the text for “Confronting the Ukraine Crisis” will be uploaded shortly
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Steven A Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History and Politics
“Nation at a Crossroads”
There is something really depressing about watching a nation standing at a crossroads hesitantly leaning in the wrong direction. Sadly, a nation led, by a lame duck president about to destroy what political base he has left. No, President Obama did not, like George W. Bush, wait until his very last State of the Union to admit the obvious. That we are heading into uncertain climatic future.
No President Obama unlike his predecessor has vigorously acknowledged his understanding of the dangers ahead from his first days in office. Yet he inexplicably seems unwilling to act on his convictions. Depressingly, he is a president young enough to follow the tragedy of a potentially wrong choice for decades after he leaves office.
And of course President Obama did not have to be in this situation. No, only a few years ago, more and more people were coming to understand the dangers inherent in humanities having accidentally disrupted the heat balance of the entire planet. An international community coming to understand that we have increasingly been at the root of these extremes of weather, from ever constantly gyrating temperatures to massively more destructive storms, drought and fires.
A litany sadly reminiscent of the plagues we’re told biblical Egyptians once suffered in the Exodus story. Yes, global society, yes even the ever gullible to corporate propaganda Americans were beginning to understand what was going on even as the world’s petroleum experts were warning that the conventional oil sources were finally running out. Spreading alarmingly reports that those enormous oil reserves were increasingly registering less and less oil while natural gas seemed to be losing its momentum as well even the global green energy industry was growing explosively. While the prices for those safer, and more renewable energy sources were dropping as the price of carbon fuels, from oil to natural gas were rising.
Can you believe it, for a time it actually appeared like someone was looking out for us. And all those constant warning bells from the entire international scientific community were being conveniently complemented by a natural diminution of those dangerous fossil fuel resources. It was enough to give even this old skeptic a bit of faith.
And then of course, humanities natural ingenuity kicked in. Yes, some of the best and brightest of us, recognizing that diminution of conventional petroleum sources, taking note that natural gas was not flowing as it once had went to work. Cleaver folks, you know the same sort who invented nuclear weapons and fun stuff like sarin gas, figured out how to mine nasty tar like substances in Canada. while their professional colleagues were developed that delightfully destructive technology known as hydro-fracking, a technology that has released more and more climate stability destroying natural gases even as it has regularly polluted underground waters and provoked earth quakes.
And thus we find ourselves over the next few months standing here at a crossroads, in a position to either replace those last century conventional petroleum resources, with their extraordinarily ironic capacity to not only run modern society but undermine the planetary climate stability it is dependent on, with newer, increasingly cheaper safer renewable energy sources.
Or like the desperate addict, public substance abusers we have largely become head down that other path. Toward even dirtier fuels and more destructive technologies, a crossroads that our entire society stands before.
While our political leaders, from the nations’ governors to Barack Obama stand at the very same crossroads ready to turn down one road or the other definitively turning toward a safer, greener renewable energy future Or an increasingly destabilized global climate.
Still ferociously mainlining those fossil fuel poisons through all those newly proposed pipelines or hauling them around in trains over our rickety and aging national rail system. Yes, trains that have already begun to develop an impressive record not only for derailing but doing so with fatally explosive results.
One would think the choice would be a no brainer but apparently for some it’s not.
WAMC JAN 2014
Dr Steven Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics
“On Substance Abuse”
Let me be blunt here. We need to stop talking about the climate crisis. In fact, I am sick of hearing about drought driven crop failures, massive storms while sea surges devastate areas around the world, yes, enough with all those warnings about hydro-fracking’s record of polluting underground water.
Let’s face it the conversation we should be having is neither about the disrupted global climate or the explosive growth here in the United States of newer and more dangerous fossil fuels sources. No, what we need to do is sit down with one of those folks that focus on substance abuse. You know those therapists, not scientists not engineers, but therapists who day after day deal with addicts, yes, who have to have their fix of crystal meth, or cocaine, heroin or whatever. Maybe take a counselor from Alcoholics Anonymous out to lunch. Yes, talk more with addiction professionals who day in and day out watch substance abusers destroy their relationships, ruin their families, wreak havoc on their health and wealth.
I am speaking here of course about abusers who simply can’t stop pouring poison into their system even if all the science and logic this world can muster screams at them to stop. Even if day in and day out, they experience the horrific price they pay for their addiction. No, we need some addiction counselors here for substance abuse, but not by individuals but by an entire society addicted to fossil fuels, ever so aptly named by some as the “energy of the dead”
Otherwise how else can anyone explain our willingness to run more and more dangerous fossil fuels through the veins of our civilization like an addict searching for new sources, pushing our drills deeper and deeper in the oceans like a drug addict with a needle, setting off explosions like the Deep Water Horizon and like any junky forgetting about it almost as quickly.
If it is not an addiction how else can we explain our growing obsession with using technologies like fracking that have already been proven to pollute water systems. No, this behavior is the stuff of addiction.
If it is not an addiction, how else do we explain or obsession with the king coal that at this very moment is now making thousands of residents of West Virginia terrified to drink their own water or a few years ago saw massive amounts of coal sludge devastate large parts of Tennessee.
And, can you believe this latest and even more desperate attempt to load all those new and apparently some believe even more explosive substances from North Dakato’a new oil fields on rail lines across North America, entire trains filled with highly toxic and flammable substances moving along North America’s infamously aging and too often rickety train system? A development that is so obvious a threat that it has aroused the concern of organizations from the Sierra Club to the Wall Street Journal.
We are speaking after all of trains that have more than once already derailed and just last summer devastated one town in Quebec, killing forty-seven people, yes, huge trains that are already, even now running right through Albany, NY, WAMC’s home base. And not just passing through but as some would have it turning the New York Capital region into a major hub for processing this newest addictive substance Albany’s own version, if you will of television’s Breaking Bad’s infamous Crystal Meth lab on the waterfront
No this is obviously not about logic, nor science, not about engineering safer energy forms. This is about substance abuse, about chemical addiction and an addictive society desperate for even more fossil fuels regardless of how safe the newer substances or technologies might be.
And until we get some of those experts on addiction, on substance abuse into this conversation we are not going to make progress dealing with one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced
Fossil Fuels Anonymous anyone?
WAMC Jan. 9
Steven A Leibo is the Sage Colleges Professor of International History & Politics
Let me see if I have this straight. The climate on our beloved earth, the only planet we know of in the entire universe with an environment capable of sustaining human life is seeing wild gyrations of weather, extremes of heat and freezing, flooding and drought, few of us have ever experienced and some folks still think all this is “normal”? I don’t get it.
And this very week, while genuine arctic winds seem to be whipping south into North America, in fact, doing so for the fifth winter in a row even as the southern hemisphere is baking in record-breaking heat waves people are acting like nothing is wrong. I just don’t get it.
And of course, all this happening while the science of climate change is entering its third century of accomplishments, yes, literally since the mid 1800’s when scientists finally figured out that our planet was heated not merely but the sun’s heat but how much of that heat was retained by green house gases… co2, methane and the like, all the way to today’s cutting edge efforts to understand how changing conditions in the arctic might literally be releasing arctic winds more violently southward precisely because of global warming. And people are pretending these extremes don’t matter?
They don’t call it the climate crisis for nothing.
No, I just don’t get it, especially when we already know, In fact, have proven countless times the core physical reality that the explosive growth of CO2 in the atmosphere is upsetting the heat balance of the entire planet while basic chemical analysis tells us that very increased CO2 has a distinct chemical signature that proves is origins in our obsession with burning more and more fossil fuels.
And yet some folks insist on wantonly burning even more fossil fuels while others insist on finding even more disruptive ways to get at it, literally putting in jeopardy the single most important human resource short of oxygen itself, water in danger. After all, we all know that hydro fracking, the effort to get at underground natural gas, a substance itself that is extraordinarily more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2 can and already has a history of poisoning underground water.
While the fossil fuel industry is increasingly embracing an even dirtier fossil fuel like Tar Sands, that nasty stuff that the proposed Keystone pipeline is supposed to ship across the entire county all the while pushing our entire planetary climate system into greater and greater extremes, bringing on more powerful storms of the sort that just devastated the New York metropolitan region or the central Philippines. Or, as we have seen in other areas, less and less water, growing blocks of simple desert from China’s Gobi to the American southwest.
Not forgetting the possibility, not yet verified, that this last week’s extreme cold, the fifth year in a row of extreme cold, however short-lived may not be just an example of a temporary cold snap but something more sinister, an aspect of a changing global climate system that is actually making this painful dip of arctic temperatures into the lower latitudes more likely.
All this going on while concerned citizens have rallied not only in front of the White House but yesterday here in Albany practically begging President Obama to say no to the Keystone pipeline and Governor Cuomo to stop prevent fracking in New York. And yes those leaders both of whom know the climate crisis is real have still not made up their minds. I just don’t get it.
I mean, do people really want to keep experimenting with the only planet we have. Because, while average folks might not understand the infinitely complex planetary climate system as some scientists do it should be obvious to all of us, that massive storms, rising waters, the ongoing rise in global temperatures, freezing winds —- literally extremes coming at us in every form imaginable all spell the truth about a growing global climate instability that may well be pushing our planet toward the sort of environmental harshness that makes the rest of the known planets uninhabitable to humans.
WAMC Dec. 26, 2013
I must admit it, when I first heard about Edward Snowden’s NSA revelations. I was not very sympathetic. His exposé of the National Security Agencies spying initially struck me as a copy-cat like effort inspired by wiki-leaks and it’s infamous prolific leaking of state department documents, private correspondence between officials of the American government that had significantly angered me.
Indeed, as I saw it wiki-leaks had made it even harder for the United States government to function successfully in the world that despite everything still needs effective American leadership, a breach of confidentially that I remain convinced should be punished to the full extent of the law. And then Snowden’s hasty flight from America, a flight that seemed to link his act not to our constitutional freedoms but to America’s international competitors from Beijing to Moscow hardly struck me as heroic.
No, as I initially saw it Snowden’s behavior seemed very different from one of my earlier heroes, Daniel Ellsberg, who a generation ago released the infamous Pentagon’s Paper, that secret history of how America had ever so stupidly trapped itself in Vietnam. Then of course Ellsberg hung around, to face the consequences.
No, my first reaction to Snowden revelations was that America needed the National Security Administration to be monitoring international communications least another nine eleven be sprung upon us, while Snowden himself should be jailed, the key thrown away.
But the more I reflect on his acts the less sure I am that my initial reaction was correct because, with each passing day it has become more and more clear that Snowden act was less wiki-leaks and more like Ellsberg’s decision to leak the Pentagon Papers. Because today’s Americans needed to know that the National Security Agency has gotten out of control.
In fact, just as America needed to know how we got into the Vietnam war we needed to know that the National Security Agency has, as we have all learned over the last few months, not merely been working to keep us safe from terrorism. But has more distressingly been counter productively undermining America’s core national security, our national security from unwarranted search all the while undermining our economic security by making our international corporations and their products more suspect to potential customers.
Moreover, as we have all learned the NSA has weakened our relationship with some of our closest allies by spying on their leaders.
No, I am beginning to think Edward Snowden was right and as someone old enough to be Snowden’s father I find my anger now directed more at Snowden’s superiors, those who put such a young man, one no doubt still full of the Idealism of youth in a position where he felt it necessary to sacrifice his own future to defend everyone’s else constitutional rights. And on his subsequent flight? Well, expecting the much younger Snowden to act like someone Daniel Elsberg’s age and experience seems a bit far fetched. No, while I am still convinced that Snowden’s act was wrong, still believe that punishment is deserved perhaps his punishment might better be more widely distributed.
We could for example, take some time off of Snowden’s punishment for leaking classified material and award it to the former Bush Administration with its Reaganesk obsession with privatizing government, its feverish employing of private contractors for work that more fully committed long term civil servants and military personal should have been handling.
And how about transferring a few more years of Snowden’s potential sentence to those computer data base idiots that allowed so much access to a single low level individual, and how about assigning some of the blame to the American government Itself, those many administrations that have since the darkest days of Vietnam through Bill Clinton’s disgraceful behavior in the White House not forgetting the fiasco of Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction to undermine the faith of the American people in their government.
No, quite frankly I think it is time for Snowden to come home, yes, come home to an America that needs to both punish him and offer its gratitude for the personal sacrifice he made to help defend all our freedoms.