Friday, November 30, 2012

The Hippodrome: Turn And Face The Strange

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 8:37 AM

This Week In The 'Drome: Whispering, moving, firing, hiring, disparaging and more ...

This is not what I had in mind
  • This is not what I had in mind

Opening Face-Off

The Signal vs. The Noise : Late Tuesday, Memphis TV station WREG reported that as part of an offer to woo Jon Gruden to coach the University of Tennessee, Jimmy Haslam offered an ownership stake in the Cleveland Browns.

It's the kind of rumor more appropriate for an Internet messageboard than an ABC affiliate, which makes sense because, indeed, that exact rumor had been bouncing around the fevered world of UT forums for a few days. The Browns, Gruden and UT all debunked the tale — which WREG sourced to "sources" — giving it a credence it didn't deserve. Membership in the exclusive fraternity of NFL owners is hard to come by and requires a Skull & Bones-type vote from the existing owners. NCAA rules would prohibit such a transfer of stock. And even for those not versed in the by-laws of the NFL and the nonsense of the NCAA rule book, it just sounds stupid.

But this is the world, now. A professional can use a messageboard post as a "source," forcing the players in the drama to react to something posted by SmokeyOnOldRockyTopGeneralNeylandIsMyHomeboy3981. Such a cottage industry has sprung up around this particular coach, there's a term for it: Grumors, which sounds like either a weird sex thing or the name of a knock-off Muppet.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and that giant sucking sound you hear from Knoxville is an informational void. UT AD Dave Hart's reticence in this search for Derek Dooley's replacement would make Calvin Coolidge seem loquacious.

So those seeking to be in the know are forced onto the Wild West of web forums and the sycophantic echo chamber of sports talk radio. And it sucks in even the pros, pressed by desperation to peddle defecation — or at least sling it onto the wall and hope it sticks.

The great democratization of the Internet sometimes produces good work, and sometimes it produces garbage, as best illustrated here.

In the rush to advance a storyline, it can be reported that Jon Gruden owns land in East Tennessee. And sure, that's true. You don't need to be "a reader who asked to be anonymous" to actually track it down. You can do it yourself by going here and typing "Gruden" in the search box. Indeed, The Chuckster does own a heap of property in Jefferson County. He bought it six or seven years ago. That doesn't seem terribly relevant to an ongoing coaching search, but in this amped-up world, it means everything. Especially if you ignore how long ago the land sale was.

Jon Gruden very well may be the next coach at Tennessee — personally, I'm not convinced (Ed. Note: And the latest reports indicate I'm right) — but any real clues as to his true intentions are getting drowned out by the static.

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Glenn Beck: Bullshit Artist Switches Medium to Urine

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 7:21 AM


Over at Pith's sister arts blog Country Life, I talk about why I'm kind of blown away by this picture of a plastic Obama supposedly submerged in Glenn Beck's pee. Here's a, dare I say, specimen of my argument:

I can't stop thinking about it. Not because I'm upset at the artist — Glenn Beck, in this case — but because I think this might, unintentionally, be the most illuminating piece of contemporary religio-political art made in years. I believe that if you understand this photo, you understand just about everything in American religion and politics in the past five years. ...

Try to forget that this is a picture Glenn Beck took of his little arts & crafts project. Try to forget, just for a minute, Glenn Beck's involvement at all. And try, just for a second, try to pretend we don't know the Piss Christ reference. Let's just consider the picture of a plastic Obama submerged in some sort of juice (or perhaps a pickling liquid) in a Mason jar on a counter in someone's house.

There are some things we notice. The house is large, and judging by the large room with high ceilings in the background, it's either fairly new or has been extensively remodeled. There's a Christmas tree, along with some large posters or art pieces in the background. This is the home of a wealthy Christian.

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Jim Kyle Finds Some Folks Hold a Grudge

Posted By on Fri, Nov 30, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Over at the City Paper, Andrea Zelinski reports that Jim Kyle's re-election was closer than he seemed to expect:

The Memphis Democrat was re-elected minority leader on a 4-3 secret ballot vote Tuesday on Capitol Hill after a challenge from Sen. Reginald Tate, also of Memphis.

“What I hear in the mode of that vote is that perhaps I need to change the way we do some things in my office. And I’ll take a look at it and do that,” Kyle told reporters Thursday.

He said he may have taken for granted that his members know what work he puts into the caucus, and added he needs to better market what he’s doing to his members.

I have an idea, Sen. Kyle. Why don't you start by not stabbing the best friend GLBT folks and women had in the Senate in the back? Oops, too late. Well, as a consolation prize, why don't you try taking up that part of Beverly Marrero's work? I know a lot of people across the state who relied on her would appreciate it.

Even then, you're just going to have to live with the fact that actions speak louder than words. Based on the calculated political shiv you planted in Marrero, your colleagues have every reason to suspect that when the chips are down, you'll sell them out to the Republicans to get your way. Time heals all wounds, it's true. But most folks are going to need a little more of it to heal this one.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Metro Pulse on Stacey Campfield's 2014 Challenger

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 11:19 AM

Over in Knoxville, our alt-weekly brethren at Metro Pulse have given University of Tennessee professor Brian Stevens the profile treatment. Why? Because he's already running against Republican firebrand state Sen. Stacey Campfield, who is up for re-election in two years.

The "tall and strapping" Stevens declared his intentions earlier this year, using this year's campaign season, the Pulse reports, to get his mostly unknown name and message out into the political atmosphere, so it will be less foreign to voters come 2014. He'll be running as a Democrat, but the ballot is the only place voters are likely to see the party label next to his name. The Pulse reports that the term does not appear on his website and that his supporters prefer to describe him as a "social libertarian/fiscal conservative."

An excerpt, after the jump:

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Steve Glaser for TNDP Chair!

Posted By on Thu, Nov 29, 2012 at 5:16 AM

He's not running, as far as I know, but this email makes me think former candidate for the state House of Representatives Steve Glaser would make an excellent candidate for Chip Forrester's old job. Hell, even if he doesn't run, it would behoove the candidates to take to heart what he's saying.

He's got some great ideas — statewide fundraising, more coordination with campaigns, finding something all Democrats can stand for and helping all candidates promote those things, and helping candidates work together to share resources. All important things for the party to do.

But I'm going to tell you that I've been blogging since September 2004 so I can look back and see that Democrats have been making variations on these points since at least then. I remember right before Forrester was elected, a bunch of us bloggers — some folks driving for hours to be there — sitting around a table with TNDP folks saying these same things. I've been at meetings since then where people sit around and say these things. Bloggers like Steve Steffens, Steve Ross, Trace Sharp and Southern Beale (among many others) have been writing smart, insightful variations on these themes for years.

The problem isn't that no one can figure out what's wrong with the TNDP. Folks much smarter than me diagnosed that years ago. The question at this point is, how can they know so clearly what's wrong and do so little to fix it? Because it seems to me that until there's an answer to that question — why the organization can't utilize the knowledge of people who need it to survive and thrive — we're going to continue to see folks like Glaser learning fresh what a lot of folks have learned the hard way.

The next TNDP chair — and why not Steve Glaser? — has a big task in front of him or her, but the biggest challenge the chair faces is whether he or she can actually do the things that everyone knows need to be done.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Defeated Dem Writes Letter 'From Under the Bus'

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 4:10 PM

Like many Tennessee Democrats, Steven Glaser lost on election day.

And like many Democrats, he's mad as hell about the state of the party.

The combination of the two resulted in a lengthy email that surfaced today, in which Glaser, who lost the District 44 race to replace retiring Democrat Mike McDonald, let fly a fairly harsh critique of the TNDP organization — a word that should perhaps be used, ahem, liberally.

Glaser's full email, and a response from the party, appear after the jump.

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It's Official: Glenda Glover Named TSU's New President

Posted By on Wed, Nov 28, 2012 at 5:04 AM

In a unanimous vote, the Tennessee Board of Regents made Glenda Glover TSU's ninth president. According to the City Paper,

Glover, the former dean of the College of Business at Jackson State University, received support from the TSU National Alumni Association and other community members. Gov. Bill Haslam, who spoke with all four finalists for the job, also praised Glover.

Haslam told reporters Tuesday morning that he was “particularly impressed” with Glover. “We have a couple of mutual friends down in Jackson, Mississippi, who I checked on her with who came back with great reports.”

