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Should you make the Earth move … January 1, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in Energy, Environment, Justice, Politics.
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… you should need to explain to the rest of US why this is a good thing, what it might mean in all regards and how you plan to compensate US should your actions do real harm.

That’s all I’m saying when it comes to the 4.0 earthquake yesterday near Youngtown, Ohio, with clear circumstantial evidence that the tumbler was triggered by deep underground pressure applied near a fault line by fracking fluids injected by a company seeking oil. You can read about it here.

Nothing proven yet, and the company has paused injections to allow for an investigation. All good, rational community-minded responses.

The thing is, this is not an isolated phenomenon. It’s a coincidence that has cropped up many times down in the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas region where fracking is commonplace.  It’s also logical, since the concept of fracking is designed to pressure deep shale to “crack” and release natural gases to be recovered. It follows that such pressure applied in a poor location could cause other pressure “adjustments” — like shifts along fault lines, known and not known.

This is NOT an argument for banning fracking as a gas extraction method. Given the current economy and need for this fuel, such a conclusion would be knee-jerk and unsound.

But it does underscore in a huge way the stakes all of US have in what happens to that rock tens of thousands of feet below our feet. In addition to the petrochemicals and gas trapped there are things like water supplies — and the underpinnings of our communities. There is no inherent “right” to the riches down there, although our laws allow for the leasing of the privilege to gather it up. Along  with that comes the inherent responsibility to do that responsibly — meaning, with responsibility for all the results of that activity.

A simple rule applies: If you break it, you’ve bought it. No blanket waivers of liabilities to the rest of US.

That’s what the discussion of “fracking” needs to concentrate on: Holding people doing that fracking to full responsibility to the rest of US for any and all damage done in the process — to drinking water, to surface waters with any waste fluids and to anything on top should you cause things like earthquakes.

And not with some years-later claim on some multi-layered corporate shell long stripped of any resources to draw on for damages. Up front, with bonds or clear assets set in reserve to compensate. That will add to the cost, of course. But that is a legitimate cost of doing such business, just as it is in many other endeavors. This industry should not be sheltered from that cost — meaning: subsidized because the risk is offloaded to US.

This is another case where we should simply say no to profits being 100% privatized, while the risks and fallout costs are shifted to US — the public, be we just 100 people who rely on aquifers for water, or tens of thousands who rely on the Earth’s crust for our lives.

I don’t know where all the lines are. Reasonable people can draw them. But they will only be counted as “reasonable” if they  acknowledge their responsibility — to the community.

That’s not “the government” talking. It’s the nation.

 

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‘Let them eat peanut butter’ November 20, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Musings, Politics, Wall Street.
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… is the word from the Wall Street Journal, arguably the tippie-top of  the “mainstream” media voices considering our world from the perspective of the people running it.

And I am struck by the absolute contrast in two pieces the fine folks at RealClearPolitics led me to this morning. One is Peggy Noonan, and this thoughtful and deeply constructive piece from an adviser to the last president before the current president. The other is today’s sampling from one James Taranto, a commentary that is more a straight play to the cheap seats and a cry into the storm with toes as deeply sunken into the pre-K sand as those he mocks from within a Bank of America branch in San Francisco. (more…)

Time to get a really big washer … November 8, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Justice, Politics.
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… and fix this stupid faucet that keeps dribbling out this same corrosive “trickle” of failed, counterproductive policy.

Trickle-down won’t work because those who already have way, way more than they need won’t do it. They’ll take the tax break — and sit on it. Or invest it where growth looks good and steady over the next five years — in companies and enterprises in markets growing rapidly and consistently.

Which isn’t here.

Because the mass of the population is deleveraging out from under the debris left by the Crash of 2008. And real wages are down and have been for a decade and will be for another decade.

Why? Because even though GDP is back to the level last seen before the crash of 2008, and even though corporate profits are headed for a record this year, none of that has been shared with labor — that means the mass of workers who somehow held onto their jobs and threw their shoulders into the wheel to produce the GDP bounceback and profit bounceback.

Just about all of the recovery went to stock buybacks, restored and bolstered dividends, mergers (that cost jobs) and richer executive compensation, immediate and deferred.

None of that recovery largesse trickled down much past the executive washroom. And I’m not talking unions. I’m talking white-collar wimpos who tell themselves are getting somewhere and that their hard work and sacrifice in the last three years will be rewarded. When?

And the people upstairs who made the decisions about how to divide the corporate gains from the recovery are the very same people the GOP expects to rekindle the domestic economy with a rush to — do exactly what? Invest in exactly what? The next Wall Street bubble maybe. If Goldman or Citi or John Paulson can suck them into the next doomed CDO.

It hasn’t happened in the years since the Bush tax cuts. But still the GOP heads in the Super-Committee offer up a “revenue plan” that includes (if you trust this sourced account from Reuters):

—  Limiting the mortgage tax deduction for second homes, and some other upper-income perks, which would bring in about $250 billion over 10 years.

— In return for not only keeping the Bush tax cuts, but taking the whole upper end rate — which would rise to 39.5 percent if the cuts expire — down to 28 percent, which is what the bulk of the rapidly vanishing middle class pays. No price tag on that baby, but it surely swamps the vacation home deduction.

Not only does the math in that “deal” not produce progress toward whacking a deficit, it further enriches the top end in an era where simply every analysis shows the middle is the group that took the relative haymaker in the recession, benefitted the least from the market and economy rebound fueled by the government stimulus that largely caused the deficit to explode,  and which has absolutely no discretionary spending room left to rekindle the economy with any sort of robust DEMAND FOR GOODS AND SERVICES from our underutilized factories and worker pool.

And why, I ask, must I go to Reuters to learn of this proposal? I guess the Americn media was pretty full up today with Joe Paterno, Michael Jackson’s doctor, Lindsey Lohan in Playboy and whatever other gossip passed for news.

Sigh.

Thank you Keith January 21, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Communications, hope, Justice, Politics.
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for raising your voice, though there were times it topped the wall to my ears.

But right or wrong, you spoke for truth … and against the pretty narrative, the brazen grab, the bald-faced bulbous lie.

And too many just take the money and cower.

And above all else, I always got the sense that you felt that you could be wrong. As we all are on occasion.

So rest up for a bit and see and hear and taste and feel the world. Then tell us all again sometime how it all boils down to your mind.

We’ll be waiting.

Our Senate has some oddball logic December 18, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Politics.
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I’m pleased to see that the Senate finally voted to get rid of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy governing military service. It’s a step toward facing up to one of the realities in our make-up as a nation — the one where we all are differently blessed, differently obligated.

Even those who might profess that homosexuality is a sin had no leg to stand on with this wink toward injustice. For if we barred sinners from military service, or fair treatment after military service, I’m guessing the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs budgets dip to near zero.

But I’m left shaking my head by votes from Republican Sens. John Ensign of Nevada and Richard Burr of North Carolina. These two stalwarts joined the supermajority in removing the policy. But not before they voted in lockstep with most Republicans to block a vote on the matter with what passes for a filibuster today.

What’s that all about? I don’t really want to vote, but if we’re going to I’m for it? On an issue such as this, that rises or falls on a principle, you go for that kind of stuff — it’s more important to stand with my “team” and try to block consideration of such an important matter, even though I’m in favor of the matter and want my vote counted publicly as an “Ay?”

That’s the wrong message gentlemen: The people want matters to get full consideration, discussion, debate and then a vote.

We tire of these kind of games — and fancy footwork who you can pull a John Kerry someday and be for it and against it.

Grab your stones and stand for something.

Yes, let’s put Goldman back in charge December 4, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Environment, Justice, Politics, U.S. Budget, Wall Street.
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I’ve been listening very very closely to all the reform talk down in the Swamp, emerging only with confusion.

One group – the bright Red one – rails against an end to what always was limited tax relief for the top 1 percent or 2 percent of earners, now casting any act to not extend this relief as a move that would sap the slow 3 percent recovery we are in the midst of. Can’t take that $80-$100 billion a year out of circulation in what they continue to say is a “recession,” even though the economy stopped receding and started proceeding four quarters ago.

They know that. But they lie because it’s convenient for the narrative.

This group, then, does a wonderful spin with full gainer, and demands an end to extended unemployment benefits and an immediate return to 2008 spending levels, reigning in such stimulus-intended measures as broadened Medicaid coverage, boosted university research grants, various individual tax credits designed to spur household spending on energy efficiency upgrades. This, if put into effect, would take at least $100 billion in spending by individuals out of the economy – spending on doctors, medicines, researcher salaries and equipment purchases and all those things all those people scraping by need to buy. You know, rent, milk, bread, gasoline, spaghetti sauce, mostly from small businesses, if that matters (actually, the Wal-Marts are counting on taking that “market share” pretty soon, so it doesn’t long term).

Somehow, the Red team doesn’t think this will in any way slow down the economic expansion, though study after study show without dispute that the poor and unemployed and even the middle class university research assistant have a much higher propensity to spend than does the individual or couple making $250,000 and up. So if you are going to pull $100 billion out of the economy – and either way you are doing that – and your true intention is to not hurt the recovery, you draw from the top, not the bottom, of the take-home ladder, because the subtraction of spending multiplied down the line is less.

(more…)

We need to see a lot more of this November 25, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Politics.
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Tom DeLay. Guilty of felony crimes, punishable by time in prison.

He didn’t rob a bank, assault a neighbor, abuse a child. He saw a law he didn’t like, determined he would find a way to do what it outlawed and — in complete contempt of the rule of law and of We the People who put it in place — used his position of public trust to twist the democratic system to favor himself and his followers. He subverted the system we hold dear.

Oh he did that in a relatively small way. And maybe the money he manipulated unlawfully made no difference in the voting. Maybe his cause and the people fighting for it are angels sent to do just that. Not mine to judge all that.

But he broke the law, intentionally. And that is NOT politics as usual. That is a shard in a scrap heap of immorality, injustice and base corruption of souls that permeates our nation’s capital to this day, deeply encrusts our capital markets and commerce and eats away a little more each day at the greatness of our democratic experiment.

Deficits are a problem. Unemployment and slow growth are a problem. Costly inefficient healthcare is a problem. Unproductive and violent citizens are a problem.

But fixing the moral mess must be Job 1. Because if we do not address the lawlessness — the fraud, the theft, the arrogant abuse of position — nothing lasting and just can be done with anything we tackle no matter how earnest our efforts are. The rot will eat away at those fixes also, in time.

A lot of this involves long and expensive investigations, prosecutions and pursuit of appeals to make the point again and again in realm after realm that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to live, to earn, to govern. And there are real and somewhat immediate consequences for breaking the law. Without this type of deterrence, justice will submit to power and liberty is at risk.

But a lot of this falls to us, also. We cannot abide people who act in this manner, who scoff at laws and make their own rules. Not when they hold an opposite political view — and most importantly not when they share our view and seek to carry a banner we follow.

No manner how smooth, no matter how glib, no matter how gifted they seem, if their soul is thusly corrupted by arrogance, pride and lust for power, they must be cast aside. For within our ranks — Red, Blue or in that vast sea in between — there are far better hands for the task, far better tunics to pin our hopes upon.

We must just say ‘no’ to the dishonest ones, if we are to fix what needs fixing.

One nation, under God, indivisible … November 13, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Musings.
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I urge anyone and everyone visiting here to read this fine piece by David Brooks.

For we are in the midst of a revolution of sorts. Peaceful thus far, but as Mr. Brooks and many other point out, a seething thing bound for crisis without a steady head or vision.

What seems like a long, long time ago I threw out an idea.  Silly, perhaps. But something akin to this needs to occur. To erase the broad brush of Red and Blue on those maps, to wipe the word “mandate” from the lips of them all — unless that words is read simply as a directive to “fix what needs fixing” — without a murmur in the direction of Blame.

For Blame is what is killing us. A nation divided cannot stand.

