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Uh oh

Oh well, what’s a few decimal points on the Richter scale when it comes to shareholder dividends?

The earthquake that prompted the shutdown of a Virginia nuclear power plant last week may have been more severe than the plant’s reactors were designed to withstand, federal regulators said.

The revelation is likely to put increased pressure on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to quickly implement a series of safety recommendations intended in part to protect plants from major natural disasters like earthquakes.

NRC said Monday that its preliminary analysis indicates that the ground motion caused by the magnitude-5.8 earthquake near the North Anna Power Station in Louisa County, Va., exceeded the maximum level the two reactors at the plant were built to handle.

But the commission noted in a statement Monday that “data is still being collected and analyzed to determine the precise level of shaking that was experienced at key locations within the North Anna facility.”

NRC decided to send additional inspectors to the North Anna power plant after conducting the analysis, the commission said Monday.

“The fact that we’re sending an [augmented inspection team] should not be interpreted to mean that Dominion staff responded inappropriately or that the station is less safe as a result of the quake,” NRC Region II Administrator Victor McCree said in a statement. “An AIT provides us with the resources needed to completely understand all the effects at North Anna and gather important information for the NRC’s continuing evaluation of earthquake risk at all U.S. nuclear plants.”

Last night

In case you missed it, here’s me and Stuart Zechman ranting on various topics last night.

Dumb question of the day

Why do we subsidize the building of homes in flood prone areas? Why, because so many wealthy special interest groups (doctors, lawyers, accountants, politicians, etc.) own beachfront property, of course!

See, we only approve of taxpayer-subsidized insurance when it’s for rich people. Are we clear now?

Food for thought

The Rev. Jesse Jackson at the recent AFL-CIO Martin Luther King Center Conference on “Jobs, Justice and the American Dream” of interest:

In 1960 Martin Luther King supported Kennedy instead of Nixon to prevent America from going backwards. Then he marched in the streets of Birmingham to pass the Civil Rights Act
to move the nation ahead.

In 1964 Martin Luther King supported Johnson instead of Goldwater
to prevent America from going backwards. Then he marched in Selma to pass the Voting Rights Act to move the nation ahead.

For Dr. King, there was no conflict between voting strategically
to prevent the triumph of reaction and leading a nonviolent mass movement
to pressure a president to achieve profound social change.

When we in the movement struggled for social justice we helped weak presidents become stronger. When we in the movement struggled for social justice we helped good presidents become great.

Yesterday on the beach.

Hype?

One of the things I began to see on Twitter after Irene passed were comments like, “What a bunch of hype.” Really? Overblown, you say? Not to the many, many people whose towns have been devastated – or the 38+ who died:

The death toll from Hurricane Irene, later downgraded to a tropical storm, rose dramatically Monday as at least 35 people were reportedly killed by the storm that ripped its way up the East Coast and into New England.

Earlier, officials estimated that at least 22 had died across 10 states. But as the massive cleanup and recovery effort got underway Monday, authorities tracing Irene’s destructive path raised the number of dead, according to the Associated Press.

Among the fatalities: An 89-year-old Connecticut woman who was killed when a falling tree limb pulled power lines down on her home, starting a fire; and a 46-year-old man who tried to canoe down a flooded street. The canoe capsized, he disappeared, and his body was later recovered.

PHOTOS: In the path of the storm

The storm is estimated to have caused up to $7-billion worth of damage, a number that could grow, along with the death toll, as emergency assessments and flooding woes continue.

Much of New York was regaining its stride — airports resuming flights, subways reopening — but swaths of Vermont were underwater after Irene dumped more than 5 inches of rain on the region. Authorities continue to warn residents there to remain indoors until the rising waters receded.

Scott Towle, 54, a native of Brattleboro, Vermont, was stunned when he finally got a look at at the storm-swollen Whetstone Brook near his home. Normally, the tributary is a bubbling stream. “I’ve lived in Brattleboro all my life and I’ve never seen it like that,” he said. “It was a raging torrent. You could hear boulders, trees, everything going down through. It took out the road; it took out a couple of houses; it took out a bridge; it took out most of that street.”

About 5 milllion residents were left without electicity Monday morning, but authorities up and down the coast were chipping away at that number. In New York City, the majority of customers were expected to have power by the end of the day Thursday, and much of the rest of the area by Friday.

[...] A National Weather Service official said Monday that the threat of flooding remains a top concern in New York and much of New England, even well after the rains subsided.

David Vallee, the service’s hydrologist in charge of the Northeast, said that at one point 81 locations were at or above flood stage in the region, including a handful at record levels.

“While the flash flood threat … has for the most part ended, we still have some of the moderate-sized and larger rivers that still will take all of today to crest,” Vallee said, including the Hudson River near Albany, N.Y. And he said of rivers including the Connecticut, “we’re not likely to see the rivers crest and reach their highest river elevation until midweek.”

