Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The More Things Change ...

by Mort Malkin

The More Things Change …

Barack Obama speaks the finest words — his speechifying is renowned. We are told: “Change,” “Yes, we can,” and “We will close Guantanamo.” At the G-20 (G-20? Gee whiz.), they said he was charming; but Gordon Brown did not invite him for a pint of brew at the Rose and Crown in London, and Angela Merkel still mistrusts American presidents after her experience with George Bush.

Americans granted Obama a time of grace, but that honeymoon is over now that Lawrence Summers has been found to be an investment bank flack and Timothy Geithner is planning a public-private sale of toxic assets requiring only a small down payment by private buyers but a 100% guarantee by the government (us taxpayers).

Mr. Obama, it is time for you to take specific actions that “change” has told us to expect. You can take many initiatives as President. You can convince Congress to take others — you are the leader of the majority party. Here’s a shopping list:

* Ratify the Kyoto Treaty. Don’t wait for the Copenhagen Conference in December. Though the Danes are leaders in the field of wind power, they are unpredictable otherwise, especially as cartoonists and editors.

* Pronouncing “nuclear” correctly is a good start. Now, you must refuse all grants or tax assists to new nuclear power plants in the US. Private enterprise requires private financing and private insurance against melt-downs. This is America, home of Capitalism.

* While we are purifying tax policy, stop the tax breaks for oil & gas drilling. Exxon made over $45 billion in clear profit last year.

* Subsidies for growing corn, cotton, and soy are not in the spirit of free enterprise either. Besides, subsidized corn grown on million acre, monocrop farms can produce kernels at less than what it costs Mexican farmers to grow ancient varieties on their family plots. Keep Capitalism. Keep tortilla diversity.

* Speaking about the Kingdom of Plants, the double helix of life has already been patented by Mother Nature. Tell Monsanto to desist from patenting genes. Genetic engineering, itself, infringes on Nature’s patents. With Monsanto, someone has to lay down the Law or they will try to patent human genes. Please save us before they turn us all into flavor-saver tomatoes. You can start by requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods — in large print.

* Americans must become better informed so we understand all the subtle and tricky secrets the corporations use to convince us how wonderful their products are and how insignificant all the dangers are. The spin-meisters of the B-C (Bush-Cheney) administration went through the revolving door and now work for the corporations. Quick, free the libraries and book stores — our sources of information — from Patriot Act chains. Moreover, we should be free to wander about Union Square in New York or attend a rally at the UN without worrying about being recorded on film by the police. Let’s just scrap the Patriot Act altogether. If the government feels compelled to keep an eye on someone, let them surveil the mucky-mucks at Goldman-Sachs, CitiBank, and Bank of America.

* The recent Obama “charm” offensive needs to be extended to the Hague and the International Court of Justice. At home in the US, Obama is being pressured to have his Justice Department bring charges against George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove for spying on countless Americans and torturing select detainees, crimes the high and mighty have spoken of in public. The Gadfly Revelry & Research team says that what finally makes it out to even investigative reporters is less than 10% of the whole truth. Obama has tried to hold off the inevitable with “Let’s look forward, not back.” His wisest political solution is to sign up with the International Court of Justice and let their prestigious justices do the investigations and prosecutions. He can just say “We can’t break our contract with the ICJ.”

* We can also join the rest of the world in treating health care as a human right. Just pronounce the words “single payer.” The US public, says every survey, supports government-paid health care. Ordinarily, the business community opposes government anything, except bailouts to the investment banks. But a number of capitalists recently have discovered that the cost of workers’ benefits has made them uncompetitive with the rest of the world. General Motors, for example, adds over $1000 to the price of a car to cover health care costs of their workers. With government-paid health care, we could all drive Cadillacs. Barack, just say “single payer” now and again. The Google gang will pick it up. So will Apple and even the PC people. Start a program of preventive medicine tied to universal health care. Even insurance companies and Big Pharma cannot be against prevention. We would save so much money we could afford to treat CEOs of HMOs for mental depression.

* Last on today’s list is a change in our relationship with Cuba, weird since the Castro revolution fifty years ago. Cuba, as landlord, doesn’t cash the monthly checks the US remits for renting the land beneath the military base at Guantanamo Bay. The US strangely maintains an embargo on trade with Cuba, a policy that financially harms the US more than Cuba. Maybe we should call it, not an embargo, but a senseless vendetta. Mr. President, allowing Cuban Americans to send money and even to visit the island is a half way measure. Neither the hawks nor doves are satisfied. US manufacturers say the trade freeze is bad business. They would like to sell products made in the USA to Cuba, and we can use some of the uniquely Cuban goods. For example, Cuban sugar must make super high grade ethanol just as it makes the best rum. Hey Rush Limbaugh, a word in favor of giving Cuba “most favored nation” trade status might get you a few boxes of Havana Cigars.

The change list could go on and on — Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Palestine and Israel for starters. Watch this space

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