Sunday, June 07, 2009

In the Near Future, the Global Economy will be Dominated by China & the Biosphere will be Turned Hostile by Global Warming, Unless ...

Migrant Mother/Pea-Picker in the Dust Bowl, Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1936

The economic slowdown could last five to 10 years and cost trillions of dollars, a top US economist has warned. Paul Krugman, who won the 2008 Nobel prize for economics, told the BBC that any recovery would be "so slow it would feel like a recession".
He is urging the US government to introduce a second stimulus package of $500bn (£300bn) to boost the economy.
BBC, 6-3-09

Moscow’s finance minister says China’s Yuan the ’shortest path’ to new world reserve Agence France Press, 6-6-09

The global financial crisis is resulting in a "geopolitical metamorphosis" that is likely to boost China's standing in the world, the head of Germany's foreign intelligence service said ... Agence France Press, 6-2-09

"Rare-earth metals are crucial to the fututre of battery-powered cars. ... The robust international trade in illegally mined, quota-busting rare-earth metals highlights China's near monopoly on the raw materials for environmental technology - a 95 per cent dominance of world supply that is likely to become more widely noticed as China tightens its grip." The Australian, 5-28-09

In the Near Future, the Global Economy will be Dominated by China & the Biosphere will be Turned Hostile by Global Warming, Unless ...

By Richard Power

Let me suggest an alternate view of the current US political scene for you. I assure you that you won't hear anything close to it aired on those quadrants of opinion-shaping "moderated" by Bob Schieffer, George Stephanopoulis, David Gregory, Wolf Blister or Jim Lehrer.

We have a very narrow window to jump through, in terms of both economic recovery and the Climate Crisis, and if we do not make it, the global economy will soon be dominated by China, to the detriment of human rights and environmental security across the planet, and the biosphere in which we all live will turn against us because of our failure to mitigate the worst of global warming's impact.

In light of these dire circumstances, two legislative struggles may well determine our future, and neither of them have to do with war crimes or the best way to bail out banks that are "too big to fail." (The fate of Pinochet is a good example of why there is still time to extract accountability from the leaders of the Bush-Cheney regime, and the era of Larry Summers and his ilk will soon be finished, the momentum of consequences will dispense with their world-view.) No, the two legislative struggles that may well determine our future concern healthcare and climate change.

Both battles will be decided before the end of the year, and the future of this country could well depend on their combined outcome. The fate of the Obama-Biden administration, as well as the Democratic Party as we know it (or think we know it) will almost certainly be dependent upon the combined outcome.

The bottom line on both is to break open the lock on the collective psyche.

Ever since the so-called "Reagan revolution" ("Reagan counter-revolution" would be more accurate), the collective psyche of the USA has been conditioned to shut its eyes and ears to the evidence of all the other industrialized nations, and all of the other great democracies, choosing instead to cling to its own false memes about "socialized medicine." And so, our own healthcare system over the decades has deteriorated into a cruel and senseless racket.

But big pharma and the insurance giants are not the only interests that have undue influence over the US political establishment and mainstream news media, the fossil fuel companies have spent obscene amounts of money to not only deep-six the conscience of elected officials but to poison the minds of the populace with fake science produced by those Bobby Kennedy , Jr. astutely labels "biostitutes."

If we do not get meaningful healthcare reform, i.e., a true public option, then we, as a people, as a society, will probably not rise again from this current economic decline.

If we do not get meaningful action on energy security (i.e., independent and renewable) and climate change (i.e., both cap and trade and substantive investments and incentives for solar, wind, a new grid, etc.), then the USA will not be in position to lead the world in Copenhagen later this year; and if we do not lead the world, then the odds are not good for the future of the human race, and even if it does make it through the trials to come, the USA will be limping, perhaps crawling, far behind those nations that do come to grips with how they must re-tool their energy sectors.

Whatever healthcare legislation comes out of Congress this year will not be what we need, BUT if it includes a public option that is not neutered by some phony "trigger" it will be enough to break the lock on the collective psyche, and we will start accelerating on the curve toward true universal, single-payer system.

Whatever climate/energy legislation comes out of Congress this year will not be what we need, BUT if it establishes the premise that the Climate Crisis is a real, urgent and profound challenge, and that the only acceptable energy paradigm for the 21st Century is truly green, i.e., renewable and independent, it will be enough to break the lock on the collective psyche, and we will start accelerating on the curve toward the healing of the planet and the rescue of our future.

And yes, it will be a miracle if either piece of legislation makes it through the US Senate in sufficiently potent form. But extraordinary challenges bring forth miracles. While there is still hope, I urge you to beat the ear drums of your elected representatives in Congress and of the man you put in the White House.

Here are excerpts from two important briefing documents, Robert Reich's blog post on this crucial moment in the struggle for a healthcare bill, and a recent debate on the Waxman-Markey climate bill facilitated by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! (if you click on the link at the end of the excerpt, you can read the full transcript or better yet listen to the podcast):

I'ved poked around Washington today, talking with friends on the Hill who confirm the worst: Big Pharma and Big Insurance are gaining ground in their campaign to kill the public option in the emerging health care bill.
You know why, of course. They don't want a public option that would compete with private insurers and use its bargaining power to negotiate better rates with drug companies. They argue that would be unfair. Unfair? Unfair to give more people better health care at lower cost? To Pharma and Insurance, "unfair" is anything that undermines their profits.
So they're pulling out all the stops -- pushing Democrats and a handful of so-called "moderate" Republicans who say they're in favor of a public option to support legislation that would include it in name only. One of their proposals is to break up the public option into small pieces under multiple regional third-party administrators that would have little or no bargaining leverage. A second is to give the public option to the states where Big Pharma and Big Insurance can easily buy off legislators and officials, as they've been doing for years. A third is bind the public plan to the same rules private insurers have already wangled, thereby making it impossible for the public plan to put competitive pressure on the insurers. ...
All this will be decided within days or weeks. And once those who want to kill the public option without their fingerprints on the murder weapon begin to agree on a proposal -- Snowe's "trigger" or any other -- the public option will be very hard to revive. The White House must now insist on a genuine public option. And you, dear reader, must insist as well.
This is it, folks. The concrete is being mixed and about to be poured. And after it's poured and hardens, universal health care will be with us for years to come in whatever form it now takes. Let your representative and senators know you want a public option without conditions or triggers -- one that gives the public insurer bargaining leverage over drug companies, and pushes insurers to do what they've promised to do. Don't wait until the concrete hardens and we've lost this battle.
Robert Reich, 6-6-09

AMY GOODMAN: While several environmental groups have welcomed the passage of the bill through the committee, others remain critical of the bill’s concessions to the coal, nuclear, gas and oil lobbies; the scaling back of the greenhouse gas reduction target from 20 to 17 percent; and the giving away of the majority of pollution credits for free, instead of auctioning them. As many as eighty-two trade groups and companies lobbied on climate change this year, including Boeing, Shell, Chevron and the US Chamber of Commerce. ... Well, we’re joined right now by two guests in Washington, DC, for a discussion about the climate change bill.
Tyson Slocum is director of the energy program for Public Citizen, a group that’s called the bill a, quote, “huge disappointment” and “boon to energy industries.”
And Dan Lashof is director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Center, that’s welcomed the bill as a, quote, “historic step to unleash clean energy and rein in global warming pollution.”
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Dan Lashof, let’s start with you. Why do you think this bill is so good?
DAN LASHOF: Well, I think this is really a historic breakthrough, because the passage of this clean energy and climate protection bill yesterday in the Energy and Commerce Committee clears a pathway to get a bill on the President’s desk this year that will, for the first time, establish comprehensive national limits on the pollution that causes global warming. And that will mobilize investments in clean energy, in energy efficiency, that will put Americans back to work right away and will, over the longer term, steadily reduce the pollution that causes global warming and put the US back in the leadership position that it needs to be in in order to solve this problem.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Tyson Slocum of Public Citizen, you’ve said that what started out as a fairly good bill has gotten worse and worse. Why?
TYSON SLOCUM: Well, I mean, part of the problem was there were a significant amount of meetings that occurred behind closed doors in between the time that Chairman Waxman and Markey released their draft bill in March of this year and then they released a significant revision just last week. And in those closed-door meetings, they met with representatives of the oil and coal industries, and significant numbers of concessions were made.
Look, Public Citizen supports strong, effective climate legislation, and the fact is, is that this bill does not do that. We can talk about the aspirations of hoping to achieve greenhouse gas emissions reductions, but when you look at what this bill will do, it will not result in significant reductions.
It creates a legal right to pollute for industries and gives away credits for free to allow companies to meet those targets without having to pay for them. And that is simply not going to spur the kind of investments we need. ...
DAN LASHOF: Yeah, well, I think Tyson is missing the point. Right now, polluters can put as much carbon dioxide as they want in the atmosphere at absolutely no cost, with no legal limits on it. This bill would fundamentally change that and would drive down the pollution that causes global warming.
I think that Tyson would agree that Henry Waxman is the most effective environmental champion in the United States Congress. And this is, in my view, without a doubt, the very best bill that is possible to get out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And so, I think the question that we have to ask is, do we move forward with this legislation, which I will agree is not perfect? And we’ll be working to improve it as it goes along, but I think it’s an excellent start. And the choice is to have no comprehensive federal legislation.
I want to also address this question of, are we making the same mistakes that Europe did? No. Waxman and Markey learned the lesson of the windfall profits, that Europe did make some serious mistakes when they set up their emission limits and emission trading program, because they gave the allowances to unregulated electricity generators. This bill does not do that. It gives allowances to regulated electricity and natural gas retailers with the express requirement that the value of those emission permits must be used to benefit their customers. ...
Democracy Now!, 5-22-09

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