Tuesday, March 15, 2011

React Now: Review ALL GE Mark I's and Mark II's

Japan's triple tragedy suggests important
warnings for the United States and any other
nation with GE Mark I nuclear reactors online.
Japan's failing reactors in Fukushima Prefecture
are mostly Mark I's.

The GE Mark I has long been known as relatively
poor engineering. In 1986, Harold Denton, formerly of
the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), said the
GE Mark I's small reactor vessel and suppression pool
problems make this a poor design. Dr. Michio Kaku,a
theoretical physicist, author and science popularizer,
had other reservations about the Mark I's even
earlier in that decade.

Here in Illinois four of our eleven nuclear reactors
online are Mark I's; ours went online only a few
years before Japan's, in the mid 1970s. Even though
our earthquake faultline is less frequently, dramatically
active than those in Japan, still, we DO have one, the
New Madrid Fault, running under Missouri and Illinois.

200 years ago the New Madrid really kicked up, heaving
great devastation throughout the Midwest....when is the
next big one? Disturbingly, no seismologist can predict the
timing of any such large scale event, or smaller quakes
either; Chicagoland felt two tiny ones in recent months.

What's to be done? Here are some suggestions for now:

(1) Review ALL 23 GE Mark I's in the U.S., SOON.
While they're at it, throw in inspections of Mark II's
as well. Around the world, inspect them all.

(2) Send GE's nuclear reactor engineers to Japan immediately.
These designs were not great technology on a good day; now,
after a BAD day, GE should stand behind its products AND its customers.

It's the right thing to do. But to avoid future shock, please:

(3) Establish a U.S. federal moratorium on new nuclear plant
projects, effective immediately. Then, when theorizing potential
worst-case scenarios, be constructively more "negative"; experts
here and abroad "didn't expect quakes this severe, beyond 8.0",
etc. Why not?? Why not a TWELVE, someday? It IS possible if not

Reacting sensibly now could avoid a world of pain later.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kicking the Can Down the Road: As Good As it Gets

After mature reflection, I've come to a daunting realization:
No reform, program, policy or philosophy, however well-thought
out, however reality-based, will likely stand forever.
You can recall many important pieces of legislation which
were effective and long-lasting, yet have joined the heaping
ever-higher pile in the dustbin of history, at least for the
foreseeable future.

Glass-Steagall, the two banking acts from the '30s, were
created by two men who understood that greed gone wild is
not good. Consequently, the ensuing recessions were not
nearly as serious as the Great Recession of 2008-2010. G-S
was ended by Phil Gramm and crew ten years earlier; with
G-S still the law, the Great Recession might have been much
more of a yawn.

Being America requires the regular reinventing of our laws,
the very basis for what we believe is the greatest good for
the greatest number. Social Security, just one example, has
been under attack ever since it was enacted. Yet what would
certain conservatives have the elderly and their not-rich
families do? It ISN'T always a case of the grasshopper vs.
the ants: sometimes illness, recessions, mergers, business
failures, etc. conspire to leave the old without investments
or savings.

Administrations comes and go, programs and policies do the
same. Regarding those controversial, problematic programs,
saving THEM means kicking the can down the road 'til next
time, always arguing the points as if these are brand new issues.

Check your world history books. Kicking the can down the road
is as good as it ever gets.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

REFUTE NEWT, 2012: Stop Showboating, Scapegoating

Let us reflect, return to yesteryear, so as to
inform those younger or more forgetful Americans
about this disappointing product of Georgia Tech.:

Newt Gingrich was the man of the hour in the mid '90s
behind, beside and fronting The Contract with America.
He and his "new" Conservative Revolution succeeded in
(temporarily) capturing the U.S. House. However, as
more and more realized what was/would be in the fine
print of that contract, the tide of opinion turned;
he and his (along with those deceptively intellectual
idiots, the Tofflers) enjoyed a really short revolution,
the next two votes ('96 and '98) shoving most of those
extremists right through the revolving door, out of power.

This so-called conservatism is nothing new, going back
to kings, dictators and their ministers. Laissez Faire
only works for a few; it was ever thus. For millenia there
was no middle class, mark THAT, those who would bring back
two classes: what makes some of you think YOU'D be entitled
to vault to the top rank??

It's getting very wearing, these attacks on the lower and
middle classes. Having a continuum of economic strata,
if you will, merely means such a society recognizes that
people and circumstances vary, there can't be all indians
and no chiefs, or all chiefs, no indians, or even indians and
chiefs, nobody else. Who doesn't understand that?? I marvel
in horror and disgust.

Some of these super right wingers surely must have grandparents
living on Social Security, close relatives in unionized jobs. Do
they honestly think family will forgive being reduced to dire
straits by their "courageously philosophical" relatives? Worse,
do they just not care?

Beware, Newt. The scapegoats you roast today may become you
and your thoughtlessly less-studious political friends tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Entangling Alliances, Strangling Alliances

The title says it all, almost, about our current
world economic situation; but really, for any truly
thinking American adult, this should be old news.
For me, I was warned back in high school, (about
50 years ago, yikes!) when we students read
George Washington's writings, particularly
his Farewell Address. Published on the anniversary
of the Constitution in 1796, it is as if written
today, with every major potential and actual
international reality/problem discussed in its
few, pointed pages:

(1) Disagree with our excessive commitment to Israel?
Yep, he covered that: "The nation which
indulges toward another an habitual hatred or
an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.
It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection,
either of which is sufficient to lead it astray
from its duty and its interest."

(2) Worried about the Tea Party when it rattles
AK 47s, yet "preaches" piety? G.W. mentions
that too: "Observe good faith and justice toward
all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all.
Religion and morality enjoin this conduct."
"Can it be that Providence has not connected the
permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?"

(3) Concerned about atavistic isolationism?
Don't be, George Washington didn't recommend
it: "...in extending our commercial relations
to have with them as little POLITICAL connection
as possible..." Yet: "...let me not be understood
as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing
engagements." "Harmony, liberal intercourse with
all nations are recommended by policy, humanity
and interest."

(4) Wishing we were willing, ready and able to
switch from hostage-to-oil status to home-grown
renewables? Here Washington shines as a realist:
"But even our commercial policy should hold an equal
and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting
exclusive favors or preferences;...constantly keeping
in view that it is folly in one nation to look for
disinterested favors from another; that it must pay
with a portion of its independence for whatever it
may accept under that character." (At $4.00+ per gallon,
we're paying, we're paying....) By entering into trade
agreements for absurdly lengthy periods, making them
quasi-permanent, we forgot Honest George's lessons,
particularly with one precariously precious, politically-
affected commodity, oil.

Lastly, the most memorable moment in the speech:
"Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of
any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity
in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest,
humor, or caprice? It is our true policy to steer
clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the
foreign world..." Thomas Jefferson seemed to admire
this notion so much, he poached from this 1796 speech
for one of his own five years later, coining a short,
snappy saying, "entangling alliances". (Of course
Jefferson, in his highly partisan fondness for the
French, managed to ignore another caution in the
Farewell Address, overlooking the murderous excesses
during their revolution.)

Strangling alliances are now what we have; Nixon and
Clinton should have their academic history credits withdrawn,
not having heeding Washington, a far greater president than
either of THEM.