Tag Archives: Tennessee

Gateway To Bigotry


During this first week of the Sochi Olympics, much of the world has been discussing the oppressive anti-gay laws in Russia. Hear in Tennessee, we have an oppressive gay bill making the rounds by Memphis’ one and only Sen. Brian Kelsey. It has already been coined “Turn the Gays Away” bill.

Here’s what this bill does:

The bill notes that businesses can refuse services and goods only if it furthers a civil union, domestic partnership, or same-sex marriage. The person or business would just have to say it was against their religion. For example, if a same-sex couple wanted a cake for their wedding reception, a bakery could refuse to cater to them.

Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project says the bill is making discrimination legal.

“It’s bad for business,” Cole said. “It’s bad for attracting talent that would be offered a job to come and work for a corporation here in Tennessee. When they see bills like this capturing the headlines, it really reflects poorly on the state.”

A couple of questions to delve further into Kelsey’s bill. The scope of the bill applies to anything that might apply to a big “gay” wedding or partnership, but the bottom line, to quote a comment made at Knox Views, it is another gateway bill into bigotry. We’ve seen this happen before with Sen. Stacy Campfield and his horrendous remarks about the LGBT community with his “Don’t Say Gay” bill. It’s about taking legislative action against civil rights. All men and women are created equal unless they want to get married to each other, then you can say I won’t help you because it’s against my religion?

It is a gateway problem because what happens after this bill? How much money will the state have to pay in legal fees when it gets sued and it will if this goes through.

Many of our legislators are good people, I’m not saying they aren’t. I will say though that they will be will be lumped in with the Campys and Kelseys of the world as long as bills like this keep getting burned to garner headlines and to purposefully discriminate against people. We are all Tennesseans and when the national headlines hit, and they have been plentiful lately, we all look idiotic.

While we are discussing demoralizing legislation, let’s look at some things not being discussed by our elected officials.

And speaking of the state of Tennessee’s finances we read this from the Nashville Post

Halfway through the state’s budget year Tennessee’s revenue collections are $222.7 million in the hole, the Department of Revenue reported Thursday.

Although the department says January has seen the largest growth in tax collections over the last 13 months, revenues fell short $51.6 million from the state’s expectations.

And the only jobs I’m hearing anyone in Nashville and Washington talk about right now is Volkswagon, where it is apparent that the same incentives that the GOP bent over backwards to give to the German auto manufacturer is now being treated with buyer’s remorse.I mean, is Sen. Bo Watson really threatening to pull incentives? Why yes, he did go there.

And finally, we are in our 44th day without Medicaid expansion so there is $110,000,000 down the toilet for the state of Tennessee.

What do Kelsey and Watson have to say about that? I guess they are too busy fighting gay people and unions to have even noticed.

Polar Vortex Hits Tennessee State Capitol

This polar bear is named John. He is cold and lives in Lake County.

This polar bear is named John. He is cold and lives in Lake County.

The barren wastelands of January’s return as the 108th General Assembly hasn’t given us much meat to go with our potatoes during this rare occurrence of a vicious polar vortex. Gravy is out of the question as we have truly moved into the haves/have nots scenario in state government. We are back to a revised version of Guns, Gays and God legislation that ignores the basic tenants of a quality of life for average Tennesseans.

Lunch for workers, fugaddaboutit! According to Campy, we still have a war on Christmas that I have still not seen the frontlines of a battlefield because my house looked like Santa had a party in it as did my nieces school. Money is being thrown out of the state at a breakneck speed as our Governor and his cohorts refuse to expand Medicaid. And the sad reality that the term education reform is highly misleading. (If you want to know the whos, hows and whys of things, check out Tennessee Education Report.)  Let’s not forget that legislators are still wanting more state interference in local government when it comes to guns in trunks.The issue is not about guns, it’s about taking local control away from smaller government bodies. That is the concern. For example, why can’t Strawberry Plains, Nashville or the like control their own rules. It’s not about the second amendment in the least, it’s about the state having the final say-so.

The list is endless.

I could, but I won’t, bang the drum about the lack of legislation on creating jobs. So many democrats and bloggers over the years have screamed this down a tunnel apparently made out of banana pudding because the folks at the Capitol just aren’t hearing it. No one discusses in Music City about how a megasite sits basically ignored in Haywood County that could help west Tennessee thrive during dire times where jobs are about as scarce as finding a rhino in Lake County so I will turn our attention to the budget. Tennessee has an annual budget of roughly $33 billion dollars a year but revenues are down about $175 million bucks. This is worrisome to say the least. So what is the Governor’s plan? No clue.

We are too busy trying to stealthily change the power structure in our state government to be bothered by the pesky reality that everything is not okay and OH MY GAWD BIEBER WAS ARRESTED AND THE CAPTAIN AND TENNILLE ARE CALLING IT QUITS WHERE IS THE HUMANITY!! If the news is nonstop how can we even take the time to process what is happening in plain sight.

I pseudo keed because I love you.

Democrats are in the minority yet they are desperately trying to bring many of these issues to the spotlight but it is hard to drive a car in a blizzard where you can’t see the yellow line on the road.  Activists are working hard to get issues to the forefront but how does one fight against a wall of lobbyists who are going to most likely get the best seat at table with GOP legislators? It’s not easy, but they are out there.

These are things that Steve Ross and I (as well as a host of others) have said for years now. It’s not small or large government, it’s about effective government that helps each county in this state. The lack of empathy and good governance have left blizzard-like conditions in the legislature.

Time to bundle up, campers.


Morning Coffee – You Put Your Left Foot In Edition

That IS what it's all about

During our long break, I’ve had some time to think about what’s going on with all the dissatisfaction from voters out there.

For over a year we’ve been hearing about the Tea Party and whatnot, as if that’s the only political movement that’s energized in the nation. Certainly there’s some evidence out there that shows conservatives are energized this year. That’s not particularly unexpected. When one party takes the White House, the other party typically gets fired up to wrest control. 2002 was a notable exception, primarily because of 9/11, but by and large, the rule holds true.

But is all this supposed energy really widespread support, or a refutation of the status quo articulated through voter outrage? That’s a question that likely won’t really be answered until November.

Chris Clizza at the Washington Post reported last week that voters don’t really like either party. From my perspective, both parties, particularly in the federal government, have become agents of the status quo, which, by the way, hasn’t been too kind to average folks, rather than advocates for their constituents. It’s no wonder people feel disillusioned.

In this environment, the reality is that people want reform more than they want “same” regardless of what the much more vocal opponents of reform would have you believe.

A recent AP poll on healthcare bears this fact out. By a 2-1 margin more Americans think the landmark healthcare reform should have gone further. While this particular issue may not resonate with Tennessee voters, chances are we can apply the same kind of benchmarks for voter dissatisfaction with “same” here as nationally.

There are other issues feeding into this feeling of a need for reform. Unemployment is SUPER HIGH and not likely to decrease that much for several years. This means that people are suffering far more than they were even in 2008. The fact is, income disparity is at the highest rate it’s been since the Great Depression. Furthermore, those heralded “Bush Tax Cuts” that Republicans are running on, turn out to have sucked about $2.7 TRILLION from total income in the US. For some point of reference, $2.7 trillion is about 21% of the total federal debt and about half the debt that the Bush administration ran up in it’s eight years in office.

So what do voters REALLY want? In 2008, Obama ran on “Hope” and “Change”, but neither of these things are necessarily what voters were really asking for…”REFORM”. However, Obama can’t be blamed for the lack of comprehensive reform on many issues, nor can he be held accountable for a recalcitrant US Senate, which is where progress goes to die it seems.

The largest burden Obama bears is that he hasn’t used his bully pulpit effectively to provide direction and reframe the debate in a way that serves his mission of “Hope” and “Change” which can manifest itself as “reform”. Until he learns this lesson and uses his political power to at least try to reframe the debate he’ll continue to see downward pressure on his job performance.

The other side of this is the people who are currently running for re-election, those congress-critters. It’s not really fair to paint all 535 of them with a broad brush as agents for “same”, but there are enough of these “same agents” out there that a whole bunch of them are going to suffer defeat.

