Saturday, February 09, 2008

His Imperial Flatulence

Attention, Senator John McCain:

Why do you want to be President of the United States?  You would be 72 years old?!  That, and from my vantage, your candidacy represents a third term in the tragically failed Bush presidency consisting of: preemptive war, corrupt, perpetual economic hegemony and elitism -- in the form of tax cuts -- for Americans least in need of more.

You are an American War Hero.  But Vietnam and Iraq have proven that selective war is the wrong tool to implement government policy.  And worse, war in general manifests latent evil and corruption in society and government alike.  Thus, Mr. McCain, while I acknowledge that you suffered greatly for this nation in captivity -- that suffering has apparently galvanized you with a jingoistic patriotism capable of exporting torture, blithely accepting atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan, and perverting the U.S. Constitution, under which I too served in uniform, into a kind of supply-side, Soviet-style, State-sanctioned plan, complete with perpetual, undemocratic minority rule, Gulags, prisons, torture, surveillance and secret police.

As you contort humanistic impulses like immigration reform to engender the support of the Republican party's Fascist base, you erroneously distill two centuries of American achievement into three awful tenets: War, Empire and Status Quo.  And although wrong-headed idealism is obviously not your invention, in America, on the Far Right, it has been elevated to religion, commingling, distorting and displacing the innate human values and dignity inherent in the Christian gospel.  Such is the base to which you pander to win an election.

And if you win, then yours will be a government of the old and the rich, by the old and the rich, for the old and the rich.  100 years.  1000 years.  1000000 years.  I hope that long before your insane occupation timetables expire, that your flatulent, flaccid, chicken-hawk, wrong war, wrong time, simply wrong delusions of an American Empire, sustained by blood sacrifice, will be long extinct.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

She's Broke!

Clinton loans $5 million to her own campaign.  Could be the beginning of a Romney-style implosion...

Smart money's on Obama!

Wall Street Goes Green?!

Wall Street as climate steward?!  WTF?! 

Obviously the little people's newfound obsession with climate change has the investor class scrambling to catch up. 

Contrast this news (below) and last week’s State of the Union with Bush’s rejection of the Kyoto (cap-and-trade) Accord beginning his first term. 

Suddenly Green is the new Black!

Could the world actually get better?

Should I cancel my plan to purchase a Gloc and a concealed weapon permit ($50 and a copy of my DD214 and I’m legal in MT)? 

It's early, so I remain unconvinced, but hopeful...

 

NEW YORK, Feb 04, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Three of the world's leading financial institutions today announced the formation of The Carbon Principles, climate change guidelines for advisors and lenders to power companies in the United States. These Principles are the result of a nine-month intensive effort to create an approach to evaluating and addressing carbon risks in the financing of electric power projects. The need for these Principles is driven by the risks faced by the power industry as utilities, independent producers, regulators, lenders and investors deal with the uncertainties around regional and national climate change policy.

The Principles were developed in partnership by Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley, and in consultation with leading power companies American Electric Power, CMS Energy, DTE Energy, NRG Energy, PSEG, Sempra and Southern Company. Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council, environmental non-governmental organizations, also advised on the creation of the Principles.

This effort is the first time a group of banks has come together and consulted with power companies and environmental groups to develop a process for understanding carbon risk around power sector investments needed to meet future economic growth and the needs of consumers for reliable and affordable energy. The consortium has developed an Enhanced Diligence framework to help lenders better understand and evaluate the potential carbon risks associated with coal plant investments.

The Principles recognize the benefits of a portfolio approach to meeting the power needs of consumers, without prescribing how power companies should act to meet these needs. However, if high carbon dioxide-emitting technologies are selected by power companies, the signatory banks have agreed to follow the Enhanced Diligence process and factor these risks and potential mitigants into the final financing decision.

"There was full and frank dialogue around the table," said Matt Arnold, director of Sustainable Finance, which helped coordinate the development of the Principles and Enhanced Diligence process. "There was a remarkable amount of debate and exchange of information and views among the banks, power companies and environmental organizations. The dialogue resulted in a rigorous analysis of the carbon risks in power investments, and sets the stage for further discussion."

Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley have pledged their commitment to the Principles to use as a framework when talking about these issues with clients. This effort creates a consistent approach among major lenders and advisors in evaluating climate change risks and opportunities in the US electric power industry. The Principles and associated Enhanced Diligence represent a first step in a process aimed at providing banks and their power industry clients with a consistent roadmap for reducing the regulatory and financial risks associated with greenhouse gas emissions.

The Principles are:

Energy efficiency. An effective way to limit CO2 emissions is to not produce them. The signatory financial institutions will encourage clients to invest in cost-effective demand reduction, taking into consideration the value of avoided CO2 emissions. We will also encourage regulatory and legislative changes that increase efficiency in electricity consumption including the removal of barriers to investment in cost-effective demand reduction. The institutions will consider demand reduction caused by increased energy efficiency (or other means) as part of the Enhanced Diligence Process and assess its impact on proposed financings of certain new fossil fuel generation.

Renewable and low carbon distributed energy technologies. Renewable energy and low carbon distributed energy technologies hold considerable promise for meeting the electricity needs of the US while also leveraging American technology and creating jobs. We will encourage clients to invest in cost-effective renewables and distributed technologies, taking into consideration the value of avoided CO2 emissions. We will also encourage legislative and regulatory changes that remove barriers to, and promote such investments (including related investments in infrastructure and equipment needed to support the connection of renewable sources to the system). We will consider production increases from renewable and low carbon generation as part of the Enhanced Diligence process and assess their impact on proposed financings of certain new fossil fuel generation.

Conventional and advanced generation. In addition to cost effective energy efficiency, renewables and low carbon distributed generation, investments in conventional or advanced generating facilities will be needed to supply reliable electric power to the US market. This may include power from natural gas, coal and nuclear technologies. Due to evolving climate policy, investing in CO2-emitting fossil fuel generation entails uncertain financial, regulatory and certain environmental liability risks. It is the purpose of the Enhanced Diligence process to assess and reflect these risks in the financing considerations for certain fossil fuel generation. We will encourage regulatory and legislative changes that facilitate carbon capture and storage (CCS) to further reduce CO2 emissions from the electric sector.

"Leading utilities and financial institutions understand that the rules of the road have changed for coal," said Mark Brownstein, managing director of business partnerships for Environmental Defense, one of the NGOs that advised with the banks in creating the Principles. "These principles are a first step in facilitating an honest assessment of electric generation options in light of the obvious and pressing need to substantially reduce national greenhouse gas pollution."

Dale Bryk, senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council added, "Expectations are rising fast for this industry. Global warming is changing the competitive landscape. Clean power is the name of the game today. Conventional coal facilities are already facing intensive scrutiny. We think the serious money is increasingly going to be on clean, efficient solutions." Power Industry Comments on The Carbon Principles

American Electric Power (AEP), Columbus, OH:

"A rational set of carbon principles to help guide energy investment strategy is vital to our nation's energy and economic future," said Michael G. Morris, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of American Electric Power. "Recognizing that energy efficiency, renewables, cleaner fossil technologies and other diverse solutions all have significant roles in addressing climate challenges while maintaining economic and energy security establishes a framework for making the best decisions regarding our nation's energy future."

CMS Energy, Jackson, MI

"The electric companies that serve America's families and businesses every day understand the need for a balanced approach to meet our country's energy needs. At CMS Energy, our objective is to provide reliable and affordable power to our customers through a prudent, environmentally responsible mix of conventional and advanced technologies that includes renewable energy and to work with customers to help them use energy efficiently. By adopting these principles, Wall Street is making an important and creative contribution to the ongoing effort to address climate change and a contribution that will be welcomed by those in the utility sector with similar concerns about the environment."

DTE Energy, Detroit, MI:

"DTE Energy is proud of its history of environmental stewardship and thus we applaud the Carbon Principles approach by leading banks recognizing that a broad range of energy solutions must be considered to address the climate change issue," said Anthony F. Earley Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DTE Energy.

NRG Energy, Princeton, NJ:

"To move the needle on global warming, clean energy technologies need to be developed, demonstrated and deployed as quickly as possible," said David Crane, President and Chief Executive Officer of NRG Energy Inc. "Given the capital intensive nature of this challenge, we welcome these carbon principles as a sign that America's leading financial institutions are ready to support a massive increase of investment in clean energy solutions. With the support of both Wall Street and public policymakers in Washington, the American power industry can lead the way in achieving the dramatic GHG reductions that are critical to the health of both our economy and our planet."

Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), Newark, NJ:

"The Carbon Principles encourage all stakeholders to recognize that energy efficiency, renewables and new low-carbon power sources are all indispensable to meeting the nation's future energy needs while addressing climate change as one of the foremost policy and environmental issues of our time," said Ralph Izzo, Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of PSEG. "PSEG is actively pursuing this overall goal, while recognizing that our efforts must result in a reasonable cost to consumers. We hope that the Principles will contribute to the national consensus that must be reached to deal effectively with these critical issues."

Sempra Energy, San Diego, CA:

"With its mix of energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean conventional generation, the Carbon Principles echo our view that to meet future US energy needs, a balanced portfolio approach must use energy efficiency, renewable energy, and natural gas."

Southern Company, Atlanta, GA:

"Southern Company, along with our regulators and other stakeholders, has and will continue to undertake extensive evaluation of all generation resources including nuclear, coal, natural gas, renewables and energy efficiency, to maintain the balanced portfolio necessary to reliably meet our customers' growing electricity needs. We regard bank due diligence as a normal part of our business and we applaud the banks for seeking input from the electricity industry as they developed the Carbon Principles."

About Citi:

Citi, the leading global financial services company, has some 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 100 countries, providing consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, and wealth management. Citi's major brand names include Citibank, CitiFinancial, Primerica, Smith Barney, Banamex, and Nikko. Additional information may be found at www.citigroup.com or www.citi.com.

About JPMorgan Chase:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM, Trade) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $1.6 trillion and operations in more than 50 countries. The firm is a leader in investment banking, financial services for consumers, small business and commercial banking, financial transaction processing, asset management, and private equity. A component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, JPMorgan Chase serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients under its JPMorgan and Chase brands. Information about the firm is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.

About Morgan Stanley:

Morgan Stanley is a leading global financial services firm providing a wide range of investment banking, securities, investment management and wealth management services. The Firm's employees serve clients worldwide including corporations, governments, institutions and individuals from more than 600 offices in 33 countries. For further information about Morgan Stanley, please visit www.morganstanley.com.

About Sustainable Finance

Sustainable Finance Limited, established in 2003, provides a range of products and services to assist financial institutions in minimizing the risks and maximizing the rapidly evolving opportunities associated with sustainability. Sustainable Finance consults with leading global financial institutions in debt and equity markets, and in developed and emerging economies. It services four areas: Strategy and Policy Development, Capacity-Building and Training, Management Systems, Transaction Review and Value Creation.

SOURCE: Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley

Friday, February 01, 2008

On Alan Greenspan...

From a reader...

Question

Another note, have you read Alan Greenspans book?  I am currently listening to it… [it's] actually quite good.  Gives a great perspective to the economy as a whole.  Didn't realize he was so connected and had parts and insights from Kennedy on[ward]… I am only 1/4 way through but I am impressed.

Answer

For your information, Alan Greenspan is an Ayn Rand (“Atlast Shrugged”) disciple – and again I am just not a supporter of Rand's kind of selfish, unbridled capitalism. 

But then it turns out that Greenspan isn’t really a devotee of unregulated capitalism either, when it comes down to it, based on his repeated, rate-cutting bailouts of the stock market – which harmed small investors and market timers (like me) by creating a floor against market losses – in effect using my government's banking system to eliminate risk for the wealthy, investor class he represents.

Arguably, Greenspan is perhaps not as rabidly heartless and insane economically as Milton Friedman, but I do see him in a similar light. 

And though I’ve read and been told that Greenspan's book is critical of Bush, sub-prime, derivatives, etc... Why didn't he fight those evils and instead did essentially Wall Street's bidding as Fed Chairman?  The best joke I’ve heard regarding Greenspan’s book comes from Bill Marr, “Gee, it’s too bad this guy was never in a position to do something about this stuff…”  Well, tee, hee, hee.  The joke was on us.  He was.  He didn’t.  So too was Paul Volker.  But he did.

So that’s my take on Alan Greenspan.  He’s like Ted Bundy, espousing the “gospel” and “salvation” – not when it would have been hard to live up to (and saved the lives of the girls Bundy butchered) but rather -- exactly when it did him the most good – at the end – when there were best selling books to write and $100K speaking engagements to schedule.

Rand was a sick, greedy, shameless and amoral opportunist – and so is Alan Greenspan.

In Defense of the 100% Solution

In response to a question from a reader, I elaborate herein on a prior statement (see Workers' Bill of Rights) that "inheritance is un-democratic."

Question

So what would you do with your Inheritance is Un-Democratic scenario…  Is Life Insurance part of inheritance?  If so, say my wife and I get run over tomorrow….  So do you just took my kids means of survival away?  Does my designated guardian now have to use his own funds to feed, school them?

Answer

I haven’t worked everything out yet.  And Barak, Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, etc. haven't exactly pressed for details.

But basically, in the premature parental death case, I don’t see that necessarily as an inheritance issue – I see that as child support in advent of parent(s)’ death – depending on the amount at stake I suppose.

Also, I don’t know if you know this but in that hypothetical case, your children receive your (or your wife’s) social security benefits until age 18 or age 22 (maybe it's 24 or 25) if attending university.

But the reality is that my 100% inheritance tax premise is designed to target just one class of inheritance – the kind that allows an imbecile like Shrub to become President of the United States – when I don't see him elected dog catcher -- if his daddy isn't George Herbert Walker Bush or his granddaddy isn't Prescott Bush!

Note that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are doing the right thing in my view – both for their chidren and society at large (not just the U.S.).  And I think that kind of (foundation, donation, public trust, etc.) handling of vast wealth should simply be codified – i.e. made law - it's as simple as that. 

In my world view, Sam Wall’s kids don’t deserve his money – except perhaps what they made on their own building up the Wal Mart empire.  But then imagine the advantages they started with?  I mean, who screws that pooch – no one. 

And Johnson and Johnson (J&J), for example, was once apparently a family business too – and old man Johnson was smart enough to prevent his kids (and their kids) from getting into – by that time he’d found people 10x smarter than he to run it.  Why risk having his heirs in there?

So as I said, I just think we need to get rid of irrevocable title – i.e. implement a new, Capitalistic, moral equivalent of the Magna Carta to eliminate the unfair advantage of family wealth as irrevocable title.  It seems only fair.  Irrevocable title is not Democratic.  And I was taught to believe my country is a Democracy.  But today I find that my Constitutional right to petition my government has been put up for auction.  And I can’t afford the price.  So I guess that means, by Shrub calculus, that I deserve to be a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th class citizen.   And Shrub deserves to be President -- Reagan/Bush-onomics at its best!

Another issue that critics of 100% inheritance tax often raise involves family land holdings (e.g. ranches and family farms).  To these heirs, I ask -- did you settle the land?  Did you defend it from floods, fires and crooks.  If not, then I don’t see what you did to deserve inheriting it?  I could see room for exceptions – e.g. if you hold the land for subsequent generations -- as a cultural and environmental trust as most ranchers do -- then I could see continued familial transfer.  But if you try and profit from the efforts of your progenitors -- e.g. by selling off the land to developers -- then the profit is not yours to keep and should be either destroyed (deflationary) or put toward the benefit of the larger society.

Transfer of wealth and property is simply un-democratic and this inequity has created too much societal inequity while solving no societal problems.

So… go ahead and have your Capitalism – out-smart, out-work, get lucky, risk your soul for your ambition, etc.   That's fine.  I have yet to find another system superior to laissez faire Capitalism that can foster innovation – certainly not top-down Communism or Socialism.

But look around, obviously Capitalism has its flaws too -- and irrevocable title is arguably the greatest I have seen and experienced as a U.S. citizen. 

In case you don't know, my idea is actually based on a concept introduced, as I understand, by the poet Ezra Pound.  He espoused a concept he termed “expiring capital.”

Thus my idea is not new.  I have simply extended the period of capital expiration until death – but not beyond -- to heirs.

It's a great idea if you consider it objectively.  It helps to fix so many problems (government/infrastructure funding, probate, inflation) while it promotes fairness -- all men created equal...

Obviously no system is perfect, but expiring capital is a better idea than inheritance leading to a Capitalist form of irrevocable title.  Greed may be good – but it needs to be regulated like every other potentially damaging behavior in a complex and interrelated society.  After all, perhaps I'd like to have sex with 11 year old girls (OK, it’s an extreme, hypothetical example – but demonstrates my point) -- but oh, wait, there are laws designed to prevent that sort of behavior – because preventing adults from having sex with children leads to a more moral and less exploitive society. 

So, finally, it’s time to view the direct transfer of millions and billions of dollars from parents to children – i.e. irrevocable economic title - to the exclusion, exploitation and net detriment of the rest of disinherited society – in that same “there ought to be a law against that” light.