Saturday, May 7, 2011

Did we deep six bin Laden or put him on ice?

I want to be clear that I am not questioning whether bin Laden is dead. Even Al Quaeda admits that. However, I do wonder about the burial at sea. Supposedly it was a big deal to bury him the same day. Yeah, right. Even many Muslim scholars question these obscure requirements.

However, even if true, who is really ever going to be able to confirm that we put him in a weighted bag and tossed him into Davy Jones' locker. Even people watching on the ship would only know that a bag got tossed over, but would likely not know what was in that bag. It would seem like a more reasonable scenario to *claim* that we disposed of the body, but keep it on ice, just in case it later becomes useful. True, we could keep pictures, but conspiracy people will simply claim they are doctored. Obama says that we shouldn't treat bin Laden like a trophy, perhaps to contrast with the blood-thirsty George W. Bush's desire to have Osama's head cut off, frozen in dry ice, and sent back to him in a box. However, the reality is that bin Laden is a trophy of sorts. In particular, it might be instructive to keep his corpse around to show to the Saudi royals and some of the other Emirs, warlords, and potentates in the Middle East, so that they know we mean business.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Republican equals Gadaffi Loyalist

You might be wondering what kind of people could possibly support Moammar Gadaffi. They certainly have to be extremely ignorant and/or willfully misinformed about reality. They have to have a sociopathic antipathy toward their fellow countrymen who disagree with them on matters of politics or religion. They have to see violence and the use of firearms as the primary means to settle arguments. Also they must be willing to sell their souls to a very rich madman in the hope that their service to his whims will line their pockets and win his fickle favor. In short, they have to be exactly like the average tea party republican in the United States, who slavishly defend the agendas of the ultra-rich even when it ends up costing themselves dearly in the pocketbook.

Lest you protest overmuch about the comparison consider the following. Many tea partiers including Bachmann and Palin constantly use gun-based metaphors in reference to their opponents in the right-wing culture war. A number of even more extreme individuals, such as failed candidate Sharon Angle, and state and federal republican representatives have spoken favorably about the virtues of an armed uprising against our government. However, make no mistake, republicans are not revolutionaries. They want to revert things to how they used to be several hundred years ago, with slavery, theocracy, and aristocracy all restored to its former glory. They are obsessed with guns, not for defense, but to stage a takeover of democracy and to replace it with rule by the rich and in the interests of the corporations they own.

Gadaffi feels the same way about his country. He is in it for the money and the power, just like republicans such as Sarah Palin, who is forever trying to cash in on her waning celebrity status.

Like Gadaffi, republicans don't care what they have to do in order to obtain money and power. They are now gleefully sabotaging the economy, slashing medicare, and subsidies to help poor people buy heating oil. This is not done by people with a social conscience, much like pro-Gadaffi factions who cluster bomb cities and bombard their countrymen with heavy artillery.

I know that, in the right-wing echo chamber everything comes out reversed, but they can hardly claim that peacenik leftists would be shelling their neighbors with cluster munitions. They can hardly claim that those commie, pinko, socialists would be servants of the ultrawealthy. They certainly can't claim that liberals would be opposed to big government programs to assist the poor and elderly. By the increasingly binary logic that is American politics today, that leaves only the republican as the servants of the wealthy, the weapons merchants, and the slashers of social programs to assist the poor.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Endgame in Libya? It's move two in the chess game

It's truly amazing that Republicans have finally, FINALLY found a war they oppose, which is 2 two week long, minor little air attack. I'm sure they're shy of the "entanglement" that this could created. They don't mind being in Iraq or Afghanistan for 8 years with no end in sight. They didn't mind when Bush 41 committed US ground forces to Somalia. These missions didn't have clearly defined objectives, especially 2 weeks into them. They were all hugely costly in terms of money and American lives. How many American lives have been lost in the current Libyan intervention? Sarah Palin is beside herself complaining about the $600 million dollar cost of the operation when Iraq and Afghanistan combined cost thousands of times as much and still are not over. And how dumb do you have to be to be confused about what is going on in Libya? We're bombing Gadaffi's forces and (not so) secretly arming the rebels. Rightwing dunderheads want to know what the "endgame" looks like. Big clue here. This isn't even close to the "end game". We're not even at the middle game. They want to know how the last move of the game will look when we are at move two on the chessboard. Hint to armchair generals like Sarah: don't use chess metaphors when you don't even understand how shoots and ladders works. You want Obama to predict how things will turn out 37 moves in the future when you can't even figure out how the horsie moves. I will note that Saint Ronald bombed Libya in 1986, and it is part of right-wing orthodoxy that Reagan can do no wrong. Nobody asked what his "end game" was there. He just wanted to bomb Gadaffi, and that was good enough. Of course Obama would never be allowed the same license.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hypocritical war-hawks against Libyan operation

It's amazing how right-wingers have supported pretty much every war that Bush 43 ever started, but now have discovered their opposition to these same kinds of operations, the moment Obama became president. They had no problem with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan dragging on for many years after their optimistically promised deadlines, but now, by golly, they don't want foreign entanglements.

Operations in Libya have been going on for about a week and right-wingers have already insisted that we are in a quagmire, that there is no plan for an exit strategy, and despite the fact that nothing could be more clear or obvious to anyone with an an IQ greater than 50 as to what we are doing (no fly plus destroying pro-gadaffi heavy weaponry), they insist that they have absolutely no clue what the mission there is.

