Monday, January 31, 2011

Speeches We'd Like To Hear: Grayson's "State of the Union"

A "Speech Someone Else Would Like to Hear"

MeanMesa has never been bashful about brazen moves to simply put words in the mouths of those who, given outlooks more similar to ours, might have said them in the first place.  It is a great way to express MeanMesa's ideas about just how things might have gone if this were a perfect world.

Of course, such postings should show both great respect and great restraint while still offering a channel of expression which remains uniquely different from the old, hum drum, run-of-the-mill "Short Current Essay."  Some recent  examples of MeanMesa "stepping up the plate" with such commentaries are (links to each):

However, MeanMesa has received the following email from Congressman Alan Grayson -- one of our favorites who was recently "unelected" under a tsunami  flow of extra stinky Citizens United money in Florida -- with his own, very interesting version of "Speeches We'd Like to Hear."  Grayson offers up a few ideas, ten of them, which he hoped would emerge from the State of the Union speech.

Have a look.  (email content posted below)

(image source)

Dear MeanMesa,
January, 24, 2010

President Obama is delivering his State of the Union message tomorrow. This is the speech that I would like to hear:

“My fellow Americans. Two years ago, 69 million of us voted for me to be our President. It was the largest vote for President that any person has ever received. But I understand that you did not support me merely because I have an unusual name. Especially the middle one. No, you supported me because I promised the change we need.

“We have been through two hard years, with many people losing their jobs, and many people losing their homes. You know that I did nothing to cause these problems, and I tried hard to solve them. Although our accomplishments have been substantial, an intransigent Republican minority in the Senate has blocked much of my legislative program.

“But a President is more than a legislative program. Although my title is ‘President,’ you did not elect me to preside. You elected me to lead.

“We are at a fork in the road. The Republican House Leadership demonstrated last week that its highest legislative priority is to prevent 30 million Americans from seeing a doctor when they are sick. We can let Republican control of the House of Representatives doom us to no progress, no change, for the next two years. Or I can exercise my powers under the Constitution and our laws to deliver the change we need.

“I choose the latter. As for the Republican leaders, they can lead, follow, or just get out of the way.

These are the things that I will do now, to give us the good government that we Americans deserve, and the change we need:

First, to give the economy an immediate boost, I will direct the executive agencies to accelerate the obligation of federal contracts and grants, rather than waiting until the end of the fiscal year.

Second, I will recognize the obvious, declare China a ‘currency manipulator,’ and end the forced currency union with China that we never asked for and we don’t want, which has cost us 5 million manufacturing jobs in the last decade. I will institute ‘anti-dumping’ actions to protect American jobs.

Third, I will direct Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA and the VA to include in every home loan that they issue or finance a provision that requires mandatory mediation, at the bank’s expense, before foreclosure. Families who are in danger of losing their homes deserve at least that much.

Fourth, I will direct both the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department to break up any financial institution that is considered ‘too big to fail.’ Too big to fail should mean too big to exist. There will be no more bailouts, no more Wall Street welfare.

Fifth, I will ask the FBI to investigate and DOJ to prosecute anyone who committed criminal misconduct in connection with the collapse of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG, Bear Stearns, Countrywide, Merrill Lynch, and all the rest. I will ask the SEC to bar such people from publicly traded companies and the capital markets. In the 18 months before I took office, twenty percent of our national wealth was wiped out, and no one has been punished for that. If we leave the same people doing the same things, then those same disasters may well happen again. We can’t take that chance.

Sixth, because corporate income tax revenues have dropped by half in the past decade, while Big Business is enjoying record profits, I will ask the IRS to audit every one of the Fortune 500. This will ensure that they are paying the taxes that are due, rather than evading taxes through transfer pricing and offshore tax havens. And I will ask FASB and the SEC to mandate that public companies keep one set of books, rather than one set for investors and a different one for the IRS.

Seventh, I will direct the EPA to exercise its authority to treat carbon dioxide as a pollutant. I expect to be able to reduce our emissions and pollution as much as other countries do. If they can do it, then so can we.


Ninth, I ask the NLRB to take all available steps to ensure that the right of employees to organize, which is rooted in the Constitution’s ‘freedom of association,’ be defended – including the promulgation of ‘card check’ by regulation under the National Labor Relations Act.

Finally, as Commander in Chief, I will bring all of our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan by the end of this year, if not sooner. After a decade of war, it’s time for peace.

