Let's negotiate. I understand that you want to repeal Obamacare, or at least delay it for a year. Now let me tell you what I want:
Let's negotiate. I understand that you want to repeal Obamacare, or at least delay it for a year. Now let me tell you what I want:
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Steve Benen today adds his take to the points I made in posts over the weekend about unfolding events in Syria, and the massive messaging problem the right-wing propaganda noise machine of the conservative media entertainment complex is having. The right struggles to hide its disappointment with diplomatic progress:
A couple of years ago, after the United States and its allies used military force to help remove the Gadhafi's government from Libya, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) issued one of my favorite Republican press releases ever. The two senators, who had eagerly spent months touting U.S. military action in Libya, issued a joint statement commending the "British, French, and other allies, as well as our Arab partners, especially Qatar and the UAE."
McCain and Graham eventually said Americans can be "proud of the role our country" played, but they nevertheless condemned the Obama administration's "failure" to act in Libya the way the GOP senators preferred.
It was striking at the time for its bitterness -- the United States had achieved its strategic goals, but instead of celebrating or applauding Obama's success, Republicans pouted and whined.
It's funny how history sometimes repeats itself. Over the course of six days, the Obama administration pushed Syria into the chemical weapons convention, helped create a diplomatic framework that will hopefully rid Syria of its stockpiles, successfully pushed Russia into a commitment to help disarm its own ally, quickly won support from the United Nations and our allies, and did all of this without firing a shot.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Announcement from the Physicians for Social Responsibility and 35 other local and national organizations:
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Announcement from the Physicians for Social Responsibility and 35 other local and national organizations:
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
I previously posted about the $30 billion dollar border security "surge" amendment by Tea-Publican Senators Bob Corker and John Hoeven in the U.S. Senate "Gang of Eight" comprehensive immigration bill. The price for GOP nativism and racism: $30+ billion wasted dollars.
Our own Senator John McCain said, "I mean this is not only sufficient, it is well over-sufficient. We'll be the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall. That's why I think this amendment was very important." Sen. McCain: US will have 'most militarized' border since Berlin Wall.
One has to question why McCain longs for a Berlin Wall in the United States, because we are all about "freedom!" Are we now the "evil empire" of the Soviet Union in McCain's fevered dreams?
Apparently our purported military "genius" -- according to the Sunday morning bobblehead shows -- is unfamiliar with the famous quotation from General George S. Patton: "Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man." The Berlin Wall is a primary example.
Last week, Ezra Klein posted about a study by Princeton University's Doug Massey, one of the nation’s preeminent immigration scholars. Everything you know about immigration is wrong:
Everything you know about immigration, particularly unauthorized immigration, is wrong.
[Massey] thinks we’ve wasted a whole lot of money on immigration policy and are about to waste a whole lot more.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
While the Christian Taliban is still working on its anti-abortion bill in the North Carolina Legislature, the Christian Taliban in the Republic of Texas Gilead wrapped up its work today, just in time for Sunday services!
The Texas Senate voted 19-11 early Saturday to pass sweeping restrictions on abortions, the conclusion of a weeks-long standoff over reproductive rights in the state.
Although the bill’s passage was all but assured, opponents still turned out in droves. One T-shirt favored by protesters invoked another lost cause: “This is Texas, baby. Remember the Alamo.” Fearing a disruption, Department of Public Safety officials confiscated anything that could be thrown from the gallery — leading some protesters to lose tampons, condoms, glitter and other potential projectiles.
Tampons of mass destruction -- who knew? You can carry a gun in the Texas Lege, but security will confiscate tampons? Wow.
“The fight for the future of Texas is just beginning,” said Sen. Wendy Davis (D) as the vote on the legislation she successfully filibustered last month neared.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
In this new series, "Questions for Martha McSally," we pose questions to the McSally campaign about her positions on current hot topics -- I am not going to give her a free pass until after the GOP primary like our local media did in 2012.
Preface: The GOP war on women continues unabated. Halfway Through 2013, States Have Already Enacted More Than 100 Provisions Related To Reproduction, according to a new report from the Guttmacher Institute. On Thursday, the North Carolina House Passed New Restrictions on Abortion. The Texas Senate takes up abortion this afternoon.
In 2012, the Arizona legislature enacted a 20-week ban on abortions, and attempted to defund Planned Parenthood clinics. Both measures have been enjoined by the federal court as violative of federal law, and the constitutional right to a abortion recognized in Roe. v. Wade.
The Arizona legislature also enacted a law granting an exemption to religious organizations to provide contraception coverage in health care insurance, and a Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) law creating arbitrary standards that apply only to abortion clinics and providers aimed at closing down abortion clinics. A bill for unannounced surprise inspections of abortion clinics died late in the legislative session this year, because it would have been in violation of a court decision.
Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) last month introduced a similar 20-week ban on abortions in Congress to extend the ban to all states, which the GOP controlled House recently approved.
Martha McSally frequently refers to herself as a "woman warrior" (because she was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force). But will she be a "warrior for women"?
What is Martha McSally's position on women's access to health care, contraception, and safe and legal abortions?
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Yet another hero emerges from the resistance to the Christian Taliban's war on women in the Republic of Texas Gilead. We need more people like Sarah Slamen who are fearless and willing to speak truth to power. Ann Richards and Molly Ivins would be proud of this fearless Texan woman. Texas woman pulled off Senate floor after fiery testimony against abortion bill:
Sarah Slamen left her home in central Texas at 5:30 a.m. Monday to testify at the Austin Senate against the state’s controversial abortion bill. She didn’t get to speak until 11:00 pm that night, after listening to hours of what she described as a “parade of anti-choice zealots and misogynists.” By the time she was called, Slamen had scrapped her prepared speech about Gov. Rick Perry’s sister’s ties to surgical centers and doctor-owned hospitals that would benefit from the bill’s passage, and went for the senators themselves.
“Thank you for being you, Texas legislature,” Slamen said. “You have radicalized hundreds of thousands of us, and no matter what you do for the next 22 days, women and their allies are coming for you. Let’s start down the line. Senator Campbell, you’re an ophthalmologist. So I won’t be making you the expert on reproductive health. We can give you all the children with chlamydia and herpes in their eyes, since we don’t have Sex Ed in this state.”
Video below the fold.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
From the White House blog, President Obama is Taking Action on Climate Change:
On Tuesday afternoon, President Obama will speak at Georgetown University and lay out his vision for the steps we need to take to prepare our country for the impacts of climate change and lead the global effort to fight it. In the video below, he describes why this is the time to take action. Watch it, then share the video with your friends.
Video below the fold.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
When they are not wasting time on meaningless symbolic votes to repeal "ObamaCare" for the 39th time to give every member of their caucus a chance to vote against it, they are wasting their time on other meaningless symbolic votes to appease the crazy base, like this.
On Tuesday, House Republicans wasted the day approving the most restrictive anti-abortion bill considered in Congress in the last decade, the unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban bill sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. U.S. House passes bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy:
The House approved legislation Tuesday that would ban abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy, the most sweeping abortion restriction to pass any chamber of Congress in a decade. The vote was 228 to 196.
For those of you scoring this bill, six Republicans voted against it, and six Democrats voted for it -- Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL 3), Jim Matheson (D-UT 4), Mike McIntyre (D-NC 7), Collin Peterson (D-MN 7), and Nick Rahall (D-WV 3) -- canceling each other out.
Under the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, abortions can be performed until the point when an individual doctor determines a fetus’s viability, which is generally defined as up to 24 weeks of gestation. After that point, the government can prohibit the procedure as long as it provides sufficient safeguards for the mother’s health and well-being.
* * *
Tuesday’s vote marks the first time Congress has voted to redefine the point where a fetus becomes viable [in a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, the real reason for doing this.]
As of 11 June 2013, H.T. Sánchez is the sole finalist in the search for a new Superintendent of TUSD. The Governing Board is soliciting comments.
Executive Summary: Dr. Sánchez is nowhere near qualified to be superintendent. He would make a fine cheerleader, but we should not trust him with the job of quarterback. The board needs to reopen the search and find somebody who is more of a scholar, a manager, and a leader.
All available evidence suggests that Dr. Sánchez tends to come down on both sides of critical issues. This indicates both a lack of character and a lack of fundamental management skills. The primary issue is his attitude: He’s more worried about not “violating somebody’s dignity” than about getting the right answer.
For a fuller discussion of the pros and cons and other details, continue reading here ....
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
They just can't help themselves. Despite GOP attempts to 'rebrand" after the 2012 election, their Tea Party radical extremists keep shooting off their mouths pursuing their misogynist war on women. Arizona's right-wing anti-abortion zealot, Rep. Trent Franks, was channeling Todd Akin (legitimate rape) in a committee hearing today. Rep. Trent Franks: Rate of pregnancies from rape ‘very low’:
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), whose measure banning abortions after 20 weeks was being considered in the House Judiciary Committee, argued against a Democratic amendment to make exceptions for rape and incest by suggesting that pregnancy from rape is rare.
“Before, when my friends on the left side of the aisle here tried to make rape and incest the subject — because, you know, the incidence of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” Franks said.
* * *
Democrats on the committee, including Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), responded by pointing to similar comments made by then-Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) in his 2012 Senate campaign. Akin suggested that the female body can prevent pregnancy from occurring after a “legitimate rape” — a claim that is not backed up by scientific research and for which Akin apologized.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Justice Department announced on Monday that it will allow the most popular morning after pill, Plan B, to be available over the counter to women of all ages, dropping its appeal of a federal court order. Obama Administration To End Age Restrictions On Plan B:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in a statement that it has “asked the manufacturer of Plan B One-Step to submit a supplemental application seeking approval of the one-pill product to be made available O.T.C. without any such restrictions” and “intends to approve it promptly.” Generic versions may also be eventually approved. The morning after pill prevents conception “if taken within 72 hours after sexual intercourse.”
The decision comes after a federal judge in April ordered the FDA to lift restrictions on the morning-after pill. The administration responded to the ruling by lowering the age restriction from 17 to 15, sparking the ire of health groups and district Judge Edward Korman, who, in a series of contemptuous opinions, called the administration’s defiance an insult to the intelligence of women” and “a charade” meant to stall his original order. Last week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the administration to make two-pill versions of emergency contraception immediately available over the counter to women of all ages.
Once upon a time, a man was arrested for a string of brutal bank robberies. He said
"You know that bank on Elm Street? I never robbed that. I swear! I've never been anywhere near that place!! What's your problem???"
That was beside the point, because he wasn't charged with robbing that particular bank. In fact, that was the only bank for miles around that he hadn't robbed.
I mention this because on Monday May 20th Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) published an opinion piece in the Washington Post: "Overheated Rhetoric on Climate Change Hurts the Economy" It uses the same bank-robber logic.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
It appears that the crazy train has left the station. The GOP's alleged boy genius, Ayn Rand fanboy Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), has offered his dystopian Randian vision for America's future.
But Ryan's radical vision is not the most radical. There are crazy people in the House GOP who are even more radical, who don't think that the Flimflam Man does enough damage.
The Republican Study Committee (RSC) has jumped into the fray with their own budget proposal. Think Progress reports, The Most Radical Proposals In The House Conservative Budget:
The Republican Study Committee (RSC), helmed by Chairman Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) released an even more radical plan than the official House Republican budget, which disproportionately guts programs for low-income Americans while giving even bigger tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The RSC budget purports to eliminate the deficit in just 4 years and limit total discretionary spending to $950 billion, the lowest level since 2008. In order to achieve this goal, the RSC cuts non-defense spending by $6 billion over four years, while the GOP budget slows spending growth over the same period.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The "big story" in the City of Tucson: mysterious loud booms heard over the Tucson valley around 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday night. Tucson atwitter over loud boom tonight.
I got news for you Inspector Clouseau, there was also a similar loud boom earlier in the morning -- it shook the windows in the building I was in. How'd you guys manage to miss that one?
Anyway, our crack reporters have been unable to confirm what caused these mysterious loud booms. It's time to call in Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, the publisher of Legendary Times who appears in the History Channel's Ancient Aliens and UFO Hunters.
It had to be aliens ... "It's the only logical conclusion."
K-GUN 9 News video below the fold.
UPDATE: Buzzkills . . . a fact-based, rational, scientific explanation to a perfectly good alien conspiracy theory. Luke F-16 produced boom that rattled windows in Tucson.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
In 1908, Siberia experienced a massive meteor explosion known as the Tunguska Event:
At 7:14 a.m. on June 30, 1908, a giant explosion shook central Siberia. Witnesses close to the event described seeing a fireball in the sky, as bright and hot as another sun. Millions of trees fell and the ground shook.
* * *
The blast, centered in a desolate and forested area near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in Russia, is estimated to have been a thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The explosion leveled an estimated 80 million trees over an 830 square-mile area in a radial pattern from the blast zone. Dust from the explosion hovered over Europe, reflecting light that was bright enough for Londoners to read at night by it.
Russia just experienced another meteor explosion event, caught on videotape. This meteor appears to have been much smaller than the Tunguska Event, and caused far less damage, but it did cause damage to a populated area.
Here is a news report from Russia Today about the meteor explosion event (below the fold).
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
You remember Judy Burges (R-Skull Valley) or alternatively (R-Sun City West), don't you? Then Rep. Judy Burges was the "Birther Queen" who did not believe President Obama was born in the U.S. and that he was a "secret Muslim." The Birther Queen wanted President Obama to provide proof of his birth in the U.S., and inferred that there should be a religious test for office in violation of the U.S. Constitution, Article VI, Section 3. Legislator: No Obama on ballot if he can't prove US birth.
And who can forget her Tea Party World Nut Daily conspiracy theory against the United Nations Agenda 21 “sustainable development” plan: "an insidious attack on American sovereignty in an effort to build a one-world order." Arizona Bill Would Ban UN Agenda 21 Within State. "The blue helmets are coming!"
Now Sen. Judy Burges wants to be the Grand Inquisitor of the Tea-Publican Inquisition against climate science, and require teachers to teach children that climate scientists are blasphemers and heretics. "They are witches! Burn them at the stake!" AZ bill would let teachers dismiss global warming:
[A] state senator wants to free teachers to tell students why some believe there is no such thing as human-caused "global warming."
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The New York Times in an editorial opinion today makes the point that What We Don’t Know Is Killing Us:
In one of the 23 executive orders on gun control signed this month, President Obama instructed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal science agencies to conduct research into the causes and prevention of gun violence. He called on Congress to aid that effort by providing $10 million for the C.D.C. in the next budget round and $20 million to expand the federal reporting system on violent deaths to all 50 states, from the current 18.
That Mr. Obama had to make such a decree at all is a measure of the power of the gun lobby, which has effectively shut down government-financed research on gun violence for 17 years. Research on guns is crucial to any long-term effort to reduce death from guns. In other words, treat gun violence as a public health issue.
But that is precisely what the National Rifle Association and other opponents of firearms regulation do not want. In the absence of reliable data and data-driven policy recommendations, talk about guns inevitably lurches into the unknown, allowing abstractions, propaganda and ideology to fill the void and thwart change.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Ask any cop or medical professional and they will tell you that gun violence is a health care epidemic in this country. And it is not just suicides, accidental shootings and intentional shootings, but the use of guns to threaten and intimidate in cases of domestic violence, and other instances of assault and battery.
The NRA convinced members of Congress to prohibit any federally funded research into gun violence as a health care issue back in the 1990s. Willful ignorance allows the NRA and the weapons manufacturers it represents in Congress to argue in the abstract because they have prevented the collection of any hard scientific data for this health care epidemic. It is easy to argue that "there is no evidence" when one has prevented scientific research into the empirical evidence.
When President Obama announced his gun violence policies recently Gun Violence Fact Sheet (.pdf), it included this provision:
PRESERVE THE RIGHTS OF DOCTORS TO PROTECT THEIR PATIENTS AND COMMUNITIES FROM GUN VIOLENCE: Doctors and other mental health professionals play an important role in protecting the safety of their patients and the broader community. The administration is clarifying that no federal law in any way prohibits doctors or other health care providers from reporting their patients' threats of violence to the authorities, and issuing guidance making clear that the Affordable Care Act does not prevent doctors from talking to patients about gun safety.
NOTE: I am re-posting this old story as a public service. There is some nasty shit... flu... out there now.
If it hadn’t been for the flu pandemic of 1918, I wouldn’t be here.
You see both of my grandparents lost their first spouses to the flu or complications from the flu. Grandma had two sons, and Grandpa had one. After they married in the early 1920s, they had two daughters, my aunt and my Mom. They built an early yours-mine-and-ours family and a 50+ year marriage on the tragedies of the largest pandemic in US history.
According to my Mom, Grandma was relieved that her first husband Charlie didn't have to go to World War I but was devastated when he died from the flu just a few years later. Lessons from the flu stayed with my Grandma her entire life. Learn Grandma's tips after the jump.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Aaron Kupchik, an associate professor of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware and the author of “Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear,” recently published this op-ed in the Washington Post. The NRA’s faulty school-security proposal:
Politicians, political commentators and many others greeted with derision the National Rifle Association’s proposal that armed security guards be posted in all U.S. schools.
Yet this negative reaction runs contrary to bipartisan school policy choices over the past two decades. Since the mid-1990s, schools across the United States have hired security guards, many of whom are armed, and stationed police officers in their buildings full time. The New York City public school system alone has a dedicated police force, the NYPD School Safety Division.
This costly, nationwide expansion of police and security is financed by school districts, local police forces, states and even, in part, the federal government, which has provided funds for police-school partnerships since the Clinton administration. The expansion of police into schools over the past 20 years is very popular; there is no political resistance or even a critical dialogue about it in either major party. In my own research, I have found that administrators, teachers and often parents want more police and security guards in their schools.
by Will Greene
Superb blogger David Roberts of Grist recently gave a TEDx Talk that expertly lays out the climate threat we all face, using only the latest peer-reviewed science (read a new report led by ASU scientist Nancy Grimm showing climate change is changing ecosystems and affecting species at a more rapid rate than previously expected). If this video doesn’t motivate you to care about the issue, I’m not sure what will. I recommend watching all the way through, it is worth the 15 minutes.
Roberts details the short and long-term ramifications of our current emissions path. While most of the climate focus remains on how carbon emissions will affect our lives in the 21st century, more insidious is how our actions today will impact humans inhabiting the planet one hundred or two hundred years from now. As distant and detached as that amount of time may make us feel, there will indeed be people going about their lives in 2300. And they will certainly not appreciate “Venus-like conditions” leaving any shot at a global economy resembling anything close to ours in the 21st century, impossible.
Consider the example we are setting for future generations. Despite the alarm bell being rung, and rung loudly, by the scientific community (and most recently the economic development-focused World Bank, and accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers) we are knowingly choosing to exploit fossil energy sources full steam ahead, with perhaps the apex of our stupidity coming in the presidential debates where the contenders fell over themselves declaring their love for fossil fuels, and the greatest threat to humanity was not mentioned.
book review posted by John Denker
The New New Deal is a recent book by Michael Grunwald. It is very interesting, important, informative, readable, thorough, and persuasive. It revolves around the so-called Stimulus Act of 2009. There are three parts to the story: (1) The economic collapse and the election in the autumn of 2008; (2) the drafting and passage of the Stimulus Act in the winter of 2008–2009; and (3) the implementation and the consequences from 2009 to 2012.
I wish everybody would read this book, in order to know what was done and how well it worked. This is important, because many of the same policy issues are still with us, in connection with today’s fiscal negotiations and in the longer term, forever. We need public support for making the right decisions.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
I heard reported on the news the other day that one in eight people are concerned about the Mayan Apocalypse on Friday, December 21, 2012. Just do a Google search for "Mayan Apocalypse" and you will be shocked at the level of superstition and ignorance that exists in the 21st Century around this subject. There is an entire cottage industry built around the Mayan Apocalypse (I hope that we never have to hear about it again after this weekend.)
It turns out that NASA has been working overtime this week to calm people's irrational fears. NASA rebuts the Mayan doomsday:
As you may be well-informed at this point, the Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21, 2012, leading to many predictions that the world will collapse just a few hours from now.
Not so fast, say scientists at NASA: The federal agency is so certain that our world will not end that they have already released a video (below the fold), dated Dec. 22, explaining why the world did not end on the day prior.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Too funny! Great catch by Steve Benen. Jan Brewer struggles to draw a crowd:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer hosted a meeting of the Western Governors Association over the weekend, where she was scheduled to deliver a speech on energy policy. Beforehand, the governor chatted with local TV station KTVK, which asked whether Brewer believes in climate change.
"Everybody has an opinion on it, you know, and I, you know, I probably don't believe that it's man made," she said. "I believe that, you know, that weather elements are controlled maybe by different things."
Once the interview was over, Brewer asked the local reporter, "Where in the hell did that come from?"
Of course. Because nothing's more outlandish than asking a governor about climate change before a speech on energy policy.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
National Geographic News reported this week, Polar Ice Sheets Shrinking Worldwide, Study Confirms:
The polar ice sheets are indeed shrinking—and fast, according to a comprehensive new study on climate change.
And the effects, according to an international team, are equally clear—sea levels are rising faster than predicted, which could bring about disastrous effects for people and wildlife.
Rising seas would increase the risk of catastrophic flooding like that caused by Hurricane Sandy last month in New York and New Jersey. Environmental damage may include widespread erosion, contamination of aquifers and crops, and harm to marine life. And in the long term, rising seas may force hundreds of millions of people who live along the coast to abandon their homes.
by Pamela Powers Hannley
Check out this historic video of an alternative universe where President Al Gore became president.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Science geeks and Trekkies rejoice! NASA engineers threaded the eye of the needle and successfully navigated the "seven minutes of terror" descent to the surface of the red planet. The Mars Rover "Curiosity" has successfully landed on the surface and is sending back pictures. Curiosity rover touches down on Mars:
NASA’s rover Curiosity touched down deep in a Martian crater early Monday after a picture-perfect descent and landing, beginning what promises to be one of the most ambitious planetary missions in history.
Jubilant NASA engineers and scientists let out a loud and prolonged whoop when the data came in indicating that the one-ton rover had touched down. It remains unknown exactly what shape the $2.5 billion rover is in, but the fact that it survived its “seven minutes of terror” descent was cheered like the grandest Olympic triumph.
The descent and touchdown were tracked by the Mars orbiter Odyssey, which allowed Curiosity to send black-and-white “fisheye” (wide-angle) images within minutes of the rover’s wheels on the ground.
Described by top NASA officials as their “mission of the decade,” the just-delivered rover will search for the building blocks extraterrestrial life as well as investigate how and why Mars turned from a wet and warm planet into the dry and cold place it is now. The complex, precision landing and sophisticated instruments being used on the mission could hasten the day when humans fly to Mars as well.
“We’re on the surface of Mars,” said Allen Chen, voice of master control for the mission. (In this image from NASA TV, shot off a video screen, one of the first images from the Curiosity rover is pictured of its wheel after it successfully landed on Mars. HANDOUT - REUTERS).
* * *
The many milestones in the descent were met with loud applause and relieved laughter as one bit of good news came in after another.
“We’re about to do something that I think is just huge for humankind — put this chemistry lab on the surface of Mars that can rove, that can see, and that’s going to provide scientists on Earth a glimpse into the past history of Mars,” NASA’s chief scientist John Grunsfeld concluded a few hours before the landing.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
From the Washington Post, Mars rover Curiosity set to land in ‘7 minutes of terror’ on Monday:
After a journey of 354 million miles, a spacecraft approaching Mars at 13,200 mph is on course to land inside its sweet spot early Monday.
The landing is one of the riskiest ever tried, and the descent is what NASA officials call “seven minutes of terror.”
Nonetheless, the spacecraft carrying the Mars rover Curiosity is on target “to fly through the eye of the needle” and touch down within its five-by-13-mile landing elipse, said Arthur Amador, mission manager of the Mars Science Laboratory. “We’re . . . in as good shape as we could hope for.”
Yet with so much riding on the $2.5 billion mission, he said at a news conference, “we’re often reminding each other to keep breathing.”
The spaceship is on course to enter the Martian atmosphere at 1:24 a.m. Eastern time on Monday.
Because the rover is so much larger, more complicated and more ambitious than earlier models, it has to land in a new and far more hazardous way. The landing, which could never be tested in full on Earth, includes a hovering rocket stage, a kind of sky crane, to lower it to the ground. NASA’s chief scientist John Grunsfeld has said that because of that heightened landing difficulty, in addition to the unprecedented sophistication of the instruments on board, Curiosity is “the most important NASA mission of the decade.”
Anxious engineers and scientists will be waiting for a touchdown “beep” — which comes as computer code — that will report a safe landing. It could come as early as 1:31 a.m.
Several hours of silence from Curiosity are quite possible, officials said, since the rover’s signals can be received only if the Mars orbiters that will relay its messages are in precisely the correct location.
But if nothing is heard from the orbiters or through the Deep Space Network after about 18 hours, said MSL deputy project manager Richard Cook, then it’s time to start worrying about the fate of the mission.
The Curiosity landing is shaping up to be an international spectacle. Formal “landing” parties have been scheduled from South Australia to Rome, from Israel to Crete; and in the United States from Atlanta to Seattle, Milwaukee to Honolulu.
NASA also has helped organize a landing gathering in New York’s Times Square, which will feature a large screen that will beam the streaming news from atop a building and high above the crowd.
Reaching, orbiting and landing on Mars is notoriously hard. In addition to the European Space Agency, nations including the United States, the former Soviet Union, Russia, China and Japan have sent missions to Mars since the late 1960s, but only about one-third of them have succeeded.
The United States is the only nation to land a vehicle on Mars and complete its mission, having done it six out of seven tries.
NASA’s confidence in the mission is reflected in the aggressive way it’s trying to bring it to the public, from landing-based X-box games to those many parties.
By Michael Bryan
I wasn't at all sure this moment would ever come, but...
You vetoed an incredibly shortsighted bill that put a quick buck for some political donors to some in your party ahead of the long-term health of a vital industry for this state, not to mention a vital scientific endeavor.
You did what was right. Today, you were the Governor of Arizona, not just the Governor of the AZGOP.
By Russell Lowes
Saving Energy Comes in Many Forms
“Saving Energy Series, Part I”
In 1973, at the height of the OPEC Oil Embargo, America was coming to grips with the concept of limited oil reserves. During that year, all companies, citizens and governments in the U.S. used a total of 77 quads of energy—that is, 77 quadrillion British thermal Units (Btu).(1)
Thirty-eight years later, the country’s annual consumption is 98 quads,(2) only 27% more than in 1973.
“Wait a minute,” you might ask, “our economy has expanded much more than that, right”? You would be right. Our economy expanded from $4.93 trillion to about $13.19 trillion. These figures are in 2000 dollars with the inflation adjusted out.(3) Yet, all of the energy that we use as Americans -- living in houses, driving everywhere, producing goods and services, governing our nation, states, counties and cities -- adds up to just 96 quads, just 27% more than almost 4 decades ago.
That means that we had a 267% increase in economic output, an increase that is radically more than the 27% energy growth. When you factor in our conversion from a medium manufacturing country in 1973 to a lighter manufacturing country today (manufacturing uses more energy than services) the energy equivalency needs to be adjusted downward. However, still, our improvement in energy consumed per dollar of economic output since 1973 is undeniably impressive.
This is illustrated by the table below.
So how did we do that? How did we increase our economic activity with so little energy expansion? We did so by saving energy. Saving energy falls into two categories: energy conservation through cutbacks in the use of energy, and what I will call energy efficiency, through improving the way goods and services are produced. This article and the table above, address only energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency includes producing more services like delivering packages around the country for less energy. It also includes producing more goods for the same buck, like reducing the plastic and metal in a radio that performs the same function.
How Are YOU Saving Energy Through Energy Efficiency?
In all likelihood, you are contributing to this increased energy efficiency. You may not even know that you are buying something that has been manufactured in a way that has improved in efficiency.
Take the clothes you are wearing. Since 1973, that first year of increased energy awareness in the U.S., clothing has been dyed using more effective technologies, like using electrostatic adherence techniques. That has allowed manufacturers to use less dye, which means producing less dye and reducing all the energy that used to go into manufacturing. You may not have even known it.
On the other hand, if you have changed the type of light bulbs you use, you probably do know that compact florescent lights save about 75% of the energy that old-fashioned incandescent bulbs use. These CFLs have improved in recent years to give better lighting. For example, the U.S. Government Energy Star-rated CFLs now start out with the same amount of light almost the instant you turn them on, the amount of mercury has been reduced, the light spectrum has improved, and the annoying hum has been eliminated.
Even some power plants have contributed to our energy efficiency gains. These power plants have increased their thermal efficiency, which means that for every 100 units of heat they produce, they now convert more of that heat to electricity. That reduces the need to produce so much heat (raw energy production) and pump so much water to cool these plants, which uses a tremendous amount of energy.
With that in mind, below is a graphic of the energy efficiency categories that will be helping America reduce its energy use per dollar of economic activity, or per average item bought. This is a projection of what might happen between now and 2020. The point of presenting this is to show the vast array of efficiency techniques that we both have been using and are still improving upon.
The improvement in energy efficiency since 1973 has saved more energy than all the additional energy expansion since that year. This will continue on into the future, and negate the need for additional power plants and oil consumption for transportation and more.
Above table: McKinsey Report finds that U.S. could save $1.2 trillion through 2020, by investing $520 billion in improvements. Kate Galbraith, “McKinsey Report Cites $1.2 Trillion in Potential Savings from Energy Efficiency,” New York Times, July 29, 2009,
(1) U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, http://www.eia.doe.gov/.../All_25th_Anniversary.xls and http://www.eia.doe.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/mer.pdf
(2) Data360, http://www.data360.org/dataset.aspx?Data_Set_Id=354
by David Safier
As more parts of the world face prolonged droughts or water shortages, desalination is on the rise. In California alone some 20 seawater-desalination plants have been proposed, including a $300m facility near San Diego. Several Australian cities are planning or constructing huge desalination plants, with the biggest, near Melbourne, expected to cost about $2.9 billion. Even London is building one. According to projections from Global Water Intelligence, a market-research firm, worldwide desalination capacity will nearly double between now and 2015.
Not everyone is happy about this. Some environmental groups are concerned about the energy the plants will use, and the greenhouse gases they will spew out. A large desalination plant can suck up enough electricity in one year to power more than 30,000 homes.
The good news is that advances in technology and manufacturing have reduced the cost and energy requirements of desalination. And many new plants are being held to strict environmental standards. One recently built plant in Perth, Australia, runs on renewable energy from a nearby wind farm. In addition, its modern seawater-intake and waste-discharge systems minimise the impact on local marine life. Jason Antenucci, deputy director of the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia in Perth, says the facility has “set a benchmark for other plants in Australia.”
The energy-recovery devices in the 1980s were only about 75% efficient, but newer ones can recover about 96% of the energy from the waste stream. As a result, the energy use for reverse-osmosis seawater desalination has fallen. The Perth plant, which uses technology from Energy Recovery, a firm based in California, consumes only 3.7kWh to produce one cubic metre of drinking water, according to Gary Crisp, who helped to oversee the plant’s design for the Water Corporation, a local utility.
So, I guess if you can find a particularly windy stretch of ocean, put up some wind turbines and a desalination plant, you're good to go.
That's it. We will now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.
NOTE: Right after I put up this post, I found a comment from Ben Kalafut that basically explained to me what I found out myself. Ben concludes, "if someone was to be looking for startup capital for opening up a cogenerating nuclear power/desalination plant in the Tijuana area that would sell water and electricity to the Californians, I'd put in a thousand dollars!"
Ben,Sen. Al Melvin is your man. He advocates putting a nuclear power/desalination combo in Sonora somewhere. Write that check and get in on the ground floor!
by David Safier
by Michael Bryan
Most people can rattle off many of the bad decisions and harmful policies of the Bush years. But one little-known policy vital to our national security and our economy that Bush worked very hard to get dead wrong is space-based weaponry. I wrote about the issue back in 2004 and again in 2006.
Obama has the foresight to take steps to rectify the situation in his first 100 days. I feel so much safer knowing that our national security is once again in the hands of someone who understands that true security requires more than just having more and bigger guns than everyone else, and a reputation for psychotic behavior.
by David Safier
(TASL) If you don't know about the threat of buffelgrass to Tucson's desert ecosystem, you need to educate yourself. Jim Kiser has an excellent op ed in today's Star, a group of scientists and politicians put together an eye-opening 10 minute video and the Bufflegrass Information Center website is filled with information.
Basically, buffelgrass is an invasive species that spreads through our desert and in a fire burns at high enough temperatures to wipe out saguaro and other native species. After the fire, buffelgrass will grow back, and the native species will be gone forever.
The problem is, how do we get rid of it? The two viable options are pulling the plants out by their roots and spraying them with herbicide.
I have an absolutely serious proposal for getting large, regular crews to pull out the stuff by its roots. Pay students to do it.
Here's how this would work. Let high schools know that students can earn $10 an hour to spend a weekend day pulling out buffelgrass. Send buses around to pick kids up from their high school parking lots. Take them to the work location, give them a half hour orientation explaining the problem, give them the necessary tools and adult supervision and put them to work. It's laborious but not overly strenuous work that healthy teens can accomplish easily. At noon, give them a hearty lunch and some time to play around, then set them to work again. Give them their checks at the end of the day, and drive them back to their school parking lots.
Let's look at the benefits of getting students involved. First, you have a huge labor market to draw on. If you pay a reasonable wage and advertise the opportunity in high schools, I'm willing to bet you can get enough students to send out crews on a regular basis. Lots of students can use the extra cash. And as an old high school teacher, I know that choirs and bands are forever fundraising for some trip or event. They hold car washes or do inventory in businesses or something like that. Can you imagine an entire school band out there digging up buffelgrass to get enough money to, say, march in the Rose Bowl parade?
Second, you get these young folks out into the natural world. Many of them have spent little time in what is known as the lushest, greenest desert in the world -- truly a natural wonder. I wrote earlier about the national No Child Left Inside movement. This is a natural component of the movement, where students not only find themselves in the midst of the unique Sonoran desert but actually help preserve its health and beauty.
Third, this would be an invaluable educational experience for students. It combines the value of public service with a hands-on education about the fragility of ecosystems. I know enough about teenagers to say that, once they've dug up buffelgrass in Sabino Canyon, they'll consider themselves part owners of the place. Every time they hear about the Canyon, they'll say proudly, "Yeah, I cleared the buffelgrass out of there." They may even visit the spot to see if the grass has come back. And every time they walk by a patch of the stuff, they'll say knowingly, "There's more of that damn buffelgrass. We need to do something about that crap. Did you know I spent hours digging that stuff up?"
"Why don't we just ask the students to volunteer?" some economy-minded reader might ask. "Because it won't work," I answer. You need an incentive to get them out there. The possibility of making $75 to $100 on a Saturday is a pretty big incentive.
"Where do we get the money?" that same reader might ask. My answer is, do you know how much a buffelgrass fire will cost, both in dollars and in lost Sonoran Desert? The price of paying students and adult supervisors is minimal in comparison. If it's a good idea, the question isn't, "Where do we get the money?" It's, "Why doesn't the government free up a few million dollars for this win-win solution to a potentially devastating problem?" We can spend a billion on a Stealth Bomber. How about spending what it costs to make the left wing of that plane to save our cactus forests?
This is all easy for me to say, of course. I just write words, post them and go on about my life. I'm not actually getting out there and helping to make this happen. It's a fair criticism, but I know my limitations. I don't have the personality or the connections to organize this kind of stuff. So I'm doing the best I can by putting the idea out there and hoping the right people figure out how to make something like this happen.
My friend Russell Lowes, a regular at Tucson's Drinking Liberally, has started a blog, Safe Energy Analyst, in which he's going to be writing regularly about issues surrounding the energy economy, emerging energy technologies and energy policy. I will be cross-posting many of his posts here at Blog For Arizona. I hope you'll check out his blog and give him the same great support you've given this site. I know he's looking forward to your comments and questions. He is structuring some of his work around a question and answer format, much like the current post, so send him your questions! ~Mike
The Conundrum of Energy Independence
by Russell Lowes
I was wondering, shouldn't we reduce our oil
consumption because so much of it is imported, and wouldn’t nuclear power be a
good source to depend on?
The nuclear energy industry answer usually goes something like this: America needs nuclear power to reduce its foreign dependency on oil. France became more energy independent because of its nuclear energy program. America needs to use all energy options, including nuclear, to make us more self-reliant.
I get a chuckle from this, because I too like self-reliance. I like the concept of relative energy independence. I think it would be wise to quickly wean ourselves off of foreign oil – and domestic oil. However, these statements are erroneous.
Number 1: The United States only has about 7-10% of the global supply (.pdf file, p. 29 of 48) of what’s left of uranium (See report titled Nuclear Power: Energy Security and Global Warming). I say “of what’s left,” because we are past the half-way point of consumption of the world’s currently mined level of high-grade uranium. We import over nine tenths of our uranium, compared to about two thirds of our oil. Does that sound like greater energy independence to you?
Number 2: France imports all of its uranium; hence France did not become more energy independent by going with more nuclear energy. As stated, the U.S. imports over 90% of its uranium. To give you a sense of how much material that is, I will explain:
One typical reactor in the U.S., at 1000 megawatts each, running for one year at full capacity requires about 200 tonnes of processed uranium (called yellowcake due to its texture and color. A tonne, also referred to as a metric tonne, is a measurement of mass equal to 1000 kilograms). This comes out to somewhere around 0.023 grams of yellowcake per kilowatt-hour. Sounds like a very tiny amount, doesn't it? The nuclear industry likes to promote such images of efficiency.
However, the ore which that yellowcake came from is currently mined is at a very small percentage of uranium. In the 1970s the common percentage, or assay level, was at .3% or 3000 parts per million (ppm). That means for every kilogram (1000 grams) of uranium produced, only an amount of only 3 grams of uranium was contained in the rock. Today the assay level has gone down to an average of 1500 ppm, or .015%. Soon, when uranium content goes down even further, the amount of ore mining will exceed the amount of coal extracted to produce the same amount of energy.
So, for one reactor to run for one year at full capacity, it takes about 1.3 million tonnes of ore. (It is actually more than this because they do not extract all the uranium.) This compares with a coal plant of the same capacity at 2.0 million tonnes of coal. There are much greater reserves of coal, with energy content staying very similar over the years. On the other hand, uranium is going down in assay level very quickly.
There are forecasters that say that the current assay level of uranium will be depleted within the next ten years. Assay levels will go down and down throughout the next 70 years or so (at current nuclear power levels), when the practically mine-able uranium is depleted. These analyses are well reasoned and rely on the nuclear industry's own data.
Again, the nuclear industry will tell you, while focusing on the smaller numbers, that it only takes a couple hundred tonnes per year of nuclear fuel to operate a commercial reactor. This is much less than it takes of coal or oil to produce the same amount of energy. BUT WAIT A MINUTE! Remember, they are talking about the finished product, not the raw product. Right now, when you look at the forty-year life cycle of a nuclear reactor, it takes more mining of uranium ore, by weight, than it takes of coal by weight, per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.
Ponder that for a moment. The uranium has reduced in quality over the last few decades and is now so low in percentage of uranium that it will take more earthmoving for nuclear power than it takes for coal. And compared to oil or natural gas, nuclear power's raw form of energy comes from ore that will far exceed the raw form of energy obtained from oil and gas. There are no open pit mines or mountain top removal for oil and natural gas!
Number 3: We need to use all of our options? That’s like a poor family trying to get out of the poor house by regularly eating at the most expensive place in town along with all the other food options. We’re in a pickle here. We need to use the most cost-effective solutions that are the least damaging to the environment, and best for people.
Number 4: The reality regarding nuclear power is that it has much less energy potential under our current nuclear power program technology, and that there is less energy to produce from the remaining uranium than from the oil, coal or natural gas.
So who really believes that nuclear power is good for energy independence? People who have not looked into the issue very deeply, that’s who. Or, people who have bought the nuclear industry’s claims hook, line and sinker. That hook is there for a reason.
There is a good deal of controversy in the environmental movement regarding how to continue generating energy to maintain our economic well-being while cutting or eliminating the energy industry's heavy carbon footprint (roughly 40% of carbon emissions are related to energy generation). There are some in the environmental movement, not to mention those in the nuclear industry, who point to nuclear power as a way to reduce carbon emission from the energy sector.
It is true that nuclear generation of electricity itself is not a significant source of carbon emissions, but there are serious economic feasibility, safety, and environmental issues, in addition to carbon emissions associated with the entire life-cycles of nuclear fuels and generation plants.
Southern Arizona is blessed with a number of experts on the industry and its environmental impacts. MyCommentary, records the viewpoints of local activists and concerned citizens. The project brings us the video commentaries of two local nuclear activists, Russell Lowes, and Jack Cohen-Joppa. I share those commentaries with you here:
Commentary by Mr. Cohen-Joppa
Commentary by Mr. Lowes
In addition, the local public affairs program, Political Perspectives with Cynthia Dickstein, covered the nuclear issue recently with Jack Cohen-Joppa and Russell Lowes as her guests. They were joined by Arizona environmental justice advocate Steve Brittle for a panel discussion that constitutes an excellent primer on this topic.
More after the click...
The position of County Attorney is a very demanding one, requiring an astute political sensibility. The County Attorney must meet the high standards of ethical behavior required of a prosecuting authority and negotiate a legal minefield where any slip could have grave consequences for both those of accused of crimes and the victims of crime, all while being essentially a political animal who is answerable to the local electorate. A good County Attorney requires the ability to see every issue from multiple perspectives and to be very prudent about one's political choices. The County Attorney must understand the legal and ethical ramifications of every political act he or she takes to effectively lead the office.
Barbara LaWall has been laudably and rightly pressing the state legislature to fund a new Department of Public Safety Southern Arizona Regional Crime Lab for some time now. The existing facility is an over-crowded, retrofitted stop-gap rather than a purpose-built facility, and presents several environmental, work-place safety, and, most importantly, evidence integrity issues that could impact the work of police forces and prosecutors throughout southern Arizona.
Lobbying of the state legislature by a County Attorney on behalf of the southern Arizona law-enforcement community and DPS is one of those inherently political acts that requires great foresight and sound judgment of the legal and ethical consequences. The political benefits of giving one's law-enforcement community constituents the tools they need is obvious. So is the publics' support for forensic evidence processing that reduces errors and promotes catching more criminals. What might not be obvious is the potential down-side of a County Attorney advocating for this needed improvement.
Well, when you are asking for millions for a new facility, you might want to show how many problems there are with the current facility. To do that you might want to give specific examples of how the existing facility undermines law-enforcement's mission. That's well and fine. But now imagine you want to get the most political mileage possible out of your advocacy - you want to be seen championing improving the quality of law-enforcement facilities in the community. You might want to make - I don't know - a video of yourself personally making an appeal for help and narrating personally the problems with the DPS regional lab. Sounds like a great idea, no?
Well, actually, no. You see, in personally denigrating the operations of an working facility that is processing forensic evidence for cases that your office is currently prosecuting, you have put yourself in the tricky legal position of publicly throwing doubt on the results of the lab your office uses to lock people up. Well, Barbara LaWall did opt to appear personally in an 11 minute DPS-sponsored video discussing all of the many problems with the existing facility that would warrant a multi-million dollar investment by the State.
She did opt to narrate the entire sequence. UPDATE: Amelia Cramer, LaWall's Chief Civil Deputy points out that it is not LaWall narrating. It is someone who sounds quite a bit like her. My mistake. She did let her political instincts carry her away without putting on her legal and ethical hat to check that what she was doing politically wouldn't harm her office's work.
The result is that the defense bar are using her own words as evidence to undermine the work of the DPS lab, and even petitioning to have LaWall appear as an expert in their cases on the problems at the lab. So far, two county judges have dismissed such efforts, saying that there are other witnesses without a conflict available to testify. Attorneys of the defense bar are unlikely to let this issue go, however. That's just not how my peeps roll...
For the first time, in its entirety, online, for everyone to view and judge for themselves, is Barbara LaWall's video lobbying for a new DPS lab that has lately been the subject of news reports:
I knew there was a reason I've always liked this guy, despite his being on the wrong side of politics.
Tucson's own Dr. Richard Carmona, all around cowboy and former Surgeon General in the Bush Administration has come out swinging at the Administration's muzzling of him on important, but politically sensitive topic during his tenure. I'm not sure why Carmona has waited until now to speak publically. It would be interesting to hear if anyone thinks they know.
Here's the take-away quote from the good Doctor:
"Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is often ignored, marginalized or simply buried," he said. "The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds."
Our own Mohur Sidhwa, Chairperson the Democratic Party in LD 28 and First Vice-Chair of Pima County, recorded a commentary recently on science and religion and the necessary separation of the two. Mohur grew up amid sexism and religious intolerance in the land of her birth and escaped to a place she expected to be different. That difference is quickly being eroded. I wish Mohur had related more of her personal history in her commentary, but know that hers is the voice of experience, as well as that of wisdom.
The following is a posting by Guest Author Russell Lowes:
The media the Southeastern U.S. is pushing the resurgence of nuclear power as the solution to America's energy future quite uncritically. That may be because the epicenter for the new nuclear power industry is the old south, stretching from the Carolinas to Florida and Texas. The "new" vision for a nuclear-powered America is a re-hash of President Nixon’s plan for 1000 nuclear power plants, demonstrated by the promotional mantra the Bushies have rolled out:
"We need a thousand nukes."
While the media is hopping in Dixie, the media here in Arizona are nearly mute on this issue. Why? It could be because Arizona's only commercial nuclear plant has the worst U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission safety record in the country. It may be that John McCain wants to make it a centerpiece of his presidential campaign, and major media outlets here aren't willing to piss in his well. Or it could be because the conglomerates who own our media are giving Arizona Public Service, the manager of Palo Verde, the largest nuke in the nation (The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station has three reactors, with a total of 3810 megawatts output), time to get its financial house in order.
There is a lot of money at stake in reawakening the atomic power industry. Trillions, to be somewhat exact. Tens of them, to be still more exact. The industrial giants who stand to profit from a revivified nuclear power industry are seeking to bring the industry back from the economic grave it has mouldered in since the 1980s. Their aspirations indicate that, just as the planners of Iraq failed to internalize the lessons of Vietnam, nuclear industry boosters have failed to understand the reasons why the industry died the first time.
Let's examine the push for reawakening the nuclear industry through a very personal analysis. What might it do to you and I for nuclear energy to once again become a significant part of America's energy infrastructure?
Mortgage Tax Credit? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Mortgage Credit...
The Bush Administration wants the U.S. to build 1000 reactors. The last program, which built only 100 reactors, turned out to be an economic disaster, with billions and billions of dollars worth of nuclear plants canceled and more operating at steep subsidies. That orgy of reactor building left the ratepayers in those service areas, and taxpayers throughout America, under a heavy debt load to pay for the excesses of the power companies.
The atomic energy industry and the federal government are up to their old tricks again, but are even more audacious since they can count on the acquiescence and cooperation of an Administration that could care less about the public good. The industry and their enablers in this Administration are promising that it will be less expensive to build plants in the future than it was in the 1980s, knowing full well that construction cost overruns in the industry will once again be on the order of hundreds of percent, just as they were in the 1970s and 1980s.
Their scheme to pocket trillions in publicly subsidized construction costs threatens to cost you more than you save as a consequence of the tax credit for interest payments on your mortgage. Assuming you own, or are going to own a house, and your interest payments are a very modest $800 per month, or $9600 per year, the cost to you personally as a taxpayer to underwrite this nuclear building boom will far outstrip the tax savings homeownership affords you. If your mortgage is costing you $9600 per year in interest, the tax savings would likely be 20% of that, or $1920: call it $2,000 for simplicity.
One thousand atomic energy plants would cost you, and every other taxpayer, well over $2,000 per year. Those 1000 reactors would cost $5 trillion, conservatively. There is no way that ratepayers are going to be able to afford to finance this capital outlay through bonds or rate hikes, so the U.S. Government will have to step in to underwrite the program. When you add to the $5 trillion construction all the interest cost, taxes, insurance, the construction capital of these plants will cost well over $22.5 trillion over the next 40 years. If America’s average population during this time is 350 million people, the cost per person per year will be at least $2,143 per person per year. This is just for capital payback.Throw in the fuel cost, operation and maintenance and waste costs and you have trillions more to give away to the nuclear industry. Say goodbye to your home mortgage tax credit. With $2,143 per person per year going toward an outdated nuclear energy program, there may not be much money left for mortgage interest write-offs, or for sane energy options. And perhaps we can also forget any hope to afford national health care, serious investments in our educational system, public transportation, or any badly needed new government initiatives. Medicare, Social Security, and benefits for our armed services personnel could even be on the block to make room in the budget for such a big ticket item as Bush's 1000 new nukes.
We can't afford this Administration's pipe-dream to line the pockets of another favored industry. The alternative to such lightheaded thinking is to invest in the proven technologies of energy efficiencies, renewable power sources, while reducing our use of fossil fuels. Only one sixth of the power supplied in this country is supplied as electricity. The rest is supplied by car engines, space heating with gas, combined cycle heat production, etc. With only one sixth of our energy in electricity, and $750 billion per year going to supply less than one half of that sixth (i.e., less than one twelfth), how will we be able to afford development of other energy resources? We simply won’t. America's current total energy costs, including electrical generation and every other form of energy use, are about $900 billion per year. These “public servants” want to us to spend another $750 billion per year for 30 years, just to supply less than 8% of our total energy needs. Obviously, it will impossible for ratepayers to finance these sorts of outlays, to imagine that such a thing is even possible without a full-scale consumer revolt is absurd. Looked at in this bottom line fashion, the idea of supplying America's future energy needs with nukes just doesn't pencil out.
you might guess, the backers of this multi-trillion dollar plan have a
massive misinformation campaign. Pollution on the web is frequently
found. So where do you go for decent information on nuclear energy?
Here are some high-quality website addresses to browse, for starters:
Just What is the Value of $750 Billion Per Year?
-- The total annual energy budget of the U.S. is about 7% of GDP, or roughly $900 Billion per year.
-- This $750 billion is equal to 6% of the total $13 trillion 2006 Gross Domestic Product.
-- 128% of $586 billion Social Security budget for 2006
-- 179% of the $419 billion U.S. Department of Defense budget for 2006
-- 13 times of the $56 billion U.S. Department of Education budget for 2006
-- The war in Iraq is expected by some to cost $1.5 trillion by the time it is completed, IF it is completed relatively soon. This is two years of construction capital payback for 1000 nukes. If these figures pan out, building 1000 nukes will be like funding 15 Iraq wars over 30 years.
On a final note, if each 8% of our energy cost $750 billion per year (not to mention the extras like fuel cost), the dollars for energy in America would be roughly $9.4 TRILLION per year, instead of the current $900 billion we spend on energy.
Russell J. Lowes, a financial management consultant and the Research Director for Power Plant Analysts, is the primary author of a book on the nation’s largest nuclear plant upwind of Phoenix, “Energy Options for the Southwest, Part I, Nuclear and Coal Power." The book played a principal part in the cancellation of two additional reactors at the Palo Verde plant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
With how energy needs are changing learning about Earth's ecology as a child is becoming as important as doing some math worksheets to learn Algebra or even just coloring and having fun with coloring pages to keep the learning process going.
China today aimed a shot squarely across the bow of the Bush Administration's unrealistic plans to build unilateral military dominance in space. I've written about the background of the issue in the past, basically arguing that this Administration's initiatives to weaponize space risk setting off a costly and destabilizing arms race we cannot win.
China is warning the Bush Administration of the same thing. They are saying by their test that they may not be able to deploy the sophisticated weaponry in space we could, but that they have the ability and the will to compete with quick and dirty technology if forced. The sort of kinetic weapon China used spreads debris through heavily used, and commercially valuable, regions of space. China has signaled that they are willing to destroy the commercial viability of space technology if it means knuckling under to American hegemony in space.
China's test is an invitation to create a new and stronger legal regime controlling anti-satellite technology and military use of space, not an invitation to an arms race. China knows well that it can't win a space race with America, but it just demonstrated its willingness to ensure that a space weapons race is a game with no winners.
The FDA just approved the sexual offspring of cloned animals as human food. There are many who oppose this decision, and the movement to approve direct consumption of clones it heralds, but they do so for reasons based on popular misunderstanding of the technology, speculation as to long term effects, or its unintended consequences. None of these reasons is a sustainable or rational basis for policy, and they are easily refuted by industry and its apologists. Such weak reasoning and lack of scientific rigor will lose this key debate over the future of our industrial food system.
I have concerns about cloned animals in the human food supply, but not for the reasons most others do. The reason I argue for regulation of clones in our livestock is based in the security and sustainability of the human food supply, not the safety of eating cloned animals or their offspring.
The history of human agriculture has been one of continually weeding out irregularity and increasing predictability. Regularity and predictability are the keys to increasing productivity and the foundation of the application of industrial management and mechanization techniques to agricultural production. Most of the plants that form the basis of our industrialized food supply have already passed through the eye of the needle of industrial genetics: most of the plants that contribute to your diet are already clones - entire crops can consist of a single genome. Cloning isn't controversial when applied to plants because it doesn't viscerally strike us as a perversion of the natural order.
There are undeniable benefits to be had from narrowing genetic variation in our food supply, but the cost of relying on a radically narrowed genetic heritage is illustrated by the great corn blight of 1970. That year, 15% of the American corn crop was lost to a fungal infection due to the industrially-induced elimination of genetic variation in the corn crop. Monsanto's patented T-Cytoplasm genes were incredibly vulnerable to a strain of corn blight, yet seed corn containing this time bomb had been incorporated into 80% of the American corn crop because it offered much higher yields.
Reliance upon a single gene line or too narrow a group of gene lines is poor agricultural practice, even if it greatly enhances production or profit. Agriculture is not just a business, it is the basis of human existence. Catastrophic failures can cost lives, not just profits. Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) for various livestock species are highly vulnerable to microbial threats not only because of the close proximity of the animals, but because they share so much of their genetic inheritance due to intensive conventional breeding selection. This is the major reason why the CAFO industry is so heavily dependent on massive use of antibiotics. CAFOs are continually poised on the edge of infectious disaster, and the widespread use of cloning in breeding, by further narrowing the range of genetic variation, could make the problem far worse.
Widespread use of cloning to create our livestock could squeeze down the genetic variation in our herds even further than than selective breeding and genetic engineering, which have already drastically reduced genetic variation. If cloning becomes widespread, steps should be taken to maintain a reservoir of genetic variation. The genetic variations dwelling in traditional food crops and livestock, known as land-races, have been bred and selected for specific micro-climates and local preferences across the millenia of agricultural practice. Land-race genetic variation protects our food supply from catastrophic failures because those breeds contain genetic firewalls that limit the spread of infectious agents. Land-races provide a deep well of genetic wealth from which breeders and geneticists regularly draw to improve industrial crops and livestock. There are some efforts to preserve crop land-races in production (growing them out is the only way to truly maintain land-race lines), but maintaining both crop and livestock land-race lines should become a major goal of American agricultural policy to protect our food supply against catastrophic failure due to narrowing of the genetic heritage of our food crops and animals attendant upon the use of cloning. Instead of price supports that encourage overproduction, perhaps payments to husband and grow out land-races in their preferred micro-climates would be a more rational means of having farmers serve the public.
Reducing genetic variation in favor of a single genome that contains all the best traits in the species that we can select or engineer makes a great deal of economic sense. Using clones in our food supply provides a great incentive to develop organisms that enhance the efficiency and productivity of our industrial husbandry system because one can patent an entire organism and more effectively control the use of the one's intellectual property. Clones may make animal products cheaper, more abundant, and, yes, possibly even safer to eat. They will also make our food supply more vulnerable to catastrophic failures that can destroy ever larger percentages of our food at a single stroke.
There is no inherent reason to fear eating a cloned animal or its offspring. There is nothing unsafe about its flesh, and it will likely not carry any significant risk of unforeseen environmental harm. But by squeezing down to just a few genomes the entire variability of our livestock species, we will balance ourselves on a knife's edge for the sake of greater efficiency and profit for agribusiness. At any time, that knife could, and likely will, slice off a significant percentage of our food supply in a destructive epidemic that we simply can't stop. Having cleared away all the genomic firewalls in search of greater efficiency, we may harm the genetic variability and thus the survival of the livestock humans rely on.
I foresee no significant danger in using cloned animals or their offspring for food, nor in animal breeding to increase the incidence of certain traits within the population, but only if variation is maintained by sexual reproduction and a conscious program to husband reserves of genetic variation and maintain a prudent degree of genetic variation in the food supply. If one used just a few genomes to clone the entire breeding population of a livestock animal, even the variation introduced by sexual reproduction would likely not be able maintain sufficient genetic variation to protect the species and our food supply. Of course, regulation by the government would probably be required; private enterprise hasn't the incentive or interest to monitor the industry as a whole for maintenance of a safe degree of the genetic variation. The central rationale for regulating cloning for livestock animals should be to protect against catastrophic failures by maintaining sufficient genetic variation in those livestock animals which form a part of the human food supply. Such a mission is far different from the one the FDA is charged with of determining that clones are simply safe to eat.
Many would simply mandate that consumer labeling identify the products of cloning, much as many wish to label the products of Genetically ModifiedOrganisms . The hope being that consumer preference would simply make the use of such techniques non-viable in the marketplace, obviating the need to make difficult political decisions and mechanisms through the judgment of the marketplace. I don't share their optimism about the market's judgment. I support labeling GMOs: the reasons for doing so are equivalent to identifying possible allergens on labeling. People have had reactions to the proteins present in GMO foods which are not present in the unmodified organism. If any such reason for consumers to know that a product came from a clone were found to exist, I would support labeling it, too. But if there is no actual difference between a sexually produced animal and a cloned one with the same genome, what is there to warn the consumer about?
But, in any case, labeling, as important as it may be, does not address the broader question of how to protect the genetic variation of our food supply. In my view, that is the most important issue that the use of cloning to produce breeders or food animals presents; it is also the issue that the widespread focus on the safety of eating such food tends to overshadow.
Have any doubts that 'Intelligent Design' is anything but a skimpy rebranding of intellectually bankrupt pseudo-scientific 'Creation Science'? After this lecture by practicing Catholic, and practicing scientist Dr. Ken Miller, if you have any doubts on the matter, it's simply because of your faith, not your reason.
Link: Going for Broke: How corporations are using bankruptcy to evade environmental clean-up costs.
Cleanup should be a cost of doing business, but without secured bonds and other rock-solid forms of financial assurance, it's easy for corporations to walk away from their obligations. Montana learned this lesson the hard way. (When toxic sites do not receive federal Superfund status, individual states must go after the polluters and pay for cleanup themselves if they are unsuccessful.) In 1998, after Pegasus Gold filed for Chapter 11, the state was stuck with a $40 million cleanup bill for three of the company's six hardrock mines, then watched helplessly as Pegasus paid out more than $5 million in bonuses to its executives. The state made sure this sort of thing wouldn't happen again by increasing financial assurances in the form of bonds at nearly every remaining mine site from 50 percent to more than 10,000 percent.
Arizona has not been so prudent. With 2003 estimates of hardrock-mine-reclamation liabilities at nearly $4 billion, the state still allows corporate "self-guarantees," essentially a CEO's pledge that a company will pay rather than proof that there's real money behind the promise. Asarco's word wasn't worth much to the communities near its Arizona Ray and Mission mines or its Hayden smelter when the company went belly-up. (Reclamation-liability estimates for the Ray and Mission mines alone run close to $870 million, and it is unclear whether Asarco will bear any of these future cleanup costs. If not, the costs will fall to the state rather than the federal EPA because they are not Superfund sites.) [Ed. - If an expense like that is left in a basket by the state legislature's front door, you just know they'll take the little scamp in - and charge us up the whahoo for his necessaries.]
"Ultimately, you've got to make everybody play by the same set of rules," says David Chambers, executive director of Montana's Center for Science in Public Participation. If the EPA enforced financial assurances, and disallowed empty promises like Arizona's corporate IOUs, it wouldn't be so easy for businesses to skip out on cleanup. "We all know that companies have incentives to minimize their liabilities, and it's the duty of our regulators to act as a check against that," says Chambers.
Nor is the practice of dumping the costs of environmental pollution onto taxpayers limited to such legal manuevers. Many environmental disasters are explicitly placed upon taxpayers by direct action of our elected officials. Take the cleanup of the fuel additive MTBE leaking into soil and groundwater for the past two decades. The state's only solution to this one will not to turn to the pollutors to rectify the problem, but like to create a new gas tax for consumers to pay for the cleanup, which could run to hundereds of millions in Arizona alone.
The rock-solid concept of pollutory pays has gone out the window with the GOP; what's next, murderers getting to designate someone to serve his sentence in his stead? What happened to presonal accountability and abiding by your agreements? Since when did these virtues become alien to the GOP? I hope they aren't unfamiliar to the GOP's supporters, who should be reexamining whether the GOP still represents their commitment to presering the environment and acting in a moral and honorable fashion toward others.
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