May 10 2016


BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Republican insiders are buzzing about Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chair of Senate Foreign Relations, as an attractive, plausible vice-presidential pick for Trump. Corker - age 63, to Trump's 69 - surprised many in Washington by lavishing on-camera praise on Trump's foreign-policy speech two weeks ago. Last week, Corker told USA Today's Mary Troyan, who covers Tennessee for Gannett, that he "offered to help Donald Trump develop a foreign policy platform, making him one of the few senators to publicly embrace Trump ... Trump called him last week and he and Trump's campaign staff have talked since then."

Corker, among the wealthiest members of Congress, spent most of his life in business, and his bio says he brings a "results-driven businessman's perspective." A Republican who knows Corker well said: "He's an independent guy - kind of a tough guy - who's not afraid to swim upstream. He's frustrated by being in the Senate and not getting anything done. I think he'd really lean into this. He's not afraid to buck the old guard.And he's no dummy: He jumped out on the Trump thing early."

Another Great Mentioner told us: "Corker is not well-liked by his colleagues in the Senate. A big reason is he likes to get stuff done with Democrats. Trump might find that attractive."

Trump, who has said he plans to pick an experienced politician who knows the Hill and can help him get things done, dropped a potentially significant clue in his March 31 interview with the WashPost's Bob Woodward and Bob Costa: "somebody that can walk into the Senate and who's been friendly with these guys for 25 years, and people for 25 years.  -  from Politico Playbook

From the Wall Street Journal, no less

Hillary: The Conservative Hope

The best hope for what’s left of a serious conservative movement in America is the election in November of a Democratic president, held in check by a Republican Congress. Conservatives can survive liberal administrations, especially those whose predictable failures lead to healthy restorations—think Carter, then Reagan. What isn’t survivable is a Republican president who is part Know Nothing, part Smoot-Hawley and part John Birch. The stain of a Trump administration would cripple the conservative cause for a generation.

This is the reality that wavering Republicans need to understand before casting their lot with a presumptive nominee they abhor only slightly less than his likely opponent. If the next presidency is going to be a disaster, why should the GOP want to own it?

In the 1990s, when another Clinton was president, conservatives became fond of the phrase “character counts.” This was a way of scoring points against Bill Clinton for his sexual predations and rhetorical misdirections, as well as a statement that Americans expected honor and dignity in the Oval Office. I’ll never forget the family friend, circa 1998, who wondered how she was supposed to explain the meaning of a euphemism for oral sex to her then 10-year-old daughter.

Conservatives still play the character card against Hillary Clinton,citing her disdain for other people’s rules, her Marie Antoinette airs and her potential law breaking. It’s a fair card to play, if only the presumptive Republican nominee weren’t himself a serial fabulist, an incorrigible self-mythologizer, a brash vulgarian, and, when it comes to his tax returns, a determined obfuscator. Endorsing Mr. Trump means permanently laying to rest any claim conservatives might ever again make on the character issue.

Conservatives are also supposed to believe that it’s folly to put hope before experience; that leopards never change their spots. So what’s with the magical thinking that, nomination in hand, Mr. Trump will suddenly pivot to magnanimity and statesmanship? Where’s the evidence that, as president, Mr. Trump will endorse conservative ideas on tax, trade, regulation, welfare, social, judicial or foreign policy, much less personal comportment?

On Monday, former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who savaged Mr. Trump during the campaign, published an op-ed in these pages on why he plans to cast his vote for the real-estate developer as “the second-worst thing we could do this November.” Too much is at stake, Mr. Jindal said, on everything from curbing the regulatory excesses of the Obama administration to appointing a conservative judge to the Supreme Court, to risk another Democratic administration.

Mr. Jindal holds out the hope that Mr. Trump, who admires the Supreme Court’s 2005 Kelo decision on eminent domain (the one in which Susette Kelo’s little pink house was seized by the city of New London for the intended benefit of private developers), might yet appoint strict constructionists to the bench. Mr. Jindal also seems to think that a man whose preferred style of argument is the threatened lawsuit and the Twittertantrum, can be trusted with the vast investigative apparatus of the federal government.

The deeper mistake that Mr. Jindal and other lukewarm Trump supporters make is to assume that policy counts for more than ideas—that is, that the policy disasters he anticipates from a Clinton administration will be indelible, while Trumpism poses no real threat to the conservative ideas he has spent a political career championing. This belief stems from a failure to take Trumpism seriously, or to realize just how fragile modern conservatism is as a vital political movement.

But Trumpism isn’t just a triumph of marketing or the excrescence of a personality cult. It is a regression to the conservatism of blood and soil, of ethnic polarization and bullying nationalism. Modern conservatives sought to bury this rubbish with a politics that strikes a balance between respect for tradition and faith in the dynamic and culture-shifting possibilities of open markets. When that balance collapses—under a Republican president, no less—it may never again be restored, at least in our lifetimes.

For liberals, all this may seem like so much manna from heaven. Mr. Trump’s nomination not only gives his Democratic opponent the best possible shot at winning the election (with big down-ballot gains, too), but of permanently discrediting the conservative movement as a serious ideological challenger. They should be careful what they wish for. Mr. Trump could yet win, or one of his epigones might in four or eight years. This will lead to its own left-wing counter-reactions, putting America on the road to Weimar.

For conservatives, a Democratic victory in November means the loss of another election, with all the policy reversals that entails. That may be dispiriting, but elections will come again. A Trump presidency means losing the Republican Party. Conservatives need to accept that most conservative of wisdoms—sometimes, losing is winning, especially when it offers an education in the importance of political hygiene.   - Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal

Why Tennessee Congressman Jimmy Duncan Supports Donald Trump

East Tennessee Congressman Duncan says Donald Trump's campaign is laying bare a political divide based on income. 

On a day in which Donald Trump attempted to clarify comments on federal debt payments, NPR's All Things Considered host Robert Siegel talked to Duncan about his support for the apparent GOP nominee for president.

SIEGEL: Our reporter tried to understand Mr. Trump's statements about refinancing of the national debt. I'm just curious, do you understand what he's talking about and do you agree with him?

DUNCAN: Well, no, I don't really understand fully what he's talking about there. I do sympathize with and agree with him on being very concerned about our national debt. When I first went to Congress, it was less than $3 trillion dollars. And now it's over $19 trillion and headed up very fast, so it is of great concern.

SIEGEL: You are one of the most fiscally-conservative members of the House. Some conservatives say Mr. Trump is potentially a big spender. He says some taxes might have to go up for the rich. Does he pass your test as a fiscal conservative?

DUNCAN: Well, yes, I think, first of all, there's no perfect candidates. And what attracted me to Mr. Trump, first of all, was I'm the only Republican left in the Congress who voted against going to war in Iraq. And so I was attracted to Mr. Trump because of his seeming reluctance or noneagerness to go to war.

SIEGEL: Well, as an disputed conservative, what do you make of so many conservative writers and activists who are saying Trump isn't one of us?

DUNCAN: Well, I think there are probably even more conservatives, though, who find most of his views just fine. There - some who don't have been given a lot of publicity. But I agree with his foreign policy and that he's not a neocon, and I agree with his trade policy. I'm a little more sympathetic, I guess, on immigration. I have helped hundreds of people immigrate here legally. But even on that, though, in a way I agree with him on immigration also.

SIEGEL: When you say in a way, I don't hear you saying, I think we should build a wall, and Mexico should pay for it.

DUNCAN: Well, I don't believe that that's going to happen. I believe that something's going to be worked out. But I do believe that we've got to have tougher enforcement of our immigration laws.

SIEGEL: How would you describe Donald Trump's appeal to your constituents?

DUNCAN: Well, he has great appeal. In fact, he carried 94 out of 95 counties in Tennessee, and he carried every county in my district. There's a fascinating social or economic divide in many upper-income neighborhoods where it's just not polite to publicly say something good about Donald Trump.

I mean, the name just sort of brings shudders to many upper-income, elitist types. But he has tremendous appeal to middle and lower-income people, and, in fact, I think we're seeing the return of the Reagan Democrats.

SIEGEL: Congressman Duncan, the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and Donald Trump have differences, it seems, of both substance and style in their meeting this week. Should the speaker embrace Mr. Trump's views on, say, banning Muslims from entering the country or the wall in Mexico? Should Trump meet Ryan halfway? What should happen at that meeting?

DUNCAN: Well, I have great respect and admiration for Paul Ryan. And I think that his nonsupport thus far for Mr. Trump has been greatly exaggerated.

SIEGEL: He said I'm not there yet, and he wants to be there...

DUNCAN: Right.

SIEGEL: ...To embrace Mr. Trump.

DUNCAN: I think the tune of it was that he really wants to support Donald Trump for president. And I think he'll try to find a way to do so.

SIEGEL: But what do you make of Mr. Trump responding that perhaps Paul Ryan shouldn't chair the convention in that case?

DUNCAN: Well, I think that Donald Trump is a very nice man and because he hadn't run for office before that he at times maybe has overreacted to a little criticism.

And I think even his strongest supporters will tell you that he's said things that they maybe wish he hadn't said. But they do like his lack of political correctness, his forthrightness and his honesty. So...

SIEGEL: But forthrightness - you're describing - also being thin-skinned is what you're describing as well.

DUNCAN: (Laugher) Well, there might be a little bit of that in there. I - you know, that's the way I've explained it.

SIEGEL: Congressman Duncan, thanks for talking with us.

DUNCAN: OK, thank you, Mr. Siegel.

SIEGEL: Rep. Jimmy Duncan of Tennessee, who has endorsed Donald Trump for president.   - WPLN

Donald J. Trump vs. the Southern Baptist Convention

Last week, Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, a prominent evangelical leader and an active Twitter user, published an op-ed in The New York Timesunder the headline "A White Church No More."

In it, Moore denounces the "nativism and bigotry" that Donald Trump's candidacy has energized and goes on to write that the present and future of the evangelical church, like this country, is not primarily white. 

"The center of gravity for both orthodoxy and evangelism is not among Anglo suburban evangelicals but among African Anglicans and Asian Calvinists and Latin American Pentecostals," he writes. 

Moore isn't a newcomer to the anti-Trump train. He contributed to theNational Review's "Against Trump" issue in January. Then, on Sunday morning, he appeared on CBS' Face the Nation and said that Trump, and Hillary Clinton, represent “reality television moral sewage.” Trump senses criticism the way Obi-Wan Kenobi senses a planet being destroyed. So, he tweeted:

.@drmooreRussell Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!Sad!

17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

It will be interesting to see how Tennessee Republicans respond to the escalation of this feud. Prominent Tennessee GOPers — state House Speaker Beth Harwell, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker — are throwing in with Trump. But the Southern Baptist Convention is headquartered right here in Nashville, and many a Tennessee constituent goes to a Southern Baptist church. My guess? They will pretend there's nothing to see here and carry on.


-  Steven Hale in the Nashville Scene  

Sometimes, government actually works

Once barren Copper Basin reaches major milestone in restoration effort

DUCKTOWN, Tenn. — Standing in the Copper Basin today feels like standing in many rural Tennessee settings: rolling hills dotted with trees and grassy meadows, ponds alive with largemouth bass.

Step back to view it from a hilltop observation deck in the parking lot of the Ducktown Basin Museum and there are a few, subtle indicators this expansive stretch of land in the southeastern corner of the state is just a little bit different than the lush landscapes elsewhere in the region. Astronauts could once pick out Copper Basin from space for its misfitting appearance among a sea of green. 

That it no longer shows the prolific scars of its past, however, is a testament to decades of restoration efforts and a partnership of public and private agencies that recently reached a milestone agreement in the denouement of one of the nation's most remarkable acts of reclamation.

The Department of Justice and the Environmental Protection Agency announced a $50 million settlement last month with OXY USA in the form of two consent decrees that amount to a formal shaking of hands on a water clean-up effort more than 25 years in the making on this land sullied by the lasting effects of 19th century smelting techniques and subsequent mineral extraction.

Occidental acquired Cities Service in 1982. Cities Services sold its Copper Basin assets to the Tennessee Chemical Co. the same year, but Tennessee Chemical soon went bankrupt, leaving OXY USA liable for its assets.

In short, Occidental, an oil company with operations around the world, became legally responsible for cleaning up the waste left behind and the creeks destroyed from the 100-plus years of mineral extraction in the Copper Basin, even though the company never mined at the site.

Occidental and its environmental clean-up-oriented subsidiary, Glenn Springs Holdings, entered into a formal agreement with the EPA and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation in 2001 to clean up the Copper Basin and restore the water quality of its creeks that feed the Ocoee River.

Two wastewater treatment plants were activated, billions of gallons of water have been treated, and dozens of meetings have been held in Glenn Springs Holdings' Ducktown office, which once served as a general store for the mining town, then a bank. Now, pictures of the old Copper Basin line the walls, a sign of reverence for the past and reminders of how much has been accomplished.

"It's amazing what's been done at this site in just 15 years," EPA site manager Loften Carr said.

There could have been drawn-out litigation over who was liable for the site. Officials say this could have been like old mines out west, where nobody takes responsibility and contamination festers.

Instead, the Copper Basin is a success story.    - Chattanooga Times Free Press

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The Big Pivot

How Donald Trump is running to the left of Hillary Clinton

At a campaign rally here in one of the most liberal towns in America, Donald Trump offered praise for an ­unusual party: avowed democratic socialist Bernie Sanders.

“Now, I’m no fan of Bernie Sanders, but he is 100 percent right,” Trump told a crowd here this weekend. “He is 100 percent right: Hillary Clinton is totally controlled by the people that put up her money. She’s totally controlled by Wall Street.”

That’s not the only area where the presumptive Republican nominee sounds like Sanders, who is challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination. On a series of issues, including free trade and foreign military intervention, Trump is effectively running to the left not only of his own party but also of Clinton.

For weeks, Trump has openly praised Sanders, crediting the senator from Vermont for raising questions about the former secretary of state’s judgment on campaign finance, trade and foreign policy. He has also pointed to Sanders’s questioning of Clinton’s qualifications as a sign that the topic is fair game.

“NAFTA has been one of the great economic disasters. Who signed it? Clinton. Clinton,” Trump said Saturday at a rally in Lynden, Wash. He was referring to the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was actually signed by George H.W. Bush but was implemented through legislation signed by Bill Clinton.

“Some people would say I’m not that conservative on trade,” he said this weekend in Eugene. “And I believe in free trade, which everybody likes, but we’ve been taken advantage of by globalization because we have leaders that are incompetent. They don’t know how to do deals.”

He added on ABC’s “This Week”: “Don’t forget — this is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.”    - Washington Post

Magical thinking 

The Bankrupt Delusions of Donald Trump, the ‘King of Debt’

His loose lips send shivers down the spines of those who buy our federal debt.

According to Donald Trump, at $19 trillion the federal government hastoo much debt. Or so little debt that we could pay it off in eight years.

He says we could buy back federal debt at a discount by raising interest rates. But if interest rates rise by a couple of percentage points, he said last week that the United States of America would cease to exist.

As for taxes, we need to raise them on the rich. No, we need to lower them. Or raise them.

And American workers? Their wages are too high. No, too many earn nothing because foreign workers make so much less. Then again, maybe the minimum wage is too low.

If all his contradictory comments seem confusing, the fact is that they are. They are also difficult to square with Trump touting his economics degree from an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania, where he claims he was a top student.

What reality-show hosts say is of no consequence. But every public word presidents speak gets scrutinized worldwide. Candidate Trump’s wildly inaccurate and ahistorical statements are of no official consequence, but were he president they would have serious and damaging effects on the United States.

Consider what Trump said on May 5 to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about the cost of servicing federal debt: “If interest rates go up 1%, that’s devastating. What happens if that interest rate goes up 2, 3, 4 points? We don’t have a country.”

By Trump’s reckoning America should have ceased to be a country long ago. Back in 1982 the 10-year bond paid 14.6%. Uncle Sam’s average interest cost on all federal debt was 6.6% when George W. Bush took office. Last month it was just 2.3% even though the debt is 17 times the level of 34 years ago.

Trump talked about buying back debt at a discount and cited his own success in taking out loans, but not paying them back in full. “I’m the king of debt,” he said, in one of his frequent tangential comments focusing not on how a Trump administration would govern, but reminding us of his self-proclaimed greatness.

When journalists try to parse Trump’s words—no easy task because transcripts show jumbled thoughts galore—his response is to accuse them of misquoting him. So, whom to believe: Trump or that lying videotape?

On CNBC, Trump implied that when he took out some loans, he never intended to repay them in full.

“I’ve borrowed knowing that you can pay back with discounts,” he said on CNBC. “And I’ve done very well with debt. Now, of course, I was swashbuckling, and it did well for me, and it was good for me, and all that. And you know debt was sort of always interesting to me. Now, we are in a different situation with a country, but I would borrow knowing that if the economy crashed you could make a deal.”

That last sentence might send shivers down the spines of those who buy federal debt, as it could be read to say he would crash the economy as president just to make the market price of Treasury debt fall. I read his remarks as another example of his lack of articulation, but others could reasonably read into those remarks a plan to submarine the economy.

When challenged about his words, Trump revised his comments saying he was thinking only in terms of renegotiating the federal debt—88% of which matures in 10 years or less—to longer terms. What Trump didn’t mention is that Treasury bonds with maturities of up to 30 years pay on average 4.5% interest, more than double the average federal interest rate. The contradiction here is obvious: By Trump’s own words switching to longer-term Treasury bonds would result in interest expenses so high that America would cease to exist.

The Politics of Winging It

How and why “we wouldn’t have a country” were interest rates to rise is just one of the many observations that Trump has never been asked to explain.

So how do we make sense of the following: “If we can buy bonds back at a discount,” he said, “we should do that.” He also said that there would be no reason for holders of federal debt to ask the government to buy their bonds back at a discount. If that is so—and it is—then why say any of this?

The explanation is that Trump is winging it, making it up as he goes along just as he has through his career, which I have covered on and off for 27 years.

To those who understand economics, public finance and taxes, listening to Donald Trump talk about these issues is like listening to Sarah Palin talk about anything. The contradictions, the baseless assumptions, the meandering sentences that veer off into nowhere belong more in the fictional world of “Alice in Wonderland” where, as the Cheshire cat advised, “it really doesn’t matter which way you go” in search of the White Rabbit, but you could ask the Mad Hatter or the equally mad March Hare.

You might think that after decades of planning a run for the White House—after all, he did run in 2000 as a Reform Party candidate—Trump would have developed a clear set of views on economics. You might think he would have devoured policy papers, retained top experts and tested out ideas in speeches heard by few. You might think he would have polished and logical lines by now.

But that would require treating these issues as matters deserving of serious study. Absent such study, it is no surprise that much of what Trump says confounds those who have spent their lives studying economics, public finance, taxes and history.

Whatever Trump may have learned in college, his flip-flopping and wavering suggest that Trump saw no need to prepare to be president. It’s as if a chef decided he didn’t need to learn how to cook before pulling off a White House State Dinner.

Trump just tosses concepts into a pot. He starts with made-up numbers (our China trade deficit is $338 billion, not Trump’s $500 billion); adds some brazen conspiracy theories (Obama was not born an American citizen); mixes them with irreconcilable vagaries (taxes should go down, but so should budget deficits); tosses in some populist myths (thousands in North Jersey celebrated as the Twin Towers burned) and rotten ideas (the President telling Carrier, Ford and Nabisco where to build factories)—and finishes it all off with a bucket of rhetorical nonsense.

Trump is superb at one aspect of this. His economic stew would induce economic food poisoning, but he sells it with an appealing name: Make America Great Again.   - David Kay in The Daily Beast

The Donald's Daily Lie

History lesson: More Republicans than Democrats supported NAFTA

“NAFTA was signed by Bill Clinton. NAFTA has been a catastrophe, an absolute catastrophe for our country.”

—Donald Trump, interview with Bret Baier of Fox News, May 6, 2016

“NAFTA was given to us by Clinton. We can’t take any more of the Clintons.”

—Trump, during a rally in Charleston, W.V., May 6

“NAFTA, signed by Bill Clinton, has been a total disaster for the United States.”

—Trump, in an interview on CNN, May 2

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has long attacked free-trade pacts, in particular the North American Free Trade Agreement. For a politician who is remarkably inconsistent in his policy stances, opposition to NAFTA and trade deals has been a lodestar. BuzzFeed even located an October 1993 speech in which Trump attacked NAFTA as a bad deal.

“It’s a no-brainer,” Trump said, according to a news report. “The Mexicans want it, and that doesn’t sound good to me.”

But there are a lot of things that Trump gets wrong about NAFTA, including its basic history. He repeatedly associates it with President Bill Clinton, but that’s only half right.

Trump’s campaign never responds to fact-checking questions, but it could be that Trump is just using NAFTA as shorthand for all trade deals.

The Pinocchio Test

Whatever one thinks of the merits of NAFTA, it is important to get the history right. The trade deal was negotiated by a Republican president and passed with mostly Republican votes. Bill Clinton certainly pushed hard for its passage, even over the objections of many Democrats, but you cannot assign all of the blame — or give all of the credit — for NAFTA to Bill Clinton.

Compared to many of Trump’s misstatements, this error may not rank particularly high. But precision in language and knowledge of history is important for a would-be president. Trump undercuts his message on trade when he exaggerates the numbers and gets the history backwards.

Two Pinocchios


 Thought for the day:

"Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance".  - George Bernard Shaw

The Trump "Brand"



May 9, 2016

Questions outnumber answers for Haslam college plan

No one was surprised when Gov. Bill Haslam's sweeping plan to restructure the state's network of public colleges passed this spring.

The wide margin of support for the Focus on College and University Success, or FOCUS, Act in the Tennessee General Assembly was pretty much a given from the beginning.

The plan had a handful of high-profile critics, yes. And many state lawmakers questioned the need for such a dramatic reinvention, particularly given Tennessee's status as a higher education leader under the current structure, which brings six state universities together with community and technical colleges under the Tennessee Board of Regents.

But the University of Memphis has been clamoring for more local control for decades. And leaders at other universities scattered across the state came to Nashville this year to tell legislators they were excited by the opportunity to have more control over their own priorities.

Sen. Bob Corker says he's willing to advise Donald Trump on foreign policy

Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has offered to help Donald Trump develop a foreign policy platform, making him one of the few senators to publicly embrace Trump as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

The Tennessee Republican said Trump called him last week and he and Trump’s campaign staff have talked since then, most recently on Thursday night.

“I think he is well-aware now that he has to move into a period of really laying out more substantial policies and certainly as he evolves, to the extent we can be helpful and flesh those out, we are more than glad to do so,” Corker said in a Thursday interview.

Top Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have been slow to accept Trump as their party’s nominee over concerns about his shifting positions on key issues, his past support of Democrats, and his frequently offensive rhetoric.  - Knoxville News Sentinel  


'Trump Is Going To Help Us,' Tennessee Democrats Say At Jackson Day Dinner

In his keynote speech, James Carville didn’t hide his thoughts about Donald Trump. The famed political consultant says Trump at the top of the Republican ticket is nothing but good news for Democrats.

"Trump is going to help us. There is no doubt about this. We should not kid ourselves. We're looking at a 162-year-old political party literally cracking up right in front of us," Carville said.

Trump was the talk of the Tennessee Democratic Party's Jackson Day Dinner over the weekend, and many Tennessee Democrats think the real estate mogul's apparent Republican nomination presents an opportunity for them to start regaining ground in the state. Many Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, former President George W. Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, are distancing themselves from Trump.

Carville says that disunity will carry into Tennessee — even though Trump won the GOP primary back in March and Republican leaders in the state are lining up to support him in November. Carville blamed Republican rhetoric in recent years for giving rise to Trump, quoting the Bible:

"You reap what you sow."

Craig Fitzhugh, the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, shares Carville's optimism. He predicts middle-of-the-road Tennesseans will wind up casting their votes for the Democratic nominee. "And I think they will continue to vote that way on down the ticket," he said. 

Fitzhugh says pulling off just a few upsets in statehouse races would help his party. Democrats hold only about a quarter of the seats in the state legislature — so deep in the minority that they have a hard time getting their ideas on the agenda.

"We need to have enough gravitas with our votes, so that we can stop an argument, start an argument and let our voice be heard," Fitzhugh said. "Because that's part of the problem now. With the supermajority, they're just overwhelming us sometimes with their votes."

Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini boasted that 114 Democrats have registered to run this year for the state legislature and Congress. "We have so many folks that are stepping up to say, 'Enough is enough in the state of Tennessee. Enough of Tennessee Republican supermajority rule.'"

But Mancini doesn't expect to take back the reins of government this year either. She, like other Democrats, simply hopes this year might the one in which the electoral tide finally turns.   -WPLN

Saw this coming

The GOP's 24-hour meltdown

Trump's promise to unify the Republican Party is in tatters, as an all-out civil war grips the GOP.

Donald Trump on Tuesday night assumed the mantle of presumptive nominee and declared: “We want to bring unity to the Republican Party. We have to bring unity.” Three days later, the GOP is tearing itself apart.

Friday brought another day of incredible division and revolt with Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham falling in line not behind Trump, but behind House Speaker Paul Ryan, who said a day earlier that he cannot yet support the brash real estate mogul as his party’s standard-bearer.

Trump, instead of trying to make peace, lashed out. He fired off a vicious statement, calling Graham an “embarrassment” with “zero credibility.”

Then he laced into both of his former rivals during his rally in Omaha, Nebraska, where he is continuing to campaign ahead of Tuesday’s primary, despite having vanquished the rest of the GOP field.

“But I won’t talk about Jeb Bush. I will not say — I will not say he’s low energy. I will not say it,” Trump told a boisterous crowd who booed at the mention of his critics. “I will not say it. And I won’t talk about Lindsey Graham, who had like 1 point, you ever see this guy on television? He is nasty. … He leaves a disgrace, he can’t represent the people of South Carolina well.”

Trump also alternated on Friday between shrugging off Ryan’s bombshell announcement and scorching him. During a phone interview with Fox News, Trump said he was “very, very surprised” at Ryan’s comments. “It’s hard to believe,” he said, adding, “It doesn’t bother me at all.”

His tweets, however, suggest otherwise. “So many great endorsements yesterday, except for Paul Ryan!” Trump tweeted. “We must put America first and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Roughly 90 minutes later, Trump came back with a sharp critique of another comment Ryan made Thursday. “Paul Ryan said that I inherited something very special, the Republican Party. Wrong, I didn't inherit it, I won it with millions of voters!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The sharpest words, however, came from Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson. Not only did she say it’s incumbent upon Ryan to be the one bringing unity to the party, she suggested Ryan may be ill-suited for his current job. Asked pointedly by CNN’s John Berman whether Ryan is fit to be speaker if he can’t come around to supporting Trump, Pierson responded, “No, because this is about the party.”

Now that Trump’s the presumptive nominee, a full-bore GOP civil war has broken out, dividing the party into factions that are providing fresh headaches for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.

Priebus on Friday tried to encourage his fellow Republicans to put down their arms. Sitting down for a one-hour conversation with POLITICO’s Mike Allen, the beleaguered party leader repeatedly stated that it’s just been three days since Trump became the presumptive nominee, and that it’s going to take time for Republicans to absorb their new reality.

Lindsey Graham on Friday first issued a statement and then went on CNN — the same venue Ryan used — to explain why he can’t support Trump.

He said he couldn't back Trump because he doesn't think he is a "reliable Republican conservative, nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as commander in chief."

Jeb Bush took to Facebook to announce his disavowal. “The American Presidency is an office that goes beyond just politics. It requires of its occupant great fortitude and humility and the temperament and strong character to deal with the unexpected challenges that will inevitably impact our nation in the next four years,” Bush said in his post.

“Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character,” he continued. “He has not displayed a respect for the Constitution. And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy.”

It’s not clear when Trump’s most recently downed rivals will announce their positions.

Ted Cruz, who dropped out Tuesday night after Trump’s blowout win in Indiana, has not yet indicated to people close to him what he'll do regarding an endorsement. John Kasich, who dropped Wednesday, has been quiet about what's next, but according to a source close to the governor, the early indicators are that he's unlikely to throw his support behind Trump.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell earlier this week offered a tepid endorsement of Trump, remarking in a statement that "I have committed to supporting the nominee chosen by Republican voters, and Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, is now on the verge of clinching that nomination."

With Congress coming back to Washington next week, Republicans will have plenty to talk about.

In the meantime, there’s at least one Washington figure reveling in the GOP’s identity crisis — President Barack Obama.

He came out at the top of the daily news briefing to talk about the latest jobs numbers, but was clearly ready to talk Trump. When asked about Ryan’s stunning announcement from the day before, Obama told reporters — with a smirk — that he couldn't begin to guess what will come of the civil war.

"I think you have to ask Speaker Ryan what the implications of his comments are," Obama said.   - Politico


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Palin again?

Trump’s Veep Volunteers Could Fill a Clown Car

It will be months before Trump announces who will be joining him on his ticket. But a slew of people have already slowly walked away from that risky bet. And the volunteers to fill the space aren’t exactly in demand to do anything else.

It seemed like 2008 all over again.

Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and a, so far, not-so-effective surrogate for Donald Trump, floated the idea of being the presumptive nominee’s vice presidential pick during a CNN interview on Sunday.

“I think I’m pretty much as vetted as anyone in the country could be vetted already,” Palin, the infamous former running mate of John McCain said when asked if she’d give it another go this election cycle. 

Her suggestion, likely striking fear into the hearts of any casual establishment Trump supporters and delight among political observers, comes less than a week after a majority of Trump’s short list ran for the hills.

Governor Nikki Haley? Busy running South Carolina.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman? No time. Running for re-election.

Governor Susana Martinez? New Mexico needs her more.

Sen. Marco Rubio? Pass.

If anything, the reality television star has indicated that he wants someone with experience; someone to help continue rebuilding bridges Trump has burned with the Washington establishment he scorns.

“Somebody that can walk into the Senate and who’s been friendly with these guys for 25 years, and people for 25 years and can get things done,” is the way the straw-haired mogul described his ideal candidate to The Washington Post in April.

This one line—if it is to be taken at its word—chopped many of Trump’s closest political allies out of contention including former presidential candidate Ben Carson, who privately lobbied for the plum spot in March.

Trump is not rife with options for people that fit the 25-year experience parameters. His friends in Washington are few and far between and as he continues to try and wrest away whatever power Speaker of the House Paul Ryan still has, Trump isn’t making it easy for people to like him.

That being said, there’s a veteran of the force who has been forthright about his Trump love: Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions. But he too is allegedly not touching the VP spot with a 10-foot pole. “We’ve got enough problems,” Sessions told The Washington Examinerwhen asked this week. He added that Trump “needs to get somebody who can help him win this election. And that’s what I support. And I’m not sure who that is, but I’m sure it won’t be me.”

The only other feasible person that can offer the experience Trump purports to want, while actually being in a uniquely perfect position to accept the optics risk of the job is none other than Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich has been an early and feverish Trump cheerleader, privately lobbying GOP insiders to learn to love the firebrand demagogue and singing his praises on network television.

Despite saying in April that Trump would need “psychiatric help” if he chose him, Gingrich has been more bullish on the idea recently, ready to return to the spotlight he once had for suggesting the country create a moon colony. 

Trump has also made it painfully clear that running against Hillary Clinton means he’s going to relitigate the 1990s, dragging each and every skeleton out of the closet into the warm glow of the social media era.

“She’s married to a man who got impeached for lying,” Trump said of Clinton in Washington state on Saturday. “He was impeached and he had to go through a whole big process and it wasn’t easy. He was impeached for lying about what happened with a woman.”

Who better to have on your team than one of the leaders of that very impeachment?

Gingrich, then the speaker of the House, was a major force in trying to oust President Bill Clinton for lying under oath about his sexual impropriety. Ironically, Gingrich himself was carrying on an affair at the time, something which he later admitted before launching his own presidential campaign in 2012. (A Trump-Gingrich ticket may seal the deal for the most marriages on a single platform in the history of presidential politics).

Even though the conversation is swirling now, and people are already dropping like flies, Trump has said that he will announce his pick at the Republican National Convention in July as part of the pizzazz-filled spectacle he promises.

Still all early signs point to one person.

“Too early to hear anything serious,” a source close to the Trump campaign told The Daily Beast.

“My early money is on Newt.”     - The Daily Beast  


The Donald's Daily Lie

Donald Trump’s ridiculous claim that Hillary Clinton started the birther movement

“You know who started the birther movement? You know who started it? Do you know who questioned his birth certificate, one of the first? Hillary Clinton. She’s the one that started it. She brought it up years before it was brought up by me.”

— Donald Trump, interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, May 4, 2016

Zombie claims are stubborn things. No matter how many times you debunk them, they keep rising from the dead — even eight years later.

Trump was one of the most high-profile birthers during President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. Starting early last year, Trump and other Republicans blamed Clinton for starting the birther movement. Our friends at thoroughly disproved this and found no link between Clinton and the birther rumors. When Trump repeated it months later, PolitiFact and our colleague David Weigel again debunked it.

Not one to be deterred by facts, Trump said it yet again May 4, 2016, the day he officially became the presumptive Republican nominee for president. So we decided it’s our turn to get to the bottom of leading theories underlying this claim. Of course, the Trump campaign as usual did not respond to our request for information.

The Pinocchio Test

There’s no evidence to support Trump’s repeated claim that Clinton “started” the birther movement and was one of the first to question Obama’s birth certificate.  Further, the campaign denounced isolated instances of Clinton’s staffers questioning whether Obama was Muslim.

Four Pinocchios


Billy Moore's Report from Washington

Congress returns from recess this week with a bad taste in its mouth. Donald Trump's decisive victory in the Indiana primary and ascendency to presumptive Republican nominee, ticket mate of every congressional Republicans seeking reelection, is forcing a choice between their own policy and political agenda and endorsing their Trump - whose policies many Republicans oppose.

Some, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, came out in support of the nominee as House Speaker Paul Ryan said he could not yet support Trump. Others straddled the question: Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte, an incumbent locked in a toss-up for reelection, said she would support Trump but not endorse him.

The presidential campaign will the focus off the floor this week as Republicans try to decide how whether to unify or split with the national campaign.

The House agenda is focused on opioid abuse, including legislation to establish an inter-agency task force to review, modify, and update best practices for pain management and prescribing pain medication. Senators approved a companion package of opioid bills earlier this year on a vote of 94-1. Sometime after May 15, Representatives may bring appropriations bills to the floor, signaling the end of this year's hope for a budget resolution.

Senators will vote Monday for the third time on closing debate on the fiscal 2017 Energy-Water appropriation. Failure could signal an early demise of hopes for completing the spending process in regular order without a continuing resolution for the first time in two decades. With a budget deal in place, the process was expected sail smoothly, but poison pill riders have sabotaged the Senate debate. Disagreement on the topline-spending total undermines the House debate before it starts.

The pace of hiring in April slowed to 160,000 jobs while pay rose slightly, signaling a labor market more in tune with GDP growth of recent months.

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:

55 years ago today, in a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, FCC Chairman Newton N. Minow, now age 90 -- decried the majority of television programming as a "vast wasteland."



May 6, 2016

 "You've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything."  - Aaron Tippin

Haslam's position on Trump questioned by Democratic Governors Association

The Democratic Governors Association on Wednesday called out Gov. Bill Haslam and eight other Republican governors for refusing to say whether they would support presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump.

The group named Haslam, along with the governors of New Mexico, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Ohio — which is the home of John Kasich, who suspendedhis presidential campaign on Wednesday — as the "Silent Nine."

“Former RGA (Republican Governors Association) Chair Bill Haslam is watching on as the Republican Party transforms into the party of Donald Trump,” said DGA Communications Director Jared Leopold. “With Trump at the top of the ticket, Republican governors have nowhere left to hide. It’s time for Gov. Haslam and the rest of ‘The Silent Nine’ to declare whether they will support the presumptive Republican nominee."

As many as 21 Republican governors have said they would support Trump as the presidential nominee while one — Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts — has refused to support the real estate mogul.

In March Fred Malek, RGA finance chairman, told USA TODAY that a Trump nomination "could imperil his party's chances of picking up Democratic governors’ seats in Missouri, Montana, West Virginia, Vermont and New Hampshire.”

Haslam, who endorsed Marco Rubio just days ahead of Tennessee's March 1 primary, has frequently expressed concerns about Trump, including the presidential candidate's proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

Although several Tennessee Republicans, including House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, have said they will back Trump in November, Haslam has not explicitly said what he plans to do.

In early March, Haslam told The Associated Press that Trump would need to make major policy changes before he could consider supporting him.  - Tennessean (subscription)


Southern Baptist Thinkers Ponder Sitting Out With Trump As Nominee

Leaders of the Nashville-based Southern Baptist Convention say true believers should at least pause before jumping on the Donald Trump train. The denomination’s leaders have criticized the billionaire businessman throughout the campaign.

The head of the Southern Baptists’ flagship seminary, Albert Mohler, dedicated hisdaily podcast to the question — what now that Trump is on his way to the Republican nomination?

Bruce Ashford, provost at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, says the quandary should give the convention an excuse to become “something other than the religious special interest arm of the Republican Party.”

Trump does have a few fans among evangelical pastors. Robert Jeffress of First Baptist in Dallas is one of them. And he tells the Baptist Press that “no Christian has the right to condemn other Christians for the choice they make" for president.  -WPLN

Tennessee schools, up to the test?

How To Measure Tennessee Schools Without A Reliable Test? It’s Unclear

It’s still unclear how Tennessee schools will be measured this year after standardized testing was delayed and ultimately canceled. Administrators rely on testing data for teacher evaluations, student grades and overall accountability. Without it, districts are basically on their own. For some schools, a year without data might be a relief. Especially since this year's testing was kind of a mess.

That is not the case for Shaka Mitchell. He’s the director of two Rocketship elementary charter schools in Nashville, and last year, his students tested really well. "We were really looking forward to showing similar growth again," Mitchell says. "Now we’re going to lack data for at least a year."

Both of the schools are new. Nashville Northeast Elementary is in its second school year, and United Academy is in its first. Because of this, Mitchell says reliable data is critical as a way to prove themselves to their community. "Parents now have very little visibility when they are trying to compare schools in the same neighborhood," Mitchell says.

Although traditional district schools might be driven less by competition, Williamson County Schools’ Superintendent Mike Looney says test data does have its place. "You know, there are significant consequences and rewards for student achievement data," Looney Says. "And so this year, all that will be presumably paused, and we’ll have to pick that back up next year."

But in the meantime, his schools are making do with what they have — like classroom observation data for teacher evaluations. U.S. Education Secretary John King has weighed in, saying Tennessee needs to find other ways to hold schools accountable this year.

So far the state hasn’t indicated what those measures might be.  - WPLN

Google it!

Tech giant Google reaches out to get Memphis small businesses online

More than 80 Memphis-area small business owners gathered in a community college auditorium today to learn about getting an online business presence from an industry giant, Google.

 A business website that looks good on a desktop computer isn’t keeping up with today’s consumers, said Soo Young Kim, who heads the California-based technology company’s small business engagement from offices in New York.

With its “Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map” initiative, Google is providing free advice and online tools to small businesses for building “responsive design” websites that also display well on mobile phones and devices, Kim said.

The Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Southwest Tennessee Community College partners with Google to provide similar seminars on a quarterly basis about getting an online presence, but this was the first gathering in Memphis led by Google’s experts, said Rory Thomas, the center’s executive director.   - Memphis Commercial Appeal

Surplus power

TVA scraps Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant, puts it up for sale

The Tennessee Valley Authority is putting its Bellefonte nuclear plant on the block.

TVA directors voted Thursday to declare the unfinished power plant as surplus and move later this year to sell the 1,600-acre site in Hollywood, Ala., at a public auction to the highest bidder.

Although TVA has spent more than $5 billion to build and maintain the twin-reactor complex over the past 42 years, the TVA board was told Thursday a new property appraisal estimates the riverfront site and all of its reactor buildings, cooling towers and electrical switch yards is now worth only $36.4 million.

TVA is preparing to activate a second reactor at its Watts Bar Nuclear Plant next month, but TVA projects it won't need the power from any other major new power plants like Bellefonte for more than 20 years, if not longer.

"Our analysis of the property and its potential uses, and input from public officials, customers and Valley residents, indicate that offering the property for sale could better serve the public," TVA President Bill Johnson said.

TVA General Counsel Sherry Quick said TVA "is agnostic on how this will be developed" by any buyer, despite appeals by Alabama government and business leaders to reserve Bellefonte for another power producer that would commit to using the property as a nuclear plant or at least a major power or job generator.

TVA will hire a nationally recognized auction firm to prepare to offer the land to the highest bidder, without restriction on its use. Johnson said bidders for Bellefonte will have to be qualified and submit the plans they have for the site so TVA could consider what jobs and investment might be made from each bidder.

With two board members abstaining from the vote, TVA's board voted 7-0 that the utility begin a process to sell the plant through a federal surplus property sale.   - Chattanooga Times Free Press (subscription)


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 Should I stay or should I go? Bigwigs opt out.

All But One Former GOP Nominee to Skip Republican National Convention

The Republican National Convention in July is going to be missing some of the party’s most recognizable faces. All of the living former Republican nominees for president said they are skipping the Cleveland convention with the exception of Bob Dole, the 1996 GOP nominee.

An aide to Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, confirmed to ABC News that he “has no plans to attend the convention.”

Romney has been one of Trump’s most scathing critics. In March, he gave a speech urging the party to reject the real estate mogul, calling him “a phony, a fraud.” The news that he is not attending this year’s convention was first reported by The Washington Post.

On Wednesday, the last two Republican presidents, George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, also said they had no plans to back Donald Trump, the party's presumptive nominee. John McCain, the 2008 GOP nominee, told reporters last month that he was planning on skipping the convention to campaign for his re-election.   - ABC News

Run in fear?

Vulnerable Republicans Take Stock of Running With Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s elevation to presumptive presidential nominee has raised fears among some Republicans that he could damage the election prospects of the party’s congressional candidates.

Democrats have been working for months to link vulnerable Republicans to Mr. Trump, who has alienated many women and minority voters. But now that he has driven Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich from the contest, Democrats are pushing to make Mr. Trump an even bigger factor.

So far, Republicans in swing states have chosen three paths: to steer clear of Mr. Trump, to embrace him and to say he doesn’t matter in their races.

“Vulnerable Republicans are going to have to assemble a coalition of Trump supporters and people who are offended by Trump in order to get re-elected,” said Nathan Gonzales, an editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report. “It’s a difficult task, but not impossible.”

The Trump effect could be especially important in the Senate, where Republicans hold a 54-46 advantage and Democrats need to win four seats to retake control (five if they lose the White House, since the vice president breaks Senate ties). Many of the competitive Senate races are in states won by President Barack Obama, where voters may not be so friendly to Mr. Trump.

Some Republicans in tough re-election fights—including Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.), Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) and Mr. McCain—have said they won’t attend the Republican National Convention in July, steering clear of Mr. Trump’s official coronation.

On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) are trying to forge a Republican identity separate from Mr. Trump’s, casting GOP lawmakers as fiscally responsible problem-solvers. Mr. Ryan in particular has been working to boost the Republican brand, and has said that the House GOP will offer ideas for replacing the Affordable Care Act and overhauling the tax code before the July nominating convention.

One challenge for Republicans is that voters have resisted ticket-splitting in recent years. The share of congressional districts in which voters picked a president from one party and a House candidate from the other hasn’t exceeded 20% for almost 16 years.

In the last presidential election, just 5.7% of congressional districts split their tickets, according to data compiled by the Brookings Institution.

Charlie Cook, editor of the Cook report, this week put the odds that Republicans would keep the Senate at 40% or lower. He estimated that while Republicans would retain control of the House, they would likely lose between 10 and 15 seats.   - The Wall Street Journal  

No "there" there.

Officials: Scant evidence that Clinton had malicious intent in handling of emails

Prosecutors and FBI agents investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email server have so far found scant evidence that the leading Democratic presidential candidate intended to break classification rules, though they are still probing the case aggressively with an eye on interviewing Clinton herself, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

FBI agents on the case have been joined by federal prosecutors from the same office that successfully prosecuted 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui — and who would handle any Edward Snowden case, should he ever return to the country, according to the U.S. officials familiar with the matter. And in recent weeks, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia and their FBI counterparts have been interviewing top Clinton aides as they seek to bring the case to a close.

