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Thursday, December 6, 2007

This, that, and the other

Here's some follow-up on three stories we have been pursuing since yesterday:

1. Last evening's post about the Huckabee-Chuck Norris video prompted an exchange in the comments about the IRS. I won't defend that agency too vociferously, but when it comes to screwing up the nation's tax system, the IRS is nowhere near the top of the list of mischief makers. The biggest a*sclowns in the picture are our members of Congress, from both parties, who make a worse and worse hash out of the tax law every time they touch it. It really is a national disgrace. The latest episode -- one of their more outrageously bad performances -- is chronicled here. And don't go pointing fingers at other parts of the country. Both our senators are on the Finance Committee, and Earl the Pearl is on Ways and Means.

2. The nuke people were out in force in our comments yesterday, touting the wonders of "green" nuclear power, and continuing the industry's longstanding diversion campaign about the huge environmental and national security problems presented by nuclear waste. It wasn't until everyone else had gone to bed that I noticed this story about the latest on licensing new nuke power plants in the United States. It seems that rather than let the industry make it all up as construction goes along -- the way it's always been done -- nowadays the feds want just a handful of uniform prototype plant designs that they can bless or reject completely in advance. And the nuclear engineers don't seem capable of getting that done.

3. Finally, some inside information regarding our post from yesterday on the chichi (or is it foufou?) design competition for new "courtyard" housing projects in Portland. Although the vote tally from the online public competition is not being disclosed until it's final, our sources in the Planning Bureau tell us that one design is leading the race by a wide margin. They're looking into whether the design company is stuffing the internet ballot box or not. In any event, I can see why that one would be favored by the folks at City Hall: It epitomizes their vision of a well planned city.

Comments (16)

No one likes the IRS, but the idea that we can have a national tax system of any kind BUT NO ONE TO ENFORCE IT is really pretty ridiculous.

Of course, if the current income tax was really "voluntary" as some assert, we really wouldn't need the IRS :)

There is only one option for nuclear power in this country (unless and until the horrendous toxicity issues are satisfactorily resolved) and this 20-second video shows what that option is:


What I find funny about the AMT discussion is that you can go back several years and the description of the problem is always the same: The AMT wasn't indexed for inflation.

So, how hard would it be to just index it for inflation??? Duh, if that is the problem then fix the problem. Instead they have been arguing for years about all kinds of other issues. So that leads you to believe that the inflation index isn't really the issue.

Really the whole AMT should just be eliminated. It was a silly idea when passed and it is even sillier today. There is no reason to set up a parrallel tax system just because the first tax system has some loopholes in it. Just fix the first system and avoid the whole mess of dual systems.

On the IRS: What happened to the good work done by Sen Packwood to improve the IRS code? Willy Week trashed Packwood (wrongly in my view) but he did get laws thru Congress back in I think 1986. I think Congress has probably undone much of that simplification in 1986.

simplification in 1986

Seems to me that most of what was done to the Internal Revenue Code in 1986 is still there (with some embellishments. Enough said.

Nuclear power does undeniably present catastrophic risk while offering enormous benefits in terms of clean air versus coal, increasing electric energy supplies so as to make cleaner transportation vehicles more viable, and also providing a degree of energy independence. So, it comes down to the aggregrate preferences of U.S citzenry. Some of us weigh the radiation risks as unpalatable regardless of benefit while others like myself think the benefits will exceed the risks by large margin. So, there's no way of proving Jack wrong (the future risk is not totally known). We take some risks everyday while avoiding some risks everyday. There's a large degree of personal preference in these risk decisions.

risk decisions

The problem with weighing the risk involved in nuclear energy is that the odds may be really good, but the stakes are just too high.

So, if we legislatively cap the private exposure to half a Billion Dollars then the private gain from such a cap is immeasurable?

I am all in favor of internalizing negative externalities . . . it is the capitalist way. It is essential to a properly functioning pricing system . . . even in a capital L Libertarian world for corporate entities that can just dissolve on a dime.

