Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wrong responses to a wrong action (re: Bhutto assassination)

Violence is erupting all over Pakistan in response to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. What does this prove? It may prove that people are distraught. It may prove that criminals and hooligans are using the assassination as an excuse to do mischief. It does prove that the many who had nothing to do with the assassination are going to suffer the actions of the few. The people who depended on buses are now going to have fewer buses because mobs have burned buses; these are most likely the poorer people. The middle class who had saved for a car now have lost much of their savings. People of all kinds who need the paychecks from their jobs are not going to be able to get to their jobs.

A more proper response would be vigils around the headquarters of those who preach hate.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif threatens to boycott the Jan. 8 election. A boycott of an election throws the result to those you oppose. A more proper response is to get out the vote. Make sure all your supporters show up. If you don't show up, you can't be counted. Make sure news outlets know your supporters are showing up. Make sure they are interviewed at polling places. Pakistan still has some media independence. See

Hold the government's feet to the fire on the investigation. Provide all the information possible. Ask for frequent updates.

Hold the extremists' feet to the fire on their actions. If they truly believe in Islam, show how their actions are contrary to Islam.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nuclear wolves in carbon-neutral sheeps' clothing

The January-February 2008 Utne Reader has a cover article on "The Nuclear Option, Pros, Cons, and Corporate Spin". It points out that some environmentalists are considering nuclear energy as a way to put less carbon in the atmosphere. Of course, nuclear energy proponents have pointed out the same thing.

But there are two things that keep getting downplayed. One, what happens to the waste? Two, what is the true efficiency of nuclear reactors?

First, where does the waste go? Nobody seems to have a good, safe solution. I did a web search on nuclear waste, adding the keywords Japan, France, and Sweden because these countries derive a larger percentage of their energy from nuclear plants. I didn't find anything positive. In fact, a Japanese mayor lost his job because he proposed a study of using his city as a nuclear waste storage area. It seems that nuclear waste just keeps getting palmed off on somebody else, with no guarantees for safety for thousands of years.

Second, what is the efficiency of nuclear reactors? One measure is the amount of usable energy obtained versus the amount of non-captured heat given off. I came across this question when I saw the CNET article "A personal nuclear reactor? Not so fast!"

The article discussed a proposed nuclear reactor for factories or neighborhoods. It said the 200 kilowatt electrical output gives off 5 megawatts of heat. That still sounds like global warming. Consider the size of the cooling stacks of nuclear plants. That steam coming from those stacks also means a lot of water is being dumped into the atmosphere. This also means less water for drinking and irrigation.

A Republican president proposed an interstate highway system that transformed our culture. The rationale to get it through Congress was not transportation efficiency or creation of jobs, but defense. It would greatly increase the ability of the military to move troops and equipment around the country. Unfortunately, it was counterproductive to our defense because it made us hostage to countries with oil.

We now need a president of any party to cast energy conservation and energy independence as important to our defense. There are plenty of journalists pointing this out, but very few politicians seem to be reading them.