June 13, 2015

Our nuclear renewable energy future, conservation, and related thoughts

As close regular readers of this site know, I have regularly voted for Green Party presidential candidates, but am not, and do not anticipate becoming, a member of the Green Party at any time soon.

It's primarily over GMOs and alt-medicine.

However, I have occasionally discussed nuclear power before.

I'm not "pro-nuclear," nor am I "anti-nuclear," if its framed in terms of current American nuclear energy.

Rather, I'm "smart nuclear." Much of this is resumming old ideas.

First, nuclear fusion power is NOT "just around the corner," as has been claimed for what, 50 years? Abandon those ideas.

Second, current American power plants are poorly designed.

We need new plants to be the latest in some sort of breeder-type reactors, to get the maximum possible amount of energy out of the nuclear fuel, which will also reduce problems with some types of nuclear waste. To the degree that greater worries about terrorist threats of nuclear fuel theft are higher with breeder reactors, then we need to improve security.

We need the U.S. Geological Society to continue to work on updating faulting maps, especially in the central U.S., so we don't mis-site plants.

As for wastes that still remain with breeder reactors? Rather than worrying about a Yucca Mountain that will always be a political football, we should look long and hard at moving toward on-site disposal.

As for claims that nuclear is carbon-intensive because of the amount of work in building containment domes? It's true. But wind turbines and solar panels aren't carbon neutral either, and both will need at least minor upgrading work long before a good breeder reactor ends its lifespan.

And, while wind turbines have decreased bird kills, they haven't eliminated them. And, solar panels, though producing some energy anywhere (Germany) are best sited in the Southwest in fragile lands near desert big cities. (Environmentalists voluntarily leaving SoCal, Nevada or Arizona, raise your hands.)

Plus, nuclear has steady "baseload" power.

Now, to that, some environmentalists will offer two responses.

The first is that we're working on storage batteries for high-production periods on solar and wind, for release at slack production times. Yes, we're working on them. But we don't have them yet.

The other is that we have a renewable baseload power source in hydroelectric.

Two problems.

First, most notably in the Pacific Northwest, damns aren't environmentally friendly; they kill salmon and other fish. They kill nonmigratory fish due to siltation and massive temperature swings. They kill plant life through interrupting normal river flows.

Second, in the Desert Southwest, there's still a good likelihood that either Lake Mead or Lake Powell hits "dead pool" by 2025 if not a bit sooner. While this primarily affects water for cities and agriculture, at that level, the lakes will be low enough to be seriously below peak electrical production.

And, beyond that, in Washington and Oregon, white greens' homeland, Grand Coulee and other dams on the Columbia will still be killing salmon.

Finally, where's conservation? How many warm-weather environmentalists run their AC at 76, while running box and ceiling fans? Or, once the evening gets much below 80, actually opens the windows?

Al Gore stereotypes aside, and not trying to confirm any Dick Cheney sneers, the number's probably not that high.

Driving a Prius to save gas is "nice," but it's not that nice if you're still running AC at 72, or less. And if you're running the heat at 70 in winter. Beyond that, adjusting heating and cooling a bit more closely to natural conditions means that the great outdoors doesn't seem quite so hot in summer, or quite so cold in winter.

And, there's some environmentalism there — environmentalism that might get one to be a nature lover.

And, I've not even talked about the explosion in use of mobile "devices," the power needed for server farms for social media sites, cloud computing and more.

Speaking of "clouds," cloud-like distributed electric generation and transmission could be an environmental boon, an economic scam, bits of both, some of neither or something else.

June 11, 2015

#TwinPeaksShooting – separate Waco PD from McLennan DA Abel Reyna

In skepticism, rightful skepticism, but even more, beyond skepticism, even if not full-blown conspiracy thinking, about the Twin Peaks restaurant shooting in Waco on May 17, I realize a lot of people are conflating the actions of the Waco Police Department at the time, and in its investigation afterward, with that of judicial and prosecutorial officials in McLennan County.

So, first, let's stipulate one thing.

Police do not set bond levels; judges do.

Police often push for the highest possible initial charges, and prosecutors may goose that more. However, a justice of the peace, the normal bail-setter, while he or she works off a "bail book," has the discretion of going lower — or higher — than the book recommends for charge X.

And, on about ALL crimes in McLennan County, it's a horror show, and one orchestrated by District Attorney Abel Reyna.

McLennan County has the fourth-highest incarceration level in the state. Per a blog by local lawyer Michelle Tuegel, referencing an article by The Dallas Morning News, the county has a higher incarceration rate than Putin's Russia.

So, this is about Abel Reyna. It's not about the Waco PD. Nor is it only about the bikers. They're just in the current crosshairs, and in great numbers.

And, it's not about the McLennan County Commissioners Court, either. Reyna, like the four commissioners and the county judge, is an elected official. If he can get judges to grant "hang em high" bail, and that overcrowds the jail, and strains the county budget, all the commissioners can do is make sure the county jail budget is big enough to avoid a failed state jail inspection.

And, trust me, the commissioners court there has complained, or at least raised eyebrows, before.

I agree totally that Justice of the Peace Pete Peterson spoke extralegally when he talked about using bonds to "send a message." I also agree that not scheduling some probable cause hearings until Aug. 6, and in conjunction with Reyna, is of dubious legality. However, I disagree that he was wrong in not holding individual bond hearings. The way I read the bail chapter of the code of criminal proceedings, I see nothing that specifies individual hearings are the only method allowed. The fact that it consistently uses "defendant" in the singular is proof of nothing.

That said, progress has been made on bond reduction hearings. Primarily as a result of that, about 60 percent of the original arrestees had bonded out as of June 10. Bonds for most of those who bonded out had been reduced from the original $1 million to $100,000, $50,000, $25,000, or even $10 or $15,000.

Related to some of this? First, bonds for "engaging in organized criminal activity" are, yes, usually lower. However, they're not usually associated with a presumed murder or even capital murder in the background. Second, here's some backgrounder from the state DA's association on issues related to trying OCA cases.

That said, a few arrestees who sought reduced bonds have not gotten them, including a few who still bonded out. That alone should indicate that while this was a dragnet arrest, albeit one done at least somewhat in necessity, it wasn't totally wrong.

And, as for some of them originally arrested, if you saw the Cossacks arriving and "your hearts sunk," why didn't you leave, or at least try to? After all, the "heart-sinker" saw this a full hour before the fight reportedly broke out. Oh, and the heart-sinker also allegedly was an open Bandidos supporter.

That, in turn, would be good reason to deny an anonymous Cossack's claim that they weren't trying to crash the meeting, rather that this was a false invitation to peace talks gone bad. And, since police confirm the first three dead were all Cossacks, I still think the informant's story rings largely true.

People who conspiratorize (my blog, my neologism) want to talk about what the police aren't telling us. While they have the legal right to say nothing, or to spout misinformation if not under oath, I'd rather talk more about what some of the bikers, and some of their lawyers, aren't telling us. Also contra some bikers' attorneys

As for what the police can tell us? They've already said that, due to the amount of fire and other things, ballistics tests could take months.

Finally, as for people who want to conspiratorize that this was a police turkey shoot — why didn't Waco PD bring 30 or 40 officers, not 14? Why didn't it kill 30 bikers, not the less than 9 (since it didn't kill all 9) than it actually did?

This is why rational, "slow" thinking takes time. This blog post didn't write itself in 10 minutes.

Thanks for reading.

June 10, 2015

Why newspapers are dying, point the self-referential

When newspapers are filling internal positions, that is, jobs at the newspaper, and a majority of applicants, when asked where they heard about the position, do NOT say:

"The newspaper's own ad"  ...

But instead answer ...

Referring to the classified ads Internet-era archenemy of newspapers ...

"I saw it on Craigslist" ...

Houston, we have a problem.

Just another sign of where the newspaper biz is these days.

That said, this is a small weekly that's near, but not itself a part of, a metro area of about 300,000. It's not like the Metroplex, the Bay Area, or something like that.

I mean, it's kind of sad to write that. But, it's not like I'm giving anything away in terms of trade secrets or something. I'm just stating the facts on the ground.

#NBAFInals — Credit Blatt for #Cavs win and advice for Kerr

David Blatt
Cavaliers coach David Blatt did a better job down the stretch in Game 3 than in Game 2.

First, while not too successful, he did try to break the momentum on the Warriors' late run with, overall, pretty judicious use of timeouts.

Second, while not doing quite as I wanted on subbing out Tristan Thompson late in the game, whether for Timofey Mozgov more, or as I suggested after Game 2, Shawn Marion, who both this year and his career has shot above 75 percent from the line, he did get better with situational substitutions.

Bringing in Mike Miller for late-game ball-handling was smart indeed. Not just because of his skill in general, like on a couple of late inbounds passes, but because he, like LeBron, has played in multiple Finals before and knows the pressure. Expect to see more of this in close games down the stretch. (I still think he should try to get 3-5 minutes — no more — out of Marion.)

That said, for three quarters, another great defense by Matthew Dellavedova.

We saw Stephen Curry break out in the fourth, and I find out doubtful that Delly can play that much tough D and be that valuable on offense in future games. But, who knows?

For the Warriors? Doesn't Steve Kerr have to play David Lee more now? Not just, or necessarily, for Andrew Bogut, bot also maybe for Harrison Barnes, maybe in a small-but-not-too-small lineup with Lee at center and both Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala at hybrid SF/PF slots and the Splash Bros, Curry and Klay Thompson.

I think that's a lineup that opens up ball movement even more. And, on D, gives the Warriors multiple defensive options on LeBron.

Meanwhile, is Bill Simmons shitting bricks in silence during his negotiated early, and therefore cut short, entry into non-complete clause land? Because, contra guys like a "reflex" commenter on HBT, that's the only reason he's sitting right now — he had a non-compete clause, and even living in California, he figured it was enforceable, so he's taking a shorter hit now, rather than waiting until October.

June 09, 2015

TX Progressives tackle ethics, racism, Perry, Clinton, voting

The Texas Progressive Alliance is happy there's no hint of any special sessions to come as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff notes that while Travis County is ready for the Supreme Court to legalize same-sex marriage, there's likely to be no small amount of chaos in the state once they do.

Letters from Texas explains how a recent ruling in a North Carolina redistricting case may bode well for Texas' plaintiffs.

LightSeeker at Texas Kaos calls "ethics reform" in Texas for what it is.  Government is for, by and of the highest bidder.  Texas leads the pack. Texas Ethical Reform - DOA.

SocraticGadfly, reading about a new study that claims classical psychological conditioning during sleep can reduce racist tendencies, has two thoughts: it's either too good to be true, or, if it has real and lasting change, it's probably got an element of Clockwork Orange.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is glad McAllen ISD and others are taking care to feed children during the summer.

Do you think Greg Abbott's first legislative session as governor was a success or a failure? PDiddie at Brains and Eggs wants to know.

From WCNews at Eye on Williamson, the threat was enough for the clandestine video scheme that may have changed the game on the budget and taxes in 84th Texas Legislature, Timing Is Everything.

Neil at All People Have Value offered a framework about how to live our lives. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Nonsequiteuse missed the Houston Mayoral Candidates Arts and Culture Forum, but it got her thinking about getting arts organizations out of their silos and engaged as advocates for progressive change.

On her long road seeking the Presidency, one of Hillary Clinton's greatest challenges will be to re-create the infamous Coalition of 2008.  This week at Houston's Texas Southern University, she worked hard to mend some fences, and shared some important views on Voting Rights.


And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Texas Watch celebrated its victories from the legislative session.

Grits can't wait to see if the state's new junk science writ will be interpreted broadly or not.

The Texas Election Law Blog asks if our government is supposed to represent everyone, or just everyone who is allowed to vote.

The Texas Living Waters Project warns of a new environmental danger to the Brazos River.

Molly Cox bemoans low voter turnout in San Antonio.

Keep Austin Wonky explains how percentage-based homestead exemptions help fuel inequality.

Paradise in Hell is not impressed by Rick Perry 2016.

Texans for Public Justice and Public Citizen call Greg Abbott "just plain wrong" on the matter of dark money and disclosure.

Texas Vox managed to find a few small rays of hope from the legislative session.

Equality Texas produced its report card for the 84th Legislature.

June 08, 2015

#Cavs get lucky, tie #Warriors as Blatt still has iffy coaching

Needed: More Timofey Mozgov for the Cavs
First, while noting that I'm partial to European players at times, why was David Blatt keeping Tristan Thompson in late in the game instead of Timofey Mozgov? Yes, Thompson is a better help defender on the wing, but you're inviting Hack-a-Shaq with him in there. At a minimum, Blatt should have been doing situational switches on made baskets by the Warriors. Or, expand your rotation and bring in Shawn Marion, who both this year and his career has shot above 75 percent from the line.

