Wednesday, January 03, 2024

THIS SATURDAY** Bellevue Breakfast Club - Jan. 6, 2024, 8:30AM

The first speaker of the New Year for the Bellevue Breakfast Club will be Aaron Spraldin, founder of Mission America Foundation and President/CEO of Pale Horse Global Risk Security.

Mission America Foundation focuses on the fight against human trafficking, and over the last several years Aaron and his team has made a significant difference in Tennessee and around the world preventing and rescuing trafficking victims. 

 Bellevue Breakfast Club will meet Saturday, January 6 at Plantation Pub. Located at 8321 Sawyer Brown Rd., Nashville TN 37221, and will begin around 8:30am.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2024

Even the Liberal New York Times Sounds the Alarm about the Federal Debt

by Rod Williams, Jan. 2, 2023- We're rolling downhill like a snowball headed for hell. 

I have a gloomy outlook for the new year and beyond. This may be a year of political violence. We may have an election in which half the country does not accept the outcome. Our faith in Democracy is faltering. 

In foreign affairs, an isolationist mood in the country may mean America abdicates its leadership role in the world. A Russian victory in Ukraine may occur and that may lead to additional Russian aggression and drag us into a war to defend a NATO ally. It is doubtful we are up to the task of challenging Chinese aggression. We no longer have the industrial capacity to be the "arsenal of democracy." 

With approximately two million foreigners a year pouring across our open southern border, many of them being from nations which wish us harm, we are ripe for a major jihadist terrorist attack. The threat of nuclear exchange appears to me to be as great as any time in our history. The list goes on.

One of the threats to our national security which does not get a lot of attention is the threat to our national security caused by our growing national debt. One glimmer of hope is that this is now being recognized as a serious threat. Even liberals are waking up. Those of you who read the conservative journals of analysis and opinion know it is threat. The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, and a few other publications, and organizations like Committe for a Responsible Federal Budget provide the data and explain the problem. Even we who know it is serious problem, have heard it for so many years that we become somewhat jaded.  Now however, even the tax and spend liberals are realizing that our current debt trajectory is not sustainable.

Writing in today's New York Times, German Lopez writes the following: 

The federal debt starts the new year at a level that is hard to grasp: $34 trillion. That is 1.2 times the U.S.’s annual economic output. At the end of World War II, the ratio was only about 1.1.

Both parties have contributed to the situation. Republicans have passed large tax cuts. Democrats have enacted ambitious climate and health care initiatives. Both funneled money to Americans in response to the Covid pandemic.

For years, many economists believed the country’s debt was not a problem. Interest rates were low, which held down debt payments. Inflation was also low, which suggested the debt wasn’t hampering the economy. If anything, additional government spending helped create jobs when unemployment was elevated for much of the 2010s.

But times have changed, and federal deficits now look scarier.

The author quotes liberal's favorite economist Paul Krugman as saying, “Serious deficit reduction, a bad idea a decade ago, is a good idea now.” I would disagree that serious deficit reduction was ever a "bad idea," but at least someone to whom liberals with listen is now saying serious deficit reduction is a good idea.

For a New York Times columnist to say federal deficits are scary is a sea change. It is not just this one article, but I have been seeing a change in tone from other liberal voices. It is encouraging that liberals are starting to see the problem. Unfortunately, at the same time liberals may be waking up, what passes for conservatism today may be retreating in concern about deficits and the national debt. Republicans are backtracking. To address the problem of the growing national debt we must address Social Security and Medicare and Republicans have joined Democrats in taking those issues off the table. 

We're rolling downhill like a snowball headed for hell. 

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Gross National Debt Tops $34 Trillion; Third Milestone in 12 Months

From Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, JAN 2, 2024 - The gross national debt of the United States topped $34 trillion Friday after topping $33 trillion in September, the U.S. Treasury confirmed today.

The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Though our level of debt is dangerous for both our economy and for national security, America just cannot stop borrowing. The U.S. gross national debt – the combination of both the debt held by the public and intragovernmental debt – hit $34 trillion Friday, which is barely three months after it hit $33 trillion. A truly depressing ‘achievement.’

There is not a single economic reason to add to the debt at the rate we are, but sadly our political leaders are unwilling to make the changes we need to turn the fiscal situation around.

There is some good news: 2023 was actually a good year for fiscal responsibility, where we saw a net $1.3 trillion improvement in the ten-year deficit picture, largely thanks to the bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA). That’s a decent down payment on the much-needed deficit reduction it will take to stem the rise in our national debt.

But as we enter 2024, there is a huge risk we will return to making things worse by adding new tax cuts, spending increases, and/or ignoring the caps agreed to in the FRA.  

We remain hopeful that policymakers will take further measures to reduce our borrowing either by raising taxes, reducing spending, or creating a fiscal commission – or ideally by doing all of the above.

We can be a weak divided country where our leaders fight, pander, and take the easy way out while we become increasingly vulnerable, or we can do the hard work to be stronger, more secure, and more prosperous for the long run. This is a moment of consequence and continuing to refuse to pay our own bills will not lead us to where we need to be as a nation.

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Sunday, December 31, 2023

New Year's Eve advice from the Rod Williams School for Drunk Driving

by Rod Williams, Dec. 31, 2023 - New Year's Eve is tonight, the number one day of the year for people driving while intoxicated. Many of these people will be people who only occasionally drink and rarely get drunk, so they will not have developed good drunk driving skills.  For these amateurs, I am presenting these tips from the Rod Williams School from Drunk Driving.

(1) Don't Drive drunk. That is the number one tip: don't do it. Getting arrested for drunk driving is only one reason not to drive drunk.  The most important reason is you could kill yourself or someone else.  If you are lucky and don't kill someone else or yourself, getting arrested for drunk driving could cost you your job, your election, your social standing, custody of your children or visitation rights, a lot of money, and maybe your marriage.

If you overindulge, there are alternatives to driving drunk. If you do get drunk, Uber or Lyft or get a hotel room or call a friend or family member and ask them to come get you. If at a friend's house and you have had too much to drink, stay the night.  

Lyft and Uber are affordable, fast, and convenient.  By now most people who live an active life have probably used one of these services. If you have not used one of the services however, the way they work is that you page a ride using your phone. To do that you must first download an app. Don't wait until you're drunk to try to download the app. Here is a link to the Uber app.

(2) Pick the designated driver before you start drinking.  If you are not going to rely on a commercial service such as a cab or Uber, and you know you are going to be drinking and you are going with other people, then have a designated driver. I prefer being the designated drinker, but someone needs to be the designated driver.
Despite the above advice, I know there will be times when a person will have had too much to drink and not think they are too drunk to drive but will have had a sufficient amount of adult beverage that they could register drunk even though they don’t think they are drunk. I myself have probably driven many times when I would have registered drunk had I been stopped. I am not by any means advocating driving drunk, but if you are possibly driving impaired I am providing these below tips to help you increase your chances of getting home safely without getting arrested.

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

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

On occasion, but not as often as I would like and certainly not as often as when I younger, I like to go to Lower Broadway to listen to live music and party. If I have 8, 12-ounce beers in a four-hour period I should have a BAC of about .068, however, if I have 9 beers in four hours that means I have a BAC of .085 and am legally drunk. “One for the road” could put me over the limit. Actually, I seldom have eight in a four-hour period, but it has happened.

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

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

(5) You'r not a kid anymore. As you age, your reaction times can slow down, and you can lose the ability to effectively divide your attention between multiple activities. Aging tends to result in a reduction of strength, coordination, and flexibility. Face it, there are some things you cannot do as well when you are old as you could when you were young.  You may not be safely able to drink as much and drive.

(6)  Point your car in the direction of home.  Plan your trip. A good car should be able to find its way home, with a little help.  Avoid places where the police might see you. In the days before Uber and when you could still park on Broadway, I would visit the honkytonk strip of Lower Broad. I never would park on Broadway, however. I live on the south side of town, so I would park a block or two south of Broadway on one of the one-way streets heading south. That meant I did not have to circle a block and be concerned about traffic lights and stop signs. The less exposed one is to the police the less chance one has of getting caught. It is worth parking four or five blocks away to reduce your exposure.

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

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

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

(10)  One crime at a time! Do not commit other crimes while driving drunk. If stopped for suspicion of drunk driving, don't compound your problems by being arrested for drunk driving and something else.  Don't smoke dope while driving drunk. Don't get arrested for drunk driving and for speeding, or possession of a controlled substance, or contributing to the delinquency of a minor, or soliciting prostitution.

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

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

(13) If you get stopped. Unless you are certain that you have had less than the number of drinks it would take to raise your BAC level to the .08 level, then common wisdom holds that it is a good idea to refuse the breathalyzer test. It generally is more difficult to convict a driver of drunk driving if no chemical tests are taken.

(14) Don't sleep it off in the car.  Should you find yourself drunk and think a nap will revive you or that you may just spend the night in your car, don't do it. Even if you are not driving, if you are in your car drunk, you can be charged with DUI.  See the guidelines above about alternatives to driving drunk. If you can't take a ride-share or call a friend, and you do end up drunk, it would be better to sleep it off in a doorway or park bench than in your car. 

Rep. Bill Beck
(15) Use your influence to get the charge thrown out. Be a State Representative or other person (link) with important friends who can get a judge to throw out the charge based on lack of probable cause for making the stop. Despite the police seeing you drive with wheels over the lane line and observing the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, and inability to walk straight and despite the arresting officer saying you were "absolutely hammered," the judge may rule the arresting officer did not have probable cause for making the stop.

(16) Pray. It can't hurt.

This is a tip suggested by one of the students of the Rod Williams School for Drunk Driving and I am incorporating it into the curriculum.

(17) If you are seeing double, close one eye. 

Stay safe. Drive careful. Happy New Years.

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