False Promises of Thorium Nuke

The letter of David Raisman [“Take a Thorium,” 7/1-15/12 TPP] asked us to talk about the benefits of a Thorium nuclear plant. Yes, let’s talk about it.

First was the promise that nuclear power would be too cheap to meter. It turned out to be so expensive and risky that not a single nuke would be built without government bailouts. Then there was the promise that nuclear power would clean. Nuclear plant disasters have caused immense harm. Chernobyl has already killed more than a million people and more will die in the future. Disasters worse than Chernobyl can happen. Get set for a new nuclear power promise, the thorium reactor.

The March 18, 2010, issue of Machine Design hailed the debut of a much better nuclear reactor, the thorium reactor. The article stated that thorium-based reactors could be more efficient and create less waste than today’s uranium based generating plants. The idea is that thorium, a common mineral in the world, could supply relatively inexpensive and abundant power. They claim that nuclear engineers can extract 100% of thorium’s usable energy, compared to just 0.7% for uranium. Thus it takes much more raw material and leaves much more dangerous waste to generate electricity using uranium.

Thorium is converted to Uranium-233. U-233 is fissionable. John W. Gofman, M.D., and Ph.D., a great nuclear pioneer, discovered the fissionability of U-233. He is named on a patent for this process. His discovery was before be became aware of how rules for allowed exposure to radioactivity were harmful. After this awareness, he wished he had never discovered the fissionability of U-233 and hoped the concept would be junked.

Thorium is toxic. There was a thorium dump in Maywood, N.J. Its emissions harmed residents. The thorium was the residue for a non-nuclear manufacturing process. The manufacturer went out of business and left the thorium behind. One of my engineering subordinates had a son who lived in Maywood. The son was killed by the thorium. There were other fatalities and illnesses induced in the neighborhood. Because of this, the thorium had to be removed. It took 15 years for removal to he accomplished.

Just about all the promises of the nuclear club turned out badly for humankind This new claim by the nuclear club deserves to be regarded accordingly. Details of how badly claims have turned out are documented in my book, Asleep at the Geiger Counter — Still Asleep After All These Years (Blue Dolphin Publishing). A metallurgist pointed out to me that there are other alternatives to using U-235 as a nuclear fuel. However, all alternatives have serious drawbacks.

Mahwah, N.J.

No Business of Ours

A government is indeed not a business. 1) It is not in existence to make a profit, but to service its citizens. (Remember how fast George W. Bush wanted to get rid of the surplus the Democrats so carefully created? Remember how Republicans said “The [Congress] people will only spend it”? Remember how deficit spending was considered “no problem in 2000-2008?)

2) A government can always print more money. Not so with a business.

3) A government exists to make rules and regulations for the good of all its citizens. And corporations are not the only citizens (or citizen groups) in a country.

4) A government is corrupted by money if the money is a bribe or gotten by extortion or unlawful means. Even the perception of such things is corrupting.

5) Taxes are not punishment, but rather how government finances itself.

6) Employees of both governments and businesses should be paid decently under decent working conditions, and respected for the jobs they do.

7) Life is more than making money.

8) Bad government is so much worse than having a bad business: bad laws, lax enforcement of laws, bad judges, courts, juries, lawyers, legislators, teachers, firefighters, secretaries, supervisors, schools, communities, cities, roads, transportation, military — the list is endless. Without good government, there is no business.

9) The attitude of those who have squandered our collective wealth in these last few years, in the financial/investment community, towards those who have worked to make all the wealth (and entrusted the wealth to “business”) is utterly beyond comprehension. And to think that all that hard work on loans and “instruments” and convoluted “reasoning” brought us to this place. What a waste — on so many levels.

That is why we’re all depressed. It’s not just “business.”

Paul Krugman’s latest book, End This Depression Now!, makes more sense than “business” sense. And it is about what governments can do. For one thing, firstly, they can stop listening to only businessmen.

Presque Isle, Maine

1% Doing Just Fine

President Obama has recently come into trouble for saying “The private sector is doing fine.” Of course, Republicans have gone into hysterics over how out of touch he supposedly is, but there is a sense in which he is absolutely right.

The privileged rich, the so-called 1%, are indeed doing fine. In fact, they have never been so well off. They are wallowing in money like pigs in mud. They now have so much money they don’t know what to do with all of it.

I usually spend my days in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, attending classes in the Senior Citizens Program at Hunter College, tutoring students in math, statistics and economics and looking up things in the Hunter College Library. I am sure that the residents of Storm Lake, Iowa, would not recognize that neighborhood as being any recognizable part of the United States of America. The residents live in apartments for which they pay $10,000, $15,000, $20,000 per month (that is month, not year). They are media executives, bankers and stock brokers from the Wall Street area, lawyers, doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists, corporate public relations consultants, etc. They have servants who cook their meals, do their laundry and clean their apartments once a week. They have a summer home in the Hamptons or on Fire Island, flash a $25,000 watch at whomever they talk to, and drive around in a chaufferred Cadillac limousine, in addition to their trophy Lexus, BMW or Jaguar. I am sure they are a large part of the demand for cocaine, marijuana etc., that swamps the border of Texas. Mr. Obama is not wrong to say they are “doing fine.”

Harvey Stoneburner
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Cubs Regrets

Your 6/15/12 Dispatches article, “Obama Smear Funder Demands Massive Subsidy for Baseball Stadium,” highlights the dangers of right-wing billionaire financial political activities opened up by the Supreme Court in Citizens United at the expense of the middle class and poor taxpayers.

As a lifelong Chicago Cub fan, I only recently learned about the character of the relatively new owner of the Cubs, Joe Ricketts. As reported in your dispatch, Mr. Ricketts or his son offered $10 million for racial campaign ads linking President Obama to Rev. Wright, a tactic that even John McCain opposed in the 2008 presidential campaign. In addition, the Ricketts family is seeking a $150 million government subsidy for the Cubs and a 50% cut of any increase in city and county amusement tax revenues above 6%.

Until the Ricketts family divests itself of Chicago Cub ownership, I will not attend any more Cub games, watch them on TV, or listen to them on the radio. I urge all Cub fans to boycott anything to do with the Cubs and all products or companies controlled by billionaires such Ricketts who use their money to exert right-wing political influence..

I recommend that TPP publish an article containing a list of products produced by the leading right-wing billionaires such as the Koch Brothers and encourage readers to boycott their products. Boycotts were effective during the civil rights movement. There is no reason why they should not work now.

Edward L. Koven
Highland Park, Ill.

‘Christian Nation’

What a distressing irony! Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear someone boast, or read in a newspaper, that we are a Christian nation. And yet, at the same time, as David Sirota reminds us, America has become the true Lord of War.” (“Our Economy Depends on Guns and Butter, 6/15/12 TPP).

“We are the leading arms supplier to the developing world, and we are responsible for the majority of all weapons sales across the globe,” Mr. Sirota writes.

Why, then, since weapons are the antithesis of Christian love and compassion, is our “Christian nation” at the forefront of the world’s arms suppliers?

Moreover, the Christian economic formula, according to Acts 4:34, also says that money was “put at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”

Therefore, if we were a Christian nation, as so many insist, we’d have no one in need!

The only conclusion I can draw to this disparity is that the United States has a soft, compassionate Christian mouth - and a hard, calculating capitalist heart.

David Quintero
Monrovia, Calif.

California’s Primary Mischaracterized

The 7/1-15/12 TPP has a “Dispatch” about the June 5 California primary. The dispatch, titled “Open Primary Shakes Up Cal Politics,” says, in part, “The election left nine House races with opponents of the same party meeting in November, with seven of those pitting Dems against Dems, but the Democrats lost a key pickup chance in the 31st district (suburban Los Angeles) when two Republicans made the runoff in what was supposed to be a Democratic seat when four Dems split the vote.”

