We will always be dependent on oil

If you live in a fantasy world, you will not be able to deal with reality.

The John Stewart clip below shows just how ridiculous it is to talk of “energy independence.” It’s time for an honest politician to talk about the best way to produce as much energy as possible, and then set a high enough tax on it to generate funds for the government. All proceeds for such taxes should offset corporate, wage, and income taxes.

The next politician who talks about “energy independence” needs to be laughed off the stage.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
An Energy-Independent Future
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

There is nothing “anti-market” about a “corporate death penalty.”

As with Arther Anderson, the accounting firm that rubber-stamped the fraudulent machinations of Enron Execs, our Federal Government should simply put an end to BP (or at least as much of BP they have jurisdiction over).

Given that this is a libertarian/conservative site dedicated to discussion of free-market ideas, I sense that some heads may be exploding out there. Yet, there is nothing “anti-market” about killing a bad company.

Let’s start with some simple facts. Corporations are creations of the state. Quite literally, they are “juridical persons” - entities that owe their existence to the operation of law. Hence, they can be killed by operation of law. The only question that remains is “Under what set of circumstances should a government undertake “killing” a corporation?”

As with Arther Anderson, BP should fall under any such scenario. Here’s why. As you read the linked article, you will begin to see that BP, as a company, operated in a manner inconsistent with reason, rationality, and what our liberal friends call “good corporate citizenship.” As with misdemeanors and felonies, we can use fines and other laws to punish bad policy. The oil leak in the Gulf are a combination of a reckless disregard for safety, combined with an almost sociopathic attitude (measured by actions BEFORE the disaster, NOT after) toward the culture and civilization that gives this company an environment to operate.

Beyond Pathetic

In short, Houston no longer trusted the company to do the right thing. As someone who grew up idolizing the company, he came to the reluctant conclusion that BP itself was an accident waiting to happen: It was taking on increasingly ambitious exploration and production challenges, while demonstrating an increasingly indifferent orcavalier attitude toward engineering discipline and excellence.

On top of all that, senior management seemed less than fully engaged in the difficult task ofextracting and producing petroleum.“For some time,” Houston writes in an article on -conservativehome.blogs.com, I had been dissatisfied with the way senior BP management focused so heavily on the easy part ofsafety, holding the hand rails, spending hours discussing the merits of reverse parking and the dangers of not having a lid on a coffee cup—but were less enthusiastic about the hard stuff, investing in and maintaining their complex facilities.

To put it even more bluntly, BP was taking a don’t-sweat-the-big-stuff attitude toward safety.Others noticed the same thing. Robert Bea, a professor of engineering at theUniversity of California, Berkeley, and a well-known expert on catastrophes involving complex systems, reached the same conclusion based on his own association with BP in 2002 and 2003. At the company’s request, Bea studied BP’s approach to catastrophic risk management at its U.S. facilities in TexasCity, Prudhoe Bay, and Cherry Point, Washington, and made recommendationsdirectly to John Browne, then CEO of BP, and other members of topmanagement.

Hearing of his work and knowing that he had launched an independent study (separate from ongoinggovernment studies and investigations) of the disaster in the Gulf, I sent an email to Bea in early June, showing him Houston’s critique of the prevailing attitude toward safety inside BP and asking if he agreed.

He immediately replied: You are spot on. BP worried a lot about personal safety—slips, trips, and falls—high frequency, lowconsequence accidents. They did not worry as much (at all) about the lowfrequency, high consequence accidents—the real disasters. Different categoriesof accidents require different approaches. In subsequent interviews, Bea told me that BP had paid promptly and well for his report, but he saw nosign that they were prepared to act any differently than before.

About two years later, on March 23, 2005, BP had a major explosion at its Texas City refinery that left 15 people dead and more than 170 injured. Again, BP admitted breaking rules. This time it did not get off so lightly: It was hit with $137 million in fines—the heaviest workplace safety fines in U.S. history. Following the Texas City accident, an independent report on safety at the five BP refineries in theUnited States, known as the Baker Panel Report, came to pretty much the same conclusion that Bea had reached before the accident. As Browne, who retired as CEO in 2007, states in his memoir, published early this year, the Baker Panelfound that “we had not done enough to make process safety a core value. We hademphasized that individuals had to be safe when they went about their daily workwork—‘personal safety.’ .  .  . But we had not emphasized that processes and equipment had to be safe under all circumstances andoperated in a safe way at all times ‘process safety.’ ”

I strongly recommend you read the entire article. It goes on to explain that BP became more engaged in the PR campaign to show that it was moving “Beyond Petroleum.” The article DOES NOT come to the same conclusion that I do, but it does show that this company is a perfect example of the kind of rent-seeking that corporations engage in.

It should be getting pretty clear to conservatives, libertarians, and all other freedom oriented folk that corporations (big and small) ought not get a free pass from our side of the aisle. Frankly, the closer you look, the more you notice that Big Government, Big Labor, Big NGO and Big Corporation are as often as not conspiring to strip individuals of their freedom.

Nothing in this piece should be construed as a defense of Obama’s massive lack of leadership on the oil spill. Rather, he seems to have been very conciliatory toward BP in the back room while excoriating them in public. Viewed in this light, the $20 billion “shakedown” is nothing more than a payoff to avoid a larger fine.

Forget the fine. Destroy the company, sell off its assets, shut it down, and pay the proceeds of the shutdown to its owners (AFTER paying for clean up and loss of jobs). This is not a liberal v. conservative debate. This is not about the “jobs” of the people who work there. If people need and want oil, they will find work with better, newer companies that offer better services.

It’s time to realize that we can kill companies, and that sometimes, that is a moral, and ethical policy.

The “Overton Window” – College level content for political wonks

With Glen Beck having discovered the “Overton Window” more than 2 years after I did, I thought this would be a great time to re-post my essay/post from Jan. 2008. Enjoy.
I found a really good post over at a pretty good lefty blog. Apparently, some Champaign-Urbana blogger named “The Squire” started blogging again, and he posted something pretty significant here. (clicking the link will get you an interesting and polite discussion)

The poli-sci concept is called “the Overton Window,” and if you want the very short version of it, I can boil it down to five words

“The Limits Define the Center”

Interestingly, I’ve used this on the air as one of my tidbits of “Extreme Wisdom” that I often use at the end of my shows. I attributed it to Ronald Reagan, but if you Google the exact words above in quotes, the only reference that shows up is one of my comments on my favorite blog.

Maybe the next iteration of the “Overton Window” will be the “Extreme Wisdom Corrollary.” But I digress.

This post on another lefty blog highlights the main point.

This is old hat to a lot of folks in the blogosphere, but defining terms is a good thing. Wikipedia:

The Overton window is a concept in political theory, named after the former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Joe Overton, who developed the model. It describes a “window” in the range of public reactions to ideas in public discourse, in a spectrum of all possible options on an issue.

Overton described a method for moving that window, thereby including previously excluded ideas, while excluding previously acceptable ideas. The technique relies on people promoting ideas even less acceptable than the previous “outer fringe” ideas. That makes those old fringe ideas look less extreme, and thereby acceptable.

Delivering rhetoric to define the window provides a plan of action to make more acceptable to the public some ideas by priming them with other ideas allowed to remain unacceptable, but which make the real target ideas seem more acceptable by comparison.

Again, this isn’t rocket science, but people who actually care about policy should be conscious of this phenomena. My regular visitors should know that my aggressive (and accurate) attacks on the corrupt “Education Industry”, along with my (so-called) extreme plan to reform Illinois Taxes and Education system, provides plenty of room to my left for expansion of charter schools, tuition tax credits, and incremental increases in parental choice.

If there is one thing in the Wikepedia entry that isn’t covered effectively, it is the fact that the ‘extreme’ idea may not really be a bad idea (left or right), OR, that even if it is ‘extreme’, it may be a good idea nonetheless. (like my school reform plan)

You could (or I could anyway) write an entire poli-sci course on the effective application of “The Overton Window.” One segment could cover the relation of “negative campaigning” to moving the “window” one direction or another – only faster. Another segment could be about the political cowardice of politicians and how the new technologies allow partisans of good ideas the ability to circumvent the politician, and go right to his constituents.

If you read the Mackinac Center piece on The Overton Window (and it should surprise no one that a right wing think tank articulated this first) you will still see the overbearing focus on persuading politicians directly.

Politicians are constrained by ideas, even if they have no interest in them personally. What they can accomplish, the legislation they can sponsor and support while still achieving political success (i.e. winning reelection or leaving the party strong for their successor), is framed by the set of ideas held by their constituents — the way people think. Politicians have the flexibility to make up their own minds, but negative consequences await the elected officeholder who strays too far. A politician’s success or failure stems from how well they understand and amplify the ideas and ideals held by those who elected them.

You read this, and you see instantly why the right is being taken to the cleaners by the left at the grass roots level. These denizens of liberty are still focussing on the sclerotic, corrupt, and generally brain-dead “political class” while the left is both paying kids to go door-to-door and putting policy and issue ads on TV.

The Heritage, Heartland, and CATO axis better wake up. Politicians react to people in their districts, not to the flood of mail from think tanks. The investments in mailings to legislators offer a tiny rate of return compared to billboards, TV ads, and robo-calls that go directly to the people.

The investment in 20 kids paid $10.50 an hour for 20 hours a week ($4200/wk and $218,000/yr) is a far better investment than 1, 2, 3 or 4 pasty white kids becoming part of the right-wing think-tank bureaucracy (which is starting to look an awful lot like the wasteful education bureaucracy that they rightfully criticize).

In closing, I keep trying to tell people it is much less about left or right, and much more about the quality of the idea(s). I’m open to the possibility that our friends on the left have one or two good ideas that might be worth considering. That said, it is my view that the “center-libertarian-right” coalition – to the extent that it still exists, has had superior policy ideas for about the last 20-30 years.

If the left is starting to post on “The Overton Window” while cleaning our clocks in organizing and dissemination, we on the “right” had better take notice. I’m of the belief that with equal resources, our ideas will prevail because they are more in tune with the American psyche / worldview. The sad thing is that we don’t have “equal resources”, and worse yet, the resources we have are being misapplied by the “leaders” – who are becoming increasingly timid and bureaucratic. (Hence the “Only a ‘moderate’ can win” nonsense spewing forth from Illinois so-called Republicans)

You may find that view “extreme”, but as I’ve stated “the limits define the center.”

Tune into my interview on WCRA – William Bence

Bruno Behrend interviewed on WCRA Radio by Morning Host William Bence. Topics include HB 2494, The Cartel Movie, Unions, and school choice in general.

MP3 File

The Most Stupid President

The Republicans should get their facts all lined up, and then go on a relentless tear against this very stupid man called Barack Obama. Concurrently, we need a new class of honest politician to go on a tear against the most stupid Democrat and Republican incumbents.

If it is indeed REALLY TRUE that he turned down Dutch offers of skimmers was turned down by the US Government, then the head of that US Government needs to ridiculed as an idiot of the highest order.

NOTHING Bush said or did is more insane and absurd as a President “presiding” over a government so idiotic. If the reasoning behind turning down such an offer was based upon the “Union Greed” of the insane “Jones Act,” then any politician of ANY party who still supports such an act should be (literally, not figuratively) tarred and feathered.

All of you reading this need to understand that 9/11, Katrina, and the BP Oil Spill, not to mention the financial crisis, are evidence of the massive failure of the “big government” mindset and model. As I’ve commented before (and often), the 2 party system that prevails in DC, where each party retains just enough power to prevent reform, is creating an Idiocracy.

Our government is becoming too stupid to govern us. This will eventually lead to more and more crises, calling for more and more Idiocracy. The only solution is a massive rollback in the frontiers of government control, and a follow up reassessment of what government’s roll in our lives should be.

Your future mortgaged to Bond Dealers, financiers of Union Greed

If you are looking for a hidden culprit that assisted public employee unions in their drive to bankrupt America, you need go no further than the Municipal Bond Industry. These folks have churned debt for decades, and used public works projects as their primary source of income.

America needs a municipal debt moratorium. States should be looking into laws that restrict municipal debt to retiring existing debt or necessary infrastructure projects. Building unnecessary schools that look like Taj Majals does not qualify. Putting forth proposals to fund tadiums and convention centers should precipitate a jail term.

Here are some links that outline the extent of the crisis. Remember, if the press is reporting that it’s bad, then it’s REALLY bad. Also remember, this blog has been on top of this for 3-5 years.

Municipal Bonds: The Next Financial Land Mine?

America’s Municipal Debt Racket

Nearly 40 years ago the Garden State borrowed $302 million to begin constructing the Meadowlands. The goal was to pay off the bonds in 25 years. Although the project initially went according to plan, politicians couldn’t resist continually refinancing the bonds, siphoning revenues from the complex into the state budget, and using the good credit rating of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition authority to borrow for other, unsuccessful building schemes.

Today, the authority that runs the Meadowlands is in hock for $830 million, which it can’t pay back. The state, facing its own cavernous budget deficits, has had to assume interest payments—about $100 million this year on bonds that still stretch for decades.

A look at the Illinois legislature will show that a good number of them have a nice little side businesses writing legal opinions on Illinois Debt. Of course, the king of the “Legal Opinion” business, is Chapman and Cutler, which just purchased legislation that makes bond churning easier for strapped, but greedy, municipalities and school districts.

California’s redevelopment regime is an object lesson. Starting in the 1950s, the state gave localities the right to create public agencies, funded by increases in property taxes, which can issue debt to finance redevelopment. A whopping 380 such entities now exist. They collect 10% of all property taxes—nearly $6 billion annually—and they have amassed $29 billion in debt never approved by voters for projects ranging from sports facilities to concert venues to retail malls, museums and convention centers.

Critics, including taxpayer groups, say most such agency projects add little economic value. Sometimes the outcome is much worse. In 1999, Fresno conceived plans to revive its downtown area with various projects, including a baseball stadium for the minor-league Grizzlies, which it had lured from Phoenix. The city’s redevelopment agency floated some $46 million in bonds to build the stadium. But the Grizzlies fizzled in their new home, demanded a break on rent, threatening to skip town and stick taxpayers with the entire $3.4 million annual bond payment on the facility. The team is now receiving $700,000 in annual subsidies to stay in the city.

Filthy, Corrupt, and Greedy. That is what they are. You simply must become politically active, and place permanent caps on ALL GOVERNMENT SPENDING (including the debt).

It’s almost embarrassing to be this prescient

When I talk to regular everyday citizens, they are ready to dump public unionism. When I talk to lobbyists and legislators, they still quiver in their boots or pee their pants.

The unions are neutered. Whole swaths of the working poor despise their greed. Whole swaths of the middle class and upper middle class see them as the parasites they have become. Only lobbyists, politicians, and the very rich still act as if they need to be part of the discussion.

It’s simple. Place the very rich (now more liberal than conservative), the lobbyists (any industry), and the existing political class, one one side of the equation, and every other American on the other.

Make the case to end public unionism, and run on that platform until there are enough to you to ram it down their throats. If this all sounds too confrontational to you, realize these important facts;

  • They’ve been ramming their greed down our throats for years.
  • They aren’t giving up their gains without a fight
  • If you are too cowardly to end their reign of greed and error, they will come back and continue bankrupting America.
  • This isn’t tiddley winks. Just beat them.

    Public employee unions on the defensive

    At some point, however, voters turn resentful as they sense that:

    – They are underwriting, through their taxes, a level of salary and benefits for government employment that is better than what they and their families have.

    – Government services, from schools to the Department of Motor Vehicles, are not good enough – not for the citizen individually nor the public generally – to justify the high and escalating cost.

    We are at that point.

    In California, government-sector unions, once among the most entrenched and powerful labor groups in the country, mainly have themselves to blame. For most of the postwar period, they were a force for progressive change, prospering by winning over public support for their agenda.

    But the unions switched strategies. Although the change was gradual, by the 1990s, California’s government unions had decided that, rather than cultivate voter support for their objectives, they could exert more influence in the Legislature, and in the political process generally, by lavishing campaign contributions on lawmakers. Adopting the tactics of other special-interest groups, government unions paid lip service to democratic principles while excelling at the fundamentally anti-democratic strategy of writing checks to legislators, their election committees and political action committees.

    While not illegal (in fact, such contributions are constitutionally protected), the unions’ aggressive spending on candidates put them on the same moral low ground as casino-owning tribes, insurance companies and other special interests that have concluded that the best way to influence the legislative process is to, well, buy it.

    Find courageous candidates willing to take on the oily incumbents who carry union water. Winning won’t be easy, but the message will get out. Here in Illinois, a losing primary in 2012 will get you a seat in 2014.

    If you don’t want to run, at least be active enough to educate and organize. If some legislator is too timid and limp to speak out against unions, primary them. This is the time. Just fight to win.

    Hey dingbat! The Robin Hood legend is conservative.

    Back when Reagan was touting his tax cuts, I remember folks on the left calling him “Reagan Hood,” and carping that he stole from the poor (spending cuts) to give to the rich (tax cuts).

    I remember asking them if they understood the real legend, where Robin Hood was stealing from a greedy government, and giving back to the people. DOH!

    In fairness, I can understand some of our friends on the honest left pointing out their dislike of cutting government programs to give rich people tax cuts. There is some room for debate there. On the other hand, there is no better example of a modern day “Sheriff Nottingham” than today’s imperious, thuggish, and jack-booted public employee unions.

    The more we “steal” from them, in the form of cuts in payroll bloat, pension abuses, and needless perks, the more we can a) give back to the taxpayer, and b) fund government programs that actually work. (if you can find one)

    Pity the poor left, angry that yet another of their ‘legends’ is actually one of ours. Get a load of this lefty reviewer spewing venom.

    Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood

    The film Scott ended up making is called Robin Hood, the sheriff’s role is minimal, and Crowe plays only the title character, whose ability to mobilize commoners with empty, anti-government rhetoric equating taxation with slavery is posited as a virtue. It is an old-fashioned adventure epic produced with state-of-the-art cosmetics, lined with mild romantic farce, and weighed down by overly simplistic, quasi-populist dialogue. Instead of robbing from the rich to give to the poor, this Robin Hood preaches about “liberty” and the rights of the individual as he wanders a countryside populated chiefly by Englishpersons bled dry by government greed. Conservatives will never again be able to complain that Hollywood ignores their interests, but the driving agenda behind the Nottingham makeover was most likely economic: Robin Hood is, above all, a boilerplate origin story, finely engineered to set up a franchise.

    Why are you letting these people rape you?

    The Enormous Cost of Public Unions

    Why? So members can live much better on average than those of us in the private sector.

    To get a better idea of how this works, meet Hugo Tassone, a Yonkers police officer who retired three years ago at age 44 earning a salary of $74,000 a year. Now receiving an annual pension of $101,333, he raised the amount to that sum by working scads of overtime in his last year on the job, it’s reported.

    That’s legal, and he defends himself in a front-page, New York Times story by saying that a cop’s work is difficult, that he took on those duties knowing he could retire after 20 years and that inflation will eat into the large amount as he gets older.

    Break the promises. Drive them into court. Let the headlines destroy what little remains of their support. It’s worth it.

    I put on a school choice clinic in the San Fran. Chronicle

    My colleague, Ben Boychuk, and I got a great editorial placed in the San Francisco Chronicle . It covers a recent CA lawsuit filed by people who think that more money will solve every education problem, as long as it ends up on the union pocket.

    If you go there and read the comments, you can see how easy it is to defeat the weak arguments against school choice.