Tag Archives: politics

Columnist, brain rotted by fluoride, critiques conspiracy theories

Conspiracy theories are this week’s chosen topic for columnist Robert Houk, whose brain has allegedly been “rotted” by fluoride. He has examples from Northeast Tennessee as well as nationally.

The best conspiracy theories, however, are those that are close to home. Such was the case last week when Tennessee Valley Authority officials felt the need to deny rumors that the reason it is expected to take between five and seven years to repair Boone Dam is so the Tennessee Department of Transportation could take advantage of the low (actually no) water levels in parts of the lake to build bridges for the so-called “Airport Parkway South.”

Never mind the project was shelved years ago, and no funding has been designated in the state budget for such work, the TVA and TDOT are nonetheless conspiring to revive it.

Right. And the reason is to entice actor Brad Pitt to buy a house on the lake.

Another close-to-home conspiracy theory involves this state’s “Voter ID” law. This law was passed in response to what Republican conspiracy theorists claim to be be rampant voter fraud. No evidence of such a problem, however, has been produced in Tennessee or any of the other Republican-controlled states that have passed a Voter ID law.

Democrats argue the real purpose of this American Legislative Exchange Council-written law is to keep the poor and minorities away from the polls.

That’s exactly what the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said last week when it struck down a similar Voter ID law in Texas. Perhaps those judges were under the influence of chemtrails, or maybe fluoride in their drinking water when they handed down their decision.

Bill banning teacher politicking at work gets final legislative approval

(Charlie Daniel cartoon)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Legislation to prohibit Tennessee teachers from engaging in political campaigning during work hours is headed to the governor.

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Joey Hensley, of Hohenwald, was approved 27-6 in the Senate on Wednesday. The companion bill (HB158) passed the House 68-27 earlier this month.

Currently, public school teachers and other school employees are excluded from the Little Hatch Act, which applies to most state employees. The proposal would add teachers to the employees prohibited from campaigning at work. Teachers could still campaign on their own time.

Republican Sen. Doug Overbey of Maryville voted against the measure because he doesn’t think it’s necessary. He said most school districts already have policies to prevent campaigning.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam will review the legislation when it reaches his desk.

Note: Previous post HERE.

Some miscellaneous TN political links, mostly year-end stuff

‘Watchdog’ snarls at Democrats, ECD
The “nonpartisan” Tennessee Watchdog targets three Democratic politicians, one state government department and “taxes on tourists” for a year-end round of bashing as the “top five trendsetters for bigger government and taxpayer waste in 2013.”

No. 1 is U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, followed by “hotel and motel taxes,” especially in Memphis; the state Department of Economic and Community Development; Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

Political dummies?
Under the headline “Political Year 2013 for Dummies,” Jackson Baker rambles from a developing schism in the “control of a monolithic state Republican party” over all political things in Tennessee to the “apparently insoluble Shelby County Schools dilemma, and to federal government gridlock.

Should Waffling William become Bold Bill?
The Vanderbilt Political Review, which is generally devoted to national and international topics, ventures into Tennessee turf with an article on Gov. Bill Haslam’s indecision on Medicaid expansion, suggesting in scholarly fashion that he ought to do something, one way or the other. Excerpt:

The vague terms and low likelihood of a successful compromise indicates that it may be in the best interests of Tennesseans for Gov. Haslam to choose a side and stick with it, no matter what the cost may be. Each decision will inevitably have its drawbacks, however the increasing costs of indecision appear to be too heavy for the Tennessee to bear in the position it occupies in an already tenuous national health care scheme. The Affordable Care Act has ushered in an era of innovation, and with it an era of uncertainty. The only viable option at a time like this is to make a decision and be prepared to defend it to the unavoidable opposition that will occur.

Kyle’s ‘naughty and nice’ list
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, in a Memphis Flyer piece:

“The timely question is: Will our state lawmakers be naughty or nice? (in the coming session).

A sample answer:
Governor Bill Haslam, for his part, has proposed a nice plan to use federal money for people who want to buy private insurance. He announced the plan almost one year ago, but he has been naughty since then and made no progress.

Lamar laments ‘unhappy new year’
Sen. Lamar Alexander says the new year will be an unhappy one for ‘tens of thousands’ of Tennesseans because of Obamacare, HERE. That’s after the “unwelcome Christmas present” of President Obama’s “broken promise” on Obamacare. HERE. (Note: A new year, but not a new message — Alexander really, really hates Obamacare. Got that yet, Republican primary voters?)

Small Farm Frank
Frank Cagle’s weekly rumination is on the subject of small farmers, agribusiness and the need for state and federal government involvement in striking a balance between the two.
But there are standard things being done to the food supply, like putting antibiotics in animal feed, that ought to be widely exposed if not prohibited. Like putting arsenic in chicken feed to stimulate appetites and make chickens grow faster.

Excerpts and links to some recent TN political commentary

Nashville Should Secede from TN?
From a column by J.R. Lind:
After decades of benign neglect from state government, Davidson County has suddenly become the legislature’s petri dish, a regular experiment in how much onerous meddling a local government can take from the state.

…With an ever-redder legislature and a staunchly cerulean Metro Council, the two bodies are bound to butt heads again and again over the best way to operate the state’s capital city.

It will be frustrating for both and exhausting for the rest of us — so why not just cut the ties. This doesn’t have to be contentious or violent; it can be a velvet divorce.

Carving out an enclave of deeply Democratic Nashville will necessarily increase the power of the Republicans statewide. Nobody outside of Memphis will miss the Tennessee Democratic Party — not that the TNDP has been accomplishing much anyway — and all those Democrats can find new gigs in Nashville’s single-party state, giving them an opportunity to have a hand in governance, which they’ve (hopefully) not forgotten how to do.

There are some logistical concerns, of course. Tennessee would have to find a new capital. Hohenwald is lovely, and they are already used to having a bunch of old elephants stomping around. Gov. Haslam will be rid of the problem of what to do with all the state buildings; he can just quitclaim them to Nashville instead of to the real estate company he invests in. Nashville wouldn’t have to form its own legislature, though, because the city council is already bigger than the state senate.
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Gobble Appointment Inspires Ethical Questions

Cari Wade Gervin provides a detailed critique of former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble’s appointment of former Bradley County Sheriff Tim Gobble by Gov. Bill Haslam to the state Board of Parole under the headline, “Haslam’s New Parole Board Appointee Doesn’t Believe in Separation of Church and State or, Apparently, Ethics.”
An excerpt:
In February, Gobble resigned from his position after a string of malfeasances, including abusing the city’s Facebook page; hiring a 19-year old friend from church he referred to as his “Jedi Knight” as the city’s communications director at $35,000 a year and then, when realizing that the appointment violated city code, deleting the code from the website in the hopes that no one would find out; threatening and suspending a court clerk over a case Gobble’s daughter was involved in; and even using his city credit card to pay for regular trips to Baskin Robbins as a “justifiable business expense.” (The last one we can at least understand — ice cream is pretty necessary to human existence.)
….And it’s true, Gobble does have lots of experience in law enforcement, which is conceivably a good quality for someone tasked with the ability to grant offenders parole. However, it turns out that Gobble wasn’t really good at those jobs either. He was reportedly fired from his position in the Secret Service and forced to resign from his position as director of the Bradley County Emergency Agency for violations of the Hatch Act — i.e., the law that prevents people using their offices to conduct campaign activities on the job. (Similar violations had previously forced him off the Cleveland City Council.)
Then, just before Gobble left his job as Bradley County Sheriff, the jail almost lost its certification with the Tennessee Corrections Institute for overcrowding, mold in the kitchen, and standing water in at least one cell. But all of that was ok with Gobble, we guess, because it seems his main concern with running a prison wasn’t maintaining it but rather bringing prisoners to Jesus. In a rather long essay, apparently penned while on the job and then posted to the actual official Bradley County Sheriff’s website, Gobble explains how “Our Christian Heritage” — that’s the essay’s title — is influencing how he runs his jail.

