Saturday, November 01, 2008

Bush OKs Appalachian Disaster

President Bush took action this week with more than 90 new laws deregulating rules put in place for public safety. He approved measures which will insure dirty drinking water, dirty air and decreased counter-terror operations.

The Washington Post reported on the story Thursday
. Removing rules governing the "mountaintop removal" method of coal mining means more coal slurry will end up in drinking water in the Appalachian region. It's a haphazard approach blurred into "energy policy" actions which in reality dumps more waste, increases health problems, and destroys the Appalachian region.

The destruction has been widespread for some time and these new laws will make it worse:

Almost everything that isn't coal is pushed down into the valleys below. As a result, 6,700 "valley fills" were approved in central Appalachia between 1985 and 2001. The U.S. EPA estimates that over 700 miles of healthy streams have been completely buried by mountaintop removal and thousands more have been damaged. Where there once flowed a highly braided system of headwater streams, now a vast circuitry of haul roads winds through the rubble. From the air, it looks like someone had tried to plot a highway system on the moon."

Why is it OK to punish the Appalachian region?

Urban affluence and this country's shortsighted energy policy are making Appalachia a poorer place -- poorer in beauty, poorer in health, poorer in resources, and poorer in spirit.

"This wouldn't go on in New England," Jack Spadaro told me last July, up at Larry Gibson's place. It wouldn't go on in California, nor Florida, nor along the East Coast. After the '60s, America and the mainstream media seemed to lose interest in the problems of Appalachia. Though the Martin County slurry pond disaster was 20 times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill,
The New York Times ignored it for months. But the seeming invisibility of the people in Appalachia does not make their plight any less real."

The blog Facing South has been following this problem for some time with posts you can read here. Just as residents and other concerned groups have been bringing these issues to light, the new laws provided by President Bush will bury them under tons of debris and changing the law to protect the lives of so many will now take major Congressional and Presidential efforts to repeal. In the meantime, money trumps safety and more of our region will be lost forever in this greedy struggle.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Camera Obscura: Weirdest Halloween Candy; Scariest Halloween Ever

The fear is palpable. Ominous winds blow cold and harsh, and bitter despair and endless melodrama mark the last days of the 2008 presidential election. Change - of any kind - awaits us as we move away from the bleak failures of the past 8 years and it grips voters whose future Fates continue to be just unknown and unknowable. Nov. 4th is the scariest day of this year for some.

Whispered rumors of the Democrats reaching for elected authority turn now to shrieks of sheer horror as The End approaches. The horror, the horror. A prophecy of secret socialism and grim predictions of the end of Boy Scouting and the Rise of Gayness chill the barely beating heart of the Republican party. It's cheesy overacting worthy of the most amateurish B-movies ever made.Yes, Halloween '08 has dire shadows made by voting machines and not by hordes of costumed creatures wandering the streets in search of sweets.

Even the candy one might receive for trick or treats seems odd this year - more than usual.

The list of the Weirdest Halloween Candy includes such items as:

Spider Sacs

Flesh Fries and Chili Fingers

Zit Poppers

A full list and review of these oddities can be found here. And trust me, I did not show images on this page of the really nasty stuff (that might be chocolate in that diaper, but I would not eat it.)

Here are a few more treats for you this Halloween:

A vast collection of some classic, some new and some just awful horror movies are yours for free viewing at Fancast. From "Night of the Living Dead" to "Blacula" and "The Giant Gila Monster" are here and many more.
A fine list of more obscure scares to view at Bloody Disgusting.
The Ultimate Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection is now available.
And finally, the effects of staking a vampire - remember to put down some newspapers on the floor first:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Horrifying Sounds of Halloween

Looking for hauntingly good music for Halloween?

A good start for classic and brand new tunes can be found at YouLicense, which offers music by category tags. From Bach's Toccata Fugue in D Minor to the spooky lyrics of Green Man's "Tell Mama." Link.

The same site also includes musical selections based on what your weather might be, your momentary mood, by many categories and styles. Check them out.

Many famous horror movies get revisited for Halloween, and the soundtracks which accompany them often make indelible impressions on audiences. While Bernard Herrmann earns high marks for his work on Hitchcock's movies, like "Psycho" and John Carpenter's theme for "Halloween" is as famous as the film, one of my favorites was James Bernard.

Bernard scored just about all the great ones from the Hammer Films - sweeping and epic orchestrations which stab and sting, often rolling with thunderous drums and still able to at times evoke pastoral scenes or mysterious gothic shadows. Here's a brief compilation of some of his work:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Large Early Voting In Hamblen County

Today, for the first time ever, I had to wait in line to cast my ballot. Estimated turnout is going to easily pass the number of votes cast county-wide in the February primary which saw 40.8% of voters going to the polls.

