Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm: On November 6th, Send Republican Obstructionists Home For Good

I am so angry with Congress I want to spit.

Unemployment is over 8 percent, and President Obama has proposed a jobs bill with pro-growth policies that Republicans used to support, back when they were a sane party.

Today’s Republicans? They refuse to act.

And now, after a solid few weeks of doing nothing, they’re adjourning Congress until after the election!

Why exactly did we put them there in the first place?

Our executive branch has offered a grand bargain on cuts, reforms and revenues – the type of ambitious, bold agenda our country desperately needs.

But our legislative branch won’t even consider it. The tea partiers won’t consider giving up a dime – not one dime! – in tax revenue, even in exchange for billions in cuts and reforms.

They won’t consider the American Jobs Act. The Violence Against Women Act. Tax cuts for working families. The farm bill. The list goes on and on.

Congress has a 12% approval rating right now – and it seems like they’re aiming for a lot less. The Republicans refuse to consider that maybe, just maybe, Americans want to see action and compromise and progress rather than this political doublespeak and nonsense.

Yes, Democrats are not perfect. But this proud-obstruction-at-all costs is all on the Republican Party. If Mitt Romney loses in a landslide, I can just hear it now — the Republican Party will blame him alone.

You ever think that your policies might be the problem?

Policies like tax breaks for millionaires?

Tearing a struggling country’s safety net to shreds?

Obstructing a jobs bill because you don’t want the president to get a win, even though the real victors of that legislation would be your constituents?

Your problem, Republicans, is not Mitt Romney. And it’s not Ben Bernanke.

Your problem is that your policies hurt people.

So, go ahead and obstruct, and then go home for two months.

We progressives know what we have to do: On November 6, we have to make sure that these obstructionists will stay home for good.

<!–

Books by this author

–>

This Blogger’s Books from

Amazon

indiebound


A Governor's Story: The Fight for Jobs and America's Economic Future


Follow Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/JenGranholm

Paul N. Van de Water: How Much Would the Obama Budget Reduce the Deficit?

Controversy has arisen over the amount of deficit reduction in President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget.  Politifact last week questioned the validity of a CBPP analysis estimating that the Obama budget would reduce deficits by $3.8 trillion over ten years; Politifact suggested that the actual figure is below $3 trillion.  Careful fact-checking shows, however, that our number is sound. The Politifact article went astray in several respects.

Our $3.8 trillion figure has two components (see graph):

  • $2.2 trillion in savings from policies proposed in the president’s budget.  (This figure does not include any savings from winding down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for which we did not give the budget credit.)
  • $1.7 trillion in savings from discretionary spending cuts that policymakers enacted last year, primarily from the Budget Control Act’s caps on discretionary spending.  Those savings, which will occur over the 2013-2022 period, implement the lion’s share of the discretionary cuts that the report from presidential deficit commission co-chairs Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson called for. (The $1.7 trillion figure includes the interest savings on the national debt that these discretionary cuts will produce.)

We issued the $3.8 trillion estimate in February 2012, based on estimates of the president’s budget from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates weren’t yet available. Now, they are. Under the CBO estimates of the president’s budget, the proposal would reduce the deficit by a slightly larger amount — about $4 trillion — over 2013-2022.

Current-Law Baseline Is Not Realistic

Politifact noted that compared to current law — that is, compared to a baseline that assumes policymakers will allow all tax and spending changes scheduled under current law to take effect — the Obama budget would actually increase the deficit. That is true. But virtually no budget observers think that policymakers will allow those changes to take effect; doing so would entail allowing all of the Bush tax cuts to expire, the Alternative Minimum Tax to explode and raise taxes for over 40 million Americans, physician payment rates in Medicare to be cut over 30 percent, and the like.

No recent deficit-reduction panel has measured its deficit savings compared to current law because such an assumption is almost universally rejected as highly unrealistic.  Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson didn’t measure their deficit reduction from current law.  Nor did the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, chaired by former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete Domenici and former OMB and CBO director Alice Rivlin.  Nor did the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the supercommittee).  Similarly, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan measured the deficit reduction in the House budget plan he designed by comparing it to current policy rather than current law.

Politifact acknowledges this, saying that some independent groups doubt that a current-law baseline is realistic.  It then says that if one measures deficit reduction compared to a continuation of current policy rather than current law, the Obama budget reduces deficits by close to $3 trillion — but not the nearly $4 trillion in the CBPP estimate.  It cites the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) as its source.

Savings from Proposed Policies

According to Politifact, a CRFB analyst told it in a phone interview that the president’s budget saves $1.7 trillion relative to continuing current policy.  The $1.7 trillion figure is lower, however, than CRFB’s own published estimates.  In February, CRFB estimated that the savings in the Obama budget (not counting those already enacted) equaled $1.9 trillion for the 11-year period from 2012-2022, relative to current policy.  (Analysts normally use a ten-year measuring period; CRFB’s 11-year period included some costs from stimulus that the Obama budget proposed for 2012.)

CRFB modified its estimates in March, putting the savings under the president’s budget for 2013-2022 at $2.3 trillion using OMB estimates and $2.4 trillion using CBO estimates. CRFB wrote, “Compared to more realistic current policy projections… the president’s budget would reduce deficits by $2.4 trillion.”  This is actually a little higher than our $2.2 trillion estimate of the new savings under the Obama budget — and it’s substantially higher the $1.7 trillion figure Politifact used.

Savings Enacted in 2011

To this $1.7 trillion figure, Politifact added $1 trillion as the amount of deficit reduction that Congress passed in 2011.  The figure appears to reflect the cuts in discretionary spending under the caps in last August’s Budget Control Act.  But it misses several hundred billion dollars in additional discretionary cuts enacted earlier in 2011, and it may also overlook the related interest savings.

The actual savings from legislation enacted in 2011 are $1.7 trillion, using OMB estimates (and at least that amount using CBO estimates).  When you add them to the new savings in the President’s budget — $2.2 trillion in our estimate and $2.4 trillion in CRFB’s analysis issued in March — the total is close to $4 trillion over 2013-2022.

It’s particularly important to include the savings enacted in 2011 because Bowles-Simpson and the Rivlin-Domenici task force issued their reports in late 2010. Since then, these two proposals have become benchmarks for assessing the size and composition of subsequent budget plans. To draw valid comparisons with the Bowles-Simpson and Rivlin-Domenici plans, it’s necessary to take account of legislation that policymakers enacted since they were issued — and that implement much of those plans’ proposals to limit discretionary spending.

At the time Bowles-Simpson and Rivlin-Domenici made their recommendations, the current-policy baseline assumed that discretionary spending would remain at the 2010 level, adjusted for inflation (and the phasing down of war costs). But, as noted above, Congress enacted legislation in 2011 that will reduce discretionary spending by at least $1.7 trillion over 2013-2022 (including the debt-service savings), compared to the 2010 baseline.

Ignoring the enacted savings would understate the total amount of deficit reduction that current budget proposals would achieve. It also would understate the overall share of deficit reduction achieved through program cuts rather than tax increases.

In short, a thorough examination supports our estimate that the President’s budget would, in combination with savings already enacted, reduce deficits by close to $4 trillion over ten years.

Related Posts:


Follow Paul N. Van de Water on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/@CenterOnBudget

$61 Million Settlement Reached In Hurricane Lawsuits

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — A state-run insurance company of last resort agreed Thursday to settle two remaining class-action lawsuits tied to claims handled after hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The board for the Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. voted unanimously to settle the long-running lawsuits for $61 million. Policyholders sued the company over the slow handling of claims after the hurricanes struck in 2005.

The board also authorized company CEO Richard Robertson to place caps of $4,500 per claim, $150,000 for court costs and $750,000 for administrative expenses.

The settlement comes after Citizens paid a $104 million judgment in July that will benefit more than 18,500 policyholders who sued over slow adjustment claims after the hurricanes. Thursday’s offer, which was voted on publicly after a 90-minute closed door session, is meant to cover plaintiffs who weren’t initially covered in July’s settlement.

Citizens CEO Richard Robertson has said one lawsuit involves 7,800 claimants and up to 12,000 in the other.

One of the last hurdles claimants faced was cleared in June when the U.S. Supreme Court decided they wouldn’t review rulings requiring Citizens to pay an estimated $110 million to the claimants. The company appealed to the nation’s highest court in April, alleging that the state agency was denied due process throughout the ongoing state court litigation.

Citizens was granted permission in May to secure a $75 million cash line of credit to cover hurricane damages in the state because board members expected the pending legal judgment to drain the company’s bank account. Citizens had set about $140 million aside to cover the settlement made in July.

Board members expect claims from Hurricane Isaac to cost the company between $50 million and $80 million. They also anticipate having to either issue additional bonds to raise money or declare a 2012 deficit and collect a regular assessment from the insurance industry to cover an estimated $141 million cash shortfall.

Related on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...

  • 10. Hurricane Betsy (1965)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $11,227
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 9. Hurricane Agnes (1972)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $11,760
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 8. Hurricane Rita (2005)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $11,797
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 7. Hurricane Hugo (1989)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $12,775
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 6. Hurricane Charley (2004)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $15,820
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 5. Hurricane Ivan (2004)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $19,832
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 4. Hurricane Wilma (2005)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $20,587
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 3. Hurricane Ike (2008)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $27,790
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 2. Hurricane Andrew (1992)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $45,561
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • 1. Hurricane Katrina (2005)

    Damage em(In millions, adjusted using 2010 U.S. Census Bureau Price Deflator for Construction)/em: $105,840
    brbr
    a href=”http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/nws-nhc-6.pdf” target=”_hplink”Source: NOAA/a

  • How Countries Deal with Hurricane Disasters

    In August 2005, hurricane Katrina hit the US Golf Coast killing 1,800 people and causing 80 billion dollars worth of damage. It was the biggest natural disaster in American history. The American government was criticized for its inadequate response. By contrast, Cuba lost ‘only’ 18 people in 9 tropical cyclones and hurricanes in the last ten years.

Michelle Chen: Missed Opportunity: Immigrants and Women in the Election

Last week, two issues highlighted at the Democratic National Convention represented a notable departure from the talk of jobs and economic growth. There was a classic striving immigrant narrative, embodied in the poetic if oversimplified family story of San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro. And there was a passionate defense of reproductive rights delivered by Sandra Fluke, who famously incurred ultra-conservative wrath for speaking out on contraceptive access. Both speeches showed the double-edged power of political storytelling: to inspire while masking the deeper issues that the mainstream political realm deftly obscures every four years.

Pivoting to Latino and women voters, the Democrats were capitalizing on ideological divisions in Washington on reproductive choice and immigration. But while the party repackaged those issues into slickly marketed talking points, the messaging spoke to messier unrest at the grassroots. Responding to years of grassroots pressure (from the sit-ins staged by so-called Dream Activists to the bold protest-on-wheels of the Undocubus, which rolled defiantly outside the convention), Obama has offered temporary reprieve to undocumented youth and promised to ease mass deportations for many immigrants with clean records. Meanwhile, the White House has cautiously pushed back against right-wing assaults on women’s health in the Affordable Care Act. But the response to the war of attrition on women’s rights comes amid rising frustration among pro-choice advocates who’ve witnessed Democrats’ repeated capitulations to anti-choice forces that have monopolized the abortion debate.

The narratives on the convention stage aimed to make those third-rail issues palatable to a prime-time audience, not to advance a progressive political discourse. As is common in portrayals of immigrants, even positive ones, they were framed as economic contributors — as obedient labor rather than real community members with complex needs and aspirations. Similarly, issues surrounding that other oft-overlooked constituency, women, are often viewed through the narrow prism of reproductive “choice” in the abstract but not necessarily the larger issues of class and poverty that undermine women’s control over their bodies and lives.

As Sadie Doyle has noted, truly considering immigrant women’s reproductive rights forces us to look at both issues in a more complex, wholistic way. The failure in Charlotte to link immigration and reproductive rights reflects a blind spot in a political establishment that focuses on rights in terms of “reform” for immigrants and “choice” for women, rather than justice.

In his convention speech before a rapt audience, President Obama told a little story about a hypothetical immigrant child — a girl who could finally have a chance to live without fear of deportation in the only country she’s ever known.

But what happens to that little girl when her mom loses her off-the-books job because she she falls ill? A typical job for an undocumented woman is a domestic worker — a sector dominated by women, immigrants and people of color, and one historically excluded from federal labor protections and standards. These workers have mobilized successfully for initiatives like the California Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, which establish critical labor standards. Their very existence defies the establishment’s desire to exploit immigrant labor without valuing their communities. Moreover, the rising community-based movements to empower marginalized workers show that this struggle increasingly integral to, and contingent on, building a more inclusive, diverse labor movement.

What happens in a few years with our immigrant youth realizes her school doesn’t offer comprehensive sex education, or that she can’t afford birth control? In the immigration debate, Latinas have been ruthlessly targeted by both racism and misogyny, manifested not just in vile stereotypes of immigrant mothers and “anchor babies,” but in the cruel epidemic of family separation through deportation.

Equally warped is the day-to-day reality of reproductive health care for immigrants. According to the National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights, affordable health coverage is out of reach for most undocumented women. Federal reform could help many immigrants and people of color, but for the most part arbitrarily excludes undocumented members of those communities. Even many documented immigrants have to wait half a decade before qualifying for crucial preventive Medicaid services. Structural barriers to essential services like family planning and screening for cervical cancer or HIV expose how social disenfranchisement weaves throughout the lives of immigrant women and their families.

A typical immigrant woman may never receive care during her pregnancy until she heads to the emergency room in labor. For migrant women farmworkers, there might be a simple clinic near their seasonal work site, but getting there could be dangerous, with the constant threat of getting swept up by immigration authorities. As David Strauss, executive director of the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs points out, “Accessing any social services is nearly impossible for migrant workers who are not documented. And, it is risky especially in states that have enacted immigration enforcement policies.”

Undocumented youth activist Angy Rivera recently blogged for the National Latina Institute of Reproductive Health (NLIRH) about the multiple frustrations she endures as a woman, immigrant and advocate for her community:

When it comes to rushing to the emergency room, I hesitate, worrying about the large sum on a bill that will be waiting for me in the mail. While I continue to push for marginalized communities to receive access to education and care, it’s difficult when I can’t obtain this myself.

The war on immigrants and the war on women are both driven by a right-wing ideology that simultaneously dehumanizes and exploits: women as reproductive machines, immigrants as a disposable workforce.

In a post-convention email to In These Times, NLIRH executive director Jessica González-Rojas says with guarded hope:

Too often, the voices of immigrant women have been left out of the debates on immigration and reproductive health, even though it is clear that they are the ones disproportionately impacted by these policies. … Women immigrants are the backbones of their communities and their families. They’re powerful, and they’re using that power to demand the ability to make decisions about their bodies, their families and their futures.

Political assaults on communities of color, immigrants and women are mutually reinforcing. But these interlocking injustices reveal that none of the campaigns to overturn them will be advanced unless they’re aligned. Immigrant women don’t get to choose which battle to fight every day as they work to secure a place for themselves and their families in their adopted country. And no single fight should be privileged or waged in isolation, if the real aim is to make all these embattled communities whole.

Originally posted at In These Times

<!–

Books by this author

–>

This Blogger’s Books from

Amazon

indiebound


Baby Pepper


Labor Rising: The Past and Future of Working People in America


Follow Michelle Chen on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/meeshellchen

Romney Campaign Ad Accuses Obama Of Failing American Manufacturing

Mitt Romney is out with a new television ad attacking President Barack Obama for failing to crack down on China for unfair trade practices and accusing him of overseeing a major decline in America’s manufacturing might.

The spot, titled “Failing America’s Workers,” fits with the theme Romney emphasized earlier on in the campaign, before he went off on various tangents and started tackling non-economic topics. Obama, it goes, has dramatically mismanaged the economy.

Like the claims made in most campaign ads, there are gray areas to the charges. For starters, Romney is saddling Obama with the decline of the manufacturing sector that was part of a broad economic shift, which was decades in the making and accelerated by the recession that occurred under President George W. Bush. And, as Obama noted in his speech at the Democratic National Convention, from January 2010 through July 2012, the U.S. has reversed that trend, creating more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs.

As for the politics of it all, Romney seems a bit late to the game. The president’s campaign and allied super PACs spent all summer accusing Romney of outsourcing jobs to places like China during his tenure at Bain Capital. They also ran ads accusing him for losing 40,000 manufacturing jobs in Massachusetts while governor of that state.

Romney may be seeking to recast those impressions. But at this juncture, it would be tough to completely reverse them.

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...

  • Obama Approval Polls

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Approval On Health Care

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Approval On Economy

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Approval On Foreign Policy

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Arizona

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Colorado

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Florida

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Missouri

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Nevada

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • New Hampshire

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • North Carolina

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Ohio

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Pennsylvania

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Virginia

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

  • Wisconsin

    strongFor more presidential and congressional polls, maps and forecasts, a href=”http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/2012/romney-vs-obama-electoral-map?hw” target=”_hplink”visit HuffPost Pollster/a./strong

Lucy Emerson-Bell: Dangerous Narratives and How They Affect You (And Our Planet)

Co-written by Richard Dent

In a recent interview with ABC News, President Obama claimed that the biggest mistake in his first term as president was failing to tell a better “story” to the American people. The president stated, “The nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”

America is indeed facing tough times and not just from a fragile economy. With 23 states experiencing a “national emergency” this summer due to drought and more than 3,000 daily high temperature records set in the month of June alone, regardless of where you live in the world you are likely experiencing some sort of record-breaking weather.

However, the underlying reason behind these record-breaking weather events will be lost on most people who will fail to connect the dots. DeSmogBlog and Media Matters reported that the mainstream media adequately covered these weather events, however, the role of global warming (human caused or natural) was ignored, despite a Nobel prize-winning scientist finding strong links. In the absence of a story from the Obama administration on sustainability, the media and other information channels fill the vacuum with their own stories which are often produced for a commercially defined agenda.

To be fair to the media, global warming and related sustainability stories are complex and not easy to tell. Environmentalists, politicians, scientists, economists and skeptics seem locked in a permanent battle across the “information commons.” Despite progress in some areas, an ugly truth lurks behind the general discourse on the global environment.

Even with current advances in clean technology, biodegradable plastic bottles, hybrid cars and organic food, it seems little real change will occur without a fundamental shift in the dominant narratives that create and reinforce our cultural and societal norms. For example, we are constantly exposed to stories that praise the automobile, highlight the importance of polluting industries to the economy, or that mass-produced processed food is faster, cheaper and a better value. “Stories” like McDonald’s and sponsoring the London Olympics are inherently unsustainable in the long term. They will only last as long as resources (meat production) are available to support the unsustainable social norms they validate. Yet we continue to tell these stories to ourselves despite the mass of evidence that suggests this the wrong direction for our civilization.

We see these dominant narratives on the news, advertising, films, TV shows, billboards, on the streets and we even hear them from our leaders. They are everywhere. For every Prius or Nissan Leaf that is advertised, 10 SUV commercials are aired. For every farmers market, there are 10 junk-in-a-box billboards across town.

We should be concerned that that unsustainable stories have formed a powerful hegemonic discourse that have legitimized a trajectory to an uninhabitable planet. But changing the story in advance of an ecological collapse means navigating past a social dilemma — call it an “information dilemma.” Freedom of speech and freedom of the press are critical foundations of our democracy — do we dare regulate the validity of large amounts of information and stories currently being distributed to the general public? How can we discriminate between healthy and dangerous stories? Why is the silence from our political leaders so deafening?

One explanation could be the influence of John Nash (portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film A Beautiful Mind) and Ayn Rand. Both believed in humans as self-interested, rational individuals that maximize the best personal outcome without interfering with the happiness of others. Their theories on rational decision-making pervade many aspects of the Western world, with Romney’s vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan extolling the virtues of Rand’s ideas. It is true that civilization depends partly on our ability to make rational decisions. And yet as a nation, we seem to be consciously and systematically making decisions concerning natural resources that are completely irrational and against our interest, pursuing policies that imperil ourselves and the world. If threats to our natural resources are real and solutions available, we might predict that a rational civilization would prioritize the issue and address it. So why haven’t we? Why is rationality failing?

To make a rational decision one must be sufficiently informed. Thomas Jefferson said, “Democracy demands an educated and informed electorate,” and Western culture places a high value on education. But we are also influenced by the stories and narratives promoted in the free market of information. Could it be that the information we are exposed to is overwhelming our rational higher self, causing society to make the wrong decision?

A recent BBC documentary called The Men Who Made Us Fat highlighted unscrupulous advertising techniques used to sell unhealthy food to children. Father of public relations Edward Bernays became an expert in linking advertising of products to human fears and desires. One trick is to frame information within the cultural values of one’s audience in order to persuade them to accept an unsustainable status quo. It seems anyone with good public relations skills could literally sell “fridges to Eskimos.”

As previously mentioned food is a key area where dominant narratives are defined through advertising, PR and the media. Large portions of cheap, corn syrup-laced food are promoted as great tasting and value for money, even though we “know” the negative externalities of this kind of consumption. These companies simply shift the burden of responsibility to the consumer to make a rational choice for their own interest. A little unfair considering the power of their stories in setting social norms? And in a fitting example, Michelle Obama has acknowledged the critical role of the media in this regard when she helped lobby media companies like Disney to reduce unhealthy food advertising to children. Sadly there is not a rush to join Disney’s efforts from others.

Arguably the most dangerous narratives being perpetuated are the dominant stories told about the environment. The media’s inconsistent use of multiple, competing, and tangential narratives produces a broad cultural inertia — relegating what should be high on our agenda to the bottom of our voting priorities. It doesn’t help that humans seem hard-wired to form opinions and behaviors based on cultural affinities even if these behaviors ultimately undermine one’s self-interest. We don’t do ourselves any favors by constantly reinforcing these cultural biases by and listening stories that support current unsustainable cultural norms. But if the media makes greater profits from conflict narratives that sensationalize cultural battles between two opposing sides, they will. The media is comprised of major corporations with legal obligations to shareholders to maximize profit. But their money and influence perpetuates an unsustainable use of resources and a complete disregard for limits. How do we counter their power? How can we tell a different story?

For the public to accept a different narrative, it will require a lot more than simply telling the truth. The new narrative must resonate with people and their values. When Obama wanted to justify raising taxes on the rich he faced a problem. The dominant narrative in the U.S. maintained the ethos that if someone worked hard and earned their own money, they deserved to keep as much of it as they desire. However, this dominant narrative was challenged by Warren Buffett’s opinion piece in the New York Times. Buffet advised, “My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.” Suddenly, the dominant narrative shifted once it was disputed by someone with credibility and legitimacy. The source was someone from within America’s wealthy culture, not a legislator nor an advocate from the outside. Buffet had the courage to stand up and make a sacrifice in the interest of the greater good. And it seems to have worked.

What if the same approach was applied to sustainability and climate change? What if there was a similar cultural icon, like Buffett, who had the courage and audacity to ask to be taxed for their usage of the global commons? Could this shift the stories of sustainability and climate change into more “normal” positions?

Call it the “American Natural Resources” tax or the “American Resource Protection” tax. It would require that individuals calculate and then pay a necessary tax on the products and services they use that damage or deplete our natural resources. What if instead of resisting this payment, people were proud to pay a tax that went to farmers and fishermen to secure their harvests? Or to cities to secure their energy supplies with renewable energy? Or to coastal areas to strengthen their levies against rising tides? Or to rebuild houses, decimated by wildfires? If cultural elites stood up to pay this tax, we might just break the hegemonic position of unsustainable narratives in our civilization.

What we desperately need is new leaders that can renew the story of Western civilization and effectively counter the narratives that threaten our survival. Obama was right, we need a compelling story and the storytellers courageous enough to renew our cultural and social norms. Who out there is ready and willing to step up?

Richard Dent is a climate and renewable energy communications consultant based in London. He has worked on projects such as Leonardo DiCaprio’s The 11th Hour, European Commission’s Energy Union Intelligent energy PR project and more recently for GCCA (TckTckTck) on communication strategy. He is about to begin an mPhil at Cambridge University in Modern Society and Global Transformations.

Lucy Emerson-Bell works for the non-profit eraGlobal Alliance, with a particular focus on climate change campaigns. Lucy graduated with a degree in Biology from Colorado College. After graduating, she worked on sustainability initiatives and resource management for the City of Denver for the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Lucy served as the Campaign Director for The iMatter March, a campaign through the non-profit organization Kids vs. Global Warming, which engages youth from around the world to bring attention to their right to an intact planet and the urgency of climate change. She currently lives in Denver, Colorado.

Doug Kendall: Conservatives Seek to Celebrate the Constitution by Undermining It

For more than two years, the tea party and its allies have lectured the American people about the need to return to our Founding principles, peddling, among other things, a series of constitutional fairy tales about the radical limits allegedly imposed by the Founders on the ability of the federal government to solve national problems. Most recently, in their 2012 party platform, Republicans declare themselves “the party of the Constitution,” and, on Sunday, Governor Mitt Romney asserted he was “as conservative as the Constitution.” But no amount of Constitution-waving or tricorn-hat-wearing can change one basic fact: this election season, conservative Governors, election officials, and state legislators nationwide are working hard to deny Americans one of their most cherished constitutional rights — the right to vote.

There’s no better moment to highlight this conservative assault on constitutional voting rights than in the coming weeks, as the Nation celebrates the Constitution’s 225th Anniversary. Officially, Constitution Day is September 17th, but over the next several weeks celebrations and related events will occur in D.C., Philadelphia and around the country, including an important hearing convened by Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy titled “The Citizens United Court and the Continuing Importance of the Voting Rights Act.” Every one of these events is a perfect opportunity for progressives to speak powerfully against the ongoing efforts by conservatives to suppress the vote.

Perhaps more so than any other constitutional guarantee, the right to vote is deeply embedded in the Constitution’s text and history. And yet conservatives are trying to change election rules to disenfranchise eligible voters — passing restrictive voter I.D. laws, shortening early voting hours, and making it more difficult to register to vote. Some tea party candidates are even advocating repeal of the 17th Amendment, which would strip Americans of their right to vote for U.S. Senators. At the same time, conservatives have embraced rulings by the Supreme Court that allow corporations and the rich to drown out the voices of ordinary Americans in the electoral process.

That’s some 225th Anniversary gift for the tea party’s beloved Constitution. But it does give progressives the opportunity on Constitution Day 2012 to recapture the constitutional high ground and put the tea party and its allies on the defensive.

We must begin by embracing our constitutional heritage, rather than effectively ceding it to conservatives. Don’t believe this is happening? Then spend some time comparing the relative treatment of the Constitution in the Republican and Democratic Party Platforms. The Republican Platform has an entire chapter entitled “Restoration of Constitutional Principles,” and the document is infused throughout with claims about our Nation’s charter. The Democratic Platform is entirely devoid of anything resembling a constitutional vision. It’s no wonder, then, that many Americans assume that conservatives are right about the Constitution. They’re the only ones routinely talking about it.

Progressives need to turn this around, and we should start on Constitution Day by reminding the American people of the story of constitutional voting rights. This story begins with our democratic Founding. Never before in world history had a government charter been ratified by the people themselves. Furthermore, rather than keep voters from the polls — as conservatives are trying to do in 2012 — the Founding generation took important steps to increase the number of eligible voters in the ratification process, with many states waiving voting restrictions (such as property requirements) and some allowing African Americans to vote for convention delegates.

Although wildly restrictive through a modern lens, the ratification process was inclusive for its time. And the patriots who gathered in Philadelphia did not intend for the document to be complete. Article V, authorizing Amendments, made it clear that the 1787 Constitution was not an end, but a beginning.

Over the past two centuries America has moved ever closer to the full promise of what President Abraham Lincoln called “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” “We the People” have poured precious blood and treasure into a series of reform efforts that produced the six Voting Rights Amendments. These Amendments fundamentally changed our system of government — outlawing poll taxes in federal elections, giving ordinary Americans the right to elect U.S. Senators, allowing the citizens of our Nation’s capital to vote for President, and guaranteeing African Americans, women and 18-year-olds the right to vote.

These Amendments are just as much a part of the Constitution as is the original text, and they call into question state efforts to impose unreasonable, arbitrary restrictions on the right to vote. On Constitution Day 2012, progressives should share this story with our friends, families, neighbors, and co-workers — anyone who is willing to listen.

But the fight must not end there. As long as conservatives believe they can win elections by changing the ground rules, the battle over voting rights will continue. And as long as conservatives are weaponizing the Constitution for political purposes — as the Republican Party Platform most certainly does — progressives must aggressively tell our own story about the Constitution. This story starts in 1787, but it also prominently includes the 27 Amendments ratified over the last 225 years which improved our Constitution by ending slavery, enshrining guarantees of equality and citizenship, expanding the right to vote, and ensuring that the national government has the power and resources necessary to protect the nation, address national challenges and secure civil rights.

Only by telling this story of the whole Constitution, including the Amendments, can progressives truly seize the Constitution from the tea party and its allies and expose their selective ancestor worship for the sham that it is.

It’s hard to imagine a better birthday present for the Constitution.

(This piece was written with Tom Donnelly, Constitutional Accountability Center’s Counsel and Message Director. It will be cross-posted on www.textandhistory.org).


Follow Doug Kendall on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/myconstitution

Aiko Stevenson: U.S. Election 2012: Battle for the Soul of America

In approximately eight weeks, Americans will go to the polls to vote for their next president. The outcome will not only affect the American people, but everyone on the planet.

Last year, the International Energy Agency (IEA) warned that global warming will hit the point of no return in five years time.

That means we have less than four years to solve this imminent crisis which threatens all life on earth. And, as the U.S. is the world’s largest superpower, it’s role is critical.

In the words of former U.S. Vice President Al Gore: “The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States.” In other words, the fate of our planet largely depends on who wins this year’s election.

This summer, Americans got a bitter taste of what global warming looks like. Terrifying wildfires, biblical downpours and punishing heat waves all swept across the nation whilst the worst drought in half a century raised the specter of yet another food crisis.

And, although such changes may seem apocalyptic, they were brought about by a mere 0.8 degree Celsius temperature rise. By the end of this century however, unless we radically rein in our global carbon emissions, the IEA says that the world may warm by 6 degrees Celsius. The fate of our planet quite literally hangs in the balance.

That’s why Republican nominee Mitt Romney simply will not do. At the recent GOP convention in Florida he mocked the incumbent’s environmental concerns: “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and to heal the planet.” He then paused to allow the audience to laugh at the absurdity.

In the words of climate scientist Michael Mann, someone who has “such a wanton disregard for the health of our environment” is not worthy of the White House. And what’s worse, Romney recognized man’s contribution to climate change just 12 months ago.

In fact, he supported clean energy during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts, but he has since backtracked on that position in order to garner support both from the oil industry and the more conservative members of this party — many of whom regard climate change to be a hoax.

Romney now chides Obama’s support for renewable energy: “You can’t drive a car with a windmill on it.” He says that green energy is a waste of money in a struggling economy, and if he gets into the White House this November, he will roll back tax breaks enjoyed by this sector.

But, according to the Center for American Progress Action Fund, the wind industry has grown over 35 percent per annum over the last five years. It now provides thousands of decent jobs, and powers over 10 million homes in the U.S. That’s why profit seeking banks like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are all plowing their money into the sector.

Romney may tout his business credentials, but he’s turning his back on this lucrative sector and putting thousands of jobs at risk. Why? It seems that the Republican nominee may be in bed with the fossil fuel industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics which tracks political donations, the oil lobby has already given his campaign over $8 million compared to a mere $1 million to the Democrats.

And, even though the top five oil companies earned over $350 million a day in the first half of this year, Romney plans on maintaining their subsidies which top over $40 billion per annum, whilst offering them further tax breaks. Moreover, his energy plan endorses further drilling both on U.S. soil and along the Atlantic coastline.

If Romney wins this year’s presidential race, any flicker of hope for pulling the world back from the brink of irreversible global warming will have clearly been lost. His Republican platform mentions “climate change” but once.

Although many Americans feel let down by some of the promises that President Obama made when he rode into power four years ago, many of the changes that he put into place at the height of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression are taking time to come into place. In the words of former U.S. President Bill Clinton: “No president — not me or any of my predecessors — could have repaired all the damage in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it.”

Moreover, recognizing that “climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation,” Obama has made clean energy a priority. It has already doubled under his stewardship, and he plans on making at least 80 percent of the nation’s electricity come from renewable energy by 2035:

In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades. I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines.

According to recent polls, the two candidates are running neck in neck. That means that your vote this November is important. To quote Obama: “More droughts, floods and wildfires are a threat to our children’s future. And in this election, you can do something about it… When you pick up that ballot to vote — you will face the clearest choice of any time in a generation.”

It’s not just a battle for the soul of America. In the words of Al Gore: “What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.” And, in eight weeks time, you can do something about it.


Follow Aiko Stevenson on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/@AikoStevenson

President Obama Called Debt Limit Talks ‘Bizarro World,’ And New Bob Woodward Book Bears That Out

WASHINGTON – If you’d like to feel ill, read Bob Woodward’s new book, “The Price of Politics.”

The 379-page book, which comes out Tuesday and was obtained by The Huffington Post a day early, is a detailed, close-up look at the debt ceiling battle of July 2011, when the U.S. government came very close to default and a potential economic collapse.

Woodward is meticulous, as usual, and partly because of his attention to detail, the middle section of the book –- with its endless descriptions of meetings, mind-numbing budget figures and constant gridlock –- will make you want to bang your head against a wall.

But the arcane and complex subject matter is only merely confusing. What makes the book depressing is the inability of leaders in Washington, starting with President Barack Obama but also including top Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress, to look beyond their own political fortunes and forge an agreement when the nation’s fortunes were so clearly at risk.

Woodward lays the blame, ultimately, at Obama’s feet. But it’s obvious from Woodward’s reporting that the Obama White House wanted to reach a “grand bargain” to reduce the deficit and achieve some long-term reforms on spending and entitlements. That cuts against the Republican argument that Obama has not tried to fix these problems.

The more pertinent debate is whether Obama led on the issue. And Woodward’s book makes a compelling case that Obama did not do as much as he should have. But he also faults House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who tried in June and July 2011 to reach a deal with the president.

“When you examine the record in depth, you cannot help but conclude that neither President Obama nor Speaker Boehner handled it particularly well,” Woodward writes. “Despite their evolving personal relationship, neither was able to transcend their fixed partisan convictions and dogmas. Rather than fixing the problem, they postponed it.”

The book has essentially three sections: the first 100 pages or so is a set up for the second and third portions, and lays down the predicate that Obama’s White House did not do the necessary work to build relationships with Republicans or the business community early on in his presidency.

Woodward uses Valerie Jarrett, a close personal adviser to Obama, as a symbol of White House clumsiness. He reports that after Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg felt that he had been “used as window dressing” when Obama spoke to him for only a moment after inviting him to watch the 2010 Super Bowl at the White House, Jarrett chastised him.

“Her response: Hey, you’re in the room with him. You should be happy,” Woodward writes. “Seidenberg was not.”

And to Obama’s first budget office chief, Peter Orszag, Jarrett issued a rebuke after he wrote a newspaper column the administration did not like. Orszag made an appeal to her that his criticism of the medical malpractice reforms in Obama’s health care law were necessary for any Democratic advocacy on behalf of the law to be considered.

But Jarrett, Woodward writes, would hear nothing of it: “Jarrett’s answer was delivered with Politburo finality: You have burned your bridges,” he writes.

Woodward sums up his perspective of Jarrett: “She had the view that if you simply arranged more meetings, that would solve any problem. But the interactions had an emptiness that made the problem worse. Sometimes, it’s not a good idea to have a meeting and discussion.”

But Woodward also holds up Obama’s blasting of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in an April 13, 2011 speech, while Ryan sat in the front row, as a prime example of miscalculation and incompetence. Former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles told Ryan –- who is now Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate -– that he was “disgusted” by Obama’s speech.

Obama told Woodward in an interview that he had not known Ryan would be in the audience. “We made a mistake,” he said.

Then, with an eight-page description of a May 5, 2011 meeting between Vice President Joe Biden and congressional leaders on a debt limit solution, Woodward kicks off the second section of the book, which details the beginning of the search for a deal. The third portion shows what happened at the end stages of the negotiations, and is distinct because of the way that the narrative picks up steam.

Reading the second section is painful. It is over 100 pages and reads like something out of the existential Samuel Becket play, “Waiting for Godot.” At times, reading the umpteenth description of back room bickering, it seems like a disjointed procession of people throwing out random ideas and figures. Partly this is because of the subject matter. But it is also partly the result of an incomplete portrait. Many of the meetings read as if Woodward is writing up an account based on yellow legal pad notes from one or two of the attendees, who wrote down every few sentences.

To wit, on page 222 (I picked a page somewhat a random), witness this exchange between Boehner, Obama, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner:

“Tax cuts aren’t spending,” said Boehner. He believed they spurred the economy that would then yield more tax revenue.

“I’m not proposing any tax cut,” said Kyl.

“This is Bizarro World,” said the president.

“Let’s take Doc fix and unemployment insurance off the table, since those are spending,” Boehner said.

“What matters to the market is the long-term trend,” Geithner interjected.

A page later, the absurdity reaches a climax, as Woodward describes the same July 13, 2011 meeting, with House Majority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.):

“‘I just met with a person today who’s just out of college,’ said Pelosi for no clear reason. ‘They were optimistic and hopeful and we need to get this deal.’ The president put his chin in his hand and started playing with his name card. Pelosi went on with a long anecdote, finally lamenting their apparent failure at negotiations. ‘I don’t know who is going to tell the children,’ she said. Cantor and [Steny] Hoyer, who were sitting next to each other, began a private conversation while Pelosi told her story. ‘We listened to Cantor day in and day out,’ Pelosi said, ‘but he’s not listening right now.’ The president burst out laughing.”

Finally, the story begins to move as the early August deadline gets closer. The meetings become more urgent. Discussions become less circular. But the ideological rigidity remains. Republicans will not budge on tax increases. Democrats do not want to cut spending significantly or overhaul entitlement programs.

Jack Lew, the current White House chief of staff who was White House budget chief at the time, emerges in Woodward’s telling as a chief tormentor of the Republicans.

When Boehner reopened talks with Obama on July 15, he had a request, Woodward writes: “Please don’t send Jack Lew. The budget director talked too much, was uncompromising, and Boehner’s staff did not believe he could get to yes.”

Boehner told Woodward: “Jack Lew said no 999,000 times out of a million.” Then he corrected himself. “999,999. It was unbelievable. At one point I told the president, keep him out of here. I don’t need somebody who just knows how to say no.”

Boehner’s chief of staff at the time, Barry Jackson, described Lew this way: “Always trying to protect the sacred cows of the left.” Woodward writes that Jackson said Lew would be “going through Medicare and Medicaid almost line by line while Boehner was just trying to reach some topline agreement.”

To Lew, the problem was that Boehner did not like details.

“When the Speaker’s office made a proposal, Lew would return with an analysis of what it would mean for the average Medicare retiree and people at different income levels,” Woodward writes. “It complicated the negotiations, and in Lew’s experience, the answer ‘things are complicated’ was not highly appreciated by the speaker’s office.”

As for the president, he told his top liaison to Congress, Rob Nabors –- who has a central role in Woodward’s telling -– that reaching a “grand bargain” on deficits and debt was “more important than health care.” And he compared himself to the woman in the biblical story who tells King Solomon to give a baby to another woman who has laid claim to the child rather than cutting it in half.

“We just have to accept we’re the mom who’s not willing to split the baby in half,” Obama told advisers, holding himself out as a caring steward of the economy.

As the deadline for raising the debt limit approaches, and talks between Obama and Boehner fall apart over the issue of whether $800 billion in increased revenue can be moved up to $1.2 trillion, the tension is gripping, and the fissures between Boehner and Cantor on the Republican side, and between Obama and Pelosi and Harry Reid on the Democratic side, are fascinating.

The most specific significant critique that Woodward levels is aimed largely at the president, and gives him substantial blame for talks with Boehner falling apart.

“Most extraordinary was the repeated use of the telephone for critical exchanges. Especially baffling was President Obama’s decision to make his critical request for $400 billion more in revenue in a spur-of-the-moment phone call,” Woodward writes. “The result was a monumental communications lapse between the president and the speaker at a critical juncture.”

