2022: A YEAR OF HOLLERING

REP. JUSTIN JONES ARRIVES AT THE CAPITOL

OPINION: PEOPLE ARE CRAZY AND TIMES ARE STRANGE (AKA PLEASE VOTE!)

“People are Crazy and Times are Strange” – Bob Dylan

Never did those lyrics strike closer to home than here in Tennessee where recent FBI data now ranks this state as having the 3rd highest rate of violent crime, robbery, aggravated assaults and homicides. Fortunately, the November 8th election provides Tennessee voters an opportunity to change those frightening statistics by electing a new governor together with state and federal legislators.

Around the country other states will be doing the same, the results of which will decide which political party has majority control over the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. This election will be definitive in determining the values, direction, and type of government American voters wish to have and which political party they feel best serves those interests. It’s not mere hyperbole to state that now more than ever, democracy is on the ballot.

However, equally notable is Tennessee’s poor record for voter participation – 46th worst in 2020 – as highlighted by an abysmal 17% voter turnout in the August mid-term elections. Such voter apathy may well come back to haunt Tennesseans since according to analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice, it
can be expected that should MAGA-Republicans maintain legislative control in Southern states, particularly those with diverse racial populations, more restrictive voting laws will be enacted in an effort to decrease voter turnout among those most likely to vote for Democrats.

With that in mind, it’s important to note that despite the fact that 62% of Americans remain in favor of abortion, Republican lawmakers, beholden to their far-right religious base and emboldened by their success in outlawing abortion in half the country, have now set their sights on making criminalization of abortion the law of the land. Therefore, the outcome of November’s election will be critical to protecting the lives and well-being of millions of Americans, men and women alike since passage of the legislation needed to restore reproductive privacy and freedom of choice hinges on the election of a Democratic congressional majority.

So what can we expect should a Republican majority take control of both houses of Congress? Undoubtedly in typical fashion they will continue obstructing whatever bills Democrats might propose, regardless the benefits to the American public. Additionally, we shall see ongoing attempts to “stack” the judicial system and the Supreme Court with unqualified, but like-minded conservative judges.
However, their first order of business will likely be the disbanding of the January 6th Committee and the dismissal of further investigations, accountability and/or prosecution for those responsible in attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

There is also a cockamamie scheme to impeach President Biden for unspecified “high crimes and misdemeanors.” More disturbing are Republican threats to cut the programs at the heart of our social welfare system: Social Security and Medicare. Republicans have also said they would pass a law to make the 2017
Trump tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate entities permanent, which economists say would further exacerbate inflation.

Then there are ongoing threats to refuse to raise the debt ceiling serving as a cudgel to enable the “reform” of Social Security and Medicare including raising the age of eligibility. And should they achieve a legislative majority, Republicans are also signaling withdrawal of support for Ukraine.

It should also be remembered that this GOP, nationally and locally, aided by Fox News, continues to cast aspersions on the sanctity of our electoral process by clinging to and promulgating the Big Lie that Joe Biden stole the 2020 presidential election, despite widespread and definitive evidence to the contrary.

Reflective of an increasing atmosphere of social and political intolerance are legislative attacks on Tennessee’s LGBQT community by extremist Republican legislators which helps to foment and encourage anger and hate-mongering as seen by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s recent report ranking Tennessee 2nd highest nationally for number of hate groups.

All of which increases the importance of who will be Tennessee’s next governor. Governor Bill Lee is campaigning for reelection on the basis that he has helped Tennessee families. Sadly, that seems remarkably disingenuous when one considers that Tennessee’s lack of gun safety laws have resulted in a firearm mortality rate which is 10th highest nationally. Indeed, Everytown reports that guns and gun violence are the leading cause of death for Tennessee children and teens. Lacking sensible gun control, those numbers continue to climb.

Under this administration, aided by an extreme ultra-conservative legislature, the well-being of Tennessee families has garnered scant attention since NoKidHungryTN reports that more than 19% of children in Tennessee live in “food insecure” homes.

World Population Review figures for 2022 rank Tennessee as having the 10th highest rate of poverty and the 2nd highest number of minimum-wage workers laboring for $7.25 an hour. Certainly not figures to be proud of.

Also alarming is the fact that while Tennessee families struggle to feed, house and educate their children as a means to escape a life of poverty, this governor is committed to creating a religious autocracy which includes siphoning off tax-payer dollars from our public schools to for-profit charter schools which emphasize a conservative “Christian”curriculum.

These are just a few of reasons why it’s critical for Tennesseans to vote in this
election. Early voting runs from October 19 through November 3rd. Election Day is November 8th.

Voter information can be obtained at GoVoteTN.com and at the League of Women Voters’ nonpartisan website VOTE411.org.

Vote as if your life depended on it. It very well may.

Chloe Cerutti lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee

HOLLERFEST 2022 HIGHLIGHTS!

 

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)

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

MCMINN COUNTY BANS “MAUS”, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING HOLOCAUST BOOK

Continuing the recent spate of conservative book-banning initiatives, The Mcminn County School board just voted to ban the Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel “MAUS” by Art Spiegelman from all of its schools, citing the inclusion of words like “God Damn” and “naked pictures” (illustrations) of women.

There is no video available of the meeting, but here are the MINUTES in their entirety.

We called the board and asked if the book being about the Holocaust had anything to do with the decision, and were told it did not. Still, the climate of conservative censorship, the passage of history-whitewashing laws that threaten fines to teachers who teach the truth, and the push towards the banning of books across the state by groups like “Moms for Liberty” makes it fair to question the timing.

The Vote was  10-0, with Yes votes from: Denise Cunningham, Bill Irvin, Quinten Howard, Sharon Brown, Mike Cochran, Mike Lowry, Donna Casteel, Jonathan Pierce, Tony Allman, Rob Shamblin.

Much of the discussion revolved around how books are selected for the curriculum, with finger-pointing at state standards which have become a popular punching bag among conservatives lately. They also discussed the possibility of redacting the words they found objectionable, but decided it would be better to ban the graphic novel altogether.

Let’s also remember that in East Tennessee we recently saw Coach Hawn fired after 17 years for leading a discussion about White Privilege, which is as real as oxygen. And the Tennessee state legislature recently passed their history-whitewashing “anti-CRT ban” which actually threatens to impose massive fines on teachers/districts that teach the truth about our history, and race.

Regardless of why this decision was made, we’re in a climate where a sustained attack is being made on our schools, our teachers, and the truth. The anti-Critical Race Theory furor ginned up by Republican think tanks for political gain morphed into an excuse for right wing folks to try to cancel diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and things they don’t agree with in general — and now Conservative book-banning is really having a moment.

We have to teach the truth about our history. Or it will be repeated.

Below is what some of the various board members had to say in the meeting (contact info here):

Tony Allman, School Board Member: “Why does the educational system promote this kind of stuff, it is not wise or healthy… I am not denying it was horrible, brutal, and cruel. It’s like when you’re watching tv and a cuss word or nude scene comes on it would be the same movie without it. Well, this would be the same book without it… If I had a child in the eighth grade, this ain’t happening. If I had to move him out and homeschool him or put him somewhere else, this is not happening.”

Jonathan Pierce, School Board Member: “My objection, and I apologize to everyone sitting here, is that my standards matter- and I am probably the biggest sinner and crudest person in this room, can I lay that in front of a child and say read it, or this is part of your reading assignment?”

Mike Cochran, School Board Member: “I went to school here thirteen years. I learned math, English, Reading and History. I never had a book with a naked picture in it, never had one with foul language. In third grade I had one of my classmates come up to me and say hey what’s this word? I sounded it out and it was “damn,” and I was real proud of myself because I sounded it out. She ran straight to the teacher and told her I was cussing. Besides that one book which I think she brought from home, now I’ve seen a cuss word in a textbook at school. So, this idea that we have to have this kind of material in the class in order to teach history, I don’t buy it. “

A few in the room came to the book’s defense. We’re told many teachers in the county are upset about the decision, some seemed in favor of just removing the objectionable words:

Julie Goodin, Instructional Supervisor: “I can talk of the history, I was a history teacher and there is nothing pretty about the Holocaust and for me this was a great way to depict a horrific time in history. Mr. Spiegelman did his very best to depict his mother passing away and we are almost 80 years away. It’s hard for this generation, these kids don’t even know 9/11, they were not even born. For me this was his way to convey the message. Are the words objectionable? Yes, there is no one that thinks they aren’t but by taking away the first part, it’s not changing the meaning of what he is trying to portray and copyright… I have an eighth grader and even if you did pull this book I would want him to read it because we have to teach our kids. Are these words ok? No, not at all that is not acceptable, but the problem is that we are 80 years removed from the Holocaust itself. I just think this is a grave starting point for our teachers. I am very passionate about history, and I would hate to rob our kids of this opportunity. Are we going to be teaching these words outside of this book as vocabulary words? No, you know me better than that Tony Allman. ”

Melasawn Knights, Federal Programs Supervisor: “I think any time you are teaching something from history, people did hang from trees, people did commit suicide and people were killed, over six million were murdered. I think the author is portraying that because it is a true story about his father that lived through that. He is trying to portray that the best he can with the language that he chooses that would relate to that time, maybe to help people who haven’t been in that aspect in time to actually relate to the horrors of it. Is the language objectionable? Sure. I think that is how he uses that language to portray that… We are trying our best to redact the best we can and follow the law and that is what we felt like we have done to address the concerns of that language, the best we could. We think it is a valuable book and most of the supervisors here have read it.”

Steven Brady, Instructional Supervisor: “Every lesson we teach gives us a chance to make a change for the better for our students. When we teach habits of character, we are teaching our students how to be better people. There was a time where that happened every day at home, but when we think about what’s going on now and in the lives our students live in, many of them live in broken homes when they are at one house one day and another house the next. The list goes on and on of the things they have to deal with. Whether we realize it or not, school is the most stable thing in many of our students lives. What students see and hear where they live, may not be appropriate in some settings and we have a chance with every lesson to change what our students see is ok. We get a chance to kind of influence their ethics, their morals, their upbringing. I appreciate the stand that you all are taking to assure the public that we care about our kids, and we believe it’s important to teach our students the difference between right and wrong and help them be ethical people with compassion and morals with respect for others. We are not promoting the use of these words, if anything we are promoting that these words are inappropriate and it’s best that we not use them. It’s inappropriate for school, for our conversation here and you may hear that at home, you may see that on tv, but we do not promote that. There are many lessons that can be learned through this book about how we treat others, how we speak, things that we say, how we act and how to persevere. I just wanted you to get an idea of why these lessons are structured like they are and how this text is just surrounded by excerpts and articles and the things we do to build that background knowledge and the opportunity we have to make a difference in our students lives.”

 

REP. TIM RUDD VS. MLK’S POOR PEOPLE’S CAMPAIGN

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaching this weekend, Representative London Lamar (D-Memphis) introduced a resolution honoring him at the Tennessee legislature today. One would think a resolution honoring a man every Republican will claim to appreciate come Monday would sail through – but this being Tennessee, you would be wrong.

Rep. Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro) objected to some of the language in the resolution – specifically the language that talked about the Poor People’s Campaign, which Reverend Dr. William Barber now leads to continue the work of Dr. King.

You can read the initial draft of the Lamar resolution HERE.

And the adjusted version HERE.

Both versions include many facts and statistics about poverty in America, and Tennessee specifically, including the fact that 19.5 percent of Black people in the U.S. live in poverty, that Black Americans had the highest rate of poverty across the racial groups, and that Tennessee has one of the highest poverty rates in America.

Below is the language that was removed because Rep. Rudd objected to it – keep in mind Tennessee Republicans also blocked a resolution honoring Dr. Barber not long ago. (Here’s our interview with Dr. Barber, who is a great man, and who is fighting as hard for America’s poor as anyone).

WHEREAS, in order to observe, reflect, and celebrate the fullness of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, we must take up and reckon with Dr. King’s rejection of the economic status quo and his shift toward economic justice in the later years of his life; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King believed that without economic justice it would be impossible to achieve the full citizenship that was promised to all marginalized people by the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King, Marion Wright, and the SCLC launched the Poor People’s Campaign as the beginning of a new co-operation, an understanding, and a determination by poor people of all colors and backgrounds to assert and win their right to a decent life and respect for their culture and dignity; and

WHEREAS, at the Campaign’s conception, Dr. King sought to organize 2,000 poor people to go to Washington, D.C., southern states, and northern cities to meet with government officials to demand jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage, and education for poor adults and children; and

WHEREAS, on May 12, 1968, roughly one month after the assassination of Dr. King, his widow, Coretta Scott King, led thousands of women to activate the Poor People’s Campaign. On May 13, 1968, Resurrection City was erected on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., and – 3 – 011285 over the course of the next month, demonstrators outlasted the staggering heat to demand economic opportunity at different federal agencies; and

WHEREAS, as a result of the 1968 leg of the Poor People’s Campaign, 200 counties received free surplus food distribution, and some federal agencies agreed to hire poor people to lead poverty programs; and

WHEREAS, the Poor People’s Campaign continues today, advocating for its Declaration of Rights and the Poor People’s Moral Agenda, which tackles systemic racism, poverty and inequality, ecological devastation, national morality, and war economy and militarism; and

WHEREAS, according to the Institute for Economic and Racial Equity at the The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, “policy drives the racial wealth gap.” This means that “policy changes rather than behavioral changes” are the key in closing the wealth gap across racial groups. As legislators who craft state policy, legislators must ensure that the policies they create do not exacerbate but rather work to shrink the existing disparities; and

WHEREAS, the COVID-19 pandemic amplified and worsened the existing wealth inequalities across racial groups; and

WHEREAS, Dr. King’s economic justice work remains unfinished today. State legislatures must commit to and reaffirm their commitment to manifesting and actualizing the fullness of Dr. King’s dream; and

As a reminder, here’s Rev. Dr. Barber calling out Governor Lee to his face on MLK Day a few years back. One of our favorite clips ever:

CHATTANOOGA KID VS. MOMS FOR CENSORSHIP

WATCH: “FILTERING HISTORY IS MUCH MORE DESTRUCTIVE TO OUR GROWING MINDS.” As radical Moms For Liberty and board member Rhonda Thurman force Hamilton County Schools to create a committee to censor library books (to censor MLK, other black authors) — A WISE 5TH GRADER PUSHES BACK.