Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘conservation is not an option

‘Empire of Consumption’

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The pursuit of freedom, as defined in an age of consumerism, has induced a condition of dependence on imported goods, on imported oil, and on credit. The chief desire of the American people is that nothing should disrupt their access to these goods, that oil, and that credit. The chief aim of the U.S. government is to satisfy that desire, which it does in part of through the distribution of largesse here at home, and in part through the pursuit of imperial ambitions abroad.

Retired Colonel Andrew Bacevich talks to Bill Moyers about the consumerist origins of American foreign policy, what Charles Maier called the ’empire of consumption.’ Of course, once again Carter comes up::

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, I would be one of the first to confess that – I think that we have misunderstood and underestimated President Carter. He was the one President of our time who recognized, I think, the challenges awaiting us if we refused to get our house in order. 

BILL MOYERS: You’re the only author I have read, since I read Jimmy Carter, who gives so much time to the President’s speech on July 15th, 1979. Why does that speech speak to you so strongly?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, this is the so-called Malaise Speech, even though he never used the word “malaise” in the text to the address. It’s a very powerful speech, I think, because President Carter says in that speech, oil, our dependence on oil, poses a looming threat to the country. If we act now, we may be able to fix this problem. If we don’t act now, we’re headed down a path in which not only will we become increasingly dependent upon foreign oil, but we will have opted for a false model of freedom. A freedom of materialism, a freedom of self-indulgence, a freedom of collective recklessness. And what the President was saying at the time was, we need to think about what we mean by freedom. We need to choose a definition of freedom which is anchored in truth, and the way to manifest that choice, is by addressing our energy problem.

He had a profound understanding of the dilemma facing the country in the post Vietnam period. And of course, he was completely hooted, derided, disregarded.

More immediately important, though, is this about Obama, McCain, and general election 2008:

BILL MOYERS: …Do you expect either John McCain or Barack Obama to rein in the “imperial presidency?” 

ANDREW BACEVICH: No. I mean, people run for the presidency in order to become imperial presidents. The people who are advising these candidates, the people who aspire to be the next national security advisor, the next secretary of defense, these are people who yearn to exercise those kind of great powers.

They’re not running to see if they can make the Pentagon smaller. They’re not. So when I – as a distant observer of politics – one of the things that both puzzles me and I think troubles me is the 24/7 coverage of the campaign.

Parsing every word, every phrase, that either Senator Obama or Senator McCain utters, as if what they say is going to reveal some profound and important change that was going to come about if they happened to be elected. It’s not going to happen.

BILL MOYERS: It’s not going to happen because?

ANDREW BACEVICH: Not going to happen – it’s not going to happen because the elements of continuity outweigh the elements of change. And it’s not going to happen because, ultimately, we the American people, refuse to look in that mirror. And to see the extent to which the problems that we face really lie within.

We refuse to live within our means. We continue to think that the problems that beset the country are out there beyond our borders. And that if we deploy sufficient amount of American power we can fix those problems, and therefore things back here will continue as they have for decades.

It’s a truly exceptional interview. Read the whole thing. Via MeFi.

Grasshoppers and Ants

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Another day, another blog reevaluating the Carter presidency in light of the current energy crunch.

In the nearly thirty years since Carter delivered that speech, any politician that has ventured into similar territory has been similarly mocked and derided by Republicans. Barack Obama was mocked viciously just yesterday—and explicitly compared to Carter—because he pointed out that filling your tires with air reduces fuel consumption. Over the years, leaders of the Republican Party–like Dick Cheney–have been openly hostile to the very concept of conservation and have allowed lobbyists for the oil companies to literally write our nation’s energy policies. And during that time, almost three decades, we’ve become far more dependent on foreign oil, and our government has made little if any effort to encourage the development of alternative energy sources or even to take simple steps to improve energy efficiency (such as raising CAFE standards for automobile makers).

In short, for the last three decades, the Republican Party has been a party of grasshoppers, blissfully encouraging the consumption of ever greater amounts of oil while doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the winter ahead. Indeed, they’ve done everything in their power to marginalize those who have warned that the good times can’t last and that we need to embrace conservation initiatives and develop alternative energy sources.

And now that the long-awaited winter has finally come and we’re all suffering under the weight of sky-high oil prices, what is the Republican response? They seize upon an imaginary quick fix–off-shore oil drilling–and they all rally around it, accusing their opponents of being the obstacle to lower gas prices. They preen and pose, convening fake sessions of Congress to show that they are the ones who really care about gas prices. They ignore what their own government experts have acknowledged, that allowing further off-shore drilling won’t produce a drop of new oil for at least a decade and, even then, will do little if anything to reduce gas prices.

Apparently in the Republican version of the fable, rather than admitting that he’d been short-sighted and reckless in not preparing for the winter, the grasshopper pretends that there’s actually a winter’s worth of food located just beneath his feet and that the only thing keeping him from digging it up is that damn ant.

Written by gerrycanavan

August 3, 2008 at 1:48 am

We’re Saved #613

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Problem: The United States uses a whole lot of energy.

Solution: Spend $420 billion building solar collectors across 19% of the American Southwest. Done.

Via MeFi.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 18, 2008 at 1:12 am