Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Myth of the Filibuster Proof Majority

Much has been made about this 60 votes, from the 2008 election all the way through the loss of Kennedy's Senate seat to Scott Brown. But if the Democrats' 60 votes really meant that much, health care reform would have passed last summer. A "filibuster proof majority" is only filibuster proof if the majority party agrees to vote as a block. Which the Democrats rarely ever do. But the Dems still have an 18 vote majority in the Senate. More than the Republicans ever had under Bush. So get it together people... bipartisanship doesn't mean capitulating to the minority party's every whim. And inviting a filibuster doesn't mean a partisan war. There are ways of having serious debate, and demanding real leadership from the opposition party, without being a bully or a bad guy. Start leading, and get some of these important initiatives passed... BEFORE the mid-term elections. People love winners, and they don't care as much about how you win as whether you win. So stop the dilly dallying, stop the whimpering, stop the wishy washy hand wringing, and GET SOMETHING DONE!

The Fava Fiasco

I had big plans this winter of planting a fava bean cover crop. I didn't get the seeds in the ground until the second week of November, though, and though I got a lot of germination the seedlings did not survive. I think the soil was too cold and wet by the time I planted. So now I have disappointing empty beds. I also dug down into the paths, to make the beds more raised. It worked well, but because I needed to keep the outer path level with the rest of the ground, I ended up with huge pools of water between the beds. I don't think this helped the favas either.

I did a combination of broadcasting and burying the seed, since I had about twice as much as I needed. I definitely recommend burying the seed. I used a digging fork to make one inch deep little holes, and put a few beans in each hole. I think burying these larger seeds helps them to root better, as I ended up with a lot of seed germinated on top of the soil that just sort of sat there like little orphans, not knowing where to put their roots. This fall, if I have a garden, I'll see what happens if I get the seeds in by early October. Maybe even the last week in September. I should have been more cognizant of the weather, which was unusually cold in October and November this year. Ah, well. Such is the way of gardening.

I'm excited to have the beds ready now for spring, though. I'll be planting some peas in the next week or so. Hopefully these will do better than the favas.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Letter to President Obama: Clean Energy

Dear President Obama:

I was very glad to hear you talk about clean energy in your State of the Union address the other night.

However, I'm concerned about your apparently uncritical support of nuclear power. While I think that nuclear power is going to have to be part of the mix as we move toward carbon-neutral energy sources, I have many concerns. I have always been pretty strongly opposed to nuclear power in general, until I read the book "Physics for Future Presidents", by Richard Muller. He details how nuclear power can be much safer, using pebble bed technology rather than the older reactor & cooling tower technology. Pebble bed reactors are much safer, since the fuel is embedded into pebbles, which are self cooling and will never create an out of control chain reaction. However, current law in the U.S. requires all reactors to have a cooling tower, which would be redundant in the case of a pebble bed reactor. The pebble bed reactors can also re-use their fuel, which saves money in mining and operation costs. If we are going to have a new generation of nuclear power in this country, it ought to be the best, safest technology available.

Though I do think nuclear power must be part of the mix, I would like to also see a strong focus on developing renewable energy sources that create less waste, perhaps 1/3 of all R&D money spent.

The proposed $54 billion of loan guarantees to the nuclear industry in the FY2011 budget is a terrible start to a clean energy future. First, without changing the laws to allow, and perhaps require, pebble bed reactors, we would be installing second rate technology, which will not further our goal of creating cutting edge jobs in cutting edge industries. Second, the Congressional Budget Office has said it believes as much as 50% of the loans could default. This is a terrible gamble that even banks don't want to take. Why should the American taxpayer take it?

I hope you will follow through on your intention to use the best available information to make decisions, and withdraw your support for this boondoggle. We can have a clean energy future, and cutting edge nuclear power, without throwing $54 billion of unconditional loan guarantees at the nuclear power industry.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Katie Kadwell
Seattle, WA