High cost of lipstick

October 24, 2008

Now we know why the McCain campaign has been so sensitive about mentions of lipstick.

At more than $600 a day for what Delbert McClinton would call lipstick, powder and paint, can the U.S. afford Sarah Palin?


Obama “most liberal,” McCain “most absent”

October 20, 2008

Anyone who has staffed Congress knows the various ratings of the votes of Members of Congress are most often skewed by the organizations that make them.  They pluck a dozen votes out of several hundred cast by a member in a year, to claim that special dozen can tell the character, or value, or liberalness or conservativeness of the member.

So when campaign surrogates claim that one of the candidates is “the most” whatever, it need be taken with a few grains of salt.

Presidential campaigns can wreak havoc on a members voting record — heck, reelection campaigns can do the same — because candidate forums and primary election dates almost always conflict with the work of Congress.  A candidate for president might be lucky to make even the major votes.

Obama missed several key votes, but got enough in to get rated.  According to one rating, by National Journal, Obama is “the most” liberal U.S. senator.  In today’s U.S. Senate, that’s not really saying much, since moderate Republicans have gone extinct there, and most of the liberal lions of the Democrats are at least retired, if not dead.

Listening to the Sunday talk shows today, I wondered why McCain’s people, always anxious to brand Obama as “most liberal,” don’t point to McCain’s own ranking.  Why not show the differences between the two on the issues, where it counts, in the votes?

So I checked.  John McCain missed more than half the votes in most areas rated by National Journal, and so could not be ranked. It looks worse when you look at the company McCain keeps in the “unranked” category.

Three senators do not have scores for 2007 because they missed more than half of the rated votes in an issue area: John McCain, R-Ariz., who was running for president; Tim Johnson, D-S.D., who was recuperating from a brain hemorrhage and returned to work on September 5, 2007; Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., who died on June 4, 2007; and John Barrasso, R-Wyo., who was appointed to succeed Thomas on June 22, 2007.

John McCain:  Most absent.


Atomic history, nuclear future

October 19, 2008

We’re going to see more nuclear power plants in the U.S., it’s a safe bet.  Both presidential candidates support developing alternatives to oil and coal.  Nuclear power is one of the alternatives.

John McCain kept repeating his comfort words, that ‘storage of wastes is not a problem.’ There is not a lot of evidence to support his claims.  With turmoil in financial markets, however, the nuclear power issue has gotten very little serious attention or scrutiny.  From the push to get compensation for radiation victims of atomic weapons and development in the U.S., I learned that the issue is not really whether wastes and other materials can be safely used and wastes stored. The issues are entirely issues of will.

Advantage to Obama, I think.  He’s not claiming that the storage problems are all solved.  A clear recognition of reality is good to have in a president.

Son Kenny sent a link to a history site, Damn Interesting, and it tells the story of the Techa River in the old Soviet Union — a place condemned for generations by the nuclear excesses of the past.

To make the story briefer, in their rush to produce nuclear weapons, the Soviets did nothing to protect Russia from radioactive waste products until it was much too late.  Efforts to reduce radioactive emissions, by storing them in huge underwater containers, resulted in massive explosions that released more radiation than Chernobyl (What?  You hadn’t heard of that, either?).

It’s a reminder that safety and security with peaceful uses of nuclear power depend on humans doing their part, and thinking through the problems before they arise.

Can we deal with radioactive wastes?  We probably have the technology.  Do we have the will? Ask yourself:  How many years has the U.S. studied Yuccan Mountain to make a case to convince Nevadans to handle the waste?  How many more decades will it take?

How is our history of dealing with nuclear contamination issues?  Not good.

Last spring SMU’s history department sponsored a colloquium on a power generation in the southwest, specifically with regard to coal and uranium mining on the Navajo Reservation.   We’ve been there before.

One of the photos used in one of the lectures, by Colleen O’Neill of Utah State, showed two Navajo miners outside a uranium mine during a previous uranium boom.  Neither one had a lick of protective equipment.  Underground uranium mining exposes miners to heave concentrations of radon gas, and if a miner is unprotected by breathing filters at least, there is a nearly 100% chance the miner will get fatal lung cancers.

Of the 150 Navajo uranium miners who worked at the uranium mine in Shiprock, New Mexico until 1970, 133 died of lung cancer or various forms of fibrosis by 1980 ([Ali, 2003] ).

Our Senate hearings on radiation compensation, in the 1970s, produced dozens of pages of testimony that Atomic Energy Commission officials understood the dangers, but did nothing to protect Navajo miners (or other miners, either).  It is unlikely that anyone depicted in those photos is alive today.

AP Photo  (borrowed from ehponline.org)

"Mine memory - Navajo miners work the Kerr-McGee uranium mine, 7 May 1953. Today, uranium from unremediated abandoned mines contaminates nearby water supplies. image: AP Photo" (borrowed from ehponline.org) This photo is very close to the one used by Prof. O'Neill. It may have been taken at nearly the same time. If you know of any survivors from this photo, please advise.

At a refining facility on the Navajo Reservation, highly radioactive wastewater was stored behind an inadequate earthen dam.  The dam broke, and the wastes flowed through a town and into local rivers.  Contamination was extensive.

Attempts to collect for the injuries to Navajo miners and their families were thrown out of court in 1980, on the grounds that the injuries were covered under workers compensation rules (where injury compensation was also denied, generally).

Navajos organized to protest the power plant. One wonders whether they can win it.

Sen. McCain seems cock sure that radioactive wastes won’t kill thousands of Americans in the future as they have in the past.  The uranium mining and uranium tailings issues occurred in Arizona, the state McCain represents.  Does he know?

We regard ourselves in the U.S. as generally morally superior to “those godless communists.”  Can we demonstrate moral superiority with regard to development of peacetime nuclear power, taking rational steps to protect citizens and others, and rationally, quickly and fairly compensating anyone who is injured?

That hasn’t happened yet.

When [uranium] mining [on the Navajo Reservation] ceased in the late 1970’s, mining companies walked away from the mines without sealing the tunnel openings, filling the gaping pits, sometimes hundreds of feet deep, or removing the piles of radioactive uranium ore and mine waste. Over 1,000 of these unsealed tunnels, unsealed pits and radioactive waste piles still remain on the Navajo reservation today, with Navajo families living within a hundred feet of the mine sites. The Navajo graze their livestock here, and have used radioactive mine tailings to build their homes. Navajo children play in the mines, and uranium mine tailings have turned up in school playgrounds (103rd Congress, 1994 ).

Think of the story of Techa River as a warning.

Resources:


What if Obama carried Alaska?

October 6, 2008

Just wondering, after reading the latest news from Mudflats:  “McCain Palin Rally vs. Obama Biden Rally in Anchorage!  The blow by blow.


McCain on Eisenhower’s two letters

September 27, 2008

In the first of the 2008 debates between presidential candidates, Sen. John McCain pointed to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s two letters, written on the eve of the D-Day invasion in June 1944.  One letter would be released.  The first letter, the “Orders of the Day,” commended the troops for their work in the impending invasion, giving full credit for the hoped-for success of the operation to the men and women who would make it work.

The second letter was to be used if the invasion failed.  In it, Eisenhower commended the troops for their valiant efforts, but said that the failure had been in the planning — it was all Eisenhower’s fault.  (It was not a letter of resignation.)

You can find the first letter, the one that was released, through links at this post at the Bathtub, “Quote of the Moment:  Eisenhower at D-Day Eve.”

The second letter, you’ll find in image and text with links to other sources at this Bathtub post, “Quote of the Moment:  Eisenhower, duty and accountability.”  Last year I wrote:

In a few short sentences, Eisenhower commended the courage and commitment of the troops who, he wrote, had done all they could. The invasion was a chance, a good chance based on the best intelligence the Allies had, Eisenhower wrote. But it had failed.

The failure, Eisenhower wrote, was not the fault of the troops, but was entirely Eisenhower’s.

He didn’t blame the weather, though he could have. He didn’t blame fatigue of the troops, though they were tired, some simply from drilling, many from war. He didn’t blame the superior field position of the Germans, though the Germans clearly had the upper hand. He didn’t blame the almost-bizarre attempts to use technology that look almost clownish in retrospect — the gliders that carried troops behind the lines, the flotation devices that were supposed to float tanks to the beaches to provide cover for the troops (but which failed, drowning the tank crews and leaving the foot soldiers on their own).

There may have been a plan B, but in the event of failure, Eisenhower was prepared to establish who was accountable, whose head should roll if anyone’s should.

Eisenhower took full responsibility.

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troop, the air [force] and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone.

Who in the U.S. command would write such a thing today?

It was a case of the Supreme Commander, Allied Forces, taking upon himself all responsibility for failure.

McCain has called for the resignation of the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which he points to as part of his plan for accountability.  The analogy fails, I think.  The proper analogy would be George Bush taking blame for the current financial crisis.  In his speech earlier this week, Bush blamed homebuyers, mortgage writers, bankers and financiers.  If Bush took any part of the blame himself, I missed it.

I wonder if McCain really understands the Eisenhower story.  I still wonder:  Who in the U.S. command would write such a thing today?


Palin slashes Special Olympics Budget: Accurate statement still unfair?

September 24, 2008

This is how bad it is:  Even accurate statements about Gov. Sarah Palin are called unfair by McCain campaign operatives and hard-shell, stiff-necked partisans.

Conservatives are complaining about media coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin.  For example, they say, she is accused of cutting funding for Alaska’s Special Olympics in half.  Not fair they say, and they offer the actual figures:  The budget for Special Olympics for 2007 from the Alaska legislature was $650,000.  Palin used her line-item veto, and cut the funding to $275,000.

Hello?  Half of $650,000 would be $325,000.  Palin cut the Special Olympics budget by 58%. Last time I looked at the math tables, 58% was more than half of 100%.

So, why would it not be fair to say that Palin cut the funding by half?  She cut it by more than half.

Oh, no, the conservatives say:  ‘You have to let us jigger the numbers first — the final total, after Palin cut it, was still more than the previous year’s allocation from the state.’

Charlie Martin at Pajamas Media takes up the conservatives’ cudgel, that it’s unfair to Sarah Palin to report her budget cuts accurately (you know, not even Dave Barry could make this stuff up).

And then Glenn Reynolds joins the morning howl, complaining that “main stream media” isn’t interested in debunking the “rumor.”

Excuse me?  Why should anyone be interested in “debunking” a “rumor” which is, as the sources indicate and the conservatives’ own research demonstrates, neither rumor nor error, but hard fact?

If you needed a demonstration that conservatives cannot count, or that they will not count accurately when only honor is at stake, these sorts of stories will do.

Below the fold, for the sake of accuracy, you’ll find a longish excerpt from Charlie Martin’s analysis.

Read the rest of this entry »


From the technology labs of John McCain

September 17, 2008

Al Gore bravely fought to save ARPANET, the precursor to the internet, and for his efforts got a campaign to turn his good work into a joke by Karl Rove and Bush campaign, in 2000.

John McCain’s tech guy claims McCain had role in inventing the Blackberry.

Obama laughed it off.

There’s a difference between Democrats and Republicans.  Have you noticed?


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