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Inside Story Americas

Are Obama's cabinet choices right for the US?

We examine the president's latest cabinet nominations and ask what these say about the direction of his second term.
Last Modified: 09 Mar 2013 12:19

This Week, US Republican Rand Paul addressed the Senate for thirteen hours - a mammoth attempt - ostensibly, to block the approval of President Barack Obama's pick to head the CIA.  

In the end though, John Brennan, was comfortably approved by the Senate, despite persistent concerns over the secrecy and conduct of the US drone programme that he has largely overseen. It is estimated to have killed thousands in countries like Pakistan and Yemen.   

Now several other appointments will have to be considered by Congress.

"It's clear that the Obama administration is strongly in favour of developing natural gas through hydrofracking. They are working with the industry, they are trying to put a sort of an environmental face on it."

- Rick Piltz, founder of Climate Science Watch

After weeks of speculation, this week Barack Obama named Gina McCarthy to lead the US environmental Protection Ageny. She is the former director's trusted deputy. McCarthy has made climate change a priority.

She has been praised by those who worked with her, especially on developing the US Environmental Protection Agency's mercury standards, which are estimated to prevent 11,000 premature deaths from poor air quality.  

Obama has nominated MIT professor Ernest Moniz to run the Department of Energy. Moniz concluded that hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, is a "bridge to a low carbon future", after he led a study funded by oil and gas companies.  

And Mary Jo White is the president's choice for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is supposed to reign in the excesses of Wall Street.

But as a million-dollar corporate lawyer, she has been on the other side of the table for many years, defending JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America. Her husband currently counts three big banks among his clients.

So what do these latest nominations say about President Obama's future policies?

Inside Story Americas, with presenter Shihab Rattansi, discusses with guests:  Rick Piltz, the founder of Climate Science Watch and a former US official in the government's Climate Science program under George W Bush; and Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief for the Huffington Post.  

Chavez: A talented pitcher?

Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan president, may have been a staunch critic of US policies but when it came to America's favourite past time - baseball - he could not get enough. He loved the sport, in fact, he was a talented pitcher and is said to have dreamed in his youth of playing for the San Francisco Giants.

If Chavez's life had taken a completely different path, he would not have been alone. Last year, 58 Venezuelans were members of US Major League Baseball teams, second only to the Dominican Republic.

US baseball teams have long seen the two countries as a cheap source of labour and talent. But critics complained that the system was exploitative with young players not treated as well as their US counterparts.

And it was this system that Hugo Chavez challenged when he became president. He forced US teams to follow Venezuelan labour regulations. As a result, many simply moved their operations to countries without such protections.  

Joining Inside Story Americas to discuss Hugo Chavez's relationship with Major League Baseball is Dave Zirin, sports correspondent for The Nation magazine. His latest book is Game Over: How politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down.

"... one of the things that he said was: look you're no longer going to have free reign in an unequal power relationship with Venezuela so when you set up these academies here, this is what we're going to demand - first of all, there has to be an educational component for these young people that you are going to pay for and that's an important part of it.

"Second of all, we demand that whatever town you set up in that you hire the locals that you provide jobs for local people, you don't bring people in from the United States to work ... and third, we are going to tax you and we're also going to tax ten percent of the bonuses that you eventually give to best prospects which could translate of course into millions of dollars.

"Major League Baseball flipped out when Hugo Chavez put this forward and the results of it have been astonishing, frankly."


Dave Zirin, sports correspondent for The Nation magazine

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