Friday, September 26, 2014


Another Santa Susana Field Lab Urban Legend

Sometime late last year, near the end of 2013, I wrote a post about the "melt-down" of the SRE (Sodium Reactor Experiment).  According to my interpretation of "melt-own" I stated that there had not been a melt-own at the reactor, not even a partial meltdown.  Anyway, my little article had no effect.  A court in California has recently ruled that there WAS a partial melt-down at the SRE in 1959.  I guess that settles the question, just as the Catholic Inquisition in the 1600's ruled that the earth did not move in spite of the false and sinful claims of Galileo.  Galileo was suitably punished by being forbidden to write and publish anything else.  I will therefore impose on myself Galileo's punishment and will henceforth have nothing to say about the alleged meltdown.

A few weeks ago, at a meeting sponsored and conducted by the State Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) I heard another story.  According to the man sitting next to me, there had been at SSFL a reactor that went out of control.  A helicopter was brought in to lift it and carry it away.  It was buried at a remote site within SSFL and it's still glowing.  At night you can see the light from the glowing reactor lighting up the sky.

Recently I was on a tour of the site put on by the Boeing Corporation, the successor to Atomics International.  We were taken by bus to many interesting relics, such as a test stand for testing huge rocket engines.  The tour guide stated that there were many test stands, mostly for testing various sizes of rocket engine.  Now, an essential part of a rocket engine is the pump that pumps the liquid or liquefied fuel into the combustion chamber.  The pump temperature has to be limited.  To that end, the pump itself, a turbine turning a turbine, is operated with a fuel rich mixture.  The excess fuel is then burned off at a test stand used specifically for testing pumps.  At night the light of the burning fuel lights up the sky.

It lights up the sky and provides proof for the existence of the failed reactor that is still buried and glowing.  Perhaps some future court will decree that the pump test stand is actually a buried out-of-control nuclear reactor.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Reforming the GOP Part 2

Every day I receive several e-mail messages commenting on an article in this blog.  Nearly all of them refer to an article titled "reforming the GOP."  I don't recall writing such an article but the title intrigues me.  So, I shall entitle this one "Reforming the GOP Part 2."

American political parties change with time.  According to my recollection of American History, the two parties in the year 1800 were called "Federalist" and "Democratic-Republican."  The Federalists supported the new constitution adopted  thirteen years earlier.  The Democratic-Republicans advocated having a new constitution every ten years or so.  The Federalists were strong supporters of a string central government.  The Democratic-Republicans thought that the existing political system catered to the interests of the wealthy property owners and that a revolution was needed every few years to provide for the interests of those who were effectively frozen out of the political process.

It turns out that the constitutional system in which the president is popularly elected forces the successful political parties to become coalitions, temporarily stitched together to try to win the presidency every four years.  Unlike political parties in other countries that have parliaments our parties have not been consistently ideological.  Rather, they have been coalitions of interest groups.  And here's where I want to rant a bit about the interest groups that now dominate the Republican Party.

An interest group is a segment of the voting public that have a common issue, religious or economic, that leads the segment to vote for a political party.  Often the interest group gains a position of control within the party and is able to dictate statements that express the desire or intention of the party toward certain actions if the party wins a majority in the national legislature or wins the jpresidency.  The followint are a few examples of interest groups:

  1. Organized labor
  2. Banking, speculating in securities and bonds, finance
  3. Large, wealthy corporations and their stockholders and managers
  4. Farmers
  5. Small businesses
  6. Members of professional organizations (physicians, professors, engineers)
  7. Members of certain churches (e.g., Catholics and Baptists on the issue of abortion)
  8. First and second generation latinos
  9. Angry old white men 
Members of an interest group do not always vote in support of some of their interests.  For example, Baptists may favor by a large margin giving financial aid to poor people in Africa but will vote instead in favor of candidates who seek to make abortion a crime, even though these same candidates vote to eliminate aid to the poor Africans.

Organized labor, for the most part, supports the Democratic Party.

The bankers and speculators favor whichever paarty redues regulations and leaves them alone.  They have about equal influence in both parties.

Corporation managers are opposed to advancing the economic interests of workers and particlarly etest labor unions.  To them, labor is a cmmodity and should be bought as cheaply as possible.

It's hard for me to assign farmers to either party.  There was a time in Michigan when most farmers were Democrats.  This sentiment slowly changed.  By the time I was a teen-ager, most Michigan farmers were Republicans.  Farmers who manage large farms tend to align themselves with corporation managers.

Small business owners and members of professional societies are, to me, unpredictable.

Parties are coalitions.  To be successful, a partymust avoid being too much under the influence of some ideological interest group.  Otherwise, other groups that normally support the party will be turned off by the ideology and the party will be weakened.

That's the problem with the Republican Party.  It's too ideological.  It is too much influenced by the ideology of the "tea jparty." The GOP must find a way of quieting the tea party rhetoric so that other interest groups won't bail out.

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