Monday, December 31, 2007

A Truly Short Senate Session

The game-plan to block recess appointments by having pro forma sessions is in play. The Senate had a 12-second session today. This keeps the Senate technically in session instead of on a recess until January 3. Because there is no recess, Bush (hswib) can not make any of those pesky recess appointments.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Torture is good for something

But it isn't what you might think.

Climatic Chain Reaction

55 million years ago there was a massive global warming excursion that started with an increase in atmospheric CO2 much like what we see today. There was a melting of the methane hydrates in the deep ocean that pushed the greenhouse effect even higher.

The moral to the story is that it has happened before and it looks very much like it might be happening again.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dark energy a furphy

The dark energy problem may have been solved. In this potentially a watershed paper, the need for dark energy is resolved when we take the lumpy nature of the universe into account. Instead we are left with the simple time-warping caused by matter.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Education Better Than Abstinence

It's been proven that abstinence education fails miserably. On the other hand sex education actually delays intercourse and promotes safer intercourse when it happens. Imagine that. All those religious zealots were wrong. Again.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Way to Change Our Party

At every recent session of by local Drinking Liberally gathering someone always expresses a sense of futility at the behavior of the Congressional Democrats. Kos makes this modest suggestion.
"Let me say this is no uncertain terms -- our ONLY ability to influence the Democratic caucus in Washington D.C. rests in our ability to defeat them in their primaries next year. No other elections are more important for purposes of our movement (as opposed to the nation as a whole) than these two."

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A Nuclear Site Is Breached

It looks like things are going to get tighter at work. Every time even an attempt is made to breach a nuclear facility the consequences cascade through the whole industry. But when the breach is successful like this one in South Africa, it really hits the fan.

Nuclear safeguards should always be respected. It looks like South Africa needs to get its act together.

Toshiba Builds Micro Nuclear Reactor

This may change the landscape of the nuclear power industry. We will have to what comes with Toshiba's Personal Reactor.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Dino Rossi Campaign

The Dino Rossi for governor campaign swung through town last week and I had an opportunity to attend the rally. The campaign appears to be essentially based on a hate-Gregoire theme. That's understandable since these same people have a hate-Hillary circuit in their brains. Dino's talking points are all based upon trumped-up criticisms of Christine. He entitles his talking points "A Case for Change". It appears that he is hoping to cast Gregoire in a bad enough light that any change would be justified, even a change to a Republican. I expect this to play well with the party faithful since they seem genetically predisposed to deny reality. They easily deny the reality that Republican principles have been a failure at good governance. They also deny the reality that Gregoire has proven to be an effective governor.

Rossi's Case for Change starts with education. Here he cites some cherry-picked statistics that indicate the state's education system has some struggles. Yet he fails to set forth any proposal that improve things. A fact he dodges is that tax-averse school boards and voters have starved the schools so much that they are struggling to maintain the current standards much less make improvements. (keyword: Republicans are the source of the problem)

His next point is public safety. This is his code word for "let's scare everybody about sex offenders". Again he cites some carefully selected statistics but makes no counter-proposal. (keyword: scare people with crime)

Next he cites problems with foster care. Like the schools it is easy to find valid criticisms of the systems performance. And yet again Dino has no solutions (other than to change governors). I'm sure an adequate budget for DSHS wouldn't hurt but don't look for that with a Republican in charge. (keyword: say "they are bad" but don't say "we would be worse")

Then he comes to taxes. Like most Republicans Dino seems to think that governments raise taxes for no good reason and therefore taxes must be resisted at all costs. Still Dino offers plenty of criticism with no proposals. He criticizes Gregoire support for a state income tax without telling us why he thinks the convoluted B&O tax is better. I suspect he rather prefers sales taxes since they hit poor people harder than the rich folk. (keyword: taxes are bad and government should run only on credit)

And finally we have transportation. His rhetorical question of "has you traffic commute gotten better or worse?" should really fall flat for East-siders. In order to get the votes for her transportation budget Gregoire has been most generous to this part of the state. The Tri-Cities probably has twice as much state-funded pavement on the ground than it really needs today. While the delivery of major traffic solutions in the West has been slow, Dino makes no promise to speed them up. Even Dino can't lie that blatantly. (keyword: Republicans are part of the problem again)

It occurs to me that the time may be coming to replace Jim Beaver as the Kennewick mayor. His support of Dino Rossi puts his mental competence into question.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Merry Christmas! Really!

The primary source of the following information is TV channel website,

As Christians start their predictable seasonal whine about the “true meaning of Christmas” let’s take a truthful look at what that meaning actually is. The Christmas of today has its roots in ancient traditions combined with comparatively recent successful public relations campaigns. In pre-Christian Europe there were long-standing winter solstice traditions: yule logs, feasts over multiple days, nocturnal flights of Odin granting fortune or misfortune. Sound familiar? The winter was cold enough that freshly slaughtered meat would keep for extended feasting. The beer had fermented since summer and was ready for drinking. In Rome, the solstice was celebrated with Saturnalia. There was almost a month of eating and drinking along with a reversal of the social order, slaves as masters, children as parents, similar to Boxing Day in British tradition. The winter was also the time for Juvenalia, a feast for children.

Until Pope Julius I, the primary western Christian holiday was Easter. (It still is in the various eastern orthodox churches: Greek, Russian, Serbian.) But the good Pope Julius instituted the Feast of the Nativity on December 25. The feast then subsumed the various seasonal pagan and Roman festivals. Typically a “Christ’s Mass” was followed by days of feasting and drinking in a carnival atmosphere similar to Mardi Gras complete with a beggar chosen as the “Lord of Misrule”. The tradition of carolers arose from the poor who would visit the rich demanding food and drink. It was a time for the rich to “compensate” society by lavish giving to the less fortunate.

In English and American history the popularity rose and fell with the popularity of aristocracy. Oliver Cromwell canceled Christmas but it came back when Charles II was restored to the throne. With the American Revolution, Christmas was put down because it was too English.

Much of our “modern” tradition of Christmas was established in the first half of the 19th century. Christmas had become a real problem with gang rioting often breaking out in the Christmas season. Washington Irving, in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, invented a story of traditions of mutual celebration across lines of social status. About the same time Charles Dickens did his thing with the Christmas Carol. These visions of Christmas became embedded in the popular mind. As Christmas became more family-oriented, appropriate traditions were dredged up and inserted into popular practice.

Essentially we have been inventing and reinventing Christmas ever since. Religiously oriented people added more and more scripture to the holiday. Commercial folks added more and more cutesy Santa stories and polar bear images. Sappy folks just…got sappier.

So the TRUE meaning of Christmas is just what we want to make of it. Just like it’s always been. Have a Merry Christmas and stop whining already!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cuter Scooter

I saw the one-way rental bicycles in Paris this summer. Some of my co-workers actually used them and thought they were a wonderful idea. Now Milan has done Paris one better by doing the same thing with scooters.

But beyond that it looks like the manufacturer has made big strides by reducing the component parts count from 1000 to 150 thereby reducing the price. Working smarter not harder.

Scientists Tell Pelosi: No More Ab-only Funding

Perhaps this is sign of returning sanity in Congress.


If this is the angle that Lott is exploiting, we can expect there to be a few more Republican resignations before year's end.

Parable of the bird feeder

A dear relative of mine sent the following parable as a part of a Thanksgiving communication. He considered it to be appropriate somehow.
I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed. What a beauty of a bird feeder it is, as I filled it lovingly with seed. Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table ... everywhere!

Then some of the birds turned mean. They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket.

And others birds were boisterous and loud. They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore. So I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone. I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio.

Soon, the back yard was like it used to be ... quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

Now let's see .... Our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care, and free education and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen.

Then the illegals came by the tens of thousands. Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services; small apartments are housing 5 families; you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor; your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English.

Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to "press one" to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Just my opinion, but maybe it's time for the government to take down the bird feeder.
If you agree, pass it on; if not, continue cleaning up the poop!

That lit my fire pretty good and I responded with the following:
We wouldn't be having all this discussion about illegal immigrants if they were white Canadians. Racism against dark people who sound funny is the fuel of the immigration debate. It's a politically correct cover. Every single person I've encountered who is up in arms about the bad things illegal immigrants are doing to America is white and privileged. Sometimes they are good people otherwise and just can't face the fact that different sorts of people give them the willies. The people in Temple (the Texas hometown of my youth) who set up a private swimming pool didn't think they were racists. The just didn't want to share water with those icky black people. It can be a sneaky thing.

In Paul Krugman's new book, "The Conscience of a Liberal" (which I highly recommend), he did a study of how Republicans have been able to win elections despite being the party of rich, white folk. The data made it clear that won by finding the right euphemisms to appeal to closet racists who would otherwise have nothing in common with the Republican agenda.

I am no longer content in letting those euphemisms go unchallenged. So I stand by my position.

You and I differ because I think that the evidence shows (cf Krugman above) that by-and-large big government has been a good thing. Your generation especially benefitted from big government in the form of the New Deal and the GI Bill. Unions were strong and poor and middle-class incomes were at a peak that hasn't been seen since. Tax rates on the wealthy were high. The range of incomes between the richest and the poorest was sufficiently narrow that Krugman labels the era the Great Compression.

Today, thanks to the Republicans and complicit Democrats, big government functions more as a pipeline for big business and special interests. The farm bill is a case in point. The way it is currently structured it is filled with subsidies for inefficient and archaic practices that tend to benefit agricultural middlemen and corporate entities instead of farmers. For example, when we provide food aid to foreign countries the grain must come from government surplus stockpiles and be shipped on American-flagged ships. With demand for corn so high that it is driving up food prices at the grocery there are no surpluses any longer. So we buy grain on the open market here at high prices. The tiny fleet of ships that are American-flagged then transport the grain at high rates because they have an unassailable monopoly. When the grain arrives it rarely is what is appropriate for the local economy so the recipient NGO's have found that it works better to sell the grain on the international market and use the money to buy local products that support the local farmers. The right way to do it would be just to give the NGO's money directly. But this byzantine process lines middleman pockets all along the way with your tax dollars.

Big government isn't evil. Just big government by the richest 1%. And others who aspire to that.

The conversation continues in the comments. Please free to add your two cents.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No More Recess Appointments

The Democratic Congress is playing hardball with the White House. By a strategy of pro forma sessions Congress can be "in session" without actually doing any work. This prevents the White House from being able to make recess appointments of people that would certainly fail Senate confirmation. Sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Skin Stem Cells

From FuturePundit:
"They are happy about this result because it probably will make the use of embryonic stem cells unnecessary. But the result also seems to show that the difference between embryonic stem cells and other cells is just different settings on a few genetic switches in the cell. So doesn't this result make embryonic stem cells seem less magical and less supernatural?"

Out on the Edge of Town...

We have a modest facility that is seeking out the secrets of the universe. Read about LIGO.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Peak Oil

The Wall Street Journal admits that peak oil has arrived.

Allocate Your Resources Like a Honey Bee

When rules and heuristics can't cut it in a world of ever-changing demand, dance: "Tovey and Nakrani set to work translating the bee strategy for these idle Internet servers. They developed a virtual “dance floor” for a network of servers. When one server receives a user request for a certain Web site, an internal advertisement (standing in a little less colorfully for the dance) is placed on the dance floor to attract any available servers. The ad’s duration depends on the demand on the site and how much revenue its users may generate. The longer an ad remains on the dance floor, the more power available servers devote to serving the Web site requests advertised."

Making the Case for Vaccination

Last year, there were no reported deaths in the U.S. from measles, diphtheria, mumps, polio, or rubella (German measles), according to research published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reducing the Violence in Iraq

Now that the Brits have pulled out of Basra, where's the bloodbath? Actually violence is down 90 per cent. Yes, that one tenth of what it was when the British were present. It seems that Iraqi's can govern themselves quite nicely when given the chance.

OK, US, now it's your turn.

Telling Actions

What does it say when your internet fund-raising takes a jump when you refer to a certain political opponent as a bitch? I'm glad I don't have to suck up to those sorts of folks.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Simple Rules

A few simple rules can create behavior in a swarm that almost looks like it has a mind of its own. Researchers have demonstrated that once you understand the simple rules that govern the behavior of individuals much of swarm behavior can be explained.

Now, to only translate that into politics.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's a Horse Race

In Iowa the polls are so close among the three leaders that anyone could win it. I like that.

The Bush War and the Bush Tax

Thank you, George and his legion of enablers. Your pointless war is going to cost me and my grandchildren a whopping $1.5 trillion that we didn't need to spend.

Creative Destruction

Courtesy of a reference by my man Krugman here's an article that points out that while America is ahead of the world in medical innovation the reason isn't the high prices we pay. It's the government research infrastructure that deserves the credit.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Correction: Three Republicans to vie for Hankins seat

Word is it that Carol Moser is going to throw her hat into the Republican ring for the Washington 8th LD seat. If Shirley Hankins actually decides to run again, that would make a 4-way primary with Rick Jansons and Sean McGrath. Wow! That should make for an interesting campaign.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Conscience of a Liberal

Paul Krugman's new book should be a call to arms for those wish to improve the lives of low and middle income Americans. Every once in a while there comes along a fresh viewpoint that changes everything. Paul is first to say that his conclusions were not what he expected to find but he was driven to them by the data. Our country can do better than it is doing now because it's done it before.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Just Deserts

When Bush declined to join the International Criminal Court the excuse was that uppity little countries would use the court to harass the US. What they didn't say was that by avoiding the ICC it class the US with other rogue regimes around the world. The 1984 Convention against Torture obligates the signatories to prosecute individuals responsible for acts of torture if they are present in their territory. So it should have been expected that the French would have no choice but to charge Donald Rumsfeld when he landed in France. It will be interesting to see where this goes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Joe's Back!

And he's working for John Edwards. More accurately for Elizabeth Edwards. This may be a turning point for the Edwards campaign.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Suicide Is Not Painless

The corruption scandal surrounding Iraq procurement is getting so bad that Frank Rich pulls threads together involving suicides and possible homicides made to look like suicides.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Two Republicans to vie for Hankins seat

In today's Tri-City Herald is a report that Rick Jansons will run for Shirley Hankins' 8th LD seat in 2008. Sean McGrath has not formally filed but has said he is also interested in the seat. Shirley hasn't announced yet whether she is in the race as well.

I was interested in who the Republicans would field if Hankins decided it was time to bring an end to her long legislative career. Since the local Republicans have not always been happy with Hankins' aisle-crossing wayss, I expected that the replacement candidate would be more of a party-line clone. I'll have to research Mr. Jansons but I know McGrath certainly is such a one.

I also expect that this may encourage some of our worthy Democrats to consider throwing their hat into the ring. Can Shirley win a contested primary? (Perhaps if it goes to a three-way but probably not if Sean demurs.) And if she doesn't this may be the opportunity for which the 8th LD Democrats have been waiting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A New Campaign

Just announced!

KENNEWICK, Wash.--Mayor Rob Welch will not be running for re-election at the end of the year.

He made the announcement in front of the Benton County Justice Center earlier today.

Mayor Welch says he is leaving office to focus on a non-profit organization called Adults Protecting the Innocence of Children or APIC. He started APIC with his wife, Sarah. Together, they hope to change child predator laws across the country, keeping child molestors in prison.

Welch says what he'll miss the most about being mayor is helping the residents of Richland.

"The thing I'll miss the most about being the mayor is really the camaraderie that we share as a council and staff," says Welch. And the opportunities that I have almost everyday to go out and meet with citizens and find solutions to everyday issues that they have.

Right now, Welch's name is already on the ballot for next year. However, he is running unopposed. This means, unless there is an unexpected write-in candidate, Welch will be re-elected as mayor. If this happens, Richland City Council will vote as a board and elect a new mayor.
The key line is "un-expected write-in candidate". Well we have just that candidate in Jim McCabe. He is a life-long Richland resident and the proprietor of the McCranium blog.

Friday, October 12, 2007

5 Myths About "Sick Old Europe"

European software dominates the infrastructure of most major companies worldwide including America. Mostly because American software companies can't be bothered to pay attention to the global market. Steven Hill the list of stupid ideas we Americans have about Europe.

Al Gore wins Peace Prize

How about that! He actually won the prize. But does that make him a better candidate?

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Right Wing Smear Campaign

There exists a group of people for whom it's easy to tell when they are lying. It's when their lips are moving.
"Here are the facts that the right-wing distorted in order to attack young Graeme:
1) Graeme has a scholarship to a private school. The school costs $15K a year, but the family only pays $500 a year.
2) His sister Gemma attends another private school to help her with the brain injuries that occurred due to her accident. The school costs $23,000 a year, but the state pays the entire cost.
3) They bought their “lavish house” sixteen years ago for $55,000 at a time when the neighborhood was less than safe.
4) Last year, the Frost’s made $45,000 combined. Over the past few years they have made no more than $50,000 combined.
5) The state of Maryland has found them eligible to participate in the CHIP program.
Desperate to defend Bush’s decision to cut off millions of children from health care, the right wing has stooped to launching baseless and uninformed attacks against a 12 year old child and his family."

