Saturday, March 19, 2011

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...

As French and American planes (in that order) attack targets within Libya, we are left to wonder if our nation is at war with yet a third country in the Middle East.  When intelligent, articulate, well-informed observers like The Nation’s Chris Hayes and The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson wonder about this question on the Rachel Maddow Show, [Here] we know that we are at the mercy of the spin doctors from the right and left.

At the same time, President Obama and family left for a state visit to Brazil, Chile, and El Salvador.  Yes, our relations with Brazil are reputed to be a mite frayed and it is always wise to repair tangled threads but...  Has anyone noticed that there are a few other things going on in the world?  And is it always a good idea to build state visits around two school children’s school calendars?  (Yes, Sidwell Friends began their Spring break last Thursday.  [Here]  (What a heavy responsibility for whoever draws up that school’s calendar.  I made the school calendar in my school for a quarter of a century but I never had to take into account the travel plans of the leader of the free world.)
I suspect it will be a relief to the President to be away from the White House for a few days, although I must admit he has taken the horrific news from Japan and now the Middle East with great ease.  (Could we also add with a certain coolness?)  He’ll be hailed and cheered in Brazil and Chile and the visit will be dubbed a great success.  How many new jobs will be created in Small Town America as a result of the trip is a question, but I guarantee there will be big smiles all around.  I also guarantee there will be Big Talk about creating new “trading partners.”  Would someone please explain to me exactly what that means?  It certainly sounds cozy, doesn’t it?
Let us hope that the Libyan crisis and all the stunning fashion shots of the first family during their South American trip/vacation, will not shift our attention away from the nuclear issues that the Japanese tragedy has forced us to think about.  The New Yorker’s excellent Elizabeth Kolbert has treated us to a brief history of our nuclear power industry and some of the inherent problems in making the industry safe from natural disasters and even terrorists. [Here]  Kolbert reminds us of the safety concerns at the nuclear plant at Indian Point.  The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has required that all plants draw up an emergency evacuation plan for everyone living within a 10-mile circle around every plant.  The only problems is that more than 300,000 people live within the circumference around the Indian Point plant and twenty million within fifty miles of the facility.  
As Kolbert wrote: [Here]
As the disaster in Japan illustrates, so starkly and so tragically, people have a hard time planning for events that they don’t want to imagine happening. But these are precisely the events that must be taken into account in a realistic assessment of risk. We’ve more or less pretended that our nuclear plants are safe, and so far we have got away with it. The Japanese have not. 
Meanwhile, N.Y.’s Governor Andrew Cuomo [Here] has called into question the safety of the Indian Point facility and will meet with federal regulators early next week.  How sensible and intelligent of him, although he has no alternative to Indian Point to suggest as a source of power.  
In any case, it’s a start and it’s certainly better than skipping town during your kids’ Spring break when things get hot.

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