Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The Dangers of the Obama Presidency – II

I stayed up to watch the first Obama press conference (shown on Al Jazeera, and with lots of commentary before and after). And we can say, the man has style. Big time style. One of the Al Jazeera commentators (a Brit) just kept going on about how Presidential he had seemed, and such a great demeanor, and what a relief it was to not be cringing and embarrassed, as he used to be when Bush gave his very few press conferences.

I’m a bit concerned that he came into the press conference with a list of the reporters that he was going to call on (no, that did not include Al Jazeera). I knew that his candidacy was marked by a very close control over the media portrayal of him. I was hoping that would not continue….

And what’s up with these super close ties to the Israeli state? And he’s been enthusiastic about biofuels from ethanol (read: let’s support corn farmers without paying attention to actual carbon impact of this fuel).

Okay, I admit, I am giddy at the prospect of getting to be critical about the Obama administration. This is so much better than being hopelessly depressed over the Bush administration!


The Dangers of the Obama Presidency - I

I mocked some Canadians. I believe I said something like:

HA! We have Obama and you have ….HARPER! HA!

This was unkind. The Canadians in question were from Quebec, and therefore did not really care. Still, though, that does not really justify it. In my defense, I was drunk on the giddy feeling of no longer feeling morally and culturally inferior to my northern neighbors.

(In retrospect, my ‘northern neighbors’ now are Ethiopia, and it’s kind of funny, because I totally feel like Ethiopia is totally culturally superior to any of my backgrounds. On the other hand, Ethiopia doesn’t exactly hold a moral card over anyone right now – they are like the Guantanamo Bay of Africa, holding political prisoners from all over in extremely obscure and likely bad conditions.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008



dude, we hardly ever get fireworks in Nairobi! well, with the exception of Diwali, and that's only in certain parts of town. I'm still at work on a conference call, but either there was just a massive gun battle with cannons or fireworks are going off!!!!



Kenya is ecstatic

Kenya is ecstatic. Completely. Dancing on the streets, dancing pretty much everywhere. I have done several victory laps through my office, flying my Obama 2008 kanga. I have hugged everyone in the office, and burst into tears several times during the day.

Yes, it is true, President Kibaki has named November 6 a national holiday. People are So Proud. It is the only thing on the news, everyone on the street talking about. On my walk to work, I had so many neighbors and people greet me with congratulations and shared expressions of joy. It is a great feeling.

It’s true I missed out on being bombarded by the full Campaign Effect – no commercials, infomercials, or signs in yards. But I certainly did not miss out on the Obama excitement. Someone, I don’t know who, paid for Obama billboards around Nairobi, including pictoral shots on the new Jumbo-tron type electronic billboard that is on the Hallie Sellassie /Uhuru Highway roundabout. The news has covered the elections quite thoroughly (perhaps too thoroughly - see earlier post). In Western Kenya, church leaders held an ecumenical prayer service, in which they prayed for the hearts of Republicans to be changed. People in rural Kenya know about the electoral voting system in the States. There are Swahili and Jaluo songs about Obama, there are Obama shirts and buttons and cloth, there are a million Obama matatus (mini-buses).

So today is the culmination of a whole lot of momentum and excitement. I would love to be back in the States, but I can count myself lucky to be here in Kenya.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I AM excited about Obama...but....

Last night on the news, they spent at least 20 minutes on Obama stories. The entire first 14 minutes of the newscast were on Obama, and then there was a follow up story on his relatives in Kenya. This despite the fact that there is some serious news developing these days....

- The Waki Commission, led by a former judge to explore the post-election violence, produced a report that people need to be held to account for what they did, and suggested names of persons responsible for organizing major violence (those names are in a sealed envelope and have not yet been revealed). The report also held that if those people were not brought to court in Kenya, they should be indicted by the International Criminal Court. Yesterday a majority of MPs and the major ODM party came out against the Waki Commission report, ostensibly because there is no need to 'reopen wounds that are just starting to heal', and also because Kenya must 'hold on to its sovereignty' and not give it up to the ICC. But everyone knows, everyone knows that it is because these same politicians would be shown to have instigated and paid for much of the violence.
- In other news, the Kenyan police stopped a bus with a guy who was carrying 600 bomb detonators to a part of north eastern Kenya that is Somaliland, where there has been a lot of violence lately, including human rights violations by police against civilians.
- Oh, and the DRC is descending into chaos extremely rapidly. Thousands and thousands of people are displaced in eastern Congo.

So as much as I am Extremely Pro-Obama, I'm going to question the choice of the news editors last night.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

i am sooooo embarrassed that I first wrote "Carol Mosley Braun" instead of "Cynthia McKinney." So SO embarrassed. Sorry about that.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


What I have to say about the US Election

To my brother who wants to vote for Cynthia McKinney (who totally rocks the house and is an amazing, amazing person and running with the Greens)

I know what the polls say, but I don’t trust the polls. Don’t trust ‘em in Kenya; don’t trust ‘em in the USA. I know that Obama isn’t everything we would want him to be, but he does advocate for corporate regulation, a government that ensures essential services, and a less powerful executive and more independent judiciary and legislative. I remember 8 years ago I felt like there probably wasn’t that much of a difference between Bush and Gore, and WOW I was WRONG.

To folks who are still ‘on the fence’

I really think you are missing the point, here. Obama and McCain have really different views of what government is for, how a country should be a country, and the goals of the Presidency. But in any case, Colin Powell has endorsed Obama, so it seems to me that that ought to convince you fence sitters.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Happy World Food Day!

also being referred to as "World Foodless Day."

Here is a press release from Via Campesina on World Food Day:

We can end the food crisis!

(Maputo, October 15, 2008) We can only end the food crisis through the principles of food sovereignty and agroecology. This is the focus of the Vía Campesina in Maputo, as its 5th Congress gets underway with a Youth Assembly for rural youth from all over the world.

There are many young people who want to start out in agriculture using agroecological farming methods, based on autonomous principles of sustainable production and local marketing of produce. Current policies, however, make this difficult, and favour industrial production methods.

Today, the 16th of October, 2008, the FAO World Food Day, the Via Campesina offers a message of hope in the face of the world food crisis.

The crisis is a direct result of the industrial and export-based agricultural model, at the expense of millions of rural workers and the population as a whole, in every region of the world. But the crisis can be overcome if we abandon this model, which drives out rural workers, destroys biodiversity and the environment, and results in hunger and poverty in the world. The food crisis is the most dramatic link in the chain of crises generated by the neo-liberal economic system – the climate crisis, the energy crisis, the financial crisis, the biodiversity crisis, etc.. It is time for a change of direction, starting with agriculture itself.

The alternative is food sovereignty, which allows peoples to develop their own agricultural and food policies, which favour local and sustainable rural production, and equitable distribution of healthy food to support their own people.

The Vía Campesina reiterates this message in the midst of discussions taking place during its 5th Conference in Maputo (Mozambique), attended by over 600 representatives of small farmer and rural worker organizationss from all over the world.

60% of all food consumed in Mozambique is imported, and the scourge of hunger and malnutrition is everyhere in this country. Mozambique, like every country in the world, needs food sovereignty and support for its sustainable peasant production sector - using environmentally-friendly means – to feed its own population and put an end to hunger.

Today on World Food Day, the Via Campeina Youth Assembly stresses the urgent need of new generations of farmers to have to access to farm land and means of production. It has become clear that many young people want to farm, using the principles of agroecology, yet are still unable to do so. The Via Campesina urges governments to improve access to land, credit and support for these young people, because the future of agriculture and food production depends on them. In other words, the food crisis cannot be solved if young people are not given a wide-ranging role in agriculture based on food sovereignty and agroecological models.

For more information: Isabelle Delforge (e-mail:, +258 829628439)

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Fever + Moby Dick = Questionable Results

Since coming to Kenya, I get horribly sick about once a year. Not at all dangerously sick, not at all seriously sick, just dramatically sick. The kind where I inevitably end up collapsed on the kitchen floor, sweating and shaking and wondering how I’ll ever get back to my bed. I don’t know if it is that Kenya lends itself to picking up more extreme bugs, or if I’m just generally more dramatic in Kenya. I think it’s a bit of both.

Most of the time I was sick I was: sleeping; lying in bed reading Moby Dick; lying in bed thinking of how to win a million dollars.

First I should say, Moby Dick is awesome. But a strange side effect of reading it over several feverish days plus one daytime television session of Survivor while eating toast was this monomaniacal fixation on winning a million dollars.

Can’t say I’ve spent very much of my life thinking of what I could do with lots of money, but once I started thinking about it (and ‘thinking’ is a strong term for the loose ranging loops of fancy), it was hard to stop. Lots of good causes out there.

But how, you might ask, will you win a million dollars? If I remember correctly, I had a 3 part plan:

1) Win Survivor
2) Win an Olympic gold medal.
3) Win a Nobel Prize. Any of ‘em.


#3 – Win a Nobel Prize – I think this was more of an acknowledgment that it comes with a million dollars. Even in my deepest delirium, I had no plan for how to get one.

#2 – Win the Olympics – Yeah. You know, I’m pretty sure a gold medal does NOT come with a million dollars. But for some reason, I thought it would. So I thought about what sport I could ‘realistically’ master in the next 4 years and compete at the age of 33, and I came up with….the parallel bars.
Yep. I think primarily because the announcers would have so many great talking points on me – wow, imagine, such mastery in just a few years! and at her age! and she doesn’t even have very good depth perception!

#1 – But it didn’t even matter that numbers 2 and 3 were pretty long shots, because I was convinced that I had the winning strategy for Survivor. So the episode of Survivor I saw while eating toast was the last of some season (12? 22? 44?), and it was the usual where you had everyone on the jury complaining about how the final 2 weren’t ‘worthy’ and were ‘weak’ and had just ‘ridden coattails’ to get to the end.

“Oh shut up,” I said in my head. I do a lot of talking out loud in my head when I’m sick. “If you hadn’t bloody well knocked out everyone who seemed to be a threat, this wouldn’t have happened. This show is so predictable.”

Later as I was lying in bed, not sleeping, not reading, just lying there as I do when I’m sick, I came up with my grand strategy. Looking back, it’s a bit thin. At the time, it seemed as deep as was necessary. My plan was to go on the show and tell my fellow contestants: look people, our strategy should be to Make Good Television. Somehow, this appeal to their deeper Televised instincts would inspire everyone to greater heights, and instead of just voting out the obvious, we’d vote out the people who weren’t contributing to the overall structural drama. And my contribution would be from constantly doing meta-commentary on the role of Survivor in American cultural life and how we reflected and impacted American life. Which, in retrospect, even if the rest of my strategy succeeded, would likely not keep me on any island for very long.

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