Monday, September 29, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Hearings on MSNBC: On Deregulation, Concentration, Where is the Media?

According to today's hearings, the Fed has no position on the $700 billion dollar bailout. It claims it had no position on bankruptcy reform in 2005.

Treasury Secretary Paulson says he did not see it coming as CEO of Goldman Sachs from 1999-2005 because he was dealing with all of the regulators.

Mr. Paulson.
The root cause is not the housing correction. Its the deregulation of financial derivatives! Where is the MEDIA!!

These circumstances are unprecedented because DEREGULATION caused the risk bubble to build. CONCENTRATION increased the speculative scale.

This is not a done deal yet. Stipulations could come on board. Maybe a levy on the industry? Why not just let people renegotiate at lower rates? Ah. Because the point is for both a bailout and a seizure of assets back by the militant bankruptcy reform laws.

Congress needs to stop this executive over-arching.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Freeze foreclosures, Make the Bailout Punative

Democracy Now! today had an excellent show on the financial crisis.

A few tidbits,,,

Turns out that Phil Gramm's wife was on the auditing board for Enron.

Phil Gramm is head of a foreign bank that is asking for part of the bailout.

Bernie Sanders talks about his time on the banking where he was critical of the banking changes in 1999. I remember watching that on cspan back in 99. Greenspan looked at Sanders as if he was crazy.

Barack Obama has a big opportunity here. Begin by cutting ties with Rubin.

We are all being fleeced here!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Billions for Bailouts! Who Pays?

Bernie has a plan. Has any of this discussion hit the mainstream?

"We must end the danger posed by companies that are "too big too fail," that is, companies whose failure would cause systemic harm to the U.S. economy."

Also, it turns out that the IMF will be evaluating the stability of the US economy. Signaling the true end of Pax Americana?

The Fiat Money System

An important point to keep in mind when sifting through the current news about the $700 billion bailout, according to Griffin, is that the purpose of the Federal Reserve system is to pass the losses of banks to tax payers.

The opportunity for reform is closing as we speak. The popular discourse on this topic has no understanding of how this sleight of hand is occurring.

FYI, I'm not at all convinced by the Ron Paul solution advocated by Griffin, and am unsatisfied by the one in the video. There is no discussion of Depression era solutions because they take the anti-government stance.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

McCain on financial crises: rhetoric versus reality

by Dustin

Despite McCain's calls for getting crooks out of the financial system, and "greater transparency and accountability," his economic policy promotes such systemic corruption and dead-end risk taking. His main influence on economic policy and recent cochair of his Presidential campaign is former Senator Phil Gramm.

Gramm was an author of legislation that repealed the Glass-Steagall Act, originally enacted during the great depression to keep speculative banking (investment and insurance) separate from commercial banking (loans). The repeal of Glass-Steagall is a contributing cause of the sub-prime mortgage crisis and has led to the widespread use of many risky security instruments such as mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations, which have led to the recent meltdown of some of the biggest financial firms in the US.

This issue is not one of a few bad apples in the system as suggested by McCain. That he does not see this as a systemic problem, spawned from legislation he voted for, speaks volumes about his incompetence on the economy. Or it reveals his allegiance to a constituency, big banking companies who want capitalism for profits and socialism for losses. This system cannot become more transparent or accountable in its current form. But instead of meaningful banking reform, McCain is calling for an "investigative commission" and more deregulation of financial markets.

There are parts of the economy of that need regulatory oversight. The regulation of banks, investment houses, and insurance companies and their associated conflicts of interests are critical. The temptation to offer a loan, make money by packaging it to investors as a security, and then make more by offering to insure it against default–all under one roof–will always pose the potential for severe market failure.

What are the consequences? If you are a big banking investment house, this matters very little. The name will be sullied, and shares wiped out, but they are playing with house (taxpayer) money, and can take excessive salaries and dividends in the good times. But in the end it matters for tax payers and the economy more generally because it undermines investments–public and private–in infrastructure and other things in the tangible economy that foster job creation.

Just think, John McCain's plan to privatize social security would entrust these same banks with your future. Do you have faith in their capacity to manage your money?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

California Propositions 7 & 10 are flawed

...posted by Dustin

The flaw is being described as a drafting "error" that excludes the feed-in-tariff for solar generators under 30MW. It is not a drafting error if you are a big utility.

...from the Chronicle.

2 energy propositions flawed, critics say

In eco-conscious California, ballot measures that support alternative energy should be the political equivalent of apple pie - impossible to oppose. But two propositions on the November ballot that would radically change California's energy future have left a sour taste in the mouths of many environmentalists, consumer advocates and utility executives.

For example, part of Proposition 7 appears to say that only renewable projects that generate 30 megawatts or more of electricity will count toward the 50 percent goal, said Ralph Cavanagh, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's energy program. One megawatt is enough to power 750 homes, and many renewable projects fall below 30 megawatts.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Palin, politics, and energy

posted by Dustin

I think this comment below is an important one to read. It puts Palin's background in perspective and we should really try to understand her appeal in the popular imagination.

Thus we have to be very careful about how we talk about Palin among the politically uniformed, or those who cannot reason to their own interests in this election. Yet even then I'm not very confident in voters ability to discern fact from fiction and wonder if respect really is an effective strategy. It is certainly the moral highroad, and obviously the conscionable thing to do, but what slander has done for Rove et al. has led us to a bloody mess we can ill-afford to repeat any longer. Approach this issue with caution, people minds are going to close quickly. Start with reason, correct misconceptions, but be cautious.

Tuesday, September 2nd 2008

A couple of days ago I wrote that Sarah Palin didn’t bring much to the McCain ticket, and I’m frankly horrified that she got her first passport in July 2007 and has made one trip abroad (to Kuwait and Germany, to see Alaskan National Guard troops). But here is a more nuanced and informed view from a geographer in Alaska, Johanna Haas, who contributed this to a discussion of Palin on a geography list-serve. She agreed to let me republish it:

As a country-girl (from West Virginia), a geographer who studies rural
energy production (right now, the Mat-Su Valley of Alaska - where Palin is
from), and a non-Democrat (Green all the way) - I do feel the need to enter
this debate about Sarah Palin and the vice-presidential nomination.

Wasilla, AK is not that small of a town. About an hour north of Anchorage,
it serves as a goods-and-services hub for a fairly large area. It is
growing at an incredible pace and in the middle of rapid changes. Wasilla
sits in the developed band between Anchorage and Fairbanks that serves as
home to the vast majority of Alaskans. Wasilla has the distinction of being
the largest town between the two cities.

It’s not the prettiest place and has more than its fair share of strip malls
- but then most Alaskans love their strip malls and want development at all
costs. In office, Palin encouraged and pushed for this sprawl. In Wasilla,
Palin’s record is that of cutting the budgets of education and arts services
while growing the city’s budget overall. She did expand environmental and
recreational services. Managing this area is a little different task than
that of your average small-town mayor, equating more to the mayor of a
medium-sized city.

I believe that energy is the single most important issue facing Americans
this election. McCain has chosen, in Palin, someone who knows energy
extremely well. (I’m not saying I agree with her positions, just that she
is expert in this area.) Her position on the Alaska Oil and Gas
Conservation Commission was one that involved real work. This commission
oversees many aspects of the state’s only major industry. (Second is
working for the federal government, followed by fishing and tourism). The
Commission hosts a steady docket of hearings and produces a steady line of
reports and other public information.

Palin has a reputation of sticking up for the people of Alaska in matters of
energy development. Most Alaskans strongly believe that more development,
more drilling, etc. are always good. They believe they live in the last
frontier, and it is their duty to extract it, tame it, and bring
civilization (in the form of the fore-mentioned strip malls) to it. Palin
backs this position entirely. That said, she does not always back the oil
companies. She has backed pulling leases out of their hands when they have
failed to develop oilfields in a timely manner. She has increased taxation
on oil companies. And, her support of the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline with $500K
of government grants, is opposition to the Denali Pipeline to be owned and
operated by the oil companies. (I sat in on pipeline hearings - there are
far bigger problems going on here, ones that Palin’s plan ignores.)

Alaskan politics rotate around two themes:
1) Development is good, and
2) The federal government is bad.

Let’s face it - any person who governs AK during times of high oil prices
will be popular. This translates into low taxes and large checks from the
permanent fund, both of which will make people kiss any politician. Palin
managed to make herself even more popular by sending all Alaskans a big
check to help them pay for high oil prices. (Poor, rural Alaskans - read:
Native Alaskans - paid nearly half of their incomes for home heating alone.)

Right now, Alaska is up to its neck in corruption investigations. This is
not new - and corruption in the area dates back to its days as a territory,
no - back to its days as a Russian territory. Palin was elected because she
turned her back on the Republican power structure and ran as a maverick.
She has, in the past, run campaigns against the state party and without
their funding or blessing. (If McCain can use this angle, it contains his
real chance of winning.)

Palin has a reputation for enhancing party divisions. In her local races,
she ran on issues such as abortion and gun rights that really had little
bearing on the local issues in the area. (Face it - gun control will never
fly in Alaska, no way, no how.) Where Palin’s politics are strongest and
most popular in AK are her anti-federalist positions. She, like many
Alaskans, believe in full state sovereignty. This is the most extreme of
the states’ rights positions, and is gaining traction outside of Alaska.

In summary -
I think some people (both in this discussion and out) are writing off Palin
far too quickly and far too easily. What has me so disheartened is the raw
refusal to take the woman seriously - for any number of reasons - many of
which hit home to me in a personal way. You may not like her (I know I
don’t), but you need to respect her. To do any less is to make a serious
strategic error.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Nuclear power and the physicst

Dr. Wilson was part of the core team of scientists at the "planetary emergencies" conference in Sicily last month. The interview was by Andrew Revkin from the dotearth blog at the nyt.

To date the World Federation of Scientists has established the following Permanent Monitoring Panels and Working Groups: