tuesday report #12 // germany dismantles clean, abundant source of power in the middle of an energy crisis; platform wars intensify; a few good white pills, AI, and black cleopatra
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Every week, the Tuesday Report delivers a brief, lead story. Then, a storm of fire links to catch you up on everything you need to know. Enjoy.
Radioactive logic. Saturday, the German government closed its last four nuclear power plants, finally fulfilling Angela Merkel’s Fukushima-era promise to destroy her nation’s most abundant source of safe, clean, cheap power — in the middle of an energy crisis. To fill the giant hole in the nation’s energy portfolio, the famously “environmentally conscious” Germans will be burning more coal, a degree of stupidity almost impossible to fathom. In America, this specific genre of Clown World policy was last observed at the Diablo Canyon power plant, which the state attempted to shut down in the middle of its own series of energy-related crises. At the last possible moment, following a tremendous groundswell of counter activism, that decision was reversed. But today, with the activist group “Friends of Earth” trying to override this rare California flirtation with logic, and with activists around the world celebrating the end of German nuclear power, rational policy is once again on the wrong side of political momentum. So let’s just break it down: poverty and global warming are both real, and they exist because of “environmentalism.” If you stand opposed to nuclear, you are either 1) too dumb to comprehend the risks inherent of the technology, 2) dedicated to some nefarious ulterior motive, or 3) pseudo-religiously obsessed with the belief mass murder is not only inevitable, but necessary to keep the human population “in check.” There is no steelman for these positions. The debate is over. Nuclear is the way.
From Statista, mortality rates per energy source (per terawatt hour): hydro, 1.3; natural gas, 2.82; biomass, 4.63; oil, 18.43; coal, 24.62; and finally brown coal, 32.72. Global consumption of the latter two energy sources accounts for an annual mass causality event on par with the greatest war crimes in history. Meanwhile, with a mortality rate of .03 fatalities per terawatt hour, there is almost no energy path as safe as nuclear. In other words, people are going to die because of the German government’s decision, and that’s before we broach the topic of climate change. The FernGully left has hysterically screamed about global warming for years, while consistently revealing a preference for greater emissions over nuclear power. Why? If the activist problem with nuclear isn’t immediate mortal peril, and it isn’t a matter of emissions, what could it possibly be?
Let’s start with dumb people. A good deal of anti-nuclear sentiment is a product of simple bias, perpetuated by our attention-obsessed media. It doesn’t matter that nuclear is safe. Disasters like Chernobyl (30 confirmed deaths) and Fukushima (1 confirmed death, with a tragic handful on their way) trigger all our favorite horror notes in popular culture, making them the perfect fodder for our press. But Chernobyl and Fukushima aren’t outlier events, well-known while strangely light on casualties. They are the two worst nuclear plant disasters in history. Three Mile Island (0 definitive causalities), despite a recent uptick in historical revisionism, ranks a distant third. Is anyone interested in comparing this record with other sources of energy?
Most of us have never heard of the Benxihu coal fire disaster, but it killed 1,500 people. A quick Google search brings up pages of similar catastrophes in oil, gas, and coal, which look like the majestic utopian gardens of Avatar’s Pandora next to hydro. In 1975, a disaster at the Banqiao dam resulted in the death of at least 100,000 people, with some estimates as high as 240,000 dead. Here, some might argue my focus is misplaced. The problem at Benxihu and Banqiao weren’t the energy sources, but Chinese and Soviet engineering. And sure, maybe there’s some truth to that. But Chernobyl was also a product of shitty Soviet engineering, and that disaster is credited entirely to the dangers of nuclear physics. Water: too dangerous a power for mankind to toy with?
Most of the fear and excitement surrounding each of our preferred sources of energy appears to be rooted, somehow, in aesthetics. The facts of a fuel source tend not to matter so much as how the fuel looks, and makes us feel, which is not to say how effectively it warms our bodies, but how it corresponds with our identities. At its absolute best, nuclear is elitist. The very fact of its existence proves some people are far smarter than other people, and to this day, admittedly, many proponents of nuclear energy are obviously just peacocking intelligence online. Nuclear science, totally alien to common sense, evokes an almost magical quality, impossible for most to understand, and therefore frightening. Then, at its worst, the split atom is a horror movie — often literally.
