Liberadio(!) Capitol Hill Press Pass Revoked

CensorshipYesterday I received word that Liberadio(!) is going to have its Capitol Hill press pass revoked (or, as they put it out there on the grapevine, can she please just stop using it and quietly go away?). The reason, AP writer and newly minted (Rick Locker of the Commercial Appeal held the position until this month) Capitol Hill press corp manager Erik Schelzig told my source, is because “some of the guys” in the press corp complained that I was tainting the corp’s non-partisan and impartial reputation with my partisan ways.

I was the host of a liberal talk radio show when I was originally issued the pass last year. I was the host of a liberal talk radio show when I used the pass all during last session. And I was the host of a liberal talk radio show when they issued me a new pass for 2010 a couple of weeks ago.

So what’s changed?

According to my sources, Erik said that I am a paid employee of the Tennessee Democratic Party (TNDP). Truth is, the TNDP paid the media company that I own with Freddie a $500.00 per month fee for services from September until December 2009. But I guess our business isn’t allowed to have separate departments like the traditional media are allowed to haveespecially when our business never claimed impartiality in the first place.

So the other question is, who’s really behind the revocation of my press pass?

I don’t know. And, frankly, it doesn’t matter. Because the only place I can’t go without one is the press box in the House and Senate chamber.

Ordinary citizens have access – for obvious reasons – to the State Capitol, Legislative Plaza, committee rooms, and the House and Senate gallery, and I will continue to take advantage of that access as much as I can. I hope you do too.

UPDATE: Dru Fuller Smith reporter and producer of Dru’s Views adds to the discussion over at Post Politics:

“Mary is not alone. Veteran Capitol reporter Sherman Novoson has also been denied a press pass. So have I even though I see print every week in five reputable newspapers in Nashville in addition to my daily blog. Big city newspapers (plus their AP news service) want to corral coverage at the Capitol. They haven’t caught on to the new media so they don’t want anyone else using it either.”

Update II: Christian of Nashville is Talking has this timely take on the situation:

“This move by the Capitol Hill press corps raises interesting questions in the wake of the latest United States Supreme Court decision on campaign finance law. The majority ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of political money advocating the election or defeat of candidates or to fund issue ads.

Many outlets represented by the Capitol Hill press corps will certainly receive far more in political checks per month than Liberadio(!).”

UPDATE III: Rick Locker of the Memphis Commercial Appeal responds to me:

Okay, since my name was called (in Mary’s original posting on her website), I feel a need to respond:

Mary, Mary, Mary:

1. If you can’t see the issue in getting paid by a political party and having a Legislative Plaza press pass to cover a political body, nothing I can say can help. It’s self-evident.

2. As you correctly noted, it really doesn’t matter. There are exactly 2 places that pass will take you that any citizen can’t automatically go: the floors of the House and Senate chambers. And as you well know, that doesn’t do much to deter news coverage of the legislature. Of course, the legislature has the ultimate say about who it allows on the floors.

3. Erik, the new press corps chairman, hasn’t done anything beyond asking your friend, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner, if it’s true that you are or were being paid by the TnDP. I would have done the same if I had heard that when I was still the chair.

Rick Locker

and addresses Dru’s hypothesis:

“And Dru, I’m a little surprised at your post. It’s not an “MSM” v. “New Media” thing at all. (Ask the two reporters for the new, who are now here daily, WITH passes.) When Erik learned this week that the Office of Legislative Administration was denying the LP press passes to any media organization that doesn’t rent space in the LP press room, he immediately opened a discussion with them about how that’s a departure from past policy and why it should not be. The TVs, for example, don’t rent cubes in the press room but clearly they should have them. As should YOU.”

UPDATE IV: There’s a “lively” discussion going on over at Post Politics and here’s my latest two cents: I think it’s great that in the age of Fox News, who have several press passes that they use to cover national politics and gain access to the White House press room, the Capitol Hill press corps in Tennessee thinks about issues of non-partisanship and impartiality and takes them seriously.

Would I have liked to be approached personally? Obviously.

Do I fault them for a decision/recommendation they have either made or will make in the near future about my access? Not really. But there is a deeper discussion and some serious introspection that needs to take place about the blurry line between partisan dollars and the news those dollars may or may not influence.

Just saying, my having a press pass is the least of any media critics worries/concerns. But I guess reform has to start somewhere so let reform start with me!

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Concerned about CaremakTennessee did a really smart thing not too long ago and decided to separate out the management of its prescription drug benefits for state employees. Smart, fiscally responsible move in these tough economic times. It could save the state millions!

So it’s curious that the Tennessee Benefits Administration awarded the management contract to CVS/Caremark, a company with zero transparency in its process, a suspect relationship between it’s benefits management division and the drug stores they own (“Don’t worry about knowing the details – we’ll get you the best prices on prescription drugs and then sell them to you too! Trust us!”), and an ongoing investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.

Other CVS/Caremark clients have been running for the hills. Why aren’t we?

Laurie Lee, executive director of benefits administration for the state, did address some of the concerns:

In the course of the procurement, we received correspondence from an outside organization making allegations about CVS/Caremark’s litigation history with various states as well as a pending Federal Trade Commission investigation involving the company. In light of the serious nature of the questions, we referred the issues to [Finance and Administration’s] legal counsel who sought advice from the Attorney General’s office.

As a result of the Attorney General’s office’s advice, we continue to recommend award of the contract to CVS/Caremark as the best evaluated proposer. If the contract is awarded to CVS/Caremark, we will work with the Attorney General’s office to include additional strong language in the contract addressing the steps we will take, up to and including termination fo the contract, if there is a finding of misconduct in any legal proceeding, including the FTC investigation. Please also note that, as indicated above, our proposed contract does address the transparency issues that were part of the allegations that the outside organization raised against CVS/Caremark.

So much good can be wiped away with one bad decision. Glad they are keeping a close eye on the situation.

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AlitoOr, why Presidential elections really matter…

Glenn Greenwald on Justice Scalito’s Alito’s behavior during the State of the Union (Justice Ginsburg should have turned around a smacked on his hand with a ruler):

By contrast, the behavior of Justice Alito at last night’s State of the Union address — visibly shaking his head and mouthing the words “not true” when Obama warned of the dangers of the Court’s Citizens United ruling — was a serious and substantive breach of protocol that reflects very poorly on Alito and only further undermines the credibility of the Court. It has nothing to do with etiquette and everything to do with the Court’s ability to adhere to its intended function.

There’s a reason that Supreme Court Justices — along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff — never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address. It’s vital — both as a matter of perception and reality — that those institutions remain apolitical, separate and detached from partisan wars. The Court’s pronouncements on (and resolutions of) the most inflammatory and passionate political disputes retain legitimacy only if they possess a credible claim to being objectively grounded in law and the Constitution, not political considerations. The Court’s credibility in this regard has — justifiably — declined substantially over the past decade, beginning with Bush v. Gore (where 5 conservative Justices issued a ruling ensuring the election of a Republican President), followed by countless 5-4 decisions in which conservative Justices rule in a way that promotes GOP political beliefs, while the more “liberal” Justices do to the reverse (Citizens United is but the latest example).

And Stephen Colbert dismantles Chief Justice Roberts’ weak logic for ignoring stare decisis and overturning “hundreds of years of precedent” for the Citizen’s United ruling:

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Summary: Featuring guests Robert Weissman of Public Citizen and Karl Frish of Media Matters for America.

The State of the Union is…Party!, Part 1. President Obama’s latest weekly radio address, current news, and the to do list (including details of our 2010 State of the Union Watch Party). Plus, WRVU loses 15-year veteran Doyle Davis when he decides he can no longer “bring da funk,” Air America has gone dark (but not for the reasons you think), our callers think that liberals in Tennessee should just come out already, and Liberadio(!) senior Massachusetts News Correspondent, Julie Bruno, reports from the ground – just what happened to the Coakley campaign and who is this Scott Brown dude? [27MB download mp3]

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The State of the Union is…Party!, Part 2 This hour we’re joined by Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, who gives us the 4-1-1 on the latest Supreme Court decision to affect campaign financing, as well as Karl Frisch, Senior Fellow for media watchdog organization, Media Matters for America. Plus, the Top 10 Progressive Victories of the Obama administration (a.k.a. he brought the change and we can believe in it), Tennessee is – in reality – a nice shade of purpley blue, and public transit fans, rejoice! – the Obama administration announced this week that it is loosening the criteria for using federal funds to finance light rail, bus routes, and other public transit projects. [23MB download mp3]

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Are We A Christian Nation?

