Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Obama's First Week

On Inauguration Day I decided not to comment on any decisions, pronouncements or policies until at least one week had passed. I will now join the cacophony with my thoughts on the first week. Before any evaluation of decisions I would first like to note that the sheer volume of work turned out by the Obama Administration in its first week appears to be about six months worth of policy from the previous administration of George number 2. There is so much that I have resorted to a mere listing of the various actions.

The Good:
- Begin the Closing of Guantanamo. Necessary if we are to ever begin the restoration of the moral integrity of our nation and honor our treaty obligations.
- Categorically Prohibit Torture. Adherence to the Army Field Manual and International law is beginning to be restored.
- Restore Transparency to Government. After eight years of a secretive government that classified everything including the lunch menu, this is unbelievable.
- Pay Freeze for Staff. Symbolic, but at least in the right direction. Were they going to get a raise anytime soon? They just started.
- Recognition of the Depth of the Economic Crisis. Compared to the floundering of the Bush Administration which managed to blow another $350 billion in its final days by giving it to banks with no effort at accountability, even acknowledging that the problem is serious and long term was a welcome step forward.
- Advocacy for Green Infrastructure. Needs to push for even more. Solar panels on 100 million houses and building would sure stimulate the economy and provide for a greater degree of energy independence (see previous blogs and link "The Myth of Energy Independence," to see why this won't happen).
- Al- Arabiya interview that set a new tone for American foreign policy. In a complete about face of the previous administration's policy, Obama set the stage for an effort at resolution of the long standing grievances between the rest of the world and the U.S. That's right, the whole world. Bush has turned everyone against us, even putative allies. Obama already possesses greater stature on the international stage than Bush ever had.

The Bad:
- Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner, who will oversee the IRS, did not pay his taxes.
- Bill Lynn, ex-lobbyist for Raytheon, nominated to number two post in the Pentagon. Violating the pledge of no lobbyist in the administration, Lynn requires an exception to the ethics rules outlined by Obama.
- Economic Compromise: his efforts to gain GOP support for the economy recovery will only be weakened by attempting to enlist their support. As a party they have no coherent philosophy and can only result to being in opposition. Mitigating this is his "I won," statement that suggests he may impose his will upon them if they continue to obfuscate.

The Ugly:
- Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the gang at the OK Corral are still walking around free. I can't tell if Obama is just trying to stay clear of the issue and let Congress do the work of investigating the Bush (mis)Administration or if he doesn't have the will to defend the Constitution. If he believes that what they did were crimes and he does anything to prevent their prosecution, he is acting as an accessory.
- Bombing of Pakistan by CIA. Allegedly he was briefed, so it would appear he gave his consent, unless, of course, the CIA is running its own war.

& We'll See:
- Iraq: So far, just talk. When do we leave?

All in all a very good start. Clearly though, this first week, especially Pakistan, shows us that change will not be immediate or complete. However, compared to his predecessor, he is inconceivably better.

I'm sure I've missed many things. As I said it was a busy week. It good to have a President who is not an embarrassment. Above all else, this makes me proud to have Obama in office. Also sad, because I realize how much George W. Bush destroyed this country. We are now proud to simply not be embarrassed.

British Petroleum Gulf Oil Spill Costs

  • 11 workers killed in initial blast
  • Damage to Ocean Ecosystem
  • 35,000 to 60.000 Barrels of Oil Per Day. That's somewhere between 1,500,000 to 2,500,000 gallons a day or 150 to 300 million gallons already spilled into the ocean as of July 27th by that estimate.
  • Gulf Fisheries Industry
  • Gulf Tourism (ongoing costs)
  • Long Term Health Effects to Humans and Wildlife (to be determined)

Worst Oil Spills

  • Kuwait 1991 - 520 million gallons: Gulf War I
  • Gulf of Mexico 2010 - 206 million gallons: BP Oil
  • Mexico, Bay of Campiche 1979 - 140 million gallons: Pemex Oil
  • Trinidad & Tobago 1979 - 90 million gallons: Greek Oil Tanker Atlantic Empress
  • Russia 1983 - 84 million gallons: Leaky Pipeline collapsed into Kolva River
  • Iran 1983 - 80 million gallons: Tanker collided with Oil Platform
  • South Africa 1983 -79 million gallons:Tanker Castillo de Bellver sank
  • France 1978 - 69 million Gallons: Amoco Cadiz ran aground and broke in half.
  • Angola Coastal Waters (700 miles at sea) 1991 - 51-81 million gallons: ABT Summer exploded at sea.
  • Italy 1991 - 45 million gallons: M/T Haven Oil Tanker exploded.
  • Source: Mother Nature Network. mnn.com. The 13 largest oil spills in history. by Laura Moss. Friday July 16, 2010.

Nuclear Accidents (Under Construction)

  • 1957 Windscale, UK
  • 1961 Idaho Falls, Idaho, US
  • 1979 Three Mile Island, Pennsylvania, US
  • 1984 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1985 Athens, Alabama, US
  • 1986 Plymouth, Masachusetts, US
  • 1986 Chernobyl, Ukraine, USSR
  • 1996 Waterford, Connecticut, US
  • 1989 Griefwald, Germany
  • 1999 Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
  • 2002 Oak Harbor, Ohio, US
  • 2004 Fukui Prefecture, Japan
  • Source: Benjamin Sovacool

Mining Disasters (Under Construction)

  • China 1942 - 1549 deaths
  • France 1906 - 1100 deaths
  • Japan 1963 - 447 deaths
  • Wales 1913 - 438 deaths
  • South Africa 1960 - 437 deaths
  • Source: Epic Disasters Website
  • Note: Do not look at the dates herein and conclue that mining disasters are a things of the past. Every year thousands of miners die worldwide in largely unreported accidents.

OIL IS OVER! - Resources

  • Hibbert's Peak - "The" source that explains why Oil is Over.
  • Tragedy of the Commons -Garrett Hardin
  • The Land Ethic - Aldo Leopold
  • Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight - Thom Hartmann
  • Eco-Defense: A Field Guide to Monkeywrenching


  • The Dirt People - Ray Bawarchi (yes, that's me)
  • The Razor's Edge - Somerset Maugham
  • Demian - Herman Hesse
  • Black Elk Speaks - Black Elk (as told to R. Neimur)
  • The Quiet Don - Mikhail Sholokov
  • Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
  • Catch-22 - Joseph Heller
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • Delicious Laughter - Jallahudin Rumi
  • The Sybil - Par Lagerksvitz
  • The Fixer - Bernard Malamud
  • Spirits Rebellious - Khalil Gibran
  • The Quiet American - Graham Greene
  • Midaq Alley - Nagib Mafouz
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Farenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
  • We - Yevgeny Zamyatin


  • John Coltrane - St. John the Divine
  • Patti Smith
  • The Clash - the only band that matters
  • Billy Bragg
  • Yo Mama's Big Fat Booty Band
  • Art Blakey
  • Death - pre-punk visionaries from Detroit
  • PJ Harvey - Polly Jean, Polly Jean
  • Woody Guthrie
  • Michael Franti (Spearhead)
  • Public Enemy
  • Ray Charles - the Genius
  • Bob Dylan
  • Velvet Underground
  • Flaming Lips
  • John Doe & X
  • The Beatles

opiate of the masses

  • God is a comedian, playing to an audience too afraid to laugh. - Voltaire
  • I do not feel obliged to believe that the same god who has endowed us with sense, reason and inellect has intended us to forgo their use. - Galileo Galilei
  • The ink of a scholar is worth far more than the blood of a martyr.- Mohammad
  • If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. - Sheldon Kopp
  • No one will be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest. - Louisa Mae Alcott
  • When it is a question of money, everyone is of the same religion.- Voltaire
  • If God were alive today, he'd be an athiest. - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The god I worship is not short of cash, Mister. - Bono
  • Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine. My sins they only belong to me. - Patti Smith
  • God sure baked a lot of fruitcake baby, when Adam met the Eden lady. - Joe Strummer