Christmas at Homeland Security

Police and military types have an overwhelming lust for the latest, greatest and most expensive technology — and a talent for rationalizing the budget expenditures. Since 9/11, it’s been one long Christmas list of weapons of war and anti-terror, and Santa Congress denies very little. In the meantime, anything that directly benefits We The People gets slashed. It’s time, as this L.A. Times article suggests, that we take a much closer look at what we get for all that money. I’d also like to suggest a name change – “Homeland Security” reminds me very much of Nazis:

A decade after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, federal and state governments are spending about $75 billion a year on domestic security, setting up sophisticated radio networks, upgrading emergency medical response equipment, installing surveillance cameras and bomb-proof walls, and outfitting airport screeners to detect an ever-evolving list of mobile explosives.

But how effective has that 10-year spending spree been?

“The number of people worldwide who are killed by Muslim-type terrorists, Al Qaeda wannabes, is maybe a few hundred outside of war zones. It’s basically the same number of people who die drowning in the bathtub each year,” said John Mueller, an Ohio State University professor who has written extensively about the balance between threat and expenditures in fighting terrorism.

“So if your chance of being killed by a terrorist in the United States is 1 in 3.5 million, the question is, how much do you want to spend to get that down to 1 in 4.5 million?” he said.

One effect is certain: Homeland Security spending has been a primer-pump for local governments starved by the recession, and has dramatically improved emergency response networks across the country.

An entire industry has sprung up to sell an array of products, including high-tech motion sensors and fully outfitted emergency operations trailers. The market is expected to grow to $31 billion by 2014.

Like the military-industrial complex that became a permanent and powerful part of the American landscape during the Cold War, the vast network of Homeland Security spyware, concrete barricades and high-tech identity screening is here to stay. The Department of Homeland Security, a collection of agencies ranging from border control to airport security sewn quickly together after Sept. 11, is the third-largest Cabinet department and — with almost no lawmaker willing to render the U.S. less prepared for a terrorist attack — one of those least to fall victim to budget cuts.

The expensive and time-consuming screening now routine for passengers at airport boarding gates has detected plenty of knives, loaded guns and other contraband, but it has never identified a terrorist who was about to board a plane. Only 14 Americans have died in about three dozen instances of Islamic extremist terrorist plots targeted at the U.S. outside war zones since 2001 — most of them involving one or two home-grown plotters.
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Smackdown

I get so frustrated when otherwise sensible people praise Tom Friedman. That’s why I’m happy that Dean Baker really lets The Mustache of Truth have it:

Yes, it’s Sunday and Thomas Friedman has another of his whacky big picture columns:

“Now let me say that in English: the European Union is cracking up. The Arab world is cracking up. China’s growth model is under pressure and America’s credit-driven capitalist model has suffered a warning heart attack and needs a total rethink. Recasting any one of these alone would be huge. Doing all four at once — when the world has never been more interconnected — is mind-boggling. We are again ‘present at the creation’ — but of what?”

Pretty profound stuff.

Okay, let’s get to specifics. We leave out the Arab world, skip China for a moment, and jump to the European Union. Friedman tells us:

“Farther north, it was a nice idea, this European Union and euro-zone: Let’s have a monetary union and a common currency but let everyone run their own fiscal policy, as long as they swear to work and save like Germans. Alas, it was too good to be true. Large government welfare programs in some European countries, without the revenue to finance them from local production, eventually led to a piling up of sovereign debt — mostly owed to European banks — and then a lender revolt. The producer-savers in northern Europe are now drawing up a new deal with the overspenders — the PIIGS: Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain.”

There is lots of good stuff here. First, the European Union and the euro-zone are not the same thing. There are countries with names like the United Kingdom, Denmark, and Sweden that have been longstanding members of the European Union that are not members of the euro-zone. While there have been some suggestions that heavily indebted countries consider leaving the euro, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone suggesting they leave the European Union.
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Hah

I wish more organizations stopped inviting Republicans to events honoring things they don’t support. May I suggest Tom Morello instead?

Community parades often feature local politicians waving to the crowds, but this year’s annual Labor Day parade in Wausau may be short a few elected officials.

That’s because the head of the group that sponsors the Wausau Labor Day Parade, the Marathon County Central Labor Council, is telling Republicans lawmakers from the area that they’re not welcome on Sept. 5.

“Usually they’ve been in the parade, but it seems like they only want to stand with us one day a year, and the other 364 days they don’t really care,” said Randy Radtke, president of the Council. The Council is made up of about 30 local unions from the Marathon County area.

In a statement, Radtke added that parade is intended to celebrate working men and women and what the labor movement has given them: weekends, a 40-hour work week, child labor protection and a safe working environment.

“It should come as no surprise that organizers choose not to invite elected officials who have openly attacked worker’s rights or stood idly by while their political party fought to strip public workers of their right to collectively bargain,” Radtke said.

Debate

Between atheists and deists. Steve Volk has a real knack for writing about the space between belief and non-belief, go read it.

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