Saturday Song: Sharon White/Ricky Skaggs “Mansion On The Hill”

From time to time over the past months I have been posting what I consider the top five county music songs of all time.  Today is the fourth on that list. Next week the fifth one will be posted.

All but one of the songs are quite old, though sometimes performed by contemporary singers.  All are powerful as printed words on the page as much as when performed, and none have redneck qualities that seem to make up so much of contemporary country.  When I say I like country and western, I mean the music and performers that started the genre on its way.

So far we have “A Good Year For The Roses” by Alan Jackson and George Jones, “Wabash Cannonball” by Roy Acuff, and “If Teardrops Were Pennies, And Heartaches Were Gold”by Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton.

Today I post the awesome beauty of “Mansion On The Hill” with lots of country strings and harmony performed by Sharon White and Ricky Skaggs.  TURN IT UP!!

Brooks: Obama “Off To A Start That Nearly Justifies The Hype”

I knew we made the right choice for President when I heard Barack Obama correctly pronounce the word ‘nuclear’.  There has been a long spell of more brawn than brains in the White House, and that never spells success.  Frankly it grates on folks such as myself who know there is so much more to be gained by not pretending we want to have a beer with the guy who sits in the Oval Office, but instead just want a competent leader.  David Brooks nails one over the back bleachers today.  I am truly pleased that intellectual heft is again fashionable in Washington, even if some still seem put off by it, or wish to label it as ‘elitist’,  Tough! I want the best and brightest to lead the nation, and now that is about to be the case.

Jan. 20, 2009, will be a historic day. Barack Obama (Columbia, Harvard Law) will take the oath of office as his wife, Michelle (Princeton, Harvard Law), looks on proudly. Nearby, his foreign policy advisers will stand beaming, including perhaps Hillary Clinton (Wellesley, Yale Law), Jim Steinberg (Harvard, Yale Law) and Susan Rice (Stanford, Oxford D. Phil.).

The domestic policy team will be there, too, including Jason Furman (Harvard, Harvard Ph.D.), Austan Goolsbee (Yale, M.I.T. Ph.D.), Blair Levin (Yale, Yale Law), Peter Orszag (Princeton, London School of Economics Ph.D.) and, of course, the White House Counsel Greg Craig (Harvard, Yale Law).

This truly will be an administration that looks like America, or at least that slice of America that got double 800s on their SATs. Even more than past administrations, this will be a valedictocracy — rule by those who graduate first in their high school classes. If a foreign enemy attacks the United States during the Harvard-Yale game any time over the next four years, we’re screwed.

And yet as much as I want to resent these overeducated Achievatrons (not to mention the incursion of a French-style government dominated by highly trained Enarchs), I find myself tremendously impressed by the Obama transition.

The fact that they can already leak one big appointee per day is testimony to an awful lot of expert staff work. Unlike past Democratic administrations, they are not just handing out jobs to the hacks approved by the favored interest groups. They’re thinking holistically — there’s a nice balance of policy wonks, governors and legislators. They’re also thinking strategically. As Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute notes, it was smart to name Tom Daschle both the head of Health and Human Services and the health czar. Splitting those duties up, as Bill Clinton did, leads to all sorts of conflicts.

As a result, the team he has announced so far is more impressive than any other in recent memory. One may not agree with them on everything or even most things, but a few things are indisputably true.

First, these are open-minded individuals who are persuadable by evidence. Orszag, who will probably be budget director, is trusted by Republicans and Democrats for his honest presentation of the facts.

Second, they are admired professionals. Conservative legal experts have a high regard for the probable attorney general, Eric Holder, despite the business over the Marc Rich pardon.

Third, they are not excessively partisan. Obama signaled that he means to live up to his postpartisan rhetoric by letting Joe Lieberman keep his committee chairmanship.

Fourth, they are not ideological. The economic advisers, Furman and Goolsbee, are moderate and thoughtful Democrats. Hillary Clinton at State is problematic, mostly because nobody has a role for her husband. But, as she has demonstrated in the Senate, her foreign-policy views are hardheaded and pragmatic. (It would be great to see her set of interests complemented by Samantha Power’s set of interests at the U.N.)

Finally, there are many people on this team with practical creativity. Any think tanker can come up with broad doctrines, but it is rare to find people who can give the president a list of concrete steps he can do day by day to advance American interests. Dennis Ross, who advised Obama during the campaign, is the best I’ve ever seen at this, but Rahm Emanuel also has this capacity, as does Craig and legislative liaison Phil Schiliro.

Believe me, I’m trying not to join in the vast, heaving O-phoria now sweeping the coastal haute bourgeoisie. But the personnel decisions have been superb. The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left or would suffer self-inflicted wounds because of his inexperience. He’s off to a start that nearly justifies the hype.

Hillary Clinton To Accept Secretary of State Job

This is good news all the way around.  It provides a sound choice for the job of Secretary of State, and keeps Hillary away from the political games that she might engage in from the Senate floor.  This is a win-win!

Hillary Rodham Clinton has decided to give up her Senate seat and accept the position of secretary of state, making her the public face around the world for the administration of the man who beat her for the Democratic presidential nomination, two confidants said Friday.

Mrs. Clinton came to her decision after additional discussion with President-elect Barack Obama about the nature of her role and his plans for foreign policy, said one of the confidants, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the situation. Mr. Obama’s office told reporters Thursday that the nomination is “on track” but Clinton associates only confirmed Friday afternoon that she has decided.

“She’s ready,” said the confidant. Mrs. Clinton was reassured after talking again with Mr. Obama because their first meeting in Chicago last week “was so general,” the confidant said. The purpose of the follow-up talk, he added, was not to extract particular concessions but “just getting comfortable” with the idea of working together.

A second Clinton associate confirmed that her camp believes they have a done deal. Senior Obama advisers said Friday morning that the offer had not been formally accepted and no announcement will be made until after Thanksgiving. But they said they were convinced that the nascent alliance was now ready to be sealed.

Timidity And Finger Pointing Must End With America’s Economy

As the nation divides into fault lines over the need for bailouts, the economy continues to move closer to the edge of the cliff.  It is quite unsettling, to say the least.  This blog takes the position that while the financial bailout was not the ‘feel good’ measure, it was the prudent thing to do.  The companies, and individuals that were central to the chaos will have to be dealt with later, but first there is a greater national need.  While there have been short-sighted policies from Detroit for many years, the absence of funding to assist the automakers will have dire consequences that will make our previous disagreements with auto standards pale by comparison.  Again, there is a tourniquet needing to be applied. We can deal with the reasons for the calamity at a later time.

When I read history there are always outcomes from the decisions made by past leaders and officials at the end of the book. There is a ‘conclusion’ of sorts to a particular chapter in history.  But we often forget that each story in history could have easily, with the wrong decisions, gone the other way.  The outcomes of the stories we love to better understand from the past need not have ended as they did.  That is a very important, though obvious, point to think about as we mull over how to get the nation’s economy grinding along again.

It troubles me greatly to have disagreements with intelligent and thoughtful fellow Americans over the way to proceed at this juncture in our nation’s story.  There seems to be a need among some for a purity test to be applied.  Though many banking firms are front and center to the housing turmoil, would it have been better to do nothing to attempt to get liquidity into the financial system with the bailout bill?  Was our outrage about the culprits more important than the economics of the nation?  When the corporate jets landed in Washington with automakers on board there was a sense of outrage around the nation.  Fine.  But if the car manufactures go bankrupt the long term financial health of the nation is in peril.  Do we cut off our nose to spite our face?

This is a time for real action.  Finger pointing can be always taken up once we do not feel like the nation is about to tumble off the cliff!

Video: Sarah Palin Gives Interview In Front Of Slaughtered Turkeys

I have given up trying to understand how this all happens.  There is NO way to make this up.  Sarah Palin is a daily train wreck.  In this video Palin gives a press conference while turkeys are violently slaughtered right behind her……I have never seen anything like this….not the slaughter….but the lack of total self-awareness from a politician!  She was even asked before hand if she wanted this backdrop for her conference, and she replied “no worries.”

Old Fashioned Holiday Season Starts With Tennessee Santa Train


This Saturday, November 22, an annual event takes place that gives meaning to the holiday season that we are entering.    

For many years the Santa Train that runs through Appalachia has been my favorite charity, and one that I encourage others to consider giving to, as it makes the lives of others happier at this time of year.  A little still means a lot when all put together, so please consider this organization when thinking of charitable giving.  Details with address below.

Now in its 66th year, the Santa Train is an annual train journey through Appalachia where volunteers from Kingsport take 15 tons of gifts, candies and toys to children in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Thousands of families in rural communities turn out to welcome the Santa Train to their hometowns each year.

Many get into the act of helping making the season brighter for others.

Boxes of school supplies, food and holiday toys were piled high in the Food City parking lot – a conveyor belt down the middle. And 200-plus volunteers went right to work, packing 15 tons of those holiday gifts into purple and blue backpacks for the Santa Train.

Wednesday was packing day for the annual project, which delivers holiday packages to families in need during a 110 mile route through Appalachia, from Pikeville, Ky., to Kingsport, Tenn.

“It’s organized chaos, if you will,” Food City District Manager Haskel Bledsoe said as volunteers and organizers readied the gift packs at the Food City on North Eastman Road.

The packing event attracts many familiar faces, but organizers said every year welcomes newcomers, from ages 16 on up this year, to the Santa Train festivities.

“This is my first time coming out here to stuff the totes for the kids and it’s something to put on the calendar for next year,” said Nick Patrick, president of the Vietnam Veterans Kingsport Chapter Nine.

Food City employees were out at 9 a.m. setting up the conveyor belt, which allowed for efficient packing by the volunteers. By 5 p.m., the boxes of toys, school supplies, and food were lined along the Food City sidewalks. And by 8 p.m., the work was done.

“When volunteers show up, certain people have the bag line and certain ones will do the food line. We’re trying to make things go smoothly,” Store Manager Ed Moore said.

Coffee and hot chocolate helped chase away the chill while the volunteers worked.

Here is a map of the  route through  the hills and towns from Kentucky, through Virginia, and into Tennessee.

In addition to the annual train trip there is also a scholarship awarded each year that makes a real impact on a worthy student.

The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce awards its Santa Train Scholarship each year to a graduating senior who attends a high school along the 110-mile Santa Train route between Kingsport, Tenn. and Pikeville, Ky. The recipient is chosen based on grade point average, extracurricular activities, work records and an advisor’s recommendation. This year’s recipient is Merissa Williams, Sullivan North High School, Kingsport, Tennessee. The four-year scholarship is worth $5,000, $625 per semester. To date, the Kingsport Chamber has given 25 scholarships totaling $125,000.

Santa only takes new clothes or toys on the train. If you would like to send a gift or monetary donation, please send it to the following address:

Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
Attn: Santa Train
151 East Main Street
Kingsport, TN 37660

Here is the Santa Train schedule.