Monday, February 08, 2010

Obama, Palin, the Super Bowl, the Healthcare Debacle, the Climate Crisis, & Don Juan's "Last Battle on Earth"

Frida Kahlo's Roots

Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves ... Reuters, 2-5-10

Scant ice over the Arctic Sea this winter could mean a "double whammy" of powerful ice-melt next summer, a top U.S. climate scientist said ... Reuters, 2-4-10

The Amazon jungle "is very close to a tipping point," and if destruction continues, it could shrink to one third of its original size in just 65 years, warns Thomas Lovejoy, world-renowned tropical biologist. Stephen Leahy, IPS, 2-2-10

Rwanda has announced a planned expansion of the Gishwati National Conservation Park. The effort with increase the size of the park by 21 percent ... and marks the beginning of a conservation corridor, dubbed the "Forest of Hope," intended to help a group of endangered chimpanzees. Treehugger, 2-2-10

Today, this southern European country of 10.5 million people on the west of the Iberian peninsula has substantially reduced its dependence on imported fossil fuels, and wind and solar energy now provide 35.9 percent of the electricity it consumes. IPS, 2-2-10

The new grid expected to be up and running by 2020 will cost some 30 billion Euros (43 billion US dollars) ... The new grid, spread across half the continent and under the sea, will connect the European off shore wind farms and solar thermal power plants and manage the oscillations of electricity supply from renewable sources which is highly dependent on weather conditions. Also linked to the grid, that is capable of storing electricity generated during peak periods, will be hydroelectric power stations, mostly in the Scandinavian countries. Julio Godoy, IPS, 2-3-10

This is why we need the Senate to pass a clean energy, climate and green jobs bill now: "China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world's largest maker of wind turbines ... China has also leapfrogged the West ... to emerge as the world's largest manufacturer of solar panels ... Al Gore, China in the Lead?, 2-7-10

Obama, Palin, the Super Bowl, the Healthcare Debacle, the Climate Crisis, & Don Juan's "Last Battle on Earth"

By Richard Power

As you can see from the seven items excerpted above, the planet's climate continues to deteriorate, and in response, many nations are moving forward as fast as they can, to mitigate the impact and adapt to the consequences.

Meanwhile, in the USA, over one hundred million of us watched a Super Bowl, for which CBS approved a Focus On The Family Super Bowl ad, aimed at undermining women's reproductive rights, despite its policy against advocacy spots. Indeed, not only did CBS approve it, it worked with the fundamentalist group for months, to get it right.

No, nothing was mentioned about the Healthcare Crisis or the Climate Crisis during the Super Bowl. There were no green armbands, there was no half-time plea for a carbon freeze from the NFL, nothing that would indicate any understanding of the reality of our circumstances: i.e., that we are citizens of a nation, and of a planet, both of which are near to free fall.

I confess that it took several days of silence, and several nights of eight hours sleep, to decide whether or not post once again on circumstances of the nation and the planet. Well, here you go (at least for now) ...

Sitting there Saturday night, monitoring Palin's speech to the faux "Tea Party," it occurred to me -- here is something to add to Sinclair Lewis' warning about how fascism comes to USA: with bible, wrapped in flag. Yes, wrapped in a flag, with a Bible in hand, AND wearing lipstick.

Those progressives who say cavalierly that they hope she runs and wins the nomination of the cult-formerly-known-as-the-Republican-Party, because there is no way she could win the election, do not understand what may already be happening here. They remind me of those (and probably some of them are those) who said, back in 2000, that they wanted Bush to win the nomination, because they were afraid that McCain could beat Gore. Such thinking was foolish then, and it is foolish now.

This woman is fomenting violence against the President, against the U.S. Constitution, and against reality itself. She is not just flirting with the camera, she is flirting with sedition.

But it is not Palin, or the mainstream media's shameless preoccupation with her, that compelled me to consider ceasing this running narrative. No, it is this ...

President Obama offered himself as a vessel of change. He was sincere in this offering. And as a vessel of change, at least within the election cycle, his skills and strength of character served him, and the nation, well. Governing, of course, is different; and the government he was elected to lead is profoundly compromised.

President Obama was swept into office in a national uprising against the appalling nature of the regime that preceded him. This uprising tapped into resources from across all strata of society, the sweat and tears of the grassroots, and yes, over seven hundred million of dollars in campaign contributions (if you add it all up), including significant amounts from Wall Street banksters, and insurance industry racketeers, and other powerful corporatist interest.

Why did banksters and health insurance racketeers cast their lots with the grassroots of true silent majority, the under-represented progressive mainstream of the US body politic? Because they could see this popular uprising coming, and decided they would rather influence the next administration from inside the White House than from outside of it. And so, the economy was turned over to Geithner and Summers, and White House operations were turned over to Rahmn Emmanuel.

President Obama was correct in determining that the Healthcare Crisis and the Climate Crisis would constitute a one-two punch to bring a real attitude adjustment to the political establishment.

But action on the Climate Crisis was dependent upon action on the Healthcare Crisis. Without a decisive victory in the first battle, a similarly decisive victory in the second battle would be almost impossible.

So it all came down to the struggle to deliver meaningful healthcare reform. But once the battle was engaged, a life-or-death choice had to be made.

Would the Obama team and the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill move with the people, and push hard against the health insurance racketeers, and risk losing access to the flow of campaign money from corporatist patrons?

Or would the Obama team try to finesse some win-win compromise, and risk squandering the broad-based goodwill of the majority of the populace?

Well, unless I am proven wrong in the end (and as I have said before, I would be delighted to be proven wrong), we now know that the Obama team made the wrong choice. Just as many of us in the blogosphere said all along; maligned as we are by Hollow Men like Chris Matthews and Rahm Emmanuel.

I characterize the choice on how to lead in the struggle for healthcare reform as a life-or-death one, simply because you cannot approach such a battle without approaching it in the way Don Juan suggested, as if it were your "last battle on Earth."

So here at the beginning of the second decade of the 21st Century, and the second year of the Obama administration, we are confronted with some grim prospects: no meaningful healthcare reform means this nation will continue to spiral downward and that the speed of its descent will accelerate; no significant climate action means the planet will continue to spiral downward and that the speed of its descent will accelerate.

I wish President Obama well, I feel the nobility of his intentions, I hope he shakes off his naive preconceptions and rises to the challenge of this moment, at whatever the cost. Yes, I know that is easy for me to say. (Although perhaps not as easy as some might assume.)

In reality, the failure of the struggle to deliver meaningful healthcare reform has little to do with sixty votes to break a filibuster and related tactical issues. Just as, in reality, the seemingly inevitable failure to legislate significant action on the climate crisis will have little to do with the largely fabricated teapot tempests over climategate and the IPCC.

These are failures of leadership in government and the news media. They are failures of conscience, of professional principles, and of common sense.

If these failures are reversed in the short span of time ahead of us, the histories of these struggles will constitute a profile in courage; if they are not reversed in the short span of time ahead of us, they will constitute a profile in cowardice.

Yes, it is that simple.

We will know soon enough, perhaps too soon ...

Meanwhile, here are four more items concerning the most urgent issue of our time:

If changes in the public mood and the party alignment of the U.S. Senate have stalled healthcare legislation, they may have thrown the highly anticipated climate bill under a bus ... President Obama has backed down too. ... No one really knows what would happen if average temperatures hit 5 C higher than 1850 -- a level we could easily reach within a century under a business-as-usual scenario -- but changes to the physical geography of the planet become probable: land masses would vanish; ecosystems would collapse. Human civilization would change, and not for the better.
This process can still be slowed at a moderate economic cost, but time is short -- delays make both fighting climate change and adapting to it dramatically more expensive, and eventually could make it impossible. It's foolish to say we can't afford to pass a climate bill during a recession. We can't afford not to.
Backing down on climate change, L.A. Times Editorial, 2-5-10

Free-market, anti-climate change think-tanks such as the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in the US and the International Policy Network in the UK have received grants totalling hundreds of thousands of pounds from the multinational energy company ExxonMobil. Both organisations have funded international seminars pulling together climate change deniers from across the globe.
Many of these critics have broadcast material from the leaked UEA emails to undermine climate change predictions and to highlight errors in claims that the Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035. Professor Phil Jones, who has temporarily stood down as director of UEA's climactic research unit, is reported in today's Sunday Times to have "several times" considered suicide. He also drew parallels between his case and that of Dr David Kelly, found dead in the wake of the row over the alleged "sexing up" of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Professor Jones said he was taking sleeping pills and beta-blockers and had received two death threats in the past week alone.
Jonathan Owen and Paul Bignell, Think-Tanks Take Oil Money and Use it to Fund Climate Deniers, Independent/UK, 2-7-10

So where next? Here’s a hypothesis to chew on: Copenhagen represents the failure of a ‘peacetime’, politics-driven strategy on climate change. It is time to look at other change models, namely shock-driven and/or technology driven.
Changes of the magnitude required to combat climate change normally require a major shock – typically war or economic crisis. Thus women won the vote in the UK after World War 1; the US got the New Deal after the Great Depression; the UN and Bretton Woods system was born out of World War 2; Ethiopia overthrew the repressive Derg government after the great famine of 1984.
It may thus require a system-wide trauma like the sudden onset of peak oil, or a climate shock one or more orders of magnitude greater than Hurricane Katrina, and affecting some/all of the major emitters, before a genuine shift to a low carbon economic model, with agreed limits on emissions under a fair, ambitious and binding global deal, becomes achievable.
Duncan Green, What will drive action on climate change if negotiations can’t?, From Poverty to Power, Oxfam Blogs, 2-8-10

Our country, and the world, faces the duel crisis of a failed American economy and climate change that threatens life on this planet as we know it. Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham...Earth, Huffington Post, 2-5-10

Support Rep. Alan Grayson (D-FL) and his six bills to Save Democracy.

Stand with Howard Dean on the struggle to deliver meaningful healthcare reform.

For the Words of Power Climate Crisis Updates Archive, click here.

Have you met Al Gore at the Wall yet?

I encourage you to find out why 350 is the most important number in your life and the lives of everyone you love: go to or Google "Bill McKibben" for the answer.

Richard Power's True North on the Pathless Path: Toward 21st Century Spirituality is available from

Richard Power's Left-Handed Security: Overcoming Fear, Greed & Ignorance in This Era of Global Crisis is available from

Al Gore,, , , Healthcare Reform