On Twitter, Pierce Greenberg reported that, after she was voted in, Regent Greg Duckett said, "Welcome back."

"Welcome back." Aw, excuse me a minute. I think I've got a little something in my eye. I hope that's what the students write in the fence with cups for Glover's first day.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

State Rep. Kevin Brooks 'Exploring' Congressional Run to Challenge DesJarlais

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Republican state Rep. Kevin Brooks says he's "exploring" a bid for the congressional seat currently held by embattled Republican Congressman Scott DesJarlais.

Brooks currently represents District 24 in east Tennessee, and was re-elected at yesterday's House Republican Caucus meeting to his post as Assistant Majority Leader.

"At the same time,” Brooks says, in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “I have received a number of calls of support and had many conversations encouraging me to run for Congress in the Fourth congressional district. While I am firmly committed to serving my constituents in the 24th District, I wanted to publicly say that I am exploring what a solutions-based campaign for Congress would look like and how I can best serve the great State of Tennessee."

Although DesJarlais managed to survive damaging revelations about the end of his first marriage to win re-election, Republican insiders have marked him as the sure target of a primary challenge in 2014.

Brooks' full statement is after the jump:

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Break Promises; Win Friends

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 2:06 PM

Hey, it was just a quote-pledge-unquote, so chill.
  • "Hey, it was just a quote-pledge-unquote, so chill."
Fresh off their chirpy endorsement of Mitt Romney back in October, the newly conservative editorialists at The Tennessean today are prepared to canonize Sen. Bob Corker for essentially going back on a promise. Noting Corker's apparent repudiation Monday of his sworn fealty to Grover Norquist's anti-tax pledge, the paper "applauds Sen. Corker for seeing the light." Corker told Charlie Rose on CBS that "The only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve when I’m sworn in this January."

Just so that nobody is confused about whether the Americans for Tax Reform pledge really does look like a promise, here is the full text of the thing that Corker signed:

I, ___, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of ___, and to the American people that I will: one, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and two, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

The Tennessean writes that "Norquist’s pledge has been a major stumbling block to Congress serving its constituents, preventing any real discussion about reasonable compromises that would get the nation’s economy back on track." Puh-leeze. Norquist's pledge has not been the stumbling block; the craven and dogmatic act of signing the damn thing by political cowards like Corker is the stumbling block. In its Romney endorsement, the paper was critical of Barack Obama's "inability to possess the leadership to break the partisan gridlock in Congress." Gee, do you think brainless pledges like Corker's might have had anything to do with that?

Let's see if we have this straight, Senator: As a candidate for office you make an inane (yet solemn) promise to never ever ever do something, and then you abandon it on a dime six years later when you suddenly wake up to the painfully obvious idiocy of making such a promise in the first place. Are we supposed to call this statesmanship?

A version of this post also appears at

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Who Cares What Haslam Says? House GOP Leader Vows to Reject ObamaCare in First Major Decision of New Year

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 9:07 AM

GOP Leader Gerald McCormick
  • GOP Leader Gerald McCormick
After House Republicans re-elected their leadership team yesterday (with the exception of poor Judd Matheny, who was dumped as speaker pro tempore for publicly squawking about the leadership team), GOP leader Gerald McCormick proclaimed: "[W]e’re going to have a successful 108th General Assembly that focuses on the problems Tennesseans are facing and provides common sense, conservative solutions so Tennessee is made a better place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Isn't that reassuring? We were feeling so much better about our miserable red-state existences, and then — bam! — McCormick just had to spoil the moment. Asked whether Republicans, in their first major decision as Tennessee potentates, might deign to bless us with our very own ObamaCare health insurance exchange, he said:

"At this point I don’t think there’s a snowball’s chance of that happening. We’re not going to set up a state exchange unless we really have some detailed information on it and it becomes favorable for the state of Tennessee to do so in a way that cannot be reversed. And I just don’t see that happening based on past experience with the federal government."

So let's get this straight: The Republican governor thinks a state-controlled exchange would mean lower administrative costs and lower premiums for all Tennesseans, but there's zero chance of that happening because Republicans in the legislature are dead set against it. They don't believe what their governor is telling them, even though he's the only one in state government actually looking into this and not receiving basically all his information from Fox News. That's common sense, conservative solution No. 1 from our Republican supermajority.

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