Blogs

Mini Nuke Plants Will Power 20,000 Homes

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 9:49 PM EST

Susquehanna_steam_electric_station.jpg They're the size of a hot tub. They're buried underground. They'll power 20,000 homes for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world, at a start-up cost of $2,500 a house. They're 5 years away from mass production. They're miniature nuclear reactors delivered to your hood by truck and guaranteed to be factory-sealed, contain no weapons-grade material, have no moving parts, and be theft-proof because they'll will be encased in concrete and buried underground. And—get this—they'll be safe because they'll be guarded by a security detail.

Wow. I feel so much better already. TSA for garden nukes.

The Guardian reports the mini nuke plants were developed by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, daddies to the first atomic bomb. The US government has licensed the technology to the New Mexico company Hyperion, which said last week it's taken more than 100 firm orders, largely from the oil and electricity industries. Hyperion plans to start mass production within five years. They're also targeting (is that irony?) developing countries and isolated communities.

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New Music: The Sea and Cake

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 6:53 PM EST

seaandcake150.jpgI must admit that when I first heard that Chicago rockers The Sea and Cake had another new album out—just a year after their last one—I was suspicious. That kind of prolificacy is rare to say the least. I mean, who are these guys, Stephen King? I suspected they would have lost some stamina along the way.

But I need not have worried, since this album, Car Alarm, is every bit as energetic and enthralling as the band's 2007 effort. A bit of background: At the height of Chicago's mid-'90s scene, members of legendary groups Tortoise, Shrimp Boat, and Coctails came together to form the Sea and Cake, which, since then, has evolved into a jazzed-up post-rock band. The quartet's eighth album finds the boys up to their old tricks, buzzing effortlessly from buoyant pop songs ("Aerial," "Window Sills") to dreamy steel-drum jams ("The Staircase"). This time, though, the buzz is subtle—think Sunday morning coffee, not nightclub. "Well I want inspiration/I keep it locked up, I want more," singer Sam Prekop whispers in "Down in the City." It's that sense of holding back—the energy just beneath Prekop's imperturbable cool—that gives this album its delicious tension. Contrary to its name, Car Alarm is anything but monotonous.

Read Stereogum's interview with the Sea and Cake guys here.

Court Smacks Down Bush Administration in White House Emails Case

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 5:56 PM EST

The Bush administration suffered a major legal defeat on Monday when a federal court denied the administration's motion to dismiss a lawsuit that has arisen from the possible loss of several million White House emails. The ruling allows the plaintiffs in the case, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the National Security Archive (NSA), to move forward with their legal efforts to force the recovery of the missing emails and the adoption of a more reliable email archiving system.

Meredith Fuchs, the NSA's general counsel, says the White House's pending motion to dismiss had been a "hold up" that prevented anything else from happening in the case. "Now that roadblock is gone, so we have the opportunity now to try to take more aggressive action in the case," she says, adding that the litigation will probably "heat up" in the months to come.

The emails in question, which could number in the millions, are from between 2003 and 2005 and could include information about the runup to the war in Iraq and the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert CIA officer. (Need to catch up? Read our full coverage of the missing White House emails story.)

New Jay-Z Track Celebrates Obama Win

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 5:29 PM EST

mojo-photo-jayz.jpgVarious web sites seem to be in disagreement about whether this new Jay-Z track was "officially" released or just leaked, but either way, it's on the internet and you can hear it. It's called "We Made History" and apparently celebrates Barack Obama's win on Tuesday with lyrics like "Where are you, victory? I need you desperately/Not just for the moment, to make history." The track was produced by Kanye West (in his new, ultra-basic synth-y style) and features the vocals of singer Tony Williams. It's got an appropriate lighters-in-the-air tempo, but resembles nothing so much as a cross between The Cars' "Drive" and a Chinese love song, and I'm not sure I'm down with it. But then again I thought "Love Lockdown" was weird at first and now I think it's awesome, so maybe I should just trust Kanye.

Listen or download "We Made History" here.

Also: this is the Riff's 1,000th post. Hooray! There's cake in my office! Not really! Either way, thanks for putting up with me, MoJo staff and readers. Now if we could just get more of the Jonesians to post stuff over here, we could almost have a real blog...

Photo by Flickr user Kim Erlandsen used under a Creative Commons license.

Larry Summers

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 3:57 PM EST

LARRY SUMMERS....Sheryl Sandberg defends Larry Summers:

At the World Bank, he was a tireless advocate for girls' education. At Treasury, he fought for social security benefits for women working in their homes, better enforcement of child support obligations, and an expansion of child care tax credits.

....Larry has been attacked by some in the women's community for remarks he made about women's abilities. As he has acknowledged himself, this speech was a real mistake. What few seem to note is that it is remarkable that he was giving the speech in the first place — that he cared enough about women's careers and their trajectory in the fields of math and science to proactively analyze the issues and talk about what was going wrong. To conclude that he communicated poorly — and even insensitively — is fair. To conclude that he is opposed to progress for women overlooks the fact that improving this progress was precisely the subject he was addressing.

Jon Cohn defends him too:

On the issues I know best and over which the Treasury Secretary has sway, Summers is good. Very, very good. In the last few years, he has become a persistent critic of inequality and advocate for government action to redress it. He's a true believer in health care reform, both as a way to alleviate economic insecurity and to address the country's long-term fiscal crisis. He wants major action on climate change. And he has argued for aggressive action to stimulate the economy, despite high deficits.

And Brad DeLong:

Larry is — in Paul Krugman's words — a "a force of nature....You can bring him up to speed on anything in fifteen minutes....If you do a piece of something for him excellently — a link in a chain, say — he will do his damnedest to make sure that all other links in that chain are done equally excellently....If he thinks you know more about something than he does, he will listen to you very patiently and then trust and act on what you have told him....Very good people want to work for Larry because he will, if he thinks you can handle it, push you forward into the limelight and give you more responsibility than you thought you could handle.

The anti-anti-Summers backlash appears to be gathering steam.

David Plouffe For Democratic Party Chief?

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 3:28 PM EST

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder reports that Plouffe sent him an email saying he won't be taking the DNC chair. But Plouffe wouldn't say what he might be doing post-election.

Howard Dean is stepping down as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This is no surprise; it's been known for months he would be departing after the election. The question is, who's next?

HuffingtonPost reports one possibility is that Dean will be replaced by a duo: Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, who would be the talk-show face of the party, and an operative who would do the operating (perhaps Steve Hildebrand, who was deputy campaign manager for Barack Obama's presidential bid).

But shouldn't the DNC job go to David Plouffe?

As the manager of Obama's campaign, Plouffe steered the best-run presidential campaign in years. He put together an effective campaign structure. He efficiently matched man, message, money, and machine. Developing his own version of Dean's 50-state strategy, Plouffe expanded the electoral map for Democrats. In public, he projected an image of calm, confidence, and competence. His public spin was always tethered to reality. He came across a master mechanic who believed in the mission, not an ideologue or a grandstander. And he beat the toughest, most experienced operation in politics: the Clintons.

It's no put-down of McCaskill to suggest Plouffe. Naming her DNC chief--with or without a partner--would have symbolic value. And she was an effective advocate for Obama, especially when he was locked in a fierce battle with Senator Hillary Clinton, though Obama appears to have lost her home state by 6000 votes. Perhaps if McCaskill becomes DNC head, that would help Obama and Dems narrow that narrow gap next time.

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Recession Watch

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 3:28 PM EST

RECESSION WATCH....Via Brad DeLong, the Wall Street Journal reports the following:

The unemployment rate is expected to rise to 8.5% by the end of next year and inch even higher in early 2010, economists for Goldman Sachs wrote Friday. The cumulative trough-to-peak increase of more than 4 percentage points in the jobless rate would be the most since World War II, they said.

The BLS unemployment series is above, modified to show 9% unemployment in 2010. I guess this would technically beat out the 1979-81 "double-dip" recession because there was a pause in the middle of that one. To me, the current recession still doesn't look quite as bad '79-'81, but then, we haven't had a sudden oil crisis yet either. And let's hope we don't. It looks plenty bad already.

Arnold on Marriage

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 2:48 PM EST

ARNOLD ON MARRIAGE....The latest from the Governator:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage...."It's unfortunate, obviously, but it's not the end," Schwarzenegger said in an interview Sunday on CNN. "I think that we will again maybe undo that, if the court is willing to do that, and then move forward from there and again lead in that area."

Have I mentioned recently just how disgusted I am with Schwarzenegger? Yes? Well, I still am. In addition to single-handedly causing at least half or more of our budget crisis, he also twice vetoed bills that would have legalized gay marriage in California. And now I have to listen to his crocodile tears over the subject? Spare me.

The Golden Rule

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 2:34 PM EST

THE GOLDEN RULE....Ross Douthat is skeptical that things are (yet) really that bad in the Republican Party:

Oh, the pundits will fight, as they have been for a while, but for a serious circular firing squad you need the activist groups to turn on one another. You might think that a defeat like the one the GOP endured last week would prompt Grover Norquist to argue that the Republican Party needs to ditch its warmongers and its theocrats, or prompt Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council to argue that the GOP needs to ditch its flat-tax obsessives, or prompt the Federalist Society's Leonard Leo to complain about all those anti-intellectual hicks who loved Sarah Palin. But in practice the incentives probably cut the other way: Nobody wants to fire the first shot against their fellow movementarians, because then everybody else might just close ranks and train their fire in your direction. So the social-conservative activist groups will stand by the economic-conservative activist groups, and so on, lest they all hang separately.

He's probably right, but that's because the single-issue activist groups mostly don't have any beef with each other. They're pretty much on board with the entire movement conservative agenda, and are convinced that they just need to make their case to the American people and everything will be fine again.

The business community, however, is both more practical and more ruthless than the activist groups. Richer, too, and at some point they're going to conclude that Something Must Be Done. They don't want Dems writing new regulations and taking away their offshore tax shelters and making unions more powerful, and if the activist groups are in the way of getting Republicans back in power — well, they're just going to have to be dealt with. If that means backing more moderate Republicans with huge fistfuls of cash, then that's what they'll do. If it means more direct threats, that's fine too. And if James Dobson and Grover Norquist get caught in the crossfire, that's unfortunate, but you can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. It's nothing personal, guys. Just business.

Sarah Palin Talking Nonsense on Medical Records

| Mon Nov. 10, 2008 2:34 PM EST

She's speaking to reporters in an attempt to clear her name. Here's one statement she made Sunday, about the gossip that swirled around her candidacy:

"Some of the goofy things, like who was Trig's mom. Well, I'm Trig's mom, and do you want to see my medical records to prove that?"

Um, yes. We asked for your medical reports repeatedly. Andrew Sullivan talked about little else for a while. You refused. Your campaign stonewalled. And ultimately all you did was pass around a letter from your doctor asserting you were in good health the day before the election. Are you serious right now?