Friday, July 02, 2021

BELLEVUE BREAKFAST CLUB meets July 3rd. Guest speaker, Robby Starbuck, running to unseat Congressman Jim Cooper in the 5th congressional district.

Robby Starbuck
Our speaker will be Robby Starbuck, who is running to unseat Congressman Jim Cooper in the 5th congressional district. He is a producer and director known for his cinematic style. He has produced over 1,000 projects at his company RSM. Collectively his work has been viewed over 5 billion times. 


We will be meeting on Saturday, July 3rd, at Plantation Pub, located at 8321 Sawyer Brown Rd, Nashville, TN 37221. 

Our meeting will begin at 8:30 and last till about 10am. The sausage and biscuit breakfast is $5 and includes a beverage. The proceeds of which will go to our server.

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Thursday, July 01, 2021

Metro Schools awards a $14 million no-bid contract to implement a return to school plan.

Metro Schools paid a company with ties to Meharry Medical College approximately $14 million to implement a return to school plan.

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Curb Records, Mike Curb Foundation file lawsuit against governor over bathroom bill

by Rod Williams - For more on this story read the report from WSMV Channel 4 at this link.  To read
the lawsuit, follow this link

In opposing the law, which requires a business that has a policy that allows people of either biological sex to use the bathroom of their choice to post a notice announcing that fact, the lawsuit says the following: "The required notice serves no legitimate or rational purpose and solves no actual problem. It instead seeks to conscript Tennessee businesses and other institutions to spread the State’s preferred message of fear and intolerance towards transgender people and to falsely portray them as a threat to the safety or privacy of other members of the public ... ."  

I think the plaintiffs are basically correct, except that a business has an easy out in that they can simply have no such policy and avoid posting the notice.  Not posting the notice does not mean the business prohibits such use, it just means the business has established no such policy to permit it. 

The Mike Curb Foundation supports nonprofit organizations and social-service agencies in Nashville, Tennessee; Los Angeles, California; and other Curb-related communities. The Mike Curb Foundation has been a major contributor to Belmont University. The Belmont University Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business was established in 2003 and is one of today's world leaders in music business and entertainment industry education. The Foundation also supported music programs and music business programs at Vanderbilt University in Nashville and at Rhodes College in Memphis. 

As of April 15, 2021, the Mike Curb Foundation suspended consideration of major new Tennessee projects while awaiting final action on pending State of Tennessee legislation, the implementation of which, the foundation asserts, would negatively affect and potentially discriminate against the LGBTQ community and other underserved and marginalized populations.

In California, Mike Curb was a supporter of Ronald Reagan and Regan supported Curb's run for governor in the 80's. 1980, Curb was co-chairman of Ronald Reagan's successful presidential campaign. Curb was also chairman of the convention program in Detroit and was later appointed by Reagan to be chairman of the national finance committee. 

Mike Curb was a staunch opponent of illicit drugs and publicly fought glorification of drug use by musicians and in the 80's dropped several prominent artists from his record label because of their public advocacy of drug use.  While conservative on many issues, Curb has long been supportive of gay rights. For more on Mike Curb and the Curb Foundation, follow this link

In my view, the bathroom bill was an unnecessary, misguided, and divisive measure to further the culture wars and solve a problem that did not even exist. While I support legislation prohibiting biological males from competing as women in sports and while I strongly support bills banning the use of puberty blockers in adolescence and the mutilation of children, the bathroom bill is unnecessary and is simply pandering to mean-spirited prejudice. I sort of hope the Curb Foundation and the ACLU prevail in their lawsuits. 

To read more about the bathroom signage bill see these links:
ACLU challenges Tennessee’s new law requiring transgender bathroom signs and my thoughts on the topic.
Nashville DA Glenn Funk won't enforce bill requiring businesses to post signs for transgender bathroom access. He says he refuses to enforce "hate."

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Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A Kumbaya moment at Edwin Warner Park on Sunday


by Rod Williams - On Sunday, June 27th, I attended a picnic at Edwin Warner Park hosted by Braver Angels and Common Ground.  Both of these organizations are dedicated to bringing together liberals and conservatives to have civil dialogue and foster understanding. 

While I am secure in what I believe and don't think anyone can convert me to become a liberal and I doubt I will convert a committed liberal to my point of view, I think that this kind of interaction can be beneficial. 

In my view, we are too polarized in America.  Many have retreated to their corner and only interact with their own tribe. We too often live in an echo chamber and do not really know what people on the other side of the political divide think.  We only know what the partisans on our side tell us they think. We listen to only our news and get our own opinions reinforced. It is common to have the other side demonized and their view distorted or mischaracterized. 

