Category Archives: Bill Haslam

Gov. Haslam: The World Is Watching

Yes, we hear that statement a lot during protests. But in Nashville’s case, it happens to be true.

You see, a delegation of educators from the People’s Republic of China happens to be in town right now, visiting our schools and taking part in cultural exchange. Some of them were at the Nashville Predators game last night; I saw them on the Megatron, waving little red Chinese flags.

It is conceivable that these people are aware of our protest; it’s quite possible they walked the handful of blocks from Bridgestone Arena to Legislative Plaza and saw the action for themselves last night. Perhaps some other members of the delegation were at “Wicked,” which would have provided them a ringside seat to witness our demonstration of Constitutionally protected free speech, our right of assembly, our display of freedom of the press.

It is shameful to me that any citizens of communist China could witness state police hauling off protestors from the people’s plaza. Or seen a journalist handcuffed in the act of reporting on these arrests, then later accused of intoxication in what is clearly a ham-fisted attempt to justify yet another crushing of a Constitutionally-protected right.

So far we’ve got the governor interfering with the people’s right to vote, their right to peaceably assemble, the rights of a free press … what’s next, Governor?

We never stop boasting about our hard-fought freedoms in America, and rightfully so. China’s human rights record is atrocious, and recent protests there have prompted a crack down on social media by the Communist Party. We all remember Tiananmen Square.

It would be nice if the actions of Tennessee’s governor could provide a stark contrast to the Chinese authorities’ heavy hand, not a muddied reflection of it.

Gov. Haslam, show our Chinese visitors what democracy really looks like. As the protestors’ sign says, democracy is messy. Go with it, that’s the way it’s supposed to be:

This Is What Democracy Looks Like


Filed under Bill Haslam, Nashville protest

The Embarrassment Of Gov. Haslam

Gov. Haslam has truly shown his ignorance with the ridiculous “curfew” he imposed on Legislative Plaza to quash Occupy Nashville. When even the former spokesperson for the Tennessee Republican Party says your actions are unconstitutional, you know you’ve stepped in, eh Governor?

Last night Occupy Nashville protestors were arrested again, and early this morning they were released … again. Metro Night Court Judge Tom Nelson told the state troopers who made the arrests that

… the curfew being enforced at the Capitol had no constitutional grounds whatsoever.

“I have reviewed the regulations of the state of Tennessee, and I can find no authority anywhere for anyone to authorize a curfew anywhere on Legislative Plaza,” Judge Nelson told a grimacing trooper, before ordering the immediate release of everyone arrested.

Hear that, Governor? You can’t arbitrarily impose a rule, pretend it’s a law, have state police enforce it, and then expect it to hold up in court. In fact, I wonder if there won’t be a wrongful arrest action or two as a result of Haslam’s embarrassing lack of knowledge about the limits of his power.

Sorry, but this ain’t Italy and you’re not Il Duce.


Filed under Bill Haslam, Nashville protest

Freedom Isn’t Free It’s $65 A Day

… and proof of $1 million in liability insurance.

That is the new rule for exercising your Constitutionally-protected right of free speech at Nashville’s Legislative Plaza. The Haslam Administration has unabashedly changed the rules at the 11th hour in an effort to crush the Occupy Nashville protest. And yes, it’s an astonishingly blatant government overreach from our so-called “small government” Republican governor. Wake up and smell the hypocrisy:

The state curfew bans anybody from being on the plaza from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Protests would be allowed by permit between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Those permits would cost $65 a day and groups would also be required to buy $1 million in liability insurance coverage.

An ACLU spokesperson said they are monitoring the situation and are drafting a lawsuit. Changing the rules in the middle of a protest to crush that protest “raises constitutional questions,” they say. Yes, I think so.

So at around 3 a.m. this morning the protestors were arrested. This morning a judge ruled there was no probable cause for the arrests and ordered everyone released.

I just wonder where all of those Teanuts so in love with our Constitution are? This isn’t the first time our baby-faced Republican governor has crushed a civil right. Back in June he signed a law making it a crime to display or transmit “distressing images” online. He’s blocked our access to the courts with his “tort reform.” We have our new Tennessee Voter ID law, which stands ready to disenfranchise thousands of people who don’t meet the state’s arbitrary Voter ID requirement (gun permit yes! Student ID, no!) Once again, these “small government” Republicans show themselves to be hypocrites, perfectly happy to let the government’s long arm reach in and silence a protest they don’t agree with, but calling it gross overreach when we try to protect our air and water.

These chickens will be coming home to roost for years to come. Tennessee will be paying for this in some unexpected ways, methinks.

And I want to raise some awareness about the people participating in Occupy Nashville. It’s not all DFH’s and college kids. Let’s give some mad props to 71-year-old Rip Patton:

“If you don’t hear from me, call the city jail,” 71-year-old Rip Patton told his friends. A veteran of the civil rights struggle, Patton was one of the students who braved arrest and worse to desegregate Nashville’s lunch counters and to bring voting rights to blacks in the Deep South as one of the Freedom Riders.

More on Rip Patton here. And thank you to The Tennessean for taking the time to interview this social justice veteran. It’s a great interview.


Occupy Nashville is baaaaaack….


You can’t possibly get more conservative than Bill Hobbs: he was, after all, once the spokesperson for the Tennessee Republican Party. And yet, I’m getting the warm fuzzies reading his Twitter stream.

When even Bill Hobbs agrees the Haslam Administration has overreached and is stifling dissent, you know you’re talking about an issue that is way beyond partisanship.


Filed under Bill Haslam, free speech, Nashville protest

Bill Haslam’s Just Full Of Ideas

Tennessee’s new governor has hit upon the greatest idea to battle the scourge of drugs since Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No!” campaign! No, really!

Gov. Bill Haslam today is expected to kick off a new anti-meth campaign called “Meth Destroys” featuring the first educational video created for middle and high school students since the state’s initial meth campaigns in 2005. The video is the latest weapon in the war on meth.

The Tennessean gets extra-stupid points for the hyperbolic bullshit rhetoric. An educational video! What a brilliant idea! No one has ever thought of that before! Oh, wait:

Pfft. I’m not implying meth is as benign as pot, but it’s not like we weren’t forced to watch lame educational videos and listen to anti-drug lectures from Policeman Bob all through school when we were kids. Didn’t do a damn thing.

Hey, Governor: how about just focusing on jobs so people don’t have to cook meth to make money? Maybe help people get into treatment? Offer some kind of social services support to help people stay clean? How about opening TennCare up to dental care, to help those afflicted with meth-mouth? You know, something that actually helps people?

I know, it’s crazy talk.


Filed under Bill Haslam, drug scares, Tennessee

It All Depends On Whose Ox Is Getting Gored

Cash-strapped states like Arizona are trying to change the Federal law enabling them to privatize interstate rest stops so they can sell off leases and set up commercial operations. Except here in Tennessee, where our Gov. Bill Haslam, whose family owns Pilot Oil, the nation’s largest operator of travel centers, is against the idea. Surprise!

Well, technically he said he’s staying out of it since he’s governor, but his brother Jimmy, CEO of Pilot, is openly lobbying against the idea. And everyone says it’s not gonna happen in Tennessee.

Gov. Haslam says:

I think his point was, no matter what the business is, if you made an existing investment counting on a certain set of circumstances, i.e. that the state wouldn’t sell its own right of way for other people to use, it’s not really fair to go back and change the law to give one person a preferred position there.

I find this fascinating. I’m sure there are plenty of situations one can think of where a private group made an existing investment counting on a certain set of circumstances, and then the rules were unfairly changed. Let’s see … Planned Parenthood operating women’s health clinics using Title X funds comes to mind … I’m sure folks can think of some others.

I have to say, the Brothers Haslam surprise me. I would think they’d be all over this rest stop privatization scheme, eager to bid on the contract themselves. I admit I am not that familiar with this issue, so perhaps there’s something else going on here that I don’t know about. I can understand why the Haslam family would want less competition, and I guess they’ve positioned their locations on the assumption that state-operated rest stops are not competition.

Usually, though, Republicans are all about privatization. From our prisons to our schools, everything is supposed to be shinier, sparklier, cheaper, and better when sprinkled with the fairy dust of free enterprise.

Except, of course, where you pee and stretch your legs while taking the great American road trip.

Hmmm. Sounds a little self-serving to me. Furthermore, Tom Humphrey noted that other states which have received federal approval to privatize their rest stops are making some decent money:

In contrast to Tennessee, where the combined cost of operations is about $10 million per year, other states are making money off their rest stops. In Delaware, where full commercialization is allowed under federal law, a contract guarantees the state at least $1.6 million per year and perhaps more, depending on the contractor’s profits, according to a Stateline article. The contractor spent $35 million building a 42,000-square foot welcome center last year, the article says.

In Virginia, where full commercialization with restaurants and gas stations is not permitted, Gov. Bob McDonnell’s administration recently awarded a contract for operating vending kiosks and sale of advertising rights at 42 rest areas and welcome centers that is projected to net about $2 million per year, according to the AP.

Now, $2 million a year may not sound like a lot but remembering the hissy fits Republicans threw over TDOT’s roadside wildflower program which honored our veterans and cost around $800,000, well … it’s significant. Boy, I miss seeing those red poppies and purple lupines every spring. Ah well.

For the record, I’m not in favor of privatizing rest stops, either. I love the uncommercialized nature of our rest stops. But that’s just my Luddite, hippie nature. So Haslam and I agree on this one, for completely different reasons. Haslam wants to protect the family fortune under the guise of “fairness” … I’m just sick of being advertised to all the time. But honestly I really wonder what’s in the best interest of Tennessee? Would it be so awful if a private company operated our rest stops, perhaps along the Virginia model?


Filed under Bill Haslam, conservatives, privatization, Tennessee politics

An Artist’s Revenge

What have I been saying about the power of the arts? Here’s local artist Brandt Hardin, getting back at Gov. Goofball, er, Bill Haslam, who’s so in favor of small government he signed a law outlawing the display or transmission of “distressing images” online (I wrote about it here.)

Hardin’s picture may cause some distress to Mrs. Haslam — or not, who knows. Maybe the Haslams have a sense of humor? Aw who am I kidding, they’re Republicans. Those people still think Rich Little is funny.

Ironically, news of Haslam’s “distressing images over the internet” bill came in the middle of WeinerGate when, if you recall, Andrew Breitbart was spreading pictures Weiner’s weiner via his iPhone. As far as I know, Breitbart escaped prosecution in Tennessee, so perhaps Hardin’s little stick-at-the-hornet’s-nest stunt will go unremarked too. Then again, IOKIYAR.

(h/t, Pith In The Wind)


Filed under art, Bill Haslam, free speech, Tennessee

Gov. Bill Haslam Thinks You’re Stupid

I’m sorry Gov. Goofball, hope you don’t mind people calling into question your motives for coming out against higher CAFE standards but after all, you did ask for it. You did leave your Pilot holdings out of your blind trust, saying it was “common knowledge” so, in effect, inviting the kind of scrutiny I’m bringing here. So okay, I’ll bite.

So Gov. Haslam, you’re able to keep an eye on the family business’ bottom line while in a position to do something directly impacting said family business … like, say, joining a group of other governors (most of them Tea Party wackos) in a letter to the EPA coming out against the higher CAFE standards Congress passed. Forgive me if that smells fishy, but since Pilot is a private company the public has no way of knowing if (or how much) of a hit the family fortune took during this economic downturn. It’s easy to see you’d personally benefit if the new CAFE standards were ditched; care to share how much?

What kills me is that our state media hasn’t even asked this question. I think it’s a logical question: the governor leaves his Pilot holdings out of the blind trust, then does something which would clearly impact that company’s bottom line. No one even noticed; heck, as I mentioned earlier today, the “liberal” NPR station in Nashville didn’t even bother to mention Haslam’s Pilot Oil connection until receiving complaints. Maybe everyone in the media forgot we have a gas station magnate in the state’s highest office, but I haven’t.

Bill Haslam must think we’re really, really stupid.

And to our Tennessee media let me say: do your fucking jobs. Okay, so maybe higher CAFE standards leading to increased gasoline sales might not ring alarm bells in the newsroom. But if you let this one pass, what else are you overlooking? Will you be as lax when Haslam guts environmental regulations which are inconvenient for Pilot? What about when he guts the state’s portion of the EV program? Just when exactly do you plan to draw any associations between what the governor does in office and how it affects his family business which has been left out of his blind trust?

Do you ever plan to hold the governor accountable? Just wondering.


The more I think about this, the more it stinks. Toyota and Hyundai have already vowed to not just meet but exceed the new CAFE standards. Tennessee-based Nissan has its all-electric Leaf, which since CAFE standards are fleet-wide, not by model, will significantly up their average — and the batteries will soon be made right here in Tennessee too. Plus, apparently Nissan was able to secure a loophole in the CAFE bill Congress passed. GM has its Chevy Volt which boosts its corporate average, as well. Are Tennessee automakers really bucking this higher CAFE thing? They seem to be the ones profiting from it.

This begs the question: is Haslam really looking out for auto manufacturers’ interests, or his own? It wouldn’t be the first time he falsely claimed to be acting on behalf of local businesses.

If only there were some kind of .. I dunno, experienced group of local people with contacts in the state government and local industry who could ask these questions and then, I dunno, maybe write them down or maybe broadcast them in a video we could all tune in to watch. What are those people again? Oh yeah, reporters.


Filed under Bill Haslam, Tennessee


An African-American Republican activist writes he is leaving the GOP because the Teanuts have turned it into a cesspool of racism and intolerance, and he just can’t pretend it’s the same party anymore:

Over the past two years, we have seen Republicans use long-held racist imagery in portrayals of Obama. The president has been depicted as a communist witch doctor, a man inclined to plant watermelons on the White House lawn, and we watched in disbelief as his face was placed on an “Obama Buck Food Stamp” along with stereotyped pictures of fried chicken, barbecue ribs, Kool-Aid and the obligatory watermelon.

What does any of this have to do with public policy or conservative values? Here is a man who excelled academically at the finest schools in the world, has a wonderful in-tact family, worked hard and rose to become president of the United States. Yet in spite of his accomplishments, the president is still labeled an illegitimate, socialist, African witch doctor and has his face superimposed on a chimpanzee.

If this can be done to a black man who is the leader of the free world, how long will it be before fellow Republicans insert my face on a chimpanzee?

These behaviors also raise larger issues for African Americans and other minority groups within the GOP. How can I look my parents in the eye and tell them I’m a Republican in spite of these offenses? If he were still living, could my Latino father-in-law be proud that his daughter supports the GOP, in spite of the constant anti-Latino rhetoric that comes from the party? Can gay family members reconcile my support of a party that seeks to strip them of their basic human rights?

These are not issues which pit moderate against conservative views, but rather consequential matters which transcend political positioning and speak to universal human values.

I’ve learned a big lesson from Gov. Bill Haslam’s first few months in office. Basically his capitulation to the Neanderthal wing of the GOP on every issue that “speaks to universal human values” tells me that the Republican Party has been completely overtaken by far right extremists. That doesn’t mean I think Haslam is himself a far right extremist but it’s quite clear that you cannot be a Republican and not deliver big things for the party’s racist, homophobic, anti-minority, anti-woman wackadoodles.

I bring this up because I know a lot of people, Democrats, who voted for Haslam because our Democratic candidate was weak and unacceptable. And of all the Republican candidates who slithered out from under the TNGOP rock, Haslam seemed like the least offensive, the most sensible, the least likely to embarrass Tennessee with fringe legislation targeting gays and women and Muslims.

The fact that he hasn’t is proof that there’s just no such thing as a reasonable Republican politician any longer. Even if they may be reasonable people on a personal level, they don’t govern that way — they can’t.

And then I hear from a dear friend, someone who was born in this state, that they are actively looking to leave Tennessee. Why? Because they don’t think this is a good place to raise their child.

That sorta stunned me. Because whatever else that may be wrong with Nashville and Tennessee, one could always say that this was a good place to raise your kids. But I really couldn’t blame them. If I had kids I’m not sure I’d want to stay here, either. I’d be looking for a place that wasn’t quite so narrow-minded, too. I’d want to raise my kids in a place with big ideas, not small ones; a place with accepting and open attitudes, not closed ones.

This is really bad for Tennessee. If people are leaving because we’ve become too small and narrow, eventually people aren’t going to want to come, either. Businesses, creative people, the people with skills and knowledge we need to keep the state moving forward are gonna say “nah, I’ll move to California instead.” I mean, I know I’ve said before that things like HB600 and banning Sharia Law and creating our own currency make the state look bad, but knowing people who are leaving is another thing entirely.

Just as Ken Barnes is leaving the Republican Party because of its increasing intolerance and racism, others will leave, too. Women, folks of the GLBT persuasion, Hispanics, Muslims, and everyone who doesn’t fit into the Republican Party’s narrow, white-male-Evangelical-Christian image it has fashioned for itself — the few of these folks who remain in the GOP fold will feel they can’t look their family members in the eye anymore, too. And states that fashion themselves in this image will lose people and talent, too. It makes sense. As goes the Republican Party, so goes Tennessee.


Filed under Bill Haslam, racism, Republican Party, Tennessee

>Hypocritical Yes, But Is It Legal?

>Well we knew this was coming:

High-dollar GOP fundraiser to be held at facility that top Republicans sought to scuttle

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Republicans are holding a high-dollar fundraiser at the new underground entertainment hall at the governor’s mansion that prominent members of the GOP unsuccessfully tried to scuttle.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported Tuesday that it will cost between $3,000 and $25,000 per couple to attend the March 31 event hosted by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam.

The Conservation Hall entertainment facility was built during former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen’s administration, and was derided by mostly Republican critics as the “Bredesen Bunker.”

Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey of Blountville voted against construction of the hall in 2008, and fellow Republican Rep. Beth Harwell of Nashville unsuccessfully sought to cancel bonds for the project the same year.

Harwell was elected House speaker this year.

Of course the TNGOP will argue “since we couldn’t stop it from being built we might as well use it.” But as some folks on The Twittaz have noted, is this even legal? Since the Governor’s Mansion is public property, can they hold a partisan event like a high-dollar Republican Party fundraiser there?

I’m thinking … no. Someone please check into this for me, ‘mm’kay? Of course, it won’t be the first time the TNGOP made money off of Bredesen’s bunker.

MORE … from the memory hole:

Conservation Hall, referred to widely as “Bredesen’s Bunker” for its underground design and hidden entrances, has already been criticized as a possible place for governors to shake down donors. It appears that Gov. Bredesen may have gotten a head start by using the bunker to engage in potential quid pro quo before ground was ever broken.

Yes, that was the right-wing Tennessee Center For Policy Research. Isn’t it ironic? IOKIYAR.


A few folks have weighed in and said it’s legal, though no one is sure how. And it appears I’m not the only one put off by this:

State law bans fundraising by legislators while the General Assembly is in session. It was passed years ago to address public perceptions that lawmakers were “shaking down” special interests with business directly before them.

But according to state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Drew Rawlins, there is a difference between individuals’ campaigns and the state party.

“The party can raise money for the party as long as it’s not going to candidates, to support or oppose candidates,” he said. “They can raise it for getting out the vote … and for just normal party activities.”

Former House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, said, “I would still think in the spirit of the law that they shouldn’t be doing this during the session — at our residence, being the Tennessee residence.”

And since the Lee Beaman-funded Tennesseans For Accountability in Government doesn’t appear to be in existence any longer, who’s to complain? Hell, they’re probably on the guest list.

I’m sure all of that money will go toward paying for the TNGOP’s toner cartridges and phone bills. Riiight. Aren’t these the folks who told us that Planned Parenthood had to be defunded because every dollar spent on cancer screening and STD testing is a dollar they can spend on abortion? Wasn’t that the argument?

Oh well, nothing to see here. It’s always okay when Republicans do it.

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Filed under Bill Haslam, Tennessee politics, TNGOP

Nice Little Police State You Have Here, Gov. Haslam

Nobody could have anticipated this!

Gov. Finds Money For Private Prison Amid Cuts

TennCare, Higher Education To See Deep Cuts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has found about $31 million in recurring money to keep open a privately run prison in West Tennessee while making deep cuts to other areas such as TennCare and higher education.

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen had sought to close the Hardeman County Correctional Facility at Whiteville by December, but lawmakers added funding to run the prison through July 31.

Haslam in his budget address last week announced plans to restore permanent funding for the facility operated by the Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America.

The governor last week told reporters that he determined that closing the prison wasn’t “the right thing to do for the corrections system.”

According to the governor’s schedule, Haslam met with CCA officials at the Capitol the week before his budget address.

Isn’t it amazing how we’re able to “find” $31 million for the things we feel are important? Especially after a nice little meeting with the Nashville-based CCA, a big campaign donor? Truly the coincidences are astounding.

And remember this?

Tony Grande, chief development officer of CCA, said the private corrections company supports candidates that are likely to pursue the sort of public-private partnerships that match its philosophy and business interests. He said donations aren’t to assure specific business — CCA argues its value to the state does that — and that the support for Haslam reflected his positions and viability. The institute reports CCA giving Haslam $23,750 and McWherter $5,570.

Yes where is the “public” part of this “public-private partnership,” I’m just curious? Would that be in the form of our tax dollars going straight to CCA’s pockets? Is that what makes this a “partnership”?

A nice little detail is that the Hardeman County prison employs 350 people. Prisons are jobs! As is war. I love Christian America! Government jobs are bad, but privatization of public services paid for by tax dollars is good. Even when you don’t have the money.

When Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen tried to close the prison last year and was overruled by the Republican legislature, he quipped:

Bredesen called the Legislature’s decision to overrule him on closing the two facilities “a case of everybody wants to run government like a business until you actually run government like a business.”

Oh, snap! I seem to recall a foul-mouthed blogger pointing out a few problems with our privatized prison industry last year. Now we have CCA meeting with the governor to make sure it gets a nice return on its nearly $24,000 investment. I mean, check out these programs on the chopping block:

All the commissioners brought their own lists of vanishing programs. Community treatment centers for the mentally ill and alcohol- and drug-addicted would lose funding. The Department of Children’s Services would lose 162 jobs. Six state park swimming pools would close. So would two state golf courses. A prison sex offender treatment program would end, along with convict “community service” work crews. Inspectors who ensure the state’s groundwater is safe would lose their jobs.

If cuts in mental health services go through as scheduled, “We’re off the cliff, sir. We’ve got major problems,” said Mental Health Commissioner Doug Varney, who also likened it to an amputation. “With this safety net, we can’t just keep cutting little pieces of the fingers off,” Varney told the governor. “Pretty soon the hands won’t work. I think we may have to decide to cut a finger off here or there, and that’s what we do. At least the hands will still work.”

No, no, Varney was looking at it all wrong. Look at it from the perspective of CCA’s philosophy and business interests! Not the peoples’! Sillies! We’ll just round up all the addicts and mentally ill and throw them in a private, taxpayer-funded facility (and make sure we don’t have community service programs which might eat into our incarceration rate). Problem solved! Why bother and try to get people off of drugs or clean up the meth labs or have social workers who can make sure people stay on their antipsychotics? Community service is so last century! Who needs social workers watching out for kids, or facilities that keep children occupied in the summer? What happens when we don’t have those things? Thinking … thinking …

Yeah you know, it’s so much more profitable for CCA if we just wait for such people to commit a crime: the mentally ill, the drug addicts, the youth with no place to go and nothing to do in the summertime. Let’s wait for them to get in trouble and then we can throw them in jail. Amiright? It’s not about people it’s about CCA!

If we can miraculously “find” $31 million for CCA but we can never find any money for mental health clinics or drug treatment programs, what else could it be?


Filed under Bill Haslam, CCA, Tennessee government