State-wide Treasure Gordon Belt went to Clarksville to delve more deeply into the question of whether Austin Peay was the teenage father of a maid's child. (You may recall this first hit the news after an episode of Geneology Roadshow.)
Belt examined the letter that either seems to reveal that Albert Roberts was Austin Peay's son or at least proves that there's long been a rumor that Roberts is Peay's son. Belt remains cautious:
Although this letter represents a key piece of evidence in the genealogical investigation, the document only confirms that the rumor of Governor Peay's relationship with Roberts was circulating at the time the letter was written. It is certainly not "THE" document proving that Austin Peay was Albert Roberts father.
It is my sincere hope that more official documents and information will be revealed to help solve this family mystery with absolute certainty.
I think this caution is well-warranted. Don't get me wrong — I think that, if Roberts' family believes he's related to Governor Peay, he's probably related to Governor Peay. I would hate to see Tennessee get caught up in ridiculousness similar to the Jefferson ridiculousness where, even though people in Jefferson's lifetime and certainly in the lifetimes of his sons with Sally Hemings openly acknowledged that these were Jefferson's children, we're still subjected to theories that these are the children of anyone but Thomas Jefferson — perhaps his cousin's, perhaps his nephews', perhaps the stork brought them unblemished by any father at all.
But, on the other hand, Governor Peay was Austin Peay the third. And a man might do as many favors for his brother as he does for his son.
So, acknowledging that there's a connection while also being honest about the uncertainty of that connection seems the best way to proceed at the moment.
We seem to spend a lot of time as a city listening to Sheriff Daron Hall course correct.
When he accidentally spoke to a bunch of white supremacists: "Understand my reputation both professionally and personally as well as the reputation of the DCSO is of the utmost importance and I would never knowingly tarnish that reputation. I have now implemented necessary steps to avoid similar problems in the future."
When he ended 287(g): "We said from the beginning that we would not continue to do the program if it was not having a significant impact in our community, and that we would move on. Well, that day has come."
When he spoke out in support of a settlement with Juana Villegas, who had been shackled while in labor: "Although DCSO staff operated within then-existing nationally accepted correctional practices by restraining an inmate who, having been previously deported, was subject to a federal hold, the risk of pursuing this case further potentially exposes the Metropolitan Government to exorbitant legal fees."
The comments about the Villegas case are especially telling. We're supposed to believe that Hall thought there was absolutely nothing wrong with shackling a laboring woman to her bed, that his staff was just "operating within then-existing nationally accepted correctional practices," but he then changes the policy as soon as it starts bringing him bad publicity and encourages the city to stop litigating the case?
There's a common thread here. Sheriff Hall doesn't seem to make mistakes. At least not in his own mind. He just does things until he can't do them anymore and then he moves on. Maybe the number of families he broke up due to 287(g) really doesn't weigh on him. But it's hard to believe that he really has no regrets about shackling a woman about to give birth. Or that he's not even the tiniest bit sorry he provided an evening's entertainment for a bunch of racists.
So, why can't he say so?
You guys have to check out this story about Jimmy Haslam getting a top UT alumni award by Erik Schelzig of the Associated Press. It is a thing of beauty, hilarious beauty.
Here's how it opens:
The University of Tennessee has granted its top alumni award to Jimmy Haslam amid an ongoing federal investigation into his family's company, Pilot Flying J, and its legal settlement with thousands of trucking company customers.
Haslam is the CEO of Pilot, the country's largest diesel retailer, and the owner of the NFL's Cleveland Browns. His brother, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, is also the chairman of the university's board of trustees.
Plus, as Schelzig reports, Jimmy Haslam has given millions of dollars to the school.
Here's what I don't get. It's not like Jimmy Haslam doesn't know he's in the middle of a federal investigation and I bet it's come up once or twice at family gatherings that Governor Haslam is the chair of the university's board of trustees. He's got to know that this looks hilariously shady.
No regular person in the middle of a federal investigation gets called up by his alma mater and offered an important award. So, what's this nonsense? It looks like Jimmy's brother and some of his buddies decided Jimmy needed a little pick-me-up. So, here it is. They've arranged it.
Fine. But why would Jimmy Haslam accept it? If you know you're in a situation that should render you too hot to handle (even if you fully expect you'll get out of it), and yet, a group you've given a lot of money to and your brother has a lot of influence with still wants to honor you? You've got to at least suspect it's bullshit. Why not just decline the honor until your situation is resolved some?
Can an honor that you can't be sure you rightfully earned really be that fulfilling?
Lest we forget, the Governor is still trying to decide if we should expand Medicaid in Tennessee and help poor people get health insurance.
He sat back for two years while 100 children who had come into contact with DCS died before he made a change in leadership.
And we're looking at WIC running out of funds by the end of the month. We've not heard what the Governor plans to do in that event.
A gal might be tempted to say that the Governor seems to lack a sense of urgency. But then, I read that he rushed to make a deal with the Feds to reopen the Great Smokey Mountain National Park, which, according to the AP, will cost the state $60,000 a day:
Haslam told reporters in Clarksville on Monday that banks were already closed by the time the state was informed about how much money to wire to the federal government on Friday afternoon.
Listen, we make a ton of money from tourists coming to the Park. It is, indeed, devastating for the Park to be closed right at the height of the autumn tourist season. I'm glad Haslam could work a deal. But you know what else is devastating? A kid dying even after she came to the attention of DCS. A mom who can't buy formula for her baby. A working-class guy with diabetes who can't get insurance. It would be nice if the governor felt the same sense of panic at the thought of that as he does at the thought of the Park remaining closed.
In a column this weekend, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof talks about coming to Nashville and interviewing women involved in prostitution here in the city. He talks some to and about Rev. Becca Stevens and Magdalene and Thistle Farms.
I'm glad Kristof is doing this work and bringing attention to the plight of women and girls who are forced into prostitution. But Kristof says a couple of things I find bewildering.
First, "When men paid Shelia Faye Simpkins for sex, they presumably thought she was just a happy hooker engaging in a transaction among consenting adults. " (Emphasis mine.) And then later on, he says, "But the notion that the sex industry is a playground of freely consenting adults who find pleasure in their work is delusional self-flattery by johns." And then, "One reason we as a society don’t try harder to uproot [prostitution] is that it seems hopeless."
If you're even the least bit familiar with our esteemed governor, you know that whenever circumstances call for a firm stand, he advocates studying things further, talking to his advisers, waiting to get more information. He's not a man that takes immediate, decisive action. I suppose he doesn't want to risk alienating his base.
So, imagine my surprise when I got a media advisory reminding me that Governor Haslam has declared next week to be Earth Sciences Week:
Chas Sisk has an interesting story about Republicans and women over at the Tennessean.
With Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell taking a lead role, an affiliate of the Republican National Committee has launched an initiative to find women to stand as GOP candidates. Republican women from around the country gathered in Nashville last month to trade insights on recruiting and supporting their peers.
The Tennessee Republican Party has done a very good job of supporting female candidates and promoting women into leadership positions once they get elected. But let's also be clear, they've also been very lucky to have Harwell — who's charming, funny and at ease in any situation, while retaining the ability to be scary as fuck when she needs to be. If Republican leadership were the A-Team, she's Hannibal, the amiable badass. (Okay, quickly — Ron Ramsey is Murdock, the kind of crazy dude whose piloting the crew; Tom Ingram is B.A. Baracus, the not-quite-regulation muscle; and the Governor is Face, whose job is mainly to be pretty and not get in the way.)
You're not going to find many people — male or female — like Beth Harwell. But, like Hannibal, I'm sure she's very convincing when she's recruiting people.
But I thought it was really interesting the reasons why more women aren't Republican:
In a public relations coup, Tennessee has been named by 247 Wall St. the most Dangerous State in the Nation. I hope we get a trophy of some sort. Ha, I guess we could just say "Give us a trophy or else!" and our "or else" would carry great weight.
> Violent crimes per 100,000: 643.6
> Poverty rate: 17.9%
> Pct. of population with bachelor’s degree or higher: 24.3%
> Property crimes per 100,000: 3,371.4 (10th highest)
Tennessee has the dubious distinction of having the worst violent crime rate in the country. The state was among the top 10 in the country for murders and robberies and was first for aggravated assaults, with an estimated 479.6 for every 100,000 residents. Tennessee’s 41,550 violent crimes in 2012 were up 6.8% from 2011 but down 10% from 2007, when there were 46,380 violent crimes. There were 388 murders in the state in 2012, up for a second straight year. To be fair, Tennessee’s violent streak is concentrated in some of the major metropolitan areas. Memphis’s violent crime rate was the nation’s fifth worst, while Nashville’s was the 18th worst. Like many states with high violent crime, poverty in Tennessee is acute, and high school and college graduation rates are lower than most of the country.
I think Memphis and Nashville are being unduly maligned here. I'm sure people from the rural areas are just as violent in their hearts. It's just harder to get motivated to assault or murder someone when you have to get in your car and drive for a half and hour through beautiful scenery to get to your victim. I mean, sure, you're mad at first, but then you go outside and the weather is beautiful and the sunset breathtaking and it just doesn't seem so important, whatever felony you were about to commit.
You know who's not well known for restraint? Armed drug abusers who need more drugs.
So, that's depressing, but it is what it is. I don't see us changing any time soon. So, we should try to make the most of it, turn it into a tourist attraction—Looking for excitement and danger? Don't have the money to go to war-torn regions overseas? Come to Tennessee. Our people are friendly, until they're not.
NBC News has a story about opponents of the Common Core Curriculum, who are concerned about just what children will be reading in high school.
On the one hand,
Opposition to the standards covers a spectrum of mistrust: accusations that new tests will be used to mine data on students, complaints that Bill Gates and other corporate interests are in control, rumors that kids will no longer be allowed to read "Moby Dick."
On the other hand, Stacey Campfield doesn't want kids reading Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye, because
"That reads out of Penthouse Forum or something like that," Campfield said. "That's not something an 11th grader needs to be reading in school."
The Craigslist ad starts, "Last Friday night, your dog wandered up onto our porch." And from there it tells of the harrowing discovery of a dog that would come to be known as Mama Jade:
The fresh bite marks on her muzzle, the scars that covered her body, the exposed pink and purple flesh around her neck, where she was obviously tied up with ropes that cut their way into her skin, over and over again. The obvious signs that she had been bred, relentlessly, time after time. The pressure wounds on her elbows that bled whenever they touched anything, from being tied and forced to lay on cement ground and metal cage mesh.
None of those things are even the worst part. Upon examining her teeth to gauge her approximate age, I burst into tears. I found that you had pulled the majority of them out and the ones you left, had been filed down. And you did this without anesthesia, this I am sure of. You did this so she couldn't fight back.
Here's the pit bull problem we have as a city. It's not the animals. It's that we have neighbors who would do this to an animal. There's a limit to how much damage a dog can do, even if it's as dangerous as the exaggerated stories about pit bulls. But a person who thinks nothing of fighting dogs, or of mutilating the dogs so that the ones he's going to hurt later by fighting them don't get too injured beforehand, that's a person who leaves a lot of terribleness in his wake.
I know it's supposed to be heartwarming that so many people reached out to the author of this letter and offered to help with Mama Jade's medical costs. But I think my heart is broken or something, because I just can't feel very happy about this. Because that dog is just the one who got away. What about her puppies? What about the dogs that bit her? What about the dogs that fight them? It's one small good thing in a sea of terribleness. And I hope that dog heals up and lives a long, full life. That would be great. She sounds like a good dog.
And all those other dogs deserve a chance to be good dogs too. A chance they're most likely not going to get. I'm relieved that Mama Jade found someone to rescue her. I'm relieved that there are people like that in Nashville. But I can't stand knowing that, normally, nothing happens to the people who are the reason that dog ended up like that. They get to do whatever they want and these animals pay the price. And then these dogs get blamed, like they're terrible and not the monsters who do this to them.
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