You know Oscar Night? That glitzy celebration where beautiful people get together to clap each other on the back, honor the best and brightest accomplishments of the year, and flash a rictus grin as someone else takes home the statuette?
This is not that occasion.
These are the Boner Awards, baby — our 22nd annual roundup of the year's lowest moments, oddest characters and dirtiest deeds. We don't have movie stars swanning out of a limo — we have clowns spilling out of a Volkswagen. We don't have a red carpet — we have a mile-long No-Pest Strip. Forget the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. We've reserved the Little Evil Jacobs Ballroom at Fernando's Hideaway on Brick Church Pike.
But star quality — this year's Boners have it in shovels. Hey, over there — it's the "Don't Say Gay" Bill! Smile for the cameras, Mr. Arriola! Say, looks like you've got something in your teeth there, HB 600. Never before have so few done so much to so many — and received so much attention for it.
Was it attention we wanted? Are we going to put up billboards in the hubs of industry that say, "Tennessee — come for the far-right social agenda, stay for the intelligent-design classes"? No. We come to bury the Boners, not praise them. You dig?
And with that, meet the unlucky stiffs.
As always, there were plenty of erected officials at the state legislative level. These bold Boners stood apart from the pack.
Get this man a steering committee.
Just before the House overwhelmingly adopted his guns-in-bars law, Rep. Curry Todd solemnly told his colleagues: "I just ask you to vote your conscience to protect the rights of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves and their families." In October, police say it was Todd himself who became the public menace, allegedly careening drunk and red-eyed toward Hillsboro Village at 60 mph with a loaded Smith & Wesson 38 Special in a holster in his SUV. He was "obviously very impaired and not in any condition to be carrying a loaded handgun," the arresting officer said. The Collierville Republican publicly apologized for doing exactly what he claimed repeatedly during legislative debates that no handgun permit licensee ever would do. But not even a subsequent appearance at a charity golf tournament could keep him from getting his balls whacked down the fairway.
Confronted with an outrageous public embarrassment serving as chairman of a significant House committee, what did Speaker Beth Harwell do? Absolutely nothing. For a full week as the media storm raged unabated, she couldn't manage to express even the slightest displeasure with Todd. The accused chucklehead finally stepped down as chairman of the State and Local Government Committee. Harwell said she appreciated that. (We bet she did — those TV klieg lights are hot.) You might recall it was Todd who last year compared pregnant undocumented workers to breeding rats during a public hearing on prenatal health care. That didn't stop Harwell from naming him chairman of the committee in the first place. After all, he helped her win the speakership this year, and that comes with a chauffeur and snazzy black SUV. (Pistol sold separately.)
If you need yet more evidence why Democrats have been virtually extirpated in Tennessee, House Democratic Caucus chairman Mike Turner is Exhibit A. After Todd's arrest, Turner said Todd should not only keep his House seat but also his committee chairmanship. Turner called Todd "one of the best chairmen we have up there." There's a "world's tallest midget" distinction if ever we heard one, but Turner still managed to undercut his own party chairman, Chip Forrester, who issued a strong denunciation of Todd and demanded that Harwell either force Todd to quit or explain why she wouldn't. Turner seemed more concerned about not upsetting Republicans who are about to redraw district lines. He needs all the help they'll give him in his Old Hickory constituency. In '10, Turner only barely squeaked past an oddball unknown Republican, who narrowly lost despite broadcasting himself on YouTube smashing buffalo turds.
Y'allah be praised!
Defeating an impressive field of challengers, Rep. Rick Womick won the prize for most outrageous remark at a Nashville conference of Muslim haters. The Murfreesboro Republican said the United States should purge all Muslims from the military because they can't be trusted, hate our freedom, don't listen to "Delilah," etc. Muslims called for Republican leaders to rebuke Womick, but not a single one did. After a reporter asked him about it, Gov. Bill Haslam did manage to say he disagrees with Womick, but he wouldn't criticize him. "That's not my role," the governor said. (Which is true: Most of the year, he was too busy playing SNL's Church Lady.) For his part, Womick went on right-wing radio to puff the hookah of self-pity. "I'll be honest with you," he said. "This has been a brutal, brutal week. I mean, emotionally, it's draining. It's a constant attack against your character, against your opportunity to speak out, against my First Amendment. But I'm not going to back down." Watch out, you folks who smoke Camels.
