Tuesday, March 01, 2011


If I'm the only one in America cheering as the price of gas rises to possibly north of $5, that is OK.

This senior citizen remembers well the 1973-4 Mid East oil crisis and the 1979 Mid East oil crisis. On July 15, 1979, I watched President Carter lay out a six point plan for energy independence in his "Crisis of Confidence" speech, also famously known as the "Malaise" speech. In it, Carter said we would never again import more oil than we did in 1977. Those who agreed with Carter's urgent call for the oil addiction "cure" turned down their thermostats, drove smaller cars, and like Carter, installed solar panels to power their houses. Unfortunately, Carter lost his re election run to former actor and New Deal Democrat Ronald Reagan, who saw America as the "shining city on the hill" to be run by the super rich, many of whom were oil barons who had zero interest in weaning America off oil. When the Carter White House solar panels were removed by the Reagan White House in 1986, it served as a symbolic slap at promoting energy independence.

Here we are 38 years after the first Mid East oil crisis watching helplessly as the Arab world discovers the joy and sorrow of tossing out the tyrants we have cozied up to for six decades to ensure an endless source of our liquid heroin. Behemoth SUV's, just recovering from the sales crash of the Great Recession, may once again go on the "endangered species" list, and economists worry about a new recession from high gas prices strangling our recovery.

In baseball it three strikes and you're on the bench. In political economy, it may well be that its three oil crises and you're a banana republic. If $5 a gallon gas will get America to wake up and listen, the enormous pain it causes may just possibly save us. But as Don McLean wrote and sang in "Vincent" two years before the first oil crisis:

"They're not listening still......perhaps they never will"

Originally published in USA Today, March 1, 2011.
Also published in The Daily Herald, March 8, 2011

Monday, February 28, 2011


One of the few benefits of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's bid to dismantle collective bargaining for Wisconsin's public service workers is that
Americans are getting to know the Koch brothers, Charles and David.

The Koch brothers' extensive wealth as owners of energy conglomerate Koch Industries, has allowed them to spend over $100 million dollars since the 1980's in pursuit of their extreme right wing political causes. It turns out that father Fred C. Koch, the patriarch who created the Koch fortune developing a better way to turn heavy oil into gasoline, was a founding member of the ultra conservative John Birch Society, which famously charged that even President Eisenhower was a "Communist tool" guilty of treason. The current Koch extremist campaign has been largely ignored by the mainstream media, that is, until exposure of their effort to dismantle the bargaining power of pubic employee unions nationwide, starting in Wisconsin. We now learn that the billionaire Koch boys have been major contributors to Governor Walker's successful gubernatorial election and major influences on his immediate legislative effort to break the unions and obtain power to privatize Wisconsin's energy resources, some of the benefits of which, just might benefit the Koch boys' business interests.

The extent of Koch influence over Governor Walker was revealed this week when a blogger impersonated David Koch and recorded his conversation with Walker who took twenty minutes out of his hectic budget battle to strategize with the fake David Koch on how successfully his union busting effort was working. In the conversation, Walker, with breathtaking cynicism, admitted he considered planting "troublemakers" among the tens of thousands of peaceful protesters at the Wisconsin Capitol. Ignoring the implications of a sitting Governor possibly fomenting public unrest, Walker said he decided against such despicable conduct simply because it might not serve his political interests. At the end of the call the faux David Koch promised Walker a luxurious vacation at Koch's fabulous digs once Walker had "crushed the bastards".

Growing up in the 1950's as a member of America's endlessly expanding middle class, I would often down the world's most famous drink whose name rhymes with the aforementioned Koch brothers. The drink Coke was known as "the pause that refreshes". Sixty years on, alas, as America's middle class dwindles, I simply find the brothers Koch to be "the pause that depresses".