Such Incompetence

With the Bush administration one always wonders whether it is simply gross incompetence or some sort of Machiavellian savvy. By burning a source of intelligence into the Al-Qaeda organization they seem to be ensuring that their "enemy" will remain strong so they can use it to keep frightening the American electorate.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Conservatives Are Such Jokers

Paul Krugman calls out slimeballs like our own Doc Hastings.
"If you’re poor, if you don’t have health insurance, if you’re sick — well, they don’t think it’s a serious issue. In fact, they think it’s funny. On Wednesday, President Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded S-chip, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, providing health insurance to an estimated 3.8 million children who would otherwise lack coverage. In anticipation of the veto, William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, had this to say: “First of all, whenever I hear anything described as a heartless assault on our children, I tend to think it’s a good idea. I’m happy that the president’s willing to do something bad for the kids.” Heh-heh-heh. Most conservatives are more careful than Mr. Kristol. They try to preserve the appearance that they really do care about those less fortunate than themselves. But the truth is that they aren’t bothered by the fact that almost nine million children in America lack health insurance. They don’t think it’s a problem."

I sure am glad Paul is blogging.

New Plastic Is Strong As Steel, Transparent

This is some incredible stuff! Someone finally cracked the mother-of-pearl problem. This stuff also uses a "velcro" effect to repair stress damages on the fly. I think our world may have just changed.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Didn't get the memo

Lesson number in the Mafia code is that when you are involved in a criminal enterprise you have to keep your mouth shut. Alfonso Jackson must have missed that class. Just one casual remark and all the HUD contracts of this administration have been called into question.

Tri-City Herald Buries Hastings No-Vote

When a local newspaper runs an AP story in which our own congressional Representative has a major part you would think that he would get a mention in the headline. But not the Tri-City Herald. On the front page of the Thursday October 4th paper is the innocuous headline, "Congress will keep health bill alive". Even on the jump the headline is about Bush. Yet a third of the article is about Governor Gregoire taking Doc Hastings to task over his no-vote on the SCHIP bill. But the editors of the Herald didn't think any of that significant enough to mention in a headline.

When is this newspaper going to stop carrying water for morally dubious Republicans? Your Congressman was the only member of the state delegation to vote with Bush and against children. But your local newspaper buries it. Shame.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Good Fight

Doc Hastings was the only member of the entire Washington congressional delegation to vote against SCHIP. Let's bring him down!

There is a Democrat running in the Texas 10th CD race that is working to oust a Tom Delay Republican that hates children almost as much as Doc does. When you have reached the maximum you can give to George Fearing, give a few pesos to Larry Joe Doherty. I'm hoping that some of his folks can return the favor.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Watch the AD

If you live in Washington state you have probably seen the anti-Referendum 67 ads that the out-of-state insurance companies are running.

A recent trend among insurance companies has been to quickly offer a low-ball payment on any claim. If the insured accepted it the company saves a bundle of money. But if the insured challenged the low-ball settlement the company would tie up that challenge in such Byzantine bureaucratic procedures that most claimants would give up the fight.

The Washington legislature has passed and the governor has signed into law measures that would eliminate this practice. Some in-state, good-citizen insurance companies were happy to comply with the law because it was the kind of service the provided anyway. However, other out-of-state companies think they have the juice to scare people into voting against their own best interests. (Sound familiar?) Their lackeys have been able to force a referendum on the new law and they hope to defeat it with advertising. They have blanketed the state in ads that characterize these consumer protections as advantageous to that most hated of legal critters, the trial lawyers.

These guys have deep pockets and are willing to spend big bucks. This puts the consumer protection advocates at a big disadvantage. They just don't have that kind of money buy air time. But you can help. Put this link in an email to everyone you know so they can watch the counter-ad on the net.

Can Bush stop Cheney?

Can Bush stop Cheney from invading Iran? Or will he just be a willing co-conspiranor? Sy Hersh strikes again.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

At the WSDCC meeting

Florida holding early primary. DNC denied their delegates unless they set them up inside the window. Michigan is also rolling around the deck. They have a plan inside the window but some key party people want to move it. Michigan applied to be early but was turned down by the DNC because it was too big a state.

As fallout of this there will be future rules fights in coming cycles.

On the blanket primaries, US Supreme Court is taking the case which puts it up in the air again. At issue is whether the party has to allow people to use the party name even if they are not selected by the party. It may come out that a convention has to act to allow a candidate to use the label.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paul Krugman vs MSM

Krugman points the way to a better quality of political reporting that our nation both needs and deserves.
"One of my pet peeves about political reporting is the fact that some of my journalistic colleagues seem to want to be in another business – namely, theater criticism. Instead of telling us what candidates are actually saying – and whether it’s true or false, sensible or silly – they tell us how it went over, and how they think it affects the horse race. During the 2004 campaign I went through two months’ worth of TV news from the major broadcast and cable networks to see what voters had been told about the Bush and Kerry health care plans; what I found, and wrote about, were several stories on how the plans were playing, but not one story about what was actually in the plans.

There are two big problems with this kind of reporting. The important problem is that it fails to inform the public about what matters. In 2004, very few people had any idea about the very real differences between the candidates on domestic policy. It remains to be seen whether 2008 is any better.

The other problem, which has become very apparent lately, is that this sort of coverage often fails even on its own terms, because the way things look to inside-the-Beltway pundits can be very different from the way they look to real people."

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Hillarycare Mythology

Before you get sucked into the crap about Hillary's responsibility for the failed healthcare reform of 1993 get armed with the facts.

Basalt Carbon Storage

There was an interesting article in today's Tricycle Herald about using the abundant Columbia Basin Basalt for carbon sequestration. Basalt is somewhat notorious for being full of fractures so I wondered what would keep the CO2 from leaking out. But it seems that CO2 and basalt react to produce a stable mineral that locks away the carbon. It's calcium carbonate actually, more commonly known as limestone. The porosity of basalt is an advantage here. CO2 has long been injected into oilfields to extend their production. The caprocks that have kept the oil from leaching out over millions of years also keep the CO2 contained.

Potential basalt sites are extensive in the Northwest as well as in some other parts of the country.

The tricky part, it seems to me, is the capture and transportation of the CO2 to the depositories.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Reason for Staying

I just listen to the interview of Colonel Sean MacFarland about the death of his friend Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha. The sheik was a man who, at great personal risk, helped begin the process of taking back his country from the insurgents there. He was a true patriot and a true leader of his people. In all the talk about leaving Iraq we need to be also aware that we have taken upon ourselves a debt of honor to people of Iraq. We need to make our departure without abandoning the very people who are Iraq's best hope of rebuilding their war-torn society.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lomborg and his many flaws

A new book by Bjorn Lomborg is making the rounds. He's a major apologist for the global warming deniers.
Glib, misleading associations mark Lomborg's style. In his chapter on glaciers, he states that since "we're leaving the Little Ice Age" (which, in fact, we left long ago) it's not surprising that glaciers are dwindling. Remarkably, he believes that is more good news, because "with glacial melting, rivers actually increase their water contents, especially in the summer, providing more water to many of the poorest people in the world." "It boils down to a stark choice," he lectures us. "Would we rather have more water available or less?"

Lomborg's flawed grasp of climate science is most evident when he discusses sea levels. He makes much of the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) projection that sea level will rise by "about a foot," misleadingly noting that this is lower than previous projections. He does not tell us that the IPCC figures do not account for collapsing ice sheets, which may result in far larger rises, due to the difficulty of predicting how glacial ice will react to warming.

While Lomborg waves vaguely in the direction of ice melt and collapse, he assures us it's not a problem. We'll just put up dikes. Indeed, with dikes, he asserts, some nations might end up with more land than they have today. And so the arguments go on, from rising seas to extreme weather events to malaria and other tropical diseases, the collapse of the Gulf Stream, food shortages and water shortages. In one case after another, Lomborg asserts, it's cheaper and better to do nothing immediately to combat climate change, but instead to invest in other things.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Impeachment Watch

Full of links a rational analysis this guide lays out how to get there from here and why.

