Friday, February 28, 2014

Mayoral hopeful, Councilman at-large Megan Barry Speaks out against "Guns in Parks" bill

Megan Barry Press release.

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CBO now projects healthcare law will cost $2 trillion, more than double its original estimation.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) requested on Tuesday that members of the Senate Finance Committee hearing investigate discrepancies between the Congressional Budget Office’s original cost estimates for the Affordable Care Act and its latest estimates.
In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Wash.) and Ranking Member Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Roberts requested that the committee investigate why the CBO’s recent projection that the healthcare law will cost $2 trillion is more than double its original estimation.
“We rely on CBO to be a non-partisan resource for Congress, but we also depend on their projections to reflect a level of accuracy to allow us to make the best decisions on behalf of the people we serve,” Roberts said. “If the original estimates had contained the information in the most recent CBO projections, we might have been able to prevent the mess that is Obamacare today. At least the public would have had a much better understanding of the true costs, and I believe that would have impacted the debate.”
Roberts said legislators questioned the CBO’s original cost estimates because costs of related legislative actions such as efforts to reform Medicare’s sustainable growth rate were not included.
“…I believe CBO should explain the drastic difference between their earlier numbers and most recent projections and that the Finance Committee should examine ways to ensure transparent and accurate projections are presented for accompanying legislation in the future,” Roberts said.

The post Roberts calls for investigation into CBO healthcare estimates appeared first on Ripon Advance.

My Comment: A trillion dollars is a lot of money!  Increasing the estimate from 1 trillion to 2 trillion as the public cost for Obamacare for the next ten years is not just a minor mistake. The Congressional Budget Office has always been a respected institution where number crunchers provide unbiased information on cost of legislation and financial projections. To miss a 1 trillion dollar projection by 1 trillion dollars leads one to believe the CBO is no longer objective and is offering projections to aid the Obama administration and the Democrats or they are highly incompetent.

In one sense this doubling of the projection is good news. It confirms we were sold a pig in a poke.  Obamacare was build on lies from day one.  The if-you-like- your-doctor-you-can-keep-your-doctor-period lie and the lie that premiums would decrease and now we discover the "not 1 trillion dollars, but 2 trillion dollars" lie. Congress did not know what they were voting on when they passed it.

This also illustrates that the program is not sustainable. Obamacare will have the same impact on the Federal Government that TennCare had on our State government. The only difference is the State has to balance its budget and the Federal Government can create money out of thin air, but even borrowing will have its limits. I predict that as time passes more and more people will realized Obamacare is a flawed law.  I just hope the result is that we more toward a market model of health care rather than a single payer model.  If I were a cynical conspiracy theorist, I would conclude that Obamacare was designed to fail so we would eventually get single-payer.

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State Rep. Mike Turner retiring! Open seat presents opportunity for Republicans.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner who has served 14 years in the House announced today he won't seek re-election this year. This creates an opportunity for a Republican to capture another seat. It is much easier to take an open seat than topple an incumbent. President Barack Obama won the district with 66 percent of the vote in 2012 and Turner won reelection unopposed in the General Elections. In 2014 without Obama on the ticket and more interest in Republican races than Democrat races, Republicans may have a shot at winning this seat. The district covers the areas of Old Hickory, Madison, east Nashville, downtown Nashville and Germantown. To view the district map, follow this link and click "map."

According to the Nashville Scene, at least five Democrats have expressed interest in running for the seat. They are Zak Kelley, Wade Munday, Freddie O'Connell, Anthony Davis, and Kenny Byrd. For more on who these people are follow this link.

Turner has said he is  considering a run for mayor in 2015.

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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Bob Corker: Obama's outreach to Republicans "was optics." Talks "were never serious."

The Washington Post, February 27, 2014 -Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said Thursday that President Obama shouldn't bother trying to talk to Republican lawmakers unless he's willing to make considerable policy concessions to the GOP.

Corker was closely involved in White House outreach to Republicans over the course of last summer, a charm campaign that included fancy dinners at the White House and nearby luxury hotels and a rare golf outing involving Obama, Corker and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) at Joint Base Andrews.

But Corker dismissed the outreach Thursday. "That process, believe it or not, tore down trust," he said, adding later that the talks "were never serious." "I wouldn’t engage in those conversations if I were them, because I don’t think they were ever earnest. I think it was optics, it was disappointing, and if anything, it broke down trust," he said. (link)

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gail Kerr says we shouldn’t allow companies to make a buck on the backs of Tennessee’s public school kids. I say we should.

It is quite common for people do disdain profits as if profits were somehow evil. When it comes to education, some people will say they are for charter schools but not for for-profit charter schools.  Why?  They really can't give a good reason and neither does Gail Kerr in her Tennessean article today, For-profit charter schools would be bad business for Tennessee.

There is a bill being considered by the State legislature that would permit for-profit schools. Kerr says, "If this bill passes, Tennessee will be in the business of paying for what essentially becomes private schools."  Charter schools are not essentially private schools. They are public schools with greater flexibility to serve the needs of their students than pubic schools that are under the control of the central office bureaucracy. Why, would a for-profit charter schools be more like a private schools than a not-for-profit charter school?   Most private schools are non-profit. There is simply no logic to her statement.

She goes own to say that to squeeze profit out of schools, for-profit entities might skimp on quality. "And the for-profit charter owner would be tempted to push profits up anywhere they could" she says. "Would they hire less talented teachers at bargain salaries to save money and increase their profit margin? Scrimp on classroom materials? Undermine the unique programs that make charters so attractive?"

Gail does not understand how markets work or charter schools. If the manager of the charter school skimps on talented teachers or materials and children are not getting an education, parents will not send their child to that school. Also, If the school does not perform well, they will lose their charter. Unlike regular public schools which do not have to attract students, charter schools must actually attract students.  People go to a charter school because they want to, not because they have to. In a market economy if people are not pleased with the a service or product, the company loses customers and then goes out of business. While having a "bottom line" does force a company to look at controlling cost and being efficient that is balanced by the need to provide a level of service that will attract and keep customers.

Somehow some people think it is just wrong to make a profit off of something as important as educating children. Somehow they think socialized services are morally superior to free market services. I don't understand that. The results is what should matter, not the motivation of the person providing the service. If one teacher feels he was "called" to teach and loves children and teaches out of the most benevolent of motives and refuses a salary, but produces illiterates; while another teacher does it out of his own self interest to make a nice living and produces brilliant students, I would prefer my child be taught by the one producing brilliant student. Outcomes matter; not motivation.

Is is wrong to make a profit off of healing someone? Most doctors make a profit. Eating is pretty important, yet most food producers and grocery stores and restaurants are for profit. Is it wrong to make a profit off of burying someones dead loved one? Most funeral homes are for profit. Providing clothing? For profit. Providing shelter? For profit. Communications? For profit. Transportation? Mostly for profit. If it is not wrong to make a profit off of healing people or burying people or feeding or housing people, why is it wrong to make a profit off of educating children?
Our economy is built on for-profit businesses, on capitalism, and that’s a good and valuable system. But we shouldn’t allow companies to make a buck on the backs of Tennessee’s public school kids. Gail Kerr
 It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. Adam Smith

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How conservative are they? The Club for Growth scorecard.

The Club for Growth was founded in 1999.  It is a  501(c)4 organization  focused on cutting taxes, repealing the estate tax, limited government, a Balanced Budget Amendment, entitlement reform, free trade, tort reform, school choice, and deregulation. It endorses and raises money for fiscally conservative candidates. Since 2005, the Club for Growth has produced an annual congressional scorecard. Below is how the Club for Growth rated the Tennessee Congressional delegation:
                                                                 Rank  score  lifetime score

 TN 2 R Duncan, John 17 94% 85%
 TN 4 R DesJarlais, Scott 43 85% 79%
 TN 7 R Blackburn, Marsha 84 77% 91%
 TN 3 R Fleischmann, Charles 98 74% 79%
 TN 6 R Black, Diane 103 73% 77%
 TN 8 R Fincher, Stephen 120 70% 76%
 TN 1 R Roe, David 131 68% 77%
 TN 5 D Cooper, Jim 241 24% 26%
 TN 9 D Cohen, Steve 281 16% 7%
 TN R Corker, Bob  26 75% 81%
 TN R Alexander, Lamar 36 67% 68%

To view the complete scorecard and see the votes considered in developing the scorecard, follow this link.

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MNPS special meeting on charter schools.

This meeting is almost four hours long. I have not watched it myself yet, but hope to do so. It is clear from The Tennessean's report that MNPS continues to view charter schools, not as a means of improving public education but as a threat to public education. We need a chance at the school board. We need school board members that embrass reform and educational excellence.

Below is the Tennessean's report on this special meeting:

Metro school officials didn’t back down from a controversial new policy that defines where new charter schools in Davidson County can locate as talks opened on Monday.
Instead, its chief architect reaffirmed the lay of the land. (link)

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Obama to dictate which vendors may sponsor highschool gym scoreboards

Apparently believing local school boards are not to be trusted with even the smallest of decisions,  the Obama administration will decide which vendors may sponsor the high school gym scoreboards. Children who are old enough to decide for themselves whether or not to have an abortion or going to be protected from seeing the Coke or Pepsi logos on school properties all over America. Washington's micro management shifts into high gear.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Even the scoreboards in high school gyms will have to advertise only healthy foods under new rules announced Tuesday by the Obama administration.

Promotion of sugary drinks and junk foods around campuses during the school day will be phased out under the rules, intended to ensure that such marketing is brought in line with health standards that already apply to school foods.

That means a scoreboard at a high school football or basketball game eventually wouldn't be allowed to advertise Coca-Cola, for example, but it could advertise Diet Coke or Dasani water, which is also owned by Coca-Cola Co. Same with the front of a vending machine. Cups, posters and menu boards which promote foods that don't meet the standards would also be phased out. (link)

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Monday, February 24, 2014

No Annexation without Concent bill passes House.

The bill that would require a vote in favor of annexation by the people being annexed passed the State House today by a vote of 78 "Ayes," 8 "Nays" and 5 present but not voting. It now goes to the Senate. 

