FAMILY VALUES? Bulso Fights for 1st Cousin Marriage 🤨


Common sense is in short supply in Tennessee these days. We don’t have to tell you that. Still, you would think a bill that bans marriage between first cousins would be uncontroversial in this day and age.

Well, you would be wrong. Not in Tennessee. Not under this Republican supermajority.

Darren Jernigan’s bill passed with full support in committee. Even Gino Bulso, who for some reason thought it wise to admit his grandparents were first cousins, supported it.

But something happened between committee and the floor that changed Bulso’s mind. Perhaps a fond family memory? Whatever it was, Bulso suddenly decided the bill was a bad idea, and fought hard to kill it on the house floor, even using law legalizing same-sex marriage, which he opposes, as an argument to keep first cousin marriage legal.

CLEMMONS did well to keep a straight face as he said: “Mr. Speaker, I move to table the amendment that would allow 1st cousins to marry.” 🤦🏻‍♂️

It was quite a sight to behold. Bulso’s colleagues struggled to keep straight faces. Parkinson failed, telling us “That was ballsy Bulso’s gonna break the Internet again.”

The lobbyists in the rotunda were seized with fits of laughter watching Bulso try to make his case.

Eventually it passed with an overwhelming majority from both parties, however Monty Fritts joined Bulso in opposition, and 9 other Republicans decided to abstain. 

The headlines Bulso’s crusade to save first cousin marriage is generating are frankly just amazing.

Needless to say, it will be an awkward Thanksgiving at the Bulso house this year. But congrats to Bulso & the TN house GOp on making it into Newsweek🤦🏻‍♂️

What a week. Session is almost over, but our work will continue. Please consider helping us holler about it all by chipping in monthly.  (or on SQUARE) 

The Holler


Interested in sponsoring? Email:[email protected]


TN STUDENTS TO GOV. LEE: “Veto the arming teachers bill… we are hurt by this..”

SENATOR LAMAR: 🗣️ “Teachers don’t even want this. This bill is dangerous… look at that gallery. Those mothers are asking you not to do this.” With a baby in her arms. Powerful. But every Senate Republican voted yes anyway, as troopers dragged out the moms above.

Williamson County School Board Member 👇🏽

YARBRO“Shame on us, Mister Speaker.” The arming teachers bill passed the Senate on party lines with Republican support, as Mcnally had parents removed from the balcony and Yarbro & the Dems said it isn’t what most Tennesseans want to keep kids safe.

Former Williamson County School Board Chair 👇🏽

Covenant Dad on the arming teachers bill👇🏽

It’s not what people want

🔥 JONES: “This stifles speech. People here are upset young people are asking deeper Q’s than your generation. I hope one day they replace you all.” – Justin Jones opposed Ragan’s bill— pointing out he grew up in “divisive” segregated schools, and the truth must be taught.

Tennessee headlines just from today

“NUTS.” — that’s how Dems caucus chair John Ray Clemmons responded to this bill letting 18 year olds open carry assault weapons👇🏽 Not only are Tennessee Republicans not listening to the people in the wake of Covenant, they’re going the other way.

“VOTE THEM OUT!” CHAOS ends committee after Lamberth & Farmer conspire to refuse a roll call vote on the Fritts bill allowing open carry of assault weapons & lowering the age to 18. Republicans making up rules as they go. Not democracy.

Q: “Do we need 18 year olds walking around open carrying assault weapons?” FARMER (R): “Probably not.” In a moment of honesty the Civil Justice chair admits his concerns about the bill he voted for— but doesn’t regret ducking the voice vote that led to the eruption.

POWELL: “I’m at a loss— we’re putting the worship of the gun ahead of the love of people.” Jason Powell opposed the Fritts bill for open carry of assault weapons as young as 18. Lamberth 🐔made Farmer duck 🦆 a roll call vote. The audience erupted. Senate Republicans then passed an arming teachers bill.

TN MOMS: “Elections are coming up, girls… democracy in Tennessee is on life support.” TN Moms react to an emotional committee ending abruptly when Farmer & Lamberth ducked a roll call vote on Fritts’ open carry of assault weapons by 18 year olds bill.

To recap…

HEY GINO: “Is the ‘Baby Olivia’ anti-abortion video you just forced into Tennessee schools indoctrination?”
Sponsors Bulso & Bowling say no — Senator Heidi Campbell disagrees, saying it’s part of a theocratic Christian Nationalist agenda taking hold in Tennessee (+ 🇺🇸)

NASHVILLE SCENE: “Local OB/GYN says the most egregious issue in the video is how it measures the timeline of pregnancy… They’re trying to ‘teach’ human development but they’re just teaching false embryology.”

What it actually looks like. Little different than the baby Olivia video.

TN PARENTS:  “Parents’ rights should be parents’ rights for all parents — the @TNGOP supermajority are hypocrites.” TN parents call out the hypocrisy of Faison’s “Parents Bill of Rights” as Republicans force kids to watch anti-abortion videos, attack trans kids etc.

