War, The Price of Figs, and Other Issues….

There’s a good guest post over on Winds of Change by Sage McLaughlin. It’s a thoughtful piece, bringing up issues that not too many have thought about (including yours truly).

One thing that stopped me from reading further as I pondered its import was this paragraph in Sage’s post:

”What I'm getting at, in essence, is that I am yet to be convinced of the case for altering President Bush's immediate strategy. Specifically, I have not seen a single thoroughly well-considered reason to put the brakes on an obviously impending military conflict with Saddam Hussein. This concerns me. War of the preemptive type endorsed by most conservatives is not usually a self-evident course of action, and the fact that it seems so at this juncture has given me pause. Armed conflict ought not be favored in the manner of a prejudice, having never been sufficiently considered in lieu of a realistic alternative.”

Though I may not entirely agree with Sage’s thought, it certainly has caused me to consider the reasoning behind it. A realistic alternative? Is there one besides armed conflict with Iraq? Is there something else that we haven’t thought of that has a chance of attaining the goal of an Iraq free of weapons of mass murder? Is there something we’ve overlooked? I don’t know of any, but then I’m not as smart as I wish I was, nor as smart as a lot of people seem to think I am.

Give Sage’s post a look. Maybe you’ll think of something.


Why We Hate Them

Anne Coulter has an interesting view about why we hate them.

No, not the Islamofascist pinheads.

The Democrats.

It appears that some of the more out-of-touch Democrats believe that the Islamofascist pinheads that hate us and want to kill us should be mollified, otherwise they might get mad and try to kill us. They can’t seem to grasp the idea that the Islamofascists don’t give a rat’s ass about being mollified by anything other than the destruction of America and its culture, its way of life. No amount of hand wringing, finger pointing, or braying to the skies will change the Islamofascist pinheads aim of trying to kill us.

The only thing that the Democrats' actions prove is that they’ve lost touch with the public and in their arrogance are trying to impose their views of the way things should be. They are ignoring the American public at their own risk, alienating the very people they’ll need in November.

It’s no wonder why we are disgusted with them.

The Realities Of Nuclear Power

As promised in my earlier post, I will delve into the politics (i.e. realities) of nuclear power in the U.S. and the forces that may make it difficult to revive the nuclear power industry.

Despite many of the uninformed or false claims made by those opposed to nuclear power, it may be one of the best hopes that we have to ensure a stable and reliable supply of energy for the foreseeable future. It has the advantages of being non-polluting, generating no greenhouse gasses, except of course for those created by the machinery used to mine, refine, and transport the nuclear fuel. New technology and better designs make the idea of expanding nuclear power attractive to many, but not to all.

A very vocal minority has twisted the facts, exaggerated the risks, and downplayed the benefits. They have played upon the people’s fears, knowing that many of them have little understanding of nuclear technology. All the people know is that nuclear power is a Bad Thing. They may not know why, but someone told them it was bad. These are the same people that think nothing of living downwind from a coal-fired power plant, even though the effluvia from that plant is affecting their health every single day.

Let’s take a look at the various arguments that have been used to stifle the further use of nuclear power.

It’s too dangerous. A meltdown like Chernobyl or Three Mile Island could kill millions.

This is the most often used reason cited as an argument against nuclear power. The two worst nuclear accidents known (There were others during the early years of nuclear energy research in the Soviet Union that were hushed up) did not kill millions of people. Though the potential for many times the deaths that actually occurred at Chernobyl was there, they didn’t happen. Nobody died and nobody was injured at Three Mile Island.

Chernobyl is the perfect example of how not to build a nuclear reactor and how not to staff it. Whether it was Soviet arrogance, cost containment, or outright incompetence, the RBMK type reactor at Chernobyl was an inherently unstable design, had inadequate safety systems, a flammable moderator (graphite), and no containment vessel. It was a disaster waiting to happen. The staff ignored safety procedures, disabled the emergency cooling systems, and shut down the primary cooling in the core. It seems they did everything they could to cause the fire in the core that led to the meltdown and release of radionucleides.

Three Mile Island showed that U.S. designs did what they were supposed to do, in spite of the errors made by the humans in the control room. There was little radiological release, and what there was was low-level gas vented from the containment. Less than a mile away it wasn’t even detectable. The system worked.

Systems in the remaining nuclear plants in the U.S. have been upgraded, making the possibility of a repeat of the accident at Three Mile Island extremely small. Newer technology has been added, making for more positive control and for better backup systems. Older second-generation plants have been decommissioned rather than upgraded.

Then there’s all of that nuclear waste. We have no way to deal with it, therefore we shouldn’t create any more of it.

The matter of nuclear waste and how to deal with it is purely a political issue, not a technical one. The best way to get the most bang for the buck when it comes to nuclear fuel is to reprocess it, making even more fuel available. Instead, we hold it in pools at power plants, or bury it.

Though many think that burying it is a poor idea, there are ways to do it safely. The technology exists to glassify the waste, rendering it solid and insoluble. Though the glassified waste won’t remain that way forever, it will stay that way long enough for the radioactive elements to decay to less harmful elements. Of course, if the fuel were reprocessed, most of the waste to be disposed of would be relatively short-lived radioactive isotopes. Most would decay away in a single human lifetime rather than 25,000 years (the half-life of plutonium).

Terrorists could steal the nuclear fuel or nuclear waste and use it to make atomic bombs.

First, the nuclear material of the type used in power plants is not the same as is used to make nuclear warheads. The nuclear fuel for power reactors is uranium oxide. Warheads use either highly enriched uranium or plutonium. Second, the spent nuclear fuel does have plutonium in it, but it is still mixed in with the uranium oxide making up the fuel assemblies. It takes a lot of equipment to separate out the plutonium from the uranium. Third, unless the terrorists direct have access to the power plants and a lot of time while they are there they will be unable to obtain any fissile material from the U.S.. Hijacking a fuel shipment is damn near impossible.

Before you ask why, have you seen how fuel assemblies are moved to and from nuclear power plants? The fuel assemblies are inside large steel and lead casks about the size of a one-car garage. The casks are moved about on a low boy trailer at low speed (probably not over 25 or 30 mph on a straight and level road). The fuel assemblies and cask weigh between 25 and 40 tons, not something easy to steal or hide. If the fuel is being moved by rail, then the cask and assemblies weigh up to 125 tons. It’s not like a terrorist group can hold up the convoy, unload the fuel assemblies into the back of a panel truck, and then drive off. Stealing the tractor-trailer itself might buy them some time, but it isn’t something that they will be able to speed away in, is it?

Nuclear plants are too damn expensive and they never pay for themselves.

I’ve heard this one again and again. It wasn’t until the 1980’s that construction costs for nuclear plants soared out of control. The question is, why? There were a number of factors.

One of the more obvious, though less of a factor in the cost spiral, was simply, politics.
Anti-nuclear groups fought the planning, construction, licensing, and running of nuclear power plants. Court orders, ex post facto government hearings, demonstrations, attempted occupations of construction sites, and other delaying tactics caused the owners and constructors of the plants considerable sums of money to counter. State governments and politicians also got into the act.

In one instance, the New Hampshire gubernatorial race was won by a man promising to lower the electric rates in his state by outlawing what was called CWIP (pronounced “quip”) charges, or Construction Works In Progress charges. CWIP was a way for the local electric utilities to finance the construction of new generation facilities. A small additional fee was added to the monthly electric bill and the monies collected used for construction projects. In this case the man, Hugh Gallen, became the governor and followed through on his campaign promise: he pushed through legislation that abolished CWIP charges. That meant that the utility now had to borrow far more money than it had originally planned at a time when interest rates were above 16%. The electricity rates did go down for a little while. But by the time the project was completed, New Hampshire ended up with some of the highest electric rates in the lower 48 states (17 cents per kWh!).

Another factor that added to the cost of building nuclear plants was the construction method. Each plant in the U.S. was built on site, one beam, one bolt, and one weld at a time. Each plant built in the U.S. was a custom design, with no two plants alike. With few exceptions, prefabricated modular construction of a standardized design was not used. If automobiles were built that way, very few people could afford them and they would be difficult to repair because each replacement part would be hand crafted. Some of what drove the ‘custom built’ approach was scale. Modular construction lends itself to smaller plants, under 900 megawatts in capacity. Many of the plants built after the 50’s and 60’s were 1000 megawatts or larger. This is a case where economy of scale doesn’t apply. Using modular construction of standardized design, two plants could be built for the cost of one ‘mega’-plant, with the total capacity of the two smaller plants being greater than the single large plant. Construction time is also far less, and as any economist knows, time is money.

A third factor was what I call ‘redos’. This is what happens when a plant under construction has to redo a portion of the plant already completed or near completion because the U.S. government decides that this new widget or that new gadget must be installed, or something must be moved over 3/16” to the left. The construction firm must redo the work, adding to the costs and pushing out the time of completion. It’s one thing if the design change was critical to the safe operation of the plant, but in too many cases it was a matter of “Because we told you to do it!”

Not exactly the way to run any business, is it?

Many of the third (present) generation plants have exceptional operational records. Other than shutdowns for routine maintenance and refueling (about once every 18 months to two years) the plants run 24/7 at up to 100% power. Oil, coal, and natural gas fueled plants have nowhere near that kind of operational record. Greenhouse gas emissions from the nuclear plant power generation is zero. The only other type of large scale power plant having that kind of record is hydro, and we’ve built hydro just about everywhere it is feasible to do so. The cost of operation for nuclear plants is less than that for fossil-fueled plants. In fuel costs alone, nuclear is cheaper than fossil by a factor of three (0.52 cents per kilowatt-hour for nuclear versus 1.56 cents per kilowatt-hour for fossil). Overall operating costs (operations, maintenance, and fuel) for nuclear power plants in the U.S. were 2.13 cents per kWh in 1998, with a downward trend since 1988. That trend is expected to continue.

But nuclear power is bad for children and other living things!

This is the emotional factor, not backed up by any data or anything resembling the truth. Nuclear power makes people nervous because they’ve been told it’s bad, that it will rot their bones, make everyone sterile, cause them to go bald, cause impotence, give them bad breath, erase their computer’s hard drive, cause their daughter to pierce her navel, and make disco come back. They consider any risk of nuclear power too risky, no matter how low the probability of a problem.

It’s a matter of perception, of perspective, and not reality. No amount of data will convince them that at any minute the nuclear plant near their home isn’t going to explode and spew invisible death. These are the same people that think nothing of getting in to their car and driving, even though the risk of them getting injured or killed in an accident is many millions of times greater than being injured or killed by a meltdown. The Big Mac they eat at lunch is a far greater risk to them than a nuclear power plant. But that doesn’t stop them from driving their gas guzzling SUV or eating at McDonald’s.

The future of nuclear power is up in the air. New power plants will be less expensive because the technology has gotten better, cheaper, and does more. New reactor designs are less expensive to build and even safer than the third-generation reactors. Some fourth-generation designs are meltdown proof. Some of these new technologies include:

- Gas cooled fast reactors
- Lead alloy liquid metal-cooled reactor systems
- Molten salt reactor systems
- Sodium liquid metal-cooled reactor systems
- Supercritical water-cooled reactor systems
- Pebble bed very high temperature gas-cooled reactor systems

It is not a question of if new nuclear plants will be built, but a question of when. Despite what many of the anti-nuclear groups say, the only viable high-density power sources that can power our modern era are nuclear. Too many of the alternative technologies have deficiencies, as Stephen Den Beste has pointed out.


Fuel Cells

In this post I mentioned fuel cell technology. The October 2002 issue of Scientific American has a good article about the transition from internal combustion engines to fuel cells for autos. The article looks at the practical applications, advantages, and problems associated with switching from petroleum based to hydrogen based personal transport.


Energy Technologies

Stephen Den Beste brought up one of my favorite subjects in a couple of his posts today. Both this one and this one take a rather dispassionate look at the pros and cons of a number of energy technologies.

I’ve seen the arguments and read the diatribes and outrageous claims of energy efficiencies, costs, and “perpetual motion” schemes ad nauseum in the sci.energy Usenet group. Many of the points that Stephen brings up for and against various technologies or energy policies are the same I’ve read, commented upon, or written myself over the years. One of the more lucid and knowledgeable contributors to sci.energy is Dr. Gregory M. Greenman, Ph.D., a nuclear physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Many times he made concepts difficult for the layman to understand understandable. He is a proponent for nuclear power, as am I.

While Stephen has made it clear that he believes that nuclear power is a dead issue in the U.S. due to the political realities and economies, I have to disagree with him (thought not entirely).

On the economic side, the biggest problem with the costs of constructing nuclear plants in the U.S. has been that, with very few exceptions, every nuclear power plant built here has been custom built. No two plants are the same, even those built at the same time at the same site. It’s damn expensive to do it that way. Instead, the U.S. nuclear power industry should take a lesson from France.

The French decided early on that the least expensive way to build a large number of nuclear power plants was to use a standardized design, one that lent itself to modular construction. With this construction model, the cost of each individual plant was less because he various pieces of the plant were built off-site, then moved to the plant under construction. Though this limited the size, or generating capacity, of each plant to something under 900 megawatts, it was possible to build two or more power plants at each site for less than building one big plant. One other advantage was that each plant was identical. That made maintenance, upgrades, refueling, and ultimately, decommissioning easier and less expensive. John Q. Nukeplantworker could go from plant to plant and everything would be in the same place as any other plant. It certainly reduces the learning curve.

To be accurate, I must say that one part of the U.S. nuclear power ‘industry’ does use standardized modular designs: the U.S. Navy. There are a small number of reactor designs used over and over again in various surface ships and submarines. They can be installed and removed in one piece. The Navy must be doing something right, as I believe they have the best nuclear safety record in the world. Maybe the commercial nuclear power industry can take some lessons from them.

When it comes to the politics of nuclear power, it is mostly fear and a lack of understanding of nuclear power that causes the greatest grief. I could go in to a lengthy diatribe about the politics of nuclear power, but I think I’ll save that for a follow up post.

One of the other things that the good Mr. Den Beste goes into is alternative energy sources. For the most part I have to agree with most of his assessments, particularly when it comes to wind and solar power. It’s great for small-scale deployment, such as to power and heat a residence or small business, but it doesn’t scale up very well and is not a demand type of power generation. Both require some kind of storage capacity in order to be truly useful, regardless of the scale of the installation. Small-scale storage (batteries and thermal mass) is pretty easy to do and is relatively inexpensive.

When it comes to fusion, I wholeheartedly agree with Stephen: Call me when it’s working. I’ve been hearing “We’ll have useful fusion power in twenty years!” for almost 30 years now. And it still ain’t here.

One area that Stephen didn’t touch upon is fuel cells. Though they have existed for well over 100 years, it wasn’t until the late 50’s and early 60’s that they came into use. The U.S. space program first used fuel cells in the manned space program during project Gemini. But they were very expensive and could only be fueled by hydrogen. Today, the cost of fuel cells has dropped and is still dropping. Already there are a number of companies, such as GE, Plug Power, and others, offering residential and small commercial fuel cells with a generating capacity of 7 kilowatts or greater, more than enough for the average home or small business. As the costs continue to drop, they might become less expensive to use than the existing power grid. LPG or natural gas fuels most of these small fuel cells, though gasoline, diesel, or kerosene can also be used. Though the cell itself still uses hydrogen for the reaction, reformers break down the gaseous or liquid fuels, which releases the hydrogen in the hydrocarbon chains. There are also fuel cells capable of running directly off of methanol, though those are mostly the micro fuel cells, designed to be used in cell phones, PDAs, and laptops. It is hoped that these cells will scale up adequately, making them useful for automotive applications. Being far more efficient and less polluting than internal combustion engines, they are probably the future power source for automobiles. If one of the liquid fuels like methanol or gasoline is used, then the existing fuel distribution system can used. If some form of gaseous hydrogen storage is used, then a new distribution system will have to be created to handle the transport of the hydrogen gas.

The Big Three automakers have all been working on fuel cell vehicles. Ballard Power Systems has been a leader in automotive fuel cell technology and has been working with the automakers for some time to develop the technology.

Though I am something of a gear head, and a former race driver, I will be more than happy to see the internal combustion engine go the way of the Edsel. My feelings wouldn’t be hurt if most of the power lines running through residential areas were to disappear as well (as long as the power stays).

Iraq’s Capability

A column by Deroy Murdock at NRO clearly outlines the dangers of waiting for the smoking gun when it comes to Iraq’s weapon capabilities, in particular “Weapons of Mass Murder”. As National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice so aptly put it, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

Deroy outlines what we might expect to see in the way of casualties if biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons are used against the West. One of those who Deroy contacted to estimate the death toll from such attacks is Dexter Ingram, a threat-assessment analyst for the Heritage Foundation located in Washington, DC. Using the Consequence Assessment Tool Set, or CATS, to forecast the effects of weapons of mass murder, his findings are chilling.

Take a look. I think you’ll find it interesting.


Peace At All Costs?

Like quite a few of you out there, I listened to British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s report to the House of Commons on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. It certain seems the UK is convinced that Saddam Hussein has them, has continued producing them, and wants even more destructive weapons.

Yet despite this, it seems some few deluded souls still believe that Saddam is not threat to anyone, that going to war to eliminate a threat to our survival is a Very Bad Thing, that we are above such things. I had the misfortune to spend some time earlier today with one such individual.

It was during one of the regular drills run by the state Office of Emergency Management that I was discussing Saddam, Iraq, Al-Qaida, etc. with one of the other staffers that this individual overheard the discussion and felt he had to add his two cents worth.

