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"Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But since no one was listening, everything must be said again." – André Gide

 

 

 

Energy,
nuclear power,
and nuclear weapons

May 18, 1983

Is capacity for snafus exhausted?

Editor, The Times:

Thanks for Peyton Whiteley's long compilation of WPPSS-2's horror stories (May 1-3). Better late than never, The Times takes a hard look at WPPSS [Washington Public Power Supply System].

But after all that, I'm puzzled about the upbeat conclusion of the story. ("It's a damn good plant.") Does he think WPPSS has exhausted its capacity for snafus and treachery?

For your next investigative article, how about identifying the anonymous but oft-quoted WPPSS employee who said, "If plant number 2 ever starts up, I will celebrate in Tokyo."

In the same day's paper, science editor Hill Williams writes about the many leaks of radioactive waste at Hanford, but reassures us that there has been "no proof of any harm to humans, animals, or the environment."

Perhaps - but what we need is proof that there has been no harm. If the science editor knows anything - indeed, if he reads his own newspaper - he knows that the "proof of harm" may take years or decades to appear (Times Beach, Rocky Flats), and then it's too late.

Roger Lippman

Published

March 17, 1988

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The Times of March 6 quoted U.S. Sen. Albert Gore, the soon-to-be ex-presidential candidate, as saying “Like Washington, my home state of Tennessee has a long, proud tradition in the development of nuclear power.”

Right.

Washington: four canceled nuclear plants, two postponed indefinitely, and one on line. As a result, WPPSS has a bigger debt than Poland.

Tennessee: six canceled plants, one under construction and delayed, one completed but not licensed, and two completed but now shut down.

A proud, not to mention long, tradition.

Roger Lippman

Published

August 7, 1990

Will Times retract Hanford-safety report?

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Seven years ago, The Times’ science editor wrote, “There has been no proof of any harm to humans, animals, or the environment” from nuclear operations at Hanford. Is The Times planning to run a retraction?

Now your paper reports Hanford-area residents complaining, “We trusted the government”; the woman quoted had seven cases of thyroid disease in her family, some of which probably began more than seven years ago.

The people of the Tri-Cities region voted overwhelmingly for the pro-nuclear Slade Gorton in 1988. The margin in that area swung the election. Those voters had been reassured for years by The Times and like-minded newspapers that Hanford was safe. Now Gorton is in Congress supporting Bush’s business-as-usual nuclear budget. Wouldn’t you rather have Mike Lowry representing you?

It’s about time for people to realize that nuclear war, even if it doesn’t happen, is dangerous to our health.

Roger Lippman

Published

September 15, 1990

Editor, The Seattle Times:

As citizens and energy professionals, we are deeply concerned that our country may go to war in the Middle East, allegedly over petroleum supplies. Our dependence on oil makes us increasingly inclined to use military force to protect vulnerable foreign supplies.

Energy conservation, efficiency improvements, and the use of alternative and renewable fuels could substantially reduce this dangerous and costly dependence.

The current crisis shows again how chronic dependence on oil jeopardizes our national security, weakens our economy, and destroys our environment. Military solutions are costly in lives and dollars and still leave us vulnerable to the next destabilization.

Proposed supply solutions, such as offshore and Alaskan oil drilling or increased us of nuclear power and coal, cannot meet either our short or long-term needs, are expensive, and are environmentally unacceptable.

In contrast, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, and renewable energy sources improve our national security, our environment, and our economy. We have proved methods for saving oil at less cost than obtaining new supplies. For example:

·        Increasing efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon for autos and 30 miles per gallon for light trucks will save far more oil than we import from Iraq and Kuwait.

·        A reduction of three miles per day per vehicle will save the same amount immediately.

·        An investment in an energy-efficient window factory will save as much energy as would be produced by an offshore drilling platform costing 100 times as much.

There are many more ways to meet our energy needs through efficiency and alternatives. We call on our leadership to invest in energy efficiency, not in war.

Roger Lippman, Seattle, with 169 co-signers

Published

April 17, 1993

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Thanks for your editorial [April 12] supporting the abandonment of the unfinished WPPSS nuclear plants 1 and 3. No need to get into the unfortunate fact that for years the Times supported their construction and then their preservation, while many of us were in the streets and hearing rooms protesting the nuclear projects.

The WPPSS Board is being pushed by its patron, the Bonneville Power Administration, to abandon these monuments to waste, fraud, and foolishness. But WPPSS is still reluctant to get out of the game. Let's make sure these useless plants are shoved over the edge before millions more are wasted on them. And then, let's get to work on shutting down the dangerous, unreliable, and expensive plant #2, the only "successful" WPPSS nuclear project. I'm looking forward to editorial support from the Times.

Instead of relying on nuclear power, regional power planners need to redouble their energy efficiency efforts (and budgets). Good steps have been taken in that direction, but more commitment is needed.

Roger Lippman

May 1, 2001

Editor, The Seattle Times:

While Cheney and Bush's energy policy - use more fossil fuels, and don't conserve - seems astonishingly stupid in this day and age, it really comes as no surprise. After all, they are oilmen, and that's what oilmen do. Yet, the policy is based on lies.

New oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) will take years to come on line, and the current energy shortages by then either will be long gone or they will have wrecked our economy, which in itself would reduce energy use. And anyway, practically no oil is used in this country to make electricity. Natural gas is increasing in importance. There is so much surplus natural gas in Alaska, and no way to get it here, that the gas is being flared off at the wellheads.

Conservation is not just the "personal virtue" that Cheney calls it. At the tail end of its report, The Times (5-1-2001) mentions just one way that more oil could be saved through conservation: increasing fuel-efficiency standards for SUVs. Other examples:

The daily output of new Alaskan oil could be saved by making our cars and light trucks just a half mile per gallon more efficient. When Ronald Reagan rolled back the efficiency standards in 1985, he wasted the equivalent of the entire ANWR reserve.

Adopting aftermarket tires as efficient as the originals would save much more than the oil in ANWR.

The same would be true if suitable buildings were equipped with the super-insulating windows that have been available for almost 20 years, but little used. If you think this would be expensive, wait till you find out how much tax subsidy there will be for new Alaskan oil development.

Let's make sure our Congressional representatives know that there are plenty of alternatives to wasting our resources and ruining our environment for the profit of the oil producers.

Roger Lippman

November 18, 2008

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The US auto industry has a hand full of gimme and a mouth full of Mustang razzle-dazzle, with continually increasing horsepower and falling miles per gallon. If there is to be a federal bailout, it should be with the condition that fuel-efficient vehicles (like, better than a Prius) must be the priority.

The government cash should go to purchase stock in the companies, which is probably a pretty good bargain right now. Then the new administration will have added leverage to achieve its goals of combating global warming and moving this country toward energy independence.

Roger Lippman

May 18, 2017

Why more nuclear power plants can't be built

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The letter below was written to the Times in response to Jon Talton's May 13, 2017 column,
Latest Hanford alert is another reminder of nuclear industry’s many challenges .

The conversation on the future of nuclear power in the US has moved on from why more nuclear reactors should not be built, the long-time position of environmentalists. The issue now is why they can't be built. Let us count the ways:

  •       It's too expensive for the marketplace. Conservation, energy efficiency, alternative energy sources (especially wind and solar), and new energy storage technology are all cheaper than building a new nuclear station. And even though it is not desirable, natural gas is also cheaper.

  •       The long lead-times for new nuclear plants guarantee that even more advanced, clean technologies will be available in the decade before new nuclear can be built.

  •       In the modern era, nuclear power plants have almost always become more and more expensive over time. They have a “negative learning curve” — along with massive delays and cost overruns in market economies. France's nuclear program is scandal-ridden and financially troubled. In the short term, France plans to reduce its dependence on nuclear from 75% to 50%. Furthermore, a French company has provided sub-standard components to nuclear plants worldwide, including in the US. Sorting all that out is just beginning.

  •       Nuclear facilities are obvious targets for terrorists. In Belgium, Islamic State operatives were seen surveilling a nuclear scientist. We don't seem to have that problem with wind and solar power.

Investors recognize these issues, and the only way to fund new nuclear plants is with massive government subsidies. Recently Illinois and New York State have committed billions just to keep economically failing plants running. Who is going to have the appetite for more of that?

Fukushima scared the heck out of decision makers. We still don't know the extent of the radiation release, which, contrary to what Talton states, was more than just "some." The once-vaunted Japanese nuclear infrastructure still remains all but shut down, years later.

"New," "clean," "safe" nuclear technologies are promoted all the time, but none of them actually exists. Actual existence is a precondition for testing, approval, and licensing. The promoters are still playing in the fantasy league, and they ain't Russell Wilson.

The amount of money and time needed to accomplish a new nuclear project could be spent to much better effect on investment in the clean, proven alternatives that we already have. Every dollar invested in nuclear delays and takes money away from the better alternatives. Environmentalists who desperately promote nuclear as the only hope to prevent global warming fail to understand that the cleaner answer is already at hand.

For several years there has been a campaign to shut down the WPPSS (now DBA "Columbia Generating Station") nuclear power station at Hanford. Anyone interested in learning more about that can go to the Nuclear Free Northwest website.

Roger Lippman

January 23, 2018

Our local pro-nuclear propagandists

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The nuclear industry’s propaganda efforts continue unabated. Author Thomas Graham (Seeing the Light - the Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century) is on the board of a nuclear fuel design company. His co-author Scott Montgomery is a pro-nuclear ideologue-about-town here in Seattle. It’s hard to imagine who will pay eight dollars to hear him advocate for more nuclear waste and for the most expensive, most dangerous form of electrical generation available.

The issue was pertinent in Washington state this year because various bills were introduced in the current state legislature to include nuclear power as a clean, safe energy source. Washington residents should encourage their legislators not to fall for this scam, which was embodied in Senate Bill 6253.

A generation ago, the Washington Public Power Supply System nearly bankrupted the state by trying to build five nuclear power plants. Four of them failed catastrophically, due to financing problems – they were billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule before the plug was finally pulled. The fifth has been operating since, creating nuclear waste that no one knows what to do with. It is also generating the most expensive electricity around, raising the rates of anyone who gets power, through their local public utility, from the Bonneville Power Administration. That includes Seattle City Light customers.

The nuclear industry propagandists cloak their efforts with concern about climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels. But every dollar spent on building a nuclear power plant takes money away from much cleaner, safer, and quicker energy solutions. Instead of windmills and solar plants that could come on line within a year or two, investment in nuclear envisions a solution a decade away, or, more likely, never.

Nuclear power has something almost unique in technology: a negative learning curve. This is well illustrated by the recent experiences in South Carolina and Georgia, where the only plants under construction in the US have been billions over budget and years behind schedule, with no end to the overruns or delays in sight. Actually, in South Carolina they have come to an end, since the plants were recently abandoned after a decade and around $10 billion spent. Incredibly, Georgia is pushing ahead under the same circumstances. Imagine how much clean energy could have been acquired from the money already spent, and how much more could be acquired with the good money yet to be thrown away in Georgia, before that project, inevitably, is abandoned.

For years, environmentalists, Wall Street financiers, and insurance companies have demonstrated why nuclear power should not be expanded. As I argued in a recent article, nuclear power, at least in the US, can't be expanded. Now, it is becoming all the more evident that it won't.

A version of this letter appeared in the Seattle Times as a comment.
(Subsequently removed by the Times when it changed commenting systems.)

July 21, 2019

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Your article on Bonneville Power Administration’s costs omitted another significant contributor to BPA's rising prices. A recent analysis shows that, while nuclear power makes up 10% of Bonneville's energy supply, its price amounts to 31% of what BPA spends for power.

Studies show that the cost of power from the WPPSS-2 nuclear plant would exceed its market value over the next ten years by hundreds of millions of dollars. (The plant now operates under the sanitized name "Columbia Generating Station," lest people be reminded of how WPPSS nearly bankrupted the state 35 years ago.)

Bonneville remains obligated to buy the nuclear power at its production cost but also has the authority to pull the plug on the plant's operation. That would be a wise move, financially and for public safety. This facility, with a design similar to the Fukushima plants, sits almost on top of an earthquake fault.

An analyst for one Washington utility told me that his city’s share of the overcharge could be used to upgrade the entire town's residential baseboard heaters to high-efficiency heat pumps - an example of how our region's money is being wasted on WPPSS nuclear power.

Roger Lippman

September 22, 2020

To: Jon Talton, The Seattle Times

In your perceptive discussion this week of the climate emergency, you threw in one half sentence that I didn’t like, namely that you “support nuclear power.” Perhaps you saw the letter I wrote to the editor last time I noticed you raising nuclear power, in your column of May 13, 2017. The passage of three years has only reinforced the reasons to doubt that nuclear power provides a viable path out of the climate emergency.

The latest example to come to my attention: PacificCorp, a large private utility serving parts of Oregon and Utah, produced a study examining resources for its energy portfolio, looking forward. The utility projects that the NuScale proposal for the Idaho National Laboratory, the only nuclear project now under serious discussion here in the Northwest, will cost $6,229/kW to build (taking at least 10 years to completion). Operation and maintenance costs add another $200/kW annually, coming to $6000/kW over 30 years. None of these figures includes the decommissioning costs we leave to our grandchildren.

By contrast, the resource cost for solar plus batteries at Idaho Falls: about $1,600/kW plus only $30/kW-year for O&M.

In other words, the choice is between four times as much for nuclear, plus much higher operational costs; or the alternative, a resource literally falling on the ground. Idaho and its customers can wait a decade for the NuScale project to be completed, with likely cost increases and delays along the way; or they can have proven solar power within a year. (See PacifiCorp document . Data cited are shown on pages 12 and 8, respectively.)

This cautionary tale illustrates the position that leading thinkers like Amory Lovins have long held: Nuclear power is slower to build and more expensive than clean options. To protect the climate, we must save the most carbon at the least cost and in the least time, counting in all three variables – carbon, cost, and time. Lower cost saves more carbon per dollar. Faster deployment saves more carbon per year. (See Lovins, Does Nuclear Power Slow or Speed Climate Change? Forbes, November 18, 2019, condensed version.)

Notice that I have not even mentioned safety, which, bizarrely, remains somewhat controversial, due to the propaganda efforts of the nuclear industry. Nor the fact that nuclear power isn’t really carbon-free, if you look into all the circumstances aside from the actual nuclear reaction.

Nuclear power may have sounded like a good idea, in theory, until about 40 years ago. I can’t think of anything that has happened since to make one want to proclaim support for it, unless one stands to gain from it financially, which doesn’t seem to be your position.

Your column in 2017 presented a lot more negatives than positives on nuclear power, and I would have thought you were leaning away from nuclear. I hope you’ll re-think your support, or at least come out and make your case in more than a sentence, so it can be examined and challenged.

Roger Lippman

 
Talton's response, by e-mail:

You make excellent points. Maybe renewables such as solar and wind, along with changes in living arrangements and better transit, will do. Thanks for writing.

Jon Talton
Economics Columnist
The Seattle Times

October 11, 2021

Editor, The New Yorker:

In Green Dreams, the question is asked, “Can nuclear fusion put the brakes on climate change?” The answer is absolutely not, for reasons raised in the article but then skipped over while the author gets carried away with how interesting the technology is.

Climate experts agree that serious progress must be made during this decade. The worst thing about fusion is that it gobbles up billions of dollars that its proponents recognize will produce no commercially available energy for decades to come.

The article cites a saying among fusion researchers: when one problem is solved, a new one of equal difficulty emerges. This parallels the “negative learning curve” almost unique to the nuclear power industry. Over the decades, construction costs and durations for new reactors have continued to increase.

Limiting climate change requires the fastest and cheapest solutions. Without considering cost and speed, we slow climate protection. One doesn’t have to imagine how many photovoltaic panels, wind turbines, and battery-backup systems could be deployed, quickly, with the billions spent on fusion research, along with the billions more that subsidize fossil fuels. It is easy enough to calculate.

Roger Lippman

November 7, 2021

Editor, The Times:

A bigger role for nuclear energy, the Times top headline suggests.

One must read well into the continuation page for the real story. The author notes that the number of US nuclear power stations has decreased by 10% in the last decade. Of the 4 plants recently under construction, two were abandoned, billions over budget. Two identical plants, the last now being built, are years behind schedule, $13 billion over budget, and probably headed for the same fate.

A Northwest project to build a 462-megawatt “small modular nuclear reactor” complex has only attracted subscribers for 103 MW of purchases.

Nuclear plants started now would not produce power in the next decade.

Experts agree that fossil fuels must be phased down by 2030. We are fortunate to have two pieces of the solution at hand, if we had the will to implement them:

Wind and solar power are cheap and well developed. The billions spent on nuclear construction should be shifted to that type of clean energy, which can come online quickly.

Just as important, we have the means to improve energy efficiency throughout our economy. Better than a free lunch, it’s the lunch we’re paid to eat.

Roger Lippman

Published
 

January 16-17, 2022

My exchange with Jon Talton of the Seattle Times regarding his pro-nuclear power article Giving nuclear power a second look to fight climate change, January 16, 2022:

Jon,

Do you remember our correspondence from September 2020, when I critiqued your support of nuclear power in your article “The murky view outside shows the climate emergency clearly”?

You responded to me,

You make excellent points. Maybe renewables such as solar and wind, along with changes in living arrangements and better transit, will do.

It seems you haven’t given it much thought since then, judging by today’s Times. (“Giving nuclear power a second look in the fight against climate change.”) You cite two questionable sources and you misrepresent a third.

The New Yorker article is weak on actual facts about nuclear power. The Breakthrough Institute is a front for the nuclear industry. And Hal Bernton’s series, if read carefully, is overwhelmingly skeptical of the prospects for nuclear power. It was only the framing (headlines, structure) that deluded innocent readers, apparently including you.

If you care to inform yourself and present accurate information, try reading perceptive studies like this: Small modular reactors offer no hope for nuclear-energy.

Roger Lippman

Talton's (non)-response by e-mail:

People are very divided on this issue, Roger. I'll let the column speak for itself.

Jon Talton
Economics Columnist
The Seattle Times

My response to Talton - friendly persuasion having given way to frustration:

January 19, 2022

Jon, your column speaks to me. It says that the author couldn’t be bothered to do enough research to be informed.

I already suggested a good overview article. As for the Breakthrough Institute, see

https://disinformationchronicle.substack.com/p/the-new-denial-is-delay-at-the-breakthrough (in 3 parts).

It is a contributor to various right-wing journals, spinning out pseudo-environmentalist stuff that conservatives love to cite. It is opposed to putting a price on carbon to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, and supports fracking as pro-environmental, which might not make you feel right at home with them. And I’m sure you’ll find other informative stuff on Breakthrough if you poke around.

Then we can proceed, if you feel so inclined.

  Roger Lippman

No response!

January 17, 2022

Editor, The Times:

Jon Talton, usually perceptive when he writes about business and the economy, would do better to avoid engaging in uninformed commentary on nuclear power.

Talton’s article in Sunday’s Times, “Giving nuclear power a second look in the fight against climate change,” argues for preserving new nuclear power stations as an option. He cites two questionable sources and misrepresents a third.

  • The New Yorker article’s author is carried away by how cool the technology of nuclear fusion is, while recognizing that it will produce no commercially available energy for decades to come, if ever.
  • The Breakthrough Institute is a pro-nuclear outfit that also opposes putting a price on carbon to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. Its advocacy finds a happy home in various right-wing journals.
  • And Hal Bernton’s Times series, if read carefully, is overwhelmingly skeptical of the prospects for nuclear power. Only the headlines and structure of the series deluded innocent readers, apparently including Talton, into thinking it was pro-nuclear.

As the climate crisis grows, it attracts the nuclear industry’s purveyors of false solutions, with a barrage of calls for further investment in nuclear power. Let’s not have Times writers jumping on that bandwagon.

Roger Lippman

July 22, 2022

Editor, the Vancouver (WA) Columbian:

The Columbian (Nuclear energy deserves serious consideration, July 9) is right that disposal of nuclear waste is an unsolved problem, but the paper is overly optimistic about prospects for a solution that has stymied smart scientists working on it for decades with gigantic budgets.

The newspaper correctly observes that safety remains a concern. In the history of nuclear power there has been more than one catastrophic accident per decade. Fortunately, only small numbers of them have rendered vast areas uninhabitable for as many years in the future as humans have existed.

But the biggest problem with nuclear power is that it is much more expensive and slower to build than the clean, safe energy sources, including solar and wind, that are being rolled out right now. 

Just one U.S. nuclear station has been completed in this century. Many more have been abandoned before completion, wasting billions of dollars and precious time. One pair of reactors remains under construction, years behind schedule, at double its original $10 billion budget. Those billions would have bought a lot of clean energy very quickly.

Which of those choices should we sign up for?

Roger Lippman

Published

July 2022

Editor, Reed College Magazine:

I’m glad to hear that Reed’s trustees decided to end investments in planet-destroying fossil-fuel corporations.

Heartwarming as the decision is, though, it stops short of another important target for divestment, namely, the institutions that finance the capital-intensive activities leading to climate change.

Fortunately, help is on the way. 350.org in Seattle and elsewhere has campaigned to stop the big banks and investment houses from funding the climate destroyers. Here, we have regularly held demonstrations to stop the money pipeline, targeting such funders as lender JP Morgan Chase Bank, investor BlackRock, and Liberty Mutual, a top insurer of fossil fuel projects and companies.

Every major US bank continues to fund the expansion of the fossil fuel industry ― despite the fact that even the International Energy Agency has stated that we must immediately stop investing in new fossil fuel operations to avert catastrophic climate change.

Reed needs to steer clear of the enablers as well as the fossil fuel companies on the front lines.

Roger Lippman

Published

September 19, 2022

Editor, Crosscut:

The article Central WA eying nuclear power again – but at a smaller scale , by John Stang, dutifully recycles the puff pieces of the nuclear power industry. The writer has been doing that for at least four years, repeating the optimistic and unfounded claims of NuScale about the cost and schedule of notional “small modular nuclear reactors.”

In 2018, Stang wrote that NuScale hoped to build such a power plant by the mid-2020s. Now he says 2030. So the goal has not gotten any closer.

NuScale’s cost projection per kilowatt started at $1700 in 2003. In 2020 it was $4200. At that time, its customer’s projection was twice that, at $8500. Meanwhile, the actual cost of completed projects has been $10,500 (Russia) and $22,000 (Argentina).

Cost predictions and scheduling are imaginary for an unproven technology. What’s real is the history of nuclear technology: the “negative learning curve.” The more the technology advances, the more expensive it gets and the longer it takes to build. This is a virtually unique experience in the history of technology. The only nuclear power station now under construction in the United States, years behind schedule, is estimated to cost double its original $10 billion budget.

Stang repeats the promoter’s claims that the NuScale project is “carbon free.” This is true only at the moment of the nuclear reaction, ignoring uranium mining and refining, as well as plant construction. Furthermore, like the nuclear industry, he has nothing to say about how the project’s high-level nuclear waste will be disposed of. All we really know is that it will be dangerous to humans for longer than our civilization has existed on this earth, and that, per kilowatt of plant capacity, it is likely to be more than what is produced in existing nuclear reactors.

NuScale’s sole customer, in Utah, is leaking support for the project. Of its initial subscribers, about 10 have reduced their commitments or pulled out altogether. That just leaves the rubes, who have signed up for less than one quarter of the Idaho Falls project output, 103 out of 462 megawatts.

Forward thinkers about energy and climate are looking at the cheapest, cleanest, and quickest substitutes for fossil fuels. Fortunately, our region is rich in them, especially solar and wind energy. These are available now, in large quantities, at low cost, using technology that is well developed.

For deep background on the subject of Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, please see the website of Nuclear Free Northwest, at http://nuclearfreenw.org/modular.htm .

Roger Lippman

September 21, 2022
Response to article on The Medium:
 

The writer has stated a good case against burning more fossil fuels. He has also described the dangers of nuclear waste, which will persist longer than human civilization has to date. But I’m puzzled by his conclusion that we need more nuclear waste.

Let’s try a thought experiment. Suppose that 15 years ago I offered $20 billion to produce, say, 4 billion watts of clean electrical capacity. You could have accomplished that in a few years by investing in solar and wind power. And with the money left over, you could build another 5 or 10 billion watts of supply.

For probably less money, one could invest in energy efficiency. For example, use some of those billions to replace existing residential baseboard heaters with high-efficiency heat pumps. And insulate the walls while you’re at it.

Alternatively, you could have begun construction on four nuclear power plants – two in South Carolina and two in Georgia. By 2017 you would have blown the entire amount in South Carolina, but you’d luck out because you could charge the overrun to the hapless ratepayers there, even though the project would be abandoned, with no power ever produced. (This actually happened.) Meanwhile, the $10 billion price in Georgia would double as well. Supposedly this latter project will be complete next year, but it’s still too early to make an informed bet on that.

So, for $40 billion, you’ll get 2 billion watts of power that still costs more to operate than wind or solar. And it will have taken at least a decade to produce any power.

Incidentally, the article mentions the fossil fuel inputs required to build solar and wind power plants. Has the writer done a calculation of the energy input for the massive concrete and steel structures of nuclear power plants?

Giant nuclear stations have pretty much fallen out of favor in the United States, due to situations like the ones described above. Now, the nuclear industry’s interest has shifted to an untried, unproven approach spearheaded by NuScale, the developer of small modular nuclear reactors. These reactors have the following features: they cost more to build per unit of capacity than traditional large reactors, and they likewise produce more nuclear waste. Because of the loss of economies of scale, their power output will also cost more. And a discerning customer, recognizing all this, will stay as far away as possible. There’s a good case study: the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, NuScale’s sole US customer to date. It has only been able to attract participants for about a quarter of a proposed plant’s output. (See http://nuclearfreenw.org/modular.htm .)

