Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘politics’

If the Truth Be Told

The Story That Had No Beginning by Daniel Kemp.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51eGvdQIgBLTom Collins, and his sister Alice (Alicia), are twins who were separated into foster homes when they were 8 years of age. As adults, they’ve taken different paths. Tom becomes a thug, in and out of prison, and Alicia is a famous photographer, care of the graces of her mentor and mother figure (Mary O’Donnell). The Story That Had No Beginning, takes a close look at these siblings as adults, and explores their lives together with friends, co-workers, and acquaintances, and the inter-connections that take place. What appears to be straight-forward, and obvious, may or may not be so.

Mr. Kemp has written a superb crime story, with the actions, thoughts, feelings, and consequences of the main characters being told by way of deceased Tom Collins, who can see into the past. Tom says, “All I can do is recount the story as it is shown to me without any interpretation, but bear this in mind as you continue to read. As I have been granted this ability to see the mistakes made in lives other than my own, are similar people such as I reading your thoughts and your hidden secrets as you indulge yourself with me? If so, then the skeletons in your past are being interrogated as I hold your attention.”

That is the rub, really. What is the truth? Who’s truth is it? Is what we think we know, what actually is? These questions are discussed in the beginning dinner party (that is not really the beginning), which includes Alicia, Giles Milton (Queen’s counsel – lawyer), Susan Rawlinson (national newspaper editor and novelist), and Rupert Barrett (owner of Bear Cave nightclubs). Tom returns to observe this dinner-party in the non-conclusion conclusion of the storyand learns about secrets, collusion, alternative facts, and circumstances that were not apparent at the time they occurred.

The Story That Had No Beginning is an intriguing, thoughtful, and intricate observation of how to write a good murder mystery. It is unique, complicated, and takes readers’ around the block for an insider’s eye view of cut-throat business, politics, sex, media, and the law. Everyone is suspect, and none are innocent. Like the best of a good soap opera, almost anything can, and does, happen to Tom and Alicia. There is order and insight behind the writing and the characters. I would think that this story would be easily adaptable as a four-part series for Masterpiece Mystery on BBC or PBS.

Kill Them & Save Them

Permanent Change of Station: Vietnam by Christopher Rector.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

51PIZO485lLPermanent Change of Station: Vietnam is a well-informed blend of fiction, autobiography, and memoir. It gets under your skin, takes you back to the war, and brings to mind a number of scenes from films and other books about America’s political deception and the soldiers and families who paid the price for it. Some of the characters, such as General Abrams, are historical, and the rest appear to be fictional, though act and sound as if they are the real thing. The author is a retired army veteran and his knowledge and experience bleed throughout the pages. There is little preamble, as we follow a new arrival meeting his superiors at the 240th Intelligence Detachment based at the U.S installation of Long Binh.

Everyone in this story has their story, and personal view of how they got to Vietnam, what they believe, and/or what they are fighting for. Lieutenant Colonel Robert “Bull” Basham sees everything as fleeting, and lives for the momentary pleasure and profit. “Bull knew there was no permanence to any of this – the hotel, Lien (his mistress), or the war.” The primary protagonist, Adam Nussbaum, is an idealist from Manhattan, who works as an interrogator, and ends up in the field with First Lieutenant Mike Dempsey, and “Big” Ben Tenata SFC (Sergeant First Class). They end up developing a bond that only those who have fought and died together understand.

From beginning to end, readers can feel Mike’s perspectives, and feelings, evolve. His understanding, and respect, for his comrades (Peter Savory, Katie, Mike, and Major Tanaka) deepens, as his disgust and distrust of others grows. The men and women who are thrown in together in this mess of a war all have lengthy discussions about it – the Viet Cong (NVA), the South Vietnamese Army (AVRN), and the politics and demonstrations taking place in The States. The dialogue is congruent with each individual, and gives readers’ a lot of background about what was taking place at that time (in Vietnam and The States).

Aspects of this story remind me of the biography I wrote about a young Jewish doctor from Brooklyn, stationed at Udorn Air Force Base in Thailand during the war (Dr. Leff – Stepping Into The Fire), who begins to hear stories from CIA pilots about bombing villages in Cambodia and Laos. His patriotism is challenged when he fights to make this knowledge public. Permanent Change of Station: Vietnam is better written than my biography about Dr. Leff, and describes the futility and loss experienced by so many. Nurse Katie captures the essence of the war when she responds to something Adam says. “And you remember Adam we’re here in Vietnam because we’re trying to kill them, and save them from something I can’t even remember what.”

375 Million in Daily Profits!

From Nation of Change and Think Progress.

What Five Oil Companies did With Their $375 Million in Daily Profits
by Rebecca Leber
25 July 2012

The Big Five oil companies – BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell – are slated to announce their 2012 second-quarter profits later this week.

We can expect these companies, all of which rank in the top 10 of the “Fortune 500 Global Ranking,” to reveal billions of dollars more in profits, after earning $375 million in profits per day in 2011 ($261,000 per minute), and $368 million per day in the first three-months of 2012 — bringing their combined profits to $1 trillion from 2001 through 2011.

Below is a quick look at just how much these Big Oil companies are making, and where they are spending their billions in profits.

Big Oil’s Big Profits, In 24 Hours

The five biggest oil companies earned a combined profit of $375 million per day, or a record $137 billion profit for the year, in 2011, despite reducing their oil production.

In 60 seconds, these five companies earned $261,000 — more than 96 percent of American households make in one year.

These five oil companies received $6.6 million in federal tax breaks every day.

In 2011, the three largest domestic public oil companies spent $100 million of their profits each day, or over 50 percent, buying back their own stock to enrich their board, senior managers, and largest share holders.

The entire oil and gas industry spent on average $400,000 each day lobbying senators and representatives to weaken public health safeguards and keep big oil tax breaks, totaling nearly $150 million.

Each CEO of the Big Five companies received an average of $60,110 in compensation per day last year. On average, their pay jumped 55 percent in 2011. Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s compensation came close to $100,000 per day last year.

Millions in Political Contributions and Lobbying

Despite ranking as some of the most successful companies in the world, big oil and gas companies continue to receive $4 billion in tax breaks each year.

The oil and gas industry has already given over $30.5 million in federal campaign contributions this year, with a whopping 88 percent going to Republicans.

Big Oil has spent an additional $37 million on lobbying Congress this year, with the top spenders being Exxon, Shell, Chevron, Koch Industries and BP.

Their efforts are paying off. This is the most anti-environment Congress in history, with the House of Representatives averaging one anti-environment vote per day, or a total 247 votes through mid-June. The biggest beneficiary of these votes has been Big Oil. The House voted to enrich the oil and gas industry 109 times, a total 44 percent of its anti-environment votes.

The House is on track to collect a record amount of oil industry contributions this cycle, having already reached 2008 and 2010 levels. And these are direct donations only — it does not include Super PAC spending or other campaign assistance.

Outside Interests and Big Oil Allies Spending Tens of Millions More to Influence the Energy Debate

Fueled by Koch Industries and other Big Oil interests, the industry is spending hundreds of millions to fund false ads in this year’s elections. According to the Annenberg Public Policy Center, 85 percent of the dollars have funded false ad, during a season where most advertising have focused on energy.

Pro-Romney outside interest groups spent $24.6 million on energy ads through June 24, according to Kantar Media CMAG data. This is more than ten-times the amount spent by pro-Obama groups, which spent $2.3 million on energy spots.

Read entire story at Nation of Change.

Overturn Citizens United

Dear Gabriel,

I have some exciting news for those of us who want to overturn the horrible Citizens United vs. FEC Supreme Court decision, which opened the floodgates for unlimited amounts of corporate money to flow into our political system.

The California state Assembly just voted to pass AJR 22, a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and send it to the states for ratification.

AJR 22 now goes to the state Senate. If it passes there, California will be among the first states to officially call on Congress to amend the Constitution to undo Citizens United.

Tell your state senator, Joe Simitian: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We deserve a government of, for and by the people — not one where our elected officials are bought and paid for by big corporations.

Sadly, we might need to work really hard to get unlimited corporate money out of politics and re-establish the common sense and democratic view that only people are people, not corporations.

But with 85% of the public opposed to the Citizens United decision, there is a potential for a broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who all want to restore our democracy.

Your state senator, Joe Simitian, needs to hear from you, regardless of where he/she stands on this issue.

It won’t be easy to pass a constitutional amendment.

We need to show all the state senators that their constituents are part of a broad movement demanding action — not only to convince them that overturning Citizens United is the right thing to do, but also that it’s possible.

Today, take a step to be part of that movement.

Tell your state senator: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click here to automatically sign the petition.

We can’t allow there to be inaction on this issue. It’s no exaggeration to say that the Citizens United decision fundamentally threatens the integrity of our democracy.

Even before the Citizens United decision, we too often saw the interests of Main Street subverted in favor of the interests of Wall Street.

But with the Citizens United decision now the law of the land, large corporations have the power to spend unlimited amounts of money from their general treasuries to buy elections.

