November 17, 2009

Climate Killer Obama

Der Spiegel, Germany's answer to Time Magazine without the obsession about making articles exactly the right length to visit the toilet, is not happy with President Obama.
On Nov 16 reporter Christian Schwaegerl wrote a scathing article about Obama's betrayal of Europe and the world. Most of you won't understand the article, it being in German, but here's the gist:

1. We expected George Bush to be too busy with his fake oil war to worry about the future of the American people that is jeopardized by dependence on oil. But we expected better from President Obama, who seemed smarter.

2. Success at the December Copenhagen summit depends on US leadership. Right or wrong that's just how it is and as the world's worst energy offender the US owes the world a better showing.

3. President Obama lied to Europe. He was all, 'Climate is totally important, bladee, blah, blah' and then ended up doing jack all. Apparently internal politics like health care reform are more interesting to him than the state of the world.

4. America loves to see itself as a world leader. But not when it comes to stuff that actually matters.

5. If the rest of the world follows the US lead when it comes to fossil fuel consumption, we're all gonna die. The oceans won't just warm up a bit, they'll fry.

6. If the summit fails, the President is to blame. He may not even have time to attend the summit, although Copenhagen wasn't too far for him to drop in to lobby to have the Olympic games in Chicago.

7. There's also some uncomplimentary stuff about Americans, with our fantasy ideals about living standards and enormous cars. Not to mention our complete lack of interest in the rest of the world, although we do enjoy those end-of-the-world movies. Obviously we think Hollywood invented the climate crisis for our entertainment.

8. It's ironic that President Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize because the changing climate will probably result in a nice war or two.

Me: I don't see why the US should foot the bill for developing countries to get off oil (I'm so tired of developing countries and their whiny, 'Give me money or I'll be forced to develop nuclear weapons and chop down the rainforest,' attitudes) but I do believe the US needs to take a leadership position on climate legislation.
I'm also disappointed in President Obama's priorities. Of all the issues that need to be tackled 'Health Care for Everyone' is to my mind the least interesting, especially since the proposed legislation looks to be pretty rough for the economy. I'd be on board with, say, 'Health Care for Kids,' because I believe it takes a village, but saying that everyone has a right to health care sounds a bit like saying everyone has a right to a flat screen TV.
Given his amazing about face on the climate topic, I'm thinking the President sold out the climate to get his health care reform passed. Which, if true, pisses me off.
Thoughts? Comments?


  1. Not sure if I should reply, but you wanted comments.. right? First off, you're not sure if everyone should have a RIGHT to health care? It's not at all like getting a TV.. health is essential for us to be able to live, and provide for our families. A country without a social net to catch people who don't have the money to pay for a basic right is pretty backward thinking, in my humble opinion.

    I think you have completely misjudged the attitudes of developing countries. I'm not expert, but I believe that there is quite a lot of unhappiness that developed countries believe they can just carry on with their harmful habits while forcing the developing countries to do something about the climate crisis.

    As the US is one of the biggest emitters of harmful gases, it really is about time they started doing something about it... but TOGETHER with the rest of the world. We need to work together to solve this problem, so that the attitudes of the west and east just aren't helpful anymore... We all need to get off oil and non-renewable sources of fuel and find new renewable fossil fuels together!

    And seriously, most people who drive big jeeps don't really need them. It's all about changing our attitudes and lifestyles too. And I mean all of us - not just developed or developing countries.

    Yours respectfully,

  2. Haha, you kill me, as a former environmental studies major who is now an epidemiologist! Do I have to choose between universal health care and curbing climate change?! ;)

    Health is deemed a human right by the World Health Organization. I cannot paste any links or content of this declaration in your comment box for some reason, but just google and you will find plenty of explanation. The right to health includes access to services as can be reasonably provided to everybody with the resources available and it holds the state accountable for ensuring this. I think it's very important.

    You could argue that climate change is more important because it affects the whole world rather than one country. But, it's also more of a gamble and unknown. We don't know how much we can still affect it by changing/not changing, whether our efforts will work, whether everyone will comply, etc. As hard as health care may be, it's low-hanging fruit compared to climate change.

    But my first thought reading this was just, hey, December's not here yet!! Complain about Obama's handling of it after it's actually HAPPENED, eh?

  3. Oh, definitely, I asked for it, so thanks for chiming in. Health care may be essential but so is food and everyone doesn't have a right to food. If you don't have food do you have the right to take mine? I realize it's a multi-faceted discussion but I still don't think universal health care is where we need to start, given all the other problems we face. And certainly not at the expense of environmental legislation. As for developing countries, quite a few seem to use summits like this to get money from wealthy countries, but I agree completely that the US and other countries need to clean their own house before they go around telling other people how to clean theirs. And about working together and changing attitudes, which was kind of my whole point.

  4. Oh, and CN, you know I didn't write that article, right? :-)

  5. Thoughts and comments? I'm not surprised I've never heard of Christian Schmegegge.

  6. Yes, I know you didn't write it. My comment was addressed at the article, not you. ;)

  7. PS. Right to health includes right to what you need to build health, including food, clean water, clean environment, etc. Of course it doesn't mean everyone steals it from each other. It means the government of each country is obliged to ensure its citizens have access to food, clean water, clean environment, etc.

  8. I would like to see health care legislation that addresses a few key problems rather than the convoluted bill that is making it's way through Congress.

    I'm thinking that this author would have a low opinion of any US president and their attempts at solving problems. The US is an easy target.

  9. RG, you said it! Me, too. And yes, the author is a bit of a finger pointer.

  10. "but saying that everyone has a right to health care sounds a bit like saying everyone has a right to a flat screen TV"

    ...wait, what? I think we need to brush up on the meaning of the word "right." A right (that is, a "human right") is something that a person deserves simply by being a human person. Many of these rights proceed out of basic needs. For example, as children, we were taught that we all need water, nutrition (that is, food), clothing, and shelter--in that order. We cannot live without the first two, and life without the third or fourth is pretty miserable (and probably short in far northern and southern climes). Thus, we have a right to these things. That doesn't mean my right to food trumps another person's right to food. However, the argument usually goes that some people have more food than they need and can therefore sacrifice for those who don't have enough food to survive. This is basic humanity.

    In the same way, it could be reasonably argued that health is a basic right since it is impossible to live without your health. To take only one example: the US has systematically dismantled its social welfare system in order to keep people from leaching off of it. The demand being that everyone has to work (or contribute to society) in order to earn their keep. Whether this is right or wrong is another debate entirely. However, the practical result is that everyone has to work. If you don't work, you can't live (and I don't just mean the fluffy "what sort of life is mere subsistence?" can't live). Moreover, I think it's clear that if you aren't healthy enough, you can't work. It then follows under such an arrangement that if you can't work, you can't live. Is this right? It appears that a larger and larger proportion of the population (not quite yet the majority but close) can't afford health insurance. If they get seriously sick, they're screwed--they can't work and now they owe a whole bunch of money. Thus, they can't live. Is this right?

    Alternatively, one could ask the question: what does it mean to be alive (as a human)? You could put "alive" in opposition to "dead" and classify life by an "alive/not alive" dichotomy. However, I think this is wrong. For example, I think it could be easily argued that a person who is at near starvation is not fully alive. They have not been provided with a basic need let alone more derived rights like "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Everyday is a simply a struggle to find enough to eat. In the same way, people who are not completely healthy are also not completely alive and are therefore derived the basic rights so eloquently argued for in the Declaration of Independence.

    Even if you don't buy these arguments, I hope you can appreciate that a person's livelihood is directly linked to their health. To argue otherwise would be downright foolish. In contrast, a person's livelihood has nothing to do with their possession of a flat-screen TV. Comparing the two seems to me to be more than a little exaggerated.

  11. Wow, you are getting the comments! I definitely believe everyone has a right to health care. And good health care. How we achieve that is the question.

  12. I know! I'll have to start a new anti-human rights blog! But seriously, I think there's a difference between a right to have something and a right to be given something. If you have a right to have something and you have it, no one should take it away from you. That's different from the right to be given something you don't have, which carries a different sort of price tag.

  13. I read this discussion with great interest, being sick at the moment. I agree with the WHO Constitution that states "the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being..."

    It should not come down to a choice between health care and curbing climate change. Both are ESSENTIAL, and I expect the US, together with the rest of the world, to put some serious work into reducing fossil fuels!
    I sure am glad I'm not in President Obama's shoes right now -- with the war in Afghanistan being another HUGE issue -- I'm really starting to think it's time to stop fighting (and financing) another unwinnable war (sigh--- better crawl back into bed)...

  14. You're hereby invited to Heidelberg anytime to discuss rights. I think there are a lot of nuances to discussion here that this forum does not suit, and it would be better in person. So come on by. :)

  15. Well, I've expressed my opinion to you about the whole "health care" is a right, thing. It is quite possible that Obama has subordinated his environmental concerns to his concerns with getting healthcare reform passed. What else would you expect? Look, I care about the environment, too, but Obama is the AMERICAN President, who was elected BY Americans, to--among other things--straighten out the American health care system.

    You feel that environmental issues should take precedence; others feel health care should. I think we can all agree, though, that both are worthwhile goals. Should we condemn Obama for choosing to focus on healthcare first?

    And, FWIW, I agree with C. N. Heidelberg about reserving judgment at least until he's DONE (or not done) something.

    (And I'm also jealous at the number of comments you've provoked!)

  16. Personally, I think everyone has a right to air. Without air, well, health care won't do us much good. Maybe if the planet were healthy enough to sustain life, we wouldn't need so much health care.

  17. CN, Heidelberg's a bit far but should I ever be in the neighborhood I'll definitely look you up and we can hammer out this rights thingy.

  18. Hmm. A bit late to the party. I think the global environment is a huge concern in the near term.
    I also think that there is a human right to health care and though I may not be able to stop sexual violence in the Congo, I can elect an American President who thinks that Americans, citizens of the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can enjoy what are true human rights. Isn't it embarrassing to know that tiny countries care more for morality (and that would be not enriching oneself while one's neighbor starves in front of oneself)than we do?
    Btw, I can also leave out the concept of morality and rights and simply tell you that there are studies showing that the better the populace is treated the more effectively it produces.
    Here- take a look:

  19. Thanks, G - no argument from me. Although as a wannabe economist I also believe there's a utility curve where production and good treatment are optimized. I'm all for people having health care, but I'm also skeptical about blanket entitlements for everyone that still need to be paid for. Anyway, let's just say I support everyone's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and healthcare. And mostly I agree with Emily's comment.

  20. When is a politician what he seems. I think we'll see a very different agenda going on here. Talk of NY radio station keeps up with all that's going on behind the scenes.

    As far as the environment I think you have to look at the culprits, which are corporations. I'm sure it's not at the top of their list.

  21. I find those opposed to health insurance reform usually have health insurance. As one who has no insurance and hasn't had any since 1985 I am tired of hearing about it. Our state has finally created an affordable plan for children beyond medicare and guess what, my kids don't qualify because it took too long and now they are adults.

    I don't want a hand out but I cannot justify paying half my months wages for a policy that covers very little to nothing due to high deductibles. Pay them and then pay them again?

    And what about those parents who need to take care of these children? They don't count? They go to work and pay the bills but they haven't a right to any insurance?

    First thing this country needs to dump is tying our insurance in with out jobs.


Related Posts with Thumbnails