On the Expo Montreal box housing by architect Safdie: I found the spaces outside and in fascinating to experience. But it makes sense that Portland planners might be thinking it "epitomizes their vision". When built it was many times over budget, had and has maintenance problems and leaks, and for the cold Montreal winters the wind tunnels and extensive outside perimeter area contributes for poor "green", energy conservation. But what the heck, it was a "lynch pin" for Montreal.

The stuff that I am hearing is that the some of the new cycle of designs are impossible to have a major accident.

Also remember Chrynoble (sp) was a design that was so unsafe it was not allowed in the USA (after the war).
* It had no containment shell.
* It was graphite moderated which had already shown its dangers in a British accident years earlier.
* The actual meltdown only occurred after safety systems were over-ridden.

I suspect that the Nuke industry is a major supporter of the global warming treaties as was Enron (Enron sold gas which emits less CO2 than coal, so it was merely a move against the competition using the force of government.)


What about the advances in nuclear energy design happening in our own backyard. OSU has tested a new "passively-safe" reactor design that is getting much acclaim. According to their press release:

"Passively-safe reactor designs use natural forces such as gravity or convection to replace multiple pumps, pipes and valves. To be certified, testing and analyses must show that a passively-safe plant can cool itself for three days under worst-case conditions without operator actions."

Don't you think we should at least look at new technologies before we dismiss them out of hand? The link to the PR is: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/2005/Aug05/nuclearconference.htm

Also, reactors shouldn't heat the rivers and extinct the fish. In reactor factors: there's no such animal.

People who don't know replacement (of oil-generated) electricity from nuclear reactors is impossible, stupidly wish scientists some day magically make it possible, and faith-full science-blank folks fatally fantasize science is gonna save them, us, uh somebody, somehow. Ain't gonna happen. Physics impossibility means impossible. Politics ain't got no say in it.

People who can't do the math also stupidly say nobody else can do the math, either, and say Earth climate industrial-caused alteration is impossible. Who can't figure it out better listen to those who can.

And here's how it figures out: If you want electricity in your future home, you'll have to get it the old-fashioned way -- do it yourself. Or, sit in your darkness, cursing.

HERE: open brain. insert facts. repeat daily.


Those shoeboxes in Montreal are selling for around $1 million apiece, not bad for a 50-year-old condo made out of poured concrete.

We're running out of land for housing in Portland and even if we don't want any more people, there's a state law that says we have to have an adequate supply of housing projected out over the next 20 years. (Republicans, mainly, passed this law).

So it seems we have to go up. Yet we don't have to build the same kind of dreadful condos we have in the Pearl and now are popping up everywhere. For one thing, no one with kids would want to live in them. But something like a manmade hillside, where you have a big yard that also happens to be the green roof of the neighbor's house, should be something that could work if some creative minds went at it.

we have to have an adequate supply of housing projected out over the next 20 years

Inside the city limits of Portland, population has been growing at a rate of just over 1 percent a year, for quite some time now.

We don't need this crap.

I'm with Jack on this one - we don't need this crap. Moreover, of the population increase in CoPo, it is mostly comprised of retirees and the twenty-something "creative class". Families are quite reasonably going elsewhere.

on the AMT issue
Let's see, the government is already spending in the red. So we should cut off a major source of income on one side of the balance sheet without (a) an off-setting increase of income from another source on that side of the sheet, OR (b) an off-setting reduction in spending on the other side. I'm still baffled that it is those that call themselves Republicans are the ones promoting this policy! The Dems almost look sane! :-\

on nuclear power plants
Using a very select number of approved "cookie cutter" plans to ensure nuclear plant safety and maintain cost efficiency -- how could that ever work in America?

Oh yeah, it has and does: the United States Nuclear Navy. I think that most people don't realize (or just forget) that at any given time there are up to 150 operating nuclear power plants in the coastal harbors of America (and even some of it's allies), some in highly populated areas. They are all highly fail-safe designs that operate in all kinds of weather and sea conditions. Newer designs can even operate indefinitely without pumps, using convection to flow cooling water through the reactor core.

The only real problem with nuclear power (in my mind at least) is where to put the waste product. The political football "NIMBY" is the problem that needs to be solved.

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