Saturday, February 07, 2009

TVA's Coal Ash In Food, Water and The Air

TVA spokesman Gil Francis says he does not think the massive mounds of toxic coal ash spilled into Roane County back in December which are now swirling into the air really exists - he told WATE-TV reporters is was probably just some fog.

The WATE report has video of plumes of ash rising 30 or 40 feet into the air.

Just the sludge alone is highly toxic according to researchers from Duke - though ORNL officials say it is not. Would you want to live in the midst of this disaster? Are folks flocking to the area to snap up real estate on the cheap?

More studies show that toxic materials far exceed what is deemed safe by federal standards. Items of concern include:

* Samples from six locations near or downstream from the ash spill showed levels of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and selenium exceeding Water Quality Criteria established by the Clean Water Act to protect aquatic life and human activity in rivers from dangerous pollution. Only one upriver sample showed high levels of any of these metals; it exceeded the lower, chronic criteria for lead.

* Samples from seven locations downstream of the spill showed levels of one or more heavy metals including antimony, arsenic, beryllium and lead exceeding Primary Drinking Water Standards, with arsenic more than double and copper five times acute toxicity levels. None of the three samples taken upstream exceeded the criteria.

* TVA denied the groups access to wells in the impacted area, so they tested wells east of the site. None of the samples had levels exceeding Primary Drinking Water Standards for heavy metals, but all of the wells had one or more pollutants known to leach from ash including aluminum, iron and manganese at levels exceeding Secondary Drinking Water Standards. The tests also turned up four wells with levels of manganese or sodium -- contaminants found in coal ash -- exceeding the Environmental Protection Agency's health-based advisories.

* The tests also found widely fluctuating arsenic levels in the Emory and Clinch rivers -- some as many as 37 times the Primary Drinking Water Standard. The groups say this could threaten the use of the rivers for drinking water and shows the need for more testing.

Add to this info that more than likely, the stuff you grow to eat is contaminated as well - especially in the South.

Since the federal government does not classify coal ash as hazardous waste, it doesn't oversee the material's use in agriculture. Jeffrey Stant of the Environmental Integrity Project's Coal Combustion Waste Initiative told EHN that some states have regulations but often do not require monitoring.

He and other environmental health advocates have long called for federal oversight of coal waste. Knowing that this toxic stuff could end up in the vegetables we're eating only adds to the regulatory urgency."

Remember the Senate hearings on this disaster back in January? Remember the promises of more investigation to come? I suppose that was the real fog.

As for TVA -- they do not want to talk about how deadly and toxic that spill really was -- "we just want to clean it up" says TVA.

And in today's Knoxville News Sentinel, one resident continues to see problems with little sign of real progress:

[Resident Larry] Richards said he's worried about TVA's plan to dredge the Emory and dump sludge next to the channel where ash previously was moved from the steam plant to the holding pond. "They're taking bad material from one side of the river and putting it on the other side of the river," he said. "They're creating the same problem all over again."

Friday, February 06, 2009

Camera Obscura; New Futurama; Johnny Depp in The Three Stooges; Wrath of Kahn - The Opera

Some fine DVD news arrives this week -- the fourth (but hopefully not final) installment of the Futurama DVDs is about to arrive, titled "Into The Wild Green Yonder", set to debut on Feb. 24th.

As with three previous features, events continue to expand on the time-traveling mess created in the first feature, "Bender's Big Score." As the review at DVD Talks says:

Our story revolves around Leo Wong (Amy's rich dad, who owns Mars) and his eco-unfriendly developmental habits. Not content with the size of his miniature golf course, Leo plans to destroy a large arm of the Milky Way for expansion purposes. A curious incident at Wong's construction facility injures Fry (and several members of a group of female protesters, who we'll hear from again), which gives the lovable goofbag mind-reading abilities. Deciding to use his powers to win at poker---and with the help of a tin-foil hat, to block out the voices when needed---Fry competes against Bender and a gaggle of greedy gamblers. Meanwhile, Leela departs to join the feminist protesters, we're introduced to "The League of Mad Fellows" and the story of a mysterious dark enemy unfolds. Long story short: the fate of the universe depends on Fry and company, even if they aren't completely aware of it.

For the record, I do not want simple narrative to drive the stories here - I want lu
nacy, hewn from the history of sci-fi books, television and movies. Lunacy, I say, wild and unfettered by logic and driven by humor which makes fanboys like myself giggle like a schoolgirl about to take her first ride on a pony.

Second good news for DVD - an all-animated tie-in to the massively popular movie of this summer, "The Watchmen". This effort follows the comic book within The Watchmen called "Tales of the Black Freighter", which is a wretched and gory tale of a a sailor who is marooned and must tackle efforts at rescue which would (and will) stun audiences. The comic is being read by one of the characters in "The Watchmen" and seems to mirror the impending doom headed to New York City and the world. Actor Gerald Butler ("300") plays the lead character. Filmmakers knew it would make the feature film far too long, but the story is too good to just ignore.

It's set for release at the end of March and includes another element from the original Watchmen comic, "Tales From Under The Hood" which gives some backstory to how the events in the main story originated.

Also, a new webisode about the making of The Watchmen is now online, detailing just how the filmmakers brought the character Rorshach to life onscreen. I live that the character is being played by the too-easily forgotten actor Jackie Earle Hailey, who earned fame as the bad boy baseball player on a motorcycle in the original "Bad News Bears".

High hopes continue to rise for this epic tale of superheroes who don't embody the typical trappings of comic book characters.


Johnny Depp is in talks to play in a new movie version of "The Three Stooges"?? The Farralley Brothers are heading the movie which may also include ... Sean Penn? That's the rumor.


Why not end today with a new operatic version (with toys) of "Star Trek: Wrath of Khan" via Robot Chicken??

Note To The Senate: Stimulus Is Spending; Plus Cheney's Delusions

Rachel Maddow outlines the road blocks a minority of Senators want to keep in place in order to ... what? Keep the economy in a downward spiral?

And comments for former V.P. Dick Cheney somehow twists the failures of his leadership and his ideas into some bizarre fantasy where the Obama administration is at fault for Cheney's failed efforts. Keith Olbermann reports:

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

GOP Sticking To Failures On Economics

I am not convinced a legislative process in Washington can help repair the nation's economic woes - but I do know the whining and moaning from the leaders of the Republicans - Rush Limbaugh and his ilk - are based in (at best) half truths and mindless fear that any stimulus package might actually work.

Getting factual information on the elements of the plan (which are under constant improvement) are lost in the mindless, pointless babble of anti-Obama screeds of "Disaster!!"

Via Washington Monthly, a couple of posts of note:

Watching the reaction from Republicans and most news outlets, I keep thinking of an analogy. There's a nine-alarm fire, and Obama's the fire chief. He wants to send the cavalry, hoping to save lives and contain the fire from spreading out of control, while simultaneously taking fire-prevention steps for the future. Soon, Republicans start wondering if 2% of the tools on the fire-engines are entirely necessary for fighting the fire. Democrats think nine trucks is an excessive number, and maybe if Obama sent seven, it'll make Republicans happier. (Said Sen. Ben Nelson, "I don't know, hundreds of gallons of water sounds like an awful lot.")

Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, and Joe Scarborough try to convince the community that Obama is making a big mistake trying to put out a fire with water, which is just socialism in disguise.

Conservatives want to know why Obama won't just give people a tax cut, so the public can buy fire-extinguishers, axes, and Dalmatians of their own. The Washington Post runs four op-eds from Amity Shlaes, arguing that Fire Chief Roosevelt overreacted during the last nine-alarm fire, and it would have gone out on its own if he'd just left it alone.

And while the fire keeps burning, the Senate wants to figure out how to address the fire in a way that costs less and satisfies the concerns of "centrists."

And President Obama has an uphill battle against .... well, simply against the constant PR machine which can not accept the fact that voters rejected the GOP leadership and their failures. Responding to questions from Charlie Gibson via ABC:

Well, Charlie, if you take a look at the bill, the fact is, there are no earmarks in this bill, which, by the way, some of the critics can't claim for legislation they've voted for over the last eight years. There's no earmarks in it. We've made sure that there aren't individual pork projects in there.

"The criticisms have generally been around some policy initiatives that were placed in the bill that I think are actually good policy, but some people may say is not going to actually stimulate jobs quickly enough. I think that there's legitimate room for working through those issues over the next several weeks to make sure that we get the best possible bill. But here's the thing that I think we have to understand. The economy is in desperate straits. What I won't do is adopt the same economic theories that helped land us in the worst economy since the Great Depression. What I will do is work with anybody of good faith to make sure that we can come up with the best possible package to not only create jobs and provide support to families, but also to lay the groundwork for long-term economic growth."

(Gibson then misquoted the Congressional Budget Office, before asking if Obama would accept more infrastructure investment, and more concessions to make Republicans happy.)

"Well, keep in mind, for example, some want to put more infrastructure in the bill, and they're also complaining that it doesn't spin out fast enough. In some cases, there are contradictions there. I mean, we may want to spend on a whole bunch of great infrastructure, but it may take seven or eight years to do it, in which case we're vulnerable for the criticism that it's not spinning out fast enough. I think that in a package of this sort, that has to go to Congress with 535 opinions, at least, then there's going to be some give and take.

