Friday, March 25, 2022

Tennessee legislature considers legislation to subvert the First Amendment.

by Rod Williams, March 25, 2022- The Tennessee legislature has a pending bill before it that would ban Facebook and other social media from curtailing speech on their platform.

Facebook and Twitter have angered many conservatives because they discriminate against conservative viewpoints. I just heard Tucker Carlson rant against Twitter the other day.  Carlson and many others present the issue as if conservatives were having their free speech right violated. This is simply not so. Only the government can violate your First Amendment rights. You have the right not to be silenced by the government.  That does not mean that someone else must give you a platform.

The First Amendment does not mean a newspaper has to publish your letter to the editor. It does not mean a billboard company has to rent you billboard space to post your message on their billboard. If a shopping mall says you may not hand out religious pamphlets in their parking lot, they have not violated your First Amendment rights. If a popular talk show host has a screener and selects certain callers and rejects others, those rejected have not had their First Amendment rights violated. If a church declines to let an atheist address the congregation, the atheist has not had his First Amendment rights violated. 

Bold Patriot a local pro-conservative brewery and bar often host conservative events featuring conservative speakers.  If a liberal group wanted to use the space for a liberal program and Bold Patriot refused, they would not be violating the rights of members of that liberal group.

This blog uses the Blogger platform which is part of Google. If tomorrow, Google decided my opinions were "hate speech," or spreading "misinformation," did not align with their community standards or whatever and deleted my blog, I would not like it, but I would not claim my First Amendment rights had been violated.

Most of the time, there is only one significant newspaper in a town.  That does not change the fact that you do not have the right to have your letter to the editor published in their newspaper.  Facebook and Twitter are the biggest social media outlets but not the only outlets. Even if they were, that would not change the fact that they do not violate the First Amendment by censoring speech.

When conservatives became angered at Twitter or Facebook, some tried platforms like Paler or MeWe or others.  Most came back to Facebook. There are dozens of ways to communicate on the internet other than Facebook or Twitter. There is Reddit and Nextdoor and TicTok and YouTube and Instagram and many many others. Now, Donald Trump has his own social media platform called Truth Social. If you don't like Facebook, join Truth Social.  Facebook and Twitter are only the most powerful platforms because they attract the most customers. They did not get big because the government forces you to use those platforms. 

Over the years, I have become accustomed to liberal advocacy of bigger and bigger government, more government control over the lives of citizens, liberal attempts to curtail our rights, and liberal subversion of the meaning of the constitution.  I don't expect more from liberals. I am appalled when conservatives do it.  The battle between left and right is becoming less and less a battle over principles but a battle over who can control the levers of power. I am not a big government, government control kind of conservative. 

Do conservatives really want the government to determine who is heard on social media platforms? Do we really want to transfer the decision of which voices get heard from the market to bureaucrats? Do we want to create a new bureaucracy large enough to regulate speech on the internet? Even if it starts out forcing media platforms to treat conservatives fairly, do you think it will always do that?  Someday, liberals may control the bureaucracy. Liberal advocacy groups will also be filing complaints with the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission.  Mission creep may dictate equal time and more and more control over content. 

What the Tennessee legislature is doing will likely be ruled unconstitutional.  It should.

The below article from Center Square explains this issue in more detail. 

Tennessee social media bill faces legal obstacles similar to Florida, Texas

By Jon Styf | The Center Square Mar 21, 2022 – Tennessee lawmakers pushing a social media oversight bill that would prevent users from being banned or shadow banned said it is not a First Amendment issue but a governmental course correction.

The vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, which successfully has been granted injunctions against similar laws in Florida and Texas on First Amendment grounds, said, however, the Tennessee companion bills (House Bill 2369 and Senate Bill 2161) not only violate the First Amendment but also would cost taxpayers for the added regulation and legal battle that would follow.

“What we’re seeing right now is lawmakers in the state of Tennessee following in the same failed legal footsteps of Florida and Texas,” NetChoice’s Carl Szabo said. “And it’s ultimately not going to get them where they want to be, which is to able to police the internet. Fortunately, our Founding Fathers created the First Amendment to expressly forbid and preclude this type of state-compelled speech.”

The companion bills passed the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee and the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee last week. The House bill is scheduled to be in front of the House Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

The bills would define a wide range of websites as social media platforms that are common carriers and then allow the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission (TPUC) to step in if Tennesseans are banned or shadow banned from a social media site.

The Consumer Services Division of TPUC would require social media platforms to register, and TPUC would create rules for platforms to follow regarding banning users and removing content.

If TPUC receives a complaint about a ban or shadow ban – which sponsoring Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, described as moving content down in a search engine search based on its content – and finds it in violation of the law, TPUC would notify the platform of the infraction and allow 60 days to correct. If that is not done, TPUC would hold a hearing.

If TPUC rules in favor of the user, fines will begin for the social media platform at a rate of $100,000 a day if the user is a political candidate or public official or $25,000 a day for others.

“I very much appreciate what you are trying to do,” Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, said to Powers, mentioning the large potential fines. “I don’t think anybody would deny that it’s an issue. I just have concerns about the process. It’s just something where I think we need to be very careful and judicious about. … Anytime you give that kind of authority to one group, then you have to be very careful.”

The fiscal note on the bill said it would cost TPUC $323,800 the first year, which would begin Jan. 1, and $316,300 annually afterward, though Powers said the bill sponsors are in negotiations with the Tennessee attorney general and TPUC on a way to use existing resources on enforcement.

Powers mentioned former President Donald Trump, the Knox County Republican Party and his cousin as people who were banned or censored for their political opinions. He said items defined as misinformation often are a matter of opinion.

“You may have been told some misinformation about this bill, and I just wanted to clarify that this is no growth in government and it’s protecting the free speech of everyone, all Tennesseans,” Powers said.

The injunctions in Florida and Texas are being appealed in federal court. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 28 in the Florida case and the week of May 11 in Texas.

Szabo said in those cases, NetChoice is asking for attorney’s fees to be paid for by the states. He was at both Tennessee committee meetings last week and said he was not allowed to speak on the legislation. Szabo said the Heartland Institute, which has supported the legislation in all three states, also was not allowed to testify.

Szabo said he hoped Tennessee would listen and slow down rather than attempting to enact the legislation, but NetChoice was prepared to fight the legislation on First Amendment grounds in Tennessee, if necessary.

“Tennessee can choose to – it’s not even rolling the dice, they’re going to lose – or they can see what happens in the Florida and Texas lawsuits and then make a more informed decision without putting at risk the constitutional protections of their citizens and Tennesseans' tax dollars and frivolous lawsuits,” Szabo said.

The Florida law defined social media sites as common carriers, an entity that delivers all that it receives, such as the United States Postal Service, Szabo said, and the court disagreed with that notion.

Szabo said legislating what private businesses can do is a slippery slope and conservatives, like himself, would be hurt more than anyone else if the government started controlling social media. He said impressions on social media for conservative websites are far higher than those for other political philosophies.

“I am not very comfortable with this,” Tennessee state Rep. Dwayne Thompson, D-Cordova, said during the House subcommittee meeting. “We have a trend of government getting involved in private businesses and this just seems to be another one.”

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Thursday, March 24, 2022

Why a new Titan’s stadium would be a taxpayer-funded boondoggle | Opinion

It doesn’t take an economist to see that undertaking a billion-dollar gamble in the hopes of hosting an event generating a few million dollars in tax revenue is a losing bet.

by Daniel J. Smith, Guest Columnist, The Tennessean, March 21, 2022- Given the higher-than-expected renovation costs of Nissan Stadium, Nashville policymakers are now considering investing potentially a billion or more of taxpayer dollars into a new home for the Titans. The evidence shows that subsidizing a new stadium would be a boondoggle for the Music City.

Stadium subsidies are frequently justified on the grounds that they will have an impact on game day that boosts local employment and economic growth. Stadium supporters in Nashville hope that a new stadium will also attract mega-events such as concerts and even a future Super Bowl.  

While economists are often criticized for having conflicting opinions, they do reach an overwhelming consensus on sports stadiums. Economists have sliced and diced the data every which way, and the results are crystal clear: Claims about the economic impact of stadiums consistently turn out to be empty promises based on misleading assumptions and exaggerations. (Read more of this well-reasoned essay from Daniel J. Smith, director of the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University.)

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TN Lobbyist Association Urges Members To Action Against Lobbying Transparency Legislation (Update 3/24/22)

Tennesee Conservative - ***Update 3/24/22 – HB2485 was taken off notice in the House Public Service Subcommittee due to lack of a motion and second. The bill sponsor, Representative Todd Warner, told the Tennessee Conservative that he was notified by the chairman of the committee, Representative Esther Helton, on Tuesday afternoon that the bill would not pass or have a motion or second during the committee’s meeting.

Warner said, “With a Republican majority up here it is very sad to see the lack of support for true conservative legislation from my peers.”  (read more)

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Your tax dollars are used to fund lobbying!!

