Saturday, September 13, 2014

Senator Corker: I think it's incredibly poor judgment by the administration...not to seek aggressively and explicitly an authorization for the use of military force.

Bob Corker
Senator Bob Corker who is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement following President Obama’s address to the nation regarding the U.S. strategy against the terrorist organization the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS):
While much of the wording in the president’s speech was good, the substance of how we accomplish what he laid out is what matters. I believe the president is exercising poor judgment by not explicitly seeking an authorization from Congress where consensus can be reached around a substantive plan of action and support can be built for an operation that he has described will take several years.
I agree with Senator Corker. I basically liked what President Obama had to say. I wish he would have had a little more fire in the belly.  I liked VP Biden's "Gates of Hell" speech better.  I wish Obama would have said we are at war with ISIS and those who share the philosophy of radical Islam.  I did not like that he said ISIS was neither Islamic or a state.  ISIS may be a perversion of Islam, but obviously it is Islamic. While most of the worlds 1.6 million Muslims do not advocate a violent take over of the world and killing apostates and imposing Sharia law, a significant minority do.  Saying ISIS is not Islamic is on the same par as are those who claim Islam is not even a religion.

So, while I quibble with some of Obama's delivery and wording, I don't basically disagree with what he had to say.  I just wish I could believe him.  Remember the redline?  Also, a couple days before his speech he said we had no strategy. Even if that is true, why would he say it?  That does not inspire confidence. And, he refuses to use the word "war," but at least he has overcome his reluctance to use the word "terrorism." Obama is just not a believable leader. He appears detached, weak, unreliable, and indecisive.  He is not someone you would want to follow into battle.  I don't think he can rally allies or the American people.

Will his plan work?  I don't know. What should we do. I don't know that either?  I have read a lot about the situation since the speech and have watched numerous talk shows, shows with shouting, interrupting loud mouths and shows on CSPAN with academics from think tanks, and I don't think anyone knows what we should do. Any coalition of opponents of ISIS contains elements that might be as bad as ISIS if they had the chance. Some of those who want to defeat ISIS are loyal to Iran. I wonder if there are any "good guys" in that conflict. It looks like the best bet is to support the Free Syrian Army, but they contain elements that are radical.  If they are defeated, any armament we give them would fall into the hands of ISIS or some other radical group.

I agree with those who are war weary and do not want to see large number of boots on the ground. On the other hand, I disagree with those isolationist of the left and the right who say we should withdraw and mind our own affairs.  This is our war.  ISIS has said they are at war with us.  We have been fortunate that we have not had another major terrorist attack since 9-11 but if we give the radicals Islamist a safe haven to plan and launch their next attack we may be hit even harder next time.  Also, if the radical Islamist are not defeated their movement may grow and other countries may fall victim to the same ideology, if not a group flying the ISIS flag. We cannot withdraw to fortress America. If we do go in and defeat ISIS however, then what? Are we going to hang around and nation-build for the next 20 years? And if we do not, will another conflict break out with a new radical Islamic group threatening to take over as  soon as we leave? I don't know, but I don't think anyone knows.

I do agree with those who have said we pulled out of Iraq too early and who say we should have left a much larger residual force in Iraq. I also agree with those who say we should never have invaded Iraq in the first place. Both of those things did happen however, and now we must move forward and deal with the situation at hand.  There are those who want a much larger commitment of troops now. I am not with them.  I say, let us see if this measured approach proposed by Obama works.  Maybe it will or maybe he will keep the lid on and kick the can down the road until the next President can deal with it.  Maybe, his plan will not be working and he will gradually increase advisors and trainers and intelligence officers until we are again drawn into a situation like Iraq was before we began withdrawing. I am not convinced this is the right strategy, but I don't see any alternative I like any better.

So, given the Presidents plan is the only plan on the table, does he need Congressional authority to act. Technically, probably not. I know there are some who believe the President does not have the authority to commit troops without a declaration of war. I don't think history bears that out. We fought the American Indian wars, the Barbary pirates and numerous conflicts since without a declaration of war. Since the founding of our nation we have had over 100 military conflicts and only five declarations of war. However, in many conflicts we have had Congressional authority to commit forces. As Commander in Chief, the President can commit troops without a declaration of war. The War Powers Act of 1973  requires the President to notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war. If that is not given, then the President has 30 days to withdraw the troops.

President Obama has said he will not request Congressional authority. He claims he already has it  based on the thirteen-year-old 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force act as authority for the military action. That act was to allow President George W. Bush to go after Al Qaeda and the Taliban who provided a safe haven for Al Qaeda. The act was written in broad language  to allow the executive branch to go after anyone associated with the 9/11 attack. That act was not only used to justify going to war in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime, but also to attack Al Qaeda and “associated groups” in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen.  On the basis that ISIS is group that was formerly part of Al Qaeda, the President says that gives him the authority he needs. This is ironic.  President Obama has been critical of that 2001 AUAF act and as late as last year said he wanted the act repealed.

So, while the President does not necessarily require a new congressional authority, I think he would be wise to seek it. I guess mindful of the next election, he wants to avoid putting Democrat Senators on the line. Already having to defend Obamacare, their reelection may be more difficult if they have to defend an authorization of military force in Syria.  I don't think either Republican or Democrats want to have to take a stand. Voting for or against a Presidential request for authority to commit forces could hurt the election chances of incumbent Republicans or Democrats. It could cut both ways.  However, I think it is the right thing to do. I want a debate and I want members of Congress to take a stand. There needs to be some American buy-in to this course of action and the way we show that in our Representative democracy is for the Congress to speak. Before America commits forces, Congress should vote on it.

Senator Corker told CBS news on Thursday the President should request Congressional authority to use forces. "Triple underline -- I think it's incredibly poor judgment by the administration...not to seek aggressively and explicitly an authorization for the use of military force," in Iraq and Syria, he said. "Things are going to go wrong, let's face it. I mean, any time there's kinetic activity, problems occur. And I just think the administration would be so much wiser to get that authorization and buy-in from Congress on the front end, instead of having, over time, 535 Monday-morning quarterbacks."

I think Corker is exactly right. There is a lot of criticism now of the presidents plan. There are some who think we ought to do much more and some who think we should do nothing.  This engagement in a new war should not be up to the discretion of one man.  President Obama should ask for authority and Congress needs to debate the issue and either give the President the authority he ask for or not give him the authority and take the blame for doing nothing.

For more information and source of quotes, follow this link, and this link.
Follow this link to view Vice President Joe Biden's Gates of Hell speech.
Follow this link to view President Obama's speech to the Nation regarding ISIS.
Follow this link for more on President Obama's use of the 2001 AUAF act to justify action in Syria.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Southeast Nashville Conservatives' Breakfast talk amendment 2 and 3, Sept. 20

This is tomorrow morning, Sept. 20th.
Southeast Nashville Conservatives' Breakfast
Saturday, September 20th 
Hosted by Robert Duvall & Pat Carl
Shoney's (Antioch)
Bell Road @ Cane Ridge Road, (I-24E, Bell Road Exit)
Breakfast/Social:  8:30 - 9:00 am; Speakers:  9:00 am - 10:30 am

(Please note we have expanded this meeting by 30 minutes due to having a jammed-packed program you will not want to miss!  Please also consider arriving a few minutes earlier than usual.  And, you might want to bring a copy of this breakfast notice with you for reference to the Amendments)
State Senator Brian Kelsey
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 3
(for the November 4th ballot)
"Shall Article II, Section 28 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by adding the following sentence at the end of the final substantive paragraph within the section: Notwithstanding the authority to tax privileges or any other authority set forth in this Constitution, the Legislature shall not levy, authorize or otherwise permit any state or local tax upon payroll or earned personal income or any state or local tax measured by payroll or earned personal income; however, nothing contained herein shall be construed as prohibiting any tax in effect on January 1, 2011, or adjustment of the rate of such tax."
Lee Barfield "Vote YES on 2"
Dr. John A. Emison "Vote NO on 2"
Proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2
(for the November 4th ballot)
"Shall Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution of Tennessee be amended by deleting the first and second sentences and by substituting instead the following:  Judges of the Supreme Court or any intermediate appellate court shall be appointed for a full term or to fill a vacancy by and at the discretion of the governor; shall be confirmed by the Legislature; and thereafter, shall be elected in a retention election by the qualified voters of the state.  Confirmation by default occurs if the Legislature fails to reject an appointee within sixty calendar days of either the date of appointment, if made during the annual legislative session, or the convening date of the next annual legislative session, if made out of session.  The Legislature is authorized to prescribe such provisions as may be necessary to carry out Sections two and three of this article."

There will be Q&A after each Constitutional Amendment Presentation

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Caffinated Conservatives host a "Vote No on Amendment 2" presentation, Sat. Sept. 20th

Tomorrow, Sept. 20th
Where: Bagelface Bakery, East Nashville, 700 Main Street
When: Saturday, September 20th, Noon - 2:00 pm
Guest Speaker(s): Dr. John Emison, the state chair of the Vote No on 2 campaign
See Dr. Emison's 43 second sales pitch on why you should vote No on Amendment 2.

Brian Mason, GOP nominee for the TN House-51 seat
Check out Brian Mason on Facebook:
Bring a friend and lots of questions! All persuasions welcome! 
Hosts: Steven Clements and Terry Torre

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School 1st Choice Festival

While there is not enough choice in Metro Schools, there is some choice and more and more as time goes by.  I have a niece and nephew who graduated from Hume Fogg and got an excellent education. Do not just accept that your child must attend a failing school. Attend this event and find out what programs may enhance your child's education and about the choice process.

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The Dumbing of America: Look at what a 6th grader was reading in 1914.

Bill Whittle explains how full comprehension of a single paragraph from a hundred-year-old elementary school textbook eludes virtually all of today's college graduates.

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UPDATE: The Metro Council meeting of 09/09/2014: The end of the tall skinny Nashville duplex meeting.

Council meeting are more interesting if you can follow along with an agenda and and analysis. You can get your own copy of the agenda and analysis by following the links. This is a boring meeting and not much of interest occurs.

There are twelve appointments to boards and commissions on the agenda for Council approval. They are all recommended by committee 8-0 and they pass the Council unanimously. None of the appointments were to the troubled or controversial commissions or agencies.

There are eight rezoning  bills on pubic hearing and they would interest no one except nearby neighbors and there are no long drawn out public hearings.

All resolution on the agenda pass. None of them are very noteworthy. Three of the resolutions were not on the Consent agenda and I am unsure why. On two of them, Charlie Tygard had questions. These are normally question that Tygard would have asked in Budget and Finance Committee if he was on that committee, but Vice Mayor Neighbors did not reappoint Tygard to the Committee and Tygard said he would ask his questions from the council floor and that looks like what is going on. 

There are 23 bills on First Reading and they all pass. First reading is just a formality that allows a bills to be on the agenda. Instead of considering the bills individually, they are all lumped together and pass by a single vote. Bills are not analyzed or discussed until they pass first reading and then go to committee.

There are eleven bills on Second Reading and none of them are of much interest and they all pass.

There are eleven bills on Third and Final Reading. Here are the ones of interest. 
A tall skinny Nashville Duplex
BILL NO. BL2014-770, the bill to change the definition of "duplex" and end the tall skinny barely-joined Nashville Duplex is back on the agenda and this time it passes. It had been deferred several times.  It changes the definition of duplex so one could have two units on a piece of property and they would not have to be artificially joined the way they are now, where two protruding utility rooms are the only thing joining the homes. It also impose heights restrictions. If the units are built to be joined, then a greater portion of the building would have to share a common wall. There is only one amendment offered. The bill is amended to provide a grandfather provision so that those who have already filed an application for a building permit could build under the current standards if they wanted to do so instead of this new standard. There was a talked about proposed amendment that would have required attached garages to be entered from an alley, if there is an alley and to require attached garages not face the street and a restriction on how much of the front yard could be driveway or paved parking and would do some other things which in my view would have make this a better bill but that proposed amendment did get introduced. I don't know what happened to it. While I would have liked this bill better had those talked about changes been added to the bill, nevertheless, I think this is a good bill. (See time stamp 36:36 - 41:44 for the discussion.) 
SUBSTITUTE BILL NO. BL2014-841 establishes a formula for how big an outdoor residential dog pen must be based on the number of dogs and how much they weigh and what would happen if a dog has pups and how much headroom a dog must have it the pen is enclosed and how high an open pen must be. This passes unanimously.
BILL NO. BL2014-847 requires contracts for the companies that lobby the State on behalf of Metro government  and it requires that reports be submitted to the Metropolitan Council detailing what the Metro lobbyist is lobbying for and what the goals of the lobbying effort is and what the impact would be of the outcome the lobbyist is seeking. This is a good bill but I wish it was even stronger. It passes with no discussion or dissension.
 Below is the Tennessean's report on the Council meeting:
 Metro Council reins in duplex heights with new rules
by Michael Cass, The Tennessean, September 9, 2014 - The thin duplexes on small lots that some Nashville residents have come to call “tall skinnies” won’t be allowed anymore after the Metro Council voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for new regulations on two-family residential buildings.
The council voted 33-1..(link)

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Alexander: Democrats and Obama Propose to Restrict Free Speech for Everyone But the Really Rich

This proposal would give members of Congress the power to silence the groups or organizations that threaten their re-election. …Congress could tell Tennessee Right to Life that it can’t advertise to protect the rights of the unborn. Congress could decide that such speech should be restricted or prohibited because incumbents fear it is really an endorsement of a candidate for office.” – Lamar Alexander 


Press Release, WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said today that a proposal supported by 48 Senate Democrats and the president would give Congress the power to decide “which Americans can speak in elections, what they can say, when they can say it, and how they say it.”

“Ordinary Tennesseans would lose their ability to broadcast their views, but billionaires could buy a TV station or a newspaper and say whatever they think, and millionaire candidates can fund their own campaigns,” Alexander said. “Billionaires and millionaires would be the only ones exempt from the gag rule proposed by the Democrats.”

S.J. Res. 19 is a Senate resolution supported by 48 Senate Democrats and President Obama to change the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow Congress and states to limit the raising and spending of money to influence elections.

Alexander detailed how the Democrats could limit the free speech of Tennesseans under the proposal. Excerpts from his speech follow:

“Congress could tell a gun owner in Johnson City, Tennessee, that he or she can't spend money to advocate in defense of Second Amendment rights if that speech falls too close it an election and threatens to influence the campaign of incumbents. Or, similarly, Congress might tell Tennessee Right to Life--you can't advertise to protect the rights of the unborn. Congress could decide that such a speech could be restricted or prohibited because incumbents feel it is endorsement of a candidate for political offices.

“Also they can seek to stop new political movements like the Tea Party by placing unachievable conditions on their ability to raise and spend funds on behalf of candidates they support. They could do this under the guise of protecting donors by saying you can't receive donations unless you've been successful in a previous election. Or, you have a real chance of being successful in a future election. The decision of whether a new political movement was viable would of course be made by their political competitor.

“The majority leader has prevented Tennesseans, for example, from having their say through their senators for years now, using the gag rule in this body to keep amendments from being considered and voted on. Senators have listened to their constituents and proposed amendments on Obamacare, taxes, the National Labor Relations Board, Iran, Iraq, etc., and they are told by the Democratic leadership that they won’t get votes. I've said on this floor many times, it is like being invited to join the Grand Ole Opry and not being allowed to sing. But the consequences are much more serious than that.

“It is not just my amendment or my colleague Senator Corker's amendment. It is not just Tennesseans' amendments. It is the voters of every state who have sent us here to have a say on their behalf. The senator from Wyoming, Senator Barrasso, has counted that since July of 2013 only 14 Republican amendments and nine Democratic amendments have received votes. That's an astounding number. There are 100 senators here representing more than 300 million Americans. This is said to be the world's greatest deliberative body.

“It’s shocking we're standing here to debate such a proposal. Every American ought to be concerned about this proposal to amend the Bill of Rights and the free speech clause in the First Amendment. They should be deeply concerned that the senate majority leader and his gag rule have effectively silenced their elected representatives here in the senate. And now he wants to silence them.”

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

How Alexander and Corker voted on the resolution to amend the Constitution to partially repeal the 1st Amendment.

Yesterday I reported on a bill that advanced in the Senate that would partially repeal the First Amendment protection of Free Speech.  The bill would essentially say that only individuals had freedom of speech, not corporations.  This would make it permissible for the government to order a publisher to stop publishing a book or a distributor of a movie to stop showing a movie or Amazon or Barnes and Noble to stop selling a book.  It would essentially gut the First Amendment.

The bill had advanced in the Senate by a vote of  79-18 on Tuesday. That was a vote on cloture on the Motion to Proceed. Both Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker voted "Aye," or voted for Cloture. “Cloture”means to end debate so that an up-or-down vote can be taken. A vote in favor is a vote to end debate and move to a vote on the issue itself, while a vote against is a vote to prolong debate or to filibuster. I have already had a couple people point out that Alexander and Corker voted "Aye."

Alexander and Corker did vote "Aye" as did other Republicans such as Jeff Sessions and Marco Rubio. For those of you who might not know, no one would call Jeff Session and Marco Rubio liberal Republicans. Twenty-five Republicans voted "Aye" and only 18 voted "nay."

That vote was a procedural vote on the "motion to proceed."  Today another closure vote was taken on the resolution itself. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker voted "nay." That was a vote against cutting off debate. That was a vote for a filibuster. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker voted the same way as  40 other Republicans. The vote on today's closure motion was 52 Democrats voting "yea," (for ending debate) and one Democrat not voting, and 42 Republicans voting "nay," (voting against cutting off debate) and three Republicans not voting. The two independents in the Senate voted with the Democrats. The motion to cut off debate failed.

Why only 18 Senators voted for a filibuster at the very first opportunity, I don't know, but the very next vote on the  resolution was a also a vote to filibuster and Alexander and Corker voted to filibuster. Maybe they thought a filibuster on the resolution itself was strategically wiser than a filibuster on a motion to proceed. I don't know enough about the rules of the Senate to know why most Republicans voted "Aye" on the motion to proceed.  Often there are numerous procedural votes on a bill before voting on the bill itself.  If anyone uses that first vote to claim Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, Jeff Session, and Marco Rubio and 14 other republicans voted to repeal the First Amendment, they are being disingenuous.

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Corker Statement on the Anniversary of September 11, 2001

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement marking the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States.

“May this somber anniversary serve as a reminder of the durability of the American spirit, the countless acts of courage, and the displays of selflessness by so many Americans on that fateful day and in the years since September 11, 2001,” said Corker. “Our military men and women and their families who answered the call to defend this country have made tremendous sacrifices on our behalf and continue to inspire all of us through their public service.”

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Mayor Dean Proposes New Funding Strategy for Gulch - SoBro Pedestrian Bridge

Mayor Karl Dean announced yesterday that legislation has been reintroduced for the city to move forward with the Gulch-SoBro Pedestrian Bridge, which would serve pedestrians and bicyclists connecting two of the downtown area’s most vibrant growing neighborhoods. (The Mayor's comments began at time stamp 4:07 in the video.) 

Mayor Dean says the Gulch area is currently isolated from the rest of the city and the pedestrian bridge will fix that. He also says the pedestrian bridge will be an attraction in is own right and a destination. He explains it will be financed not through general obligation bonds, but from revenues generated from Gulch-area projects that will benefit most from the bridge, specifically seven residential and commercial developments in the Gulch.

This kind of financing is called "tax increment financing." It is often used to finance infrastructure improvements downtown in connection with new projects.  The way this works is that the city makes roadway, sidewalk, utility or other improvements which benefit a new development, and the new development generates tax revenue that would not have otherwise been realized had not the new development occurred. The tax revenue from the new project first goes to pay for the infrastructure improvements rather than into the general fund.

In this case, tax increment financing is already being used to pay for infrastructure improvements in the Gulch. To finance the pedestrian bridge, the city would borrow the money and it would be added to the debt for Gulch infrastructure improvements currently being paid off with tax increment financing and would be paid for over the next seven to eight years.

The pedestrian bridge was identified as a high priority in the South of Broadway (SoBro) Master Plan, which was developed through a series of community input meetings to address the rapidly-changing SoBro area. Legislation to acquire land for the bridge was initially filed earlier this year, but was indefinitely deferred by the Metro Council.

The bridge will be about 700 feet long, including 400 feet over the CSX railroad tracks that separate the Gulch from downtown. A single concrete tower supports the cable-suspended bridge. The bridge will be dramatic and will have park-like seating, open space and and entertainment areas.

In February 2014 the Council turned down the project voting 30-2 against it.  I applauded the council's action at the time. The city has been a spending spree for the last few years and I was concerned, and still am concerned, we are getting overextended. A few months prior to the Council defeating the $15 million Gulch pedestrian bride project, the Council had wisely defeated an effort to finance part of Metro's employee pension liability, but the council had voted to authorize borrowing millions of dollars to purchase lap top computers for the schools which I thought should have been budgeted out of current revenue rather than borrowed, assuming they were needed.  The computers were purchased to be ready to test for common core which has since been delayed.

