September 27, 2016

Your Buzz, post-debate wrap-up


We've been away for a few days, but we've been keeping an eye on developments with the elections. Here's a summary from last night's debate for you.

The Reviews Are In: Hillary Won

There’s one clear takeaway from last night’s debate - Hillary Clinton won.  She laid out a clear vision for tackling the challenges facing the country and showed she is the only candidate prepared to be Commander-in-Chief. In stark contrast, Donald Trump once again proved he lacks the knowledge, values and temperament to be president. Trump was unprepared, became unhinged and offered some new whoppers about whether he paid any income taxes, the unfounded birther attacks that he pushed for five years, and his continued lie that he opposed the Iraq War.

Here’s the Buzz:

Today on CNN, former Trump biographer Tony Schwartz said that Trump “choked,” and was “unsuited to be president”  WATCH

On CBS, Republican strategist Frank Luntz showed his focus group’s unfavorable response to Trump’s disastrous performance: WATCH 

And on CNN, the Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich panned Trump’s birtherism comments and noted they are simply an effort to delegitimize the first African-American president. CNN’s Maeve Reston called the double-down on his “racist rhetoric” a “puzzling strategy.”  WATCH


Here’s what others are saying: 


New York Times: Debate Takeways: Hillary Clinton Digs In and Prevails

In his leadoff answer, Mr. Trump warned that Ford was planning to slash thousands of American jobs to relocate small-car production to Mexico – a claim the company’s chief executive has denied. Mr. Trump insisted that he had not called global warming a hoax perpetrated by China, though he has said precisely that on Twitter. And Mr. Trump repeated numerous times that he was against the war in Iraq from the start, which is plainly contrary to the facts.

Detroit Free-Press: Clinton-Trump debate: The lies, and the candidates who tell them

Forget about how ill-prepared Trump was compared to Clinton, or how boorish he seemed, interrupting her and moderator Lester Holt over and over. Trump’s performance was so bad that he even continued it after the debate, when he lied about a lie he uttered in the back-and-forth: he denied that he’d said it made him“smart” that his tax returns would show he has often paid no federal taxes.


Washington Post: Clinton shifts the election in her direction

Donald Trump scowled and fumed and fussed and interrupted. On Monday night, he was forced to defend business practices that involved not paying workers and contractors, a tax plan that offers most of its benefits to the wealthy, the fact that he did not pay any federal taxes in some years (which he called “smart”) and the debt incurred by his businesses.


Time: Diligent Hillary Clinton Upstages Donald Trump at Crucial Moment

Perhaps you can’t wing your way to the White House. At the first debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, authenticity proved to be no substitution for preparation. Strong words faded in the face of solid experience. And, in a campaign that has seen norms shattered, there was something comforting about at least one candidate behaving in expected ways — and speaking in coherent, complete sentences. The meeting came at a crucial moment, with six weeks before Election Day. The night’s potential impact had the senior advisers to both campaigns losing sleep in recent days. Only Clinton’s should feel comfortable as they crawl under the covers.

NBC News: Analysis: Hillary Clinton's Studies for Debate With Donald Trump Pay Off

Clinton gained the upper hand early as Trump grew defensive over personal attacks, dissembled or contradicted himself on key issues, and reopened old wounds on gender and race along the way. He sniffed and huffed his way through the debate, calling Clinton's treatment of him "not nice" and insisting of her attacks, "I don't deserve that." Other times he was hostile, speaking over Clinton in an attempt to dominate her the way he overpowered his male rivals in the Republican primary. But the aggression that made him the big man on the primary debate stage made him seem small in the more sober general election format. And instead of trying to match Trump's force head-on, Clinton incited, dodged, and countered from the flank with the flair of a matador.


Wall Street Journal: Undecided Voters React Coolly to Donald Trump During Debate

Republican Donald Trump’s performance in the first presidential debate on Monday night was likely to bolster his supporters, but risked turning others off, interviews with undecided voters and experts in both parties said. “I feel that the way he talks to other people, the way that he addresses other people, can be extremely rude and extremely disrespectful, and I don’t think that’s the temperament we should be looking for in a president,” said Garrett Thacker, 30 years old, of Galloway, Ohio, who has voted for presidential candidates in both parties.

Washington Post: The Daily 202: Why even Republicans think Clinton won the first debate
The consensus that Donald Trump badly lost the first debate gelled overnight. Liberals predictably panned the GOP nominee’s performance on Long Island, but some of the harshest reviews are coming from conservative thought leaders who had been starting to come around.


CNN: Post-debate poll: Hillary Clinton takes round one

Hillary Clinton was deemed the winner of Monday night's debate by 62% of voters who tuned in to watch, while just 27% said they thought Donald Trump had the better night, according to a CNN/ORC Poll of voters who watched the debate.


Washington Post: What does it mean that Donald Trump lost the debate?

We already knew that Trump is remarkably incurious about policy, boasting about how he does not listen to experts or read much. We already knew where that led him, to ideas such as igniting a trade war, reinstituting torture — worse than waterboarding — and killing the innocent children of suspected terrorists. We also already knew about his temperament — that Trump had engaged in racist attacks on a federal judge and dangerous stereotyping of American Muslims, including a gold star family. We already knew he regularly demeans people based on their appearance or physical disabilities.  

We also already knew that Trump is the most dishonest and least transparent presidential nominee in recent memory, refusing to release his tax returns even though every presidential nominee for 40 years has done so and betting that a visit to Dr. Oz relieved him of responsibility for releasing more information on his health. We already knew that he was an uncommon liar. The Post has only been the latest outlet to attempt to record the full panoply of deceptions Trump tells on a daily basis, such as his recent claims that Clinton has “been silent about Islamic terrorism for many years,” and that he “never” proposed targeting Muslims.


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Thought for the day:

"Facts are stubborn things."  - John Adams, as attorney representing the British soldiers indicted for the "Boston Massacre." (But he could have been admonishing Donald Trump.)


September 14, 2016

Finally, Durham gets his

Jeremy Durham expelled from Tennessee House in 70-2 vote

For the first time in Tennessee history, a state representative has been expelled from the legislature for alleged sexual misconduct.

In an historic move by state lawmakers, Jeremy Durham was ousted Tuesday as a member the Tennessee House of Representatives during a special legislative session.

Republicans and Democrats joined together to remove the 32-year-old Franklin Republican, voting 70-2 to cast Durham out after more than an hour of discussion to approve the first legislative expulsion since 1980, and only the second since the Civil War. The House needed 66 votes to remove him. Durham is accused of inappropriate conduct with at least 22 women and remains under investigation by state and federal officials.

The proceeding and Durham's attendance caught some off guard, as GOP leaders had to call a quick break for an emotional plea from House Speaker Beth Harwell for support to prevent anyone from publicly identifying the women accusing Durham of sexual misconduct.

After lawmakers yelled at Durham and questioned him about issues ranging from sexual harassment to an FBI inquiry, the embattled lawmaker brandished a folder, threatening to reveal some information. He blasted the allegations and suggested he could reveal details about the 22 women and others in the Attorney General's investigation, but then abruptly left the chamber before his colleagues voted to oust him. The women were referred to only as Jane Does in the report because they had requested anonymity for fear of retribution.   - The Tennessean (subscription)

Now, a Durham-induced Republican food fight 

Durham-related ethics complaints filed against Beth Harwell

On Monday, Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, sent a 10-page packet containing five complaints to the House Ethics Committee in which he accused Harwell of abusing her position of leadership by ordering an investigation of Durham.

Although a spokeswoman for Harwell said the complaints were "frivolous," the chairman of the ethics committee said it will discuss them during a Wednesday meeting.

In one complaint, Womick said Harwell initiated the investigation into Durham based "solely on media reports and accusations from The Tennessean newspaper."

He also argued the speaker's decision to limit the recently expelled lawmaker's interactions with others, including moving Durham's legislative office to a building across the street from the Legislative Plaza, violated the state constitution.

Another complaint featured Womick's gripes about the constitutionality of expelling Durham during the special session — a point which he raised during speeches on the House floor on both Monday and Tuesday during the special legislative session.

In two other complaints, Womick, who is not returning to the statehouse in January, took issue with Attorney General Herbert Slatery's investigation into Durham which started in the wake of a Tennessean investigation.  - The Tennessean (subscription)

Still trying to blame the Feds 

Senate passes fix to stave off federal penalty for DUI law

The Tennessee Senate has passed legislation to effectively repeal a new state law about underage drunken driving that threatens to cost the state $60 million in federal road money.

The upper chamber voted 31-1 to pass the bill Wednesday and the House is expected to follow suit later in the day.

The law that went into effect in July had raised the penalties for driving under the influence by 18- through 20-year-olds. But the measure ran afoul of federal zero-tolerance standards for underage drivers by raising the maximum allowable blood alcohol content from 0.02 percent to 0.08 percent.

Gov. Bill Haslam has called lawmakers into a special session this week to return the 0.02 percent rule and the more lenient penalties for all drivers beneath the drinking age.   - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

But we can't even STUDY the deadly problem

Tennessee Now Leads Nation In Unintentional Fatal Shootings

By a wide margin, Tennessee led the nation in fatal unintentional shootings in 2014, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC counted 105 deaths from accidental gunshots in 2014. The year before that, there were 19 such deaths in the state, when Tennessee had ranked ninth.

“The rise was so dramatic that at first we didn’t believe it,” said Jonathan Metzl, research director with the Safe Tennessee Project and director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University.

The Safe Tennessee Project was first to report the data, noting that it first asked state and federal officials to check the numbers for accuracy.

After getting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control, Metzl went about gathering specifics.

“We asked ourselves: Really, what is going in Tennessee? Is it that people aren’t following safe storage practices?” He said.

The group’s initial analysis found injuries were most common when gun owners failed to clear the chamber before cleaning firearms or when loaded guns were dropped. The increase in deaths was reflected across all age ranges, including children who grabbed loaded weapons.

Metzl said he like to prevent such killings, but says a congressional ban on gun violence research is a hindrance. “There are studies that we could be doing,” he said. “Would trigger locks help? Would gun safes help? Would smart guns that only fire when the user is handling the gun — would that help?”

He says such insights could reduce accidental shootings without fully entering the fray on gun control. “It’s well past time to really look at this question,” he said. “I’m just saying that gun death and gun injury happen within predictable patterns.”  - WPLN  

More guns

Police promise to arrest violators of gun ban at Tennessee Valley Fair

No one had been threatened with arrest for violating Knoxville's ban on firearms at the Tennessee Valley Fair, so Second Amendment activists on Tuesday sought out the threat. And they got it, from the Knoxville Police Department's deputy chief of patrol, Monty Houk, as they stood outside a gate leading to the fairgrounds.

Seven members of the Tennessee Firearms Association gathered outside Gate 8 at East Magnolia Avenue and Beaman Street about 6 p.m. to obtain a promise of arrest in order to garner standing for a lawsuit. The group has already filed a lawsuit against a ban on carrying guns at the fairgrounds but wanted to bolster its case.

"It looks like the judge is going to throw (the lawsuit) out because no one was thrown out of the fair," said Raymond Bergeron, a Heiskell man who has fought for years for legislation expanding the rights of handgun carry permit holders.

Bergeron and his wife, Kimberly, asked Houk specifically what would happen should the permit holders try to enter the fairgrounds while armed. Raymond Bergeron, 61, was armed at the time. His wife was not. Both had their $10 entry tickets in hand.

Both, Houk assured them, would be subject to arrest on a charge of criminal trespassing should they violate the gun ban. TFA members shot video of the exchange.

With that, the members of the association thanked Houk for his time, thanked him for the job he did, wished him well and ended the conversation. They got what their attorney had told them they needed to satisfy Knox County Chancellor John F. Weaver's questions regarding whether their lawsuit had been filed by an injured party.  - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

'Long read' for your Wednesday - worth knowing 

Report: In A New Global Age, Democrats Have Been Far Better for the US Economy, Deficits and Incomes

Overview – This report looks at the economic performance of the two American political parties when in the White House since the end of the Cold War.

As you will see from the following analysis, the contrast between the performance of the Democrats and Republicans in this new economic era is stark: 2 GOP Presidencies brought recessions, job loss, higher annual deficits, and struggle for workers; the 2 Democratic Presidencies brought recovery and growth, job and income gains, and lower annual deficits.

Based on these findings it is fair to assert that over the past generation the Democratic Party has been far more effective at crafting effective responses to a new economic era than the Republican Party. This case is bolstered, of course, when recalling the GOP’s spirited predictions of economic calamity when opposing both the 1993 Clinton economic plan and budget and the 2009/2010 Obama stimulus and “job-killing” Affordable Care Act. The Republicans have gotten it wrong now in four consecutive Presidencies.

While it will not be the subject of this short report, our findings raise questions about whether the characterizations of the US economy as one not producing income and wage gains either over 40 years or over the past 15 years are accurate. It would appear that a more accurate description of the US economy in recent years is that with smart policies, Americans can prosper even in a more challenging and competitive global age.

Key Findings From The Report:

Job Growth: Over the Clinton and Obama Presidencies, more than 30m new net jobs were created. In contrast, during the two Bush Presidencies, approximately 3.5m jobs were created.

GDP Growth: Both Democratic Presidents saw the GDP rate rise during their Presidencies. The first President Bush saw GDP hold steady during his tenure. The second President Bush saw GDP decline.

Unemployment Rate: Both Democratic presidents saw more than a 3% point decrease in the unemployment rate during their terms. The Bushes saw increases in the unemployment rate by more than 2% and 3% points respectively.

Income: Both Bush Presidencies saw Americans experience decline in their median income, while during the Presidencies of Presidents Obama and Clinton Americans experienced gains. The newly reported 2015 increase in median income of almost $3,000 is the largest ever recorded since statistics began being kept in 1967.

Deficits: Both Democratic presidents saw dramatic improvements in the annual deficit during their tenures, with Clinton turning large structural deficits into annual surpluses and Obama cutting the annual deficit he inherited by one half. Both Bushes saw increases in the annual deficit on their watches, with the second President Bush seeing a more than ten-fold increase in the annual deficit during his presidency, one of the greatest explosions of debt in US history.

Public Opinion About the US Economy: Survey after survey finds Americans believing that things are far better, and improving. According to one new report, the President’s job approval on the economy stands at its highest mark since 2009. A new report from Gallup finds fully 80% of Americans are satisfied with their current standard of living.

Healthcare: The uninsured rate has plummeted, while the growth of health care costs – a significant driver of the US budget deficit – has slowed. Slower cost growth and healthier Americans are good for the American economy, businesses and the nation as a whole.

Energy: President Obama’s “all of the above” approach has a rousing success for the nation, increasing domestic production, lowering energy costs for American businesses, lessening our dependence on foreign sources of energy while giving the US a leg up on the new energy technologies of the future.  - NDN Report  

Here's one more 'long read' for you - pollsters try to explain why people don't see our current strong economy

The Daily 202: Why most think the country is on the wrong track, despite positive economic indicators


-- An annual report from the Census Bureau includes a raft of positive economic data:

  • In 2015, middle-class families got their biggest pay raises in 50 yearsMedian household income rose 5.2 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • There were 3.5 million fewer Americans living in poverty last year than the year before, a 1.2 percent decline, the steepest since 1968.
  • Another 4 million gained health insurance in 2015, decreasing the nation’s uninsured rate to 9.1 percent, the lowest level since before the Great Recession.
  • The gender pay gap is at a record low, though women still make an unacceptable 80 cents for every dollar men earn.

-- Other indicators also demonstrate meaningful progress:

  • The unemployment rate has declined to 4.9 percent. That’s half of what it was at this point seven years ago.
  • The markets have had a couple rough days, but all three major stock indexes hit record highs last month.
  • The University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index is near its pre-recession high.
  • Net private business investment had recovered to pre-recession levels.
  • The Agriculture Department last week released a data set showing that the number of Americans who go to sleep hungry declined substantially last year for the first time since the recession.
  • Home foreclosures continue to drop off markedly.
  • A glut of oil on the global market means gasoline is cheap and will continue to beinto 2017.

-- Despite all of this, every single poll shows that more than six in 10 Americans feel the country is on the wrong track. A George Washington University Battleground pollpublished last week, for example, found that just 27 percent think America is moving in the right direction and 66 percent think we’re moving the wrong direction.

-- So what the heck is going on? I canvassed pollsters and other experts to get their perspective on the apparent disconnect. Here are the dozen most interesting responses:

Donald Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, a pollster by training and background: “We noticed a number of years ago that the responses to the wrong track question are not purely economic.” 

Tom Jensen, who runs the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling: Republicans pretty much universally say they think the country is on the wrong track because they don’t like the president and don’t want to give him any credit. One set of findings we had that really drove that home is that nationally 64 percent of Republicans say the unemployment rate has increased under President Obama, to only 27 percent who say it’s decreased. And 57 percent say the stock market has gone down under Obama, to only 27 percent who say it’s gone up. Obviously, when you see voters saying something that’s just very objectively wrong they don’t care about the actual statistics. Their assessments on that question are just driven by emotion and their negative feelings toward President Obama.”

Scott Clement, director of The Post’s polling unit, noted that the average American is making less today than he or she was 15 years ago
. Real median household income was $56,500 in 2015, the Census bureau reported, up from $53,700 in 2014. But that’s below the peak median income registered in 1999 — $57,909. “While these reports are ‘good,’ some represent a return to previous economic levels before the recession, not outright improvement,” he said. 

David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, noted that only one-third of likely voters in his most recent national poll said the U.S. is in economic recovery. The rest said we are in a period of stagnation, recession, or depression. “It’s like a person who goes to the doctor, and all the tests come back kosher. But the patient still feels sick.” 

Democratic pollster Margie Omero, who co-hosts the “The Pollsters” podcast:“Gallup continues to show voters naming ‘dissatisfaction with government’ about as big of a problem as ‘the economy in general.’ And barely half consider themselves ‘extremely proud’ to be American--a new low. There's this sense that our country is adriftour politics are beyond repair, and even our personal relationships likely ruined by partisan divisions. 

Wonkblog’s Jim Tankersley notes that certain, very specific groups were left behind by the gains of 2015: “All of the income gains effectively came in cities and suburbs, while none of them flowed to rural area. "In states that expanded Medicaid, allowing more low-income people to be eligible, the uninsured rate in 2015 was 7.2 percent. In states that did not expand, the rate was 12.3 percent.”

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What Colin Powell really thinks 

Trump a 'National Disgrace,' Colin Powell Wrote in Hacked Emails

Newly revealed emails hacked from the private account of former Republican secretary of state Colin Powell show the retired four-star general repeatedly blasting Donald Trump, describing him as a "national disgrace" who engaged in a "racist" movement.

A spokesperson for Colin Powell told ABC tonight that the emails revealed "are accurate," and declined any further comment. 

In another email Powell describes Trump's birther investigation as a "racist" movement that incorrectly suggests Obama was born in a foreign country. “Yup, the whole birther movement was racist,” Powell wrote. He also said Trump wanted to know if Obama was a Muslim. “As I have said before, ‘What if he was?’ Muslims are born as Americans everyday." In a separate email titled "racism," Powell writes, "There is a level of intolerance in parts of the Republican Party."

Buzzfeed reports that it obtained the emails from the website, a group that is suspected of having ties to Russian cyber spies. The private cyber security firm ThreatConnect has reported its suspicion that DCLeaks was a Russia-backed operation, linked to the notorious hacker Guccifer 2.0, who on Tuesday released more data stolen from the Democratic National Committee.

The conservative news outlet Daily Caller also reported tonight that two years of Powell emails have been stolen, ranging from June 2014 to August 2016.   - ABC News  

The Donald's Daily Lie  - Fact Checker

Trump’s ridiculous claim that veterans are ‘treated worse’ than undocumented immigrants

“Our veterans, in many cases, are being treated worse than illegal immigrants.”
— Donald Trump, speech in Philadelphia, Sept. 7, 2016
“The media and my opponent discuss one thing and only one thing, the needs of people living here illegally. In many cases, by the way, they’re treated better than our vets.”
— Trump, immigration speech in Phoenix, Aug. 31, 2016
“Frankly, illegal immigrants get treated better than many of our vets — it’s a disgrace what’s happening in this country.”
— Trump, interview on NBC, July 20, 2015 

Trump has been using this talking point for more than a year, and it’s never been quite clear exactly what he meant. On its face, this claim doesn’t make much sense: People in the country illegally, by definition, are not given the basic rights that people here legally — veterans or civilians — have.

Our friends at and PolitiFact wrote about this claim, and there’s no sign Trump will stop saying it. So we decided to take a look at what he means, and whether it holds any water.

The Pinocchio Test

Trump often says veterans “in many cases” are being treated “worse” than illegal immigrants. To an extent, whether one group of people is treated “worse” than another is a matter of opinion. But it’s clear that the “many cases” that his campaign cites are apples-to-oranges comparisons that don’t make much sense. And more broadly, people who are in the United States illegally aren’t granted the same rights as people here legally — both civilians and veterans. This is an absurd comparison, and Trump needs to drop it.

Four Pinocchios


FYI, here's a summary of The Donald's Daily Lies

Who knew?

The Clinton Foundation You’ve Never Heard Of

It was easy to miss, but after they left the White House, Bill and Hillary Clinton launched not one but two charities. The first was the Harlem-based William J. Clinton Foundation to impact issues of global significance. 

The other was the smaller Clinton Family Foundation, the place where Bill and Hillary Clinton would direct their own private charitable contributions. While the larger Clinton Foundation grew to become an ambitious, often controversial, multibillion-dollar operation, the family foundation has remained a below-the-radar mechanism for the Clintons and their daughter, Chelsea, to donate to charities they personally support.

Unlike the Donald J. Trump Foundation, to which according to The Washington Post Donald Trump has donated less than $10,000 of his own money since 2008, the Clintons have given $22.5 million to the Clinton Family Foundation since 2001, according to 15 years of the foundation’s IRS 990 forms reviewed by The Daily Beast. Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton have been the only officers, have taken no salaries, have accepted no outside donations, and have no staff working for it.   

“The Clintons have consistently donated about 10 percent of their income each year to charity because they believe strongly in giving back to their community and helping people in need,” said Josh Schwerin, a Clinton campaign spokesman, adding, “While others lie about their charitable giving in order to boost their own image, the Clintons do this simply because it’s the right thing to do.”

It all seems like a good news story waiting to be told. But like so many things in Clinton-world, the family foundation has been oddly unpublicized and, initially at least, went partially undisclosed to the public.   

The foundation has no website and has never issued a press release about a gift. As usual, some see the Clintons’ lack of information about the family foundation as a sign of their arrogance. Others see it as a sign of their humility.

“They don’t ever go out and brag about what they’re doing. They’re very private people and very good friends,” said Paul Leopoulos.  - The Daily Beast  

Thought for the day:

"It's funny how most people love the dead, once you're dead, you're made for life."  - Jimi Hendrix


September 13, 2016

Embarrassing disgrace 

Jeremy Durham blasts accusers, House leaders in letter

Embattled Rep. Jeremy Durham sent an eight-page letter to his House colleagues Monday in which he defends himself, attacks the women who alleged sexual misconduct and blasts House leadership for its handling of the investigation.

In the letter obtained by The Tennessean, Durham threatens to release a document that would name the 22 women who accused him of inappropriate sexual conduct and show text messages that he says could prove his innocence.

Durham, in the letter, addresses a variety of issues ranging from the legislature's sexual harassment policy and House leadership's attempts to expel him to an unrelated, ongoing investigation into his campaign finances. He denies any sexual wrongdoing with the women interviewed by Attorney General Herbert Slatery for his scathing report that detailed claims by the women who accused Durham of inappropriate sexual conduct.

The women spoke to the attorney general on the condition of anonymity, afraid there could be negative personal and professional ramifications if they were identified.

Durham, 32, faces an ouster vote this week as lawmakers meet in Nashville for a special legislative session.

The attorney general's office spent more than six months compiling its reports. The interactions described by women in the report range from inappropriate sexual comments and contact, like long hugs, to having sex with a 20-year-old "college student/political worker" in Durham's legislative office and home.

Women’s and victims advocates cautioned about the grave impact releasing the names, or even threatening to do so, could have.

“Releasing the names of victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment would have a chilling effect on other victims coming forward,” said Kathy Walsh, executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. She called Durham’s actions unbelievable.

“If we want to prevent things like this from happening in the future, we need to make sure victims have a safe place and safe system so they don’t have to be worried about this information becoming public.”

“There is some bullying going on here, there is continued intimidation,” Freeman said. “In the field of violence there’s a cycle of power and control, and we’re seeing this play out. I hope the legislature and his colleagues will continue on the path they’re on now and hold him accountable for his behavior and his actions.”

House Speaker Beth Harwell and Casada say they believe there are more than enough votes to oust Durham.

Lawmakers are set to reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. The resolution to expel Durham is expected Tuesday. The session was initially called to amend a DUI law passed this year that jeopardizes receiving $60 million in federal funds.  - The Tennessean (subscription)

Republicans meddling in Knoxville divorce case. Why?

53 GOP lawmakers seek to intervene in Knoxville women’s divorce

Fifty-three Republican state legislators have teamed with a Christian conservative group in trying to become involved in the pending divorce of two Knoxville women who are arguing over child custody.

The Family Action Council of Tennessee announced that its legal arm, known as the Constitutional Government Defense Fund, is representing the legislators in filing a motion to intervene in the divorce case of Sabrina Renae Witt vs. Erica Christine Witt.

The motion contends the legislators' "unique and substantial interest in the legislative power and process will be impeded, impaired, and/or nullified" if courts interpret a state law "to apply to any persons other than a man and woman joined together as 'husband' and 'wife.' "

Knox County Circuit Court Judge Greg McMillan ruled in June that Erica Witt has no legal rights under Tennessee law to involvement with a daughter born to Sabrina Witt through artificial insemination, as reported by the News Sentinel at the time. The couple were legally married in Washington, D.C., in April 2014, when same-sex marriage was prohibited in Tennessee. There is still no state law on the books authorizing same-sex marriages, but they were validated by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year.   - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

No Mr. Trump, the American dream is not broken

U.S. Household Incomes Surged 5.2% in 2015, First Gain Since 2007

Incomes in the U.S. surged in 2015, delivering the first increase for family households in eight years.

The median annual household income--the level at which half are above and half are below--rose 5.2%, after adjusting for inflation, or $2,800, to $56,500, the Census Bureau said. The boost leaves household incomes about 1.6% below the 2007 level, before the last recession began. - The Wall Street Journal (subscription)


America's Promise College Plan

U.S. Education Secretary John King visiting Pellissippi State today

U.S. Education Secretary John King will speak at Pellissippi State Community College today, more than a year and a half after President Barack Obama visited the campus to launch his proposal to make community college free for most high school seniors.

In the months since Obama unveiled his America's College Promise plan — modeled after Tennessee's recently launched, similarly named program — more than 30 free community college plans have started across the country, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Now, more than 150 programs across the nation aim to make community college free, combining for more than $70 million in colleges to serve 40,000 students.  - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

Discrimination is expensive. TN legislature, are you listening?

NCAA to Move 7 Championship Events From North Carolina, Citing Bathroom Law

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has pulled seven tournament games from North Carolina in protest of a law stating that transgender people must use the public bathroom associated with the gender of their birth.

The NCAA joined the National Basketball Association, Bruce Springsteen, PayPal Holdings Inc. and other major groups in boycotting North Carolina because of a state law known as House Bill 2 that they say is discriminatory toward lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

The NCAA said it took into account the fact that five states, led by New York, had already prohibited travel to North Carolina for employees of public institutions. Some schools have canceled regular away games in North Carolina.  - The Wall Street Journal  (subscription)

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Tried to "power through" pneumonia

Clinton didn't think illness was 'going to be that big a deal'

Hillary Clinton said Monday night she's "met a high standard of transparency" about her health and didn't think the pneumonia was "going to be that big a deal." Clinton said she felt dizzy and lost her balance Sunday, but did not lose consciousness, and is now "feeling so much better."

"I was supposed to rest five days -- that's what they told me on Friday -- and I didn't follow that very wise advice," Clinton told CNN's Anderson Cooper in a phone interview. "So I just want to get this over and done with and get back on the trail as soon as possible," she said. 

But during her interview Monday, Clinton sought to turn criticism of her secrecy over her illness into an attack on Republican rival Donald Trump.

"Compare everything you know about me with my opponent. I think it's time he met the same level of disclosure that I have for years," Clinton told Cooper.
"It's really past time for him to be held to the same standards, not just as me, but as anybody else who has sought this job," she said.
Clinton had a cough last week, and chalked it up to allergies -- joking at an event that she was allergic to Trump.   - 

Yes, half of Trump supporters are racist

Hillary Clinton may have been unwise to say half of Donald Trump’s supporters are racists and other “deplorables.” But she wasn’t wrong.

If anything, when it comes to Trump’s racist support, she might have low-balled the number. But this isn’t a matter of gratuitous name-calling. This election has proved that there is much more racism in America than many believed. It came out of hiding in opposition to the first African American president, and it has been welcomed into the open by Trump.

The American National Election Studies, the long-running, extensive poll of American voters, asked voters in 2012 a basic test of prejudice: to rank black and white people on a scale from hardworking to lazy and from intelligent to unintelligent. The researchers found that 62 percent of white people gave black people a lower score in at least one of the attributes. This was a jump in prejudicial attitudes from 2008, when 45 percent of white people expressed negative stereotypes.

This question is a good indicator of how one votes: Republican Mitt Romney won 61 percent of those who expressed negative stereotypes. And, when the question was asked during the 2008 primaries, those with negative racial stereotypes consistently favored Republican candidates — any of them — over any Democratic candidate in hypothetical matchups.

Few people embrace the “racist” label, so let’s help them. If you are “very enthusiastic” about a candidate who has based his campaign on scapegoating immigrants, Latinos and African Americans, talked of banning Muslims from the country, hesitated to disown the Ku Klux Klan and employed anti-Semitic imagery — well, you might be a racist. But if you are holding your nose and supporting Trump only because you think him better than Clinton, that doesn’t put you in the basket.

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds the two groups roughly equal: Forty-six percent of Trump supporters say they are “very enthusiastic” about his candidacy. The rest were “somewhat” or not terribly enthusiastic.

Trump, on stage, rejected any notion of racism, saying people who want secure borders “are not racists,” people who warn of “radical Islamic terrorism are not Islamophobes” and people who support police “are not prejudiced.” 

But moments later, he repeated the campaign slogan he borrowed from an anti-Semitic organization that opposed involvement in World War II.

“America First – remember that,” he said. “America First.”  - Dana Milbank in The Washington Post (subscription)

Who thinks he really will? 

Clinton, Trump say they will release medical records

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both pledged Monday to release additional personal medical records after Clinton’s near collapse Sunday morning at a Sept. 11 memorial event and subsequent disclosure that she is suffering from pneumonia. 

Trump, too, is in a treacherous position on the question of medical transparency. At 70, he’s 16 months older than Clinton and has released even less information about his health than Clinton, providing only a four-paragraph letter that his doctor said was written in five minutes. It claims with little factual support that Trump would be the healthiest president to assume office in US history.

No matter how healthy a candidate may be, getting sick on the campaign trail is typical, campaign veterans said.

“Everyone on campaigns has walking pneumonia,” said Arun Chaudhary, a Democratic strategist with the firm Revolution Messaging who worked on Bernie Sanders’ primary campaign. Chaudhary said Clinton’s strategy of little or no disclosure left plenty of room for conspiracy-minded detractors. “When you’re not telling your own story,” he said, “someone else is making it up.”  - The Boston Globe (subscription)


Does Donald Trump remember Ananias and Sapphira? (click here: Acts Chapter 5) 

Trump’s campaign says he’s given ‘tens of millions’ to charity, but offers no details and no proof

A spokeswoman for Donald Trump's presidential campaign, seeking to rebut criticism of the GOP nominee's history of charitable giving, said that Trump has given away "tens of millions of dollars" over his life.

But spokeswoman Hope Hicks offered no details about that number, beyond saying that it included donations from the Donald J. Trump Foundation -- a charity that, despite its name, has been filled almost entirely with other people's money in recent years.

Hicks also provided no information about how much -- if any -- of the donations she was describing had come from Trump's own pocket.

The Washington Post has spent the past few months searching for evidence of that kind of personal donation, without much success. The Post has called 326 charities with connections to Trump, asking if they had received a gift of the nominee's own money. Between 2008 and this May, that search turned up just one gift, from 2009. It worth less than $10,000.   - The Washington Post (subscription)

From Russia with Cash

Trump loves Vladimir Putin. Could his tax returns explain why?

Why does Donald Trump say such nice things about Vladimir Putin and Russia? What is Trump hiding in the tax returns he refuses to release? And are those two questions related? Voters should demand answers. Until we get them, we can only speculate about Trump’s weird admiration for a strongman who presides over a system of autocratic cronyism, flouts international law with his territorial ambitions, works against U.S. interests in hot spots around the globe, and apparently might have even deployed computer hackers to meddle in our election. There may be nothing nefarious here; perhaps Trump just admires Putin’s swaggering style. But there are reasons to wonder whether Trump’s warm-and-fuzzy feelings are prompted by financial motives.  - Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post (subscription)

Thought for the day:

"If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable."  - Lucius Annaeus Seneca (probably referring to Donald Trump's many conflicting policy statements.)


September 12, 2016

Remembering 9-11 

Reflect on those things that make America great 

Americans today will reflect upon the solemn anniversary of the vicious attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 that shook the nation and led the United States into an ongoing war.

The occasion also provides an opportunity to meditate upon the euphoric unity that the tragedy quickly engendered so that we might feel that once again.

Recent terrorist attacks have led people across the world to declare: “We are Paris,” “We are Brussels” and “We are Orlando.”

In 2001, we – the whole world – were all Americans. Could we say that again today?

That sense of purpose behind the values that define us – a commitment to embracing and expanding freedom and welcoming outsiders to join in that cause – is needed now more than ever.

The 2016 presidential election has become a contentious and divisive affair.

Friendships in the real and virtual worlds have been lost. Raw emotion has, at times, replaced thoughtfulness, curiosity and humility. The result has been a corrosion of civil discourse and a loss of respect for one another that is critically necessary for this nation to live up to its promise.

However, it is not too late. Americans are resilient. They persevere. They heal. They push boundaries and make sacrifices. They want to do the right thing.

On this day, let us reflect upon those who make America great today, such as the first responders, the warriors, the medical professionals, among others. The celebration of Marine Week in Nashville this past week has given us a powerful visual cue to witness and experience sacrifice in the flesh.

Reflect upon those who suffer and have not fully realized the American Dream because of poverty, racial injustice, or other forms of oppression and lack of privilege. Take time to re-read and share the message of the preamble to the United States Constitution, a document so powerful that the Founding Fathers knew it would have to be frequently amended in order to achieve the goal of forming “a more perfect union:"

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

May we all now say, “We are all Americans?”

Opinion Engagement Editor David Plazas wrote this editorial on behalf of The Tennessean editorial board

Bargain Nuke

Nuclear plant for sale at fraction of cost

After spending more than 40 years and $5 billion on an unfinished nuclear power plant in northeastern Alabama, the nation’s largest federal utility is preparing to sell the property at a fraction of its cost.

The Tennessee Valley Authority has set a minimum bid of $36.4 million for its Bellefonte Nuclear Plant and the 1,600 surrounding acres of waterfront property on the Tennessee River. The buyer gets two unfinished nuclear reactors, transmission lines, office and warehouse buildings, 8 miles of roads, a 1,000-space parking lot, and more.

Initial bids are due Monday, and at least one company has publicly expressed interest in the site with plans to use it for alternative energy production.

But the TVA says it isn’t particular about what the purchaser does — using the site for power production, industrial manufacturing, recreation, or even residences would all be fine with the agency, spokesman Scott Fiedler said.

‘‘It’s all about jobs and investment, and that’s our primary goal for selling this property,’’ Fiedler said. The TVA hopes to close the deal in October.   - The Boston Globe (subscription)


Trump’s outreach efforts gaining little traction with African-Americans

In 2008, Arizona Sen. John McCain got 4 percent of the black vote compared with President Barack Obama’s 95 percent. Four years later, Republican nominee Mitt Romney bested McCain by pulling in 6 percent of the black vote.

Recent polls show Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with an 80 percent favorable rating among African-Americans.

“I think she is the best choice between the two of them. She is very well qualified, she has worked her way up to this point. She has been through the ranks,” Sadie Heaston, a retired teacher, said. “We’ll get two-for-one or three-for-one. She has expertise plus her husband has expertise. And our president, who I have confidence in, endorsed her. I think she will get his help as well.”

Meanwhile, polls have put Trump’s favorable ratings with African-American voters at anywhere from 0-to-2 percent.  - The Tennessean (subscription)

More Tennesseans are organ volunteers 

Vanderbilt Fights Policy That Could Result In Fewer Liver Transplants For Tennesseans

Tennessee is a place with such healthy organ donation rates that Apple founder Steve Jobs bought a home in Memphis when he needed a liver so he could be double listed in Tennessee and California, where patients tend to wait longer for a donor.

Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which performs the most transplants in Tennessee, even touts the fact that the state is a good place for transplant patients in a promotional video.

So Vanderbilt is protesting a proposal to rework the nation's system for determining who gets a liver transplant. The hospital says the result would be fewer livers for Tennesseans.

Currently, a Tennessee patient gets first dibs on a Tennessee liver. Then there's a sequence of offering it to some neighboring states and then anywhere in the nation. But the agency that governs organ transplants — the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) — says it shouldn't matter where a patient lives. The proposal, which was intended to increase fairness, would move away from local priority, meaning New York and California — which have lower rates of donation — would be net recipients of livers from places with higher donation rates.

Vanderbilt claims that because of one-on-one counseling with the families of dying patients, 95 percent of them agree to donate the organs of their loved one. Seth Karp, who chairs the Vanderbilt Department of Surgery, argues UNOS should not "redistribute" organs to places like New York, which have a 53 percent donation rate.

"Local efforts in the community have been very successful in increasing the number of donors," Karp says. "If this system were to go through, then the local communities would have very little incentive."

Karp also believes the redesign could become a logistical headache, with organs regularly being flown hundreds of miles to reach a recipient. A liver from Tennessee, for instance, could easily wind up in Chicago.

"This proposal seeks to modify these boundaries to better match organ supply with demand, ensuring more equitable access for those in need of liver transplant regardless of their place of residence or listing," the proposal states.

The change is up for public comment through mid-October.   - WPLN  

Yes, he will.

Will Jeremy Durham Embarrass Republicans One Last Time?

By Betsy Phillips, Nashville Scene

One thing I really admire about Joel Ebert’s writing at The Tennessean is that he has an elegant economy of words. Things sometimes get obfuscated when you go on about them too long. You can, for instance, almost convince yourself that Jeremy Durham’s behavior was not-so-bad when people try to place it in historical context or ask his buddies to comment on it. 

Ebert simply says:

"Haslam said it was up to lawmakers on whether to include expelling Durham, who is accused of inappropriate sexual contact with at least 22 women, in discussion of the special session.  Unless lawmakers remove Durham, he is set to receive a lifetime pension."

At least 22 women. These folks sat back and did as little as possible for as long as possible to protect the people who work at the state Legislature from this guy and now they’re on the verge of letting him receive a lifetime pension.

It’s almost breathtaking when you think that’s what it comes down to — the taxpayers of Tennessee had to pay Jeremy Durham’s salary while he apparently treated Legislative Plaza as his personal Playboy Mansion. We literally paid him to (allegedly) sexually harass almost two dozen women. And now, unless these folks who have so far shown no willingness to act against Durham somehow grow a spine, we’re going to be rewarding him again for the time he spent here in Nashville playing a creep. 

I don’t know about the rest of you, but my list of things I’d like my tax dollars to go to has approximately a billion things on it ahead of “pay Jeremy Durham for the time he spent dicking around, literally, dicking around.”

If Republicans want to prove that they’re good fiscal stewards of the state, getting our money out of Durham’s pocket is a good place to start. It remains to be seen if they have the guts to do it, though.  - Pith in the Wind, Nashville Scene

Carpe per-Diem

Tenn. lawmakers to get $16 bump in daily stipend

Most state legislators will soon get a $16 per day increase in the daily stipend they are paid while engaged in lawmaking endeavors, but not in time for the special session that begins today.

Legislators' general "per diem" expense payment is currently at $204 per day, but will increase to $220 per day effective Oct. 1, according to Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration. Under state law, the payment rate is adjusted each year, based on what the federal government pays its employees for spending a day away from home in Nashville.

The federal formula is based on two parts — one for the average cost of spending a night in a motel; the other for the average estimated daily cost of meals for a Nashville visitor. Starting Oct. 1, Ridley said the formula pegs the daily meal cost at $59, the same as now. But the motel cost average is up to $161, a $16 increase.

Thus, legislators living more than 50 miles from the state capitol complex will get $220 per day, a $16 increase. Middle Tennessee legislators living within a 50-mile drive will still get just $59.

All legislators get 47 cents per mile for driving a vehicle from their homes to the Legislative Plaza. Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, has the longest commuted, listed as 588 miles round-trip on the Legislature's website for a $276.36 payment. Rep. Harold Love Jr., D-Nashville, has the shortest, six miles round-trip for $2.83.  - Tom Humphrey in the Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)


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Walking pneumonia

Clinton recovering after health episode, cancels Calif. trip

An ill Hillary Clinton abruptly left a 9/11 anniversary ceremony Sunday and needed to be held up by three people before she appeared to stumble off a curb and was helped into a van. Several hours later, her campaign revealed she had been diagnosed with pneumonia on Friday and advised to rest.

