Glad Obama’s In, But Nothing to Celebrate

January 21, 2013

President Barack Obama takes his first oath of office, US Capitol, January 20, 2009. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, USAF/Wikipedia). In public domain.

President Barack Obama takes his first oath of office, US Capitol, January 20, 2009. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, USAF/Wikipedia). In public domain.

Don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly supported President Barack Obama for election in ’08 and again in ’12, as my blog posts and my thousands of tweets show over the past five years. I’ve admonished neo-cons, naysayers, liberals and racists on my pages over the past half-decade for their ridiculous statements about the president’s ancestry, motivations and policies.

But, even with all of this, I’ve gleaned flaws in President Obama’s approach to domestic and foreign policy, to his administration’s continuing Bush’s work on the semi-police state, to his whole-cloth acceptance of K-12 education “reform” and backing off on regulations for the for-profit higher education institution world (see my posts “Can Do No Wrong” [March '10], “Bad Conversations and Education Reform” [November '10], “The POTUS and The Last Airbender” [December '10],  “For the Love of a Lockout & an Impasse” [July '11], “Emancipation and Compromise” [this month] and “Why Obama Is Only A Failed Centrist President” [this month]).

The recent fiscal cliff solution, the extension of widespread surveillance powers over our email, cell phone calls, text messages (and, presumably, blogs, tweets and Facebook pages like my own as well), and the ho-hum approval of $633 billion in appropriations for the Defense Department’s budget this year, though, give me even less of a reason to celebrate President Obama’s second inauguration.

Crowd at National Mall morning of President Obama's inauguration, January 20, 2009. (DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Meneguin, USAF/Wikipedia). In public domain.

Crowd at National Mall morning of President Obama’s inauguration, January 20, 2009. (DoD photo by Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Meneguin, USAF/Wikipedia). In public domain.

Without a doubt, he was a better choice than that dumb-ass sycophant Mitt Romney. If only because Romney’s entire raison d’être as president would’ve been to allow the rich and corporations another round of economic rape, destroying the American middle class, and pushing the working poor and welfare poor into oblivion in the process.

Obama’s win in November, however, was a sigh of relief for me, not really a jumping-for-joy moment. Now, after witnessing the fiscal cliff debacle, it is obvious that the next four years will be more of the same lukewarm, milk-toast domestic proposals, hardline national security and military policies, and half-baked rhetoric that we were all a part of in President Obama’s first term. By 2017, if I’m still alive to write and tweet, here’s what will remain before us as major crises when Obama leaves office:

National debt; universal health care reform; higher education reform; student aid; student loan policy; minimum wage; living wage; union-busting; long-term unemployment; long-term underemployment; de-industrialization; Wall Street/banking deregulation; housing/mortgage crisis; comprehensive immigration reform; federal tax code; rendition and torture; warrantless wiretapping/surveillance; drone strikes on innocent civilians; upgrading the electrical grid; crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, water and sewage systems); PreK-12 education reform; social mobility; green jobs; environmental pollution; cap-and-trade; global warming/climate change; nuclear proliferation; Medicare/Medicaid solvency; religious tolerance; racial/ethnic tensions; women’s reproductive rights; over-incarceration of poor men and women of color; police brutality; gun violence; violent crimes; domestic terrorism; cybersecurity; military-industrial complex; racial/gender/age/sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace; school privatization/high-stakes testing/charter schools/voucher programs; border security, the War on Drugs, prison-industrial complex; voter disenfranchisement; decriminalization of marijuana (and other drugs); post-trauma stress disorder for war veterans and the poor; lingering effects of the Great Recession; funding for public mental health facilities; high-speed rail; food security and policy; prescription drug abuse; Big Pharma; Social Security “reform;” obesity/diabetes/high-blood pressure and other long-term illnesses; and GMOs.

Aerial views of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy,  New Jersey coast taken during a search and rescue mission, October 30, 2012.  (Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, USAF/Wikipedia). In public domain.

Aerial views of Hurricane Sandy damage, New Jersey coast [climate change as example of crises that will go unaddressed during Obama's second term], October 30, 2012. (Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen, USAF/Wikipedia). In public domain.

Now, you tell me. Do I really have any reason to see today as a day of celebration?


The Ultimate Satan Sandwich

August 3, 2011

Titan in natural color, Cassini spacecraft, April 16, 2005. (Source/http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA06230) - In public domain.

