Category Archives: Tennessee politics

Rep. Rick Womick Is Certifiably Crazy

Every state has their lunatic legislator (or three): Texas has Louie Gohmert, Minnesota had Michelle Bachmann. Here in Tennessee we’re blessed with an abundance of wackaloons, and our state legislature could easily be mistaken for the set of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest rather than the deliberative legislative body it’s supposed to be.

Chief among these mental cases is Rep. Rick Womick, who has now made headlines for his calls to impeach the Supreme Court justices and Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam over same-sex marriage:

NASHVILLE — Furious at Republican Gov. Bill Haslam for having “bowed down” to the U.S. Supreme Court on the same-sex marriage ruling, a tea party-style GOP Tennessee lawmaker wants colleagues to give “serious consideration” to removing the governor from office.

In his Facebook posting Monday night, state Rep. Rick Womick, R-Murfreesboro, brought up impeachment as he shared a link to MSNBC liberal talk show host Chris Matthews’ “Hardball” page, which featured a video of South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright attacking the legalization of same-sex marriage during a debate on the Confederate flag.

In the post Womick said, “And where is Tennessee’s leadership oh that’s right our Governor bowed down to the five self appointed gods in black robes just minutes after they issued their ‘opinion!'”

Womick went on to charge that Haslam “changed Tennessee state law and our State Constitution without ever consulting with the General Assembly. I think it’s time to give serious consideration to impeachment hearings against Gov. Haslam and these five rogue SCOTUS justices!”

Rick Womick is a certifiably crazy person. There isn’t a conspiracy theory he hasn’t embraced, a fringe idea he hasn’t endorsed. Of course he thinks Haslam can (and should) be impeached. He doesn’t know how the world works, so this makes perfect sense to him. The only thing crazier is that he has been elected to the state legislature, I assume by other crazy people.

A brief rundown of Rick Womick’s greatest hits:

• Rick Womick believes that an “electromagnetic pulse bomb” was detonated outside of Shelbyville in 2013.

• Rick Womick believes Agenda 21 is a U.N. conspiracy to take away citizens’ property rights.

• Rick Womick believes that a local ordinance requiring Papa’s Butts and BBQ Hot Sauce Store repave its parking lot is proof of how the U.N. is taking away citizens’ property rights.

• Rick Womick believes Muslims are trying to kill him and should therefore be purged from the U.S. military.

By the way, there is “zero support” for Womick’s impeachment idea. Unfortunately, this idiot remains elected to the state House for reasons I cannot fathom. Surely there’s a less crazy Republican in this part of the state who can do a better job? No? How about a decent Democrat? Anyone?


Filed under Tennessee, Tennessee politics

TN Legislature Grandstanding Over Nonexistent Threat

Apparently Tennessee legislators are unfamiliar with the First Amendment of our Constitution because they have been crafting a “Pastor Protection Act” to make sure no pastors are forced to perform gay marriage ceremonies:

A new bill in Tennessee seeks to “protect” churches and clergy from performing same-sex marriages. But is it necessary?

The move comes after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage on Friday. State Reps. Bryan Terry and Andy Holt anticipated the Supreme Court ruling and have been working on the bill for several months, reports Nashville’s CBS affiliate.

Both representatives reject the validity of yesterday’s decision. “God is the ultimate Supreme Court and he has spoken. Marriage is between one man, and one woman,” Representative Holt said in a press release.

The proposed law would reiterate protections already in place. As Representative Terry noted, “The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom of religion.” He also cited Article 1 Section 3 of the Tennessee Constitution and said “personal freedom of religion is protected and no human authority can interfere in the rights of conscience.”

Oh. So they know this law is unncessary but they want to “reiterate” protections already in place because Tennessee politicians can never pass up an opportunity to grandstand on the culture wars. Which they are always losing, I might add.

Hey, if you guys want to write in stone how you’re yet again on the wrong side of history, be my guest.

What this really comes down to, of course, is religious conservatives wanting to be protected from criticism for being on the wrong side of history. Sure as day follows night, there will be a case where a same-sex couple wants to use a pavilion or building owned by a religious non-profit and they will be denied — legally. And it will hit social media, and they will be mocked for their recidivist stance, and there will be pearls to be clutched and couches on which to faint, and once again conservatives will confuse free speech with the free hand.

This will happen because this always happens. Hell, churches around the South still have a problem with interracial couples.

So why don’t we dispense with the bullshit and remind everyone that nobody is forcing anyone to perform a ceremony they don’t want to perform — hell, religious groups have been refusing to officiate ceremonies between divorced couples, interfaith couples, etc. since forever. None of that is changing. Lots of churches already refuse to rent out their buildings for weddings to couples who are not church members. Why? Because weddings are a huge pain in the ass for church staff.

So nothing is going to change. And every time you idiots grandstand about how God doesn’t wants gays to get married and God Hates Fags and all that crap we’re going to mock you and tell you you’re wrong and call you names. And that noise is just going to get louder and louder.

[ALSO, let me repeat: Tennessee Republicans are really off the mark when they grandstand on the homophobic crap but can’t be bothered to grandstand with a vote of disapproval when the goddamn Ku Klux Klan holds their annual meeting at one our state parks.]


Filed under culture wars, gay equality, GLBT, religious right, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Top 5 Ways The State Of Tennessee Welcomes Racists

Betsy at Pith has a post up about how communities provide cover for racists. She writes:

It’s not too much to ask that we look around our communities and ask ourselves if there are ways we’re signalling to dangerous racists that we support their cause. Are there ways that we’re normalizing and making ordinary and mundane things that should be read as warning signs?

Good point. Not to toot my own horn, but I made a similar observation back in 2013 when the League of the South announced plans to hold rallies in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro. At the time I wondered:

What is it about Tennessee that draws the hatemongers out of the woodwork? Thinking … thinking ….

But all sarcasm aside, maybe it’s time to revisit the topic. What signals are we in Nashville and across Tennessee in general sending to racists that their ideas are welcome? How does our state government send the message that we tolerate racist ideas? Let me count the ways.

1- When the Memphis City Council voted to rename city parks named after Confederate figures like KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest, the state legislature responded as it always does: by passing a law preventing municipalities from renaming city parks named for military figures. Not included in that legislation: a provision preventing municipalities from also renaming parks and monuments named for civil rights leaders. The measure passed overwhelmingly in both chambers:

The measure sponsored by Republican Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro was approved 26-3 by the Senate on Thursday. The companion bill passed the house 69-22 last month.

Approved 26-3 by the state Senate. Wrap your head around that for a second. Did our noodle-spined governor sign it? Of course he did! Why do you even ask?

2- This hideously ugly assault on common decency off I-65 just south of Nashville:


This is a privately-funded statue of the aforementioned Nathan Bedford Forrest, KKK founder and Confederate general, clearly visible as one drives I-65 between Brentwood and Nashville. Besides being hideously ugly, and honoring a hideously ugly idea, it’s also (usually) surrounded by a display of Confederate flags. Anyone driving into Nashville from the south sees this entirely inappropriate “welcome.”

While the nightmarish statue is privately funded and sits on private land, TDOT has right-of-way alongside the Interstate. Why the hell a massive tree screen wasn’t planted to prevent this assault on the senses from being the “welcome” visitors see as they enter our state capitol, I have no clue. (UPDATE: an effort to restore a vegetation screen has begun.)

3- When racist groups like the Southern National Congress, Stormfront and American Renaissance hold their annual conferences in our state-owned facilities like Montgomery Bell State Park and Fall Creek Falls State Park, it not only goes completely unremarked from our spaghetti-spined Republican governor and legislature, some of our state reps even speak at the events.

As I wrote at the time:

It’s amazing to me that our state legislature can hold pointless, grandstanding votes on anti-UN nonsense like Agenda 21, but a bunch of intolerant bigots and extremists hold a gathering at a taxpayer-funded state facility and no one can be bothered to make even the slightest gesture in objection.

When these things happen and our government can’t even be bothered to issue a declaration of protest, it sends a signal to hatemongers and racists that they are welcome.

4- When empathy-challenged Tennessee legislators troll people of color to garner headlines for themselves and are not rebuked by their caucus.

5- When shit like this happens, and no one is fired.

At what point will the state address the intolerance it endorses?


Filed under racism, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Maybe David Fowler Should Just Shut Up Already

Here’s an interesting admission from David Fowler, the far-right religious nut who heads the Family Action Council Tennessee:

It happened on a family rafting trip in North Carolina.

David Fowler’s daughter went into the bathroom and never came back out. He sent his wife in to investigate and was later told his daughter had begun menstruation.

“For me, at the time, it was a relief my wife was there to handle a situation I felt utterly incapable of addressing,” Fowler said.

“It truly took both of us to raise our daughter; one without the other would have been a total disaster. My daughter might still think it was a total disaster,” he said with a laugh.

Fowler’s inability to deal with his daughter’s first period is supposed to be the reason we can’t let gays marry, which seems rather weird and not relevant. Should we remove all children from single-parent households, then? But beyond the illogic of his argument as relates to marriage equality, I have another question:

If David Fowler can’t handle his own daughter’s menarche, WHY THE FUCK HAS HE SPENT HIS ENTIRE CAREER TRYING TO LEGISLATE WOMEN’S REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS????????!!!!!!

Just Go. The Fuck. Away.


Filed under GLBT, religious right, Tennessee politics, women's rights

No, Thanks

There’s this fantasy among a lot of the CCW-adoring crowd that somehow, a “good guy with a gun” is going to save the rest of us in the event of a crime. They’re all just heroes in waiting, ready to come in and rescue us like the Sir Gallahads they fantasize themselves to be. I get why CCW holders believe this but it’s super scary that this is being codified into law by our legislature. Yet here’s House GOP Caucus Chairman Glen Casada explaining the purpose of the guns-in-parks bill:

Guns in parks today exist by law-breakers. What we’re saying is we want those law-abiding citizens that have demonstrated the ability to operate a weapon to be there and to avert a crime, which has happened many times across this country and this state. So, I think we’re being naive-like if we say there is no guns in park, and this is a guns in parks. This is not. This is letting permit holders there to defend unarmed citizens.

I just think that’s so cute, and so wrong. Guns in parks exist by law-breakers? That’s news to the Radnor Lake Rambo. “Demonstrated the ability to operate a weapon”? But you don’t need to have ever fired a gun to get one of those Utah CCW permits, like the one this “responsible” citizen defender fired at a police officer in his inebriated state.  But more to the point: “we want” CCW holders “to be there to avert a crime”? Who’s this we, anyway? I sure don’t! And what gives an idiot from Williamson County the right to tell Shelby County or Davidson County or any other county in the state what they want? We didn’t elect him. I don’t want these Mighty Mouse wannabes intervening in my business to save the day. You can’t tell me the paltry “education” you get in your CCW class is anything close to what people learn in the police academy. And even police officers are constantly in the news for their mistakes, shooting people in error, shooting unarmed black peopleshooting innocent bystanders caught in the crossfireshooting each other, or shooting themselves. It’s not like the professionals are any better at this firearm handling stuff than our wannabe heroes, which the legislature has just burdened with the task of protecting us all. So now we’re supposed to be grateful for klutzes like this week’s 2nd Amendment Hero, who not only accidentally fired a gun in church — where guns are not allowed — but also was just last week expelled from his college for carrying on campus, where guns are not allowed. Most responsible ever, my ass. These are the folks the Tennessee Republicans want defending the public? No, thanks! A thousand times, no thanks. But it’s not about safety. It’s not about the Constitution, or self-defense or home security, or anything like that. Jim Jeffries nailed it when he said those are bullshit arguments. It’s about liking guns, period. Own up to it, already. You like your toys and like any toddler, you don’t want to be without them. So, no. I’m good. I don’t need or want you to rescue me. If I’m in trouble, do me the courtesy of calling 911 and then let that be that. Oh, and here’s some fact-checking of Glen “guns are as safe as bicycles” Casada. Here’s a little data from the CDC for you. Are there a lot of bicycle injuries? There sure are. But I’ll bet they are far less serious than firearm injuries. And there’s no comparison when it comes to fatalities. (NOTE: gun data does not include fatalities and injuries from pellet guns and BB guns, which the CDC calculates separately).


Filed under gun control, Guns, Tennessee, Tennessee politics

Safety For Me But Not For Thee


Guns in capitol rejected.

Tennessee’s legislature has been focused on guns-in-parks legislation this week, which strips local governments of the right to ban handguns in parks. Yesterday the Senate voted to allow handguns in the State Capitol and Legislative Plaza, which happens to be a state park. House Republicans think it’s a poison pill designed to spark Gov. Haslam’s veto. House Speaker Beth Harwell, who unfortunately is now my rep (I went to sleep one night in a Democratic district, woke up the next morning with Republican cooties. Thank you, Gerry Mander), is having big sads:

Speaker Harwell: It was poorly drafted and it jeopardizes the entire bill.

Reporter: How so?

Harwell: It will put a fiscal note on it. We’ll go back into Finance (Ways and Means Committee). I just feel it jeopardizes the entire bill.

Reporter: Do you think it makes it more likely the governor will veto it, the entire bill?

Harwell: I can’t speak for the governor, you’d have to ask him that. But I would suspect that it would.

Reporter: What do you personally think of the idea though, of being able to carry guns in the Legislative Plaza and the Capitol?

Harwell: I think that should be a separate issue that we address in another bill.

Reporter: Why would it have had a fiscal note?

Harwell: All of the security that we have everywhere, it’s not just the Capitol. If you read the bill, it’s all the surrounding, all the buildings surrounding the Capitol are included. Obviously, it was not offered in a constructive fashion.

Reporter: So, the Supreme Court? Library and Archives?

Harwell: If you read the amendment, all of that is included.

Reporter: So the buildings across the street?

Harwell: Yes.

Reporter: Doesn’t the security machines, wouldn’t they detect that anyway?

Harwell: We’d have to have extra people down there probably to check and see if someone has a card on them, we’d have to verify the card is on the person. There’s a lot of issues we would need to look at if we chose to go that route. Anything else?

Seems to me that those are the very same issues that the rest of us now have to deal with, thanks to the passage of guns-in-parking lots, etc. State park rangers will have to check everyone’s carry permit, for instance. Security guards at shopping malls and businesses, at banks, etc. will have to do that. There’s a lot of security at many businesses, and now those people will have to be checking for carry permits. Thanks for recognizing that there are costs and hassles associated with this. But why should we citizens have to shoulder these burdens and you don’t? What makes you so special?

Tennessee Democrats should be supporting this legislation, whether it was written to kill the bill or not. If the rest of us plebes have to be faced with armed citizens in all aspects of our daily lives, then so should our legislators. But House Democratic Caucus leader Rep. Mike Stewart of Nashville had this to say:

“I’m opposed to having guns in the Legislature where tempers can get hot,” Stewart said. “I think it’s absolutely not an insignificant risk that in the heated exchanges that go on between people that come up to advocate for opposite sides of bills that … somebody could pull out a weapon.”

What? Like tempers don’t get hot everywhere, all the damn time? Have you been stuck in traffic on Hillsboro Road lately, buddy? There’s steam coming out of peoples’ ears. Tempers get hot at sporting events, Little League games, bars and restaurants, at the Kroger, you name it. Peoples’ tempers get hot because that’s what it means to be human, and it’s not like political discussions are limited to the state capitol. When you add a gun into that mix, you’ve got a deadly combination. As Rep. Stewart seems to understand. Give him a gold star.

I just don’t understand why our legislators feel like they deserve to be protected from hot-tempered, armed citizens but the rest of us do not. I just don’t understand why Beth Harwell thinks the state legislature should be immune from dealing with the costs associated with allowing concealed carry everywhere but our cities and municipalities and businesses do not.

Maybe we all need to bring sleeping bags to the state Capitol, since that’s the only place people will be safe from the gun loons.


Filed under gun control, Guns, Tennessee politics

Clueless Bill Haslam Demands Answers About Routine Event In Tennessee

Apparently Gov. Haslam has no clue what is going on in the state of Tennessee.

In a pathetic attempt to appear tough on the Muslim-Usurper-Blackety-Black-Man-In-The-White-House and exploit a national news story, Gov. Haslam has sent what local media are calling an “angry” letter to President Obama demanding answers about 760 immigrant and refugee kids who were sent to families here in Tennessee.

In so doing, he has made an absolute fool out of himself:

The unaccompanied minors have been placed into Tennessee households with approved “sponsors” — typically their own families and relatives — as has been happening for years, said immigrant and refugee advocates.

“They’ve got somewhere to go,” said Eben Cathey, spokesman for the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “They’re not getting dropped off. They’re getting placed with their mom, dad, aunt or uncle.”

Haslam’s letter demanded to know such things as how the sponsors were selected, what criteria were used to determine sponsors’ suitability, etc. The Haslam administration is “still waiting” for answers, too. Which I find hilarious. Haslam is demanding to know answers about something which has been going on routinely in this state for over a decade! Perhaps there’s someone right here in Tennessee he can ask? The Tennessee Office of Refugees, perhaps?

It’s hard not to see this for the political maneuvering it so obviously is. I guess Bill Haslam is still harboring dreams of a presidential run some day down the road. Hilarious. No one is fooled, though:

Dan Kesselbrener, National Immigration Project executive director, said the process for minors has been the same since 2002 and has never included a mandate to inform states about placements.

“The only thing that’s new is the volume,” he said. “To me, the only way to make sense of the letter is that he cares now because it’s a bigger deal. It appears to be consistent with someone who is trying to score points against the administration.”

Bingo! Thank you for playing!

You know what else I just love, love, love? Right-wingers are always all like, “let the churches deal with x, y, z problem, let charities handle it.” Catholic Charities does, in fact, carry a tremendous amount of the load when it comes to immigrants and refugees, not just here in Tennessee but everywhere. But they have an especially strong presence here in Tennessee, providing sponsors, placements, English classes, and all sorts of other programs. Tennessee in general is blessed to have a lot of churches and charities which serve the refugee community — we’re the Volunteer State, fer crying out loud. It’s why we’re a go-to place for refugee resettlement, because of the support from the church sector. It’s why we have the largest Kurdish population in the nation. It’s why we have so many refugees from Somalia and Sudan living here. It’s why Nashville is seeing a large number of refugees from Myanmar. So we are, in fact, doing what right-wingers want: churches and charities shouldering the load, embracing refugees from war-torn parts of the world, assimilating immigrants into America, rah rah.

And Bill Haslam wants some answers from the White House about what we’ve been doing for years? Puh-leeze.

Here’s a thought for Gov. Haslam: why don’t you just high-tail it on down to NICE, Catholic Charities, the TIRRC, Conexion Americas, or, heck, just take a little tour down Nolensville Road and talk to some shop owners to get yourself up to speed on immigrants in Nashville. Hell, you can sit in on my ESL class today. We won’t mind. Just keep your yap shut since so much stupid keeps falling out.


Filed under Gov. Bill Haslam, immigration, Tennessee, Tennessee politics