Your CPI Daily Buzz, June 17, 2016

Avoiding the elephant in the room

Gov. Haslam vague on Trump, pushes gas tax hike for road repairs

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam continued on Thursday to avoid endorsing presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump. But in a speech to the Rotary Club of Chattanooga at the Chattanooga Convention Center, he didn't avoid other difficult topics, including raising the state's gas tax and expanding TennCare, the state's Medicaid program.

Haslam and five other Republican governors met with Trump on Tuesday in New York. When asked what he talked about with Trump, he joked, "When you are with five governors and Donald Trump, the chances to share are pretty limited. That sort of defines the definition of limited air time."

As to an endorsement, Haslam repeated what he said earlier this week: "The reality is, he is going to win Tennessee and my endorsement is not going to be a big deal one way or another."

The governor indicated Thursday he will push next year for an increase in the state gasoline tax, which funds road and bridge improvement projects. The amount of money the current tax raises is not sufficient to meet the state's needs, he said, which he estimated at about $10 billion in improvements and repairs.

"The problem is that as your car or truck gets better mileage, which is a good thing, you are paying less and the cost of building roads gets three times as expensive," he said.

Using the current budget surplus is not the way to fund roads, Haslam said, because there is no guarantee the state will have a surplus in the future, and road-building plans need to be developed over a period of many years. "You have to know what your cash flow is going to be to plan a project that long in advance," he said.

Haslam said next year is probably his best chance of getting a tax hike adopted. He noted that next year is not an election year, while the following year is, and the year following that a new governor will take office, and a tax hike is not normally something an incoming administration wants to push.  - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)

Pay for time served

Lawmakers demand state pay man for wrongful imprisonment

A man who spent 31 years in prison for a rape he did not commit is at the center of a battle with the state of Tennessee for compensation that supporters say he is legally owed after being robbed of decades of his life.

Lawrence McKinney, who is now 60 and works part time at his church to help support his ailing 75-year-old wife, said he trusts in God that money will come through to help pay the bills, including medical costs for his wife, Dorothy. But members of his church and two state lawmakers say they are boiling mad and tired of getting the runaround from both the Tennessee Board of Parole and the office of Gov. Bill Haslam.

McKinney was robbed of having children, building a job, getting an education and putting aside money for retirement, said Rep. Mark Pody, a Republican who represents the former prisoner's district in Lebanon, Tennessee. Tennessee, Pody said, is morally and legally bound to compensate him.

"Our state had him in prison incorrectly. We've got to make this right," the lawmaker said Wednesday.

McKinney was released from prison in 2009 after DNA evidence showed that he did not rape a woman in Memphis in 1977.

The soft-spoken African-American said there was a time in prison when he was angry but found peace when he embraced religion behind bars. He was released from prison with a $75 check but couldn't cash it for three months because he had no birth certificate, no driver's license or no ID, he said. He didn't get his driver's license until age 58 and married a year after he got out pf prison.

Still, he believes things will work out for him.

"I just have to live one day at a time and put my trust in God," he said.   - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

Free ammo too?

Tennessee legislator says he’ll give out five free handgun permits

Not only does Rep. Andy Holt want to give away two semi-automatic rifles similar to the one used in the Orlando, Fla., shooting — he now plans to give out five free handgun permits. Holt, R-Dresden, made the announcement Thursday afternoon, saying that he plans to cover the cost for a three-year handgun permit for the first five people who contact his office.

"I want people to arm themselves," Holt said in a statement, in which he also called on other lawmakers to follow his lead and offer to pay for others to get permits in order to "help raise awareness." 

The Republican lawmaker, who has sponsored several gun bills in recent years, including one recently enacted law that allows full-time employees at Tennessee colleges and universities to carry weapons on campus, said he wants people to be prepared.

"We've got a situation where government and those on the left are trying to disarm people in the middle of some of the most dangerous times we've faced in decades. It's literally crazy," he said.

Earlier this week, Holt stood behind his plans to give away an AR-15 at an upcoming fundraiser. After being pressed on the issue one day after Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub, Holt doubled down, saying he would give away two AR-15s.

Holt has pushed back against arguments that the AR-15 is dangerous, instead suggesting Mateen was a "crazed Islamist" and an "ISIS devotee."   -  Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)  


7 Tennessee clinics get $2.5M to expand oral health services

Seven Health Resources and Services Administration health centers in Tennessee have been awarded $2.5 million to expand their oral health services.

HRSA health centers are public and private non-profit health care organizations that serve a needy population with fees adjusted based on the patients' ability to pay.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department announced the award on Thursday. It was part of a $156 million award nationwide. Overall the grants will allow the centers to hire enough new dentists and assistants to treat nearly 785,000 new patients.

HRSA Acting Administrator Jim Macrae said in a statement the agency is continuing to explore ways to integrate oral health into primary care. The agency also is working to increase awareness of the connection between oral health and overall health.   - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)  

In Marsha's world, 2+2 equals 5 

Citing Orlando Shooting, Tennessee Representative Again Calls For Freezing Syrian Resettlement

U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn is again calling for a halt to the resettlement of Syrian refugees. And the Tennessee Republican is pointing to the shooting in Orlando as she makes her case, even though the culprit wasn't from overseas.

The shooter in the Pulse nightclub massacre was born and raised in the United States; his parents were immigrants from Afghanistan. Authorities also say they have not found any evidence he was in contact with Islamic State, even though he's reported to have declared his allegiance with the group.

Still, Blackburn says the case suggests Syrians shouldn't be allowed into the U.S. That's because Omar Mateen was twice investigated by federal authorities based on tips he might become violent, but they found nothing.

"This reveals vetting is nearly impossible," Blackburn says, "and it is one of the reasons … that we need to halt the migration of Syrian refugees until a proper process is in place."

Supporters of refugee resettlement counter by arguing the process is already tough enough, frequently taking years to complete. They also argue that it's rare for a refugee to get involved in extremism.

More often it has been someone who was reared in the U.S. — like Mateen — that carries out an attack.   - WPLN


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Editor's Note:

We here at CPI freely admit to being a little fixated on Donald Trump. Okay, maybe a lot. 

But it's like watching a slow-motion train wreck. You don't want to look, but you can't believe your eyes, so it's impossible to turn away. 

We're actually beginning to wonder if he's deliberately committing these "yuuge" unforced errors and spouting obvious lies on purpose.  Maybe he really does not want to be President. Could Trump be the proverbial "dog that caught the car?" 

Are his constant outrageous, offensive, bigoted, hateful outbursts actually a desperate cry for help?

Abandon Ship

The Daily 202: More Republicans ditch Trump, conclude he cannot win

Donald Trump will hold a fundraiser tomorrow in the Arizona house where Barry Goldwater announced his 1964 presidential campaign. 
Ahead of the event, Philip Rucker called the late senator’s widow to ask what she thought of the presumptive Republican nominee.

“Ugh or yuck is my response,” Susan Goldwater Levine said. “I think Barry would be appalled that his home was being used for that purpose. Barry would be appalled by Mr. Trump’s behavior — the unintelligent and unfiltered and crude communications style. And he’s shallow — so, so shallow.’”

Levine said she generally finds Trump’s candidacy “crazy and inappropriate”: “I can't believe we are doing this as a country," she said of Trump. “Barry was so true to his convictions and would never be issuing these shallow, crude, accusatory criticisms of the other party or the other person."

-- The chairman of the House Energy and Commerce committee, Fred Upton, said that Trump has “gone off the track.” The Michigan congressman said he has no plans to endorse Trump “or anyone in this race.” “I’m going to stay in my lane,” he said during a radio interview, according to The Detroit News.

-- Richard Armitage, who served as George W. Bush's Deputy Secretary of State, announced he will vote for Clinton. “[Trump] does not appear to be a Republican, he doesn’t appear to want to learn about issues,” he told Politico. “So, I’m going to vote for Mrs. Clinton.”

-- Charles Krauthammer says Trump how shown over the past month that he cannot and will not change. “It’s no accident that Trump’s poll numbers are sliding,” he writes in his column today.  Michael Gerson, meanwhile, decries Trump’s flawed character in his column and argues that it is a far worse problem than the first-time candidate's lack of self-discipline.

-- “At this point, I just can’t do it,” John Kasich said on “Morning Joe.” “But we’ll see where it ends up … I’m not making any final decisions yet.”

-- Several more companies have announced this week that they are steering clear of the Republican convention in Cleveland: Wells Fargo, UPS, Motorola, JPMorgan Chase, Ford, and Walgreens Boots Alliance all said they will not be participating despite years of previous support -- joining Coca-Cola, Microsoft and a host of others refusing to join in Trump’s coronation. (Bloomberg)

-- Even Trump’s core supporters are angry with him. Several allies publicly rebuked him yesterday for trying to prevent suspected terrorists from being able to buy guns. Jeff Sessions, Trump's point man on the Hill, declared that congressional Republicans should not take cues from The Donald on the subject. “We’re a co-equal branch of government,” the Alabama senator said.   The Daily 202 - Washington Post (subscription)

Taking the helm

Clinton initiates DNC takeover

Hillary Clinton's takeover of the Democratic National Committee is underway.

On Thursday, Brandon Davis, the former national political director for the Services Employees International Union, came in as the new chief of staff – and was introduced at an all-staff meeting by Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook.

DNC CEO Amy Dacey, a longtime Clinton ally, will expand her role to include more general election responsibilities, according to a Democratic official with ties to the DNC and Clinton. Jen O'Malley Dillon, a former deputy campaign manager for President Barack Obama's re-election efforts, will continue planning for the general election and serve in a senior advising role.

And more Clinton staffers are set to move over to the DNC.   - Politico

Berning out

Sanders loses convention leverage

Bernie's summer was supposed to be about strengthening his hand for the Democratic Convention. But since the California primary his position has gotten weaker.

Leverage: it’s the one thing Bernie Sanders’ advisors and aides consistently point to when asked why, exactly, he’s formally staying in the Democratic primary race that he’s lost to Hillary Clinton.

But it's the one thing he’s been bleeding every day ever since he dropped California’s primary by a much wider-than-expected margin last week. Sanders’ summer was supposed to be all about building leverage for the Democratic convention, providing him with a better hand to play as he presses Clinton to accept his policy positions and party reform suggestions. Now, the people closest to him aren’t sure how exactly to get it back.

His first and most prominent endorsers have jumped off the bandwagon, congratulating and in some cases endorsing Clinton — from Sen. Jeff Merkley to Rep. Raul Grijalva, and from the Communications Workers of America to of the big-name Democrats and groups who steadfastly remained neutral in the primary have flocked to Clinton over the past week, from President Barack Obama to Sen. Elizabeth Warren to the AFL-CIO. Even Sanders' highest-profile congressional endorsee, Nevada’s Lucy Flores, lost her primary bid on Tuesday despite his cash injection into her campaign.

Yet on Thursday night, speaking to over 200,000 viewers who tuned into his live-streamed video address, Sanders vowed to press on — pledging to fight to defeat Donald Trump but refusing to formally back Clinton and insisting his army of supporters isn’t going anywhere.   - Politico  

Thought for the day:

"You don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight."  - Barry Goldwater    (Surprised?)



Your CPI Daily Buzz, June 16, 2016

One person, one vote 

Tennessee minorities are underrepresented in state legislature, but are attitudes changing?

A new analysis by The Associated Press finds minority residents are underrepresented — in terms of the numbers of seats they hold relative to their shares of state populations — in 47 state legislatures across the country, including Tennessee's. 

Data provides evidence of the lack of diversity in minority representation.

White residents comprised 74.5 percent of Tennessee's estimated 2014 population of 6,549,352, but white lawmakers held 84.7 percent of the total 132 seats in the state legislature — a difference of about 10 percentage points, according to the AP analysis. 

African-Americans comprise both the largest minority in Tennessee's population and the largest bloc of seats held by minorities in the General Assembly. But they are underrepresented relative to their percentage of the state's population: blacks comprise 16.8 percent of all Tennesseans but hold 13 percent of the legislative seats — 17 seats out of 132 (three of the Senate's 33 seats and 14 in the 99-member House).

From there, the drop-off in minority representation is dramatic. There is a man born in India, and a Native Hawaiian in the House, counted as a minority in the AP analysis. And Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, a Texas native and granddaughter of Mexican immigrants, is considered the first Latina in the legislature.

Despite those numbers, only 11 states have lower levels of white "overrepresentation" in their state legislatures than Tennessee. Thirty-five states have larger rates of overrepresentation by whites, several where whites hold more than 20 percent more seats than their share of populations. In three other states — Hawaii, Maine and Montana — whites hold fewer seats in their legislatures than their percentage of their state populations, according to the AP analysis.

And there is evidence that with Tennessee's growing population of minorities, especially Hispanic and Latino residents, that change is coming even in politics.  - Richard Locker in the Memphis Commercial Appeal (subscription)

Close, but no cigar

Haslam, Trump discuss state, rhetoric, but no endorsement

Gov. Bill Haslam stopped short of endorsing Donald Trump on Wednesday after Haslam and five other Republican governors met a day earlier with the presumptive Republican nominee in New York.

The governor said the meeting went well and dealt mostly with state-federal issues. Asked if he’s ready to endorse Trump after the long-planned meeting, Haslam said: “To be honest, we never even talked about it. He asked me what I think will happen in Tennessee, and I said: ‘I think you’ll win.’ And then the conversation moved on, and we ended up talking about a lot of other things.”

The Tennessee governor acknowledged he’s had concerns about the tone of Trump’s rhetoric, which was discussed Tuesday.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Run away

Corker, Alexander back away from Trump support

Dismayed Republicans scrambled for cover Tuesday from Donald Trump's inflammatory response to the Orlando massacre, with both of Tennessee's Republican senators backing away from fully supporting the presumptive GOP nominee.

"I continue to be discouraged by the direction of the campaign and comments that are made," said Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Republican chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Monday's Trump address was not "the type of speech that one would give that wants to lead this country through difficult times."

"In an effort to be constructive, I have offered public encouragement at important times, but I must admit that I am personally discouraged by the results," said Corker, who has been mentioned as  a possible vice presidential pick for Trump.

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., went so far as to suggest Trump might not end up as the party's nominee after all.

"We do not have a nominee until after the convention," Alexander asserted in response to a question. Reminded that Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, Alexander retorted, "That's what you say."

Among other things, Trump suggested moderate Muslims and perhaps even President Obama himself might sympathize with radical elements. He renewed his call to temporarily ban foreign Muslims from entering the country, and added a new element: a suspension of immigration from areas of the world with a proven history of terrorism against the U.S. and its allies.

"Mr. Trump seems to be suggesting that the president is one of them, I find that highly offensive, I find that whole line of reasoning way off-base," said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "Mr. Trump's reaction to declare war on the faith is the worst possible solution."  - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)


Another lawmaker calls for end of Durham investigation

A state lawmaker serving on a four-member committee that initiated the investigation into Rep. Jeremy Durham is suggesting the probe "reeks of a political witch hunt" and should end immediately.

Rep. Billy Spivey, R-Lewisburg, sent a strongly worded letter Wednesday to committee chairman Rep. Steve McDaniel, R-Parkers Crossroads, calling for the committee to be dissolved, with Spivey saying he believed the investigation had gone beyond the scope of what the special committee had authorized.

In an interview with The Tennessean, Spivey said he had several concerns, including recently learning that Attorney General Herbert Slatery handed over findings related to Durham's campaign finances to the state registry of election finance board. Last week, that board authorized an audit, investigation and the issuance of subpoenas after a former employee of Durham's suggested the embattled lawmaker transferred campaign funds to his private company.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada has said if those allegations are true, Durham should resign. As of Wednesday morning, Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance, said no subpoenas had been issued.

Since the initial Tennessean investigation, Durham has resigned from his position as majority whip, voluntarily removed himself from the House Republican Caucus and taken a self-imposed, two-week hiatus from the legislature, all while several leading Republicans, including Gov. Bill Haslam, Harwell and others have called for him to resign.

Harwell has also moved Durham’s legislative office and limited his access to staff after Slatery released a preliminary report in early April that found the lawmaker had engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially posed a “continuing risk to unsuspecting women.”

Spivey is the latest lawmaker to question the investigation into Durham. Last month, Rep. Rick Womick, R-Rockvale, said Durham was one several lawmakers on a "hit list" held by Harwell, calling the probe a "witch hunt by leadership."  -  Tennessean (subscription)

TVA under fire

Environmental group blasts TVA coal ash plan

The 1.1 billion gallons of toxic sludge that flowed into the Emory and Clinch rivers from a ruptured coal ash pond at the Kingston Fossil Plant in 2009 has been cleaned up and most of it removed to a landfill in Alabama. But in the wake of America's worst coal ash spill, the Tennessee Valley Authority and other utilities still are having to clean up other coal ash sites to meet new federal regulations adopted after the Kingston disaster.

TVA, which was forced to spend more than $1 billion to clean up the ash spill at its Kingston coal plant, plans a cheaper alternative to closing coal ash ponds at its other coal facilities. In its final environmental impact study released this week, TVA said it plans to spend $280 million and take up to 2.7 years to close and cap 10 coal ash ponds at a half dozen of its coal plants where the utility used wet ash storage.

TVA estimates closing and removing the coal ash from those sites would be more than 10 times as expensive, costing more than $3 billion and likely raising TVA electric rates to cover the expense. TVA's study projects it would take 84 years to remove all the coal ash from Widows Creek by rail and more than 170 years to remove the ash from the shuttered Widows Creek coal plant by truck.

But environmental groups want TVA to match what other Southern utilities are doing to remove the coal ash from their power plants. Amanda Garcia, a staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center in Nashville, said TVA's plan would permanently cover up millions of tons of coal ash in leaking, unlined pits in or adjacent to rivers in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky. Garcia said TVA's own monitoring data has shown the sites have polluted groundwater with toxic metals from coal ash.

"We're incredulous that TVA, the poster child for coal ash mismanagement thanks to the Kingston disaster, continues to push forward blindly with a plan that ensures ongoing pollution for decades to come," she said. "Coal ash has become one of the most pressing public health and environmental concerns today, and other utilities are responding accordingly — yet TVA continues to claim leadership while refusing to do the responsible thing."

In Alabama, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a notice of intent to sue on behalf of Tennessee Riverkeeper, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Shoals Environmental Alliance and Waterkeeper Alliance for surface and groundwater violations at TVA's Colbert Fossil Plant. The environmental groups claim significant amounts of pollutants are being discharged from the ash ponds into Cane Creek, a tributary of the Tennessee River.

In contrast to TVA's approach, utilities in Georgia and in North and South Carolina have chosen to clean up some sites by excavating coal ash lagoons and taking the ash residues to dry, lined storage away from waterways.   - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)


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Hush up, or else

Donald Trump to GOP: 'Be Quiet' or I’ll Lead Alone

Donald Trump issued a harsh directive for fellow members of his party: Be quiet or I’ll be forced to lead alone.

Speaking in the historic Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, Trump appeared to be fed up with leadership of the party he will likely lead into the November election. "You know, the Republicans, honestly folks, our leaders, our leaders have to get tougher. This is too tough to do it alone. But you know what, I think I’m going to be forced to. I think I am going to be forced to, our leaders have to get a lot tougher,” he began.

He added, icily, "And be quiet. Just please be quiet. Don't talk, please be quiet.”

Trump has had a very tenuous relationship with many other Republicans, strife stemming from many of his more controversial proposals statements, including a plan to temporarily ban refugees and Muslims, and his statement that doubted whether an American judge could be impartial in a lawsuit due to his Mexican heritage.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan withheld his endorsement of Trump for a long time. When he finally made the announcement he would endorse Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee unleashed his criticism of judge Gonzalo Curiel -- prompting a swift rebuke from Ryan, among others.

In fact, Trump's comments have led some top Republicans to take back their endorsements. The former Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, has refused to support Trump, predicting his candidacy will result in “trickle-down racism.”

But Trump remains defiant as ever.

“They have to get tougher. They have get sharper,” he said in Atlanta. "They have to get smarter. We have to have to -- our Republicans -- either stick together or let me just do it by myself. I'll do very well."   -  ABC News   

House Democrats force a little common sense

Senate Democrats end marathon filibuster, announce Republicans agree to gun-control vote

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) ended a blockade of the Senate floor after nearly 15 hours Thursday, announcing that Republican leaders agreed to hold votes on Democrat-backed measures to expand background checks and prevent suspected terrorists from acquiring guns.

Democrats were angling for votes on the two gun-control measures, which they are presenting as amendments to a pending spending bill and demanding that it was the least the Senate could do to respond to the Orlando massacre that killed 49 over the weekend.

“We still have to get from here to there, but we did not have that commitment when we started,” Murphy said early Thursday, crediting his filibuster with pressuring leaders to commit to the votes but noting that there was “no guarantee that those amendments pass.”

[How ‘pro-gun’ Sen. Bob Casey became an evangelist for gun control]

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said early Thursday morning that votes can be expected on amendments to the bill but that there is no formal agreement on what those amendments will be.

The Democrats’ bid for votes on their preferred measures intensified Wednesday as efforts to strike a gun-control compromise with Republicans frayed.  - The Washington Post (subscription)

The Donald's Daily Lie

Despite Donald Trump’s Claims, American Muslims Repeatedly Report Extremist Threats, Officials Say

“They don’t report them,” Trump said in a CNN interview on Monday, in the wake of the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub of 49 people by an American Muslim who claimed allegiance to Islamic State. “For some reason, the Muslim community does not report people like this.”

But FBI director James Comey said, “They [American Muslims]do not want people committing violence, either in their community or in the name of their faith, and so some of our most productive relationships are with people who see things and tell us things who happen to be Muslim.

“It’s at the heart of the FBI’s effectiveness to have good relationships with these folks,” Comey said at a press conference following the Orlando shootings.

Andrew Ames, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Washington field office, told Reuters on Wednesday that the agency has a “robust” relationship with the local Muslim community. FBI agents operating in the area have received reports about suspicious activity and other issues from community members.

Michael Downing, deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and head of its Counterterrorism and Special Operations Bureau, said the city’s Muslim community has been cooperative in reporting “red flags.”

“I personally have been called by community members about several things, very significant things,” Downing told Reuters. “What we say to communities is that we don’t want you to profile humans, we want you to profile behavior.”

Charles Kurzman, a professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, who has conducted several studies on Muslim-Americans and terrorism, disputed Trump’s criticism.

“To claim there is no cooperation is false and defamatory to the Muslim-American community,“ Kurzman said.    -  from Reuters in The Huffington Post  

The Donald's Second Daily Lie   (this is a really big one!)

Trump’s bizarre claim that the Obama administration actively ‘supported’ terror groups

“Media fell all over themselves criticizing what Donald Trump “may have insinuated about @POTUS.” But he’s right”
–tweet by Donald Trump, June 15, 2016

The tweet linked to a Breitbart article that claimed “Hillary Clinton received a classified intelligence report stating that the Obama administration was actively supporting Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist group that became the Islamic State.”

The turn of events is confusing, since Trump appears to affirming exactly what he had said was a false interpretation of his remarks on Monday. But his tweet lit up the Twitterverse, so now we are going to fact check whether the memo suggests what Trump claims – that the Obama administration “actively supported” al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The Facts

The Breitbart article that Trump touted was based on a memo circulated by the Defense Intelligence Agency in August 2012, stamped “secret” and distributed across the U.S. government. A declassified version was obtained by Judicial Watch. The claim that the memo– labeled an“information report, not finally evaluated intelligence”– showed that the Obama administration “supported” al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) is based on these two sentences:


There was little profound in this analysis. Moreover, the idea that Western support for opposition to the Syrian regime translated into Obama administration support for AQI is rather loopy, especially if you know anything about the policy debates in the administration at the time.

It was precisely the fear that radical jihadists were involved in the Syrian fight that made the administration hesitate about committing any resources to the opposition, for fear the aid could end up going to terror groups. The Obama administration, in fact, drew sharp distinctions between the rebel groups.

The Pinocchio Test

This is what happens when people with little understanding of policy or context choose to willfully misinterpret documents. Rather than showing that the Obama administration is supporting terror groups, the information in the memo demonstrates why the administration was so reluctant to back rebel groups in Syria, often to the annoyance of Republican hawks. Moreover, the memo was not sent directly to Clinton’s office, as asserted by Breitbart. 

Trump, as a presumptive presidential nominee, really needs to rely on more accurate information when making factual claims. He yet again earns Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios


Thought for the day:

"Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad."  - James Madison



Your CPI Daily Buzz, June 14, 2016

Squabbling over the horror - seriously?

Tennessee lawmakers trade shots on Twitter after Orlando massacre

Tennessee elected officials' reactions to Sunday's deadly mass shooting at an Orlando, Fla., gay nightclub are mostly ranging — and sometimes raging — across the nation's political fault lines of Islamic terrorism, gun control and LGBT discrimination.

As U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., delivered harsh criticism of Islamic terrorists and political correctness, another congressman from the Volunteer State, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, called on Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan to allow gun control bills to come to the chamber floor.

Meanwhile, Chattanooga Councilman Chris Anderson, who is openly gay, ignited a Twitter furor when he accused Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, state Sens. Bo Watson, R-Hixson, and Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, and Chattanooga tea party President Mark West of having encouraged the deadly assault by supporting legislation that LGBT activists have charged discriminate against them.

"In wake of the Orlando murders, do you regret your hateful attacks on the LGBT community and your incitement of this?" Anderson tweeted, prompting a heated response from West and continuing responses and counter-responses.

Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Tony Sanders later called Anderson's comments "inexcusable," saying that if the councilman "can't see past his rainbow glasses to say that, then someone needs to call him out."

In a statement, Cohen called Mateen's attack "a hate crime and likely an act of terrorism. "While the shooter is reported to have vowed allegiance to the leader of ISIS and is Muslim, we must not do what ISIS wants and tie one deranged, mentally ill murderer to others who share his religion," the Memphis Democrat said.

Cohen also challenged House Speaker Ryan "to bring a bill to the House floor banning all assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. Outside of our military, no one in this country needs an assault rifle to defend themselves or their homes. They are often used in these mass shootings."

After one conservative state lawmaker, Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, offered his sympathies for victims on Twitter, another user tweeted: "Instead of prayers @SenFrankNiceley. Stricter gun laws." To which Niceley, a staunch Second Amendment rights supporter, retorted: "Terrorists don't follow gun laws. I'm not in the mood for nonsense today. #Idiot #blocked."

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke tweeted Sunday: "Praying for the victims and families of last night's shooting as well as the people of #Orlando."

In the Sunday Twitter fight spurred by Anderson, Tea Party President West said, "This was Islamic attack & I made no such 'hateful attacks.' But I don't expect honesty from @chrismanderson." Countered Anderson: "You've been inciting violence against LGBT Americans for years. The Chattanooga Tea Party is built on it. Shame on you."

In this year's session of the Tennessee General Assembly, the GOP-dominated body passed a law allowing mental health counselors with "sincerely held principles" to turn down gays and others whose goals conflicted with their own beliefs. State lawmakers also considered but didn't pass a bill requiring transgender public school students to use bathroom and other facilities matching their birth sex not their gender identity. But state Attorney General Herbert Slatery later joined a lawsuit by some states challenging an Obama administration's directive that schools must accommodate gender preference or risk losing federal education funding.

U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., got in his own take with a tweet: "Islamic terrorism is real and it is beyond time we started treating it as such. Muslims across the U.S need to disavow radical Islam!"

Haslam on Sunday tweeted: "Flags over State Capitol & buildings to fly @ half-staff thru sunset 6/16 in memory of victims of violent attack in Orlando. #PrayForOrlando."  

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., tweeted: "Saddened by the tragedy that occurred overnight in Orlando. Praying for the victims, their families, and our dedicated first responders."  He later added: "Appreciate the Christians, Muslims and leaders of all faiths who have stepped forward to condemn the tragic terrorist attack in Orlando."

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., tweeted that "my heart goes out to the family and loved ones of those killed in [Sunday] night's horrific act of terror."  - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)

Embarassing Tennessee every day

Tennessee lawmaker giving away AR-15 receives 'death threats'

When Rep. Andy Holt announced on Friday that he'd be giving away an AR-15 assault rifle at an upcoming fundraiser/turkey shoot/barbecue/petting zoo, no one blinked an eye — or, more likely, they didn't notice because it was a Friday, and an especially slow news Friday at that. 

Then Orlando happened. And on Monday Holt not only confirmed his intent to give away a rifle famous for its use in mass shootings after 49 people were massacred in a mass shooting, he doubled down, and said that he'd now be giving away two AR-15s, because the more mass shootings there are, the more people need guns, or something. 
As you might expect when a dumb politician does something incredibly extremely dumb the day after the worst-ever mass shooting in the United States, the news of the "door prizes" went viral. But then Holt's staffer Michael Lofti got death threats! So he made a video of the phone call(s) and posted it and, of course, attacked the liberals threatening him.

However, if you listen to the audio on the video more than once, it becomes clear the video is highly, highly edited — and that Lofti is also inciting the speaker. Pith called him, and he confirmed the video is edited but wouldn't say from how many phone calls, nor would he explain why he didn't just post the unedited audio of the phone calls.

What makes the edits of these phone calls into one 54-second video all the more interesting, however, is that the caller doesn't remember making a single one. The man declined to give his name, but he seemed genuinely freaked out that Holt might be calling the police to investigate the "death threats." 
Pith played the edited video to the man, who confirmed that it does indeed sound like his voice. (Pith concurs).

"Oh my god that does sound like me! But why aren't there any calls on my outgoing call list?" he asked. "If I made any phone calls, I must have done it in my sleep. ... People are going to think I’m some kind of maniac, and I’m not."  That was the end of our conversation. Since we don't have the unedited calls to listen to, we have no idea what kind of charges Holt may try to bring against the man in Memphis. 

For everyone's sake, let's hope those free guns just go to someone dumb as a rock. Like, say, Andy Holt.   - Pith in the Wind, Nashville Scene   


Lone-wolves can by-pass US defenses

Islamic State shows it can still inspire violence as it emphasizes attacks abroad

In its early expansion phase, the Islamic State called on Muslims across the world to join its ranks in Syria, urging not only fighters but also doctors and engineers to take part in what it billed as the historic restoration of the caliphate.

But the group’s most recent message essentially repealed that summons.

Don’t bother coming to Syria, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in a recording issued May 21, because “the smallest action you do in their heartland is better and more enduring to us than what you would if you were with us.” As much as loyalists might still dream of reaching the caliphate’s borders, he said, those inside “wish we were in your place to punish the crusaders day and night.”

The bravado of the message masked the extent to which the Islamic State is being forced to revise its strategy after losing territory, cash and streams of recruits to opposition forces backed by U.S. airstrikes and Syrian government forces backed by Russian airstrikes.

But the devastation in Orlando represents a danger that many U.S. counterterrorism officials warn will be harder to contain than the Islamic State’s aspirations for an extremist haven in the Middle East.

“The so-called lone-wolf attack . . . this is very difficult to deal with,” CIA Director John Brennan said in an interview with the al-Arabiya news organization just days before the shooting in Orlando. “Countries around the world are having to be concerned about the potential for individuals or groups of individuals to act on their own, without the direct contact with organized terrorists or groups.”  - The Washington Post (Donald Trump's favorite newspaper)

Well, that's a relief

State Rep. Martin Daniel deletes Twitter account after his Muhammad Ali comments

State Rep. Martin Daniel confirmed Monday night that he no longer has either a personal or legislative Twitter account because it had become "too active."

"I received death threats and derogative comments. There were threats made against my family," he told the News Sentinel, after the West Knox Republican Club meeting at the Red Lobster restaurant.

His tweets on the late boxing champion Muhammad Ali had been expected to be discussed among his three opponents to represent the 18th House District. But nothing was said at the meeting about Daniel's Ali tweets that had followed Ali's June 3 death. Daniel had used the boxer's birth name, Cassius Clay, and was critical of the boxer's failure to enlist in the U.S. military, which resulted in a barrage of criticism.    - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

Common Sense

Hillary Clinton: Those Under FBI Scrutiny ‘Shouldn’t Be Able to Just Go Buy a Gun’

Hillary Clinton blasted regulations that allowed a lone gunman to purchase weapons that he used to kill 49 people in Orlando over the weekend -- a slaughter that represented the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

“We may have our disagreements about gun safety regulations, but we should all be able to agree on a few essential things,” Clinton said, speaking to a crowd gathered at the Cleveland Industrial Innovation Center. “If the FBI is watching you for a suspected terrorist links, you shouldn't be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked.”

Clinton also reiterated comments she made on ABC News' “Good Morning America” on this morning that she would put together a team to track “lone wolf” threats and arguing that “weapons of war have no place on our streets.”

Clinton called an attack on “any” American, an attack on “all” Americans and encouraged people to “stand together” and be “proud together.”

Before she took the stage, rally attendees held a moment of silence for the 49 victims of the Orlando attack. Former President Bill Clinton also held a moment of silence today at a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in Atlanta.

The former president bowed his heads as the lights dimmed to honor those who lost their lives.

“When something like this happens all of us have a responsibility not only to support those who are trying to call to account those who are responsible and strengthen our defenses but to remember that there is something else we can do," he said. “We can present an alternative view of the future. One that we all share and one where our differences far from being an occasion for murder are a cause for success and a road map to a better future for everyone."  -  ABC News  

Slam the door

Trump Proposes Immigration Ban on Areas With ‘Proven History of Terrorism’

Donald Trump, in the wake of the horrific shooting at an Orlando gay club, has called for a ban on immigration from "areas of the world where there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe or our allies."

Trump drew fire last year when he called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States in a bid to tamp down on Islamic terrorism. It was not clear if this was an expansion of the plan and the Trump camp did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He attacked what he says is a dysfunctional immigration system and falsely said that the shooter, Omar Mateen, was born in Afghanistan, when he was born in New York.

"The killer whose name I will not use or ever say was born in Afghan of Afghan parents who emigrated to the United States. His father published support for the Afghan Taliban, a regime which murders those who don't share its radical views."
And Trump disparaged rival Hillary Clinton, making the case that he was more pro-LBGT than she is. "Ask yourself, who is really the friend of women and the LB and LGBT community. Donald Trump with actions or Hillary Clinton with her words. I will tell you who the better friend is. And some day I believe that will be proven out bigly,” he said.   - ABC News  

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Trump tries to suspend the First Amendment 

Washington Post Is Latest News Outlet Barred by Trump 

Donald J. Trump on Monday said his campaign would revoke the press credentials of The Washington Post, effectively prohibiting journalists from one of the nation’s largest newspapers from joining the traveling press corps of the presumptive Republican nominee.

Barring journalists is an almost unheard ­of practice for a modern presidential candidate. The Post is the latest major news organization that Mr. Trump has barred from his rallies and events this year, following Politico, BuzzFeed News, The Huffington Post and others.

In a Facebook post on Monday, Mr. Trump accused The Post of “incredibly inaccurate coverage and reporting” and deemed it “phony and dishonest,” although he has granted frequent interviews to the paper’s editors and reporters in the past. It was not immediately clear if Mr. Trump’s announcement meant he would end all his communications with Post journalists.

Combined with Mr. Trump’s promise to “open up” the nation’s libel laws, his punitive attitude toward the press has prompted concern among media and freespeech advocates. Martin Baron, the executive editor of The Post, issued a statement on Monday calling Mr. Trump’s action “nothing less than a repudiation of the role of a free and independent press.”

“When coverage doesn’t correspond to what the candidate wants it to be, then a news organization is banished,” Mr. Baron wrote, referring to Mr. Trump’s practice. “The Post will continue to cover Donald Trump as it has all along — honorably, honestly, accurately, energetically and unflinchingly.”   - The New York Times (subscription)

The Donald's Daily Lie

The Biggest Lies in Donald Trump’s ‘Security’ Speech

Donald Trump spoke slowly as he delivered prepared remarks, read off a teleprompter at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, on Monday afternoon. This is presidential Donald Trump, which means he’s still spouting off a lie a minute, but he’s doing so in a cool and collected manner.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, Trump congratulated himself for what he said was his accurate prediction that another terror attack would occur on United States soil.  “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he tweeted, “I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” He then called on President Obama to resign and Clinton to drop out of the presidential race. 

Below are the most egregious falsehoods from his remarks.

“When I am president,” he said. “America will be a tolerant and open society.” He then said that, in fact, America will be neither tolerant or open.

“When I am elected, I will suspend immigration from areas of the world when there is a proven history of terrorism against the United States, Europe, or our allies, until we understand how to end these threats.

“I want every American to succeed, including Muslims,” Trump said, riffing off his script. “But the Muslims have to work with us. They have to work with us. They know what’s going on. They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what, they didn’t turn ‘em in. And we had death and destruction.” 

Even in the prepared remarks, Trump suggested Muslims knowingly avoid reporting other, “bad” Muslims to authorities. “Muslim communities must cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the people who they know are bad—and they do know where they are,” the script read. No evidence has emerged to support the insinuation that any Muslims were aware of the plot to murder members of the LGBT community in Orlando on Sunday.

Trump managed to contradict himself at different points in his own speech.

Trump referred to “the tremendous flow of Syrian refugees into the United States.” In fact, according to NBC, America is lagging behind its goal to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees—halfway through the fiscal year, only 1,285 have been resettled. There are 4 million Syrians fleeing violence in the Middle East. The United Kingdom is working to take in 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020.

Of Syrian refugees, Trump also said, “we don’t know who they are, they have no documentation, and we don’t know what they’re planning.” A Google search or call to one of his many genius foreign policy advisers could have informed Trump that refugees are thoroughly vetted ahead of their arrival to the United States. For the typical applicant, the process takes a minimum of 18 to 24 months—perhaps more for Syrian refugees, who face more scrutiny.

In his prepared remarks, Trump correctly says that the terrorist responsible for Sunday’s bloodshed was born to Afghan parents who immigrated to America. In the speech Trump gave, however, he said something different, and wrong. The shooter, he claimed, “was born Afghan, of Afghan parents, who immigrated to the United States.”

But Trump doesn’t seem to recognize the difference, anyway. “The bottom line is that the only reason the killer was in America in the first place was because we allowed his family to come here,” he said. 

By that logic, protecting America–or Making America Safe Again!–would require banning all people of Middle Eastern descent on the off chance that they could one day spawn an American-grown terrorist.   - The Daily Beast  

 Thought for the day:

"More people have been slaughtered in the name of religion than for any other single reason.  That is true perversion."  - Henry Milk



June 13, 2016

Horror in Orlando - Terror and Hate 

Trump and Clinton and their very different responses to the Orlando shootings

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump’s first tweet Sunday morning was a fairly measured comment about the deadly mass shooting in an Orlando gay nightclub. “Really bad shooting in Orlando. Police investigating possible terrorism. Many people dead and wounded.”

His second tweet, an hour and a half later, was a return to campaign trail politics — an attempt to falsely recast a verbal attack he made against a disabled journalist.

Trump’s approach to the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history posed a sharp contrast to the conventional one of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. She first tweeted a note of concern for the victims; hours later, she issued a statement that sought to address the main issues that the tragedy touched on — terrorism, gay rights and gun control.

The disparity between the two encapsulates the choice facing voters this fall: Do they see Trump’s bombast as the solution to a dangerous world, or do they find comfort in Clinton’s more familiar manner?

Stuart Stevens, who served as Mitt Romney’s chief strategist during the 2012 campaign, called Trump’s statements and actions on Sunday “childish.”

“Every day he finds a different way to show he’s unqualified to be president,” Stevens said. “Today he’s accepting congratulations at a time when 50 people are slaughtered.”

Jennifer Palmieri, communications director for the Clinton campaign, said in a statement: “This act of terror is the largest mass shooting in American history and a tragedy that requires a serious response. . . . Donald Trump put out political attacks, weak platitudes and self-congratulations. Trump has offered no real plans to keep our nation safe and no outreach to the Americans targeted, just insults and attacks.”   - The Washington Post (subscription)

Too smug by half

Backlash to Trump's Tweet Accepting Congratulations Over Warnings Against Radical Islam

Donald Trump prompted outrage today after saying that he "appreciate[s] the congrats for being right on Islamic terrorism" in light of the deadly massacre in an Orlando nightclub.

At least 50 people died and an additional 53 people were hospitalized after a deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida.

Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!

The tweet caused a firestorm online, with backlash coming quickly from other famous names both in and outside of the political arena. Meghan McCain, the Republican commentator and daughter of Sen. John McCain, questioned the message Trump was sending.

. You're congratulating yourself because 50 people are dead this morning in a horrific tragedy?

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Con man
As its stock collapsed, Trump’s firm gave him huge bonuses and paid for his jet

It was promoted as the chance of a lifetime: Mom-and-pop investors could buy shares in celebrity businessman Donald Trump’s first public company, Trump Hotels and Casino Resorts.

Their investments were quickly depleted. The company known by Trump’s initials, DJT, crumbled into a penny stock and filed for bankruptcy after less than a decade, costing shareholders millions of dollars, even as other casino companies soared.

In its short life, Trump the company greatly enriched Trump the businessman, paying to have his personal jet piloted and buying heaps of Trump-brand merchandise. Despite losing money every year under Trump’s leadership, the company paid Trump handsomely, including a $5 million bonus in the year the company’s stock plummeted 70 percent.

Trump’s bid for the White House relies heavily on his ability to sell himself as a master businessman, a standout performer in real estate and reality TV.

But interviews with former shareholders and analysts as well as years of financial filings reveal a striking characteristic of his business record: Even when his endeavors failed and other people lost money, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee found a way to make money for himself, to market his Trump-branded products and to pay for his expensive lifestyle.   - Washington Post (subscription)

The Donald's Daily Lie

Did the Clinton Foundation raise ‘hundreds of millions of dollars’ for a hospital in Haiti that was never built?

“Hillary Clinton … took in hundreds of millions of dollars for a hospital in Haiti that went to the Clinton Foundation, that was never built — that was years ago. Where is that money?”
— Donald Trump surrogate Michael Cohen, interview on CNN, June 1

Michael Cohen, the executive vice president of the Trump Organization and special counsel to Donald Trump, made this accusation while answering questions about Trump’s donations to veterans’ groups. He blamed the news media for asking questions about Trump’s donations, yet letting Hillary Clinton’s allegedly squandered hospital promise go unquestioned. 

Although Cohen made the comment in passing, it was picked up by Diamond and Silk, a pro-Trump duo with a Twitter following of more than 80,600. They cited Cohen’s claim and doubled-down on the question in a video, which was retweeted or liked at least 4,600 times: 

The Facts

The Clintons played a major role in recovery efforts in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. Former president Bill Clinton was the public face of U.S. efforts in Haiti through several recovery roles. He was the United Nations special envoy to Haiti, co-leader of the Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund (with former president George W. Bush) and co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, a quasi-government planning body that approved hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government-funded recovery projects.

The U.S. Agency for International Development supported the commission’s efforts, and Hillary Clinton led the U.S. response in Haiti as secretary of state. The Clinton Foundation raised more than $30 million for Haiti relief projects. 

The Pinocchio Test

There’s a lot of criticism lodged against the Clintons for their involvement with recovery efforts in Haiti. But Cohen’s claim that Hillary Clinton raised hundreds of millions of dollars through the Clinton Foundation for a hospital that was never delivered is not credible.

There is, indeed, a major public hospital in Port-au-Prince that has been delayed, even though it was one of the first projects approved by the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. The commission was co-chaired by Bill Clinton, who became the face of many recovery efforts in Haiti. Cohen can blame Bill Clinton’s leadership on the commission, or the managing of taxpayer money for this project. But that claim is entirely different from the one Cohen made. Perhaps Cohen was referring to the $500 million in “commitments to action” for Haiti initiatives announced by the Clinton Foundation. But not all of the commitments were relating to health care or building a hospital, and the commitments don’t involve Clinton Foundation money.  - Fact Checker, The Washington Post (subscription)

Four Pinocchios


Billy Moore reports from Washington

Speaker Paul Ryan decided that partisanship is the best short-term path for the House, although he will probably have to change strategies in order to avoid a pre-election government shutdown. Last week, he passed the legislative branch appropriations bill on a partisan basis. The less popular spending bills will test his strategy over the coming weeks. The Senate continued to proceed on a more bipartisan track, killing Democratic and Republican proposals to boost spending above the current budget agreement levels.

Senators should the complete action on the defense authorization this week and take up the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriation. Representatives will take up the Defense appropriation under rules that would prevent Democrats from offering amendments on politically volatile issues such as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights and the confederate flag.

Conferees hope to meet this week to begin work reconciling the very different House and Senate bills to help control the spread of the Zika virus.

The differences over partisanship will face a decisive challenge at the end of September when Congress will need to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to prevent a government shutdown. Republicans are already fighting over the bill's duration – Senate Republicans say the CR should fund government through December and House Freedom Caucus members suggest the bill go through next March, preventing a Lame Duck Congress from writing a fiscal 2017 omnibus spending bill. Should the Freedom Caucus vote no, Speaker Ryan need the votes of Democrats to avoid a shutdown – probably forcing him to reverse partisan course.

Hillary Clinton joined Donald Trump as her party's presumptive presidential nominee in the fall election. Secretary Clinton begins the general election with an electoral advantage and President Barack Obama's approval above 50 percent. If she can fulfill her advantage, she has the potential for winning a Democratic Senate majority and narrowing the Republican House majority.

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

Thought for the day:

 "I feel fairly certain that my hatred harms me more than the people whom I hate" -  Max Frisch



June 10, 2016

Uh Oh

Casada changes tune on Jeremy Durham over campaign money

That’s it. The embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham has finally done it in his former caucus leader’s eyes.

When accusations of sexual harassment by Durham, R-Franklin, against several women were reported earlier this year that forced him to resign from the Republican caucus and take a two-week leave from his legislative duties, caucus chairman Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, stood behind his fellow legislator.

Durham denied the accusations, and Casada accepted the denial, even after a preliminary report from an investigation by Attorney General Herbert Slatery found that Durham had "made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature or engaged in inappropriate physical contact with some women."

But this week, Casada seemed to pull his support because of Durham’s behavior — though not because of his behavior toward women.

Sparking the change were allegations that, gasp, Durham may have used funds from his campaign war chest for personal business.

The state registry of election finance board received notification from Slatery of a series of text messages between Durham and Benton Smith, who has worked with Durham as legislative assistant, campaign worker and now as an employee of Durham's company, Battleground Title and Escrow. The texts indicated the legislator would pay business expenses of $2,000 out of his campaign funds.

On May 12, 2015, Durham texted Smith, "I can write something out of my campaign but it must get counted towards what I've put into the company." Smith alleges Durham told him to take $2,000 in campaign funds and deposit them in a Battleground account.

The allegations of campaign finance irregularity moved Casada when allegations of abusive behavior did not.

"If everything is true and those are his words, yes, I do think he should resign,” Casada told The Tennessean on Thursday. “That’s just behavior that cannot be tolerated by the public from an elected person."

We should expect our elected officials to keep their personal and public lives separate and not to use their public office to enrich themselves.

But what kind of perverted place is the Legislative Plaza when a $2,000 campaign finance diversion garners more outrage from a House leader than the state’s attorney saying that a legislator engaged in inappropriate physical contact and potentially poses a "continuing risk to unsuspecting women"?

Casada seems to embody a view of the world that it is OK to abuse people as long as you don’t get caught abusing campaign funds.

Casada’s behavior is emblematic of why Democrats have pushed women candidates to challenge for legislative seats, and raised the question of whether we should probe further into other legislators’ behavior toward the women who work on Capital Knob.   - Frank Daniels, III in The Tennessean (subscription)

Hard Time

Tennessee Prison Officials Say They're Sticking With Controversial Guard Schedules, After All

State prison officials now say they have no intention of going back on controversial changes to how guards are scheduled and paid. The decision comes eight months after an independent review recommended abandoning the system, which guards say has shorted them on overtime and contributed to low morale.

The issue is whether prison guards get paid for overtime or have to take time off.

In 2014, the state Department of Correction began scheduling guards on a 28-day cycle, and they'd get overtime only if they'd worked extra hours by the end of the month. Since then, guards say they've seen their schedules fluctuate — with long weeks followed by short ones — to keep them from getting paid extra. Randy Stamps, executive director of the Tennessee State Employees Association, says that practice probably saves the state money but it isn't fair.

"You could argue that that's good management. I would argue that's taking advantage of folks that are doing one of the most dangerous jobs in the state."

The system is also unpopular with correctional officers, the TSEA claims. At a hearing Thursday, it presented the results of a survey it took of its members in the Department of Correction. The TSEA admitted its survey was unscientific, but it said three-quarters of respondents indicated they were dissatisfied with the 28-day schedule.

That's exactly what the American Correctional Association recommended last fall when it went into Tennessee's prisons to figure out why turnover was up among correctional officers and morale was down. At that time Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield seemed to say he would go along with the recommendation. He cited a need to re-engineer the department's human resources software as the main barrier to abandoning the 28-day schedule, but he added those changes could be made if employees indicated that's what they wanted.

"We want to do some things that can encourage them — that we're listening, we hear you, and we're going to make the adjustments if necessary," Schofield said then. Now a spokeswoman for the department says it won't, and Schofield refused to explain why Thursday when approached by reporters.

Schofield's last day as commissioner is later this month. But Stamps, with the state employees association, says it's unlikely the next commissioner will change the schedules either.

He says that by the Department of Correction's own estimates last fall, eight months would have been enough time to change the computer software and end the 28-day schedule, if officials in Gov. Bill Haslam's administration had wanted to.   - WPLN

Editor's note:  Read this Wall Street Journal article carefully, especially the sub-head. The WSJ ran this as A-1 top banner headline. No other national outlet even bothered to report it. That tells you two things. (1) there's no real news here, and (2) the heavy hand of Rupert Murdoch and FoxNews can be felt even on the front page of the WSJ. 

Emails in Clinton Probe Dealt With Planned Drone Strikes

Some vaguely worded messages from U.S. diplomats in Pakistan and Washington used a less-secure communications system

At the center of a criminal probe involving Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information is a series of emails between American diplomats in Islamabad and their superiors in Washington about whether to oppose specific drone strikes in Pakistan.

The 2011 and 2012 emails were sent via the “low side’’—government slang for a computer system for unclassified matters—as part of a secret arrangement that gave the State Department more of a voice in whether a Central Intelligence Agency drone strike went ahead, according to congressional and law-enforcement officials briefed on the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe.

Some of the emails were then forwarded by Mrs. Clinton’s aides to her personal email account, which routed them to a server she kept at her home in suburban New York when she was secretary of state, the officials said. Investigators have raised concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s personal server was less secure than State Department systems.

The still-secret emails are a key part of the FBI investigation that has long dogged Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, these officials said.  - The Wall Street Journal (subscription)

Chicken Little 

Don’t listen to GOP leaders. The economy’s not so bad.

Donald Trump supports opening up the libel laws, and defending those he sees as victims of nasty public defamation campaigns. Well, I can suggest at least one libel victim that needs a champion: the U.S. economy.

America’s economy gets a bad rap these days, thanks in no small part to Republican politicians’ constant smears and insults. “This is the worst recovery after a deep recession since World War II,” declaredSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Fox Business Network on Tuesday. He’s used similar language on CNBCPBSFox News and other outlets in recent days, as have other conservative commentators.

This data point, Republicans claim, is an indictment of the Obama administration. It’s also supposed to persuade voters to hold their noses and rally around the GOP’s bigoted new standard-bearer and the alternative economic vision he supposedly represents.

Except this assessment of our economy is completely wrong. Or at the very least, highly misleading.

In fact, if you go by the historical record, we may have exceeded expectations for where we should be this many years after a severe financial crisis. And relative to most other countries that weathered a crisis when we did, we’re doing spectacularly well.

Why did the United States do so much better than most of its peers? Partly better policy, partly luck.

Our central bank, the Federal Reserve, opted to loosen monetary policy and undertake controversial, unconventional measures early on. Today many economists credit these actions with keeping the United States from tumbling into a full-blown depression. The European Central Bank, by contrast, took a long time to follow suit.

On fiscal policy, too, we made better choices. Compared with the United States, many European countries engaged in much more draconian austerity measures, which often turned out to be counterproductive.
On the luck side of the ledger, though, we also benefited from having the world’s reserve currency. This meant investors around the world continued to gobble up U.S. Treasurys at the height of the crisis, which relieved U.S. policymakers of pressure to undertake big austerity measures (as, for example, Greece had to do). Plus, Americans were able to wipe out their unpayable private debts much more quickly than many of their counterparts abroad did, since mortgages here are more likely to be non-recourse loans. Foreclosures were painful, but once they were over, the underlying loans were discharged, and families could move on with their lives.

The United States was one of 12 countries that suffered a systemic financial crisis in 2007-2008. Of that dozen, only three others have since recovered all the territory they lost in the crisis: Germany, Ireland and Britain. The IMF forecasts that two more will recapture their pre-crisis peaks this year, and several more will do so in the next few years. Three countries — Greece, Italy and Ukraine — were so scarred by the crisis that forecasts going all the way out to 2021 still don’t show them regaining their lost ground.

