Monday, October 1, 2012

Support the Manhattan Project National Park

So, you know how congress is always gridlocked because no one can ever agree on anything? Wouldn't it be nice if we could find something that everyone could agree on, so that we could chalk one up in the win column before the end of the current congressional term?

Well, here's something. A bipartisan bill in congress would have created a National Park to commemorate the Manhattan Project, which was responsible for the development of the first Atomic Bomb during World War II. Unlike most National Parks, this one would be a multi-site park, including Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hanford, Washington.

Robert Oppenheimer an Leslie Groves at Trinity Site, in southern New Mexico, after the first atomic bomb test. (Image via the Santa Fe New Mexican). Oppenheimer later said that the test prompted him to recall this line from the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." Edward Teller later said that the test prompted him to start singing "We Are the Champions" by Queen.

This should be a no-brainer for bipartisan support, right? I mean, Democrats love spending money we don't have on frivolous things, and Republicans love to celebrate killing people in other countries, right? It's a win-win!

I'm being facetious, of course. If you actually pay attention to politics, you know that Republicans also love to spend money that we don't have, and that Democrats also love killing people in other countries, which makes this a win-win-win-win!

Okay, but to be actually serious, this park would be a great thing. Whatever your position on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, there is little question that the Manhattan Project represents one of the most important scientific and technological developments of the twentieth century, and one that completely transformed the world. A National Park dedicated to the project would create a space in which the context and all of the implications of the project could be discussed and remembered. The good stuff and the bad stuff are both a part of our history, and it is vital that we remember all of it, and how it all fits together.

Unfortunately, due to the incredible pile of dysfunction that is our current congress, the bill received more than 50% of the votes in the House of Representatives, thus failing to pass. You probably thought that crap only happened in the Senate, right? Somehow this relates to the bill's coming up during a "suspension of house rules," during which a supermajority is required to pass bills. It also has to do with Dennis Kucinich being a sanctimonious jackass and misunderstanding what the point of such a park would be. You can read about it at geekosystem, in a post that features a number gems like this:
While the Act handily made the simple majority that usually means passage for a bill, it fell 53 votes short of the supermajority and failed. Thus, for the time being, a cartoon avatar of it will be forced to sit on the steps of the House of Representatives, looking dejected and hoping for a chance to explain the political process to passing children.
Question: if there was a suspension of house rules, how is it that no one ran up and gave Kucinich a wedgie?

There's still a chance that the bill could come up again before this congress calls it quits, so call your congressperson and tell them to vote for the thing!


Disclaimer: one of the groups that has been pushing for the creation of this park is the Los Alamos Historical Society, the current president of which is one Ron Wilkins. My relatedness coefficient with Ron Wilkins is 0.5, and my patrilineal relatedness is 1.0.

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