Jb's Blog

views on current events

Less Talkin’, More Kickin’

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The Gulf oil spill tragedy. Government’s role in correcting it. The Administration’s approach so far has been totally bass-ackwards. Instead of looking for who to blame, “whose ass to kick,” FIRST let’s get this tragedy cleaned up, protect the People from the disaster that is unfolding upon us. That is government’s first responsibility. Then once that has been accomplished, there will be plenty of time to point fingers and hold responsible parties accountable. Instead, this Administration is engaging in fostering an ‘us against them’ mentality which is totally counter productive toward the goal of protecting the public and cleaning up the mess, and it renders efforts to combat the incredible tragedy completely ineffective.

Below is a reprint of Sara Palin’s post on the issue. Regardless of what you may think of her, I ask you to put politics aside for a few minutes and simply READ what she has to say. If it’s possible for you to actually consider what she’s saying without letting politics get in the way, I think you’ll have to realize that this is just Common Sense 101.

50 days in, and we’ve just learned another shocking revelation concerning the Obama administration’s response to the Gulf oil spill. In an interview aired this morning, President Obama admitted that he hasn’t met with or spoken directly to BP’s CEO Tony Hayward. His reasoning: “Because my experience is, when you talk to a guy like a BP CEO, he’s gonna say all the right things to me. I’m not interested in words. I’m interested in actions.”

First, to the “informed and enlightened” mainstream media: in all the discussions you’ve had with the White House about the spill, did it not occur to you before today to ask how the CEO-to-CEO level discussions were progressing to remedy this tragedy? You never cease to amaze. (Kind of reminds us of the months on end when you never bothered to ask if the President was meeting with General McChrystal to talk about our strategy in Afghanistan.)

Second, to fellow baffled Americans: this revelation is further proof that it bodes well to have some sort of executive experience before occupying the Oval Office (as if the painfully slow response to the oil spill, confusion of duties, finger-pointing, lack of preparedness, and inability to grant local government simple requests weren’t proof enough). The current administration may be unaware that it’s the President’s duty, meeting on a CEO-to-CEO level with Hayward, to verify what BP reports. In an interview a few weeks ago with Greta Van Susteren, I noted that based on my experience working with oil execs as an oil regulator and then as a Governor, you must verify what the oil companies claim – because their perception of circumstances and situations dealing with public resources and public trust is not necessarily shared by those who own America’s public resources and trust. I was about run out of town in Alaska for what critics decried at the time as my “playing hardball with Big Oil,” and those same adversaries (both shortsighted Repubs and Dems) continue to this day to try to discredit my administration’s efforts in holding Big Oil accountable to operate ethically and responsibly.

Mr. President: with all due respect, you have to get involved, sir. The priorities and timeline of an oil company are not the same as the public’s. You cannot outsource the cleanup and the responsibility and the trust to BP and expect that the legitimate interests of Americans adversely affected by this spill will somehow be met.

White House: have you read this morning’s Washington Post? Not to pile it on BP, but there’s an extensive report chronicling the company’s troubling history:

“BP has had more high-profile accidents than any other company in recent years. And now, with the disaster in the gulf, independent experts say the pervasiveness of the company’s problems, in multiple locales and different types of facilities, is striking.

‘They are a recurring environmental criminal and they do not follow U.S. health safety and environmental policy,’ said Jeanne Pascal, a former EPA lawyer who led its BP investigations.”

And yet just 10 days prior to the explosion, the Obama administration’s regulators gave the oil rig a pass, and last year the Obama administration granted BP a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) exemption for its drilling operation.

These decisions and the resulting spill have shaken the public’s confidence in the ability to safely drill. Unless government appropriately regulates oil developments and holds oil executives accountable, the public will not trust them to drill, baby, drill. And we must! Or we will be even more beholden to, and controlled by, dangerous foreign regimes that supply much of our energy. This has been a constant refrain from me. As Governor of Alaska, I did everything in my power to hold oil companies accountable in order to prove to the federal government and to the nation that Alaska could be trusted to further develop energy rich land like ANWR and NPR-A. I hired conscientious Democrats and Republicans (because this sure shouldn’t be a partisan issue) to provide me with the best advice on how we could deal with what was a corrupt system of some lawmakers and administrators who were hesitant to play hardball with some in the oil field business. (Remember the Alaska lawmakers, public decision-makers, and business executives who ended up going to jail as a result of the FBI’s investigations of oily corruption.)

As the aforementioned article notes, BP’s operation in Alaska would hurt our state and waste public resources if allowed to continue. That’s why my administration created the Petroleum Systems Integrity Office (PSIO) when we saw proof of improper maintenance of oil infrastructure in our state. We had to verify. And that’s why we instituted new oversight and held BP and other oil companies financially accountable for poor maintenance practices. We knew we could partner with them to develop resources without pussyfooting around with them. As a CEO, it was my job to look out for the interests of Alaskans with the same intensity and action as the oil company CEOs looked out for the interests of their shareholders.

I learned firsthand the way these companies operate when I served as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (AOGCC). I ended up resigning in protest because my bosses (the Governor and his chief of staff at the time) wouldn’t support efforts to clean up the corruption involving improper conflicts of interest with energy companies that the state was supposed to be watching. (I wrote about this valuable learning experience in my book, “Going Rogue”.) I felt guilty taking home a big paycheck while being reduced to sitting on my thumbs – essentially rendered ineffective as a supervisor of a regulatory agency in charge of nearly 20% of the U.S. domestic supply of energy.

My experience (though, granted, I got the message loud and clear during the campaign that my executive experience managing the fastest growing community in the state, and then running the largest state in the union, was nothing compared to the experiences of a community organizer) showed me how government officials and oil execs could scratch each others’ backs to the detriment of the public, and it made me ill. I ran for Governor to fight such practices. So, as a former chief executive, I humbly offer this advice to the President: you must verify. That means you must meet with Hayward. Demand answers.

In the interview today, the President said: “I don’t sit around just talking to experts because this is a college seminar. We talk to these folks because they potentially have the best answers, so I know whose ass to kick.”

Please, sir, for the sake of the Gulf residents, reach out to experts who have experience holding oil companies accountable. I suggested a few weeks ago that you start with Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, led by Commissioner Tom Irwin. Having worked with Tom and his DNR and AGIA team led by Marty Rutherford, I can vouch for their integrity and expertise in dealing with Big Oil and overseeing its developments. We’ve all lived and worked through the Exxon-Valdez spill. They can help you. Give them a call. Or, what the heck, give me a call.

And, finally, Mr. President, please do not punish the American public with any new energy tax in response to this tragedy. Just because BP and federal regulators screwed up that doesn’t mean the rest of us should get punished with higher taxes at the pump and attached to everything petroleum products touch.

– Sarah Palin

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Written by jb

June 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Update – Danny Tate is FREE!

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In reference to the previous post: After a court appearance this morning, word is that Danny Tate is now FREE.

I don’t have all the details yet, but the same judge who has kept him under a Conservatorship for the last couple of years evidently decided today to rule that Danny “has no need of a Conservator.” Hello?? Just like that?

I wonder if the judge’s change of heart had anything at all to do with the fact that his court room today was filled with concerned people who were there to 1). show their support for Danny, and 2). to put the court on notice that the People (people from around the world) are watching what happens in that court.

No matter what the reason, I’m thankful and glad that Danny Tate is free! Now, if he could only get some of his own money back.. money that went to pay for his Conservator’s attorney (even though Danny was not allowed to pay his own), and whatever other expenses his ‘concerned’ Conservator felt he needed (or wanted?) to drain Danny’s assets in order to pay for.

Written by jb

May 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm

The Danny Tate Ordeal

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Years ago, when I was first starting my career in Nashville, I had the pleasure of getting to work a number of times with a talented songwriter named Danny Tate. Throughout the ’80’s Danny was a popular fixture in the Nashville club scene, and I caught his shows a few times. I haven’t seen him or heard anything about him in years. Until this week.

This week, I learned that Danny is going through what has to be an incredibly difficult ordeal, to say the least. He has had issues with substance abuse in the past, although he’s also experienced long stints of sobriety. But in 2007, his estranged brother, with the help of an attorney who may have less than noble intentions (imagine that!), used Danny’s past against him by seeking, and being granted, a ‘temporary guardianship and conservatorship,’ ostensibly to protect Danny from himself. Consequently, Danny has lost control of all his financial assets, all his royalty payments, as well as his right to enter into contracts. Essentially, he’s been stripped of all of his rights, all without the Constitutionally guaranteed protection of Due Process, and without the opportunity to mount a defense.

To make a long story short, I’ll just say that it appears there are many fishy elements to this saga. It doesn’t seem to be totally ‘above board’ but instead looks rather messy and dubious at best. It’s something that shouldn’t happen to anyone, but evidently it could happen to any of us at any time. And now there’s news that the brother’s attorney is in the process of doing the same thing to another person, in the same court under the same judge who ruled in Danny’s case. Fishy stuff, indeed.

Please take the time to read up on Danny’s case. And pray for him. He needs his freedom back, and I want to help him get it if there’s anything I can do.

Here’s where you can get information on the case. But be forewarned: what you find may disturb you. But we need to be disturbed when we see something like this.

If you are concerned by what you find in Danny’s story, I urge you to inform your friends and contacts. Write to Tennessee’s governor. Let’s do what we can to help a brother reclaim his life and his rights.

Written by jb

March 28, 2010 at 12:09 am

Universal Sign of Distress

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March 23, 2010

Written by jb

March 23, 2010 at 10:49 pm

The Green Machine

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The Green Machine. I’ll be upfront and honest by stating that I’ve always been skeptical about the whole push to move us into Green mode. And I’m finally posting a look at just how this Green Machine works. Since Cap and Trade would be such a huge change in the way we use and pay for energy in all segments of our economy, and because it appears to be (like it or not) on our horizon, let’s take a look at just one real-world example of the way this Green Agenda plays out, shall we?

Ok, I’m all in favor of conserving our natural resources whenever possible and not doing unnecessary harm to our planet, but tell me if this seems just a wee bit wacky to you.

The good people who host my domain just sent notice that they’ve gone totally green! And they tell me that because of that my hosted site qualifies to display certification as an eco-friendly site. Woo-hoo!! They explain:

We are green, so you are green. Our offices and our data centers are all powered by 100% wind energy. You can be proud that the machines hosting your website and email are eco-friendly, which makes you eligible for our Green Certificate.

BUT… here’s where it starts to get wacky… in the ‘fine print,’ they further state:

Since generating wind energy on site isn’t feasible, we’re offsetting all of our electricity use with wind-generated Renewable Energy Certificates, which prevent the release of 2,660 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year.

Here’s my certificate. Pretty cool, eh?

So let me get this straight: They’re claiming that they are totally green, “all powered by 100% wind energy,” and even providing certification to that fact, yet they aren’t actually USING wind energy because it would be unfeasible for them to generate it? They simply pay good money to purchase a piece of paper that SAYS they’re using wind energy, when they really aren’t? The energy they actually use in powering their offices and the servers that host my domain still comes from the same old “traditional” sources, meaning that it’s probably generated by burning coal. If it comes from a coal burning plant, then 2,660 metric tons of carbon dioxide are STILL being produced to meet their energy requirements. Yet they can now claim that they are “powered by 100% wind energy.” And they can feel really good while bragging about it. Wow. That’s messed up!

In all fairness, there really are people generating clean wind energy. But what happens to that energy once it is created? And how does it get used (consumed)? Here’s an oversimplified look in layman’s terms. A large wind farm will SELL the energy it produces to a power company. The power company buys the energy and routes it into their power grid, which is like a pool of energy that has been produced by a number of different possible methods. This pool can be made up of energy which was produced by coal burning energy plants, by nuclear energy plants, from solar production, from wind farms, and perhaps other means as well. The power company then delivers energy from this pool to all their customers, down the power lines that come into your house or business. So customers who choose NOT to buy Renewable Energy Certificates are actually consuming just as much wind-generated energy as a customer like my webhost who HAVE thrown good money into purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates. Remember that the wind farm was paid for their product – “green power” – by the power company which purchased it from them. So who gets the money from the sale of these Renewable Energy Certificates? Someone does. But it’s not necessarily the people who produce the green energy. It’s a shell game.

And that, my friends, gives us a glimpse into how I think this whole green thing is going to operate in our future. It’s nothing more than a feel-good with no real substance, except that the real substance of it is that someone stands to make tremendous profit while we continue business as usual. It’s smoke and mirrors. It means paying a whole lot more for something new and (supposedly) ‘better,’ while we still get the same old product. The urgent need to get us away from burning coal is somehow met if we simply purchase “certificates” which state that we’re using new renewable energy, even as the old coal burning power plant continues to produce and deliver the same juice we’ve always used.

Once we’re all required by future legislation to be using green power (see that coming?) and we’re paying exorbitant rates for it (but hey, isn’t the wind free?), how can we know we aren’t being subjected to the same kind of bait and switch scheme my webhost has fallen prey to? With electricity, how can you tell where it came from? It would be one thing if clean wind generated power LOOKED different in some way from dirty old coal generated power. If that were the case, we could LOOK at our power and confirm that we’re actually being delivered green energy for the significantly higher rates we’ll all be paying for it. But with electricity you can’t tell that way. We’ll have to trust someone… blindly.