Today, in the United States, the economy may not feel great. But compared with the roads not taken, it ain’t so bad.  - The Washington Post (subscription)  

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Obama, Biden and Warren get on board

Barack Obama Endorses Hillary Clinton for President

Mr. Obama calls on Democratic Party to unite around Mrs. Clinton after meeting with Bernie Sanders

President Barack Obama endorsed Hillary Clinton for president and is scheduled to make a campaign appearance with her next week in Wisconsin. Mr. Obama announced his endorsement in a video on Thursday around 90 minutes after meeting with Mrs. Clinton’s primary opponent, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders

“I’m with her,” Mr. Obama said, adding that he’s “fired up” and encouraging the Democratic Party and his supporters to unite around Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy.

The Clinton campaign said Mr. Obama and his former secretary of state would campaign together next Wednesday in Green Bay, Wis. The event kicks off a marathon push by the president to retain Democratic control of the White House.

Thought for the day:

"Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants."  - Benjamin Franklin

The Hammer of Justice



June 9, 2016

But wait, there's more

Jeremy Durham faces subpoenas in new state investigation

State election officials are set to audit and investigate the finances of embattled state Rep. Jeremy Durham, a move suggested by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery that will involve an array of subpoenas.

Slatery is already investigating the Franklin Republican in connection with allegations of inappropriate conduct raised in a Tennessean investigation. But Drew Rawlins, executive director of the state Bureau of Ethics and Campaign finance, told the state registry of election finance board Tuesday that Slatery believes more should be done.

"We have a letter from the attorney general's office alleging that Rep. Durham moved money from his campaign account into his title company account that he has as an attorney. The statute prohibits personal use of campaign funds, so if that took place that would be prohibited by the campaign finance statutes," Rawlins said after the meeting.

"It's illegal for him to use (campaign funds) for personal purposes, so that would really be what the statute says. Not necessarily to move it, but the movement into the title company would appear to be a personal use."

After some discussion, the board voted to audit and investigate Durham's campaign finances dating back to 2014. The board will also ask for subpoenas for Durham's personal bank accounts, his campaign accounts and his business bank accounts, Rawlins said.  - Tennessean (subscription)

College days

Gov. Bill Haslam signs transformative college overhaul

Gov. Bill Haslam signed his plan to overhaul college governance Wednesday, laying the groundwork for a summer that promises to transform the landscape of public higher education in Tennessee.

Flanked by a top state lawmaker and the president of Tennessee Technological University, Haslam said his plan — known as the Focus on College and University Success, or FOCUS, Act — would make the six universities overseen by the Tennessee Board of Regents more "nimble and and able to react to a changing world.

"This is a historic day," Haslam told a friendly audience in the university's nursing building. "We're here today to launch this movement to let great universities like Tennessee Tech have their own leadership and initiative focused on achieving the full potential of that university."

Under the FOCUS plan, the six universities in the Board of Regents system, including Tennessee Tech, Tennessee State and Middle Tennessee State universities, will getting their own boards that will oversee tuition, hiring and firing of presidents and other issues. The Board of Regents will continue to oversee the state's network of 13 community colleges and 27 technical colleges.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Time for answers

Lawmakers press for answers on TNReady 'debacle'

Appearing before lawmakers Wednesday to explain the future of online testing in Tennessee, state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen instead faced a series of questions about what went wrong with the state's $108 million contract.

In April, McQueen pulled the plug on the state's contract with Measurement Inc., the company hired to administer the new TNReady test. The move came after a series of failures snowballed into the cancellation of all testing in third through eighth grades — and after a last-minute switch to paper and pencil tests in February after the online platform could not handle the demand.

On Wednesday, McQueen outlined a speedy timeline for getting a new contractor on board.

The Department of Education is vetting the four other companies who had submitted bids for the initial contract. McQueen said she hopes to have a new contract in place within weeks. If the Department of Education selects one of those four companies, the department will not need any approval from lawmakers for the contract.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Tough Questions

Bob Corker Asked To Defend His Conditional Endorsement Of Trump

Sen. Bob Corker is urging Donald Trump to "pivot" into a more inclusive general election candidate, but he didn’t say what he might do if the presumptive Republican presidential nominee doesn’t change his ways. 

Speaking to MSNBC’s "Morning Joe" on Tuesday, Corker addressed a controversial statement Trump made recently, in which he accused a federal judge of being "unfit" to preside over a case involving Trump University because of his "Mexican heritage."

Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called those accusations wrong "at every level" and reiterated that Trump needs to change in order to unify the nation.

But the show’s co-host, Mika Brzezinski, jumped in, pushing the Republican senator to defend his endorsement of Trump. “I've got to ask you, Senator ... if he does not pivot — because you have talked about your hope that he will — if he does not pivot from this, is he fit to be president?” she said.

Corker responded that Trump needs to "take advantage of the incredible opportunity that anyone who cares about our nation would relish having." Corker added that advisors can help with the rest.

"There are armies of people that can help with treasury functions, with foreign policy, with commerce that would be willing to come in and help a candidate that — let’s face it — hasn’t fully formed views on numbers of topics," he said.

Corker's name has been floated as a potential running mate for Trump. According to the senator, the two met in New York last month to talk about foreign and domestic policy.   - WPLN

How cool is this?

Vanderbilt professor helps discover new element 'Tennessine'

OAK RIDGE — A team of scientists from Tennessee has helped discover a new element that might bring the Volunteer State to the 117th slot on the periodic table.

The Tennessee coalition, which included researchers from Vanderbilt University, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, played a key role in the 2010 discovery and confirmation of a series of super-heavy elements. Vanderbilt professor Joseph Hamilton suggested one of those, element 117, be named Tennessine, according to a statement from the university.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announced the "provisional recommendation" to accept Hamilton's suggestion. Its symbol will be Ts. Upon approval, Tennessee will become the second state to have an element named after it, according to Vanderbilt. Californium, element 98, was discovered in the 1950s, the university said.   - Tennessean (subscription)

Republican war on Tennessee women

After Opponents Argued It Was Unfair To Men, Tennessee Economic Council On Women Shuts Down

A state agency that strived to improve the economic lives of women will shut down for good, after Republican lawmakers argued it wasn’t needed.

The Tennessee Economic Council on Women will disband June 30 following 18 years in existence. A Senate committee voted in March not to renew the organization's charter, putting it on track to cease operations at the end of the state's fiscal year.

Opponents successfully argued having an agency dedicated to women's issues was unfair to other groups, namely men.

The council had an annual budget of just under $250,000 and employed three people. But the council's executive director, Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, says it played an important role, by offering state leaders a different perspective.

"We look at women's issues from an economic lens," she says. "So when we do violence against women, gender equity, we're looking at it as to how much it costs the public for these issues."

The council had received scant attention in recent years, even after it became clear its operations would be wound down. A March hearing on extending the agency's mandate drew only a handful of onlookers, and backers say they'd expected it to eventually win the support it needed to remain.

Those supporters instead held a news conference Tuesday to try to draw attention to their work and encourage state officials to keep some of it going.

Qualls-Brooks says the council's research often led to changes in state policy. She cited Tennessee's efforts to combat cross-border prostitution as one example.

The Economic Council on Women also organized seminars and helped women win appointment to state boards and commissions.

It's not clear what agency — if any — will take on those roles. The Economic Council on Women was administered by Tennessee State Department but operated independently.  - WPLN


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Bigwigs falling in line

Clinton to get boost from Democratic juggernauts

Now that she has wrapped up the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton is poised to receive timely political help from the current occupant of the Oval Office and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

President Obama and Warren will play key roles as healers of the rifts in the Democratic Party and serve as prominent Donald Trump debunkers when they come off the sidelines and endorse Clinton.

Warren has long said she would endorse someone in the Democratic primary contest, but she waited until after Clinton had clinched the nomination to signal that she would definitely back the first woman in US history to serve as a presidential nominee of a major party.   - The Boston Globe (subscription)

Trump is "Dangerously Incoherent"

Hillary Clinton Hits Donald Trump on Economics

With the Democratic primary behind her, Hillary Clinton said she now plans to put Republican Donald Trump’s business record and economic agenda at the center of her campaign, calling his ideas “deeply misguided” and “dangerously incoherent.”

In an interview Wednesday, Mrs. Clinton said she would deliver an economic speech soon contrasting Mr. Trump’s record and policies with her own. It will be modeled after a foreign-policy speech she gave last week where she used sometimes identical language to offer a biting critique of the presumptive Republican nominee, charging he was unfit to serve as commander-in-chief.

“While he may have some catchy sound bites, his statements on the economy are dangerously incoherent,” she said in the interview. “They are deeply misguided, and they reflect an individual who is temperamentally unfit to manage the American economy.”   - The Wall Street Journal (subscription)

 Thought for the day:

"Being ignorant is not so much a shame, as being unwilling to learn."  - Benjamin Franklin 

Playing the Woman Card



June 7, 2016


AP count: Clinton has delegates to win Democratic nomination

Striding into history, Hillary Clinton will become the first woman to top the presidential ticket of a major U.S. political party, capturing commitments Monday from the number of delegates needed to become the Democrats’ presumptive nominee.

The victory arrived nearly eight years to the day after she conceded her first White House campaign to Barack Obama. Back then, she famously noted her inability to “shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling.”

Campaigning this time as the loyal successor to the nation’s first black president, Clinton held off a surprisingly strong challenge from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. He mobilized millions with a fervently liberal message and his insurgent candidacy revealed a deep level of national frustration with politics-as-usual, even among Democrats who have controlled the White House since 2009.

Clinton, the former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady, reached the 2,383 delegates needed to become the presumptive Democratic nominee on Monday with a decisive weekend victory in Puerto Rico and a burst of last-minute support from superdelegates. Those are party officials and officeholders, many of them eager to wrap up the primary amid preference polls showing her in a tightening race with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

Clinton has 1,812 pledged delegates won in primaries and caucuses. She also has the support of 571 superdelegates, according to an Associated Press count.

The AP surveyed all 714 superdelegates repeatedly in the past seven months, and only 95 remain publicly uncommitted.

While superdelegates will not formally cast their votes for Clinton until the party’s July convention in Philadelphia, all those counted in her tally have unequivocally told the AP they will do so.

“We really need to bring a close to this primary process and get on to defeating Donald Trump,” said Nancy Worley, a superdelegate who chairs Alabama’s Democratic Party and provided one of the last endorsements to put Clinton over the top.  - The Washington Post (subscription)

Thinking it over

Sanders plans to ‘assess’ presidential bid at home in Vermont after Tuesday contests

Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to take stock of his presidential campaign at his home in Burlington, Vt., following Tuesday’s primary here and in five other states.

“Let’s assess where we are after tomorrow before we make statements based on speculation,” the Vermont senator said Monday at a news conference here, when asked whether he is willing to endorse rival Hillary Clinton in the coming weeks.

“We’ll be in L.A. tomorrow night and we’ll be taking a plane back to Burlington,” he added, when asked for further specifics on his schedule.

But Sanders made clear that he is far from ready to cede the nomination to Clinton, who picked up more delegates over the weekend and leads the Vermont senator among both superdelegates and pledged delegates.  - Washington Post (subscription)

Sizing up the campaign

There may not be enough white men in America to elect Trump President

Race isn’t the only demographic factor influencing the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. But, along with gender and education, it’s likely to be a powerful way to understand the contours of the electorate and the overall contest.

For that reason, the most important question of 2016 is: Can Donald Trump turn out enough white voters to beat Hillary Clinton?

In every presidential election since 1968, the Republican nominee has carried whites, sometimes with a plurality, sometimes narrowly, but increasingly by a comfortable margin. (see 1976-2012 exit poll data from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research at Cornell University; and 1968 and 1972 data from Gallup’s final pre-election surveys.)

Ronald Reagan won white voters by 20 points (56 to 36 percent) in 1980 and by over 30 points (66 to 34 percent) four years later. George H.W. Bush carried white voters by 20 points against Michael Dukakis in 1988.

Bush and Bob Dole each carried white voters narrowly in their losing three-way races against Bill Clinton and Ross Perot in 1992 and 1996, but George W. Bush carried white voters comfortably, 55 to 42 percent, in 2000. Four years later, Bush improved his showing among whites, carrying them by 17 points.

In 2008, John McCain carried white voters by a dozen points, 55 to 43 percent, while Mitt Romney did much better, winning the group by 20 points (59 to 39 percent).

[GOP worries rise amid hostile Trump comments on Latinos, Muslims]

Romney’s margin with whites was the same as Reagan’s in 1980 and Bush’s in 1988. Of course, Reagan and Bush won those races, while Romney lost by almost 4 percentage points. That is all you need to know about the changing nature of the American electorate.

Whites constituted 88 percent of the electorate in 1980, 85 percent in 1988 and 81 percent in 2000. But they were just 72 percent of all voters in 2012. If the recent historical pattern holds, they will account for no more than seven in ten November voters.

What does this mean for November?

Right now, major national media polls show very different snapshots of the general election. The May 16-19, 2016 Washington Post/ABC News survey, showed Trump leading Clinton by 2 points, while the May 13-17 CBS News/New York Times survey found Clinton ahead by 6 points.

Part of the reason for that difference is that the Washington Post/ABC News survey found Trump leading Clinton among whites by 24 points, 57 to 33 percent, a wider margin than Reagan or Romney had in their competitive contests.

On the other hand, the CBS News/New York Times survey showed Trump holding a much narrower 12 point- lead, 50 to 38 percent, among whites.

Most national polls show a competitive contest, but Clinton’s narrow lead is likely to grow after Bernie Sanders exits the race and his supporters get behind her.    - Washington Post (subscription)  

Funding Shelby Schools

Local, state leaders lobby for county to fully fund schools

State and local government representatives along with leaders of several community organizations gathered Monday to call for the Shelby County Commission to fork over an addition $43 million to fully fund county schools.

"We're here to encourage the county commissioners to do the right thing," Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, said in a press conference at the county administration building an hour before the commissioners were set to meet. The school budget issue was not on the agenda, however, and was pushed to June 20 for a vote.

State leaders acknowledged they don't think the legislature has done its full job, either, declining to fully fund all schools across the state.

"We're outnumbered," Rep. Larry Miller, D-Memphis, said. "The votes are not there to fully fund."

But Rep. Joe Towns Jr., D-Memphis, said that doesn't excuse the county from not contributing more money, as all school districts across the state face the same issue. "Some communities are stepping up to the plate," Towns said.

Shelby County Schools has a pending lawsuit against the state alleging it underfunds the school district by as much as $100 million a year.

Rep. G.A. Hardaway, D-Memphis, said he applauds the school district's decision to sue, and suggested the county should involve itself in the suit.  - Memphis Commercial Appeal (subscription)

This is not a drill

No, This Free College Degree Program Is Not A Scam, Tennessee Schools Tell Students

Tennessee universities have been sending out emails to thousands of students with a somewhat incredible subject line: "You may have earned an associate degree already."

This is part of a program the state rolled out last year called "reverse transfer," which has allowed hundreds of students who transferred from a community college to a four-year university to combine credits and receive an associate degree. But the program is still trying to overcome a perception hurdle: Some students don't believe it's real.

Tennessee colleges have identified at least 8,000 transfer students who might have enough credits to get an associate. But only about one in five students who get the reverse transfer email actually take the next step of opting into the program, according to the state's reverse transfer office. 

Melissa Irvin, Assistant Vice President for Student Success at Tennessee Tech, points out that students are already prone to overlooking emails. But even among those who read the email, she says, some think it's "too good to be true."

"What we've found is, particularly if it appears that there's not any individual-specific information in the email, they're going to think that it's a scam," she says.

So now, Tennessee Tech is asking advisers to tell students first: Be on the lookout for this generic email; it is notspam.    - WPLN

1st Nuke of the 21st Century

Watts Bar Unit 2 begins power generation

The newest reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant began generating electricity over the weekend.

The Tennessee Valley Authority synced Unit 2 reactor to the grid for the first time Friday and licensed operators have begun an initial test run of generation equipment.

The team is using this run to collect data to be sure generating equipment is prepared for continuous full-power operation later this summer.   

"This is another major step in fully integrating Watts Bar Unit 2 as the seventh operating unit in TVA's nuclear fleet," TVA Chief Nuclear Officer Joe Grimes said in a statement. "It is rewarding to see TVA taking the lead on delivering the first new nuclear unit of the 21st century and providing safe, affordable and reliable electricity to those we serve."

The next step is full-plant testing of systems and controls at increasing reactor power levels up to 100 percent power by this summer.

Combined with Watts Bar Unit 1, the plant will supply power to roughly 1.3 million homes in the TVA service area.  - Chattanooga Times Free Press


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Trump triples-down on racism

Trump has Republicans squirming with ‘Mexican’ judge attacks

A day before the last GOP primaries on the calendar, Donald Trump has dashed Republicans’ hopes that he would tone down his divisive rhetoric as a general election candidate, as they now race to distance themselves from the billionaire’s latest firestorm.

Trump’s repeated rants smacking around the Mexican heritage of federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the Indiana-born judge who is overseeing two class-action lawsuits against Trump University, show that the real estate mogul has no immediate plans to become the unifying figure he’s promised to be.

And that has Republicans squirming.

"It's completely racist," Joe Scarborough declared at the start of MSNBC's "Morning Joe” on Monday as he then railed against Republicans who have endorsed Trump and who have tried to disavow his racially based attacks on Curiel. "They can't be morally outraged this week when they knew what he was doing last week,” Scarborough said.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has so far withheld his endorsement, on Monday added to the growing legions of Republicans saying Trump is out of line. "Attacking judges based on their race &/or religion is another tactic that divides our country. More importantly, it is flat out wrong," Trump's former primary foe said in a two-part Twitter takedown. “@realDonaldTrump should apologize to Judge Curiel & try to unite this country. #TwoPaths,” he added.

Another of Trump's fallen rivals — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — also weighed in, and shared some sharp words. Rubio, who has said he'd speak on Trump's behalf at the convention in July, told a local television affiliate on Monday that Trump was "wrong" to question Curiel's fitness based on his ethnic heritage. "That man is an American," Rubio said.

Trump, meanwhile, is showing no signs of backing down. He ratcheted up his attacks last week when he told the Wall Street Journal that the American judge’s Mexican heritage is “an inherent conflict of interest” because of the billionaire’s proposal to build a massive wall on the southern border.

He went further on Sunday, telling CBS that it’s possible he would have similar concerns with a Muslim judge because of his proposal to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

The comments are not out of character for Trump, whose unprecedented rise through the GOP primary was marked by attacks on undocumented Mexican immigrants, Muslims, women and other demographic groups. But they fly in the face of Republicans who have rested their reluctant endorsements on the  premise that Trump will tone it down once he clinched the nomination.  - Politico   

How the "talking heads" are reacting

"Trump train derails on Capitol Hill," by Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim: "[H]is attacks on federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel are sapping any goodwill he had accumulated in private meetings and phone calls with congressional Republicans. But now that House Speaker Paul Ryan and much of the party have endorsed Trump, Republicans are left with little room to maneuver other than decry his comments and hope people move on. That's not likely to happen anytime soon, with media attention rising and Trump refusing to back away from his attacks."

JOE SCARBOROUGH on "Morning Joe," to D.C. Republicans, re Trump: "You have to start calling him out TODAY. This is not where you can do the slow boil. ... Say you'll retract your endorsement of him TODAY ... or the United State Senate is in DANGER. ... The House of Representatives is in DANGER. ...

"Republicans: Call him out. Make him back down on the Muslim ban. Make him back down on this racist statement he's made about a man [the judge in a Trump University case] born in Indiana ... Or else you lose the Senate, you lose the House, you lose the presidency, you will lose your standing as a national party. It's that simple. ... He's going backwards. ... He appears to be spontaneously combusting over a civil lawsuit."

--CHUCK TODD, to Joe and Mika: "What has happened in the last five days ... there's something about this ... that's leaving a mark. ... I'm just confused: Where is the sense of urgency inside the Republican Party?"

--TOM BROKAW, on-set at 30 Rock: "It seems to me they're stuck with what they've got."   - Politico Playbook  

The Donald's Daily Lie

Sorry, Donald Trump, the Trump University judge was just following the law

“He [Judge Gonzalo Curiel] is giving us very unfair rulings, rulings that people can’t even believe. This case should have ended years ago on summary judgment. The best lawyers — I have spoken to so many lawyers — they said, this is not a case. This is a case that should have ended.”
–Donald Trump, interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” June 5, 2016
“I have had terrible rulings forever. I had a judge previous to him [Curiel], and it would have been a very quick case. This is a case I should have won on summary judgment.”
–Trump, interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” June 5, 2016

Trump has been blasting U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel for having an “inherent conflict of interest,” because of his Mexican heritage and Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Curiel, who is presiding over two of three lawsuits against Trump and Trump University, was born in Indiana to parents who emigrated from Mexico. But the presumptive Republican presidential nominee continues to rail against the judge for biased, negative and unfair rulings.

Whether Curiel is biased is a matter of opinion, not one we can fact-check. But we took a look at what exactly a summary judgment is, and whether the judge’s decision was anything out of the ordinary, as Trump suggests. As usual, Trump’s campaign did not respond to our request for comment.

The Facts

Trump University marketed its seminars and mentorship packages that cost up to $35,000 as opportunities for “students” to learn tricks of the real estate trade from mentors and instructors said to be “hand-picked” by Trump.

Both cases before Curiel are class-action lawsuits from former students, claiming fraud and demanding their money back. One lawsuit was filed in 2010 by students in California, Florida and New York,  and the other in 2013 by a plaintiff who alleged he was misled and upsold to pay for an $35,000 upgrade.

Trump is named as a defendant in both lawsuits, and has filed for a motion for summary judgment in both. Last year, Curiel ruled on the motion in the 2010 lawsuit. The motion in the 2013 lawsuit is pending a court hearing next month, as noted in this explainer by the Popehat blog.

A “summary judgment” is a procedural move that allows a judge to dismiss a case before going to trial. If summary judgment is granted, that means the judge found there’s “no genuine dispute of material fact” that requires a full trial. So all the judge is deciding is whether the two sides agree or disagree on facts — a pretty low bar.

When a judge grants a summary judgment, it’s usually for a narrow and straight-forward issue, said Kevin Johnson, dean of the University of California, Davis School of Law.

“In any kind of complex factual case, it’s very hard to get summary judgment,” Johnson said. “The [Supreme] Court has made it clear that only in certain, limited cases, will summary judgment be granted. … We have a Constitution that requires civil cases to be submitted to a jury if there’s enough fact and dispute – and that’s a pretty important right to most people.”

The Pinocchio Test

Once again, Trump greatly stretches the facts to the point of Four-Pinocchio inaccuracy. We can’t fact-check whether or not Curiel has a bias against Trump; that’s Trump’s opinion. But what is clear is that Curiel made a straight-forward legal judgment as to whether two sides agreed or disagreed on facts, and whether or not they should be presented to a jury.

Further, Trump says the case should’ve been ended with a summary judgment, but fewer than 10 percent of federal court cases in key districts between 1975 and 2000 were resolved in that way. Judges make this decision for narrow circumstances, to filter for cases that shouldn’t be taken to a jury. Trump also overlooks that Curiel, in his November 2015 ruling, did grant him partial summary judgment.

Trump can disagree with the judge’s decision all he wants, but Curiel didn’t really have a choice: the students provided evidence that could dispute Trump’s reason for requesting a summary judgment. So Curiel had to do his job — and let the case go forward to a jury.

Four Pinocchios


Okay, this is kinda mean, but too funny to pass up

The 100 greatest descriptions of Donald Trump’s hair ever written

The first known published description of Donald Trump’s hair, as an entity that deserved its own description, was mild. “His sandy hair is probably a bit long by standards of the corporate world,” read a 1984 newspaper profile of the then-38-year-old mogul. “With the sides slicked back just a bit.”

Three decades later, describing the headstuff of the leading Republican presidential candidate has been elevated to an art form. Is is swirled or swooped? Animal or vegetable? (Mineral?) Burnt sienna or orange Creamsicle?  Last week Gawker published an extensive investigation asserting that the whole concoction might actually be a $60,000 weave.

Here, in the most comprehensive and highly scientific endeavor of its kind, culled from 30 years of news articles, we present the top 100 unique descriptors of the Trump mane, written by journalists or pontificators who secretly fancy themselves poets.

1. The complex superstructure that is Donald Trump’s hair
2. A masterpiece whose guiding principal is a heroic desire to completely conceal the forehead
3. A thin sheath of perfectly placed strands
4. An abandoned nest
5. A hairspray labyrinth
6. It appears to be a comb-over, but, in­cred­ibly, it doesn’t arrive from any direction. You cannot stare at The Donald’s hair very long. It’s like staring into the sun.
7. A decomposing ear of corn
8. A corn husk doll cursed by a witch
9. An ambitious corn dog that escaped from the concession stand at a rural Alabama fairground, stole an unattended wig, hopped a freight train to Atlantic City and never looked back
10. The furrowed wake that a speedboat would leave on a lake of orange sherbet
11. A Mobius combover
12. [His hair] resembles the behavior of alpha chimps who, as primatologist Frans de Waal reports in ‘Chimpanzee Politics,’ make their hair stand on end in order to look large.
13. The male equivalent of a push-up bra
14. An upside-down Twitter logo
15. A mullet that died in some horrific accident    - Click HERE to read the rest of them in the Washington Post (it's worth your time)

 Thought for the day:

"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing."  - Theodore Roosevelt



June 6, 2016

Remembering our heroes

Alberto Gonzales latest embarrassment to Tennessee

The Dean of a Law School, For Crying Out Loud

For several days a cringing nation has been trying to avert its gaze from the rank bigotry of Donald Trump's insane "he's a Mexican" tantrum regrading the federal judge, Gonzalo Curiel, who is presiding over the class action case of The People v. Donald Trump's Real Estate Get-Rich-Quick Hotel Ballroom Scamversity. Trump's claimthat the Indiana-born judge's Mexican heritage makes him unfit to preside over the case has been met with widespread alarm from legal experts, and it's been a parlor game these last few days watching prominent Republicans twist themselves into knots expressing their versions of measured disapproval while refusing to admit that the thing of which they disapprove is an expression of unvarnished racism, pure and simple.

To be fair, we expect Republican pols, having committed to partisanship over better judgment, to look for ways to rationalize Trump's latest rhetorical outrage. But what we don't expect is someone who should know better — who for crying out loud is the dean of a university law school — to come to Trump's racialist defense. But that's what we have in Belmont University's College of Law dean Alberto Gonzales, who penned a jaw-dropping Trump apologia at The Washington Post over the weekend.

Gonzales did allow that "Curiel’s Mexican heritage alone would not be enough to raise a question of bias." But he then goes on to promulgate the kind of guilt-by-association nonsense that is Trump's stock in trade. Gonzales writes:

Curiel is, reportedly, a member of a group called La Raza Lawyers of San Diego. Trump’s aides, meanwhile, have indicated that they believe Curiel is a member of the National Council of La Raza, a vocal advocacy organization that has vigorously condemned Trump and his views on immigration. The two groups are unaffiliated, and Curiel is not a member of NCLR. But Trump may be concerned that the lawyers’ association or its members represent or support the other advocacy organization.

"Unaffiliated"!  Curiel "not a member"! Good lord. How deeply is Alberto Gonzales embarrassing himself (and his university) with this? 

First of all, as constitutional law specialist Garrett Epps explains in The Atlantic, it is settled federal law going back decades that you can't challenge the impartiality of a judge on the basis of ethnicity. When lawyers tried to do that in a 1998 case in which litigants were fussed about a judge's Asian heritage, in a (failed) appeal the chief judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (a Reagan appointee) wrote:

Appointment by a particular administration and membership in a particular racial or ethnic group are in combination not grounds for questioning a judge's impartiality. Zero plus zero is zero.

Gonzales's argument is drawing rebuke not just from fuzzy-headed liberal do-gooders like me, but from serious legal types. George Mason University law professor Ilya Somin, a well known conservative legal scholar, writes:

Gonzales’ overblown insinuations of political bias are not as morally egregious as Trump’s claims that Judge Curial has a conflict of interest based on his ethnicity alone. But it is an extremely weak argument nonetheless.

Case Western law professor Cassandra Burke Robertson adds:

Taken to its logical conclusion, Gonzales’ position would allow unfounded speculation about a judge’s political leanings to give rise to a “legitimate question” about his or her “honesty, integrity, impartiality, temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.” This is not only wrong as a matter of judicial ethics, but it undermines the very legal system Gonzales has spent his entire career serving.

Perhaps we've grown all too accustomed to the likes of a nasty race-baiting attack on a federal judge from an ignoramus like Trump. Surely, though, the dean of a law school, and a former U.S. attorney general, should know better than to legitimize it.  - Nashville Scene  

Editor's Note - Gonzales's tenure as U.S. Attorney General was marked by controversy regarding warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and the legal authorization of so-called "Enhanced interrogation techniques" (i.e., much later, generally-acknowledged as constituting torture.) 

Oh, never mind

David French decides not to run as conservative alternative to Trump

The anti-Trump folks are still without a candidate.

David French, a lawyer and staff writer for the National Review, has announced that he won't be running for president as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump.

Just last week, French was identified as the champion picked by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol to dispatch Trump, whom Kristol has deemed unfit for the Republican nomination and the presidency.

French, an author and Army veteran who was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Iraq, is unknown to the vast majority of American voters and had little realistic prospect of gaining much support.

French said he "gave it serious thought" because the likely Republican and Democratic nominees are "two dishonest, deceitful candidates who should be disqualified for running for town council, mush less leader of the free world." He concluded, however, that "it is plain to me that I'm not the right person for this effort."

Given the late stage of the race, French says it would take someone "extraordinarily wealthy" or a "transformational political talent" to make a successful run. He names Mitt Romney as one such potential candidate.

Many Republican leaders who had been highly critical of Trump during the primary race have since endorsed the businessman, including House speaker Paul Ryan. But, several conservative leaders, such as Romney, have continued to push for a conservative to make an independent run against Trump and Clinton.  - Tennessean (subscription)


Blackburn Defends Abortion Committee Democrats Want Disbanded

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is supposed to respond to a letter today asking to disband a Select Committee on Abortion headed by Representative Marsha Blackburn. The House Democrats requested that the committee be dissolved on the grounds that it abused Congressional power.  

Democrats already know how Marsha Blackburn feels. The Brentwood Republican defends the legality of her panel’s investigation, specifically the 36 subpoenas to retrieve information from doctors and researchers. 

“Given the ability to subpoena and because we are working on a short time frame, it is necessary to get the information that is required for the committee to do its work. So we are working within the framework of the law and within the framework of the rules of the House,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn’s committee was formed in response to videos released by anti-abortion activists that depicted the selling of fetal tissue. The activists were later indicted for fraud and illegal recording, but the investigation has continued anyway.

The House Democrats also accused the committee of endangering doctors and abortion clinics by publicly disclosing their information. Their letter criticized Blackburn’s “inflammatory language,” linking some key phrases to violence at Planned Parenthood clinics.    -  WPLN

Speaking ill of the dead

Rep. Daniel’s tweet on Ali stings like a bee for some

State Rep. Martin Daniel stirred controversy on the Twitter circuit over the weekend with criticism of the late Muhammad Ali, using the boxing champion's birth name, Cassius Clay.

"Cassius Clay was a skilled, great boxer, but failure to enlist in the US military when the call was made is (a) black cloud on his character," the Knoxville Republican said in an initial tweet on Saturday. He subsequently reported Twitter had labeled the posting "sensitive" and he had to re-tweet it.

In subsequent tweets, Daniel defended his comments. One response asked, "What kind of coward waits until someone's dead to criticize their character?" Others noted that while Daniel criticized Ali for refusing to be drafted, he supports Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, who has been labeled a "draft dodger" by some critics.

Ali, who died Friday at 74, lost his world heavyweight boxing title after refusing induction into the armed services in 1967 and was banned from boxing for three years. But his five-year prison sentence for refusing to serve was ultimately thrown out on appeal.

Trump's draft deferments have been the subject of some debate in the presidential campaign. A Politifact article — appearing after the candidate criticized U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam veteran who spent years as a prisoner of war — says that Trump first got draft deferments while attending college and, after those expired and Trump was classified "1A" and thus immediately subject to the draft, he had a physical examination and was subsequently granted a medical deferment. Politifact concluded that Trump violated no laws and there is no way to determine whether he deliberately tried to avoid the draft.

Daniel did not return a call seeking further comment on his Twitter posting Sunday.   - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)


State Sen. Yager pushes back against feds’ opioid treatment proposal

State Sen. Ken Yager has formally protested a federal agency's move to let doctors issue prescriptions to more patients for the use of a drug designed to treat opioid addiction, contending the move opens the door to substituting abuse of one drug for another.

The Kingston Republican, who chairs the Senate State and Local Government Committee, said in a news release last week that he has filed formal comments with the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration opposing the rule proposed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Administration.

The rule deals with buprenorphine, a substitute opioid used to treat opioid addiction, mostly marketed under the name Suboxone. Under current rules, an individual doctor can prescribe the medication to no more than 100 patients in a year. The proposed change would allow up to 200 patients per year.

"This proposal is an important step to increasing access to evidence-based treatment to help more people get the treatment necessary for their recovery and is critical in our comprehensive approach to addressing the serious opioid epidemic facing our nation," HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a March 29 news release announcing the revised rule.   - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

Saddle up

Cohen urges federal crackdown on horse soring

Lawmakers and animal-rights activists who have pushed the federal government to crack down on an illegal practice that's sometimes used to give Tennessee walking horses their exaggerated, high-stepping gait are feeling encouraged that President Barack Obama's administration appears ready to act.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture served notice in April it is proposing a new rule to strengthen federal requirements aimed at eliminating the practice known as "soring."

The proposed changes would update the existing Horse Protection Act and would affect everything from inspection procedures to the responsibilities of managers of show horses, exhibitions, sales and auctions. The agency said it's also looking at devices, equipment, substances and practices that can cause soring.

"These changes will not destroy the Tennessee walking horse industry, as you may hear from opponents of the proposed rule, but will instead save this industry from imploding because of the bad actors who continue to abuse horses at the expense of the breed's reputation," the lawmakers said in a letter to Shaun Donovan, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Donovan's office is reviewing the proposed changes, a key step before the proposal is released to the public for comment.

The letter to Donovan was signed by 175 House members, including U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Memphis Democrat. Cohen was the only Tennessean whose signature appeared on the letter.   - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)


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Party of Trump

The GOP surrenders to the dark side

With the surrender of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) to the Trump crusade, it is fair to wonder what the Republican Party stands for.

Ryan’s endorsement of Trump, which appeared in an op-ed the speaker wrote for his hometown paper — rather than before a gaggle of reporters and newscasters with his arm draped around Trump’s shoulders — was a white flag from the establishment opposition.

In his op-ed, Ryan explained that though he doesn’t support all of Trump’s ideas (brave!), he’s confident that a President Trump would support the House agenda. Moreover, Ryan felt that his endorsement was needed to maintain a Republican majority in the House.

In other words, he caved, as most everyone knew he would after a respectable period of resistance.

The party has to stand united, after all. Because, as the Geico guy would remind us, that’s what they do.

Next likely to fall will be evangelical Christian leaders, who are scheduled to meet with Trump on June 21. The expectation is that Trump will promise to pick conservative Supreme Court justices who would restore the nation’s social order to a pre-Roe v. Wade, pre-gay-rights version.

If the purportedly devout can accept the ungodly Trump as the nation’s leader, then there really is nothing sacred. But, by God, he’s better than Hillary Clinton, clamors the crowd.

To Trump’s supporters, a billionaire with no governing experience, questionable business practices and secret tax returns would be vastly better than Clinton on no substantive basis whatsoever. Most compelling of all is the belief that Trump would nominate conservative justices.

But this assumption is as conjectural as the belief in Trump’s conservatism is wishful.

This applies as well to Trump, about whose policies we still know next to nothing. What we do know is that Trump is a chameleon who changes his positions with the same conviction he takes to the wedding chapel. More hummingbird than flip-flopper, he flits from one position to another, rarely alighting anywhere for long. Oh, yes, I like this one! No, that one.

Is Trump’s flexibility owing to a low threshold for boredom? Or does he perhaps suffer severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder? Suffice it to say, if he were a Democrat, Republicans would be blitzing the airwaves with cartoonish ads featuring Trump’s head on a hummingbird, his nectar-straw Pinocchio-esque. The possibilities are delicious.

This is not to minimize his appeal or to denigrate his fans, some of whom probably figure that underneath all the bluster is a solid chap who will hire the best people to figure things out. Others don’t much care for policy-talk, anyway, and whatever’s good enough for Trump is good enough for them.

Millions of others, contrarily, can’t ignore Trump’s tendency to be crude, rude and impetuous, not to mention disingenuous, contentious, simplistic — “I hate [nuclear] proliferation!” — and irresponsibly ignorant. And yet party leaders against their better instincts have circled the wagons around a movie character, not Chauncey Gardiner in “Being There,” as I once suggested, but Tom Hanks’s character in “Big.”

Of all the carefully examined flaws in Trump’s persona, the most concerning and potentially dangerous is his immaturity.

Like a child used to getting his way, he shouts, pokes, bullies, berates, pouts and parades. And thanks to him, the GOP’s big tent has become a tough-kid’s idea of a party — peopled with hot dames, swindlers, gamblers, bosses, bouncers and thugs — and some, I assume, are good people.

At least now, Ronald Reagan can finally get some rest. The Republican Party has left him.  Kathleen Parker (Republican Columnist)- The Washington Post (subscription) 

Decision Time

Bernie Sanders Campaign Is Split Over Whether to Fight on Past Tuesday

The senator has vowed to press his case, but some urge him to unite behind Clinton

A split is emerging inside the Bernie Sanders campaign over whether the senator should stand down after Tuesday’s election contests and unite behind Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, or take the fight all the way to the July party convention and try to pry the nomination from her.

One camp might be dubbed the Sandersistas, the loyalists who helped guide Mr. Sanders’s political ascent in Vermont and the U.S. Congress and are loath to give up a fight that has far surpassed expectations. Another has ties not only to Mr. Sanders but to the broader interests of a Democratic Party pining to beat back the challenge from Republican Donald Trump and make gains in congressional elections.

Mr. Sanders in recent weeks has made clear he aims to take his candidacy past the elections on Tuesday, when California, New Jersey and four other states vote. But the debate within the campaign indicates that Mr. Sanders’s next move isn’t settled.

For now, Democratic officials, fund-raisers and operatives are getting impatient, calling on Mr. Sanders to quit the race and begin the work of unifying the party for the showdown with the Republican presumptive nominee.

In a news conference Saturday in California, Mr. Sanders indicated he would battle for superdelegates all the way to the convention. “The Democratic National Convention will be a contested convention,” he said.

Mrs. Clinton, who won Puerto Rico’s Democratic primary on Sunday, seems to be running out of patience with Mr. Sanders. Having shifted her focus to Mr. Trump, she told CNN that after Tuesday, “I’m going to do everything I can to reach out to try to unify the Democratic Party, and I expect Sen. Sanders to do the same.”

When she ran against Mr. Obama in 2008, Mrs. Clinton stayed in the race until the end. As late as the final week of voting, she was talking hopefully of wooing super-delegates and capturing the nomination. But on June 7 of that year—four days after the primary season ended—she gave a speech bowing out and immediately threw her support to Mr. Obama.

Later that month, the two chose the town of Unity, N.H., to make a high-profile joint appearance aimed at persuading Clinton voters to get behind Mr. Obama.

Mr. Sanders is at a similar crossroads. The final contest of the primary season is June 14, when Washington D.C. votes.  The Wall Street Journal (subscription)

The Donald's Daily Lie

Trump’s claim that Elizabeth Warren made a ‘quick killing’ in foreclosures

“Goofy Elizabeth Warren, sometimes known as Pocahontas, bought foreclosed housing and made a quick killing. Total hypocrite!”

 —Donald Trump, in a tweet, May 25, 2016

Donald Trump lashed out at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for being a hypocrite after Warren attacked Trump for saying, before the housing bubble burst in 2008, that he hoped to profit from a downturn in home prices because of a real estate bubble. (As our colleagues at PolitiFact noted, Trump actually failed to predict the magnitude of the financial crisis, saying he didn’t think the real estate market would “take a big hit.”)

Trump alleged that Warren herself made a “quick killing” in the real estate market by buying foreclosed housing.

The Facts

Flipping is generally defined as buying and selling a property within six months, sometimes after extensive renovations. But Warren in her tweet said she assisted her family members (primarily an older brother and a nephew) who at the time were out-of-work construction workers. Warren came from a lower-income family but has an estimated net worth of $7.5 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, largely as a result of writing best-selling books and being a tenured professor at Harvard Law School.

We located 25 real estate transactions in the Oklahoma City area related to Warren’s family and 21 mortgage loans made by Warren to her family members. We found only four transactions involving foreclosure property, two made under Warren’s name. Most of the transactions took place in the 1990s and early 2000s, with Warren’s last loan being made in 2007. 

The Pinocchio Test

As usual, Trump greatly exaggerates. Warren twice bought homes in foreclosure, but she did not make a “quick killing.” One home that had been purchased in foreclosure was held in her family for 13 years. One home bought by Warren was resold within five months — but it was not purchased in foreclosure. The overall pattern demonstrated in the 25 real estate transactions don’t support Trump’s claim that she made a “quick killing” out of foreclosed homes. 

Instead, Warren mainly helped family members by purchasing or financing homes that were then held for years. Her family members did appear to profit from some transactions, but only modestly. This is not a portfolio of a savvy real estate investor but fits the profile that has been portrayed by Warren and her aides — a sister helping out her brothers and other relatives, mainly through loans. There’s nothing hypocritical about that. 

We wavered between Three and Four Pinocchios, as his claim is essentially worth 3½ Pinocchios. But we don’t do half-Pinocchios.

Three Pinocchios

 Fact Checker - The Washington Post

Billy Moore's Report from Washington

Congress returns to Washington this week confronting a decision: whether to make government function by addressing crises before the July political conventions or to focus instead on scoring partisan points. The agenda this week is defense - the authorization is up in the Senate this week and the appropriation is on the House floor, facilitating muscular political chest thumping. But leaders will be hard pressed to send President Barack Obama much substantive legislation over the summer work session. 

Two crisis items - the spread of the Zika virus and the looming Puerto Rican default will probably measure the summer's policy failure or success. Democrats may seek to delay the July 15 adjournment to vote on Merrick Garland's nomination of the U.S. Supreme Court, but likelihood for their success is zero.

Conferees will begin discussions this week on wildly different House, Senate and Administration Zika plans as the summer renders mosquito control, and efforts to limit the disease's spread, moot. The House may try to pass a bipartisan proposal – under attack from the left and right - to help Puerto Rico avoid a looming bond default this week.

With 24 Republican Senate seats at risk this fall, Senate Republicans have chosen a mostly bipartisan path for making government function even as they score points. Vulnerable Senate Republicans are seeking floor time for bipartisan bills on opioid abuse, criminal justice reform and an omnibus veterans bill they think will benefit them in the fall. 

The Senate's bipartisan aviation bill is stuck in the House, making yet another short-term extension likely. As with the Zika, Puerto Rico and appropriation bills, House Speaker Paul Ryan will need to decide soon whether to adopt a path closer to the Senate's bipartisan approach to make government function or continue on a partisan course that will yield political points but few accomplishments.

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

Thought for the day:

"I wish people would love everybody the way they love me. It would be a better world."  - Muhammad Ali


An American original



June 3, 2016

Another national embarrassment for Tennessee 

Trump delegate from Riceville advocated replacing Homeland Security with citizen militias

Told magazine that U.S. Leaders who violate the Constitution should be killed 

A Donald Trump delegate to the Republican National Convention from East Tennessee was also a delegate to a "Continental Congress of 2009" that advocated replacing the Department of Homeland Security with citizen militias, and told a national publication that U.S. leaders who violate the Constitution should be killed.

The Trump campaign approved M. David Riden of rural McMinn County as one of its delegates, and voters in East Tennessee's Third Congressional District elected him as a Trump-committed delegate, and his wife Perry Riden as an alternate, in the state's March 1 Republican presidential primary.

Barring any last-minute change in plans, the Ridens will be among the Tennessee delegation to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18-21.

Riden's views attracted the interest of the national liberal magazine Mother Jones,which published an article on its website Thursday linking him to the murky world of far-right militias and "patriot" groups. Riden did not return repeated calls and emails from the News Sentinel for comment, but the Mother Jones article reported that he discussed his views in an interview with the magazine.

The article quotes Riden as saying that U.S. leaders who violate the Constitution may have to be done away with: "The polite word is 'eliminated.' The harsh word is 'killed,'" Riden reportedly told Mother Jones. And he said all three branches of the federal government are "way off from the Constitution right now."  - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

Don't talk about it 

Gag order issued in University of Tennessee sex assault lawsuit

A judge set a May 22, 2018 trial date in a sweeping sexual assault lawsuit filed against the University of Tennessee by eight former students earlier this year, while also ruling that attorneys stop making comments to the media in the high profile case.

The jury trial is expected to last approximately three to four weeks. The trial date was picked to accommodate end-of-year finals and graduation for the dozens of university coaches, students, faculty and staff who are expected to be called as witnesses.

The lawsuit filed in February alleges that the university fostered a culture that enabled sexual assaults by student-athletes, especially football players, and then used an unusual, legalistic campus disciplinary process that is biased against victims who step forward.

The lawsuit laid the blame at the very top of the UT administration.

“UT administration (Chancellor Jimmy Cheek), athletic department (Vice Chancellor and Athletics Director) Dave Hart and football coach (Butch Jones) were personally aware (as ‘appropriate persons’ under Title IX) and had actual notice of previous sexual assaults and rapes by football players, yet acted with deliberate indifference to the serious risks of sexual assaults and failed to take corrective actions,” the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Jailhouse lawyers

Tennessee Supreme Court weighs inmates' rights to file lawsuits

A Franklin lawyer challenging a state law that says inmates who have past-due court fees cannot file new cases asked the Tennessee Supreme Court Thursday to deem the law unconstitutional.

David Veile of Schell & Davies law firm argued before the state's top court Thursday on behalf of inmate Reginald D. Hughes. Hughes' appeal of a decision that denied him parole in 2011 was dismissed because he owed $258.85 in fees, according to court records.

"The reason we're here today is because my client, Mr. Hughes, has been denied access to justice because of two reasons: He is indigent and he is incarcerated," Veile said.

A lawyer for the state representing the Tennessee Board of Parole argued the law is constitutional. The justices questioned the purpose of the law and whether it unfairly singled out poor inmates.

Assistant Attorney General Michael Polovich argued parole is a privilege, not a right, and said Hughes has no legal right to challenge the denial. He said the law is in place to prevent inmates from filing frivolous lawsuits and prevent taxpayers from covering the costs of those cases.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Tempest in a teapot

Mayor Andy Berke says he won't step down

Mayor Andy Berke said Thursday he has no intention of stepping down.

During a Thursday afternoon interview, WGOW 102.5 FM talk radio host Brian Joyce launched the on-air discussion with "the 5,000-pound elephant in the room" — allegations made by Bobby Stone that his wife, Lacie, the mayor's senior adviser, was having an affair with Berke.

Bobby Stone made the statements to police two weeks ago when they arrested him on domestic assault charges.

Berke has denied he had a sexual relationship with his senior adviser and told Joyce he could not comment further on the matter while it is under investigation.

One caller asked Berke if he would step down if any of the allegations proved true.

Berke responded by saying he has said all he would on the matter, but later added, "No, of course not," when Joyce asked him if he had any intentions of stepping down.

Joyce also asked Berke if the allegations were politically motivated, considering he is a Democrat "in a sea of red."

"I honestly don't think about it," Berke said. "It's not important."

Reality is much different than the world of social media talk surrounding the allegations, Berke said, citing encouragement he has received from people in the community when talking with them face-to-face.

There is no way he can focus on improving Chattanooga's economy and public safety if he worries about social media chatter, Berke said. Work has been a refuge for him during this time, he said.

On a personal level, Berke said it has been a trying time for his family and his adviser's family. Initially, he added, he reacted to the allegations with shock. "I was surprised," he said. "It took me a minute to get my arms around it."

Then it came time to deal with it, Berke said, praising his family's willingness to make the kind of sacrifices they've had to make for him to be in the political arena. They said it was worth it if he could achieve some good, he said.

"We know that you have to have a thick skin and you have to be ready for what comes at you" when you run for elected office, Berke said.  - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)

 Some good news for Memphis Schools

ASD commitment means AmeriCorps program coming to Memphis

An AmeriCorps program that provides academic support and wraparound services in schools is coming to Memphis next school year after the Achievement School District agreed to a partnership starting this fall.

Shelby County Schools already agreed to take on eight City Year members, enough to staff one school for a year, but program directors said they needed additional buy-in from the ASD to come to Memphis.

Two yet-to-be-determined schools, one in SCS and one in the ASD, will host 16 City Year members as a pilot program this fall, City Year spokesperson Sue McGovern said, with an expected full corps of at least 50 members the following year.

Tim Ware, executive director of the ASD's Achievement Schools in Frayser, said the state-run district is aiming for the first wave of City Year members to be in Westside Middle School. "We are committed to growing and expanding our partnership over the course of the next several years," Ware said.

The program employs recent graduates — the average age is 22 — to immerse in urban schools, building relationships with students, providing support for teachers and launching initiatives focused on needs like attendance.  - Memphis Commercial Appeal (subscription)

Memphis mothers against gun violence

Hundreds gather in Memphis to protest gun violence

On Feb. 8, 2015, two men shot and killed 22-year-old Chris Thomas as he sat in his car outside a Hickory Hill bar.

On April 22, barely two months later, an 18-year-old playing with a gun shot and killed Curtis Johnson, also 18 and just days from graduating from Southwind High School.

The two victims were related, and their mothers leaned on each other in their grief.

On Thursday afternoon in Downtown Memphis, those mothers — Tara Johnson and Tara Thomas — spoke to a crowd of more than 200 people, most of whom were wearing orange in recognition of National Gun Violence Awareness Day. "We are standing here because we both lost our sons to gun violence," Thomas said.

Thursday's event, held at the new outdoor spot called Loflin Yard, was one of numerous such celebrations elsewhere in Memphis and in communities across the nation. Those gathered Downtown heard several speakers, including State Sen. Lee Harris, District Attorney Amy Weirich and Mayor Jim Strickland.

The point, organizers said, was to recognize those lost to gunfire while, hopefully, stirring others to action. "Showing up today and standing together, it's not just lip service. It's not just pretty. It means something," said Laura Gettys, a pastor at St. Mary's Episcopal Church Downtown.

In Memphis, Strickland declared Thursday to be "Gun Violence Awareness Day," and the lights that normally shine blue outside the Liberty Bowl stadium were turned orange for the day. Strickland, calling this city's escalating murder tally an "absolutely unacceptable rate of violence," said he recently visited the mother of Myneishia Johnson, the 18-year-old shot to death Downtown on May 22.

"It is hard to escape the sadness," he said. "That's the real cost of gun violence. Lives ended before they get a chance to reach their potential."   - Memphis Commercial Appeal (subscription)


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The gloves come off

Hillary Clinton Calls Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Ideas ‘Dangerously Incoherent’

Democrat says presumptive GOP nominee’s ideas are ‘bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies’

Hillary Clinton delivered an opening salvo in her expected November showdown with Donald Trump, a withering portrait of his foreign-policy positions as uninformed, unsophisticated and “dangerous.”

In an address Thursday before a crowd of supporters here, the Democratic presidential front-runner used humor, contempt and the presumptive Republican nominee’s own words to make her case that America would make a “historic mistake” by electing Mr. Trump president and making him the commander in chief.

“Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different,” she said. “They are dangerously incoherent. They are not even really ideas—just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”

Mrs. Clinton made clear on Thursday that her principal line of attack will be on Mr. Trump’s temperament and unpredictability. “He is not just unprepared—he is temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility,” she said. Noting that the president has the power to launch nuclear weapons, she added: “Do we want him making those calls—someone thin-skinned and quick to anger, who lashes out at the smallest criticism? Do we want his finger anywhere near the button?”

Polls show that foreign policy is one of Mrs. Clinton’s biggest advantages over Mr. Trump. A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released last month found 56% of voters said Mrs. Clinton would be better able to handle foreign policy, compared with 29% who picked Mr. Trump. The survey gave her a 10-point advantage on who would be the better commander in chief.

The two candidates’ approaches to foreign policy are markedly different. Mrs. Clinton is considered a hawk of the left, willing to take risks and engage in overseas skirmishes in order to project U.S. power and protect key alliances. She has spent more than two decades criticizing China’s human-rights record and has referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “bully.”

In her speech, Mrs. Clinton used several of Mr. Trump’s assertions to attack him. In March, for example, he said at a Milwaukee town hall: “Wouldn’t you rather in a certain sense have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?”

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump denied saying this, anticipating it would be a line of attack from Mrs. Clinton. However, CNN has his remarks on tape and in a transcript from the event.

