BP Shakedown Street: Is this really our remedy?

March 10, 2011

Is it me? Am I the only clear-thinking “liberal” remaining? Or is it that I now know that I never really was a liberal, and that the BP gulf disaster has just pointed that out in the clearest terms yet.

I heard Republican senator Joe Barton on NPR this morning saying that the president’s demand for $20 billion in escrow amounts to nothing more than a shakedown, a comment for which he was forced to apologize. While I might choose another word, I’m inclined to agree with the good senator. BP has a responsibility to help, but the burden for paying for the cleanup, helping folks recover from the disastrous economic fallout and ensuring that the practices that caused this mess are never repeated fall on us. Me. You. Us. U.S. We allowed it to happen, and we’ve had and have the power to stop it.

$20 billion promised from BP is absurd on moral, legal and practical terms. What exactly did BP do? Or, put another way, what exactly did BP do that every other major corporation hasn’t been doing at least since the end of WWII?

It’s a multinational corporation. By definition and mandate, a multinational corporation moves across the globe, like a feral virus strain, seeking profits where they can gain purchase and where conditions allow the greatest return on investments. To stretch the analogy, a national government’s role it to act as the host nation’s immune system. Governments are expected to establish safeguards and restrictions to either reject potentially dangerous projects or to regulate, inspect and enforce the safeguards that it deems necessary to protect the health of the host. Read the rest of this entry »


Left Behind: AIPAC and the Jewish Response

March 22, 2007

If measured by the number of letters, there has been a lot of buzz around Gary Kamiya’s Salon article about the power (real or perceived) of AIPAC, the “mainstream” Jewish Israel lobby. In case you have not read it, or have no intention to read it, his main points are

    1. AIPAC is one of the most powerful K Street lobbies, rivaling AARP and the NRA.

    2. AIPAC has supported, and by (his) extension has helped to shape some of the most disastrous parts of this and past administration’s Mideast policy.

    3. AIPAC purports to but in fact does not represent the majority and plurality of the Jewish community.

    4. It is primarily up to the Jewish community to speak up about, and at, AIPAC in order to assure skittish legislators and candidates that they are not representative of us, and that we see the harm AIPAC’s lobbying has had.

It is hard to argue 1 or 2, or even 3. All things being equal, it is a well argued and balanced assessment. AIPAC certainly does not represent the Jewish community, and surely AIPAC backs repugnant foreign policies, many of which I would argue hurt Israel.

However, in the hundred-plus letters I scanned on Salon in rebuttal or support of Kamiya’s article, I found very few that hit one major point of contention (number 4) and none on another, perhaps more sensitive and personal topic. I will take them in order.

Is it up to the Jews to challenge AIPAC? Well, yes and no. Read the rest of this entry »

Hurrah for Capitalism? I Don’t Roger That

March 17, 2007

Roger Cohen argues in Hurrah for Capitalism, Its Many Warts and All (International Herald Tribune, March 14), that capitalism is the “worst system except any other that’s been invented.” I have argued this point, but even if we accept his premise, I take issue with the suggestion that capitalism is the “best system ever invented” not because it appeals to our more noble purposes, uplifts our humanity or delivers the greatest good to the most number of people. His supposition, as I comprehend it, is that capitalism is the best of all economic systems for precisely the opposite reasons: That it allows our most predatory, greedy and anti-social instincts to be rewarded often, as you point out clearly in your essay, on the smoldering ruins of tragedy and misfortune. Roger says, I think, that in order to have the selflessness of the good, we must allow for the depravity of the bad. Read the rest of this entry »

“An unprecedented breach of trust:” Of all the justice departments in all the world….

March 13, 2007

I wrote in an earlier post that naïveté was an unlikely excuse for any serving senator, least of all for long-serving, high-ranking members such as Clinton and Dodd. But as I’m preparing to put the image of the doe-eyed senator to rest, some Rudolph keeps raising his head for another stare down at the White House.

In reaction to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ deflecting confession that he “accepts that mistakes were made,” in the firing and replacement scandal of US attorneys, none other than Charles Schumer, the long-standing senior senator from New York, was quoted by the NYtimes.com as saying that this “…prove[s] beyond any reasonable doubt that there has been unprecedented breach of trust, abuse of power and misuse of the Justice Department.” Read the rest of this entry »

On Memory, The Boss, and The Underground

March 3, 2007

When I was a child, I lived in London with my family. I was 5. My parents, with all the best intentions, decided to send me to a public (which in the UK, of course, means private—very confusing) kindergarten. Oh wait, that is a topic for another time…

Let me take a step back, for this is a post about getting reacquainted with a long lost (but never forgotten) artifact. In this case, Bruce Springsteen’s seminal Born to Run.

But I really did want to start in the London of my fifth year. Almost daily, I rode the Tube with one of my parents on the way to pick up my brother or sister, to the market, to-and-from all the ordinary things of a child’s tag-along life. Read the rest of this entry »

Apologies miss the point

March 2, 2007

Stanley Fish, always a thoughtful, and almost always worth the read for any topic he cares to comment on, misses the point in his New York Times Blog post of February 25.

He states,

“[Clinton] is admitting to putting her faith in the wrong person (she has said, “I take responsibility for that vote”), but refusing to accept the blame for what he subsequently did, that is, refusing to take the blame for the war.

“This distinction between delegating authority to someone and holding oneself accountable for the actions he then performs might seem too fine and casuistical for Senator Clinton’s critics, but it is one I recognize from my own experience.”

This entirely misses the point. I don’t care if any of these senators have the stomach to apologize or not. John Edwards apologized (sort or, with a “if I knew then” chaser on it) and Hillary didn’t. Kerry is still deciding, I suppose.

They all either made a huge misjudgment on the facts, intentions and character of the Bush administration (less likely), or else a miscalculation on what the political effects of a “nay” vote would be in 2004, ’06 and ’08 (more likely).

Either way, they failed us. And frankly, an apology now does nothing to change my opinion—no one that cast a vote in favor of JR 114 will get my support.

See my earilier post for a more complete discussion of this.

Why I’m a Democratic Socialist, Part 5

February 28, 2007

What does democratic socialism mean?

Democratic socialism means that the basic services of the public sector economy—those things on which we all heavily rely in order to pursue our personal happiness, whatever it may be—are owned publicly. Why should modern necessities such as electricity, oil and other energy resources, water, sewer, roads and ports, enrich the few at the expense of the many? How has private ownership of health providers and medical services, telephone and broadband services and public transportation aided the common good? How is the common good served when gas hovers around $3/gallon while oil companies reap record profits? Read the rest of this entry »