Monthly Archives: October 2012

Andrew Sullivan on the Choice

The Choice in Front of Us

A bit from Chait’s case for Obama:

I can understand why somebody who never shared Obama’s goals would vote against his reelection. If you think the tax code already punishes the rich too heavily, that it’s not government’s role to subsidize health insurance for those who can’t obtain it, that the military shouldn’t have to let gays serve openly, and so on, then Obama’s presidency has been a disaster, but you probably didn’t vote for him last time. For anybody who voted for Obama in 2008 and had even the vaguest sense of his platform, the notion that he has fallen short of some plausible performance threshold seems to me unfathomable.

I couldn’t agree more. I have no idea what standard people are using to declare Obama’s first term a failure. To save us from a Great Depression, rescue the auto industry, re-regulate Wall Street, decimate al Qaeda, kill bin Laden and Qaddafi and provide universal healthcare? That’s failure?

Unemployment is lower now than it was when he took office, and moving downward. Next year’s IMF-predicted US growth is higher than any other developed country. Compared with austerity-ridden Europe, where unemployment is still climbing, Obama’s, Geithner’s and Bernanke’s leadership has been stellar. The US has never exported as much as now as a percentage of GDP ever. Given the catastrophe Obama walked into, and the froth-flecked obstructionism of his opposition, he’s had a remarkably successful, historic first term. His long game also makes much of the progress promised durable only if he gets a second term.

As Jon says, I understand why the Tea Party disagrees with his policies. What I cannot understand is how those who voted for him in 2008 because they wanted real change can explain why they may vote against him now. It makes no sense. He has carried through almost every election promise, and those he hasn’t can mostly be attributed to the GOP House. If you voted for Obama in 2008 and don’t in 2012, you never really voted for him in 2008. He told us it would take two terms; he predicted obstruction and setbacks; yet he has persisted – and succeeded. But take his second term away? Back to ballooning, rather than shrinking deficits, millions left without access to private health insurance, a guaranteed war against Iran, climate change policy handed over to the oil and coal companies, and massive spending on defense we don’t need. Not to mention torture.

And a highlight from Chait’s case against Romney:

[T]he reality remains that a vote for Romney is a vote for his party — a party that, by almost universal acclimation, utterly failed when last entrusted with governing. Romney may be brainier, more competent, and more mentally nimble than George W. Bush. But his party has, unbelievably, grown far more extreme in the years since Bush departed. Unbelievable though it may sound to those outside the conservative movement, conservative introspection into the Bush years has yielded the conclusion that the party erred only in its excessive compassion — it permitted too much social spending and, perhaps, cut taxes too much on the poor. Barely any points of contact remain between party doctrine and the consensus views of economists and other experts. The party has almost no capacity to respond to the conditions and problems that actually exist in the world.


Original Page: http://andrewsullivan.thedailybeast.com/2012/10/the-choice-in-front-of-us.html

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Mario Piperni and the Ugly Truth

Obama and Voting for the Future

October 31, 2012 By

Harold Meyerson closes his excellent piece on evolving demographics with words that could not be truer.

Two Americas are facing off in next week’s election. By their makeup, the Democrats are bound to move, if haltingly, into the future, while the Republicans parade proudly into the pre-New Deal past — some of it mythic, lots of it ugly. The differences could not be clearer.

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The Barack Obama source image is a U.S. government work from the White House Flickr Photostream and in the public domain.

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FDL on Sandy and the Nuke

Superstorm Sandy Shows Nuclear Plants Who’s Boss

By: Gregg Levine


Oyster Creek Nuclear Power Station as seen in drier times.
(photo via wikipedia)

Once there was an ocean liner; its builders said it was unsinkable. Nature had other ideas.

On Monday evening, as Hurricane Sandy was becoming Post-Tropical Cyclone Sandy, pushing record amounts of water on to Atlantic shores from the Carolinas to Connecticut, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued a statement. Oyster Creek, the nation’s oldest operating nuclear reactor, was under an Alert. . . and under a good deal of water.

An Alert is the second rung on the NRC’s four-point emergency classification scale. It indicates “events are in process or have occurred which involve an actual or potential substantial degradation in the level of safety of the plant.” (By way of reference, the fourth level–a General Emergency–indicates substantial core damage and a potential loss of containment.)

As reported earlier, Oyster Creek’s coolant intake structure was surrounded by floodwaters that arrived with Sandy. Oyster Creek’s 47-year-old design requires massive amounts of external water that must be actively pumped through the plant to keep it cool. Even when the reactor is offline, as was the case on Monday, water must circulate through the spent fuel pools to keep them from overheating, risking fire and airborne radioactive contamination.

With the reactor shut down, the facility is dependant on external power to keep water circulating. But even if the grid holds up, rising waters could trigger a troubling scenario:

The water level was more than six feet above normal. At seven feet, the plant would lose the ability to cool its spent fuel pool in the normal fashion, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The plant would probably have to switch to using fire hoses to pump in extra water to make up for evaporation, Mr. Sheehan said, because it could no longer pull water out of Barnegat Bay and circulate it through a heat exchanger, to cool the water in the pool.

If hoses desperately pouring water on endangered spent fuel pools remind you of Fukushima, it should. Oyster Creek is the same model of GE boiling water reactor that failed so catastrophically in Japan.

The NRC press release (PDF) made a point–echoed in most traditional media reports–of noting that Oyster Creek’s reactor was shut down, as if to indicate that this made the situation less urgent. While not having to scram a hot reactor is usually a plus, this fact does little to lessen the potential problem here. As nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen told Democracy Now! before the Alert was declared:

[Oyster Creek is] in a refueling outage. That means that all the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, but it’s over in the spent fuel pool. And in that condition, there’s no backup power for the spent fuel pools. So, if Oyster Creek were to lose its offsite power—and, frankly, that’s really likely—there would be no way cool that nuclear fuel that’s in the fuel pool until they get the power reestablished. Nuclear fuel pools don’t have to be cooled by diesels per the old Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.

A site blackout (SBO) or a loss of coolant issue at Oyster Creek puts all of the nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste at risk. The plant being offline does not change that, though it does, in this case, increase the risk of an SBO.

But in the statement from the NRC, there was also another point they wanted to underscore (or one could even say “brag on”): “As of 9 p.m. EDT Monday, no plants had to shut down as a result of the storm.”

If only regulators had held on to that release just one more minute. . . .

SCRIBA, NY – On October 29 at 9 p.m., Nine Mile Point Unit 1 experienced an automatic reactor shutdown.

The shutdown was caused by an electrical grid disturbance that caused the unit’s output breakers to open. When the unit’s electrical output breakers open, there is nowhere to “push” or transmit the power and the unit is appropriately designed to shut down under these conditions.

“Our preliminary investigation identified a lighting pole in the Scriba switchyard that had fallen onto an electrical component. This is believed to have caused the grid disturbance. We continue to evaluate conditions in the switchyard,” said Jill Lyon, company spokesperson.

Nine Mile Point Nuclear Station consists of two GE boiling water reactors, one of which would be the oldest operating in the US were it not for Oyster Creek. They are located just outside Oswego, NY, on the shores of Lake Ontario. Just one week ago, Unit 1–the older reactor–declared an “unusual event” as the result of a fire in an electrical panel. Then, on Monday, the reactor scrammed because of a grid disturbance, likely caused by a lighting pole knocked over by Sandy’s high winds.

An hour and forty-five minutes later, and 250 miles southeast, another of the nation’s ancient reactors also scrammed because of an interruption in offsite power. Indian Point, the very old and very contentious nuclear facility less than an hour’s drive north of New York City, shut down because of “external grid issues.” And Superstorm Sandy has given Metropolitan New York’s grid a lot of issues.

While neither of these shutdowns is considered catastrophic, they are not as trivial as the plant operators and federal regulators would have you believe. First, emergency shutdowns–scrams–are not stress-free events, even for the most robust of reactors. As discussed here before, it is akin to slamming the breaks on a speeding locomotive. These scrams cause wear and tear aging reactors can ill afford.

Second, scrams produce pressure that usually leads to the venting of some radioactive vapor. Operators and the NRC will tell you that these releases are well within “permissible” levels–what they can’t tell you is that “permissible” is the same as “safe.”

If these plants were offline, or running at reduced power, the scrams would not have been as hard on the reactors or the environment. Hitting the breaks at 25 mph is easier on a car than slamming them while going 65. But the NRC does not have a policy of ordering shutdowns or reductions in capacity in advance of a massive storm. In fact, the NRC has no blanket protocol for these situations, period. By Monday morning, regulators agreed to dispatch extra inspectors to nuclear plants in harm’s way (and they gave them sat phones, too!), but they left it to private nuclear utility operators to decide what would be done in advance to prepare for the predicted natural disaster.

Operators and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokes-folks like to remind all who will listen (or, at least, all who will transcribe) that nuclear reactors are the proverbial house of bricks–a hurricane might huff and puff, but the reinforced concrete that makes up a typical containment building will not blow in. But that’s not the issue, and the NRC, at least, should know it.

Loss of power (SBOs) and loss of coolant accidents (LOCAs) are what nuclear watchdogs were warning about in advance of Sandy, and they are exactly the problems that presented themselves in New York and New Jersey when the storm hit.

The engineers of the Titanic claimed that they had built the unsinkable ship, but human error, corners cut on construction, and a big chunk of ice cast such hubris asunder. Nuclear engineers, regulators and operators love to talk of four-inch thick walls and “defense-in-depth” backup systems, but the planet is literally littered with the fallout of their folly. Nuclear power systems are too complex and too dangerous for the best of times and the best laid plans. How are they supposed to survive the worst of times and no plans at all?

Humor: The Borowitz Report

Romney Says He Favors Abortion in Cases Where It Makes People Vote for Him

Posted by
 

KETTERING, Ohio (The Borowitz Report)—Hitting the campaign trail one day after the arrival of Superstorm Sandy, Republican nominee Mitt Romney tweaked his position on abortion today, saying he now supports it in cases where it makes people vote for him.

“I would make an exception for abortion in cases where the life of my campaign is at stake,” he told a crowd in Kettering, Ohio.

Sandy, which slammed into the East Coast last night, was such a powerful weather system that it prevented Mr. Romney from changing his position on abortion for twenty-four hours.

“It was important for Mitt to come up with a new position on abortion today,” said his campaign manager, Matt Rhoades. “It sends a message to the American people that in the aftermath of Sandy, things are getting back to normal.”

Mr. Romney made no reference to his comments about eliminating FEMA, which have been declared a disaster area.

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Photograph by Lauren Lancaster.

Mario Piperni on Repug Disaster Relief

Romney’s Spin on Disaster Relief Is Coming Your Way

October 30, 2012 By

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the loss of life and billions of dollars worth of damage, Mitt Romney’s statement from last June calling for the privatization of disaster relief services, should spell the end of his presidential dream. But it won’t, even though for-profit disaster relief would be a nightmare of epic proportions. It won’t end Romney’s chances of winning in the same way that getting caught on video dismissing 47 percent of the population as lazy free-loaders didn’t hurt Romney much. Nor did his refusal to release anything other than two years of tax returns create much of a stir.

How about the fact that a man who is running for the office of president of the United States has Swiss bank accounts and tax havens in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands – all for the purpose of avoiding income tax. Was that a game changer? Nope. Nor was his op-ed piece in the NY Times calling for the government to let GM and the automobile industry go bankrupt a big enough error in judgment to dismiss him as suitable for the Oval Office.

Why not?

The fact is that in saner times any of the above would have killed off any possibility of a presidential candidate winning. But not so with Romney. With the help of an influential and morally-bankrupt conservative media that shields this shyster with layers and layers of spin, Romney is still in the running.

Un-fucking-believable.

Let’s see how Romney spins his way out of his FEMA comments. I’m not sure what he’ll say but whatever it is, it’ll satisfy conservatives. They’re an easy bunch to please when the only true conviction so many of them hold is ensuring that the black guy is a one-term president.

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Mario Piperni on an Uninformed Electorate

The Electorate and Political Ignorance

October 29, 2012 By

More disconcerting than the thought of a Romney administration, is the knowledge that at least 40 percent of those casting a vote on November 6 are grossly apathetic.

In a recent YouGov poll, I asked participants about their views on abortion policy and what position they thought Obama, Romney, the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party took on abortion. Only about 60% of respondents knew that Obama and the Democrats supported more pro-choice policies than Romney and Republicans. Given that the parties have had clear and long-standing positions on this issue, it’s astonishing that 40% of Americans don’t know this basic fact (other surveys find even higher levels of ignorance).

Amazing. If such a large number of Americans are this clueless about a basic issue like abortion, what the hell are they basing their their vote on? How knowledgeable can they possibly be on issues like the economy, health care, immigration and foreign policy?

Unfortunately, the more ignorant the electorate remains on the basic issues that define the two political parties, the easier it is for Rovian politics to do its dirty work. There is definitely method to Romney’s flip-flopping madness.

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Mario Piperni on the Sleaze Kings

Romney and Ryan – Whopper Kings

October 29, 2012 By

Via Greg Sargent:

Last week, Mitt Romney told an Ohio rally that Chrysler was considering moving all its Jeep production to China — a false claim based on a faulty interpretation of a Bloomberg article that said no such thing. It was easy to assume the Romney camp had simply made a mistake (which would not necessarily have justified running with such an incendiary claim without checking the facts first).

Now, however, there is no longer any doubt about what’s happening: The Romney campaign is deliberately misleading people with the Jeep-to-China claim, in a last-ditch effort to turn things around in Ohio, which benefitted enormously from the auto bailout Romney opposed. The Romney campaign is running a new ad that claims:

Obama took GM and Chrysler into bankruptcy, and sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build jeeps in China. Mitt Romney will fight for every American job.

They have absolutely no shame. In a profession that has made lying an art form, Mitt Romney and his Republican cohorts are the indisputable king of whoppers and sleaze. I can think of no politician who ever more deserved an electoral kick in the ass than Mitt Romney.

Note: For suggesting the Romney Whopper King idea, one of our readers, Sean, gets a personalized illustration. Thanks, Sean.

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Humor: The Borowitz Report

Weather Forces Romney to Shift Lying to Other States

Posted by
 

CINCINNATI (The Borowitz Report)—The threat of Hurricane Sandy has forced Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign to move its lying efforts from states in the path of the storm to others beyond the hurricane’s reach.

Starting yesterday, the Romney campaign began reallocating lies originally intended for Virginia to other swing states such as Ohio and Wisconsin, the campaign confirmed today.

“An emergency situation like this really tests how good your ground game is,” said campaign manager Matt Rhoades. “Fortunately, we have liars in all fifty states.”

But even as the Romney campaign expressed outward confidence about its ability to maintain an uninterrupted flow of whoppers, some Republicans privately feared that a major power outage could disrupt its ability to lie, distort, and exaggerate in the crucial days ahead.

“If Fox News gets knocked off the air in some of these states, we’re certainly going to be down a quart in terms of falsehoods,” one insider said.

But according to Vice-Presidential nominee Paul Ryan, who has been central to the campaign’s lying efforts, the severe weather is a challenge that “separates the men from the boys.”

“They’re expecting winds of up to seventy miles per hour,” he told reporters. “Fortunately, I can run eighty miles per hour.”

In Indiana, Republican Senate candidate Richard Mourdock weighed in on the approaching storm: “It says a lot about God that while he’s so busy impregnating women he still somehow finds the time to make a hurricane.”

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Actual Voter Fraud?

Andrew Sullivan on More Mittology

GDP Romnesia

Romney had this to say about this morning’s announcement of 2.0% Q3 GDP growth:

Today, we received the latest round of discouraging economic news: Last quarter, our economy grew at only two percent, less than half the 4.3% rate the White House projected after passing the stimulus bill. Slow economic growth means slow job growth and declining take-home pay. This is what four years of President Obama’s policies have produced.

Alex Seitz-Wald highlights his record as governor:

According to data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, average real GDP growth was 1.5 percent per year in Massachusetts from 2002 to 2006. For each of the years Romney was in office, the economy grew 1.49 percent, 1.86 percent, 1.14 percent, and 1.43 percent, respectively.

And how did Romney assess the economic growth of the state under his leadership? “When we took office, the state economy was in a tailspin. Today, jobs are being created by the thousands and our economy is stronger,” he said in early 2006, his last year in office. So two percent was good then, but not so much now.