On Thursday, Mrs. Clinton reminded the audience of those comments and asked: “I wonder if he even realizes he’s talking about a nuclear war?”  - The Wall Street Journal (subscription)


Fact Checker            
(Editor's note - we've included the entire article, because Trumps contradictions, distortions, lies and delusions are fascinatingly dangerous.)

Here’s a guide to Clinton’s claims about Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton’s foreign-policy speech in San Diego was mostly a very long attack on Donald Trump, with many citations of the statements he has made on foreign policy. Below is a guide to some of her key claims, along with the context in which Trump made them.

In most cases Clinton was on target, though in a few instances one could argue that Trump’s statements were not as clear as she suggested. Trump speaks so often – and often says so many contradictory things – that Clinton apparently has a wealth of material she can deploy during the campaign.

Guide to key Trump statements

“This is a man who said that more countries should have nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.”

This comes from an exchange during a CNN Town Hall on March 29. Trump first says yes to the Saudis having nuclear weapons, then says no and then says “it is going to happen anyway.” Trump’s actual position is unclear, but Clinton relied on his first comment.

ANDERSON COOPER:  Saudi Arabia, nuclear weapons?

TRUMP:  Saudi Arabia, absolutely.

COOPER:  You would be fine with them having nuclear weapons?

TRUMP:  No, not nuclear weapons, but they have to protect themselves or they have to pay us.

Here’s the thing, with Japan, they have to pay us or we have to let them protect themselves.

COOPER:  So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them, too?

TRUMP:  Can I be honest with you?  It’s going to happen, anyway.  It’s going to happen anyway.  It’s only a question of time.  They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.

“This is someone who has threatened to abandon our allies in NATO, the countries that work with us to root out terrorists abroad before they strike us at home.”

Here, again, Trump’s point is confusing and inconsistent. In a March 30 town hall on MSNBC, Trump repeatedly suggested he will threaten NATO countries to bear a bigger burden, ultimately saying “If we have to walk, we have to walk.” (At an April 2 rally, Trump, however, also said: “Either they have to pay up for past deficiencies or they have to get out. And if it breaks up NATO, it breaks up NATO.”)

CHRIS MATTHEWS:  We don’t need NATO?

TRUMP:  Do you think — no, we don’t really need NATO in its current form. NATO is obsolete, and we’re spending disproportionately…

MATTHEWS:  How do you walk from NATO, The Middle East, North Asia, China, all these relationships?  Just drop them all?

TRUMP:  Look, NATO is…

MATTHEWS:  We have old deals we have to stick with.

TRUMP:  … is 68 years old.


TRUMP:  OK, you have countries that are getting a free ride.  You have countries that benefit from NATO much more than we do.  We don’t benefit that much from NATO….Why aren’t they reimbursing us?  Why aren’t they paying a good portion of the costs?

MATTHEWS:  Well, that’s fine.  It’s a good argument if you can get it.  But if the alternative is we walk…

TRUMP:  And we’ll get it, I’ll get it, I’ll get it.  I’m the messenger.

MATTHEWS:  If the alternative is we walk…

TRUMP:  If we have to walk, we have to walk.

“He believes we can treat the U.S. economy like one of his casinos and default on our debts to the rest of the world, which would cause an economic catastrophe far worse than anything we experienced in 2008.”

This claim came from an interview Trump gave to CNBC, in which he said he might reduce the national debt by persuading creditors to accept less than full payment, which is in effect a default: “I would borrow, knowing that if the economy crashed, you could make a deal. And if the economy was good, it was good. So, therefore, you can’t lose.”

Trump later said the media had misrepresented his comments and that he had no plans to default on the debt. “You never have to default because you print the money. I hate to tell you. So there’s never a default,” Trump asserted. (However, printing more money to cover government debt can lead to higher inflation.)

So, here, Clinton is relying on the first interpretation of Trump’s remarks.

“He has said that he would order our military to carry out torture.”

Trump said this during an appearance in Bluffton, S.C. on Feb. 17: “Don’t tell me it doesn’t work — torture works… Waterboarding is fine, but it’s not nearly tough enough, ok?”

“He says he doesn’t have to listen to our generals or our admirals, our ambassadors, and other high officials, because he has quote, ‘a very good brain.’”

Trump, in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” was asked who his top consultant was and he responded this way: “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things…my primary consultant is myself.”  As evidence, he claimed he had predicted the rise of Osama bin Laden, a statement for which he had previously earned Four Pinocchios.

“He says climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.”

This was an actual tweet from 2012:


The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.


“He has the gall to say that prisoners of war like John McCain aren’t heroes.”

This caused a stir last July, when some reporters wrongly thought it would be the end of Trump’s nascent campaign. “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured, ok? I hate to tell you,” Trump told the Family Leadership Summit.

“He praises dictators like Vladimir Putin and picks fights with our friends, including the British prime minister, the mayor of London, the German chancellor, the president of Mexico, and the Pope.”

This represents a series of statements, often in response to criticism made by foreign leaders of Trump. Clinton carefully says Trump “picks fights,” since not all of the comments are critical of the leaders.

  • Trump has certainly compared Obama unfavorably to Russian President Putin: “I will tell you, in terms of leadership, he’s getting an ‘A,’ and our president is not doing so well.”
  • Trump said of British Prime Minister David Cameron, after he faulted Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims: “It looks like we’re not going to have a very good relationship, who knows?”
  • Trump responded to similar criticism by London mayor Sadiq Khan this way: “I think they’re very rude statements and frankly, tell him, I will remember those statements. They’re very nasty statements.”
  • Trump was highly critical of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for allowing Muslim refugees into the country: “Everyone thought she was a really great leader and now she’s turned out to be this catastrophic leader. And she’ll be out if they don’t have a revolution.”
  • After Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said that Trump was using the same kind of language that ushered in Hitler and Mussolini, Trump told ABC’s “Good Morning America:”  I don’t know about the Hitler comparison [President Nieto made]. I hadn’t heard that, but it’s a terrible comparison. I’m not happy about that certainly. I don’t want that comparison, but we have to be strong and we have to be vigilant.”
  • Trump also faulted Pope Francis for planning to visit the Mexican border to pray with migrants: “I don’t think he understands the danger of the open border that we have with Mexico. I think Mexico got him to do it because they want to keep the border just the way it is. They’re making a fortune, and we’re losing.”

“He says he has foreign policy experience because he ran the Miss Universe pageant in Russia.”

Trump said this in an interview with Fox News: “I know Russia well. I had a major event in Russia two or three years ago, Miss Universe contest, which was a big, big, incredible event. An incredible success.”

“He called our military a disaster.”

Trump did use this language– “Our military is a disaster,” he said during a GOP debate–but this was during a discussion of reductions in military spending. Clinton, however, framed this as part of pattern of saying the United States is weak, which is not quite the correct context.

“It’s no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons.”

Clinton carefully says “suggests” because, again, Trump’s point was not especially clear and he contradicted himself. Here’s how The New York Times wrote up his statement:

At his second event, he returned to the question of a nuclear Japan, arguing both sides of the issue in almost the same sentence.

“I would rather have them not arm, but I’m not going to continue to lose this tremendous amount of money,” Mr. Trump said. “And frankly, the case could be made, that let them protect themselves against North Korea. They’d probably wipe them out pretty quick.”

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed ‘strength.'”  

Clinton goes deep in the archives for this comment on the 1989 massacre, made during a 1990 interview with Playboy: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world.”

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea – something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.”

Clinton here retooled her language on this Trump quote after getting Two Pinocchioslast week. She had previously said Trump “praised” the North Korean leader, but now she just lets Trump’s words speak for themselves:

“If you look at North Korea — this guy, he’s like a maniac, okay? And you have to give him credit. How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals, and all of a sudden — you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that? Even though it is a culture and it’s a cultural thing, he goes in, he takes over, and he’s the boss. It’s incredible. He wiped out the uncle. He wiped out this one, that one. I mean, this guy doesn’t play games.”

With words such as “incredible,” Clinton’s use of the word “gleefully” probably can be justified.

“He actually said – quote – ‘maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS.’  That’s right – let a terrorist group have control of a major country in the Middle East.”

This is from one of Trump’s interviews after he announced for president in June. In context, he appears to saying that ISIS could be defeated after they have been weakened through fighting, not that they should gain control of Syria.

Trump told Fox News: “Syria’s supposed to be our enemy. Iran and Russia are protecting Syria and it’s sort of amazing that we’re in there fighting ISIS in Syria so we’re helping the head of Syria who is not supposed to be our friend although he looks a lot better than some of our so-called friends. It’s really rather amazing, maybe Syria should be a free zone for ISIS, let them fight and then you pick up the remnants.”

“He bought full-page ads in newspapers across the country back in 1987, when Reagan was president, saying that America lacked a backbone and the world was – you guessed it – laughing at us.”  

The Fix counted 100 plus times that Trump has said the United States was a laughingstock. In the fall of 1987, Trump took out full-page advertisements in The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Boston Globe to argue that the United States should charge Japan for help protecting its oil tankers passing through the Persian Gulf. “The world is laughing at America’s politicians as we protect ships we don’t own, carrying oil we don’t need, destined for allies who won’t help,” Trump wrote at the time.  - Fact Checker in The Washington Post (subscription)

Wait, there's more

Trump Could Threaten U.S. Rule of Law, Scholars Say

Donald J. Trump’s blustery attacks on the press, complaints about the judicial system and bold claims of presidential power collectively sketch out a constitutional worldview that shows contempt for the First Amendment, the separation of powers and the rule of law, legal experts across the political spectrum say.

Even as much of the Republican political establishment lines up behind its presumptive nominee, many conservative and libertarian legal scholars warn that electing Mr. Trump is a recipe for a constitutional crisis. “Who knows what Donald Trump with a pen and phone would do?” asked Ilya Shapiro, a lawyer with the libertarian Cato Institute.

With five months to go before Election Day, Mr. Trump has already said he would “loosen” libel laws to make it easier to sue news organizations. He has threatened to sic federal regulators on his critics. He has encouraged rough treatment of demonstrators.

His proposal to bar Muslims from entry into the country tests the Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom, due process and equal protection.

And, in what was a tipping point for some, he attacked Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel of the Federal District Court in San Diego, who is overseeing two class actions against Trump University. Mr. Trump accused the judge of bias, falsely said he was Mexican and seemed to issue a threat.

“They ought to look into Judge Curiel, because what Judge Curiel is doing is a total disgrace,” Mr. Trump said. “O.K.? But we will come back in November. Wouldn’t that be wild if I am president and come back and do a civil case?”

Beyond the attack on judicial independence is a broader question of Mr. Trump’s commitment to the separation of powers and to the principles of federalism enshrined in the Constitution. Randy E. Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown and an architect of the first major challenge to President Obama’s health care law, said he had grave doubts on both fronts.

“You would like a president with some idea about constitutional limits on presidential powers, on congressional powers, on federal powers,” Professor Barnett said, “and I doubt he has any awareness of such limits.”

Republican officials have criticized Mr. Obama for what they have called his unconstitutional expansion of executive power. But some legal scholars who share that view say the problem under a President Trump would be worse. “I don’t think he cares about separation of powers at all,” said Richard Epstein, a fellow at the Hoover Institution who also teaches at New York University and the University of Chicago.

President George W. Bush “often went beyond what he should have done,” Professor Epstein said.  "But I think Trump doesn’t even think there’s an issue to worry about. He just simply says whatever I want to do I will do.”

Mr. Trump has boasted that he will use Mr. Obama’s actions as precedent for his own expansive assertions of executive power. But Mr. Post said there was a difference between Mr. Obama’s view of executive power and that of Mr. Trump. “Whatever you think of Obama’s position on immigration, he is willing to submit to the courts,” he said. “There is no suggestion that he will disobey if the courts rule against him.”

More generally, Mr. Trump has discussed revising libel laws to make it easier to sue over critical coverage.

“I’m going to open up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money,” Mr. Trump said in February. On one hand, Mr. Trump seemed to misunderstand the scope of presidential power. Libel is a state-law tort constrained by First Amendment principles, and a president’s views do not figure in its application.

Many of Mr. Trump’s statements about legal issues were extemporaneous and resist conventional legal analysis. Some seemed to betray ignorance of fundamental legal concepts, as when he said in a debate that Senator Ted Cruz of Texas had criticized Mr. Trump’s sister, a federal appeals court judge, “for signing a certain bill,” adding for good measure that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., while still an appeals court judge, had also “signed that bill.”

But bills are legislative rather than judicial documents. And, as it happened, Judge Alito had not joined the opinion in question.

Asked on “Good Morning America” in March about whom he would name to the Supreme Court, Mr. Trump said he would “probably appoint people that would look very seriously at” Hillary Clinton’s “email disaster because it’s criminal activity.” In the constitutional structure, however, Supreme Court justices are neither investigators nor prosecutors.  - The New York Times (subscription)


Thought for the day:

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."  - Thomas Jefferson

Terrific, wonderful, magnificent, yuuge, fantastic items from the Trump University Bookstore.



June 1, 2016

Columbia Tenessee candidate for Prez!?

Conservative Writer and Lawyer David French Eyed for Independent Run, Source Says

A source involved in the effort to draft a third-party candidate tells ABC News that Iraq War veteran and constitutional lawyer David French has had serious discussions about agreeing to run. The news was first reported by Bloomberg.

The possibility of a breakout independent presidential candidate has followed the 2016 campaign since the beginning, when Donald Trump used the threat of separating from the Republican race as a way to win establishment support.

Prominent Republican Bill Kristol, who is the editor and founder of the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard, has been actively predicting another person will run.

In addition to his role as a staff writer at the National Review, French is an attorney with a concentration in constitutional law and the law of armed conflict, and a veteran of the Iraq war, according to his biography at the National Review. He currently lives and works in Columbia, Tennessee, according to his biography at the National Review. He did not immediately respond to request for comment from ABC News.

His wife, Nancy French, has worked as a ghostwriter for Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin.   - ABC News  

Testing the waters

Karl Dean travels Tennessee to explore statewide run

Former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean traveled to Chattanooga and Memphis last week to talk to leaders in both cities as he explores a Democratic run for higher office, including a possible bid for governor.

In an interview with The Tennessean, Dean characterized these trips — and visits to other cities on the horizon — as educational and part of the process to determine whether to run for office in 2018 when two statewide seats are up for grabs.

He declined to say specifically whom he met with in Chattanooga and Memphis, calling them a “broad range of people.”

“I think for this calendar year, it’s a time for me to see whether I have something to contribute,” Dean said of a possible run for state higher office. “It’s an opportunity for me to learn more about the state and it’s also an opportunity, frankly, to see whether something like that is doable.That's really all I'm doing.

Dean, whose two terms as Nashville mayor concluded in September, is more frequently discussed as a possible Democratic candidate in 2018 in what will be an open governor’s race to replace Bill Haslam. In addition U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee — who has received recent speculation as a possible running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — will be up for re-election the same year.

Following his time in the mayor's office, Dean has spent the past eight months teaching at Belmont University and Boston University, as well as chairing a new education nonprofit called Project Renaissance.

Other Democrats bandied around as possible options for governor include Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.

The Republican list of possible gubernatorial candidates is considerably longer and includes U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.; U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.; Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd; state Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville; former ECD Commissioner Bill Hagerty; House Speaker Beth Harwell; Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville; and businessman Bill Lee, chairman of Franklin-based Lee Company.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Mess in Murfreesboro

Rutherford County Could Turn To The Courts To Force Indicted Sheriff Out Of Office

Rutherford County officials are considering a lawsuit to remove Sheriff Robert Arnold from office, leaving the decision up to a judge. Arnold was indicted Friday for profiting off the sale of e-cigarettes in his jail and has said he will not step down.

Burgess can’t force Arnold to leave his post, but state law does prescribe two scenarios that would remove him from office — a conviction on federal charges, which could take years, or an ouster lawsuit. One of those can be filed by the state’s Attorney General, the county attorney or even a group of citizens. Burgess says he has talked to his lawyers about whether to take legal action, but they’re holding off for now. Instead, they’re waiting for a hearing next week when a timeline should emerge for Sheriff Arnold’s corruption trial. Burgess hopes it will be expedited.

“I don’t know what’s reasonable," Burgess says. "Two to three months is reasonable. Now I don’t have any idea that that can be done in that time frame. We’ll have to let the judicial system sort of dictate that.” If the trial is more than a few months away, he says an ouster lawsuit may be his preference.  - WPLN  

Sincere condolences

Son of governor’s chief of staff dies

The son of Jim Henry, the deputy to Gov. Bill Haslam and the chief of staff, was found dead on the front porch of his home on Lower Gallaher Road in Roane County Tuesday morning. The location is identified in funeral arrangements as Henry's family farm.

James M. "Jimmy" Henry Jr., in his early 40s, apparently died of natural causes, said Roane County Chief Deputy Tim Phillips. His body was discovered by someone who worked with him, Phillips said. No autopsy was conducted.

An obituary being prepared Wednesday morning said Jimmy Henry "loved farming, Jeeps, old cars, politics and the outdoors." Graveside funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Kingston Memorial Gardens.

Besides parents Jim and Pat Henry of Kingston, Jimmy Henry is survived by his sister, Liesa Henry. He was preceded in death several years ago by brother John Calvin Henry.

Jim Henry was appointed a year ago by Haslam as deputy to the governor and chief of staff after serving two years as commissioner for the Department of Children's Services. He was formerly the first commissioner of the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

Henry served 12 years as state representative, with six of those years as the minority leader. He also is a former mayor of Kingston.  - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)



BBC report says Chattanooga 'is pioneering everyone's future'

One of the world's biggest radio networks highlighted Chattanooga over the weekend as a city that "is pioneering everyone's future."