Casada, Fitzhugh Clash Over School Security Bill

State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says Republicans showed an inclination to “put petty politics above the safety of our students” during the legislative session by killing one of his bills.
House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada says that’s not so and Fitzhugh is “seeing a ghost behind every tree.”
The bill in issue (HB494) passed the Senate unanimously and cleared House committees system until it reached the Calendar Committee at the end of the session, where Casada declared it unneeded and “duplicative” of present law. He made a motion that, in effect, killed it for the year. The panel’s Republican majority backed him, scuttling the bill.
As amended, the bill declares that the Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Commission and the Tennessee Law Enforcement Training Academy, upon request of any school system, will provide advice on school security systems.
Fitzhugh said the move was retaliation for his vote against the state budget bill.
“This was a good bill that had bipartisan support throughout the legislative session. Had I known they would take it out on our students and teachers, I would have voted for their budget,” Fitzhugh said in a news release distributed by the House Democratic Caucus.
“Republicans leaders warned us about voting against the budget, but I never thought that in the wake of the horrors at Sandy Hook that they’d risk the safety and security of our children and grandchildren just to prove a point,” he said.
Casada said, when asked last week, that was “absolutely not” the case. Current law already allows the POST Commission to give advice to schools and the bill was “just playing politics” by Democrats seeking to claim credit for enhancing school security.
Current law apparently contains nothing that would prohibit the POST Commission from offering security advice to school systems, but nothing that explicitly authorizes it either.

Bill Haslam: ‘No Night Sweats’ Over Pilot Flying J; Democrats Respectful (sorta)

After 12 minutes of “easy questions,” Gov. Bill Haslam was asked about the Pilot Flying J investigation during a summit on manufacturing in Washington last week “to give you the chance if you want to say anything,” reports Chris Carroll.
“Oh, well, thanks,” Haslam murmured. “I guess.”
When the laughter died down, the governor offered a full-throated defense of the family business, but Jordan’s question prompted a pained hesitation that may redefine Haslam as political opponents search for chinks in his armor.
…Democrats already are connecting the FBI investigation with an old fight with Haslam. Soon after taking office, the governor rolled back financial disclosure rules for himself and other top officials. That meant he didn’t have to disclose his assets, many of which originated with Pilot.
“I thought it was a mistake before the FBI raid. I think it’s a double mistake to continue down that path now,” Tennessee Democratic Party Chairman Roy Herron said. “I don’t think any of us know how severe the conflicts are or how much he’s personally profited from what appear to be — what apparently the FBI thinks — were wrongful actions.”
..In an interview after the Washington Post event, Haslam emphasized the ongoing nature of the investigation, saying he has “no doubt that the top management of the company always intends to do the right thing.”
“No night sweats,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to run a re-election campaign based on what I’ve done as governor.”
Like Ingram, Haslam stressed that it’s been more than a decade since he played a direct role in the company. (Note: Tom Ingram is a political consultant to Bill Haslam and has been retained as a PR consultant to Pilot Flying J and CEO Jimmy Haslam during the federal investigation.)
“It’s been so long since I’ve worked there that a whole lot of the folks that are mentioned [in the affidavit] are people I don’t even know,” he said.
The governor made that statement six hours before The Tennessean newspaper published a story that implied otherwise. The newspaper identified 10 Pilot executives in the FBI affidavit who gave a total of $56,000 to Haslam in campaign contributions.
… (Democratic party tweets cited: “Nine Pilot executives mentioned in the FBI affidavit gave a combined $56k to @BillHaslam’s campaign.” “Gov. @BillHaslam, political campaign directly benefited from Pilot Flying J’s scheme to cheat truckers, small biz.”)
In response to the Tennessean report, a Haslam spokesman stressed the governor’s army of contributors and said, “It’s natural that a Pilot employee would be one of those.”
…Chattanooga Tea Party President Mark West said he thought the government’s aggressive approach means there’s something sinister behind the scenes. Some have speculated pure politics; leading the investigation is Bill Killian, the U.S. attorney in East Tennessee appointed in 2010 by President Barack Obama.
“It’s more than likely politically motivated,” West said.
Haslam rejected that outright.
“I’m not typically a conspiracy-theorist type of guy,” he said, “and I’m not in this either.

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On Bashing Tennessee… Especially the Legislature

Bashing the Tennessee Legislature and legislators has become quite popular in some national media circles, but the state’s homegrown writers are pretty good at it, too – as illustrated in two Sunday pieces from opposite ends of the state.
Scott McNutt’s satire blast begins thusly:
As time runs out on the Tennessee General Assembly’s 2013 session, some lawmakers are pushing for Tennessee to secede from the current century.
Although much legislation that would have thrust Tennessee backward in time failed this time around, lawmakers advocating temporal secession argue that the fact that they keep promoting these regressive, time-warping bills only proves how awful the present is and, by extension, how wonderful the past was,

And here’s one excerpt:
Tennessee’s ostensible lieutenant governor, Ron Ramsey, R-Happy Days, informed titular Gov. Bill Haslam that he had decided not to dissuade the Legislature’s time-secession movement.
Ramsey said, “I’m going to let them loose. We might land in the 19th century. It might be the 20th. We might overshoot and hit the ‘Land That Time Forgot.’ The governor said he’d prefer the ‘Land of the Lost,’ but I can’t control them.”
Haslam said that, while he liked some of the anachronistic legislation lawmakers had proposed, he was still taking time to study the possibility of considering the potential feasibility — while weighing the advisability — of determining if it were within the realm of theoretical probability that he might perhaps decide before the end of the century whether any 21st-century secession bills were plausible contenders for his veto.
“Or not,” he added firmly.

