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Capitol View commentary: Friday, September 23, 2022

Capitol View
Posted at 12:04 PM, Sep 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-23 13:04:03-04

THE WAR IN UKRAINE SEES A DANGEROUS ESCALATION WITH MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS COMMITTED AND POSSIBLY NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMING INTO PLAY; THE WAR ON INFLATION WILL CAUSE PAIN; NOT A GOOD WEEK FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP; THE JANUARY 6th SPECIAL COMMITTEE RETURNS; CONSERVATIVES RELAUNCH WAR ON THE TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN TENNESSEE; NASHVILLE MAYOR JOHN COOPER UNVEILS THE DETAILS OF A $50 MILLION DOLLAR PLAN TO COMBAT HOMELESSNESS; MORE DISCUSSION ABOUT THE EAST BANK; INSIDE POLITICS ANALYZES THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS WITH THE NASHVILLE BANNER’S STEVE CAVENDISH; NEXT WEEK

THE WAR IN UKRAINE SEES A DANGEROUS ESCALATION WITH MORE RUSSIAN TROOPS COMMITTED AND POSSIBLY NUCLEAR WEAPONS COMING INTO PLAY

I have not reported each week in this column about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But the conflict has changed dramatically in recent days. Ukraine has inflicted unexpected and embarrassing losses on the Russians, causing a major retreat of Russian troops, and with Ukraine retaking several areas of the country, employing an offensive that still has not been stopped. It has now led Russian President Vladimir Putin to order steps that appear to show him cornered, and perhaps getting desperate.

For the first time since World War II, Putin has ordered a partial mobilization of another 300,000 reserve troops and he indicates he will use tactical nuclear weapons to defend Russia. It’s a threat that Putin claims he is not bluffing about and a number of foreign policy experts say must be taken seriously.

When Putin says he is defending “Russia,” that is something of a ruse, based on a scam. As it did when it invaded and took over the Crimea a few years ago, Russia is now holding referendums in four areas of Ukraine still under its control. When the “results” show approval of those areas wanting to join Russia, Putin will claim any new attacks by Ukrainian forces will make them ‘the invaders” violating Russian soil.

Of course, nobody outside Putin and his cronies believes that or that what Putin is doing will be successful. Such referendums are a violation of international law.

Even inside Russia there are increasing signs of protest and people trying to flee the country to avoid military service.

Putin’s move to escalate the war seems deliberately timed to occur just as the United Nations General Assembly holds its annual gathering in New York City, President Joe Biden speaking to the group, strongly condemned Russia’s actions and as the White House says the U.S. will respond if nuclear weapons come into play.

President Biden’s comments also came in the wake of strong comments he made last weekend on CBS’ 60 MINUTES program that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it is invaded by China. It marks another escalation of world tensions that have U.N. officials saying the world, for many reasons is “in peril.”

THE WAR ON INFLATION WILL CAUSE PAIN

For the fifth time this year, the Federal Reserve Board has voted to raise interest rates to bring down near-record inflation that has shown little sign of easing.

The latest rate hike of ¾ of one percent is the third time interest rates have been raised by that amount and it appears more increases may be on the way in November and December, and even in 2023.

Fed officials say that will mean pain ahead for the economy, to the point where it may cause a recession. But for now, job creation and unemployment have not yet been significantly damaged, although that could change, with one estimate being that a million more Americans will be out of work in 2023.

NOT A GOOD WEEK FOR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP

After winning some lower court victories in his fight with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) over the government documents, including classified information, seized by federal agents from former President Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago FL., this week was not so good for Team Trump.

First, on Wednesday, a three-judge federal appeals panel overruled the lower court and granted DOJ officials access to the 100 classified documents involved, so it can continue a criminal investigation of President Trump’s possible mishandling of that information.

The unanimous Appeals Court decision, delivered by one judge appointed by President Obama and two by President Trump, was tough on the lower court judge Aileen Cannon, who seemed overly deferential to the former President. But now she has complied with a new order recognizing the higher court’s decision.

It really doesn’t matter but the judges did leave intact another part of the lower court’s ruling allowing a review by a special master, retired federal Judge Raymond J. Dearie, of all the other documents seized by a special master. But even then, the first court hearing with the master did not go well for Trump’s lawyers with Judge Dearie telling the Trump legal team “You can’t have your cake and eat it” too.

The court master is also asking the court for help in assessing the remaining documents given their volume and a deadline of November 30 to finish the job. He says his assistant, another retired judge, should be paid $500 an hour. And don’t forget Donald Trump has been ordered to pay the cost of this court master review. While Mr. Trump has a reputation for quelching on his bill. This better be one invoice the former President, pays in full and on time.

The special master is also asking Trump lawyers if they believe (as their client publicly claims) that the FBI “planted” documents at Mar-a-Lago. Despite the appeals court decision that the status of classified documents are something of a “red herring” in this case, the former president continues to claim that as Chief Executive he could declassify a document by himself, even by just “thinking about it!” This is causing some top Republican Senators to publicly disagree.

But perhaps the most damaging development for Donald Trump this week came Wednesday when the New York State Attorney General filed a $250 million civil lawsuit for fraud against the former President and three of his adult children and their family company over how they have operated their real estate business in the state.

Observers say if the Trumps lose the case, they could be wiped out from continuing to operate in New York state. The State AG also says she is turning her evidence over to the IRS and the DOJ for a possible criminal investigation.

THE JANUARY 6th SPECIAL COMMITTEE RETURNS

The special U.S. House committee investigating the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol returns to Washington next week.

Its first hearing back will be on Wednesday, September 28 at 1:00 P.M. with no calendar of witnesses or topics yet announced.

The committee also appears to soon be receiving testimony from Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Even before the Special Committee re-convenes, one piece of legislation from members of the committee to clarify the procedure of how Congress certifies a presidential election has already passed the full House. The bill even got some Republican support.

Now the House and the Senate must approve the final details of a bill.

CONSERVATIVES RELAUNCH WAR ON TRANSGENDER PEOPLE IN TENNESSEE

Without much fanfare or profile, Vanderbilt Medical Center has been operating a Transgender Health Clinic since 2018. Its mission is to address mental and physical health issues among transgender people.

But this week, after a series of critical Twitter postings about the Center by conservative media personality Matt Walsh, who has over 1 million followers, it seemed the entire Tennessee Republican state government leadership erupted in concern, outage and calls for investigations.

The new controversy is involving debate from multiple perspectives.

But while Tennessee’s GOP leaders are up in arms to investigate and pass more laws against transgender people, they don’t seem very quick at all to take action to deal with an audit finding that Tennessee taxpayers have been overcharged by tens of millions of dollars in providing health insurance for more than 140,000 state employees and retirees.

But one former state lawmaker is speaking out.

And then there’s the latest on those controversial Hillsdale College Michigan charter schools that Governor Bill Lee wants to bring to Tennessee. The President of Hillsdale, Dr. Jerry Arnn now says racism is like talking about sexuality, that neither has a place in the classroom.

Stay tuned.

NASHVILLE MAYOR JOHN COOPER UNVEILS THE DETAILS OF A  $50 MILLION PLAN TO COMBAT HOMELESSNESS 

At Tuesday night’s Metro Council meeting, three West Nashville residents spoke to the body pleading with them to take action to do something about homelessness in Nashville, as personified by the encampment that has taken over Brookmeade Park just off Charlotte Avenue.

It is not a new request or problem.

With Metro government increasingly under fire about the issue, on Wednesday, Mayor John Cooper unveiled the details of what he says is a “bold” new $50 million proposal to address homelessness in a comprehensive fashion.

As several other major cities are doing, Metro would use federal American Rescue Funds to pay for the plan.

That includes $25 million for the Metro Development and Housing Authority to distribute low-cost loans for the construction of affordable housing units.

$9 million for Housing First supportive services

$9 million for temporary interim gap housing administered by Metro Homeless Impact Division

$7 million for low barrier housing collective and competitive grants administered through the Metro Homelessness Impact Division.

The Metro Council will consider four different resolutions to fund Mayor Cooper’s plan at its next meeting on October 4.

It should be noted that American Rescue Funds are one-time monies. Any ongoing recurring expenses to implement or continue services under the plan will have to be paid for by other city revenue sources.

MORE DISCUSSION ABOUT THE EAST BANK

In recent days, the Cooper administration has outlined more details (but not final numbers or agreement) about the potential financing and agreement to build the $2.2 billion domed Titans stadium and the new development surrounding it on the East Bank.

The briefing did not disclose anything all that new, except that city officials may have to backstop some of the funding for the surrounding developments with other non-property tax sources. That’s because the long-term source of funding, the sales tax from the new developments themselves, won’t be available while the new developments are being constructed.

Another, potentially more daunting concern raised by council members during the briefing, is what about flooding? Most of the East Bank was under water during the major May 2010 flood that devastated large parts of Nashville including portions of downtown.

This week, city officials also began to outline more details about how affordable housing will fit into the IMAGINE EAST BANK effort.

INSIDE POLITICS ANALYZES THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS WITH THE NASHVILLE BANNER’S STEVE CAVENDISH

Politics is waxing red hot here in Nashville, across the state and throughout the country.

You have the midterm elections with early voting beginning in just over three weeks.

At stake nationally is the control of both houses of Congress. That includes three different congressional districts now representing portions of Nashville/Davidson County.

Across Tennessee, all 99 seats in the State House and about half the 33 State Senate seats are on the ballot.

Locally, the next elections aren’t until August 2023, but developments and speculation continue over the races for mayor and council.

To bring his wisdom and insights, we welcome NASHVILLE BANNER editor Steve Cavendish to INSIDE POLITICS.

He is a long-time astute political observer, and we welcome him back to the program.

We are happy to have Steve back with us again!

INSIDE POLITICS can also be seen on its regular weekly schedule on NEWSCHANNEL5 PLUS.

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NEXT WEEK

I have some family-related duties next week.

There won’t be a new Capitol View column on September 30.

I do plan to have a new INSIDE POLITICS show next week so please tune in to watch that.

The next Capitol View will be published on Friday, October 7.