SOMEone is going to make an insanely huge amount of money off of all this. And we’re supposed to feel really good about having to pay it, because we’ll be saving the planet, after all. But I’ll bet we’ll still be getting the same old product. Just like my webhost… “totally certifiably green,” while at the same time they admit oh by the way, we’re still actually using the same old completely un-green energy we always did. But we’re paying so much more for it!! Isn’t that great??!

Cap and Trade works in much the same way, as far as I can tell. Industries and individual customers are assigned a base level of ‘allowances’ to emit a determined amount of greenhouse gasses. If, in the course of doing business, they need to generate more greenhouse gasses than they are allowed under the guidelines, they simply purchase Carbon Credits from another customer who isn’t using all of their allocation. But the bottom line is that the same amount of greenhouse gasses will be produced, either way. The only difference is that under the Green scenario, massive amounts of money have exchanged hands, and consequently we’ll ALL be paying far more not only for our own electricity use, but also for each and every item we buy which uses energy in its production or delivery (and what doesn’t fall into that category?). Does this make sense? Does this sound like the direction we need to be headed in?

Former Vice President Al Gore has a major financial stake in foisting the Green Agenda on us. His investment firm, Generation Investment Management, owns shares in Camco International Ltd, a carbon asset developer. Camco is a company which deals in the sale of carbon credits. This obviously means that Gore stands to make substantial income from the trading of carbon credits. This may provide a look into one of the main reasons Gore is so much in favor of seeing that Congress passes Cap and Trade legislation. It’s obvious that without regulation and legislation, the Green Agenda would be totally unsustainable in a free market economy (since all customers of the power company get the same juice delivered to them, whether they’ve bought Renewable Energy Certificates or not). So just how noble is the Nobel laureate in all of this? Does the term ‘appearance of impropriety’ come to mind? If he truly were interested in protecting the environment, and he really does believe that man’s production of greenhouse gasses is the number one contributor to the evil of global warming, then why is he making certain that he’s positioned to make obscene profits from enacting the Green Agenda? Wouldn’t the noble thing for him to do be to ‘do it for free?’ For the people. For the planet. For our survival. Not for his own financial gain. It certainly should call into question the real reasons behind his ardent fervor in promoting the Green Agenda.

This whole Green thing, if Cap and Trade becomes law, would be ripe for abuse and manipulation and fraud. It’s hard to imagine that there could ever be a bigger opportunity for bribery and massive corruption, when you consider that in order to implement this, a huge new federal bureaucracy will have to be created to police enforcement and structure guidelines, and to monitor the purchase and distribution of these goofy carbon credits. Talk about the king of all cesspools for corporate lobbying and corruption – this is it.

Forget about the fact that the whole Green agenda is based on what is increasingly being shown to be ‘junk science’ and fraud and intimidation. It is certainly not based in ‘settled science’ as we continue to hear. Just consider the way it plays out in the example of my webhosting company. It’s completely preposterous. But there are those who stand to make huge profits from it, just to continue to do things the way they’ve always been done. Smoke and mirrors. Shell game. A government-run Bernie Madoff scam on steroids which will financially effect every single element of our economy and society. Is that what we need?

Remember what the frog said:

It’s not easy, being green.

We’re all going to find out very soon just how right he was.

Written by jb

March 19, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Thoughts on ‘Obama on Fox’

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Hell must have just frozen over. I just witnessed an interview granted by President Obama to Fox News.

What did I learn from it?
1). The arrogance of this man appears to be even more astounding than I previously realized. I knew it was significant, but…
2). He evidently thinks, when dealing with someone who will stand up to him and actually challenge him to just answer a simple damn question, that it’s perfectly acceptable (and presidential) to treat such a person as if they were a little child.
3). It’s hard to believe that when repeatedly pressed on ‘what’s actually in the bill,’ he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) actually give a concrete answer, and his attempts to respond were evasive at best. Notwithstanding, he’s certainly in favor of this legislation and thinks it is of utmost importance that it be passed, whatever ends up being in it. How do politicians with this kind of outlook ever get elected to any public office higher than dogcatcher?

What’s the most constructive statement I can make at this point? Vote out the incumbents.

Written by jb

March 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Technology – Blessings & Curses

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Technology. At the same time, a blessing and a curse. We all benefit from the rampant advances in technology, but I think we also suffer from some of the downside elements it necessarily brings along with the obvious innovations.

