Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Matthew Shepard's Father Says Lawmakers Creating 'Open Season' on Gays

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 1:50 PM

Matthew Shepard
  • Matthew Shepard
The father of Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was tortured and murdered in 1998 in Wyoming, came to Nashville today to denounce anti-gay bills in the legislature. He said Rep. Richard Floyd’s threat to “stomp a mudhole” in transgender people could lead to violence against gay people in this state, where two gay teens have committed suicide since December.

“The comment about stomping transgender people—that does encourage,” Dennis Shepard told a news conference. “What it does it says, 'Well, nobody’s going to do anything.' It creates a policy of it’s open season. That’s what happened to Matt. Wyoming is one of five states that has no hate crime law whatever. So when they beat him, fractured his skull in 18 places with a butt of a .357 and left him to die, they thought, ‘no harm, no foul.’” They thought, ‘Who’s going to do anything? It’s just another gay.’”

Shepard expressed sorrow over the suicides of Phillip Parker Jr., 14, an eighth-grader at Gordonsville High School, and Cheatham County High School senior Jacob Rogers, 18. Both students were victims of bullying.

“These bills disturb me, just the fact that they’ve been brought to the forefront and there’s so much publicity about them,” Shepard said. “I’m concerned about the kids. They are our most valuable asset. They are our hope for the future. We can’t afford to lose a single one. We’ve lost two in the last 30 days. We’ll never know what those two young men could have done to help the city, the state and the country.”

State's Big Three Gets Behind Yes/No Elections of Judges

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 11:31 AM

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Should judges in Tennessee's highest courts face contested elections, instead of the thumbs-up-or-down votes currently in place?

Social conservatives say yes. They hope to toss out judges who buck their hard-right philosophy and elect home schoolers, Bible study teachers and gun dealers to decide the meaning of the state constitution.

But proponents of our yes/no elections say that system has given Tennessee one of the most professional judiciaries in the nation. They live in fear of contested elections, arguing it would put justice up for sale in Tennessee. They say it would pimp out the bench by forcing judges to shake down special interests for campaign cash, promise the moon to voters and kiss babies all over the state.

Today, Gov. Bill Haslam, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell joined forces to try to answer the question once and for all. They proposed a state constitutional amendment to delete language that seems to require contested elections and to enshrine the current yes/no elections as our system. If the legislature adopts the resolution by majority votes this year and by two-thirds votes in the next General Assembly, the question goes on the ballot for voter approval in the 2014 election.

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USN Students Produce No Name-Calling Week Video

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 10:45 AM

Well, it's Wednesday of National No Name-Calling Week. Can our state legislators make it a whole seven days without proposing special protections for bullies or some other nonsense? Perhaps this video, produced by students at USN, will help them get over the hump. (Language NSFW.)

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State Rep. John Ragan, Man of "Logic"

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Kristin Johnson wrote her state representative, John Ragan, trying to convince him to vote against the "license to bully" bill when it comes up. What she got back from him can only be described as an embarrassment to Ragan and whoever taught him "logic" and "reason."

I just want to point out this gem —

All of these statistics are facts. A resulting critical thought question might be: do homosexual practitioners disproportionately contract AIDS, hepatitis, or syphilis through their own proclivities and behavior or in “reaction” to opinions of that behavior by others or someone supporting a bill?

Examining another statistic, it has been well known for a decade that suicide is attempted much more frequently in the homosexual community than in the heterosexual community (Mathy, Cochran, Olsen, & Mays, 2009). This same source pointed out that, on average, suicide is approximately three times more likely among homosexuals than heterosexuals.

— and say this. Yes, Rep. Ragan, gay people are indeed disproportionately affected by negative opinions of their behavior by others or by someone supporting a bill. Gay kids, especially. Phillip Parker was negatively affected. Jacob Rogers was negatively affected.

That's not just hyperbole. In fact, studies show that living in states that pass anti-gay bullshit laws contributes to GLBT people's mental health issues. You can imagine how it might have negatively affected (read: scared the shit out of) people to read that Rep. Floyd would stomp a mudhole in a person whose gender presentation he thought was wrong. Or how it might negatively affect people to read Ragan's bizarre theories on how gayness is a choice and thus, gay people deserve whatever happens to them, for making such terrible choices.

What Ragan is doing is trying to excuse his own discomfort with gay men — note that the statistics he cites about disease transmittal rates are completely wrong for lesbians, thus confirming that they are, indeed, following God's favorite sexual orientation — under the guise of "logic."

But honestly, it's not logical to look at a state in which gay kids are driven to suicide and to shrug our shoulders and act like there's nothing to be done about it.

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Tennessee Tea Party, Textbooks and Slavery: The Best Snowballing Media Scandal of ... Last Year?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 at 5:00 AM

For the past couple of days, the blogosphere has been having deja vu all over again. As a result, some recycled outrage is afoot. At least Pith thought it sounded oddly familiar.

On Monday, crack journalists at the Huffington Post and Think Progress sounded the alarm that the Tennessee Tea Party had issued a demand for references to slavery to be removed from history textbooks, in order that we might not tarnish the image of the country’s white founders. On Tuesday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported the same and, as of this writing, the conservative rabble-rousers were set to be featured on Keith Olbermann’s "Worst Persons in the World" segment.

Oh no. Not again, right? Actually ... yeah. That’s right. Pith-a-Fact says: PANTS ON FIRE!

While it appears the Tennessee Tea Party did make the aforementioned outrageous demands, they did it a year ago. You know how you spend the first week of a new year writing the wrong year on your checks? It looks like the same thing happened here.

Go ahead. Click through those HuffPo links you usually (and understandably) ignore. You’ll notice that the HuffPo, ThinkProgress and WSJ posts all link to either this Salon article or this Memphis Commercial-Appeal article. Both were written in January of 2011. What’s more, the 2012 HuffPo article links to the 2011 Salon article, which links to a 2011 ... HuffPo article.

Pith isn’t high on the list of Tea Party defenders, but come on. They didn’t demand the whitewashing of history textbooks TWO YEARS IN A ROW. What kind of people do you think they are?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quote of the Day: Uncle Sam Wants YOU To Self-Deport

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 11:00 AM

"All illegals and descendants of illegals are here ILLEGALLY and must be DEPORTED at once."

—Patriots for Self-Deportation, in the About Us section of their recently launched website SelfDeport.org.

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Fred Thompson Endorses Newt

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 10:48 AM

"I have come to the growing realization for me anyway that Newt Gingrich is the guy who can articulate what America is all about," Thompson says.

Mittens vs. Newtron

Posted By on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 at 4:02 AM

Talking Heads
  • Talking Heads
A reporter — or a citizen for that matter, but reporters do this for a living — can write about a political race in a number of different ways. There's the policy approach, or following the positions espoused by the candidate and seeing how voters respond. There's the process approach — the guts of the campaign organization and how it runs. There's the personal style of the candidate, there's the statistical horse race (polling) and there's the media game — paid media (ads) versus free (the press). And there's the whole campaign money stuff.

As for myself? It's really just an elaborate version of the Would-You-Rather-Have-A-Beer-With-This-Guy test.

We begin, first, with vision. I don't really think most voters pull a lever based on one issue (pro-choice, anti-obesity, cap and trade, whatever). Rather, I think voters carry a big, broad understanding of what a candidate would do in office. Ronald Reagan was optimistic about America, the city was still shining on the hill, and so forth. Bill Clinton was both from, and had, Hope. These are visions, the umbrella under which every decision uttered by a campaign can be explained.

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Monday, January 23, 2012

Another Gay Teen Commits Suicide; Do State Lawmakers Deserve Some Blame?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 12:10 PM

Another gay teen has taken his own life in Middle Tennessee. Phillip Parker's family says he committed suicide because he was bullied in school. "A sweet kind person like Phillip took it out on himself, he killed himself to get out of the pain," says his grandfather, Paul Harris.

In this video, the Tennessee Equality Project's Chris Sanders says state lawmakers who have introduced "a slew of hateful bills" bear some responsibility for stoking anti-gay feelings in Tennessee. Sanders names the "Don't Say Gay," "License to Bully" and "Police the Potty" bills. He singles out Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, for special criticism for saying he'd like "to stomp a mudhole" in any transgender person who might go into a store fitting room with his wife or daughters.

Floyd's remark "sends a very clear message about the worth of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in this state and that does have an effect upon youth," says Sanders, calling for lawmakers to withdraw anti-gay bills.

It just seems like a sensible way forward. It is my hope that the General Assembly can find the courage to do the right thing and protect our youth. Until then, all of us at the local level in Tennessee can be working with our school boards to press for more inclusive nondiscrimination policies, and we can also do all we can to intervene in situations in which we know the young person is experiencing harassment, demeaning name-calling and threats of violence.

Sen. Mae Beavers Strikes Again

Posted By on Mon, Jan 23, 2012 at 11:08 AM

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Sen. Mae Beavers is upset because her crackpot ideas for laws are blatantly unconstitutional. So she's decided to fix that little problem. Donning the clown shoes yet again, she has filed a bill to take away the power of the courts to toss out any state law, no matter how ridiculous.

"When a law student sent me an email with the statutory language, I had to ask if this was a joke," says Chattanooga attorney Lee Davis.

It's a joke, all right. The chairwoman of the state Senate Judiciary Committee apparently is unaware that the judiciary is a co-equal branch of government, not some pathetic state agency subject to her commands. She might benefit by reading Marbury v. Madison. That's an old Supreme Court case, senator. We guess you missed the day your 8th grade social studies teacher talked about that one.

So if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, will Beavers complain about judicial activism? Hah!

Update: Only Mae Beavers could make Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey sound reasonable. Asked about Beavers' latest bright idea, even Ramsey scoffed.

"That is crossing the line on separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches. Because we make the law and they interpret the law. If you don't like what they're coming down with, then you do everything you can to change the court."

Update II: Beavers withdraws her bill. We think Ramsey made her do it, proving Tennessee Republicans are capable of embarrassment.

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