It’s the waste, I think, glowing toxic green in our imaginations, filling up our cities, with a half-life of infinity or whatever, who cares, it’s a long ass time. Never mind that all the world’s nuclear waste — in history — could fit inside a football field, or that coal also produces radioactive waste. The Simpsons’ cartoon version of nuclear waste was scary as hell, and that’s the kind of thing that sticks. We’re also living in the long shadow of the Cold War, with legitimate concerns of nuclear war. That word nuclear is a key part of both concepts, and therefore, I guess, bad. But sunlight and wind? These are the fuels of Mother Earth, and that ancient boomer hippie mythology is powerful.
“Renewable” energy is evocative of forests and fields and Adam and Eve, and any idiot can slap a solar panel on his car. Is it incapable of sufficiently fueling the global population at western levels of consumption, and possibly assembled from materials mined and processed by slaves? Sure, but I learned solar power was important as a kid while watching Captain Planet, and that’s a better show than Chernobyl. Sorry, haters, it just seems nice to photosynthesize like a lazy patch of tulips, and most importantly it’s democratic.
In any case, with Germany, these questions don’t even matter. The decision to close the nuclear plants was made with no alternative in place, which brings us directly back to coal, oil, and gas. Historically, a great bulk of German fossil fuel imports have come from Russia, an element of trade vital to the Kremlin not only economically, but geopolitically. Much as Chinese agents have posed as Americans to sow outrage over US plans to mine and process rare earth metals at home (a story for some reason increasingly difficult to search), there is a long history of Russian agents sowing activist division in the United States and Europe for strategic purposes, including the funding of environmental groups in Europe. Trump famously warned the Germans they were too dependent on Russian energy, and they laughed at him. But after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, his warning was revisited, and generally credited as prescient. A year ago, the Germans were scrambling for power. Why kneecap a clean source now? Are we right to credit this as simply incredibly stupid, or should we all be more suspicious?
Beyond idiocy and psyops, it’s always important to remember there are a good number of people terrified of population growth. From the horrors of Ireland to India, Malthusian anti-humanism has been used to justify draconian population controls for over a century. The general idea is our access to resources must necessarily decline as population increases, therefore a lower population is preferable. But, counterintuitive as it may be, Thomas Malthus has been wrong for almost two centuries. In fact, he was already wrong, counterfactually, at the time of his writing. Through history, as global population has risen, hunger has plummeted, and wealth per capita, in nearly all regions of the world, has increased. You already know the reason: technology. And with more people, come more opportunities to advance technology. Everything good in this world has followed the birth of a child. That goodness compounds. The evidence, which includes our entire modern existence, is irrefutable.
The subject of Malthusian anti-humanism was best framed by Robert Zubrin in a great book called Merchants of Despair. As fate would have it, he just published a new book called the Case for Nukes, which tackles the Malthusian question in the context of nuclear energy. Robert was kind enough to share an advanced copy with me, and it’s very good. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of energy, with an exhaustive debunking of all the really crazy anti-nuclear hysteria, check it out.
I don’t care about “natural” sources of energy, or mystical pagan thinking. At least, not in the context of powering the planet (because let’s not get it twisted, you know I’m always here for a Tarot reading). But freezing to death? Also “natural,” and I’ve never been a big fan. Thankfully, we now have heating. And refrigeration. And medicine. Because people smarter than most of us invented those things. Thank you, smart ancient people.
The ground floor goal is not just triumph over nature, but triumph over nature for every person on the planet, and after that we’re building solarpunk cities of glass and genetically-modified mega-flora, towering geodesic biospheres, floating palaces, and a Ringworld. That will take more than replacing our current energy sources with slave cells or the spirit of wind.
So get in, loser. We’re building nuclear power plants.
Check out The White Pill, a new, regular Pirate Wires feature highlighting inspiring, and exciting developments in technology, engineering, physics, astronomy, space, and medicine. This week: a breakthrough malaria vaccine, a mind-bending artificial intelligence study, and a bunch of outer space news. (Pirate Wires)
THIS WEEK IN PIRATE WIRES
Against Safetyism. Safetyism, most recently incarnated in the ferocious anti-AI brigade, creates hidden risks far more consequential than the risks it attempts to mitigate — in fact, Tobias Huber and Byrne Hobart argue, safetyism itself has become one of the most important existential risks confronting humanity. (Pirate Wires)
Twitter rolls out new creator Subscriptions feature. Nick Russo breaks down Twitter’s new Subscriptions feature, through which users can now pay a monthly fee for access to exclusive content from their favorite creators, including long-form writing, video, and subscriber-only Spaces. (Pirate Wires)
Elon embarrasses a BBC reporter. In a nearly impromptu Elon Musk interview, held live in a Twitter Space, BBC reporter James Clayton couldn't give any examples of "hateful speech" after saying there's more of it on Twitter since Elon took over. Whether there is or isn't more "hateful content" on the platform now is a separate issue (though James described "hateful content" as that which elicits "slightly racist, slightly sexist" replies, i.e. anything he may disagree with) — what's really highlighted by this exchange is that high-ish level MSM reporters are doing NPC-like repeating of institutional talking points without really knowing what they're talking about. This is nothing new, but to see it so clearly illustrated is quite a spectacle. (Pirate Wires)
Respectability Politics Works. River explains why acting normal and decent has historically been a successful political strategy, actually. Incredibly, this is a wildly controversial opinion in activist circles. (Pirate Wires)
American auto makers disproportionately benefit from tax break government cheese (NYT)
SpaceX Starship launch postponed (WSJ), next attempt a few days out (Twitter)
Google tweaks search tools in effort to beat back AI (NYT)
Google CEO warns against rush to deploy AI without “oversight” (Bloomberg). In other words, as Zack Kanter framed it, “Google CEO Warns Against Rush to Deploy AI Faster Than Google”
Starboard buys Parler, plans revamp (WSJ)
Amazon doubles down on cost-cutting, announces new tech investments (WSJ)
NPR quits Twitter over “government-funded” label. An earlier label had called them “state-affiliated media.” (AP)
ByteDance reports record profits. TikTok’s parent company has surged ahead of other Chinese tech giants, including Tencent and Alibaba. (Economist) At this point, Biden’s media surrogates helpfully report, a ban may be “impossible.” (Politico)
Why the TikTok Ban May Never Come. In a solid breakdown of the political dynamics, a senate staffer who’s worked for years on legislation around TikTok and other Chinese companies told reporters: "There's almost zero chance we'll see any action against TikTok in this Congress." (Washington Free Beacon) But on the state side? I dunno, folks, it’s wild out there —
Montana’s TikTok ban has passed the Senate and the House. The governor’s signature would make Montana the first state to ban the app outright. (NBC) At an even smaller level, the University of Tennessee bans TikTok (NC5)
Superyacht maker targeted by hackers. (Bloomberg) Billionaire media moguls larping as the former mayor of San Francisco hit hardest.
Elon enters (re-enters?) tech’s AI arms race (WSJ)
Fears of international coding job collapse proliferate (Bloomberg)
Schumer calls for AI regulation, citing national security concerns (Reuters)
AI used to clone teenage girl’s voice for kidnapping phone call scam (NY Post)
Amazon Cloud incentivizing clients to build/host generative AI systems (Axios)
Insider newsroom to begin using AI (Axios). And Pirate Wires will be following suit if my lazy ass team doesn’t get its act together.
Senior Chinese military officer compares Taiwan to a “tumor” that needs to be removed (National Review)
After massive military display around Taiwan, China declares it’s “ready to fight.” Taiwan produces roughly 90% of the world’s advanced semiconductors. (ABC) (Twitter)
WHITE PILL TECH LINKS
New silicon-anode battery tech expands EV range by 20 percent (Freethink)
World’s first “smart gun” just dropped. It requires fingerprint verification to unlock. (Axios)
Mitch McConnell returning to Senate, despite rumors of retirement (Vox)
Tim Scott moves toward presidential run (NY Post)
Fox sanctioned for withholding evidence in Dominion suit (Reuters)
U.S. intelligence may ramp up social media monitoring after document leak (NBC)
Pelosi implies calls for 89-year-old Senator Diane Feinstein to retire are sexist. The former speaker said “I’ve never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate.” In completely unrelated news, John Fetterman is back in action. (The Hill) (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Cancer drug shortages. There are currently four cancer drug shortages, according to the FDA: Pluvicto, for advanced prostate cancer; BCG, a drug for bladder cancer; and methotrexate and cisplatin, two common chemotherapy drugs. (NBC)
Abortion pill case likely to reach Supreme Court. A federal court in Texas overruled the FDA’s approval of Mifepristone; a New Orleans appeals court ruled that the pill could remain available; experts expect the case to land before the Supreme Court. (NYT)
DeSantis signs 6-week abortion ban into law. Florida’s previous limit was 15 weeks. (AP)
Top Republican donors getting cold feet on Desantis. They cite his “extreme positions on social issues.” (Twitter)
Manhattan DA sues congressman. Alvin Bragg is suing Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio to keep congressional Republicans from enforcing a subpoena sent to Mark Pomerantz, a former employee of the Manhattan DA’s office. (NYT)
Feds arrest Air National Guardsman in relation to leaked military documents. Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old leader of an edgy, “racist”-meme-loving Discord group where top-secret documents on the war in Ukraine were leaked, has been arrested. (NYT)
Justin Pearson sworn back into Tennessee legislature. After last week’s expulsion, Shelby County Commissioners reappointed the 28-year-old lawmaker. In his public speeches, he has compared his expulsion from the legislature to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Gen Z politicians off to a colorful start. (Reuters) (Twitter) (Twitter)
White House hires former Gen Z for Change staffer as “Digital Rapid Response Coordinator” (Twitter)
Juul to pay $462 million over child addiction claims. (Reuters) Parents presumably shocked to discover how nicotine works.
Anheuser-Busch employee says Bud Light’s Dylan Mulvaney sponsorship might cost him his job. The distributor said sales have plummeted. In response, the company released a Friday statement stating it “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people.” This was neither good enough for right wing Twitter, which wanted an explicit apology for the trans can fiasco, nor NBCs chief “disinformation reporter” Ben Collins, who loves the trans can, and believes the company — which, again, did not apologize — caved to pressure (YouTube) (Twitter). Could have been a clown link, but this is all mostly the fault of Gen Z, we decided, and they deserve their own section.
Budweiser factories hit with bomb threats (NY Post)
Numb the pain of Bud Light’s betrayal with new Ultra Right Beer (Twitter)
Aboriginal artist seeks body of British person for human sacrifice. Begging you to look at this “aboriginal” man’s photograph. (NY Post)
Woman demands reparations at Target, confrontation ensues. A woman shopping at a Target in Ohio was punched in the face by store security after berating a manager about reparations, and refusing to leave. (NY Post)
Black Cleopatra. Long story short, Netflix made Cleopatra black, and not in the Hamilton musical “anyone can be white, anyone can be black, can’t we all just get along” sort of way. But rather, a decent part of this special, including the trailer, seems fairly outwardly dedicated to historical revisionism. Anyway, Cleopatra was definitely not black. Everyone is mad, but maybe especially Greeks and Arabs this time? Dumb drama, but fyi I really am looking forward to next summer’s George Washington biopic starring Viola Davis (as George).
Blessed and humbled as ever to be sharing these precious links with you. Hop in the comments below, drop what we missed, and tell us what you think — about everything, but especially about Cleopatra. Also please make sure to get your friends on board with Pirate Wires. With platform wars accelerating, growth on social is an evolving challenge. Rep us so we can rep you.
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The tragic thing is that nuclear is even better for the environment when we look at the whole picture. It has by far the lowest land usage per unit of energy, and requires the least amount of mined materials thanks to uranium's energy density. The negative impact of damns is well documented, wind power kills millions of birds a year, including highly endangered species like the Californian condor, and solar takes up an ungodly amount of land and minerals.
Solar in particular makes little sense unless its up in orbit. You are mining huge amounts of material (causing massive ecological damage) to produces something that at best is going to work 50% of the time, rarely at maximum capacity, and needs to be fully replaced every two decades. In theory this might be worth it if it was all concentrated in deserts but that's not how it actually works.
In my home state of MA there are massive subsidies for solar. I've personally witnessed in my town alone, hundreds of acres of forest cleared, and productive local farmland converted into solar power. Even more amusingly, we are supposedly in a housing crises, but vacant lots in our downtown were converted to an "urban solar farm" rather than prime working class housing.
Whats worse for an ecosystem, climate change, or the entire ecosystem being destroyed to make room for solar panels? Nuclear (and maybe orbital solar satellites) is the only way.