Wednesday, February 28, 2024

James Wiita on Bud Wagner's And There Shall Be Wars

Nearly a half century ago, Bud Wagner (who would eventually become my father-in-law) shared with me his diaries from the time he enlisted in the army and went to war in Europe, first in North Africa and on to Italy. He asked my opinion regarding his record from that time, "Would anyone be interested in this?"

I replied, "Absolutely." 

As a market gardener, he had little time much of the year for this project, but each winter he remained dedicated to researching the global context of his personal experience and devoted his time to setting down in writing what I peronally believe is not only an insightful book but also a significant contribution to our understanding of what it was like to be a soldier during the Second World War.

What follows is an email from someone who recently purchased a copy of Bud's book, And There Shall Be Wars.

Just a note to say how much I am enjoying the book about your Father-in-Law.

You strike me as someone who ingests a lot of reading each week. I imagine you are always in the midst of a good book. With all the focus on my own project , I haven’t  read a good, fat book for way too long.
I am now just getting back into that swing. 
This book has truly launched the habit.

I’ve just started to dig into the story, and want to pick it up as my first read in the morning. It’s a few days after Pearl Harbor in the story.

Reading Bud is like a daily talk with someone, though one sided. You can pick right up where you left off, it’s so personal it shows his human characteristics, and what to anticipate with each entry.

It seems to show every aspect of “army life “ -- the important details and accuracy mixed with the training -- moments with friends and music, faith, along with frequent headaches and  times of boredom.

You can easily see the kind of soldier he became, and how his superiors and others viewed him. The entries give vivid clues. Not in a slighting way, but this man was definitely on the spectrum. There are so many indicators it’s fascinating.

I could give many examples already of his definers. I’m no expert, but the fastidious behaviors and attention to detail tell a true daily approach to his obsession with detail.
It adds a generous empathy to his storytelling. You feel as fulfilled in his chronicling as he did .

Well, that sounded like a critique, but I wanted you to know I think preserving this story is as important to me as it was to Bud.

Before he ever left he knew he was going to be chronicling, the cameras alone tell the tale. The results are extremely impressive.

Thanks for bringing the book to me.
* * * 

HERE'S AN EXCERPT that reflects how the book is organized. Bud recorded each of his daily handwritten diary entries and then added a commentary, amplifying the account recorded in his journals. The additional commentary often included details from other parts of the war theater, thereby giving context to his personal experience. 

Friday, January 7, 1944
Had to go to all battalions at midnight with firing orders. Moonlight so I didn't mind too much. Slept through breakfast. Were shelled twice here today. My nerves aren't able to take it anymore as well as they used to. Some shells came close enough.

151 moved tonight; I moved with them to the other side of San Pietro, a rubbled mess, a battlefield, to be sure. Back here at 10:00, just got nicely to sleep when the guard called, "Wag, get to Message Center," so there was another Firing Order to all battalions. It must have been after 2:00 when I got back.

San Pietro and San Vitorre were two towns literally blown off the face of the earth. There were many trees around that were totally devoid of all branches, and were just sticks left from all the shell fire. The city itself was piles of concrete rubble. I didn't see life of any kind left any time I drove through. About this time the II Corps took Mts. Porchio and Chiaia, two objectives necessary for our Division to have before our ultimate objective of Cassino.

Photo Caption Top: Don and I went to Sbeitia with water truck. Saw 4 German graves, some old buildings that were failing down, and French garrison that had been bombed. --Tuesday, March 30, 1943

* * * 


James Wiita is author of the book Rock On, Duluth

Dogs of War and Liberation Day, Italy


Monday, February 26, 2024

Nuclear Energy Progress and Regress: A Comparative Status Report

The U.S. nuclear energy movement is being strangled by red tape and regulation. Although we have 93 nuclear reactors operating at 54 nuclear power plants, there are currently only two new nuclear reactors that have been in the works lately, Vogtle Units 3 and 4 in Georgia. The first just came online and the second will soon follow. 

By way of contrast, many countries are committed to significant growth in this field. I asked Google for details on some of these countries currently experiencing the fastest adoption of nuclear power, and one that has fled in the other direction.

Here is what I learned.

