Thursday, July 21, 2011

GOOD Intentions: Magazine Asks, 'Why Are People Still Having Weddings at Plantations Slaves Built?'

Posted by on Thu, Jul 21, 2011 at 8:31 AM

Amanda! Theyve got still got open dates for spring 2012!
  • Amanda! They've got still got open dates for spring 2012!
We admire the intentions of the folks behind GOOD magazine — really we do. How could you fault an organization whose slogan is "FOR PEOPLE WHO GIVE A DAMN"?

But when former Scene culture editor Tracy Moore McDonald sent an email linking to Amanda Hess' story questioning why people still have weddings at plantations slaves built, the recipients (all of them Scene writers) took issue with the story — which, incidentally, includes shout-outs to Belle Meade and Carnton plantations, and a large photo of the latter.

You don't have to sell us on the horrors of slavery (then and now) and the ugly legacy of racism. Exposing bigotry of any kind — whether it's anti-gay legislation, anti-Muslim furor, or unfair treatment of immigrants — is one of our greatest passions. In fact, we're usually the ones being accused of being too liberal or politically correct. But Hess' obnoxious tone and complete lack of context or perspective was too much for some of our staffers. As one writer put it, "It's the classic liberal problem — your heart is in the right place, but you're also a condescending turd."

And since we're also PEOPLE WHO GIVE A DAMN, here are some more uncensored responses from our crackpot staff:

"It's pretty much a straight-up indictment of the South, and there's more holes in the logic than a human centipede. HA!"

"It's nicer than the church basement."

"Ha. As more than one person has pointed out to me since moving here, 'Southerners are the only people left that it's OK to make fun of.' "

"What exactly does she think modern plantations are? Places where rednecks get together on the weekend to restage lynchings and hold weddings?"

Amanda, there's a whole lot more love after the jump ...

Continue reading »

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Quote of the Day: The Rev. Welton Gaddy

Posted by on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 2:05 PM

"There's nobody quite as mean as people being mean for Jesus."

— The Rev. Welton Gaddy (Baptist pastor, president of the Interfaith Alliance, and spiritual advisor to Chely Wright), from the documentary about Wright's coming out, Wish Me Away.

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Documentary About Chely Wright's Coming Out Plays Los Angeles' Outfest

Posted by on Mon, Jul 18, 2011 at 8:47 AM

Chely Wright
  • Chely Wright
The Los Angeles Times has a story about the L.A. premiere of the documentary Wish Me Away, which chronicles country singer Chely Wright's decision to come out as a lesbian last year. A capacity audience turned out for the screening, including comedian/actress/gay icon Lily Tomlin.
Starting with one of many startlingly honest and intense entries in a video diary kept by Wright (and not shared with the filmmakers until they were a year into the project), "Wish Me Away" is a lovely, raw and riveting document of a woman driven since childhood to be a star in an arena, mainstream Nashville, that probably never would have embraced her if its denizens had known she was gay.

Mainstream Nashville wouldn't have embraced her? Come on now — I'm sure that beacon of gay rights Bill Haslam and his cronies in the legislature will roll out the pink carpet when it plays Nashville!

The article's author, Steve Pond, has nothing but praise for the film:

Continue reading »

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

ACT! for America Accuses Tennessean of 'Yellow Journalism'

Posted by on Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 4:41 PM

ACT! for America responded today to Bob Smietana's story in Sunday's Tennessean about the anti-Islam group's growing popularity here in Nashville, home to the largest ACT! chapter. Er, maybe I should restate that description: the anti-radical Islam group. Or maybe radical anti-Islam group would be more accurate.

For those keeping score at home, the gist of the debate is this: ACT! claims it is not against all Muslims, just radical Muslims. ACT! detractors say that the organization's concept of "radical" casts a ridiculously wide net.

And is it just me, or do reactionary websites seem to love large, boldface fonts? Is it that their readers tend to be older white guys, so it's easier for them to read? Is it the visual equivalent of the Bill O'Reilly shouting? Thoughts?

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Attention Second Amendment Freaks: This Gun's for You!

Posted by on Tue, Jul 12, 2011 at 6:21 AM

OK, Tennessee gun nuts: We know how much you love your guns. I mean really love your guns. So much that you want to take them to bars. To parks. Even to Belle Meade.

Above, we present to you, the first official Nashville Scene-sanctioned gun for bars, parks, cookouts, cocktail parties, debutante balls, you name it. Take it anywhere you like! As long as you have about $6 million to spare.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It Just Keeps Getting Worse for John Arriola

Posted by on Fri, Jul 8, 2011 at 11:25 AM

While Ill admit this is nicer than most Metro photos, Im not sure it merited $806 in taxpayer money when it could have been shot for free.
  • Sure, it's nicer than most Metro photos, but did it merit $806 in taxpayer money when it could have been shot for free?
Just two days after reporting that Davidson County Clerk John Arriola has been pocketing thousands in cash annually by collecting wedding-officiant "gratuities" allowed by state law as if they were mandated fees, WTVF-Channel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams had his way with Arriola again last night on the 10 o'clock news. After last night's report, it's fair to say Arriola has — literally — a public relations nightmare on his hand.

The Thursday segment revealed that Arriola paid $16,826 of taxpayer money to a PR firm, The Andrews Agency, for what was essentially an ad campaign to boost Arriola's name recognition. Worse yet, the agency is headed by Susan Andrews, a longtime friend of Arriola's. Furthermore, Andrews employs the wife of one of Arriola's top aides, and it was a no-bid contract.

Other highlights (lowlights?):

• Arriola spent $806 of taxpayer money on a studio photo portrait of himself, when Metro has a photographer who would have done it for free. "I wanted to make sure we had a good shot so I'm very comfortable," Arriola said in a feeble attempt to justify the expenditure.

• Arriola spent $4,800 of taxpayer money to design a John Arriola logo.

• Arriola spent $34,087 of taxpayer money to replace perfectly functional signs in front of his offices that read "Davidson County Clerk" with new signs that feature his name and the new $4,800 logo. Signs that will have to be replaced again when he is no longer the county clerk. (Which may be much sooner than he anticipated.) Hello?! Anybody home? What a vain, shortsighted and just plain stupid expenditure. The mind reels.

The story on the WTVF site has links to all sorts of damning documents and emails. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out, but I wouldn't be surprised to see his supporters start to distance themselves from him as the vultures begin to circle. Then again, if Arriola somehow holds onto his job after this debacle, that PR money was well spent indeed.

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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Does John Arriola Really Not Understand the Word "Gratuity"?

Posted by on Thu, Jul 7, 2011 at 9:44 AM

In this week's Scene, James Nix has the story of Davidson County Clerk John Arriola's spirited but vain attempt to pre-empt NewsChannel5 investigative reporter Phil Williams' piece regarding questionable practices at Arriola's office, most notably the mandatory $40 "gratuity" (ahem) demanded — er, I mean, accepted by the county clerk to perform marriages:

The county clerk stepped out in front of the anticipated WTVF story in an attempt to fend off its expected allegations. The most damaging of these Tuesday night was that Arriola's office charged couples $40 to perform wedding ceremonies — a sum that was treated on camera by staffers as if it were a fee, not the optional gratuity specified by law.

Worse, Williams alleged the cash-only "gratuity" went straight into Arriola's pocket, generating what the story estimated at more than $30,000 a year on top of his six-digit salary. On camera, Arriola met the reporter's questions with a deer-in-the-high-beams expression and stammered responses that showed he was right to dread the newscast.

As we mentioned on Pith Tuesday morning, Arriola sent out a 14-page press release in advance of Williams' damning report, which aired Tuesday night. Arriola suggested the report was nothing more than an attempt "to attract viewers and increase ratings by elevating the policies and procedures [of Arriola's office] to the level of illegality." Though Arriola's defensive stance surely seemed to suggest some level of wrongdoing, we were prepared to acknowledge the possibility that an investigative television news report might attempt to make a mountain out of a molehill.

But after watching Tuesday night's report, I can't possibly see how the guy can hold onto his job. On our previous post on the subject, some commenters seemed to suggest that Williams' reports are "gotcha" journalism, but my hat's off to the man on this one. I figure Arriola has got to go, because on the evidence of the piece, a viewer would likely conclude one of the following two scenarios must be true: Either Arriola never passed 10th-grade English and honestly doesn't know what "gratuity" means, or he's a lying scoundrel. I'm leaning toward the latter, but who knows?

A second NewsChannel5 report on Arriola airs tonight. Stay tuned! And if you can't watch the above video, the pertinent highlights are transcribed below:

Continue reading »

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Steve Cohen Co-Sponsors First-Ever Pot 'Legalization' Bill in Congress

Posted by on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 at 3:44 PM

Congressman Steve Cohen points out the obvious to FBI director Robert Mueller.

Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen signed on to co-sponsor a bill that, while not exactly legalizing marijuana, would end the federal crackdown on pot, allowing states to choose whether to regulate, tax or ban pot altogether. The introduction of the bill comes just a week after the 40th anniversary of Richard Nixon officially declaring "The War on Drugs." We all know how successful that was.

The fact that progressive Democratic congressmen like Cohen and Barney Frank (Mass.) are teaming up with Republican Ron Paul of Texas seems to confirm the old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows, but it's not all that surprising, given Paul's Libertarian roots. Even less surprising is that Cohen would sign on to the bill. After all, Cohen was at the center of an infamous 1997 pot-smoking incident reported in the Scene:

Cohen is, in fact, so comfortable among journalists that he has been known to step out on the porch and smoke a joint with a group of them at a private party. The easy inference is either that he doesn’t care what the press knows about his habits or that, because they’re doing it too, he figures they’ll never write about it. “It’s a generational thing,” Cohen says of the pot smoking. “I don’t do it very often.”

Of course, the incident was infamous mostly because the reefer-huffing in question took place at a going-away party for a Scene staffer, leaving a bit of egg on our glorious face. (Well, not my glorious face. I started at the paper three months after the incident, so my hands are clean! At least regarding that particular gaffe.)

Does the bill stand a chance of passing? I'd say it's, er, highly doubtful. But here's hoping.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rachel Maddow, Roger Ebert Have a Field Day With Tennessee's New Harassment Law

Posted by on Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 11:23 AM

As Brantley Hargrove reported last week, Gov. Haslam recently signed into law a measure that could make posting a picture on Facebook or a blog a crime, if it causes "emotional distress" and is posted "without legitimate purpose," whatever that means.

Now Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert and MSNBC commentator Rachel Maddow are having a field day with the three-ring circus known as our state legislature. First, Ebert posted a slew of images on his blog that might "frighten, intimidate or cause emotional distress" to someone who sees it. Among the images: Steve Buscemi doing the always scary "thumb cut in half" trick, a dog with fake human breasts, a confederate flag, an amateurish painting of what appears to be Rod Blagojevich with his pants pulled down in a federal prison, van Gogh's "Starry Night" reproduced with nothing but bacon, and an image that I always find personally distressing, a photo of Bruce Vilanch.

On Monday night, in a segment titled "Public Image, Ltd." (above), Maddow did her own part to demonstrate the absurdity of the law. As she puts it, "Thanks to Tennessee's supposed small-government conservatism, you could be looking at up to a year in jail and $2,500 in fines for ... violating the 'I'm afraid of that picture' law."

And finally, Maddow offers these parting words: "Between this and the 'Don't Say Gay' law, trying to make it illegal to say the word 'gay' in their state schools, Tennessee Republicans are having a banner year."

Tennessee Republicans — making our state a laughingstock since taking control of the legislature. At least they're good for something.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Salon: 'The Anti-Gay Tennessee Bill No One's Talking About'

Posted by on Thu, May 26, 2011 at 2:46 PM

Despite the hilariously ironic attempt at a stealth name — the Equal Access to Intrastate Commerce Act — the HB600 fiasco didn't slip under the radar of Leslie Fenton at Salon. Fenton notices the striking similarities between Tennessee's new anti-gay law and Colorado's notorious Amendment 2, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans — and she suggests that our law will likely get struck down too. Here's hoping.

Is the new Tennessee law similar enough to Colorado's Amendment 2 that it would simply be held unconstitutional under Romer? There are arguments either way. The Colorado law was so blatant that it specifically named gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, removing them from the legislative process that every other group of people remained free to participate in. But the Tennessee legislators clearly learned their lesson from Romer: They did not single out the LGBT community, rather, they applied the law to any group that does not currently receive state protections. On the other hand, they did forbid municipalities from enacting any new legislation designed to protect LGBT citizens, even if it isn't explicitly stated. Further, the origins of the law are less than subtle; it is clearly a reaction to the Nashville anti-discrimination ordnance that protected LGBT workers. This situation is similar to the anti-gay adoption prohibition in Arkansas that was stuck down earlier this year. While it did not specifically prohibit gays from adopting, the ban on "unmarried couple" adoptions was passed as a workaround to a law that actually banned gay adoptions and was struck down by the courts. It's also important to note that Romer and its protections have been strengthened in recent years by the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, also authored by Justice Kennedy, which struck down a Texas law that criminalized homosexual sodomy. The Tennessee anti-gay employment measure should receive similar scrutiny, and treatment, from the court system.

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