When you actually talk to someone of the other political persuasion, you may find that there is common ground on some issues. You may discover that the other side has some valid arguments and concerns and everything is not as black and white as you may have believed.  Talking to someone of the other political persuasion may make you think.  If not, you may at least discover that people on the other side are not evil.  They may be uninformed or wrong; but not evil.  Even if you do not find common ground you may realize at least that you are adversaries, but not enemies.  

We enjoyed barbeque and lots of good side dishes and pleasant conversations and exchange of ideas.  We did not really sing Kumbaya.  I don't know most of these people in the photograph, but here are some that readers of this blog may know: A. Richard Upchruch; B. Don Moradian, a decent liberal and my brother-in-law; C. Gene Wisdom; D. Rod Williams (me); and E. Dr. Ming Wang. Also in attendance but arriving late and not pictured was Lydia Hubbel. 

Braver Angels conducts workshops designed to foster understanding between people of different political points of view and Common Ground holds monthly meetings to discuss current political issues.  Watch this blog for future announcements of events. 

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Tennessee's state pension system among the nation's most sound

By Jon Styf | The Center Square  - Tennessee has the healthiest state public pension system in the country based on the amount of unfunded liability per capita, according to a new report from the American Legislative Executive Council. 

Tennessee taxpayers owe $6,345.77 per capita as opposed to the state with the highest per capita pension liability, Alaska, at nearly $43,000 per capita. Tennessee's total unfunded pension liability was $43.3 billion, the 15th-lowest in the country. 

The report found that $5.82 trillion, or $17,748 per person, is owed by “every man, woman and child in the United States.” The report found the 10 states with the largest liabilities are growing quickly and make up 58% of the total liability in the country. 

“In Tennessee, we have worked hard to maintain one of the nation’s best-funded pension systems,” Tennessee state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, said. “Our efforts on behalf of taxpayers will continue, and we are proud to be recognized in the latest edition of ALEC’s report for our commitment to sound pension policies.” 

Tennessee lawmakers voted to allocate $250 million to the state’s pension system in the next fiscal year budget, which starts Thursday, and made several cuts to Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed budget to make that happen. 

Rep. William Lamberth, R-Portland, said during budget discussions the state had a lot to be proud of in its handling of its pension system. “We are going to make good on our promises,” he said about the $250 million investment. 

Pensions throughout the U.S. were hurt over the past two years. Investments of those funds fell short of expectation with a 6.5% return during fiscal year 2019 instead of the assumed 7.2% return, the report said. 

Tennessee ranked fifth in the report's funding ratio rankings, which examined the health of a pension plan by looking at the ratio between assets and liabilities, expressed as a percentage. Wisconsin led the way with a 64.27% funding ratio while Tennessee was at 47.86%. Connecticut ranked last at 23.87%.

“Unfunded public pension liabilities represent a massive risk for state taxpayers, as well as state workers and retirees,” ALEC Chief Economist and Executive Vice President of Policy Jonathan Williams said. “Fortunately, states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee and Oklahoma have all enacted pension reforms in recent years that will ensure promises to workers and retirees are honored, provide flexibility for young workers and protect hardworking taxpayers.” 

Tennessee also ranked at the top in the unfunded liabilities as a percentage of gross state product at 11.4%, ahead of Indiana (14.03%) and Nebraska (15.03%), which also finished second and third, respectively, behind Tennessee in lowest per capita pension liability. 

South Dakota ($10.2 billion), Vermont ($10.2 billion) and North Dakota ($12 billion) had the lowest unfunded pension liabilities in the U.S. 

California ($894.7 billion), Illinois ($405.2 billion) and Texas ($401.5 billion) had the highest unfunded pension liabilities in the country.

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Tennessee receives grade of A- in both history and civics

by David Plazas, The Tennessean, June, 27, 2021- The Thomas B. Fordham Institute assessed K-12 civics and history standards. Four states and District of Columbia ranked exemplary, including Tennessee. 

Tennessee has made dramatic progress in explaining what students should learn in civics and history classes and how soon they should learn it. 

A decade ago, Tennessee received a “C” in its K-12 public school history standards from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, which minced no words in its 2011 report: “The standards constitute an organizational quicksand, from which the reader is lucky to escape with any content or comprehension intact.” 

Ten years later, it’s a different story. Tennessee now is among four states, along with Alabama, California and Massachusetts plus the District of Columbia, to receive an “exemplary” ranking with a grade of A- in both history and civics standards. That’s according to the institute’s 2021 report released Wednesday, which deems most other states’ standards as inadequate or mediocre. 

This time, Fordham — an Ohio and Washington, D.C.,-based conservative think tank focused on educational excellence — updated its impression of the Volunteer State: ....

Tennessee received high marks because its Social Studies Standards, which were last updated in 2017, offer specific, rigorous and organized content that does not shy away from challenging topics, unlike some other states. (link)

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Monday, June 28, 2021

ACLU challenges Tennessee’s new law requiring transgender bathroom signs and my thoughts on the topic.

Yue Stella Yu, USA TODAY NETWORK – TENNESSEE -Tennessee’s first-ofits- kind lawrequiring businesses to post signs about transgenderfriendly bathrooms is expected to take effect July 1. Now, that law is being challenged in federal court. The American Civil Liberties Union and its Tennessee chapter filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two business owners on Friday. 

The new law, the complaint argued, is “unconstitutional” and violates businesses’ First Amendment right “against compelled speech.” “Forcing businesses to display a stigmatizing message for political expedience is unconstitutional,” Hedy Weinberg, executive director of ACLU-Tennessee, said in a statement. “Furthermore, by targeting the transgender community, these government- mandated signs marginalize and endanger transgender individuals. Tennessee should be embracing and protecting all Tennesseans, not passing unconstitutional discriminatory laws.” (Read more)

Rod's Comment: I am not going to jump to a conclusion that the ACLU is wrong on this. Let the courts figure it out.  I do hate to see the state micromanage businesses by imposing additional unnecessary mandates. The ACLU has a point, but it may be a weak one.

I always thought this was an unnecessary law.  There are a lot more trans women (biological men who identify as women) than trans men so I doubt I have ever been in a men's bathroom with a person who was a biological female who appeared male.  My wife or sisters or mother or daughter however may have been in a bathroom with a person who was a biological male who appeared as a female.  If so, I can not work up much outrage about it.  If so, they probably had no clue it happened.  If a biological male dressed as a female, whether a crossdresser or a transsexual, were in the women's bathroom it was not to molest women.  They were responding to the call of nature.  They probably did not let their sex be known, if it did happen.  

This law appears to be an unnecessary salvo in the culture wars.  Now, I don't like having trans policies crammed down my throat.  I do not think biological males should be allowed to compete in women's sports as if they were female.  I don't think one should be forced to pretend men are women.  I adamantly oppose the use of puberty blockers and hormone treatment of minor children.  And, I will not use terms like "birthing person," to replace the term "mother."  

However, this law always seemed to me like an unnecessary case of in-your-face defiance of liberal culture and a case of virtue signaling on the part of the state legislature. This seemed like a solution in search of a problem. 

Here is what the law says
(a) A public or private entity or business that operates a building or facility open to the general public and that, as a matter of formal or informal policy, allows a member of either biological sex to use any public restroom within the building or facility shall post notice of the policy at the entrance of each public restroom and at each entrance of the building accessible by the general public.

That is kind of vague. I suspect that most businesses have no such formal or informal policy on the topic.   Unless forced to establish a formal or informal policy because of complaints, they most likely have never considered it an issue about which to have a policy.  And since I doubt the transexuals announced their biological sex, when they entered a bathroom that conformed to their outward appearance, I doubt no one knew when a transsexual was in the bathroom. Since no one knew, there would be no complaints so management would not have to establish a policy.  The way it is written, if the business has no policy, they do not have to post the signs.

Since I doubt very few businesses are going to post such a sign, unless maybe to please a gay clientele in a gay bar, this law will have little impact and will not result in much of a burden to businesses.  The law does not require businesses to have a policy.  Since a business without a policy does not have to post the sign, this seems like a weak case of "compelled speech," but I am not an attorney and do not know the case law on the topic. So, I will accept as resonable and correct whatever the court rules. 

I don't see much point to this law but neither do I see much point in having it overturned. I actually think it was petty of the legislature to pass this unnecessary law but think it is hardly worth fighting over. But maybe, we ought to only fight battles that matter.  Mutilating children matters.  I am not sure forcing a business that has established a policy on who can use which restroom, to post signage making people aware of that policy really matters all that much. 

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Davidson County Election Commission appeals court decision striking down anti-tax referendum

by Yue Stella Yu,  The Tennessean, June 25,2021- Metro's legal fight with the Davidson County Election Commission over the anti-tax hike referendum is anything but over. 

Commissioners on Friday voted 3-2 along party lines to appeal a judge's decision this week striking down the referendum asking voters to roll back last year's property tax increase. 

Judge Russell Perkins on Tuesday ruled the 4 Good Government-backed initiatives defective and unconstitutional and ordered the commission to cancel the election. In addition to the appeal, commissioners voted to reschedule the July 27 referendum for September 21, contingent upon approval from the appellate court. (link)

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Conspiracy nut-Job Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to keynote Republican fundraiser in Tennessee

by Natalie Allison, The Tennessean -   The Wilson County Republican Party has selected a keynote speaker for this year's annual Trump Day Dinner: U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a controversial member of Congress stripped this year of her House committee assignments. 

Greene, a North Georgia Republican whose district borders the Chattanooga area, will speak at the county party's fundraising dinner Oct. 7, Wilson County GOP chairman Brad Lytle confirmed. 

"We just contacted her office and told her we're interested," Lytle said Thursday. "We thought she best represented the cancel culture for conservatives since she's been effectively canceled by the House and Nancy Pelosi." 

Greene has stirred controversy on Capitol Hill over her tolerance of conspiracy theories, including questioning whether the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened; stalking and taunting a teen survivor of a deadly high school shooting in Florida; and suggesting that space lasers were causing fatal wildfires in California.

Rod's Comment: I am disgusted with the Wilson County Republican Party and disappointed in many other Republicans who do not denounce radicals and crazies like Green.  


by Rod Williams - This is unbelievable.  If I were a Republican in Wilson County, I would not be attending this event.  I would not contribute to the local party or attend any functions of the party.  The leadership of the party would have successfully driven me out.  I might protest the appearance of Green outside the venue.

She is a nut-job!  She is a Q-anon supporter.  She was a regular contributor to a conspiracy web site. She has supported almost every right-wing conspiracy theory circulating. She touts the Pizzagate theory, the Clinton Kill-list, mass shootings as a false flag theory, and 9-11 as an inside job theory.  She has advocated executing Democrat politicians.  She has equated the Democrat Party with Nazies. She continues to claim Trump won the election in a landslide and that the election was stolen.  Her Covid-19 theory is that Dr. Fauci is criminally liable for helping create the virus as a bio-weapon.

It is hard to think of a person more committed to crazy conspiracy theories than Marjorie Taylor Green.  I think Congress was right to deny her any committee assignments.  I think the Republican Party should have denied her the right to caucus as a Republican. She should be condemned and shunned; not honored. 

Is this what has happened to the Republican Party, that the honored guest speaker at an annual Republican banquet is someone like this?  Also, I am dismayed that what used to be called Lincoln Day Dinners and then Reagan Day Dinners are now called "Trump Day Dinners."  Even if the speaker was someone I respected and admired, I would not attend a "Trump Day Dinner."  Trump should be disgraced; not honored.  I wonder how many other annual Republican banquets are now called "Trump Day Dinners."  I hope not many.

I believe that the policies of the Democrat party will destroy our country.  Massive deficit spending is the biggest threat to our future.  That and policies such as the Green New Deal, Medicaid for all, open borders, imposed "equity" policies, defund the police, and others will cause a decline in America's standard of living and ability to be a world leader.  We will see greater unemployment as a permanent feature of our economy, inflation, less productivity, and a decline in upward mobility.  A continuation of cancel culture and an emphasis and race-based "equity" will lead to less freedom. With America in decline, there will be no other country able to step up to the plate and lead the world and democratic countries will decline and have to kowtow to China.  China, Russia, and Islamism will ascend as the US declines. I do not see the US having an apocalyptic event, but a steady decline in the standard of living, productivity, economic vitality, and the ability to lead the world.  In a few more years we may more closely resemble Portugal or Greece or some Eastern European country than the country we currently know.

So, I cannot become a Democrat and believe the Democrat Party must be defeated.  However, I do not want to be part of a party that hosts Marjorie Taylor Green as an honored speaker. I must feel the same as one felt on the eve of the Spanish Civil War.  Should one support the Communist-supported Republic or the Nazi-supported Fascist, or stay on the sidelines and let others decide the fate of one's country?

I still believe the Republican Party will come to its senses and again become the party of responsible conservatism.  If it does not, however, I cannot feel at home in a Donald Trump- Marjorie Taylor Green Party. 

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Sunday, June 27, 2021

The dream of homeownership is becoming more elusive by the day.

Rod Williams- I think the term "crisis' is overused so I am not going to call what is happening in housing affordability a crisis.  However, a concerning trend is taking place before our eyes.  The dream of homeownership is getting further and further out of reach for many Americans. While I would not call what is happening a crisis, it is a serious concern.  This trend can have profound consequences for the stability of the middle class, can lead to greater wealth inequality, and can have social and political consequences. 

When one spoke of the issue of "affordable housing" in the past one was often thinking of low-income people and their inability to buy a home. Homeownership was out of reach of the working poor unless they got some sort of assistance or subsidy. Over time, there was a realization that it was not only the poor for whom housing was out of reach but also those who one would not consider poor but simply of modest income.  Housing became hard to afford for teachers and firemen and people in the hospitality industry.  "Workforce housing" became a term to refer to the housing needed by this segment of our society. And, it was in short supply.

Home prices have gone through the roof.  It is happening here in Nashville but this is not just a Nashville problem. (Look at chart #1 below.) 

Why is the happening?  There are several reasons.  One, the Federal Reserve has kept home mortgage rates extremely low. It has increased its purchase of mortgage-backed securities, which drives interest rates lower and frees up more money for mortgage lending. With low rates, the same amount of monthly payment will purchase more house and prices rise. 

When prices rise, if you were a couple that could afford a $500,000 and prices increase 12% you may not be able to afford a $560,000 house and may have to settle for a $500,000 that last year was only a $446,000 house. If, however, you are a couple that can afford only a $250,000 house, good luck; there are almost none.  But there are a few, however.  If that $250,000 house goes up to $280,000, you may not qualify for that price home and there are no cheaper price houses to fall back to.  You are out of luck. 

This is one reason why home price appreciation hurts the person of modest means more than the person of better means. Another reason is that lower price homes experience greater HPA than higher-priced homes. (See chart 3 below.)

When we say that Home Price Appreciation was 6.6% over last year that may not sound like a lot, but it is cumulative.  If the appreciation was a steady 6% the price of a home would double in twelve years.

This chart from the most recent Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Price Index report shows the cumulative housing appreciation in the Nashville MSA.

Since the 3rd quarter of 2013, homes in Nashville have increased 93.6%.  If one compares Nashville's cumulative price appreciation since 2007 we have had considerably higher price appreciation than the nation, represented by the gray line above.  

So what does this mean for the future? I hate to be so pessimistic but I believe the dream of homeownership will remain a dream for more and more people.  Homeownership which has been a source of middle-class security and stability and the greatest source of wealth creation for the majority of people will be less and less obtainable for more and more people. Are the good times really over for good? Maybe. I do not see this situation getting better anytime soon.  Government at the federal, state, and local levels continue to make the problem worse.  

One thing that I think should happen is that the Federal Reserve should allow mortgage rates to rise. This would, unfortunately, in the short term, put homeownership out of reach for some low and moderate-income people.  Some people who can afford to buy a home today at current rates could not afford to buy a home with higher rates. However, it would slow home price appreciation and in the longer term help more people of modest means. To have any chance of reversing this trend and saving the dream of owner ownership, we must slow HPA.

In addition to the Federal Reserve causing home price inflation, there is a slew of other things that cities and states are doing across the country to destroy affordable housing and inhibit the development of affordable housing. At the end of this article are some links that explore some of these issues.

Unfortunately, Nashville like many other big cities will continue to make the problem worse. Taxes will continue to rise, redevelopment plans will promote gentrification of what is the remaining affordable parts of town, the city will continue to discourage manufactured housing, restrictive zoning and downzoning will restrict the supply, and government imposed overhead cost and the obstacles government puts in the way of developers will continue to inhibit the construction of homes at a more modest price-point. 

In addition to the wrong government policies, the market is going to drive up prices in Nashville. Oracle will bring over 8500 jobs to Nashville over the next decade with an average salary of over $110,000.  There will certainly be a plus to this kind of economic growth, but it also means there will be 8500 people who can afford to pay more for housing than what the average Nashvillian can pay. That will cause even greater HPA. 

So, while I have lots of advice to government for making housing more affordable, I also have advice for the young couple of modest means dreaming of homeownership. Don't delay!  Every day one delays makes the dream of homeownership more elusive.   Homes only stay on the market for a few days.  Make looking for a home like a job.  Be aggressive.  Get a good realtor to help you find a home.  By the time a home gets listed on Zillow, it is probably already sold.  Get pre-approved by a mortgage company. Get something, even if is not your dream home, and start building equity and benefiting from that home price appreciation. If you think there is not much in your price range, next year there may be nothing. 

For more on this topic see the following:
Forbes: Fed Policy Has Kept Mortgage Rates Low. It’s Also Driving Up Home Prices

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