Friday, September 20, 2019

Oil-Friendly Obama Buckrakes Off Greta Thunberg

"You're never too young to lead" reads the header of the fund-raising email from Barack Obama that landed in my in-box this week  It was accompanied by a short video clip of his decidedly stiff meeting with Swedish teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The former president is not collecting donations to save trees, however. He is collecting money to cut them down, specifically to cut them down at pristine public parkland in Chicago to make way for his presidential center and professional golf course. In using Greta Thunberg to raise money to "inspire a new generation of leaders" who will burn untold gallons of jet fuel traveling to his center for the privilege of being inspired by his legacy, Obama has proven conclusively that cynicism has no age limits.

You're never too young or too old to believe that everybody is exploitable and everything must have a profit motive.

It's not as though centamillionaire Obama needs the funds to pay rent to the citizens who ostensibly own the parkland on which his shrine and entertainment complex is to be built. In a sweetheart deal inked with City Hall, his organization will pay only $10 for a 99-year lease on the property. Meanwhile, rents in the surrounding neighborhood, populated mainly by poor, retired and working class people, have already started to go up even before ground has officially been broken on the Obama Center.

Once many of those oxygen-contributing, shade-producing trees started coming down last year despite a lawsuit and without a public hearing or formal approval, the fix for the neighborhood seemed to be in. This is despite Obama's glib assurances to concerned residents he doesn't have to compensate them for their financial pain because gentrification won't happen until at least the next generation, or until his daughters might be affected by it. Not that Malia and Sasha will ever be priced out of their housing because of gentrification, of course.

But if you pay attention to this reality, you're probably too cynical to get with his feel-good neoliberal program. As Obama wrote in his buck-raking email, Greta Thunberg - without her even being consulted on the matter  - "embodies why Michelle and I started the Obama Foundation in the first place."

That's the power of young people - unafraid to believe that change is possible and willing to challenge conventional wisdom. Greta and her generation are making their voices heard, even at a young age. That's what's possible when we let (my bold) young people lead the way.
Of course, allowing young people to lead the way did not apply when, under the Obama administration in 2011, scores of Occupy camps throughout the United States were broken up by club-wielding police in a nationally orchestrated assault. Young people are inspiring only when neoliberal government and corporate leaders give them the green light, and only when their actions can help elect the desired political party, or help line the desired pockets.
And that's the examples of the idea behind the Obama Foundation. If we foster the next generation of young leaders with the tools, resources and connections they'll need down the road, then they'll handle the rest.

It makes you wonder how Greta Thunberg and the crowds of young people all over the world who are striking and demanding policies to address climate change ever came this far without Barack Obama as their inspiration. Without his "fostering" resources and myriad connections to powerful investors, how can they possibly be the neoliberal tools they need to be in order to be properly co-opted?

Nowhere in his fundraising email does Obama even directly bring up the climate catastrophe, and how wealthy, powerful and influential elite leaders can and should address it right this very minute. That's because climate change per se is not on his bucket list. He is only here to promote the young people who are promoting clean energy, using them to burnish his own image, as well as to profit from their independent efforts.

Otherwise, people might remember his own fealty to the fossil fuel industry. He  would prefer, for example, that they forget his months-long delay in barely acknowledging that the Gulf of Mexico was being permanently polluted by BP -  until graphic images of dead sea and shore life and a live underwater video feed of a blown well cap spewing out tons of crude gave him no other choice but to slap Big Oil on the wrist - after taking a dip in the Gulf with Sasha to convince us it was clean, the same way he later took his tiny sip of filtered Flint water to prove that it was safe.

He also doesn't want people to remember (or maybe even learn for the first time) that mere days after ostentatiously signing the Paris climate agreement in 2015, he quietly approved the previously-banned exportation of domestic fracked crude oil and its natural gas byproduct to the rest of the world. Like so many other toxic products which harm life, this measure was tucked safely inside a thick budget bill, and received little to no media attention. For his own part, Obama was still cynically basking in the media glow of Paris. His "all of the above" energy policy combined increased pollution and windfall industry profits with measures which only very slightly ameliorate pollution and global warming. His lifting of the ban on oil exports was cynically exchanged for a pathetic five-year tax credit for wind and solar energy providers.

 Obama discreetly sold out on the climate long before Donald Trump appeared on the scene to boast and bray about selling out on the climate. The two men differ a lot in style, but not so much in substance. Trump, as evidenced by Obama's own appointment of fossil fuel promoter and profiteer Ernest Moniz as his Energy Secretary, is not the first chief executive to have cynically staffed his cabinet with regulation-busting industry insiders. (Moniz, taking time out from well-compensated service on numerous energy and vulture capitalism boards, is currently embarked on an anti-Green New Deal crusade, which he describes as a "counterbalance" to the bill proposed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Edward Markey. He calls his own plan the Green Real Deal, because unless environment-destroying capitalism is invited to help fix what it has wrought, nothing can be real.)

As Jenny Zou of the Center of Public Integrity reported last year on Obama's reversal of the oil export ban:

“You’re giving one side something forever, and [another] something for a limited time. It didn’t strike us as the best deal,” said Ana Unruh Cohen, managing director of government affairs for the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group. Cohen was an aide to Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., when interest in the ban spiked on Capitol Hill. Markey was the deal’s most vocal opponent, calling it a “Trojan horse” for “pumping up Big Oil’s profits.”
Climate change was an afterthought in the debate over the ban, Cohen said. Both sides were fixated on how crude-oil exports would affect energy prices, not greenhouse-gas emissions. Experts wrongly predicted exports would amount to “a trickle, not a flood.” And Democrats mistakenly banked on pollution-cutting policies such as the Clean Power Plan — one of several Obama-era regulations being tossed out by Trump — to drive investment in renewable energy.
Even though the Obama White House publicly discouraged efforts to undo the ban, it ultimately signed off on the deal. Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, called it a “pathetic compromise” driven by the administration’s pro-export agenda. “The minute the White House staff signaled that they were going to endorse the lifting of the crude oil ban, all of the Democratic opposition to it evaporated,” he said. “Everybody was like, ‘Why would I go to the mat if my president isn’t going to the mat?’”
(It's probably no coincidence that Rep. Joe Kennedy III, who owns $1.75 million worth of stock in Exxon-Mobil and Chevron and other fossil fuel companies, has just mounted a primary campaign for Markey's Senate seat.)

It was only a year ago, at a gala fund-raising event in Houston, for some of the same oily oligarchs who had convinced him to lift the export ban, that Obama jokingly pointed to his role as Oil Extractor-in-Chief as inspiration for them to fork over more cash to an oil-funded think tank which exists for the deadly propagation of lethal, oily, free-market ideas. 

True to form, the New York Times gushed over the event, lauding the oil and gas industry-serving alumni from the two Bush administrations and the Obama administration for proving that bipartisanship isn't completely dead, and for acting ever so un-Trumpily civil to one another. 

"Not only did I not get indicted, nobody in my administration got indicted," Obama also humble-bragged to the assorted oil and gas moguls. Yes, and neither have any of them, despite their best efforts to squelch scientific evidence of climate change, their cover-ups of oil spills, their poisoning of wells by fracking chemicals, and their frequent violations of the Corrupt Foreign Practices Act when they bribe tin pot dictators to allow the theft of the natural resources of other, mainly poor, countries. 

Now, notice the contrast in tone and body language at Obama's meeting this week with Greta Thunberg, who appears to be less than inspired and amused as Obama clumsily tries to fist-bump her and then lamely asserts that "we're on the same team."

Meanwhile, for detailed information on the activists and Woodlawn neighborhood residents trying to stop Obama's environmentally destructive takeover of public parkland in Chicago, I encourage you to visit Jackson Park Watch for the lowdown on this sweetheart deal of a construction project and all the legal challenges to it.


The Joker said...

A fine column, Karen, reminder that many Democrats in recent decades have been far less serious in their actions than in their rhetoric about pollution and climate change.

As a supplement to what you wrote:

"First Dog on the Moon.
Global climate strikes: Don’t say you’re sorry. We need people who can take action to TAKE ACTUAL ACTION.
Brenda the civil disobedience penguin gives some handy dos and don’ts for your civil disobedience."

Annie said...

Obama is such a douchebag.

"Do you believe in this?" Obama said as he offered Greta a fist bump instead of a respectful handshake. Believe? What's there to believe in? Have you ever heard a man ask anyone of any age or gender if they believed in a fist bump? Me neither, or maybe I should say Me Too.

The fact is, a fist bump is a male backlash to Me Too, It's an insultingly self-protective and patronizing gesture to ostensibly protect a man from false accusations by a woman, portraying themselves as victim and her the potential perp while hiding behind a facade of being sensitive to womens' fears.

Fist bumps are a man thing. I don't know any woman who meets other women (or when meeting a man) by offering a fist bump instead of a respectful handshake or a hug. Anyway, who in their right mind would first ask first if someone BELIEVED in it? Something's not right with Obama's mind. Must be all that money and fame has gone to his head, or maybe his long-term nicotine addiction has shrunk his brain.

I experienced this backlash back when Me Too was in the news everyday. I ran into an acquaintance and her husband who I had not yet met and I extended my hand for a handshake but he left me awkwardly standing there with my hand extended. He finally won his condescending power play by offering me a fist bump instead. How did I react? I formed a fist and feinted a right hook to the side of his head before I lowered it to meet his fist. His wife stood silently by her serious little man. No laughter, excuses, or apologies offered. It still burns me to this day as you can tell.

Too bad Greta couldn't have refused Obama's condescending fist bump in favor of the handshake to which she was entitled. Unfortunately, some things can't be publicly responded to while the cameras are on - like his VP's touchy-feely hair-sniffing routine - especially when the offender is rich, powerful, and Saint Obama Himself.

Karen Garcia said...

It could have been worse. He could have hugged her. Of course, this was a video produced by Obama, Inc and it probably underwent careful editing. But the fact that she stood and sat as far away as possible from him is testament to the fact that she cannot be and will not be co-opted. I am sure this came as a huge shock to Obama. He actually looks uncharacteristically clumsy.

Another physical power-play he often engaged in (but with men) was grabbing and squeezing them by the arm, right between the elbow and the shoulder.

It is so disheartening that liberals (not to be confused with the Left) still revere this guy. I think only Julian Castro thus far has had the nerve to bring up, for example, his cruel deportation policies and actions. Elizabeth Warren used to be a refreshing critic, especially re the TPP - and in one of her books, she chronicled an incident when, to convince her not to fight too hard for foreclosure and mortgage relief, he took her outside to the Rose Garden on the hottest day of the year just to make her sweat and shut up.

I'm afraid that Liz later became the heroine in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. One night, she fell asleep and woke up safely assimilated. Hopefully she's just pretending to cozy up to the Democratic leadership and biding her time, but I doubt it, given that she is a "capitalist to my bones."

Annie said...

Warren's snatching the endorsement of the Working Families Party out from under Bernie's feet was, IMO, likely due to Hillary Clinton using her influence on the WFP's Super-Duper delegates. They carried half the weight of the total vote of the WFP and since then, the WFP bigwigs have insisted on keeping the tally secret - unlike following the vote in 2016 which gave their endorsement to Bernie Sanders.

Nothing screams Clinton like secrecy and underhandedness. That's the biggest worry I have with Elizabeth Warren - her ongoing secretive communications with Hillary Clinton, but then again, it might be Hillary's who's reaching out.

Unlike Obama who stuck tightly with the devils at Citigroup with whom he made deals to win, I hope Warren ends up turning the tables on any devils who try to help her win. That said, she can't very well oppose a needed endorsement, however, or from whomever, it came about.

Since everything that Hillary touches seems to turn to crap, Warren's going to be tainted by every association with Hillary. She's better hope that Hillary had nothing to do with the WFP endorsement and that any other 'help' coming from team Hillary doesn't come out later.

Go Bernie! Warren is my second choice.

voice-in-wilderness said...

Thanks for the link to Jackson Park Watch. The more time that goes by, the more convinced I become that most of Obama's Presidential records will mysteriously disappear. In fact, by Googling I can't really determine just where his records are, except that at one point they were shipped to a warehouse in Illinois and may now be somewhere in the village of Hoffman Estates, Illinois.

Given Trump's extreme hatred of all things Obama, I can't believe he will overlook the opportunity to sabotage the digitization that the Obama team calls for. And reading the memorandum of understanding between the National Archives and Records Administration and the Obama Foundation is not reassuring. For example, it calls for the Obama group to review records -- how long will that take and who exactly will do it? For example, there is no timeline for accomplishing anything -- this was first talked about in 2017 and it is almost 2020 with no sign that any concrete funding is in place, that the process of selecting a digitizing contractor has begun, or just what the facilities to be used in "Hoffman Estates" Illinois consist of.

Well, if Trump loses the 2020 election and refuses to leave office, then this will be among the least of our worries!

Erik Roth said...

This sardonic post, coupled with the previous one, brilliantly exposes the corrupt core of the Democratic Party half of the ruling duopoly.

Obama's shameless exploitation of Greta Thunberg evokes a similar, and comparably disgusting, staged photo op with another girl, as reported on October 11, 2013:

'Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old Pakistani student who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for speaking out in support of the right of girls to go to school, met Friday with Obama and his wife, Michelle. A photograph issued by the White House shows the Obamas' 15-year-old daughter, Malia, also present during the visit.
'Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration's use of drones, saying they are "fueling terrorism."
"I thanked President Obama for the United States' work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees," Yousafzai said in a statement published by the Associated Press. "I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact."'

But Obama just grinned and crooned some Al Green lines, then sent more drones to kill without identifying or even counting the dead.

Consider what Democratic Party elites (i.e., the Oligarchs) did to Vice President Henry A. Wallace in 1944, Dennis Kucinich in 2011, and Bernie Sanders in 2016.
What we face now, from both parties, especially the Democrats, is more of the same.

Bernie Sanders should run as an Independent.

Jay–Ottawa said...

I had found it curious at first, the fist bumping with Thunberg. In my charitable way (it's a gift), I thought Obama was simply trying to put this youngster at ease before his august presence. Then it occurred to me it might be an intentional time waster (alas, my gift abates}.

The more time spent on his labored interpretation of repeated fist bumps along with that the hip downward finger pop, the less time left to Thunberg for whatever the hell she might have liked to 'splain to him. But, since Obama was now her fist-bumping buddy, she would not be able to pull a fist-pumping Davos dress-down on him.

I salute the #MeToo crowd above for setting me straight about what was really going on, which enlightenment moves me to wax poetic.

Cool Hand Luke Warm

half black half white
a mulatto not too light
with a brain most bright

what a great start to
integrate assimilate incorporate
and live the american dream

our man in dc with our hope
in his pocket he gave away
the commons then banked the
tribute from the not so common

a pol shifting left shifting
right a no drama negotiator
but o that wicked head fake

with the congress he grandly
bargained for nothing burgers
flat beer and spoiled potatoes

in the end he'll be interred nigh
a rich man's golf course remembered
as the now late the once great
double-dealing co-optato

Annie said...

@ Jay


I'd nominate you for the Nobel Prize in Literature and take away President Peace Prize's medal.

Jay–Ottawa said...

For shame, Annie. Didn't Dante hear somewhere along the way with Virgil that the deepest circle in hell is reserved for those who mock others?

I'll be waiting for you there after I get processed.

Erik Roth said...

This is the speech Greta Thunberg delivered to the UN Climate Action Summit in New York on Monday >>—>

"If world leaders choose to fail us, my generation will never forgive them."
23 Sep 2019 ~ by Greta Thunberg

Greta Thunberg to world leaders: 'How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood'