Maria Brewer, newly elected chairperson of the Sumner County Democratic Party, reacts to the racist email controversy swirling around the state capitol:

The Sumner County Democratic party asks for the immediate resignation of Senator Diane Black’s Executive Assistant, Sherry Goforth, who recently admitted to sending a racist email from her state provided email address to the “wrong list of recipients.”

In addition, we require full accountability from Senator Diane Black, our elected official, for the following questions:

Since her assistant’s half-hearted apology for this outrageous act was to claim to have sent the email to the “wrong list,” who is on the “right list?”

Is it acceptable practice in the Tennessee Legislature for Republican law-makers or their staff to engage in racist and dishonorable activities as long as they keep it among themselves?

And lastly, how will Senator Black’s constituents, yes even those of color, even those of another political affiliation, know that their concerns are being heard when the very gate-keeper of their Senator’s office finds a picture of the President of the United States represented as a “spook” to be so humorous that it should be forwarded by email to her colleagues and associates?

Senator Diane Black should address these questions quickly and publically if she is to restore the confidence that We the People have lost in her. And unless she demands her Executive Assistant’s resignation, we will know her words are hollow.

We invite the Sumner County Republican Party to join us in condemning this sort of bigotry and stereo-typing that so frequently flies under the cover of humor, yet damages our communities, our economic prosperity, and our American Spirit.

Who is on the “right list,” indeed. We’re looking forward to a response from Senator Black’s office. And considering the national news has picked up on the story, not sure if the “if we ignore it, it will go away” strategy will work for much longer.

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Guns N’ Radio

Today, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, vetoed legislation that would have allowed guns in bars, stating:

In recognition of this basic principle of firearm safety, Tennessee state law has long prohibited the possession of firearms in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol. House Bill 962 would remove this protection in a manner that I, along with many law enforcement officers, believe to be reckless and lacking basic safeguards to ensure public safety. The notion that this bill would permit one to carry a concealed weapon into a crowded bar at midnight on a Saturday night defies common sense, and I cannot sign such a measure into law. As you consider this veto, I respectfully ask the legislature to rethink this issue.

We agree with Governor Bredesen. And despite what the TNGOP would have you believe, so do most Tennesseans, as we found out during our last show when we opened up the phone lines to talk about guns and guns in bars.

We spoke to a lawyer, a mother, a serviceman, and several citizens (one of who wonders out loud if he feels safer knowing that his Roane County representatives are packing heat) about it all – if there is a Constitutional right to be safe in your person, what specific rights are being taken away from gun owners (if any), does alcohol makes you less likely to follow the law, does the public have a right to know the names of gun permit holders, what is the responsibility of bar owners and bartenders and why didn’t anyone ask them what they think about guns in bars, and why do your second amendment rights stop at the door to Legislative Plaza? And not everyone was on the same page.

Listen to our discussion with our listeners on guns [download mp3 49.7MB 31:02].

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Despite the political machinations of certain Republican legislators and special interest groups who use hot-button issues to try and divide and conquer, we found out that Tennesseans who disagree can have a thoughtful and thorough discussions on issues like guns and find common ground and consensus. Too bad that’s not the goal of the TNGOP.

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I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.

I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.

I suggested before that if you liked the dated views of the Tennessee Republican Party and their spokesantediluvian, Bill Hobbs, then you shoulda put a corset on it.

Turns out I was wrong. It’s the 19th, not the 20th, century that Hobbs idealizes:

Incidentally, home schooling was widespread in the United States until the 1870s, when compulsory school attendance laws and the development of professional educators created the institutionalized form of education we think of today as “school.” Among the historical figures who were home-schooled: Presidents George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt, plus Thomas Edison, General Robert E. Lee, Booker T. Washington, and Mark Twain.

As if the above mentioned legends had a choice.

Although Thomas Jefferson advocated for an “elaborate, publicly supported systems of mass education” that would ensure an educated populace, it wasn’t until the mid-1800’s that the general public and not just the very wealthy had access to any kind of “school” at all. And widespread public education did not become a reality until the beginning of the 20th century.

So according to Hobbs, “school” is not just for the elite anymore – but he sure does wish it was!

(H/T: Pith in the Wind)

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Bizarro Hill Update

Woods at Pith has the “We’re making a spectacle of what we pretend to want and are going to pass legislation that does just the opposite of what we pretend to want” HB1756 discussion wrap up:

State House Republicans are desperately trying to piss on the evil Planned Parenthood’s leg this session, but they’re missing the mark with a bill that just passed the House Health and Human Resources Committee. Aimed only at Nashville and Memphis, where too many poor women are getting pregnant to suit the Republicans, the legislation by Rep. Joey Hensley directs the administration to give priority to the county health departments in distributing federal family planning money. Unfortunately for the wingnuts, those departments don’t want the money and have never applied for it. Their staffs aren’t large enough to provide the services. Therefore, it’ll keep going to Planned Parenthood.

The committee voted 13-8 for the bill over the protests of Democrats. Rep. Joanne Favors, D-Chattanooga, turned her ire on Hensley, who is a physician. “I don’t know what your agenda is,” she scolded him, “but it’s certainly not because you’re concerned about patients.”

Afterward, the ACLU’s Hedy Weinberg said, “They claiming they’re trying to stop abortions, but Planned Parenthood actually prevents unwanted pregnancies through quality family planning services.”

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Grand Old Prophylactics

The Health and Human Resources Committee is meeting as I write this and will soon hear HB1756 – a bill that would establish “a new methodology for disposition of family planning funds that disburses funds to public women’s health services programs before other providers are funded.” That’s a fancy-pants way of saying that they want to strip funding from one of the best public reproductive health organizations that actually, you know, works to reduce unplanned pregnancies – Planned Parenthood.

Besides doing absolutely nothing for the living, breathing citizens of Tennessee during the first session of the General Assembly they’ve controlled in roughly 140 years (10% unemployment rate? Hello?), Republicans are now lying about the intent of their true legislative agenda.

One can assume, based on the opportunistic and self-congratulatory display during last night’s passage of SJR127, that Rep. Joey Hensley (R-Howenwald) and the rest of the sponsors of HB1756 want to reduce the number of abortions in the state of Tennessee. Yet, this morning we see them attacking one organization that does just that.

For nearly 40 years, Planned Parenthood in Tennessee has received Title X family planning dollars and have used the money to provide reproductive and sexual health care – including contraception to, you know, prevent unplanned pregnancies – to over 11,500 men and women in Tennessee who could otherwise not afford it.

Since Hensley et. al. must know that Title X funds cannot be used to end pregnancies, one has to wonder, what the hell are they doing? And what actual benefit is this waste of time legislation providing to out of work Tennesseans, broken down schools, and malnourished kids?

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OK, so I get that even with yesterday’s passage in the House of SJR127 we’re a long way from amending the Tennessee Constitution, but from the celebratory reaction of Rep. Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) and her She-Women Women Haters Club cronies (I’m looking at you, Senators Black and Gresham), you’d have thought they had passed legislation that created unlimited jobs, turned our public schools into the palaces they should be, eradicated our dismal infant mortality rate, and gave every man, woman, and child in Tennessee decent and affordable health care.

So, how are thosepriorities” coming along, TNGOP?

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Long accepted but controversial conventional wisdom has been that a high voter turnout benefits Democratic candidates. The losers say it’s because Democrats cheat. “Democrats will let anyone vote,” they say, “Even if they’re not legally eligible.” “Prove it,” says think tanks, educational institutions, and Congressional committees. “We got nothin’” is the common answer. Voter fraud simply does not exist in any measurable form anywhere in the United States.

The real reason Democrats win when there’s a high turnout, as we can see from the ongoing post-November 2008 collapse of the Republican Party, is because when it comes to having real ideas and any observable ability to govern, Republicans also “got nothin’.” And since the “nothin’” they got is because they hate government, the real shock is why anyone would think they could actually, you know, govern.

Yet, despite the way they feel about it, Republicans – and more specifically Republicans in the Tennessee General Assembly – still want absolute control of the affairs of the State. Which is why they’ve embraced the extremely distasteful Paul Weyrich model of democracy which, through control of the election process and suppression of the vote, hopes to decrease the people’s participation in their democracy until it’s small enough to drown in a bathtub – and then can be leveraged into a win.

More simply, the Weyrich model is based on that ol’ “the ends (absolute power) justify the means (cheating)” adage. We’ve seen it in action by the U.S. Attorney General and the Justice Department during the Bush administration. It’s what brought down Alberto Gonzales. And it’s apparently what they teach at televangelist Pat Robertson’s Regent University Law School, the Alma mater of disgraced U.S. Justice Department employee, Monica Goodling, as well as ex-State Election Commission member and current State Election Coordinator, Mark Goins.

Not supposed to inject partisanship into the employment practices for civil service jobs at the U.S. Justice Department? No matter – breaking the law is a small price to pay when you’re doing God’s work. Can’t find the instances of voter fraud you need to prove that voter suppression laws (photo ID, proof of citizenship) are necessary? Try harder – even if it means your agenda tramples on the very foundation of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Thankfully, the two bills introduced by Tennessee Republicans which were meant to further the Weyrich model by suppressing the vote of the least among us – the elderly, the indigent, and the disabled – gasped their dying breaths yesterday.

Yet the fight continues as they trot out additional weapons in the Tennessee GOP “ends justify the means” arsenal:

1) The delay of implementation of the Tennessee Voter Confidence Act (HB0614 / SB0872). This bill was passed unanimously in the Senate and almost unanimously in the House in 2008 and would give voters the confidence that comes with voting on paper ballots. State Election Coordinator Goins is leading the fight to keep the paperless touch-screen voting machines we use now in 93 out of 95 counties because they a) can be easily manipulated to change vote totals and flip votes from one candidate to another, b) provide no mechanism for a meaningful recount in the case of close elections, and c) increase the length of time it takes for each voter to cast a ballot thereby suppressing the vote by allocating too few machines in certain areas and creating long lines and long waits.

2) The replacement of all county Election Administrators with partisan Republicans. As reported this morning by Tom Humphrey of the Knoxville News Sentinel, “Twenty-eight county election administrators have been already replaced since Republicans gained control of Tennessee’s 95 county election commissions and more Democrats are likely to be dismissed in the months ahead.” And although there has been some push back in some counties by Republicans who can see past partisanship, and there’s also been a recent attorney general’s opinion that says “that an administrator fired solely because of his or her political party affiliation might successfully challenge the dismissal in court,” State Coordinator Goins insists that “administrators serve at the will of the county commissions and may be re-replaced at any time.”

3) An attempt to forcefully take control of the State Election Commission (which monitors the activities and performance of the county election commissioners). And then declare war if you don’t get your way. As Colby Sledge reported in the Tennessean this morning, “Republicans are giving House Democrats one week before they plan to kill the state election commission if a bill to expand the commission by adding two members — in effect, giving the GOP the majority — doesn’t pass.” But let’s allow Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville) and Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin) tell you in their own words why they’re making this supposed “non-partisan” issue a partisan issue.

Senator Thelma Harper: Let me ask you a question, has your bill, 547, has it passed the Senate floor?

Senator Mark Norris: Oh yes, m’am, it passed 24-8 on March 12th.

Senator Harper: So, who’s handling it in the House?

Senator Norris: In the House it’s Rep. Mumpower and, um, but I understand that Rep. Maddox and, uh, perhaps Turner were outspoken in their opposition to it.

Senator Harper: So it has not moved in the House?

Senator Norris: Correct. It’s moved out of committee. I think it’s on the desk of the floor of the House. And that’s where it met it’s potential demise and I just think everybody should realize if it meets its demise there then the State Election Commission will meet its demise here [Senate Government Operations Committee].

Senator Harper: Let me ask Senator Johnson. Have you entertained the idea of someone else signing on and carrying the bill if there’s that kind of conversation or if there’s no conversation going on…?

Senator Jack Johnson (Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman): Madame Chair, it is my understanding in watching the video as well and discussing it with some members of the House who were present for the debate that it did literally turn into a very partisan kind of issue which really it shouldn’t be what we’re trying to do is to make the Election Commission comply with the statute and I’ll add one thing to what Senator Norris said, it’s an interesting predicament that we’re in, in that the majority control of the General Assembly happened to change mid-term for these State Election Commissioners. Interestingly they serve four years terms. County Election Commissioners serve two year terms. And as you know the composition of all 95 county Election Commissions changed – uh, 3 Republicans, 2 Democrats – that was easily accomplished because they were at the end of their their term. Well, uh, I think it should be known – it’s my understanding – that one of the Democrat [sic] members of the State Election Commission offered to resign but the statute states that the interim vacancy on the State Election Commission must be filled by someone of the same party. So there is no statutorily authorized way to change the composition of the State Election Commission other than what Senator Norris came up with which is a perfectly reasonable solution which is to add two members and make it 4-3, 7 member body for the remaining two years. Now, as to who the House sponsor is, if there are personal issues regarding the House sponsor, it shouldn’t get in the way of passing a reasonable bill. Uh, to answer your question, Madame Chairman, I have not had any conversations and don’t know if it would be my place or Senator Norris’ place to suggest a different sponsor of the bill.

Senator Harper
: I didn’t say suggest it. What I was looking at would be to move it to another level that’s amenable to the leadership of the House.

Senator Johnson: Well, it made it all the way through the committee system, which as we know is somewhat arduous. And made it to the floor and I believe the voter was 48-48. 48 ayes and 48 no’s. And therefore it sits on the desk, it can be brought back to the floor for further consideration, and I think our hope, and I think Senator Norris’ hope, is that in light of perhaps there wasn’t an adequate understanding of the need to make it lawful, or otherwise it cannot continue to exist. And so what I wanted Senator Norris to address in this committee is, uh, we will roll this for one more week – we hope that next week will be our last committee meeting for Senate Government Operations, so they essentially have 7 days to either deal with this issue or we will be more or less forced to allow the State Election Commission to sunset. And none of us want that to happen it will create some issues – I’m sure we can handle those issues in the Secretary of State’s office but the simpler thing to do would be to pass this bill, add two members to the State Election Commission for the next two years and then we can reconstitute the five-member body in two years assuming that control of the General Assembly changes back to Democratic control then it will be 3-2 Democrat.

Interestingly, neither sponsor – Senator Norris nor Rep. Mumpower – bothered to get an Attorney General opinion on this issue, Which, as Senator Tim Barnes (D-Adams) seems to understand, would have been the responsible and reasonable thing to do if this were what they say it is – a non-partisan issue.

Senator Tim Barnes: I guess my question is, why do we assume that although the commission was constituted properly when it was, at the time there was a Democratic majority, that because of the change of the makeup of the General Assembly that renders the commission improperly constituted. It seems to me that if it’s Constituted properly under the statute that existed and we kind of had a timing issue between two statutes…uh, is there an attorney general’s opinion or a legal opinion as to the statement that you made about that commission being improperly Constituted?

Senator Norris: Not that I’m aware of, Senator, the statement I made is just based on Tennessee Code annotated 2-11-103 which says that three members of the commission shall be members of the majority party and two members shall be members of the minority party. Now, I know that there is, as you do, that there is authority for the proposition that actions that are taken when they are in a holdover capacity may not be suspect because they are holdovers, but that’s slightly different than the composition issue – particularly the clash of what’s happening here. If this were not in sunset – if they had not already gone into wind down perhaps, and they were not in sunset – you might be able to say, “well, we’ll just rely on the holdover status. But you’re presented with a very unique challenge here because they are in wind down and the are on the clock to sunset. And given that, you’re question whether the actions they have taken are appropriate as holdover appointees. Your situation is given that the House seems unwilling to comply with 2-11-103, can you lawfully renew something that is no longer in compliance with the law. A slightly different question but I’ve given it some thought.

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Baroo?

Baroo?

Chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party Robin Smith faced a (Hobbsian) dilemma yesterday – how to “court Mexicans” by exploiting their Cinco de Mayo holiday. But it finally came to her – she celebrated by spicing up the truth:

Today, we reaffirm the commitment of our Republican Party to the policies that work to provide jobs, educational opportunity, access to health care, the ownership of private property and all others that emphasize personal achievement, not government interference or entitlement.

Examples, please (and spelling counts), because while Tennessee’s unemployment hovers around 10% (in the high 20’s in some counties), the actions of your legislators say what you really have is a commitment to punishing the less fortunate, endangering America’s favorite pastime, screwing with free and fair elections, killing old people cheap, and interfering in local governments.

Go ahead…we’ll have a margarita or two while we wait.

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We didn’t get the latest stuntbumper sticker issued by the TN GOP, but rather than try and explain it, that sweet Bill Hobbs over at the Tennessee Republican Party simply created what he said was a “special version of the HONK sticker” just for us.

Thanks so much for making the effort, Bill. We had really been racking our brains about where we could go to learn more about nuance. Now can you please explain who’s paying whose mortgage?. We’re still trying to figure that one out.

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The Liberadio(!) Tea Party

I haven’t been on This Week with Bob Mueller (or “Mulleropoulos,” as we like to call it) in a while (darn that Representative Gilmore!), but the last time I was on, Steve Gill and I were poking at each other (and not in the friendly Facebook way) over big government vs. small government. Gill, while accusing all “liberals” of being for big government, said he was for making government small enough to drown in a bathtub. I told Steve that it wasn’t about big or small government, it was about smart government.

Fast forward a few months to a new president, a continuing economic downward spiral, and the same old accusations from Republicans. On steroids. “The era of big government is back,” said Congressman Marsha Blackburn. “The era of big government is back,” said John Boehner. “The era of big government is back,” said Lamar Alexander. ” “The era of big government is back,” said Steve Holland of Reuters (As Southern Beale says, “Thank you, Liberal Media!!!”)

Which makes one wonder (at the risk of channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw) where were the snappy fiscal talking points when President Bush was “spending like a drunken sailor?” And where were the rallies?

I got my answer to these and other burning questions when I went to the faux Tea Party (there wasn’t any tea) the TNGOP threw on the steps of the Capitol on Friday to protest President Obama’s economic policy. All the people I spoke to were big enough to admit that President Bush overspent…too. However, not one had been to an organized rally in the last 8 years. Huh. Go figure.

But it was good to see that even post-election, President Obama continues to motivate people to get involved when in the past they *ahem* didn’t have the time…or something:

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At the end of the long afternoon filled with hyperbolic signs and shouts of “send Congress to Gitmo!,” I was left to wonder (at the risk of channeling that pesky inner Bradshaw again) if, as progressives and Obama supporters, we should organize a rally to protest eight years of near-total Republican government control and the fiscal policies they produced that resulted in one of the most unstable U.S. economies since the Great Depression? Then I remembered that we already had one. It was last November. And 69 million people showed up. Aw, snap!

More hypocrisy watch coverage of the Tennessee event Braisted at Nashville 21, Dru’s Vues, a Kleinheider Joint, and WPLN.

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