Friday, June 29, 2012

Tennessee GOP Can't Wait to Opt Out of ObamaCare

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 12:14 PM

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The Supreme Court’s health care decision is happy news for Tennessee Republicans. That’s right — because even though the court upheld the law, the justices also gave states the option to refuse to expand Medicaid. Denying health care to poor people just to score political points — what fun!

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi predicts no state will be crazy enough to opt out. We're talking about tons of free federal money to pay for health care for residents, helping hospitals and doctors who now frequently are stuck with unpaid bills and lowering costs for everyone in the process. The way Pelosi sees it, even cold-hearted conservatives will be forced to set aside their hatred of the president and surrender once they see the law’s benefits in neighboring states.

We know better, don’t we? Not only will Tennessee opt out, the Republicans who run our state will do it joyously. Already, Gov. Bill Haslam and his minions are talking up the possibility of saving $200 million by refusing to give health care coverage to anyone new. We’re not sure why they think it’ll cost the state anything since the feds are paying for it all — at least for the first three years — but let’s not get bogged down in messy details. The point is, we can thumb our nose at Washington!

Senate GOP leader Mark Norris went so far as to embrace Sen. Mae Beavers’ unsettling scheme for Tennessee to seize control of all federal health care programs. How would you feel about this Republican legislature running Medicare?

After yesterday’s ruling, Tennessee progressives called on Republicans to stop dragging their feet and start implementing the law.

“With this landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the United States has marked the end of partisan political games to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act,” says Beth Uselton of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign.

Actually, the games have just begun.

Update: Lady Beale points out Louisiana's Bobby Jindal is refusing to set up a health insurance exchange as the law requires. Tennessee Republicans already balked at that, even though all the exchanges aim to do is make it easier for consumers to shop for insurance.

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The Hippodrome: It's The Economy, Stupid

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 8:13 AM

This Week In The Drome: One way to make the hard sell, Bridgestone Arena is The Shire, Vandy's selective service, Brian Baker's lucky break and more ...

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Opening Face-Off

Tax vs. Spend: Salary caps in sports foster an environment of alleged parity. If teams can only spend to a certain level, the extent by which one team can outspend another is necessarily limited.
To that end, the ability for one team to compete with another has to — at some point — go beyond dollars and cents.

The enforcement of the cap has led to parity in the NFL — though baseball has plenty of parity, even without a cap.

The NHL took things to the next level with its lockout-ending collective bargaining agreement, adding a salary floor to its cap, insuring teams couldn't operate on a shoestring.

By and large, an NHL player — especially a top-level one — is going to get the same salary from any team willing to pay it and fit him under the cap.

So how to woo? Teams can give the typical platitudes: chance to win, great place to live, "right fit" — whatever that means.

But a question I've always had: Do Nashville's teams lay out, in dollars and cents, how much more a player earns just by virtue of a playing in a ZIP code which starts with a 3 and a 7?

Tennessee, of course, has no income tax. There is a jock tax, but it applies only to visiting teams three games a year maximum (and not to the NFL at all, for whatever reason), so it's basically a wash (Ed Note: Yep, I goofed on that originally)

So if a player is down to a handful of potential destinations, do David Poile and Ruston Webster point out the fiduciary benefit of living in a no-income tax state? Michigan, for example, has a flat 4.25 percent income tax. On $8 million in salary (for example), that's $340,000 annually. A player making $7.7 million in Nashville makes more, in a way, than an $8 million man in Detroit.

While Nashville can boast a relatively low cost of living, good schools, great weather (let's hope no one visited this week), and a population priding itself on not hounding the famous, it can also boast this: the paychecks go farther.

And as free agency approaches in the NHL, we can only hope David Poile has a tax manual at the ready.

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Health Care Ruling Aftermath: Cry Me a River of Indifference

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 5:00 AM

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It's unremarkable that Republicans and assorted Obama haters reacted to the Supreme Court ruling on health care yesterday with a combination of despair and spitting anger. To give them some mild credit for civility, at least most who were disappointed by the outcome did manage to restrain themselves from their worst impulses, unlike the Indiana congressman who likened the ruling to 9/11 or the columnist who called it "the end of America as we know it."

But it is remarkable that Republican leaders responsible for crafting and disseminating reactions seem wholly unable to understand what this issue is even about. An email blast Thursday afternoon from Tennessee GOP chair Chris Devaney articulated what we can take to be the official state party message on the ruling. The substantive elements of Devaney's email are astounding in their blend of blatant disinformation on the one hand, and willful blindness to the social problems the health care bill is intended to address on the other. Let's have a look.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012

WSJ on Great Hearts' Denial: "Segregation Fear Sinks Charter School"

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 12:39 PM

While lacking some depth, nuance and knowledge of the players involved, the Wall Street Journal published an account of Tuesday's contentious meeting of the Nashville school board that frames it as part of a nationwide charter-school debate:

Nashville school officials have rejected a proposal to open a charter school in a middle-class part of the city, highlighting a broader national battle over efforts by operators of such publicly financed, privately run schools to expand into more affluent areas.

The Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools board voted 7-2 Tuesday night to reject an application by Great Hearts Academies, a nonprofit that operates prep-school-like charter schools, for five new establishments.

The Arizona-based group planned to open its first Tennessee school in a middle- to upper-middle class area in west Nashville, after being invited by parents who either were unhappy with local public schools or said they favored choice in education.

The board denied the application because members worried that low-income parents wouldn't be able to easily transport their children across town to a school on the west side, meaning the plan could effectively cause "segregated schools," said Olivia Brown, spokeswoman for the district.

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Tennessee Democrats React to "Obamacare" Ruling [Updated]

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 11:39 AM

Not unlike the issue of same-sex marriage, President Obama's health care law, upheld this morning by the Supreme Court, puts Tennessee's relatively moderate Democrats on somewhat unsure political footing. Since the repeal of "Obamacare" is likely to become the primary rallying cry for Republicans, if it wasn't already, you're not likely to see red-state Democrats spiking the football, as it were, after the court's decision. (I've been told not to expect anything from the House Democratic leadership, for instance.)

Still, some reaction has been trickling in. Below are statements from the Tennessee Young Democrats and U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen and Jim Cooper:

Tennessee Young Democrats President Sean Braisted:

“The 2010 Affordable Care Act allows for hundreds of thousands of young Americans to stay on their parents' health insurance throughout college and as they start out life on their own. This provision alone has saved thousands of lives of people who previously could not have afforded care for chronic illnesses or emergencies.

“I am extremely pleased with the Supreme Court decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and allow the state and federal governments to move forward with implementing key provisions that will expand access to affordable care for millions of working families across America and in Tennessee.

“Republicans have already shown they are still going to stick their heads in the sand and vote to repeal a law passed by a majority of Congress, signed by the President, and affirmed by a Supreme Court majority led by
the Republican-appointed Chief Justice.

“Americans and Tennesseans deserve better. We need leaders who will work in a bi-partisan fashion to further enhance and expand the Affordable Care Act to drive health care prices even lower and hold large insurance companies accountable, not the political theater being offered by the Republican leadership in Tennessee and in Washington.

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TNGOP Reacts to "Obamacare" Ruling [Updated]

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 10:47 AM

In the wake of the Supreme Court's apparently favorable ruling on President Obama's signature piece of legislation, the state's top Republicans have been lighting up our inbox with statements expressing their disappointment. They appear in full, below.

Gov. Bill Haslam:

“We will review the entire Supreme Court’s opinion to fully understand its impact on the State of Tennessee. From initial reports, it appears the individual mandate has been ruled Constitutional and has been upheld.

My primary issues with ObamaCare are that it takes away the flexibility for states to encourage healthy behavior, will cost Tennessee hundreds of millions of dollars, and does nothing to solve the crisis of the cost of health care in America.

What was unanticipated is the section of the opinion that says states cannot be forced to expand their Medicaid program. This particular portion of the ruling is significant, but it is premature to know the exact ramifications.

Now it is up to Tennesseans and Americans to turn their attention to the November election. By electing Mitt Romney, we can be sure that the entire law will be repealed.”

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey:

"It is intensely disappointing that this court failed to recognize what constitutionalists and conservatives know deep in their hearts: A federal government which can coerce its people to buy a product is a government unrestrained and out of control. Democrat Governor Phil Bredesen called Obamacare the 'mother of all unfunded mandates' and stated it will cost Tennesseans 1.1 billion dollars in the next few years. However, the fight does not end here. The court may have made its decision today but the people have yet to speak. When they do, Mitt Romney will be elected president and I will do all I can to aid him as he fulfills his solemn promise to repeal this insidious law."

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Deportation Proceedings Cease for DREAMer

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Last we told you of the plight of Lesther Chavarria, the 21-year-old who was facing deportation at the hands of Immigration and Customs Enforcement despite promises from the Obama Administration that he, just like millions of other young, foreign-born Americans who entered the country illegally as children, would be granted a path to citizenship as a young adult.

Pith has received word from the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coaltion that the proceedings against Chavarria have ended.

