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bill haslam inauguration event 2015

With Donald Trump sinking (finally), it’s time for Republicans to have very serious conversations about who the party should rally around for President at its party convention in July. Might a contested convention be on the horizon? It is possible, and perhaps Trump’s loss in Wisconsin to Ted Cruz last night, maybe more likely to happen. Conservatives and their donors would be wise to seriously begin considering their options, however, and have a plan to get another candidate in the running for July’s convention.

Candidates still in the running for the Republican nomination aren’t doing too well. It’s unlikely that Senator Ted Cruz can get the required delegates in time to secure the nomination before the convention, and Ohio Governor John Kasich is, well, he’s Kasich. He’s somewhat moderate, safe and boring. As it stands with current hypothetical head-to-head polling matchups, Kasich routinely beats Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and loses to Bernie Sanders, the stronger Democratic candidate in head-to-head polls who has very little chance of making it to the general election, about half the time. He would actually be a somewhat smart choice for the Republicans, but he’s not the only choice. It should be noted that both Cruz and Trump perform horribly against both Bernie and Clinton, with Cruz having a chance against Clinton and both being absolutely crushed by Bernie, so Republicans would be wise to stop them from securing the nomination.

It’s possible Trump still reaches the delegate count needed to win the Republican nomination based on the primaries and caucuses, but the Republicans will do absolutely everything to stop him if they can. So, what do the Republicans do?

Of course you’ll have Paul Ryan come up in connection with the nomination. The fairly new Speaker of the House is a former vice presidential nominee with Mitt Romney in 2012, giving him an edge when it comes to experience campaigning, and he’s generally an inoffensive name within the Republican Party. He’s definitely right of center, and not what most would call a true moderate, but he’d probably perform better against either of the Democratic candidates than the current options. This is a sentiment echoed by the 100 year old Brookings Institute, a somewhat unbiased but generally liberal think tank that looks mostly at economic policy in the United States. The Brookings Institute is actually well-regarded in Washington, a coup in the current political climate, so their opinion carries some weight. There is, however, the point that Paul Ryan swears that he is not running for President.

Outside of those people, the Republicans have pretty much run out of names to consider since 126 candidates entered the race for the nomination, though I wouldn’t rule out the reincarnation of Rand Paul — though I have no idea why. Mitt Romney’s name could come up again, but who wants that? He tried and lost. It’s time to move on.

Now, I’m not a Republican, and the chances that I will vote for a Republican for President this year are almost nonexistent, but there is one name that I would be comfortable with the title of President. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam. In case you’re not familiar with him, I’d like to cover some of his policy positions before diving into making a case for him.

  • He’s supported a call for a constitutional convention that would allow a vote on instituting term limits for members of Congress. Sadly it would also allow a vote that could undercut the powers of the federal government.
  • He encourages and supports programs to get more adults back into college and finishing degrees.
  • Haslam wants to balance Tennessee’s budget without cutting education and without tax cuts, which only makes absolute sense.
  • Tennessee’s unemployment rate keeps dropping, down to 4.9% in February 2016. It has kept pace with the national average, despite having a higher unemployment rate than the nation in 2009, the year before Bill Haslam was elected. One year into his governorship, he oversaw an economic climate in the state that quickly added thousands upon thousands of new jobs.
  • Regarding drugs, Haslam supports measures that crack down on the producers and major suppliers of drugs, notably meth, and not the users. He also hasn’t cut any spending on mental health and recovery services for drug abusers.
  • Tennessee’s education outlook is much brighter under Bill Haslam that it has been in recent memory, even if he has to use many of the policies from his predecessor, Democrat Phil Bredesen.
  • He supports alternative and clean fuels, specifically to eliminate a dependence on foreign oil.
  • Tennessee became the first state to fully fund support for foster kids who are transitioning to adulthood.
  • Despite Tennesseans paying a rather high sales tax (9.5%), Governor Haslam succeeded in lowering sales tax on food, which greatly benefits lower income households.
  • He used to be pro-gun regulation, though he did change his stances recently, probably to cater to Tennessee Republicans statewide. It’s a flip flop issue, but one that can be explained away by saying that he was supporting his constituents in Tennessee.
  • Oh, and he’s one of a few Republican governors to approve of medicare expansion and the rollout of the federal exchange for Obamacare.

Most of the policies would be amenable to a number of moderate Democrats, and his stance on LGBT rights, abortion and gun rights would appeal to even the most conservative Americans, without going off of the ideological deep end. If we were to grade him on the issues of LGBT rights and a woman’s right to choose, he’d grade out as a solid D, but overall he’d probably be right in the middle ideologically when his entire policy platform is weighed. His record on welfare programs and aiding those in need in Tennessee is pretty much nonexistent, but that’s a Republican for you.

The reason he makes sense for the Republican party is that he’s moderate enough on some issues that he could sway a number of left-leaning independents and right-leaning Democrats, but still retain the support of the party’s base and right-leaning voters. He’s a more likeable John Kasich and a less crazy Ted Cruz rolled into one. He also matches up well with Hillary Clinton, who is, again, the likely Democratic nominee.

One thing standing in his way would be his family’s business reputation. He formerly headed his family’s company, Pilot Flying J, the country’s largest chain of truck stops, which has come under fire in recent years for scamming truck drivers out of some diesel rebates, but so far middle management has been the scapegoat of that scandal, and the company has been cooperating in remedying the situation. He would also need to enter the primary and win at least 8 states to qualify at the Republican convention, but that’s a rule that could change between now and July.

At the end of the day, Bill Haslam makes far too much sense for the Republican party, which means they won’t work to get him in the position to run for President. Outside of LGBT rights, abortion and gun laws, he’s very moderate and pragmatic. He’s untainted politically, with no real scandals or controversies, and he’s helped move Tennessee’s extremely conservative legislature to the left on a lot of issues. On social issues, where a number of conservative governors have been trying to move further and further to the right, Haslam seems content on keeping his state and himself right where they are, with some small concessions to those who are ideologically to the right of him. Being able to do that in today’s political climate — and in Tennessee — is impressive.

Would I expect him to somehow wind up with the Republican Party’s nomination? Hell no, but I think Republicans should find a way to make it happen. Were he to step into the race now, maybe with the help of some big money donors, he might be able to pry away just enough states to get into consideration at a brokered convention, especially if enough people rally around him to stop Trump. Bill Haslam would outperform all the remaining contenders in areas like California, Pennsylvania and a few other states. Haslam could make the argument that he’s the candidate to beat both Democratic contenders. Ted Cruz isn’t the candidate to do that, seeing as how he’s pretty much the most conservative member of the Senate and definitely the most conservative in the race, and John Kasich is still John Kasich. Bill Haslam is an untainted name with a good record of appealing to all of his constituents in one way or another, and that would bode very well for him in a presidential election.


Sweden’s Move To A 6 Hour Workday Should Make You Very Angry



Sunset in Stockholm, Sweden

What would you do with 6 extra hours of free time every week? That’s the question every full-time worker in Sweden is going to have to answer. After years of individual companies making the switch, the entire country is about to embark on an ambitious plan to maintain productivity while also eliminating 17% of the current workweek. Yes, the entire country.

Not only have Swedish workers just been given 312 hours of their lives back each year, but they have effectively been given a rather nice raise as well. In 2014, the average Swede took home about of €30,612 (the equivalent of $34,285) each year, or €2551 ($2857)  a month, which is about €589 ($660) a week. If we break that down over a 36 hour work week (less than the 47 hours the average American works full-time ), that equals €16.35 an hour. With the switch from a 36 hour workweek to a 30 hour workweek, the average take-home hourly wage just jumped to €19.63/hour, or a 20% increase.*

That would make me pretty happy, and I hope our CEO reads this and feels compelled to give all of us at Men’s Trait a 20% raise. We’re not holding our breath, however. Wages in the U.S. have been slightly better than stagnant for decades, and now we have to sit back and watch as an entire nation was just collectively given a raise that we could only dream of in the States.

In the United States, the average earner made $45,230 before taxes in 2014. More than the average Swede, right? Not necessarily. You might have noticed that the amount people in Sweden take home, on average, was €30,612 ($34,285), not what they earned. That’s the net, after tax amount. In the U.S., depending on a worker’s tax bracket, that amount would be at best $33,923, excluding any deductions and credits on their taxes. Depending on the exchange rate at any given moment, people in Sweden might take home more money than Americans. Or Americans might take home more. It’s very, very close.

But each country is different, and the cost of living in Sweden is higher than in the United States. Or, rather no, it isn’t. When we look at just after tax income, not accounting for fixed expenses, the average Swede has more buying power than the average American. Rent and utilities are significantly cheaper for people living in Sweden, making it slightly more affordable than the U.S. overall. Removing just utilities from the equation gives the advantage to Americans for having more buying power. Luxury activities, like eating at restaurants or going to the movies, are more expensive in Sweden than they are in the United States; that’s one financial advantage we have. But Swedes don’t do those things on the same scale that Americans do, so the premium prices affect them less than they would someone living in the States.

Okay, so I’ve rambled for over 500 words about how the Swedes just made a change to how much people work, and then delved into a bevy of numbers comparing the incomes and buying power of Americans and Swedes, only to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t that much difference between the two countries. Both are wealthy countries, with each celebrating a 7.2 OECD Better Life Index score that measures the quality of life for people around the globe, well above the average score of 6.0. So what’s the point?

Just remember, you could be living the American dream in Sweden, only by working at least 312 fewer hours each year. Oh, and the Swedes are guaranteed 25 paid vacation days and 16 paid holidays yearly, plus some paid maternity (56 weeks, or 13 months) and paternity leave (34 weeks), neither of which are guaranteed in the United States.** Now, with this new 6 hour workday, your typical Swedish worker will work 458 fewer hours every year than the average American (this even includes part-time workers)—that’s 19 full days.

Yes, you should be angry. People in Sweden are living the American dream better than we are.

Preston Hemmerich is the Content Manager for 301 Digital Media, overseeing,, and more. He enjoys covering food, politics, travel and writing sad attempts at humor.

*This figure does not account for hourly employees, only salaried employees. Some businesses have applied a wage increase to hourly employees to make up for lost hours, but that is not a country wide practice. In reality, this de facto raise disproportionately benefits higher income individuals working salaried jobs.
**Collectively, citizens of the U.S. get nowhere near 41 paid days off a year that Swedish citizens do.

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Pro-Clinton Columnist In Bed With Clinton Staffer — Literally



Jonathan Capehart and Nick Schmit

Over the past 24 hours, a flurry of scandal has unfolded involving MSNBC contributor, Washington Post opinion columnist and prolific Clinton supporter Jonathan Capehart.

Writing an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Capehart sought to sling mud at Bernie Sanders — Swiftboat-style — in questioning Bernie Sanders’ past achievements in fighting for civil rights on behalf of African-American communities in the 1960s. (This, itself, isn’t even an original idea, as Capehart was simply jumping on the Establishment’s anti-Sander claims, which continue time after time to be disproved or found to be outright lies. (Here, here, here and here — in case you’d like some background reading.)

But that is not the central thesis of this story. Instead, let’s look a little more closely at Jonathan Capehart himself, and the flurry of lies and misdirections for which he is quickly becoming known.

Capehart, who currently offers his opinions to readers of the Washington Post and viewers on MSNBC, has spent the past five years in a long-term relationship with Nicholas Schmit IV, a long-term Clinton aide. Schmit has served in various capacities for the Clinton family and the US State Department under Clinton since 2004. You can see his full resume on LinkedIn, but we’ve summarized the key timeline of his career here.

2004 – 2007
Schmit graduated from The University of North Dakota in August 2004, and joined the Clinton Foundation, serving in various roles ending with Director of Finance, before leaving to work on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential campaign.

2007 – 2008
Schmit worked as the Travel Compliance Director for the Hillary Clinton for President campaign, before her primary defeat by now-President, then-Senator Barack Obama.

2008 – 2013?
Schmit returned to the Clinton Foundation as a consultant, before being tapped to join the Clinton-led State Department in various capacities. His last update on LinkedIn shows him moving into the role of Assistant Chief of Protocol for Diplomatic Partnerships at the State Department in February 2013, the same month that Clinton left the State Department.

Whether the last (or any) of the promotions were based on merit or simply Clinton politics as usual is unclear, but regardless, a clear pattern has emerged.

Flash forward to now. In the middle of a heated and contentious primary season that pits the Clinton-establishment against the sweeping change and progress that Sanders promises, and which Obama promised and failed to deliver in full.

If it feels like history is repeating itself, that may be because history is repeating itself, and Clinton is running the same campaign with which lost in 2008.

Instead of taking a neutral position on the matter to help further Clinton’s policy agenda and talk about how Clinton will move the country forward, Capehart has gone out of his way, time and again, to ensure that the Clintons are presented as the only reasonable choice for the Democratic party. The idea of “politics as usual” as a bad thing is clearly lost on him.

It’s clear that Clinton is the favorite of the Democratic party establishment — despite her arguments that being a woman somehow makes her a non-establishment outsider — when 38.0% of the popular vote translates into 50% of the delegates, thanks to the magic of “party rules”. (More about that here.) So it’s not surprising that Capehart may have a preference for Clinton, and it’s not his political positions that are at issue. He is welcome to support Clinton, Sanders, Trump, Bush, or Jill Stein*, should he choose.

The real issue, it would seem, is that despite the fact that Capehart and Schmit have a history of mixing their personal and professional lives, including Capehart attending official State Department events with Schmit, and that they share a home and life together, Capehart, never saw fit to disclose this conflict of interest, despite his years of work as a journalist blogger.

Instead of admitting his mistake and moving on, Capehart has doubled-down and attacked anyone who questions his “journalistic integrity” as an opinion writer, refusing to acknowledge that his story was factually inaccurate and has already been widely disproven:

Whether there’s really any direct connection to the Clinton campaign today remains to be seen and is up for question, but it should not be forgotten that Capehart’s long-term partner has the Clinton’s to thank for his career and that, by extension, the Clinton’s have helped pay for his Washington, DC duplexAnd knowing that, doesn’t it make the whole situation just seem a little slimy and tawdry?

* Disclosure: We love Jill Stein, but understand that she lacks the name recognition to win. (See, Jonathan, that’s how disclosure works.)

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Can Mindfulness Meditation Reduce Police Brutality?



police brutality black lives matter hands up don't shoot sign protests

Let’s face it–America has an unfortunate history of police violence used to settle disputes. As of late, there’s been a strain amongst civilians and “The Boys in Blue” largely because of incidents of extreme brutality such as the in-transit death of Freddie Gray, Atlanta Hawks forward Thabo Sefolosha’s broken leg that derailed a stellar season and potential championship run, and the death of Eric Garner which further catalyzed the Black Lives Matter initiative. These incidents are not necessarily indicative behaviors of all officers of the law, but they do highlight a startling trend of over reaction and opting for physical intervention over patient analyzation and verbal reaction in non-life threatening scenarios.

With the recent trend, some people – like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who is under fire for his department’s shooting of LaQuan McDonald –have called for more oversight of our nation’s police forces, while others have called for officers to don 24/7 video cameras to hold them more accountable of their actions. Both are more direct reactions to the problem of police brutality, and I’m certain other effective channels are being explored, but one slightly more “out of box,” conceptual approach could come in the form of optional mindfulness meditation training amongst police forces.

Mindfulness meditation and its concurrent learning practices are well regarded amongst most modern psychologists, though hard evidence of meditation’s benefits have only recently begun to be recorded. That being said, the benefits of mindfulness meditation are surprisingly applicable to overwrought, stressed police officers that could benefit from some sort of emotional release in lieu of unleashing physical abuse. Some empirical benefits of mindfulness mediation include

  • Decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, along with fatigue, and anxiety.
  • Sharpens focus of attention and suppresses acceptance of distracting information.
  • Less emotional reactivity, which is likely the key contributor to the instances of police brutality. If emotional reactivity can be curbed, the possibility of non-violent resolutions would hopefully be more likely.
  • More cognitive flexibility, another support parallel that would hopefully enable officers to be able to react intelligibly and logically, before resorting to physical force.

There are countless other qualitative benefits to mindfulness mediation that could prove highly beneficial to police officers across the country while making strides toward a more compassionate and deliberate police force. Mindfulness meditation has already made its way into certain portions of the American police force, as Hillsboro (OR) Police Department began its own mindfulness-training program in 2014, and has already seen substantial growth in the mental resiliency of the department’s officers. Started by Lt. Richard Goerling, the program is focused on Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which he hopes will help stifle the prevalence of cynicism amongst officers of the law.

Goerling believes that the trend of over-aggression by police is “largely driven by the suffering behind the badge,” things such as PTSD, depression, and personal ware that can negatively affect an officer’s performance on the job. Granted, mindfulness meditation training may not become the most popular method of bridling the trend of police brutality in America, but it is comforting to know that there are police forces that are receptive to the idea of a low cost, low effort method of accounting for one’s actions in order to continue to protect the greater good.

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