Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Dalai Lama on Happiness, free enterprise, and humanflourishing.

Below, please find a summary, video highlights, and press coverage from yesterday's special AEI event "Happiness, free enterprise, and humanflourishing," featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama, including this piece by David Brooks in The New York Times

The free enterprise system is about more than just money. It provides the greatest means for human happiness.

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"Repeal Common Core" bill will be up for an Education sub-committee vote on Tuesday.

From Stephen Clements, organizer of Caffeinated Conservatives:

Hi everybody,
I got a tip that Rep. Womick's "Repeal Common Core" bill will be up for an Education sub-committee vote on Tuesday. If you're interested in this, please let the committee members know if you want the bill to pass or not. See, if you attended our December meeting, you already personally know one of the committee members, Rep. Harold Love, Jr, and that can't hurt when you let him know what you want.

Stephen Clements
Caffeinated Conservatives

REPEAL COMMON CORE Bill goes through the House Education Subcommittee Tuesday, Feb. 25th! Time for you to make your voice heard. This bill MUST PASS the Subcommittee first in order for the full assembly to hear it.
House Bill #2332 sponsored by Rep. Womick
Harry Brooks 615-741-6879
John DeBerry 615-741-2239
John Forgety 615-741-1725
Roger Kane 615-741-4110
Harold Love 615-741-3831
Debra Moody 615-741-3774
Joe Pitts 615-741-4575
Dawn White 615-741-6849


For the record, I am in favor of Common Core. I am pleased that the state has passed legislation to protect the privacy of students, which was my major concern. Much of the information alleging objectionable common core curriculum as well as some other things alleged about common core is simply not true. Please learn about Common Core before jumping on the anti bandwagon. RW

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FCC backs off newsroom survey plan

FCC backs off newsroom survey plan

There will be no newsroom police for now. 

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The MoveOn orchestrated campaign to pressure TN to expand medicare and those phony lettes to the editor.

Do you read those letters in the Tennessean urging the Governor to accept Medicare expansion and think they are organic and homegrown?  Maybe some of them are but more than likely they are part of an orchestrated campaign. Also, those calls legislators are getting are part of an orchestrated campaign. The following is from MoveON:

Dear Tennessee MoveOn member,
Lawmakers in 23 states—including Tennessee—are blocking more than 5 million people from access to healthcare. That's why on Wednesday, MoveOn members across the country made more than 6,500 calls encouraging state politicians to work to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
These personal calls are powerful. Here are a couple sample comments members shared: 
I called Gov. Nikki Haley's office and asked if she would please accept Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act...I told her that my story is personal. That I have a daughter that is not working and can't afford insurance coverage. We do all that we can to pay her student loan debt and cost of the insurance is so expensive we can't afford it.—Shirley J., Loris, SC
I asked that the governor please take the money, if not so many will die because of his politics...I am a union man along with my father and two brothers. I guaranteed him four votes that he will not get if he continues to refuse the money.—Richard, Pittsburgh, PA
We can't stop now. Can you help keep the momentum going and growing? 
Take the next step now and write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper calling on Tennessee's leaders to expand Medicaid.
We're definitely being noticed already, and now's our chance to build on the momentum.
Winning a fight like this starts with making sure public opinion is on our side. Politicians often look to the letters to the editor section of their local newspapers to get a sense of how people feel about an issue. Their staff clip, categorize, and archive them regularly for them to read. 
Will you take the next step and write a letter to the editor?
We've suggested talking points to help you craft your letter, and a list of newspapers in your region—and we'll automatically deliver your letter to the papers you select. We've also provided the phone numbers of the newspapers, so that you can make follow-up calls to ask if your letter will be published—which shows that you really care, and increases the chance that your letter will be chosen. 
Each letter we submit increases the likelihood of publication, and lets newspaper editors know that Medicaid expansion is an important issue for their readers, which could lead to more and better coverage.
Click here to write and submit a letter to the editor of your local newspaper calling on leaders in Tennessee to expand Medicaid. [link disable RW]
Conservative opposition to Medicaid expansion shows just how far Republicans will go to oppose Obamacare, and it's working people who are suffering for it. For most voters, it's a step too far. Medicaid expansion has the potential to save lives. Until Tennessee politicians stop opposing it, we have an obligation to expose just how dangerous and misinformed conservative attacks on Obamacare have become.
These calls and letters to the editor are building the pressure we need to win. All around the country, MoveOn members are organizing to expand access to health care through Medicaid in their states. 
Let's keep the pressure up—submit your letter to the editor today. [link disabled. RW]
Thanks for all you do.
Victoria, Stefanie, Alejandro, Kyle, and the rest of the team

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Victoria Jackson's claim about explicit sex ed book, not true.

Victoria Jackson
As a political blogger, I try to be careful about what I post. If I read something that appears true, I usually try to find the same thing reported in another legitimate source before I repost it and I try to follow links back to the original source to see if something came from a credible source. Often something can be found a dozen or hundreds of times on the Internet, but that does not make the item credible.  The Internet has a really big echo chamber. The downside of being cautious about what I report is that I may not always report the most current information and I may miss something important.  However, I would prefer to era on the side of caution. The truth is that there is a lot of false information that floats around the Internet and I do not want to contribute to that.

A few days ago I saw the post from former Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson exposing a
book supposedly used in the a 4th grade class in Williamson County.  The name of the book was, "It's Perfectly Normal." The book teaches that masturbation and homosexuality are perfectly normal. Accompanying Jackson's commentary about how awful the book was and that it should not be used in the class room and that that was an example of the reasons she was running for political office, there were several pictures of cartoons from the book which show genitalia.

The report was so specific that I had no reason not to believe it.  I almost reposted and commented but for some reason I didn't. My instinct told me to be cautious and wait. I am glad I did. Not many conservative bloggers were cautions.  This story went viral. It was repeated over and over again on blogs from bloggers all over the country. Victoria Jackson has since removed the post from her blog but the story is still all over the Internet. The story was not true. That book is not being used in a classroom in Williamson County, it is not on any state-approved reading list, and it is not in any Williamson County School library. (link) Nevertheless, this is probably one of those stories that people will repeat and repost and repeat. The truth will never catch up to the lie.

Victoria Jackson who is running for a seat on the Williamson County Commission says a retired 4th grade teacher showed her the book and said it was being used in the classroom.   Jackson should have got her facts straight before she posted the story.  She should have went to the school where the book was supposedly being used and confirmed if it was in fact being used. She should have went to the School Board administration and asked about it. She should have checked to see if it was in a school library or on a state-approved textbook list. She did not. Her reckless reporting of this, may be reason enough not to vote for her for a seat on the County Commission.

I don't know who first said them but here are a couple quotes that come to mind relevant to this story:  "Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear." "A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."   

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Friday, February 21, 2014

TN Promise: looks like a good higher ed policy proposal

From TN Edu-Independent Posted: 21 Feb 2014:
Recently, Gov. Haslam proposed TN Promise, which offers free tuition to community colleges and the state's tech centers. Lottery reserve dollars will be used to create an endowment to pay future ongoing expenses.  There was some criticism in that to pay for the program, the policy proposes to lessen the support for 4 year colleges from $4,000 per year to $3,000 for freshman and sophomores but increases the amount for juniors and seniors from $4,000 to $5,000 per year.

I think it's a good policy for reasons I explain below.

1. TN is still in a bad place when it comes to postsecondary completions.  Compared to other states, we still have comparatively low outcomes, for comparatively much higher costs. When we think of the Return on Investment implications in spending state money for higher ed (subsidy support for higher ed institutions, HOPE scholarships), it's not good.

This data comes from the Chronicle of Higher ed College Completion data project.

For TN public 4 years, only 45.5% graduate in 6 years (less than half) and only 19.7% graduate in 4 years. The chart below that shows that TN is much higher in educational spending per completion than many other states:
For TN public 2 years, it's much worse. Only 11.3% graduate in 3 years, and only 8.0% graduate in 2 years. The chart again shows that TN is much higher in educational spending per completion for 2 years than many other states:

By providing tuition support, the TN Promise Initiative will help move the needle on the really subpar 2 year college graduation rates, and will likely improve the Return on Investment of state dollars being spent on 2 year public colleges.

For 4 years as well, shifting greater support to junior and senior years incents more completion at the 4 year level. Ultimately, this will help improve the 4 year grad rates, which also need significant improvement.

Providing marginally less support in the freshman and sophomore years - $1000 each year, doesn't seem like it would be the make or break reason students leave during these years.  Financial pressures are present every year for a student at a 4 year program, but I think it makes a lot of sense to put greater incentives in later years - years 3 and 4 (the scholarship amount increase) - than the beginning years when students may drop out for primarily non-financial reasons. 

2.  The policy proposal that will bring more equity to how TN Lottery Dollars are allocated.  As I've previously pointed out in this post, TN Lottery dollars derive the majority of their revenues from poor Tennesseans (who are more likely to play the lottery), but then the majority of dollars are allocated to families that already have the means (via HOPE scholarships), or close to the means to cover public higher education tuition. 

By providing greater support for 2 year students out of reserve lottery funds (which tend to be lower-income), this seems more equitable for how HOPE scholarship dollars are put to use.  I actually think there is some strong underlying morality in this policy proposal, something that we don't see every day from public officials.

3.  Tuition out of pocket costs for students may slow.
This was one of the Governor's talking points, and seems realistic.  A number of students can complete 2 year associate's degrees, and then transfer to a TBR or UT System 4 year school to complete a 4 year degree.

Getting the first two years paid for can be a big financial help to students, dramatically cutting the total cost of a postsecondary degree.  It's a page out of the Zach Bissonette playbook.

One potential side effect this policy proposal is that if demand for the 4 year colleges declines, enrolling less students each year because students are going to 2 years, 4 year universities may feel inclined to raise tuition prices at an even further rate than they would otherwise. Yet, I don't think this is too concerning, because there is already lots of consternation out there with student loan debt and tuition hikes - there's a limit to what people are willing to pay, and subsequently, what universities can charge.

4. Lottery dollars just sitting in a reserve account aren't helping students. This was state Senator Jim Kyle's main point and he's right.  Put the money to use for Tennessee students.

The TN Promise proposal looks like a good higher ed policy proposal on a number of fronts, putting money to use instead of just sitting around.  Tennessee has a long way to go for improving 2 year and 4 year higher ed graduation rates, and it looks like this is a good policy to help with that.

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This testimony about the IRS scandal should make your blood boil and send a chill down your spine.

This testimony about the IRS scandal should make your blood boil and send a chill down your spine.  In this seven minutes video, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht describs to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee how her life changed after she started the voter integrity group and filed applications for non-profit status with the IRS: Federal government audits followed; business inspections ensued, with thousands of dollars in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the IRS demanded her speaking schedule.

The inquiries covered matters that would be of little use to an analyst for tax purposes, Engelbrecht said, but would be “of interest to a political machine that will put its own survival against the civil liberties of private citizens.”

“As an American citizen, I am part of a country that still believes in freedom of speech,” Engelbrecht said. “No American citizen should be willing to accept a government that uses its power against its own people.”

It almost seems unreal what is happening in America:  The president makes 28 changes, many of them major, to a law, when he has absolutely no authority to write legislation.  The delays to the AFC will benefit his party by delaying the bad consequences to the act. He makes "recess" appointments when congress is not in recess. He engages in massive spying on Americans in violation of the 4th Amendment. He targets an American  for killing in a foreign country who has not been charged with any crime and refused to say he does not have the right to do so in America. He has plans to send "monitors" into Americas news rooms. He seizes all of the phone records of the Associated Press.  And, he turns the IRS and other government agencies into agencies to harass his critics. For the first time, I am feeling like we are living in the days before a coup.  For the first time, I feel "fundamental change" is coming to America.  For the first time I feel it is dangerous to exercise your constitutional rights. What is next? Will we wake up in a police state with President Obama declaring he is dissolving Congress and suspending elections?

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Rep. Sagent: "Let me state unequivocally: I am opposed to Obamacare in any form or fashion."

Rep. Charles Sargent
Thank you for your email. First, let me state unequivocally: I am opposed to Obamacare in any form or fashion. I am a co-sponsor of Representative Jeremy Durham's legislation that was filed last year to ban Medicaid expansion. As the Chairman of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, I am keenly aware of the devastating effect Obamacare will be on our state's finances.
That legislation was filed in early 2012, before the Supreme Court's decision was rendered and before the state knew the outcome of that case, or what ramifications it would have for the state. In essence, it was filed as 'placeholder' legislation, so that whatever happened--either from the federal government or Democrats in the legislature--we were considering the monetary impact and were in control of the bill. As the record shows, as soon as our bill filing deadline passed and none of that came to fruition, I withdrew it from consideration as it was no longer needed.
Tennessee, and several other states, continue to stand up to the federal government and push back against its overreach. I am proud to stand with my Republican colleagues in the legislature to do everything we can to stop the continued federal overreach. We are fortunate to live in a state where the budget is balanced, the taxes are low, and we work toward implementing policies that are business friendly. The federal government should be trying to replicate what we're doing, not dictating failed policies to us.
Again, Rod, thanks for reaching out to me on this. Contact me anytime.
Charles Sargent
State Representative
61st Legislative District
206 War Memorial Building
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-6808

The explanation of his sponsorship of HB2839 sounds reasonable to me. I'm satisfied. Below is the information I asked Rep Sargent about and about which he is responding:

Steve Gawrys, Candidate for the 61st District House Seat, says Rep. Sargent supported Obamacare

Press Release, BRENTWOOD, TN – Today, Steve Gawrys, Candidate for the 61st District House Seat is asking President Obama to learn from Tennessee’s economic successes when he visits here later this week.

“I’m pleased the President has chosen to come to Tennessee,” said Gawrys. “I’m more hopeful that he will learn something from what he finds here about Tennessee’s continuing economic success.”

Recently, Tennessee was named “State of the Year” by Business Facilities Magazine for its growing diverse economic base. Steve Gawrys is part of that business success as an entrepreneur and job creator in Williamson County. “The President has never taken a risk and hired an employee, so he has a lot to learn about growing an economy from Tennesseans,” said Gawrys.

Gawrys continued, “The first thing President Obama needs to learn is that his failed health insurance bill is destroying small businesses across America. One of the reasons I am in this State House race is that my opponent, Charles Sargent, sponsored the bill to establish the ObamaCare State Exchanges in Tennessee.” Gawrys is referring to HB2839 in which his opponent offered the legislation to support ObamaCare in Tennessee.

“Tennessee rejected Obama in the 2012 elections and they overwhelmingly reject his failed health insurance plan. We shouldn’t have Republicans in Tennessee supporting failed policies. I think the voters of District 61 deserve an explanation.”

In the last legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly rejected the establishment of a State-sponsored health exchange. “I would have joined the majority and voted against such a federal overreach,” said Gawrys.

District 61 includes Brentwood, and parts of Cool Springs, Franklin, and unincorporated Williamson County.

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The 2014 World Press Freedom Index drops U. S. 13 places to number 46 of 180

Reporters Without Boarders issued their annual World Press Freedom Index and the U.S. had dropped 13 places, coming in below Western democracies like Great Britain, France and Spain and former Soviet dominated eastern bloc countries like Estonia, Romania, Czech Republic and Poland, and countries that have experienced wars and conflicts like Cyprus and El Salvador, and third world countries like Ghana, Botswana, and Papua New Guinea. We rank one place ahead of Haiti. 

This is what RWB had to say about the U.S.:

Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, far from it. Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.

This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.

US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government. 
To read the report and learn more, follow this link

If this is chilling, it may get much worse. Recent revelations reveal that the Federal Communication Commission has plans to put "monitors" in newsrooms of local TV and radio stations and newspaper newsrooms. They also plan to research media bias and news access and study what determines what kind of stories get covered. There is absolutely no authority for this. It is a abuse of any authority the FCC has but the FCC does have a role to play in licensing TV and radio outlets, but absolutely no role in any way concerning print media.  The thought of  Federal monitors in newsrooms, should send a  shiver down the spine anyone who values  free press.  This must be stopped!  

Our First Amendment rights are under serious attack along with our other rights and the rule of law, and the mainstream media and pop culture sit by complacently and watch the constitution be trampled and our freedoms disappear and seldom do they raise an objection. Next year we may be much further down that list ranking press freedom. We may be down there with the Republic of the Congo, Kuwait, and Kenya.

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Sanity rules. House rejects attempt to broaden guns-in-parking-lots 'fix'

House rejects attempt to broaden guns-in-parking-lots ‘fix’

The House rejected Thursday an attempt to prohibit companies from firing employees who hold a handgun carry permit for keeping a gun in a car after House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick contended the proposal was not properly filed.

The move came when McCormick’s bill to make a minor change in the “guns in parking lots law” enacted last year came to the House floor. Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, filed a proposed amendment – backed by the Tennessee Firearms Association – that substantially broadened the Senate-approved bill (SB1701).

McCormick, R-Chattanooga, wanted only to change a provision of current law that says a carry permit holder cannot be criminally prosecuted for having a gun in his or her “privately-owned vehicle,” even if on property where guns are prohibited. The wording means that if the carry permit holder is driving a rental car or someone else’s car – that of a relative or friend, for example – the protection would not apply. McCormick’s bill changes the wording to cover any vehicle in the permit holder’s legal possession.

Pody sought to put a separate bill he has filed, HB1667, onto McCormick’s bill as an amendment. His proposals says a person cannot be fired for any legal possession of any item kept in a vehicle. (link)
My Comment: While a lot of really bad bills get introduced, not many of them pass and those that do are usually watered down such that they hardly resembled what they started out as and by the time they pass are often harmless. A bill a couple years ago started out as something that would have criminalized practicing Islam. By the time it passed it made it illegal to materially support terrorism, a far cry from making it illegal to practice Sharia.  The guns is trunks bill is basically harmless, not the private property trampling bill the advocates originally wanted. The system works pretty good. 

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CBO says bill to raise minimum wage will cost 1 million jobs. Alexander's comment.

Washington, D.C., Feb. 18 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate labor committee, today released the following statement on the Congressional Budget Office report finding that the Democrats’ bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour with annual increases for inflation could cost as many as 1 million jobs:

This CBO report reiterates a fundamental principle of our free-market economy: increasing the minimum wage eliminates jobs, cuts off the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and reduces opportunity. Instead of minimum wages, the goal should be higher family incomes. To do that, we should liberate the free enterprise system from Obama regulations and make it easier to create jobs, provide more job training, and offer more choices of good schools to children of low-income parents.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Common Core, mass transit fundng, the Gulch sidewalk bridge and more. Council meeting of 2-18-14 w/ commentary and timestamp.

This is a 2 hour and 20 minute-long meeting. I thought this would be a short, boring meeting but I was wrong; it is a more interesting meeting than most. Speaker Pro Temp Chris Harmon serves as Chair of this meeting in the absence of the Vice Mayor. To follow the meeting and see the agenda and the analysis, follow this link.

All appointments to Board and Commission are approved without discussion.

Consent Agenda.
A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. The Consent Agenda also includes memorializing Resolution. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda but it doesn't happen often. Almost all of the resolutions on the agenda this time are accepting grants. Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law but express the will of the Council. None of the resolutions still on the Consent Agenda at the time of the Council meeting are pulled so everything passes unanimously.

Resolutions not on the Consent Agenda.

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 is substituted to remove the money for other things except the money for the training and software for Common Core testing, reducing the bill from $13.1 million to $4.3 million. Last Council meeting the Council approved issuing bonds for funding the purchase of computers. Councilman Maynard, rightly I think, makes the point that this is premature and should wait until budget time and until after a meeting that the Council Budget and Finance Committee will have with the School Board Finance Committee. As substituted, the resolution is deferred to the second meeting in March by a vote of 29 to 6. To view the debate see time stamp 11:43-28:47.
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-988 and Resolution RS2014-989 and BILL NO. BL2014-689 are all bills which are part of another one of those deals to provide incentives to businesses to locate or expand in Nashville. These bills transfers money from one fund to another and then appropriates money and tax incentives to subsidize HCA for a development on the north end of the gulch. The total amount of the subsidy is $4.9 million. Usually Councilman Josh Stites takes to the floor and is the lone voice against this type deal but does not do so on this bill and it passes without opposition. I hope Stites had not given up the fight. I am conflicted about this type deal myself. On the one hand, I do not think we should do it, on the other hand as long as other cities are doing it, we lose if we don't. See 28:54-35:05 to see the explanation of this deal. 
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-984 requests the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to provide a dedicated funding source for local mass transit. The mayor has come out against this resolution saying it is unnecessary. it is deferred at the request of the sponsor to the second meeting in May. 
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1001 endorses Common Core and opposed all state action that would discontinue the use of the standards or delay the implementation. I support Common Core and if I were in the Council, I would have no problem supporting this resolution. However, many conservatives, especially the more tea party aligned conservatives, have objections to Common Core. Also, for reasons other than those of tea party conservatives, some educators also oppose Common Core. After some lively discussion the motion passes 25 to 9. Those voting "no" are Bennett, Standley, Tenpenny, Moore, Blalock, Dominy, Duval and Mitchel. See time stamp 38:06-51:36.

All bills on First Reading pass without discussion by a single vote, as is customary.

Bills on Second Reading
  • Bills 665 and 666 which address establishing a dedicated source of funding for mass transit are deferred until the second meeting in May. The sponsor, Councilman Tygard, takes to the floor and explains his bills. "Mass transit is not free," says Tygard, "Somebody has to pay for it." Councilman Stein argues against the bill and moves to table it. The tabling motion fails. Great presentation by Tygard! He explains how other cities have funded mass transit and the financial choices facing the city. To understand the logic of these bills, watch the presentation. See timestamp 53:15- 1:22:54
  •  BILL NO. BL2014-670 authorized the acquisition of property for the Gulch Pedestrian Bridge. The Council pleasantly surprised me by rejecting this bill. The Council finally says "no" to a major new spending project. They vote 30-2 to defer indefinitely. This is a great turn of events. It is not that I do not think a pedestrian bridge connecting SoBro to the gulch would not be a nice thing but we can't afford every nice thing. After the debt of the Music City Center, the Sulphur Dell Ball Park, the east riverbank development, the planned west bank riverfront expansion and amphitheater, and the proposed AMP, the city is pushing its debt capacity. We are even borrowing money to buy laptop computers. At the same time, we are facing a budget shortfall next year and we are ignoring other needs such as new sidewalks in neighborhoods and roadway improvements. Councilman Clairborn does a great job arguing against the bill as does Robert Duval and Tygard. Please watch it. To see the debate see timestamps 1:24:30- 1:54:16.

Bills on Third Reading are almost all zoning bill and would interest no one except those near the property being rezoned.

Below are local media reports on the Council meeting.

From the Nashville SceneCouncil Burns a Bridge in the Gulch, Advances HCA Incentives 

From The Tennessean Council slows mayor's progress on Gulch-SoBro pedestrian bridge

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The wine in the grocery store bill passed the House today....

.... but I am not popping any champagne corks.

I am very disappointing by several things in this bill but mostly that it imposes price controls and requires a mandatory 20% markup over wholesaler's price.  Could not Republicans do better than this? Why elect Republicans if this is the best we can get.

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Who knew the Dalai Lama was a conservative?

Wow! The Dalai Lama is a conservative! I know spiritual-type  Hollywood liberals and dope-smoking old hippies love him, but the Dalai Lama is apparently a strong advocate of free enterprise.  This is from American Enterprise Institute, a very influential and highly respected conservative think tank.

Recent years have made clear that the free enterprise system is under immense strain. But the answer is not simply to double down on budgetary arguments, tout low-tax solutions, and explain economic basics. We must stop considering free enterprise purely in terms of economic gain and wealth creation and begin considering it in terms of human fulfillment. In working with his Holiness the Dalai Lama, AEI seeks to create an open forum among scholars, social and political leaders, doctors, and scientists to discuss the ways in which material prosperity, spiritual development, and ethical leadership can maximize human flourishing.

Far from a talk, we look forward to a conversation with His Holiness about how the free enterprise system can offer the best path toward happiness when predicated on ethical leadership, morality, and compassion for others.

Panel discussion: Economics, happiness, and the search for a better life
PANEL I | 9:00 a.m.–10:15 a.m.
Moral free enterprise: Economic perspectives in business and politics
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Arthur C. Brooks, AEI
Jon Haidt, New York University
Glenn Hubbard, Columbia University
Daniel S. Loeb, Third Point LLC

PANEL II | 10:30 a.m.–noon
Cosponsored by the Mind & Life Institute
Unlocking the mind and human happiness
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin
Otto Scharmer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Diana Chapman Walsh, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Arthur Zajonc, Mind & Life Institute 
Unfortunately these forum were live streamed only, but maybe we will hear more from the Dalai Lama.  Maybe he will win a few converts to the side of the political divide that values liberty and human potential.  Maybe some people who have always assumed all of the cool people were socialist will open their mind.


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President Haslam?

From Politico:

..... New Jersey Republican Chris Christie, who presumably is still planning to run if he can withstand the bridge scandal—a big if. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is pining for another candidacy, perhaps having remembered the third thing he wanted to tell us in that famous 2012 debate. Other Republican governors might also be tempted by the wide-open GOP field, including Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Bill Haslam of Tennessee and John Kasich of Ohio. Jindal is term-limited and out of office in 2015. Walker, Haslam and Kasich have to get reelected in 2014, and all are favored in varying degrees to do so.
Also of interest, Governor Haslam has been named policy chairman of the Republican Governors Public Policy Committee.

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Adam Dread to run on the Republican ballot for May 2014 local judicial primary

Adam Dread Press Release, Nashville, TN - As a candidate for General Sessions Judge Division IX, it has always been my belief that judicial races should be non-partisan, as you are running to be an “impartial” judge.  I have always supported the person that I thought would serve Nashville best without regard to party affiliation.  General Sessions Judge races have been traditionally determined on the Democratic ballot and I chose that path.
Within a day of the filing deadline, we learned that one member of the Davidson County Democratic County Executive Committee was questioning my credentials and leading the challenge to remove me from the ballot.  If successful, they could have my name removed from the ballot after the filing deadline on February 20th. This would take away the right of Nashvillians to vote for a candidate who appointed a Treasurer on August 14, 2013 and qualified for the upcoming May local election on January 7, 2014.
It is not in our best interest to spend our time and resources on what should not be an issue in a judicial race. Further, this could also end up in litigation and we don’t want to divert any of our attention from being a candidate for General Sessions Judge Division IX.
After discussion with my advisors and close supporters, we have decided to avoid this distraction, stay focused, and run for the same seat but on the Republican ticket. I am honored that my core team is remaining on board. This transition will give the opportunity for all Nashvillians, Republican and Democrat, to vote for whomever they choose in the August General election for  General Sessions Judge Division IX. As always, we would greatly appreciate your support and your vote.

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hamilton County's newest charter school finds early success — here's why

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014, Times Free Press, by Kevin Hardy - Three years ago, Marcia Griffin went door to door in the inner city, meeting with dozens of parents to pitch her idea for a new charter school in Chattanooga. She quibbled with the Hamilton County Board of Education for approval and finally opened her elementary school in the Eastgate Town Center, between a call center and a nightclub.

Now, the Chattanooga Charter School of Excellence has a waiting list. After only a couple of years, its test scores are starting to rival those of the public school system. And the school is looking to expand with the addition of a new middle school campus, either at Eastgate or another location. (link)
It is time that those who are tired of accepting that poor kids can't learn, demand that Boards of Education and teachers unions get out of the way and let innovation and competition show that all kids can learn.  It has already been shown.  There are examples of  charter schools working miracles where regular public schools failed. We need to get bureaucrats and special interest and radical egalitarians who prefer equal failure to unequal excellence, out of the way and embrace charter schools and magnet schools and education scholarships.  While we are at it, we should allow for-profit charter schools also. "Profit" is not a dirty word. What works can be duplicated and institutionalized with a business model driven by profit. If each charter is managed as an isolated independent non-profit then lessons must be leaned over and over and it is more difficult to duplicate what works.

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The unauthorized delays, changes, and repeals of Obamacare

President Obama has made changes to the Affordable Care Act without legislative authority numerous times. This graphic shows some of those illegal actions.

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Relligious Freedom for wedding vendors bill withdrawn

Homosexuals and their friends, who want to force wedding cake bakers, photographers, caterers, florist and other wedding vendors who find homosexual "marriage" morally repugnant to provide services to homosexual weddings against their will, turned out in force and effectively lobbied the State legislature and the bill which would  have allowed wedding vendors, with a deeply held religion objection, to decline to provide their services to homosexual weddings was withdrawn.

Oh well, if I was forced to bake a cake against my will you wouldn't want to eat the cake. I am sure there will be no shortage of people who either do not object to homosexual marriage or want the business and that there will not be a shortage of wedding vendors for homosexual weddings.  Why the homosexual community wanted to deny wedding vendors with a moral objection to homosexual "marriage" the right to practice their faith, I don't really understand.  I doubt this will be a big problem however.  Suppose two guys are getting married and they call a photographer to photograph the glorious event and the photographer says, "I will photograph your wedding if required to do so, but I find homosexual marriage morally repugnant and would prefer not to do so." I doubt the happy couple are going to want him as their photographer anyway. However, their have been cases where people have been sued for refusing to provide services to homosexual weddings, so I guess it does happen.  I wouldn't want to force anyone to serve me in that way who didn't want to myself, but I guess forcing others to accept your lifestyle as normal is part of the agenda.

Feb. 19, 2014, The Tennessean - A Tennessee lawmaker dropped a bill that would have let wedding vendors turn away same-sex couples after activists in Nashville and beyond waged an intense, weeklong campaign against the measure.

State Sen. Mike Bell announced at a hearing late Tuesday that he would delay consideration of Senate Bill 2566 until at least next year, saying that there was no need for the measure immediately. The bill would have let cake makers, photographers and other vendors refuse to work on same-sex ceremonies, even if courts strike down the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Several dozen gay rights activists turned out — many in red — to show their opposition to the bill, the culmination of a short yet heated effort to stop the legislation. Bell referenced that effort, saying he had heard from Tennessseans “from Johnson City to Memphis,” for and against the measure, since taking over sponsorship of the bill just five days ago.(link)

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Council says "No" to $17 million pedestrian gulch bridge

In a move that surprised me, the Council finally said "no" to a major new spending project. Last night the Council, after lengthy debate, voted 30-2 to defer indefinitely the bill to acquire land for a $17 million pedestrian bridge over the railroads to the developments in the gulch.  This is a great turn of events. It is not that I do not think a pedestrian bridge connecting SoBro to the gulch would not be a nice thing but we can't afford every nice thing. After the debt of the Music City Center, the Sulphur Dell Ball Park, the east riverbank development, the planned west bank riverfront expansion and amphitheater, and the proposed AMP, the city is pushing its debt capacity. We are even borrowing money to buy laptop computers. At the same time, we are facing a budget shortfall next year and we are ignoring other needs such as new sidewalks in neighborhoods and roadway improvements. I don't know what happened to cause the Council to finally say "no" to a spending proposal from the Mayor, but I am pleased they did.

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Liberty on the Rocks, Thursday February 20th. Let me buy you a beer.

Thursday, February 20, 2014, 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM.

 Mafiaoza's 2400 12th Ave S, Nashville, TN.
Ask the hostess to direct you to the Liberty on the Rocks section.  LOR is a great place to meet other people, have a beer and some great food. LOR promotes thoughtful and rational discussion on a wide range of topics.

Tell me you saw this invitation on my blog and I will buy your first drink.  Ask for Rod Williams. This applies to new attendees or people who have not attended in a long time, not regular attendees.

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Business owner's right to religious freedom bill needs your support. Now!

Urgent message from Gene Wisdom
My fellow TN Conservatives:
Testimony on this bill (link to text below) is being heard today by the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee and protects the right of people/businesses with religious objections to not be required to provide services (e.g., flowers, cakes, photography) to same-sex weddings.  I know some of you who are more libertarian here support same-sex marriage but on this issue of property rights and religious liberty I think you would agree people should be free to provide or not provide such services without fear of lawsuits.  The legislation denies a cause of civil action of anyone seeking to sue such providers for refusing to provide them. 
Please call your own Senator and urge them to support this bill.  Also, please call the members of the Judiciary Committee (at least the Republicans) and urge them to support this bill.  I called the Republicans a few minutes ago and three of the seven told me they had received HUNDREDS of calls against it and that I was the FIRST to call in support.  They NEED to hear from us.  PLEASE call as soon as possible. 
Committee Republicans:
--Kelsey:              741-3036
--Overbey:          741-0981
--Campfield:       741-1766
--Bell:                    741-1946
--Gardenhire:    741-6682
--Green:              741-2374
--Stevens:           741-4576
For the text of the bill:
Gene Wisdom

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Corker changed his vote and voted to end the Curz debt limit fillibuster; Alexander did not.

A few days ago I posted on the Senate drama of the cloture vote to end the filibuster and vote on the debt ceiling. At the time I had said that five Republican Senators had joined the Democrats to reach the 60 vote threshold necessary to cut off debate. That original post is at this link.

Initially only the five Senators I listed in my post voted for cloture.  However, after reaching the 60 vote threshold, seven Republicans who had originally voted against cloture changed their vote and voted for it, making the total vote for cloture 67-31.

These are the Republicans who ended up supporting the cloture motion: Barrasso (R-WY),   Collins (R-ME),   Corker (R-TN),   Cornyn (R-TX),   Flake (R-AZ),   Hatch (R-UT),   Johanns (R-NE),   Kirk (R-IL),   McCain (R-AZ),   McConnell (R-KY),   Murkowski (R-AK),  and Thune (R-SD).

Please note that Senator Corker was one of those who changed his vote and ended up voting for cloture; Lamar Alexander was not.

To see the official Senate  roll call tally on the motion, follow this link.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

The ACU 2013 RATINGS OF THE TENNESSEE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Who are the "Defenders of Liberty" and who are the "true liberals."

The American Conservative Union is  the oldest and most prestigious American conservative organization. It was founded in December 1964 by author and commentator William F Buckley. By 1974, ACU had roughly 70,000 members and it has continued to grow. The ACU is the organization that produces the three-day annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which features the politicians, academics, authors and grass roots activist who make up the conservative movement. It is hard to underestimate the influence of this organization.

One of the things the ACU does and has almost since its founding is rate the members of Congress based on how they vote on a selected set of crucial issues. While many organizations rate members of Congress, the ACU is considered the gold standard of voter education guides.

In 2011, the American Conservative Union launched a new initiative to bring its annual Ratings of Congress  to the state level, issuing inaugural ratings of state legislators in five battleground states.  In 2012, ACU graded state legislators in 15 critical states and in 2013, they expanded their ratings to 20 states, including Tennessee.

Below is the ACU's rating of our State Legislature:

Defenders of Liberty
ACU Defenders of Liberty are those members of the Tennessee General Assembly who scored 100 percent on the ACU 2013 State Legislative Ratings.

Senate recipients: Joey Hensley and Jim Tracy.

House recipients: Sheila Butt, Joe Carr, Mike Carter, Barry Doss, Tilman Goins, Curtis Halford, Steve Hall, Matthew Hill, Timothy Hill, Andy Holt, Mary Littleton, Ron Lollar, Debra Moody, Dennis Powers, Barrett Rich, Mike Sparks, Billy Spivey, James Van Huss, and Ryan Williams.
ACU Conservative” award
This award is given to those members who scored 80 percent or higher.
Senate: Mae Beavers, Mike Bell, Janice Bowling, Stacey Campfield, Rusty Crowe, Steven Dickerson, Todd Gardenhire, Mark Green, Dolores Gresham, Ferrell Haile, Jack Johnson, Brian Kelsey, Bill Ketron, Becky Duncan Massey, Randy McNally, Frank Niceley, Mark Norris, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, Steve Southerland, John Stevens, Bo Watson, and Ken Yager.
House: David Alexander, Harry Brooks, Kevin Brooks, Kent Calfee, Glen Casada, Jim Coley, Vance Dennis, Bill Dunn, Jeremy Durham, Jimmy Eldridge, Joshua Evans, Jeremy Faison, Richard Floyd, John Forgety, Michael Harrison, Speaker Beth Harwell, David Hawk, Ryan Haynes, Curtis Johnson, Roger Kane, William Lamberth, Jon Lundberg, Susan Lynn, Pat Marsh, Judd Matheny, Jimmy Matlock, Gerald McCormick, Steve McDaniel, Steve McManus, Mark Pody, John Ragan, Courtney Rogers, Bill Sanderson, Charles Michael Sargent, Cameron Sexton, Tony Shipley, Art Swann, Curry Todd, Eric Watson, Terri Lynn Weaver, Dawn White, Mark White, Tim Wirgau, and Rich Womick.
True Liberals of the Volunteer State 
The members who scored an atrocious “zero” on the ratings. 
Senate: Jim Kyle 
House: Joe Armstrong, Barbara Cooper, G.A. Hardaway, Darren Jernigan, Larry Miller, Gary Odom, Jason Powell, Mike Stewart, Joe Towns, Johnnie Turner, and Mike Turner. 
To see the legislation on which the rating was based and to learn more about the ratings, follow this link

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When Presidents Upheld the Law

The Foundry, Morning Bell - Today is known as “President’s Day,” a three-day weekend retailers use to lend an air of Founding-era seriousness to their sales. But its legal name is Washington’s birthday—and how appropriate to reflect on a President who took his bearings from the Constitution while serving in office.

George Washington “understood himself to be the President of a Republic in which the people, through their elected representatives in Congress, make laws,” Heritage’s David Azerrad writes. As the chief executive, Washington recognized that his constitutional charge to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” was a duty rather than an optional responsibility to exercise at will. Laws, no matter how unpopular, had to be upheld, so long, of course, as they were constitutional.

Perhaps no law was more despised in Washington’s time than the excise tax on whiskey. It fell especially hard on farmers on the frontier of Pennsylvania, for whom whiskey was the drink of choice and grain the most lucrative crop. Washington saw the farmers’ violent resistance to the tax—the so-called Whiskey Rebellion—as a direct threat to the rule of law.

If “the laws are to be so trampled upon with impunity,” Washington noted, “nothing but anarchy and confusion is to be expected hereafter.” The President’s response was therefore swift and forceful: He personally led more than 12,000 troops to western Pennsylvania and quashed the rebellion.

What a contrast to President Barack Obama’s “I can do whatever I want” attitude toward the rule of law. In light of Washington’s constitutional leadership, Obama’s dereliction of duty when it comes to enforcing Obamacare—today’s most unpopular law and the President’s namesake—is especially clear. The President has unilaterally made changes to the law that was passed by Congress.

Other examples of the President’s selective enforcement of laws duly passed by Congress abound. Among those cited by legal experts Elizabeth Slattery and Andrew Kloster:
  • Abdicating the Administration’s duty to defend and enforce federal laws.
  • Gutting the work requirement from welfare reform.
  • Implementing the DREAM Act granting amnesty to some illegal immigrants by executive fiat.

“We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need,” Obama announced last month.

It is inconceivable that such words would have ever come out of President Washington’s mouth. The current occupant of the White House may want to take some time today to read up on how our first and greatest President understood his role.

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