The WRVU Kerfuffle, Parts 1 & 2

For those of you who have been following the WRVU kerfuffle over at Nashville Cream, we present the complete, unedited Liberadio(!) interviews with Vanessa Beasley and Kevin Leander, faculty board members for Vanderbilt Student Communications, and Hugh Schlesinger and Skye Bacus, former WRVU Music Directors, who resigned in protest over the board’s decision to implement a new WRVU community DJ policy.

As they say over at that other network, We Report…You Decide.

liberadioInterview with Vanessa Beasley and Kevin Leander, faculty board members for Vanderbilt Student Communications [13MB download mp3]

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Interview with Hugh Schlesinger and Skye Bacus, former WRVU Music Directors [11MB download mp3]

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Summary: Featuring guests Hugh Schlesinger and Skye Bacus, former WRVU Music Directors, and Dave Thomas, president of the Nashville chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

The War on Hanukkah (Because We’ve Already Beat Christmas) Extravaganza, Part 1. Current news, to do list, the Nashville Hispanic Chamber of Commerce responds to the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree policy, and an interview with Hugh Schlesinger and Skye Bacus, Ex-Music Directors for WRVU. [23.71MB download mp3]

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The War on Hanukkah (Because We’ve Already Beat Christmas) Extravaganza, Part 2 A bit about the CARD Act and Lilly Ledbetter; Dave Thomas (in Christmas camo!), president of the Nashville chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, finally settles the question of whether or not we are a Christian nation; your holiday phone calls and a special appearance by Dr. Marisa Richmond of the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition who explains Rep. Jimmy Matlock’s (R-Lenoir City) participation in this year’s war on Hannukah. [26.30MB download mp3]

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Summary: Featuring guests Vanessa Beasley and Kevin Leander, faculty board members for Vanderbilt Student Communications, Matt Collins, Ex-Vice Chair, Davidson County Republican Party, Tyler Slocum, Director of Energy Program for Public Citizen, and Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America.

We’re a Show Full of Misfits, Part 1. Current news, to do, interviews with Matt Collins, Ex-Vice Chair of the Davidson County Republican Party and Tyler Slocum, Director of Energy Program for Public Citizen, and it’s time to get on the phone again. [26.43MB download mp3]

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We’re a Show Full of Misfits, Part 2 Joe Leiberman gets a little air time, Vanessa Beasley and Kevin Leander, faculty board members for Vanderbilt Student Communications, join us to discuss the board’s decision to cap the number of WRVU community DJs at 25, and Karl Frisch smacks down Glen Beck during the Media Matters for America Smackdown. [23.40MB download mp3]

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From the Memphis Flyer staff:

Addressing the lingering but increasingly moot question of the 2008 Tennessee Voter Confidence Act, Tennessee secretary of state Tre Hargett last week insisted in Memphis that “we’re going to be prepared to implement that law, no matter what” and went on to float two options. One was to lease optical-scan voting machines with 2002-vintage specificatons; another was to buy newer ones, scheduled to be marketed next spring.

Either set of machines would do what the TVCA — passed with virtual bipartisan unanimity by the 2008 General Assembly — required for the 2010 election cycle statewide: namely, count paper ballots so as to provide both an immediate electronic total and the reliability of a “paper trail” to ensure accuracy.

Hargett and state election coordinator Mark Goins had for almost a year been basing much of their opposition to implementing the TVCA on the premise that no machines were available that met specificatons of the U.S. Election Assistance Commisson. Nashville chancellor Russell Perkins effectively removed that objection in a recent ruling that extant machines meeting the commission’s 2002 guidelines would be adequate for the task.

Unfortunately, Perkins declined to grant plaintiffs’ request for an injunction directing state officials to proceed forthwith in implementing the TVCA — evidently trusting Hargett and Goins to proceed on their own in good faith.

We have noted editorially — and skeptically — once before that such good faith seemed to be lacking and that the question of implementing the act had manifestly become a partisan one, with state Democrats calling for strict compliance in time for next year’s elections and Republican officials doing their best to resist.

We predicted the next step, and, lo and behold, there it was last week in Hargett’s assertion — a fallback one, as it were — that “this has always been about the cost to the various counties” and that “the real question is if there are other costs required of the counties. We can purchase the machines, but that’s all we can do.” This was followed by this ominous declaration by Hargett: “I understand that the Senate is going to go back in January and take the necessary steps to protect the taxpayers throughout the state.”

This “protection,” of course, will take the form of postponing, amending, or revoking the TVCA.

Such obstructionism would be rash and unnecessary, and the argument behind it is disingenuous. The fact is, as Hargett concedes, that the federal government has already allocated enough funding — $25 million worth — to cover all purchase and retrofitting expenses in the 93 counties without optical-scan voting capability. Two counties already use the technology and have demonstrably saved money in the process.

For whatever reason, the state’s Republican hierarchy seems to have decided, after acquiring a legislative majority in the 2008 elections and gaining control of the state’e electoral machinery, that implementing the TVCA, with its strict controls over vote fraud, would menace their interests. We’re not sure why. What we are sure of is that we can do without the “protection” scheme heralded by Hargett.

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Notice was given by the Tennessee State Election Coordinator’s office that the Help American Vote Act (HAVA) Advisory Panel will meet tomorrow, Thursday, December 17 at 10:00 am in the Montgomery Room of the William Snodgrass – Tennessee Tower, 3rd floor.

I called to confirm that the advisory panel previously met in May 5, 2003; May 12, 2003; May 19, 2003; and June 4, 2003 but has not met since then.

HAVA mandated changes in many state election procedures (voting machines, registration processes, poll worker training), but specific implementations were left up to each state.

There have been so many changes and so much new info, it really is encouraging to see that the group has been activated again.

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She who defines it, owns it.

She who defines it, owns it.

In light of today’s announcement from Bart Gordon, yet another Congressional Democrat to announce he will not seek re-election, here’s the QOTD from Aunt B:

“As for us, we could try to be Democrats, actual Democrats, who stand for something other than being like the Republicans, but not.”

Why is this important? Aunt B’s answer is almost right:

“Because here’s the question Democrats have to answer: You’ve been running ever-increasingly conservative candidates. You’ve been supporting ever-increasingly conservative legislation. If the Republicans do gain control of the legislature and redistrict you out of Tennessee politics for the next generation, will we be able to tell the difference?”

Well, yeah, we will. There is a big difference between someone who votes with the Democratic Caucus 90% and someone who votes with the Democratic Caucus 0% of the time. But I digress.

Why is it really important for us to try and be “Democrats, actual Democrats, who stand for something other than being like the Republicans, but not?”

Because Democrats have been running ever-increasingly conservative candidates strictly on the social issues that divide Democrats. Because they’ve been supporting ever-increasingly conservative legislation on social issues that divide Democrats. And they’ve been losing.

The rational is that Tennessee is a “conservative” state. But whose definition of conservative are they using here? They’re using the extreme right-wing talk radio Conservative definition of conservative. And not only that, but they’re using the the extreme right-wing talk radio definition of the word and applying to every Tennessean instead of the 25-30% to whom it actually applies.

And, dude, let me tell ya, those twenty-five percenters ain’t never gonna vote for a candidate with a “D” beside their name anyhow. So what are you doing?

Tennessee is a populist state. Tennessee is a rational state. Tennessee has a centuries-old tradition of championing the rights of boot-strap pulling working people who want to earn an honest day’s pay and provide for their families. And if that isn’t enough, these hard-working people also want to lend a helping hand to their neighbor along the way. Tennesseans are a pro-family, responsible, freedom-loving people. They want things to be fair, equal, just and safe.

What part of that screams “conservative” to you?! Zero.

Progressives aren’t in the minority in Tennessee. Progressive values are the values that matter most to Tennesseans. Progressive priorities are the priorities of Tennesseans.

It’s funny to read the thread underneath the “Bart Gordon Resigns” post at Post Politics. Not funny “ha-ha” funny but funny as in the transparency of what certain “anonymous” commenters are trying to accomplish. “Blame the liberals! They wanted the blue dogs out!,” they’re yelling, as if, as Eleanor A. astutely observes, “EVERY candidate who hadn’t come out increasingly rightward on social issues – and who had nothing to offer on jobs, finances, education – hadn’t had his hat handed to him.”

Tennessee Republicans want nothing better than for Tennessee Democrats to continue to run to the right using the extremist positions on social issues. And they think they can bully us into doing so. Let’s hope not.

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Summary: Featuring guests Betsy Phillips, producer of Tiny Cat Pants blog and contributor to the Nashville Scene’s Pith in the Wind blog and Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America.

This is Tennessee Jumping Up and Down and Yelling “Yoohoo!”, Part 1. News, to do, and why all the good people down in Tennessee need to start paying attention to state politics. [24.56MB download mp3]

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This is Tennessee Jumping Up and Down and Yelling “Yoohoo!”, Part 2 Why health care reform matters (we’re talking to you Limbaugh), we get on a motherf**king boat with Betsy Phillips, also known as Aunt B. of Tiny Cat Pants and Pith in the Wind (two blogs that most definitely DO pay attention to state politics), and the Media Matters for America Smackdown with Karl Frisch. [23.89MB download mp3]

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All Tennesseans believe we deserve fair and accurate elections. This belief unites us as Tennesseans like no other. Heck, I’d even go as far as to say it united us as Americans.

So when I read yesterday that Secretary of State Tre Hargett was going to move forward with purchasing the optical scan machines needed to count the paper ballots that the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (TVCA) of 2008 mandates we use in November 2010, I was overcome with comfort and joy.

You see, those of use who have been urging implementation of the TVCA were elated when last month the protracted battle over implementation of the TVCA was put to rest and the Act, which was overwhelmingly supported by the people of Tennessee through their legislature, was now also fully validated by the courts.

It seemed, we believed, that Tennesseans were finally going to get the fair and accurate elections we deserve.

But then I read Jackson Baker’s Memphis Flyer article a little more closely and I realized, uh-oh, what we’re actually going to get is some post-holiday coal in our little red bootie stockings thingies.

FAIR AND ACCURATE. “I think we’ve got a 2005-quality machine,” Secretary of State Hargett said in a meeting in Memphis earlier this week, inferring that an optical scan machine made in any other year would be inadequate.

I’d like to clear up a few inaccuracies that Mr. Hargett’s chock-full one sentence statement infers.

First, the TVCA was passed to give us paper ballots, not voting machines. The paper ballots would not only record the voter’s intent but would also become the ballot of record in the case of a close election. In other words, the strength of the bill is in the paper ballot and not the machine that count the ballots. I mean, be good for goodness sake!, we could hand count the paper ballots in case of emergency and skip the machine counting process completely. Paper ballots are to optical scan machines as portable hard drives are to your computer.

To put it more simply, paper ballots give Tennesseans control over the results of our elections by giving us the ability to oversee, recount, and audit. In other words, trust but verify.

Mr. Baker followed up Mr. Hargett’s statement with an editorial comment, rife with inaccuracies: “‘I think we’ve got a 2005-quality machine,’ Hargett said in Memphis Tuesday night. Meaning that an optical-scan voting apparatus with paper-trail capability would soon be available in enough quantity to conduct statewide elections in 2010.”

The paper ballot – and the voters intent – gets counted by the optical scan machine. Or counted by hand if necessary. The optical scan machine does not produce a paper trail nor does it give the voter a receipt.

Again, the TVCA puts the emphasis on the paper ballot – not on the machines that count them – because Tennesseans prefer paper ballots that produce something tangible that they can oversee, recount, and audit. This is a much better system than the paperless electronic touch-screen voting machines we currently use that count votes using software that no one is allowed to see or monitor.

BI-PARTISAN. Accurate elections are the responsibility of the people of Tennessee, and the people of Tennessee want paper ballots. That’s why the TVCA was passed almost unanimously (when the hell does that ever happen?) in the General Assembly in 2008 – that means that 56 out of a possible 60 Republicans and 68 out of a possible 68 Democrats voted for the TVCA.

It truly was a bi-partisan effort.

The bill to delay the TVCA that Mr. Hargett mentions in the article is a divisive issue to be sure, and will most likely be brought to the Senate floor for a vote by Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey by January of 2010. This bill not only delays until 2012 the date the Act must be implemented, but also guts the mandatory audit procedures.

The audit procedures that would alert us to any problem with the vote count.

Again, Tennesseans want and deserve fair and accurate elections, but how can we make sure our elections are fair and accurate unless we are able to randomly audit the results?

FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE “The real question is if there are other costs required of the counties. We can purchase the machines, but that’s all we can do,” Mr. Hargett said, admitting that the state has approximately $34 million federal dollars available that can only be used by the state to purchase election equipment.”

In these uncertain economic times, all Tennesseans are focused on fiscal responsibility. But if our concern is saving money, the best thing we can do is implement the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act.

For example, with the TVCA only one Optical Scan machines is needed per precinct instead of the multiple machines needed with the paperless electronic touch screen voting system we use now.

And because we eliminate up to 80% of existing equipment when we move to paper ballots counted by optical scan machines, counties will save the money they now spend to program, service, test, store and transport so many unnecessary paperless electronic touch-screen machines.

In fact, studies in Florida, Maryland, and North Carolina have confirmed that voting with paper ballots counted by optical scan machines is 30-40% cheaper than voting the way we do now because of the reduction in programming, software, maintenance, storage and transportation costs.

We’re all hyper-aware that local budgets are strained and that necessary services run the risk of being cut. But fair and accurate elections are the most necessary of all our public structures. They are what gives life to all the others.

Look at it this way, your vote is your voice. And if your vote doesn’t get counted for the candidate who will vote with you on the issue or issues most important to you, then your participation in our democracy is an illusion.

All Tennesseans believe we deserve fair and accurate elections. The Tennessee Voter Confidence, aptly named, gives them to us.

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Dance. Dance. Revolution.

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So this has been quite a week for politics in Tennessee. First, news broke that long-serving West Tennessee congressman John Tanner would not seek re-election in 2010. Almost immediately after that announcement, state senator Roy Herron, who had been doing quite well seeking the Democratic gubernatorial primary nod, announced that he would instead seek the Democratic congressional primary nod in the 8th congressional district. A day later, Ward Cammack announces his withdrawal from the Democratic gubernatorial contest, reducing the number of announced candidates from 5 to 3.

Let’s play political pick up sticks:

Congressman Roy Herron
The first big question is: Why did Roy Herron switch races? Based on the political winds blowing in Tennessee, Phil Bredesen’s unprecedented 95-county sweep was an anomaly unlikely to be repeated by a Democrat for a generation or more (or, probably, any politician). A statewide win for a Democrat in a mid-term election year likely to favor, at least congressionally, the party in opposition to the President would be a hard-fought coup. Especially looking at the fundraising breakdown by party. So for Herron, winning the governor’s mansion, even should he win the Democratic primary, would be difficult. But let’s say that he is, in fact, the frontrunner in Tennessee’s fightin’ 8th. How could he possibly hold the seat as a freshman congressman after the Republican-controlled General Assembly redraws the districts to transform our 5-4 Democratic-majority congressional delegation to a likely 7-2 Republican-majority congressional delegation?

Possible answers:

  • Herron had polling showing that there was no way in hell a Democrat could win the governor’s race, or possibly that he in particular had no way in hell of beating a generic Republican.
  • Herron had polling showing that, actually, despite his public organizing prowess, he was getting thumped in terms of the Democratic primary.
  • Herron had polling showing that he had wanted that congressional seat ever since he was a little boy.
  • Herron somehow wound up in a deal with friends on the other side of the aisle whereby his district wouldn’t get too badly redrawn, giving him a fighting chance of keeping the seat for a decade.
  • Herron had polling from before any other race that demonstrated that his state senate seat was no safer than Tanner’s congressional seat or he knows that he would’ve drawn a stronger challenger than Fincher for his own seat.

Honestly, I can’t see how a long-term view that suggests that less than a single term could possibly be appealing to a state senator in a seat that is assumed to be safe. Is 2 years in Congress better than 4 (or) more years in the state senate? Can Herron somehow become a rare Tanner-like figure who is a legendary Southern Democrat perceived as independent-minded and authentic in a mostly rural part of the state? We probably won’t know the answer till 2012, should Herron best Stephen Fincher, darling of the NRCC. Regardless, I fully expect Herron to emerge as the Democratic frontrunner, even if other Democrats (not named Lowe Finney) emerge to fight in a primary.

Side bet for political poker players: Did Herron and McWherter discuss the Tanner seat? Did each prefer the race he’s now conclusively in? I.e., Herron preferred the Tanner race and McWherter preferred the gubernatorial race?

The Governor’s Club
Herron’s departure lets the other son of Dresden, Mike McWherter, shore up his Northwest Tennessee base. Some have suggested that it advantages Jim Kyle, too, but I don’t see that. The big question will be the fight among all three of McWherter, Kyle, and McMillan for Middle Tennessee supporters, where Herron had a broad base of support, and McWherter just fired a loud opening shot.

Cammack’s departure… well, it’s unlikely to have a meaningful impact. Unless, I suppose, one of the remaining three finds a way to extend Bredesen’s legacy in making Tennessee a green technology center and generally becoming a green policy technocratic candidate.

I hadn’t predicted that the Democratic primary would’ve been particularly brutal with 5 candidates, at least nowhere nearly as brutal as the Republican primary has been and will be. And that’s in part because the Republicans feel the need to perpetually seek Truth in Conservatism, whereas the Democrats have presented as relatively un-bold pragmatists, with frontrunners McWherter (gays) and Herron (God, guns) anchoring some socially conservative points but otherwise generally hoping their ability to connect with a base was likely to determine a winner. I shudder, actually, to think what the general election might look like without Herron, as he was a forceful floor speaker who was probably the most unafraid to take on progressive causes strategically and with charisma. Kyle has no problem on the attack (“Kurita.” “Who?”), so that might be fun, but I’m still waiting for a grand populist (or otherwise) outburst from one of the Democratic contenders that makes running for governor as a Democrat seem like it’s not only fun but also the right thing to do. Otherwise, Bill Haslam, coasting calmly above the wingnut fray, will likely resonate more genuinely with Tennessee voters angling for another Bredesen (a pragmatic administrator coming from a recent background of municipal executive experience) and not disrupt my original prophecy.

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