With the $623 million Music City Center, the $17 million east bank Riverfront Park development, $65 million Sulphur Dell ball park, the $32 million ice hockey facility in Antioch and other projects, Metro has taken on an unprecedented level of debt. With proposals to build a new $40 million Riverfront Park expansion and amphitheater, a $175 million-plus AMP bus rapid transit project, there appears to be no end in sight. I was pleased when the council stopped a project. Nashville is the "it" city now and is booming. I hope that continues, but if there is an economic downturn or some anticipated development around the Sulphur Dell ball park does not take place, we the tax payers could be on the hook to pay the debt.

Now, the pedestrian bridge is back before us.  I like the project. I do not think it a waste of money. I

also do not object that it is designed to be attractive. Maybe we could build a straight functional bridge for half the price, but something esthetically pleasing and dramatic may be worth the extra cost. I want Nashville to be an attractive city. If we are going to build it; make it attractive. However, I am not sure we can afford everything we like.

On, the one hand, this new  proposal to finance the project is like paying for it out of money that will be in your right pocket rather than money that will be in your left pocket.  On the other hand,  this way of financing does not eat up debt capacity and can reserve debt capacity for neighborhood sidewalk improvements, which I understand would happen under this arrangement.

 Councilman Josh Stites has voiced strong reservations about the project saying:
I am unmoved. Basically, all we’re doing is we are delaying payments to the general fund until we pay off the bridge. It would be similar to saying, ‘Why don’t you let me take my property taxes and install a swimming pool out back?’ That’s essentially what we’re doing for these seven.
When developers in my district build something, like an apartment complex, they have to pay for the sidewalks themselves. They have to pay for the water and sewer that’s running through the project. Metro doesn’t pay for that.
Councilman Charlie Tygard appears to be warming to the project saying,  “If they’re intent on transferring this bridge money into the sidewalk fund, I think the council will be pleased,” he said. “It’s a creative way. It certainly beats denying other neighborhoods needed sidewalks for this pretty expensive project.”

At this point, I am cautiously tending to favor the project, but still have reservations and will wait to see what the discussion is in Budget and Finance before reaching a conclusion. I do not want to be sitting ourselves up for future tax increases, however downtown development brings in more tax revenue than development elsewhere. Continuing to make downtown attractive, which spurs more new development may be a wise investment.

Source of some of the above quotes and facts are found here and here.

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Liberty on the Rocks, Thursday, September 18, 2014,

 This is tonight, Sept. 18
Liberty on the Rocks meets Thursday, September 18, 2014, 5:30-9PM,  at Mafioza's, located at 2400 8th Ave. South.

Liberty on the Rocks is a great place to meet other people, have a beer and some great food. We promote thoughtful and rational discussion on a wide range of topics.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

"Yes on 3" Free concert featuring David Nail, Sept 17

This is tonight, Sept. 17th 

Map Link:

Address is  4225 Whites Creek Pike

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Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Congress moves to repeal the First Amendment's free speech protection.

This is not a joke or some rumor spread on Facebook or a distortion.  Congress really has taken a big step to repeal part of the first amendment. You may have not heard of this because the mainstream media is completely ignoring it.  Today the Senate voted 79-18 to advance the bill. It was a vote on “cloture”, which means to end debate so that an up-or-down vote can be taken.  Here is the text of the proposed constitutional amendment.

Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections.    
Section 2.Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.          
Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press. 
What is behind this is an attempt by Democrats to over turn the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling. In Citizens United the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations. That ruling also extents the  freedom to labor unions and other associations.

In 2002 Congress had passed the McCain-Feingold Act which prohibited corporation, including non-profit corporations, from making independent expenditures on "electioneering communications" which was defined as communications which mentions a candidate by name within 90 days of a general election or 30 days of a primary. In 2008 Citizens United, a 501(c)4 conservative group, wanted to air a documentary, Hillary, that was critical of  Hillary Clinton and they wanted to advertise the film during television broadcasts within 30 days of the 2008 Democratic primaries. They were prohibited from doing so by the Federal Election Commission. Citizens United took the case to court and lost and appealed the lower court decision against them to the Supreme Court and won.

Most liberals think this was a terrible ruling and corporations should be prohibited from engaging in political speech. To critique the Supreme Court's decision they frame the issue as the court having said corporation are people and have the same rights as people.

One of the arguments made by attorneys for Citizens United is that a Michael Moore documentary showing at the time, Fahrenheit 9/11, also was political speech.  Fahrenheit 9/11 wove various conspiracy theories involving George W. Bush and alleged he had ties to the Taliban and advanced the theory that 9-11 was an inside job. The documentary also expressly advocated the defeat of President Bush. The Federal Election Commission had found some distinction that permitted the showing of Fahrenheit 9/11 but not Hillary. Justices seemed to be persuaded that if one could be banned, so could the other. Justices pondered if under McCain-Feingold the FEC had the power to ban books if they advocated defeat of a candidate and were distributed by a corporation or a Union. Most books are published by corporations. If you get a downloaded book on Kindle then that is being distributed by a corporation.  If people have First Amendment rights but the government can ban speech by corporations, then the First Amendment is a pretty empty right.

The Supreme Court held that it was unconstitutional to ban free speech by limiting of independent communications by corporations, associations, and unions, and that corporations and labor unions may spend their own money to support or oppose political candidates through independent communications. The ruling did not permit corporation to contribute to political campaigns or do a lot of other things people have claimed the ruling did.

For those who don't know what it says, here is the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The proposed amendment would repeal the freedom of speech protections guaranteed in the First Amendment. Section two of the proposed amendment would allow the government to abridge freedom of speech if that speech was distributed by corporation.  Section 3 is meaningless because if only individuals and not corporations have Freedom of the Press, then the government could shut down newspapers if they were corporate owned, as most are.

The proposed amendment probably will not go far.  It would have to pass both houses of Congress and would have to go before the people and be approved by 3/4 of the states. I don't think there is any way the House of Representatives will pass this bill as long as Republicans hold the majority. Still, it is frightening. Many politicians will want to say they voted for campaign finance reform and they voted to "take the money out of politics." Many people will be persuaded by the argument that "corporations are not people" and they will see it as a way to defeat the Koch brothers. For a public of low-information voters who get their news from the Colbert Report and SNL and have not been grounded in an understanding of the founding principles of our County, this may have appeal. I don't have the faith in the wisdom of the American people that I once had.
We can expect the Democrat Party and various progressive groups to push hard to get this bill passed. I will not be surprised if a memorializing resolution is not passed by our own Metro Council urging passage of the bill.  MoveOn is already mobilizing their forces to promote the amendment and using it to raise money. In an email received today MoveOn says:
Wow—this is huge. Last night, the Senate voted 79-18 to advance a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. The next step is a vote Thursday.
We're getting ready to launch a huge accountability campaign, going after senators who vote the wrong way. wrong way. And we won't stop until Citizens United is repealed.
This is momentous. It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity. 
It's nothing short of amazing that Mitch McConnell and his fellow Republicans didn't block this entirely—as they've done with nearly every other priority issue of most Americans, like the minimum wage and student debt. 
We've built enough grassroots pressure that they couldn't squash this. McConnell is trying to make lemonade out of this—he claims that he welcomes the debate. But 80 percent of American oppose Citizens United.
It seems as if America is going down the tubes right before our eyes.  Many people see rights as simply impediments to the popular will. This is a bold move to substantially remake America.  May God help us preserve our Republic.
Check back for a report on how our Senators and Representatives voted.

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Obama steps up war on terror:

Moves from Twitter hashtags to YouTube. (link)

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A conversation about faith, culture and media in the modern world with Erick Erickson, Russell Moore, and Joe Scarborough at Lipscomb Sept. 16

This event is today, Tuesday, Sept. 16.

Dear Nashville Area Readers,

Our Nation is divided on many issues, but most of us get along regardless of our differences. So why is it that our public figures seem so CRAZY all the time and incapable of being civil to one another? Can't we do better?

This is a personal invitation to join me on Tuesday, September 16th at 7:15pm at the Collins Auditorium at Lipscomb University for an engaging evening of conversation with Dr. Russell Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and my good friend Joe Scarborough. You know Joe from his days in Congress in the 90's as well as his popular MSNBC Show "Morning Joe".

We are going to have a conversation about faith, culture and media in the modern world and offer real solutions for you to use as you wade through all the noise.

The event starts at 7:15pm and tickets are only $15. VIP reception tickets are only $50. Click here for more information and to buy tickets. I hope to see you there, it is going to be a great evening.

Erick Erickson

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Beacon Offers Responsible Plan for Repealing the Hall Income Tax

Seniors, entrepreneurs, and the middle class are hurt the most by the Income Tax

NASHVILLE, (Press Release)  – The Beacon Center of Tennessee just released a brand new reform package to make Tennessee income tax-free once and for all.

This proposal provides meaningful and necessary tax relief to our state's seniors and job creators. It will not only help the people who currently pay the tax, but will also allow cities and counties around the state to be more competitive in attracting businesses and residents alike. 

The proposal suggests adopting a six year phase out, in which the rate of the current six percent tax would be reduced by one percent each year until it is eliminated entirely. 

“Many people are under the wrong impression that repealing the Hall Income Tax will only help the rich,” said Beacon CEO Justin Owen. "Our analysis shows that over 40 percent of the people who currently pay the Hall Income Tax make under $75,000 a year. This tax is disproportionately hurting the middle class and seniors.

Owen went on to say, "Our plan is a win-win. It is both gradual and responsible, and will help Tennesseans while not harming local governments."

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Senator Jack Johnson praises Tennessee Parks and Greenways at Sunset on the South Harpeth event

Saturday night was the fifth annual Sunset on the Harpeth event to raise money for the Tennessee Parks and Greenways Foundation. TPGF is a non-profit organization that has saved many of the most endangered and beautiful of Tennessee's natural treasures, places like Virgin Fall and Stillhouse Hollow Falls and Cummins Falls and Black Mountain and Devilstep Hollow Cave and others.  In addition to saving specific beautiful places, TPGF has helped keep thousands of acres of rural Tennessee, rural and scenic by encouraging conservation easements and being recipient and guardian of the easement. The founder and Executive Director of the organization is my sister, Kathleen Williams, of whom I could not be more proud.

Senator Jack Johnson; Kathleen Williams, my sister Executive Director of Tennessee Parks and
Greenways Foundation and me (Rod Williams)
The Sunset on the Harpeth is a fun event in a beautiful setting of a lush valley with farms bordering the Harpeth River. The event includes a nature walk and hay rides and canoeing and live music and good food and  a bar and a big bonfire. It gets underway about 4PM. Some people come for the dinner and speech, others stay till late into the evening, and some camp for the night. I did not know it in advance  but was pleased that the keynote speaker at this year's event was Senator Jack Johnson.

Senator Jack Johnson is a Republican and the State Senator Representing Williamson County.  In his remarks, Senator Johnson praised Johnathan  Openheimer for establishing a conservation easement on 1363 area in Williamson County and he said, Mr. Openheimer has taken that acreage and created a business and is creating jobs. “Don’t let anyone tell you that conservation and job creation can’t go together.” 
“One of the things that make Williamson County so appealing is the green space,” he said. “Tennessee is one of the most beautiful States in United States of American,” said Senator Johnson. “We have such incredible Natural Resources and they need to be preserved and  that is why I am happy to be here and why I am happy to write a check to support the Tennessee and Parks Greenway Foundation."
“The great thing about Parks and Greenway Foundation is that they are preserving those valuable resources we have. With this effort, to take the private dollars which you are raising right here today (by being here) and marrying those with certain tax dollars, we are protecting those resources. People are looking to relocate their business, they are looking to relocate their families, and people are coming to Tennessee in droves, and one of the reasons is because of our beautiful natural resources and I am just grateful that you are here today to help us preserve as many of those as possible.”

Randy Hedgepath, the State Naturalist for Tennessee State Parks led a Nature Walk and  shared
 his knowledge of flowers and plants and birds. His humor and personality added to the knowledge
 he imparted. That is me, my niece Becca and by sister Kathleen with her grandson Edmond she is holding.
 We are in the second row of walkers.

I am delighted that Senator Johnson went out of his way to honor and support TPGF. Conservatives and liberals may disagree on some particulars of environmental policy, but there should be little disagreement on conservation and the importance of saving and protecting Tennessee's natural treasures.
This the third of the Sunset on the Harpeth events I have attended. A downpour mid-afternoon swelled the river and canceled any canoeing or nature walk along the river bank but did not distract from the evening and luckily there was no rain during the actual event. It was a beautiful cool evening with a bright moon and I stayed until late in the night. I enjoyed the beautiful outdoor sitting, Blue Grass music, grilled hamburgers and other good fare, and good conversation and adult beverages, and just relaxing.  Having been stressed by my wife's advancing illness, it was great for me to have a fun and relaxing evening and I could not think of a better place to have it.

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