Monday, March 21, 2011

Debate: How to Protect Yourself

How to ensure that debate takes the form of pointless posturing, and avoid the risk of actual communication:
  1. Deliberately misrepresent the other side: choose their most outrageous 'representative' and/or focus on any verbal missteps or outtakes - pretend that this is the crux of their position.  Ignore moderates or moderate positions.
  2. Make an impassioned, perfectly reasonable response to *that* position.  Slather on the self-righteousness, with plenty of smarm for added points.  Bask in the glow from your choir.
  3. When confronted by a reasonable person and/or reasonable argument, tar this person and/or argument using the brush from step 1.
  4. Radicalize!  Take an even more extreme position than the one you actually believe in!  This makes it easier for the other side to do their part!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Government has No Business being in the News Business

  1. The vast majority of NPR's budget comes from donations, both from individuals and corporations.
  2. Those donors should be unhappy about any attempt to influence the content produced.  It's your station - much more so than Fox News or CNN.
  3. Since a small sliver of funding comes from the taxpayer, the government has repeatedly pressured CPB/NPR about its content, and has arguably succeeded in biasing that content over the years.
  4. The current debate is a clear sign of exactly that influence.
  5. The best way to eliminate that influence is to get rid of all government subsidies.  Cut the strings, cut the influence.  If you listen to NPR, you can afford to make this problem go away for good.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How is Nuclear Power like Alcohol and Cigarettes?

Because of the idea that recreational drugs are 'bad', we've had almost no advancement in the 'science' of recreational drugs.  A few new substances have slipped through the cracks.  Much of the interesting work has been done by a lone chemist, Alexander Shulgin.  But every new drug, if at all effective in being 'recreational', is made illegal.  The result?  Rather than banning all recreational drugs, we insist that people stick to the two well-known drugs that cause by far the most damage to society: alcohol and tobacco.

The same thing has happened with nuclear power.  Since Three Mile Island, no new reactors have come online in the United States.  Opponents of nuclear power have succeeded in stopping all improvements in safety, cost, and efficiency.  The result?  40+ year old plants are continually relicensed even though there are much safer designs available.  Fears of proliferation have stopped fuel reprocessing, creating the problem of where to store spent fuel.  NIMBY activism has stopped the use of the Yucca Mountain storage facility, forcing on-site storage of spent fuel.

We should be building modern, passive-safe plants.  We should be investigating inherently-safe alternatives like thorium-fueled molten salt reactors.  The best way to get rid of these old power stations is to make them obsolete.

Of course the anti-nuclear activists don't want the old plants to continue to run.  They want them shut down, forcing society to retreat to even older and more toxic drugs: coal and oil.