Friday, December 11, 2015

It's Christmas So -- Guns!

The words "gun control" are all around us this holiday season, but the real debate here is about reducing massacres of innocent folks by heavily armed villains. But getting past the easy slogans about weapons is tough - that's why slogans work.

New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik tackles and exposes the many factual, real errors in the prevailing slogans in this essay. Some excerpts: (And be sure to read my NOTE below) --

"Gun laws solve nothing because terrorists, whether in Paris or San Bernardino, aren’t the sort of people who care about or obey them.This might properly be restated as follows: if a pickpocket steals your wallet on the bus, repeal the laws against pickpockets. If terrorists and criminals do still get guns, despite existing gun laws, there is no reason to have gun laws at all. But the goal of good social legislation is not to create impermeable dams that will stop every possible bad behavior; it is to put obstacles in their way. The imperfection of a system of restraints is an argument about the imperfection of all human systems. It is not an argument against restraints. What’s more, the special insight of recent criminology is to show that low walls work nearly as well as high ones, and are obviously much easier to build. Making any crime harder usually makes it much harder. If the terrorists in San Bernardino had had to work as hard at building guns as they did at building bombs, perhaps the guns would have worked as badly as the bombs did."
"There are already so many guns in circulation in the United States, and their owners are so determined to keep them, that introducing limits would have no practical effect. ... Piecemeal social reform tends to be slow, but it tends to be successful. (Many manageable middle-range changes, from ammunition control to “smarter” and more secure guns, have been suggested as passable paths to gun sanity.) One need look only at the history of smoking or of car safety to see that this is so. Cancer caused by cigarettes and deaths caused by traffic fatalities, which were once fixed and ubiquitous features of American life, have been vastly reduced by gradual reform."
"Even if gun control were a good thing, the Second Amendment renders its achievement impossible.  ... Does anyone believe that Madison and Mason, stumbling into the first-grade classroom where modern assault weaponry had blown apart twenty six-year-olds and six of their terrified caretakers, would then say, “Well, too bad—but, yes, that’sexactly what we meant by the right of the people to keep and bear arms”?"

NOTE: Whether guns or other ills which bring problems, I'm on the side of seeking solutions rather than giving up on any useful resolution. Problems have solutions. I endorse the right to keep and bear arms - it is a basic right. Reducing mass murder is the goal, as is public safety. Whipping up hysteria and rage at the mere thought of discussing this issue, framing such discussion as open warfare, is dangerous and pointless. We don't live in a cartoon. 

Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Haslam Joins Ranks of The Frightened

Compassion leaves you vulnerable.

Civil War leaves you vulnerable.

Freedom leaves you vulnerable.

Terror leaves you vulnerable.

Trust leaves you vulnerable.

Fear leaves you vulnerable

When I read how poor billionaire Governor Bill Haslam joined ranks with terrified Republican Governors, politicians, and other frightened Americans  to slam the door on refugees,I mourned a little for the loss of courage and the rise of cowardice. 

Had these Governor's sincerely wanted to insure the security of our nation and our states, they could and should have engaged in detailed discussions with the federal officials involved. But they sought first the news cameras. Fanning fear, claiming prudence, it was a carefully staged PR attack on the Obama administration, a political attack in an election cycle. 

Worse, they announced to everyone around the world one clear fact - They are very scared.

They did not all stand up to cry Never Again or Don't Tread On Me. They've slammed shut the windows and will hide inside. Unified in their stand that opposing the Obama administration is more important than life or liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

Cowardice is a loaded word for these folks,I know. But the abandonment of the values of courage leaves only cowardice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Confederates Fail Again in Greene County.

The previous post has a follow-up, and it's actually good news.

20 of 21 Greene County Commissioners rejected completely a proposal from one commissioner, Jame Randolph, to install a Confederate flag on the county's courthouse. Just like the way residents rejected secession during the Civil War 150 years ago.

Previously, as I said, this is idiotic on many levels, especially Randolph's ludicrous claim he was motivated by some fealty to history. But we all know what history that flag represents.

Randolph says he knew the resolution would fail and that he won't try to introduce it again - so the question remains: What was the point of his effort? Was it merely to attract and agitate a specific part of the population, to organize them and alert them to .... what?

The Greene County press should ask that question but they won't.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Confederate Ignorance in Greene County

It's pretty clear the Greene County Commissioners who think flying a Confederate flag is historically vital have zero knowledge of the history of their own county and of East Tennessee.

Since History proves these officials utterly wrong - then what is the real reason behind their desire to fly a flag of the county's enemies?

Mega-Insta-Political Analysis

Let's do a little political talking about all the political talking.

And the talking is being done by notably unqualified candidates here in the ol' U.S. of A, the sort of talking that cliched tin-pot dictators might spew from tiny podiums and dressed in over-decorated, ill-fitting military uniforms.Such candidates as Trump, Cruz, Carson, Fiorina, Rubio, Bush, and even whole rosters of state GOP candidates are the folks doing such talking today. It's pretty awful to hear and see.

I recently watched the Burns Civil War documentary and the talk is mighty similar to the fairly unhinged generals and officers delirious with battlefield fever. The talk is most notable for it's hostility, whatever issue is laid before them, or indifference. It is anti-everything that reeks of the 21st century.

On the Left, Hilary Clinton, even if elected will instantly be tarred with the 'unconstitutional presidency', as these talkers have labeled President Obama. And that would extend the current Insta-Rage crowd's fervor to even more unacceptable and unsustainable behaviors.

And there's Bernie Sanders, who has, for his career, been neither a Republican or a Democrat ...a pretty good indication he's probably the smartest guy in this particular political room of Potentials.

Sanders is perhaps the reason  why Trump is standing out as the Top Potential - to frame what is the real battle in 2016: wages and wealth. They're easy to cast in opposing views on wages and wealth to hit the gut-punch level most voters require.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Decade of Writing on the Web

I've been so busy I missed my own blog birthday - 10 years are done and I'm now on Year 11. Yay me.

Obviously The Regular Reader knows the posts here have been intermittent in the last year or so, but that's changing as a few new adventures are compelling me to become more prolific here. Details on that will follow very soon.

When I began this page, the Web was exploding with blogs, and many of those are now kaput. I am not kaput. That noisy proliferation has now turned into a far more vast cacophony of voices and images which get Tweeted and Pinterested and Instagrammed and Facebooked and far more names of platforms being created. I'm a long-form writer who abhors brevity. Except when I don't.

And still, our world is only just inside the doorway of what is possible with the Internet. If the Internet is the New Alphabet then we've only gotten 3 or 4 letters figured out. More is to be discovered and the new combinations possible are far too large to even imagine ... so far.

When I was a wee boy, knowing down in my bones that I wanted to be a writer, I think I saw a Writer as a process that ended with being a Good Writer Who Writes. Now these many years later, I see it's a process of creation that never ends.

What's been the best writing here? The most popular? 

The Google stats say "Dr. Evil Running Congress?" has been the most viewed post, with over 22,000 views is Most Popular, but that's likely because the image I used of Dr. Evil became a hot listing via image searches using Google. Also popular, pretty much all posts about Frightmare Manor, the haunted attraction located just down the street, have been huge hits on the Web. And they are getting ready to open up again for 2015.

I have various favorites, but here are two posts that I rank as my own best.

First, "Martian", a rumination on the planet Mars and the robots we've placed there. It's from the very first weeks of publishing, and I really like it. In fact, other than movies, I've probably written the most about my fascination with our universe, our solar system and how we do and do not explore it.

My next favorite is also from the early days, "Would You Like To Hear Some Stories?", a post prompted by my sister-in-law and the very real and astonishing experiences of her family during World War 2 and how the posting of those events led to the discovery after many decades of what happened to Katherine's mother's cousin, revealed in the comments of that post.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Should Federal Election Day Be A Holiday?

Presidential candidate and senator Bernie Sanders says "Yes" and has prepped some legislation for it --

"[That] would indicate a national commitment to create a vibrant democracy."

Would it increase voter turnout?

Should elections be held on weekends?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Last Neighbor - Pluto

If you have more than 3 moons you're a planet in my book, but Pluto is what it is - a wee dwarf planet. It looks huge in the pictures now coming in from NASA's New Horizons spacecraft. (Great links to the mission via KnoxViews, where Randy notes "It will take 16 months to download all the data and images collected by the probe... At 3 billion miles away, it takes 4.5 hours for signals to reach Earth.)

Here's the man who first sighted Pluto in 1930, Clyde Tombaugh, who is actually on-board the New Horizons probe ... well, a portion of Clyde's ashes are on-board. An 11-year old English school girl suggested the name Pluto.

There is a human fondness for the wee world.

It's also essentially our last neighbor here in this Solar neighborhood, and beyond it we see an infinity of galaxies and neighborhoods - and our little neighborhood appears very small.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Beyond A Battle Flag

It has been startling to see how quickly politicians in Southern states, including Tennessee, have stepped forward to announce that now is the time to finally remove a symbol of the failed Confederate states from government buildings. Quickly, that is, if you jump past the events of the last 150 years since the Civil War ended.

Growing up here in Tennessee, the battle flag was everywhere you looked. It perplexed me that is was so popular - especially when I'd see the image to the right, which was on beach towels, license plates, dinner plates, and on just about anything for sale. That creepy, angry old man defiantly refusing to move past the days of slavery and war and instead holding on to ideas steeped in horror was beyond my understanding. As I got older, I realized that racial hatreds were something a person had to learn from someone - and like many others, I hoped such vile teachers were disappearing. But still they hang on.

Tragically, too many Southerners carry today a wounded pride - and confused a pride in being Southern with a grim notion we should revere a society built on slavery. We should not erase the history of the cause and affects of the Civil War nor should we dismiss the reality that our nation endured beyond that war because we accepted a vital truth - no one has the right to own another human being, and that yes, we strive to create equality for each and every person. This struggle continues around the globe.

Removing governmentally endorsed symbols is a beginning point – but what is urgently needed is a long-overdue re-evaluation of beliefs. Increasing education, decreasing poverty, reforming prison and sentencing policies are just a few of the areas our society must address. 

For Southerners especially, we do have a rich and varied heritage worth celebration, but the legacy we offer needs to be much, much more than a history steeped in slavery.

Us versus Them is no legacy worth leaving future generations

Thursday, May 21, 2015

My First Appearance (Almost) on the David Letterman Show

In July and August of 1991 I was relentlessly scouring as much of the island of Manhattan as I possibly could.

It was an epic two weeks - I met legendary talk show pioneer Joe Franklin outside of Nathan's hot dogs in Times Square, I met (and bought a drink for) the actor Michael Anderson, aka the midget from "Twin Peaks", and I was almost featured in an episode of David Letterman's talk show on NBC.

You should know that I knew of so many landmarks and unique Manhattan locations, mostly from decades of movie and television viewing. Obsessive viewing one might say - which allowed me to locate the streets and buildings from "Taxi Driver", the steps in  Riverside Park where Charles Bronson turned into a killer in "Deathwish", the bench used in by Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in "Manhattan" ... you get the idea.

So one day I set my attention to the area around 30 Rockefeller Plaza - too many iconic images and locations to list. I puzzled over ways to get into Letterman's show, but none seemed to work. I circled around attempting to locate the building which Letterman had recently been using as he called up a woman named Meg he could see in a high rise window across from his studio. He'd call her up, she would do something wacky for him during the show.

Turns out I was right on time for something special because as I was looking up, I see a window in the building being raised and a woman poked out her head. My heart stopped when I realized I had hit the mother lode.

She withdrew her head and a large bag appeared, overflowing with multi-colored Nerf balls. I looked down and across the street and there was Biff Henderson, David's longtime stage manager, wearing his ubiquitous headset, darting back and forth with a laundry basket. Nerf balls began to rain down as Biff scampered about trying to catch them.

I was thunderstruck of course. They were taping a segment for that night's show. I then noticed a small camera crew to my left, and my mind seized on an idea - I'm going to just cross the street and walk past Biff. I'm going to be on the show.

As if in a dream, I eased forward - one step, two, and I'm on the street, eyes glued to Biff's antics ... and then I noticed the policeman, the barricades at either end of the street, and then the policeman noticed me and he gave me a look, a look that said "Don't even think about it, buddy."

I froze in place and did not move.

The scene continued to play out. I became aware of a lot of folks around, laughing and clapping. In seconds, Biff and crew were gone, the window was shut and the policeman smiled at me. I wandered off, pondering on what Letterman himself might call "a brush with greatness".

Anyway, I continued my sightseeing and adventures for the day and late that evening I was back in Brooklyn where I was staying with my brother-in-law Fred. I was tired - a good kind of tired - and I realized the time, realized the Letterman show was about to air.

Did I make it into the show? Possibly??

I tuned in and watched and there's Letterman, setting up the bit with Meg and Biff and the Nerf balls ... At several points, there was this shot from high above the street as Biff ran about and I can see ... I can see ... that if I had just taken one more step, just one move a couple of inches forward, I would have been in the shot and been on the show.

But I was not. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Former East TN Congressional Candidate Turns Terrorist

The ever-watchful and wily Southern Beale today points to reports (and the lack of them) of a 2014 4th Congressional District candidate, Robert Doggett who was busted by the FBI for plotting a mass murder.

"And if it gets down to the machete, we will cut them to shreds" he told the FBI.

Like Beale, I have to wonder - why didn't this hit the news? 

From one of the links in her post:

"Doggart, 62, has more than 40 years in the electric generation business, working as an engineer, manager, superintendent and other titles, including 17 years at TVA.

He is an ordained minister in the Christian National Church (Congregational). He is a past president, chairman, and director at large of the American Society for Nondestructive Testing. He is a 17-plus gallon blood donor with Blood Assurance and has received two presidential awards for lifetime public service."

Thursday, May 07, 2015

Science Shows Why Stupid Folks Praise Stupid Folks

Pamela Geller
I'm somewhat happy to report there appears to be a theory to explain why deeply uninformed folks suffer from "illusory superiority".

Such a theory helps explain the idiocy of, for instance, folks in Texas who firmly believe the U.S. Military is prepping an attack on Texas and even why rabid hate-speakers like Pamela Geller considers herself a defender of Free Speech. This theory likely explains why some consider FOX News a source of "fair and balanced" journalism.

The theory is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

A 1999 study at Cornell University by psychologists David Dunning and Justin Krueger concluded that this effect is:

"... a cognitive bias wherein unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability to be much higher than is accurate. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their ineptitude.
Pretend News on FOX

"The study was inspired by the case of McArthur Wheeler, a man who robbed two banks after covering his face with lemon juice in the mistaken belief that, because lemon juice is usable as invisible ink, it would prevent his face from being recorded on surveillance cameras."

Hoo boy, does that explain a lot of wacky thinking and talking from certain people and groups.

The summation here also notes such people:

fail to recognize their own lack of skill
fail to recognize genuine skill in others
fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy

recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill

There is a very real threat and danger to the rest of us from the folks who suffer from their delusions of wisdom -- incompetence grows quickly and, when voiced by someone in a position of authority their madness gets legitimized as having some value or truth.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore Boils Over After Years of Corruption

image via

The grim reality on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Baltimore currently stem from not simply one incident about police conduct and tactics. The Baltimore Sun last fall provided a lengthy investigation into years of brutality and civil rights violations by law enforcement:

"Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson.

"Those cases detail a frightful human toll. Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones — jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles — head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement.

"And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims — if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him — a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

"Such beatings, in which the victims are most often African-Americans, carry a hefty cost. They can poison relationships between police and the community, limiting cooperation in the fight against crime, the mayor and police officials say."

Also worth reading, an overflowing crowd attends a meeting, prior to Freddie Gray's death, held by the city and the Department of Justice:

" ... hundreds of Baltimore residents gathered to air grievances over years of harassment, beatings and other mistreatment they say they have endured from city police.

"They turned out for a meeting convened by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate, at the city's request, complaints about Baltimore's Police Department. When a former San Jose, Calif., police chief hired to lead the meeting told the crowd he wanted to know whether they "trust" the city's police, a woman shouted "No."

"From that point on, dozens of residents — most of them black — inundated federal officials with their assertions that city police have been brutalizing residents with impunity."

