The health care overhaul has been the law now for nearly a week, but tea party protesters remain in a state of denial, and Tennessee's Republicans can't stop bellowing and braying about the terrible injustice of it all. Their main gripe? In addition to stealing our freedom in some unexplained way, Democrats in Congress are busting the state government's budget.
"It will be devastating to the state's finances," Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey says everywhere he goes. As his No. 1 witness, he cites none other than Gov. Phil Bredesen, the state's top Democrat. Bredesen famously denounced health care reform as "the mother of all unfunded mandates" back in the summer when the tea partiers were just beginning to work themselves into a froth. Now, he's dropped the catchy language. It's merely "a huge unfunded mandate" that, according to the governor, will cost the state $1.1 billion in its first five years--from 2014 to 2019.
If his sister's name was Fred, she'd be his brother. That was the message this morning from Bill Gibbons' farewell-to-the-governor's-race news conference. If only elections were held before anyone aired TV ads or printed bumper stickers or planted yard signs or did much of anything else, he'd make one helluva candidate!
My name identification in my home community is well over 90 percent. and what the polling showed, again without other candidates coming in and spending a lot on media, but just if the election was held today, based on that name ID and the job that I have and the public perception that I'm doing a pretty good job, if the election was today, I would have won about 70 percent of the vote in Shelby County. I mean, it would have been a landslide.
Too bad for Gibbons this is the real world. Like too many politicians with Jupiter-sized egos, it took the Shelby County DA a long time to figure out that, when no one is giving you money, that means no one thinks you can win.
"Today, I am withdrawing from the race for governor for one reason and one reason only," he said, "and that is lack of sufficient campaign funds to go forward."
OK, so it's no longer safe to ride down the street with an Obama bumper sticker on your car. What's next?
Death threats, white powder envelopes and bricks through windows--members of Congress are under attack for voting for health care reform.
Our own congressman, Jim Cooper, is no exception. "There have been threats for many months, since this debate started. We have worked with Metro Police, Capitol Police and the FBI, and we will continue to do so. We have taken steps to protect our staff in our offices in Nashville, but I'm not going to go into any other specifics concerning the threats or the response to them," says his press secretary, Peter Boogaard, in an email to Pith.
Tea party protesters broke through the boundaries of civility this week at the legislature. They clogged the hallways of the Legislative Plaza, jeering and screaming in anger when lawmakers delayed voting on bills purporting to challenge the health care overhaul. It was like the summer's notorious town hall mauls.
Will Republican office-holders ever take responsibility for egging on this nastiness? Hah! House Minority Whip Eric Cantor blames Democrats.
Sen. Lamar Alexander has plunged down the rabbit hole. Against all common sense, he led the charge against another of President Obama reforms, this one to eliminate the middle men in the student loan program and save taxpayers a ton of money.
When Congress finally did the right thing yesterday and approved the overhaul, chasing commercial banks out of the program and redirecting the savings to classrooms, Alexander still was yapping fatuously about government takeovers:
"The Democratic majority decided, well look, while we're at it, let's have another Washington takeover. Let's take over the federal student loan program."
Alexander, the former education secretary and University of Tennessee president, is embarrassing himself by so obviously whoring down for the banks. His truth-twisting arguments against this reform over the past few weeks have been widely mocked and ridiculed. In a Washington Post oped, he made the absolutely loony claim that the change will take all the fun out of asking banks for student loans. No, not that!
If you haven't read Adam Gold's cover story this week in the Scene, it's a peach: a warm, rowdy and very funny account of a low-budget father-son wrestling circuit that's drawing a mixed audience of gawking hipsters and riled-up regulars to East Nashville's Stadium Inn. The next bout's tonight; it's the best $8 we ever spent. ... Speaking of combatants, they're already swinging in the Criminal Court Clerk race, Joey Garrison says. ... Everybody wants to attract new industry to Tennessee -- but a horse slaughterhouse? Christine Kreyling catches a bill tiptoeing through the legislature. ... Why don't the Tea Party folks go scream at these guys? ... President Barack Obama nominates Nashville attorney Jerry E. Martin as U.S. attorney. ... Sen. Bob Corker cancels those fundraisers that had raised mostly eyebrows. ... A jury backhands the "Wooded Rapist." ... The unusually sensible Bill Gibbons is expected to bow out of the governor's race. ...
"During a routine inspection, I observed one female taking off her shirt with only her bra left to cover the breast area. She then laid down with her back on the bar area [where] another female was allowed to fondle the breast area." Note to self: Visit Coyote Ugly. ... David Boclair's causing a ruckus with his column interpreting Vanderbilt's disappointing NCAA tourney loss. ... Caps off to Jubilee Beer, the start-up Nashville brewery that's pouring off half its profits to the Oasis Center. ... Here's a helpful roundup of the sickest NSFW movie trailers in circulation at the moment. ...
Was there a press release I missed where the Republicans announced their new "Let's Make Tennessee's Children Miserable" campaign?
First those two bozos Ketron and Faulk offered to heap just a little more trouble onto the shoulders of the unfortunate. Now Glen Casada is arguing that we just let some children go hungry, because he's tired of his tax dollars going towards helping people who don't work.
Yeah, never mind that the unemployment rate in the state has been hovering around 10 percent for months and months. Never mind that we all know people who have been out of work for months and months, even after sending out untold resumes and filling out untold numbers of job applications. Apparently Casada thinks that people in Tennessee who aren't working just don't want to work.
House Republican Caucus chairman Glen Casada is the most likely successor to Jason Mumpower. We asked Casada whether he wants the job.
"We've got to solve this budget and nothing else matters," he tells Pith. "We got to solve the $1.2 billion hole. Jason will be leader and we will cut our way out of this and we'll move on from there."
Q: Who will replace Mumpower?
Casada: Whoever the caucus wants to be majority leader, that's who I'm for.
Q: Will it be you?
Casada: If they want me to be. .. They'll talk and we'll talk and we'll all come to a mutual decision.
For most of us, the term "private school" brings to mind images of mostly white institutions where privileged students play field hockey and lacrosse after school and hang out at the country club on weekends. But that's not the case at East Nashville's East Academy, where more than 60 percent of students receive some sort of tuition assistance. In fact, even the full tuition doesn't come near covering the expenses for a student's education.
Why don't they raise tuition, you ask? Because one of the school's missions, in addition to preparing K-8 students for high school and college, is to make education as affordable as possible to encourage a diverse student body. And East Academy is about as diverse a school -- racially, socioeconomically, culturally, religiously -- as you're likely to find in Nashville.
His place secure in the textbooks as the hapless victim of the worst FU in modern Tennessee political history, House Republican leader Jason Mumpower announced today he's done with the legislature. Meeting with reporters a few minutes ago, he denied that his public humiliations of the past year played a role in his decision. Here are excerpts:
Q: Why now?
Mumpower: [Nine-second pause] The time was right. It's always best to leave the party early. This hasn't been an easy decision. It's been one that I've come to know was the right decision. What I'm going to do at this point is finish this session, leading this caucus in an aggressive way to make sure we accomplish a balanced budget with no new taxes. Then I'm going to leave this session and get out in the field to make sure we continue to grow and expand our Republican majority in this House of Representatives. And then after that, you know, we'll see what's ahead. I'm looking forward to new challenges and this was the right time for me to make a decision.
After seven terms in the state House, Republican leader Jason Mumpower made the surprise announcement today that he won't seek reelection in November. From the House floor, Mumpower said:
"In the time that I've been here, I've lost a little hair, gained a little weight, put over a quarter million miles on my car just driving back and forth between my house and this House. I am looking forward to new challenges, not giving up the fight, but looking forward to new challenges and whatever the future holds."
There's been speculation that Mumpower might leave the House since last year's session during which he suffered numerous humiliations.
The 36-year-old Bristol lawmaker thought he would make history as the first Republican speaker of the House in 40 years. Not! In one of the most audacious betrayals in Tennessee political history, Democrats elected Rep. Kent Williams, an obscure Republican restaurateur from Elizabethton with whom they'd cut a secret deal.
Mumpower quickly kicked Williams out of the House GOP Caucus. But in a serious snub that made Mumpower look silly, Republicans went ahead and admitted Williams a few weeks later. That was pretty much the end for the once-mighty Mumpower, and everyone expected Republicans to elect themselves a new leader even if he stuck around for next year's new General Assembly.
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