Saturday, July 04, 2009

Bela Fleck's Star Spangled Banner

Happy Independence Day!

Sarah Palin - Train Wrecks Get Top Ratings

Details about the Big Run Away From Blogging Bullies and Evil Media, aka Gov. Palin resigns, are mighty strange given the rambling speech the broadcast by soon-to-exit governor. (Full rambling text here.)

The Mudflats blog has some info that real troubles are about the submerge the You Betcha Girl:

I’ve now been able to get independent information from multiple sources that all of this precedes what are said to be possible federal indictments against Palin, concerning an embezzlement scandal related to the building of Palin’s house and the Wasilla Sports Complex built during her tenure. Both structures, it is said, feature the “same windows, same wood, same products.” Federal investigators have been looking into this for some time, and indictments could be imminent, according to the Alaska sources. From Brad Blog

“I don’t think this is buckling to pressure,” said Ayers. “I think this is her coming to the realization that the legislature in Alaska and that some bloggers and activists in Alaska are going to do everything they can to stymie her progress. This is a governor who didn’t run for the office because she wanted a title. She wanted to make significant change in the state. She realized that that was no longer going to be able to happen, because things had become so partisan there.” From HuffPo

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse issued a statement characterizing Palin’s resignation as “bizarre behavior”:

Either Sarah Palin is leaving the people of Alaska high and dry to pursue her long shot national political ambitions or she simply can’t handle the job now that her popularity has dimmed and oil revenues are down. Either way, her decision to abandon her post and the people of Alaska who elected her continues a pattern of bizarre behavior that more than anything else may explain the decision she made today. From The Daily Beast

Watching the family scene at her house on the raw video running on CNN right now, it is obvious that little knowledge about this was shared ahead of time, no matter what Palin said in the conference itself.

What we are seeing here is either a preface to some indictment, or the final chapter in the career of what has been the biggest political joke of the 21st century. She is so obviously a combination of extreme narcissism and even more extremely bad advice by really, really pathetically bad advisors.


"In the past two years, the state of Alaska has spent millions of dollars processing ethics complaints, public records requests, and related lawsuits.”

That was the claim coming from the office of Governor Sarah Palin, who likes to use the phrase “frivolous ethics complaints.” That was nine days ago.

Today, we learn that “millions of dollars” is in fact, actually $296,000, as far as ethics complaints go. Numbers shmumbers.

The complete breakdown is not yet available, but we do know this about the three spendiest ones:

$187,797 stemmed from the Troopergate investigation, a good chunk of which Palin initiated herself. We’ll get back to that.

$43,028 stemmed from a complaint by Andree McLeod which resulted in a recommendation that a state employee undergo ethics training for a series of “troubling emails.”

$29,962 most likely came from the “travel gate” investigation in which Palin reimbursed almost $10,000 for expenses billed to the state for her children’s travel expenses.

That’s the top three, none of which sound particularly “frivolous.” So once we crunch the numbers, it’s highly likely that the most expensive investigation brought about by an individual, is Palin’s investigation of herself. And let’s just review that one more time.

The Legislature found enough evidence to approve $100,000 to investigate Palin’s firing of the Commissioner of Public Safety, in light of accusations that he was dismissed for not firing her ex-brother-in-law with whom there was bad blood. They spent $75,000 of the money allocated, and the bipartisan Legislative Council (composed of 8 Republicans and 4 Democrats) voted unanimously to go forward. An independent investigation by someone that they all agreed to found that Palin violated the Executive Branch Ethics Act. They unanimously voted to release that decision to the public.

As a counter-measure, and a panicked move to look good during the campaign, Palin (with the advice from the McCain cadre of lawyers headed up by Ed O’Callaghan who had no license to practice law in the State of Alaska) initiated her own ethics complaint against herself, knowing that the outcome would be decided by a friendly panel of governor-appointed people who report to her. Guess what? They found her innocent, and refused to even investigate the matter of testimony from Palin that went completely against testimony from the former commissioner. Frivolous ethics complaint? No….a calculated one that the state paid for.

What did the legislature do about their own $75,000 investigation that found the governor in violation of the Ethics Act? Nothing. So, why did we, as a state, pay that $75,000? What did we get for that money? Maybe that’s the question we should be asking.

Speaking of not knowing what you get for your money…

Palin herself reportedly has incurred over $600,000 in personal legal bills defending against complaints, although she won’t provide a breakdown of the expenses or what cases they were for. Palin friends and supporters set up a legal defense fund and are soliciting contributions for her legal bills.

SEE ALSO: From Post Politics:

"Sarah Palin doesn’t care about statecraft or making government smaller and/or more efficient. She just wants to be the IT girl.

She doesn’t care about experience or gravitas because those are things you would need only if you wished to affect change and make a difference. Those are things you only need if you wish to hold office and steer the ship of state. Sarah Palin only wishes to ride the wave of celebrity.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

YouTube's 'School of Journalism'

Following weeks of intense and on-the-scene reports from the streets and cities of Iran made possible by those using camera phones and Twitter feeds, YouTube has announced the creation of a Reporter's Channel - but is it to help reporters who need ideas from the non-professional or just a way to insure traditional media is included in citizen-led reporting?

The San Francisco Chronicle has details of the channel, and a list of their contributors, who include folks from Newsweek, the AP, Time, the Washington Post and many more traditional news services.

The full list is here -- and here are some more samples of those who will 'contribute':

-- Katie Couric, CBS Evening News
-- Jim Drinkard, Accountability Editor, Associated Press
-- Kwame Dawes, Journalist, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
-- Arianna Huffington, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post
-- Michael Isikoff, Investigative Correspondent, Newsweek
-- Riz Khan, The Riz Khan Show, Al-Jazeera English
-- Nicholas Kristof, Columnist, The New York Times
-- Andre Lambertson, Journalist, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
-- Dana Milbank, Political Reporter and Author of the "Washington Sketch" column, The Washington Post
-- Beth Murphy, journalist, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
-- Lizzie O'Leary, Washington Correspondent for Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg -- Adam Pasick, Editor of, Reuters
-- Jon Resnick, Planning Editor, Associated Press
-- Jon Sawyer, Executive Director, The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
-- Scott Simon, Weekend Edition, NPR

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Broadband Mapping In Tennessee A Low Priority

$350 million in stimulus funding for broadband mapping is flowing to a group called Connected Nation, but the emphasis in Tennessee is on "branding" and mapping plans by Connected Tennessee ends up getting the lowest funding.

Art Brodsky writes about the cautionary tale of Tennessee in Huffington Post:

There is a more direct way to obtain state funds, short of having to go through the whole cumbersome bidding process. Our second cautionary tale of state mapping comes from Tennessee.

On April 23, 2008 the state gave final approval to a three-year, $6.675 million contract (excerpts here) with Connected Tennessee (CT). The contract, first agreed to in 2007, was labeled as a "non-competitive negotiation," which was justified because, the contract noted, that Connected Nation (the original grantee) had a successful program in Kentucky and that costs for Tennessee were "at similar or lower amounts" than the Kentucky programs.

There is some disagreement, however, about how successful the Kentucky program, the birthplace of Connected Nation, actually is. Jonathan Miller, the Kentucky Secretary of Finance, was blunt in his evaluation, saying in an interview, "We smell something pretty bad" with the mapping program, and the state is trying to "develop plans try to cope with it."


"Based on the amount of money being spent, the mapping is fairly far down. At the top of the list is that Connected Tennessee "shall provide a custom branding strategy for Tennessee's Trail to Innovation." Once the state approves a design, CT's top duties were to

a. Create press releases that reflect the goals of the initiative
b. Obtain placement of communications/promotions content in relevant media outlets
c. Develop and place customized ads in key periodicals
d. Publish and distribute reports on the progress of the initiative to the State and other appropriate stakeholders

Also on the list of things to do are creating a statewide steering committee from universities, health organizations and tech companies; establish eCommunity leadership teams, develop through those teams goals for increased tech adoption; provide consultation to the teams and provide regional updates on the expansion of technology programs. They also have to give away 1,000 computers each year.

Listed after all of those - produce a map of broadband services areas, creating "a reliable illustration of where broadband does and does not exist." The first map is due within three months and is updated quarterly. Listed after the mapping is a requirement that CT survey consumers and businesses on the level of technology use.

The contract breaks down into $2.225 million per year. Of that total, $1.325 million is dedicated to the "custom branding strategy," including the steering committee and leadership teams. Another $400,000 is allocated for computer distribution. There are also two consumer survey reports worth $150,000 and two business survey reports, worth another $150,000. The broadband maps are budgeted for $200,000 -- $50,000 per map.

Longway, the president of the Tennessee broadband company, testified before the state broadband task force and before state legislative committees against a Connect Tennessee contract. Longway told us he thought that mapping should be done by a Tennessee company, not an outside group, and criticized the state for signing a non-competitive contract. Longway, who has also worked with Arkansas state officials on broadband planning, said he was once asked point-blank by an influential legislator whether he supported Connected Tennessee. Longway said he replied, "No, they're awful."

Monday, June 29, 2009

Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal?

At Post Politics, Kleinheider wrote of his angry certainty that Michael Jackson escaped the justice he deserved. And while his gut instinct might compel his viewpoint that Jackson was guilty of the allegations of child molestation, I'm not certain myself of his guilt. Here's a sample of what was written:

Can someone explain to me when Michael Jackson joined respectable society again? I seem to have missed it.

Last time I checked I remember Jackson flagrantly flouting inviting children into his bed and barely beating a charge of child molestation by the skin of his teeth. This, of course, after he paid another alleged victim off ten years previous for dropping a similar charge.

Now, of course, I understand the concept of innocent until proven guilty. I do. But I thought that we all had come to the conclusion that Jacko was about as innocent of child molestation as O.J was of killing Nicole.

Was I wrong?

Because if O.J dies and I have to watch film of him playing football and people honoring and mourning his death, I’ll lose it. I’m gonna need a heads up on that one, so let me know.

Hell, wouldn’t you forgive a murderer sooner than a child molester, anyway?

At least with murder, the victim is dead. It’s over. Done. Being sexually victimized, especially at a young age, can be akin to a living death.

Honestly, sometimes (let me emphasize sometimes) I think child rapists would be more humane if they killed all their victims. At least they would save them the life of pain and prevent the start of a cycle of abuse that can extend generationally and exponentially.

A few folks in Knoxville cheered the man’s death? And?

Don’t get me wrong. Celebrating death of anyone, even a mass murderer or a child rapist, is not a healthy activity. But is it absolutely appalling? Honestly, given the givens and assuming the assumptions, I simply cannot muster up a whole bunch of outrage."

My thoughts differ simply because he was never convicted of the crimes he was accused of committing. Despite a vigorous prosecution and many suspicions, there appeared to me a real lack of actual evidence. And he was acquitted not of just one charge, but of nine charges.

I'm not a huge fan of Jackson - although he seemed to posses the savvy to create a career and a style which still carries a massive influence. Also, most media reports included coverage of the many controversies about Jackson. And he certainly lived a life so very far removed from the norm.

So for me, ACK's post seems less factual and mostly emotional anger at an idea rather than the acts of one person. Your views may differ.

TVA and The Real Cost of Burning Coal

With temperatures in recent days hitting 90 and above, residents in Tennessee rely on burning coal to keep them cool, thanks to TVA. But what are the short term and long term costs? With some 60% of TVA's energy coming from burning coal, they have no plans to shift their current strategy.

Some of TVA's oldest, dirtiest and least efficient coal units should have been phased out years ago and replaced with renewable power," said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and a former member of TVA's Regional Resource Stewardship Council.

Matt Landon, a volunteer leader of a 4-year-old group fighting against coal usage in East Tennessee -- United Mountain Defense -- blames coal plants for much of Tennessee's air pollution.

"From the cradle to the grave, coal is dirty and destroys our environment," said Mr. Landon, who was arrested by TVA police in March for trespassing on the site of a major ash spill in Kingston.

In its 76-year history, TVA has shut down only one coal plant -- the former Watts Bar Steam Plant in Rhea County. But TVA officials said the agency also is studying whether it still makes sense to maintain and upgrade its oldest plants, including units in Johnsonville and Widows Creek which already are senior citizen age.

A federal judge has ordered TVA to install scrubbers on the six oldest units at its Widows Creek Fossil Plant near Stevenson, Ala., within the next five years. Mr. Kilgore said the agency is now studying the costs of installing the court-ordered pollution controls. To recover such an investment, the units normally would be expected to operate for at least another two decades."

Meanwhile, state officials and the TDEC want more transparency on how coal and coal ash are handled in Tennessee:

Following the catastrophic failure of the TVA Kingston Plant coal ash impoundment on Dec. 22, 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reviewed coal ash impoundments across the country.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has apparently requested the results of that review not be made available to the public. Irrespective of the Corps' recommendations regarding nationwide sites, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation believes transparency is important and is committed to sharing results of our own state review with the public.When Gov. Phil Bredesen visited Kingston shortly after the failure, he stressed the need for transparency in the monitoring and cleanup to help assure citizens what appropriate steps were being taken to protect public health and minimize environmental impacts of the failure. Among other directives, he asked the department to begin immediately posting results of water, air and soil testing online so the public could access information easily and directly."

We're stuck on coal. Not clean coal or green energy - just plain old coal, same as we were decades ago.