Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Obama’s Libyan Adventure

I;m not here to gloat. There's plenty of people handling that very well.

I just want to say that I believe Obama has the authority to order limited military strikes based on situations that involve danger to the United States without going to Congress for permission. I also believe that the War Powers gives Obama 60 day window to achieve his goals, or he'll have to stand down, or get Congressional approval.

On the other hand, to all the libs who are giving Obama a pass on his invasion of Libya, I don't want to hear another word about Bush's 'illegal' wars.

Not one freakin' word.

Posted by Rich
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Obama’s Speech Cadences Explained

This is his inspiration:

Posted by Rich
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A Nuclear Power Primer: Part 3: How Does Radiation Hurt Us and How Much Does it Take?

We've talked about the four types of nuclear radiation, alpha, beta, gamma, and neutron, and where they come from. Now it's time to talk about how they affect the human body.

We'll start with neutron radiation first, because it's really the simplest. First of all, neutron radiation is the only one that impacts the nucleus of the atom. The other three cause damage through ionization of the atom's electrons. To understand neutron radiation, imagine a pool table set for the start of a game. 15 balls are in the middle of the table, with the cue ball set for the break. The cue ball is a free neutron. When the neutron hits the nucleus, one of three things might happen. First, if the cue ball doesn't have enough energy, or hits at the wrong angle, it caroms off, barely disturbing the pack of balls. Second, if the ball has too much energy, it slams through the pack. breaking it up. This is fission, and results in fission products, more free neutrons, and energy. Third, if the ball has just the right amount of energy, it just makes it to the pack and joins in, becoming another neutron in the nucleus. Here is where our analogy breaks down, because many times, when a nucleus gets another neutron, it becomes unstable, and begins to decay, emitting alphas, betas, or gammas. This is called activation, and is one of the trickier problems with neutron irradiation an the physical properties of the irradiated matter can be quite different from the original.

So biologically, neutron irradiation can deposit energy in cell tissues, can break up molecules that might be important to cellular function, like DNA for example, and can activate materials in our bodies, giving off secondary radiation and causing additional damage.

The other three types of radiation are often referred to as ionizing radiation. Remember, an ion is an atom that has gained or lost an electron, making it a charged particle instead of neutral. This charge causes it to ionize other atoms, leading to cellular damage both by the deposit of thermal energy, and through changes in molecular structures. In the cases of alpha and beta radiation, the mechanism is easy to understand. These charged particles, when close to other atoms, either attract or repulse the electrons surrounding them. If the energy is right they can strip those electrons from the atoms, creating new ions. What is not so obvious is how photons cause ionization. They have no charge to attract or repulse electrons, and no mass to knock them loose, so how do they cause ionization?

The answer gets a little bit complicated, but the short answer is that when conditions are right, the photon can give it's energy to the electron, which causes it to move to a higher level. If the energy is enough, it can free the electron completely, causing ionization.

The damage caused by ionization is can be critical. The thermal energy alone can cause damage, similar to a sun burn. The cell heats up and dies. The bigger issue is the long term damage done to cells that survive the initial deposit of energy. Ionization can cause damage to the cells DNA, resulting in mutations that can result in cancerous tumors, dead tissues, and other problems, not to mention the burden on the body in disposing of these wasted tissues.

Radiation sickness is the term we use to describe the immediate damage to body tissues on exposure to radiation, and the longer term illnesses as the body tries to repair the damage.

Gamma and neutron radiation present the biggest problems since, like we discussed earlier, they penetrate the whole body, causing damage everywhere. The distributed nature of the damage makes treatment nearly impossible. The best doctors can do is support the patient and hope that the damage is not so severe that the body can't recover.

So how much is too much?

The standard unit of exposure, or dose, is the rem, or the metric version, the sievert. To convert, not like you'd want to, 1 sievert is equal to 100 rem. The LD50, or the dose expected to kill 50% of the people exposed is roughly 450 rem, or 4.5 sieverts.

And that tells you almost nothing since you don't have anything to compare it to.

Normal background radiation in the US, what we are exposed to everyday from cosmic rays, sunshine, and naturally occurring radiation from sources like radon gas, runs about 0.35 rem per year. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, you're gaining an additional dose of roughly 2 rem per year. A full dental x-ray gives you a dose of .004 rem. The occupational limit for exposure to radiation is 5 rem per year. My personal exposure after nearly five years of working in and living on a nuclear reactor was about 0.5 rem.

I feel fine.

So, that should give you a little bit of a feeling for how much radiation exposure it takes to cause significant troubles.

Now that we have a short background on radiation and how it hurts us, we can start to take a look at how it helps us, as in, how it generates power for us. Next, we're going to look at the differences between radioactive decay and nuclear fission. Nuclear fission is where the big power comes from.

Posted by Rich
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Bruce Pearl Heads for the Showers

While I like Bruce Pearl, and think he was a great hire for UT, I think that they did the right thing by firing him. As much good as he has done here, as popular and energetic as he is, his personal conduct has done almost as much damage. The poor results this season are really irrelevant as far as I'm concerned. What matters is that Coach Pearl knowingly broke NCAA rules, then lied to cover it up, then lied again about coming clean about the whole thing. He showed not only bad judgment, but poor character as well.

Any man can make a mistake, and many of them will try to cover it up if possible. Unfortunately, Coach Pearl is not any man; he's the coach of a major sports team. He doesn't have the luxury of making mistakes like that.

Now, he will face the consequences of his actions. I'm sure the buyout he gets will be generous, and I'm equally certain he'll land another coaching job somewhere. He's too good of a coach not to.

It's too bad really. Coach Pearl could have taken the NCAA championship. Instead, he took us to an NCAA investigation and possible probation.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, March 21, 2011

A Nuclear Power Primer: Part 2c: What is Radiation? Particles and Rays

So, we know that radioactive elements are elements with unstable nuclei that decay spontaneously, giving off the energy that once held the nucleus together. Now it's time to talk about the forms that energy takes.

There are four basic types of radiation,
  • alpha
  • beta
  • gamma
  • neutron

An alpha particle consists of a bundle of two protons and two neutrons. This gives it an atomic mass of 4, which makes it very massive as particles go. Also, since it has no associated electrons, it has a positive charge of 2, which makes it relatively highly charged. This combination of high mass and strong charge means that the alpha particle can do a lot of damage in human tissue, so we pay special attention to isotopes that emit alphas when they decay. On the other hand, the high mass and charge means that the alpha particle isn't very mobile. It will only move a few centimeters through the air, and can be stopped by a piece of paper.

Yep, plain old notebook paper can protect you from alpha radiation.

A beta particle looks a lot like an electron. It has the same mass, and the same negative charge, but it comes from the nucleus of the atom, not the electron cloud.

Earlier, we said that the nucleus contains only protons and neutrons, so where does this electron thing come from?

Glad you asked.

If we look very closely at a neutron, we find something unusual. A neutron can become a proton if it gives up an electron. (And an anti-neutrino, but let's not get too complicated here.) It adds up correctly when you think about it. A neutron has no charge, so, if it loses a negatively charged particle, the beta, it will have the same mass and will become positively charged. In other words, a proton. And, since the number of protons determines the type of element, beta decay transforms the element into a different one.

The beta particle can travel a little bit further than the alpha, and requires a bit more shielding to stop it. While they can't penetrate the dead cell layer of our skin, they can irradiate our eyes, but common plastic safety goggles takes care of that threat. However, like alphas, if they can get inside your body, whether by breathing them in or ingesting them, they can cause problems for us, so we use respirators with HEPA filters to prevent that.

The gamma ray is the odd man out. Unlike other forms of radiation, a gamma is not a particle, but a ray. The easiest way to think of it is as a photon of light. If you remember from your science classes, light behaves like a particle sometimes and like a wave sometimes, depending on how we look at it. A gamma ray does the same thing. Like light rays, gammas have specific frequencies, and energy levels. Unlike light, they aren't easily shielded. In fact, to reduce gamma radiation to 10% of it's initial level requires 4 inches of lead or 12 inches of steel.

Gamma radiation penetrates throughout your entire body, and while it won't let you transform into a giant green comic book superhero, it can cause significant damage to your tissues. This is the primary form of radiation that we deal with in the industry, and the only real way to control your exposure is to not be around it. We'll talk more about exposure control later.

The fourth class of radiation, neutron, occurs mostly around nuclear fission; there are relatively few isotopes that decay by emitting a neutron, and most of those actually decay through spontaneous fission. Neutrons are the vital link in the production of nuclear power as they create the chain reactions that allow us to get more power out of a reactor than we put in. We'll discuss the role of neutrons in power generation in a later topic.

The neutron has no charge and a mass of 1 AMU. When it is released during the fission process, it carries a lot of energy. Unlike the other forms of radiation discussed earlier, neutron radiation has the capability of activating previously stable elements, causing them to become radioactive themselves. Neutron radiation can also cause far more damage to living tissue than other types of radiation.

The best way to shield neutron radiation is water, or other hydrogen rich compounds.

So now, if we take everything we've covered, we have a working definition of nuclear radiation. It is the energy given off by the decay of an unstable atom in the form of particles or rays.

Our next topic will cover how radiation causes damage, how much is too much, and how we protect ourselves.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, March 18, 2011

Crooks and Liars Blogger Suzy Madrak Lives up to the Name

I found this article flagged in my feed reader:

War On The Poor: Minnesota Republicans Want To Bust Poor People Who Carry Cash

By Susie Madrak

They're not just crazy, they're evil -- and un-Christian, should they have the audacity to claim otherwise. If only we could force them to live like this, they wouldn't last a week:

St. Paul, MN – Minnesota Republicans are pushing legislation that would make it a crime for people on public assistance to have more $20 in cash in their pockets any given month. This represents a change from their initial proposal, which banned them from having any money at all.

Wow, how heartless! What evil monsters! What loathsome bastards!

What a load of crap!

While Suzy didn't link to the actual legislation, google is my friend and I found it pretty easily.

I'm sure you'll be as shocked as I was to find that it was a perfectly reasonable piece of legislation designed to ensure that State monies given to the poor for their support were used appropriately. In other words, no whiskey, no cigs, and no drugs. There's nothing in the law that says they can be arrested for having more than $20 in their pocket, as claimed by Fight Back article Suzy links to. Instead, it says that the Electronic Benefit Card will be limited to allowing cash withdrawals of only $20 a month.

Why is this restriction necessary? Way back a long time ago, I was the night clerk at a mini-mart. In what was a nightly routine, 4 young kids would come in, each with a 1 dollar food stamp. They would each buy a nickle piece of gum and take the 95 cents in change outside. As soon as the last child hit the door, an older man would come in with just under 5 dollars in change and use it to buy beer or cigarettes.

This wasn't a rare occurrence; it happened at least two or three times a night.

I worked in a grocery, and watched as women came in, used their EBT to buy diapers, then sold the diapers in the parking lot, returning to the store for beer or cigarettes.

The state has essentially three choices

  1. Ignore the fraud. Allow the recipients to spend the money on whatever they want. Then when the kids go hungry, give them some more money.

  2. Work to try and make the fraud harder to perpetrate. This may increase the burden on the honest folks receiving assistance, but by reducing fraud, the program itself becomes stronger.

  3. Cancel the program.

That's it. Those are the only options. The only one that makes sense is to fight the fraud. I'm sure that enterprising recipients of state money will find a way around this restriction as well, but at least it will be a little bit more difficult for them to do so.

This has nothing tom do with a war on the poor, or the GOP being heartless bastards and instead has everything to do with trying to make sure that the kids who are supposed to be getting the benefits of the state money actually do get the benefits.

That's not heartless; that's what real compassion looks like.

But you can't win propaganda points for your team unless you demonize everything the other side does, regardless of the merits. For the sake of the honest folks getting assistance in Minnesota, I hope this bill passes and keeps the programs solvent for a while longer.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Nuclear Power Primer: Part 2b: What is Radiation? Radioactive Decay

So last time, we talked about the structure of the atom, and where nuclear energy comes from. We finished by describing nuclear energy as the binding energy of the nucleus that is released when the nucleus splits. Today, we're going to talk about how that split happens.

First of all, we need to define our terms. Instead of a list definitions, which will bore you into deep slumber, I'm going to use the words in context so you'll retain them better. When we're talking about splitting a nucleus, we're talking about fission. Fission can occur spontaneously, or we can make it happen. When it happens spontaneously, we call it decay, and elements that fission spontaneously are called radioactive since they naturally emit radiation.

See? Simple!

When we're talking about radioactivity, we're talking about the rate of decay for that element. Each element, and each isotope (remember, an isotope is an element with the normal number of protons, but a different number of neutrons) has it's own decay rate or activity. To make things a little less straight forward, the decay rate is not constant over time, but is affected by the quantity of the isotope as well. The more there is of it, the faster it decays In order to take this rather strange property of radioactivity into account, the decay of an isotope is measured by the time it takes for half of it to decay. For example, Cobalt 60, a radioactive isotope produced in nuclear reactors has a half life of 5.27 years, so if you have 1 pound of it, in 5 years and 14 weeks, you will have half a pound of Cobalt 60, and half a pound of it's decay products, in this case, nickel 60, which is a stable element. In another 5 years 14 weeks, you'll have a quarter pound, and so on.

Now what should be obvious when you think about it, as the amount goes down, and the rate of decay slows down, the energy it gives off goes down as well, which is a good thing, because eventually, the radiation given off decreases to a point where it is low enough not to matter.

So, how does this decay occur?

Well, we talked about how the electrostatic forces that tend to cause the protons to try and scatter are countered by the nuclear force that holds the nucleus together. As we add more protons and neutrons to the nucleus, it gets larger. The electrostatic force gets larger, but the nuclear force gets weaker. Just like gravity, the further you get from the center of the object, the weaker the force becomes. Eventually, you get to a point where the nuclear force is overcome by the electrostatic forces, and the nucleus becomes unstable. The degree of instability determines the activity of the isotope and it's decay rate. (This is a huge simplification of all the forces in play, but it is accurate enough for our purpose here. Naturally occurring radioactive elements have nuclei that are unstable due to their size, and they decay spontaneously.

As you can imagine, isotopes that are highly unstable decay pretty quickly, which means we don't find them in nature because they've all decayed away. On the other hand, isotopes that are barely unstable are going to stick around for awhile, giving up their energy very slowly.

Now when you think about a nuclear fuel, you want one that releases energy fairly quickly so we have a problem; the isotopes that are most abundant are the ones least suited to generate power. We have to come up with a way to make these normally low activity isotopes give off enough activity to be useful.

If you've been paying attention, you already know the answer, but we'll talk more about that later. Next time, we need to talk about the different ways the nucleus can fission and the different types of energy that is released.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Keeping it Civil: Conservative Vs Liberal Criticism

Yesterday, I found an article on Big Hollywood covering several Hollywood celebrities cracking jokes about the Japan earthquake/tsunami. I posted a link to the article on Facebook, and a friend posted a link to a similar piece from wonkette calling out a conservative for the same thing.

While my buddy was trying to point out that obnoxious stupidity isn't the exclusive property of the left, his choice of articles clearly illustrated their dominance in that regard.

In the Big Hollywood piece, after listing a few quotes from celebrities, and noting that Gottfried was fired, John Nolte wrote:
Free country. Free to mock. Free to terminate employment. Free to wonder how anyone could see or look for or attempt to mine humor and attention from the relentlessly heartbreaking images broadcast over the weekend.

That's it. No name calling; no snark; no hyperbolic rhetoric. Just a recitation of the facts, and the opinion that all those involved had the right to say what they said, and fire who they fired, followed by a fairly gentle protest against inappropriate humor.

Now, compare this to the wonkette piece:
Here’s something Sarah Palin will be super angry about until somebody (Willow?) tells her Haley Barbour is a Republican: Mississippi white pig Haley Barbour’s press secretary sends out a heehawlarious email news roundup “to Barbour’s staff and other allies” with fun jokes about Janet Reno looking like a man and all those Japs getting killed by the earthquake/nuclear apocalypse. Palin might even type a “Half u no shamez, Halle Barber?” on her Twitter or whatever! But Haley Barbour’s press secretary wants you to know that Haley probably doesn’t even read these things, because he is a six-hundred-pound klan-whale who can’t figure out the ‘puter, so he gets “printouts” of the email, and the jokes are probably not visible on the printouts because of … white southerners are dumb? Yes, let’s go with that, which is all we can figure from this Politico item.

Ben Smith pastes a chunk of these dumb, offensive emails into the Politico content management system:

Otis Redding posthumously received a gold record for his single, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”. (Not a big hit in Japan right now.)

In 1993: Janet Reno was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to become the first female attorney general. (It took longer to confirm her gender than to confirm her law license.)

Ha ha, Otis Redding. Sounds like a colored name! (“But if he’s black, why did his mama name him ‘Redding,’ haw haw.”) Anyway, there’s your news item about Haley Barbour’s email list which is written by Haley Barbour’s press secretary and not Haley Barbour himself, because come on, Haley Barbour would have as much chance of success trying to type as a walrus would, using flippers, because Haley Barbour is so fat and racist. Anyway, nobody apologized or anything, because it’s your fault for always trying to cause trouble. God, it’s just an email making fun of the Japs getting killed in earthquakes. Did everybody forget Pearl Harbor already?

I'm really tempted to take this post apart, point out all the deliberate errors, but I don't really need to. It speaks for itself.

So, reading these two posts, which side do you think is practicing civility and which is just talking about it?

Posted by Rich
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Union Insanity on Display

If you want proof that unions are counterproductive and reduce efficiency and performance, all you need to do is look at the current controversy over teachers and tenure. Here in Tennessee, Gov Haslam gave his State of the State speech. In it, he said that the criteria for keeping teachers should be their effectiveness as teachers, and not their longevity. Achievement, not seniority should rule when layoffs come around. Predictably, the unions are against this.

What amazes me in all this is the implicit admission that under union rules, the teachers kept the longest are not necessarily the best teachers. In fact, teacher's unions are admitting that their rules are designed to protect inferior teachers. If, as Gov Haslam suggests, teacher retention were based on teacher performance, then by definition, the teachers with the most seniority would also be the best teachers.

I don't know precisely how the liberal mind works, but to me, a system which automatically rewards and protects the best teachers is the one I would like to see used in our schools instead of the one that by design protects the weaker teachers. Then again, I'm funny that way. I believe that the purpose of schools is to educate our children, not to provide jobs for those who can't do anything else.

And before you go off on a rant about how many good teachers there are out there, and how dare I attack them, re-read the post. I'm not attacking teachers; I'm attacking their union, and I'm attacking those specific teachers who are more concerned about their seniority than about whether or not their pupils are performing to their full potential. I work in the real world. If I don't produce; I'm out of a job, regardless of how long I've been working there.

Why should teachers be any different?

Posted by Rich
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A Nuclear Power Primer: Part 2: What is Radiation? Energy from the Atom

So, we talked about the general way a nuclear power plant works. The fuel in the reactor heats water to a high temperature. That water is used to make steam, the steam turns a turbine that spins a generator, making electricity. Today, we're going to look more closely at the first stage of that process, the nuclear fuel itself.

First of all, we all learned in science class that everything is made up of atoms, and that atoms are the most basic building blocks of matter. In fact, the greek root for the word atom means indivisible. Well, what we learned was actually wrong; we've now identified more sub atomic particles than atomic particles, and we theorize the existence of many more, but for our purposes, all we really need to talk about is the atom, and the three particles that make it up: the proton, the neutron, and the electron.

The proton is a positively charged particle that has a mass of 1 Atomic Mass Unit (amu). (Roughly 1.66x10-27kg.) It stays in the nucleus of the atom, and the number of protons determines the identity of the atom, what element it is. Hydrogen has one proton, Helium has two, Carbon has 6, and so on.

The neutron has no charge, and also has a mass of 1 amu. When the number of neutrons changes, but the number of protons remains the same, then we have different isotopes of the element. For example, the most abundant form of carbon has 6 protons and 6 neutrons. If two more neutrons are added to the nucleus, then we're dealing with the isotope Carbon-14, a radioactive isotope useful in dating old objects.

Protons and neutrons together make up the nucleus of the atom.

Electrons have a very, very small mass when compared to the proton and neutron, so we usually assume it is zero. It has a negative charge and it flies around the nucleus within a certain distance. That distance is determined by the energy level of the electron, and is a property of the electron we'll discuss in more detail later on. For now, realize that the electron does not orbit the nucleus like a planet, but instead is always within a certain range of the nucleus. An atom normally has the same number of electrons as it has neutrons, resulting in a neutral charge for the atom. If the atom gains or loses electrons, it acquires a negative or positive charge, and is called an ion.

So, the atom has electrons circling a nucleus which is made up of protons and neutrons. So, I have a question for you. What happens when you take two magnets, and hold the same poles together?

They fly apart, right? Well, particles with the same charge do the same thing. When you group a bunch of particles with the same charge together, they try to fly apart.

So, what is holding the nucleus together? It's a bundle of particles with the same charge and particles with no charge. It should fly apart all by itself.

It doesn't because there's another force at work, the nuclear force. (Actually, there are two forces, the strong and the weak nuclear forces, but that's beyond the scope of this post.) The nuclear force acts to hold the nucleus together, and is stronger than the electrostatic repulsion of the similar charges. When an atom splits, the energy that held the nucleus together, the binding energy, is released and that is the energy we call radiation.

The next question is how does this atom split, and that's what we'll address in the next post.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, March 14, 2011

A Nuclear Power Primer: Part 1 An Overview

My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Japan as they begin the long recovery process after the earthquake/tsunami and deal with the complication of two nuclear power plants that were damaged. And while I share the sympathy expressed by so many others, I realized on my way home from work that here is where I can provide additional information that the MSM doesn't have the time, will, or knowledge to provide, and that is basic understanding of nuclear power, how it works, how the plants work, and a little bit about what is going on in Japan right now.

The purpose of any power plant is to convert energy from the form it is stored in to one that we can use, namely electricity. This is done by using a fuel to generate steam, which turns a turbine and generates electricity. So we're converting the energy from the fuel, to thermal energy, to physical energy, and then to electrical energy.

Coal or gas fired plants use chemical energy; solar generation plants do the same thing, harnessing the sun's thermal energy (PV cells are a different technology; rather than converting the sun's energy to thermal energy, they convert it directly to electric energy. More on those in another article.); wind plants harness physical energy, and a nuclear plant harness the power inside the atom. But all of them convert that energy to thermal energy, then to electrical energy.

The layout of a nuclear power plant is pretty straight forward. The reactor itself is staged inside a primary containment. The primary containment is built to contain any fuel or coolant leaks, preventing exposure to people outside the plant. The reactor is cooled by a constant flow of water. Relatively cool water, a few hundred degrees F, goes into the reactor core, where it is heated up while cooling the core. The hot water then goes to a steam generator, which uses the heat from the coolant to make high pressure steam. This steam then goes through a turbine generator. The steam spins the turbine, which is connected to a generator, making electricity. The steam then passes through a condenser, which cools it back down to water and is sent back to the steam generator.

There are other systems to control the reactor, maintain pressure, and other functions, as well as emergency response systems and emergency cooling systems, and I'll talk about those systems in a little more detail later. For now, the important thing to know is that while the Japanese plants are having problems, so far, the radiation levels and the contamination levels outside the plant are still well within safe limits. Not healthy limits, not optimum limits, and not what the plant designers wanted to see, but not Chernobyl like levels either. This despite the worst earthquake recorded in Japanese history, a 9.0 by the latest estimates, and a tsunami that devastated the nation.

While the situation is still developing, and things could very well get worse, the important thing to know is that we're a couple of days into the crisis, and things are still manageable. I'm not trying to soft-pedal the dangers ahead, or minimize the damage already done to the reactors, just pointing out that the emergency systems are doing a good job of containing the reactors, despite the massive failures due to the quake.

Pretty impressive engineering.

Next, we're going to dig deeper into where the energy in nuclear fuel comes from.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ahhhh. That Felt Pretty Good!

Stay tuned boys and girls. I'm just getting warmed up.

Posted by Rich
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By the Way, Did You Catch That?

The monthly deficit for February was $222 billion dollars. And of that deficit, Republicans could only find about $10 billion to cut. That's embarrassing.

Sadly, when it comes to fiscal responsibility, the Democrats make the spendthrift Republicans look like valedictorians from Dave Ramsey's School of Financial Management. They said cutting anymore than $1 billion a month would be dangerous and irresponsible. I think putting either group in charge of any financial operation bigger than a corner lemonade stand is dangerous and irresponsible.

Posted by Rich
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Win in Wisconsin

A few quick comments first.

  • With labor union supporters swarming the state capitol, breaking into the building, blocking the doors to try and prevent the Assembly from meeting, death threats filed against Republican Senators and Assemblymen, violent rhetoric and calls for massive protests, we've discovered the new tone of civility sought by Democrats is based on the civility rampant in Paris during the French revolution.

  • When Democrats leave the state to avoid losing a vote, abdicating their responsibility to the people who elected them, they are considered heroes. When Republicans use a legal procedure to pass the legislation anyway, they are tyrants.

  • When a Republican proposes spending cuts to bring the state budget in line with other states, and collective bargaining rule changes that compare favorably to federal rules, he's a dictator on a level with Hitler. When a Democrat Senate proposes budget cuts of $10 billion over 6 months when the monthly deficit is $222 billion, they are called responsible.

It just goes to show that whether you're talking at a state level or a Federal level, Democrats cannot be taken seriously when it comes to balancing the budget. And before you come back at me saying that neither can republicans, I'll tell you right now that I agree with you. The only good thing I can say about Republicans is that fiscally, they aren't as bad as Democrats. Of course, that's like saying freezing to death is better then burning to death. Either way you're dead; one way just hurts less.

But that is why Wisconsin is a win, no matter what happens next. The people of Wisconsin voted for Walker and his fellow conservatives because they promised to do two things: ease unemployment and bring the budget under control. And that is exactly what Walker and the Republicans have done. One of his first acts in office was to create incentives for businesses to add workers. predictably, the left called these incentives tax cuts to the rich, but that's only because they didn't do them themselves. Had Democrats enacted identical legislation, they would have called it subsidizing job creation, and been happily holding hands and singing Kumbaya.

Next, Walker tackled the growing deficit by attacking the most out of control sector of public spending, salary and benefits for public workers. What most people don't realize, and the media sure as crap won't tell them, is that salary represents only a fraction of the cost of employment. Benefits make up a significant portion of the compensation package, and the public unions made sure that the package was lavish indeed. I'm ly not going into detail; it's available all over the net if you're interested, but public employees make significantly more than their private sector counterparts, and pay significantly less for their health care, pensions, and other benefits.

The reason they get such a sweetheart deal is clear; collective bargaining gives them an unfair advantage.

Here's how that looks. In a private union, management and labor each have their own agenda and they work to find a compromise that suits both sides. The two sides are completely independent with no conflict of interest. In a public service union, that isn't the case. Management, in this case, the legislators, is picked by labor. I know that if am going in to some tough negotiations, the ability to pick the guys on the other side of the table is nothing but good news for me. It becomes in his best interest to keep me happy or I may turn around and fire him.

This, plus all the federal regulations that give unions a tremendous advantage in collective bargaining results in what we're seeing in Wisconsin and many other states; underfunded pensions, rapidly escalating budget deficits and unhappy citizens who can't understand why their taxes keep going up while the service keeps going down. As long as public unions have this advantage, no matter what budget cuts the states pass, they will quickly find themselves back in the same hole. Scott Walker recognizes this, and is trying to implement a long term cost control solutions, one that will allow him to pay all the public employees, avoiding both lay-offs, and tax increases.

For this, the press and the teacher's unions call him Hitler.

Which tells me everything I need to know about the press and the teacher's union.

This is why even ardent labor supporters have been quoted as saying that public unions would never work. of course, that was back in the days when people actually gave a damn about the future, and thought that keeping the country viable was more important than lining their own pockets, when public service wasn't a euphemism for self service.

Today, that sentiment seems as outdated as stacked heels and polyester leisure suits.

Except now, Scott Walker has shown a streak of true public service. He did what he was elected to do, in the face of national opposition by trade unions, paid political hacks and the mainstream media, if I'm not being redundant there. He demonstrated a firm resolve to get the job done, a quality sadly lacking in most of our politicians, whose firm resolve lasts about as long as Hugh Hefner's after the Viagra wears off. But now, other states are following Walker's lead, passing short term fixes and long term solutions, giving me a faint hope that we just might slide through this crisis and remain solvent for another few years, at least long enough for me to get my garden fully established.

We'll just have to see how strong the push back is, and whether America is truly addicted to the hand out mentality.

Posted by Rich
Politics • (0) CommentsPermalink

Is This Thing On?

Test 1...2...

Wow, look at the dust!

Yeah, I know what I said, but there's just too much going on that's too important to just sit by quietly and let it happen.

The last time I posted here, I was tired of being angry at what I saw going on. I knew that nothing I said would make a difference, and that most of what I said was being said by other writers, and probably better, clearer, and certainly more concisely.

I've decided I don't care. There are certain things that need to be said, and if there's several of us saying it, then that just adds a bit more weight to what we say. besides, even though I consider America to be on an irreversible downward spiral into decadence, maybe, if we try hard enough, we can slow the inevitable decay down long enough for my kids and grandkids to have a shot at a decent life.

If nothing else, they'll know we tried.

So, hang on to your shorts. Shots is back!

Posted by Rich
Blogging • (0) CommentsPermalink

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