Second, who's in charge of calling offensive plays, Blatt or LeBron? Although James attacked more out of it in Game 2 than in Game 1, there was about as much isolation play in the first half of Game 2 as in the end of Game 1.

Third, great defense by Matthew Dellavedova. But, what's he got in the tank for Game 3, on short rest after cross-country travel? And, Stephen Curry is unlikely to shoot cold for the next four or five games, to the degree some of this is on him. Otherwise, for the Cavs, J.R. Smith has already shown hints of reverting back to his Knicks days.

Of course, Draymond Green isn't a saint on the Warriors' side. He got into eventual double-technical yapping with Smith, then late in the game, pulled a high-school level foul on LeBron on a jump ball. Andre Iguodala wasn't that bad, but nonetheless.

On the other hand, both LeBron and MozGod had pretty clear traveling violations that weren't called. I know that reffing any NBA game isn't easy, let alone the Finals, but, these were some blatant misses last night.

Meanwhile, to Game 3. Per above on Dellavedova, two straight OT games have to hit the Cavs more than the Warriors. Plus, in an inverse of Game 2, they have to watch about coming out flat to start the night.

Steve Kerr, meanwhile, probably will devise some new screens, and overall motion, for his offense. Let's hope that includes Klay Thompson, who obviously didn't get the notice that the Warriors' last play was supposed to be a Curry clear-out, instead of him clogging up space in the same general area.

This Finals so far has been exciting for the competitiveness, and good overall on defense. But, the defense has been made to look better by ragged offense on the Cleveland side, and other things.

That said, per J.A. Adande, Kerr also needs to get the Warriors to be more ruthless. When the Cavs' thin bench outscores the Dubs, Oakland, we have a problem. If Kerr can do that, and have both the Splash Brothers on target at the same time, this series is still the Warriors to lose. I think he'll get the team calmed down over Finals awe and other things, and it's still Warriors in six in my book.

Your dumb Facebook #meme of the week: "mysterious" #bankster deaths

Maybe at some point, I'll either unfriend more people on Facebook, or else directly confront more of their ideas, but for right now, I have the idea for a new, occasional, thematic blog post series.

This week, we address the idea that big bankers are supposed dying "mysteriously."

Supposedly, a whole 36 did so last year. And, we're up to 3 this year! So says ... Natural News!

And, hold your horses! Banks have $680M of life insurance on employees payable to the banks, not the families.

First, 36 deaths in a year in a business that employs as many people as banking? Not much more than stastistical error, whether mysterious or not. And, by that count, we should be up to 15 this year, not three.

Of course, when Natural News, or American Thinker (homepage, can't find exact link referenced) — an anti-medicine conspiracy site and a junior semi-wingnut conservative political site, respectively, are among your sources, you've got problems right there.

As for all that life insurance?

All sorts of companies across the US regularly take out life insurance on their employees as a corporate investment. For doorknob's sake, my small newspaper company has a policy on me. I don't know about Wall Street on Parade in general, but I suspect that it's into seeing conspiracies where none exist.

Worst of all, the person who posted all of this identifies himself as a rationalist, presumably meaning a skeptic.

You might want to start being more skeptical about yourself. (And, no, the links he posted didn't look like he was challenging their claims.)

June 07, 2015

ICYMI: Weekly Prez roundup: #BernieSanders, #LincolnChafee, #RickPerry

Last week was a busy one in the world of politics, with two new announced presidential candidates of note and issues about media coverage on one already in the race.

First, is Bernie Sanders getting treated unfairly by the "mainstream media"? In the wake of Columbia Journalism Review, I argue yes. This is of relevance to coverage of third-party candidates, too, whether Green, Libertarian or other.

Second, former GOP governor of Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee jumped in the Democratic race to also challenge Hillary from the left.

Yes, you heard that "from the left" correctly and I defend it here. Yes, Chafee once supported Shrub Bush's idea of a partial (note: partial, not full, but still not excusable) privatization of Social Security. Yes, Hillary Clinton opposed that.

That said, she's not that liberal on Social Security herself. Add in that she's a warhawk, a supporter of the national surveillance state, and arguably to the right of Chafee on big and dark money in politics, bank regulation and other things, and I stand behind the argument that he's to her left.

To the right of both of them, and a bigger grandstander and bloviator, is Rick Perry. As I noted, in a piece with extensive links to old blogging about him, his "Texas miracle" is largely a sand castle, he's still under indictment, and he probably has a snowball's chance in the GOP race, among other things.