We must repair, replace and rebuild. And no individual, group or enterprise can get that done alone.

And no individual, group or enterprise is devoid of wisdom, blessing or energy needed to build new and lasting greatness.

Our union remains a long way from perfect at the moment. We all must change that to ensure that this great nation shall not perish from the earth.

 

Maybe there’s a reason it’s called FOX News September 1, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Greed, Justice, Politics.
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I see that former Wachovia Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Steel is telling the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission today that he was told by FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair in late Setptember, 2008 to find a dance partner with something left in its pockets, because the mortgage crap it was holding threatened the U.S. banking system.

This Bloomberg News story tells the early tale. Make particular note of this:

Steel, the former U.S. Treasury Department and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive, was brought in to lead Charlotte, North Carolina-based Wachovia in 2008 as the lender struggled to recover from the aftermath of its $24 billion purchase of Golden West Financial Corp. The deal saddled Wachovia with about $120 billion of adjustable-rate mortgages that allowed borrowers to skip some interest payments and add them to the loan balance. The concept assumed home prices would go up. Instead, the idea backfired when prices fell, leaving borrowers with mortgages that exceeded the value of their homes and Wachovia with mounting losses.

That’s $120 billion in garbage interest-only and other high-risk mortgages created by the bankers in California to pump new money into the superheated real estate market driven by flippers and other speculators. BIG NOTE: This was not done by government; it was done by the private sector, at the end stage aided and abetted by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also at the time privately held and run by financial industry veterans.

So please don’t swallow the myth being spun — and heavily marketed by Wall Street — that the bubble slime on all of US was OUR fault because of actions by OUR government. It’s just not true.

Sure, many of US were sucked into the interest-only crap, or steered into liar loans.  And many of US benefited from the housing boom, which put a lot of people to work for a very long time making houses, selling houses and producing all the materials that went into what was a major part of the U.S. economy for two decades.

That’s almost all gone now folks — and no amount of “tax cuts” and “getting government off our backs” is going to bring it back. Something else must be built to take its place, and that’s a whole lot harder and will take a long time. Everyone running for Congress needs to explain in detail how they plan to make that rebuilding happen.

We all should watch what is said before this commission and make sure this story is told fully, extensively — and accurately.

Because what all fell down in September 2008 — and the people who made that happen and reasons for it — is why we still are struggling today — and will for the next five years — to rebuild our economy.

And it wasn’t our fault;  it wasn’t our government’s fault. It was the fault of recklessness, greed and fraud by private industry leadership. And many of those foxes want to be put back in charge of the hen house.

But I’m not gonna put the pink slip on it August 28, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Musings, Politics.
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I guess I must take a look today at what all goes on with this, even though I have a very long list of things I’d rather do on a wonderful day, all blue sky beautious as it is and all. Almost a sin to peek, but even today’s wonderful highway won’t be enough to keep me from wondering on this cloddish collision.

I’m just going to pray that the sight of Abe staring down with his sad solemn eyes, the awesome white obelisk and the floaty, grainy image of Martin will lead Mr. Beck to a place he says he seeks today, a place of honor, a place of justice, a place of hope and building and great possibilities.

But more than any of all that, a place of basic faith — in us, our vision and the things that we will be if only we believe hard enough in us. A place where more than anything, our greatest enemy is a simple discouraging word uttered in anger sure to lead us first astray and then headlong into the shadows.

Perhaps Mr. Beck will be true to the words in the stone behind Mr. Lincoln, true to the character of the man who stood in that place so many years ago and matched a dream against all the bitter words, the burning hatreds and basest fears and willed us all to a better place, a still imperfect place a league nearer to the City on a Hill we stepped ashore to realize.

Perhaps he will be overcome as he glimpses this place and embraces the honor he speaks of seeking today.

Perhaps he will then turn to the microphone and speak with honor — and truth and dispense with the rancor, the anger, the accelerants spewed to titillate, incite and summon forces Abe and Martin and so many knew — but showed us how to resist with a much stronger calling.

Perhaps.