With the passage of the debt ceiling/budget cuts deal that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) called a “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich” on Monday, it became clear that conservative politicians are only patriotic when they can make money off of misery. We know that the conservative/reactionary/Tea Party agenda is to ensure that the legacy of the New Deal and liberal America is as charred as the dinosaurs were 65 million years ago. And with it, our futures and the future of kids like my eight-year-old son.

But how will we get to a future with no future, you ask? How will this capitulation — oops, I mean compromise — between President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lead us into the event horizon of a black hole? It will be because the reactionary Republicans and the diffident Democrats will make one big effort to save the US and world economy, to create jobs and wealth. All while breaking treaties, threatening world peace and destroying the environment in the process.

Forget about “drill, baby, drill” and the ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) issue. Think bigger. Think fictitiously big. Think Saturn’s biggest moon, Titan. It’s not only the second largest moon in the solar system (after Jupiter’s largest moon Ganymede), and double the size of Earth’s moon. It’s the only moon in the solar system with a dense atmosphere, about ten times as dense as our own. It also has a huge reservoir of organic molecules and hydrocarbons in its atmosphere, and liquid methane and ethane all over its surface, at least as verified via the Cassini spacecraft and its unmanned fly-bys since 2004. Some scientists believe that there’s enough liquid methane and other hydrocarbons under and on the surface and in the atmosphere to power the current world economy for the next fifty million years.

Land of liquid methane lakes, as radar mapped with false color mosaic, North Polar Region, Titan, October 11, 2007. (Source/ http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/?IDNumber=PIA10008) - In public domain.

Because many of our fearless conservative leaders don’t believe in global warming/climate change — but do believe in making money — they would see the recent discovery of the stuff on Titan not as a place to explore the possibility of life. Instead, it would be a grand opportunity to solve the world’s energy crisis. Of course, they’d have to admit that there is such a thing as peak oil, and then have ample evidence that the world has reached peak production to boot.

So, say it’s 2014, and everyone from OPEC to the UN to Exxon Mobil has reported that we’ve reached the outer edge of peak oil. If the neo-con/Tea Party types are still in control of the House of Representatives, or worse, in control of the Senate and the White House, there wouldn’t even be a debate. They’d put together a bill to push through a $100 billion package for NASA to work with Exxon Mobil, Shell and Halliburton in sending a team of scientists, petrochemical engineers and drillers to figure out how to pump Titan’s frigid air and hydrocarbon lakes into massive tanks to return to Earth for our consumption. The companies would have to match the $100 billion package dollar for dollar, which they would do, of course.

If Obama’s in his second term with a divided government, though there would be more protests from environmental groups, climatologists, and grassroots organizations than even with a President Mitt Romney, it wouldn’t matter. With the promise of as many as five million new jobs in three years, and 150,000 jobs to support the Titan “Oil” Pumping mission within the first six months, the majority of anxious Americans would endorse this plan.

Obama would talk about “honoring America’s commitments” to space as exploration. He’d complain about the need to protect the Earth from even more disastrous and accelerated climate change, not to mention the wasting of financial and scientific resources that could leave Titan a moon-sized example of an EPA Superfund site if the mission somehow set the moon’s atmosphere on fire. Obama would even bring up green alternatives for using the Sun and solar system to supply the world’s energy needs. Then he’d fold like a warped desk of cards.

This would violate the Outer Space Treaty, signed by the United States, the former Soviet Union and the United Kingdom in 1967, and by half of the countries of the world in the forty-four years since. Not only are we not suppose to have nuclear weapons in space, the more immediate intent of the treaty, but we’re also prohibited from claiming any part of outer space as an individual nation, as they are the “common heritage of mankind.” The act to drain Titan as a petrochemical resource unilaterally would break the treaty, and leave other space-faring nations into a new and potentially dangerous space race.

So, whether Obama or a semi-fictitious Republican president, the world would compromise with the US government, allowing this cockamamie scheme to move forward without the threat of war if they could receive a twenty-five percent share in whatever hydrocarbons are recovered from Titan. In exchange, a new treaty is signed promising a thirty percent reduction in fossil fuel consumption by 2040, made up for by a twenty percent increase in green energy over the same quarter-century.

McDonald's McGriddle breakfast sandwich, the ultimate Satan sandwich, at 420 calories, September 27, 2006. (Source/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/u-suke/253343509/Yusuke Kawasaki). In public domain under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

All a great idea. The ultimate Satan sandwich, because if such a mission to Titan succeeds, the new Kyoto Accords wouldn’t mean a damn thing. We’ll be burning methane until we all have to buy oxygen tanks in order to breathe.

Though this is a fictitious scenario, it’s based on a reality that has been unfolding in our country for decades. The unfortunate truth is, between the lustful servants of money and corporations and capitulating national leadership, this Satan-sandwich-story is more of a possibility than us seeing a human being walk on Mars. At least in my lifetime.


The POTUS and The Last Airbender

December 8, 2010

C-SPAN Video Player - President Obama News Conference on Tax Cut Agreement Screen Shot, December 8, 2010. Donald Earl Collins. Qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law because screen shot is of low quality and is only intended to highlight the subject of this post.

In a post I did during President Obama’s campaign run (see “The Avatar State” post, July 22, 2008), I dared to hope that the then energized candidate and senator would be a bridge that would work across the divides of race and ideology. Much like the main character of my favorite animation series of all time, Aang of the Avatar: The Last Airbender. But unlike Thomas L. Friedman’s The Lexus and the Olive Tree (1999), I don’t purport to have a special wisdom about how he can do this.

 

And like the animated series, Obama’s run for president also came to a successful end. For both the creators of the series and our beleaguered president, it was time for the big time. For one, it was the opportunity to do a live-action, big screen movie to introduce the epic nature of kids embarking on a journey to save the world to a larger audience. For Obama and his group, it was the chance to govern based on the ideas and ideals that they communicated successfully to nearly 67 million voters.

Unfortunately, both have disappointed, and not just a little. James Cameron managed to wrest away the very title of the movie — Avatar — from the Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, even though his movie was merely a dream at the time that series had begun in ’04. That, and settling for M. Night Shyamalan as director turned The Last Airbender into an irrelevant movie that hurt the brand, while inadvertently helping Cameron’s Avatar make money-making history.

Poor Noah Ringer as Aang of M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender Screen Shot, December 8, 2010. Donald Earl Collins. Qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law because screen shot is of low quality and is only intended to highlight the subject of this post.

 

The Obama Administration also began conceding its brand within weeks of reaching office. They say that governing dilutes the rhetoric of campaigns, and even hopeful me maintained enough jadedness to realize that. Yet to see how quickly Obama and his administration moved from action on the stimulus bill to a bunker mentality on virtually everything else was a bit distressing. The picks of Larry Summers, Peter McNickol of Ally McBeal fame — I mean Timothy Geithner — and Arne Duncan to be pillars of his economic and education teams should’ve been signs. That the Obama Administration would look after corporate and rich people’s interests before it would look out for mine. That there would be little fighting for the ideas and ideals of his campaign.

Only yesterday afternoon did Obama decide to flash anger at liberals and progressives. To be truthful, some of them have been bitter and overly critical of Obama’s decisions almost from day one. But to paint all of those left of center with the same broad brush, as if we all “have the satisfaction of having a purist position, and no victories for the American people. And we will be able to feel good about ourselves and sanctimonious about how pure our intentions are and how tough we are.”

It’s a nice sentiment. Except that the president doesn’t seem to understand the difference between compromise and capitulation. As David Gergen put it on CNN yesterday, while Obama may well be right in heading off political opposition from the Tea/GOP group looking to hold Americans and him hostage, his execution of this from a communications standpoint was terrible.

We’re approaching the midway point of his first — and possibly only — term in office, and Obama has yet to take a serious stand on any principle he campaigned for in ’08. I’m not speaking as a liberal or

"Sozin's Comet, Part 4" from Avatar: The Last Airbender Screen Shot, December 4, 2010. Donald Earl Collins. Qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law because screen shot is of low quality and is only intended to highlight the subject of this post.

progressive here. Just look at his memoirs, his speeches and campaign promises, even the speeches and pressers Obama gave in his first months in office. Now, some of this is the result of real compromise. But after nearly two years, those compromises look more and more like concessions for the rich and corporate, and less like compromises to protect the poor, unemployed and underemployed.

 

Like the poor kid who didn’t have a chance in heaven to measure up to the character Avatar Aang in the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, it looks as if President Obama is having a hard time measuring up to his forty-six-year-old self. But hopefully, like the animation version of Aang, the real Obama will find his way. He needs to take a stand on something important to him and us, and do it with the bravado in which he ran on. So that even the folks who wouldn’t vote for him if God asked them to will at least get out of his way.


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