The Tennessean has a story about Chuck Mangino, who wants to stop tornadoes by shooting masers (which are like lasers, but use microwaves instead of light) ahead of the funnel clouds in order to disrupt their formation.
Listen, I think it's sweet and awesome of Mangino to want to help, and YouTube is certainly a good place to take your ideas to the public. But why did The Tennessean run this story without even finding out if it's plausible in the first place? I mean, if I put up a YouTube video saying that I was going to stop tornadoes by flinging unicorns into the funnels and 2,000 people watched it, would The Tennessean run a story about it? Can we not count on the paper to verify whether unicorns actually exist before touting my tornado-stopping unicorn plan?
Which brings me to masers. Yes, The Tennessean called a few people to try to find out if this was plausible:
A Tennessee State University professor declined comment on the video. One from Middle Tennessee State University didn't return a voicemail or emails.
“This isn’t something I’ve heard of and not something the National Weather Service is involved in,” said Nashville-based meteorologist James LaRosa. “We’re more into modeling and forecasting instead of disrupting.”
The Tennessean did not, though, google masers. If they had, they would have found that masers have been in the news a lot lately, because it was less than a year ago — in fact more recently than Mangino made his video — that a maser that could operate at room temperature (and not only at near absolute zero) was invented.
You know when you're playing euchre and one of your opponents leads the hand with the right bower? You know that's to flush out whatever other trump cards people have. The smart play is to throw the lowest trump card. And, sure, sometimes, your lowest trump card is the left bower — the second highest card in the deck. If you have to throw it, you have to throw it.
But if you've played euchre long enough, you know there's always some doofus who will throw that left bower and then sit back in his or her chair, triumphantly. And then you all have to sit there uncomfortably waiting for him or her to remember that hearts is trump this hand, not diamonds, and so that jack of diamonds can't take the jack of hearts.
Sadly, it turns out that Tennessee Congressman Stephen Fincher is our doofus. In the great euchre game of politics, he threw the left bower when the right bower was already on the table and he doesn't seem to realize it.
During contentious debate over the Farm Bill, which funds food stamps, in the House Agriculture Committee, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-Calif., invoked the Book of Matthew as he noted his opposition to the cuts.
“[Jesus] says how you treat the least among us, the least of our brothers, that’s how you treat him,” Vargas, adding that Jesus specifically mentions the importance of feeding the hungry.
Republican Congressman Stephen Fincher of Tennessee, who supports cuts to the program, had his own Bible verse from the Book of Thessalonians to quote back to Vargas: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat,” he said.
On Sunday, Tom Humphrey was talking about how Gov. Haslam is growing testy with the press.
Things haven't been going all that well for Gov. Bill Haslam's administration lately on the media attention front, so maybe it was understandable that he expressed irritation last week when asked about ties to an East Tennessee developer who benefited from recently passed legislation.
"I want to say something: You all's job is to ask questions, but it's also your job to get the answer right," he lectured reporters in the course of explaining why he is without fault in the situation. "Quite frankly, I think it's a disservice when people imply something's wrong when they know there's nothing wrong."
Humphrey goes on to point out that, of course, Haslam is trying to run the state like a business, "which must protect its secrets to be competitive in the free market. States compete with other states, you know."
So there's the contradiction of Haslam's administration — the media is somehow supposed to know when they have things wrong, but the governor thinks it's important for him to keep secrets. But you can't have it both ways. If you want people to know what's what, you can't keep it secret from them.
The trial and conviction of Kermit Gosnell does not prove that abortions should be illegal. After all, what Gosnell did was illegal and, as William Saletan points out, people like him are extremely rare:
If you go to the CDC’s Wonder database and plug in code P96.4, you’ll find that in 2010, the total number of deaths linked to this condition (“termination of pregnancy, newborn”) was 30. In 2009, it was 42. In 2008, it was 33. In 2007, it was 30. In most of these cases, the fetus had gestated less than 24 weeks—not enough to survive outside the womb. How many of the coded deaths were fetuses 24 weeks along or more? The database shows five in 2007, seven in 2008, and six in 2009.*
When you take into account the percentage of deaths in this group that were also attributed to other factors such as “neonatal cardiac dysrhythmia” or “hypoxic schemic encephalopathy” — roughly 50 to 90 percent — we’re probably talking about two to three cases a year in which the death of a post-viability baby was attributed solely to abortion. And we have no idea from the records whether these abortions were done to save the woman’s life.
