More Work, Less Talk Tue, 12 Dec 2017 13:47:47 +0000 en-gb Obama Has Failed the World on Climate Change

The follwing article is by Christian Schwägerl, a columnist for Germany's Spiegel Online.

US President Barack Obama came to office promising hope and change. But on climate change, he has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor George W. Bush.

The folder labeled "climate change" that George W. Bush left behind for his successor hasn’t been a deep one.

Although Bush once said that the US is overly-dependent on oil, he never got beyond that insight. He was too busy waging war on Iraq and searching for a legal basis for extraordinary renditions to pay much attention to the real threat facing humanity. "Forget the climate" seems to have been Bush's unofficial motto. But few people expected that the Barack Obama, of all people, would continue his predecessor's climate change plan.

Only if the US controls to reduce its excessive energy consumption, commit itself to mandatory CO2 emission reduction targets and help finance the move away from oil for poorer countries, there would be a chance that countries like China and India will do the same and that the dangerous warming of the Earth can be stopped.

Barack Obama cast himself as a "citizen of the world" when he delivered his well-received campaign speech in Berlin in the summer of 2008. But the US president has now betrayed this claim. In his Berlin speech, he was dishonest with Europe. Since then, Obama has neglected the single most important issue for an American president who likes to imagine himself as a world citizen, namely his country's addiction to fossil fuels and the risks of unchecked climate change. Health care reform and other domestic issues were more important to him than global environmental threats.

China, India and other emerging economies have always spoken openly about the fact that the US, as the world's largest emitter of CO2, has to be proactive in committing itself to targets agreed on by way of international negotiation. But that is not America's style. The US is quite happy to see itself as the leader of the Western world. But when it comes to climate change, America has once again failed miserably for infinite times.

If the rest of the world were to follow the US example in their approach to fossil fuels, the oceans would not only heat up, but would probably soon begin to boil. American CO2 emissions per capita are about twice as high as those in comparable industrialized nations and many times greater than those of the developing world. The environmental bill has since been watered down even more -- by exactly the kind of lobbying interests which the new US president had promised to overcome. Obama has neglected to communicate the importance of climate change to his fellow citizens by speaking about it in a major speech. And in fact he has left it to the Europeans to take the lead.

For most Americans, the world beyond the US borders is nothing more than an irritating nuisance. Hence arguments based on appeals about drowning Bangladeshis, starving Africans and flooded islands in Indonesia have little effect.

Obama has proven himself to be unable to put an end to the lies that modern American society is based on. He is unable to overcome the entrenched lobbyists of the oil and coal industries and make the reality clear to his fellow citizens. Americans are the worst energy wasters on the planet -- and are thus indirectly a major threat to world peace in the 21st century. Although they do not enjoy a higher quality of life than Europeans, Americans consume twice as much fossil fuel per capita.

America is the primary offender of global warming -- and it has generates a global economic crisis which has not only destroyed the world assets, but pushed 100 million people worldwide into hunger. With that kind of track record, the US hardly has a claim any more to the leadership of the Western world and its leaders don’t deserve any prize.



More Work, Less Talk Sat, 03 Apr 2010 07:26:38 +0000
Obama's Nuclear Generation Gap?

The following article is by Sue Sturgis, Editorial Director and Co-Editor, Facing South Website.

During the energy portion of his first State of the Union address, President Obama called for "building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants." That raises a question: That is exactly what generation of nuclear power is Obama talking about -- and what makes it an improvement over the generation the US now have, with its high cost and threats to public health and the environment? The commercial nuclear power plants operating in the United States today are what are known as Generation II reactors. Built through the 1990s, they include the design types known as Pressurized Water Reactors, which comprise the majority of all US nuclear plants, as well as Boiling Water Reactors, the other type used by the U.S. power industry. Both of them are what are known as "Light Water Reactors," which means they use ordinary water to cool the reactor.

Before the reactors of today came those of Generation I, the first commercial nuclear power plants in the US.

The so-called Generation III reactors have designs similar to their Gen II predecessors but have incorporated some improvements, like more advanced safety systems. And then there are the Generation IV reactors. At the moment, these designs are largely theoretical and aren't expected to be available for commercial construction for at least another decade. They include so-called fast reactors, which require richer fuel and are cooled by substances other than regular water, such as liquid sodium. There's also the possibility for fourth-generation nuclear power. That's a technology which allows you to burn all of the nuclear fuel. Presently, nuclear power plants burn less than 1% of the energy in the nuclear fuel. Fourth-generation nuclear power allows the neutrons to move faster, so it can burn all of the fuel. Furthermore, it can burn nuclear waste, so it can solve the nuclear waste problem. And the United States is still the technology leader in fourth-generation nuclear power.

In a recent analysis titled "'New' Nuclear Reactors, Same Old Story," Scientists point out that these reactors are touted for their ability to burn plutonium, a radioactive waste product created in currently operating nuclear power plants. However, that would require plutonium reprocessing facilities, which creates a whole other bunch of thorny problems: That reprocessing of any kind makes waste management more difficult and complex, increases the volume and diversity of waste streams, increases by several- to manifold the cost of nuclear fueling, and separates bomb-usable material that can't be adequately measured or protected. It's simply a dishonest fantasy to claim that such hypothetical and uneconomic ways to recover energy or other value from spent [Light Water Reactor] fuel mean "There is no such thing as nuclear waste." Of course, the nuclear industry wishes this were true."

But with US efforts to address climate change hindered in part by powerful corporate interests' monopoly over the legislative process, at least one longtime anti-nuclear group has said it's willing to discuss generation IV nuclear as part of the potential solution to man-made global warming.

Is this Gen IV technology -- with all its promise and perils -- what President Obama was talking about in his State of the Union address when he referred to a "new generation" of nuclear power?

It appears that the answer is no, given that Obama's proposed Fiscal Year 2011 Department of Energy budget being disclosed today will reportedly triple the taxpayer loan guarantee program for new reactor construction to 54 billion dollars. That program is providing financing for building Generation III reactors -- not the generation IV.

Obama's decision to promote the continued building of old-school nuclear reactors is especially puzzling given that his administration has canceled plans to store radioactive waste in the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada. That raises another question that: what does Obama plan to do with all that radioactive waste that's currently piling up at nuclear power plants nationwide? To date, Obama still has not offered the American people an answer.

More Work, Less Talk Wed, 10 Mar 2010 07:48:13 +0000
The Political Capitol is Gone, Where's the Political Will?

The following article is by Jim Goodman who is a dairy farmer and activist.

It's not surprising that the US people are fed up with politics. When the wealthy determines who gets elected, when campaign promises are as easily tossed out as garbage and when most elected officials knowingly support the policies that put the special interests ahead of the people's interests, why bother with a rigged game?

The US Senate is firmly under the control of a minority group of 41, the US House is mired and thinking about re-election, the Supreme Court has decided that political office should be for sale to the special interest that is willing to spend the most on behalf of their chosen candidate and the President continues to "play nice" instead of pushing a progressive agenda.

Just a year ago there was a great sense of hope, not seen since the end of WWII. The American people chose a president who declared his idea of peace means not more "boots on the ground".

A President who declared he will support health care for all.

A President who believed in fair trade, not free trade.

A President who felt banks should help people better their lives, not gamble away their money.

The ills of the nation are now Obama's problem, Obama's fault and still he helps those who vilify him; to those who want less oversight, more war, more for the rich and less for everyone else.

The militarism, the Wall Street free for all, the bankruptcies, the mortgage foreclosures, the top down bail out at the expense of the bottom; or in fact fall the legacies of the Bush regime are dumped on Obama and surprisingly for solutions he turns to those who created the problems and offer more of the same as a solution.

In his State of the Union Address Obama stated that "jobs must be the number one focus in 2010", yet he intends to push for more free trade agreements, policies Presidents Clinton and Bush championed, policies that shipped jobs overseas and crushed the workers, the farmers, the labor unions and the families of America. Policies that have caused pain, policies that Obama seems unwilling to stop.

Obama barely mentioned Afghanistan and the nearly one hundred thousand American troops there, what could he say? It's good? It's working? How about the truth, that it's bad policy with no end in sight.

Obama said he was open to better ideas on how to remake the nation's health care system, but he offered no ideas of his own, nothing he was willing to push forward.



More Work, Less Talk Sat, 06 Mar 2010 14:19:37 +0000
Eight Years of Guantánamo: What’s Changed?ánamo-what’s-changed?ánamo-what’s-changed?