Less than two months from Election Day, it was an unwanted visual for Clinton as she tries to project the strength and vigor needed for one of the world's most demanding jobs. Republican rival Donald Trump has spent months questioning Clinton's health, saying she lacks the stamina to be president.

In a statement, Clinton's doctor said the former secretary of state had become overheated and dehydrated at the event in lower Manhattan. "I have just examined her and she is now rehydrated and recovering nicely," Dr. Lisa R. Bardack said.

The physician said Clinton has had an allergy-related cough, and that during a follow-up examination Friday, the candidate was diagnosed with pneumonia, put on antibiotics, advised to rest and modify her schedule.  - Memphis Commercial Appeal  (subscription)

"Values Voters" 

This election’s faith-based candidate

This is the inversion election, a contest in which so many of our familiar mental categories have been turned upside down.

This year, it’s the Republican presidential candidate who says the United States isn’t great anymore and the Democrat who insists it is. The Republican says that the former KGB agent presiding over Russia is a better leader than the president of the United States. The Democrat condemns him for it.

But last week reminded us that there is another role reversal in this election. There is one candidate who is authentically religious, who has thought seriously about what the Scriptures teach, and whose own view of the world was changed radically by her engagement with faith. Her name is Hillary Clinton.

Clinton’s religious views, I’d argue, are organically connected to many of the choices she has made in her life. 

“The Scripture tells us that faith without works is dead,” she said. “The Epistle of James tells us we cannot just be hearers of the Word, we must be doers.” Clinton explained that she embraced “an activist social justice faith , a roll-up-your-sleeves and get-your-hands-dirty faith.”

This is not the only kind of Christianity, and it would be sinfully arrogant to doubt the authenticity of the beliefs of more conservative Christians whose deepest commitments lead them to conclusions quite different from Clinton’s on issues such as gay marriage and abortion. In American history, Christians have argued passionately among themselves over what Scripture and tradition teach about a wide range of public questions, including slavery.

What I do doubt is the depth of the conviction of politicians whose religious commitments seem to have little connection to their lives. They paint themselves as religious by either pushing the social conservatives’ hot buttons or, as Trump did Friday at the Values Voter Summit, appealing to their sense of victimhood. He spoke about religious liberty and criticized a media culture that “mocks and demeans people of faith.”

Conservative religious people have every right to test liberal believers by their willingness to defend the role of faith in our public square. But liberal believers have a comparable right to test conservatives by whether what the Gospel teaches about love, justice and our obligation to the poor has any relationship to their public actions and the policies they promote.

Another test is humility, a hard virtue to come by in an election campaign. Thus did Clinton tell her Baptist audience that “we’re not asked to love each other, not urged or requested. We are commanded to love. Indeed, Jesus made it his greatest commandment. When I used to teach the occasional Sunday school class, I often taught on that lesson. That’s a hard commandment to obey. Some days it’s really hard for me.”

Clinton also spoke of “the awesome responsibilities of power and the frailties of human action.” I do prefer politicians who follow Kierkegaard’s lead in approaching the burdens of governing with a certain amount of “fear and trembling.” I see at least some of that spirit in Clinton. I wish I could find it in Trump.   - E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post (subscription)

Who has the biggest?

Donald Trump Boasted His Building Was Tallest After Towers Fell On 9/11

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump bragged that his building was the tallest in New York City hours after the World Trade Center towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001.

Audio of the real estate mogul’s comments was obtained and published by Politico reporter Michael Kruse on Saturday. In the middle of a 10-minute conversation with local television station WWOR, Trump took the opportunity to plug his 71-story skyscraper located in the financial district, just blocks away from the doomed towers.

“40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest — and then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second-tallest. And now it’s the tallest,” he says in the clip, as footage of the towers falling rolls on screen.

Trump has a habit of stirring up controversy regarding the Sept. 11 attacks. The New York billionaire has previously called the newly built 1 World Trade Center “disgusting” and “a piece of junk.” Last year, he claimed, without offering evidence, that “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheered the 9/11 attacks. And he has a very long history of trying to make Sept. 11 all about himself.


Donald Trump’s Most Despicable Tweets About 9/11

Donald Trump has a very public history of trying to make 9/11 all about himself, and also about attacking his own personal and political enemies. Furthermore, the GOP presidential nominee has a penchant for straight-uplying about what happened on September 1, 2001. (To say nothing of the fact that one of his closest allies and friends in media, right-wing radio host Alex Jones, is a 9/11 “truther.”)

Nowhere are Trump’s crass 9/11-related tendencies more prominently displayed than on his verified Twitter feed. On this solemn occasion, here are the 10 worst @realDonaldTrump tweets concerning 9/11.

10. Trump uses 9/11 to go after libertarian icon Ron Paul and The Donald’s foe Rosie O’Donnell. 

Both @Rosie and @RonPaul think America is responsible for 9/11.

9. Here’s Trump tweeting, and approvingly retweeting, about scores of “militant Muslims” in America delighting in the carnage of 9/11.  

"@thumpmomma: I likewise saw militant Muslims burning our flag and burning George Bush photos and figures, right after 9/11! Not#here!"

8. “...all kinds of youtube videos...”   

"@wzpd8z: Mr. Trump, Chuck Todd is a moron, all kinds of youtube videos showing muslims celebrating 911. I would show it on your ads."

7. Back during the Republican primary, Trump invoked 9/11 repeatedly to attack the Bush family. He “wanted to be nice,” but ended up not: 

At the debate you said your brother kept us safe- I wanted to be nice & did not mention the WTC came down during his watch, 9/11.

6. Did you know that Donald Trump predicted the 9/11 plot?  

I predicted the 9/11 attack on America in my book "The America We Deserve" and the collapse of Iraq in @TimeToGetTough.

5. There was also when he used 9/11 to bash Obama and the president’s supposed “good friends in Libya and Egypt.”

What a coincidence that Obama's good friends in Libya and Egypt picked 9/11 to attack our embassies.

4. For those searching for an emphatically pro-torture 9/11 tweet…  

Isn't it interesting that immediately after September 11th, everybody was asking for, and indeed demanding, torture of any kind. No reports!

3. The Infowars link is what makes it.  


Donald Trump is telling the truth about Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on September 11, 2001.

2. No comment.  

With the whacko pervert Weiner about to be embarrassed, all women need to be on the lookout. Sexting begins 9.11 @ 12:01 AM

1. And finally, never forget:  

@realDonaldTrump: I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th.”

Billy Moore Reports from Washington 


Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's new book, The Long Game: A Memoir, describes his career of perseverance and patience. McConnell is running out of patience with House partisan dithering over funding government in the new fiscal year and is moving forward to prevent an October 1 shutdow.

The House Republican Conference will continue internal discussions, without consulting Democrats, about a Continuing Resolution's length, spending rates and policy riders. McConnell is negotiating with Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid and the White House. If he can he can make a bipartisan deal, the Senate would pass the bill next week and leave town, giving Representatives a choice: pass the Senate plan or shut the government down.

The Senate plan would fund government through December 9, setting up a Lame Duck omnibus appropriation. The deal would fund the Zika virus fight without the House poison pill that excludes family planning clinics from the program.

President Barack Obama invited the bipartisan congressional leaders to a Monday meeting at the White House to discuss the September agenda, including the CR.

While seeking a deal, the Senate will continue debate of a water resources bill. The House will vote on impeaching Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen and blocking the transfer of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay into the next presidency. Last week, Representatives passed legislation to ease financial services regulations and cleared Senate legislation for the White House to allow 9/11 victims? families to sue Saudi Arabia that President Obama may veto. Conferees met on an energy policy bill and signaled a deal is unlikely until the Lame Duck session.

Hillary Clinton's national lead over Donald Trump in the national polls has narrowed, even as she maintains her Electoral College advantage. Democrats remain likely to reduce the House Republican majored by 10-15 seats, but are only about 50-50 to take Senate control.  

Billy Moore is a partner at ViaNovo, a strategic consulting firm with offices in Washington, DC, Dallas, Austin and Mexico City

Thought for the day:

"Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. 

All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others. His culture is based on 'I am not too sure.'"
   -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (12 Sep 1880-1956) 


Your CPI Daily Buzz, September 7, 2016

Mood music for the election . . . "Thanks Obama."

Gallup: Life got better for pretty much everyone under Obama

How Americans feel about the state of their lives have improved markedly in the eight years since Barack Obama was elected president, according to Gallup data released Tuesday.

In 2008, fewer than half of Americans said their life was good enough to be considered "thriving," according to Gallup. But that's changed: "The 55.4% who are thriving so far in 2016 is on pace to be the highest recorded in the nine years Gallup and Healthways have tracked it," according to the report

Not only that, members of each ethnic or racial group in Gallup's study feel better about their lives.

"The percentages of U.S. whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians who are thriving have all increased during the Obama era," Gallup notes. The percentage of blacks thriving has risen by about 6 points, as has the percentage of whites and Hispanics. Asian thriving has risen by about 10 points since 2008. 

The Gallup numbers, showing improving self-assessments of blacks' quality of life, reflect this. They also show that, contrary to some perceptions that white Americans have been losing out, Obama-era gains aren't limited to just one racial or ethnic group. 

Gallup notes that Obama's second term "shows an improvement in whites' life evaluations — particularly those of white Republicans." In a previous 2013-2015 Gallup survey, about 55 percent of white Republicans were thriving, up from 51 percent in the 2011-2012 survey.

Of course, no president has the power to wave a magic wand and make peoples' lives better. This measure is likely an indicator of the variety of factors influencing people's lives that presidents have limited control over — the economy chief among them. In 2008, for instance, the country was in the midst of the Great Recession. An increase in the percentage of people calling themselves thriving since then is hardly surprising. 

Certainly, economic policies have been central to Obama's administration, including the 2009 stimulus package and the $80 billion auto-industry bailout. But his supporters and detractors disagree on the extent to which those policies helped pull the country out of the recession. Factors largely out of his control, like the Federal Reserve's lowering of interest rates and the U.S. energy boom that cut fuel prices — arguably played even bigger roles.

Either way, the Gallup numbers suggest that for many Americans, fewer things today need fixing than they did eight years ago.  - Wonkblog, The Washington Post (subscription)

Don't blame the feds for your screw-up guys

Tennessee's Special Session To Fix Error In DUI Law Has Few Historic Parallels

Despite more than three decades in the legislature, state Sen. Randy McNally has seen few special sessions like the one that'll take place next week.

"It's very unusual," he says. "It's also very unusual that there is a supposed partnership between the state and the federal government, but they get to write all the rules and then they get to interpret all their rules."

In fact, you might have to go all the way back to the 1960s to find similar circumstances. That's when a Supreme Court ruling forced Tennessee to draw up new legislative districts.

Fixing a $60 million error in the state's drunken driving laws is going to cost Tennessee at least $75,000. That's the estimate on next week's special session.

It's a step with few historical parallels. 

McNally says federal authorities should have been more flexible. Instead, they're demanding Tennessee align the state's blood alcohol content limit for 18-year-olds to 21-year-olds with federal standards. They've given state lawmakers a deadline of Oct. 1, the start of the federal government's fiscal year.

The special session will start Monday afternoon, and the bill should pass easily. But the state Constitution requires legislators to deliberate any new law for at least three days, making Wednesday the earliest lawmakers could adjourn.

The session will cost taxpayers about $25,000 a day. That's mainly for per diems — the daily payments lawmakers get to cover expenses while they're doing the people's business.

Democrats say it's an expense that could've been avoided. Republicans agree, but they say the blame rests as much with federal authorities as with themselves.   - WPLN  

We agree

Keep special session focused on Tennessee's road needs

Tennessee is already way behind in keeping up with the state’s highway funding needs. So, it was a foregone conclusion that Gov. Bill Haslam would call lawmakers into special session in September to prevent the loss of $60 million in federal roads funds.

While it appears small in the context of the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s $1.875 billion budget, it is important because the state also has a $6 billion backlog in projects.

Translation: Tennessee lacks the money to build critical roads and infrastructure. This special session, which will cost lawmakers $25,000 a day, finally creates the opportunity for legislators to have a serious conversation about long-term road financing.

It was a happy accident that lawmakers, with Haslam’s signature, passed a law that altered the blood-alcohol level requirement from .02 to .08 for 18- to 20-year-olds. It was an effort to strengthen penalties for underage drinkers. However, by raising the level, the state incurred the wrath of the federal government, which wants “zero tolerance” for underage drinking, hence the .02 requirement.

The feds are being intransigent, but they control the purse strings on this matter. Lawmakers should make the necessary fixes to secure the money and set the framework for how they are going to address long-term needs when they return for the 2017 regular session.

This is a conversation they have been avoiding for the past two years as they wrestled with frivolous, political concerns like an attempt to regulate bathroom access and a bill, ultimately vetoed by Haslam, that would have made the Holy Bible the state’s official book.

Transportation and infrastructure are a fundamental part of government’s role in protecting and promoting public safety and commerce, and in encouraging the ever-growing number of tourists to continue visiting Tennessee annually. Last year Haslam embarked on a multicity transportation tour where he listened to the wants of local officials and presented the financial picture.He said then that the present path does not work, and he promised to make transportation a significant priority during his second term.

There have been some important steps taken.

Haslam agreed to repay $142 million of the $262 million that the state had borrowed from the highway fund to cover a general fund gap. Last spring the governor presented a plan, which, with the newly passed federal highway funding law, will help build $2 billion in road and infrastructure projects over a three-year period.

It is a start, but it is not enough. While Tennessee’s roads are highly rated, congestion and wear and tear are getting worse. As a pay-as-you-go state, Tennessee does not borrow money to build roads.

The most significant revenue source from the state is the gas tax, which at 21.4 cents per gallon has not been raised since 1989. Meanwhile, the value of the tax has dropped in half, the cost to build roads has tripled, and many vehicles have become extremely fuel efficient while others do not even use gasoline to power them. An increase in the gas tax is the easiest thing to do because the mechanism exists to collect it.

