Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain “ignored the elephant in the room” during a talk at Middle Tennessee State University Thursday evening, reports the Tennessean, failing to mention the future of his campaign amid allegations of martial misconduct. Instead, he stuck to the script – a lecture on business for MTSU students.
The Daily News Journal notes that his visit was disrupted by Occupy Murfreesboro protesters. Midway through Cain’s presentation on his rise through the corporate ranks of Burger King and Godfather’s Pizza, four MTSU students stood and yelled, “Mic check. Mic check. We are the 99 percent. We are the 99 percent.”
Others shouted them down in the packed State Farm Room of the Business and Aerospace Building, but they still managed to get in a few words such as,
“You owe the American people an apology” and “Sexual abuse is not acceptable,” in reference to allegations that he sexually harassed women while leading the National Restaurant Association and carried on a 13-year affair with a Georgia woman.
Cain refused to respond at that point and noted he had told Jim Burton, dean of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, he wouldn’t touch on politics.
Only toward the end of the evening when answering questions did Cain speak about the outburst by Occupy members, saying, “We have freedom of speech. Some people simply abuse it. The way I interpret it was they interrupted my party because they couldn’t attract their own.”
Note: Today’s national AP story on the status of the Cain campaign is below. (It includes a mention of the MTSU event.)
Problems with Tennessee’s teacher evaluation system have attracted the attention of the New York Times, which today carries a story, datelined Murfreesboro, on the subject.. The state requires that teachers be evaluated by their students’ test scores, and that principals get into classrooms regularly to observe teachers.
(Blackman Middle School Principal Will) Shelton is a big believer in both.
But not this. “I’ve never seen such nonsense,” he said. “In the five years I’ve been principal here, I’ve never known so little about what’s going on in my own building.” Mr. Shelton has to spend so much time filling out paperwork that he’s stuck in his office for long stretches.
The new rules, enacted at the start of the school year, require Mr. Shelton to do as many observations for his strongest teachers — four a year — as for his weakest. “It’s an insult to my best teachers,” he said, “but it’s also a terrible waste of time.”
Because there are no student test scores with which to evaluate over half of Tennessee’s teachers — kindergarten to third-grade teachers; art, music and vocational teachers — the state has created a bewildering set of assessment rules. Math specialists can be evaluated by their school’s English scores, music teachers by the school’s writing scores.
“One of my teachers came to me six weeks ago and said, ‘Will, morale is in the toilet,’ ” Mr. Shelton recalled. “This destroys any possibility of building a family atmosphere. It causes so much distrust.”
….But tweaking the rules may not be nearly enough. A recent article in Education Week said essentially that things were so bad in Tennessee, there was a danger that the grant program would be undermined elsewhere.
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (AP) — A retired couple from Murfreesboro will testify before a House subcommittee about their experience with Tennessee’s new law requiring a photo ID as Democrats question whether these types of state laws create barriers to voting.
“These changes in state voting laws raise serious constitutional concerns under both the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Fifteenth Amendment,” U.S. Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Jerrold Nadler of New York wrote in a letter to Judiciary Committee chairman.
In a hearing scheduled for Nov. 14, Lee Campbell and his wife, Phyllis, will talk about their experience securing a photo ID for her. She is one of the estimated 126,000 registered voters in Tennessee over age 60 who do not have a photo on their driver’s license.
The state has promised to provide photo IDs free of charge, but Lee Campbell told The Daily News Journal they ran into trouble when they went to a license testing center on Sept. 9 (http://ht.ly/1fsnaz ). They asked for a free ID, Lee Campbell said, but were told by a worker that the process involved too much paperwork and that they should just renew her driver’s license to add a photo at a cost of $8 or $12.
The couple persisted and said they wanted a free ID, but instead the worker made her a new driver’s license with a photo free of charge.
District Supervisor Amy Lackey told the newspaper in September that they were encouraging people to renew their licenses, rather than obtaining a separate ID for voting. She said that’s because the testing center has to create a new ID number and the state office has to merge the numbers on the driver’s license and the photo ID. People also must fill out an affidavit swearing that they have no other form of acceptable photo ID for voting purposes.
But Lackey said they will issue a photo ID for voting purposes only, if people insist on it.
“They have to let us know they need a photo to vote,” Lackey said, adding she wasn’t surprised the Campbells had to wait almost an hour to get the license renewed.
The law that takes effect on Jan. 1 does allow people to use expired state or federal identification as long as it contains a photo.
The law makes exceptions for people who vote absentee by mail, residents of a nursing home or assisted living center who vote at the facility, those who are hospitalized, citizens with a religious objection to being photographed and voters who are indigent and unable to obtain a photo ID without paying a fee.
Ninety-one-year-old Virginia Lasater has voted and worked in campaigns for some 70 years. But Wednesday, according to the Daily News Journal, she ran head-long into the barrier Tennessee’s new voter photo ID law is throwing up for some elderly people. Recently moved to Murfreesboro from her farm in Lewisburg to live with son, Richard Lasater, she registered to vote Wednesday at the Rutherford County Election Commission office but that afternoon found herself facing long lines at the driver’s license testing center in Murfreesboro. She’s never had a photo ID on her license, even though she’s still capable of driving and goes to Sunday school.
Aided by a walking cane to get around, she quickly decided she couldn’t stand up long enough to wait and her son could find no chairs available for her to sit. Richard estimated a least 100 people were in the building, and workers were “way overworked and way understaffed.” He was told at the help desk there was nothing they could do but wait.
They left, upset about the law and the long lines.
“I’m just afraid people will say it’s too much trouble,” said Mrs. Lasater.
…”It really makes me about halfway mad because I know what’s going on,” says Mrs. Lasater. She’s “absolutely” sure the law is part of a Republican strategy to keep senior citizens from voting.
“The Muslims are Coming!” comedy show, with jokes celebrating cultural differences, pleased a diverse crowd Saturday, packing most all 450 seats at MTSU’s Wright Music Building, according to the Daily News Journal. “We try to bring people together,” show host Dean Obeidallah told the audience at the free show and noted he was raised by a proud Christian mother and Muslim father. “Everyone has the same rights and religious freedom.”
Obeidallah got several laughs when he did his own version of comedian Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck if … ” shtick.
“You might be an Arab redneck if your trailer faces Mecca,” Obeidallah said.
Obeidallah took turns doing stand up comedy with fellow Muslims Omar Elba, Negin Farsad and Maysoon Zayid.
The Muslim comics were joined by Peter Depp, a gay Jewish comedian, and a Monty Mitchell, who identified himself as being the Christian part of the show.
“I don’t have that many good jokes because I’m not that good of a Christian,” said Mitchell, who described his Southern accent as being Appalachian “with a hint of incest.”
Elba cracked jokes about coping with moving to the United States as a child from Egypt a few days before Sept. 11 and living in Texas. After terrorists attacked America, he recalled what the school sign said the next day.
“We don’t let terrorists interfere with our class schedule,” he said. “Yee-haw!”
UPDATE: Murfreesboro Muslims saddened by Cain commentary, HERE.)
Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain opposes a planned Tennessee mosque that has been the subject of protests and legal challenges.
Cain didn’t bring up the controversial facility in a campaign rally on Thursday, but told reporters afterward that he’s concerned about the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.
“It is an infringement and an abuse of our freedom of religion,” he said. “And I don’t agree with what’s happening, because this isn’t an innocent mosque.”
The new mosque has been the subject of protests and counterprotests in the city about 35 miles southeast of Nashville.
A county judge ruled in May that the mosque construction does not harm the residents who sued to try to stop it, but he allowed them to move forward on claims the county violated an open meetings law in approving it.
Opponents have used the hearings to argue that the mosque is part of a plot to expand Islamic extremism in the U.S. Cain appeared to agree.
“It is another example of why I believe in American laws and American courts,” Cain said. “This is just another way to try to gradually sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that.”