In a 27-minute broadcast billed as "Chattanooga — the High Speed City," the BBC's Global Business report said Chattanooga's high-speed, citywide internet service has helped turn around an aging and dirty industrial town into a high-tech magnet for businesses around the globe. BBC journalist Peter Day visited Chattanooga and aired interviews with a half dozen businesses and community leaders during the global broadcast, which first aired in London on Sunday.

"All over the world, the Internet has unleashed an extraordinary appetite for using data, which can only be satisfied with more and more bandwidth and faster and faster connectivity," Day said. "It's bound to come everywhere eventually. In other words, Chattanooga is pioneering everyone's future."

Day said Chattanooga has been "super charged" by its high-speed internet and the attention and startup businesses that has attracted. 

With the background music of Glenn Miller's 1942 big band hit "Chattanooga Choo Choo" playing in the background, Day said Chattanooga transformed itself from a river and railroad connection into America's first "Gig City" by embracing a new kind of interconnectivity — the internet.

"And not just any internet," he said.

Day said he was surprised that the world's fastest internet connections "weren't introduced by a giant, international telecom" but instead came from the local, municipally owned electricity company, EPB.

In 2010, Chattanooga became the first city to offer community-wide 1-gigabit-per-second internet speeds to all homes and businesses. Last year, EPB upped its internet speeds to 10 gigabits per second available to any of the more than 170,000 homes and businesses served by EPB in the Chattanooga area.  - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)

Time to move on

Head of Tennessee Department of Correction to Step Down for Private Prison Gig

The commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Correction is stepping down June 20 to lead (surprise!) a Florida-based private prison company GEO Group. Derrick Schofield, who was appointed by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2011, has had quite the year. In that time, the safety of state prisons has been called into question after it was revealed that the prisons were severely understaffed and overcrowded. 

Legislators Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville) and Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) called for deeper investigations into Schofield and the way the department was run.

Here's the full release from Haslam's office:

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield will leave the administration at the end of June to join GEO Group in Florida as executive vice president for continuum of care.

Schofield, 55, has led the department since the start of the administration in 2011 and has been an integral voice in shaping the governor’s public safety agenda during the administration. He has served on the Governor’s Public Safety Subcabinet since its inception, most recently helping to shape the Public Safety Act of 2016, which makes smarter use of prison bed space, among other important safety objectives.

“Tennessee has been extremely fortunate to have someone of Derrick’s caliber as commissioner of the Department of Correction,” Haslam said. “I am personally grateful for Derrick’s professional approach and personal integrity as he worked to reduce recidivism, improve offender outcomes and assure a safe and secure environment in our corrections system.”

The state’s corrections system is comprised of 14 prisons, collectively housing approximately 21,000 offenders. The Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) has more than 6,500 employees and supervises 79,000 offenders on probation, parole or community corrections.

“I am thankful for the ability to serve under Gov. Haslam’s leadership and am proud of the work that we accomplished together,” Schofield said. “I am especially proud of the hard work the more than six thousand correctional professionals have put into making the Tennessee Department of Correction one of the best in the nation.”

The mission of the department was expanded in 2012 to include providing effective community supervision of adult offenders, transferring certain functions from the Board of Parole to the department.

Before becoming TDOC commissioner, Schofield was an assistant commissioner of Corrections in Georgia. A native Georgian, he spent eight years with the U.S. Army, reaching the rank of Captain, and has a master’s degree in Public Administration from Columbus State University.

Schofield’s last day will be June 20.

GEO Group is one of the country's largest for-profit prison corporations, second only to Nashville-based Corrections Corporation of America. Like CCA, it has been at the center of controversy over the way its prisons are run.   - Nashville Scene

Talk to your kids, save a life

At a deadly time of year for teen drivers, report says texting is on the rise

As the deadliest time of year for teenage drivers begins, a new report says that texting and use of social media are on the rise among them as they drive.

Nearly 60­ percent of crashes involving teen drivers involve some form of distraction, according to a report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, and in the 100 days after Memorial Day, teen crashes rise so dramatically that AAA has given those fair-weather months a name: the “100 Deadliest Days.”

“More than any other age group, teen drivers are proportionally involved in a fatal crash where a distraction is reported to be an overarching factor,” said John B. Townsend II, spokesman for AAA ­Mid-Atlantic.

Townsend said the AAA foundation, working with researchers at the University of Iowa, analyzed crash videos as a part of their effort to determine the degree to which distraction was a factor.

An average of 1,000 people per year have been killed in crashes involving teen drivers during the summer months in the past five years, the report said.

“Every day during the summer driving season, an average of 10 people die as a result of injuries from a crash involving a teen driver,” Jurek Grabowski, research director for the AAA foundation, said in a statement. “This new research shows that distraction continues to be one of the leading causes of crashes for teen drivers. By better understanding how teens are distracted on the road, we can better prevent deaths throughout the 100 Deadliest Days and the rest of the year.”

The report found that in almost 60 percent of teen crashes, the driver was distracted by something in the six seconds leading up to the crashes. In about 12 percent of the cases studied, the distraction was cellphone use. While the percentage of teens in crashes using cellphones has remained about the same since 2007, the researchers found that the manner in which they were using their phones had changed.

Earlier research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute said texting increases crash risk by 23 times. Another AAA foundation survey found that nearly 50 percent of teen drivers admitted they had read a text message or email while driving in the past 30 days. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that from 2007 to 2014, the percentage of young drivers seen visibly manipulating a handheld device quadrupled.

“Nearly two-thirds of people injured or killed in crashes involving a teen driver are people other than the teen themselves,” Ryan said. “This shows that teen drivers can be a risk to everyone on the road, and it is important to regulate their actions when behind the wheel.”  - The Washington Post (subscription) 

Foreign affairs 

Clinton launching national security case against Trump in California speech

Amid signs that respected Republican figures will not back Donald Trump because of national-security concerns, Hillary Clinton will try to burnish her leadership credentials after a primary campaign focused largely on domestic issues.

Retired Army Col. Peter Mansoor plans to vote for Hillary Clinton for president this year, but not because the longtime Republican and former top aide to then-Gen. David Petraeus has had a political conversion. He just thinks Republican Donald Trump is too dangerous to be president.

“It will be the first Democratic presidential candidate I’ve voted for in my adult life,” said Mansoor, a professor of military history at Ohio State University.

Clinton’s campaign hopes that there are many more national-­security-minded Republicans and independents who would vote for her, even grudgingly, rather than see Trump win the White House. Those voters are an important part of the audience for her case that she is fit to be commander in chief and that Trump is not.

Clinton has begun making that argument more forcefully as her long primary battle grinds to a close. She will deliver what her campaign calls a major foreign policy address in California on Thursday, focused both on her ideas and leadership credentials and on what she will describe as the threat Trump poses to national security.

“Clinton will rebuke the fear, bigotry and misplaced defeatism that Trump has been selling to the American people,” an aide said. “She will make the affirmative case for the exceptional role America has played and must continue to play in order to keep our country safe and our economy growing.”  - The Washington Post


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"Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel." - Mark Twain

Testy Trump takes his war with the press to a new level

Donald Trump's heated war with the media reached new heights as he turned the brag-worthy feat of raising $5.6 million for veterans' charities into a sparring match with reporters pressing him on the issue.

"The press should be ashamed of themselves," a defensive Trump railed during a Tuesday news conference at Trump Tower, called to announce a list of 41 charities that received a cut of the money he raised during a highly publicized January fundraiser.

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee had previously declined to disclose which charities had received the $6 million he'd claimed to have raised, and his campaign had gone back and forth about how much pledged money had come through. The Washington Post had pressed for an accounting of the donations, and several charities said they received checks just last week. 

Throughout Tuesday's 40-minute question-and-answer session, Trump accused the media of being "unbelievably dishonest" in their treatment of him.

While Trump has frequently made the media a punching bag, calling out reporters during his signature rallies, the taunts Tuesday were intense, even for him. The billionaire mogul interrupted his recitation of the list of groups receiving portions of the money to complain about the way reporters had called up charities to try to verify his contributions. He called the political press "disgusting" and dismissed one ABC News reporter as "a sleaze."

While Trump's fundraiser, held opposite a Fox News debate he chose to boycott, should have been a positive story for Trump, his campaign's refusal to disclose details about the money raised became a sticking point. Trump insisted Tuesday that "most of the money went out quite a while ago," but that didn't seem to be the case.

The Associated Press spoke or left messages with each of the organizations Trump named. Of the 30 groups that responded by Tuesday, about half said they had received checks from Trump just last week.

Several said the checks were dated on or about May 24 and shipped out overnight — the same date as a Trump interview with The Washington Post, which for weeks had been pressing his campaign to disclose the recipients of the millions raised during the splashy telethon-style fundraiser in Iowa.

Indeed, more than a dozen big checks were rushed out of New York early last week, bound for veterans' charities around the country. The largest, a $1 million check dated May 24 and drawn from Trump's personal account, was addressed to the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement Foundation, a small Tuckahoe, New York, group that provides scholarships to the children of fallen Marines. The foundation had presented Trump with an award at its 2015 gala held at a ritzy New York hotel.

Appearing Tuesday on CNN, Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton said she was glad Trump had finally given out the promised money. "The problem here is the difference between what Donald Trump says and what Donald Trump does," Clinton said. "He's bragged for months about raising $6 million for vets and donating $1 million himself, but it took a reporter to shame him into actually making the contribution."

Trump, who has refused calls to moderate his tone and temperament, also said he has no plans to change his tone with the press if he's elected to the White House.

"Yeah, it is going to be like this," he said of potential future news conferences led by a President Trump.   - Associated Press  

By the

Hillary Clinton Has Slight Lead Over Donald Trump in New Poll

A new national poll shows Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton with a slight lead over presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump. In a Quinnipiac University poll released today, 45 percent of voters said they would vote for Clinton, while 41 percent favor Trump.

Men and women are divided over Clinton and Trump, with men preferring Trump over Clinton, 51 to 35 percent. Women go for Clinton over Trump, 54 to 30 percent. Clinton loses to Trump among white voters by 17 points; Trump pulls in 50 percent of support among white voters, while Clinton gets 33 percent. Black voters choose Clinton over Trump, 93 to 4 percent, and Hispanic voters also pick Clinton over Trump, 65 to 18 percent.

When a third-party candidate is factored in, it becomes a tighter race. Clinton receives 40 percent, with Trump at 38 percent. Gary Johnson, a former New Mexico governor who recently locked up the Libertarian Party nomination, gets 5 percent, while Green Party candidate Jill Stein gets 3 percent.

In a match-up against Trump, Democratic candidate Bernie Sandersbeats the business mogul, 48 to 39 percent. But Clinton is the preferred candidate among Democratic voters to be their party's nominee. The Vermont senator garners 39 percent of support among Democratic voters for the nomination, behind Clinton's 53 percent.

Fifty percent of voters don't view Trump's withholding of his tax returns as a legitimate issue in this election, but 46 percent believe it is.

In more lighthearted questions, voters were asked whom they would rather invite to a barbecue and whom they'd rather watch on their TV for the next four years. Forty-four percent of voters said they'd rather watch Trump on TV, while 41 percent of voters would rather see Clinton. And 47 percent of voters are more inclined to invite Trump to a backyard barbecue; 39 percent of voters would invite Clinton.  - ABC News  

Snake oil salesman 

How Trump U Suckered Its Victims

For a Donald Trump fan who wanted to learn how to strike it rich in real estate, no cash was no problem, according to newly published ‘playbooks’ used by Trump staff for sales pitches.

On the same day we learned Donald Trump misled the public about what he claimed was a $6 million donation to veterans’ charities, we learned that Trump University tried to scam single mothers out of their savings while urging other prospective students to finance their faux education with credit cards.

On Tuesday, almost 400 pages of internal Trump University documents were made public, revealing the “playbooks” Trump employees used to guide their sales pitches for seminars and mentorships that could run upward of $35,000. The language employed by Trump University’s sales team is similar to that of multilevel marketing scams like AdvoCare and Amway, and even certain cults. 

As in those types of institutions, Trump protégés could rise through the ranks—for a steep cost—and saying “no” to an offer was viewed as a starting point to briskly move past, not a conclusion. The ethos was summed up in the playbooks’ introduction: “An attendee’s problem represents a golden opportunity.”

Trump University was founded on May 23, 2005, the year after the debut of NBC’s The Apprentice—a runaway hit in the heyday of reality TV that averaged 28 million viewers per episode. A for-profit institution, Trump University initially sold virtual lectures and courses on entrepreneurship, real estate, and marketing on CD-ROM for $300 each. In theory, though, it was selling something more fantastic: the tools needed to become wealthy and powerful, to attain your very own cavernous boardroom high above Fifth Avenue, from which you could fire your very own lackeys from your very own big, leather chair.

At the time of its inception, Trump University’s roster of professors from elite institutions like Dartmouth, Yale, and Columbia lent it a sheen of authenticity. The school even had a crest of red and gold, with a medieval lion in the center.

But things quickly deteriorated.

By 2011, having been stripped of the privilege of calling itself a “university,” the newly named Trump Entrepreneur Initiative was out of business. Today, it remains the subject of two class-action lawsuits in California as well as a $40 million suit brought by the attorney general from New York, Eric Schneiderman.

According to what former Trump University professors previously toldThe Daily Beast, the focus of the pseudo-school shifted swiftly from producing and marketing legitimate educational materials that could help people to hosting seminars with questionably credentialed motivational speakers that could do little more than turn a profit for The Donald.  Judging by the playbooks, the desire to turn that profit knew few bounds—something Trump, understandably, wanted to keep secret.

The de facto Republican nominee, a fervent critic of President Obama’s “total lack of transparency,” fought, via his lawyers, to keep the playbooks from becoming public knowledge. But on May 27, U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel ruled in favor of The Washington Post, which had requested their disclosure. In response, at a San Diego rally held Friday, Trump lashed out at Curiel, who is from Indiana, by labeling him a “Mexican” and a “hater.”  

Trump didn’t invent the get-rich seminar, and he isn’t the first person to use his considerable sense of self to convince other people that, with his help and his help only, they, too can achieve wealth and happiness.

But on the campaign trail today, he is the first American to take a get-rich sales pitch and apply it to the presidency.  The Daily Beast  

Trump's not the only one telling whoppers - Fact Checker

Mitch McConnell earns Four Pinocchios for a very stale talking point on household income

“People are legitimately unhappy. The average person is about $3,000 or $4,000 a year worse off today than when President Obama came to office, [so] you can understand the anxiety and the desire for a kind of quick turnaround.”

— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), remarks during interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” May 31, 2016

The U.S. economy changes from month to month. But old talking points never seem to die. In explaining the appeal of businessman Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, McConnell cited an exceedingly old set of numbers about median household income. Let’s explore.

The Facts

During the 2012 campaign, the Wall Street Journal wrote an editorial titled the “Negative $4,019,” claiming that the Obama years have been brutal on middle-class incomes. The editorial cited research on median household incomes by the nonpartisan economic consulting firm Sentier Research. The firm had produced a report, such as this one, which had documented the serious decline in inflation-adjusted median income in the aftermath of the Great Recession — which lasted from December 2007 to June 2009, six months after Obama took office.

The $4,000 number was picked up by Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign and even made it into a campaign ad.

To be sure, the Sentier data (and Census Bureau annual data) does show that since 2000, the last year of the Bill Clinton administration, median household income has been largely flat. (It was $57,576 in January 2000.) In other words, flat growth in income has extended over two full presidential terms.That’s the other problem with McConnell’s statement, besides being woefully out of date. The recession, which caused the drop in household income, began well before Obama became president. Obama did take steps to mitigate the crisis, so perhaps he can share in the blame (or the credit) for how the economy has performed since then. But a president has only limited control over the overall direction of the economy.

The Pinocchio Test

With the unemployment rate at about 5 percent — half the level in Obama’s first year — McConnell should have checked before uttering such a stale talking point. Instead, he reached back to a statistic that is four years out of date — and assigns far too much credit to a president for the state of the economy.

Virtually no growth in inflation-adjusted income since 2000 is a legitimate issue. But it is not an Obama-specific issue. McConnell needs to come up with a different explanation for Donald Trump’s rise — and why people are “legitimately angry.” In the meantime, he earns Four Pinocchios.

Four Pinocchios


Billy Moore's Report from Washington

The congressional appropriations freight train slowed last week before the weeklong Memorial Day recess, even as time is running short on Zika funding. President Barack Obama proposed the spending in February, and funding by mid-Summer is unlikely to help mosquito-control activities to guard against Zika. Even with greater appropriations haste, it is unlikely Congress can avoid a Continuing Resolution to prevent a government shutdown October 1. When Congress returns June 6, Republican leaders may have to change tactics to restore spending momentum.

House Republicans voted down an Energy-Water appropriations measure 112-305 Thursday because it included language barring federal contractors from discriminating against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Representatives then voted to allow a conference with the Senate over the Military Construction-VA appropriations measure and Zika virus riders. 

Senate progress on appropriations slowed because of delays on the Defense authorization bill that Republicans blamed on Democrats. Senators agreed to proceed to the bill on June 6, narrowing the amount of floor time left for appropriations before the national party conventions.

House Speaker Paul Ryan may have to renege on his promise for an open amendment process on spending bills – otherwise, the fiasco over the Energy-Water defeat will be repeated, leaving Republicans few accomplishments on which to run for reelection. It is a dilemma that frustrated former Speaker John Boehner for most of his leadership tenure. Speaker Ryan may respond by closing down some appropriations amendments, although that may not be enough to save the Energy-Water bill. Reversing the votes of more than 100 members to pass a bill is a very tall order.

Speaker Ryan may need to take a lesson from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose deft handling of contentious amendments from the most conservative members of his Republican caucus has helped him pass three bipartisan appropriations bills.

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

 Thought for the day:

"I tell people I'm too stupid to know what's impossible. I have ridiculously large dreams, and half the time they come true." - Thomas Nast

Meanwhile, at the GOP zoo . . .



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