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Posted on on May 6th, 2012
by Pincas Jawetz (

Things not yet clearly understood – but who knows – there may be yet an evolution to revolution – Some feel it is needed.         The interesting thing that at no other time it was more possible then in 2012.

The United States and the World are in deep trouble and only the November 2012 Presidential Elections can help. Just do not count with Congress – it all will have to come from President Obama’s directives in his Second Term – and please understand how important it is to re-elect him and how unimportant it is who sits in Congress. AN IMPERIAL PRESIDENCY – YES, YES and YES!

Will 2012 be a year of real change leading to revival of US Democracy?


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The End of Clean Energy Subsidies?

Published: May 5, 2012,
The federal government has given generously to the clean energy industry over the last few years, funneling billions of dollars in grants, loans and tax breaks to renewable power sources like wind and solar, biofuels and electric vehicles. “Clean tech” has been good in return.

During the recession, it was one of the few sectors to add jobs. Costs of wind turbines and solar cells have fallen over the last five years, electricity from renewables has more than doubled, construction is under way on the country’s first new nuclear power plant in decades. And the United States remains an important player in the global clean energy market.

Yet this productive relationship is in peril, mainly because federal funding is about to drop off a cliff and the Republican wrecking crew in the House remains generally hostile to programs that threaten the hegemony of the oil and gas interests. The clean energy incentives provided by President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill are coming to an end, while other longer-standing subsidies are expiring.

If nothing changes, clean energy funding will drop from a peak of $44.3 billion in 2009 to $16 billion this year and $11 billion in 2014 — a 75 percent decline.

This alarming news is contained in a new report from experts at the Brookings Institution, the World Resources Institute and the Breakthrough Institute. It is a timely effort to attach real numbers to an increasingly politicized debate over energy subsidies. While Mr. Obama is busily defending subsidies, the Republicans have used the costly market failure of one solar panel company, Solyndra, to indict the entire federal effort to encourage nascent technologies.

The Republican assault obscures real successes that simply would not have been possible without government help. Wind power is a case in point. By spurring innovation and growth, a federal production tax credit for wind amounting to 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour has brought the cost of electricity from wind power to a point where it is broadly competitive with natural gas, sustaining 75,000 jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance.

But the tax credit is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, with potentially disastrous results: a 75 percent reduction in new investment and a significant drop in jobs. That is just about what happened the last time the credit was allowed to lapse, at the end of 2003.

This is clearly the wrong time to step away from subsidies. But it may be the right time, the report says, to institute reforms, both to make the programs more effective and to make them more salable to budget hawks. One excellent proposal is to make the subsidies long term (ending the present boom or bust cycles) but rejigger them to reward lower costs and better performance.

The idea is not to prop up clean tech industries forever. It is to get them to a point where they can stand on their own — an old-fashioned notion that, one would hope, might appeal even to House Republicans.



The Party of Julia

Published: May 5, 2012A WEEK ago the Obama re-election campaign unveiled a slogan for the fall campaign — its answer to Ronald Reagan’s “Morning in America,” Bill Clinton’s “bridge to the 21st century,” and other successful re-election pitches. There were reports that the slogan-writing process had been a struggle for the White House, and the final product bore those rumors out. “Forward,” the Obama campaign will be declaiming to Americans, which feels like a none-too-subtle admission that a look backward at the Obama economic record might be bad news for the president’s re-election prospects.

But maybe the White House doesn’t need a slogan. After all, it has a person instead: a composite character who’s been the talk of Washington these last few days, and whose imaginary life story casts the stakes in this presidential campaign into unusually sharp relief.

Her name is Julia, and she has the lead role in an Obama 2012 slide show that follows what’s supposed to be an American everywoman from childhood into retirement, tracking everything the Obama White House’s policies would do for her and everything the “Romney/Ryan” Republicans would not. The list of Obama-bestowed benefits includes Head Start when Julia’s a tyke, tax credits and Pell grants to carry her through college and low-interest loan repayment afterward, guaranteed birth control when she’s a 20-something and government-sponsored loans when she wants to start a business, all of it culminating in a stress-free retirement underwritten by Medicare and Social Security.