That's why they call him Dollar Bill.
Speaking of Muslim haters, Sen. Bill Ketron caused an uproar with his legislation to essentially stamp out Islamic law in Tennessee. The bill made practicing some forms of religious Shariah law a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, declaring it a threat to homeland security that embraces jihad and commands followers to overthrow the U.S. government. But as peaceable, law-abiding Middle Tennessee Muslims pointed out, the bill's vague terms all but outlawed their entire religion. Under heavy criticism around the state, Ketron was forced to rewrite his bill and render it meaningless. But his close encounter with the Boners didn't end there. The mustachioed senator and insurance salesman also earned mockery when he called for Tennessee to study establishing a monetary system of its own to be ready "in the event of hyperinflation, depression, or other economic calamity related to the breakdown of the Federal Reserve System, for which the state is not prepared ..." As the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy said, it's all about the Ketrons.
Leave it to Beavers.
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Mae Beavers championed an Obama birther bill aiming to require presidential candidates to produce a "long-form birth certificate" to make it onto the party primary ballots in Tennessee. But during an appearance on the Internet's Reality Check Radio, the Mount Juliet Republican conceded she didn't even know what a long-form birth certificate is. "Now, you're asking me to get into a lot of things that I haven't really looked into yet," the busy Beavers told the show's host. But that may not be anything new. Email memos from a November document dump related to the state's infamous HB600 bill showed that Family Action Council of Tennessee's David Fowler was feeding her lines offstage about the proposed legislation. "The bill itself is not that complicated," Fowler wrote. "We don't need more regulation of business and business sure doesn't need the 348 different cities coming up with their own ideas of what a discriminatory practice is. That's the line and you just repeat it like Glen Casada did last night when the bill passed the House 73 to 24." Jeff Dunham couldn't have said it better through Walter.
Call now and get a "Give 'em the Boot" tote bag!
With the economy surfing the toilet and unemployment running at nearly 10 percent, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey finally produced a jobs plan: He wants to make it harder for jobless people to collect unemployment. According to Ramsey, if you take away their benefits — the magnificent weekly sum of $234 on average — then they will, by God, get a job. "When does it become a benefit and when does it become a lifestyle?" Ramsey, R-Blountville, asked about the unemployment compensation system. "There are jobs out there. ... It may not be the job you want, but there are jobs out there." The bright side: If those deadbeats refrain from food, clothing and shelter for 10 straight weeks, they might save enough to contribute to Ramsey's PAC, whose varying PBS-pledge-drive incentives J.R. Lind listed on Post Politics. For an annual kick-in of $2,000 (the Senators giving level), you get lunch with "top legislative leaders and committee chairmen." We suggest shelling out $20,000 for the commemorative gavel.
It was a year of high-profile scandals, failed machinations and creaky municipal machinery. There are a million Boners in the naked city. Here are five.
Here comes the Boner.
When you're as well-groomed as Davidson County Clerk John Arriola, it only makes sense to spend $806 in taxpayer money for a fancy head shot. If charging newlyweds-to-be more than $30,000 in "gratuities" for marriage licenses isn't worth impeccably coiffed hair, then what is? Unfortunately for Arriola, WTVF's Phil Williams photographed only his bad side in a scorching exposé that the clerk attempted to head off with his own pre-emptive press release — a move that backfired spectacularly, alerting anyone in the city who hadn't seen the promos to tune in. Once they did, they saw displays of astounding recession-era hubris, such as Arriola spending $34,087 in public funds to emblazon his name on signage he had installed outside his offices. Viewers were left hoping he'd used a dry-erase board. On camera, playing catnip mouse to Williams, the wide-eyed Arriola did his best impression of a guy who showed up at a "To Catch a Predator" taping with a six-pack and a Tootsie Pop in his zipper.
This whine's for you.
With the indignation of a child caught playing hooky, former Davidson County Criminal Court Clerk David Torrence balked when WSMV's Jeremy Finley revealed his penchants for showing up to work a mere three days a week, hiring family and using his government-issued vehicle to make wine runs. In response, the charity-minded Torrence said he was "willing to consider" paying restitution from his $125,000 annual salary. As with most people who suffer from a dimension-shattering sense of entitlement, it took the threat of legal ouster to hasten Torrence out the door. Maybe John Arriola needs a flower dude.
Dial M for Murray.
Writing about the multifarious boners of former District 5 Metro Councilwoman Pam Murray is like trying to pick your favorite Beatle — assuming The Beatles were prone to frivolous lawsuits and controversy. The only council member ever to be ousted in a recall election — and the only Detroit export less popular in Music City than the Red Wings — Murray sought to reclaim her office this year. Sadly, it wasn't in the cards, as newcomer Scott Davis handily trounced her. That didn't stop Murray from giving her all, however — most notably outside East Nashville's McFerrin Community Center polling station, where the candidate accused her opponent of sign-swiping and cell phone pilfering loudly and angrily enough to draw police, a crowd and an ice cream truck. Her failed re-election bid was further marred by the actions of an over-enthusiastic nephew, who was arrested for punching a man he saw removing Murray's signs (at the property owner's request, it turns out).
Gotto/Claiborne vs. Decency.
In July, departing Metro Councilman Jamie Hollin introduced a resolution to commemorate the bravery of high school student activists who protested the so-called "Don't Say Gay" bill. Hollin missed a committee meeting that would've paved the way for a vote on the resolution, so he attempted to invoke a common procedure during that night's council meeting to suspend the rules and force a vote. Under normal circumstances, Hollin's resolution might've sailed through. But Councilmen Jim Gotto and Phil Claiborne blocked it, and their combined action derailed the bill permanently — prompting a widely reported, profanity-laced tongue-lashing by Hollin. Of Gotto and Claiborne, he said, "They collectively represent the worst in us." We're not that bad, are we?
The Boner 500.
Regrettably, one multiple Boner casualty this year was Mayor Karl Dean. He won a second term decisively, yet his unsteady wielding of the municipal baseball bat resulted in at least two painful public whiffs. In the District 24 council race, even backing Sarah Lodge Tally — a well-connected challenger with vast ties to establishment Democrats — Dean failed to put the kibosh on supposed enemy-of-progress incumbent Jason Holleman, whose crime was evidently failing to support Hizzoner with 100 percent yes-sir-how-high inflexibility. If you're going to stomp an ant, better make sure you kill it — lest the ant wind up on the cover of the city's alt-weekly under the headline, "BULLETPROOF?" A greater political defeat, however, was the fairgrounds fiasco. Unable to offer a compelling (or even coherent) vision for the racetrack site, the Dean administration watched piece after piece of the plan collapse, thwarted by a combination of undeniable popular support and shrewd, deep-pocketed behind-the-scenes organizing. Here's hoping for dramatically different results for the proposed Sounds stadium — or a public process that resembles a road rally more than a demolition derby.
From the churning bowels of law and order come these lumps of steaming justice. You're welcome.
Your pizza in 30 minutes or flames.
Maybe it was the olives — they were green, not black! — that pissed him off. Or maybe he asked for thin crust and got deep-dish instead. Whatever the reason, Jacob James Winston, 28, threw the condiments off of his table at downtown Nashville's Sicilian Pizza & Pasta and was politely asked to leave. Later that night, Winston returned. Not content to fill out a comment card to express his dissatisfaction, he launched a Molotov cocktail into the restaurant's dining room. Apparently, the owners disagreed with Winston's restaurant review, allegedly chasing him down the street for their rebuttal. The employees subdued the 28-year-old multiple offender and turned him over to police, who charged him with aggravated arson, possession of a prohibited explosive weapon and attempted pizza flambé.
And on the sixth day, God created Lortab.
As it turns out, that whole "Thou shalt not steal" commandment isn't really set in stone. Especially if you're Rickey Alan Reed, a pastor at Smyrna's First Free Methodist Church accused of stealing prescription pain medications from his flock. Reed was caught on video allegedly attempting to burglarize the home of a parishioner, who had set up a hidden video camera to catch the person who'd been lifting her Lortabs. According to the video, that suspect was Reed, who wasn't there to spread the Good Word. Compounding this Boner, Smyrna police say Reed was enabled by churchgoers, who routinely fed him pills to supplement his daily intake of hypocrisy.
The Vegan Vigilante rises.
If meat is murder, does that make veganism assault with deadly rhetoric? On Thanksgiving Day, a Cookeville supermarket was struck by a pro-veggie vandal, who ruined approximately $900 worth of meat products in a self-righteous act of guerrilla marketing. The perpetrator stapled fliers that read "Save Lives – Go Vegetarian!" to packages of steaks, hamburger meat, hotdogs and more. Cookeville police have reason to believe that a former employee of the T-Mart may have been responsible, but so far the unknown bandit remains at large, striking fear into the hearts of no one in particular. Meanwhile, animals continue to die because they're tasty.Dog day afternoon.
Dog day afternoon
Trashing hotel rooms and debaucherous backstage parties are self-destructive behaviors that go hand-in-hand with rock 'n' roll excess. But when news broke this summer that former KISS guitarist and Smyrna resident Vinnie Vincent, aka Vincent Cusano, allegedly beat his wife, dragged her through broken glass and, oh yeah, stored the carcasses of multiple dead dogs in plastic containers, justifications for the rocker's bizarre behavior were as hard to find as a glowing review for Lick It Up. According to media reports, the Ankh Warrior claimed that the dogs were murdered by more aggressive canines, and he couldn't bear to dispose of them in a socially accepted fashion. Cusano opted instead to seal their bodies in plastic and entomb them in unburied doggy caskets on his property — a step backward for pet care, maybe, but a bitchin' idea for a concept album!
A collection of major missteps and ill-considered words, all delivered in the unforgiving glare of the media eye. Hey, is this thing on?
Bereft of the dial.
"It's better than doing the Rice thing where you just sell the damn station. Do it over the summer and hope people don't get angry." That was Vanderbilt Student Communications' Mark Wollaeger, referring to the sale of KTRU in Houston roughly nine months before the board he chaired sold WRVU's broadcast license, silencing a Nashville institution more than 50 years in the making. Wollaeger & Co. did about as convincing a job pretending they cared that people were angry about it as they did pretending they would take opposition into account — submit your comments through the website! — before they sold the damn station. Over the summer. Do we sound angry? You should hear the other folks.
A perfect downward spiral.
When Hank Jr. made a connection between the names "Obama" and "Hitler" in the space of a few seconds on Fox News back in October, he wasn't being literal — any more than "Cadillac Pussy" is manufactured by GM. (What he actually said was that Obama playing golf with House Speaker John Boehner was like Hitler playing golf with Netanyahu — which we'll generously call "not a very good analogy.") True, his flustered bosses may have overreacted like a Junior Leaguer grounding her debutante daughter for life because she had a Lil Jon CD. But anyone who's been swimming in the media fishbowl as long as Bocephus should know you just don't put the president and der Führer in the same soundbite. At least not if you want to keep your cushy Monday-night gig. All his rowdy friends may still be coming over tonight, but they won't be watching anything but Murder, She Wrote.
And now, a reading from the Armor-All New Testament.
It's bad enough that NASCAR's overall visual aesthetic is a cross between a '90s GeoCities website and vomited nachos, but at the Federated Auto Parts 300 in July, pastor Joe Nelms made headlines by delivering an invocation that made Will Ferrell's Ricky Bobby character in Talladega Nights seem downright subtle. Nelms thanked God's boy for a litany of brand-name and trademarked automotive parts and accessories — each dutifully name-checked like apostles at the Big Gulp Last Supper Presented by Cracker Barrel. For the coup de gracelessness, Nelms put Tennessee on the national radar for all the wrong reasons once again, ending his prayer-mercial by loudly thanking Jesus for his "smokin' hot wife." Welcome to the Boner-ville salt flats, pastor.
Nobody's Boner is bigger than ours.
As proof that it takes a Boner to know one, the Scene snarked in typically bratty fashion when competitors at 1100 Broadway allowed some bungled headlines to make it into the paper — the wrong school start date here, the wrong basketball champion there. But at least they didn't allow a rejected first draft of a pick for the TPAC Broadway attraction In the Heights to slip through the cracks online with a garbled ironic reference to "brown and leggy" ingénues that justly infuriated cast, crew and readers — as the Scene did to its continuing regret. It joins such colossal Scene screw-ups as the listing mishap that placed a contemporary Christian superstar in a stage production called Making Porn, and illustrating Alfred Hitchcock's Notorious with a photo of The Notorious B.I.G.
You've messed up pretty bad when someone as gracious as Tina Fey has to figuratively split you into the guy she knows and the other crazy homophobic guy you apparently turned into at The Ryman the other night, in order to defend the guy she knows. To his everlasting credit, Tracy Morgan acknowledged as much, and his apology was nearly as tender as his outburst was toxic. And hey, even if it took a shit-storm of outrage to teach him it's not cool to say he'd stab his own son if he found out he was gay — as he did in his flabbergasting Ryman stand-up routine in June — at least the lesson stuck. Next time you visit the Mother Church, Tracy, take our advice and keep things classy — stick to the queef jokes.
Wherever there's a blocked shot or a missed goal — or an ill-advised side career as a rapper — you'll find the Boners getting athletic support.
The first time's never good, kid.
In the glorious final moments of a Nov. 17 thumping of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Predators rookie Craig Smith found himself alone before the unattended goal, the Canadians having politely pulled the goalie. Just needing to slip it in from mere feet away, Smith decided with the bravado of youth that he'd show off a bit. Readying his stick, he tried to elevate the puck — and before the disbelieving eyes of the crowd and Coach Barry Trotz, he sent the rubber soaring into the protection around the rink, missing the goal completely. His is now the gold standard for empty-net bloopers.
To be fair, this is the last known usage of a fax machine.
The rules governing NHL free agency are complex and Byzantine — including one antiquated but pivotal provision that says offers to restricted free agencies must be delivered to players by a certain date by certified mail or fax. Simple, right? Tell it to the Predators. Just a few days before free agency was to begin in earnest, news emerged that something wasn't quite right with the team's restricted offers: The Preds sent the offers via FedEx by 4 p.m. deadline day — but missed the deadline by fax, allowing players to claim they didn't receive their offers in time. Their hand forced by their Boner, the Preds had to sign the agents to contracts with hefty premiums.
Music City Boned.
Some Boners are so big they change the world — like the catastrophic finale to the 2011 Music City Bowl. Down 20-17 to UT, North Carolina was driving with no timeouts. A run failed to get the Tar Heels a first down, so they scrambled to spike the ball and stop the clock. For some reason, though, UNC ran its special teams out on the field as the quarterback snapped the ball. With the Heels having roughly 19 players on the field, the clock showed three zeroes and the refs headed for the tunnel — prematurely, it seems. The spike hit the ground with one second left. North Carolina would be penalized for having a team and three quarters on the field, but they'd get another chance. That was all they needed to tie it with a field goal — allowing UNC to win in overtime. Boos, fits and bottles of bourbon rained down from the orange-clad partisans, but their uppance did not come. This series of forehead-smacking mishaps did have one positive outcome: Penalties against the offense now result in a short clock run-off to keep teams from feigning a Boner to get a second chance.
During the NFL lockout, Titans running back Chris Johnson did what anybody does in their leisure time: He recorded a rap song. His "Act On Deck" extols his manly virtues and the glories of entertaining young women in a Bentley coupe (hence the boldly minimalist rhyme of "hoes" and "hoes"). But when the lockout ended, Johnson got down to business: that is, holding out for a big contract. As fans grumbled whether "CJ2K" was a sign how long he intended to sit out, the star's irritation at the constant sniping finally exploded Aug. 31. Tweeted CJ: "Can these fake Titan fans STFU on my timeline I don't have a regular job so don't compare me to you and I can care less if uthink I'm greedy." Helpfully, CJ provided guidelines to who was a real fan and who was fake. First, if his tweet upset you, you were fake (or possibly an English teacher). Also, fake fans are racist. Eventually, of course, he got his big deal done and proceeded to thrill real and fake fans alike with 10 weeks of two-yard-per-carry outings. No matter, CJ. You had us at, "I act brand new on my ho-ho."
Hey, Curry, your ride's here!
Nobody in Nashville's sporting world has sported a Boner quite like Titans receiver Kenny Britt. Rather than using the lockout usefully — say, by recording a rap song — Britt decided he would keep getting arrested for completely avoidable driving offenses. Like driving on a suspended license. Or speeding while driving on a suspended license. Or driving recklessly with a suspended license. Kenny, dude — hire a driver. Of course, no chauffeur could have prevented Britt from his New Jersey arrest for obstructing the administration of the law, resisting arrest and evidence tampering. Britt did not react well to police suspecting he was in possession of marijuana. Cops say they smelled dope and found a crushed-up cigar in Britt's hand. This all happened — swear to God — a day after some of those numerous motor vehicle charges in Jersey were settled. Then Britt didn't react well to speculation he'd be suspended, leading to a bizarre incident in which he claimed his Facebook account had been hacked — first with retirement news and a special message for the NFL commissioner ("F*** You Goddell"), then a "Change of Heart" vowing that "I will accept any penalty like a man." Kenny's lockout missteps were glossed over when the players came back to work and the young wideout showed great promise — until he blew out his knee and missed the rest of the year. As you recuperate, Kenny, consider these two words: public transportation.
Last year, Gov. Bill Haslam and the potentates of the General Assembly swept into office promising that they'd create jobs. And so they did! Gag writers for late-night TV have been working overtime to process the steady stream of insanity rolling downhill from the Capitol this year. With every month bringing a steaming new present from your state legislators, 2011 was Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, the Yuletide and Talk Like a Pirate Day all rolled into one. Empty a cartridge into that partridge and join us as we sing ...
"Twelve 'phobes a-plotting ..."
The New Year's Baby couldn't wait a month to start soiling his diaper, as a conservative cabal led by state Reps. Glen Casada and Jim Gotto met secretly at the LifeWay offices of the Southern Baptist Convention just weeks into 2011. Outraged over Nashville's new anti-gay-discrimination ordinance — jeez, now everyone'll want one! — they hatched a plot to beat back gay rights in Tennessee under the guise of protecting small businesses. Their strategy? Ram a state law onto the books that invalidates Nashville's ordinance — and bans any other Tennessee city from enacting any such measure ever again. After David Fowler's Family Action Council of Tennessee produced a web video depicting gay men as stalking pedophiles, the bill flew through the Republican-dominated legislature. All the meeting's FACT-up participants are now busily denying they are bigots in proceedings in the inevitable lawsuit to overturn the state law.
"Eleven bongs a-blazing ..."
To clarify existing drug laws, state Sen. Randy McNally and Rep. Bill Dunn proposed legislation in February that would add a helpful detail: If someone is busted for possessing drug paraphernalia, and the item in question hasn't even been used, the person arrested can't use that as a defense. (Remember Minority Report, where future cop Tom Cruise arrested people for murders they hadn't committed yet? Think of this as intent to commit munchies.) Bloggers cracked that after considering all the everyday items that pot smokers MacGyver into makeshift bongs, the clarification could get somebody busted for felony possession of a potato.
"Ten Darwins dancing ..."
Dancing at the end of a rope, that is, as Knoxville Rep. Dunn went on to propose legislation brought by creationists that would open the door to teaching intelligent design in public schools. Oops — make that require schools to "create an environment" in which teachers "respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues," including evolution. The bizarre debate in March recalled Tennessee's own Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925 and touched on topics including the number of chromosomes in chimpanzees, the Big Bang Theory and the odds that Elvis is alive. Dunn, a Knoxville Republican and point person for his party's "education reform" agenda, insisted he aimed only to promote "critical thinking" in schools about the origins of life. But the bill died when the Senate sponsor couldn't bear the embarrassment and dropped it.
"Nine [language redacted] ..."
April showers brought a golden rain on democracy from state Sen. Stacey Campfield, whose ignominious-on-arrival "Don't Say Gay" bill made Tennesseans traveling outside the state want to disguise themselves as Mississippians. Outlawing cities' own rights to set anti-discrimination policy evidently wasn't hardline enough on the ooh-scary "gay agenda" for East Tennessee's one-man Boner industry. So Campfield proposed making it illegal for school personnel to even acknowledge the existence of homosexuality — y'know, since stifling sex education works so well in fighting teen pregnancy. In the nationwide ridicule that ensued, the proposed bill got exactly the level of public discourse it deserved — e.g., a Twitter rebuke from the dude who played Sulu on Star Trek. And after his messy sparring with playwright Del Shores, Campfield proved only he could lose a battle for the rhetorical high ground with the author of The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife.
"Eight plates of doo-doo ..."
In an open letter to constituents in May, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey put a positive spin on the legislature's woeful track record for the GOP's first session in charge since Reconstruction. Others saw endless social-agenda dickering and an unemployment rate higher than the national average, but they weren't dining at the same Catbird Seat of legislative accomplishment as Ramsey. "Tennessee Republicans have talked a lot about what we would do when we took power," Ramsey wrote. "Now we are showing what we can do. This year was just an appetizer. Next year, and in the years to come, you will see the main course." Translation: If you like what we're making the Democrats eat these days, you're gonna love eating it for the next century.
"Seven naked Nazis ..."
Gosh, Gov. Bill Haslam must have figured, it's been a few weeks since the entire country was laughing at us. So in June, he signed into law a measure supported by Democrats and Republicans alike that could make posting a picture on Facebook or a blog a crime, if it causes "emotional distress" and is posted "without legitimate purpose." If that meant ridding the Web of child porn and white-power garbage, no one with sense would object. Alas, the wording was so vague (whose distress? what purpose?) that as critics from Rachel Maddow to Roger Ebert pointed out, almost anything could be actionable — as Clarksville artist Brandt Hardin attempted to prove with a grotesque portrait of first lady Crissy Haslam topless in bondage gear.
"Six clips reloading ..."
"It is an honor to lead this working group so our Majority can craft responsible public policy that reflects the values of Tennesseans." Thus began the (short) reign of the new chairman of the Republican Caucus Firearms Issues Task Force, Rep. Curry Todd — who wasn't kidding in July when he said he planned to set "legislative priorities for firearms."
"Fiiiive ... gol-den ... stings ..."
If any situation showed the depth of nationwide hostility to the federal government — and this was before anybody occupied anything — it was accused rosewood smuggler Gibson Guitar Corp. successfully casting itself as a victim of officious bullying. After an Aug. 24 raid on Gibson's Nashville headquarters by federal agents, who seized a reported $1 million in guitars and guitar parts that they alleged had been obtained illegally in India, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz mounted a PR campaign to portray himself and his company as victims of selective prosecution. Lt. Gov. Ramsey helped spread the idea that Washington Democrats were punishing Gibson for its financial support of Republicans, even though the company had shelled out bucks to Democrats also. But no one was more shameless in supporting Gibson than U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who made a public show of solidarity with the embattled guitar maker — despite the fact she voted for the amendment to the Lacey Act that made the raids possible.
"Four galling words ..."
When the Knoxville News-Sentinel asked candidates for state Sen. Jamie Woodson's seat in September what one piece of legislation they would sponsor if they won — again, this is the state legislature — candidate Victoria DeFreese said she would suggest a resolution calling for the "impeachment of President Obama."
"Three henchmen ..."
As Metro Council members and allies struck back at the bill overturning their anti-discrimination ordinance by filing suit, state lawmakers Jim Gotto, Glen Casada and Mae Beavers claimed in October they were exempt from subpoenas seeking their strategy memos. The reason: They said they were shielded by the speech and debate clause in the Tennessee Constitution — a provision typically applied to legislative acts in the House or Senate, not to secret political maneuvering elsewhere (like, oh, picking an example totally at random, the LifeWay Building downtown). Otherwise, they'd essentially be above the law — as the U.S. Supreme Court argued in a ruling on the federal speech and debate clause, calling such bulletproof lawmakers "super citizens." Hail the Injustice League.
"Two handcuffed doves ..."
Practically from the minute Occupy Nashville set up shelter on Legislative Plaza, the Haslam administration began its occupation of the Boners. Had the state simply let protesters succumb to bitter winter weather, tedium and public indifference, everyone might be home now catching holiday reruns of Elf. Instead, Gov. Haslam, safety commissioner Bill Gibbons and General Services chief Steven Cates, using public-health and indecency complaints from a few state legislators as pretext, did the one thing guaranteed to fan the movement's flames: They mounted two nights of heavy-handed raids on the plaza, which mobilized public sentiment for the encampment in a way the protesters previously hadn't been able. (Among those arrested was Scene reporter Jonathan Meador, there covering the raids, whose "public intoxication" charge magically disappeared later — thanks in no small part to Meador's video camera, which arresting officers didn't know was running as they slapped on the zipline cuffs.) Talk of protesters defecating on the plaza gave way to voters, judges and international media wondering why state officials were doing the same to the Constitution. There is likely a joke to be made here about "pitching tents" and Boners, but we're above that sort of thing.
"And a fruitcake in a bare tree!"
Since the Republicans' last experiment in hog-tying the hands of municipal governments went so swimmingly, that Casada (joined by Brian Kelsey in the state Senate) has his sights trained next session on items such as minimum wage, health care coverage and family-leave allowances — none of which cities would be able to set beyond state levels. And it's just in time for the Republicans' gerrymandering to begin in earnest. Happy Birthday, Jesus!
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