22 January 2009

Hope and Concern

Let us hope that Barack Obama has become and will remain a powerful symbol in the minds of urban youth that if you go to school and work hard, you just might make it. You might even become President. If that is the major change wrought by the Obama Administration, it will be change enough.

On the other hand, Obama has already moved to change things. He's closing GTMO, which has become a public relations disaster for the US. But what will we do with the 250 remaining detainees? Even if we manage to repatriate the 60 we want to send back to their countries of origin, there are 80 that the CIA says are really bad guys but that there is not "enough evidence" to try them in US courts. That could be code for "if we put them on trial a bunch of classified information might get put into the public record." The kind of information the CIA is skittish about because it might reveal what they call "sources and methods."

And that still leaves 110 bad guys who could be tried and presumably convicted, and then what? Do we have the will to keep these SOBs in solitary confinement for the rest of their lives so that they can't recruit other convicts to their cause while they're in prison? It's not as is we haven't had home-grown Islamofascist terrorism before.

Then there is the next big round of bailout money. Which, given the relentless politicization of the Washington crowd, will be misspent either all or in part. But that's not so bad. What bothers me is that it will be spent in the absence of a viable economic model that predicts the effects of the expenditure. It's like the scene at the end of the Wizard of Oz, when the Wizard boards a ballon whose mooring rope is loosed prematurely. When Dorothy shouts for him to come back, he shouts back, "I can't! I don't know how it works!"

Once all that taxpayer money has flown away, we won't be able to get it back, because nobody really knows how the economy works. My concern is that we will have set in motion the chain of events that leads China to world hegemony and makes the US an also ran. You can bet that China will not be as benign a hegemon as the US.

Finally there was the "all hands meeting" that our new Secretary of Energy, Steve Chu, held today, which was broadcast throughout the DOE complex. He didn't have much to say about the National Nuclear Security Agency, much less the future of nuclear deterrence and nuclear forensics, or even next-generation nuclear power that doesn't require enrichment. He might be a Nobel prize winning physicist and a brilliant administrator, but it looks like there is a gap in his awareness thus far.

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