CHALKBEAT hears what we’re hearing – Lee’s vouchers are hanging by a thread: “Lee’s push to create a statewide school voucher system is running out of time as Republican lawmakers work to reconcile significantly different proposals.” – KEEP CALLING.

And on and on 💰

HOMESCHOOLERS AGAINST VOUCHERS: “Taxpayer💰should not fund private education… (vouchers) are not conservative. We consider it educational welfare.” “For Your Children” ministry homeschoolers “fundamentally oppose” @GovBillLee’s voucher scam and the inevitable strings that come with vouchers.

DEBERRY PAID OFF: “Are you familiar with the segregationist history of vouchers? How much is @govbilllee paying you?” After being booted from the Democratic Party, ex Rep. John Deberry now helps Lee push his voucher scam — and Lee gives him ~$18,000/month in taxpayer dollars for it.💰

UNION BUSTIN’ GUV: Anti-Union is anti-worker, Gov Bill Lee. You’re the one making the “big mistake”.

❤️ MUST-WATCH: “I am fully unionized… my life changed… I have things I never thought I could.”
As Gov Lee union busts in Nooga— HAYWOOD, TN folks have their lives changed by union work & Biden’s $9.2 BILLION Blue Oval investment.

“AN UNPRECEDENTED BILLION-DOLLAR CORPORATE TAX GIVEAWAY”: Dems sound the🚨 as Republicans (+ Johnny Shaw) gleefully hand billions to corporations based on a nonexistent lawsuit— yet cry poverty over feeding kids in schools, expanding health care, etc

SHAW: “Get out of my face!” Rep Johnny Shaw (D) loses it on us & calls for a trooper when we ask why he was the 1 Dem yes vote on an unnecessary billion-dollar corporate tax handout. (Also: the attack on the human rights commission, Sexton’s rules, badmouthed the Justins, etc)

SUING THE STATE: “We urge the court to use its authority to stop the suffering pregnant patients are enduring.” TN women denied abortion care are suing the state over its (no real exceptions) ban, for putting their lives in jeopardy. #ForcedBirthState

A NATIONAL ALARM: This week BLOOMBERG and THE GUARDIAN both sounded the alarm 🚨 about Tennessee local outlets should have been sounding a long time ago. Either you’re calling it out or you’re helping to normalize it. There is no third option.

WATCH: “Be truthful, not neutral.” – Kanew holds a 1-man protest as The Holler is kept out of Speaker Sexton’s public press conference yet again, while the rest of local media again says nothing. Also denied access to the House floor, where the Dems held theirs.

LYIN LIZZETTE: The “Public Higher Education Fee Waiver” Lee’s TN Ed commissioner #LyinLizzette Reynolds signed, which very clearly says she committed perjury when she claimed to have been employed 6 months. In bold letters.

WARNER: “She needs to step aside… the damage is done.” Republican Rep. Todd Warner calls on unqualified commissioner Lizzette Reynolds to resign after she repeatedly lied to get free tuition (aka perjury). Lee’s pick has been a trainwreck.

CARTOONS OF THE DAY #ForcedBirthState #Eclipse

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Speaker Sexton Implies Judge Lied About Faison Complaint

Tennessee’s new legislative hasn’t even started yet and it’s already off to a ridiculous start.

This morning Chancellor Russell Perkins decided records that would show the public who signed off on taxpayer-funded expenses used to keep an intern quiet about alleged harassment that led to TN House GOP Vice Chair Scotty Campbell’s resignation during the Tennessee Three expulsion hearings would be kept locked up.

It’s a ruling that will likely be appealed, but of note in the judge’s decision was a tidbit about another complaint about TN House GOP Caucus Chair Rep. Jeremy Faison.

The judge lists among the received items:

“A 2nd folder dated 4/5/23, with an alleged victim’s first name containing 2 pages of notes pertaining to a complaint against Rep. Faison”

That’s quite specific.

Many questions arise: Who filed the complaint? Who fielded it? Were there other expenses associated with it paid for by taxpayers also used to silence the harassed, as appears to be the case with Campbell?

Speaker Sexton brought in high-priced private attorneys to keep the information about the Campbell cover-up expenses a secret with Governor Lee’s approval, so for now we won’t learn more about the Campbell harassment.

But the Faison situation is entirely new, so reporters had questions.

Chris O’Brien from Channel 2 managed to connect with both Sexton and his legislative office director Connie Ridley, and they made the wild choice to not only refuse to give any info about the Faison complaint– but to DENY THE EXISTENCE OF IT ENTIRELY.

Bold move! So on the one hand we have a chancellor with a super specific description of files regarding a complaint about Faison, (who is known mostly for trying to pants a ref in a gym full of kids).

On the other hand we have a Speaker who notably doesn’t even appear to be telling the truth to his own district about where he lives claiming the complaint is a figment of the Chancellor’s imagination.

Who to believe? Such a tough choice!

The truth will reveal itself in due time. It always does.


Unveiling the Layers of Concern Surrounding School Vouchers in Tennessee

The promise of school vouchers in Tennessee shimmers with the allure of parental choice, but a closer look reveals a tapestry woven with concerns. While the notion of increased options holds undeniable appeal, a critical examination exposes potential pitfalls for academic achievement, student equity, and the broader educational landscape.

Academic Achievement

The central pillar of the voucher argument rests on its impact on student learning. However, initial optimism crumbles in the face of stark data. Studies like Hanushek et al.’s (2017) Louisiana research paint a sobering picture, with students participating in voucher programs lagging behind their public school counterparts by an average of 5 points in math and 3 points in reading after three years (Greene et al., 2017). Similar echoes resonate in Indiana, where Greene et al.’s (2017) investigation revealed minimal academic gains and even slight declines of 5 points in math and 3 points in reading for voucher students. These findings, mirrored in Tennessee-specific studies like Carnoy et al. (2020) and Hansen et al. (2021), necessitate caution before assuming widespread academic benefits from vouchers.

Oversight and Equity

Unlike public schools bound by stringent standards, private institutions participating in voucher programs operate with varying degrees of oversight. This raises concerns about the quality and inclusivity of the education provided. As Greene (2023) highlights, inadequate monitoring risks misallocation of public funds and exacerbating existing educational inequities. This issue amplifies when considering underrepresented groups and students with special needs, who require robust safeguards to ensure access to appropriate support and prevent further marginalization (Carnoy et al., 2020; Hansen et al., 2021). Notably, only 40% of private schools participating in Tennessee’s voucher program received a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ rating on state assessments (Carnoy et al., 2020).

Representation Matters

The question of who truly benefits from voucher programs deserves scrutiny. Evidence suggests a growing trend of families not facing financial hardship utilizing vouchers, casting doubt on whether the intended beneficiaries reap the rewards. In Tennessee, only 18% of participants come from the lowest income quartile, highlighting a shift towards wealthier families taking advantage of the program (Hansen et al., 2021). This phenomenon challenges the principle of equitable resource allocation and necessitates a closer examination of how voucher programs incentivize participation across socioeconomic brackets.

Impact on Educators

The introduction of vouchers affects not only students but also the teaching community. While proponents argue for potential improvements in public education through increased competition, concerns arise about funding cuts, reduced salaries, and increased workloads for teachers. Moreover, while autonomy might appear appealing, market-driven pressures introduced by vouchers can constrain pedagogical freedom. Research by Hansen et al. (2021) underscores the need for careful consideration of these competing forces, while Greene et al.’s (2017) study highlights potential challenges in professional development and accountability within voucher systems. Tennessee’s voucher program could divert up to $1 billion away from public schools over the next five years, potentially impacting staffing and resources (Hansen et al., 2021).

Unveiling the Myth of Need

The narrative that vouchers primarily benefit families facing financial hardship crumbles under closer scrutiny. Studies like Greene’s (2023) indicate a growing trend of wealthier families opting for vouchers, raising questions about the program’s effectiveness in addressing educational disparities. This misalignment between intended beneficiaries and actual users calls for a reevaluation of voucher programs’ ability to deliver on their promises of equal educational opportunities.

A Call for Evidence-Based Choices

As Tennesseans navigate the complex landscape of education reform, the decision on school vouchers demands a measured approach rooted in evidence and a dedication to inclusivity. The concerns outlined here, ranging from academic performance to societal consequences, necessitate thorough consideration and open dialogue. Only through careful analysis, informed by rigorous research and diverse perspectives, can Tennessee craft an educational system that truly serves the needs of all its students and paves the way for a brighter future.

Joe Peeden is a current private school teacher but spent 10 years in Knox Co Schools.


Carnoy, M., Jacobsen, R., Mishel, L., & Rothstein, R. (2020). The Education Savings Account Pilot Program in Tennessee: Preliminary Impacts on Student Achievement. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 42(4), 407-428.

Greene, J. (2023, March 29). Research on school vouchers suggests concerns ahead for education savings accounts. Brookings Institution. ty-school-options-as-possible/

Greene, J. P., Hitt, C. L., Krieshok, T. S., & Shuls, J. M. (2017). The Effects of Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program on Student Achievement: A Matching Study. Education Finance and Policy, 12(4), 407-447.

Hansen, M. T., Rodriguez, O., & Smith, R. W. (2021). Does School Choice Improve Achievement? Evidence from Tennessee’s Education Savings Account Program. Educational Policy, 35(3), 456-502.

Hanushek, E. A., Kain, J. P., Markman, J. D., & Rivkin, S. G. (2017). The Effects of School Vouchers on Student Achievement in Louisiana: Evidence from a Randomized Control Trial. American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, 9(4), 147-201.

Walsh, A. (2023, January 4). How School Voucher Programs Hurt Students. TIME.

“Core Civic & Privatized Prisons Are A Cancer” | TDOC Hearing Highlights

Even after another scathing audit TDOC was just extended 3 years and will continue to contract with Core Civic. Listen to HIGHLIGHTS from the hearing yesterday.

Rep. Clemmons says “Core Civic And Privatized Prisons Are A Cancer” and points out TN by law is only supposed to have 1 in the state, but Core Civic found a loophole.

Meanwhile an assistant commissioner explains away high prison guard rape numbers by saying they really just start relationships with inmates.

Core Civic has spent over $3 million buying support from legislators, mostly Republican.


Tennessee Republican Steve Gill Confirms He Was In Russian-Occupied Region For “Election” Called A “Sham” By U.S. Officials & Allies

Tennessee conservative mouthpiece Steve Gill confirmed to the Holler he served as an observer in a September 10th election conducted in Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions called a “sham” by U.S. officials and allies.

The European Platform for Democratic Elections urged the EU to consider sanctions and visa restrictions for 34 foreign observers it says were “involved in those “unauthorized activities” it believes to be an act of Russian propaganda.

The Holler has confirmed that one of those 34 election observers was Steve Gill of Tennessee, a staunch Trump supporter and right-wing radio host who was the political editor of The Tennessee Star prior to his August 2019 arrest for not paying child support. (A Williamson County judge denied an order of protection against Gill after his wife filed the order saying she was scared of what would happen when he was released from jail.)

Gill is a regular critic of Ukraine, and frequent guest on RT, “a Russian state-controlled international news television network funded by the Russian government”, according to Wikipedia.
From the European Platform for Democratic Elections release:

“The European Union strongly condemned the holding of the Russian elections in temporarily occupied Ukrainian territories as illegitimate and strongly rejected this further futile attempt by Russia to legitimize or normalize its illegal military control and attempted annexation of parts of Ukrainian territories.

The United States referred to the sham elections in occupied areas of Ukraine as ‘nothing more than a propaganda exercise’, and stated that it will never recognize the Russian Federation’s claims to any of Ukraine’s sovereign territory. The US also reminded any individuals who may support Russia’s sham elections in Ukraine, including by acting as so-called ‘international observers’, that they may be subject to sanctions and visa restrictions… For around two decades, Russian authorities have employed “international observers” to try to whitewash fraudulent elections, legitimize illegitimate plebiscites, and/or advance their foreign policy interests internationally.”

Here was the list of observers they included in their release:

We asked Steve Gill via email if he was the “Steve Gill” from the list (highlighted above). His response:

“I was there.”

We asked Gill to elaborate about why he went, what he saw, and if he knew the US & EU considered it to be a propaganda stunt. We also asked if he could provide any insight into the nature of his connection to the area, Russia, and his relationship with RT.

His responses were lengthy (provided in longer form below), but the key takeaways were that he took issue with Secretary Blinken calling the election a “sham”, said there were no reporters there to report the “truth” and wanted to see things for himself.

Gill described the election process Russian authorities used in the occupied territories as “actual transparency”, claiming to have had “full access to talk to anybody”, and described voters as “excited” and not intimidated.

He added that he didn’t care or know who won, and went out of his way to add that the ongoing sanctions against Russia are not hurting them, only Americans, and that Moscow seemed very “safe” and “clean” with “tall buildings” – obviously very pro-Russia talking points, especially considering we hadn’t asked those questions.

Experts on the region we spoke with have written extensively on Russia’s history of conducting these elections for propaganda purposes.

In our follow-up we asked Gill if he thought it would be easy to put on a show of an election only to rig the results themselves, to which he responded:

“I watched and thought through how I might cheat if I was there, and I could not find a way.”

We also asked Gill if he was joined there by Kline Preston, a Nashville lawyer tied to Marsha Blackburn’s campaigns known to be a big Russia supporter and who reportedly introduced Russian operatives to the NRA, and Gill confirmed Preston was indeed there.
Here’s Gill’s initial response to our questions (slightly edited for brevity, denoted by ellipses):

“Interestingly, Blinken is calling it a sham rigged election. The same wording they are prosecuting Trump for saying but with zero actual proof of anything of the sort. And US and Western Euro media reports are not based on any actual reporting. I didn’t see anybody from Fox, MSNBC, CNN, WAPO, NY Times or anybody else there to report facts or the truth.

I have no relation to Russia and had not been there in 25 years. My relationship with RT is I am frequently contacted to provide commentary and opinion… I had the opportunity to go and went for the same reason I embedded with US troops in Iraq and Kuwait a few times, traveled to see conditions at Guantánamo Bay Terrorist detention center, broadcasted from Democrat and Republican national conventions for years… I’m skeptical of most media reporting, so I like to see it for myself so I can expose the truth based on what I see and hear not what I’m told.

I personally visited seven voting precincts over a couple of days in the Donbas Region, including Donetsk and Mariupol and a couple of smaller towns. I also toured the central election location in Moscow and observed how they collect poll results from around the country.

I had full access to talk to anybody, see anything, ask any questions of election workers, voters, and anybody else we randomly came in contact with… The election processes at the polls I visited, were very similar to what you see in the United States, but more transparent and less likely to allow any form of cheating. For example, they have video cameras set up at each of the 3000+ polling stations across Russia where anybody can watch live feed of what’s happening. Representatives of the political parties and election officials are on site observing as well. And in Moscow with a central election headquarters, the political parties have dozens of representatives with computer terminals, watching in real time whatever is going on at each polling place across the country…

Voters show passports or other government issued photo ID. When they arrive to vote they are issued a paper ballot, at least in most of the voting precincts, although they are experimenting with electronic voting… Voters and stepped behind curtains to cast their votes in secrecy… They then placed their ballots in a large plexiglass box that is locked until the vote count begins. Actual transparency.

There was zero evidence at any polling location of threats or intimidation to encourage voting… Voters were generally anxious and excited for the opportunity to vote. And the polling stations were calm with very efficient poll workers handling the process. Again, very similar to what you would see in any precinct in middle Tennessee…

…I’ve been asked “who won?”, but didn’t really focus on that or care. I certainly didn’t know any of the local candidates. I know the mayor of Moscow won handily, but based upon the clean streets, safe environment, economic prosperity, cranes throughout the city, building new, skyscrapers, etc. that was not surprising in the least. Based upon the economic growth in Russia, generally, and what I observed, in convenience stores, grocery stores, a massive shopping mall next to our hotel, and talking to regular Russians, throughout a several day, stay in Moscow, our sanctions don’t appear to be hurting them. They are hurting American consumers, who are paying nearly double at the gas pump.

…we clearly have a media that is determined to tell only one side of the story, whether it is Covid, the VAX, election fraud, or the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. Anytime the media is only telling us one side of the story we should all be much more skeptical. Again, that’s why I went to see for myself when I had the opportunity.

I’ve had several people ask me about whether I felt like I was in danger there in Moscow or anywhere else. Even though we were about 25 km from the front lines at one point, there was not massive military presence, or any evidence of that area of Ukraine being “occupied“.

And Moscow was one of the cleanest safest cities I’ve been in with huge skyscrapers conflicting with the image that most Americans have of Russians, living in cement block buildings from the Soviet era.  Plus, as I told some people asking me about the danger of going to Russia, I pointed out that I regularly go to Memphis.😂

In our follow-up questions we asked Gill if Russia could have shown him and the other observers a seemingly transparent process of voting only to rig the results, and if he had any insight into how the counting of the votes would be protected or confirmed through some sort of independent verification.

Gill’s response:
“The votes in the precincts are counted locally with the live stream providing viewing of that process, too. Plus local party officials are there for the count in person. The numbers are then shown on the cameras and the tally is also transmitted to Moscow. Unlike here in the states, the votes are transported somewhere else for the count, which would, as we see here, allow for all sorts of mischief. I watched and thought through how I might cheat if I was there, and I could not find a way.”
With the “unlike here in the states” jab Gill is clearly referring to the 2020 election here, which we will point out was not stolen.
Gill went on:
“And the live video transmissions of the voting process and accounting process are recorded as well, so, if a question is raised they can go back and review the tapes… They also keep a careful count in each precinct of the number of ballots cast, and compare that to the remaining ballots after the voting is closed to make sure that the leftover ballots are the right number based on the total votes cast. Both cameras, and that count prevent any (after the vote time closes) ballots stuffing from taking place.
And unlike our system, once the time for voting comes to an end, votes aren’t allowed to trickle in for days or weeks later. So they have same day results and their elections without tens of thousands of votes being slipped in secretly and with no accountability after the time for voting comes to an end.”

We asked Gill if he went to Ukraine and connected with the Ukrainians at all, if “getting one side of the story” is the issue he has with American media. His response was highly critical of Ukraine, which comes as no surprise to anyone following Gill’s social media:

“I didn’t observe things from the Ukrainian side. They were not having an election. So it wasn’t a matter of reporting on “both sides“ since there was no election on the other side. And the so-called “democracy” being run by President Zelenskyy has actually canceled their elections. If and when they ever have elections, I would hope that fair-minded truth telling journalist would actually observe and report their process as well.

And I would point out that the “Democracy” that we are supporting on the Ukrainian side has seen the president cancel opposition parties, close independent media, and left only state run media operating, gone after the Russian orthodox churches in the country, and cancel the elections unless American taxpayers pay for them.”

The claim of Ukraine not holding elections is true, but the reason is because Ukraine has declared martial law after being attacked by Russia unprovoked. As of June 2023 77% of Ukrainians supported Zelenskyy’s reelection. President Zelensky recently said elections could happen even under attack if the United States helped facilitate.


“And I’d be happy to report things from the Ukrainian side of the conflict, but since they have put out a “hit” on anybody who questions how the money we have provided has been spent, or who has traveled to report from the territory they once controlled. Their transgender American military spokesperson just got fired for threatening to punish those who witnessed the elections. But that was only done after senator JD Vance from Ohio question whether her job is being funded by American taxpayers, and whether the threats she was expressing, were authorized by the Ukrainian government.”
The Ukrainian government has not put out a “hit” on anybody who questions how the money has been spent or reported from the region, but it is true that President Zelensky has recently attempted to deal with corruption among Ukraine’s leadership, and the spokesperson Gill is referencing was recently suspended for comments threatening people caught spreading Russian propaganda – comments they say were not approved. (And yes, that spokesperson happens to be transgender, which has nothing to do with it. Gill is clearly using that descriptor in a disparaging, transphobic way.)

Gill continues:

“Finally, I was talking to the residents of Donetsk and Mariupol, who have been residing in what has been called Ukraine for a long time. The overwhelming majority of people who live in these areas, speak Russian rather than Ukrainian; identify as Russian rather than Ukrainian; have been seeking their independence from Ukraine for over a dozen years without Western media reporting that conflict.”

Here’s more on the region he’s referring to. While it’s true many speak Russian, referendums showing they supposedly would prefer to join Russia have been accused of being “staged” for years.

Gill adds:

“And by the way, an American born Chilean journalist has been jailed by Ukraine for daring to report, truthfully, from their side of the conflict battle lines and raising questions about their behavior. That is the “democracy“ that we are funding???

“On the Russian side, an American journalist from the Wall Street Journal has been arrested and alleged to have been spying when he was caught photographing munitions areas 240 miles from Moscow. I don’t know if he was spying or not, but the US media should be demanding the release of both journalists not just one.”

Gill is referring to Gonzalo Lira, a Chilean journalist in Kyiv when the invasion began who was highly critical of Ukraine they arrested for spreading what they called “pro-Russian propaganda” (upposedly Lira focused on giving dating and relationship advice under the pseudonym “Coach Red Pill”) and WSJ reporter Evan Gershkovich, who Russia arrested on “spying charges”.

Finally, we asked Gill if Kline Preston was with him – a lawyer linked to Marsha Blackburn known to be very pro-Russia/Putin and who reportedly introduced Russian operatives to the NRA.

Gill said yes, Kline Preston was with him.

“Among Preston’s Russian clients and longtime friends is Alexander Torshin, a prominent Russian politician who has close ties to President Vladimir Putin. Torshin is under scrutiny for illegally channeling Russian funds to the National Rifle Association in an effort to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Preston first introduced Torshin to then-president of the NRA David Keene in 2011 and the pair attended the NRA’s annual convention in Nashville in 2015.”

It’s worth remembering Kline Preston wrote on his old website that he helped lead Marsha Blackburn for Congress, Inc. as recently as 2014 – and that Preston was pictured in the Tennessean with his Russian collectibles from his various trips. His twitter handle is @gittinpaid, and he has “Moscow” listed as one of his locations on his profile:

In general, Gill’s answers to our questions were very pro-Russia, and very negative towards President Zelensky and support for Ukraine in general. Gill says he has no ties to the Russian government itself, however we asked an expert on the region if just anyone could go to the Russian-controlled territories to be “election observers”.

Their response:

“Even to go there you have to be well connected. Russians wouldn’t take a random person into a war zone.”
Here were some of the pictures Gill included in his emails to us:

Tennessee’s Constitution, 1840 TN Supreme Court Decision Show 2A Not Unlimited

In August, Governor Lee is exercising his constitutional right to call for Tennessee’s legislature to come together in Nashville for an “extraordinary” session on “public safety” in the wake of the tragic attack at the Covenant School down the road that took the lives of innocent people, including children.

Lee’s press release about the special session did not include the word “guns”, but many are hopeful the discussion will revolve around some version of common sense gun reform, which even Fox News polls show are supported by the overwhelming majority of the people.

Predictably, pro-gun groups are already attacking Governor Lee for the implication that he will support some sort of “Extreme Risk Protection Order” that seeks to keep guns from dangerous people, saying he is betraying their constitutional rights as outlined by the 2nd Amendment. But 19 states already have these laws, including Florida which passed theirs after Parkland, and thus far they have withstood legal challenges.

The questions at the center of this special session will likely be a familiar one, one which we have been debating for many years: How unlimited is the 2nd Amendment really, and what was its true intention? To answer these questions about our nation’s constitution, our state’s constitution, and our Supreme Court’s interpretation of it, may provide the answers.

First, let’s remember what the 2nd Amendment actually says:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

2nd Amendment absolutists focus on that last part: “Shall not be infringed”, and say that overwrites the rest of it, even though it begins with “well regulated“, which those in favor of common sense gun reforms say would allow lawmakers to place limitations on the owning and carrying of weapons.

Even conservative Justice Scalia interpreted this right as not unlimited.

Former Tennessee House Republican Rep. Brandon Ogles highlighted the “well-regulated” part in committee, drawing ire from his own party.

Another key word to notice there is “Militia”, which many believe means the 2nd Amendment was actually the framers way of making sure the public was able to take up arms against a tyrannical government should the need arise, and not them saying everyone should be walking around armed to the teeth.

Standing here in the year 2023, over 200 years removed from the writing of the constitution, it’s hard to know exactly what they meant. But you know who was a lot closer to it, and in a much better position to understand the intentions of the United States constitution than we are?

The framers of our own Tennessee state constitution.

Article 1, Section 26 of the constitution can provide some clues as to which reading of the 2nd Amendment is closer to the framers’ intentions. It states:

“That the citizens of this state have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.”

Did you catch that 2nd part? Again: “The legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms to prevent crime.”

The first constitution of our state was adopted in 1796, meaning those who wrote it were contemporaries of the framers of our nation’s constitution, and likely had a pretty good idea of what they meant.

So if they believe the legislature can regulate guns, how can we stand here 227 years later and say they can’t? That seems to be a highly unreasonable position to take.

It’s also worth noting that when Governor Lee and others say that we can’t regulate guns because criminals don’t obey the law, as he said to us after Uvalde, he is speaking in direct opposition to the very words in the state constitution he has sworn to uphold.

Now let’s focus on the first part. Just like in the 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution, which very clearly says it’s talking about a “Militia”, the Tennessee Constitution’s provision says “for their common defense”. What did they mean by that?

Again, here in 2023 it’s hard to say. But we can draw our answer from the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1840, which was asked to interpret this as it weighed in on a case involving a man who had been arrested for carrying a bowie knife in “Aymette V. State”.

The decision upheld the case against Aymette, who was arguing that Article 1, Section 26 allowed him to carry a bowie knife. In the ruling the Supreme Court made it clear that although he was “insisting” the law “gives every (white, at the time) man the right to arm himself in any manner however dangerous or unusual the weapon” – it went on to say the law did not do that.

Instead, the ruling makes it clear it the Supreme Court believes the phrase “common defense” is key to understanding the law, in that it was really intended to make sure the public could defend itself against a tyrannical government should the need arise again, and that it did not mean individuals could walk around with weapons “efficient only in the hands of the robber and the assassin”, because “these weapons would be useless in war, could not be employed advantageously in common defense.

“The right to keep and bear them is not, therefore, secured by the constitution.”

The ruling goes on to again say that the words “bear arms” are a specific reference to their military use – again useful for our understanding of the 2nd amendment itself – “and were not employed to mean wearing them about the person as part of the dress”.

Not only does the Supreme Court say the legislature can make laws with regard to weapons, it goes so far as to call it “absurd” to think they would not be able to do so, and that the right to weapons in situations of “common defense” would be extended weapons in non-military situations, knowing that “in the hands of an assassin, they might take away life.”

So yes, the Tennessee Supreme Court goes on to say, the Legislature has a right to “prohibit the wearing or keeping weapons dangerous to the peace and safety of the citizens, which are not used in civilized warfare, or would not contribute to to the common defense.

Addressing the argument that the Legislature cannot make these laws, the Supreme Court says it would be to “pervert a great political right to the worst of purposes, and make it a “social evil of infinitely greater extent than abandoning the right itself entirely.”

They go on to imagine “ruffians” entering a “theater” or “church” to the “terror of the audience”, saying it could become “habitual” – which, of course, it has – and say that it would “surely not” be beyond the power of the Legislature to pass laws to stop these horrors.

Prescient, no?

In summation, the Tennessee Supreme Court declares “the right to bear arms is not of that unqualified character” – meaning not without limitations – again reiterating that the law’s intention was of a “common defense” or military nature.

It’s worth noting that the argument of 2nd Amendment absolutists is often that even if it is in reference to a “militia” or the “common defense”, that that includes all citizens. But if they’re going to concede the 2nd Amendment is in reference to the “militia”, that word in the United States constitution is preceded by “well-regulated”.

They cannot have it both ways.

Again, the framers of the Tennessee constitution were alive in 1796. They were contemporaries of the men who wrote the United States constitution itself. Article 1 Section 26 very clearly gives the Legislature the power to make laws limiting the right to carry and keep weapons, and the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld that power in 1840 in Aymette V. State.

Today’s legislators cannot hide behind the constitution. They DO have the power to change our gun laws to keep us and our children safe.

The August special session will be here soon, called by their own Republican governor. It is way past time for them to do it.


Within hours of the Phil Williams report about TN House GOP caucus vice chair Scotty Campbell’s alleged sexual harassment of legislative interns, Campbell had resigned. Even Phil was blown away by how quickly it happened, basically saying he had never seen anything like it in his storied career.

But despite the speed of Campbell’s demise, many questions remained. Why did it take Phil’s report to trigger any consequences? Who knew about the details of the investigation? What was Speaker Sexton’s role in this ugly ordeal?

Sexton was quick to deny any knowledge of the details of the investigation, and majority leader William Lamberth was right there at a press conference to back him up, pointing to the policy governing harassment allegations and saying it protected the victim by keeping the details quiet even from the speaker.

But who is really being protected? Obviously the victim’s confidentiality is paramount, but more and more it’s seeming like what’s really being protected is the speaker from any culpability for his handling – or mishandling – of the situation, and the lack of consequences Campbell faced until the situation became public.

The policy governing harassment complaints itself makes it clear all complaints are to go right to the speaker. And since that initial report we now know more about what went on in the wake of the complaint – including approved expenses taxpayers covered that were shelled out to the tune of nearly $10,000, including almost $1000 in CASH.

Even the intern herself said “it felt like they were trying to buy my silence.”

So who signed the checks? Who approved the expenses, including the cash handout?

Speaker Sexton has pointed the finger at the 4 members of the ethics subcommittee: Rep. Bill Beck (D), Rep, Karen Camper (D), Rep. Pat Marsh (R), and Rep. Sam Whitson (R).

Sexton very clearly is trying to shield himself from blame by using the ethics subcommittee as cover, despite the fact that we know FOR SURE Sexton knew about the Campbell findings as early as March 29th, yet Campbell was met with no consequences until voluntarily resigning 3 weeks later – even as he voted to expel the Tennessee Three for speaking up for common sense gun laws.

We have reached out to each of the 4 subcommittee members to confirm Sexton’s story about them approving the expenses.

2 ignored us entirely.

1 is staying quiet, pointing to the policies governing their committee as the reason they “Can’t talk about that.”

The 4th was not willing to answer anything specifically about the expenses concerning this particular situation, but was willing to answer a more general question: “Does the subcommittee have the power to approve expenses when it comes to sexual harassment allegations?”

The answer from the 4th subcommittee member: “TO MY KNOWLEDGE, NO.”

If that’s true, that means the subcommittee clearly didn’t have a hand in approving those expenses. Which means Speaker Sexton is lying to Phil Williams, and to the public.

What the member is saying makes sense. Everyone we have spoken to at the legislature says they can’t even buy a lamp in that building without the speaker’s sign-off, so it defies logic that $10,000 in taxpayer funds would be spent without his approval, particularly the nearly $1000 in cash.

And again, if Sexton did approve those expenses, and he did know about the Campbell details long before Campbell’s departure, then Speaker Sexton is lying, and the people of Tennessee deserve to know.

Sexton was clearly counting on the subcommittee to maintain their silence to keep folks believing it. An ethics subcommittee allowing itself to be used as cover in that way would seem to be downright unethical – but 3 of the 4 appear to be willing to let that happen.

As for why this 4th member feels the need to remain anonymous when answering a basic procedural question, that seems to speak to a culture of fear and intimidation that permeates the entire capitol under the Sexton regime – one that was apparent in the leaked audio from the GOP caucus meeting we posted a few weeks back regarding the Tennessee Three expulsions, which were in themselves a silencing of dissent and intimidation of a jaw-dropping, undemocratic scale.

The silence of the ethics subcommittee members also begs the question: What does Sexton have on them that they would be willing to provide cover for his lies? Especially when the lies are concerning such an important issue – the sexual harassment of young interns by men in power, one would think they would feel the need to speak up.

Serving on an ethics subcommittee should have 1 requirement: A commitment to the truth. Allowing the speaker to use them as a smoke screen to lie and cover-up his own failures would be the opposite of ethical. And if speaking about who covered the expenses is a policy violation, Sexton already violated the policy by pointing the finger at them.

We asked TN House Dems caucus chair Rep. John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville) for comment. His response:

“Having never participated in or served on this “double-secret” subcommittee, I cannot speak from personal knowledge about how it operates or what power it wields. However, I know of no rule or authority that would allow a four member group of legislators to unilaterally, secretly appropriate taxpayer funds for any purpose. 
Also, it is my understanding that practically every decision made in the House goes through the Speaker’s office. The Speaker’s office controls everything from assigning legislators’ desks on the floor, committees and specific parking spots to approving staff and office furniture. Now, if someone offered or made a cash payment, as was reported, that is a whole other issue. Such a payment would circumvent all formal channels of normal expenditures or be pulled out of a “petty cash” drawer somewhere in this building that most of us don’t know about.”

AGAIN, the anonymous Ethics Subcommittee member’s response when we asked if the subcommittee has the power to approve expenses in sexual harassment (cover-up?) situations: “TO MY KNOWLEDGE, NO.”

So if the ethics subcommittee didn’t approve the expenses, Sexton must have, which means he knew about the Campbell harassment issue all along and did nothing.

And had Phil’s report not come out, Campbell would likely still be in his seat, and still be vice chair of the Republican caucus.

Between questions concerning his his residency, his inflated self-approved per diem which some want criminally investigated, and now the deception swirling around these very serious sexual harassment allegations, the already loud calls for Sexton’s resignation are sure to grow even louder now.

LEAKED AUDIO: TN House GOP Caucus Infighting Over TN 3 Votes



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