Friday, June 5, 2009

The Power of Rhetoric

Barack Obama demonstrated yesterday that rhetoric can matter. In a speech delivered at Cairo University in Egypt, he essentially re-ordered the direction of American foreign policy. Several statements can be given as evidence.

On two occasions he used the term "Palestine" in such a way as to elevate the Palestinian state to a current reality on an even footing with Israel. Use of the phrase will have greater reverberations in the Middle East than in the U.S. Further, he openly rebuked Israel for continuing to expand the settlements. This public flogging of Israel was a further sign that there is a different direction in this policy. In recognizing the plight of the Palestinians in a manner that no American president has ever done, he signalled a willingness to confront one of the major conflicts underlying all the other conflict in the Middle East.

He openly condemned torture and unequivocally stated that he would close Guantanamo by early next year. The Iraq War was referenced as a "war of choice." In all of these statements he not only refuted the Bush Doctrine, he refuted the whole approach of the Bush (mis)Administration. Obama also demonstrated a recognition that these efforts by Bush-Cheney served to further alienate the Arab and Islamic worlds.

He directly confronted stereotypes of both Islam and America as counterproductive. In so doing, he served to isolate the fanatics from the moderates, rather than driving them together. One of the major effects of the Bush-Cheney approach to Islamic radicalism has been to cause moderate Muslims, who would normally reject the extremists, to at least tacitly support them because of their anger at the actions at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, etc. Referring to "Holocaust deniers," he made a not-so-subtle jab at Ahmadinejad in a manner as to align him with the marginalized extremists just ahead of the coming elections.

He extended a hand to Iran with a defense of its right to have nuclear power, and then drew a line concerning nuclear weapons. In a deft maneuver that recognized the difficulty of the only nation that has ever used atomic weapons telling others not to build them, he took the opportunity to advocate a nuclear free future. Idealistic rhetoric not likely to happen in the foreseeable future, yet, a necessary statement to stake out a strategy that begins by making sure no other nations join the already too large nuclear club.

The most stunning revelation made by Obama was an open admission that the United States had played a part in the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddeq and the government of Iran. This coup directly led to the installation of the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi to the Peacock Throne. The support of the U.S. for the Shah is what ultimately led to the Islamic Revolution that occurred under Ayatollah Khomeini. In acknowledging this bit of history Obama demonstrated to the Persians that the tensions of the present have a historical basis that must be addressed in a truthful and cooperative manner.

This is the speech that George Bush should have given after 9/11. Of course, it would not have been possible for him to do so. This speech required a knowledge and understanding of history, an awareness of other cultures, and a thoughtfulness that Bush did not possess. Had such an awareness of the complexities and realities of the multiple interrelated conflicts in the Middle East been elucidated at that time, where might we be now? Instead we got, "Bring it on."

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. 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