Free Forum Friday March 11 Edition

A tsunami sweeps away buildings (bottom) in Kamaishi city port Friday in this still image taken from video footage. (image via MSNBC)

What a week.

Japan experienced one of the worst earthquakes ever recorded, plus a devastating tsunami.

Wisconsin has been the center of controversy as the Senate Republicans jammed through the union busting legislation amidst increasingly vocal protests. There seem to be no signs of this mêlée letting up.

Libya has become more violent with Gadhafi ordering air strikes on his own people and the US seriously considering imposing a no fly zone. The city of Zawiya has been recaptured from rebel forces. Gas prices are skyrocketing due to the conflict and over-zealous speculation in the markets.

On an historic note, Discovery made her final mission and safely landed in Florida. 39 missions, 365 days in space and 29 years of service caps the glorious service of the oldest of the shuttle fleet. Endeavour and Atlantis have one more mission each to go before the final chapter in the US Space Shuttle history is complete.

Did I miss anything? Let it out.

Free Forum Fridays are an open discussion where commenters are invited to bring up topics that may not have been covered in the previous week. Got something on your mind? Throw your opinion out there.


About Mr. Universe

Mr. Universe is a musician/songwriter and an ex-patriot of the south. He currently lives and teaches at a University in the Pacific Northwest. He is a long distance hiker who has hiked the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also an author and woodworker. An outspoken political voice, he takes a decidedly liberal stance in politics.
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95 Responses to Free Forum Friday March 11 Edition

  1. Mule Rider says:

    “Did I miss anything? Let it out.”

    Skyrocketing prices for food and fuel. How ’bout that?

    And combined with the increasing ubiquitousness of natural disasters and political unrest, we may be nearing a tipping point.

    My faith tells me to be on the lookout as we may be on the precipice of entering the End of Days. But given that this world has endured world wars and numerous previous environmental disasters already, this could be just another “dust-up” and will blow over before long. There’s just a part of me that thinks this time might be different, though….

  2. Mr. Universe says:

    Uh-oh. We’re about to get hit with a tidal wave in a couple of hours

  3. filistro says:

    Mr U…. head for higher ground! We don’t want to lose you.

    Muley… let not your heart be troubled. Things like weather disasters and huge market crashes are devastating to the peopel who are enduring them, but they are just tiny blips in the overall immensity of space and time.

    Here’s something I read a while ago that’s fascinated me ever since. Imagine if you were big enough to hold the Earth in your hands like a beach ball. In that case, the planet woudl feel as smooth in your hands as a beach ball does. The highest Alps, the deepest ocean trenches, would all be reduced to a smooth, polished surface, simply because of the immensity of your size.

    All these things that seem so huge and terribe to us are literally invisible in the overall life of the planet… and our planet is but a grain of sand in the vastness of the universe.

    So… relax. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” 🙂

  4. Bart DePalma says:

    May God look after the people of Japan. It looks really bad.

  5. filistro says:

    Before the tsunami hits, I just wanted to mention… I think we have quite a few visitors here from the NYT site. We put up a link in the comments section over there at the mothership on Wednesday, and traffic began to spike immediately afterward and has remained high ever since.

    So if you’re over here having a look around, feel free to log on and join the conversation. If you’re one of the old-time 538’ers, we’ve missed you and would love to see you again. If you’re new, we’d like to meet you. After all, we have a lot in common… we’re all fans of Nate Silver! It was Nate’s brilliant political analysis (and endearing geekiness) that brought us together in the first place and bonded us into a community…. and you’re welcome to be part of it.

  6. filistro says:

    Libya has become more violent with Gadhafi ordering air strikes on his own people and the US seriously considering imposing a no fly zone. The city of Zawiya has been recaptured from rebel forces.

    So… what do you all think about the no-fly zone? Arming the rebels? Standing back and letting them fight it out?

    The Frepeers are seriously conflicted over this. No consensus at all. Half of them want to jump in and get involved, half want no part of it.

    The only thing they are in total agreement on right now is that whatever Obama does will be completely the wrong thing, and a costly and disastrous mistake for America.

  7. mclever says:

    I came in here all fired up about attempts to block students from voting, rising oil prices and energy independence, idiotic things that likely Presidential contenders have said recently, the misguided drug war, and organic farming…

    But the news of the earthquake in Japan and resulting tsunami totally knocked me off my outrage tracks. The strongest earthquake on record for Japan, and the fifth worst anywhere in the world. Tsunamis with 10-meter high waves, which I frankly find difficult to even imagine. Japan is an island country, and some of those islands along the Pacific rim aren’t even 10 meters high! Tsunami alerts as far away as Peru. Hawaii and even the coastal US are threatened. Whatever the initial death toll estimates, I suspect they’ll fail to capture the horror of seeing everything and everyone swept away by a wall of water.

    My sincerest prayers, thoughts, and well-wishes to all affected.

    And, I applaud both the United States and China for offering their aid and support to Japan (and other affected places) so quickly this morning.