The following article is by Frida Berrigan a columnist for Foreign Policy in Focus and a contributing editor at In These Times.

The first 20 detainees arrived at Guantánamo's Camp X-Ray eight years ago, on January 11, 2002.

Just over seven years later, President Barack Obama-on his second full day after taking office-issued an order to shut the prison within a year.

His rhetoric was clear. He said: "There is no time to lose our values and our ideals. To that end he committed to real change and said: “without exception or equivocation the United States will not torture. We will close the Guantánamo Bay detention camp and determine how to deal with those who have been held there."

But the Obama administration has failed to close the facility, where-by many accounts-inmates were harshly interrogated and even tortured, by its own deadline.

Now there's talk that the prison will remain open at least through 2010. And the proposal to move detainees to a maximum security prison in Illinois superficially retires Guantánamo as a symbol, while retaining the legal problems it embodies. Equally troubling is the administration's expansion of detention facilities in Afghanistan that are almost impenetrable for lawyers and humanitarian groups.

The "prolonged detention" without charge or trial that Obama plans for some inmates strips detained men of basic legal and human rights, more deeply corrupting American governance with the reckless assertion of the executive's near-limitless power. The barely foiled Christmas Day attack by a suicide bomber aboard a flight to Detroit exposed ongoing weaknesses in the US multi-billion-dollar security apparatus. But its aftermath has revealed how the ideals continue to falter, as Obama's policies mirror those of his predecessor and fail to match his own rhetoric.

There are also swift, loud and vicious proclamations from the US leaders and conservative media that the only way to ensure security is to blast at the so-called American enemies and the rule of law with both barrels.

Suspend plans for civilian trials of terror suspects. Revive "enhanced interrogations."

The Obama administration hasn't publicly challenged this nonsense. It has, however, already made a sad concession to this fear-mongering by suspending the release of all Yemeni men from Guantánamo, even those who have been cleared through the government's extensive Guantánamo Review Task Force. This decision, which condemns innocent men to months or years of more illegal detention, confirms a pattern of the Obama administration promising change but delivering more of the same.

No less troublesome are the Obama administration policies that is: the continued practice of rendition and operation of secret prisons; the planned use of use Bush-style military commissions to try some detainees; the expansion of the Bagram prison in Afghanistan and the denial of habeas rights to inmates there not captured on the Afghan battlefield; the repeated, tendentious use of the "state's secrets" defense to block lawsuits by former detainees seeking redress for their mistreatment; and the effective grant of immunity to those who designed, ordered, and executed torture policies under the Bush administration.

In a worrisome sign of possible things to come, the Bush-appointed Judge Janice Rogers Brown recently asserted in an opinion rejecting the habeas petition of a man held at Guantánamo. That's exactly the opposite of what must happen.

The law needs the US president as an authentic advocate not just in words but in deeds-when times are "hard" and war rages. This is the case right now. To do anything else is to condemn the US nation to a free fall into the "dark side" where the cruel leaders are resided.

More Work, Less Talk Wed, 24 Feb 2010 07:43:46 +0000
Obama’s Foreign/Military Policy’s-foreign/military-policy’s-foreign/military-policy

The following article is by Jack A. Smith editor of the Activist Newsletter and former editor of the US Guardian.

A year has gone by since Senator Barack Obama assumed the presidency, replacing George W. Bush, who was among the worst chief executives in American history.

The election of an African American to the White House is a historically positive development. And his first year in office has shown his superiority to Bush and his defeated opponent, rightist Senator John McCain, in several areas.

At the same time, in terms of foreign/military policy, President Obama has essentially continued many of the Bush Administration’s initiatives — first and foremost his predecessor’s “global war on terrorism,” but in other international endeavors as well. On one level, the Bush-Obama global war on terrorism, with its military moves in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines and elsewhere, are aimed at defeating al-Qaeda, which claims responsibility for the attack of Sept. 11, 2001, and other organizations it deems to be “terrorist,” even if their activities are confined to their own countries or in fact are not actually terrorist at all. But on another far more important level the real objective of this endless series of wars is the attainment of geostrategic advantage against any country or bloc that potentially might undermine Washington’s dominion over world affairs.

