Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rant of the Week: Ken Salazar as Secretary of the Interior

So, western Colorado’s own Ken Salazar has been chosen by Barack Obama to be his Secretary of the Interior. The Department of the Interior has definitely been the most corrupt and dysfunctional department I’ve seen in my lifetime. The Bush administration is most definitely the most anti-environment administration in a long time, and I can’t wait to see this change. I thought Raul Grijalva would have been a good choice, but I also like Salazar.

Salazar might not be my favorite politician, and I don’t think anyone would argue that he’s not a moderate Democrat. I didn’t like a lot of the stuff Salazar supported, whether it was proudly introducing Gonzalez as the Attorney General, or voting for the torture bill and Bush’s wire taps. I could care less about these things though, as his positions on these issues definitely do not equate to his positions on public lands and environmental policies. All I care about is Salazar’s record on natural resource issues. That record is pretty good in my book. Ken listened to his constituents in western Colorado and fought hard to keep the top of the Roan Plateau free of oil and gas development. We went to Congress several times and tried to get move a legislative solution through to protect the Roan (even though he was unsuccessful). He even annoyed me a bit by spreading some of the lies and propaganda the enviro groups were selling about Roan Plateau (the untruth about how companies could have taped the gas resource from around the base of the plateau and how big game populations on a 36 square mile area would be “decimated” by 350 total acres of oil and gas-related disturbance). However, overall I see this as good news for the west. He’s also been a staunch opponent of the Bush administration’s rush to develop oil shale.

Apparently, some environmentalists and liberals are pretty miffed by this selection. Salazar is definitely pro-agriculture. Fortunately, I don’t think public lands grazing is an issue we have to worry all that much about. I’m not saying the BLM and Forest Service have a lot of work to still to do in that department, it’s just that I’d rather have him have ag interests close to his heart than other interest. Believe it or not, some ranchers are good stewards, and Salazar seems to have that ethos. More and more ranchers are also coming on board opposing irresponsible energy development. There are policies in place for good grazing management, and there are groups like Western Watersheds that sue the pants off of BLM every time they take a misstep. Salazar just needs to make sure ranching interests don’t get a special seat at the table and I’ll be fine with his cowboy hat.

I also hear he’s received a failing grade by animal rights groups. Again, I could give a rat’s ass. Just because he doesn’t support hundreds of thousands of non-native wild horses running unmanaged on public lands doesn’t equate to a weak commitment to the environment. In fact, I would argue the opposite. I also don’t have a problem with his pro-gun rights position. I’ve always been one to think western Democrats really strengthen their base by sensible support for the 2nd Amendment.

The New York Times editorial board printed an op-ed about Salazar’s appointment and received comments from folks in New Jersey and California that don’t surprise me. They’re disappointed that Salazar is not more progressive/radical, i.e. he is not in favor of ending grazing and energy development on public lands. Well, what a sellout! Come on people, look at the laws surrounding public land management that have been in place 80+ years. Uses are allowed on public land, and they’ll be waiting for many more years before someone closes off public lands to all but hikers and mountain bikers. They don’t want a Secretary of Interior, they want a complete overhaul of all our current environmental laws and policies. If this is the kind of change they're looking for, they wouldn’t be happy with anyone Obama appointed.

Critics angrily point out that someone who works for a mining association thinks Salazar is “fair,” as if this is a bad thing. Do you realize how much you sound like Gale Norton and Dick Cheney? Why is horrible for today’s DOI to completely discount the views of many Americans (environmental interests), but just fine if an extremist Sec of the Interior does the same thing in ignoring industry interests and interests of rural westerners who make a living from responsible uses of public lands? They advocate replacing one extreme ideology with another.

The biggest think Ken has going in his favor is his ability to bridge gaps, listen and weigh all viewpoints, and facilitate collaboration. I believe his experience in bringing people together to hammer out win-win solutions was one of the biggest reasons Obama chose Salazar. I know sitting down at the table with ranchers and/or oil and gas companies riles some folks, but after working on these issues for the past 5+ years, I’m a believer that in some situations collaboration is the way to go. Energy is the most important issue facing the US today, and he’s right where we should be on domestic energy development. He’s a strong advocate of renewable energy and will fight to keep important areas off limits to development and ensure energy development is done properly in areas where it is allowed. I also think science will play a prominent role in his department, and I hope his appointment will improve the morale of many DOI employees. Salazar brings a vide breadth of knowledge about natural resource Issues to the table, and I think Obama made a good choice appointing him as Secretary of the Interior.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Professional Rant of the Week: Enviros shun autoworkers

A spot-on rant by High Country New's Ray Ring regarding the lack of environmentalist support for autoworkers:

Enviros shun autoworkers

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Rant of the Week: Gender and HIV/AIDS in Developing Countries

Monday December 1 was World AIDS Day. An article appeared in the Denver Post about gender and HIV/AIDS in developing countries:

For Women, AIDS Stigma Worse

What I thought would be a straightforward and non-controversial piece turned out to be anything but the case. I’ve pulled together some reader comments on the article:

The point is that all we hear about is the rights of women and girls....every politically correct media outlet produces volumes of this stuff...however little is said about women's responsibilities, nor the many instances in which men are discriminated against in our society. No reasonable person is against women having equal rights, access, etc., but in far too many cases it appears the goal is not equality but advantage. Pieces like Messer's are tedious, redundant, and one-sided. Let's REALLY talk about equality, including addressing those areas in which women hold clear advantages in society (the draft, the courts, child custody, etc).

Mr. Messer, if you would lay off the anti-male, anti-patriarchy propaganda, you might have something useful to say. As it is, you demonize men by blaming them for the AIDS crisis in Africa and India and propose to address that crisis by asking men to "partner with women in rejecting patriarchal structures and relationships." In other words, the AIDS crisis is caused by the evil patriarchy. Get rid of the patriarchy, and the AIDS crisis goes away.

That's Feminism 101.

You argue that men should "partner with women to reject patriarchal structures and relationships." In other words, we men should partner with women in the destruction of our roles as fathers. As a committed father, I reject that proposal.

We've done a lot of rejecting of "patriarchal structures and relationships" in this country. The result is a lot of single moms, fatherless kids, and absent dads--and the highest rate of incarceration in the world. That may be your idea of utopia, but it's not mine.

In short, this article is not about addressing the AIDS crisis, it's feminist propaganda. Too bad. By using the AIDS crisis to promote feminist ideology, this article impedes efforts to find a solution.
Here's the problem: the author wants us to have sympathy for women but remain unsympathetic to the plight of men. The author shows no sympathy for male victims of AIDS, but instead treats them (and the patriarchy) as the villains in this melodrama. He states that half of HIV victims worldwide are women. That's his proof that women have it worse than men. Gender equality is supposed to mean one thing: men have it worse. When men have it worse, things are as they are supposed to be.

Could someone give a concrete example of extreme patriarchal communities exacerbating the HIV/AIDS epidemic? And don't confuse bad male behavior with the patriarchy. There's a lot of bad male behavior in matriarchies, such as the de facto matriarchy that pervades much of the black community in the US, where most children are born to single mothers and most fathers are absent.


There are several more comments to this affect, even some more blatant sexist comments that don’t warrant discussion (“Why don't we all take a moment on Christmas day to morn all the children killed by there [sic] own mothers.” “As for a statement that women are sleeping around, if the woman is caught doing so she has opened herself to being stoned, not so the male.”)

The first distinction that needs to be made when addressing these criticisms of Messer’s piece is that this essay was not about women in America with HIV. It’s about women in developing countries with HIV. There is a very substantial difference.

Do these commentors want to talk about women’s responsibilities in India? It’s to work, work, then submit to their husbands and breed. Period. And they do that, whether they want to or not. Females are often treated as less-than-human. Everyone deserves basic human rights, and many women in girls around the globe aren't afforded anything but a life of slavery. Give me a break with child support. There is no child support in Zambia. There are no courts in Cambodia. While we can argue about women’s rights in the US, I think everyone can agree that women in America have come a long way compared to many other women around the world. Do these guys care to level the charge on women in India how they have so many “advantages?” Tell me how a woman in Zambia is actually SO lucky because of political correctness and courts and child support? We’re not talking about equal pay here, we’re talking about much more basic human rights.

I view some of these harmful behaviours of men as prevailing patriarchal attitudes ,not necessarily specific to individual men. I always hate to paint people as “ignorant,” but I think when a culture is so ingrained in a certain community, it’s less (but still some) of an individual’s fault and more the fault of the norms of that community. It is fully believed in many African communities that there is no such thing as raping your wife. This isn’t necessarily the fault of those individual men; they simply do not understand. It is quite socially acceptable in some circles for men to have one or more mistresses outside of marriage. These men are not bad people, they’re not evil, and I wouldn’t even say they hate women or intentionally disrespect their wives. They’re members of a culture that used to allow for multiple wives. A law was passed banning polygamy, but the culture still prevails. Sure, I guess it’s the fault of each individual man, and I don’t want to absolve anyone from individual responsibility. My point (and maybe Messer’s) is just that there are some prevailing attitudes that should be corrected if we want to see positive strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS in developing countries. I didn’t see this so much as blaming men, but pointing out a legitimate problem.

But there’s no doubt correcting some the problems he identifies will help. Let me just talk out loud for a minute. The two most basic root causes of HIV/AIDS spread in Africa/developing countries are 1) lack of information/not educated about the spread of the virus and 2) Not adjusting behavior to reduce risk. Frankly, I don’t buy it when people content education is the major problem. Maybe 10 years ago, but now there’s hardly a bush village in Africa that doesn’t know the basic information about HIV/AIDS. Someone who knows Congo, Benin, or Cambodia better than I do might dispute this fact, but from what I saw in East Africa, people know darn well that using a condom can help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. This is where the second root cause comes into play: they simply refuse to use one.

Let’s talk about infidelity, which is a root cause of the spread of HIV. Some women know that their husbands sleep around, and therefore the smart ones could refuse to sleep with their husbands. From what I’ve seen and read, women simply don’t have the right to refuse sex. Women cheat too, so they’re equally to blame, but at least it’s not common for women to go home and force their husbands to have sex with them. Similar situation for condoms. Men and women might both not want to use a condom, so equal blame there. But the distinction is that men make the decisions in the bedroom (and everywhere else), so if the woman wants to protect herself and the man doesn’t, she contracts HIV because she does not have the power to force him to use one. Again, I don’t see pointing this out as blaming men, I see it as an opportunity—empower women to be able to consent to sex under their conditions.

There’s an old story I heard a couple times in Kenya. I heard it from a member of the Kamba tribe, but it could fit for just about any community in Kenya or Africa. There’s this new husband who has no reason to beat his wife. His neighbors chastise him for this unpopular behavior. “We don’t hear you beating your wife, bwana,” they say. “You must beat your wife every night, for even if you don’t have a reason, she will think of one.” Still refusing to hurt his new bride, the husband returns to his wife and cooks up a plan. He ties a rope to two walls of his hut and hangs a rug over the rope. He takes out his “wife beating stick” and goes to work on the rug. He tells his wife to scream in pain. The next morning his neighbors complement him on good job he is doing with his new wife, and everyone is happy.

It’s pretty sad when a man has to think of an excuse for not abusing his wife. This is the life of too many women in Africa.

There are, however, a few things about Messer’s essay that bothered me. First of all, he generalizes and paints men with a wide brush. While communities in developing countries can be quite patriarchal, not all communities are. Of course, there are also differences between different men in these communities. Messer also makes several assertions that he backs up with no evidence. For example, he talks about how women do not receive the same quality health care as men. I’m not sure he’s correct in that assertion. Additionally, Messer appears to fall into the trap of imposing a western white women's feminist paradigm on developing countries. These women and girls need to decide for themselves what aspects of their lives they want to improve and must take the lead in making these changes. The role of outsiders should be to listen and offer assistance where necessary.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rant of the Week: Oil and Gas Leasing next to National Parks

Re: This AP article:

Uproar over federal drilling leases next to parks

To me, the deciding factor in exactly how horrible of an offense this is on part of the Bush Administration depends on whether these parcels were nominated by industry for the lease sale, or whether the BLM itself put these parcels up for lease.

The vast majority of leases are nominated by the oil and gas industry for regular (quarterly) lease sales. The BLM is a completely passive participant when this is the case. If a company nominates some parcels, they go up for auction. If this was the case for the areas next to the parks, this is not a “Bush administration ‘fire sale.’” (Unless, of course, if someone within the government asked industry to nominate these parcels. But if this was purely an issue of industry interest, the Bush administration had nothing to do with these parcels being nominated).

However, if the BLM itself nominated these parcels and put them up for auction, which it can do (see Roan Plateau), then there definitely was collusion by the Bush administration and it makes this intentional and quite despicable. One of Sierra’s quotes makes be believe this is indeed the case:

Roy said that when he asked Selma Sierra what was going on, she replied: "We added some tracts, sorry we didn't notify you.”

If industry did nominate these parcels, I fail to see how they would be added after the fact. I would guess that all the industry-nominated leases were submitted, then Sierra got a call from Washington telling her that these controversial parcels would also be added to the list. Yes sir Mr. Cheney, sir!

(However, I can’t let the Park Service get away with this talk about being “shocked.” They should not have been surprised in the least. These areas had been leased before. It’s not like BLM is opening up new areas for development. The Park Service knew darn well that any lease sale these parcels could be nominated and leased at any time.)

Okay, with that out of the way, let me try to argue that managing with buffers makes no sense from a land management standpoint and that BLM would have a hard time denying these leases from a legal and consistency perspective.

I guess it’s quite obvious that the lands the National Park Service want excluded from oil and gas development are not national parks and are not managed by the NPS. What’s the point of a National Park boundary when it seems some folks want surrounding lands managed like a National Park? So let’s say the government adds a 10-mile buffer on public land to every National Park, which would receive park-like restrictions. So then would we need another buffer to protect values of that buffer? An extreme question maybe, but can’t you see how buffers can be never-ending?

The government would be heading down a very slippery slope and set a precedent by buffering National Parks in Utah. The Utah BLM State Director is right that no policy exists for this, and there’s a reason for that. Why do you think there has never been this kind of buffer applied in the US? Because this has been discussed in detail before (even in environmentally friendly DOI’s such as Bruce Babbitt’s) and they’ve come to the realization that it’s infeasible and doesn’t make sense. Let’s slide down this slope, shall we? Let’s say we buffer all National Parks. Why should it stop there? Don’t State Parks have scenic values that warrant protection? What about National Wildlife Refuges? Wilderness areas? Wilderness Study Areas? Come on folks, these special designations apply to what is inside of these areas, not what is outside. Managing for values outside the special area opens a whole new can of worms in public land management. In addition to oil and gas development, should we close these areas to vehicle travel? Rights-of-way? Any other actions that would be visible looking outside from inside the park?

All stipulations on oil and gas development on federal minerals must be developed within a land use plan, BLM Resource Management Plans, to be exact. Not one RMP has these stipulations for buffers. If lands are not closed in an RMP, they are available for leasing and development. So BLM would have a very hard time making the case that these areas should not be leased. In fact, an oil or gas company would have grounds to sue the BLM for making an arbitrary and capricious decision to close those areas to development outside of their normal process.

The best way to handle this issue is to use the tools BLM has in its tool box to protect scenic values. All BLM lands have a Visual Resource Management (VRM) Class designation. VRM Classes range from Class I, which is extremely restrictive and is typically only used for wilderness areas and would allow only very minor modifications of the landscape, to VRM Class IV, which would allow a strip mine. A VRM Class II designation would allow for minor modifications of the landscape. Under this designation, BLM could require oil and gas operators to hide their infrastructure around topographic features and/or camouflage. This would be the best way to protect the viewshed from the park onto BLM land.

I agree looking beyond the arches in Arches National Park and seeing a gas well stinks. And I fully agree that if these parcels were put up for auction by the BLM and not oil and gas companies, this is yet another Bush Administration give away. However, I don’t think that closing a 10-mile buffer around the parks to oil and gas development is a logical solution for this problem.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Rant of the Week - Government audit of oil and gas leases

Back in June, I blogged about an effort in Congress to force oil and gas companies to develop their idle leases on federal land. If a company doesn’t drill a producing well on their lease within 10 years, it expires and would be available to re-lease at a later date. I made the case that energy development on our public lands is happening quite quickly enough for my tastes and that there is nothing wrong with having idle leases out there. So now our Government Accounting Office (GAO) looked into the issue and found (*gasp!*) that indeed there are a lot of acres out there that are going undeveloped. Here’s the AP article:

Report: Drilling on federal lands could be faster

Let me be frank: I think the findings and recommendations are a bunch of bullshit. The reason these areas are undeveloped lies solely with the oil and gas companies, not with broken agency processes or excess regulation. Sure, environmental reviews often take more than the mandated target of 30 days. However, the vast majority of these Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs) are on leases which have already been developed, not in these undeveloped areas. About 95% of the development that takes place on public land is within established producing oil and gas fields. Look where we’re seeing most development in the west now: Pinedale Anticline, Piceance Basin, Uinta Basin, etc. Companies are spending money where they are certain they’ll get good returns on their investments. Drilling holes in wildcat areas that haven’t been explored yet is financially risky and far less common. So if APDs are being held up, they are not for these undeveloped areas.

DOI lackey Stephen Allred is flat-out lying in the last paragraph of the article. Boy will I be glad to see these industry idiots leave in a couple months. No department has ever been as corrupt or incompetent as Bush's Department of the Interior. Contending that environmental reviews are holding up development amounts to nothing more than another Bush administration attempt to gut all environmental oversight and regulation. If you want to speed up the processing of APDs, increase the freaking BLM budget so they can hire more people to process them. But since that’s never going to happen, I guess we’ll have more deregulation to look forward to.

Regarding Allred’s assertion that we need to fast-track development, this already happened. Thanks to the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Bureau of Land Management does not have to prepare Environmental Assessments (EAs) anymore for oil and gas wells that meet several new criteria. Instead, they can do a Categorical Exclusion (CX), which is little more than a one-page paperwork exercise. No impacts are analyzed and often no mitigation is applied in CXs. These are called "Section 390 CXs," and are being challenged in court by environmental groups.

In some cases, fast-tracking is appropriate. For example, if a company wanted to re-drill a well on an existing pad and there would be less than 5 acres of new disturbance, and the original well was already analyzed in an EA, then fast-tracking the well makes sense. However, other criteria overreach. For example, the act said that if the agency disclosed the impacts of many wells in a field development Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), all future wells in that area can be permitted by a CX. The problem with this is that a field development EIS is quite broad, and the exact locations of the wells might not be known at that point in time. Therefore, the analysis of environmental impacts is not assessed in enough detail in the EIS; the wells should be subject to individual review under EAs, not fast-tracked by using CXs.

Anyway, setting aside all the complicated details, it’s safe to say that we cannot responsibly move any farther towards fast-tracking oil and gas development than we already are. I shudder thinking what else our politicians might do trying to speed up development even more.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Professional Rant of the Week

A huge reason an Obama victory is so important.

Nicholas D. Kristof: Rejoin the World

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Rant of the Week: Obama the Socialist

McCain’s latest hook is his charge that Obama’s proposed tax plan is “socialism.” I clearly remember the right painting Gore and Kerry as “liberals,” but I’m surprised Rove never played the socialist card. Maybe they didn’t need to. This desperate attack is McCain’s last hope, and I don’t doubt it’s having some effect, if not only on the already fired-up right.

My first response to this charge would be similar to the charge that Obama is Muslim: So what if he is? Some Americans act as if socialism would end the world as we know it. They fail to see that socialist concepts are alive and well in America and even more so in Europe. We’ve got a public school system, Medicare and Medicaid. Socialism! Taxation has always had some element of redistribution. If the right wanted to yell “socialist!!” they should have done so long ago. It may be harder to make a billion dollars in a left-leaning European country, but these countries often rate out at the top in happiness matrixes. Oh no, fewer poor people and more happy people, the horror!

While all those reasons hold true, the biggest annoyance about the GOP’s charge it this: John McCain is trying to dupe Americans into thinking a government can run without tax dollars. He’s said time and time again that “no one should be paying higher taxes.” Give me some of what you’re smoking, John! McCain might say he’s planning on cutting spending enough to make up for not needing to raise taxes. Like what? McCain has bragged about how he’s going to cut $18 billion in earmarks. So McCain would cut less than 1% of our federal budget and that would eliminate the need for taxes? We’ve borrowed millions of dollars from China and other countries to pay for Bush’s war, subsides for corporations and out of control spending. No surprisingly, apparently McCain also favors this policy. I’m sick of our leaders whining, pandering, and peddling fear while pretending our government can run without taxes.

You can call it socialism. You can call it spreading the wealth around. I call it finally paying our bills.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Rant of the week: On the ground at the Sand Wash wild horse gather

Back in July I ranted about wild horses and mentioned that the BLM would have a horse gather in October. I got to get out for a day to watch the gather and I thought I’d share the experience will you all.

The BLM figured there are around 420 wild horses in the Sand Wash basin herd. Through monitoring studies, BLM concluded that the Appropriate Management Level (AML) of horses in Sand Wash is from 165 to 365 animals. Wild horses have a 20-25% recruitment rate, so every four years or so, BLM has to round up the excess horses to return the herd back to 165.

BLM hires one of two companies from Utah to perform all wild horse gathers in the west. Their teams are made up of cowboys, called wild horse wranglers, and a helicopter. The chopper is used to round up the horses, flying low to guide the horses into a trap, which funnels them into the corrals. The cowboys utilize a trained horse to entice the wild horses into the funnel. The horse is aptly called the “Judas Horse.” Right when the horses are about to enter the trap, a cowboy releases the Judas Horse, which runs into the trap. The wild horses naively follow along, only to realize once in the corrals that they were duped.

Once in the corrals, they aged, sexed and sorted into groups. Typically, there are 3 main groups: 1) Horses to be removed from Sand Wash and transported to the holding facility Canyon City. These horses are typically the older horses (which would die quicker and therefore cost less to hold) and horses that aren’t likely to get adopted. 2) Horses to be put up for adoption in Craig after the gather, which include younger attractive horses that are more easily trainable. 3) Horses to be returned to Sand Wash, which include a variety of ages and types.

As I mentioned in July, BLM is trying some new things to reduce horse numbers, and thereby reducing costs and hardship to horses. So for the first time in Sand Wash, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) assisted the BLM in applying fertility control to the mares released back into the Herd Management Area. The contraceptive drug is applied to the mares every couple years thereafter (by dart gun I believe) to slow or halt reproduction in the herd.

From Friday October 17 though October 23, the contractor gathered nearly every horse they could from the basin. Last I heard, 238 were transported to the holding facility at Canyon City, 20 were held for adoption (the guess is that 5-10 will be adopted), 51 studs and 62 mares were returned to their home on the range. BLM figured 15 – 40 horses might have escaped capture, putting the new Sand Wash herd at about 130 – 150 animals.

Check out this video of horses coming into the trap. Notice the Judas Horse on the left, which is released once the wild horses approach the trap.

Helecopter herding in wild horses into the trap (Craig Daily Press photo)

Horses being aged and sexed in the corrals.

A pair of foals sorted for adoption.

Read a 7 News article about the gather and watch their video here.

Read a Craig Daily Press article on the gather here.

Read a Craig Daily Press article on the adoption here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Two rants of the week

Barack Obama is running an absolutely stellar campaign

Although I thought the Dems were a bit slow getting the campaign going, they have done everything right since the DNC kicked off. I think his campaign has learned important lessons from 2000 and 2004. He’s responding to personal attacks perfectly, but not responding in kind. He’s quick on his feet when responding to policy attacks. His campaign has studied the bloggosphere and this knowledge is reflected in his responses.

Obama is spending his boatloads of campaign contributions well. His television ads are amongst the best political ads I’ve seen. Sure, some stretch the truth, but I think there’s some legitimacy to the position that “everybody does it,” and unfortunately, the public can believe these ads. If you don’t put out a few of your own, you could take a hit. (I thought it was pretty funny how McCain was all bent out of shape in the 3rd debate. “Your ads lie!” he whined. Um, John, take a look at 90% of your ads, then get back to us). His positive ads where it’s just him talking to the camera, providing solutions, are a huge difference maker. Americans do want to talk about the real issues, and there’s clearly only one campaign doing so.

Obama has debated well. There were a few instances where I thought McCain left an opportunity for Obama to respond, but he didn’t take it up. I have to defer to his campaign’s thoughts on those issues, because I’m sure he’s been briefed on anything McCain would say and how to respond, if at all. I thought the debates went a long way in alleviating a lot of fears about Obama.

Ever since throwing his hat into the ring, Obama has run an efficient grass-roots campaign unlike any other in our history. O has used the internet extremely effectively in fund raising as well as networking supporters. Obama is offering to put your name in a drawing to meet him if you canvas 30 houses or call 70 phone numbers. Obama has energized young supporters in unprecedented numbers, who in turn help register new voters, the majority of who support Obama. They’re actually organizing car pools for Election Day to make sure everyone who wants to can get to a polling station. This grassroots network shows Obama’s commitment and engagement with the voters.

I am very hard pressed to come up with any mistakes that the Obama campaign has made to date. Anybody? Props to Obama, Axelrod and the rest of the crew.

A recent poll: Where I was wrong and where I was right

The other day I was out in the field with a coworker that I’ve never discussed politics with before. Turns out he’s a registered Republican, mostly so he can vote in the primaries in Moffat County (the Republican candidates usually run uncontested in the general election, so the Republican primaries are the only time many Moffat County residents get to make a choice between candidates). Like many open minded folks around here, he’s a fiscal conservative but liberal on social issues. He’s moderate and most importantly, undecided in the presidential race.

He told me how he’s always been a fan of the “maverick” McCain and was read to X his name in November. However, one thing has turned him off: the selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate. He saw her as vastly unqualified and it worried him to think Palin could be our president one day. He was sickened by her vicious personal attacks on Obama. This, of course, reflected on the decision making of John McCain. I didn’t ask my coworker outright whether Palin made him switch his vote from McCain to Obama, but it did provide some proof that Sarah Palin could be John McCain’s biggest mistake in this election.

I did write in an earlier post that selecting Sarah was a smart move. I am now happily eating my shoe on that one. There is more proof than personal communication. Last week a CBS/New York Times poll came out, showing a growing lead for Obama. They were asked, “Why has your view of McCain gotten worse?” 21% answered his selection of Sarah Palin as VP.

That’s very significant. But so this: 23% said his attacks on Obama were the reason they soured on McCain. This is where I was right. Even neocon William Kristol called for McCain to end the attacks. I’ve been contending this election year that finally negative attacks are proving counterproductive. In past elections I’ve been holding out for the American public to say “enough!” and punish these nasty attacks by voting the other way in November. If these poll numbers are any indication, this is finally the election. In an important Senate race in Colorado, Republican Bob Schafer has run the most vile attack campaign seen in the state. Tons of oil and gas money are buying attack ad lies against Democrat Mark Udall. The more vicious the attacks get, the more Udall leads in the polls. This time the Karl Rove distraction tactics are not working. Now, the only question which remains is if the guilty parties are indeed punished, will campaigns abandon attack tactics next election? At least I can naively hope so.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Rant of the Week: The Vice Presidential Debate

First of all, I thought Palin did a good job for the level of her knowledge. She is a confident speaker, and she came off quite well. The problem, though, is that she’d been studying talking points on many subjects and instead of answering questions, she could only reproduce those talking points. When a she got a second chance to talk about the same issue, she repeated the same talking points. She simply does not have the breadth of understanding needed to answer tough questions and counter Biden. But she did well, and I do like the Palin I saw last night much better than the one that dwelled in a sewer of lies and insults during her RNC speech.