Most of the most eyebrow-raising sections in the book were leaked out ahead of the book’s sale date. But there were still numerous nuggets that have not yet been reported:

  • Boehner said he and former White House chief of staff Bill Daley had “a long relationship” and trusted each other, “almost like brothers.” Woodward asked Daley about this comment, and though Daley was “at first … flattered,” he added that “he looked on the speaker as ‘not quite a brother.'”
  • Nabors told Obama, after being grilled and lambasted by Senate Democrats at a July 21 meeting on Capitol Hill: “It was just one of the more awful experiences of my life.”
  • Boehner at one point proposed that the trigger to force the Super Committee to agree on a second round of deficit reduction would be to eliminate the Individual Payment Advisory Board and the individual mandate in Obama’s health care law. Obama responded to Boehner’s idea of gutting his signature legislative accomplishment with this: “Creative thought, John.”
  • Boehner and Jackson discussed Obama’s motivations: “Boehner reported that Obama said, ‘John, I make 2 million. You can’t expect me to ask somebody to take a cut in their benefits if I’m not willing to take a cut.’ It’s almost like he’s ashamed that he’s been blessed and he’s made money, they concluded. It’s as if he’s guilty of his success. ‘Oh, my God,’ they imagined the president saying, ‘I’m so embarrassed that I’ve done well, and I need to make sure that I do my self-flagellation.'”
  • One of Boehner’s favorite hobbies is tending to his lawnmower: “This was a ritual the speaker enjoyed — often telling staff how much he looked forward to it. He would tip the push mower over on its side, remove the blade and sharpen it with a hand file, then, like any suburbanite, mow the lawn.”
  • After Obama and Boehner finally reached an agreement on July 31, “Obama turned to the staffers in the room. ‘Let’s not do this again,’ he said. ‘We’re not going to negotiate on the debt limit ever again.”
  • When Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) reached Kyl’s home to tell him about his super committee assignment, Kyl’s wife, Caryll, said Jon was working in yard with rented equipment so he couldn’t talk. “Kyl called Murray the next day. ‘You know I was renting it by the hour,’ he explained.”

Woodward’s own attitude toward Obama is telegraphed, somewhat cryptically, in the book’s prologue. It does not appear to be all that positive. Woodward discusses meeting then-Sen. Obama at the 2006 Gridiron Dinner in Washington, and writes that Obama “smiled me down.”

“The certainty on his face was deep, giving me pause,” the 69-year-old Woodward writes, adding that he was “trying to hold my ground” in the conversation with the younger man.

Woodward ends the prologue with a contrast between a Gridiron speech in 1981 by Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan that had “some good jokes” but which centered around the theme of “what it means to be a Democrat.” Obama’s speech, on the other hand, was “about Obama, his inexperience, and … what he had not done,” Woodward writes.

“Two and a half years later, he was president-elect of the United States.”

Also on HuffPost:

Loading Slideshow...

  • Joe Biden, Vice President

    (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State

    (HARAZ N. GHANBARI/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury

    (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense

    (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

  • Eric Holder, Attorney General

    (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

  • Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior

    (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images,)

  • Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture

    (SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Rebecca Blank, Acting Secretary of Commerce

    Acting United States Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank listens at a news conference for the opening of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s first satellite location in Detroit, Friday, July 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Hilda Solis, Secretary of Labor

    (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

  • Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

    (Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images for Young Elected Officials Network)

  • Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

    (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

  • Ray LaHood, Secretary of Transportation

    (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

  • Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy

    (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education

    (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

  • Eric Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs

    (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security

    (Photo by T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images)

  • Jack Lew, White House Chief Of Staff (Cabinet-rank)

    (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Lisa Jackson, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (Cabinet-rank)

    (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Jeffrey Zients, Office of Management and Budget Acting Director (Cabinet-rank)

    (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Ambassador Ron Kirk, U.S. Trade Representative (Cabinet-rank)

    (ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations (Cabinet-rank)

    (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

  • Alan Krueger, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman (Cabinet-rank)

    (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

  • Karen Mills, Small Business Administrator

    (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Teachers In Country’s 3rd Largest District Go On Strike

On Monday, Chicago’s public school students won’t have any classes to go to.

After weeks of negotiations, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s team and the Chicago Teacher’s Union failed to agree on a contract. On Sunday night, CTU officially announced it was going to strike for the first time in a quarter century. So on Monday, instead of teaching, the union’s 26,000 educators will protest.

“In the morning, no CTU members will be inside our schools,” CTU President Karen Lewis said Sunday at a late-night press conference outdoors, surrounded by throngs of reporters and teachers. She appeared in a bright red jacket with crimson lipstick, the intensity of her wardrobe illustrating the defiance in her words. “We will walk the picket lines, we will talk to parents, we … will demand a fair contract today, we demand a fair contract now,” she said, calling the ordeal an “education justice fight.”

But when it comes to exactly what the strike it about, the stories of the city and the union vary dramatically. Shortly after Lewis finished saying that the union was striking over contract negotiations, teacher evaluations, lack of proper air conditioning, and broader pedagogical issues — such as class size and out-of-class services for poor kids — Emanuel addressed the press.

“This is totally unnecessary, this is avoidable, and our kids do not deserve this,” he said.

The mayor, who fashions himself an education reformer, wore no tie. While Emanuel usually doesn’t mince words, his anger appeared more internalized, more resolute. At moments, he appeared to be on the verge of tears. His hand shook visibly as he took a sip of water in between statements. “This is a strike of choice,” he said.

From Emanuel’s perspective, after weeks of negotiation, only two issues remain unresolved. The first is a principal’s right to choose the teachers that work in his or her school. “It’s essential that the local principal who we hold accountable for producing the educational results not be told by the CPS bureaucracy … and not be told by the union leadership who to hire,” he said.

Second, he added, is the impasse over how to implement a recent law that requires standardized tests to count for, initially, one quarter of all teacher evaluations. “I’m telling you, these were the final two issues,” he said, exasperated.

Emanuel was followed by Chicago’s police chief, who said that no police would be on administrative duty Monday. Rather, they would all be on the streets, monitoring protest activity and making sure kids weren’t just hanging out. The district has set up over 100 spaces with alternate activities to keep students safe in places like churches and nonprofits.

On Sunday, CPS officials such as School Board President David Vitale and CTU leadership — not including Lewis — holed up in a negotiation room for hours. In the tense weeks before, the Associated Press reports, the district offered CTU a 2 percent raise for four years. Incensed, the union was quick to point that a snip-happy Emanuel had nixed a 4 percent raise just the year before, and in turn, asked for a 30 percent raise over two years. According to the AP, Lewis told union officials weeks ago that CTU would accept a raise as low as 19 percent. On Sunday, according to CPS, Vitale offered a 16 percent raise over the next four years, in addition to new job opportunities for laid off teachers. CPS also offered its first-ever paid maternity leave, and the joint implementation of teacher evaluations.

But at the end of the day, CTU, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, announced its official plan to strike. “People are actually surprised by how much CPS conceded. It seems like they did give in a lot,” Wendy Katten, a parent and activist who runs a group called Raise Your Hand for IL Public Ed, told The Huffington Post late Sunday. “CTU is trying to show that they have the ability to shape public education, and that they’re not going to be trampled on. It can’t just be about small specifics — to strike over air conditioner, I don’t know.”

Katten’s daughter will be missing out on fourth grade tomorrow — instead of school, she’ll be going to “strike camp,” a day of activities organized by a local church where parent volunteers will watch children with two working parents. “Some delegates think it’s a beautiful thing to strike, but you know what? It’s not beautiful, it’s a last resort,” said Katten, who generally supports the union.

The move is an act of defiance against education reform groups whose policies have angered the union — last year, the state legislature, led by the national advocacy group Stand for Children, passed a law that mandated specific teacher evaluations that count students’ standardized test scores for 25 percent initially, and that specifically required that CTU have 75 percent of its membership agree to any strike. Months later, the group’s leader Jonah Edelman was
caught on tape boasting
about how he outsmarted the unions in negotiating the bill.

Emanuel campaigned on the promise of making Chicago’s schools better, promising — and later, trying to enact — policies in line with a nationwide, Obama-supported movement known as education reform. Emanuel wanted principals to have more autonomy over hiring; he wanted teachers to be evaluated more stringently; he wanted to encourage the growth of charter schools; but, above all, he wanted Chicago to have a longer school day. So he trotted out research and Stand’s talking points showing that Chicago’s schools have the shortest days in the nation, and sought to implement the teacher-evaluation law — which contained a special provision that allowed him to lengthen the school day.

But when trying to negotiate the specifics of that extension with the union, trouble arose. Emanuel tried to circumvent the union by asking individual schools’ teachers to vote to waive the contract and make the school day longer, but stopped once CTU took complaints about the process to the the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board. While Emanuel sought to add school hours, the city also couldn’t afford to pay an amount the union sought for the extra time required of teachers. But a deal reached in late July gave both sides what they wanted: students would see a 20 percent longer school day — seven hours for elementary students and 7.5 hours for high schoolers — and current teacher hours would largely be unaffected. To fill the gaps, CPS planned to hire back 477 tenured teachers who were laid off over the last three years, at an annual cost of $40-$50 million. It was just one of many flashpoints Emanuel, a Democrat, had with the union.

In her remarks Sunday night, Lewis said the union and the city would continue negotiating Monday, but no firm plans had been set. Then, during his press conference, Emanuel said his team was ready to negotiate “starting now.” CTU emailed reporters saying Lewis had texted CPS asking to go back to the drawing board that night; CPS officials said that text never came.

Beyond the claims that are legal for CTU to strike against, CTU’s complaints echo the broader ones of teachers’ unions across America: standardized tests are over-emphasized; class sizes are ballooning; teacher evaluations that use standardized tests “cheapen” schools. Lewis said that the evaluation system required so much administrative work that even the principals, usually not union bedfellows, were calling CTU, asking for help. “When principals are calling Chicago Teachers Union, you know there’s something wrong with this plan,” Lewis said. “Class size matters, it matters to parents,” she added.

Teachers have reported having as many as 42 students in one classroom, but Emanuel said that rules surrounding class size were not being negotiated, and that if classes are too large, schools have recourse to change that. “Class size isn’t the issue,” he said.

The strike coincides with the first day of a cross-country bus tour U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan will take to discuss education. Duncan gained his education credentials leading the district, so the issue might come up on the trail this week.

“We’re all very nervous about the outcome,” Xian Barrett, a Chicago high school law and history teacher, told HuffPost Sunday. “But I’m also hopeful that we’re finally taking a stand on issues that have more to do with educating children than salary or benefits. It’s about who has the right to determine how children are educated in the community.”

Some parents were dismayed. “I am up and have to explain to my daughter in the morning why she can’t go to school,” tweeted Karen Travis, a parent who was traveling and was unable to speak by phone. “We won’t be a CPS family after this year. The education is horrific, and I will pay for private school in the future,” she added.

Loading Slideshow...

  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, centre, tells reporters at a news conference outside the union’s headquarters that the city’s 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning after final-day talks with the Chicago Board of Education failed to reach an agreement over teachers’ contracts on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis walks to a news conference outside the union’s headquarters in Chicago to announce that the city’s 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning after talks with the Chicago Board of Education broke down on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • David Vitale, Karen Lewis

    Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale informs reporters at a news conference outside the Chicago Teachers Union Headquarters that final-day talks with the union failed to reach an agreement over teachers’ contracts on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 in Chicago. CTU President Karen Lewis subsequently announced that the city’s 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning for the first time in 25 years. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Karen Lewis

    Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, right, tells reporters at a news conference outside the union’s headquarters that the city’s 25,000 public school teachers will walk the picket line Monday morning after final-day talks with the Chicago Board of Education failed to reach an agreement over teachers’ contracts on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Teachers and pro-teacher community groups rally in front of a building the Chicago Teachers Union has designated its strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if an agreement over teachers’ contracts is not reached with Chicago Public Schools by Monday. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union distribute strike signage at the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, should it fail to reach an agreement over teachers’ contracts with Chicago Public Schools by that date. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Teachers respond enthusiastically to passing drivers honking their horns in support as they distribute strike signage at the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, should it fail to reach an agreement over teachers’ contracts with Chicago Public Schools by that date. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union distribute strike signage at the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012, should it fail to reach an agreement over teachers’ contracts with Chicago Public Schools by that date. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of community group Parents 4 Teachers display pro-teacher posters outside City Hall on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in Chicago. The Chicago Teachers Union has threatened to proceed with plans to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if weekend negotiations with Chicago Public Schools over teacher salaries and working conditions fails to deliver an acceptable outcome. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Members of community group Parents 4 Teachers display pro-teacher posters outside City Hall on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012 in Chicago. The Chicago Teachers Union has threatened to proceed with plans to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if weekend negotiations with Chicago Public Schools over teacher salaries and working conditions fails to deliver an acceptable outcome. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • TaliSol Medina

    Eight-year-old TaliSol Medina, left, a third-grader from Galileo School, puts the finishing touches on a pro-teachers poster for the Pilsen Alliance community group in front of the Chicago Teachers Union strike headquarters on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012 in Chicago. The union has vowed to strike on Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 if an agreement over teachers’ contracts is not reached with Chicago Public Schools by Monday. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • In this Aug. 22, 2012 photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks at a Chicago Board of Education meeting in Chicago.

  • In this Friday, Aug. 31, 2012 photo, Vicky Kleros, principal of the Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School in Chicago’s predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood, just southwest of downtown, looks through files at the school. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said more than 26,000 teachers and support staff in the nation’s third-largest school district don’t want to strike, but are prepared to do so for the first time in 25 years. If there is a strike, Kleros said the school would be open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every school day so that children still could get breakfast and lunch and participate in activities that would keep them off the streets. Later in the afternoon, the local library and park district buildings will be open – all part of a $25 million school district strike contingency plan. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • In this Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012 photo, Emily Ponce, 8, a second-grader at Manuel Perez Jr. Elementary School, in Chicago’s predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood, watches her brother Jose Ponce, 13, a Perez eighth-grader, as he talks about the chance of a teachers strike. Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said more than 26,000 teachers and support staff in the nation’s third-largest school district don’t want to strike, but are prepared to do so for the first time in 25 years. It would be the first big-city strike since Detroit teachers walked off the job for 16 days in 2006. The last Chicago teacher strike was in 1987 and lasted 19 days. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Members of the Chicago Teachers Union hold an informational picket outside Willa Cather Elementary School, calling attention to ongoing contract talks with the Board of Education on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 in Chicago. The union says it is still trying to reach an agreement on wages, health benefits, and job security. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • A student watches a Chicago Teachers Union informational picket outside Willa Cather Elementary School, calling attention to ongoing contract talks with the Board of Education on Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 in Chicago. The union says it is still trying to reach an agreement on wages, health benefits, and job security. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • In this June 6, 2012 file photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks to the news media after casting her ballot during a strike authorization vote at a Chicago high school. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

  • Chicago Board Of Education President David Vitale address reporters after the board unanimously rejected an independent fact finder’s recommendation to give teachers a double-digit pay raise, Wednesday, July 18, 2012 in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

  • Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard speaks at a back-to-school initiative event in Chicago, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. At the event, Brizard said that an independent fact finder’s recommendation to give teachers a double-digit pay raise would cost the district $330 million, lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and increase class sizes. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard hands a package to a student during a back-to-school initiative event in Chicago, Wednesday, July 18, 2012. At the event, Brizard said that an independent fact finder’s recommendation to give teachers a double-digit pay raise would cost the district $330 million, lead to thousands of teacher layoffs and increase class sizes. (AP Photo/Sitthixay Ditthavong)

  • In this Sept. 9, 2011 file photo, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, left, and Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard greet students as they arrive at Carl Schurz High School in Chicago.

  • In this June 6, 2012 photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis casts her ballot during a strike authorization vote at a Chicago high school.

  • From left, first-grader Travios Slater, fourth-grader Kiante Byrd, their grandmother Jeanette Byrd, their aunt Letitia Daniel, mother Felisha Slater, and cousin Randall Darring pose on Daniel’s front porch, Friday, June 8, 2012, in Chicago.

  • In this Oct. 27, 2011 file photo, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, visits with Brandy Toliver, left, and Mariah Neyland, in their first-grade class at the CICS Washington Park School in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

  • In this Nov.16, 2011, file photo, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis speaks at a news conference in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn hands a pen used to sign a landmark education reform bill to the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, at a bill-signing ceremony, Monday, June 13, 2011, in Maywood, Ill. The bill makes it harder for teachers to go on strike and easier for educators to be fired. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn holds up a landmark education reform bill that makes it harder for teachers to go on strike and easier for educators to be fired at a bill-signing ceremony, Monday, June 13, 2011, in Maywood, Ill. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

  • Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, speaks to teachers during a protest June 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Hundreds of teachers gathered to demonstrate outside the offices of the Chicago Board of Education and marched through the city’s financial district protesting the board’s recent decision to rescind a 4 percent annual raise promised to the teachers in their contracts. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago school teachers demonstrate June 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Hundreds of teachers joined in the protest outside the offices of the Chicago Board of Education and marched through the city’s financial district to protest the board’s recent decision to rescind a 4 percent annual raise promised to the teachers in their contracts. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago school teachers display protest signs from inside a school bus as they leave a demonstration outside the Chicago Board of Education building on June 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Hundreds of teachers demonstrated outside the board’s offices and marched through the city’s financial district to protest the board’s recent decision to rescind a 4 percent annual raise promised to the teachers in their contracts. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (L) listens to Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard while participating in a forum about education in big cities at the Katzen Arts Center on the campus of American University March 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. Calling their municipalities ‘city-states,’ Emanuel, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported the idea of individual school districts being able to compete with states for the $4.35 billion ‘Race to the Top’ grant program created by President Barack Obama. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Raymond J. Learsy: NOPEC (‘No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act’: A Presidential Issue And A Test Of Political Integrity

The weekend past, the most auto traveled of the year, gasoline hit a record Labor Day high. It is well past time for all our branches of government, in the name of the nations bludgeoned consumers, to stop playing doormat to the oil interests, most especially the machinations of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The United States is the world’s largest consumer of oil, and instead of using its massive purchasing power to forge a level playing in the oil market it has consistently permitted OPEC, and oil interests piggybacking on OPEC’s manipulations (to ever higher oil/gasoline prices), to make us dance to their tune, hiding under the preposterous umbrella of ‘sovereign immunity,’ permitting OPEC’s collusive practices countenanced by an out of touch U.S. judicial branch of government, as though sovereign economic aggression was analogous to not giving parking tickets to cars with diplomatic plates. This has now gone on for years with a near fivefold increase in the price of oil since the turn of the century with nary a push back from our government or its agencies.

Yet some years ago, in 2007, there was a genuine effort to change the equation in a fundamental way when Congress voted overwhelmingly, in defiance of the oil lobby and their allied interests for the NOPEC bill, so named because it would allow the international oil cartel, OPEC, and its national oil companies operating outside the law, hiding behind our sovereign immunity shield, to be sued and held accountable for what are clearly anti-competetive attempts to limit the world’s supply of petroleum and the consequent impact on oil prices.

In defiance of oil interests Congress voted overwhelmingly for the Bill (70 votes to 23 in the Senate and 345 to 72 in the House). This was an act of refreshing and courageous leadership by our Congress only to be abandoned after President George W. Bush, that great stalwart of oil interests and friend of Saudi Arabia, made it clear that he would veto the bill should it land on his desk.

Anti-OPEC legislation has a long history and varied forms of a NOPEC bill have been introduced some 16 times since 1999, only to be vehemently resisted by the oil industry, its allied oil interests like the American Petroleum Institute and their legion of “K” Street Lobbyists, fully cognizant that the higher OPEC can push oil prices the greater the profits for domestic oil companies. Then, of course, the diplomatic pressure by potentially impacted national interests as the assertion of the UAE’s oil minister Mohamed bin Dhaen al-Hamli not so subtle threat, “If the U.S. wants to sue (OPEC) member countries it’s extremely dangerous.”

In 2000, the proposed bill took form as the “Oil Price Reduction Act and International Energy Fair Pricing Act” seeking to force the president to reevaluate or even suspend economic and security ties to those states engaged in “oil price fixing to the detriment of the U.S. economy.”

The legal loophole has not only permitted collusion among OPEC member states to impact the price and availability of oil, but equally insidious has permitted their national oil companies, the instruments of OPEC manipulation, to control important swaths of America’s refinery capacity such as PDVSA, Venezuela’s national oil company’s ownership of CITGO with its significant refineries at Corpus Christie TX., Lamont, ILL., and Lake Charles, LA. supplying 13,500 domestic gasoline stations, thereby having direct impact on U.S. gasoline prices and availability. This while on May 31 of this year a valve turning ceremony took place at Port Arthur, LA. signaling the completion of the Motiva Enterprises Refinery, owned 50 percent by Saudi Aramco and 50 percent by Shell, of their 600,000b/d refinery expansion, making it the largest refinery in the U.S.

Opportunistically situated at Port Arthur with its access to the world’s shipping lanes, it is strategically placed to export petroleum-based commodities such as gasoline, diesel, heating oil, etc. to world markets taking pricing pressure off America’s growing production of oil and keeping oil prices up, which is Saudi Aramco’s primary strategic business, and Shell’s not far behind. Ironically perhaps, perhaps better said purposefully with malice aforethought, the plants 600,000 b/d capacity is almost the equivalent of America’s new oil frontier, North Dakota, with its daily oil production of 600,000 barrels/day.

In the face of OPEC and oil interests riding roughshod over the nations economic interests, this administration showed its true colors in the eye-opening court case, litigated during the past year:

United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas (No. 06-3569) Spectrum Stores Inc…..et al Plaintiffs-Appellants
v.
CITGO Petroleum Corporation; Petroleos De Venezuela S.A. ….et.al.

With the plaintiffs charging that the Venezuelan State Oil Company is “liable under the Sherman Act for its participation in a global price-fixing conspiracy with the OPEC member nations and other private oil companies.”

Given the issue of “Sovereign Immunity” the court asked the Obama administration to file a brief commenting on the merits of the complaint. Incredibly, the administration filed an amicus brief upholding the defendants argument that the plaintiffs had no standing because of the principle of ‘Sovereign Immunity’ and joined by the Department of State, Treasury, Energy and Justice Departments.

This was a sea change from not only the president’s position, but also his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton when both were serving in the Senate. Then Senator Clinton was co-sponsor of the “S.879 (110th): No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels (NOPEC) Act of 2007” sponsored by Senator Herbert Kohl (D-Wis.) on March 17, 2007 — “a bill to amend the Sherman Act to make oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal.” As cited above the Bill was introduced in April of that year but was not enacted.

President, then Senator Obama voted “Yes” for the NOPEC Act of 2007, on making oil-producing and exporting cartels illegal. Voting “Yes” would have amended the Sherman Act, making it a violation for any state:

  • To limit oil production/distribution of oil/natural gas
  • To set or maintain the price of oil/natural gas
  • To otherwise take any action in restraint of trade for oil/natural gas
  • When such collective action has a direct, substantial and reasonably foreseeable effect on the market supply, price, or distribution of oil and natural gas in the U.S.

On February 29 of this year Sen. Herb Kohl, Chairman of the Senates Judiciary Committee, introduced once again the “No Oil Producing Export Cartels (NOPEC) Act.” Senator Kohl’s clarion call is lucid and should finally be heeded:

“Now is the time, with the people we represent seeing soaring energy prices eat into their family budgets, to finally pass this legislation into law and give our nation a long needed tool to counteract this pernicious and anti-consumer conspiracy.”

Clearly the Bill has gone nowhere because it did not have the administration’s support. And therein lies the crux of the issue.

Is the Obama administration as pathetically submissive to OPEC and oil industry pressures as the Bush administration? How would they deal with this issue if they were given “four more years.” And not to be left out, how would a Romney administration handle this hot potato? These are important questions that need be asked now, before the election, so Americans will have an understanding on whose side the next elected President is on, the oil barons or the battered American consumer.

<!–

Books by this author

–>

This Blogger’s Books from

Amazon

indiebound


Oil and Finance: The Epic Corruption Continues 2010-2012


Oil and Finance: The Epic Corruption


Follow Raymond J. Learsy on Twitter:

www.twitter.com/raymondLearsy