Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tips from the Rod Williams School of Drunk Driving

Happy New Year!

It is that time of the year again will more people will be driving drunk than any other night of the year.   Unfortunately a lot of inexperienced drunk drivers will on the road. A lot of people will have their judgment impaired and think they are perfectly capable of driving  but they will be drunk. This year in addition to the local police, the Tennessee Highway Patrol plan a “No Refusal” enforcement campaign during the New Year’s Eve holiday period. The campaign begins at 12:01am, Wednesday, December 31st and concludes at 11:59pm, Sunday, January 4th.

The “No Refusal” enforcement will be conducted in one county in each of the eight THP Districts across the state, and is aimed at deterring impaired driving and reducing fatal crashes on Tennessee roadways.  The “No Refusal” legislation allows law enforcement officials to seek search warrants for blood samples in cases involving suspected impaired drivers.

The participating “No Refusal” counties include Roane (Knoxville District); McMinn (Chattanooga District); Rutherford (Nashville District); Shelby (Memphis District); Washington (Fall Branch District); Cumberland (Cookeville District); Maury (Lawrenceburg District); and Hardin (Jackson District).
Getting arrested for drunk driving is only one reason not to drive drunk.  The most important reason is you could kill yourself or someone else. Don't drive drunk. Don’t do it. Drunk driving kills people. Getting arrested can be costly and humiliating. It can ruin your life. You can go to jail and loose your license.

Since this time last year the opportunities for alternative transportation has greatly increased in the Nashville area. I have not used Lyft but have used Uber several times and it is a great service.  I don't know if there will be enough livery service vehicles on the road to meet demand on New Years Eve, but a great thing about services like Uber and Lyft is that the supply expands with demand on a moments notice. When a lot of people want the service, the price goes up and people who may not have wanted to work to earn $20 an hour might want to work if they can earn $50 in an hour so more drivers will get on the road as demand and price increases. When peak demand periods pass, prices drop. So, if you are using Uber and want to leave the party immediately after the "ball drops" and the price is outrageous, wait an hour and the price will drop.

It would probably be impossible to have enough taxis, black cars, Ubers, Lyfts, Sidecars or limousines to transport all of the people who should not be driving on New Years eve, but the opportunity for an alternative to driving yourself is greater than it has ever been.

If you are not going to rely on a commercial service such as a cab or Uber, have a designated driver. Pick the designated driver before you start drinking. I prefer being the designated drinker, but someone needs to be the designated driver. If at a friends house and you have had too much to drink, stay the night.

Another alternative is Sober Ride. Sober ride is a service of the Sheriff's office. They will drive you home and there is no reporting or penalty for using the service. Sober ride pick up points are Second Avenue and Church Street, Demonbreun Street at the Roundabout, and Five Points in East Nashville.  Sober ride operates from 10PM to 2AM.

Having said all of this however, I know that there are going to be thousands of people who will be driving in the early hours of New Year's day  that will not think they are not too drunk to drive but will have had a sufficient amount of adult beverage that they could register drunk even though they don’t think you are drunk.

I myself have probably driven many times when I would have registered drunk had I been stopped. I am not by any means advocating driving drunk, but if you are driving impaired I am providing these tips to help you increase your chances of getting home safely without getting arrested.

This  guide from the Rod Williams School of Drunk Driving is provided  to help you improve your drunk driving skills.

(1) Know that you don’t have to be “drunk” to register DUI. You do not have to be sloppy, falling down drunk to register as DUI. If you think you should not drive then by all means don’t. See the above. Often you will not know if you are drunk or not, so unless you know exactly how much you have had to drink and whether or not that would constitute drunk driving, then assume you are technically drunk. You do not have to appear intoxicated or have any of the symptoms that we think of as “drunk” to have a Blood Alcohol Content that legally makes you guilty of Driving Under the Influence. If you drink and you drive you have probably driven “drunk.”

(2) Track your consumption and don’t have “one for the road.” That is what often happens. If  for New Years you are having dinner with friends and you have a pre-dinner cocktail and wine with dinner and after dinner liquore with coffee, and a champagne toast at midnight, you might register drunk. Try to keep your alcohol consumption to a level that falls below the BAC limit.

On occasion I like to go to Lower Broadway to listen to live music and party. If I have 8, 12-ounce beers in a four-hour period I should have a BAC of about .068, however if I have 9 beers in four hours that means I have a BAC of .085 and am legally drunk. “One for the road” could put me over the limit. Actually, I seldom have eight in a four hour period, but it has happened.

A female can drink less than a male and a slender person can drink less than a heavy person. For a 115 pound female, three glasses of wine in two hours is drunk. Don’t try to keep up with the other people in your party. Know your limit. Skip a round. Drink slower. Some people assume that wine is less inebriating than tequila shots. That is not so. A 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ounces of 100 proof distilled spirits have the same impact on an individual's BAC level.

Here is a calculator that will give you guidance on how much alcohol you can consume and an estimate of BAC. Please be aware that this is only a guide. If you are drinking on an empty stomach, your BAC may be higher than indicated in the calculator.

(3) Plan your trip. Point your car in the direction of home.  Avoid places where the police might see you. When I go to the honkytonk strip on lower Broadway to party, I never park on Broadway. I live on the south side of town, so I park a block or two south of Broadway on one of the one-way streets heading south. This means I do not have to circle a block and be concerned about traffic lights and stop signs. The less exposed you are to the police the less chance you have of getting caught. It is worth parking four or five blocks away to reduce your exposure.

