“More War!” – All 7 TN GOP Congressmen Vote to Keep Fueling Humanitarian Nightmare in Yemen

In another bipartisan rebuke of Trump’s foreign policy in the Middle East, the House passed a bill yesterday to halt U.S. involvement in Yemen’s civil war, where the United States has been lending our support to a Saudi Arabian war effort that has created the worst humanitarian crisis in recent memory.

All 7 Republican Congressmen from Tennessee: Mark Green, Tim Burchett, Phil Roe, John Rose, Scott Desjarlais, David Kustoff, and Charles Fleischmann voted against the bill.

Both Democratic congressmen – Jim Cooper and Steve Cohen – voted for it.

18 Republicans voted with the Democrats to stop American assistance in the Yemeni war.

According to a Worldwide Threat Assessment report, Of the nearly 29 million people in the country, about 22 million — nearly 76 percent of the population — need some form of humanitarian assistance. Among them, 16 million don’t have reliable access to drinking water or food, and more than 1 million Yemenis now suffer from cholera.

Dave Harden, a former US official leading humanitarian development response to Yemen, told Vox:

“The only losers are the people — their grave suffering presents generational risk to Yemen’s future.”

Democratic Rep. Jim Mcgovern had this to say about the vote:

“Nearly all of the bombs that have fallen say the same thing, `Made in the United States of America’. They fall on weddings. They fall on hospitals and on homes. They fall on funerals, refugee camps and school buses. It is an aerial bombing campaign that hammers civilians every single day.”

Last year, a bomb that originated in the U.S. landed on a school bus in Yemen, killing 40 children.

The vote is yet another bipartisan rebuke of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. The resolution would force the administration to withdraw troops from involvement in Yemen, in a rebuke of Trump’s alliance with the Saudi-led coalition.

Previously the Senate had passed a similar bill, but it was stopped in the house of representatives which was then controlled by the Republicans. If the senate were to take up this bill, it would land on the President’s desk.

This new resolution was introduced by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-California), who said in a statement:

“Today is historic. This is the culmination of several years of legislative efforts to end our involvement in the Saudi war in Yemen. I’m encouraged by the direction people are pushing our party to take on foreign policy, promoting restraint and human rights and with the sense they want Congress to play a much larger role.”

Meanwhile the Saudi government still refuses to acknowledge its role in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi despite all the evidence, and President Trump has still stopped short of blaming or taking action against Saudi Arabia for it.

In related news, there are many questions about the president and his family’s financial ties to Saudi Arabia, and what role that may be playing in these foreign policy discussions.

As the President himself once said:

“Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.

Holler at Mark Green, Tim Burchett, Phil Roe, John Rose, Scott Desjarlais, David Kustoff, and Charles Fleischmann and let them know if you feel their vote to perpetuate this war flies in the face of human decency.

Tennessee Attorney General: Hate Crimes Law DOES Include Transgender People

Last year Senator Sara Kyle (D-Memphis) carried a bill in the Tennessee legislature that would have added gender identity and expression to the Tennessee hate crime law, making sure Transgender individuals were covered when targeted. Legislators decided not to move forward with the bill, in part because they thought “gender” already included transgender people.

With the help of Rep. Mike Stewart (D-Nashville), LGBT advocates recently asked the Tennessee Attorney General’s office for an official opinion about whether the law in fact cover transgender people as a hate crime, which would mean harsher sentences for anyone who targeted them.

The Verdict: Yes, the law covers them.

Attorney General Slatery’s opinion uses the Oxford definition of “gender” to explain that:

“A defendant who targets a person for a crime because that person is transgender has targeted the person because of his or her gender”

Meaning that a court CAN “enhance” a sentence if the defendant has targeted a transgender person.

The opinion was delivered by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III’s office to Rep. Mike Stewart this week.

The LGBT community has received this as great news, calling it a “good, solid victory.

From Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project:

“After hearing testimony in a legislative committee and considering the need to make sure transgender people have more protections, we followed a hunch and it worked. We are grateful to Rep. Mike Stewart for working diligently with us on this and to Sen. Sara Kyle, who carried the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill last year.”

Despite this win, there are still a number of discriminatory bills snaking their way through the legislature. Read about them here, and holler at your state reps to let them know hate has no home in Tennessee.

And while we’re here, some facts and myths about transgender people with regard to those bathroom bills, which are still around.

In Emotional Meeting, Franklin Aldermen Approve Slavery-Acknowledging Civil War Markers

Confederate statues around the country have been a contentious topic for some time, reaching a boiling point in 2017 when white supremacist-led rally resulted of the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer.

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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.”

FALSE ALARM: Lt. Gov. Mcnally Almost Backs Medicaid Expansion By Mistake

On the Tennessean’s Grand Divisions podcast with Joel Ebert and Natalie Allison this week, Tennessean writer Natalie Allison asked what bills will be most controversial this session, and after listing Medical Marijuana and school vouchers Lt. Gov. Randy Mcnally went on to mention Medicaid Expansion:

Mcnally told the Tennessean:

“On Medicaid Expansion… Senator Bailey is working on some different ideas to take and work with the governor on and try to get an amendment through that would address the population that’s below 138% of the poverty level. And address it on a sliding scale voucher type thing, health savings accounts, there’s a number of different options that we haven’t really fleshed out yet.”

“Under 138% of the poverty level” is where Medicaid expansion would draw the line. What Mcnally was talking about sure sounded a lot like Medicaid expansion. So Natalie Allison asked him about that:

“So will Republicans be pushing a bill to expand Medicaid in some instances, or…?”

Still sounding a bit confused, Mcnally went on:

“Well we’ll be I think looking at an effort to… a lot depends on what we think we can through CMS, but we’re looking at an effort to address the population that probably was most in need of insurance but was left out of health care… Our hope is it’s not expansion of Medicaid, it’s not Obamacare, and that’s – we’re just trying to take care of sick people that lack insurance mainly because they’re incomes are not at a rate that they can afford it.”

So it’s not Medicaid, or Obamacare, it just attempts to do the exact things Medicaid Expansion under Obamacare was trying to do… JUST FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T CALL IT MEDICAID EXPANSION OR OBAMACARE.

This might be a good time to point out that Medicaid Expansion is popular in Tennessee.

Still confused because Mcnally was sounding pretty pro-Medicaid expansion, the Natalie Allison pressed further:

So… you’re saying it’s not Medicaid expansion?”

At this point Senator Jack Johnson swoops in, noticing Mcnally is flailing and maybe almost about to support something that would actually help a lot of people, which would be truly awful.

Sen. Johnson:

 “It absolutely is not… I want to be very clear about that, it’s not a proposal to expand medicaid. It’s a proposal to give us more flexibility with our existing medicaid dollars, ok? And if we’re given that flexibility we believe we can generate savings that will generate additional dollars with which we might be able to cover some additional people, or provide better services- better quality services. That’s one conversation and that needs to stay in its lane right there. Any conversation of drawing down additional federal dollars is a totally different conversation, ok? And I think maybe during some of this those two things have gotten interwoven.”

So if you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans without coverage, good news – maybe what they’re proposing might cover some other people if they can scrounge up some loose change somewhere, but as for the $26 Billion over 10 years the federal government wants to send us to cover you, that’s a still big NO THANK YOU — because who wants that?
They know they need to seem like they’re trying to help people get the care they need – but actually helping people would be a bridge too far.
Basically their block grant proposal is to take the money that is supposed to go towards health insurance for low-income people in a lump sum, and trust that the guys who up until now haven’t seemed to care that vulnerable Tennesseans can’t get the care they need will A) make sure it goes to the right place, and B) Be able to make those dollars go further somehow.
That’s some plan.
The Tennessean reporters then went on to commiserate about how confusing the whole thing was. Natalie Allison:
“All the reporters sitting there were pretty confused. We thought he was saying Republicans were going to launch a medicaid expansion effort this session. We eventually realized that wasn’t the case and went on to talk about the block grant program.”
She then pointed out that it remains to be seen how they would actually secure coverage for those currently in the coverage gap:
“When we asked them how they were going to pay for that, there isn’t really a clear answer… the bill itself is pretty vague.”
As Rep. John Ray Clemmons and Gloria Johnson say in the video below, the Republican-proposed block grants may not even be legal, won’t cover anyone new, and won’t help rural hospitals.
It doesn’t fix the problem.
It’s time to expand Medicaid like most of the country already has. It would help a lot of people, and pay for itself. Let the Republicans call it whatever they want, let’s just do it.
Holler at Governor Lee if you agree.

