Tag Archives: Obama

Obama on Climate: We Need a Carbon Cap

In a meeting with key Senators and administration officials yesterday, President Obama made one point abundantly clear: the U.S. needs to put a cap on our carbon emissions. Politico reports:

In opening remarks, according to Senators in attendance, President Obama took the idea of an energy-only bill – the preferred approach of moderate Democrats – off the table, saying he wanted a “comprehensive” bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gas emissions.

The President is up against a a strong contingent of Senators who have been trying to sideline a carbon cap with alternate proposals such as the one being drafted by Richard Lugar (R-IN), which would promote ever-dubious “clean coal” initiatives and nuclear power. Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Lisa Mirkowski (R-AK) have also expressed their opposition to any proposal that would put a price on carbon emissions.

But the reality is that we must cap our emissions, and to do it soon. What our constituent-minded members of Congress fail to recognize is that we are the ONLY developed country that has yet to make a solid commitment to cut our carbon levels in the next few decades.

International climate negotiations are at a standstill largely because everyone is waiting for the United States to step up to the plate. Comments made by China’s top climate negotiator today, urging our Congress not to “shift the responsibility for taking more active action to other countries,” reflects a prevalent mood in the global community.

UN Climate talks, which are set to re-commence in December in Mexico, will get nowhere if the U.S. has not yet passed a comprehensive bill that includes a carbon cap.

It seems time to listen to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who is urging the GOP to support a comprehensive climate and energy plan. He told the press yesterday: “I’m not going to support some half-assed reform.”

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China Likens Tibet Policy to Abraham Lincoln

If the Chinese government is having trouble justifying their heavy-handed opposition to the Dalai Lama, a recent comment by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang is unlikely to help.

In a painfully blatant misrepresentation of history, Quin equated China’s stance on Tibet to that of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

“Lincoln played an incomparable role in protecting the national unity and territorial integrity of the United States,” stated Qin. He went on to add that Barack Obama, as a black president, “understands the slavery abolition movement and Lincoln’s major significance for that movement.”

The comparison could not be less accurate, as the Chinese government continues to violently crack down on the Tibetan autonomy movement. Last month, four were executed on charges of involvement in a spring 2008 protest in the Tibetan capital.

Amnesty International released a statement today calling for the Chineese government to “release immediately and unconditionally those detained solely for engaging in peaceful protest, including support for the Dalai Lama, the independence of Tibet, or greater autonomy for Tibet.”

Executive director of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth is pressing for Obama to address these issues along with numerous other human rights violations perpetrated by the Chinese government. So far Obama has not shown a willingness to take China to task on these issues, instead refusing to meet with the Dalai Lama for fear that it might upset Tibet’s neighbor to the North.

UPDATE: Obama addressed human rights in China, but left Tibet out of the discussion.

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Why the U.S. Needs a New Consumer Financial Protection Agency

Amidst the flurry of news surrounding Obama’s Nobel Prize win on Friday, the President made a significant yet under-reported speech on his plans to create a new centralized Consumer Financial Protection Agency. This proposal – one of a number of regulatory reforms currently moving through Congress – would consolidate the overcomplicated and ineffectual regulatory system currently in place. As the President pointed out:

“[There is] no single agency whose sole job it is to stand up for…the American consumer and for responsible banks and financial institutions.”

However, the proposal is meeting with harsh opposition from the powerful banking lobby (shocking!), and substantial changes are being made in the House Financial Services Committee which considerably water down the bill. Obama addressed this issue on Friday, calling out the lobbyists and attempting to remind the American people how important it is that we take decisive action to reform our financial system.

So, in case you’ve forgotten the events of the past year, (or you’ve never used a credit card, or you use gold coins as your primary currency), here are a few key reasons why we need this new regulatory body:

1. Remember the housing bubble? It ‘popped’ and plunged the entire globe into an economic downward spiral. Bankers have done their best to place blame on mortgage brokers and over-zealous home-buyers. However, according to New York Times business columnist Joe Nocera: “Bankers were every bit as complicit in pushing mortgages on customers who lacked the means to pay them back.” After all, they were the ones creating and packaging the subprime mortgages in the first place.

2. Overdraft fees have increased by 35 percent in the past two years alone, according to the Center for Responsible Lending. Last year, banks collected a total of $24 billion from as many as 51 million Americans.

3. The current regulatory system incentives ripping off consumers in order to balance the books. The primary mission of regulatory bodies today is to ensure the safety and soundness of the banking system. Nocera points out:

“When a bank decides to raise a customer’s credit card interest rate to 35 percent to make up for losses elsewhere in the credit card portfolio, that believe it or not, is a good thing from the perspective of safety and soundness. Even though it is a terrible thing for consumers.”

Posted by Mary Tharin

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Bombing the Moon

cabeusmapSmallFriday morning was a bit of a strange morning for the United States.

  • At a little past 5am Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize
  • At a little past 7am NASA “bombed” the moon.

We here at DC Progressive have already let you know about the former, but if this is your only source of news, I’m sorry, in regards to the latter. What exactly did we do? Why did we do it? What policy implications does this have?

NASA launched the LCROSS (Lunar CRater Observation and Sensing Satellite) program to search for water on the moon. Heather Gross over at DCist does a good job of explaining exactly what the mission involved.

1. LCROSS was a mission to discover hydrogen (i.e. water) on the Moon.

2. The night before impact, LCROSS separated into two pieces: the upper stage of a depleted Centaur rocket and the Shepherding Spacecraft. The continued on the same path, but separated quite a few miles before impact.

3. The Centaur rocket hit the Moon first, inside the crater Cabeus near the south pole, kicking up a dust plume. The Shepherding Spacecraft followed about four minutes later, collecting volumes of data regarding the contents of the dust.

4. The rocket was about the size of a school bus and had no fuel. That’s right, no explosives were used upon impact on the Moon.

5. The mass of the Moon compared to the mass of the tiny spacecraft is ENORMOUS. It couldn’t knock the Moon off its axis and it will in no way affect the tides.

6. You know how we know that aside from basic math? This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. Humans have crash-landed spacecraft into the Moon dozens of times; the first time was by the Russians in 1959. (Yup, the Russians actually beat us to the Moon, but we sent humans there first.)

7. LCROSS was a “low-cost, high-risk” mission, what NASA calls a “Class D.” Much of the spacecraft was made by recycling parts from satellites. These types of missions are becoming more and more popular because they can collect quite a bit of data for very little cash.

8. Why this mission? The discovery of high quantities of water will guide the decision to send humans back to the Moon for long-term missions. Not to mention, information about the Moon’s make-up helps planetary scientists learn more about how our solar system was formed.

This has been a big couple weeks for the scientific community and it’s relation with the nation. There are actually 6 Nobel Prizes awarded each year. The founders of fiber optics, chromosomal end protection, and ribosomal structure all received prizes this week. In addition, the President’s National Medals of Science were awarded Wednesday to some of our nation’s greatest minds. Earlier, the President visited the NIH and gave a great speech about the importance of biomedical research. In addition, the release of the climate change bill in the senate and the daily discoveries released to the world are victories for the scientific community.

But no one is talking about all of these important visionaries or their contributions to society. Instead jokes are made about bombing the moon. As pointed out, this was not our first mission to crash into the moon and it will lead to numerous advances in our understanding of space. The tragedy comes when NASA and the scientific community have been so far removed from our society that an event as important as this becomes misrepresented.

NASA gave us much of our modern technology we use today. The impact of potential energy innovations on our consumption are much needed. Obama has increased the NASA budget $2.4 billion since taking office and is working quietly to restore NASA’s prominence. We as a society must follow suit and become fascinated with science and space once again.

There is a great deal of discussion on how Obama can live up to his Nobel Prize. It is time for the United States to once again contribute to the world through: a new technology, a new drug, a new cure, or a new reason to look at the moon. The President has already begun realigning these goals, it is time for our nation to respond.