(4) Be aware that you are impaired. If you didn’t keep track of how much you drank then assume you are may have had enough to register drunk and use your best drunk-driving skills. "Thinking" skills, like perceiving and evaluating risks, or processing information are not easily visible to outside observers, but they are the first skills to be adversely affected by alcohol. Be aware of this.

(5) Stop the Party. You are having a good time. You are joking and singing and laughing. You hate
to end the party, but if there is any chance that you are driving with an elevated BAC, then stop the party. Say, “OK folks, we need to straighten up. I need your help in getting us home.” Don’t sing or engage in distracting conversation. Turn off the radio. Don’t talk on the cell phone. Give driving your undivided attention. Don’t let anyone in the car have an open container. You may be perfectly capable of driving, but if a drunk passenger is yelling "Happy New Year" out the window, the police may stop the car and give you a drunk driving test. The moment you get in the car the party is over.

(6) Check the checklist. Have a mental checklist. You don’t want to get stopped because you failed to use your turn signal. I was once stopped by the police on lower Broadway and forced to take a Breathalyzer. I knew I had only had two beers in a two-hour period so I was not concerned. The reason they stopped me is that I had not tuned on my headlights as I pulled out into the street. The downtown area is well lit and this was just an oversight. The police are looking for excuses to stop you; don’t give them one. Seat belts? Check. Adjust the mirror? Check. Turn off the radio? Check. Turn on the headlights? Check.

(7) Concentrate; pay attention. Be aware of your driving. Don’t relax. Keep both hands on the wheel. Don’t be distracted. Don't answer the phone. If you feel you must answer the phone, safely pull off the road. Don't even engage in conversation.  Make sure you do not weave. Are you staying within the lines? Drive just below the speed limit. Don’t tailgate. Pay attention to the car in front of you. If they put on their brakes, notice it. If you are approaching an intersection with a traffic light, pay close attention. Plan that traffic light stop. Don’t run a yellow light.

(8) Use your co-pilot. Ask the person in the passengers seat to help you drive. Ask them to tell you if you weave or tailgate or go too fast. Make them pay attention to your driving.

(9) If you get stopped. Unless you are certain that you have had less than the number of drinks it would take to raise your BAC level to the .08 level, then common wisdom holds that it is a good idea to refuse the breathalyzer test. It generally is more difficult to convict a driver of drunk driving if no chemical tests are taken. Of course if you  are stopped by the THP in one of the counties listed above, you might as well do the Breathalyzer because of the "no refusal" policy in those counties this year.

I have never been arrested for drunk driving but I admit I have been guilty of it. I guess I have been lucky. As a young adult I was more often guilty of it than I have been as an older adult. Nevertheless, from time to time, I still have probably technically met the blood alcohol level for being drunk. Stay safe. Drive careful. Happy New Year.

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Tennessean Letter to Editor all critical of Bill Freeman and the trash truck sign deal

The Tennessean printed four letters to the  editor today (12-31-2014) and all four were critical of Bill Freeman and the trash truck sign deal.

Would Bill Freeman's sign on this truck make you
want to vote for him?  Does the Freeman garbage
truck deal stink?
Mayoral candidate Charles Robert Bone had contracted and paid for Gray's Disposal to carry his signs on their garbage trucks during the mayoral campaign.  Bill Freeman contacted Gray and offered three time what Gray had already accepted from Bone and Freeman agreed to cover any legal cost if Bone sued Gray. Gray returned Bone's money and contracted with Freeman.

Letter writer Donald Griffin says, "In the business world this is known as breach of contract, and it reflects very much on the integrity of the individuals involved.  The citizens of Nashville should keep this in mind when they cast their votes in the election for Mayor."

Rebecca Weikert writes that Gray's Disposal is a corrupt business and provides poor service and, "Any candidate that thinks the public will think highly him/her by appearing to be endorsed by Gray's Disposal must have just fallen of the turnip truck."

Gene TeSelle, a regular letter writer, neighborhood leader and political activist, writes that Nashville does not need a billionaire mayor and that the conventional wisdom is that Freeman can pay any amount of money needed to get elected and, "his outbidding of Charles Robert Bone for campaign signs on trash trucks is and early, if bizarre, proof of it." He goes on to say that with Freeman's vast interest in development that Freeman's candidacy looks like a conflict of interest. "We need a mayor who thinks in terms of the people and their neighborhood," says TeSelle, "not just money and power."

Evan Davis writes that he thinks all politicians should be required to advertise exclusively on garbage trucks  as it would be first step toward political truth in advertising. They should also be allowed to advertise on septic tank pump-out trucks, he says.

One never knows if letters to the editor reflect what the public is thinking are what the newspaper wants to highlight.  Also, it is worth noting that two of the letters were from people who do not even life in Nashville and cannot vote in our mayor elections. Still, I suspect that a lot of people feel the way these letter writers do. I think Freeman has already gotten more bad publicity from the trash truck deal than the benefit of the name recognition he will get from having his signs on Gray's trucks. The Freeman garbage truck deal does stink.

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Carol Swain: Political correctness trumped safety in police shooting

Excerpts from an editorial by Carol Swain appearing in  The Tennessean 12-31-2014, Political correctness trumped safety in police shooting:

Carol Swain
Why don't police officers use Tasers rather than guns to subdue suspects? .....On Sunday, Dec. 13, Nashvillians learned that Tasers are not a reliable means of stopping a determined suspect, and their failure can place police and civilians at risk.

There is a stench of politics in how the entire situation was handled.  The officers knew they were dealing with a suspect who reportedly had a gun and a criminal background. Yet, they departed from their training and protocol apparently to avoid the repercussions that would likely follow a police shooting of a young black male, even an armed one.

Clearly, we don't want police officers abusing citizens. However, they do have a dangerous job to perform, and that job is hampered if political correctness and fear of the community overrides good judgment.

Dr. Swain is a professor of political science and Law at Vanderbilt University.

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Obamacare employer mandate kicks in Jan. 1. Start reporting.

Reposted from Medibid - The President’s unilateral delay of the employer mandate is about over, and businesses with 50 or more full-time employees will have to start filing detailed reports with the IRS in January 2015, notes the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). “Full time” means 30 hours or more.

Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Tex.) called attention to this during a conference call co-sponsored by the Galen Institute.

Penalties don’t kick in until next year, but the data collection requirements are huge and complex. Burgess said that professional assistance is likely needed.

For each worker, the employer must report the number of hours worked, as well as health insurance coverage.

“The pain from the Affordable Care Act (ACA or ObamaCare) has only just begun,” states AAPS executive director Jane M. Orient, M.D. “Higher insurance premiums, penalties for not satisfying ObamaCare mandates, and data collection expenses are unaffordable for many businesses.”

Costs are passed along to workers, who may lose their job altogether or be forced to work at two part-time jobs, as well as to customers. Many businesses will decide not to expand, or could fold, she noted.

“The Congressional Budget Office doesn’t count such costs to Americans.”

The pending King v. Burwell case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court could rule that ACA means what it says about subsidies flowing only through State-established Exchanges, is the source of much uncertainty, Orient reports. If that is the decision, States that declined to set up an Exchange could be under a lot of pressure.

“People need to remember that those subsidies are the trigger for the employer mandate’s penalties,” Orient said. “There is no free money. Some get other taxpayers to help pay their premiums; others may lose their job.”

AAPS opposed the enactment of ACA upon reading what is in it, and favors its repeal.

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) is a national organization representing physicians in all specialties, founded in 1943 to preserve private medicine and the patient-physician relationship.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Can banks individually create money out of nothing? — The theories and the empirical evidence.

This is will not interest most people so ignore this post if it does not interest you.  From time to time, I have had conversations with some people, usually Ron Paul supporters or other libertarians, who assert that the money supply only grows when the government "prints" new money which in reality is the Federal Reserve purchasing government bonds. I have had this same discussion several time at Liberty on the Rocks.

I argue that fractional reserve banking creates money out of thin air and we would have a growth in the money supply without the Federal Reserve.  While the Federal Reserve purchasing government bonds does created money and is a problem, the Federal Reserve serves a good function by setting reserve requirements for banks and somewhat regulates the amount of money created by the private sector. I contend more money is created by the private sector than the public sector and that fractional reserve banking is as old as is the practice of people depositing their money with a trusted someone for safe keeping.  The only way to keep the money supply from growing is to forbid fractional reserve banking which does not seem like a very libertarian thing to do.

In any event, I contend that a growth in the money supply is not a bad things as long as it does not grow faster than the supply of goods and services and without growth in the money supply there would not be growth in the economy. Of course, growth in the money supply does hurt savers but most savers are investors and if one's saving is also growing at the rate of the increase in the money supply then one is not harmed by an increase in the money supply.

Most people will find this a pretty boring but if you are still in denial that fractional reserve banking is the way most money is created, please read this report: Can banks individually create money out of nothing? — The theories and the empirical evidence

Neither I nor the people I argue with are economist so if there is an economist reading this who would like to weigh in, I would welcome your input. 

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Vocal gun control advocate confirmed as Surgeon General. Alexander and Corker voted "no."

Vivek Hallegere Murthy, a British born Indian-American from Massachusetts, was confirmed by the Senate to be Surgeon General of the United States for a term of four years. After the vote being delayed for a year, the vote occurred on Monday December 15th.  Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid had delayed  the confirmation vote for fear that a vote in favor of Mr. Murthy would hurt Democrats seeking reelection in November.  Apparently, Sen. Ted Cruz's move to force members to work all day Saturday December 13th allowed Senator Reid to expedite Murthy's nomination and 23 others before recessing for the rest of the year.  Had the Senate recessed without considering this nomination, he would not have been confirmed in the new Republican controlled Senate.

Only one Republican, Mark Kirk of Illinois, voted for the confirmation. Three Democrats, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, opposed the confirmation.

Dr. Murthy has limited medical experience and that was sited by some who opposed his nomination. Lamar Alexander said, “Unfortunately, Dr. Murthy’s experience does not demonstrate the leadership and knowledge of public health that we expect from our surgeons general.”

Murthy is only 36 years old and has not distinguished himself as a doctor.  However, he has been a stanch supporter of President Obama and is pro-abortion rights and a vocal opponent of gun rights. In 2008 he founded the group “Doctors for Obama” to help elect the president and after Obama’s election, he renamed the group to “Doctors for America.”  The group has a membership of 16,000 with members in all 50 states. This group supported Obamacare. Murthy has taken the view that gun violence is a public health issue and he has advocated various gun control measures. The NRA opposed his confirmation.

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Jerry Maynard is not running for Mayor

Last night on This Week with Bob Mueller, Councilman Jerry Maynard announced he would not be running for Mayor of Nashville.  Maynard is a term-limited Councilman-at-large, a pastor, an author, an attorney, and a self-employed government relations consultant.