VIDEO: “Please Expand Medicaid, Governor Lee. People Are Dying.” – A Cry For Help As Another Rural Hospital Closes

This week we learned Clay County’s Cumberland River Hospital would be shutting its doors, making it the 13th rural Tennessee hospital to shutter since the Republican refusal to expand Medicaid took hold.

The numbers show rural hospital closures are far more common in states that refuse to expand Medicaid. Hospitals in Medicaid expansion states were 84 percent less likely to face hospital closures than their peers in non-expansion states, a new Health Affairs study shows.

As part of a #WeAreCelina Day of Action yesterday, in solidarity with Celina and Clay County, Democratic officials Rep. John Ray Clemmons, Rep. London Lamar, Rep. Mike Stewart, Rep, Gloria Johnson and Rep. Dwayne Thompson held a press conference at the capitol, where they were joined by Tennessee Democratic Party Chair Mary Mancini and cancer survivor/Medicaid recipient Kelly Gregory.

Gregory gave an emotional presentation, and all 5 Democratic reps called on Governor Lee and the Republicans to put politics aside and accept the federal dollars to expand Medicaid as the previous Republican Governor wanted to, pointing out that every year that goes by Tennessee loses billions of dollars – $26 Billion over a decade, in fact – and more people will die unnecessarily as hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans are left without health insurance.

Below is video from the press conference:

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.

VIDEO: “HANDS OFF OUR C.O.B!” – Nashville Protests Gov. Lee-Supported Bill to Undercut Police Oversight Board

In November, after a lot of hard organizing work, the people of Nashville voted to approve a referendum that would give them a Community Oversight Board to hold Nashville’s police accountable.

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OPINION: “That is not infanticide. I know. I went through it.”

This week, before the racist images on his yearbook page came out, Virginia’s Governor Northam’s comments about a proposed late-term abortion bill caused a stir. 

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REMINDER: Anti-LGBT Adoption Bill Hypocrite Hensley Had Affair with Cousin/Nurse/Patient, Divorced FOUR times

As we mentioned yesterday, Tennessee Republicans have unleashed a slew of discriminatory anti-LGBT legislation that seeks to allow state-sanctioned discrimination by businesses, and make it so that adoption agencies can refuse to allow LGBT parents to adopt.

State Senator Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, sponsor of one of the anti-LGBT adoption  bills (SB 0848), had this to say in justification of his bill, which is being carried by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, in the House:

“We were concerned that adoption agencies, such as religious adoption agencies, would be required to allow adoption when they had religious beliefs that contradicted certain lifestyles. That they would be forced to allow adoptions to people they felt were not appropriate parents.”

“Certain lifestyles”… “Appropriate parents”…

Seems worth noting the hypocrisy of Senator Hensley, who has been married and divorced four times and who slept with his 2nd cousin who happened to be a nurse who worked for him (on a lapsed license) while also inappropriately prescribing her pain pills, while they were both married, being the one to drop a bill judging the “appropriateness” of others.

Read all about it in this Nashville Scene article.

The woman testified under oath about their affair, also detailing how she spent two nights with him in Nashville on the taxpayers’ dime.

We’re pretty sure The Bible Joey is using to justify this discrimination has a thing or two to say about his actions also.

It’s also worth noting that this is not the first time Hensley has gone all-out to persecute the LGBT community. He has been doing this for years.

From the Scene:

Hensley gained national notoriety in 2012 as a sponsor of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would have banned public school teachers from even mentioning that homosexuality exists. During one hearing that year, Hensley commented, “I don’t think Modern Family is appropriate for children to watch” — because it features a married gay couple raising children. This session, Hensley is sponsoring a bill from the Tennessee Family Action Council that would make children created using donor sperm illegitimate — an attempt to make it harder for gay and lesbian parents to establish paternity.

Modern Family, senator? Seriously?

If you’re as appalled by Hensley’s Horrendous Hypocrisy as we are, holler at him HERE.