“What is it about you people that you want to go to war? There’s nothing great about war. It’s horrible. There’s got to be a better way to deal with this.”

“Oh, such as?”

“Well, the Iraqis said they’d let the weapons inspectors come back. That ought to prove to everyone that they don’t have chemical or biological weapons,” said the clueless one.

“Hmm. I could have sworn they said they’d allow unconditional inspections of military installations. No where else.”

“But isn’t that where they’d hide those kind of weapons?”

“I wouldn’t. I’d hide them anywhere but military bases or installations.”

“That’s you. But you’re not them,” announced the clueless one.

“You’re right. I’m not ‘them’. Be thankful that I’m not ‘them’. In Iraq, someone like you would either be a useful mouthpiece to parrot what ‘we’ want said, or you’d be in a prison or an unmarked grave.”

From that point on the discussion got ugly. No matter what, this clueless twit thought that war was bad, no matter what. I brought up World War II, and this twit actually said, “We could have found another way to deal with the Japanese and Nazis.”

At that point I realized that the clueless twit was a lost cause. I did tell him that there are times when war is the lesser of two evils, that peace at any costs can have too high a price. He wasn’t convinced, though I did get him to pause for a moment when I asked him this:

“So, you’d be willing to allow your daughter to become the plaything of a dictator, a government whore, or worse, be put to death because she disagrees with the government rather than fight a war that would liberate her and everyone else? You’d be willing to bow down before a foreign ruler, live in a theocratic police state, be imprisoned or killed at the whim of a government bureaucrat than fight for your freedom?”

He pondered what I’d asked him for a moment, looked a little confused, and then answered:

“But I don’t have any children!”

I hope to God that he never does. The stupid should never be allowed to breed.


A Slumbering Giant

Reading Dale Amon’s post over at Samizdata got me thinking about America’s response to the attacks on September 11th. He makes a number of good points about what we’ve already done, in this case against the Taliban and Al Qaida, and what we might do if ever weapons of mass destruction were used within the United States. However, I think he may have understated what America's response would be to a nuclear, biological, or chemical attack on U.S. territory. All one has to do is look back to December 7, 1941 to get an idea of what that response might be.

Once Admiral Yamamoto knew that all of the designated targets had not been destroyed (the aircraft carriers weren’t there) and then informed that the formal declaration of war had not been delivered until after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he realized Japan was doomed. He knew nothing would rile the American people more than that act of perfidy. He knew what the United States was capable of, knew well American industrial might, and the American the will to fight. He had a better understanding of American culture and beliefs than almost anyone else in the upper echelons of the Japanese military. That realization left him with one dread thought:

” I fear all we have done is to awaken a slumbering giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Japan had already lost the war by December 8th. All that was left for us to do was fight it out and prove it to them. With grit, determination, courage, smarts, anger, and a whole lot of luck, the U.S. finished Japan as a military power in less than 4 years. What had been one of the mightiest military forces on the planet was reduced to nothing.

It’s something the Islamofascist pinheads (IFPs) got a little taste of in Afghanistan. I doubt very much that they ever expected that kind of response, considering our lack of response after the embassy bombings and the rather lame response after the attack on the USS Cole. After the attacks on September 11th, they probably figured that we’d run away and hide. Instead, they pissed us off and we came gunning for them.

And the thing of it is that we actually had very little in the way of military forces in Afghanistan.

What would happen if the IFPs did try something bigger? What if hundreds of thousands or millions of Americans were left dead or wounded in a large-scale terrorist attack using WMDs, what would we do?

There are a couple of scenarios I can think of, neither of which is attractive.

In either case, I doubt that much the Middle East as we presently know it would exist after we were through. What we did in Afghanistan or in Iraq during the Gulf War would be nothing compared the onslaught we would unleash. The kid gloves would come off, and a whole lot of really pissed off Americans would be out for blood.

Scenario One: A massive build up of forces of the type not seen since the Cold War. Then entering and taking Iraq. Any resistance would be met with maximum force. Once secured, we would then turn our attentions on Saudi Arabia, routing out the Wahabbi wherever they are. If the House of Saud gets in the way, they too will go the way of Saddam. Then Somalia, another safe haven for Al Qaida and the Wahabbi. It won’t be anything like the Somalis experienced the first time we were there. It will be all out war. They will experience first hand what the Iraqi army experienced during the first Gulf War. From there it will be a matter of routing out the IFPs wherever they may be hiding: Yemen, Qatar, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran, Pakistan, or wherever. It will end when the IFPs are dead or imprisoned.

Scenario Two: A smaller build up of forces, leaning heavily towards engineering and decontamination brigades. Before that, a launch of tactical nuclear weapons, taking out every stronghold or hidey-hole for the IFPs that we can identify. If they’re hiding in cities in nations friendly to their goals, we take those cities out, but not until we give the respective governments an ultimatum:

Hand them over, or die like the rest. There will be no negotiation.

It would be very much like what the Roman Legions did to rebellious provinces after uprisings. The Legions salted the earth, burned crops, poisoned wells, and slaughtered livestock, leaving the area devastated and incapable of supporting life. Much of the Middle East would be like that – a wasteland where nothing alive remained. The land might have a slightly glassy and burned texture. There might even be the slight glow of Cherenkov radiation visible at night. There would be peace in the Middle East, but only the peace of death.

It would be the only version of ‘Paradise’ the extremist Islamic fundamentalists would experience.

Harsh? You bet. But if these loonies ever use weapons of mass destruction, any response other than ‘surrender or die’ would be suicidal for the U.S. and for the West. At that point we would know there is no appeasing them until we are all dead or under some kind of harsh, twisted Islamic theocracy. If comes to a choice of them dying, or us, I choose them.

To quote General George S. Patton, “No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. You win a war by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his.”


Nice Guys vs. Jerks

Normally we don't post about such mundane things as relations between men and women (unless of course we're talking about Feminazis), but Dawn Olsen has a pretty decent analysis about why women date jerks, but blow off the 'nice guys'. I'd say she's pretty much nailed it.


Iraq Giving In? Not Likely

At first it appeared that Iraq was giving in to the UN. But once the text of the letter given to Secretary General Kofi Annan was made public, it became evident that it was business as usual for Iraq. Rather than repeat what has been better said, read this by Stephen Den Beste. You might also want to check this out, courtesy of Maarten at Live From Brussels.


The Only True Solution For Sustainable Development

The subject of the Conference for Sustainable Development keeps coming up here and there in the media even though it has been over for a couple of weeks now. In this case, a guest editorial in the Manchester, New Hampshire Union Leader makes a number of excellent points about sustainable development and how the conference got it all wrong. Rather than focusing on the true causes for the increasing demand upon resources, the conference attendees focused only on the use of those resources and how they should be redistributed.

Philip M. Morse, in his editorial, states, ”The theme of the United Nations conference in South Africa has been human sustainability. But the fact that by the year 2050 there will be three billion more people in the world is ignored. Ten billion people in the world is a given, a premise to be factored into the question of sustainability. But the world and its resources are finite and the end of some critical resources is already in sight.”

One of those resources is water. Though wars haven’t been fought over water in the modern era, that time is soon coming. In the United States alone there are states trying to sustain large populations in areas that are essentially deserts. That water has to come from somewhere, usually hundreds of miles away. Los Angeles is a perfect example of this.

LA wants more of the water that comes from the Colorado River to meet the needs of its people. However, that water will have to be taken away from the farmers in the San Fernando Valley to meet those increasing needs. That can lead to less food production, higher food prices, and even more growth of the population in LA. Where will they get the water for the even larger population?

Would you believe Alaska?

There was at one time a proposal to run an undersea pipeline from Alaska to California to pipe fresh water from Alaskan rivers to dry southern California. How crazy is that? It would probably be cheaper to pay people to move to Alaska from California than to build such a pipeline.

“Resources will determine what is a sustainable population size and at what standard of living. There is a tradeoff between population size and standard of living. The higher the average standard of living, the less the number of people that the environment with its resources can sustain.”

The West has the highest standard of living in the world. It also has a low birth rate, which is still falling. Population growth has slowed, and if the trend continues, will soon reach zero population growth (ZPG). One western nation, Sweden, has already achieved ZPG, if not fallen below that point, much to the concern of the Swedish government. The only non-western nation that I am aware of that is working hard to reach ZPG or NPG (negative population growth) is the People’s Republic of China. Through draconian birth control laws, couples are allowed only one child. There are exceptions made, usually because of the death of a child, but not often. Even they realize that sustaining over 1.2 billion people is a no-win situation. They don’t have the resources they need to sustain a population that size.

“Since World War II, when the world population was about two billion, agricultural productivity increased fivefold in what was called The Green Revolution. It could and should have ended poverty and starvation worldwide, but all we got out of it was more population growth because we failed to reduce the birth rate. At two billion, poverty and starvation might have been ended universally, but at over 10 billion, starvation will likely be the rule for all but the most privileged.”

I’ve seen visions of such a world in the movies. Does Soylent Green ring a bell? Based on the novel “Make Room! Make Room!” by Harry Harrison, it takes place on an overpopulated Earth, one running out of resources. The last bastions of food production, the oceans, are dying. Only the extremely wealthy can afford ‘real’ food. Everyone else is reduced to eating colored wafers of processed plankton made by the Soylent Corporation. But even these will soon run out. And then, miracle of miracles, a new food wafer is made available, Soylent Green. Little do the people eating them realize is that “Soylent Green is people!” Will the ultimate in resource recycling come to be?

“The symptoms of overpopulation are all around us and they are all the issues the environmentalists claim as their own to grow their membership lists while ignoring the basic problem.”

“Environmentalists treat the symptoms, economists behave as if there are no limits, and religious fanatics cannot see anything but good coming from more of God’s creation. All are in denial, but the law of diminishing returns tells us that an additional unit of something does not have quite the same additional value that an earlier unit did. To a person in the desert, a cup of water is a lifesaver. And the second is just as good. The third, if it can be saved, is valuable because it will be needed in an hour. Or if it can’t be saved and carried, it might be useful to rinse off with. But eventually additional cups of water are worthless. If there are already too many people in the world, how can there be any value to adding even more?”

Two nations, India and the People’s Republic of China, have about one third of the Earth’s population. They occupy probably less than 10 percent of the usable land on this world (I’m not counting Antarctica). It’s crowded in both nations. Now picture that kind of crowding everywhere. How would it be possible to sustain such a population with the resources presently available? It wouldn’t. What would the environment be like with 10 billion people on Earth? Probably pretty bad. So what’s the answer? Or rather, what are the answers?

There are two of things that would make sustainable development possible: Population reduction by one half to two thirds of what we presently have, or new resources. Population reduction is easy. Producing new resources is not. Notice I said producing, not finding.

Producing more resources is a way to extend the sustainable development without having to use drastic measures to reduce the population. The problem is that we don’t have a real long-term spaceflight capability. That’s what we need in order to go get these new resources because they are all out in space. Water from Europa; aluminum from the moon; iron, iridium, other minerals, and carbonaceous compounds from the asteroids. It’s all out there for the taking. We just can’t get there very easily or cheaply. That pretty much leaves population reduction, for now.

Population reduction can be handled a number of ways, with the least disruptive being birth control. The days of large families are over. One or two children per family would be it, no more than that. One would be preferable over two. Maybe tax disincentives if there is more than one child? Of course, it would be the slowest method of population reduction.

War is usually a quick way to reduce populations, but it can be very expensive and isn’t one of the more popular methods (except for a few extremists). It probably would get good TV ratings, though.

Out-migration is another way, but as we really don’t have any kind of large spaceflight capability as of yet, moving large numbers of people to other worlds within the solar system isn’t practical.

Plague is always an effective way of reducing populations, but then you have the same problem as war: getting rid of the corpses. Of course, plague can happen all by itself with little encouragement from us humans. The problem will be stopping it before it wipes everybody out. What if someone developed a virus that sterilized a large percentage of the human population, might that not be a non-lethal plague that could do the job in less than seventy years? Phillip Jose Farmer wrote a short story about just such a thing in “Seventy Years of Decpop.”

So what's it going to be? True sustainable development by reducing the world's population to an easily sustainable level? Crash development of space technology to go get more resources or move people off Earth, or both? Or something like the nightmare of Soylent Green?


They Still Don’t Get It

Listening to NPR about the reactions to President Bush's speech to the UN General Assembly has led me to believe that the Europeans still don't get it. Most of the reactions across the Atlantic make it seem as if Bush caved in to the EU and will do it their way. Were they listening to the same speech that I read?

Is it me, or is it that the Europeans don't realize that President Bush did not ask for permission so much as he demanded it, in keeping with the existing Security Council resolutions in regards to Iraq?

The French are certainly feeling all puffed up, strutting around as if they had reined in the "unthinking international cowboy". As Nick Spicer from NPR reported on Friday:

"President Bush's speech pleased the French. His very presence in New York was seen as an acceptance of what the French media call the Chirac plan after an idea the French president has been pushing recently. That plan is to get the Security Council to quickly warn Iraq a final time it must allow weapons inspectors to return and only then consider military action. That way, the UN and especially the Security Council, where France has a permanent seat, won't be undermined. So Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin welcomed Mr. Bush's speech.

'It was France's objective to act but act collectively,' he said. 'On the international scene, only collective action can be effective. Unilateral action could create suspicion and doubt in a sensitive region.' "

'Only collective action can be effective.' Is this guy serious? He's making it sound as if unilateral action on the international scene is ineffective, impossible to pull off. So if the U.S. goes it alone in Iraq, removing Saddam Hussein's regime and rebuilding Iraq into a moderate, democratic, secular nation, does that mean we were less effective than we might have been with the help of the UN? Does it mean we did the impossible?

No, it means the Euro-weenies got it wrong.

What they really don't see is that Bush has suckered them. He's put them right in the position he wanted them – Between a rock and a hard place.

If the UN doesn't meet President Bush's demands to enforce their own Security Council resolutions, he will show them to be weak and ineffective. If they do, then Bush gets what he wants and the UN will look as if they gave in. Of course, they won't look at it that way. To the UN it will appear as if Dubya came to them with hat in hand asking, "Mother, may I?"

In an AP report from Camp David, Maryland (sorry, but I can't seem to get the link working properly), President Bush made it plain yesterday that the United States is willing to take on Iraq alone if the United Nations fails to "show some backbone" by confronting Saddam Hussein. "Enough is enough," Bush said.

"The UN will either be able to function as a peacekeeping body as we head into the 21st century, or it will be irrelevant. And that's what we’re about to find out," Bush said yesterday. He added, "Make no mistake about it. If we have to deal with the problem, we'll deal with it."

That doesn't sound like someone asking, "Mother, may I?" It sounds more like "Lead, follow, or get the hell out of our way."


George W. Bush, a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

My dear brother has beaten me to the punch. Again.

I was sitting at work, perusing a couple of blogs during my lunch break, when I came across one of the many references to President Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly. Though I had only caught bits and pieces at the time he presented it, I did get the chance to read it in its entirety on the White House web site.

It was while thinking about it that I came to the realization that Dubya had pulled off another one.

He has that 'Aw, shucks' Texas air about him, the kind that puts one to ease because you figure that while Dubya is a good man, he just ain't that bright. He's soft spoken, not one to thunder and bluster. He's a Good Ol' Boy, in the best meaning of the term.

It isn't until after he's won his sixteenth straight hand at the poker table that you realize he isn't that dumb, and that he had you snookered right from the beginning. He shows you what you expect to see, but not what's really there.

At least not until it's too late for you to do anything about it.

That's exactly what he did at the United Nations on Thursday. He let them think, "What is Bush going to say this time? I could be at the golf course getting in a round instead." But what he gave them was a double-barreled dose of reality.

"All the world now faces a test, and the United Nations a difficult and defining moment. Are Security Council resolutions to be honored and enforced, or cast aside without consequence? Will the United Nations serve the purpose of its founding, or will it be irrelevant?"

And there you have it. He let the UN know that unless they follow through on Security Council resolutions, and specifically those dealing with Iraq, that they would become superfluous. They would become yet another group of self-important 'diplomats' making meaningless noises and taking up valuable real estate in Manhattan. The worst thing that can happen to them would be to become irrelevant, and that's exactly what the UN would become if they didn't follow through. It was the last thing they expected to hear from George W. Bush.

Undoubtedly they will continue to underestimate him.

Too bad for them.

I Like It!

I've got to hand it to Pejman Yousefzadeh. He's got a great idea! Though it is something very like what was done during World War II, he’s updated it and made it very attractive. What is it?

"Adopt-A-Bomb", of course!

Though I think he may have limited the scope a little bit by only mentioning some kinds of ordnance and ammo, it has a certain appeal. I'd like to see it extended to things like air-to-air missiles (AIM-9M Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM, AIM-7 Sparrow), surface-to-air missiles (Patriot, Hawk, Standard Missile 2-ER), ships (CV, CVN, FFG, LCAC, etc.), air-to-surface missiles (Maverick, Hellfire, etc.), planes (F-4G, F-14, F-15, F16, F18, F117, A-6, A-10, E-2C, E3, S-3B, KC-135, KC-10, B-52, B-1B, B-2, C-130, AC-130, C-17, C-5B, etc.), helicopters (S-60, SH-60, SH-53E, CH-46, CH-47, AH-64, etc.), submarines (Los Angeles class, Seawolf class, Ohio class), tanks (M1A2), APCs (M2), hummers, side arms, LMGs, TOWs, and so on. The list is endless.

Just think of it: You can get before and after shots of a target that the bomb, missile, or plane that you adopted took out! You might even be eligible to receive a videotape of your personal bomb taking out a target! By adopting a bomb, you'll get to have a slogan of your choice painted on the side! And if you adopt two bombs, you'll get the third bomb for free!!

Don't wait! Go to the Adopt-A-Bomb website and order now! Operators are standing by!



At 8:40 AM this morning, everyone at my place of employment stopped what they doing and assembled outside for a brief memorial service. I suspect that this scene repeated itself in one form or another all over America this morning. For some reason the powers that be asked me to be the one to speak for all of us. I have no idea why they picked me. Maybe it was because of some mistaken belief that I am somehow more eloquent than they when it comes to such things, or maybe just the luck of the draw.

At 8:45 AM precisely, I spoke these words to my fellow employees, my friends, my fellow Americans.

"It's hard to believe that it was only a year ago that we watched the horror unfold before us, saw the destruction wrought by the actions of evil men, saw the heroics of police officers, firefighters, paramedics, airline passengers, and ordinary people."

"We watched as our nation grieved, and joined in that grief; we held our loved ones closer; and we prayed for those who lost their loved ones on that horrible day."

"We saw our tragedy bring us together rather than humble us. We did not tremble in fear as our enemies had hoped, but joined together, continued living our lives, worked to heal the wounds, and saw each day as a blessing instead of something to be endured."

"And now we are gathered here to remember those who died that day, and those who served and did their duty and made the ultimate sacrifice to save the lives of others."

I finished at 8:46 AM on the dot. We stood silently for one minute, praying, meditating, or contemplating what had gone on in the previous year.

And then we went back to work, doing what we do best.

Being Americans.


Make The Price of Terrorism Too Horrible to Pay

It was while I was writing a comment to Cold Fury's post about the attack on the Pentagon that I remembered and badly quoted a little soliloquy by John Travolta in the movie Swordfish. In it, he tells the hero, played by Hugh Jackman, how he and his organization plan to handle terrorist actions against the United States.

"They bomb a church, we bomb ten. They hijack a plane, we take out an airport. They execute American tourists, we tactically nuke an entire city. Our job is to make terrorism so horrific that it becomes unthinkable to attack Americans."

Even to me it seems extreme. But there is that little part of me that wonders 'what if?'

What if we made the price of terrorism so high that it does become unthinkable? What if for every terrorist action there is a horribly uneven and devastating reaction? How long would it be before terrorist actions dwindle away and finally stop? Would someone proposing a terrorist action be shouted down, or better yet, killed by his or her fellows for even suggesting such a thing?

Or would such actions entice terrorist groups to plan and pull off even bigger and more destructive acts of terror? Would they try tit-for-tat? (Of course, our arsenal is much bigger, better, and easier to deliver with pinpoint accuracy). Would it only end when all of our enemies are dead and all of their lands are nothing but radioactive wastelands?

I shudder to think that it would come to that.

But still there is that little part of me that wonders "What if?"


Why They Hate Us

I found this over at Sgt. Stryker’s. It gives us a pretty good idea why the Middle East is the way it is and why hatred for America exists. The hatred for the U.S. is not just in the Middle East, but many places. I think you'll find it enlightening.


A Breath of Fresh Air

After attending a computer show late this morning, I was heading upstate to run a few errands and do a little work on a plot of land I own up in the foothills of the White Mountains. While making the drive through the New Hampshire countryside I was contemplating many of the blogs I'd read about Iraq and the Euro-weenie's reactions to the Big Bad U.S. possible use of its military might against that regime. It was while listening to the special worldwide call in program by NPR and the BBC World Service that I remembered something I'd heard during NPR’s Weekend Edition earlier in the morning. It was something that warmed the cockles of my heart.

There's one other member of the old British Commonwealth that stands by our side:


Australian Prime Minister John Howard has made it clear that he and his countrymen support America's war on terrorism. Australian Special Forces have been in Afghanistan in support of the U.S. military.

As the Prime Minister said during a press conference in the Oval Office back on June 13th of this year,"Australia is a firm and faithful friend, and we are in there with you in the fight against terror. It still has a long way to go, and I think it's very important that the people don't imagine that the fight is anywhere near complete. And there will be a lot of commitment on our part, and we do respect and admire the contribution that you're making as the leader of the world's response."

When asked about the problem of Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction, Howard responded,"Clearly, Iraq's behavior has been -- in relation to the weapons of mass destruction has been offensive to many countries, including the United States and Australia. But the question of any action by the United States is a matter for the United States. And I've indicated before in Australia, and I repeat now that if there are any approaches made to Australia, we'd consider them in the circumstances, at the time, if they occur."

While his statement wasn't a ringing endorsement of actions we might take, he hasn't turned his back on us like so many of our European allies. He realizes that America's actions are America's actions. Not the UN's. Not the EU's. But America’s. He didn't bleat about how we should consult for approval of our actions.

One other thing that he said was "that Americans and Australians like each other, and they find it easy to relate to each other." That's one thing I can attest to, having spent time with quite a number of Australians, both here in the U.S. and Down Under.

There's only one thing I can add to that:

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oy! Oy! Oy!


Yellow Journalism at its Worst

While over at Cold Fury, I came across his comments and a link to a piece by Dodd Harris about a hack job done by the UK Times Online about the U.S. Navy and particularly the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Kitty Hawk. A bigger piece of slanted, erroneous drivel I've never seen.


Someone in the U.K. Gets It!

A post by David Carr over at Samizdata proves a small point of my previous post: Britain and the E.U. are at odds. Though my conjecture was based upon discussions with friends back in the U.K., it appears that more than a few in Britain are taking a disliking to the E.U. and what it ultimately means for Britain. This dislike is growing as time passes.

Welcome to the club, mates!


They Still Don't Get It

The bleating of the Euro-left is becoming increasingly shrill and I, for one, am getting tired of it.

The E.U.'s selective amnesia is starting to make them sound like spoiled children, the kind that believe that only if everyone does things their way that everything will be all right. They've forgotten the lessons of the past 63 years, forgotten what so many fought and died for, forgotten who made their way of life possible.

