Friday, July 24, 2009

Seduction and Scandal In The Tennessee Legislature

State Senator Paul Stanley and one of his interns, McKensie Morrison, are at the center of a sex scandal and an alleged blackmail plot, a story burning up the state blogging world. Kleinheider at PostPolitics has been reporting quite a bit on the sordid tale and has a blistering accusation from an intern about what women who work in the legislature face when they work with elected officials:

What I can also tell you is that almost every man up there feels entitled to look, touch, and flirt with any female in that place, regardless of whether she is an intern, lobbyist, guest, etc.

"I was shocked when I heard about this, but not really. The ego that exists in most men up there is enough to make me sick.

"Just to let you know, I think its the men up there who have the potential to ruin the internship program. If it goes because one or two Senators or Representatives couldn’t keep their married johnsons in their pants, I will be utterly devastated."

Knoxville's state representative Stacey Campfield has this to say about the skanky environment in Nashville:

Well, I guess this is just more proof, Republicans are clearly irresistible to females."
Name withheld to protect the legislator. "

Channel 5 has a video of Morrison's boyfriend which makes all involved look bad in a situation where everyone already looks pretty terrible -

Way to stay classy, Tennessee.

Newspapers: 180 Years of Not Charging For Content

The newspaper business has - since it's earliest days - used a business model where readers are never really charged for the content the newspaper provides.

That's the argument presented at

Newspapers haven't actually charged for news content since the 1830s.

Up until then, most newspapers were subscription-only and cost about 6 cents a day (or about $1.20 in today's dollars, adjusted for inflation).

By asking subscribers to bear the full cost of production, newspapers limited their audience to the few who could afford the luxury. That was actually OK for the time, because literacy rates were quite low anyway.

But compulsory education raised literacy rates as the 19th century progressed, and in the 1830s publishers realized a new model to reach the growing market -- the penny press.

Newspapers cut their price from 6 cents to just 1 cent (about 20-25 cents today), thus reaching a much broader circulation and finding advertisers would pay to reach that market. The first popular penny paper, the New York Sun, printed this motto at the top of every front page: "The object of this paper is to lay before the public, at a price within the means of every one, all the news of the day, and at the same time offer an advantageous medium for advertisements."

As news now moves online, the same rule of economics apply: The price of a product in a competitive market falls to the marginal cost of creating and delivering one more unit."

A very small portion of the folks who create that content earn a large salary. Most do it for very small pay. And what I write on this blog and on most others, I do for virtually nothing. Don't get me wrong, I am always seeking ways to make my writing pay - advertising still offers the best model for that. Still, I am reluctant to clutter the page with ads, though in truth, since ads are the best source for funding, then ads may soon appear here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fatal Flaws in TVA

A very critical report on TVA's operations at their coal-fired plants, prompted by the disastrous spill of coal ash in December of last year, says TVA failed in key areas:

"The consultants said the "necessary systems, controls and culture were not in place" to properly manage the coal ash sites at TVA's 11 coal-fired power plants.

The report found TVA had no standard operating or maintenance procedures and failed to conduct annual training for engineers doing inspections. It said there was little or no internal communication between the four TVA divisions responsible for ash retention." (link)

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports:

TVA's board of directors adopted a resolution Tuesday calling for a host of measures to restructure the public utility's procedures and culture companywide.

The resolution calls for development of a remediation plan at all TVA coal ash ponds and hiring an outside firm to help the utility create a plan to fix problems in systems, standards, controls and its culture of accountability. Plans for achieving these goals are to be ready for board review at TVA's Aug. 20 meeting.

"Also Tuesday, board members approved the hiring of David Mould, former NASA assistant administrator of public affairs, as senior vice president of communications."

Outside consultants were needed to reveal these fatal flaws and more consultants are to be hired to ensure TVA does the job right?

Are there fatal flaws throughout TVA? When will they be addressed?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Better Living Thru Swearing and Bras?

Science!! is always striving to improve our lives and last week two new developments pushed forward some ideas which science and business are beginning to embrace.

A study from Britain's Keele University provides information that swearing when injured or being hurt alleviates pain.

Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon. It taps into emotional brain centers and appears to arise in the right brain, whereas most language production occurs in the left cerebral hemisphere of the brain. Our research shows one potential reason why swearing developed and why it persists."

Perhaps this explains why I often swear when watching the news or reading some blog posts.

Meanwhile a company in Japan, Wishroom, is promoting their bras for men, saying their product alleviates stress:

Japanese salary men have a lot of stress, and the bras seem to relieve that."

Yeah, I'll just keep my stress, thanks - or just swear at it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11-- 40 Years Later

Despite what I and many others thought on July 20, 1969, so far only 12 people have walked on the surface of the moon. The first two - Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin - literally flew in on sheer will-power and some dicey technology.

Some sharp color images from all the Apollo moon landings are here in full panorama views.

NASA is holding several key celebrations of the 40th anniversary.

But as much tremendous respect as I have for NASA and their achievements, I wonder if it is time to create a new agency, supported by our government and our nation, which is focused more on the future than the past, an agency which makes plans for tomorrow's children.

It's a bit sad to think of the achievements as part of America's history and not it's future. Combined with the recent death of you-are-there news anchor Walter Cronkite , it seems too many in our nation are content to let our dreams of moving past life on Earth be a memory rather than a goal.