ded reckoning

The Militaristic, Environmental, Telecom blog that doesn't know where it's going

03 August 2005

Urban Forests are good, no kidding

In the annals of enviro journalism, there does seem to be stories other than the sky is falling, we're all being poisoned type. USATODAY had two stories on urban forests and the benefits they provide. Not really news, but something that people should be reminded of on a regular basis.

The first describes the benefits of having significant tree cover. The main benefits are the cooling effects (very familiar to someone like myself who has lived in barren parts of Orlando, Florida and both Austin and Dallas, Texas-shade on a 105 degree day in Dallas is a life saver), air pollution abatement, and improved storm water control.

The second article talks about Roanoke, Virginia's efforts to increase it's forest cover and gives an example of how a cleared area created flooding problems by increasing runoff. I've seen this and read about it for large parking areas (in Dallas a mall parking lot was causing so much runoff to an adjacent stream it was cutting away at streamside home foundations) but thought as long as there wasn't impermeable cover a lot of rain would soak in, even on a grassy hillside. Apparently not. It makes sense since here in northern California, a redwood in your backyard can soak up 100 gallons a day or more of ground water. Good for keeping flooding to a minimum.

Shade has always been something I desired while living in the south, so the fact that Charlotte, North Carolina has lost 35% of its forest cover is pretty sad and stupid. In Orlando all you have to do is drive from a new neighborhood to an old one like Winter Park to see a 10-15 degree change in temperatures. If you let developers get away with clear cutting rather than selective clearing for building pads, you'll get the nice treeless neighborhoods they have there and in many other places in the south. Stupid development like that just gives you ugly houses with plenty of unneeded electric bills. And it can be done differently; my brother builds houses in Hernando County near Tampa and they don't let the developers clear cut, they cut to build the roads and pads but leave the rest of the forest cover intact-he has plenty of work and it probably is cheaper for the developer anyway.

Of course even in the "enlightened" city of San Francisco the street trees seem to be paid with donations, not out of the city budget. I guess the money they are saving from not regulating the pot clubs goes somewhere else.

15 July 2005

SF wins the military hate award

The fair city I live in once again proves it was a good idea to close all the military bases here. First, the ubiquitous "activists" (maybe the ones who gave a cop a concussion the other day in the Mission) have decided we need a ballot measure to ban recruiters from school campuses.

And, to the surprise of non other than Diane Feinstein, our less batty Senator, the local Sups decided to reject bringing the USS Iowa here to serve as a
museum (hopefully it would remind the "peace loving" locals of the sacrifices that keep them free to be idiots). The big issue was seems to be not wanting to honor a military that "harassed and even killed" gays. I guess they forgot what the Taliban did to gays.

Of course in a town where the high school drop out rate is over 10% (and studies show it is 50% statewide for Blacks and Latinos), activists can seriously spout sayings like "college not combat" while doing nothing to keep kids in school, improve education, etc. It's just another line in the ridiculous focus of the far left fanatics who hold sway over this city. It's also in line with what Michelle Malkin said about the NEA convention resolutions:
Shut Up and Teach, already, and leave the stupid Iraq resolutions to the nutjobs. But I forgot, NEA is dominated by them.

Nothing like living in a place so focused on issues they have no understanding of while doing nothing about the problems they can and should solve. Dickheads.

28 June 2005

Truth Extraction

Lots of good and bad stuff written on terrorist/prisoner interrogation by people more in the know than I, but The Atlantic had a short article by Stephen Budiansky on how it used to be done. They just have an excerpt on-line here. The gist of it was that the Marine Corps Interrogator-Translator Team Association reprinted a report from WWII on how to interrogate Japanese prisoners by basically getting them to feel safe and buddy up to them.

I went out and found their site ( and found the PDF document the article talks about. A good read of historical interest, and if you ever have any wounded or recently captured soldier of the Imperial Army you need to talk to, it has some good points. Classic, conventional war interrogation tactics that will work in many areas of conflict but are not really relevant to Al Qaida.

Al Qaida training, zealotry (more than the Imperial Japanese Army even), and fanaticism has made the ITT job a lot harder. I would love to see us not torture anybody, but some tough interrogation has to occur to get information from the enemy.

Go read some of Heather MacDonald's articles on the subject in City-Journal, with details of how traditional techniques have not worked (
here, here, and here) and then read Andrew Sullivan for his more strict view that we've lost our soul on this subject.

Read and make up your own mind, don't just read the BS coming out of AI and HRW that is repeated without a critical eye by the press.