In announcing his decision not to run, he sited as his reason the health of his mother who is 70 years old and battling cancer.  For a long time it was assumed Maynard would be a candidate.  With several candidates in the race with deep pockets who can self-fund their own race or the ability to raise large sums of money, it is doubtful Maynard could have been elected Mayor. However, it is assumed he would have overwhelmingly carried the Black vote. With five viable white candidates splitting the non-Black vote, Maynard could have possibly made the runoff.   At this time there is not another Black candidate for Mayor. It is unsure which candidate will benefit most from Maynard's withdrawal.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

President Obama sends Happy Marxist, Pseudo-African, make-up, Kwanzaa holiday wishes

Here is the official statement from the White House extending Happy Kwanzaa wished: 

Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to those celebrating Kwanzaa this holiday season.  Today begins a celebration highlighting the rich African American heritage and culture through the seven principles of Kwanzaa—unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.  During this season, families come together to reflect on blessings of the past year and look forward to the promises in the year ahead. As we remain committed to building a country that provides opportunity for all, this time of year reminds us that there is much to be thankful for. 
As families around the world unite to light the Kinara today, our family extends our prayers and best wishes during this holiday season.
I am not surprised. I would expect this from President Obama, who in his youth was mentored by Communist Party member Frank Marshall Davis and who sit for twenty years in the pew of Jerimiah Wright's church listening to Black liberation theology. I suspect Obama is comfortable with Kwanzaa. It fits his world view.  What gets me is how widespread the celebration of Kwanzaa is and how people who should know better will send Kwanzaa greetings and recognize Kwanzaa as a legitimate holiday. 
Kwanzaa is a made up holiday created by Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga, a radical American Black Nationalists. Maulana Ndabezitha Karenga was born 1941 with the name Ronald McKinley Everett but adopted the African sounding name in the 1960's. He was active in the radical Black Power movement of the 1960's and was for a while was a member of the Black Panthers. When the Black Power movement splintered into violent conflict between different factions he was engaged in that struggle. He started a group called "United Slaves" which positioned themselves as more radical than the Black Panthers.  Member of US and Black Panthers killed each other during the violent struggles for control of the revolution. We know that in the sixties, the FBI was engaged in promoting divisions within the Black Power movement. Some allege that Karenga was funded by the FBI to further that division but the truth is unknown.
In 1971, Karenga was sentenced to one to ten years in prison on counts of felonious assault and false imprisonment. He thought two female followers of his were conspiring to betray him and he took revenge. This is how the Los Angeles Times described the case.
Deborah Jones, who once was given the Swahili title of an African queen, said she and Gail Davis were whipped with an electrical cord and beaten with a karate baton after being ordered to remove their clothes. She testified that a hot soldering iron was placed in Miss Davis' mouth and placed against Miss Davis' face and that one of her own big toes was tightened in a vise. Karenga, head of US, also put detergent and running hoses in their mouths, she said. They also were hit on the heads with toasters.
Even if Karnega was not a made-up holiday created by a drug addled radical thug, it would not be something worth celebrating.  The principles of Kawanzaa are not admirable. The first principle is Umoja (Unity). That is not unity among all people however but  unity in the family, community, and race. The second principle is Kujichagulia (Self-Determination). It calls for the right to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. Keep in mind this is for Black people to do. It is not a call for cooperation with others or to be accepting or cooperative with others; this is a call for radical Black power.

It doesn't get better. The fourth principle of Kwanzaa is Ujamaa which is "cooperative economics,"  perhaps the last thing the Black community needs. Ujamaa was the 20-year experiment with African- style socialism in Tanzania. It failed miserably. "Cooperative Economics" never works. Voluntary collectives always fall apart. To urge collective or cooperative economics for the Black community is to urge them to remain poor. The Black community needs a good dose of capitalism not socialism.

I know Christmas is made up also. All holidays are made-up or declared by a proclamation as a day to honor an event or a person. Christmas evolved over time and customs and traditions and elements were added one on the other. The message of Christmas is a positive message and embraces all mankind. Any thing that evolves over time, to my way of thinking, has more legitimacy than something someone just set down one day and made up.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Cartoon Book

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The Tennessean reports "Kenneth Eaton to run for Nashville mayor again."

Kenneth Eaton finished with just a few hundred votes in the 2007 race for Nashville mayor, but he’s giving it another shot nonetheless.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Raising the Gas Tax and a lesson about spending

It is clear that the ground work is being laid to raise the state gas tax in this next legislative session and there is a good argument to be made that it needs to be increased.  The tax which has not been increased since 1989 is not raising sufficient revenue to improve and maintain our highway system. Improved fuel efficiency standards and the rise of hybrid vehicles are hurting the collection of gas taxes. Also our interstate highway system and bridges are old now and major repairs are needed. There are bottlenecks and places that need new interchanges.  I am persuaded that there is insufficient revenue to expand and maintain the interstate system the way we have in the past if the tax is not raised.

That said however, in the past when money was flowing into the system we should not have spend it just  because we had it.  The biggest folly in my mind is that we had a state policy that every county seat would connect by a four lane road to an interstate.  I am not sure when this policy was instituted, sometime in the 70's I think.  I am not sure if it was ever completed for all 95 counties but if not, it was to most of them. I know the generalities but not the specifics. If some one can research the facts please post the information.

The logic behind this policy was that to bolster employment opportunities in rural areas we needed four-lane roads.  Counties would build industrial parks and entice companies to locate across the state. If there was not easy access to the interstate system, companies would not locate in rural areas.