The involvement of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not indicative that charges are imminent or even likely. One official said prosecutors are wrestling with the question of whether Clinton intended to violate the rules, and so far, the evidence seemed to indicate she did not.  - The Washington Post

Thought for the day:

"The palace is not safe when the cottage is not happy." - Benjamin Disraeli  (He could have been describing our presidential election this year.)

Trump rides to the nomination:


May 5, 2016


Tennessee narrowly dodges a bulletBillions of federal dollars in jeopardy for North Carolina.

Justice Department challenges NC transgender law

The Justice Department has sent letters to North Carolina's governor and university system leaders notifying them that the state's transgender law violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act, according to a Justice Department official.

House Bill 2, the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, puts in place a statewide policy that bans individuals from using public bathrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex. The federal letters said, "Access to sex-segregated restrooms and other workplace facilities consistent with gender identity is a term, condition or privilege of employment. Denying such access to transgender individuals, whose gender identity is different from their gender assigned at birth, while affording it to similarly situated non-transgender employees, violates Title VII."
The Justice Department letters ask for a response by May 9 on "whether you will remedy these violations of Title VII."
Gov. Pat McCrory issued a statement, but didn't specifically say what the state will do. "A claim by the Obama administration charges that one part of House Bill 2, which requires state employees in public government buildings and students in our universities to use a restroom, locker room and shower facility that match their biological sex, is now in violation of federal law. The Obama administration has not only staked out its position for North Carolina, but for all states, universities and most employers in the U.S.

"The right and expectation of privacy in one of the most private areas of our personal lives is now in jeopardy. We will be reviewing to determine the next steps."   - CNN

Should TVA Sell A Mothballed Nuclear Plant?

The Tennessee Valley Authority appears poised to put a never-completed $4 billion nuclear plant on the auction block. TVA's board will consider selling the Bellefonte site at its meeting Thursday.

The public power utility began soliciting comments a few months ago. TVA has heard from people like Dus Rogers of the local economic development agency in Jackson County, Alabama. He heads an advisory committee assembled by TVA and says one thing the rural economy doesn’t need is a bunch of homes on the 1,600 acres, which are on the Tennessee River.

“There are plenty of other sites up and down the river for residential uses, so that site should definitely not be pursued for that,” Rogers said on a conference call with TVA officials this week.

Environmentalists share the concern about residential development, but for different reasons.

Stephen Smith with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says the banks should be considered a buffer and TVA should retain control.

“The TVA has given away an awful lot of riverfront property for development, and this is an opportunity to pull that back in the right direction,” Smith said.

Alabama’s top political leaders have encouraged selling Bellefonte to a private utility that would complete the nuclear plant, which was abandoned in 1988. Other potential bidders include a company that would use some of the existing infrastructure as they create power with “electromagnetic induction.”  -WPLN

 Insurance costs rise

Health Insurers Struggle to Offset New Costs

Insurers have begun to propose big premium increases for coverage next year under the 2010 health law, as some struggle to make money in a market where their costs have soared.

The companies also have detailed the challenges in their Affordable Care Act business in a round of earnings releases, the most recent of which came on Wednesday when Humana Inc. said it made a slim profit on individual plans in the first quarter, not including some administrative costs, but still expects a loss for the full year. The Louisville, Ky.-based insurer created a special reserve fund at the end of last year to account for some expected losses on its individual plans in 2016.

The rate picture will vary by state and by company, analysts said, and not all insurers will need large premium increases to bolster their financial performance. Indeed, some companies, including Medicaid-focused insurers such as Centene Corp., have already said plans sold through the health law’s exchanges are profitable.

Still, the analysts said, a number of insurers are likely to seek significant hikes as they aim to cover costs that have continued to outstrip their estimates—in some cases coming after earlier premium increases.

The increases, along with the continued lagging results for insurers, are a sign that the exchange business hasn’t stabilized for insurers in the first few years of the health law’s full implementation, prompting health plans to continue to push for more changes to the law. - Wall Street Journal


Nashville’s $38.8B health care industry ponders future

Health care is an unwieldy industry where specialty takes years to hone and the infrastructure of the system hasn’t radically changed in decades. But with increasing costs and outcomes, there’s a rush at all levels to — buzzword alert — innovate.

The industry behemoths that call the Nashville area home are experimenting with different methods and locations of care. It’s often a multipronged strategy of changing the brick-and-mortar while searching for new technology to help streamline care and operations.

Physicians, hospitals and other segments of the sector must juggle health outcomes with changing consumer preferences and ever-evolving government regulations. For many companies, there also are the omnipresent investors who clamor for returns. 

Companies are trying to figure out how to change the clinical care paradigm so that it’s more efficient, and ultimately costs less, Dr. Wright Pinson, CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System, said in an interview earlier this year.

Finding solutions in a do-more-with-less-money environment is imperative for the industry, whichcontributes $38.8 billion to the regional economy annually.  - Tennessean (subscription)

 Pay up or walk

14,000 driver's licenses revoked in Clarksville area

Thousands of people in the Clarksville area have received surprise notices in the mail that their licenses have been revoked because records show they have not paid court fines and fees dating back to 2012.

A total of 14,223 notices were sent out last week after the Montgomery County notified the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security that those people failed to pay litigation taxes, court costs or fines assessed by Montgomery County General Sessions Court, Circuit Court Clerk's Office Chief Deputy Patty Armstold The Leaf-Chronicle.

A computer system change last year allowed the county's computers to connect to the state system, making it easier to track delinquent cases and get licenses revoked, officials said.

Using the new system, court staff since September had been poring over all the general sessions records, dating back to 2012.

That's the year a state law was passed that allowed courts to have licenses revoked in criminal cases, even those not related to driving, if people did not pay fines and fees within a year.

People can set up a payment plan, but will have their licenses revoked again if they don't stick to it, Arms said.   - The Clarksville Leaf Chronicle



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The Republican Establishment is grumpy with Trump

How Trump Won—and How the GOP Let Him

Back when few people took Donald Trump seriously as a potential presidential candidate, the New York businessman asked former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife, Callista, to meet in Iowa. Over breakfast at the Des Moines Marriott Hotel in January 2015, Mr. Trump spent 45 minutes grilling Mr. Gingrich on his experience running for president.

“It was clear to me at the end of the talk that he was seriously considering it,” Mr. Gingrich said.

Yet two months later, in March 2015, three-quarters of Republican primary voters in a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll said they couldn’t imagine supporting Mr. Trump for president. He was so marginal that during a candidate cattle call by the National Rifle Association the following month more people stayed to listen to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal than to Mr. Trump.

Most Republican leaders remained oblivious while Mr. Trump plotted the political equivalent of a corporate takeover. With his resounding victory Tuesday in Indiana, he has seized a controlling stake in the Republican Party with the backing of shareholders unhappy with previous management.

Mr. Trump, having driven out the last of his rivals, is now the party’s presumptive nominee—a jaw-dropping outcome that says as much about the GOP, caught in turmoil and transition, as it does about Mr. Trump.  - Read the entire analysis in The Wall Street Journal 

  To be, or not to be?
Anti-Trump Republicans confront a dilemma: Are they ready to help elect Clinton?

Anti-Donald Trump Republicans are starting to consider whether their opposition to a Trump presidency is so strong that they would be prepared to fight him in the general election — even if that means helping put an avowed enemy, Hillary Clinton, in the Oval Office.

One strategy under discussion is to focus on helping down-ballot GOP candidates while sitting out the presidential race under the belief that Trump will lose to Clinton no matter what. A more drastic and difficult option: rallying support for a third-party candidate who could uphold traditional Republican positions but would almost certainly steal votes from Trump.

“You have to bet on sanity,” said GOP strategist Stuart Stevens, who helped lead the campaign of 2012 nominee Mitt Romney. “If this is one of those moments in history where for various reasons the party has to play out nominating someone who is completely unelectable . . . so be it.”

The dilemma came into focus Tuesday night, when Trump scored a decisive victory in Indiana over Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas — prompting Cruz to say he was dropping out of the race — despite an all-out effort by the anti-Trump forces to turn the state into a firewall to halt the billionaire’s march toward the nomination.

Trump triumphantly declared in an interview that the so-called “never Trump” movement was “dying a fast death.”

The difficulty of the GOP’s path forward was clear in the hours before and after the voting here. Even as Trump has tried to assert himself as the presumptive GOP nominee, he allowed his already bitter rivalry with Cruz to darken further. Trump on Tuesday invoked a National Enquirer report alleging that Cruz’s father had been spotted with Lee Harvey Oswald around the time of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Cruz called Trump a “pathological liar” and refuted his claim.

Cruz announced hours later that he was suspending his campaign. But the continued nastiness prompted some anti-Trump Republicans to look toward a once-unthinkable prospect — under­cutting the GOP nominee in ways that could make way for a Clinton presidency. 

“The GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it’s on the level,” tweeted Mark Salter, a former aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Then he added a Clinton campaign slogan: “I’m with her.”

For some Republicans, the prospect of a President Clinton is more palatable than a President Trump — not because they like Clinton, but because they could fight her on familiar terrain, rather than watching an unpredictable Trump use the power of the White House to remake the GOP.

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson, a staunch Trump critic, said he and other activists plan to hold a conference call Wednesday to discuss strategy moving forward. Among the ideas on the table is rallying behind a third-party challenger, an admittedly difficult task because of logistical hurdles involving such things as fundraising and securing spots on state ballots.  - The Washington Post

Kochs kinda in a bind

What the Kochs think about Trump now

Republican donors want nothing to do with Donald Trump.

On Wednesday morning, the presumptive GOP nominee, who has largely self-financed his presidential bid so far, announced that he would be soliciting checks from small contributors and would soon make a decision about whether to accept big contributions from the ranks of Republican megadonors.

But in interviews with more than a dozen major GOP funders, not one on Wednesday would commit to donating to Trump. Some raised the possibility that they would focus solely on giving to House or Senate candidates.

Others went further in expressing their discontent: Representatives of Charles and David Koch, the billionaire industrialists who helped to bankroll the rise of the tea party, warned the brothers could sit out the presidential campaign entirely — or even back Hillary Clinton.

With so many of the GOP’s funders closing their checkbooks, battles over money are breaking out behind closed doors. And as concern grows that Republicans will suffer a shortfall that could stymie candidates up and down the ballot, some foresee looming cash fights pitting Trump against congressional Republicans who are anxious to preserve their hard-won majorities.
To say big donors are turned off by Trump might be an understatement. On the day that the GOP crowned a de facto nominee, some of the party’s most prolific benefactors talked openly about backing the expected standard-bearer for the rival party.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, though, might be the Kochs. Last month, Charles Koch told ABC News that it’s “possible” Clinton would make a better president than Trump. On Wednesday, the brothers declined to rule out the possibility of backing the former secretary of state. Others say they’re turning their attention to critical down-ballot contests, where candidates could find themselves at risk if Trump tanks.

In some corners of the GOP fundraising world, the mood on Wednesday was downright morose. During an interview, one of Washington’s most influential lobbyists joked that he was considering opening up the window of his high-rise office building and jumping.

Others, though, were more sanguine. Trump, they reasoned, might not be so bad after all.

“I think we'll go through an initial phase of holding back,” said former Minnesota Rep. Vin Weber, a prominent Washington lobbyist. “If Trump looks good, he'll convert all sorts of donors.”   - Politico

 Thought for the day:

"Constitutions should consist only of general provisions; the reason is that they must necessarily be permanent, and that they cannot calculate for the possible change of things."  - Alexander Hamilton (could be speaking to us today about "original intent.")


May 4

Hold onto your hats  - the general election campaign starts now

Trump: We will win

It was the night Donald Trump broke his enemies.

The real estate mogul on Tuesday crushed Ted Cruz in Indiana, ejecting the Texas senator from the race, and declaring from Trump Tower in New York City that he will lead the GOP to victory in November.

It was a pivotal moment in a stunning race that has seen the billionaire go from sideshow laughingstock to the Republican Party’s best hope to reclaim the White House, despite an intransigent faction that will never view him as their legitimate leader.

"We're going to win in November," a triumphant Trump announced from his campaign headquarters, surrounded by his family, adding that it’s time for the GOP to rally behind him. “We want to bring unity to the Republican Party. We have to bring unity.”

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who has occasionally feuded publicly with Trump, on Tuesday night spoke with Trump by phone and tweeted out two words that seemed unfathomable 10 months ago: “presumptive nominee.”

@realDonaldTrump will be presumptive @GOP nominee, we all need to unite and focus on defeating @HillaryClinton #NeverClinton,” Priebus stated.

But evidence of division was everywhere among establishment Republicans as they digested the reality of Trump leading the party. The most hardcore anti-Trump leaders in the party alternated between outwardly embracing Hillary Clinton – the likely Democratic nominee – and musing about third-party options, while other Republicans urged the party to follow the will of the voters.

“Tonight's outcome raises seriousness & urgency of discussions about third-party alternative; how real it is depends on who steps up to run,” tweeted Lanhee Chen, an adviser to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign and to Marco Rubio in 2016.

He was immediately rebutted by Mississippi RNC Comitteeman Henry Barbour, who replied, “It's time to focus on beating Hillary. 3rd party candidate would guarantee WH for her. Voters have spoken...”

Ari Fleischer, a former press secretary to President George W. Bush, tweeted, “There's a lot about Donald Trump that I don't like, but I'll vote for Trump over Hillary any day.”

Trump appeared ready to extend olive branches. In a victory speech, he made overtures to his rivals and offered kind words to the Texas senator just hours after ridiculing him as a liar who had become “unhinged.”

“Ted Cruz, I don’t know if he likes me or if he doesn’t like me, but he is one hell of a competitor,” Trump said. “He is a tough, smart guy. And he has got an amazing future.”

It was a subtle acknowledgement of the challenge that Trump will have to solve if he’s to truly unite the party for the general election. He’s got stratospheric unfavorable ratings, especially among minority communities that could be decisive voting blocs in swing states, and Trump promised to be a great leader for “the Hispanics” and “the African Americans” in his speech.  - Politico

Everybody falls in line

Prominent Tennessee GOP leaders will back Trump after Cruz exit

After Ted Cruz suspended his bid for the GOP presidential nomination Tuesday, prominent Tennessee Republicans and backers of the Texas senator say they will now support presumptive nominee Donald Trump.

Trump easily defeated Cruz in the Indiana primary Tuesday, leading Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to quickly call for the party to unite to defeat Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Cruz dropped out of the race soon after polls closed in Indiana when it became clear that Trump won yet another primary state.

"We gave it everything we've got, but the voters chose another path," Cruz told supporters after his distant second-place finish.

In Tennessee, the news spread quickly. Tennessee House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, who voted for Cruz in the state's March primary, said he will ultimately back Trump in the November election, even though he didn’t see eye to eye with the New York businessman.

“I’m just not convinced he’s an intellectual conservative,” Casada, R-Franklin, said Tuesday night about Trump.

Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, said she was surprised by Cruz’s decision to drop out of the race, but respects his decision. “Donald Trump was not my first choice, but if he is our nominee, I will support him,” Harwell said, echoing statements she’s previously made on the Republican presidential primary.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, said the choice is now clear. "Hillary Clinton must be stopped and Donald Trump can stop her," Ramsey said in a statement. "Trump has given voice to frustrated and alienated voters who had all but given up on the political process. He is building a coalition that can defeat Hillary Clinton and make America great again — but only if all Republicans and conservatives unite with him."

Longtime Republican activist Susan Richardson Williams of Knoxville said she was a little surprised at Cruz’s announcement. “I think he saw the writing on the wall and decided it was time to do something else," said Williams, the first woman to serve as a state GOP chair. "Hopefully he will support Trump and we’ll be united in the fall. “We’ll go to Cleveland and elect him and hopefully walk out of that place arm in arm,” she said.

In Memphis, various local Republicans also said they will support Trump now that Cruz has left the race.  -Tennessean (subscription)

TVA faces new era of stagnant power demand

For the first time in its 83-year history, the Tennessee Valley Authority is delivering less electricity to the average household than in years past. Electric power usage is falling as most households and businesses switch to more energy efficient lights, appliances and motors.

"We are seeing something that we have not seen before, which is a decline in per capita usage — mostly due to organic efficiencies," TVA President Bill Johnson said Tuesday in announcing a drop in TVA sales during the first half of the current fiscal year.

As TVA gears up for its traditionally heavy summertime power demand for air conditioning during the hot summer months, the utility does not expect to approach the summertime peak reached in 2007 when TVA customers consumed 33,499 megawatts of electricity.

A decade ago, TVA forecast load growth of nearly 4 percent a year, requiring TVA to add an extra coal or natural gas unit every year or another nuclear reactor every two or three years. But power demand ended up falling during the 2008-2010 recession and has not fully bounced back yet.

In TVA's most recent Integrated Resource Plan largely written two years ago, TVA predicted annual growth of nearly 1 percent and once again those projects have been lowered. The slowdown in power demand growth has come even as economic growth has quickened in the Tennessee Valley. TVA said it helped recruit more than $6 billion of new investment in the Tennessee Valley during the past six months.

"It's a brave new world and we've decoupled the long-time link between economic growth and increasing demand for power," said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in Knoxville and an advisor for both of TVA's last two long-range power plans. "We no longer have to invest so much in power generating facilities that pollute our atmosphere or contribute to global warming and we see that as a good thing."  - Chattanooga Times Free Press

Who do you think will sue the state first? Defending this is going to cost lots of tax dollars, and for what?

University Employees Can Soon Go Armed In Tennessee, After Governor Allows Bill To Become Law

Guns will be allowed on the campuses of public colleges in Tennessee starting July 1. A bill that allows employees with a carry permit to go armed on campus became law without the signature of Gov. Bill Haslam, who was pressured to veto the legislation.

"I have long stated a preference for systems and institutions to be able to make their own decisions regarding security issues on campus, and I again expressed this concern throughout the legislative process this year," Haslam said in a statement meant to explain his thinking.

In explaining the reasons for avoiding a veto, Haslam cited some protections that were added to the bill, like one that protects universities from lawsuits if there's a shooting on campus.  Administrators still aren't in favor about the prospect of more firearms on site.

“Our position has been and continues to be that we do not support, as a general premise, any measure that would increase the number of guns on college campuses other than already are allowed by law," University of Tennessee president Joe DiPietro said in a statement.

Yet school officials also saw that the "guns-on-campus" legislation was broadly supported by Republican lawmakers, so they proposed amendments. One requires employees who intend to go armed to notify campus police first.

At Middle Tennessee State University, psychology professor Jerden Johnson said he questions the logic, no matter who has the guns. “I don’t think it makes one safer," Johnson said Monday. "It just adds to the potential chaos and bad things happening.”  - WPLN  

Paging Al Gore

World Bank: The way climate change is really going to hurt us is through water

As India, the world’s second-most populous country, reels from an intense drought, the World Bank has released a new report finding that perhaps the most severe impact of a changing climate could be the effect on water supplies.

The most startling finding? The report suggests that by 2050, an inadequate supply of water could knock down economic growth in some parts of the world a figure as high as 6 percent of GDP, “sending them into sustained negative growth.” Regions facing this risk — which can at least partly be averted by better water management, the document notes — include not only much of Africa but also India, China and the Middle East.

“When we look at any of the major impacts of climate change, they one way or another come through water,” said Richard Damania, a lead economist at the bank and the lead author of the report, on a call with reporters Tuesday. “So it will be no exaggeration to claim that climate change is really in fact about hydrological change.”

Climate change hits water supplies in multiple ways. Warm temperatures can cause more evaporation of water from landscapes, while changes in precipitation can lead to both more intense individual downpours but also swings into drought conditions. The threat from all this is not just to what people drink but what they eat: The human activity that consumes the most water is agriculture.

And then, there’s sea-level rise: It can push into coastal aquifers, as is happening todayin the state of Florida, and thus threaten to make them more saline and less usable for human needs. So it isn’t only surface waters that may be depleted by climate swings, but also groundwater.

The World Bank report says that 1.6 billion people on Earth already live in nations that are subject to water scarcity. Depending on the precise definition of the concept, other research has put that number even higher, finding that 4 billion live in regions that face conditions of “severe” water scarcity during at least some part of the year. Using its own definition, the World Bank fears the number of people living with potential water threats will double over the next two decades.

The problem will be exacerbated by greater populations overall, and more demand for water due to increased needs in the electricity generation and agricultural sectors. But the impacts, the study found, will also be very uneven, with little projected economic harm to North America or Europe from water supply changes.  - The Washington Post


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The Daily Whopper from The Donald

No, Putin did not call Donald Trump ‘a genius’

“I think he [Russian President Vladimir Putin] said some really nice things. He called me a genius. He said Trump’s a genius. Okay. So, you know, that’s nice.”

—Donald Trump, interview with Bill O’Reilly, April 28, 2016

Donald Trump, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination, has reveled in what he considers high praise from Russian President Vladimir Putin. He likes to claim, in fact, that Putin called him “a genius.”

For instance, during a campaign event in South Carolina in February, Trump noted that Putin “called me a genius” and expressed hope that would mean better relations between Russia and the United States. “I’m not disavowing that [Putin] called me a genius. Are you crazy?” he said. “Wouldn’t it be good if we actually got along with countries, wouldn’t it be a positive thing? Do we always have to fight?”

Trump brought up Putin’s supposed praise again recently in an interview on Fox’s “The O’Reilly Factor.” “He called me a genius,” Trump bragged. But not surprisingly, a little research shows that Putin said no such thing.

The Facts

Russian is notoriously complex to translate into English, so various news organizations rendered the quote in slightly different ways. Here’s how our colleague Andrew Rothcast the first part of the quote: “He’s a very lively man, talented without doubt.”

At the New York Times, the quote appeared as: “He is a very flamboyant man, very talented, no doubt about that.”

Hmmm, flamboyant, very lively, very colorful … none of that sounds anything like “genius.”

The Pinocchio Test

It shouldn’t surprise us that Trump has exaggerated “bright” into “genius.” But in reality, that’s not what Putin meant at all. Instead, the Russian president said he regarded Trump as a “colorful” figure, which is not the same thing as someone with a 140 IQ.

No doubt about that. A colorful person may earn lots of Pinocchios; a genius does not.

Four Pinocchios

And it just keeps getting weirder and weirder

Trump: Cruz’s Father Helped JFK Assassin

Donald Trump made mainstream on Tuesday a tabloid report alleging that Ted Cruz’s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before he is said to have assassinated President John F. Kennedy in 1963. 

Speaking with Fox & Friends by phone, the GOP frontrunner dismissed Rafael Cruz’s claims that his son is the candidate of God’s choosing, and then proceeded to parrot a National Enquirer report claiming the father was in New Orleans passing out pro-Fidel pamphlets with the future assassin: “His father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to [Kennedy’s] being—you know, shot. I mean, the whole thing is ridiculous,” he said.

“What is this, right prior to his being shot, and nobody even brings it up? They don’t even talk about that. That was reported, and nobody talks about it.” Fox News host Brian Kilmeade muttered that the report was unverified and full of holes, but allowed the candidate to steamroll any such suggestion. “I mean, what was he doing?” Trump continued. “What was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before the death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.”  - The Daily Beast

So, do ya' think Cruz will be endorsing Trump anytime soon?

Ted Cruz Blasts Trump: He's a 'Pathological Liar'

Sen. Tec Cruz assailed Donald Trump in a press conference on Tuesday after the GOP front-runner, apparently citing a tabloid story, alleged that Cruz’s father was associated with JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.  Watch the video HERE

Thought for the day:

"Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud."  Sophocles  (Advice we wish Sophocles had given The Donald.)

The Party of Lincoln   :-(



May 2, 2016

Tennessee disregarded red flags with TNReady testing firm

Tennessee officials knew of concerns about Measurement Inc.'s ability to fulfill its five-year, $108 million contract to administer the new online TNReady standardized test even before this year's failed rollout, according to documents and interviews with education officials in other states.

During the state's contract vetting process, the company's ability to oversee online testing at the level required by Tennessee was a concern. Measurement Inc.’s online system was relatively untested at the scale the state was asking, the records and interviews show. Concerns about the company existed in at least one other state.

Connecticut officials in a 2014 Tennessee reference check first raised issues about the company’s online testing platform known as Measurement Incorporated Secure Testing, or MIST.

"Their online test delivery system, MIST, has not been top notch," according to the documents used to vet the company in the contract selection process. "MIST has not been easily responsive to changes and additions, especially for innovative tests types or test accommodations."

The Tennessee Department of General Services, led by Commissioner Bob Oglesby, awarded the contract after a review of five companies. The department declined an interview request.   - The Tennessean (subscription)

 The fallout continues for Gov. Haslam

Tennessee counselor protection law harms everybody

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam opened Pandora’s box when he signed a bill into law protecting counselors and therapists who refuse a client because of their “sincerely held principles.”

Haslam waited until Wednesday, the very last day he could to make a decision on the bill. Half an hour before the official announcement, the governor gave me an on-the-record courtesy call to explain why he signed the bill that opponents cast as an affront to the LGBT community. By leaving the definition of “sincerely held principles” vague, the law potentially places every person in need of help at risk of being refused counseling or therapy.

In my experience, Gov. Haslam is a sincere, thoughtful man. He is not a bigot.

He is someone who has worked hard to strengthen the economy of the state. However, he is wrong on this decision, and he has made his job much harder.

His opponents have lumped him in with the philandering governor of Mississippi and the opportunist governor of North Carolina, who signed aggressively discriminatory laws against the LGBT community, which have resulted in economic boycotts and lost business. Tennessee’s new law was in response to the American Counseling Association’s revised ethics code, which clarified that client referrals should be based on “skill-based competency, not personal values.”

The original version of the bill employed the term “religious beliefs” and was among a handful of religious freedom-oriented bills. The final version changed that language to “sincerely held principles” and required all counselors to serve people in an emergency or who would pose harm to themselves, and to make referrals to other professionals who will take the clients they refuse.

In his official statement, the governor said: “I believe it is reasonable to allow these professionals to determine if and when an individual would be better served by another counselor better suited to meet his or her needs.” Haslam volunteered to me that he was concerned about the anti-LGBT connotations of the original bill and said the law in its final form targeted no particular group.

In targeting no one, the law potentially targets everyone.

How might a counselor who is the parent of three daughters approach someone like Rep. Jeremy Durham, R-Franklin, who was banished from House of Representatives offices because of sexual impropriety?

How might a therapist touched by the Holocaust approach someone like Robertson County’s Dale Spurgeon, who flies the Nazi flag at his home?

At what point will the therapist or counselor tell the client, "I can't treat you."

Will it be at the front desk?

Will it be after the potential client has poured his heart out?

Would it happen after the client thinks this professional is trustworthy after sharing her deepest secrets?

How could someone feel comfortable to do that again?

If counselors are unwilling to help those in need, why did they get into the field in the first place?

The American Counseling Association considers this law a direct violation of the ethics code that counselors in Tennessee abide by and is considering relocating its 2017 convention in Nashville to somewhere else. While the new law spares counselors from prosecution or civil lawsuits for not wanting to treat someone on principle, that protection makes refusal no less unethical.

The Tennessee General Assembly has had a history of involving itself in the private affairs of its citizens.

Its legacy this year is shameful. Top highlights include a proposal to make skunks a petand the Bible the state’s official book, naming the Barrett .50 the official state rifle anddiscouraging victims of sexual harassment from coming forward. Meanwhile, Insure Tennessee, the plan to provide working poor people health insurance, was abandoned.

If the governor had vetoed the counseling bill, it would have made a bold statement even if legislators tried to make it a 2016 campaign issue, attempted to thwart his 2017 agenda or returned to Nashville to override his veto.

This is a wake-up call for the electorate. If voters affirm the status quo, voters will get the General Assembly they deserve.

In the meantime, the ACA should still come to Nashville next year, to show that its members will not be intimidated by lawmakers and to honor the commitment of so many who fought hard to try to defeat this law.  - David Plazas in The Tennessean

Haslam’s action on Hall tax bill may be revealing

After decades of justified bipartisan bragging on Tennessee's fiscally conservative status, our state legislators enthusiastically embraced deficit spending this year on a somewhat bipartisan basis, blowing a $300 million-plus hole in budgets of state and local governments for the sake of political popularity.

For the same reason, Gov. Bill Haslam is highly unlikely to veto the bill repealing the Hall tax on investment income, even though he has repeatedly preached on the fiscal irresponsibility of taking such an action without a plan to replace the lost revenue.


There is no such plan, of course. On the last day of the session, legislators basically said to state and local governments that the tax will disappear in six years, so deal with it. The governor sent his two top aides, Finance Commissioner Larry Martin and Deputy Governor Jim Henry, to politely tell lawmakers late in the session that the amended version of SB47 was basically a fiscally stupid idea.

The final version says the tax will be fully repealed, come hell or high water, in six years, barring the unimaginable possibility that legislators in the future will vote to repeal the tax cut now mandated and be accused of voting for a tax increase.

The governor, a billionaire in Forbes magazine's estimation, presumably is way up toward the top of the 200,000 Tennesseans paying the Hall tax — probably well into six figures as opposed to the statewide average annual payment of $266. But as a policy matter, he has set aside personal financial interest to oppose the plan as fiscally irresponsible for the businesslike operation of government.

Setting aside political interest, though, is another matter. A veto, which would stand since the Legislature has adjourned without an override session scheduled, would provide ammunition for opponents in any future political endeavor — a U.S. Senate race, maybe? — and would lead to a highly-publicized effort to pass the bill again next year that would doubtless succeed, even as he contemplates pushing a gas tax increase.

Only two Republicans — Reps. Bill Dunn of Knoxville and Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads — had the political courage to vote against the bill, though a dozen or so dodged a vote one way or the other. Several Democrats voted for it; a couple dodged.

The governor has a dodge opportunity as well. He can let the bill become law without his signature, which would indicate that he does, indeed, have future political plans that outweigh pragmatic policy considerations. A veto would indicate he does not and stands on principle.   - Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News Sentinel



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Help for East Tennessee, if the climate deniers would just . . . 

Coal economy workers need help—and a carbon tax could provide it

Both as a result of market forces—especially low natural gas prices—and because of our search for clean energy sources, America’s coal workers and their communities are hurting. Coal consumption is declining, both at home and abroad, creating ripple effects across coal-reliant economies that begin with job losses and spill over to cause a host of economic and fiscal problems. The jobs picture has been especially bleak for coal workers over the past year, with large layoffs occurring in even the most productive coal plants. Just last month, One of America’s most productive coal plants, in Wyoming, laid off 15 percent of its workforce. In Magoffin County, Kentucky, where coal production dominates local industry, unemployment reached 21.6 percent.

In new research published at Brookings this week, I take a closer look at how declines in coal production have impacted coal workers and local economies and consider industry projections for the coming decades. I show how it would be a risky bet to rely on a rebound in the coal sector to improve coalfield economies and how federal support will be necessary to help dislocated workers, their families, and retirees. Though several policy proposals have emerged to address the concerns of coal-reliant areas, there’s a striking disconnect between the urgent needs in coal country and the level of funding currently available to meet those needs.

There are solutions, though. If designed intelligently, the most cost effective climate policy approach—taxing or otherwise putting a price on carbon—could help fund the transition in coal communities. The future of coal in the United States is unpromising, with or without a climate policy, but nearly any serious measure to control greenhouse gases will amplify existing declines.

The regulatory approach the Environmental Protection Agency is pursuing under the Clean Air Act offers no way to alleviate disproportionate burdens on coal communities. In contrast, a carbon tax could raise ample revenue to not only assist in the transition but also offset burdens on low income households across America.

Why coal consumption is on the decline

In 2015, coal production in the United States totaled 890 million short tons, 24 percent below its high of 1.172 billion short tons in 2008. Over the last year, the declines have accelerated. Total U.S. weekly coal production fell by 39 percent from early April 2015 to early April 2016. The drop was particularly acute in Appalachia, where weekly coal product fell by 43 percent in that one-year period.

A number of factors are at work in these trends: slow growth in U.S. electricity demand; competition from natural gas at historically low prices; declining exports; and state and federal environmental and clean energy policies. For a while, booming growth in China had many thinking strong exports might revive U.S. coal production, but now China’s in a slowdown and the United States faces tough competition for the remaining imports. As of the third quarter of 2015, coal exports from the United States had declined for ten quarters in a row.

Policy changes are likely to cloud coal’s future further. The Supreme Court recently issued a stay of the implementation of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) rule, which the agency projects would reduce carbon emissions from existing fossil-fueled electric power plants by 32 percent relative to 2005 levels, or about 17 percent relative to 2012 levels. Despite the stay, however, some states are continuing their compliance planning. Whether the rule survives in its original form or not, it appears that long term planning in the electricity sector is leaning heavily away from coal.


Ripple effects of coal layoffs for state and local governments

Coal-related layoffs and bankruptcies come at a steep cost for workers and their families, but they also create broader economic problems for communities. The economic activity associated with coal production, including severance tax revenues, wages, property values, mine retiree benefits, and ancillary business activities are vital to the economic health of state and local governments. West Virginia, for example, distributes 75 percent of its net state coal severance tax to coal-producing counties. The figure below shows how those transfers have eroded over the past few years and hints at the potential fiscal problems facing local governments as coal production falls.


What policymakers have done so far to help coal communities

Policymakers have recognized for some time the need to help dislocated coal workers and to protect retirees. The Obama administration has put forth several budget proposals—some funded and underway, others not—bundled as the POWER+ Plan, to support economic diversification, workforce retraining, and other activities. Various Presidential campaign pledges and draft bills have proposed assistance, but to-date Congress has not yet provided the broad support needed to address the many challenges discussed in this post. And whatever the assistance proposed by Congress or the Administration, we need a way to pay for it.

If we combine the amount needed for job training, infrastructure, and revitalization of coalfield communities with the estimated $2.3 billion needed to protect retiree benefits and resources needed to reclaim abandoned mines, a very rough estimate of the funding needed is in the tens of billions of dollars over a decade.

How a carbon tax could fund programs to revitalize coal country

Advocates for coal workers and communities would be the first to point out that, on the surface, a carbon tax would hurt an already struggling industry. In some ways, they’re right: taxing carbon would disproportionately reduce coal use relative to other fuel types. That is both because it is the most carbon-intensive fuel (with about twice the emissions per unit of energy as its fossil competitor, natural gas) and because coal has so many lower-carbon substitutes in its chief market, electricity generation, such as renewables, natural gas, and nuclear. Indeed, a carbon tax would probably depress coal consumption as much or more than any other significant climate policy approach.

But a carbon tax doesn’t need to be all bad news for the coal community. As documented in my new research, coal consumption and production is on the decline for many reasons, and is unlikely to rebound any time soon. What coalfield communities need now is to move on their transition before things get worse. To do that, they need funding, which a carbon tax is uniquely suited to provide.

An analysis from the Tax Policy Center’s Donald Marron, Eric Toder, and Lydia Austin estimates that a carbon tax that starts at $25 per ton of CO2-equivalent emissions and increases by two percent above inflation each year would produce net revenue of about $90 billion in the tax’s first complete year and about $1.2 trillion over its first decade. Just three percent of the revenue over a decade could raise $36 billion for the transition. And that revenue projection is even lower than what might be raised by a piece of legislation introduced last year by Congressman John Delaney (D-MD), which would start the tax at $30 per ton.

Thus a carbon tax can raise more than enough revenue in the first ten years to fund a generous transitional assistance package for coal workers and communities and still allow for tax reform and other objectives that could motivate a legislative deal.

A new way forward

Coal-reliant communities across America are suffering, and policymakers need solutions. Many proposals have been offered, but their scale is too small for an appropriate package of support. By replacing Clean Air Act regulations with a tax on the carbon content of fossil fuels and other greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. could provide coal workers and communities with more-than-ample resources, while at the same time producing superior environmental and macroeconomic outcomes.

A well-designed carbon tax could be a win-win for coal communities and the environment. It’s time we give it a closer look.  - The Brookings Institution


Obama Mocks Trump One Final Time

The president flexed his comedic muscles again, and found some low-hanging fruit in the Republican frontrunner

It’s Obama’s last one.

On Saturday night, President Barack Obama took the stage at the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner at the Washington Hilton to deliver his final presidential simulacrum of a stand-up routine. (Obama is opening for actual comedian Larry Wilmore, the Comedy Central host.)

During Obama’s routine, he went after Donald Trump. Yet again.

The president threw in some requisite jokes about Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich. He also knocked the national media for the massive attention (and free air time) it has afforded Trump.

“I hope y’all are proud of yourselves,” Obama said. “[The Donald] wanted to give his hotel business a boost, and now we’re praying thatCleveland makes it through July.”

The full Obama routine included a John Boehner cameo.

At the 2011 WHCD, President Obama famously skewered (current Republican presidential frontrunner) Trump. The real estate mogul had publicly jumped on the birther-movement bandwagon, and the White House had released Obama’s long-form birth certificate shortly before the dinner. (Trump would claim credit for forcing its release.) 

So the president had his retaliatory fun with The Donald for the first time around.

“Donald Trump is here tonight!” the president began. “I know that he’s taken some flak lately. But no one is happier, no one is prouder, to put this birth certificate matter to rest than The Donald…That’s because he can finally get back to focusing on the issues that matter—like, did we fake the moon landing? What really happened in Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”

The New Yorker reported last year that Trump vowed that very evening in 2011 to have the last laugh and get back at Obama and the crowd of political and media elites who mocked and laughed at him—“perhaps even pursue the Presidency after all, no matter how nihilistically or absurdly, and redeem himself.” (For his part, Trump says that this is a “false narrative.”)

It could have been worse for Trump that year. After all, Obama could have joked about murdering him with a predator drone.  

The Trump campaign did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment on Obama’s latest jabs.   - The Daily Beast

The daily whopper from the Donald.

Donald Trump’s false claim that ‘scores of recent migrants’ in the U.S. are charged with terrorism

“There are scores of recent migrants inside our borders charged with terrorism. For every case known to the public, there are dozens and dozens more. We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies.”

Now, Trump says “scores of recent migrants” — which would include refugees — in the United States have been charged with terrorism, and that there are “dozens and dozens” more per public case. Is that correct? The Trump campaign, as usual, did not answer our request for additional details.

The Facts

It’s unclear where Trump is getting this information. We could not find the source, even after checking with the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, FBI, groups that oppose and support immigration, and experts who keep track of domestic or international terrorism cases in the United States.

The claim may be a bungled reference to a list from the office of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) of 30 foreign-born individuals who were arrested on charges relating to terrorism in recent years. This list is quoted in several articles, and described as a “partial inventory of recently implicated terrorist migrants.” Sessions is also a high-profile supporter of Trump and chairs his national security advisory committee.

The Pinocchio Test

Trump gave a prepared speech for once, with even a teleprompter. So one would presume that someone would have looked this stuff up before writing it into his speech. Alas, there is no evidence that “scores” of “recent migrants” are charged with terrorism, and that for every case made public, there are “dozens and dozens more.”

If we ever get a call or email back from the Trump organization, we would impart this piece of novel advice: use Google.

Four Pinocchios


- Fact Checker, The Washington Post

Billy Moore Reports from Washington

The House passed message bills last week to ease financial services regulation while the Senate confirmed President Barack Obama's nominee to be Ambassador to Mexico. House Republicans remained unable to pass a budget and the Senate failed twice to advance the season's first appropriation bill. Congress is on recess next week to return May 9.

House Republican leaders worked all week trying to find consensus on moving a
 fiscal 2017 budget to the floor. House Freedom Caucus members are demanding entitlement cuts of hundreds of billions of dollars.  Speaker Paul Ryan's first budget effort is likely to end when Congress returns from recess and begins moving appropriations to the floor without a budget.

Most likely, Freedom Caucus members will vote against most spending bills. House leaders will need the votes of Democrats to pass the bills, meaning Republicans will have to give up partisan poison pill policy riders.

The Senate ran aground on poison pills last week. Senate leaders twice failed to achieve cloture on the popular Energy-Water bill because of Democratic opposition to an amendment proposed by Republican Tom Cotton to forbid the purchase of Iranian heavy water. The Obama Administration announced April 22 that it would buy 32 tons of heavy water from Iran to help the country meet the limits of the multi-national nuclear deal. The Cotton amendment, if adopted, would undermine the nuclear agreement and violate the principles Senate leaders worked out to bring spending bills to the floor.

The impasse threatens Republican plans to pass most annual spending bills in May and June. When the Senate returns from recess, it may take up criminal justice reform instead.

House appropriators have been loading the pipeline with bipartisan spending legislation in anticipation of floor time in May. 

Gross Domestic Product grew only 0.5 percent in the first quarter, countering steady improvement in the labor market.

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:

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable." -



April 29, 2016

Bigotry has a real dollar cost: 

Counseling group considers relocating Nashville conference over therapist bill

The fallout over Gov. Bill Haslam's recent signing of a bill that allows licensed counselors or therapists to deny clients could begin with the cancellation of an upcoming conference scheduled to take place in Nashville.

The American Counseling Association, which is set to hold its annual gathering at Music City Center next April, is thinking about heading elsewhere. At stake is a conference that the group says would bring more than 3,000 conventioneers to Nashville, generate up to $4 million in combined local and state tax revenue and have a local economic impact of up to $10 million.

Art Terrazas, the association's government affairs director, told The Tennessean that the group's governing council is weighing options, but he didn't have a time frame on when it would know whether it would stay committed to Nashville or find an alternative site.

"They're looking at that decision right now in light of the governor's action and decision to sign the bill into law," Terrazas said. "A final decision has not been made yet, but we are looking at that."

The counseling association, based in Alexandria, Va., has never held its annual convention in Nashville and is among the new trade associations attracted to city following the construction of the city-financed $623 million Music City Center in 2013. The ACA held its annual conference last year in Montreal.
  -  Tennessean (subscription)

Governor panders to religious right 

Gov. Haslam under fire for signing controversial counselors' bill into law

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam continued to take flak Thursday over his signing into law a controversial bill that allows Tennessee's mental health counselors with "sincerely held principles" to reject lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clients for religious or other reasons.

The latest response came from the American Counseling Association, which fought the law Haslam signed Wednesday that allows licensed counselors and therapists with strong religious or personal beliefs to refer clients to others if they can't accept the clients' goals. ACA officials are now weighing whether to cancel their planned convention in Nashville next year. Association officials placed this message on the 2017 convention page section of the professional group's website:

"WARNING: In light of recent legislative actions in Tennessee, ACA is currently weighing options regarding the location of the 2017 Conference and Expo. More information coming soon."

Meanwhile, Washington Secretary of State Kym Wyman, a Republican, announced on Wednesday that due in part to the new Tennessee law, neither she nor her staff will be attending this summer's National Association of Secretaries summer meeting in Nashville.

Wyman cited upcoming party primary elections that she oversees, as well as implementing new business-related software. But she noted that "also entering into my decision was today's action by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam to sign a bill that allows mental health counselors to refuse treatment of patients based on the therapist's religious or personal beliefs," The Associated Press reported.

Haslam was in Chattanooga on Thursday to address the Better Business Bureau's annual luncheon. He defended signing the bill into law, noting counselors should be able to turn away people just as doctors and attorneys legally can do.

"We let lawyers turn down clients," Haslam said.

Asked later about Wyman's statement, the governor said "I'm sorry that she'll miss all the wonders in Tennessee."

Haslam, meanwhile, told Chattanooga's WRCB-TV that Tennessee's bill is very different from far-reaching measures enacted in North Carolina and Mississippi that have prompted boycotts. The station quoted Haslam calling it "dangerous when people lump issues into one category."

The ACA blasted the Tennessee legislation as "Hate Bill 1840." Critics lump it in with a number of other "religious freedom" bills promoted in many Republican-run states. As for what the ACA might do, spokeswoman Taylor Booth said, "I think the governing council of ACA is still kind of weighing their options, haven't made a decision yet either way."

That group, as well as the Tennessee Equality Project, which advocates on LGBT issues, say young LGBT students are especially vulnerable and prone to bullying and even pushed to suicide. While Haslam cites the referral provisions, critics say rejection is hard on someone already having problems, and referrals are difficult in rural areas.

Haslam press secretary Jennifer Donnals said in a statement on the American Counseling Association situation that "we hope the ACA thoughtfully considers all that Nashville and Tennessee have to offer and chooses to host its 2017 conference here." When signing the legislation, which was opposed by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender groups, Haslam said he believed provisions in the bill "addressed concerns I had about clients not receiving care."

Haslam also said the new law "clearly states" it won't apply to a counselor or therapist dealing with someone in "imminent danger" of harming him or herself. Secondly, the counselor or therapist must coordinate a referral to another professional who will provide counseling, Haslam said.

The Tennessean, which first reported the ACA website alert about its Nashville convention, quoted Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., as saying that, while that organization is disappointed Haslam signed the bill, officials respect the governor's decision and hope the counselors group decides to come. However, Spyridon told the newspaper there could be additional repercussions.

"We had several clients who expressed their concerns over this bill, and how it may affect their decisions to meet in our city," Spyridon said. "It's too early to know how they [concerned convention groups] will respond, but we will work directly with them to minimize the impact. We hope our clients understand this does not reflect Nashville's long-standing values of being an open and welcoming city."

The bill was one of several measures in Tennessee and other states LGBT advocates say unfairly targeted them. Another controversial measure did not pass Tennessee's legislative session that ended last week. It sought to require transgender students to use communal bathrooms and locker rooms that match the gender listed on their birth certificates.

Haslam had expressed reservations about that measure.  Andy Sher, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Big Surprise - not:

Tennessee Legislature's Task Force On Medicaid Expansion Won't Move Quickly

A group of Tennessee lawmakers met for the first time Tuesday to take a fresh look at expanding Medicaid. They won't be offering any quick answers, but some members say going slowly might wind up being a good thing.

The feel as the task force started its work this week was completely different from the heated hearings of a year ago. Instead of protesters and camera-ready speeches, a handful of lawmakers gathered around a conference table, as dozens of lobbyists strained to stay awake.

House Speaker Beth Harwell put this group together after more than a year of being criticized for not supporting Gov. Bill Haslam's plan for Medicaid expansion, Insure Tennessee. But the leader of the task force, Republican Rep. Cameron Sexton of Crossville, says it's going to be developing its own proposal.

"A year ago, the governor proposed his plan. So, we spent the time looking at Insure Tennessee and listening to him and what he was wanting to do," Sexton said. "And the General Assembly made that decision in the last two years to go in a different direction."

Nevertheless, the task force started with a two-hour review of Insure Tennessee, though it was barely mentioned by name — a sign of how politically toxic the proposal has become, especially among Republicans.

Members of the panel seemed interested in rolling out pieces of Insure Tennessee in phases. Those include charging people premiums for coverage similar to Medicaid and offering them incentives to do things like seeing a doctor. And lawmakers want to work on ways to cancel Medicaid expansion if it costs more than expected.

Memphis Rep. Karen Camper, the group's lone Democrat, says she's hopeful something definitive will come out of it. "I'm the eternal optimist, though," she said. "I'm not just doing this because it's something nice to do."

The task force intends to hold more such discussions, including a couple on each end of the state. It has promised to deliver a report in June, but it's unlikely lawmakers would vote on it until they return next year.

Camper says that might not be all bad. She blames politics for sinking Insure Tennessee last year — a situation that might get better after the elections in November.   - WPLN

Tennessee Education Commissioner Says Blame Vendor, Not Testing, For TNReady Woes

This has been a complicated and frustrating year for state testing in Tennessee. A failed computer format led to a printed version of the test, shipping delays and missed deadlines. This week the Tennessee Department of Education parted ways with its vendor, Measurement Inc., and that is where the state would like to keep the blame.

Education Commissioner Candice McQueen defended the test, which changed this year as the state began pushing away from Common Core standards and the related PARCC test. "We believe this test is a better test," McQueen said this week. "We have not been able to deliver it in a mode that was appropriate with this vendor. That was not reliable."

In fact TNReady was so unreliable that the state suspended the remaining testing for grades 3 through 8 on Wednesday. Most students simply won’t be taking it. Although McQueen made it clear that this is a problem with logistics, not testing, parents like Lyn Hoyt believe the department should share the blame. "The department of education constantly puts a smile on their face and says, ‘we’re TN ready!’ While these problems have been ongoing," she says.

Hoyt is the mother of three students in Metro Nashville Public Schools. She said the state was not realistic about how long it would take to introduce an entirely new test. To her it felt like her kids were "product testers" when they should be learners. "We’re at a point now with the testing [where] it’s frustrated my children they don’t care, they don’t want to do well." Hoyt says.

The state is promising that next year will be better. But parents like Hoyt say it might take a while to earn back their trust.  WPLN

Brookings has some good news about schools

Don't believe the headlines: Educational standards are not collapsing

If you believe this week’s headlines, math and reading scores are on the slide. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores for 12th graders just released show falls of 1 point in both average math and reading scores between 2013 and 2015. And since 2005, both the math and reading scores have essentially been flat.

Cue hand-wringing about America’s declining educational status. But let’s pause for a moment. Regular readers of this blog may remember that last July, I showed how changes in the composition of a population over time can lead to faulty conclusions based on average trends. In fact, the trend of the whole population can be quite different from (or even the opposite of) the trend of the constituent parts, a statistical phenomenon known as Simpson’s paradox.

Diversity explains lower long-run average scores

Given this week’s flurry, it is worth revisiting this question. First, let’s look at the apparent long-term stagnation. Between 2005 and 2015, average NAEP scores rose by just 1.5 points in math and 1.0 points in reading—not statistically significant in either case. But when we look at scores by race and ethnicity, we see a different pattern. Scores for students in nearly all racial categories for both math and reading showed statistically significant improvements over the decade (the only exception was a non-significant 1-point decline in reading for Blacks):

Q. What’s going on here? A. Simpson’s paradox. The apparent stagnation in the whole population is actually the result of a large increase in the share of Hispanic 12th graders, who score lower on average.

Recent declines may result from more students staying in high school

What about the recent dip from 2013? This cannot be the result of racial composition changes, since there is a general fall in scores across racial categories. But we should not rule out other compositional explanations: for example, increased high school graduation rates, especially for Blacks and Hispanics. Good news, of course (though as others have noted, some of these gains may have come from growth in alternative programs that may not be as academically rigorous).

More students in high school means more students taking the NAEP exam in 12th grade. Those who may have dropped out in the past but are in school today are likely to have lower scores. So it is quite possible that the overall decline in NAEP scores between 2013 and 2015 is also due to compositional changes, in this case in the composition of those remaining in high school.

All told, you probably want to take this information with more than a grain of salt when considering the popular conclusion that educational standards are slipping.   - The Brookings Institution



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How Hillary Clinton and Her Campaign Are Pivoting to the General Election

After a string of recent wins in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Delaware, Hillary Clinton is solidly on the path to the Democratic nomination -- and she knows it.

The presidential candidate (who confidently blurted out during an interview this week, “I’m winning!”) has all but declared herself her party’s nominee. And though she and her campaign aides are still focused on the primary contests ahead, they’re now more than ever pivoting to the general election and preparing for a run against Republican front-runner Donald Trump

The shift was apparent Wednesday, the morning after the Pennsylvania primary, when the Clinton campaign appeared to preview their anti-Trump strategy by blasting out a series of messages and tweets critiquing Trump ahead of his foreign policy speech. "Nothing he can say can hide the long list of dangerous national security proposals he’s put forward over the course of this campaign,” the campaign wrote in a lengthy memo titled, “Loose Cannons Tend to Misfire,” highlighting some of Trump's "most irresponsible comments and proposals."

Following his speech, Clinton campaign supporters -- former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Sen. Tim Kaine (also thought to be high on campaign’s list for VP) -- held a conference call with reporters to critique Trump for his “dangerous national security proposals.”

And throughout the day, Clinton’s campaign tweeted out a number of reactions to Trump -- both for his foreign policy and for a comment he made about Clinton playing the “woman card.” They made no mention whatsoever of Bernie Sanders. Meanwhile, Clinton herself tweaked her speech on Tuesday night to suggest she has her eye on November. She vowed to unify the Democratic Party -- a message seemingly aimed at Sanders, who has been hesitant to say he would endorse Clinton if she becomes the nominee.

"Whether you support Senator Sanders or you support me, there's much more that unites us than divides us,” Clinton exclaimed. "I applaud Senator Sanders and his millions of supporters for challenging us to get unaccountable money out of our politics and giving greater emphasis to closing the gap of inequality and I know together we will get that done.”

Clinton also appeared to begin a push to woo Republicans (specifically those more moderate ones who are not supporters of Trump or Ted Cruz). She called on anyone who is a “thoughtful Republican” to consider her message and campaign.

"So my friends, if you are a Democrat, an independent or a thoughtful Republican, you know their approach is not going to build an America where we increase opportunity or decrease inequality,” she said. "So, instead of letting them take us backwards, we want America to be in the future business. That's why I want you to keep imagining a tomorrow where instead of building walls, we're breaking down barriers.”   ABC News

GOP establishment caves 

Congressional GOP beginning to accept Trump as nominee

Congressional Republicans are beginning to accept, and even embrace, an outcome that was once unthinkable: Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee.

In the wake of the businessman's commanding wins in five Eastern states this week, a growing number of lawmakers say that Trump is taking on an air of inevitability. Some argue they should get behind him now instead of trying to stand in his way, as some establishment Republicans are still attempting to do by backing various "Never Trump" efforts.

For some lawmakers, supporting Trump is seen as their only hope of stopping the Democrats' likely candidate, Hillary Clinton, in November and ensuring a Democratic president doesn't fill Supreme Court vacancies. "I don't understand. I mean, it's not 'Never Trump.' It's 'Never Hillary.' Never, never, never, Hillary. Come on. Wake up and smell the coffee," said Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, who earlier this week cast his ballot for Trump, along with all members of his large family and 57 percent of Republican primary voters in his state.

To be sure, not all are on board, and some lawmakers cringe at the thought of vulnerable Senate Republicans and candidates getting linked to Trump's controversial stances or attempting to distance themselves from them. "He's looking more inevitable, yeah. I've been wrong all along," said GOP Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, an outspoken Trump critic. "My feeling about Donald Trump is, I don't think that that's our best foot forward at all. And I can't imagine being forced to take some of those positions that he's taken. A ban on Muslims, build a wall and make the Mexicans pay for it, you name it."

It remains uncertain whether Trump will amass the 1,237 delegates needed to clinch the nomination ahead of the Republican convention in Cleveland in July. If he does not, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz hopes to make a play to win the nomination as balloting progresses. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also remains in the race.

On Capitol Hill, Cruz remains an unpopular figure, having disparaged party leaders and led the charge to force a 16-day partial government shutdown in 2013 in a futile attempt to cut off money for President Barack Obama's health care law.

Former House Speaker John Boehner, who resigned last fall under conservative pressure, lashed out at Cruz in comments published Thursday in Stanford University's student newspaper, calling him "Lucifer in the flesh" and saying: "I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."

Perhaps partly because of Cruz's unpopularity, it's getting easier to find leading lawmakers speaking publicly in favor of Trump. On Thursday, Trump picked up endorsements from House committee chairmen: Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, who chairs the Transportation Committee, and Jeff Miller of Florida, who chairs Veterans Affairs.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who heads the Foreign Relations Committee, spoke on the phone with Trump on Thursday and later told reporters they had a good and substantive conversation, though he has no plans to endorse him.

On Trump's foreign policy speech, Corker said: "Let's face it, the foreign policy establishment in Washington hasn't been exactly brilliant in their assessments of things, and I do like the fact that he's challenging that status quo, I really do. ... I think his campaign, like anybody who hadn't been in the public arena before, is evolving."

Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida was a leading Rubio backer, but said now "it's time to move on." The people have spoken. The Republican primary electorate has spoken so he deserves the opportunity to be our nominee," Rooney said. "If he screws it up as the nominee and hurts the down-ballot ticket, then he screws it up. But right now the people want him to be the nominee."  - Associated Press

But he just keeps lying
Fact Checker

Trump’s claim that no foreign leader greeting Obama was ‘without precedent’

“The truth is they [other countries] don’t respect us. When President Obama landed in Cuba on Air Force One, no leader was there, nobody, to greet him. Perhaps an incident without precedent in the long and prestigious history of Air Force One. Then amazingly, the same thing happened in Saudi Arabia. It’s called no respect.”   — Donald Trump, in his foreign policy address, April 27

Reporters are taught to avoid using the word “unprecedented,” as that is setting a rather high bar that might easily be disproven. Yet here is Donald Trump, in his major foreign-policy address, referring to an incident “without precedent”— that the president of the United States flew to another country and there was “no leader” to greet him.

Oddly, Trump framed this in terms of the prestige of the jet, not the office of the presidency.

As usual, the Trump campaign did not respond to a query. But readers were curious: Was Trump right?

We don’t know where Trump comes up with this stuff, but once again he’s wrong, wrong, wrong. Not every tarmac greeting for the president overseas involves a fellow leader; in fact, the airport ceremony is a relatively unimportant part of the trip. The real business is done in the formal meetings.

In any case, we are sure Air Force One was not insulted.

Four Pinocchios



Cruz's chickens coming home to roost

Cruz’s latest fight with fellow Republicans is a reminder: Many don’t like the guy

In the space of just seven minutes here Thursday, Ted Cruz reminded fellow Republicans that he has few friends in the party.

First he tangled with former House speaker John A. Boehner, a longtime foe who so dislikes Cruz that he labeled him “Lucifer in the flesh.” Then Cruz undercut another Republican, fellow presidential candidate John Kasich, who had entered into an alliance with him to stop GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

“There is no alliance,” Cruz told reporters on Thursday, acting as if a pact announced by his own campaign days before had never happened.

Minutes later, Kasich strategist John Weaver dispatched a cryptic tweet: “I can’t stand liars.”

For Cruz, it was just another day of brawling with leading figures from his own party — a role that has formed the cornerstone of his short political career. But for many Republicans, it crystallized an overriding problem for Cruz’s campaign: Many people simply don’t like him.“Ted Cruz is the political version of liver and onions,” said veteran GOP strategist Ana Navarro. “Some people love it and can’t get enough. And some people gag at the mere thought of it.”

The bad blood extends all the way to corporate boardrooms and fellow Latinos. On Thursday, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the nation’s largest Hispanic business group, took a pass on endorsing Cruz — the only Latino candidate left in the race — and instead backed Kasich and Democrat Hillary Clinton.

For years, Cruz has angered fellow Republicans with his actions in the Senate. His push to shred the federal health-care law led to the 2013 government shutdown. He declined to endorse his GOP colleagues against insurgent primary challengers in 2014, despite holding a leadership position with the GOP committee responsible for reelecting them. He has refused to apologize for calling Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor — an extraordinary breach of decorum.

Cruz also openly feuded with Boehner, plotting against him with rogue House Republicans in moves that eventually led to Boehner’s ouster. On Wednesday night, Boehner told a crowd at Stanford University that Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh” and that he had “never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life,” according to the Stanford Daily.

The brawling has a direct bearing on Cruz’s inability to stop Trump. Mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination before the Republican National Convention, Cruz now hopes he can keep Trump from getting 1,237 delegates needed for the nomination by winning the Indiana primary. Cruz is also working to elect loyalists to state delegations who can switch sides if Trump fails to win on a first ballot — which would likely thrust the convention into chaos.

Trump has angrily dismissed Cruz’s maneuverings as part of a “rigged” game and routinely derides Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted.” “He was a failed senator, he couldn’t get anything passed,” Trump said in Warwick, R.I., this week. “All he is is a guy that will go down and stand and filibuster for a day or two. And all the other senators will look: ‘When’s he getting off the floor, Jim? Guy’s a pain in the ass, when’s he getting off the floor?’ 

Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, echoed Trump’s sentiments. He said in an interview that he was “heartbroken” to not back a Latino candidate. But, he said, “if you look at Ted’s divisive rhetoric about immigrants, it disqualified him from consideration. His inability to work within his own caucus, let alone with Senate Democrats, made it hard for us to consider him. He also pushed for the deportation of up to 12 million people.”  - The Washington Post

Thought for today:   Listen to your founding fathers!

"America was indebted to immigration for her settlement and prosperity. That part of America which had encouraged them most had advanced most rapidly in population, agriculture and the arts."  James Madison




April 28, 2016

Just asking for a lawsuit?

Haslam signs controversial bill giving therapists protections

Gov. Bill Haslam on Wednesday signed into law a controversial bill that says no licensed counselor or therapist must serve a client whose "goals, outcomes or behaviors” conflict with the counselor’s “sincerely held principles” — a measure the American Counseling Association had denounced as a “hate bill” against gay and transgender people.

Senate Bill 1556 also shields from civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution and sanctions by the state licensing board counselors who refuse to provide services — provided they coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor who would serve them. The bill’s provisions, which go into effect immediately, also will not apply in cases where the person seeking or undergoing counseling is “in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.” The governor said he spoke with counselors on both sides of the issue and carefully examined the bill’s provisions.

“Although Senate Bill 1556 has received attention for its perceived focus, my job is to look at the actual substance of the legislation," Haslam said. "After considerable thought and discussion with counselors both for and against the bill, I have decided to sign Senate Bill 1556.

“There are two key provisions of this legislation that addressed concerns I had about clients not receiving care. First, the bill clearly states that it ‘shall not apply to a counselor or therapist when an individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others.’ Secondly, the bill requires that any counselor or therapist who feels they cannot serve a client due to the counselor’s sincerely held principles must coordinate a referral of the client to another counselor or therapist who will provide the counseling or therapy,” he said.

The bill was the latest in a series of “religious freedom” measures considered by state lawmakers. The Senate approved the counseling bill 27-5 in February and the House did the same with a 68-22 vote April 6. A week later, the Senate concurred with a House amendment that changed the bill’s original wording from “sincerely held religious belief” to “sincerely held principles” of the counselor. Wednesday was the last day the governor had to sign or veto the bill before it would have become law without his signature.

The measure stemmed from a 2014 change in the American Counseling Association’s code of ethics aimed at preventing discrimination against people in need of counseling services. The state licensing board for professional counselors and marital and family therapists incorporates the ACA’s ethics code into its rules and regulations — a violation of which subjects licensees to sanctions.

The ACA repeatedly condemned the bill as unnecessary because counselors already have authority to refer clients to others for professional, but not discriminatory, reasons. The national group had called for a veto, arguing that Tennesseans in need of counseling — especially youths in rural areas with limited access to therapists — could be harmed.

ACA spokesman Art Terrazas said the group is “extremely disappointed that Gov. Haslam has ignored the lessons learned in North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi and has elected to sign this dangerous bill into law. Plain and simple, this bill codifies discrimination.

“It not only disproportionately affects LGBTQ Tennesseans seeking counseling, but will also have unintended consequences that will reach Tennesseans in all walks of life — whether it’s a veteran suffering from PTSD, a woman suffering from spousal abuse or a business owner simply trying to attract out of state clients,” Terrazas said.

Other reaction was swift. David Fowler, president of Family Action Council of Tennessee, who had supported the bill, praised the governor’s decision. “Thankfully, the governor and our legislature, through this legislation, have said that there is still room in Tennessee for counselors who have a belief system that informs everything they do, including the kind of counsel they believe they can in good conscience provide to their clients,” he said.

Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, who is a Democrat and opposed the bill, said in a statement Wednesday that she was disappointed in the governor's decision to sign it into law. “It hurts our LGBT citizens, negatively impacts our economy and seeks to undermine the counseling profession. As mayor of Nashville, I'll continue to do whatever I can to create a warm and welcoming city free from discrimination,” Barry said.

Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, had a similar position and said ACLU is "disappointed that the governor has chosen to sign this troubling bill into law. This measure is rooted in the dangerous misconception that religion can be used as a free pass to discriminate. Allowing counselors to treat some potential clients differently from others based on their personal beliefs defies professional standards and could cause significant harm to vulnerable people."

The Tennessee Equality Project remains particularly concerned about the ability of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to access resources for counseling in rural areas, Chris Sanders, executive director of the organization, said in a statement. The organization also announced Wednesday that it is launching an initiative called “Counseling Unconditionally” that allows professionals to sign up and say they will not turn clients away.

Psychologist James T. “Dale” Berry, who testified in support of the bill in a legislative committee, felt relieved by the governor’s decision and said it protects counselors from discrimination by the professional organization. Berry is director of Ebenezer Counseling Service, a Knoxville-based provider whose counselors and therapists work from a Christian perspective.

“For the clients, it gets them to a therapist that does not have a core value conflict. That way they won’t get mixed messages, they won’t be confused. To not refer is unethical in my view. ACA got it wrong when they cut referrals on the basis of values,” Berry said.

Berry, who is a Presbyterian, said he and other therapists at Ebenezer Counseling Services don’t see a conflict when serving gay clients suffering from depression, but providing sex therapy to an unmarried couple or premarital and sex therapy to a same-sex couple would conflict with his core values, which he derives from his religious beliefs.

Without the new law, Berry feared politically motivated people would test whether therapists were actually following the new referral restriction in the ACA’s code of ethics. Repeated offenses could put licenses in jeopardy and prompt legal action.  - Tennessean (subscription)

 Testing our patience

Tennessee Dumps Testing Vendor, Makes This Year's TNReady Exams Optional

Tennessee students may not have to take the second part of their year-end exams after all. Following multiple delays in receiving test materials, the state is cutting ties with testing vendor Measurement Inc. The company has been blamed for the bulk of glitches and delays in the first year of TNReady.

“Measurement Inc.’s performance is deeply disappointing," Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said in a statement. "We will not ask districts to continue waiting on a vendor that has repeatedly failed us.” McQueen said the state has "exhausted every option in problem solving" to assist in getting the tests delivered.

North Carolina-based Measurement Inc. has pinned the delays on unexpectedly having to print millions of testing packets. The rush-job followed the failure of its computer-based test in February. But Nakia Towns, an assistant commissioner in the Department of Education, says there's no excuse.

“Right now, all of the printed materials are at Measurement Inc. The printer is not the issue," she said at a press briefing Wednesday. "The issue is that Measurement Inc. has failed to pack and ship the materials that they have on site.”

The company admits there have been a handful of missed deadlines, as recently as this week. But CEO Henry Scherich tells WPLN he was just a couple of days from having all the tests on delivery trucks. “It’s hard for me to understand why they would pull the plug at this time after we’re this close to having it all done," he said. "But that’s their decision, and so we’re not shipping anything now.”

So now schools are being told schools not to worry about the second part of their year-end exams. And it looks like districts are eager to opt out. Many are already telling parents that testing is done for the year.    - WPL


First Common Core. Now TNReady. Tennessee keeps losing progress.

Wednesday, Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen terminated the state’s contract with Measurement Inc. to deliver the new TNReady annual assessment exams that help us determine the effectiveness of our schools, and whether they are helping our children learn. 

The state, after paying just $1.6 million on its $108 million contract with the North Carolina testing company, has decided to shift directions, again. “The failure of this vendor has let down the teachers and families of this state,” McQueen said in her announcement. 

Yes, the vendor has not delivered, but this is the second consecutive year that the state is failing to deliver timely and accurate assessments to teachers, school leaders, parents and our communities. Last year had nothing to do with TNReady, but everything to do with the state legislature’s mandate to scrap the Common Core learning standards and four years of developing assessments and systems.

The termination affects assessments for grades 3-8, but high schoolers, who have already taken Part I tests, still get to take the rest of their tests, McQueen said.

Bad clients make bad solutions. Gov. Bill Haslam tried to position the announcement with an emailed statement: "The failure of the testing vendor to deliver the tests and meet its own obligations does not take away from the fact that Tennessee has created our own, higher standards, we have an improved assessment fully aligned with those standards, and we remain committed going forward to measuring student performance fairly and ensuring accountability for those results.”

McQueen echoed the sentiment in her news conference. “Challenges with this test vendor have not diverted us from our goals as a state," she said. "Our work toward an aligned assessment plays a critical role in ensuring that all students are continuing to meet our high expectations and are making progress on their path to postsecondary and the workforce.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who just shepherded the replacement for President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind federal education reform through Congress, gave state leaders cover for this latest debacle Monday in a discussion at Belmont University. “The problem is the federal government stuck its nose in Tennessee and helped create a huge backlash against Common Core,” he said. “As a result, the legislature and the governor changed that. And when you change the academic standards and when you change the test, it’s very expensive and it takes awhile. So my view is, if the federal government had kept its nose out of it, Tennessee was doing just fine. And I think Tennessee will do fine in the future, as soon as it gets back on track.”

It reminds of a song … that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

You have to wonder if Tennessee, after making significant progress in the past couple of years, is truly committed to improving its schools, and delivering what teachers need to succeed. The casualties in this muck-up are, as usual, our teachers and the kids they are charged to educate. Classrooms are complicated, and our political meddling in the past couple of years has made them more so.

I think we all agree that we rode the barrel over the falls with our commitment to assessments and measurements, but we can’t lose sight of the need to measure how effective our schools are in educating every student.

Alexander, who despite disparaging the federal interference in education standards that No Child Left Behind and President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top adjustment to it represented, made assessments a key part of his Every Student Succeeds Act.

The new federal education act requires annual tests in math, English and science for grades 3-11 so that states can use the results to understand student achievement gaps by race and socioeconomic status. Additionally, the new law requires states to track achievement by homeless students and students in foster care.

The unintended, at least we should hope it was unintended, consequence of scrapping of the Common Core learning standards is that we have now lost several years of the progress Tennessee had been making.

We’ve now lost three years of progress by forcing our teachers to focus on the shifting sands of expectations instead of educating our children.  Frank Daniels in The Tennessean (subscription)

Whatever some candidates tell you, the incomes of most Americans have been rising

After a decade when most Americans saw their incomes decline, the latest Census Bureau income data contain very good news: A majority of U.S. households racked up healthy income gains in 2013 and 2014. The facts may not fit the narratives of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or Bernie Sanders, but they do help explain why President Obama’s job approval and favorability ratings have finally passed the 50 percent mark. They also show that Hispanic households made more income progress in 2013 and 2014 than any other group, which may be one reason for their growing support for Democrats. A third surprise: households headed by Americans without high school diplomas racked up their first meaningful income gains since the 1990s, thanks to the large job gains in 2013 and 2014 and the Obamacare cash subsidies beginning in those years.

These findings all come from using the Census data on the median incomes of American households by the age, gender, race and education of their household heads, to track their income progress as they aged from 2009 to 2012. I focused first on millennial households headed by young women and men who were 20-to-29 years old in 2009, which makes them voters ages 27-to-36 today. For decades, younger households have been the group with the fastest-rising incomes, and the recent period is no exception. Despite colorful stories of millions of young people living in their parents’ basements, the data show that the household incomes of these millennials (adjusted for inflation) grew 3.6 percent per-year from 2009 to 2012, and those gains accelerated to 4.5 percent per-year in 2013 and 2014.


The data also show that the incomes of millennial Hispanic households grew 5.4 percent per-year in 2013 and 2014, outpacing the progress of white and African American millennial households of the same ages. To be sure, not all millennials did nearly so well: The household incomes of those without high-school diplomas, which had declined an average of 1.0 percent per-year from 2009 to 2012, rose 3.1 percent in 2013 and 2014—while the incomes of households headed by millennials with high school diplomas or college degrees grew 5 percent per year. Two main factors are at work here, and in the big gains by Hispanic households. First, businesses created almost 2.5 million net new jobs in 2013 and 3 million more in 2014, and such strong job growth disproportionately helps those at the economy’s margin. Second, Obamacare’s cash subsidies for lower-income households kicked in the same years, and Census counts government cash subsidies as a form of income.

2013 and 2014 also were good years for most of Generation X. My analysis here focused on households headed by people ages 35-to-39 in 2009, which makes them 42-to-46 year old voters today. In those two years, the median income of those Gen X households rose 2.3 percent per-year—a major turnaround from 2009 to 2012, when their incomes had declined 0.4 percent per-year. As with the millennials, the Gen X households headed by Hispanics made more income progress in 2013 and 2014 than their white or African American counterparts. And thanks once again to the robust job growth and the Obamacare cash subsidies, Gen X households headed by people without high school diplomas made substantial income progress in 2013 and 2014—in fact, more progress than Gen X households headed by high school or college graduates.

For many decades, the income gains of most Americans have slowed as they aged. Nevertheless, the new income data contain moderately good news for households headed by late baby boomers, those who were 45-to-49 years old in 2009 and today are voters ages 52 to 56. Their median household incomes rose in 2013 and 2014 by an average of 0.5 percent per year; but even that was a big improvement from 2009 to 2012, when their incomes fell 1.1 percent per year. As with the millennials and Gen Xers, the Hispanic boomer households again fared better than their white and African American counterparts in 2013 and 2014: The median incomes of these Hispanic households grew 2.8 percent per year in 2013 and 2014, compared to gains of 2.0 percent per-year by African American boomers and 0.1 percent per-year by white boomers. Also, once again, the data show that the incomes of households headed by boomers without high school diplomas grew faster in 2013 and 2014 than the incomes of boomer households headed by high school or college graduates.

The Census Bureau will release the 2015 income data in a few months. We already know that the economy created another 2.65 million new jobs in 2015. If, as expected, the broad income progress seen in 2013 and 2014 persists in 2015, it will rebut much of the economic message touted by Trump and badly weaken Sanders’s critique of Hillary Clinton. The economic progress of Hispanic households may be particularly harmful to Republican fortunes in November, given the hostility of the leading Republican candidates to immigration reform. Moreover, even if these data do not penetrate the campaigns and the media that surround them, American voters know when their own incomes have improved—and that will alter the landscape for next November in ways almost certain to favor Democrats and their nominee. 

Robert Shapiro, Under Secretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs in the Clinton Administration, is chairman of Sonecon, an advisory firm, and a Senior Fellow of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.   - Brookings Institution


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Does Trump think we're so stupid we won't notice?

Recidivism Watch: Trump’s eight repeated falsehoods in 16 hours

Donald Trump is now closer than ever to clinching the Republican nomination on the first ballot. But what hasn’t changed since he entered the presidential race is his propensity for Pinocchios and Pinocchio recidivism.

We know politicians repeat falsehoods — on purpose or by mistake. So last year, we launched a feature to track politicians who repeat claims that we previously found to be incorrect. The Fact Checker Recidivism Watch columns are usually short summaries of previous findings, with links to original fact-checks. (Suggestions are always welcome.)

Tracking every repeated falsehood by Trump would be a full-time job. But we couldn’t help but notice that in a roughly 16-hour period after his sweeping victories in the I-95 primaries, Trump repeated numerous untruths, like a “Best of” citation of his Pinocchio ratings. (Our running list of Trump’s Four-Pinocchio ratings can be found

For the first time, we have compiled a mega-roundup Recidivism Watch of eight claims Trump repeated on April 26 and April 27, 2016. Each summary includes links to the full fact-check.

“As soon as Kasich gets hit with the first negative ad — he’s had none — bing, that’s the end of that.”

— primary night speech, April 26, 2016

It’s fine to say far more ads have aired attacking Trump than Ohio Gov. John Kasich, but Trump goes further to say that no ads have attacked Kasich. That’s just not true. In fact, his own campaign has run a Four-Pinocchio ad attacking Kasich. 

Outside groups have spent nearly $5 million opposing Kasich in direct mail pieces, digital ads and TV ads, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of filings with the Federal Election Commission.

Attack ads sponsored by candidate committees and outside groups were fairly consistent earlier in the primary cycle, especially ones contrasting Kasich’s record with those of other governors in the race. We fact-checked some of them — herehere and here. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios.

“I was asked a question recently by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, and he talked about NATO. I gave a great answer. I gave an answer that at first people didn’t like, and then they said, ‘You know what, Trump is right,’ experts said. I said it’s obsolete and too many people are getting a free ride because we’re funding 72, 73 percent of NATO.”

— primary night speech, April 26, 2016

Actually, the United States pays just 22 percent of the cost of NATO in direct funding. He begins to have a point when talking about indirect spending on NATO: The U.S. defense expenditure represents about 72 percent of the spending on defense by all countries that are NATO members. U.S. defense spending far exceeds the spending of other NATO members, and that imbalance is driven by America’s role as a world power. It makes little sense to count defense spending in Asia as part of “NATO funding.” We awarded this claim Three Pinocchios

To his credit, Trump more precisely described NATO spending in his prepared foreign policy speech the next day: “In NATO, for instance, only four of 28 other member countries besides America are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP [gross domestic product] on defense.”

NATO documents show that the majority of members fail to meet the guideline. The United States and four other countries currently exceed the guideline, established in 2006.  

“I’ll stick with my feelings on immigration. If you look at what’s going on with immigration, and just look at the record numbers of people right now that are pouring across the borders of this country.”

— primary night speech, April 26, 2016

He can stick with his feelings all he wants. But the illegal immigration flow across the U.S.-Mexico border has been declining for years, as we’verepeatedly noted.

The flood of undocumented immigrants from Mexico peaked in 2000, when more than 1.6 million people were apprehended, according to Department of Homeland Security data. Those numbers have steadily decreased since then. In fiscal 2015, there were 337,117 apprehensions — the lowest since fiscal 2000. Apprehensions of people from Mexico have decreased to 188,122 in fiscal 2015, from 1.6 million in fiscal 2000.

Apprehensions in fiscal 2015 were the lowest since 1972 (321,326), with the exception of fiscal 2011, when the number of undocumented immigrant apprehensions along the southern border dipped to 327,577. 

George Stephanopoulos: “You were for it [the Iraq War], though, before you were against it.”

Trump: “No, I wasn’t. I was never for it. I was against it — before it ever started, I was against it. And I was against it from before 2004. I was against the war in Iraq, and I was against it for years. And [President George W.] Bush used to hate me for being so against it, and they sent people from the White House to try and convince me. All I’d say is, ‘It will destabilize the Middle East, and Iran will take over the Middle East.’ And that’s exactly what happened.”

— exchange on “Good Morning America,” April 27, 2016 

This is blatantly false.

Trump did not oppose the Iraq War before 2004, as we and countless other media outlets have found. We compiled a complete timeline of all his public statements in 2002 and 2003 relating to the Iraq invasion and found no evidence to support this. In fact, in a September 2002 interview, Trump gave lukewarm support for the war. 

Trump has said since October 2015 that the White House tried to hush his (nonexistent) opposition ahead of the invasion. Trump never answered our request for the names of White House officials he supposedly met with. We checked with a dozen former Bush White House officials, and none could recall a meeting with Trump, concerns about his opposition, or even Trump’s views being on their radar prior to 2004. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios.

“I don’t play by the traditional rules. I’m self-funding my campaign, which maybe has an impact on them [the media].”

— MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” April 27, 2016

While Trump has provided the majority of funds raised by the campaign committee so far, he has raised money from individual donations, as we’ve written. Of the $48.4 million raised as of April 16, 2016, 75 percent ($36 million) was money from Trump. The rest came from mostly individual donations, according to FEC data maintained by the Center for Responsive Politics. As of April 16, 2016, outside groups contributed $2.8 million to the Trump campaign.

“Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie, proven to be absolutely a total lie. Our ambassador was murdered, and our secretary of state misled the nation.”

— foreign policy speech, April 27, 2016

The Fact Checker has written 20 fact-checks about the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed.

We looked into allegations that Hillary Clinton had told two stories after the attacks — a private one that it was a terrorist attack and the public one that blamed Muslim outrage over a YouTube video. The evidence was mixed, open to interpretation, but we concluded that there was not enough for GOP rivals to make definitive judgments that she lied.

We also reached out to family members to get their side of the story. Their recollections fell into three camps: Clinton talked about the video; Clinton said something odd; Clinton never mentioned the video. This is difficult to fact-check, since the conversations weren’t recorded and memories can evolve over time. Most family members interviewed said she did not mention a video — but we’ll leave it up to readers to draw their own conclusions.

“And now ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil.”

— foreign policy speech, April 27, 2016

The terror group known as the Islamic State has, at times, disrupted the flow of oil. But the Islamic State does not control any oil fields and is not “making millions” from Libyan oil. Not a single expert or news article we consulted said that the Islamic State has grabbed an oil field in Libya.

A review of recent news articles confirms that while some fields have been temporarily closed in response to Islamic State attacks, not a single field has been taken by the terrorist group. We awarded this claim Four Pinocchios.

“NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the United States and has emptied our states — literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs.”

— foreign policy speech, April 27, 2016

Trump was not as specific as usual in terms of claiming that 900,000 jobs have been lost to Mexico because of the North American Free Trade Agreement. But in some ways, he was more sweeping, claiming states have been “literally emptied” because of the 1993 trade pact.

As we have noted before, economists generally have been skeptical of such claims, as it is difficult to separate out the impact of trade agreements on jobs, compared with other, broader economic trends.  The Congressional Research Service in 2015 concluded that the “net overall effect of NAFTA on the U.S. economy appears to have been relatively modest, primarily because trade with Canada and Mexico accounts for a small percentage of U.S. GDP.”  The report, however, noted that there were “worker and adjustment costs” as the three countries established a single market. That means there were some losers — but also winners.
Nearly a quarter-century later, as a result of NAFTA, the United States, Canada and Mexico constitute an economically integrated market, especially for the auto industry. Auto parts and vehicles produced in each country freely flow over the borders, without tariffs or other restrictions, as thousands of part suppliers serve the automakers that build the vehicles. This is known as the “motor vehicle supply chain.” In fact, a prospective Ford plant in Mexico that Trump often complains about appears to be intended to produce cars for export from Mexico — and thus would free up production to produce more trucks in the United States.           - Washington Post

The Daily 202: 10 reasons Cruz’s Fiorina gambit will likely flop

THE BIG IDEA: Desperate times call for desperate measures.

If you had any doubt Ted Cruz was desperate, he proved it yesterday by announcing Carly Fiorina as his running mate three months before the Republican National Convention and six days before a win-or-die Indiana primary.

The gambit seems unlikely to change the trajectory of the race for 10 reasons:

1. It smacks of presumptuousness. It does not seem principled but political, which goes against the Texas senator’s brand.

2. It is hard to see the announcement dominating more than one news cycle. Cruz lost all five states that voted on Tuesday, finishing in third place behind Donald Trump and John Kasich in four of them. It was quite Trumpian of him to change the subject with a bold stunt. Remember when Trump rolled out the Chris Christie endorsement the morning after his terrible debate performance in Texas? But it feels inevitable that Trump will say or do something today to upstage Cruz’s pick…

3. How many Indiana Republicans are going to decide to vote for Cruz because he tapped Fiorina? Not that many, we’d guess.“Fiorina doesn’t appeal to Kasich voters,” the Manhattan Institute’s Avik Roy argues in Forbes. “For better or worse, Kasich has become the vessel of moderate Republican voters: the suburban, upper-income folks who prefer pragmatism to bomb-throwing. And Fiorina is, at least rhetorically, a Cruz-style firebrand. There’s also the fact that pragmatic conservatives tend to favor someone for veep who has deep experience in governing and legislating, something that Fiorina does not.”

Trump said on CNN last night that he believes Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will either endorse him or no one. The Fiorina rollout telegraphs that Cruz does not think he will get the backing of either Pence or Mitch Daniels, the former governor, both of whom would help.

4. This trick has failed every time it has been tried.

In 1976, on the verge of losing the nomination to incumbent President Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan announced Richard Schweiker as his running mate. It angered his core supporters, especially in the South, and did nothing to peel away any delegates from the Pennsylvania senator’s delegation, which was the goal. Schweiker became such a liability that he offered to drop out. Reagan kept him.

In 1952, Robert Taft told GOP insiders that he’d pick Douglas MacArthur as his running mate if nominated over Dwight Eisenhower. Time Magazine recalls that this led many to say MacArthur should be the nominee.

In 1992, trying to woo African American voters, Jerry Brown said before the New York primary that he’d pick Jesse Jackson as his vice president. But it hurt him badly with the state’s huge Jewish population, the New York Times noted. Bill Clinton won the primary, and then the nomination. Brown wound up finishing third, behind Paul Tsongas, in the Empire State.

5. Fiorina cannot deliver California. The only political contest Fiorina has ever actually won is a 2010 Republican primary in California. But after losing to Barbara Boxer, she actually moved away from the state. I was in New Hampshire last year when a voter told Fiorina how much she loves California. The then-candidate awkwardly responded that she now lives in Virginia and hinted pretty strongly that she doesn’t like the state all that much.

6. Fiorina is not actually that talented as a surrogate. “In 2008, she botched her role as a McCain surrogate when she first said his vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, was unqualified to be the CEO of HP, and then added that McCain was, too,” notes Newsweek’s Matthew Cooper. “Her somewhat contorted point—nuanced would be kind—that running a corporation is different from being president got lost in what seemed like a massive diss on the running mates.”

7. Her dismal tenure as CEO at Hewlett Packard, which included a scandal over spying on her board of directors, makes it harder for Cruz to attack Trump over his business record. “It doubles the size of the target. It basically opens the door for your opponents to attack your running mate,” Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney told The Wrap.

8. It deprives Cruz of the chance to name a stronger running mate down the road. Someone like Marco Rubio might have actually helped Cruz carry a state like Florida in November.

9. Cruz has lost a valuable bargaining chip at a contested convention. He might have wanted to create some kind of unity ticket with Kasich, but that possibility is now foreclosed.

10. The mainstream media coverage this morning is pretty brutal and runs heavily negative. It is certainly not what the Cruz camp was hoping for. Reporters are grasping for various metaphors that make it seem like Cruz’s campaign is on the verge of failure:

“This is a Hail Mary pass,” writes The Fix’s Chris Cillizza. “It, like the deal that Cruz and Kasich cut earlier this week, amounts to a tacit acknowledgment that if nothing changes in the race Trump is going to win. Could it work? Sure. Sometimes Hail Marys get caught. But usually they get knocked down and the other team starts celebrating.

“Mr. Cruz’s decision … was the political equivalent of a student pulling a fire alarm to avoid an exam: It was certain to draw attention and carried the possibility of meeting its immediate goal, but seemed unlikely to forestall the eventual reckoning,” the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin, Matt Flegenheimer and Alexander Burns write on the front page.

"Cruz’s veep selection looks like a half-court shot at the buzzer. That almost never works,” writes the Los Angeles Times’ George Skelton. “Fiorina did perform well in the debates, but couldn’t transform that into votes. And although Fiorina can be very pleasant in person, on the presidential trail she often came across as bitter and a bit mean — not exactly the counterweight Cruz should be looking for.”

The Boston Globe's Washington Bureau Chief: It kind of feels like Ted Cruz threw his hail Mary pass out of bounds with this one -- like 20 rows into the sideline seats.     - The Daily 202 in the Washington Post

International Affairs really are "foreign" to Donald Trump

Trump’s crazy attempt not to sound crazy

Mr. Trump came to Washington to meet the establishment he has demonized the past 10 months. It was not love at first sight.

His campaign left nothing to chance for his coming out as a general-election candidate Wednesday, the day after primary wins in five states made him the all but inevitable Republican presidential nominee.

Trump, who routinely mocks President Obama and Hillary Clinton for using a teleprompter and who said that presidential candidates “should not be allowed to use a teleprompter,” used a teleprompter.

He carefully read a speech somebody else had written, demonstrated both by his lack of familiarity with the content — he pronounced Tanzania as “Tan-ZANY-uh” — and by its un-Trumpian phrases such as “the false song of globalism” and “the clear lens of American interests.” This speech was at an eighth-grade comprehension level, five years beyond Trump’s usual.

The campaign also selected its audience carefully, inviting luminaries such as Bob Woodward and Judy Woodruff but turning back others at the door. One pernicious practice of the Trump campaign is to screen journalists covering his events by requiring them to apply for credentials for each event and then deciding which to admit. (The event host, the Center for the National Interest, let me in after the Trump campaign ignored my credential request.)

Trump did not repeat his most inflammatory positions: banning all Muslims from entering the country, getting his foreign-policy advice from TV shows, bombing the [excrement] out of ISIS, letting South Korea and others get nuclear weapons, imposing a 45 percent tariff on China, returning the use of torture and condoning the killing of innocents, suggesting refugees could be a “Trojan Horse” for terrorists and forcing Mexico to finance a border wall.