The state has county by county totals here. Hamblen County started this day at just over 11,000 votes cast, and judging by the long line of 50 or so folks around noon today, the county may set a record turnout for the 2008 race. Local ballot issues are driving voters to the polls as well.

First is another attempt by the city to adopt a liquor-by-the-drink ordinance, which failed by around 200 votes a few years back. Hard-line opposition has been quite strong and I suspect the referendum will fail by an even larger margin this time. I would dearly love to be wrong about that.

The other ballot referendum is for county residents on approving or rejecting a .25% sales tax increase. The measure failed in February, and then was passed this summer in the city. I'd say this is going to be close, but since most residents who shop are paying extra when they shop locally anyway, it may just win this time around. However, it doesn't seem fair to me to place a proposed tax increase on the ballot again and again in the same year, putting more and more pressure on those who said No to change their vote to Yes. But it happens often in our area, so my best projection says it will pass this time around.

This county will send a big majority of votes to John McCain, without a doubt. Sen. Clinton took the primary here with over 68% of the vote and Obama earning 22%. Will the Clinton supporters close ranks and support Obama? Most likely, yes. But a large conservative base turnout among church-goers who are fighting the liquor-by-the-drink referendum will all go for McCain, and he'll take the county. McCain will carry the state, too, but outside of Tennessee there's mostly gains for Obama and losses for McCain. (Just my observations on national polls - your view will differ, I'm sure.)

Republicans in the county will also send a good chunk of votes to 1st Congressional District candidate Phil Roe - but I expect Democrat Rob Russell will gain sizable majorities in some larger counties. However, his victory among the smaller counties in the district is unlikely - 130 years of a solid Republican grip on that Congressional seat is nearly impossible to change. However, I think Russell has the best chance of any candidate in many decades in changing that long-running status. My projection is their race is too close to call. Russell has to win Washington and Sullivan counties and at least one other smaller county.

I did notice that all in line with me today were being quite friendly, and many spoke of how good it was to see a large turnout.

Also, I will be live-blogging the returns from Hamblen County and other east TN counties on Tuesday and updating often with results.

Science and Learnin' Be All Evil, Says Palin/McCain

Perhaps one day we could apply some scientific methodology and discover how serious-minded people in 2008 really supported the Palin nomination and whispered dreams of her future presidency. I get the feeling should she ever gain actual authority, Science will be outlawed.

In a recent stump speech, she said more could be done for special needs children, like those suffering from autism, by stopping the funding of what she called "fruit fly research' which does little or nothing for the public good. The research she sneered at (as crowds cheer the sneer) in fact has helped identify specific proteins on nerve-cell connections, and offers possible advances in, among other things, autism. So her plan to promote research to alleviate suffering from autism is to end research which could alleviate suffering from autism.

With that kind of bold policy decision, she must just be double-plus-good Smart in ways Science cannot measure.

Her would-be boss, John McCain, also can't grasp either truth or education or science. He made a catchy campaign blurb to make fun of Sen. Obama's request for financial aid for the planetarium in Chicago, calling it a wasteful cost for an "overhead projector". Wrong.

First, he claims the proposal cost 3 million dollars when it really was for 4.8 million dollars. Second, the measure never passed, and third, the item sought was:

The one-ton, 10-feet-long instrument is the central component of the Adler, the first planetarium ever built in the Western Hemisphere. It projects the night sky on the dome of the Sky Theater at the planetarium, which has hosted more than 35 million people since it opened, including more than 400,000 schoolchildren every year. In fact, the request -- made by Obama along with others in the Illinois congressional delegation, including three Republicans -- wasn't granted.

If it had been, it wouldn't have been a waste of government money. The National Academy of Sciences has targeted science education as a key goal in preserving the economic competitiveness of our nation. Similar "overhead projectors" in Los Angeles and New York have recently been replaced with the help of federal funds."


At this rate, I'd expect them to start demanding NASA use diet Coke and Mentos as propulsion systems in the space program.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Synchronized Presidential Debating

TN Takes Spotlight in Plot to Assassinate Obama

I'm still learning and reading about the two men who were arrested and charged with federal crimes, including a plot to attack and kill schoolchildren and a plot to attack and kill presidential candidate Obama. While the allegations of the plot might seem too weird and half-crazed to ever succeed, these two gun-toting men wanted to shoot and decapitate fellow Americans, even children, expecting to die in the process of an act that qualifies as terrorism.

Oddly, only a few months ago, a lone gunman, deranged on hate, targeted children and "liberal Democrats" in the heart of Knoxville at the shooting at the Unitarian Universalist Church. Murderous rage fed by the constant barrage of talk radio's hateful accusations against our own countrymen, our neighbors and their children are the actions of the mentally unhinged, of course. Sad to see that Tennessee is the place where such events unfold.

The Tennessee Republican party issued an odd statement yesterday afternoon, saying they are victims of hate too, which prompted Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly blog to write:

There's an odd tendency in some far-right circles for conservatives to feel like they're victims of some kind of persecution. The problem with this bizarre complex, though, is that a) it's absurd; and b) it leads to ridiculous comparisons like this one from the Tennessee Republican Party. The statement seems to argue, "Sure, white supremacists planned a killing spree, but everyone should feel sorry for us because we've been targeted, too."

The Tennessee GOP really sees a parallel between a crude piece of art, random vandalism, and a plot to kill more than a hundred children and a presidential candidate. In Robin Smith's eyes, there's some kind of equivalency between the three. This is pure madness.

This is, of course, the same Tennessee Republican Party that's been so extreme in its vile attacks against Obama that McCain and GOP lawmakers felt the need to condemn them.

We'll see if there's any pushback against Robin Smith's breathtaking press release."

Other observations I have made in the last year are likewise disturbing. As Senator Obama rose to prominence, I began to encounter many who I have long-considered friends, repeating much of the pure lies and vile hatred circulating in email lists and weird web-sites, which stand as blatant racist attacks. In recent weeks, I have overheard and been part of conversations where this madness seems to have taken deep root. It's sad to see how many have been prone to listen and to believe the nonsense, though it has surely been instructive to me, revealing much fear and loathing for non-white residents of the U.S. It's always been there, it's just more visible these days.

But that's a sad revelation. As Newscoma writes in West TN, just a few miles from Bells, TN, "Hate is a scary thing."

It is of little surprise that the Senator decided not to campaign in Tennessee. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he may have even been warned the risks of attack were to high here and not to visit at all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sen. Southerland Talks Taxes, Gets Burned

A local rally for the McCain/Palin ticket in Greeneville last week is getting attention due to comments from GOP State Senator Steve Southerland and his take on the economy. ACK picked up the report of the rally in the Greeneville Sun, and commenters on ACK's post are blistering the senator.

Three words: What … an … idiot."

What has readers riled up? Comments like these from Sen. Southerland, who works as a mortgage broker:

If, for example, he said, Obama raises the taxes on Therese Heinz Kerry, wife of U.S. Sen. John Kerry and a major owner of Heinz products, she would be likely to raise the price of Heinz ketchup, which in turn could cause McDonald’s to raise the price of a hamburger that includes ketchup.

In that way, and many other ways, “It will hurt the average person” if the taxes on the upper 5 percent are raised, Southerland said."

Um. What?

Is that somehow supposed to link Kerry with Obama, or Obama with the Ketchup Lobbyists? Since the Senator isn't in an election cycle, he isn't going to get much press these days.

Here's what I take from the Republican Senator's views: it sounds like a threat to me to say if you increase taxes on the top earners, they will punish every other taxpayer. If all tax costs (and any increases) on the top 5% of income-earners are ALWAYS passed on to the other 95% of taxpayers via higher prices paid for goods and services, then the top never, ever carries their weight and expects the poorer folks to do it for them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ashley Todd Busted In A UT Vols Sweatshirt

Those poor UT sports fans. Here in the midst of their season of losses, yet another national political scandal arrives to pour salt on their wounds. The apparent liar, one of a long line of Blame A Black Guy Crimes, Ashley Todd, was a campaign 'volunteer' and has the bright orange clothes to prove it.

Ashley was a member of a group called 50 College Republicans campaigning for Sen. John McCain and whipped up a rabid fury in the Conservative base by claiming she was attacked by a big scary black guy who carved a B on her face (um, it's backwards) 'cause scary imaginary guy was a supporter for Sen. Barack Obama. (Why not an "O"?? It won't show up backwards even when self-inflicted.)

And when police arrested her for faking a police report, what is she wearing? A nice bright UT orange shirt (image via AP):


And on a weekend when the poor ol' vols got slammed by their rival Alabama 29-3.

She and her College Republican pals promo their presidential hopes (and schemes?) on a site called Life in The Field.

More details on that site and more on Todd here.

And who sent this hoax story high on the hit parade of liars charts - why the GOP's nominees, McCain and Palin, who both personally called the woman to console her. Even Fox News reported that if the story was a hoax, then the McCain campaign was officially over.

Still waiting on that report.