What’s more, Citizen United opened loopholes that allow corporations to hide their campaign expenditures by laundering the money through non-profit advocacy organizations.

And because Congress cannot pass a law that supersedes a Supreme Court ruling, it may take a constitutional amendment to undo the worst aspects of the Citizens United decision and end corporate personhood.

Fortunately, momentum is on our side right now in California. Speak out now to keep it going.

Tell your state senator: Support a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:

http://act.credoaction.com/r/?r=5542120&id=37135-266627-8wgdXWx&t=10

Thank you for speaking out.

Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Energy, Gas & Reality

From Nation of Change

The Energy Deficit
by Michael Spence

I have been surprised by the recent coverage in the American press of gasoline prices and politics. Political pundits agree that presidential approval ratings are highly correlated with gas prices: when prices go up, a president’s poll ratings go down. But, in view of America’s long history of neglect of energy security and resilience, the notion that Barack Obama’s administration is responsible for rising gas prices makes little sense.

Four decades have passed since the oil-price shocks of the 1970’s. We learned a lot from that experience. The short-run impact – as always occurs when oil prices rise quickly – was to reduce growth by reducing consumption of other goods, because oil consumption does not adjust as quickly as that of other goods and services.

But, given time, people can and do respond by lowering their consumption of oil. They buy more fuel-efficient cars and appliances, insulate their homes, and sometimes even use public transportation. The longer-run impact is thus different and much less negative. The more energy-efficient one is, the lower one’s vulnerability to price volatility.

“Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Michael Spence, click here.”

On the supply side, there is a similar difference between short-term and longer-run effects. In the short term, supply may be able to respond to the extent that there is reserve capacity (there isn’t much now). But the much larger, longer-run effect comes from increased oil exploration and extraction, owing to the incentive of higher prices.

All of this takes time, but, as it occurs, it mitigates the negative impact: the demand and supply curves shift in response to higher prices (or to anticipation of higher prices).

In terms of policy, there was a promising effort in the late 1970’s. Fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles were legislated, and car producers implemented them. In a more fragmented fashion, states established incentives for energy efficiency in residential and commercial buildings.

But then oil and gas prices (adjusted for inflation) entered a multi-decade period of decline. Policies targeting energy efficiency and security largely lapsed. Two generations came to think of declining oil prices as normal, which accounts for the current sense of entitlement, the outrage at rising prices, and the search for villains: politicians, oil-producing countries, and oil companies are all targets of scorn in public-opinion surveys.

A substantial failure of education about non-renewable natural resources lies in the background of current public sentiment. And now, having underinvested in energy efficiency and security when the costs of doing so were lower, America is poorly positioned to face the prospect of rising real prices. Energy policy has been “pro-cyclical” – the opposite of saving for a rainy day. Given the upward pressure on prices implied by rising emerging-market demand and the global economy’s rapid increase in size, that day has arrived.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

Vaclav Havel and Politics

From Nation of Change and Project Syndicate
19 December 2011
Essay by Vaclav Havel

The Intellectual and Politics

Václav Havel, who died on December 18, was that rare intellectual who, rather than forcing his way into politics, had politics forced upon him. In 1998, while serving as President of the Czech Republic, he offered the following reflection on the benefits and dangers of his career path.

Does an intellectual – by virtue of his efforts to get beneath the surface of things, to grasp relations, causes, and effects, to recognize individual items as part of larger entities, and thus to derive a deeper awareness of and responsibility for the world – belong in politics?

Put that way, an impression is created that I consider it every intellectual’s duty to engage in politics. But that is nonsense. Politics also involves a number of special requirements that are relevant only to it. Some people meet these requirements; others don’t, regardless of whether they are intellectuals.

It is my profound conviction that the world requires – today more than ever – enlightened, thoughtful politicians who are bold and broad-minded enough to consider things that lie beyond the scope of their immediate influence in both space and time. We need politicians willing and able to rise above their own power interests, or the particular interests of their parties or states, and act in accordance with the fundamental interests of humanity today – that is, to behave the way everyone should behave, even though most may fail to do so.

Never before has politics been so dependent on the moment, on the fleeting moods of the public or the media. Never before have politicians been so impelled to pursue the short-lived and short-sighted. It often seems to me that the life of many politicians proceeds from the evening news on television one night, to the public-opinion poll the next morning, to their image on television the following evening. I am not sure whether the current era of mass media encourages the emergence and growth of politicians of the stature of, say, a Winston Churchill; I rather doubt it, though there can always be exceptions.

To sum up: the less our time favors politicians who engage in long-term thinking, the more such politicians are needed, and thus the more intellectuals – at least those meeting my definition – should be welcomed in politics. Such support could come from, among others, those who – for whatever reason – never enter politics themselves, but who agree with such politicians, or at least share the ethos underlying their actions.

I hear objections: politicians must be elected; people vote for those who think the way they do. If someone wants to make progress in politics, he must pay attention to the general condition of the human mind; he must respect the so-called “ordinary” voter’s point of view. A politician must, like it or not, be a mirror. He dare not be a herald of unpopular truths, acknowledgement of which, though perhaps in humanity’s interest, is not regarded by most of the electorate as being in its immediate interest, or may even be regarded as antagonistic to those interests.

I am convinced that the purpose of politics does not consist in fulfilling short-term wishes. A politician should also seek to win people over to his own ideas, even when unpopular. Politics must entail convincing voters that the politician recognizes or comprehends some things better than they do, and that it is for this reason that they should vote for him. People can thus delegate to a politician certain issues that – for a variety of reasons – they do not sense themselves, or do not want to worry about, but which someone has to address on their behalf.

Read entire article at Nation of Change.

Progressive Legislators

From Nation of Change
Published 29 November, 2011
Interview with Robert Jensen

Occupy Congress: Norman Solomon Sees A Role For Progressive Legislators

Conventional politics in the United States focuses on elections, while left activists typically argue that political change comes not from electing better politicians but building movements strong enough to force politicians to accept progressive change.

Norman Solomon has concluded it isn’t either/or. A prominent writer and leader in left movements for decades, Solomon is running for Congress in the hopes of being practical and remaining principled.

“Since I first went to a protest at age 14 in 1966 — a picket line to desegregate an apartment complex — my outlook on electoral politics has gone through a lot of changes,” Solomon said. “First I thought politics was largely about elections, later I thought politics had very little to do with elections, and now I believe that elections are an important part of the mix.”

Solomon argues that when the left has treated elections as irrelevant, the result has been self-marginalization that helps empower the military-industrial complex.

“The view that genuine progressives should leave the electoral field to corporate Democrats and right-wing Republicans no longer makes sense to me. I used to say that having a strong progressive movement was much more important than who was in office, but now I’d say that what we really need is a strong progressive movement AND much better people in office,” he said. “Having John Conyers, Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern, Raul Grijalva, Lynn Woolsey in Congress is important. We need more of those sorts of legislators as part of the political landscape.”

The 60-year-old Solomon had been considering such a strategy, and when Woolsey announced she was not running for re-election in her northern California district, he entered the race with the goal of staying true to his left political views, and winning.

“I’m skeptical about election campaigns that abandon principles, but I’m also skeptical about campaigns that have no hope of winning and that are only for protest or public education,” he said. “There are more effective ways to protest and to educate.”

Solomon said that if elected he would strive to change the relationship between social movements and members of Congress.

“Progressive movements and leaders in Congress should be working in tandem,” he said. “I want to strengthen the Congressional Progressive Caucus and help make it more of a force to be reckoned with.”

Solomon said that a re-invigorated Progressive Caucus could be more effective in fighting for the human right of quality healthcare for all; ending the perpetual war of the warfare state, what Martin Luther King Jr. called “the madness of militarism”; pushing back against the power of Wall Street; replacing corporate power with people power.

Solomon is most widely known for his media criticism and activism, through his “Media Beat” weekly column that was nationally syndicated and his work with Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. In 1997 he founded the Institute for Public Accuracy, a national consortium of policy researchers and analysts for which he served as executive director for 13 years.

Solomon became more visible in mainstream media through his trip to Iraq with actor Sean Penn on the eve of the U.S. invasion, part of anti-war efforts to prevent that coming catastrophe. Solomon’s 2005 book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death, and a companion film drew on his media and political expertise to analyze the war machine. (Full disclosure: I found the book and film so compelling that I brought Solomon to my campus to speak.)

Polls indicate that Solomon is competitive in a Democratic primary that includes a state assemblyman, a county supervisor, and two business people. Penn is supporting Solomon’s campaign, which has also received endorsement from U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers. Fundraising is always a struggle, especially since he committed to “corporate-free fundraising.”

“By raising more than $250,000 from more than 2,000 different people, we’ve shown that we can raise the needed funds without a single dollar from corporate PACs,” Solomon said. “But we need to raise a lot more, and the month of December will be crucial — end-of-year totals will be seen by many as a self-fulfilling gauge of our capacity to gain enough support to win.”

Solomon believes that citizen frustration with concentrated wealth, and the political dominance that big money buys, is opening up new possibilities for progressive candidates.

Read Complete Article at Nation of Change

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