Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Senator Bob Corker on holding Iran accountable.

On Thursday, Senator Corker and Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) applauded committee passage of their legislation to hold Iran accountable. The bipartisan legislation, now with 48 cosponsors, would expand sanctions for Iranian ballistic missile development, support for terrorism, transfers of conventional weapons to or from Iran, and human rights violations.

“We can no longer allow the nuclear agreement with Iran to dictate U.S. policy throughout the Middle East, and this bill is an important first step in finally holding Iran accountable for their non-nuclear destabilizing activities,” said Corker

“As many of us predicted at the time, Iran’s rogue behavior has only escalated since implementation of the agreement, and this bipartisan bill approved by the committee will give the Trump administration additional tools for holding Tehran accountable. It also sends an important signal that the U.S. will no longer look the other way in the face of continued Iranian aggression. I am proud of the strong bipartisan momentum behind this effort and will push for timely consideration on the Senate floor.”
Click here to learn more about the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017

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Bob Corker: Trump's First International Trip Was Executed to Near Perfection

Senator Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on Sunday released the following statement regarding President Donald J. Trump’s international trip. 

I spoke with President Trump at length Sunday morning and told him that I could not be more pleased with his first international trip.

The trip was executed to near perfection and it appears the president has made great progress on the broad range of objectives his team articulated to me when I met with senior White House and State Department officials during their preparations. President Trump should be commended on the success of this trip, and I look forward to continuing our work together to address numbers of important issues.

The challenges we face around the world are vast, but with a strategic focus on our long-term goals, I am confident we can reassert U.S. leadership, strengthen key alliances and improve security both at home and abroad. 
At the request of the White House, Senator Corker hosted a meeting earlier this month during which National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, Senior Advisor Jared Kushner and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell provided information to and sought input from a number of senators regarding President Trump’s first international trip.

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Poll: Diane Black has most recognizable name in race for Tennessee governor

Poll: Diane Black has most recognizable name in race for Tennessee governor

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Bellevue Republican Breakfast Club special guest is Ben Cunningham, Saturday June 3rd

From Betty Hood, Chair of the Bellevue Republican Breakfast Club:

Dear BRBC Friends,

Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day!!  Fox News did a meaningful tribute to our fallen heroes.

For those who missed the May breakfast club, Ben Cunningham was unable to be with us due to health issues.  He was kind enough to send us Mark Skoda who kept us thoroughly entertained.  Now Ben is feeling much better and will be with us this Saturday at 8 am.  The address is River Art Studio, 8329 Sawyer Brown Rd which is next to the Plantation Pub in River Plantation.  For those who worked the Victory Headquarters for Romney and Ryan in 2012, this is the same place.

Hope to see you Saturday, 

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Councilman Bob Mendes says his Immigration Bills would not create "Sanctuary City" status

From The Bob Mendes blog- Along with co-lead sponsor Colby Sledge and a growing list of additional co-sponsors, I have submitted two bills to guide Metro’s role in federal immigration enforcement. First reading will be on June 6.

This afternoon, the Tennessean put up a story about the two bills, and describes a letter I wrote to Sheriff Hall to give him a heads up about the legislation and to explain the bills. This post is to provide more information about the two bills.

Here’s the letter I sent this morning. Here, here, and here are three other letters we exchanged in March. We also met in early April. Our exchanges on this topic have been cordial and professional. I don’t know what his position, if any, will be about the two bills. I am providing these letters because they provide a detailed explanation of the issues.

One of the bills would require Metro to immediately exercise its rights to terminate a 1996 contract with the U.S. Marshals Service, and also require Metro to use its best efforts to negotiate a replacement contract subject to the approval of the Council. Under the 1996 contract as written, and as approved by the Council, Metro has authority to hold unsentenced adult males and females charged with federal crimes or who are federal material witnesses in exchange for a daily fee. That contract expressly excludes people who already have been sentenced for crimes, juveniles, and “aliens” (which means non-citizens).

In practice, the Davidson County jail is being used as a regional ICE holding facility for non-citizens (or “aliens,” as described in the contract) who are not charged with any state or federal criminal offense. This contract has been in place for 21 years with no legislative oversight. The new legislation would require Metro to exercise its rights to terminate the contract, and negotiate new terms subject to Council approval.

The only principled push back I have heard so far about this bill is that the contract also allows Metro to house people who are charged with federal crimes. The argument is that we shouldn’t want to undercut Metro’s ability to house citizens charged with federal crimes. My response to this is simple: it has been 21 years since this contract was reviewed. Going that long without review is bad policy and bad practice. It is time for the terms of the 1996 contract to be reviewed by the Council. Otherwise, would this contract really just go on forever?

The other ordinance is intended to facilitate compliance with federal immigration laws within the limited resources of our local government. This ordinance would require that, unless required by federal or state law or a court order, Metro may not use its money, resources, or facilities to assist in enforcing federal immigration laws, or to share information about a person’s custody status or court dates. This ordinance would also prohibit Metro from requesting information about a person’s immigration or citizenship status. Finally, this ordinance would prohibit Metro from honoring an immigration-related voluntary detention request unless it is accompanied by a federal criminal warrant.

Everyone rightly should be concerned about how this ordinance fits with other existing law. First, this ordinance does not make Nashville a “sanctuary city.” Earlier this week on May 22, the Department of Justice issued a memo specifically defining what it means to be a “sanctuary jurisdiction.” There is nothing in the new ordinance that triggers the DOJ’s definition. As an additional precaution, the new ordinance expressly requires Metro to follow all federal law, state law, and court orders including federal criminal warrants.

I have heard through the courthouse rumor mill that there are a few objections floating around. I’ll go ahead and address those here.

One argument claims that this legislation will be harmful to immigrants. I recommend that anyone wanting to explore this argument go locate some immigrants in our community and ask what they think. I am confident that Nashville’s immigrant population will be strongly in favor of this bill.
Another argument is that Metro doesn’t have the power under state law to tell the Sheriff’s employees what to do about anything. I have only heard this objection in the last few hours, and I don’t know who is making the objection. But my initial reaction is that I believe it is long settled law that the Sheriff is bound by the functional, budgetary, purchasing, and personnel provisions of the Metro Charter. So I don’t understand this objection.

Another argument is that this will somehow impact public safety. This argument doesn’t make sense. The bill would require Metro to honor all existing federal and state law. Metro simply would have to stop holding non-citizens unless they are charged with a criminal offense.

In the coming days and weeks, I’ll provide more information about the moral imperative behind these bills. All of Nashville’s residents add their own note of individuality and spark to who we are. When our immigrant neighbors are silenced or muted by fear, Music City is out of tune. These bills will help us celebrate all our voices.

My Comment:  Bob Mendes is a Councilman-at-large and co-sponsor of the immigration bill that has been filed.  I am posting the above to add to an understanding of the issue. Posting of an essay by someone else on an issue does not constitute an endorsement of the views expressed in the essay.  The highlighting in the essay is mine. The provision in the bill that requires Metro to follow all federal laws may be sufficient to help us avoid "sanctuary city" status, should this pass. This may put us as close as you can get to being a sanctuary city and yet not cross the line. The bill may also be totally meaningless feel-good grandstanding and have no real impact. More on this issue will follow as it becomes available.

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It’s all fun and games until someone gets arrested: Predators fan charged for catfish toss

By Daniel Horwitz, Supreme Court of Tennessee Blog - In an absolutely outrageous abuse of law enforcement authority, Pittsburgh police are celebrating the fact that they have just filed criminal charges against a Nashville Predators fan for tossing a catfish onto the ice during game one of the Stanley Cup finals. Until the inevitable change of course—when law enforcement claims that this was all just an innocent misunderstanding that was really meant to be a joke—the culprit faces criminal prosecution for: (1) possessing instruments of crime (specifically: a catfish); (2) disorderly conduct (catfish throwing); and (3) disrupting meetings and processions....

Jacob Waddell
The statutes that Jacob Waddell is currently accused of violating can be found here, here, and here, respectively.  His “possessing instruments of a crime” charge alone appears to carry up to five years in prison and a $10,000.00 fine.  Hilarious indeed. ....There is no such thing as an insignificant criminal charge.  People who have a criminal record ... are all instantly subject to legal discrimination in employment, housing, and other areas of civic life. (Read more)
ABC News ·A Nashville Predators fan who threw a dead catfish on the ice in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is facing criminal charges, the Pittsburgh Police …

My Comment: I agree with Daniel Horwitz. This is no laughing matter. It is not a joke. If convicted on all counts he could face six years behind bars. Even if not convicted, he could face a lifetime of being discriminated against because he now has a criminal record.  I understand the team loyalty and exuberance of sports fans but it is an abuse of police power to bring criminal charges against someone for a silly good-natured gimmick. It is a danger when police have such poor judgement and discretion. I would hope that Nashville police would not do the same thing in similar circumstances. The charges should be dropped, the record of the arrest expunged and the policeman who brought the charges should be disciplined.

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Beth Harwell: If I Run for Governor 'I'm Not Going to Give Up the Speakership, That Would be Foolish'

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Mae Beavers says she's running for governor

Mae Beavers says she's running for governor of Tennessee

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Pending Council bill would make Nashville a Sanctuary City.

There is a proposal before the Council that would make Nashville a sanctuary city.  I know this will come as a surprise to those who think we are already a sanctuary city but we are not. There is a difference between mouthing sanctimonious platitudes about being an opening and welcoming city and actually doing the the things that make a city a sanctuary city. Even refusing to enforce federal law does not make a city a "sanctuary city."  The police are under no obligation to enforce federal law.  When the police stop a driver for a traffic violation and the discover the driver looks Hispanic, is driving without a license, and does not speak English, the police are under no obligation to ask the driver  his immigration status.  Failing to do so does not make the city a sanctuary city.

There is a difference between the city of Nashville officials not inquiring about the legal status of people who have encounters with the police or other public servants and refusing to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency.  While Nashville does not enforce immigration law we do not refuse cooperation with ICE.

In 1996 Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). This act requires local governments to cooperate with Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency.  Cities that refuse are called "sanctuary cities."  President Obama did not enforce IIRIRA and allowed sanctuary cities to defy the law with impunity. President Trump has vowed to enforce IIRIRA and withhold money from Sanctuary cities. In January Trump signed an Executive Order to that effect.

Trumps effort to pull funding from Sanctuary cities has been blocked on grounds that he cannot withhold money already appropriated.  The ruling blocking Trumps Executive Order on sanctuary cities said, “The Constitution vests the spending powers in Congress, not the President, so the Order cannot constitutionally place new conditions on federal funds.” The ruling also said the Executive Order may violate both the Fifth Amendment and the Tenth Amendment.  

I think the Court may have ruled correctly.  While, I like the intent of the order, the principle is more important than the specific facts of the case.  I do not want the president, this president or a future president, to have the discretion to arbitrarily withhold federal funds. The condition to receive federal funds should clearly be stated upfront. If stated upfront in the legislation appropriating the funds, cities could be denied those funds. Federal funds often come with strings attached.

So what specifically makes a city a Sanctuary city?  Cities that refuse to hold jailed illegal immigrants so they can be picked up by federal immigration officials are sanctuary cities.  Sanctuary cites only hold them if there is warrant signed by a judge. 

