Friday, February 02, 2007

The lightning round:

Since I have a little time today, I thought it might be good to go over a few things I saw this week that I didn't have a chance to complain about.

First of all, in Monday's NYT I just noticed Paul Krugman's Op-ED about ethanol. I swear I didn't see it before this. I'm not one of those bloggers that let's some columnist tell me what to think. Occasionally I'll see, after the fact, some big shot in the WaPo or NYT make the same I made here, and I always worry that the accidental visitor not take the time to check the date of the post and just assume I'm parroting the party line. Then again, I probably shouldn't waste my time worrying about crap like that.

the non sum dignus of all ears:

Anyway, I would like to take issue with Krugman a little about the point he made about sugar cane. Krugman rightly debunks W. & Co.'s insistence that ethanol is the answer to our energy future. However, when he writes that ethanol has a "place in the world's energy future -- but that place is in the tropics," he's being a bit too dismissive of what could be a very important source of clean energy for the U.S. Yes, sugar cane grows in the tropics, but not just in Brazil. Last time I checked, Cuba grew a lot of sugar cane, too. And the way global warming is going, we might soon be able to start growing sugar cane in Georgia - or North Carolina.

At the very least, what Brazil has done should be more closely examined. Brazil hasn't just "replaced a lot of its gasoline consumption with ethanol," it's cut its dependence on foreign oil by 70%. Over a thirty year period they've weaned themselves off of oil and in just three years completely changed the way drivers drive with their flex fuel cars. Imagine what the most technically advanced country on earth (at the moment) could do. Obviously, conservation is much more important and we have to put an end to our polluting ways, but we shouldn't just ignore sugar cane. It grows plentifully and also produces electricity from its byproduct. Where's the bad?

That's all I have to say about that. I just think Mr. Krugman ought to get his facts straight.

The Gunshine state:

In the news on Monday was a story from Florida about felons being allowed to purchase concealed weapons permits. The Ft Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported that out of 410,000 Floridians licensed to carry hidden guns, 1,400 had criminal records, 216 had outstanding warrants, 128 were named in domestic violence injunctions and 6 were registered sex offenders. Naturally, the state can't have that sort of thing getting out, so the legislature made the list of guns owners a government secret.

My question is; where's the story? If you've ever lived in Florida, you know this kind of thing is par for the course. Remember, the old tourist board slogan: "Florida, the rules are different here." What more need to be said?

Clean and safe nucler energy: Kaboom!
From an AP story on Tuesday, comes the news that Nuclear Regulatory Agency says it’s not up to nuclear power operators to keep their power plants safe from terrorist attacks. The NRC report "which was the subject of internal discussions for 15 months" and which was approved by a 15-0 vote says its up to the military or the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure terrorists don't fly planes into a nuke plant. "The NRC rejected calls by some nuclear-watchdog groups that the government establishes no-fly-zones near reactors or that plant operators build 'lattice-like' barriers to protect reactors, or be required to have anti-aircraft weapons on site to shot down an incoming plane."

NRC chairman Dale Klein pooh poohed any concerns about terrorists flying planes into a nuclear plant and assured us that the plants are "inherently robust structures that our studies show provide adequate protection in a hypothetical attack by an airplane." [After all, who would have thought terrorists would use planes as missiles?] The "studies" he's referring to is apparently a single $1 million study by the Electric Power Research Institute, which, according to the AP, "last year concluded that the concrete enclosure surrounding a reactor would withstand the impact of a large jet without releasing radiation."

See, there you have it. The EPRI said it, I believe it, that settles it. Of course, didn't the builders of the Twin Towers say something similar? By the way, who is the EPRI and where do they get their funding? A web site called "Integrity in Science says: "According to its 2001 annual report, EPRI members include almost 1,000 energy producers as members; 27 of its 30-member Board of Directors represent utility companies. (EPRI Annual Report 2001)." So you can tell its conclusions on power plant safety was completly impartial.

I always find it funny that the same corporate mucky mucks who rail against government interference and spend billions to elect politicians who pledge to dismantle the government, are the very same people who expect the government to come to the rescue when it comes to protecting their assets. They like their huge tax breaks and the big subsidies, but when it comes to making sure millions of people aren't eradiated . . . that's the government's job.

Also on Tuesday, there was the news that 10,000 residents of Juneau, Alaska, were without power after a bald eagle "lugging a dear head crashed into power lines." [USA Today]Where were the military and the FAA in that case? Imagine if that eagle had been a terrorist and it had crashed into a nuclear power plant! This is just another example of the failure of government to do anything. If it was up to the market, bald eagles would be extinct by now, and this kind of thing wouldn't have happened.

Bush will control all that you see and hear. . .

This is probably why W. signed an executive order making sure his political appointees have a say in every new government regulation that might interfere with the smooth functioning of corporate America. The NYT reports that in his new directive, "Mr. Bush said that each agency must have a regulatory policy office run by a political appointee, to supervise the development of rules and documents providing guidance to regulated industries." (It's about time!) "The White House will thus have a gatekeeper in each agency to analyze the costs and benefits of new rules making sure the agencies carry out the president's priorities." Jeffery Rosen, general counsel at the OMB says, "This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable."

Some might say that is classic Orwellian new-speak, but after 6 years of this nonsense, it's not so new anymore. There is really nothing new either about this new directive except that W.'s handlers have finally got around to codifying what they've been doing all along. In the EPA his political hit man was Philip Cooney a former oil industry lobbyist who edited reports on global warming to make them less frightening. [MSNBC] At NASA there was George Deutsch who censored NASA scientist James Hansen to shut him up about -- you guessed it -- global warming. It goes on and on. . . Even to the point of changing NASA's mission statement from "to understand and protect our home planet," to "pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research."

The president's priority in this case was to divert NASA's attention away from the earth disintegrating below and focus on building moon bases and sending men to Mars. And, by the way, they'll be going on the new "Aries" rocket, which sounds great, but is named after the Greek god of war. Purely coincidental, I'm sure. And incidentally, after China's little "test' to see it they could destroy a satellite in orbit -- they could -- how much do you want to bet NASA's new moon base will be armed to the teeth with all kinds of nifty particle weapons and directed energy rays?

Well, that's all for today. Looks like I only got to Tuesday. There's just too much out there that's torks me off, I guess. I’ll try to do Wednesday and Thursday tomorrow, if I don't get bogged down in Friday and Saturday's news.


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