Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Daily Links: Women Protecting Rhinos, Slush Waves, and Runaway Llamas

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 5:00 PM

Every day we read a lot of stuff. If it's interesting, thought provoking, funny or being shared by everyone we know on the Internet, we share some of it with you. Happy reading.

From the Guardian: World's first all-female patrol protecting South Africa's rhinos

From The New Yorker: What the Clinton Foundation Is Costing Hillary

From the Guardian: 'Slush' waves form on Nantucket as ocean freezes — big picture

From Chapter 16: It Wasn’t Strange at the Time

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NAAWP: What Could It Mean?

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 2:16 PM

As you might be aware, Republican state Rep. Sheila Butt has spent the last 24 hours beclowning herself.

There have been twists, turns, and press releases in this increasingly absurd story, which now includes Butt's bizarre — and that's putting it generously — advice about interracial dating from a book she wrote in 2008.

But it all started yesterday with the discovery of a Facebook comment Butt wrote last month responding to a post about the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “It’s time for a Council of Christian Relations and a NAAWP in this Country," Butt wrote in the since-deleted post.

This is a self-evidently stupid thing to say. But Butt's reaction to the general interpretation of her comment — that NAAWP stood for National Association for the Advancement of White People, as opposed to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People — managed to be equally baffling.

First, she hilariously refused to explain the acronym to our Andrea Zelinski, while repeatedly calling Zelinksi — an adult, professional woman — "baby" and "baby doll." She would go on to offer various explanations, eventually telling one reporter that the WP in her acronym stood for "Western Peoples" (apparently not realizing that this is makes no more sense and is no less wrongheaded).

Well, in any case, we embarked on our own investigation yesterday to try to determine what Butt might have meant by NAAWP. And as it turns out, in her defense, there are a lot of possibilities.

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The Story of Claude Garrett and the Bad Science of Arson

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 11:00 AM

In 1992, a small house in Old Hickory caught fire, killing 24-year-old Lorie Lance. Her boyfriend, Claude Garrett, survived only to be found guilty of murdering her by setting the fire himself. He is now serving a life sentence at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution just outside of Nashville.

And the arson science that sent him there was horribly flawed.

That's the story told in a remarkable new piece from Liliana Segura of The Intercept. You have to read it.

The piece is long and detailed, but here's a taste:

The first person exonerated for arson murder, according to the National Registry of Wrongful Convictions, was Ray Girdler Jr. in Arizona, in December 1991 — two months before the Hopewell fire. Girdler had been convicted of burning his wife and child to death in their trailer park home in 1981. He swore he was innocent, but his behavior the night of the fire had been bizarre. As firefighters battled the blaze, Girdler had gone to his neighbor and asked for a beer, which he drank on the couch with no sign of emotion. Yet 10 years later, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Advances in fire science have wrought a stunning turnabout, providing explanations for the fire that suddenly seem to justify Girdler’s version of events.”

Today, 23 years after the fire in Hopewell, Claude Garrett, too, maintains his innocence — and there are a number of people who are convinced he is telling the truth. Chief among them is a veteran Tennessee fire investigator who insists the conviction was a miscarriage of justice — “and there are others besides Claude in jail for things they did not intentionally do.” Indeed, the same advances in fire analysis that exonerated Girdler more than 20 years ago in Arizona have continued to expose fires once believed to be intentional or “incendiary” as most likely accidental. Numerous people have been freed from prison after spending years behind bars for arson crimes that were never crimes at all. Garrett’s case contains hallmarks of such wrongful convictions — pervasive myths that guided arson investigations for decades, which still haunt the criminal justice system.

Be sure to read the whole piece here.

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Why Firing Your Copy Editors Undermines Credibility in One Simple Sentence

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 9:24 AM

The Tennessean's editorial page weighed in on the Smyrna-Riverdale debacle the other day — the game where both teams were trying to lose in order to avoid playing state champion Blackman in the tournament bracket.

We would note two things: 1) It's OK to write more than a sentence in a paragraph and 2) please get the name of the governing body right.


It's the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, unless they've moved District 7-AAA to the Outer Banks.

Credibility often dies not with a huge event, but rather with a thousand little cuts — in this case the copy editors that have been laid off from Gannett newsrooms around the country, including The Tennessean.

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The Many Explanations of Sheila Butt

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 6:30 AM

After Pith's Andrea Zelinski broke the story yesterday that state Rep. Sheila Butt had called for a "NAAWP" on Facebook, the high-ranking House Republican handed out a variety of explanations for what she meant, after the non-answer she gave while trying to get away from Zelinski.

Here's a recap of them all:

To Pith: “Oh, I know exactly what it is, but it’s not what you say it is.”

To WSMV: "I came from Rockford, Illinois, so racism was never part of my culture ... so racism is something that I, as a Christian, and as a native of Rockford, Illinois, do not identify with."

To the Associated Press: "Western Peoples"

To WKRN's Chris Bundgaard: " ... post was actually about making sure that every race, religion, gender and culture has a seat at the table"

Butt has some experience in explaining matters of race. In 2008, she wrote the book Everyday Princess: Daughter of the King, a kind of instructional guide for Christian girls to be pure in the eyes of God. In it is this passage on interracial dating:

Will dating someone of another race be helpful or beneficial? Understanding that you will eventually marry someone that you date, will you be just as happy for your children to grow up biracial? I have seen instances when a young lady started dating someone of another race, and there were those of her own race who were not interested in dating her after that. There will always be those who look at the race of the person a young lady dates rather then the character of the person.

So wait, you shouldn't date someone from another race because you might piss off ... racists you may want to date in the future?

Maybe that's how they do it in Rockford. After all, Illinois has the Klan just like Tennessee.

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$100 Million for a Flood Wall for Downtown

Posted By on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Wilson Springs Creek
  • from the TSLA's Historical Map Collection
  • Wilson Springs Creek
The Mayor is proposing a $100 million plan to deal with flooding downtown. Joey Garrison over at the Tennessean has the details.

Nearly five years after a historic flood caused more than $2 billion in damage across Davidson County, Dean has unveiled the largest flood mitigation project the city has ever seen — a $100 million plan for downtown that he says will safeguard its building and landmarks during a flood even greater than the one in 2010.

The most visible addition will be a 2,100-foot-long flood wall along the new West Riverfront Park that will cost around $13 million. It includes 1,200 feet of removable flood wall along First Avenue that would extend from the Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge north up to Fort Nashborough. The removable piece would take eight hours to erect during rapid flooding.

The most expensive piece, though, is a new $64 million storm water pumping station at Riverfront Park that would take rainfall that is being held back by the flood wall and force it back into the Cumberland River. Metro officials say this would be done in a way that does not flood other neighborhoods or the east bank.

According to the story, this is a done deal.

I, for one, just want to be on the record as saying that this is massively stupid. Nashville, let me tell you the truth. There is a large creek, probably similar in size to Whites Creek or Richland Creek, that runs from roughly back behind Arnold's there on 8th, meanders through the Gulch and then works its way through Black Bottom before it dumps into the Cumberland. You can see it pretty clearly on this map of Nashville from 1860. It even has a name — Wilson Springs Creek.

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

#MayoralChatter: What's So Unique About Bill Freeman?

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 3:39 PM

During his remarks at E|Spaces in Belle Meade this morning, Bill Freeman made an observation about the field of mayoral candidates.

As quoted by The Tennessean:

"I have to tell you, one of the real eye openers for me since I got in this race is how much alike the candidates sound," Freeman said at an office in Belle Meade. "Now, there are eight candidates including me — and you would think there would be big differences between them. But you wouldn't really know that from listening to them at these mayoral forums.

Bill Freeman is right about this. All of the mayoral candidates have sounded fairly similar overall. The exchanges between candidates have been so bland so far that The Tennessean labeled Freeman's remarks as "probably the biggest jab so far in a Nashville mayor's race" and they're probably right.

But the jab, such as it is, seems to imply that Freeman himself is the candidate who stands out among the crowd. And we're not at all sure why we should think this about him.

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Rep. Sheila Butt Says We Need an NAAWP

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 1:12 PM


A high ranking House Republican contends there isn’t enough support for white people in this country.

“It’s time for a Council of Christian Relations and a NAAWP in this Country,” reads a comment posted by House Majority Floor Leader Sheila Butt on Facebook last month.

The Republican floor leader posted the comment on Jan. 27 on the Facebook page of Cathy Hinners, who operates Daily Roll Call, a website critical of Muslims in America and specifically in Tennessee. The comment, obtained by Pith, was deleted and later replaced with, “We need groups that will stand for Christians and our Western culture. We don’t have groups dedicated to speaking on our behalf.”

Butt’s comment was posted in reaction to a link to an open letter by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national civil rights and advocacy organization, about 2016 Republican presidential candidates embracing Muslim Americans

The acronym “NAAWP” is a spinoff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, seemingly to mean a National Association for the Advancement of White People.

Butt, a tea party-leaning Republican from Columbia who was newly elected as floor leader, repeatedly refused to explain to Pith what she meant by the comment and the meaning of NAAWP. She said only that reading the acronym as the National Association for the Advancement of White people is “totally misinterpreted.”

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Three Things From Last Night's Metro Council Meeting

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 10:25 AM

After barely establishing a quorum, the Metro Council got on with the agenda at last nights meeting, rescheduled from last week due to the snow-sleet-ice-freezing rain storm.

Here are three things to know:

Short-term rentals:

The council voted 30-2 to approve a set of regulations for short-term rental properties like those available through services like Airbnb. The bill, sponsored by Councilwoman Berkley Allen, had been percolating for several months. The regulations include annual permitting requirements and limits the number of guests and the length of their stay, among other things.

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