Mojo - June 2010

Does Flying Kill Your Green Karma?

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 5:50 PM EDT

So, you recycle. You drive a Prius. You commute by train. You buy CFLs. You line-dry your clothes and bring cloth bags to the grocery store.

And you also fly, so all those other efforts go down the tubes.

It's hard to reconcile an ecoconscious lifestyle with air travel: How can we give up flying, which those who can afford it have come to consider almost a birthright, a familial duty, the key to our freedom and even to our identity? That's what Christie Aschwanden was struggling with when she resolved—by choice, not lack of means—to spend a year within 100 miles of her home. (The year is up, and she's still within that radius.) Her story "Jet Blues" is inspiring yet also disturbing; given our selfish natures, you wonder, will we ever be able to turn the climate around? After all, if people who fancy themselves environmentalists can't make the necessary sacrifices, what hope is there for those who don't?

The piece is thought-provoking, and its commenters have raised some questions worth addressing. What about trains and buses? And what about diet? Christie's story ran with this chart, which illustrates how the carbon cost of a family's cross-country flight can wipe out steps they've taken to reduce their footprint. This, of course, was a sampling used to make a point. There are indeed other ways a family could go further to counterbalance its travel. Here's a few more:

Lower thermostat 8 degrees on winter nights: 802 lbs carbon
Replace standard forced-air gas furnace with high-efficiency model: 1,325 lbs
Switch all your windows from single pane to double pane: 2,952 lbs
Line-dry all your laundry: 1,523 lbs
Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot: 793 lbs

These annual numbers, from various sources, depend upon assumptions such as size of house (living in a smaller house is another way to save) and frequency of doing laundry. They don't account for the carbon cost of, say, manufacturing the new windows/furnace.

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Obama's "Revelations" and the Oil Industry's Slimy History

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 3:05 PM EDT

UPDATE: Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday that federal authorities have opened criminal and civil investigations into BP. Also today, Kate Sheppard notes that BP has hired Dick Cheney's former press flack, Anne Womack Kolton, to serve as their new "head of US media relations."

"What's been made clear from this disaster is that for years the oil and gas industry has leveraged such power that they have effectively been allowed to regulate themselves," President Obama said last week in his press conference on the BP oil spill. "I was wrong," he declared, "in my belief that the oil companies had their act together when it came to worst-case scenarios."

Ya think? If this isn't a textbook example of closing the barn door after the horse is out, I don't know what is. In fact, it isn't even closing the door so much as acknowledging that the barn actually has a door, which we might want to consider using once in a while if we don't want the horses running wild. What the president's statement reminds me of most is Alan Greenspan's admission, after the economic meltdown took place, that there just might be a tiny "flaw" in his approach to financial regulation. "I made a mistake," Greenspan told Congress in October 2008, "in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms."

In the aftermath of his press conference, political pundits seem to be focused on whether Obama—and by implication the federal government—was taking too much responsibility for the spill, or not enough. Only a few have pointed out the patent absurdity of believing in the first place that the oil companies could be trusted to "have their act together" when it came to either preventing or dealing with massive spills. The history of global oil spills over the last half-century shows a pattern of carelessness and ineptitude on the part of the industry—and of failure on the part of governments who tried to intervene after the fact.

When the tanker Torrey Canyon drove straight into the rocks off Land’s End in Britain in 1967, spilling its 31-million-gallon cargo, chemical dispersants were spread on the expanding slick with no result. According to the "Report to the Committee of Scientists on the Scientific and Technological Aspects of the Torrey Canyon Disaster," the British Air Force was called in to set the oil afire by bombing it. Some of it eventually caught fire; most of it did not. A Dutch salvage team  thought they could fix things by pulling the ship off the rocks, but the tow cable broke. The spill ended up killing marine life and spreading glop all over the beaches of Southern England and some in France as well.

The Anti-Immigration Movement Goes Green

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 12:28 PM EDT

Emboldened by the broad public support for Arizona's harsh immigration law, anti-immigrant advocates are trying to drum up support from an unexpected source: socially conscious young liberals more concerned with fighting global warming than sealing off the southern border. According to the American Prospect, a new group called Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) is trying to convince liberal environmentalists that reducing America’s carbon footprint means restricting immigration as well.

“PFIR, which launched in 2009, bills itself as an environmentalist group and argues that immigration ‘will only lead to more sprawl, more congestion, more pollution, and more degradation,’” the Prospect reports. On its website, the group has a video enlists a scruffy, hipster type to raise the alarm:

The argument isn’t new: John Tanton, the godfather of the anti-immigration movement, kicked off his efforts in the 1970s by presenting himself as an environmental conservationist who was “concerned about what an unstemmed tide of refugees will do to the nation's resources,” according to one press account quoted by the story. Tanton helped launch a network of anti-immigration organizations that are now the core of the movement, including the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).

But the environmental argument for immigration controls failed to gain much traction the first time: the links between overpopulation and immigration were tenuous, and anti-immigrant activsts found they got farther by presenting immigration as “an affront on American culture [that] contributes to rising crime rates, and steals jobs from American workers,” the Prospect writes.

PFIR is part of the same Tanton network—the head of the group is a former lawyer for FAIR, though PFIR tries to downplay such ties. And PFIR activists are facing the same hard sell this time around, as environmentalists have accused them of finding a convenient scapegoat for environmental hazards when immigrants actually tend to consume and drive less than the average American citizen.

RNC Official Threatens To Sink Gay Candidate

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 12:23 PM EDT

Former GOP political consultant Fred Karger has been giving gay marriage foes fits for the past couple of years, outing donors to their campaigns and organizing boycotts against them. Now, the openly gay California resident has decided to try a run for president, and already he's got his party in a tizzy over how to deal with him. So far, the party isn't exactly proving its "big tent" bona fides. Last week, one of the two Iowa members of the Republican National Committee, Steve Scheffler, sent Karger an email threatening to make sure his campaign goes nowhere. He wrote:

"you and the radical homosexual community want to harass supporters of REAL marriage. I am the Republican National Committeeman for Iowa. As a private citizen and knowing literally thousands of caucus goers, I will work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa. Have you studied our past caucuses–you have NO chance here in Iowa!"

Naturally, Karger immediately tipped off the Des Moines Register, which confirmed that Scheffler did indeed send the email and posted a blog item about it, which Karger circulated far and wide, along with his calls for Scheffler to apologize. But Scheffler, the head of the Iowa Christian Alliance and the go-to guy for any candidate hoping to woo Iowa's social conservatives, was doing no such thing. He told the Register, "I'm going to call a spade a spade."

Perhaps Karger should consider himself in good company. Scheffler also told potential candidate Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, that he, too, was "toast" in Iowa because of his leadership of the Republican Governor's Association and distaste for ideological purity. Last month, Barbour went so far as to suggest that the GOP should even support pro-choice candidates who were "good Republicans" because that's what party-building is all about. Clearly Barbour's chances of winning the GOP primary are about as good as Karger's at this point. Perhaps they should join forces to push a big tent platform. Potential running mates?

Former TNR Editor Slams Israel on Flotilla

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 11:27 AM EDT

I wonder if Peter Beinart could have—and would have—written this, were he still editor of The New Republic:

The [Israeli] embargo [against Gaza] was designed to weaken [Hamas], and bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But, in fact, Abbas himself is reportedly considering a visit to Gaza in an effort to bring Hamas into a national unity government. Besides the ordinary men, women, and children of Gaza, in fact, the entity that the embargo has most weakened is Israel. It threatens to rupture the Jewish State’s vital alliance with Turkey, whose government was furious about the embargo even before yesterday’s attack killed several of its nationals. It has wrecked Israel’s relations with Qatar, which offered to re-establish trade ties if Israel allowed the Gulf State to send supplies to Gaza. And now it has produced a public-relations disaster that will further destroy Israel’s reputation around the world.

The Gaza embargo—as currently constituted—is indefensible, which is why Israel’s American supporters have not so much defended it as pretended it was something other than what it really is. In the name of solidarity, we have practiced denial. In the name of anti-terrorism, we have justified the brutalization of innocents. Now all of us who enabled Israel’s callous, reckless policy are reaping what we sowed. Don’t blame the Israeli commandos for what happened yesterday on the high seas; blame us.

Please alert the self-hating Jews police.

 

Can the Spies Ever Get It Right?

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 11:17 AM EDT

After 9/11, Washington—predictably—underwent a spasm of intelligence reform and reorganized what's called the "intelligence community." The big change came with 2004 legislation that created a director of national intelligence, who was supposed to supplant the director of central intelligence (aka the CIA head) as the top-dog chief of the sprawling intelligence establishment, which includes 13 agencies, including several within the military. Dennis Blair's recent departure as DNI and the subsequent difficulty in replacing him are reminders that the the 2004 reform has not gone so well. Now Secrecy News reports:

The development of the 2004 intelligence reform legislation that created the Director of National Intelligence and attempted to modernize and integrate the U.S. intelligence community was examined in detail last year in an unreleased report (large pdf) from the Office of the DNI.

The 2004 Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was supposed to "address institutional obstacles that had complicated the IC's struggle to adapt to new technologies and a changing national security environment. The new act would redraw boundaries between foreign and domestic intelligence, set new rules for intelligence and law enforcement, enhance the interplay between civilian and military intelligence, correct the shortfall in information sharing, and meet the needs of traditional and emergent intelligence functions."

But five years later, many of those original obstacles remain in place.

"The IC continues its struggle to keep up with technological innovations in collection. Other challenges include transforming analysis, anticipating future threats, increasing critical language capabilities, and improving hiring and security clearance processing."

The report itself ironically exemplifies at least two of the enduring defects afflicting U.S. intelligence, namely pointless secrecy and a surprising backwardness in communications and information sharing.

For unknown reasons, the unclassified report has not been publicly released and made available online by ODNI....Limiting distribution in this way tends to diminish whatever value and utility the document might have.

Moreover, the report itself is so extravagantly overproduced that it requires a gargantuan 18 Megabytes to present a mere 25 pages of text.  (A word-searchable version of the document is 25 Megabytes.)  In such an unwieldy format, the report is the opposite of user-friendly.  It is unlikely to be emailed, downloaded--- or read.

Meanwhile, the big problem seems to be that six years after this law was passed, there's no agreement on what the DNI should do. CNN reports:

That might be the crux of the problem. The law that created the position of DNI after the 9/11 terrorist attacks is too "ambiguous," said one of the key people who pushed Congress for intelligence reform. Lee Hamilton, the co-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, told a congressional hearing last week that "the role of the DNI is not clear ... and as long as you have the ambiguity, you're going to have these agencies fighting for jurisdiction and power."

The DNI needs to be empowered with the budget and personnel authorities to lead the community, otherwise, the director is merely a coordinator, Hamilton said.

And the White House does not appear eager to do that—for good or bad. The intelligence community will continue to stumble and ad hoc its way through the 2004 reforms—until there's another terrorist attack and another round of reform.

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Party with Wall St. on Finance Reform!

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 10:07 AM EDT

The battle to re-regulate Wall Street is in the late rounds, as the House and Senate try to merge their two bills via the "conference" process beginning as early as next week. That isn't stopping banks and their lobbyists from wooing top lawmakers with a say on the final bill.

Case in point: According to an invitation obtained by Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo, a Wall Street securities firm and a Washington lobbying shop are scheming to bring together top lawmakers crafting Congress' reform legislation, financial lobbyists, and banking officials for a day-long event in mid June. "Speakers will include the KEY House and Senate Conferees and majority and minority Committee staff," the invitation reads, "as well as leading financial lobbyists covering interchange, banks and major non-banks affected by so-called Wall Street Reform bill." (The securities firm is JNK Securities Corp., and the lobbying outfit Federal Advisory LLC.)

According to the invitation, the June 15 event is slated to last from 10 am to 7 pm—which could fall in the middle of the financial reform conference negotiations between House and Senate leaders. When Beutler called Tim Rupli, Federal Advisory's registered lobbyist, Rupli said the event wasn't a sure thing yet, and all 12 of the Senate conferees, as they're called, either hadn't heard of the event or weren't planning on attending. Nonetheless, the event, whether it comes off or not, is evidence that banks, their lobbyists, and their trade groups will continue fighting and plying and cajoling until President Obama puts pen to paper on the final bill.

For your reading pleasure, here's the invitation in full, per TPM:

From: "Bill Williams" ********** Date: May 26, 2010 4:46:44 PM EDT Subject: (BAC, V, WFC, MA, GS, JPM) ** Confirmed ** Tuesday June 15th in Washington DC w/ KEY House & Senae Conferees

*Timely* Financial Reform Event on TUES June 15th in Washington DC

JNK will be hosting a financial reform event with Federal Advisory, LLC on Tuesday June 15th in Washington DC from 10am - 7pm on Capitol Hill. Speakers will include the KEY House and Senate Conferees and majority and minority Committee staff, as well as leading financial lobbyists covering interchange, banks and major non-banks affected by so-called Wall Street Reform bill. This event will comply with Congressional ethics and gift ban rules. JNK Securities Corp does not participate in any lobbying or fundraising events.

Attendance will be limited, Please indicate your interest.

Federal Advisory: Industry sources suggest the following is proposed conference schedule:

Tuesday, June 8 th-conferees appointed

Wednesday, June 9th-first open meeting of the conference; organizational matters and opening statements only

Tuesday, June 15th, Wednesday, June 16th, Thursday, June 17th-conference meets on substantive issues

Tuesday, June 22nd, Wednesday, June 23rd-conference meets on substantive issues

Thursday, June 24th-conference concludes with formal signing ceremony; conference report filed shortly thereafter

Monday, June 28th-Rules Committee meets to grant rule

Tuesday, June 29th-House passes conference report; this gives the Senate three days to pass it before the beginning of the July 4th recess.

Bill Williams | Director of JNK 3rd Party Research and Sales

JNK Securities Corp | Customized Research Solutions + Trade Execution

******

Semiconductors - Semiconductor Equipment - EMS/Hardware Supply Chain - U.S. Wireless/Mobile Devices - Global Telecom & Data Centers - Security Software - Retail - Gaming & Lodging - U.S. Government Strategy

JNK works with a select group of 3rd Party Consultants. Their work is exclusive to JNK Securities. We do our best to ensure that you are receiving the most up to date, accurate and actionable information on the Street. In an effort to maintain that value, it is important that our clients, keep our proprietary information to themselves. Please do not distribute our work to any outside party including (but not limited to) other Funds, friends, IR departments from mentioned companies etc.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact myself, Bill Williams, our Head of 3rd Party Research or Jodi Heitner, our Chief Compliance Officer.

The GOP's Crowdsourcing Genius

| Tue Jun. 1, 2010 8:30 AM EDT

When House Republicans unveiled their new crowd-sourcing project to solicit ideas for a new political agenda, it was met with a fair amount of derision from reporters and bloggers (including our own Adam Weinstein, who dubbed it an “epic web fail”). Folks like the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank were quick to point out that the America Speaking Out site had become a magnet for liberal trolls. But with all their focus on the trolls, critics have utterly missed the genius behind the project that has tremendous implications for the upcoming midterm elections. Here’s why:

To submit or vote on an idea on the GOP site, visitors are required to set up an account and provide a valid email address and zip code. And in doing so, participants must agree to give America Speaking Out and their local congressmen permission to contact them by email. This small requirement turns America Speaking Out into a list harvester’s dream, and a powerful tool for Republicans looking to engage and mobilize voters.

Just in its first three days America Speaking Out had a quarter-million unique visitors, and of those, more than 20,000 had submit an email address to log in and submit ideas or vote. By the end of the summer, and after House members promote the site through a series of town hall meetings starting this week, those email lists could potentially include tens of thousands of people. And, they’re doing it all at a fraction of the cost of the old direct mail methods once standard fare for political campaigns.
 

We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for June 1, 2010

Tue Jun. 1, 2010 7:14 AM EDT

 

Marines from a ceremonial unit march up the stairs at the Tomb of the Unknowns partaking in the wreath laying ceremony during Memorial Day, on Monday, May 31, 2010, at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo via the US Army by Public Affairs Specialist Jacqueline Leeker.