Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

My Donation to Donald Trump

A few weeks ago, I received a fundraising letter from Donald Trump. I decided to send him a donation in the postage paid envelope that came with the letter.




My message on the back of the letter:

I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me. 


Khizr Kahn lends his pocket constitution.

October 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Trump on Climate and Science

I have been listing as many reasons as I can why we cannot permit Donald Trump to be President of the United States. I would like to focus on the issue on climate change, which has been one of my biggest concerns as a voter. We do not have much time left to get this right, and, unfortunately, too little attention has been paid to it. When it comes to selecting our next president, the choice is clear, even if you are choosing between four candidates.

One way the issue has figuratively come home to me was just before the California primary. I came home to turn on the local TV news and found that Bernie Sanders was on my street! OK, so he was two miles away, but he was still on my street. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich was hosting him at the Center for Labor Research and Education. Afterward, Sanders came out to speak to the press. He told them of how he has observed climate change in his state of Vermont and how Lake Champlain no longer freezes over every winter. When I heard that, I was shocked. It was Christmas of 1989 that I saw the lake frozen solid. I was visiting my adoptive mother Alice Wiser in Burlington. That following summer, I stayed again at the house, where BTW Bernie Sanders had previously celebrated his 40th birthday (Alice, was not at the party which was hosted by her housemates. She was off on one of her travels around the world.) It was weird to swim in such a big body of water that did not taste of salt. In the winter, I saw the ice fishers. They drove their SUVs on the solid ice, set up their tents, built their camp fires, and drilled holes in order to drop their lines. Now Bernie was telling me that, in recent winters, the lake has not been freezing over.

As evidence builds that humans are warming the planet and time runs out to do something about it, both Trump and his running mate Mike Pence deny that global warming is even happening. Trump has promised to pull our country out of the COP21 agreement on climate made in Paris last year. Now, 375 scientists have signed a letter opposed to a Trump presidency.

Last May, Trump gave his formal policy address on energy to a petroleum conference in North Dakota. As I listened I was amazed at how little he was saying made sense. Now I know very little about energy, but it was clear to me that I knew more than Donald Trump, who boasted how we would save the fossil fuel industry with more mining and drilling. The problem is that the fossil fuel industry is suffering from over supply. Drilling more will only lead to lower prices and fewer jobs for oil, gas, and coal workers. In fact, coal companies are going bankrupt as fracking makes cleaner natural gas cheaper and more preferable. There were a couple of points where Trump was somewhat correct. Yes, solar and wind have environmental impacts, too, and we need to reduce bird deaths from wind generators. Trump also supports nuclear, though it would still have to compete with the cheaper fossil fuels that Trump would make even cheaper.

Hillary Clinton wants to continue the progress on climate and build on the work of President Obama. She has chosen a running mate, Tim Kaine, who shares her commitment to climate action. The Democratic Party platform advocates a price on carbon emissions. The Republican platform flatly rejects a carbon tax. For a short time, Gary Johnson suggested he would support a revenue neutral carbon tax, something I support as a member Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Unfortunately, Johnson backed down when his supporters accused him of being a liberal sellout.

I am pleased to read that Clinton has joined Obama in support of nuclear power. In 2008, she said during a debate that she was neutral (“agnostic”) about nuclear, while Obama gave his support and John Edwards said he was opposed. Bernie Sanders had campaigned on shutting down nuclear plants. Green Party candidate Jill Stein is also opposed to nuclear. Most scientists agree that we need to include nuclear in our energy mix to seriously reduce our carbon emissions.

If you want to see how the candidates stand on climate, energy, and other science issues, you can read their responses to questions posed by Scientific American. Of the four candidates, only Gary Johnson had not responded by press time. Notice how, detailed and thoughtful Clinton’s responses are. Contrast that with Trump’s short and shallow answers. Trump’s answers look like they were written in the back of the limousine, along with that clean bill of health letter from Trump’s doctor.

And if 375 scientists won’t convince you that we can’t afford a Trump presidency, maybe 150 technology executives will.

Of course, whoever is president, we won’t get any progress on climate without Congress. The chances of flipping both the House and Senate from Republican to Democrat change with each poll that is released. A Clinton White House may have the same success with a Republican Congress as Obama has had. Then again, Clinton may have better success working with Republicans, given the respect she earned from them when she was in the Senate. Even with a Democratic Congress, It won’t happen without a broad based grassroots movement on climate action. Compare that to the prospects of a Trump/Pence White House and Republican Congress. Trump is wrong on climate, and we need to keep him out of the White House.

September 26, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bike and Walk to Quaker Meeting 2016

On Sunday, May 22, a group of Quakers of Strawberry Creek Meeting in Berkeley celebrated Bike Month by bicycling to our meeting room. The week of May 22 to 29 was also celebrated as Bike to Worship Week by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

We started at North Berkeley BART Station, pedaling a short distance along the Ohlone Greenway to where it connects to California Street. We then rode California to Channing Way, Channing to Milvia, then Milvia to Derby, where we completed our travel to 2701 Martin Luther King Jr. Way.  California, Channing, and Milvia are three of Berkeley’s bicycle boulevards.

Leaving North Berkeley BART, from left: Henri Ducharme, Laura Magnani, Jay Cash, Marian Yu, Beth Rodman, Paul McCold, and Tom Yamaguchi

Arriving at Strawberry Creek Meeting, we were joined by Josh Gallup and Deborah Marks.

The following Sunday, May 29, we walked to meeting. This time we started at the downtown Berkeley BART station. Again, we walked down Milvia Street and right onto Derby. The last two blocks we walked in silence.


Leaving downtown Berkeley BART station. From left: Phyllis Malandra, Beth Rodman, Jay Cash, Paul McCold, and Charlie Lenk. On route, we were joined by Lisa Hubbell (on scooter) and Barbara Birch, who walked up from Emeryville. I took the picture with my iPhone and walked with my bicycle.

Thanks to Jay Cash for helping to organize, as well as bringing bagels, donuts, bike bags, bike stickers, maps, other printed material, and other biking and walking goodies; all given away after meeting.

June 1, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear, a book review

I just ran across a pro nuclear power book from the 1970s called The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear. The title page of this old paperback displays the word Not in red so that we cannot possible mistake the title’s message and meaning. Originally, published in 1976, this updated edition is from 1979, so it includes the Three Mile Island accident. There is an introduction by Edward Teller.

Author Dr. Petr Beckmann, now deceased, really knew his stuff about the safety issues involving nuclear power. In addition to the book, he published a regular newsletter called Access to Energy. That newsletter continues decades after his death, The book addresses all the concerns raised by the antinuclear movement, including health risks from radiation exposure, waste storage, nuclear proliferation, and reactor accidents. It does this with well documented facts, geared to the average reader. You do not need a science degree to understand his arguments, even as he goes into some quite technical detail.

Beckmann is clear that he has no love for folks like Ralph Nader, Barry Commoner, and David Brower, as he pulls apart their arguments and exposes their illogic. In his 1979 update, he poses to himself the question if Three Mile Island would change any part of his book. His response, “Not a word.”

In the three decades since Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, Beckman’s book and pro nuclear arguments still stand. They have been restated in books by Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Discipline) and Gwyneth Cravens (Power to Save the World). These environmentalists now realize that they were wrong about nuclear power and Beckmann was right. (See also the documentary Pandora’s Promise.)

Beckmann’s focus is on the health impacts of nuclear, in contrast to coal and other fossil fuels. The health impacts of radiation exposure are minuscule compared to those from air pollution created by burning fossil fuels. In addition, the dangers of coal mining far outweigh the risks of mining and refining uranium.

Being the late seventies when he wrote it, there is less than one page about carbon emissions and climate change. On page 175, Beckman refers to it as the “greenhouse theory.” He acknowledges that the theory may one day prove true and that some pronuclear advocates were advancing it in their arguments. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence at that time that Beckmann found convincing.

What struck me as I read through Beckmann’s criticism of antinuclear activists is the similarity with today’s climate change deniers. Beckmann was right, our arguments were based on emotion and not on science. We listened to what we wanted to hear and refused to accept any information that contradicted our preconceived world view. We were the climate deniers of the late twentieth century.

Unfortunately, Beckmann goes off the rails when he tries to explain the motivations of the antinuclear movement with the chapter titled Why. His libertarian politics actually start to show when he argues against Environmental Protection Agency regulations. In Why, he rants against activists with little or no data to back him up. He quotes conservative commentators like Irving Kristol. He even engages in red baiting, although backs away from actually calling antinuclear activists communists.