"What I've said is that any good idea thrown out there to improve this legislation I'm for. But I want to be absolutely clear here that the overwhelming bulk of the package is sound, is designed to put people back to work, help states that are in desperate straits, help families who are losing jobs and health care, and it's designed to make sure that we've got green energy jobs for the future. In fact, most of the programs that have been criticized as part of this package amount to less than one percent of the overall package. And it makes for good copy, but here's the thing -- we can't afford to play the usual politics at a time when the economy continues to worsen."

As I said, I am not sure there is a strong legislative ability to correct the economy. But rather than actual, open-minded debate, we get crap like this from Republican Phil Roe of Tennessee's 1st District:

$50 million on the National Endowment of the Arts. Whatever one believes about spending taxpayer money on the arts, shouldn’t we all be able to agree that it shouldn’t be done when our country is facing trillion dollar deficits and that it’s not an economic stimulus."

Roe is plain wrong and deeply unaware that arts programs create and expand jobs. Good Lord, even if he refuses to support the cultural arts programs and centers which exist throughout East Tennessee -- then does he think that spending by audiences attending cultural programs somehow evaporates from the economy? Maybe he thinks that some artist buying brushes or canvases or paint or expanding arts programs in public schools mysteriously vanishes from the economy and are sucked up by nefarious black market businesses which operate through the Russian mafia?

The more this type of dreck is slapped around as if it had merit, the more damage their efforts create.

Tennessee Democrats Put Republicans On Notice

I'm joining with a host of other Tennessee bloggers today to encourage you to help create a statewide effort to support the Democrats in Tennessee. While I have seldom been a party promoter - the recent rise of GOP numbers at the state and federal levels has brought nothing of value to residents of the state.

Constant bickering, hateful comments, and obstruction for it's own sake serves none but the GOP power structure. We face grave issues regarding a wide range of real-life problems for residents. So far the state GOP officials have offered deeply divisive legislative ideas with few useful programs useful to Tennessee residents - instead we see plans where such needs are outweighed by the political games of their thirst for power for its own sake.

Recently elected TNDP Chair Chip Forrester hopes to change that by reaching out across all levels of the spectrum to emphasize creating a better and more responsive state government. Two recent emails from Chip lay out the hopes and plans:

I want to continue the effort of bringing everyone into the Party and ask those of you who have not participated in the past to join me now. It is easy. Just go to and contribute, $5, $10, $15, $20, $25 or whatever is most comfortable for you. Just make the commitment to participate

I’ll keep you apprised of how this effort continues with reports from time to time.

Chip Forrester
Tennessee Democratic Party

As he said in comments just after he was elected as Chair of the state Democratic Party:

"First and foremost, I want to renew my pledge to you that we are going to open up this party to everyone who believes in the ideals of the Democratic Party, the party of hope and change. We are going to make this the most inclusive political party in the state of Tennessee, which will enable us to build the grassroots organization necessary to elect a new Democratic governor and regain the majority in the House of Representatives and add Democratic seats to the state Senate in 2010. Beginning Monday I will start by setting up meetings with every stakeholder in our party to begin gathering your thoughts, your ideas, and your suggestions on how we need to move forward to unify and expand our Democratic party.

I want to learn from the Governor, our Democratic congressional delegation members, the members of the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, members of Democratic organizations like the Federation of Democratic Women, labor leaders, teachers, professionals, community organizers, local officials, political activists, campaign workers from the Obama campaign and other campaigns, county chairs, the members of this state Executive Committee, and anyone else who wants to help us build a more effective Democratic party here in Tennessee.

Early this year, I want to convene a Campaign Summit to examine the results of the 2008 elections. We need to look at what we did right and what we did wrong, and begin incorporating what we learn into a comprehensive strategy for 2009 and for 2010. Clearly we cannot continue to do things as we have in the past. Everyone and every group I mentioned earlier will be invited to participate in this Summit.

From this Summit, we will emerge with a program of fundraising, new technologies, and grassroots organizing to truly build this party from the precinct level up. We need to quit talking about organizing and actually begin doing it; the successes and failures of 2008 have clearly demonstrated that fact. And we will organize in all 95 counties. We are going to run a 95 county campaign for Governor in 2010 with rejuvenated, rebuilt and re-energized county parties that will serve as the foundation upon which we build that victory.

From this Summit, we will develop a clear message for what this party stands for here in Tennessee and better ways to communicate it. President Obama has demonstrated the power of message. We need to clearly express our values and ideals as a party if we hope to attract others to support those values and ideals. And from this Summit, we will develop a unity of purpose and a unity of vision which will guide us for the next two years and hopefully in the years to follow.

Finally, I want to put the Republican Party on notice. The Democratic Party will no longer sit quietly by while the Republican Party runs racist, demagogic falsehoods against our values, our principles, and our candidates as they did this year against President Barack Obama, Nathan Vaughn, and other legislative candidates. When you lie about our candidates, our office holders, we are going to call you out as liars. There is no place in politics for such conduct. Robin Smith, Jason Mumpower, Bill Hobbs, and Chip Saltsman I tell you now: You are put on notice. As Chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party I will not stand by and see this happen without a full frontal attack on the racist, smear tactics that you have used in these past campaign. Decent men and women in Tennessee are demeaned by your racist bigoted attacks and I will not stand for it and neither will the Tennessee Democratic Party. Be ready --I am putting you on notice now--Republicans in Tennessee who support these tactics!!

The Democratic Party has always stood for the average man and woman against the forces of power, privilege, and elitism. We have stood for fairness and safety in the marketplace and in the workplace, we have stood for individual rights and freedoms, we have stood for equal opportunities for all Americans, we have stood for equality and justice for all."

So I, along with many others in the state, are asking you to help build a better state of affairs in Tennessee.

As R. Neal wrote in his post today:

To support that effort, progressive bloggers across the state of Tennessee are this morning launching the "Chip in!" online fundraising blogathon to support the Tennessee Democratic Party during this critical rebuilding phase.

We have set up an ActBlue fundraising page where you can "chip in" a little or as much as you can to support this netroots effort and help the Tennessee Democratic Party hit the ground running for the critical 2010 elections for Governor and House of Representatives. Your secure online contribution goes directly to the Tennessee Democratic Party's FEC regulated committee fund.

"Please note that the "Chip in!" blogathon is an independent effort by Tennessee progressive bloggers and is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Tennessee Democratic Party. Online processing, disbursement and regulatory compliance are handled by ActBlue, which has facilitated raising more than $87 million online for progressive candidates and committees across America."

So just click on the banner above, or the one on the right side of this page, and you can and will make a difference to clearly establish leadership which halts the often mean-spirited tactics of the current state Republican party.

SEE ALSO: (more will be posted later)
Silence Isn't Golden
Russ McBee
Progressive Nashville
Sean Braisted
Sharon Cobb

UPDATE: KnoxViews reports the goal of raising at least $1,000 was reached in a matter of hours. Thanks to all who helped!!

UPDATE II: Donations have approaching $3000 thanks to the efforts of bloggers and donors statewide - more than triple the goal set today.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Wallace Coleman Brings The Blues To East Tennessee

Wallace Coleman plays the blues like a legend. I'm very happy to see that he's got two more shows here in East Tennessee - on Friday Feb. 6th at the Rose Center in Morristown and on Friday Feb. 20th at the Laurel Theater in Knoxville.

He makes that harmonica talk, sing, cry, laugh and is just one of the best blues performers you can see today. I've talked and written about his great music before and urge you to make time to see him.

Here's a recent video of him and his band from January of 2009 doing a tune called "After Midnight":

Bonnaroo 2009 Lineup

With a lineup that includes Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, The Beastie Boys, Elvis Costello, Nine Inch Nails, Merle Haggard, Del McCoury, Wilco and David Byrne it looks like I may need to make the trip to Manchester, TN this summer for Bonnaroo 2009 this June.

The full list (which is still growing!) can be found at the Bonnaroo website.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Pajamas Media Confusion, Frank Zappa and Billy Pilgrim

I never thought the concept of a 'pajamas media' sounded very smart. There's some concern and some confusion among conservative bloggers over the announcement last week that the Pajamas Media site is shutting down it's shared advertising program which was supposed to pay out to blogging participants. While the ads are ending, the site apparently is not, but now instead the founders of the media blog say they will focus all efforts now on their Pajamas TV project.

The same project which hired Joe Wurzelbacher, aka Joe The Plumber, to be a 'war reporter' in Gaza for 10 days. That program really tanked. (Though R. Neal pointed out today that you can order an '"authentic Mexican black velvet painting of Joe as part of the Modern American Media Martyrs series" ... yeah, nice work there. Maybe we could get some black velvet paintings of a screen capture of Pajamas Media??)

Anyway, some questions raised about the rise and fall and the paid blogging via the Pajama People is offered here.

Maybe one reason I had serious doubts about all the Pajama Games originates with the lyrics of Frank Zappa's "Po-jama People":

Some people's hot
Some people's cold
Some people's not very
Swift to behold
Some people do it
Some see right through it
Some wear pyjamas
If only they knew it

The pyjama people are boring me to pieces
Feel like I am wasting my time
They all got flannel up 'n down 'em
A little trap-door back aroun' 'em
An' some cozy little footies on their mind"

Blogging (and bloggers such as my humble self) in general often remind me of the character of Billy Pilgrim in Kurt Vonnegut's novel "Slaughterhouse Five". As Billy got older, he would often lock himself into his basement wearing his pajamas and furiously but earnestly type letters to the editor at his local newspaper, all explaining and expounding on how he had become "unstuck in time" when he was abducted by aliens and taken to their home planet of Tralfamadore. It drove his children crazy that he just would not shut up about it, that he kept pushing the idea out into the community.

So it goes.