However, there are numerous options the state could and should explore. Why not look at a financing structure that puts the burden on the drivers who use the roads the most? A mileage tax or tolls or a fee on heavier vehicles could address that. It may be tempting for legislators, once back in Nashville this month, to get distracted by other concerns.

While taking a vote on Insure Tennessee and voting to expel Reps. Jeremy Durham and Joe Armstrong for bad behavior would be welcome, there also is the prospect of more frivolous legislation being considered before November’s presidential election.

The best thing lawmakers could do is keep focused on the assigned task and use this time as a jumping-off point for greater action on transportation in the months ahead.   - David Plazas in The Tennessean (subscription)

A Memphis original

Happy Birthday Piggly Wiggly: Modern grocery shopping turns 100

Today is the 100th anniversary of one of Memphis's far-reaching contributions to the nation: The modern grocery store. The aggressive salesman of wholesale groceries, Clarence Saunders, opened his first Piggly Wiggly at 79 Jefferson on Sept. 6, 1916, with great fanfare.

Until then, shoppers walked to a front counter, told the clerk what they wanted, and the clerk went to the back to fetch the food items. Saunders created the more efficient way of giving the shoppers a basket and letting them serve themselves as they walked along shelves full of food products before leaving through a check-out counter.

In promoting that first grand opening, Saunders laid out the rules: "There will be no backward movements in the Piggly Wiggly -- no turning around or back-stepping. Once you pass the revolving gate that swings out one way at the entrance... you will have to complete the circuit of the store.''

The new way caught on fast. By 1922 there were 1,200 Piggly Wiggly stores in 29 states. Today, the retail chain is based in Keene, New Hampshire, and operates 600 stores, primarily in the Southeast.  - Memphis Commercial Appeal (subscription)

Doobies catch a break 

Nashville police changes position on pot decriminalization bill

The Metro Nashville Police Department has gone from being opposed to Nashville’s proposed marijuana decriminalization ordinance to now having a neutral stance on the bill following tweaks planned for the legislation by the bill’s Metro Council sponsors.

The proposal, which heads to a critical second of three council votes on Tuesday night, would lessen the penalty for people who knowingly possess a half-ounce of marijuana or less to a $50 civil penalty of 10 hours of community service.

In an email late Friday to council members, Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson, said the language as originally filed made it mandatory that an officer issue a civil citation when someone is found possessing a half-ounce of marijuana or less.

“After discussion with the sponsor, it is my understanding that this mandatory language has now been removed,” Anderson wrote in his email.

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, whose office presides over Nashville’s jails,announced last week that he supports the spirit of the Nashville decriminalization ordinance.  - The Tennessean (subscription)

Big Orange

Battle at Bristol: Guide to gameday

The Tennessee Vols will play against the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday, September 10 at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m.

For fans who can't make it to Bristol, the game will air on ABC starting at 8 p.m.

Schedule of the weekend:

While the game starts Saturday evening, the fan experience gets underway Friday morning.

The parking lots open at the Bristol Motor Speedway at 9 a.m. and the first concert starts at 2 p.m. Kenny Chesney, The Band Perry and Old Dominion will headline the concert series. They start playing at 6:25 p.m. Friday.

Parking lots open at 7 a.m. Saturday and the fan zone opens at 8 a.m. Concerts start at 12:30 p.m.

Gates open for game at 4 p.m.

The Vol Walk starts at 5:30 p.m.

Carter Winter will play a final concert, scheduled for 11 p.m. Saturday.

Stadium security:

Fans will need to have a ticket to get into the Speedway property at all perimeter gate checkpoints. They will need to display their tickets on a lanyard throughout the entire day.

Just like Neyland Stadium, fans will need to make sure they are carrying to correct bag into the game.

Fans can have clutch purses no bigger than 4.5 inches X 6.5 inches. They may bring in clear bags no bigger than 18 inches X 18 inches X 6 inches.

Binoculars will be allowed in the stadium, but binocular cases will not be. Also cameras with detachable lenses that measure more than 5 inches and camera/lens combinations that measure more than 8 inches are not allowed.

No coolers, outside drinks or food, will be permitted through the stadium gates. This is unlike the Speedway's regular races.

Staff will check bags at the gates. Backpacks and other prohibited items will not be allowed to be left at the gates. Fans will either need to store these things in their car or throw away before going in the stadium.

You can view a full list of prohibited items on

There will be no reentry. Once a fan's ticket is scanned at the gates to get in, that fan cannot leave the stadium and get back in.   - WVLT Knoxville

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It's the Electoral College stupid
A new 50-state poll shows exactly why Clinton holds the advantage over Trump

With nine weeks until Election Day, Donald Trump is within striking distance in the Upper Midwest, but Hillary Clinton’s strength in many battlegrounds and some traditional Republican strongholds gives her a big electoral college advantage, according to a 50-state Washington Post-SurveyMonkey poll.

The survey of all 50 states is the largest sample ever undertaken by The Post, which joined with SurveyMonkey and its online polling resources to produce the results. The state-by-state numbers are based on responses from more than 74,000 registered voters during the period of Aug. 9 to Sept. 1. The individual state samples vary in size from about 550 to more than 5,000, allowing greater opportunities than typical surveys to look at different groups within the population and compare them from state to state.

The massive survey highlights a critical weakness in Trump’s candidacy — an unprecedented deficit for a Republican among college-educated white voters, especially women. White college graduates have been loyal Republican voters in recent elections, but Trump is behind Clinton with this group across much of the country, including in some solidly red states.

Electoral votes:

In a two-way competition between the major-party candidates, Clinton leads by four points or more in 20 states plus the District of Columbia. Together they add up to 244 electoral votes, 26 shy of the 270 needed to win.

Trump leads by at least four points in 20 states as well, but those add up to just 126 electoral votes. In the 10 remaining states, which hold 168 electoral votes, neither candidate has a lead of four percentage points or better.   - The Washington Post (subscription)

If it quacks like a duck

Pay to Play, Mr. Trump?

In light of the suspicions hanging over Donald Trump and Pam Bondi, the Florida attorney general, this opening quote from her Republican National Convention speech is particularly rich. “Nov. 8 is a day of reckoning for all those who have abused their power,” she said. “Winning this election means reclaiming something to which I’ve dedicated my entire career: the rule of law.” 

While it hasn’t been proved that Mr. Trump or Ms. Bondi violated bribery law, there’s little doubt that they abused the public trust in 2013, when Ms. Bondi received a $25,000 campaign contribution from Mr. Trump four days after her office announced that Florida was “reviewing the allegations” in a lawsuit filed in New York against his Trump University. 

Attorneys general in New York and California are pursuing separate class-action suits alleging that Trump University bilked consumers of tens of thousands of dollars they each paid for a worthless real-estate investment course. In the end, Ms. Bondi’s office did not take any action against Trump University.  The New York Times (subscription)

Bad for business

Is Donald Trump’s campaign hurting his hotel chain?

When it comes to Donald Trump’s eponymous hotels, the name brand can work both ways these days.

“I’m quite sure that the campaign will negatively impact the new Trump Hotel, as it has the entire portfolio,” said Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations. “I know from industry insiders that business is down at least 30 percent at their other properties. Our numbers with Trump are consistent with that projection.”

Surveys and booking sites show that many consumers are avoiding hotels in Trump’s portfolio. The booking site Hipmunk reported that its reservations for Trump hotels are down nearly 60 percent over this time last year. Because Trump’s hotel group is part of a privately held international conglomerate, the company is not obligated to disclose its finances to the public.

Those most likely to stay in a Trump Hotel are over 65, from a rural community in the South, or earn between $50,000 and $75,000. Least likely to stay in a Trump hotel are travelers between 25 and 34.

People in the top three income tiers of the study said they were less likely to stay at a Trump hotel. That’s troublesome news for a luxury hotel chain.  - The Boston Globe (subscription)

And yet again - there's no "there" there

New trove of Clinton Benghazi emails proves thin

A set of about 30 Benghazi-related messages found by the FBI during their investigation into Hillary Clinton's private email system turns out to contain little fodder for critics or supporters of the Democratic presidential nominee.

In a court filing early Wednesday morning, government lawyers said a closer review of the records the FBI located revealed only one of the messages was entirely absent from those produced by previous State Department searches: a flattering note sent by a veteran U.S. diplomat following her testimony on Benghazi before a Senate panel in January 2013.

"I watched with great admiration as she dealt with a tough and personally painful issue in a fair, candid and determined manner," then-U.S. Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon wrote in a message sent to State Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills official account and forwarded on by Mills to Clinton's personal one. 

"I was especially impressed by her ability to turn aside the obvious efforts to politicize the events in Benghazi, reminding Americans of the tremendous sacrifice made by Chris Stevens and his colleagues but also insisting that our ability to play a positive role in the world and protect U.S. interests requires a willingness to take risks."   - Politico  

Thought for the day: 

"Do you mind if I sit back a little? Because your breath is very bad."  - Donald Trump to CNN's Larry King

Can't wait for the debate


Your CPI Daily Buzz, September 6, 2016

We hope you had a great Labor Day weekend. Now brace yourselves, the Fall campaign season is upon us. But first, some Tennessee news.

Worry about Tennessee pensions

Despite weak returns, Tennessee pension still strong, officials say

The Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System, posted anemic returns and missed investment targets for two years in a row, weighing on its ability to meet obligations to state workers, teachers and retirees.

In 2015, the fund generated returns of 3.3 percent, falling short of its 7.5 percent target. In the most recent fiscal year, ending June 2016, the pension earned 2.8 percent.

Despite the two years of lackluster results, Tennessee Treasurer David Lillard says the state’s pension remains healthy and that the stronger returns in previous years help cushion the recent blows. In 2014 and in 2011, for example, the TCRS more than doubled expectations, reaping nearly 17 and nearly 20 percent returns.

“The liability horizon we invest for is a very long-term horizon," Lillard said. "Unless you are an extremely badly funded pension, you have an ability to ride out any downturns that may occur.”

Across the nation, public pension funds have struggled as interest rates stay at record lows, people live longer and lower contributions from past years haunt current returns. Moody’s Investors Service estimates unfunded public pension liabilities totaled $1.3 trillion in 2014.

In fact, Lillard calls the pension’s strength “a point of pride for Tennesseans” and his confidence in the state’s pension is not unfounded. The state has a AAA bond rating from Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody's and TCRS is ranked as one of the top four funded pensions in the nation by the Pew Charitable Trusts. As of last year, Tennessee was 99 percent funded, according to Lillard's office, compared to the national median of 59 percent funded, reported by Moody’s.

Even so, Tennessee’s investment returns over the past 10 years is 6 percent, failing to meet the 7.5 percent target. “We are the best house in a bad neighborhood,” said Stephen Frohsin, a principal at Woodmont Investment Counsel in Nashville.   - The Tennessean (subscription)

Building for the Future

Tennessee State University plans massive development project

Tennessee State University is planning a sweeping, 84-acre development project along the Cumberland River.

Dubbed Cumberland City at TSU, the project is envisioned to include a hotel and conference center, a residential community and business incubation facility, along with innovation and research centers on the northwest side of campus. Plans for the site off Dr. Walter S. Davis Boulevard also call for a library and community resource center, a business partnership complex, restaurants and retail at the state's largest historically black university.

“If it’s developed as proposed, it will be a big plus for the community and the university,” said Metro Councilman Ed Kindall, whose district includes the university’s campus.

Kindall was among local community and business leaders present at a recent lunch gathering, where TSU President Glenda Glover shared the concept. Funding has been secured for a small portion of the project, with additional money expected to be pursued from the state and various private sources, Kindall said.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Money for schools

Once Reluctant, Metro Joins School Districts Suing For More State Funding

Nashville's public schools have officially joined the legal fight over state funding. The district follows Memphis and Chattanooga in suing Governor Bill Haslam to get more education money. But the complaint — approved in June and filed on Thursday — is particular to Nashville.

Metro Schools accuses the state of not keeping its commitments related to English learners. Schools are supposed to receive additional money for each student who is a non-native English speaker. That pays for more teachers and translators. For example, the lawsuit says schools are supposed to get one translator for every 200 students, but right now they're getting one for every 250.

More: Read Metro Schools' Lawsuit

In all, the district estimates it's missing out on more than $3 million a year. Nashville has more English learners than anywhere else, but school board member Will Pinkston says every district has some reason to gripe about the state's education funding, which lags the national average.

"The problem that we've got right now is not equity — how the pie is carved — but rather adequacy — the size of the pie," he says.

In the late 1970s, a school funding lawsuit focused on the fairness toward small districts. The outcome did lead to a new funding formula called the Basic Education Plan. But it took 15 years. That's why school districts are not expecting a swift resolution to the latest lawsuits.

More: NPR's Map On School Funding Lawsuits Around The Nation

In Tennessee, Hamilton County was the first to file suit along with a half dozen rural districts surrounding it. Shelby County Schools filed its lawsuit a year ago.   - WPLN 

Fixing the GOP supermajority's $60 million screwup

Haslam Plans Special Session To Deal With DUI Law, But Not Durham

Tennessee lawmakers will have to return to Nashville to solve a $60 million error in the state's new DUI law, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Friday. But he's not asking legislators to tackle calls to expel disgraced state Rep. Jeremy Durham while they're in town.

Haslam issued a formal call to fix a mistake in a law meant to raise the penalties for underage drunken driving. State lawmakers had meant to align the punishments for underage DUIs with those of other adults, but in doing so, they also raised the blood alcohol content limit for 18-year-olds to 21-year-olds to .08.

The federal government requires the limit for young adults to be set at .02, the same as for minors under 18. Authorities have threatened to withhold some of the state's highway funding if it's not fixed by Oct. 1.

But the call did not include language allowing them to debate the fate of Durham. The Franklin Republican faces calls for expulsion after being accused of sexual harassment and misusing campaign funds.

Haslam says it's not his role as governor to deal with Durham, but legislative leaders are welcome to if they choose. "I'll let other people decide that," he says.

The special session will take place on Sept. 12. It's unclear how much bringing lawmakers to town will cost taxpayers.

Durham will leave office in November, but not before qualifying for a state pension. Expulsion would deny him those payments. Lawmakers have shown little appetite for punishing him, however. Expulsion petitions came up far short of the signatures needed.

The special session call also does not include language to discuss expulsion of Knoxville Democrat Joe Armstrong. He was convicted last month of one federal count related to tax evasion.   - WPLN

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Where there's smoke - there's faulty assumptions

Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one?

Key Point: ". . . the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering."

In the heat of a presidential campaign, you’d think that a story about one party’s nominee giving a large contribution to a state attorney general who promptly shut down an inquiry into that nominee’s scam “university” would be enormous news. But we continue to hear almost nothing about what happened between Donald Trump and Florida attorney general Pam Bondi.

The story re-emerged last week when Trump paid a penalty to the IRS after his foundation made an illegal contribution to Bondi’s PAC. While the Trump organization characterizes that as a bureaucratic oversight, the basic facts are that Bondi’s office had received multiple complaints from Floridians who said they were cheated by Trump University; while they were looking into it and considering whether to join a lawsuit over Trump University filed by the attorney general of New York State, Bondi called Trump and asked him for a $25,000 donation; shortly after getting the check, Bondi’s office dropped the inquiry.

Whenever we get some new development in any of those Clinton stories, you see blanket coverage — every cable network, every network news program, every newspaper investigates it at length. And even when the new information serves to exonerate Clinton rather than implicate her in wrongdoing, the coverage still emphasizes that the whole thing just “raises questions” about her integrity.

When it comes to Trump, on the other hand, we’ve seen a very different pattern. Here’s what happens: A story about some kind of corrupt dealing emerges, usually from the dogged efforts of one or a few journalists; it gets discussed for a couple of days; and then it disappears. Someone might mention it now and again, but the news organizations don’t assign a squad of reporters to look into every aspect of it, so no new facts are brought to light and no new stories get written.

The end result of this process is that because of all that repeated examination of Clinton’s affairs, people become convinced that she must be corrupt to the core. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of negative coverage of Trump, because of course there is, but it’s focused mostly on the crazy things he says on any given day.

But the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering. Here’s a partial list:

  • Trump’s casino bankruptcies, which left investors holding the bag while he skedaddled with their money
  • Trump’s habit of refusing to pay contractors who had done work for him, many of whom are struggling small businesses
  • Trump University, which includes not only the people who got scammed and the Florida investigation, but also a similar story from Texas where the investigation into Trump U was quashed.
  • The Trump Institute, another get-rich-quick scheme in which Trump allowed a couple of grifters to use his name to bilk people out of their money
  • The Trump Network, a multi-level marketing venture (a.k.a. pyramid scheme) that involved customers mailing in a urine sample which would be analyzed to produce for them a specially formulated package of multivitamins
  • Trump Model Management, which reportedly had foreign models lie to customs officials and work in the U.S. illegally, and kept them in squalid conditions while they earned almost nothing for the work they did
  • Trump’s employment of foreign guest workers at his resorts, which involves a claim that he can’t find Americans to do the work
  • Trump’s use of hundreds of undocumented workers from Poland in the 1980s, who were paid a pittance for their illegal work
  • Trump’s history of being charged with housing discrimination
  • Trump’s connections to mafia figures involved in New York construction
  • The time Trump paid the Federal Trade Commission $750,000 over charges that he violated anti-trust laws when trying to take over a rival casino company
  • The fact that Trump is now being advised by Roger Ailes, who was forced out as Fox News chief when dozens of women came forward to charge him with sexual harassment. According to the allegations, Ailes’s behavior was positively monstrous; as just one indicator, his abusive and predatory actions toward women were so well-known and so loathsome that in 1968 the morally upstanding folks in the Nixon administration refused to allow him to work there despite his key role in getting Nixon elected.

And that last one is happening right now. If any of these kinds of stories involved Clinton, news organizations would rush to assign multiple reporters to them, those reporters would start asking questions, and we’d learn more about all of them.

That’s important, because we may have reached a point where the frames around the candidates are locked in: Trump is supposedly the crazy/bigoted one, and Clinton is supposedly the corrupt one. 

And it means that to a great extent, for all the controversy he has caused and all the unflattering stories in the press about him, Trump is still being let off the hook. - Washington Post (subscription)

Billy Moore Reports from Washington

The September congressional session begins Tuesday, with members looking over their shoulders at the campaign and toward the fiscal year finish line. A Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent an October 1 government shutdown is the only must-pass bill. Leaders also hope to advance a Zika funding measure, an energy bill conference, a water resources bill and a defense authorization conference.

House floor action this week is focused on relaxing regulation of smaller companies seeking potential investor capital. The Senate will continue finger-pointing over the death of a partisan $1.1 billion Zika funding bill that died because of poison pill amendments disqualifying Planned Parenthood from public-health grants. If efforts to renegotiate the package fail, look for Zika funding to become part of the CR, opening the package to emergency money for flood victims in Louisiana

The bipartisan coalition that passes the CR probably includes Republican appropriators, Democrats and defense hawks – and likely excludes conservative Republicans in the House Freedom Caucus. The coalition would appear to augur for a CR at current spending levels expiring in December. Democrats will likely prevent action on other legislative items until a path to enactment for Zika and a CR have been identified.

Republicans will seek to advance political message bills, including a veterans reform measure, impeachment of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue Service and renewed agitation over the Iran nuclear deal.  Democrats will continue to press for a vote on barring people on a terrorism list from purchasing guns.

Democrat Hillary Clinton began August with an average 7 percent advantage over Republican Donald Trump 44-37, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 8 percent. September began with Clinton holding an average 5 percent lead over Trump 42-37, probably reflecting an erosion of her post-convention bounce, with Johnson 8 percent. The September 26 presidential debate is the next opportunity for the candidates to change the contest's equilibrium.

Billy Moore is a partner at ViaNovo, a stategic consulting firm with office in Washington, DC, Dallas, Austin and Mexico City 

Thought for the day - some useful information for your Tuesday, from the Washington Post wonkblog:

How to never spill your coffee, according to science

The research was done by South Korean physics student Jiwon Han, who did the study while competing in a physics research tournament in Thailand. Han studied the motion of coffee using oscillators, a mechanical machine that shakes the glass to simulate the motion of walking. He also strapped an accelerometer to the top of his mug and walked around, to measure the exact motion the cup was going through.

Han also tests out walking backward, and finds that this approach is also effective at decreasing the movement of liquid in the cup. Yet walking backward with coffee also presents its own problems — like drastically increasing “the chances of tripping on a stone or crashing into a passing-by colleague who may also be walking backward,” Han says.

So what’s the best solution? The secret is that the splashes are partly because of the additional motion that your wrist introduces to the cup when you walk. If you strapped your coffee around your waist, you’d be less likely to spill it, but that also seems strange and impractical. So Han suggests the next best thing: carrying your coffee with a “claw” hand, in which you grip the rim of the cup from above. In this position, there’s less movement of the wrist, greatly reducing the oscillation in the liquid.

He finds some other solutions such as: Foam is very effective at dampening oscillations on liquid, as the chart below shows. So you can order a cappuccino. You could also, of course, just get a taller cup or use a lid.

To some, this might seem like very pointless research. But in a TED talk given last year, Han said the research has applications in other aspects of society as well — like how to prevent spilling oil from a fuel tank, for example. But for those in offices, it just might help keep coffee in your cup.  - Wonkblog (subscription)


Your CPI Daily Buzz - September 1, 2016

Bait - switch - lie  

Donald Trump's Mexico visit ends with Mexico disputing his comments

Over the past 14 months, Donald Trump has been telling anyone within shouting distance that he will not only build a big, beautiful border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but also that Mexico would somehow be made to pay for it. It's among the most brazen claims he has made as a presidential candidate — the idea that a foreign country would fund the construction of a wall built mostly to protect the United States. 

And yet, Trump said that this did not come up during Trump's meeting Wednesday with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump said that the small matter of who pays for his massive border wall — at an estimated cost of between $15 billion and $25 billion, per The Washington Post's Glenn Kessler — somehow wasn't mentioned during his meeting with the man whose government would be footing the bill.  - The Fix, Washington Post (subscription)

Top tweets on Trump's immigration day

@AnnCoulter: "I hear Churchill had a nice turn of phrase, but Trump's immigration speech is the most magnificent speech ever given." ... "I think I'll watch this speech every night before going to bed so that I will sleep like a baby." ... 

@DrDavidDuke: "Excellent speech by Donald Trump tonight. Deport criminal aliens, end catch and release, enforce immigration laws & America First." ... 

@HolmesJosh: "Had Donald Trump gone home and watched a re-run of the apprentice tonight he would've resurrected his candidacy. Instead, this..." ... 

@MattMackowiak: "I promise you: Brooklyn is high-fiving tonight. Nothing about that speech will make them worry politically. The Hispanic vote is gone."

Biggest story of the day - GOP voter suppression loses at SCOTUS

Supreme Court Denies North Carolina’s Plea To Restore Swath Of Voting Restrictions

The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a last-ditch requestfrom North Carolina to reinstate a controversial set of voting restrictions that would have taken effect in the lead-up to the November election.

In a one-sentence order that did not include any reasoning, the high court declined the state’s petition, which sought to put on hold a July ruling that found the voting law discriminated against African-Americans and compared it to a relic of the Jim Crow era.

The state failed to convince at least five justices that three provisions of the contested law ― its voter ID requirement, cutbacks to early voting and elimination of pre-registration for certain under-18 voters ― were worth putting back on the books. The state had argued the measures were necessary to avoid “confusion” that might keep people away from the polls.   - Huffington Post 

Lawman okays doobies

Sheriff Hall: Nashville pot decriminalization bill is 'step in right direction’

Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall says he supports an effort to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Nashville, calling it a “step in the right direction” to reduce incarceration rates of young people who he says don’t benefit from being in jail for the offense.

 He told The Tennessean this week that he supports “the sprit” of an ordinance under consideration in the Metro Council that would lessen the penalty for people who knowingly possess a half-ounce of marijuana or less to a $50 civil penalty or 10 hours of community service.

“Some estimates are that 20 percent of people who are going to jails and prisons in this country are for very small amounts of marijuana or other drugs, obviously,” he said. “I haven’t discussed it with the sponsors or anything, but I just believe it’s the right direction.”

Hall, whose office oversees Nashville’s jails, said he doesn’t believe arresting people for possession of small amounts of marijuana has proven beneficial. The proposal would let violators avoid a criminal record.  - The Tennessean (subscription)

 Staff too busy researching bathroom bills?

Democratic Lawmakers Blame Harwell For Tennessee's $60 Million Error

Democratic lawmakers say Tennessee could lose $60 million in federal highway funding because the state legislature is overworking its research staff. They say efforts to shorten the legislative session have caused analysts to overlook important details. They say Republican leaders have squeezed the staffers on General Assembly's Fiscal Review Committee, leaving it "understaffed and unable to keep up (with) the demands placed upon them."

"How can we be surprised that this happened?" House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Stewart said in a prepared statement. "Speaker (Beth) Harwell needs to take action ... before something else slips through the cracks."

Democrats say haste has consequences. Last spring, researchers failed to note a new DUI law broke federal mandates by raising the blood-alcohol limit for 18 to 21-year-olds to .08. The increase was part of a broader measure meant to increase the penalties for underage DUIs. But federal law requires states to set the legal limit for young adults at .02. Authorities in Washington say they'll withhold $60 million dollars unless it's fixed by Oct. 1.

That mistake could force legislators to come back this fall for a special session to fix the DUI law. The session would cost Tennessee taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

The Tennessee Department of Transportation has asked federal authorities to agree to wait until January, when lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene. A spokeswoman says they've not yet heard a response to their request.  - WPLN  

 Blackburn under fire

National abortion rights group targets Marsha Blackburn

Emboldened by a Supreme Court ruling that struck down abortion restrictions in Texas, a national pro-choice group is taking the fight for reproductive rights to other deep-red states. The group’s first stop is Tennessee. Its first target is Rep. Marsha Blackburn.

NARAL Pro-Choice America has dispatched a group of activists to the state to help organize a network of supporters who will push to expand access to reproductive rights and abortion services in the state. The network also could be tapped to work to defeat political candidates who oppose abortion.

The program, called Tennessee Total Access, could eventually expand to other red states, said James Owens, NARAL’s states communications director.

“This is a very targeted effort to go into places like Tennessee that have not traditionally been hotbeds of pro-choice sentiment,” Owens said.

The activists have been on the ground in Tennessee since June. They have been going door to door to sign up new NARAL members, buying ads and billboards to spread the pro-choice message and attending concerts, fairs, festivals and other cultural events to reach other people who favor reproductive rights.

Although the campaign is statewide, most of its resources are focused on Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Clarksville and Murfreesboro.  - The Tennessean (subscription)

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Except for that whole #nevertrump thing

GOP Establishment trounces tea party in congressional primaries

It turns out the ultimate year of the outsider is pretty much limited to Donald Trump.

Establishment-aligned GOP primary candidates for Congress beat conservative challengers this summer in just about every major matchup, a stark reversal of the dynamic that’s driven Republican politics since 2010.  

Tea party candidates failed to take out a single GOP incumbent this year; among the higher-profile targets who survived were Sen. John McCain of Arizona, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas and Reps. John Shimkus of Illinois and Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania.

More glaring, given the difficulty of toppling an incumbent, was the inability of conservatives groups like the Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund to capture more than a handful of open seats, as conservative candidates who pledged to vote with the far-right House Freedom Caucus fell to contenders backed by mainstream Republican groups, including two in Arizona and Florida on Tuesday.  -  

Beating a losing horse

Trump triples down on a losing immigration proposition

This is bigger than one election: Trump is causing massive LONG-TERM damage to the Republican brand. We’re not focusing on it right now because we’re 68 days out from an election, but it is hard to overstate what an unmitigated disaster this is for the party in the Sunbelt, the intermountain West and beyond. 

Many political professionals from both parties privately believed Trump’s trip to Mexico to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto was a master stroke, an audacious move that made Trump look serious and presidential on a global stage. Rightly or wrongly, even some critics believed that the billionaire projected pragmatism and showed that he could be effective at cutting deals. 

But then came Phoenix.

This is bigger than one election. Trump is causing massive long term damage to the Republican brand. We’re not focusing on it right now because we’re 68 days out from an election, but it is hard to overstate what an unmitigated disaster this is for the party in the Sunbelt, the intermountain West and beyond.   - The Daily 202, Washington Post (subscription)

Donald, your pants are on fire

Fact-checking Trump's immigration speech

Over the past week, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has twisted the facts on illegal immigration, and the plans of his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as he struggled to explain what he would do with the estimated 11 million people who are living in the U.S. illegally.

  • Trump was wrong in saying that “using the existing laws, millions of people are deported every year.” The peak for removals based on deportation orders dating to 1892 was 435,498 in fiscal 2013.
  • Trump wrongly said “nearly 200,000 illegal immigrants” booked into Texas jails “were responsible for more than half a million criminal offenses.” State data show 130,000 were arrested over a five-year period, and their convictions, over their lifetimes, totaled 157,000.
  • Trump said that “nobody even knows” if there are 11 million immigrants in the country illegally, adding that the number could be 30 million or 5 million. But several independent estimates agree on the 11 million number, and experts say it’s impossible for the number to be as high, or as low, as Trump says.
  • Trump exaggerated when he said Clinton will “close down detention centers for border crossings, meaning she will have an open southern border that will bring … crime and destruction.” Clinton has said she would replace privately run centers with government-run facilities.
  • Trump claimed Clinton’s immigration plan “would functionally end enforcement of visa overstay rules — another open border decree.” But her plan does not address visa overstays. To the contrary, Clinton supported a 2013 Senate bill that included a provision to create a new system to track, locate and remove visa overstays.
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump supporter, falsely said that “everybody … whether you’ve been a criminal or not” would become “American citizens” under Clinton’s plan. In fact, Clinton has specifically said she would deport “violent” or “dangerous” criminals, “terrorists” and “anyone who threatens our safety.”  -  

Mobbed up

Donald Trump Dealt With a Series of People Who Had Mob Ties

GOP nominee Donald Trump, as a builder in New York and Atlantic City decades ago, sometimes dealt with people who had ties to organized crime, a Wall Street Journal examination of his career shows.

They included a man law enforcement called an agent of the Philadelphia mob; a gambler convicted of tax fraud; a union leader found guilty of racketeering; and a real-estate developer convicted in a stock scheme that involved Mafiosi.

Trump said he either had only cursory relationships with them or wasn't aware of their ties at the time, calling himself "the cleanest guy there is."   - The Wall Street Journal (subscription)

Thought for the day:

"Leave the gun.  Take the cannolis."  - Tessio in 'The Godfather'


Your CPI Daily Buzz, August 31, 2016

Fed cash to fight drug abuse 

Tennessee gets federal funding to fight opioid overdoses

Tennessee is set to receive federal funding that can be used to improve opioid prescription tracking databases and enhance community awareness programs.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is distributing $53 million in funding for various programs that bolster opioid overdose awareness and addiction treatment services to 44 states, Washington, D.C., and four tribes.

Tennessee will get funding from two buckets of allocations. The awards were competitive and states had to apply for funding.

The funding from the strategic prevention framework state incentive grant can be used for programs to raise awareness of prescription misuse and the hazards of sharing medications. Twenty-one states and four tribes will receive money from a pool of $9 million.

Tennessee also will receive money to continue work on its initiatives tracking overdose death rates and providers' prescribing habits through enhancements to its prescription drug monitoring program. There are 14 states splitting up to $11.5 million in funding.   - The Tennessean (subscription)  

Insurance politics 

Legislators spar over Obamacare rate hike

The Tennessee insurance commissioner is under fire from legislators from both parties who are using the recent Obamacare rate approvals as a game of political football highlighting the deeply divided partisan rhetoric in the state about the Affordable Care Act.

On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Yarbro and Rep. John Ray Clemmons, both Democrats of Nashville, called for legislative hearings to investigate whether the premium increases requested by insurers and approved by the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance were a political maneuver to destabilize the Obamacare exchange in Tennessee.

Yarbo said that although more than 80 percent of people on the exchange won’t see significant changes in what they pay next year, those who do purchase health insurance who aren’t covered by federal subsidies will be drastically impacted.

“That is unacceptable to Tennessee consumers,” he said. “The administration didn’t just pass the buck, they punted responsibility as far away from themselves as possible."

The increases underscore the complex environment of the exchange. People who buy plans on the exchange are heavier users of services than anticipated. In addition, there are changes to federal transitional programs in 2017 that will impact insurers financially.

Yarbro said McPeak has used the Affordable Care Act as a “convenient excuse” as a way of transferring blame away from Tennessee and that if she were trying to stabilize the marketplace — which he said is her job — she would not be saying that the exchange in Tennessee is "very near collapse."

“It’s a disjointed effort that I think reveals that the administration didn’t want to take the heat for these rate increases and was looking for someone to blame,” Yarbro said.

“The question is whether you have a frank discussion that gets to the bottom of why Tennessee is a little bit of an outlier in this situation or whether we just use it as a punching bag for a political agenda," Yarbro said.

When reached Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, who serves as chairman of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, said he disagreed with Yarbro and Clemmons' call for a hearing.

"There is no need to hold hearings at this time," he said, adding that he has had talks with both the department and insurance companies which have led him to believe the rate increases are the result of something that he's known for a while.   - Tennessean (subscription)

One gun, one conviction

Court strikes down Knox method of applying gun law

In its decision, the court . . . struck down as flawed the use of a law designed to target gun violence to boost penalties for a single gunman using a single gun to commit more than one crime in a single incident.

The state Legislature in 2007 approved a law designed to target gun violence by making it a separate crime to use a gun in carrying out certain dangerous felonies. Thanks to a legal attack by attorney Gerald Gulley in Harbison's case, the appellate court is for the first time since the law passed putting the brakes on a practice — widespread in Knox County — of filing repeated charges under that law in a single criminal case.

In an opinion drafted by Appellate Judge D. Kelly Thomas Jr., the court says its rationale is simple — one gun, one conviction, no matter how many separate crimes the gunman commits or how many people are victimized at one time.  - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

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Time for a few actual facts

Actually, The Clinton Foundation Does A Lot Of Good 

The Republican Party leadership has become obsessed with inventing Democratic scandals by ignoring or twisting the facts. Their latest tall tale is to fabricate numerous scandals out of one of the most effective and respected global charities in the world, the Clinton Foundation.

The established facts rate the Clinton Foundation higher than the average of other similar charities. CharityWatch, one of the most respected organizations that rate charities gave the Clinton Foundation an “A” rating. That grade in part is based on the amount of total dollars that contribute to the mission of the charity. The Clinton Foundation was evaluated and it was determined that 89% of the funds raised goes to charitable works. The average for similar charities is 75% so the Clinton Foundation significantly exceeds the average. As an example CharityWatch rates the Red Cross with an “A-“. confirmed that 89% of Clinton Foundation donations benefit the recipients. By using only 11% of donations for overhead puts the Clinton Foundation near the top in efficiency of their charitable operations.

One of the other unfounded accusations is that the Clintons have gotten rich from the Clinton Foundation. That is patently false. Neither Bill Clinton nor Hillary Clinton have ever taken a salary from the Foundation. Bill Clinton’s goal in building the Foundation has always been to raise money for charitable works. Republicans continue to claim Hillary Clinton has enriched herself by donations made to the Foundation. The RNC attack dog Priebus has accused Hillary Clinton of personally getting donations from foreign governments. Politifactexamined Priebus claim and concluded that the donations went to the Clinton Foundation, not Hillary Clinton.

Both Clintons have been paid for speech-making separate from the Foundation. It’s important to note most past presidents are in demand and are paid to give speeches. It’s estimated former President George W. Bush has made between $20-30 million from paid speeches since leaving office. Ronald Reagan came under scrutiny when he was paid $2 million for just 2 speeches in Japan after leaving office.

Trump continues to repeat this bizarre claim that “the Clinton Foundation is the most corrupt enterprise in political history.” His claim is especially farcical since Trump donated at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Politifact confirmed that Trump has given between $100,000 to $250,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Ivanka Trump and her father-in-law have contributed as well. One must ask, if Trump and his family think the Clinton Foundation is so corrupt, why did they contribute?

The most important discussion should be devoted to the incredible work the Clinton Foundation has accomplished rather than trying to smear them with unsubstantiated accusations.

Since 2002 the Clinton Health Initiative has worked to lower the cost of HIV/AIDs drugs to numerous African nations. It’s estimated 9 million people have benefited from lower-cost, life-saving HIV/AIDs drugs. Would Republicans prefer the Clintons raise money to build luxury golf courses as Trump has done?

One of the major successes of the Clinton Foundation was a joint effort with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to improve health care for women and girls around the globe. Their combined efforts focused on reducing mortality rates and malnutrition in developing countries. Overall the Clinton Foundation is credited with improving the health of over 25 million people in the United States by facilitating $100 million in strategic investments. Their investments have improved the lives of more than 430 million people globally through more than 2,800 commitments made by Clinton Global Initiative members.

These are a few of the phenomenal achievements of the Clinton Foundation that deserve our whole-hearted gratitude. The Clinton Foundation is a model for success that should be emulated worldwide, not scandalized with falsehoods.  - Iowa Daily Democrat 

But here's a real scandal for you


"It was like modern-day slavery."

Republican nominee Donald Trump has placed immigration at the core of his presidential campaign. He has claimed that undocumented immigrants are "taking our jobs" and "taking our money," pledged to deport them en masse, and vowed to build a wall on the Mexican border. 

But the mogul's New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother JonesFinancialand immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump's agency in the United States without a proper visa.

Each of the three former Trump models said she arrived in New York with dreams of making it big in one of the world's most competitive fashion markets. But without work visas, they lived in constant fear of getting caught. "I was pretty on edge most of the time I was there," Anna said of the three months in 2009 she spent in New York working for Trump's agency.

"I was there illegally," she said. "A sitting duck."  - Mother Jones  

Watch what you say to Fido

Your dog really does know what you’re saying, and a brain scan shows how

Your dog gets you. I mean, he really gets you.

No, really — he actually does. So say scientists in Hungary, who have published a groundbreaking study that found dogs understand both the meaning of words and the intonation used to speak them. Put simply: Even if you use a very excited tone of voice to tell the dog he’s going to the vet, he’ll probably see through you and be bummed about going.

It had already been established that dogs respond to human voices better than their wolf brethren, are able to match hundreds of objects to words and learn elements of grammar, and can be directed by human speech. But the new findings mean dogs are more like humans than was previously known: They process language using the same regions of the brain as people, according to the researchers, whose paper was published in Science.  - The Washington Post (subscription)

Thought for the day:

"No good deed goes unpunished."  - Oscar Wilde


How Donald Trump prepares for debates



Your CPI Daily Buzz, August 30,2016


Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?

Feds open investigation of Rep. Jeremy Durham

Federal prosecutors have opened an investigation into campaign expenditures by embattled Franklin Rep. Jeremy Durham, his lawyer told The Tennessean on Monday.

Nashville criminal defense attorney Peter Strianse said he was recently retained by Durham.

"The U.S. Attorney's Office in Nashville has opened up a matter based on the allegations that were carried in your newspaper," he said. "I think the government has an open mind about what they're investigating."

The federal government has issued two subpoenas to Durham for records related to campaign finance issues and a possible tax violation, Strianse said. He said Durham was complying with those orders.  - Tennessean (subscription)


Haslam Hopes To Avoid Calling Lawmakers Back To Nashville To Fix New Underage DUI Law

Gov. Bill Haslam hopes to avoid calling a special session to fix the state's drunk driving laws, but he says the possibility of losing $60 million if Tennessee doesn't might just force him to do so.


The problem is the state's limit for blood alcohol content for 18- to 20-year-olds. Federal highway authorities say it has to be .02, but Tennessee lawmakers raised it to .08 earlier this year.


The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told state officials last week that it will dock Tennessee's highway funds if the state doesn't bring the limit back down by Oct. 1.  -WPLN 

 Global barbeque

NASA: Earth Warming at a Pace ‘Unprecedented in 1,000 Years’

Earth is warming at a pace that is unprecedented for the past 1,000 years, NASA scientists report. It is, experts say, “very unlikely” that the planet can stay within a 1.5 degree Celsius temperature-increase limit “agreed by nations just last year,” wrote The Guardian. 2016 has seen record temperatures the world over and the pace and nature of the warming over decades is perilously out of step with any other time period over the past millennium, officials say. 

“In the last 30 years, we’ve really moved into exceptional territory,” said Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “It’s unprecedented in 1,000 years. There’s no period that has the trend seen in the 20th century in terms of the inclination [of temperatures].”  - The Daily Beast  

Make yourself right at home

Gov. Haslam: Tennessee tourism spending broke records last year, topping $18 billion

Tennessee tourism spending broke all records last year, topping $18 billion for the first time, Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday. Direct travel spending totaled $18.4 billion, a 3.7 percent increase, and five Tennessee counties topped $1 billion in spending.

"Why talk about tourism (growth), besides being able to talk about good news?" Haslam said to a crowd of more than 100 elected and tourism officials this morning. "It means jobs and, secondly, it means revenue." Sales tax collections from tourism rose 7 percent to $1.6 billion. "Tourism growth means more jobs and more funding for the things we care about," Haslam said.

Tourism spending, Haslam said, generates $18 in revenue for every dollar the state spends on tourism development.  - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

Caucus supports cities on legalization

Tenn. Black Caucus endorses efforts to decriminalize small amounts of pot

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators on Monday announced it is supporting efforts in Memphis and Nashville to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Nashville's Metro Council has passed on first reading a new ordinance that would lessen the penalty for possession of a half-ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil penalty or 10 hours of community service.

