Friday, January 8, 2010

"No Siege Mentality"

Yesterday Barack Obama spoke about the Christmas Day bombing attempt by Umar Abdulmuttallab. He did something rarely seen in these days by a politician - he took responsibility. Using a phrase borrowed from Harry Truman, Obama stated that "The buck stops with me." He then went on to point out that this was a series of screw ups that culminated in a person already on watch lists being allowed to board a plane with explosives. Pettiness, infighting and human error all seemed to play a part in the act. Since Christmas Day there have been a series of events at various airports that show the generally shoddy nature of security.

But it was not just the taking of responsibility that made this speech noteworthy While stating that "We are at war," Obama also stated that we would be "no siege mentality." In a stark contrast to the previous administration Obama advocated that we not panic and be ruled by fear. In refusing to make our remaining liberties sacrificial lambs in the name of the illusion of safety, Obama has taken a step towards restoring the belief in the values on which the country was founded. It is these actions, taking steps towards restoring our democracy that the last administration so trampled that have been his most important actions since taking office.

By refusing to accept the notion that we must live as we are under siege at all times, Obama also took a step towards the ultimate defeat of al-Qaeda. Turning the country into a military police state and shredding the Constitution in the name of security is not what a strong leader would do. That is what Bush tried to do - he tried to act strong because he felt he was weak. Obama did the converse. By stating that we are going to be true to our values, Obama showed real strength and a confidence in the underpinnings of our nation. A confidence that all of those who supported the Patriot Act and advocated surrendering our liberties in the name of security did not and do not have.

In taking the occasion to further announce that Guantanamo would be closed, he demonstrated a further commitment to the rule of law. This event could have provided a perfect excuse to delay or stop the closing of Gitmo, but instead, he used it as an opportunity to reaffirm a commitment to the legal process. It should be noted that Abdulmuttallab has reportedly been providing a great deal of intelligence completely within legal confines.

This speech is being examined for what it says about security. The truth is, no matter how secure, no matter what we do, something will eventually happen. The important part of what Obama said is that it signaled a change to a view that is consistent with the purported values of our country. In refusing to undermine them, not only refusing to go further, but pulling back on the mentality that sacrifices liberty for security he has already surpassed his predecessor in understanding what it takes for a country to be great.

Let's hope Dick Cheney shuts up and goes back to an undisclosed location.

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