When my daughter was a minor I would go pick her up from her mother's in McKenzie, Tennessee  getting off of I-40 at Parker's Cross Roads.   McKenzie was about thirty or so miles from the interstate. From the interstate to Huntington, the county seat of Carrol County, was about 20 miles and was a four-lane road.  Sometimes I would not see a dozen cars from exiting the interstate to Huntington.  Also, the little town of Huntington had a four-lane ring road by-pass, which was silly because it added miles to the trip and there was nothing to by-pass since it was much quicker to go through town. The few times I did take the bypass, I would go miles and miles and not see another car.

I also for many years had a grandmother living in Sparta, Tennessee which is the county seat of White County and I would go visit her in Sparta and would go though Sparta to a family reunions "on the mountain."  When I would go to Sparta, the four lane road from the interstate to Sparta would almost always be empty.

This plan to four-lane the state of Tennessee apparently did not achieve its objective. As of the 2010 census, the population of Carroll County was 28,522; in 1980 it was 28,285. In 2010 the population of White County was 25,834; and in 1980 it was 19567, not much growth. Looking at rural counties across the state, some had modest growth, some almost no growth and some continued to have declining population growth.  In addition to the cost, I think it is detrimental to the environment to encourage this kind of sprawl, and I prefer to keep the rural, rural. Building four-lane roads to each county seat gobbled up mass swaths of farm land and detracted from the natural beauty of rural Tennessee.

Rather than try to make each rural county a site for industrial development, I think it would have been wiser to pick six to eight mid-sized towns such as Jackson and Cookeville and focus development in those areas. Anyway, we have now spend that money and there is no getting it back.

The lesson form this is that if an entity of government has money to spend, they spend it even if they spend it foolishly. The only way government spends wisely is when money is scarce and then not all of the time.  It is a policy quandary; do you give an entity more money and see a lot of it foolishly wasted or not give sufficient money and see essential services surfer? I think it is hard to strike the right balance. I fear that if TDOT has more money, then the State may decide that every county seat needs a luxury jet port

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The Nashville Scene ask, "Does Bill Freeman's Trash Truck Ad Deal Stink"?

Does Bill Freeman's Trash Truck Ad Deal Stink?

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Haslam's alternative plan to Medicaid expansion and what others are saying.

After almost two years of delay and negotiations, Govenor Haslam has come up with a unique plan to expand health care in Tennessee that embraces a more conservative approach and that is agreeable to the Obama administration's Department of Health and Human Services.  At this point I find it a reasonable plan which should be carefully examined  and passed unless major pitfalls emerge.

Obamacare counted on states to expand Medicaid to cover people with incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level and at the same time Obamacare cut or eliminated most federal aid to hospitals for unreimbursed care. By not expanding Medicaid, Tennessee did not get the federal money that would have went to Tennessee but we lost the money that was going to pay for unremimbursed care. Still, hospitals had to continue providing care to the uninsured indigent. As a result, several rural hospitals in Tennessee closed and more will be forced to close, if we do not expand medicaid or if Congress does not reinstate payment for unremimbursed care to a former level or we do not adopt Governor Haslam's plan.

Under Obamacare, if we would have expanded Medicaid, the federal government would have paid 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and supposedly 90 percent thereafter.  Many were dubious that the 90% thereafter would be realized and suspected the Federal government would shift more of the burden to the state.  There was also concern that the 10% the states were to pay after the first three years, would be 10% of a greater and greater dollar amount and end up consuming a greater and greater share of state revenues and cutting into other critical needs, the way Teencare had done when Tennessee had its experiment with Tenncare.

Rather than expand Medicaid, Governor Haslam resisted and sought a Tennessee alternative to Medicaid expansion. It took two years of negotiation to get an agreement to an alternative plan from U.S. Health and Human Services officials. His plan has two different ways to provide health care to the people who would have been covered had we accepted the Obamacare medicaid expansion. One portion of is plan would offer vouchers that low-income workers could use to participate in employers' insurance plans. The other is build upon TennCare, the state's current Medicaid program. New enrollees in TennCare under this proposal will pay modest premiums and copays, and the plan will include incentives for things such as annual health screenings and quitting smoking.

This seems like a reasonable proposal to me. Of course my preference would be for Congress to completely undo Obamacare and institute the package of Republican alternatives.  In the meantime, I think Haslam's plan is pretty good and the State legislature should pass it unless new facts emerge that expose serious pitfalls to the plan. The plan will insure more people and stop hospitals from closing and the copay and premiums, ensure the recipient has "skin the game," as they say.

I am a big supported of the Beacon Center and usually agree with their position on issues but was disappointed when they came out with this press release on the same day Haslam made his announcement that a  deal had been struck with the Department of Health and Human Services to allow the the Tennessee Plan to move forward. Here is the Beacon Center's press release:

Beacon Strongly Opposes Governor Haslam's Medicaid Expansion
NASHVILLE – The Beacon Center of Tennessee firmly opposes Governor Haslam's move to expand Medicaid and the reach of Obamacare's tentacles into our state. As our recent study with State Budget Solutions and Federalism in Action exposed, President Obama's Medicaid expansion would cost our state’s economy $3.6 billion, while causing more than 67,000 Tennesseans to lose their jobs. Medicaid has failed to help the uninsured and impoverished.
A similar plan in Arkansas has been nothing but a complete disaster. We should instead seek sustainable solutions that provide accessible, high-quality care that can actually make a difference in the lives of those most in need. The Beacon Center's healthcare reform package for 2015—to be released tomorrow—proves that Medicaid expansion is both unaffordable and immoral. We will actively work with our state lawmakers to soundly reject this proposal and instead pursue meaningful alternatives that put the quality of life for Tennesseans first.
I will study the Beacon Plan, but it took two years for Haslam to strike a deal with DHHS so if all opponents of Haslam's plan can offer is some pie-in-the-sky plan that has no chance of DHHS approval, I think it is preferable to accept the Haslam plan than watch hospital close and thousands  of Tennesseans have no insurance and no local hospital emergency room.

Americans for Prosperity is also opposed to the Haslam proposal.  I think some conservatives think that the chances of eventually repealing Obamacare are greater if there are suffering people and rather than see Obamacare take root, they would prefer to do all they can to prevent it from working. While we work to replace Obamacare, I think we also must deal with the realities as they are and govern.

Both Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker have praised the plan. Here are what some other are saying:

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey as quoted in the press:
When a state has an opportunity to take power away from the federal government and institute real conservative reform, that is an opportunity that must be taken seriously. Governor Haslam has negotiated a deal which returns tax dollars back to Tennessee while using conservative principles to bring health insurance to more Tennesseans. I look forward to sitting down with my fellow legislators to take a hard look at what has been negotiated to make sure that the final deal, which must be approved by the legislature, is in the long-term financial interest of Tennessee.

A Facebook post from Professor Carol M. Swain, Ph.D:
The working poor need some relief. My mother's health care worker cannot afford Obamacare insurance. She can get a $31.00 premium w/ a $6,000 deductible. The policy will pay 50 percent of her cost after her deductible is met. She lost insurance after Obamacare passed. Republicans in Congress have done nothing to repeal Obamacare. Therefore, it makes sense for Governor Haslam or somebody to look after the welfare of the working poor.

Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma as quoted in the press:
I appreciate what the governor has accomplished. This is not some cut and paste plan that other states have tried to sell as unique. I’ve talked with a lot of my colleagues, and I would say that not one has said they would reject the plan. We all have open minds, but there are going to be a lot of questions.

A Facebook post from  Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby:
I  just got off of the phone with a conference call with Gov. Bill Haslam. I'm encouraged Tennessee will be working to the best possible solution of the bad law Obama Care. From what I can gather so far, TN will be expanding Medicaid in such a way that it will work like a Federal grant to the state and we will run it. If you make less than 16k a year and are between the ages of 19 and 64, and you do not have access to healthcare insurance, this will be a plus for you. I will post more as I get a better understanding.
to see that

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Latinos for Tennessee Opposes President Obama's Push for Cuba Relations

From Latinos for Tennessee - In the middle of this Christmas season, Latinos for Tennessee is shocked and saddened by yesterday's news that President Obama has decided to fundamentally change the nature of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. Once again, our president has chosen to entirely bypass the nation's legislature and proceed with his own agenda that undermines our country's strength in the global marketplace.

While we celebrate the release of the American prisoner Alan Gross from Cuban prison, we are dismayed that the president would open the door to negotiations with a terrorist regime. This dramatic change in stance sends a message to rogue governments around the world that the US will not stand in strong opposition to lawlessness and oppression, but rather that we have become weak and lax in our fight to preserve and promote democracy. Indeed, this is a sad day in the history of our nation.

Furthermore, while some may argue that the US has been too harsh on Cuba by not allowing diplomatic relations since 1961, in fact, the opportunity to re-establish those relations has always existed; however, the Castro regime has been unwilling to change and allow basic democratic liberties to its citizens. There are no free and fair elections, there are no independent political parties, and there is no free speech. Opponents of the Castro regime live with the fear of being imprisoned, or worse, if they participate in any activities that run counter to the ruling party. It has been the Cuban regime's unwillingness to change that has prevented economic and diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Therefore, Latinos for Tennessee stands in opposition to President Obama's push for normalized relations with Cuba where nothing is asked of Cuba in return. We continue to call for liberty, human rights, free elections, freedom of speech and an end to the oppression endured by the Cuban people.

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Data on data: a look at testing

Reposted from Tn Edu-Independent- I wanted to share some interesting things from a recent policy brief I read from TeachPlus. The brief can be found here: The Student and the Stopwatch

This research brief looks at how much time students are actually spending on testing. We hear all sorts of things on this topic: we test all the time, we test students to death, etc.

When we look at actual data on the topic, it turns out that we don't test that much.

"Across 12 urban districts, the average amount of time students spend on state and district tests equals 1.7 percent of the school year in third and seventh grades and substantially less in kindergarten."

1.7 percent of the year. Not that much. One of the 12 urban districts they looked at was Shelby County (not MNPS), and they were at the lower end of testing hours.  So given we're in the same state, with the same set of state assessments, we're likely not far off from that same amount of time in Nashville:

Certainly, there is the question of interim assessments done by schools and districts throughout the year. But this study also factored a number of those tests in their findings.

" Teachers were asked to report the precise state- and district-mandated tests they administer and the precise number of minutes required by that test."

"The kinds of assessments profiled in this study as state- or district-mandated generally fall into two categories. The first category is end-of-year summative assessments largely required by the states, such as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) or the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (T-CAP). These state-required summative assessments are often supplemented with district-required assessments that are used for formative or benchmark purposes. These can be administered infrequently, two to three times a year, or with greater regularity, as often as once every two weeks. Many of the districts included in this study have adopted assessment systems purchased from national providers, such as the Achievement Network (ANet), the Dynamic
Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS), or the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA)."

One thing that's worth asking locally: Are the internal assessments that we have in the district throughout the year actually aligned with the state assessments? Are they telling teachers and school leaders accurate information to inform learning cycles, and doing so in a timely way?

You don't use a coffee cup to take a kid's temperature. Having internal assessments throughout the year that are supposed to tell you if your students are on the right learning trajectory or not doesn't make sense if those assessments aren't aligned to content standards and the state assessment (which incidentally, should also be aligned to the standards. I fully recognize districts in Tennessee are really in some form of Purgatory right now with Common Core standards for math and ELA but the old TCAP test - a misaligned assessment)

Some other things this TeachPlus research found:
  • The variation in test time across urban districts is large, with high-test districts spending 3.3x as much time-on-testing as low-test districts.
  • Urban districts spend, on average, more time than their suburban counterparts on testing. Suburban districts in this study average 1.3 percent or less of the school year on testing.
  • Teachers calculate test administration time to be more than double the length reported in district calendars in elementary grades.
The testing debate certainly gets a lot of noise. As the TeachPlus brief finds:

"The debate over whether there is too much or too little testing occupies a prominent place in the policy discourse and in the media. However, the debate is largely ideological and devoid, ironically, of data on the amount of time students spend on testing."

If we're going to focus our energies on improving teaching and learning for all students in the district, one thing to spend our time on is to make sure we're prudent with the instruments we have to gauge student learning and learning progress. Those instruments are really important to help inform the learning cycle and give us meaningful data to inform instruction and professional development.

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Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey's statement on Attorney General Slatery's decision to join lawsuit challenging Obama's immigration executive order.

I applaud Attorney General Slatery's decision to join the lawsuit challenging the President’s unconstitutional action on immigration.

Barack Obama tossed aside not just public opinion but key tenets of our constitutional democracy when he bypassed Congress to grant illegal immigrants defacto amnesty.

I'm proud that Tennessee will be among the states standing up to this truly shocking display of executive arrogance.

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Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery joins lawsuit to challenge executive action on immigration

Press Release, Dec. 22, 2014 - Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery today notified the appropriate parties that the State will join a lawsuit brought by attorneys general and governors from 24 other states to challenge the President's recent executive action on immigration.

Slatery said, "Our office has carefully considered whether to join this lawsuit and concluded that it is in the best interest of the State to do so. While the subject of the executive action was immigration, the lawsuit is not about immigration. It is really more about the rule of law and the limitations that prevent the executive branch from taking over a role constitutionally reserved for Congress. The executive directives issued by the White House and Homeland Security conflict with existing federal law. They replace prosecutorial discretion, normally determined on a case by case basis, with a unilateral nonenforcement policy protecting over 4 million people. The directives also are rules that have been issued without complying with the Administrative Procedures Act. However frustrating and painstakingly long the federal legislative process may be, making law is the prerogative of Congress, not the executive branch. Congress can resolve all of the issues raised by this lawsuit, and the executive directives for that matter, by timely enacting legislation. But in the meantime the State cannot sit on the sidelines of this case, when unlawful directives of this magnitude grant lawful presence and other rights like work permits to such a large number. Asking a court to review this issue is the prudent choice, especially when state resources will be taxed under the directives to provide benefits like unemployment compensation and health care."

Tennessee joins Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, in the litigation. The States' complaint was filed in the Federal District Court of Texas and requested a preliminary injunction.

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How the Metro Council voted in supporting President Obama’s EPA Clean Power Plan.

In the Metro Council meeting of December 2, the Council passed RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1300  sponsored by Council Member Peter Westerholm which expressed the will of the Council in supporting efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and supporting President Obama’s Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from power plants.

Here is the way the Council voted:
“Ayes.” Barry, Steine, Maynard, Harrison, Hunt, Banks, Scott Davis, Westerholm, Anthony Davis, Pridemore, Stanley, Moore, Allen, Gilmore, Baker, Langster, Holleman, McGuire, Harmon, Potts, Bedne, Dowell, Todd, Mitchell (24).

“Noes.” Garrett, Tygard, Bennett, Hagar, Glover, Stites, Claiborne, Tenpenny, Weiner, Blalock, Dominy, Duvall (12),

“Abstaining.” Evans, Johnson (2).

While the Council passed the resolution, I am delighted that 12 members voted against it. All of the Council members who I think of as the "good" councilmen, because they have in the past had a conservative voting record or identify as Republicans or just seem like rational, reasonable people voted against the bill with the exception of Carter Todd who is identified as a Republican but who voted for it. Emily Evans who I think of as one of the "good" council members voted to abstain.

I was also very pleased to see Karen Johnson vote to abstain. I personally like Karen Johnson a lot, but she does not self identify as a Republican or conservative, but I am proud of her for voting to abstain on this bill rather than voting for it.

In the past the Council has unanimously voted for some atrociously bad bills similar to this. A special recognition goes to Josh Stites who is on the Rules Committee. All memorizing resolutions go before this committee and Josh was the lone "no" vote in committee. If not for his "no" vote, this resolution would have been on the "consent" agenda and may have passed without descent or discussion. Also Council Member Duane Dominy deserves special recognition for his argument against the resolution on the floor of the Council.