Roger Lippman

 

 


Politics

November 25, 1988

Editor, The Seattle Times:

I would have been just as well off without Jack Landau’s “balanced” apology for the tenure of John Mitchell (column, Nov. 15). Let’s not be too quick to rewrite history. This former municipal bond salesman and crime partner of Richard Nixon didn’t know the First Amendment from Second Avenue. That he may not have been quite as crazed as some of his administration colleagues is small comfort.

The low point in my relationship with Mitchell was when he caused the indictment of me and seven others in Seattle on conspiracy charges, stemming from the incipient breakdown of social order due to the Vietnam War. Charges were eventually dismissed, and history has shown that he and his pals were the guilty parties.

I suppose the high point in our relationship was when, after his downfall, he admitted in federal court that his Justice Department has illegally wiretapped many anti-war leaders, including myself.

Early on he predicted that “this country is going to go so far to the right that you won’t recognize it.” Fortunately, he and his gang were tripped up by their own misdeeds before our cognition was strained too much.

Roger Lippman

Published

Note: Mitchell served more time in federal prison than we of the Seattle 7 did.

March 26, 1991

Dear National Public Radio: 

Thanks for your story on the creation of Iraq by Great Britain in the 1920s. Ordinarily the news media present events completely outside of their historical context, and NPR is rarely the exception.

Referring to the Iraqis in 1919, Winston Churchill, then in the War Office, wrote, “I am strongly in favor of using poisoned gas against uncivilized tribes …,” and he authorized the Royal Air Force to do so.

Throw in that perspective on the recent conflict, and there you have the whole sorry picture.

Roger Lippman

Heard on the air

October 23, 1992

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The Times (10-22-92) downplays the recent revelation that Ken Eikenberry's campaign offered reappointment to a UW regent in exchange for a $50,000 campaign contribution. You suggest that positions on the Board of Regents are bought and sold like ambassadorships. But that will not happen under a Mike Lowry governorship. With a $1500 limit on individual contributions, he will be able to make appointments on the basis of merit.

The big question here is one of judgment. If a Republican candidate for governor thinks he can get away with shaking down a public official - a known Democrat, no less - for $50,000, what kind of decisions would he make once in office? Dan Quayle will probably be available for a high-level appointment.

Roger Lippman

June 1, 1993

U.S. Senator Slade Gorton

Dear Sen. Gorton:

I noted with disappointment your vote against the confirmation of Roberta Achtenberg as an assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I did not expect you to go along with the hysterical anti-gay opposition led by Sen. Jesse Helms. A person's sexual orientation should have nothing to do with his or her confirmation to such a position, period.

Unfortunately, casting your vote with the anti-gay forces reflects poorly on our State. Washington sees itself, and is seen by others, as a bastion of tolerance, where human rights for all are respected.

By aligning yourself with the Helms bigots, or pandering to the anti-gay minority here at home, you do a disservice to the people of this state, and to yourself.

Roger Lippman

October 9, 1994

Editor, Reed College Magazine:

Just when I thought it was safe to pick up Reed Magazine - and lately it has published some useful critiques of Reed education - I was confronted over the breakfast table by Professor Edward Segel's fawning reflections on the latest writings of his old mentor, Henry Kissinger.

The historian Segel evaluates Kissinger's work with only the merest reference to the defining actions of his subject's career.  I mean, of course, the devastation of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, and the destruction of democracy in Chile.

Segel writes: The "balance of power" has been classically defined as a policy or situation where no Great Power so towers over the rest as to threaten their political independence or integrity - to its supporters a sure device protecting Europe against the rise of an aggressor like Louis XIV, Napoleon, Hitler, or Stalin.  In a proper balance, all states are generally satisfied with the major lines of the international system, and all recognize the legitimacy of each other's existence and their mutual right to pursue their own interests, within the limits of the system.

What's wrong with this picture?  For a start, Eurocentrism.  The balance of power of Segel's imagination recognizes France's right to pursue its own interests, namely the colonization of Indo-China; and when France fails, it recognizes the right of the U.S. to take France's place.  Does it somewhere recognize the right to sovereignty of Europe's erstwhile colonies in Asia and Africa?  And how did the balance of power protect the world against the rise of the aggressor Nixon, and his operative, Kissinger?

The "balance of power" is the European-North American collaborative to divide up the rest of the world.  It received a setback when the U.S. foundered in the jungles of Southeast Asia.  The import of the event that shaped my generation appears to have been lost on a historian teaching a new generation of Reed students.   

A subsequent reference to "traditional American values" is particularly disingenuous.  With regard to U.S. foreign policy, the traditional values could best be described as "grab what you can and run."  George Kennan noted shortly after World War II that this country, with 6% of the world's population, controlled over half its resources.  He correctly expected that situation to be challenged by those on the short end of the deal, and he argued that the object of foreign policy should be the preservation of the status quo.  As my brother says, "People all over the world want what we have.  After all, it's theirs."

Here we have the unfortunate spectacle of Kissinger - who by any objective, distanced historical appraisal will be ranked as a war criminal - being reviewed by a follower who apparently has fashioned a career out of pretending that such pseudo-scholarship as Kissinger's has nothing to do with Christmas bombings and the overthrow of democratic governments.

Professor Segel's viewpoint represents the attitudes that caused me to leave Reed 26 years ago to seek an education in the "'real' world" that he mocks with quotation marks.

It is the responsibility of my generation, if not others, to continue to raise the lessons of the Kissinger-Nixon era.  Professor Segel calls for his students to "take over the world," to put their liberal education to work in managing the affairs of their society.  Producing disciples of the disciple of Kissinger to take over U.S. foreign policy would be Reed College's great failure.

Roger Lippman

Published

August 22, 1996

Editor, The Seattle Times:
 

Thanks for the excellent articles on the CIA-sponsored sale of crack cocaine in U.S. cities to raise money for Nicaraguan counter-revolutionaries during the Reagan Administration.

It was certainly interesting to read in the same day's Times that Newt Gingrich, speaking in Seattle, called for the death penalty for repeat drug traffickers.

Reagan's CIA chief William Casey is, alas, no longer with us, and the mental capacity of the former contra-in-chief, Ronald Reagan himself, is so diminished that he could probably not be put on trial.

But there are plenty of holdovers still around from the CIA's crack-running heyday. While I normally don't support capital punishment, I think that Oliver North, who coordinated Reagan's gun- and drug-running operations, would be a great one to start with.

I'm sure Newt Gingrich would agree that an example should be made of the most egregious repeat offenders. Subsequently, perhaps some of North's co-conspirators will come forward to confess and seek plea bargains. For them, a merciful sentence of life without parole would be appropriate.

Roger Lippman

May 18, 1997

Dan Quayle for President? Let him alphabetize M&Ms

Editor, The Seattle Times:

David Broder, the Great Mentioner, has mentioned Dan Quayle as a reasonable Republican candidate for president in 2000. ("Dan Quayle for president? It may not be that far-fetched," May 11.) How many columns by self-important columnists will it take to make the American people forget that what we're really dealing with is a guy who thought they speak Latin in Latin America?

I say, give Dan-o a bag of M&Ms and let him spend the next couple years trying to put them in alphabetical order. But if he asks Broder for help, he's disqualified.

Roger Lippman

Published

September 2003

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The earth-shattering disasters that may or may not be about to unfold in India/Pakistan and Israel/Palestine should make us think seriously about the mess we are in. Big boys with big toys are piloting spaceship Earth without proper driver training. The U.S. government is the de facto mediator of most of the world’s conflicts, and its leaders are incompetent. And it is so locked in to advocating for the narrow interests of fossil fuel and military businesses that it cannot be counted upon to keep its eyes on the road.

Clinton was perhaps marginally better – captive to the same business interests, but maybe smart enough not to wreck the whole thing.

How do you feel about riding in an out-of-control vehicle, risking all, just for the profits of rich businesses?

Roger Lippman

October 6, 2003

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The Times reports today on local politicians rallying to protect the state from losing military bases in the coming round of closures. But we might be much better off without some of those bases, especially considering the alternatives. Wouldn't McChord AFB make a great new regional airport, taking the growth pressure off Sea-Tac? And how about Whidbey Island NAS? North Whidbey would be such a desirable place without the "sound of freedom" constantly screaming in your ears.

It would be nice if we had politicians who think about how we can prosper in a peace economy rather than relentlessly pursuing the destructive, corrupting money of the military.

Roger Lippman

May 26, 2004

Editor, The New York Times:

The Times reports, with insufficient embarrassment, that it has been snookered for more than two years on the subject of Iraq by the Bush administration.

There must be a lesson here somewhere. Perhaps it is this: Don't believe anything this administration says unless it can be independently verified.

The instinct to jump into print should have been constrained by the responsibility to check the facts. Instead, The Times found itself used, consciously or not, as a Bush propaganda organ to drum up support for the Iraq war.

Roger Lippman

Published

April 26, 2007

Food safety
Republicans, the media are invited for dinner; hope they like spinach

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Poisoned food for people, pets and livestock is becoming more commonplace these days, and as The Times reports [FDA knew for years of potential problems with spinach, peanut butter, Page One, April 23], it is due to the failed regulatory system that the poisons are getting to the marketplace.

Government policy has been to underfund such regulatory agencies as the Food and Drug Administration, which are supposed to protect us from unsafe food. Instead, safeguarding the food supply is left to growers and manufacturers. One would expect them to have an interest in food safety, but it is obvious that many find it more profitable to deal with the occasional disaster after the fact rather than to do it right from the start.

Better regulation and more inspections will require higher taxes or food prices (though barely noticeable compared with the cost of wars for oil). Certainly, big business, Republicans and the media will complain about “big government.”

Let them eat poisoned spinach.

Roger Lippman

Published

May 16, 2008

Editor, The Seattle Times:

John McCain says "I didn't know when we were going to win World War II; I just knew we were going to win." Now he knows we are going to win in Iraq, by 2013. (Friday's Times.)

He was eight years old, or less, when he knew we were going to win World War II. What a guy!

But it's more likely he would keep our troops in Iraq for a hundred years than get them out in five.

Roger Lippman

Published

August 11, 2019

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Thanks for publishing a Jewish perspective on Israel and Palestine that does not endorse Zionism, the ideology and practice of the ongoing theft of Palestinian land and freedom by the Israeli state. Zionism's violence makes Israel, and the world, less safe for all, including Jews.

Further, Zionism, in its equation of Judaism with Israel's escalating violence against another people, is morally damaging to the Jewish community worldwide.

It would be to the advantage of all parties for Israel to settle the nationhood question equitably with Palestinians. The peace dividend will be enormous.

Roger Lippman

 

July 3, 2020

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The video in Thursday’s report on the police clearing the CHOP [Capitol Hill Organized Protest] zone shows officers filling a room in the retaken precinct house, almost all unmasked, cheering and hugging cheek-to-cheek – including Chief Carmen Best. And now we hear that the police used weapons in the CHOP operation that had been prohibited by a federal judge.

This is the example of leadership shown by one of Mayor Durkan’s top appointees, as the spread of COVID increases? One case of the virus in that room, and the infection could spread throughout the police department and her entire administration. This perhaps puts more people at risk than the entire militarized police campaign against largely peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters.

The mayor should fire the police chief for setting a bad example for public health, reckless endangerment, and use of illegal weapons.

Roger Lippman

 

September 8, 2020

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Money talks. And what it is saying right now, through the city’s insurance providers, is that brutal, out-of-control police, and the city policies that enable them, are too expensive. The Times describes Seattle’s liability risks, which result from unjustifiable police attacks on anti-racism protesters and bystanders. Further liabilities are the result of citizen response to these attacks in the form of property damage, justifiable or not. Unmentioned in the article (except as a slogan on a picket sign) is liability for police murders of Black citizens.

Social change sometimes happens when the cost of the status quo becomes too expensive. It’s time for the mayor to stop obstructing deep police reform and to work cooperatively with the city council. If she can’t see her way to doing it on the grounds of justice, perhaps the price tag on things as they are will get her moving.

Roger Lippman

Published

December 16, 2020

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Danny Westneat says he’s a fan of three state Republican leaders who are not participating in their party’s attempt to illegally overturn the will of the people in the recent election. (State GOP leaders, a responsible group, must rein in party’s reckless agitators)

That’s setting the bar pretty low. Have we reached the point where declining to commit treason is all it takes to be of good character?

On the same page of the paper, it is noted that one of those three, House Minority Leader J.T. Wilcox, spoke against Governor Inslee’s proposal for cleaner automotive fuels. In fact, Wilcox is a usual opponent of effective climate-protection steps.

As Times columnist Jon Talton wrote, the biggest story of last year was climate change, and it will be the biggest story every year for the rest of our lives.

If Mr. Westneat wants to find Republicans to praise, he should look for some who have joined the effort to reduce fossil fuel use, to protect our children and grandchildren from the drastic effects of global warming.

I hope he gets paid extra for working overtime.

Roger Lippman

May 8, 2021

Editor, The Times:

It’s not clear from John Wilcox’s column (While Seattle City Council dithers, thank God for the police, May 8) what he has to complain about. Anarchists marched in the street, and they were surrounded by police, who, he observed, in this case did their job professionally and courteously, preventing property damage. I didn’t see any City Council members out there interfering with the police.

Wilcox invokes the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. King and his supporters, who caused at least as much disruption during anti-racism actions, in their time, as today’s Black Lives Matter activists, let alone some ragged bands of anarchists. Was Wilcox on the march with King’s followers? And what, he leaves the reader wondering, is he doing now, when a renewal of Dr. King’s spirit is emerging so profoundly?

Roger Lippman

April 12, 2022

Editor, The New Yorker:

Harvard professor Steven Pinker, like various other critics of animal rights, is wary of blurring the line between humanity and other animals. It would be interesting to hear some of those critics argue that corporations have more in common with people than elephants do.

I venture to say that more people have been stomped to death by corporate citizens than by large mammals. Which, then, is more like a person?

Roger Lippman

July 5, 2022

Editor, The New Yorker:

Regarding the Republicans enamored of Viktor Orban, Andrew Marantz writes, “North Korea [is] by many measures less free [than Hungary]. But then there are no major political factions trying to make the United States more like North Korea.”

While the Trumpists idolize Orban and his authoritarian accomplishments, we should by no means think that’s where they would stop. For Trump, if he thought more than a couple steps ahead (which is doubtful), Kim Jong Un’s regime would look more like a model. The dictator for whom the ex-President declared his love (when not threatening to wipe Kim’s country off the map), unlike Orban or Putin, already is a hereditary leader. Kim could kill someone on Fifth Avenue, or the local equivalent, and get away with it, as he did with his uncle and brother. What’s not to like for Trump?

Roger Lippman

 

Protest

 

February 20, 1991

If things get bad enough you can bet protests will, too

This letter was in response to columnist Don Hannula’s column that began,
“Another war. Another debate on the precious right of dissent.”

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Another war, another round of calls for “responsible dissent” that stops short of naming the problem and having an effect upon it.

Professor Michael Lerner’s teaching career was indeed destroyed by the way he opposed the Vietnam War. He brought the issues into the classroom and involved his students in the reality, the necessity, of acting against the war – a war that defined an entire generation. (Don Hannula’s column, Feb. 6)

The anti-war movement was the best learning experience of my education. Among other things, it prepared me to understand and oppose the present war.

Perhaps things will be different this time. So far, the opposition to the Gulf War is broad, well-mannered – and, so far, ineffective.

What will happen if the war drags on, costs and casualties mount, the draft is reinstated? What will be the expression of the tragedy of loved ones dying, the fear of being drafted, the anger at the destruction done to innocent civilians in Iraq? Will people tire of the openly acknowledged military censorship of the news and the complicity of the media?

And speaking of complicity, what about our representatives in Congress, who spoke out so boldly until Jan. 16 and then jumped in line? How will people express their frustration with them?

The anti-Vietnam War movement was successful, which is a good reason to look there for lessons. The war tore our society apart (not to mention its effect on Indochina). It was an injustice so powerful that huge segments of this country opposed it in any way they could.

That included militant students and other young people, whose strategy was “Raise the price.” Make the war so expensive, in broken glass, civil disorder, and alienation from established institutions, that it would be too costly for the government to pursue.

If this happens again, it is George Bush who is leading us there. If things get bad enough, people will do what they have to do to put a stop to it. The blame will not rest on the few college professors who have the courage to teach about the most important issue of our time.

Roger Lippman

Published

October 17, 1996

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Your obituary of former assistant attorney general James Wilson [Oct. 16] brings to mind my one encounter with him: his unsuccessful prosecution of me and several other anti-war activists for our participation in a 1969 demonstration at the University of Washington.

He had known my mother many years earlier through membership in the Americans for Democratic Action. During a break in the trial, they recognized each other in the hallway, though he must not have realized she was related to me. He said to her, "Isn't it a shame how kids get to be criminals these days?"

She responded, "I think you are the real criminal."

What more could one ask from a mom?

Roger Lippman


Mom at age 82

December 8, 1999

Editor, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Assistant Police Chief Ed Joiner says (P-I, 12-8-99) that "in a perfect world" the police would have have liked to create "a deserted core where the [WTO] conference took place," shutting that part of the city to everyone else - shoppers, workers, and protesters alike - like they would in a military dictatorship. If anyone should be falling on his own sword after this affair, it would be Joiner, the man who ordered the police to use tear gas and rubber bullets against thousands of non-violent protesters and out-of-luck Capitol Hill residents. If a new police chief is to be chosen from the ranks of the SPD, let's hope it's not someone from Joiner's culture.

Meanwhile, Bill Bryant, a Seattle consultant on international trade, was reported to have said, "If this were run by corporate elites, the trains would have run on time." He should take this obvious allusion to Italian fascism and move to Singapore, where he and Joiner would probably be more appreciated than in Seattle.

These two wishful practitioners of a police state are well in tune with the ethos of the WTO - unelected tribunals serving only corporate interests as they meet in secret to strike down environmental protection and worker safety laws.

Roger Lippman

January 4, 2000

Editor, the Point Reyes Light:

We were delighted to read that another person lives, as we do, in Inverness and Seattle, but we object to John Coney pretending to speak for Seattle or Seattleites. (Guest Column, 12/30/99.) We were there for the WTO protests and Coney is dead wrong on a number of points.

Coney’s portrayal of "tens of thousands … harboring vandals" and "mass vandalism" is more distorted than the worst media accounts. In fact, some 5,000-6,000 peaceful protesters, ourselves included, blocked access to the Paramount Theatre and the Convention Center early in the morning Tuesday, November 30, shutting down the meeting. In the afternoon, tens of thousands (estimates range from 35,000 – 70,000) marched from the Seattle Center to downtown Seattle, and, yes, filled up many streets. All of this was nonviolent and had the air of a huge mobile celebration, with people in costumes, huge puppets, signs, street theater and dance.

Meanwhile, it is well documented that police started tear-gassing nonviolent protesters early in the day. We ourselves were tear-gassed multiple times as we peacefully expressed our anti-WTO views in the streets. People were shot at with hard rubber pellets; police ripped gas masks off people’s heads and squirted pepper spray in their faces. Anyone who experienced what we did or saw the police violence on TV would be reminded of the Chicago police attacks on peaceful demonstrators at the 1968 Democratic convention, albeit in a decaffeinated 90s Seattle version.

It’s amusing that Coney is upset that "even Bill Ruckelshaus, former EPA administrator, was tear-gassed." And what, we might ask, was Mr. Ruckelshaus doing there? Not protesting the anti-environmental actions of the WTO, that’s for sure. The high-ranking executive of Weyerhauser was undoubtedly there to advocate for the proposed "Free Logging Agreement," which would accelerate elimination of all tariffs on wood products worldwide, leading to a significant decrease in environmental protection for forests. The people who bring us deforestation here in Ecotopia will be empowered to do the same in Chile, etc.

Where Coney gets his assertion that police were given misinformation by organizers is a mystery to us. While the police didn’t know the specifics of how each affinity group would block its corner (no one knew all the plans), the goal of the morning activities, organized through the Direct Action Network, was to shut down the WTO. This had been announced publicly, and the start time and location for the morning direct action were printed in the Seattle Times along with the rest of the day’s schedule for the official and protest meetings!

What Coney describes as "mass vandalism" amounts to windows being broken in a few chain stores. While the property destruction was unnecessary and unfortunate, diverting attention from the important issues about the WTO, it’s wrong to use these few incidents to characterize the entire event.

Coney urges demonstrators to "learn how to send their messages through the American party system and the processes of democracy." The American party system brought us NAFTA and the WTO, with Congress adopting them despite massive public opposition. The Seattle protests put before the whole world the defects of the WTO that Coney enumerates. As we chanted in Seattle, "This is what democracy looks like!" How is peaceful protest not a process of democracy?

We experienced the strength of environmental, labor, and pro-democracy forces when they unite to speak out forcefully in the tradition of movements of the past four decades. And we Seattleites couldn’t take on the whole World Trade Organization by ourselves. That’s why we were honored and pleased to have the company of thousands of others from the Bay Area and at least six continents. Should the powers that be of West Marin ever do something as foolhardy as Seattle’s leaders did, and invite the enemy of all progress to convene here, we hope that the good people of Seattle will return the favor and help us shut down the town.

Rae Levine and Roger Lippman
Inverness, CA

Published

 

 

Media

April 3, 1986

Philippines Report - Now We Get the Truth About Marcos, but Not Whole Truth

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Each day I am astonished at the great extent to which the truth is being told about events in the Philippines - at least, that portion of the truth which does not implicate U.S. government and business in Marcos' many years of plunder and oppression.

When previously have the "security forces" of a pro-U.S. dictator been regularly referred to in these pages as goons and assassins? How about 1984 in El Salvador, on the occasion of that country's rigged election? Not exactly. Maybe in reference to Turkey, South Korea, or Guatemala? Nooooo. It is unfortunate that the media have to wait for the Reagan administration's approval before energetically reporting on the crimes of a U.S. ally. After things settle down in Manila, how about dispatching (Times reporter) Dick Clever with investigative carte blanche to Chile?

Roger Lippman

Published

December 15, 1993

Editor, The New Yorker:

When I was in high school in Sacramento and following state politics closely, Robert Monagan, a young, attractive Republican from Tracy, was elected to the State Assembly. He rose quickly to become GOP leader in that body, and his upward momentum carried him to a significant role, possibly not culpable, in Nixon's felonious re-election campaign.

Of course it was all downhill for much of the gang after that episode. Monagan is now known primarily as the eponym of a brief stretch of Interstate highway that carries the less fortunate through Tracy on their way to Stockton, presently the per capita murder capital of the U.S.

None of this is very interesting, but who knows what your fact checkers might have uncovered had they been on their toes when reviewing your December 13 article on the recent Ed Rollins affair. They missed the fact that Monagan's name was misspelled repeatedly, by the distinguished Sidney Blumenthal, no less. At least we know that the author doesn't drive to Stockton very often.

Roger Lippman

May 21, 1997

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The Times has devoted substantial space to recent dramatic revelations of the thoroughgoing brutality and greed of the Mobutu regime, which had plunged a nation rich in resources into poverty worse than existed under colonialism. There has even been the occasional acknowledgement that it was U.S. policy and money that helped create and maintain Mobutu's dictatorship. But precious little of this was reported during his 30-plus years of kleptocracy.

The critical time to report on such regimes is while they are in power. That information could perhaps have had an impact on persistent, repeated U.S. government and corporate support for Mobutu. Meanwhile, militaristic dictatorships continue in power in countries such as Indonesia. A little more light shed on those governments and the U.S. role in maintaining them - and profiting from them - would be most welcome.

Roger Lippman

April 25, 1998

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Today, curiously, I received the Times Eastside Edition, even though I live in central Seattle. I tried to remain calm and read it anyway. However, on page 4, I found the headline "Chilean president reports big victory against guerrillas." The story related how President Alberto Fujimori claimed a major victory against Peru's Shining Path.

They may believe this stuff in Bellevue, but I remain unconvinced that Fujimori is president of Chile.

Roger Lippman

August 4,1998

Editor, The Seattle Times:

I am astounded that in the lead sentence of the main front page story, you print the statement that "U.S. Marines invaded [Grenada] to oust Cuban forces" in 1983. (Times, August 3, from a Washington Post report.)

Not even Ronald Reagan, in the depths of his anti-communist delirium, claimed that as his justification for military intervention in Grenada. As the story gets around to explaining, the ostensible purpose of the invasion was to protect the U.S. medical students in Grenada.

A little more attention to accuracy on the part of your editors is in order. Mindlessly reprinting dispatches from other papers is not quality journalism.

Roger Lippman

June 14, 2020

Sports editor, The Seattle Times:

It was interesting to read the Times Sports Moment bracket this morning, but the listings have some glaring omissions. In what sport have Seattle teams won more championships than in any other? Where do Seattle teams own most of the sport’s records? Hydroplane racing, of course.

Slo-Mo-Shun IV’s 1950 world mile speed record, followed by five straight Stan Sayres Gold Cup victories, would be my top pick. Or, if you want a single instance, how about Mark Evans’ flip-and-win?

After that faux pas is corrected, there are a couple other feats that should be in the top rankings: Seattle U defeating the Harlem Globetrotters, and the one-eyed Husky quarterback as Rose Bowl MVP twice in a row – first time ever.

Roger Lippman

September 1, 2020

Dear Seattle Times editors,

This letter is addressed to whoever edited (and also to that editor’s supervisors) yesterday’s article “‘Lives are at stake’: Killing of Patriot Prayer supporter amid protests leaves Portland reeling,” by distinguished reporter Hal Bernton.

The on-line version uses the phrase “left-wing militants,” but in the print version (on page 6) that was twice replaced by “left-wing extremists.” Given that the on-line version is time-stamped August 30, 8:32 PM, presumably well before the paper edition was composed and printed, it appears that the author’s original wording was changed by Times office editors.

The editor’s choice of wording is ill-advised, especially given that the violent right-wing, pro-Trump participants are not ever characterized as “extremist” in the article.

I request a printed retraction, correction, and apology for this editorial intervention.

Here is my suggested wording for your notice, which you may wish to edit as appropriate:

In the article “‘Lives are at stake’: Killing of Patriot Prayer supporter amid protests leaves Portland reeling” (August 31, pages 1 and 6), the reporter’s phrase “left-wing militants,” describing anti-Trump, anti-racist protestors in Portland, was twice changed by Times editors to “left-wing extremists.” The Times regrets this change. We believe that our prior reporting demonstrates that it is not the position of the Times that the numerous citizens who proclaim that Black lives matter are extremists. Nor is it the Times position that protests against Trump’s record of endorsement of right-wing, racist, neo-Nazi groups should be viewed as extremist.

The unauthorized changes to the article were made by an assistant editor who has been found to be part of a neo-Nazi sleeper cell attempting to infiltrate the Times. Needless to say, that person’s employment has been terminated by the Times.

I look forward to your reply and explanation.

Roger Lippman

No response!

July 12, 2021

Editor, The New Yorker,

The first I ever heard of Sun Ra (and, frankly, just about the last time until this month) was late in the 1960s, when his name appeared on the tally of votes for student body president of Reed College.

Like the US Constitution, which does not specify that the Speaker of the House must be an elected representative, Reed’s governing papers are silent on the question of whether the student officers shall be enrolled in the college in good standing.

But no matter. Mr. Ra polled in the very low single digits among the write-ins, within a poetic list of the comparably creative but obscure.

Roger Lippman

 

 


Miscellaneous

September 25, 1989

Exxon Card Center
Houston, TX

Hello,

Thank you for sending me a new Exxon credit card. This gives me another opportunity to tell you that I won't be needing it. I will not be purchasing any more Exxon products until you have cleaned up the oil spill in Alaska, returning the environment to its previous condition, and also taken steps to insure that your company will never again be responsible for an oil spill.

I am returning my card, in two convenient pieces.

Roger Lippman

enclosures (2)

August 2, 1990

Editor, The Seattle Times,

Yesterday's op-ed piece on the Blue Angels clearly covered the multitude of reasons why the annual air show is offensive to many Seattleites.

It was interesting to learn from the sports pages of the same day that hydroplane testing on Saturday is precluded by noise regulations. Of course, these same noise regulations do not apply to air traffic because it is under the jurisdiction of the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has long made clear its disregard of local noise regulations by routing loud, low-flying commercial jets over residential neighborhoods such as mine near central Lake Washington.

Seafair seems to be a law unto itself as well. Before next year, people should pressure the city to force Seafair to reduce or eliminate the impact of the Blue Angels.

Meanwhile, we are subjected again this year to the anachronistic behavior of the Blue Angels, which makes half of Seattle feel like Vietnam under Nixon's siege.

Roger Lippman


April 12, 1991

To: Ron Sims, King County Councilmember

Dear Mr. Sims:

I read in the Seattle Times of April 11 that Councilmember Kent Pullen is proposing to buy a helicopter for the King County Police so that they can conduct a drug war on King County citizens from the air. I certainly hope you are not supporting this crazy scheme.

The Sheriff plans to equip it with “infrared devices that can track heat sources such as lights used to grow marijuana.” Can you imagine the likelihood of mistaken identification of heat sources in people’s homes, and the resulting police crashing through people’s doors while a helicopter hovers overhead? I don’t think this is the kind of protection the people of King County want or need.

The skies of the City of Seattle became much more peaceful sometime in the mid-Seventies after the Seattle police helicopter crashed while looking for marijuana growing in the Arboretum, and the City Council was so annoyed that it refused to pay for another one.

I encourage you to oppose the proposal for a county police helicopter. Please let me know your position on this issue.

Roger Lippman

No response!

April 21, 1991

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The Times (April 8) reports that major traffic and parking problems are expected from the new sports arena next to the Kingdome. But wait! The city of Seattle is still dripping with yellow ribbons and American flags that proclaim, “I’m proud that (someone other than me) fought a war so I’ll have enough cheap gasoline to drive to a ball game in a mostly empty car.”

Well, it doesn’t look like that will work much longer. Instead of locking ourselves into ever-worsening traffic and future military expeditions to guarantee cheap oil, I propose the following:

1. Parking lots at the Kingdome and arena shall be used by buses only. Design the parking lot at the new arena with this in mind.

2. Limit parking within a mile of the stadium to two hours during events, thus preventing game-goers from parking on the streets nearby. (Sounds harsh? This is essentially the situation around Husky Stadium on game days.) Also impose a special tax on event parking in parking lots in the area, with a possible exception for carpools.

3. Vastly improve public transportation to the stadium for events. Get Metro to coordinate with stadium schedulers. Run shuttles from various parts of town and the suburbs. Make them cheap enough that people will actually use them. And get the private sector involved by encouraging espresso carts at each Metro staging area.

Roger Lippman

April 23, 1992

Let’s hope students learned about political compromise [Not exactly my point.]

 Editor, The Seattle Times:

It was heartening to read about young students encouraging the state Legislature to ban non-biodegradable balloons that can kill animals that eat them. (The Times, April 18)

The ban passed the House but died in the Senate, and the reporter notes that the students learned something about the political process in the bargain.

Let’s hope that they learned the meaning of “pro-business,” a euphemism commonly heard these days. Usually it means “Republican,” or sometimes “pro-business Democrat,” as in “Paul Tsongas.”

What it really means is, we’re more interested in a company’s right to make a profit than we are in the well-being of the Earth and its inhabitants. And we are so reflexively in favor of the former that we can’t even visualize a compromise to allow both.

If students can learn that lesson in elementary school, there may be a chance for democracy.

And it the Times reporter had bothered to identify the senators who killed the bill, those of us who are already voting could remember to do something about it as the next election.

Roger Lippman, Seattle

Published

August 21, 1992

Councilmember Cheryl Chow
Chair, Parks Committee
Municipal Building
Seattle, WA 98104

Dear Councilmember Chow:

I imagine you have noticed the growing number of critical articles and letters appearing in the newspapers at Seafair time each year, regarding the appearance in Seattle of the Blue Angels. While I enjoy many Seafair activities and even admit to a certain fascination with the Blue Angels, I object to their annual appearance for several reasons, including:

Noise. These planes terrify children, animals, even adults who live or work right under their flight path, which in places is quite low.

Pollution. According to an article in the Times a couple years ago, the planes use 45,000 gallons of jet fuel, plus 1,800 gallons of paraffin smoke oil. The exhaust and smoke fumes are so thick that they linger over Lake Washington.

Expense. An average Blue Angels show costs the Navy over $185,000. This is our tax dollars at work. Plus, Seafair, Inc. kicked in $12,000 for this year's show.

Militarism. Certainly by now, this overt display of aggressive military capability is out of date and has no place as a centerpiece of a major civic celebration.

As I understand it, the Seafair organization requires a number of permits from the City to put on the annual festivities. As these permits are negotiated for next year's Seafair, I urge that the Parks Department pressure Seafair to at least reduce the frequency of the Blue Angels performances. Maybe if we had a year's respite from the planes, people would realize we can get along quite well without them. Judging by the commentaries in the newspaper, I think you will get a lot of public support for taking some action.

Please let me know your feelings about this issue.

Roger Lippman

cc: Mayor Norm Rice
Vic Embry, Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation

No response!

December 3, 1995

Editor, The Seattle Times:

The Times, reporting that the Blue Angels may return to Seattle next summer, states that "Although the Blue Angels have never had an accident at Seafair, fatal air-show accidents have happened elsewhere." [12-3-95]

The article fails to note that one of those fatal accidents happened right outside Seattle. In April 1962, one of the Air Force Thunderbirds crashed within a mile of my childhood home, killing two elderly residents. This plane had been on an air-show route over Lake Washington, but after a mechanical problem, it unexpectedly shifted course and destroyed two homes upon impact.

I am among hundreds of residents who had been terrorized annually by these planes flying within 100 feet of my house at hundreds of miles per hour.

This year, Seattle residents were able to more fully enjoy the rest of Seafair's activities without the Blue Angels.

The Blue Angels are objectionable for several reasons, including:

Noise. These planes terrify children, animals, even adults who live or work under their flight path, which in places is quite low.

Pollution. According to an article in the Times a few years ago, the planes use 45,000 gallons of jet fuel, plus 1,800 gallons of paraffin smoke oil. The exhaust and smoke fumes were so thick that they lingered over Lake Washington.

Expense. An average Blue Angels show costs the Navy over $185,000. This is our tax dollars at work. Seafair, Inc. kicked in an additional $12,000 for a recent show.

Militarism. Certainly by now, this overt display of aggressive military capability is out of date and has no place as a centerpiece of a major civic celebration.

Roger Lippman

March 18,1996

Editor, The Seattle Times:

A county consultant recommends that the Kingdome not allow fans to bring in their own food and drink. (Times, March 17) This will compel people to buy more of the low-quality, overpriced concession food that, we now learn, is hazardous to our health due to negligence on the part of the concessionaire. Is this the purpose of County government?