That’s an accurate statement of what happened, but the vocabulary for the piece is off. Under federal law, ever since 1872, congressional elections must be held in November of even-numbered years, and if a state wants a run-off (to guarantee the winner has at least 50% support) that run-off must be after November. Only two states, Georgia and Louisiana, have congressional general election run-offs, and they are in December.

Therefore, the California election of November 6, 2012, is the congressional election itself; it is not a run-off.

Also the piece should not refer to the California system as an “open primary.” “Open primary” has been defined in numerous US Supreme Court decisions (starting in 1972) and in many political science textbooks to be a system in which each party has its own primary and its own nominees, but on primary day any voter is free to choose any party’s primary ballot. But in California (and Washington state and Louisiana) parties don’t have nominees. It is bad writing to refer to the California-Washington-Louisiana system as an “open primary,” because it causes confusion with a classic open primary. The California ballot measure that instituted the top-two primary was not on the ballot as an “open primary” because a court ruled it is not an open primary. Proponents of top-two system like the press to refer to their system as an “open primary” because it sounds appealing, but they are being deceptive and The Progressive Populist should not encourage that.

Richard Winger, Editor
Ballot Access News
San Francisco, Ca.

Vote Strategically

No matter the degree of our disappointment, anger and disgust, November’s election is too crucial to capitulate on, or sit out.

(If states amend their laws to cast electoral votes for the national winner, my analysis will need modification, but barring that ...)

First, we must vote neither dogmatically (always reject “lesser evil”), nor in emotional panic (always support “lesser evil”). We must think and act analytically.

Presidential elections are not a single, national plebiscite, but 50 state elections (winner take all electoral votes except in Maine and Nebraska). Thus, the “lesser evil” theory applies only if 1) we, and those we can reasonably expect to influence, can tip the balance in our state and 2) our state, and similar tossup states, can tip the balance in the Electoral College.

Votes for sure winners and sure losers are strategically wasted as 1) they won’t affect the state outcome and 2) we will thus lack bargaining power. (And if we hold the balance of power, we must bargain fearlessly and hard for concessions from “lesser evil.”

Independent advocacy of our positions in tossup states can only enhance our cause, win converts and send a message; running our best candidate for a state office, i.e. “a vote for Smith is a vote for (say) Ralph.” “Lesser evil” will get the message.

Polls can be wrong. Conditions can change rapidly, but we should pursue our analytical strategy as carefully as we can. Forget the “circular firing squad.” Let each go his way and let history decide.

Maintain our organizational and programmatic integrity, while tactically flexible, inside or outside “lesser evil.”

But absolute allegiance to “lesser evil” renders us absolutely taken for granted. And when we get taken for granted, we get taken, not granted.

Joe Stetson
Poultney, Vt.

Mad to Eat Meat

John Stauber’s mad cow piece, “Not Only the Cows are Mad” [7/1-15/12 TPP] was very good. Here’s how to protect yourself and get huge health benefits as well: Go vegan. Rather then worry about what Big Meat and the USDA are putting in the meat just don’t eat meat anymore. Go off all animal products and ditch the sugar, white flour and french fries. Eat vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains and your health will improve considerably. Clogged arteries and cancer are the biggest killers and cost billions and are mostly avoidable. The tons of corn grown in the US are made into corn syrup to feed our obesity, crammed into cattle (who don’t eat grain unless forced), pigs and chickens to feed our clogged arteries, or made into ethanol (in which about 1 energy is put in to get 1.1 energy out so is mostly a boondoggle for corn states.) Any interested readers might pick up The China Study by T. Colin Campbell or Eat to Live by J. Fuhrman M.D. to be convinced.

Dave Evans
Madison, Wis.

From The Progressive Populist, August 1, 2012


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2012 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652