Saturday, December 3, 2016

Tennessee's 2018 governor's race is right around the corner. Who will seek the office?

In case you missed it and care about the upcoming governor's, The Tennessee ran a good piece on the topic recently.  It listed all of the potential Republicans and Democrats who may be seeking the office of which they were aware.  The article gave a short bio on each and for the leading contenders told their political strengths and weaknesses and the status of their campaign funds on hand and potential for funding a campaign.

The Republicans profiled were Diane Black, Marsha Blackburn, Beth Harwell, Alberto Conzales, Bill Lee, Bill Nagerty, Mark Green, Stephen Fincher, Randy Boyd, Tre Hargett, Andy Ogles, and Joe Carr.  Democrats profiled were Bill Freeman and  Karl Dean. They left out Mary Mancini, chairman of the Tennessee Democrat Party.  I hope Mancini seeks the office.  

To read the article follow this link.

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Bob Corker would make a great Secretary of State

Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are  the leading contenders for Trump's pick for Secretary of State, but each have their distractors.  A name that keeps popping up as also under consideration is that of Tennessee's Senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

When he is mentioned, movement conservatives go ballistic. Richard Viguerie's Conservative HQ posted an article, Mr. Trump: Don’t Make Traitor Bob Corker Secretary Of State. Bombastic radio talk show host Mark Levin's Conservative Review posted a piece called, 4 reasons Bob Corker would be the absolute WORST pick for Secretary of State. Red State writes, Donald Trump, If You Care About America Don’t Give This Clown A Job.   The large and loud conservative echo chamber has repeated these post and variations on the theme.

The primary criticism of Corker in all this is his role in the Iran deal. The narrative is that Corker helped Obama push the deal through the Senate.  I followed the issue at the time and watched a lot of Congressional hearings on CSPAN and have researched it since and that is just not the way I see it.  Corker's effort to stop the deal failed, but he made a valiant effort to stop it. I fear there are many on the right who value impotent symbolic grandstanding rather than efforts at real governance. While Corker's effort failed he did at least provide an opportunity for Congress to kill the deal if opponents would have had sufficient votes.

Here is what happened.  Starting in March 2013 the Obama administration started secret negotiations with Iran to curtail Iran's nuclear ambition and to reward Iran by the lifting of sanctions and freeing of frozen assets. Negotiating in secret is not unusual.  As negotiations progressed and allies at the top level of government had to be informed, Congress became aware. At the same time that the Obama administration was engaged in negotiating lifting of sanctions, Congress had been deliberating on newer tougher sanctions. Congress made noise but had no means to stop the negotiations.

By the spring of 2015, Iran and the Obama administration were about to sign off on the details of the deal. It paved the way for Iran to become a nuclear power with little meaningful oversight to prevent that from happening and released $150 billion in frozen assets which Iran, one of the worlds leading state sponsors of terrorism, could be free to use however it wanted. What Obama accomplished was kicking the can down the road so he would not have to deal with the challenge.  In the process he made Iran a bigger future threat.

Congress huffed and puffed about the deal but had no meaningful way to stop it.  The critics of Corker's role in the deal say the deal should have been presented as either a treaty or a piece of legislation lifting the sanctions. That would have been nice if that would have happened but there was no way to compel that to happen and Obama was prepared to go it alone.

For one thing, administrations have been negotiating deals with foreign countries since the founding of the Republic and not every deal is treated as a treaty. We routinely enter into Status of Forces Agreements with foreign governments and those are not treaties. There are lots of agreements that do not get presented to Congress to be considered a treaty.  Perhaps Congress could have went to the Supreme Court in an attempt to compel the President to submit the deal to Congress as a treaty but it is doubtful the Court would have taken the case or ruled against the President if they had.

If the Iran sanctions would have been imposed by Congress then they could have only been lifted by Congress, but such was not the case.  Some of the sanctions were agreements entered into with allies and some were the result of UN resolutions. Only the Security Council could terminate the Security Council's sanctions on Iran, not the U. S. Congress.  Congress had no voice in those.  Some of the sanctions were by executive order and congress cannot stop the President from canceling an executive order. Some of the sanctions were a result of congressional actions but those gave the president waiver authority to suspend the sanctions.

The Obama administration said Congress would have a role in the agreement but only after the deal was done and Congress would be asked to lift sanctions. By that time, it would be too late to exert much influence. The UN sanctions would be lifted, the executive orders cancelled, existing sanctions waived,  and the pressure for Congress to rubber stamp the lifting of sanctions would have been great.

To stop the administration from going it alone, Senator Corker took what in my view was almost heroic actions. He urged President Obama not to seek a United Nations endorsement of the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran without first giving Congress a chance to vote on it. “There are now reports that your administration is contemplating taking an agreement, or aspects of it, to the United Nations Security Council for a vote,” Senator Bob Corker wrote in a letter to Obama. “Enabling the United Nations to consider an agreement or portions of it” without allowing Congress to vote on the agreement would be “a direct affront to the American people and seeks to undermine Congress’s appropriate role,” wrote Corker. (link)

This was followed by weeks of a tense standoff and maneuvering with Bob Corker leading the effort trying to find a way to stop the administration from going it alone.  If only Republicans would have been demanding a role for Congress, any bill passed would have been vetoed and Congress could not have overridden the veto.  Corker worked to come up with a bill that could win bi-partisan support.  It had to strike the balance that would keep the most hawkish of Republicans on board and enough Democrats to be veto-proof. The final bill, The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, assured Congress had a role in the process.  It gave Congress a 60-day window to debate the Iran agreement before voting on it.  It allowed lawmakers to reject the lifting of legislative sanctions or not. In committee the vote for the bill was 19 to 0 and the Senate vote on the bill was 98-1 and the House vote was 400 to 20. If corker is a traitor or an Obama enabler for pushing the bill, then are there not 97 other senators and 400 congressmen who voted for it not also guilty? Corker is not alone in this.  (link)

When the bill approving the Iran deal came before the Congress, Bob Corker was a leader in urging its rejection. He denounced the deal in Congress, appeared on Sunday talk shows opposing the deal and wrote editorials in opposition.  He said the deal would not prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. "Rather than end Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, over time this deal industrializes the program of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism," he said. "For a deal that must be built on verification and not trust, the inspections process is deeply flawed." He also questioned the wisdom of the rebalancing that would rely on Iran to help the US achieve its goals in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.  To read Senators Corkers criticism of the deal see the editorial that appeared in the Washington Post.

In the end, the bill to disapprove the Iran nuclear deal failed.  After a procedural vote to end debate , which required 60 votes Democrats successfully filibustered the measure and prevented the resolution of disapproval from coming to a vote.

While Senator Corker's effort to stop the Iran deal failed, he worked hard to give Congress a voice in the matter and succeeded at that but was not successful in killing the deal.  I don't think anyone else could have done a better job.

I am pleased to see the article below appear in the pages of National Review:
by Lester Munson & Jamil Jaffer 
In a recent editorial on possible nominations for secretary of state, National Review’s editors repeated the notion that by voting in favor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA), Congress somehow “facilitated” the deal’s path through Congress. That notion is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our Constitution and the relative powers of Congress and the president in foreign policy. And it’s important for conservatives to get this right. 
Many people think that Congress ought to have “forced” the president to submit the Iran deal as a treaty. In fact, Congress had no way to do that, because the president was misusing waiver authorities granted in prior sanctions and therefore didn’t need Congress to implement the deal at all.
I have watched a lot of CSPAN and have seen Senator Corker in action in committee and have read things he has written and seen him on the Sunday talk shows.  He is always prepared, has his facts in order, makes reasonable arguments, and is sensible and mannerly.   He may not be the maddest and the loudest guy in the room, but I usually think he is the smartest and the wisest.  I know it has become fashionable for movement conservatives to denounce Bob Corker but I am departing from the pack.  I like Bob Corker.  I think he would make a great Secretary of State.  

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Friday, December 2, 2016

Rand Paul wants Bob Corker for Secretary of State

Rand Paul finally reveals who he wants as secretary of state

The Blaze, by Brandon Morse - Kentucky Senator Rand Paul has been on the warpath when it comes to President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state picks. He’s not been one to hold back commentary about former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, calling him a “menace,” and vowing that if Trump decided to go with Bolton, the Senator would gather the necessary votes to stop it. Paul was also just as adamant about Trump’s other rumored pick, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

But now, according to Politico, another pick has surfaced that could have bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats, and even the approval of the picky Kentucky senator.

This is none other than Tennessee Senator Bob Corker.

“I think he would be a great pick,” Paul said of Corker. (read more)

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Senate wants Corker as Secretary of State

Could promise of easy confirmation sway Trump's decision? 
Nashville Post,  authors Cari Wade Gervin - President-elect Donald Trump may not have decided who he's nominating for secretary of state, but the body that confirms that nomination seems to have an overwhelming favorite pick: U.S. Sen. Bob Corker. (link)

But there's one choice that could put an end to Trump's made-for-TV drama and ultimately breeze through the Senate: Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker ...

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Tennessean editorial: Public should see hosptial books.

Editorial: The public deserves to know why the hospital needs another $10 million bailout in less than a year. 

by David Plazas, The Tennessean - Nashville General Hospital at Meharry is bleeding money, the Metro Hospital Authority might demand another bailout and taxpayers deserve to know why.

The authority, which is the hospital’s board of directors, will meet next month to consider asking Metro Nashville Government for a second $10 million “emergency” infusion in less than a year.

When the hospital received $10 million in emergency funds in February, CEO Dr. Joseph Webb called it a “one-time request.” These words have come to betray him.

 .... The Joint Commission report was never fully released to the Council or to the public because of a loophole in the public records law, so they had a limited scope of the problems. ....Emergency requests should not become the norm, but transparency should be. (read the full editorial)

My Comment: I am pleased to see this editorial and agree, however I think it should go one step further and conclude Metro government needs to get out of the hospital business.  If the citizens of Nashville feel a need to subsidize indigent care, could the money not be better spend by reimbursing local hospitals? In today's health care climate, I have never seen a compelling reason for Nashville being in the hospital business.

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Should Bob Corker be picked for Secretary of State?

While Rudy Giuliani  and Mitt Romney are the leading contenders for Secretary of State and each have their critics, another name that keeps popping up is that of Tennessee's own Senator Bob Corker.  Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  I have watched a lot of CPAN and seen Bob Corker in action and have always been impressed by his command of the facts, probing questions, logic and demeanor. I have a lot of respect for Senator Corker.

I have not studied Senator Corker's roll in the Iran deal to know if for a fact Senator Corker helped make the deal possible. I know enough about the Iran deal to know I think it is a disaster.  Below is an evaluation of Senator Corker from Conservative Review that says Corker would be a terrible pick for Secretary of State. I am withholding judgement and am trying to determine if in fact Bob Corker facilitated the Iran nuclear deal.

4 reasons Bob Corker would be the absolute WORST pick for Secretary of State
Conservative Review - Senator Bob Corker, R-Tenn. (F, 45%) has been floated as a serious contender to become President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state and will meet with Trump this week. But his resume in Congress is spattered with red flag.

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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Private sector can solve short-term rental issue

The recent ruling striking down the constitutionality of Metro Nashville's ordinance means a strategy shift is in order. 

The Tennessean, by Justin Owen and David Krauss - It was 12:39 on a Saturday morning. A bachelorette party was still going strong, just back from a fun night on Broadway.

Back at their short-term rental in East Nashville, the party didn’t seem to be winding down anytime soon. But then one of the partygoers’ cell phone rang. It was the rental host, telling her that he had received a text alert that the party had become too loud. The text didn’t come from a neighbor, or even worse the police, but from NoiseAware, a service that provides short-term rental hosts with a “smoke detector for excessive noise.”

 .... some on the Metro Council want to double down, imposing even more stringent regulations, such as limiting the number of unrelated persons who can stay in someone’s home. ...Rather than enact even more impossible to enforce regulations, the city should instead boost penalties for the violations that actually harm neighbors’ quiet enjoyment of their property, and allow private sector solutions like NoiseAware to help short-term rental owners become more responsible hosts. (Read more)

My Comment: Justin Own is president and CEO the Beacon Center of Tennessee. The Beacon Center successfully got portions of Nashville's Short Term Rental Properties regulations overturned as unconstitutional. 

I agree with the view expressed in this article. Government can usually do more good by doing fewer things and doing them well and then getting out of the way.  A lot of issues resolve themselves if government does not try to micro manage.

I have a close relative who has a rental property and they converted it to a short-term rental. Given the cash flow, one would think they were making a killing.  However, the expense was high, paying all utilities and cable and taxes. Also it was like running a business. It was a lot of work. They had to get up in the night to let people in who had lost the code or could not work the entry lock. They had to rush over and clean the house and wash the linen as soon as someone moved out to prepare it for the next guest. After operating the house as a Short Term Rental for a few months they converted it back into a regular rental property.  Not everyone who got in the short term rental business will stay in it.

Another factor to consider is that there are thousands of hotel and motel units under construction or on the drawing board fot the Nashville area.  I could not find a specific count but have seen it reported in the past and it is an enormous number of units that are going to be coming on line.  As more units come on line, fewer units of housing will be converted to STRP and some that are now short term rental may convert back to long term rental properties. 

I live in the Woodland in Waverly neighborhood and one door down from me is a short term rental and diagonally across the street is one.  I have heard people laughing and having a good time.  I could hear them, but it was not offensive.  There are some people who are just not happy if other people are having fun.

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Saturday, November 26, 2016


This is a great day! One of the last Communist dictators in the world has died. I wish I was somewhere celebrating!

A truly evil man has been removed from this earth! I'll celebrate and drink to that.

Fidel Castro’s greatest atrocities and crimes – Part 1

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Metro General Hospital is seeking an additional $10 million dollar subsidy from the city.

Metro General Hospital is seeking an additional $10 million dollar subsidy from the city.  This would be the second $10 million cash infusion this year on top of the regular $35 million annual subsidy. In 2015 the regular budgeted subsidy was $27.6, increasing to $35 million in 2016. Following the first $10 million additional subsidy this year, Mayor Barry announced a third-party assessment of the hospital's finances and leadership structure. The City has also been holding weekly meetings with the staff to address the financial and management issues.  From the response to the request by the city's finance director, the administration is displeased that this request is being made. To read about the request and the city's response as reported by The Tennessean, follow this link.

Metro General is the city's charity hospital.  There is no charter requirement that the city fund such a hospital or no state requirement.  Metro General is a money pit and is no longer necessary.  I suspect the reason no one seriously considers getting out of the hospital business has more to do with the voting power of the Black community and pride of the Black community in having a Meharry Medical College in Nashville, than any real need. Funding Metro General is a way to subsidize Meharry Medical college. In my view, Metro Nashville needs to get out of the hospital business just as we got out of the nursing home business a couple years ago when we privatized Bordeaux Long-term Care and Knowles Home Assisted Living and Adult Day Services, saving the city $10.5 million a year.

Metro General has been struggling for years. Many years ago there was a need for local governments to provide charity hospitals and many cities did. As healthcare changed and low income people no longer had to go to the charity hospitals but could go to the hospital of their choice, the justification for such safety net hospitals became less persuasive, but with government slow to change, many cities continued their funding of charity hospitals as did Nashville.

Overtime other changes occurred which made General even less viable, such as more people being treated as outpatients rather than being admitted into hospitals and length of stay in hospitals being shortened. A more recent change has been the impact of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Obama administration cut subsidies to hospitals that treat the uninsured. The logic for this was that more people would have insurance and there would be less need for the subsidy.  This policy had lead to closing of hospitals, especially in rural areas, but has effected the income of all hospitals.

Metro General Hospital opened as the City Hospital on April 23, 1890 as Nashville’s first full-service hospital. In 1891 the hospital started a school of nursing and in 1913 it opened a pediatric ward. The hospital grew and flourished until after World War II when admissions began declining. As more hospitals opened in Nashville customers had more choice. St. Thomas opened in 1898 and then Baptist Hospital, first known as the Protestant Hospital, opened in 1917. Park View which was the first in what was to became a chain of hospitals known as HCA opened in the mid 1960’s. Vanderbilt Hospital opened in the 1970’s and there have been numerous expansion and additions of other hospitals since then.

Not only did more choice mean less demand for General, but when Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law in 1965 that meant that low income people could go to any hospital and not depend on city charity. By the 1990’s General was facing a crisis. Not only did low income people have choice, but General, dependent on Metro’s level of funding, did not have the resources to acquire the latest in technology and equipment. Also the building, by this time a hundred years old, was in need of rebuilding or major rehabilitation.

Maharry Medical College was also facing a financial crisis in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In an effort to help both institutions, in October 1991 Nashville approved of a plan to merge the Meharry Hospital with Metro General. The merger phased out services at the Metro General Hospital site on the bluffs of the Cumberland, now known as “Rolling Mill Hill,” and relocated services to Meharry-Hubbard hospital. General Hospital became the teaching hospital for Meharry Medical School and metro heavily subsidized the 116-bed facility.

General has had a difficult time competing with the many other hospitals in the area despite Metro’s generous subsidy. Despite Metro’s continued subsidy of the hospital, the hospital struggles to attract patients. All Metro prisoners are treated at Mehary-General and Metro employees are given an advantageous deal if they will use Meharry, and yet still the hospital struggles.

In 2012 the city commissioned a study of Meharry-General conducted by the firm of Alvarez and Marsal. The study found that as currently operating Meharry General was not sustainable. One thing plaguing Meharry is that it cannot fill its beds. They only have an occupancy rate to about 42%, but even if they operated at full capacity they would have a per patient loss per day of $1,602. The per patient loss is higher with fewer patients, but the overall loss would be greater with more patients. This study is dated of course and I do not have current occupancy rates, but obviously things have not gotten better.

The consultants offered a range of options for addressing the situation, ranging  from “maintaining the status quo to re-purposing the hospital as an ambulatory care facility with reduced inpatient services to a full scale re-design of the business model focused entirely on outpatient and clinical service.”

A couple years ago, Metro spun off its nursing homes and saved the city $10.5 million a year. A city owned nursing home is as about as archaic as a city poor farm, yet ending metro’s ownership and operation of a nursing home was not without its opponents and yet the city did it. Even Megan Barry voted to privatize Boudreaux and Knowles.  It is time for Metro to get out of the hospital business.

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