Friday, August 05, 2005

Orange You Breathing OK?

The East TN Regional Air Coalition has issued an Alert about the bad air quality for the next few days, putting us at the Orange Alert Level. Check out their Link, right Here or over in the Links section to the right.

You don't have to be a scientist or even suffering from breathing problems to know that we are sucking down some lousy pollution. Just take a look around. Try looking at the horizon lines, or if you can see them, try looking at the mountains surrounding our fertile - er, polluted valley. Just look around at the haze that is obscuring anything more than 100 or 200 feet away. (We used to just call this Smog, but now it has names like "particulate matter" and '"unhealthy effects of ozone." That keeps the meaning nice and obscure, just like the Smog!!!

Don't get me wrong, I am glad to have the ETNRAC -- we do get Alerts now, usually folded into a weather forecast, as if this were all just ... weather. It isn't. It's pollution. At the Orange level (GO BIG ORANGE!!!!!) it is dangerous for "sensitive groups", such as "children or adults who are active outdoors", and people with respiratory disease. That seems like a pretty big chunk of population here in the Valley, but the Alert also notes - "Even healthy adults involved in moderate or strenuous outdoor activites can experience the unhealthy effects." So that's pretty much anyone who GOES OUTSIDE and breathes.

Again, just look around. Sure, we have the Smoky Mountains, but they got that name because you could SEE them long ago. And you could see water vapor around their rolling slopes and inclines.
So if you live in Hamblen, Jefferson, Sevier, Cocke, Grainger, Knox, Anderson, Blount, Loudon, Roan or Union counties, make a note of the ETNRAC web site. (Located in the Links section of this page).

There are several suggestions made in the Alert (GOOOOO BIG ORANGE!!!!) about how you can help prevent .... well, it is Your fault isn't it.

Relax, breathe deeply (if you're inside) and enjoy the beautiful scenery (if you can see it,)

Original Child Bomb

This weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the atomic explosions in Japan which brought about their surrender and the end of World War 2.

At the Editor and Publisher website site, you can read an account of once lost, once secret film footage of the two events at this link.

The story follows the long and winding path of film footage shot in the aftermath of the explosions, and this weekend you can see a broadcast on IFC television made from some of that footage. If you don't have the Independent Film Channel, I'm sure you can find a copy of the movie online to buy. (Yes, I said pay money fer it!)

The explosions, what they mean, resonate throughout the world to this very day. And Tennessee is home to the bomb's creation, and will again be a site for protests and remembrances. Yes, Tennessee is home to "The Secret City."

I am glad I did not endure the horrors of World War 2. When I was born in 1960, America was involved in an Arms Race that had folks digging shelters in the yard, ducking under desks in grade school, and, as my Mom says, it was makin' folks as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

I am a member of the same college frat (Lambda Chi Alpha) whose national membership includes Harry S. Truman, the man who gave the go orders for dropping those bombs. I remember seeing the greenish irradiated penny in a plastic box my older brother David got on a school tour of Oak Ridge. As an adult, I've witnessed the rebuke of pleas of Oak Ridge workers, who gladly worked in dangerous conditions, pleas for assistance with health care due to the exposures to atomic testing.

The Japan I grew up with gave the world transistors, popular cars, A Fistful of Dollars (better known as "Yojimbo'), The Magnificent Seven (originally "The Seven Samurai'),
and that Sony Playsation 2 by the television. We won't even get into the popularity of anime books and magazines, like Shonen Jump, which young people eagerly buy in any grocery store or even K-Mart, from Morristown, TN to Nagasaki, Japan.

The stories from friends and family, and the images of that horrifying time of World War, are just as deeply ingrained as my own personal experiences. The residue of the atomic explosions, as I said, still shape the human condition today. Surely I am not the only one to sense the irony and oddity of seeing World War 2 games being played on PlayStation game systems in just a 60-year turnaround of world affairs. The Optimist inside says the explosions made the world a lot smaller and people a lot smarter. The Pessimest says, Oh No, it made us all more afraid, full of the dread that we truly live in a Time marked by Atomic Clocks constantly ticking towards midnight.

The story of that film footage is also a part of world history, and whatever your opinons about atomic weapons, it is important to know how that history was censored, withheld, hidden away for fear of how it might make us react. It is important to understand what happened then, and what atomic Power, in the political sense means today. It is so very hard to grasp loss of those tens of millions around the world who died in that not-so-distant past. That is part of the history too.

Much of the success we had in World War 2 was also about Secrecy -- secret codes, secret cities, secret missions, Enigma machines, secrets so encrypted it literally powered the creation of computer systems just to keep up.
Whatever your views of using atomic weapons at that time, I think we should all remember we still are getting new information from those who were there. Secrecy has it's price too.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Links, Links, and More Links

You'll notice the links at your right are being added all the time.

Some are local, some state, some news, some Right and some Left and, this first week I had to include one of the Godfathers of Movie Information sites you can find, the Internet Movie Database. If all you know about a favorite movie is an actor, a title, a crew member, even just elements of the Plot, they can find it for you.

I am, and I remain the Master of Motion Pictures in East TN. I have forgotten more about movies than most people know. In coming weeks and months, you'll have a chance to try and stump me with Movie questions and I'll have some gifts for those lucky, lucky few.

This site is growing daily, and you'll always find plenty of info here. And there will always be a place for you to share info and comments too --
No Secret Handshake Required!

Tennessee - Birthplace of Music

I am sure most folks don't know how much fine music was created by the efforts of tireless musicians like Little Milton Campbell and Sun Records producer Sam Phillips. Once you dig into it just a litle bit you will find an astonishing wealth of powerful influences.

This is just my attempt to note the passing of Little Milton, who died at the age of 71 on Thursday. He cut his first hit at Sun Studios with Sam about the same time Sam was laying down tracks of another newcomer named Elvis Presley. Just last night PBS aired an American Masters program on the late Sam Phillips, a wiley and brilliant producer who oversaw the blending of Gospel, Blues, Bluegrass and Country and made something brand new called Rock and Roll.

The names are legends -- Elvis, Little Milton, Rufus Thomas, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Billy Riley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis -- not to mention all the blues greats he made time and room for with such energy, such as Little Milton. The energy was hot as a Sun in those studios that Sam called 'a cathedral.'

So many that got that proverbial foot in the door from Sam, usually left and made it to Legend status elsewhere, taking the sounds with them that Sam and his studio helped to nurture into life. Needing to keep the doors open, he sold Elvis contract to RCA for 30,000 dollars, but for my money, the best sessions he ever cut were in that cathedral.

I know that 50-Cent is the Legend today, but he's walking the path cut by Little Milton and Sam.

I'll be mentioning Sam, Sun, Memphis, Stax and Tom Dowd in coming days -- they made Tennessee the birthplace of great American music.

Even Tax Money Won't Tempt Them

A month or so ago, I mentioned an announcement from Toyota about the expansion of their business into Canada on the now defunct South Knox Bubba web log. SKB kindly reprinted the peice and it did generate some good comments. Today I see that the web log Facing South has a story about it and a link - (alwayts interesting stories there, by the way)

Basically, Toyota refused lots of fresh, hot new tax dollars from the Southeast because they simply cannot get a workforce who understands the work required. Here is a sample of the reasons why Toyota decided to go to Canada -

"The level of the workforce in general is so high that the training program you need for people, even for people who have not worked in a Toyota plant before, is minimal compared to what you have to go through in the southeastern United States," said Gerry Fedchun, president of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers' Association, whose members will see increased business with the new plant [...]

Several U.S. states were reportedly prepared to offer more than double [the] subsidy [Southern states were offering]. But Fedchun said much of that extra money would have been eaten away by higher training costs than are necessary for the Woodstock project.

He said Nissan and Honda have encountered difficulties getting new plants up to full production in recent years in Mississippi and Alabama due to an untrained - and often illiterate - workforce. In Alabama, trainers had to use "pictorials" to teach some illiterate workers how to use high-tech plant equipment.

Now, before you say, give the schools money, remember TN and other states have been gushing millions into education in the last 10 years, while never really improving the Quality of Education. Why? It is more profitable for schools to keep the money flowing in and the best way to do that is make sure the Quality of Education never improves.
It is about growing Jobs in Education.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Make That 15,000 Plus One

Just a short note on day One of this Cup Of Joe:

Meanwhile, Pew Internet & American Life reports a new weblog is created every 5.8 seconds. That roughly translates into 15,000 new blogs every day.

Secrets In Morristown

Every town, home, place can have secrets, can't they?

Here's a story by Kimberly Miller for the Tennessee Idependent Media Center published July 30 that has been kept quiet in the so-called news. (The TN Independent Media Center also has lots of info on the ongoing TnCare Sit-In Protest that has been lodged in the State Capitol Building for more than a month, which you can read here:

Seven Hundred and Fifty Poultry workers at two Koch Foods Plants have filed a petition for a Union Election in Morristown, Tennessee. Workers have been organizing for over a month despite intimidation and racism within the community. Most of the poultry workers in this area are Latino. On Sunday, local residents rallied in support of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. Over 200 workers and community members stood in solidarity.
Poultry Plants are notorious for violating workers’ rights. In January, the organization Human Rights Watch, issued a report on the dangers of working in the poultry industry. The report says Poultry plants exploit the vulnerabilities of a predominantly immigrant labor force and are Rife with unfair labor practices.

In November of 2004, The Morristown Poultry workers brought formal complaints before the Tennessee Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Workers complained of a lack of bathroom facilities and breaks and cited the company¹s failure to properly guard and lock-down dangerous equipment. In addition, workers were not trained in the safe use of the equipment.

Marta, a poultry worker from Hidalgo Mexico, believes that standing together is the only way conditions in the plant will improve :

“We're here because we have a big problem at Koch Foods & more than anything we¹re demanding our rights - We Want Support & We want to Support Others. We can't do this alone.”

The Latino community has recently faced opposition from the Vigilante Group the minutemen, and two County Commissioners. Many Morristown citizens are not pleased with the growing Latino population and believe immigrants are having a negative impact on the local economy.

Jobs with Justice, Interfaith Worker Justice, and other community groups were in attendance on Sunday to show the workers they were not alone in their struggle.Bill Troy, a member of Jobs with Justice, disagrees with local views of immigrants. He says A Latino presence can improve the local economy -

Bill Troy - "If People have better wages and better working conditions they have a bigger stake in the community and a lot of these other issues that are being talked about here , you know like schools and healthcare and so forth will take care of themselves the more people have better wages" -

Aside from attending the rally, citizens have been writing letters, attending workshops, and hosting workers in their congregations to show support .

So far, Koch Foods has been unreceptive to the workers' previous petitions but is expected to respond later this week.The UNION election could happen within 10 weeks.

Hamblen County News

Here are just the first few thoughts on local politics. More soon.


It is insulting how the School Board and Dr Lynch behave with taxpayer dollars. More is never enough. So far this summer, they have blamed the parents for “not participating”, or immigrants in the education system, and of course, they always hammer away at the Hamblen Commission (with the perverse help of local media outlets). Wasn’t it last summer they blamed the teachers themselves, locking them into high-pressure, federally mediated contract negotiations they dragged on for months and months?

To them, Education means one thing – Jobs, which is to say, Their Jobs. As the largest single employer in the county, they wield tremendous power. Funds are dispersed in a dizzying pattern from the Federal, State and Local levels. Millions and millions and millions pour in.

When they work on their budget, again with the perverse help of the local media, there is scant coverage on their decisions, such as spending money for new windows at their building, a building they are eager to leave for a newer, more expensive home. “We would not want a prospective business to see those ugly windows,” emerges as a veiled threat that Jobs depend on the school board.
The ‘news’ reports escalating costs, but never the actual funding decisions the board makes.
The ‘news’ cheers the board for establishing an additional pre-school program as a ‘state model’, handling a few dozen children at a cost of tens of thousands and cries of ‘we need more.’ There is no perception that the Board and Dr Lynch eagerly increase operating costs despite being unable to keep their growth in line with community needs.

Sadly, the public is so confused and distracted by all the wailing and finger wagging they never get the chance to focus on the facts.

Tennessee and Hamblen County, like most public school system operations remain stuck in an endless loop of demanding more and more tax dollars with steadily decreasing results and less and less accountability.
Recently, on May 18, 2005 while the Texas legislature was working on the details of a school finance bill, Gov. Rick Perry (R) addressed more than 300 educators and activists at the Texas Public Education Foundation's Education Summit. Below are excerpts from his comments, provided by Connie Sadowski, director of the Austin CEO Foundation

On financial accountability: "If the taxpayers are going to pick up the tab, they ought to be able to look at every item on the receipt. The only way to ensure more dollars make it to the classroom is to make sure classroom expenditures are disclosed in plain terms. I think taxpayers deserve to know how much is spent on administration and instruction and how much they are paying lobbyists and lawyers to extract more tax dollars from their pockets. Taxpayers should also be empowered to control future spending by having the authority to vote on future property tax enrichment increases. The decision to spend more local tax dollars on local schools should be made by local voters."

Rather than cope with current needs, there is always a new ‘model’ to be tested which needs YOUR money.

Rather than pay teacher increases, they’ll fight them in mediation with YOUR money.

Rather than cooperation, there are dire warnings, fears heaped upon fears. What is a concerned parent to do?
Most who have raised any questions will tell you a tale about blame being leveled everywhere and zero accountability.
For a Teacher – the nightmare of beauracracy is deeply intimidating. To even join their colleagues for collective bargaining power is presented as something that threatens the public good.
With a government-controlled monopoly, a Parent’s choice or a Taxpayer’s choice is eliminated. Imagine your child is in a private school. The tuition costs go up every year, 6 to 10 percent, from First grade thru Twelfth grade. But when testing scores are revealed, or actual graduation rates are revealed (not GEDs), or when your child can’t make it into college – would you not take your child from that unsuccessful and expensive school and find something better for them?

You are absolutely right, Commissoner Linda Noe, that this is a game they have perfected over the course of many years. This county is now subject to the whims of second-generation board members who inherit positions from a public plainly left in the dark.
Parents who take issue (or just don’t cheer the board’s demands) find their children’s education being dangled in mid-air – ‘They could be in trouble!!! They’ll never get jobs!! We know who the agitators are!!”
Any question from the public or the county or any parent is immediately seized as proof of hostile intent.

Who will they blame next??

The Show That Never Ends

Welcome back my Friends to the show that never ends
we're so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside!

This is a brief welcome. Much of this site is under construction, but the issues and my itch to write will not wait any longer. More Friends than I ever knew I had have made my entire life better. You deserve the things you all wish for. You make it happen. Thank You all.

Despite error-filled news reports, this free exchange of ideas and information has not ended.
The Press always gets it wrong. Or blinds your view.

There will be places for you to speak out here too.

And movie reviews, music, and much more.

God Bless the web log and the internet. And you.