  8. Mainer says:

    Bart after my rant yeaterday this will surprise. I quote Bart “May God look after the people of Japan. It looks really bad.”One can suspect a very high death toll. It maddens me that all they want to talk about on tv is the economic cost.

    Hawaii is safe as will be our West coast. It appears it hit Guam pretty good even damaging a couple of our subs. I wish the tv drones had a sense of geography. If Guam was hit and waves in certain parts of Hawaii hit 6 feet than we can most likely figure that Midway Island and Wake Island have also been hit pretty hard.

    It appears that a number of Marine, Navy and Coast Guard friends are or will shortly be heading that direction along with search and rescue FEMA teams. The Japanese have a very robust civil emergency management posture and utilize the very same Incident Command System (ICS) structure that we developed and use so our efforts will be able to fit in quickly with theirs.

  9. mclever says:

    @Mainer

    We don’t have thumbs up or recommendations in here, so I’ll just say “ditto” to everything you just said. 🙂 I’ve got a Navy friend out west who’ll be heading that way shortly, too. I hope all of the rescue and recovery efforts go as smoothly and successfully as possible.

  10. filistro says:

    So nice to see my patriotic, America-loving Freepers are as classy as always:

    To: _______

    What would you call it if the entire California shoreline, from the LA Basin to San Francisco, slid into the Pacific in one huge earthquake?

    1: Civic Improvement

    2: Proof of the existence of the Almighty

    3: Long overdue

    4: A chance to get some great video

    79 posted on March 11, 2011 8:26:21 AM by________
    [ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

  11. mclever says:

    @filistro

    According to The Daily Beast, Bill Clinton endorses the No Fly Zone for Libya.

    I’m not sure yet where I stand on what the right action is. I just don’t have enough information to make an informed decision. I can see the wisdom in trying to contain the violence, to keep it from spilling across the borders, which is what the no-fly zone would ostensibly aid in doing. I could be convinced to support a no fly zone, but I also think there are diplomatic risks for us in doing that.

    Personally, I don’t endorse providing arms to either side (especially not officially). We’ve hopefully learned by now that getting in the middle of civil wars is never a good thing. Containing it? OK. Getting involved directly? That sets off all sorts of alarm bells, so I’d need something superlatively compelling and convincing before I could support anything that direct.

  12. filistro says:

    @mac… I’m not sure yet where I stand on what the right action is.

    I feel just the same. Totally conflicted. It’s a heart-vs.-head kind of issue.

    When you see floods of refugees, and the sheer brutality of Ghadaffi, and the agonizing courage of ordinary people fighting for their freedom against such long odds, your heart just urges you to jump in there and help any way you can. But your head reminds you…. we’ve done this before and it hasn’t always ended well, and some prudence is advised.

    It’s hard to stand back and watch, though. It really is.

  13. mclever,
    I found myself in sort of the same mode as I was getting ready to go to sleep last night, doing the last FFF prep. The original photo was a gorgeous shot of Discovery’s final landing. Didn’t seem appropriate after the quake hit.

  14. msgkings says:

    I’m starting to think that if other nations don’t intervene Libya may split in two, a la Korea or Germany or Sudan or Cyprus (or India or Yugoslavia or…), with a stalemate and neither the east nor west gaining the upper hand. The east has most of the oil so I can’t say I’d mind much that outcome.

  15. filistro says:

    @msg… I’m starting to think that if other nations don’t intervene Libya may split in two, a la Korea or Germany or Sudan or Cyprus (or India or Yugoslavia or…), with a stalemate and neither the east nor west gaining the upper hand.

    Now that’s an interesting possibility… and something I hadn’t even considered.

    The whole Libya situation is fascinating in that it’s one of those rare cases that don’t break at all along political partisan lines. Reactions are highly fragmented on individual, national and even international levels.

    When you have a situation that puts Freepers at each other’s throats, divides the Dems down the middle and has France threatening airstrikes while the US stands back… you know you’re dealing with a genuine anomaly.

  16. mclever says:

    @Michael

    I’m sure Discovery’s last landing was spectacular, and all of our fits of political outrage seemed really, really vital last night before bed. But a massive earthquake & tsunami have a way of putting things in perspective, don’t they?

    I have a couple of friends over in Japan, and I keep refreshing their facebook pages hoping for word that they’re OK. (Let us know you’re alright, damn it!) I expect it’ll be a while before we hear anything.

  17. filistro says:

    And Barack Obama has to address the nation and hold a presser in a few minutes. What’s he going to talk about? Oil prices… budget impasse…union wars… earthquakes… revolution in Libya… it’s like playing Pick-A-Crisis.

    Has there ever been such an eventful presidency? I don’t think this poor guy has had one entire calm, peaceful week since he took the Oath of Office.

    I try to imagine John McCain being at the helm during all of this, and what shape the country and the world would be in. The very idea gives me cold chills.

  18. Mr. Universe says:

    Holy smoke. Watching the video of the tsunami. Incredible. The damage is pretty significant. Hydraulics are unforgiving.

  19. Bartbuster says:

    You want cold chills, just think about what it would be like with President Palin.

  20. Mr. Universe says:

    RE: Libya

    All-in or not in. A no fly zone may just piss people off. Either you go in and completely castrate Gadahfi’s regime and give it back to the people or you exercise the prime directive and let them sort it out on their own. I’m leaning towards the former. I think we need to introduce the middle east to a new concept: term limits.

  21. mclever says:

    @Mr. Universe

    Every image I see from this disaster seems like a one-up-manship of devastation, with each one worse than the one before. It’s hard to look away.

    Here’s a view of tsunami damage from a major airport terminal…

    http://www.twitpic.com/48ffh5

    There won’t be any flights today, certainly!

  22. Mule Rider says:

    “I’m leaning towards the former. I think we need to introduce the middle east to a new concept: term limits.”

    Refresh my memory. You were for the intervention in Iraq?

    You guys leaning towards intervention in Libya now are toeing a very thin, hypocritical line.

  23. Mule Rider says:

    “Has there ever been such an eventful presidency?”

    I would posit the entire Revolutionary Era up until the “Era of Good Feelings,” Lincoln’s in the early 1860s, Wilson’s in the 1910s, FDR’s in both the 1930s and 1940s easily surpass this one in terms of “eventful.” I could probably add a few more to the list but that was the low-hanging fruit.

  24. msgkings says:

    @ MR

    +1

    Another obvious one…LBJ’s presidency (late 1963- early 1969) had a fair amount going on.

  25. mclever says:

    @ Mr. Universe re: Libya

    As filistro said:

    When you have a situation that puts Freepers at each other’s throats, divides the Dems down the middle and has France threatening airstrikes while the US stands back… you know you’re dealing with a genuine anomaly.

    This situation is a genuine anomaly, where I find myself disagreeing with people I’d normally agree 100% with and vice versa. I do agree with Obama, that it’s time for Gadhafi to go, but I’m very uncertain as to the best role for the United States. You could probably convince me that a no-fly zone was a good idea, but I doubt you could convince me that direct military intervention was wise.

    Heck, let France and the rest of the EU take the lead, if they are so inclined. Let someone else take the heat and pay the costs, for once. We’re already busy enough with Afghanistan and Iraq.

  26. msgkings says:

    Today’s world feels more eventful due to the 24/7 instant online media environment, where every little thing can be tweeted, blogged, discussed, punditted, etc all day and night.

    But it’s somewhat illusory.

  27. filistro says:

    Muley… Lincoln, Wilson and FDR had big problems, granted… but they each just had ONE big problem.

    This guy has big problems zinging at him from all sides and from all over the world, constantly… and bitter opposition relentlessly giving him grief at home, not just from the recalcitrant right but also from the sulky, ever-dissatisfied left.

    It’s like spending your entire life playing dodgeball… except you’re all alone in the middle and every kid has a ball and they’re all whamming you simultaneously, all the time. You’ve got to be pretty resilient… and fast on your feet… to survive a barrage like that.

  28. Mule Rider says:

    “Today’s world feels more eventful due to the 24/7 instant online media environment, where every little thing can be tweeted, blogged, discussed, punditted, etc all day and night.

    But it’s somewhat illusory.”

    Exactly! With the perpetual stream of (negative) information, it’s no wonder so many people have Chicken Little Syndrome….

    And totally agree on the LBJ presidency too.

    “Muley… Lincoln, Wilson and FDR had big problems, granted… but they each just had ONE big problem.”

    You have to be joking. There’s no way you could summarize Lincoln and FDR as just having “one big problem.” Not to sound snarky/condescending, but you might want to add a recent American History textbook to your reading list….

  29. dcpetterson says:

    @filistro
    I try to imagine John McCain being at the helm during all of this, and what shape the country and the world would be in. The very idea gives me cold chills.

    Now imagine President Palin. Or Gingrich. I’m from Minnesota, and the thought of President Bachmann or Pawlenty is really screwing with my head.

  30. msgkings says:

    @ filistro:

    I think you’re really underestimating the amount of opposition and resiliency and fast-footed barrage avoidance Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR had to deal with. Makes Obama’s situation look like child’s play.

    It feels that way due to the internet culture I mentioned above, and also simple proximity. We know all the minutiae of Obama’s era. We know little of it from previous eras. FDR may be perceived to have ‘one’ problem to deal with (really just one? Depression and WWII count as 2 for me), but I assure you he had a million more things going on from 1933-1944 than those big things.

  31. filistro says:

    @Muley… Not to sound snarky/condescending, but you might want to add a recent American History textbook to your reading list….

    Hey, I actually have one. It’s pristine and unopened. I keep it under my well-thumbed, much annotated copy of “How To Train Your Mule.” 😉

  32. mclever says:

    @dcpetterson

    Now imagine…

    Ouch! You just made my brain hurt!

  33. Mule Rider says:

    I would tend to agree that the idea of a President Palin or President Bachmann is a bit disturbing, especially thinking of what their missteps might be at a time like this. However, I can’t see where a President Pawlenty or President Gingrich (especially) would really be doing anything worse than Obama is now….not an endorsement or suggestion that either would be doing things much better, just that I think it’s a bit silly to think they’d make things worse.

    For those of you who’ve forgotten, Gingrich was a leading political figure during a very stable and prosperous time period for our country. He ain’t some booger-eating clown looking at Russia from his back porch through a pair of binoculars or whipping Minnesota conservatives into a frenzy with questions of Obama’s birthplace. This is a man who has ideas and experience.

  34. Number Seven says:

    Humanitarian aid is all we should do in Libya, IMO. A no-fly zone would have as much effect as it did in Bosnia, in other words, none whatsoever. It is long past time for us to be the worlds police force. Heartless? Perhaps. I call it being realistic.

    Still going through the videos from the quake. Over a thousand dead now officially. Could reach 2000 or more because of those still missing. Japan is the country we should be focused on helping right now, not Libya.

  35. dcpetterson says:

    @Mule Rider
    , I can’t see where a President Pawlenty or President Gingrich (especially) would really be doing anything worse than Obama is now … [Gingrich] is a man who has ideas and experience.

    Yes. And I personally find his ideas and experience to be pretty scary and awful. You are, of course, free to disagree, and that’s what makes for an interesting discussion. A President Gingrich facing the problems we have today would, in my humble but unerring opinion, be a total disaster, on a par with what we saw with the previous administration — only worse, because Gingrich may be actually competent.

    Pawlenty has turned into a human talking point, a wind-up pandering machine. His response to the earthquake in Japan would likely be, “Cut taxes!” He’s been a one-trick pony throughout his tour as the occupant of the Minnesota Governor’s mansion. His biggest idea has been to slash medicare care for the unemployed in order to maintain tax kickbacks to large number of Minnesota millionaires. I don’t see him capable of operating on a policy level greater than helping his donors.

  36. Armchair Warlord says:

    Mule,

    We’ve got a long time to go until it gets as bad as it was in 1347. 😉

    msg,

    The presidents of the past didn’t have to deal with a 24/7 media environment – how hard would FDR have been pilloried for “dithering” for two years while World War Two was being fought?

    To give an example, the fighting in Libya is not actually that intense – it’s appears to be shaping up as a fairly slow-paced war with most fighting occurring on a narrow front along the coast. Any movement there is going to take some time, as shown by Ras Lanuf being back in rebel hands last I checked. We do in fact have time to check all the necessary boxes before launching an intervention (because, you know, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions), but to hear the media and the blogs banging away at it the rebels’ situation is much more dire than it actually is. In the meantime we can support them with guns, cash and food, which I believe we are already doing.

    I’m happy to hear that, considering the colossal size of the earthquake and resulting tsunami, the death toll has been relatively low. Considering the devastation in 2004 things could have been much worse. As am I happy to hear that we and the rest of the international community are already sending aid to Japan to deal with this disaster.

  37. filistro says:

    Warlord… I’m always grateful when you weigh in. Yours is such a reliably informed, intelligent, steadying voice.

    And this: The presidents of the past didn’t have to deal with a 24/7 media environment – how hard would FDR have been pilloried for “dithering” for two years while World War Two was being fought?… is an excellent point.

    Part of the problem is the dense connectivity of the modern world. Everything that happens, anywhere on the globe, seems to land with a thud on the president’s desk within minutes (almost literally.)

    And when I say Obama’s problems are bigger, it’s because everything is bigger now. Also stronger, higher, faster, tougher and more intractable. Athletic records are constantly being broken. Piles of accumulated wealth get more spectacular. Standards get higher, and competition more fierce. Books and movies that were blockbusters a few decades ago would not be good enough now to see the light of day. Men who were considered pretty good presidents in their day would, with the same skill sets, be totally out of their depth now.

    We humans are pooling our efforts to create a world so complex and demanding that it will eventually need to be managed and governed by people with superhuman capabilities.

  38. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    “[Gingrich] is a man who has ideas and experience.”

    Geez, a real crisis and Newt would be working on a fourth wife, what with his “experience” of f#<king 'em out of patriotic duty when disaster strikes!

    And just saw that the Tsunami Warning Center is in the crosshairs of the GOP cuts. Hell, since those things are an Act of God, who are we to warn people to run for their lives!

    May as well cut all the tornado warning center budget, too. (Sorry folks in all those red states in tornado alley) Same reasoning applies. God will protect you from harm if you only have faith!

  39. Mule Rider says:

    “And when I say Obama’s problems are bigger, it’s because everything is bigger now.”

    The economic and human death toll of WWII (remember, we’re talking 10s of millions of deaths – nearly 1/4 of the Soviet Union’s entire population was killed or wounded) would be enough to make Obama wet his pants.

    And while a lot of the economic “statistics” now compare similarly to the Depression Era, it’s not even close in describing people’s pain/suffering now vs. then because the standard of living is so different. Today, most of our “poor” still have plenty to eat, a roof over their head and are capable of shielding themselves from the elements, they still have cell phones, cable TV, internet access, and an automobile to get around. Back then, people actually went hungry, homeless, and did without the other “conveniences” of life at a far greater right.

    Obama isn’t having to deal with rampant hunger and homelessness and general despair and outright “doing without” that people in the 1930s had to go through, so let’s not even pretend his problems are “bigger.”

  40. Mr. Universe says:

    I said I was leaning towards intervention. But I also agree with mclever and #7. Not our place to be the police force of the world. But Gadhafi has clearly lost his mind. And a madman killing his own people. A madman with an army seems a little one sided, don’t you think? Armies are supposed to defend people, not be used against them.

  41. Mule Rider says:

    “And a madman killing his own people. A madman with an army seems a little one sided, don’t you think? Armies are supposed to defend people, not be used against them.”

    Oh, I agree. But you could’ve made that same argument to intervene with Saddam. He too was very brutal towards his own people, murdering thousands upon thousands.

  42. mclever says:

    Mr. Universe,

    While I fully understand the desire to stop a madman from being destructive, especially of other human lives, we must be very, very careful about interfering in another nation’s internal affairs. If nothing else, we should have learned that lesson from Iraq and just about any other conflict where we’ve stuck our nose into a civil war. If we intervene, it must be motivated primarily by humanitarian reasons, and with the entire UN/world leading the way. (i.e. to stop a genocide or similar.) Just because a tinpot dictator is behaving badly and won’t share his toys doesn’t give us the excuse to go in and take them away.

    Painful though it is to sit back and watch–and believe me, I want to *do* something–we shouldn’t be interfering with a nation’s right to self-determination. Doing that just drags us into a never-ending morass, and given our current economic situation we’d better be super-extra sure that it’s worth the expense.

    Yes, we’re the biggest kid on the playground, but that doesn’t make us everyone else’s parent. We kids all got together and decided the UN should have that role, didn’t we?

  43. filistro says:

    Off topic… oh wait, it’s FFF, nothing is off-topic. 🙂

    Anyhow, I need some help from my friends. I’m trying to recall something, and just not having any luck.

    It was about a year ago when Nate had a big fight with the “professional left” over something. I remember he got in a back-and-forth with some guy at Firedoglake, and the spat got very public and pretty ugly. I can even recall some details… for one thing, Nate made some kind of comparison that particularly enraged the FDL folks. He said they were “behaving just like”… something, and they all went bonkers.

    It’s driving me crazy. Must have been about health care, right? That’s all anybody was talking about last year, after all.

    What I particularly want to know is what the comparison was that made everybody so angry.

    Anybody?

  44. filistro says:

    Treme… that’s it! It was the “Kill Bill” dustup, and his oppo at FDL was Jon Walker.

    Does anybody recall offhand what Nate compared the Bill Killers to that made them so mad? (I can probably find it now that Treme has pointed me in the right direction, but it will take effort and I’m lazy… ;-))

  45. Number Seven says:

    Kill Bill??? I thought that was a movie….

  46. Number Seven says:

    And now radiation levels are spiking on two reactors.

    http://www.comcast.net/articles/news-general/20110311/AS.Japan.Quake.Power.Plant/

  47. Mr. Universe says:

    @mclever

    Agree. Prime directive all the way. Although I’m reading that Sarkozy may get involved, oddly enough.

    Somalia may have to dealt with at some point. Paying off pirates is just encouraging the behaviour and setting up warlords rather than a stable government forcing Somalis to immigrate to other countries.

    I much prefer being the humanitarian country rather than the police force, though

  48. Armchair Warlord says:

    #7,

    The nuclear reactor issue is being overdone quite badly by the media at this point. They appear to be venting steam from the reactor to the inside of the reactor containment building. The purpose of the containment building is so you can do things like that – it’s a safety measure. In any event nuclear reactors feature so many redundant safety systems to deal with exactly this kind of loss of coolant accident (some are mentioned in the article) that I find this progressing much further quite unlikely – as the article mentioned any external radiation release has been very small.

    Mule,

    The leaders of WWII were not supermen. You’re looking at history through some very rose-tinted glasses – in particular, many leaders of the time (really, up through JFK) had various sordid personal affairs going on that the modern media would have savaged them on.

    Mclever and Mr. U,

    It’s pretty obvious that this has gone well beyond “self-determination” in Libya. At a certain point we have a responsibility to intervene to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, as we did multiple times in former Yugoslavia. I don’t think we’re at that point yet. I get the feeling that the Obama administration wants to assemble a broad coalition of meaningful partners before American bombs start falling – not even mentioning that it’s pretty pathetic that we would have to take the lead in the EU’s private lake.

    Although to make my own position clear I think we should bomb Qaddafi back into the stone age. 😉

  49. Number Seven says:

    Warlord, the evacuation zone has just been doubled.

    I would rather have a media that overplays the dangers then underplays them like was done with Chernobyl. God help Japan if you’re wrong.

  50. Number Seven says:

    Correction: Trippled to 10 KM with eight times the normal radiation level outside the facility to more then 1,000 times within Unit 1’s control room.

    http://www.comcast.net/articles/news-general/20110311/AS.Japan.Quake.Power.Plant/

    Sorry for the brevity, I was just rear ended. No injuries, but I am pretty pissed off.

  51. Armchair Warlord says:

    #7,

    To all of six miles. As your article points out, it would take seventy days standing at the gate to accumulate a civilian’s yearly allowed exposure to radiation, which is something like one-one hundredth of the instantaneous dose required to make you mildly ill. Normal radiation levels near nuclear facilities are essentially at the environmental baseline, so any release will make things rise quite quickly compared to that.

    I very much doubt that radiation levels inside the unit’s control room are elevated – this is probably a misprint by a journalist unfamiliar with reactor design. They’re likely referring to secondary containment.

    It’s irresponsible to even bring up Chernobyl in this kind of situation – a disaster of that magnitude is physically impossible with a modern reactor.

  52. Monotreme says:

    #7 and Armchair,

    I’m not endorsing this — I think it might be a little Chicken Little-ish — but just passing it along for your information.

    http://in.reuters.com/article/2011/03/12/us-japan-quake-nuclear-us-analysis-idUSTRE72B04C20110312

  53. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    I have to agree with AW here. “Control room” is ridiculous on its face. (How does radiation get inside a control room that is physically separate from the containment building?) So it sound as a writer ignorant of the layout of an energy plant, is displaying that ignorance. And the baseline needs to be known before numbers like “1.5 times” and “1000 per cent” have any value. (What is the baseline human blood alcohol level? What is 1.5 times that number? )

    “Nuculer” has enough of a fear factor these days that many people suspend rational thinking at the very word. Let’s keep things in context and NOT go into “chicken little” mode, being reasonable people here.

  54. Mainer says:

    Most reporters are far from scientists. I would hope the radiation isn’t in the control room as well. But that said this mornings pictures of an explosion in one of the reactor buildings can’t be a good thing. Those buildings are indeed built so very strong but how much can they really take? I would also wonder what this will do to efforts to control the other 3 reactors on site.

  55. Monotreme says:

    Short version of the above article: no risk whatsoever of a Chernobyl-style explosion, plant is likely ruined and inoperable, but the only release of radioactivity will be from gases which will rapidly disperse.

  56. Number Seven says:

    Well, fair enough. Just don’t blame me if a 400 foot tall radioactive angry lizard comes out the subduction zone hell bent on roasting Tokyo.

    That is being a chicken little 🙂

    Being seriously concerned about the possiblity of a meltdown is not being a ‘chicken little’. A meltdown can happen in a modern reactor. Just because the odds are far less does not eliminate those odds. The zirconium coatings of the fuel rods are already turning into hydrogen, which caused the explosion after an attempt at venting. The hydrogen was produced when very hot zirconium reacts with water. This can happen at about 2200 F. Uranium melts at about 4000 F.

    Here is a long article about this. Very Informative.

  57. Monotreme says:

    #7:

    I wasn’t calling you a Chicken Little, rather, the author of the Reuters piece.

    Since s/he turned out to be correct, I retract that characterization.

    This just came across my Twitter feed. It’s an excellent article, I think.

    http://bit.ly/hw41AZ

  58. Number Seven says:

    No, no, I understand that. And yes, news from Comcast can be on the melodramtic side. Sensationalism sells 😦 When an article says something like they are having to spray sea water on it, it makes it sound like a last ditch measure when the reality is that in this kind of an emergency, it is standard procedure.

    They made it sound like firefighters were outside with little hoses spraying water on the vessel, not that water was being pumped though to help cool it down.

    Great article. It does ease my concerns some. And from what I understand, the containment vessel is 6 inch thick stainless steel so I hope they can get this under control as quickly as possible.

    Oh oh, I hear very loud, thunderous stomps in the distance…..

  59. mclever says:

    Hey, Mr. Universe!

    Completely unrelated to nuclear reactors…

    Firefly!!

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/SHOWBIZ/TV/02/18/firefly.returns.ew/index.html

  60. Monotreme says:

    #7:

  61. mclever says:

    @Monotreme

    Where’s Mothra?

  62. Monotreme says:

    …or the Smog Monster?

  63. mclever says:

    Monotreme:

    You mean, this Smog Monster?

  64. Mr. Universe says:

    mclever

    Awww. You had me thinking for a minute they were going to renew the show. But that would be almost impossible to pull off. Anyway I have the DVD set.

  65. Number Seven says:

    Mosera, yah, Mosera

    These are not the original ‘Peanuts’ twins but I loved this verson of the Mothra song.

  66. mclever says:

    Mr. Universe,

    Aren’t I a terrible tease?

    I have the DVDs, too, of course. But it’s nice that Firefly is getting airtime again, and I like that the Science Channel is also exploring some of the science-y aspects of each episode. Gives me an excuse to watch, not that I need much of one.

    🙂

  67. Monotreme says:

    Cows march in solidarity with union workers in Wisconsin (about 2 min into this video):

    http://tinyurl.com/5u2utue

  68. Monotreme says:

    If they deny global warming three times before the cock crows…

    http://pwire.at/gwEIcr

  69. mclever says:

    @Monotreme

    I simply don’t understand denying scientific realities based on partisanship or politics. Anyone intelligent should be able to accept the evidence from science, and then apply their chosen ideology for how to deal with it. But denying the science outright?

    It’s like the Vatican’s (long-since abandoned) denial of a heliocentric universe, except with much more serious ramifications for the rest of us.

  70. mclever,
    I suspect it’s a close cousin to the birtherism issue we discussed recently.

  71. mclever says:

    @Michael

    I suspect you’re right, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it.

  72. Gator says:

    Here’s a thought. Maybe before you assume ignorance on the part of the Republicans who voted, you might look into the reasoning. Let’s do that shall we…

    “But Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), the chairman of the panel’s Energy and Power Subcommittee, said Republican legislation to block EPA climate rules is not about climate science. It is instead about preventing the EPA from passing climate regulations that Republicans say will hobble the economy.

    “For us to be sitting around talking about the science, I think it’s a strong argument to be made on the other side, but the issue here is that the Clean Air Act is not the appropriate vehicle to regulate something like this,” Whitfield said.”

    http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/677-e2-wire/149585-house-gop-rejects-amendment-that-says-climate-change-is-occurring

    This is the original article in The Hill that the snippet from Politiwire was lifted from.
    Clearly the Reps aren’t really arguing the science (in fact Whitfield acknowledges the science). They are arguing the validity of using the EPA and the CAA to regulate this issue. Why do you find it necessary to ignore the real reason for the opposition and replace that with demagoguery?

  73. Monotreme says:

    Gator,

    I disagree. The amendment says, in its entirety:

    “Congress accepts the scientific finding of the Environmental Protection Agency that ‘warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level.'”

    Nothing about the desirability or feasibility or economic impact of EPA regulation.

    So, if Rep. Whitfield said, “I voted against this amendment because pigs cannot fly,” that explanation would pass muster with you?

  74. Gator says:

    They were amendments that were rejected in committee. Amendments that were political grandstanding by the Dems on the committee. They had nothing to do with the bill, which was in fact about limiting the EPA’s reach. But that doesn’t really play into your personal biases about conservatives. So you make it about “rejecting the science” when it very clearly isn’t the case here. And you know that if you read the article that you quoted. It expressly said that the Dems did this to trap Reps into being “on the record” regarding climate change. Pure political manuevering.

    This is disingenous crap. Pathetic.

  75. Mr. Universe says:

    They are arguing the validity of using the EPA and the CAA to regulate this issue. Why do you find it necessary to ignore the real reason for the opposition and replace that with demagoguery?

    Why? Because it has worked before. Corporations consistently demonstrate that given the opportunity between taking the altruistic measure of reducing emissions or the expediency and cost savings of bypassing those measures they’ll do the latter every. single. time.

    It’s self interest and that’s why EPA regulations are necessary. You can argue until you’re blue in the face about the source of global warming. Immaterial. It’s happening. We are contributing to it. It needs to be regulated.

  76. Mr. Universe says:

    It expressly said that the Dems did this to trap Reps into being “on the record” regarding climate change. Pure political manuevering.

    Republicans need to be on record for trying to break down the EPA regs. If there’s a legitimate reason for laxing regulations then they need to put it forth. Maximizing profit margins is not an adequate reason. And not being forthcoming about why they want to ignore EPA regulations (which are based on scientific resaerch), now that’s some disingenuous crap.

  77. shortchain says:

    Speaking of disingenuous, if the GOP thinks EPA is the wrong way to regulate environmental issues such as greenhouse gases, then what do they think is the right way?

    I eagerly await the explanation from our right-wing commentators who are such experts in divining the innermost desires of their congressional representatives.

  78. Monotreme says:

    Gator,

    With respect, you are in no position to comment on my “personal biases”.

    By definition, they are personal and belong to me. Therefore, you cannot possibly know them. Don’t pretend as though you do.

  79. Gator says:

    Treme

    I commented on what I observed. Your bias was in misrepresenting what the Reps said to make it look as if they were rejecting the science. You did this on purpose, I would assume. This clearly demonstrates the bias I mentioned. If I am incorrect and it wasn’t personal bias but rather that you made a mistake, then own that and say that is what happened. Otherwise I will absolutely comment on biases that you so openly display. Sorry for yourself.

    Mr U you say that Reps need to be on the record for putting the brakes on the EPA. That would be obvious by the legislation that was under discussion. They have not denied that. The Dems were trying to use demagogueryin an attempt to embarass the Reps. I am amazed that what you find so beyond the pale when the Reps do it, is completely acceptable when the Dems do it. Hypocritical much are we?

  80. Mr. Universe says:

    @Gator

    I did not sift through all the comments on this thread so I do not know the demagoguery of which you speak.

    My point was that the Republicans need to be transparent about their motives for bulldozing the EPA. To pretend that is for any other reason than sheer unadulterated profit would be disingenuous.

  81. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Gator,

    I note you do not offer an alternative recommendation to the House committee for a problem-solving attempt in lieu of the EPA. BTW EPA = Environmental Protection Administration. If NOT the EPA, then who SHOULD be the instrument?

    For Rep. Whitman to SAY the vote is “not about climate science”, but the result is STILL “do- nothing”, wherein lies the ultimate difference.

    As numerous GOP leaders have don on the birther argument, saying “I believe the President”, but refusing to refute those others who continue to play that game, THAT, my friend, is the true, the height of disingenuity and demagoguery.

  82. Gator says:

    Max said: “THAT, my friend, is the true, the height of disingenuity and demagoguery.”

    Actually I agree completely. What does that have to do with the demagoguery of the Dems that we were discussing? Are you suggesting that one jusitifies the other? Or that it is cricket if “your side” does it but not if the other side does? Or are you just changing the subject, or avoiding it as Mr U does upthread? No answer to the charge I leveled, just obfuscation. Whatever.

  83. Mr. Universe says:

    or avoiding it as Mr U does upthread

    Not avoiding it. I just don’t know what you’re talking about.

  84. shortchain says:

    Gator,

    There are 31 GOP members of that committee and you are asking us to believe that we should accept, as fact, the ex post facto statement of a single one as the explanation for all.

    What I see is a sad case of inability to back up an assertion, upon which you fall back on insult.

    And you still have never given an answer to the simple question: if not the EPA, then who? What’s the GOP solution?

    Because it looks like there is no solution, and no desire to come up with one. In fact, it looks like the majority of the GOP members of that committee don’t even think there’s a problem.

  85. Gator says:

    SC you really aren’t very bright. I made no assertion. I quoted the committee head for the Republicans. And I quoted the original article in The Hill. Learn to read. Seriously.

    As far as the GOP solutions, I already addressed speaking for the GOP.

    And my point has been borne out admirably.

    You have demonstrated beyond doubt that you have absolutely no business speaking for the intelligent and so I won’t presume to speak for the Republicans.

  86. shortchain says:

    Gator,

    You may complain about my reading comprehension, but when I see

    “My good friend from California tries to make it clear that the science is settled. I would say it’s not settled,” Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas)

    — I don’t have any problem interpreting it as rejection of the scientific findings.

    If you do, I suggest you look to yourself before criticizing others.

    And quoting from your comment above,

    They are arguing the validity of using the EPA and the CAA to regulate this issue. Why do you find it necessary to ignore the real reason for the opposition and replace that with demagoguery?

    That statement would suggest that you find the argument that the EPA is not the proper vehicle to regulate GHG emissions. So fine, don’t speak for anybody but yourself, but tell us: if that argument is so compelling, then you must have some idea as to an alternative, because, lacking an alternative it simply isn’t a valid argument. Tell us what the alternative is.

  87. Mr. Universe says:

    I can’t be certain who put your comments into our giant Internet trébuchet. But all of us have the ability to make that decision based on whether the conversation has moved on from dialogue to attacking one another. If your comments have been removed, you should expect that such a judgment has been rendered and adjust your behaviour accordingly. And has been demonstrated recently, even I am not above the law.

  88. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    “even I am not above the law.”

    Even the Watchmen have Watchmen watching!

    @ Gator

    Maybe before you assume ignorance on the part of the Republicans who voted, you might look into the reasoning.

    I submit that it is NOT ignorance that is at issue. I believe most all these good folk to be of, at least, average or above intelligence. The issue is one of political expediency and playing to their base for those political purposes. Ie: short term politics versus what may be best for the citizens of this great country in the longer term.

  89. drfunguy says:

    gator said:
    “Amendments that were political grandstanding by the Dems on the committee. …”
    and later
    “I made no assertion. ”
    hmm

  90. dcpetterson says:

    I am also curious, if the Republicans do actually recognize and accept the reality of the science, and if the Environmental Protection Agency is not the proper venue to institute rules for protecting the environment, and the Clean Air Act is not the proper mechanism for enforcing clean air — then, what alternative do the Republicans propose?

    Apparently, Gator says the Republicans recognize and accept the reality of the science of global climate change (though they don’t actually want to say this in public). And apparently, their approach to what they recognize as a real and pressing problem is to do nothing.

    Why should we elect and respect these bozi?

  91. Max aka Birdpilot says:

    Throw in the “fiscally responsible” meme, and it really DOES show the true face.

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