Taxpayers should be outraged that their money is being used against them. Taxpayer-funded lobbying is a vicious cycle that harms everyone – except the lobbying industry and the bureaucracy. I would urge you all to go contact your state house members and senators and ask them to support HB 2485 and SB 2687

HB 2485 -- Contact the members of the House Public Service Subcommittee 2687 -- 

Contact the members of Senate State and Local Government Committee

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Wednesday, March 23, 2022

What causes a Republican to become an admirer of Vladimir Putin

by Rod Williams, March 13, 2022 - I am appalled at the admiration on the part of some Republicans for Vladimir Putin and the way some Republicans justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The most influential American supporter of Putin is no doubt Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, but he is not the only one.

Moscow Carlson after briefly seeming to side with the democratic countries of the world and calling Russia’s invasion a tragedy and blaming Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine has reverted to arguing that the U.S. provoked the  Russian attack. Maybe for a moment, Tucker Carlson was offended by the Russian bombing of a kindergarten. The moment didn't last long.

Here is basically Carlson's position. It was summarized in a Vanity Fair piece.

You may not like the source Vanity Fair, but that is an accurate summation of the Carlson position as far as I can tell.  I only watch Tucker Carlson occasionally but that is my perception of his position. If you doubt it, follow the above links in the Vanity Fair piece and if still not convinced, do your own YouTube deep dive. I did. It is clear Tucker Carlson justifies Putin's aggression against Ukraine. 

Unfortunately, Carlson has influence. He is the most popular commentator in America and he is much more popular with Republicans than Democrats.  While pro-Putin Republicans are a small minority of all Republicans, there do exist.  In addition to Moscow Carlson, there are other conservative voices supporting Putin. There are a lot of small but influential bloggers spreading the same message as Carlson and those voices get amplified on social media. 

In the last week, I received two pro-Putin communications from people active in the local conservative community. I am refraining from naming them but if you are active in the Nashville conservative political community, you would know them.  One sends out a regular e-mail newsletter and the other has been active in various conservative organizations for many years. Since most people are not active, it doesn't take much activism to have an influence.  If it is happening in Nashville, then it is happening across the country.

I am appalled.  During the cold war, I got accustomed to Democrats supporting our enemies and would not be surprised if it were Democrats excusing an authoritarian government's aggression.  During the Vietnam conflict, many anti-war activists not only wanted us to abandon the effort to stop a Communist take over of Vietnam, but they also wanted a Communist victory. Anti-war protesters sometimes carried Viet Cong flags and chanted, "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh."  Not only were many Democrats opposed to winning the war in Vietnam, but they were also opposed to American efforts to resist Communism anywhere.  Remember Nicaragua? Remember Granada? Remember our support for the mujahadeen who defeated Russia in Afghanistan and the Democrat opposition? 

Many Democrats also supported policies that would weaken America's ability to counter the Communist threat anywhere, would have guaranteed our eventual subjugation by Russia, and would have given Russian advantages in the cold war. They opposed policies that eventually led to American victory in the cold war.  They wanted co-existence, not roll-back or victory.  Remember Democrat opposition to American superiority in the arms race and what was derided as "Star Wars?" Remember organizations like SANE that advocated unilateral nuclear disarmament? Remember Democrats being appalled by Reagan's call to "tear down this wall?"A sizeable portion of Democrats always opposed American's opposition to tyranny or policies to combat it and keep America safe and many actually sided with our enemies. 

So, I would not be shocked if there were pro-Putin Democrats.  I kind of accept that many, not most certainly, but a significant minority of Democrats do not value western values or believe the American way of life is worth defending.  They think America is so evil that we have no moral authority to see evil anywhere else. They think democracy has not delivered a perfect world and is not worth defending. They reason, that we are just as guilty of a violation of human rights as our enemy. They view, what they perceive as, denial of a women's right to choose, failure to fully normalize gender dysphoria and deviance, economic and racial inequality, and failure to rid the world of carbon fuels and save the planet as equally evil as genocide in some far off country. They can't be bothered with concern for evil elsewhere when we have failed to make the world perfect. 

I would not be shocked by liberals making the arguments that Moscow Carlson and other Putin Republicans make. I am shocked that conservatives are making these arguments. Where is this coming from?  I think I can identify some of the origins of thought that lead a conservative to become pro-Putin.

One source of the appeal of Putin for Putin Republicans is the attractiveness of strength and vitality. Putin has that macho image. Many people think that American and western nations and especially American and western men have become effeminate and lost all vigor.  The fit and handsome Putin seems like a "real man."  While Donald Trump is kind of pudgy and is not handsome necessarily, he has the persona of a winner. Many people like swagger, strength, and winners. They also like "genius" and "savvy." While, for the most part, people say they do not like bullies, bullies almost always have fans and followers.  Putin has sex appeal and charisma. That may be shallow, but I think there have always been shallow people who are ready to follow a strong man. This is true of the right and the left.  In this instance, since there are other reasons some Republicans can find Putin attractive, they do not inhibit their admiration for a man on horseback,

Another source of support for Putin among some Republicans is the traditional view that fortress America should stay out of foreign affairs. The term "entangling alliances" was coined by President Thomas Jefferson and used in his first inaugural address in 1801, calling for a cautious, isolationist foreign policy. 

Despite the world being much more connected now than it was in 1801, many still think that it is in America's best interest to just mind our own business and ignore the rest of the world.  I find this view terribly naive. It is, however, a view that circulates in Republican circles and from time to time gains traction with a sizeable segment of Republicans.  This is the view of most people who call themselves "libertarians,' and while small in number libertarians are sometimes Libertarians and sometimes Republicans. When they are Republicans their views spread to other Republicans.

The isolationist or non-interventionist position was prevalent prior to World War I and World War II and throughout the Cold War.  Prior to World War II, the America First view of isolationism was stronger among Republicans than Democrats.  There were of course many prominent Democrats who were also isolationist such as Joseph P. Kennedy, but isolationism was strongest among Republicans. It was primarily Republicans who opposed lend-lease and the occasional expression of admiration for Hitler or Mussolini was more likely to be heard from a Republican than Democrats. Prior to WWII, there was even a small movement of Americans opposing entry into the war who were Nazi fellow travelers. They worked with Nazi strategists and spies and were funded by Nazi money. These Nazi-friendly Americans were mostly Republicans while they never had the same degree of influence that the pro-Communist, Communist fellow travelers, useful idiots, and Marxist intelligentsia had among the Democrats they did exist.  This isolationist view never died out entirely in either party. 

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, isolationism made a return among Republicans.  In the former Yugoslavia, ethnic tension and rising nationalism led to genocide, war crimes, and a conflict that threatened to destabilize Europe. A reluctant President Bill Clinton who had been a passivist during the Vietnam War, exerted American leadership to bring an end to the conflict.  Those most vocal in opposition to American involvement in ending this conflict were Republicans. 

Republican isolationism was demonstrated in the candidacy of Pat Buchanan for President in the late 1990s. Buchanan had long been an important advocate of conservative values and had worked as a TV commentator, a print political commentator, an author, and had served in the Nixon White House.  In 1992, Buchanan challenged incumbent President George H.W. Bush for President in Republican primaries.  While Buchanan made an issue of Bush's violating his "read my lips," "no new taxes" pledge and while Buchanan ran on the social issue, he also ran a campaign advocating isolationism.  In the primary elections, Buchanan garnered three million total votes or 23% of the vote.  While not carrying the day, that is a significant number of Republicans who vote for someone advocating isolationism.

In 2008 and 2012 Congressman Ron Paul ran for President as a Republican and got respectable numbers and raised a lot of money.  In several early primaries in 2012, he garnered votes in the 18% to 24% of the Republican primary voters  He opposed just about all international treaties and organizations. He advocated pulling the United States out of the United Nations and NATO. He advocated ending almost all foreign aid and abolishing the CIA. Isolationism is not new to Republicans.  As a political belief, it is as old as the Republic and there have always been isolationist Republicans. 

Another source of support for Putin among Republicans is the belief that the west is decadent and Russia is a source of Christain resistance to this decadence. Russia, they believe, will lead a resurgence of the Christian faith. Russia is not in fact a very Christian country and only 7% of Russians attend church or another religious meeting of other faiths as frequently as once a month. 

It is ironic that Putin presents himself and Russia as the defender of the Christian faith. Russia was officially an atheist country for 70 years and Christians were persecuted and Putin was head of the KGB under the Communist regime which persecuted Christians. It seems strange to me that this view as Russia leading a return to godliness can carry any weight in the West, but it does. There has not been a religious revival in Russia. What has happened is that Putin is using the Church to prop up his regime.

For centuries, old regimes used the Church and the Church used the regimes as a source of control. Unity of the social order was important and the faith of the King was most often mandated to be the faith of all of his subjects.  The ruler was viewed as ruler due to a mandate from God. And, we all know about the divine right of kings and all of that.  Instead of trying to stamp out religion and ban it, the Russian state is making the Russian Orthodox Church subject to the authority of the State and making it the defacto State religion. The Russian Orthodox church is supported by the State with public funds and competing faiths are still persecuted. Respect for freedom of religion by secular authorities has declined in Russia since the late 1990s.  

There is a segment of Republicans who would want to make America an officially Chastain county. For them, they don't value freedom of religion, they value a religious country more than they do freedom. And they admire Russia as a Christian nation. At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, held last month, Lauren Witzke, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Delaware, had praise for Putin and "his Christian nationalist nation" and made it clear that she supports Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. “Here’s the deal", she said, "Russia is a Christian nationalist nation. They’re actually Russian Orthodox. ... I identify more with Putin’s Christian values than I do with Joe Biden." (1While this is a fringe view, it is not so fringe that it is denied a platform at the most important gathering of conservatives in America. 

Another source and the appeal of Putin and justification for his aggression is the same as the liberal justification for totalitarian and authoritarian regimes cited above in this essay. Some conservatives share with liberals the view that America is so evil that we have no business telling the world how to behave.  These conservatives see a completely different list of imperfections but reach the same conclusion. They are so unhappy with their country, they no longer love their country. They view America as an evil nation.  We are so imperfect we have no business meddling in other countries' affairs because we are no better than they are, they reason. 

I want the Republican Party to be a "big-tent," party.  I want to paper over disagreements rather than magnify them.  I like a spirited debate and want to see someone make the case for his vision. After the primary, however, I want the losers to pledge loyalty to what unites us rather than what divides us and I want to see all factions come together to beat the Democrats.  Having said that, however, I have utter contempt for Putin Republicans.  We can disagree about strategy but when you become an apologist for our enemy, that is where my tolerance for different points of view ends.  There are certain Republicans with whom I cannot hold hands and pretend we are on the same team.  There should be no room in the Republican Party for supporters of Vladimir Putin. 

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Monday, March 21, 2022

Yes, there really is hardcore porn in Metro School libraries.

by Rod Williams, March 20, 2022 - I have followed the controversy about what materials are part of required reading list in Metro schools and what books are in school libraries. Quite frankly, I didn't get too worked up about it.  One can't fight the fight for one's values on all fronts and there are other issues that concern me more. I just chose to ignore this issue rather than get worked up about it.  Not that I didn't believe the ones making the charge were telling the truth but I thought it is was not that big of a deal.  I reasoned that no doubt occasionally a book of questionably age-appropriateness worked its way into the curriculum or library shelves but I assumed it was rare.  

Also, I know what offends one parent may be perfectly OK with another parent and one can't please everybody. I grew up in a fundamentalist household, where mixed swimming was forbidden, dancing was a sin, we did not have dice or playing cards in the house, and only sinners drank.  My father would have objected to a book if in the story someone had a glass of wine or a shot of whiskey. He would have also objected to books that treated evolution as a valid scientific theory  I would not have wanted my father to be the one deciding which books could be in a school library. 

Another reason I have not gotten too worked up over which books are in school libraries is because I have seen woke progressives work to get books like Tom Sawyer and To Kill a Mocking Bird removed from schools. I generally oppose censorship and think libraries, even school libraries, should rarely remove a book because a person objects. I am just not that comfortable, letting the loudest voice deny access to literature to those who may want to read it. The most offended should not have that much power.

Also, Mom's for Liberty, the group behind the push to remove certain books from schools, appeared downright silly at times when they objected to certain books. Reportedly, Mom's has objected to a book about sea horses because two sea horses entwine their tails and the sea horses look too sexy.  Also, they opposed a book about Johnny Appleseed and a book about Ruby Bridges, and one about Martin Luther King. I didn't dig deep into the controversy, I just kind of dismissed the group. In addition to looking silly for some of the books they wanted to ban, they took the lead in fighting masking in schools.  To me, they appeared prudish, silly, narrow-minded, and maybe a little bigoted. 

Well, there is a problem.  There is real hard-core porn in our schools. I have received a letter from Cindy Goddard, chapter chair of the Davidson County Chapter of Mom's for Liberty. It contained a list of dozens of books in Metro libraries that are hardcore pornographic. It not only listed the books but summarized the content. I am not talking about soft-core romantic novels or mild literary erotica. I am talking porn.  I have seen porn; this is the real deal. This is the hard stuff!

I intended to post a link to the list or a link to the document so one could download it.  I cannot figure out how to post a downloadable file to this blog and cannot find a link to the document on Mom's for Liberty website.  I assume if you contact Ms Goddard she would share the list with you. If you contact me, I will send it to you in an email.  My email address is  

I have hesitated to post what I am posting below.  It is obscene. As they say, it is NSFW. However, I think it is important that people know what is in Metro school libraries, so for that reason, I am posting an excerpt from the document compiled by Ms Goddard. I am not cherry-picking the worst example, I am printing the first page of the document. 

Note: The below contains sexually explicit words and sexually erotic content, and profanity and dirty words for bodily functions. You have been warned. Read at your own risk. 

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