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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

www.NationalView.org's Note From a Madman

November 19, 2008


Déjà Vu - The New(?) GOP Message and Messengers

In the wake of two successive stunning losses for the Republican Party, one might think that the Party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt needs to move to the Left (as in Center) to get back some of the power it's squandered. Whereas that might be the obvious strategy for the GOP, it isn't the only option they could take.

There is every reason to believe that, had the economy not exploded the way it did, we Democrats might have been crying over our morning cereal yet again this past November 5th. What's even more possible is that, had John McCain chose more wisely in his Vice Presidential decision, picking an economy "expert" such as Mitt Romney (believe me - that is how they would have presented the former Massachusetts Governor after the September economic meltdown had he been on the ticket), they might have done a whole lot better as well.

Yesterday, the remaining Republicans in the Senate came out with the message that their brand isn't damaged but needs more imagination. This statement from the Chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, Lamar Alexander (TN) says it all:

"We don’t need new principles. We don’t need to hire a PR firm. We have had a failure of imagination on the Republican side. We need to turn the principles we believe in into solutions that affect Americans on an everyday basis – solutions on electric prices, on health insurance, on helping balance the family budget, and on keeping spending under control. We know how to do that, we will do that, and we’re looking forward to it.”

The rhetoric out of the GOP Senate leadership today signals one thing and one thing only: Nothing has changed. They apparently believe that full speed ahead is the way to go in the upper chamber of Congress and don't seem to mind spurting out the same ol' same ol' which they've been spurting out since the mid-nineties.

Just take a look at Alexander's statement, for example. Nowhere in there is the thought that maybe, just maybe they did something wrong. It's like a sneak peek at where the GOP is going to go as the minority party. While the Republicans had control of the White House, the Senate and House of Representatives, there were no "solutions" on "electric prices" other than allowing them to stray ever higher; there was no "solution" on "health care", except the raising of our rates and diminishing of our benefits; and the "solutions" to our "family budgets" have been to oversee our middle class "bank accounts" and savings go into negative territory.

And as for "keeping spending under control"... c'mon! The Republicans took office with a few hundred billion dollar surplus and are leaving us nearly a trillion dollars in debt. And while one can say that the Democrats controlled the senate and House for the past two years, only those of us the most in-denial wouldn't agree that the seeds were sewn during the time they (the GOP) controlled all three houses in DC.

I've been watching the various talking head shows and there are many former Republicans out there chastising their party members. Soon-to-be former Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is the latest of the walking wounded to come out and do so, even he's done so before.

The Republican Party has "been hijacked by a group of single-minded, almost isolationist insulationists, power-projectors. I am not happy with the Republican Party today,"
-Hagel on Meet the Press, May, 2007

At the time, Hagel was mulling over his third-party candidacy prospects. Certainly, had he done so, he would have been a factor in the results and, possibly, a factor which would have hurt Barack Obama. Hagel is not fond of his soon-to-be ex-party brethren today as well.

The remainder of the Republican party left governing in Washington and at the upper echelons of the various state levels have put themselves out of touch with us everyday Americans They are the party of an unusual combination of constituents: The moral Right who follow them blindly and the elitist rich who lead them. The GOP of today are nothing more than embedded politicians who will do or say anything to keep their offices in the various publicly-financed buildings.

While many of them are losing their seats in the various houses of legislature, those who remain will keep up the rhetoric assuming that they can never be ousted. Their power doesn't lie in their numbers but in their ability to keep on fooling those in their territories.

The best thing that could happen to those remaining in Congress today is to have the Democrats get to the 60 seat super-majority in the US Senate. It gives them the plausible deniability and the ability to say, "I told you so," if things don't go well.

If the Democrats don't get to 60 however, they have to either vote to allow real legislation to get through or clog up the works. Whereas the former should be done with the utmost necessity, they will, no doubt, do so to do the latter.

Business as usual has changed for the GOP only in their numbers. Everything else appears to be "Stay the Course."

-Noah Greenberg

We Can't Live Without Water

In uncertain economic and environmental times, big banks and financial groups are buying public water systems as safe investments.

Water is the new oil for global financial powerhouses and water is being commoditized and traded in global stock exchanges.

Today in addition to being able to buy water rights and purchase lakes on private land, an individual or a corporation can invest in water-targeted hedge funds, index funds and exchange-traded funds (EFTs), water certificates, shares of water engineering and technology companies, shares of multinational private water utilities, shares of multinational banks and investment banks that own water companies, and a host of other newfangled water investments in this U.S.$425 billion industry which is expected to become a U.S.$1 trillion industry within five years. And if one happens to be a tycoon, one can also create his or her own private water districts and water utilities.

The recent media coverage on water has centered on individual corporations and super-investors seeking to control water by buying up water rights and water utilities. But paradoxically the hidden story is a far more complicated one. The real story of the global water sector is a convoluted one involving "interlocking globalized capital": Wall Street and global investment firms, banks, and other elite private-equity firms -- often transcending national boundaries to partner with each other, with banks and hedge funds, with technology corporations and insurance giants, with regional public-sector pension funds, and with sovereign wealth funds -- are moving rapidly into the water sector to buy up not only water rights and water-treatment technologies, but also to privatize public water utilities and infrastructure.

"Water" and "water sector" are used broadly to refer to water rights (i.e., the right to tap groundwater, aquifers, and rivers), land with bodies of water on it or under it (i.e., lakes, ponds, and natural springs on the surface, or groundwater underneath), water-purification and treatment technologies (e.g., desalination, treatment chemicals and equipment), irrigation and well-drilling technologies, water and sanitation services and utilities, water infrastructure maintenance and construction (from pipes and distribution to all scales of treatment plants for residential, commercial, industrial, and municipal uses), water engineering services (e.g., those involved in the design and construction of water-related facilities), and retail water sector (such as those involved in the production, operation, and sales of bottled water, water vending machines, bottled water subscription and delivery services, water trucks, and water tankers).

The story is multifaceted: In the midst of a recessionary economy with a blistering financial and economic crisis, declining employment, and a shrinking tax base, many financially strapped and debt-ridden local governments are beginning to relinquish public infrastructure (including water) and municipal services (including water and sewage utilities) to privatization by Wall Street and other global investors.

At the same time, Wall Street and multinational banks are seeing water, food, energy, and public infrastructure as safe investment havens with stable returns and financially liquid assets. Simultaneously, they are waking up to the golden opportunity presented by the current reality of a thirstier, water-scarcer world caused by global climate change (and its extreme weather), rapidly depleting groundwater and aquifers, increasing water pollution, soaring water demand exerted by population increases, fast-rising agricultural and industrial uses, and crumbling water infrastructure worldwide requiring billions of dollars annually in maintenance and upgrade.

Often, the picture painted by mainstream media and water-rights activists is too simple -- that of a single corporation (such as Coca-Cola in India or Bechtel in Bolivia) "corporatizing water;" the real story is not just of flamboyant tycoons (such as U.S.'s billionaire and former oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, or more recently, Hong Kong's real-estate billionaire Li Kai-shing, or Britain's magnate Vincent Tchenguiz) single-handedly grabbing water rights or individual corporations (e.g., Coca-Cola and Nestlé) sucking dry springs and groundwater to the detriment of poor subsistence farmers or slum-dwellers, but vastly complex global networks and partnerships of investment banks and private-equity firms linking together with other institutions (such as public-sector pension funds in Australia, Canada, and Europe; and sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia) and multinational corporations elsewhere to buy up and control water worldwide.

Not only are individual corporations buying up water but a deluge of globalized capital are also rapidly buying up water and consolidating their foothold in the water sector; these capital entities are investment powerhouses such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch (before it was sold to Bank of America), Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse, Macquarie Bank, Allianz SE, UBS AG, HSBC Bank, Alinda Capital, The Carlyle Group, Barclays Bank, Nomura Holdings, and many others. In fact, Wall Street and their global banking and corporate partners are aggressively buying up water all over the world.

-Pat Thompson

In response to, "In the end, I'd rather not bail out anybody and allow the free market to cleanse itself. But the situation we are in today requires that we save the jobs of the many and the expense of the whole (the entire nation). Directing all of the money towards the financial industry while they lay off their workers and refusing to save our nation's largest employer is just foolish, Pat Thompson writes:

The auto industry is one of the few actual industries still manufacturing something in the US. Other than weird financial products like the sliced and diced subprime mortgage-backed securities, and prescription drugs. The powers-that-be in the Republican party and their wealthy backers knew they would lose this election and wanted to clean out the Treasury before they left, leaving nothing for Obama and the new Democratic Congress (or the American people).

In response to, "SUVs and Hummers and NO electric cars, and few hybrids..." Pat Thompson writes:

Early on in this Bushed Administration there were big tax advantages to buying a Hummer or other large SUV. And when California enacted their own stricter MPG standards, the administration sued them. They were put in place by the oil industry, in fact they were, of course, The Oil Industry, and big gas guzzlers were good for their industry.

And in relation to the US Auto industry bailout discussion, Pat Thompson adds:

Our nation was ill-prepared for World War II, due to the Depression, and the isolationist mood of the country. Germany and Japan had spent the 30's building up their military machine. FDR started production of war material to assist England with the Lend/Lease program. However, after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan and the Nazi invasion of most of Europe, the United States, with FDR's positive attitude, started producing the tanks, jeeps, trucks, planes needed to fight this war on two fronts -- using the auto factories (as well as building new manufacturing facilities). Of course today we would have to buy the steel from China.... Having the machinery and trained personnel to replace our military equipment wasted and ruined in Iraq, IF NEED BE, is a good reason to keep our auto industry working. It would be wonderful if instead they could mass produce hybrid and electric cars, but keeping history in mind is a prudent idea.

In response to the US Government using our dollars to make the US Auto industry serve our concerns, Damien Arnold writes:

That is one of the best ideas I have heard thus far. The government should have some control over the top 3 automakers if they put up $25 billion to save them. In sports, owners terminate their team’s coaches/managers if they do not make the team better. In this case, the government would be the new owners and the US automaker’s CEOs would be the coaches/managers. Just giving them the money only continues the same bad practices and prolongs the inevitable of possible bankruptcy down the line. Since our new administration preaches “energy independency and environmental saving resources”, let our government have a hand in how our vehicles are built, give them a chance to practice what they preach.

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-Noah Greenberg