This is not a “Pro-Republican” year, but an anti-incumbent year. People want to see clear distinctions and effective solutions, and when they don’t they disengage. In both Federal and State elections, the lack of clear contrasts between the various parties and real solutions on key issues that impact voters (jobs, economic development, education) will ultimately hurt members of the party which is perceived to hold the power. In Federal elections this means that Democrats will suffer. In State elections it SHOULD mean that Republicans, who hold majorities in both the State House and Senate will suffer. Unfortunately, this may not be the case for several reasons.

First, Democrats held solid majorities in the House and Senate until quite recently. Most Tennessee voters are relatively disengaged from state politics as they don’t dominate the media the same way national politics do. Taking that into account, I would wager that if you conducted a “convenience store poll”, which is unscientific, but I think, a good indicator of how engaged regular folks are, few would know that Republicans hold the majority in Tennessee.

Second, a Democrat has held the highest position in the land for the past 8 years in Tennessee. This further feeds the perception that Democrats have been in power even though they haven’t necessarily had control of the legislative agenda over the past two years. This isn’t Phil Bredesen’s fault. He didn’t create the national problems that are impacting us stateside, however, because people see executive power as ultimate control, it feeds the perception that Democrats are the problem.

Third, and this is something I’ve been preaching for years now, from a practical perspective, voters perceive little difference between many state Democrats and Republicans. The absence of these clear distinctions, as I’ve stated before, puts negative pressure on Democratic candidates which translates into what we saw in the August elections here in Shelby County… an energized right and an absent left.

With just 36 days to go until election day, if Democrats don’t get it together and start drawing clear distinctions between themselves and their Republican counterparts and providing solutions they’re going to suffer dire consequences that will likely result in decades of life living in the shadows of political power. This isn’t about “Hope” or “Change”, it’s about “reform”. Democrats have to re-form the way they do business with their constituents and re-connect with them to re-gain their trust, ultimately showing them they are not the agents of “same”.

Same ain’t working for anyone right now. It’s past time we recognized that and acted on it. Old habits die hard, and barring some divine intervention, so will a lot of longtime legislative careers.

I, and many other people, have been preaching this since the after 2008 state legislative losses that gave Republicans the State House and solid majorities in the State Senate, but few have actually listened. I’m not sure why I’ve gone to all the trouble to put this out there again, but here it is. Same will give you a more devastating repeat of 2008.

While many current elected officials won’t be around in 20 years to feel the effects of this election, I (God willing) will. This isn’t about running to the left, or right or anything like that. In fact, I think we need to stop quantifying things in this manner. It’s about being trusted advocates for the people rather than trustees that assume to know what’s best. It’s about educating your voters instead of trying to justify your votes. It’s about flipping the relationship between representative and constituent around from the plantation mentality scenario that currently exists between many elected officials from both parties and their constituents.

Voters don’t need their current representatives as badly as those representatives need the voters. That’s reality. If something doesn’t give, a lot of people are going to find this out the hard way come November.

Ok, I think I’ve stepped in it good enough for a Monday morning. On to the Coffee!

I can’t wait to see someone try and sneak up on the “Stealth Tax”. Since when was closing a loophole a bad thing? Since the world went mad.

Bill Haslam’s pick for President in 2008 famously said, “Bomb, bomb, bomb…bomb, bomb, Iran.” Tom Humphrey reports on Haslam’s Iran Connection and other developments in the Tennessee Gubernatorial race.

With all the racket about the Murfreesboro Mosque, it’s good to see some sanity brought into the conversation. And right here in Memphis, no less.

The City Paper in Nashville looks at the race for State House District 60.

Southern Beale on privatizing libraries, and Andy Meek on Shelby County libraries that are privatized.

Who left West Tennessee out of the electric car?

Finally, the debate over Metro Government rages on in Shelby County. In this episode, black political power is the topic of the day.

Have a great day out there. Not sure if I’ll be able to do this daily, but I promise to try and get at least a couple a week until my schedule calms down.

Rural Voters Are Tired Of The Political Spin

Downtown Martin

Finally, a story comes from the  Tennessean about how rural voters are sick and tired of hearing candidates talk about jobs but not have a concrete plan.

The economy — creating jobs and lowering unemployment — is by far the most important issue in this year’s elections, voters across the state say. But in town squares and truck stops, restaurants and fields, many Tennesseans remain uncertain what the next governor and state legislature can do to solve the economic challenges that have bedeviled the state’s rural communities for more than two decades.

Chas Sisk is citing things in this story that I have been talking about for a long time. Rural communities are working hard to bring jobs back that have  left to head overseas.  Finding a job in the current environment (and my point of reference is west Tennessee) is nearly impossible unless you have an “in” with someone who can make a difference and those folks are hard to find these days. Over the past two weeks alone I have heard several people that say they are going to have to move because “there just isn’t anything here” from two separate counties. Another house in our community has gone on the market due to the father to three boys losing his job last summer. He has gone to school to learn a new trade but the jobs just aren’t here.

The issue comes to that a once thriving manufacturing boom for this area honestly ended it’s run more than 40 years ago. Within the last 10 years, needle and thread companies, shoe factories and countless others have closed their doors. The economic situation was set on manufacturing and goods production and there wasn’t much left after those opportunities were gone. No major industries has replaced those that are now abandoned buildings and other than agriculture, which still thrives although we have seen several drought years, the dependency on manufacturing has left an impossible hole that has not been filled. Community leaders have fought diligently to bring industry back, but small business in many areas is what is left and those jobs are not as solid as they once were. Big industry leaves but it impacts small companies.

In a poll published yesterday in the Commercial Appeal, the answer was clear on where voters stood on the issues:

The Mason-Dixon Tennessee Poll, conducted for the Tennessee Newspaper Network & WBIR-TV of Knoxville, asked 625 registered voters across Tennessee the opened-ended question, “What do you feel is the single most important state issue facing Tennessee today?”

The answers:

Economy/jobs: 54%

Government spending/taxes/state budget: 22%

Health care: 8%

Immigration: 6%

Education: 5%

Roads/bridges/transportation: 1%

Environment/growth and sprawl: 1%

Social issues/family values/abortion/gay rights: 1%

Other issues/not sure: 2%

I have heard repeated (and thought it myself, quite frankly) that rural voters are tired of being put into a box, stereotyped by Washington and Nashville to a large degree as well, on what they need when many of these people have never made it off I-40.

Candidates across the state are wanting the rural vote. The issue comes down to that rural voters are not engaged right now with the political spin in the least and those votes are going to be hard-earned in this economy.

Rural voters could care less right now because they are too busy trying to find jobs.

Unemployment Pay And Hypocrisy

The question is simple: What’s wrong with getting unemployment pay?


Not one thing – and thankfully the Senate today squeaked out a bill to continue payments to 2.5 million jobless Americans. The money – $34 billion – will be quickly spent, yes, but that also means recapturing cash in local economies via spending and local taxes, and reductions in other assistance programs like food stamps and other safety net programs are a likely byproduct too.

Joe and I both know that there is a bit of hypocrisy coming out of the mouths of folks like Mitch McConnell who votes for some things and then not others.

The Most Important Election In Recent Memory

R. Neal is breaking down the races around the state in a timely post this afternoon.

We’ve finally gotten around to looking at the 99 races for the Tennessee House of Representatives. As you are aware (but we’ll repeat it like a broken record anyway), this is the most important election in recent memory because of the gerrymandering redistricting that will occur after the 2010 Census.

If Republicans maintain their tenuous control of the House, Democrats are out of business for a generation and our kids will be praying in public schools at the start of every Jesus rode dinosaurs class for vouchers and guns for Christmas so they can grow up to meet the gays, immigrants and Obama at the border after stopping by the Pilot to gas up the Hummer and buy a lotto ticket and a pack of cigs on the way.

Assuming our counts are correct, here are some basic numbers (for the purposes of this discussion.

Go see what he’s looking at Knox Views.

The New Normal

When floods swept through Tennessee, lives were changed. What was taken for granted in many ways was gone. The state was optimistic though but the reality of having to start over impacted many Tennesseans lives and now that’s it’s not front page news we must not forget that this situation is nowhere near over.

Much can be said about the recent recession as well. We hear that numbers are slowly creeping up but what I don’t hear in mainstream media is that even though unemployment numbers have slowed down or ceased in many cases, the harsh truth is that people who once had full-time employment with benefits have had to take underpaying jobs, sometimes at wages that they haven’t seen in years.

Benefits? What’s that?

We hear of the Jonas Brothers, of how people love/hate (candidate’s name here) but what I’m not hearing is that we have a new normal. Challenges that several generations of hard-working people were not prepared to deal with. We hear of the us/them factor. I have heard repeatedly the line “no one cares about us” not only in rural areas but in urban ones as well.  Some candidates during this campaign season are running on platforms that openly mock and fear monger religious belief. We hear about issues such as these and not of infant mortality? Are babies only of value until they are born? And women’s issues are under attack, but it’s not “sexy” until you have people yelling on television from opposing viewpoints where the original message was initially and irrevocably lost. Daily we read of how corporations must be taken care of but small businesses are the ones that employee most of our working population in this country and this state.

Wedge issues are toxic. They infect the mind and the soul in our society. People need answers. They need to feel that they are of value. Why can’t we focus on how to work together instead of it being a competition of who has it worse off than the other guy. Why can’t we focus on how neighbors, communities and strong leadership can create stronger bonds for our future instead of who can outsnark the next guy. Political strategy only helps those seeking office, it does very little to help people that have sacrificed and lost everything.

Much can be said about the human condition, we adapt, we evolve and we deal with what’s put in front of us. It would just be nice though if leaders got out of their boxes and realized that real Tennesseans are suffering and experiencing loss. The new normal could be an opportunity but a creeping cynicism within my soul tells me that won’t be the case.

Image Credit

Style Over Substance

Jim Voorhies is really knocking it out of the ballpark this weekend. He talks about how election years are really no different that a year of politics these days. And how everyone is being failed.

There are many things we need to discuss – as a people – that is, and it’s not going to be easy any more. In fact, I don’t even know if it is possible any more, because it requires rational discourse. Not agreement, mind you, we’ll never achieve that, but just discussing things and moving on.

Because that is what the founding fathers intended, even more than the right to bear arms, the right to a trial by a jury of our peers, the right to speak out in discontent with the government or any of the rest of the bill of rights. They intended this republic to be based on discussion of the issues, voting on them in a democratic manner, and then more or less moving on to the next issue.

And he’s right. We need a discussion, we need to be able to talk about things without an automatic verbal door being slammed in the faces of people who may have a different point of view. The posturing and the snark right now that has become more prevalent than a real conversation isn’t helping anyone.

Seriously. And the sad thing is that I’m afraid that we aren’t going to return to being smart, just louder.

Everyone loses.

Thirsty Thursday

It’s abyss time, campers, where the week has put on it’s false teeth and bitten a chunk out of our hineys. Yet, there is a fond and gentle hope that on this Friday Eve we can slowly recover from a work week that wanted our souls, our babies’ souls and most probably the souls of our pets.

I believe in pets having souls. You would to if you have ever met my dog Mabel, who is the officially unofficial Secretary of Steak for the state of Tennessee. She ran for president a couple of years ago. She would have won too if there wasn’t that sex scandal and all.

Light blogging around the state today and I haven’t decided if that’s just summer and we are hot, crabby, rashy and mosquito-bitten. Hope the trend doesn’t stick around which reminds me, if you guys aren’t on our aggregator or have something you want us to see that we have missed, be sure to drop us a line at speaktopower at gmail dot com.

On to our Thursday afternoon perky linkdump of love.

Gail Kerr on the Bredesen endorsement of McWherter. Jackson Baker asks a question.

Freelancing Journalists are yet again taking another hit.

Aunt B. questions the issue of anti-obesity v. anti-poverty.

If you register to vote this year, be sure to follow it up. More information at the Tennessee Citizen Action

DanceDivam and Aunt B. spotlight the plight of Milan today. Thanks so much guys.

The site for the Tennessee Aids Advocacy Network is up and running.

Michael Silence is voting for Clint Webb. Go find out who Clint Webb is.

A really thoughtful and wonderful article about Memphis Beat from the Daily News Blog. It’s funny, I live 120 miles north of Memphis and was staying out on a friend’s farm when this show debuted. I wasn’t watching it (Deadliest Catch girl here) but I heard a wail from another room going “DAMMIT, they are making fun of Tennesseans again!”  I hate to say I wasn’t surprised but I’ll give the show a shot when it doesn’t get in the way of me watching Sig, Phil and Johnathan.