Aluminum In Breast Tissue

Could it be that the reason American women have more breast cancer is the all the deodorant they use? It would be nice if the answer turns out to be that simple.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bush E-Mail Mystery Deepens

I think we may be approaching a Minnesota airport moment for the White House. If it comes out that there were shenanigans with the White House email it may all be over.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Good Thing

Hmm, it looks like a high level of atheism in a country may be a good thing.
The survey concluded that "high levels of organic atheism are strongly correlated with high levels of societal health, such as low homicide rates, low poverty rates, low infant mortality rates, and low illiteracy rates, as well as high levels of educational attainment, per capita income, and gender equality. Most nations characterized by high degrees of individual and societal security have the highest rates of organic atheism, and conversely, nations characterized by low degrees of individual and societal security have the lowest rates of organic atheism.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

So Sad

Just to keep tabs on what the dark side is up to I subscribe to a couple of Republican mailing lists. My email application is smart enough to route the stuff to the junk mail folder where it belongs. Every once in a while a real jewel comes in. Today was a little item from Mike Duncan, RNC Chair.

Dear Kendall,

The Democrats' politicization of the judicial confirmation process has gotten out of hand.

While there are no current vacancies on the Supreme Court, Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats -- led by Chairman Pat Leahy and Senator Schumer -- have made it clear that the President's nominees to the federal courts will never again get a fair hearing. In fact, the Democrat-controlled "Do-Nothing" Congress has approved a scant 39 percent of the President's judicial nominations sent to the Senate this year.

The Democrat leaders arrogantly believe they can simply "run out the clock" on the Bush Presidency so they can rubber stamp Hillary Clinton's or Barack Obama's liberal nominees in 2009.

Your support is urgently needed to get the message out about the Democrats' stonewalling of President Bush's nominees and agenda. Please click here to make a secure online contribution of $1,000, $500, $100, $50 or $25 to help the RNC tell Leahy, Schumer and the other liberal Democrats to stop blocking the President's well-qualified judicial nominees.

President Bush has appointed jurists who faithfully and impartially interpret the law and do not legislate from the bench. If a liberal Democrat like Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama is elected President, our entire judicial system could swing dangerously to the left, causing a flood of bad decisions by liberal activist judges.

Whether it is President Bush or the next Republican President who is appointing justices, we cannot allow the Democrats' crass partisan gamesmanship to stand.

Your secure online contribution will help the RNC stop the Democrats from crippling our justice system. Working together, we can expose the true nature of the Democrat-controlled "Do-Nothing" Congress. Thank you.

Project much, Mike?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Tom Friedman is a Hack

On a long intercontinental flight I noticed that the fellow next to me was reading a copy of Friedman's The World is Flat. Hardback, no less! I thought to myself, "What a colossal waste of time!"

Biomass Energy Will Boost Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Biomass fuels may be sustainable but they are not CO2-friendly.

Life-cycle Efficiency Analysis Comes Up Short

When Christopher and Yanni Koroneos analyzed the full life-cycle efficiencies of various energy sources they only did a portion of the job. There's an environmentally friendly energy supply that provides 20% of the power in the US that they ignored completely. Given that that portion will probably increase in the future it would have been nice for them to run a comparative analysis on nuclear power as well.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A Egg Hatches

The House Oversight Committee has come to the conclusion that Republicans have been systematically violating the Hatch Act. Maybe it isn't impeachable but I would think that is a criminal offense.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nuclear Idiot

And Rebecca Solnit is not afraid to show it. Let me count the ways.

Are nukes unsafe? Nukes are so unsafe that the Navy gladly puts them in the most valuable ships.

Are they too time-consuming to build? France hasn't found that to be a problem. And like anything else you get better with practice and the skills fade without practice.

Would nuclear power keep our infrastructure intact and allow consumption to continue? Uh, yeah. Perhaps one should consider the economic and social costs of some grand and great dislocation? That sounds like a much better idea don't you think?

Not happy with a nuke plant in your backyard? I happen to have one in mine and I rather like it. I have plenty of electricity and it doesn't come at the price of spewing CO2 and worse into the atmosphere for us all to enjoy in the form of climate change. Maybe you would prefer to work in a coal mine run by the likes of Robert Murray.

Now that the most recent energy bill has passed I think that gates are about to be opened on nuclear power investment. And you can't really get much mileage on the Three Mile Island thing. It was a clear demonstration that the safety systems worked on even a plant of that vintage. The new plants currently and soon-to-be under construction will be much more robust in that regard.

Now lets talk about mining. Whatever evils there are with uranium mining you can find them in much greater quantities in coal mining, oil and gas drilling, and other sorts of mineral extraction. There is one significant difference. The energy density in uranium is so much higher than these other things the net effects of the relative evils are much lower. And you can only burn coal, oil, and gas once. With uranium you can not only produce more fuel than you consume, you can with repeated recycling consume it at a nuclear level instead of chemical level. And the more you recycle it, the less long-lived waste you have.

Rebecca then moves on to enrichment costs. The old gaseous diffusion plants is Kentucky are energy hogs. But even then the amount of electricity produced by the enriched uranium eclipsed the amount consumed. The next generation of plants will use gas centrifuge technology that reduces the power consumption by a factor of 20. Under development is a third method of enrichment, laser isotopic separation. The capital cost of a laser enrichment plant is a fifth of that for a gas centrifuge plant and the operating costs are comparable to perhaps 50% of a gas centrifuge plant. That's all to the good.

In terms recycling, Rebecca goes for the big distortion. She calls Sellafield the biggest experiment in reprocessing but ignores the years of successful reprocessing experience across the channel at La Hague where fuel from French, German, Dutch, Japanese, and Belgian plants is reprocessed.

It takes lots of fossil fuel to build buildings, homes, and roads as well as nuclear power plants but I don't think Rebecca wants us to stop such major economic activity. Or maybe so.

Right now it takes a long time to build a plant because our systems are out of practice. As practice is gained the cycle time as with most processes has nowhere to go but down.

Eventually Rebecca just loses her contact with reality completely. "murderously filthy, imparting long-lasting contamination on an epic scale" Give me a break! Rebecca may not know what to do with spent fuel but fortunately there are better minds that have the know-how to turn it into nice, clean power.

I'm all for alternative energy efforts. I'm for spending tax dollars to develop these fledgling technologies. There may be many better ways to produce energy and to use it more wisely. Let's go after them. I'm for using alternative energy wherever possible. Diversity is the key to resiliency and independence.

But running screaming down the hall about nuclear energy is just not helpful at all.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Church cancels gay vet's memorial

Out of principle it says. That's one sick principle, if you ask me.

Looking at a French model

For healthcare, that is.
Although the French system faces many challenges, the World Health Organization rated it the best in the world in 2001 because of its universal coverage, responsive healthcare providers, patient and provider freedoms, and the health and longevity of the country's population. The United States ranked 37.

The French system is also not inexpensive. At $3,500 per capita it is one of the most costly in Europe, yet that is still far less than the $6,100 per person in the United States.

How did we lose in Afghanistan?

By choosing to fight in Iraq, of course. Another Doh! moment.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Paul said it

It's rare thing when I disagree with Paul Krugman so it's not surprising that I support his call to close the hedge-fund loophole 100%. I can only hope the congressional Democrats eventually come to their senses.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Big Jump is Solar Cell Efficiency

A team at the University Of Delaware has set a new record for solar cell efficiency.
That number is a significant advance from the current record of 40.7 percent announced in December and demonstrates an important milestone on the path to the 50 percent efficiency goal set by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In November 2005, the UD-led consortium received approximately $13 million in funding for the initial phases of the DARPA Very High Efficiency Solar Cell (VHESC) program to develop affordable portable solar cell battery chargers.

Combined with the demonstrated efficiency performance of the very high efficiency solar cells' spectral splitting optics, which is more than 93 percent, these recent results put the pieces in place for a solar cell module with a net efficiency 30 percent greater than any previous module efficiency and twice the efficiency of state-of-the-art silicon solar cell modules.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Don't Blame the Sun

The sun isn't to blame for global warming.
Direct satellite measurements of solar activity show it has been declining since the mid-1980s and cannot account for recent rises in global temperatures, according to new research.

The findings debunk an explanation for climate change that is often cited by people who are not convinced that greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are causing the Earth's climate to warm.

Thursday, July 05, 2007


In history Keith Olbermann will be noted as the Edward R. Morrow of our day.

Libby's GOOJFC

An astute legal friend of mine pointed out that there is a simple practical reason for the get-out-of-jail-free-card. Since Libby has been convicted, the prosecutors can no longer compel him to testify by granting immunity. Libby will never talk and there's no way to make him talk.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Scooter's Unfortunate Twin

The main difference between Scooter Libby and Victor Rita is that one lied to protect Dick Cheney and the other just lied.

There's justice for you. I think the name of Scooter Libbey should forever be associated with his unfortunate twin Victor Rita.

Spotlight on Fusion Voting

Here's an interesting idea. It's called fusion voting. It involves having a candidate endorsed by more than one party. The name appears multiple times on the ballot for each party that endorses it. The voter votes for the candidate at the ballot position of the party for which they feel the most affinity. The votes are tabulated by party then by candidate. When the candidate wins he or she has a concrete indication of which party's values played an important role in that win. It moves the influence on the candidates out of the back room and onto the ballot.

Before Time

It wasn't a big bang. It was a Big Bounce.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Yeah, he's a putz, alright
One thing it says is that Mr. Bush and his partner in crime, Dick Cheney, believe they are above the law. The commutation of Libby confirms the belief that Mr. Libby lied to the FBI, perjured himself to the grand jury, and obstructed a federal criminal investigation in order to cover up the role Bush and Cheney played in smearing Joe Wilson and ruining the career of his CIA operative wife.

The arrogance of the act is astounding. In commuting Libby's sentence, Mr. Bush did not follow his own Justice Department's guidelines, which do not recommend commutations unless the convict has begun serving his or her sentence, and has dropped or exhausted all appeals. Of course, Mr. Bush is free to disregard those guidelines, as President Clinton did when he pardoned Marc Rich. The Rich pardon was wrong, in my opinion. But Marc Rich was a fugitive financier; Clinton did not benefit at all from Rich's crimes. Scooter Libby is a Bush-Cheney operative who may well have been doing Bush and Cheney's bidding when he obstructed the investigation into how and Valerie and Joe Wilson were smeared. (By the way, like many Democrats I spoke out publicly against the Rich pardon -- which Scooter Libby helped to arrange. Let's see how many Republicans have the character to speak out against this injustice.)

It's interesting that we still have the capacity to be shocked by the extra-legal acts of this crowd. They came to power by stealing an election, by staging a near-riot to stop the counting of ballots in Miami, and by virtue of a Supreme Court edict that has joined Dred Scott in the judicial hall of shame. From that day to this Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have held the rule of law in contempt.

And we still have 567 days to go.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Blogging the WSDCC meeting (cont)

New Rules to approve. How to elect new exec board members for 6th and 8th CD. Approved. Excused the reps to caucus and do this. Short recess.

Out of juice now. Gotta quit.

Whoo-hoo. Found a plug, back in business.

Sam Hunt, a legislator. A short talk to fill some time. Kudos to House, Senate, and special kudos to Gov. Added 38000 children to healthcare. All by 2010. Added 9700 slots for students in higher education. Like adding a new CWU. Need to elect a Dem President. Jon Stewart and others will be out of job.

6th: Anita Latch
8th: Di Irons

Resolutions Cmte
Resolutions 348 and 351 combined.

Do Pass Recommendation:
Floor asked to pull 344.
346,350 passed.
SB5726 passed leg, signed by gov. Insurance Fair Conduct Act.
Ref 67 filed to stop SB5726 by the losers.
resolution vote yes to Ref 67 because text of ref is Shall SB5726 become law.
344 passed

353 referred to another cmte (Technology cmte) referral passed

352 No Pass:
Pelz wants King Cty to have all-mail balloting. (Repubs don't want it since it will increase turnout). The King County system has been a good system for 10 years. The 2004 audit proved the system worked. Pelz says it is inappropriate for the party to weigh in right now. Motion passed to refer to election cmte.

No recommendation for 347:
Reform of Food and Drug Administration.
This resolution had no recommendation and no advocate. Proposed amendment to send it back to 37 LD. amendment adopted. referred back to 37th district.

Tabled at last meeting, 337
Motion to take off table passed.
Has to do with Ken Burns series "the War", native Americans and hispanic not shown.

Good of Order,
Pick up some door hangers.
Buy tickets for the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Wenatchee Sept 29.
A 25YO is running for office in Pullman, Nathan Weddell.
Resolutions need to be submitted with contact information so questions can be answered. The resolutions cmte is looking into this.

Blogging the WSDCC meeting (cont)

Pat Notter, DNC Rep
Spoke about the Western States DNC Caucus in SF. More Latino voters are registering as Republican these days. We have to change that.
Pat has good consultant info for candidates if they talk to her.

Eastern WA Convention report.

Election Cmte report. Much discussion on 341, handicap voters, machine voting, and auditors. Decided to break it into three separate resolutions.
Resolutions take more research than they sometimes get.

Reviewed some State party publications.
Some tools to get info distributed better.

Tech Cmte,
Talked about Vote Builder. Invited as many people as possible to get familiar with it and get to using it.

Affirm Action Cmte,
3 things accomplished.
Letter to LD and cty chairs asking for a contact for Affirm Action issues.
8/19 Tacoma, work out details of an outreach plan.
will work on executing the plan.

Rules cmte,
Delegate selection plan conditionally approved by DNC.
Just some little technical things to correct.
Refined rules on who can run for executive cmte.

Blogging the WSDCC meeting

Minutes, approved.
Financial Report, approved.

Eileen Macoll, Vice Chair's Report.
Caucus on 9th, Primary on the 19th. Caucus info will be in the mailed out ballots.
A resolution passed at the last meeting dealing with disabled voters has resulted in Secretary of State getting on the case of the Whitman County Auditor for some bad actions.

Ed Cote, DNC rep:
Some good gossip. August 10 there will be an Exec Cmte meeting in Burlington, Vt, to discuss the 50 state strategy. Ed really supports the strategy but presidential nominees don't always do the same.
What to do with the Florida early primary. Is a problem.
The West is what the South should be.
The immigration policy is a mess.

Blogging the WSDCC meeting

Dwight Pelz announcements.

Friendraisers: July 23rd. Debate Watch house parties.

BluWave Cleanup: July 28th. A little work and a big photo-op and press-op.


Blogging the WSDCC meeting

Bob Parazin welcomes the state committee.

Main point is that we need more candidates at all levels, even non-partisan races. Eastern Washington can be democratic country again. Dwight recommends that Bob run for office himself. Dogcatcher would be a good start.

Roll Call now. This will take a while.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Relativity drive

Can this really work? The idea is to use differential radiation pressure in an enclosed chamber. If so, I can see land-speeders in the future.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

New York Times on the grill

It's refreshing to see that the blogosphere (in the form or Greg Sargent) is calling the New York Times to account for its shoddy reporting on John Edwards. Word up MSM! There ain't gonna be any free rides this time.

Hastings reveals true stripes

'Doc', the lapdog, Hastings reveals that he really is a racist. The same underlying ideas that motivate racism also motivate the English-only crowd. And now the lapdog reveals that he is one of them. Not only that, as a full supporter of Bush (hswib), he reveals that he is completely out of step with Americans since only 26% of them support Bush (hswib). Yet the most telling thing about his moral bankruptcy is that he seems to have no desire to exercise any leadership. He's going to wait until everyone else works out the immigration thing so he can safely line up on the winning side. Just like he waited for everyone else to do the investigations when he headed the Ethics Committee. I bet he couldn't find the word, pro-active, with a dictionary.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Appropriate Technology Department

Wouldn't it be a better world if more people were about the business of making the things the third world actually needs.

The Idea that Is America

Hear, Hear!
If we sincerely believe that our values are genuinely universal, that it is “self-evident” that all humans have the same basic endowments and all are entitled to self-government, then we must learn much more about how other nations implement our shared values. We need to learn much more about the idea that is Japan, France, South Korea, India, South Africa, Germany, Botswana, Ghana, Brazil, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada, Italy, Australia and a great many other liberal democracies. Genuinely engaging the citizens of these countries in a global debate will help us see ourselves as others see us—an easy way to gain both friends and humility, not necessarily in that order.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Taliban standing and fighting

Uncharacteristically, in the Uruzgan province in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban seem to be standing and fighting and most likely winning. They usually don't hang around otherwise. The targets seem to be police stations.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Meet General Taguba

Seymour Hersh profiles a man who is what a leader should be. It's truly amazing (but it shouldn't be) how a single man's integrity can convict powers at the highest level. This is a must read because it shows another facet of the incompetence of the current regime. We should all be outraged and they should be ashamed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


In your gut you know they are doing bad things. But when you find out how really bad it is it boggles the mind.
An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism.