"On Wednesday, June 20, the Nashville DHS office told Lesther Chavarria that he would be deported even though he meets the requirements for the new policy, blatantly disregarding President Obama’s announcement," says Amelia Post, spokeswoman for TIRRC. "After public outcry from around the country, Lesther’s deportation was stopped for now. While we are very happy that Lesther will be able to stay with his family, we remain deeply concerned about how many other people are in Lesther’s situation."

ICE officials could not comment directly on the matter.

Click through the jump to read a statement prepared by Chavarria for Pith.

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Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act (We Think) [Updated]

Posted By on Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 9:42 AM

Despite early reports to the contrary from CNN and Fox News, the U.S. Supreme Court this morning ruled that President Obama's Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "Obamacare," is constitutional. The critical point appears to be that, while the court ruled that the law's mandate — requiring most Americans to buy health insurance — could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause, it could be as a tax.

To be frank, I'm not a constitutional lawyer and I have not read the 193-page opinion, which is available in PDF form here. Additionally, as J.R. Lind points out at Post Politics, achieving complete understanding of a complicated ruling is difficult to do when it's just been released. The job of sifting through the onslaught of analysis and spin filling up the Internet will continue for some time.

With that said, I'll pass along this "Plain English" explainer from Amy Howe at the invaluable SCOTUSblog, who is live blogging the ruling and providing further analysis:

In Plain English: The Affordable Care Act, including its individual mandate that virtually all Americans buy health insurance, is constitutional. There were not five votes to uphold it on the ground that Congress could use its power to regulate commerce between the states to require everyone to buy health insurance. However, five Justices agreed that the penalty that someone must pay if he refuses to buy insurance is a kind of tax that Congress can impose using its taxing power. That is all that matters. Because the mandate survives, the Court did not need to decide what other parts of the statute were constitutional, except for a provision that required states to comply with new eligibility requirements for Medicaid or risk losing their funding. On that question, the Court held that the provision is constitutional as long as states would only lose new funds if they didn't comply with the new requirements, rather than all of their funding.

UPDATE: SCOTUSblog with more expert analysis:

Don't call it a mandate — it's a tax

Court holds that states have choice whether to join medicaid expnasion

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lebanon PD's Tank Makes Wired's Danger Room

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 1:27 PM

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The city of Lebanon has a lot to be proud of. From the headquarters of Cracker Barrel to the best damn county fair in the state, it would almost seem there's little room for further accolades hailing from this rural Tennessee town.

Well, except for their tank.

In an article on Wired's Danger Room blog, the Lebanon Police Department's LAV-150 Commando "reconnaissance vehicle" makes a list of dubious military hardware purchases by increasingly militarized small town law enforcement agencies across the country.

Emphasis Pith's:

In Lebanon, Tennessee, a town of less than 30,000 people, Mike Justice, the public safety coordinator, was so eager to accumulate military goods that he used to wake up at 3:00 a.m. so he was the first person logged in at the government’s first-come, first-serve online store. Thanks to his sleepless nights, since 2007, Lebanon has collected $4 million worth of stuff, including tanks, weapons and heavy equipment like bulldozers and truck loaders. Lebanon’s tank, an LAV 150, has been used only “five or six times,” according to Justice. Although it did help save a man who tried to commit suicide, spotting him with the tank’s infrared camera.

Pith wonders if it's cheaper to purchase an infrafred camera without the accompanying tank, or if it's a package deal they force you to sign on the lot.

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Tancredo to Headline White Supremacist Convention in Nashville

Posted By on Wed, Jun 27, 2012 at 11:35 AM

With summer in full swing, why not cool off in the air-conditioned confines of Nashville's Guesthouse Inn Hotel for a gathering of one of the nation's premier white supremacist organizations? (What's that? You'd rather be submerged in a human-sized deep fryer? Figures, you typical liberal elitist swine ...)

For the so-low-even-an-undocumented-worker-can-afford-it price of $65, you can rub elbows with the likes of former Colorado Congressman and honorary chair of the cuddly Youth for Western Civilization Tom Tancredo, who's billed as the keynote speaker of the July 6-7 gathering of the Council of Conservative Citizens. Expect a concentrated version of last March's American Renaissance Conference, but less closeted.

While Tancredo is no Sheriff Daron Hall, interested parties can rest assured: Here is a man who won't equivocate on his beliefs, unpopular though they might be with the vast majority of rational human beings. Here is a man who will carry the far right's torch of pseudo-science and scapegoating, and can do so in the time it takes to eat a (white meat only) rubber-chicken dinner.

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