But nor does his case "prove" what would become the norm if abortions were illegal. Both sides of the abortion debate act as if Gosnell is just an abortion doctor and we just have to decide if he's the norm now or would be the norm if access becomes more difficult. Both sides are wrong.
Kermit Gosnell is a serial killer. Trying to make public policy based on the actions of a serial killer is foolish. There aren't that many of them. How serial killers act tells us nothing about how the majority of people who have superficially similar traits to them. The BTK Killer was a Boy Scout leader. Should we pass policy treating all Boy Scout leaders like murderers? Or, on account of Ted Bundy, should we make it illegal for good looking men to date, since any one of them might be a danger to women? Or should we ban 20-somethings from living together because of Charles Manson?
Yes, Atlanta Atlanta. The one in Georgia. Yes, I know, who doesn't think of "rednecks" when they think of the home of Emory University and CNN and a $304 billion dollar economy and Outkast and fantastic gay bars and unusual strip clubs? I know the first thing that pops into my head when I hear about a majority African-American city is "Gee, I bet a lot of rednecks live there." I know the list is supposed to be funny, but the biggest laugh has got to be the unintended humor of declaring Atlanta the top redneck spot in the country.
There are other laughs — like Nashville being fourth on the list. I mean, I get it. Our being the new "It City" is annoying. But there's something kind of ugly and pathetic about deciding to knock us down a peg or two by pulling out that old, "Oh, they're all hick bigots down there" slander. Not that Grigson is owning up to calling us hick bigots. No, she's just calling us "rednecks" in jest: "Now, I don’t use this term negatively at all. In fact, thanks to Jeff Foxworthy with his hundreds of 'you might be a redneck' jokes, the term has been adopted fondly, proudly, by these tobaccie-spittin’ folk."
No wonder State Rep. Andy "The Ag Gagger" Holt wants to make it harder for people to gather evidence of rule-breaking at Tennessee farms. In The City Paper, Andrea Zelinski reports that Holt's own record of compliance as a farmer gives off a whiff of the barnyard:
In February 2011, a water compliance inspection report also found: annual manure nutrient analysis was not being conducted according to agency rules; annual reports were not being submitted to the Division of Water Pollution Control; livestock were grazing in the production area and contaminating storm water; mortality management practices used didn’t comply with the nutrient management plan; ground conditions were not properly documented during weekly storm water inspections nor had subsequent repairs or corrective actions been accomplished; a written report about a discharge that took place in February was incomplete and nine days late; and a site-specific nutrient management plan needed to be rewritten. The department then gave him a list of tasks to complete by June 1, 2011, to earn a permit.
About a year later, he still lacked a permit. TDEC received an anonymous complaint in March 2012 from a local resident that someone had sprayed animal waste on trees on her property, according to agency officials who found the accusation during a search related to Holt’s address. The Department of Agriculture and TDEC investigated the complaint almost three weeks later and found no direct evidence to back up the allegation.
The Division of Water Resources penned another letter to Holt in November 2012, telling him his application for a new permit was still incomplete and furnishing him a checklist of tasks. “Note that if you do not submit a complete permit application and obtain coverage under a CAFO permit you may be subject to enforcement action,” read the letter by Marshall.
Regardless of him running behind on regulations on his farm, Holt said the attention needs to be on getting livestock abuse reported quickly.
This is not the best part of the story. I only quoted it to show you the magnitude of Holt's failure to do his job as a farmer and to follow the law. No, the best part is when he insists, "It’s our intention to be law abiding."
The Middle Tennessee Council of the Boy Scouts of America announced on Tuesday that it won't support a proposed policy change that would let gay Scouts not have to lie in order to be Boy Scouts. Why do the Boy Scouts continue to oppress gay scouts? Is it because Lee Beaman serves on the Board and one of his hobbies is giving money to anti-gay initiatives?
No, according to the story in The Tennessean, it's because:
“Sexuality’s not a part of our program,” [Hugh Travis, Scout executive for the Middle Tennessee Council] said. “The parents in Middle Tennessee have said to us, ‘Don’t bring it into scouting.’”
This isn't true, of course. Some displays of sexuality are entirely welcome by the Middle Tennessee Council — treated as ordinary, even. See this banner from their website and note the shiny spots on the ring fingers of their left hands:
This isn't a problem. If you're affiliated with Scouting, you can flaunt your heterosexuality all you want. If you're gay, you need to lie about it and hide it. This puts gay Scouts in an untenable position — in order to be a part of an organization that stresses, "to live your life with honesty," you have to lie. Travis says as much: "That current policy is a don’t ask don’t tell policy and that’s what we’ve been operating under for 103 years."
Of course, if you're straight, it's totally fine for people to ask about your loved ones and for you to tell them. It's just the gay people who can't share an important and natural component of their lives.
Over at The City Paper, Andrea Zelinski has an eyebrow-raising story about the seeming end of the Tennessee Republican Caucus.
The decision to halt fundraising for the House and Senate’s “Tennessee Republican Caucus” political fundraising account, as first reported by the Tennessee Journal, serves as evidence of a shift among GOP members who rule the legislature with supermajorities.
"The Senate made a decision to end the joint fundraising efforts. That decision is fine with the House,” Harwell said in a statement to The City Paper late Friday. “I have a good working relationship with the lieutenant governor and all members of the state Senate and look forward to working with them on other projects."
This is just the latest in a series of squabbles that have revealed the weaknesses of the Republican coalition in this state. The truth would seem to be that after spending 150 years fighting to get into power, Republicans don't seem to have a good handle on how to keep power without fighting. If no one is the bad guy who needs to be defeated, where does their political momentum come from?
Apparently from inventing bad guys and doing onto each other as they were so tired of the Democrats doing unto them.
Let me just remind you of Scott DesJarlais' firearms history. From the Tennessean:
Susan DesJarlais said her then-husband had held the gun in his mouth after finding out his mistress had become pregnant.
“He stuck a gun in his mouth and almost killed himself,” she testified. “You don’t think that he was upset?”
DesJarlais explained in court proceedings that he wasn’t considering killing himself.
“It was never a loaded gun. It was never a suicide attempt,” he said. “It was an attention-seeking act.”
He also denied that he dry-fired a revolver outside the locked room.
“I opened the gun up. It is a revolver. And when you open it and turn it, it clicks. I wanted to make sure it was not loaded, and it was not loaded,” he said. “I’m assuming that was the sound she heard.”
There's no reason to doubt Rep. DesJarlais' wife's account. But, if, for some reason, Scott DesJarlais was telling the truth about his use of guns, he's still a guy who disregards the first rule of gun ownership — treat every gun as if it's loaded — and puts a gun in his mouth in order to get attention and has his gun out when fighting with his wife.
This is not responsible gun ownership. This is the kind of gun ownership that could have very easily ended up with someone getting shot. You'd think that after having this kind of incident — finding himself eating his gun — DesJarlais would be like the guy who lost his life savings at the carnival and never gamble again.
So, a bunch of Tennessee lawmakers are going to Turkey on the dime of the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians. This seems like a fine idea to me. I only wish the trip had been earlier in the year.
But one thing did strike me as curious. Here's the list News Channel 5 has of participating legislators:
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville; Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown; Rep. Vance Dennis, R-Savannah; Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville; Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis; Rep. Joe Towns, D-Memphis; Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis; and Terri Lynn Weaver.
One name there stands out — Vance Dennis.
Vance Dennis was the sponsor of HB 3768, now Public Chapter Number 983. You don't remember HB 3768? Well, it was hilarious. It stated in part that:
any otherwise enforceable contract which incorporates any substantive or procedural law, legal code or legal system of another state, foreign jurisdiction or foreign country that would violate rights and privileges granted under the United States or Tennessee Constitution is declared to be against public policy of this state and is unenforceable in this state
In other words, any contract that is unconstitutional is unenforceable. Our genius state legislators thought we needed a law that says that. It may be just an unfounded rumor, but I hear that bill was actually drafted in the Department of Redundancy Department.
Why did we need a law making illegal things illegal? Let's let the conspiracy-minded Tennessee Eagle Forum tell you all about it:
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