Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Slow withdrawals

Think the withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan are going slow? 69 years after invading Okinawa, the Obama administration still can't meet a deadline for shifting out of one of our permanent bases there.

Okinawa row: Japan and US drop Futenma airbase deadline

Japan and the US have agreed to drop a 2014 deadline to move a controversial US airbase on the island of Okinawa.

Officials from both nations said the Futenma airbase, near the provincial capital of Naha, would be moved "at the earliest possible date after 2014".

But they did not specify a date for the relocation.

Based on this set of data, we'll still be seeing whoever's president in 2072 telling us that they still can't get the troops out of Iraq, and can't give a date for when it will occur.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the relocation of Futenma airbase was still critical to US policy in the region.

"Doing so will reduce the impact of our presence on local residents in Okinawa while allowing us to maintain capabilities critical to the alliance in Japan," he said.

What on earth is so dang critical to Americans that we have to be paying for all these troops and planes to be in Japan 70 years after the end of the war? Bring the troops home!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Close Americas' Fukushimas

In the United States, there are 23 operating reactors of the same GE boiling water reactor design that was built at Fukushima.  Beyond Nuclear has a petition to the NRC to suspend operations at these reactors pending reviews.

I don't know how much good it will do, but I certainly agree with the petition and thus I was happy to sign it.  I'd encourage others to do so as well.

Cooper - Mon. 6-20-11
One of these American Fukushima's is the Cooper nuclear power plant in Nebraska.  Cooper is one of two reactors threatened by high flood waters on the Missouri River.  And its probably the more dangerous of the two. Not only because its the same design as Fukushima, but because its up and operating while the other reactor, Ft. Calhoun, has been shut down for refueling since early April.

If the flood waters take out the connection to the electric grid that normally provides power to the cooling pumps, and at the same time takes out the emergency backup generators, then we could very well have an American Fukushima in the heart of our country.  Nuclear reactors are of course incredibly hot.  And, they don't shut down that heat at the flip of a switch like you can with a steam boiler. The radioactive decay products from the nuclear reaction continue to generate heat in the core long after the control rods are lowered into the reactor to slow down and stop the fission chain reaction.

Ft. Calhoun - Mon 6-20-11
Fukushima's fission chain reactions were successfully shut down within seconds of the detection of the very first waves of the offshore earthquake.  But, that didn't prevent disaster from occurring.  The problem is this very hot reactor core that requires cooling for a long time after the reaction is stopped.  Fukushima lost its connection to the electric grid in the earthquake. Then Fukushima lost its backup generators to the tsunami.  They had battery power for a few hours, but when that failed, the pumps could no longer pump cooling water and disaster followed very quickly.  We are now finally being informed officially that the cores at Fukushima 1, 2 and 3 were all melting within hours of losing the last battery power to the cooling pumps.

So, if those flood waters breach sandbag walls, and take out the main power line to the plant as well as the backup diesel generators, we'd be only hours from having nuclear reactor cores doing meltdowns in America's heartland.

Pray to whatever gods you got that those sandbag walls hold. If those sandbags don't hold, a lot of America will be wishing the NRC had done what Beyond Nuclear is petitioning for. That is closing Cooper nuclear power plant, and the other's that share the GE design built at Fukushima, pending a rigorous safety review.

Japan's new anti-nuclear resistance

Japan's new anti-nuclear resistance by Chirs Kim of Socialist Worker.
These protests also marked the arrival of a new generation of organizers largely new to political activism. According to Labornet Japan, "Nearly 90 percent of participants were young people in their 20s and 30s, and most of them were taking part in this kind of action for the first time and found out the mobilization through the Internet...The participation of such a large number of young people is a groundbreaking moment in the history of Japan's social movements."

Thus, in the midst of tragedy, something positive was emerging. Organizer Hajime Matsumoto expressed the enthusiasm that many shared at the sight of this new wave of protest. "Something has begun," said Matsumoto. "Otherwise, Japan will collapse."

What's more, the disarray within the Japanese ruling class was becoming increasingly stark. On April 8, Masayoshi Yoshino, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (similar to the Republican Party in the U.S.) and a member of parliament from the Fukushima prefecture, held a news conference to declare:

"As a person who has had a pro-nuclear stance, I'm totally at a loss at the moment as to whether we should continue to promote Japan's nuclear energy sector...I know in my head that I should make a decision only when we have a thorough investigation into what happened. But my instinct tells me, "No more nuclear plants.""

No more nuclear plants. We can't afford many more maps like these.

BTW, you might have missed it since Fukushima seems unmenationable now in the US media, but Japan disclosed that Fukushima had been releasing twice as much radiation as had been previously admitted to.  After all, important stuff like Weiner's weiner pictures were dominating the news then.  One thing that's not being discussed is how Fukushima is releasing far more radiation than Chernobyl did (follow link for good maps).  And, at this point, remember that nothing has been done to close off those damaged Japanese reactors. They are still open to the air and spewing radiation.

There's one thing that's been true from Three Mile Island to Chernobyl to Fukushima.  Whatever you hear from the power company and the government, its always much worse.  The scary thought is what that means for the reactor in NE that's going under the Missouri River flood waters, and about which what little media coverage there's been in the US as been very reassuring.

The best way to avoid having to worry about getting your own updated radiation maps for your neighborhood after yet another nuclear disaster is organize and not let them build or continue to operate a nuclear facility near you.

My instinct is yelling at me .... "No More Nuclear Plants".

Monday, June 20, 2011

Waging Another Unconstitutional War

Waging Another Unconstitutional War by Ralph Nader.

The expanding immunities of the Executive branch, now increasingly embracing the military contractors of the corporate state, is destroying the remaining pretensions that we are a nation under law. When he was inaugurated as President in January 2009, President Obama said he wanted his Administration to be known as one of "transparency and the rule of law." You'll recall during his 2008 campaign he trumpeted that he would obey the Constitution, inferring the the Republican regime was trampling the Rule of Law.

Indeed in 2007, then Senator Barack Obama stated that "the president does not have any power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation." Vice President Biden was even more vehement on this issue. And Secretary of Defense Robert Gates originally opposed the attack on Libya before falling in line.

One thing you'll hear on the internet is that politics doesn't matter because you get this same result no matter who you elect. It now appears obvious that whether the electorate had selected Obama, McCain or Hillary, we'd still be in all our wars including our new one in Libya.

But, this ignores the fact that there were other names on the ballot in 2008 besides McCain and Obama. Read this piece by Ralph Nader, and ask whether or not US policy might be very different today if the electorate had chosen Ralph Nader to be President. Or, in the last election, I voted for Cynthia McKinney. She's another strong voice against these wars, and US policy would certainly be different if the electorate had elected her.

Nothing kept people from doing this. There's this loud message of course, that these candidates can't win. But, that's only true when the American people walk into a voting booth and select Obama or McCain over these other choices. Nothing stopped the American people from ending these wars in 2008 by electing someone like Ralph Nader as President.

At some point, when people have had enough, they need to stop voting for the same people who keep inflicting these policies they don't want upon them.

A very simple rule to follow to do this would be to stop voting for the candidates with all the money. When you see a candidate with enough money to flood television stations with their ads, people need to realize that this means that the candidate is already bought by the money that paid for those ads. Whether the party of the candidate is (D) or (R) is irrelevant. To get real change, try voting for the broke candidates who can't afford TV ads. At least you've got a chance that they might not already be bought.