In light of some recent blog posts about the Tennessee legislature’s recent “Ministers of the Day” violating the informal agreement they may have had with non-Christian representatives to show “a little restraint in their prayers” and make “at least a token attempt to recognize the diversity of beliefs in Tennessee,” I thought I’d dig up a sound clip of Dave Thomas, president of the Nashville Chapter of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, on Liberadio(!) answering the question that seems to be on everyone’s lips: “Are we a Christian nation?”

You will no doubt be surprised at his answer.

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By the way, membership to Nashville-AU is only $25 per year. Join today!

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Pat Robertson and Rudy GiulianiSatan writes an open letter to Pat Robertson:

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I’m all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I’m no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth — glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven’t you seen “Crossroads”? Or “Damn Yankees”? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there’d be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox — that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it — I’m just saying: Not how I roll. You’re doing great work, Pat, and I don’t want to clip your wings — just, come on, you’re making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That’s working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan*

*Or as he’s known in Minneapolis, Lily Coyle.

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Nashville Officially a Cities of Service Leader

Mayors Bloomberg and DeanIt was announced today by Cities of Service and the Rockefeller Foundation that Nashville is one of ten cities that will receive a $200,000 two-year grant to hire a Chief Service Officer dedicated to “developing and implementing a citywide plan to increase volunteerism.” From the press release:

Cities of Service is a bipartisan coalition of mayors from across the country, representing more than 38 million Americans in 80 cities, dedicated to engaging more Americans in service and channeling volunteers toward each city’s most pressing challenges.

Each of the winners displayed a strong commitment to service and outlined thoughtful, thorough, and creative approaches to expanding local opportunities for volunteers to make an impact in their city. Of the ten grant recipients, five are founding members of the Cities of Service coalition, including Nashville.

“I first learned of this funding opportunity when I joined Mayor Bloomberg in New York in September for the formation of Cities of Service. These are tight times for city budgets. This grant will allow us to have dedicated staff for developing service opportunities, something we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. I look forward to engaging our citizens to in our cities greatest needs and priorities, especially education,” Nashville Mayor Karl Dean said.

Have questions about Cities of Service – or maybe there’s something else on your mind? Mayor Dean will be available today at 1 p.m. at the art service project at the Nashville Rescue Mission.

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The following video was sent to us by writer/speaker/filmmaker Molly Secours.

During one week in early 2009, the youth from the Nashville’s Oasis Center filmed this short documentary to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and its direct result, the election of Barack Obama as our first African-American president.

Molly writes: “It was touching to see youth reach out to those local heroes who marched with MLK and sat at his feet during the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides. Some of these faces are but a few of the lesser known thousands who helped changed the course of history.”

Music by Nashville songwriter Don Henry.

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Congressman John Lewis, Freedom Rider and leader of the Civil Rights Movement, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was beaten by an angry white mob in Alabama in 1961, has some perhaps prescient words of caution about voting rights and voter suppression in 2010.

We should listen to him, Tennessee.

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Prayer Gone Wild at the State Capitol

Religious IconsJeff Woods from Pith in the Wind takes notice today that the even though the session is only two days old the legislature’s “Ministers of the Day” are bringing it with the bombast big time:

Today, retired Tennessee National Guard Lt. Col. Courtney Rodger–an invitee of House holy warrior Tony Shipley–insisted in her prayer that America is a Christian nation, no matter what certain unnamed “godless and apathetic” commie rats may say. We’re not a Judeo-Christian nation, mind you, or a nation of Christians and Jews and Muslims and many different faiths who share a certain set of values. No, we are a Christian nation. Got it?

Speaking of American soldiers in the Middle East, Rodger said: “We pray that their sacrifices are not in vain, lost to a godless and apathetic nation. For it has been declared to the world that we are no longer a Christian nation. But as Americans, we cannot turn our backs on our history for it cannot be erased.”

Seems to me that the easiest way to make this process more in tune with our nation’s founding principles is to invite ministers of all faiths to say the opening prayer. To make it even more representative of the people of the state, the number of days in the session given to each religion could be divided based on the percentage of the different faiths represented (with at least one day promised to each).

Tennessee’s religious majority is Christian so obviously a Christian prayer would be said most days. But based on the other percentage of religions, there can be x number of Hebrew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, etc. prayers.

And maybe one day there can even be no prayer at all but a simple moment of silence instead.

I mean, the legislature represents all people of the state no matter what their religious affiliation, right? So, this seems like a perfectly reasonable way to move forward. Why would anyone have a problem with it?

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