CHARLANE OLIVER: “IF YOUR VOTE DIDN’T MATTER THEY WOULDN’T BE TRYING SO HARD TO STOP YOU”

 

I know most of y’all won’t read this long post but nerds like me be tryna put y’all up on game for the Free 99 and some of y’all still be yelling “my vote doesn’t matter” but don’t understand that it actually does.

The Alabama abortion ban – and other restrictive laws in recent months – have been 10 years in the making by Republicans. It’s no coincidence that many states with the worst voting, education, healthcare, and incarceration rates are also the states with the most regressive laws, and mostly in the South.

When we say “local elections matter” or “elections have consequences” or “this is voter suppression” or “please go vote” this is the shorthand version of what we mean… Let’s revisit a series of unfortunate events shall we…

2008-2009: America elects the first black president, Barack Obama.

Early 2010: SCOTUS rules in ‘Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC)’ that political spending is a form of free speech protected under the First Amendment. The controversial 5-4 decision effectively opened the door for corporations and unions to spend unlimited amounts of money to support their chosen political candidates.

Hate that your politicians are bought and sold by corporations? Blame this.

Late 2010: Ahead of the midterms, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vows to make President Obama a “one-term president” and Republicans declare a nationwide takeover of state legislatures.

2010 Midterms: Thanks to the Citizens United case, Republicans flood the airwaves with political advertising to influence down-ballot elections. Republicans pick up 675 state legislative seats; swept several governorships, including Tennessee; and Republican control increased from 14 states to 26 state legislatures.

They also take control of the U.S. House of Representatives, winning 58 seats.

2011: Now that Republicans effectively have the states on lock, states begin to enact strict voter ID laws, including Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and… wait for it…… Tennessee.

2012: President Obama is re-elected. All is well with the world because we now have Obamacare and our president is still Black. Meanwhile…

2013: SCOTUS guts the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the ‘Shelby County v. Holder’ case. As in, Shelby County, ALABAMA versus Attorney General Eric Holder. Yeah as in, the same Voting Rights Act championed by civil rights activists like Dr. Martin Luther King and Congressman John Lewis who marched in Selma, ALABAMA.

The ruling basically said, nope racism doesn’t exist anymore so Southern states no longer need permission (i.e. “pre-clearance”) from the federal government to change their voting laws. The decision allowed 846 jurisdictions to close, move or change the availability of local polling places (mostly in predominantly African American counties) without federal oversight. There were also cuts to early voting and purges of voter rolls.

Virtually all restrictions on voting after the ruling were by Republicans.

2014: Here’s where it gets bad. Republicans continue their congressional takeover during the 2014 midterms. Democrats are asleep at the wheel and stayed home on Election Day…. because all is well in the world – my president is Black.

Meanwhile… Republicans gained control of U.S. Senate and picked up more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the year that TENNESSEE RANKED 50th IN VOTER TURNOUT.

Only 28% of eligible voters voted in this election.

Early 2016: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dies. Which means a replacement is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate (both are elected by the voters, btw). President Obama names Merrick Garland as his nominee, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks the nomination, claiming it’s too close to a presidential election so the next president should pick.

Late 2016: Donald Trump is elected president. Now Republicans are in control of the legislative branch and executive branch. Time to take over the judicial branch.

2017: Trump begins stacking the Courts by nominating conservative judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. (Remember, elections have consequences and in 2014, just 36.4% of eligible voters nationwide turned out in 2014 – the lowest since World War II— and Republicans gained control of the Senate, who confirms all federal judges.)

2018: By now, 34 states have some form of voter ID laws. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement. Trump nominates Brett Kavanaugh as his replacement. Senate confirms Kavanaugh in October, shortly before the midterms, solidifying the bench as a reliably conservative 5-4 majority.

2019: Republicans control the state legislature in 31 states. Congress is divided – Democrats take back the House, and Republicans still control the Senate, Presidency, and Supreme Court.

What we’re seeing play out today is a deliberate playbook, run by ALEC and their model bills, to challenge everything in the courts. The bills introduced by legislative branches across the country are so egregious and blatantly unconstitutional in an attempt to move the battle to friendly territory – the courts.

Muslim travel ban. The courts.

Separation of migrant families at the border. The courts.

School vouchers. The courts.

Partisan gerrymandering. The courts.

Census citizenship question. The courts.

Voter registration criminalization laws. The courts.

Abortion bans to overturn Roe v. Wade. The courts.

All of this is run by people who are elected by the People.

If they can make it a felony to…. say, have an abortion…. or register voters…. or build a wall to keep immigrants out….. and felons and immigrants can’t vote, then you limit the voting power of minorities.

Thus keeping the white male power structure in control over an increasing Majority-Minority America.

There’s an election happening in your city or state somewhere every year. You must pay attention, keep up with the news and current events, and VOTE in every election, every year.

But y’all don’t hear me tho….

Charlane Oliver is a candidate for state senate in District 19 (Nashville)

RALLIES ACROSS TENNESSEE #BansOffOurBodies

This weekend Tennesseans all over marched in support of women’s rights. It was a beautiful sight to see.

Here were some of the best moments and signs we saw.

LIVE: BUSTING REPUBLICAN ABORTION MYTHS (with Francie Hunt)

Francie Hunt of TN Advocates Planned Parenthood joined us to walk through a Republican talking points memo on abortion and set some things straight.

PODCAST HERE.

WHY DID TN ED COMMISH SCHWINN LEAVE HER HUSBAND’S EMPLOYER OFF HER DISCLOSURE?

This week some eagle-eyed Hollerers pointed out TN Ed Commissioner Penny Schwinn left TNTP, the company where her husband works, off of her source of income disclosure.

She listed it last year, but not this year, despite the fact that he remains on their website as a “Leadership Coach”.

This is especially noteworthy since TNTP was a recipient of an $16 MILLION contract from the Tennessee Education Department, a department Schwinn is in charge of… a fact that was not lost on legislators who raised the “Conflict of Schwinnterest” issue in committee last session.

Was leaving TNTP off the disclosure an oversight on Penny’s part? Was it intentional? Are they no longer married? Is he no longer at the company?

These are questions someone should ask, and we will next time we see her.

It’s worth noting that Schwinn has a history of conflicts of interest and self-dealing. They’ve been hallmarks of her career, showing up in both Delaware and Texas, her stops along the way since starting a charter school in Sacramento. She also ran for school board in Sacramento, where she was supported by Michelle Rhee, whose charters lobbyist organization 50 CAN now is affiliated with charter school lobbyist Victor Evans at Tennessee Can, who is now vocally pushing through the new TISA funding overhaul plan from Governor Lee, even standing with him at press conferences.

Victor does NOT want to talk to us about the connection between Michelle Rhee at his parent company and Schwinn, no matter how hard we try.

Shwinn is the tip of the spear for TISA, Lee’s ed funding overhaul plan, which will be the talk of the town this week as it appears the Tennessee legislature (mostly Republican) will pass it.

Supporters say TISA will tie funding to “students rather than systems”. Detractors say it really doesn’t do that to the extent Lee says it will, and that it will ultimately harm public schools by teeing up further privatization, triggering inevitable property tax hikes in counties around the state and enabling even more cronyism and political back-scratching by an administration that has repeatedly engorged itself on such things.

It seems to us how trusting you are of Penny Schwinn and her boss Bill Lee to do the right thing for the people of Tennessee rather than for themselves should play a big part in how anyone feels about TISA as a way to fund the education of our children going forward. And making sure they’re honest on their disclosures is part of that.

To be clear, almost everyone seems to agree the BEP needs to change, and since education in  Tennessee has not been fully funded (we’re at the bottom in per pupil spending) adding $1 BILLION to education is a good thing, something Democrats have been calling for for years.

But it’s important to make the distinction that the extra $1 BILLION has nothing to do with TISA. That $1 BILLION could be added to education regardless of the funding formula. What Lee has done is essentially hold our kids hostage, saying he won’t agree to adding that money unless he gets his formula overhaul.

That in itself is reason for skepticism, since we know what Lee wants, ultimately, is education privatization, which was his first focus upon taking office. Back then it was private school vouchers, which were held up in court as unconstitutional because they only focused on Memphis & Nashville (Republican legislators across the state didn’t want those vouchers anywhere near their own counties, no sir. How great they must think they really are!)

Now Lee has turned his attention to charter schools – asking right-wing profiteers at Hillsdale to bring 100 schools to Tennessee – and this education funding overhaul, which may very well amount to the voucherization of our entire public education system. Ohio passed a plan like this, and is now seeing the next phase of the operation where charter schools are swooping in to take that “student-based funding” to for-profit, ideological, and even religious schools.

Ultimately where you come down on TISA amounts to how much trust you have for Lee and his education commissioner Penny Schwinn, who has a long history of conflicts of interest, and has a lengthy charter schools background charter lobbyists don’t seem to want to talk about.

We’re curious why Schwinn’s company wasn’t on her disclosure after receiving a $16 MILLION contract from the ed department she runs, but more importantly we hope we aren’t looking back in a few years at this funding overhaul she’s spearheading as the moment public education in Tennessee fell off a cliff… right into the pockets of people who put money ahead of kids.

SENATOR NICELEY’S ANTI-SEMITISM SHINES THROUGH AGAIN

Last week Republican state senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) made national news for his absurd comments invoking Hitler as an inspiration to homeless people. Nobody knew what the hell he was trying to say, and he didn’t seem to either when we asked him.

The comments landed him in all kinds of national publications, and even made him the butt of some John Oliver jokes. This was just months after he made similar waves for saying the Civil War is not over, and the south is winning.

In case anyone is ready to chalk those up to being gaffes of an out-of-touch old southern Republican who just doesn’t know better, Niceley is back in the headlines today to make sure you know that nope, he’s a genuine anti-Semite.

His latest comments concern the removal of Trump backed TN-5 hopeful Morgan Ortagus, who was just one of a handful of candidates removed from the primary ballot in a hotly contested race for Jim Cooper’s open seat in congress.

As you may remember, Ortagus recently moved to Nashville specifically to run for congress, and already has some serious money behind her despite the fact that she couldn’t answer some very basic questions about Tennessee, or her district. Niceley carried legislation that would’ve removed Ortagus and others from the ballot through a 3-year residency requirement, but that isn’t how she ended up getting kicked off. It was actually her Republican bona fides that did her in, since she didn’t vote in 3 of the last 4 Republican primaries, which is a requirement for them to be on the ballot. (Robby Starbuck and Baxter Lee were also just removed)

When asked about the removal of Ortagus and the possibility that it might upset Trump (the defeated insurrection-inciting con man ex-president who Niceley also unwaveringly supports), Niceley had these blatantly anti-semitic comments to say to NBC:

“I don’t think Trump cares one way or the other. I think Jared Kushner — he’s Jewish, she’s Jewish — I think Jared will be upset. Ivanka will be upset. I don’t think Trump cares.”

Implying Jews only care about other Jews because they’re Jewish feeds a very damaging stereotype. Coupled with Niceley’s previous comments about Hitler, and the picture starts to become very clear about what Niceley actually thinks about Jews in general, and it isn’t a pretty one.

Ortagus said this in response:

“Antisemitism is the oldest and one of the most vile forms of hatred on this earth, and Senator should be ashamed of his repeated antisemitic rhetoric. I am incredibly proud to call myself a part of the Jewish people, and I have always called out antisemitism when I see it in all of its forms. I will condemn anyone who traffics in this hate-mongering. Senator Niceley’s repulsive words could not be more clear in disparaging the Jewish people. This racism cannot stand.”

Ward Baker, a campaign strategist for Ortagus who has also been inv0lved with the campaigns of Marsha Blackburn and many other prominent Republicans, had this to say:

Anti-semitism indeed.

The question now becomes – will the Republican party condemn Niceley’s comments? Will the TN Senate GOP caucus? Will majority leader Jack Johnson? Lt. Gov. Mcnally? Governor Lee?

Or will they be complicit in their silence? Time will tell.

FOLLOW THE MONEY: ORGS BACKING LEE’S ED FUNDING PLAN GET $$ FROM GATES FOUNDATION

Today a number of organizations have come out in support of Governor Lee’s education funding (privatization) overhaul, which many public school advocates say will be inadequate, bad for public schools and help education privatization efforts in the long run.

Lee will boast of their support just in time to push his plan through key committees and onto the floors of the house and senate, but what he won’t mention are the organizations involved with that alliance that DID NOT SIGN ON, and how most of the ones that did have one common thread: THEY GET A LOT OF MONEY FROM THE GATES FOUNDATION, which has a heavy interest in getting this funding

Below is a number of tweets by TC Weber, public school advocate, pointing out how many of these organizations – including the NAACP, Memphis Education Fund, Tennessee PTA, Tennessee Department of Education, Sycamore Institute, Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, Knox Education Foundation, Sycamore Institute, and even Chalkbeat, the journalists who cover this tuff – have received HUGE SUMS OF MONEY from the Gates Foundation, which is a big part of the push for Lee’s funding overhaul:

 

FOLLOW THE MONEY.

 

 

12 MINUTES WITH REP. LEATHERWOOD, SPECIAL STRAIGHT PEOPLE MARRIAGE LICENSE SPONSOR

We spent 12 minutes talking to Rep. Leatherwood, whose bill to give a special marriage license to straight people went globally viral because it also might have legalized child marriage if it hadn’t died.

We may not have made much progress, but it was an honest frank discussion and we thank him for talking to us.

FREEMAN’S VICTIM-ADVOCATE PROTECTION BILL KILLED BY GRIFFEY & THE GOP

INTERVIEW: ED FUNDING OVERHAUL BILL SPONSOR REP. MARK WHITE

We spoke with Rep. Mark White for 10 minutes about charter schools and Governor Lee’s potentially poisonous ed funding overhaul.

TN STUDENTS HELP KILL BOOK BAN & LIBRARIAN CRIMINALIZATION BILL