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Archive for the ‘Well Said’ Category

“Cultural pessimism is always fashionable, and, since we are human, there are always grounds for it. It has the negative consequence of depressing the level of aspiration, the sense of the possible. And from time to time it has the extremely negative consequence of encouraging a kind of somber panic, a collective dream-state in which recourse to terrible remedies is inspired by delusions of mortal threat. If there is anything in the life of any culture or period that gives good grounds for alarm, it is the rise of cultural pessimism, whose major passion is bitter hostility toward many or most of the people within the very culture the pessimists always feel they are intent on rescuing.”

— Marilynne Robinson in The Givenness of Things: Essays, October 2015

Do those in thrall to politicians peddling pessimism and panic recognize themselves in her words?

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trump_flicker_face_yessPaul Krugman’s piece Clash of Republican Con Artists eloquently details how Trump is not the only Republican candidate who “talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain.” They’re all the same, as Krugman sees it.

Krugman misses the most important distinction. While the policy fraud may be the same among Trump and the establishment Republicans, the men selling this fraud are not. Character counts, and one candidate is dangerously flawed.

If there’s going to be a Republican commander-in-chief, I’d much rather it be a Romney, Rubio or Kasich. Those guys are, if nothing else, not insane megalomaniacs – they are fit to be commander-in-chief.

Since a Trump nomination seems inevitable now, it may be time for Republicans in Congress to rein in a President’s ability to access the nuclear arsenal without adult supervision, to misuse the military, or to misuse the rest of government. The last time we had a vindictive, paranoid, insecure, small-minded Republican creep in the White House, he badly misused Presidential power.

Today’s Republican creep has far deeper character problems than Nixon, and has no moorings whatsoever. The parallels with the Germany of the 1930’s are unmistakable. This is not a person to trust with loaded weapons.

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My concern is that the very existence of this kind of capability chills free speech in a disastrous way. I cannot see how there can be investigative reporting of the national security community, when the identity, the location, the metadata, and really the contents of every communication between a journalist and every source, every journalist, every source, is known to the executive branch, especially one that has been prosecuting twice as many journalist — sources as any president before.

Moreover, my even larger concern is, I don’t see how democracy can survive when one branch, the executive branch, has all the personal communications of every member of Congress, and every judge, every member of the judiciary, as well as the press

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CNN’s Fareed Zakaria‘s got it right:

It’s difficult not to get spooked by terms like “meltdown,” “radiation clouds,” and “radioactive leakage.” But let’s remember that nuclear reactors have operated peacefully, quietly, and safely for decades in countries from Japan to France to the United States.

Over the last five decades, there has been just one nuclear accident that caused any deaths at all. At Chernobyl, and that was a poorly designed reactor, unlike any of the ones in the United States or Japan. It had almost no safety codes or procedures.

The accident at 3 Mile Island in the United States did not actually kill anyone. There was no significant radiation leakage because in the US – as in Japan – all reactors have steel or concrete containers to prevent such leakage. That’s why there were no illness resulting from radiation after the 3 Mile island accident.

And the new plants that have been built in the last decade are safer – the OECD says 1,600 times safer than the old ones. And the 3rd generation reactors being planned now, which will be built later, are safer even than those.

Now, all energy sources have their risks when being extracted.

Oil and coal have far worse safety records than even decades-old nuclear plants. The BP oil spill, for example, was triggered by an explosion that instantly killed 11 workers and then poured 4 millions barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

In a thoughtful article in Slate, Will Saletan does the math and finds that if you add up all the deaths caused by oil explosions and the like, the rate of death per unit of energy extracted is 18 times worse for oil than it is for nuclear energy. With hundreds of people dying in mining accidents, coal is also much more likely to kill people working on it or around it than nuclear. And none of this counts the millions of people who get diseases and die a premature death thanks to pollution.

I know there is something about nuclear power that worries us. But it’s important not to make huge public policy decisions based on perception rather than reality.

When a plane crashes and hundreds of people die, we immediately panic and worry about flying. But we tend to forget that almost 50,000 Americans die every year in accidents on highways, making the act of getting into your car by far the most dangerous thing that an American will do every day.

We need all the sources of energy we can find. No one source is going to satisfy the world’s energy needs. Every one has some costs and some benefits. Nuclear energy can be scaled and it is clean.

We need to design the safest possible plants with the maximum number of back-up procedures. So far, that is the lesson we should draw from this tragedy in Japan.

Well said.

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