Tuesday, April 24, 2012

John Harris: Debra Maggart Needs to be (Politically) Crucified (Updated)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 12:21 PM

A recent photo John Harris shared on Facebook. Should we take up a collection for a one-way ticke to Iraq?
  • John Harris recently shared this photo on Facebook. Should we take up a collection for a one-way ticket to Iraq?
In an email sent to Tennessee Firearms Association members, TFA executive director and political pariah John Harris turns his ire on House Republican Caucus Chairwoman Debra Maggart, calling for her political crucifixion. Maggart, he writes, "has been identified by TFA and we understand other grassroots organizations as the symbolic figure of a Republican legislative leadership that has trampled on the 2nd Amendment rights of citizens."

"Symbolically," he writes, taking care to couch his comments with buffers so he can he defend them as harmless metaphors later, "it is time to display a used crucifix at the entrance to the General Assembly as a warning."

This is all remarkably unsurprising coming from Harris, who has spent the session wetting his political bed with hyperbolic rhetoric and by being himself in public forums. Luckily, Republican leadership on the Hill long ago stopped listening to him.

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Bills From Last Night: Gun Play, Embryo-as-Victim, Anti All-Comers Delay

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 10:01 AM

Sen. Jim Kyle tries to force Republicans into a crossfire, courtesy of TNReport

A couple highlights from last night's Senate floor session, as the legislature begins a mad dash for the exits in its final week.

Gun Play: Political geeks will love this one. In a [insert your own adjective] political move, Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle tried suspending the rules to get Guns-in-Lots on the calendar for today. If successful, he would have forced Republicans' hands on the bill, which has pitted two of their key constituencies against each other. The motion failed to get the needed two-thirds support, but Kyle promised to bring it again during today's Senate session. Here's TNReport with more.

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If SB3412 Passes Into Law, Will I Have to Take a Pregnancy Test If I'm Mugged?

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 at 5:03 AM

Monday night, the state Senate passed SB3412, which expands the definition of legal personhood to included "a human embryo or fetus at any stage of gestation in utero, when any such term refers to the victim of any act made criminal by this part, and when at the time of the criminal act the victim was pregnant." In other words, if you commit a crime against a woman that harms or intends to harm her pregnancy, the law is going to treat that embryo or fetus "at any stage of gestation in utero" as another legal person.

Beat a pregnant woman half to death? They'll charge you for trying to kill her and trying to kill her baby.

I'm sympathetic to laws like that. Women are at an increased risk of domestic violence when we're pregnant, because we're pregnant, and it would be nice if the laws reflected that someone who abuses a pregnant women has different aims than a jackass who abuses a woman who isn't pregnant.

But I can't get behind this law. And here's why.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Eugene Robinson, COLUMNIST, Appearing Thursday in Nashville

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 5:14 PM

Eugene Robinson, the legendary Washington Post columnist and 2009 Pulitzer Prize winner, will be in town Thursday to deliver the 12:15 keynote address at the Tennessee Board of Regents Diversity Conference, held at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 10 Century Blvd. Evidently the conference is striving for political diversity as well, as the TBR's original media advisory points out:


"Communist?" We blame AutoCorrect. An immediate correction, replete with profuse apologies, was issued shortly afterward. There but for the grace of God goes Pith.

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Evans Unleashes Inner Grammar Nazi on MNPS

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 2:39 PM

District 23 Councilwoman Emily Evans wants you to know she knows a thing or two about syntax, spelling and writing good.

In a post titled "MNPS Kan't Read" published on her blog over the weekend, Evans takes Metro Nashville Public Schools to the woodshed for poor grammar and run-on sentences she discovered on the school district's website (and elsewhere):

In response to a discussion among some residents of Hillwood about MNPS academic standards and rigor, I was directed to a portion of the Hillwood High School website dedicated to their Academic Scholars Program. There on the program's home page is a list of requirements including the "Academic Scholar Couselor [sic] Report." Thinking this misspelling might be an aberration or worried it was not I took a look at the Academic Scholars Application Form. There, under the section dedicated to the commitment necessary to participate is a sentence that would make my high school English teacher arise from the grave and go looking for her red pen.

According to Pith's copy of the Necronomicon, post-mortem reanimation rarely occurs as a result of poor English skills; usually it involves invoking an nameless ancient god and/or animal sacrifice. Usually.

Evans continues her grammatically sound critique by expressing dismay that two weeks after she first brought the errors to MNPS's attention, they still hadn't been fixed:

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A Tale of Two Leads: Mystery Deepens in Airplane Crash

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 1:31 PM

From today's Tennessean:

Flying through rain in the dark before midnight on Friday, a 75-year-old pilot used the lights of Opryland to guide his vintage airplane to a smooth belly landing on a grass strip at a shuttered airport in East Nashville.

Even without landing gear, Russell Brothers, Jr., came down so gently in his 1961 twin-engine Beechcraft Model 18 that he didn’t trigger the crash locator that would have given authorities his location at Cornelia Fort Airpark.

He was alone and uninjured at an airstrip he’d flown to for more than 50 years before it closed. He called his wife to pick him up and they rode back to Burns, Tennessee, leaving the airplane behind as a mystery for police.

“We were just both thankful that I wasn’t hurt and that was all we talked about,” Brothers said by phone this morning. ...

Interesting human-interest story. Oh, wait. From today's City Paper online:

Police say they have identified the man who crash-landed a vintage airplane at the closed Cornelia Fort Airpark — and the name given is the same as that of a pilot once convicted of smuggling drugs.

Sometime late Friday or early Saturday, Russell Brothers, 74, glided a 1961 Beechcraft twin-engine to a belly landing on the grass after its landing gear failed, according to police. On Monday, a police spokesman said that detectives had spoken with Brothers and he acknowledged flying the plane from Miami, Fla., to the closed East Nashville airpark. ...

Brothers, according to past media reports, was convicted of money laundering and drug smuggling some 20 years ago. His name resurfaced in headlines two years ago when police charged him with stealing another man’s airplane from John C. Tune airport, flying it to Dickson and attempting to extort $12,000 from the man in exchange for returning the plane. ...

UPDATE 3:48 p.m.: Tennessean story since updated with info about Brothers' record.

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Hurley on Drug-Testing Legislators: "No, Sir"

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 12:41 PM

Rep. Julia Hurley: "I ain't passed the bar, but I know a little bit, enough that you won't illegally search my shit" or something like that. (Video courtesy of TNReport)

A remarkable thing happened today in the House Finance subcommittee, which took up and passed the bill that would implement suspicion-based drug testing for welfare applicants. Presented with the obvious suggestion that perhaps legislators should also have to piss in a cup before they receive taxpayers' trust and funds, bill sponsor Rep. Julia Hurley said no. Then she said no again, a little bit more politely. Then she tried to change the subject.

As House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick then pointed out, after saying he'd support the idea, adding such a provision to the bill at this late stage would probably throw a wrench into lawmakers' plans to get out of town after this week. At least McCormick admitted that was the reason for not doing it now, though.

As for Hurley, the only thing that would have made her response better is if she had plugged her ears, closed her eyes and started a chorus of "la-la-la's."

We've reached out to Hurley for an answer as to why she opposed the amendment and her thoughts on the idea in general. We'll update here if we get a response.

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TIRRC, ACO and AMAC Join Chorus Calling for Haslam Veto

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 11:02 AM

In a letter sent to Gov. Bill Haslam, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, the American Center for Outreach and the American Muslim Advisory Council call for a veto of the bill that would limit foreign workers in Tennessee charter schools. They join Michelle Rhee, the nationally known education activist who wrote Haslam last week with the same message.

Earlier this month, TIRRC called the bill a "thinly veiled attack on Muslims" and they have continually pointed out the bill's origin: the Tennessee Eagle Forum, who previously hatched legislation — sponsored by Sen. Bill Ketron, who also sponsors the charter school bill — that would have outlawed the practice of Shariah law.

The letter calls their latest bill SB3345/HB3540 "a continuation of [the Eagle Forum's] controversial anti-Muslim campaign from last year," cites the supposed source of its charter-school paranoia — some schools in other states that were being run by Turkish immigrants — and argues that the bill would effectively serve as an "absolute bar for all but the very largest of charter schools."

Haslam has already expressed concerns about the bill and his comments seemed to indicate that a veto was possible.

The full text of his latest piece of mail on the subject is here, in PDF form.

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Friday, April 20, 2012

After Rewrite, Hurley-Campfield Bill May Be Within Sight of the Constitution

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 3:20 PM

Grounds for reasonable suspicion?
  • TNReport Used With Permission
  • Grounds for reasonable suspicion?

After an amendment essentially rewrote it and further narrowed its scope, a proposal to require drug testing for welfare applicants might possibly be legal, according to testimony given to a Senate finance committee yesterday.

For weeks now, Sen. Stacey Campfield and Rep. Julia Hurley have been pushing the idea, in the face of unfavorable rulings from the state's attorney general and legal troubles with similar programs in other states. Their bill has undergone so many changes that it's been tricky to keep up. In short, at their most brazen, Campfield and Hurley were proposing a program that would have drug-tested every applicant for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) along with anyone "reasonably suspected" of drug use. The rewritten bill presented yesterday limits testing to new applicants who raise suspicion of drug use after a screening. The bill would allow DHS to develop such a screening and a plan for implementation of the program before presenting their plans to legislators in January 2014. The program would go into effect in July of that year.

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Michelle Rhee to Haslam: Veto the Cap on Foreign Workers in Charter Schools

Posted By on Fri, Apr 20, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Will the governor take the wrapping off this stamp?
  • Will the governor take the wrapping off this stamp?

Michelle Rhee, the former chancellor of Washington, D.C., public schools and founder of activist education group StudentsFirst, has written a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam urging him to veto a recently passed bill that would limit foreign workers in Tennessee charter schools, Tom Humphrey reports.

The bill was sponsored by Republicans Sen. Bill Ketron and Rep. Judd Matheny and pushed by the Tennessee Eagle Forum, the brain trust behind previous legislation that would have outlawed the practice of Shariah law.

In the letter, which Humphrey provides in full at his blog, Rhee says the bill is "quality blind and will close the door on driven and talented educators who might otherwise help kids learn to read or become passionate about math and science."

What makes this doubly interesting is that Rhee — the "rock star of education reform" hailed in the documentary Waiting for "Superman," now a part-time Nashville resident married to Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson — is the ex-wife of Haslam's education commissioner Kevin Huffman. She was regarded during her controversial D.C. tenure as an enemy of teachers' unions, which would theoretically put her in the same camp as Haslam's allies.

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