Jun 182010

A measure that had been generally agreed to by both the House and Senate, which would have affirmed the SEC’s authority to allow investors to have proxy access to the corporate decision-making process, was stripped by the Senate in conference committee votes on Wednesday and Thursday. Five sources with knowledge of the situation said the White House pushed for the measure to be stripped at the behest of the Business Roundtable.

Ryan Grim and Shahien Nasiripour, Huffington Post

Let’s see, CEO salaries at more than 300 times average employee pay, and over 30 million Americans out of work . . . what part of “Change We Can Believe In” did I misunderstand? Am I confused on what “Change” is?

Oh damn — maybe Obama meant, like the “change” in our pockets . . . maybe that’s all we really can believe in.

No . . . wait a minute — maybe I was confused on who he meant by “We.” Pleeaaase, say it ain’t so!

He wasn’t just referring to his fellow elite . . . was he? He wouldn’t just support business and his pals on Wall Street . . . would he?

Okay, let’s see: healthcare “reform” that fed 32 million new taxpayer supported patients to the medical insurers and Big Pharma; a Wall Street bailout and still nothing to reform the financial industry; an economic stimulus package that focused mostly on temporarily sustaining consumer spending; an escalation of the war in Afghanistan; the promise of financial “reform” that preserves Too Big To Fail; a call to increase offshore oil drilling; trusting an oil company that was responsible for a disaster to place ethics over profits; and now protecting CEO pay . . .

Oh my God! Obama isn’t a Muslim. He’s not the Antichrist. And he’s certainly not a socialist . . . he’s a freaking Republican!

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Jun 162010

The president wrapped up his address Tuesday night by asking Americans to pray for the victims — both human and environmental — of the BP oil spill. I thought it was a strange way to end his first Oval Office address during a national emergency insofar as praying makes the situation appear too big for conventional solutions. As though all that remains between us and a sea of oil is the Hail Mary.

Bob Cesca, Huffington Post

Okay, so I can support the underlying thesis of this piece, in that Americans as a whole are indulgent, entitled and perhaps a bit lazy, but the “no sacrifice” thing? I’ve personally sacrificed, and know of many others who have as well. In fact, I think as we’ve seen our jobs slowly sold off to the lowest foreign bidder, sacrifice has become more and more a part of life for the American middle class.

So, how about a little less naïve and biased take on this issue? How about asking for some sacrifice from those who have the most, from those who have pocketed all of the profits in a nation where we do the right thing for the few even though it’s the wrong thing for the many? I’ll not argue against the notion that Americans should be more energy conscious and  conserve more, but I will ask at what point do we stop asking average Americans to get by with less while the most wealthy amongst us continue to prosper?

Mr. Cesca seems to think that personal sacrifice on the part of average Americans is the only path we can take. He suggests that people “organize a car pool, eat less beef, live closer to work and ride a bike.” He goes on to state that, “These aren’t complicated things to do, but they do require a little effort” — what unmitigated prattle! Moving takes a “little effort?” And hey, if that job you moved for evaporates, just move again.

I’ll agree with Mr. Cesca that President Obama’s speech was lack luster, and that offering prayer as part of the solution does evoke images of a Hail Mary. But rather than ask for personal sacrifice, I believe that President Obama should have used his bully pulpit to call us to a new age of American energy independence. I believe that he should ask for sacrifice, but that sacrifice should come from those who have profited for far too long on the American addiction to oil.

What we need from President Obama is a bold energy policy that invests federal funds into solving the issue for once and for all. Americans don’t need to move closer to work. America needs to catch up with the rest of the civilized world and invest in public transportation. And we don’t need to all ride bikes. We need cars that run on alternative fuels.

I believe that all Americans should be asking themselves, that if we can spend a trillion dollars on two wars that do nothing for the American people, and another trillion bailing out greedy Wall Street banks, and a third trillion in stimulus, where the bulk went merely to temporarily sustain consumer spending, then why can’t we invest in our energy future? How about a trillion dollar investment in energy?

We’ve already taken some positive steps under Obama, in that we’ve raised mileage requirements and invested in battery technology, but even these efforts just skim the surface. As I see it, further investment in initiatives to reduce fossil fuel dependency is win/win.

We don’t have much choice for generation of electricity short term except for nuclear. Coal is far too dirty, and “clean coal” is not only the most expensive form of generation but also presents serious CO2 storage issues. Wind is clean, cheap and renewable, and its use should be expanded, but estimates set its gross capacity at only 20 percent of demand. Nuclear is predominant outside of the U.S. and has proven to be both safe and cost effective. Construction costs have already decreased dramatically and would drop even further as demand increased. What’s needed is a serious push into reprocessing of waste, which can safely recycle 97 percent of used fuel, and streamlining of the bureaucratic process for permits.

Our other big issue is transportation, which accounts for 28 percent of our total energy consumption and a whopping 70 percent of petroleum based use. While I hate to agree with T. Boone Pickens, I think our best short term solution may be natural gas. It’s plentiful in the U.S., it’s cheap, its CO2 footprint is significantly smaller than oil, and overall emissions for CNG cars are on a par with the best hybrids.

Of course, there are issues with natural gas that must be addressed, whether or not there’s a major expansion in its use. The environmental impact of the present hydraulic fracturing technique used to extract natural gas is completely unacceptable, but this issue is solvable, albeit at a cost to profit margins.

Couple these short term efforts with serious investment into R&D and we’ve paved the way into a bright green energy future. We are already very close to breakthroughs in solar technology which could raise the efficiency of panels from 40 percent to as high as 80 percent. Hydrogen may still have a chance in transportation, and there’s always still hope for fusion. What’s needed is the concerted national focus that President Obama could bring if only he was willing to call on the vested interests to finally make the sacrifice.

No conversation about energy is complete without mentioning efficient use. Even in this day and age, estimates set our national level of wasted energy above 50 percent. We need more efficient homes and appliances and efforts to improve energy efficiency throughout industry.

Taken together, these efforts could form an energy policy that would eliminate our dependency on foreign oil, create millions of needed jobs, and save on energy costs and emissions, while at the same time spurring new technologies to boost American exports. The vested interests that have long held our nation hostage for the continuance of their profits lose . . . but America wins.

President Obama has thus far shared a rather blurry, potential mirage of a vision for our energy future. What we need now is for him to stand up amongst the great leaders of our nation who called the nation together for a united purpose. He needs to act more like FDR and call it the way it is. He needs to be more like JFK and bind us to the national good. We don’t need decades to achieve a green energy independence — we just need a leader with the courage to stand against the special interests and the resolve to get the job done. The American people will stand up and cheer for that leader.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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Jun 082010

At the start of the next century, Dick Cheney dismissed conservation as “a sign of personal virtue,” and in the days after 9/11, George Bush told America to go shopping. In the decade since then, New York Times columnist and best-selling author Tom Friedman has pounded on the failure of that administration to use 9/11 to summon Americans to sacrifice and greatness.

Marty Kaplan, Huffington Post

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...
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I couldn’t agree more with this article, though I think the chances of Obama summoning the nerve to be a great president are growing more slim by the day. Marty Kaplan speaks of Bush’s failure to leverage the events of 9/11 to rally Americans to end dependency on foreign oil. But such an act would have been contrary to Bush’s vision for America.

Obama, on the other hand, has already had numerous opportunities to embrace his purported vision. Instead of playing politics, he could have held his ground in support of the public option; he could have refused to compromise on his response to the corruption that brought down American banking, and he could have immediately taken control of the BP disaster. But in each case thus far, President Obama has compromised the vision and given in to special interests and business as usual.