Historical Context

At the dawn of the 20th Century, Afghanistan a client state of the British Empire. A series of wars between British-supported factions and Czarist Russian-supported factions ended in 1919. While the Bolsheviks consolidated power in Russia, Afghanistan was left finally in the British sphere of influence. Yet the Brits were weakened by the costs of World War I. Amanullah Khan was able to exploit that weakness to get the Brits to agree to allow Afghanistan control over its own foreign affairs as well as the domestic ones. While the country remained a player between the Russian and British giants it now played the game on its own terms and was often able to make gains from the competition.

A unique feature of country was that only the outside world saw the eastern border, the Durand Line, because it was drawn on their maps. To the Afghans, it was an unnatural boundary and simply didn't exist. The line bisected the Pashtun tribal lands and the these folks kept moved around in those areas just as they had been doing for millenia. Even India and later Pakistan tacitly recognized this reality by ceding the Northwest Frontier Province a great deal of autonomy. Given that the Pashtuns were some of the fiercest fighters on the planet and were on their own extreme turf, the cost/benefit of exercising complete control simply was not there.

Amunullah Khan overplayed his hand by trying to modernize his country too fast. He was forced to abdicate after a decade in 1929. His successor was assassinated in 1933 to be followed by Zahir Shah. Under Zahir Afghanistan saw what may be its longest period of stability for 40 years but it paid a price economically. During that time the country's infrastructure was abysmally neglected, famines killed thousands, and the non-Pashtun population was persecuted. While Zahir was out of the country getting some eye surgery in 1973 his brother-in-law took over with a bloodless coup. In 5 years he was killed by a puppet communist movement. The Russians were back in a surrogate form. In another years time, 1979, the Russians dropped all pretense and occupied the country with full military force.

Now the honors of the Great Game moved from the British to the Americans as just another theater of the Cold War. The Americans, in partnership with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, aggressively funded the mujahideen resistance that eventually gave the Russians a lesson in costs and benefits. After the Russians withdrew in 1989 they set up another surrogate government with some of the stronger warlords. That lasted about 3 years until 1992 when a key warlord decided to go his own way. From 1992 to 1996 it was warlord time with factional fighting all around.

Next, the Taliban.

Monday, June 11, 2007


The first big mistake Westerners tend to make is that they see the war in terms of cowboys-and-Indians or cops-and-robbers. There's the good guys and the bad guys. You help the good guys and kill the bad guys. An American Special Forces soldier was heard to remark that the only reason he was there and his only mission was to kill as many Taliban as possible. But who are the Taliban? Ah, if he only knew.

Coming Attractions

If all goes well this blog is going to take an Afghan turn for a while. I had the opportunity to visit with a gentleman who has made a long career out of NGO projects in Afghanistan, mostly in the Helmand valley. He knows the players there and they know him. After retirement he has maintained those relationships by frequent visits in support of his business ventures. I was enthralled to hear from someone who really knows whereof he speaks. Watch this space for the explanation of how the current Afghan policies are about to go up in flames.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Heat to Sound to Electricity

Initially schemes like this seem to be technically possible but economically impractical. The article doesn't give any numbers. But then if you are dealing with waste heat anyway maybe the input costs are not that important.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Dangers of Radiation

In the following article the real danger of smoking is revealed.

If nothing else, this should worry smokers: the radiation dose from radium and polonium found naturally in tobacco can be a thousand times more than that from the caesium-137 taken up by the leaves from the Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Constantin Papastefanou from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece measured radioactivity in tobacco leaves from across the country and calculated the average radiation dose that would be received by people smoking 30 cigarettes a day. He found that the dose from natural radionuclides was 251 microsieverts a year, compared with 0.199 from Chernobyl fallout in the leaves (Radiation Protection Dosimetry, vol 123, p 68).

Though the radiation dose from smoking was only 10 per cent of the average dose anyone receives from all natural sources, Papastefanou argues that it is an increased risk. "Many scientists believe that cancer deaths among smokers are due to the radioactive content of tobacco leaves and not to nicotine and tar," he says.

So it seems to me that if the anti-nuke people really want to get some traction they should start comparing potential exposures to cigarette smoking. I think that would put it in terms everyone understands. Living next to a nuke power plant would be like what? A whiff of second-hand smoke across a restaurant once a month?

Friday, June 01, 2007

HPV Vaccine Highly Effective, According To Large-scale Studies

If the HPV vaccine prevented cancer of the nose it would have been accepted as a reasonable preventative measure. But because certain people have an agenda that includes controlling sexual behavior, the vaccine gets stymied with opposition.
Gardasil was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year for use in females 9 to 26 years of age. While controversy has been raised about giving pre-adolescent girls a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease, Dr. Ault argues, "young women, young girls make very good immune responses to this vaccine, so that will enhance their protection. Widespread immunization with the HPV vaccine along with continued screening will help decrease the burden of cervical cancer and other HPV-related diseases," he says.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Breakthrough In Hydrogen Storage

If making hydrogen as you go from starch doesn't work, here's a new process that uses a Lithium hydride to store massive amounts of hydrogen.

UK stops reprocessing of nuclear fuel

Buried in a recent policy paper it looks like UK will build more nuclear power stations but will shut down its spent fuel reprocessing facility. After all there is a perfectly good French reprocessing facility just across the channel at La Hague.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Radiation can be good for you

If you are a certain kind of fungus, that is. A fungus found growing inside the Chernobyl vault turns out to use ionizing radiation as an energy source.

Another Hydrogen Possibility

In this one the real fuel is starch. Add the appropriate enzymes and you have a hydrogen-producing reaction. By-products are water and CO2.
Over the years, many substances have been proposed as "hydrogen carriers,"such as methanol, ethanol, hydrocarbons, or ammonia -- all of which require special storage and distribution. Also, the thermochemical reforming systems require high temperatures and are complicated and bulky. Starch, on the other hand, can be distributed by grocery stores, Zhang points out.

"So it is environmentally friendly, energy efficient, requires no special infrastructure, and is extremely safe. We have killed three birds with one stone,"he said. "We have hydrogen production with a mild reaction and low cost. We have hydrogen storage and transport in the form of starch or syrups. And no special infrastructure is needed."

"The next R&D step will be to increase reaction rates and reduce enzyme costs," Zhang said. "We envision that in the future we will drive vehicles powered by carbohydrate, or energy stored in solid carbohydrate form, with hydrogen production from carbohydrate and water, and electricity production via hydrogen-fuel cells.

"What is more important, the energy conversion efficiency from the sugar-hydrogen-fuel cell system is extremely high -- greater than three times higher than a sugar-ethanol-internal combustion engine,"Zhang said. "It means that if about 30 percent of transportation fuel can be replaced by ethanol from biomass as the DOE proposed, the same amount of biomass will be sufficient to provide 100 percent of vehicle transportation fuel through this technology."

In addition, the use of carbohydrates from biomass as transportation fuels will produce zero net carbon dioxide emissions and bring benefits to national energy security and the economy, Zhang said.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Josh in the news

My daughter's friend, Josh Blue, gets a nice mention in this NYT article about the unabashedly disabled.
“My right arm does a lot of crazy stuff. Like the other day, I thought someone had stolen my wallet.”

Why we are losing Iraq

Retired Army General John Batiste speaks out on the fatal mismanagement of the war that has cost us Iraq.
“There was never enough. There was never a reserve,” he said. “Again and again, we had to move troops by as many as 200 miles out of our area of operations to support another sector. We would pull troops out of contact with the enemy and move them into contact with the enemy somewhere else. The minute we’d leave, the insurgents would pick up on that, and kill everybody who had been friendly.”
You can't truly win hearts and minds when they know you aren't going to be there long enough to truly pacify the country. This raises the question whether this war was ever truly winnable from day 1. But even if it was it is clear that the actual way it was handled has turn it into a defeat.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

What you don't hear about families today

But it's true.
Did you know:

* That married parents, mothers and especially fathers, spend more time interacting with their children today than they did in 1965, when stay-at-home moms were far more common? Single moms spend less time than married ones, but more than married ones did back in 1965.

* That during the 1990s youth crime levels fell to their lowest rate since 1966, and by 2004, violent crime in schools was one-third less than the 1991 peak rate?

* That most European countries, such as Germany, are much more approving of teen sex than Americans, but have lower rates of teen pregnancy, abortion, and sexually-transmitted diseases?

* That married women and men are LESS likely to visit, call, and offer practical help to neighbors, parents, and other relatives than are the unmarried?

* That gay and lesbian couples use more affection and humor than heterosexual couples when they bring up a disagreement, and partners are more positive in how they receive it? However, gay men need to be especially careful to avoid negativity in conflict.

* That men are more likely to report work-life conflict than women?

Colleagues Cite Partisan Focus by Justice Official

You have to give the Bushies this. When they set out to screw things up they do it with passion and complete dedication. They have no sense of what quality work really is so they don't value it. Conservative loyalty is all that matters. As a result almost the Justice Department has been hosed from the top to the bottom.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Oral sex can cause throat cancer

It's that pesky HPV again. It' seems like just as the human papillomavirus can cause cervical cancer it can also cause throat cancer. So, guys, it's time to line up for your shots also.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

So Sad

This is just Whack!
She had raised her daughter for six years following the divorce, handled the shuttling to soccer practice and cheerleading, made sure schoolwork was done. Hardly a day went by when the two weren't together. Then Lt. Eva Crouch was mobilized with the Kentucky National Guard, and Sara went to stay with Dad.

A year and a half later, her assignment up, Crouch pulled into her driveway with one thing in mind _ bringing home the little girl who shared her smile and blue eyes. She dialed her ex and said she'd be there the next day to pick Sara up, but his response sent her reeling.

"Not without a court order you won't."

Within a month, a judge would decide that Sara should stay with her dad. It was, he said, in "the best interests of the child."

What happened? Crouch was the legal residential caretaker; this was only supposed to be temporary. What had changed? She wasn't a drug addict, or an alcoholic, or an abusive mother.

Her only misstep, it seems, was answering the call to serve her country.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Disappearing Arctic Ice

Arctic ice is retreating so fast that the computer models can't keep up.
"While the ice is disappearing faster than the computer models indicate, both observations and the models point in the same direction: the Arctic is losing ice at an increasingly rapid pace and the impact of greenhouse gases is growing," says NCAR scientist Marika Holland, one of the study’s co-authors.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

China Greenhouse Emissions to Pass US Soon

With a new coal-fired power plant coming online every 4 days the CO2 threat from China is not hypothetical. It is upon us now.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

CO2 splitting device

From San Diego we have a semiconductor-catalytic device that uses solar energy to convert CO2 into fuel.
For every mention of CO2 splitting, there are more than 100 articles on splitting water to produce hydrogen, yet CO2 splitting uses up more of what you want to put a dent into,” explained Kubiak. “It also produces CO, an important industrial chemical, which is normally produced from natural gas. So with CO2 splitting you can save fuel, produce a useful chemical and reduce a greenhouse gas.”

Although carbon monoxide is poisonous, it is highly sought after. Millions of pounds of it are used each year to manufacture chemicals including detergents and plastics. It can also be converted into liquid fuel.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Drinking Liberally Reaches 200

A landmark:
Today, Drinking Liberally reached a major milestone. With the arrival of Pagosa Springs, Colorado the Drinking Liberally map has hit 200 chapters across the country. While beer companies should rejoice that more Americans are promoting democracy one pint at a time, it's the progressive movement that has cause to celebrate. With every new social club, Drinking Liberally, and its umbrella organization Living Liberally, are building a community that energizes and expands Liberal and Progressive America.

For the past three-and-a-half years, as it has grown city-by-city through local organizers, word-of-mouth and blog-fueled buzz, Drinking Liberally has never been about the "drinking." These progressive social clubs provide a regular (some are weekly, some monthly), welcoming, informal (a number have guest speakers, but most are more conversational) destination, in which newcomers can engage, activists can connect, and everyone can make progressive politics part of their every day lives. And that's taken different shapes around the country:

--In Reading, PA, Drinking Liberally is about hosting 100 activists to meet grassroot candidates before the '06 election
--In Gooding, ID, Drinking Liberally is about defending the word "liberal" from libelous attacks in the local newspaper
--In Natchez, MS, Drinking Liberally is about finding a bar where black and white patrons feel comfortable attending together
--In Louisville, KY, Drinking Liberally is about building a network that pledged thousands of dollars to local public radio

A potential cure for malaria

If this works it could be more earthshaking than polio vaccine.
Johns Hopkins University researchers have cured malaria-infected mice with single shots of a new series of potent, long lasting synthetic drugs modeled on an ancient Chinese herbal folk remedy.

The team also has developed several other compounds which defeated the febrile disease in rodents after three oral doses.

These peroxide compounds, containing a crucial oxygen-oxygen unit, promise not only to be more effective than today's best malaria remedies, but also potentially safer and more efficient, said research team leader Gary Posner, Scowe Professor of Chemistry in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How the Mighty Have Fallen

Or in this case, about to fall.
Paul Wolfowitz's tenure at the World Bank may end in the next day or two. Rumors are spreading like wild fire at the Bank that he plans to resign tomorrow.

I have no official information confirming this -- other than that several senior staff in two specific Executive Directorships at the World Bank and some other senior staff at the IMF and other staff are reporting to me that Wolfowitz's resignation is imminent. I'm not sure, however, that there views are not collective speculation.

Paul Wolfowitz has now admitted to helping his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, get positions outside the Bank, including "seconding" her to the US State Department that have helped up her salary to levels that clearly violate World Bank rules (i.e. nearly double her salary).

And there's more smoking guns in the article.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Real Voter Fraud

The real voter fraud in recent elections is the Bush and Republican canard that there is a problem. Since there isn't a problem they try to invent a voter fraud problem. This is another example of fact-doctoring to suit firmly-held beliefs.
"Though the original report said that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,” the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that “there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.”"

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chernobyl Surprises

It seems that the long-term health effects of Chernobyl are... not so bad. Especially when you factor the stupid things humans do such as smoking, breathing second-hand smoke, and eat to much.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Lower Key for Obama

Obama is proving to be an awesome candidate. He can move large crowds with a dynamite delivery but he is winning souls one-by-one in smaller venues just by being himself.
This more casual setting has revealed Mr. Obama to be a tactile campaigner; his bony hand grabbing elbows and hands, his long arms thrown over shoulders, drawing voters close in conversation.

And it allowed for moments like one that took place at the V.F.W. Hall in Dakota City, after almost everyone had gone. Mr. Obama was approached by a woman, her eyes wet. She spoke into his ear and began to weep, collapsing into his embrace. They stood like that for a full minute, Mr. Obama looking ashen, before she pulled away. She began crying again, Mr. Obama pulled her in for another embrace.

The woman left declining to give her name or recount their conversation. Mr. Obama said she told him what had happened to her 20-year-old son, who was serving in Iraq.

“Her son died,” he said. He paused. “What can you say? This happens to me every single place I go.”

The next day, at the rally here, Mr. Obama described the encounter for the crowd. The woman, he said, had asked if her son’s death was the result of a mistake by the government. “And I told her the service of our young men and women — the duty they show this country — that’s never a mistake,” he said.

He paused carefully as he reflected on that encounter. “It reminds you why you get into politics,” he said. “It reminds you that this isn’t a game.”

We could really use a president with that kind of attitude.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Future President Pelosi Maintains Her Own Image

In today's Washington Post.

Think about it. When Bush gets impeached, Cheney has a heart attack and Pelosi is in.

Arctic Sea Ice Narrowly Missed Record Low In Winter 2007

In the news on climate change:
"The maximum extent of Arctic sea ice in winter 2007 was the second lowest on satellite record, narrowly missing the 2006 record, according to a team of University of Colorado at Boulder researchers."

On the Solar Front

A New Zealander has a for producing truly inexpensive solar cells using titanium dioxide and synthetic chlorophyll. They would cost about a tenth of what silicon-based cell cost. And they also work well in diffused light while silicon cells don't.

Nanogenerator Provides Continuous Power By Harvesting Energy From The Environment

These tricky little devices can provide direct current for small scale electronics from vibrations and movement, even a heartbeat. If you had a large array of them you could even power some standard electronics with body movement.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

UniStar Nuclear signs agreement with AmerenUE

Texas developer selects the U.S. EPR for two reactors

AREVA Inc.’s joint venture with Constellation Energy, UniStar Nuclear, continues to advance a unique concept for building the next generation of nuclear power plants in the U.S. UniStar Nuclear has signed an agreement with AmerenUE, a Missouri-based subsidiary of Ameren Corporation to help prepare a combined construction and operating license application (COLA). A construction and operating license application describes how a proposed nuclear plant is to be designed, constructed and operated.

Preparing a COLA does not mean a decision has been made to build a nuclear plant. It is a commitment to apply for a COL license for an EPR at the Callaway site.

UniStar Nuclear expects to submit the COLA in 2008 to remain eligible for nuclear production tax credits, financial risk insurance and federal loan guarantees – all provisions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The U.S. Congress and others are now urging the development of power generation that does not contribute to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Congress is also considering caps and taxes on CO2 emissions.

AmerenUE is a subsidiary of St. Louis-based Ameren Corporation. The Ameren companies serve 2.4 million electric customers and nearly one million natural gas customers across 64,000 square miles of Missouri and Illinois.

Another positive development for UniStar is the recent announcement by an Amarillo developer, operating as Amarillo Power, LLC, that it has selected the U.S. EPR™ design for two nuclear reactors in the vicinity of the Texas town. Amarillo Power will work with UniStar Nuclear to submit a COLA in the fourth quarter of 2008.

A letter to the NRC dated March 15 informed the agency of Amarillo Power’s change in plans. Amarillo Power had announced in March 2006 its plans to prepare and submit to the NRC an application for an Early Site Permit (ESP) for a reactor citing GE’s ESBWR as its technology choice.

So now there are 4 new US power reactors in the works.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A CIA Insider's View

As one of the people that crafted the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Brent Budowsky, offers a most necessary viewpoint on the Valerie Plame case.
"The CIA leak case is not about Joe Wilson, or Valerie Plame, or whether one supports or opposes the Iraq war. The CIA leak case is about integrity and truth in intelligence, which is essential in defeating terrorism, in winning wars when we must fight them, and avoiding wars when we should not fight them. The CIA leak case is about honor and patriotism, about protecting those who serve bravely and covertly, just as we should stand completely behind men and women in uniform.

The CIA leak case is about the need for strong human intelligence, a need that is urgent and has been urgent for more than three decades.

The CIA leak case is about the obsession and ideology that disrespects facts, and disrespects truth, and declares Mafia-like vendettas against those who make good faith and professional efforts to ascertain them. The CIA leak case is about using partisan and political pressure to distort and pervert the search for truth, which is what good intelligence is all about, and the CIA leak case is about what goes wrong when these cardinal principles, time honored for every intelligence service on earth, are violated."

Hispanic Immigration Not a Threat

While Minute-idiots line the border the truth puts lie to their thinly-disguised racism.
"New research by political scientists concludes that available data does not appear to support the claim that Hispanic immigration poses a threat to American identity. Among the key findings of this study are that Hispanics acquire English and lose Spanish rapidly beginning in the 2nd generation; appear to be as religious and at least as committed to the work ethic as native-born whites; and largely reject a purely ethnic identification and exhibit levels of patriotism equal to native-born whites by the 3rd generation."

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Amarillo Power goes Nuclear

Amarillo Power steps up to be the first American utility to apply for a construction and operating license for a brand spankin' new nuclear power plant in decades.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

GNEP discussion (cont.)

One of the most interesting things to me in the GNEP meeting the other night was the comments made by Mike Corinco, past VP of Westinghouse-Hanford. At the time our reprocessing research was shut down there were a number of promising technologies that had been demonstrated in experimental settings but never saw the light of day. GNEP would get them back into the pipeline.

The following information comes from a gleaning of Wiki material. The basic reprocessing statistics from today’s technology are these: (from CNIC - Citizens' Nuclear Information Center)
1) The lethality of the waste that remains after reprocessing is 1/8th of that of unreprocessed fuel after 1000 years.
2) The volume of the waste is reduced by 30-40% under that of unreprocessed fuel.

Just by itself this is a step forward, less lethal waste and less volume. But it’s not a clear slam-dunk. The promise of further research and development is new and better ways of reprocessing that reduce the lethality and volume of the remaining waste much more by transmuting the dangerous isotopes in it. It is quite possible that the transmutation process can be combined with additional power production from the recycled fuel. Known technology like Integral Fast Reactors can do this. With the IFR, in theory, you could fuel the reactor once and it would use that fuel (reprocessing it securely on-site along the way) for the full 30-year life of the installation. The minimal remaining waste could be consumed in another similar reactor.

The key trick to selling this I think is to keep the plutonium involved in the process in a form that is usable for power production but useless as a nuclear weapon. The other essential is to keep all the potentially lethal waste under strict control until it is in a form that is benign or is sufficiently safe-guarded for generations to come.

The question we must consider is whether the pursuit of these solutions is better than doing nothing as we are now. Existing reactors are making new waste. Future reactors that we can not stop from being built are going to make more.

GNEP discussion

We have to get it out of our heads that this is an American issue. This issue is already out of our hands.

Let’s look at this from the perspective of what is happening internationally. China and to a lesser extent other countries are power hungry. If nuclear power didn’t exist, China would be building coal-fired plants on a massive scale. What do you think would be the appropriate international response to that? The most constructive thing to do would be to provide China with as much carbon emission mitigation technology as humanly possible. But I’m afraid in that scenario our best efforts would fall far short of what would be needed.

Instead China is building fewer coal plants and looking at as many nuclear plants as possible. Again I ask, “What should our response be?” It seems to me that the best way to mitigate the harm is to get into nuclear waste mitigation in a big way. At one time the US was the leader in that technology. That lead has lapsed.

A disturbing fact is that the United States is no longer the world leader in nuclear energy development. Most of the commercial nuclear power concerns in the States except for the utilities themselves are already owned by British, French, and German companies.

So whether we like it or not, we must either do something about commercial nuclear power waste, let it pile up around the world, or just let other countries do their own thing with it (whatever that may be). When you consider the fact that the US will remain the primary target for terrorism as far as we can see into the future, it would border on the criminal to ignore the dangerous potential of accumulated spent fuel scattered around the world.

This is the case for action. More about what might be done in the next post.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Pissing off their supporters

Former U.S. Attorney Bud Cummins was a good Republican soldier. He wasn't going to complain when he was ousted to make room for Karl Rove's former aide, Timothy Griffin. He was told that he was different than all the others. They were to be fired for "performance related" issues. As he heard those reasons it became clear to him that they were all trumped up.

These guys just don't get it. What's killing the White House isn't that they do bad things. It's all the lying about it that has lost them the protection they needed from their now-former friends.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Live Blogging the GNEP Hearing

Martin Binski, a statement in support GNEP, sees supporters of other alternative energies and down-playiing as hypocritical. but mostly a wingnut attacking the anti-nukes. not very appealing.

Joel Williams, Hanford worker, confesses he has few new points. improvement of higher education and a growth of better nuclear engineers. FFTF the cheapest alternative. GNEP would be a welcome addition.

Jerry Peltier, past West Richland mayor I think. The world is embracing the direction of GNEP and we need to get back on the horse. All industries have waste. The PEIS needs to address the GNEP waste stream. Can that waste stream got to the vit plant. GNEP can reduce the existing Hanford wastes. First time the waste envelope in the nuke industry is actually reduced. This has to be in the EIS to sell it to the rest of the state.

Tom Burke, already been said.

Gina Thrift, from Alaska, horrified by acceptance of pollution. believes that there are other choices. sees conspiracy and scare stories. doesn't like making money. more scare stories. sees recycling as production of war material. A string of pointless rhetorical questions. wants to spend the money on non-nuclear alternative energies. 5 people applaud loudly.

Vickie Carwine, chancellor of WSU-tricities, higher education. 4-year across the street from PNNL. mostly a plug for WSU and PNNL cooperation. In EIS wants to see what ed is needed for GNEP and consider what it will take to provide it. Would like to see a preference for locations close

Peter Gier, not here

Charles Holden, from a San Francisco, touts the computational power resident in PNNL. We have the ability to transmute elements much more than ever before. We can make the nuclear waste footprint miniscule. (Sounds good but I wonder if this guy is a LaRouchee, It sounds too pat)

(all the Eugenites have finished speaking so they are noisily packing up. No more of their own people to film)

Robert Cook. technical scope of EIS. Sodium reactors may not be necessary to recycle fuel. Mixed oxide and Thorium paths are possible. Thorium is proliferation-proof at the cost of dealing with U233. Reprocessing should take a look at isotopes potentially released in gaseous exhaust. There should be a credible scheme for the disposal of whatever is left over. Suggest they look at real proliferation concerns all to the end. Look at ways of making GNEP a commercial entity.

Don Segner, floored that other countries want to work us. need to get Pu out of power reactors

Jean Daling, it makes sense to burn as much waste as we can. We also need to look at the original reactor 93 million miles away. So we should look for a balance. Doesn't like the political decisions of the past.

Donna Kirk, the impact is whether US will be competitive at all in the future. FFTF is needed now.

Jim Pegliari, retired FFTF Nuke E. GNEP should be pursued. will extend nuclear fuel supply, etc. a nice summary of previous statements. existing facilities are a good fit and already there. GNEP helps cleanup, Infrastructure, work force etc.

End of list. big applause.