July 29, 2014 archive

Perhaps you think you’re being treated unfairly?

Darth Vader has better approval rating than 2016 US presidential candidates

Ben Beaumont-Thomas, The Guardian

Thursday 24 July 2014 03.43 EDT

He may have overseen the destruction of the peaceful planet of Alderaan, but Darth Vader is still more popular than Hillary Clinton – and indeed all of the prospective candidates for the 2016 American presidential election.

FiveThirtyEight, the site run by esteemed statistician Nate Silver, polled nearly 1200 people as to the favourability of various Star Wars characters. The likes of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia triggered popularity that politicians can only dream of, with up to 93% of respondents approving of them, but Darth Vader managed an impressive 58% approval rating – thus proving that with enough statesmanlike authority and public-speaking skills, anyone can sway an electorate.

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog then crunched the numbers against the approval ratings of upcoming presidential candidates and other politicians, and it’s not particularly flattering reading. Barack Obama can take heart from the fact that at least he’s not as unpopular as Jar Jar Binks, but is outdone by Emperor Palpatine, a man determined to let the forces of evil govern entire galaxies. Hillary Clinton will be similarly disappointed to learn than her 19% approval rating puts her on a par with amoral bounty hunter Boba Fett – but then again she doesn’t have a cool jetpack.

Darth Vader is polling higher than all potential 2016 presidential candidates

By Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post

July 23, 2014

On the other hand, with a net favorability of -8, Jar Jar is considerably more popular than the U.S. Congress, which currently enjoys a net favorability rating of -65. In fact, the last time congressional net favorability was above that was February 2005. Incidentally this was just before the release date of “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” which marked Jar Jar’s last appearance on the big screen.

None of the 2016 hopefuls is polling higher than Darth Vader. You’ll recall that Vader chopped off his son’s arm and blew up an entire planet, but evidently in the eyes of the American public these are minor sins compared to Benghazi, Bridgegate and Gov. Rick Perry’s hipster glasses. These numbers suggest that if “Star Wars” were real and Darth Vader decided to enter the 2016 presidential race, he’d be the immediate front-runner.

Meanwhile President Obama is polling just two favorability points below Emperor Palpatine, Lord of the Sith. Make of that what you will.

Remember, Emperor Palpatine is “the actual personification of evil in the galaxy.”

As for comparing the results of two polls about different subjects?  Social researchers do it all the time.  You need to have large enough samples and the sample universes must be comparable, but other than that statisticly relevant observations can be drawn to a reasonable degree of certitude.  Just be careful that you don’t mistake correlation for causation.  The reason Ice Cream consumption and Shark attacks are related is that they both increase in the Summer.

Meanwhile, at Fukushima…

NAS Fukushima report: Accidents will happen

by Gregg Levine, Al Jazeera

Jul 24 6:53 PM

If there is one message to take from the National Academy of Sciences report, Lessons Learned From the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving the Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants, released today, it is that accidents can happen, and it is essential for nuclear plant operators, regulators and public safety responders to all have plans for what to do when one does.

In the case of Japan, Fukushima operator TEPCO did not account for known seismic and tsunami risks, and, even if they had, they still did not have a plan of action for the total station blackout (known as an SBO) – that X+1 scenario or beyond design basis event.

In the months (and even years) after the beginning of the Fukushima crisis, advocates for American nuclear power commonly downplayed the implications of Japan’s experience, arguing it was a freak “one-two punch.” The NAS report appears to frown on that kind of blinkered assessment. As a case study for U.S. facilities – and the NAS study is meant to inform management of the U.S. nuclear fleet – analysis of the Fukushima disaster says that the earthquake and tsunami were far from unforeseeable, that there were experts that saw it, and that even if that specific chain of events was surprising, the consequences of it should still be considered and prepared for.

Case in point: vents.

The GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, the design of the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, and similar Mark IIs, were built with very small containment vessels, making them vulnerable to over-pressurization, and without vents to relieve the pressure in an emergency. This problem was actually recognized by some engineers in the 1970s; still, it took until 1989 for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended adding the most basic vents to older reactors. (And, even today, one currently operating U.S. reactor – Fitzpatrick in upstate New York – still does not meet those requirements.)

The basic vents were back-fit to the Fukushima reactors prior to the 2011 earthquake.

There is still some debate on exactly how the vents at Fukushima failed and what role they played in the hydrogen explosions that so severely damaged containment buildings at Daiichi, but there has been little argument that the design modification recommended for all U.S. boiling water reactors failed the test.

The system “demonstrated a 100 percent failure rate for Mark I over-pressurization events,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, a nuclear industry watchdog.

The need to retrofit the 23 Mark I and eight Mark II reactors still operating in the U.S. with “sever accident capable” vents and high-capacity filtration systems was a common finding in several post-Fukushima reports. Indeed, just such an upgrade was the firm recommendation of the NRC’s own Japan Lessons Learned Task Force.

But in March 2013, with the Fukushima disaster starting its third year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission bowed to industry objections, ignored its own task force’s findings and voted 4 to 1 to reject ordering the installation of the robust vents and filtrations systems on the ancient GE reactors.

It was an example of “regulatory capture,” said Gunter, which represents the “fundamental problem” with nuclear regulation. “Industry essentially rules the regulators.”

The incestuous nature of government and industry in Japan is much documented, and regulatory capture was oft cited as a contributing factor to the Fukushima crisis. But even in Japan, its Nuclear Regulatory Agency has been able to require a “lessons learned” upgrade that seems beyond the reach of the U.S. NRC.

Over Easy: Monday Science

By: BoxTurtle, Firedog Lake

Monday July 28, 2014 7:26 am

Another scientist moves off the reservation: We must do radiation testing of people outside Fukushima prefecture.   Government official: “I don’t want to discuss the issue.” They then proceed to “analyze” the data based on their intentionally flawed methodology, which has the effect of wildly underestimating the actual impact. Though in their defense, we really don’t know what the impact of this kind of radiation exposure is. But we will.

While officially there is little impact to people, Bad things are happening to our close relatives. Monkey blood in the area is showing abnormalities that could lead to plagues amongst them.

The ice wall ain’t gonna help much, just delay the day of reckoning. And I can make the case that the wall will actually make things worse by reducing cooling to the melts and/or turning the entire worksite into a swamp of radioactive water. Speculate on what the ground inside the wall will do when saturated.

Still, TEPCO seems determined that the laws of physics will not apply when they conflict with the press releases. They seem to think that they can order water to freeze at 5 degrees C.


The Breakfast Club 7-29-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

breakfast beers photo breakfastbeers.jpg

This Day in History

On This Day In History July 29

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

July 29 is the 210th day of the year (211th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 155 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1858, the Harris Treaty was signed between the United States and Japan was signed at the Ryosen-ji in Shimoda.  Also known as the Treaty of Amity and Commerce, it opened the ports of  Edo and four other Japanese cities to American trade and granted extraterritoriality to foreigners, among other stipulations.

The treaty followed the 1854 Convention of Kanagawa, which granted coaling rights for U.S. ships and allowed for a U.S. Consul in Shimoda. Although Commodore Matthew Perry secured fuel for U.S. ships and protection, he left the important matter of trading rights to Townsend Harris, another U.S. envoy who negotiated with the Tokugawa Shogunate; the treaty is therefore often referred to as the Harris Treaty. It took two years to break down Japanese resistance, but with the threat of looming British demands for similar privileges, the Tokugawa government eventually capitulated.

Treaties of Amity and Commerce between Japan and Holland, England, France, Russia and the United States, 1858.

The most important points were:

   * exchange of diplomatic agents

   * Edo, Kobe, Nagasaki, Niigata, and Yokohama‘s opening to foreign trade as ports

   * ability of United States citizens to live and trade in those ports

   * a system of phttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraterritoriality extraterritoriality] that provided for the subjugation of foreign residents to the laws of their own consular courts instead of the Japanese law system

   * fixed low import-export duties, subject to international control

The agreement served as a model for similar treaties signed by Japan with other foreign countries in the ensuing weeks. These Unequal Treaties curtailed Japanese sovereignty for the first time in its history; more importantly, it revealed Japan’s growing weakness, and was seen by the West as a pretext for possible colonisation of Japan. The recovery of national status and strength became an overarching priority for the Japanese, with the treaty’s domestic consequences being the end of Bakufu (Shogun) control and the establishment of a new imperial government.

Late Night Karaoke

TDS/TCR (Loser)


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