What’s more, she seems to have no meaningful relationships apart from her bond with the Obama White House: no friends or siblings or extended family, no husband (“Julia decides to have a child,” is all the slide show says), a son who disappears once school starts and parents who only matter because Obamacare grants her the privilege of staying on their health care plan until she’s 26. This lends the whole production a curiously patriarchal quality, with Obama as a beneficent Daddy Warbucks and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan co-starring as the wicked uncles threatening to steal Julia’s inheritance.

But if the slide show is easy to mock (and conservatives quickly obliged, tweeting Julia jokes across the Internet), there’s also a fascinating ideological purity to its attitudes and arguments. Indeed, both in its policy vision and its philosophical premises, the slide show represents a monument to certain trends in contemporary liberalism.

On the one hand, its public policy agenda is essentially a defense of existing arrangements no matter their effectiveness or sustainability, apparently premised on the assumption that American women can’t make cost-benefit calculations or indeed do basic math. In addition to ignoring the taxes that will be required of its businesswoman heroine across her working life, “The Life of Julia” hails a program (Head Start) that may not work at all, touts education spending that hasn’t done much for high school test scores or cut college costs, and never mentions that on the Obama administration’s own budget trajectory, neither Medicare nor Social Security will be able to make good on its promises once today’s 20-something Julias retire.

At the same time, the slide show’s vision of the individual’s relationship to the state seems designed to vindicate every conservative critique of the Obama-era Democratic Party. The liberalism of “the Life of Julia” doesn’t envision government spending the way an older liberalism did — as a backstop for otherwise self-sufficient working families, providing insurance against job loss, decrepitude and catastrophic illness. It offers a more sweeping vision of government’s place in society, in which the individual depends on the state at every stage of life, and no decision — personal, educational, entrepreneurial, sexual — can be contemplated without the promise that it will be somehow subsidized by Washington.

The condescension inherent in this vision is apparent in every step of Julia’s pilgrimage toward a community-gardening retirement. But in an increasingly atomized society, where communities and families are weaker than ever before, such a vision may have more appeal — to both genders — than many of the conservatives mocking the slide show might like to believe.

Apparently someone in the White House thinks so, which makes the life of Julia the most interesting general-election foray by either campaign to date. Interesting, and clarifying: in a race that’s likely to be dominated by purely negative campaigning on both sides, her story is the clearest statement we’re likely to get of what Obama-era liberalism would take us “forward” toward.


The Sunday Review


Direct Democracy, 2.0

Published: May 5, 2012

Berlin – FIRST took real notice of the Pirates last summer during the campaign for city elections in Berlin. German electioneering is quaint, even faintly musty by American standards. Political advertising mostly takes the form of full-color head shots of the candidates hung on light posts and telephone poles with interchangeable slogans about working for a brighter future.

I FIRST took real notice of the Pirates last summer during the campaign for city elections in Berlin. German electioneering is quaint, even faintly musty by American standards. Political advertising mostly takes the form of full-color head shots of the candidates hung on light posts and telephone poles with interchangeable slogans about working for a brighter future.

“Why am I hanging here anyway?” a Pirate Party poster brazenly asked, the unshaven face in black and white, belonging to the candidate Christopher Lauer, neither smiling nor making the requisite eye contact. “You’re not going to vote anyway.”

When the Pirates captured a surprising 9 percent of the vote, I ventured out to their election-night party at a scruffy club in the traditional counterculture neighborhood of Kreuzberg. “We’re a chaotic band of cyber-hippies,” said Oliver Höfinghoff, an army veteran who had served two tours in Kosovo and was about to start his first in the city legislature. “And we should stay that way.”

Though the Pirates are mostly known as a one-issue party advocating Internet freedom, Mr. Höfinghoff explained their online decision-making system, Liquid Feedback. Every subject could be debated, drafted, amended and voted on by members over the Internet. The process was the platform.

The idea of electing someone as your proxy for two, four or even six long years may have been a necessity in the days of the American Constitutional Convention, when representatives rode to the capital by horseback. Some people who vote dozens of times a day on their favorite videos, articles and songs say it’s outdated.

The Pirate Party was founded in Sweden by the former software entrepreneur Rick Falkvinge on Jan. 1, 2006, to reform copyright and patent law and to strengthen online privacy. The party’s profile rose after Swedish police officers raided the popular file-sharing site The Pirate Bay that May. By September of that year a German branch had formed. Six years later Mr. Falkvinge claims there are more than 50 Pirate Parties worldwide.

“Written language allowed people to communicate over time, the printing press to reach people en masse,” Mr. Falkvinge told me at the election party in Berlin. “The Internet turned passive receivers into an active community.”

Germany has had its own outposts of the Occupy movement, most notably in Frankfurt and Berlin, but the country’s political preoccupation has been the organized challenge within the system that is the Pirate Party.

“We Germans were never the greatest revolutionaries,” said Marc Olejak, a 40-year-old candidate out campaigning recently in Düsseldorf, capital of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where elections are coming up later in the month. “Instead of burning barricades, we go out and found political parties.” The Pirates are expected to win just under 10 percent in the state, Germany’s most populous, which would make Mr. Olejak, with his chin-strap beard and long black corduroy jacket, a state legislator.

A recent survey found that nearly one in three Germans would in principle be willing to vote for the Pirates; they even nosed ahead of the Green Party in several opinion surveys as Germany’s third most popular party. The Greens were once the insurgent activists on the political scene. Now founding members from the ’68 generation have started collecting their pensions. A Green campaign poster with a cursor arrow pointing at a Facebook thumbs-up icon carried a whiff of desperation to keep up with the Pirates.

PIRATE PARTY supporters are younger and savvier about the Internet, a mix of first-time voters and disenchanted members from all the other parties. In addition to the lefties, there are a fair number of traditional libertarians. While the Greens tried to burnish their online bona fides with Facebook icons, the Pirates put up signs that said: “We obey the Constitution. In that we’re conservative.” In Düsseldorf they were handing out free copies of the German Constitution, known as the Grundgesetz.

There have been growing pains, notably when the party’s floor leader in the Berlin city Parliament, Martin Delius, told Der Spiegel last month that “the rise of the Pirate Party is as fast as that of the N.S.D.A.P.” — the Nazi Party — “between 1928 and 1933.

”These are not the sort of comments that instill confidence in a political establishment already deeply mistrustful of the newcomers, with their World of Warcraft references and ever-present bottles of Club-Mate, something like a German herbal Red Bull popular among hackers and at techno clubs.

The Nazi comparison was particularly ill-timed because several Pirate members’ far-right sympathies had recently come to light, leading to a nationwide debate over whether the party’s breakneck growth — official membership has more than doubled, to over 29,000, since the Berlin vote in September — has swept too many radical fringe elements into the group.

When I met Mr. Olejak at the campaign event, he was about to watch the original Swedish version of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on his Toshiba laptop in the pedestrian zone in downtown Düsseldorf. The event was a symbolic stand against laws barring public screenings of copyrighted material.

A bright orange sofa — orange is the official color of the Pirates — had been wheeled in for the occasion, hitched to a bicycle like a boat to the back of a pickup truck. The local party treasurer was wearing orange laces in his black Chuck Taylors and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” on his Apple MacBook. Frank Capra’s political classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” would have been altogether too fitting.

Though Mr. Olejak is a professional typesetter, he said the typeface for their signs had been selected by online committee, the decisions made by “the graphics hive.” One of his companions described wading through reams of legislation and legal commentary to make himself a copyright expert.

These are the people who read those long privacy notices the rest of us guiltily click “O.K.” on and try to forget about as we post intimate photos of family and friends on a Web site intended to earn a profit for a corporation. For them, politics, with its thousand-page pieces of legislation, is really the fine print of the social contract.

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