The Metro Council Agenda for June is not yet available so I have not read the bill, but according to The Tennessean, the bill would do the following, unless specifically required by federal or state law or a court order:

  • Metro Nashville would not be able to use local money, resources or facilities to assist in enforcing federal immigration laws, or to share information about a person's custody status or court dates. 
  • Metro employees, including police, would be prohibited from requesting information about a person's immigration or citizenship status.
  • The Davidson County Sheriff's Office would no longer be able to honor an immigration-related detention request unless it is accompanied by a warrant issued under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure.
The above would make Nashville a sanctuary city, if it is actually carried out. The Sheriff is not subject to policies dictated by the Metro Council or the Mayor. The sheriff  is a county Constitutional Officer elected by the people. The State constitution says every county will have a sheriff.  The Sheriff does not serve at the pleasure of the mayor. The Sheriff Department's budget is approved by Metro but the Sheriff's Department is not a "department" of Metro government the same way as is  the Police Department.  Even if the Council passes this bill which would attempt to make Nashville a sanctuary city, we will not be a sanctuary city if the Sheriff ignores the Council bill which I suspect he very well may do. The Davidson County Sheriff's Office has historically honored voluntary "detainer" requests issued by ICE.

The bill is sponsored by Councilmen Bob Mendes and Colby Sledge and The Tennessean says there will be about ten co-sponsors.  Back in January, Vice Mayor David Briley posted statements on Facebook that indicated he wanted Nashville to become a sanctuary city (link). The bill was drafted by the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition and has the support of various pro-illegal immigrant groups.  Mayor Barry has mouthed platitudes about being a welcoming city, etc, but has not made any move toward becoming a sanctuary city or advocated violating federal law.  While I don't doubt Megan Barry's liberal credentials she seems fairly rational and pragmatic. This bill may not pass or may be further watered down to be meaningless, the mayor may even veto it, and if passed the Sheriff may not honor it. Also, there is the question of State law which prohibits local governments from making policies that stop local governments from complying with federal immigration law and an even stronger version of such a prohibitions pending for consideration in 2018. Nashville is not a sanctuary city now, and I doubt it will become one. 

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mayor Barry sides with the DA's Office, throws Police Chief Anderson under the bus.

May 21, 2017 - When on May 11 District Attorney General Glenn Funk announced that his office would not be bringing charges against police officer Josh Lippert for the shooting of  Jocques Clemmons, the Black man killed by White police officer Lippert during a police stop in James C. Casey Homes, I expected riots to break out.  I expected to see news clips of Black rioters carrying big screen TV's out of window-smashed stores and looted liquor stores with bare shelves.  I expected to see Black rioters burn down the businesses that serve their community. That has been the pattern time and time again in other cities when a police officer has been exonerated for shooting a Black man. I was pleased that my expectations were wrong. When the announcement was made, three prominent Black ministers called for calm and the established civil right leaders did not inflame the situation.

District Attorney Glenn Funk
When DA Gleen Funk announced he was not bringing charges against officer Lippert, he did so in a hour-long news conference in which he took the opportunity to say that while the officer would not be charged with a crime, the way the Police conducted the investigation was biased.

The criticism of the police looks like nitpicking to me. The Assistant District Attorney Amy Hunter criticized the Police report on the shooting for using the term "suspect" to describe Clemmons.   The DA's office also claimed the Police Department completing their investigation of the shooting within five hours and criticized them for it.

In a letter the Chief wrote to the Assistant DA, he explained why the term "suspect" was used and gave her a copy of the departments report writing manual. Chief Anderson says that it simply is not so that the investigation was completed in five hours. While a report of the incident was issued within five hours, the investigation continued for days.  "You are well aware that the MNPD continued this investigation for a number of days after the event," wrote Anderson. "Second, you are aware, or should be aware, through your day to day duties that investigations are almost never 'completed."'

More "war of words" ensued and then the Mayor stepped into the fray. The Tennessean reported it as, "Mayor Barry scolded the city's top law enforcement officials at a news conference, telling Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson and District Attorney Glen Funk to 'stop the war of words."'

Police Chief Steve Anderson
The article says she held "mediation" between Anderson and Funk. The way it is reported it looks like the Mayor took charge and resolved a conflict.  From the accounts you may think of it as a school principle calling two boys into her office and saying, "now, I want you to cut it out."'  There is something wrong with this picture.

While the Police Chief answers to the Mayor and serves at her pleasure, not so with the DA. The DA is a Constitutional Officer elected by the people.  He does not answer to the Mayor.  If the mayor tells the Police Chief, "I want to see you in my office," he goes.  If she tells another elected officials, it is really an invitation which he may or may not accept. One can not think of the Mayor at the top of a pyramid with two department heads below her who are having a conflict.

In addition to "mediating" the conflict, Mayor Barry also established some new rules for situations like this. "Now and in the future the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability should refrain from issuing any reports or recommendations on an officer involved use of force until any criminal investigation into the officer’s actions is closed, and we will take the necessary steps to make sure that’s going to happen," she said. She also said that she had told Chief Anderson that in the future before he writes a letter like the one he wrote to the assistant DA, that he discuss it with her first.

If it looks like the Mayor determined most of the fought for the conflict lay with Anderson and she let Funk off the hook. That may be because that is the way she perceives it or it may be because she has leverage with Anderson and absolutely no leverage with Funk.

I believe the whole attack on Anderson was a public relations ploy to placate angry Black citizens so they would not riot.  In effect the DA said, "We have to let the White cop who killed a Black man off because it was a justified shooting, but we do agree with you that the Police Department is biased against Blacks."

In an article in today's Tennessean an attorney who has been involved in civil cases brought against cities in police shooting cases says the DA's comments alleging  bias on the part of the police could be helpful to the Clemmons family if they bring a civil case. He also said he could be helpful in any future shooting incident. He said in civil cases, the plaintiff does not have to focus on the actions of the officer involved but show that he "acted within a system that caters to bias."  The DA may have handed the Clemmons family a big win in a civil case.  I don't know if this was intentional or by accident.

In this battle between the Police Chief and the DA, my sympathies are with the Chief.  And while the press may be selling Mayor Barry as the great arbitrator and peace maker, I'm not buying it.

Below are the prepared remarks of  Mayor Megan Barry following her meeting with the DA and Police Chief.