Granted, when right-wingers plead ignorance and stupidity, it's hard not to believe them. However, even they aren't dumb enough to truly be confused about the situation. Gas prices have skyrocketed since Libya became destabilized, and it is certainly in the US national interests (and indeed in NATO's interest) to restore stability.

However, the US did even better, going to the UN and the Arab League, and allies like NATO and securing promises from all of them that they would specifically confront genocide and war-crimes that Gadaffi and his supporters were committing and are still committing. These types of justifications have been used for many interventions, including George Bush 41's intervention in Somalia, which put American ground forces there for months, saddling the next president with a military morass that ultimately resulted in events like those described in Blackhawk Down.

The only thing more clear than the mission in Libya is the glaring hypocrisy of war-hawks who now pretend to oppose current operations with the flimsiest of excuses. They think the mission is too vague. Welcome to the fog or war. Most missions are vague. They think it's too costly. Please, it costs nothing compared to any of the other military conflicts we have engaged in recently, and the potential benefits outweight any conceivable costs by at least an order of magnitude (i.e. ten times).

I know that right-wingers are ignorant of a lot of things, but surely even they have heard the part of the Marine Hymn (you know, line one) that says, "From the Halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli...." Even several hundred years ago it was in our national interest to insure that matters in Tripoli (that's Libya for folks for still haven't figured that out) remain stable.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nuclear's Teenage Invincibility Syndrome

I see it everyday with teenagers. They all think that they are indestructible and therefore that nothing bad can ever happen to them. It is egotism, and wishful thinking too be sure, but at least teenagers have the excuse of youth. The nuclear industry constantly evinces a similar level of false confidence in the invincibility of their technology. Yet, they are far from invincible, as the events in Fukushima, Japan show all too clearly. The designs of these reactors were downright negligent and slipshod in terms of disaster preparedness. Even a smaller tsunami likely could have flooded the basement levels where their electric pumps and batteries were kept to circulate coolant. This design is about like giving a beer helmet to a teenage driver and expecting that he (or she) will use it solely for head protection.

Similarly, the cooling facilities for spent rods clearly are inadequate to prevent the release of radioactive materials in the case of emergency. The "invincible" plan was that water would always cool the rods. But what happens, as in the case in Japan, when these pools crack and spring leaks? What happens when the facility around it catches on fire?

Perhaps teenagers would believe that such systems were failsafe and foolproof, but the people of Tokyo, one of the most populous in the world, must now pay for the foolhardy and all too fallible presumptions of a nuclear industry that needs to finally grow up.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Radio Activism

There is a place for legitimate criticisms of the fat-cat, irresponsible, faked-safety-report culture in the Japanese nuclear industry. However, many concerns by opponents are completely overblown and their ignorance of the science makes all activists look uninformed. Take fears of radioactive iodine crossing the Pacific Ocean and possibly affecting people in California. Those trace amounts which do reach us will most commonly be I-131 which has a half life of 8 days. If it gets absorbed into plants and the plants grow for a month or two before harvest, and then are sent to the green grocer then, by the time it reaches your shopping basket, it would have been degraded by about 4 or 5 half lives, which effectively means there is none of it left.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Nuclear Industry Blames Everyone But Themselves

There was this attempt to rehabilitate nuclear energy a couple years back. A nuclear renaissance was announced. The problem, as always with nuclear, is that the industry is its own worst enemy. They had changed nothing about how they operate or how they plan to operate in the future. Sure they tell you about a million nifty new reactor designs they have, but they don't actually intend to build. Yes, those designs are safer and more convenient, but they would also be too expensive, or in some cases, not expensive enough, and they don't want either one of those scenarios. They want the multi-billion behemoth that has massive cost overruns. They claim that those darned protesters and alarmists are causing the cost overruns, but they secretly don't really mind spending more money, especially when Uncle Sam is guaranteeing the loan and kicking in huge subsidies to boot.

Unfortunately, the nuclear renaissance ground to a halt because nuclear power, in short order, did what it did best, which was tripping over its own feet and taking itself out of the game. Of course the Japanese reactor in Fukushima is 40 years old, built toward the end of the first nuclear golden age. However, it will likely spell the end of the second golden age before it even had much of a chance to get started.

That's the thing about nuclear power that must be so maddening for the fans. The harder it tries, the more spectacularly it fails. And right now the Japanese nuclear industry is flirting with epic failure.

The almost complete inability to respond in a real emergency situation underscores one of the real issues with nuclear power and not the phony ones about protesters or CO2 emissions. The real problem with nuclear is that it cannot insure itself against the risks it creates, because the risks are too large. No insurance company on the planet wants to insure nuclear reactors. The governments themselves have to provide this kind of insurance. Therefore, in the middle of real emergencies like Tsunamis, the government also has to scramble to clean up the mess left by a nuclear industry who always wants to cut corners and which has few incentives to act otherwise.
Indeed, why should they break their backs to insure safety when the government will always jump in and save their bacon in the end. It's not like these types of explosions and releases of radioactive materials hadn't happened in the past in Japan. Faked safety reports and slapdash concern for safety have been hallmarks of the industry for decades, since nuclear energy is a national priority, due to low fossil fuel reserves. However, the second unfortunate geographical fact about Japan is that they live in one of the most quake-prone areas of the world. There is a reason that we all use the Japanese word tsunami to describe what happened there.

Gosh, given the huge amount of geological activty, why does Japan produce so little power from geothermal anyway? Estimates are that they could produce dozens of gigawatts, with current technology. That might mean a dozen or so less nuclear plants, which would be a baker's dozen less headaches.