Under current law a municipality may extend its corporate limits by annexation of adjoining territories, by ordinance, when petitioned by a majority of the residents and property owners of the affected territory, or "upon its own initiative when it appears that the prosperity of the municipality and territory will be materially retarded and the safety and welfare of the inhabitants and property endangered." (link)

The roll call record is not yet available.

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Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam: GOP Governors Know How Jobs Are Created

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TNGOP Announces New Engagement Director, Regional Political Directors for 2014

Statewide Staff Represents the Earliest Field Operations in TNGOP History, Unprecedented Commitment to Engaging Minority Voters

 NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Following the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee conducted a top-to-bottom review of the Party’s infrastructure and political activities across the nation. It quickly became apparent too little was done in terms of outreach to communities beyond the traditional GOP base. 

With more Republicans running for office in 2014 than ever before, Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney today officially unveiled the TNGOP’s statewide Engagement Director, as well as the new team of Regional Political Directors responsible for organizing and implementing the 2014 Republican victory plan.

Victor Evans, a former teacher and Rhodes College graduate with a Masters from Christian Brothers University in Memphis, joins the TNGOP as its Engagement Director. His responsibilities include enlisting support from the African-American, Latino, and other minority communities across Tennessee. Evans will also direct the TNGOP’s Global Engagement Team, which has already been actively working in Nashville to grow minority support.

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus applauded the move and stated, "Victor Evans brings valuable skills and experiences to the Republican Party. He will play a critical role in strengthening our ties to all Tennessee voters.  His hire will ensure our positive vision for the country and our message of 'opportunity for all' reaches across the state." 

Devaney remarked,  “Victor understands we have a lot of ground to make up in communities across Tennessee—and he’s helping to lead the effort. We will compete for every voter across the Volunteer State. Whether it is educational opportunities for all students or fighting for adults who need a job now, we’re the Party of opportunity. Victor will be instrumental in communicating that message for all in 2014.”

Evans, who is fluent in Spanish, has already been working on behalf of the TNGOP for several months now. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “Whether it is in Frasier in Shelby County or East Nashville in Davidson, people are feeling empowered by the Republican Party’s message. This isn’t a one-time proposition. This is about laying the groundwork for years to come.”

In addition to Evans, the TNGOP has brought aboard an experienced and talented team to carry the Party’s message throughout the state.

Kim Perry, an experienced political operative based in Memphis, will engage voters in Shelby County. Jordan Maynor, a political operative with expertise in sales and business-to-business service, will focus on Davidson County and other targeted areas of Middle Tennessee. A former TNGOP intern, Thomas Stephenson, returns to the Tennessee Republican Party to engage the Party’s rural and suburban targets. And Zack Huff, a former campaign field staffer for U.S. Representative Diane Black, will manage the Party’s victory efforts in East Tennessee.

This is a strong team we have put together for our field operations across Tennessee,” commented Devaney. “They represent the earliest statewide field staff we have ever put in place and they’ve already played instrumental roles in candidate recruitment, county party training, and data-building. The bottom line is we’re pressing the advantage over our counterparts to ensure that Republicans are elected at the local level and that we keep the Governor’s seat, U.S. Senate seat, and Legislature in Republican control this November.”

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Gov. Haslam on PBS Newshour talking minimum wage, education, unions and Medicaid expansion.

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Alexander Statement on President Obama’s Failure to Include Chained CPI in Budget

Senator Lamar Alexander, the senior Republican on the Senate health committee, released the following statement on the White House announcement that President Obama has dropped chained CPI from his budget this year:
Using the most accurate measure of inflation for entitlement spending and tax rates would be the simplest, fairest way to take a meaningful step toward fixing the federal debt. The president was exactly right to include it in last year's budget. His failure to do so this year makes confronting runaway mandatory spending even harder.

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How Conservative are they? The most recent Heritage Action Scorecard report.

The Heritage Action Scorecard measures votes, co-sponsorships, and other legislative activity to show how conservative Members of Congress are.  Below are the latest scores for the Tennessee delegation. To see other scores and to see the key votes that went in to determining scores, follow this link

TN 2   Rep. John Duncan Jr. R 88%
TN 4 Rep. Scott DesJarlais R 79%
TN 7 Rep. Marsha Blackburn R 78%
TN 3 Rep. Chuck Fleischmann R 78%
TN 6 Rep. Diane Black R 72%
TN 1 Rep. Phil Roe R 66%
TN 8 Rep. Stephen Fincher R 65%
Sen. Lamar Alexander R 46%
Sen. Bob Corker R 44%
TN 5 Rep. Jim Cooper D 36%
TN 9 Rep. Steve Cohen D 17%

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Parade and Job Fair for Tennessee's Iraq War Veterans

My name is Daniel Horwitz, and I am a civilian living in Nashville, Tennessee.  Over the past two years, I have been attempting to set up a “Welcome Home” parade and job fair here in Nashville to thank and benefit Tennessee’s Iraq War veterans.  With the help of organizations like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, similar parades have already been held in cities across the nation like St. Louis and Richmond, Chicago and Houston, Philadelphia, Austin, and Tucson.  I believe it’s long past time for Nashville to join these cities by formally thanking our veterans for their service and giving them the jobs that they need and deserve.  Fortunately, that time has finally come.

