Friday Reads: Life’s a Beach

beachcd36Good Morning!

It’s Friday and some how everything old is new again

Republicans continue to search for a president as impeachable as Nixon.  I wrote about this last night, but wtf don’t they get about high crimes and misdemeanors? It seems to be another Clintonian search for votes during an election that’s not about the President.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn said Wednesday that President Barack Obama was getting “getting perilously close” to the constitutional standard for impeachment. Coburn was speaking at the Muskogee Civic Center in Oklahoma.

“What you have to do is you have to establish the criteria that would qualify for proceedings against the president, and that’s called impeachment,” Coburn said, responding to a question about holding President Obama accountable. “That’s not something you take lightly, and you have to use a historical precedent of what that means. I think there’s some intended violation of the law in this administration, but I also think there’s a ton of incompetence, of people who are making decisions.”

“Even if there is incompetence, the IRS forces me to abide by the law,” a constituent responded to Coburn.

“No, I agree,” Coburn said. “My little wiggle out of that when I get that written to me is I believe that needs to be evaluated and determined, but thank goodness it doesn’t have to happen in the Senate until they’ve brought charges in the House. Those are serious things, but we’re in a serious time. I don’t have the legal background to know if that rises to high crimes and misdemeanor, but I think they’re getting perilously close.”

Coburn then mentioned a story of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees telling him that officials at Homeland Security said to “ignore all the background” and just “approve people.”

“I’m documenting all this stuff as it goes along, but I don’t know where that level is,” Coburn added.

“Barack Obama is personal friend of mine. He became my friend in the Senate but that does not mean I agree in any way with what he’s doing or how he’s doing it. And I quite frankly think he’s in a difficult position he’s put himself in, and if it continues, I think we’re going to have another constitutional crisis in our country in terms of the presidency,” Coburn concluded.

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Here’s the President’s plan to make college more affordable.  Will it work and who will vote for it?

By the 2015 school year, Obama said, his administration will begin evaluating colleges on measures such as the average tuition they charge, the share of low-income students they enroll and their effectiveness in ensuring students graduate without too much debt.

The president also will seek congressional approval — which could prove difficult — to steer more federal student aid toward colleges that score highly in the ratings. A student in financial need at such schools might qualify for a larger Pell grant or a better interest rate on a federal loan.

The result, officials hope, will be relief for families from college bills that are in many cases three times as high as they were 30 years ago even after adjusting for inflation. Average tuition and fees topped $8,600 last year at public four-year colleges and $29,000 at private and nonprofit schools. The total annual bill, counting room and board, exceeds $50,000 at many elite schools.

“Higher education should not be a luxury. It is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford,” Obama told students packed into a basketball arena at the University at Buffalo.

Obama’s plan relies in part on his executive power to collect, manage and publish data. But it is likely to draw significant criticism from colleges intent on protecting their market share, and a divided Congress will present an immediate obstacle to elements of the plan that require legislation.

Obama said that in a global, knowledge-based economy, a quality college education is more important than ever. He pitched the ratings system as a consumer guide for prospective students and parents, evaluating which schools offer “the bigger bang for the buck.” His idea is that accountability will yield affordability.

“Colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer money going up,” Obama said.

So, I used to read Maureen Dowd because you know, occasionally a stopped clock is right like two times a day,  Here’s an analysis on her that’s spot on.


New York Times star columnist Maureen Dowd just isn’t one to let the facts get in the way of a good story—or an accurate quote for that matter. Her most recent misdeed, for which she has apologized (most likely in the face of tape recorded evidence against her) is misquoting Progressive Mayoral Candidate Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray. A little background: de Blasio, the only candidate in the race who is talking about inequality (more severe in New York than just about anywhere else in the country) has lately overtaken longtime frontrunner Christine Quinn in the polls. (Anthony Weiner briefly led before self-imploding.) Quinn is an out lesbian, married to her partner, but that might be it in terms of her progressive credentials. She is seen as too cozy with big business and real estate.

But back to Dowd, who, it seems decided to stir up a little trouble. She quoted McCray, de Blasio’s wife, saying that she thinks Quinn is “not accessible … She’s not the kind of person I feel I can go up to and talk to about issues like taking care of children at a young age and paid sick leave.” Understandably, took this as implying that she, a childless lesbian doesn’t understand issues “like taking care of children,” in other words a swipe at her sexual orientation.

But McCray did not say that. Dowd compressed what she said to such an extent that it really altered the meaning. What McCray did say, responding to a question of why women may not supporting Quinn in droves is:

“Well, I am a woman, and she is not speaking to the issues I care about, and I think a lot of women feel the same way. I don’t see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace; she is not speaking to any of those issues. What can I say? And she’s not accessible, she’s not the kind of person that, I feel, that you can go up and talk to and have a conversation with about those things. And I suspect that other women feel the same thing I’m feeling.”

Pretty different. Although it should be said, Quinn was still mad.

Dowd’s accuracy has been shaky, and she can be pretty offensive,

WTF is it with Dowd?  Does she have to be the only woman in the room?

This is another story that I can hardly believe in this day of science and fact.  But, it seems that about 30% of the population believe that Gay people can change their sexual orientation.  Some one should ask them if they could change theirs!!!

In the wake of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s announcement that he will sign a bill banning so-called “conversion therapy” for gay teens, the Pew Research Center pointed to recent research that more than one in three Americans believe sexual orientation can be changed.

On Tuesday Pew republished the data — gathered in 2012 — in a sobering reminder of just how far this country has to go in terms of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender acceptance. The survey concluded that slightly more than half of all Americans believe an LGBT individual cannot change sexual orientation — while 36 percent believe it’s possible.

These numbers reflect a small shift toward increased tolerance from a decade ago, according to Pew, which in 2003 found that 42 percent of Americans felt being gay was changeable, while 42 percent believed it was not.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, LGBT advocacy group GLAAD’s Director of Religion, Faith & Values Ross Murray explained that New Jersey’s gay conversion ban “focuses on the harm that comes from trying to force someone’s sexual orientation.”

The widely disputed idea that sexual orientation is “curable” or changeable is bad enough, but even worse is that many people who end up in gay conversion therapies are minors, Murray told HuffPost. “[They] did not choose the program for themselves,” he said, “and may have been forced into it by a parent who was influenced by religious leaders.”

It makes me think that the Spanish Inquisition is still not that far away!


I was rather shocked to find out that fishing off of Fukishima has just been suspended!

A fisheries co-op in Soma Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, said Thursday it will end its trial catch at the end of this month, signaling an indefinite halt to all local fishing operations off the prefecture because of the constant flow of highly radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the Pacific.

The move by the co-op in Soma Futaba, in the northern part of the prefecture, follows a decision by a co-op in Iwaki, in the southern part, to drop plans to resume operations on a trial basis from Sept. 5.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday it noticed puddles with high radiation levels near an area where a number of radioactive water storage tanks stand at the Fukushima plant. At least one of the tanks has been leaking, and it is believed the water it contained seeped down and merged with tainted groundwater that is flowing to the sea, and ran to the Pacific in drainage channels.

Tepco later admitted that 300 tons of highly radioactive water had leaked from the tank, which should have been holding about 1,000 tons. It said Wednesday that water from the tank probably flowed to the ocean through drainage channels.

Hiroyuki Sato, head of the Soma Futaba cooperative, said, “We want the central government to take steps to pull us out of this trouble as quickly as possible.”

JJ has written about this but it is really truly shocking!! What is going on with Fukishima and why aren’t more countries involved?

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka attends a news conference in Tokyo. Following the discovery that highly contaminated water is leaking from one of the hastily built storage tanks at the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan’s nuclear watchdog said officials are concerned that more steel storage tanks will spring leaks.

So, those are the stories that I’m following this morning.  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

Tragedy in Japan

The human crisis unfolding in Japan is mounting as radiation leaks impact the northern country side.  The northern part of Japan has historically been on the short end of the economic stick for some time.  Japan will now have to deal with the consequences of some of its policy decisions.  This should serve as a cautionary tale to other developed countries with aging populations living in rural and less economically viable areas. The need to care for homeless and elderly people in Northern Japan continues to challenge its crippled infrastructure. Many fear they will never return to their abandoned homes and communities. NPR reports that a women’s hospital that primarily cares for newborns and pregnant women has been doing duty covering elderly and other people on the border of the evacuation zone.  The hospital is trying to close and needs help evacuating its patients.

The Haramachi Central Obstetrics and Gynecology hospital is in the town of Minamisoma, right on the border of the exclusion zone. In recent days, the hospital has not just been taking care of mothers and babies, but also elderly people and anyone else who had not evacuated. The imposition of the exclusion zone has meant that many larger hospitals in the area have closed already, and this hospital has been left to care for anyone needed any kind of medical attention. Now, it too has run out of medicine and Dr. Kyoichi Takahashi, president of the hospital, says he is going to have to close, even though strictly speaking he doesn’t need to. “Those who are leaving the town are all in tears, saying they don’t want to leave. Some say it may be the last time they see us, and they’re worried they might never be able to come back,” Takahashi says. There are people in the exclusion zone who want to evacuate, but are not able to because they don’t have any gas to drive, he says, but the government doesn’t seem to have a comprehensive plan for getting everyone out. Takahashi paints a grim picture of the situation inside the exclusion zone, saying there are still bodies of people killed by the tsunami that can’t be recovered. He says his staff wants to carry on, but he thinks they just can’t do it any longer. News reports say at least two patients have died at Omachi hospital, also on the edge of the exclusion zone, from a shortage of medicine, and the hospital has almost run out of food. The military was due to transfer 90 of the 160 patients to another town Saturday. “Most of the patients now in the hospital are in serious condition,” says Keiichi Kobayashi, an administrator at the hospital. “The ones who are not so serious will leave, but it’s too dangerous to move the really sick patients.” The Japanese government is mobilizing civilian and military teams to help out. Officials have appealed for help abroad in dealing with the nuclear power plant and in humanitarian efforts to help the Japanese people.

Meanwhile, radioactive iodine has been found in milk and spinach produced in the area. Health threats to people in Northern Japan are mounting daily.  Caesium has also been found in water.  This is the contaminant that did so much damage to people, livestock, and crops around Chernobyl.

Radioactive iodine levels above Japan’s allowable limit have been found in milk in a town 27 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant, officials said Saturday. Levels in tap water in Kawamata were below the limit, Kyodo News reported. But the level in milk raised questions about the safety of food and liquids in the area. The government has also announced traces of radioactive iodine were found in Tokyo’s drinking water, the Japanese government said Saturday. The radioactive substance, said to be below levels dangerous to human health, was detected in Tochigi, Gunma, Niigata, Chiba and Saitama prefectures besides Tokyo, and cesium was found in Tochigi and Gunma, Kyodo News reported.

Japan is a very small country with very high population density.  Many areas in the north were already in decline as young people have increasingly moving to the larger, more southern cities.  This has raised concerns about the viability of  rebuilding the towns and cities in areas in the north.  The Japanese people are obviously suffering with this tragedy and are still reeling from the effects of both the earthquake and tsunami.  The NYT characterizes future building efforts in some of the tsunami-striken areas as “too late”.

“The young people left these rural communities long ago for jobs in Sendai, in Tokyo and in Osaka,” said Daniel P. Aldrich, a Purdue University professor who is an expert not only on the region’s economy, but also on the aftereffects of natural disasters like the tsunami. “These are declining areas. With an exogenous shock like this, I think it’s possible that a lot of these communities will just fold up and disappear.” Some have been hollowing out, albeit slowly, for a long time. Japan’s population as a whole is shrinking and graying, but the Japanese prefectures hardest hit by the tsunami — Miyagi, Fukushima and Iwate — often outpace the national trends, and their workers’ average incomes are shrinking as well. Kesennuma’s home prefecture, Miyagi, claims one comparatively prosperous hotspot: its capital, Sendai, a million-person city that boasts some technology firms and a far younger population. But even Sendai has prospered at the expense of the surrounding countryside, which is significantly poorer and older. Less than 19 percent of Sendai residents are older than 64, below the 22 percent national average. In contrast, over-64 citizens officially make up nearly 27 percent of Kesennuma’s population, and city officials say the total is closer to 30 percent.

The events surrounding the two natural disasters and the still unfolding nightmare at the Fukushima plant will undoubtedly change a lot of things for Japan.  Nuclear technology had allowed Japan a certain amount of energy independence that other energy importers have not had. This may cause Japan to reconsider its mix of energy sources.  The situation at the stricken Fukushima plant appears to have stabilized for the moment with power expected to be returned to the cooling pumps shortly.  Still, reliable information is in short supply.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., owner of the power plant damaged in the worst nuclear disaster in a quarter century, said it will attempt to restore electricity to the facility today to prevent the crisis from escalating. Workers reconnected a power cable yesterday to one reactor at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi atomic plant to revive cooling systems knocked out after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. As the disaster entered its second week, Japanese troops and firefighters doused exposed units with water to cool nuclear material and reduce radioactive emissions. The facility hasn’t had a “massive radiation release,” and people outside Japan probably aren’t in danger of receiving harmful doses of fallout, International Atomic Energy Agency safety director Denis Flory said. Tokyo Electric said that cooling systems may fail to function even with power restored because of damage sustained during the quake and tsunami. “This is a necessary step because they’ve got to migrate from emergency-response mode, where they’re relying on unusual or improvised approaches, to a regular, engineered system,” Roger N. Blomquist, principal nuclear engineer at the U.S. Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory, near Chicago, said in a telephone interview. “The end state you want is to have the reactor and the spent-fuel pools cooled.”

Part of the problem with the information and the ability of  TEPCO to seemingly avoid harsh realities it that Japanese government officials and politicians have historically had close relationships with large Japanese corporations.  This has frequently come had a cost to the people of Japan.  Many public resources are used to prop up the Japanese Corporate machine. This has allowed them to be more than competitive in the world economy and given industry a sense of both entitlement and arrogance.  Will the Japanese electorate continue to passively support this type of industrial plan for the country or will they demand the government be more focused on the needs of the people for a change?

What is clear is that some new direction will be necessary to deal with the large number of elderly who will be dislocated from their homes and businesses due to this tragedy.  Japan will need  much help in dealing with the consequences of the natural catastrophes as well as the fall out from its decisions to use nuclear power plants which have now impacted its northernmost provinces so badly.  This tragedy has struck an economically vulnerable area with a vulnerable population.  How the Japanese government responds to these issues will be important.  It’s also possible that the United States may learn many things from their experience since there are some real similarities here.

(Just a note:  My exhusband was born in Chitose, Hokkaido which is on another island directly north of  the hardest hit prefectures in the main island of Japan.)

update: I found this great schematic and update of the reactor at Fukushima here at brave new climate. It’s got a lot of hardcore data and statistics if you’re interested.

Last Saturday the the crisis level at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station was rapidly on the rise. Hydrogen explosions, cracks in the wetwell torus and fires in a shutdown unit’s building — it seemed the sequence of new problems would never end. A week later, the situation remains troubling, but, over the last few days, it has not got any worse. Indeed, one could make a reasonable argument that it’s actually got better.

Yes, the IAEA has now formally listed the overall accident at an INES level 5 (see here for a description of the scales), up from the original estimate of 4. This is right and proper — but it doesn’t mean the situation has escalated further, as some have inferred. Here is a summary of the main site activities for today, followed by the latest JAIF and FEPC reports.