Thank you for being here today.

The Metro Nashville Police Department and District Attorney’s Office we know are critical components to the safety of our city and the safety of the public in general. From time to time there may be areas of disagreement, and that is true of many components of government, but we need to be able to work together to make sure our citizens are safe, which is always the highest priority. I want all parties to stop the war of words as they need to communicate and cooperate.

On Thursday of last week, General Funk held a press conference to announce his decision not to seek an indictment against Officer Joshua Lippert in the shooting death of Jocques Clemmons. During that press conference, General Funk and members of his staff criticized the methodology and terminology used in portions of the investigation by the MNPD. The concerns raised by General Funk during that were not germane to his ultimate decision not to indict the Officer. It would have been more appropriate to sit down and discuss this report with the MNPD in advance of the press conference so they would have the opportunity to discuss the findings and explain any possible misunderstandings.

Following the press conference, Chief Anderson issued a very harsh letter directed towards Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter who had been assigned by General Funk to deliver that portion of the report during the event. It was inappropriate of Chief Anderson to do that, and I have told him as much. Those issues should have been directed towards me. So on behalf of Metro Nashville, I want to apologize to General Hunter. I have directed Chief Anderson to discuss any correspondence of this nature with me in the future.

After having had the opportunity to review the observations from General Funk at his press conference last Thursday, and after reading Chief Anderson’s letter to Deputy District Attorney Amy Hunter refuting the observations, I believe there are some next steps to move forward and they need to be done together.
  • Now and in the future the Metro Nashville Police Department’s Office of Professional Accountability should refrain from issuing any reports or recommendations on an officer involved use of force until any criminal investigation into the officer’s actions is closed, and we will take the necessary steps to make sure that’s going to happen.
  • The Metro Nashville Police Department and District Attorney’s Office will work together on a joint training program to create a better understanding of policies and procedures on both sides.
  • While the TBI has not released guidance to local law enforcement organizations on how to investigate officer-involved shootings, we have received their own internal Standard Operating Procedure manual and I have asked the MNPD to review and adopt best practices locally for use of force investigations to enhance community trust when we have those findings.
  • As for the MOU between the MNPD, TBI, and DA – it was discussed and negotiated over the course of several weeks. All parties had reviewed and read the document they signed, and there is no indication that the MNPD has deviated from those guidelines in the incident that occurred in Antioch. However, it is apparent that issues have arisen that may need to be addressed through amendments or revisions to the MOU in order to further clarify each agency’s role in the future and we will be working to do that.
I believe these steps will help to resolve some lingering questions of fact and opinion, while enhancing trust and cooperation between these two organizations.

So, let me close with this. Public safety is the foundational role of government – it is quite literally, the most important thing we do: to making sure the public is safe.

I believe that every Nashvillian deserves to live in a safe community.

I believe that every Nashvillian deserves to feel safe in his or her community, regardless of economic status, skin color or what country he or she may have come from.

I want us all to work together to ensure that we are doing what we need to do – whether that is by protecting victims of crime by arresting and prosecuting dangerous criminals, or ensuring that community members feel they are being treated fairly and equitably throughout all facets of the criminal justice system – and I have spoken with both Chief Anderson and General Funk and they will work with me to do just that.

For more on this story see the following news accounts:
The Tennessean: Nashville police chief blasts DA's accusation of bias during Jocques Clemmons investigation 
Nashville Patch: Nashville Mayor Chides Police Chief, DA
The Tennessean: Mayor Megan Barry: 'War of words' between DA, police chief must stop 
The Tennessean:  Experts: DA's comments on bias open Nashville to lawsuits in deadly police shooting investigations

To read the DA's 32-page report which includes the reference to bias in the Police Department, follow this link.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Republicans defend NAFTA

Fischer, Flake lead congressional call for support of NAFTARipon Advance News Service - U.S. Sens. Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) led a letter on Monday that highlighted the positive impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the potential consequences of abandoning the trade deal.

The letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer was signed by 18 senators, including U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Jerry Moran (R-KS), John Thune (R-SD), Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Pat Roberts (R-KS).

“Given that the agreement is more than two decades old, there are areas in which NAFTA will benefit from strengthening and modernization,” the letter states. “On the other hand, efforts to abandon the agreement or impose unnecessary restrictions on trade with our North American partners will have devastating economic consequences.”

The senators noted that NAFTA has led to “tremendous growth” in U.S. trade with Mexico and Canada, and that it has “integrated cross-border supply chains that benefit U.S. employers, and more than tripled U.S. exports of goods, including agricultural and manufactured goods, and services.”
U.S. trade policy has been a prominent issue in recent months, the letter acknowledges, and taking a fresh look at NAFTA will be an immediate priority.

President Donald Trump had discussed terminating NAFTA as recently as last month, but had said he would delay such a move after the president of Mexico and the prime minister of Canada urged the United States to renegotiate rather than scrap the deal.

“If I’m unable to make a fair deal, if I’m unable to make a fair deal for the United States, meaning a fair deal for our workers and our companies, I will terminate NAFTA,” Trump said on April 27 in remarks during a meeting with the president of Argentina. “But we’re going to give renegotiation a good, strong shot,” he added.

The group of senators who signed the letter and who represent states that see a significant economic impact from trade said they will maintain a keen interest in the on-going process surrounding NAFTA.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Liberty on the Rocks meets tonight

Liberty on the Rocks meets tonight at Smoking Thighs on Wedgewood Ave.  LOR has no program, no prayer, no pledge, no speaker, no dues. LOR is just a group of politically aware, well-informed, liberty-loving people who discuss and argue about whatever topic someone brings up. It may be the news of the day or some esoteric philosophical concept.  Most of those who attend will be more toward the libertarian end of the political spectrum but there is usually a wide range of right-of-center view points represented. The beer is cold and two-for-one in the early evening and the food is pretty good.  Please join us. If you can't make this one, plan on attending next month.  We meet every third Thursday at 5:30 pm until everyone wants to leave.  Most evening wind up by about 9pm but sometimes may go later, but one can leave whenever they want.  To view the LOR Facebook page follow this link.

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(final update) What happened at the Council meeting of May 16, 2017: Sam Coleman elected Judge, banning of homesharing (Airbnb) delayed, privacy is protected,

The big news of the evening is that the Council elects Councilman Sam Coleman as a General Session Judge to replace Casey Moreland who resigned in disgrace.  The other big items is that the move to ban all short term rental properties except those that are owner occupied is deferred until the second meeting in July.  For media accounts of these developments follow the highlighted link above.

If you are going to watch the meeting, or if you simply want to know more about what was before the council than what I report here, you need a copy of the Council agenda and Council staff analysis.  To access those documents as well as my commentary on the agenda, follow this link.

Before the council gets down to business, there is an address by the Lord Mayor of Belfast Northern Ireland. Nashville and Belfast are sister cities. Following that thetr is a presentation recognizing Restaurant Appreciation Day. The Council gets down to business at timestamp 14:45 in the video and the first item is the confirmation of three mayor appointees to boards and commission and they are all approved by voice vote without dissent, as is the norm.

Election of a General Session Judge.
To view this action see timestamp 19:00 to 47:50.  This list of nominees is called in alphabetical order and each candidate is give five minutes to address the council. The five minutes may include a nominating speech by the council sponsor who placed the name in nomination as well as the candidate.  If you want to know what they said, watch the video.  Below are the nominees:

  • Michael Clemons, a partner at Clemmons & Clemons PLLC, the law firm also founded
    Sam Coleman
    by Tennessee Rep. John Ray Clemmons. He was not present and no one spoke on his behalf.
  • Councilman Sam Coleman, an attorney in private practice is the current member of the Council representing the Antioch area. Councilman Tanaka Vervher made a short introduction and Councilman Coleman addressed the Council.
  • Ana Escobar, who was an assistant prosecutor at the District Attorney’s Office and was Metro clerk from 2011 to 2013. Councilman Robert Swope who nominated Ms Escobar spoke as did and Councilman Bob Mendes and the Councilman Fabian Bedne. Bedne played the Hispanic card. The candidate did not speak.
  • Martesha Johnson, has worked in the Davidson County Public Defender's Office for eight years. Councilman Nancy VanReece made a nomination speech and the candidate addressed the Council.
  • Nick McGregor, a criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Nick McGregor. A gentlemen whose name I did not get spoke for McGregor and then he addressed the Council.
  • Tillman Payne, has practiced family law, personal injury and criminal law in the Nashville area for more than 10 also worked as a public defender in Wilson County. Mr. Payne addressed the Council
Adam Dread had been a nominee but had withdrawn his name from consideration prior to the meeting.  After the speeches the Council voted by open ballot. The vote was Coleman 19, Escobar 14, Johnson 3, and two abstention. Councilman Coleman having a majority, there was no second round of voting.

The resolution on public hearing concerning allowing a restaurant a variance from the distance requirements for a beer permit is withdrawn.

Resolutions. Most bills pass "on consent," meaning they are lumped together with a lot of other resolutions and pass by a single vote.  A bill is on consent  if it got unanimous support in the committee to which it was assigned and no one objects. Below are the ones of interest.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-615 by Councilman Grover would would require that when an agency of the government request Capital improvement funding, the entity must inform the Metropolitan Council at the same time of such submissions to the Director of Finance.  This seems like a wise move.  The Council needs to be involved early in the process of exerting control over the city's debt. This was on the agenda on April 18th and deferred to this meeting at the request of the sponsor. This passes on a voice vote without much discussion.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-616 by Councilman Glover would adopt a new policy requiring a maximum limit of 10% on the annual budget as the amount of funds budgeted to service debt. This was also previously on the agenda for April 18th and deferred to this meeting at the request of the sponsor. When the city borrows money, the amount of money it takes to pay the bonds which finance the borrowed money is a part of the annual operating budget and is called "debt service." The city has never had a policy establishing a limit on debt service. I support this.

Currently debt service is 11.5% of the budget and in the proposed FY18 budget it is 12.7%.  If this were to pass, some capital proposed capital projects could not be funded. I support the effort to get control of Metro's spending.  In addition to debt service, Metro pension and health insurance liabilities are areas of concern and should be addressed.   The city is awash in money now, but someday there is bound to be a slow down.  While cutting budgets are painful, if parts of the budget are beyond the council's control such as debt service and pension obligations, then budget reductions become much more difficult. This is deferred "by rule."  It could be brought back up at a future council meeting.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-667  authorize  Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency MDHA) to enter an agreement accepting payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the renovation of a 208-unit apartment development located at 2715 Whites Creek Pike, known as Haynes Garden Apartments. Up until recently PILOT agreements were used only to entice businesses to locate in Nashville.  This will be the fourth time, this tool is used to support affordable housing.  Under this agreement, over the ten year period of the agreement, the developer would pay $4.6 million less in property taxes than he would have paid without the deal, assuming the property would get rehabbed without this deal. This passes on the consent agenda.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-678  request the Metropolitan Transit Authority to provide at least ten percent (10%) of its advertising space to other Metropolitan departments, boards and commissions to provide public service advertisements regarding local government services. It is clarified that other agencies of Metro that wanted to advertise on Metro buses would pay the cost of the advertising out of their budget so this would not impact MTA's budget. It passes on a voice vote.