26 May 2005

But it's a Green Gulag!

Amnesty International, always ready to criticize the US on human rights, seems to think it is a good idea to compare Guantanamo with the Soviet Gulags by using this cute quote, "the gulag of our time" in their recent report. While we should hold ourselves to higher standards than the headchoppers are, lets get real for a minute. Along with the ICRC, AI seems to have dumbed-down our standards for horror, forgeting that real gulags were filled with dissidents and undesirables defined by the state and sent to almost certain death in Siberian Labor camps, not terrorists captured on a battlefield.

Instead, the Al-Queda and Taliban dirtbags live a life that is physically more healthy than what they lived in in Afghanistan. The lastest over-hyped news about Quran desecration amounts to about as much abuse as what AI hypes. These are terrorists we are talking about. Are their innocents, yes; and they are being released. Go read the funny stories about how well Gitmo prisoners are treated before you buy the line that this is a gulag.

And, you'd think AI and the rest of the leftists who like to pile on would at least be happy that our terrorist prisoners are not contributing to Global Warming, surely one of the worst crimes committed by the US. Hell, even
John Kerry can't claim his mansion on Martha's Vineyard is not contributing to global warming, since he doesn't seem to want a wind farm nearby. With that, I bring you the Green Gulag:

15 May 2005

Non-Earth Day Posting

In keeping with my belief that you shouldn't pay too much attention to the environment on Earth Day, but should keep it in mind all the time (not in some cheesy mother-Earth kind of way though), here are some thoughts on some articles that should get more attention.

First, from MSNBC (which has a good enviro-news section, though it is just a culling from AP, WP, etc.), comes news that the swampland sellers in Miami are looking for some more suckers. Seems they've used up the land opened up by Homestead AFB closing (something similar is happening near here in Concord, CA where the NWS is closing and the city wants to build 15,000 houses), and now want to build in the agricultural buffer next to the Everglades. While the buffer may not have been part of the big Federal, State, and local compromise to fix the Everglades, it is land that was once considered the part of it and should be left alone, but the local politicians probably will be coming out in force to help change the zoning and fill it with some good Hurricane chaff, sort of like what is happening with the 8-1/2 Square Mile Area.

Out in the North Pacific, some NOAA scientists have used satellite and current data to identify areas where sea-borne trash is likely to congregate. These are the leftovers from some of the industrial fishing industry, that over the past 20 years has done a great job of attempting to sweep the sea clean of life using monofilament drift nets, and long lines, some up to 50 miles long. While the work resulted in a good cleanup of nets and ropes (some in balls up to 30 Ft in diameter) which should help the marine sanctuary around the Midway Islands, it does nothing about the ongoing overfishing that plagues much of the Pacific. This is primarily due to large, subsidized factory fishing fleets, most out of a few Asian countries. And, while the really big drift nets have been outlawed, they may still be being used illegally (nets over 1.5 miles long were banned by about 1993).

I've also noticed that my current newspaper, the SF Chronicle, is doing a pretty good job of covering small e environmental issues. After having read this major Big Green series, in the SacBee a few years ago, I was ready to read articles about the inside-the-beltway propaganda from the usual suspects, rather than reporting on mundane local and Central Valley issues. Read the series before you send your next check to the Sierra Club or WWF.

So, read on and see what is going on with expanding nesting habitat and the numbers of Wood Ducks in Butte County, getting school kids to help ducks and see how farmers can coexist and enhance wildlife habitat, also in Butte County. Though they barely mention it, Ducks Unlimited and the Fish and Game department are funding a lot of this work, which means hunters are funding it, not my snobby next door neighbor enviros who send their money to Green Peace.

We also have a chunk of coastland, Stornetta Ranch, in Sonoma County that is going to be preserved, side-by-side with the remaining land still in use as the family's working farm, with a conservation easement (note again, that Audubon only gave $1K to help make this happen). One of the great things about this deal is that it will help the Garcia River estuary become a fish producing area again.

Along similar lines, here in the Bay Area, there is work being planned to help remove some small dams and add fish screens to intakes on Alameda Creek, which drains into San Francisco Bay. Hopefully it will result in the return of Steelhead Trout to the creek and other areas of the watershed. The report says that Steelhead have been trying to migrate up the stream in the past few years, but without any luck, I assume. This is small scale environmentalism that gives much bigger returns (especially when water is involved due to the outsized impact it has in connecting land areas and species).

On the suits, lobbying, and Washington stuff, the Mercury rules I wrote about last month has been back in the news. A few states in the midwest kicked it off with a lawsuit to allow them to make tougher rules since they suffer from local mercury hot spots (from power plants or from auto plants?). Hey, if they think they can get the local power companies to reduce their Hg emissions in a more efficient manner than is currently in place, let 'em, the market will work it out and federalism will have also worked. I just think the end result will make no difference.

11 April 2005

Nukes for all those Big Screen TVs

Glenn Reynolds has a good commentary up on MSNBC on why some environmentalists may be (my words, I am a doubter) moving towards supporting new nuke plants. He has a good link to an article on advanced nuclear power generation from Wired magazine as well as interesting commentary from "Stewart Brand of Whole Earth Catalog fame." I guess these are the attitudes that have to change if we are going to get more plants built in the US.

Me, I'm a global warming skeptic (in the sense that there is nothing Kyoto will do about it and there is a good case that the current increase is historical), but if it gets the wild-eyed types to support a technology that is much better than it was 30 years ago and much more economical, I'm for it. For a good view of why nukes are a good interim choice until the utopian hydrogen economy comes along, go see the Life Cycle Emissions For Electricity Generation on NEI's web site along with some good data on CO2 emissions.

Except for wind, it is hard to beat nukes, and John Kerry, among others, will not stand for windmills in his backyard!

Update: Tim Blair picks up where the Instapundit leaves off, doing his usual smashing job of skewering Peter Garrett of Midnight Oil (Aussie ALP star and perennial Blair pinata), while also showing the New York Times is having more favourable thoughts about Nukes (or at least Nicholas Kristof is).

23 March 2005

NOx, SOx, Rocks, Hg and Hot Air

A new rule from EPA was implemented in March that will finally help clean up all the grandfathered coal-fired power plants that did not have to get refitted with pollution control equipment under the Clean Air Act. This is long overdue and though it won't stop people saying Bush is out to rape the environment, it is a clear case of a good cost-benefit study showing there was no reason these plants should not install the scrubbers and bag houses they need to reduce SOx, NOx, and rocks (particulates):

Under the rule, sulfur dioxide pollution is expected to decline by 73 percent over the next decade, compared with 2003 levels, EPA officials said. Oxides of nitrogen are expected to drop by 61 percent. All told, the EPA calculated, the rule will prevent 17,000 premature deaths; 1.7 million lost workdays; 500,000 lost school days; 22,000 non-fatal heart attacks; and 12,300 hospital admissions annually by 2015.
While these pollutants have been going down for decades (and Tim Blair has warned us against this evil reduction in dimming) , the old, large coal-fired units operated mostly by The Southern Company, AEP, and TVA, among others, are contributors way outside of their power production capabilities. The original grandfathering (look here for some good background, but beware, you never know if you are reading science or politics in these debates) of these plants probably made sense in the 1980s when we thought they'd get decommissioned over the next few decades.

Interestingly, the new rule coincides with a new rule on mercury pollution that will take emissions down from 48 tons per year to 23 tons in 2018. As most mercury pollution comes from burning coal, this reduction goes hand in glove with the emission controls applied to the coal plants. But according to the enviro lobby, that 52% decrease is not good enough, especially since a Harvard study says we could save thousands of babies by making greater reductions, and the new rules rely on using trading schemes.

Never say "market based" around the Big Green lobby because they will tell you Bush is purposely enriching his friends while poisoning your children, but here, the science and the economics just don't add up. It seems that most mercury poisoning comes from eating fish, ocean fish specifically. US power plants contribute only 1% of Mercury pollution in the world.

So, the Harvard study that was brutally suppressed by the Bushies (before showing up in the Washington Post), claims that reducing our 1% by much greater than half will save hundreds of thousands of babies whose mothers eat too much tuna. (For an interesting expose on the exposure science, go here, though again, these guys are probably just right wing hacks employed by the energy industry) But then again, back to the famous Harvard study, which you have to wonder about when the researcher who wrote it says this:

Hammitt acknowledged "wide uncertainty" over calculating the benefits. "It could be ten times bigger, or ten times smaller," he said. "Part of the science underlying the subject is just not solid enough to specify things really precisely."
So, ignoring Chinese and Russian, Indian and other coal burning plants which spread most of the other 99% of the mercury (mostly into the Pacific, from which we get most of our tuna), and forcing some expensive, unproven technology into US service when the money could be spent better elsewhere is what the best approach we can take. Makes sense to me, but then again, I support building a bunch of new safe nukes to reduce pollution.