Weekly Letter to President Obama
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INAUGURATION,   January 20, 2009

Drunk in its stale air
For two hundred years.
Fettered in mind and body,
The soul, the safe escape

To let me breathe the cries
Of my heart singing
Tears of mel-an-choly.

The tears flow free today
Washing the stains of blood
And sweat in brotherhood.

Raise the curtain then an'
Let the world look in
On this promised land --
We breathe free today.... almost.

--- Arshad M. Khan
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.
---  Native American proverb
March 18, 2011

Mr. President:  The noted realist political thinker, John Mearsheimer has
authored a new book "Why Leaders Lie".  It has some unexpected findings.  
Leaders lie not so much in international discourse as in talking to their own
people.  The reason is simple:  successful lies require trust and there is
none in the nasty game of international politics.

Two events this week brought the book to mind.  First, after the UN Security
Council voted for the "no-fly zone" in Libya, the Libyan Foreign Minister
promptly announced a cease-fire.  The declaration was met with universal
skepticism, which was proven right within a matter of hours.

On the domestic front, there is much concern about the state of U.S. nuclear
power plants following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.  You, Sir, have
assured the people they are safe.  The intent is to dispel any kind of panic,
and would be a "noble lie" according to Mearsheimer if behind the scenes,
the rules are tightened up for the industry.

Just one week ago, the Japanese nuclear power industry would have been
considered the safest in the world.  It all changed in the space of thirty very
short minutes.  Now plans for two new stations have been shelved, and
Fukushima is on a knife-edge between catastrophe and containment.

The Japanese plant went through a scenario termed blackout; that is, when
all electric power is lost.  The backups are diesel-generators, which kick in
automatically to provide emergency power and run the cooling pumps, and
also batteries to be used if the diesel generators fail.  In Japan, the massive
earthquake and tsunami destroyed the power system over a wide swath of
the country and the water put the diesels out of commission.  The batteries
lasted eight hours much more than the reserve at many U.S. stations.  Now
here is a case in point.  The Riverbend plant in Louisiana was determined in
a test to have a 86.5% chance of a blackout under certain conditions.

There are 104 nuclear plants in the U.S. of which 23 contain the same Mark 1
GE reactor as at Fukushima, and dozens more with slight modifications.  
Many were planned for a twenty-year life but have now been running for
forty and more years.  When the NRC started shutting reactors down for
safety violations, the owners complained to Congress who promptly
threatened to cut NRC funding by 40% unless they eased off.  They did.

A final note Mr. President.  One of these rickety plants with the same type of
reactor as at Fukushima is located sixty miles north of your home in Chicago.