There are numerous stories I've been pondering on this week and I am reluctant to just post a sentence or two so instead this is sort of a grab-bag of ideas and thoughts on items making news.
-- Here in East Tennessee, the EPA is now officially overseeing the cleanup of TVA's ash spill disaster in Roane County, using authority given the EPA via the Superfund Act. So, let me get this right: hazardous waste cleanup is needed, but all that coal ash isn't really hazardous waste in a legal sense. The dumping by TVA and the EPA on Roane County is blindingly awful and no end to it is in sight. TVA, and the federal and state officials of Tennessee, all earn a massive FAIL on this disaster response.
-- Also in Tennessee, it's about to get easier to take more guns into more places. Yeah, what a wonderful easing of a troublesome burden. Not enough folks toting guns wherever they go. Whew. (Used right, even a bowl of chili can protect your home and property.)
-- I posted a story this week about the astronaut Michael Massimino making use of the Twitter platform to publish short sentences while on the current NASA shuttle mission for repairs on the Hubble telescope. So far, it's just rather lame and pointless and for me further reduces any importance or value to our space program - a program which has been struggling to find funding and support by the nation and our government.
The shuttle has been mostly a mindless truck-for-hire for the military and the CIA, focused on minor tasks at huge operating costs, which allowed for endless delays in more useful projects in space and with greater scientific value. The Hubble has really been valuable for it's work, true. But the U.S. has really lost the initiative it once had in space exploration. This week, NOVA on PBS aired a special on the shuttle program and the Columbia disaster. I urge you to watch it rather than just read a few words typed onto Twitter.
-- Like a modern-day P.T. Barnum, Donald Trump has been able to make rather minor beauty pageants into a hot topic, thanks to the dim-witted comments of a Miss California winner. Also, I would imagine any career ideas she might have about being a model or actress will bring her into constant contact with gay people, the group of people she spoke so harshly about, so I doubt she'll receive much help from them to look and dress well. And really, this interest on a contest based on superficial looks -- useless.
Back in 1987 while working as a reporter for a local paper, I spent the day with that year's Miss America contest winner, Kellye Cash. I was more impressed she was a distant relative of Johnny Cash than with a Miss America title. But she was pretty and she certainly was a marked departure from the previous scandalized winner Vanessa Williams. But you know, Williams is the one working today as an actress and singer and in the spotlight. Kellye has been in regional theatre and has released a few CDs, but in terms of talent, Williams wins. I liked Kellye (but what is up with that extra E in her name?) and she seemed to be a nice person. But Trump knows, as did Barnum, that it is publicity and a whiff of danger that sells tickets and earns headlines.
As for what Miss California said and it being simply her usage of Freedom of Speech - well, yes, an American can speak their mind on any topic. But the speaker will still be held accountable for what they say.
-- In far more serious matters, the potential for a real U.S. disaster is growing thanks to ever-growing revelations about how torture was used to lead the nation into war in Iraq and how high up in the White House the orders originated, and an ever-growing reality that many in Congress knew what was happening. As I have written here many times before, this aspect of U.S. policy is doing and has done untold damage to the credibility of our country and beliefs. As of yet, we still lack the will and courage to face this horrible issue fully and punish those who made it happen.