Over in Memphis, Wendi C. Thomas compares the Tennessee General Assembly to the Mississippi legislature – and not favorably.
The Mississippi legislature waited until February to formally ratify the 13th Amendment, which in 1865 abolished slavery.
A 148-year-old oversight is embarrassing.
What the Tennessee legislature has done to the poor and working class is reprehensible.

Thomas mentions in her piece a fine example of Tennessee-trashing on the national level, which appeared in Salon.com (HERE). It begins:
If you’re worried about where America is heading, look no further than Tennessee. Its lush mountains and verdant rolling countryside belie a mean-spirited public policy that only makes sense if you believe deeply in the anti-collectivist, anti-altruist philosophy of Ayn Rand. It’s what you get when you combine hatred for government with disgust for poor people.

If you’re looking for some TN political commentary…..

Here are a few examples of Tennesseans with opinions and observations, recently available online and collected in rather random looking, about this, that or the other.
President Bill Haslam? The Tennessean collects Washington commentary on the matter. Heslam is a “solutions-oriented conservative” and a “conservative pragmatist.” But, well,that might not make everybody in the GOP happy.
.Under the headline, “Drinking the Hemlock Kool-Aid,” Trent Siebert critiques the 2008 decision to give big incentives to the company’s Clarksville company and that “there seems to be little desire from current Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican, to see if taxpayer money can be saved.”
Sen. Lamar Alexander is running hard for reelection at age 72, determined not to be this year’s version of Richard Lugar or Bob Bennett (which seems highly unlikely), observes Frank Cagle.
George Korda has no respect for anonymous commenters. “They’re either scared or they would be embarrassed if they identified themselves. It’s that or they themselves believe their comments are so insipid they don’t want their names associated with them.”
Robert Houk, after listening to the Tennessee Hospital Association’s explanation of what Medicaid expansion would mean, says “doing the math shouldn’t be that much of a head-scratcher for GOP lawmakers. But it will.” (The Commercial Appeal, editorially, pretty much agrees with him.)
“Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Paul Smith moved last month to kick from the party’s board members who leak details to the media, criticize party operations or publicly question his performance as chairman. Chris Carroll reports.
State Democratic Chairman Roy Herron says being a Christian and a Democrat just go together. The op-ed piece, which hit the “most popular” list on the newspaper’s website, is HERE.
Otis Sanford on the Great Parks-Naming Controversy in Memphis: “Let’s sell the naming rights to these parks and make some money on this deal.” HERE. But did anybody notice there’s something missing in the debate?

Some Looking Back at the Last Political Year

Highs and Lows for TN’s GOP Leaders
Andrea Zelinski has a 2012 reminiscence focused on the legislature and Gov. Bill Haslam’s doings. It starts like this:
Between the governor’s first veto and wild political backlash against Republican leaders, this was a year of firsts on Capitol Hill. It all started in January when Republicans took control over legislative redistricting for the first time.
The Sen’s Sizeup
Sen. Stacey Campfield,, in a blog post, put together a list of Tennessee superlatives for 2012. A couple of samples:
Tumble of the year – Scott Deejarleigh. OK. I may never get the spelling of his name down but one thing is for sure his political stock went down when his divorce proceedings came out.
Non news story of the year- Wine in grocery stores. Seldom has so much been said and reported about something that had so little to no chance of actual movement.

Elsewhere, briefly….
Nooga.com did a rundown on the year of Gov. Bill Haslam and another on U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais… along with some Hamilton County and Chattanooga city politics.
The News Sentinel’s list of top East Tennessee stories included two political items – Tim Burchett’s campaign finance/divorc troubles at No. seven and DesJarlais divorce revelation difficulties at No. 9. (Pat Summitt’s retirement topped the list.)
Metro Pulse did a Knoxville-oriented rundown – with some mention of the legislature. Nashville City Paper focused, reasonably enough, on Nashville HERE.