Posted by Emma Sandoe

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Obama Awarded Nobel Prize for Potential

Before Barack Obama, only three other U.S. Presidents had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, which began in 1901. The list is worth a look, because it does not contain whom you might expect.

1906 – Theodore Roosevelt

Most lauded for his establishment of the U.S. National Park system, Teddy was equally famous for his heavy handed foreign policy. His famous phrase, “speak softly and carry a big stick,” became his administration’s mantra in its relations with Latin America. It was Roosevelt’s involvement in negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War that earned him the Nobel Prize.

1919 – Woodrow Wilson

At the end of World War I, Wilson fought very hard for the establishment of the League of Nations, which some consider the precursor to the United Nations. However, others consider the League to have been a dismal failure because the U.S. never joined, the Republican-dominated Senate at the time refusing to sign on. Still, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts his efforts to establish the world’s first collaborative multinational governing body.

2002 – Jimmy Carter

Carter was awarded the prize long after his presidential term had ended, in recognition of his life-long commitment “to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.” The delay in his award may have been the result of his tumultuous last year in office, which saw the hostage crisis in Iran and the 1979 fuel shortages.

In contrast, Obama appears to be the only U.S. President so far to receive the award “up front,” at the very beginning of his term. The Nobel Committee appears to be rewarding his efforts thus far to change the diplomatic role of the U.S. in the world by drastically shifting the rhetoric, and some policies, of the Bush era. Also it is likely that the prize is designed to remind the President not to take his commitments lightly. As the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg put it somewhat ominously:

“This is a surprising, an exciting prize. It remains to be seen if [Obama] will succeed with reconciliation, peace and nuclear disarmament.”

Update: Obama’s remarks on winning the prize were measured and highly appropriate:

“I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.”

Posted by Mary Tharin

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Missing the Point in Afghanistan

In their unrelenting efforts to undermine President Obama’s popularity, the GOP is now going after the administration’s policy in Afghanistan. Recent blaring headlines quoting General McCrystal’s warning of a “failure” in the so-called “Afghan war” are no coincidence. As Politico reports:

Republicans feel like they have the president in a box politically on Afghanistan, according to GOP insiders, and they are pressing their advantage. If Obama goes along with the McChrystal recommendations, he risks alienating the progressive base of the Democratic party, which wants to see the White House develop an exit strategy for getting out of Afghanistan.

But pulling out means a potential return of Taliban control, and [with] that, the specter of al Qaeda once again using Afghanistan as a base to attack the United States and its Western allies.

Republicans are counting on a lack of public support from an American public that has seen too many lives lost in Iraq. Thus, by characterizing Obama’s new strategy in Afghanistan as simply: “send more troops or fail,” the GOP hopes to assure that he will come off poorly, either in the short-or long-run.

However, by emphasizing McChrystal’s call for additional troops, the media is largely ignoring what the General considers the most vital issue to a successful strategy against al Qaeda and the Taliban. His report emphasizes the need to cut down on accidental civilian casualties that are eroding support among Afghanis.

“The civilian casualty issue is much more important than I even realized. It is literally how we lose the war or in many ways how we win it,” McChrystal said during a briefing.

Indeed, the McCrystal plan calls for much more than additional troops. The Christian Science Monitor reported:

McCrystal made fighting corruption a top priority of his assessment. He broke down his new Afghan strategy into four points. No. 2 was “prioritize responsive and accountable governance” – above any operational changes (No. 3), or resources (No. 4), and below only the building up of Afghan security forces.

In short, the President has a lot on his plate this week as he decides how to go forward in Afghanistan. He is charged with finding a way to eradicate deeply rooted government corruption, build allies within Afghan security forces, and provide appropriate resources for the military forces there; while at the same time struggling to appease a deeply divided American public.

One thing can be counted on – whatever the decision, the Right wing will not be supportive.

Posted by Mary Tharin

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