Allison Kilkenny: Unreported

Does Your State Forbid Atheists From Holding Public Office?

Posted in atheism, politics, religion, Texas by allisonkilkenny on February 18, 2009

Pharyngula

the-atheist-eIt’s an ugly little open secret that Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas have constitutions that explicitly forbid atheists from holding state office. These laws are archaic and unenforceable in principle — they were all ruled unconstitutional in 1961 — but of course they’re still in effect across all 50 states in practice, since public opinion makes it almost impossible for an atheist to get elected to high office.

Now, though, a representative in Arkansas has submitted a bill to amend the Arkansas constitution and remove the prohibition of atheists. This could get very interesting, or it might not. If the Arkansas legislature does the sensible thing and simply and efficiently removes an old law that can’t be enforced anyway, I will be pleased, but there won’t be much drama.

Since when are legislatures sensible, however? I can imagine indignant Christians defending an unconstitutional law and insisting that it be kept on the books as a token of their contempt. It is an awkward situation for the Christianist yahoos, because their constituencies might get inflamed, but on other hand, do they really want to go on record defending the indefensible?

I’m looking forward to it, and kudos to Rep. Richard Carroll of North Little Rock for poking a stick into this nest of snakes and stirring it up.

Pictures and Video of Tennessee Coal Spill Disaster

Posted in coal, environment by allisonkilkenny on December 30, 2008

TVA Coal is Killing Tennessee

CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEOS
(more…)

Toxic Spill in Tennessee

Posted in environment by allisonkilkenny on December 24, 2008

MCM

tennesseeThe Tennessee Valley Authority, better known as TVA, has a coal-burning power plant located near Harriman, Tennessee, along Interstate 40between Knoxville and Nashville. The stuff that is left over after TVA burns their coal is called coal ash.
 
Coal ash contains mercury and dangerous heavy metals like lead and arsenic – materials found naturally in coal are concentrated in the ash.TVA has a huge mountain of this coal waste material stored in a gigantic pile next to their Harriman (Kingston) power plant, alongside a tributary of the Tennessee River.On Monday morning Dec. 22 around 1:00 am, the earthen retaining wall around this mountain of coal ash failed and approximately 500 million gallons of nasty black coal ash flowed into tributaries of the Tennessee River – the water supply for Chattanooga TN and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
 
This Tennessee TVA spill is over 40 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska, if local news accounts are correct.
UPDATE (CNN)
 
A wall holding back 80 acres of sludge from a coal plant in central Tennessee broke this week, spilling more than 500 million gallons of waste into the surrounding area.
 

Environmental Protection Agency officials are on the scene and expect the cleanup to to take four to six weeks.

The sludge, a byproduct of ash from coal combustion, was contained at a retention site at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s power plant in Kingston, about 40 miles east of Knoxville, agency officials said.

The retention wall breached early Monday, sending the sludge downhill and damaging 15 homes. All the residents were evacuated, and three homes were deemed uninhabitable, a TVA spokesman told CNN.

The plant sits on a tributary of the Tennessee River called the Clinch River.

“We deeply regret that a retention wall for ash containment at our Kingston Fossil Plant failed, resulting in an ash slide and damage to nearby homes,” TVA said in a statement released Tuesday.

TVA spokesman Gil Francis told CNN that up to 400 acres of land had been coated by the sludge, a bigger area than the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Video footage showed sludge as high as 6 feet, burying porches and garage doors. The slide also downed nearby power lines, though the TVA said power had been restored to the area.

Francis said Environmental Protection Agency officials were on the scene and estimated the cleanup could take four to six weeks.

Some of the goop spilled into the tributary, but preliminary water quality tests show that the drinking water at a nearby treatment plant meets standards.

“I don’t want to drink it. It doesn’t look healthy to me,” Jody Miles, who fishes in the Clinch River, told CNN affiliate WBIR. “Do you reckon they can bring all this life back that’s going to die from all this mess?”

Still, there is the potential for more sludge to enter the water supply through waste runoff.

“We’re taking steps to stabilize runoff from this incident,” Francis said.

Although video from the scene shows dead fish on the banks of the tributary, he said that “in terms of toxicity, until an analysis comes in, you can’t call it toxic.”

One environmental attorney called that statement “irresponsible.” The ash that gives sludge its thick, pudding-like consistency in this case is known as fly ash, which results from the combustion of coal.

Fly ash contains concentrated amounts of mercury, arsenic and benzine, said Chandra Taylor, staff attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“These things are naturally occurring, but they concentrate in the burning process and the residual is more toxic than it starts,” she told CNN.

Appalachian environmentalists compared the mess with another spill eight years ago in eastern Kentucky, where the bottom of a coal sludge impoundment owned by Massey Energy broke into an abandoned underground mine, oozing more than 300 million gallons of coal waste into tributaries.

The water supply for more than 25,000 residents was contaminated, and aquatic life in the area perished. It took months to clean up the spill.

“If the estimates are correct, this spill is one and a half times bigger,” said Dave Cooper, an environmental advocate with the Mountaintop Removal Road Show, a traveling program that explains the effect of an extreme form of mining.

While the full scope of the TVA spill is being determined, coal critics are already concerned about its long-term effects.

Cleaning up the mess, which could fill nearly 800 Olympic-size swimming pools, could take months or years, Taylor said.

“We’re very concerned about how long it’s going to take” to clean the spill, she told CNN.

Cooper agreed, saying, “It’s 4, 5 feet deep. How are you going to scoop it up? Where are you going to put it?

 

Vote-flipping in Tennessee

Posted in voter disenfranchisement by allisonkilkenny on October 20, 2008

From MCM:

Mark,

My wife, Patricia Earnhardt, had an early voting experience here in Nashville, Tennessee, where she saw her vote momentarily flip from Barack Obama to Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney.  She voted on a touch-screen paperless machine.  Here is her story:

 

“A poll worker directed me to a touch screen voting machine & instructed me how to use it.  I touched “Obama” for president & nothing lit up.  I touched 2 or 3 more times & still nothing lit up. I called the poll worker back over to tell him I was having a problem. He said I just needed to touch it more lightly.  I tried it 2 or 3 more times more lightly with the poll worker watching & still nothing lit up.  The poll worker then touched it for me twice — nothing lit up.  The third time he touched the Obama button, the Cynthia McKinney space lit up!  The McKinney button was located five rows below the Obama button.  The poll worker just kind of laughed and cancelled the vote.  He hit the Obama button again & it finally lit up.  I continued on to cast the rest of my votes.  After completing the process & reviewing my votes, I went to the VOTE page, hit the VOTE button & nothing happened.  Again after several tries, I called the poll worker over & he finally got the machine to register my votes. Hurray! I voted!–or did I?  I left the polling place feeling uncertain.”  

-Patricia Earnhardt – Friday, Oct. 17 – Howard School Building – Nashville, Tennessee

 

I also had similar problems with the machine I was voting on that same day, although no vote flipping.  I would touch the screen numerous times before I could get my various candidate choices to light up.  It was strange and very frustrating.  When I finally got through my slate of candidate choices, I could not get the VOTE button to light up when I touched it.  I finally called over a poll worker and he told me that I needed to touch lightly. I touched the VOTE button more lightly, but was only able to get it to work after several more failed attempts.

 

David Earnhardt
Producer/director/writer, “Uncounted”
www.UncountedTheMovie.com