China is one of the world's largest consumers of nuclear power and has been rapidly expanding its nuclear energy capacity in recent years. As of last year China had 55 nuclear power plants in operation, with 22 more under construction, and more than 70 others planned.  
Russia has long been a major player in the nuclear energy sector and despite its Chernoble setback, Russia continues to invest in the expansion and modernization of its nuclear power infrastructure. The Russian government sees nuclear power as a key component of its energy strategy and exports nuclear technology to other countries. They currently have 37 operable nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 27.7 GWeThese reactors are located at 11 nuclear power sites, including a floating plant in Pevek. Russia's nuclear plants generate more than 19% of the country's electricity.

India has ambitious plans to expand its nuclear energy capacity to meet growing energy demand and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. As of February 2023, India had 22 nuclear power plants in operation, with a combined capacity of 6,780 megawatts electric (MWe). India plans to add 18 more nuclear power reactors with a capacity of 13,800 MWe by 2031-32.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged as a significant player in the nuclear energy sector, with the construction of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, which became operational in 2020. Thought the UAE government views nuclear power as a crucial component of its energy diversification strategy they currently have only three reactors.

South Korea, as of July 2023, has eight active nuclear plantsThe government has proposed adding six more nuclear plants by 2036, and plans to increase nuclear generating capacity to 31.7 gigawatts (GW) by 2036. South Korea also plans to export 10 nuclear power plants by 2030. 

France, as of January 10, 2023, had 56 active nuclear reactors, with 12 of them off the gridIn 2022, France announced plans to build six new reactors, and in November 2023, President Emmanuel Macron said France could build eight new nuclear plants by the end of 2026. France's nuclear power plants account for about 70% of the country's electricity needs.

* * * 

The U.S., on the other hand, seems stymied by numerous handicaps. In 1994 Minnesota passed a moratorium on building nuclear power plants. Even if this were lifted, the turnaround time to get a new reactor online will take ages, it seems. At least we're not going the route of Germany.

Germany at one time had nine active nuclear facilities, including six research reactors and three nuclear fuel cycle facilitiesIn November 2022, the Bundestag passed an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act to keep the remaining three nuclear power plants in operation for a limited time. On April 15, 2023, the three remaining nuclear power plants shut down, marking the end of Germany's nuclear era.

Those countries actively investing in the expansion and adoption of nuclear power to meet energy demand, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance energy security are to be commended. The world we live in requires energy. Not only are we dependent on energy, we're dependent on cheap energy. 

Of all these things much more can be said. 

Related Links

Interview with David Watson: Putting Nuclear Power in Perspective

Grid Fragility and a Book by Meredith Angwin

Small Reactors, Big Potential Impact


Friday, February 23, 2024

Notes from the Julian Assange Saga

Does the American public have a right to know what its own government is up to and has been up to these past many decades? Apparently not, when you look at how the government stomps down any reporter who strives to shine a light on what our veiled government entities--FBI, CIA, NSC, Homeland Security--are doing under cover of darkness. 

This week, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was put on trial in England after having taken refuge for a number of years in the Ecuadorian embassy. What follows here are some quotes that I extracted from Wikiquotes and Twitter yesterday.

“It is impossible to correct abuses unless we know that they’re going on.”
—Julian Assange

"That's what a journalists job is, to hold those in power, elected politicians and everyone else to account, we have got to protect journalists"  
Jeremy Corbyn speaks to @SkyNews On Assange

"The goal is to use Afghanistan to wash money out of the tax bases of the US and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of a transnational security elite. The goal is an endless war, not a successful war.”  
Julian Assange speaking in 2011

"He should be given a medal -- he is contributing to democracy.”
Noam Chomsky on Julian Assange

"To every political leader and journalist making and writing speeches: You can't save Navalny. You *can* still save Assange. If you're silent here, when and where you can actually influence the outcome, you were never standing up for principles—you were just hoping for applause.…"
--Edward Snowden

“Their fear of Assange and malice toward him tells us that the WikiLeaks documents were real. Anyone who read them had their world view changed forever. Guessing and knowing are two different things.”

"As they lecture us endlessly about human rights in other countries, the Biden administration is trying to kill journalist Julian Assange for the crime of embarrassing the CIA. His wife Stella joins us from his extradition hearing", sad but very true!”

“It's crucial to untangle facts from politics in the Assange case. Yes, there were allegations that the CIA discussed actions against him, but that shouldn't overshadow the debate on press freedom. Assange's actions have raised complex questions about journalism and national security. While he may have broken the law by aiding hackers, the severity of his penalty should be assessed fairly. We need to consider the impact on freedom of expression and media accountability.”

The contradiction of people screaming of the  treatment of Alexei Navalny say nothing over the treatment of Julian Assange. Wonder why that is?

