Category Archives: politics

Obama’s mediocre record on the environment

Obama was both good and bad on the environment, and we should be honest about his record, rather than mindlessly praising him, since he appears so much better than the Republican administration that followed him.

On the one hand, Obama did some good things:

  1. Got additional funding for renewables and clean tech in the 2009 stimulus bill,
  2. Talked a lot about a Green Jobs program at beginning of his term, but only got it partially funded by the stimulus, because Republicans blocked it afterwards, so he gave up on it after 2 years.
  3. Worked hard to extend the incentives for renewables and had to negotiate with intransigent Republicans to do it,
  4. Dramatically increased the fleet fuel efficiency standards,
  5. Drafted the Clean Power Plan and tried to get it implemented despite Republican obstructionism,
  6. Implemented a hiatus on leasing coal on federal lands,
  7. Drafted new rules to prevent contamination of streams by coal mining,
  8. Negotiated bilateral deals with China and Canada/Mexico to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  9. Signed the Paris Agreement and did not work behind the scenes to block it.
  10. Appointed smart Secretaries of Energy and other administrators, who helped promote alternative energy, clean transport and clean tech and approve the infrastructure for clean tech.
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My struggle for an adequate ideology

I often struggle to name a political or economic philosophy which defines my beliefs. In Bolivia, where I reside, I don’t like to call myself a “socialist,” because that would align me with the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party and I strongly disagree with a number of their policies. I agree in some concepts of anarchism on a local level, especially the anarcho-syndicalism of Latin America a century ago, but I see anarchism as a hopeless ideology for governing. Anarchists essentially assume that humans are good by nature and will do the right thing if freed from the coercive power of the state. I don’t see this as a viable philosophy for confronting the concentration of wealth and power that governs today’s society. Noam Chomsky, who is probably the world’s most renowned anarchist, observes that dismantling the state in the face of concentrated corporate power is suicide and we currently need an organization like the state to protect against organized corporate interests.
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How the cut in YouTube ad revenue is effecting online news channels

In recent weeks, Google has cut the ads for many news sites on YouTube because a few of its ads happened to be shown on channels for racist and hate groups and advocates for terrorism. The Wall Street Journal has run a series of sensational articles about how advertising on YouTube was helping to fund hate and terrorism, which has caused a number of high profile advertisers to pull their funding from YouTube in recent days such as Walmart, Pepsi, Starbucks, MacDonalds, Disney, AT&T and Verizon. Analysts estimate that YouTube may loose $750 million in revenues due to the controversy, out of a total of $10.2 billion in expected annual revenue. Some of these companies may be pulling their ads from YouTube in an effort to secure better advertising deals on more favorable terms, but they also may be spooked by the potential public relations scandal of advertising on offensive YouTube videos. The mainstream media also may be hyping the controversy partly because it helps redirect advertising funds toward the traditional media, rather than the new online formats like Google and Facebook.
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Questioning the evidence that Russia meddled in the US presidential election

I finished reading the 25 page unclassified report entitled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US elections,” which was released by US intelligence agencies to prove that Russia meddled in the US presidential election of 2016.

Frankly, most of the report is just assertions without proof, and the proof that is provided is mostly circumstantial and probably a misreading of the evidence. I wanted to see the proof that Russia gave the DNC emails to Wikileaks, but this report presents no additional proof aside from assertions by the US intelligence agencies. Furthermore there is no proof in the report that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian agent and that Russia leaked material to DCLeaks.

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Sam Harris’s specious argument that intentions matter when killing civilians

Sam Harris recently got into a public debate with Noam Chomsky about whether US foreign policy or Muslim terrorists are morally worse. Harris argues that the US killing of civilians is fundamentally different from the civilian deaths caused by Muslim terrorists, because the US doesn’t intend to kill civilians, whereas the goal of Muslim terrorists is to kill civilians.
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Americans are getting a taste of their own medicine

Every time I read another red-baiting article about how Russia swung the US presidential election, all I can say is “the chickens are coming home to roost.” For decades, the US has been engaged in trying to manipulate elections abroad, and now Americans get offended that someone might be trying to do it to them. The US covertly backed the Velvet Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, which took those countries out of the Russian orbit. The CIA alleges that Russia hacked servers at the Democratic National Committee to give its documents to Wikileaks, but that is nothing compared to the US government financing youth groups in the Ukraine that led the massive street demonstrations and paying a Washington PR firm to create pro-Yushchenko websites. Maybe Putin is giving the US a little taste of its own medicine.
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Recent media coverage of Fidel Castro’s death is decontextualized and not helpful to the Cuban people

The death of Fidel Castro has provoked an outpouring of opprobrium in the US press for the island nation 90 miles from the coast of Florida. The US media has critiqued the words of President Obama, because he did publicly criticize the human rights record of the Cuban dictator on the hour of his death. The blogosphere and people in social media seem to have a binary view of Castro, either castigating him as one of the worst dictators in modern history or widely lauding the social achievements and anti-imperialism of Cuba under Castro.

Frankly, both of these reactions are wrongheaded in my opinion. Cuba under Castro was a much less repressive regime than many of the governments which are allied with the US. When far worse dictators such as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan died, President Obama didn’t publicly criticize their human rights records either, and the US media didn’t consider it scandalous or even worthy of much commentary. Obama spoke of a “genuine and warm friendship” with King Abdullah. “As a leader, he was always candid and had the courage of his convictions,” he said. When Karimov died, Obama stated, “At this challenging time of President Isl[a]m Karimov’s passing, the United States reaffirms its support for the people of Uzbekistan.  This week, I congratulated President Karimov and the people of Uzbekistan on their country’s 25 years of independence.  As Uzbekistan begins a new chapter in its history, the United States remains committed to partnership with Uzbekistan, to its sovereignty, security, and to a future based on the rights of all its citizens.” Continue reading