More on the years of corruption in law enforcement:

"What's crucial to understand, as Baltimore residents take to the streets in long-simmering frustration, is that their general grievances are valid regardless of how this case plays out. For as in Ferguson, where residents suffered through years of misconduct so egregious that most Americans could scarcely conceive of what was going on, the people of Baltimore are policed by an entity that perpetrates stunning abuses. The difference is that this time we needn't wait for a DOJ report to tell us so. Harrowing evidence has been presented. Yet America hasn't looked." 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tennessee: God, Guns, Booze

The State's Official Gun (almost)
State legislators aimed this year to define Tennessee via the designation of "Official State _________ " resolutions and came up with some true weirdness.

What did they select to identify Tennessee?

The Bible.
The Sniper Rifle.

How did Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey describe this legislative session

"I have said it before and I will say it again: it matters who governs."

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Testing Requires More Testing

The Tennessee Legislature deploys some logic - because so much time in public school is spent on increasing testing scores in science and math and technology, other classes, such as in civics and social studies and history have been hampered. So, now students will have to take a citizenship test to graduate.

Too many tests, it seems, denotes a vital need for more tests. Of course, the new law says a student can take the test as many times as needed in order to pass it. 

The legislation is created by a the Joe Foss Institute.

Maybe students should be directed to learn how lobbying by large national foundations is so effective.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Armed Guards Protecting Last Male Alive

Last week while wrangling with a dicey alternator in an older model pickup truck, I encountered a couple of folks from Cosby who went far beyond being helpful. These folks went out of their way to provide aid and assistance to strangers - so much so that we had to marvel at such vivid proof of how good people can be.

It was one of those small events that makes one feel so upbeat about humanity.

And today I read of a male white rhino - one of only five alive and the last male - that's being guarded around the clock in Kenya in an effort to keep a 50 million year old species alive.

How good, on the one hand, an effort is being made to keep the critter alive. 

How sad it has come down to such action. It sounds like a short story, a rarest of the rare animals being guarded by gun-toting watchmen.The rhino horn is basically hair - wiping out a species for a hunk of hair likewise seems a made-up story, but it is not. So much for feeling hopeful about my fellow humans.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring - Time 2015

Yes, it does seem that as the intermingling social interactions via the Internet are moving faster (tweets, tags vines, InstaBabble) I might appear to be blogging slower. Time is relative you know.

This is for your benefit, dear reader. What you read here has actually been pondered and constructed to be worth a bit more than the Time it takes to read it. Such posts are certainly created by others, probably quicker too. These posts are but good things among good things. 

You, dear reader, I thank for your Time, and proffer a few Timely items below:

Spring is getting shorter, Summer is getting longer.

" ... for thousands of years, spring has been losing time in the Northern Hemisphere. This year, summer is the longest season, with 93.65 days ... As the years go on, spring will lose time to summer, and winter will lose time to autumn ..."

I am ok with this.  

This next article has some dubious sections, but a curious theory on Time could be intimated by experimentation with the Large Hadron Collider -

"The detection of miniature black holes by the Large Hadron Collider could prove the existence of parallel universes and show that the Big Bang did not happen, scientists believe."

I am far more concerned about miniature black holes than the big bang proof. And of course there are parallel universes ... aren't there?

And here, a Spring/Time movie recommendation. It's based quite closely to Robert Heinlein's "All You Zombies" and is now on DVD titled "Predestination". Very good science fiction film, without all the typical trappings. But when the Time paradoxes start to kick in, the story takes off. It begins as an almost detective story, but grows into something far more vast. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Heading Into A Digital Dark Age

One of the million or so pieces of cuneiform writing awaiting someone to decipher it.

Google V.P. Vint Cerf - often tagged as one of the Internet's founders - warned of a coming lost century since digitized information fades fast as technology and software change.

"Ancient civilizations suffered no such problems, because histories written in cuneiform on baked clay tablets, or rolled papyrus scrolls, needed only eyes to read them. To study today’s culture, future scholars would be faced with PDFs, Word documents, and hundreds of other file types that can only be interpreted with dedicated software and sometimes hardware too.

"The problem is already here. In the 1980s, it was routine to save documents on floppy disks, upload Jet Set Willy from cassette to the ZX spectrum, slaughter aliens with a Quickfire II joystick, and have Atari games cartridges in the attic. Even if the disks and cassettes are in good condition, the equipment needed to run them is mostly found only in museums.

"The rise of gaming has its own place in the story of digital culture, but Cerf warns that important political and historical documents will also be lost to bit rot. In 2005, American historian Doris Kearns Goodwin wrote Team of Rivals: the Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, describing how Lincoln hired those who ran against him for presidency. She went to libraries around the US, found the physical letters of the people involved, and reconstructed their conversations. “In today’s world those letters would be emails and the chances of finding them will be vanishingly small 100 years from now,” said Cerf."

Full article is here.

Meanwhile, some folks are thinking and working on the structure of a 10,000 year memory structure. Meet the Long Now Foundation.

History no longer belongs to those who write of it - it belongs to those who know how to archive and access it across thousands of years.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jon Stewart - The Importance of Accountability

The clearest and most sane response to the loopy, hypocritical and dangerous trends in politics and media for this century has come from Jon Stewart and The Daily Show (echoed and amplified by The Colbert Report).

I can barely imagine what our world might have become without it. The awesome weight and power of the satire provided via Stewart's company of comedians and writers was inescapable and palpable. In the stormiest of times, the calm of laughter and the presence of wisdom somehow made such storms endurable.

America has a rich history of sharp and straight shooters who called "bullshit" when it needed to be called - Mark Twain, Will Rogers, Kurt Vonnegut. 

While I hate to see Stewart step away, I know that 16 years of televising the ridiculing of the Abyss must be deeply exhausting and trying. I hope he realizes how incredibly valuable and necessary his show has been. It isn't just a job well done, it's been a vital voice on a global scale. And it's a voice that was a collaboration of writers and producers most of us will never even know.

His first Daily Show broadcast tackled the ongoing lunacy of a President Clinton impeachment hearing, and perhaps, as the Obama presidency winds down, the nation may be entering a new cycle, We all hope for less lunacy, but really, a satirist can only point the way in which we should proceed.

I salute you, sir. I thank you. I hope we remember the importance of accountability.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

In Tennessee, You Can't Discuss Health Care Reforms

It seems the first rule of the Tennessee Legislature on Health Care Reform is You Cant' Talk About Health Care Reform.

Senator and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, aka The Trickster, created a brand new temporary committee to make sure all debate, discussion, exploration, investigation and open communication on Health Care Reform died on the table before the Legislature could even consider talking about it.

"In short, Lt. Gov. Ramsey stacked the deck.  How he did it is now well known.  He created an ad hoc Health and Welfare Committee specifically for the special session that bears little resemblance to the actual Health and Welfare Committee that will meet this week and for the remainder of the legislative session.  Ramsey purposefully stacked this “extraordinary” Senate Health and Welfare Committee with six state senators who openly opposed Insure Tennessee but do not actually serve on the standing committee.  To make room for these “no” votes, Lt. Gov. Ramsey removed three healthcare professionals, as well as the bill’s Senate sponsor, from the standing committee.  Ultimately, all six of the temporary committee members voted “no” and killed the Governor’s proposal, effectively ending the special session."

The move was a parliamentary legal dodge, perhaps. The result was vividly clear: no discussion of the issue, no discussion of solutions, no open debate. 

Governor Bill 'Gee Whiz Kid' Haslam, who said he had a reform plan to consider, was quoted afterwards as saying "Gee whiz, that didn't work". (NOTE: I made that up, it's a joke, like the "vote" just held.)

6 of the 7 members on the New Committee all have state-run, subsidized health care. But talking about how the state could expand coverage for state residents - that's not allowed:

"Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga, who clashed with a Democratic Sen. Jeff Yarbro of Nashville Wednesday when Yarbro pointed out "that virtually every member of the Tennessee General Assembly receives some form of tax-subsidized health care."

"Retorted Gardenhire: "I have a very nice health care [plan] provided to me through my private employer."

"Following Wednesday's meeting, Gardenhire said in an interview he was on the state employee health plan. But he said he has never used it and relies instead on his private insurance.

"According to records provided at the request of the Times Free Press and other news organizations by the Department of Finance and Administration, other Republicans voting against Haslam's Insure Tennessee who are on the state health plan, which funds 80 percent of employee premiums, are: Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, Sen. Brian Kelsey of Germantown, Sen. Frank Niceley of Strawberry Plains, Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield and Health Committee Chairman Rusty Crowe of Johnson City.

The issue first surfaced in a Times Free Press article on Monday that pointed out 116 of 132 senators and representatives had state-government subsidized coverage..."

Friday, January 30, 2015

People Who Eat Food Are At Risk

In this week's New Yorker, a fascinating and slightly disgusting story of one man who encountered a nasty little thing called Salmonella Heidelberg - the writer also details the confusing and often self-defeating maze of food safety oversight ... some excerpts are below ...

"In September of 2013, Rick Schiller awoke in bed with his right leg throbbing. Schiller, who is in his fifties, lives in San Jose, California. He had been feeling ill all week, and, as he reached under the covers, he found his leg hot to the touch. He struggled to sit upright, then turned on a light and pulled back the sheet. “My leg was about twice the normal size, maybe even three times,” he told me. “And it was hard as a rock, and bright purple.”

"When a doctor examined his leg, she warned him that it was so swollen there was a chance it might burst. She tried to remove fluid with a needle, but nothing came out. “So she goes in with a bigger needle—nothing comes out,” Schiller said. “Then she goes in with a huge needle, like the size of a pencil lead—nothing comes out.” When the doctor tugged on the plunger, the syringe filled with a chunky, meatlike substance. “And then she gasped,” Schiller said.

"In the U.S., responsibility for food safety is divided among fifteen federal agencies. The most important, in addition to the F.S.I.S., is the Food and Drug Administration, in the Department of Health and Human Services. In theory, the line between these two should be simple: the F.S.I.S. inspects meat and poultry; the F.D.A. covers everything else. In practice, that line is hopelessly blurred. Fish are the province of the F.D.A.—except catfish, which falls under the F.S.I.S. Frozen cheese pizza is regulated by the F.D.A., but frozen pizza with slices of pepperoni is monitored by the F.S.I.S. Bagel dogs are F.D.A.; corn dogs, F.S.I.S. The skin of a link sausage is F.D.A., but the meat inside is F.S.I.S."

Who's up for some lunch?

SIDE NOTE - a never identified Tennessee correctional facility was hit with this problem in 2014, Tyson issued a recall, 15 states involved, details here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Heading For Doomsday Say Clock-Keepers

Historians could likely determine when and where humans began to ponder on The End of The World As We Know It – when folks felt some inexorable urge to hang over the heads of humanity the demise of all existence. Today, perhaps, one could sit at a keyboard and monitor and search the Internet to explore that mystery.

Fortunately, or not, for the last 70 years, Western Civilization has had a metaphorical clock to measure the approach of extinction – the dire-named Doomsday Clock.  Thursday, clock-keepers alerted us that we are now at 11:57, three minutes til midnight, aka Doomsday. It’s a two-minute leap since the last move of the clock’s hands in 2012.

I’m not sure what purpose the metaphorical timepiece serves – to insure we all accept the inevitability of our collective demise despite our actions to prolong Life? Is it to signal us, like a football game’s 2-minute warning, that the Terminal Last Call approaches so that we can … what? Hunker down? Hug loved ones close? Launch some Kal-El into the vast depths of space?

Maybe it’s akin to that school teacher warning the class that everyone will get detention unless “you straighten up and fly right, Buster?”

It is discomfiting to realize humans may actually possess both the weapons and the will to demolish humanity.

Perhaps it’s akin to those dreamy notions of Nostalgia – everything was better in Times long past, only despair and death are ahead, and the Now is merely longing and regret and dread.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Cartoons of War and Murder

via cartoonist Rob Tornoe
How odd is it that we live in a time when terror threats against a low-brow fart-joke movie ("The Interview") and the massacre of cartoonists with Charlie Hebdo in France make worldwide headlines?

Kudos to Pith In The Wind for reprinting a selection of cover cartoons from Charlie Hebdo.

Here is a link to cartoonists responding to the massacre. 

The murders in France will in fact make sure more people will see the works of Charlie Hebdo so despised by delusional extremists. Perhaps that is a victory of sorts.

(NOTE: I;m aware of the irony of this post after my previous post)