Nuclear War! (or Debate, if you prefer)

An interesting debate about whether we need nuclear power or not. Brand presents some very interesting information, and Jacobson makes some silly points, but I remain convinced that nuclear is the wrong way to go. (Note that this was filmed before the Fukushima meltdowns.)

It’s nice to see an intellectual exchange based in ideas and facts, not hyperbole and vitriol. The world needs more of this sort of thing.

Not Excellent

This is one of the many, many reasons why nuclear power is a bad idea.

An 8.9-magnitude earthquake led to cooling problems at one nuclear power plant and a fire at another, both of which were close to the quake’s epicenter, government officials said. [...]

Edano said the Fukushima Daiichi reactor “remains at a high temperature” because it “cannot cool down.” Kyodo reported Friday that the radiation level was rising in a turbine building at the plant.That plant and three others were shut down following the quake, after Japan declared a state of atomic power emergency.

That doesn’t sound like a fun “our ice cream freezer is broken” emergency. More like a China Syndrome Wilford Brimley-gets-shot kind of emergency.

UPDATE: Now it’s a “small” leak of radioactive material. The statement from the Japanese government official sounds like a haiku: “the amount is expected to be small and the wind blowing towards the sea will be considered”. Also: We shall hear the sound of a frog jumping into the pond.

UPDATE #2: I hope the expert is wrong, but this could be bad.

UPDATE #3: The uncertainty doesn’t comfort me when this word appears: “officials say they are trying to determine if a meltdown has occurred”. The BBC is using it, too.

UPDATE #4: Financial Times: “Japanese nuclear experts are working to contain a partial meltdown at an earthquake-stricken nuclear power plant north of Tokyo, as fears grow that the death toll from Friday’s massive quake and tsunami could reach the tens of thousands.”

UPDATE #5: Some important history of nuclear power in Japan, also from FT:

In 2007, the world’s largest nuclear power plant, at Kashiwazaki Kariwa, was shut after a 6.6 magnitude earthquake hit the region and radioactive material was released – the first time that had happened as a result of an earthquake.

After the main earthquake, about 400 drums containing low-level nuclear material were knocked over by aftershocks, releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Although the government said the leakage was not enough to cause health concerns, Tepco – which also operated that plant – was forced to admit the facility was not designed to withstand earthquakes of the magnitude that hit the region at the time and to close the plant for the following 21 months.

UPDATE #6: A leader of the Greens in France today made a key point about what we should all learn from this catastrophe:

“It’s clear that when there’s a significant natural disaster, all the so-called safety measures fail in a country with the highest level of technical know-how,” Cecile Duflot, head of the green Europe Ecologie-Les Verts party, told Reuters.

“Nuclear risk is not a risk that can really be controlled.”

UPDATE #7: Here we go! The Wall Street Journal is now complaining about “an overreaction about the risks of modern life and technology”. We all knew it was coming. It’s not that bad, you lunatic tree-huggers!

The SuperWonderful, Mega-Long 100% AWESOME Synapse Update Post: NOW IN HD!!

You’ve waited a month, but it’s finally here — my new blog post! (wild applause) I’ve been emailing myself links and stuff for four weeks, but every time I get ready to blog, something comes up: Papers to grade, a live podcast to do, bike rides for international solidarity, goats to sacrifice & etc.*

* Dude I’m totally loving this way of writing “etc” these days. It’s way olde-timey. Looks like it belongs in a Married to the Sea comic.**

** Dude I’m totally stealing this footnote thing from Mimi. Also it’s a chance to link to her site so any squares who don’t know about her can be all like “Oooh, interesting.. what’s this all ab–OHMYGODtheAWESOMENESS!!!itHURTSmyEYES!!”***

*** Dude I’ve totally been starting all my sentences with “dude” and “totally” lately. I need to make the switch to “all-encompassingly”. RIP Mitch.

Speaking of cool sites, I swear to Umberto that this awesome hot dog picture is the third thing that came up when I did a random Google Image search for “awesome”. It’s from the AWESOME webcomic artist Natalie Dee, who made one of the coolest shirts I’ve never ordered. I suppose I should, because she rocks. But I already have several other webcomic tees that I never get to wear.

Attention Robots Who Find Things For Me

Stop searching before I’m done telling you what I want!! I am sick to nuclear apocalypse DEATH of search engines and the Mac OSX search function and every other robot search box hijacking my typing process before I’ve even finished a f@#&ing word being all like “is THIS what you want? oh no wait I got it — you want THIS!” NO!!! Let me finish telling you what I want, and THEN you can go find it!

It’s like if you went into Subway and you had this conversation:

Sandwich Artist™: Hello, welcome to Subway. What can I get you?

You: I’d like a footlong—

SA: I know! You want a footlong cold cut combo! Right?

You: No, I want a footlong veggie sub on—

SA: On whole wheat! With cheddar cheese, is that it?

You: No, on herbs and cheese, with pepper jack.

SA: But you want it toasted, right? With—

You: I have a gun.

SA: Mr. Squidbag, please leave our store right now.

You: Best hat-tip EVER!

And speaking of robots doing stuff for us, check out the PBS Frontline interview with Sherry Turkle, about education and 21st century technologies. She makes some very good points. To wit:

I think not understanding how to write a simple program — things are built out of simple programs to more complex programs, and these programs are cultural creations, cultural constructions; you can change the program — I think that has been a shift that’s not all to the good.

Education has dropped that out of the curriculum. The most used program in computers and education is PowerPoint. What are you learning about the nature of the medium by knowing how do to a great PowerPoint presentation? Nothing. It certainly doesn’t teach you how to think critically about living in a culture of simulation.

Wall Street Scumbags Gone Wild

Paul Krugman linked us to this fascinating document from 1993, called Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit. (It’s from JSTOR, which is supposed to be only for those who pay, but if you don’t say nothin’, I won’t say nothin’.) I haven’t read it all yet, but it’s very interesting, especially since it came 15 years before the most recent lunacy on the NYSE.

Speaking of scumbags on Wall Street, doesn’t it seem a little silly for Obama to go down there and encourage the same high-rolling jerkbutts that got us into this apocalyptic economic meltdown to join the push for reform? Of course they won’t join the push for reform, moron! (Aside from meaningless PR flourishes.) That’s like Chief Wiggam asking Fat Tony to support a new law cracking down on organized crime.

Fat Tony: I am glad you’ve brought this to my attention, Chief Wiggam. I am sure we can find some accommodation that will be mutually beneficial to the both of us.

Chief Wiggam: Hey, great! Thanks, Tony! Y’know, you’re not so fat. (snort)

Grease and Greece

Hey, look — the Obama administration can bumble around and f#@% things up too! Yesterday I passed a banner at a supermarket advertising a discount on gas from BP. I’ve never had to resist the urge to purchase a Sharpie™ and scrawl nasty words on a banner so hard before in my life.

And of course, let’s not fool ourselves. No one from BP or Transocean will go to prison. Any fines paid will be a simplistic not-even-very-hard slap on the wrist, which the “responsible” company will laugh off like Jack’s equation in Fight Club. And we all get to suck down the crude-soaked sea water, because we’re too weak and scared of Wall Street to force them into compliance.

And now for the story in the midst of all of this most likely to break your heart. The award goes to: NPR’s interview with Transocean rig worker Christopher Choy! Hurray! After 40 hours of chaos and madness, watching friends burned alive, how does Transocean reward them for their sacrifice?

At the hotel, there were representatives for Transocean who asked Choy to initial a line that said: I was not injured as a result of the incident or evacuation.

Now the company says the form means he can’t get treated for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and nightmares and flashbacks.

As for Greece, I don’t have much to offer that can help make sense of it all. (I have no idea why anyone would come here looking for such a thing.) However, in my digging over the past week, I’ve come to understand several things. First of all, the previous government (Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, 2004-2009) went crazy with the budget, lying about debt and cooking books. Apparently Goldman Sachs was involved.

Also, Greece does apparently have a bloated public-service sector. This is not the apocalyptic smoking gun for why socialism is demon feces, but rather a concrete lesson on why bureaucracies — like corporate giants — must be controlled and restrained from becoming too big to fail. Also, let’s remember that the elderly pensioners and working-class people having austerity measures crammed down their throats by the IMF are not the ones who caused the problems in the first place. As usual, it’s the middle class paying heavily to make up for the taxes that rich people ducked out of.

For more, check out the Dollars and Sense piece about it.

Halftime

Man, we’re not even done yet! This super-awesome blog post is eating up my Sunday! You better appreciate it, stupid readers! Leave some real comments so I can finally approve one, instead of wading through constant cesspools of spam every day!

There’s three more sections, so you better go get some popcorn and use the bathroom.

I’ll wait.

Tea Party Over Here

Turns out people in the Tea Party are doing very well under Obama, despite all the socialism and insane bloated government spending and the tax increases. (TPCQ: “It’s the biggest tax increase in history!” “Actually, dad, it’s the smallest tax increase in history.”)

In the results of the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, they are better educated and wealthier than the general public. They are just as likely to be employed, and more likely to describe their economic situation as very or fairly good.

Stupid New York Times! It’s the principle of the thing! Also Obama is a secret Muslim! And has anyone else noticed how stupid it is to refer to the Boston Tea Party, whose motto was “No taxation without representation”? I’m fairly certain that every single person at those rallies is represented in our government. By three different people. Maybe they’re all just stupid morons. (No, no no. They’re simply misguided by an over-reliance on media sources offering a woefully simplistic vision of the modern world and we must show compassionate support for.. AH, SCREW IT! Glenn Beck is SATAN!)

Meanwhile, it looks like Tea Party protesters are sometimes getting a free pass from police, for the same actions that usually get anti-corporate-globalization protesters tear-gassed.

“Tea party” activists successfully lobbied security officials in Raleigh, N.C., last Thursday to reverse a ban on carrying full-sized flagpoles and signs at a tax day rally. Antiwar protesters, however, argue that they’re often not afforded such luxuries.

Also, one of the groups backing the Tea Parties, The National Center for Constitution Studies, is selling pocket-sized versions of The US Constitution. The creepy thing is the cover: Check out George Washington holding the quill pen toward you, as if Bob Schmuckington of Bumtoad, Kentucky is the most important signature left to add to our founding document. And the way he’s looking at us.. creepy!

As the web page points out: “On the front cover of this pocket Constitution there is a four-color picture of George Washington holding a quill in his hand, inviting each of us to pledge our support for and commitment to The Constitution of the United States by maintaining and promoting its standard of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”

And I assume everyone has heard about Sarah Palin’s new book, due out in November? Guess who just made an Amazon.com Wish List for the first time ever?

James Cameron Is a Pathetic Hypocrite

I still haven’t seen Avatar, and it’s doubtful I ever will. From what I hear, it’s Dances with Pocahantas, only with really cool special effects. But I was supposed to see them in IMAX HD 3D SUPERVISION. And I didn’t.

I was pretty skeptical anyway, since these movies always preach about the sanctity of nature and the need for privileged oppressor-class people to recognize their culpability in greedy homicide, but they’re made by Hollywood fatcats who are always crypt-silent when it comes to greedy homicide in the real world.

So I was overcome with profound admiration for James Cameron after watching the interview with him on Democracy Now!

And a lot of what I thought I was doing with this movie was commenting on the colonial period, the manifest destiny period, in American history, so much of which is in the past. And, you know, we don’t have the cavalry charging in and cutting down whole villages now. You know, we think we’ve evolved beyond that, when in fact it is happening in other countries. You know, there have been incidents in Peru just recently where, you know, guns were used on protesting indigenous people, who fought back with bows and arrows, and deaths on both sides.

He’s been taking action against a bogus dam project in Brazil, and even addressing Israel/Palestine a little. (Though he says — and kudos to him for saying it — that he can’t say too much because he doesn’t know enough about it to have an informed opinion.)

So, given his willingness to stand up in the real world for some true and worthwhile political purpose, how can I call him a hypocrite? Well, why didn’t he speak out against real-world evil companies researching murderous alien lifeforms, like the Weyland-Yutani corporation in his documentary film Aliens? Why doesn’t he take a stand against the killer robots in our world, that are so obviously similar to the homicidal killbots in Terminator 2? It’s a dangerous world, Mr. Cameron, and we can’t afford to ignore the most urgent threats. Your childish wavering on the real problems we face is pathetic.

Demon Hell Dog Buys US Military Contractor

My favorite corporation named after a multi-headed infernal guardian hell-beast, Cerberus Capital Management, has reached a $1.5 billion deal to buy US defense contractor DynCorp International. I’m speechless.

And in other news: Exhausted Noam Chomsky Just Going To Try And Enjoy The Day For Once.

“I just want to lie in a hammock and have a nice relaxing morning,” said the outspoken anarcho-syndicalist academic, who first came to public attention with his breakthrough 1957 book Syntactic Structures. “The systems of control designed to manufacture consent among a largely ignorant public will still be there for me to worry about tomorrow. Today, I’m just going to kick back and enjoy some much-needed Noam Time.”

Thanks to @Adam Root for the link. I’m gonna grab some Noam Time for myself!

TimeWaster™

Matt Damon! Sarah Palin! Matt Damon talking about Sarah Palin!

Today I’m listening to: Famfeud! (Warning: MySpace sucks! Why do so many indie hip hop acts use MySpace? It sucks!)

Death and Taxes

Here’s something interesting I found recently: 52 percent of “Tea Party” supporters believe their taxes are fair. So what’s all the fuss about? “Well, I don’t pay too much, but Sean Hannity said some guy in Ohio does, so I’m pissed off!

And while we’re on the subject of people who cynically raise a ruckus over things that aren’t nearly as catastrophic as they claim: Sarah Palin’s PAC spent $60,000 last year buying copies of her book. But that’s not the part that most intrigues me:

Sarah PAC spent another $8,000 on colorful bookmarks designed by a Nashville-based event branding firm.

I know Christmas isn’t for eight months — and my birthday is even further away. But if anyone ever comes across one of those for sale cheap, I will pay you $20 to add that baby to my bookmark collection.

In Other Protest News

I still haven’t seen Avatar, and — since the 3D IMAX special effects were the only thing that really interested me — I probably never will. However, I will give credit where it’s due. Lest you think James Cameron is only about a feel-good “going native” story without any political awareness of the real-world counterpart: He went to Brazil last week to protest a dam in the Amazon Jungle. So while the movie looks dumb, at least he’s willing to walk the walk.

But what about internet petitions? (Worst transition ever.) I found myself signing one recently, and I wondered if there were any research on their effectiveness. I didn’t exactly find any, but as usual, Snopes had something worth saying.

In a world beset by complex problems, the solutions of which will take enormous amounts of time, money, and commitment, such simplification as the e-petition provides a welcome relief. Imagine having the power to solve those problems! Moreover, imagine having it merely at the click of a mouse!

Two Random Thoughts I Had While Shopping for Groceries

  1. Recently on the news I heard someone say “Tiger Woods’ future is uncertain.” This is moronic. Every person’s future is uncertain. We could have an esoteric debate about the Arrow of Time, but for all practical purposes, we don’t know what the future will bring! For anyone. Or anything. End of story. Stop saying meaningless things!
  2. Copps Supermarket sometimes plays some weird songs on the sound system. One time it was “Missing” by Everything but the Girl. (The only time I’ve ever sung along with a supermarket sound system.) Last week, as I heard Peter Cetera coming in loud and clear, a thought occurred: “Glory of Love” might have been Mr. Cetera proclaiming his love for a judge! Think about it.

I am a man who will fight for your honor

I’ll be the hero you’ve been dreaming of

I bet you never hear that song the same way ever again!

TimeWaster™

An interesting collection of “Things, But Very Slowly”.

Today I’m listening to: Computer Rockers!