The eight years of the Bush Administration deviated from America’s postwar international line, but not in its devotion to fulfilling the political system’s hegemonic and militarist goals. Where Bush cracked the continuity of traditional U.S. foreign/military policy was in the counterproductive methodology and dysfunctional risk evaluation emanating from the hubris and gross misperceptions of the neoconservative ideologists who crafted presidential decisions.

Starting unjust wars against much smaller countries hardly contradicts traditional U.S. international behavior. Indeed, it is the hallmark of such behavior. But responding to 9/11 with an amorphous, endless, and unwinnable “war on terrorism” was absurd. The subsequent attack on desperate, underdeveloped Afghanistan, and then invading already half-crippled Iraq, were disastrous errors that have cost Washington mightily in terms of treasure and reputation.

As President Obama entered the White House a year ago, the U.S. was still the world’s superpower and despite its debts and the recession it remained a rich and dominant country. Its share of global income remains about where it has been for decades: 22%. But America’s standing in the world was greatly diminished because of its past and especially more recent policies. Also, other nations were rising, such as Brazil, Russia, India, and China. And some previously subordinate countries were disinclined to continue playing follow the leader after Washington’s neoliberal economic model caused them grave hardship and its extreme laissez faire form of capitalism sparked the present recession.

Obama of course was elected by the masses of American people, but it is extremely doubtful he would have been a serious candidate to begin with were it not for the backing of the U.S powerful interests.

The elite wanted a chief executive who would (1) repair the damage Bush caused, and quickly restore U.S. dominance in world affairs; and (2) should the days of unipolarity prove short, as seems likely, manipulate the transition to multipolarity so that the United States comes out on top.

Obama won election for several reasons. The most important were that the Democratic candidate followed eight dreadful years of President Bush, and the U.S was in an economic recession. But equally important was the “hope for change” he cultivated in the minds of multitudes of Democrats and independents, while never specifying clearly what that “change” was supposed to be, though many voters assumed it would be progressive.

That he opposed the Iraq war was a big plus, even though he voted to fund it during each of his few years in national politics. Not to be overlooked, of course, were his winning personality, and spellbinding ability as a public speaker.

Obama’s immediate task upon assuming office was to repair the Bush Administration’s mishandling of relations with the rest of the world.

He quickly made peace with the major U.S. allies who had been offended by the Bush regime’s arrogance and unilateralism.

He promised a new policy for Latin America based on equality and mutual respect.

He assured the nearly 1.6 billion Muslims that America was their friend.

When these overtures were made, it seemed as though the conduct of the old foreign policy was back on track. No more alienating American friends, and no more wars.

After a year, what does this foreign/military policy look like? It’s quite similar to Bush’s but without the neocon management, so it looks better.

There has been a huge expansion of the Afghan war, increasing thrusts into Pakistan, and now Yemen’s the target of Washington’s bombings, pilotless drones, military aid and bribes. The war budget is more bloated than ever before. The costs of it all are astronomical, but it will be future generations of Americans who will pay big time for the imperial wars of the Bush-Obama years.

The Obama Administration is still pursuing the goal of exercising hegemony over the entire oil-rich Middle East. Washington’s total partiality to Israel at the expense of the Palestinian people remains unchanged. The attitude of the Obama White house toward the suffering people of Gaza is unforgivably cruel. The White House still supports Egypt and Saudi Arabia against the aspirations of their own people.

The Obama White House couldn’t do much about Iraq because Bush made the deal with the Baghdad government to withdraw at the end of 2011. The people will believe the complete withdrawal when they see it. At this stage it is likely that there will be an eventual agreement between Baghdad and Washington to prolong the Iraq occupation with a substantial number of American troops remaining indefinitely.

Barack Obama was the candidate of change, but the reality in international endeavors is small change indeed.

Unless Americans take a public stance against war and hegemony, and associate themselves with the antiwar and social movements struggling for substantial change, there will be no change at all.



More Work, Less Talk Sun, 07 Feb 2010 07:21:24 +0000
Humanitarian Aid or Military Occupation?

The following article is by American journalist and editor, Ashley Smith.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in 2005, George W. Bush displayed a heartless disregard for the Black-Skinned victims of the disaster. When his administration finally responded, it deployed the National Guard and armed the cruel Blackwater personnel to impose order, rather than putting the priority on providing food, shelter and safe water.

