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Daily Archives: March 16, 2011


The leaderless presidency

Anne-Marie Slaughter has a piece entitled “Fiddling While Libya Burns” in the NYT.  She opens with this:

PRESIDENT Obama says the noose is tightening around Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. In fact, it is tightening around the Libyan rebels, as Colonel Qaddafi makes the most of the world’s dithering and steadily retakes rebel-held towns. The United States and Europe are temporizing on a no-flight zone while the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the Gulf Cooperation Council and now the Arab League have all called on the United Nations Security Council to authorize one. Opponents of a no-flight zone have put forth five main arguments, none of which, on close examination, hold up.

The Libyan rebels aren’t particularly happy with the rest of the world at all.  As Gadhafi’s forces close in on Benghazi, the rebel commander has said the world has failed them.

Speaking of the world:

Foreign Ministers from the Group of Eight nations failed to agree yesterday on imposing a no-fly zone. In Paris, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe of France, which along with the U.K. has pressed for aggressive action against Qaddafi, said he couldn’t persuade Russia to agree to a no-fly zone as other allies, including Germany, raised objections to military intervention.

So since Russia can’t be persuaded and Germany raised objections, no go on the NFZ.  Notice who is not at all mentioned in that paragraph.  Oh, too busy filling out the NCAA brackets?  Got it.

"President Obama opened up with a plea for bracket participants to keep the people of Japan front of mind, saying, ‘One thing I wanted to make sure that viewers who are filling out their brackets — this is a great tradition, we have fun every year doing it — but while you’re doing it, if you’re on your laptop, et cetera, go to usaid.gov and that’s going to list a whole range of charities where you can potentially contribute to help the people who have been devastated in Japan. I think that would be a great gesture as you’re filling out your brackets.’

There that’s covered – anyone for golf?

Oh wait, Lybia Libya.  Morning Defense (from POLITICO) says:

Here’s your readout from Tuesday evening: "At today’s meeting, the President and his national security team reviewed the situation in Libya and options to increase pressure on Qadhafi. In particular, the conversation focused on efforts at the United Nations and potential UN Security Council actions, as well as ongoing consultations with Arab and European partners. The President instructed his team to continue to fully engage in the discussions at the United Nations, NATO and with partners and organizations in the region."

Well the great gab fest is underway, or at least planned to be under way.  Oh, what was it President Obama said on March 3rd?

With respect to our willingness to engage militarily, … I’ve instructed the Department of Defense … to examine a full range of options. I don’t want us hamstrung. … Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: The violence must stop. Muammar Gaddafi has lost legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.”

Uh huh.  So there is a reason for the rebels in Libya to at least feel a little let down, isn’t there.  There’s a reason they’re saying things like:

“These politicians are liars. They just talk and talk, but they do nothing.”

Yes sir, now there’s a group that obviously thinks much more highly of America since Obama took office.  Or:

Iman Bugaighis, a professor who has become a spokeswoman for the rebels, lost her composure as she spoke about the recent death of a friend’s son, who died in battle last week. Her friend’s other son, a doctor, was still missing. Western nations, she said, had “lost any credibility.”

“I am not crying out of weakness,” she said. “I’ll stay here until the end. Libyans are brave. We will stand for what we believe in. But we will never forget the people who stood with us and the people who betrayed us.”

Fear not Ms. Bugaighis, the UN is on the job:

The United Nations Security Council was discussing a resolution that would authorize a no-flight zone to protect civilians, but its prospects were uncertain at best, diplomats said.

I think an episode that best typifies what is going on in the Obama administration (and is being mirrored around the world) is to be found in the British comedy “Yes, Prime Minister”.  If this isn’t what we’re seeing, I don’t know what typifies it better (via Da Tech Guy).  Pay particular attention (around the 8 minute mark) to the “4 stage strategy”.  It is what is happening in spades:

 

 

In case you missed it, weren’t able to view the vid for whatever reason or just need a recap, here’s the 4 Stage Strategy:

Dick: “In stage 1 we say ‘Nothing is going to Happen’”

Sir Humphrey: “In stage 2 we say ‘Something may be going to happen but we should do nothing about it’”

Dick: “In stage 3 we say “maybe we should do something about it but there’s nothing we can do.’”

Sir Humphrey: “In stage 4 we say ‘Maybe there was something we could have done, but it’s too late now’”

Folks, there it is in a nutshell.  The Obama variation, aka the “Obama Doctrine” as outlined by Conn Carroll is this:

It assumes that big problems can be solved with big words while the messy details take care of themselves. It places far too much confidence in international entities, disregards for the importance of American independence, and fails to emphasize American exceptionalism.

And gets absolutely nothing accomplished.

Oh, about that golf game …

[ASIDE] This is not a plea for a No Fly Zone in Libya. It is an assessment of the way this administration has approached almost every crisis it has been faced with. Back to my point about this president trying to defer everything that requires any sort of difficult decision to others. This is just another in a long line of examples of that and his refusal to anything more than talk and give the impression of relevant action without any really being done.

~McQ


The fight to subdue the nuclear reactors continues in Japan (Update: video)

This is almost like some of the disaster movies Hollywood has become so fond of the past few years and certainly akin to the “China Syndrome” as it plays out.

But this is real world stuff with real people heroically risking their lives to tame this problem.  There are a lot of unknowns at the moment, and the fight couldn’t be taking place under more adverse conditions.

To give you an idea of how powerful the quake was that caused all the damage that has contributed to the problems confronted by those fighting the nuclear problems, scientists have said that it was powerful enough to shorten the day (by a blink) on which it happened and, get this, move the earth’s axis by up to 25 cm (6.5 inches).

It has already been reported that a Japanese island shifted eight feet, but the earthquake had more of a worldwide impact. The Earth’s 24-hour day was shortened by 1.8 microseconds, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, reports Voice of America. The temblor shifted how Earth’s mass is distributed.

It was originally estimated to be 1.6 microseconds but NASA’s geophysicist Richard Gross revised the time to 1.8 microseconds – a microsecond is one millionth of a second.

“By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds,” said Gross in an interview with Space.com.

That’s power.  As for the shift:

Last week’s natural disaster didn’t just cost us a microsecond, but it also was able to shift the planet’s axis by 6 ½ inches, or 17 centimeters – although other estimates suggest approximately 10 inches (25 centimeters), reports the Metro UK.

“This shift in the position of the figure axis will cause the Earth to wobble a bit differently as it rotates, but will not cause a shift of the Earth’s axis in space – only external forces like the gravitational attraction of the sun, moon, and planets can do that,” said Gross.

Amazing.  That gives you an idea of reason for the problems faced by those fighting a nuclear meltdown.  Add to that fact that the huge number of aftershocks – up to 15 an hour – and their power – most over 5 – and you begin to understand the challenges they’re facing.

To the problems themselves, I’m sure most of you are following this closely.  For background on what causes a meltdown, here’s a good graphic that explains it rather well.   Scientific American has a number of articles you may find useful for background as well.

One of the better articles I’ve found is in the Wall Street Journal.  It goes into some detail as to what has happened and where they are now in their fight to prevent a meltdown.  Something that isn’t getting the coverage it deserves, or perhaps is just being lost in the volume of news is the fact that not all their problems are found in the reactor cores.  Some of them are also cropping up in the storage area for spent nuclear fuel:

On Tuesday, a fire broke out in the same reactor’s fuel storage pond — an area where used nuclear fuel is kept cool — causing radioactivity to be released into the atmosphere. Tokyo Electric Power said the new blaze erupted because the initial fire had not been fully extinguished.

The problem there, of course, is the storage areas don’t have the containment infrastructure that the reactors do. 

Make no mistake, the problems are very serious.  Tokyo Power and Electric is reporting that up to 70% of the fuel rods in one reactor have been damaged and up to 33% in a second one. 

Radiation levels have risen and dropped all through the crisis.  Winds are presently blowing to the south toward Tokyo, but forecasts have them shifting to the east, which would put any radiation release over open ocean, which means the cloud would eventually dissipate causing little damage.  Right now everything I’m seeing says the 400mSv rate is the average rate for the radiation surges although there is one report saying that one spike went to the 11,000 mSv level for a very short time.  Remember though, the key to radiation exposure is not only the amount of radiation but the duration of exposure.  Obviously 11k doesn’t require much exposure duration at all to be damaging or even fatal.  But as mentioned, the radiation has mostly been in dose rates of up to 400mSv and it surges to that level and then falls away.

Key to getting this all under control?  

Water:

Ironically water–or lack of it–has been the real story at Fukushima for the past four days. The nuclear cores need water to cool them down, and the tsunami swamped Fukushima and initially cut off electricity powering the cooling systems. Then various backups failed, which forced plant operators to pump sea water into the reactors to try to cool them down. The Times initially reported that helicopters might be used to drop water on the pools of spent fuel that are too hot. (Later the idea was discounted.) In short: follow the water.

One of their problem to this point has been the ability to get enough water on the fuel rods to cool them.  They’ve been exposed and so are super hot.  When the water is injected it quickly boils away, faster than they’ve been able to replace it.  There are most likely leaks to contend with as well.   The use of sea water has always been theoretical as a “last ditch” measure if all else fails.  They’re now injecting sea water for real.  Also key to this is Boric acid which aids in the cooling process.  Getting the right mix in such a volatile atmosphere as that found in the reactors must be a nightmare.

So?  So, that’s a bit of an update on where they are in a very rapidly changing situation.  Most “experts” are saying regardless of what happens this should not be another Chernobyl.  That’s primarily because the Chernobyl reactor had no containment facility when it melted down.  And I’ve read any number of experts saying the containment vessels at the Fukushima Daiichi plant are doing their job.  However, there should be concern over the storage areas for spent fuel rods since they have no containment facility.

UPDATE: A couple of interesting vids of Jay Lehr of the Heartland Institute talking about the Japanese disaster (more available at the link):

 

 

 

I tend to agree with him given what I’ve read about 3 Mile Island. My new concern though, as stated, is the storage pools for the spent fuel rods. We’ll see what sort of coverage that gets.

~McQ


Nancy Pelosi: Your alternate reality moment for the day

Seriously, I don’t know the planet on which this woman spends most of her time, but it isn’t this one. Here are 4 plus minutes designed to get your blood pressure up:

 

Passing resolutions to run the government week by week is no way to run a government? Uh, yeah, that’s absolutely right. And why are the reduced to passing such resolutions? Because Ms. Pelosi, when Speaker of the House of the 111th Congress failed to pass a budget for the year. In fact, never brought one to the floor.

And really – “Democrats have long fought for fiscal responsibility…”?  In what universe?

As Nice Deb says, “Next thing you know, some idiot will try to claim that Pelosi will go down in history as one of the finest Speakers of the House in history”.

~McQ