Friday, October 23, 2015

TN News Roundup from Crockett

Attorney General: No Tax Break For Tennessee Electric Co-Ops

Tennessee Promise 4,000 mentors short of goal

Republicans Fail To Take Down Hillary Clinton After 11-Hour Benghazi Hearing

Government Gives TVA License to Operate New Nuclear Reactor

The Spring City reactor that will be the nation's first new nuclear generating plant of the 21st century has gotten the go-ahead from the federal government.
The Tennessee Valley Authority says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued an operating license for Watts Bar Unit 2 on Thursday.
Speaking at a news conference at the plant, TVA President Bill Johnsonsaid the reactor will provide low-cost, reliable and clean energy. Nuclear reactors do not produce greenhouse gases, although some environmentalists dispute the "clean" label because reactors produce radioactive waste. Associated Press

Tennessee Promise 4,000 mentors short of goal

With less than a month to go before the deadline to recruit volunteer mentors for the second year ofTennessee Promise, officials say they are 4,000 short of their goal.
So far, about 5,000 Tennessee adults have applied to be mentors statewide. Recruiters are scrambling to attract 9,000 volunteers by Nov. 20. Mike Krause, Tennessee Promise executive director, said his focus will shift exclusively to mentors after students' Nov. 2 application deadline.
“There’s a lot of work ahead on mentor recruitment,” Krause said.
The gulf is wide in Middle Tennessee, where only Hickman County had met its mentor goal by Monday, according to a Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce report. Williamson and Cheatham counties had fewer than a third of their mentors.
Krause said he would rely on partnerships with employers such as AT&T Tennessee and Nissan to drive more participation in the mentor program. Tennessean (Subscription)

Tennessee Workers Deserve a Living Wage

 Minimum wage workers in Tennessee are falling further behind. While Tennessee has no official state minimum wage, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour while an actual living wage, the amount it takes a single worker to make ends meet, is $14.79 per hour.
A worker in Tennessee needs to work nearly 82 hours a week at minimum wage to cover their own basic needs. That’s the equivalent of holding down two full-time, minimum wage jobs.
Today, Tennessee Citizen Action is releasing “Pay Up! Long Hours and Low Pay Leave Workers at a Loss,” a national study showing that even the $15 an hour wage that is gaining momentum around the country is a modest proposal, and not enough for workers in most states to make ends meet.
Working full time should provide financial stability, not poverty. Low wage workers provide services we all count on every day as we do our shopping, dine out, or take our children to child care.
“This report puts real numbers to what we all know, the minimum wage keeps workers trapped in poverty. Working an astonishing 82 hours per week just to make ends meet is not realistic,” said Andy Spears, Executive Director of Tennessee Citizen Action. Tennessee Citizen Action

Our Bees

By Jeannie Alexander

I remember my grandfather’s smell. It is my first memory. My second memory is of being carried by my grandfather through his backyard. We carefully considered the apple trees, muscadines, figs, and plums, but farther back in my memory, we first considered the mud puddles.

My grandfather was a brickmason, and he and my grandmother made their home in Stone Mountain, Ga., where both of their families for several generations before had planted their homestead; the modest dreams of sharecroppers. Their plots of land were stitched together like a quilt: my great-grandmother Annie-bell’s home, my great-aunt Irene’s home, my great-grandfather Doc’s home, my grandparents’ home, my great-uncle R.L’s home and Uncle Pete’s home. One winding twisting piece of property divided into artificial plots. A geography of tragedy, toil, love and grace. Why is it that we think the modest dreams of the poor are any less grand than those of the wealthy? Surely they are no less holy.
When my parents were first married they lived in a small trailer that my grandparents had moved to the back of their property behind the main house.  When I was 2, I would kneel on the bed, my face pressed against the window screen of my parents’ bedroom window each afternoon, waiting for my grandfather to return. His old burgundy car would pull in, and before his feet could hit the deeply rutted dirt path I would begin shouting, “Papa come saaavvveee me!” This was our daily game. He taught me how to unlatch the screen and push it out so that he could then lift me through the window.  This is where my first memory erupts, the smell of sweat and the taste of masonry dust stuck to the roof of my mouth as I pressed my nose against his neck to identify his scent every afternoon. His hands were the roughest, gentlest hands I have ever known.  And each evening as he pulled me from the window he did so with the purpose of connecting me to the earth in the daily baptism ritual of dunking me into the dirty muddy water that always seemed to exist in the large rut in the middle of the driveway. It was a child’s ecstasy that I experienced in those moments. I would not undergo true baptism again until many years later when I tried to drown myself.
As a teenager embarrassed by rural ways and honest poverty, I immersed myself in the alternative political and drug culture of Atlanta’s Little Five Points neighborhood.  Heroin, cocaine, LSD and the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade ironically threw me into the intellectually bourgeoisie, disaffected, punk-rock culture of angry youth, often from wealthy families, supposedly fighting for the rise of the proletariat peasant class, a birthright I had abandoned. Sometimes the universe laughs.
But in the early hours of barely light mornings following nights of insanity, I would pull myself together and return, bruised and disoriented, to the gardens of healing, the waters of remembrance, my grandfather’s section of plowed earth.  I was 19, hungover and standing by my grandfather’s side, a cup of coffee in my hand, watching his honeybees swarm in and out of the hive in the already hot humid air.
“Aren’t you afraid of getting stung?” I asked. “No, never” he replied. “You just have to learn to think like a bee.” As we moved from bees to fig trees to chickens I knew to my shame the truth: that the sacredness of connection was to be found here or nowhere on this earth, and all of my endeavors to find truth through separation would lead me back to this yard.
My grandfather died while I was in law school, and I was so furious with grief that I refused to leave New York and go home to Georgia to attend his funeral. The fury has long since turned to peace and gratitude, and my grandfather keeps speaking to me, slowly softly tracking my often tumultuous life. My friend Bill has beehives now. A few weeks ago he removed the top of the hive so I could look inside the secret world of the feeding tray on top. The bees are fed sugar water. They moved slowly in the cold wet morning air and most stayed inside the wooden hive box, but a few came cautiously out of the small entrance hole in front and moved slowly, their thick stout golden honeybee bodies covered with fine hair, so very beautiful.  I hear my grandfather’s voice: “The entire source of food for the whole world rests on the backs of these bees. All of this, everything around you is connected so you can’t do nothing to these bees this land that don’t affect you. These bees are you and you are the bees.” I think about this when Bill shows me the old feeding trays that he had discarded because they were death traps for bees, so deep the bees drowned, caught between metal screen and water. A simple mistake, but the cost was dear, and I ran my finger over the screen and over the tiny hairy corpses trapped inside.
One of my last conversations with my grandfather was about bees.  We stood staring at the hives while I ate a fig pulled from the tree. I had focused on the bees to avoid the truth that his once robust body was being wasted by the cancer growing inside of him. Bitter Southerner

Attorney General: No Tax Break For Tennessee Electric Co-Ops

The Tennessee attorney general says the state's rural electric cooperatives are not entitled to a tax break on new investments.
In an opinion finalized Wednesday, the attorney general says cooperatives are neither government agencies nor charities. As a result, the state constitution doesn't let them get a break on their property taxes.
The break has been on the books since the late 1980s. It entitles them to an exemption from local property taxes for the first four years after building a new facility or plant.
But most co-ops discovered it only recently, says David Callis, executive director of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. They had been working with state officials to figure out how to begin taking advantage of the tax break. WPLN

TN prison chief concedes some mistakes in incident reports

While Tennessee's prison chief says the state is committed to making its system for reporting violent incidents more effective, he has given no indication of how it would define or report violent incidents differently.
Department of Correction Commissioner Derrick Schofield told lawmakers Wednesday the department satisfied concerns listed in a 2012 state audit as to how the violent incidents are documented and described.
"The department has provided the public and the General Assembly full disclosure and complete access to policy and incident-related data. This information is available in the department's statistical abstract and on the department's website," Schofield told lawmakers.
That's not accurate, and remains an issue for lawmakers, correctional officers and inmates as repeatedly reported in The Tennessean. In addition to problems listed in the 2012 audit, the American Correctional Association also recently recommended the state change how it classifies violent incidents. Tennessean (Subscription)

John Jay Hooker To Speak At Vanderbilt Law School About Assisted Suicide

The legendary John Jay Hooker — longtime Nashville attorney and gadfly, confidant of Robert Kennedy, former Democratic candidate for Senate and governor, and political activist — is slated to address Vanderbilt Law School students Oct. 27 about his recent efforts to persuade the courts of his right to die. 

Hooker, who is battling terminal cancer, was 
denied by courts just weeks ago in his case asking for a doctor-assisted-suicide. The Tennessean reported earlier this week that Hooker, 84, asked that the Tennessee Supreme Court consider his case out of the normal appeals order — skipping the Tennessee Court of Appeals.

Here's the full release from Vanderbilt about the Hooker speech, which no student of history should miss:

John Jay Hooker, former gubernatorial and senatorial candidate, newspaper publisher, businessman and political activist, will speak at Vanderbilt Law School on Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Hooker, a 1957 graduate of Vanderbilt Law School, will speak at noon in the Moore Room (218) in the law school, 131 21st Ave. S.

The event, sponsored by the Branstetter Litigation and Dispute Resolution Program and the Social Justice Program at Vanderbilt, is free and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. Lunch will be provided.

Hooker will talk about his lawsuit addressing the right to die under the circumstances of one’s own choosing and the Tennessee Death with Dignity Law he is promoting in the General Assembly. Hooker has publicly stated that he is suffering with terminal cancer.

Hooker has had a rich and storied career in law, politics and business. His legal career includes service as counselor to Tennessee Gov. Frank Clement, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the campaign of President John F. Kennedy. He has filed civil rights lawsuits against state and national officials to protect federal and state constitutional rights in the democratic process. In recent years, Hooker has filed lawsuits challenging the way political campaigns are financed.

He has been active in politics his entire life. He lost the Democratic primary for governor in 1966 but won in both 1970 and 1998 before losing in the general election. The last time he ran for governor was in 2014, as an independent candidate. Pith In the Wind

Republicans Fail To Take Down Hillary Clinton After 11-Hour Benghazi Hearing

Hillary Clinton maintained a calm, unruffled demeanor for 11 hours Thursday, as Republican after Republican grilled her in relation to the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi and about her use of a private email server as secretary of state.
"So far today, I've said, 'good morning,' 'good afternoon,' 'good evening.' So let me go ahead and say, 'good night,'" Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said around 8 p.m., acknowledging that the hearing had began at 10 a.m. (with some short breaks throughout the day).
Despite the long hours, Republicans failed to catch Clinton off her guard or come up with significant new revelations to argue that she was negligent in her duties that led to the death of four Americans in Libya.
Her appearance is likely to give her a boost with the base, especially coming off from a strong performance after the first Democratic debate last week. Republicans weren't able to score any major hits and knock her off her feet, and Clinton showed she had the stamina to withstand the GOP attacks -- a fact that Republican lawmakers grudgingly seemed to acknowledge. Huffington Post

Crockett Policy Institute

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