Sunday, August 31, 2008

Space Solar Power and Iran: a Wild Idea

Space solar power (SSP) could be the solution to our nuclear standoff with Iran. It's a long shot, but consider:

Iran is developing nuclear energy. Unfortunately, some of the hardest problems in developing nuclear weapons can be solved by a nuclear energy program, and there is suspicion that Iran is developing a nuclear bomb. Nuclear weapons would be useful for deterring an American attack and intimidating neighbors (1).

Attempts to convince Iran to abandon their nuclear program have thus far failed, with Iran claiming they need the electric power their program could produce. Accepting enriched fuel from Russia in place of domestic supplies was rejected; Iran pointing out that when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in 1980 America refused to supply spare parts for the Iranian's U.S.-made weapons and they don't want to be dependent on a potentially fickle great power.

What if we agreed to supply Iran with space solar power (at a price of course)? Satellites could be turned over to Iranian control eliminating foreign dependence. SSP is fairly useless as a weapon, and certainly isn't a city killer (2). Developing SSP would put America in the energy production driver's seat and would probably be a lot cheaper than war with Iran (3).

There are a lot of ways to structure the deal: Iran could suspend nuclear work while SSP development was required to meet certain milestones, Iran could continue nuclear work and agree to remove the systems when SSP power became available, or something in between. Obviously, this is a bit on the wild side, but it does indicate the sort of benefits SSP could provide internationally by providing a safe alternative to large-scale emissionless power production.


(1) See Iran's Nuclear Program for an analysis of Iran's motives.

(2) Military lasers could be mounted on an SSP satellite but this would be a major project, is easy to detect, and could only attack relatively small targets. SSP satellites are very large, fragile, and travel in predictable orbits. Any major space power could attack them relatively easily.

(3) Depending on who you believe, the war in Iraq has cost between $500 billion and $1 trillion so far. Iran is much larger than Iraq, the terrain is much more rugged, the population is more than twice as large, and U.S. ground forces are relatively far weaker than when America invaded Iraq.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Roe v Wade and McCain

If McCain becomes president, Roe v Wade is toast. McCain favors overthrowing Roe v Wade and his choice for vice president, Sarah Palin, greatly reinforces that position. Sarah Palin is against legal abortion even in cases of rape and incest (1). The next president will almost certainly nominate one or two supreme court justices, and that's all they need to overturn Roe v Wade.

If you think the government should force a pregnant rape victim to bear her rapist's child, then vote for McCain (2) and Palin. You may well get your wish.


(1) To be fair, Palin is willing to put her body where her mouth is. Last April she had a child with Down's Syndrome. She knew in advance and could have ended the pregnancy but didn't. Interestingly she was at work three days later. The child is about four months old today.

(2) The Republican Platform is anti-legal abortion. Period. John McCain has tried, unsuccessfully, to broaden the plank to allow exceptions for rape and incest. However, if McCain wins Palin will be well positioned to succeed him as president in 4-8 years.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Do Republicans Really Make America Stronger?

Russia has been a strong ally of Serbia for a long time (1). In the 1990s, Russia watched impotently as Democratic President Bill Clinton bombed Serbia into submission and dismembered Serbian-led Yugoslavia. Russia was weak, America was strong, and there was little Russia could do to help her ally.

America is an ally of Georgia (2). In the last few weeks, America has watched impotently as Russia invaded and dismembered Georgia. Seven years of Republican President George Bush's leadership weakened America (3) to the point that, at least in Georgia, Russia is stronger, and America did little to help her ally (4).

Remember this next time someone claims Republicans make America strong.


(1) In 1914 Russia went to war with Germany and Austro-Hungary to protect Serbia. Ultimately, millions of Russians were killed, the government collapsed, and Russia signed a humiliating treaty with Germany.

(2) America trained and equipped the Georgian military and pushed to integrate Georgia into NATO.

(3) Some of the ways in which America has been weakened in the last seven years include:

  • Most US ground forces are tied up in long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • The federal government has added about $3.5 trillion of debt, and is looking at another half trillion dollars of borrowing next fiscal year.
  • America's moral authority has been severely weakened by reaction to the invasion of Iraq, torture of suspects -- particularly at Abu Ghraib, the legal black hole at Guantanamo, the secret prison system, and a failure to abide by our Constitution.

    (4) Assistance was limited to flying 2,000 Georgian soldiers home from Iraq, which made no difference in the outcome, humanitarian aid, and talk.

  • Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Who's the Lightweight?

    In recent weeks McCain has accused Obama of being a celebrity with little or no substance. Let's examine that claim:
  • In 1990, Obama was elected editor of the Harvard Law Review beating out 18 other top notch Harvard students (1).
  • Obama gave up a high-paying corporate job to work for peanuts organizing poor people on the south side of Chicago.
  • Obama has written two best selling books, one about his life and another about his political philosophy (2)
  • Obama writes many, if not most, of his own speeches (3).
  • Obama grew up without much money, no powerful relatives (4), and his wife's family was strictly middle class (5).
  • Obama made the right call on Iraq from the very beginning (6).
  • Obama got into the best schools in the country, including Harvard, strictly on merit.

    This is not the biography of a lightweight. This is the biography of a self-made man who succeeded through hard work and talent.


    (1) John McCain, by contrast, was fifth from the bottom in a class of over 800 at Annapolis [reference].

    (2) John McCain's book "Faith of My Fathers," was co-written by Mark Salter. You can bet Salter did most of the actual writing.

    (3) Both of the Republican candidates have their speeches written by others.

    (4) McCain's father and grandfather were admirals, which may explain why he kept flying after losing four military aircraft in accidents -- one by flying so low he snagged power lines.

    (5) McCain's second wife was worth about $100 million when he married her.

    (6) I've seen video of John McCain predicting easy victory in Iraq.