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Total number of comments: 18 (since 2013-11-28 15:55:02)

Thomas D

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  • Romney Poses, as Militants Burn Benghazi Consulate, killing Ambassador, 3 staffers, & Demonstrate in Cairo, over Islamophobic Film
    • In another post, Prof. Cole mentioned the idea that Romney had "jummped the shark"* with his response to another issue. Given his incompetent and pathetic response to this situation, I have to ask myself, "How many more times can Romney 'jump the shark'?"

      Let's say that setting up a televised event where Romney dons waterskis and jumps over a tank of sharks costs $2 million to produce. Well, Romney is worth about $250 million, and Sheldon Adelson and the Koch brothers are good for a few more hundred million, so, let's say it's 200 shark jumping events. If we have about 55 days left, then that's a bit more than 4 shark jump events a day! Maybe they can get good enough for Rep. Ryan to sit on Romney's shoulders as they jump over the tank of sharks!

      (* The phrase to 'jump the shark' comes from a turning point in the quality of the US TV sitcom "Happy Days." For years it had been a beloved family comedy set in a small midwestern city in the 1950s. But the creators of the show were not able to maintain the quality, so in one episode, a character performs the stunt of jumping over a tank of sharks. That episode was seen as the turning point at which the quality of the show went down, and never recovered. Thus 'jumping the shark' means the moment at which the quality of some ongoing event fails.)

    • According to Prof. Cole's bio on the University of Michigan site:

      "1984 Ph.D. Islamic Studies, University of California Los Angeles"

      So, yes, Dr. Cole. It's sad that it's so unusual to have someone who is actually knowledgeable and qualified by education and experience (Dr. Cole speaks Arabic) commenting on the Middle East.

  • Your Election is being Bought by 47 Billionaires (and they are Buying War, Climate Change)
    • While Sheldon Adelson may or may not specifically want a war with Iran - it's wildly crazy and thus an extraordinary claim, so I would love to see extraordinary evidence to support it. What is perfectly reasonable is the concern that Adelson would want US foreign policy to strongly support the right-wing (Likud, et al) in Israel.

      But there's the other layer to Adelson's interest in this election. Adelson is worth about $25 Billion, most of which is tied up in his multi-billion dollar casino and related operations in Macau, which is very much part of China. Doing business in China is tricky, and during the global economic downturn, Adelson got himself in trouble. During that time, he was assisted by Leonel Alves who is both a lawyer and a part of the government of Macau. In order for Adelson's investments to survive the downturn, he needed several things to be approved by the Chinese government. Adelson appears to have personally direct the payment of US$700,000 to this guy, despite the concerns of his internal council and the lack of detailed invoices justifying that payment for "legal services."
      link to propublica.org

      To boil it down, it looks like Sheldon Adelson may have personally directed payments that a reasonable person would suspect were in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. While it seems unlikely that Adelson would actually go to jail over this, one way you can be punished for violating the act is that all the profits you made as a result of paying bribes would be forfeit.

      Adelson made many Billions of dollars as a result of the Macau/Chinese government approving his requests during that time period.

      So more than "security for Israel", Sheldon Adelson may be willing to spend tens of Millions of dollars this election cycle in the hopes that a Romney DoJ would turn a blind eye to the serious allegations of wrong doing, which might save him Billions of dollars.

      But that's just plain old-fashioned corruption. In context, though, things are quite a bit more potentially nasty. It is probably pretty tough to prove bribery without some cooperation by the party that was bribed. In this case, that party is part of the Chinese government. That means that the Chinese government could decide to keep mum, thus protecting Adelson's billions. Or the Chinese government could decide to fabricate evidence implicating Adelson. Bejing has a lot of influence over Adelson at this moment.

      So today, in our democracy, we have a Billionaire who appears to be attempting to buy influence with what he hopes is the next President, but that Billionaire is in turn, potentially under the thumb of Beijing.

      It's this kind of nasty mess that makes it clear that we desperately need campaign finance reform.

  • Hoekstra Blames Everyone but Himself for the Deficits He Voted for
    • This ad was just "media-baiting". Look at all the free publicity he has received.

      But I couldn't help thinking of the Red Hot Chillipeppers in this "Spend It Now" versus "Spend It Not" frame of reference. The Bush tax cuts in this context evoke one of the band's famous refrains:

      "Give it away, give it away, give it away now!"

  • Chart: Euro-American boycott of Iranian Petroleum would Fail
    • Huh? This discussion implies that the intent of the sanctions was to have some real impact on Iran. I thought that, at least in US domestic politics, the intent was to "take a stand" - to get redder in the face and to waive ones arms around in the air more dramatically than one's political opponents. Or more specifically, it was a move by the right-wing to corner their opponent, President Obama, into doing something dramatic - anything.

      (Then again, considering that the right-wing in the US wants the economy to be doing as poorly as possible at the time of the elections in 2012, maybe they did think that the sanctions would have an effect on Iranian exports, which would necessarily drive up oil prices, which would necessarily harm the recovery in the US, which would improve their odds at the polls. But the right-wing in the US "don't seem to be raaal good wit all that there internationalizin' and stratergerferatin'." See George W. Bush - international policies.)

      Similar to sanctions on Cuba, at the core, the point is to do something symbolic, not to do anything that makes much sense in achieving real international goals.

  • World's Stupidest Guerrillas Kill over 70 Shiite Pilgrims in Iraq
    • So, there's an ethno-religious group in Iraq that formerly had power in the country that was disproportionate to that group's actual share of the population, and now that their power has slipped away in a more democratic political system, they would rather "blow things up" instead of being patriotic and working within the system to rebuild and strengthen their nation, no matter how pointless and self-destructive their actions are?

      Good thing that conservative, white Protestants in the US aren't behaving that way in Congress...

  • Christian Hate Group Targets Peaceful Muslim-Americans
    • Ooops. Too bad for Lowes. I prefer Lowes over the other monster-box building-related-stuff stores for selection and shopping experience. I'm also starting a remodeling project - so as little of my money will be going to them as possible. (Also, for anyone considering Menards as an alternative, you may want to look into their relationship with and support for Gov. Walker in Wisconsin and Koch related political activities. It's kind of funny watching a retail chain help to take money out of the pockets of their customers. 1%ers don't shop at Menards...)

      I've seen a couple of episodes of All American Muslim. Like a lot of "reality" shows of this ilk, it ends up not being terribly interesting. Guess what? Both Muslim-Americans and people of small stature ("little people") are, well, uh, people. This isn't "Real Multiple Housewives of Deaborn" so no one is getting into a cat-fight and ripping anyone's hijab off. The fact that there is a range of attitudes and religiosity among the people in the show won't come as much of a shock to Catholic-Americans or Jewish-Americans.

      I guess that's the beef from the bigot groups. gosh, Muslim-Americans poop occasionally and put their pants on one leg at a time... amazing.

  • Herman Cain Painfully Clueless on Libya
    • Asking Mr. Cain the kind of serious questions that one would ask an actual candidate for president is like asking Max Bialystock (of "The Producers") a serious question about the score for his musical. I don't see anything in the early phases of his campaign that contradict the idea that he was modeling himself on Sarah Palin - get free publicity through one's candidacy, sell books, collect speaking fees, and maybe get a show on Fox News.

      Like Bialystock and Bloom facing their investors once their show became an accidental hit, Cain becoming a leading candidate means having to answer actual questions about policy and was likely never part of the plan.

      There's always a trap when earnest people have to interact with disingenuous people. Trying to earnestly critique Mr. Cain's "answers" seems pointless.

      At best, it seems that Mr. Cain is going through the motions so as to avoid damaging his brand and thus reducing future sales/fees. But either as a candidate or as a "money-making political brand" I don't see that he gains anything doing this newspaper panel Q&A, which just seems like incompetence from his manager/campaign staff.

  • Namibia: Largest Solar Plant in S. Hemisphere Planned
    • HamdenRice's comments are very, very interesting! Current US partisan hysterics aside, the world needs to price carbon output impacts into our economies. That is going to hit the developing world very, very hard. Regions that are building themselves up can't avoid using fossil fuels for power generation currently/initially, but those that are making the transition away from carbon-based power sources will be well ahead of the competition. A combination of traditional non-carbon power (nuclear and dam-hydro) along with newer renewables (wind, solar, geothermal and tidal power) will put them well ahead of nations and regions that are dependent on oil and coal. (Natural gas is in both mixes, of course, but its future seems complicated.)

      It's great that these types of solar projects are going ahead, and very interesting that this is being done by a US based firm. We'll see if US engineering and construction management is also part of the deal. (US engineering firms can have a tough time competing with European firms, which directly and indirectly receive more government support.)

      But.... Prof. Cole wrote:
      "That is, when expanded this solar plant will generate about the same amount of energy as a typical nuclear plant."

      I'm having a hard time finding more detailed information about this project. I would have to assume that the 1GW capacity would be peak capacity. That is very different than a nuclear plant - nuclear power is "slow, steady" baseline power - you can't vary the plant's output much. That's fine, because it plays the vital role on the grid of providing that, well, baseline of power. Integrating intermittent sources (wind, solar and tidal) is more difficult because with electricity, variations in demand on the grid must be matched by variations in power supply essentially immediately.

      What I was hoping to find out about this proposed project was whether or not it includes any sort of storage, either at the site of generation or elsewhere on the grid. Hydro pump storage would be the most likely.

      (Hydro pump storage involves two reservoirs - one high and one low. When excess electricity is available - such as during the day with solar - power is used to pump water uphill from the low reservoir to the high one. When there is more demand for power, water is released from the high reservoir to run downhill through turbines to generate the required power. There is some inefficiency to this system, but it's the closest thing we have to a national grid scale "battery".)

      With a large pump storage component of the project, then the solar would be able to provide power to the grid pretty much 24 hours a day, with some ability to vary output to match changes in demand. But... the effective capacity of the system would be some fraction of it's peak output capacity. That isn't a bad thing at all, it's just reality.

      We need to avoid an apples-to-oranges comparison, such as comparing peak output from a solar plant to the baseline output from a nuclear plant. They each have roles to play in our transition away from fossil fuel based electricity generation. And eventually we will be able to transition away from nuclear power. But in order to do so, we need to be forthright about the characteristics of the different components of our power systems.

  • Is an Iranian Drug Cartel Behind the Assassination Plot against the Saudi Ambassador?
    • The actual assassination, as I've heard it described was to be a bomb at a restaurant in DC, intended to kill the Saudi ambassador, and presumably anyone else near by. Any bomb at any restaurant in DC would be a big deal, but one that killed the Saudi ambassador would be a huge incident, and would attract attention and extraordinary investigation. I find it hard to believe that any "official" component of the Iranian government would want to be the cause of such an attention grabbing event. Even a drug smuggling element of the Iranian military/industrial complex would be insane to intentionally be linked to such an action.

      In contrast, the 1976 assassination by Pinochet, given Pinochet's close ties to US intelligence, is the opposite. Rather than an enemy of the US killing an ally (of sorts) and official ambassador in the nation's capitol with a spectacular and messy bomb, this was an "ally" of the US killing one of it's internal enemies, albeit in a spectacular and messy fashion.

  • Accord Reached for Peaceful Entry of Bani Walid?
    • first, a pedantic note: the piece above mentions that negotiations were delaying a plan to "invest" the town, rather than "invade" the town.

      Second: Along with these possibly "regular" Libyan troops fleeing the country, there are going to be a lot of Imazighen (Berber) fighters who acted as mercenaries for the Qaddafi regime, who are now melting back into the populations of the regions. There's concern that these now unemployed professional fighters will destabilize the region south of the Sahara (the Sahel, stretching from Mauritania on the Atlantic east through northern Mali, southern Algeria, Libya, through Niger on east.) Since the 1960s there has been fighting between Tuaregs against the governments of Mali and Niger, with fighting as recently as 2009. This fighting included Niger's now-famous uranium mines (the would-be source of the fabricated "Iraqi yellow-cake").

      Along with these former Qaddafi fighters, there are questions about whether the fall of that regime will effect the activities of the AQIM, a pre-existing Islamist militant group in the region that changed its name to claim the local al Qaeda "franchise". There are questions about whether all or part of AQIM is a "false-flag" operation by regional militaries and/or security forces. The military junta in Mauritania would love US recognition and funding, and having an al Qaeda affiliate on their eastern border is helpful in that aim. Also, there are accusations that AQIM is to the Algerian security apparatus as the Taliban is to Pakistan's ISI. (Considering the group has between 100 and 400 members of various sorts, their main real-world effect is taking tourists hostage, thus displacing the Paris-Dakar Rally and suppressing tourism in the region, including to Timbuktu. But they sure are useful to folks in the region who benefit from running around yelling, "OMG! Look! al Qaeda! Give me money!") Given Qaddafi's penchant for regional trouble-making, it would be surprising if there wasn't some sort of Libyan involvement with this group, also.

  • Cole on Goodman & CIA Surveillance
    • Never heard of you? Not surprising. When we have a "reality based community" and separate, how to put this?, "other-criteria based communities", those who are unencumbered by those silly "facts" don't want to hear from people who deal in them.

      People who operate in a version of the world where al Qaeda, as a religious fundamentalist group, would be actively, closely collaborating with a secular Ba'athist regime, clearly are people who don't want to be bothered hearing ideas from folks who point out the absurdity of such a proposition.

      Remember, these folks' job was to "serve at the pleasure of the president", as so many of them (like Monica Goodling) put it. Their job was NOT to examine all the available information, weigh conflicting interests and attempt to chart the course that would best serve the American people and the world. Your ideas and observations were simply obstacles to their goal of merely serving the will (and whims) of the then president.

  • No need for Torture. Did a Telephone Call to al-Qaeda in Iraq Unravel Bin Laden?
    • To me, calls for the use of torture always imply that the promoter of torture believes that the US is so weak, so vulnerable that we MUST IMMEDIATELY resort to this level of desperation.

      Personally, I think the US is strong enough to act like real "good guys", and that we will survive the knocks we take as a result. 50 years from now we would be able to hold our heads high, not having to look back at years of shameful behavior.

  • Saif admits Qaddafis are Brutal Foreign Occupiers
    • This charming gentleman's comments sound like they are not directed at a broad, reasonable audience around the world. To me they seem to be appealing to the leadership and/or oligarchs in places like Russia and China. They appeal to a particularly nasty and cynical strain of realpolitik. They say, "look at how others have crushed opposition in the past - they are the ones in power today. We will kill these insurgents, and we will continue to be in power tomorrow. You don't have to love us, but this is your opportunity to get on the side of power and wealth..." (Given that the 2014 Winter Olypics will be in Sochi, Russia - quite close to Chechnya, maybe this is a pitch for the 2020 Summer Olympics to be in Libya?)

      Or in the immortal words of some of science fiction's most evil beings, "Resistance is futile!" SciFi fans know what word inevitably follows...

  • Should Professors in Public Universities Give up their Email Addresses?
    • It's ironic that these pressures would push people to behave in the same way that the Bush II and Palin administrations did (abandoning their official e-mail and using outside systems so as to avoid there being a record of the highly partisan nature of their official actions.)

      If you're going to be serious about de-linking from the publicly funded e-mail system, it's best to use your own laptop, pay for your own cellular connection (eg. Sprint, Verizon, etc.) and be fastidious about never connecting the machine to the University's hard-wired or wireless network.

      In thinking about this situation of FOIAing a professor's professional communications, it's surprising to me that there seems to be a black-or-white private/fully disclosed situation. If I understand correctly, there is no screening of the FOIA'd material - that a search is run for certain words, and all the matches are dumped into public availability. It seems that a reasonable compromise would be for there to be a review of the material generated by the initial key word search, and that only objectionable and questionable material be released, leaving innocuous communications private.

      (Then again, it's always best to think of e-mail as a postcard. The standard e-mail system is a "quaint" holdover of the very early days of the academic internet - there is no encryption or "hiding" of standard e-mail's content. Like a post card, anyone can pick it up at any point and read it, even if it is sent through the postal system like letters sealed in envelopes. That's simply the technical reality of the e-mail protocol. On the other hand, no, government shouldn't be allowed to read/scan e-mails without standard search warrants, even if it's technically very easy to do.)

  • Obama on Libya vs. Trump, Palin, Bachmann, Romney, Gingrich and Carrot Top
    • RE: Congressional approval of military actions.

      The House has in it's powers the ability to formally either object to the use of our military in the Libya or to approve it. So far, it has decided to do neither. I think that a discussion on last night's Maddow show nailed why neither is happening. Republicans are waiting to see how this plays out, and to then exploit that situation for their own benefit. If they vote to approve or object to the actions, then they are on the record one way or another. If they wait and things go well, then they can climb on the band wagon and quietly say that they were for this all along - in fact, they're glad that awful Obama took my advice, after waffling for too long in the first place. If things are messy or go badly, then they can pounce on the president from one or several of many possible directions: "He done obeyed France and the UN and screwed things up!", and so on.

      In theory, there should be millions of reasonably smart, reasonably well-informed, reasonably coherent conservatives across America. The pile of absurd, dim-witted drivel the Prof. compiled above must sicken them as much as it does centrists (by developed-world political standards) and progressives. Where are they? Are they all clogging up the sand traps at their country clubs, burying their heads hoping the Bachmanns and Gingrichs and Trumps just go away on their own?

      (PS: how dare you compare Lady Gaga to Rep. Bachmann?!?! Ms. Gaga actually produces something that millions of people value (even if it isn't to your, or my, taste exactly) and thinks before she opens her mouth. There's a huge difference between engaging in calculated, self-promoting shock versus being a chicken with its head cut off squirting effluence in random directions. While the Representative clearly has no idea what is actually written in the Constitution nor the two centuries of its interpretation, nor does she know where critical battles of the Revolution were fought even when presumably sober, Ms. Gaga has demonstrated that she can discuss contemporary music and pop culture accurately and coherently even after a few drinks (and possibly a little something else...) As low a bar as is set for "pop divas", I think it's inaccurate and insulting to imply that Rep. Bachmann rises to anything near that level of quality of work or intelligence.) (the preceding was meant humorously and not to be taken seriously, even if it is true...)

  • What if? and the Meltdown Threat
    • Professor, when you comment about wind/solar generation replacing nuclear, it would be very helpful to readers if you would take the time in your posting to more fully address the issues that are being raised repeatedly in the comments here. It would go a long way if you addressed how you believe that solar and/or wind can reliably replace nuke and/or hydro for meeting base load demands on a large scale.

      (Also, it would be helpful if you were a little more precise when using terms like "sustainable" or "renewable". For instance, when you say "Nation X gets Y percent of its power from sustainable (or renewable) sources" it isn't clear what is or isn't being included in those terms. Hydro, for instance is certainly "renewable" but it is debatable how "sustainable" it is. While hydro is counted currently as "renewable" electrical generation, it seems very unlikely to me that it will see much expansion in the developed, energy-hungry parts of the world. When quoting other sources, or using the terms yourself, it would be very helpful if you elaborated what specifically is being intended by these sorts of sometimes vague terms.)

      As you know, wind/solar sources would create very difficult issues of storage and/or redundancy to counter intermittency if they were to be used for baseline (or "base load") generation. If in your postings on alternatives to nuclear power you explained even a little how you believe these issues could be dealt with, that would avoid creating the impression that you don't know what you're talking about when it comes to this field. Currently, as Mr. Kenny's comment above makes clear, that is exactly the (hopefully incorrect) impression that is being formed in the minds of some readers here.

      When you say that, "There is no reason whatsoever that Fukushima could not be replaced with offshore wind turbines..." it would be helpful to the readers here if you elaborated a bit more on that point. Fukushima I has a total generating capacity of 4.7GW, and the current largest off-shore wind farms have peak capacities in the range of 0.2 to 0.3 GW. Given that nuclear plants generally have a capacity factor 2 to 3 times that of wind generation, you are well aware that you are proposing replacing one large nuclear plant with perhaps 50 or more of the current largest off-shore wind farms in existence. In order to replace the nuclear plant in filling the base load demand, it might be necessary to build even more wind farms and/or storage systems that don't currently exist at that scale. Perhaps your thinking includes a large amount of new on-shore pump storage? If so, it would be helpful if you explained how you see the financial and environmental impacts of that much new reservoir construction on inland Japan being addressed.

      You clearly have given this issue a great deal of thought, and at least outlining your proposed solutions on these thorny issues would go a long way towards advancing this conversation.

  • Japan Nuclear Threat, Libya Oil Crisis, Highlight Need for Renewable Energy
    • Everyone please scroll up and re=read the post by "Thomas" above (a different Thomas than me). He is the only person here (probably including Prof. Cole) who appears to understand several critical issues with electrical generation/distribution. Note that he used the term "baseline"...

      Electricity must always have "supply" matched with "demand" continuously. Electricity can't practically be stored on a large scale, so it isn't like, say, natural gas, where big tanks can sit around and be tapped when demand goes up. With electricity, generation must match spikes and dips in demand pretty much instantaneously. Imagine a large metro area on a hot, late fall day: at night, demand is low (dipping to the "baseline" level), as the business day starts, demand rises. Then in the late afternoon, the sun is still up, as is the temperature and humidity, many businesses are still open, and hundreds of thousands of people start returning home from work, cranking up the AC, turning on lights, TVs and computers and start making dinner. All this demand adds up to a spike. If generation on the grid isn't quickly cranked up to match those spikes, then you get brownouts and blackouts. In many areas, nuclear generation provides the bulk of the power, covering the baseline. Coal or hydro covers the predictable daily rise and fall, and expensive natural gas "peaker" plants cover the spikes, which means that they sit idle much of the time. One of the limitations of most renewable types of power (excluding hydro, which is fundamentally solar power) is that it can't be "cranked up" on demand. That means that it CAN fit into the supply/demand matching, but it is very, very difficult to move beyond a certain portion of power generation without astounding amounts of redundancy and currently expensive/impractical storage capacity.

      Prof. Cole mentioned that Portugal is currently saying that 45% of it's electricity comes from renewable. I don't know if that includes hydro or not. But I would be very, very surprised if tiny Portugal's electrical grid isn't interconnected to that of Spain. (Spain, also, gets a large portion of it's power from renewables, including a very large portion from wind.) But, that interconnect would allow Portugal the space to "wing it" it a bit, knowing that they could fall back on pulling power off the Spanish grid when demand outstrips the capacity of their renewables...

      Just as we all know that burning gasoline in our vehicles (cars, boats, planes) is a terrible idea and that we should be transitioning away where possible, we all know that nuclear power has serious risks and problems. But few to none of the readers here have all-electric vehicles yet - we continue to make do with petroleum powered cars, with an eye towards the future. (I just re-wired part of my home, and included the heavy duty wiring to the garage needed to rapidly charge two cars simultaneously) Eventually we will be able to get by without nuclear plants, but for the time being they are like gasoline-powered cars, a problematic compromise that meets our needs - we will continue to build new ones for the time being, but be looking to transition to better alternatives.

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