In my opinion, Earl Scruggs might as well have invented the banjo. The legend died Wednesday here in Nashville at 88. Here's a favorite from an overlooked record by his band the Earl Scruggs Revue. R.I.P.
Archives for March, 2012
Both the actual situation at the No. 2 Fukushima reactor and the news of the massive coverup that went with it? It just keeps getting worse:
TOKYO (AP) — One of Japan's crippled nuclear reactors still has fatally high radiation levels and hardly any water to cool it, according to an internal examination Tuesday that renews doubts about the plant's stability.
A tool equipped with a tiny video camera, a thermometer, a dosimeter and a water gauge was used to assess damage inside the No. 2 reactor's containment chamber for the second time since the tsunami swept into the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant a year ago. The probe done in January failed to find the water surface and provided only images showing steam, unidentified parts and rusty metal surfaces scarred by exposure to radiation, heat and humidity.
The data collected from the probes showed the damage from the disaster was so severe, the plant operator will have to develop special equipment and technology to tolerate the harsh environment and decommission the plant, a process expected to last decades.
Tuesday's examination with an industrial endoscope detected radiation levels up to 10 times the fatal dose inside the chamber. Plant officials previously said more than half of melted fuel has breached the core and dropped to the floor of the primary containment vessel, some of it splashing against the wall or the floor.
Particles from melted fuel have probably sent radiation levels up to dangerously high 70 sieverts per hour inside the container, said Junichi Matsumoto, spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co.
"It's extremely high," he said, adding that an endoscope would last only 14 hours in that condition. "We have to develop equipment that can tolerate high radiation" when locating and removing melted fuel during the decommissioning.
The probe also found the containment vessel — a beaker-shaped container enclosing the core — had cooling water up to only 60 centimeters (2 feet) from the bottom, far below the 10 meters (yards) estimated when the government declared the plant stable in December.
And this related story is just astounding: The local government deleted the radiation dispersion data? That's worse than insane, it's criminal negligence:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Tuesday insisted that President Barack Obama's health care reform law should be overturned and that people with preexisting conditions should be denied coverage if they had never had insurance before.
During an appearance on NBC's Tonight Show, host Jay Leno told Romney that he knew people that had never been able to get insurance before "Obamacare" was passed.
"It seems to me like children and people with preexisting conditions should be covered," Leno noted.
"People with preexisting conditions — as long as they’ve been insured before, they’re going to continue to have insurance," Romney explained.
"Suppose they were never insured?" Leno asked.
"Well, if they’re 45 years old, and they show up, and they say, I want insurance, because I’ve got a heart disease, it’s like, `Hey guys, we can’t play the game like that. You’ve got to get insurance when you’re well, and if you get ill, then you’re going to be covered,'" Romney replied.
"I know guys that work in the auto industry and they're just not covered because they work in brake dust," Leno pressed. "And then they get to be 30, 35, and were never able to get insurance before. Now they have it. That seems like a good thing."
"But people who have had the chance to be insured — if you’re working in an auto business for instance, the companies carry insurance, they insure all their employees — you look at the circumstances that exist," the candidate explained. "But you don’t want everyone saying, `I’m going to sit back until I get sick and then go buy insurance.’ That doesn’t make sense. But you have to find rules that get people in that are playing by the rules."
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent pointed out that by passing health insurance mandates in Massachusetts, Romney had acknowledged that people should get coverage when they are well, but he had since moved further to the right in an effort to win the GOP presidential primary.
"So he’s forced to give a nonsensical answer to the core policy and moral question that’s left behind if we do away with Obamacare: What should the federal government do about those who can’t get insurance covarge, thanks to preexisting conditions?" Sargent wrote.
"Until Romney details otherwise, his answer, for all practical purposes, is: Nothing."
Mine was changed by about five great teachers. I write today because I had an English teacher who expected the very best I could give when I was 17 years old. Mr. Johnson didn't give anyone an A on their essay, ever. You counted yourself lucky to get a D. If you got a D, you didn't have to rewrite it unless you wanted to. Anything lower than that meant a full rewrite with many scathing comments. We hated it and we hated his droll method of teaching then, but my Facebook friends and I agree now that he was probably one of the most influential teachers we had.
Oh, and he was a union guy. All our teachers were. But that was before the days of Proposition 13, when teachers were paid to be good teachers and not produce standardized test results, though I also credit Mr. Johnson's coaching with passing AP test results that year. After Proposition 13 and in the years since, the trend is to turn education over to the profiteers via charter schools and online learning, all in the name of "budget savings."
The skills Mr. Johnson taught me cannot be measured by standardized tests and value-added evaluations.
Mr. Johnson is long-retired. I don't know if he's still alive, even. But I do know that if we keep going the way of charter schools and vouchers, the Mr. Johnsons of this world won't spend their time teaching. You'd have to be insane to do that. He was a lot of things, but he wasn't insane.
Diane Ravitch's column in today's Washington Post paints a picture of our education system that should concern us all, whether or not we have kids. Yes, this is something I have to remind my neighbors about when they complain that they have no children yet pay taxes for education. An educated society is a prosperous one. We all benefit from educating children, even children of undocumented workers.
Governors and state legislatures heed these messages. How could they not? In state after state, men with vast personal fortunes invest in campaigns to end teachers' tenure, end seniority (now called Last In, First Out, or LIFO), and clear the way for private takeovers of public schools, where teachers work with no job rights at all. Understandably, the message is embraced by right-wing governors like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, John Kasich of Ohio, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, and Rick Scott of Florida, but also by Democratic governors like Andrew Cuomo of New York and Daniel Malloy of Connecticut, as well as independent Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, the richest foundation in the United States, the Gates Foundation, pours hundreds of millions of dollars into a project to find the perfect teacher evaluation system, thus reinforcing the "reform" narrative that the best way to fix what ails public education is to create a foolproof way to find and fire those malingering bad teachers. Where the Gates Foundation leads, many other foundations follow, sure that this philanthropic behemoth is wisest because it has the most money and presumably the best thinking.
The one thing Ravitch didn't mention that I wish she had? The alliance Gates and ALEC have forged, which is directly related to the goals of these right-wing governors. Remember, this is the purpose of their $300,000+ grant to ALEC:
Since March 29th was a Sunday in 1987, today's installment covers the entire week in that rather scandal plagued year.
Starting with news that PTL Club televangelist Jim Bakker resigned his position with the "church" over alleged sex scandals involving an assistant. Bakker was quick to blame fellow Bible thumper Jimmy Swaggart for spreading the dirt around as part of a plot of overtake Bakker's ministry and promised to spread some dirt of his own on Swaggart. Those wacky Evangelicals.
The ensuing defecation storm involved, not only Swaggart but Jerry Falwell and figures from The Moral Majority who characterized the seedy goings-on as attributed to "sex, money and power: The Unholy Trinity". Falwell would take over the PTL Club temporarily while the Bakker's aired tons of dirty laundry in public.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone by theatrics from the PTL kids, the Inimitable Oral Roberts announced he was told by God to "raise $8 milllion" or "be called home" by March 31st. Roberts gleefully announced around the first of the week that, yep, he raised the money via a $1.3million check given by a race track owner and that he wasn't going to go anywhere. Further evidence God has a sense of humor, but what kind, remains to be seen.
And over on Capitol Hill - President Reagan ventured out from the soothing climes of K Street, his first since November, and visited a grade school in the Mid-West and later addressed a Governor's Conference where he loudly committed to "making sure Education in America was the best in the world". He also vetoed the 65 mph Highway Bill before he left town.
Over at SCOTUS - a blow was struck for Affirmative Action in upholding a lawsuit brought about by a male employee who was passed over in preference for a Female employee, which Reagan loudly voiced disapproval over. And it was ruled Baseball Team owners did not have to share revenue from Broadcast rights with Team members.
In Beirut Lebanon, a video was released showing two kidnapped American teachers being held in exchange for PLO members being held in Israeli prisons. No dice, at least for the time being.
The FDA finally approved the drug AZT for fighting the effects of the AIDS virus. Still, a cure for the disease wasn't expected to be found until "sometime by the end of the century". Still waiting.
Alexander Haig announced his intentions to run for the Presidency on the Republican ticket in 1988.
And "Music Man" icon/actor Robert Preston died. And Dean Paul Martin, son of Dean Martin, was killed in a military plane accident.
What a week.
Target's anti-union propaganda video uses unionized actors
The United Food and Commercial Workers have launched a campaign to save the jobs of workers at the Valley Stream Target in New York, who are being laid off for six months in an attempt to kill discussions about the workers forming a union. UFCW is calling on federal regulators to step in and stop the closing of the store.
Workers at the Target in Valley Stream, N.Y., did a very brave thing last year: they exercised their constitutionally protected right to come together to talk about the issues they face at work and what they could do to improve their jobs for themselves, their families, and their community.
Target responded to these workers' initiative in a sadly typical way - waging a vicious campaign to scare the workers away from joining together as members of UFCW Local 1500. The company's tactics ultimately derailed last year's election at Valley Stream - and those tactics are currently being investigated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which could decide to call for a new election with fairer conditions.
But now Target has sunk to a new low. The company announced plans to close the Valley Stream store for six months - a move that seems designed to put an end to the workers’ campaign to join together to improve their jobs.
Target is targeting these workers, singling them out, and trying to prevent the possibility of a second, fairer election. It's a shameful strategy, and one that takes aim at a core American value: the right to stick together on the job. We can't stand for such a bald-faced attack on the basic rights of working people.
UFCW is asking supporters of working families to contact Greg Steinhafel, the Target CEO:
Workers at the Valley Stream Target in New York have been exercising their constitutionally protected right to come together to talk about the issues they face at work and what they could do to improve their jobs for themselves, their families, and their community.
Target has done everything it can to try to squash these workers rights, and now the company has sunk to a new low: its planning to close the store during a crucial time when workers could be given the chance for a second, fairer union election.
I am outraged by this bald-faced attack on the rights of working people and urge Target to keep the Valley Stream store open.
Martin Bashir Show, MSNBC, December 30, 2011
Rep. Jim Cooper of the state of Tennessee is trying to raise his exposure by going after the low-hanging fruit of Congress' dismal approval ratings and offering up what sounds like some common sense incentives for Congress to clean up their acts. Ultimately, it's just pretty words about withholding pay until they do their job, because anyone with a lick of sense knows that none of this will ever be even considered by Congress, who will NEVER vote to not get paid.
But I have a suggestion for Jim Cooper if he'd like to see congressional job approval numbers go up: STOP THREATENING MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY.
A bipartisan budget plan to cut the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years with a mix of new tax revenues and spending cuts across the federal budget is headed for a House vote, but it is likely to be rejected by Republicans against higher hikes and Democrats opposed to curbs on Medicare and Social Security benefits.
The proposal by Reps. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., is modeled after a much-praised plan by the co-chairmen of President Barack Obama’s 2010 deficit-reduction commission.[..]
“It has real entitlement reform and real revenues,” Cooper said in an interview. “And those are two essential elements of any viable budget. It’s shared sacrifice. Everyone is asked to help make our country stronger, and that’s why it’s bipartisan.”
But it’s those curbs on so-called entitlement programs — which include Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security — that seem likely to limit Democratic support, just as most Republicans will recoil from the measure’s proposed tax increases.
Entitlement programs, Rep. Cooper? ENTITLEMENTS? No, you traitor to Democratic values, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are part of our social safety net, they are EARNED BENEFITS. Stop adopting these horrible Luntz-created talking points. You want to "fix" Social Security? Remove the cap. Done. Controlling costs rather than cutting benefits would go a long way toward "saving" Medicare. But we're not having those conversations. Why? Because alleged Democrats like Jim Cooper (who is running for re-election essentially unopposed) are eager to grab the too-embarrassed-to-admit-they're-Republican No Labels talking points on 'bipartisanship' and ignore what Americans want entirely. Solutions that don't penalize those who can afford it the least are never even brought to the table.
Added Cooper, “If we had a secret ballot, Simpson-Bowles would pass overwhelmingly.”
Did you catch that? Cooper just admitted that that those pesky voters holding him accountable for his vote keep him and other congresspeople from passing Simpson-Bowles. Damn, it's hard selling out your constituents these days.
If you'd like to remind Jim Cooper that he was elected to represent his constituents as an actual Democrat, not kiss up to destructive Republican policies, you can leave a message here on his Facebook page, or via his contact page here. He won't accept emails from non-district people, but his phone and fax numbers are at the bottom of the page.
A man who spent part of his childhood working as a janitor told Newt Gingrich on Wednesday that he was offended by the Republican presidential candidate's plan to put kids to work.
