Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What Obama Didn't Say

Last night, February 9, 2009, Barack Obama held a press conference in the East Room of the White House that was remarkable. What he said was interesting enough, but it was what he did not say that was even more noteworthy.

The whole event, which lasted one hour, was a welcome change from the past eight years. Speaking in complete sentences and actually answering questions, rather than blithering platitudes such as "Freedom's on the march," Obama gave thoughtful, coherent answers that were direct and complete. Spending seven minutes answering one question demonstrated that a different approach is being taken with the media. He even called on Helen Thomas.

Speaking of Helen Thomas, this is where what Obama didn't say comes into the picture. In general, the press conference was marked by a forthright approach that did not try to sugar coat things. Using phrases such as "permanent recession," he did not avoid the dire circumstances of the moment. However, it was with a question by Helen Thomas, the maven of the White House press corps who Bush avoided out of fear, that Obama appeared to dissimulate. Thomas asked a multi-part question related to the Middle East and at the end inquired as to whether "any nation" in the Middle East had nuclear weapons. Obama answered the bulk of the question and ignored the final part about nukes. Throughout the evening he routinely answered a number of multi-part questions, taking his time to address each sub-question. But with the question by Thomas, he avoided the question even when she persisted with a follow-up.

In not answering that one question, Obama slipped. His only alternative, I believe, was to lie. By not categorically denying that there were nations in the Middle East that had nuclear weapons, he appeared to reveal there are. Who could it be? Technologically, there are only two nations in the region that seem anywhere near capable: Iran and Israel. It is unlikely that Iran has developed nuclear weapons because the moment they do they will almost assuredly tell the world. Israel, on the other hand, has long been rumored to have this capacity. Obama seemingly verified this.

There was one other question that was more notable for what he did not say than what he did say in response. In reference to a question concerning trying members of the Bush Administration for crimes, in which he was asked if he would guarantee no prosecutions for them, Obama gave a very interesting response. He did not categorically state that there would be no prosecutions. He talked about following evidence and the rule of law. He seemed to imply that if Congress or the Justice Department were to proceed with investigations and prosecutions, he would not interfere. He added his usual line about moving forward instead of backwards. However, he preceded this statement with the phrase, "... in general, ...". The "in general," bit of this phrase is the crucial part. Linguistically he is stating that he agrees with what follows the "in general," but that he excepts what preceded it. In effect, he is prepared to let prosecutions proceed.

I willingly admit that I may be reading too much into what he did not say. However, Obama appears to choose, and use, his words very carefully. To the other questions he gave precise, in depth answers. Only in these two questions did he avoid a direct answer. In this sense, what he did not say was far more noteworthy than what he did say.

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