Saturday, January 13, 2024

No sale: Mt. Juliet, after Beacon lawsuit, drops $100/day food truck fee

By Jon Styf | The Center Square,  Jan 9, 2024 - A central Tennessee community east of Nashville passed an amended food truck ordinance on Monday that will create an equal $100 annual registration fee for all vendors.

Mt. Juliet's amended ordinance came after the city was sued by food truck operators from outside of the city and the Beacon Center of Tennessee after approving a $100 per day registration fee for vendors from outside of Mt. Juliet.

"We are absolutely thrilled that our lawsuit prompted the city of Mt. Juliet to repeal its unconstitutional $100/day permitting fee for food truck operators located outside of Mt. Juliet,” Beacon Director of Legal Affairs Wen Fa said in a statement. “That exorbitant fee essentially shut out our clients – food truck owners who have served many satisfied Mt. Juliet residents in the past – from Mt. Juliet. We're delighted for both our clients and for the residents of Mt. Juliet that the food trucks are now able to return."

Fa previously mentioned Funk Seoul Brother and Chivanada as food trucks impacted by the daily permit fee rule.

In the lawsuit, Beacon said the differential treatment of in-city and out-of-city food trucks violated the vendors’ state and federal constitutional rights.

Mt. Juliet is about 10 to 15 minutes drive from Nashville International Airport, and less than 20 miles from downtown Nashville. The city's population of about 40,000 got a surge of more than 15,000 between 2010 and 2020.

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Tennessee AG files unredacted complaint showing harm of Instagram to teens

 By Jon Styf, The Center Square Jan 11, 2024 - Tennessee’s attorney general filed an updated and un-
redacted version of its lawsuit against Meta claiming the company knew its Instagram platform was harmful to young users and did not stop those harmful features.

The features led young users to increased depression and anxiety along with increased hyperactivity, lack of sleep and other mental health harms. The lawsuit claims Meta knew of those issues and tried to hide them.

“The un-redacted complaint makes clear that Meta knew its platforms were hurting kids and made a very clear decision to choose money over the mental health of its young users,” Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti said in a statement. “Tennessee law protects kids from companies, big or small, that mislead and hurt them, and we will continue to aggressively enforce that law.”

Tennessee is one of several states, including New Mexico, currently suing Meta for conduct harmful to minors.

The lawsuit accuses Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg of going against retained experts and making a filter available that mimicked the effects of plastic surgery, which it says had devastating effects on young women.

Meta researched showed teens spoke of Instagram like addicts speak of something they know is bad for them but they cannot resist, the lawsuit says.

Meta also learned that its “time spent” tool was inaccurate but continued to use the feature and tout it as a wellness feature.

“Nearly half of teen girls (48%) often or always compare their appearances on [Instagram], and one-third (34%) feel intense pressure to look perfect,” the Meta research showed.

The research also showed 13% of those ages 13 to 15 received unwanted advances on Instagram within the past seven days, 27.2% of users witnessed bullying over the past week and 108% were the subject of Instagram bullying over that same span.

Rod's Comment: While I don't doubt that platforms like Instagram and Tic Tok can be harmful to children, I am cautious about using the power of government to silence even harmful voices. 

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Tennessee General Assembly Gavels in for 2024

 Rep. Susan Lynn
From Rep. Susan Lynn, Jan. 12,2023-  The 113th General Assembly reconvened in Nashville this week for the start of its second legislative session. Republicans this year will continue focusing on making strategic investments in education and public safety while also strengthening the economy and cutting taxes.

Among the top priorities for 2024 will be to approve a spending plan that addresses the needs of all Tennesseans. After nearly a decade of unprecedented economic growth, lawmakers will have to be even more conservative with their spending in 2024 as experts expect a $300 million shortfall in the budget. The State Funding Board estimated revenue growth for the 2023 fiscal year to be at 7.7 percent, however, actual growth was closer to 5.39 percent.

Despite lagging revenue collections and record-high inflation, the Volunteer State remains in a strong overall financial position with its economy continuing to outperform the national average. Tennessee has a long tradition of being a well-managed state with an incredibly low tax burden for residents. The General Assembly in 2023 invested an additional $250 million into the state’s Rainy-Day Fund, bringing it to more than $2 billion in total. This increases Tennessee’s financial stability and will benefit the state in the event of an economic downturn.

Supporting students and educators will also continue to be a priority for the Republican supermajority this session. Lawmakers have increased funding for K-12 education by $1.3 billion since fiscal year 2022-23, prioritized the individual needs of students with passage of the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act and approved the largest pay increase for teachers in state history. Members of the General Assembly this year will explore a proposal from Gov. Bill Lee that would expand school choice statewide through the Education Freedom Scholarship Act. This legislation would give families more control over how their tax dollars are used for their child’s education.

Improving public safety and protecting communities from crime will be another key area of focus this session. The General Assembly will consider measures to provide law enforcement with additional tools to keep criminals off the streets along with proposals to ensure offenders receive the appropriate sentences for their crimes. Last year, lawmakers approved $232 million to enhance school safety in Tennessee and will continue looking for additional ways to keep classrooms safe. 

Republicans will also look for ways to provide additional mental health support for residents as well as improve access to health care in rural communities along with other legislative initiatives that address various needs statewide.

Tennessee continues to thrive under conservative leadership, and House Republicans seek to build on that momentum in 2024. 

Bill Aims to close Loophole for Defendants Found Incompetent to Stand Trial

As part of an aggressive push to improve public safety in Tennessee, a Republican bill would close a legal loophole for defendants found incompetent to stand trial.

House Bill 1640, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, would require criminal defendants deemed incompetent to stand trial to be committed to an appropriate treatment facility. Current state law does not provide this requirement.

“This closes a loophole that puts the public’s safety at serious risk by allowing dangerous individuals back into society to languish and re-offend without receiving the appropriate mental health services and supervision they desperately need,” Lamberth said.

Jillian Ludwig
The legislation was introduced following the murder of Jillian Ludwig, an 18-year-old Belmont University freshman who was fatally shot while walking in a Nashville park on Nov. 7. Her killer, Shaquille Taylor, was a repeat violent offender prosecuted in April 2023 for a separate crime of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The case against Taylor was dismissed after three court-appointed physicians testified he was incompetent to stand trial and was released from custody. “This loss is an incomprehensible, senseless tragedy that exposes a critical failure in our judicial and mental health care systems,” Lamberth said. “I expect this legislation to close the wide gap in current law so that law-abiding citizens are protected from anything like this ever happening again in our state.”

The legislation would additionally require individuals deemed incompetent to stand trial to be entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which serves as a namecheck database of people prohibited from buying or owning firearms.

AI Protections for Music Industry

Republicans unveiled legislation to address the damaging impact artificial intelligence (AI) can have on the music industry in Tennessee.

Executive Director Jen Jacobsen 

Gov. Bill Lee announced the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act this week, which will add protections for songwriters, performers, and music industry professionals’ voice from the misuse of AI to Tennessee’s Protection of Personal Rights law. Overall, the music industry supports more than 61,617 jobs across the state, contributes $5.8 billion to Tennessee’s GDP and fills more than 4,500 music venues.

“From Beale Street to Broadway, to Bristol and beyond, Tennessee is known for our rich artistic heritage that tells the story of our great state,” Gov. Lee said. “As the technology landscape evolves with artificial intelligence, we’re proud to lead the nation in proposing legal protection for our best-in-class artists and songwriters.”

While Tennessee’s existing law protects name, image and likeness, it doesn’t specifically address new, personalized generative AI cloning models and services that enable human impersonation and allow users to make unauthorized fake works in the image and voice of others. Artists and musicians at all levels are facing exploitation and the theft of their integrity, identity, and humanity.

“Tennessee is home to a remarkably diverse music community that is important not only to the culture of our state, but its economy as well,” said House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland. “As technology advances, we must ensure the intellectual property of these incredibly talented artists, such as their voice, is fully protected. I am incredibly proud to carry this legislation that will benefit the performers who make our music industry so successful.”

The ELVIS Act would be the first legislation of its kind in the nation to build upon existing state rule protecting against the unauthorized use of someone’s likeness by adding “voice” to the realm it protects.

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Friday, January 12, 2024

Trump and Jesus got their own Thing going.

 by Rod Williams, Jan. 12, 2023- This is Trump's bizarre posting to Truth Social on Monday during his civil fraud trial.  Just when I think things in Trump World can't get any weirder, they do. 

Trump doesn't say this is Jesus. He just repost it from someone who says it is accurate and says nobody could have made it this far alone.

Actually, I don't think that is the real Jesus. I have seen the picture of Jesus holding the lamb, and the one of the last supper and I think Jesus has a softer gentler look. However, Jesus doesn't look too gentle chasing the money changers out of the temple, so maybe this is the real Jesus. I don't know. 

Also, if this is Jesus, I don't know is if Jesus is a co-defendant or a defense attorney. Trump's attorney has been hottie Alina Habba, whom it is rumored is Trump's new lover.  However, some have criticized her as doing a lousy job representing Trump. “With Alina Habba handling discovery, you know, that’s not something where I think anybody was really at the wheel,” said Tim Parlatore, former Trump attorney.  He said the Trump legal team has been handling his New York civil fraud trial so messily that they may not even be trying to obtain a ruling in their favor. 

Anyway, I am sure in a fraud trial like this it is good to have Jesus on your side, if in fact that is Jesus. 

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Thursday, January 11, 2024

Donald Trump’s savior complex

 The religious right has become less pious and more political. It has been Trumpified

by Freddy Gray, The Spectator, January 11, 2024 -Donald Trump has dominated Republican politics for so long that it can be hard to remember the time when he did not. It’s easy to forget that at the beginning of 2016 he started the Republican primary process by losing the Iowa caucuses to Ted Cruz, his more conservative rival.

“He stole it,” Trump tweeted afterwards, graceful as ever in defeat. “The State of Iowa should disqualify Ted Cruz from the most recent election on the basis that he cheated — a total fraud!” ... Skip forward to 2024 and Trump is still grumbling about stolen elections. ...  

Trump may have grown in power but he’s essentially the same ego-crazed maniac that he was eight years ago. What is changing is the soul of conservative America. The religious right, which dominated conservatism from the 1960s to the end of the George W. Bush era, has become less pious and more political. It has been Trumpified.

Eight years ago in Iowa, the powerful white evangelical lobby had just enough clout to hand victory to Cruz, a Southern Baptist who would urge his supporters to “Awaken the body of Christ that we may pull back from the abyss.” Back then, most evangelical leaders were disturbed by Trump — an adulterous braggart, a casino magnate who claimed to love the Bible but couldn’t cite a single verse. It turned out, however, that their flocks cared less about morality and more about Trump’s thrilling ability to offend the wicked liberal left.

In 2016 and 2020, Trump won more than three-quarters of the white evangelical vote. Stranger still, the Pew Research Center found that, from 2016 to 2020, voters with “warm feelings toward Trump” were far more likely to “begin identifying as born-again or evangelical Christians.” In other words, white people, rather than voting for Trump because they are Christian, have started to declare themselves Christian because they support Trump. ... 

... That’s why so many online Trump memes show him as a messianic figure fighting against the satanic Democrats. Trump himself enjoys playing with these notions. He amplifies the biblical proportions of his tribulations at the hand of the deep state and he has made “retribution” the theme of his 2024 campaign. On Sunday, he posted on his Truth Social account a picture of himself with the caption “One of God’s finest warriors.” On Friday, he shared a “God Made Trump” video in which a gravelly-voiced narrator declares him to be “a shepherd to mankind who won’t ever leave or forsake them.”

... On October 2, as one of his New York cases dragged on, Trump reposted another absurd picture on Truth Social of himself sitting next to Jesus Christ in the dock. Journalists and pundits scoffed at his messianic delusions. Surely America cannot vote for this blasphemous moron again! But as we approach another potentially cataclysmic presidential election in America, as Trump faces trial after trial and somehow survives, tens of millions of spiritually minded voters — not all of them lifelong Republicans — will be thinking: maybe God is on his side. (read it all)

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Trump suggests unauthorized migrants will vote. The idea stirs his base, but ignores reality

NEW YORK (AP), Jan. 11, 2024 — Donald Trump is seizing on his party’s frustration with the recent surge of illegal
crossings at the southern U.S. border to churn up fears around another top GOP concern — voter fraud.

In the final stretch before Iowa’s caucuses next Monday, the former Republican president has repeatedly suggested that Democrats are encouraging migrants to flow into the country illegally in order to register them to vote in the 2024 election. (read more)

Rod's Comment: There is no lie too big for Trumpinistas and no fear they will not stroke. They are laying the groundwork for explaining again how Democrats stole the election. 

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Tuesday, January 09, 2024

God Made Trump


by Rod Williams, Jan. 9, 2024- If you have not seen the "God Made Trump" video, here it is. Trump shared this on his Truth Social platform. It is getting a lot of buzz.  I have talked to some Trump supporters who really think like this. I have been so disappointed with Christain evangelicals who are among Trump's strongest supporters. 

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Ray Epps, Supposed Agent Provocateur, Sentenced for his Participation in Jan. 6th Riot.

Ray Epps on Jan. 6 at the Capitol
by Rod Williams, Jan. 9, 2024- I continue to be amazed and mystified that previously sane Republicans could go so full-scale hardcore Trump cultist, believing the most improbable of things. It seems the more evidence is presented that the election was not stolen, the deeper they will dig in to justify believing it was.  Trumpism is like a religious faith. It is like The Emperor has No Clothes. The mindset of many Republicans is "my mind is made up; don't confuse me with facts." Qanon and Alex Jones stuff is now often Republican mainstream. Some people may use terms like "the deep state" to mean bureaucracies have too much autonomy and have become overbearing, but others use the term to express that we are living a Matrix movie. Trump Republicans, which unfortunately are most Republicans, are capable of believing the most unbelievable things. They can believe six impossible things before breakfast.

One of the theories to explain away the January 6th insurrection to prevent the peaceful transfer of power is that it was really not Trump supporters who organized and executed the attack on the Capitol, but it was agents of the government to make Trump supporters look bad. I know that is nuts, but that is what many Trump supporters claim. 

The theory that says the attack on the Capitol was a false flag operation often focuses on a guy named Ray Epps. According to Trump cultist, Epps was an undercover government agent who helped incite the Capitol attack to entrap Trump supporters. When the word spread naming Epps as the government agent leading all of these innocent Trump supporters into the Capitol, he became a target of Trumpinista hatred. His life was threatened, and he had to sell his home and close his business and go into seclusion and keep a low profile. 

Epps was a Trump supporter who says he went to Washington to peacefully protest the certification of the election. Maybe his original intention was peaceful protest, but he engaged in the attack on the Capitol. Epps was at one time a leader of a chapter of the Oath Keepers.  I have not seen anything that would cause one to think he was an FBI agent provocateur. Even after Epps was charged by the Justice Department for participating in the Jan. 6 attack on the capitol, the right-wing allegation that he was a FBI provocateur continued. 

Today Epps was sentenced to a year of probation for disorderly conduct on restricted grounds. Will this cause Trumpinistas to conclude he really wasn't a agent provocateur? I would be surprised if it did. They will claim the deep state is just really good at hiding its misdeeds. They will say he got a lesser sentence than some other people who attacked the Capitol. The slap on the wrist proves he really was a government agent, the argument will go.  

When confronted with facts that don't conform to their theory, Trump cultist just dig deeper into their delusion. 

For more on this story see the AP website at this link

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Sunday, January 07, 2024

To my Trumpinista friends, Happy January 6th

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