Wednesday, September 29, 2010

NASA and NSF-Funded Research Finds First Potentially Habitable Exoplanet

A team of planet hunters from the University of California (UC) Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington has announced the discovery of a planet with three times the mass of Earth orbiting a nearby star at a distance that places it squarely in the middle of the star's "habitable zone." 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Revisiting Past Glories

With the mid-term elections coming up, a lot is being said about the Obama Administration and its effectiveness in dealing with a myriad of issues facing the country. Although the economy and jobs are central to the current debate, Iraq and Afghanistan are still at the forefront of hard problems yet to be satisfactorily resolved.


I think it's important for thoughtful Americans to understand some background on these military adventures.

One of the most devastating accounts of that fiasco was the book by that title, Fiasco, the American Military Adventure in Iraq, by Thomas Ricks. The planning for and execution of the early stages of that war were abysmal. Much of the problem seems to have been with Pentagon planners eager to satisfy the White House -- Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld -- who were determined to present the coming war in as rosy a picture as possible -- quick and easy. Ricks states that under Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith, the Pentagon concocted "the worst war plan in American history," with insufficient troops and no thought for the invasion's aftermath. Anyone who keeps up with developments in Iraq knows this now, but Rick's book was published in 2006 and at the time, caused no little controversy. Bob Woodward's books, Bush at War, and Plan of Attack, provided interesting insights into the Bush White House's "seat of pants" approach to critical national defense issues, although Woodward's writing style is somewhat wooden, especially in comparison with Rick's.
I just finished reading, Where Men Win Glory, the Odyssey of Pat Tillman. I had to stop reading it at night before bed, because the story of how the Bush Administration and the Pentagon betrayed an honorable, heroic man made me so angry and upset I could not sleep. Most people probably know by now that Tillman was killed by the men in his own platoon; an event termed "friendly fire" by the military -- an oxymoron if there ever was one. But few people know the full story of how first the Army, and then the Bush White House, went to great extremes to keep the public, and even the Tillman family in the dark about what really happened. The actions of the Army and the Administration were so egregious that it makes one literally ill to read about it.

I happened to be reading, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception, by Scott McClellan, at the same time. McClellan left the White House after he was lied to about the Valery Plame affair and in briefing the White Press Corps on the basis of what he was told, made himself out to be a liar. McClellan's story of how the Bush Administration conducted government affairs as if they were involved in a continuous political campaign, without regard for the truth, and ruthless in their treatment of anyone who didn't toe the party line, is extremely troubling.

I also read recently, Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, by Richard A. Clarke. Here again, the White House comes across as uninformed and arrogant. Much of what Clarke writes is supported by another book I read earlier in the year, At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, by George Tenet. In his book, Clarke details how, in light of mounting intelligence of the danger Al-Qaeda presented, his urgent requests to move terrorism up the list of priorities in the early days of the Bush Administration were met with apathy and procrastination. He is particularly critical of Condoleezza Rice, Bush's National Security Advisor, who seemed not only unaware of the Al-Qaeda threat, but uninterested as well. To her, Al-Qaeda was simply one of many extremist groups, no more important than others. Rice was one of Bush's strongest supporters for the invasion of Iraq.

For many, the invasion of Iraq now seems a terrible strategic blunder, both in terms of its impact on the balance of power in the Middle East -- we did a great favor for Iran -- and it's diversion away from the center of the terrorism storm in Afghanistan. There are those who believe that oil was the real reason for the war, but that's probably simplistic. George W. Bush probably convinced himself that invading Iraq and creating a democratic government there would be a great achievement -- a centerpiece for his presidential library. In addition, he wanted to one up his father, who always favored brother Jeb, the sober, thoughtful, industrious son, who would one day be president. Well, Dubya showed him -- he showed us all.

And here we are, about to elect representatives to lead us in the difficult times ahead. As we ponder how to cast our votes, I think it's important to revisit past glories.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sen. Murray's Political Courage Denigrated by Republican Senatorial Committee

On August 31, 2010, the National Republican Senatorial Committee brought up Sen. Patty Murray’s 2007 statement against George W, Bush’s Iraq war surge, and had the audacity to demand that she “admit that she was wrong and apologize to General Petraeus, and especially the brave men and women who served under him, for working to undermine their mission in Iraq… If Democrats like Patty Murray had their way in 2007, they would have wasted the sacrifices of our troops to satisfy their far-left base, and Iraq would today be controlled by terrorist networks instead of on the path towards democracy.”

Senator Murray’s vote against the surge was consistent with her opposition to the war from the very beginning; she was among the minority of senators (23) that had the political courage to stand against the Bush Administration’s unwarranted decision to invade Iraq. Murray was frustrated by the White House’s haste to push the congress into approving the war resolution. As we now know, the White House wanted no such debate. Bush had made up his mind (or had it made up for him) and had his minions working hard to convince the American public that a “mushroom cloud” was an imminent threat if American troops didn’t topple Saddam Hussein. That was, of course, hogwash.

Gen. Shinseki, US Senate hearing, February 25, 2003

It is also important to remember that Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Eric K. Shinseki warned in February of 2003, a few months before the war was launched, that “Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers… would be required” to stabilize Iraq after an invasion. For his candor, he was vilified by the Republican war juggernaut. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was particularly incensed. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, said Shinseki was “wildly off the mark.” Rumsfeld himself echoed Wolfowitz’s statement, saying, ''The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark.'' Gen. Shinseki was marginalized and retired  shortly thereafter. He was, of course, proved right, and when George Bush called for a surge in 2007, he was admitting as much.


What Sen. Murray seemed to be saying when she voted against the surge is pretty straight forward, i.e., you were wrong then, why should we believe you’re right now? In fact, some of what she said was,

“I’ve been looking forward to finally having this debate here in the Senate, but some Republicans have a different strategy. They don’t want to have a real debate. They don’t want us to consider the resolutions that have been offered. I’m not going to comment on their motives, but I will point out the consequences. Every day they block a debate, they send a message that Congress supports escalation. Every day they block a debate, they deny our citizens a voice in a war that has cost us dearly in dollars and lives. And every day they block a debate, they are blocking the will of the American public.
I’m on the floor today because I know this debate is long overdue. And I’m not going to let anyone silence me, the troops I speak for, or the constituents I represent.

Ever since the start of combat operations in March 2003, I’ve been frustrated that we have been denied a chance to hold hearings, a chance to ask the critical questions, to demand answers, to hold those in charge accountable, and to give the American people a voice in a war that is costing us terribly. And I can tell you one thing: We are going to have that debate whether some in this body like it or not.
Four years ago, I came here to the Senate floor to discuss the original resolution that gave the President the authority to wage war in Iraq. At that time, I asked a series of questions, including: What will it require? Who’s with us in the fight? What happens after our troops go in? How will it impact the Middle East? How will it affect the broader War on Terror? And are we being honest with the American people about the costs of war?

Today, four years, $379 billion, and more than 3,000 American lives later – the President wants to send more Americans into the middle of a civil war – against the wishes of a majority of the public and of Congress. As I look at the President’s proposed escalation, I’m left with the exact same conclusion I reached 4 years ago. I cannot support sending more of our men and women into harm’s way on an ill-defined, solo mission with so many critical questions unanswered.”

If Sen. Murray’s challenge to debate going to war in the first place was accepted, is it possible that the public would have discovered that the cost of the war might far exceed the Bush Administration’s low ball estimate of $50 to $60 billion, even though Bush’s own Director of the National Economic Council, Lawrence Lindsey, stated that it might cost $100 to $200 billion (see the cost today).

Donald Rumsfeld called Lindsey’s estimate “baloney” and Lindsey was fired. Is it possible that the public would have learned that the war might take longer than a few weeks, as Rumsfeld implied when he said the war “could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.”

And perhaps more importantly, is it possible that had we focused our attention on Afghanistan and capturing/killing Bin Laden in the first place, we wouldn’t now be bogged down in an un-winnable war in that quagmire, while still struggling to stabilize an unruly Iraq?

Possible? You’re damned right! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

In war, truth is the first casualty

Pat Tillman (left) and his brother, Kevin, in front of a Chinook helicopter in Saudi Arabia before their tour of duty as Army Rangers in Iraq in 2003.


HEARING

before the

COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT
AND GOVERNMENT REFORM

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION


APRIL 24, 2007

__________

Serial No. 110-54

__________

Printed for the use of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform


STATEMENT OF KEVIN TILLMAN

    My name is Kevin Tillman.
    Two days ago marked the third anniversary of the death of
my older brother, Pat Tillman, in Sperah, Afghanistan. To our
family and friends, it was a devastating loss. To the Nation,
it was a moment of disorientation. To the military, it was a
nightmare. But to others within the government, it appears to
have been an opportunity.
    April 2004 was turning into the deadliest month to date in
the war in Iraq. The dual rebellions in Najaf and Fallujah
handed the U.S. forces their first tactical defeat as American
commanders essentially surrendered Fallujah to members of Iraq
resistance, and the administration was forced to accede to
Ayatollah Sistani's demand for January elections in exchange
for assistance in extricating U.S. forces from its battle with
the Mahdi Militia.
    A call-up of 20,000 additional troops was ordered, and
another 20,000 troops had their tours of duty extended.
    In the midst of this, the White House learned that
Christian Parenti, Seymour Hersh and other journalists were
about to reveal a shocking scandal involving mass and systemic
detainee abuse at the facility known as Abu Ghraib.
    Then on April 22, 2004, my brother, Pat, was killed in a
firefight in eastern Afghanistan. Immediately after Pat's
death, our family was told that he was shot in the head by the
enemy in a fierce firefight outside a narrow canyon.
    In the days leading up to Pat's memorial service, media
accounts based on information provided by the Army and the
White House were wreathed in a patriotic glow and became more
dramatic in tone. A terrible tragedy that might have further
undermined support for the war in Iraq was transformed into an
inspirational message that served instead to support the
Nation's foreign policy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    To further exploit Pat's death, he was awarded the Silver
Star for Valor. The abridged version went like this:

          Only after his team engaged this well armed enemy did it
        appear that the enemy's volume of fire into Corporal, into the
        kill zone diminished. Above the din of battle, Corporal Tillman
        was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to an enemy
        on the dominating high ground.

          Always leading from the front, Corporal Tillman aggressively
        maneuvered his team against the enemy position on the steep
        slope. As a result of Corporal Tillman's effort and heroic
        action, the trail element of the platoon was able to maneuver
        through the ambush position of relative safety without
        suffering a single casualty.

          The fight that ensued at Corporal Tillman's position
        increased in intensity. Corporal Tillman focused all his
        efforts on keeping the men of his team safe while continuing to
        press the attack himself without regard for his own personal
        safety. In the face of mortal danger, Corporal Tillman
        illustrated that he would not fail his comrades. His actions
        are in keeping with the highest standards of the U.S. Army.

    This was a narrative that inspired countless Americans as
intended.
    There was one small problem with the narrative, however. It
was utter fiction. The content of the multiple investigations
revealed a series of contradictions that strongly suggest
deliberate and careful misrepresentations.
    We appeal to this committee because we believe this
narrative was intended to deceive the family but more
importantly to deceive the American public.
    Pat's death was clearly the result of fratricide. It was
due to a series of careless actions by several individuals in
our platoon after a small harassing ambush.
    During this uncontrolled shooting, the driver of the
vehicle himself recognized friendlies immediately but kept
driving for approximately 400 meters while the soldiers in the
back of his truck continued to shoot at the hillside where the
U.S. soldiers were and civilians.
    The vehicle saw arms and hands waving. Smoke was flying.
Pin gun flares. An Afghan soldier was immediately recognized.
They never felt threatened, and they still shot up the village
unprovoked. The vehicle behind them clearly saw the U.S.
soldiers on the hillside and were calling cease-fire.
    The end result were the death of Pat and the Afghan soldier
as well as two more soldiers wounded in the village.
    The signs were available, but the decision to shoot was
made. This was not some fog of war. They simply lost control.
    According to the sworn statements, statement on April 26th
by the fellow soldier who was right next to Pat, literally
right next to Pat:

          I remember watching the friendlies just shooting at us. A 50-
        cal rolled up into our sights and starting to unload on top of
        us. It would work in boosts. Fifty cal for 10 to 15 seconds,
        240 Bravo, 10 to 15 seconds, back and forth. Specialist Tillman
        and I were yelling: Cease. Stop. Stop. Friendlies. Friendlies.
        Cease fire.

          But they could not hear us.

          Tillman came up with the idea to let a smoke grenade go. They
        stopped. This stopped the friendly contact for a few moments,
        and that is when I realized the AMF soldier was dead.

          At this time, the GMV rolled into a better position to fire
        on us. We thought the battle was over, though, so we were
        relieved, getting up, stretching out and talking with one
        another when I heard some 5.56 rounds coming from the GMV.

          They started firing again. That is when I hit the deck.

          Specialist Tillman at this time was hit by small arms fire. I
        know this because I could hear the pain in his voice as he
        called out: Cease fire. Friendlies. I am Pat, F'ing, Tillman,
        damn it.

          He said this over and over again until he stopped.

    The facts of this case clearly show Pat and the Afghan
soldier were killed by fellow members of his platoon as well as
the wounded soldiers on the hillside, and they knew this
immediately.
    Revealing that Pat's death was a fratricide would have been
yet another political disaster during a month already swollen
with political disasters and a brutal truth that the American
public would undoubtedly find unacceptable. So the facts needed
to be suppressed.
    An alternative narrative had to be constructed. Crucial
evidence was destroyed including Pat's uniform, equipment and
notebook. The autopsy was not done according to regulation, and
a field hospital report was falsified.
    An initial investigation completed in 8 to 10 days before
testimony could be changed or manipulated and which hit
disturbingly close to the mark disappeared into thin air and
was conveniently replaced by another investigation with more
palatable findings.
    This freshly manufactured narrative was then distributed to
the American public, and we believe the strategy had the
intended effect. It shifted the focus from the grotesque
torture at Abu Ghraib and a downward spiral of an illegal act
of aggression to a great American who died a hero's death.
    Over a month after Pat's death when it became clear that it
would no longer be possible to pull off this deception, a few
of the facts were parceled out to the public and to our family.
    General Kensinger was ordered to tell the American public,
May 29th, 5 weeks later, that Pat died of fratricide but with a
calculated and nefarious twist. He stated: ``There was no one
specific finding of fault'' and that he ``probably died of
fratricide.''
    But there was specific fault, and there was nothing
probable about the facts that led to Pat's death. The most
despicable part of what General Kensinger told the American
public was when he said, ``The results of this investigation in
no way diminish the bravery and sacrifice displayed by Corporal
Tillman.''
    This is an egregious attempt to manipulate the public into
thinking anyone who would question this 180-degree flip in the
narrative would be casting doubt on Pat's bravery and
sacrifice. Such questioning says nothing about Pat's bravery
and sacrifice anymore than the narrative for Jessica diminishes
her bravery and sacrifice. It does, however, say a lot about
the powers who perpetrated this.
    After the truth of Pat's death was partially revealed, Pat
was no longer of use as a sales asset and became strictly the
Army's problem. They were now left with the task of briefing
our family and answering our questions. With any luck, our
family would sink quietly into our grief, and the whole
unsavory episode would be swept under the rug. However, they
miscalculated our family's reaction.
    Through the amazing strength and perseverence of my mother,
the most amazing woman on Earth, our family has managed to have
multiple investigations conducted. However, while each
investigation gathered more information, the mountain of
evidence was never used to arrive at an honest or even sensible
conclusion.
    The most recent investigation by the Department of Defense
Inspector General and the Criminal Investigative Division of
the Army concluded that the killing of Pat was ``an accident.''
    The handling of the situation after the firefight was
described as a compilation of ``missteps, inaccuracies and
errors in judgment which created the perception of
concealment.''
    The soldier that shot Pat admitted in his sworn statement
that just before he delivered the fatal burst from about 35
meters away, that he saw his target waving hands, but he
decided to pull the trigger anyway. Such an act is not an
accident. It is a clear violation of the rules of engagement.
    Writing up a field hospital report stating that Pat
``transferred to intensive care unit for continued CPR'' after
most of his head had been taken off by multiple 5.56 rounds is
not misleading.
    Stating that a giant rectangle bruise covering his chest
that sits exactly where the armor plate that protects you from
bullets as being ``consistent with paddle marks'' is not
misleading. These are deliberate and calculated lies.
    Writing a Silver Star award before a single eye witness
account is taken is not a misstep. Falsifying soldier witness
statements for a Silver Star is not a misstep. These are
intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition for
fraud.
    Delivering false information at a nationally televised
memorial service is not an error in judgment. Discarding an
investigation that does not fit a preordained conclusion is not
an error in judgment. These are deliberate acts of deceit.
    This is not the perception of concealment. This is
concealment.
    Pat is, of course, not the only soldier where battlefield
reality has reached the family and the public in the form of a
false narrative.
    First Lieutenant Ken Ballard died in Najaf, Iraq, just 1
day after Pat's fratricide went public. His mom, Karen
Meredith, was told that Ken was killed by a sniper on a
rooftop. Fifteen months later, she found out that he was killed
by an unmanned gun from his own vehicle.
    Private Jesse Buryj was killed May 5, 2004, in Iraq. His
family was told he was killed in a vehicle accident. A year
later they received the autopsy report, and they found that he
was shot in the back. The Army was forced to concede that he
was accidentally shot by a Polish soldier. Just recently, out
of nowhere, a lieutenant showed up at their family's house and
told them that an officer in his own unit had shot him. They
are still looking for answers.
    Sergeant Patrick McCaffrey was killed June 22, 2004, from
what the family was told ``an ambush by insurgents.'' Two years
later, they found out that those insurgents happen to be the
same Iraqi troops that he was training. Before his death, he
told his chain of command that these same troops that he was
training were trying to kill him and his team. He was told to
keep his mouth shut.
    About a year ago, I received a phone call. I was at my
mom's house, and it was an emergency breakthrough from the
operator. It happened to be a woman named Dawn Hellermann from
North Carolina, so it was 2 a.m., her time.
    Her husband, Staff Sergeant Brian Hellermann was killed in
Iraq. She was tired of receiving new official reasons why her
husband had died. She was desperate for help, so she called us.
The system had failed her.
    Those soldiers deserve better, and their families deserve
better.
    Our family has relentlessly pursued the truth on this
matter for 3 years. We have now concluded that our efforts are
being actively thwarted by powers that are more important,
excuse me, that are more interested in protecting a narrative
than getting at the truth or seeing that justice is served.
    That is why we ask Congress, as a sovereign representative
of the whole people, to exercise its power to investigate the
inconsistencies in Pat's death and the aftermath and all the
other soldiers that were betrayed by this system.
    The one bit of truth that did survive these manipulations
is that Pat was and still is a great man. He is the most
wonderful older brother to ever exist. Pat wanted to leave a
positive legacy based on his actions, and he did that. But
Pat's death at the hands of his comrades is a terrible tragedy.
    But the fact that the Army and what appears to be others
attempted to hijack his virtue and his legacy is simply
horrific. The least this country can do for him in return is to
uncover who is responsible for his death, who lied and covered
it up, and who instigated those lies and benefited from them.
Then ensure that justice is meted out to the culpable.
    Pat and these other soldiers volunteered to put their lives
on the line for this country. Anything less than the truth is a
betrayal of those values that all soldiers who have fought for
this Nation have sought to uphold.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Republican Legacy

By the end of 2008, the Republicans in the White House and in the RNC were already thinking ahead to the midterm elections of 2010 and the next presidential election of 2012 as George W. Bush’s last, miserable year was winding down. Here’s what they were thinking.

First, the major recession brought on by Bush’s wartime tax cuts, his unfunded Medicare Part D program, and the debacle created by an under-regulated financial sector would saddle the new Democratic Administration with a severely damaged economy.

Second, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would drag on, since Bush and his neocon cohorts never planned an exit strategy, even though they were planning to invade Iraq before 9/11 even happened.

And third, they bet that America’s instant-gratification, memory-challenged populace would forget where the responsibility lay for the country’s problems. Americans would grow weary of the wars, angry at how long it was taking to right the foundering ship of state, and fearful about their job prospects in the dismal economy. Then, looking around the capital grounds, people would blame the new administration and Democratic majority for all their woes. Republicans subscribed to the thinking of Henry Mencken, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

In order to take advantage of their legacy, the Republican leadership decided to “just say no,” and use the threat of filibuster to oppose every piece of legislation proposed by the democrats to improve the economy and pull the country from the brink of another Great Depression. To bolster the chances of this craven strategy working, they played on the fears of the public by labeling the Administration’s attempts to prop up financial institutions, “socialism.” Republicans threw this term around so much it was almost funny. Everything from creating laws against texting while driving to improving the conditions in egg farms to prevent salmonella poisoning was socialism.

Of course the Republican minority’s most shameful episode and one that continues to this day was their reaction to president Obama’s program to improve healthcare and stem the tide of exponentially increasing healthcare costs. Here again, their strategy was supremely simple and supremely dishonest:
  • propose nothing substantive of their own
  • lie about what was in or intended by the bill moving through congress
  • scare some of the most vulnerable members of society, claiming their fate would be decided by “death panels”
  • vote “no, no, no” as one, over and over again.

In his book, What Happened, Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception,” Scott McClellan, former White House Press secretary, said that under Karl Rove’s influence, governing the country became a continuous political campaign characterized by whatever deception was necessary. Richard A. Clarke, Bush’s Coordinator for Counterterrorism, in his book, Against All Enemies,” lamenting the then president's meager understanding of al'Qaeda, stated that Bush wasn’t much on reading. Well, let’s hope most Americans read more than their former president, because if they do, they’ll understand how little today’s Republicans really care about America.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Feeding at the Federal Trough -- A Brief History of the Mid-Columbia

The Mid-Columbia’s long history of feeding at the Federal trough seems to have evaporated like slack water from the memory of the many local Tea Party activists who grew “Didier for Senate” signs on their lawns like toadstools.

There seems to be a streak of Libertarianism in Eastern Washington that defies logic. We may be a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people, but the Mid-Columbia is of and by the government.

The Grand Coulee Dam was a depression era, deficit-spending, “stimulus” project orchestrated by Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Bureau of Reclamation; a project that infuriated the Republican Party, who considered it socialistic, impractical, and unaffordable. As a result of the Grand Coulee Dam, Mid-Columbia farmers had the water they so desperately needed to irrigate what one critic of the project had termed a “dead land, bitter with alkali,” and so hell-like that “even snakes and lizards shun it" (A River Lost: The Life and Death of the Columbia, Blaine Harden, 1996)

Grand Coulee Dam is a large hydroelectric dam in Central Washington. It is made of 12 million cubic yards of concrete. It is the third largest hydroelectric dam in the world. It holds 9 million acres of water in the dam reservoir, and provides power to the large part of the Columbia Basin and the Northwest region.

The Columbia River watershed is today a vast network of dams and canals that provide government-subsidized irrigation, electricity, transportation, and flood control. The Columbia and Snake rivers in particular have been “engineered” to support commerce of one form or another. Their contribution to the Mid-Columbia economy is incalculable (to get some idea, check the Washington Department of Ecology's web site). Clint Didier himself acknowledged that, "without water from the Grand Coulee, we would be nothing more than a desert" (Seattle Times, 5/18/2010).*

Canals carry water from the Columbia River to farmers' fields

Here in the Tri-Cities there is another major economic outgrowth of the Grand Coulee Dam and its power generation -- Hanford, a critical part of the Manhattan Project. Hanford was located here in large part because of the “free” electricity available from Grand Coulee’s spinning turbines, and also because of the massive amount of water available in the Columbia; water essential for cooling Hanford’s plutonium plants.

The 560 square mile Hanford Nuclear Reservation on the Columbia River

The workforce created to build, operate, and maintain Hanford made it in 1943, the fourth largest city in the state of Washington. The sprawling complex of Army barracks, trailers, and tents, plagued by dust-laden “termination winds,” ultimately grew into the Tri-Cities.


Considered the most contaminated site in the U.S., Hanford has cost the American taxpayer in excess of 1 billion dollars per year to cleanup.

Another outgrowth of Hanford was the establishment of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), one of ten DOE national laboratories, and the single largest employer in the Tri-Cities. It brings to the community a workforce of unparalleled scientific and technological capability and potential, and has developed some of the most advanced research facilities in the world – facilities that attract scientists from around the world and place the Tri-Cities squarely on the high tech map.

Our community exists in its present state only because of the hundreds of billions of dollars the government has spent on dams, on Hanford, and in support of PNNL.

A recent Tri-City Herald article pointed out that while home sales around the nation declined during this economic downturn, the Tri-Cities registered an increase of 5.5% in the median resale price of homes, together with a 33% increase in home sales, going on to say that we are perhaps the only community in the state to see significant growth, thanks largely to federal stimulus money ($1.3 billion of which went towards Hanford cleanup).

Despite this long history of government largess flowing like the great Columbia itself to Eastern Washington, our Tea Party neighbors seem to have a mixed message for the federal government; keep the money flowing, cut our taxes, and leave us the hell alone.

But some day the flow of government money to Hanford will slow, just as the roar of white water over Kettle Falls did when that great, gray behemoth was set astraddle the canyons of the Grand Coulee. Will we be ready for that, will we be speaking with one voice, or will we still be talking out of both sides of our mouths? Will we build on the capabilities that government money has helped create, or will termination winds blow once again?



_______________
*Of course, the other result of the Grand Coulee Dam, built without fish ladders, was to cutoff salmon runs, deprive the Colville Indians of their land, their means of livelihood, their culture, and their dignity.