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Chu: Obama’s pro-nuc nominee for Energy Secretary

January 14th, 2009


January 13th, 2009

Dear Readers,

Now we know the real reason the “powers that be” let Obama win:  He’s vehemently pro-nuclear.

Obama’s nominee for Energy Secretary, Dr. Steven Chu, is utterly pro-nuclear.  And in sworn testimony today before the Senate energy committee, Chu proved that you can win a Nobel Prize and yet still not know enough to get by productively in today’s world.  The guy needs an education in dozens of nuclear issues, and his confirmation — almost certain — will be a calamity for honest energy decisions in America.  Or for any hope of productive change in our society.  Yeah, it’s that important.  Energy is a huge chunk of our economy and the secretive cabals that control it — Dick Cheney‘s infamous energy policy meetings being only the tip of the iceberg — need to be exposed, and brought down.  Corporations like AREVA.  People like Steven Chu.

If nothing else, Dr. Chu proved today that you can win a Nobel prize in physics and not know much about radioactive waste.  Supposedly, his current studies concern “biological systems at the single-molecule level” (according to Wikipedia).  Clearly, though, damage to populations from radiation has escaped his attention (even though it all starts at the atomic and molecular level).  Perhaps it’s too statistical for him, or too abstract, or too real, or too complicated, or too simplistic, or whatever.  One way or another, he overlooked it.

So for more than an hour he promoted “recycling” of nuclear waste, which is actually still known as “reprocessing” among most people, including a number of the Senators at the hearing.  Apparently the new term is “recycling” because it sounds more eco-friendly, and was portrayed that way by Chu and by various Senators.

But whatever you call it, reprocessing nuclear fuel ISN’T eco-friendly.  However it took Chu more than an hour of promoting it before he admitted that he doesn’t actually know much about it.  He did, however, admit it — in sworn testimony!

Then he went back to promoting nuclear fuel “recycling.”

France was cited as a bastion of successful recycling.  What France actually does with its nuclear waste, and the waste from probably more than a dozen other countries (I don’t have the exact number; it’s hard to obtain, but is surely in that range), is grind up, chop up, and then melt down, burn up, or chemically dissolve the highly poisonous spent fuel rods.  However, each gram of spent fuel contains over 500 DIFFERENT radioactive isotopes, representing the ENTIRE spectrum of known elements!

What is called a “success” in France is really just isolating the plutonium and uranium from these other elements, and then isolating specific isotopes of those two elements (and perhaps thorium).  All this creates large amounts of chemical pollution, at a huge cost, and with the concomitant loss of vast quantities of radionuclides into the environment,  Noble gases, for instance, are simply released to the environment.  their quantities are barely even estimated.  Many other elements such as Strontium-90, Cesium-137, Iodine-131 — France releases them all into the environment in order to accomplish “recycling.”  It’s not clean.  It’s not safe.  The industry lies at every step so as not to annoy the public — and has plenty of help from the government in the form of covert operations against legitimate activist groups and official cover-ups of wrong-doing, leaks, etc..  Is this what we want in America?

Chu apparently doesn’t know any of this, but he’s all for it anyway.

But that’s not the silliest thing about Chu’s performance today before the Senate committee.  Surely the silliest thing about his ambitious nuclear plans is that he believes that nuclear spent fuel rods can be safely stored somewhere.  Obviously, he means “on-site” in something — some container — NOT Yucca Mountain.

Not that he opposes Yucca Mountain.  He wants it to keep crawling forward.  There is no Yucca Mountain, by the way.  One activist today told me she thought it was already being filled with waste.  It isn’t.

Another citizen witnessed, first-hand, what is called “safe” by Dr. Chu:

“Are they building another reactor at San Onofre?!?” he asked me this morning, after a recent fishing trip brought him close to the local nuclear reactor.  ”No, that’s the spent fuel storage facility you saw.  Soon it will be the #1 terrorist target in Southern California.  If a small group of terrorists pierce that casing and light the spent fuel rods that will be stored there on fire, or if anything else causes them to burst, we’ll be dead within minutes (we live about 12 miles away) and SoCal will be ruined forever.  And one millionth of a gram will kill you many times over.”

“They were as big as a cruise ship!  It had to be seven stories tall!  Is it going to be all steel?”

“No, it will have a lot of concrete around the steel.  But not enough.”

Those “dry casks” have other problems, too, which Dr. Chu conveniently doesn’t acknowledge.  There have been corruption issues with the design, the construction, and the implementation of NUMEROUS INSTALLATIONS of dry casks.

The security staffs protecting these spent fuel installations fall asleep on the job.  This has been reported in — yep — NUMEROUS INSTALLATIONS in the past.  And even if they’re fully awake, there aren’t enough guards at any one plant to overcome a concerted attack.

There never could be enough guards, because a concerted attack will STILL come from the air.  It will be swift, it will be over in seconds, and it will be devastating.  There is no defense planned, and Dr. Chu doesn’t care.  To him, these casks are safe — despite the dangers from earthquakes and tsunamis (not to mention asteroids, improper construction, and a thousand other possible FATAL — to 500,000 people or more — FLAWS of spent fuel storage.

The operating nuclear power plants are an even greater threat — in terms of probability of an accident — than the spent fuel.  But in terms of how many citizens could die from an accident?  That’s a toss-up.  Short-lived radionuclides would be released in a reactor accident — seal the windows and doors carefully with duct tape, don’t use up your oxygen too fast, eat canned food and drink bottled water for a few weeks and you’ll be fine, unless whatever exposure you do get (and you’re sure to get some) results in a cancer later, or heart disease, or inflammation, deformed children, or a thousand other ailments.  If you’re outside or otherwise unprotected at the time of the accident, you will die a horrible death, wherein your cells are broken down by the radiation which gets inside your lungs, your gut, and is absorbed through your skin.  Certain organs in your body are targeted by some radionuclides, other organs, by other isotopes.  Either way, it’s often very painful, it can last a long time, it is usually accompanied by an agonizing and unquenchable thirst, and it will happen to perhaps half a million Southern Californians if we don’t close the plants and properly secure the waste.  Such deaths  – known as “acute radiation poisoning” — will occur as much as 500 miles downwind, and in broad swaths in every direction.  You will not know where to run:  The poison is odorless, colorless, and tasteless.  Roads will be crowded, or crowded with the dead.  Or both.

Support Dr. Chu, and you support this fate.  Chu’s policies are deadly.  They are irrational.  They will be expensive to implement, expensive to undo, and a million times MORE expensive if — and when — they fail.

And no, Yucca Mountain is not the solution.  And yet, there is no known better solution!  In fact, the Yucca Mountain team was allowed to suggest anything they thought was a better idea, other than simply choosing some other site and basically doing the same thing there instead of at Yucca Mountain.

I do not have a solution.  But I assure you, neither does Dr. Chu.  The difference is, he’s probably going to be confirmed as head of the most notorious promoter of nuclear power on the planet, the U. S. Department of Energy — and I’m one citizen out of nearly seven billion.  And I DO have a solution to the GROWING problem of nuclear waste — STOP MAKING MORE.

Nearly every Senator asked about renewable energy solutions or “clean coal” which invariably meant “carbon sequestration.”  And Dr. Chu always had an answer for these — he was all for biomass, and all for ethanol from sugar, and all for wind and solar, etc.

But don’t be fooled!  This man will continue the death-train of nuclear poisons — created, released, ignored.

Dr. Steven Chu should not be confirmed, but he surely will be.  Republicans love him.  Democrats love him.  The status quo loves him, because the status qua is to keep the 104 operating nuclear plants in America open — until an American meltdown shuts them.  Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), who has a degree in “Industrial Management” and wants “300″ nuclear power plants in America, loves Chu.  Senator Corker and others want to help Chu find more and more ways for the federal government to finance so-called “private industry” to restart the nearly-catatonic (thank goodness — but it ain’t dead, by any means) “Nuclear Renaissance.”  They want nukes in THEIR state.  Big money loves Chu.  And everyone at our corrupt National Laboratories loves Chu too, of course.

And worst of all, with all Chu’s talk of renewables, environmentalists who don’t know any better will probably love him, too.

I think the Obama Administration’s great secret has finally been revealed:  They’re no different.  They won’t stop using Depleted Uranium munitions in war.  They won’t shut the nuclear power plants.  They won’t solve the nuclear waste problem (because that is a physical impossibility, as ANY physicist worth his degree knows, and 60+ billion dollars and 60+ years put into finding a solution should prove it “prima facie” to everyone else), and they won’t do anything to stop the criminal backroom deals that have allowed the nuclear industry to keep moving forward, despite the deaths it causes.

I do not believe Dr. Chu believes everything he said today.  Maybe I just don’t think you can be that dumb and still win a Nobel Prize.  Maybe I think his occasional rapid blinking and other mannerisms suggest blatant dishonesty.  But either way, I am convinced Dr. Chu lied under oath.  Well, we’re used to that, after the Bush Administration.

Come next Tuesday, when Obama is sworn in, it will be Business As Usual in America.  And don’t expect any kind of national health care to pay for your illness when you get cancer!

It should be noted that it was surely not an accident that the biggest media event of the confirmation hearings — Hillary Clinton’s day in the sunshine — was the same day as Chu’s all-important Energy Committee hearing.  This kept the press off the nuclear issue, so people wouldn’t hear the bad news.

Expect more Davis-Besse near-disasters, more Three Mile Island nearer-disasters, and a few Chernobyls (real full-blown nuclear disasters) in America during, or some time after, the Obama Administration.  Don’t bother being surprised when it happens.

Radioactive death for hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Americans, is as inevitable as sunshine and rain now.  Chu is a shoe-in for Energy Secretary.  Our fate is sealed.

Sincerely,
Ace Hoffman
Author,
The Code Killers: An Expose of Nuclear Crimes Large and Small, High And Low, Far and Wide
www.acehoffman.org <http://www.acehoffman.org

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Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity insight on the war

November 25th, 2008

Robert Gates Wants to Keep His Pentagon Gig, so He’s Pandering to Obama’s Bad Ideas for Afghanistan

By Ray McGovern, Consortium News
Posted on November 24, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/108318/
It may become a biennial ritual. Every two years, if the commander-in-chief (or the commander-in-chief-elect) says he wants to throw more troops into an unwinnable war for no clear reason other than his political advantage, panderer-in-chief Robert Gates will shout “Outstanding!”

Never mind what the commanders in the field are saying — much less the troops who do the dying.

After meeting in Canada on Friday with counterparts from countries with troops in Afghanistan, Defense Secretary Gates emphasized to reporters there is a shared interest in “surging as many forces as we can” <http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-afghan24-2008nov24,0,5733953.story>  into Afghanistan before the elections there in late September 2009.

At the concluding news conference, Gates again drove home the point: “It’s important that we have a surge of forces.”

Basking in the alleged success of the Iraq “surge,” Gates knows a winning word when he hears one — whether the facts are with him or not. Although the conventional wisdom in Washington credits the “surge” with reducing violence in Iraq, military analysts point to other reasons — including Sunni tribes repudiating al-Qaeda extremists before the “surge” and the de facto ethnic cleansing of Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods.

In Washington political circles, there’s also little concern about the 1,000 additional U.S. soldiers who have died in Iraq since President George W. Bush started the “surge” early in 2007. The Americans killed during the “surge” represent roughly one-quarter of the total war dead whose numbers passed the 4,200 mark last week.

Nor is there much Washington commentary about what Bush’s grotesque expenditure in blood and treasure will mean in the long term, even as the Iraqis put the finishing touches on a security pact that sets a firm deadline for a complete U.S. military withdrawal by the end of 2011, wording that may be Arabic for “thanks, but no thanks.”

And most Americans do not know from reading the reports from their Fawning Corporate Media that the “surge” was such a “success” that the United States now has about 8,000 more troops in Iraq than were there before the “surge” rose and fell.

The real “success” of the Iraq “surge” is proving to be that it will let President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney leave office on Jan. 20, 2009, without having to admit that they were responsible for a strategic disaster. They can lay the blame for failure on their successors.

Gates a Winner?

Gates stands to be another beneficiary of the Iraq “surge.”

Already, he has the defense secretary job. In November 2006, he was plucked from the relative obscurity of his Texas A&M presidency and put back into the international spotlight that he has always craved, because he was willing to front for the “surge” when even Donald Rumsfeld was urging Bush to start a troop drawdown.

Now, the perceived “success” of the “surge” is giving hawkish Washington Democrats an excuse to rally around Gates and urge President-elect Barack Obama to keep him on.

Ever an accomplished bureaucrat, Gates is doing what he can to strengthen his case.

On Friday, Gates seemed at pains to demonstrate that his approach to Afghanistan is identical to the one publicly espoused by his prospective new employer who is currently reviewing Gates’ job renewal application. And, as he did with the Iraq “surge” over the past two years, Gates now is talking up the prospects for an Afghan “surge.”

“The notion that things are out of control in Afghanistan or that we’re sliding toward a disaster, I think, is far too pessimistic,” Gates said. Yet the argument that Gates used to support his relative optimism makes us veteran intelligence officers gag — at least those who remember the U.S. in Vietnam in the 1960s, the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and other failed counterinsurgencies.

“The Taliban holds no land in Afghanistan and loses every time it comes into contact with coalition forces,” Gates explained.

Our secretary of defense is insisting that U.S. troops have not lost one pitched battle with the Taliban or al-Qaeda. Engagements like the one on July 13, 2008, in which “insurgents” attacked an outpost in Konar province, killing nine U.S. soldiers and wounding 15 others, apparently do not qualify as “contact,” but are merely “incidents.”

Gates ought to read up on Vietnam, for his words evoke a similarly benighted comment by U.S. Army Col. Harry Summers after that war had been lost. In 1974, Summers was sent to Hanoi to try to resolve the status of Americans still listed as missing. To his North Vietnamese counterpart, Col. Tu, Summers made the mistake of bragging, “You know, you never beat us on the battlefield.” Colonel Tu responded, “That may be so, but it is also irrelevant.”

As Vietnamese Communist forces converged on Saigon in April 1975, the U.S. withdrew all remaining personnel. Summers was on the last Marine helicopter to fly off the roof of the American Embassy at 5:30 a.m. on April 30. As he later recalled, “I was the second-to-the-last Army guy out of Vietnam — quite a searing experience.”

More Vietnams?

Why is this relevant? Because if Obama repeats the mistakes of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford, U.S. Marine choppers may be plucking folks not only off the U.S. embassy roof in Baghdad, but also from the mountains and valleys of Afghanistan. No ignoramus, Gates knows that his comments about the Taliban losing “every time” that there is contact with coalition forces is as irrelevant as those of Col. Summers 34 years ago.

Yet, it would be folly to expect Gates to give advice to a superior that challenges the policies that Gates thinks his superior favors. Gates has been the consummate career careerist, going back to his days as head of analysis at CIA in the 1980s when he fashioned intelligence reports that gave the policymakers what they wanted to hear. Instead of the old-fashioned “bark-on” intelligence, the Gates variety was “apple-polished” intelligence.

Time running out for Gates

He wants to stay on as Defense Secretary and apparently thinks that his lifelong strategy of telling his superiors what they want to hear will now work with Barack Obama. Gates is nearing the end of a highly sophisticated campaign to convince Obama and his advisers that the current defense secretary is just who they need at the Pentagon to execute Obama’s policies — and look really bipartisan to boot.

The president-elect’s position has long been that we need to send “at least two additional brigades” (about 7,000 troops) to Afghanistan. So the defense secretary would have us believe, as he said Friday, that “surging as many forces as we can” is an outstanding idea. And with troops having to leave Iraqi cities by next June, in the first stage of the U.S. withdrawal demanded by the draft status-of-forces agreement, there will be more soldiers available to send into the mountains of Afghanistan. Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

Ironically, this resembles closely the proposed policy of Sen. John McCain, who argued during the debate with Obama on Sept. 26 that “the same [surge] strategy” that Gen. David Petraeus implemented in Iraq is “going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.” For good measure, Gov. Sarah Palin told Katie Couric “a surge in Afghanistan also will lead us to victory there, as it has proven to have done in Iraq.”

Reality bites

Oops! Within a week, Gen. David McKiernan, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, undercut McCain and Palin, insisting emphatically that no Iraq-style “surge” of forces will end the conflict in Afghanistan. Speaking in Washington on Oct. 1, McKiernan employed unusual candor in describing Afghanistan as “a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq.” The country’s mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks, and history of civil war make it a unique challenge, he said.

“The word I don’t use for Afghanistan is ‘surge,’” McKiernan continued, adding that what is required is a “sustained commitment” to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution. McKiernan added that he doubts that “another facet of the Iraq strategy” — the U.S. military’s programs to recruit tribes to oppose insurgents — can be duplicated in Afghanistan. “I don’t want the military to be engaging the tribes,” said McKiernan.

Recently, President-elect Obama has been relatively quiet on Afghanistan, and one lives in hope that, before he actually commits to sending more brigades to Afghanistan, he will assemble a group of people who know something about that country, the forces at play in the region, and insurgency. If he gathers the right people, and if he listens, it seems a good bet that his campaign rhetoric about Afghanistan being the good war will remain just that, rhetoric.

In any event, press reports suggest that Gates has only another week or so left to pretend to the president-elect that he thinks the ideas reflected in Obama’s rhetoric are outstanding. And, as Gates’ predecessor Rumsfeld might have put it, you have to go with the rhetoric you’ve got. Right now, the word “surge” brings nods of approval at influential dinner parties in Washington.

What does Gen. McKiernan know, anyway? Gates’ Pentagon says that McKiernan now has requested three additional brigade combat teams and additional aviation assets. And yet, he says he’s allergic to a “surge”?

If past is precedent, Gen. McKiernan already realizes he has little choice but to salute smartly, do what he is told, and not diverge from what inexperienced civilians like Gates are promoting. After all, didn’t McNamara know best in the early days of Vietnam and didn’t Rumsfeld know best at the start of the Iraq war?

As the saying goes, if you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. If you are a general assigned a mission — though it appear to be Mission Impossible — you salute smartly and use those troops entrusted to you to do what armies do. At least that has been the tradition since Vietnam. Such behavior is a disgrace when generals know better.

Ambitious but empty suits

I’m all for civilian control of the military. But I see much more harm than good in political generals — like the anointed David Petraeus — who give ample evidence of being interested, first and foremost, in their own advancement. Why do I say that? Because Petraeus, like McKiernan, knows Afghanistan is another quagmire. But he won’t say it.

Rather than do the right thing and brief his superiors on the realities of Afghanistan, Petraeus and the generals he has promoted seem likely to follow the time-honored practice of going along to get along. After all, none of them get killed or wounded. Rather the vast majority get promoted, so long as they keep any dissenting thoughts to themselves.

It is the same pattern we witnessed regarding Vietnam. Although the most senior military brass knew, as the French learned before them, that the war/occupation could not be successful, no senior officer had the integrity and courage to speak out and try to halt the lunacy.

Are there Army generals with guts?

It will be interesting to see what McKiernan actually does if and when more troops are surged down his throat. If he has the courage of his convictions, maybe he’ll quit and perhaps even say something.

As a former Army officer, I would love to see an Army general display the courage that one saw in Admiral William Fallon, former commander of CENTCOM, who openly refused to “do Iran” on his watch, and got cashiered for it. Two years ago, Army Generals John Abizaid and George Casey, speaking on behalf of their senior commanders in the field, pushed back strongly against the idea of adding more U.S. troops to those already in Iraq. They finally succeeded in persuading former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld of the merits of their argument.

It was when Rumsfeld himself started to challenge the advice Bush was getting (to “surge” and thus not “lose” Iraq on his watch) that Robert Gates was brought in to replace Rumsfeld, relieve Abizaid and Casey from command, and help anoint Gen. Petraeus as surge-savior. (For details on Rumsfeld’s break with Bush, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?”)

But rather than speak out, Abizaid folded his tent like an Arab and silently stole away. Casey accepted the sinecure of Army chief of staff as hush money. And a thousand more U.S. troops died. The temporary respite provided by the 29,000 troops who survived the surge helped achieve the administration’s main purpose — deferring the inevitable U.S. troop withdrawal (not in “victory” as Bush liked to say, but by demand of the Iraqi government) until Bush and Cheney were safely out of office.

As for Gates, what he does not know about Afghanistan and insurgency could fill a medium-sized library. So could what Gates does know about how to ingratiate himself with the next level up.

If it is true that serious consideration is being given to keeping Gates on past January, it will be interesting to see if the pandering padding of his resume eventually wins the day with the president-elect.

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. 

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