This is not to say that his comments are not entirely without validity. The fringe left of the antinuclear movement do have an anti capitalist and anti corporate agenda. They were a major force in the demonstrations inSeattle during the World Trade Organization meeting and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Of course, those political actions contained a wide spectrum of people, many of whom do not share that “Smash the State” agenda.

Maybe, there are other possible explanations for the rise of the antinuclear movement and why that movement may be currently on the decline.If there is any movement left, Fukushima is keeping it alive. Back in the late twentieth century there arose a backlash against science and technology. This is where we got the bumper sticker Question Authority. Vietnam and Watergate gave us good reason to distrust the authority of government. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which passed 50 years ago this month, was based on a sea battle that did not happen. A government had lied to get us into war. The space program was seen as an instrument of American military power, even though it was civilian based with completely peaceful objectives. The landing on the moon was viewed as another battle in the cold war. Our only objective was to beat the Soviet Union in getting there first. It didn’t help that tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States increased during the Reagan years, heightening the threat of nuclear war. The linking by activists of nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs further fueled the anti technology backlash.

Modern environmentalism rose as a backlash to the excesses of science and technology. There was spiritual aspect to the rise of this movement. The Hippies advocated going Back to the Land, seeking out a simpler life that reconnected to nature. That search for meaning in the context of nature began to resonate with the larger, twentieth century culture. More people returned to religion to find meaning for their lives after failing to find in it in the excesses of materialism and technology.

Then, there could be other explanations that have less to do with politics and more with biology. We humans are not always the rational and objective beings we believe we are. We use our brains to make sense of a complex world and try to do it with the simplest explanations we can find. To do this, we create world views to make sense of all the data that is reaching our brains, Many times, we filter out data that conflicts with that view. We tend to accept what we wish to be true and reject what doesn’t fit with our biases.

In addition, we are not very good at evaluating risk. Many times we act emotionally, especially when we are afraid. When our fight or flight instinct takes control of our brains, our logical reasoning process shuts down. Fear is a strong motivator, and we are strongly motivated by the fear of radiation, cancer, and the atomic bomb.

The good news is that millennials have not shared in much of the technophobia that guided baby boomers for the past few decades. Even many of us older folks have warmed up to technology with our acceptance of personal computers and the Internet. Yes, we are still a bit nervous about Big Brother and the loss of privacy, but that has not stopped us from sharing on Facebook or sending very non secure emails to each other. Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates helped change our attitudes about science and technology by placing that technology in our hands. Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Star Trek, and the Big Bang Theory have helped to make science and scientists look cool. Instead of complaining about the cost of sending people to the moon, we mourn now that we left the moon and never returned. We cheer the rovers sending back photos of Mars.

Now it is the acceptance of science and technology that alerts us to the urgency of climate change, which brings us to the final irony of Beckmann’s legacy. The newsletter he originally published in Boulder, CO now originates from Cave Junction, OR. While Beckmann did not take a position on global warming, the new publisher Art Robinson has. He is in the denial camp. His website links to a petition to reject the Kyoto Protocol, stating, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The first signer shown on is the late Edward Teller.

Scientists are people and make mistakes like other people. They have biases and blind spots as other people do. That should not cause us to suspect the validity of science. Better than I can say it, I refer to Dr. Stuart Jordan, writing for the Skeptical Inquirer in 2007:

“Most people understand that science is a process for seeking the truth about how the natural order works. It is the process itself, not the results of applying it, that lies at the heart of science. Fewer people may realize that this process virtually guarantees the integrity of science in the long run even if individual scientists make mistakes, as all occasionally do, or if a (very) rare individual is actually dishonest and falsifies data. This guaranty results not from any intrinsic moral superiority of scientists themselves, but from the fact that research examined by scientific colleagues in the most prestigious medium, the refereed publications, is quickly subjected to ruthless examination for any errors. Those who detect an error often gain as much credit for their scrutiny as those whose work survives it. Scientists who deliberately avoid this scrutiny by publishing their work in less respected media are understandably and properly given less credence for their efforts.”

A scientific debate should not be a political debate. Unfortunately, the debate on climate change has been caught in politics. Liberals accept that humans are the cause of global warming, while conservatives deny it. Liberals are correct to tell conservatives to listen to scientists on climate change. However, liberals need to listen to scientists, as well, about nuclear power.

August 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment