Thursday, April 28, 2016

UC Davis chancellor placed on leave

The last time we checked in on UCDavis, Linda Katehi was still chancellor, but today---not so clear.
Linda P.B. Katehi survived as chancellor of the University of California at Davis after an incident in 2011 where campus police used pepper spray against students engaged in a non-violent protest. And she survived other controversies in the years since -- even as some students and faculty members demanded her ouster.
But on Wednesday evening, she was placed on administrative leave, in part over allegations that haven't been the dominant issues for those demanding her ouster.
Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, placed Katehi on leave, citing possible "serious violations" of university policy with regard to conflict of interest and the employment of family members. A letter from Napolitano to Katehi said that the chancellor's daughter-in-law has received "promotions and salary increases over a two-and-a-half year period that have increased her pay by over $50,000 and have resulted in several title changes. During that same period, you put forward a pay increase of over 20 percent and a title change for your daughter-in-law's supervisor."
Further, Napolitano's letter said, the academic program that employs Katehi's son has been moved into the department where her daughter-in-law works, and "placed under her direct supervision."
The letter said that it "does not appear that appropriate steps were taken to address, document or obtain approval for the fact that your son now reported to your daughter-in-law, who, in turn, was supervised by one of your direct reports." An independent investigation will now be launched, Napolitano said.

And it appears Katehi will continue to fight for her job. A statement released by her lawyer, Melinda Guzman, said: “Tonight’s action is disappointing, unprecedented and, based on the facts, entirely unjustified.... This smacks of scapegoating and a rush to judgment driven purely by political optics, not the best interests of the university or the UC system as a whole."
If Katehi loses her job, though, the ostensible reason will not be for attacks on her students by her police force, or her attempts to erase those attacks from the public memory, but for plain vanilla nepotism.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Longest serving (in prison) Speaker

Dennis Hastert, confessed serial child molester and longest serving Speaker of the House has been sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for banking fraud committed in  the attempt to buy the silence of one of the people he had sexually exploited years before, while he was his wrestling coach.

Recall how Hastert ended up as Speaker. Back in the day, Newt Gingrich, a proto-tea-partier, was then Speaker, on his second wife and diddling his soon- to- be- third and heading the drive to impeach Bill Clinton for double talking his way through during a deposition involved in the Paula Jones lawsuit against him for sex harassment, rather than admitting that he had diddled around with Monica Lewinsky, whose confidant, Linda Tripp, was taping Lewinsky's phone calls in which she obsessed about the relationship, at the suggestion of Tripp's friend Lucianne Goldberg, a republican operative and macher used the tapes to get her son Jonah, then working as a delivery boy, a job in the right wing universe (and to snare Clinton). Gingrich resigned in a snit after a coup against him resulting from the GOP doing poorly in the midterm election of '98 as a result of the public's dismay over the impeachment (which the GOP continued to push through in their lame duck congress, resulting in a farcical senate trial and vote against removal). The next up to be Speaker was one Bob Livingston, who had to decline and resign after it was revealed that he had his own closet full of sexual shenanigans, leaving Dennis Hastert next in this rather pathetic line of losers to continue to impeach Clinton for lack of truthfulness about diddling.    

What a long strange Tripp it has been.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Another thing that doesn't exist: the competent Republican candidate

Not only does the reasonable republican not exist, but the competent adult-in-the-room knows how to manage things republican seems to be MIA as well.
John Kasich, one of only three still-standing GOP presidential candidates, isn’t featured in Oregon’s voters’ pamphlet for the May primary election — an embarrassing blunder for any major campaign.
The state said the Kasich campaign failed to submit information by the March 10 deadline.It’s up to candidates to get their photos and statements into the pamphlet, which is one of the most cost-effective political advertising tools in the state. Each Oregon household — roughly 1.5 million in total — gets a free copy of the pamphlet. Presidential candidates pay $3,500 to put their half-page statement in the pamphlet, or else submit 500 supporters’ signatures and get their statement included for free.
Kasich’s failure may throw a wrench in a coordinated strategy announced publicly Sunday night by Kasich and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz aimed at denying front-runner Donald Trump enough delegates to secure the Republican nomination on the convention’s first ballot.
The rare show of collaboration entails Cruz focusing his campaign staff and money on Indiana’s primary in coming weeks, while Kasich will stand down there. Indiana is a key remaining state in the battle to deny Trump, because its winner takes all the state’s delegates. In exchange, Kasich will be allowed to essentially take on Trump head-to-head in Oregon and New Mexico.
Ironically, the Cruz campaign got its presidential statement included in Oregon’s voter pamphlet. The pamphlet also includes statements from Trump and from Democratic contenders Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
There’s been little public polling on the GOP race in Oregon, but Kasich, a moderate, is expected to fare much better than Cruz here. Trump, meanwhile, was found to have approval ratings of 53 percent among only Republican voters, with 42 percent viewing him negatively, in a February Oregon Public Broadcasting poll.
For the Oregon voters pamphlet, candidates typically submit a biography, a photo, their platform and endorsements.
Kasich’s non-inclusion means some voters may not be aware that he is still on Oregon’s ballot — and won’t realize it until they receive their ballots in the mail this weekend and see his name.
If Republicans are eligible for Darwin awards, I'd like to nominate Kasich.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Another thing that doesn't exist: The Reasonable Republican

Kasich as the reasonable alternative? Not really, if  'reasonable' entails things like 'focused', 'informed', and 'capable of linear thought'. And don't forget, two months ago, Kasich jumped on the gop fact-free, logic free bandwagon and defunded Planned Parenthood in Ohio. 
Discussing the coming nominating convention and the need for the party to rally behind a single candidate, he opined, “It’s – and you know what, the party – like I one time looked behind the curtain and there was nobody there. There is no kind of party. The party is an amalgamation of all the people who’ve raised money and been involved in politics and you know, like yesterday I was in Maryland. I think that’s where I was. I was in Maryland. So Ehrlich was there. And then there’s this guy there who’s run like a bunch of campaigns. He’s raised tons of money for Ehrlich and all. Just a regular old guy. I mean, he doesn’t – I mean, he’s the party.”
He was also curtly dismissive when challenged on various things, such as his change of position on birthright citizenship between supporting a bill opposing it while in Congress and supporting it as a governor.
“It’s just like, I mean, birthright citizenship, I probably signed onto some bill. It’s like, who cares?” Kasich said. “You’re a congressman. Sometimes you sign on, you’ve got all this stuff coming across your desk, let’s not get over serious about this. It never passed.”
When he was asked about the lack of details in his tax and fiscal proposals -- something that the Tax Policy Center, the Tax Foundation, and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget have all said makes analysis of his proposals impossible -- he seemed annoyed that anyone should even be questioning him on the topic.
“No, it’s 28, 25, 10 with an earned income tax credit and fewer deductions. Deductions for state and local taxes and charity. That’s what the plan is. Okay?  It’s not – I mean, what more do you need? I can tell you what the rates are. I mean, what’s so difficult about this? That’s the outline of it. What else do we need? It’s like how are you going to balance the budget? What, I’m going to send you a 30-page document here that shows all the little details of this? I mean, come on.”
At another point, Kasich flatly said that a carbon tax would not work to reduce pollution. When one of the members of the editorial board rightly pointed out that virtually all economists disagree with him on that point, his response was, “You know, look, I am not going to get into that. I don’t think so, and you know, all economists, is that like all pollsters? Is that like all pundits? I mean who are these people, you know?”
Yeah. We know.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Breivik human rights complaint upheld in court

Norway's Tim McVeigh, mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, can't stay out of the news, this time in a court case in which he argued that the conditions of his confinement violated his human rights. And he has won, at least on the charge involving his isolation in confinement.

Norway violated mass killer Anders Behring Breivik's human rights by exposing him to inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment while serving his prison sentence, a Norwegian court ruled on Wednesday.
Breivik took Norwegian authorities to court in March, accusing them of breaching the European Convention on Human Rights by keeping him isolated from other prisoners.
He killed 77 people in twin attacks in 2011 in the worst acts of violence in Norway since World War Two.
The verdict said the Norwegian state had broken Article 3 of the European convention.
"The prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment represents a fundamental value in a democratic society. This applies no matter what - also in the treatment of terrorists and killers," judge Helen Andenaes Sekulic said in her ruling.
The ruling also said the Norwegian state had not violated Breivik's right to a private and family life.
I imagine that some of the other prisoners might complain that being forced to associate with Breivik is cruel and inhumane.

The government plans to appeal, and I guess that Breivik will as well, about other complaints that were dismissed. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Plutonium waste leaking at Hanford

Oh shit.
A leak in a massive nuclear waste storage tank at the Hanford Site has expanded significantly, KING 5 learned this weekend.
After leak detector alarms sounded early Sunday morning, crews at Hanford lowered a camera into the two-foot-wide space between the tank's inner and outer walls. They discovered 8.4 inches of radioactive and chemically toxic waste sitting in a spot it was never intended to be.
“This is catastrophic. This is probably the biggest event to ever happen in tank farm history. The double shell tanks were supposed to be the saviors of all saviors (to hold waste safely from people and the environment),” said former Hanford worker Mike Geffre.
Geffre is the worker who first discovered that the tank, known as AY-102, was failing in 2011. In a 2013 series, “Hanford’s Dirty Secrets," the KING 5 Investigators exposed that the government contractor in charge of the tanks, Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), ignored Geffre’s findings for nearly a year. The company finally admitted the problem in 2012.
Until now, the leak found by Geffre was very slow. The liquid would almost immediately dry up, leaving a salt-like substance on the floor of the two-foot space between the tank's walls, called the annulus.
But not anymore:
The new leak poses problems on several fronts. The outer shell of AY-102 does not have the exhaust or filtration system needed to keep the dangerous gases created by the waste in check. Workers have been ordered to wear full respiratory safety gear in the area, but the risk remains.
“The hazards to workers just went up by a factor of 10,” said Geffre.
In addition, the breakdown calls into question the viability of three other double-shell tanks at Hanford that have the exact design of AY-102.
“The primary tanks weren't designed to stage waste like this for so many years,” said a current worker. “There’s always the question, ‘Are the outer shells compromised’”?
The leaking waste, by the way, is the result of forty years of plutonium production by the US government.

(Update) : Not to worry. The Washington state Department of Ecology assures its residents that there is no danger to the public.


In some ways, this feels to me like the first real day of spring, and in honor of that feeling, here's Britten's spring symphony.
Some information about it here:
Commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Spring Symphony is, in Britten’s words, ‘a symphony not only dealing with the Spring itself but with the progress of Winter to Spring and the reawakening of the earth and life which that means’. A hybrid work – part symphony, part oratorio and part song-cycle – the large forces provide a flexible resource for a number of smaller combinations that change for each setting. Everyone comes together in the ‘May-day festival’ finale, crowned by the boys’ choir’s marvellously raucous rendition of the traditional English song, Sumer is icumen in.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Pepper spraying students: UC Davis and the politics of memory

Remember this?
Linda Katehi, UC Davis Chancellor, the university where the imperial storm troopers 
campus police pepper sprayed students, doesn't want you to. Will Bunch explains:
You know who doesn't want you to remember the flurry of news coverage about this incident? Yup, UC Davis (how did you guess?). But here's what's truly amazing -- and unbelievably stupid at the same time. The university administration spent $175,000 in an effort to "scrub" the Internet so that prospective students searching for UC Davis info won't learn about the university's outrageous behavior, including the poor handling of the incident by university chancellor Linda Katehi.
Somehow, Katehi kept her job after the pepper spraying -- a mistake that was compounded by this caper lifted straight from the pages of George Orwell, inventor of "the memory hole." True, $175,000 isn't a lot in the multi-million sinkhole that is today's American university, but hey, maybe two or three lower income kids could have gotten their sheepskin, instead. Just my crazy idea.
Of course, UC Davis being a public university and all, Katahi's Orwellian crusade came out in the media. That meant the launching of 1,000 new articles and blog posts like this one, not to mention a slew of negative commentary about the school on social media. So that now, kids thinking about applying for admission to UC Davis for 2017 will learn that, as in the headline of this SEO-optimized blog post, that UC Davis is the place for all your pepper spraying needs.
I rarely ask for things, and God knows I don't get paid by the pageview (because I'd be broke if I was) but please do your part to make this post -- or articles like this -- go viral. Not just for the initial crime, but now for the cover-up, Linda Katehi has got to go as chancellor of this warped institution. For one more spurt of nostalgia, here's the video of an amazing protest that the kids at UC Davis conducted in 2011...leading to Katehi's infamous "walk of shame."
Bunch includes Katehi's infamous 'walk of shame' video, so I will also include it here, as a reminder and another data point for internet searches: