Tag Archives: Obama

Memorial Day Madness

31 May

It may be Memorial Day, but the news never takes the day off. There are three main stories out there today.

Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla filled with civilians that was headed toward the Gaza strip. The flotilla was attempting to bring aid in the Palestinian territory, which has been subject to an Israeli blockade for quite some time.

The commandos boarded the craft while the vessel was still in international waters. In the ensuing clash, around 10 civilians were killed (there are conflicting reports).

The incident has spurred widespread outrage across the world, particularly in Turkey and Europe. Predictably, however, that outrage has not reached the United States. Many governments put out statements condemning Israel for its actions, but not the U.S. The American statement lacks the teeth of some of other nations.

The more I learn about this, the more disturbed I am. I think Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish hits this on the head:

Just imagine if a flotilla of anti-Tehran activists were attacked in international waters by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and that the Guards killed 16 or more of the civilians. What do you think Commentary would be saying then?

It seems to me that we cannot allow Israel to get away with actions that we would condemn others for; they shouldn’t get a free pass.

BP CEO Tony Hayward continues to be amazingly arrogant, suggesting recently that nine clean up workers who recently became very ill and had to be taken away on stretchers became ill from food poisoning, not from the dispersant BP is using. Whether or not he’s right, and I doubt he is, the company appears horrifyingly tone deaf.

But I suppose they have no real reason to be more forthcoming. After all, it’s not as if we’re going to stop using oil anytime soon.

CNN was incredulous.

President Obama’s Memorial Day Speech at an Illinois cemetery never got off the ground after a thunderstorm produced a massive downpour and lightning.

Have a great Memorial Day everyone.

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Our Inescapable Relationship with BP

24 May

Now, a week into summer, I’m going to try to start posting more frequently.

As oil continues to gush into the gulf, the primary focus remains (rightly) on stopping the leak and putting an end to the slow motion environmental disaster occurring along the coast. A new approach will be attempted before the end of the week to plug the gusher. Hopefully that will do the job.

But as the disaster continues, I’ve found myself contemplating the deeper issues that the spill exposes, even beyond the environmental dimensions, which are huge.

I’ve been thinking about what this whole situation means for the relationship between government and corporations. The spill is yet another flashpoint in many flashpoints since the financial crisis began in the fall of 2008 that have forced this nation to examine and renegotiate the relationship between the institutions of business and the state.

In the case of BP, the relationship is complex. Here we are, with this huge problem that we are told only BP is capable of solving where BP also caused the problem. Now, I like that the BP has to solve it. And pay for the consequences that the spill will have. That’s only just. And I also really do believe they are trying to stop it as best as they can.

But what is disturbing to me is that we have a situation where the government has allowed a corporation to undertake an activity in which the government has no viable way of stopping. This should be chilling, especially when the activity is oil drilling, where the consequences of something going wrong can and are being shown to be so destructive.

As a country we’ve decided that in other areas of the economy, government should have the expertise and the necessary power to reverse or stop the bad decisions of corporations and the private market. That’s why we have the Federal Reserve, which is capable of taking large scale action to essentially stop bad stuff from happening when corporations mess up. See: bailouts.

I think that’s a reasonable power. The government has a responsibility to the economy as a whole because corporations only have an obligation to themselves. Some entity – in this case the government – needs to oversee the market and correct market failures. That may be liberalism, but it’s certainly not socialism.

But if we have this type of mechanism for financial markets, why don’t we have it for oil drilling? We have regulation, which in this case was horribly ineffective and needs to be improved. But why did we allow a company to take an action, to drill at a depth so deep that our government does not have the ability to stop a spill if it occurs?

We allowed the capability of enterprise to outpace the capability of government. This, I think, was a fatal error.

We are now in the middle of a massive environmental disaster and we are beholden to the very same company who caused the spill to now stop it. We have no recourse. There is no second option.

What if BP suddenly decided to walk away and give up? It’s not an American company, what could we really do? We could sue, and we would win billions, but it probably would only dent the company, as BP is awash in billions more. But beyond that, we probably wouldn’t, because we need their oil.

That’s the system. It is, unfortunately, at this moment inescapable.

It’s seems to me that once the oil stops, once the destruction has been wrought, we as a nation must ensure that a corporation never again has so much power to wreck havoc on the land and water of the United States.

Another note on the oil:

Andrew Revkin, an environmental reporter for The New York Times, wrote today that President Obama now has the power and the obligation to take over the oil response from BP.

The Daily Roundup

15 Apr

Elections for KU Student Senators was today. This may have been the most boring election ever. Really not a whole lot of drama. People were too responsible. But seriously, what am I going to write about if people aren’t being crazy?

Anyway, the major story is that KUnited (see that word play?) dominated the election, virtually sweeping the election. KUnited presidential candidates Michael Wade Smith and Megan Ritter won, with 66 percent of the vote.

KUnited won every seat in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and virtually every academic seat. Envision had a bit more luck in non-academic seats, winning all 10 senate seats reserved for graduate students. But that number’s a bit deceiving because only one KUnited member ran for a graduate student seat.

The Kansan has the full results here.

I’m still processing what the election results mean for KU; I will try to develop my thoughts into a column for The Kansan next week.

The director of the C.I.A. in 2005, Porter Goss, approved of the destruction of dozens of videotapes showing the C.I.A. torture of prisoners during interrogations, The New York Times reported today. It was The Times that first reported the existence of the tapes in 2007.

Fox News yanked host Sean Hannity from a tea party protest after it was learned he was going to headline the event. While I suppose this is a good thing, it’s also awful that things even got to this point.

Most importantly, though, it shows that Fox is not even an independent news organization (in the sense of being independent from what it covers). I’m willing to put up with an news organization that’s not objective – there’s great opinion journalism out there – but journalism absolutely MUST involve independence from the object of our reporting.

Otherwise we’re just PR hacks.

Twenty percent of Americans still believe Barack Obama was not born in the United States, according to a CBS News poll. Sigh.

Barack Obama is not a socialist, according to the Socialist Party in America.

The idea that the guy is a socialist is ridiculous. We’re so used to laissez-faire policies that we conflate liberal economic policy with socialist economic policy.

A meteor lit up the Midwestern sky last night, causing a fireball. CNN has the video.

That’s The Daily Roundup. Have a great evening.

Students loans now own your soul a little less

30 Mar

President Obama signed student loan reform into law today. The law was part of the health care bill. The Associated Press has a story on the signing here.

The reforms will mean a few very specific changes for students. USAToday outlined them recently in a story.

Some key points, according to USAToday:

  • Lower interest rates for parent borrowers and graduate students
  • Lower payments for low-income graduates
  • Expanded Pell Grants

I think these changes will be helpful.