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-682  establishes the certified tax rates for Metro.  This is required by law. Following a reappraisal, the city can not bring in more revenue than it could prior to the reappraisal, so the city must adopt a new tax lower rate that brings in the same amount of revenue as prior to the reappraisal. What sometimes happens is that a local government will pass the new certified tax rate, then immediately pass another resolution sitting a higher rate.  Much of the public will blame the higher taxes on the reappraisal, not understanding what has really happened.  To her credit, Mayor Barry is not proposing to do that. The new certified tax rate will be the new tax rate.  While almost all property was appraised at a new higher value as a result of the reappraisal, those whose property values increased less than the average increase will actually end up paying less property taxes, while those whose value increased more than the average increase in value will see a tax increase. Since the largest increases in values have occurred in areas that  were previously modestly priced such as The Nations, Inglewood, Wedgwood-Houston,  Woodbine and North Nashville, those areas may experience substantial increases in property taxes.  The more affluent areas that already had high  property values saw more modest increase in their property value so they will likely see a property tax decrease. The current combined USD and GSD rate in Nashville is $4.516; the new certified rate will be $3.115. This is deferred "to track with the budget."

RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-685 adopts a new fee structure for animal control. Under the new schedule if you dog is picked up, the impound fee is $50 and the daily boarding fee is $18. This is deferred "to track with budget."
RESOLUTION NO. RS2017-690  approves an agreement between MDHA (Metro Development and Housing Association) and Metro. MDHA agrees to make payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for the property that they own which is tax exempt property.  This is amended to be for seven years only and not unending. At the end of seven years this would be renegotiated. It  also addresses what happens when the city builds housing that is not for low income people which they now do and it addresses what happens to commercial property on MDHA land.  Thjis would require commercial entities to pay a PILOT equal to what they would pay in property taxes. It requires market rate rentals to pay a higher PILOT than low income rentals but apparently a rate lower than what they would pay in property taxes. This bill was worked on by Councilman Mendes and he improved it for the city. Councilman Mendes is to be commended. This passes by a voice vote.
All bills on First Reading are lumped together and pass by a single vote, as is the norm.

Bills on Second Reading. Here are the ones of interest:
BILL NO. BL2017-608 would be a radical change and would establish distinct land uses for “Short term rental property – Owner- Occupied” and “Short term rental property – Not Owner-Occupied”, and establishing a phase out date in year 2019 for “Short term rental property – Not Owner-Occupied.” This has been in the works a long time. It is deferred on second reading made amendable on third reading and rereferred to the Planning Committee and set for a third and final reading for the second meeting in July. Apparently there is still a lot of work to do on this bill.

This bill is an outrage and I strongly oppose this bill if it would do the things it is proposed to do as of now. A lot of people spend a lot of money to buy and rehab and furnish and set up a Short Term Rental Property.  They registered the property as required and paid the taxes and now they are having the rug pulled out from under them.  Short Term Rental Property is a benefit to Nashville and while there are a few bad players, most of the bad players are operating without a permit. Rather than go after those violating the law now, the Council is apparently going to end this valuable service and punish people who are playing by the rules.  The hotel industry is one of the forces behind trying to ban STRP.

There was a bill before the Senate of the State Legislature that would have stopped Metro from doing this. It passed the House but the Senate deferred the bill to the next legislative session which convenes in January. However, various state legislators have warned Nashville to not pass such a ban.   If this bill passes the Council and I assume it will, one can expect lawsuits and in January the State legislature may very well nullify this action. To read many other post on the topic of STRP, follow this link.

 BILL NO. BL2017-646   by Councilman Rosenberg would prohibit a company from installing some types of surveillance equipment or expanding the number of such items of surveillance technology, such as cameras and 16 other types of technology. that capture activity on a public sidewalk or street, without prior Council approval.  As amended, some types of surveillance technology, such as cameras, would have to come back before the Council before expanding the number units in sue by a certain percentage.  It would also ban license tag readers by government. Councilman Mina Johnson moves to defer the bill. Councilman Elrod moves to table the motion to defer and makes a good case against deferral. The conflict over this bill essentially boils down to the city of Belle Mead which wants to operate tag reading technology which this bill would ban. Unfortunately Councilman Elrod made his argument to table the deferral before he moved to table, which is violation of Council rules. The motion to defer fails by a voice vote and the bill passes on a roll call vote of 28 to 6 to 1. I am disappointment by some who voted "no."  I think of several of them as "the good" councilmen and thought they would be supportive of protecting the public from a snooping Big Brother and would support the right of privacy. This was a reasonable bill. I am proud of the Council for passing it and commend Councilman Rosenberg for the work he did on this. The "no" votes are Jim Shulman, Bill Pridemore, Robert Swope, Doug Pardue, Mina Johnson and Larry Hager. To view the discussion see timestamp 1:31:24 to 1:50:21.

BILL NO. BL2017-705  would establish an incentive program for neighborhood that are in full compliance with codes.  A neighborhood could be awarded $5000.  Under this plan, if a neighbor has an overgrown lot, codes could review the violation but not impose penalties and the neighborhood could exert pressure on the offender to come into compliance. I do not like this. I do not want to give more power to neighborhood leaders who may have been elected by a tiny fraction of the neighborhood.  Neighborhood organizations have no official status and no legal authority I don't want to give them power. This program could cost up to $875K per year and is not in the FY18 budget. It is deferred at the request of the sponsor for one meeting.

BILL NO. BL2017-706 by Scott Davis would reallocate the tax money collected from homesharing (airbnb, STRP) and create a new program. Currently Metro collects a tax on STRP and the revenue is dedicated to the Barnes Fund for Affordable Housing. This bill would create a new Metropolitan Neighborhood Improvement Fund (NIF) and direct that half of the revenue collected from STRP be directed to this fund. This NIF would be a new bureaucracy with an appointed board and various powers and a mission to improve neighborhoods.  I oppose this.  We do not need another bureaucracy. We already have various agencies to deal with the issues that this NIF would deal with.  I also do not think more agencies should operate off their own dedicated funds.  Funding priorities should be decided by the mayor and the council. It is deferred to the first meeting in July.

Bills on Third Reading. Below are the ones of interest.
BILL NO. BL2017-611 is another anti-homesharing bill. It requires that an STRP application include a statement that “the applicant has confirmed that operating the proposed STRP would not violate any Home Owners Association agreement or bylaws, Condominium Agreement, Covenants, Codes and Restrictions or any other agreement governing and limiting the use of the proposed STRP property.” It would also require that the applicant notify codes if there was any such objection.  I oppose this bill.  Homeowners Association rules are private agreements.  Government has never taken on the responsibility for enforcing HOA rules. This bill has been disapproved by the Planning Commission so will require 27 positive votes to pass. The bill is deferred to July 6th.

BILL NO. BL2017-653  this is a bill of minor importance which would add to the list of acceptable documents those documents that a owner may submit with their application for STRP
that shows they do in fact occupy the property.  I support this bill. It passes.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Metro Council picks Sam Coleman to replace former Nashville judge Casey Moreland

Sam Coleman
The Tennessean: Metro Council picks Sam Coleman to replace former Nashville judge Casey Moreland.

Fox 17 News: Metro Council chooses replacement for former Nashville judge Casey Moreland,

Congratulations Sam Coleman!

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Short-term rental phase-out advances, Nashville Metro Council punts final vote to July

The Tennessean: Short-term rental phase-out advances, Nashville Metro Council punts final vote to July.

Nashville Pubic Radio News: Metro Council To Take More Time So Short-Term Rental Rules 'Stick'

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rep. Marsha Blackburn defends President Trump in wake of Russia report

Rep. Marsha Blackburn
by Dave Boucher , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee, May 16, 2017- While Republican and Democratic Congress members have expressed frustration, confusion and anger over a Washington Post report that said President Donald Trump gave classified information to high-ranking Russian officials, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn said it's important to emphasize the president's commitment to security.

"Classified intelligence is a vital tool in fighting Islamic extremism and it is imperative that we are diligent in protecting our sources and methods," Blackburn, R-Tenn., said in a statement Tuesday provided by a spokesman.

"Officials who were in the room have reiterated that no sources or operations were revealed. The president prioritizes the safety and security of the American people first and foremost, and working with other countries to defeat shared threats like ISIS should not be discounted.” (link)

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Adam Dread has withdrawn his name as a candidate for General Sessions Judge

Former Metro councilman and former candidate for a General Session Judge position, Adam Dread,   has withdrawn his name from consideration as a candidate for the vacancy created by the resignation of disgraced Judge Casey Moreland.  The Council fills that position in action at tonight's Council meeting. With Dread out of the race, that leaves these six candidates:

  • Sam Coleman, an attorney in private practice is the current member of the Council representing the Antioch area.
  • Ana Escobar, who was an assistant prosecutor at the District Attorney’s Office and was Metro clerk from 2011 to 2013. These are advantages in that she gets known by the Courthouse crowd.  Also, I would suspect that having a Spanish surname and being female would be a benefit.  
  • Michael Clemons, a partner at Clemmons & Clemons PLLC, the law firm also founded by Tennessee Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville.
  • Martesha Johnson, has worked in the Davidson County Public Defender's Office for eight years.
  • Nick McGregor, a criminal defense attorney at the Law Office of Nick McGregor.
  • Tillman Payne, has practiced family law, personal injury and criminal law in the Nashville area for more than 10 also worked as a public defender in Wilson County. 
For WSMV's report on Dread's withdrawal, follow this link

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You can support this president; you can even love him. But you can’t trust him.

The following is by Jim Geraghty in today's National Review newsletter, Morning Jolt. The allegation that Trump revealed sensitive classified to the Russians does not appear to be "fake news." As president he may have the right to do this but it is poor judgement, worse than the reckless use of a private email server transmitting classified documents. Please read the following. I am beginning to think Trump is dangerous. 

For Anyone but the President’s Eyes Only
You can support this president; you can even love him. But you can’t trust him.
What are we to make of last night’s Washington Post story, reporting that President Trump told Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov and ambassador Sergey Kislyak highly classified information, including a city in the Islamic State’s territory where a U.S. intelligence partner detected a terrorist threat involving laptops?
Let’s go through the possibilities. A lot of Trump fans will insist this is all “fake news,” that the story is made up out of whole cloth, and that none of these “U.S. official” sources exist. If so, it’s a remarkable conspiracy, as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Reuters, CNN, and BuzzFeed all claim to have “U.S. officials” telling them the same thing.
Perhaps multiple U.S. officials are making up this story and calling up multiple reporters, telling them the same false tale. Again, this is a possibility, except we would assume that one or more reporters at those institutions would do some basic due diligence. Would this source be in a position to know? If the source is Irving Schmidlap, who works as a dishwasher at the White House Mess, would the reporters be more skeptical than if it was someone on the National Security Council?
Then there’s this detail:

After Trump’s meeting, senior White House officials took steps to contain the damage, placing calls to the CIA and the National Security Agency….
Thomas P. Bossert, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, placed calls to the directors of the CIA and the NSA, the services most directly involved in the intelligence-sharing arrangement with the partner.
If this is all a made-up story to damage Trump, then some senior White House officials are really going the extra mile, making calls to U.S. intelligence agencies to perpetuate the hoax.
Wait, there’s more! “The Post is withholding most plot details, including the name of the city, at the urging of officials who warned that revealing them would jeopardize important intelligence capabilities.” If this is all a made-up story, why would U.S. officials urge the Post to withhold the name of the city?
Wait, there’s even more! This morning a phone call between President Trump and Jordan’s king Abdullah was added to the president’s schedule. Jordan’s got a heck of an intelligence service, and they’re a usually reliable U.S. ally. The Islamic State’s territory is just north of their country. How likely is it that this phone call is aimed to reassure that unidentified “U.S. ally” in the story?
Take a look at this detail:
“I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” the president said, according to an official with knowledge of the exchange.
Does that sound… farfetched? Is anyone jumping up and saying, “Oh, come now, that doesn’t sound anything like the Donald Trump I know?” Doesn’t boasting about the quality of the intelligence he receives sound exactly like the sort of thing Trump would do?
A lot of Trump fans are pointing to National-Security Adviser H.R. McMaster’s statement, “At no time were any intelligence sources or methods discussed, and no military operations were disclosed that were not already known publicly.” But as you’ve no doubt heard argued since the story broke, the disclosure wasn’t really about “sources and methods.” The damaging disclosure was about that city, the location of the source — presumably a double agent or an ISIS turncoat — reporting to one of our allies. As the articles report, our ally didn’t give us permission to spread that information around, and this country was apparently already wary about sharing information with us. If this story is accurate, a few minutes of improvised boasting in the Oval Office just did serious damage to a relationship with a useful intelligence ally.
Keep in mind, last week Vice President Mike Pence, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, and the rest went out before the cameras and insisted that Ron Rosenstein’s memo was the driving force to fire FBI director James Comey… and then Trump told Lester Holt he was going to fire Comey “regardless of the recommendation.” Just last week, Trump declared on Twitter, “As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” The president will insist his surrogates can’t be expected to get everything right, and then a few days later, insist that you trust denials from his surrogates. You can’t have it both ways.
This morning, President Trump offered two tweets on the subject: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining.... terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism.”
Again, no one who understands the law can dispute Trump’s “right to do” this; the question is the judgment and value in doing so. And missing from Trump’s comment are the words, “I did not share any location of any source or any other sensitive intelligence from our allies.”
Brian Wilson, who’s kind enough to have me co-host on WMAL some mornings, concludes the consequences of the leak must be moot by now: “I’m guessing bomb making info was tightly held info within ISIS. Any suspected snitch within its ranks has already been dealt with.”
Meanwhile, a Vice contributor screams, “an allied informant is likely being tortured to death as we speak, thanks ONLY to Trump’s big mouth.”
We don’t know if either of those scenarios are true. (There’s a good chance we will never know.) There were media reports quoting “U.S. officials” expressing concerns about ISIS and al-Qaeda testing laptop bombs for use on airplanes at the end of March. Maybe those reports spurred ISIS to start an intense search for a mole in their ranks, maybe they didn’t. (You would presume ISIS is always looking to sniff out moles in their ranks.) ISIS controls about 23,000 square miles, as of the end of 2016 — plenty of cities, towns, and villages. It’s just asinine to tell anyone who doesn’t need to know which city is home to an ISIS mole or double agent.
The bottom line is that there is absolutely no benefit to the United States to be sharing this kind of information with the Russian government — and if it alienates a friendly government helping us fight ISIS, then it is extraordinarily damaging.
It does not help that so many Democrats insist that every administration misstep is justification for impeachment, the Twitter hashtag “#Lockhimup” (the president has absolute authority to declassify information, so no law was broken) or the insane everyone’s-a-Russian-agent conspiracy theories of the Louise Mensches of the world. But the insanity of lefties doesn’t get this White House off the hook. Unless the entire story is made up out of whole cloth, Donald Trump still doesn’t understand his responsibilities.

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Sen. Lamar Alexander chides White House, says actions can cause 'earthquakes' abroad

by Dave Boucher , USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee, May, 16, 2017- A leading Republican senator from Tennessee is questioning whether the Trump administration understands the impact of its actions after a report revealed the president provided classified information to high-ranking Russian officials. ....

In a cryptic statement Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., described the global impact of White House actions.  "Those working in the White House would do well to remember that just a little tilt there can create earthquakes out in the country and around the world," Alexander said. (link)

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Corker: Trump White House in 'downward spiral' following Russia classified leak report

by Dave Boucher, USA TODAY NETWORK - Tennessee, May 16,2017 - The White House is in a "downward spiral" and needs to do something to get "under control" in the wake of a bombshell report alleging Trump revealed classified information to high-ranking Russian officials, said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

During a recent White House meeting, Trump provided Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak with "highly classified information" pertaining to the Islamic State, according to a Washington Post report published Monday.

"The White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order. It's got to happen," Corker said, according to a Tweet from Bloomberg reporter Sahil Kapur. ... (read more)

My Comment: I agree with Corker and this is upsetting, if this is true. Those who were in the meeting however, are denying it as an accurate report of what happened.  Rex Tillerson is saying that during the meeting the president and Russian officials discussed the nature of specific threats but did not discuss sources, methods, or military options. The source of the story is unnamed.  I would give the president the benefit of the doubt if I did not believe that this is something he would do.  Trump apears reckless and impulsive and speaks without thinking.  I can believe it happened. 

More and more, I am of the opinion that Trump will not serve a full term.  He will do something so outrageous that Republicans will turn on him and he will be impeached.  If that does not occur, he will fail at advancing his agenda and he will lose popular support among Trump Republicans and be a one-term president.  I hope I am wrong and Trump can get his act together and start acting like a president, but I don't think the leopard can change his spots.  I fear that what we have seen of Trump so far is the real Trump.

Even if this anonymous source is fabricating a story, the president has lost so much credibility that Bob Corker appears to believe it. Trump has exhausted his reservoir of  'the benefit of the doubt.'  I agree with Corker, "the White House has got to do something soon to bring itself under control and in order."

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Monday, May 15, 2017

The Bastiat Society presents, "Mind vs Money: Why intellectuals hate Capitalism and What to Do About It."

Mind vs. Money: Why Intellectuals Hate Capitalism, and What to Do About It
Monday, May 22, 2017 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM CDT
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ADS Security Nashville
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Dear Rod,

We're only one week out from the May meeting of the Bastiat Society! The evening will feature food, drinks, great networking with like-minded individuals, and a talk by Alan Kahan on defending capitalism to intellectuals. We hope you can join us!

*Events are free and open to the public, but registration is appreciated!

*Be sure to note our new location!
Register Now!

Hannah Cox
The Bastiat Society

To register, copy and past the below link.

The Bastiat Society, 3202 May

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