After working with several local, state and federal officials on this event, I’ve received approval to apply for a permit to hold a parade and job fair on May 17th, 2014.  Fortunately, local businesses have been extremely supportive of this effort as well, so the costs associated with the parade permit are graciously being offered at heavily discounted rates.  The total costs of the parade permit application will be as follows:
  1. A $1,000,000 general liability insurance policy, which will be provided by local veteran James Manning of The Manning Agency at a total cost of just $301.
  2. Event security, which will be provided by local combat veteran T.J. DeMartino of Phalanx Risk Solutions at a total cost of just $660.
  3. Street barricades and traffic control, which will be provided by veteran supporter Larry M. Patton, Jr. of Blinker-Lite at a total cost of just $125.
  4. Additional incidental expenses related to trash cleanup, tent set up, and street closure permits estimated at $400.
  5. A $30 application fee.
If you support this effort and you want to help thank Tennessee’s Iraq War veterans for their extraordinary sacrifice and service to this country, please consider donating to help make this event a reality.  Any contributions above the $1,500 target will be donated directly to Operation Stand Down Nashville, a full-service veterans non-profit organization that is committed to providing life changing social services to veterans throughout Middle Tennessee.  If you have any questions about this event, if you would like to help organize it, or if you run a business and would like to participate in the job fair, please contact me anytime at
Thank you so much,
Daniel A. Horwitz
Contact the Organizer
Follow this link to make a donation: Parade and Job Fair for Tennessee's Iraq War Veterans.
My Comment: Please join me in supporting this worthwhile cause and show our veterans that we care and appreciate their sacrifice. Rod

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Dalai Lama on Happiness, free enterprise, and humanflourishing.

Below, please find a summary, video highlights, and press coverage from yesterday's special AEI event "Happiness, free enterprise, and humanflourishing," featuring His Holiness the Dalai Lama, including this piece by David Brooks in The New York Times

The free enterprise system is about more than just money. It provides the greatest means for human happiness.

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"Repeal Common Core" bill will be up for an Education sub-committee vote on Tuesday.

From Stephen Clements, organizer of Caffeinated Conservatives:

Hi everybody,
I got a tip that Rep. Womick's "Repeal Common Core" bill will be up for an Education sub-committee vote on Tuesday. If you're interested in this, please let the committee members know if you want the bill to pass or not. See, if you attended our December meeting, you already personally know one of the committee members, Rep. Harold Love, Jr, and that can't hurt when you let him know what you want.

Stephen Clements
Caffeinated Conservatives

REPEAL COMMON CORE Bill goes through the House Education Subcommittee Tuesday, Feb. 25th! Time for you to make your voice heard. This bill MUST PASS the Subcommittee first in order for the full assembly to hear it.
House Bill #2332 sponsored by Rep. Womick
Harry Brooks 615-741-6879
John DeBerry 615-741-2239
John Forgety 615-741-1725
Roger Kane 615-741-4110
Harold Love 615-741-3831
Debra Moody 615-741-3774
Joe Pitts 615-741-4575
Dawn White 615-741-6849


For the record, I am in favor of Common Core. I am pleased that the state has passed legislation to protect the privacy of students, which was my major concern. Much of the information alleging objectionable common core curriculum as well as some other things alleged about common core is simply not true. Please learn about Common Core before jumping on the anti bandwagon. RW

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FCC backs off newsroom survey plan

FCC backs off newsroom survey plan

There will be no newsroom police for now. 

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The MoveOn orchestrated campaign to pressure TN to expand medicare and those phony lettes to the editor.

Do you read those letters in the Tennessean urging the Governor to accept Medicare expansion and think they are organic and homegrown?  Maybe some of them are but more than likely they are part of an orchestrated campaign. Also, those calls legislators are getting are part of an orchestrated campaign. The following is from MoveON:

Dear Tennessee MoveOn member,
Lawmakers in 23 states—including Tennessee—are blocking more than 5 million people from access to healthcare. That's why on Wednesday, MoveOn members across the country made more than 6,500 calls encouraging state politicians to work to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
These personal calls are powerful. Here are a couple sample comments members shared: 
I called Gov. Nikki Haley's office and asked if she would please accept Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act...I told her that my story is personal. That I have a daughter that is not working and can't afford insurance coverage. We do all that we can to pay her student loan debt and cost of the insurance is so expensive we can't afford it.—Shirley J., Loris, SC
I asked that the governor please take the money, if not so many will die because of his politics...I am a union man along with my father and two brothers. I guaranteed him four votes that he will not get if he continues to refuse the money.—Richard, Pittsburgh, PA
We can't stop now. Can you help keep the momentum going and growing? 
Take the next step now and write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper calling on Tennessee's leaders to expand Medicaid.
We're definitely being noticed already, and now's our chance to build on the momentum.
Winning a fight like this starts with making sure public opinion is on our side. Politicians often look to the letters to the editor section of their local newspapers to get a sense of how people feel about an issue. Their staff clip, categorize, and archive them regularly for them to read. 
Will you take the next step and write a letter to the editor?
We've suggested talking points to help you craft your letter, and a list of newspapers in your region—and we'll automatically deliver your letter to the papers you select. We've also provided the phone numbers of the newspapers, so that you can make follow-up calls to ask if your letter will be published—which shows that you really care, and increases the chance that your letter will be chosen. 
Each letter we submit increases the likelihood of publication, and lets newspaper editors know that Medicaid expansion is an important issue for their readers, which could lead to more and better coverage.
Click here to write and submit a letter to the editor of your local newspaper calling on leaders in Tennessee to expand Medicaid. [link disable RW]
Conservative opposition to Medicaid expansion shows just how far Republicans will go to oppose Obamacare, and it's working people who are suffering for it. For most voters, it's a step too far. Medicaid expansion has the potential to save lives. Until Tennessee politicians stop opposing it, we have an obligation to expose just how dangerous and misinformed conservative attacks on Obamacare have become.
These calls and letters to the editor are building the pressure we need to win. All around the country, MoveOn members are organizing to expand access to health care through Medicaid in their states. 
Let's keep the pressure up—submit your letter to the editor today. [link disabled. RW]
Thanks for all you do.
Victoria, Stefanie, Alejandro, Kyle, and the rest of the team

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Victoria Jackson's claim about explicit sex ed book, not true.

Victoria Jackson
As a political blogger, I try to be careful about what I post. If I read something that appears true, I usually try to find the same thing reported in another legitimate source before I repost it and I try to follow links back to the original source to see if something came from a credible source. Often something can be found a dozen or hundreds of times on the Internet, but that does not make the item credible.  The Internet has a really big echo chamber. The downside of being cautious about what I report is that I may not always report the most current information and I may miss something important.  However, I would prefer to era on the side of caution. The truth is that there is a lot of false information that floats around the Internet and I do not want to contribute to that.

A few days ago I saw the post from former Saturday Night Live star Victoria Jackson exposing a
book supposedly used in the a 4th grade class in Williamson County.  The name of the book was, "It's Perfectly Normal." The book teaches that masturbation and homosexuality are perfectly normal. Accompanying Jackson's commentary about how awful the book was and that it should not be used in the class room and that that was an example of the reasons she was running for political office, there were several pictures of cartoons from the book which show genitalia.

The report was so specific that I had no reason not to believe it.  I almost reposted and commented but for some reason I didn't. My instinct told me to be cautious and wait. I am glad I did. Not many conservative bloggers were cautions.  This story went viral. It was repeated over and over again on blogs from bloggers all over the country. Victoria Jackson has since removed the post from her blog but the story is still all over the Internet. The story was not true. That book is not being used in a classroom in Williamson County, it is not on any state-approved reading list, and it is not in any Williamson County School library. (link) Nevertheless, this is probably one of those stories that people will repeat and repost and repeat. The truth will never catch up to the lie.

Victoria Jackson who is running for a seat on the Williamson County Commission says a retired 4th grade teacher showed her the book and said it was being used in the classroom.   Jackson should have got her facts straight before she posted the story.  She should have went to the school where the book was supposedly being used and confirmed if it was in fact being used. She should have went to the School Board administration and asked about it. She should have checked to see if it was in a school library or on a state-approved textbook list. She did not. Her reckless reporting of this, may be reason enough not to vote for her for a seat on the County Commission.

I don't know who first said them but here are a couple quotes that come to mind relevant to this story:  "Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear." "A lie gets half way around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on."   

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Friday, February 21, 2014

TN Promise: looks like a good higher ed policy proposal

From TN Edu-Independent Posted: 21 Feb 2014:
Recently, Gov. Haslam proposed TN Promise, which offers free tuition to community colleges and the state's tech centers. Lottery reserve dollars will be used to create an endowment to pay future ongoing expenses.  There was some criticism in that to pay for the program, the policy proposes to lessen the support for 4 year colleges from $4,000 per year to $3,000 for freshman and sophomores but increases the amount for juniors and seniors from $4,000 to $5,000 per year.

I think it's a good policy for reasons I explain below.

1. TN is still in a bad place when it comes to postsecondary completions.  Compared to other states, we still have comparatively low outcomes, for comparatively much higher costs. When we think of the Return on Investment implications in spending state money for higher ed (subsidy support for higher ed institutions, HOPE scholarships), it's not good.

This data comes from the Chronicle of Higher ed College Completion data project.

For TN public 4 years, only 45.5% graduate in 6 years (less than half) and only 19.7% graduate in 4 years. The chart below that shows that TN is much higher in educational spending per completion than many other states:
For TN public 2 years, it's much worse. Only 11.3% graduate in 3 years, and only 8.0% graduate in 2 years. The chart again shows that TN is much higher in educational spending per completion for 2 years than many other states:

By providing tuition support, the TN Promise Initiative will help move the needle on the really subpar 2 year college graduation rates, and will likely improve the Return on Investment of state dollars being spent on 2 year public colleges.

For 4 years as well, shifting greater support to junior and senior years incents more completion at the 4 year level. Ultimately, this will help improve the 4 year grad rates, which also need significant improvement.

Providing marginally less support in the freshman and sophomore years - $1000 each year, doesn't seem like it would be the make or break reason students leave during these years.  Financial pressures are present every year for a student at a 4 year program, but I think it makes a lot of sense to put greater incentives in later years - years 3 and 4 (the scholarship amount increase) - than the beginning years when students may drop out for primarily non-financial reasons. 

2.  The policy proposal that will bring more equity to how TN Lottery Dollars are allocated.  As I've previously pointed out in this post, TN Lottery dollars derive the majority of their revenues from poor Tennesseans (who are more likely to play the lottery), but then the majority of dollars are allocated to families that already have the means (via HOPE scholarships), or close to the means to cover public higher education tuition. 

By providing greater support for 2 year students out of reserve lottery funds (which tend to be lower-income), this seems more equitable for how HOPE scholarship dollars are put to use.  I actually think there is some strong underlying morality in this policy proposal, something that we don't see every day from public officials.

3.  Tuition out of pocket costs for students may slow.
This was one of the Governor's talking points, and seems realistic.  A number of students can complete 2 year associate's degrees, and then transfer to a TBR or UT System 4 year school to complete a 4 year degree.

Getting the first two years paid for can be a big financial help to students, dramatically cutting the total cost of a postsecondary degree.  It's a page out of the Zach Bissonette playbook.

One potential side effect this policy proposal is that if demand for the 4 year colleges declines, enrolling less students each year because students are going to 2 years, 4 year universities may feel inclined to raise tuition prices at an even further rate than they would otherwise. Yet, I don't think this is too concerning, because there is already lots of consternation out there with student loan debt and tuition hikes - there's a limit to what people are willing to pay, and subsequently, what universities can charge.

4. Lottery dollars just sitting in a reserve account aren't helping students. This was state Senator Jim Kyle's main point and he's right.  Put the money to use for Tennessee students.

The TN Promise proposal looks like a good higher ed policy proposal on a number of fronts, putting money to use instead of just sitting around.  Tennessee has a long way to go for improving 2 year and 4 year higher ed graduation rates, and it looks like this is a good policy to help with that.

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This testimony about the IRS scandal should make your blood boil and send a chill down your spine.

This testimony about the IRS scandal should make your blood boil and send a chill down your spine.  In this seven minutes video, True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht describs to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee how her life changed after she started the voter integrity group and filed applications for non-profit status with the IRS: Federal government audits followed; business inspections ensued, with thousands of dollars in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration; the IRS demanded her speaking schedule.

The inquiries covered matters that would be of little use to an analyst for tax purposes, Engelbrecht said, but would be “of interest to a political machine that will put its own survival against the civil liberties of private citizens.”

“As an American citizen, I am part of a country that still believes in freedom of speech,” Engelbrecht said. “No American citizen should be willing to accept a government that uses its power against its own people.”

It almost seems unreal what is happening in America:  The president makes 28 changes, many of them major, to a law, when he has absolutely no authority to write legislation.  The delays to the AFC will benefit his party by delaying the bad consequences to the act. He makes "recess" appointments when congress is not in recess. He engages in massive spying on Americans in violation of the 4th Amendment. He targets an American  for killing in a foreign country who has not been charged with any crime and refused to say he does not have the right to do so in America. He has plans to send "monitors" into Americas news rooms. He seizes all of the phone records of the Associated Press.  And, he turns the IRS and other government agencies into agencies to harass his critics. For the first time, I am feeling like we are living in the days before a coup.  For the first time, I feel "fundamental change" is coming to America.  For the first time I feel it is dangerous to exercise your constitutional rights. What is next? Will we wake up in a police state with President Obama declaring he is dissolving Congress and suspending elections?

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Rep. Sagent: "Let me state unequivocally: I am opposed to Obamacare in any form or fashion."

Rep. Charles Sargent
Thank you for your email. First, let me state unequivocally: I am opposed to Obamacare in any form or fashion. I am a co-sponsor of Representative Jeremy Durham's legislation that was filed last year to ban Medicaid expansion. As the Chairman of the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee, I am keenly aware of the devastating effect Obamacare will be on our state's finances.
That legislation was filed in early 2012, before the Supreme Court's decision was rendered and before the state knew the outcome of that case, or what ramifications it would have for the state. In essence, it was filed as 'placeholder' legislation, so that whatever happened--either from the federal government or Democrats in the legislature--we were considering the monetary impact and were in control of the bill. As the record shows, as soon as our bill filing deadline passed and none of that came to fruition, I withdrew it from consideration as it was no longer needed.
Tennessee, and several other states, continue to stand up to the federal government and push back against its overreach. I am proud to stand with my Republican colleagues in the legislature to do everything we can to stop the continued federal overreach. We are fortunate to live in a state where the budget is balanced, the taxes are low, and we work toward implementing policies that are business friendly. The federal government should be trying to replicate what we're doing, not dictating failed policies to us.
Again, Rod, thanks for reaching out to me on this. Contact me anytime.
Charles Sargent
State Representative
61st Legislative District
206 War Memorial Building
Nashville, TN 37243
(615) 741-6808

The explanation of his sponsorship of HB2839 sounds reasonable to me. I'm satisfied. Below is the information I asked Rep Sargent about and about which he is responding:

Steve Gawrys, Candidate for the 61st District House Seat, says Rep. Sargent supported Obamacare

Press Release, BRENTWOOD, TN – Today, Steve Gawrys, Candidate for the 61st District House Seat is asking President Obama to learn from Tennessee’s economic successes when he visits here later this week.

“I’m pleased the President has chosen to come to Tennessee,” said Gawrys. “I’m more hopeful that he will learn something from what he finds here about Tennessee’s continuing economic success.”

Recently, Tennessee was named “State of the Year” by Business Facilities Magazine for its growing diverse economic base. Steve Gawrys is part of that business success as an entrepreneur and job creator in Williamson County. “The President has never taken a risk and hired an employee, so he has a lot to learn about growing an economy from Tennesseans,” said Gawrys.

Gawrys continued, “The first thing President Obama needs to learn is that his failed health insurance bill is destroying small businesses across America. One of the reasons I am in this State House race is that my opponent, Charles Sargent, sponsored the bill to establish the ObamaCare State Exchanges in Tennessee.” Gawrys is referring to HB2839 in which his opponent offered the legislation to support ObamaCare in Tennessee.

“Tennessee rejected Obama in the 2012 elections and they overwhelmingly reject his failed health insurance plan. We shouldn’t have Republicans in Tennessee supporting failed policies. I think the voters of District 61 deserve an explanation.”

In the last legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly rejected the establishment of a State-sponsored health exchange. “I would have joined the majority and voted against such a federal overreach,” said Gawrys.

District 61 includes Brentwood, and parts of Cool Springs, Franklin, and unincorporated Williamson County.

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The 2014 World Press Freedom Index drops U. S. 13 places to number 46 of 180

Reporters Without Boarders issued their annual World Press Freedom Index and the U.S. had dropped 13 places, coming in below Western democracies like Great Britain, France and Spain and former Soviet dominated eastern bloc countries like Estonia, Romania, Czech Republic and Poland, and countries that have experienced wars and conflicts like Cyprus and El Salvador, and third world countries like Ghana, Botswana, and Papua New Guinea. We rank one place ahead of Haiti. 

This is what RWB had to say about the U.S.:

Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, far from it. Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.

This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.

US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government. 
To read the report and learn more, follow this link

If this is chilling, it may get much worse. Recent revelations reveal that the Federal Communication Commission has plans to put "monitors" in newsrooms of local TV and radio stations and newspaper newsrooms. They also plan to research media bias and news access and study what determines what kind of stories get covered. There is absolutely no authority for this. It is a abuse of any authority the FCC has but the FCC does have a role to play in licensing TV and radio outlets, but absolutely no role in any way concerning print media.  The thought of  Federal monitors in newsrooms, should send a  shiver down the spine anyone who values  free press.  This must be stopped!  

Our First Amendment rights are under serious attack along with our other rights and the rule of law, and the mainstream media and pop culture sit by complacently and watch the constitution be trampled and our freedoms disappear and seldom do they raise an objection. Next year we may be much further down that list ranking press freedom. We may be down there with the Republic of the Congo, Kuwait, and Kenya.

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Sanity rules. House rejects attempt to broaden guns-in-parking-lots 'fix'

House rejects attempt to broaden guns-in-parking-lots ‘fix’

The House rejected Thursday an attempt to prohibit companies from firing employees who hold a handgun carry permit for keeping a gun in a car after House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick contended the proposal was not properly filed.

The move came when McCormick’s bill to make a minor change in the “guns in parking lots law” enacted last year came to the House floor. Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon, filed a proposed amendment – backed by the Tennessee Firearms Association – that substantially broadened the Senate-approved bill (SB1701).

McCormick, R-Chattanooga, wanted only to change a provision of current law that says a carry permit holder cannot be criminally prosecuted for having a gun in his or her “privately-owned vehicle,” even if on property where guns are prohibited. The wording means that if the carry permit holder is driving a rental car or someone else’s car – that of a relative or friend, for example – the protection would not apply. McCormick’s bill changes the wording to cover any vehicle in the permit holder’s legal possession.

Pody sought to put a separate bill he has filed, HB1667, onto McCormick’s bill as an amendment. His proposals says a person cannot be fired for any legal possession of any item kept in a vehicle. (link)
My Comment: While a lot of really bad bills get introduced, not many of them pass and those that do are usually watered down such that they hardly resembled what they started out as and by the time they pass are often harmless. A bill a couple years ago started out as something that would have criminalized practicing Islam. By the time it passed it made it illegal to materially support terrorism, a far cry from making it illegal to practice Sharia.  The guns is trunks bill is basically harmless, not the private property trampling bill the advocates originally wanted. The system works pretty good. 

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CBO says bill to raise minimum wage will cost 1 million jobs. Alexander's comment.

Washington, D.C., Feb. 18 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate labor committee, today released the following statement on the Congressional Budget Office report finding that the Democrats’ bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour with annual increases for inflation could cost as many as 1 million jobs:

This CBO report reiterates a fundamental principle of our free-market economy: increasing the minimum wage eliminates jobs, cuts off the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and reduces opportunity. Instead of minimum wages, the goal should be higher family incomes. To do that, we should liberate the free enterprise system from Obama regulations and make it easier to create jobs, provide more job training, and offer more choices of good schools to children of low-income parents.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Common Core, mass transit fundng, the Gulch sidewalk bridge and more. Council meeting of 2-18-14 w/ commentary and timestamp.

This is a 2 hour and 20 minute-long meeting. I thought this would be a short, boring meeting but I was wrong; it is a more interesting meeting than most. Speaker Pro Temp Chris Harmon serves as Chair of this meeting in the absence of the Vice Mayor. To follow the meeting and see the agenda and the analysis, follow this link.

All appointments to Board and Commission are approved without discussion.

Consent Agenda.
A resolution is put on the consent agenda if it is likely to be non-controversial and it stays on the consent agenda if it passes the committees to which it was assigned unanimously. The Consent Agenda also includes memorializing Resolution. Resolutions on the consent agenda are passed by a single vote of the Council rather than being considered individually. However, any member of the body may have a bill pulled off of the consent agenda but it doesn't happen often. Almost all of the resolutions on the agenda this time are accepting grants. Memorializing resolutions do not have the force of law but express the will of the Council. None of the resolutions still on the Consent Agenda at the time of the Council meeting are pulled so everything passes unanimously.

Resolutions not on the Consent Agenda.

  • RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-948 is substituted to remove the money for other things except the money for the training and software for Common Core testing, reducing the bill from $13.1 million to $4.3 million. Last Council meeting the Council approved issuing bonds for funding the purchase of computers. Councilman Maynard, rightly I think, makes the point that this is premature and should wait until budget time and until after a meeting that the Council Budget and Finance Committee will have with the School Board Finance Committee. As substituted, the resolution is deferred to the second meeting in March by a vote of 29 to 6. To view the debate see time stamp 11:43-28:47.
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-988 and Resolution RS2014-989 and BILL NO. BL2014-689 are all bills which are part of another one of those deals to provide incentives to businesses to locate or expand in Nashville. These bills transfers money from one fund to another and then appropriates money and tax incentives to subsidize HCA for a development on the north end of the gulch. The total amount of the subsidy is $4.9 million. Usually Councilman Josh Stites takes to the floor and is the lone voice against this type deal but does not do so on this bill and it passes without opposition. I hope Stites had not given up the fight. I am conflicted about this type deal myself. On the one hand, I do not think we should do it, on the other hand as long as other cities are doing it, we lose if we don't. See 28:54-35:05 to see the explanation of this deal. 
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-984 requests the Davidson County Delegation to the Tennessee General Assembly to introduce and support the necessary legislation to provide a dedicated funding source for local mass transit. The mayor has come out against this resolution saying it is unnecessary. it is deferred at the request of the sponsor to the second meeting in May. 
  •  RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1001 endorses Common Core and opposed all state action that would discontinue the use of the standards or delay the implementation. I support Common Core and if I were in the Council, I would have no problem supporting this resolution. However, many conservatives, especially the more tea party aligned conservatives, have objections to Common Core. Also, for reasons other than those of tea party conservatives, some educators also oppose Common Core. After some lively discussion the motion passes 25 to 9. Those voting "no" are Bennett, Standley, Tenpenny, Moore, Blalock, Dominy, Duval and Mitchel. See time stamp 38:06-51:36.

All bills on First Reading pass without discussion by a single vote, as is customary.

Bills on Second Reading
  • Bills 665 and 666 which address establishing a dedicated source of funding for mass transit are deferred until the second meeting in May. The sponsor, Councilman Tygard, takes to the floor and explains his bills. "Mass transit is not free," says Tygard, "Somebody has to pay for it." Councilman Stein argues against the bill and moves to table it. The tabling motion fails. Great presentation by Tygard! He explains how other cities have funded mass transit and the financial choices facing the city. To understand the logic of these bills, watch the presentation. See timestamp 53:15- 1:22:54
  •  BILL NO. BL2014-670 authorized the acquisition of property for the Gulch Pedestrian Bridge. The Council pleasantly surprised me by rejecting this bill. The Council finally says "no" to a major new spending project. They vote 30-2 to defer indefinitely. This is a great turn of events. It is not that I do not think a pedestrian bridge connecting SoBro to the gulch would not be a nice thing but we can't afford every nice thing. After the debt of the Music City Center, the Sulphur Dell Ball Park, the east riverbank development, the planned west bank riverfront expansion and amphitheater, and the proposed AMP, the city is pushing its debt capacity. We are even borrowing money to buy laptop computers. At the same time, we are facing a budget shortfall next year and we are ignoring other needs such as new sidewalks in neighborhoods and roadway improvements. Councilman Clairborn does a great job arguing against the bill as does Robert Duval and Tygard. Please watch it. To see the debate see timestamps 1:24:30- 1:54:16.

Bills on Third Reading are almost all zoning bill and would interest no one except those near the property being rezoned.

Below are local media reports on the Council meeting.

From the Nashville SceneCouncil Burns a Bridge in the Gulch, Advances HCA Incentives 

From The Tennessean Council slows mayor's progress on Gulch-SoBro pedestrian bridge

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