Monday, December 31, 2012

Senator Bob Corker: Any Fiscal Cliff Deal Today Will Be 'Irrelevant



Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said Monday anything that happens in the final stages of fiscal cliff negotiations is "really inconsequential." It wasn't pessimism, though: "It really doesn't matter. It's going to happen. We will have a solution."

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What we think we know about violence in America

While the horror of  the elementary school shooting in Newtown Connecticut should not be minimized, we should nevertheless, not let it lead us to believing untrue things.     

We, nor our children, are at a great risk of being killed in a mass shooting. The chances of being killed in a mass shooting are about what they are for being struck by lightning. You have a much greater risk of being killed in an auto accident or being killed playing football or bicycling or dying from any number of illnesses than you do of being killed in a mass shooting. 

The number of people killed in mass shooting is not increasing. The chart to the right reflects the research of criminologist Alan Fox showing the number of victims, offenders and deaths from mass shooting from 1980- 1910. It shows no trend upward.
This year has been a terrible year for such mass shootings, with the shooting at a movie theater in Auroa Colorado in July, the Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August, a shooting in  Minneapolis in September and then the Connecticut elementary school on December 14. However, one year does not make a trend. 

While criminologist Alan Fox looked at all mass killing including those involving robbery, Mother Jones took another approach and looked only at killing sprees with no rational motive and found an increase in 2012, reflected in the chart to the right.

One could look at this chart and just as validly and observe a 90% drop in mass killings from 1999 to 2000 and no mass killings at all in 2002. Does that really tell us anything of significance? All we know is that we had an unusually high number of mass killings in 2012.


Another thing that this horrific killing in Connecticut has led many to believe is that crime is increasing.  Crime is actually on the decline and has been since about 1980 and has been dropping rapidly since about 1994. This data is available for anyone who wants to know it.

But the rate of firearm homicides is up, is it not?  No, it is not. Firearm homicide is at its lowest point since at least 1981: 3.6 per 100,000 people in 2010. The high point was 7 in 1993.

There are other things people think they know and those things are true. The United States has a higher rate of violence than other modern industrialized countries.  We do not have the highest rate in the world however. Much of the less developed world has a much, much higher crime rate but that is no consolation. We do not want to be compared to South Africa or Columbia but to Europe or Canada and comparing the United States with similar nations finds that U.S. homicide rate almost seven times higher than rates in the other high-income countries.

This, however, needs to be put in some context. We are a very large and diverse country and comparing the US to a homogeneous nation like most of the industrialized nations of Europe is not an equal comparison. Much of our higher crime rate can be attributed to Black-on-Black crime and is really a problem of the Black underclass. If one were to exclude Baltimore, Detroit, Washington D.C and New Orleans from the equation, America would not be that much more violent than the UK. That of course does not explain all of it by any means but is a factor.

I do accept that the ready availability of guns in America and our history and gun culture contributes to a higher violent crime rate and may contribute to the incidents of mass killings. There are other factors which may contribute also such as the state of mental health services, a culture that glorifies violence in movies and video games, a declining religiosity and sense of community, a weakened family structure, and "taking God out of the class room." All of these factors should be examined, but they need to be examined calmly and we should not "do something" just for the sake of doing something. We should not jump to conclusions and make decisions based on emotions and things we think we know, that are not true.

For sources and more discussion see here, here, here, and here.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Constitutionality of Gun Control

by Daniel Horwitz

While debating the merits of stricter gun control legislation in the wake of this month’s tragic massacre in Newtown (see: GunControl and the Second Amendment), it is essential to remember that there are actually two separate issues at hand that must each be considered before any new law is enacted. 

The first of these issues – and as you’ve properly pointed out, the only one that is currently being discussed – is what should be done to prevent mass shootings like those we’ve witnessed in places like Newtown, Oak Creek, Aurora and Virginia Tech from occurring again.  Though of critical importance (there havebeen 181 school shootings alone since Columbine), this is really no more than a simple public policy question: in sum, what laws, if any, should be enacted to protect the public from this kind of gun violence going forward? 

Several proposals have been offered up that could (potentially) further this goal.  On the first day of the new Congressional session, for example, Senator Dianne Feinstein plansto reintroduce the expired 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban— a bill which, among other things, would prohibit the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, and would outlaw the sale of what have become known as “high capacity magazines.”  Alternatively, Congress could succumb to pressure toclose the “gun show” loophole, or could require that all firearms be registered with the Federal government (a measure that PresidentLyndon Johnson unsuccessfully attempted to enact back in 1968).  In contrast to policies like these, however, organizations like the NRA and Libertarian Party (which have heavilycriticized the purported benefits of the above proposals) have instead suggested that armingschool officials would be the best way to protect students from future mass shootings— suggestions for which they have been criticizedmercilessly in turn.  And on the other side of this extreme, others still have called for strict and comprehensive Federal gun control legislation similar to the successfuland borderline prohibitionary regulatory regime currently employed in Japan. 

The second issue, however – and every bit as important, if not more so –  is what can be done.  By this I mean the precise consideration that you have raised: what we as a nation can do about gun violence that would be constitutionally permissible.  Constitutional governance is the essential foundation upon which our Republic is based, and the Constitution places structural limits on state and Federal governments that necessarily take certain policy choices off the table. 

Crucially, our commitment to Constitutional governance endures whether or not new legislation would be desirable from a public policy standpoint.  Though the vast majority of us would support laws, for example, that prevent Westboro Baptist Church from picketing the funerals of slain U.S. service members (or from harassing grieving Sandy Hook Elementary School parents as they lay their children to rest, as that church recentlyclaimed it would do), the Supreme Court has nonetheless held that theFirst Amendment flatly prohibits such legislation.  Similarly, many are distressed whenever a murderer is set free because police obtained evidence illegally in order to secure his conviction.  Even so, the Fourth Amendment’s exclusionary rule compels this result, and it will continue to do so unless it is repealed. 

Though the Constitution does not turn a completely blind eye to public policy considerations (it instead requires that laws infringing upon fundamental constitutional rights be “narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling governmental interest”), certain constitutional rights do trump the government’s interest in promoting public safety.  And despite the fact that the Supreme Court neglected to specify a standard of scrutiny when it decided the issue in 2008, it nonetheless made clear that “the right to bear arms” guaranteed by the Second Amendment is included among them.  Thus, even in the face of the incomprehensible pain caused by the Newtown shooting, and even though – as Justice Scalia recently observed – “the Second Amendment [may be] outmoded in a society where our standing army is the pride of our Nation, where well-trained police forces provide personal security, and where gun violence is a serious problem[,]” the Second Amendment nonetheless forbids Congress from enacting a certain class of gun control measures— public safety be damned.  

Though this may sound extreme, it is really just another iteration of the classic tension between “liberty” and “security” that has existed in constitutional jurisprudence for centuries.   Like the First and Fourth Amendment examples above, then, unless the constitutionally-enumerated right to bear arms is lawfully repealed, “it is not the role of [the Supreme Court] to pronounce the Second Amendment extinct.”  Since nobody appears ready to launch a national campaign to repeal the Second Amendment, however (at least not yet), the essential question that remains is which precise policy choices the Second Amendment prevents Congress from pursuing. 

Because the Supreme Court’s modern Second Amendment doctrine is only four years old, the full scope of the Second Amendment’s guarantee is not yet entirely clear.  In the landmark 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, a divided Supreme Court held for the first time in history that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, as well as a right to use that firearm for traditionally lawful purposes like self-defense in the home.  Though the decision remains controversial for several reasons, the Heller Court’s holding that individual self-defense is “the central component” of the Second Amendment was subsequently applied to the nation as a whole in the 2010 case McDonald v. City of Chicago. 

While the purposes underlying the Second Amendment were not essential to these holdings (according to the Court, the right to bear arms exists whether or not the original reasons which prompted its enumeration remain persuasive today), the Heller Court did recognize three distinct reasons “why the militia was thought to be ‘necessary to the security of a free state’” when the Second Amendment was ratified.  First, Justice Scalia explained, “it is useful in repelling invasions and suppressing insurrections.”  Second, “it renders large standing armies unnecessary.”  Third, and along the lines of what you referred to as the “resistance army in waiting” interest, the Court noted that “when the able-bodied men of a nation are trained in arms and organized, they are better able to resist tyranny.”  This final interest was discussed further in McDonald, where the Court explained in greater detail that the 14th Amendment (which was held to apply the Second Amendment to the states) was enacted in part to put an end to southern states’ “systematic efforts to disarm and injure African Americans” after the Civil War. 

Despite acknowledging that protecting citizens’ ability to resist tyranny was among the reasons why the right to bear arms was enumerated, the Supreme Court nonetheless made clear in Heller that this purpose does not define the scope of the right that the Second Amendment confers.  Thus, citizens are not entitled to the same military-grade weaponry that our service members enjoy, and as such, will never be able to claim entitlement to weapons like AK-47s, tanks or stealth-converted Blackhawk helicopters along the lines of those used to overtake Osama Bin Laden’s compound.  Though the Second Amendment may have been enacted in part – for purposes of tyrannical deterrence – to help citizens resist government, it does not give citizens the right to own the artillery necessary to overthrow it.  As explained below, however, citizens may indeed claim a constitutional entitlement to weapons commonly used for self-defense, but at least to this point, that’s about the full extent of what the Second Amendment protects. 

The practical effect of both Heller and McDonald has been that neither the Federal government nor state governments may prohibit law-abiding citizens from keeping handguns in their homes for personal protection, nor enact legislation rendering handguns unusable for that purpose.  This specific focus on handguns is not accidental, and the reasoning that underlies it is important.  Expounding upon the holding of the 1939 case United States v. Miller, the Supreme Court explained in Heller that while the Second Amendment does protect firearms that are “in common use,” it “does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes, such as short-barreled shotguns.”  Thus, the Court reasoned, because “handguns are the most popular weapon chosen by Americans for self-defense in the home . . . a complete prohibition of their use is invalid.” 

Whether one favors the Second Amendment or not, it is difficult to justify this particular holding.  Which firearms are “in common use” is necessarily a function of which firearms are legal, and as such, the logic that underlies this premise is fatally circular.  As Justice Breyer exclaimed in dissent: “On the majority's reasoning, if tomorrow someone invents a particularly useful, highly dangerous self-defense weapon, Congress and the States had better ban it immediately, for once it becomes popular Congress will no longer possess the constitutional authority to do so. In essence, the majority determines what regulations are permissible by looking to see what existing regulations permit. There is no basis for believing that the Framers intended such circular reasoning.”  Whatever the merits of this holding, however, the Supreme Court is vested with final authority to divine constitutional meaning, and it represents what is currently the law of the land. 

In light of Heller and McDonald, then, what kinds of gun regulations are permissible today?  Blanket prohibitions on keeping handguns for self-defense in the home are clearly unconstitutional, and the Second Amendment probably confers a right to carry handguns for self-defense outside the home as well.  (Indeed, just three weeks ago, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Heller and McDonald compelled such a result.)  That said, however, the post-Heller world has not turned out nearly as well as gun advocates had hoped.  By January 2, 2009, lower courts had issued rulings on all manner of gun control regulations, and accordingto UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, the scoreboard was “Gun Control 60, Individual Right 0.”  As of December 18, 2012, SupremeCourt correspondent Adam Liptak further explained that there had been “more than 500 challenges to gun laws and gun prosecutions since Heller was decided, and vanishingly few of them [] succeeded.”  Undoubtedly, these decisions have hinged upon the following crucial and expansive dicta from Heller itself:
“[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms . . . [or] the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’”

With the Constitutional path to stricter gun control legislation thus relatively (though not entirely) clear, the bulk of the debate can safely return to public policy.  Whether any of the proposed measures described in this essay’s introduction will in fact succeed in reducing gun violence, however, and whether their predicted public policy benefits outweigh competing concerns (such as the undesirability of restricting law-abiding citizens’ ability to own guns, making it difficult to hunt recreationally, inhibiting deterrence, or weakening citizens’ ability to resist a hypothetical tyrannical government) are questions for your Congressman.  That said, however, I’ll suggest one potential policy option that, despitesomewhat persuasive criticism, could be a good place to start: getguns out of the hands of people who don’t even want to own them, thereby taking thousands of high-powered weapons off the street without stepping on anybody else’s toes.  

 Daniel Horwitz is a third year law student at Vanderbilt University Law School, where he is the Vice President of Law Students for Social Justice. He can be contacted at Daniel.a.horwitz@vanderbilt.edu.

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Why the Second Amendment: not Bambi, not burglars.

Kevin D. Williamson writing in National Review makes the same point as I did (See Gun Control and the Second Amendment) in explaining that "the second amendment is about protecting ourselves from the state."

"There is no legitimate exception to the Second Amendment for military-style weapons",  says Williamson, "because military-style weapons are precisely what the Second Amendment guarantees our right to keep and bear. The purpose of the Second Amendment is to secure our ability to oppose enemies foreign and domestic, a guarantee against disorder and tyranny.... Liberals are forever asking: 'Why would anybody need a gun like that?' And the answer is: because we are not serfs. We are a free people living under a republic of our own construction. We may consent to be governed, but we will not be ruled...." (Read the full article Regulating the Militia.)

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Heritage list two EPA resolutions as among ten worst in 2012

The Heritage Foundation has issue a report analyzing the ten worst regulations of the year. One can see the entire report at this link. There were two regulations that particularly interested me.  There are the second and third of the ten worst. Below is an excerpt explaining these two regulations:

2. EPA Emissions Standards
The EPA in February finalized strict new emissions standards for coal- and oil-fired electric utilities. The benefits are highly questionable, with the vast majority being unrelated to the emissions targeted by the regulation. The costs, however, are certain: an estimated $9.6 billion annually.

3. Fuel Efficiency Standards
In August, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in tandem with the Environmental Protection Agency, finalized fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks for model years 2017–2025. The rules require a whopping average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Sticker prices will jump by hundreds of dollars.
Do you know what our city says about these regulations? Nashville loves them, so our Metro Council speaking on our behalf says.  Below is the text of a resolution passed unanimously by our Metro Council on November 16th. 

RESOLUTION NO. RS2012-478

A resolution supporting the reducing of greenhouse gas pollution under the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act.

WHEREAS, the scientific community, most notably NASA, NOAA, and the IPCC support the following findings; and
WHEREAS, the decade from 2000 to 2010 was the warmest on record, and 2005 and 2010 tied for the hottest years on record; and

WHEREAS, the current level of CO2 in the atmosphere is approximately 392 parts per million (ppm); and

WHEREAS, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Dr. James Hansen, stated in 2008: “If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 392 ppm to at most 350 ppm”; and

WHEREAS, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that current and future greenhouse gas concentrations endanger public health, and according to the Global Humanitarian Forum climate change is already responsible every year for some 300,000 deaths, 325 million people seriously affected, and economic losses worldwide of $125 billion; and

WHEREAS, extreme weather events, most notably heat waves and precipitation extremes, are striking with increased frequency, with deadly consequences for people and wildlife; in the United States in 2011 alone, a record 14 weather and climate disasters occurred, including droughts, heat waves, and floods, that cost at least $1 billion each in damages and loss of human lives; and

WHEREAS, climate change is affecting food security by negatively impacting the growth and yields of important crops, and droughts, floods and changes in snowpack are altering water supplies; and

WHEREAS, scientists have concluded that by 2100 as many as one in ten species may be on the verge of extinction due to climate change; and

WHEREAS, the world’s land-based ice is rapidly melting, threatening water supplies in many regions and raising sea levels, and Arctic summer sea ice extent has decreased to about half what it was several decades ago, with an accompanying drastic reduction in sea-ice thickness and volume, which is severely jeopardizing ice-dependent animals; and

WHEREAS, sea level is rising faster along the U.S. East Coast than it has for at least 2,000 years, is accelerating in pace, and could rise by one to two meters in this century, threatening millions of Americans with severe flooding; and

WHEREAS, for four decades, the Clean Air Act has protected the air we breathe through a proven, comprehensive, successful system of pollution control that saves lives and creates economic benefits exceeding its costs by many times; and

WHEREAS, with the Clean Air Act, air quality in this country has improved significantly since 1970, despite major growth both in our economy and industrial production; and

WHEREAS, between 1970 and 1990, the six main pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act — particulate matter and ground-level ozone (both of which contribute to smog and asthma), carbon monoxide, lead, sulfur and nitrogen oxides (the pollutants that cause acid rain) — were reduced by between 47 percent and 93 percent, and airborne lead was virtually eliminated; and

WHEREAS, the Clean Air Act has produced economic benefits valued at $2 trillion or 30 times the cost of regulation; and

WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Massachusetts vs. EPA (2007) that greenhouse gases are “air pollutants” as defined by the Clean Air Act and the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate them; and

WHEREAS, The City of Nashville prides itself on being a leader in the fight against climate change and for clean air and, by creating the Mayor’s Office of Environment and Sustainability, has shown its ability to be a green leader in the Southeast; and

WHEREAS, The City of Nashville strives to meet the goals set out by the Green Ribbon
Committee’s 2009 Summary Report, which addresses environmental and livability issues in Nashville.

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE METROPOLITAN GOVERNMENT OF NASHVILLE AND DAVIDSON COUNTY:

Section 1. That the Metropolitan County Council hereby goes on record as supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution under the Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act.

Section 2. The Council further goes on record as noting that climate change is not an abstract problem for the future or one that will only affect far-distant places, but rather climate change is happening now, we are contributing to it, and the longer we wait to act, the more we lose and the more difficult the problem will be to solve.

Section 3. We, the Metropolitan County Council, on behalf of the residents of Nashville, do hereby urge the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa P. Jackson, and President Barack Obama to move swiftly to fully employ and enforce the Clean Air Act to do our part to reduce carbon in our atmosphere to no more than 350 parts per million.

Section 4. The Metropolitan Clerk is directed to send a copy a copy of this Resolution to Lisa P. Jackson of the Environmental Protection Agency and to President Barack Obama.

Section 5. This Resolution shall take effect from and after its adoption, the welfare of The Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County requiring it.

Sponsored by: Jason Holleman, Erica Gilmore, Brady Banks, Burkley Allen, ,Lonnell Matthews, Sean McGuire, Bo Mitchell, Davette Blalock.
The Council should admit they did not know what they were voting for when they passed the above resolution, should pass a resolution rescinding their previous support, should condemn the EPA's unauthorized power grab, and condemn job-killing and unrealistic EPA regulations.  

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Mayor Karl Dean proposes two new tax break packages for companies

The Tennessean, Joey Garrison, Dec 28, 2012- Fresh off delivering $66 million in incentives to jump-start HCA’s move to a future Midtown high-rise, Mayor Karl Dean’s administration has orchestrated smaller property tax discounts to aid the growth of two other companies. (link)

My Comment: This practice of giving tax breaks for companies to stay or locate in Nashville is troublesome. Is this really necessary? Is this going to be the new norm?  Every company in town should threaten to relocate unless they are given the same deal. I hope the Council takes a hard look at this.

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Council to weigh in on voucher program, charter authorizer

City Paper, Steven Hale- The Metro Council will consider a resolution “opposing all state legislation” that would create a state voucher program or a state charter authorizer without state funds being granted to local school districts to cover the costs of such programs.

The non-binding memorializing resolution, sponsored by Councilman Steve Glover, would have no legislative effect, but will serve as a chance for the council to weigh in on two issues that appear to be quickly heading down the tracks of the state legislature. The council is scheduled to take up the resolution at its Jan. 8 meeting. (link)

My Comment: I hope the Council is not asleep at the wheel again when this comes up for a vote. A couple months ago the Council allowed a memorializing resolution to pass that stated global warming was a fact, that the Council approved of the EPA's regulating of CO2 (which Congress had never authorized), and urged vigorous enforcement of the EPA's arbitrary CO2 standard. The EPA has assumed authority to keep plants from opening or expanding, to mandate auto mileage standards and keep power plant from expanding and doing any number of things and our Council went on record approving of it. Later some members told me they really didn't feel that way but for one reason or the other did not vote "no."  

These memorializing resolutions do matter. Council should take them seriously.

After the local School Board three times turned down the Great Hearts Academy application, I think it is time to let the State be the entity that approves charter schools. Unfortunately, we have too many people in Metro who are more concerned with social engineering than they are excellence in education. Even if this resolution passes, it should not pass unanimously.

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The new January 8, 2013 Metro Council meeting agenda is now available

The new January 8, 2013 Metro Council meeting agenda is now available. You can find the agenda at the link: Metro Council Agenda

If you will wait, I will read it for you and tell you what is important, but if you just can't wait have at it. 

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

I-40 Christmas cheer

I don’t know who deserves it, but someone deserves a thank you and praise for spreading Christmas cheer along I-40.

Along about mile maker 354 heading west from Knoxville, a couple miles before you get to the Kingston Pike exit, there is cedar tree off of the shoulder of the road that is decorated every year at Christmas  time. Large Christmas ornaments and tinsel garland adorn the tree and underneath there are large wrapped gift boxes. The ground is mowed around the tree and it is about twenty feet off the road and it stands out.

I was trying to think back, how long this has been going on, and it seems like I remember it from when my thirty-year-old daughter was little, so it must have been going on for about twenty years. As the years have gone by the little tree is now a big tree. My Mom lives in Seymour and my two brothers still live in the Knoxville area so we usually have Christmas at Mom’s. So, I am always driving back from  Knoxville to Nashville, the day after Christmas or maybe the day after that and I always look for the tree.

Mom is 82 years old now and has had some health issues and is frail, but still lives at home. My sister Becky went over a day early this year and prepared the dinner so we were able to have one more Christmas at Mom’s. I wonder how much longer we can carry on this tradition.

We had a wonderful dinner and Christmas celebration. I was good. I did not say anything provocative and I did not allow myself to get offended. Everyone else was good too. My liberal siblings were on their best behavior and did not mention healthcare, or the fiscal cliff or gun control or the recent election. Nothing that would have set off a debate was mentioned. They didn’t bait me.

We had a nice visit before the Christmas dinner, then a wonderful traditional Christmas dinner, and then we exchanged gifts. Not only did we not fight, no one even tried to turn on the TV. After the exchange of gifts we then had more pleasant interesting conversation and were able to discuss important meaningful topics but avoided those most likely to lead to a nasty political clash. There was lots of joking and laughter.

We then started singing songs. We did Christmas carols and Christmas songs and gospel songs. We did  Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas with extended impromptu recitations accompanying the song. Fueled by the wine we were drinking, we thought everything was clever and funny. We then did the Johnny Cash song catalogue that we could recall, and Eagles and Gentle on my mind and Patsy Cline and Kris Kristofferson, and some Willie and The Great Speckled Bird and It wasn’t God who Made Honky-tonk Angels and snippets on songs we didn’t know but wish we did. We sang for hours.

My lovely wife who has Alzheimer’s’ and who cannot remember the most rudimentary things and has lost most of her vocabulary skills, knows all the words to lots of Christmas songs and old songs. She sang with the rest of us and enjoyed herself immensely. We all had such a wonderful, wonderful time.

The next day, after a leisurely breakfast and chatting over coffee, Louella and I headed back home. There could not have been a drearier day. It was mid day, but raining and foggy and dark. I was in a good mood however, still in the glow of a wonderful Christmas. I approached the spot where the tree is usually decorated. I wondered if it would still be there and decorated for yet another year. It was. It brought a smile to my face.

There have been years when after Christmas was over and I was headed home when I was lonely and alone or some years when I was going back home with my daughter and would have to return her to her mother and I was already missing her, that I would be real blue about the time I got to that point in the trip.  When I would see the tree, however, it would cheer me up and at least for a while it would make the post-Christmas blues not so bad.

I have wondered about who does the decorating of this tree. Is it a road maintenance crew, or a highway patrolman? Is it someone who lives nearby? Do they park on the shoulder and do it hoping the highway patrol doesn’t catch them, or do they slip over a fence from beyond the right-of-way and carry in the decorations and decorate it. It has been going on so long, I wonder if it is a family tradition being done by the children of the people who originally decorated it? I don’t know.

I would bet I am not the only one who over the years have had their spirits lifted by that tree or who has had the glow of Christmas good cheer extended a little longer. By this time, the people who decorate that tree every year, have probably brought Christmas cheer to hundreds of thousands of people.

If by some chance the people who are responsible for decorating that tree on the interstate right of way should read this, know that someone appreciates what you do. You have brightened my Christmas for many years now. God bless you. Merry Christmas and a happy new year.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas


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The Lives of Others- A fantastic movie!




I just watched this movie tonight and I highly, highly recommend it. The acting is superb and it a fantastic movie. You feel like you are experiencing the events portrayed. It has just made my list of one of my all time favorite movies. If you are a Comcast subscriber it is available for free on On Demand.

There are no exciting chase scenes in this movie. There are few moments of high edge-of-your-seat drama, but it is a chilling film. It shows how people live their lives in a police state and how constant surveillance and oppression becomes a normal existence and how resistance can seem futile.  The film is in German with English subtitles, but after the first few minutes you do not even realize you are reading.

Those who came into adulthood since the fall of the Berlin wall and those who lived through the cold war but did not pay attention need to watch this film. Many will never read a history of the era and never read a massive tome by Solzhenitsyn or other defectors who told of the horrors of life behind the iron curtain, but watching this film will let one know what life in a totalitarian society is like.

Unfortunately, our culture and academia never thought it appropriate to be overtly anti-Communist. The liberal establishment never wanted to call evil, evil. From the very first until the bitter end, Communist regimes always had Western intellectuals, and Hollywood-types and media opinion leaders who were their apologist. To boldly proclaim we were the good guys in the cold war was consider jingoistic.The liberal establishment never wanted to destroy communism, but wanted to co-exist with it and sought "understanding." Therefore, they did not want to expose the evil for what it was.

Hopefully, communism has been placed on the "ash heap of history" and will not be revived but people need to know why the evil empire really was evil.  There are still many who are enthralled by Marxism and still think a strong government is necessary to achieve the perfectibility of man. They excuse a lot because they believe the goal is so noble. They may condemn the "excesses" of the communist experiment but do not reject the premise. Whether it is a revival of communism or totalitarianism under some other name, I fear that we have not seen the last totalitarian police state.

Please watch this movie and recommend it. Everyone needs to see it.

The Lives of Others (2006) Das Leben der Anderen (original title)

137 min  -  Drama | Thriller  -   23 March 2006 (Germany)
Ratings: 8.5/10 from 137,877 users   Metascore: 89/100 
Reviews: 354 user | 194 critic | 39 from Metacritic.com
In 1984 East Berlin, an agent of the secret police, conducting surveillance on a writer and his lover, finds himself becoming increasingly absorbed by their lives.
  

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Monday, December 24, 2012

Gun control and the Second Amendment

Following the horrific slaughter of innocent children in Newtown Connecticut, there has been a renewed call for serious gun control. Peirs Mogan, Bill Moyers, and a host of other popular voices have been asking when we will get serious about gun control. They are incredulous that we alone, among advanced industrialized countries, allow almost unlimited access to guns.

 Recently, Moyers opined that those who support the right to bear arms, "would have us believe that 'a well-regulated militia' of a sparsely populated frontier in the eighteen century really means tolerating a wild west in the twenty-first century? They say, 'Don't tread on us. Get off our well-armed backs. There is nothing you can do.' Of course there is: register all guns, license all gun owners, require stringent background checks, get tough on assault weapons of any kind, crack down on high-capacity ammunition..."

President Obama has appointed a commission to advise him on what should be the response to the Newtown tragedy and has set a January deadline for the commission to report back. "This is not some Washington commission," he said. "This is not something where folks are going to be studying the issue for six months and publishing a report that gets read and then pushed aside," Obama said. "This is a team that has a very specific task to pull together real reforms right now."

If appears that the advocate of real gun restrictions are serious. The anti-gun forces ask why does anyone need a military-styled gun. They will say sportsman don't need them and one does not need them for self protection. Of course "military-style" or "semi-automatic" is often not a serious distinction. Any weapon that can fire each time you pull the trigger without reloading or taking action to put a round in the chamber is semi-automatic and a lot of what makes a rifle "military-style" is simply cosmetics. But, we know what they mean: Why does one need an AK-47 or similar weapon?

The constitution gives us the right to bear arms. Why? Should that right extend to military style weapons? If we have the right to own an AK-47, why do we? Even gun enthusiast will often justify gun ownership because they will say they like to hunt or want a weapon for self protection.

The truth is, we do not have a second amendment for the purpose of hunting or self protection. We have a second amendment because we the people are a resistance army in waiting to stand up to a tyrannical government. The reason we have a second amendment is for a military purpose. The reason we have a second amendment is because the federal government has limited power over the people and the Second Amendment states that in order to maintain a free state, the people must retain the right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment does not grant us the right to bear arms. The Second Amendment recognizes we have that right and prevents the government from infringing on it.

Some will claim that in the twenty-first century, a "well-regulated" militia should mean the National Guard. Not so. You and I are the militia. The meaning of "well-regulated militia" is clear.

Some will point to a Supreme Court decision in the 30's that upheld the right of the government to ban sawed off shotguns as permitting reasonable restrictions on the type of weapons one may have. That decision, however, was not a victory for gun control advocates; instead it was a victory for the Second Amendment. The Court's logic in allowing the prohibiting of shotguns with barrels of less than 18 inches was that, that weapon does not have a " reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia; we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument."

By that some logic, an AK-47 is a weapon with a reasonable relationship to a well regulated militia. The Second Amendment does guarantee the right to keep and bear such an instrument. The Second Amendment has been interpreted more than once. We have a right to bear arms. To have any meaningful gun control, we would need to repeal the second amendment. I don't see Piers Morgan, Bill Moyers, the President, or the other advocates of gun control mounting a campaign to repeal the second Amendment. If they really believe the second amendment is a relic of a bygone era, why do they not mount a campaign to repeal it. The Constitution can be amended.

The gun control advocates to not want to come out and actually saw we need to amend the Constitution. What they want to do is just ignore the Constitution. They hope the Court will bend to the popular passion of the moment and simply ignore the meaning of the second amendment or they hope a shift in the makeup of the Court will put in place a majority that will just ignore the Second Amendment. They do not want the Court to be a judicial branch, but just another legislative branch that responds to public will.

If the constitution can be ignored and swept aside to allow the popular will to prevail, then all of our rights are in danger of being swept aside. If the Second Amendment can be ignored, so can the First and the Fourth. I have a greater fear of a court that considers the Constitution a document with no real meaning, than I do a fear of violence.

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Drew Johnson's support of gay marriage

Drew Johnson is the editor of the Free Press opinion page at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He was formerly a resident of Nashville and was founder of the Tennessee Center for Policy Research, now the Beacon  Center, an influential Tennessee conservative think tank.

Writing in the Free Press yesterday Drew wrote an article supporting gay marriage, and laying out the argument why conservatives should support it. Here is an excerpt:

  As conservatives, we often advocate for government recognition of marriage between one man and one woman on the basis that it is an institution that benefits the public good. Yet, in the same breath, we fight other attempts by government intended to benefit the public good -- such as mandatory exercise schemes, occupational licensing requirements and bans on sodas and fatty foods -- with every fiber of our being. This intellectual inconsistency not only concedes marital power to government without a constitutional basis, but weakens our arguments when government tries to gasp control of other aspects of our lives -- from what we can eat to how we should teach our children.
 Our other conservative arguments against gay marriage are even more flawed and even less compelling.  Religious beliefs, while the best reason to oppose gay marriage personally, are perhaps the worst reason to encourage government prevention of gay marriage universally.

For many of us as conservatives, religious dictates determine how we and our family choose to operate in our personal lives -- and we don't want government in the way of that. It is contradictory to argue to keep government out of religion while attempting to use government to mandate our religious beliefs on others who may not share out values.(read more)
While I understand the logic of his argument, I am not persuaded. I am not homophobic and don't care what any two or more people do in the privacy of their bedroom. I do think homosexuals should be treated with dignity and I am not uncomfortable around gay people. I would not discriminate against them. However I am not ready to endorse gay marriage.

Every since written history, for as long as we have had knowledge of the institution of marriage, it has been between a men and women. Marriage is older than formal government. If two men or two women want to shack up (or two men and two women), I don't care, but don't call it marriage. Institutions, culture, values, customs, traditions, and truths should not be changed lightly . Conserving is also part of what it is to be a conservative. Respect for inherited wisdom is as much of what it means to be a conservative as is limited government.

I understand some of the practical benefits of marriage and why a gay couple would want them.  However many of those benefits can be conferred by contract. If a gay man wants to be with his dying partner in the hospital, that can be arranged by contract. Two gay people can deed a house as tenants in common with right of survivorship.

I also understand that two gay people may want to solemnize there relationship. They can do that now as a private matter.  They can get married in a gay or gay-friendly church and have as big of a "wedding" as they can afford. Do it. I don't care.

What I don't want, is to corrupt what has been the institution of marriage since the dawn of history.  I don't want government to become a morality police agency enforcing standards or moral conduct and imposing conformity but neither do I want government to sanction a union of two people of the same sex and call it marriage. 

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meeting of the Metro Nashville School Board on December 20, 2012

The video of the meeting of the Metro Nashville School Board on December 20, 2012 is now available. It is a work session on capital needs. I have not watched it and am not sure I will. I have Christmas present to wrap, and a party to go to, and other holiday activity.  For those of you who are very interested in what happens with Metro schools, you can go to the link and watch it. If there is anything of interest that happens, please post a comment.  Here is the link: Metro Nashville School Board on December 20, 2012

Announcement: I am looking for someone to take over the function of reporting on education matters for this blog. Your post would carry your byline.  I would want someone who has a passion for education and and who would be diligent and timely. I would prefer someone with conservative values similar to my own, however if a person was more liberal than I, but could report on education matters with objectivity they would be considered. If interested, contact me. Rod 

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Notation and commentary of the 12/1/12 Council meeting


This meeting is only 52 minutes long. Below are the highlights with notations of where to go in the video to see the good stuff. If you want to follow the action and relate it to the agenda, follow this link. From that link you can link to the Metro Council staff analysis should you want to know even more about any particular bill.

The meeting opens with a moment of silence to remember the victims of the Newtown Connecticut shooting and a moving heartfelt prayer by Councilman McGuire. 

Resolutions: All resolutions are on the consent agenda except RS2012-522 which is a resolution authorizing the school board to purchase some property. Councilman Stanley has RS2012-523 pulled off the consent agenda.  RS2012-522 is deferred indefinitely.

Resolution No. RS2012-523 acquires 600 acres in the bend of the Stones River. This purchase, combined with other recently-acquired property, would result in 800 acres of contiguous park land. This resolution is not controversial and passes unanimously but is taken off of the consent agenda apparently just so the sponsors can explain the project and get some deserved credit and recognition for this accomplishment. (see 11:30-17:08)

Bills on Second reading

  • BILL NO. BL2012-283 would impose new regulations on commercial door-to-door solicitors and it passes unanimously. While I know aggressive sales people can be an annoyance and while I know some are unscrupulous, I do not think I could support this bill. We are grownups. We do not need to look to government to remove every annoyance from our life. I am disappointed there was no debate on this bill.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-284 would require public works to install rubber speed cushions as part of a traffic management program if petitioned by a majority of the resident homeowners on the street. It is deferred indefinitely. Speed bumps are controversial and many motorists hate them. (To see the discussion see 20:42-24:13)

  • BILL NO. BL2012-292 would permit home recording studios in residential neighborhoods is deferred to the second meeting in January.

  • BILL NO. BL2012-320 by Councilman Claiborne which would reduce the Metro lifetime health health insurance subsidy for former members of council.  This benefit currently costs Metro approximately $300,000 per year. Due to term limits there are a growing number of former metro council members. This cost is going to continue to increase. This bill deserved to pass and it does by a vote of 25 to 13. Check the video to see how the individual council members voted. (see 26:20-31:04)

Bills on Third reading

  • BILL NO. BL2012-301is Council member Karen Johnson's attempt to down zone a piece of property in Nashboro village. There is some controversy about what the committee vote really was. In my view this bill is a "taking" of private property without compensation. It deserved to fail and does by a vote of  18 for and 20 against. I am surprised and disappointed that some of the councilmen who I think of as the good councilmen voted for this bill.  The vote was a machine vote. See the video to see how council members voted. (See 34:20-42:18)
  •  Bill 2012-314 the voluntary retirement buy-out for Metro employees passes.

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Liberal racist hate Blacks who won't stay on the plantation

Some of the most courageous people in America are those African-Americans who dare defy liberal orthodoxy and think for themselves. Liberals love Black people as long as they stay on the liberal plantation. Liberals claim to love diversity but they hate diversity of thought. Let a Black person become a Republican or member of the tea party or express support for free enterprise and limited government and the liberal establishment turns on that person with a vengeance.  They are routinely denounced as Uncle Tom, tokens, and race traitors. It takes true courage to be a Black conservative.

Earlier this week, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina appointed  Republican Representative Tim Scott, who happens to be Black, to fill the Senate seat of Jim DeMint who resigned to take over leadership of the Heritage Foundation. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Adolph L. Reed Jr., a  political science professor at the University of Pennsylvania, explain why Tim Scott is nothing but a "cynical token." Below is an excerpt:

Mr. Scott’s background is also striking: raised by a poor single mother, he defeated, with Tea Party backing, two white men in a 2010 Republican primary: a son of Thurmond and a son of former Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. But his politics, like those of the archconservative Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, are utterly at odds with the preferences of most black Americans. Mr. Scott has been staunchly anti-tax, anti-union and anti-abortion.(read more)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

TNGOP Names Brent Leatherwood as New Executive Director

State House GOP Communications Named to the Position; Michael Sullivan Promoted to Deputy Executive Director 

NASHVILLE, TN – The top spot on the staff of the Tennessee Republican Party is going to a fresh face, while a new position will be filled from a much-deserved promotion from within the organization.

Chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, Chris Devaney, today announced the hiring of Brent Leatherwood to be the Party’s new Executive Director. At the same time, he announced that the Party’s current Political Director, Michael Sullivan, will be promoted to Deputy Executive Director.

“We have a great team at the TNGOP, and we are excited about Brent Leatherwood helping us lead our effort for the next two years. Brent has extensive campaign experience, and his knowledge of the state legislature will also be a valuable asset as we prepare for the 2014 elections and beyond,” said Devaney.

Leatherwood remarked, “I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to help guide the Tennessee Republican Party. Chairman Devaney has led the Party to new heights and I believe we’re going to continue excelling as the organization that represents the values of Tennesseans. We’ll do that by being a robust operation that serves as an unparalleled information resource, provides a strong Get Out the Vote effort, and continues to help elect Republicans across the state.”

Leatherwood will join the TNGOP in January after serving the Tennessee House Republican Caucus as the Communications Director. A native of Chattanooga, he has worked in Congress as a Senior Policy Advisor for U.S. Representative from Florida, has led two congressional campaigns in Tennessee, and has worked on multiple U.S. Senate and U.S. House races.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to continue working for Chairman Devaney and the TNGOP at a higher level. Republicans have made significant gains in Tennessee in the past few years, but there is still more we can do to ensure a strong Party in Tennessee for years to come. ” added Michael Sullivan.

State House GOP Communications Named to the Position; Michael Sullivan Promoted to Deputy Executive Director Sullivan has been with the TNGOP since July of 2011. Prior to his current role, he served the Indiana House Republican Caucus as a Press Secretary. An Indianapolis native, Sullivan has worked on multiple campaigns including Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' 2008 reelection campaign, as well as running a congressional campaign in Indiana and a Senatorial campaign in Illinois.

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Green Hills GOP group needs a place to meet

From Peter & Gail Voysey, Green Hills GOP Summit

Hi Everybody!

Two Things:

FIRST: We are still looking for a new home for our meetings. We'd like to find a location in or near Green Hills, with a special preference for a company cafeteria or church parish hall or similar, where we can serve coffee and pastries and have ample seating and free parking.

SECOND: No meeting this month--everybody's running around and much too busy.

We wish you and yours all the peace and joy of the holiday season.
MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Peter & Gail Voysey Green Hills GOP Summit
GOP Nashville/Davidson County Republican Party

You can contact Peter or Gail at petervoysey@mindspring.com. The Green Hill group has been very successful. These breakfast "summit" groups are a great way to stay connected with other Republicans and stay informed. In the approximate two years since the Green Hills groups has existed it has had five different homes. In Green Hills a Saturday morning meeting place is hard to come by. If you have an office with a break room or any meeting place that might be suitable, please contact Peter or Gail. It would be ashamed to let this successful group disappear because we can't find a place to meet.

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Speaker Harwell proposes changes to decades-old House rules Effort seeks to promote efficiency and save taxpayer money

Speaker Beth Harwell
NASHVILLE - Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) today announced she is recommending changes to the Tennessee House of Representatives internal rules that will make the governmental process more efficient and save taxpayer money. The changes follow an effort two years ago to streamline operations.

The changes include:
• Restructuring the committee system to balance the workload of each;
• Adopting the annual ethics resolution into the House Rules which will ensure the body is abiding by an ethics policy from the first day;
Limiting the number of bills filed to 10 per member annually which will encourage members to prioritize;
• Reaffirming that each member vote for only him or herself;
• And deleting the requirement that every document be printed to reduce the amount of paper used in committee and for floor sessions.

"The new committee system will balance the workloads of each committee, ensuring that they are as efficient as possible. Bill limits will reduce duplication and ensure each member prioritizes their issues. I am seeking to eliminate the requirement that every document we produce as a body be printed in effort for us to adapt to the technology available and reduce the enormous amount of paper used each year. Each of these measures together ensure a more efficient, effective, and accessible government. This will also give us more time for thoughtful, deliberate analysis on each piece of legislation—which is something Tennesseans expect and deserve."

The proposed recommendations will be taken up by the House Rules Committee, which will be appointed by the Speaker in January.

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What happened in the Council on 12-18-2012

  • Council passes on second reading a plan to reduce the insurance subsidy for future former council members.
  • Voluntary retirement buy-out for Metro employees passes.
  • Council voted to purchase 600 acre Stones River property for a park.
  • Council member Karen Johnson's attempt to down zone a piece of property in Nashboro village fails.
Check back for video with notation of highlights and commentary.

Council health insurance change moves ahead

The Tennessean, Dec 18, 2012- A plan to dramatically scale back the controversial lifetime health insurance benefit for Metro Council members won preliminary approval Tuesday but could face challenges when it goes up for a final vote next month.
Council approves Metro employee buyout program on final reading

City Paper, by Steven Hale, Wednesday, December 19, 2012- The Metro Council gave quick final approval to a buyout program for Metro workers, in what was an otherwise relatively uneventful meeting Tuesday night. The council’s final meeting of the year began with a moment of silence for the victims of last Friday’s elementary school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Councilman Sean McGuire led a prayer for the victims families.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Council Budget and Finance for 12/17/2012: Well, we never knew, says Register.






This meeting is only 20 minutes long. One learns a lot more about the important issues facing the city by watching the B&;F committee meetings than they do by watching the council meetings. Most of the bills sail through without discussion.

The meeting with Director of Schools Jessie Register of School Board occurred immediately prior to this B&F committee meeting and is not captured on this video. The below link is to a Tennessean article that reports on that meeting.

Charlie Tygard takes the opportunity to chastise the school board for the loss of the $3.4 million dollars as a result of defying the State Department of Education.  See 10:35 

Bill 20-12-220 which would significantly reduce the health insurance subsidy for future former council members passes by a vote of 8-2. There is no discussion of the bill.


Metro school board didn't know funds would be withheld, director says

 System lost $3.4 million after defying state order to approve Great Hearts Academies plan

by Joey Garrison, The Tennessean,12/18/2012- The Tennessee Department of Education never warned Metro that state education funds were at stake if it were to reject the controversial charter school proposal of Great Hearts Academies, Director of Schools Jesse Register told members of the Metro Council on Monday.

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Summary of the Council Agenda for 12-18-12

You can get your own copy of the Metro council meeting agenda at this link: Metro Council Agenda. From the agenda you can link to the analysis.Council meetings can be really, really boring if you don't know what the Council is voting on. With an agenda and analysis, they are just really boring.

Bills on public hearing: There are no bills on public hearing this meeting.


The Consent Agenda.  There are twenty resolutions, all of which are on the consent agenda. A resolution is on the consent agenda if it passed the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. Bills on the consent agenda are usually not controversial and tend to be routine matters, such as accepting grants from the Federal or State Government or authorizing the Department of Law to settle claims against the city or appropriating money from the 4% fund. However, sometimes things that should be controversial do slip through on the consent agenda.

Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single voice vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. If one is present and does not ask to be recorded voting "no" then they are assumed to have voted "aye." However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda.

I see nothing on the consent agenda that appears controversial. Below are a couple resolutions of interest.
  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2012-516 refinances up to $370 million of debt to a lower interest rate which will save the city money. This is a good bill.

  • Resolution No. RS2012-523 acquires 600 acres in the bend of the Stones River. This purchase, combined with other recently-acquired property, would result in 800 acres of contiguous park land. I support this. We have great park system in Nashville. As we grow we need to continue to set aside park lands.

Bills on First reading almost always pass. They are considered as a group and are seldom discussed. First reading is a formality that allows the bill to be considered. Bills are not assigned to committee or analyzed by council staff until after they have passed first reading.

Bills on Second Reading: It is on Second reading, after bills have been to committee, that discussion usually takes place. Below are bills of interest on second reading.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-283 would impose new regulations on commercial door-to-door solicitors. They would have to get permits and display badges with photo id’s. It also provides for Metro to maintain a “do not solicit” list. There is a substitute pending that would also require a criminal background check. While I know aggressive sales people can be an annoyance and while I know some are unscrupulous, I do not think I could support this bill.  We are grownups.  We do not need to look to government to remove every annoyance from our life. I hope there is some good debate on this bill.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-284 would require public works to install rubber speed cushions as part of a traffic management program if petitioned by a majority of the resident homeowners on the street. Speed bumps are controversial and many motorists hate them. This will probably generate some debate.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-292 would permit home recording studios in residential neighborhoods. Under this proposal a recording studio could have up to ten clients, customers, musicians, or other visitors come to the property per day. Currently they are only allowed to have one visitor. The noise ordinance would still apply.
This bill was on public hearing last time and there was a lot of comment about it. It was deferred and referred to committee. Council Member Barry promised to get input of the music committee and work on improving the bill. (To see last meeting’s discussion follow this link and view the video and see 14:03-26:33) I suspect this bill will be deferred again.
BILL NO. BL2012-320 by Councilman Claiborne would reduce the Metro lifetime health insurance subsidy for future former councilmen. Previously, Councilman Claiborne had attempted to abolish the lifetime health insurance subsidy for future former councilmen, but that effort failed. The subsidized health insurance for former members of council currently costs Metro approximately $300,000 per year. Due to term limits there are a growing number of former metro council members. This cost is going to continue to increase. This bill needs to pass.  To read more about this see here and here.  
Bills on Third Reading: Third Reading is the final reading. If a bill passes third reading it becomes law unless it is vetoed by the Mayor, which has only rarely happened. While there may be several zoning bill that interest effected neighbors, there is only one bill of general interest that is controversial on third reading.
  • BILL NO. BL2012-301 by Council Member Karen Johnson is the controversial bill that would downzone a piece of property in Nashboro Village. Last council several people spoke against it. To see the public hearing on the bill from last council meeting follow this link, view the video at (see 26:34-58:00.). 
Since this bill was disapproved by the planning committee if will require 27 votes to pass.  On second reading it passed 28-8. This could be real close if a council member changed his mind or if a couple of members are absent. I hope it fails. This seems like a “taking” of property.
There are no memorializing resolutions on the agenda.

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Monday, December 17, 2012

Nashville Chamber Backing Charter Schools

Nashville Chamber Backing Charter Schools
A Nashville business group has put a priority on advocating for charter schools.
more>>

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How to profit from a disaster

From the Heritage Foundation:

Today, the Senate will begin debating a bill that was supposed to be disaster recovery funds for those devastated by the storm. But so many special-interest projects were added on that the $60.4 billion request has turned into a farce. Roughly $28 billion of the request is marked for future disaster-mitigation projects.

It includes:

The bill also seeks federal funding for things that are provided on a state and local level, or by nonprofits and communities, such as food for food banks.

 “Removing unnecessary items from the Administration’s request yields a reduced request of $12.8 billion in supplemental funds. These funds should be provided only after being offset by spending reductions.”
Using the excuse of a national disaster to fund roof repairs for the Smithsonian is almost enough to make one cynical, isn't it. 

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This Wednesday: The Electoral College: Time to Scrap It? A Debate

Conservative Fusion is a book club that reads important books of interest to conservatives and libertarians. For this meeting however, there is no book to read; instead, there will be a debate on whether or not it is time to abolish the electoral college and have direct popular election of the president.

 Meeting: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM

To RSVP and get location, follow this link. Conservative Fusion Meetup.

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Formal ethics complaint filed against NES's Decosta Jenkens. Public needs to demand action!

Citizen-activist Ken Jakes has filed a written complaint against Decosta Jenkens for unethical and criminal behavior. Below is a copy of his email to the Mayor and members of the Council asking that the Mayor ask the NES Board, which is appointed by the Mayor and confirmed by the Council, to terminate Mr. Jenkins contract. Below is the email letter. I have edited the email by removing Mr. Jakes phone numbers.

From: "Ken Jakes"
To: "Metro clerk" , mayor@nashville.gov
Cc: Councilmembers@nashville.gov
Sent: Saturday, December 15, 2012 11:00:09 AM
Subject: Ethical Complaint to file against Decosta Jenkins

To mayor Dean, our Metro Council, and Metro Clerk,

I am forming in a written complaint for the unethical behavior against Decosta Jenkins as the leadership of NES. Decosta Jenkins himself signed the contract between Opryland and NES where it benefited only he and other employees of NES. It had no benefit to the rate payers of Nashville and Davidson County and the area that NES provides. All that was gained from this action was a loss of revenue for the rate payers which we have to replace within our electric rate charges. All the free perks on the back of the rate payers were taxable income which NES has provided to me that they did not keep records. This in itself is a violation of law and it is my opinion that a violation of law is a criminal offense.

The Metro Government has to have in place policy against this type of actions. How does Decosta Jenkins say we will address this issue when in my opinion he is as guilty as the wrong doing of the employees. I ask that you Mayor Dean, address this and ask the NES Board who you appointed to terminate Decosta Jenkins. I ask the Metro Council to address in what ever way it can proceed. I ask the Metro Clerk if this is not the proper procedure to file an ethical complaint against Decosta Jenkins, then to contact me so I may take each step necessary to file this complaint. I will place my contact information below so should any of you wish to contact me please do so,

The people you represent do not want this swept under the table,

Ken Jakes
office 615-xxx-xxxx
Cell 615-xxx-xxx
Home 615-xxx-xxxx 

Ken has also written Laura Tidwell, legal counsel for NES forwarding her a copy of the complaint and asking that  his complaint be placed on the NES agenda for the next meeting. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
I am requesting that you as Legal Council for NES follow through with my request to make sure it is filed the proper way to be address and placed on the Agenda for the next meeting of the Board to be addressed. The 17 million dollar contract that Decosta Jenkins stated on Channel 5 , was an error on his part, was public revenue. Part of that revenue came from me through my electric rates. In my opinion it is nothing short of Bid Rigging.

We do not need Decosta Jenkins in leadrership of NES WITH THESE TYPES OF ACTIONS. Tory Johnson may say he will not make criminal prosecutions but all know it was wrong. I can assure all if Decosta is not terminated it is not over yet. I will just proceed to Federal Investigations of Fraud and misuse of Public Funds. Who knows, maybe they will with hold Federal Grants and Funding until they can get to the bottom of the situation. I am on a crusade for the rate payers of NES that have been abused. I would hope that you would feel as I. Laura, my battle is not with you, however handle this for what it is, Public Corruption. Do not let Decosta Jenkins harm your Legal Profession in my opinion defending his actions. Just something to think about.
In a separate email to the Metropolitan Clerk, Ken includes appendix three of the Metro Charter. Below is a relevant portion of that Charter provision concerning NES.
The officers, agents and employees of the board are prohibited from appropriating or using any of the moneys, revenues, assets or property of the board, or of the metropolitan government, or its credit either directly or indirectly by way of donations for festivities, exhibits, shows, lectures, pageants, excursions, decorations or parades, and shall not give or grant to any person or persons any reduction or other benefit of any kind in rates or service by the board, nor shall they make or allow any discrimination in favor of any purchaser of power, light, current or other service not enjoyed by others of the same class and taking power under like conditions; provided, nothing in this article shall prevent participation in normal electric promotion activities.  
The public need to rally around this issue and not let the people at NES get off with a simple promise to do better in the future. Corruption like this should not be accepted as business as usual. Tory Johnson needs to pursue criminal indictments, the mayor needs to pressure the NES board  to fire Jenkins and the Council needs to hold hearing on the matter and apply pressure. Also, since NES is chartered by the State and subject to state authority our State senators and representatives need to demand changes at NES. 


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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Audit of NES shows an outrageous lack of ethics

by Gail Kerr, The Tennessean, Dec 16, 2012- A scathing audit of Nashville Electric Service shows that $104.50 from your light bill payment went to buy a baby gift for an NES board member.

The buyer? NES’ chief financial officer.

Are you hot under the collar yet?

How about this: The public utility wrote specifications to “circumvent” proper bid procedures when buying $17 million of power cable. “Circumvent” is such a polite word. They might as well just call it what it was: bid rigging.

But wait! There’s more! (read more)
My Comment: I am hot under the collar. This is an outrage! It is theft. Crimes have been committed. Some people ought to go to jail and a lot of people ought to lose their jobs!

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Friday, December 14, 2012

Rport and Summary of the 12-11-12 School Board meeting



The meeting is 1 hour and 47 minutes long.

There is no one addressing the board in the "public participation" portion of the agenda.

The Board begins the discussion of the State Reduction of $3.4 Million in BEP funding and what to do about it (8:26-33:12).  The pro's and con's of litigation are discussed and options for dealing with the loss revenue.

Metro was not one of the winners of the Race to the Top grants.

The annual report on technology is presented including a power point presentation and a discussion of the digital divide and the impact of technology on the common core program (38:44-1:31:00).

Nashville school board backs off suing state over lost funds

The Tennessean, Dec 12, 2012 - Despite one board member’s push to dig in and fight, the Metro school board on Tuesday backed off its threat to sue the state for withholding $3.4 million in funds to punish the district for rejecting a charter school application.

Board members expressed hope that the state might willingly restore the funds if the district takes a more cooperative approach instead.

The school board voted 8-1 on Tuesday to defeat a motion from board member Amy Frogge to pursue litigation against the Tennessee Department of Education.....(link)

Announcement: I am looking for someone to take over the function of reporting on education matters for this blog. Your post would carry your byline.  I would want someone who has a passion for education and and who would be diligent and timely. I would prefer someone with conservative values similar to my own, however if a person was more liberal than I, but could report on education matters with objectivity they would be considered. If interested, contact me. Rod

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