--Eric Pistey

Why punish julian assange who is only the messenger of truth, he is not the perpetrator of the crimes committed by the USA who is trying to cover up their crimes by attempting to shoot down the messenger to sweep their crimes under the carpet and out of view.

--Sweet Jennet

“This is not justice; never could this be justice, the verdict was ordained long ago. Its function is not to determine questions such as guilt or innocence, or truth or falsehood. It is a public relations exercise, designed to provide the government with an alibi for posterity. It is a show of wasteful vengeance; a theatrical warning to people of conscience.”

—J. Assange

“A Society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.”

—Chris Hedges

“The New York Times reported that Assange’s lawyers contend that the U.S. is prosecuting him for political reasons. That is correct. Assange very publicly shamed the U.S. government. And the U.S. government does not stand for humiliation. (Just witness its treatment of Iran for over 40 years because of the hostage crisis.) For that, Assange has been hounded, falsely accused, tortured, prosecuted and threatened with 175 years in prison. The same fate awaited whistleblower Edward Snowden, had he not had the sense to flee to a place the U.S. could not follow, namely Russia.... Had Assange died in Belmarsh prison, or should he, that would be fine with the United States, because there’s one thing the U.S. military and national security state will not tolerate and that is publication of their crimes abroad, in other words, the truth.“
The Atrocious Prosecution of Julian Assange, by Eve Ottenberg, CounterPunch, (19 February 2021)

WikiLeaks and Assange have done more to expose the dark machinations and crimes of the American Empire than any other news organization. Assange, in addition to exposing atrocities and crimes committed by the United States military in our endless wars and revealing the inner workings of the Clinton campaign, made public the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency. their surveillance programs and their interference in foreign elections... And WikiLeaks worked swiftly to save Edward Snowden, who exposed the wholesale surveillance of the American public by the government, from extradition to the United States by helping him flee from Hong Kong to Moscow...

—Chris Hedges

Related Links

How Much Did WikiLeaks Damage U.S. National Security?

The Beginning of America's Imperialist Ambitions

Retraction Watch: Keeping the Science Trustworthy by Tracking Retractions

Photo National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
"Whoever is careless with truth in small matters cannot be trusted in important affairs."
--Albert Einstein

How many times do you see or hear stories in the news referencing "new findings" regarding this health matter, that climate issue or some other "significant" breakthrough? New results from new studies seem to be an almost daily occurrence in our contemporary culture which has now made science more authoritative than the sacred texts that have been a guide for countless millions through the centuries. 

Today's new authorities are the scientific journals that publish findings or results from new research for the purpose of peer review. Getting published in journals gives research a patina of authority. News media then lauds these papers as reliable, as research that has been sifted and proven. As a result, scientific journals offer us a new canon of purportedly trustworthy information. Except when it isn't.

Sure, we're all aware that there have been occasional mistakes, or even hoaxes, that get published from time to time. Sometimes these even make the news. More often than not, however, new research findings are proclaimed loudly while retractions take place quietly, primarily because they are embarrassing.

This is where Retraction Watch (RW) comes in. RW tracks retractions  and offers the public an opportunity to see the scientific process at work. The RW team, an independent agency beholden to no one, shares the work they are doing so that we, who lack the tools, can see patterns and learn more about the reliability of  information we read about in the news.

Although retractions are nothing new, the problem of unreliable research is greater than ever. According to a podcast in The Guardian, a  record 10,000 research papers were retracted in 2023.

It was the rise misinformation in scientific journal that prompted Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus to start their Retraction Watch blog.  

It's understandable that publishers would be embarrassed to discover they goofed when they announced something unreliable or off-the-wall. On the other hand, when newsmaking research gets widely disseminated, or widely cited in other journal articles, someone needs to speak out and shine on a spotlight on those occasions when the king has no clothes on.

In the realm of investing, it's called due diligence. Unfortunately, most of us lack access to the myriad journals whose contents influence the influencers. We just hear it in the news.

For those interested, the RW team not only has a Retraction Watch blog, they also produce a daily Retraction Watch eNewsletter. If you're unfamiliar with the important work they've been sharing, I encourage you to check it out. 

* * * * * 

    Thursday, February 22, 2024

    Throwback Thursday: A Brief Visit with David Cane on Happiness

    “If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” ~ W. Clement Stone

    The idea of happiness is something so basic that most of us desire it without knowing why. As Americans it is even written into our national creed as one of our basic entitlements: “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

    The pursuit alone does not always result in happiness. That might be why there are so many books about happiness on the market. Many of them deal with our internal barriers and others offer practical tools for removing external barriers. The how of happiness, the steps to happiness, the psychology of happiness, the secrets of happiness… So when I was given a chance to review yet another book on this happy subject, The Short Book on Happiness, I took advantage of the opportunity to instead interview its author, David Cane.

    Born in 1964, Mr. Cane is a graduate of The American University in Washington D.C. where he received his MBA. His life experience includes overcoming drug and alcohol addictions, unemployment, bankruptcies and other misfortunes. Like many, he knew why he was unhappy, but did not know how to find the happiness he saw others experiencing.

    Today he has been a member of Alcoholics Anonymous for fifteen years and speaks routinely on the topic of addiction and recovery. It is apropos that his blogspot includes this quote from Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.” Everything really does start right there.

    EN: What was your motivation in writing this book?
    David Cane: For me, studying and learning about happiness was never enough. I’ve read many books that I thought would help me become happier. I learned a lot, and many of the books I read were extremely well written and valuable as they related to helping me understand why I was experiencing worry, fear, and low self-esteem. What was missing, however, was a simple, short, but substantive approach that I could apply to eradicate worry, acquire more confidence, and become a happier person. My heart was always in the right place, and I knew I could achieve more in my life, and I was certainly ready to do the work, but I just could not figure out the right actions to practice.

    It’s my belief that many people unwittingly procrastinate becoming happy due to spending an inordinate amount of time seeking out the reasons for their unhappiness. Too much time is spent figuring things out, and too little time is spent solving the problem. The problem, in essence, is that we have allowed our minds to become our masters, and must reclaim ownership of our minds in order to become happy.

    EN: Many people know most of these truths. Why don't they do them?
    DC: That is correct. Things such as positive thought, gratitude, forgiveness, and faith are not new. I believe there are a variety of reasons why people do not practice these things and do not receive the associated benefits in their lives. These include:

    ~ Difficulty in sorting through the vast amount of information and differing philosophies available on these topics
    ~ People want a quick fix, and give up if it results don't happen fast enough
    ~ People know what they need to do, but don’t know how to do it to get results
    ~ It takes a lot of energy and commitment
    ~ Thinking in a new way makes you "different"
    ~ It takes people out of their comfort zone

    EN: In a world with so much suffering, is it right to be happy?
    DC: Yes it is. I believe we deserve to be happy, and that is God’s intention for us. In fact, much of the suffering in the world is created by people who are unhappy to begin with. The more happiness there is, the less suffering there will be. People that are truly happy (i.e., have high self-esteem, are not consumed by worry and fear, and have a strong faith) are in a much better position to reduce suffering in the world.

    EN: Discontent can become a prod for motivating us to do something to make a bad situation better. (e.g. in a situation where social injustice is taking place.) Can we be both happy and discontent at the same time?
    DC: Yes. In fact, a person who is truly happy understands that happiness does not mean that things around them have to be going well. That is, one can have financial difficulties, health issues, family issues caused by others, etc. and still be happy. Happiness is an “inside job” and is a reflection of how comfortable one is with who they are, not what they have, and for me starts and ends with faith in God.

    * * * * 

    The full title of David Cane's book is The Short Book on Happiness: Transform Your Life in 10 DaysFor additional information on overcoming secret addictions be sure to check out the late John Prin’s website, appropriately called True You Recovery.


    * * * * 

    "Those who do not observe the movements of their own minds must of necessity be unhappy."--Marcus Aurelius

      Wednesday, February 21, 2024

      11 AI Snapshots of a Young Woman

      Here are a dozen illustrations of a young woman. 
      The first eleven were created with an AI app.
      The last is my original brush and ink drawing. 

      The original illustration: A Woman Aware

      Note he different ways the algorithm reads the information on the drawing.

      Have an interesting day.

      Tuesday, February 20, 2024

      Tax Dollars Go to What Is Politically Popular, Not to What Makes Sense

      An Old Curmudgeon
      In 2020 I started a blog post with this sentence: "Money goes to what is popular, not to what makes sense." It was an introduction of sorts to an article by Robert Bryce titled,  Why Is Solar Energy Getting 250 Times More In Federal Tax Credits Than Nuclear?

      It wasn't the first time I read something by Robert Bryce. In 2011 he published a book titled Power Hungry: The Myths of "Green" Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future, which I read some time afterwards.

      In case you miss the connection, Robert Bryce is a contrarian.

      For some reason I am attracted to contrarian thinking. Perhaps that is why I invented the word Herdwinked. Perhaps that is why I purchased books by the Ad Contrarian, Bob Hoffman. 

      When it comes to EVs, the power grid, crime, homelessness or world peace, I hope that I am wrong, but I'm quite pessimistic about how these things are going to play out. I'd rather be wrong, because there's peril in the future I see, a peril that is not being adequately talked about or addressed. 

      I really liked the opening line of The Imitation Game, which was about the machine Alan Turing created to break Germany's Enigma encryption code. The film begins with the words, "Are you paying attention?"

      None of us can be experts in everything. On the other hand, to keep from being herdwinked requires constant vigilance. Each of us must learn to discern, to separate wheat from chaff when it comes to ideas. 

      Today's Substack eNewletter from Robert Bryce is titled Out Of Transmission Revisited. He begins by presenting the Green energy optimist's vision of the future. Unfortunately, there is a disconnect between their rhetoric and reality.

      Bryce lays out the facts, with plenty of charts that demonstrate what we're up against. You can read the story here.

      If you can't make the time, then here is a brief snippet to munch on. "The high-voltage grid is expanding very slowly, the costs associated with it are soaring, and the opposition to such a vast expansion is real and growing."

      And here's one more.

      Jenkins may be correct that [building out enough power transmission lines to meet future demand] “shouldn’t be viewed as impossible.” But the odds  of the U.S. building 75,000 miles of new high-voltage transmission over the next 10 years are, as my father used to say, “slim and none, and Slim left town.”

      Open your eyes.

      Monday, February 19, 2024

      A Holiday for Presidents with a Handful of Quotes from Our First

      When I was a kid we celebrated both Abe Lincoln's and George Washington's birthdays. For convenience the two were merged into a Federal holiday called President's Day.  The Washington illustration was created as part of my Mapped Life Series in which I painted faces on pages of a Rand McNally Atlas. Pennsylvania is where our Founding Fathers met to hammer out the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, one of the defining documents of our American experiment.

      * * * 

      Here are some George Washington quotes to ponder and enjoy on this day.

      * * * 

      "Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence."

      * * * 

      "We are either a united people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all matters of general concern act as a Nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it."

      * * * 

      "There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery."
      --Letter to Robert Morris

      * * * 

      "Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth."
      --Letter to James Madison

      * * * 

      "To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace."

      * * *

      "It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one."
      --Letter to his niece

      * * * 

      "Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable. It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter; whether in public or private walks of life."

      * * * 

      "It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones."
      --Letter to James McHenry

      Saturday, February 17, 2024

      I'm On the Side of Civilians

      This week I was talking with a friend who made an interesting statement. "I'm not Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat... I'm on the side of Civilians."

      This resonated with me. And it reminded me of a statement I heard last fall: "The problem is the Bureaucrats." In fact, I heard that statement twice in two days, from different sources.

      Whether it's Ukraine or Gaza, Israel or Somalia, it's apparent that the decisions made by those who wield power are going to have consequences that impact the powerless. America alone has been bombing countries since the beginning of World War II. The world was horrified by Guernica, a civilian village in Spain bombed by fascists during the Spanish Civil War, yet in how many times and places has this bombing of civilians taken place? 

      America alone has bombed China, Korea, Guatemala, Indonesia, the Congo, Peru, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Libya, Bosnia, Sudan, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq. American bombs and missiles are being generously supplied to Israel to destroy Gaza. In many of these cases we claim to have been liberators. I'm curious what the civilians whose homes have been pulverized have to say about all that. 

      At the end of Joseph Conrad's novel Heart of Darkness, Kurtz, a central character who has descended into madness in the heart of Africa, utters these memorable, haunting words as he reflects on the darkness and depravity he has encountered: "The horror! The horror!"

      The statement encapsulates Kurtz's profound realization of the moral corruption and brutality that he has witnessed and participated in during his time in the Congo. It's all the more ironic because he is the one who supposedly came from a "civilized" culture. Ultimately Kurtz serves as a chilling commentary on the human capacity for evil and the consequences of unchecked power and imperialism. 

      While headlines herald the machinations of the powerful and the elites, let's not forget the civilians. At the end of the day one must continue to ask, "What about the people?"  

      Wednesday, February 14, 2024

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