Recently the State Senate Government Operation Committee took a look at the same EPA action that the Council voted to support and heard testimony from leading state and industry officials regarding this EPA rule. Of this EPA policy, Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell had this to say:

The testimony we heard Tuesday makes it very clear that the rules proposed by the EPA not only overstep their jurisdiction, but if enacted will cost Tennesseans greatly in terms of higher electric bills, job loss and productivity. The founding fathers never intended for the federal government to be preeminent in every facet of our daily lives. These rules go far beyond their constitutional authority, stripping the state of its authority in this regard and encroaching on the personal liberties of our citizens.

Tennessee Commissioner of Environment and Conservation Bob Martineau briefed Committee members on 97 pages of comments that the state made in response to the Clean Air Act rule. He said the state requested that the carbon emission reduction targets set by the EPA for Tennessee be “reduced and adjusted.” Several presenters at the meeting called the targets “unattainable.” They also said the proposed rules punish states, like Tennessee, which made early efforts to reduce carbon emissions prior to the 2012 benchmark used in calculating state-based reduction targets.

Paul Bailey of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy said their studies project an average annual increase in retail electricity prices of 14% to 18% over the next decade.

Justin Owen, President and CEO of the Beacon Center, told committee members, “These federal rules ignore the different and unique energy portfolios, needs and problems faced by each individual state. For example, because Tennessee relies more heavily on electricity generated by coal-fired plants, our state citizens will be burdened more severely than those in other states.”

Owen said a Suffolk University study shows that emission rules on new power plants could cost upwards of $208 million in Tennessee. The rule for existing plants could cost $394 million according to the study, while the mercury emissions rule could cost $727 million, for a total of more than $1.3 billion. 

While the State Senate held hearings on the issue, our Metro Council voted for the new EPA rules without any studies or hearings being done or any insight as to what the new rules would cost Tennesseans.  These issues are complicated and in my view the Council should recognize they are Councilmen and not U.S. representatives and should avoid putting the Council on record about things of which they have little knowledge

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The United Auto Workers and VW Chattanooga "Win" 2014 Lump of Coal

Narrowly edge out Department of Labor and Workforce Development

NASHVILLE – In the closest vote in Lump of Coal history that featured hundreds of votes from across the state of Tennessee, the United Auto Workers and Volkswagen Chattanooga edged out the Department of Labor and Workforce Development by just 3 votes.

The Beacon Center awards this dubious distinction annually to the person or group in Tennessee who, more than any other during the past year, acted as a Grinch to Tennesseans by bah-humbugging the principles of liberty and limited government.
While there were many “strong competitors” this year, Tennesseans voted for a company and labor union who seemingly worked together to bilk the taxpayers of the state out of hundreds of millions of dollars. Even after workers at the VW plant in Chattanooga firmly rejected the UAW by a legally binding vote, the UAW has continued trying to bully its way into the plant, and VW has seemingly been more than happy to comply. This collusion makes both deserving of this award.
Not honoring the will of your workers is one thing, but it’s another issue entirely to do so while also accepting taxpayer money. While the UAW shenanigans took place, VW Chattanooga received $230 million from state and local taxpayers in the form of handouts to pick Tennessee over Mexico for its SUV line.
Beacon CEO Justin Owen had the following to say, “The United Workers Association and Volkswagen should be ashamed of themselves. VW has chosen to completely ignore the will of its hard-working employees, while at the same time stealing tax dollars from them and all Tennesseans through corporate welfare. Meanwhile, the UAW needs to learn that no means no. Instead of being gracious in defeat when the workers voted it down, the union tried every trick in the book to backdoor its way into the VW plant, despite not having the support of the very workers it was trying to unionize. This dubious duo has fully earned this award.”
You can see the full poll and descriptions here.
The final vote totals are below:
The United Auto Works and Volkswagen Chattanooga- 34.6%
The Department of Labor and Workforce Development- 33.3%
The City of Memphis- 17.3%
The Cleveland Jetport- 14.8%

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Mayoral campaign turns dirty as in trash truck dirty

Today's Tennessean reports of squabble over campaign signs on the side of the garbage trucks of Gray Disposal.  I have seen candidates signs on the side of Gray Disposal garbage truck in campaigns for years and just assumed Edwin Gray was a civic-minded citizen who was showing his support for his preferred  candidate.  I did not know the space was for rent. 

According to the Tennessean some months ago Charles Robert Bone contracted with Edwin Gray and paid Gray $10,000 to let Bone have his signs on the side of Gray's trucks though the September election. Well, Bill Freeman gets in the race and goes to Gray and agrees to pay him three times what Bone had contracted to pay and persuades Gray to break his contract with Bone. Gray returned Bones money and will now display Freeman signs on his trucks.

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Friday, December 19, 2014

Bob Ries is seeking the Chairmanship of the Davidson County Republican Party.

Bob Ries
Press Release - Bob Ries is seeking the Chairmanship of the Davidson County Republican Party. He is now at a place in his life where he has the time, life experience and desire to contribute to the growth of the Republican Party on the ground level, and thereby attempt to repay the many folks who helped him in his previous bid for US Congress.

Bob is tired of conceding elections to the Democrats in Davidson County. He believes we had too many good Candidates this year for both the Judicial and State Offices to win only one race. He believes he has ideas that can lead to more victories in the future.

Ries thinks divisions within the party, and votes based on single social issues are contributing to the loss of elections. He wants to unify the Davidson County Republican Party under one philosophy: If you believe the State and Federal Governments should follow their respective Constitutions and balance their budgets, as well as believe in the Free Enterprise System and smaller government, you BELONG in the Republican Party.

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