Sunday, January 25, 2009

Taliban grip expands in Pakistan

The Taliban may have in rough in Afghanistan but it looks like they may be on the way to becoming a major power in Pakistan proper. If they do, the war in Afghanistan could only be a prelude.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Spirit

One of the things that marks history-making leaders is how their leadership transcends the person themselves. In the history of war it comes to people like Cyrus, Alexander, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon. There seems to be something more present than just a supremely capable commander. The people who follow place a faith in that commander that gives a spirit to the troops beyond what is possible by a mere man. In war this spirit can make the numbers of the opposition meaningless.

The recent event of the absolutely peaceful gathering of 1.2 million people on the Washington Mall makes evident to me that a similar has happened to the person of Barack Obama. He has come to embody the power beyond his frame to contain the hope and faith of both folks who have struggled for generations and a new generation for whom the struggles are yet to come.

It is my prayer and hope that Barack and the people with whom he surrounds himself are sufficiently competent for this enormous load. And it is also my prayer and hope that we, the people, can recognize the limits of what one man can do. We need to individually respond to that Obama Spirit in ways that indeed make the incredible obstacles before us surmountable in the end.

Remember, Barack will be nothing but a footnote in history without the support of our own personal, individual energy and resources.

Fragile Food Supplies

Industrialization Of China Increases Fragility Of Global Food Supply:
"Experts predict that if China's recent urbanisation trends continue, and the country imports just 5% more of its grain, the entire world's grain export would be swallowed whole.

The knock-on effect on the food supply - and on prices - to developing nations could be huge."

TCH Report of our Inaugural Party

from Tri-Citians toast historic day (w/ video)

"I've never seen this many Democrats in one place in this county," joked David Chassin of Pasco while trying to squeeze through a crowd gathered at the Shilo Inn.

"They're not all Democrats," said Lyle Wilhelmi, 82, of Richland, who admitted he voted Republican lots of times years ago before moving from Oregon to the Tri-Cities. "I think some of them are Republican spies," he suggested.

But everyone there was focused on the 44th president.

Carol Moser, former member of the Richland City Council, led a toast for the crowd.

"This turnout is beyond our wildest expectations," she said.

Nathan Reyes of West Richland said he "woke up this morning feeling blessed (to have) an intelligent man as president who is going to fix our economy and everything that's crumbling under us."

Reyes' wife, Michelle, said she was encouraged by Obama's inaugural speech in which he called for Americans to work together regardless of color, creed, religion or politics.

"He wants to get us to a destination of change as a pragmatist," said Nathan Reyes' brother, Fitzgerald.

Arielle Eaton, 11, of West Richland, said she likes having a black president. "It's cool, and it's cool he's a dad because his kids get to live in the White House," she said.

Joel Staudinger, 11, of Pasco, said the new president is a good choice. "It's very good. He can turn the country around economically," he said.

"I think he's an organizer. He doesn't pretend to know everything, but he gets people together who do know," Wilhelmi said.

Michelle Reyes said President Obama offers change. "It won't be overnight, but it will be for the good. That's what I look forward to."

* John Trumbo: 509-582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald. com.

Mass Transit Convert

I have a long-time friend who works for Boeing in Seattle. He has driven the freeways to work for about 30 years. I now hear that he is riding the Sounder and he loves it! Instead of having to burn his time driving he has over an hour each day in which he can do whatever he wants be it reading, napping, or cruising the web.

The Video

The Address

My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.

The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life. For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn. Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake.

And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more. Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Appearance of Evil

California has laws that require organizations that contribute to political causes to disclose those contributions. But as long as the Mormon Church hides the level of both monetary and in-kind contributions to the Prop 8 campaign it is disobeying the laws of the state. So where is the moral high-ground in flouting the law?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Areva and Eagle Rock

The new enrichment plant in Idaho Falls moves forward with the filing of an application for a combined construction and operating license.

The Reality of Torture

Dan Froomkin writes about the confessions of a growing number of Bush (hswib) administration officials that, Yes, we tortured. The irony of it all is that torturing was such a bad idea that there is no way to prosecute any of the prisoners who may actually be guilty of terrorism.

Dahlia Lithwick and Phillipe Sands provide excellent insight as usual.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Bush (HSWIB)

Back years ago when I started this blog I was so horrified by the actions of George Bush and his administration I could not stand to hear his voice on his radio or even speak or write his name. I missed the beginning of countless news stories because I would shut the radio or TV off whenever he spoke or appeared. In order to write about him I chose to append a negative honorific to his name. HSWIB is short for hands-stained-with-innocent-blood.

Thankfully we won't have him at the helm of the ship of state much longer. It's my fondest hope that he disappears into oblivion. And I hope I will never need to use his name again. Soon I should be able to write "Bush (hswib)" for the last time.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Toward a Thorium Economy

David Walters has an excellent article in Daily Kos about using thorium in future nuclear reactors.