"Governor Veto" for President? Can such things be?

I'm back from seeing Gary Johnson speak at the University of Michigan, and even though it's past my normal blogtime, I thought I would share a few thoughts.

Unless you've been in a longterm coma, you know we are in a real crisis now. Not just the usual crisis (or the usual "emergency") they like to declare, but a real one. The government is going broke, and the United States is headed towards the Argentina Syndrome (I hope there's already such an expression, for I wouldn't want to invent it).

There is no question in my mind that not only does Gary Johnson recognize this, but unlike any other candidate I know of, he has walked the walk in terms of knowing how to deal with it. 

When he was governor, the man vetoed 750 bills for wasteful spending. At the time, that was more than the the other 49 governors in the country combined.

If there was a Guinness Book of World Records category for greatest number of bills vetoed by an American executive, he would hold it. No president -- in the entire history of the United States -- has vetoed more bills. (This earned him the nickname "Governor Veto.")

So he is the real deal. A lot of politicians talk about the tough choices that need to be made and make all sort of promises, but for those who are looking for someone who can really do it, he not only can, but he already has. Who else can say that?

Yet this is not a ruthless man who loves wielding the ax for its own sake. His ability to patiently explain in detail the reasons for every cut he made is very endearing. He comes across not as a cruel Ebenezer Scrooge, but as a naturally compassionate and humane man. That he was elected and reelected in a state which is 2-1 Democrat is nothing short of amazing, and a testament to his ability to patiently explain these things to people on the other side. (In fairness, his social liberalism probably helps soften the blow too....) He comes across as mild-mannered, self-effacing, humorous, and one of the most approachable men I have yet met in politics. I walked right up to him and chatted, and there was none of the usual pomposity I associate with finger-to-the-wind poseurs hiding behind canned bombastic slogans. I told him that I was tired of holding my nose and voting for Republicans I didn't like, and he immediately knew what I meant. I specifically asked him about one of my pet peeves, which is the federal assumption of vast powers never mentioned in the Constitution (such as Homeland Security, Department of Education, the FDA, etc.), and he said that he would simply abolish them.

And you know what? He meant it.

There isn't anyone like that running who's been a two term governor. It is amazing that he is running for president, and whether he wins the nomination or not, I am just delighted that he'll be putting these issues before the public and the other candidates in a way they cannot ignore. 

I am not saying he is perfect (is anyone?), but I don't think the country could find a man better equipped to deal with the crisis we face.

Hell, I just feel lucky to have been in the audience.

MORE: For some reason, there is no local news coverage of the event.

posted by Eric at 11:35 PM | Comments (3)

Putting my money where my mouth is

People keep saying that the Tea Party is doing nothing. The last time I tried to do something it involved marching around in the freezing cold to stop a local (Saline, MI) school millage initiative which would have cost taxpayers $29 million. The conventional wisdom was that because the schools (meaning "The Children") need the money, the initiative's passage was a foregone conclusion. Well guess what? Thanks to the grim determination of local Tea Partiers, the initiative was defeated by 500 votes. Saving taxpayers $29 million (the article got the total wrong) might not be doing much, but it's not "nothing."

Anyway, there is a national election coming up, and as my favorite candidate so far is Gary Johnson, I have decided to help out. He's best known for being libertarianish (and he is called redundant because of Ron Paul), but I can't think of any other candidate who while actually being a governor, did more to live up to the Tea Party principles of Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

From his Wiki entry:

According to a profile of Johnson in the National Review, "During his tenure, he vetoed more bills than the other 49 governors combined -- 750 in total, one third of which had been introduced by Republican legislators. Johnson also used his line-item-veto power thousands of times. He credits his heavy veto pen for eliminating New Mexico's budget deficit and cutting the growth rate of New Mexico's government in half."[29] Johnson has "said his numerous vetoes, only two of which were overridden, stemmed from his philosophy of looking at all things for their cost-benefit ratio and his axe fell on Republicans as well as Democrats."[11] "[W]hen he was governor of New Mexico: [Johnson] never raised taxes in eight years; cut over 1,200 government jobs without firing anyone; cut taxes 14 times; vetoed over 750 bills; was the biggest advocate in the country for school vouchers; started his own small business and became a multimillionaire."[30]

And get this:

In a January 3, 2011 profile of Johnson in the National Review, Brian Bolduc wrote that "Johnson seems most comfortable when not exercising government power, an endearing quality for a potential president."[29]

Hey, he's a living example of what Glenn Reynolds warned us about:

"Those dangerous libertarians -- they want to take over the government, and then leave you alone!"

His biggest problem is that he's an unknown (leaving people alone is not always the best way to get headlines, I'm afraid), but once conservatives hear him, they seem to like him:

In February 2011, Johnson was a featured speaker at both the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and the Republican Liberty Caucus.[73] At CPAC, "the crowd liked him -- even as he pushed some of his more controversial points."[74] Johnson handily won the RLC straw poll[75] and tied with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for third in the CPAC Straw Poll, trailing only Ron Paul and Mitt Romney (and ahead of such notables as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and former Alaska Governor and 2008 Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who "finished a distant 9th place, garnering only 3 percent of the vote.").[76]

Anyway, on the eve of his official campaign launch, Governor Johnson is coming to Ann Arbor to speak.


It's a safe bet that many college students are tired of the standard left-versus-right political battles that somehow never seem to lead to any substantive change. Even more disappointing is the sad reality that politicians we support, whether Democrat or Republican, all too often fail to live up to the principled promises made on the campaign trail.

Though it's a sales pitch you've likely heard before, former New Mexico governor and 2012 presidential candidate Gary Johnson really is a different type of politician -- and he just might represent the new, bold face of the nation's political discourse. The University's chapter of College Libertarians and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy are teaming up to bring Johnson to campus Thursday evening, and if you haven't heard of him yet, you're going to like what you learn.

Even a cursory glace at Johnson's life reveals that, despite his successes in public office, he simply isn't cut out for the role of suit-wearing bureaucratic windbag. An independently successful businessman, Johnson seems more comfortable out of the office. His interests include relaxing, soothing outdoor activities like competing in Ironman Triathlons and scaling Mount Everest (as he did successfully in 2003). Clearly, something sets Johnson apart from your run-of-the mill politico.

Yet a compelling personal life is not enough to mark an individual as a skilled and effective leader. Fortunately, Johnson's record speaks for itself. Elected governor of New Mexico in 1994 as a Republican, Johnson led without regard for party orthodoxy. His aggressive, reform-oriented platform proved popular with New Mexico residents, and Johnson left his state with a large budget surplus after his term-limited tenure as governor ended in 2003.

Read it all. And remember, you don't have to be a student (much less a libertarian student) to attend this event. It's free to the public, at 8 p.m. in the Michigan League Ballroom (located at 911 N. University Ave. Ann Arbor, MI).

So I gotta get out of here, as I have offered to help publicize the event, and the student promoters are worried they'll run out of flyers.

(There is something I like about supporting a presidential candidate with poor name recognition on a shoestring budget.)

posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (3)

A Random Source Of Neutrons

We are most fortunate that the mysterious source of neutrons at Fukushima has just been found.

The risk to workers might be greater than previously thought because melted fuel in the No. 1 reactor building may be causing isolated, uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions, Denis Flory, nuclear safety director for the International Atomic Energy Agency, said at a press conference in Vienna.

Radioactive chlorine found March 25 in the Unit 1 turbine building suggests chain reactions continued after the reactor shut down, physicist Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a March 28 paper. Radioactive chlorine has a half-life of 37 minutes, according to the report.

Iodine 134 with a half life of under an hour gave me the same indication when I first discussed it on Sunday the 27th. Of course the neutrons I discussed on the 23rd of March were a dead giveaway despite the lame excuse given. Based on the time frame given in the link they knew no later than the 16th and possibly as early as the 13th that they had a recriticality problem. What was the point of trying to keep the secret for two weeks? The last half of this post may have the answer.

H/T Zero Hedge

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

Is A Recriticality Accident Possible?

A commenter on one of my articles about the possibility of a recriticality accident said such an accident was not possible. Well actually, a study of the type of reactor now having problems in Japan (BWR) shows that a recriticality accident is possible:


From the summary of the document:

Recriticality in a BWR during reflooding of an overheated partly degraded core, i.e. with relocated control rods, has been studied for a total loss of electric power accident scenario. In order to assess the impact of recriticality on reactor safety, including accident management strategies, the following issues have been investigated in the SARA project: (1) the energy deposition in the fuel during super-promt power burst, (2) the quasi steady-state reactor power following the initial power burst and (3) containment response to elevated quasi steady-state reactor power. The approach was to use three computer codes and to further develop and adapt them for the task. The codes were SIMULATE-3K, APROS and RECRIT. Recriticality analyses were carried out for a number of selected reflooding transients for the Oskarshamn 3 plant in Sweden with SIMULATE-3K and for the Olkiluoto 1 plant in Finland with all three codes. The core initial and boundary conditions prior to recriticality have been studied with the severe accident codes SCDAP/RELAP5, MELCOR and MAAP4.

The results of the analyses show that all three codes predict recriticality - both super-promt power bursts and quasi steady-state power generation - for the range of parameters studied, i.e. with core uncovering and heat-up to maximum core temperatures of around 1800 K, and water flow rates of 45 kg/s to 2000 kg/s injected into the downcomer. Since recriticality takes place in a small fraction of the core, the power densities are high, which results in large energy deposition in the fuel during power burst in some accident scenarios

So does that mean such an accident has happened at Fukushima? Well we can't be certain and we may never be certain but the evidence points in that direction.

One must also add that without the evidence (neutrons, Iodine 134) computer codes are not definitive. When the "experiment" matches the code you may actually have something.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:36 PM | Comments (4)

Exclusion Zone And Criticality

The news from the Japanese reactor incident is not getting better. Why should it? The spew of radiation is still going on.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has told Japan that radiation levels recorded at a village near a stricken nuclear reactor are over recommended levels, a senior IAEA official said on Wednesday.
The IAEA guys are not going to be very popular in Japan.
"The first assessment indicates that one of the IAEA operational criteria for evacuation is exceeded in Iitate village," Denis Flory, a deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said.

"We have advised (Japan) to carefully assess the situation and they have indicated that it is already under assessment," he told a news conference.

Greenpeace this week said it had confirmed radiation levels in this village northwest of the plant high enough to evacuate. But Japan's nuclear safety agency on Monday rebuffed a call by the environmental group to widen the evacuation zone.

Save face or save lives? For now a few extra days of exposure are not going to be very hazardous. Unless radiation levels go up considerably. But that is not all the bad news.
In a potentially negative development, Flory said the agency had heard there might be "recriticality" at the plant, in which a nuclear chain reaction would resume, even though the reactors were automatically shut down at the time of the quake.

That could lead to more radiation releases, but it would not be "the end of the world," Flory said. "Recriticality does not mean that the reactor is going to blow up. It may be something really local. We might not even see it if it happens."

Yep. It might be a minor blip or it could be really serious. But they do confirm that my suspicions expressed at

Criticality Accident?
Worst Case Scenario
Surrealistic Cement Shoes
Core On The Floor

were not unreasonable.

Why are the Japanese having so much trouble? It may be their Culture.

by chindit13 on Wed, 03/30/2011 - 01:23 #1115985


Those of you who have lived in Japan have a pretty good idea of what has been going on and why. You probably have seen the "weeping press conference" a dozen times, each a repeat of the last one save for the names and faces.

Confrontation in Japan is not good. Causing "confusion" is not good. Following the plan and the rules is everything. The unexpected is invisible. One does not say "sorry", rather, one says "it is regrettable that..."

TEPCO probably planned for an 8.5 quake and a five foot tsunami (I'm speculating here.). Perhaps they did not plan for a loss of back-up power. Perhaps they did not plan for a destroyed infrastructure within the vicinity of the plant. When reality fell outside their expectations, they had no plan. At first they could not see reality. Next they could not admit what that reality was. After that they fell back to habit, which is to try to build consensus, deferring to the seniors and elders, even if these "respected" individuals had no clue and the underlings did. After initial discussions, there are reports to write. Then new meetings to discuss the reports. Then suggestions based on the discussion surrounding the reports. Then new reports needed to be written, etc., etc., etc.

The GoJ [Government of Japan - ed.] could not "embarrass" TEPCO by questioning them or question anything TEPCO was doing. Certainly the GoJ could not tell TEPCO to get out of the way and let someone else take charge. TEPCO did not want to "alarm" the Japanese people or "confuse" them by telling the truth; rather they tried to keep the social order by saying "don't worry". Perhaps they themselves did not want to know, so they took no readings. It is not that they were trying to cover their own butts. They really did not want to upset the people by burdening them with the truth, especially at a time of great national suffering. Upsetting people is worse than killing them. This is a fine point, but very real.

Japanese can adapt, but they require time to do so. Time sensitive events are not something they are built to handle particularly well, partly because they might not have a pre-existing plan to deal with it and partly because existing rules must be followed at all cost. (Note that foreign aid for quake-tsunami victims was held up for "rules" such as the requirement to quarantine dogs---even rescue dogs sent to find survivors while survivors were still alive---and the requirement to do exhaustive studies on all imported food.) Things that look like gross negligence and incompetence are not quite what they appear to be. For example, the workers who stepped into contaminated water did not have the proper equipment, not because the bosses are cruel, but because that possibility was never considered so no one could see it, much less plan for it. Then there is "face". Calling in outside experts, especially foreign ones, would be an admission of inferiority. Sometimes death is preferable to shame. Anyone who doubts that should read about the philosophy behind seppuku.

I am no nuclear expert. I have no idea what the worst case scenario is, though I doubt it is TEOTW [The End Of The World - ed.], except for those unfortunate souls living within a hundred or so kilometers from the plant. I suspect we will find out, because everything that makes Japanese Japanese will lead to that worst case.

I am not trying to gang up on the Japanese. All peoples have good points and bad. This crisis has revealed some of Japan's less than optimal national traits. Certainly Americans have more than their share of bad cultural traits, too. Let's just hope that natural selection never meets the "bads" head on. Let's also hope that Japan gets its act together before more of its citizens suffer unnecessarily.

I agree. It is not the end of the world. But it is a serious setback for the world's #3 economy and thus it will be a setback for the rest of the world especially because of the supply disruptions. And we won't notice those (because they are not yet severe) for another month or two. Where will the real hit come? Products for the December holiday season which will go into production (if they haven't already started) by June at the latest.

As to the radiation dangers? They are probably only severe in Japan. For the rest of the world it is the equivalent to a few above ground atomic tests at worst. Not a good thing to be sure. Also not the end of the world.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:33 PM | Comments (1)

"the students have become empowered by the lack of consequences for negative behavior"

Education Week reprints an article from the Philadelphia Inquirer titled "Violence targets Teachers, Staff." It is appalling, and I remember when I lived in Philadelphia I used to blog about the mind-numbing array of articles about school violence. Not only has nothing changed, but the situation seems to have only gotten worse:

Veteran Philadelphia school teacher Lou Austin endured 40 minutes of terror as the 15-year-old ninth grader jabbed his index finger into Austin's temple and threatened to kill him while swinging a pair of scissors menacingly.

Austin didn't even know the youth, who ransacked his classroom--flipping desks and attempting to set fire to books--at Lincoln High School in Mayfair on Valentine's Day. He'd merely asked him to step away from his classroom door and go to his own class when the youth exploded.

Austin's experience illustrates the dangers and frustration that teachers in Philadelphia public schools face daily. During the 2009-10 school year, 690 teachers were assaulted. Over five years, from 2005-06 to 2009-10, more than 4,000 teacher assaults were reported, a yearlong Inquirer investigation has found.

And that doesn't include incidents of threats, disruption, and utter disrespect.

"All I could do was to stand there with my hands behind my back, accept the abuse, and hope this did not infuriate him even more," said Austin, a Philadelphia teacher for 15 years who graduated from Lincoln in 1984.

His story also illustrates how teachers must cope with violent, disturbed students with little backup from the district.

The problem is that even though a minority of students commit most of the violent acts, the schools cannot expel them: 

....special-education students accounted for just 14 percent of the city's school enrollment, yet committed 43 percent of the 7,547 assaults on staff during the previous five-year period. The numbers haven't changed much. From September through February of this school year, 1,628 assaults have been reported in the district, and about 39 percent included at least one special-education student as an offender, School District spokeswoman Shana Kemp said. About 14 percent of the student body is in special education, excluding gifted students.

The 2007 investigation also found that the district routinely failed to provide services to special-education students, and therefore felt it could not follow through with discipline if the students assaulted a staff member.

In the case of the Lincoln student, Kemp said a suspension would not have been appropriate.

And she said that even though the youth faces a criminal charge, he could end up back at Lincoln--his neighborhood school--because of his status as a special-needs student. The district would make a decision along with other behavioral and mental health agencies after his case was adjudicated, she said.

"The young man had emotional disturbances. We can't refuse a student entry into a school based upon that situation," she said.

Austin learned that the teen had been allowed to enroll at Lincoln in January without teachers' knowing his history. He was perplexed.

Kemp said the district--by law--can't release medical details about the student to staff.

In the Lincoln incident, the teen initially was charged with aggravated assault, criminal mischief, possessing an instrument of crime, terroristic threats, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person.

On Feb. 25, he made an admission to simple assault and terroristic threats charges, both misdemeanors. Disposition of his case is pending.

After the teachers' union squawked, teachers were finally permitted to use reasonable force to defend themselves against violence. But are students? I doubt it. Most likely, any student caught defending himself would be considered just as guilty as his attacker. I feel sorry for teachers who have to endure these attacks, but imagine being a student. 

Sending a kid to a school like that constitutes child abuse.

And no one in his right mind would want to be a teacher.

One of the teachers quit in despair, and wrote to President Obama!

Another who quit was former Beeber Middle School teacher Lynn Larrick.

A 6-foot-2, 250-pound eighth grader told her he would have his mother "f- her up" last school year. When she went to document the threat, he taunted: "I probably have about 10 pink slips, and I'm still here."

Another day, he grabbed a girl's notebook and jumped up and down on it. When Larrick tried to send him out of the room, he told her he had been suspended earlier in the day anyway. As he left, he aimed his finger at her and pretended to shoot her.

There were other incidents, too. Her blood pressure climbing high, Larrick decided to leave the district on her doctor's advice.

Unable to get satisfaction from the School District, she wrote to President Obama.

No word on how that turned out.

And there's no word on whether teacher Lou Austin (mentioned at the beginning of the piece) ever wrote to the president, but he did look on in horror:

Austin could see that the teen who confronted him that February day had major problems and didn't belong there. When Austin closed his classroom door, the teen paced angrily outside the room for 20 minutes, peering in the window. He rushed in at the end of class when Austin opened the door. "He got in my face . . . trying to bait me into a confrontation," Austin recalled.

Austin raised his hands to protect himself. The student slapped them down and struck a boxer's pose, he said. He asked a colleague to call for security.

The teacher watched in horror as the student for 15 minutes flipped desks, attempted to set fire to books, took items out of Austin's desk, and hurled them against the wall. It was in the desk that the teen found the pair of scissors he began to wave at Austin.

"Throughout his violent outburst, he repeatedly referred to being 'put away for three, then four, years but not again,' " Austin said. "When help finally arrived, he threatened to stab anyone who approached him."

The principal, school police, and Austin had to wait for Philadelphia police to arrive.

In the aftermath, Austin worried for his safety, wondering if the student would try to retaliate.

Austin tried to go back to school two days later but couldn't.

"I had a dream about school. It was a chaotic atmosphere where I had no control over what was happening," he said. "It made me feel very anxious."

He returned a week after the incident.

His was the fourth teacher assault at Lincoln in two weeks, he said.

Conditions have worsened as the central office pressures schools to lower out-of-school suspensions without viable alternatives, he said.

"The school environment continues to decay because the students have become empowered by the lack of consequences for negative behavior," Austin said.

So much for our endless mythological narrative of childhood innocence. In an email exchange the other day, I reminded a friend that according to every teacher I have talked to, there is no way to discipline or get rid of these hopelessly violent and disruptive students because their parents or activist groups would sue, and I suggested that it might require amending the Constitution to change the situation. 

If a small minority of "children" (another weasel word) are dispruptive and violent, why allow them to stay in the schools and ruin things for everyone else? Why not simply get rid of them? If the legal system will not allow it, perhaps the legislature could step in -- and if that fails, the Constitution should be amended -- simply conditioning the right to an education on good behavior by the student.

Is education a right? Or is it a duty? It strikes me that some kids clearly don't want to be in school in the first place, and they're most likely the ones making the trouble. So what is the philosophical basis for keeping them there? Is it really to "educate" them? I don't think that's it. I think it's because society wants them kept off the streets, and by functioning as daytime holding facilities (but police live in fear of 3:00 p.m.), schools are seen as a de facto part of the crime prevention industry. If that's what they are, maybe we should dispense with the "education" euphemism and simply hire more guards.

Oh the hypocrisy.

MORE: The disgusted teacher who wrote a letter to President Obama might be interested to know that his is administration planning a crackdown -- on school discipline! They're investigating schools to determine whether school discipline has a disproportionate impact on racial minorities.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United States Commission on Civil Rights announces that it will hold a briefing on the Department of Education's initiative to investigate school districts for disparities in discipline rates among racial and ethnic groups under Title VI, a statute that bans disparate treatment.  The Department has announced that it intends to initiate compliance reviews based on a disparate impact analysis in an effort to find districts that have such disparities.

Joanne Jacobs quotes a school teacher who is threatening to resign:

Allen Zollman, a teacher of English as a second language at an urban middle school in Pennsylvania that he did not name, said he . . . is opposed to having to give "a thought to disparate impact" if he needs to remove a disruptive student from class, saying he views it as a constraint on effective discipline.

Should his school require such a policy, Mr. Zollman said, he would respond in one of three ways: disregard it and continue to refer whatever students he sees fit for disciplinary action, do nothing and tolerate chaos in his classroom, or take an early retirement from teaching.

And who could blame him?

I can't think of a better way to get conscientious teachers resign.

posted by Eric at 02:07 PM | Comments (4)

How's that war on drugs thing going?

In a vaguely half-interested manner, I clicked on a link to a WSJ writeup titled "Dispatches From the War on Drugs" by Mary Anastasia O'Grady.

I had expected to see the usual accounts of SWAT team raids on drug dealers holed up in public housing, but instead the article read like an account from a full-fledged shooting war:

...the cables reveal how ineffective the lumbering government bureaucracies on both sides of the border are against ruthless drug-trafficking entrepreneurs. The gangsters run circles around the drug warriors while bureaucrats record the carnage.

Take the March 2009 cable marked "Ciudad Juárez at the tipping point," which is signed by Chargé Daffaires Leslie Bassett. It describes Mexico's 2008 "response to a then unprecedented spasm of violence" in the northern state of Chihuahua with "the deployment of some 2,000 military and 500 federal police officers." It goes on to say that while the operation "succeeded to an extent in disrupting the cartels . . . as a public security effort [it] proved to be a significant failure." That's why, "as bloodshed in Juárez continued to escalate in the first months of 2009," the government decided it would "deploy an additional 5,000 troops and 2,000 federal police officers to the area to retake control of what was a quickly deteriorating situation."

That produced a "dramatic--if possibly temporary--drop in violence since the arrival of federal forces." But the cable also noted that no one knew why. None of the theories involved the possibility that the good guys were winning. The Juarez city government "suggests the operation is causing the 'cockroach effect,' forcing cartel operatives to scatter and relocate to other border states." Meanwhile, U.S. law enforcement officials and the Mexican army believed that the mobsters were "simply lying low to observe and collect intelligence" and that they would likely "renew the fight."

Paramilitary gangsters are operating as soldiers in what has become an actual, real war which is endangering the U.S. border. 

Is that improvement?

It is so predictable. (And needless to say, both M. Simon and I have repeatedly discussed this hopeless situation.) Anyway, now that it's become a real war (which has even the Russians concerned), what are we on this side of the border supposed to do? Set up peace studies programs and get the paramilitary gangsters into conflict resolution groups?

Sorry to sound so sarcastic, but I keep seeing these ridiculous bumper stickers that say "TEACH PEACE," and I am always tempted to ask the self appointed "teachers" why they can't go where they're most needed. Clearly, the drug cartel gangsters like Joaquin Guzman need education and maybe someone like Peace Studies Teacher Colman McCarthy could sit him down and show him that "there are alternatives to violence," and that "poverty is at the root of violence." Guzman is only in it for the money, and maybe he'll understand that money is bad and he doesn't really need to kill people and blow things up and stuff.

I'm thinking that music might also help. Already there are lots of popular songs about Guzman (who, btw, is "regarded as the 60th of 68 most powerful people in the world by Forbes Magazine"):

Many Mexican Artists paid tribute to Joaquín by making songs about him, his prison break, and drug ties. Some songs are: "El Chapo Guzman," by Los Tucanes de Tijuana, and "El Regreso del Chapo," which was made after he escaped from prison. "Chapo Cuerno y Cachucha," by Los Buckanas de Culiacan. "El Nino de la Tuna", by Roberto Tapia. "La Fuga del Chapo", by Los Originales de San Juan. "El Chapo", by Noel Torres. "La Fuga del Chapo," by Larry Hernandez. "La Charla," by Enigma Norteño and Roberto Tapia. "La Plebada", by Banda Imperior. "Balada de un Hombre de Baja Estatura", by Los Buitres.

That last one especially intrigues me, because it translates as "Ballad of a Short Man" and Guzman is a little guy like me. He is known as "El Chapo" which means "Shorty." He was born to a poor family and sold oranges as a child, so I'm thinking he might have at some point gotten the idea into his head that he could make more money selling drugs which his richer neighbors to the north want to buy. Unfortunately, his success in making money (and as a tough guy who thinks that violence is the answer) only seems to have served as an inspiration to other poor people down there, whose poverty will cause more cycles of violence.

But if he had taken Peace Studies and Social justice courses, he might have learned how mistaken he was and devoted his energy to waging peace and defeating imperialism. Even now, it might not be too late!

Now, M. Simon and I have both proposed legalizing drugs, but now I'm wondering why we have never stopped to consider peaceful solutions like education? A mind is a terrible thing to waste, and it's obvious that the drug gangsters are highly intelligent people. And if it's all about people who had a lack of education needing money, then we simply need to solve those problems first, and then they won't want the drug money will stop fighting each other for it.

As to the American drug consumers, why, all we need to do is have ever tougher laws and spend more money on law enforcement and also on anti-drug education programs! (It all sounds so familiar that I can't believe we haven't tried it before....)

But that way, there will be no buyers, no sellers, no violence and no poverty, and the whole darned drug war will have been solved. With just two slogans!




posted by Eric at 10:38 AM | Comments (2)

Core On The Floor

We have news from a newspaper. In this case The Guardian - UK, which has some bad news about the Fukushima reactor accidents.

Richard Lahey, who was head of safety research for boiling-water reactors at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima, told the Guardian workers at the site appeared to have "lost the race" to save the reactor, but said there was no danger of a Chernobyl-style catastrophe.

Workers have been pumping water into three reactors at the stricken plant in a desperate bid to keep the fuel rods from melting down, but the fuel is at least partially exposed in all the reactors.

At least part of the molten core, which includes melted fuel rods and zirconium alloy cladding, seemed to have sunk through the steel "lower head" of the pressure vessel around reactor two, Lahey said.

"The indications we have, from the reactor to radiation readings and the materials they are seeing, suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the pressure vessel in unit two, and at least some of it is down on the floor of the drywell," Lahey said. "I hope I am wrong, but that is certainly what the evidence is pointing towards."

And if we should get unlucky and that mass of junk that was formerly a reactor core has a Criticality Accident? Well all kinds of bad things could happen. Will it be an all out nuclear explosion? No. But it could be a very small one. Which will spread the radioactive fission fragments around. Or the crud might hit a pool of water causing a steam explosion. Spreading the junk around. Or it might melt into the ground and the radioactivity will get spread into the ground water by natural flows. Or we could get lucky and nothing much worse than is already happening will continue to happen. At the current time I'm not voting for Lucky. I'm voting for Murphy.

For your amusement we have a map of the aquifers of the world in pdf so you can keep enlarging it until Japan gets to a reasonable size. Now compare it to this earthquake map of Japan. From my crude measurements it appears that Fukushima is just outside the Tokyo aquifer. Or it might be close enough that it will be a problem if the radioactive sludge reaches the aquifer. I look forward to seeing better maps in the next few days as the SHTF (or if you prefer - the news gets out).

So how about a recap? We have three reactors and four spent fuel rod pools in trouble, but everything is fine so far.


You know, I just had a funny thought. Of course we couldn't have a Chernobyl "style" event. There is no mass quantity of carbon to burn. But could we have a Chernobyl "quality" of event (radiation spread) if things go bad wrong? I think so.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:32 AM | Comments (6)

Poverty vs. Purchasing Power Parity

I'm really curious about this point made by commenter jmo3 at Megan's place.
Many countries do provide more generous benefits but they do it through substantially higher taxes on almost everyone.

As just one example Denmark provides quite generous benefits - they also have a 200% on cars such that a stripped Corolla starts at $54,000. They have a 25% VAT and someone making more than $26k pays 38% of their income in taxes vs 20% in the US - much higher taxes at a much lower threshold than in the US.

The benefits and security are popular with many people but it's all paid for with substantially higher taxes on almost everyone with a job.
Do very many other countries really provide more generous benefits, on an absolute PPP-adjusted scale? I am skeptical. Given that U.S. incomes are are quite a bit higher than in nearly all other major industrialized countries, I suspect that U.S. benefits are actually more generous, at a given level of income.

For instance, it is claimed that France has half the poverty of the U.S., because 6% of French and 12% of Americans are below the poverty line.


But U.S. PPP GDP per capita is forty percent higher -- $47K vs $34K, which means that they must be using different poverty lines (unless the French income distribution is incredibly flat by comparison). Since poverty lines presumably have some similarity to the point where many social "safety net" provisions would kick in, that makes me think persons at given income levels would often receive more benefits in the U.S. than in France.


I dug around briefly to try to find PPP-adjusted poverty lines by country but haven't found a list yet. If anyone knows where this info is easily accessible, I'd be very interested.

One of my favorite statistics in economics is that the poverty line in 2011 America is right about where the average income was in the 1950s. Keep that in mind when you hear the claim that incomes are stagnant, a myth largely built around "household incomes" that ignores the correlation between achieving higher income and acquiring your own housing.
posted by Dave at 10:57 PM | Comments (4)

Murphy Strikes

My friend Frank in a comment at Worst Case Scenario, reminded me of something I had been saying implicitly and not explicitly when it comes to the nuclear accident at Fukushima.

...the fact that ever changing events are driving the clean-up effort not allowing any kind of containment plan to emerge as of now, this and Murphy's Law don't paint a pretty picture going forward.
I told Frank, "...thanks for noting that Murphy is our silent partner in this venture."

Well friends and neighbors, Murphy has struck.

NHK tv notes that a giant crane fell over and probably crushed spent fuel rods at in Fukushima reactor number 3, which contain a plutonium-uranium mix.
And of course Murphy will strike again.

What I'm seeing generally in places I frequent on the 'net is, "so far not so bad", which is true.

What I'm looking at personally is, "what direction are things going?" And from that point of view along with fairly good knowledge of the technology I'm not optimistic.

I'm a big fan of worst case scenarios. They help you make the best plan. In my estimation the Japanese have been operating with a "best case" bias. Putting them continuously behind the curve.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:35 PM | Comments (5)

Birth certificates are for the little people

I have been trying to figure out whether Donald Trump is a genius or a moron. Something about the amount of money the man has made coupled with his ability to manipulate the media, though, incline me to think he's more of the former than the latter. 

And speaking purely as a rhetorician, I have to say that the image he has served up on the Internet  is a magnificent piece of political rhetoric:



It's cute. Quaint. Nostalgic. Hearkens back to a more innocent, more honest, even more noble age. When documents were real, and they actually meant something because of what they were. Why, it even looks authentic!

What matters now is not what old original documents say, but what the government says. What matters legally is not where a piece of paper says you were born, but where the government says you were born. Similarly, if you buy a house, it is not the physical deed that counts (you can throw that away after it's been recorded), but whether the government records say it is yours.

I don't know where my original hospital birth certificate is, so I'm stuck with the same minimalistically Orwellian type of official state certification as Barack Obama. It's what you now have to have in order to apply for a drivers license or passport.

Here's what Barack Obama's looks like:


And here's what mine looks like.



I miss the old days when there were such things as real birth certificates, and I think a lot of people do. Seen this way, the people we call "Birthers" are like people who want to see real words in a real book and not some floating and officially editable text on Kindle. They want originality.

And by catering to their emotional needs, Donald Trump becomes an originalist. By saying, "Look, I have this piece of paper" he is saying that he is real. And that Barack Obama is not. Why doesn't he seem to have the same piece of paper that most people of his age have tucked away somewhere?

Personally, I think he does, or he can get it. As I have said since the beginning of this nonsense, I think Obama is the one behind the birth certificate controversy, and I think it is an unacknowledged but very masterful tactic in a game of psychological warfare. Just as there is no question in my mind that he was born in Hawaii, there is also no question that wants it to be a question in the minds of his enemies.

To understand what he is doing, simply put yourself in his position. There you are, the worst president in U.S. history, you have worked overtime to bankrupt the country, impose a very unpopular health care scheme intended to bankrupt the health insurance industry and socialize health care, and a lot more. Naturally, you would rather not have your enemies discussing and challenging your administration on its merits. But -- if you could string them along with a bogus yet very simple issue unrelated to the merits, and calculated to make them look unreasonable, wouldn't you do it?

The marvelous thing about this strategy is that Obama has not had to lie about anything. All he has had to do is make it look as if he has something to hide. Where the Birthers make their error in my view is to fail to take into account the very real possibility that he was born in Hawaii and he is deliberately playing a game with them. Instead, they put all their eggs in a very questionable basket -- and if he was in fact born in Hawaii and can produce the documentation the State of Hawaii has in its files, they're going to look very foolish, and they will have wasted a lot of time.

Their mistake is in assuming that the reason he is not producing the documents is because he has something to hide, when the reason might be precisely the opposite -- that he is not producing the documents because he has nothing to hide!

By resorting to common sense originalism, though, Trump is calling his bluff, and appealing to the little people's sense of decency and fair play. 

He is making Barack Obama seem arrogant and aloof, like Leona Helmsley.

This is not a reflection on what documents are either produced and provided by the government or demanded by the government. As I have pointed out in countless posts, the State of Hawaii has certified he was born there, and in the legal sense, that means he was. To deny that is less than sane.

But Trump (who is a gamer par excellence) has laid his own cards on the table and is saying,

"OK, come on. Show your hand, and let's see what you have!" 

The left is not getting it when they point out (however correctly) that Trump can't get a passport with that 1946 hospital document. (See Weigel, AOL News, The Smoking Gun, Wonkette, ThinkProgress, etc.) Like everybody else, he would have to go to the government and get a modern piece of goverment paper in which the State of New York says he was born there. Blah blah blah.

This position (which is legally correct) amounts to government documentarianism.

But this is politics, and people are emotional.

Fascinatingly, there is no requirement in the Constitution that anyone have or show a birth certificate or any other record as proof of eligibility to run for president. I doubt that very many presidents ever did. It was just assumed in those days that their mothers probably didn't sneak across the border to have a baby in another country. Obama's Hawaiian short form (the only form the state offers) says he was born in Hawaii -- which I think it's obvious he was. But the Birthers demand more, and he is just flipping them the bird. It's deliberate and calculated, and Trump has called him on it in a highly theatrical manner. So much so that even I (with my long record of finding the Birthers extremely tedious) am entertained.

By waving that charming little hospital certificate, Trump has shifted the issue from whether Obama was born in Hawaii to whether he is a real person, or an elitist game-playing snot.

As to what "ism" should be bestowed on Trump's rhetorical strategy, I don't know.

Originalist Anti-Documentarianism? Anti-Documentarian Originalism? (Or is "documentationalism" the right ism?)

Birth Certificate Trumperism? 

Hey, at least someone has finally made this amusing while cutting through the never-neverland fantasies to get to the heart of the issue.

You could almost say it's clarifying.

I predict that it will lead to more and better Obamafuscation.

MORE: About Trump, Dr. Helen said,

"He may be a media savvy pimp but what's wrong with that? Apparently, being media savvy is what it takes to get elected President these days."

And one of Glenn's readers called the birth certificate Trumperism "great political theater."

Which it is, because most people have not yet caught up with the reality that a real birth certificate is not necessarily an official birth certificate.

posted by Eric at 02:59 PM | Comments (2)

Making me turn off my lights does not turn me on!

At Dr. Helen's blog  I found yet another reminder (as if I needed one) of what I especially loathe about the left.

The other night they declared lights out night in California, and Amy Alkon defied it.

It's turn out the lights night in the daffy state of California -- from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. tonight (It's 9:16 pm as I'm posting this). Ridiculous people are doing this in celebration of a ridiculous event called "Earth Hour," much like those silly "put on a red ribbon to stop some disease" days.


this is just a bullshit idea that will make people feel like they're doing something -- for an hour -- while making the Santa Monica Pier gloomy and unspectacular and making it less cool to go onto Lincoln and drive north from the airport. Meanwhile, I've got the lights on here, and the computer all aglow, and I am in no mood to churn butter, spin wool into a sweater if I'm cold, or go milk a cow when I want a piece of cheese.

It is typical of their bullshit, and it is an especially sinister form of bullshit. The idea is to socially engineer self-enforcing peer pressure among the apes that leftists believe humans are. It's the same sort of moral communitarianism that once drove busybody puritans to force people to go to church, humiliate them if they were caught dozing, and even execute non-conforming types as witches. The same busybody mindset is inextricably linked to prohibition, carbon-footprint policing, useless "recycling" programs involving garbage can inspections, making people cut their dogs' balls off, etc. It almost invariably pressures people to "get involved" and "do something" -- ideally in the form of spying on, policing, and ultimately denouncing their neighbors.

Above all, people must be constantly on guard watching for signs of heresy. No doubt Amy Alkon's non-conformity has been noted by some self appointed leftist snitch, for they love to keep score.

The left is far better at doing this than the right, which is why their bumperstickers outnumber those from the other side. A right wing bumpersticker limits mobility; park in the wrong neighborhood and you might get keyed, or worse. Think it would be cool to visit that artsy neighborhood? Better take another car. Think it's safe to say you're a Republican? Better look around first to see who's listening.

This is not to say that there aren't people on the right searching for heresy and non-conformity, but there is simply no comparison. Not only is the tent on the right too large, but small government advocacy is by its nature less compatible with invading people's privacy and rooting out heresy. Plus, being on the right side of the spectrum in any capacity -- whether as a conservative, a libertarian or a Republican -- means already being a heretic to the left. So maybe right wing heretics would simply be double heretics.

But heresy to what? In a coalition such as that which exists between libertarians and conservatives, what is heresy? A conservative cannot fairly be called a heretic to libertarianism, any more than a libertarian can fairly be called a heretic to conservatism. Last night I wrote a post lamenting my inability to be a proper conservative -- at least, if proper conservatism is that defined by Steve King. And so what? Where did I ever agree to be a conservative? I cannot be a conservative heretic, any more than I can be a Baptist heretic. I guess I could be a libertarian heretic, for my libertarianism is anything but pure. However, I never said I was a large-L libertarian, so the whole idea is a stretch. Besides libertarians disagree with each other a lot. Disagreement is not heresy.

The point is, it's a lot easier to be guilty of heresy to the left than of heresy to the right. Whether it's tolerance of intolerance or intolerance of tolerance, the left is always on the lookout for violators. Far more than the right.

To put it simply, people on the right are far more likely to believe in leaving people alone.

Even if they leave the lights on.

posted by Eric at 12:32 PM | Comments (5)

Prejudice Against Breast Feeding Women?

The news has been entirely too bleak lately. Still, controversy gets eyeballs. So I'd like to present a little controversy that does not have earthshaking implications: Breasts and the people who feed on them.


Yeah the video was gratuitous. And there are more of them here. I especially liked the cradle hold. A very instructive video. Uh. Where was I? Oh. yeah. Prejudice.

Is there prejudice against breast feeders?

Asked to rate the woman as a job candidate, the students (men and women alike) gave the lowest rating to the breastfeeding woman, with second-lowest rank going to the strapless-bra lady. But the woman going home to bathe her baby did roughly as well as the one who received the neutral message. In other words, signs of parenting didn't trigger perceptions that the hypothetical woman was less capable. Rather, that result appeared after people were primed to think about the woman's breasts. It didn't matter much if they were being invoked as a source of food or as a source of pleasure.
So thinking about breasts makes people think that the big breasted are not so smart? Or is it that just thinking about breasts makes people stupid? I think this topic will require further research. Preferably hands on.

Some good research materials can be found here:


This looks especially promising:

The Big Book of Breasts in 3-D

This could also be helpful:

The Breast Book: An Intimate and Curious History

from a review:

Using over 600 illustrations and photographs, BREASTS is about changing social mores and attitudes, from classical Greek statuary to the Victorian corset to Twiggy to Pamela Lee. BREASTS is about envy and etiquette, differences-why 90 percent of French women do not breastfeed, for example-and adornment, including make-up, tattooing, nipple rings, and more. BREASTS is about politics, art, religion, kitsch, and burning the bra. About perceptions-90 percent of men prefer a size C over a D. About high art-whether the humanist breast in Renaissance painting or its feminist send-up by photographer Cindy Sherman-and pop art, from Vargas girls to World War II bomber mascots to Madonna. BREASTS is about getting them right-falsies, bust improvers, gadgets, pumps, and creams-and showing them off, like Jayne Mansfield's, immortalized in cement in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater.
And don't forget they provide brain food for infants and an obsession for post pubescent men (a different kind of brain food).

And a bit of advice: what ever the size of your female partner's breasts, they are the perfect size and the size you prefer over all others. That is my story and I'm sticking to it. Fortunately it is true for me. My mate cross checks. She watches to see who (or what) I'm ogling. So be careful out there.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:53 AM | Comments (5)

American competition

Finally, some good news!

At least, a rumor of good news, which is the next best thing.

It appears that my favorite beer -- Yuengling -- might just be inching closer to Michigan. Of all the things I miss about Pennsylvania, Yuengling is at the top of the list. For reasons that are not entirely clear, while the company's marketing turf has been expanded north and south, something has long stopped the product from being distributed west of the PA border. I realize that getting the beer into Michigan might be asking too much, but I would settle for Ohio, because Toledo is easy driving distance from Ann Arbor.

Yuengling is not only an American-owned company, but Yuengling is this country's oldest beer -- family owned and operated since 1829. (It is the now the "second second largest American-owned brewery after the Boston Beer Company, makers of Sam Adams beer.")

Budweiser and Miller like to pose as American beers, but both companies are owned by foreign conglomerates. I find their beers almost as boring as their tedious advertising.

It's nice to have domestic competition sneaking up on them.

posted by Eric at 09:15 AM | Comments (3)

Throwing up principles

I don't know whether to title this post "Why I am Not a  Conservative" or "Why I Shouldn't Call Myself a Conservative," or even "Why I CANNOT Call myself a Conservative," but Iowa Congressman Steve King (the driving force behind the recent Conservative Principles Conference) has made a strong case that conservatism means social conservativism, and that economic conservatism cannot be separated from social conservatism.

It is impractical to believe that there is no social issue component of any of the problems facing America -- from education to national security, up to and including the overall economy.

Agreed. If social is cultural, and all communicated thoughts are social, then it is impossible for any expressed thought to not have a cultural/social component.

Nonetheless, there is a public conversation going on about the proper place for social issues -- given the current economic setting. But this is, itself, another debate we should not fear. All candidates need to address the notion of whether housing markets, health care mandates and illegal immigration are more economic matters than social issues.

Fear? Whether anyone fears discussing the proper place for social issues is beside the point. I might rather avoid it for strategic reasons, as I think coalition politics is a good idea right now. But is that really fear? I have spent years writing this blog, so I think I have made it quite clear what I think about various social issues and why I think what I think. If I hold my tongue in the interest of, say, Tea Party coalition politics, is that really because of "fear"? Or is it just because I don't think social issues are as important as the pressing economic issues facing the country? 

What's with injecting fear into this debate? Is the idea that by imputing cowardice to people, they will suddenly start arguing more fiercely?

Or might it be that King thinks people who disagree with him but do not say so are cowards?

Any ideas?

I have a creepy feeling that reminds me of the way I felt when various activists implied that people were afraid to have a "conversation" about race. Being politely silent is not the same thing as being afraid. Diplomacy is not cowardice.

But King says we need to have what he calls "a discussion."

We also need to have a discussion about whether life, marriage, home schooling and any other social issue, cannot be economics. All this, in addition to the effect on where to cut government spending.

If there's one thing I have learned about economics, it is that anything can be economics. "We" (whoever we are) can have whatever "discussions" we want, but I had thought that the "we" in the Tea Party had agreed that cutting government spending is the Most Important Thing.

Tea Party Principles, anyone?

Fiscal Responsibility, Constitutionally Limited Government, and Free Markets.

With all due respect to King, while economics is included, it is a slightly broader topic than the above. Economics as a subject includes everything from Adam Smith to Keynes to Marx to Hayek to Mises, and to Friedman. A lot of things can be "economics," including the Khmer Rouge's "Year Zero" plan.

As well as life, marriage, Obamacare and more.

For example, a debate on the proper role of the judiciary includes the court's opinions on life and marriage, just as on Obamacare and eminent domain. The great debate over true constitutional limits cannot be confined to unemployment numbers and the stock market results.

I'm startled (and puzzled) by the shift from economics to the Constitution. Did anyone suggest that "constitutional limits" meant unemployment numbers and stock market results? 

Is it the conservative position that those who are not conservatives seek to confine the Constitution to these things? The last time I looked, it didn't even mention them. What does he mean? That the Constitution actually includes more things that aren't there, in addition to the things that already aren't there? Is the Constitution's silence about the stock market something that should be treated the same way as its silence about gay marriage? Or health care?

It strikes me that the man is trying to read things into the Constitution that simply are not there.

Like maybe marriage?

In debating the moral standards of American culture, we start with the basic premise that government must possess the moral authority to institute all manner of laws and regulations. In the minds of most Iowa caucus-goers, there is little difference between the ultimate power to tax and the power to define marriage.

The modern power to tax was granted (unfortunately, IMO) by the 16th Amendment. The "power to define marriage," sorry to say, is not only not among the designated powers of the Constitution, but I think the founders would be amazed to hear the suggestion that it was.

Whatever power it might be, King seems to think that it is inherent in government -- especially conservative government. Just as those he calls "conservatives" are invested with that magical "moral authority" to impose "all manner of laws and regulations," they also possess what he calls "true constitutional understanding and moral conviction":

The authority to do either is derived from the same source. Anyone watching the forum, including the media, must understand that if a candidate possesses a true constitutional understanding and moral conviction, including a conservative foundation on the social issues, we have faith they will get the rest of it right.

The three pillars of American exceptionalism are the Judeo-Christian ethic, Western civilization and free-market capitalism. If our U.S. economy is to be strong, these three pillars cannot be separated. Neither can the values of the family and faith coalitions be excluded from the economics debate -- they are integral to each other.

These American exceptionalism principles will be discussed Saturday, Mar. 26, when GOP presidential candidates and other national opinion leaders convene at my Conservative Principles Conference in Des Moines.

All Americans have a high calling -- a religious term -- to serve our country by renewing our national culture through faith and free enterprise.

I think the man is morphing religion into politics and economics, and then into the Constitution. This is something he has every right to do, according to the First Amendment and according to the principles of Rhetoric. And I have just as much right to disagree. I'd say that I think the man comes close to violating his oath to support and defend the Constitution, except I try to be diplomatic and accomodating in the interest of the coalition I like to think I believe in.

I will say this, though. If Steve King and his ilk are right in their definition of conservatism, then not only do I know that I am not a conservative, but I am glad I am not.

Which doesn't make me a liberal, because liberals are socialists, socialism sucks, and Obama sucks so much that I would even vote for Steve King over him. 

I would have to take a vomit bag to the polls, though. Voting for that sort of conservative would make me sick. 

Not being a conservative sucks. In many ways, being a conservative would make my life so much easier. Not only could I agree with people instead of keeping my mouth shut, but I wouldn't have to throw up!

And being a liberal -- that would really open doors.

But that would be even worse than having to throw up occasionally. In fact, I would sooner die than become a liberal. Sickening though the idea is, I would rather be a Steve King conservative than a Barack Obama liberal. I hate the latter more than the former. (Some consolation that is.)

So I remain politically homeless. A loser, even. Sometimes it is depressing.

It's tough not to have the right principles.

posted by Eric at 12:57 AM | Comments (8)

The Plutonium Report

On Sunday (27 March) I said in Tests Have Been Ordered, that if they were detecting Iodine 131 that they were also detecting any plutonium in the area. And if there was Iodine 131 there was plutonium. They knew. What I said was "we are checking" means "we will announce".

Well here is the announcement.

I was reading a thread (probably Zero Hedge) and someone asked what is to be done. A commenter said: do not panic large numbers of people but slowly "expand" the danger zone with news announcements. Let the easily panicked respond first. So what do we see today? A plutonium report. I expect plutonium finds further afield as time goes on.

The US government has suggested that any one within 80 km (50 mi) of the melt down leave the area. I expect that area or perhaps 100 km (60 mi) will be the final size of the exclusion zone.

My guess (based on what I think is going on) is that eventually Tokyo will be in part or wholly evacuated. They are lucky most of the junk is blowing out to sea. So far. The big problem is the pile of molten (possibly critical or recently critical) sludge melting into the water table. I believe that is the water for Tokyo. If the sludge is critical there is no way to get under it to provide a barrier. Too much radiation. Back in my Naval Nuke days we called this the China Syndrome accident. The idea wasn't that the molten pool of sludge would go to China but that it stopped when it wanted to not when we wanted it to.

There is another possibility for spreading the radiation around. If the sludge contacts enough water either from the earth or cool down water then there could be a steam explosion spreading radioactives high into the atmosphere. A wind blowing out to sea would be a good thing if that happens.

The lives this costs will not be Japanese (not many anyway). It will be those killed by a faltering economy as the broken Japanese production machine causes bottlenecks.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:56 PM | Comments (2)

It's official! Old fashioned sexism is finally back in style!

In a long post in which I was trying to be serious, I discussed (again) Kay Hymowitz's Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys.

During the several discussions [...] I kept seeing references to male slobs:

"why men don't marry, why college women get guys showing up in a dirty t-shirt, the decline of male space and all the male bashing."

This whole guys showing-up-for-dates-in-dirty-t-shirts complaint (voiced in a video segment shown here by young women) is undeniably true. I have seen it firsthand. I noticed it on a local Philadelphia cruise a couple of years ago; the girls were well dressed, while almost to a man, their dates looked like total slobs. Almost as if that was the sort of thing to be expected...

Well, an ad I saw yesterday made me think that it has become precisely the sort of thing to be expected.

Here's the advertisement (for Gannett Newspapers) in yesterday's Detroit Free Press:


Talk about stealing ideas! The above could easily be a cover for Kay Hymowitz's book. How dare Gannett do such a thing?

I don't know what to say. Should I try be serious? I mean, clearly there is a huge cognitive disconnect going on here.

What Hymowitz criticizes, Gannett advertises!

I have to remind myself that this is not satire. Sometimes I also have to remind myself that we are all living in the same country. There are so many issues where people are not even on the same page that it makes my head spin.

I'm old enough to remember the old sexist days when such ads tended to depict only well-dressed businessmen. Then times changed, and during the now-outmoded "equal rights" period the ads showed well-dressed businessmen and well-dressed businesswomen. And now it's well-dressed businesswomen and slobbish boy men on skateboards. Does this mean things have come full circle? Will men now have to demand that they be hired too? That they be allowed to penetrate the new glass ceilings and seek admittance to private women's clubs where powerful female cronies get together to decide on the future of the world in smoke-free rooms and tell the presidents where and when to launch wars? 

I guess the old sexist days are back. True, the sexes have been changed, but at least sexism has been restored.

How retro reverse!

With any luck, it may soon be possible to land a job as a "boy Friday."

posted by Eric at 02:43 PM | Comments (1)

Worst Case Scenario

Yeah. I know. I'm a damned alarmist and hysteric when it comes to the Japanese reactor difficulties. It seems I'm not the only one. Michio Kaku describes how things could go if they go bad wrong.

...the worst case scenario is quite different. If radiation levels continue to rise, then at some point the workers may have to evacuate. (A secondary earthquake or pipe break may also aggravate the situation). If the workers abandon the ship, it means that cooling water (which is being shot into the reactors by fire hose) will begin to fall, exposing the rods, and eventually creating 3 simultaneous meltdowns. Then perhaps a steam or hydrogen gas explosion will completely rupture the containment. This will create a nightmare beyond Chernobyl.
Here is a video of Mr. Kaku saying pretty much what he said in the excerpt above:

I'm not optimistic at this point. At all. I expect to see dead zones in Japan by the time the situation is under control.

Dr. Kaku in his latest blog post has some very disturbing news.

The reactor situation in Japan suffered yet another setback today, with water levels in Unit 2 registering 10 million times normal levels. The radiation was so high that workers fled the reactor rather than take a second reading. Radiation levels were an astonishing 1,000 msv/hour (which will cause radiation sickness within an hour and even deaths starting at 6 hours). Given this near-lethal radiation field, workers evacuated Unit 2.

One question is: where did this radiation come from? Most of it was in the form of iodine-134 (with a half-life of 53 minutes) and iodine-131 (with a half life of 8 days). This indicates that the radiation came directly from the core at Unit 2, rather than the spent fuel pond (where most of the iodine has already decayed). So there seems to be a direct path way from the core to the outside, meaning a breach of containment, similar to the situation in Unit 3. In other words, there could be a crack in the pressure vessel surrounding the super hot uranium core, as well as a crack in the outer primary containment vessel surrounding the pressure vessel.

A little math is in order. For ease of calculation let us say that the half-life of I134 is 1 hour and the measurement was made 10 days after the accident started. So let us see 24 hours in a day for 10 days = roughly 240 half lives. Or 1/2240 as much I134 as there was at shutdown. That would mean about 5E-73 as much I134 as there was at shutdown. i.e. basically none. If I134 is detectable the reactor is either not shut down or it is operating in some kind of meltdown mode. Which is to say things are very, very, bad when there are detectable amounts of I134 ten days or more after "shutdown".

This all fits in well with my discussion Criticality Accident? Unfortunately.

Update: 28 March 2011 0812z

I have been advised that I134 is a daughter product of the decay of Tellurium 134. And the half life of Te134? About 42 minutes. That will not be a steady source of I131 over time. So my analysis stands. We have a criticality accident. Which is very bad news.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:18 AM | Comments (21)


I don't know whether I should still allow myself to rant on my blog, but earlier today I was driving on a fairly major through street, which is clearly marked "ONE WAY." Not only does it have the requisite signs posted, but it is so obviously one way that only an absolute idiot would fail to recognize its nature. So, where it intersects with one of Ann Arbor's biggest through streets, I happened to be driving through the intersection (going straight, on the one-way street) when an absolute idiot of a bicyclist was suddenly headed straight at me, forcing me to veer suddenly out of the way into the other lane (where fortunately, no one was). I looked at her in complete astonishment, and as she sailed right into the dangerous intersection without stopping she just smiled a goofy smile from the "safety" of her goofy helmeted head. She kept going in her "having her nice day" way -- utterly and completely clueless that she was not only endangering other people, but endangering herself. You would have to know the area to understand how insane this was, and I do not just mean cluelessly going the wrong way on a one-way street. The street she crossed is one of those huge commuter highway type streets where the traffic is fast and furious -- more fast and furious because if you miss a light you will sit there for what seems forever. Not the sort of street to be playing chicken on by running a stop sign. Actually, now that I think about it, there might not be a stop sign there. And why would there be? It's a one way street going the other way! They don't have stop signs facing the reverse direction, and it would be a bad idea if they did, for it might make people think that they were allowed to be traveling in that direction.

Anyway, she could have easily been killed and she didn't have a clue. I'm a pretty good judge of people and the look on her face did not indicate a deliberate, risk-taking scofflaw type. I'd actually have more respect for a bicyclist like that, as they at least know what they are doing, and they don't waste time doing it. 

And the more I thought it over, the more an evil thought crept into my mind. I actually have more respect for criminals than idiots, for at least the criminals generally know what they are doing. True, criminals should be locked up, but we're talking respect here, not public policy.

I am unable to respect idiots, and I worry that there are more and more of them all the time. There are young people running around who have never been taught common sense, because neither their parents nor the schools have any to impart to them. Like that young bicyclist, they reach adulthood thinking the world is a safe place, and that no one would ever run into them.

I'm guessing that if she "thought" anything at all, she might have figured it's the cars' responsibility to get out of the way of bicycles.

All I can say is %$*&#!

posted by Eric at 04:46 PM | Comments (15)

Tests Have Been Ordered

In keeping with the theme that the Japanese running the reactor rescue are lying, I bring you this bit of news:

Making things much worse is that, apparently for the first time, TEPCO has ordered tests for highly toxic and extremely lethal plutonium on the site:
If they have been testing for other contamination they already have some plutonium numbers. You can pick it up rather easily with a standard GCMS test. What they are actually announcing is the release of the plutonium numbers.

My guess is that they are worried. Very worried. Here is a comment from the above site that gives reasons why they might be worried.

by Confuchius on Sun, 03/27/2011 - 13:06

Two days ago we watched a video of a meeting last week with the most senior Russian scientist who also advised on the sarcophagus construction at Chernobyl. He was in Japan at the request of the government for advice on their problems. He said that after giving them his best advice, they totally ignored all of it and were merely seeking to save face.

He said that he told them to immediately evacuate everyone in a 100 km diameter circle around Fukushima. He also measured the radiation in the soil 60 km from Fukushima and found it was twice as bad as the same measurements taken at the same distance from Chernobyl in 1986. He also said there would be no food grown there again. Ever. Not only that, but the irradiation of the ground water would affect Tokyo itself. He said that there is no safe water in Tokyo at present, nor will there ever be again. Evidently the bureaucrats have given no thought to the evacuation of Tokyo (30 million residents). His most telling comment was that the problems at Fukushima have not even started yet. It will get worsr & worse until they put it all in a proper containment structure, which will take years.

And the best of British Luck to all the world's incompetent bureaucrats. (Which is ALL of them)

Of course I can't verify any of that. But it does fit in with my prejudices on how I expect things to unfold from here.

If Tokyo becomes a ghost town nuclear power will be dead for 50 to 100 years. And Japan may be beyond its last legs already.

OH. Yeah. just for your amusement. The focus of the above linked article is VERY HIGH measured radiation levels. Which are "officially" being discounted as anomalous. Of course they are. Until tomorrow's discounted reported levels.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:36 PM | Comments (1)

eventually they ran out

As I have said before, I sometimes have a problem where it comes to blogging about bad news. This can lead to problems, such as avoiding depressing topics entirely. Or writing about topics some would consider frivolous, like the weather, or comparisons between medical marijuana and radiation tourism

Another option is to find humor in bad news and dire situations. But this has its limits. Carried too far, it can be very bad taste.

But sometimes I cannot resist the temptation, and I am certainly tempted where it comes to Detroit. To say that the city continues to have serious problems is understatement.

As the latest census illustrates dramatically, people are fleeing in record numbers. Freep's Rochelle Riley calls the news a "wake-up call" and says it is wrong to scold those who leave:

Last week, Detroit got the wake-up call that might finally force its leaders to govern the city that exists instead of the city they remember.

U.S. census results revealed that Detroit has lost a quarter of its population -- 237,500 people -- since 2000.

It was the largest percentage loss ever for any American city with more than 100,000 residents, except New Orleans, which lost 29% or 140,000 people after Hurricane Katrina.

Detroit's crisis didn't result from hurricanes, but from slow-rising waters that threaten to drown the city:

* Higher insurance rates.

* Higher taxes.

* Poorer schools.

* Fewer amenities.

* Violent crime.

Rather than excoriate those who leave, Detroit leaders should work faster to fix what's wrong.

Of course, the immediate (and understandable) reaction by city officials was to lamely attempt to scramble to come up with the missing numbers, because unless the city has the requisite 750,000 residents (which it no longer has) it stands to lose millions in state and federal dollars.

So there's a search on -- to discover the whereabouts of the "nearly 40,000 residents the census must have missed." 

City Council President Charles Pugh got even more creative. He wants to count Detroiters who are locked up in state prison:

City Council President Charles Pugh appealed to the census to count Detroit's lawbreakers. There are thousands of Detroiters in prisons around the state who should be counted as city residents, he said. Pugh argued that Detroit's population is also undercounted because "we know that there are thousands of people, because of car insurance, that have addresses in the suburbs."

Wow. That's desperation on so many levels. The inherent pathos of the remark is as funny as it is not funny.

Freep columnist Stephen Henderson: sees the problem as primarily economic, and says "It's the green leaving": 

By the 2006-08 census estimates, things had gotten even worse. The poverty rate was 34%, and median household income had dropped to a point where 44% of the city's households were earning $25,000 or less each year.

I've not seen anything that suggests the 2010 numbers will show any great reversal. And I've been reminded this week of a conversation last year with a Detroit pastor who said the pivotal number in his congregation had become $30,000. Once a family was earning that much, he lost them to the suburbs.

The price of entry to inner-ring communities had fallen that low, and the collapse of Detroit city services, with the attendant struggle to find good schools or even feel safe, was driving a new exodus from the city.

So the incredible shrinking Detroit is no longer a story of white flight or black out-migration. It's the green leaving.

The city is losing what little is left of its black middle class.

Nothing funny about it.

My first question is what happens when a city's tax eaters become the overwhelming majority and the taxpayers flee? Where will the money come from?

Margaret Thatcher famously said that the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money.

And when you run out of other people's money because the people who had money have run away, you have Detroit.

MORE: I hope readers will forgive any errors in formatting, spelling, content or judgment as I have no time to proofread this post.

I am running out! (No, really....)

posted by Eric at 12:56 PM | Comments (0)

Radical Islam
Radical Islam.jpg

I know you are not going to believe this but the above is an image of Radical Islam. Pretty radical for Islam isn't it? Well at least it is very radical for her father.

...the daughter of firebrand cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, Yasmin Fostok might be expected to share his fanatical beliefs.

But the radical Muslim's daughter has ditched his extreme interpretation of Islam - as well as most of her clothing.

The busty blonde has been revealed as a topless, tattooed pole dancer.

Her father denounces the news as a fabricated attack.
Perhaps predictably Bakri, now exiled to Lebanon, dismissed the news as a ' fabrication' and described it as an attack on him and Islam.

'The more you put pressure on me, the stronger I become. Islam will conquer Britain,' he said.

'I have not seen my daughter for nine years, but because she is a member of my family people want to make things up about her.

'You are going to pay a heavy price. You can read it any way you like. The time is now.'

I'm no expert but the only thing I see that appears fabricated in the photo are the protrusions on her chest. But that is just a guess.

So is America falling behind in the exotic dance race? Are we about to lose the pole position? Not if these Christians can get in the swing of things. They are Pole Dancing For Jesus.

church-going ladies in suburban Spring are taking their Jesus-loving to the pole. It's all part of the Pole Fitness for Jesus program that goes down every second Sunday of the month at Best Shape of Your Life studio, following the traditional church worship service.

The gym's owner, Crystal Dean (a professional pole dancing alumna), believes she connects clients to God by directing them towards a more joyful life.

During sessions, she spins "upbeat contemporary Christian music." These women aren't concerned about what their neighbors think of their avant-garde Holy Grail workout.

There are a bunch of links in the comments - videos and such. If you like that sort of thing.

The best strip club I ever went to was run by a former minister.

Frank Gay's Marquee.

He treated the girls well. He treated the patrons well. No sleazy hustles.

The best time I ever had at a strip club was at Frank's. After one of the girls finished dancing she came to my table, we held hands and talked about our families.

Yeah. Frank's was different.

To learn the basics:

Pole Dancing - A Beginners Guide DVD

If you need to improve your grip on the pole:

Mighty Grip for Fitness Pole Dancing

And for those who like dancing on a greasy pole:

Astroglide Personal Lubricant

In any case the above story fits in well with my thesis that sex will destroy Islam. Here are a couple of posts I have written on the subject:

Defeated By Pornography
Jewish Porn Sweeps The Arab World

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:55 AM | Comments (4)

Mideast Freedom: From Fever to Fervor

Via the itinerant Bill Ardolino, who spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan (and whose book will hopefully be out soon), Bill Kristol says give war a chance

We're at war. We need to succeed in that war. By all means, be generous with the constructive criticism. (For example, it seems ridiculous for the United States not to be arming the Libyan opposition.) Note for the historical record the Oba...ma administration's dithering and double-talk. But don't carp and cavil in ways that suggest America can't prevail, or that America shouldn't prevail. Don't revel in every administration misstep. Don't chortle at every misstatement. Don't exacerbate the administration's failure to build domestic support for the mission. Put the mission, and the country, first.

Which means, to some extent, that we might consider biting our collective tongues, wishing the president well because he is our president, and helping him get it right rather than pointing with glee to everything he's doing wrong. Which in turn means that we might want to cool it with the 24/7 criticism. Let's support our troops and their mission, and give the war a chance--even though it's a war that's not being perfectly conducted by an administration that offers plenty of cause for frustration.

You go to war with the president you have. This isn't the one we conservatives preferred. We have a good chance to remove him in 2012. We should work to do so. But first let's remove Qaddafi, help get Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Yemen right, and--who knows?--despite our reluctant president, push the administration to have the backs of those fighting for regime change in Syria and Iran.

It's sort of funny, in a beautiful way, to see the neocon dream coming true only a short while after it had been widely written off as a fever-swamp imperialist fantasy. In 2006-7, few would have believed in just a few years the Mideast would be in the grip of fervent, massive grassroots democratic revolts across the region. And it's good to see honest pro-freedom ideologues like the much-maligned Kristol are backing Obama's actions and telling righties to keep criticisms constructive rather than opportunistically partisan.

posted by Dave at 11:41 PM | Comments (12)

Even in a down economy, high risk investment opportunities abound!

This morning I read about what might be a major new investment opportunity -- with opportunities for growth poised to become bigger than Viagra:

There is a noticeable aroma wafting around the medical marijuana industry. It's the smell of money -- with a strong hint of entrepreneurial opportunity.

Medical marijuana is now a $1.7 billion market, according to a report released Wednesday by See Change Strategy, an independent financial analysis firm that specializes in new and unique markets. The figure represents estimated sales of marijuana through dispensaries in states with medical marijuana laws. It is the first time a definitive dollar figure has been given to the emerging medical cannabis industry.

To put that number in perspective, sales of medical marijuana rival annual revenue generated by Viagra, a $1.9 billion business for Pfizer.

Before I would leap into this as an investment opportunity, I would have to carefully weigh the impact of certain unresolved legal issues. 

Rose's report focused exclusively on the quasi-legal medical marijuana industry in 15 states and the District of Columbia. The cannabis industry as a whole -- including the underground black market and medical gray market -- generates anywhere from $18 billion to $35.8 billion a year. That is a huge variance and demonstrates the quickly shifting landscape of the industry -- and the unreliability of data about an enterprise that is considered strictly illegal by the federal government.

"We undertook this effort because we noticed a dearth of reliable market information about this politically charged business," Rose said.

Remember, while President Obama said during his campaign that he would defer to the marijuana laws of individual states, that promise appears to be as meaningless of the rest of his promises, for his Justice Department is conducting systematic raids on legal medical marijuana establishments.


I guess M. Simon predicted that. I hate it when his dire predictions come true.

For now I think I should scratch the marijuana investment idea as too risky.

Might be a better idea to invest in the burgeoning Chernobyl tourist industry.

I'm sure Chernobyl is a nice place to visit (a "hot" vacation spot and all....), but would I really want to live there? I mean, if the radiation didn't get me I'd succumb to death from cold! (27,940 deaths per year is nothing to sneeze at, even if you say "Gesundheit!")

But that's just personal stuff, and we're talking strictly business here. Like, personally, I don't smoke pot, nor am I especially into radiactive travel destination sites. Which is totally irrelevant.

There is no rule that investing money in something means you have to enjoy the products!

posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (3)

If we could save just 27,940 lives.... (that's per year)

When I wake up in the morning, I tend to look at my clock. Not so much because I'm interested in the time (I have a pretty natural sense of what time it is), but because I want to know the outside temperature. Thanks to this Sharper Image time temperature clock which is still listed but "currently unavailable" at Amazon, I get to satisfy my morbid curiosity about what is going on with the constantly changing climate outside! I'm really into global warming these days, because it's been spring for a whole week, and if I understand the theory correctly, the weather is supposed to get warmer as spring advances.

Well, guess what my clock said this morning at 7:00 a.m.? 

A not so sweet sixteen degrees -- hardly my idea of spring. It's enough to make me question global warming theory itself.

Moreover, I have learned that this type of weather is very dangerous, and that merely by living in it, I am subjecting myself to some serious risks.

How serious? Am I being hysterical?


According to an impressive-looking study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, the longer I live in this cold climate, the more likely I am to die!

We estimate the effect of extreme weather on life expectancy in the US. Using high frequency mortality data, we find that both extreme heat and extreme cold result in immediate increases in mortality. However, the increase in mortality following extreme heat appears entirely driven by temporal displacement, while the increase in mortality following extreme cold is long lasting. The aggregate effect of cold on mortality is quantitatively large. We estimate that the number of annual deaths attributable to cold temperature is 27,940 or 1.3% of total deaths in the US. This effect is even larger in low income areas. Because the U.S. population has been moving from cold Northeastern states to the warmer Southwestern states, our findings have implications for understanding the causes of long-term increases in life expectancy. We calculate that every year, 5,400 deaths are delayed by changes in exposure to cold temperature induced by mobility. These longevity gains associated with long term trends in geographical mobility account for 8%-15% of the total gains in life expectancy experienced by the US population over the past 30 years. Thus mobility is an important but previously overlooked determinant of increased longevity in the United States. We also find that the probability of moving to a state that has fewer days of extreme cold is higher for the age groups that are predicted to benefit more in terms of lower mortality compared to the age groups that are predicted to benefit less.  

27,940 is a lot of people, and I am not anxious to join them. But what the statistic means is that unless I move to a warmer place, I am basically playing Russian roulette. The older I get, the more at risk I am.

Scary stuff. We like to joke about global warming, but think of the lives that could be saved if only we were really able to implement it.

I'm skeptical that we ever will, though. At least, I don't think I'll ever live to see it. I'm much more likely to freeze to death first.

posted by Eric at 09:04 AM | Comments (1)

the natural consequences of unnaturally forced choices

Via theblogprof, I found a Reason TV report titled "LA Food Police Ban Burger Joints: Is Your City Next?"

I find it appalling that the forces of government are attempting to control our diets, but they are.

I suspect that they imagine themselves to be on the side of "nature." You know, natural foods? Eat what's good for you naturally and live longer? Artificial and preservatives are bad? Yet I think allowing humans to decide for themselves what to eat is more natural, even if what they prefer to eat might seem less natural.

Anyway, at 4:18 the man behind the ban (one Councilman Bernard Parks) explains that the reason the burger joints are "unhealthy" is because people don't want to eat what's good for them. So the forces in favor of a more "natural" diet must intervene, and impose their will. His words:

"their choices are driven by what people bring, as opposed to what may be better for them, and in order to force choice into the market, we have to we have to limit one that's over concentrated and attract others that provide other options."

Matt Welch later takes issue with the idea "that you can create more choices by reducing choices." I agree, and I think choice by force is not choice.

But my analysis stopped there, because I was almost inclined to declare that forcing choice on people is "unnatural," only then I ran into a hall-of-mirrors problem which has aborted many a blog post -- the way certain words by their very "nature" (there I went again!) prevent the articulation of what I sometimes like to think are "my thoughts" into anything approaching reasonable coherence.

The last time this happened I had wanted to opine on "natural" manhood in the context of slobs and I got trapped again in that very unpleasant and very unnatural (hence natural for me) hall of mirrors.

"Natural" is a truly awful word, one of the worst weasel words which exists in the English language, because it posits a war between man and nature, setting man up as The Other and Nature all at once as innocence, savagery, and beauty, to be tamed, polluted, raped, made ugly, beautified, improved upon, or destroyed depending on the unnatural whims of human nature! And man is to be adjudged as natural or unnatural according to moralists armed with their own definition of nature, which cannot be defined to anyone's satisfaction, and which has a different meaning for every last damned unnatural one of us.

Man is in a state of rebellion against nature and against man. Men tend to be naturally more rebellious than women. Yet women are more natural than men!

See what I mean? It is infuriating to have such a word. I know I will never resolve this, but I am hoping that maybe by trying to state the problem I can at least get closer to grappling with the dismal failure of words as communication tools.

During the several discussions of Kay Hymowitz's book (Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Has Turned Men into Boys), I kept seeing references to male slobs:

"why men don't marry, why college women get guys showing up in a dirty t-shirt, the decline of male space and all the male bashing."

This whole guys showing-up-for-dates-in-dirty-t-shirts complaint (voiced in a video segment shown here by young women) is undeniably true. I have seen it firsthand. I noticed it on a local Philadelphia cruise a couple of years ago; the girls were well dressed, while almost to a man, their dates looked like total slobs. Almost as if that was the sort of thing to be expected. Whether they had a mutual enforcement mechanism, I do not know. Had one of the guys in the herd worn a coat and tie, I think he might have been more of a hit with the girls, but would he have faced scorn or ridicule from his slobbier friends for not conforming?

I don't know, but the memory flashed through my mind last night when I watched the video that Ann Althouse linked showing a better dressed Latino man getting threatened by a slobbish thug -- and a morally indignant slobbish thug (if such things be) -- on the subway.


Of these two young men, who is more "natural"? The guy who scores with women by being a gentleman, or the more "manly" guy who in all likelihood, would abuse any woman dumb enough to let him near her? (What a pain it is to have to put ill-defined words in quotes.)

Anyway, I had wanted to make a simple observation about guys showing up for dates in dirty t-shirts, and my thoughts got all messed up by nature! All the more so because I wanted to contrast the "natural" character of Tom Sawyer, with his "unnatural" brother Sidney. The Tom and Sidney tension is an old issue in this blog, of course.

Do women prefer natural Tom, or do women prefer unnatural Sidney? Or do they prefer a grown, civilized, cleaned up man with a dirty, "natural" Tom Sawyer at the core?

I'm thinking the title of Kay Hymowitz book ought to be Boying Down: How the Rise of Women Has Caused Men to Remain Boys. Because I don't think men have been turned into boys. Rather, I think that manhood has been made so attractive that many boys have lost all incentive to be men. What's in it for them?

But does this matter? Is it my business to even be writing about it?

What is nature, and what is natural?

It is a hopeless quagmire.

Not long ago, Glenn linked what I thought was a really great comment to the Hymowitz discussion about the unnatural nature of Protestantism:

Second part: My point is that in a state of nature most men would happily spend all their time going off on grand adventures and coming home to good conversations with their pals, some alcohol and a bit of nookie with the wife. It was Protestantism that ruined it all for us.

It was Protestantism that gave us those stern impassioned feet that trudge off to work everyday, and taught us to settle for a single woman and devote our lives to family. I read once that in the 19th century US, the social expectation for a middle class man was that he build up enough property to establish his children well and keep his widow comfortable after he died. Those days are gone.

So when Hymowitz complains that men are staying boys, she's really complaining that we've returned to a state of nature. When men are young they dream of Peter Pan and Wind in the Willows, later of Odysseus and Lord of the Rings. I doubt that any of us have ever grown up dreaming of marriage and raising children.

Essentially, then, for hundreds of years, women have asked men to sacrifice their dreams so that they can achieve their own. In return women, in theory and often in practice, promised companionship and a decent homelife.

There isn't really space to go into a lot of detail, but that Protestant vision survived because it brought reasonable happiness,was bolstered by religion and society, and produced children that were socially valued. My grandparents worked like dogs to build up a small family farm. They never had any money, but in their old age they were surrounded by a large and prosperous family. It was enough for them and they died feeling proud and successful.

However, the society and ideals that made that marriage and through it gave my grandparents a sense of accomplishment in life are mostly gone.

Hymowitz herself has written about the devastating effect that absence has had on the lower classes, but I think she has missed part of her own point. That older system also provided men with something that made up for their lost boyhood. A man could take immense pride in how he supported his family and in his children, and society echoed those feelings back to him.

From what I read, modern marriage promises far less sex than any bachelor can get. A lifelong companion seems not to be part of the picture either. For that same reason, children are as likely to be a source of emotional pain as a source of happiness. And at any rate society is largely indifferent these days to whether a man has children or not, and downright negative about a man's role in raising them.

And who in the heck wants to marry a well-used 30 something who is rapidly approaching her use by date and starting to whimper about her biological clock? I'm not convinced that particular woman would find many takers even in a perfect world.

So, if Hymowitz wants men to man up in that old Protestant sense, she's delusional. Men are returning to their natural state and seem quite satisfied to do so. If women want something akin to that old system, they need to provide the incentive. If a woman can't provide long-term companionship and a reasonable assurance that a man can build something with her, including a family that he knows he'll always be part of, what attraction does she have for him?

As the song says: "When you see a guy reach for stars in the sky
You can bet that he's doing it for some doll." (Guys and Dolls)

If the modern woman wants a man, she needs to be the right kind of doll. Until that happens, Nintendo, here we come.

This is horrible stuff. For starters, my grandfather (whom I suspect would be a Nintendo guy today) did a pretty good job with his family) under very adverse conditions. Yet he would be arrested today if he dared to bring children into this world in a sod house on the Prairie without plumbing. In those days, man had to wage war with nature for survival. 

Now that the war with nature has largely been won, it has been turned inward, so that it has become a war with man's nature. Man's nature is to rebel, whether against "nature" or against natural born tyrants who use "nature" as an excuse.

God how I hate nature.

Especially human nature.

But I'm trying not to let a little thing like that get in my way, so I want to return to the two guys in the subway. First off, the above analysis might be lost on them, because they are both Hispanic, which means that not only are they likely Catholic and not Protestant, but they would most likely hail from what we would call a "macho culture." Now, the man from Uruguay is clearly the gentleman of the two; he is wearing nice clothes (he has just come from seeing his girlfriend) and he is reading a book in public! Both of these are considered major offenses the self-appointed enforcer of Latino street culture, and remember that what set this off was an imagined affront which touched on sexual performance:

His name is Daniel, and he finally emailed us, and attached the above photo of himself. He tells us he was born in Uruguay but has lived in New York for 20 years, currently in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He works as an analyst at a credit rating agency. On the day in question, he was riding the Manhattan-bound 7 train, returning from seeing his girlfriend in Queens.

As he tells it in his email, "I got on the subway and accidentally bumped his leg and it started. He called me a pussy and I told him 'I am what I eat.' When a girl laughed he went ballistic." That's when the video started. And the ending of it all? "The guy got off a couple of stops later asking me to get off the subway and 'shoot it out' with him." Daniel declined.

In the context, it is obvious that the "I am what I eat" remark (which caused the girl to laugh) was an absolutely intolerable insult. For it meant that:

- the well-dressed guy was not rattled by being called a "pussy"

- he was more intelligent than his crude attacker; and

- he scored with women so he could not be shrugged off as gay.

So, I'm thinking that in all probability the thug believed himself to be imposed upon by the guy he had imposed upon by calling a pussy. Bullies work that way; they think that they have a right to impose on you, but your standing up to them is an "imposition." (Which is why a bully who gets the worse of a fight will turn right around and claim "victim" status.)

Where the incident gets more complicated is in determining which man is more "natural." Which man is the "alpha male"? Is the bully the alpha, or is the guy who refused to get rattled the alpha? Obviously, the bully considers the well-dressed guy to be a pussy, but does that make him one? What are the implications as to pussification? The man admits and even makes fun of the epithet by saying "I am what I eat." So if he is the alpha in the equation, does he become the natural born alpha male pussy? Is there such a thing?

And what's alpha? Who imposed on whom? Is that what Alpha is all about? It strikes me that the bully is a herd follower (perhaps he fancies himself a herd leader), while the other guy is his own man. But in the subhuman natural criminal culture from which the aggressor seems to hail, bullies sometimes have to take it up the ass before they earn the right to be considered men by the other alphas who play that sort of dominance game, so it is very confusing.

Who is more natural? The street thug or the civilized man?

Clearly, Tom Sawyer was no street thug, and I guess there was a time when he would have been expected to develop (however unnatural that might have been for him) into a civilized man. His boyish battle against the admittedly somewhat feminizing forces of civilization is admirable, while Sidney's deliberate embrace of it at a young age is meant to be considered repulsive by readers, even though it is embraced by the nice ladies and school teachers of the town. Until, of course, they learn that Tom is noble and a hero, while Sidney has all along been an ignoble coward.

So, while I would like to propose that the forces Tom fought were unnatural, even that opens a can of worms and sends me back into the hall of mirrors. Civilization would then become unnatural. Yet the process of civilizing nature is part of man's nature. And it is natural for man to oppose nature, especially when nature imposes, just it is natural to oppose the opposition.

Surely man can't be at war with his own nature, for what could be more unnatural than that?

MORE: The comments below are making me wonder whether the public school system, by its failure to discipline children, is systematically creating undisciplined, childlike adults (or even feral adults like the thug in the video).

Children of course need nannying. That is their "nature." (Damn, that word I hate again!) But adults are not supposed to need or want nannying. Is that changing? Might it be that the more childlike adults there are, the more demand there will be to regulate things like diets, cell phones, and light bulbs?

It fascinates me to see the complete failure of discipline is nonetheless coupled with a mind-numbing "zero tolerance" approach to everything else. A feral young thug can terrorize his classroom and completely ignore his teachers, while bringing an aspirin tablet to school leads to severe penalties. The result seems to be an ever-growing population in need of nannying, which unquestioningly accepts the nanny state.

Perhaps the schools are in fact preparing the kids for live in the new world they're helping create. And if the schools are turning out adult children, the situation may be somewhat different (and far worse) than Hymowitz imagines.

Please tell me I'm wrong!

I need some reassurance.

posted by Eric at 01:40 PM | Comments (13)

Ill Wind

That report is now about two days old. Since then there have been "developments". That is an euphemism around here for MSHTF. M = more. I'm sure you can take it from there.

Here is a good one: Reactor 3 containment feared breached.

A suspected breach in the core of a reactor at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant could mean more serious radioactive contamination, Japanese officials revealed Friday, as the prime minister called the country's ongoing fight to stabalize the plant "very grave and serious."

A somber Prime Minister Naoto Kan sounded a pessimistic note at a briefing hours after nuclear safety officials announced what could be a major setback in the urgent mission to stop the plant from leaking radiation, two weeks after a devastating earthquake and tsunami disabled it.

"The situation today at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant is still very grave and serious. We must remain vigilant," Kan said. "We are not in a position where we can be optimistic."

FWIW I haven't been optimistic since day 3 or 4. Hydrogen explosions are a very bad sign. At least the Japanese government is starting to tell the truth: things will be getting worse for a while.

There is also some technical data available.

Workers were also trying to fix a pump using an outside power source that had been pumping seawater into the No. 5 reactor, but which stopped Wednesday night.

Figures obtained from instruments indicate that between half to one-third of the approximately 4-meter long fuel rods are exposed, but TEPCO officials do not know what the actual situation is like.

The temperature of the core of the No. 1 reactor at one time reached about 400 degrees, above the design limit of 302 degrees. To cool the core, the amount of seawater being pumped in was increased early Wednesday from 2 cubic meters an hour to 18 cubic meters an hour.

The temperature decreased to 243 degrees as of 1 a.m. Thursday, leading one TEPCO official to say the situation was improving.

However, pressure within the containment vessel that holds the pressure container in the core of the No. 1 reactor increased from about 1.7 atmospheres (atm) at 11 a.m. Tuesday to 3.6 atm at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The amount of seawater being pumped in was reduced to about 10 cubic meters per hour from 2:30 a.m. Thursday.

At a Wednesday night news conference, Haruki Madarame, chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission, said: "Personally, I am concerned about the increase in pressure in the No. 1 reactor. We may have to open the vent (to release steam)."

So why are they so slow to vent reactor #1? My guess is that they can't pump make-up water into the reactor and venting will cause the fuel rods to be uncovered. Another alternative is that they fear a hydrogen explosion. What ever it is they are holding off venting until the last possible moment. Of course if their judgment is wrong and they go beyond the last possible minute....

In any case, a sure sign that the core has been breached is radioactive iodine. About 99.9% of it is gone 90 days after a shutdown. There is a lot of it in a core that has just shut down. So spent fuel is not going to provide much radioactive iodine. I have been saying total containment breach - rods, reactor vessel, containment bldg. - since the radioactive iodine was reported. Nice to get confirmation.

More evidence of a meltdown. Radioactive zirconium found. Follow the link for the whole dismal story.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:43 AM | Comments (7)

Level 6

The accident at Japan's nuclear reactors officially just got worse.

Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, crippled by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, has discharged more radiation than the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States, according to calculations by the central government.

It has already reached a level 6 serious accident on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES).

Separately, calculations made by experts place the level of soil contamination in some locations at levels comparable to those found after the Chernobyl accident in 1986.

With the Fukushima plant continuing to release radiation, there is the danger that the contaminated land will be unusable for many years.

Such a short report. So much information.

Comparable to Chernobyl in spots? Well that is the good news. Why good? Because the radiation is only really bad in spots. Bad news would be "Comparable to Chernobyl over a wide area." Well not to worry. The accident is not over.

And contaminated land unusable for years (they probably mean decades)? Well at least no one has died from the radiation. So far. But as I keep saying:

Coal plants may be more dangerous on a day to day basis but when they go tits up you don't have to evacuate everyone who lives within 50 miles of the plant.

Tyler Durden has some thoughts on the latest development.

Only Chernobyl is a Level 7 event. We believe Fukushima should get there within 2 weeks as ever more of the current devastation becomes public. Of course, all of this is a paper-pushing formality. What isn't, are people who may be developing serious diseases as the government continues to misrepresent the severity of the situation.
Is an evacuation of Tokyo possible? I would currently put that action at the outer limit of possible dangers. If it does happen I'd have to say the accident is worse than I thought. And I thought it was pretty bad.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:41 AM | Comments (3)

Welcome To The Treadmill

*And yes, I feel pretty bad posting on this while half the world is in turmoil.  However, if I can't get over this I'll be in turmoil.  So indulge me for a couple/three posts, and then I'll hopefully calm down enough to turn my attention to the more important but less personal issues.*

Of course, it immediately occurred to me last night, after I went to bed, that I shouldn't have said anything yesterday. This comes from three sources: the first is that I hate admitting being in a tough spot. I know that, you guys probably know that if you've been reading my blog. I drag on to the last possible point before going to the doctor, when I'm sick, for instance. It's all part of the same thing.

That one is easy to dismiss. Jerry Pournelle would tell me that pride is a sin, and Jerry is right. That particular failing has got me into more trouble than all my other personality defects combined. So I can tell pride to shut up and take a hike.

But there is a more material problem with what I said yesterday. Half of you will be going "ooh. Publishers are late. They're dishonest." Or something like that. Well, no.

Continue reading "Welcome To The Treadmill"

posted by Sarah at 10:25 AM | Comments (3)

Taylor joins Ghandi

Speaking of things I've written about before, Democratic agent provocateur Fred Phelps is hardly at the top of my list of priorities. So when I read about the latest antics of his incestuous cult (a protest at Elizabeth Taylor's funeral), my reaction was sort of ho-hum. The Supreme Court has said they can do it, and because they are publicity-seekers who want to do as much damage to the image of Christianity as possible, they see the death of a beloved celebrity as the perfect occasion to encourage hatred of what is spun as "Christianity." A lot of people loved Elizabeth Taylor, and plenty of them can be depended upon to leave her funeral with lifelong memories of "Christians" as bigoted, funeral-disrupting scum. It wouldn't surprise me of the Phelps outfit has converted more young people to atheism (or at least angry secular agnosticism) than any of the leading atheist organizations.   And many of them will see this as bestowing a sort of secular martyr status on Elizabeth Taylor.

I wouldn't have bothered with a post had I not read a news item earlier about the insistence by certain pastors (apparently more legitimate than Phelps) that Ghandi is in Hell. At least, that's what is being widely reported:

The debate over Bell's new book "Love Wins" has quickly spread across the evangelical precincts of the Internet, in part because of an eye-catching promotional video posted on YouTube.

Bell, the pastor of the 10,000-member Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., lays out the premise of his book while the video cuts away to an artist's hand mixing oil paints and pastels and applying them to a blank canvas.

He describes going to a Christian art show where one of the pieces featured a quote by Mohandas Gandhi. Someone attached a note saying: "Reality check: He's in hell."

"Gandhi's in hell? He is? And someone knows this for sure?" Bell asks in the video.

In the book, Bell criticizes the belief that a select number of Christians will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven while everyone else is tormented forever in hell.

Whether there is a Hell and whether Ghandi is in it are two different questions. What I think may be going on is that as the numbers of people who believe in a literal Hell shrink, the hard core believers are the ones who remain, and the harder core they are, the more likely they are to believe that all non-Christians (including Ghandi) are in fact in Hell.

The fewer people who believe in Hell, the worse Hell gets.

Not that this should matter to atheists or even to those who believe in a compassionate deity, but it is hard to convert people to a system which condemns billions of people for the crime of having been unfortunate enough to have been born into the "wrong" religious background. Years ago I had dinner with a guy who tried to convert me to his religion -- a sort of hard core Calvinism which believed in predestination, that some people are elected and some are not, and when I expressed skepticism that a merciful god would be sending billions of Hindus and Buddhists to hell even if they had lived good lives, his eyes narrowed momentarily, and for just an instant he looked both angry and disappointed in me. But then his demeanor changed, and he grew cold but polite, and changed the subject, never bringing religion up again. Without intending to, I had somehow demonstrated to him that I was a lost cause. Which I guess I am if it comes to a religion that insists on sending good people to Hell. I'd rather join my friends in Hell than live under sych a tyrannical and authoritarian regime. The problem is, I really don't think God works that way. Those who insist that he does will doubtless insist that those who disagree with them belong in Hell.

It is of course another hopeless argument about the nature of  the unknown.

And while these debates grow sour and more tedious, Phelps and his gang are doing their best to bring about Hell on earth.

What if God hates Phelps?

MORE: As I was reminded below, God does NOT hate this Phelps!

posted by Eric at 09:48 AM | Comments (7)


Remember my story about Tokyo water being unfit for infants due to radioactivity? Evidently it is giving one Westerner in Japan crazy ideas.

"It's unfortunate, but the radiation is clearly being carried on the air from the Fukushima plant," Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, said Wednesday. "Because it's raining, it's possible that a lot of places will be affected. Even if people consume the water a few times, there should be no long-term ill effects."

As authorities tried to maintain calm in Tokyo, residents were racing to buy as much bottled water as they could, clearing the shelves of the city's stores. Mr. Edano said Thursday that officials were considering a plan to import water from overseas, to supplement the bottles they planned to begin distributing across the city.

Despite the frequent rain in recent days, it was not entirely clear why the levels of iodine were so high, said a senior Western nuclear executive, noting that the prevailing breezes seemed to be pushing radiation out to sea. "The contamination levels are well beyond what you'd expect from what is in the public domain," said the executive, who insisted on anonymity and has broad contacts in Japan.

It was possible that the levels were an indirect indication that the problems at the plant were deeper than had been publicly acknowledged.

Compare and contrast "no long term ill effects" with "importing water" and then restudy "deeper than had been publicly acknowledged."

The US Military began evacuating Military dependents from Japan six days ago.

The exodus from Japan is intensifying as the United States announced plans to evacuate as many as 20,000 dependents of military personnel and foreign rescue teams were told the search for tsunami survivors is virtually over.

"Don't panic," Capt. Eric Gardner, the commanding officer at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, said in a video message for personnel announcing the voluntary evacuations.

Relatives and nonessential workers at Atsugi and three other US military bases were offered the opportunity to leave. They will be flown to the United States aboard US-chartered planes or via commercial flights with their fares paid by the Department of Defense, officials said.

Well I'm going to take Capt. Gardner's advice. I'm not going to panic. But I don't live in Japan.

The troubles with the reactors got a little worse today.

Steam rising from 4 reactors at Fukushima plant.

An NHK helicopter crew has confirmed what appears to be steam rising from No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 reactor buildings at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

This is the first time that steam has been seen coming out of the No.1 reactor.

And there appears to be other troubles according to Zero Hedge.
And more bad news, this time from Reactor 5, which was previously considered safe, via the NYT:
The cooling system at Reactor No. 5, which was shut down at the time of the earthquake and has shown few problems since, also abruptly stopped working on Wednesday afternoon, said Hiro Hasegawa, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric...."When we switched from the temporary pump, it automatically switched off," he said. "We'll try again with a new pump in the morning."
Lost cooling to #5. Uh. Oh. And now they have to install a new pump? Probably in a high radiation environment. Dang.

Speaking of radiation. The casualties are coming in.

Japan's nuclear safety agency said three workers had been injured when their feet came into contact with radiation-contaminated water while laying cables in the turbine area of reactor 3.

They were exposed to radiation levels of 170-180 millisieverts, he said, which is lower than the maximum level permitted for workers on the site of 250 millisieverts. Two of the workers were taken to hospital.

"Although they wore protective clothing, the contaminated water seeped in and their legs were exposed to radiation," said a spokesman.

"Direct exposure to radiation usually leads to inflammation and so that's why they were sent to the hospital to be treated."

Most people are exposed to 2 millisieverts over the average year, while 100 millisieverts is considered the lowest level at which any increase in cancer is clearly evident.

So at minimum the workers are at elevated risk for cancer. Some think certain death.
They're known as the "Fukushima 50," and they're Japan's only hope of avoiding a Chernobyl-like catastrophe.

The men, unidentified technicians and emergency workers, are desperately battling to save potentially millions of their countrymen -- knowing that even if they succeed, they'll likely die from lethal doses of radiation.

Chernobyl workers who stayed at their stations when the Ukrainian reactor exploded in 1986 died within three months of exposure.

Radiation is a slow poison most of the time. We will not get a true body count until the mess is cleaned up. And for now it can't be cleaned up because it is not under control.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:51 AM | Comments (0)

Criticality Accident?

Things are getting better and better all the time when it comes to the Japanese Nuclear Reactors in Fukushima. Take this report from 19 March, 2011.

-- Reactor No. 4 - Under maintenance when quake struck, no fuel rods in reactor core, temperature in spent-fuel storage pool reached 84 C on Monday, fire Tuesday possibly caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, fire observed Wednesday at building housing reactor, pool water level feared receding, renewed nuclear chain reaction feared, only frame remains of reactor building roof.
The Monday and Tuesday in question would be the 14th and 15th.

OK. Now we get this wonderful bit of news from 23 March that ties in with the old news.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Wednesday it has observed a neutron beam, a kind of radioactive ray, 13 times on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was crippled by the massive March 11 quake-tsunami disaster.

TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear plant, said the neutron beam measured about 1.5 kilometers southwest of the plant's No. 1 and 2 reactors over three days from March 13 and is equivalent to 0.01 to 0.02 microsieverts per hour and that this is not a dangerous level.

Well isn't that interesting? Not at all. Look at the attribution of the beam in the latest report.
...the measured neutron beam may be evidence that uranium and plutonium leaked from the plant's nuclear reactors and spent nuclear fuels have discharged a small amount of neutron beams through nuclear fission.
The neutron beams are evidence of criticality. Random bits of U235, U238, and Plutonium scattered about the universe do not generate neutron beams. I'm sorry. But unless you have neutron multiplications of above 1.0000 you are not going to see a lot of neutrons coming out of a "shut down" reactor. And it might not have been a reactor even. Spent Fuel Rod Pool #4 is a prime candidate. The "pile" need not be very orderly if the pile is big enough. Such disorder in fact might very well generate beams rather than the more even flux you get from a reactor operating as designed.

Of course criticality accidents are very bad news. Because there is no guarantee that the "pile" will not restart at some later date. Very inconvenient.

Oh. Yeah. Just for the record. It never happened, sort of.

In the latest case at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, such a criticality accident has yet to happen.
Of course it hasn't happened. If it had actually happened the news would be very inconvenient. Proof positive it never happened. And the Emperor willing it is not going to happen under any circumstances.
Han Solo: [sounding official] Uh, everything's under control. Situation normal.
Yeah. Right.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:43 PM | Comments (10)

25,000 dead and counting

The news from Japan continues to be awful, and it will get worse:

THE number of people confirmed dead or listed as missing in Japan surpassed 25,000 yesterday 12 days after a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the country's northeast coast.

There are fears of a much higher toll from the disaster, which flattened entire towns along the Pacific coast of northern Honshu island.

The National Police Agency said 9487 people had been confirmed dead and 15,617 officially listed as missing - a total of 25,104 - as of 9pm (AEDT) yesterday as a result of the March 11 catastrophe.

A total of 2755 people have been injured.

The death toll alone makes other news events (including the Fukushima reactor failure, which has so far not killed anyone) relatively trivial by comparison. I thought I should point that out lest someone get the impression that I consider the protests in Madison or the damaged Fukushima reactor to be more important.

Interestingly, a CBS poll indicates that there has been a drop in support for nuclear power in the United States. Which is understandable. I think most of us can agree that it's a bad idea to build nuclear reactors in earthquake fault zones.

But in light of the carnage, is it wise to have millions of people living where no nuclear reactor ought to be allowed?

posted by Eric at 02:20 PM | Comments (10)

Who are the smug aristocrats?

Between the horrific earthquake and the reactor problems in Japan, and the operation against Gadhafi in Libya, the war of attrition in Madison, Wisconsin has been pushed off the front pages. (And off Drudge, off Memeorandum, and off almost everywhere else except gloating left-wing sites.)

Shouldn't that cause a collective sigh of relief? I mean, who isn't sick of reading about unending protests in Madison?

The trouble with getting sick of a war of attrition is that the people who get sick of it enable the combatants (in this case the enemies of the taxpayers) to win. Knowing this does not make it any easier to stand up to them. Hell, I can barely stand writing another blog post about the Madison demonstrators. Seriously, the feeling that I am having to repeat myself is Complaint Number One that I have about blogging. The only reason I am doing it is because I know too well that the way the left wins these wars of attrition is because people like me get sick to death of them.

It is one thing to be sick to death of something, but when you've been blogging as long as I have been with the personality type that I have, you tend to get sick to death of everything. (Unfortunately, my being sick of stuff won't make the stuff I'm sick of go away. Even more unfortunately, my not saying anything arguably might help the stuff I am sick of get worse.)

Whether I am sick of it or not, there's a much more insidious aspect of this war of attrition that makes me unable to ignore it. While no one likes wars of attrition, this one is being fought at a level approaching house-to-house and door-to-door. I don't just mean death threats against Republican politicians. Ann Althouse (an Obama voter, btw) has been threatened with violence for the "crime" of covering these protests in her own town. As I've said before, I cannot believe her stamina and sheer determination. She is not being paid for this coverage and does not have to be doing what she is doing. In fact, she is a busy law professor and I am sure that this eats up huge amounts of her time. Yet she is doing it out of a sense of duty as a citizen journalist. In her words:

I know Meade and I exemplify Glenn's concept of "An Army of Davids," but we kind of got drafted. Here we are in Madison, Wisconsin and something big happens. We have to cover it. Or we'd have to justify dodging the draft into the army of Davids. And now that we're in, people are looking to us to be the rough men who stand ready to do journalism on their behalf so they can read peaceably on their laptops at night.

And now we're into the third week of it. It's become a quagmire. I believe myself that... this protest is lost and it is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme aggression in Madison yesterday....

That was three long weeks ago. Since then, she has been threatened with violence, local businesses have been urged not to serve her, her home address has been put online, and of course the left subjects her to an unending torrent of vicious personal insults in the hope that she will just do the wrong (but easy) thing, and go back to home and work. Instead, despite all the threats and abuse, she continues her very courageous coverage of the protests

A sympathetic commenter to her March 2 post warned her:

Ann & Meade - thank you for taking so much time out of your lives to cover this. It is sad to me when those being paid to be journalists abrogate their responsibility to tell the truth. Thank God you are willing to wade into the maelstrom and shine the light of truth.

Please be careful; it is obvious that reality is starting to set in for these folks, and their lashing out will get nastier.

And it certainly did.

It bothers the hell out of me that the efforts of the demonstrators are paying off. According to a number of accounts, the attrition campaign appears to be winning, and the demonstrators are crowing victory all over the world.

Ramrod democracy was working so well until it hit Wisconsin. The news from that state just keeps on coming and growing in significance.

The latest chapter in a month-long struggle came Friday, when Dane County circuit judge Maryann Sumi issued a restraining order on Governor Scott Walker's hotly-debated anti-union bill - citing possible violation of the state's open meetings law. Now implementation of the bill which, among other things, limits collective bargaining to issues of wages (capped in any case to inflation-only increases), will be put on hold, indefinitely, pending a full investigation of state senate Republicans' heavyhanded tactics.

Walker's critics have good reason to relish in the Governor's Mubarak moment. Despite all those precious dollars lavished on securing Republican majorities in the last election, despite that flood of anti-union messages on state media, some righteous public workers, their unions, some thousands of determined protesters and, now, a Republican-appointed judge managed to stop the state steamroller. Where's the palace guard when you need them?

At the Left Forum, an annual gathering of independent lefties in New York last weekend, news of the judge's stay was greeted with glee. People power worked, they say, and here was people power in action.

Judge Sumi's decision puts paid to all those who say progress is achieved through any one set of tactics: voting or protest, law or disobedience. Wisconsinites stopped the Walker steamroller through a combination of them all: direct action, legislative action, protest, and finally a lawsuit filed by the Dane County district attorney.

They are even taunting the Tea Partiers for doing nothing while they successfully "turn back the steamroller":

It's going to take every tactic in the book to turn back the steamroller for good. At least, though, we can stop for just a minute and acknowledge what's happening in this country.

When was the last time you heard about a Tea Party rally?

Not only are they getting their way, but I'm afraid that people are helping them get their way by being sick and tired of the whole thing.

I include myself in that category, because I could be writing about it more. As to what I could say that I haven't already said, that's the problem. It is simply a pain in the ass to repeat myself. So I did the next best thing; I donated some money to Ann Althouse, who charmingly calls it "encouragement." It's the least I could do, and I would say to readers who care that it's the least they could do too.

Beyond that, I have nothing new to say.

Well, there is one little thing I noticed that might be worth some historical quibbling. 

Ann Althouse posted a video which is well worth watching in its entirety (even if you're a person like me who gets sick and tired of watching videos in their entirety) as it shines a light on some of the mindsets that drive this war of attrition.

It shows Ann Althouse's husband Meade spending a great deal of time attempting to scrub from a Civil War memorial statue a well-known Communist slogan "Workers of the World Unite." No mere Communist slogan, it has earned its own Wiki post as "one of the most famous rallying cries of communism."

As Meade scrubs, a very smug-looking man appears waving a sign depicting Governor Walker as Marie Antoinette with the phrase "LET THEM EAT CAKE." He identifies himself as an attorney, and gets into a debate with Meade in which he displays amazing ignorance over things which are such common knowledge that he has to be lying. First, he disputes that "Workers of the World Unite" is a communist slogan. As that claim was too ridiculous to pass muster, he shifted to defending it on its merits, and then finally he speculated that it had been written by a "teabagger who wanted to make us look bad." He then feigned complete ignorance of the gay origin of the term, and claimed to be utterly clueless about why anyone would consider it homophobic. After Ann and Meade patiently explained to him why it was, he feigned surprise and said he was going to go look it up.


But don't worry! My quibble for today does not involve the meaning of "teabagger," nor even Marxist analysis.

I want to focus on the man's sign.


I know, it seems like the perfect fashion accessory to go with the man's smug expression, but I have a basic question.

Is that a valid historical comparison?

Forgive me, but I think the situation cries out for a little overanalysis. 

In the court of popular history, what earned Marie Antoinette permanent notoriety was the charge that she was "profligate and promiscuous":

In such pamphlets as "Le Godmiche Royal", (translated, "The Royal Dildo"), it was suggested that she routinely engaged in deviant sexual acts of various sorts. Most famously with the English Baroness 'Lady Sophie Farrell' of Bournemouth, a renowned lesbian of the time.[77] From acting as a tribade, (in her case in the lesbian sense), to sleeping with her son, Marie Antoinette was constantly an object of rumor and false accusations of committing sexual acts with partners other than the king. Later, allegations of this sort (from incest to orgiastic excesses) were used to justify her execution. Ultimately, none of the charges of sexual depravity have any credible evidentiary support. Marie Antoinette was simply an easy target for rumor and criticism.

So she was the victim of a homophobic smear campaign which appears to have been false. (Not that a little thing like the truth ever mattered, either then or now.)

Here's the historically footnoted Wiki account of what the mob did to her alleged lesbian lover:

On 19 August, [Princess Lamballe] and the Marquise de Tourzel, governess to the royal children, were separated from the royal family and transferred to the La Force prison.[6] On 3 September, she was brought before a hastily assembled tribunal which demanded she "take an oath to love liberty and equality and to swear hatred to the King and the Queen and to the monarchy".[7] She refused, upon which her trial summarily ended with the words, "Elargissez madame" ("Take madame away"). She was immediately taken to the street and thrown to a group of men who killed her within minutes.[8][9]

Some reports allege that she was raped and that her breasts were cut off, in addition to other bodily mutilations,[10][11] and that her head was cut off and stuck on a pike. Other reports say that it was brought to a nearby café where it was laid in front of the customers, who were asked to drink in celebration of her death.[10] Other reports state that the head was taken to a barber in order to dress the hair to make it instantly recognizable,[11] though this has been contested.[9] Following this, the head was replaced upon the pike and was paraded beneath Marie Antoinette's window at the Temple.[12]

Those who were carrying it wished the queen to kiss the lips of her favourite, as it was a frequent slander that the two had been lovers. The head was not allowed to be brought into the building, but the queen's guards did force her to look out of the window at the sight, whereupon she fainted almost immediately.[12]

You know, I'm going to stick my neck out here and pose a question. Might there have been an element of homophobia present among the mob? Is that something the left considers commendable?

I find myself wondering whether the attorney who claimed ignorance of the Marxist origin of the slogan "Workers of the World Unite" and of the homophobic implications of the word "teabagger" is also ignorant of the homophobia that drove the French mob.

He is certainly comfortable presenting a victim of it as worthy of blame. But even in that, he is woefully inaccurate, for if we turn to his sign's phrase "LET THEM EAT CAKE," there is absolutely no evidence that Marie Antoinette ever said it:

In popular culture, the phrase "Let them eat cake" is often attributed to Marie Antoinette. However, there is no evidence to support that she ever uttered this phrase, and it is now generally regarded as a "journalistic cliche".[103]

Hmmm... Does that mean it's OK for journalists to display their ignorance?

As has been pointed out many times by her biographers, it would have been out of character for Marie Antoinette to have said it.

But even if we indulge ourselves in journalistic cliches and assume it's true, what about Governor Walker? Does anyone in his right mind believe that he would mock starving Wisconsonites by suggesting they eat cake? Do they really believe he is a profligate spendthrift and the equivalent of a sexually promiscuous (and incestuous) French lesbian?

But maybe I am being too harshly literal in my analysis. So let's cut this ignorant attorney some slack and allow for the sake of argument that he is not literally comparing Governor Walker to Marie Antoinette, but that he is merely attempting to draw a more general political analogy between Republicans and the pre-revolutionary French aristocracy. Might that be it?

It is not open to serious dispute that two of the primary causes of the French Revolution were massive public debt and a privileged aristocracy that continued to live high on the hog while the country faced bankruptcy. 

Is Governor Walker behaving like a French aristocrat? Hardly. He and his political allies are trying to reign in public debt. And unlike the French ruling classes, he has to run for office and is subject to being defeated or recalled.

I would argue that if any group resembles the French aristocracy, it is tenured state employees who cannot be fired and who are able to retire with full pensions while regular taxpayers have to work and pay for it.

He may not be aware of it, but the man smugly waving that Marie Antoinette sign is simultaneously:

sanctioning dishonest mob violence,


supporting Wisconsin's ruling class artistocracy.

Obviously he is unaware of this contradiction, for the man is still waving the Walker-as-Marie-Antoinette sign.

I think he should be careful what he wishes for.

I'd also say he was trying to have his cake and eat it too, but does one bad cliche really deserve another?


posted by Eric at 12:14 PM | Comments (4)

The Money Matter

I hate it when it's time to get resourceful. For all my innovation in writing, my interest in the new and the different, I crave security at a very deep level. Frankly, it's a joke that someone with my need for security should be in a profession where the money comes slow and irregularly when it comes at all.

Lately a series of very bad expenses - all new appliances except for the stove which is limping (and I do mean limping, unfortunately) along and might hold another year if we're lucky, a series of car repairs, tuition for both kids an idiot cat who swallowed a bunch of thread and other sundry emergencies - have driven a knife deep into my bank account. This combines with the fact that payments that used to be almost instant in publishing are often now eight months late to bring us to a no good, very bad, rotten type of financial situation.

Of course the problem with this is that anxiety brings my writing to a grinding halt, and that in turn grinds the payments to an even slower schedule because I deliver late.

To put things bluntly, we need to make up the about 12k in unexpected expenses (yeah, the tuition was expected, but the rest wasn't) that have buffeted us since around December or things are going to go south very fast and get extremely unpleasant to the point that writing time will become iffy (as in, if we need to move).

Continue reading "The Money Matter"

posted by Sarah at 12:29 AM | Comments (7)

Uncontrolled Experiment Continues

And what is the nature of an uncontrolled experiment? They are commonly referred to as accidents. Things are heating up at the Fukushima Experimental Station. Here is the latest status of the experiment.

Despite hopes of progress in the world's worst nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century, triggered by an earthquake and tsunami that left at least 21,000 people dead or missing, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it needed more time before it could say the reactors were stabilized.
Translation: "We got no fookin control. All we can do for now is stir the rubble."

Now how about the good stuff?

Earlier smoke and steam were seen rising from two of the most threatening reactors, No.2 and No.3, stoking new fears of radiation. Officials later said smoke at reactor No.3 had stopped and there was only a small amount at No.2.

There have been several blasts of steam from the reactors during the crisis, which experts say probably released a small amount of radioactive particles.

Concern has also grown over the core of reactor No. 1 after its temperature rose to 380-390 Celsius (715-735 Fahrenheit), TEPCO executive vice president Sakae Muto said. The reactor was built to run at a temperature of 302 C (575 F).

Reuters earlier reported that the Fukushima plant was storing more uranium than it was originally designed to hold, and that it had repeatedly missed mandatory safety checks over the past decade, according to company documents and outside experts.

It is getting so that it is difficult to even guess at why this is happening. A reactor restart? Total Loss Of Coolant Accident (TLOCA)? Just plain lack of cooling? If the vessels are pressurized how are/were they maintaining the pressure and level without power?

I have a very bad feeling about this.

Zero Hedge has some thermal image pictures.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:24 AM | Comments (5)

Should I defect from the Coulter-Monbiot evil nukular axis?

If you thought it was bad that the loony demonic Princess of the right Ann Coulter carried on about the joys of radiation, consider a tidbit from today's news.

George Monbiot, environmental wacko and leftist idiot extraordinaire, has come out in favor of nuclear power:

Support for nuclear power has fallen among the British public by 12 per cent since the Fukushima disaster, according to a new poll. But the UK nuclear industry has reason to cheer regardless, because left-wing environmentalist George Monbiot has today explained why he now supports nuclear power.

Monbiot has written extensively on climate change and the radical steps needed to avert disaster. Among his other works are attacks on corporations and the dangers of Bob Geldof and Bono.

In his column for the Guardian today headed 'Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power', Monbiot explains that he still loathes "the liars who run the nuclear industry" but he accepts that nuclear power has to be part of a green energy mix.

Monbiot argues that the risk of meltdown at a nuclear power station is small in comparison to the damaging effects of coal power and even renewables. "Deep green energy production - decentralised, based on the products of the land - is far more damaging to humanity than nuclear meltdown," he writes.

As an example he explains how the damming of rivers in Britain before the industrial revolution was "renewable, picturesque and devastating", since it wiped out stocks of migratory fish.

Fukushima has not put Monbiot off nuclear because "a crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami... The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting... Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation".

With Ann Coulter and George Monbiot in seeming agreement, might it be time for me to rethink my ill-informed position

posted by Eric at 12:22 PM | Comments (4)

What Would He Say Pessimistically?

In another bout of sunshine and happiness or as some prefer, happy happy joy joy, an American propaganda nuclear "expert" says that Japan almost has its nuclear reactor problem under control.

Meanwhile, officials with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission upgraded their assessment of the situation at the plant, saying it appeared the reactor cores at the most damaged facilities remained contained.

"I would say optimistically that things appear to be on the verge of stabilizing," said Bill Borchardt, the NRC's executive director for operations

I would say pessimistically that things have already gone to shit. That's because I ain't vergen around. And unlike Bill I have evidence.
According to New York Daily News: "Cooling pumps at one of Japan's crippled nuclear reactors are damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced, officials learned Monday. The revelation dashed hopes for a quick resolution to the ongoing nuclear catastrophe at the leaking Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. An emergency order has been placed for new pumps for Unit 2 at the plant, but it's unclear how quickly they would arrive, officials said." And as readers will recall, and as the below satellite photo will confirm, reactor 2 is the only one of the critical 4 which did not in fact suffer massive explosive damage. So if that one is beyond repair, what happens to the other three? And just what will this much praised power supply at Fukushima actually be connected to? We really urge some journalist to actually ask questions that have a semblance of relevance at the next TEPCO presser, instead of continuing to fill the air with the same kind of fluff that accompanies every single Obama press conference.
Well I have a few questions: how will you install the pumps in a high radiation environment? Is the rest of the plumbing intact? If you can't keep fluid in the system where will it go?

Fortunately the radiation problems continue to decline.

Of particular note weighing on the markets has been the news from Kyodo that, in confirmation of our fears that zones "Under Survey" are nothing but hotbeds of unprecedented radiation, reported radiation levels are 1,600 times higher than normal 20 kilometers from the power plant. Recall that the first evacuation radius was just 10 km. Assuming a power rate of declining fall out strength, means that the radiation within the 20 km diameter circle centered on Fukushina is currently hundreds of thousands to millions of time higher than normal.
And at the plant itself? Just to get a rough estimate let us look at an inverse square rule and 100 meters (the edge of the plant) vs 20 Km. That is 200 to 1. Square that and you get 40,000 to 1. Do I really expect radiation at the plant to be over ten million times normal? No. But it does give you some idea of what is going on. If the relationship was linear you would wind up with 32,000X normal at the plant. And that is still a lot. You can withstand normal radiation for a lifetime and to make the numbers easy we say 100 years is a lifetime. What is 1/32,000th of a lifetime? - This ignores a whole bunch of stuff like self repair etc. but bear with me. - So in a little under 28 hours you get a lifetime dose at 100 m (330 ft.) from the reactors. I do not believe they have enough trained "jumpers" to do anything significant. The pumps are a distraction. In my opinion the site will be allowed to spew and cool for another month and then it is going to be borax, cement, and steel all the way.

So do I have a problem with nuclear power? Well yes and no. Its military advantages (no fuel required) are tremendous. What is not so clear is its civilian advantages. Especially given current deployed plant designs.

My biggest problem with nukes is that the dangers are not localized for this kind of accident.

But we shall see. Things appear to be getting steadily worse. Worst case? Draw a 50 mi circle around the plant. That is the exclusion zone. For 50 or 100 years. We are already up to a temporary 20 mile (30 Km) exclusion zone. And it is not over.

We don't draw 20 mile exclusion zones around busted coal plants. And a coal plant total failure - even inside a city - does not have the potential of a trillion dollars in economic damages.

Suppose there are 400 nuke plants in the world worth $5 billion each. That is $2 trillion total. If this is a trillion dollar accident the effective capital invested in nuke power will have gone up 50% in a matter of hours. The death of a 1,000 coal miners couldn't do that to coal fired plants.

Let me repeat: advanced designs could reduce the risks by factors of hundreds to thousands. But at this time we have no operationally proved advanced designs.

Update: 22 March 2011 1521z

Control of the reactor situation (including spent fuel) appears to be evaporating.

Workers desperately battling to contain a meltdown at Japan's crippled nuclear plant today faced a fresh crisis as a pool for storing spent fuel began heating up.
The news is sketchy but it could be reactor two or reactor three. Or both.

And it looks like the radiation is getting spread around.

Japan's science ministry says radiation exceeding 400 times the normal level was detected in soil about 40 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The ministry surveyed radioactive substances in soil about 5 centimeters below the surface at roadsides on Monday.

The ministry found 43,000 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per kilogram of soil, and 4,700 becquerels of radioactive cesium-137 per kilogram about 40 kilometers west-northwest of the plant.

Gunma University Professor Keigo Endo says radiation released by the iodine is 430 times the level normally detected in soil in Japan and that released by the cesium is 47 times the norm.

Note that radiation is now a problem (at least in hot spots) out to 40 Km (25 mi).

Of the radiation species mentioned the cesium is the more worrisome long term threat. The iodine problem will be gone in about 80 days. Also note that the measurement is from 5 cm (2 inches) below the surface. I wonder what the surface reading is?

And let me be perfectly clear: no matter what lurid reports you read about goings on in Japan and "radiation plumes across the Pacific" (sounds like a Tom Leherer song) the odds of this accident having any more significant effect on the US than a cosmic ray burst or three are about nil.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:37 AM | Comments (1)

Depressions and news come and go

Am I alone in thinking that the news these days just plain sucks?

Seriously, I find myself wanting to take a break -- not so much from blogging, but from having to read, subject myself to, and react to the relentless onslaught of bad news. It is dreadfully depressing, and I am not alone in feeling this way.

So I thought I should blog about something else.

But what? It's good to have some perspective about these things, and going through boxes yesterday I found an old family picture which I thought to scan because it was so deteriorated:


It was taken not long after World War One. That's my grandfather holding my aunt all the way on the left, and my grandmother is the woman in the middle (behind the two girls), while my father is the boy in the middle of the group of boys, next to the boy at the end on the right. 

They got through not only World War One, but survived the great Influenza Epidemic of 1918 which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans -- more than the war. (hundreds of thousands. Both of these events would be considered bad news by any standard, and there was worse news to come. The Great Depression wiped out the family's savings in the late 20s, forcing my dad to leave college. Later he returned, but he had to work several jobs to pay his way. Life became very grim, and he worked himself nearly to death in that period. (Seriously, he caught pneumonia from work-related lack of sleep, and nearly died. No antibiotics in those days....)

So.... I guess you could call the above a happy pre-Depression picture!

My dad said people really had fun in the 20s, partying like it was going out of style.

And who could blame them?

posted by Eric at 09:29 AM | Comments (5)

Reactor Leak
We had a reactor leak here now. Give us a few minutes to lock it down. Large leak, very dangerous.

A famous Han Solo line from Star Wars. You can read the whole thing here. So what is going on with the reactors on Japan? As you would expect the news is that the situation is improving. And while the situation is improving the news is worse.

Meanwhile, the government's task force to tackle nuclear accidents instructed municipal governments near the crisis-hit Fukushima plant on Monday to ease conditions under which they require people to undergo mandatory decontamination.

A radiation level of 100,000 counts per minute will be introduced as a new standard for decontamination, up from 6,000 counts per minute, the government said, adding that raising the bar will not endanger health.

The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the decision was made based on advice from domestic nuclear experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As the number of people who want to undergo radiation checks has surged, a lack of staff and equipment for the tests and decontamination was feared.

So upping the level of radiation required for decontamination by a factor of 16X will not affect health? Maybe. But you are starting to seriously eat in to your safety margins.

And with everything well under control officials have pulled all workers out of the area.

Emergency workers lost precious hours Monday in their fight to prevent a full-scale meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after mysterious gray smoke seen emanating from the facility prompted a mass evacuation.

The smoke was spotted just before 4 p.m. coming out of the building that houses the No. 3 reactor, the most badly damaged of the plant's half-dozen reactors. It tapered off after two hours, but more smoke was seen near reactor No. 2 about 20 minutes later, according to officials from the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

Though authorities concluded the smoke was steam and not coming from the overheated spent fuel pool, they acknowledged that radiation spiked one kilometer west of the facility, rising from 494 microsieverts at 5:40 p.m. to 1,932 at 6:30 p.m.

The level dropped to 442 at 8:30 p.m., but officials suspended operations for the day until further notice and the 700 employees who had been working to restore electrical power at the plant were evacuated.

"If we find the levels of radioactivity go down, we'll go back to work," Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said at a news conference Monday night at the Prime Minister's office in Tokyo.

Well then. Every thing is fine.

And you know what else is fine? The weather.

Far greater amounts of radioactive iodine and cesium were found in rain, dust and particles in the air in some areas over a 24-hour period from Sunday morning due to rainfall, the science ministry said Monday.

''Considering the results of a separate test, radioactive materials in the air and drinking water are confined to levels that would not affect health,'' an official of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said. ''The impact on agricultural crops needs to be examined mainly by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.''

In a notice to the nation's 47 prefectures, the health ministry called on local governments on Monday to advise residents to stop giving babies water in forms such as baby formula if radioactive iodine is found in drinking water at levels greater than 100 becquerels per kiloliter.


In Fukushima Prefecture, where the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located, the prefectural government said 23 becquerels of iodine was found per kiloliter of water.

Yamanashi appeared in the latest iodine list, after not being listed in the previous survey based on samples taken Saturday.

Cesium was detected in a sample in Tokyo on Saturday but was not detected Sunday. It was detected in Gunma on Sunday, though the prefecture was not cited in the previous survey.

Well nothing to worry about then. Except that the presence of those elements is an indication that containment has been breached. That of some fuel rods in the spent fuel pools for sure. Possibly even a reactor or three. In fact since Iodine 131 levels go down by a factor of 1,000X just 80 days after a shutdown, its presence is almost proof positive of a reactor containment breach. Nothing to worry about. For now. And of course the breach could be minor. Or it could be a crack down the middle of the containment building.

H/T Zero Hedge where you can get a sceptics view of what is going on along with some fairly knowledgeable commenters (plus the usual compliment of idiots and wags).

Update: 21 March 2011 2049z

Well the news just keeps getting better. Thermal images have finally been released. And what do you know? There is a hot spot that is only 128 deg C. Water boils at about 100 deg. C (depending on pressure, impurities etc.)

Next, a picture from Die Welt, emphasizing Reactor 3 and confirming that previous lies that all temperatures at Reactors 1 through 4, were under 100 degrees Celsius, were nothing but. Note the area indicating 128 oC Celsius. We would assume that is the reactor core area (which refutes the lie). If, instead, that is the spent fuel rod area, then we have some very big problems, even if TEPCO is telling the truth for once.
BTW the hot spot looks to be 128 C from the outside. Inside it is probably hotter. Tokyo - we have a problem.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

thoughts on nuclear relativism from an ignorant layperson

Much to my surprise, I just learned that rooftop solar is much more dangerous than Chernobyl. Here are the stats:

Comparing deaths/TWh for all energy sources

Coal - China                       278
Coal - USA                         15
Oil                                36  (36% of world energy)
Natural Gas                         4  (21% of world energy)
Biofuel/Biomass                    12
Peat                               12
Solar (rooftop)                     0.44 (less than 0.1% of world energy)
Wind                                0.15 (less than 1% of world energy)
Hydro                               0.10 (europe death rate, 2.2% of world energy)
Hydro - world including Banqiao)    1.4 (about 2500 TWh/yr and 171,000 Banqiao dead)
Nuclear                             0.04 (5.9% of world energy)

As to how well rooftop solar holds up in a strong earthquake, I'll leave that up to readers' imaginations. Not that I am opposed to rooftop solar, but I don't especially like the way the environmentalists have taken advantage of awful tragedy to breathe new life into their longstanding war against nuclear power.  

For those who are interested in more, Dean Esmay has compared the track record of nukes with other sources of power and concludes that we need a nuclear future. In a later post updating the news about the Fukushima reactor, he made a prediction:

Watch for this: over the next few years, any and every proposal to responsibly deal with nuclear waste or upgrade our aging nuclear plant infrastructure will be responded to by pointing to Fukushima as the unacceptable disaster "like Chernobyl" that makes nuclear power something we should eliminate forever; it's certainly been the pattern for the last several decades, no matter how much more damage is done by other technologies we take for granted.

M. Simon says better designs are needed and left some critical comments to Dean's post. He has extensive knowleddge in this field has posted extensively extensively about the Fukushima reactor damage (see this post). Basically, he says it is worse than we have been told, and that it's a wake-up call.

I am sure that reactor safety can be improved, but from what I have read, this one survived a gigantic earthquake of the sort of magnitude that only rarely happens, but it wasn't ready for the tsunami. I am no engineer but common sense suggests that reactors similar to Fukushima would be quite safe in most parts of the United States.

If they wanted to build one here in Ann Arbor, I would have no objection.

MORE: Speaking of ignorant laypeople, evil demagogue Ann Coulter expresses a very mean opinion -- that radiation is good:

With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.

This only seems counterintuitive because of media hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad. There is, however, burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine.

She cites examples:

In 1983, a series of apartment buildings in Taiwan were accidentally constructed with massive amounts of cobalt 60, a radioactive substance. After 16 years, the buildings' 10,000 occupants developed only five cases of cancer. The cancer rate for the same age group in the general Taiwanese population over that time period predicted 170 cancers.

The people in those buildings had been exposed to radiation nearly five times the maximum "safe" level according to the U.S. government. But they ended up with a cancer rate 96 percent lower than the general population.

Bernard L. Cohen, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, compared radon exposure and lung cancer rates in 1,729 counties covering 90 percent of the U.S. population. His study in the 1990s found far fewer cases of lung cancer in those counties with the highest amounts of radon -- a correlation that could not be explained by smoking rates.

And concludes that we may have been sold a phony bill of goods:

in the case of radiation, the media have Americans convinced that the minutest amount is always deadly.

Although reporters love to issue sensationalized reports about the danger from Japan's nuclear reactors, remember that, so far, thousands have died only because of Mother Nature. And the survivors may outlive all of us over here in hermetically sealed, radiation-free America.

I admit that citing her is a cheap shot, as it really doesn't matter whether she is right or wrong. 

That's because to either her friends or her enemies, she is Ann Coulter, which means, simply, End. Of. Discussion.

posted by Eric at 12:38 PM | Comments (7)

Hail Spring!

It has been officially Spring since 7:21 p.m. EST.

It was still winter yesterday when much to my surprise I discovered that the first flower had already defied the winter and poked its way out through the exhausted soil in my yard:


Coco is equally as sick of the winter. Here's how she looked earlier today as she stomped on the sacred slice that remains of the tire she has finally split into pieces. Naturally, she demands that I throw it for her:


What Coco never could have predicted earlier is that tonight there would be hail -- followed by the first thunderstorm of the year (with plenty of lightning) which is frightening her out of her wits!

That flower had a lot of balls.

(More snow is coming, naturally.)

posted by Eric at 11:33 PM | Comments (4)

Weak Anthropic Principles

Glenn Reynolds muses:

Somebody has to be the first intelligent species. If you believe in randomness, why can't it randomly be us? The odds may be low, but low-probability events happen all the time, and it's consistent with the available evidence and doesn't require the invocation of fudge-factors -- "cosmic roadblocks" -- for which there's no actual evidence at all.

Glenn correctly argues that low-probability events do occur, all the time. On the other hand, there is low probability, and low probability.

One of my favorite examples in physics is the one about the Second Law of Thermodynamics only being true in the vast majority of cases. Consider a box, with a divider in the middle, hydrogen on one side, helium on the other. Remove the divider, and in a relatively short time the two gases will intermix -- as the 2nd Law states, entropy increases. But, wait a really really long time, and you will see entropy reversed -- every particle of helium and hydrogen will eventually be found back on its original side, as things stood before the divider was removed. But for even a million or so atoms in such a box, you can calculate the odds (assuming a given temperature and size of box) of such a configuration occurring randomly and get a number of years that is so large it has to be expressed as function of the trillions of zeros in the exponential notation -- 1E+trillions, an amount so great the 13 billion years this universe has been around is too infinitesimal to even sensibly compare with such a span.

So, clearly, we should never expect to see such an event happen, right? Right... but. There is actually one situation in which we would expect to observe this phenomenon, and if you read the title of this post you probably know what it is: if your existence as an observer was predicated on such on event, then the odds of you observing the event in your recent past are 1 in 1. Of course, this is a truism, but an important one when we consider the uniqueness of intelligent life, because it helps illustrate the point that no matter how unlikely intelligent life is to arise in time and space, those circumstances had to be met here on Earth in the past few tens of thousands of years in order for us to be here asking why we don't see more intelligent life out there.

We don't know how with much precision how unlikely intelligent life is in this Universe as a function of time and space, though we've started to map out some of the parameters -- only carbon chemistry seems to work, liquid water and an oxygenated atmosphere is probably required, obviously the planet has to be habitable in the sense of not being bombarded with lethal radiation or pummeled by planet-killer asteroids every millennia or two, etc. Some of the other possible requirements are more dubious -- does intelligent life need a fast mammal-like metabolism, such as our periodic Ice Ages evolved for us? That seems likely, given the requirements of primate brains, and if a planet must straddle a knife-edge between an eternal Snowball Earth in which life barely exists outside the seas and the seesawing Ice Ages we experienced in order to evolve such a metabolism, that would certainly seem to make intelligent life considerably less likely. Are active plate tectonics necessary to drive such changes? Must the Faint Young Sun be balanced by a fortuitous mix of greenhouse gasses? Does our large satellite figure in somehow?  Or are some or all of these irrelevant?

While even the more knowable portions of Drake's equation (those applying to the gross physical conditions rather than the tendencies of other intelligent life to communicate, colonize, or die out) haven't filled out much since its inception, over the next half-century we should learn quite a bit more, and I suspect we will be able to say by 2060 or so that the odds of finding intelligent life within the past or future of our light-sphere are vanishingly small, measured in something closer to 1 in 1E+billions than 1 in billions. Consider the box: there are immensely large numbers of configurations that do not meet the original: even the configurations that are off by one atom are millions of times more likely to occur, and one suspects something similar probably obtains for the conditions of intelligent life, given its extraordinary complexity -- the antithesis of entropy.

UPDATE: A couple of notes -- I think Glenn's thesis of possible "human specialness" is correct, but mostly I'm trying to better define the question of what "special" means, and arguing the answers will be better known over time as we learn more about biochemistry and exoplanetary astronomy (particularly a greater sample size of the conditions of exoplanets).  Abandoning geocentrism and denying anthropocentrism is all very well, but the weak anthropic principle applied in an infinite universe nevertheless argues there is no upper limit to how special we might actually be.

As for the lower limits of "intelligent life," I would argue that only in the past few tens of thousands of years did humans meet that criteria. For instance, there was a period of time of about half a million years during which humans used hand-axes, but this appears to have been more by instinct than learning, as they did not make any other tools over that time period, and I don't think that quite qualifies. Let us say "intelligent life" for this exercise will be life capable of understanding the question:  are there other forms of intelligent life out there?

posted by Dave at 07:52 PM | Comments (36)

Scraping is the answer!

Notwithstanding my concerns about Yusuf Qaradawi, I think Barack Obama has finally gotten around to doing the right thing in Libya. Sure, it might very well be that he's doing the right thing for entirely the wrong reasons, but since when has a little thing like irony stood in the way of foreign policy?

As to what the Ron Paul wing of the Tea Party will do, I don't know. (Ron Paul is decidedly unhappy). I might be wrong, but I doubt Libya will cause the Tea Party movement to rupture into pro-war and anti-war wings. 

However, it has really messed with the minds of the demonstrators in Madison, who have had to do a sudden anti-war shuffle as they turn to confront the dual forces of evil in the form of Governor Walker and now President Obama.

What's even more disturbing is that the president's Libya operation seems to have caused a fairly major schism within Andrew Sullivan. Not long after Glenn Reynolds cited Sullivan's long buried but once legendary enthusiasm for the Iraq War, Andy erupted, and complained that Glenn was being "stingingly smug":

...the president we supported is not, it is now clear, the president that we have. In the stingingly smug words of uber-partisan Glenn Reynolds:

They told me if I voted for John McCain, we'd be bombing Arab countries while the supporters of the bombing promised that we'd be greeted as liberators. And they were right!

It's just brutal to have supported Obama's foreign policy for so long, only to see it morph into a multilateral version of McCain's so swiftly. The whiplash is jarring.

It must be jarring for a political contortionist like Sullivan, and I can't blame Glenn for brutally rubbing it in.

I realize that I am not allowed to mention Andy lest he take over this blog, but I cannot ignore brutality on the Internet -- especially when the people involved are victims of the brutality they inflicted on themselves by voting for a warmonger who went out of his way during his campaign to express enthusiasm for invading Pakistan.

The victims of self-inflicted brutality I feel most sorry for, though, are the lefties driving around with contradictory bumperstickers. (The War-Is-Not-The-Answer-But-Obama-Is! people.)

They're going to be scraping.

It's going to be hard not to be smug about their pain.

MORE: From Jose Guardia, I learned how Ghadaffi plans to garner the sympathy of the anti-war left:

...an intelligence operative infiltrated in Ghadaffi's entourage had sent exclusively to Barcepundit the method that the Libyan dictator is planning to use to gather the sympathy of the world's public opinion....


Hey, that's perfect.

Nothing like a familar old friend's face to go with the familiar old bumperstickers.

Hell, it might even put a happy face on Andrew Sullivan....

posted by Eric at 11:08 AM | Comments (7)

Better Or Worse?

We now have the definitive word on the current status of the Japanese nuclear reactor problems. Things are getting better but they could get worse. Isn't that the way life always works?

So how about better?

Japan took a step toward possibly getting its nuclear disaster under control Sunday as electricity to power some reactor cooling systems was restored and previous efforts to lower reactor temperatures with seawater at the battered Fukushima atomic energy plant appeared to have had an effect.
And now for the bad news:
...increased optimism by Japanese officials and Western scientists alike was tempered by a newly emerging crisis -- radiation contamination was found in some food and water supplies in a nation already suffering from a cascade of troubles.

Although Japan's Health Ministry said the contamination levels were not immediately harmful to humans, the discovery of higher-than-normal radioactivity in batches of milk and spinach -- and of traces of radioactive iodine in tap water in Tokyo and elsewhere -- stirred new angst in a public already weary from earthquake aftershocks, blackouts and the threat of a full-fledged nuclear meltdown.

The contamination is not serious so far. The levels are supposed to be such that if you ate the contaminated food for a year it would be equal to a CT scan.

The physical consequences for the US are going to be very mild even in the worst case (and uncontrolled criticality accident). The economic consequences will be more severe. Physically Japan and the Japanese are suffering terribly and that is without the nuclear accident to contend with. Give what you can to the charity of your choice. Even a rich country can have cash flow problems in an emergency.

Update: 20 March 2011 1455z

This may or may not be new bad news. It is definitely bad news.

Edward Morse, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, added that it will take huge amounts of water to compensate for the cracks in the containment pools that were uncovered by U.S. surveillance aircraft on Friday.

"The best thing to do is use as much of the Pacific Ocean as possible," he said.

Not only will water absorb heat, it also forms a protective barrier against radiation, making it safer for workers at the plant, said David Lochbaum, a former nuclear plant operator and head of nuclear safety policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"If they can cover the fuel, it will reduce the radiation levels and they can use the plant equipment," Lochbaum said.

If the fuel overheats, as it has already done in some cases, it will release additional radioactive contamination into the environment.

That possibility, which the plant operator said could not be ruled out, would destabilize the situation further and vastly complicate future efforts to clean up the plant.

While the spraying continues, workers continue to be exposed to relatively high levels or radiation, with doses of 20 millisieverts per hour measured in the control room at the site.

That is about 3 years of an average first world radiation dose (including X-rays etc) in one hour. Not instantly lethal by a long shot. But definitely dangerous. And that is not all we have to worry about:
The French nuclear agency IRSN said Friday that Fukushima had already released 10 percent as much radioactivity as Chernobyl, but the agency has been criticized for being alarmist.
Well of course. And suppose it was only 1% of Chernobyl? Just great.

And just to blacken the rest of your Sunday:

Company workers were able to lay a new power line to the plant early Saturday morning and began connecting it to reactor No. 2, whose containment vessel is believed to be cracked. They will then hook up the buildings housing reactors No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4, which they hope to have connected by the end of Sunday, they said.

But experts think it is unlikely that cooling pumps in the three reactors that were operating when the magnitude 9 Tohoku quake struck will work even with an outside source of electricity. Those pumps were probably damaged in a series of hydrogen explosions that occurred in the first four days of the crisis. The power lines could provide needed electricity to valves and controls, however.

Assuming the wiring and devices are intact following the earthquake and tsunami. Given that they would all have to be checked out as well as possible by guys in moon suits - I'm not optimistic. Checking stuff in shirt sleeves is difficult enough.

It is not over.

And if the pumps don't work? Well it is back to water injection + venting. Charlie Foxtrot.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

The gay-killing, female-genital-mutilating, Holocaust-endorsing moderates

Glenn's link to this discussion of a New York Times assessment of Holocaust-denying Islamist Yasir Qadhi ("the new face of 'moderate' American Islam") just stuck in my craw yesterday. Not just because Yasir Qadhi is anything but a moderate, but because of the pattern it represents.

The New York Times has pattern of whitewashing radical Islamists by calling them moderate. A perfect example was an apologetic account of Yusuf Qaradawi's triumphal speech which Professor Jacobson linked last month.    

Reading the Times account again this morning, I got the creepy feeling that I was reading a puff piece: 

As the uprising here intensified in recent weeks, Sheik Qaradawi had used his platform to urge Egyptians to rise up against Mr. Mubarak. His son, Abdul-Rahman Yusuf al-Qaradawi, is an Egyptian poet who supported the revolution, and, though Sheik Qaradawi is considered a religious traditionalist, three of his daughters hold doctoral degrees, including one in nuclear physics.

Scholars who have studied his work say Sheik Qaradawi has long argued that Islamic law supports the idea of a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy.

But he has made exceptions for violence against Israel or the American forces in Iraq. "You call it violence; I call it resistance," said Prof. Emad Shahin of the University of Notre Dame, an Egyptian scholar who has studied Sheik Qaradawi's work and was in Tahrir Square for his speech Friday.

"He is enormously influential," Mr. Shahin added. "His presence in the square today cemented the resolve of the demonstrators to insist on their demands from the government."

Egyptians streamed back into Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution, for a rally that was part prayer service, part celebration and part political protest. State television put attendance at two million.

A raucous spirit of flag-waving celebration prevailed. Women in full face veils painted their daughters' faces in the colors of the Egyptian flag. Young men danced to thrumming drum beats on balconies, lampposts and trucks. There were many signs bearing the dual images of a crescent and cross, the symbol of Muslim-Christian unity.

What sort of a unifier is this new champion of moderate Islam?

A man who leads millions of Egyptians to chant against the Jews? A man who is on record as calling for killing the Jews "down to the very last one"?

Earlier today I was sent a couple of links to two much more sobering analyses of Qaradawi.

From a discussion of his philosophy and background:

Many consider Yusuf al-Qaradawi to be the most influential living Islamic scholar. He is viewed as the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and, as Gilles Kepel, a recognized expert on Islamic movements, asserts, he "sets the tone for Arabic language Sunni sermons across the world."[1] He is a highly controversial Islamist and has attracted considerable media attention for his support for suicide bombings, his sometimes draconian views on women's issues, such as recommending female circumcision, and his approval of executing homosexuals. Paradoxically he is also known for his moderate views on certain key issues including: allowing men and women to study together, endorsing Muslim participation in Western democracies, and condemning al-Qaeda style attacks such as 9/11.

That's moderate?

Bear in mind that Qaradawi didn't think Bin Laden had been proven guilty, and that in any event, Bush was just as guilty! And for all we know, it was those Jew Neocons who did it!

His moderation has to be seen in context.

And I guess once women have their genitals removed and gays are executed, it becomes a moderate position to allow men and women to study together.

Perhaps the moderation of Qaradawi was what prompted Andrew Sullivan to label Glenn Reynolds "hard right" for linking Prof Jacobson's criticism of him.

At the time I snarked,

Great. So it's now "hard right" to object to (or even link objections to) a million anti-Semites rabidly yelling in the street.

If objecting to mob anti-Semitism is "hard right," then what, pray tell, would "hard left" be? Breaking into chants of "DEATH TO THE JEWS"?

How am I supposed to make sense of this? Should I just get with Andy's plan, and stop calling Glenn a libertarian?

Now I don't know what to think. Maybe I wasn't snarky enough. If guys like Yasir Qadhi and Yusuf Qaradawi are "moderate," while libertarians like Glenn are "hard right," what am I to call myself? A small-l-libertarian-hard-rightist against gay-killing, female-genital-mutilating, Holocaust-endorsing moderates? 

These things are baffling.

And Qaradawi is troubling. In painting him as a moderate, the mainstream media -- both here and in Egypt -- are not only whitewashing his vicious bigotry and extreme anti-Semitism, but they are also going out of their way to ignore the similarities between him and the Ayatollah Khomeini:

His February 18 sermon was a hybrid of religious vision and nationalist concerns. [1] He began by altering a formulaic element of the opening of the Friday sermon by addressing both Muslims and Christians. He then proceeded to analyze the failures of the Mubarak regime and called for a civil state (dawla madaniyya) [2], the lifting of the Emergency law (in effect since Anwar al-Sadat's 1981 assassination), and the freeing of political prisoners. Yet, his sermon was also deeply inflected by specifically Islamic religious language and imagery. He declared that "Tahrir square should be renamed the Square of the Martyrs of January 25th" and that the revolution was not just a "victory over Mubarak...but [also a victory] over oppression (dhulm), falsehood (batil), [and] thieves (sarika)...." While the frames of martyrdom, oppression and falsehood are not uniquely Islamic, their political usage comes out of the struggle of Egypt's Islamist opposition, both violent and non-violent. They paint a binary between freedom, truth and ethics on the one hand and oppression, tyranny and theft on the other. Three days later, Qaradawi's opposition to oppression and falsehood was put into practice. He argued that Gaddafi's despotism was a sin against God, and that, because there is "no obedience to the created one [i.e. man] in sinning against the Creator," Gaddafi's blood was licit. He then, quite animatedly, called on any Libyan soldier "to neither listen nor obey" (aleh yasma'u wa le yuti'u) and stated: "I issue a fatwa (ufti) to the officers and troops who are able to kill Mu'mar al-Qadaffi....to do so." [3]

The parallels between Khomeini and Qaradawi are striking. Both returned from exile to galvanize a revolution through powerful religious imagery and tropes that depict the former regime as an affront to God. Both were successful in animating the masses, In addition, Qaradawi, like Khomeini before him, appeared to be angling for a leadership role within the revolution. Finally, no transnational "death Fatwa" has been issued by a prominent Islamic scholar since 1989 when Khomeini declared British novelist Salman Rushdie's blood licit for his book, Satanic Verses. Yet, notwithstanding these similarities, the parallels are not exact. Qaradawi has never articulated a vision of Islamic leadership that is theocratic, whereas Khomeini's Vilayet al-Faqih (Guardianship of the Jurists) was fundamentally theocratic. Moreover, Qaradawi, unlike Khomeini, is not considered a candidate for political office.

Nonetheless, al-Masri al-Yom seemingly ignored the parallels that do exist between Khomeini and Qaradawi. The newspaper praised Qaradawi in a February 19 editorial titled, "Al-Qaradawi, in one of the Greatest Speeches of the Modern Age, Asserts the Continuation of the Revolution." The editorial proceeded to compare this speech to famous orations by such figures as Martin Luther King, Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela. [4] It declared that Qaradawi's sermon was "not just to the millions in Tahrir square, but also to all Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims and the world, so that it will know what true Islam is." It declared that any parallels with Khomeini were absurd because "Khomeini returned to rule and erect a religious state, whereas al-Qaradawi returned to express the revolution of the Egyptian people, Muslim and Christian, for the sake of the building of a civil state..." Following Qaradawi's February 21 fatwa, the paper's editorial page--known for its diversity--overlooked the parallel between Khomeini and Qaradawi in their "death Fatwas." Indeed, the only response in the paper to this fatwa was an approving cartoon by Jamal al-Sharbini in which Qaradawi says "We permit the spilling of al-Qadaffi's blood in response to the killing of protestors" and a questioner asks, "But what about Mubarak and the blood of the martyrs of January 25th 2011?" [5]

How should we understand this "non-reaction" to the parallels between Qaradawi and Khomeini?

Excellent question, and I don't have the answer. But I do smell a coverup. Perhaps the idea is to moderate him by emphasizing his "good" points while covering up his bad points, while comparing him to Ghandi, King, and Mandela.

Who knows? Maybe he'll get the Nobel prize like Yasser Arafat, and he can join his fellow luminaries like Obama and Gore in a chorus of "Kumbaya."

And what about his Fatwa against Gaddafi? Would he seem to loooove us if we helped carry it out? Would that make him more moderate? I realize that sometimes the principle of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" has to be applied, but that does that have to mean that the enemy of my enemy has to become a moderate?

I keep thinking back to our wartime alliance with Stalin against Hitler. It might have been necessary, but did he have to be whitewashed into kindly old "Uncle Joe"? (The NYT was involved with that too. Surprise.)

Not that I am against finding a little moderation when actual moderation is present. But to go looking for moderation in evil and finding it when it isn't creates problems.

You know, a little moderation here, and a little moderation there, and pretty soon you're talking real moderation.

In evil.

posted by Eric at 12:52 PM | Comments (4)

The Future Of Nuclear Power

Given what has happened in Japan so far and what I expect in the near future what do I think the future of nuclear power looks like? Kaput. For the near future.

The way out? We need some new designs tested to destruction. At least 100,000 operating hours after design approval. All open source so everyone has a chance to look for flaws. Once we have a design or three that works and has stood the test of time we can start mass producing them. If we start today we should have something in 15 or 20 years. If we move along smartly.

posted by Simon at 12:04 PM | Comments (5)

Fukushima Reactor Restart?

Yep. The Fukushima reactor #4 may be in the process of an accidental restart.

-- Reactor No. 4 - Under maintenance when quake struck, no fuel rods in reactor core, temperature in spent-fuel storage pool reached 84 C on Monday, fire Tuesday possibly caused by hydrogen explosion at pool holding spent fuel rods, fire observed Wednesday at building housing reactor, pool water level feared receding, renewed nuclear chain reaction feared, only frame remains of reactor building roof.
You can read more about the status of the six reactors at the link.

The authorities, such as they are, claim to be getting things under control. I'm not seeing it. I see efforts. I do not see results. But of course that could change.

As to the dangers from an accidental restart? There are a lot of them. More radioactive stuff. Maybe a blast of photons (X-rays and Gamma Rays). Maybe a steam blast. Maybe a hydrogen blast. It is hard to say because it is happening by accident.

There seems to be a credibility gap in Japan.

"A senior Japanese minister also admitted that the country was overwhelmed by the scale of the tsunami and nuclear crisis. He said officials should have admitted earlier how serious the radiation leaks were.
Dang. Telling the truth works better than lying? Hard to believe.

And there are more lies by omission.

According to the latest Digitalglobe overflight, the situation in Reactor 4 continues to deteriorate. We wonder where precisely in the Reactor 1,3, and 4 wreckage are the working water pumps that are about to be electrified? Far more importantly, since heat appears to be the biggest issue, why have no thermal or IR photos been released to the public, and most importantly why is the Japanese government actively covering up thermal data? From the JPost: "As the world continues to gaze with concern at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, hi-tech security cameras installed by an Israeli defense firm are recording events at the troubled core from an insider's vantage point. The Arava-based Magna BSP company, which specializes in producing and installing stereoscopic sensory and thermal imaging cameras, had been contracted to place cameras around one of the plant's six cores - the core that has been experiencing explosions and overheating. Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Magna's head, Haim Siboni, said the thermal cameras also had the ability to detect the presence of radioactive clouds in the air, but added that Magna had not been able to gain access to the images recorded by the cameras at this time."
I guess the images are too hot to handle. The Charlie Foxtrot continues. No Bravo Zulus for management. The guys who have gone in to fight the fires and do what they can on site? BZs all around. Even if they were among those who screwed the pooch at the beginning.

Ah more bad news.

March 19 (Bloomberg) -- Engineers missed a deadline to restore power to the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic plant, prolonging efforts to prevent more radiation leaks as Japan's government told people nearby to cover up and avoid the rain.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. pushed back its target to reconnect a power cable to the No. 2 reactor to later today after working through the night. Power may be restored to all six reactors by tomorrow, Hikaru Kuroda, chief of the utility's nuclear facility management department, told a briefing in Tokyo.

Troops and firefighters again started pumping seawater on the plant today in an attempt to prevent fuel rods from overheating, as Tepco cautioned the tsunami-damaged cooling systems may not work even after electricity is restored. Weather forecasts indicated changing winds could start moving radiation closer to Tokyo this weekend.

Yeah. The tsunami. No mention of hydrogen explosions. I wonder why?

In any case, I was saying the same thing two days ago.

They are bringing in electrical power. Excellent. But some one had better be checking the pumps, the pumped coolant, and the coolant pipes so that the pumps last beyond a few minutes.
I expect more surprises from this situation. Bad surprises. Very bad surprises.

In the very best case world GDP with a big hole in the Japanese supply chain should fall no more that 5% this year. Possibly as little as 2%.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:01 AM | Comments (16)

This Is Not An Elephant

Not Elephant.jpg

Funny thing is that it looks a bit like a pipe too.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:08 PM | Comments (2)

Where Most Conspiracies Come From

Eric was discussing how vocal opposition to a political position (where most people have no opinion) can lead to support for the opposed position.

There was a link in something Eric quoted to the "disturbingly amoral network of fundamentalist operators" which led me to this review:

Sharlet's discoveries dramatically challenge conventional wisdom about American fundamentalism, revealing its crucial role in the unraveling of the New Deal, the waging of the cold war, and the no-holds-barred economics of globalization. The question Sharlet believes we must ask is not "What do fundamentalists want?" but "What have they already done?"
1. - unraveling the New Deal? - Good
2. - waging and winning the cold war - Good
3. - globalization - Good long term with a fair amount of present pain

Evidently I have quite a bit in common with social conservatives. Where we part company is (this is going to be hard to take no doubt) social issues.

I keep hearing that because social conservatives get the above listed items right they must be right on everything. Not even Libertarians are that good.

In an Amazon review of the book ("disturbingly amoral network of fundamentalist operators"):

The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power

One reviewer says:

This is one of the very few books of recent years that has kept me up most of the night reading. Those who discount the power of the type of schmoozing Sharlet describes have not spent much time working in and around government.
So the danger is that they talk to each other? Uh. Well then. I talk to them. And I have made some progress in talking some of them out of the Drug War.

In the end the vast majority of "conspiracies" are just people with similar interests talking to each other.

Which is why I'm continually working to make my conspiracy bigger. Besides. It raises my Google score.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:18 PM | Comments (5)

Regressive Progressives

Joel Kotkin discusses the Regressive Progressives in a video interview with Instapundit. Towards the end of the video they discuss for a moment this book:

Sprawl: A Compact History

The book discusses the virtues of Sprawl. Here is a review I thought interesting:

I have always been, and will continue to be, a city boy at heart. Bruegmann has given me reason to rethink how I feel about modern-day suburbia. Before this book I would drive through the suburbs thinking "Ugh! How could anyone want to live in this drab, boring, soulless environment?" After reading this book I now think "Boy, I'm really glad all these people live out here so I can afford my nice little townhouse in the middle of the city on my modest salary."
Of course there are other arguments for sprawl and the politics that go with it. A thermodynamic explanation of politics. And the reviewer got it exactly right. Without the harvests of the suburbs and country the city would cease to exist. Neither the city nor the country nor the land in between can exist without flows and interchanges between each other. There is symbiosis although from some points of view any of the components can be regarded as parasitic. And that is when the ignorant get at each others throats for not living "right". When the right way to live depends on the ecological niche.

Things would work so much better if people weren't so good at minding other people's business. Ah. Well. Human nature. Ain't it grand? Not always.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 04:10 PM | Comments (2)

As your enemies do the scolding, sit back and enjoy the leverage!

While I continue to have reservations about inviting the government into people's private lives, more Americans than ever are supporting same sex marriage -- to the point where today's headline proclaims a "milestone."

More Than Half of Americans Say Gay Marriage Should Be Legal

More than half of Americans say it should be legal for gays and lesbians to marry, a first in nearly a decade of polls by ABC News and The Washington Post.

This milestone result caps a dramatic, long-term shift in public attitudes. From a low of 32 percent in a 2004 survey of registered voters, support for gay marriage has grown to 53 percent today. Forty-four percent are opposed, down 18 points from that 2004 survey.

The issue remains divisive; as many adults "strongly" oppose gay marriage as strongly support it, and opposition rises to more than 2-1 among Republicans and conservatives and 3-1 among evangelical white Protestants, a core conservative group. But opposition to gay marriage has weakened in these groups from its levels a few years ago, and support has grown sharply among others - notably, among Catholics, political moderates, people in their 30s and 40s and men.

The results reflect a changing albeit still polarized climate....

I'll say. Family values conservatives do not merely oppose gay marriage. They claim that this position is central to conservatism, and that opposition to homosexuality constitutes one of the "three legs" of something known as "the conservative stool." And that Western civilization will fall if the homos aren't stopped.

What the family values conservatives forget is that gay marriage is an issue of little importance to most people. Yet the more loudly they scream about it, the more they generate support for it. (They even had me an inch away from supporting gay marriage -- simply out of disgust for the opposition.)

Thus same sex marriage becomes no longer a gay issue, but a position for people to take as a reaction against what they see as a mindset that attacks them.

The dynamic is explained by PZ Myers (whose general liberal view I do not share) in a post titled, "Why I am an amoral, family-hating monster...and Newt Gingrich isn't":

Today is my wedding anniversary. I've been married to the same woman for 31 years, without ever straying. Newt Gingrich has been married 3 times, divorced one wife while she was recovering from surgery, and has had extra-marital affairs.

Guess who is considered the defender of traditional sexual morality?

It's a strange situation where the political party with more ex-wives than candidates, that houses and defends a disturbingly amoral network of fundamentalist operators is regarded as the protector of the sanctity of the family. They're anything but.

I think I understand, though -- it doesn't matter what you do, all that matters is what you say. The Republicans support a version of marriage that rests on tradition, authority, and masculine dominance, and everything they do props up one leg of the tripod or the other. Public piety reinforces religious tradition; the insistence that there is one true form of marriage, between a man and a woman, which represents a legal and social commitment is part of the authoritarian impulse; and of course, if a man steps out of the matrimonial bounds, it's an expression of machismo and patriotism and entitlement.

OK, he loses me with much of his liberal rant, but I can relate to his point about the dynamics of scolding people. Calling people "anti-family" when they are in fact monogamous and happily married is not the best way to win them over. Similarly, calling those who want to legalize drugs "hedonists" is a great way to bring people over to the pro-legalization side. And yelling at people over Global Warming while threatening to take away their light bulbs while they're struggling through an economic crisis is a great way to shift the AGW believers over into the skeptic column.

It's simple leverage, and it can almost be reduced to math. 

posted by Eric at 10:19 AM | Comments (6)

Violent Communists? Surely such things cannot be!

This is sickening. Some cowardly anonymous hard core Commies (of course they would deny that's what they are, and they would doubtless call me a "red baiter" for calling them Communists) have threatened Ann Althouse for courageously daring to cover and criticize the ongoing occupation of the State Capitol.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who does not mince words:

This is why public employee unions should be illegal -- they foster a sense of entitlement that leads to criminality. So, Paul Krugman, where's your civility talk now? Will you write a column suggesting that unions are over-entitled? That the left feels too free with its efforts at intimidation? That maybe there's something sick, or evil, at the heart of the Wisconsin Democratic party?

Or will you just stick your fingers in your ears and move on? I know how I'm betting.

Krugman may just be a mouthpiece, but I just hope Ann Althouse and her husband are armed, because there is no question that some of the people behind the occupation are dedicated to violence.

And that is because they include dedicated Communists.

For Communists, violence is not a bug; its a feature. A feature which has killed a hundred million so far.

This is not to say that there aren't regular working class union folks among the demonstrators, and I am sure there are.

No doubt they decry violence.

Let's hope they will loudly condemn the threats against Ann Althouse.

posted by Eric at 12:34 AM | Comments (0)

Airstrikes Greeted As Liberators

They are dancing in the streets of Benghazi.

Shortly before midnight, the streets of Libya's de facto rebel capital, Benghazi, were quiet, nearly deserted.

A few minutes after midnight, tracer bullets and celebratory machine-gun fire were racing into the air from every direction and residents piled into their cars for a massive street party.

In between, the United Nations Security Council voted by 10-0 to not only impose a no-fly zone over eastern Libya but to allow for "all necessary measures" short of an occupation to protect the country's civilians from Col. Muammar Qaddafi, the dictator who's ruled Libya for nearly 42 years.

From what I've read, they are going to impose a "no-fly, no-drive" zone on Qaddafi. 

Long live the Republic of Libya!

UPDATE: Glenn is all over this already:


Yes.  Yes we do.

posted by Dave at 10:47 PM | Comments (1)

Not out of Africa?

Take a look at this headline (found at Drudge) and the first two paragraphs of the piece:

'Biblical Exodus' From Africa Feeds Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric...

As boats carrying hundreds of Africans set sail for a better life in Europe, they were met on Italy's Lampedusa island with two words by a 5-foot, 8-inch blonde: go away.

"They cannot be allowed on the shore," Marine Le Pen, the 42-year-old leader of France's anti-immigration National Front, said in a March 15 interview in Rome after a three-hour visit the previous day to Lampedusa. "Send boats out to feed them. But they must not set foot on land."

Sounds really racist, right? Whites living in fear of invasion by "Africans"?

The problem with Bloomberg trying to racialize the story is that if they were coming to the United States, the invaders would be considered legally white.

There are no Africans.

The system-wide legal definitions are reflected in this standard college application form:

Colleges and universities are asked by many, including federal and State governments and national surveys to describe the racial/ethnic backgrounds of our students and employees. You should answer both questions.

Are you of Hispanic or Latino origin? Yes [] No []

What is your race? Select one or more of the following categories.

[] White

[] Black or African American

[] Asian

[] American Indian or Alaska Native

[] Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander

White: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.

Black or African American: A person having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa.

Hispanic or Latino: A person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin, regardless of race.

Asian: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam.

American Indian or Alaska Native: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community attachment.

Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander: A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.

So if the people fleeing Tunisia, Egypt, or Libya were to come here, they would not be considered African; they would legally be white.

Bloomberg is an American and not a European publication, so I can't understand why they're stoking racial fears despite the American position that no racial differences exist. In addition to the talk of the "5-foot, 8-inch blonde," there's the sub-headline --

'Become Black'

Last December, Qaddafi warned EU leaders that their region may "become black because millions want to come to Europe."

My question -- for both "Qaddafi" and Bloomberg -- is a simple one.

How can they be black if they're white?

Qaddafi is nuts, but what's up with Bloomberg? It may be they're trying to have it both ways, but it's driving me crazy trying to figure out the meaning behind headlines lately.

posted by Eric at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I was reminded yesterday that today would be Saint Patrick's Day, but this morning I forgot, so I didn't put on any green like we're all supposed to. Maybe I will later, but green is just not "my" color. At least, not to wear. I love the greening of the outdoors that will start occurring soon unless the Global Warming creates more snow, though.

At the risk of sounding irrational, I must confess to having developed a negative associational problem with "green." These less-than-pleasant associations include an obnoxious political party bearing that name, the blasted environmental movement, and a huge religious entity which cannot be mentioned in anything resembling a critical manner without the mentioner being subjected to accusations of bigotry.

So, while I freely admit that my feelings based on associations are irrational, I still have them, and it will require a special effort on my part to find some green and wear it. Plus, I'm not Irish. Well, I have an Irish great-great-grandfather named Donnelly (an Irish name, by any standard), but is that enough to really claim Irishness? Depending on whether Donnelly's wife was Irish (something I cannot determine without spending money on a genealogist), that would make me either 1/16 or 1/32 Irish. Is that enough to give me any claim to Irish identity politics? I realize that if I could prove I had a black great-great-grandfather I could claim to be black, but I'm not sure the one-drop rule applies to Irishness.

Can anyone help me there?

Anyway, I probably should have realized Saint Patrick's Day was coming, because on the Ides of March (traditionally considered ominous by my superstitious side), I had a truly magical bit of luck. In a thrift store, I was unable to resist buying an old book -- the 1915 first edition of The Bobbsey Twins At Meadow Brook. It's not especially valuable but for 50 cents I figured I couldn't go wrong. Just looking at the cute illustrations was worth the money, but as I flipped through the book, I found something even more valuable. 

Pressed between pages 86 and 87 was a four leaf clover.

I kid you not:


You can see the stains it left on each page.

Four-leaf clovers are said to be a 1 in 10,000 occurrence, which is why they're considered good luck. 

The four-leaf clover is an uncommon variation of the common, three-leaved clover. According to tradition, such leaves bring good luck to their finders, especially if found accidentally.[1] According to legend, each leaf represents something: the first is for hope, the second is for faith, the third is for love, and the fourth is for luck.[2]

Well, I certainly found it accidentally, and I don't know whether it will bring me luck or not, nor do I know whether I should succumb to what many would consider magical thinking.

Still, there is undeniable tradition, and the association of the shamrock with Saint Patrick's Day is because it symbolizes the Trinity:

The number 3, of course, is significant in the Christian religion, because of the doctrine of the Trinity. Irish legend has it that the missionary, Saint Patrick demonstrated the principle behind the Trinity using a shamrock, pointing to its three leaflets united by a common stalk. But there is no way of determining with certainty the exact plant referred to in the legend. This much we can say about Irish shamrocks, however. By definition, for a clover to represent the Trinity, it would have to bear 3 (and only 3) leaves. So for all the good luck they allegedly bring, 4-leaf clovers technically can't be considered shamrocks (not in the sense that St. Patrick made the latter famous, at least).

So you might conclude that the good luck aspect of the fourth leaf is pagan.

Then again, you might not. More here:

Each leaf of the clover represents something very special: 1) hope, 2) faith, 3) love, and 4) luck! In Irish tradition the Shamrock or Three-leaf Clover represents the Holy Trinity. One leaf for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. When a Shamrock is found with the fourth leaf, it represents God's Grace.

There is no way for me to determine whether the above is true. But if it is, and were it in my power to do so, I would want to send whatever luck I received to Japan. They're facing their worst disaster since the end of World War II, so they need it more than I do. 

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

posted by Eric at 11:58 AM | Comments (4)

God cubed?

An earlier email exchange with M. Simon over stuff I hate to argue about got me thinking about the people who claim to have found God in a sugar cube (as the result of ingesting LSD).

Are they hopelessly deluded fools? 

Because of underlying assumptions, analyzing this problem is difficult. However, it strikes me that for those who believe in LSD as God, (not quite as ridiculous as it seems, for if God exists, then God arguably exists in all things) then God might be discerned in a good trip or a bad trip.

But just as it is possible to believe in God with or without LSD, it is also possible to disbelieve, or doubt God, with or without LSD. If you believe in God, how would revelations believed to have been achieved via the ingestion of LSD be evaluated? Does God have an opinion about LSD? Let's suppose you believe that the God as "revealed" by ancient texts written by men and declared by authoritarians to be true is irredeemably contaminated by proof problems. If God does not exist, all analysis is moot, and clearly those who believe he reveals himself are deluded. If God does exist, then the problem is more complicated, for it entails first believing that a spiritual being might reveal himself or itself, and only then deciding which of the revelations claimed to have been received are correct.

Why would one ancient text be more controlling than another? And why would revelations which Muhammad thought were from God (which were later written down in the Koran) be more controlling than revelations which someone who ingested LSD thought were from God? Simply because the former are more popular? 

If God does not exist, the answer is easy; both are equally deluded.

If God does exist, both the Koran and the Cube could still be equally delusional.

I think atheism can come from a sugar cube just as easily as from religious texts.

Delusions beget delusions.

As to the best way to experience infinity and find the unknown, that's what we're all dying to find out.

(Sorry for the post title. It came out looking awfully Trinitarian. Probably my upbringing....)

posted by Eric at 10:30 AM | Comments (2)

The Worst Disaster Since The End Of WW2

The situation in Japan is dire and besides reactors out of control the logistical situation is not so hot either. Fuel and heating oil are in short supply. The food situation is not looking so good either.

Nearly a week after the disaster, police said more than 452,000 people were staying in schools and other shelters, as supplies of fuel, medicine and other necessities ran short. Both victims and aid workers appealed for more help.

"There is enough food, but no fuel or gasoline," said Yuko Niuma, 46, as she stood looking out over Ofunato harbor, where trawlers were flipped on their sides.

Along the tsunami-savaged coast, people must stand in line for food, gasoline and kerosene to heat their homes. In the town of Kesennuma, they lined up to get into a supermarket after a delivery of key supplies, such as instant rice packets and diapers.

Each person was only allowed to buy 10 items, NHK television reported.

With diapers hard to find in many areas, an NHK program broadcast a how-to session on fashioning a diaper from a plastic shopping bag and a towel.

At the same link you can see video of a helicopter dropping water on a nuke plant. What does it mean? Nothing good that is for sure.
All of the water from one of the spent fuel-rod pools is gone, according to the chief of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. With no water to cool the fuel rods, they could just get hotter and eventually melt down.

Gregory Jaczko, chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, warned there was no water left in the spent fuel pool of reactor 4, resulting in "extremely high" radiation levels.

A police water cannon was deployed to help top up the water in the containment pool and expected to go into action early Thursday, Jiji Press news agency reported.

Workers at the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), have struggled to maintain water levels as the rods have heated up the water, threatening to evaporate it and expose the rods to air, which would send out radioactive material.

Helicopters which were to dump water on the plant were forced back by the radiation levels.

Right now the accident is rated level 6 by most knowledgeable observers. That would be one level above Three Mile Island and one level below Chernobyl. The problem is: until the situation is under control (it is not at this time) it could get worse. I expect it will.

One explanation may be corruption in Japan's nuclear industry.

"Everything is a secret," said Kei Sugaoka, a former nuclear power plant engineer in Japan who now lives in California. "There's not enough transparency in the industry."

Sugaoka worked at the same utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant where workers are racing against time to prevent a full meltdown following Friday's 9.0 magnitude quake and tsunami.

In 1989 Sugaoka received an order that horrified him: edit out footage showing cracks in plant steam pipes in video being submitted to regulators. Sugaoka alerted his superiors in the Tokyo Electric Power Co., but nothing happened. He decided to go public in 2000. Three Tepco executives lost their jobs.

The legacy of scandals and cover-ups over Japan's half-century reliance on nuclear power has strained its credibility with the public.

Well that is not very encouraging. Neither is this.
Japanese authorities experimented with new measures Thursday to bring the country's stricken nuclear power plant under control, as the United States gave a dire assessment of the nuclear crisis and warned radiation levels at the plant are "extremely high."

Operators of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, where explosions and fires have hampered efforts to cool overheating reactors, began using helicopters to dump water on the reactors and said they were close to finishing a new power line, AP reports.

But early reports said efforts to dump tons of water on reactor No. 3, which reportedly experienced damage to its containment vessel during an explosion earlier in the week, had failed to bring down radiation levels.

What I'm seeing is one ad hoc plan after another. Water cannons? Helicopter drops spreading a few tons of water per drop over a wide area? My guess is that they have lost it. Almost totally.

OK. They are bringing in electrical power. Excellent. But some one had better be checking the pumps, the pumped coolant, and the coolant pipes so that the pumps last beyond a few minutes. In the military you think about these things because people are throwing heavy things at you filled with explosives. The equivalent of an earthquake + a tsunami. So you think about making things work in adverse conditions. I wonder if the Japanese - having a non-nuclear Navy - think about that sort of thing as much?

Of course the reactors are American designed. By GE.

I live near the Byron Nuclear Plant and I'm happy to say it is not a GE and not a Boiling Water Reactor.

The Byron Nuclear Generating Station is a nuclear power plant located in Ogle County, Illinois, 2 miles (3.2 km) east of the Rock River. The reactor buildings were constructed by Babcock and Wilcox and house two Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, Unit 1 and Unit 2, which first began operation in September 1985 and August 1987 respectively. The plant was built for Commonwealth Edison and is currently owned and operated by Exelon Corporation.

The plant provides electricity to northern Illinois and the city of Chicago. In 2005 it generated on average about 2,300 MWe, enough power to supply about 2 million average American homes.

Pressurized water reactors have two loops so that the water that circulates next to the fuel is not the same as the water that circulates through the steam plant. This is handled by a device called a steam generator. Boiling water reactors (BWR) have no separation between reactor water and steam plant water. They are the same. Thus with boiling water plants you have one less level of containment. On the other hand BWRs are a lot cheaper to build. No primary loop pumps. No steam generator. Lower operating pressures and temperature differentials (OK not in every detail but generally).

But back to Japan - half a million homeless, supplies running low, and a nuclear disaster. The worst disaster for Japan since the end of WW2.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:35 AM | Comments (17)

Gay bigots? "Gay Bigots"? "Gay" bigots? Gay "bigots"? Or "gay" "bigots"?

As many have said, Christian is the new gay.

Stuff like this is becoming all too predictable.

A Christian couple facing a foster parenting ban because of their views on homosexuality were told by a court yesterday that gay rights 'should take precedence' over their religious beliefs.

Owen and Eunice Johns heard that their values could conflict with the local authority's duty to 'safeguard and promote the welfare' of those in foster care.

The grandparents have already fostered 15 children and were praised by social workers as 'kind and hospitable people' who 'respond sensitively' to youngsters.

Outside court, Mr and Mrs Johns, aged 65 and 62, said they were 'extremely distressed' and had 'only wanted to offer a loving home to a child in need'.

They believe homosexuality is 'against God's law and morals' - but said they are not homophobic and would 'accept and love' any child.

Lest anyone think the Christian couple are raving bigots (which it is their right to be, even though they are not), read on:

She added that the couple have visited her nephew, who is gay, and his partner in San Francisco.

Her husband added: 'We wanted to offer love and stability and security to a vulnerable child. Eight-year-olds we have looked after want to play, not talk about their sexuality.'

But what mattered to the court was simply their religious opinions about homosexuality. That's their business, every bit as much as it is their business what they do in bed.

Seriously, if this keeps up, not being gay (or not wanting to be gay) will be considered an act of bigotry.

Excuse me, but whatever happened to sexual freedom?

While I have never liked identity politics, this case (fortunately not in the United States) is one of the most egregious examples I have seen. It is pure statism -- using identity politics as an excuse.

As might be expected, it has been widely criticized by religious conservatives, and otherwise has barely been reported in the United States.

It is in this way that the Culture War is surreptitiously fueled, with interested parties getting what they consider "red meat," while most people are not informed at all so they cannot weigh in.

What might otherwise be newsworthy is being swept under the rug.

I would not have heard about this but for an odd-looking headline that attracted my attention because of the quotation marks -- 'Gay' atheist warns of 'tyrannous new ... liberal morality' oppressing Christians:
LONDON, March 4, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Last week's ruling of the High Court in London banning pro-family Christian couples from fostering children has even self-described "gay" atheists concerned.  The justices ruled that it was appropriate to ban a Christian couple from fostering children since they refused to present homosexual sex as positive. 

David Starkey, a renowned historian and UK media personality, was discussing the ruling on BBC television yesterday. Starkey said: "I am gay and I am atheist but I have profound doubts about this case. It seems to me that what we are doing is producing a tyrannous new morality that is every bit as oppressive as the old."

Starkey described what he believes was harassment from police that he experienced while growing up as a homosexual.  He said, however, that, "I am very, very concerned that a new sort of liberal morality is coming in, which as I said, is as intolerant, is as oppressive, is as intrusive into family life."

Gay or not, Dr. Starkey is absolutely right. Imposing one's morality on the private lives of decent people is wrong, whether it be based on "gay" intolerance or "straight" intolerance. (I don't know what's with the quotes, but I am trying to go with the flow lest I offend the quoters.)

Still, what's with the quotes? Don't they believe Dr. Starkey is gay? Or is it that they don't approve of his decision to call himself that? Or might it be that they don't want him to be a homosexual? (If that is the case, then why isn't "atheist" in quotes?) I'm no fan of identity politics, but if someone says he is gay, I am not inclined to question his self assessment by putting quotes around it -- any more than I am going to put quotes around "straight" or "christian," "Muslim," or "Jewish." There is something condescending about that. Like putting quotes around "white" or "black."

But OTOH, maybe the identity politics people deserve it, for they started it.

As it turns out, historian David Starkey has been discussed in this blog, for he likened Henry VIII to Barack Obama, and despite my being too old for postmodernism I worried that there might have been an unappreciated subtext there.

But never mind that! Dr. Starkey is absolutely right to defend the rights of the "Christian" couple that wants to adopt (in quotes because I don't think their religion should matter and the religion is not monolithic) against the "gay" tyranny that wants to stop them.  Yes, I put "gay" in quotes because I don't think the sexuality of statist fascists should matter, and if it does it should be protested because they speak only for themselves and not for any group.

Here's the video:

Bigotry is so exhausting.

And because gay activists imagine themselves to be more in favor of sexual freedom and therefore more tolerant, "gay" "bigotry" is even more exhausting than "Christian" "bigotry."

So are the quotation marks.

posted by Eric at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

The President - It's Worse Than We Thought

Ulsterman and his secret source are back.

So you think President Obama should be impeached?

Impeached? -Expletive- no. That's too good for him. President Obama should be arrested. What's that word you used a while back - sedition? Well there you go - that pretty much sums up this whole stinking cesspool of a White House right there. Look, I was suspicious of this guy before - but based on what I was told these past few months...the man, those around him (pauses) ...this president is the most corrupt thing to have sat in the White House in our lifetimes. Being part of that campaign in 2008...it makes me sick. Do you understand what I'm saying? Sick. To have played any part in getting him elected...Obama isn't just incompetent...he's something else. Something worse. I've been around a lot of asshole-arrogant politicians. Plenty of those. Even a few outright criminals. This is different. This is a whole other level of corrupt.

That is from the first part of a three part article.

Here is something from the second part.

So he showed up late, like I said. He looked good - just like the campaign. He sat down and said, "Welcome everybody!" He turned to a person to his right who I did not know at the time, a younger man, and the president smiled and nodded to him. Then he looked over at Valerie Jarrett, who sat in a chair behind the president - she was sitting against the wall - watching. I didn't even realize she was in the room until the president looked over at her. There was prolonged silence. The president folded his hands on the desk and smiled again. Then he unfolded his hands and leaned back in his chair. More silence. He looked over again at the man to his right who then gave the president an agenda for the meeting. Now I know enough about how these things work to know that the president must have been given that agenda long before he stepped into the room. Every minute of a president's day is meticulously mapped out beforehand. So this thing, which might seem like a minor detail to some, set off my alarms. What was going on here? Why was the president being handed an agenda that he must have already been given earlier?

So Obama looks down at the paper and then looks back up at all of us. He smiles again and then gives off this nervous little laugh. Now the country is pretty familiar with that laugh these days, but it was the first time I had heard it, and it didn't do anything to alleviate just how odd this meeting was playing out. The president recognized someone else at the table and asked for them to begin with item two on the agenda. Do you want to know what item one on the agenda was? It read: Greetings and introductions by President of the United States. Apparently that item one...well, apparently the president thought he had just handled that part and so it was on to item two. Of course the gentleman he asked to start on item two had no idea what he was to say, and the man to the president's right stepped in and proceeded to handle that item himself. The president appeared completely unaware of his mistake, or maybe he just didn't care. The mood in the room had gone from excitement at getting to see the president to one of being very uncomfortable. If President Obama was unable to handle a simple meeting among secondary staff, how in the hell was he going to be able to run the damn country?

Well he doesn't seem to be doing a very good job that is for sure.

Commenter Nicole is not so sure of the truth of the above observations but adds an anecdote of her own.

Nicole Posted March 15, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Not sure how legit this all is but it does go with what I saw with my own eyes back in 2008. I was among a group of campus student representatives that got to be "backstage" at a Obama rally. We watched from side as Obama totally kicked ass. Great speech about 8000 screaming supporters cheering every word. Then he came backstage and we were able to get back there close to him before before security started to push us off a bit. Obama walked about 10 or maybe 15 feet by us though and I was shocked at how small and tired he seemed when he got off the stage. Pretty tall but really really thin and old. Like about 10 yrs older than he looked on the stage. It was weird. And he seemed confused on where to go and stopped a bit and his eyes were like darting around kind of like a wildman. Then somebody yelled at him "Over here!" And Obama jumped a little and half ran to wherever the voice was coming from and he looked kind of scared. It was weird. He didn't seem at all like he did on the stage. Totally different vibe coming off him.

It almost sounds as if our Resident is some one's trained poodle.

Hill Buzz is wondering when some one is going to show up and fill the empty suit.

End-time tsunami, several catastrophic earthquakes, possible nuclear disaster, major unrest in the Middle East, world financial crisis...and I'm sure I'm missing a few other events but you get the big picture. It's scary. It's scary as hell and what does our brilliant leader talk about on Saturday's radio address?

(FoxNews)Amid chaos around the world and on Capitol Hill, Obama's Saturday radio address was devoted to Women's History Month and a call to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a proposal meant to address the income gap between men and women. Then, the president went golfing at Andrews Air Force Base.

Shouldn't the President get engaged? Oh. Wait. He is already married. Har.

James Taranto is beginning to see the same thing.

The Associated Press is still soft on President Obama. "On High-Profile issues, Obama Keeps a Low Profile," reads the headline on a dispatch by Jim Kuhnhenn:
Call it an above-the-fray strategy.

On hot issues that Democrats and Republicans have found cause to fret about--from spending reductions to state labor disputes--President Barack Obama is keeping a low profile. [snip]

"Call it an above-the-fray strategy"? Why do we think that if George W. Bush were still president, the AP would tell us to call it something less gentle? It is pure puffery for anyone--much less a news reporter--to present the president's lack of leadership in a foreign-policy crisis as a virtue.
He certainly hasn't taken leadership in the budget crisis either.

Well anyway - I look forward to the next Ulsterman episode. Just for the entertainment value.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:37 PM | Comments (4)

Go kill yourself! (An altruistic approach to saving the world.)

A man who appears to be a genuine sicko is facing imprisonment for telling depressed people that they should kill themselves, and giving them specific instructions on how. 

FARIBAULT, Minn. (AP) -- Freedom of speech is no defense for a former nurse who engaged in "lethal advocacy" when he encouraged an English man and Canadian woman to kill themselves after searching for depressed people over the Internet, a Minnesota judge said in delivering a guilty verdict against the man.

The judge found William Melchert-Dinkel, 48, guilty Tuesday of two counts of aiding the suicides of Mark Drybrough, 32, of Coventry, England, who hanged himself in 2005, and Nadia Kajouji, 18, of Brampton, Ontario, who jumped into a frozen river in 2008. Melchert-Dinkel declined a jury trial and left his fate to Rice County District Judge Thomas Neuville.

Melchert-Dinkel's attorney, Terry Watkins, said the defense was disappointed with the verdict and planned to appeal. Watkins said appellate courts will have to answer whether Melchert-Dinkel's actions rose to the level of a crime or were protected speech in the context in which they occurred, given the defense view that the victims were already predisposed to suicide and his online statements didn't sway them.

The court ruled that his words rose to the level of "imminent incitement."

What the man said to these depressed people is morally indefensible, except maybe to misanthropic types, such as environmentalists or Ebenezer Scrooge (who believed the goal should be to "decrease the surplus population").

But what fascinates me are the legal implications. The idea that certain people (the influencers, if you will) should be held responsible for the thoughts and actions of others (the influenced) challenges my libertarian worldview, and it is a frequent topic here because I think it is so amorphous, yet permeates innumerable discussions of morality. I have called it "monkey see, monkey do," and I touched on it in recent discussions of responsibility for conspiracy theories. My concern was not with the merits of any conspiracy theory so much as to pose a question.

If a demagogue floats conspiracy theories simply because he gets a cheap thrill from getting the little people all stirred up, is he then "responsible" if they believe him?

My view is that people are responsible for their own thoughts -- even if they are influenced by others. That has to be the case, for we are all to one extend or another influenced by the thoughts of others, and it is our responsibility to think for ourselves. If we cannot do that, then we cease to have free will and we are in need of protection by authorities. At that point, we cease to be free citizens.

Stanton Glantz takes the view that the authorities should regulate images of cigarette puffing, and that children should not be allowed to view movies which show cigarette smoking lest they be influenced, and imitate them monkey-see-monkey-do style.

Glantz, who thinks any movie with smoking in it should automatically be rated R, claims that policy "would cut movie smoking's effect on kids in half, saving 50,000 lives a year in the U.S. alone." In a 2005 Reason article, I questioned the scientific basis for such calculations. Over at Filmdrunk, Danger Guerrero questions the existence of Stanton Glantz.

So what is the key difference between a child and an adult in this regard? That a child is more likely to engage in monkey-see-monkey-do? Well, what about an impressionable adult? Wouldn't some of them (especially "addicts" who have struggled with the "disease") be just as likely to want to smoke because they see someone else smoking? Why should only children be protected from the "puffing influence" threat? And what about images of people drinking or eating junk food? Shouldn't children be just as protected from that too? What about public displays of homosexuality? Or scantily clad women? 

Evolution of communitarian "thought" processes fascinates me. It used to be that the concern over cigarettes involved actual health risks. First it was first-hand smoke, then second-hand smoke, then third-hand smoke, and now, it's the visual influence of seeing smokers! If depictions of smoking in movies should be prohibited from children, then isn't that an argument against allowing anyone to smoke anywhere in public lest he be seen (and imitated) by children?

Sorry, but this sounds more like a religious argument than a public health argument. There are many things that are dangerous or immoral yet short of illegal, that children might see people do, and which they might imitate by doing themselves. In the old days, it was the responsibility of parents to make sure their children did not do things which harmed themselves. Now it's the nanny state, and as we know at the core of nanny statism is the belief that adults should be treated like children

Suppose you believe that there are too many adults who are like children in that they look up to the nanny state and allow, if not actually want themselves, to be treated like children. I complain about people who have thoughts which are not their own evading responsibility, and I have insisted on crediting and/or blaming them for the thoughts they have. I do not think the claim that the thoughts were put there by others is a defense.

But perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps there are people who have no thoughts of their own, and who want to be led.

Should they be encouraged to kill themselves? Wouldn't that be the compassionate thing to do? Not that I am under any duty to be altruistic, but I'd hate to think we had a surplus population of adult children in need of help. Why should government death panels be given a monopoly?

I'd like to help, so as a public service message, I would suggest that all susceptible people whose thoughts are not their own follow the example of actress Clara Blandick (best known as "Auntie Em" in the Wizard of Oz):

....Although she appeared in 118 films, she was primarily a stage actress. Clara actually began her film career at a late age. She was 33 when she was picked for the role as Emily Mason in Mrs. Black Is Back (1914). Her next film was The Stolen Triumph (1916), after which she returned to the stage, where she seemed more comfortable. She did not make another film until the age of 48, when she appeared in Poor Aubrey (1930). By now the studios knew her to be an outstanding character actress who was adept at filling minor roles. She had only three films under her belt at this time but would appear in more than 100 over the next 20 years. Nine films in 1930 and 13 the following year showed what a talent Clara really was. The role that was to immortalize her, however, was the part as Auntie Em in the classic The Wizard of Oz (1939). Clara continued in films until 1950, when she appeared on the screen for the final time in Key to the City (1950). By this time Clara had been suffering from poor health for years, and retired from the screen. On Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962, Clara went to church in Hollywood, California. When she returned she wrote a note stating she was about to take the greatest adventure of her life. She took an overdose of sleeping tablets and pulled a plastic bag over her head, thus ending her life. She was 81 years old.

The plastic bag is an important detail, because many people who attempt suicide by taking a drug overdose either don't take enough pills, or else vomit them up after passing out, so they end up living. Often in worse shape than ever! The plastic bag offers protection against living as a form of double backup insurance. However, it is important to use a large-sized bag, firmly secured with tape, string or a rubber band around your throat so that you don't pull it off accidentally or because of the "urge to breath" reflex which is triggered by excess CO2 in a conscious person. This also means that for "best" results, the bag should not be put on until you begin to feel drowsy!

Suicide has to be done right. After all, why scrimp on the greatest adventure of your life?

Especially when you're helping the planet!

No seriously. As you start to drift off, just remember that the CO2 you're overconsuming will save the planet lots of CO2 in the future! By killing yourself, you are helping save the planet!

I encourage all truly caring people who are susceptible to feelings of environmental guilt and who want to actually do something to save the planet to please carefully consider following Clara Blandick's example.

Why not do it tonight?

Interestingly, the warnings on plastic bags say nothing about suicide.

"Warning: To avoid danger of suffocation, keep this plastic bag away from babies and children. Do not use this bag in cribs, beds, carriages or playpens. The plastic bag could block nose and mouth and prevent breathing. This bag is not a toy."

What this means is that your next of kin can sue the plastic bag manufacturer for not having a suicide warning! I have never seen such a warning like this on any plastic bag. 

"Warning: To avoid danger of suicide, keep this plastic bag away from all susceptible or easily-influenced people. Do not use this bag in homes, workplaces, computer stations, bedrooms or anywhere that susceptible people might be present -- especially after consuming alcohol or medication! The plastic bag could block nose and mouth and prevent breathing. This bag is not to be used as a suicide device."

Wow. So not only do you get to save the planet, but you're leaving your next of kin with a wonderful cause of action. 

Perhaps environmentalists should rethink their opposition to plastic bags. 

Meanwhile, I refuse to accept responsibility for helping to save the planet....

I really should try harder to avoid being altruistic.

posted by Eric at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)

Japan Post Tsunami - It Is Worse Than We Thought

Zero Hedge has an article up by a person who has close contacts with Japan. Especially in the financial markets.

I just got off the phone with several frightened, somewhat dazed survivors of the Japanese earthquake who work in the financial markets, and I thought it important to immediately pass on what they said. Some were clearly terrified.

Japan's economic outlook now appears far more dire than I anticipated only a day ago. It looks like GDP growth rate is going to instantly flip from +2% to -3%, a swing of -5%, similar to what we saw after the Kobe earthquake in 1995. We have just had a "V" shaped economy dumped in our laps, and we have just embarked on a precipitous down leg. Two very weak quarters will be followed by two strong ones. The initial damage estimate is $60-$120 billion, and that will certainly rise.

Kobe had a larger immediate impact because of its key location as a choke point for the country's rail and road transportation networks and ports. But the Sendai quake has affected a far larger area. Magnifying the impact is the partial melt down at the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plant, forcing the evacuation of everyone within a 12 mile radius.

Most major companies, including Toyota, Nissan, Honda, and Sony have shut down all domestic production. Management want to tally death tolls, damage to plant and equipment, and conduct emergency safety reviews. In any case, most employees are unable to get to work because of the complete shutdown of the rail system. Tokyo's subway system is closed, stranding 25 million residents there.

Electric power shortages are a huge problem. The country's eight Northern prefectures are now subject to three hour daily black outs and power rationing, including Tokyo. That has closed all manufacturing activity in the most economically vital part of the country.

Panic buying has emptied out every store in the major cities of all food and bottled water. Gas stations were cleaned out of all supplies and reserves, since much of Japan's refining capacity has been closed.

There is much more at the link.

Now what if the Japanese stop buying US Treasury Notes to pay for the disaster? Or worse they start selling? We have had 20 fat years. We look to be heading into 20 lean years. Bummer.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

Power Politics

I was watching a Pajamas video about the future of Libertarianism and it got me to thinking about Libertarian foreign policy (broadly - non-interventionism). And that got me thinking deeper.

As I see it Libertarians are a huge failure when it comes to Foreign Policy. I think it is because they are uncomfortable with power politics. Fine. The way to end power politics is to make the rest of the world libertarian. And they seem to have no interest in that either.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:47 AM | Comments (3)

Sarah On Pajamas

Sara Hoyt talks to Instapundit about There's No Such Thing as a Benevolent Dictatorship. Sorry - subscription only. And no - I don't get a cut for subscriptions.

posted by Simon at 10:02 AM | Comments (3)

Inequality: Ferraris and Famine
A very nice find by Megan:

It is a commonplace [notion] that since the 1970s, inequality in America has been growing rapidly--far more rapidly than our peers abroad.  Naturally, this has invited a lot of attempts to explain that growth, usually in terms of America's tax policy, its culture, or some sort of capture of our national institutions by the rich, allowing them to rig everything in their favor.

But Scott Winship offers an intriguing alternative possibility--is our outsized growth rate an artifact of mid-eighties changes to our tax code?
This is a perfect example of why econometrics are so problematic, something the Austrians have always complained about.
Even aside from this problem, the real measure of inequality should be in terms of utility, and marginal utility is logarithmic with income, so in terms of human suffering inequality is at an all-time low. That's the magic of productivity growth.

Put more plainly, inequality is a much bigger problem when some people are starving and others are fat than when everyone is fat and some people have Ferraris.
posted by Dave at 09:35 PM | Comments (0)

The Best Conspiracy Theory Of All - For Now

Eric has been all over conspiracy theories lately. Start here and follow the links. Well it got me to thinking (since I had verified much of the material of one so called conspiracist):

What if fake conspiracy theories are manufactured (or enhanced) to cover the real conspiracies - because, you know, no one believes that stuff.

Can I claim a prize for the best conspiracy theory yet? Short version: most conspiracy theories are part of a bigger conspiracy to cover up the real conspiracies. Try sitting in a quiet place and thinking that through. I dare you. The place you wind up is called the Wilderness of Mirrors.

posted by Simon at 09:22 PM | Comments (6)

Profits of Doom

Earlier I wasted about a half an hour watching a ridiculous program on the History Channel which made my criticism of Drudge yesterday seem petty. Called "Prophets of Doom," it started out with Michael Ruppert -- notorious conspiracy theorist who has lurched from Iran Contra conspiracies to 9/11 Trutherism to his latest -- which is simply that human civilization is doomed because we will soon run out of fossil fuels. Ruppert, BTW, has left the United States because he believes there are plots against him; his life history summary on Wiki is itself a conspiracy theorist's dream. Especially for those who get a chuckle out of "citation neededs":

Michael Craig Ruppert was born in Washington, DC. His father was an Air Force officer and later an aerospace executive who worked on projects which included the Titan III.[citation needed] His father's cousin, Barbara Burges and her husband Sam, are both retired from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[citation needed] Mr. Ruppert's mother was a cryptographer for Army Intelligence at Fort Meade, MD, during the Second World War.[citation needed]

Ruppert was raised a Republican. He has jokingly said that from 1969 to 1973, he was one of two "living" Republicans on the UCLA campus. During that time, Ruppert was chosen, as an honors student in political science, to intern for Chief Edward M. Davis of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).[citation needed]

After graduation from UCLA, he was assigned to Wilshire Division patrol, and excelled at patrol work and was subsequently sent on detective assignments, including burglary and homicide. He was later recommended by the narcotics officer-in-charge to attend a two-week DEA training school held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Narcotics was Ruppert's chosen specialty, and he has given expert court testimony on the subject 27 times.[citation needed]

In 1977, Ruppert discovered an extensive drug trafficking operation run by the CIA and went on record about this ongoing criminal activity.[citation needed] He resigned from the LAPD in 1978 despite earning the highest rating reports possible, over the tolerance of continued CIA drug dealing activities.[6][dubious ] Ruppert's personal experience with death threats, 3 shooting attempts on him, aggressive intimidation over his attempted exposure of these illegal drug activities within Los Angeles, and his ethical conflict with tolerance of these activities, was the catalyst for the resignation.[7][dubious ]

Ruppert filed an official complaint with FBI Special Agent Stan Curry of the LA Field Office on December 4, 1978. This was after Ruppert left the LAPD on November 30, 1978.[citation needed]

Not the sort of guy I would rely on for anything.

The rest of the people on the show are a rogue's gallery of conspiracy theorists, and they include James Howard Kunstler -- a man whose claims Justin used to be very fond of "debunking" back in the day when that was believed possible.

The entire gang of "prophets" is listed here:

The History Channel aired a two-hour program entitled 'Prophets of Doom'. My kind of programming! Assembled were five experts in Apocalyptic scenarios; Michael Ruppert, Nathan Hagens, John Cronin, James Howard Kunstler, Professor Hugo De Garis and Robert Gleason. Each shared their views with one another and compared notes on how they think civilization will collapse. And to think I could have been watching 'The People's Choice Awards' instead!

Kunstler and Ruppert are notorious; the others are relatively milder by comparison. Hagens, who prophesies economic doom, is billed as an "economist" even though I could find no evidence that holds a degree in Economics. 

As to the rest, John Cronin is a doom-and-gloom environmentalist who screams we are running out of water. Hugo de Garis believes there is a coming World War between Cosmists (advocates of robots who are smarter than humans) and Terrans (rabidly opposed to the Cosmists whose plans they consider a deadly threat to Earth). He predicts billions will be killed and it will happen by the end of this century. As he will likely never live to see it, he won't ever have to worry about being proved wrong. I won't live to see it either, and as I have a poor track record of predicting presidential nomineess, I think I'll take a pass on predicting a World War over "Artilects." As to Gleason, he's into Mayan 2012 type doom, so his being proven wrong clock is ticking away fast. While I think I can fairly predict that he will be wrong, events in Japan are probably giving Mayan Doomsday Theorists a much-needed infusion of hope.

What's interesting is that this stuff is not being sponsored by the Conspiracy Channel, but by the History Channel, which is a subsidiary of A&E Television Networks -- "a joint venture between Hearst Corporation, Disney-ABC Television Group, and NBC Universal."

No matter how you slice it, that's MSM.

Deliberately sponsoring  conspiracy theorists.

My immediate temptation (and that of many other people) would be to assume there has to be an intentional plan, with probably sinister motives.

Why might the MSM be promoting conspiracy theories?

Because they are elitists who want to keep the "little people" down? When he took issue with 9/11 Truther Michael Ruppert, David Corn offered an explanation along similar lines:

they distract from the nefarious deeds our leaders actually do perpetrate.

Well, maybe they do. But I am thinking that sometimes the easiest explanation is the simplest. These people we call the MSM are in business to make money. They have obviously determined that there is a market for this stuff, so they pander to it. That way they can sell advertising, boost ratings, etc. It is the nature of the entertainment business. Concluding that they are deliberately plotting to mislead the "little people" is little more than a conspiracy theory about a conspiracy theory. It's similar to the conspiracy thinking by people who think Hollywood and the entertainment industry promote violence, indecency, profanity, Jersey Shore and gangster rap as a grand plot to deliberately ruin American culture. I don't doubt that some Hollywood types do in fact want to ruin the country. Michael Moore is a good example. But a more likely explanation for most of the rot that's cranked out is that they know people will watch or listen to it and they can sell advertising.

In light of the unbelievable devastation recently in the news, I don't know why anyone would need conspiracy theories about the end of the world. Escapism, perhaps? Might conspiracy theories offer something akin to drugs? I don't mean to be too judgmental about these things, but it's one thing to enjoy them, and another to believe them.

Conspiracy theories have become the modern equivalent of P.T. Barnum's freak shows.

If only people took them less seriously.

posted by Eric at 02:16 PM | Comments (6)

Japanese Reactor Melt Down

In a previous post on the Japanese reactor problems I noted.

Hydrogen explosions indicate a very serious problem. There should be no hydrogen generated under normal conditions. Or abnormal conditions. The situation must be very abnormal.
And the serious problem I feared appears to have happened. A breech of the fuel rods, the reactor vessel, and the containment building.

There appears to be signs of a core "meltdown".

SOMA, Japan - Japan's nuclear crisis deepened dramatically Tuesday. As safety officials sought desperately to avert catastrophe, the government said radioactive material leaking from reactors was enough to "impact human health" and the risk of more leaks was "very high."

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that radiation has spread from four reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima province that was one of the hardest-hit in Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami.

He urged anyone within 19 miles (30 kilometers) of the plant to stay indoors or risk getting radiation sickness.

This is not good at all. If the shutdown and post shutdown cooling had gone well the reactors should have been past the peak of the danger zone by now.

Sky News has more details.

A third explosion has been heard at a quake-stricken Japanese nuclear power plant, raising fears of a nuclear meltdown.

The blast tore through the unit 2 structure at the Fukushima Daiichi complex and a hole has been found in the container.

Japanese cabinet secretary Yukio Edano has told a press conference there is also currently a fire in unit 4 reactor.

Prime minister Naoto Kan said radiation has spread from the reactors and that anyone living less than 20km away from the facility should leave the area.

He said that those within the 20 to 30km radius should stay inside as the risk of a nuclear leak is rising.

Mr Edano said efforts are being made to cool down all of the reactors using water injection but that radiation levels could affect people's health.

Two previous explosions occurred in buildings housing unit 1 and 3 reactors following last Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami.

It has been a long time since I studied this but as I recall the only time you would see a large release of hydrogen gas from a shut down reactor is if the fuel rods were at a very high temperature thus making it possible to use the water available as an oxidizer thus releasing hydrogen. This is some very bad news. Very very bad. Thus these accidents will be studied for years to come. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that compared to Three Mile Island these plants are very poorly designed. It may have something to do with the military heritage of the US plants.

Update: 15 March 2011 1331z

It appears there are quite a few of these GE designed reactors in the US.

On Monday, GE Hitachi Nuclear sent the following statement, in full: "The BWR Mark 1 reactor is the industry's workhorse with a proven track record of safety and reliability for more than 40 years. Today, there are 32 BWR Mark 1 reactors operating as designed worldwide. There has never been a breach of a Mark 1 containment system."

The six reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, which had explosions on Saturday and Monday, are all GE-designed boiling-water reactors, known in the industry as BWRs. Five have containment systems of GE's Mark I design, and the sixth is of the Mark II type. They were placed in operation between 1971 and 1979.

A fact sheet from the anti-nuclear advocacy group Nuclear Information and Resource Service contends that the Mark I design has design problems, and that in 1972 an Atomic Energy Commission member, Dr. Stephen Hanuaer, recommended that this type of system be discontinued.

"Never been a breach"? They may have to revise that statement in the very near future.

I go back and forth on the nuclear power question a lot. In the past few years I have been swinging towards - nuclear power is OK until we get something better. May be not though. Maybe the pressures on civilians (profits) is not commensurate with the requirements of plant safety. One clue is that the US Government insures the nuclear industry in America. It also regulates the industry. So there is some confluence of interest there.

We won't know anything for sure until the fires die down and the smoke clears.

Update: 15 March 2011 1411z

The weakness of the boiling water plants has been known for some time.

However, as early as 1972, Dr. Stephen Hanuaer, an Atomic Energy Commission safety official, recommended that the pressure suppression system be discontinued and any further designs not be accepted for construction permits. Shortly thereafter, three General Electric nuclear engineers publicly resigned their prestigious positions citing dangerous shortcomings in the GE design.

An NRC analysis of the potential failure of the Mark I under accident conditions concluded in a 1985 report that Mark I failure within the first few hours following core melt would appear rather likely."

In 1986, Harold Denton, then the NRC's top safety official, told an industry trade group that the "Mark I containment, especially being smaller with lower design pressure, in spite of the suppression pool, if you look at the WASH 1400 safety study, you'll find something like a 90% probability of that containment failing." In order to protect the Mark I containment from a total rupture it was determined necessary to vent any high pressure buildup. As a result, an industry workgroup designed and installed the "direct torus vent system" at all Mark I reactors. Operated from the control room, the vent is a reinforced pipe installed in the torus and designed to release radioactive high pressure steam generated in a severe accident by allowing the unfiltered release directly to the atmosphere through the 300 foot vent stack. Reactor operators now have the option by direct action to expose the public and the environment to unknown amounts of harmful radiation in order to "save containment."

Wow. But that does explain the tall "towers" near the plants. They are there to "spread the radiation around" in case of an accident. Which is not a bad idea. If there is not too much of it.

But it is bad design IMO to design a containment failure into the system. What if it fails? You have a designed in a breach. Idiots.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 09:01 AM | Comments (8)

Bill Is Oil Slick

Bill? That would be our former President Bill Clinton talking about oil. And what is he saying about oil?

Former President Bill Clinton said Friday that delays in offshore oil and gas drilling permits are "ridiculous" at a time when the economy is still rebuilding, according to attendees at the IHS CERAWeek conference.

Clinton spoke on a panel with former President George W. Bush that was closed to the media. Video of their moderated talk with IHS CERA Chairman Daniel Yergin was also prohibited. ...

Clinton said there are "ridiculous delays in permitting when our economy doesn't need it," according to Noe and others.

Every thing is fine - for now though. And how do we know they are fine? Well US production is up.
The administration rightly notes that domestic oil and natural gas production have increased since 2008, while imports have decreased.

OK, but: Erik Milito of the American Petroleum Institute told Environment & Energy Publishing, "The increased production levels in 2010 are a credit to the vision of previous administrations." Milito credited the 1995 Deepwater Royalty Relief Act signed by Bill Clinton and passed by a GOP-controlled Congress.

So maybe Bill knows something Obama doesn't know. What might that be?
Clinton himself lamented "ridiculous delays in permitting when our economy doesn't need it." The administration didn't issue a permit since the blowout until last month -- and then only after a federal judge's prompting.

Not to mention the steady job-killing creep of climbing gasoline prices.

There always has been a corner of Obamaland that doesn't appreciate the job-creating properties of cheap fuel. Now-Energy Secretary Steven Chu told the Wall Street Journal, "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Chu said that in September 2008 -- and still Obama picked him for the slot.

Civilization runs on energy. In fact the more energy you can run through your system the more civilization you get. So why would our President be trying to strangle future oil supplies? I think you can come to one of two conclusions.

1. He doesn't understand
2. He does

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:03 AM | Comments (2)

Statist Stasis

A must-read piece from Nick Gillespie, linked over at Instapundit and other fine establishments:

Until we face up to the three large truths about the current moment outlined above, it's hard to see how our country, our states, and our cities can move into better positions regarding their balance sheets. More importantly, it's hard to see how we can rebuild not just the economy of the moment but of the future if we don't grapple with what's gone on at all levels of government: a bi-partisan disaster that replaced any and all notions of public thrift and accountability with entitlement giveaways, public-sector largesse, runaway defense spending at the national level and exponential growth in law enforcement at state and local levels, and so much more. We worry, rightly, that the United States is pursuing the same policies that gave rise to Japan's "lost decade" (now in its in second decade!).

Which brings me to these two graphs.  Note the correlation between sluggish post-recession job growth and the size of government.





There's been a lot of talk on the left about government jobs being important "stabilizers." 

What do stabilizers do when the economy is in recession?  They stabilize! Hurray!

What do stabilizers do when the economy is growing?  They stabilize!  Hurr-- wait, uh oh.

If we want to have the same standard of living for the next 100 years, stability is great, but if we want economic growth and the accompanying increase in living standards, we'll need to remember "stability" and "growth" are two concepts in conflict by definition.

posted by Dave at 07:57 PM | Comments (1)

All the news that's fit to entertain

For some time now, I have noticed Drudge's regular linking of notorious conspiracy monger Alex Jones. I have been too cynical to bother with complaining in blog posts, as I figure WTF, who cares, after all, etc. These things are all about traffic. "News" becomes relative when it comes to entertaining people and getting hits. Knowing that Drudge is an entertainer who likes to titillate his readership might engender more skepticism on my part, but what good is complaining? Besides, who cares what I think about a major influencer like Drudge? 

Anyway today I was a bit startled to see that Glenn Reynolds has not only noticed the same thing, but spoke up:

....I see that Drudge is linking an item on Alex Jones' PrisonPlanet site about fallout reaching the West Coast I can't tell what it says because the Drudge link has killed the server, but I'd approach anything from that conspiracist site with skepticism, and I'm disappointed to see Drudge linking it.

Good for Glenn.

Pumping conspiracy theories is one thing (I often find entertainment value in them myself), but they really shouldn't be passed off as straight news, and as Drudge has a reputation as a major legitimate news site, his links to something carry with them the clear implication that they are news and not crackpot nonsense. 

Perhaps when someone of Glenn's stature complains, Drudge will notice.

Or perhaps not.

Anyway, I thought it merited a post, because I have noticed this too, and now I am wondering whether I was wrong in thinking it would have been a waste of time to complain. Perhaps integrity matters. 

Does it?

If not, I guess "reporting" like this might as well be considered news.

Have to admit, that's entertainment. For me, at least. I happen to think it's hilarious, and I linked it in one of my innumerable posts about conspiracy mongering. 

But -- and this is what I hate to contemplate as a libertarian individualist -- what about the people who would see the above and believe it? Is it irresponsible to deliberately pander to them and stoke their fears? Or is it just their problem?

Not long ago, I said this:

...I hate the way Post-Modernist liberals (as well as some conservatives) claim that people's thoughts are not really theirs, and whenever I see evidence which tends to confirm it, I want to run away screaming. For I want to give people credit or blame for thinking what they think, whatever it is.

I think thoughts should be the fault of the people who think them.

How might that apply to people who see a conspiracy video and are immediately convinced it must be God's honest truth? If some harebrained idiot sees a "story" linked at Drudge and isn't savvy enough to be skeptical, whose fault is that? His? Or Drudge's?

By insisting that harebrained people are responsible for the thoughts that they vapidly allow others to place in their emtpy heads, am I just running around with blinders on? Maybe so, but the idea of a duty on the part of smarter people towards their dumber brethren strikes me as elitist, and trying to enforce it smacks of communitarianism. So I tend to blame the harebrained followers instead of their smarter leaders.

There's nothing wrong with expressing disappointment though. While it shouldn't be illegal to do it, it isn't right for smarter people like Drudge to mislead dumber readers who can't tell the difference between a news story and a conspiracy theory.

Freedom is dangerous. Let the buyer beware.

Especially the dumber buyer.

posted by Eric at 01:28 PM | Comments (6)

Just say "Whoa!" to common sense

Over the weekend I visited a stable where some friends keep a horse, and I happened to see the following sign posted on the wall:


The sign references Michigan's Equine Activity Liability Act (text here, PDF) -- a 1994 law I'd never heard of before, which shouldn't have had to be enacted were we living in a sane society. Basically, the law is a codification of what used to be common sense. If you get on or get close to a horse in the course of an "equine activity," the horse might get excited, and you might fall off and get hurt, the horse might kick or bite, you might get tangled in the bridle or stirrups -- any host of things.

By getting on a horse, you assume the risk that you might fall off!


The law puts the brakes on lawsuits against owners of horses and stables against lawsuits by people who assumed the risk. 

Frankly, it shocks me that there are people who would get on a horse and then sue if they fall off. They are more dangerous than any horse, horse owner, or stable. In fact, they are sinister threat to our freedom. 

Whether it is their fault or the fault of a legal system that allows them to run amok, or whether it is the fault of the lawyers who make money off them, I don't know. I am glad the legislature stepped in and passed this law, but I worry that it's a sign of the times.

The increasing trend seems to be that there is no such thing as assumption of the risk for participation in dangerous activities, unless the legislature steps in and says there is. It seems painfully obvious that things like auto-racing, mountain-climbing, skiiing, SCUBA diving, parachuting, and rough contact sports like hockey or football are all activities in which the risk of injury is a given, and assumption of the risk ought to be a matter of common sense. Yet apparently the legislature has to say so.

If I got on a horse and fell off, it would not occur to me to sue and I would not want to. But in all of these things, the catch is money. Suppose I were paralyzed like Christopher Reeves. Who pays for a lifetime of huge medical expenses? That's where lawyers enter the picture. They'd get 30-40% of whatever I might win, and they can convince juries to award millions. The money temptation is huge, and even though I might not want to sue, suppose I had a family which had depended on me for financial support, and suddenly I was a quad on a respirator. Then it would become more than a mere temptation. When systems exist, they can be depended upon to be taken advantage of. And no one would say that it was the fault of my children if I had any, so people would be sympathetic, they would encourage litigious thinking, and sooner or later some slick parasite of a personal injury lawyer could be depended upon to surface via one kind of referral or another. Even now, there are firms which specialize in finding ways around the Equine Activity Liability Act. 

The exceptions provide fertile grounds for lawyers. One is to allege that equipment was defective. Another is to allege that the horse or stable owner "fail[ed] to make reasonable and prudent efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the equine activity and to determine the ability of the participant to safely manage the particular equine." Another is to allege a dangerous condition of land.

In other words, if I say that the saddle was defective and the owner should have known it was, and that the defect made me fall off, that the owner should have known what a naive idiot I was, or that there was a dangerous condition like a lot of mud or something, then maybe I could get around the immunity. In general, the more money there is at stake, the more likely that investigators can be found, and experts hired, to expound impressively on the egregious nature of the exceptions to immunity.

The bigger the tragedy the more money. And it's easy to rationalize the dishonesty when there is grief. After all, is it really fair that innocent family members should suffer because a man took risks?

Did the family agree to assume the risk?

So, much as I hate to say it, it seems that common sense is fine until tragedy happens. After that everything becomes complicated, and we are all entitled.

posted by Eric at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

They Murder Children Don't They

Ah yes. They do. It seems like the Palestinians have problems with Jews living in "their" territory.

Five family members were found murdered in their residence in the West Bank Itamar settlement Friday overnight, after a suspected terrorist broke and entered the house and stabbed the five to death. Two children managed to escape and survived the attack, Army Radio reported.

A Magen David Adom team that arrived at the scene at 1:00 a.m. announced a couple, their 11-year old child, 3-year-old toddler, and a one-month baby girl dead from stabbing wounds.

Evidently they will not be satisfied unless "their" territory is Judenrein.

The Israeli Prime Minister has made the Palestinians a counter offer.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Sunday visited the parents of the Fogel couple, killed along with three of their children in Friday's Itamar terror attack, and promised that Israel would continue building in West Bank settlements.

During his visit the prime minister said that "they shoot and we build. They say that the State of Israel was built on suffering, but we did not think the suffering would be so great. This criminal act caused all of us to come and say, enough."

Roger Kimball names the dead.
...Udi and Ruth Fogel (36 and 35 years old, respectively), and stabbed them to death along with their 3-month-old daughter, Hadas, and two sons, Elad (3 years old) and Yoav (11).
And then he points out what Melanie Phillips has to say:
Melanie Phillips, writing at The Spectator blog gets it exactly right:
What must be emphasised however is that, quite apart from the open calls to genocide of the Jews by Hamas, as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said the "wild incitement" by the Palestinian Authority against Israelis, perpetrated without remission through its educational materials, in its mosques and on PA-controlled TV, is directly to blame for creating the incendiary atmosphere of hysterical and fanatical hatred that gives rise to such savagery.
And it's not only Hamas. It is also us -- us Western liberals who somehow manage to turn a blind eye to such butchery. "Responsibility for the evil atmosphere which incites such pogroms does not rest solely with the Arabs of the PA or Hamas," Phillips observes. "It must also be laid at the door of those left-wing Israeli and western journalists and intellectuals who are obsessively egging on these Jew-hating exterminators. . . . The Arab incitement is simply not reported by the western media." Item: the murder of the Fogel family came just days after a West Bank Palestinian youth center announced a soccer tournament named after Wafa Idris.

And who is Wafa Idris? Why, she's the first female Palestinian suicide bomber. She killed an 81-year-old man and injured more than 150 other Israelis in 2002. Hadn't heard about her? Neither had I until Melanie Phillips linked to the story. The Palestinian Authority, another story reports, "has repeatedly presented Wafa Idris as a hero and role model, naming places and events after her, including a summer camp for youth funded by UNICEF, a Fatah women's military unit, a university students group for Fatah members, a Fatah course, and more. There have been public demonstrations and songs on PA TV to honor her."

And they have parties to celebrate the deaths of Jews at their hands.
Gaza residents from the southern city of Rafah hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar where five family members were murdered in their sleep, including three children.
YouTube and Facebook have been pulling down videos of the attack. Thanks to Pajamas Media you can still see the videos.


This book may shed some light on the situation:

History Upside Down: The Roots of Palestinian Fascism

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:23 AM | Comments (1)

No Accurate Reports

I have been following the nuclear plant "meltdown" story from Japan trying to figure out what happened. I'm a former Naval Nuke so I know a fair bit about Nuke plants and I must say that this has been my experience so far:

I have been reading every news release on the incident since the earthquake. There has not been one single (!) report that was accurate and free of errors (and part of that problem is also a weakness in the Japanese crisis communication). By "not free of errors" I do not refer to tendentious anti-nuclear journalism - that is quite normal these days. By "not free of errors" I mean blatant errors regarding physics and natural law, as well as gross misinterpretation of facts, due to an obvious lack of fundamental and basic understanding of the way nuclear reactors are build and operated. I have read a 3 page report on CNN where every single paragraph contained an error.
My take so far: Even with a catastrophic meltdown the odds of a significant release of radiation outside the plant grounds is small. Blowing off radioactive steam is not what I would consider a significant release. It would take a core breach. Plus a reactor vessel failure. AND a containment building failure to accomplish that.

This report with video of a massive steam release is pretty good.

A grim-faced Prime Minister Naoto Kan described the crisis as Japan's worst since 1945, as officials confirmed that three nuclear reactors were at risk of overheating, raising fears of an uncontrolled radiation leak.

"The earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear incident have been the biggest crisis Japan has encountered in the 65 years since the end of World War II," Kan told a news conference.

"We're under scrutiny on whether we, the Japanese people, can overcome this crisis."

As he spoke, officials worked desperately to stop fuel rods in the damaged reactors from overheating. If they fail, the containers that house the core could melt, or even explode, releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere.

The most urgent crisis centers on the Fukushima Daiichi complex, where all three reactors are threatening to overheat, and where authorities say they have been forced to release radioactive steam into the air to relieve reactor pressure.

The complex, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was rocked by an explosion on Saturday, which blew the roof off a reactor building. The government did not rule out further blasts there but said this would not necessarily damage the reactor vessels.

Authorities have poured sea water in all three of the complex's reactor to cool them down.

Except that there was no explosion. It was a massive steam release. And cooling the reactors by injecting sea water into them indicates a very bad situation. However if they are cooling the reactors by flowing sea water on the outside of the reactor vessel it is not so serious.

In any case - if at this point the reactors have not overheated to the point that the fuel rods have been breached the danger is receding as the residual heat in the plant from decaying radioactive material declines. The most critical thing right now is to get those plants on line to supply electricity to Japan. Unfortunately it will take months to check out all the plant systems and the reactor cores to make sure it is safe to restart the reactors. And that is if nothing exceptionally bad happened.

What does this tell you? It is dangerous to have only a 5% or 10% reserve margin in your electrical supply. Twenty percent is better. Of course spare capacity does not produce revenue. Which means electric rates have to go up to support plant and equipment that is relatively underused. A waste - until you need it. When you do need it - it will save lives. The question as always is how much should be spent and what should electric rates be?

And just to get on my hobby horse. Polywell Fusion. Yeah. It has been months now and there has been no news. Supposedly there will be a report done in April but I'm not actually expecting anything until September. Maybe September of next year even. I even expect the program to go dark for 5 to 7 years if they go for a working ship reactor. But it is all speculation. There is no news.

In terms of safety there are two ways (or more) to stop a Polywell from generating heat: Turn off the switch. Let air into the reactor vessel. As long as the reactor was designed to go from operating temperature to room temperature with no backup power - a fairly simple job - then no problem with loss of power accidents.

Update: 14 March 2011 0745z

The explosions recorded at the nuke plans appear to have been hydrogen explosions not venting steam.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the blast, believed to be a hydrogen explosion, occurred at 11:01 a.m. in the No. 3 reactor of the power plant, NHK said. But radiation levels around the plant, about 170 miles north of Tokyo, remained within acceptable levels. On Saturday, a hydrogen explosion occurred in the No. 1 reactor at the same power plant.

The Japanese government was making efforts to allay fears of large releases of radioactive materials. ''We judge that the possibility of a large amount of radioactive materials flying off from there is low,'' Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a news conference, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Hydrogen explosions indicate a very serious problem. There should be no hydrogen generated under normal conditions. Or abnormal conditions. The situation must be very abnormal.
"We're in a key period now," nuclear expert Joe Cirincione said on "Fox News Sunday." "The next 12 to 24 hours will tell us whether the Japanese officials will be able to get control back over these reactors, or it's gone, it's lost. The pumping of the seawater into reactor number one is that last ditch effort to try to stop it before it's too late. If they can succeed, if they can hold it for the next 24 hours or, so then these reactor cores will cool down and will be implied path to containing this disaster."
Nuclear expert? Hah. The reactors are under control. What is not under control is residual heat caused by fission decay products. Other than that I think it is a fair statement of the current situation.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 01:56 AM | Comments (7)

Avoiding my avoidance drug of choice

And now for a post I really REALLY don't want to write.

M. Simon's post about Katie Granju's son Henry gave me the willies. Seriously, I was having blog nightmares last night. (That is the truth.) It's like, our two approaches are so diametrically different that it's almost a Yin/Yang situation. I am indirect, introverted, and circumspect, while he is direct, extroverted, and zeroes right in on problems.

I wrote a post yesterday about the emotional mindset that fuels lawsuits and leads to prohibition, and I never mentioned Katie Granju, who is calling for escalating the war on drugs because her son died. I figured, why write something that might antagonize a grieving mother? I also thought that there would be no way to ever hope to persuade her, so why bother? Besides, I had already made what I thought as clear as I could without being confrontational in an earlier post, so yesterday I just wrote a post on the general topic. Meanwhile, I sent Simon some links -- one to a post in which Katie expressed a desire to sue a methadone clinic because her son overdosed on methadone she claims was diverted from the clinic, another to a methadone lawsuit specialist, and another to an organization devoted to banning methadone. Methadone being one of the few treatments available to addicts, I think calls for crackdowns and prohibition would increase human suffering, and would only worsen the drug problem.

And while I am in logical nerd mode, I might as well throw in that it is simply wrong to blame methadone clinics for methadone overdoses. The vast majority of overdoses involving methadone do not involve methadone diverted from clinics, and most deaths involve combinations of methadone with other drugs (especially tranquilizers and antidepressants such as the ubiquitous SSRIs, which can dramatically increase methadone levels in the body.) So, one might ask, why is methadone being singled out as the demon drug of choice? Because the latter is "bad" and associated with "junkies," while "nice" drugs like SSRIs are taken by as many as 67 million respectable Americans?

However, as I said in a comment to Simon's post, I realize that fact or logic based arguments are likely lost on a grieving mom like Katie and probably a waste of time with people who are driven by emotion:

Thanks for the link, and for daring to go where I didn't! I've been agonizing over whether it would be possible to persuade Katie Granju that further crackdowns in the war on drugs will only increase (and not decrease) human suffering, but a more cynical friend advised me that all arguments would be hopeless.

If he is right, that means that the argument is not with her, but with those who would potentially follow her. I worry that those are persuaded by emotional arguments will not be swayed by rational arguments, and vice versa.

This reminds me of the gun control debate. I have friends who lost close relatives to suicide by gun, and I do not debate the gun issue with them because it is a waste of time. And just as you do not tell a grieving mom that "GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE, PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE," nor would you make similar human-agency-type arguments about drugs to a mom who lost her son to drugs.* Not only are these arguments lost on them, but all debates tend to be.

Worse, they can be interpreted as cruel, callused, and insensitive. And in addition to being an introvert, I tend to be a bleeding heart.

So I'm just stuck with this feeling that no arguments I could make could ever hope to persuade emotion-driven thinkers. They might just exacerbate the problem.

I admire Simon for trying, though, and I am so lucky to have as a co-blogger someone who dares to go where I don't.

I write posts like the one I wrote yesterday to escape what eats at me. In a weird irony, I may be using this blog as a drug to help me avoid reality. An avoidance drug?

Perhaps I need help. If so, I seem to have gotten it from M. Simon.

*Interesting how that phrase just slipped out of my mouth fingers. Would I ever say that a mom "lost her son to guns?" I don't think so. Perhaps I have been unwittingly influenced by drug war hyperbole.

posted by Eric at 11:40 AM | Comments (2)

Weak Sauce

Megan takes note of Mark Kleiman's weak defense of a weak President in the context of Bradley Manning's treatment, and quotes an interesting vignette about Kissinger, which is worth reading. The moral?

Not only does the president hear about threats we don't, but he's the guy who gets in trouble if any of these threats come off.

Well, we're all prisoners of context.  Obama the President is obviously incompetent, ineffectual, and in over his head -- and seems to view American power as something akin to Sauron's ring (let's just hope the Tea-infused GOP House can keep him away from the fiscal Crack of Doom he seems bent on hurling us into) -- but even he was able to figure out he couldn't just abandon our successful installation of a semblance of liberal democracy in Iraq (now lighting the way for aspiring democrats across the Mideast despite its painful beginnings) or close Gitmo, or end warrantless wiretaps, or release every terrorist we can't charge, despite promising to do all those things as Obama the (Historic!) Candidate.

Kleiman's nonsense is not worth reading, undeserving of linkage, and easily debunked by anyone willing to waste a few seconds his work doesn't merit with Google (we can console ourselves we thereby avoid Krugmaning ourselves into a contextual echo chamber of epistemic closure).  He dishonestly claims "State" complained about Manning's treatment, when in fact State has disavowed the statements by Crowley (whose every word is apparently an exemplar of  smart power) on Manning as being his personal opinion.  It's not even clear Manning's treatment is unusual or at all inhumane:

A Quantico spokesman said in January 2011 that allegations of mistreatment were "poppycock," and that Manning had been designated "maximum custody" because his escape would pose a national security risk. The spokesman said Manning could talk to guards and prisoners in other cells, though he could not see the prisoners, and left his cell for a daily hour of exercise, and for showers, phone calls, meetings with his lawyer, and weekend visits by friends and relatives. His lawyer said in December 2010 that the guards were professional, and had not tried to bully, harass, or embarrass Manning.[33] Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell and Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson visited Quantico in February 2011 to examine the conditions of the detention. Morrell said he was impressed by the professionalism of the staff, and that Manning's housing and treatment were appropriate.[34]

Prison conditions for other criminals are often considerably worse than this, so the issue strikes me as one of those things that is only news because the dead tree MSM hates American power about as much as that guy on TV whose friends bombed the Pentagon -- Obama, not Osama -- and thus Manning is a bit of a hero to them.

In any case, contra Kleiman, Obama clearly is committed to making the poor poorer by reducing economic growth, the country more ignorant by kowtowing to teacher's unions at the expense of children's education, and the planet less habitable for humans by tithing energy use on the basis of a poorly evidenced quasi-religious theory, so his whole thesis is anti-empirical nonsense.

UPDATE:  ....aaaaand there goes Crowley.

posted by Dave at 11:06 PM | Comments (2)

Ken Nordine And The Grateful Dead

I was at Mary's Place Friday night listening to my son's band Alpha Drop (he is the drummer) and got to talking to a sound man about this and that (mostly my experiences at WFMT from '62 to '63) and I mentioned I had just done a post on Ken Nordine. He suggested I look up - Ken Nordine Grateful Dead - I did. The above is the result. The first bit is one of my very favorite Ken Nordine pieces. And of course the Dead. The Greatest Band In the Universe (according to Nordine).

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:33 PM | Comments (0)

Giving Us All Grief

Eric has a nice post up on grief mongers and their lawyers. Each little grief enacted into our common law (by judges decisions on what claims are actionable) adds friction to the system. A kind of creeping arthritis. The grief is justified and now everyone suffers. But just a little from each. So it creeps up until movement is so painful it stops.

Eric also sent me a link about a mother who is trying to stop the legal use of methadone because her son died from some that was diverted from the legal market. Let me amend that. Her action will not lead directly to that but this will. And there is a strong connection between the two.

One commenter calls for help for the grief stricken mother.

Laura says:
March 11, 2011 at 10:29 pm

There are good suggestions in these comments.

I just wanted to appeal on Katie's behalf to anyone reading this who can HELP her, in real-time, to do what your heart may be calling you to do and help her, with legal expertise, etc.

I have some good suggestions too.

So people in the presence of an overdose are not afraid to call 911. So the antidote for opiate poisoning is freely available for those who want it.


So far as I can see not one suggestion here will make things better. Oh. People will get punished. But we have been down that road for 95+ years with no measurable effect (except the addition of a crime problem to a drug problem).

Stop letting your pain drive you into stupidity.

1. More punishment = more profit for dealers
2. More profit for dealers = more dealers

Is that what you had hoped to accomplish?

And that is not all I suggested:
Now if Henry had only obeyed the law...........
It is a damn shame but you just can't seem to be able to make people obey the law. Pity. Obviously I need to get more into the spirit of things so I did:
We have to get that methadone off the street. It is unfair competition for heroin.
So who do I think the real culprit is? Henry's parents - the grief stricken one(s) - for getting a divorce.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:55 PM | Comments (6)


In an update to yesterday's post, I mentioned the the West Coast's "brush" with earthquake-triggered ocean waves not big enough to be called a true Tsunami. While the damage was minor in comparison to Japan, the West Coast nevertheless suffered millions in damage, and a man trying to take photos of incoming waves was swept away and killed near the mouth of the Klamath River.

Early Friday evening, the U.S. Coast Guard announced it was suspending the search for a 25-year-old man who was swept off the beach near the mouth of the Klamath River. According to officials, the man and two other people had traveled to the coast to take photos of the incoming waves when all three were swept out to sea. According to the Coast Guard, two of the people were able to get safely back to shore but the third man was not.

Authorities had not released the man's identity as of the Times-Standard's deadline Friday.

According to the dispatch center for the Curry County Sheriff's Office in Oregon, four people were also swept off a beach near Brookings after venturing down to the shore to get a closer look at the surge waves. All were able to make it back to shore, and only minor injuries were reported, according to the dispatch center.

And in Santa Cruz, boats and docks were destroyed, while risk-taking surfers enjoyed the fun:

On the central coast in Santa Cruz, loose fishing boats crashed into one another and docks broke away from the shore. The water rushed out as quickly as it poured in, leaving the boats tipped over in mud. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that 30-40 boats were damaged or destroyed.

Some surfers ignored evacuation warnings and took advantage of the waves ahead of the tsunami.

It doesn't appear that any of them were killed. But let's just suppose hypothetically that they were.

Should they and the family of the photographer be able to sue?

Many readers would laugh, and they would say that individuals should take personal responsibility, but there is no such legal doctrine or defense. Instead, where there is an injury or a death, there is often a lawsuit. Especially when someone drowns.

A California wrongful death trial is scheduled to start next month against Stanislaus County over the drowning of Crows Landing resident Hector Alvarez. The 41-year-old man died after rescuing his daughter from a car, which had gone into a creek in 2005. Alvarez's family claims that the county knew that Eastin Road would get flooded during storms yet neglected to close the road.

Alvarez and his daughter Brisa Alvarez Garcia were returning from a party when she lost control of the 2001 Kia Rio, which was swept into the stream. By then storms had caused water to rise to about four feet across the road.

Garcia says that her father got out of the car and helped her escape before he drowned. Her mother and brother, who arrived to the rescue, were also swept into the creek in their car. Newman firefighters would later use rope to rescue them.

The county's attorneys are claiming that public agencies cannot be held accountable for storms and their effects. Also, a CHP officer found that Garcia was at fault for failing to ignore the warning sign that said that Eastin Road was subject to flooding. They say that Alvarez's blood-alcohol level on the night of his drowning accident was .26%.

The fact that water can drown people is widely known, but that doesn't stop people from suing after a loved one drowns. I blogged about a Philadelphia area case in which a family sued after their 5-year old daughter waded into the Schuylkill River and drowned; they claimed there should have been a "NO SWIMMING" sign nearby to warn them. I dissented -- from what I see as a system which encourages nanny state tyranny:

Rivers are dangerous, whether there are signs there or not. While I haven't visited River Front Park, I'm willing to bet there are "No Swimming" signs posted there, because it's in a heavily populated area. Personally, I'm against such signs. Rivers are part of nature, and nature -- if it is public property -- should be free to use at your own risk. A tree can fall on you, lightning can strike you, and of course, water can drown you. Signs warning about these things are superfluous. The duty is not that of the state to warn parents.

Ironically, the placement of "No Swimming" signs in one place could be interpreted as meaning that without a "No Swimming" sign, swimming is safe. So, does this mean that the entire 130 miles of the Schuylkill River should be plastered with signs on both sides lest people imagine it is safe to swim? (And what about the many unsigned lakes and coasts?)

What about the fact that this five year old girl didn't know how to swim? Isn't that a more significant factor than the presence or absence of a sign? I may be crazy, but it seems that if you have a child who cannot swim, whether there's a sign is completely superfluous.

I think incidents like this lead to overprotection from the top down, by the nanny state. The overprotective parents buy into it and support it, while at the other end the underprotective parents become victims.

Talking on a cell phone while driving can be dangerous too. But should a cell phone manufacturer be liable for an accident caused by a distracted driver? Some people (including at least one distinguished law professor) think so, and voiced support for a lawsuit by a grieving woman who wanted Samsung held liable for her daughter's death. Again, I disagreed.

...is it really fair to see the telephone or the service provider as the distraction? Isn't the object or source of the conversation at least as culpable?

I realize people will say that the driver is responsible, but under our legal system, that does not end the inquiry. It only begins it.

The problem is that whenever anyone dies, it is a tragedy, and it is natural for the grieving people they leave behind to seek some sort of remedy.

As I have lamented repeatedly, I watched many people I loved die of AIDS. A close friend shot himself to death in 1973. None of their families ever sued anyone.

But under the present scheme of things, should they have?

Who or what is fault when someone takes a risk? I understand that if you're walking down the street and a sinkhole suddenly opens and you fall in, that is no fault of your own. But if you're in or near the water, that's a little different, because water can drown people. You need to be more careful, and you need to take better care of children if you have them.

Trying to photograph a Tsunami or ride its waves is a dangerous and hazardous activity. So is having sex with strangers without a condom. Ditto playing Russian roulette, which many people who should have known better have done.

British author Graham Greene claimed that in his youth he often played Russian roulette as a means to provide "excitement and get away from the boredom". But he later decided that "it was no more exciting than taking aspirin for a headache".[2]

As a libertarian, I don't think the state has a right to preemptively stop people from engaging in such activities. But I think that when they do, they have assumed the risks, and while it's tragic if they die, I don't think it should give rise to legal liability.

Not that it matters to the legal system.

Turning tragedy into money is what it's all about.

(I'd call it a tidal wave of litigation, but that phrase is hardly original. And where's the warning sign?)

MORE: I forgot to mention that precisely the same sort of misdirected grief I discussed here fueled the New York push to make it illegal to use cell phones while walking.

"As a parent I am definitely in favor of banning these things," [cell phones] Tullia Tabasso said.

As a parent of a 14 year old, you already can ban "these things" lady! It is called parenting. What has happened?

Is parenting no longer for parents?

But maybe I should cut it out with these sarcastic rhetorical questions, and try to analyze the problem in a calm and logical manner. The reasoning seems to be that because there are people who either have no sense in their little heads or else they're so stupid and uncoordinated that they can't walk and chew gum at the same time, then I shouldn't be allowed to walk around while talking on a cell phone or listening to an mp3 player.

It's also driven by the fact that children do in fact walk right into traffic listening to and staring into these things. I live near the University of Michigan campus and I see it all the time. I regard them as fools, yet others regard them as victims in need of protection. The old "if we could save just one child" thinking. These mindsets are incompatible and irreconcilable; the nanny staters see my thinking as cruel, heartless, and dangerous to society, while I see theirs as deluded, irrational, and dangerous to freedom. So I write blog posts, and involve myself in local Tea Party politics.

Similar thinking drives gun control, bans on pit bulls, attempts to regulate people's sex lives, and prohibition of substances like alcohol, drugs and even foods. Because some people cannot handle their whatever, the government is going to preempt the problem by taking away your whatever.

It is easy to ridicule this particular ban, and clearly it goes too far for most people, so I think it's unlikely to pass.

But the mindset behind it will not go gently into the good night

No, it won't. When grieving people get together, they start to behave like activists. The grief is then misdirected, and the predictable result is more prohibition.

But that's an old story.

posted by Eric at 10:52 AM | Comments (2)

For those who think they're too smart to hit "Reply All"...

In the many years I have been online, I have only very rarely deliberately clicked "reply all" when repling to email which includes lists of people or groups.

The problem is that I get a lot of email and sometimes I am in a hurry, and there's an insidious newer form of group email which does not require clicking "reply all" to send what you thought was a personal reply to one person and have that go instead to countless unknown people.

It will say who it's from, and appear for all intents and purposes to be an email from that person -- even showing his email address at the top. But if you write a reply and then click reply, unless you are careful enough to read all the way down and think about what "reply-to" means, your "answer" could be going to dozens if not hundreds of people, or even a bulletin board.

Here is a perfect example. (With identifying information removed, of course.)

Subject:   Our discussion last night

From:     Joe Yourbuddy <yourfriend@nowhere.com>    
Sent:     Mar 11, 2011 02:22:22 PM
To:     <xxxxx@xxxxxxx.com>
Reply-To:     admin@groupthink-group.com

It may look like it's from "Joe Yourbuddy," and it was in fact written by him, but your reply will be seen by everyone at wherever "reply-to" is.

It's the equivalent of "Reply All," except you cannot avoid it by avoiding "Reply All." You have to watch carefully and interpret the meaning of the "Reply-To."

Anyway, a WSJ piece notes the obvious -- that "Reply All" is dangerous:

You know that feeling: You hit Send--and your heart nearly stops.

This shouldn't still be happening. After almost two decades of constant, grinding email use, we should all be too tech-savvy to keep making the same mortifying mistake, too careful to keep putting our relationships and careers on the line because of sloppiness.


...Reply All is dangerous. It makes us feel in the loop. And it can be a way to toot our own horns. Never mind that we hate how group emails multiply like rabbits in our inboxes. "Many people lean toward covering their rears by overinforming their bosses and colleagues," Dr. Wallace says. "They can then say, 'Well, I cc'd you on all that debate last month...Didn't you read it?' "

Why don't email programs have a "dummy button" that pops up when we hit Reply All and asks, "Are you sure?" There are applications for that, such as Sperry Software's Reply to All Monitor.

I like the idea of the software, and I wonder whether it addresses the fiendish "Reply-To" problem. (I can't tell from the site whether it warns you that "reply to" might mean posting to a public board without knowing it.)

These days, it isn't enough to merely beware of clicking "Reply All."

You need to beware when clicking "Reply."

When in doubt, avoid reply!

MORE: The bottom line to remember -- "Reply To" is not the same as "From"!

The former controls over the latter!

posted by Eric at 04:29 PM | Comments (6)

Huge news of something beyond control

Today's news about the gigantic earthquake in Japan is so huge that I could barely get the San Francisco Chronicle main page to open.There are Tsunami warnings for the entire Bay Area, and reports of jammed bridges which head East. 

Whether a killer Tsunami will actually strike San Francisco is debatable, but if it happens, it would be between 11:00 and 11:30 a.m. EST today:

Waves are predicted to hit the western coast of the United States between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. EST Friday. Evacuations were ordered in parts of Washington and Oregon, and fishermen in Crescent City, Calif., fired up their crab boats and left the harbor to ride out an expected swell. A tsunami in 1964 killed 11 people in Crescent City.

It was the second time in a little over a year that Hawaii and the U.S. West coast faced the threat of a massive tsunami. A magnitude-8.8 earthquake in Chile spawned warnings on Feb. 27, 2010, but the waves were much smaller than predicted and almost no damage was reported.

Scientists acknowledged they overstated the threat but defended their actions, saying they took the proper steps and learned the lessons of the 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed thousands of people who didn't get enough warning.

I guess we'll know soon enough.

Meanwhile, Glenn has a roundup of pictures and links, and stresses the importance of being prepared.

It is important to be prepared.

Catastrophe can strike suddenly anywhere, as if from nowhere.

And I like to whine about snow...

(It is in need of shoveling as I write!)

MORE (2:14 p.m.): The Tsunami watch is over. Other than a minor brush, not much of anything happened on the West Coast.

posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (2)

Pajamas Media Sued By Righthaven

The news is somewhat old (1 Feb) but I don't recall seeing it elsewhere.

Las Vegas-based Righthaven LLC sues alleged copyright-infringing website operators and message-board posters in partnerships with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Denver Post.

Since March, at least 229 lawsuits have been filed in a campaign the then-publisher of the Review-Journal said was targeting copyright thieves.

Jason Chrystal and Justus Steel, whom Righthaven says run the thoushaltnotsteel.com site, are defendants in one of four new Righthaven cases in U.S. District Court in Colorado.

In all four cases, the website operators are accused of displaying the same Denver Post "TSA enhanced pat-down" photo on their websites.

And one of the other cases?
Also sued over the photo were:

--Pajamas Media Inc., registrant of the website pajamasmedia.com; and Bryan Preston, identified as its Austin editor, a columnist and contributor

That may explain Instapundit's interest in Righthaven cases. Especially one where Righthaven is on the receiving end.

This book might be useful if you are worried about copyright issues:

Internet Surf and Turf-Revealed: The Essential Guide to Copyright, Fair Use, and Finding Media

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:20 AM | Comments (0)

You're Getting Better

The voice is that of Ken Nordine whose voice was legendary in radio back in the day. The only similar voice I know of was the voice of Tom Donahue who I listened to on KSAN and KMPX in San Francisco. Here is a nice video about radio back in the day. The good stuff begins about 2:10 into the video. You can also get a taste of Tom's voice here.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:03 PM | Comments (1)

What's really behind the crime in Detroit?

Today's front page of the Free Press has a big headline -- "Drugs, blood: Inside the world of dogfighting." I don't know why, but the online version of the same article had a different headline -- "Detroit killings show dangerous world of dogfighting, police say." The first paragraph makes abundantly clear the identity of the real culprit behind the carnage:

Three young men shot to death in a bungalow in a battered Detroit neighborhood more than a month ago were a stark example of a ruthless raw capitalism -- dogfighting.

Wow. I mean, I knew capitalism was bad, but I thoughtlessly never made that connection before! I mean, I knew that it kills people, but I never stopped to think that torturing and killing dogs was actually a free market activity of which libertarians like Hayek and Friedman would approve. Why didn't the free marketeers speak up in Michael Vick's defense? And now that I think about it, where were they when fellow free marketeers such as John Gotti and Bernie Madoff were being sentenced to prison?

The Jan. 21 killings on Faircrest, investigators say, give a chilling glimpse of an underground economy built on badman bravado and fueled with fast cash from dope and dogfighting. And with thousands of dollars often up for grabs, it's a deadly serious business.

Today, the family members of the Faircrest victims will hold a news conference with police as they seek justice for their loved ones.

Leon Grice, 24, shot three times, including once to the neck. Jermaine Kirk, 22, shot three times, including once into the left eye. Lynnell Baskin Jr., 19, shot seven times, including once to the head.

The killers were almost leisurely -- three volleys separated by the passage of several minutes, said a neighbor who heard the shots in the night.

Pure capitalism!

That's because as any Marxist will tell you, "Capitalism is Organized Crime."

And of course there are dead dogs all over the place in Detroit, because that's the way the free market works.

Those damned capitalists!

What will they think of next? Extortion? Carjacking? Rape? 

Clearly, something must be done.

posted by Eric at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

Let the shoes fly!

Via Sean's link to Beautiful Atrocities, I learned that Muammar Gaddafi is not just in for it, he's really really in for it:

This should do it: Imelda Marcos tells Gaddafi to behave.

That certainly should do it, and were I Gaddafi I would be absolutely terrified.

Throwing a temper is one thing, but consider for a moment the fact that in Arab culture, shoe throwing is the ultimate insult:

Throwing a shoe at someone is hardly a positive gesture anywhere, but in Arab and Islamic countries, footwear is viewed as ritually unclean: Even mentioning your shoes while insulting someone carries vile significance, the BBC reports.


And if we consider that Imelda Marcos has the world's largest (and deadliest) collection of shoes, her threat must be taken very seriously indeed.

I say, let her throw a shoe fit!

I can't think of a better fate for a failed dictator who is also a failed drag queen.

Hey, if the shoe fits....

MORE: A look at the arsenal Gaddafi is facing:


He does not know who he's messing with!

MORE: Just out of curiosity, can anyone tell me how to spell Kaddafi, Qaddafi, Gaddafi, Kadhafi, and Gadhafi?

Because of the lack of standardization of transliterating written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name has been romanized in many different ways. Even though the Arabic spelling of a word does not change, the pronunciation may vary in different varieties of Arabic, which may cause a different romanization. In literary Arabic the name معمر القذافي can be pronounced /muˈʕamːaru lqaðˈðaːfiː/. [ʕ] represents a voiced pharyngeal fricative (ع). Geminated consonants can be simplified. In Libyan Arabic, /q/ (ق) may be replaced with [ɡ] or [k] (or even [χ]); and /ð/ (ذ) (as "th" in "this") may be replaced with [d] or [t]. Vowel [u] often alternates with [o] in pronunciation. Thus, /muˈʕamːar alqaðˈðaːfiː/ is normally pronounced in Libyan Arabic [muˈʕæmːɑrˤ əlɡædˈdæːfi]. The definite article al- (ال) is often omitted.

"Muammar Gaddafi" is the spelling used by TIME magazine, BBC News, the majority of the British press and by the English service of Al-Jazeera.[173] The Associated Press, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News use "Moammar Gadhafi". The Library of Congress uses "Qaddafi, Muammar" as the primary name. The Edinburgh Middle East Report uses "Mu'ammar Qaddafi" and the U.S. Department of State uses "Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi", although the White House chooses to use "Muammar el-Qaddafi".[174] The Xinhua News Agency uses "Muammar Khaddafi" in its English reports.[175] The New York Times uses "Muammar el-Qaddafi". The Los Angeles Times uses "Moammar Kadafi".[176]

In 1986, Gaddafi reportedly responded to a Minnesota school's letter in English using the spelling "Moammar El-Gadhafi".[177] The title of the homepage of algathafi.org reads "Welcome to the official site of Muammar Al Gathafi".[178]

There's more, including a math model of the kaqadadafafafifi nonsense.

People whose names cannot be spelled deserve to be overthrown.

If, for no other reason, irreconcilable differences!

MORE: On a more serious note, Baby Trollblog offers a theory about the Kaddafi-Gaddafi name change:

Why all of a sudden is the media spelling Kadaffi's name Gadaffi? Couldn't have anything to do with an attempt to blind search engines to older, now-inoperative stories about him?

It certainly could. But then why wouldn't they want people reading older stories about him?


posted by Eric at 12:11 PM | Comments (3)


I was cut off in traffic earlier by a frustrated driver of a car displaying bumperstickers which struck me as contradictory in nature:



The other was one of the usual ubiquitous Obama for President stickers (the absence of which in this town is more remarkable than the presence).

So I snarked to myself, "Um, how's that "WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER" thing working out for you?" and "WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER, but cutting off people in traffic is?"

But then I was overcome by unwanted feelings of compassion for the foolish woman who had cut me off. I don't normally blog about traffic annoyances, except this one reminded me that there are probably a lot of people on the left who are trapped in that same contradictory space. They voted for the anti-war candidate and they're stuck with the same "ENDLESS THIS WAR" -- the latter sentiment also being a popular bumpersticker on Obama cars.


How do they reason their way around this conundrum? I don't know because I don't agree with either the anti-war or the pro-Obama sentiments, but if I had to put myself in their position, the easiest way to reconcile the "peace president" with the continuation of the war would be to conclude that his hands are tied, as any president's hands would be -- because of the evil American war machine which controls everything and which must be defeated!

In other words, you have to believe that the United States is in fact evil.

Must be hard driving around in a nice car in an affluent country you think is evil, especially if you think the evil America must be destroyed, because that means you want your country destroyed. But if that happens, you won't be able to, like drive around and cut people off, as you'd be too busy coping with all that WTSHTF stuff.

I'd hate to be in such a position.

What I can't figure out is whether the people who think their country is evil are voting for or against their own interests. What are their interests? Do they think they are being "unselfish" by wanting to end the evil affluent America that enables them to keep going? There are so many contradictions in such thinking that I don't know how to analyze it. And what about Barack Obama? Surely he is intelligent enough to realize that many of the people who elected him hate the country they elected him to preside over, and they are bitterly disappointed in him for not dismantling it fast enough.  

Perhaps I should stop trying to put myself in the position of other people lest I have an accident. 

I do kind of enjoy the endlessness of it all, though. 

There are endless alternatives. Like this:


Or even this:


They'd look nice together, especially for people who don't think that endless whining about endless traffic is the answer!

posted by Eric at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

Smart Idea

Jessie Jackson Jr has come up with a really good idea for breaking the government monopoly on schools. Give every kid a laptop.

Jesse Jackson Jr. wants the Constitution changed so that every kid has the right to an ipod and laptop.
I think his method is wrong but the idea is very good. At $100 per computer and 40 million kids in primary education the one year cost is $4 billion. For every school child in America. How much would it cost to wire up every school so the wireless laptops can access lessons and the Internet? That depends on how many buildings need to be wired. A good number for estimation purposes is 200,000 buildings at $100,000 per building. That is a one time cost of $20 billion. Internet service should be on the order of $10 per child per month. Roughly $100 per child per year. So that is a steady $8 billion a year (a new laptop every year and wireless service). Compared to the $11,000 per child average spending on schools in the US $200 per year per child is peanuts. If you pro rate the wiring costs over 10 years of public education the infrastructure cost is $100 per year per child. Bringing the total cost to $300 per year per child.

I don't like the method (changing the Constitution) but the idea is brilliant.

In time it will break the government school monopoly. And there is already a company (non-profit) that is making suitable laptops for cheap:

One Laptop Per Child

I know one of the guys on the project. Very sharp. Mitch Bradley.

Update: A really good book by R. Buckminster Fuller on the subject that you should read at least three times.

Education Automation: Comprehensive Learning for Emergent Humanity

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:58 AM | Comments (7)

The Premise Of The Drug War

Eric's post, Just another junkie? Or a mother's beloved son?, got me to thinking about the premise of the drug war. Here it is:

The premise of the Drug War is that by inflicting enough pain you can get people to stop taking unauthorized pain relief medications.

posted by Simon at 06:41 PM | Comments (3)

Obama Needs A Cabinet Czar

This is some really weird news. Who thinks Obama needs a cabinet czar? If you can believe the news reports - Obama.

The larger mission is to make the dealings between the Cabinet and the White House more functional, several senior officials said. Daley, a former commerce secretary himself, has been calling agency heads for input, asking about the process over the past two years - and promising that it will change.

At the same time, the White House recently created the position of Cabinet communications director, appointing media adviser Tom Gavin to the job. The goal, according to the official statement, is "to better coordinate with and utilize members of the Cabinet" and is a "high priority."

The extent of the dysfunction was described in nearly two dozen interviews over several months with White House advisers, agency officials and operatives who work with both.

It kind of makes you wonder who really is in charge.

Obama is looking like he holds the position of Class President. All the real work is handled by the taxpayers, the teachers, and the administration. He gets to decide where to hang the decorations for the senior prom. As long as no nails are used. And he better make a really good speech at graduation.

Which is to say I think Obama is being shunted further aside. He is the mouthpiece. He is not the brains of the outfit. That job belongs to William Daley.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:36 PM | Comments (2)

The inner Pollyanna darkness of my outward Charles Addams happiness

The gloomy freezing rain that we're having right now in Ann Arbor pierces me to the bone, and makes me feel like feeling sorry for myself.

On days like this, I am reminded of a Charles Addams cartoon showing my favorite all American family at the window seat looking out at an awful rainstorm, while Mr. Addams leans back and says cheerily "Just the kind of day that makes you feel good to be alive."


Now, here's my existential problem for the day. I tend to be a morbid and gloomy person, so why am I not happy with the miserable and gloomy weather on this miserable and gloomy day?

Where's my happy darkness? Where can I find my inner Charles Addams Pollyanna?

I need to be happy in my gloom!

posted by Eric at 02:05 PM | Comments (10)

Just another junkie? Or a mother's beloved son?

Because drugs are illegal, society tends to look at drug users (especially addicts) as bad people. This is reflected in callused attitudes by police, hospitals, courts, employers, bureaucrats, family members -- in short, almost anyone likely to have a position of power who might come in contact with the addict. Thus, when an addict runs into trouble, he will think twice about calling "The Other" (meaning those outside his community of fellow addicts) for assistance. To anyone who has known or worked with drug addicts this will come as no surprise. Calling for help means authorities, courts, interventions, and treatment, and for an addict this usually means walls of PAIN will come crashing down on him. Considering that addicts often become addicts out of a desire to avoid pain, it ought to be a no-brainer to understand why they would do almost anything to shun the terrible pain that society wants to visit on them in the guise of "help."  

This is not a pleasant topic to think about. But I have been thinking about it because I have been reading (thanks to M. Simon and Glenn Reynolds) about the awful suffering of Henry Granju and his mom Katie.

Let me disclose my bias. I think that if these drugs were legal (or at least medically legal), these situations could be dealt with in a much more rational and compassionate manner. I think that the callused treatment of drug addicts -- and the very rational fear of The Other that this generates -- would lesson, and lives would be saved.

Reading the awful story about what happened to Henry Granju, the first reaction of many people would be to say,

Why didn't he call 911?

After all, he was mugged during a drug transaction, and beaten so severely that it was a co-factor in his drug overdose and in his eventual death. But because of the way the system works, junkies don't call 911. Instead of calling for help, when bad stuff happens to them, they do what they always do when bad stuff happens to them: they turn to their drug of choice.  

It's a tragic situation. The cops see them as criminal trash, and so do most people. 

Years ago I worked on a criminal case in which a junkie got into a fight, and was beaten severely. He seemed OK initially, and went back to his local hangout (a sleazy bar) where he bragged (falsely) that he had gotten the better of the other guy. Later that night, his girlfriend (who most people would consider trash) noticed that he wasn't well, so she took him to the E.R. Naturally, hospital emergency rooms consider junkies the bane of their existence, because they want narcotic drugs, and they will do or say almost anything to get them. As this guy had fresh and old tracks, the primary goal of the E.R. personnel was simply to get him the hell out of their nice clean hospital. They sent him home with a bandage on his head and told the girlfriend to give him aspirin and to call them if things got worse. The two went home and slept most of the next day, and when the girlfriend got up in the afternoon, she noticed that he wasn't breathing normally and wasn't rousable the way he should have been. She finally called the hospital, and was told to look at the dressing, and see whether it was bloody. She did that and it wasn't bloody, and as she waited, he got worse. She called again and there was more stalling by the hospital, until finally someone on the phone thought to ask her how his eyes looked. When she said one pupil was much larger than the other they told her he needed to come in again. It seems they finally realized that the problem was not external bleeding, but internal bleeding, but it was too late. By the time the paramedics got to him, he had already died of a subdural hematoma.

Basically, the man died because no one cared. And no one cared because he was "just a junkie."

Anyway, what happened to Katie Granju's son Henry is a much longer and more complicated story, and the details are coming to light not because of any police investigation but because of Katie's determined research. My heart goes out to her, and I donated some money to the fund set up in her son's name.

To put it simply, Katie wants to know what happened, and the police have not helped. So she has had to use her impressive investigative skills to figure it out herself. I think the case reflects society's routine treatment of junkies as trash, and the understandable tendency of addicts to shun all authority figures. That, plus the fact that this kid was not dead on the scene but died over a month later resulted in the police never investigating this case thoroughly (much less treating it as a homicide).

Contrast that to the way fatal college alcohol overdoses are handled, and there is a double standard. This is not to say that the Dean of the college should have faced charges over student drinking himself to death, but had a kid shot up heroin and died, the issue of university culpability would have been less likely to have arisen. 

Whether there is criminal culpability for Henry Granju's death, I don't know. It is a complicated situation and the facts are less than clear.

It is fair to point out here that as a libertarian I wouldn't blame social hosts or bartenders for voluntary self-intoxication by others, even if that resulted in death. Nor would I blame liquor stores or distilleries, any more than I blame Big Tobacco for lung cancer deaths. Similarly, I can't blame anyone except a drug addict for a voluntary drug overdose. But what is voluntary? Most of the drug overdoses with which I have been familiar involved the classic scenario of an addict not knowing the strength of what he was getting. (No addict would deliberately take a fatal overdose unless the goal was suicide.) Here again, I think that if addicts knew the dose they were getting, many such overdoses would be avoidable.

In that respect, I think legalized drugs would save lives. And legalized drugs would make it less likely for a kid like Henry Granju to get beaten nearly to death over a drug deal, and more likely to call 911.

And more likely to get treatment of his choice by doctors who are not obligated to be de facto apparatchiks of the DEA.

Henry Granju did not deserve to be treated as a sleazy junkie, but as a human being, with a grieving mom.

MORE: To put my bottom line more succinctly, I think that if narcotic drugs had never been made illegal (or had  they been relegalized), Henry Granju would in all probability be alive today.

I see him as another tragic victim of the misguided war on drugs.

posted by Eric at 11:46 AM | Comments (5)

Popcorn and the Single Writer

Kevin J. Anderson uses a popcorn analogy to illustrate two methods that beginning writers can use to break into print.

One of them consists of writing a single novel and polishing it and perfecting it until it is the absolute best it can be. He compares this to putting a single grain in a pot with just the right amount of oil, at the right temperature and waiting till it pops to produce the perfect single kernel of popcorn.

While this can work, if the kernel you put in is a dud, or if the one novel you concentrate all your work on is unpublishable, for reasons having nothing to do with how well crafted it is (theme, market, events in the world that make your premiss untenable) you're going to fail.

Continue reading "Popcorn and the Single Writer"

posted by Sarah at 02:18 AM | Comments (15)

There Was No Sexual Revolution

Ross Douthat has a column up about Rethinking The Sexual Revolution. There is only one problem with his thesis. There was no Sexual Revolution. We did have loose women and Dionysian Parties. But Revolution? I don't think so.

The Sexual Revolution of the 1920s was about Demographics. The Sexual Revolution of the 1960s was about Demographics. No amount of "culture" is going to change Demographic forces. It is surprising that a person supposedly as well educated as Mr. Douthat is entirely ignorant of the role of Demographics in male/female relations.

Here is a nice www site:


Besides physics and politics this one also deals with sex:

A thermodynamic explanation of politics

And a nice book:

Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray

And another one:

Living with Our Genes

To get your education started.

There was no "sexual revolution" there is population dynamics biology. But humans LOVE MEANING even where there is none. Or a different one. There is so much we "know" that ain't so.

H/T Instapndit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:52 PM | Comments (1)

Overcoming introversion. Is the cure worse than the disease?

Jonathan Rauch has post I consider a must-read, titled "Caring for Your Introvert -- The habits and needs of a little-understood group." I admire his courage for admitting to his introversion. (If I am an introvert, I would never admit it! Things like that are best kept it in the closet!)


My name is Jonathan, and I am an introvert.

Oh, for years I denied it. After all, I have good social skills. I am not morose or misanthropic. Usually. I am far from shy. I love long conversations that explore intimate thoughts or passionate interests. But at last I have self-identified and come out to my friends and colleagues. In doing so, I have found myself liberated from any number of damaging misconceptions and stereotypes. Now I am here to tell you what you need to know in order to respond sensitively and supportively to your own introverted family members, friends, and colleagues. Remember, someone you know, respect, and interact with every day is an introvert, and you are probably driving this person nuts. It pays to learn the warning signs.

What is introversion? In its modern sense, the concept goes back to the 1920s and the psychologist Carl Jung. Today it is a mainstay of personality tests, including the widely used Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Introverts are not necessarily shy. Shy people are anxious or frightened or self-excoriating in social settings; introverts generally are not. Introverts are also not misanthropic, though some of us do go along with Sartre as far as to say "Hell is other people at breakfast." Rather, introverts are people who find other people tiring.

See, finding other people tiring is the kind of thing that can't be admitted, because it would be rude. And few things are more stressful to an introvert than having to be rude. So introverts must suffer in silence.

Extroverts, OTOH, thrive on contact with other people, don't mind being rude, and if left alone, they will reach for the cell phone! Doubtless they would adjudge people who don't see the world the same way as wimps or as people to be put on the right meds:

Extroverts are energized by people, and wilt or fade when alone. They often seem bored by themselves, in both senses of the expression. Leave an extrovert alone for two minutes and he will reach for his cell phone. In contrast, after an hour or two of being socially "on," we introverts need to turn off and recharge. My own formula is roughly two hours alone for every hour of socializing. This isn't antisocial. It isn't a sign of depression. It does not call for medication. For introverts, to be alone with our thoughts is as restorative as sleeping, as nourishing as eating. Our motto: "I'm okay, you're okay--in small doses."

That presents a contradiction for introverted bloggers, because the need to be alone with your thoughts is incompatible with sharing them with the world.

Whether it's a good idea for introverts to come out of the closet is debatable, but I guess it is better than succumbing to drug abuse and depression.

Rauch notes that introverts are 25% of the population, which is problematic. It strikes me that the most predictable consequence of that would be the social stigmatization of introversion, thus causing introverts to band together in mutual support systems. Group dynamics being what they are, such support systems would be defensive in nature and could be expected to be with a whole host of symptoms which the extroverted majority would term "antisocial." Fellow misfits could then unite in their misfitdom!

Wonderful. Sounds like a new identity politics politics growth industry!

Are introverts oppressed? I would have to say so. For one thing, extroverts are overrepresented in politics, a profession in which only the garrulous are really comfortable. Look at George W. Bush. Look at Bill Clinton. They seem to come fully to life only around other people. To think of the few introverts who did rise to the top in politics--Calvin Coolidge, Richard Nixon--is merely to drive home the point. With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.

Extroverts therefore dominate public life. This is a pity. If we introverts ran the world, it would no doubt be a calmer, saner, more peaceful sort of place. As Coolidge is supposed to have said, "Don't you know that four fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still?" (He is also supposed to have said, "If you don't say anything, you won't be called on to repeat it." The only thing a true introvert dislikes more than talking about himself is repeating himself.)

Took the words right out of my mouth. I better shut up lest I start repeating how much I hate repeating myself again. 

There is nothing more exhausting than being an extrovert.

No, I take that back completely. What would be more exhausting than that would be to be a self-hating, closeted introvert who is forced into being an extrovert.

An introvert trapped in an extrovert's body, if you will.

Extroverts have little pity for such people, and why would they?

With their endless appetite for talk and attention, extroverts also dominate social life, so they tend to set expectations. In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"--narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality. Female introverts, I suspect, must suffer especially. In certain circles, particularly in the Midwest, a man can still sometimes get away with being what they used to call a strong and silent type; introverted women, lacking that alternative, are even more likely than men to be perceived as timid, withdrawn, haughty.

Strong and silent?

Hmmm.... That's hardly consistent with blogging, is it?

The worst of it is that extroverts have no idea of the torment they put us through. Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves.

I think there are a lot of people who don't listen to either themselves or each other so much as they parrot the stock phrases that they are expected to parrot. The thing is, both introverts and extroverts do this in order to survive socially. So how do you tell who is "sincere" in their parroting? This is especially true in politics. Lots of times I hear people say something and then when I take the time to talk to them about it I find they really haven't thought about it much; they've heard it and repeated it, and they aren't all that capable of defending it. Whether that means they don't think it -- that's a huge can of worms, because lots of people hear and pass on things they agree with, but they're just not articulate enough to defend. Is it too much to ask of people that their thoughts actually be their own thoughts? Because, I hate the way Post-Modernist liberals (as well as some conservatives) claim that people's thoughts are not really theirs, and whenever I see evidence which tends to confirm it, I want to run away screaming. For I want to give people credit or blame for thinking what they think, whatever it is.

I think thoughts should be the fault of the people who think them.

This question may have less to do with extroversion and introversion than following and leading. Are extroverts "leaders?" Are introverts "followers?" Or are introverts only pretending to be led in the hope of being left alone? I suspect that's the case, and that in order to be a "real" follower, you have to be an extrovert. And while most introverts would abhor being leaders, I suspect that there are some who would only become leaders so that they could better make order out of the chaos and suffering which introversion causes in the hope of being left alone by the extroverts. Imagine, introverts leading extroverts!

What could suck more than that?

MORE: If, as I suspect, only extroverts are the real followers, while introverts are only pretending to follow, what are the political implications?

posted by Eric at 11:52 AM | Comments (13)

I'd walk a mile for a syphilitic camel!

I'd be willing to bet that very few readers knew that if you Google the phrase "syphilitic camel" the second hit you get is Glenn's post from this morning:

I would vote for a syphilitic camel over Barack Obama in 2012, so therefore I would even vote for Huckabee or Gingrich. But I might try to talk the camel into running one more time.

But who is the camel? McCain? Would he do it?

It is important to note that this is not the first time that Glenn has expressed a preference for syphilitic camels.

PROFESSOR BAINBRIDGE is not enthused with the Republican field. Well, based on the past two years I'd vote for a syphilitic camel if he ran against Obama. But I'd rather not have to.

So now that Glenn has apparently softened his position (from "rather not have to" to "might try to talk the camel into running one more time"), I think it's time for some solemn, serious contemplation.

Much as I hate to get locked into unalterable positions, I think I can confidently state that I too would vote for a syphilitic camel over Barack Obama. And there is no question in my mind that a syphilitic camel would be better than Huckabee or Gingrich.

A syphilitic camel could be depended upon not to make long speeches, inane gaffes or bigoted remarks. Nor would he impose socialistic programs ("make government work" is the way they put it) or spend money like a drunken sailor the way Big Government Republicans always do. No syphilitic camel that I know of would launch a war on "secularism" while escalating the drug war, nor has any syphilitic camel ever called for Singapore style executions of drug criminals.

So all things considered, a syphilitic camel might not be a bad choice.   

But a few questions remain.

When Glenn linked his post, Professor Bainbridge had a couple: 

Do camels get syphilis? And what about all the spitting?

Good questions. First, let's get the spitting out of the way. Camels do spit, no question about it. Especially when they're provoked. The following video shows one spitting on a female impersonator who attempted to "mount" the poor thing:

Who could blame him? The last thing that camel needs is a sanctimonious lecture on civility!

Fortunately, spittoons are still present on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and the White House has had official spittoons in the past, so I don't think the spitting should cause any major worries. (Saliva does not spread syphilis.)

As to their propensity to contract syphilis, I don't know much about camel sexuality, but I did learn that camels are known to practice autoeroticism, and a tourist guide to Morocco stated that "camels have been known to carry syphilis."

Furthermore, as has been demonstrated in laboratory studies like this (PDF), animals can indeed get syphilis. But they have to get it from somewhere.

So the biologically proper question for a syphilitic camel running for office would not be whether he (or she) got it, but where.

And you know what? If I am going to vote for a syphilitic camel, I don't care where he or she got it. 

I am getting a bit tired of these endless inquiries into candidates's sex lives! 

posted by Eric at 09:39 PM | Comments (7)

The Evils Of Divorce

A while back Eric wrote a bit on divorce with the theme that state involvement with personal matters is a bad idea. I had a few comments on the subject but nothing worth a blog post.

I now have something I'd like to say. And it came about because Instapundit linked to this video about a boy whose parents divorced and who subsequently got into drugs and then died of an overdose. I think you can get the gist of the video from watching the first 5 or 6 minutes. I couldn't stand watching any more.

I want to start off with a review of Henry Granju's drug use. Why was he a drug user? Consider what follows informed speculation.

People take pain relievers to relieve pain. Under any rational regime we would be looking to fix the pain and consider the drugs symptomatic rather than causative. For "addicts" the pain is in the brain. And some how if the pain is in the brain we do not consider it "real". But the user has no interest in right or wrong pain. Only in relief.

Now all this pain relief would be a LOT safer under a doctor's supervision. But doctors have only one allowed treatment for the pain in the brain. Cut users off from all drug use.

We really have only two good options: drug distribution by criminals or drug distribution by doctors. Because "prohibited" does not mean "unavailable". It means "distributed by criminals".

That more or less covers the drug and prohibition issues. If you want to look more into the medical aspects you might like:

Is Addiction Real?

OK. Drugs are out of the way as the cause of the event sequence. For that we have to go back a bit further and look at divorce. And why I came to a different conclusion than the video makers after watching as much as I could tolerate of the video.

DIVORCE IS EVIL if you have children. And some times kids turn to drugs to relieve the pain of the divorce. Throw in a step parent and it gets harder. I wouldn't make divorce illegal. But folks ought to think 2E28 times (that is a very big number) before going ahead with it.

I know a kid (and his mother) who went through the same thing. Friends of our family. The divorce devastated him and then a few years later there was a drug "accident". I wouldn't make divorce illegal or harder to get. I would say that more folks ought to man up and find a way to live with their bad choice of mate. For the children. And the children? I would put them under a Drs. supervision at the first sign of drug use - if we got the government out of the prohibition business. In the mean time? Prayer is the best we have got and it ain't much.

The adults ought to be willing to shatter their world rather than shatter the world of a child.

Let me note that I do not believe any law can fix the divorce problem. Courage and a change of heart is required. The law can provide neither.

If our Drug War zealots put more effort into fixing families (by private efforts) instead of railing on about the evils of drugs we might actually decrease the incidence of these problems. The advantage for the zealots is that fighting drugs is easier than fighting bad parenting. You can at least point to piles of dope, cash, and guns. Proof that "something" is being done. Even if it is counter productive (it is easier for a kid to get an illegal drug than a legal beer). What can you point to that "proves" progress is being made with families? Of course the Drug War gains are illusory in the larger sense. But the efforts are photogenic. What pictures can you show to illustrate that something is being done about divorce; that fewer daughters are getting molested by step dads? That fewer kids are dying of a broken heart? Other than a lower incidence of divorce among families with children. Charts and graphs. That is the ticket.

That is why the work ought to be private. We won't know for 20 or 30 years what works. By that time if it is a government program it will be an empire.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:16 PM | Comments (3)

with such wonderful "friends," who needs enemies?

As a response to the civil war in Libya, President Obama is reportedly asking the Saudis to help the rebels.

America has asked Saudi Arabia to supply weapons to Libyan rebels in Benghazi fighting the Gaddafi regime.

The move is seen as a bid to avoid direct U.S. military involvement in the country's troubles.

So far, the Saudi royal family has not responded to the request, according to The Independent. Its head, King Abdullah, was the target of an assassination attempt last year by Gaddafi.

It's easy to point the finger at Barack Obama here, but the fact is that the U.S. is hopelessly in bed with the Saudis, and we have been ever since the country's creation in the 1930s.

Then and now, it's all about Wahhabi petrodollars.

Saudi Arabia has boosted its oil production to cushion against the weakened flows from Libya, where a de facto civil war has cut output by at least three-quarters from 1.58m barrels a day. But Riyadh has yet to provide details of how much it is pumping right now - a critical question as oil prices race towards $120 a barrel.

The Narrative is that the Saudis are our friends. Yet Wahhabism is the dominant force behind the radical Jihadism which has sworn to destroy the West, and the Saudis have directed their countless billions into promoting it around the world. Were it not for oil, their fanatic version of Islam would be something we might read about in the National Geographic. Instead, it's Wahhabi hegemony -- paid for with almost every drive.

It is an impossible predicament which literally defies analysis. We are hopelessly stuck being friends with an implacable enemy.

Don't ask me for answers. All I have been able to do is stare at the map of the Ottoman Empire in 1914 and engage in hopeless alternative history fantasizing.


The Ottomans had the place for centuries, and I think they did a better job -- especially with Wahhabism.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's more evidence of the federal love affair with Wahhabism. "White House to liberal-minded Muslims: drop dead":

White House officials are boosting the visibility and clout of Islamic revivalist groups in the United States, and are sidelining the growing network of liberal-minded, modern American Muslims.

The White House is doing the bidding of their Saudi masters. 

posted by Eric at 12:10 PM | Comments (3)

Hollywood Betting On Palin

Hollywood is betting that Sarah Palin will be a hot issue in 2012. Maybe even in the running for President.

...look at this newly greenlit Johnny Knoxville-starring laffer about a fun-loving, rowdy, red-blooded man whose wife is elected President.

This is a movie that will film in 2011 and hit theaters in the summer of 2012.

It will be quite interesting to see how the movie compares to reality.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

Who are the real anarchists?

Via Radley Balko, I learned that if certain legislators were to have their way, I might have committed a criminal offense earlier merely by photographing farm animals for what I thought was just a cute birthday post.

No really.

"Photographing cows or other farm scenery could land you in jail under Senate bill"

It seems that certain influential farmers want to call animals "intellectual property" or something. Great. Such legal cancers are eating away at freedom to a degree I never imagined possible.

If photographs of animals can be considered intellectual property, then so can photographs of anything.

Whether the bill passes or not, it is clear that Post Podernism has hit the law big time.

Either that or there's a "legislation bubble."

You'd think the silly bastards would have learned from Prohibition that when you criminalize ordinary activity and turn ordinary people into criminals, you trivialize and devalue real crime, but I guess not. It might be the whole idea.

And to think that they call libertarians anarchists!

posted by Eric at 12:07 AM | Comments (4)

Happy Birthday, Sean! The kids are dancing their butts off!

There's nothing like a day off from blogging, which this almost was.

However, it has come to my attention that today is Sean Kinsell's birthday -- an event which this blog and Coco have celebrated before. Sean is not only a longtime favorite of this blog, but he is a longtime favorite of Coco, and Coco never forgets having Sean's birthday cake and eating it too:



So Happy Birthday Sean!

When I turned 30 more than a generation ago, my dad observed pithily, "You'll be forty before you know it." 

But just as I was just a kid then, Sean is just a kid now, and in human terms so is Coco.

Alas, because I am no longer a kid, I feel obliged to put the "kid" issue into the improper perspective where it belongs. And it just so happens that earlier today I saw two kids playing, and the scene warmed the heart of this old goat, who happened to have a camera along.

It was a very cute. No ifs, ands, or butts buts.

Isn't it obvious that they are doing a birthday dance?

posted by Eric at 08:13 PM | Comments (3)

Magician's Throne -- Free short story

*Again, these are known in my conference (the diner, at Baen's bar) as Blue Plate Specials.  This one was published years ago in -- of all things! -- a pagan magazine.  It is a bit of fluff, spun off one Saturday morning when I had nothing better to do.  Yes, it coulda/shoulda be much longer and more involved.  Heck, it could be a novel.  But it isn't.  Just a nice pasttime.  I'm actually finishing up a short story, having got away from the novels just long enough to do this.  Maybe I can even get in some house cleaning before they drag me back, but don't bet on it.  Oh, and if I need to say this, this is fiction, the magical/mythical system is part of the world-building and do not in any way represent my beliefs.  (Yes, it should go without saying.)*

Magician's Throne

Sarah A. Hoyt

"Please," Nierne said.  "Please, Dolina.  I need your help."

His green eyes gazed earnestly into mine as his mobileface set into an intent pleading expression.

I wasn't having any.  I'd fallen for Nierne's green eyes, his straight, freckled nose, the mane of his wild red hair and beard, and his too-cute-for-words Scottish accent time and time again, and it always ended up the same way.

It always came to me doing work that I didn't want to do and pulling Nierne's fat out of the fire.  While Nierne thanked me, smiled his happiest smile and rode off into the sunset of some alternate reality, not to be heard from until he needed me again.

I tried to pull my shoulder away from the grasp of his large hand and walk away, but he stepped back just as quickly as he could, keeping his hand on my shoulder, and he said, "Dolina, come now, lass...."

Behind him shone the broad windows, the sparkling plate glass of The Magician's Throne coffee shop and espresso bar.  The sign hanging beside it, showed a man in a pointy hat sitting on a toilet.  Most people thought it was a fun, whimsical touch.

Most people didn't know that the Magician's Throne happened to be the gateway between Earth prime and all the lost worlds.  Lost to the commons, of course.

The magicians had never actually lost a world, gods forbid.  All of the worlds were tagged and itemized, classified and annotated somewhere -- somewhere in the cavernous bowels of Magic Central, on the second floor of The Magician's Throne.

Continue reading "Magician's Throne -- Free short story"

posted by Sarah at 09:39 PM | Comments (2)

The Slow Fade Of The Drug War

A couple of news items on the drug war have caught my interest today. One of them from the Market Watch discusses how the current economic situation has made states rethink how they handle Drug Prohibition.

A growing number of states are renouncing some of the long prison sentences that have been a hallmark of the war on drugs and instead focusing on treatment, which once-skeptical lawmakers now say is proven to be less expensive and more effective.

Kentucky on Thursday became the latest to make the shift when Gov. Steve Beshear signed into law a measure increasing spending on rehabilitation programs and intensive drug testing. The law also reduces penalties for many drug offenses and may allow some traffickers and users of smaller amounts of drugs to avoid prison.

Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are among those that have pending bills to reduce penalties for drug offenders, in some cases by directing defendants into treatment programs. Similar laws have taken effect in South Carolina, Colorado and New York in recent years.

In my estimation Drug Rehab is no more effective than prison when it comes to reducing drug use. What it does have going for it is that it is 7 times cheaper (more or less). Of course even cheaper is doing nothing (besides legalizing). But it is hard to change public perceptions on a dime. (It usually takes hundreds of millions of dollars.) After being told for decades "most serious problem in America" it can be wrenching to hear: "and there is nothing we can do about it". Easier to sell "NOT jail, rehab".

Which brings me to a story I saw at Libertarian Republican about a marijuana reform advocate being appointed to the New Jersey State Superior Court.

Gov. Christie appoints Marijuana Reform advocate to State Superior Court

"Staunch Conservative" with an obvious libertarian streak

From Eric Dondero:

Libertarian-conservative New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has a very mixed record on marijuana decriminalization. But his latest move may send a wave of cheers among the libertarian wing of the GOP.

Eric then quotes from a news report about the person appointed, Michael Patrick Carroll. The really amazing thing about this appointment is that Mr. Caroll's opinion on cannabis is a super majority opinion: legalize it for medical use.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:36 PM | Comments (2)

When will Holder let his people go? Sing it Robeson!

While I hadn't weighed in on the subject as I perhaps should have, Michelle Malkin's post about Eric Holder's now-infamous "my people" remark inspired me to get off my duff:

My fellow Americans, who are "your people"? I ask because U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who is black, used the phrase "my people" in congressional testimony this week. It was an unmistakably color-coded and exclusionary reference intended to deflect criticism of the Obama Justice Department's selective enforcement policies. It backfired.

In pandering to skin-deep identity politics and exacerbating race-consciousness, Holder has given the rest of us a golden opportunity to stand up, identify "our people" and show the liberal poseurs what post-racialism really looks like.

I couldn't agree more with her central premise that "our people" are Americans.

For starters, that whole "we the people" thing does mean all of us who live here in the United States.

But to be honest, I have never used "my people" to describe myself along with my fellow citizens. It has too much of an identity politics ring for comfort, and I am probably too much of an individualist to be comfortable with it. Besides, if I started saying "my people" in conversation, most people would not know what I was talking about, and I would expect to be asked. Then I would have to explain that I was using the phrase in retaliation for what Eric "My People" Holder said, and maybe they'd get it, maybe not.

I have long associated the phrase with the Paul Robeson song, "Let My People Go."

The song which has the phrase is actually "Go Down Moses," which is a Negro Spiritual (I guess I am allowed to say that as long as I provide a proper link).

In the song "Israel" represents the African-American slaves while "Egypt" and "Pharaoh" represent the slavemaster.

Going "down" to Egypt is derived from the Biblical origin, where Egypt is consistently perceived as being "below" other lands, with going to Egypt being "down" [1] while going away from Egypt is "up".[2] In the context of American slavery, this ancient sense of "down" converged with the concept of "down the river" (the Mississippi), where slaves' conditions were notoriously worse, a situation which left the idiom "sell [someone] down the river" in present-day English.[3]

So, while it is undeniably based on identity politics, the identity of the people was switched to fit the times.  

When David Bernstein linked the video last year, he said "Happy Passover" by way of a reminder.  

Although Robeson did more to make the song famous than almost anyone, its use was much older, and it was a rallying song of "Contrabands" (confiscated freed slaves) in 1862. 

...the earliest recorded use of the song was as a rallying anthem for the Contrabands at Fort Monroe sometime before July 1862. Early authorities presumed it was composed by them.[4] Sheet music was soon after published, titled "Oh! Let My People Go: The Song of the Contrabands" and arranged by Horace Waters. L.C. Lockwood, chaplain of the Contrabands, stated in the sheet music the song was from Virginia, dating from about 1853.[5]

Seeing as the slaves were not considered citizens, the use of the phrase "my people" made sense, especially because it arose from the enslavement of another group of people at the hands of the Pharaohs. The phrase "let my people go" comes from the Bible:

And the LORD spake unto Moses, Go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Let my people go, that they may serve me.

Whether that's the earliest use of the phrase, I do not know.

As to whether it could be said to have constituted identity politics, I guess that's open to interpretation too. Certainly it would not in the modern sense of the term. But identity politics springs from the oppression of one group by another. That this happens is understandable in the context of the times when the oppression is ongoing. But when the original oppression has ceased, its use becomes an all new form of oppression, meant to stifle dissent.

I'm pretty sure that Eric Holder does not believe that Clarence Thomas, Herman Cain, Thomas Sowell, or Condoleezza Rice are within the rubric of what he means by "my people." When Holder says "my people" he does not mean all black people. He means those black people who do as they are told in the context of identity politics. 

When will he let them go? 


* It is probably fair to point out that Robeson was a Communist, and he also sang songs that glorified Stalin and the Soviet Union, like this one:

If Robeson actually believed that "his people" would have been better off under Stalin, I think that leaves his "Let my people go" with a lingering aroma of irony.

(As to the use of the phrase "my people" by a man who is supposed to be our Attorney General, I think the aroma is more along the lines a stench.)

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I don't know what inspires certain friends to send me links like this, but here's more letting my people go, Soviet style!

Pazhalsta, Tovarisch!

posted by Eric at 12:25 PM | Comments (3)

rating the purity of the extra-unadulturated

Last night my bullshit detector was set off by the completely unverifiable nature of a study M. Simon linked.  It was a blog post by an unnamed author at an anonymous blog, quoting from an unlinked "study" by an unnamed person -- the sort of thing that strikes me as fiendishly calculated to frustrate people who like to see proof of claims that are made. While the study purports to have been done by "one smart student at NYU" who questioned "1,306 students at NYU and another 3,287 from other schools" the list of majors does not include a number of important NYU major fields of study, such as Comparative Literature, Sociology, Music, Engineering, or even Physics. But perhaps the "study" was intended as a joke; that "zero" for "Studio Art" (not listed as an NYU major) struck me as a pretty clear indication that the study is bogus, because there are always at least a few virgins (or virgin claimants) in any field, even art.

However, another reason the study frustated me was because of a question that arose in my mind. 

Regardless of the value placed upon it, what is virginity? What constitutes its "loss"?

Is there an agreed-upon definition?

The traditional one seems to revolve around the rupturing of the hymen, but even that is problematic:

The act of losing one's virginity is commonly considered within many cultures to be an important life event and a rite of passage. The loss of virginity can be viewed as a milestone in a person's life.

In human females the hymen is a thin film of membrane situated just inside the vulva which can partially occlude the entrance to the vaginal canal. It is flexible and can be stretched or torn during first engagement in vaginal intercourse. Throughout history, the presence of an intact hymen has been seen by many as physical evidence of virginity, particularly alongside "proof of blood", virginity as proved by the presence of vaginal bleeding from intercourse connected to the tearing of the hymen.

The presence of a hymen is often considered to be an indication of virginity, but is no guarantee given that some degree of sexual activity may occur without rupturing the hymen. The lack of a hymen is an even less clear indication of virginity lost as the hymen's shape, thickness and coverage is extremely variable, and one that does occlude the entrance to the vaginal canal may be broken through means other than sexual activity. It is a common belief that some women simply lack a hymen, but some doubt has been cast on this by a recent study.[27] It is likely that almost all women are born with a hymen, but not necessarily ones that will experience a measurable change during first experience of vaginal intercourse.

There may also exist varying definitions as to the type and extent of sexual activity that is considered by a person to terminate the state of "virginity" as the definition of virginity is problematized by some experiences. For example, the prevailing notion of virginity as lost only through vaginal intercourse is problematized by homosexuality, as well as by some religious youth who engage in oral or anal sex for the purpose of retaining their vaginal virginity. The issue is further complicated by the availability of hymenorrhaphy surgical procedures which repair or replace the hymen, marketed to both sexually active women to restore their "virginity", as well as to virginal women who are concerned that their hymens may not provide adequate proof of their virginity through bleeding or the perceived tightness of their vagina.

In the majority of women, the hymen is sufficiently vestigial as to pose no obstruction to the entryway of the vagina. The presence of a broken hymen may therefore indicate that the vagina has been penetrated but also that it was broken via physical activity or the use of a tampon or dildo. Many women possess such thin, fragile hymens, easily stretched and already perforated at birth, that the hymen can be broken in childhood without the woman even being aware of it, often through athletic activities.

If hymen rupture is what it's all about, then only women can prove virginity, but not all virgins can prove it.

Oral sex would not "count" officially, but are we talking about traditional virginity or modern virginity here?

How about men? Must a man have committed an act of hymen penetration? Or would any pentration do? Are homosexual men who have never had sex with women virgins? How about homosexual women who have never had sex with men? The Wiki virginity page mentions a lesbian who sold her virginity for a lot of money:

Emphasizing the monetary value of female virginity, some women have offered their virginity for sale. In 2004, a lesbian student from the University of Bristol was said to have sold her virginity online for £8,400, and Londoner Rosie Reid, 18, reportedly slept with a 44-year-old BT engineer in a Euston hotel room against payment for her virginity.[18] In 2008, Italian model Raffaella Fico, then 20 years old, offered her virginity for €1 million.[19] In that same year, an American using the pseudonym Natalie Dylan announced she would accept bids for her virginity through a Nevada brothel's web site.[20][21]

It sounds as if there's quite a virginity fetish out there, and I have discussed the phenomenon before in the context of Islam and surgery.

But are we talking about actual truth, physically provable truth, or truth in labeling?

Considering the uncertainty, perhaps we should consider labeling virginity in humans in the way way we rate that of olive oil. Like, keep the traditional measure of the unruptured hymen as "virgin" but add another level -- so that not having had oral sex would be "extra virgin" and so on.

This would not guarantee that there wouldn't be cheating, though, just as there is cheating (massive cheating) with the mislabeling of adulterated olive oil. But the only thing that could be physically measurable and testable would be the hymen, plus maybe testing for the presence of HPV or HSV-2 (although the latter can be spread non-venereally).

It strikes me that no matter what happens, the more value that is placed on something, the more incentive there is to lie about it, especially when verifiability is open to question. In that respect, I find myself wondering whether an honest slut (or stud, I guess, for lack of a better term) is a better deal than a liar who calls himself or herself a virgin. This is all the more true in the case of those who place a high value on such things, because a lie about that represents a fairly major level of dishonesty.

But there's another complication in that the lying can go in the other direction, and virginity is valued by some and devalued by others. For starters, there is a major difference between men and women. Many men place a premium on the lack of virginity (this is called "experience"), and many virgin men lie about their experience. This was common when I was in high school, and the phenomenon doubtless still exists. I also strongly suspect that both men and women lie about their sexual experience when they hit college, most likely to fit in and be cool. 

And what about the people who are technnically virgins but who are sexually sophisticated? I do not refer solely to homosexuals here, because there are plenty of forms of sexual gratification (whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual) that do not involve penetration of any kind. Suppose an attractive woman (perhaps a lesbian, perhaps not) decided that she could make a lot or money and send herself through college catering to men with kinky fetishes? Men who wanted to be diapered, trussed up, degraded, whipped, or even urinated upon? If she did such things to men who paid her for it, but never engaged in what the rest of us would call sex, wouldn't she still be a virgin because of the lack of penetration? And suppose she wasn't even turned on?

It is, then, at least possible for there to be such a thing as virgin prostitute. I have no idea whether that would matter to anyone, but I like to leave no stone unturned in my search for ultimate truth. 

And while I'm at it, what about her paying customers? If a man wants to be called names, beaten with a whip, and walked on with high heels by a woman who thinks he is scum in order to obtain sexual gratification, then does he lose his virginity by doing that even though he never commits an act of penetration? How can that be? He is having a fantasy, but is he having sex? I really don't know, but I think if we do call that having sex, then a whole lot of other behaviors that do not involve penetration might also be sex. Including online "sticky keyboard" stuff. And what about "whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart?" If we assume the commission of adultery means a loss of virginity, can virginity be lost with a look?

The more I look at these issues, the less able I am to come up with definitive answers.

It does seem that there are levels of purity, and levels of honesty. Loyalty to one's partner is something most of us would agree is desireable. Virginity, it would seem, constitutes loyalty in advance, to partners unknown, as measured by standards we could never all agree upon. Unless both parties were equally as clean as virgin snow, wouldn't it constitute a sort of imbalance of power for one partner to have a higher standard going in than the other?

In general, honesty strikes me as preferable to purity, and while they are not mutually exclusive, I tend to be skeptical about most things, so it would be easier for me to believe an admission of impurity than an insistence on purity. 

And if the most important thing is mutual loyalty, it seems that a focus on the present and the future would be better than a focus on the past.

posted by Eric at 02:11 PM | Comments (7)

Looking For Akbar

Evidence of Islamic terrorism is difficult to find. Especially if your mission is to avoid finding it. And yet when things went the other way (Giffords in Arizona for instance) it took a long time for the White House to chime in.

So maybe that is the rule for judging actual White House opinion. If they come out right away and say it is not terrorism or go to great lengths to avoid the obvious - it is terrorism. If they do nothing for a while or suggest it might be terrorism - it is not terrorism - of course that can be adjusted based on skin pigmentation.

H/T Libertarian Republican

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. For something different may I suggest Why "Everyone" In India Is An Engineer.

posted by Simon at 01:22 PM | Comments (5)

Hide Away In Rockford

H/T Hot Air

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:30 PM | Comments (3)

Why they hate music

Because they can't control it, and it can (at least sometimes) manage to transcend the bullshit that distracts us while they play their endless war and peace cycles games that keep them in power.

As an example of what they hate, here's a YouTube video titled "Brian Eno & Rachid Taha - Barra Barra."

It is dark, and sometimes I like dark music. Especially when it involves a dark topic, and especially when the music is attempting to grapple with that darkness in a way that transcends control.


Anyway, I Facebook-Liked it (I have long enjoyed Rachid Taha and Brian Eno), and Michael Totten (who likes it too) provided a translation:

1.barra barra (outside) = bb
Sadness, hate and the reign of arbitrary
...Destruction, jealousy ; there is no trust left
Thirst and people are unlucky
No honour, but oppression and slavery
Rivers were dried up and seas have ruined everything
Stars are switched off and the sun went down
There are no trees left and the birds stopped singing
There are neither days, nor nights left, darkness only
Hell ; there is no beauty left
(solo of mandolute and ululation)
Time has increased, there is no honour left
Ruin and war and the blood is flowing
There are only walls left, walls standing up
Fear and people remain silent
Sadness, hate and the reign of arbitrary
Destruction and jealousy ; there is no trust left
Rivers were dried up and seas have ruined everything
stars are switched off and the sun went down
barra barra (in a low voice, plus crescendo)
There is neither good, nor happiness, nor luck anymore
There are no trees left; the birds stopped singing
There are neither nights, nor days left; darkness only
Desolation, hell, there is no beauty left
Time has increased, there is no honour left
Ruin and war and the blood is flowing
There are only walls left, walls standing up
Sadness, hate and the reign of arbitrary
Destruction and jealousy ; there is no trust left.
Stars are switched off, and the sun went down
There is neither good, nor happiness, nor luck left
There are no trees left ; birds stopped singing
There are no neither nights nor days left; darkness only
Desolation, hell, there is no beauty left
Time has increased, there is no honour left
Barraaaaa! Barra, barra, barraaaaaa!

Yeah, it's dark and lots of people might not like it, but I think there is a right to like it, and damn it, I think such a right is a human right.

It's like where there's a right to like whatever music you like, there's hope.

Even (and especially) in darkness. 

Which is why they hate music.

The darker the better.

No music could be as dark as the darkness of those who hate it.

MORE: Readers who enjoy musical cross-contamination might want to check out these posts about Faudel.

posted by Eric at 12:11 AM | Comments (2)

My Charlie Sheen Story

By now everyone has one or is repeating someone else's Charlie Sheen story. I have my own.

The first mate was telling me yesterday how lucky Charlie was to have two ladies. I told her that those girls were far too young and besides if something like that ever happened to me I'd insist that she be one of the ladies.

Big hug and kiss from the mate for me. God I love that girl.

Of course every woman has a different preferred answer to the question. So it pays to know your mate.

If you give the wrong answer you could wind up in bad trouble the least of which is sleeping alone for a month. So be careful out there.

Inspired by the dialog at The Other McCain who I was referred to by an Instapundit link.

Stacey suggests this book as an introduction to the mores of twenty-somethings.

Generation S.L.U.T.: A Brutal Feel-up Session with Today's Sex-Crazed Adolescent Populace

So what can a father do to improve the odds that his daughter doesn't join the ranks of the sluts? This site has a chart which I'm going to repeat below that answers the question.


In words: Make sure your daughter goes into something chemistry or mathematics. The worst is art major. My #1 daughter is a chemical engineering major.

Now why would it work like that? You can get a hint here: Demographics. The short version? It depends on the M/F ratio in the classes.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:50 PM | Comments (9)

"Do not sit there and call her a bad mom cause that's not what she is."

Not being a parent, I am hesitant to judge other people's parenting skills. But an appalling news story I read earlier just gave me the creeps:

A mother is accused of murdering her three-year-old son whose charred body was found in her oven.

Terrie A. Robinson, 24, from Mississippi, was arrested yesterday after police found her son Tristan's burned body inside the electric oven at her apartment.

Washington County Coroner Methel Johnson said the child had been burned in the oven, but an autopsy was ordered to determine whether he died before or after being put there. 

The child's body was still warm when it was removed from the appliance.

There's a booking shot which shows the mother weeping.

What especially got my attention was to read that I should not be judging the woman's parenting skills: 

Terrie Robinson's twin sister, Sherrie Robinson, told WXVT-TV that people should not judge her sister before all the facts are known. 

She said: 'She was a great parent, a good person. We don't know what's wrong.

'We don't know what happened. Do not sit there and call her a bad mom cause that's not what she is.'

The story has attracted a great deal of attention, and a lot of concerned people are clearly facing challenges in resisting the temptation to be judgmental:

This is a horrific story that certainly has parents trembling and wondering how a loving mother could ever do such a horrible thing to a helpless 3-year-old little boy. The stress of parenting can most definitely be overwhelming at times, but it doesn't seem like a sane person would ever let it get this out of control!

I'm going to stick my neck out and say that it doesn't seem that way to me either.

It's tough to see how this could have been either an accident or a suicide. Voluntarily or involuntarily, it would be difficult to fit the average three year old into an electric oven. Nor are small children prone to suicide; the youngest suicide I could find was age six. But suicide by self-roasting does not strike me as even theoretically  possible in the scientific sense. I can't see how it would be possible under any circumstances for a kid to stuff himself into a hot oven, shut the door, and burn himself to death. And stuffing a live and kicking toddler into a kitchen oven would be nearly impossible. It seems highly likely that the child had to have have already been dead (or at least rendered unconscious when he was placed in there.

So, while I am not supposed to be judgmental, harsh as it sounds, I think that if the mom was home at the time, it is reasonable to suspect that at the very least, less than stellar parenting skills were involved. An autopsy can most likely determine whether he burned to death or was already dead, as well as whether the head injuries were post-mortem.

What annoys me the most about the sister's attitude is that it reflects a societal tendency not to blame people for anything, even their own actions. (As an example of what I see around here, when people steal electricity via illegal hookups which cause children to be burned to death, activists turn right around and blame the power company.)

While it's tough to find an externality to blame for a dead child in an oven, you can be sure that if the boy were found dead of a gunshot wound, guns and "the gun culture" that promotes the "easy availability" of firearms would be blamed.

It's tough to say that about a stove, isn't it?

I'm just glad to see that so far, no one has blamed the oven manufacturer, or the landlord. Much less the culture of "easy availablity of ovens." Or the Tea Party.

posted by Eric at 11:57 AM | Comments (6)

The Loan Arranger

I was looking for some information for my post Bussing In Outside Agitators and came across this bit: Deadbeat Union's $90 Million Debt from 21 May 2010. Interesting.

In 2007, the SEIU owed Bank of America nearly $95 Million.

By the end of 2008, SEIU owed more than $156 Million in total outstanding liabilities. Only six years prior, its liabilities were $8 Million. And we're not even addressing their debts to other banks, like $15 Million with Amalgamated Bank.

Go to the article for links.

No wonder this is do or die for the public sector unions. It is another f*n economic bubble. I guess we can add "public sector union union bubble" to its corollary "the lower education bubble".

No wonder the lefties have been on about "sustainable" for years. Nothing they have been doing is sustainable.

Think about what it means for the unions if they can no longer service their debt or get shares of the company handed to them to collateralize their debt? Kaput. That's what.

State of the Union: A Century of American Labor (The Rise and Fall of American Labor Unions)

Cross Posted at Power and Control

Welcome Instapundit readers. For something different you might like My Charlie Sheen Story.

posted by Simon at 09:15 PM | Comments (12)

Did economic terrorism trigger the crisis of '08?

It's an interesting theory, and while I haven't studied it in detail, Ed Morrissey has, and he is a bit skeptical, especially because not only has the plan's Phase 3 not happened, but not all of our competitors or even enemies would necessarily benefit from seeing the U.S. economy destroyed:

While we have piled up even more debt and find ourselves lurking towards a Greece-like crisis, the short-term instability has mainly dissipated.  Furthermore, the nations Freeman cited are no less hostile to American interests than they were in 2008.  So if this was the plan all along, why no Phase 3?

Furthermore, one of those nations -- China -- has extensive holdings in the US. While it's certainly possible that the Chinese autocracy might be so hostile to the US as to risk destabilizing their own country to bring down the American economy, it hardly seems likely.  China's government has no love for the US, but does have a love of economic success.  They have even introduced capitalism back into their economy over the last several years (in a limited fashion) to improve their economic performance and prevent full-scale uprisings as seen in the Arab world this year.  China's rulers may be brutal, but they're rational and rather predictable, too.  Russia has enough problems in its own economy and hardly has the resources to conduct an economic war against the US, and their rivalries are mainly with Europe.  Iran has every incentive in the world to attack the American economy, but few allies to join them in that region -- and the Saudis would prefer to unseat the mullahs in Tehran rather than destroy the US economy that both feeds and protects them.

The report is very useful in underscoring the potential vulnerabilities in our system, especially in relation to sovereign-wealth funds, and should get attention from policymakers in protecting the US from financial wars.  However, just because something is possible doesn't mean it happened.

That is true.

And just because people want to believe something doesn't mean it's true. The idea that economic terrorism caused the meltdown strikes me as emotionally satisfying to so many people that it could become (and probably has become) an immediate runaway conspiracy theory whether it is ever proven or not. 

And much as I would love to blame George Soros, I'm remaining skeptical until I see some real whodunit proof.

posted by Eric at 04:04 PM | Comments (3)

Finger Attack

Since Eric did a post on the Communists Who Support The Wisconsin Teachers Mafia, I thought I ought to do a cross post with supporting evidence.


According to Hill Buzz this little bit of excitement happened on 27 Feb. 2011 in Atlanta. Be sure to note the flier at the end of the video that shows who else attended the rally in support of the workers right to rip off other workers who don't work for government. And also for the right of the teachers to get ripped off by their own union. This is called the Iron Rice Bowl theory of government employment. The "workers" vs the people if you will. If we could get the "workers" agitated by the corruption of their own union we might begin to get some where.

As Vanderleun says: Father Do Not Forgive Them. They Know Damn Well What They Do. They sure do.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:56 PM | Comments (2)

Time to send in reinforcements?

In what I think is a superhuman effort in blogging, Ann Althouse has been braving hostile and violent conditions with her husband as they cover the Madison protest mob scene. 

She doesn't think the protesters are going to win:

And now we're into the third week of it. It's become a quagmire. I believe myself that... this protest is lost and it is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme aggression in Madison yesterday....

In an earlier post, Althouse noted out that the protesters are exhausted, sleep deprived, and becoming more and more incoherent.

Someone needs to go around to everyone who is still there and check them for mental stability. Somebody needs to find the people who need to leave and don't know how to leave. If you are encouraging people to stay, to hang on and remain tough, you need to know that there are some truly sad people there who need to be told that they've done enough and must leave now.

It's not as if this is Woodstock. Three weeks of occupation in a state capitol is hardly comparable to three days in the country listening to music. There have already been acts of violence, but as tempers flare and people become more exhausted, it would not surprise me if the violence escalates, as it seems it already is.

Under the circumstances, I don't think it is helpful for Michigan's largest newspaper to be running Sunday puff pieces calculated to inspire more out-of-state activists to go to Madison. Especially when the "poster child" of the moment is never identified as the revolutionary Communist she is.

So I have a question.

If people are getting tired and it's a losing cause, do they really need more out-of-state activists, whether revolutionary Communists or not?

How is that helpful?

posted by Eric at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

Pricing Yourself Out Of A Monopoly Market

Thanks to Instapundit I was perusing the comments at Althouse and came up with this really great one about the Wisconsin Teachers Mafia.

Seven Machos said...

3. Your union foolishly raised wages and benefits to a point where it priced itself right out of a monopoly market -- really fucking hard to do, but as we have seen, possible if you are absolutely committed.

Instead of willing to be a nail fungus they were trying for ebola status. They are at least up in tapeworm territory. Yeah. I know. Too rough on tapeworms. Tapeworms don't try to tell your children what to think.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:03 AM | Comments (2)

Why "Everyone" In India Is An Engineer.

Did you ever wonder why India produces so many engineers? Well there is an answer. It is the culture. But not in a way you would imagine.

India is perhaps the only country in the world where parents decide the career of their children a few moments after birth.

This has famously been captured in the classic Bollywood movie 3 Idiots where the character of Farhan Qureshi played by R.Madhavan says "I was born at 5:15 am and at 5:16 am my father said: My son will be an engineer ".

The film which stars Aamir Khan (one of the most intellgent and biggest bollywood superstars) is an excellent depiction of what engineering education is like in India and how parents force their kids to pursue careers that are only meant to create a good standing in society for themselves (instead of pursuing what they love) . The movie was such an outrageous success that it is one of the highest grossing bollywood films of all time and is a treat to watch over and over again.

No wonder, because India produces 600,000 engineers from colleges across the country every year (read here for more) and in many families it is trait that has been passed on for generations. It is not uncommon to see three to four generations of one family ranging from immediate brothers, cousins, uncles and distant relatives all having an engineering background.

In my engineering career I have met more than a few engineers who were not in love with their work. They were piss poor engineers. I preferred to shunt them off into more important work like sorting resistors by color code. Work which could be double checked with an ohm meter. Just to keep them from mass producing a disaster by design.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:14 AM | Comments (3)

Having his oath and eating it too

A few people have asked me what I think about the current situation with DOMA, and because it's a little complicated and it requires some issue separating, I thought it merited a post. 

While I have reservations about same sex marriage because (as explained here) I don't like the invasive statism of the family law/divorce system, so I think it is a mistake to frame the issue solely as a "right," my opinion on gay marriage is utterly irrelevant to whether DOMA is constitutional.

I think DOMA is violative of federalism, so I agree with its erstwhile author Bob Barr that it is unconstitutional for that reason. IMO, the enumerated federal powers do not include either the power to define marriage or the power to tell states to ignore the full faith and credit rule whenever they dislike another state's marriage laws. 

In an abrupt 180 reversal of his previous position, President Obama has decided that he no longer believes DOMA is constitutional, and he has therefore refused to defend it. Unlike Bob Barr, he does not object on the grounds of federalism, but because he believes the law is discriminatory.

A lot of people are annoyed with Obama. I got an email earlier angrily accusing Obama of violating what was called "his oath to uphold the laws of the United States."

Except that is not in his oath.

"I, name, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and I will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

So, preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution would come before any duty to uphold the laws. 

The president's job is described thusly:

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

So, while he is to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, he must first and foremost preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. To my mind, that would mean that if Congress passed an unconstitutional law, he would be duty bound not to execute that law. Nor could he "uphold" it. 

I agree with Jonah Goldberg and others that this means Obama is violating his oath of office.

Either way, what Obama is doing is flatly outrageous. Carney says that "the president is constitutionally bound to enforce the laws and enforcement of the DOMA will continue."

No, he is not.

There's a myth out there that only the Supreme Court determines what is, or is not, constitutional. It's a bipartisan myth. "We can't have presidents deciding what laws are constitutional and what laws are not," Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.) said in a statement. "That is a function of the judicial branch, not the executive."

President Bush made a similar, indefensible error when he signed the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill, even though he believed portions of it were unconstitutional (and he was right; the Supreme Court overturned it in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission last year).

The problem is that the Constitution doesn't say any such thing (and, no, it's not in Marbury v. Madison either). The president doesn't take an oath to "preserve, protect and defend" the Supreme Court. He takes an oath to defend the Constitution.

Imagine if Congress passed -- hopefully over a presidential veto -- a law that brought back slavery. Such a law would be plainly unconstitutional, and no president worthy of the job would wait for the Supreme Court to tell him as much. More to the point, once the president concluded that the law was unconstitutional, he would be bound by his oath to ignore it, and challenge it in every way possible.

President Obama says DOMA is unconstitutional, and yet the "law professor" says he will continue to enforce it.

In a properly ordered constitutional republic, this would be a scandal. But in America today, it's cause for eye-rolling, shrugs, and platitudes about the demands of politics.

David Bernstein makes a similar argument:

If the Executive Branch is asserting the authority to engage in independent constitutional review of an existing law, and the president decides that the law is unconstitutional, it strikes me that the Executive Branch has no business enforcing this unconstitutional law.

So I take the Obama Administration to task not for asserting executive review here, which is at least arguably proper, but for trying to split the baby in half, and declaring that it won't defend an unconstitutional law, but will enforce it. And not just any unconstitutional law, but one regarding which the Administration claims there are no "reasonable" supporting arguments.

Either Barack Obama believes DOMA is unconstitutional or he does not. If he does, then he violates his oath of office by enforcing it. 

Regardless of what side anyone is on, he cannot have it both ways. 

Some constitutional scholar he has turned out to be.

posted by Eric at 03:37 PM | Comments (5)

a stealth narrative, encased in reactive armor

While I don't have the time to check out the details behind every article I see in the local newspapers, something I saw the other day aroused my suspicions, and sure enough, it turned out to be a classic illustration of the persistence of a very ugly, self-enforcing narrative mechanism.  

The front page of Sunday's Detroit Free Press featured a picture of an elderly Detroit woman who has braved the trip to Madison, Wisconsin. It was a lead-in to a story obviously meant to move hearts and minds about her tireless crusade fior justice, headlined "A Detroiter in Wisconsin -- Every worker has sacrificed more than enough."

MADISON, Wis. -- Cheryl LaBash traded the comforts of her two-bedroom bungalow in northwest Detroit last week for a cubby along the wooden stair railing on the second floor of the Wisconsin state Capitol.

She sleeps on a marble floor surrounded by hundreds of other protesters, most of them decades younger. LaBash brushes her teeth and washes her face in a public restroom and grabs the occasional shower when she runs into a friend who has rented a hotel room during the protests.

She's been living on bratwursts, pizza and pastries donated by union sympathizers and longs for cups of coffee that she took for granted until her adventure began last week.

The lights never dim, and the beating of protesters' drums begins at 8 a.m. every morning and stops at 11 each night.

But LaBash, a 62-year-old retired construction inspector for the City of Detroit, can't imagine being anywhere else.

"I'm a retired public employee, and if there is an attack on a public employee, I'm going there," she said after a long day of rallies and marches. "It's important to let these people here know that someone from Detroit cared enough to get in their car, drive here and sleep on the floor with them every night."

Kind of makes you feel ashamed not to be driving through winter blizzards in solidarity with union workers, no?

The Freep saw fit to mention that this sweet little retiree has been arrested, and that she has "history with union activism":

LaBash has history with union activism. She was arrested in 1980 during a protest at a Detroit City Council meeting over the sale of Detroit General Hospital and again in 1990 during the Greyhound Bus strike.

"There's a long tradition of people going to jail for their convictions," LaBash said.

She's ready to be jailed again, when police try to remove protesters from the Capitol at 4 p.m. today. If she's evicted, she brought along a tent just in case.

"Who knows, maybe it will be Madison this spring and summer."

Perhaps it was the look of steely-eyed determination in her picture, and perhaps I'd seen the name "Cheryl LaBash" before, but it occurred to me to Google her, and I saw immediately that she is a lot more than a retired union activist. She is a national organizer for the Workers World Party, and she writes for the Workers World paper, co-authored the book Gaza: Symbol of Resistance, (described as "the story of the most heroic resistance since 1948 to unrelenting Israeli oppression and violence designed to drive Palestinians from their homeland"), travels the country to speak at various rallies like these, and has written countless anti-U.S. articles. 

A devoted Communist.

As to her organization, the Workers World Party is an unapologetically Stalinist revolutionary communist party:

Workers World Party (WWP) is a revolutionary communist political party in the United States, founded in 1959 by a group led by Sam Marcy.[1] Marcy and his followers split from the Socialist Workers Party in 1958 over a series of long-standing differences, among them Marcy's group's support for Henry A. Wallace's Progressive Party in 1948, the positive view they held of the Chinese Revolution led by Mao Zedong, and their defense of the 1956 Soviet intervention in Hungary, all of which the SWP opposed.

Great. So her group consists of Maoists who supported Khruschchev's Stalinist invasion of Hungary!

Naturally, the Free Press would never point out that this woman is a hard core Communist, so the task is left to bloggers like me to attempt to make that pertinent fact public. 

Does her Communism matter? Here is why I think it does matter. Communists are not ordinary people. Unlike liberals or conservatives, if they had power, they would kill people. A lot of people. Right of center bloggers like yours truly, Tea Party activists, people with money or who belong to the productive classes would all be targeted. And of course, they make no apologies for the crimes of Communism, because they believe it is right.

As detailed here, the WWP supported the Tienanmen massacre, North Korea, Saddam Hussein, Slobodan Milosevic, etc. A small but truly malevolent outfit.

But neither the WWP nor Cheryl LaBash is the point here, for she is merely an illustration of a particularly nasty narrative mechanism, which has been in place for far too long.

The fact that she is a Communist means that if that were known, she would not fit the narrative, which is that the devoted hordes of tireless activists who brave the cold and travel all about in solidarity with union workers are really just ordinary folks like you or I, and that we should join them. That revolutionary Communists do not fit this narrative means that their Communist status must never be mentioned -- even if they are open and notorious Communists like Ms. Labash. They are thus enshrouded and protected by a deliberate and mandatory media silence which enables them to operate with impunity.

I think it would be fair to call this a stealth narrative.

What makes the stealth narrative unlike other narratives is that it carries its own reactive armor which protects it against invasion by means of a built in personal attack against all invaders.

Anyone who says, points out, reports, or so much as mentions that someone is a Communist -- especially if that is factually correct -- is immediately liable for this line of attack. The attack is built in, and is no accident, but an integral feature.

By my act of writing this post, I am chargeable with "red baiting."

And to tell the truth, it isn't especially pleasant to have to publicly cop to being a red baiter. But I did so in the hope of shedding a little light on why Communists are almost never identified as Communists in your local newspaper. 

posted by Eric at 01:34 PM | Comments (7)

Financial Attack!

Patrick Poole is looking into: Was the financial meltdown of September 2008 an inside job? It is more than possible that insiders gave the system a timely push. But the rot was already more than evident. NINJA loans? Puhleeeze.

We dug this hole. Why complain when the guys on the surface start refilling it with us in it? We can crawl out or die.

A good place to start? Start drilling for oil. Start another refinery or three. End the Drug War - another financial weapon used against us. And where there is more rot in the system. And it is longstanding. Narco dollars. That would be all the drug money the cartels take out of the system. And then recycle in various ways. Any money going into financial instruments can be taken out of those instruments. And that makes financing debt more expensive. I have written a number of articles on the subject. But you ought to start with something Catherine Austin Fitts wrote in three sections:

Narco Dollars 1
Narco Dollars 2
Narco Dollars 3

It explains the recycling of narco dollars. George Soros is working to break the narcos. I wonder what his plan is?

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 10:22 AM | Comments (3)

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