By the end of an Obama second term, 40% of our natural resources will be imported!

Posted on 14. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Energy/Environment, Politics

During a recent trip to Washington DC, I heard that “by the end of his second term, President Obama wants 40% of our natural resources to be imported.” Like Harry Reid’s “Bain Capital investor,” my source is reliable: a Capitol Hill staffer. While I do not have a secret White House memo to validate the premise, it explains a lot.

Oil — During his 2008 campaign, candidate Obama made it clear that he doesn’t have a problem with $4-a-gallon gas. His Energy Secretary is on record as having said that he thinks our gasoline prices should be more in line with those of Europe—which are typically more than double ours in the US. We know that supply issues are one of the leading drivers of higher gasoline prices, yet Obama’s policy decisions—such as Keystone—lead to reducing the resource.

In his first campaign ad of the season, President Obama touted his record on oil, claiming that we have more domestic production in America than at any time in recent history. While this is true, it is not thanks to his policies.

The majority of the oil extraction is on private land, mostly thanks to North Dakota’s Bakken Field. The development that is being done on federal lands is thanks to leases made and wells permitted during the Bush administration.

New oil and gas leases and permits on federal land are down 50% under the Obama administration compared to the Clinton administration.

Because of the time it takes to bring a federal lease into production (5-10 years)—especially with the Obama Department of Interior policies, he is likely setting the US up for an oil shortage (even without Middle Eastern unrest) by the end of a potential second term that will send gasoline prices past his acceptable $4 a gallon, toward Secretary Chu’s “European levels.” With a dearth of new American oil development, we’ll need to import more from places like Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.

Coal — Candidate Obama’s comment about bankrupting anyone wanting to build a coal-fueled power plant is now widely known. His EPA’s actions surely support the statement as we are seeing record power plant closures.

But it is not just power generation that is under attack, it is the extraction of the source fuel: coal, as well. Earlier this year, the EPA’s decision to pull a legally issued coal-mining permit that had been through years of environmental impact studies and analysis was overturned by the US District Court.

Last week, his EPA was shot down once again. On July 31, the DC district court sided with coal miners. The decision declared that the EPA’s insistence that water discharged from a coal mine be clearer than bottled water was an overreach and should not hold up new mining permits.

While blocking new coal mining will probably not cause the US to import coal, it will prevent us from exporting it. Currently coal is a major export—one of our few exports—that helps bring a balancing element to our trade deficit.

Rare Earth Elements – On March 13, President Obama announced that the US was joining with Japan and the European Union to file a trade complaint before the World Trade Organization in Brussels to insure that China keeps exporting rare-earth elements.

These unique elements, with names like neodymium, europium and dysprosium are what the Japanese call the “seeds of technology” due to their astounding electrical, magnetic, phosphorescent, catalytic, and chemical capabilities. While most Americans are unaware of their existence, rare earths enable everything high-tech we use today—from MRIs, cellphones and iPods to hybrid automobiles and wind turbines—and are extremely important to today’s high-tech defense capabilities.

President Obama is going after China because the Chinese produce more than 95% of all rare earths used in the world by high-tech industry, while sitting on only 23% of the world’s resources.

Obama insists that the Chinese continue to ship rare earths to the rest of the world’s economies despite the fact that the Chinese require the use of essentially all of their rare-earth production in Chinese industries.

The Chinese had announced, in 2011, they could become net importers of some of the most critical rare earths by 2015.  But in July, they said they would be importers a year sooner—in 2014.

And on top of that, the Chinese are creating a national rare-earths stockpile, shutting down production from the worst polluters, and tacking on higher tariffs for those rare earths they will export.

We don’t need a protracted legal hassle in Brussels that won’t produce a single American job or a pound of rare earth produced from America.

The solution is streamlined and accelerated permitting, recognizing that American miners and manufacturers employ the world’s best environmental scientists and engineers and geologists. Instead of paying lawyers to push paper in Brussels, we need to be creating jobs from mining and the upgrading of rare earths in America, providing a secure domestic source of these vital “seeds of technology.”

Land Access — Early in President Obama’s first term, he announced his intention to increase the quantity of national monuments and introduced a new “wild lands” designation—both of which serve to limit the extraction of natural resources. Two such cases I’ve repeatedly addressed are the proposed tungsten mine in Montana and the swath of land that extends from the Mexican border up into rich farming/ranching land that also includes potential oil, gas, and rare-earth extraction in New Mexico.

In the Montana case, the Forest Service continually throws obstacles to extraction in the way of potential mining activity.

Because the tungsten—needed for the manufacture of steel—is located in an inventoried roadless area, the Forest Service has mandated that, among other things, the site must be cleared and, later reclaimed, with hand tools.

The drilling equipment must be hauled to the site with a team of pack mules which must be fed certified weed-free hay—all this to move equipment less than 1000 feet from a Forest Service road. If the case were not so tragic, so representative of similar stories being played out all over America, it would be comical.

In the New Mexico case, ranchers and farmers fear being thrown off of land that has been in their family for generations. With a simple stroke of President Obama’s executive-order pen he could remove 2.5 million acres—though 600,000 is the number generally bandied about—from any economic development or useful purpose by creating a new national monument.

