Tuesday, February 13, 2007

News Bits

1. The U.S. Mint has launched its new Presidential dollar coin program. Why has it been so difficult to get a dollar coin into general circulation in the U.S.? Is it vending machines? Is it easier to give tips with bills? I don't get it. I've been to Canada and it wasn't like using Loonies was a big chore or anything.

2. The anti-Catholic blogger that John Edwards hired for his campaign has quit. Morning's Minion has some good thoughts on the subject; as Catholics we've made the mistake of letting Bill Donahue be the designated go-to guy for the lay "Catholic response" to current events. But Donahue doesn't represent anything approaching a typical American Catholic's viewpoint; he glosses over Republicans' conflicts with the Church but is all over anyone else. Essentially he uses Catholicism as just an interesting sheen on a schtick that's basically the same as any other right-wing attack dog.

So that makes it easy for the left wing to frame this whole affair in terms of Edwards standing up or caving in to a "right-wing smear." (No, the "Obama attended a madrassa" lie was a right-wing smear.) But actually, like a stopped clock, Donahue was right on this one: Edwards should have immediately disavowed the vulgar and profane comments his blogger made once he became aware of them. Someone who would make comments like that in a public forum deserves no place in the P.R. staff of a political candidate meant to be taken seriously. This should never have become a left vs. right issue; this was the kind of vile shit nobody should tolerate.

3. Here's an article about how one of the founders of Greenpeace is now advocating nuclear power. Disposing of the waste is still a problem, but compared with the climate change problems of using hydrocarbons or the low yield of solar or wind power, it seems like a winner.

This idea may sound crazy, but I wonder if it would at all be energy-efficient to dispose of nuclear waste by sending it into the sun, which is a big fusion reactor anyway. You'd have to know what the radioactive waste yield per unit energy is and compare that with the energy needed to take that mass out of earth orbit. Plus you'd still have the transport safety issues; you don't want a rocket full of radioactive waste exploding over your head. OK, how about this --- figure out a way to build nuclear reactors on the moon, then send the stored energy to earth and the waste to the sun. We'd have to build better batteries, first, I suppose.

4. Why is Laid Back's classic bass-heavy "White Horse" not available on iTunes? They only have the Wonderland Avenue remake. (Whoa... Wikipedia sez that Laid Back later had a video directed by Lars von Trier!)

7 Comments:

At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 1:05:00 AM PST, Anonymous clynne said...

That Madrassa thing was just ... I was like "uh, OK, who *can't* see this is a pre-emptive attempt to smear Obama, should he end up the 2008 Democratic presidential candidate?"

I mean, my god.

 
At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 5:32:00 AM PST, Anonymous Matthew B. said...

This presidential dollar coin idea is just dumb. They've tried special commemorative dollars umpteen times in the past without getting any of them into general acceptance. If they want Americans to switch to dollar coins -- as they should -- they need to yank all the $1 bills from circulation; it'll never happen otherwise.

I'm not particularly opposed to nuclear energy, but it's worth mentioning that Patrick Moore has been out of the environmental mainstream for a pretty long time. E.g., he's aligned himself with Michael Crichton's nutty scepticism of global warming.

 
At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 9:33:00 AM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

It can be difficult to separate healthy skepticism of environmental orthodoxy from the head-in-the-sand cranks. On the one hand, alarmists like Paul Ehrlich were (and are) clearly wrong, but then you also have people looking at the fact that he's been discredited as an excuse to discredit *all* environmentalism. There's no way to completely extricate the science from the politics, because any way you slice it, you're talking about predictions of the future, not about some controlled black-box experiment. I think the best thing we can do is make sure policies are based on the best science possible and keep an open mind about solutions and new information.

Vern said that the problem with AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH (which I haven't seen) was that Al Gore presenting it inherently politicizes what should be a bipartisan issue. Even if all Gore talks about is science and everything he says is true, the fact that it's Al Gore is going to give Republicans an excuse to dismiss it all.

 
At Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 9:36:00 AM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Also, you're right that the dollar coin won't catch on until they stop circulating the dollar bill. If they did that, there'd probably be a big outcry, though. But why? Why are people so emotionally attached to having their dollars in paper form? And why can't they get the vending machine companies to make their machines take the dollar coins?

 
At Saturday, February 17, 2007 at 2:28:00 AM PST, Anonymous Victor said...

I think the reason Edwards initially resisted calls to fire these vulgar hatemongers was that he thought he could ride it out via personal disassociation and the nonapology apology (i.e., a lie) from the two themselves.

He was aided in that perception because of the MSM's reluctance to quote what the two actually said (as opposed to paraphrases, or quotes bland enough to get into the newspaper or magazine). But the blogosphere makes that strategy impossible, and his own relatively bland reaction was becoming its own issue.

Honestly, to read the typical newspaper, you could think these two had been telling "minister, priest and a rabbi" jokes with the punch line "... or are you glad to see me?" Or actually given reasoned arguments against the Church teaching on contraception, homosexuality et al that maybe included a sarcastic aside or the frustrated walk-off line like "really ... the Pope needs to get laid."

 
At Saturday, February 17, 2007 at 10:24:00 AM PST, Anonymous DrDanGuitr said...

Some technical input on space disposal of nuclear waste:
(1) Way, waaaay back in the day, SF writer Robert Heinlein wrote a story about putting nuclear power plants in space, because they were too dangerous to have on earth, and then shipping the energy to earth in a safer form.
(2) Several economic studies suggest that if cost-to-orbit goes down enough, solar energy generation in space, with microwave transmission to earth, becomes very cost-effective, and has no greenhouse and very little other environmental impact.
(3) One of the oddities of orbital mechanics is that it actually takes much less effort to send a payload anywhere else in the solar system, or even out into interstellar space, than to send it into the sun. The velocity change ("delta-V," the measurement that matters to a rocket) is about 30 kilometers/second to hit the sun, about 12 km/sec to get to interstellar space. About 3-4 km/sec to get from Earth orbit to a hard landing on the moon. Of course sending it to interstellar space would be a REALLY bad idea; there's no telling WHO (or what) we would p*** off if we did that!

BTW to blog author: don't feel inhibited, I almost never look at blogs, just happened to catch this one.

 
At Saturday, February 17, 2007 at 12:37:00 PM PST, Blogger Adam Villani said...

Ach! I should have known to ask my friendly neighborhood orbital mechanic about that. Maybe next time I visit we can sit down with some paper and do some calculations.

 

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