Author Archives: Adalberto7975

We’re Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 14, 2014

Mother Jones

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Marine Infantry Officer Course students stand by before a helicopter drill in Arizona. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James Marchetti)

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We’re Still at War: Photo of the Day for October 14, 2014

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The Tea Party Is Dead. Long Live the Tea Party.

Mother Jones

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Does yesterday’s vote for a clean debt ceiling increase mean that the Republican Party is finally coming to its senses? Ed Kilgore doubts it:

You will forgive me for an enduring skepticism on this latest “proof” that “the fever” (as the president calls radical conservatism) has broken, the Tea Party has been domesticated, the grownups are back in control, and the storms that convulsed our political system in 2009 have finally passed away. We’ve been hearing these assurances metronomically from the moment “the fever” first appeared.

….But it is not all that clear just yet that the GOP back-benchers racing to get out of Washington before a winter storm are satisfied with how the deal went down. Their level of equanimity will not improve after puzzled conservative constituents grill them on this “surrender,” and after they are congratulated by everyone else on the political spectrum for their abandonment of “conservative principles.”

In other words, it’s once again premature to read into this development a sea-change in contemporary conservatism or the GOP. Best I can tell from reading conservative media the last few weeks, the reluctance of GOPers to engineer another high-level fiscal confrontation owed less to the public repudiation of last autumn’s apocalypse than to the belief that Republicans are on the brink of a historic midterm victory accompanied by a decisive negative referendum on Obamacare. If that’s “pragmatism,” it’s of a very narrow sort.

Yes indeedy. For all practical purposes, the tea party is moribund as an independent force, but only because it’s been fully incorporated into the Republican Party itself. Sure, there are still groups out there with “tea party” in their name, but the funding and energy are mostly coming from the Koch brothers, the Club for Growth, ATR, and other right-wing pressure groups that have been around forever.

The difference between previous fluorescences of the nutball right and this one is simple: previous ones either died out in failure or else succeeded only in moving the GOP to the right a bit. The tea party fluorescence has finally captured the party for good. But this doesn’t mean that every single political confrontation is going to turn into a scorched-earth campaign. Even fanatics can tell when a particular tactic has stopped working, and even fanatics like to win elections. But that doesn’t mean they’ve lost their influence. They’ve learned a bit, and perhaps decided to become a bit more sophisticated about their opposition tactics, but they still control the Republican Party. Make no mistake about that.


The Tea Party Is Dead. Long Live the Tea Party.

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Enviros and climate scientists continue their fight over nuclear power

Enviros and climate scientists continue their fight over nuclear power


More than 300 environmental, peace, and anti-nuclear groups and leaders published an open letter this week urging four prominent climate scientists to stop “embracing nuclear power” as a tool for curbing climate-changing pollution.

In response, one the four scientists reaffirmed his reluctant support for nuclear power, denying that he embraces the technology, but saying there’s “no justification” for claims it could never become safe or affordable.

The debate among environmentalists over nuclear power flared up in November, when the four scientists published a letter calling for increased development and deployment of “safer nuclear energy systems.” The letter was written by some of the climate community’s best and brightest: NASA scientist-turned-activist James HansenKen Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Kerry Emanuel of MIT, and climatologist Tom Wigley.

That letter triggered a cavalcade of opinion articles, many of them arguing that nuclear power is too dangerous and much more expensive than wind and solar power. And now many critics of the scientists’ arguments — from tiny groups to big ones like Greenpeace USA and the Environmental Working Group — have united to voice their opposition in this new letter. Here are some highlights:

We respectfully disagree with your analysis that nuclear power can safely and affordably mitigate climate change.

Nuclear power is not a financially viable option. Since its inception it has required taxpayer subsidies and publically financed indemnity against accidents. New construction requires billions in public subsidies to attract private capital and, once under construction, severe cost overruns are all but inevitable. As for operational safety, the history of nuclear power plants in the US is fraught with near misses, as documented by the Union of Concerned Scientists, and creates another financial and safety quagmire — high-level nuclear waste. Internationally, we’ve experienced two catastrophic accidents for a technology deemed to be virtually ‘failsafe’. …

Moreover, due to the glacial pace of deployment, the absence of any possibility of strategic technological breakthroughs, and the necessity, as you correctly say, of mitigating climate risks in the near term, nuclear technology is ill-suited to provide any real impact on greenhouse gas emissions in that timeframe. On the contrary, the technologies perfectly positioned now, due to their cost and level of commercialization, to attain decisive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the near term are renewable, energy efficiency, distributed power, demand response, and storage technologies.

Instead of embracing nuclear power, we request that you join us in supporting an electric grid dominated by energy efficiency, renewable, distributed power and storage technologies.

Grist asked the climate scientists for a response, and here’s an email we received from Caldeira:

It is time for people to rethink their positions on nuclear power, and make arguments based on facts rather than prejudices.

Any good scientist and any good citizen should be constantly re-examining their positions, so the basic call for us to rethink our position on nuclear power is most welcome. I hope that the signers of this Civil Society Institute letter can bring themselves to re-examine the nuclear power issue with the same objectivity and lack-of-bias that they seek from us.

The letter confusedly suggests that I “embrace nuclear power”, and implies that I somehow discount the importance and potential of solar, wind, and efficiency. I cannot speak on behalf of my colleagues, but at least in my case, these claims are far from the truth.

We embrace things that we love. I don’t love nuclear power. Nuclear power has brought us Chernobyl and Fukushima. If the current industry were scaled up enough to solve the climate problem, there would be one such accident each year — and that is clearly unacceptable. Were I king of the world, I would decree that solar, wind, and efficiency would be the primary means we deploy to solve the climate problem.

But there is no energy storage system that works at the scale of the modern megalopolis. We need a way to power civilization when the sun is not shining and when the wind is not blowing. In a modern real economy, not ruled by benevolent kings, reliable power is required at competitive prices. There are very few technologies that can provide this reliable baseload power. Fossil fuels and nuclear power are the two leading candidates. I think an objective assessment of the facts shows that fossil fuels are far more dangerous than even today’s nuclear power.

But I do not defend today’s nuclear power industry. Even though most nuclear power plants have an excellent safety record, there are an important few that do not. There is no justification for the claim that this important type of electricity generation can never be made sufficiently safe and inexpensive.

To say that an entire category of technology can never be sufficiently improved is, I think, to adopt a position of technological myopia, where one lacks to the capacity to imagine that future technologies can differ substantially from today’s technologies.

I do not embrace nuclear power. There is no power source that one wants to embrace. They all have negative consequences. I do not want a solar PV factory, a massive wind turbine, or a nuclear power plant in my back yard. But I want the juice. The question is not about what power source I embrace, but about what power source I might think myself capable of not rejecting. Many people want to reject power sources, but want the juice that comes from those power sources.

In summary, I applaud the signers of the Civil Society Institute letter for their concern regarding climate change and for their support of solar, wind, and efficiency. Their call for us to rethink our positions on nuclear power is most welcome, and I ask only that they rethink their position with respect to nuclear power with the same degree of receptivity and objectivity that they ask of us.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Business & Technology


Climate & Energy

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Enviros and climate scientists continue their fight over nuclear power

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Iowa Wants Its Poor to Give Up Smoking and Drinking to Qualify for Medicaid

Mother Jones

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The Obama administration gave Iowa a waiver today to expand Medicaid along lines similar to what Arkansas did earlier this year, in which Medicaid dollars will be used to buy insurance in the private marketplace. I’m OK with this as an experiment, and curious to see how it turns out. But there was another wrinkle to Iowa’s waiver application:

Iowa wanted to do something different. Gov. Terry Branstad (R) wanted to charge a small premium for Medicaid enrollees who earn between 50 percent and 133 percent of the poverty line. In the Arkansas plan, there were no premiums at all.

Health and Human Services essentially split the difference with the state here: They’re allowing premiums for those who earn between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty line, but not for those who earn below that. The premiums are limited at 2 percent of income (for someone at the poverty line, this is about $19 a month), and enrollees have the chance to reduce their payment by participating in a wellness program.

Hmmm. Iowa’s waiver application doesn’t describe this wellness program (a draft protocol will be submitted next March), but it does provide a hint about its goals:

The state shall submit for approval a draft section of the protocol related to year 1 Healthy Behavior Incentives including, at a minimum….the health risk assessment used to identify unhealthy behaviors such as alcohol abuse, substance use disorders, tobacco use, obesity, and deficiencies in immunization status.

A single person at 50 percent of the poverty line makes less than $500 per month. That’s obviously not someone who can afford even a nickel in extra expenses. But that was the income level in Iowa’s initial application, which means that for all practical purposes the original goal of this program was to (a) deny government benefits to poor people who are smokers, drinkers, drug users, or overweight, but (b) provide the benefits if these poor people agree to fairly intrusive government monitoring that ensures they improve these behaviors.

So here’s a question: what’s the liberal party line on this kind of thing? Are we opposed because conservatives are once again trying to deny benefits to the “undeserving” poor? Or are we in favor of this because using incentives to improve destructive lifestyles among the most vulnerable is a worthy effort? Does it matter whether the motivation for these incentives is something we approve of? If a lefty foundation launched a program that helped out poor families via a tough-love style approach that insisted on modifying destructive behavior, would it be OK? How much difference does it make that one is a public program and the other is private?



Iowa Wants Its Poor to Give Up Smoking and Drinking to Qualify for Medicaid

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