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Front Page

In This Issue:


¨ Discussion of Books that I have recently read

        -Courting Disaster by Marc A. Thiessen

        -Power Hungry by Robert Bryce

        -Terrestrial Energy by William Tucker

¨ Other thoughts



By Ivan W. Parkins




The above title is that of Marc A. Thiessen’s book, “Courting Disaster”.  It is an authoritative and  detailed account of how American security people have handled terrorists and how that has been misrepresented, not only by America’s avowed enemies, but also by many Americans.


Thiessen is a military intelligence professional who was at work in the Pentagon when it was struck. He is the son of a woman who served as a messenger in the Warsaw uprising, one of the few who survived.  His acknowledgements of direct access include a large part of our top CIA and other security people, plus some who were the agents performing our interrogations.  Dick Cheney, Michael Hayden, Donald Rumsfeld, and Debra Burlingame (wife of the pilot whose plane struck the Pentagon) are among those who praise the book.


What most amazed me was the number of specific plots, and named plotters identified.  Apparently our intelligence community concluded that it was better to risk some greater disclosure than to have their efforts whittled away in small leaks and dishonest “disclosures.”


When Mike McConnell was appointed Director of National Intelligence he, at first, declined to approve some of the interrogation system.  After a live tour and account of interrogation  facilities he concluded that the system was about as severe as his introduction to high school football.  How could it be effective?  It is carried out in a manner and under conditions of isolation and discomfort that leave the individual without any environmental reference point.  The whole thing has been intensely planned and monitored by psychological and medical professionals.  And, it works, without lasting injury.  But, is it torture?


Christopher Hitchens, an intellectual critic, volunteered to try it.  He admitted after “water boarding” that he did not wish to confirm how briefly he resisted.  But, he still believed it to be torture.  That, Thiessen says, is casuistry, in this instance it is setting a moral standard that is unrelated to the empirical values involved.


Much of the remainder of the book deals with particular legal procedures and the groups who use them against our treatment of terrorists.


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This book illustrates, in my opinion, the political consternation of America’s political history during the past half century.  This political history is largely an account of how political activists, especially a highly ideological element, have succeeded in getting various legal and regulatory rules increasingly imposed upon our lives.


Far too often, persons of mainly academic training and experience have attempted to apply what is mainly theoretical knowledge to the conduct of matters such as war and economic endeavors.  Recent university graduates often meet the qualifications sought in political action organizations, public bureaucracies, judicial offices, and even campaigns for elective office with very little “real world” experience.


What America needs most is not more liberal or conservative theory, but greater consideration of  actual costs, in both lives and lesser treasures, of the courses of action that we choose. 


By Ivan W. Parkins








POWER HUNGRY is the title of Robert Bryce’s recent book emphasizing, with numerous mathematical examples, the relative costs of how we use various energy sources to make power.  Bryce discloses ways in which ‘Green” energy advocates neglect to account for either efficient power supply or many of the environmental costs.  The power they seek, with considerable success, is mostly political.


On page 19, Bryce reproduces calculations of CO2 emissions from the world’s six most populous countries, between 1990 and 2007.  The United States reduced its per capita emissions by 1.8%; all of the others increased their per capita emissions, China was highest with an increase of 132%.


A graph on page 91, illustrates that the cost per megawatt of a wind energy installation is several times as costly in both the concrete and the steel required as natural gas, nuclear, or coal installations.  Although some major conventional energy companies have been fined severely for moderate bird kills, a spokesman for the American Bird Conservancy estimates annual kills by wind turbines at between 75,000 and 275,000 and notes that that has not produced any prosecutions (page 122).


Estimates of humans killed by indoor air pollution exceed one million per year.  Most are among the very poor, and the pollution is largely from burning biomass.

Bryce’s solution is N2N, natural gas immediately and nuclear as rapidly as practicable.  We have had recent breakthroughs in natural gas availability, and it is much cleaner than coal or oil.  Nuclear, in dozens of small Navy shipboard installations has performed safely, as thousands who have served with it can attest.  We have more large installations ashore, but none of recent construction.  And the possibility of smaller, factory produced, reactors is now close at hand.


A Review of William Tucker’s Book


By Ivan W. Parkins














TERRESTRIAL ENERGY by William Tucker is the best thing that I have read on the energy topic.  Tucker first got my attention a couple of decades ago with an article attacking, as excessive, the national scare over AIDS, especially the idea that it was an imminent threat to nearly everybody.  The government, at that time, was contributing to the scare; a couple of years later most official statements on the subject resembled Tucker’s.  I strongly suspect, and hope, that within a few years something similar will occur regarding this nation’s “energy crisis.”


     Tucker distinguishes three types of energy: solar, fossil, and terrestrial.  Solar includes stored water, dams, an ancient technology.  The sun is also the source of wind as well as electricity from solar generating panels.  And it produces the organisms that we harvest to burn directly or convert into other fuel.  The renewable energy sources are not highly concentrated, and making them more so can be expensive in both money and energy.  Wind and sun panels fluctuate severely in their outputs.


     A more concentrated form of energy is available from fossil sources, sun energy of long ago transformed by time and geological forces.  Coal, oil, and natural gas are limited, and coal, the least limited in supply, is the most dirty.  They are up to fifty times as concentrated as the solar energies.  Coal is this country’s largest source of energy for generating electricity.  Electricity is a means of transporting and applying energy, not a source of energy.


     Terrestrial energy comes from the earth itself, not from the sun.  A small portion of it is available already from hot springs and other seepage.  Some may be added by drilling.  But radioactivity from minerals is by far the most promising.  It can be over a million times as concentrated as fossil energy.  Tucker’s illustration is an account of his visit to both coal and nuclear generating plants not far from Cincinnati.  The coal plant was refueled by 110 railcar trains arriving one each day.  The nuclear plant required one truckload of fuel rods every eighteen months.  One plant was filthy, the other very clean.  Of course the fuel rods were dangerous to handle, the workers were required to wear gloves.


     Tucker makes a strong case that we have no practical choice other than nuclear generation of electricity if we wish to maintain our economy and reduce air pollution.  Wind and solar panels can help with a few special needs, especially solar with peak load problems on hot summer days.  They have very little base load capability. 


      He notes that France generates 80% of its electricity from nuclear facilities, and stores its waste from several decades in one room.  France recycles waste, and even some of the remains from that are valuable as a source of medical and other industrial radiation technologies.  We once had a recycling facility, we shut it down.  We get our nuclear medicines from Canada.


     Tucker is not that blunt, but I will be:  Damn America’s panicky, unscientific, and economically destructive energy politics!


By Ivan W. Parkins

A rule is a rule; is a rule; is a rule.


But, any such rule


Is apt to become


The tool of a fool!


Let’s have fewer rules and enforce them more systematically.  But, let’s also remember that even the best of rules were devised without perfect foresight of the circumstances to which they might be applied.  I.W.Parkins 109


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As between  genuine conservatism, seeking to preserve valuable experience, and a genuine liberalism, concerned with extending experience in instances where experience has proven to be inadequate, there may exist large areas of agreement.  Also, careful study of history and honest reporting of contemporary experiences provide bases for extending as agreement.

IN THE NEW’S,  9/8/10

An Observation on President Obama’s Comments


Today, 9/8, President Obama asked why Republican Administrations did not do better at fixing our economy “while they were in power.”  (See the interview with George Stephanopoulos) What has being “in power” meant since the days of FDR?


No Republican President has had even half as large a partisan majority in the House of Representatives as President Obama has.  All Democrat Presidents have had, for at least two years majorities larger than Obama does.  The Senate has been less extreme, but there too Democrats have had more and larger majorities. (See the Graph illustrating this point)