President Rewards Campaign Donor By Pressuring TVA

Yesterday, in a tweet, President Trump publicly pressured the Tennessee Valley Authority to keep a coal-fired power plant open even though the TVA has concluded the plant is unreliable, no longer needed, and too expensive to repair and operate.

The TVA board is slated to vote on the future of Paradise Unit 3 in just a few days, which is why the pressure is coming now.

Paradise Unit 3 just so happens to get the bulk of its coal from a subsidiary of Murray Energy, a mining company whose CEO Robert Murray, is a major Trump supporter who has asked the president to take other actions to help the ailing coal industry, particularly in regions where he sells coal. (Imagine that!)

This kind of pay-to-play has proven to be par for the course in this administration, but it doesn’t make it any less noteworthy. Murray gave $300,000 to Trump’s inauguration, and Trump is on track to meet most of his demands.

The list of Trump donors who have issued demands is as long as the day.

Rachel Maddow had a segment on it last night, calling it “simple corruption”:

Trump isn’t alone. Kentucky’s Governor is pressuring the TVA also – calling it a “national defense issue”, as is Mitch McConnell.

This is all just more of our politicians, who get large amounts of their campaign funding from the Koch brothers networks and others in the oil and gas industry, doing all they can to prop up the coal industry despite its obvious decline, more economically sound alternatives are on the rise.

From the Courier-Journal:

At a pro-coal rally over the weekend, the governor joined representatives of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul and other Kentucky officials to pressure the TVA board, which meets this week, to keep burning Kentucky-mined coal at the Paradise plant.

“We sit on hundreds of years of supply of the most reliable, most stable, most affordable source of electricity production that the world has ever known,” Bevin said. “There is no capacity now if we shut this facility and others like it to provide what America needs.”

The new environmental assessment by TVA, however, found that energy demand in the utility’s Southeast region was “flat to declining.” The study concluded that “the retirement of a unit with high maintenance and other costs would facilitate TVA’s statutory mission to provide reliable power at the lowest system cost.”

CDC REPORT: Tennessee Among Worst in Gun Deaths

The CDC just released their report about gun-related deaths in 2017 and Tennessee is near the bottom, coming in 40th in the country with 18 gun-related deaths per every 100,000 people.

The bottom 5 states were Missouri, Lousiana, Montana, Alabama, and Alaska.

The top 5 were Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut.

This backs up the idea that states with tighter gun laws do have fewer gun deaths, with some outliers.

In related news, this week The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston released a study of over 600 young adults in Texas and found that access to guns, not mental illness, was a better predictor of whether or not they had threatened someone with a gun. 

Their results were published in the journal Preventive Medicine. Dr. Yu Lu, a postdoctoral research fellow at UTMB and lead author of the study, said:

“Counter to public beliefs, the majority of mental health symptoms examined were not related to gun violence… Much of the limited research on gun violence and mental illness has focused on violence among individuals with severe mental illnesses or rates of mental illness among individuals arrested for violent crimes. What we found is that the link between mental illness and gun violence is not there.

What researchers found instead was that individuals who had gun access were approximately 18 times more likely to have threatened someone with a gun. Individuals with high hostility were about 3.5 times more likely to threaten someone.

Each year, an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 Americans are injured by firearms and 30,000 to 40,000 die from firearms, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Very little government-backed scientific research is done on the topic of guns. This stems in large part from a little-known amendment called The Dickey Amendment, named for Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Arkansas, who got the bill passed on behalf of the NRA in 1996.

From Newsweek:

“The Dickey Amendment is a classic piece of NRA-backed legislation passed in 1996. Three years earlier, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) did a study that came to an obvious conclusion: Guns in the home were associated with an increased risk of homicide and suicide in the home. The NRA didn’t like that conclusion, and when Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 midterms, the gun lobby persuaded Congress to pass the amendment, which states “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control,” which effectively meant any research that could conceivably lead to gun control measures could threaten CDC funding.

Since then, the so-called Dickey amendment has brought federal funding of firearms research to a halt.

But here’s the twist: Before he died last year, Dickey had a change of heart. In 2012, he co-authored a Washington Post editorial with Mark Rosenberg, the head of the CDC when the Dickey amendment was passed, calling for MORE scientific research to prevent firearm injuries and deaths.

From their piece:

“We were on opposite sides of the heated battle 16 years ago, but we are in strong agreement now that scientific research should be conducted into preventing firearm injuries and that ways to prevent firearm deaths can be found without encroaching on the rights of legitimate gun owners.”

Better late then never, we guess.

As a reminder, both Ronald Reagan and Justice Scalia supported gun safety legislation, as did the NRA itself. Common sense gun laws and the 2nd Amendment are not incompatible.

Democrats like Lucy McBath are working hard to get the Dickey Amendment overturned. If you agree that should happen, holler at your state and local reps and tell them to repeal the Dickey Amendment.

Nobody should be afraid of the truth.

SOTU REACTIONS: TN Republicans Big Fans, TN Dems Not So Much

Last night President Trump delivered the 2019 State of the Union address to rousing applause and enthusiasm from the much whiter, male-er Republican side of the room, while the response from the Democrats was a bit on the tamer side.

No surprises there.

As for the Tennessee delegation, the split was about as one would expect. Republicans were effusive with their praise…

Rep. John Rose touted Trump’s leadership:

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann talked about Trump’s “bold agenda”:

Rep. Mark Green meanwhile made a point to rip the “shocking childishness” of the response of Democrats, (apparently forgetting how the previous president was treated – do the words “You LIE!” ring a bell?)

Meanwhile on the other side of the aisle, Rep. Steve Cohen was less impressed, not even bothering to show up for the address in person and calling the president a “disgrace”.

Only Democrat Rep. Jim Cooper offered a reaction with any kind of balance, crediting the president with an “effective” speech while also making sure to point out that it was a departure for him.

Bottom Line: No real surprises from any of Tennessee’s elected officials, but Rep. Mark Green appears to be suffering from memory loss.

TN Republicans Introduce ALEC Bill To Hijack Senate Process

The latest proof Republicans don’t actually like democracy much comes to us in the form of a bill sponsored by Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains) in the Senate and Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville) in the House, SB 0027 and HB 0021 respectively, which would change the Senate nomination process, doing away with primaries and letting state legislatures appoint candidates instead.

Nicely has tried this before.

It’s a bill we’ve been warned about, brought to us by ALEC and the Koch Brothers, neither of which are big fans of letting the people have our say. Like voter suppression and gerrymandering, it’s yet another effort to minimize the influence of actual voters and concentrate power at the top.

As the infamously corrupt NYC politician Boss Tweed once said, “I don’t care who does the electing as long as I get to do the nominating.” 

This is nothing short of a repeal of the 17th amendment, which was enacted to “reduce corruption at the state level”.

The bill still lets the people vote in a general election (how nice of them!), but would have candidates for Senate nominated by the members of their respective Republican or Democrat party of the Tennessee House of Representatives and Tennessee Senate.

No independent or write-in candidates.

No other state has done this yet, but ALEC is trying. As Nicely dramatically told The Tennessee Star: “This bill could change everything. It could save the world.”

Why? Maybe because, as the Star also tells us:

In 2018 the National Constitution Center posed the question, “What would the Senate look like today without the 17th Amendment?

The simple answer, “It would probably be much more controlled by the Republicans.”

They’d clearly prefer to just repeal the 17th Amendment, but according to Mark Levin and the NCC that would be harder “Because of the idea that direct election gives the power to the people.” (yes what would give us that idea!)

The Niceley/Williams bill would go into effect November 30, 2019, impacting the 2020 U.S. Senate nomination process.

Holler at NICELY and WILLIAMS and let them know we prefer what’s left of our democracy to remain in our hands.

Mackler Back In Senate Race

After clearing the deck for Bredesen last time around, Iraq War veteran/attorney James Mackler is back in the senate race – this time running for Lamar Alexander’s soon-to-be-open seat. James deserves a lot of credit for putting the country first and getting out when he did last time around, and this early entry should give him a boost by the time 2020 rolls around.

Check out Mackler’s new video below, and go to his site to learn more.