Instead, why not allow a variety of concessionaires, each trying to outdo the next in quality food and reasonable pricing? Then maybe people would want to buy the food.

Roger Lippman

January 2, 1999

Editor, The San Francisco Chronicle:

Your reporter David Abel (Chronicle, January 1) went to Cuba and managed to find some things wrong. Surprise. After 40 continuous years of U.S. economic, political, and/or military aggression against Cuba, no wonder there are problems there. An interesting report might have looked at the Cuban standard of living, compared it favorably with other poor Caribbean nations, and gone on to consider how things would be if Cuba were left alone by its powerful neighbor, or even encouraged in its independent experiment.

The reporter was so determined not to acknowledge the positive accomplishments of the Cuban revolution that he seems to have forgotten how to string a sentence together.

     "Once a crime that brought time in jail, now Cubans can barely survive without using dollars."

Hello? Do you still have copy editors there at the Chronicle?

Roger Lippman

July 3, 1999

If the FBI wants its bug, maybe we can make a deal

Editor, The Seattle Times:

I read with interest your June 20 article on electronic tracking devices and their possible application to humans, pets, and vehicles. (“Implanted microchip? Futuristic tracking idea might be on track.”)

While the FBI, characteristically, declines to comment on whether it would use such devices, it has been using them on vehicles for many years.

In the early 1970s, a friend who traveled in leftist circles found an electronic tracking device attached inside his car’s fender. He took the bug apart and gave it to me.

Soon after the device stopped transmitting, the FBI visited my friend to demand its return. Ironically, the car had a blown engine and had not moved since the device was attached.

If the FBI still wants its bug back, perhaps we can make a deal. It’s around here somewhere.

Roger Lippman

Published

October 13, 1999

Editor, The San Francisco Bay Guardian:

How interesting it is to read that San Francisco is about to spend most of a million dollars for an electronic tracking system, so riders can know when the next bus is coming. In Seattle we have a different method. Believe it or not, the buses run on a schedule, which is posted at most bus stops.

This high-tech solution costs next to nothing, and anybody with a state-of-the-art wristwatch can know when the next bus will arrive.

If that tempts you to move here, don't forget that it rains all the time.

Roger Lippman
Seattle

January 2001

Great Timing

Editor, San Francisco Chronicle Magazine:

It's pretty funny that Stewart Brand and friends built a 10,000-year clock that rang in the new millennium a year early (Chronicle, December 31, 2000). If you're going to blunder, there's nothing like preserving your screwup for a hundred centuries of posterity. Even the funny papers now recognize that the millennium actually starts this year.

It's not unlike the recent presidential election. Lots of people are pretending that Bush was elected, but within the year it will be obvious to all that Gore won Florida and the electoral vote.

Roger Lippman

Published

January 19, 2009

NEWSPAPERS

Editor, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

In the January 18 P-I, State Sen. Jim McDermott bemoans the "dire straights of the newspaper business." Maybe he'd feel better if he read The Stranger.

Roger Lippman

Published

January 11, 2010

Growing Up Distracted

Editor, The New York Times

Re: “Old Fogies by Their 20s” (Week in Review, Jan. 10):

“I worry that young people won’t be able to summon the capacity to focus and concentrate when they need to,” an official of the Kaiser Family Foundation was quoted in the article as saying, referring to the technology habits of younger generations.

I can just imagine flying in an airplane, in 20 years or so, and the pilots would be so engrossed with electronic toys, and so incapable of multitasking, that they might not even notice if we missed our destination by 150 miles.

But that could never happen.

Roger Lippman, Seattle

Published (January 21, 2010)

 What I described in the second paragraph had just happened.

September 2013

They Said I Was a Communist

Editor, Reed Magazine:

Chris Lydgate’s absorbing article about the invention of a new sign language by Nicaraguan children is marred by a flawed assumption. He refers to the Sandinista government of Nicaragua as a “Communist regime.”

Maybe he picked this up from U.S. government officials, like Ronald Reagan and Jesse Helms, but the Sandinista government was not avowedly Communist, nor was it considered so by informed observers. Among those observers I include thousands of North American volunteers, such as myself, who went to Nicaragua after the 1979 revolution to share our skills and assist with the sort of humanitarian development that had been so lacking under the Somoza dictatorship. (I worked on a rural solar electrification project, along with comrades of the Portland engineer Ben Linder, who was killed by the Reagan-funded contras.)

For us “Sandalistas” and for so many of the Nicaraguans we worked alongside, the greatness of the Sandinista revolution was that its leaders and millions of participants applied the resources of the country to improving the lives of its citizens. It is distressing that some, who are perhaps unfamiliar with the events there, categorize that revolution with the disparaging language used by those who murderously worked to destroy progress in Nicaragua.

Roger Lippman

Published

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yikes! Thanks for sorting the leftists from the rightists.


Roger preparing a solar panel for installation in a remote Nicaraguan community, 1988

March 29, 2020

Editor, The New YorkTimes:

Strange as it may seem – especially to those who weren’t around when Ronald Reagan mishandled the AIDS epidemic – the COVID-19 virus outbreak has become a partisan political issue. But nothing should surprise us with Bizarro-man as President. His fragile, oversized ego will not allow him to admit that from the beginning he bungled his responsibility to promote the general welfare. Rather, he was and remains more interested in protecting certain economic interests. Only the reality check of a friend in the hospital has kept him from sending us out to Easter services, which would of course worsen the epidemic exponentially. What part of infectious disease does he not understand?

Incredibly, Trump’s cult-like followers erupt on Twitter, suspicious of the nation’s leading public-health officer because he takes his job seriously. Imagine the amount of self-control required on the part of Dr. Fauci to do nothing more provocative than bury his head in his hand when forced to stand there listening to Trump’s daily delusions. Get ready for those among his “base” whose conceptual abilities, like Trump’s, are limited to 280 characters, to discover that Fauci was tied up with Hillary Clinton’s child-sacrifice ring beneath a pizza parlor. And the governors who want people to go about their normal business? Truly a basket of deplorables.

Roger Lippman

May 22, 2020

Editor, The New Yorker:

A hundred years ago, as related in these pages last November, Booth Tarkington, having been placed on a New York Times list of the greatest contemporary men, declared, “you can’t say who are the 10 greatest with any more authority than you can say who are the 13 damndest fools.”

The cultural evolution we have seen in recent years has changed all that. It is now possible to compile a highly accurate list of the damndest fools. It would be composed of those who, following the exhortations of the loudest sociopath in the neighborhood, drink poison or pop dangerous pills to protect themselves against a disease they do not have. Ironically, it worked for them, because they are now dead.

This is as good an example as any of what Adam Gopnik once declared to be “the intractable power of pure stupidity,” though I suppose that death from pure stupidity makes its power somewhat more tractable.

Of course, the list of 13 has plenty of room for expansion these days. That would start with the Republican officials who have sold what might have passed as their souls to Trump when they at one time knew better. Next will be those leftists who, finding Biden not a pure enough alternative to the fascist danger, will sit this one out. Remember “There’s no difference between Bush and Gore”? We’re still paying for that one. Only this time, the stakes are even higher. Privileged white boys may not get that, but I hope everyone else will.

Roger Lippman

 

August 24, 2020

Editor, The Seattle Times,

In his latest uninformed political interference, Trump accused the Food and Drug Administration of “impeding enrollment in clinical trials” for coronavirus vaccines. (Times, August 23.)

I suggest a compromise that should satisfy everyone. Let’s have all White House senior staff, from the president on down, along with Trump’s Republican Congressional supporters, enroll in clinical trials for these vaccines, which are as-yet not proven safe or effective.

If it works, great! Trump will have actually done something useful. If it doesn’t work and there is no protection, or there are harmful side-effects, so it goes. Back to the drawing board – perhaps with less interference.

Meanwhile, all those Trump sycophants who think they know better than the scientists could take a good swig of oleandrin, the extract of a highly toxic plant lately favored by Trump. Better than bleach – it’s organic!

Roger Lippman

March 14, 2021

Trevor Noah, The Daily Show:

After Nixon's abdication, Jules Feiffer observed, "Nothing happened today ... nothing happened yesterday ... nothing has happened for WEEKS now." We're there once more, it's comforting to observe, and it's bad news only for reporters and satirists. Take a few weeks off, Trevor, and come back when Trump is indicted and things get interesting again. Meanwhile, don't dissipate your creativity and squander your following by being reduced to talking about Biden taking a piss.

Roger Lippman

September 2, 2021

Editor, The Seattle Times:

Re: Washington Ferries cruise toward rocky Labor Day
“Rumors abound that some workers might skip holiday shifts to protest mandatory vaccinations.”

That is, to protect their right to get sick.

Roger Lippman

 

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