I voted for Obama, and I still believe that he has the potential to be the greatest president of my lifetime, but if that’s going to happen, he will have to leave his “good politician” senses behind and take a stand. I agree with Marty Kaplan that the American people will follow a great leader, and that Obama has the bully pulpit from which he alone can reach the masses. Americans are ready for a change, but we want a real change — we want honesty, not more politics.

Obama still has the opportunity to unite Americans and restore our sense of pride in our country. But in order to do so, he needs to break with the left and right. He needs to stand above the fray and take a stand directly with the American people. He needs to take a lesson from FDR, who rallied our nation with bold honesty. FDR wasn’t afraid to attack the wealthy business interests who controlled the country, and he didn’t pull punches. He made himself perfectly clear in his election eve speech of 1936:

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace–business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.”

This is the type of bold leadership that gave birth to the attitude of national pride that pervaded our nation for nearly 40 years. It was the leadership that created a system where the vast majority of Americans were able to share in the prosperity of our nation. It was the leadership that won the war against fascism, built our American industrial might and created the American middle class.

The New Deal wasn’t merely a program designed to restore the American economy from the ravages of the Great Depression. It was a blueprint for a healthy and prosperous America where all citizens believed, not only in their ability to share in the wealth but also in their responsibility to help produce it. JFK best captured the sentiment of the time in his inaugural address of 1961:

And so my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Thus was the spirit of a nation with a strong and increasingly prosperous middle class. It was that sense of unity that won WW2, and it was the notion that we were all in it together that empowered us to excel at every challenge. It wasn’t free market capitalism that drove the United States to the pinnacle of nationhood but rather the understanding that We the People are the source of American greatness.

But the sad truth is that the sense of American unity has been replaced with an ethic of every person for themselves. The oil crisis of the 1970s and the stagflation that followed gave rise to Reaganomics and the festering idea that government is the enemy. The progressive tax system that had paid for the debt of WW2, helped to fuel the greatest expansion of the American economy and funded the programs that supported the middle class was then decimated. Since that point in time, the conservative movement has systematically done everything possible to further its goal of serving the wealthy and destroying the American middle class.

Tax cuts for the rich, massive concentration of wealth, deregulation, trillion dollar bailouts, environmental disaster, outsourcing, off-shoring, and 30 million unemployed — is it any wonder why the average American no longer feels a part of a larger united whole? Movement conservatism is destroying our country, and if President Obama is to take a place amongst the greatest of our leaders, he must stand firmly against their assault. He must embrace the fact that he is president of ALL the people, and he must stop playing politics and start telling it like it is.

Part of the story he needs to tell is that today’s economic situation, dire as it is, still pales when compared with the situation after WW2. The federal debt was then a staggering 122 percent of the GDP. It is now about 94 percent. We recovered from the debt of WW2 by raising the top marginal tax bracket to 91 percent, and guess what — we had the longest sustained period of economic growth in our nation’s history, while also creating a middle class at the same time. It’s time again for those who have reaped the most benefit to stop lining their pockets and ante up. We will need to raise taxes on the most wealthy or kiss the American middle class goodbye — it’s that simple.

Would a call to raise taxes really be political suicide? I don’t think so. Ross Perot stood before the American people, shared the hard facts, advocated a gas tax to pay off the deficit, rallied millions of Americans and could possibly still have been president. The secret to his success — he shared the facts, good and bad.

What America needs now is a leader with a vision and the personal resolve to make it happen. Energy policy is the perfect place to start. The BP disaster has set the stage. All we need now is for President Obama to serve our nation, even at the expense of his deep pocketed campaign benefactors. We need to stop tinkering around the edges and face our energy issues. We can’t produce enough oil; coal is freaking dirty, and clean coal is too expensive. We need a vision and a plan for energy independence. Obama needs to share that vision and drive us toward the goal. He needs to become a true statesman, and just like JFK led us to the moon, he will set us on the path to true energy independence and a bright and prosperous future for all Americans.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

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