On the surface, the response of the Obama administration to the horrific earthquake that struck Haiti last week couldn’t seem more different. Obama declared: “The people of Haiti will have the full support of the United States in the urgent effort to rescue those trapped beneath the rubble, and to deliver the humanitarian relief–the food, water and medicine–that Haitians will need in the coming days.”

Compared to such statements, Obama’s sympathetic response and promises of aid may seem decent and just. But in the week since the earthquake, it has become clear that the US isn’t pursuing a humanitarian policy.

If the Obama administration were pursuing a humanitarian policy in Haiti, it wouldn’t have appointed George Bush to join former President Bill Clinton in overseeing fundraising for disaster relief.

Not only did Bush outstandingly fail the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but his administration orchestrated a political destabilization campaign against Haiti’s democratically elected government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Bush imposed sanctions on the country that undermined Aristide’s presidency and impoverished the masses. The US then backed a right-wing coup that toppled the government in 2004.

Appointing Bush to oversee aid to Haiti is like putting Nero in charge of the fire department. Then there’s the mismatch between Obama’s words about “full support” and his $100 million to spend to address the crisis.

Moreover, more than a week into the disaster, while US officials, privileged Americans and rich Haitians received quick relief, the promised aid hasn’t reached the mass of Haitian people.

Amid a crisis where the first 48 hours are decisive in saving people’s lives, the United Nations–and the US in particular–failed to come anywhere near addressing the needs of the 3 million people impacted by the earthquake.

Every minute that aid gets delayed means more people dying from starvation, dehydration, injury and disease–and yet the UN only planned to distribute food and water to 95,000 people.

An estimated 1.5 million people are homeless and sleeping in the streets, as many as 200,000 have died, and with each tick of the clock, the toll grows higher.

The US and UN claimed that damage to Haiti’s airport, port and roads impeded delivery of doctors, nurses, food, water and rescue teams. But the US always seems to find ways around such obstacles when it comes to invading countries like Iraq and Afghanistan. Clearly the means exist to deliver aid quickly to a country an hour away from Florida. So did the US relief operation fail to live up to its mission? The truth is that disaster relief for the poor is not the mission in Haiti, just as it wasn’t the priority in New Orleans or any other disaster.

Instead of rushing aid to Haiti’s poor, the Obama administration has prepared a military occupation, claiming that armed forces are necessary to control what they expected to be angry Black-colored people.

The US corporate media coverage shifted from its initial sympathy with victims of the disaster to churning out scare stories about looting.

In other words, the US media took a few isolated conflicts and blew them up into an implication that Haiti’s poor are a violent threat–and the real obstacle to relief efforts.

These scare stories in turn became a justification for not delivering aid.

The United Nations and the US authorities on the ground are telling those who directly want to deliver help not to do so because they might be attacked by “hungry mobs.”

Of course, precisely the opposite is case. People will riot because they lack food and water.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez rightly describes Obama’s military intervention as “occupying Haiti undercover.” The US has taken control of Haiti’s main airport and seaport, and is in the process of deploying 10,000 US troops to bolster the 9,000 UN troops already occupying the island. Half of the soldiers will police Port-au-Prince and half will be deployed on military vessels surrounding the island.

Most Haitians have seen little humanitarian aid so far. What they have seen is guns, and lots of them. Armored personnel carriers cruise the streets. UN soldiers aren’t here to help pull people out of the rubble. They’re here, they say, to enforce the law.

This is what much of the UN presence actually looks like on the streets of Port-au-Prince: men in uniform, racing around in vehicles carrying guns. At the entrance to the city’s airport where most of the aid is coming in, there is anger and frustration. Much-needed supplies of water and food are inside, and Haitians are locked out.

The Obama administration is already coordinating plans for the restructuring of Haitian society–in the interest of international capital. It is implementing what is called the “Shock Doctrine”–when capitalist powers use economic or natural disasters to impose neo-liberal programs, such as opening up national markets to multinational corporations, privatization of state-owned companies and cuts to the minimum wage.

Nowadays Obama, Clinton and Bush will further impose neoliberal “reforms.”

Already, the International Monetary Fund has extended $100 million in loans to Haiti during the crisis, and all that of money comes with strings attached.

The new loan was made through the IMF’s extended credit facility, to which Haiti already has $165 million in debt. Debt relief activists believe that these loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage, and keeping inflation low. They say that the new loans would impose these same conditions. In other words, in the face of this latest tragedy, the IMF is still using crisis and debt as leverage to compel neo-liberal reforms.

Obama immediately has to stop the military occupation of Haiti, and instead flood the country with doctors, nurses, food, and water and construction machinery. Soldiers with guns will only make the situation worse.

America people must demand that the US, other countries and international financial institutions cancel Haiti’s debt, so that the aid money headed to Haiti will go to food and reconstruction, not debt repayment. And Obama has to indefinitely extend Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the US – and open the borders to any Haitians who do flee the country.

Only through agitating for these demands can Americans stop the US from imposing its Shock Doctrine for Haiti at gunpoint.



More Work, Less Talk Wed, 27 Jan 2010 15:32:04 +0000
We Need Initiative to Rebuild America

The following article is by Jesse Jackson American social activist.

At the 2004 Democratic National Convention Barack Obama claimed: ‘There is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is only the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America."

With these words Barack Obama electrified a divided country, launching a victorious Senate campaign, and four years later, a triumphant presidential campaign.

He took office amid the worst conditions facing any incoming president since Franklin D. Roosevelt -- a great recession, two wars, and financial free-fall.

In his first year Obama staved off depression, rescued the banks and labored to pass some health-care reform.

But the test of whether this is truly a United States of America still awaits. If there is only one America, then Americans must act together to help those hit the hardest by the economic calamities. The economists say the recovery has started, but in urban and rural America, things are getting worse. The industrial Midwest is still reeling, and many of the jobs aren't coming back. California, Florida and Nevada are still staggered by the collapse in housing values -- and now brutal cuts are coming from state and local budgets.

With the banks saved and massive job loss staunched, many economists -- including some in the White House -- now assume the recovery will take its course, and employment is a "lagging indicator."

So it's time to focus on deficit reduction and closing down the emergency Federal Reserve programs that gave banks a lifeline. And after the big fight on health care, Congress is looking to pass some kind of financial reform, a token "jobs" program, and get out of town to campaign for re-election. But many come from the decade long decline of manufacturing that culminated in the collapse of the auto industry.

Unemployment among the young is at its highest levels since the government began keeping track after World War II. For low-income black teenagers, only 4 in 100 found jobs this fall.

If there is truly one America, American leaders cannot abandon these kids to idleness, crime, drugs and poverty. They cannot abandon industrial cities in despair. They cannot allow millions of Americans to lose their homes while saving the predatory lenders that put many of them in the fix they are in.

Obama’s administration and the Congress must step up to this challenge. The people of the US need a bold new initiative to rebuild America. Across the US, American basic infrastructure is in dire need of repair and renewal.

Leaking sewer systems expose millions to befouled water dangerous to their health. Outmoded or absent mass transit clogs streets, wastes hours in gridlock and exacts a cruel tax on the lives as well as the economy. An outmoded energy system leaves the US ever more dependent on foreign oil, while it fails to lead the new green industrial revolution that will generate the growth markets of the future.

Obama called Americans to build the economy on a new foundation -- investing in infrastructure, in new energy, in education and training. Americans now need a policy to fit the vision.

Obama has to establish a national infrastructure bank, providing guarantees for pension funds, to invest in building the new green infrastructure of the 21st century and put the US people to work. And then target those investments on the areas most in need –that is the US cities in despair, and its depressed rural areas.

Provide direct public service jobs so young people can get the discipline, skills and hope that come from work.

If this is one America, it is not enough to rescue Wall Street. It is not acceptable to write off the cities or the rural areas as lost.



More Work, Less Talk Sat, 23 Jan 2010 13:51:58 +0000
For Obama, No Opportunity Too Big To Blow

The following article is by Naomi Klein, an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist.

Contrary to countless reports, the debacle in Copenhagen was not everyone's fault. It did not happen because human beings are incapable of agreeing, or are inherently self-destructive. Nor was it all was China's fault, or the fault of the hapless UN.