After September 11th, few of the E.U. nations did more than send their condolences. Condolences are cheap. Out of the E.U., only the U.K. and Germany went beyond that. Germany sent some of their AWACS aircraft to help defend U.S. borders against further airborne attacks. The British Navy and Air Force helped secure the shipping lanes and helped with ship inspections for those vessels headed in to U.S. territorial waters. The British also helped in the campaign against Al-Qaida and their Taliban supporters in Afghanistan. The rest of the E.U. nations were conspicuously silent or non-committal. Who needs fair weather friends like these?

To a point I can understand their reticence. Many of the E.U. nations have a substantial Arab immigrant population, and this 'Arab street' is vocal. France probably has the largest population of immigrant Arabs which is probably making the French government nervous. Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker, is French Moroccan and quite vocal in his hatred of the U.S. and everything it stands for. How many others just like him are presently in France? I doubt that the French government really wants to know, unless, of course, that hatred is turned upon them. The E.U. doesn't want Arab ire turned upon them, so it easier and politically more popular (read 'safer') to condemn the U.S. for any actions it contemplates in its war against terrorism.

Of course, the E.U. doesn't want to be reminded that much of the planning for the September 11th attacks took place in Europe. Some of the funds that financed the attacks were passed through or held in European banks. I'm sure that many of them would not want to undergo the scrutiny of an international commission tasked with hunting down Al-Qaida funds and those helping to hide them. It certainly would be an embarrassment for the E.U. to condemn the U.S. on one hand and to be found out as the money launderers for a terrorist network on the other.

This also brings up the issues of the International Criminal Court and Biological Weapons Convention and American unwillingness to give up our rights as guaranteed under the United States Constitution. The E.U. is pissed off because we won't give up our Constitutional rights, rights we've bled and died to preserve. I don't like the idea of casting off my Fourth Amendment rights to an international organization that does not have the best interests of U.S. citizens at heart. The E.U. doesn't understand that Americans don't trust any government from the U.S. government on down to the that of the local town any more than we absolutely must. But we're supposed to trust a bunch of foreigners because of some lukewarm assurances that they won't violate our rights, yet leave no mechanism to redress any violations of those rights? It's kind of like the old joke that goes something like this:

"How do you say 'Fuck You!' in (whatever language)?"

The answer: "Trust me!"

One of the interesting side effects of what's been happening is the unexpectedly closer ties between the U.S. and the U.K. as well as the increasing suspicions and distrust between the U.K. and the rest of the E.U.. Could it be that the powers that be in the U.K. see that the E.U. doesn't have their best interests at heart? It certainly makes one wonder why the U.K. didn't drop the Pound Sterling as their currency and join the rest of the E.U. in adopting the Euro. Could it be that the much-proclaimed unity amongst the E.U. nations isn't as strong or as unanimous as they'd like us to believe?

It makes one think, doesn't it?


The False Premises of the World Summit for Sustainable Development

With the various factions at the World Summit for Sustainable Development having fought for the right to lambaste the West, and particularly the U.S., for its unwillingness to impoverish itself on behalf of the developing nations, I thought it was about time for me to put in my two cents worth.

It seems to me that many of the delegates lay the blame for the problems in their own countries at the feet of the capitalist West. How dare we refuse to take responsibility for their failures to enter the world market or improve the lives of their citizens? Rather than look to their own governments for incompetence and corruption, it's far easier to blame someone else instead.

Take a look what's happening in Zimbabwe, for example.

When Zimbabwe (once called Rhodesia) gained its independence from Britain, its economy was in good shape. There was little trouble between the new duly elected government of Robert Mugabe and the descendents of the European settlers that decided to stay. They considered themselves citizens of Zimbabwe. For the most part they were farmers, and rather successful ones at that. Life was good. Not perfect, but good.

Fast forward to present day.

Zimbabwe is on the edge of famine. Foreign capital has fled. Robert Mugabe stole the recent elections in an effort to remain in power, extending the corruption that is now the hallmark of his government. Squatters have taken over the most productive farms at the urging of President Mugabe, in an effort to 'return the ancestral lands to the rightful owners'. As a result, the farms no longer produce any food. The original farmers, their families, and their workers have been forced from their lands. Food is in short supply. And it's all the fault of the 'capitalist West'.

I realize that Zimbabwe is only one example, and probably a poor one at that. But it does show one of the themes that pervaded the summit.

The West is also expected to greatly decrease its energy consumption in order to allow developing nations to increase theirs. Despite the fact that using some of the long existing energy technologies is economically foolish, it is what some of the delegates to the summit insist upon. The developing nations should be focusing their attentions on newer energy technologies, such as solar, wind, even nuclear. They should be willing bypass the fossil fuel based energy technologies if they truly want sustainable development.

Of course, if the more vocal developing nations got their way, one of the things they can look forward to is starvation. After all, it is the West, and particularly the U.S. and Canada, that feeds a good portion of the world. If energy consumption was decreased to the level that the delegates want, food production, storage, and transporation would be expensive and difficult, if not impossible. Worldwide food prices would go up as the supply goes down.

Some of the developing countries believe that with a large infusion of cash from the West all of their problems will be solved. Little do they realize that the only thing such an infusion will accomplish is more misery, more poverty, and even greater dependence on the West. Corruption will increase as personal freedoms decrease. There will be no incentive to develop actual industries capable of competing in the world market and enriching its own citizens. It is a disturbing outlook that depends on a discredited theory on the redistribution of wealth: Killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.

It won't be a quick overnight killing, but rather a long drawn out bloodletting that eventually leads to death.

I know that I am not going to bust my ass 40+ hours a week just to see a good portion of the fruits of my labor shipped overseas to people that have nothing but contempt for me and my country. I am not about to lower my standard of living because of discredited theories of crackpot leftist economists. One does not raise the standard of living or increase the wealth of individuals by pulling others down. All that does is make everyone poor. Rather, it is done by pulling others up.

It's about time the developing nations realize that small but powerful truth.