Natural Gas – The currently verbiage coming out of the White House favors natural gas extraction—but actions speak louder than words. America’s newfound natural gas abundance is made possible through the use of multi-stage hydraulic fracturing—which Obama’s EPA has, unsuccessfully, been trying to link to the contamination of drinking water. Plus, we know that much of Obama’s energy policy is driven by an environmentalist agenda—with the Keystone pipeline being the most obvious example.

A few weeks ago, the Sierra Club announced its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign attacking natural gas, saying “The natural gas industry is dirty, dangerous and running amok,” and “the closer we look at natural gas, the dirtier it appears; and the less of it we burn, the better off we will be.”

With this in mind, by the end of an Obama second term, we can expect the availability of natural gas to be diminished—and what we will have will be far more expensive, driving up the price of what is currently low-cost electricity generation.

Nuclear — We may not think of electricity as a natural resource, but effective, efficient, economical electricity generation requires natural resources: coal, natural gas, uranium, and, occasionally, oil.

Uranium is the source fuel for nuclear power and we have an abundance of it in America—yet we import more than 90% of what we use. A couple of days ago, it was announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “would stop issuing licenses for nuclear plants until it addresses problems with its nuclear-waste policy.”

The “problems with nuclear-waste” are a direct result of White House policy. The Obama administration effectively shut down Yucca Mountain with a 2009 decision to reduce Yucca Mountain’s budget. This new problem for nuclear power has the potential to impact many US reactors.

In Germany, they used to export their nuclear-generated electricity. Since they shut down nearly half of their reactors, they are importing electricity from other countries.

Export or Import??

Former Obama adviser Austan Goolsbee has been out talking about getting the economy “revved up.” Part of his solution? “More exports.”

The goal should be to have 100% of our natural resources to come from within our shores. Yet, as you can see, the Obama plan seems to call for more natural resource imports. 40% by 2016 adds up.

The countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are the countries with the highest energy consumption. So, why is it that Obama’s policies push us to use less energy, while paying more for it?

As we head toward the November 6 Election Day, keep in mind the stark contrast the satellite photo of the Korean Peninsula at night points out—the country without freedom, North Korea, is dark. With nothing separating them but an invisible line and a vastly different style of government, South Korea, the free-market, democratic, and developed country is bright.

Which do you want?

Do you want a bright future badly enough to step out of your comfort zone and talk to friends, family and neighbors; to talk to them about energy and its importance? Take the points made here and share them in good, old-fashioned conversations, and through new media like Facebook and Twitter.

We are down to 8 weeks to save America. Can we do it? With your engagement, “yes, we can!”

This article was submitted by the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon, who serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


 

 

 

 

 

Fowling Opponents of Free Speech

Posted on 06. Aug, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Who would have thought that a few comments on traditional marriage by a usually quiet COO would have lit the fuse on a feud between proponents and opponents of homosexual marriage and between free-speechers and limited speechers?

And who would have thought that this battle would be waged on the politically non-partisan floors of fast food restaurants around the USA?

In case you’ve been deep-sea diving in Fiji or backpacking up the Blue Mountains of Australia and haven’t been near a TV, the family-owned Chick fil-A company has become the new ground zero for American free speech.

After expressing his opinion on preserving traditional marriage, complete with a few bible references, COO Dan Cathy unleashed what might be the first salvo in a new economic range war pitting the American public against its own businesses!

If this were not so potentially dangerous for an already fragile economy (think of millions of consumers protesting in front of businesses intimidating customers or organized boycotts that could bankrupt companies) it would be comical, but it’s not.

While many are classifying this as a free speech issue – the right of a business owner to speak his mind – it may actually be the next logical step following the Citizens United case that redefines corporations as individuals.

The Citizens United case was adjudicated in the Supreme Court in 2010. The Court ruled that corporations had the right to exercise their free speech under the First Amendment on a par with individuals when it came to making political contributions.

In a recent ruling in June, the Court refused a request to revisit the initial ruling, saying: “Political speech does not lose First Amendment protection simply because its source is a corporation.”  Political speech or politically correct speech does not come without risk, however.

For businesses, this may be a further redefinition of their status and it could get a bit uncomfortable if people really start focusing on businesses as people.

Think about this way. It’s a little like a man giving up his bachelor status when he gets married. There are certain advantages, but certain disadvantages, too. No more Wednesday nights with the guys hanging around Hooters. No more drying your clothes in the microwave. No more expletives filling the air, either, especially when the in-laws are visiting.

Like our bachelor friend, corporations can’t have it both ways. If the CEOs, COOs, CFOs or anybody in positions of corporate power want to spout off on social issues, they have to be ready to reap the whirlwind and pay the price for it. That’s the double edged sword of free speech, but to deny them their right to do so is unacceptable and illegal.

The mayors of Chicago, Boston and Washington, DC might want to read their job descriptions more carefully. I doubt if their mayoral rights include creating a single overarching value system for their cities. That’s what their constituents do, individually.

If mayors get into the moralizing business, they may find fewer companies beating their way to their borders, and if they choose to go that route, they, too, must pay the price for THEIR free speech with dwindling tax bases and fewer jobs for the people who voted them into office!

As for Chick fil-A, I drove to their restaurant on San Mateo at Montgomery the other day (the same day of the proposed kiss-out or kiss-off) only to find the place mobbed with ordinary folks chowing down on delicious chicken sandwiches.

I looked everywhere for kissing couples but without success. All I saw was a successful company doing a land office business with order takers going from car to car in the drive in lane smiling and having a good time enjoying their 15 minutes of fame.

I’m sure that if Finger lickin’ good Colonel Sanders and Frank it takes a tough man to make a tender chicken Perdue were alive today they would have been dancing the chicken polka in the parking lot, excited to see so many people supporting free speech while downing heaping portions of the food that made them both famous.

It’s amazing what a little free speech and few chicken nuggets will do to soothe the savage beast in all of us.

- Editor

The halves and the will nots

Posted on 18. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Our legislative branch is deadlocked, at a monumental impasse, split along ideological lines.

Americans have been divided for a decade or more into two almost equal halves – one wanting more government assistance for the people of this nation and the other perennially chanting a Garbo-like wail, “I want to be left alone.”

Any scientist will tell you that when two forces of equal strength collide there is usually considerable energy released (and dissipated), friction generated and matter destroyed as a result. Any political scientist will tell you that the same is true in politics.

If our Congressional confrontations were all political theatre and had no real impact on our lives we could sell tickets and make some money from them. Unfortunately, their inability to listen to each other’s views and pass legislation that tracks with our avowed goals of living life, protecting liberty and pursuing happiness has gone well beyond the fail-safe point.

It now threatens our very survival as a nation.  Something’s got to give.

Crisis should never be the decider

In the recent past, the only way our elected representatives could be moved off their respective philosophical positions was a crisis like 9/11 or the threat of an economic disaster. Crises, however, should never be the catalyst or rationale for making enduring change, though they can serve as agents for finding short-term stop-gap solutions.

How can we ever hope to find real common ground in a country where there are two polar opposite views on wealth (and the taxation and distribution of it), health (its quality, cost and coverage) and our collective responsibility for one another ?

It seems bewildering until you drill down into the bedrock of the American psyche. Then you begin to understand that at our core, we Americans believe in the inherent goodness of our fellow human beings; the desire of all people to be free; the preservation of our Constitutional freedoms (speech, expression, assembly, religion, etc.); and even the right to be left alone.

But then we’re forced to ask ourselves, “if that’s the case, how do these beliefs square with the actions of our elected representatives?”

The one-step forward two-steps march backwards

Americans have shown they’ll march for civil rights, against war, for ending apartheid in foreign countries and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

Why then are we unwilling to elect representatives to Congress and even presidents that are capable of putting their egos aside, sitting down with the loyal opposition (the ultimate oxymoron) and letting their dedication to the greater good of our society guide their actions?

Could it be that we’ve given up or lost our motivation and resigned ourselves to bad governance? Maybe we’ve been living under the illusion that a middle way would magically appear as an alternative to gridlock.

It’s been said that if you keep to the middle of the road you’ll get run over, and given the state of our modern-day politics, that is probably the truest statement that can be made about our current political environment.

Political extremism

It may be that we’re no longer a nation that values moderation or compromise…that we’re an all or nothing society that feels it’s not how you play the game but whether you can win using any means possible that counts.

Unfortunately, ‘any means possible’ usually creates collateral damage to those who can least afford it and whose only crime was being in the way. America’s needy cannot be almost rescued from drowning. Any new political direction we decide to take must focus on ways to bring them back from the water’s edge and keep them from re-entering the currents that could swallow them up forever.

On the other side of the coin, America’s wealthy should not be vilified for working their way up an economic ladder that was placed within their reach by a system that favors enterprise and industry, nor should they be expected to agree to a wholesale confiscation of their wealth to pay for government’s mistakes.

Just as surely as the poor didn’t choose to be poor, the wealthy got where they are largely because the system rewarded their ingenuity and creativity.

There’s only left and right left

America’s long political odyssey has brought it to a T-intersection in the road. There’s no viable third way forward.

We must choose to go left or right of center, and we must also be ready to stand by our choices. Our country’s future is too important to be decided by the apathy of either the know-nothings or the do-nothings among us.

Those who choose neutrality, ignorance or inertia and who don’t vote in November are guilty of being enablers of the very parochialism that characterizes our political class today.

- Editor

Send in the salesmen

Posted on 11. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

It struck me the other day, that as the recognized world leader in marketing, we’re doing a pretty lousy job of selling ourselves to ourselves.

Yes, I’m talking (again) about the political parties and their candidates for the big job, as well as our beloved Congressmen and Senators.  Imagine this… you have just developed a truly fantastic product. You’re sure it’s going to sell a gazillion units.

You’ve called in the pitchmen from the Home Shopping Network to look it over.

Hans, the quirky fellow that sells those Scam Wowels (the towel that picks up 50 gallons of cola just by touching it for a few seconds) gives it a double thumbs up and high-fives you a dozen times before leaving the room floating on a cloud of enthusiasm while mumbling to himself how he’s going to sell the hell out of this one!

Later that night you begin to have second thoughts. You’ve concluded that the intrinsic value of this product (here the reader can substitute political philosophy, economic policy, landmark legislation, etc.) is so great that it can sell itself.

The more you think about it, the less you want to stoop to selling this product; that it would be beneath your dignity to do so.

So, the next morning, you call Hans and politely tell him that the deal’s off and that you’re going your own way at which point he offers you 50¢ on the dollar for your entire inventory because, according to him, you’re not going to sell a single one without him. Shocked, you hang up the phone and wonder if he’s right and if you’ve made the wrong decision.

Welcome, my friend. You have just entered marketing purgatory – that no-man’s land located somewhere between the fear of failure and extreme self-doubt, a place of constant angst where echoes of, “I told you so,” reverberate off the walls of your own head.

Don’t you think this happens with lawmakers, presidential candidates and their staffs, too? Sure it does. They make the same stupid mistakes that our inventor friend has made, except many of them have committed THE most unforgiveable marketing errors of all time…

They continually develop products that can’t be explained, that never live up to their claims, that don’t meet the customer’s needs, and are too expensive to use. Yes, I’m speaking about legislation (pick a bill, any bill), campaign rhetoric and unfulfillable campaign promises.

I keep waiting for the candidates to turn their microphones over to the pitchmen to close the deal, but they never do! Instead, they enter the twilight zone with an endless loop of déjà vu by re-reading the same script that you just heard!

What must the rest of the world, that has come to know if not love the great American salesmen, think of us? It must be a shocker to see our pros turn amateur, those same folks that brought the planet Coca Cola, McDonalds, baseball and iphones now stumbling around trying to find a truly great slogan or message.

Fear not. I’ve decided to give the presidential candidates a hand with a few slogans (by the way, the word slogan comes from the Gaelic words meaning battle cry).

Here they are, first for the President: “America: Where opportunity is only a generation away,” or “My America: Love it or divide it.” Maybe, “America: It’s all in the details.” Finally, “America: You won’t recognize it when I’m done with it!”

For the challenger, he should consider, “America: Our bottom line is yet to come,” or “America: A tax shelter in every home.” Maybe, “America: Club Med not Club Fed.”

Admittedly, those slogans are very different, but that’s what’s needed now, SOMETHING DIFFERENT.

Leave “Change we can believe in” in the political history books. Reviving it now would remind too many people of their circumstances. Better stick with the one being used on the side of Greyhound One as the President tours the battleground states, ”Betting on America.” That one will at least help him win back Las Vegas.

- Editor

Think you know the truth?

Posted on 10. Jul, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics

One Christmas I sat crouched behind our sofa waiting for the arrival of Santa Claus only to see my father and mother bring our presents out of the hall closet.

That was a sobering experience and one that forced me to reluctantly join the ranks of inveterate skeptics. I began to believe that truth, like beauty, was in the eye of the beholder, and that it depended on not only what was there but also what you wanted to believe was there!

My classmates and I never questioned the veracity of our school textbooks, nor did we doubt our teachers’ legitimacy. We trusted all authority because we had no reason not to.

Years later, I started checking the facts that were given to me. I read articles that expressed viewpoints different from my own and some that seriously questioned the conventional wisdom.

Soon I pushed back the curtain and saw the influence that special interest groups had on our society and how they constructed their arguments to win its support.

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that the media is probably the biggest special interest group around. While I was too young to appreciate the great radio commentators like H.V. Kaltenborn or Gabriel Heatter, I did watch their television successors like Huntley and Brinkley, Cronkite, Sevareid and Chancellor. I trusted these men to tell me the truth, every evening.

They may well have been part of a group of newscasters on an ideological mission but they didn’t come off that way to me or to millions of other people.

Their sole special interest seemed to be in laying out current events and the news in an easily digestible fashion for their audience.

Their delivery was measured but not peppered with innuendo or loaded phrases. They undoubtedly had their own personal agendas, but I’m willing to bet they were more interested in delivering an honest news ‘product’ rather than proselytizing.

It’s easy to look back to watershed moments in broadcasting history to find events that reeked with truth and defied misinterpretation. The civil rights confrontations and sit-ins of the 60s are but one example. That story was the truth and didn’t require a leap of faith to embrace it.

The newscasters were the messengers then and not the message. Now the tables seemed to be turned as editorializing (first by choosing which stories qualify for the newscast and next fitting them into a predetermined narrative) has replaced objective reporting!

I generally watch two morning news programs on Sunday: ‘Fox News Sunday’ with Chris Wallace and ‘Meet the Press’ with David Gregory. I cannot watch just one or I feel like I’m starting my Sunday as an ideologue who is more interested in reinforcing his own opinion than seeking the truth.

This exercise is not without frustration, however, because their guests attack their own credibility with a never-ending deluge of talking points, one-liners, false accusations and innuendo (if not downright lies)!

Sometimes the moderators let them roll it all out as Wallace’ stand-in did today with the heads of the Democrat and Republican parties.

These party chieftains’ whirling dervish spinning antics were truly worthy of the Foghorn Leghorn Award for blather.  What could’ve been a triple-word score for truthfulness ended up being an exercise in political legerdemain.

The Huntleys and Brinkleys are long gone and our childhood naiveté has been replaced with a nagging suspicion that everyone is lying to us.

Truth exists somewhere between reality and our cynicism, and it’s elusive. It bears no easily recognizable stamp or unassailable certificate of authenticity. It can be manipulated, disguised, slightly out of focus and often out of reach, but it’s there.

You have to want it badly to find it and you need to know where to look. We must not let the fact that truth has many hiding places deter us from searching for it, but if all else fails, we can always turn to our children who seem to have a natural penchant for honesty and an uncanny instinct for spotting a phony a mile away.

- Editor

SCOTUS Drives Stake through the Heart of America

Posted on 30. Jun, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Healthcare, Politics

Just when I thought it was safe to turn to the news channels to escape True Blood or Vampires Suck, I’m hit with the latest salvo in the vampire wars in the form of a surprise ruling from none other than the Supreme Court.

On Thursday last, the Supreme Court upheld the controversial Patients’ Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare).

Writing the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts gave all Americans and especially America’s small business sector the bad news with a deft puncture to our jugular vein and a stiff punch to the solar plexus for good measure.

In vampire talk, the ruling was a ‘major withdrawal’ from America’s already anemic small business sector.

By siding with the liberals on the court in a 5-4 ruling upholding one of America’s most despised pieces of legislation EVER, Chief Justice Roberts may have shown himself to be the consummate non-partisan, but he certainly didn’t boost his stock with the average constitutionalist, independent,  libertarian or conservative, not to mention the typical small business owner that was counting on an outcome that would keep the Federal Rottweilers away from the meager scraps in his feeding bowl.

Bram Stoker would have been impressed with the stealth and secrecy of the 9Js by not revealing their positions. Only the blood-sucking flying rodents of his novel, “Dracula,” did it better, laying in wait for the poor victim to fall asleep before relieving them of a pint of their life’s blood.

Vampire hunters didn’t have to brave the uppermost regions of the capitol rotunda to find a web-winged specimen either. There were plenty of them on the senate floor two years ago when Democrats used arcane tactics like ‘reconciliation’ to get their way and coupled it with epic deal-making to get the deciding votes in what has now become known as the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ and the ‘Louisiana Purchase,’ etc.

At the end of the day, when the votes were counted not a single Republican had said ‘yea.’ The most comprehensive, most all-encompassing piece of legislation that would affect the lives of every single American passed without a single Republican vote.

We should have seen the bloody handwriting on the wall when then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “We’re just going to have to pass this bill so that we can know what’s in it.” And when we did find out what was in the 2,300 pages of gobbledegook like the mandate, the thousands of new IRS agents who would be hired to monitor our insurance policy-holder status, it was enough to turn even the most battle-hardened vampire’s blood-shot eyes white with fear.

Yes, we should have seen it coming, but nobody on the left or right anticipated that rock-solid, pragmatic Chief Justice John Roberts, would succumb to the siren song of the Obama legal team’s arguments.

No, the CJ effectively cast the tie vote and thus drove a stake through the heart of our healthcare industry, our small business sector and our indebtedness while moving us one step closer to one nation of the government for the government and by the government with some liberty and a little justice for a few.

First it was the Congress who fell from our grace. Now it’s the Supreme Court. There’s only one branch left, and the opportunity to hold their feet to the fire will come November 6th. Maybe, just maybe, we can roll back Justicia Cunctator est Justicia Denego (“justice delayed is justice denied”).

There is one thing that the 9Js forgot amid their deliberations and that is the other court that is even more powerful than the Supreme Court. It is the court of public opinion, and its sentences are rarely plea bargained down, and its collective memory is long.

- Editor

Long live the king?

Posted on 23. Jun, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

When asked which monarchy is the most famous, most people will probably say England’s. Indeed, Queen Elizabeth II of England is celebrating her 60th year on the throne, so God save the Queen.

And while that long reign may be worthy of celebration, there are many other European queens of note. Some queens are regnant (queens who reign on their own) and others are queen consort (those whose husbands are kings).

I lived in three countries that were governed by a monarch: The Netherlands (Queen Beatrix), Trinidad and Tobago (Queen Elizabeth II) and Denmark (Queen Margrethe II).  While there are several other countries whose sovereigns are queens regnant or consort, the vast majority of monarchies are in the hands of kings.

During the 18th century, our colonists showed more than a passing interest in the policies on our own king, George III, monarch of England. Times were very different back in 1775 when our population of approx. 2.5 million Americans had simply had enough of the monarchy and rebelled. The rest, as they say, is history, but the question that remains unanswered is, “does history repeat itself?”

Constitutions and the monarchy

Many modern monarchs like those of Denmark and The Netherlands govern under constitutions, and have little power to affect the directions their countries take. Their roles are largely ceremonial, but the people of those countries love their queens and their royals.

An interesting footnote is that the British still don’t have a written constitution that sets forth British subjects’ rights! Instead, their laws have evolved through common law, the ‘Bill of Rights of 1689’, the ‘Great Reform Act of 1832’ and the ‘Representation of the People’s Act of 1928.’ Britain’s entry into the Common Market, and later the European Union (EU) brought England under a common set of laws that govern many aspects of their daily lives.

Are we moving closer to an American monarchy?

Americans are justifiably proud of their democracy and their Constitution, but every so often our patience is sorely tested as politicians of both stripes, in our Legislature and Executive Branch, push the envelope of our tolerance by acting as if the Constitution doesn’t apply to them.

Recent laws and actions like the Patients Affordable Healthcare Act (aka Obamacare) which is now before the Supreme Court, possible Executive Branch-condoned security leaks and now the new edict from the President on declaring a cessation of prosecuting 800,000 no-fault immigrants is sending strict constitutionalists into a tizzy.

It’s anybody’s guess whether these three issues will be the new shot heard around the world for the beginning of the end of America’s constitutional protection from government intrusion into our lives. Scholars, lawyers, legislators, political pundits, the media and the President’s men are adopting Parkinson’s Law (‘work expands to fill the time available for its completion’), liberally, and without apparent concern for the urgency of our situation and for the consequences that wrong decisions will have on our liberty.

In the year 900, Gorm the Old became the first King of Denmark, and I suspect his concerns were not about the pursuit of happiness, but were more about how to govern a bunch of unruly and impoverished people. It wasn’t until 1849 – nearly 900 years after his reign – that the Danes got their first constitution. By comparison, it took us less than two centuries (September 17, 1787) to get ours.

In 2004, Constitution Day became law when the late Senator Robert Byrd attached an amendment to a spending bill renaming Citizenship Day to Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. I was not a big fan of the late Senator, but I sincerely thank him for his actions.

America needs to be reminded, that without the protection of our Constitution we are merely subjects in waiting for the next monarch who thinks he can ignore the most important document of our history.

- Editor

Dealing with No-Fault Immigrants: Suggestions to the President

Posted on 16. Jun, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Politics, Social/Cultural

Question: What do you call someone whose car gets t-boned proceeding legally through an intersection? Answer: a victim. And what do you call the children of illegal immigrants in the U.S.? Illegal immigrants.

But just like the passengers in the t-boned car who weren’t driving the vehicle, didn’t own the vehicle or chose the route it traveled, the children of illegal aliens have another name…no fault immigrants.

Doing the executive ‘slow walk’

On Friday, the President chose to ratchet up the stakes in the immigration debate by announcing that his administration would, essentially, ‘slow-walk’ enforcement of deportation of a group of approx. 800,000 illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as teenagers and who now are under 30 years of age.

Let’s take a look at the problem from a political, legal and humanitarian standpoint. Politically, this decision will increase support for the President from some ethnic communities. The one the President most wants to curry favor with is the Hispanic community (but he’ll take the support of any other ethnic group that will give it to him), and the decision will probably earn him some votes.

However, the President’s people forget that most Hispanics are law-abiding citizens and look down on those of their own ethnic group (and others) who break our laws. They don’t support just any old measure to legalize the 12-20 million illegal immigrants in the U.S., but they do support some.

Si, se puede

I firmly believe that most Hispanic voters are like most any other voter in any other ethnic group; they vote their conscience not their skin color or ethnic background.

Legally, the President probably has the right under the “Immigration and Nationality Act” to set the pace and the procedures for identifying illegal aliens and deporting them, but that goes for individuals not sub-groups like no-fault immigrants. To challenge this authority politically or legally would be a colossal waste of taxpayer money and the Congress’ time not to mention political capital from both parties.

This is not to say that the issue of immigration shouldn’t be discussed. It should, but it should not be done piecemeal.  And therein lies the rub. Neither party really wants the whole issue debated just months before an important election because both parties could lose important votes.

And while this decision may be a convenient and temporary diversion away from the economy for the President, there is an aspect of his policy that could end up hurting him and that is the infusion of 800,000 new workers into an already dismal and growing unemployment situation.

This will clearly anger all those who’ve been looking for work for years and can’t find it. And while these people may be unemployed they do vote, and they could constitute up to 23 million voters if you count those who’ve given up looking.

From a humanitarian standpoint, the plight of the no-fault immigrant is clear. They are not to blame for the sins of their fathers (or mothers). Deporting them would be justified in the eyes of the law, but it would hardly be consistent with the culture of a compassionate country.

Some tips for you, Mr. President

What to do then? There are a few actions that could be taken. A special status should be created for them. Those who have no felony convictions, are under the age of 21 and who can demonstrate that they are here solely as a result of involuntarily accompanying a parent who came here illegally would be permitted to stay.

In order to do so they would have to register with Homeland Security and the State Department within a specific time period and then apply for a temporary residency card (not citizenship) as a no-fault immigrant. Then they would need to get a social security number and a work permit from a special office in either HS or the Department of Labor.

They would not be allowed to collect food stamps or welfare benefits (or vote) but would be allowed to collect unemployment benefits if they held a job and were let go within the legal time frame.

Finally, they would be issued a special forgery-proof ID card, be fingerprinted, submit to annual interviews by HS for a five-year period and have their income tax records reviewed by a special office within the IRS, also for a five-year period. Before the end of five years they would have the choice to either return to the country of their birth (deported if they refused) or apply for U.S. citizenship.

Should they choose to apply for U.S. citizenship within the five-year period, they would need to follow the same procedure that all would-be citizens follow and that is to return to their home country, submit an application at the American Embassy and wait their turn (for them in the U.S.) to be processed behind those who came before them. Once citizenship has been granted they would not be able to retroactively petition for their parents or other family members to become citizens.

The United States should be not be in the business of breaking up families but neither should we turn a blind eye to our existing immigration laws. Surely we can find a solution that will please both the absolutists and the relativists in this debate. If we don’t, we will soon have to deal with the next generation of no-fault immigrants.

- Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Victims of the Recession

Posted on 12. Jun, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

Thousands of words have been written about the victims of the current recession, and most of them have described the plight of the millions thrown out or frozen out of the labor force.

The bad news just keeps on coming

Every month, I get an email from the Bureau of Labor Statistics listing the percentages of the newly unemployed, and each month I reflect soberly on the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are now shunted aside to the unemployment rolls or worse. Many of them are young workers, older workers and inexperienced unskilled workers, but they also include white collar middle managers.

Anyone who has ever been unemployed can relate to this tragic situation and has probably sat across the kitchen table from their spouse adding up the monthly bills and wondering how they were going to pay them.  Journalists write about home foreclosures, bankruptcies highlighting the statistics, but often forget the stinging human tragedy of unemployment that can lead to crime, clinical depression, divorce, domestic violence and even suicide.

Victimization a part of our DNA?

It’s not part of our national DNA to feel victimized, but this might be changing as many people are in genuine dismay over how we as a nation got to this point. Many of us who never lived through the Great Depression or were too young to remember the hardships of WWII have only the oil crisis of the 70s, the recession of 1982 and the ‘dot com bubble’ as our barometer to measure hardship.

Because of that we are at a distinct disadvantage on how to accurately assess the misery of our current times. Granted, being unemployed and feeling desperate probably feels the same in 2012 as it did seventy or eighty years ago, but there are differences as well as similarities.

After the stock market crash of the 30s, wealth was wiped out on a grand scale and along with it the expectations of an entire nation.  In the 40s, America went to war, and while there were shortages of basic materials that were re-directed to the war effort, the solidarity of supporting the winning of that war put everyone in the same boat so that doing without meant sacrificing for a noble cause and was therefore more acceptable.

The oil crisis of the 70s woke us up to the reality that we were a foreign energy-dependent nation and that that dependency victimized our long-held beliefs about our self-sufficiency.

Fast forwarding to the mid-80s saw us pay the piper for our excesses. The massive economic slowdown, inflation and high unemployment were everywhere and American confidence was on a rapid downward spiral.  A whole new generation of Americans began to doubt themselves and felt that the country had lost its instruction manual on how to manage things and keep the intricate ‘machine of commerce’ running.

The hidden victims

We recovered, but it took a long time, and while we learned a few important lessons along the way, the recessions had divided America into two rather large groups that split along pro and anti-government and pro and anti-business lines. We weren’t alone. Europe experienced the same dilemma and Asia was just waking up from a long ideological slumber that was dominated by collectivist dreams.

Every crisis and every disaster has its victims. The obvious ones are the walking wounded, those left without the means to rebuild their lives. The hidden victims are just as real as those that bleed. They are our aspirations, our confidence, and yes, our hope.

America has allowed its courage, steadfastness, pluck, optimism, sense of humor, cooperative spirit and dreams become the collateral damage of the recession of 2008-2012.

Words will not return America to greatness, and our crisis won’t be solved by 60-second campaign ads. It is one of a profound lack of confidence, cooperation and leadership.

While our former landlords felt that “the sun never sets on the British empire,” America’s dawn is always breaking anew. We need only look up at it for inspiration and remember from whence and where we all came.

- Editor

Stephan J. Helgesen

Crony Capitalism and President Obama: How the system really works

Posted on 11. Jun, 2012 by Stephan Helgesen in Economy, Politics, Social/Cultural

President Obama’s attacks on Romney’s record while at Bain Capital have opened the window on what is being called “Obama’s public equity record”—with Romney’s surprise news conference in front of failed solar manufacturer Solyndra and new campaign ads bringing the Obama administration’s record into the spotlight.

Suddenly the “green jobs” record is being carefully examined and “giving taxpayer money to big donors, and then watching them lose it” is back in the news.

In his book, Throw Them All Out, Peter Schweizer says: “These programs might be the greatest—and most expensive—example of crony capitalism in American history. Tens of billions of dollars went to firms controlled or owned by fundraisers, bundlers, and political allies, many of whom—surprise!—are now raising money for Obama again.”

We understand that “crony capitalism” involves helping those who have helped you; “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” But the simple term crony capitalism belies the evil, corrupt nature associated with the actual process.

Crony capitalism goes way beyond helping your friends, your cronies. It is a twisted, orchestrated plan that rewards the cronies and costs the taxpayer, while punishing the average citizen.

It may take years of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to uncover the depth of President Obama’s crony capitalism, but we can get a glimpse of how it is done and what it costs us through a new book, Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism, which meticulously chronicles the crony capitalism of one of Obama’s cronies: former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson—President Obama’s original pick for the Secretary of Commerce post.

Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism is a little book. It can be read in an hour. It addresses just one aspect of Governor Richardson’s crony capitalism—but it covers it thoroughly, with nearly as many pages of footnotes and documentation as story.

I didn’t write the book, but I did have a bit part. I filed a couple of the FOIA requests and picked up some of the documentation. When I read the manuscript, I knew this was a story everyone needed to read—not so much because everyone needs to know about New Mexico, but because everyone needs to understand how the system really works.

New Mexico is a poor state, on the bottom of about every list—except for drunk driving (where we are on the top). Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism, documents just one rule—not even a law—that Richardson appointees, heads of state agencies (think EPA), inflicted on the state’s most economically important industry: oil and gas. With color photos, charts and graphs, the author, Harvey E. Yates, through Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism demonstrates how the “pit-rule” has cost the state $6 billion in overall revenues, and the state and local governments, specifically, $1 billion.

Remember New Mexico is a poor state, and the rule chronicled in the book, the pit-rule, is just one rule that favored one of Richardson’s friends. Similar actions likely played out over-and-over by a governor with higher aspirations. Similar actions likely continue to play out in the Obama White House with bigger numbers.

Johnny Cope was a long-time friend of Bill Richardson who the newly-elected Governor intended to appoint to an important position in his administration. (Note: the definition of cronyism is “Favoritism shown to old friends without regard for their qualifications, as in political appointments to office.”)

Cope owned a financially troubled business: Controlled Recovery Inc. (CRI) which serviced the oil industry through oil field remediation and waste management. At the time of Richardson’s election in 2002, CRI was near worthless and struggling, yet in 2006 CRI was sold for $10 million.

CRI grew to include a fleet of trucks and round-the-clock operations in just four years. Along the way, CRI got regulatory preference, uncooperative officials were removed, CRI’s business was increased, and its competitors were eliminated through agency orders. Official filings show that, on six specific occasions, Cope made substantial donations—or raised donations—totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars to Richardson, which coincided with critical regulatory events.

Pit-rule 17 was proposed in March 2006—the same month Cope’s companies donated $70,000 to Richardson’s re-election campaign. This statewide rule virtually required that all drilling waste from new drill sites be transported to an approved disposal facility.

But in 2004, the Richardson administration had made the CRI facility exempt from tough new regulations on oil field waste landfills and oil sludge recovery facilities, such that CRI had a huge advantage over its few remaining competitors. Effectively, the oil and gas industry had to pay CRI for the privilege of drilling new wells in New Mexico.

(On a national level, we have what could be called “crony environmentalism.” Laws and regulations, which should apply to everybody, are waived for the favored few. For example, the oil and gas industry is hauled into court if a migratory bird happens to die in an oil pit, but the thousands of birds—including protected eagles—killed by wind turbines are actually authorized.)

In the years prior to the pit-rule draft release, New Mexico’s drilling rig count closely paralleled the neighboring oil-and-gas states of Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado. However, after March 2006, New Mexico’s rig count started trending downward and fell below Colorado’s for the first time in more than a decade—costing New Mexico lost jobs, and severance and royalty income.

Chapter 1, Overview, starts with “Environmentalists eagerly claim fatherhood of the pit-rule. However, a close examination of the evidence leads to the conclusion that, while environmentalists indeed were useful midwives in the delivery of the pit-rule, cronies of former Governor Richardson sired the rule.” Chapter 6, The Price We Paid, ends with these words: “Such is the legacy of a Crony Capitalist enterprise.

The losers were the state’s public education system, state employees, the state infrastructure, and generally, the citizens of the state. If the environmental community wishes to assume part of the responsibility for the loss to the state because of its role of midwife of pit-rule 17, that is probably appropriate.”

Governor Richardson left the state with a budget deficit. Yet he was somehow able to have plenty of campaign cash to launch his presidential run. Governor Susana Martinez took on the deficit. She put different people in charge of the agencies and changed the policies.

Instead of using regulations as a hammer, they are now used as a guideline. The industry with New Mexico’s single largest economic impact is coming back. Nationally the economy is still in crisis, yet in one year, the New Mexico state budget has gone from deficit to surplus.

There is an obvious parallel with the New Mexico story and the national one. Governor Richardson and President Obama seem to be cut from the same ideological cloth. They hurt the industry that has the ability to help—if not fix—economic woes while making policy decisions that help their friends at the expense of the tax-paying citizens, often under the cover of environmentalism.

Yates’ Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism shows how it was done in New Mexico through the tight, single story of the pit-rule. The reader can easily extrapolate it out to the national stage.

Additionally, Governor Richardson and Crony Capitalism offers activists a lesson in the power of FOIA. There are surely similar stories being played out in other states where winners are picked and others are punished while the person in power laughs all the way to the bank.

In New Mexico, we elected a new governor who doesn’t share Governor Richardson’s ideology, and, in one year, the state budget went from a deficit to a surplus. On a national level, the problem is bigger than that of my poor state, but the results of a change at the top—and therefore, a change in the various agency heads—could well produce similar results for America.

This article was submitted by Marita Noon. She is the author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.


 

 

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