Sarah Palin is not prepared to be VP. This is not a huge issue in itself. I don’t she’ll have much to offer McCain’s administration, but I don’t think she’ll hurt things. What’s more important here than Palin’s lack of qualifications is McCain’s decisions making. What does this say for how he will select his cabinet? Will he again defer to the evangelicals when nominating Supreme Court appointees? McCain either showed a lapse of judgment or showed that he’ll cave to interests within his party. Both possibilities are extremely dangerous for our country.

You know what sickens me is the excuses Repubilcan cheerleaders are giving for Palin’s performance. Check this quote out from the Denver Post forum:

Palin was short changed by the fact that a black woman (another jealous one) Obama supporter was the commentator. From the get go, Palin had a nick against her and it set the tone of her being on her heels. How dare them pull that stunt. It was disgusting that Gwen somehow weasled in to that role. What a joke.

I KNEW this excuse would come. There is absolutely no question Gwen ran a fair debate; this assertion is completely unfounded. Frankly, I can’t believe I’m hearing it. Making silly excuses doesn’t help their case. What is their excuse going to be when she meets with leaders from China? Are they going to cry and whine, “It’s not fair! They don’t like her! They’re hard on her.” She could be the vice president people. Do you expect everyone to treat her with kiddie gloves and if they ask her tough questions will they whine some more? Using “the black woman” excuse is extremely cheap, pitiful, and cowardly.

Fact is, Gwen’s debate format helped Palin. While Jim Lehrer let the candidates go back and forth and respond to each other as much as they wanted, Gwen cut off the debate on the question after only one response. Palin does not do well when she’s pushed on a topic. This was quite apparent during the Couric interview when Katy pushed her on legislation, what she reads, how McCain voted for regulations, etc. In this format, Gwen didn’t push her for more specifics and neither did Biden. Palin would have looked a lot worse in a Jim Lehrer formatted debate. Right wingers all should be thanking Gwen.

Joe Biden was on point. I’d never seen him debate this well. He did exactly what he needed to: attack McCain, not Palin; show a good grasp of the issues; propose solutions that the Obama campaign would implement; he was respectful and not condescending. In fact, he passed up many chances to nail Palin on her record; he passed up every one. When Palin gave the wrong name of the commander in Afghanistan, Biden didn’t even correct her. And at least Biden answered the questions.

After watching both debates, I can see a pattern forming. Obama and Biden proposed solutions for many issues. Nearly every time they talked, they said, “We should do X, Y, and Z.” If anyone contends that they don’t know Obama’s platform, that he doesn’t propose solutions, only catch phrases, they’re either not listening or they’re lying through their teeth.

Any observer can contrast that sharply with what McCain and Palin have been offering in speeches and debates. First of all, they peddle fear that Obama is going to raise taxes (only for the 5% of Americans who make more than $250,000) and that Obama would sit down with Ahmadinejad (false again—he said he would meet with Iran representatives, not Ahmadinejad). Both Palin and McCain invoked both these falsehoods again and again. They talk about their records and their competitors’ records, but rarely talk about what solutions they would put in place. They don’t even have a response for the Democrats’ charges, they just deflect the question and repeat the same talking points.

Whether you like them or not, there is zero question which party is offering the solutions here. I’m hoping Americans are tired of fluff and dodging tough questions and issues.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Bonus rant of the week: The Debate

Quick thoughts on the debate

I thought both gentlemen were relatively articulate. McCain is not a great speaker, but I thought he did well speaking-wise. I thought both gentlemen were relatively articulate. McCain is not a great speaker, but I thought he did well speaking-wise. Obama cut out a lot of the "ums" that some times plague his speeches.

The candidates did appease their base, but I think Obama might have resonated a little stronger with independents and undecideds. If these folks hadn’t seen Obama speak before, I think he showed a real grasp of issues, especially foreign policy. If there were people who thought he was “naive,” or “doesn’t understand” (as McCain put it), they clearly saw that was not the case. Additionally, Obama laid out more plans than McCain. For every topic, he said, “This is what I would do.” McCain repeated the same sound bites over and over.

Obama killed the Pakistan discussion and he pretty much knocked the foreign policy discussion out of the park. While Obama continued to explain in nuance and talk about what he would do, McCain just kept repeating “you would negotiate with terrorists!” McCain couldn’t expand on any thoughts or flesh out his statements. He merely repeated the same talking points over and over. I can’t believe McCain kept insisting Obama was stubborn and wouldn’t admit the surge was working. Um, John, where were you 20 minutes ago when he said the surge was working? I hope these obvious miscues hurt him.

The one mistake of Obama’s I noticed right away was when Leher asked him what programs he would cut because of the financial crisis. Instead of answering the question, he talked about his priorities. Finally, after McCain talked, Obama did mention reducing subsides and ending the war in Iraq. But it was too late. His dodge allowed critics to spew the BS about being a waffler and never answering the question.

Another difference that was very apparent is McCain’s black and white, right and wrong ideology versus Obama’s deeper nuanced thinking. I know some people like that trait in McCain and dislike Obama’s long complicated explanations, but I certainly don’t. McCain is very similar to Bush in this regard. Issues are complicated, not simple. All issues are tinged in shade of gray. Anyway, I thought this difference really stood out in the foreign policy debate.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Rant of the Week: The impending bailout and/or economic fallout

Never thought I would regret not taking more economy classes. This is a difficult situation for everyone to get their heads around. I’m still unsure whether the bailout is a good idea. I’m pretty sure that it really stunk as Paulson first offered it, but was less offensive after some conditions that were added by Congress before the whole thing fell apart Thursday night.

Yes, the bailout stinks. It goes against important principles of accountability and a risk-reward capitalistic economy. It’s cool to say, “We’re not going to bail out these guys, it was their fault!” Yeah! That sounds great. Who’s going to disagree with that? From the forum/blog chatter I’m seeing, most Americans agree. “Let the billionaires suffer,” they say. Many of us have done our homework. We’ve entered into good mortgages, we’ve saved money, kept our debt down, and done everything the right way. So we’ll be okay through this mess, right? Not necessarily. It’s dangerous to assume that this won’t touch you. Hope you don’t need a loan. Hope you have a government job. Hope you’re not depending on your 401(k) anytime soon. Hope investments don’t make up a large portion of your nest egg. Money and well-being might not “trickle down,” but financial ruin might.

We can all see the negative side of the bailout now. However, we cannot see the negative side of doing nothing. I think when people are confronted with the evil they don’t know as opposed to the evil they know, they will inevitably favor the unknown. Those of you/us who oppose the bailout might think differently in 6 months when the results of a massive depression are worse for Americans than a bailout would have been. Even the brightest economists aren’t sure what is going to happen if we do or do not implement the bailout, so how can we pundits be so sure? It’s pretty scary for sure.

I believe McCain’s obstruction on Thursday to Congress’ adjusted plan is responding to the large public outcry against a bail out. Although, as I stated above, the bailout might be the lesser of two evils, I give him props for at least staying consistent to conservative principles. If economic conservatives want to preach no regulations and free markets, then markets should be free to crash without government intervention. It will interesting to see how this plays out in the debate tonight.

Although with my limited knowledge I can’t offer a solution, I can poach one. Read this interesting bit about how Sweden overcame their financial crisis:

A piece:

Sweden did not just bail out its financial institutions by having the government take over the bad debts. It extracted pounds of flesh from bank shareholders before writing checks. Banks had to write down losses and issue warrants to the government.

That strategy held banks responsible and turned the government into an owner. When distressed assets were sold, the profits flowed to taxpayers, and the government was able to recoup more money later by selling its shares in the companies as well.

The important thing isn’t only mitigating this issue, it’s preventing future catastrophes. Now even McCain and the “no regulation” crowd are seeing that deregulation was the problem. Hopefully this will lead to some sensible controls and accountability on Wall Street.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Guest Rant of the Week: Climate Change

My coworker, an anthropogenic climate change denier, forwarded me this article about a climate change scientist:

No smoking hot spot

This guy contends, “by 2007 the evidence was pretty conclusive that carbon played only a minor role and was not the main cause of the recent global warming.” Since I’m not exactly knowledgeable in climatology, I asked for by best friend Micah’s reaction. (Micah’s one month away from a PhD in physics from UW). Here’s his response:

My position is that WE DON'T KNOW about the feedback mechanisms that control global temperature.

Cartoon picture: keep track of all the energy coming in and going out. In the (quasi-)steady state, these must be equal. Obviously solar radiation and geothermal energy heat the earth surface; energy is lost by reflection or re-radiation. The loss mechanisms become more effective at higher temps (the heating mechanisms do not depend on temp), and the avg. temperature is the one at which the incoming power is balanced by outgoing power.

The problem is the loss mechanisms are very complicated (the incoming solar flux is pretty easy to deal with). The global climate system is too complex to simulate (ever wonder why your cat is about as good at predicting the weather as the TV weatherman?). So we don't know what is going to happen, but CO_2 levels are higher now than they have been for a very long time, and headed up. Our choice now is to choose whether or not to run the experiment that will show us what happens when you increase CO_2. If we want to see, we can just keep flying, burning coal for electricity, and running our F350s and reading 'Auto Trader' in the store parking lot while our wives are inside chatting up the cashier.

I would not believe any predictions regarding temperature from anybody regardless of their political tendencies, b/c the science is not there. In science you have to be skeptical. To my mind, the pressing problem is not temperature but atmospheric composition, which is not controversial. Neither is the source. It has been widely believed for a long time that increased CO_2 means greater temps via the greenhouse mechanism (the surface cools more slowly b/c long- wavelength radiation is less likely to escape the atmosphere). I assume the 'hot spot' he is talking about is due to the deposition of this radiation in the CO_2-rich atmosphere (at 'normal' CO_2 levels the energy escapes. But it is a complicated system with many factors (e.g. cloud formation, ocean currents, polar ice, etc.). I'm not sure how well the greenhouse effect is understood in real systems (e.g. I don't think we could accurately predict the surface temp. of Venus from knowledge of its orbit and atmospheric content -- but we could say with confidence that it is higher than it would be w/o such a dense atmosphere).

In the same vein I do not believe that failure to observe the 'hot spot’ is definitive evidence that the greenhouse effect is not raising temps. It could be there and unobserved (experiments are really hard -- it took forever to observe the neutrino, with many failed attempts, but, holy shit, it turned out to be real!!). Or the greenhouse mechanism could be working but not exactly as expected. OTOH, if an anomaly was predicted and then observed, I would take that as strong evidence that the theory making the prediction had some validity. I think the public has difficulty dealing with uncertainty in science. Which is too bad, b/c that's mostly what you get.

Oh yeah, and by the public, I mean Al Gore. I thought it was immoral (almost evil) and almost certainly unproductive to insinuate a link between large storms and CO_2 emissions in his movie. It's not that I don’t think such a link is likely (seems very plausible to me), but there is no data yet. When Gore promises that we can avoid trouble by cutting emissions, he is making an assertion that he can not support with anything but a gut feeling. Now every year that doesn't produce a cat 5 storm we will have to listen to a bunch of morons tell us how it’s stupid to conserve energy.

Who knows what will happen as CO_2 levels increase? Personally, I would prefer not to find out.

Some specific responses to the article:

The other three global temperature records use a mix of satellite and land measurements, or satellite only, and they all show no warming since 2001 and a recent cooling.

I'm not sure what the scientific consensus is, but I thought warming was still observed and not controversial. I could be wrong. The IPCC report will have a reliable answer (with error bars) to this one.

The new ice cores show that in the past six global warmings over the past half a million years, the temperature rises occurred on average 800 years before the accompanying rise in atmospheric carbon. Which says something important about which was cause and which was effect.

I'm not sure I agree with this. Is he implying that new ice core data contradicts the old data? The dates were very accurate on the old data b/c they were counted BY HAND, and there were many stratiagraphic markers. How did they measure the CO_2 concentrations way back? I bet it is some complicated deductive process with lots of assumptions originating from some isotopic analysis of the ice, and I am quite skeptical that they could say anything definitive about which precedes which. Also, how does one explain the temp. rise associated with large eruptions w/o invoking the greenhouse mechanism?

Land-based temperature readings are corrupted by the "urban heat island" effect: urban areas encroaching on thermometer stations warm the micro-climate around the thermometer, due to vegetation changes, concrete, cars, houses.

Ummm... what we want to measure is the actual temp. The 'micro-
climates' near urban areas contribute to the global average, too.



Friday, September 5, 2008

Professional Rant of the Week: Sarah Palin gender card

John Stewart on the double-talk of the Right. Brilliant stuff. I love how he tries, but just cannot contain his anger and disgust.

Rant of the Week: RNC

So you guys might not have watched much of it, but I did check out a few speeches during the Republican National Convention. One must know an adversary’s positions to counter them, right? Well, it was tough to stomach and I almost blew chunks a few times, but I did manage to learn a few things. Here are a few thoughts.

I know the Democrats came out attacking, but the attacks paled in comparison to the sewer-dwelling lies and fear peddling of the right. It was downright astonishing, even when I fully expected these Rove tactics. Fred Thompson, Rudi Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin offered lie after vicious attack. The Republicans have shown that they want to conduct their campaign just like they conduct their foreign policy: Attack, mock, and bully.

Sarah Palin’s speech had to be the biggest disgrace to American politics I’ve ever seen (okay, maybe I’m forgetting a Bush speech or two). I wanted to come away from Palin's speech with an idea what she stood for. What policies does she advocate? How would these policies bring about the change even the Republicans admit we need? Instead, I saw that Sarah Palin stands for insults, smears, and attacks. Fear Obama! Your taxes will go up (despite his tax plan). Terrorists will win! Gas prices will skyrocket and Saudis will win! FEAR OBAMA! This was the same drivel levelled at the Democrats speech after speech. Please, America. Not this time. Let's make sure the fear peddling and lies doesn't work this time. Not this time.

(One more side rant about Palin. It absolutely cracked me up that the right is pointing both barrels at the media and Democrats for “degrading attacks” on Sarah. First off all, the Obama campaign tactfully had no comment on Palin’s 17 year old pregnant daughter. Not one word from his campaign or any prominent Dem. As far as the press goes, this is a vice presidential candidate you dumb cocksuckers! Is this not news worth covering? If not, what is? The press digs into every single detail of Obama’s life, including his former pastor, his wife, his former acquaintances, people he talked to once, and his house pets. During this pitiful digging, much of which was negative, the right still railed on about “liberal media.” Now when the press does 2 minutes of basic reporting on a vice presidential candidate, the right again plays the “liberal media” card. What were they expecting, the media to ignore a woman that could be our next president? The media is not spreading lies here, this is basic news. What a joke. Drives me completely nuts.)

McCain’s speech was better than Palin's. I was hoping McCain would utilize the same sleazy gutter tactics as his running mate did Wednesday night. While her speech "energized the base," the below the belt attacks did nothing to gain their ticket more votes, only to sicken everyone but hard core Repubs. McCain's delivery wasn't dazzling, of course (zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz), and the content was light, but there was more than Palin's (um, that’s not hard). I think the McCain speech was the only thing that saved the RNC from a complete disaster.

The Republicans NEEDED to acknowledge the failure of their party the last 7 years. To continually attack the Democrats for spending and fiscal responsibility run very hollow and hypocritical. McCain's honesty about the failed Bush administration was just what those undecided voters needed to hear. McCain showed some of the McCain of old, the Maverick, who had been in hidding since the campaign started.

Now that the Republicans have co-opted the Dem's theme of change (which is wise), will the public really turn to the same party for change? The same party that has pretty much been right in line with Bush policies, or the party that at least has shown some effort to change things the last few years?

McCain wants to return to the Maverick of old. If he does, that’s great, but he’ll have to flip-flop BACK to his original positions, which he left aside a while ago. If McCain is serious about change, why are his policies all the same as the Bush administration? Why is he still insisting on 100 years in Iraq? Why did he move away from opposing Bush’s tax cuts for the richest Americans? Why does he discount diplomacy is a viable foreign policy tool? Why is he in lock step with Bush on energy issues? Sorry, John, but one speech isn’t enough, and it’s not consistent with the policies you now support. Unless you actually show some real change and change your views to be different from George W. Bush’s why should we really trust you to change Washington?

In addition, if he is indeed tired of the political rancor, then he needs to put a muzzle on his attack dogs. Really, how hypocritical is it to talk about stopping the division and fear, why did his running mate do little but peddle fear and lies Wednesday night? So John, are you going to release the Karl Rove campaign team now that you’re tired of partisan bickering? I doubt it. And I’m not upset about it, as this will once again expose him as a hypocrite.

McCain is going to have a hard time living up to that speech. I feel the GOP is going in two directions at once, with McCain wanting to push his Maverick image while other interests in the party want nothing to do with change. This is going to be hard sell.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rant of the Week: GOP think tank does not error in Sarah Palin choice

At first when I heard that GOP presidential hopeful John McCain picked Alaska governor Sarah Palin for vice president, I thought it was a stupid move. “Do you really think you’re going to get former Hillary supporters to vote for a woman with very opposite values and political views?” However, after some more thought, I think it was a smart pick by Karl Rove and McCain’s campaign committee.

It’s common knowledge that picking a VP doesn’t buy a presidential candidate many votes. At the most, you might pick up a few more votes in the VP’s home state. Palin has the potential to gain McCain more votes than any other would be VP candidate. What would a pick such as Mitt Romney get McCain? A few votes in Massachusetts still aren’t going to win that liberal state for McCain. He probably would gain a few votes in Utah and the other Mormon states, but he’s got those in the bag already. Sarah Palin, however, creates an opportunity for McCain to pick up quite a few women throughout every state.

Some women are rightfully screaming “how dare you insult us like this? You think you can run ANY woman and get our votes?” No, that’s not what McCain/Rove think. They don’t care about the offended liberal women—their votes aren’t up for grabs. These liberal, thoughtful women, whether they originally supported Hillary or Obama, are now solidly behind Barack Obama. Fortunately for the Dems, polls are showing that the party is not as divided as the media was pushing. However, there still are some really pissed off bitches out there who continue to swear that they will not vote for Obama. Let me give you an example of a post of one such woman:

valwayne wrote:
Hillary last night showed why she should be the nominee of the party. She showed what an enormous mistake "The Obama' made in not offerring her the VP spot. And she showed how a true stateman/woman behaves even in the face of a continuous barrage of contempt and humilation for "The Obama. Rather than a huge party nominating Hillary who would be ahead 20 points in the polls the party is stuck with an inexperienced, incredibly arrogant, and sexist man with a messiah complex. Even in victory he can't treat Hillary and Bill with respect. There is nothing in this world more ugly then a bad winner who insists on rubbing it in your face. The rest of Hillary's supporters can bow down and worship at the altar of "The ONE they've been waiting for”, but I will never vote for him. Hillary 2012

Okay, here we clearly have a psycho Hillary supporter who obviously could give a shit about the values that Hillary stood for. Despite the fact that her candidate Hillary gave a very convincing speech for Obama and frankly asked her supporters to vote for him, they are undaunted in their hatred of Obama. Despite the fact that Hillary’s platform is nearly identical to Obama’s and very different from McCain’s, these women could give a flying ****. They never were true Democrats, never were true Hillary supporters, and they never were voting for values or issues. There's no other logical answer besides that they want a woman in the White House. Period.

Some of these women could be bluffing, and could actually end up holding their nose and voting for Obama. However, if people like the woman above are dead serious, they are debating whether to not vote at all or vote for McCain. McCain’s pick of Palin could tip the scales, resulting in some of these women voting for his ticket.

One could argue that these people he picks up would be offset by those he could lose in picking such an inexperienced (or insert your other critique) VP candidate. Maybe the new news that Palin’s 17 year old daughter is pregnant will hurt them. Frankly, I doubt it. As far as I’m concerned, regardless of how unhappy everyone is with Bush, Karl Rove and the Republican think tanks are the champions until defeated. Once again we see why.

Recipe of the Week: Thai Green Curry

Thai Green Curry Paste

6 – 10 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 T. chopped garlic
1/4 c. chopped shallots or green onions
1 T. chopped ginger
1/4 c. cilantro
1.5 t ground coriander
1 t. caraway seeds
3/4 t. ground black pepper
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves
2 t. grated lemon rind
3 to 4 T. vegi oil

Puree the ingredients in a blender to a smooth paste, adding oil as needed. Makes around 1 cup of paste.

Mix the curry paste with coconut milk for a killer green curry. I’d mix 1 cup paste with about 1.5 cups coconut milk. Add 1 T fish sauce (or some salt), 1 pound chicken, beef, pork, and/or vegis, a couple teaspoons lemon juice, and a bunch of fresh basil and mint.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rant of the Week: Olympics (or “I'll zuke if I see one more gymnastics routine or beach volleyball match”)

So the 2008 Olympics have come to an end. As usual, I have some thought to impart.

On NBC and Olympics coverage: My biggest grips with the Olympics were the primetime content and the marathon of commercials. There were many exciting events that went uncovered by NBC, at least during their primetime schedule. I was really looking forward to watching some Olympic soccer, but alas, it was completely ignored. After being spanked by Brazil in the world cup, our women’s soccer team was not expected to beat Brazil in the finals. They pulled off a great win, which didn’t seem to interest the network in the slightest. Our men didn’t do so well, being knocked out in the group stage, but we didn’t see the great semi-final matchups of Argentina and Brazil and Nigeria and Belgium, or the final when Argentina beat Nigeria by one goal. That irks me more than anything. I was also looking forward to watching our softball team kick ass. Unfortunately, Japan surprised us with a 3-1 win. But you had to read the news to find that out, as NBC could have cared less about the sport. That night we saw BMX racing and even MORE fucking gymnastics (even though the medal events were over it was merely the gymnastics’ own closing ceremonies where we get to see all our cute stars do meaningless performances. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.)

Yes, I saw enough gymnastics to vomit uncontrollably. Sure, I can understand showing the team competition and individual events, but why do we have to see all the qualifying bullshit too? Same goes for swimming and track and field. How about a diversity of events on primetime instead of filling up 75% of primetime with three events: swimming, gymnastics and track. We saw every freaking time Michael Phelps entered the pool but nothing of judo, badminton, handball, or hockey. Of the other 25% of programming, 15% was taken up by beach freaking volleyball. As’s Dr. Z said, “When I die and go to hell, hell will be beach volleyball -- for all eternity.” I’m not sure if lots of perverts tune into this sport just because the female athletes’ uniforms are composed of all of about 6 square inches of fabric or what, but it’s definitely wrong.

Of course NBC’s choices comes down to catering for the market. I’m sure they’ve done a bunch of surveys that show that Midwest families eat up gymnastics like Wonder Bread. I guess my tastes are out of line with most Americans. So I can’t really fault NBC with their primetime coverage, but that doesn’t mean I can’t rant about it. Plus, I didn’t watch the daytime programming although I could have taped it and watched it later. Additionally, supposedly the Olympics has a great website where you can watch soccer matches in their entirety and other sports dissed by NBC. The endless litany of commercials, however, squarely falls on the shoulders of NBC. I truly hope many Americans got so sick of the advertisements that they turned off their televisions. Unfortunately, I doubt this was the case. Any NFL fan can tell you that the commercials are insane, but at the same time, football enjoys greater viewing than every before. Thank God for DVR/Tivo.

Track and field: Not a lot of words here, just a huge congrats going out to Jamaica. What an impressive showing for the small island nation, and what a fun thing to watch. While some Americans cried and whined about their silvers and bronzes, the jamacans were busy kicking our asses. Hopefully this serves as a bit of humility for the States (even though, despite all the headlines about us choking on a few events, we still ruled track).

Usain Bolt’s antics on the 100 meter race didn’t sit well with me. It’s not that he disrespected his competitors, it’s that he disrespected a sport, where an athlete is supposed to give it their all, not prance down the last 20 meters thumping your chest like you’re T.O. headed in for a touchdown. I would suspect he was talked to about this ego problem, and was happy to see that Bolt took this criticism into account. He ran the 200 meter all out, and was a good sport in the 4x100 relay as well. (One of the coolest moments in the Olympics for me was to watch how absolutely and honestly ecstatic Michael Johnson was about Bolt breaking his record. See the celebration on You-Tube here.) Anyway, huge “big-up” to the Jamaican track team. Thanks for some of the greatest Olympic moments of 2008. I really, really hope all of them are drug free.

China gymnast age controversy: Lots of things I could say about China, including non-games related issues such as Darfur or the romantized Tibet; lots of stuff I could say about its behavior during the games, such as detaining protesters and denying visas to athletes. But what I want to rant about is the issue of these young Chinese "woman" gymnasts. While I was watching the Olympics with my parents, we weren’t immediately aware of the 16 year age limitation. We thought several of these Chinese girls were around 11 or 12. You’ll hear a few people talk about “how dare you make judgments on their age just from their appearance!” Yes, gymnasts look younger anyway, but give me a freaking break, a few of these girls look a few years off puberty and one girl is missing what appears to be a baby tooth. Despite China’s effort to erase all evidence, there are documents indicating that He Kexin is 13 and Jiang Yuyuan is 14. I know, I know, innocent until proven guilty, but my money is on China cheating. If they are caught, of course all medals obtained by under age gymnasts should be stripped, including their team gold. Never mind that it’s debatable how much being young is actually an advantage. Rules are rules, and 14 year-olds living in Kansas, Russia and Japan were denied the opportunity to compete because of these rules. I can’t see any other option here.

First of all, the US needs to quit screaming and crying about it. First of all, we had the opportunity to beat this Chinese team if it weren’t for several bad chokes. The Chinese deserved to win and I don’t want to hear any excuses for taking silver. Secondly, I don’t want to hear any righteous, holier-than-thou talk from Americans about using children and subjecting them to lots of stress too early in life. Did we forget 6-year olds in beauty pageants, 5th graders in spelling bees, and 11-year old boys playing little league games that come out on top of national TV sports ratings?

My final point is this: This age issue is an all-around sad situation for EVERY gymnast involved, from China and the US. If China gets caught, my heart goes out these young girls, who undoubtedly didn’t have any say in the matter whether they competed or not. These girls will pay the price of getting their medals stripped for what? Powerful, greedy men, who care only to brag of their nation’s victories.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Slacker Rant of the week: More on energy

Been too busy this week to write a real rant. I need some help from you guys. I'll be bothering you this week to fork out a guest rant. You guys have a lot of stuff you can school people on. I want to hear it.

I did take a few minutes to reply to Micah's comment on last week's rant. This will have to serve for now.

once we get some realistic system to control CO_2 production, the cost of the oil will not be the limiting factor. smoke 'em if you got 'em, cuz it's gunna be a different world. just my opinion.

Never thought of that. That's not surprising—after the last 10 years, regulation was the farthest thing from my mind.

on a different note, i've often heard oil companies blame the lack of refining capacity for high gas prices. this seems like utter bullshit (why wouldn't some entrepreneur just build a new refinery and sell for less??).

Definitely. Many refineries are running near capacity. So why aren’t more being built? According to a comprehensive report on the state of the US refining industry conducted by Senator Ron Wyden, 24 refineries have been closed down between 1995 and 2001. Why? From the BBC article:

US environmental laws have made it near impossible to build refineries close to residential populations. But the primary motive behind the lack of US refinery new builds is a basic one, a lack of profits for oil companies.

Wyden uncovered several memos and internal documents from major oil companies. These charted the way that capacity in the US refining industry was reduced to maintain higher profits.

Wyden received one such memo from oil company Texaco, written in 1996. The company felt it was quite clear that petrol supplies needed "reducing."

"The most critical factor facing the refining industry on the West Coast is the surplus refining capacity, and the surplus gasoline production capacity," said the memo.

"The same situation exists for the entire US refining industry. Supply significantly exceeds demand year-round. This results in very poor refinery margins, and very poor refinery financial results. Significant events need to occur to assist in reducing supplies and/or increasing the demand for gasoline."

Interesting stuff. Maybe I need to go back and amend my rant about how rising gas prices aren’t the fault of oil companies….

i like you idea of an apollo-style effort in AE. BUT i think there has been a pretty sustained effort for about 30 years w/o much real success (e.g. we have a national lab in your home state dedicated to renewables: nobel laureate walter kohn (UC santa cruz) has spent much of his career working on AE. he says that solar and fusion are the only reasonable alternatives. fusion still has echnological problems, and solar still costs more than dead dinosaurs.

I’ve heard this before, but this is the first time I’ve heard it from someone with a credible background in science with left-leaning views. This usually comes from folks who say “nothing packs the punch that oil does, therefore we should stop waiting time and money on renewables.” My answer is twofold: well then what do you plan to do when gas becomes too expensive for you to buy it and not enough R&D has been done to make that determination yet. It’s pretty scary to think that might not be the case. Do you think incentives, subsides, and pouring more government money into research will yield any advancements or do you think Kohn and company’s work is about as definitive as it will get? If many renewables aren’t economically feasible with $4/gallon gas, are they more competitive when gas gets to $8 a gallon?

personally, i think there is no "alternative". the answer is to (drastically) reduce the amount of energy we use. i propose doing this by designing our society to be efficient: live in moderate climates, don't travel much, don't transport things long distances, don't support such a large population of humans. if we cut our pop. to 500 million our environmental problems would quickly disappear....

Well that should be easy, Prange. ;-) But I agree that conservation must play a huge part. Even if we can’t transition to these societal changes right away, we can start doing somethings now.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rant of the Week: Energy policy, Part II: Sticking it to Dubya and McSame.

The “new” neocon (which includes Bush, and yes, McCain too) energy policy is to drill more oil wells. Period. Specifically, Republicans are pushing for opening up off-shore drilling and the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). They also want to lift the moratorium on oil shale development in western CO, Utah and Wyoming, even though the oil companies say the technology isn’t ready to produce oil from shale economically or safely. This week McCain spoke at a bikers’ rally: “We're gunna become energy independent. We’re not going to pay $4 a gallon for gas because we’re going to drill offshore, and we’re going to drill now. We’re going to drill here. We’re going to drill now!” This is the Republican party energy mantra. The GOP occasionally pays lip service to alternative energy and conservation, yet their actions and words indicate they are serious about no such thing. Conservatives contend increasing domestic supply will bring down prices. This is actually an enticing option to many people because it plays on simple supply and demand economics. If we increase supply, price goes down, right? This is just not the case.

Last week I told you three factors that are contributing to the rising price of gasoline. Republicans and the oil and gas industry like to blame “liberal environmentalists” for resisting domestic drilling and not allowing any more oil refineries. I’d like to ask them when “liberal environmentalists” have had any political power in the last 10+ years. If this issue was so important to the GOP, why didn’t Bush address this issue when they had control of Congress? I’d also like to ask them why we’ve got more drill rugs running right now on American soil than ever before. In Colorado, the BLM has opened up the Roan Plateau for development and will do the same for Vermillion Basin. So who’s restricting development again? Oil and gas companies have over 30 million acres of federal minerals leased in the US (mostly under public land in the west) that they’re not drilling. And don’ tell me restrictions hurt you. You’re making astronomical profits. We need to make these companies ante up that extra money to drill with fewer impacts.

Okay little diversion rant there, but back to the important point that drilling offshore and ANWR will simply not lower prices by any significant amount, and what small impact it will have will be a decade off. Both the Bush-controlled Department of Energy and the energy industry agree (when they let the truth slip). Even oil baron T. Boone Pickens understands and has put forward an energy plan relying heavily on renewable energy. Lets hear what the experts have to say. First from the Casper Star-Tribune:

Looking to the next year, Charles F. Mason, the H.A. "Dave" True Jr. professor of petroleum and natural gas economics at the University of Wyoming, said the notion that the nation could simply drill more wells to become "independent" of foreign oil imports simply isn't realistic."It's a myth," Mason said.

Of America's potential to unlock more domestic resources, Mason said, "It's truly small potatoes in the context of the global oil market."

Former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, Thomas B. Evans, summarized the situation well in a recent editorial for the Tampa Tribune when he wrote:

“Unfortunately, some find it easy to take advantage of these hardships. These misguided leaders are capitalizing on the high price of gasoline...It is terribly misleading to suggest that drilling would reduce the price of oil anytime in the near future...Speaking as a Republican, I fervently hope we will not be led down a path that may benefit oil companies but is so clearly wrong for America.”

In an article in The Advisor, Lee Fuller, a lobbyist for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, let it slip:

“There’s very little Congress can do in the short term because we’re dealing with a global market.”

Even by the Bush administration's DOE’s admission, opening ANWR to drilling will not produce results until 2018, and even then the contribution to the global oil pool will be insignificant.

Additional oil production resulting from the opening of ANWR would be only a small portion of total world oil production, and would likely be offset in part by somewhat lower production outside the United States. The opening of ANWR is projected to have its largest oil price reduction impacts as follows: a reduction in low-sulfur, light crude oil prices of $0.41 per barrel (2006 dollars) in 2026 for the low oil resource case, $0.75 per barrel in 2025 for the mean oil resource case, and $1.44 per barrel in 2027 for the high oil resource case, relative to the reference case.

I would also like to ask these GOP dolts this: If we have more drill rigs running on US soil than ever before, why is the cost of natural gas and oil increasing? Why isn’t your simple supply and demand philosophy working now? Finally, let’s not remember that fossil fuels are a finite resource. Regardless of how much we drill, we will eventually run out. Instead of buffering against this impending supply decrease, we’re continuing to feed our addiction. The shortsightedness of Bush and McCain is downright frightening.

Following the lead of the neo-cons when it comes to energy policy would be a monumental mistake for this nation. The environmental impacts are one thing, and I worry about the affects to climate more than those which can be more easily mitigated. However, we cannot overlook what this “no change” philosophy will do to our economy. The US used to have the best bunch of scientists and engineers in the world. While we can make the case that we still do, no one can deny the fact that we’re falling behind. A president could issue an ultimatum to the American people to lead the world in development of AE (much like Kennedy challenged us to beat the Russians to the moon), which could stimulate a scientific renaissance. This resurgence will create jobs and help shift our economy away from what could be a catastrophic collapse if we don’t wean ourselves off oil.

I’m all about a three pronged approach of seeking alternative energy sources, conservation (including forcing many conservation measures, such as fuel standards), and some responsible domestic drilling. But until we get moving on those other two legs to the stool, we should open no new areas to oil and gas development. Until our government shows that it is dead serious about AE and conservation, no giveaways to the oil and gas industry. To me, maybe next to foreign policy, this is the most important issue of the 2008 election. I can’t think of a worse way to address this issue than the Republican energy policy.

Professional Rant of the Week: Know-Nothing Politics

Paul Krugman came out with an op-ed about the neocon energy policy at the right time to support my Rant of the Week.

Know-Nothing Politics

And the debate on energy policy has helped me find the words for something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Republicans, once hailed as the “party of ideas,” have become the party of stupid.

Now, I don’t mean that G.O.P. politicians are, on average, any dumber than their Democratic counterparts. And I certainly don’t mean to question the often frightening smarts of Republican political operatives.

What I mean, instead, is that know-nothingism — the insistence that there are simple, brute-force, instant-gratification answers to every problem, and that there’s something effeminate and weak about anyone who suggests otherwise — has become the core of Republican policy and political strategy. The party’s de facto slogan has become: “Real men don’t think things through.”

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Rant of the Week: Energy policy, Part I: Letting Dubya and big oil off the hook

Okay, it’s Friday night and I’m putting off my head altering activities to pound out this potentially long and very broad topic about energy policy. I’m taking another look at this on Saturday morning and I want to go camping, so instead of writing one long piece, I think now I’m going to split this topic into two posts. In this post I will try to argue the forces that have raised gas prices are largely beyond our government’s and oil companies’ control. The next post I will rip part the Bush/Republican energy “policy,” which will just make things worse. I’m also looking for a lot of participation on this one, because *gasp* I can’t find many ways to blame the Bush administration or “big oil” for the rising price of energy in America.

As far as I see it, there are up to 3 reasons why gas prices have increased in the last 6 months.

1. Millions of people in the world are pulling themselves into the energy-consuming middle class in countries like India and China. This is increasing global demand, which of course, raises the price of a barrel of oil.
2. The US dollar is very weak, which means we’re paying more for a global resource.
3. There is a lot of “futures” speculation going on.

Folks aren’t arguing about the first two reasons, but there’s some disagreement as to how much futures are contributing. This concept is a bit confusing to me and maybe some of you can enlighten me. Futures are contracts that require delivery of a commodity of specified quality and quantity, at a specified price, on a specified future date. Um okay….so how does this affect prices? Any help from the market experts? I’m also reading that there’s some market manipulation going on that could be affecting prices.

So how can we hold oil companies responsible for high gas prices? Yes, Exxon and their friends are making a bunch of money, and so are their CEOs, while we suffer.
These companies make billions in profits, but they also have very high costs. Exxon made 10% last quarter. That’s a lot, for sure, but Apple, for example, made 15%. So why aren’t we protesting Steve Jobs for heading up an evil corporation that makes too much money? (I do acknowledge that buying an Apple is a luxury and buying gas, for some, is not). Isn’t it a company’s job to make as much money as they can? Don’t they have a responsibility to their share holders to do just that? Why in the hell would I want to own any stock in Exxon (which I surely do in my 401(k)) when they decide to sell gas for less than the market will pay? Of course, if the government decided pull out those billions of dollars in subsidies (or maybe even increase taxes, such as windfall taxes, but I’m undecided on that), I’d be all for it, but it’s not up to the companies to do that.

The one gripe I have with oil companies is that there’s no real competition going on. I can’t drive from the Exxon station to a Shell station and get gas for much less. It seems all the companies increase their prices at the same time, kind like gas stations in Craig or Salmon. These oil companies seem to be colluding to increase prices together. Because competition is not driving down prices, the market just isn’t working the way it should. Please chime in with other reasons we can hold oil companies accountable for high gas prices.

So how is Bush responsible? He has to be, right? There’s no doubt he and Cheney love the oil and gas industry. And there’s no question their corrupt Department of the Interior is making it easier for oil companies to make money by opening up more areas and going very light on restrictions. But specifically, what have the neocons done to raise the price of a barrel of oil? Sure, Bush supports subsides for oil and gas companies, but he doesn’t create these subsides—Congress does. We can also point the finger at Bush for not pushing the development of alternative energy (AE), but creating incentives and requirements to use AE isn’t done by the Executive branch of the government. Again, it’s Congress who has been sitting on their hands. Bush has squandered an opportunity to provide leadership in development of AE, but other than that, I’m having a hard time linking him to high prices.

So here’s your challenge, my fellow Bush-detesting readers. Tell me how oil companies and Bush are responsible for high gas prices. Even if they aren’t responsible for gas prices, the Republicans are taking the worst possible steps to “remedy” the problem. Stay tuned for next week when I won’t be as nice on Dubya.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Recipe of the week: Salmon Rice Bowls with Ginger-Lime Sauce

I'm a huge fan of Vietnamese food. The flavors are fresh and they do such a great job mixing sweet, spicy, sour, and salty. This dish is no exception, leaning on ginger, chiles, and garlic for flavor and lime and cuccumber for freshness. This salmon dish is a household favorite.

1 3/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups long-grain rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons minced, peeled fresh ginger
3 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 Thai red chile, chopped
10 small garlic cloves
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
2 kirby cucumbers (10 ounces), cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Four 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups of the water and the rice to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook the rice for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a mortar, pound the ginger with the sugar and chile to a coarse paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of water, the lime juice and the fish sauce. Add the cucumbers.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet. Season the salmon with salt and pepper. Add the salmon to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Add the whole garlic cloves. Turn the salmon and cook over moderate heat until opaque throughout, about 4 minutes.

Mound the rice in bowls. Top with the salmon, garlic cloves and ginger-lime sauce with cucumber strips and serve. Pass any extra sauce at the table.

Adapted from Food and Wine recipe.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Professional Rant of the Week - How Obama Became Acting President

This bit from Frank Rich has been the "most emailed article" from the NYTimes since it was published on Sunday. Lots of good stuff in here you're not hearing about McCain.

How Obama Became Acting President

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Rant of the Week - Wild horses

I’ve been feenin’ to rant about wild horses, but I was kinda waiting until the Little Snake Field Office does its wild horse roundup, scheduled for this October. The Sand Wash Herd Management Area (HMA) has an Appropriate Management Level of 163 to 362 animals. There are currently more than 450 horses there. However, this front page article in the Denver Post this morning made me decide to push up my timeline on my wild horse rant. Recently, BLM deputy director Henri Bisson presented euthanasia as a solution to a meeting of the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. This sparked all kinds of outrage. I’d contend that besides the dog, no animal is more revered in America than the horse.

Management of wild horses should be built upon this premise: Wild horses are an exotic species. I don’t care if they were in North America 10,000 years ago. If that’s our definition of “native,” then elephants are native, too. They are relatives of feral horses, set lose by ranchers. They should be managed as such, not on par with native wildlife. Yes, ranching interests do have the upper hand on public land and yes, livestock do cause more damage to the range—but only because there are more. One horse does a lot more damage than one cow. Horses have top and bottom teeth, which allow them to snip off vegetation right at the ground, killing the plant instead of allowing it to regrow next year. Additionally, livestock can be managed when environmental impacts are imminent. The BLM can, and does, force ranchers to move or remove cattle and sheep from the range. Nothing can be done about horses, except the roundups which occur every 4 to 5 years.

Horses are very destructive, yet wild horse advocate groups argue there should be no management of wild horses; they should be allowed to run free and never be rounded up. Not only that, but they ask that horses are returned to areas they were removed from (because of mixed land ownership and lack of water and/or forage). In addition to the significant environmental damage that would cause, there would eventually be a huge wild horse die off. That’s not my idea of limiting animal cruelty. Not many environmental groups favor wild horses. Environmental interests and wild horse interests are very different in many respects. They don’t dovetail often (except to fight oil and gas development, and occasionally, livestock grazing), largely because the wiser environmental orgs know the damage this introduced species does. When was the last time you heard the Sierra Club, Wilderness Society, Center for Native Ecosystems, Colorado Environmental Coalition, etc speak out in favor of wild horses? If you want massive numbers of horses on the range, you’re going to see significant deterioration of the range and many starving horses. They reproduce like rabbits, and within 10 years we would have a massive ecological problem on our hands. Native vegetation and native wildlife would suffer greatly.

Wild horses are still really neat animals, and I support them being managed on public lands. Whether they’re native or not, they are still powerful and beautiful symbols of the west. But we can’t let radical animal rights groups dictate wild horse policy. “No easy fix” is correct. Euthanasia should be the absolute last resort, and I’m not sure we’re their yet. Fertility control sounds like a good compromise to me, and it we should be trying this approach in many areas. But even this is opposed by horse interest groups. In 2005, the Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition and the Cloud tried unsuccessfully to stop the BLM from experimenting with chemical contraception in Montana’s Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range. I’ve dealt with many interests in natural resources, and none are more radical or uncompromising than wild horse advocates. The condition of the range should be the #1 objective, and to me that means fewer cows, sheep AND horses.

Let me close with this fact: The Interior Department spends almost $40 million on wild horses and burros, while it invests just $74,472 trying to keep the average threatened or endangered species in existence. Sorry, but that’s just plain wrong.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rant of the Week - Debunking the Obama - Odinga Connection

It shouldn’t have surprised me. I should have seen this one coming. I read this post on the Denver Post forum the other day:

Yahoo "Raila Odinga Sharia Law". Obambi campaigned for this murdering thug knowing he had signed a pact to institute sharia law in Kenya if elected. This thug is behind the violence going on in Kenya now.

(Here's the tread. I post as 'niko.' You can tell the idiot worked me up, as I'm usually never this agressive.)

Here are two blogs which flesh out these lies. They're quite entertaining (albeit frustrating).

Despite the fact that a Google search turns up more lies than truth, there is little in this statement that is true. Obama's perceived support for Odinga may have arisen from a speech he gave to university students in Nairobi during his 2006 visit. Obama spoke out against corruption in President Kibaki's government. Because Odinga is Kibaki's main political rival, Obama's criticism was misconstrued to mean that he had endorsed Odinga.

Obama did meet with Odinga, but there’s no proof of any endorsement. Obama has much support in Kenya, where he also enjoys a rock-star status. Raila took advantage of this for his campaign and tried to portray Obama's trip to Kenya as a personal endorsement. He even claimed Obama was his cousin, which is also false, showing a pattern of lying to make himself closer to Obama than what’s really the case. So although it may have been possible that Obama supported Odinga, there’s no proof of Obama “campaigning for” him.

The bit about signing an agreement to institute sharia law in Kenya is also unsupported. There is a doctored document on the internet, but wikileak refutes the allegation, adding:

Wikileaks’s analysis aside, it doesn't take very advanced math, wikipedia or googling skills to recognize that risking up to 80% of the vote (Kenya's Christian majority) to cater to a minority of 10% (its Muslims) doesn't add up.
There are claims from these idiots Odinga is a radical Muslim, which illustrates the pundits’ level of understanding of the subject.

Okay, so these assertions are lies. But, for the sake of argument, let’s say he did support Odinga’s presidential bid. The important thing to remember is that in 2006, while Odinga was a typical corrupt politician, his hands were fairly clean at this point. Obama even spoke out against tribal politics during his visit:

Ethnic-based politics has to stop. It’s rooted in a bankrupt idea that the goal of politics is to funnel as much of the pie as possible to ones own family, ones own tribe, or ones own circle of friends with little regard for public good.

Ethnic violence erupted in Kenya over a year after Obama’s visit and any fantasy endorsement. There is no proof of who facilitated the deaths of over a thousand innocent Kenyans. However, there’s little doubt, in my mind at least, that Odinga was a major orchestrator of this violence, along with President Kibaki and other prominent politicians. So calling Odinga a thug after the election is a fair analysis. However, no one even bothers to make up lies about how Obama might have shown support for Odinga after his hands were bloodied. The only evidence of any communication is when Obama took time off his campaign in New Hampshire to make a five-minute phone call to Odinga, urging him to talk with President Kibaki in order to avoid more bloodshed. So the only connection was that Obama was urging Odinga to stop the volence. That doesn’t sound like supporting a thug to me.

After searching through the first few pages of my Google search, I blelieve this is the first blog post stating the truth about Obama’s connection to Odinga. That’s fucking whacked. Thankfully, there are a few news articles that state the truth: