16 August 2010


WALL STREET LIBERALS. That is the term applied to moderate and conservative Democrats by Miles Mogulescu in his provocative article in the Huffington Post. His perception dovetails with my own, regarding the kid-glove approach taken by Congressional Democrats in general, and the Obama Administration in particular, when it comes to political, social and economic reform -- not to mention environmental activisim. Here is how Mogulescu lays out the evolution of the term "liberal" over the past half century --

"'Liberalism' is usually used to describe a progressive movement of the less privileged in society -- working and middle class people, minorities, etc. -- to use the power of government to create greater social and economic equality, provide a social safety net, and regulate the vagaries of the 'free' market which otherwise leads to cycles of boom and bust and the increasing concentration of economic and political power in a handful of 'too big to fail' corporations and their billionaire managers.

"But beginning in the 1960s some commentators began to identify a different strain of liberalism which they termed 'Corporate Liberalism.' It was (and remains) an effort by the most powerful corporate and financial interests in America to use the power of the state to rationalize the corporate economic system for its own benefit. Since then, this brand of corporate liberalism has overwhelmed progressive liberalism to become the dominant strain in the Washington-based Democratic Party, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Rahm Emanuel, Max Baucus, Chris Dodd, most of the Congressional Democratic leadership, and it increasingly appears Barack Obama himself. These are the people who will be responsible if the Democrats lose big in November."

The article goes on to explain why "Corporate Liberalism, or Wall Street Liberalism, despite claims of pragmatism, leads to both bad policy and bad political strategy." As an early Obama supporter, I remain hopeful that experience will encourage him to reclaim his populist roots. But it is a hope tempered by the hard reality that those who advise the President have so far failed to grasp the importance of deep and meaningful reform with sufficient force. The result has been a well-intentioned and principled President who has been too willing to over-compromise with the intransigent conservative obstructionists in the House and Senate. It is long past time to draw a line in the sand, to return to those progressive liberal ideals which guided him successfully to the White House in 2008. The President, along with Congress and the Supreme Court, work for us, not for Wall Street.

Speaking of fence-straddling, in the realm of foreign policy I recently watched Charlie Rose conduct a concise and illuminating interview with former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, who took the President to task for being too opaque in his policy goals, particularly with regard to the failing war in Afghanistan and the ongoing Arab-Israeli crisis, as well as for being too reliant on input from his military advisors (a mistake common to Presidents in recent history). You can read a transcript of the interview with Armitage here (click on the transcript tab). Or if you wish to watch and listen to the interview, scroll to the top of the page and, opposite "What's on Charlie Rose", click on "8/09 Richard Armitage".

COAL. Yesterday on the CBS show 60 Minutes, Leslie Stahl appeared in a segment on a new form of toxic waste (not yet defined as such by the Federal government) -- coal ash. The US relies heavily on the combustion of coal for energy production, and it turns out that the by-products of coal usage can be as deadly and hard to dispose of as nuclear waste -- including concentrations of mercury, arsenic, lead and other toxic metals. Unlike the nuclear power industry, the coal industry is not nearly as regulated when it comes to waste disposal. Coal ash is compacted into landfills where the toxins seep into groundwater. It is also recycled as an ingredient in assorted consumer products. Check out the interview -- this affects all of us.

A NYTimes article offers a ray of hope -- in West Virginia, deep in the heart of coal mine country (click on the image above to enlarge), alternative energy supporters are pushing wind turbines as a clean and renewable alternative. Wind farms are sprouting up all over the wide-open American West. Along with other green energy sources like geothermal and solar power, wind power could supplement (and hopefully one day eliminate) our addiction to dirty, non-renewable and increasingly expensive energy sources like oil, coal, and nuclear power. Here's hoping.

Ending on a lighter note, Amy Alkon describes an ATM scam in France, which takes a salacious twist. Male readers, what would YOU do?

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