No. 147: In praise of the USA

⁂ Nashville's Alt-Daily ⁂

Good morning, everyone.

Below, we take a look at the deck stacked against Tennessee's teachers, take a moment to reflect on how the US government has largely been kept in check over the course of the pandemic, and advise that you take the night off for once this week. Go see a movie at the theater if you really have to get out of the house. The theaters could use your help.

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Thanks for reading.



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Nashville

﹅ TENNESSEE'S TEACHERS

The Professional Educators of Tennessee came out with survey results regarding our state’s teachers last week. Not surprisingly, 22% of teachers are saying they’re ready to leave education. Does this really come as a surprise to anyone?

Over the last two years, educators have had to reinvent every in-person lesson to work with virtual learning portals, attempt to keep their students' attention through those same virtual portals, constantly readjust to new Covid procedures and protocols, not to mention navigate the overall heightened state of emotion surrounding Covid, school board decisions, and curriculum. They even have teachers learning how to drive buses because of short staffing issues.

Teachers in the state have notoriously gotten the short end of the stick. This becomes painfully obvious when looking at the funding formula and how money gets to the classroom. Though Democratic politicians frequently make efforts to increase funding for the education system, a Beacon Center report shows that only 53% of the education funds make it into the classroom. Where does the money go? As shown by a Beacon Center study of the last 10 years, when the money given per student has increased it has mainly gone towards administration. Instead of increased teacher pay or increased textbook/supply money, you see an increase in administrative positions and an increase in administrative pay.

Governor Lee has made updating the state’s education funding formula (BEP) a key part of his agenda going forward. This fall Lee called for a review of the formula as well as a coordinated listening tour to consider all concerns about the education system across Tennessee before implementing changes.

School boards have also started refining and redefining themselves. Per a new state law, School Board elections are now to be partisan. This change is one that Democrats have repeatedly decried as a move being used by the GOP to swoop in and take over local institutions — an interesting concern given the fact that the democratic process allows for popular consensus through vote. So, yes, parents clearly understanding the perspective and values of who they are voting for can be helpful.

The entire Tennessee education system is a can of worms, but now is as good a time as ever to open it and start doing the hard work necessary to get Tennessee back on track towards exceptional education. Let’s hope our state doesn’t lose all its decent educators before all is said and done.

HEADLINES

DEVELOPMENT

  • LGI Homes picks up Lebanon land as part of $32.9M deal (Biz Journal)
  • Green Hills commercial site sold for $8.5M (Post)
  • Metro committee defers consideration of East Nashville project (Post)
  • Insurer, owner disagree over cost of bomb damage (Post)
  • Nashville builder notches multiple projects in Nolensville (Post)
  • New details on Walmart's distribution hub in Lebanon, employing people and robots (Biz Journal)
National

✚ IN PRAISE OF THE USA: COVID EDITION

For all the hand-wringing and fist-pounding concerning the government's response to Covid from both sides — some say too much, some say too little — the USG policy response has been, in practice, more measured and circumspect than much of the rest of the world. This is not to discount the rhetoric and efforts of certain coalitions to implement everything from vaccine mandates and passports to compulsory vaccination and extended lockdowns, but as none of these things seem likely to be a part of the American reality moving forward, the system appears to work, leaving most decisions up to the state and giving Americans optionality to live in areas with Covid policies that match their preference.

Early in the pandemic, the world marveled at the sway China displayed over its citizens, forcing them into lockdowns with full compliance as the US and the rest of the Western world debated whether to apply this distinctly Chinese method of containment. The waffling lead to a government response that felt half-hearted and unserious. US citizens got stimulus checks twice at random intervals over the course of the pandemic whose number was so arbitrary as to appear some kind of cheap, electoral ploy. Cries of UBI and the perils of socialism run amock rose from the masses, but alas, nothing of the sort happened. Biden's Build Back Better Plan contains line items for the controversial Child Tax Credit, but the hill up which the Biden administration must climb to pass the package intimidates even Sisyphus.

On the state level, we see a different dynamic playing out. As far as Covid policy goes, states have all had wildly different reactions. From NYC's recently announced private business mandate and passport system to Oregon's extending its outdoor mask mandate "permanently" to Florida, Tennessee, and Texas' more laissez-faire approach. As an American citizen, you are free to choose a state that best aligns with your level of concern and/or opinion on what the government response should be.

On the more oppressive end of Covid measures, Biden's vaccine mandate has been met with nothing but "nos" from both the citizenry as well as the courtsand yesterday, the Senate. NYC's private business mandate is likely to receive similar blowback from the courts and citizens' general distaste for cloying government interventions (as a reminder, the vaccines do not prevent spread and children under the age of 18 are at close to zero risk).

In Europe, things have taken a more serious turn. In a flash of decadence prehaps meant to remind the world, yet again, how far Europe has fallen from grace, Austria began to roll out its first in the EU compulsory vaccination program after entering its fourth lockdown. Unvaccinated Austrians will be subject to fines and prevented from entering non-essential public spaces. At present, 67% of the nation is fully vaccinated. Will these measures continue until that number is 100%? Germany, after the departure of Angela Merkel, appears headed down a similar path. In the US, we are unlikely to witness such measures. We should be thankful for this while also working against those wanting to import the feminized hysteria of the EU or the inhumane lockdowns of the Chinese.

Down in Australia and New Zealand, a whole other dynamic plays out. Citizens, largely in support of Zero Covid policy, support more oppressive government measures such as the creation of internment camps for Australians and the unhinged Zero Covid policy response — since abandoned — of New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern.

This is a kind of rambling speculation on how things will play out in the coming weeks in the United States and takes a lot for granted, but it's also a reminder that, in many respects, the Constitution and American government work as designed to prevent government overreach and shield citizens from the latent authoritative impulses present in all men and all governments. Citizens across the globe have been much too permissive to the "just do something" school of pandemic preparedness, ignoring eons of history and a firmly established Western protocol refined through the ages. In contradiction to the rest of the anglosphere and the broader Western world, America has stood firm against the tendencies of overreach.

⚔︎ MISSIVES

  • 🇷🇺 Joe Biden had a video call with Vladimir Putin in which he tried to get the Russian leader to believe that if Russia invaded Ukraine, he would make good on all the empty threats made up until this point. Nation's across Europe echoed the sentiment.
  • 🦠 U.S. to pump $400M into vaccination programs for other countries. Most of the money would go to helping nations in Africa. The latest effort is above and beyond the $1.3 billion already committed to expanding vaccine access around the world. Of course, the nations are saying it's not nearly enough to make a difference.
Entertainment

We’ve sifted through the hordes of imposters calling themselves “artists” to bring you some worthwhile shows in Nashville this week.

THINGS TO DO

View the full calendar here.

⭐ Cheekwood’s Christmas lights exhibit is running until January 9.

🖼 At the Frist, Medieval Bologna: Art for a University City is running until January 30 and American Art Deco: Designing for the People, 1918–1939 until January 2.

TONIGHT

🚫 Take the night off.

Entertainment
Tennessee’s Covid Policy Labyrinth
Some help navigating Tennessee’s new Covid policies
Looking Down from the Mountain
Parnassus Books spent the last decade fashioning itself as a cultural lynchpin; Nashville’s literary scene would survive without it.
A Brief History of Nashville’s Parks
The Long View from Luke Lea Heights
Nashville’s Best History Parks
Nashville’s Best Parks for Getting a Sense of Local History
Around the Web

⚚ Public Health Isn't a Science, It's a Religion Think of the COVID Conflict as a Holy War

↻ Time Zoning Today there are four time zones in the U.S. But in the 19th century, every town had its own time based on when a local dignitary calculated that the sun passed overhead.

⧗ Exposing corporate energy liars: Budweiser Budweiser claims its beers are "100% renewable." In fact, most of the energy that goes into its beer is fossil fuel.

Political Theater Highlight Reel
  1. Pope Francis says ‘sins of the flesh’ aren’t that ‘serious’
  2. MSNBC Contributor calls for Biden to deploy a ‘federal takeover’ of elections in Texas
  3. Dan Crenshaw: “They can’t legally infringe on the first amendment, so they bully Big Tech into doing it for them.”
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📸 A Twitter account (@SellingAMirror) documents people who have a difficult time photographing a mirror without catching their reflection in the photo.

Words of Wisdom
The noblest of all studies is the study of what man is and of what life he should live.

Plato