Category Archives: Sen. Bob Corker

>Quit Yer Whining Sen. Corker

>I’m trying to understand why Tennessee’s Sen. Bob Corker is blaming President Obama for his own failure to get the Republican Party on board with financial reform.

Just two months ago Corker was complaining about how his Republican colleagues refused to participate in the process:

GOP Senator Bob Corker was emphatic on Wednesday that Republicans missed a big opportunity to influence what is perhaps the most ambitious financial reform bill to pass through the Senate since the Great Depression.

Republicans declined to offer any amendments during Monday’s scheduled mark-up of the bill, choosing instead to vote against sending the legislation to the Senate floor strictly along party lines. It passed out of the Senate Banking Committee with 13 Democrats in favor and 10 Republicans opposed.

So, sorry, but exactly who is to blame for the lack of bipartisanship here?

I think it’s all theater. I think Corker got his hand slapped by the Republican Party for daring to speak the truth two months ago. I think Republicans are worried that this “party of no” stuff is starting to stick, so instead they hope that by screaming ever louder that there’s no bipartisanship, people won’t notice that they’re just sitting on their hands. Tennessee’s junior Senator may have voiced initial opposition to this obstructionist game, but now appears only too happy to play along. I wonder what happened?

In April Yglesias wrote:

Corker is exactly right about this. Chris Dodd’s bill, as written, would make bailouts less likely not more likely. But Corker is also correct that there are a lot of doubts as to exactly how much punch it really packs. This is a concern that responsible Senators should actually look at and try to address, rather than just fling around vaguely as a cover for the fact that they don’t want banks to be regulated at all. But will Corker stand his ground on this, or will he follow the lead of so many of his past colleagues and end up giving in to Rush/Fox/Tea Party pressure to simply obstruct?

Well I guess we have the answer to that question.


Filed under Sen. Bob Corker

>Corker Looks Out For His Loan Shark Buddy

>Who’s looking out for you? Not Sen. Bob Corker, who is charged with using his position on the Senate Banking Committee to protect his good buddy W. Allan Jones, founder of Check Into Cash, one of those usurious payday lending chains that suck financially strapped people in with false promises, then keep them in debt forever by charging outrageous fees and interest rates as high as 400%.

TPM reports:

Lately, Congress has been mulling how to structure a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency (CFPA), so as to avoid a repeat of the financial crisis. And reform advocates have argued that increased regulation of pay-day lenders is an essential piece of the puzzle. But after lobbying by an industry group that Jones helped establish, Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) acted to thwart the new agency’s ability to effectively monitor Jones’s industry.


There, Corker reportedly has weakened the section of the major financial regulatory reform bill that deals with pay-day lenders. Thanks to Corker, who sits on the Senate Banking committee, the new CFPA will have to get permission from a body of regulators in order to enforce rules against payday lenders and other non-bank financial companies — a step that consumer groups say will significantly hamstring the agency’s ability to crack down on predatory lending practices.

Corker’s intervention came after intense lobbying from the Community Financial Services Association (CFSA), a trade group of pay-day lenders created in 1999 by Jones and others in the industry. In the last three months of 2009, CFSA spent $500,000 lobbying Congress on the financial regulatory reform and other issues affecting regulation of the pay-day loan industry, according to disclosure records examined by TPMmuckraker. (One of the top Washington lobbyists hired by CFSA, Wright Andrews of Butera & Andrews, was also the prime lobbyist for the sub-prime mortgage industry earlier this decade.)

Jones is a longtime backer of Corker — as well as of several other lawmakers, from both parties, on the Banking committee. Since 2001, Jones, his relatives, and his employees, have contributed $31,000 to the campaigns of Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor, according to the New York Times.

For shame, Bob Corker. For shame.

These payday lenders are the worst sorts of vampires, preying on those in crisis situations who are least equipped to understand the pitfalls they face. Many of them, sadly, are our military personnel:

A study by Professors Chris Peterson of the University of Florida and Steven Graves of California State University, Northridge showed geographic evidence that payday lenders aggressively target military personnel. Payday lenders target service members because they are often young, financially inexperienced and strapped for cash, especially at the time of deployment. A December 2004 New York Times study revealed that 25 percent of military households have used payday lenders. The prevalence of high-cost borrowing among service members led the Department of Defense to list predatory lending as one of the top 10 threats to members of the military.

In 2006 the bipartisan Talent-Nelson Amendment was added to the Defense Appropriations Bill to protect military personnel from such predatory lenders. It was signed into law and went into effect in October 2007.

Now, how about the rest of us? Just once I’d like our Republican Senators to think about the people of this state who sent them to Washington, not the industries that send them campaign cash.


Filed under Sen. Bob Corker

Oh Canada! I Stand On Guard For Thee

One of the most arrogant pieces of ass-hattery coming from the right wing anti-healthcare reform crowd is the allegation that there have been no great medical innovations in countries Not America. It’s our innovation, sparked by the Glorious Free Hand Of The Market, you see, which saves lives.


Today Sen. Bob Corker took that particularly noxious “America! Fuck Yeah!” myth and brought it to new heights of arrogance with today’s WTF moment:

During a hearing of the Special Committee on Aging, the Tennessee Republican told Canada’s former Public Health Minister, Dr. Carolyn Bennett, that her country is “living off of us” because they set lower prices for health care and “all the innovation, all the technology breakthroughs just about take place in our country and we have to pay for it.”

“It is not really our country so much is the problem, it’s sort of the parasitic relationship that Canada, and France, and other countries have towards us,” Corker said. “…You benefit from us, and we pay for that. And I resent that, and I want to figure out a way to solve that.”

Excuse me? France and Canada are parasites on us? Because they’re just sucking off our technological breakthroughs? And you told this to the former Canadian public health minister?

Did she laugh in your face? Or did she show more manners than you did with your little outburst? Just wondering.

Sen. Corker, you have officially embarrassed me with your ignorance and your hubris. So let me give you a little schooling on some Canadian medical breakthroughs (mine is an abbreviated list, but the complete list is at the link):

• 1912 First surgical treatment of tuberculosis. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1922 First clinical use of insulin for diabetes in human patients. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1950 Introduction of lumpectomy for treatment of breast cancer. Lumpectomy is a surgical procedure designed to remove a discrete lump (usually a tumour, benign or otherwise) from an affected woman or man’s breast. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1951 First “cobalt bomb” in the world used to deliver radiation therapy to cancer patients. (Lawson Health Research Institute — London, Ontario)

• 1952 First use of a device that determines whether or not a patient’s thyroid is cancerous through the use of radioactive iodine. (Saskatoon Health Region — Saskatoon, Saskatchewan)

• 1958 World first surgical treatment on cerebral aneurysms. (Lawson Health Research Institute — London, Ontario)

Wow. Major innovations in cancer treatment in a country that did not invent the pink ribbon? I cannot believe it.

Want some more? Okie dokie:

• 1960 Implementation of genetic screening programs for hereditary metabolic diseases in newborns. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1961 Discovery of blood-forming stem cells enabling bone marrow transplants. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1983 Successful single lung transplant. Lung transplants extend life expectancy and enhance the quality of life for end-stage pulmonary patients. (University Health Network — Toronto, Ontario)

• 1983 The Department of Nuclear Medicine becomes first to use a special imaging agent to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Called [18] F6-fluorodopa PET, the chemical was produced by Hamilton Health Sciences and is now used worldwide. (Hamilton Health Sciences/McMaster University – Hamilton, Ontario)

• 1988 World’s first successful liver/small bowel transplant is performed. (Lawson Health Research Institute — London, Ontario)

• 1993 Discovery of a novel gene associated with Lou-Gehrig’s disease. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1995 First physical map of the human genome created. (McGill University Health Centre Research Institute — Montreal, Quebec)

• 1996 Identification of a gene that causes colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among Canadians. (Hospital for Sick Children — Toronto, Ontario)

I could go on … and on … and on … Frankly, the recent medical breakthroughs are far too technical for me to understand fully, but do go to the link and check it out.

I’ll tackle the issue of France later. Right now, I’m too disgusted with our Republicans in Congress, and my own Senator in particular, and need to cool off.


Filed under Canada, healthcare, Sen. Bob Corker

>More GOP Hypocrisy, Message Manipulation Division

>Gosh the Republicans sure do like to control the message don’t they? Apparently the RNC is planning to spin rebut an upcoming ABC special on healthcare reform with their own lies and distortions:

In a Wednesday memo to media and scheduling contacts for the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the RNC offered GOP legislators the use of its TV studio on June 24, the scheduled air date of ABC’s planned health care reform special, so the lawmakers could discuss their own health care views in satellite interviews with their congressional districts’ ABC affiliates.

The RNC has offered to pay for satellite time and set up the interviews with the affiliates.

National legislators from the Chattanooga region don’t yet have plans to participate.

“We don’t know all the details of this special, but we do hope that as the media covers this important issue they will present all sides,” said Todd Womack, chief of staff for Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

I don’t know why Republicans have their boxers in a knot over this. No one clamored to “present all sides” when NBC ran Rick “Medicare Fraud” Scott’s 30-minute infomercial on May 31 that questioned “the effectiveness of government-run health care.”

Rick Scott is a criminal who by all rights should have been sent to jail. Instead he cut a deal and Janet Reno let him off the hook. Big mistake.

Bob Corker is my Senator and his participation in more lies and message manipulation about healthcare will be a huge FAIL in my book.

Look, I wasn’t going to blog about this today but here goes. Every argument I’ve heard against a public healthcare option seems to say it will be too successful, too efficient, too affordable. Yeah, that’s a horrible problem to have. Why on earth would we want that? Those poor, endangered insurance companies. If only they were as cute and cuddly as, say, marsh mice.

At the same time we’re supposed to feel sorry for insurance companies and worry about unfair competition from the government, the Republicans and some Democrats are giving us the hilarious talking point about the government inserting a “bureaucrat” between me and my doctor.

Look, I already have a team of bureaucrats between me and my doctor, the only difference being they work for BlueCross/Blue Shield of Tennessee, not the government.

Republicans and Democrats who are putting up roadblocks to a public option need to get a fucking clue. If it’s going to be so horrible, then no one will want it and private insurers can relax. If it’s going to be too good, then private insurers are basically proving our argument that they are parasites on the healthcare system. I suspect that is what they are afraid of.

Oh, and quit picking on the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, postal service and other government operations, Republicans. Those scare tactics just don’t work. I can’t remember the last time I went to the DMV, I do all of my business online or at the County Clerk’s satellite office in Green Hills. Today I renewed my car tags, at lunchtime no less. Door to door, including the emissions test at the Craighead station, then schlepping to Green Hills to the county clerk’s office, then actually putting the stickers on my car took 25 minutes. There were no lines, anywhere. Pretty efficient.

The postal service is pretty awesome, too. And you know what? Our military, public utilities, power grid, highway system and other “public” stuff works pretty well most of the time, too. They work better when they have the funds to keep stuff like bridges and roads maintained, but that’s another issue that involves mentioning people who want to shrink the government to the size where you can drown it in the bathtub.

Look, these “scary government” buzz words aren’t working for me. I don’t want the government running everything but neither do I want someone making an obscene profit off of things like my trip to the doctor, my hospital stay, or my monthly prescriptions. I don’t want the need for obscene profits to be used as a barrier preventing tens of millions of people from accessing the healthcare they need. That’s not right.

The healthcare industry is all in favor of reform so long as it brings them those 45 million uninsureds and nothing more. They want Congress to bring them 45 million new customers, but they aren’t willing to do anything to actually make healthcare affordable. They still want to charge obscene amounts of money for stuff that costs a fraction of what we pay elsewhere. They just want to charge this whole new pool of people. That’s dishonest.

Here’s the thing. Our healthcare system is majorly messed up. It will not be fixed by tax credits, health savings accounts, and other “market” solutions. And by the way: my health is not your marketplace.

(h/t, Kleinheider.)

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Filed under health insurance, healthcare, rants, Sen. Bob Corker

>Marching In Lockstep With Blinders On

>Today, I open the morning newspaper and this is what I see:

But the competing bills now reflect substantially different approaches. The House puts greater emphasis on helping states and localities avoid wide-scale cuts in services and layoffs of public employees. The Senate cut $40 billion of that aid from its bill, which is expected to be approved Tuesday.

The Senate plan, reached in an agreement late Friday between Democrats and three moderate Republicans, focuses somewhat more heavily on tax cuts, provides far less generous health care subsidies for the unemployed and lowers a proposed increase in food stamps.

Are you people idiots?

How is this not a repeat of the exact same failed policies of the past eight years?

Who are these Republican “moderates” and spineless Democrats and why have they not learned a thing from the past administration? Who are these people who insist on doing the same thing but expecting different results?

Jon at C&L reminds us of the Republican Party’s own $1.4 trillion economic stimulus of 2001. On Friday I reminded everyone of the Republican’s last great economic stimulus idea of 2008.

It didn’t work. We’re worse off now than we were then. Every person got a check for $600 and we’re still in the toilet.

Look, people can’t eat tax cuts. They can’t pay their rent with them. People don’t need just one check in their bank account: they need a regular paycheck, every two weeks, month after month, year after year.

I can’t imagine what these people are thinking. Last week Paul Krugman wrote:

Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.

It’s hard to exaggerate how much economic trouble we’re in. The crisis began with housing, but the implosion of the Bush-era housing bubble has set economic dominoes falling not just in the United States, but around the world.

Consumers, their wealth decimated and their optimism shattered by collapsing home prices and a sliding stock market, have cut back their spending and sharply increased their saving — a good thing in the long run, but a huge blow to the economy right now. Developers of commercial real estate, watching rents fall and financing costs soar, are slashing their investment plans. Businesses are canceling plans to expand capacity, since they aren’t selling enough to use the capacity they have. And exports, which were one of the U.S. economy’s few areas of strength over the past couple of years, are now plunging as the financial crisis hits our trading partners.

Meanwhile, our main line of defense against recessions — the Federal Reserve’s usual ability to support the economy by cutting interest rates — has already been overrun. The Fed has cut the rates it controls basically to zero, yet the economy is still in free fall.

Look, this is no little “slump,” this is a fucking disaster and I don’t think Bob Corker and Olympia Snow and the rest of them understand that.

Here’s my Sen. Bob Corker, repeating the GOP line on the Senate floor like the good Republibot he is:

Again, I appreciate those folks who are trying to work together to make this bill, which is a disaster in my opinion, slightly better. But, I wonder if it wouldn’t make more sense for us as a country to just wait for a week or two to hear the rest of the administration’s plans as it relates to solving this problem. I think for us to rush out and put forth $1 trillion in spending on top of a projected $1 trillion deficit without fully understanding the other issues that our country and the way that the administration plans to deal with these other issues is incredibly imprudent.

You want to wait? You want to do “more research”? Are you fucking nuts?

In January another 600,000 Americans were out of work. This is what happens when you “wait a week or two” to “study it some more.” People lose their jobs.

It’s hard to put a face on a number like that, but I’m thinking we’re going to have to. We’re going to have to hit the streets. We’re going to have to follow the example of the people of Iceland, banging pots and pans in protest until the government crumbled.

They are not listening to us. The did not listen to the November election. They are insulated and isolated. They think it’s okay to tell union workers how much they should earn, but they don’t want restrictions on what Wall Street bankers on the government dole should get. In short: they are not on our side.

This is crazy and I am very angry. People are hurting out there. The government has to step in and do something big to stop this train from running off the tracks or we’re going to have a second revolution in this country.

We need to take it to their doorstep. I’m ready to put my marching boots on. What about you?

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Filed under economic stimulus, rants, Republican Party, Sen. Bob Corker

>Why Does Bob Corker Hate Workers?

>I know I’ve been on record saying I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Sen. Bob Corker. But since the November elections he’s been one huge disappointment after another.

First there was his slap in the face to union workers, then his bizarre statement on Obama’s global climate change advisor, and now I learn he voted against cloture on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The reason, according to this statement, is that an amendment put forward by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas failed:

“There is a delicate balance that must be met between protecting individuals from discrimination in the workplace and ensuring claims are filed and investigated in a timely manner. The Lilly Ledbetter bill without this amendment, however, is unfair to both the party being discriminated against and the employer facing a discrimination lawsuit. It would effectively eliminate the statute of limitations that sets a reasonable time frame for filing a complaint and would allow anyone – without limitation – to file a claim against an employer who may feel affected by the discrimination of another employee. Furthermore, passing Lilly Ledbetter will congest our court system, meaning cases with merit will be harder to detect from the frivolous suits that will inevitably occur.”

The Hutchison amendment failed by a vote of 40-55 causing Corker to oppose passage of S.181.

Umm … okay, that’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Eliminating a 180-day time limit was the whole point of the bill. S.181 was crafted to basically correct a Supreme Court decision imposing ridiculous statutory limitations on pay discrimination cases:

The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision denying Ledbetter’s complaint, ruled that a worker must file a claim within 180 days of the initial decision to pay a worker less, even if the worker did not discover the pay disparity until years later.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act basically extends that period. Attaching a 180-day statute of limitations onto a bill designed to remove a 180-day statute of limitations strikes me as dishonest.

From the National Women’s Law Center:

“The Hutchison amendment weakens pay discrimination law, rather than restoring it to where it has been for decades.  It does not reinstate the longstanding principle that employees may challenge each discriminatory paycheck they receive.

“The Ledbetter decision created a draconian rule that employees have 180 days from the time of their first discriminatory paycheck to file a formal government complaint and otherwise forfeit their rights to receive equal pay for equal work.  The 180-day clock runs even where the employee wants to try to work it out with the employer or if the discriminatory pay persists or becomes worse over months or years. The Hutchison amendment leaves this unfair and unacceptable rule in place, with just one very limited exception – the 180 days could be extended only if the employee can prove that she did not have and ‘should not have been expected to have’ a reasonable suspicion of any discrimination.

“Instead of helping Lilly Ledbetter and employees like her to challenge their rights to equal pay, the Hutchison amendment would impose additional burdens on the victims of pay discrimination to prove a negative: that they had no reason to have known about the discrimination.  And it would give the employer a free ride to continue the pay discrimination and shortchange their employees.  This is an especially cruel blow when women only earn about 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.”

Honestly, if Corker doesn’t like the idea of employees suing for pay discrimination, why not just vote against the bill entirely? Why come up with those bogus “pro small business” excuses?

Are you afraid of looking like you’re in favor of pay discrimination? Or, perhaps, that you’re willing to put the needs of profit-making corporations over those of workers?

Well, if the shoe fits.

Fortunately, the cloture motion passed overwhelmingly and the bill will likely pass this evening. But probably not with Bob Corker’s vote.

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Filed under Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Sen. Bob Corker

>The TVA Board That Operates Like A Business

>Not to put too partisan of a spin on things here, but when the inspector general issues a report questioning TVA’s regulatory compliance and management practices, and one remembers that the TVA Board of Directors “sets policy and strategy for TVA,” one should also remember the recent changes to the TVA Board, which make it for all intents and purposes a Republican operation.

The TVA board used to consist of three members, nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. In November 2004 the board was expanded to nine members, a scheme concocted by Tennessee Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander to “modernize the management structure” and “lead to more accountability at TVA,” and which was implemented without any congressional hearings of any type.

In 2008 Frist called the new board a resounding success:

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Tennessee Republican who wrote the changes in TVA’s governance, said the new system has been “very positive” and helped the utility run like most businesses with a policy-making board overseeing management under a chief executive officer.
“To have an identity operating under a 1933 structure in 2008 simply would have been unsatisfactory,” Dr. Frist said. “Over time, I think the board should be more nonpartisan and we can get away from using that position as political patronage but having people who are extremely well qualified. The intent was to get politics out of the system, and I think that has been achieved.”

“Over time” being GOP-speak for “the time when Democrats are in the White House.” Right now, the board is comprised almost entirely of Republicans–the only non-Republican being Bishop William H. Graves of Memphis, a senior bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church and a registered Democrat who happened to co-chair Shelby County’s Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election campaign. Good Democrat there, rightey-o.

This blatant partisan power grab prompted current Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to hold up a couple of board confirmatons in the interest of getting more political diversity on the panel. This in turn resulted in much whining and stomping of feet from Tennessee Republican Senators Corker and Alexander. Reid, who’s got the spine of an overcooked linguine, of course caved, resulting in much happy dancing in the offices of Corker and Alexander.

And yes, that would be the same Alexander who sits on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which will conduct hearings into the TVA coal ash spill next week.

Oh my, things are getting curiouser and curiouser. Could we have a conflict of some type, Senator Alexander? You are conducting hearings into an accident at a TVA plant when you basically are one of the architects of the current TVA board, and battled the Senate Majority Leader over the confirmation of some board members? I wonder if his questions will be of the “may I pray for you” variety.

As for the rest of the board , in the grand Republican tradition of “operating government like a business” it is made up of Republican donors and patrons:

Most of those appointed to the TVA board over the past two years by President Bush have been Republican activists and financial supporters of GOP causes. Robert “Mike” Duncan from Kentucky is chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Susan Richardson Williams, who is awaiting confirmation for another term, was previously chairwoman of the Tennessee Republican Party. TVA Chairman Bill Sansom, a Knoxville businessman, served in the Cabinet of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., when Sen. Alexander was Tennessee’s governor.
Collectively, the eight people appointed or nominated to the TVA board by the Bush White House, and their spouses, gave $592,405 to Republican candidates and organizations since 1994, according to a Chattanooga Times Free Press compilation of campaign records. Four of the board appointees also contributed lesser amounts to Democratic candidates.

The GOP tilt to the new board is one of the unintended consequences of adopting the TVA board change without congressional hearings in 2004, Mr. Crowell said.
“All the board members will now be of the same political party, which I don’t think reflects the diversity of opinion in the Tennessee Valley,” he said. “There also appears to be a lot of importance put in these appointments to where people live, which encourages them to represent those areas and not the broader interests of TVA.”

Getting back to where our story started, it’s interesting to me that Frist and Alexander expanded the TVA board to make it “operate more like a business,” supported President Bush when he filled it with cronies and party patrons, and now we have an inspector general’s report showing this:

According to an IG report dated March 4, 2008, on leaks in the flue gas ductwork at the Widows Creek Fossil Plant in Alabama, TVA put “business operations” ahead of “ethics and compliance issues” at the steam plant.

According to the report, while the duct work problems were addressed and management made efforts to repair the leaks, “the emphasis was on efforts to contain the leaks while keeping the plant operating until the next major outage.”

The report says little consideration was given by TVA officials of reporting the “continuous nature and extent of the leaks” to Alabama environmental authorities.

“Rather, the leaks were addressed as a safety or maintenance issue and not a permit issue. We also found no evidence that ethics and compliance issues were considered, presumably because of the emphasis on business operations,” the report concludes.


Meanwhile, a February 2008 TVA inspection report of the Kingston steam plant showed a TVA fly ash retention pond has had leaks, seepage and water-logged walls for years before the Dec. 22 failure. The report shows TVA knew about leaks at the site for more than two decades.

Well, that sounds about right. I was shocked when CNN reported that TVA’s priority after the Kingston coal ash accident was “clearing the railroad tracks .. because that’s how they get the coal into the plant.”

Remarked Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:

“TVA has the heavy-duty emphasis on cost-cutting, on keeping the plants running without any downtime,” he said. “(TVA’s emphasis) is on nothing to slow the production of electricity. I don’t have the exact set of what all the metrics are that all these executives get bonus pay for, but I’m reasonably confident it’s associated with cost-cutting and uptime, not downtime (of plants). Bringing plants down may be frowned on because it may be in conflict with how an employee gets compensation.

And this:

How the Tennessee Valley Authority decided to stabilize Kingston’s ash landfill would have implications for its many other elevated waste dumps, an important tool in the agency’s strategy to maximize its storage on-site and avoid more costly options.

A Tennessean review of state records and some TVA documents shows that top officials rejected solutions that were deemed “global fixes” because they were simply too costly. The most expensive option was listed at $25 million.

In the end, TVA chose to install a series of trenches and other drainage mechanisms to try to relieve the water pressure and give the walls more stability.

On Dec. 22, the walls gave way.

You’d think the oh-so-business-like TVA Board, were it not filled with cronies and big GOP donors, might put the utility’s emphasis on safety, ethics, and accountability, not profits. Because this clean-up is going to cost a lot more than $25 million.

But that’s not “business-like,” I guess.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Sen. Bill Frist, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Harry Reid, Sen. Lamar Alexander, TVA

>Poisoned Rivers Thanks To ‘Clean’ Coal

>Hey, Gov. Bredesen! You might want to drop that handful of coal ash sludge.

The EPA has released its sludge test results and it ain’t pretty:

At one point in the Emory River, just downriver from the disaster site, arsenic levels in the water registered 149 times higher than the federal limit for safe drinking water. The same spot registered lead levels five times higher than normal, as well as unsafe levels of antimony, beryllium, cadmium and chromium, and elevated levels of a dozen other chemicals.

Although the TVA’s Web site boasts a prominent photo of Gov. Phil Bredesen handling a glob of sludge barehanded, experts are urging Tennesseans not to follow suit.

“We’re asking people to limit contact with the (coal) ash material, to wash their hands and clothing after coming in contact with it. Don’t let your children and animals play in the ash,” EPA spokeswoman Laura Niles said.

As the lightweight ash dries, it could become airborne and irritate the lungs and skin. The TVA is working on dust control as it searches for a more permanent solution.


So far, Kingston’s drinking water has tested safe. The intake for the city water system is upstream from the spill and has registered high levels of only one poison, thallium.

Thallium, of course, is a poison favored by mystery writers and KGB agents. And nothing has yet been released about possible radioactivity of any of this stuff.

I do have a question about all of this, which hasn’t really been addressed: If the Emory flows into the Clinch, and the Clinch flows into the Tennessee, and the Tennessee flows across the state, right through Bob Corker Country and then north into the Ohio, what are the chances that this poisonous stuff will spread its toxic load all across the state? And how many communities pull their water from this river system downstream? What are the risks associated with that?

Meanwhile, this seems to be yet another example of warnings ignored, and the feds shirking their responsibility to protect citizens. I guess they thought the free hand of the market would take care of everything for them.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, Gov. Bredesen, Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee, TVA

>Follow The Coal Money

>Back in August, Appalachian Voices launched, tracking Big Coal’s contributions to members of Congress. I was not surprised to see Senators Mitch McConnell, James Inhofe and John D. Rockefeller listed as the top three recipients of campaign contributions from Big Coal. Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia are all big coal producers; Inhofe is also a vocal global warming denier.

Both of Tennessee’s Senators received coal money, but neither received an eyebrow-raising amount. According to FollowTheCoalMoney,

Lamar Alexander Received $31,500 in coal contributions during the 110th congress. $29,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Bob Corker Received $12,000 in coal contributions during the 110th congress. $11,500 of those dollars were from industry PACS.

Tennessee is no longer considered a major coal-producing state, though we certainly use enough of it: SourceWatch says Tennessee ranks 14th in the country in coal-energy production.

Over in the House, however, it’s a different story. Bart Gordon, D-06, received the largest amount of Big Coal contributions in the 110th Congress of any Tennessee represenative–$55,500 worth, to be exact.

Zach Wamp was a distant second, at $17,800. David Davis was third, at $7,550. Marsha Blackburn received a paltry $3,500 and Jim Cooper just $1,000.


Rep. Gordon, why are you taking more money from the coal lobby than both of our U.S. Senators — combined?

Does this DOE contract awarded to Tennessee Tech have something to do with it?

It’s all very puzzling.

Since 2000, Alexander has received $71,500 from the coal lobby. Certainly not peanuts, but less than half what Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell took in this campaign year alone.

So now that we know neither of our Senators are bought and paid for by Big Coal, maybe we can ask them to take some action to ensure the state’s other coal-fired power plants are handling their coal ash waste safely, and maybe we could urge them to look for cleaner, safer alternatives for our power generation needs.

Just a thought.

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Filed under ash spill, clean coal, environment, Rep. Bart Gordon, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

>Time For A Living Wage

>Via Oxdown at Firedoglake, an explanation of today’s middle finger to American workers that was the loan “auto bailout” measure:

The foreign nonunion auto companies located in the South have a plan to reduce wages and benefits at their factories in the United States. And to do it, they need to destroy the United Auto Workers.

Last week, Senate Republicans from some Southern states went to work trying to do just that, on the foreign car companies’ behalf.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) — representatives from states that subsidize companies such as Honda, Volkswagen, Toyota and Nissan — first tried to force the UAW to take reductions in wages and benefits as a condition for supporting the auto industry bailout bill. When the UAW refused, those senators torpedoed the bill.


UAW President Ron Gettelfinger realized that the existence of the union was under attack, which is why he refused to give in to the Senate Republicans’ demands that the UAW make further concessions. I say “further” because the union has already conceded a lot. Its 2007 contract introduced a two-tier contract to pay new hires $15 an hour (instead of $28) with no defined pension plan and dramatic cuts to their health insurance. In addition, the UAW agreed that healthcare benefits for existing retirees would be transferred from the auto companies to an independent trust. With the transferring of the healthcare costs, the labor cost gap between the Big Three and the foreign transplants will be almost eliminated by the end of the current contracts.

One reason there is the perception that UAW wages are so overinflated is that the “average” figures our media cited included retiree pensions. American auto manufacturers carry huge legacy costs, since, you know, Ford has been making cars in America a few generations longer than have Toyota and Nissan.

One would expect that foreign manufacturers would eventually carry some high pension costs, someday perhaps, unless they take some kind of proactive action. And lo and behold:

However, an internal Toyota report, leaked to the Detroit Free Press last year, reveals that the company wants to slash $300 million out of its rising labor costs by 2011. The report indicated that Toyota no longer wants to “tie [itself] so closely to the U.S. auto industry.” Instead, the company intends to benchmark the prevailing manufacturing wage in the state in which a plant is located. The Free Press reported that in Kentucky, where the company is headquartered, this wage is $12.64 an hour, according to federal labor statistics, less than half Toyota’s $30-an-hour wage.

If the companies, with the support of their senators, can wipe out or greatly weaken the UAW, they will be free to implement their plan.

This sounds about right.

Let’s just say the Nissan plant in Smyrna, TN., paid its workers $12.64/hour right now. That’s a good bit more than the current minimum wage–$7.25 (and you have the Democratic majority in Congress to thank for even that), and a healthy bit above the $8.87 that is a living wage for single adults in Rutherford County. But if you’re a single mom, or the sole provider in your family, it’s not enough to make ends meet.

Scott County, KY, where Toyota’s Georgetown plant is located, and where that hourly wage is said to be a probable reality, doesn’t fare much better.

So, if this does in fact happen three years from now—file this one away for the memory hole, peeps!—you have folks like Bob Corker and Mitch McConnell to thank.

I know this may come as a shock to the wingnut coalition that visits my blog, but I’m not by default an automatic union supporter. I’m not attached to the “existence of the union” if the benefits of union membership can be achieved some other way. But I am a big supporter of the working man and woman, and if that means forming unions so workers can have a collective voice at the negotiating table, that’s fine with me.

But if the ultimate legacy of the Bush Years is the destruction of the American worker’s union, so be it. All is not lost, my friends.

What we need in this country is a national Living Wage law. If workers in this country were paid a decent wage, a wage they could live on, a living wage, and that wage were the law of the land, maybe we wouldn’t need unions anymore.

Just a thought.

Comments Off on >Time For A Living Wage

Filed under auto bailout, Sen. Bob Corker, Sen. Mitch McConnell, unions