Archive for December, 2009

Failure in Copenhagen

Posted in Environment with tags , , , , on December 21, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Now that the talks in Copenhagen for some kind of legally-binding agreement on climate change have ended in what can only be called failure, the blame game begins.  Everyone wants to know who is to blame.  And the finger pointing has already begun.

Ed Miliband, the Secratary of State for Energy and Climate Change (in the UK), says that it was China’s fault that the talks did not end with a binding agreement.  And while some are not as explicit in their denunciations, it is clear that their are some world leaders that wanted more out of the conference.  British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the talks were “held to ransom by a handful of countries” and overall they were “at best flawed and at worst chaotic.”

It is important to note that there was an agreement, the Copenhagen Accord, but it is not legally binding.  It calls on countries not to let the temperature rise by more than 2 degrees Celsius but does not have any requirements on how this is to be achieved.  Also, there were pledges from developed countries to give billions of dollars to developing nations to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

Not everyone was so quick to judge them a failure.  UN President Ban Ki-moon said the Copenhagen Accord was “a very important and very significant step forward.”  China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi also praised the talks saying “the Copenhagen conference is not a destination but a new beginning.”

Well, if these are steps forward, they are baby steps and this new beginning is a very weak one.  And considering how difficult it was for this process to more forward, I can honestly say that I think we have no hope of tackling climate change before it is too late.  It will affect many parts of the world and countless lives will be lost or deeply impacted before we actually do something that will make a positive difference.  And that is why I think the Copenhagen talk can only be called a failure.

Sources: The Times (of London), AP, BBC News (all accessed through Google News)


Lobbying and Health Care

Posted in Domestic with tags , , on December 21, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Who make the best lobbyists?

It may just be former aides to Senators and Representatives.  Not only do they know how Congress works and, of course, they know the members of Congress themselves, but they also probably know more about specific issues than the lawmakers themselves.  Because our representatives in Congress can’t possibly know everything about all the issues that they deal with, they have aides that help them do research and help to craft legislation.  And many of them specialize in certain areas of legislation.

So who better to lobby for your particular cause, in the case, health care reform?  And that is exactly what an analysis by Northwestern University’s Medill News Service, the Chicago Tribune, and the Center for Responsive Politics found.

Here is the article from the Chicago Tribune.  And there is even a place to search through their findings.  And I found this piece on the LA Times’ blog Top of the Ticket.

And you might be wondering how the health care companies feel about the passage of the health care reform bill in the Senate.  I think they’re pretty happy.  Go figure.

Obama and Afghanistan

Posted in Middle East, War and Peace with tags , on December 11, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

This goes along with my other piece, “Change We Can Believe In?”  but I thought it was important enough for its own post.  This is an excellent collection of articles about Afghanistan from the Socialist Worker magazine.


Posted in Economics with tags , , , , on December 11, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Hunger is a problem the world over.  And while it shouldn’t happen anywhere, when I read about it here in the US it just makes me sick.  We have so much money in this country and so many fucking rich people, that to see the other side is just sad.  And the worst part is that it doesn’t just affect those that are homeless.  People that have homes and jobs are still struggling to get enough to eat.

Three articles (two of which are online) have highlighted this recently.  The first was in the NY Times.  It was a piece about how food stamp usage is way up especially because so many people are out of work.  But even those that are still working are having a hard time making ends meet.

A more recent piece was in the Washington Post.  This one is specifically addressing the problem of hunger among children here in the US.  And again, the Obama administration has said that it wants to tackle this problem but it really hasn’t done anything to make the situation better.  We need less talk and more action.  Unfortunately, it seems that Obama is all about just talking.

And finally, in another excellent piece by Chris Williams in the International Socialist Review, he asks broader questions about hunger, population and the environment.  Unfortunately, this piece isn’t online yet, but it is in the Nov-Dec 2009 issue of ISR and should be online in a month or so.

Of course, as I have said before, I think the problem of hunger is one of the biggest black marks against capitalism.  People are not hungry because we don’t have enough food (in the US or in the world).  Especially in the US where we have an epidemic of obesity, it is impossible to argue that we don’t have enough food.  The real problem is distribution.  People are hungry because they can’t afford food.  This is really a travesty.  No one should be allowed to go hungry simply because they are poor.  Unfortunately, like everything else, food is for sale.  Food is sold for a profit.  Without a profit to be made, then there would be no food sales at all.  Food is not provided to those that are hungry, it is sold to those that can afford it.

