Thursday, December 20, 2012

Rhee Memo: Say No to Guns in Schools

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 3:05 PM

In a "Memo on Gun Control Laws" earlier this week, StudentsFirst CEO Michelle Rhee informed the education advocacy organization's staff of the group's "opposition to any and all proposed laws that would allow guns in schools."

Rhee, the controversial former chancellor of Washington, D.C., schools and a part-time Nashvillian, had been silent on a Michigan bill that would have allowed certain individuals to carry concealed firearms in previously gun-free zones, such as schools — a notable absence from the debate, since Rhee and her organization have been anything but quiet on most issues involving schools and education. (For instance, they recently dropped $500,000 in opposition to a union-backed Michigan ballot measure that would have enshrined collective bargaining in the state's constitution.)

But Rhee applauded Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's decision on Tuesday to veto the legislation.

Her memo was sent out the same day, and appears in its entirety after the jump:

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Adele Melodies and Skype Science: 2012 Nashvillians of the Year in Action

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 9:59 AM

The cover story for this week's Scene is our annual Nashvillian of the Year issue. For 2012's honor, we chose — for reasons laid out here — two teachers. Christina McDonald, in the video above, leads her fifth-grade class at Nashville Prep, a charter school, in singing the names of the 50 states and the Great Lakes. And below, Adam Taylor of Overton High, a district school, connects his students via Skype to a team of scientists doing field work in Florida, including studying a lizard with two penises.

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Gun Manufacturers Benefit from Mass Murder, That Should Stop

Posted By on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 at 4:59 AM

You know, the funny/sad thing about events like the Newtown massacre is that gun manufacturers benefit tremendously every time someone opens fire in a crowd. The AP reports that last weekend was probably a record weekend for gun sales:

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said in an email that the agency performed 9,772 background checks over Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's 500 more than the second biggest weekend on record - Black Friday and the two days that followed in November.

Wow. Someone uses a gun, and everyone runs out to buy a gun. Apparently having your product used to kill 20 kids is great advertising! But it's kind of weird, if you think about it. If someone had used Tylenol to kill 20 kids on Friday, 10,000 Tennesseans wouldn't rush out to buy Tylenol. But when someone misuses a gun, the gun industry has folks convinced that the best response is to buy more guns.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Beth Harwell Unleashes Good Sense and Reason on the State Legislature

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 3:18 PM

House Speaker Beth Harwell is on a roll today. After announcing this morning her proposal for seemingly sensible changes to several old rules in the state House, she followed with an eminently reasonable take on gun legislation and the idea that Tennessee should be arming teachers in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.

First, from a release sent out this morning by her office, her proposed rule changes in the state House (emphasis my own):

The changes include:

Restructuring the committee system to balance the workload of each;

Adopting the annual ethics resolution into the House Rules which will ensure the body is abiding by an ethics policy from the first day;

Limiting the number of bills filed to 10 per member annually which will encourage members to prioritize;

Reaffirming that each member vote for only him or herself;

And deleting the requirement that every document be printed to reduce the amount of paper used in committee and for floor sessions.

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Republicans, Guns, Latinos — Oh My!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Since last month's election, many in the GOP have been puzzling their way through the party's Hispanic nightmare in electoral politics, trying to find a way to reverse President Barack Obama's overwhelming 40-plus percentage-point landslide among the Latino vote. Now, in the wake of awful circumstances in Connecticut, comes a new surge of interest in gun control as public policy. Republicans, already working overtime to master new political tap dance routines that will avoid offending their gun lobby overlords, now get to confront this charming piece of the puzzle: Latinos love gun control!

As Adam Winkler summarizes in a Daily Beast piece this morning, polls consistently show that more and better regulation of firearms is an issue of some importance to the Hispanic electorate. A Pew Research Center poll earlier this year asked whether it's more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns or more important to control gun ownership. As the chart below illustrates, Hispanic respondents were far less likely than whites (and even a bit less likely than blacks) to endorse gun rights as more important than gun control.

Another survey, conducted late last year by Lake Research Partners for the bipartisan group Mayors Against Illegal Guns, found that a whopping 69 percent of Latino voters want stronger laws governing gun sales, with fewer than a quarter preferring the status quo. More than 85 percent of Latinos in the survey want criminal background checks required for all gun buyers.

With Republicans also finding themselves in the 2012 election on the wrong end of a pretty significant gender gap, it is worth mentioning (even if it goes without saying) that women also favor more regulation of guns over expanded gun rights — by a margin over more than 20 percentage points in the Pew survey.

While there is nothing amusing about the circumstances that have propelled firearms back into the public policy limelight, it will be somewhat diverting to see how the GOP evolves and arranges its Latino/NRA simulpander.

A version of this post also appears at

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TFP, KNS Editorial Pages Call for Action on Gun Control [Updated]

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 9:27 AM

The editorial pages at the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the Times half of the Chattanooga Times Free-Press are calling for movement on gun-control measures in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. last week.

While the News-Sentinel takes the more general approach, calling for a "national dialogue on how to prevent such mass killings in the future," the liberal side of the TFP points directly at Gov. Bill Haslam, calling him out for his recent comment that he doesn't see "a big need to change things" in Tennessee's gun laws, and imploring him to shut the so-called "gun-show loophole" in Tennessee.

First, from Knoxville, after the jump:

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Sen. Alexander Was For Violent Art Before He Was Against It

Posted By on Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 5:09 AM

Just about 10 years ago, Tennessee's own Lamar Alexander stood on the floor of the Senate and delivered a speech about country music in general and Johnny Cash, who had just passed away, specifically. You can find that speech on his website, so presumably, he's still proud of it:

But why is there not a department or a chair or at least a conference occasionally dedicated to criticism of the poetry or at least the literature of country music? Literary criticism is a fundamental part of departments of English in universities all across America. Some of the most famous of these were among the "Fugitives" who met during the 1920's at Vanderbilt University: Cleanth Brooks, Robert Penn Warren, Allen Tate, Donald Davidson, and Andrew Lytle were some of those literary critics who began their careers then.

If Vanderbilt University is such a center of literary criticism, then why has Vanderbilt not done more about the literature that is country music? Or why does Belmont University in Nashville or the University of Tennessee or University of Memphis not do it? These Nashville — and Memphis — songwriters are certainly among the most famous poets in the world. Why do we wait for The New York Times and Bob Dylan to tell us that Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are also among the best poets when Vanderbilt University, among others, lives right there among them?

Let me tell you that the first sentence in that paragraph is untrue, as is almost everything in the second paragraph. Every year, for at least as long as I've been here, Belmont University hosts the International Country Music Conference, which looks at "the literature that is country music." The University of Tennessee Press has a fine group of books about country music. At the time Alexander wrote this, Barbara Ching, whose fantastic book Wrong's What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture had just come out, was at the University of Memphis teaching about country music. And let's not even get started on what Charles Wolfe — rest his soul — was doing at MTSU at the time.

It is enormously irritating that Alexander told the whole country that universities in our state suck so much that they ignore our indigenous art, when that's patently and demonstrably untrue.

But its hilariously hypocritical that a man who stood before the country complaining that college-age kids don't learn enough about country music — from "The Knoxville Girl" to "Oomie Wise" to "Folsom Prison Blues" to "Delia's Gone" to "Goodbye Earl" and on and on, a seemingly unending fount of murder for entertainment — is now trying to sell us on the idea that violent video games cause college-age kids to be violent.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tennessee Legislators Leading the Call to Arm Teachers

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 5:14 PM


Less than five days after an elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 first graders and six adults dead — along with the mother of the gunman — a couple of Republican Tennessee legislators are proposing a solution: Our teachers need guns.

First, there's Boner Award winner state Sen. Stacey Campfield. Over at his blog, he says he'll push legislation to "allow licensed and checked faculty and staff, at schools, to be able to have a gun on campus." And since the "i" key is not even close to the "a" key, yes — we assume the senator does not know how to spell "predator."

Campfield's post from yesterday, titled "Is is time?":

I wonder if after the massacre in Conneticut, a state with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, that legislators will be willing to look at changing some of the same restrictions we have here in Tennessee. I personally think we need to make sure a similar type preditor is not allowed to run wild in our schools.

Would this threat in Tennessee open some eyes that it could happen here?

I will be bringing back legislaton to allow licensed and checked faculty and staff, at schools, to be able have a gun on campus if a safety officer is not present on campus.

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Gun Violence and the Fantasy of an Armed Citizenry

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 6:04 AM

In the wake of the Newtown massacre, an increasing number of gun-rights activists have been calling for more Americans to walk around armed. For instance, Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America says:

"Gun control supporters have the blood of little children on their hands. Federal and state laws combined to insure that no teacher, no administrator, no adult had a gun at the Newtown school where the children were murdered. This tragedy underscores the urgency of getting rid of gun bans in school zones. The only thing accomplished by gun free zones is to insure that mass murderers can slay more before they are finally confronted by someone with a gun."

We talked about this in the wake of the Aurora, Colo., shooting this summer, how some people have this superstitious belief that more guns would magically solve the problem of gun violence.

But I'd just like to point out that in this case, we don't need to hypothesize or fantasize about what would have happened if the shooter had come across a lawful gun owner before he started shooting. Because in this case, the very first person Adam Lanza came across that day was a lawful gun owner who had put in major time at shooting ranges, someone who was about as prepared as a civilian can be for something that might require a violent response, and he killed her and took her guns to an elementary school.

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The Priorities of Outrage: Guns Before Butter

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 5:00 AM


Since your social media feeds have likely been hijacked by gun-related missives from good-intentioned friends, family and other assorted nice (but unhinged) Facebook acquaintances in the wake of Friday's horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, it's likely that you may have missed one of the biggest news stories in this waning year of our flying spaghetti monster, 2012.

Roughly 24 hours before Adam Lanza reportedly entered Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 20 children and six adults before turning the gun on himself, the news broke that the United States Department of Justice would not prosecute one of the world's largest banks, despite the fact that this storied financial institution, U.K.-based HSBC, directly laundered the money of Mexican drug cartels and conducted business with bona fide terrorists, marking the latest such non-prosecution of so-called "too big to jail" banks.

By levying a fine against HSBC that constituted a mere five weeks' worth of income, the U.S. government has effectively enshrined the practice of "jailing the victims and enabling the criminals" in America's 40-year-old War on Drugs, according to Rolling Stone's resident bullshit detector, Matt Taibbi.

But now that yet another unbalanced American has committed yet another act of unimaginable gun-based tragedy, it's unlikely that you, your friends, your family or those crazy assholes on your Facebook feed — let alone the media and Congress — have even heard about the settlement, making it highly unlikely that the American public will release its finite bile reserves on two heads of the same multiheaded beast at once.

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