But even then it was not a warm and fuzzy reception for Trump. A protestor outside the Mayflower Hotel, the event site, held a “Trump = Nazi” sign, and others chanted in the hotel lobby before the event. Trump’s hosts, a conservative foreign-policy think tank dedicated to Nixonian realism, were only somewhat more hospitable. Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of the center’s publication, the National Interest, has written that “a Trump presidency would likely be a foreign policy debacle.”

The group’s vice chairman, Dov Zakheim, signed a letter with other GOP foreign-policy leaders calling Trump and his policies “unmoored,” a “recipe for economic disaster,” “inexcusable,” “hateful,” “unacceptable,” “fundamentally dishonest” and “a distinct threat to civil liberty in the United States” and calling him “utterly unfitted” to be president.

“He’s got to do a lot more than give a speech,” Zakheim, who was out of town on vacation, told me by phone Wednesday. “It’s not us he has to convince — it’s the world.”

The reality TV star probably wasn’t trying to win over the foreign-policy mandarins anyway. In his remarks, he said he would prefer “new people” rather than those who “look awfully good writing in the New York Times or being watched on television.”

More likely, he was using the foreign-policy graybeards as props to show voters he isn’t as crazy as he seems. His campaign had asked the think tank to host the event.

In his own fashion, Trump was reassuring. He said Ronald Reagan was “very special” and ISIS is “very bad.” He pledged to work “very closely with our allies in the Muslim world” and said that “we desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China.”

“War and aggression will not be my first instinct,” this new version of Trump declared. “I will seek a foreign policy that all Americans, whatever their party, can support — so important — and which our friends and allies will respect and totally welcome.”

Some were — or wanted to be — relieved by what they heard. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called it “a very good foreign-policy speech in which he laid out his vision for American engagement in the world.”

Engagement, eh? Trump began his speech by invoking “America first,” a phrase associated with opposition to U.S. involvement in World War II. “ ‘America first’ will be the major and overriding theme of my administration,” Trump said.

On this vow, Trump has already made good — and that’s just the problem.    -Dana Milbank in The Washington Post


Wow. These Republicans REALLY don't like each other.

Boehner: Ted Cruz Is ‘Lucifer in the Flesh’ and a ‘Miserable Son of a Bitch’

John Boehner seems to be enjoying his retirement.

During a Wednesday evening speaking gig at Stanford University, the former Speaker of the House absolutely ripped into his ex-nemesis Ted Cruz, likening him to Satan.

Cruz is “Lucifer in the flesh,” he said, according to The Stanford Daily. “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”  

Boehner—who told the crowd they can call him “boner, beaner, jackass”—and wannabe GOP presidential nominee Cruz have a long history of bad blood. Never was the rift between the two so open than during the 2013 government shutdown.

The Texas senator was able to marshal conservatives in the House against Boehner’s carefully crafted attempts to reopen the government—at one point infamously meeting with them at a Mexican restaurant on Capitol Hill to plot creative ways to insert a measure to defund Obamacare into one of the deals to reopen the government (never mind that such a proposal was DOA on President Obama’s desk).

In Sept. 2015, Boehner revisited the tumultuous shutdown period in an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation, following the Ohio Republican’s retirement announcement.

“The Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean this whole notion that we're going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013—this plan never had a chance,” Boehner said. At a Republican fundraiser that same year, Boehner reportedly referred to Cruz as “jackass.”

Boehner grow increasingly vocal about his criticism of Cruz since leaving office, at one point calling his opposition to a budget deal passed late last year as “utter nonsense.”

And during Wednesday evening's talk with Stanford history professor David M. Kennedy, the former speaker took an hit his sorely disliked ex-colleague where it hurts the most right now: he praised GOP frontrunner and Cruz's tormenter, Donald Trump.

The Donald and he, Boehner explained, are “texting buddies” who play golf together on occasion. Moreover, while not praising any of the reality-TV star's infamously anti-establishment policy proposals, Boehner confessed that he would vote for Trump in the general election—but most certainly not Ted Cruz.

Further adding insult to injury, Boehner applauded Cruz's other impediment to the coveted GOP nomination: Ohio Gov. John Kasich. “[He] requires more effort on my behalf than all my other friends,” the ex-speaker reportedly said, “but he’s still my friend, and I love him.”   - Daily Beast

Bernie Sanders lays off hundreds of campaign workers

Fading Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders began laying off hundreds of staffers across the country Wednesday, just one day after the Vermont senator suffered a dismal performance in a pivotal string of Northeast primaries.

Sanders, in an interview with The New York Times, said his campaign would begin the layoffs immediately in states where there are no longer contests, so he could better focus in states with critical still-to-come primaries, like California. 

Fading Democratic challenger Bernie Sanders began laying off hundreds of staffers across the country Wednesday, just one day after the Vermont senator suffered a dismal performance in a pivotal string of Northeast primaries.

Sanders, in an interview with The New York Times, said his campaign would begin the layoffs immediately in states where there are no longer contests, so he could better focus in states with critical still-to-come primaries, like California.

Despite the cuts, Sanders himself insisted during a rally Wednesday at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Ind., that he was "in this campaign to win and become the Democratic nominee." Still, the layoffs signal that the Sanders camp could be in the initial stages of winding down, amid the Vermont senator's diminished chances of winning his party's nomination.  - NY Daily News


Video of the day:   Trump's own words remind us who he really is. See it  HERE.


Grand Bargain?



April 27, 2016

Trump routs rivals in Northeast; Clinton carries 4 states

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - In a front-runner's rout, Republican Donald Trump roared to victory Tuesday in five contests across the Northeast and confidently declared himself the GOP's "presumptive nominee." Hillary Clinton was dominant in four Democratic races and now is 90 percent of the way to the number she needs to claim her own nomination.

Trump's and Clinton's wins propelled them ever closer to a general election showdown. Still, Sanders and Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich, vowed to keep running, even as opportunities to topple the leaders dwindle. Trump still must negotiate a narrow path to keep from falling short of the delegates needed to seal the nomination before the Republican National Convention in July. Cruz and Kasich are working toward that result, which would leave Trump open to a floor fight in which delegates could turn to someone else.

Trump was having none of that. "It's over. As far as I'm concerned it's over," he declared at his victory rally in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. He now has 77 percent of the delegates he needs.

With Clinton's four victories - she ceded only Rhode Island to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders - she now has 90 percent of the delegates she needs to become the first woman nominated by a major party. Clinton kept her focus firmly on the general election as she spoke to supporters Tuesday night, urging Sanders' loyal supporters to help her unify the Democratic Party and reaching out to GOP voters who may be unhappy with their party's options.

"If you are a Democrat, an independent or a thoughtful Republican, you know that their approach is not going to build an America where we increase opportunity or decrease inequality," Clinton said of the GOP candidates. She spoke in Philadelphia, where Democrats will gather in July for their nominating convention.

Sanders, in an interview with The Associated Press, conceded that he has a "very narrow path and we're going to have to win some big victories."

Trump's victories in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island were overwhelming, winning his closest race by just about 30 points. The businessman is the only candidate left in the three-person race who could possibly clinch the nomination through the regular voting process. Yet with 950 delegates now, he could still fall short of the 1,237 he needs.

Cruz and Kasich are desperately trying to keep Trump from that magic number and push the race to a convention fight. The Texas senator and Ohio governor even took the rare step of announcing plans to coordinate in upcoming contests to try to minimize Trump's delegate totals.

That effort did little to stop Trump from a big showing in the Northeast, where he picked up at least 105 of the 118 delegates up for grabs. Despite his solid win in Pennsylvania, the state's primary system means 54 of the delegates elected by voters will be free agents at the GOP convention, able to vote for the candidate of their choice.

Yet there's no doubt the GOP is deeply divided by his candidacy. In Pennsylvania, exit polls showed nearly 4 in 10 GOP voters said they would be excited by Trump becoming president, but the prospect of the real estate mogul in the White House scared a quarter of those who cast ballots in the state's Republican primary.

In another potential general election warning sign for Republicans, 6 in 10 GOP voters in Pennsylvania said the Republican campaign has divided the party - a sharp contrast to the 7 in 10 Democratic voters in the state who said the race between Clinton and Sanders has energized their party. The exit polls were conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press and television networks.

Sanders has vowed to stay in the race until voting wraps up in June. He continues to raise millions of dollars and attract big crowds, including Tuesday night in West Virginia, where he urged his supporters to recognize that they are "powerful people if you choose to exercise that power."

Clinton's advisers are eager for the Vermont senator to tone down his attacks on the former secretary of state. She's been reminding voters of the 2008 Democratic primary, when she endorsed Barack Obama after a tough campaign and urged her supporters to rally around her former rival.   - AP in The Memphis Commercial Appeal


Tennessee To Appeal Federal Court's Demand For Abortion Amendment Recount

Tennessee will appeal a federal judge's demand that it recount the ballots in an important abortion vote, after state Attorney General Herbert Slatery's office filed paperwork to begin the process Tuesday afternoon.

The decision to appeal comes days after Judge Kevin Sharp ruled election officials should have thrown out as many as 80,000 votes on an amendment that took abortion rights out of the Tennessee constitution. Sharp determined only people who had cast votes for governor should also get to vote on the amendment.

Before the election in 2014, some advocates for the abortion amendment had encouraged voters to skip the race for governor. Under Tennessee's peculiar rules, that might have helped its chances of passing. Tennessee election officials argue everyone who voted should have their ballots counted — even if they didn't make a selection for governor. They say that's been the practice for decades.

A spokesman for the attorney general says how to count the ballots is a question for state courts to decide, not a federal judge. "Simply put, deciding what vote is required to amend the Tennessee Constitution is a matter of state law to be determined by a Tennessee court," spokesman Harlow Sumerford said in an email. "This has been the State's position from the outset of this litigation."

Shortly before Sharp's decision, a state judge ruled that the ballots had been counted correctly. Sumerford said that ruling upholds the state's long-standing interpretation of the Tennessee constitution.   - WPLN

Health care task force begins discussions

The presidential race, lessons learned from other states and finding a plan that would allow for a gradual expansion to provide health insurance to as many as 400,000 Tennesseans were among the topics discussed during a two-hour meeting between lawmakers and TennCare officials on Tuesday. The conversation came as part of the inaugural meeting of the “3-Star Healthy Project” — a newly formed task force established by House Speaker Beth Harwell to work on improving access to health care coverage.

Outgoing TennCare Director Darin Gordon and his successor, Dr. Wendy Long, provided lawmakers with a crash course on the state’s health care system. Long said the state of health care in Tennessee is a result of the Affordable Care Act. Some states, including Tennessee, didn't expand Medicaid under the federal legislation, and that created a coverage gap. "When the Supreme Court made it optional whether states would do that expansion, it created this coverage gap," she said. 

Those who are in the gap do not qualify for Medicaid coverage and don't make enough to qualify for tax credits to buy insurance from the federal government, Long said. She said the group largely consists of employees in the food service, construction and transportation industry, as well as an estimated 24,000 veterans.

"We estimate that there's between 200,000 and 400,000 uninsured individuals," Long said, adding that not everyone would either be eligible or choose to become covered should the committee advance a Medicaid expansion plan.

Among the lawmakers present were Reps. Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville; Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough; Steve McManus, R-Cordova; Roger Kane, R-Knoxville; and Rep. Karen Camper, D-Memphis. The group was also joined by Sen. Richard Briggs, R-Knoxville. Finding ways to implement a measured approach — which is expected to include incentives and "circuit breakers," or enrollment thresholds — was a central topic of discussion.

Since Harwell's April 12 announcement, Camper has joined the group. Her addition came after Democrats, including Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, branded the task force a “political charade” and a “pathetic” attempt to direct attention away from Insure Tennessee, Haslam’s controversial health care plan that failed to gain traction in the legislature in 2015.

Harwell, who is not a member of the task force, said she has been engaged in discussions with Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine since last year.

The formation of the committee came after Harwell faced increased pressure to expand Medicaid coverage to the state’s uninsured. Throughout the 2016 legislative session — beginning on the first day and continuing through the end — supporters of Insure Tennessee pressed lawmakers on the issue by launching a billboard campaign, which included involvement from Nashville philanthropist Martha Ingram, and regularly holding protests.

Before announcing the task force, Harwell and Haslam said the speaker did not unilaterally have the power to advance Insure Tennessee. In the early part of the session, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said lawmakers should wait until after the fall presidential election to take action on health care.   - Tennessean (subscription)

Because it is.

University of Tennessee's 'Rocky Top' named the best college football fight song

Here’s a top 10 list likely to stoke an argument: USA Today has ranked the best college football fight songs, and the University of Tennessee’s “Rocky Top” leads the pack.

The College Football Fan Index provided a platform for people to vote for their school every week — though it’s unclear how much influence voters had on the final list — and Tennessee’s “Rocky Top” reigns. Though it’s not the school’s “official” fight song, the track popularized by the Osborne Brothers is closely associated with the program.

Last year’s winner, “Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech,” appeared at No. 2; Michigan’s “Victors” placed at No. 3; Notre Dame’s “Victory March” landed at No. 4; and Texas A&M ode “Aggie War Hymn” rounds out the top five.   - Click HERE to see the fans singing Rocky Top - Entertainment Weekly


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New GW Battleground Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Engaged in 2016 Election but Tone of Race Is Affecting Voters

Obama's approval rating turns positive for first time in three years.

The 2016 presidential election is on the top of most Americans’ minds, according to the latest George Washington University Battleground Poll. Despite, or perhaps because of, the high level of engagement, voters have negative views of almost all major candidates, and report the tone of the race is wearing on them. 

The bipartisan GW Battleground Poll, conducted in partnership with The Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners, asked likely voters how closely they’ve followed the presidential campaign over the last year. Eighty-nine percent reported they’ve followed the race either “very” or “somewhat” closely. More than half (52 percent) of respondents reported receiving updates on the campaigns via social media. 
The GW poll found that of the five candidates still in the race for the highest office, only two—Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Ohio governor John Kasich—have an unfavorable rating below 50 percent, at 44 and 29, respectively. The other three—former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (56 percent), Texas Senator Ted Cruz (55 percent) and businessman Donald Trump (65 percent)—are all mostly disliked. 
All the candidates with unfavorable ratings above 50 percent also have a majority of voters saying that they would not consider voting for them for president. When asked about increasingly visible former President Bill Clinton, respondents showed more positive views toward the non-candidate, with 54 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable toward him.
In a head-to-head matchup of each party’s frontrunner, Mrs. Clinton leads Mr. Trump by only 3 percentage points nationally (46 to 43; 11 percent undecided). Comparatively, Mr. Sanders fares slightly better against Mr. Trump (51/40/10).
“The Republican Party has a strongly favorable political environment for winning the White House,” said pollster Ed Goeas, president and CEO of The Tarrance Group. “If a mainstream Republican candidate were the presumptive nominee, the GOP would likely be in a strong position for a lot of wins, top to bottom, in November. “
Language on Campaign Trail ‘Repulsive’

This election cycle introduced a new tone and tenor of rhetoric used on the campaign trail. The coarseness of the language has started to have an impact on voter perceptions of the race. Half of the likely voters surveyed said that this language is “repulsive” and has no place in a presidential campaign. Just 18 percent found the caustic words “offensive but understandable” and only 6 percent thought it was “just the jolt our political system needs.” More than a third, 36 percent, say that this type of language has made them less likely to vote for a particular candidate. 
This reaction to campaign rhetoric was common across parties. The plurality (37 ‎percent) of Republicans, the plurality (40 percent) of independents and the majority (66 percent) of Democrats said the language is “repulsive.” Another 22 percent of Republican, 23 percent of independents and 12 percent of Democrats said it's “offensive but understandable.”
“Already we have a unique election combining insecurity, frustration, engagement, desire for change and serious pushback on the tone of the campaigns,” said pollster Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners. “Hillary Clinton has the edge because voters know it takes experience and a calm head to get things done and protect the country.”
America Still Divided 

The current president fared better than the candidates. The poll found President Barack Obama’s job approval rating has risen to 51 percent, with 46 percent of respondents disapproving. This is the first time since December 2012 the GW Battleground Poll found a higher approval than disapproval rating.
Despite the improving sentiment for the president, a majority of the likely voters surveyed, 66 percent, say that the country is on the wrong track, with 56 percent feeling strongly about that statement. This continues the longest trend in GW Battleground Poll (and possibly all polling) history. Sixty percent want the next president to take the country in a different direction; the economy (19 percent), dysfunction in government (14 percent) and foreign threats (11 percent) were seen as the three most important issues facing the nation. 
“There is bad news aplenty here for both parties. Voters are disheartened, discouraged about the future and disdainful of the leading candidates in both parties,” said Christopher Arterton, founding dean of the GW Graduate School of Political Management. “On many important issues, the public seems to lean toward the Republican party, setting the stage for an election that could go their way. But since the two candidates with the best chance of receiving the Republican nomination are viewed even more unfavorably at this point than Secretary Clinton, there's a good chance we are headed into an election where voters will see their choice as between the lesser of two unhappy options.”
While there is a clear desire to change course, Americans continue to be divided on how to achieve these goals, with nearly equal percentages saying that the government in Washington should “see to it that every person has a job and a good standard of living” (47 percent) or “get out of the way and let the free market help people succeed” (46 percent).
Economic anxiety continues to pervade the American voter’s mind, with 72 percent worried that the U.S. will suffer another economic downturn that will negatively affect them. Voters also believe that the next generation will not be better off than the current generation (65 percent, with 50 percent strongly holding that view). International trade agreements, seen by some as a path to economic growth and prosperity, fare poorly among survey respondents. A 50 percent majority said such agreements have been bad for the U.S. economy and another 13 percent believe they have not had much impact. 
The George Washington University Battleground Poll

The George Washington University Battleground Poll is a nationally recognized series of surveys conducted by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. GW’s Graduate School of Political Management (GSPM) and the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA) serve as the university’s home for the partnership. GW’s Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library houses the data archive of the survey results dating back more than two decades.
The poll, which is distinguished from other surveys by its presentation of separate analyses from these top pollsters representing both sides of the aisle, surveyed 1,000 registered likely voters nationwide April 17-20 and included a protocol for reaching mobile phone users. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
For complete data and results, including additional numbers on the 2016 elections and national security, visit the GW Battleground Poll homepage.

Sorry, Teabaggers: America Really Loves These Liberal Policies

I keep hearing Joe Scarborough go off on how the great unwritten story of this election season is how far left the Democratic Party has moved—a drum he’s been beating for months now. The idea, I suppose, is that this will be the Democratic Achilles’ heel this fall; that the whole topic is one huge Drudge siren that no one has bothered to look or listen for because everyone is so fixated on the Republican chaos.

Nonsense. To the extent that the Democratic Party has moved left, it’s mostly as a consequence of following, not leading, public opinion. So if the Democratic Party is left wing, then the American people are too.

Let’s start with some of Bernie Sanders’s positions. Sanders is in all likelihood not going to be the nominee, but a reasonably high percentage of rank-and-file Democrats support him (although not thathigh—remember that much of his support is from independents). So what are the main things he’s saying?

1. That the system is rigged in favor of the 1 percent. That’s not left wing, that’s just a statement of the obvious. Everyone agrees with that; not least the 1 percent themselves, who are investing billions of dollars in this election in the hope that things stay that way. Anyway, for those who need such things, here’s a poll result from this month. Is the system rigged? Saying yes, 85 percent. Saying no, 4 percent. Supporting the GOP position that the 1 percent needs more tax breaks so they can trickle it down to the rest of us? Well, they didn’t even ask that one.

2. That Citizens United is corrupt and should be overturned. Here, the Sanders position (really the Democratic Party position, since virtually the whole party holds it) doesn’t fare as well. I mean, only 78 percent of America thinks Citizens United was a bad decision; 17 percent take the Republican view that it was well decided.

3. That the minimum wage should be $15 an hour. Here’s one poll of many showing high support for that—63 percent. Also, 82 percent support indexing it to inflation. The Republican position that any increase is a job killer isn’t even asked, but based on those who “strongly” oppose an increase, it would seem to be a view held by around 10 percent of Americans.

4. Free college tuition. This one’s tighter, but even here, a poll last year showed people supporting it by 46-41 percent. That same poll showed more generally that people agreed with the idea, much more broadly reflective of the position of the Democratic Party, that no one should have to go into debt to attend a public university, by 62 to 29 percent. Radicals!

5. Free health care. This does less well, but still wins a plurality of 39-33, with the rest undecided.

Again, Bernie Sanders isn’t a Democrat, the Democratic Party isn’t going to be nominating him. But I use his positions because generally speaking they’re to the left of Hillary Clinton’s, and large majorities and pluralities support even them. Levels of support for Clinton’s versions of the above policies run higher. For example, she gets attacked from the left for saying the minimum wage could be $12 in rural and less expensive areas. Well, fully 75 percent support that, 12 points higher than the 63 percent who back a $15 minimum.

What about some of Clinton’s signature proposals? Paid family leave, is that radical? If so, 185 countries are left wing. Chad—Chad—gives mothers 14 weeks, paid at 100 percent! As for the polls, 79 percent of America is irresponsibly left wing on this question.

I could go on and on. I don’t want to turn the whole column into the March of the Poll Numbers. But OK, here’s one more. Marijuana legalization—maybe that’s radical? I mean, after all, it’s drugs. Nope, sorry; 58 percent support legalizing pot. The story is the same on same-sex marriagecontraceptive rights, and a whole bushelful of things.

Here’s what I’m getting at: The Democrats’ new positions look radical if you can only look at the world through a Beltway-specific, and indeed Capitol Hill-specific, lens.

Because if Congress is what you see when you see America, then you see a place where roughly half—no, more than half—of the people think that raising the minimum wage is radical, or that health care is a privilege you have to earn, or that climate change is a fantasy (or a Chinese conspiracy, as Donald Trump has been telling it), or that everyone up to and including schoolteachers ought to carry loaded guns.

Out in the real country, only crackpots think these things. As I’ve shown above, 70 percent of Americans agree with these non-left-wing, common sense positions. But the crackpot community is dramatically overrepresented in Washington and skews the way all these things are discussed and described on shows like Morning Joe.

So no, these positions aren’t radical. Or come to think of it, if they are, then it is because the American middle class has been somewhat radicalized. After the meltdown and the good-but-not-good-enough recovery, the people in the middle, making from $35,000 to $70,000 or thereabouts, said “We’ve had it.” They’ve spent 35 years treading water, watching the rich have a party while listening to politicians tell them that the money for their needs just wasn’t there. They’re sick of it. There’s a lot about Sanders I’m not crazy about, but it’s obvious why he’s struck such a nerve.

And this fall, Clinton can’t succumb to this “radical Democratic Party” frame for a second. It’s not radical to tell the 1 percent the party’s over. It’s radical—in the other, malevolent direction—not to.  - Michael Tomasky in The Daily Beast

Barack Obama, the first alt-comedy president

For a long time, presidential humor was predictable as a knock-knock joke. Then along came President Obama, dropping the word “heezy,” mimicking viral memes, and quipping that he and Joe Biden are so close, they’d probably be denied service at an Indiana pizza joint.

Obama, who will take the stage at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner on Saturday to deliver the traditional joke-filled monologue — the eighth and final of his administration — has a comic sensibility that’s edgier and more pop-culture-influenced than we’re used to hearing from politicians.

From the dinner dais, he’s made reference to drunk-texting and “The Hunger Games.” He’s used the phrase “piss off” and flirted with even bluer material. (Does he have a bucket list for his final year? “Well,” he quipped at the 2015 dinner, “I have something that rhymes with bucket list.”) Outside the dinner, he’s mocked the New York Times food section on Twitter (“respect the nyt, but not buying peas in guac”) and sparred with Zach Galifianakis on his culty “Between Two Ferns” faux-talk show.

He might not be the first truly post-racial president after all — but Obama is arguably the first postmodern humorist to hold the office.

George W. Bush and Bill Clinton both possessed easy senses of humor and could deliver a punchline. But Obama’s style, comedy writers say, belongs to the alternative comedy subgenre — a style of humor that breaks with traditional stand-up, loosely defined by irony, self-awareness, and quirky topical references. Think more Sarah Silverman and less Henny Youngman.

“He’s not into the classic hokey punchlines,” said Brian Agler, a comedian and speechwriter at the Washington-based West Wing Writers. “There’s a level of detachment and a level of understanding about what’s going on, like, ‘this is kind of weird that the president is up here in a tux making jokes’ — all of his humor has that element baked into it.”

Take this bit from his 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner performance poking fun at the “birthers” who, against all evidence, allege that Obama was actually born in Kenya — among them Donald Trump, who sat in the audience that night. After promising the room that he was about to reveal his “birth video,” he rolled a clip from the African-set cartoon movie “The Lion King.”

Which might have been funny enough on its own. The crowd roared. But Obama added a deadpan flourish. “That was a joke,” he intoned, pausing for effect. “That was not my real birth video. That was a children’s cartoon.”

That’s what humorists call a “meta” moment: It’s a joke about making a joke. Get it?

At last year’s dinner, Obama was joined onstage by comedian Keegan-Michael Key, in character as the president’s “anger translator,” a recurring gag on his Comedy Central sketch show, “Key & Peele.” As Obama spoke soberly, Key acted out his unspoken and decidedly un-PC thoughts.

Obama, calmly: “Despite our differences, we can count on the press to shed light on the most important issues of the day.”

Key, agitated and loud: “And we can count on Fox News to terrify old white people with some nonsense! ‘Sharia law is coming to Cleveland! Run for the damn hills!’ ”

 The president’s reputation as a funny guy is, of course, partly courtesy of the professionally crafted material he reads off the Teleprompters. It’s no secret: A team of speechwriters writes his correspondents’ dinner routines for him. But Obama has input in that process, said David Litt, a former White House speechwriter who’s now the head writer at the Washington office of comedy website Funny or Die

Writers consult with the president in the weeks leading up to the dinner to get a sense of the punchlines he likes — and those he doesn’t. Then the boss tweaks the final version. “He would make these little, small changes, but they would make such a difference,” Litt said. “They would punctuate the joke in a way that made it work better, or replace a phrase with a slightly better phrase.”

Obama has gotten plenty of unscripted laughs, too. During last year’s State of the Union address, Republicans cheered after he said he had no more elections to run. “I know, because I won both of them,” Obama zinged back. Those mic-dropping wordsdidn’t appear in the advance copy of his remarks.

And as any comic will tell you, timing is everything, even when the words aren’t your own. During the 2015 traditional White House ceremony in which the president pardons a turkey, Obama’s remarks were standard har-har material: “It’s hard to believe that this is my seventh year of pardoning turkeys. Time flies, even if turkeys don’t.” Ba-da-bum.

But his delivery — arch, cut with sarcasm —  conveyed what the words might not have made clear: The president thought the entire thing was completely absurd.

One stylistic tic, a student of Obama’s performances might note, is his tendency to laugh at his own jokes as he’s making them. Too much self-amusement is considered a no-no among comedians, but Obama, the pros say, makes it work. “He has this wry smile,” Agler said. “He 100 percent knows what he’s doing there.”

Obama’s own tastes in stand-up are illustrative. During a podcast interview with comedian Marc Maron, Obama professed a love for comedy, citing as favorites Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory (“when he was on the edge”), Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K. He described the latter as “wonderful in such a self-deprecating, but edgy kind of way. And basically good-hearted even when he’s saying stuff that’s pretty wrong, you know? 

According to professionals, Obama has learned a few tricks from his idols. “He has great timing, and that is something you cannot fake,” said Stephanie Laing, a former executive producer and director of HBO’s “Veep” and the founder of the online women’s comedy platform PYPO. “He’s not goofy. It’s a quiet, very sophisticated humor.”

No less an expert than Seinfeld himself praised Obama’s comedic skills. He included the president in his series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” insisting that Obama is, in fact, a professional. “He’s done some really good work as a monologist at those correspondents’ dinners — that’s how he qualifies to be on the show,” Seinfeld said

Obama’s comfort with this kind of humor is likely one reason for the surprising number of his comedic performances. In addition to his dinner speeches, he has been a frequent guest on late-night talk shows, from “Letterman” to “The Daily Show,” where he banters and fields questions about walking around the White House in his underwear. He’s slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon and read mean tweetsabout himself on “Jimmy Kimmel.”

But the laughs often aren’t for their own sake. Obama has used comedic venues to advance his agenda, particularly among young people who are more likely to share a viral video than watch one of his speeches.

On the “Between Two Ferns” segment and in a Buzzfeed video where he brandished a selfie stick, the president encouraged young people to sign up for Obamacare health coverage. The news he slow-jammed on Fallon’s show was about his student-loan initiative.

Obama’s bone-dry comedic stylings aren’t without risk. They carry the potential to come off as mean.

At the 2013 dinner, he took a jab at the Republican Senate majority leader. “Some folks still don’t think I spend enough time with Congress,” he said. ” ‘Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?’ they ask. Really? Why don’t you get a drink with Mitch McConnell?”

McConnell later tweeted a picture of himself at a bar, enjoying a beer, with an empty barstool beside him.

And the commander-in-chief’s style can fuel the criticisms that have long dogged him — that he is snooty and detached. Which, in Obama’s comedy world, is simply another opportunity to go meta.

“Some people say I’m arrogant, aloof, condescending,” the president said at last year’s dinner.

He paused.

“Some people are so dumb.”                 - Washington Post


Thought for today:  Never foist your own preconceptions onto our founding fathers. They never intended the United States to be a "Christian nation." 

Read it for yourself: 

Here's Article 11 from the Treaty of Tripoli, which was signed in 1797 under the presidency of John Adams and unanimously ratified by the Congress. Please read the entire paragraph. 


April 26, 2016

TVA looking to sell downtown Knoxville towers, move HQ across street

TVA is looking into selling its twin towers in downtown Knoxville and moving its headquarters into a new facility to be built on adjacent property, the federal utility announced late Monday.

The move would involve finding a developer who would demolish an office and parking garage that TVA owns on Summer Place just west of the towers and replace it with a new structure to TVA's specifications, Gail Rymer, TVA director of public relations, said Monday.

"There is only about a 40 percent occupancy of these towers and from a planning and cost perspective, it would make sense to have a building that is smaller and better-suited to our needs," she said. TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson said in a statement that such a move would also benefit downtown.

"Downtown Knoxville is a vibrant place to do business and the TVA towers sit on prime real estate," he said. Moving to an adjacent site could open up development opportunities for the city and provide cost savings to TVA customers, Johnson said. City officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Currently, about 740 TVA employees work in the two buildings, Rymer said. The only other tenant in the buildings beside TVA is the TVA Office of Inspector General, which would also move into the new structure, Rymer said.   - Knoxville News Sentinel (subscription)

Abortion vote challengers: Measure will fail on recount

Days after a federal judge ordered Tennessee election officials to recount the vote on controversial 2014 abortion ballot measure Amendment 1, lawyers behind the suit said there is a "path by whichAmendment 1 would fail on a recount." But the likelihood for that path remains unknown.

Eight voters challenged the state's method of counting votes on the measure giving lawmakers more authority to enact abortion restrictions and regulations shortly after the election two years ago.

On Friday U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp ruled in their favor, ordering a recount. Sharp gave the state 20 days to submit a recount plan. Sharp's order called the state's method of counting votes "fundamentally unfair" and in violation of due process and equal protection rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. The language in the Tennessee Constitution describing how votes must be counted for an amendment states plainly that voters who wish to have their votes counted on the amendment had to also vote for governor, he concluded.

State officials have long interpreted the state constitution to mean for an amendment to succeed it must get a majority of votes cast in the governor's race — regardless of whether the same voters voted for both governor and an amendment. Sharp's order directed election officials to recount votes only of those voters who voted for both the governor and Amendment 1.

Vanderbilt University law professor Tracy George, one of the eight plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit against election officials over their vote counting methods, laid out a theory at a news conference on Monday of how the abortion measure has a "good probability" of failing on the recount. George is a board chairwoman of Planned Parenthood of Middle & Eastern Tennessee.

Five percent of Tennesseans voting in 2014 did not vote in the governor's race — or nearly 80,000 people. The amendment required 676,864 to succeed — a majority of the 1.35 million votes cast for governor. Under the state's counting method, it received 729,163 votes.

If all or most of the 80,000 voters who voted in the 2014 election and did not vote for governor also voted "yes" for the Amendment, the amendment would fail on a recount, George said. "If those 80,000 people who are amongst the people who voted to support Amendment 1, under the recount, their votes no longer would count on the Amendment 1 race," George said. "When you remove all those people — if all of the people who didn't vote in the governor's race were pro-Amendment 1 voters — then Amendment 1 fails on recount."

It is unknown how many of those 80,000 people voted in the Amendment 1 race or how they voted. Regardless of how they voted on the amendment, their votes will not count under Sharp's ruling. Some abortion opponents encouraged voters in favor of Amendment 1 to abstain from voting in the governor's race, saying it would "double your vote."

Amendment backers have pointed out that 32,627 more voters voted in the amendment race than voted for governor, while the margin of victory for the measure was 71,971 votes. A recount would disqualify, at least, all those 32,627 voters. But even if all those votes were "yes" votes, the measure still had enough votes to pass, according to their analysis.

Those backers on Monday directed their criticism at the federal court judge.

“When Judge Sharp bought the argument of Amendment 1’s opponents that 'voting for governor is critical to voting for an amendment,’ he essentially disenfranchised the people who want to vote on their constitution by conditioning their vote on whether they had voted for the governor," said David Fowler, president of Family Action Council Tennessee. "In principle I don’t see how that is constitutionally any different from a poll tax or a literacy test.

"Contrary to what Judge Sharp said, every vote for and against the amendment was counted the same — as one vote," he said. "This isn’t like pro-abortion voters were counted as only 3/5 of a person for the purpose of voting on this amendment as slaves were treated under the original U.S. Constitution. Everyone’s vote was counted, and counted as one whole vote."

George, who was represented by the law firm Sherrard, Roe, Voight, Harbison, said the ruling vindicated the right to vote in Tennessee.

"We filed against the case against the state because we felt after the election that our votes had not been treated equally; that voters in the state of Tennessee had not been given the fair opportunity they should have when they participate in an election, and certainly an election of this significance," she said. "The U.S. Supreme Court has said that votes and the right to vote is precious, and indeed it is. Without the right to vote, all other rights are, as the Supreme Court has said, an illusion. We were motivated to file suit so we could vindicate the right to vote in Tennessee."

A spokesman for Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, who defended the suit, said his office was still reviewing it.  - Tennessean (subscription)

Uh, say again?

Senator Alexander Blames Feds For TNReady Delays

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander says federal interference could be at fault for the state’s continued delays in standardized testing. He spoke at Belmont UniversityMonday about passing his fix to the No Child Left Behind law. He also addressed Tennessee’s problems moving to a new test.

TNReady wasn’t the original plan. Tennessee was supposed to use the PARCC test that goes along with Common Core classroom standards. But when lawmakers decided to back away from Common Core, they also decided to go with a new test — even though that meant hiring a company for $107 million to design a new one.

Senator Alexander chairs the education committee and previously served as the country’s top education official. But he blames the feds.

“You had the backlash to Common Core, so you had to change Common Core," he said during a presentation to students and education officials. "Then you had to change the assessment. Well you can’t just do that overnight, and it costs a lot of money. And a lot of that was because people felt like Washington was telling Tennessee what its standards and tests ought to be."

At the moment, state education officials are primarily pointing fingers at the company hired to create TNReady. This week, Measurement Inc. said it could not guarantee that the paper tests would be delivered in time for students to take them by the state’s deadline of May 10.

“To say their performance on this has been dismal would be generous,” Governor Bill Haslam said on Friday.  - WPLN

Thankfully, the end is drawing near

Five states expected to help Trump and Clinton widen their leads

Five states began voting Tuesday in the “Amtrak Primary” in contests expected to help the two presidential front-runners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, rack up ever-wider leads in their parties’ crucial delegates counts.

For Republicans, the race for delegates remains a key focus, with Trump hoping to secure the 1,237 delegates needed before the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. His rivals Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Ohio Gov. John Kasich — now loosely aligned in hopes of stopping Trump — are not expected to significantly cut into the billionaire’s lead.

“I just hope everybody goes out and votes,” Trump said on Fox News on Tuesday as he continued to decry the electoral process as rigged and corrupt.  [After Sanders supporter mentions Monica Lewinsky, Clinton accuses his campaign of encouraging vitriol]  “The whole delegate system is a sham,” he said.

On the Democratic side, polls in recent days suggest that Clinton could win all but one or two of the five states up for grabs —Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware — or potentially sweep the table.

Bernie Sanders, the upstart White House hopeful who had stirred the passions of liberals, made a final appeal for support in Philadelphia on Monday ahead of primaries that could render his already narrow path to the Democratic nomination virtually nonexistent.

“If you come out to vote tomorrow and drag your friends and your aunts and your uncles and your co-workers, we’re going to win here in Pennsylvania,” Sanders declared at a rally at Drexel University, where he was greeted with boisterous cheers by a crowd of more than 3,000 people as he promised to fight a “rigged economy” and take on a “corrupt” campaign finance system.

After a winning streak that started in late March, Sanders’s momentum stalled considerably following Clinton’s decisive victory in New York. “It’s a narrow path, but we do have a path,” Sanders said on CNN’s “New Day.” “We’re in this to the end.” Clinton appeared to be moving past Sanders — taking a swipe at Trump for flying into parts of the country on a “big jet,” painting him as an out-of-touch magnate ensconced in his towers bearing his name.

“Donald Trump says wages are too high in America and he doesn’t support raising the minimum wage,” Clinton said on Monday. “I have said come out of those towers named for yourself and actually come out and talk and listen to people. “At some point, if you want to be president of the United States, you’ve got to get familiar with the United States,” she added, to laughter from the crowd.

Trump, who has stirred outcry over remarks about women during the campaign, took sharper aim at Clinton, declaring she would be a “terrible president“ who is playing up the fact that she is a woman. “I call her crooked Hillary because she’s crooked and the only thing she’s got is the woman card. That’s all she’s got . . . it’s a weak card in her hands,” Trump said on Fox. “I’d love to see a woman president but she’s the wrong person. She’s a disaster.”

Trump also blasted his remaining two GOP presidential rivals after they announced an agreement Sunday to coordinate in upcoming primary contests with the aim of preventing Trump from securing the nomination.   - Washington Post 


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Trump rejects new adviser’s push to make him ‘presidential

Frustrated with Manfort, the GOP Front-runner shifts some power back to campaign manager Lewandowski

Donald Trump is bristling at efforts to implement a more conventional presidential campaign strategy, and has expressed misgivings about the political guru behind them, Paul Manafort, for overstepping his bounds, multiple sources close to the campaign tell POLITICO.

Trump became upset late last week when he learned from media reports that Manafort privately told Republican leaders that the billionaire reality TV star was “projecting an image” for voters and would begin toning down his rhetoric, according to the sources. They said that Trump also expressed concern about Manafort bringing several former lobbying colleagues into the campaign, as first reported by POLITICO.

Now Trump is taking steps to return some authority to Manafort’s chief internal rival, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Neither Lewandowski nor Manafort responded to requests for comment, though Manafort on Sunday during an interview on Fox News blamed Lewandowski’s regime for shortcomings in the campaign’s delegate wrangling operation. Lewandowski’s allies responded by privately questioning whether Manafort has done anything to improve the situation. They grumble that Manafort has spent a disproportionate amount of time on television — just as Trump himself has been avoiding the Sunday morning talk show circuit at Manafort’s urging.

“I think it pisses him off that he was getting free television by going on the shows and now Paul Manafort is out there resurrecting his career,” said one campaign operative. Citing Manafort’s advocacy within the campaign for an expensive advertising push in upcoming states, the operative said Trump is “saying I can get on every show I want for free and you're telling me not to do that and that I should pay for my advertising? That doesn't pass the smell test to me.”

The mounting tension comes as Trump is struggling to incorporate traditional political tactics with the cult-of-personality approach that helped him climb from long shot to front-runner for the GOP nomination. In some ways, Manafort and Lewandowski represent the id and the ego of that balance, with the hardscrabble outsider Lewandowski earning Trump’s trust early, only to be challenged by the more polished insider brought in late last month to provide help as Trump’s campaign struggled to secure loyal convention delegates.

Manafort, sensing a far-reaching mandate, moved quickly to consolidate power, overhaul the campaign and rein in the candidate. Trump has acquiesced to a number of changes that appear to have Manafort’s fingerprints, from practicing reading from a teleprompter to opening up his wallet to hire staffers and approving a major TV ad buy in California next month, while announcing a series of more substantive policy addresses, starting with a foreign policy speech on Wednesday in Washington.

But campaign insiders say it has become increasingly clear that Trump, for all his boasts about his ability to become more “presidential,” is simply unwilling or perhaps unable to follow through, and resents efforts to transform him.

“Everyone coming in now thinks they're going to be able to manhandle him and he's not going to let it happen,” said an operative close to Trump. “These consultants are used to being smarter than their candidate and in this scenario, the candidate is smarter and willing to risk more than you are.”

“If I acted presidential, I can guarantee you this morning, I wouldn’t be here,” Trump said Saturday in Waterbury, Connecticut.

On Monday, as he again mocked the idea of behaving in a more “presidential” manner at two rallies in Pennsylvania, Trump called John Kasich a “slob” after calling attention to his penchant for eating too much on the campaign trail and blasted him and Cruz, whom he called “an ass,” for “colluding” to stop him — every broadside delivered in his trademark vernacular and an implicit rebuke to those handlers looking to rein him in.

“That's Trump. If you try to force him into a box, he's going to climb out of the box just to prove it to you,” said one operative close to the campaign. “If you say he's going to be more presidential, all you did is make him less presidential.”  - Politico

The coming Republican demographic disaster, in 1 stunning chart

That's a chart taken from a new Pew study of the Hispanic population in the United States. Here's what you need to pay attention to: Almost six in 10 Hispanics and 51percent of African Americans are 33 years old or younger.  Less than four in 10 whites are 33 or younger.

What does this have to do with politics? A HUGE amount.

Consider that in the 2012 election, Mitt Romney won just 27 percent of the Hispanic vote and just 6 percent of the black vote. In an electorate that was 72 percent white, Romney was able to stay competitive thanks to winning the white vote by 20 points. But, he still lost. And lost convincingly to President Obama.

The Cook Political Report's David Wasserman explains the problem for Republicans well in this post for 538:

In 1980, Ronald Reagan won 56 percent of all white voters and won election in a 44-state landslide. In 2012, GOP nominee Mitt Romney carried 59 percent of all white voters yet lost decisively. What happened? African Americans, Latinos, Asians and other non-whites — all overwhelmingly Democratic-leaning groups — rose from 12 percent of voters in 1980 to 28 percent in 2012.

The white vote as a percentage of the overall electorate has been in steady decline since the 1980s and, judging from birth patterns as illustrated by the Pew chart above, that trend seems very unlikely to change.

Need more evidence of just how white the Republican party is today?  In 2012, just one in every 10 people who voted for Mitt Romney was not white. Forty-four percent of the people who voted for Barack Obama weren't white.

If you are a Republican party strategist trying to elect a president down the road, here's what you are faced with:

1. The white vote, which you are increasingly dependent on,  is getting older — and shrinking.

2. The non-white vote, which is moving progressively further and further away from your party, is growing by leaps and bounds.

At some point in the not too-distance future — 2016 may be that future — winning the white vote by 25 or even 30 points, which is very, very hard to do for any candidate, may not be enough to make up for the massive losses Republicans are experiencing among the growing contingent of non-white voters.

Those basic demographic facts are why the 2012 Republican autopsy recommended that the party find a way to be for some form of comprehensive immigration reform. That the party not only hasn't done that but is well on its way to nominating a candidate who advocates building a wall across the southern border and making Mexico pay for it speaks to how damaging the 2016 campaign has been for the GOP.

If nothing changes — in terms of the booming growth among non-white voters and the GOP's inability to communicate with them — the 2016 election may only be the tip of the demographic iceberg for Republicans. The 2020 and 2024 presidential elections could be blowouts.  - "The Fix," - Washington Post

Thought for today:

"Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history."  - Dwight D. Eisenhower

The great reality showman - 



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