For decades, chief executives of American multinational corporations have done what no other private individual has the power to do. They have succeeded in shaping domestic and foreign policy to benefit the short term goals and profits of the companies they worked for, without public scrutiny or assurances that these taxpayer-funded policies would serve the public interest.
Perhaps the most powerful ever of these corporate CEOs, the oil oligopolists, over-reached in 2000 by backing two "oil men" for the presidential election. George W. Bush and Richard P. Cheney were/are so deeply indebted to big oil that they callously lied to pursue war on a defenseless country to secure oil and oil contracts. In so doing they defied all reason, judgement, logic and moral responsibility.
In their exuberance to fund the campaigns of George W. Bush and Richard P. Cheney, did the oil chiefs overlook Bush and Cheney's recklessness and pathological indifference to the consequences of their actions or were those considered endearing qualities?
So, have the oligopolists at long last succeeded in killing the goose that laid the golden egg? Their star political ally, George W. Bush, has always been a reckless man, indifferent to the consequences of his actions. A willingness to commit violence and a high level of incompetence share a space in his persona with a mindset that he is above the law. Nearly 70% of Americans now lack confidence in his leadership. Most people surely understand by now that the "decider" is committed to the narrow interests of large corporations such as big oil. But have people yet concluded that industry leaders are not who we want making national policy?
Writing about the excessive power of corporations in his recent WAPO piece
Kevin Phillips said:
Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of... three interests -- a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics.
Bush is just a symptom of this disease. And in spite of the beating that he's taking in the polls, the dangers of Kevin Phillip's three power groups - the oil oligopolies/defense industries, the messianic religious groups and the debt driven reckless financial complex - will continue to threaten our well being and our democracy.
Read/watch Amy Goodman's interview of Antonio Juhasz on her book "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Economy at a Time." as "she explains why GWB took this country to war on Iraq and intends to make war on Iran." http://www.democracynow.org/...
Her book tracks the radical neo-liberal economic program the Bush administration has tried to impose on Iraq, which threatens to leave Iraq's economy and oil reserves largely in the hands of multinational corporations.
Or read between the lines of former Exxon Chairman Lee Raymond's speeches. He repeatedly called for predictable taxes, guaranteed contracts, stable laws and regulations in countries with exploitable energy. And he has said that if Exxon can't be assured of these things it's just not worth the "risk" for them to go where there's oil but no American style legal/economic framework.
In 2003, Lee Raymond said
Where governments do not adopt or enforce a stable framework of laws and regulations, investments become difficult to justify.
Is that code for -"if you expect me to drill in country XYZ you better "civilize" it?
and more of the same here:
Before Enron imploded, Ken Lay wrote a letter to Governor George W. Bush about his pipeline dream for Uzbekistan. (See a copy of that letter at this link.):
By inference it seems that the people who live in energy rich country's are expendable if they stand in the way of "progress". And what does that imply for the people of this country? Consider, for example, Bush's seeming indifference to the hurt suffered from Enron's implosion or from other recent pension debacles or from the profitable outsourcing of prisons and prison beds preying on both taxpayers and the victims of the failed drug war. Are the people of this country just cash cows instead of equal members of a functioning democracy? Adam Smith, the "father of capitalism" would roll over in his grave if he saw how oligopolies and big business have been permitted to control policy and use the public purse to their advantage.
Is anyone surprised that indigenous people resent their lands being appropriated or their resources stolen? We all hear the right wing propaganda that attacks so called leftist governments. Are these governments "evil" BECAUSE they demand a larger share than the oil companies want them to have of the natural resources for the benefit of their own populations? Is that what's unacceptable to the Lee Raymond's and George Shultz's of this world and to their surrogates George W Bush and Richard P Cheney?
Check out the work being done on Hot Zones by Kevin Sites:
And when Exxon or United Fruit or Bechtel or any oligopoly wants a more favorable contract - less share for the indigenous populations - are American taxpayers and American soldiers expected to pay in dollars and lives to oust an "unfriendly" government to replace it with one that will let the oligopoly get a bigger piece of the pie?
When coupled with 6 or so decades of foreign policy Raymond's words take on a chilling tone. Meanwhile our air is used as a corporate toilet http://scorecard.org/ ; weak American Congresses and Presidents shun an easily achievable doubling of our CAFE standards helping to keep our oil consumption high; health, environmental and geopolitical costs are borne by average people while energy corporations reap substantial profits free of any social costs.
And if we haven't learned our lesson with big oil, we're about to be flummoxed by big nuclear, a wet dream for oligopolists like George Shultz of Bechtel. In the recently passed energy bill, Congress reauthorized the Price-Anderson Act, extending the industry's liability cap to cover new nuclear power plants built in the next 20 years.
http://www.citizen.org/... Without taxpayer bailouts of catastrophic events for new nuclear facilities they could not get Wall Street'S multi-billion dollar funding. The financial risks are considered too great. What similar catastrophic-event financial risks do solar and wind pose?
The oligopolists want government subsidies, favorable tax policies and a captive, dependent customer base.
They want to socialize their costs/risks while privatizing their "profits".
That's why I think we should fight, instead, for solar and wind energy (and other renewables) which are in unlimited free supply and hopefully can be economically harnessed by new technologies for safe use on our planet. Nuclear energy has the incalculable cost of storing radioactive waste fuel for a very very long time, plus huge infrastructure costs plus risks of accidents and dangerous radioactive contamination.
A VIABLE DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT MUST BE A POPULIST WHO WILL STAND UP TO BIG BUSINESS AND SAY ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. IT'S TIME TO SERVE THE PUBLIC INTEREST AND SET AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD FOR WORKERS AND BUSINESS.
Mechanical and Aerospace Engineer, Jim Augustyn, who once designed nuclear power plants has worked these last 27 years on solar energy, an avocation that he believes - if we are wise enough to shun nuclear - can be a major clean, affordable energy source for the future.
He tells why in his Solar Cat Book:
A hopeful and charming speech Jim gave at the 2004 National Solar Energy Conference
can be listened to here:
The American Wind Energy web site can be accessed here:
2.The second part of the three-headed monster that brought us George W. Bush are the messianic religious leaders who distract their frightened "flock" with red herrings about pseudo moral issues - like the "evils" of gay marriage, enriching themselves while the flock votes on mass against their own self-interest. I'm looking forward to reading Sam Harris's book "The End of Faith" http://www.samharris.org/
A STRONG DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE FOR 2008 WOULD BE ABLE TO CALM THE WINGNUTS' IRRATIONAL FEARS AND ENGAGE THEM ON WHAT THE REAL RISKS TO THEIR WELLBEING ARE.
3. The financial complex finances the whole mess. Adam Smith would roll over in his grave if he knew about the excesses and financial abuse.
A STRONG DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE UNDERSTANDS HOW THE DEREGULATED FINANCIAL SECTOR HAS RUTHLESSLY PREYED ON THE MOST VULNERABLE WITH THE AID AND ABETTANCE OF WEAK PRESIDENTS AND CONGRESSES. A STRONG CANDIDATE WOULD STAND UP FOR REFORM.
5 1/2 wretched years have gone by while we have ruminated over the neocon psychopathy, murder, mayhem, torture, renditions, and general trashing of everything good we ever had or hoped to have while the neocon cheerleaders, Rove, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Cheney, Bush et al kept the dwindling faithful mesmerized into believing that they're living in the bosom of a "god-fearing holy warrior" defending the "civilized" world from the savages who would destroy them.
The cracks in the facade of invincibility have now turned into a crazy quilt pattern. Katrina shattered the aura of invincibility.
It doesn't really matter after all whether it was their reckless incompetence or their pathological indifference to who gets hurt when big money drives the agenda - what matters is that BushCo has not solved the most basic public problems, including security, financial stability, job opportunities, clean air&water, education, healthcare and so on. And that has become clear to a growing majority.
Almost 70% of Americans no longer trust Bush to do what's right.
And under Bush's corporate free for all with no-bid contracts and reckless wars, it's become clear that without strong government leadership, what's good for General Motors is not necessarily what's good for America or even good for the long term interest of General Motors, their customers, their workers and their stockholders.
But as Markos and Jerome say in "Crashing the Gate", attacking BushCo's incompetence is not the key because at this point BushCo's done and some other big business candidate will be promoted as Mr. Competence.
OUR DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT MUST MAKE IT CLEAR THAT IN ORDER FOR THIS DEMOCRACY TO SURVIVE, OLIGOPOLIES WILL NO LONGER DRIVE POLICY. THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND THE BUSINESS REPUBLICAN PARTY. COMPETENT DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP WOULD CREATE AN EVEN PLAYING FIELD FOR WORKERS AND BUSINESS WITH FAIRMINDED REGULATION SO EVERYONE CAN SUCCEED.
To succeed in 2008, we must carefully critique presidential candidates. It's not good enough to choose people who mean well but cannot think critically. (A sad example of that was how presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich allowed himself to be snookered by John Edwards at the Iowa caucuses. Kucinich agreed that if neither he nor Edwards had enough votes to win a caucus, they would combine their votes and the total would go to whoever started with more voters. Edwards knew apparently that he had more supporters than Kucinich and via this ploy, he added Kucinich's voters to his, doing better than he would have otherwise. Kucinich's largely anti-war supporters felt betrayed not least because Edwards had voted for the Iraq War Resolution. Kucinich did not deny what had taken place when challenged in a town hall meeting carried on CSPAN.)
Poor critical thinking and poor judgement in a presidential candidate is unacceptable. We need smart, tough, clear thinking people who also have a moral compass. A really strong and effective candidate will understand that the only chance we have to control the excesses of these powerful corporations and moneyed interests is to establish an even playing field for workers and business through responsible and fair regulation. Corporations want first and foremost a predictable and equitable business/tax environment. If, for example, we want clean air, Bush's "voluntary" system cannot work - the laggards benefit, while the good guys lose. The regulations must be standardized across the board, be achievable, affordable - if necessary with tax subsidies, and enforceable. The technology exists to effectively retrofit petrochemical plants to control emmisions and clean our air http://ghasp.org/ . The public is unfairly paying perhaps 10's of billions of dollars in health care and environmental costs because business pollutes our air instead of controlling their toxic emmissions, reaping profits sheltered from what should be a real business cost. We need a presidential candidate who not only understands that but has the strength of character to deal with the competing interests to craft a fair-minded solution.
Leadership candidates must clearly understand and articulate policy issues - clearly define a set of mutually supporting policy goals that are progressive and be able to make their case to the country at large -including big business - and most importantly have the critical thinking to know how to get from point A to point B - how to achieve those goals in a way that conforms to the principles of our democracy. These are very rare intellectual/emotional/character qualities - understanding which policy choices enhance our democracy instead of undermining it, knowing how to achieve those choices and having the backbone and character to stand up for them.
And really it is up to us to pay close attention to which candidates have these strengths and to scrutinize their policy positions and make sure our input is heard and listened to as well. And in terms of dealing with the chiefs of business, we need a candidate who will not be intimidated but can fashion policy that serves the country and is tolerable to big business. Exxon and her siblings will not just melt away. People who run a company like Exxon want most of all to have a predictable business and tax environment and if it becomes clear to them that they have to function within certain guidelines like everyone else, they will settle for an even playing field and predictability. To achieve an even playing field of regulation, it must be fair, applicable to all, transparent, realistic and enforced.
(I would love to see the emergence of an energy environment where consumers have more control over their energy sources - owning some of their own solar/wind devices or participating in solar/wind cooperatives.)
To make my point on the qualifications of candidates, here's a poll.
Which of the following potential candidates has the intelligence and strength of character to convince an overwhelming majority of Americans in both BLUE AND RED states that he/she will address/solve the problems of average Americans? Who has the compassion to understand how policy affects the most vulnerable among us and those in other countries where our multinational companies do business? So many of us are heartsick at what has been done in our name and with our tax dollars.
Here's a short list of the problems and goals:
Katrina, federal government failure to implement COAST 2050 PLAN http://www.earthscape.org/...
a commitment to avoid wrong and unnecessary wars
a plan to reduce deficits and ballooning debt
how to cope with trade imbalance
credit card debt and low savings rate
uneven playing field of corporate driven globalization
unfair working conditions
monopoly/oligopoly in major industry
first responders' preparedness
alternative energy technology
using international law enforcement to cope with terrorist acts
avoiding military backing of oppressive regimes for corporate gain
constitutional rights & privacy
healing the divide in this country
reframing issues constructively
rejoining the international community
working with the international community to solve problems from bird flu to Darfur
understanding the complex interaction of policy issues
reducing nuclear threat including control of loose nukes left over in Russia from the cold war
working through international institutions to stabilize the Middle East
weaning this country off foreign oil
ending political/corporate cronyism
universal health care
retraining educating workers displaced by globalization
even playing field for business and workers
guaranteed education through college/trade school for those unable to afford it
maintaining separation of church and state
Here are the candidates. Who, among them, has what it takes to convince an overwhelming majority of Americans in November 2008 that he/she is their best bet to solve these problems? We need a candidate who can win in a landslide so exit polling overcomes the standard dirty tricks/electronic snafus.