believed) that we were signing up for some sort of “Jeffersonian” ideal, only to find out later that we’ve bought an entirely different thing altogether. So we have this crisis. And a lot of us are moving toward Libertarianism.

Could I call myself a Libertarian? Maybe. But I’m being a lot more careful about sticking a label on myself nowadays, because it just might come back to haunt me later…

I know I’ve been a slacking again…I’ve had other things on my mind these last couple of weeks. I purchased my first new vehicle in 10 years yesterday – a new (to me) mini van! So, if any of you need a 2001 Ford Taurus for $3500, you just let me know.

  • Tennessee’s Legislative session ended yesterday – without pay for legislators as it was day 91 of session (state law only allows pay for 90 days of session – if they go over, they work for free). It’s rare that I actually praise government, but hold on to your hat, I actually have a few good things to say today. How wonderful that state law dictates that our legislators only get paid for 90 days of work. This, at least to an extent, prevents time-wasting, the likes of which we see in Washington, simply because our legislators know that they’ve only got so long to get their work done. That’s not to say our legislators don’t do their fair share of lollygagging, but I’m sure there would be much more of it if they knew they would still get paid for it.
  • Both the House and the Senate voted to approve the State’s budget yesterday, with the House finally finishing up around 10:30 last night. The budget includes $468 million in cuts, due to a decrease in revenue. Saints be praised! These guys actually have some idea how to run a budget. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: when my husband and I face a “decrease in revenue,” we institute a “budget cut.” Unlike the Washington County Commission and the Federal Government, who continue to spend regardless of how much money is coming in, our State legislators actually reduced spending due to reduced income. It’s a difficult concept, I know, but our legislators seem to have figured out that if the money’s not there, you can’t spend it (and raising taxes after the money’s spent probably isn’t going to work, either – Washington County). Maybe we need some sort of summer work-study in which our state legislators can teach certain county governments and even the US Congress what it means to “live within our means.”
  • Finally, Clarksville was ranked the “Worst City in the Nation to Raise a Family.” I must say, when I saw the article’s title, I was intrigued. Why is Clarksville so bad? To put it simply: it’s not. Best Life magazine used several factors in determining what cities were better for families, very few of which most of us would find useful. One of the major factors was “money spent per student” in a city’s school system. There are plenty of school districts that throw money at their local schools like it’s going out of style, yet their schools are far below average. I must agree with the communications director for the Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools, who pointed out that test scores, graduation rates, and achievement might be a better measure of the quality of their school system. You all know that I am no fan of any public school system, but to presume that a system is less-than-average simply because of the amount of money spent on each student is absurd. I’m sure I could spend a heck of a lot of money on a kid on not give him an education that’s worth a hill of beans – school systems across the country do it all the time. Some of the other criteria for the “Worst City” title are number of parks and museums, crime rates, pediatrician to child ratios, and length of commute to work. Parks and museums may be nice, but certainly not a deciding factor as to where I would like to raise my family, and I am more concerned with the quality of pediatricians rather than the quantity. Crime rates are certainly valid, but “length of commute to work?” It seems that Best Life was trying to come up with the “most convenient” city rather than the best city in which to raise a family. Despite a 45 minute drive to work for my husband, I’ll take living in the sticks over being close to his office any day – and I bet our crime rate is lower. So, buck up, Clarksville…I don’t think you’re all that bad!

Hate mowing your lawn? Whatever you do, don’t move to Canton, OH.

The Canton City council decided to increase the punishment for overgrown lawns by making a second offense a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250 and up to 30 days in jail. A first offense is punishable by a $150 fine.

The amendment passed second reading, and is up for passage next week.

I am so astounded that anyone would think it is appropriate to put someone in jail for not mowing their lawn that I’m not quite sure what to say about it.

While I understand that there are laws concerning what one can and cannot do with his own property, tossing someone is jail for not mowing his lawn is just absurd. There is no public safety issue (unless, of course, there are wild animals nesting in your two-feet tall grass), so it boils down to cranky neighbors. I don’t like your “lawn” (or unkempt field of weeds and unidentifiable greenery), so I’m going to call the city on you!

Look, I live right next door to a hippie whose lawn can only be described as a jungle with various and sundry “art projects” scattered around the property. It’s not my style, for sure, but she likes it and it’s her property. I try to enjoy the fact that it’s different from the lawn Nazi on the other side of us – I’m pretty sure he measures the length of his grass after each mowing. This is all actually really good for us “normal” folks who get around to mowing every couple of weeks or so – we don’t have 1 inch high grass, nor do we have a hayfield. I think we strike a nice balance for the neighborhood…

What we (or, more accurately, what the Canton City Council) need(s) to remember is that there is a difference between regulating one’s property for the sake of public safety and regulating to satisfy the fussy notions of neighbors who want everyone’s property to look like their’s. You don’t like your neighbors lawn? Move.

I know someone’s going to say that an unkempt lawn affects property value and that very well may be. But, come on…how far are we going to take this? Don’t like the color of your neighbor’s house? Get the town council to force them to paint it! Got an ugly mailbox? The City Commission will decide on a uniform mail receptacle! The ugliness of your property makes mine worth less, so I’m gonna whine until something is done about it!

I say let’s boycott lawn-mowing to show support for our brothers and sisters in Canton, OH. Let that grass grow, folks, without fear of prison!

Shelby County Republican, Brian Kelsey, was the lone “no” vote in Tennessee’s House yesterday on whether to lower the GPA requirements for the Lottery Scholarship.

Kelsey said, “If we’re going to have the best and brightest, then we need to keep the standards high.” Right on, Kelsey.

According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree that some form of reduction is needed to keep the merit-based award after figures released earlier this year by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission showed 50 percent of students lost their HOPE scholarships after their first year in college and 68 percent by their fourth year.

It’s been a while since I’ve heard something so absurd. Because students can’t cut it in college, we need to make it easier for them? Come on! How many times have you heard of a boss lowering expectations for his employees because they can’t meet his standards?

Why not open the HOPE Scholarship up to non-traditional students, i.e., adult students returning to college or going for the first time? Or maybe raise the standards for students receiving the scholarship in the first place, effectively “weeding out” the students that may have just gotten lucky on the ACT? As it currently stands, a student must have a 21 (out of 36) on the ACT or a 3.0 cumulative high school GPA in order to receive the scholarship. Tennessee is the only state that has the either/or requirement. Other states with similar programs have a minimum GPA and ACT/SAT requirement – a student must meet minimum requirements on both.

The only thing lowering Scholarship standards will do is ensure that kids who don’t need to be in college in the first place have even longer to waste others’ time and money. I’m not talking about the kids who really want to be in college and struggle to make the grades (these kids, I’m certain, would be able to hang on to their scholarships, with appropriate effort and assistance). I’m talking about the kids that go to college “because that’s what you do after high school,” but have no real desire to succeed. I know these kids because I was one.

I would have qualified for the HOPE Scholarship – had it been offered at the time – even with more stringent High School requirements (like the ACT and GPA example I mentioned above). Quite frankly, however, I went to college after high school because that’s what one does nowadays, with absolutely no ambition whatsoever. What did it take for me to finish school? Losing my financial aid. I could have stuck around and wasted others’ time, had the lottery scholarship been available with these new, lower standards, but the fact that the government took away my financial aid got me out of school, forced me to work a full-time job I hated, and motivated me to bust my tail to get back into college. Even with my less-than-stellar GPA upon re-entry to college, I still managed to graduate with higher than a 3.0. Why? Because I wanted it. Giving money to kids who don’t really want to be there is not only a waste, it hurts the kid in the long run.

The government, however, is really good at hurting us and calling it “help.” I just feel bad for the students who are going to be stuck in classes with the drunk kids for another couple of years, just because the lazy ones still have the money to be there…

If it wasn’t such short notice, I’d actually try and go…

Today, from 11:45am-1:00pm Congressman David Davis will be hosting a lunch with his constituents at Ridgewood Barbecue (900 Elizabethton Hwy., Bluff City, TN).

What an opportunity to ask Congressman Davis about the House Republicans “Change You Deserve” agenda. If any of my readers attends, take notes, and fill me in!!

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