“Many of you heard me for the first time six years ago, when I said that I believe not in a Blue America or a Red America, but rather, I believe in America. I still do. Americans deserve a good government, which delivers public services effectively and economically. America also deserves leadership that recognizes our problems, attacks them, and solves them. That’s the change we need, and the change we deserve. I won’t settle for less.”

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Just a Little More About PNM and Green Energy

MeanMesa's "glancing blow" concerning PNM's behavior toward renewables inspired a few comments from our visitors.  The common theme noted that too little attention had been paid to those testifying about PNM's inclination to discourage local, "on-grid," types of solar installations. 

This posting will hopefully rehabilitate MeanMesa's image on the matter.

During the hearing (visit the original post here ) several of those who spoke against the rate increase -- and, more generally, about PNM's corporate behavior -- were lamenting about PNM reimbursement policy with respect to residential installations of solar electrical generation, primarily photovoltaic electric panels.  The complaints followed two basic lines.

1. It was argued that PNM had specifically "reneged" on its initial promise to encourage home owners to purchase and install the panels.  The policy which had been presented initially was a far more favorable financial arrangement where excess residential generation would be purchased by PNM and added to the local grid.  

The final -- current -- form of the arrangement found residential generation being "sold" back to PNM at a "negative" price, that is, homeowners generating residential solar power excesses would basically be required to pay PNM to allow it into the grid rather than receiving a cost benefit on their electric bills.  This unusual -- and unexpected -- turn of events was somewhat camouflaged as a higher fee to cover PNM's costs of integrating the power into its local system.

Of course, home owners who had planned on these cost savings as they planned their investment in solar panels found themselves now stranded on PNM's "Island of Billing Revenge."

2.  This specific complaint also grew to become part of a larger one.  Green energy supporters had already managed to get a New Mexico State Law which encouraged alternate energy development with the panels and all sorts of other approaches, the initial basis of PNM's original "pro-Green" policy promises.  However, now these individual generation plans were not only being effectively ignored by PNM, but actually penalized.

The "big picture" presented by PNM had a troubling similarity to the over all "media fraud" ideas that alternate energy was not cost effective, could never be cost effective and amounted to little more than a "hair brained scheme" to extract operating funds from otherwise nobly honest, long suffering, hard working utility companies.  This clever "media work" had been quite effective so far -- 80% of Americans, saturated with the constantly repeated story, believed that any serious form of alternate energy could only become possible in the distant future.

So, is this  actually the case?  MeanMesa will include an interesting article about the scope of residential solar power generation in Germany, a cloudy, grey place with far less brilliant, power generating sunshine than New Mexico.  Thom Hartmann brought this up some weeks ago, a little "Googling" produced the facts behind his position.  Our thanks to Blomberg for reporting the story.

Hartmann's point was that Germany had been able to avoid the necessity of building additional nuclear generation facilities because the residential solar generation had provided the needed power.  It's not surprising that PNM -- already "dabbling" in California nuclear generation -- would prefer to downplay the issue.

Have a read.

Merkel's Nuclear Plan Earns Derision 

as Clean Power Costs Climb

Bloomberg Markets Magazine
Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, stands at the entrance to a wind turbine tower at the Wind-projekt Ingenieur- und Projektentwicklungsgesellschaft mbH wind farm in Krempin, near Rostock, Germany. Photographer: Michele Tantussi/Bloomberg
Breil on Nuclear Energy
Sept. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Klaus Breil, lawmaker and energy spokesman for Germany's ruling Free Democratic Party, talks about renewable and nuclear energy production in Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet approved an extension of the lifecycle of Germany’s 17 nuclear-power plants, rejecting public protests and opposition threats to challenge the government’s plans in court. Breil speaks from Berlin with Andrea Catherwood on Bloomberg Television's "The Pulse." (Source: Bloomberg) 

The solar panels on Tommy Clever’s house in Berlin generate enough electricity on sunny days to run his washing machine, vacuum cleaner and other appliances, with a bit left over to help power the region’s factories and offices. 

Clever likes the arrangement. He gets 51 euro cents ($0.68) per kilowatt-hour for any electricity his solar rooftop feeds back into the grid, which is about 10 times the wholesale price paid to coal or nuclear plant owners. The payment rate, mandated by the government, stays in effect for 20 years and gives him an annual return of about 9 percent on his investment in the photovoltaic setup, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its February issue. 

“It’s been better than putting money in the bank,” the 39-year-old environmental consultant says. 

Such subsidies have made Germany a green-power success story. It gets more than 17 percent of its electricity from wind turbines, solar arrays and other renewable resources, up from about 6 percent a decade ago, according to the German Renewable Energy Federation. The country has adopted new clean technologies more quickly than any nation except Denmark, its smaller neighbor to the north; it has more wind turbines installed than any country other than the U.S. and China and the most solar power generation in the world. 

What’s more, the renewable-energy industry has been one of the biggest sources of new jobs in Germany in the past decade and has been boosting exports.
Nuclear Extension 

Now, Chancellor Angela Merkel is expressing concern that the cost might hurt the competitiveness of German industry. To hold power prices in check, she plans to keep existing nuclear plants in the mix for longer, abandoning a deadline set by the previous government to retire all of the country’s reactors by 2022. Environmentalists, political opponents and even some people within her own party say Merkel is backpedaling from Germany’s green-power goals. 

“Her policy is all about delaying an important transition to renewable energy that Germany’s future prosperity will depend on,” says Matthias Adolf, a lecturer on international relations and energy at Berlin’s Free University. 

The government enacted the new program for the electricity industry in September. It was the first major energy initiative Merkel had put forward since taking power in 2005 and the first change of course since renewable-power legislation was passed in 2000. 

Price Supports 

While Merkel preserved the preferential pricing, known as a feed-in tariff, that has encouraged the installation of solar panels such as Clever’s and the construction of wind farms, her critics say she’s setting the incentives too low. Tariffs for new projects can be adjusted by the government as a way of controlling the pace of new facility construction and reacting to changes in the relative costs of renewable energy versus fossil fuels. 

The price supports for solar power were cut three times in 2010. The above-market payments to wind and solar generators are passed through to consumers in their electricity bills. 

Merkel says her plan strikes a balance, protecting German manufacturers such as Siemens AG and Volkswagen AG from rising electricity costs that might make their exports noncompetitive, while also continuing to add green power. 

“I think we can say our energy system will be the most efficient and environmentally friendly in the world,” Merkel said on Sept. 6. 

Juergen Trittin, a leader of the Green Party, which was a partner in the government when the push for renewables began in earnest a decade ago, says German job growth depends on the continued expansion of wind and solar. 

Green Power Jobs 

“We should be getting out of nuclear power faster and relying more on renewable energy, which has led us to an export surplus,” he said in a speech to the country’s parliament in October. 

About 340,000 workers in Germany are employed in the making and installation of wind turbines, solar panels and other clean- energy equipment. That workforce has doubled since 2004, according to the environment ministry. The robust domestic market for wind and solar has helped German companies such as Siemens develop clean technologies that sell around the world. 

Still, despite the growth in exports, employment in Germany’s clean-energy businesses remains sensitive to changes in government policy, says Claudia Kemfert, head of the energy and environment department at DIW Berlin, an economic research institute. 

‘Right Policy’ 

“Supporting renewables is the right policy from an economic perspective, despite the high initial costs,” Kemfert says. “The renewable industry is the only industry in Germany that reported an increase in revenue over the past three years.” 

In addition to the jobs argument, Kemfert and others say Germany will benefit as renewables replace coal, gas and oil that are mostly imported and subject to price swings. 

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen says expansion of wind and solar will provide Germany with cheap power by mid- century, when fossil fuels become scarce and expensive. Roettgen, from Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, wanted the energy plan to tilt more in favor of renewables. Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle and members of his Free Democratic Party lobbied for a longer life span for the country’s nuclear plants and more-aggressive cuts in the preferential pricing for clean-energy installations. 

Merkel’s plan includes a goal of adding as much as 25,000 megawatts of wind turbines in the North Sea and the Baltic. That would be a lot of generation: The 17 nuclear plants in operation in Germany today have a total capacity of about 21,500 megawatts and produce almost a quarter of the country’s power. 

Offshore Wind 

Adding offshore wind facilities would represent a next step for Germany, which lags behind Denmark and the U.K. in this category. The giant turbines anchored to the seabed require a bigger upfront investment -- and the likely involvement of large power producers such as RWE AG. Critics of Merkel’s plan question whether it provides sufficient support to get these facilities built. 

Nuclear power is unpopular in Germany, even as neighboring France relies on reactors for three-quarters of its electricity and is building more. The 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine, which sent up a plume of radiation that reached much of Europe, turned public opinion against the technology. 

Only about a third of Germans believe that delaying the retirement of nuclear units is necessary to help with the transition to renewables, according to a survey commissioned by environmental group Greenpeace and conducted by TNS Emnid. 

Nuclear, No Thanks 

“We don’t need a nuclear extension,” says Olaf Hohmeyer, a professor of energy economics at the University of Flensburg. “It’s merely a license to print money.”
Hohmeyer says Germany could generate all of its power using renewables by 2050. As long as nuclear plants are providing cheaper power to the grid, the incentive to build the offshore wind-power projects, in particular, will be inadequate, he says.

The country’s largest utilities, E.ON AG and RWE, along with Karlsruhe-based Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG and a unit of Sweden’s Vattenfall AB, operate the country’s nuclear plants. They will earn about 6 billion euros ($8 billion) in extra profit for every year’s delay in the retirement of their reactors, according to estimates from the environment and resources department of the RWI economic institute in Essen. About half of that money will go to the government to support new power generation. 

Chancellor Merkel’s energy policy is being written by Juergen Grossmann, not by the cabinet,” the Green Party’s Trittin told the Parliament, referring to the chief executive officer of RWE. 

Special Tariffs 

The Greens and the Social Democratic Party created the system of special tariffs to support wind and solar a decade ago, when they were together in a coalition government. They also enacted the deadline to phase out nuclear power and plan to sue to keep Merkel from delaying the plant retirements. 

Most reactor waste is still stored in temporary casks near each nuclear plant, which adds to the concerns that Germans have about the technology. Any permanent disposal for highly radioactive waste is at least two decades away, as the country struggles to choose and prepare an appropriate site, says Wolfram Koenig, president of the German nuclear safety regulator. 

One advantage of nuclear power is that it emits almost no greenhouse gases. Germany is subject to the carbon dioxide emission reductions that the European Union promised under the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty. Keeping the country’s reactors online longer means that growth in renewable generation can be used to retire coal plants. Power demand grows by almost 1 percent each year, even though the German population is shrinking. 

‘Shape the Transition’ 

“Continued use of nuclear energy will help us to shape the transition to the renewable age in an ecologically and economically sensible fashion,” Economy Minister Bruederle says.
Electricity costs are already steep in Germany. Residential consumers in 2009 paid the second-highest average rate among the 27 members of the EU: 22.9 euro cents per kilowatt-hour, less than the 25.5 cents paid in Denmark but 39 percent more than the EU average of 16.5 cents. 

While the tab for subsidizing renewable power is still a small part of a typical monthly electric bill -- less than the price of a Starbucks cappuccino -- that slice is growing. A surge in solar-cell installations in 2010 means that the total cost of the feed-in tariffs will jump 72 percent in 2011, according to calculations by the owners of Germany’s high- voltage transmission system. 

46 Billion Euros 

Support for solar power alone may cost 46 billion euros from 2000 to 2030, according to a study by the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy. 

While these costs are high, they aren’t yet crippling, and Merkel aims to keep it that way. Spain’s support for solar power, by contrast, has become a nightmare for the government.
Spain, which was trying to mimic Germany’s approach, set the tariffs too high, and too much new generation got built. The country is now reneging, cutting feed-in tariffs that investors were promised. 

In addition to the concern that the price supports won’t be set high enough to get new clean-power facilities built, some energy experts and environmentalists complain that Merkel is doing little to integrate renewable-energy facilities into the electricity grid. 

‘Huge Transition’ 

“There is no plan for this huge transition,” says Sven Teske, a Greenpeace researcher.
While Clever benefits from the ability to sell excess power to electricity distributors, Germany’s promotion of renewable energy may erode profits at E.ON, RWE and other large power producers. Their nuclear units, designed to operate at full output around the clock, are a poor complement to wind and solar, which are intermittent and depend on daylight and favorable weather. 

Sometimes when breezes blow strongly and wind turbines generate ample power, reactor owners have to pay distributors to take their electricity, University of Flensburg’s Hohmeyer says. With permission to keep reactors online for longer, big electricity producers have every incentive to slow the investment in renewables such as offshore wind, he says. 

Germany’s chances of continuing to lead the world in renewable energy may depend on whether Merkel really has struck the proper balance. 

To contact the reporter responsible for this story: Jeremy van Loon in Berlin at
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reed Landberg in London at

Friday, January 28, 2011

MeanMesaTestifies at the PNM Rate Hike Hearing

Four Corners Coal Fired Power Plant (image source)
Well, the big day rolled around -- today -- and off we went on our sturdy bicycle to the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission's hearing for the PNM rate hike request.  The meeting was held in the impressive auditorium of of the African American Performing Arts Center on San Pedro.

For MeanMesa visitors from outside the US, a short explanation of the process and its purpose may be in order.  In New Mexico, almost every citizen depends of electrical service for daily living.  Unfettered by public regulation, whatever corporation able to "corner the market" would enjoy what we consider to be a monopoly, allowing it to basically charge any price it liked.

On the other hand, the scope of the task of providing electricity, for example, is one for which the size of the provider determines the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the service, factors which would normally suggest that a giant monopoly would actually be a good choice.  The idea of a publicly regulated utility represents the  "mix" between the alternatives basically allowing the corporation to "act like" a monopoly, but just not an entirely out of control , "Robber Baron style" monopoly, and, instead, a monopoly which must answer to public control.

The various participants in the main discussion by the Commission are called "interveners."  In this case, PNM was the primary "intervener" in favor of the rate hike.  Opposing "interveners" included a number of entities, mostly represented by attorneys.  Because it was a public hearing, citizens were allowed to express their own views of the rate hikes after the primary interveners were finished.

As hearings go, although the session presented all the predictable elements, it also included a few unexpected turns as well.  The Commissioners of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (NMPRC) provided a fifteen minute opportunity for PNM, the electric utility requesting the rate increase -- apparently the fourth in the last five or six years -- to state its case.  Notable in that presentation was the figure describing the amount of extra revenue PNM wanted to raise by increasing the electric rates.

That figure was roughly $150 Mn dollars per year.  The PNM presentation included all sorts of other information regarding the necessity of the increase -- things such as old equipment which needed to be repaired and replaced, a small amount of conversion to "green energy" expenses and a few pension and benefit plans for its employees.

The central counter argument was presented by one of the intervener's attorney immediately following PNM's "moment in the spotlight."  Several other opposing interveners' attorneys presented largely the same objections to the rate increase afterward.  The central intervener was the Albuquerque Water Utility, an entity with "standing" based on the large amount of electricity it consumes.  Others were various other large consumers.

MeanMesa'a Decision

Of course, MeanMesa is not among the Commissioners of the NMPRC who will actually make the decision, but as one of the citizens who testified against the rate hike and a witness to much of what was said at the hearing, there seemed to be a few obvious "points of contention" presented.  Let's take them by the numbers.

1.  The counter parties argued a $90 Mn difference in the amount actually needed to maintain service levels.  PNM had argued $150 Mn.  The Water Utility argued around $45 Mn and other opposing parties generally agreed with them.

2.  Everyone, including the PNM spokesman, agreed that the local economy sucked.  Testimony varied as to whether it was bad enough to delay the PNM expansion plans and their associated costs.

3.  The "green energy" folks (there were several) argued that PNM was manipulating the arrangement with people wishing to generate their own electricity through solar panels, etc. in a way which would discourage that effort.

4.  The citizens unanimously complained that the rate increase would amount to a serious hardship economically.  Those on fixed incomes may have been the most vociferous, followed by those with electric heat, but all the private citizens were strongly opposed.

MeanMesa's testimony followed these common reservations except with a few added comments.

1.MeanMesa emphasized that a rate hike would further "hollow out" the local economy by further reducing the amount of money in local, everyday activity.

2.MeanMesa emphasized that the $90 Mn difference between the opposing valuations of the work planned by PNM was, indeed, a serious difference -- one which had to be at least somewhat reconciled before the plan advanced.

3.MeanMesa emphasized that the timing of the plan sucked just as bad as the  present economy sucked.

4.MeanMesa emphasized that PNM needed to put together a far more persuasive "story" to justify either the plan's timing or its expense or both.

Although MeanMesa's opposing testimony was probably not any more convincing than that of the other citizens attending, the exercise was fulfilling.  Paying higher electric rates may not be quite so onerous when we can "justify" ourselves a little by having taken part in the process.  The final decision, still under a cloud of litigation, will not be made for several months.

Finally, a quick note about the facility where the hearings were held.

Although mainly about the hearing itself, this posting may warrant a line or two about the Performing Arts Center, itself.  MeanMesa paid this first visit to the free museum where both African American art and history are on display in a quiet, dignified gallery.  Inside were all sorts of unexpected things, most notably for MeanMesa, photographs of the New Mexican, self-described,  "exclusive Negro" communities of Blackdom and later, Vados.

The museum displays relics and photos of this fascinating story of the days when the ink on the 14th Amendment was still fresh, the South was full of Jim Crow and the Homestead Act promised Black farmers a new start in New Mexico.  MeanMesa's visit was a well suited and appreciated prelude to the modern, corporate theater ready to unfold later in the hearing.  Some impressive attributes of the American democracy were showing their face in both.  Interested in the story?  Link here.

Mr. Smith Goes To Congress

We all know that the original version of this posting was the wonderfully populist old 1939 film "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington."  It is, the star, Jimmy Stewart, played the stalwart "true believer" in American democratic ideals.

In our modern day, we see something similar -- at least, something of a similar image.  Beyond the image of the new Tea Baggers in the House, however, there lies an unsettling and unseen further story.  With this posting, MeanMesa will, once again, drop off the cliff of tedious reality into the glittery world of our own fiction.  Join us as we watch Mr. Jack Smith, the recently elected Tea Bag Congressman from the fictional state of North Virginia on his first tour of the US House of Representatives.

Mr. Smith is accompanied on this tour by the senior Republican Congressman from North Virginia, Representative Billy "Bubba" Blowhard.  As we begin, it is Mr. Smith's first day at the Capitol.

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

"Congratulations on your election, Jack.  It'll be great to have another real American from North Virginia in the 112th Congress.  I'm sure that Speaker Boehner is anxious to meet you and offer his own greetings, too.  Right now, though, it might be a good idea to show you around this place so you can get your bearings."

"Thanks Bubba!  I've already been shown my office by the House staff, but I've never had a chance to see the rest of the place."

"Well, I hope you've got your walking shoes on -- we've really enlarged the old House quite a bit.  There have been lots of additions just to accommodate the folks who moved in here with us."

"But Bubba, aren't there still the same number of Representatives?"

"Oh sure, but I was referring to the other folks we'll be needing to keep the wheels of government turning while we're in charge.  You know, before we took over to make government smaller and get rid of the special interests, we had to go all the way over to K Street to pick up our campaign contribution checks.  Since we're in charge now, we decided to just move all that closer to where the action is, if you get my meaning."

The pair were walking out of the House Chamber through a nondescript doorway located at the side of the Speaker's Chair.  The new Congressman was startled as they entered a long hallway which appeared to be three or four times longer than the House Chamber itself.  As he first glanced at the scene, it seemed that there were literally hundreds of doors opening to offices along the corridor.

"Wow, Bubba.  You guys really have expanded the House offices.  Are there Representatives in all these rooms?"
"Heh, heh.  No Jack, these are the new offices we've built for the K Street Mall additions.  We had to find room for a few thousands lobbyists who needed to come right up on the Hill so they could be a little more convenient for us.  There are so many offices in here that a new Congressman can get lost.  That's why I wanted to show you around.  You'll need to be able to find the right 'go-to' places once you start doing business."

"Bubba, it looks like there are more lobbyists here than there are voters in my District back home in North Virginia."

"Don't worry, Jack.  The leadership has prepared a little map which shows who's where.  Naturally, we didn't want the thing to go public, so we're only handing it out to the new Congressmen when we can do it quietly.  Here, take a look.  Right now, we are right here."

The senior Congressman pointed to a small spot at the right edge of the floor plan.

The "Secret Map" To the
 New "K-Street" House Mall 
(image source MeanMesa)
"Now, you can see the, uh, Market Trading Floor here in the center.  This list of offices goes by the numbers.  Just find the lobbyists you're looking for on the list, check the floor plan to see where they are and you'll be able to go right to the correct office."

1.  House Chamber  (Market Trading Floor)
2.  The Greed Grotto where members can go for quiet reflection.
3.  The "Media Images Classroom" where members can learn to speak bad English with a Southern drawl and wear bad ties.
4.  The "Big Pharma Patio" where members can slip in for a couple of drinks and get their "marching orders" from the Pharmaceutical Corporations.
5. and 6.  The "Back Room" where there are no cameras or microphones.  Members can have conferences here when they want to be sure that absolutely no one can see what they are doing.  Right next to the "Back Room" is the "Closed Door" where we can make deals with each other to serve the public interests and stuff.
7.  The "No Bid" Conference Room is for making contracts with military suppliers and the like.
8.  The "East Lobbyist Lounge" where our friends can gather to talk to each other.
9.  The "Emergency Supplemental Luncheonette" where we put together funding for unpopular stuff like wars and invasions.  They serve great sandwiches free to members.
10.  The "Big Bank Bar B Que Pit" where we authorize mergers for our special banking friends.  They serve fabulous ribs at the "Pit."
11.  Is the "ROI Market Ticker" office.  All the Lobbyists watch this pretty closely to make sure they're getting their bosses' money's worth.
12. through 18. These are the close-in offices for the our "Deregulation Services Administration."  The main "Deregulation Office" is just over there in room 44.  We make the "sweet deals" over in 44, then come along over here to work out the details.  You'll notice that we have a separate office for each kind of deregulation, oil, banking, Wall Street, Health Care and the like.  For example, Room 17 here is for pollution deregulation.
19. through 26. These are the "Deregulation Tax Specialties" offices where we go to work out the tax side of the changes we make while we are dis-assembling old "job killing" regulation bills, if you know what I mean.
27. through 31.  All the offices on the South Wing are dedicated to "Campaign Cash Management. Now, although that might seem like something boring, it's at the heart of the entire mall.  Our Congressional "Money Bin" is in 28, and out "Citizens United Cash Memorial" is in 31, right on the corner with a great view of the Supreme Court.   We manage all the  conflict of interest payments to our boys on the Supreme Court in office 29.
32. Is the "West Side Lobbyist Dining Room."  Hey, everybody's got to eat!  
33.  The "Free Market Petroleum Lounge" is a kind of "freshening up" spot for our friends from the oil industry when they come to visit.  Sometimes, Big Oil leaves "campaign contributions" out on the reception table with the fresh fruit and candy.  Of course, members can help themselves.
34. through 38.  All these offices are where we manage our "International Accounts."  For example, "Off Shore Assets" are managed in 35,  and "International Special Friends" business is handled in 37.  Our favorite international "Military Contractors" are located in 38.  "Jet Liners, Tankers and Useless War Planes Sales" are in 36.
39. Is the "Member Spa and Whoopee Health Center" run by the health insurance corporations.  It's free, and it's private.  There are different girls in there every week.
40. Is a "Members-Only Alcohol and Drug Treatment."  Maybe you've wondered where in the hell we send all the members who fall down in front of the cameras on the Floor.  They just wander over there, and we report that they have entered treatment.  It's a good place to run into the Speaker.
41. through 43. These offices on the North Wing are all "Talking Points Management and Distribution Centers."  You will drop in here every morning before you have any public exposure.  The CATO guys and the Heritage Institute will have the day's list of talking points ready to go, and your job will be just slip them into any public statement you might make that day.  Just act like you have thought about whatever it is.  The media will be full of the same line no matter who is interviewed that day or the subjects.
44. Is the "House Hedge Fund and Holding Company Office."  That door will be closed to you unless you're invited in by the House leadership.

"So, Jack, there you have it.  Hang on to the little map, and make sure your staff knows where to go for what around here.  Now, have a great time, make some money and do the country's business!"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

When the "Train Leaves the Station"

Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressmen Boehner and Cantor, please return to your "landslide of public opinion seats" immediately.  The country is about ready to move forward.  Please have plans and policies ready to show the conductor.  

Thank you.

MeanMesa's compliments to the President.

 Image Sources:  

Mitch McConnell source  John Boehner source
Eric Cantor   source

Our Twisted Path to Trust and Persuasion

MeanMesa is somewhat perplexed by the current discussion of the media, our Fourth Estate, and its rather soiled role in informing our citizens.  The inescapable odor of elephant manure wafting through the parlor literally begs for a reference to that old idiom.  Relax, MeanMesa intends to post even more weighty points than one could find on the weight scale under the great, grey beast.

The issue might be stuffy and academic if the "duties" of the media were not such an integral part of the mechanisms of our democracy.  "Media duties?"  What are we saying?  Should someone be dictating to the media what its duties might be?  Should someone "grade" the performance of the networks with respect to whether or not they are performing their "duties?"

These would be interesting -- probably incendiary -- questions if the answer to them amounted to nothing more than an invitation to "hammer out the facts" in the given moment and "co-exist" with whatever might be decided.  Happily, this is not the case at all.

In the late 18th Century our nation said -- or at least, rather forcefully implied -- that there would be "rules," "duties" and even "enforcement" on the conduct of the Fourth Estate.  Happily, however, the judgement and authority to perform these tasks was left to the ultimate power in the new country.  What was implied all those decades ago was simply that the government would not be empowered to control the press, not that the press was entirely free of any control.

(image source)

Instead of policy or bureaucrats sitting in the role of some meat handed referee, it would be the citizens -- the consumers of the Fourth Estate's product -- which would be charged with this responsibility.  How, exactly, would that be accomplished?  Easy.  When the work of the Fourth Estate proved deleterious to the common interest of the population, the worst of all possible remedies would automatically emerge to correct the bad behavior.

Wow.  Wait a minute.  An example or two might be useful right here.

If a popular newspaper were to publish a stream of information which incited the population to support some policy, and the information turned out to be  false and the policy turned out to be severely counter to the interests of the readers who had trusted it previously, the citizens, still burning from the misuse, would very easily move to another news stand to purchase an alternative media product the next morning.

If a news network hosts one slack jawed pundit after another, all promoting some general influence on those who consume the broadcasts, all of whom being convinced -- by the same pundits -- that it was actually the very best quality information anywhere, and it turned out not to be high quality at all, or, in fact, nothing more than a cheap promotion of the interests of the "quiet" sponsors of that network, the listeners and viewers would, predictably, avoid any more of the same "like the plague" and adjust their knobs and channels elsewhere.  These ex-listeners and ex-viewers would, while still burning from the mis-information and manipulation they had experienced from this miscreant network, simply pick something else and hope for better results in the future.

Of course, this predilection to avoid further self-damaging persuasion only becomes realistic if the "other choice" actually exists.  A separate MeanMesa posting could be made exploring the reasons that any such a media enterprise would actively undermine the existence of its competitive alternatives.  This is a grotesque question of choosing to control competition as opposed to offering "truth" in such a competitive quality that the consuming market will decide in your favor.

MeanMesa has posted before concerning the very desirable alternative of debate compared to single voiced, unchallenged, inflammatory -- yet toothless  -- polemics.  (  Uncontested polemics are for sissies.

Now, for a quick MeanMesa quiz:  "Have you heard the media you consume contradict what has been presented by its competition?"

Of course, the co-dependent approach to such a task will be to simply present contradictory and "turn the deciding" over to you.  MeanMesa, on the other hand, much prefers a more direct approach, that is, where the media steps forward with something along the lines of "They told you this.  Here's why it should be disregarded."

In the age of relentless video records of not only the sound of the words, but also the image of the faces, such gambits aren't actually all that risky.  For example, comments from Senator Mitch "McChinless" McConnell lambasting Obama's deficit might be accompanied by video of the very same man repeatedly voting for the deficit -- and not in a small way, either -- during the autocracy.  But, we notice, such a "reality based" contradiction is not reported.

An actual debate between opposing Senators would be free to express issues of such grave hypocrisy.  However, aside from a few sparsley attended progressive shows, the insult is simply -- and thoroughly -- forgiven.  Is this the high performance of the Fourth Estate?  Can we possibly consider this to be some sort of validating performance of the media task of responsible reporting?

Further, Americans seem to enjoy Sunday Morning "news" shows where "out of control" interruptions and argument are the style de jour.  Viewers with an undeniable appetite for "news" which can be believed watch discussion not dissimilar to an athletic event.  Although hardly presented in the formal discipline of an actual debate, the frothy emotion of the "discussion" lends itself well to the idea that, when speakers are in a state of near apoplexy, they will, somehow, be less inclined to outright lying.

We watch spokesmen with unapologetic assumptions of authority and veracity, but we usually watch them speaking by the themselves only.  We see high school style "rebuttals" such as the mouthy disasters of Bobby Jindal or Michelle Bachmann following the words of the President.  We see uncontested charts and graphs trotted out on the floor of Congress with "information" not removed a single millimeter from the unsupported rantings of some right wing nut job on the radio.

We see impossible references to unexamined authority.  "It's in the Constitution."  "It's in the Bible"  "It's the will of the American people."  These are all comments which will never bear the actual "light of day" because they are not true.  Yet, out they roll in an endless, gaseous cloud of misinformation -- and, to the point of this posting, unchallenged.

MeanMesa would feel ever so more reassured with outright statements.  "No.  That's is simply not true, and here's why I say that."  To her credit, one of our favorites, Randi Rhodes, (The Randi Rhodes Show, 1350 AM KABQ, Albuquerque, 1PM to 4PM weekdays) speaks to this bravely and openly.  She admonishes her listeners to not believe what she says and furnishes (in her "homework" section) the supporting references for what she says on the air.

Not too long ago, the President (responding to unsupportable comments by  Senator Lamar Alexander, R - Tennessee) repeated a highly relevant quotation:  "You are entitled to your own opinions, but you are not entitled to your own facts." 

Such statements, while well within the purvey of the voice of the President, should have emerged from an eager, competitive press.  Point made.