Just as with healthcare, it is amazing to me how we can turn everything into a commodity.  If you are sick but can’t afford insurance, too bad for you.  If you are hungry, but can’t afford food, well, it sucks to be you.  There is something perversely wrong with this system.  Until we realize that not everything is or should be a commodity, we will continue down this path to perdition.

Charles Krauthammer is Wrong

Posted in Environment with tags , , on December 11, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer is talking about climate change and its mitigation.  Actually, he is all over the place.  He starts talking about the Third World trying to get money from the First World during the 70s and 80s and how they are doing it again under the guise of environmentalism.

Some developing countries (Third World) have said that the developed countries (First World) should pay for the measures needed to cut carbon emissions because they have been the ones that have historically polluted the most and have essentially created the problem we are now facing.  The developing world is arguing that they haven’t had the technology to produce the greenhouse gases that the industrialized world has been using for about two hundred years so they shouldn’t have to pay for a problem that they have had little to no input in creating.  That makes sense to me especially when you consider that the developed world also has much more money to throw at this particular problem.  (But how much should the industrialized world be paying?  This is one question that is being asked a lot in Copenhagen, but the answers are all over the place.)  Of course, Krauthammer is arguing against this “socialism.”

I will let his socialism comments slide this time because if the policies are done right, then it will be socialistic because it will truly benefit all the people of the world.  And that is exactly what we need: policies to correct the greenhouse gas/climate change problem because we are all in this together.  Some countries will obviously be affected more than others (just ask Tuvalu) but we all live on this planet and we either fix the problem or we will all have to deal with the consequences.

But as I said, Krauthammer is all over the place in his piece.  He starts out by arguing against this new form of socialism but he ends with the EPA and its new rules that would regulate greenhouse gases as harmful to human health.  He says that Congress should control greenhouse gases through the Clean Air Act or something similar.  I honestly don’t care who does it, but it needs to be done.  Now!  We can’t wait any longer for Congress or anyone else to dither and make excuses.  We need action before it’s too late.

So Charles Krauthammer is wrong about his call to stop what he calls environmental socialism and his assertion that Congress should be the ones to control greenhouse gases.  We simply can’t wait for them to pull their heads out of their asses.  Congress is really good at one thing: inaction.  And we need action and we need it now.

Change We Can Believe In?

Posted in Middle East, Uncategorized, War and Peace with tags , on December 10, 2009 by Black Pumpkin

Is Obama really a change from the past?  Even the Bush years?  Well, yes and no.

There are certainly things that we are seeing in this administration that we would have never seen when Bush was in office.  Simply having healthcare on the agenda, letting the EPA allow California go above and beyond the national air quality standards, having targets for reducing greenhouse gases in Copenhagen.  These are just some of the ways that the Obama administration is different from Bush’s.  But believe it or not, there are some striking similarities.  Unfortunately, they are not small issues either.

For instance, here is a long article by David DeGraw that lays out a lot of facts about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and explains how Obama is worse than Bush.  Some of the comments (beneath the article) were critical of DeGraw’s numbers and sources, so do your own fact-checking, but I think that a strong case could be made that Obama is no better (or perhaps worse) than Bush when it comes to war.

Of course, if you believe Fareed Zakaria, then Obama is doing exactly what needs to be done.  And Zakaria is not exactly a neo-con.

Also from Newsweek is a piece by Howard Fineman that argues that Obama sounded like Bush when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. I don’t know if I would go that far.  Obama is a great speaker and he has excellent speech writers.  So it is hard to argue that Obama sounds like Bush.  But at the same time, Obama seems to say all the right things while he does what he feels needs to be done.  And his words don’t always match his actions.  Unfortunately, it seems that Obama is great at convincing people that he is doing the right thing as he continues down the wrong path.  (An excellent example would be Afghanistan.)

The list of things that Bush and Obama have in common is unfortunately too long.  I could talk about his approval of rendition and indefinite detention.  Or his take on executive privilege and state secrets.  Or stance on “don’t ask, don’t tell” and gay marriage.  Things that were second nature to the Bush Administration.  The funny thing is that when I look at issue after issue, the real difference I see is that while the Bush Administration would do things and not hide it very well (if at all), the Obama Administration is good at talking the talk without walking the walk.

So while it is better to have a Democrat in the White House, it would be much better if we had someone that was as liberal as the Right would have us believe him to be.