In the professional realm, I used to be a Recording Engineer, hired by people who wanted to make a record. My clients realized that to make a professional recording they needed to rent a studio which had invested heavily in the expensive equipment required to make an album. And they needed someone with experience in operating that equipment (namely, me) to capture their performances and pull them all together in a completed project. And all of that required some hefty funding on the client’s part. But technological advancements finally made it possible for anyone to purchase relatively inexpensive software which modeled the costly studio equipment, and for a couple of hundred dollars, they could essentially have several hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ‘recording gear’ right in their own PC.

A great technological advancement. One which I applaud and also endorse, because it put the necessary tools which were once cost-prohibitive within the reach of anyone who wanted to use it to creatively express themselves. A great boon to the creative juices in all of us. However, even though I embraced this new access that technology brought to Everyman, it was instrumental (along with a variety of other coinciding events) in bringing about an end to the perceived need for clients to hire an experienced professional. Since they could afford to own the equipment, they could make their own recordings. And they did. And forever more, will.

So while I embrace and benefit from the availability of those advances in recording technology, the same advances have contributed heavily to bringing about the end of my career. Consequently, at the point in my life where I should be contemplating retirement, instead I’ve had to start over with an entry level job in retail because my years of experience have been rendered passé. Of no use to anyone. That is something that I personally see as a big ‘downside.’

The same holds true in just about every field. I recently read that advances in agricultural technology over the years have made it possible for only 3 percent of the U.S. workforce in 2008 to provide the agricultural output that required 41 percent of our workforce in 1900. In the manufacturing sector, U.S. manufacturing employment peaked at 19.5 million workers in 1979. Since 1979, the manufacturing workforce has shrunk by 40 percent and will likely continue to decline. However, the average value of output per worker is three times as high as it was in 1980, and twice as high as it was in 1990. All this is largely due to advances in technology. These advances have brought definite benefits that we all share, yet to those who have seen their jobs disappear, there are also obvious disadvantages.

Another area where I am observing this same blessing/curse dichotomy is in the sphere of personal relationships. Modern communication technology has undoubtedly made tremendous strides in helping people get in touch and stay in touch. Internet technology. Email. Social networking. Facebook. Twitter. The blogging world. All these relatively new technologies do wonders in helping us remain connected. However, I’m seeing some real downsides in the ease of communication these things have introduced to our lives. Personally, I love the ability I now have to subscribe to the newsfeed of a friend’s blog in order to stay up to date on whatever that friend decides to share with the world. And while in one sense this ability helps me stay up on the events in that friend’s life, I’ve realized that it also puts an element of distance between us, because there is no real and personal interaction in the exchange of information from that friend to me.

Case in point: I recently ran into an old friend. This was a friend whom I used to be in fairly close contact with, and in ‘the old days’ any time we saw each other there would almost invariably be an arm thrown around the shoulder in a ‘buddy-hug’ brought about by the closeness we felt for each other. I don’t see this friend often now, but I subscribe to his blog, and read his frequent status updates and comments on Facebook, all of which give me a (false?) sense that I’m still connected with what’s going on in his life. When I ran into him last week, I spotted him across a crowded room, and as I was making my way over to him, I was headed toward what I instinctively thought would be one of those old ‘buddy-hugs’ because of the personal connection I still feel. But when I got to him, instead of walking into that hug, I was met with a stiff arm extended for a handshake. And even though my emotional momentum kept moving me toward that hug, the handshake was as close as I got to it. To be honest, that felt like running smack-dab head-on into a unseen wall. It felt like a stinging slap in the face. But as I contemplated why this bothered me as badly as it did, I realized that while I felt connected to him as a result of keeping up with his status updates and his blog, there has been no personal interaction in that exchange of information. Even though he’s been sharing openly, he has received no interaction from me which would have given him any sense of continued connectivity with me. No dis intended toward my friend: his reaction was natural: it should be no surprise that he must have seen me simply as an old friend he USED to have a personal connection with. He’s been sharing alright, but with everyone in the world, and not with me. And I haven’t been sharing with him, either.

And so, while I greatly appreciate the ability to read status updates and thoughts and experiences shared through the miracle of blogging, and while I’m happy that I can continue to benefit from them, I’ve decided that I despise the distance those things have introduced into my personal relationships with people. I miss the interactions. I miss the face-time and the closeness that real interpersonal interactions used to bring. I really really do. Human contact… it’s much underrated these days, me thinks.

When you do the projections on this personal experience of mine, and look at what it means when applied to the millions of people in this modern world, what does it mean for our society at large? I’m not encouraged by the answer to that question.

Damn technology. What a blessing. What a curse.

Written by jb

February 8, 2010 at 1:42 pm