During an event at Georgetown University, Hector Cendejas called out the former House Speaker for his initiative to replace unionized janitors with children workers.
"Back in high school, I was a janitor in my own high school, which was a private school," Cendejas explained. "For me, it was embarrassing to be a janitor at my own high school because I was with the rich kids. I was poor. My mom was working super hard. I did not feel empowered by serving my classmates. Why not invest on these kids to work for law firms, hospitals and get paid to develop better skills?"
"Did you find it useful financially to earn the money?" Gingrich asked the man.
"I mean, I need to help my mom," Cendejas replied, adding that his parents were undocumented. "Thank God I had Georgetown to save my butt, you know? ... All my friends, they’re pregnant, they’re in gangs, in jail, and we did the same job, working as janitors. So for me, your remark was a little offensive towards me."
"I'm sorry if you were offended," Gingrich quipped. "Both of my daughters worked as janitors at the local Baptist Church and they earned the money and they didn't think it was demeaning, and they actually liked the idea that they earned their own money as kids, and they kept their own money because they thought work had inherent dignity."
"But they come from a wealthy family," Cendejas pointed out.
"That's not the point," the candidate shrugged. "You and I just disagree."
Gingrich first proposed replacing unionized janitors with children during a talk at Harvard's Kennedy School in November.
He later told a crowd in Iowa that poor children were basically lazy.
"Really poor children, in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works so they have no habit of showing up on Monday," the Georgia Republican insisted. "They have no habit of staying all day, they have no habit of I do this and you give me cash, unless it is illegal."
Speaking to supporters in South Carolina in December, Gingrich suggested that children as young as five could get "an education in life" by working.
The candidate has actually put his idea in motion by getting business mogul Donald Trump to agree to employee at least 10 poor children as “apprentices.”
I was glad to see Chris Matthews finally get some push back about the fact that he regularly allows someone like Tony Perkins on his show, Hardball, on MSNBC. I've got a long list of other guests you could put right behind Perkins' name as well.
Confronted by Faithful America members challenging his pattern of inviting hate group leader Tony Perkins on Hardball, Chris Matthews responded by attacking his critics, falsely claiming that Perkins has never "pulled that homophobic stuff on my show," and insisting that "every time he's on he's challenged."
But when challenged further on the fact that Matthews's invitations to Perkins legitimize the hateful lies he tells in other contexts, Matthews doesn't have a good answer and admits "you may be right."
h/t Pam Spaulding
As a woman who was raped at gunpoint in my own home when I was in my twenties, and shot at while escaping from another would-be rapist a couple of years later, then endured an abusive relationship just to round out the nightmare, I could relate very well to Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin), who stood up on the floor of the House of Representatives and recounted her personal experiences of child molestation and of being raped as an adult — a rape that resulted in pregnancy and her now 40-something-year-old son — as part of a Democratic message to the GOP regarding the Republican “war on women.” I suspect there are a good many American women who can also unfortunately identify with Rep. Moore.
Once upon a time, the Violence Against Women Act had bipartisan support, but as the Republican Party continues to devolve into rightwing extremism, Republicans like Rep. Bob Turner (R – NY) — a good pal of Rush Limbaugh, and instrumental in getting the conservative talk show host his own television program back when Turner was a television executive — voted against renewing the Violence Against Women Act. What a surprise.
But lest we think it’s all the fault of rich fat white men, the GOP has lost no time in trotting out their angry mama grizzlies to support the backlash against women and minorities in general. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) the only woman in the GOP leadership, called Rep. Moore’s statements on the House floor a “distraction,” and accused Democrats of “manufacturing this war on women because the Democrats know that the Republicans won the women's vote in 2010.” Her colleague, Rep Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee) managed to expand the rhetoric to include anything the current administration supports. “Whether it is spending, whether it is the cost of your health insurance, whether it is the price at the pump, this administration is too expensive to afford.” Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming) even managed to shoehorn a few sacred catchwords into the mix, evoking “moms of America” who want “freedom for themselves and their kids” ... whatever that means.
One might think that anyone with a mother, or a sister, or a daughter, or an aunt — which is to say most of the human race — would find state agencies, rape crisis centers, and organizations that provide services to vulnerable women to keep them safe and alive, to be something laudable. Something worth funding and fighting for. Something that transcends political affiliation. Apparently, not Republicans. They don’t give a flying Fox about women.