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Skrmetti On the Record

Skrmetti On the Record

🏛️ The AG talks Title IX · Blacking out · Why don't you ride the bus · Book review · Much more!

Good afternoon, everyone.

The Symphony is doing a free concert tonight in Centennial Park at 7:30. I selfishly bring this up because they'll be performing Johannes Brahms' Hungarian Dance No. 5—an absolutely electric piece of music—among other classical staples.

Onward.

Last month, in the wake of his decision to sue the federal Department of Education over its “dangerous overhaul” of Title IX, Attorney General Skrmetti found himself at odds with GOP hardliners. Amidst the Biden administration's efforts to redefine “sex” to include “gender identity,” introducing gender fluidity in locker rooms and youth sporting events alike, the AG encouraged Tennessee schools to comply with the changes until the matter was clarified in court, upsetting and confusing his base.

“It is unconstitutional and you know it,” said one commenter on X.  “Your oath is to the constitution. Obeying Biden's dictatorial decree is a betrayal of that oath, and as described in the constitution, ‘the people.’” While those on the right of this issue have expressed disappointment over Skrmetti’s by-the-book approach, many on the left have categorized the AG as a crusader for the “radical right” throughout his short tenure. But there’s a bit more to glean from Skrmetti’s dedication to upholding the rule of law.

“Obviously, we want to get clarity on that quickly, because if the rules aren't going into effect, people don't need to be spinning their wheels trying to create new policies to comply with them,” Skrmetti told The Pamphleteer during a phone interview. “We have a hearing on our preliminary injunction request coming up in June, and so we should know in June whether or not these rules will be going into effect on August 1st.”

The AG wasn’t dismissive of the state of limbo created by the pending litigation. “We try to get injunctions quickly, and that way at least they're not under the burden of the illegal rules during the pendency of the case,” he said. Skrmetti was also optimistic that his office might get some answers before the changes take effect in the upcoming school year. “We've got a judge that I think recognizes the need for clarity and has a pretty expedited schedule for us.”

At the end of the day, the AG said, Tennessee schools can set their own guidelines. “...It's largely a spending policy issue,” he said of the new mandates. “It's not really a matter of not complying, it's a matter of, ‘Are you going to take this federal money or not?’”

That being said, Skrmetti plans to fight Biden’s changes to the bitter end. “Under this radical and illegal attempt to rewrite the statute, if a man enters a woman’s locker room and a woman complains that makes her uncomfortable, the woman will be subject to investigation and penalties for violating the man’s civil rights,” reads a statement released by his office after he announced the suit in April. “Federal bureaucrats have no power to rewrite laws passed by the people’s elected representatives, and I expect the courts will put a stop to this unconstitutional power grab.”

Skrmetti’s battle over Title IX is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to protecting today’s youth. The AG also told us he hopes the US Supreme Court will take up the L.W. case, which addresses Tennessee’s “prohibition on juveniles getting hormone treatments, puberty blockers, or surgeries for gender transition purposes.” 

“Over and over, the federal courts had held that states could not pass these laws,” he told us. “We were the first state to win. We filed an emergency stay motion with the Sixth Circuit and got an opinion saying states do have the authority to regulate, limit, and prohibit pediatric transgender treatments. We got an even better opinion from Chief Judge Sutton when they went back and heard the case more thoroughly.”

His hope is that a ruling from the nation’s highest court might provide clarity when it comes to dealing with future gender identity cases. “The Bostock case is pretty narrow and deals with sex discrimination in the employment context, and explicitly excluded a lot of other considerations,” said Skrmetti. “There's still open questions about how the equal protection clause of the Constitution might apply. I don't know that the Supreme Court will take this, but if they don't take this case, they have to answer some of these big questions. Hopefully soon, because there's a lot of litigation going on that would be resolved with more clarity from the court.” MEGAN PODSIEDLIK



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Nashville

🚌 Why Don’t You Take The Bus? “I am beginning to hear serious concerns about community safety in the area of public transportation, specifically around the WeGo Central Station,” wrote Downtown Councilmember Jacob Kupin in a recent newsletter to his constituents. “Some of these concerns have been expressed by those who have seen recent news reports on shootings in the area, and others have come from members who have witnessed crimes firsthand.” In the wake of a spate of incidents involving the WeGo bus system, Kupin expressed his devotion to addressing the issue as Nashville’s transit ambitions move forward.

This week, the Beacon Center held a Young Professionals meetup to discuss the mayor’s transit plan. When asked about the negative connotations associated with taking the bus in Nashville, Metro’s Director of Transportation Planning, Michael Briggs, cited “biases in the South.” 

Earlier in the conversation, Beacon’s Director of Policy and Research, Ron Shultis, referenced the most recent US Census Bureau data. “... Only 1.5 percent of commuting trips in Davidson County happened on public transit,” he said. While Shultis agreed that ridership will increase if the convenience of taking the bus improves, he reminded the audience that the vast majority of Nashvillians will still be commuting by car.

When asked if there was a metric indicating the anticipated growth of ridership if the dedicated transit plan is put in place, Briggs didn’t have one immediately on hand, but echoed Shultis’ sentiment. “...If you make [it] much more frequent and reliable, people will take the bus,” he said.

The Mayor’s deputy comms director, Alex Apple, inserted a personal anecdote: “For the average family, with this sales tax, it costs you about $70 a year….For me, if I wanted to go to two Preds games—and to park in that garage at Music City Center’s getting more expensive by the minute—it costs me like $80. Well, if I just took the bus those two times, just for me, that program has paid for itself in that year just by saving off that parking.” MEGAN PODSIEDLIK

✰   ✰   ✰

📺 Calling for a Media Blackout Early in the morning yesterday, the Tennessee Star began releasing a deluge of documents related to the Covenant tragedy. The first, as we specified yesterday, was an FBI memo that advised against making “public tokens” — that is, the evidence a mass shooter leaves behind to “claim credit for the attack and/or articulate the motivation behind it” — available to the general population. But as the day advanced, more documents came out, both from the Star and other news outlets. Later that day, the Star released a subpoena MNDP sent to VUMC requesting “any and all records of medical and psychological treatment received by Audrey Hale.” No word on whether or not that request was fulfilled.

Next up were a selection of writings from four dozen photographs taken of Audrey Hale's so-called "manifesto." At first glance, the writings reveal very little about what motivated Hale to carry out the attack, but do indicate she’d planned it at least a month prior to March 27th. Moreover, it appears Hale had planned to kill her father as well. She also made reference to Columbine, marking the date of the massacre from which many school shooters draw their influence. All in all, the reporting on the writings revealed to us thus far confirm what we already knew about Hale; they shed no new light on her unique motives for targeting Covenant.

In the afternoon, 99.7 WTN’s Brian Wilson took to the airwaves to read from a different selection of Hale’s writings, which indicated that she’d fantasized about carrying out a school shooting long before March 27th, 2023. “At times, she was treated by doctors for anxiety,” revealed Wilson, as well as “an eating disorder that became so critical that it required emergency treatment. And she was in fact treated twice at Vanderbilt University Medical Center when she expressed thoughts of suicide.”

I’ve already expressed my opinion on all this, but I’ll relay it here for emphasis. The FBI’s dictum that these artifacts be destroyed is well-intentioned and a necessary part of eradicating what is, very obviously to me, a social contagion. These writings never offer the closure those seeking them desire, and reveal “varied reasons, many of which the offenders themselves do not fully grasp or comprehend.”

But one part of the document that really stuck out, and that figures such as Robby Starbuck took issue with, was this line:

Additionally, there will often be a tendency to dismiss the attacker as mentally ill, given the style and lack of coherence often seen in these writings. This will further permeate the false narrative that the majority of attackers are mentally ill.

This might be too charitable a reading here, but I interpret that to mean if we further perpetuate the notion that attackers are mentally ill (an ever-widening category) then the surface area of people who view shooting up a school as merely an expression of their mental illness increases. When we describe these incidents as resulting from mental illness, we're giving wiggle room out of accountability. 

Second Amendment advocates often say that guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Similarly, it isn’t mental illnesses that commit these atrocities—it’s people who do. They make these decisions themselves. They are not compelled by their disability, and we should hold them fully accountable for their actions even unto death. Further indulging the idea that “mental illness” is the sole cause behind mass shootings implies the urge to shoot children is just another side effect of being mentally ill—which plays into the learned helplessness we have towards preventing them from occurring.

I beat this drum hard because I think it’s important, and because I believe the hyperfocus on motive is a distraction from what’s at play here. "Epidemics of crime follow the line of the telegraph," wrote French sociologist Grabiel Tarde in 1890. Participation in dialogue around these events gives them power and perpetuates their reproduction. Yes, I realize the hypocrisy of saying this as I write about a school shooting, but I want to be clear that I am advocating against the obsession with motive and the impulse to use these tragedies as political totems when they self-evidently arise from a corruption of the soul. DAVIS HUNT

CMA FEST TAKES OVER BROADWAY

CMA Fest 2024 starts today, June 6th, and comes to an end on Sunday, June 9th.

DEVELOPMENT

Via Now Next Developer Breaks Ground On Townhome-Hotel Concept In North Nashville (More Info)
  • Local developer buys Wedgewood-Houston site home to Dozen Bakery (NBJ)
  • Elevated Chinese restaurant Choy sets Gulch summer opening (NBJ)
  • Work starts on north side residential project (Post)
Off the Cuff

✹ BOOK REVIEW: ADULT DRAMA

(2023 · 4.0/5) Written by Natalie Beach

What does art that passes an amorphous purity test look like? It’s the question that has remained woefully uninterrogated in the wake of #MeToo and the waves of cancellation it inspired.

Fortunately, now that Natalie Beach has released her essay collection, Adult Drama, we have a clear-cut answer. It’s the stuff locked in the basement of the Longhouse, the organic endgame of the most grating high-school acquaintance getting a rarified megaphone instead of the Facebook rants you muted quite early in the fall of 2016.

Before this book, Beach’s one shred of notoriety was her takedown of Caroline Calloway in a viral 2019 article for The Cut that revealed her stint as the Instagram megastar’s sometime ghostwriter. That summer, thanks to Beach, the unfiltered nerds got their revenge. The perpetually disheveled freaks and geeks were ascendant. It was time to hear what they had to say.

If Beach’s collection is any indication, the experience of the oppressed is mostly centered around being unable to fit into Abercrombie low-rise jeans as a teen and spending one summer as landscaper to the Purell dynasty. In the hands of a more self-aware writer like Sloane Crosley or Becca Rothfeld, such asides would be endearing, even dedicated to parsing out why the myth of the awkward suburbanite’s migration to the big city is so central to American cultural capital. Instead, Beach is the kind of writer who would use her mother-in-law’s last days in hospice to meditate on her own inability to feel like she’s marriage material.

Adult Drama drowns in a host of flaws from Beach’s struggle to integrate thematic threads to her habit of hamfistedly inserting out-of-context Susan Sontag quotes to create the illusion of depth. But the most fatal is her lack of empathy—not only for Calloway (who she dunks on for two whole essays) but for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the most baseline liberal pablum imaginable. The protestors she caricatures in an essay about her stint as an abortion clinic escort make the unbelievers in a Christian movie look as carefully crafted as a Henry James antagonist. So do the recently deceased whose things she rifles through at estate sales while bemoaning their Reagan paraphernalia. 

The book is such an absolute disaster that it paved the way for Calloway’s long elusive legacy media coronation. In the end, it's Beach, not Calloway who has become a cautionary tale. Adult Drama merits serious attention because it’s quite inadvertently a harrowing glimpse into an American culture that could have been and still may well be–one that makes us thankful that, this time at least, nature really does seem to be healing. JEROD HOLLYFIELD

Entertainment

THINGS TO DO

View our calendar for the week here and our weekly film rundown here.

📅 Visit our On The Radar list to find upcoming events around Nashville.

🎧 On Spotify: Pamphleteer's Picks, a playlist of our favorite bands in town this week.

👨🏻‍🌾 Check out our Nashville farmer's market guide and yearly festival guide.

TONIGHT

🎸 The Jesus Lizard @ The Blue Room, 7p, $54.01, Info
+ legendary noise rock

🎸 Musicians Corner @ Centennial Park, 5p, Free, Info
+ Nashville Symphony and more

🎸 Ryan Scott @ Dee's Lounge, 9p, $5, Info

🎸 Gunning & Cormier @ Station Inn, 9p, $20, Info

🎸 CMA Fest @ Various Venues, Info
+ Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thomas Rhett, Shaboozey and more

🍀
Live Irish Music @ McNamara’s Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info

🎸 Kelly’s Heroes @ Robert’s Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info

🎸 Open Mic @ Fox & Locke, 6:30p, Free, Info
+ vet community here