An Open Letter to State Senator Bunch

Senator Bunch,

I have reluctantly come to believe that you are evil.  I don’t say that lightly, but I don’t know how else to explain your behavior.  Hardaway?  Clearly, he’s crazy and working out his deep anger and hatred of the women in his life on the women of Tennessee.  And Campfield, clearly, he believes that he’s a genius who is just unrecognized in his own time, whose bad ideas are secretly good, the rest of us are just too stupid to see it.  I get angry at the stuff they do, but they clearly have issues that prevent them from acting like thoughtful human beings who can empathize with people who are different than them.

I have never heard anything bad about you.  Everyone I’ve talked to who knows you says that you seem like a genuinely nice guy who is thoughtful and considerate.  So why the hell do you keep co-sponsoring every woman-hating piece of shit legislation these bozos come up with?

I want to talk to my readers about SB1252, but I can’t, in good conscience, do so because I’m afraid it will make them throw up.  A person can beat the shit out of his or her ex or soon to be ex spouse and if the spouse can’t prove that the beating has had any negative effects on the kids, even if he or she gets a restraining order against him or her, you don’t want the abuser’s custody of the kids to be affected?

You think that’s a good idea?

Really, what kind of monster are you?

I’m tired of you hiding behind the more theatrical antics of Hardaway and Campfield.  I’m starting to believe you’re the real problem here.


Aunt B.

Playin’ Politics

I wanted to say just a hair more about what Representative Karen Camper is up to with HJR 132, because I love it.  Because, to me, this is brilliantly playing politics.

See, here’s the thing.  Right now, the Republicans are putting forth a joint resolution saying that nothing in the State Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion.  And the Democrats have put forth a resolution nearly identical that says that nothing in the State Constitution protects a woman’s right to an abortion except in instances of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s health.

And many of us have said, “Oh my god, is that not the most moronic thing ever?”  Because here’s what the Democrat who explained to us this strategy said–they want to force a vote on the Democratic resolution so that they can get Republicans on record as either voting against a Constitutional Amendment to restrict abortion (note, though, the tricksiness, since it’s certainly not the only resolution) or get them on record as voting against exceptions that most people, even in this anti-choice* state support.

Of course, there seems to be no game plan for what to do if moderate Republicans do decide to vote for the Democratic version.  And no real acknowledgment that they don’t have to vote for the Democratic version because they have enough votes to pass their own version.

And so, either way, Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to pass bills that claim that the Constitution of this state doesn’t really trust women any more than they do.  That’s playing politics all right, but look who it lets right off the hook?

Any member of the legislative body who might have a slight chance of having an epiphany that “hey, I might think abortion is wrong, but I feel kind of gross about passing sweeping laws preventing it when it’s not my body on the line.” never have to have that.  The precedent is established–everyone thinks abortion is wrong, now we’re just talking how wrong.

What Camper’s doing, if she can pull it off, is drawing attention back to the fact that there are actual women whose bodies pregnancies and abortions happen in and to and that there’s something kind of gross about the State obsessing over women’s reproductive organs.

How does she do that?  By forcing a consideration of men’s reproductive organs and forcing folks to go on record voting “What men do with their bodies isn’t our business; what women do with their bodies is our business.”  Put the issue square on the table that way–that the State really, really does want to treat women differently than men.

I don’t know if it will change minds, but I am all for someone forcing the Truth to the table.

*And I use the term “anti-choice” reluctantly because there really isn’t a strong enough word for what’s really going on here.  As we’ve seen repeatedly, voters in this state keep voting into office people who are trying to enact laws that prevent women from even knowing what’s going on with our bodies.  We’re not just talking about cutting off your right to choose what happens to your body when you find out that you’re pregnant.  We’re talking about cutting off your right to even know about what types of sexual activity might help prevent (or in some cases guarantee it) pregnancy.

I mean, I’d like to tell you that we’re just having a fight over abortion, but if you look at the political landscape in this state, we’re having a fundimental fight over not just whether women should have control of their own bodies, but whether women should be given the information we need to take control.

It’s not about “choice” or “abortion.”  That’s all surface-level shit that sparks fireworks and gets people riled up.  It is about a fundimentally deeper problem–the state does not trust women.  It doesn’t trust us with information about how our bodies work.  It doesn’t trust us not to all be lying sluts.  It doesn’t trust us not to screw over and lie to men.  It doesn’t trust us not to fuck up our pregnancies.  It doesn’t trust us not to kill our fetuses on a lark.  It doesn’t trust us with children if some husband isn’t around to monitor us (but it doesn’t trust that any man would marry us without being tricked into it).

In this state, we can’t even get the legislators to accept us as neutral political bodies.  We are always already** viewed as evil con artists who must be kept ignorant and under surveillance for the safety of those around us.

**Damn straight I did too use “always already” correctly and smoothly and in a way that makes sense.

House Joint Resolution 132

Representative Camper has submitted House Joint Resolution 132.  This legislation is so awesome that I almost don’t want to tell you what it is.  Okay, I’m not going to.  I cannot risk stealing any of the credit for Camper’s genius.  Just go look and then come back here and tell me how cool it is to see a legislator fighting back.

Our Fair City

This morning, when I took the dog out, it was damp from the thunder storms that kept me up all night, and I was standing in the back yard, looking over the AT&T building to the hills to my north.  The mist was coming up off the hills in that way it does, like it’s tangled in the trees and it can’t quite decide if it wants to rise up or settle back in.  And it’s beautiful.  So beautiful.  But it needs the combination of the trees and the hills and the mist, you know?  A bunch of houses on those hillsides and the mist doesn’t linger all morning unless it’s willing to commit to being fog.

S-Town Mike wrote last night about how the May family donated money and a bunch of land to TSU, if the May Town Center development goes through.  If you click through on the site, you can see what that development means–that somewhere where there is nothing now, just farms and a park, will become almost a second downtown.  Never mind that we have a downtown.  Never mind that we have riverfront on the east side that could be developed into something like this.  Or riverfront down Lebanon pike, not a minute from towntown that could be developed into something like this.  We have places in town that would be served by being revitalized.

But the Mays and their developer are determined to “vitalize” this swatch of land.

I was thinking, again, of the Battle of Nashville.  How difficult it is to imagine how the battle took place because the battlefield has been developed.  There are houses and shopping centers and interstates and Krogers and ball stadiums and schools over the battle field.  If you weren’t a history buff, you’d never know that anything happened here, because nothing was set aside.

A city’s job is to balance its past and its future.  To help the people who are here now understand that they are just the newest in a long line of brief visitors.

Bell’s Bend, according to the map, used to be called “White’s Bend.”


There was a mill there, about where May Town would go.  This whole area, as you can see, had “very good farms.”  Still had very good farms.  It’s open and green and rural in a city without a while lot of rural stuff left.  We have so little that lets you really see how we were even 150 years ago, but you can go out to the park now, or drive up Old Hickory to Beaman park and get a real sense of the kinds of landscapes other Nashvillians were nestling our city in.

It’s special in the Bend and we, as a city, deserve to have it remain so.  We have urban areas, we have suburban areas, and we can have rural areas, too, even that close to downtown.

I am biased, of course.  I don’t want where I live to become busier or more urban.  I don’t want more folks to move out here and build new houses.  I would lose the pasture behind me.  And not everyone who hypothetically works in May Town would live there.  Why would they?  There’s nothing out there and, even with a bridge over to Centennial Blvd. it’s still not really convenient to shopping or the rest of the city.  Better to live nearer to me or nearer to Ashland City and drive in, which means that their talk about OHB remaining a rural two-lane road is proved bullshit merely by thinking about where people will want to live, or which directions they’ll go to shop.

And West Nashville, you can believe now, if you want, that there will never be a road that cuts through your neighborhood or another exit off 40 or a bridge, but it defies logic.  Traffic is like the river.  It wants to go the easiest route and having to come clear up to White Bridge Road (remember, there is not yet an exit from the west north onto Briley) and get off and wait for lights in order to get on Briley is going to be a mess.  One just as easily fixed by putting up a bridge where Bell’s Bend dips near 40 as by fixing the Briley interchange.

But last, let’s talk about the TSU offering.  I agree with S-Town Mike about the obvious bribe that it is, but I’d also like to point out that giving TSU 250 acres along the river is nice, but let’s not kid ourselves.  We have one dam upriver from us that the Corps is extremely concerned might break and they’ve just decided that the Stone’s River dam that holds Percy Priest Lake back is not performing like they’d like it to.

Now, I invite you to look at the terrain map of Bell’s Bend (if this Google link works).  The Mays family is giving TSU land along the river front.  They, however, will be building May Town Center up on the hills.  Hmm.  Gee, I wonder why that is?  And really, how much of a gift is it going to be to TSU if it’s in the floodplain.  Yes, you will be able to do agricultural work there, especially if you keep in mind that you could lose some of it to minor flooding pretty frequently and all of it to a major flood.  Unless you’re going to put up levees, but then we’re really talking about changing the landscape.

But the truth is that the May family gets to look generous–“Oh, we gave 250 acres to TSU, aren’t we great?  See, we do love Nashville!” while really giving them 250 acres that are designed by nature to flood (and, frankly, as someone who grew up along the Mississippi can tell you, are necessary to the health of the river to be allowed to flood).  I guess if TSU is gung-ho for studying agricultural techniques for floodplanes, this will be a great boon, but as an outside observer, I find it a little strange that this seems to be being framed like the May family is giving up something that they otherwise would have used.  For what?  The only thing a sane person would put there would be farmland.

Jesus Christ, I’m babbling.  Anyway, Senator Henry is trying to protect everything from Beaman Park up by me, clear down into the Bend, not just from May Town, but from all kinds of crazy over-development (SB2217) and I really hope it passes.

