Monday, February 28, 2011

Do Tell...Don't Ask?!?

Oh, the ultimate power that being the Borough Assembly President brings.

Gary Knopp has met with Borough Mayor, Davey Carey, to begin reviewing and setting the upcoming budget and they decided that the other assembly members were not to be allowed to talk to the various borough department heads to ask them questions about their current budget needs. Carey already decided to make up his budget without input from the department heads and now ignorance will also be the borough assembly policy.

Now why would you do something so...stupid?!?

Well, why apply logic, sanity and need to political decisions?  Why not just make budgets (and cuts) according to your political agendas rather than by what might be needed to make the Kenai a great place to live?  Brings to mind Tricky Dick's famous quote: Don't confuse me with the facts.

Speaking of logic and sanity, the rumor is that Ron Long, the former borough assembly person from Seward will run for Borough Mayor this fall.  Ron, a successful businessman established a reputation as a fair, honest and knowledgeable man who was able to work with folks of various political persuasions to come up with sensible ideas and solutions to the various issues we face here on the Kenai.

Is there hope for the future?  Don't count on it.  The Kenai is the place where Joe Miller was the top vote-getter in the last US Senate race.  We live in a place where logic and sanity are about as important as fuel efficient vehicles.

Maybe Dale Bagely will also decide to run and he and Carey would split the, um, insanity vote.  Maybe, just maybe there is a chance not to be so SOL here.

OK, joke time.  A version of this made the rounds on FaceBook this morning:

The Koch brothers, a teabagger and a government-workers union employee were invited to a meeting to discuss wages. At the meeting there was a table with a plate of 100 cookies.

The K Bros., because of their VIP status, were able to enter early and before the other two had any idea that there were so many cookies, took 99 of them. When the teabagger and the unionized worker showed up, one of the Kochs pulled the teabagger aside, offered him a bite off of one of their 99 cookies, pointed to the one remaining cookie and the union guy and said "That union person wants most of your cookie"

Thursday, February 24, 2011


As noted in my previous post, since the super-rich were granted another extension of their tax breaks, the EPA and government workers' unions are being targeted by Republicans, Tea Baggers and conservative talk radio.  The previous post here noted the Peninsula Clarion's lame opinion piece that slammed the EPA, and while there doesn't seem to be much of witch hunt for unionized borough and school district personnel right now, both of those entities are looking at budget shortfalls and it will be curious how it all plays out.

Nation-wide, there is little doubt that the war on the middle class is being financed by the likes of the Koch Brothers.  Posing behind grassroots sounding names like Americans for Prosperity and the Tea Party Express these super-wealthy corporate masters manipulate those who are suckers for simplistic solutions that don't solve a thing.  But the PR is good and supported by the Rush Limbaughs and Glen Becks of talk radio.  A classic divide and conquer technique pitting average Americans against each other while the filthy rich get filthier. 

There was an interesting piece in the NYTimes comparing the tax rates of the security guards and janitors in the Hemsley Building in NYC, where the average resident had an adjusted income that exceeded $1million.  The bottom line, the poor paid a higher % of their income to taxes than the super rich.  And yet those same wealthy folks just got themselves a nice big tax break.  The rest of us?  Cuts to services, loss of jobs, and taking away the few things that help the middle class stay middle class.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Time To Apply a Strong Hand With the Clarion

Now that the super-rich have been given the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts and as the costs of two unfunded wars and the interest on that borrowed money mount, the US has plunged further into deficit spending. To divert attention to their own culpability, the right-wingers have have been quick to point fingers.  Obama's recovery plan was an easy initial target and so has been the health reform passed last year.  We'll not go into the merits of either here and now. But recently there have been two new whipping boys of talk radio and winger-blogs: unions and the EPA.

The Clarion chose to rip the EPA in its recent opinion piece, Time to apply a strong hand with the EPA.  What rot, but surprisingly so, what unabashed rot.  The writer doesn't even pretend to see a need for any sort of environmental protection, but rather simply whores for the jobs that unchecked development might bring, no matter the destruction it would cause.  

Without the EPA (which was created with a Republican in the White House) there's no doubt that development would be done without a care about the health of either the people or the planet.  If you think otherwise, think back to the time some 40 years ago when rivers in the US were so polluted that they caught fire. Do just a little bit of investigation on the drilling/production practices of the major players in developing countries.  In Ecuador, where the oil companies have rigged the game in their favor by bribing politicians and writing their own laws (sound familiar?), the courts have just awarded $9 billion to be paid by Chevron/Texaco to the indigenous jungle people for that company's wanton and reckless dumping of 18 billion gallons of toxic wastes and the spilling of 17 million gallons of crude oil in the upper Amazon basin. Look at the destruction and corruption done by big oil in Nigeria.

But everyone is blaming the EPA for stifling development.  Whatever.  Damn, we are lucky that we have that agency.

There was an interesting post in The Economist, a leading world-wide business magazine published in Britain and usually spot-on concerning economic/political issues.  One of the wikileaks revelations was that the Saudis have exaggerated their oil reserves.  The Economist predicts a steep increase in natural gas and oil prices and suggests that development now is not a good business idea. After all,  why be in such a rush to get your product to the market when prices are low?  And low natural gas prices are certainly the reason Conoco and Marathon are shutting down the Nikiski LNG plant - Alaska gas is priced out of the market right now.  Forget all talk of bullet lines and other such natural gas pipelines.  It's cheaper to import the resource than to produce it here right now.  It's a simple business matter controlled by an oversupply caused by new technologies, new discoveries and gas/oil fields located in places that are just easier to get to market.

But it won't be like that forever. Eventually that gas and oil we have in the ground is really going to worth developing.  If we were to do so today, it means giving billions of dollars away to the most profitable businesses in the world - corporate welfare at its worse.  And a bad business decision.

It's like a savings account protected safe underground for now.  We, along with the politicians in Juneau, have shown little sense in how we spend and give away the state's money.  Why should we be in such a rush to throw more money away? 

Let the free market decide.  There's no reason to give away these reserves at bargain prices and subsidize the oil companies to boot.  After all, these reserves are our children's inheritance.  

It will mean some belt-tightening for we Alaskans, but aren't we calling for that on a national level?  And in the long-run, it will be best for the future of Alaska.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Wake Up and Smell the Giveaway

Oh, Boy.  $1,000,000,000 + and that is just a start of the serious money that the State of Alaska is proposing that we give away to the oil industry, those very same companies that posted record profits. And what for? To protect oil companies from the vagaries of the free market system.  The governor and all of our locally elected officials that represent the Kenai in Juneau would give this amount of money and more to the oil companies without actually requiring them to guarantee that they would do more exploration or drilling. BTW, the state has already given these companies about $3,000,000,000 in breaks in the last four years with no guarantees.  Guess what? In this case, you don't get what you pay for. If you haven't read Mike Doogan's take on this, you should click here.

So, the oil companies are stinking rich, the state is flush.  Why the rush to promote development by giving away subsidies to the filthy rich?  What happened to free market system dictating development?  Why are those who decry government bailouts for the bankrupt auto industry the first to want to bailout extremely profitable oil companies? 

And then Mike Chenault has this piece in the Clarion about how we need to act or opportunities will pass us by.  Wow, that sounds we should do something and do it now, but just what are you proposing Mr Chenault?

Some other competitor beat the price that Conoco and Marathon was selling LNG to the Japanese.  Business happens.  And it wasn't because of regulations or taxes - with new technologies, new fields in the world and a glut of natural gas on the market, Alaskan natural gas is just priced out of the market right now.  Is Mike proposing that the state subsidize an in-state pipeline when there is not much of a market for the product?  That smacks of something that is not free-market capitalism to me. Well, Mike really doesn't offer much of a plan as there are no facts, no figures, no projections, just some sort of sense of impending doom and gloom. 

Please, someone help me understand this.  Yes, we have oil in the ground and offshore.  Yes, we have tremendous reserves of natural gas. Does anyone really have any doubt that sooner or later, these fields will be developed?   Our state fiscal reserves are brimming, and while production is certainly down, revenues for the oil owned by the state are the envy of every other state in the nation.

And when the price is right, and it sure isn't now, the state will make a bunch of money, the oil companies will make a lot of money, but maybe you and I won't make a lot.  But maybe our kids and grandkids will.  We've already proven that we'll piss away what we get.  Let's hope that our kids aren't quite as dumb .

And if you are of the tea-bag persuasion, here's your golden moment.  If you really believe in the free market and no government bailouts, don those tri-corner hats and just tell those republican politicians in Juneau that garsh-darn it no, no more subsidies for the most profitable businesses on the planet. Yeah right.  I won't hold my breath.

Of course there is a fallout to it all.  By giving away our natural gas at subsidized prices to Agrium and their fertilizer plant and to Conoco and Marathon to sell to the Japanese, enough natural gas was produced to offer the citizens of the Kenai the gas at relatively affordable prices.  Now that the free market is about to reclaim its place, we are all going to give more to Enstar.  The free market sucks when you have to pay market prices, but that is the way supply and demand works, isn't it?

Now imagine that we got smart.  Instead of paying $500,000,000 to Transcanada for looking into building a natural gas pipeline across Canada (surely that will create a lot of AK jobs), instead of giving the oil companies over $4,000,000,000 in subsidies, instead of thinking about giving  $150,000,000 to the Knik Arm Bridge developers, instead of the $11,000,000+ to study The road to Nome which could cost a few billion by the time it is completed, instead of funding the $5,000,000,000 Susitna Dam, let's take that all of that money and begin moving AK to sustainable clean energy (and maybe on a local rather than grand scale), fully fund our universities to attract and keep the best and brightest minds, help more homeowners make their homes energy efficient (and reducing the demand for more fossil fuels), develop viable mass transit and promote and develop businesses and industries that match the needs of the changing world?

Then our kids and grandkids might have a fighting chance.

Large Visitor Globe