Posted by: The moderator | January 26, 2012

What will she do next?

Hillary Clinton insists she’ll be stepping down as Secretary of State after the election, with no future plans in politics. I find that hard to believe. She may not be the replacement for Biden on the 2012 ticket like so many of her supporters want to see, but she’s certainly going to be active in politics. She ‘s got to have something to keep her mind off Bill. But what will she do next?

Posted by: The moderator | December 14, 2011

Another Year for Lobbyists

The Hill has an interesting list of the top ten lobbying victories of 2011. The oil industry’s American Petroleum Institute made the list twice.

Posted by: The moderator | September 4, 2011

Why we’re screwed

Nobody will argue against the fact that we have deficits and a huge debt because we’re spending more than we bring in. The political extremes tell us we can either cut the budget back to the stone age or raise taxes until every little mom-and-pop shop is shuttered. Those are our only two choices. No room for compromise.

Cutting the massive budget nobody fully understands (let alone reads) has been a more popular option than adjusting the tax system, but only a mix of the two will get us out of our debt mess without destroying the weak economy or gutting the safety net that’s keeping people alive until the economy improves.

Why haven’t we been able to raise revenues? It’s not just the Tea Party ideologues’ fault. Both parties benefit from corporate largess, which is the real reason why politicians in Washington have been unwilling to crack down on tax loopholes or even *gasp* raise taxes in over a decade. It’s a shame since many CEOs make more money than their entire corporation pays in taxes. But as long as those CEOs bankroll reelection campaigns and the Supreme Court defends the contributions as free speech, we’re stuck with the same broken revenue system that hasn’t been able to pay our bills for years.

Posted by: The moderator | August 25, 2010

Traffic troubles

In Communist China, traffic jams you

Posted by: The moderator | August 24, 2010

August Update

Added more think tanks from both sides of the political spectrum and clarified the descriptions of some others.

Posted by: The moderator | June 27, 2010

Can’t win them all

Soccer… the only sport where the United States routinely loses to third world countries… like Ghana.

Posted by: The moderator | June 25, 2010

Financial overhaul, but with reservations

It looks like the Dodd-Frank Bill has been born. Banks will be barred from placing too much of their money into risky ventures and new oversight agencies under the authority of the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department will be created. Best of all, banks will no longer be able to bet against their own securities that they sell to clients.

However, financial reform will not play a role in the auto industry, thanks to Detroit’s powerful auto lobbyists and their stranglehold on midwestern Democrats. There will also be some exemptions for banks to do limited investing in hedge funds, all so Republican Scott Brown doesn’t get hammered by his wealthy constituents in Massachusetts. The bill also gives shareholders more say in corporate governance, but what good will that do when most shareholders don’t understand what’s going on or don’t care enough to even vote for board members?

Posted by: The moderator | June 12, 2010

Oil, Profits, Politics, and the Environment

I wanted to wait until everything settled down before commenting on this story, but over 50 days into the Gulf Oil Spill with no end in sight (BP says relief wells won’t be completed until July or August), I can’t wait any longer. This disaster has already become the worst oil spill and ecological catastrophe in American history. The worst thing about it is that the government has been powerless since only the oil companies have the equipment and know-how to do something about it. This is a failure of both the public and private sectors.

For years, the regulatory agencies have grown too cozy with the corporations they are supposed to regulate. Heads rolled at the Minerals Management Service because regulators weren’t doing their job. To make matters worse, we’ve given oil companies the freedom to drill wherever they’re comfortable drilling regardless of whether the company has an adequate contingency plan and with no regard for whether the government has the tools necessary to intervene if things get out of hand. We had BP telling the government how much oil was leaking (a gross underestimate) until researchers called the company’s bluff. We still have BP doing all the work because the government has no experience working in these kinds of situations.

In an environmental disaster where a corporation is calling the shots, it’s no surprise that the company was not truthful about how much oil was leaking nor that a sense of urgency didn’t kick in until weeks after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded. We only saw BP rush to contain the spill when public opinion and political furor built up to a critical mass. Even now, their efforts to reduce the seeping of oil are a result of their selfish drive for profits: the oil they are preventing from leaking into the gulf is being collected on a boat to be refined and sold later. They’re more concerned about recouping their losses from this broken well than from stopping the leak. That is why I have no sympathy for the business interests and British MPs who are now complaining that Americans are being too harsh on BP and that negative publicity could hurt other British companies. Even British Prime Minster David Cameron has said that maintaining the financial solvency of BP is a higher priority than fixing the leak, cleaning up the mess, and reimbursing the other economic sectors that were brought to a halt by the spill. I’m sorry, but when a company screws up this badly, they must be held responsible.

Then there’s our cold, calculating president. Obama was quiet at the beginning when BP was downplaying the effects of the spill. He only started making comments and heading on multiple trips to the Gulf when the media had mounted pressure on him to act. He even dragged the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” debate into the political limelight in an effort to distract people from his inability to handle the crisis in the Gulf. Commentators and comedians, primarily on the left, have been poking at him trying to “set him off,” but the closest thing Obama has given to show even a glimmer of anger is his statement that he needs to listen to experts so he knows “who’s ass to kick.” Meanwhile, politicians on the right have been bellyaching about the spill’s effects upon their constituents in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida, but their previously staunch support of the oil industry, deregulation, and increased offshore drilling make their current rhetoric hollow and meaningless. It’s no surprise that both sides of the political spectrum are led by hypocrites.

Environmentalists have given Obama a pass on this disaster, something they certainly wouldn’t have done if Bush was still in office. Do environmental activists truly believe their policy preferences will be ignored in the future if they openly criticize their greatest presidential-level champion in decades? If anything, this spill has brought the worries of environmentalists into the national conscience. Ecological disasters don’t just kill wildlife and damage ecosystems, they kill industries and jobs that depend upon that environment as well.

Ultimately, the legacy of the oil spill should be an end to the idiotic “drill baby, drill” rhetoric that has been coming from the right for the past couple years. Offshore drilling is more dangerous than the oil executives and marketers like to admit. The free market failed to regulate itself and corruption in regulatory agencies (as well as lobbying in Congress) caused government regulations to be useless as well. The greatest irony is that the government is better prepared to rescue astronauts in space than they are to plug a hole on the ocean floor.

From the 1970s oil crises (and the stagflation these high oil prices stimulated) to the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 to the current BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, we’ve put up with a lot of trouble for an industry that continues to soak up our money like a sponge. This country desperately needs to ditch the oil habit. The oil business gouges hard-working Americans, soils our political dialogue, endangers our national security and diplomatic independence, dirties the environment, kills other business interests, and keeps churning record-breaking profits at everyone’s expense.

Posted by: The moderator | May 27, 2010

Changing Fortunes for Apple and Microsoft

Way to go Apple! The quirky California company has overtaken Washington-based Microsoft as the biggest tech company and is now the second largest company on the S&P 500, behind only ExxonMobil. This is the first time Apple’s market value has been worth more than Microsoft since 1989. Of course, Apple’s stock prices have already been clobbering Microsoft during the past decade thanks to Apple’s trendsetting iPod and a renewed attempt to bring Macs into the mainstream. Heck, even Valve has ported their Steam content management system to the Mac, making Apple’s computers a viable platform for hard-core gamers (think Counterstrike). Not bad for a company that almost went belly-up in the ’90s and had to get help from its competitors to stay alive.

Posted by: The moderator | May 11, 2010

Britain’s New Direction

In 2008, a wave of “change” brought the left-leaning party into power in the United States. In 2010, another wave of “change” splashed on shores across the sea from America, bringing the right-leaning party into an uneasy position of power in Great Britain. Strange how “change” can benefit anyone, even political parties that thrive on slowing and/or undoing social and economic changes.

The new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom is Conservative Party leader David Cameron, who replaces the Labour Party’s Gordon Brown after Brown handed his resignation to the Queen. Cameron’s Conservatives were elected to the most seats in parliament, but they do not have a simple majority since a smattering of smaller parties received representation as well, including Britain’s largest third party, the Liberal Democrats. Both the Conservatives and Labour tried to woo the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government, and it appears the Tories (Conservatives) were the most successful.

I’m happy to see a new party mix things up on the other side of the pond. I’m also encouraged by the fact that all three major parties campaigned on reforming the political system by either writing a real constitution or creating a bill of rights. There’s even a serious movement to make the archaic House of Lords an elected assembly like the Senate in the United States. Funny how the British are now looking to their old renegade colony for ideas.

Best of all, a coalition government between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats means those two parties have to work together to remain in power, meaning the two must compromise on some of the most important issues facing Britain (and Northern Ireland).

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