I’m Not Alone

First, Coble points out that having a political protest against having to pay other people’s mortgages by seeming to brag about other people having to pay your mortgage just makes no sense.  It’s funny as hell, but it makes no sense.

Second, one of y’all sent me a link to cats in pants, which tickled me so much.

Third, I took the wrong medicine this morning.  Oh, I figured it out and took the right stuff, too, but now I’m all worried that I’ve poisoned myself to death and there will be no one to plant my garden or tease the Butcher.  Now I just have to remember to NOT take it again in the evening.

Fourth, I get in these ruts where I don’t watch TV.  It just doesn’t occur to me to turn it on.  Or I do and I just turn it to HGTV or Discovery.  So, honestly, while I watched Olbermann religiously during the declining days of the Bush fiasco, I haven’t seen him in a while.

I watched last night.  With Janeane Garofalo.

This should have been enough to make my poor progressive heart break in two with glee.

But it was like watching… I don’t even know.  It was a hot mess.  Garofalo seemed totally spacy and unhinged and Olbermann just seemed to nod and go along with all the crazy shit she was saying.  And they were picking on Rush Limbaugh!  It should have been marvelous.

Instead it was kind of creepy and sad.

Is it me?  Or are some folks kind of weirdly lost without a place to put all their anger now that Bush is gone?

Okay, The Last Thing I Have to Say about the Civil War and the LOC site

I downloaded a map for you from the LOC site of Middle Tennessee at about the time of the Civil War.  I am putting it up here.  Please be aware that it is gigantic.  But so cool.  I am a little sad I don’t live near Dog Town, just off Chicken Road (Kathy!  You didn’t even tell me such a thing was possible!).  But I do appear to live just north of Poor House Gap, which is so true.  After flipping back and forth between this and google maps, I’m pretty sure that Tollgate is Joelton.  And you can follow Old Clarksville Pike pretty clearly on both maps.

Oh, come on.  Don’t complain.  You wanted a good way to waste a half an hour, didn’t you?


While We’re on the Topic of the Civil War

So, it turns out that my great-great-great grandfather (my mom’s grandpa’s grandpa) and his brother and their sister’s fiance (who died thus inadvertently leaving my great aunt with untold freedom, which she took great advantage of, by having an excuse to never marry which she didn’t.) fought Beth’s however-many-great grandfather at Chickamaugua and Chattanooga in the fall of ’63.

And I was telling Beth that the weirdest thing about what I know about their time in Chattanooga was that their dad came from Madison, Indiana to visit them.  WHILE THEY WERE AT WAR.

She agreed.  This was strange.  It’s hard to imagine hearing stories now of someone going to Iraq to check on his sons, maybe hang out a little.

But then it occurs to me that I have Bridgett and Casey and you guys will know.

I know that, early on in the Civil War, civilians would take picnic lunches out to watch the battles because the severity of the situation seems not to have quite dawned on people (it seems like they thought there would be some fisticuffs and then everyone would go home?).  And it seems, if I’m remembering right, that Walt Whitman did travel around trying to find and be near his brother, even though he, himself, was not fighting.  And looking through the LOC photos, it sure seems like some folks brought their families along with them.  So, maybe going to visit your family wasn’t that weird.

But, I still wonder–historians, tell me what to make of my family’s behavior!  Weird or common?

Edited to add: So, you know what’s interesting?  If you search “civil war siddall” at the loc site, you discover that your mom’s grandpa’s grandpa was an assistant surgeon in the 22nd Regiment of the Indiana Volunteers.  Oh, internet, is there anything you can’t help us learn?

Legal Doesn’t Make It Right

I graduated from high school with 46 other people in a town of 2100.  That wasn’t the largest town I’ve ever lived in as a kid.  I also lived in towns with populations approaching 3600.  I guess those aren’t even really towns.  They’re more like villages.  But my point is that it’s a number I can wrap my head around.  I know in my bones what it takes to walk from one end of a village that size and back again.  I know what it means to ride your bike around a town that size.  How many of those people you would know.  How many would know you.  Who gets a couple of fingers briefly raised off the steering wheel when you pass them and who gets a honk.  Who can be counted on to get your car out of a field.  Who put it in there.

It’s a little unit of measurement that makes the world make sense.  That’s the size of where I’m from.

In the two years we’ve had Sheriff Hall’s 287(g) program, he’s made two villages disappear.  Five thousand people that did live here now don’t.  Not by choice, but by Sheriff Hall’s decision.  That man has the power to make a village of people a year disappear.  Poof.  Gone.  Vanished from our landscape.

Now, Nashville, I want to ask you a question.

Did you notice?

Do you feel safer?  Do you feel that the jobs they “stole” are now easier for you to get?  Is the Hispanic population in this city now at a level you’re comfortable with?  In other words, the program is working.  Can you tell?

Because, I have to say that, from my perspective, as a white woman who is out and about, I can’t tell that we’re missing 5,000 Nashvillians.  I don’t feel like crime is down.  My next-door neighbor just got broken into.  I know jobs aren’t easier to get.  My brother is still out of work.  And I still see a lot of Hispanic people around.  As a hippie liberal, I don’t mind sharing the city with people who are not like me, but I’m wondering, if people who are different than you make you uncomfortable, do you feel less uncomfortable now?

And it really bothers me in a way that’s making it hard for me to write this post that 5,000 people in this city can disappear over the course of two years, a population twice the size of the town I graduated high school from, and I can’t see it.  I don’t see it.  The Sheriff takes a population the size of my measuring block of the world out of the city and it’s not noticeable to me.  It makes you wonder, could he get rid of 5,000 people like you without the rest of the city really noticing?

And let’s talk about the genius of it both working and not working.  It works in that Hall has disappeared 5,000 people, but it has not worked in that most of Nashville hasn’t really noticed (you know, unless it’s your mom or brother or your husband; then you notice like your heart is on fire).  So, he can stand up before people in the community–who haven’t seen much of a difference–and argue that, though the program works (see his 5,000 people), for it to really work, he’s going to need more funding or more time.

If it’s a success, we must continue it, because it works.  If it’s a failure, we must continue it, because it’s just not working yet.

Of course, it’s never going to really work.  Most Hispanic people who are here in Nashville, who open the restaurants that you hypocrites want to eat it, who build the houses that you hypocrites want to live in, who clean the offices you want to work in, are here legally.  (In a sane world, “we’ll take you’re stuff, but you’re going to have to leave” would be recognized for the theft it is.)  And it doesn’t matter how egregious Hall’s 287(g) program is, how unjust it is, how cruel it is, it only deals with people who are here illegally.

Your vision of a city with no brown people in it, with no Spanish on the street signs or the radio or in your grocery store?

We’re never going back to that.  It’s not coming back.  It is over and gone and I say good riddance and you say it’s too bad and it doesn’t matter because those days are behind us.

It doesn’t matter how many villages of people Hall sacrifices to your hatred, Nashville is never going to be an Old South–White and Black only–city again, if it ever was.  The old ways are over.

Juana Villegas DeLaPaz is going to be deported.

And isn’t that convenient?  Hall’s people can shackle you to a bed while you’re in labor.  They can treat you so poorly it makes the nurses who are trying to help you deliver cry and plead for you.  They can take your baby from you when it’s just a day old, when he most needs the milk you can provide him, and all for a traffic stop.

And then–and really, this is the cherry on the sundae–the Sheriff can do you that wrong and then he can put you into the system, and have you sent away, so that he never has to face you again.  He doesn’t have to look in the face of the injustice he’s perpetrated because the person he did it to is gone.

Doesn’t that work well for him?  Ain’t that just great?

The people most likely to be affected by his racist program, who can speak most clearly to its effects on the lives of our neighbors, can all either be disappeared or someone they care about can be disappeared. In an environment like that, who would step forward to speak about the problems?

Thank the gods Villegas came forward and spoke honestly about what happened to her, because her bravery means that no women in labor in Sheriff Hall’s custody are shackled any more.  Most people in Nashville didn’t know that was standard treatment for pregnant women in custody and, thanks to her being willing to speak out, that barbaric practice was stopped.

Hall should be ashamed that it was happening at all.  Just like he should be ashamed to discover that the most vocal supporters of his 287(g) program are vile old-school racists.

But part of being ashamed means that you have to face the people you have wronged.  Hall never has to do that, because the people he’s wronged go away.  The people who could be the most vocal critics of the program, who could tell us if real criminals are being rounded up or if it’s just a way to harrass and terrorize the most vulnerable members of our community, literally can’t speak out once they have the knowledge, because they’ve been forced out of town.  Just like Villegas is about to be forced out of town.

Hall’s program is perfectly legal.  And the people who are here illegally are indeed here illegally.  But it still doesn’t make the program right.  And frankly, I find it disturbing that any one person in Davidson County has the power to disappear 5,000 people in two years.

And I really wish you did, too.

Feral ‘Dils

The feral daffodils along the fence behind the AT&T building have opened!  Can mine be far behind?

It’s so funny to me that the daffodils the College Professor bought me sprouted so early and have just slowly made their way up and none of them even have buds yet.  But the daffodils already here were like, “Shit, we know what we’re doing” and sprouted and shot up in no time flat.  Now we’re just waiting around for them to say “Oh, yep, here we go.  Put out your flowers, folks.”

I imagine it’ll be next year before the College Professor’s daffodils are that confident.

More Nerdy Civil War Stuff!!!!

Okay, historians, let’s go back to the photo.


I learn by way of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society that that’s Fort Morton up there and Franklin Pike running diagonally.  And I’m still trying to situate myself.

If you go to the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society’s map, you see that Fort Morton, Fort Negley, and Fort Casino make a little triangle of forts surrounding Franklin Pike.  But now I’m feeling unsure about where in this photo Franklin Pike is.


Is it where I’ve drawn the black line or where I’ve drawn the light gray line?  Because, if it’s where I’ve drawn the black line, then we have to be standing at about Division and 9th, looking south (Basically right where I-65 merges into I-40).  Though then that would seem to argue that this isn’t actually the Union line, which would have been farther south on the other side of the hill.  This is just some folks standing around back here.  If it’s where I’ve drawn the gray line, then we’re standing at Fort Negley, looking over I-65, but, if that’s the case, we should see Fort Casino and the hill it’s on to the left, I’d think (though it’s possible that it’s just out of frame).

Here’s what I wonder.  I wonder if the black line is Granny White Pike and we’re standing south of Fort Morton, right in the Union Line with the Belmont mansion kind of to our left and Fort Casino kind of to our right and up.

You know, if that is Fort Morton at all.  Not that I doubt you Battle of Nashville Preservation Society!  I’m just curious.


I know, you’re wondering “Just what evidence do I have for B. being a giant nerd?”  Well, let me even begin to tell you about the hours I have spent on the LOC site.  Just flipping through you can learn shit, like we apparently had a huge child labor problem a hundred years ago, kids working in the mills, kids skipping school to sell papers, etc.  And the people documenting it for the government were concerned.  The captions go into the ill health effects and the dangers of getting caught being truant.

Anyway, I’m still thinking about those pictures from St. Petersburg.  There’s something said for seeing those spaces as they were then melding right into how they are now.

So, in furtherance of trying to tempt any of you with a better camera and cooler Photoshopping skills, let me show you the kids of things the LOC has in its collection.


Here’s a newsie being given a talking-to for being truant.  I love the cop ignoring the situation.  Clearly this is downtown somewhere but someone other than me would have to recognize where.


More Newsies, and I think this is clearly the corner of Broadway and Second, right?


Oooo.  Here’s one from the Civil War.  I think this is basically as if you were standing on Demonbreun behind Union Station looking towards the capitol.  Where the tents in this photo are is probably where the Frist is now, if I’m acclimated right.


It’d be interesting to try to figure out exactly where this one is.  This is also the Civil War, the Union line, and though it’s hard to see, that’s Franklin Pike running from diagonal left to right in the picture.  Someone with more Civil War knowledge than me is going to be able to say, by looking at that fort in the distance about what we’re looking at.


The state capitol during the Civil War.  Note the guns. And all of the houses that don’t exist any more.


Back to the 1910s, here are some kids they found working at the mills making stockings and socks.


The Fisk chapel, which is still there and looks exactly the same, except that the road out front has been closed to traffic and there’s no fence around it and it doesn’t look so out in the country anymore.


Here’s the mill in the early 60s, judging by the cars.

The Recalcitrant Brother Has an Announcement

So, my recalcitrant brother called to announce that he’s giving up two things for Lent–food during the day and smoking.

This is surprising for any number of reasons.  One, we’re Methodists of the strain that doesn’t just not celebrate Lent but views Lent as like a second Christmas, where you get to run around mocking your Catholic friends–“Mmm, this Friday cheeseburger sure is good.”  “Oh, yum, warm chocolate chip cookies.  You didn’t give up chocolate for Lent did you?  Such a shame.”

And since he’s still living down with the Klan, you know he didn’t discover that he’s secretly Catholic.

But he’s taking it seriously and, well, more power to him.  It just goes to show you never can tell.

Daffodil Conspiracy

Y’all, I’m convinced my daffodils will never bloom and that my yard will forever taunt me with the promise of flowers and no delivery.

I don’t know.  I’m feeling very overwhelmed by things today and I tried to think of something nice and light to write about in this here spot, but I’ve got nothing.  I want to dig up my garden and amend my soil and smell like dirt.

I want to lay down on the floor next to my dog and sleep.

And I can’t wait to see daffodils.  Or what the mystery sprouts are.

That’s what I’ve got.

I Heard from Marrero’s Assistant! Hurray! And Thank the Gods, Marrero Has Not Lost Her Mind.

The letter:

Thank you for writing with your concerns; I only wish you had done so before posting your blog.
Your initial reaction of confusion is certainly justified. However, I think Senator Marrero’s stance on reproductive rights speaks for itself; she is the most outspoken advocate for these issues in the State Senate. She certainly appreciates your acknowledgement of her record in your email. Obviously some of your readers are unfamiliar with this record; that is the only explanation I have for some of the vitriol directed at her in the comments of your blog. This is to be expected, of course, but I was still a little shocked at how quickly people were ready to lump her in with the anti-choice movement despite the mountain of evidence to the contrary.
To understand the disparity between her intentions and the actual text of the bill requires a degree of understanding of some of the messier aspects of the legislative process (the “sausage making,” if you’re familiar with the expression).
When a legislator has an idea for a bill, he or she must communicate that idea to one of the staff attorneys, who do their best to translate often vague ideas into language that will fit into the Tennessee Code. Sometimes they are more successful than others. Representative Hackworth’s original intent was simply that pregnant women with substance addictions be provided with treatment options should they make the decision to carry the fetus to full term. Somehow, a miscommunication between Hackworth’s office and Legal Services resulted in the fundamentally flawed bill that has unfortunately captured the attention of the blogosphere. I will not pretend to understand how this happened, but rest assured that the bill’s flaws did not escape Senator Marrero’s attention when she agreed to be its sponsor in the Senate. However, there is a filing deadline for new legislation, and in this case, the bill had to be filed that day or not at all.
Now the bill can be amended with any language that deals with that section of the Tennessee Code. I am already looking at a version being discussed by Senator Marrero, Representative Hackworth, and the designated staff attorney that does not require any testing of pregnant women whatsoever. Without belaboring the details of a work in progress, suffice to say that Senator Marrero will not support any legislation that will require drug or alcohol testing of unwilling mothers. She understands that this would be completely counterproductive, as so many have pointed out, due to the fact that it might discourage some women from seeking prenatal care. Moreover, she wholeheartedly supports the provision of the bill that makes any and all drug test results inadmissible in a criminal trial. This provision was in the original version of this bill (a fact that escaped nearly everyone with a comment to make), and will continue to be a cornerstone of the legislation as it moves forward.
I hope this alleviates some of the concerns you and your readers have. Moreover, I hope that you feel free to write directly, or post on your blog, any suggestions you have that would help us craft a bill that will address the problem of neonatal abstinence syndrome without infringing on the fundamental control that women must have over their own bodies.
Rest assured that Senator Marrero remains your strongest advocate here at the capitol.
Cory Bradfield
Legislative Assistant
Senator Beverly Marrero

P.S. Feel free to post any part of this letter that you feel will contribute to a productive discussion; I will probably join in myself as a civilian when on my home computer.

Yes, I have quibbles, of course, but I just can’t bring myself to them at the moment.  I’m just glad to see this.

Lots of Stuff

You know, I never did hear back from Senator Marrero about her wanting to drug-test non-compliant pregnant women.  Not even a form ‘thanks for writing.’

Anyway, today is the day they’re going to vote to strip our right to an abortion away.  It’s just a matter of whether it will include the three exceptions (proposed by the Democrats) or not.  So, you know, one bill is getting passed.

Dean Dad says (not about this topic, but it feels applicable):

People with long memories would be well advised to pay very close attention over the next year or two. It’s easy to please everybody when money is sloshing around. But when the chips are down, and they are, the real priorities become clear. Some of us understand the task at hand as bringing the entire community into the conversation, and preserving the best of our values during a difficult time; others understand the task as bashing the queers. If nothing else, at least we’ll get clarity.

And isn’t that right?  Here we are, Tennessee, and the chips are down.  In fact, we’d better pray that all the chips are down, because another round of chip tossing is going to do us in.  And now we see folks for who they truly are.  When the chips are down, the Republicans think we need to punish women and gays and single people.  When the chips are down, Democrats want to game the system and call it a win.

GoldnI has a post so astute about Bredesen that I just about can’t stand it.  And it reaffirms my belief that this is a man who’s never been to Walmart skidding by on his ability to make decent sound-bites and other people’s prejudices about the South.  I mean, he’s from Tennessee, who would ever question that he doesn’t know what it’s like to shop at Walmart?  But I suspect his Walmart trips are like his Lawrence county family–hypothetical.

Don’t mind me.  I’m just feeling low.  I remember right after Katrina, when we were all watching and it slowly dawned on me that help wasn’t coming.  That there was nobody at the local, state, or federal level with enough leadership skills and the willingness to put his or her own career on the line (because yes, you might have to break laws to save lived; you might have to piss off the wrong people to speak the truth about what’s going on, etc.) to take charge and save people.  Not the messy real people who actually lived in New Orleans, who, yes, maybe should have left or, yes, maybe should have done this or maybe shouldn’t have done that.  You can always find politicians willing to save all kinds of hypothetical people, but real people?  Not so much.

Help wasn’t coming.

You’re on your own.

Bredesen wants to reach that hypothetical family in Lawrence county and so he’s going to turn down real money that would help real people.  So, let me be clear.  If you’re unemployed or under employed, if you can’t afford your home or you can afford your home but since no one on your block could you’re now paying on a $250,000 mortgage for a home worth half that, if you can’t get the healthcare you need and your baby dies and they have to put it in a ziploc baggie in a wooden box that doesn’t even have the lid nailed tight on it…

I’m sorry.

These things are things that are happening to people right now.  We have no money.  We have no jobs.  We have no access to adequate healthcare.

And we are on our own.

And now it’s not that help is not coming.  It’s that help is being turned away at the door.  The legislature would rather save hypothetical babies from abortion.  They’d rather save hypothetical children from the hypothetical single people who might adopt them and turn out to be crappy people.  They’d rather spare the hypothetical man who isn’t the father of his hypothetical child the embarrassment of having to discover on his own that he’s been duped.

But Bredesen is going to turn away money that would help people get jobs, which makes for stable families, which would achieve things for real people right now.

That’s where our politicians’ priorities are.

While we were suffering, they were grandstanding.

And we’d be wise not to forget that.

In the next round of elections, it’s not so much who has a visible (D) or an (R) next to his or her name; it should be who has the invisible (I) for incumbent.  We need to toss all these jackasses out.

Lowering Tennessee’s Infant Mortality Rate

Via Kleinheider, we learn that The Tennessean had a big report about Tennessee’s infant mortality rate back in December.  I am of many minds about the report.  I think you should read and watch and listen to it, though.  (And note that no one seems to be singling out drug or alcohol use as a primary contributor to the infant mortality rate.)

I have questions, though.

1.  Why don’t we hear from the mothers?  I mean, I know we hear from the mothers about what happened to them, but I mean, what do the women this is happening to identify as problems they have getting the healthcare they need?  The healthcare professionals seem to have a lot of ideas, but what about the ideas of the women who live through this?

2.  A great deal of attention was paid to obesity as a cause of our high infant mortality rates.  And yet, the fact that we have a lot of fat people in this state who are malnourished was mentioned once.  But I’ll repeat it–we have a lot of fat people in this state who are malnourished.  Is being fat really a bigger contributor to infant mortality than the fact that these women aren’t getting enough vitamins and minerals for their bodies to function correctly?  I mean, I know it seems really weird that someone could be fat and be malnourished, but it’s true, you can be.

3.  I know I say this all the time, but I repeat it.  Twelve year old girls who are “having sex” are almost always not having consensual sex.  And yet, while they mention in the report that many of the fathers of these children are “long gone,” there’s no acknowledgment of the difficult circumstances under which some of these women are becoming pregnant.  I mean, if a guy rapes you, who the fuck cares that he’s not there for the birth of the baby?  The very least he can do is be long gone.  He should be in jail.

4.  I was glad the report brought up the stress of living in general in a racist society and specifically in shitty neighborhoods and the detriment stress can be to carrying a pregnancy to term or to keeping a child alive once it is born.

5.  Again there was brief mention of the role of abuse in all this–one woman miscarried because the baby’s father pulled her down a flight of stairs, but otherwise, there’s very little attention paid to the effect violence (and talk about a stressful environment!) has on infant mortality.

6.  Frankly, I thought the report let doctors off the hook.  I know this is going to be unpopular, but, if there is indeed a crisis, which there is, doctors HAVE GOT TO rethink how they do things.  This idea of sending an ambulance out to pick up women?  Why don’t you get in your car and drive to a neighborhood and start knocking on doors and looking at kids?  Kids cannot bring themselves to you.  And yet, all healthcare in this country revolves around a model where the patient goes to the doctor.  Maybe it’s time to rethink that model.

7.  When you read something like this, doesn’t it make restricting sex ed in school seem cruel?  How any Republican can look at those little caskets and sponsor legislation to make it harder for women to learn about our own bodies and how to control what happens with them is beyond me.  That breastfeeding your baby is good for your baby should not be a secret you have to rely on your mom–who may not know it herself–to tell you.  That using a condom when you have sex can prevent pregnancy should not be a secret.  That you can use the Pill to keep from getting pregnant should not be a secret.  That you don’t have to have sex with people of the opposite gender should not be a secret.  That, if you do become pregnant, you need to go to the doctor should not be a secret.  A baby dies every other day and we want to give parents the right to pull their kids out of class if they don’t want their kids to know about their own bodies.  Are you kidding me?

8.  Until we can have some honest discussions about how men treat women, we are going to be thwarted in our ability to confront this problem.  You don’t have sex with children.  Even if she’s precocious.  And yet, I know that if you’re looking at the ages of the men who father children on 12 and 13 year old girls, you’re not finding a bunch of 12 and 13 year old boys.  And at some point, we have to get the point across that your wanting to fuck does not trump a girl’s right to be a little girl.  You don’t beat on the woman you’re fucking (I mean, I’d like it if we could agree to not beat on anyone but I’ll start small).  There’s nothing the person you’re fucking could do that justifies you abusing them.  Nothing.  And we have to be honest that there are often cases when women and children are better off without the fathers of those children around.

It shouldn’t be that way, but we don’t live in a world where everyone’s great and if you just give them a little encouragement, things will turn out wonderfully.

And we need to work on teaching boys a definition of manhood that is not precipated on “do whatever the fuck you want to women; that’s what they’re for.”

9.  Doctors need to decide if it’s more important for them to hector women about losing weight or if it’s more important for them to make sure that women continue to go to their appointments.  Let me be clear with you, medical community–we don’t like you.  The lectures about how we need to lose weight for our own good and about how fat we are?  They make us not want to go to the doctor.  When you go in for a cold and the doctor tells you you need to lose weight or when you break your wrist and the doctor tells you you need to lose weight?  The lectures are grueling.  And you’re going to have to decide whether having a patient to treat is more important than making your patients feel bad.  Oh, I know.  “Well, tough if they feel bad, they need to hear it.”

I’m telling you that we won’t hear it.  We would rather not go to you than listen to you go on about how we need to lose weight.  So, if you want your high-risk patients to continue to see you, you’re going to have to find some other way to frame it.

That’s part of the reason I think it’s so important to look at the issue of malnutrition.  You can talk to your patients about whether they’re getting enough fruits and vegetables, about whether they need to cut back on their salt, about whether they’re getting enough exercise.  All those things a woman can hear.  But you start talking about fat and you’re bringing in a lot of cultural baggage that’s going to make women resistant to your ministrations.

Anyway, we have to do something and it needs to start with giving women the information we need to make good decisions, radically rethinking how we deliver healthcare to poor people in this state, figuring out how to make sure people are well-fed, and ceasing any tolerance for violence towards women.

So, get on that and we’ll meet back here in twenty minutes for a progress report.




Disturbing Things I’ve Learned Between Lunch and Now

1.  There really is/was a supersecret feminist email list!  Let me just state publicly that, if you were on that list, and I come to know it, you’re going to have to assume it will be very hard for me to take anything you have to say about feminism seriously ever again.  Your credibility is shot and I will probably laugh at you.  Seriously… No, I can’t even begin to lecture because it makes me laugh just to think about it.  I don’t expect professed feminists to be perfectly feminist at every moment, but god damn, could you try not to be the enemy of feminism in your spare time?

2.  Bredesen is threatening to not take the stimulus money.  Easy for him to say.  He’s got his party bunker and is term-limited and on his way out.  And he’s rich.  Rich folks turning down money that might help poor folks.  How magnanimous!  But, hey, folks, don’t worry if you’re out of work.  Maybe he’ll open up the governor’s mansion and we can all live there until the economy turns around!

3.  This is the freakiest disturbing thing.  So when I get home, I hear the dog growling at the back door, not just her typical “Hey, I hear you” bark but a deeper bark coupled with a “Don’t fuck with me, stranger” low growl and I’m all, it’s just me, you doofus.  And she’s all “So it is!  Hurray!”  And then I thought nothing of it.

And then there’s a knock on the front door and it is our neighbor, who came home to find that his back door was kicked in and all his musical equipment had been made off with.  And his dogs were home!!!!!  Y’all, my back door wasn’t even locked when I got home.  We’re not missing anything, but I have to tell you that I have a suspicion, based on the dog’s behavior, that she had visitors this afternoon.

Anyway, my poor neighbors.  The police aren’t very optimistic about their ability to find who stole their stuff, of course.  But this is reason number one about why I will never go back to having a small dog.  I don’t think I’ll have another terrier but I will always own a dog that makes a person think twice about coming in my house.

Oh, and their dogs are okay.

An Open Note to My Dad

Dear Dad,

I love, love, love that you’ve been now driving around imagining what words we’d have to get rid of if we took this English-only stuff to its natural conclusion.  That tickles me so much.  So, I have not forgotten your wondering about the word “rent” and, yes, it appears it would have to go.  It’s French.  From the 12th century.  It seems to have always been used to mean an item of revenue or income and originally comes from the word “render” which, at the time, had the sense of meaning “repeat giving.”

Please take your big red marker to the “for rent” signs in you neighborhood.

In silly solidarity,


I Think The Truth is that They Don’t Get It

I’d like to be all Rachel Maddow and demand that someone talk me down, but I’m not sure that what I want to hear can be said by the Tennessee Democrats at this point.  I want to hear that they really get it–that they really get that we, as a state, are in dire circumstances and that we need real, new ideas.  I want to hear that they get that there are good Tennesseans who are repeately being screwed over by this idea that, in order to count as a real Tennessean, you have to have a penis, a gun, and a wife.  Shoot, I’m about ready to start a campaign to buy guns for every kid sitting in a shitty school in this state, guns for every person who doesn’t have healthcare, guns for every person who loses their job.  Maybe then the legislators will take their problems seriously.

And, if that doesn’t work, we’re going to have to see if we can’t get some kind of bulk discount on realistic dildos from the Hustler store.

Where was I? 

Yeah, anyway, what Steve says.

Edited to add:  Okay, now I’m tickled.  “Democrats want gun owners to submit to drug and alcohol testing during a state-defined nine month period.”  “Republicans want to refuse unmarried gun owners the right to adopt.”  “The Legislator refuses to quickly fund schooling for gun owners.”  “Party leaders say that gun owners without health insurance are just shit out of luck.” 

For the good of our state, we need to work with cities and communities from across this land and, when they do their gun buybacks, we must volunteer to take those guns and distribute them to the people in our communities.