A Memphis City Council committee passed a similar ordinance last week, and it is scheduled to be considered by the full council next month.

Black caucus chairwoman Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville, said the efforts of the two cities go hand-in-hand with caucus efforts to target criminal justice reform across the state.

The caucus' announcement comes a week after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters he is "not a fan" of the decriminalization efforts.  - Memphis Commerical Appeal (subscription)

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Russians prepping to "rig" election?

FBI Warns of Cyberattacks on Voter Records

After a Russian hacker gained access to login credentials used by Arizona state election officials, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning state officials about the growing threat of hackers penetrating their computer networks.

The alert, which also came after an attempted computer breach at the Illinois voter registration system, raised fears of interference in the November elections by criminal groups and even foreign governments. 

The incidents mark the latest episodes in what U.S. officials fear is becoming a pattern of cyberattacks by hackers seeking to infiltrate and possibly influence the coming elections.

Democrats and some cybersecurity experts have accused Russian intelligence agencies of being behind the recent attacks on several Democratic Party organizations, but Russian officials have denied any involvement.

What makes some of these attacks different from past intrusions is that much of the stolen information has been leaked by entities such as WikiLeaks and a hacker or group of hackers going by the name Guccifer 2.0.

The impact of the breaches is unclear, but computer security experts and U.S. officials have expressed concerns that they could reflect a broad, if haphazard, attempt to influence the vote.

“It shows a deliberate effort to influence or get involved in elections here in the U.S., which should be problematic for us on many levels,” said Amit Yoran, president of RSA, a cybersecurity firm.   - The Wall Street Journal (subscription)

History repeats itself . . . sort of 

Huma Abedin, the Good Wife, Reaches Her Limit With Anthony Weiner

With Hillary Clinton’s top aide by his side, the fallen congressman had remained a ‘big wheel in this town’ despite multiple sexting scandals—until now.

More than two centuries after the first big American political sex scandal, the original Good Wife continues her eternal repose at the foot of her husband’s grave in Trinity Church cemetery in Lower Manhattan. He of course has the grander stone, a white marble pyramid whose inscription reads:

“Alexander Hamilton

The SOLDIER of approved VALOUR.

The STATESMAN of consummate WISDOM:

Whose TALENTS and VIRTUES will be admired

Long after this MARBLE will have mouldered into DUST.
He died July 12th, 1804, aged 47.”



Born at Albany Aug. 9th, 1757

Died at Washington Nov. 9th 1854


The stone makes no mention of her own accomplishments, which included founding the country’s first private orphanage and spearheading the construction of the Washington Monument. Neither inscription hints that along with being a PATRIOT, SOLDIER, and STATESMAN of such INTEGRITY and VIRTUE, Alexander Hamilton was also a PHILANDERER who shtupped a twentysomething tootsie in his marital bed while his wife was away on vacation.

When the scandal broke, the political damage to Hamilton was mitigated by word that his mistress’ husband had been blackmailing him and that the whole thing might have been a set-up.

But what really saved him was his wife’s decision to remain at his side, just as Hillary Clinton would remain at Bill Clinton’s side after he was caught playing around with an intern, and just as Huma Abedin remained at Anthony Weiner’s side the first two times he was caught sexting with other women.

Even when it came to decidedly e-w-w-w transgressions such as Weiner’s, people generally seemed willing to take a cue from the wife when she was the one who had most cause to feel aggrieved. How can you condemn a guy for cheating when his wife—the very one against whom he transgressed—signals in the most public ways that she is standing by him despite it all?

After his first sexting scandal forced Weiner to resign from Congress, Abedin was so rock steady that just two years later he was leading the polls in his comeback candidacy for mayor of New York City. Those hopes ended when he was caught again, but he still had Abedin. And her steadfast presence reinforced our general willingness to give somebody a second or even a third chance.

Abedin here apparently reached a limit, along with the rest of us. Weiner is now not even a nobody in New York and it is suddenly hard to imagine how he will continue living here. 

Trump naturally sought political advantage in the new scandal involving the husband of Hillary’s top aide. Trump suggested, “Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Anthony Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information.”

In the same statement that offered this ridiculous assertion, Trump was actually right about something. He said of Abedin’s decision to separate from Weiner, “She will be better off without him.”

That was true enough, but as she steps away, Abedin leaves us with the example of someone who strove for years to do all she could to save her marriage, perhaps out of love, certainly for the sake of her son.

Abedin is a true sister in spirit to Eliza Hamilton and all the Good Wives who followed. Maybe Weiner imagined that her being such a Good Wife meant she would stand by him no matter what his compulsions prompted him to do. But a true Good Wife is not a sap. And she is no less a Good Wife if she decides that staying is no longer in the best interests of herself and her family.

Someone as smart and strong and determined and altogether wonderful as Eliza Hamilton could surely have found somebody else had she so chosen in the half century between her husband’s death and her own. She is not taking her eternal rest at the foot of his grave because she had no other options in life.

Abedin, like Eliza a Great American as well as a Good Wife, also surely has other options. One of them is to leave her e-w-w-w husband and concentrate on helping another Good Wife become the first woman president. 

As for Weiner, the thing to do now is to honor Abedin and forget him altogether.   - Michael Daly in The Daily Beast  


Lawsuits: Trump’s Doctor ‘Overmedicated’ Patients Who Died in His Care

Penning Donald Trump’s enthusiastic clean bill of health in five minutes may have been one of Dr. Harold Bornstein’s least consequential mistakes. In 2002, he paid $86,250 to the husband of a former patient to settle a lawsuit alleging that Bornstein overmedicated his wife with powerful, unneeded prescriptions, which contributed to her addiction—and ultimately her death.

The 2002 lawsuit is one of three malpractice claims brought against Trump’s long-time gastroenterologist since 1992, two of which allege the doctor improperly administered powerful drugs which led to the death of patients. Both of those cases were settled before jury trials, with no finding of liability against Dr. Bornstein.

Medical experts reached by The Daily Beast questioned the professionalism of such a letter, and Bornstein’s explanation.

“It just isn’t done. It’s unprofessional, unethical, and violates basic common sense,” said Arthur Caplan, founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center.

“A gastroenterologist should not be offering an assessment of Trump’s overall health. He should certainly be doing it in tandem with other experts or someone who is a generalist. If he was commenting on Trump’s guts it might make some sense.”   - The Daily Beast  

Thought for the day:

"Prejudices are what fools use for reason. - Voltaire



Your CPI Daily Buzz - August 19, 2016

Economy heats up

Tennessee unemployment rate of 4.3 percent for July

The statewide unemployment rate for July was 4.3 percent, an improvement from 5.6 percent a year ago, the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development reported today.

The preliminary, seasonally adjusted July rate of 4.3 percent follows a revised rate of 4.1 percent for June.

Nationally, July’s unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent, compared with 5.3 percent a year ago and unchanged from June.  - Memphis Commercial Appeal (subscription)

Andy Holt threatens his own leaders 

Andy Holt: Staffer firing '100 percent' political

A legislative staffer for Rep. Andy Holt was fired Thursday morning amid questions about work he's done through his personal political company for several state lawmakers.

As Holt's assistant, Lotfi filmed a video earlier this year of the lawmaker torching a traffic ticket in his legislative office. The video, which received almost 500,000 views, still appears on the political website created by Lotfi and used by Holt, in part, to solicit campaign donations.

Although it's not uncommon for legislative staffers to also work in politics, state employees can't engage in political activity on state time or property. Lotfi said Thursday that Ridley told him some legislators and staff members working at the Capitol were "uncomfortable" with him being in the statehouse and working on legislative campaigns.

Since 2014, Lotfi's company — BrandFire Consulting — has been hired by several state lawmakers, including Holt, R-Dresden; Reps. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin; Sheila Butt, R-Columbia; and Bryan Terry, R-Murfreesboro; in addition to Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville.

BrandFire has received nearly $200,000 in payments for providing everything from advertising and consulting to web development related to political campaigns, according to state records. Lotfi says he didn't pocket all of that money, instead using it to pay employees and for ads for some of his clients.

Holt said the firing was "100 percent" politically motivated. "It's all to do with the speakers' race. I work for Mark Green. Harwell wants to run for governor," Lotfi said, adding that Holt frequently butts heads with Republican leaders, be it House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, or Gov. Bill Haslam.

Despite the uncertainty about why exactly Lotfi was fired, Holt promised political revenge. “This isn’t going to stop me and Michael working together,” Holt said. “Those who brought this on him are going to regret it because now he’s got 14 to 18 hours a day to work on conservative politics instead of having to stop that at eight in the morning and get back on at five. Liberals and establishment beware.”   - The Tennessean (subscription)

Setback for privitizing govt. 

CCA Aims To Calm Investors After Federal Decision To Drop Private Prison Operators

Shares in Corrections Corporation of America dropped 36 percent Thursday after the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would phase out use of private prisons. The move follows a government review that found private prisons are more costly and less safe than federally-run prisons.

A CCA spokesman disputes that. He says those conclusions are "seriously flawed."

The company has scheduled a conference call Friday to reassure investors. "We are disappointed with the [Bureau of Prison's] decision to reduce its utilization of privately operated facilities to meet their capacity needs, and believe our value proposition remains strong," CEO Damon Hininger said in a statement.  - WPLN 

Duck and Cover

Tennessee Republicans weigh in on Donald Trump’s plummeting poll numbers, talk strategy

A succession of missteps and off-the-cuff remarks by Trump sent his poll numbers crashing. Prominent Republicans abandoned their nominee and encouraged their party to do the same. More signs of turmoil came Wednesday when Trump reshuffled his campaign staff for the second time in two months to regain his footing.

Given all the turbulence in the month since the convention, . . .  Tennesseans say the hopes they had for a possible Trump presidency have morphed into questions about the state of his campaign.

U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, R-Johnson City, said he also is concerned by Trump's downward spiral. Trump now badly trails Democrat Hillary Clinton in most national polls and in many of the swing states he would need to win the presidency.

But Roe cautioned it's not unusual for a candidate to see up-and-down swings in polling during a presidential race. Trump still has time to turn his campaign around before Election Day, he said. "Do I like where we are right now? No, I don't," Roe said. "But it's not Nov. 8 either."

Trump's die-hard supporters — those who have been with him since the beginning — reject the notion that his campaign has veered off course. They remain as passionate about the nominee and his message as they were during the slog through the GOP primaries.

"Anybody that's supporting Trump knows it's a full-court press by the media to make him look bad," Roland said. "But it's having a different effect. It's making us work harder."

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, one of the first sitting members of Congress to back Trump in the primaries, also attributes much of the candidate's problems to "a very biased media."

Regardless, some Tennessee Republicans think Trump's political problems have been exacerbated by his own behavior.

Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe said Trump's wounds have been largely self-inflicted. "There needs to be more self-discipline," Ashe wrote in an email.

[Susan Richardson] Williams, of Knoxville, said Trump needs to do a better job staying on message and "quit trying to crack jokes that don't work." Several of the comments that got him in trouble — like his suggestion that "Second Amendment people" might stop Clinton from appointing liberal judges — were obvious attempts at humor that fell flat, she said.  - Knoxville News Sentinel  (subscription)

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Taxing the Donald

Clinton pours gas on Trump's tax problem  

Donald Trump must believe that whatever is in his tax returns is more damaging than the decision not to release them after promising to do so. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is trying to get him to rethink that judgment — or simply make his already miserable campaign even more miserable. Her latest ad does the trick:

Trump’s refusal underscores ongoing concerns about him: his trustworthiness (he promised to release them), lies about his wealth, his lack of generosity, and the potential for shady deals with Russians or others not friendly to the United States. And through all this, Trump remains in control of his business. There is no sign of a blind trust in the works. We don’t suspect he’d be much concerned with corruption and self-dealing.

The decision of Trump’s VP pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, to release his own tax returns only highlights Trump’s refusal. Clinton campaign operatives were anxious to point that out, sending around a clip of Pence trying to deflect questions about Trump’s broken promise:

Add the tax return outrage to the list of egregious errors made by the Republican National Committee. When it had the leverage to demand that Trump produce his taxes (by rule of the convention, for example), it didn’t use it. Now Pence, the RNC and other Republicans are stuck explaining why it’s acceptable for a billionaire to boast about paying as little in taxes as possible, a billionaire whose boasts about charitable deductions have been debunked. The media shouldn’t let up; in each and every interview, the candidates should be pressed to answer questions about this. Otherwise, no presidential candidate will ever release his or her taxes.   - The Washington Post (subscription)

Deeper and deeper

Ukraine details payments allegedly earmarked for Trump aide

Ukraine's anti-corruption body has released entries from once-secret accounting documents that purport to show payments from a pro-Russian political party earmarked for Donald Trump's campaign chairman. The Associated Press reported earlier this week that Paul Manafort helped Ukraine's Party of Regions secretly route at least $2.2 million to two Washington lobbying firms. 

Manafort told Yahoo News that AP's account was wrong. The documents now released show Manafort's name listed as a recipient of funds totaling $12.7 million in 22 line-item entries. Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau said, however, that it cannot prove that Manafort actually received the money because other people including a prominent Party of the Regions deputy signed for him in those entries.  - Associated Press

 The Donald's Daily Lie 

Trump promised personal gifts on 'Celebrity Apprentice.'  Here's who really paid

On-air, Trump seemed to be explicit that this wasn’t TV fakery: The money he was giving was his own. “Out of my wallet,” Trump said in one case. “Out of my own account,” he said in another.

But, when the cameras were off, the payments came from other people’s money.

In some cases, as with Kardashian, Trump’s “personal” promise was paid off by a production company. Other times, it was paid off by a nonprofit that Trump controls, whose coffers are largely filled with other donors’ money.

The Washington Post tracked all the “personal” gifts that Trump promised on the show — during 83 episodes and seven seasons — but could not confirm a single case in which Trump actually sent a gift from his own pocket.

Trump did not respond to repeated requests for comment.   - The Washington Post (subscription)

Thought for the day: 

"There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious men are often mistaken for patriotism."  - Alexander Hamilton



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