Monday, June 30, 2014

The Buzz - June 30, 2014

The Buzz - June 30, 2014

Alexander profits ‘in a small way’ from polticial promotion of natural gas

U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, who stands to chair the Senate panel overseeing the nation’s energy policy if he is reelected and Republicans gain control of the Senate, has been a strong supporter of using more natural gas. The Tennessean reports on a speech he made last year on the subject, then adds:
What Alexander says he didn’t know at the time was that 900 miles away, on the outskirts of a South Texas town, he and his wife were benefiting in a small way from the very phenomenon he touted.
Last year, the Alexanders took in $3,103 in oil and gas royalties through their stake in a family partnership, and records in Texas and Washington, D.C., show the senator and his wife have been collecting similar amounts of natural gas revenue for years.
By Texas standards, their earnings do not amount to much. They also amount to little more than a rounding error for a couple with a personal wealth of at least $9.3 million. Click Here For More

Changes may be coming to TN teacher licensing

Changes could be coming to the process teachers navigate to renew their work licenses in Tennessee, including easier routes for those who perform well on annual evaluations.
But one component it won't include? Making student test scores a reason to stop a teacher from advancing in the profession.
The Tennessee General Assembly this spring swiftly passed legislation, pushed by the state's largest teachers union, to reverse a controversial policy of Gov. Bill Haslam's administration — set for implementation in 2015 — that would allow have allowed student growth on tests to be used to revoke or not renew a teacher's licenses.
It marked a clear repudiation of one of Haslam's most contested new education reforms, and an item the governor signed into law.
Two months later, the Tennessee State Board of Education on Monday is set to follow through on that directive. In the process, board members also will consider a revamped policy on first reading to enable teachers who consistently score highly on annual state-mandated teacher evaluations to bypass teacher training requirements to advance or to renew licenses. Click Here For More

Why Tennessee is the most corrupt state in the union

States that spend less on health, education and welfare are more prone to bribery, and Tennessee is no exception
One analysis comes from researchers at Indiana University and University of Hong Kong. They compared data from 25,000 convictions in public corruption cases with state spending data. As Governing magazine reports, the researchers document that the most corrupt states like Tennessee “tended to spend money on construction, highways, and police protection programs, which provide more opportunity for corrupt officials to use public money for their own gain.” Governing adds that those “states spend less on health, education, and welfare, which provide less opportunity for officials to collect bribes.”
Tennessee’s budget appears to confirm these findings. According to various studies over the last few years, Tennessee has ranked near the bottom for per capita spending on education. Additionally, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that Tennessee has enacted some of the deepest cuts to higher education funding of any state in the country.
Of course, an earlier study found one other major way corruption can shape state policy: through taxpayer subsidies. According to that 2011 analysis from researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank and the University of Michigan, “Cities and counties in states with troubled political cultures demonstrate the greatest willingness to offer business development incentives.” And again, comparing Tennessee’s corruption with its economic development policies seems to confirm this.
According to the watchdog group Good Jobs First, Tennessee is at the top of the list of states offering so-called “megadeal” subsidies to corporations. Likewise, the Nashville City Paper reports that in the name of economic development, the city has been dramatically increasing its subsidies to corporations, including a $65 million outlay for a minor league baseball stadium. Click Here For More

Obama Picks Ex-P&G Head To Lead Veterans Affairs

 President Barack Obama plans to nominate former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, as the White House seeks to shore up an agency beset by treatment delays and struggling to deal with an influx of new veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
An administration official said Obama would announce McDonald's appointment Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans' hospitals became apparent.
In tapping McDonald for the post, Obama is signaling his desire to install a VA chief with broad management experience. McDonald also has a military background, graduating near the top of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division.
The administration official insisted on anonymity in order to confirm McDonald's appointment before the president's announcement. Click Here For More

It began with a couple of occasional rim shots (including an endorsement from of all people, THE NASHVILLE SCENE’s Bruce Dobie). Now it’s becoming an increasing drum beat in the national media including a recent article in THE NATIONAL JOURNAL (June 26). Is Tennessee Senator Bob Corker running for the Republican nomination for President in 2016?
In my lifetime Tennessee has had (about every decade or so), a bevy of our elected officials looking in the mirror and seeing themselves in the Oval Office; from Estes Kefauver to the Albert Gores; from Howard Baker and Lamar Alexander to Bill Frist and Fred Thompson. Is Bob Corker next?
He’s doing the kind of high profile things in Washington Senators do to get attention and he could get even more if the GOP takes the Senate and he becomes Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But right now it’s all just media talk. Senator Corker isn’t saying yes (or no) and he’s not showing any concrete signs of mounting a national campaign. There are also media rumors he will come home to Tennessee in 4 years to succeed Bill Haslam as Governor. (And don’t forget the talk about how Governor Haslasm has future national ambitions too).
If Corker does decide to go national he will need to start ramping up quickly after the first of 2015 (which seems to be the deadline he’s given himself). Coming home to Tennessee might be complicated as well. With Senator Lamar Alexander re-elected in all likelihood, will he complete his new full 6 year term? And if not, would Haslam appoint himself to that open Senate seat, opening up the Governor’s chair to Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey who could seek (re)election in 2018?
Wish I was a fly on the wall in some places these days. Click Here For More

Howard Baker, 1925-2014: A Man of Word and Deed

As the answer to his rhetorical question became ever clearer, Baker did not shy away from following it down the road to the inevitable conclusion. He is incorrectly remembered in most accounts as having been one of the President’s pursuers— and that sense, among Nixon’s diehard defenders, may have been the one most significant factor that doomed Baker’s own presidential ambitions — but he was really just a realist about the situation. And, if you will, a patriot.
It was appropriate in any number of ways — the standpoints of bipartisanship and national unity, among them — that Fred Thompson, the Baker hire who was then making his first appearance on the national scene as counsel for the Watergate committee’s Republicans, was the one allowed to ask the fateful question about a possible White House taping system of Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield. And do not imagine that Baker’s role in that moment was passive or incidental.
That was certainly one Howard Baker — the honest questioner, the negotiator, open to compromise and common purpose. But there was another Howard Baker, too — the Republican team player who made his own contributions to the ideology of the Right.
“Cut their pay, and send them home” — That was another Baker coinage, directed at what he saw as a boondoggling, bureaucratic-minded, big-spending Democratic majority in the Congress of his day. And it was a line that, as much as any other, kindled the early fires of what would become the Tea Party. Click Here For More

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