There's plenty of blame to go around, but there was one country that possessed unique power to change the game. It didn't use it. If Barack Obama had come to Copenhagen with a transformative and inspiring commitment to getting the US economy off fossil fuels, all the other major emitters would have stepped up. The EU, Japan, China and India had all indicated that they were willing to increase their levels of commitment, but only if the US took the lead. Instead of leading, Obama arrived with embarrassingly low targets and the heavy emitters of the world took their cue from him.

No President since Franklin Roosevelt has been handed as many opportunities to transform the US into something that doesn't threaten the stability of life on this planet. He has refused to use each and every one of them. Let's look at the big three.

Blown Opportunity Number 1 is the Stimulus Package. When Obama came to office he had a free hand and a blank check to design a spending package to stimulate the economy. He could have used that power to fashion what many were calling a "Green New Deal" -- to build the best public transit systems and smart networks in the world. Instead, he experimented disastrously with reaching across the aisle to Republicans, low-balling the size of the stimulus and blowing much of it on tax cuts. Sure, he spent some money on weatherization, but public transit was strangely short changed while highways that perpetuate car culture won big.

Blown Opportunity Number 2: The Auto Bailouts Speaking of the car culture, when Obama took office he also found himself in charge of two of the big three automakers, and all of the emissions for which they are responsible. A visionary leader committed to the fight against climate chaos would obviously have used that power to dramatically reengineer the failing industry so that its factories could build the infrastructure of the green economy the world desperately needs. Instead Obama saw his role as uninspiring down-sizer in chief, leaving the fundamentals of the industry unchanged.

Blown Opportunity Number 3: The Bank Bailouts Obama, its worth remembering, also came to office with the big banks on their knees -- it took real effort not to nationalize them. Once again, if Obama had dared to use the power that was handed to him by history, he could have mandated the banks to provide the loans for factories to be retrofitted and new green infrastructure to be built. Instead he declared that the government shouldn't tell the failed banks how to run their businesses. Green businesses report that it's harder than ever to get a loan.

Imagine if these three huge economic engines had been harnessed to a common green vision. If that had happened, demand for a complementary energy bill would have been part of a coherent transformative agenda.

Whether the bill had passed or not, by the time Copenhagen had rolled around, the US would already have been well on its way to dramatically cutting emissions, poised to inspire, rather than disappoint, the rest of the world. There are very few US Presidents who have squandered as many once-in-a-generation opportunities as Barack Obama. More than anyone else, the Copenhagen failure belongs to him.



More Work, Less Talk Sat, 16 Jan 2010 13:42:14 +0000
Agent of Change

The following article is by American Lawyer, author and social activist Ralph Nader.

The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus said that "character is destiny." He might have added that "personality is decisive." Where is Barack Obama in this framework?

Given all the looming crises in the United States, the country that calls itself as the only global military and economic superpower, needs a transforming leader, when, at best, it has a transactional leader in the White House.

President Obama has displayed an uncanny inability to deal. This lack is due more to his personality than to his character.

Obama's personality projects weakness as someone who does not take a stand and fight, as someone inclined to rely on his rhetoric to explain his withdrawals, retreats and reversals.

How about citing some examples:

Barack Obama, before he came to Washington, was supposed to be supporter of Palestinian rights. But between election and inauguration, he proceeded to categorically back the illegal Zionist blockade and invasion of Gaza by the usurper state of Israel and did not object to the slaughter of 1400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, young and old. His policy meant that the people of a half-destroyed Gaza, whose many newly elected members of the Palestinian parliament were kidnapped and jailed by the Israelis two years earlier, had no right to defend themselves against constant border raids and missiles by the most brutal army of the world.

Obama's tough talk about a reckless and greedy Wall Street is not paralleled with tough regulatory proposals. He allowed, without working his will, to produce a weakened regulatory bill that passed the House of Representatives.

On labor and NAFTA, his campaign speeches were about the need for reform. He has started nothing there and says nothing about this promise to revisit the U.S. participation in NAFTA. He believes in the card check version of labor law reform but has not used his political capital to advance this modest reform at all.

On climate change, where so much of the world looks for him to be a transforming leader, Obama has bought into ‘the cap and trade’ chaos instead of a simpler, more enforceable carbon tax. His words on this subject are often well-spoken but his rhetoric is undermined by his inaction. His opponents in Congress and the corporate sector are strengthened as a consequence.

Barak Obama left Copenhagen without a deal after outlining three steps, that is, mitigation of greenhouse gases, openness of each country's progress or lack thereof, and a very modest financial commitment from the world's biggest polluter to help the more harassed countries with climate change. He hardly set an example for a government whose ownership and control of GM and Chrysler could transform automotive technology.

He cannot transform his hope and change slogan into meaningful policies if he signals that he can be had on one issue after another by being desperate to get any legislation so long as he can give it the right public relations label.

Most importantly, the US President cannot be a transforming leader if he turns his back on the liberal and progressive constituency that elected him because he thinks they have nowhere to go. He must give visibility to their expectations of him, including access to many cabinet secretaries and regulatory agency heads that have been disinclined even to meet with civic leaders, unlike the open doors regularly available to the corporatists and their lobbyists.

Thus "personality," and "character," pretty soon will become indistinguishable and very resistant to both "hope and change."



More Work, Less Talk Sat, 09 Jan 2010 14:04:54 +0000
This Sure Seems Like Vietnam

The following article is by Helen Thomas, a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

President Barack Obama insists that his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan by sending in 30,000 more troops is not Vietnam all over again.

Well, it sure reminds the threats and the price of that unwinnable war and the political chaos it wreaked at home.

In Afghanistan, the designated enemies are remnants of the weakened al-Qaida network and the local Taliban, despite the eight-year war started by President George W. Bush in 2001.

Obama is too young to remember the national turmoil during the Vietnam War that resulted in the deaths of more than 58,000 Americans and thousands of Vietnamese. That war also ended the political career of President Lyndon Johnson, who decided not to seek re-election in 1968.

In his remarks, Obama tried to deny any comparison between Afghanistan and Vietnam, calling it "a false reading of history." He claimed that the US effort in Afghanistan is supported by what he called a broad-based coalition and is not facing a broad-based popular insurgency" and, unlike Vietnam, the American people were attacked from Afghanistan.

The US effort in Vietnam had its own coalition of anti-communist allies, including South Korea, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and Laos. As in Afghanistan, the US provided vastly more manpower than any of its allies in the Vietnam War.

What broad-based insurgency is Obama talking about? By his own statements, Obama acknowledged that "momentum" has been with the Taliban and said his goal is to reverse that trend and deny the Taliban "the ability to overthrow the government."

That sounds like the makings of a civil war, as was the case in Vietnam, where the United States intervened to prop up the corrupt Saigon government against the Viet Cong movement and its North Vietnamese allies.

There is another huge similarity between the US war in Afghanistan and the Vietnamese War. In both cases, the American people became fed up with pouring more and more men and women and money into wars that went on for years, with no end in sight. US military has been in Afghanistan for eight years; and its involvement in Vietnam also lasted eight years.

The war fatigue is aggravated by the devastating 2003 US invasion of Iraq, where the US still has more than 100,000 military personnel and where it has lost more than 4,000 Americans.

Obama omitted the single biggest difference between Vietnam and Afghanistan when he failed to mention that the military draft was roaring through every American town, suburb and city during the Vietnam War. Now, the US military relies exclusively on volunteers.

The draft focused public attention -- and ultimately, public outrage -- on the US strategy, its allies, the corrupt South Vietnamese leadership, the colonial legacy the US inherited from the French and the failure of Presidents Johnson and Richard Nixon to articulate credible goals that would justify the continued loss of lives. The American people ended up rejecting both the Vietnam War and the national leaders who took them there.

By choosing to deliver his historic address, Obama evoked past memories of the times when both Johnson and Nixon could only travel to military bases and aircraft carriers without encountering loud crowds of protesters.

The US investment in the Vietnam quagmire was incremental. But General William Westmoreland's strategy of wearing down the insurgents through attrition required more and more US troops.

That point was reached in 1968 when General William Westmoreland told the White House he needed 206,000 more troops, a surge that would have brought US military forces in Vietnam to more than 700,000.

Obama won a mandate in 2008 to pull up Bush's war stakes. He should listen to the people, not the generals, not the neo-cons and certainly not former Vice President Dick Cheney.



More Work, Less Talk Wed, 30 Dec 2009 14:29:29 +0000