Mercury Rising 鳯女

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Archive for the ‘getting a clue’ Category

Welcome to the end of the world

Posted by Charles II on April 1, 2011

From a report by Gary Clark of RGE Monitor (subscription required), some statistics that I find troubling. Of the nuclear reactors planned, proposed, or under construction:

187 in China
63 in India
54 in Russia
22 in Ukraine
14 in Vietnam

Lesser numbers in such regulatory strongholds as Belarus, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, Iran, Mexico, and North Korea. And China is exporting its designs to such stable countries as Pakistan.

The US should, of course, close its obsolete plants, many of which are already leaking radiation. To do so would create the demand for the equivalent of 190 million metric tons of oil. Close behind the US are Russia, France, Ukraine, and Japan, where closure would raise the demand by almost 400 million metric tons. So, the combined loss from closure would be equivalent to nearly 3 billion barrels. That’s equivalent to about 10% of the world’s oil consumption. While the loss of this generation power would probably not be replaced with oil, in the short term, it would be replaced with another hydrocarbon, probably coal and gas.

Yes, a lot more could be done with solar and wind, but those work better in some places than in others and there are some bottlenecks in production, so the quick fix is hydrocarbons. This has led George Monbiot to–in my opinion mistakenly–make the case for nuclear power. Thanks to a suspect UN report, Monbiot believes that only a few people died from Chernobyl. He believes that the the reason there were even that many is that the authorities failed to take basic precautions such as distributing potassium iodide.

I would put my faith in Annal #1181 published by the New York Academy of Sciences (it does not represent an official viewpoint of the Society), in which Nesterenko et al make the case that a quarter of a million (!) people will die by 2056 from Chernobyl, and that the health of millions of people has been degraded, such that of children in the region (Belarus, Ukraine, and European Russia), only 20% are healthy, compared to 80% before the meltdown. And these effects are well known! We saw these effects after the atomic bombings of 1945, in which about as many people died from the effects of radiation as from the effects of blasts and injury.

Some nations, like Lithuania, Slovakia, Belgium, Ukraine, Hungary, and Switzerland are heavily (40-75%) dependent on nuclear power for electricity. China and India clearly want to make themselves dependent on nuclear. These dependencies will make it difficult to change course.

The Fukushima disaster should make it clear that nuclear accidents do not just kill people. They render people ill, they remove arable land from production, and they make marine life inedible (although fish are apparently remarkably resistant to radiation). The health effects do not just come from the short-lived isotopes like radioactive iodine (which can be countered by taking potassium iodide), but from the slow decay of plutonium, cesium, and strontium, which collect in the internal organs and bones to provide extremely intense exposure unshielded by even the skin.

Nuclear power is a disaster. We should change course. At the moment, it looks as if we likely will not do as we should.

There are millions of people who fear Armageddon in the form of the United Nations, antichrists, people with foreign accents, meteors, beasts from the sea, and so on. But as I wrote so very long ago, Armageddon is always with us. We choose the day that the world ends by our actions.

Posted in getting a clue, nukes | 7 Comments »

Obama to world on climate deal: “Take it or leave it.” World: “We’re leaving it. And you.”

Posted by Charles II on December 18, 2009

I don’t know how it was reported in the commercial media, but as seen through DemocracyNow! it looked as if America’s loss of stature is coming home to roost in the climate negotiations. Andrea Mitchell at NBC (on Rachel) said that it appears that Obama was not invited to a meeting between China and other nations and blundered his way in.

obama clearly ticked “wen” china’s premier sent jr aide to crucial meeting. was obama dissed by china? He never got 2nd one on one w/ wen

obama aides on af1 say he didnt barge in on leaders frm china,brazil,india s africa – thot he was seeing china alone, stumbled into caucus

Here’s the NYT reporting on it from John Broder:

The deal eventually came together after a dramatic moment in which Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton burst into a meeting of the Chinese, Indian and Brazilian leaders, according to senior administration officials. Mr. Obama said he did not want them negotiating in secret.

The intrusion led to new talks that cemented central terms of the deal, American officials said.

Sergio Serra, Brazil’s senior climate negotiator here, confirmed that Mr. Obama had joined a meeting of Brazilian, Indian, Chinese and other officials, although he did not say that Mr. Obama walked in uninvited.

The rest of the world was basically p–sed at Obama’s high-handed speech and his very brief stay at Copenhagen. This is an excerpt from Obama. Notice his failure to mention that the major holdout has been the US, including its Senator Ridiculous (R-Imhofe)

I just want to say to this plenary session that we are running short on time. And at this point, the question is whether we will move forward together or split apart, whether we prefer posturing to action. I’m sure that many consider this an imperfect framework that I just described. No country will get everything that it wants. There are those developing countries that want aid with no strings attached and no obligations with respect to transparency. They think that the most advanced nations should pay a higher price—I understand that. There are those advanced nations who think that developing countries either cannot absorb this assistance, or that will not be held accountable effectively, and that the world’s fastest-growing emitters should bear a greater share of the burden.

We know the fault lines, because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. These international discussions have essentially taken place now for almost two decades, and we have very little to show for it other than an increased acceleration of the climate change phenomenon. The time for talk is over.

In other words, “Take it or leave it, suckers.”

Some responses:

AMY GOODMAN: Lumumba Di-Aping, you have called two degree increase a suicide pact, yet we see these leaked UNFCCC documents that indicate current negotiations would lead to three degree increase. What do you mean by “suicide pact”? And what’s your reaction to these latest documents? Did you know about them?
LUMUMBA STANISLAUS DI-APING: … I read from the IPCC report. “In all four regions of Africa, and in all seasons, the median temperature [increase] lies between 3 degrees C and 4 degrees C, roughly 1.5 times the global mean response.” One hundred and fifty times, so a two degrees is not three; it’s actually 3.5 and above.

So, for me, it means simply I will accept the total destruction of my continent, her people, in Copenhagen. That, I would not do. That should not be asked of Africa, because it is effectively saying Africa is not the part of the human family.

AMY GOODMAN: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton just arrived here in Copenhagen, dealing with the questions of will these talks collapse and making her announcement about what the US is putting on the table. Naomi Klein, your response?
NAOMI KLEIN: Well, it was an extraordinary press conference, because it was really like just the most naked form of blackmail. She put this figure on the table. She said the US will contribute to a $100 billion fund, but only if the terms of their deal are agreed to by all of the countries here. So it was “agree to our terms.” And those terms are very clear. They’re kill the Kyoto Protocol, instead of legally binding emissions, transparency, which I don’t even know what that means, and no overall target, but these national plans. And as Jade has just outlined, those national plans do not meet the crisis. So it’s a horrible choice that the United States has put before the world: accept a completely unacceptable agreement that will not solve the climate crisis, or receive no money to deal with the effects of that crisis, which you are already living—the droughts, the floods, the malaria.

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] … The budget of the United States is $687 billion for defense. And for climate change, to save life, to save humanity, they only put up $10 billion. This is shameful. The budget for the Iraq war, according to the figures we have, is $2.6 trillion for the Iraq war, to go kill in Iraq. Trillions of dollars. But directed towards paying the climate debt, $10 billion. This is completely unfair.

SUNITA NARAIN: Well, I think if President Bush was in kindergarten, President Obama is in first grade, but nothing more than that.

Posted in Barack Obama, environment, getting a clue, global warming, world news | 14 Comments »

Our free press leaps to warn us…

Posted by Charles II on November 23, 2008

Why in %$#^ am I learning about this from Al Jazeera (via ICH), rather than from ABC or Newsweek or The San Diego Union-Tribune?

Oh. That’s right. The American free press barely exists. So this comes from the Qatari free press.

US economic and political power is set to decline over the next two decades and the world will grow more dangerous as the battle for scarce resources intensifies, a report by US intelligence agencies has predicted.

The current global financial crisis is the beginning of a weakening of the US dollar to the point where it becomes “first among equals”, said the National Intelligence Council’s (NIC) Global Trends 2025 report published on Thursday.

One of the main conclusions of the report is that “the unipolar world is over, [or] certainly will be by 2025”, said Thomas Fingar, the NIC’s deputy director, at a press conference in Washington DC.

China and India were likely to join the US at the top of a multipolar world and compete for influence, the report added.

Russia’s future was less certain, but Iran, Turkey and Indonesia were also seen by the report as gaining power.

“The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over scarce resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,” said the report.

Posted in capitalism as cancer, colonial wars, getting a clue, Media machine, mediawhores | Comments Off on Our free press leaps to warn us…

Prop 8: Responses From The Faithful

Posted by Phoenix Woman on October 14, 2008

Some churchly types explain why California’s Proposition 8 — the anti-gay initiative funded by the Mormons next door in Utah — is not a good thing.

Posted in gay rights, getting a clue | 2 Comments »

The Internet And The Millenials Are To Blame For All That Is Wrong With America! (And The Boomers Had Nothing To Do With It!)

Posted by Phoenix Woman on July 17, 2008

As georgia10 and Michael Connery point out, that seems to be what several finger-wagging Boomers are saying. (The biggest irony: One of the Boomers belching this Millenial-blaming bilge is none other than Iraq War cheerleader Thomas “Suck on this” Friedman.)

Posted in activism, getting a clue, Internet, Iraq war, Uncategorized | Comments Off on The Internet And The Millenials Are To Blame For All That Is Wrong With America! (And The Boomers Had Nothing To Do With It!)

Nice Guys Finish First

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 20, 2008

Really and truly, according to a study done at Harvard:

The Harvard University study involved 100 Boston-area college students playing the same game over and over — a punishment-heavy version of the classic one-on-one brinksmanship game of prisoner’s dilemma. The research appears in Thursday’s edition of the journal Nature.

Common game theory has held that punishment makes two equals cooperate. But when people compete in repeated games, punishment fails to deliver, said study author Martin Nowak. He is director of the evolutionary dynamics lab at Harvard where the study was conducted.

“On the individual level, we find that those who use punishments are the losers,” Nowak said his experiments found.

Those who escalate the conflict very often wound up doomed.

Neocons, are you listening?

Posted in getting a clue, Good Things, Law of Unintended Consequences | Comments Off on Nice Guys Finish First

Ha Ha Ha

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 8, 2008

This just cracks me up:

Russ Bennett, a board member of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, rose to speak last week at the local Lions Club meeting about the chamber’s support of the $6.6 billion, 10-year transportation package that was made law over Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto.

“I figured I would be bloodied,” said Bennett, a small-businessman from Willmar.

“I got applause, and a lot of it.”

Mike Wigley, the founder of the decade-old Taxpayers League of Minnesota, a vocal anti-tax lobby, this week encouraged like-minded folks to drop their chamber memberships in retaliation for the organization’s helping write legislation that includes a 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike by the end of this year and 8.5 cents by 2013.

Chamber CEO David Olson said that he’s aware of two cancellations from the 2,400-member group.

“I expected more,” he said.

No wonder Marty Seifert — GOP Minority Leader and (Rich) Taxpayers League button-man — has been looking so pissed off lately. Minnesota businesses have seen the effects of two decades’ worth of Grover Norquistian “starve the beast” tax slashings on state and local government and infrastructure (collapsing bridges anyone?), and even the members of the normally tax-phobic local Chamber of Commerce realize that they don’t like seeing Minnesota going from first-world to third-world status:

And remember: The gas tax hasn’t been raised in 20 years. Inflation has eroded the current 20-cent-per-gallon tax, as construction costs have climbed. Congestion, bad roads and weak bridges have become a priority for employers who say transporting workers and products wastes too much time and contributes to lost productivity.

The bill also allows the seven-county metro are to impose a quarter-cent sales tax to fund more mass transit to the tune of about $100 million annually. Chamber lobbying kept this to half of what transit proponents wanted. Still, that funding will help take more people out of cars and put them on buses and trains. Mass transit ridership is rising in the Twin Cities area.

Moreover, raising the gas tax slightly will allow Minnesota to tap into millions of federal matching dollars for road improvement and congestion-reduction projects that it has missed in the past.

The chamber also worked in a provision that permits study and review of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s planning, bidding and construction to ensure that the agency and vendors are delivering value at reasonable cost.

“We did a lot to make this bill better,” said the chamber’s Olson, who took political heat for supporting a veto override of the Republican governor. “The all-or-nothing strategies of the last few years weren’t working.

“Our members told us that the cost of doing nothing was more expensive than doing something.”

No kidding.

Posted in 'starving the beast', (Rich) Taxpayers League, getting a clue, Good Things, GOP bullying, Grover Norquist, infrastructure, Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty, when government is a good thing | 4 Comments »

Transforming The Debate

Posted by Phoenix Woman on March 1, 2008

Digby has a good piece on the necessity to transform the debate and undo the four decades of increasing right-wing control and framing of it.

The thing is that it has to be a collaborative effort between politicans and sane-media sources.  Republicans knew the value of getting every one of their memebership on board with using Gingrich’s and Norquist’s talking points — that’s why Jeffrey Feldman pushes framing so much on our side.

In addition, we need more sane media.  Not just another blog, but a TV network or a really strong radio network.  We need to reach people where they’re most likely to hear us:  At work, in their cars/buses/trains while commuting, or in the evening during the supper hour.

Posted in beat the press, big money, Bush, Bush Family Evil Empire, BushCo malfeasance, Busheviks, capitalism as cancer, Democrats, getting a clue, GOP/Media Complex, real journalism, Republicans | 1 Comment »

Wow! Someone At GM Actually Has A Brain And Is Not Afraid To Use It!

Posted by Phoenix Woman on January 15, 2008

Check this out:

General Motors, eager to ensure a supply of fuel for the big fleet of flex-fuel ethanol-capable vehicles it is building, has joined the rush into alternative energy and invested in a company that intends to produce ethanol from crop wastes, wood chips, scrap plastic, rubber and even municipal garbage.

Rick Wagoner, G.M.’s chairman and chief executive, announced the investment on Sunday in a speech at the opening of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The company purchased an equity stake in Coskata, a start-up company in Warrenville, Ill., that plans to make ethanol without using corn. G.M. would not say how much it paid or how big a stake it took in the company.

Coskata plans to build a pilot-scale plant this year in Warrenville, William Roe, the president and chief executive of Coskata, said in a briefing with reporters last week. It has demonstrated all the phases of its technology but has not linked them together in an operating plant, he acknowledged.


Coskata is one of many companies, and far from the leader, in an emerging world of start-up firms that are making alternative fuels with a mix-and-match approach to existing technologies. In Coskata’s case it is a combination of gasification and bacterial action.

The first step is cooking the raw feedstock into synthesis gas, a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide. That gas is cooled and fed to bacteria that consume it and excrete ethanol.

Coskata is not the only company pursuing the gas-to-bacteria-to-fuel route, but claims its process gives more ethanol per ton of raw material — 100 gallons — and uses less water, less than one gallon for each gallon of ethanol.

If it can be done economically, the Coskata process has three large advantages over corn-based ethanol, according to General Motors. First, it uses a cheaper feedstock that would not compete with food production. Second, the feedstock is available all over the country, a crucial point since ethanol cannot be shipped from the corn belt to areas of high gasoline demand in existing pipelines.

In addition, the process appears to require less electricity and natural gas, meaning that making it would not release as much carbon. The product would qualify for a federal tax exemption for ethanol.

Mr. Roe said that “at full production, Coskata ethanol should be 50 cents to $1 cheaper than gasoline at the pump,” and that the total production cost would be under $1 a gallon when the fuel begins flowing in 2010 or 2011. Mary Beth Stanek, G.M.’s director for energy and environment, said the process showed “near-term readiness” and that no scientific work was involved to commercialize it.

Things to take away from this piece:

1) The process described is far more water-efficient than that for corn-based or even celluosic ethanol production. Corn-based ethanol uses five to six gallons of water for every gallon of fuel produced; it’s helping to suck once-full aquifers dry in the Midwest. To be able to get a gallon of fuel for twenty pounds of rubbish and less than a gallon of water (which itself could come from waste water) would be wonderful in more ways than I can describe at present.

2) Our landfills suddenly start shrinking, or at least stop growing.

3) Our carbon footprint shrinks.

4) Our air gets a lot cleaner.

5): The stuff should be cheaper than what we’re paying now at the pump, which in itself would be a big boost to our economy.

6) Of course, GM is doing this to save itself and the notion of “two cars in every garage”, an aspiration that’s spread well beyond our borders. But the technology shown here has applications that go well beyond the gas tank. Think of being able to, for instance, switch from burning garbage for electricity to burning clean ethanol instead. This is something that can be used right now with minimal retooling of our infrastructure. At the very least, it can help tide us over until solar, wind and other renewable technologies grow to the point of shouldering our energy load, which is I’m sure what GM is thinking about. They’ll have to go electric sooner or later, but if they can use this to finance the transition (and shrink America’s landfills while they’re at it), it’s all good.

Posted in doing the right thing, economy, energy, environment, getting a clue, global warming, Good Things | 5 Comments »


Posted by Phoenix Woman on December 15, 2007

Okay, I assume y’all know about James “blacks aren’t smart” Watson’s being such a friggin’ lyin’ racist pig that he is no longer considered a reputable scientist?

What about that crack about black employees? I ask. Are we just genetically predisposed to the bucket and broom? “Behavior as Watson describes it is not genetic,” Pollack responds. “That too has been tested, reproduced, published, established. He’s not been honest about the data already in hand, and that to me is the one failing no serious scientist can let pass. I wish he would say he’d gotten the facts wrong, and then his apologies might lead to social changes that would give them some force. So far, he’s gone down another path: he’s made his initial remarks even worse by suggesting that data on the role of childhood experience, as shaped by nature versus nurture, are not yet in, and that when they will be in, we will know that one’s DNA is indeed one’s fate. But the facts are in, and the results are just the opposite. Watson is just wrong. And what’s alarming–shocking even–is that he ought to know he’s wrong.”

Well, guess who probably had a black great-grandparent:

JAMES WATSON, the DNA pioneer who claimed Africans are less intelligent than whites, has been found to have 16 times more genes of black origin than the average white European.

An analysis of his genome shows that 16% of his genes are likely to have come from a black ancestor of African descent. By contrast, most people of European descent would have no more than 1%.

The study was made possible when he allowed his genome – the map of all his genes – to be published on the internet in the interests of science.

“This level is what you would expect in someone who had a great-grandparent who was African,” said Kari Stefansson of deCODE Genetics, whose company carried out the analysis. “It was very surprising to get this result for Jim.”

My guess is that it’s probably from his father’s side of the family, as they would have more opportunities to meet black people in the 19th century; his mother’s family came from Ireland and Scotland, and Ireland for one had comparatively few black people prior to the 1990s. (Though I do like the idea that Watson could be related to this famous black Scotsman, also named Watson.)

Posted in eedjits, getting a clue, racism, rightwing moral cripples | 1 Comment »