Your Inquirer Profoundly

Your Inquirer Profoundly offers scathing commentary and raw insight about the social, political and cultural developments of our time.

Archive for September 2012

Green Romney Contaminated by Presidential Politics

leave a comment »


“I will not create jobs or hold jobs that kill people” Romney declared in February 2003. Pointing to the Salem Harbor power plant he continued, “And that plant, that plant kills people”.

Romney’s assertions about the Salem Harbor plant were supported by a 2000 Harvard environmental and public health study that concluded pollution from Salem Harbor was responsible for 53 deaths, 570 emergency room visits, 14,400 asthma attacks and 99,000 incidents of upper respiratory symptoms annually (http://www.airimpacts.org/documents/local/plant.pdf). At this point in Romney’s governance he was lauded by conservationists and environmentalists like Massachusetts Ocean Management Task Force official, Jack Clarke, as “ahead of his time and very progressive” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/30/us/politics/romney-energy-agenda-shifted.html?ref=todayspaper&_r=0).

In addition to rebuking Salem Harbor Governor Romney vowed to crack down on Massachusetts “filthy five”, a reference to the state’s most notorious polluters. Surrounding himself with environmentalists, Romney’s administration sought to tackle environmental degradation and support conservation efforts on a regional level. Outlined in a 2004 policy paper that Romney referred to as his “no regrets” strategy his administration laid out a “climate protection plan”. This plan included a blueprint for a regional cap-and-trade-program, a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a pledge that promoted hybrid cars. As governor of Massachusetts Romney justified his position in light of evidence produced by leading climatologists. Romney recounted in his 2010 book No Apologies, “climate change is occurring” and that “human activity is a contributing factor”.

On the campaign trail presidential politics appears to have contaminated the once Green Romney as he garners support and money from national energy players that make the filthy five look, well, less filthy.

The environmental policy Romney developed as governor of Massachusetts is radically dissimilar to the Big Energy anti-environmental policy he touts during his presidential bid. Having forged an alliance with leading energy moguls like Exxon’s Rex Tillerson and appointed Harold Hamm, the billionaire executive of Continental Resources as his energy adviser, Romney has come to tow the line of extractive industries and has positioned himself as recipient of the funds they’ll donate to influence American energy policy.

According to Open Secrets.org, the campaign finance watchdog, the Romney campaign has already raised over $3.4 million from oil and gas companies. Republican National Committee has pulled in more than $4 million from oil and gas. Together the Romney campaign has exceeded the funds raised by John McCain and George W. Bush who both received staggering contributions from energy companies during their runs for president. However, the Romney campaign and Republican Party are receiving constant streams of funds from the unlimited money super PACs and dark money non-profits, the 501 (c)’s at the center of the money-access-power-nexus that trump direct campaign and party contributions by millions.

As Paul Blumenthal of the Huffington Post reported last month, the two Super PACs backing Romney, American Crossroads and Restore Our Future have already raised $8 million from extractive industries. Still this is chump change when compared to industrial tycoons David and Charles Koch who are committed to spend more than $100 million through their non-profit Americans for Prosperity to elect Romney and secure their say over energy policy.

During Romney’s term as governor defending the interests of Koch Industries would have been an aberration of his pro-conservation and environmentally conscious agenda, at least during his first three years as Massachusetts executive.

A decisive break from the policies that earned him the epithet “ahead of his time and very progressive” could be seen as early as December 12, 2005. During a television interview Governor Romney remarked. Days later Romney shared with the people of Massachusetts that he would not be running for governor again. Many residents interpreted this as a sign that “he had set his sights on the presidency”. To the dismay of environmentalists Romney’s televised statement was the harbinger signaling the end of his nuptial flight with Green interests.

Presidential politics and the gross money that permeates it has beckoned Romney to distance himself as far as possible from the energy and environmental policies that defined his gubernatorial stint. A calculated shift to the far right on energy and environmental issues has won Romney the support of the pro-Big Business/Energy camp and assured a steady stream of money flowing into his campaign from their coffers.

Today Romney’s energy plan focuses on achieving energy independence by 2020, a goal that relies on more intensive extraction and use of gas, coal and oil coupled with reduced regulation of these industries.

Washington Post’s Steven Muffson highlighted the centerpieces of Romney’s energy policy in an article written on September 11th (http://www.washingtonpost.com/postlive/obama-vs-romney-where-their-energy-policies-differ/2012/09/10/2b6c9e56-f9c8-11e1-a945-6cd36411d000_story.html ). Central to Romney’s presidential bid are his promises to industrialists to strip the EPA of its powers to regulate the emission of carbon dioxide. He also plans to empower states at the expense of the Federal Interior Department to issue permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters. Romney asserts that permits will be issued quicker and more efficiently if federal oversight is mitigated, streamlining energy production and creating new jobs. Eliminating governmental subsidies to wind and solar projects is another priority in Romney’s energy plan as well as opening all federal lands and waters for extraction actives including the entire Pacific and Atlantic coast and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Romney has also stated that he will continue to provide generous tax breaks for oil and drilling amounting to more than $4 billion a year. And finally Romney has informed voters that if elected one of his first actions as president will be to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to begin the transportation of oil sands from Canada to the Texas Gulf for refinery.

The environmental and public health issues that concerned Romney as governor of Massachusetts have been strategically replaced with advocating the causes of America’s top oil, gas and coal titans. It looks like Romney will need more than one finger to point at plants that kill as the jobs that his energy policy will promote will be largely held in plants and along pipelines that cast a black cloud on the filthy energy production of Salem Harbor.

-your inquirer profoundly

Advertisements

How Shady Does An Industry Have to Be to Own Your Shadow?

leave a comment »

Remember when you owned your shadow? If you were born in the digital age you don’t. That’s because your data shadow, the digital dossier that makes up your aggregated electronic existence in the information age is the property of data collection agencies that profit off the distribution and resale of you in raw data form. In 1965 the Bureau of the Budget proposed building a single national data center to store electronic records of every US citizens personal information including, but not limited to, social security numbers, tax records, proof of citizenship and criminal records. The proposal was scrapped after concerns over privacy invasion spurred public outrage.

Flash forward to 2012. Enter Facebook, Amazon, Pay Pal, Experian Credit Reports, and Viagra spam campaigns. How did these companies become immensely wealthy overnight? And why does an image of Atlas Shrugged’s book cover appear in the ad space of your inbox and flash on your computer screen as a pop-up? Does this have anything to do with your attendance at a Paul Ryan fundraiser? or are web marketers promoting rational egoism again?

What’s happened is companies like the aforementioned have become giants in the marketplace with the support of sophisticated data collecting technologies. Private databases sell personal information about your transaction history, physical location, spending and web browsing habits and virtually any other kind of information about you that can be stored electronically used to anticipate what kinds of goods and services you are likely to purchase. Many feel they cannot negotiate modernity without continuously disclosing personal information. This fact has habituated Americans to radically diminished expectations for ownership of their personal information. This diminished expectation is further exacerbated by the abundance of incentives you are given to reveal information about yourself to a variety of demanders providing them with data in exchange for an equally great variety of discounts and shopping rewards. Yet this tradeoff is rarely examined critically. The burgeoning personal data industry demonstrates the lack of resistance these agencies face when collecting information about where you are, how you behave and what you are likely to consume. Yet widespread distrust of these business practices does not mirror the national suspicion that arose after the government proposed to create a single database over fifty years ago. Have we deluded ourselves into thinking that privately owned databases do not pose the same privacy concerns as a federal data center would? Are the carrots you receive for the data shadow you leave worth your potential loss of agency when that data is used against you?

The reality is data collecting, warehousing, mining and selling goes beyond marketing, convenient shopping and sweet deals. Insidious applications of this technology now surround us. No reward points can assuage the fact that every transaction we make is recorded, databased and sold to an interested third-party without our being informed. What good are savings reaped from gas rewards cards if every time your EZ-Pass is scanned that information is sold to auto insurance companies eager to take off that low mileage discount upon policy renewal and just when you thought you had devised the perfect strategy to cut back on commuting expenses. Maybe you accept the tracking of your movement on the grounds that you travel on public transportation roots. Do you extend the same indifference to the monitoring of all electronic communication?

In 2006 both AT&T and Verizon agreed to share phone call records of all their subscribers with the NSA’s program Stellar Wind. Subsequently communication interceptors have been installed at dozens of hubs across the country allowing for the effective aggregation of all phone calls, email and text transmissions that travel via fiber optic cables. In other words, people like Adrienne Klein an NSA voice interceptor at Fort Meade Georgia, do actually listen to phone calls from numbers that have been flagged by dragnet programs for showing “suspicious patterns of use” and those suspicious patterns can be tripped by Ramadan Shallah or someone as innocuous as Molly Shannon. It could also be the case that you are willing to relinquish former protections that prohibited the recording of your conversations, written and spoken for the sake of maintaining national security. So, how would you feel if your affair was disclosed to your significant other after a private investigator requested your driving record from Microdesign’s Electronic Toll Collection database?  Every time you drive through a toll booth a license plate scanner tracks your movements, databases them and sells them to interested marketing companies, government agencies and snoops for hire.

These examples, although few, sufficiently illuminate a shady industry that has serious implications on how we live in a society that monitors our transactions, movements, and conversations. The irony is that after rejecting plans to build a national data base we have witnessed the emergence of the database nation comprised of thousands of data agencies owned by both private companies and government. The superabundance of material rewards has conditioned Americans to disclose details that make up their lives to any party that offers a coupon for anything. Worse, laws have been passed without the slightest debate that has legalized governmental monitoring of nearly all of our actions as long as that monitoring is of “data patterns, not people”.

In the half century since the nation spoke out against building a national database private interests buttressed by favorable legislation have constructed a panopticon, imprisoning your electronic shadow in a variety of different databases with different uses for your personal information. Whether a marketing company is directing a product to you, a credit bureau is tracking your payments, or a surveillance camera is recording your behavior, the reality is that multiple entities have a claim on your aggregated electronic existence. If you consider how inextricably linked you are to the communication networks that span the globe you may realize that your data shadow is an extension of your personhood, a digital self that you that you don’t own. If not owning your shadow is not alarming you have succeeded in objectifying yourself as raw data for the processing.

-your inquirer profoundly

America’s Game Show

leave a comment »

Reduced complexity and manipulation are used to require ordinary people to subscribe to the logic of the political process much like game shows attract contestants by promising the winners prizes without conveying the hidden taxes that will be applied for their participation.

A few quick rules illustrate the sublime simplicity of the logic of America’s political process. Elections are the only aspect in which national participation can legitimately occur. Private wealth finances candiadates campaigns. Well funded campaigns win elections. Once elections are won elected officials pay dues to their supporters by passing laws favorable to their supporters interests.

To generate participation and channel the money needed to elect officials into office an environment conducive to this goal is engineered for about a year. Welcome to election year. Advertisements aired by private interest groups like super PACs serve the state as well as the private backers that fund political ad campaigns. These ads are responsible for two things. First they prime the public to support one bundled package of interests over another. Second they aim to rally support for the candidate who best serves the advertisers interest. Together this education in civics reinforcing the interests of the state, which caters to the interests that elected state officials which according to the logic of the political process is in the interest of the electorate.

Viewers often finds the ads to be confusingly similar as they focus on a narrow range of issues and often incorporate the sames images of some closed manufacturing plant, brown cornfield or frustrated geriatric. The only discernable difference is which candidate is being held in contempt.

Through campaign advertising ordinary people are driven by empty rhetoric streaming through ads on the television, web or transmitted in print. The abundance of advertisements take on a life of their own forming a spectacle that voters often receive as reality. Negative ads lampooning Obama conjure the image of a celebrity Muslim alien with a bent for soviet era wealth redistribution. People will vote based on this information less because they fear the prospect of Obama nationalizing every home on their block and transforming neighborhoods into colonies of government outreach centers (although from within the spectacle prism voting against Obama maybe entirely rational) but more because they feel compelled to exercise their limited influence over the political system. In sum the public has been told its in their interest to elect officials who will represent their wants and needs as citizens.

It’s always been four years since the last time they participated in a state sanctioned political process. Ordinary people get political cabin fever too. America’s political process, which the public shares in on a national level once every four years culminates with the presentation of two choices which the ordinary people have been presumably educated about through campaign ads and public school. The choice easily boils down to the following binary: participate and have a say in the outcome of this election or don’t participate and have no say in the outcome of this election. Believing that having a stake in the future direction of the country is paramount people opt to vote at which point they have another pair of choices to make. The electoral process can be broken down like Babushka dolls. Pull at them and one discovers they are all hollow.

Choice One is the possibility that your president and his administration will continue to support the same interests that empowerd him the first time around including but not limited to the financial giants who were too big to not notice fail, Sallie Mae-propagators of the high interest rate student “aid” myth and General Electric-Team Drone coach. This choice may result in a temporary cease-fire, not abroad of course but at home, a pause on vaporizing the gossamer-thin safety net that millions of Americans rely on during these harsh times.

Choice Two on the other hand is sure to produce your presidential CEO who will eagerly confront America’s economic ills as a rudimentary leveraged buy out. America’s problems, Choice Two contends are the consequence of fettered markets and overarching governments propped up by weak willed, entilment seeking victims. Bundled with Choice Two is the mystery flavored pop of international adventures. Some have hinted at explosively exciting tours in Iran, the South China Sea and a nostalgic return to Afghanistan.

What the election comes down to is the successful reduction of America’s political process to a boring pick-which-door-to-open game show. The prize was already stocked behind both doors and neither one of them is worth the gift taxes you will have to pay when the show is over.

-your inquirer profoundly

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

September 25, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Acrimony & Cunning: Preffered Tactics in the 2012 Election

leave a comment »

In a bruising presidential race only the electorate is left black and blue. Acrimony and cunning have become the preferred tactics of public influence as Obama and Romney exchange apoplectic blows in the campaign cage match. A recent advertisement financed by PrioritiesUSA Action shares the testimony of a former employee of a steel plant who lost his job after Bain Capital shut down its operations. A mourning man recounts the hardships he endured in the aftermath, drawing a causal connection between Romney’s business decisions and his wife dying from cancer. Another ad paid for by Crossroads GPS portrays Obama as the cool celebrity, who, while drinking Guinness and calling Kanye West a jackass has led to 85% of college graduates moving back in with their parents while student debt has skyrocketed to over a trillion dollars. Obama calls Romney “Robin Hood in Reverse” no sooner than Romney emerges indignant and wounded to reciprocate a calumnious jab through a snarling campaign spokesman summoned like a tag-team attack dog to cast Obama as a mendacious story teller: “President Obama recently said the biggest regret of his first term was not telling better stories”. From birth certificates to public tax releases from the president of American europeanization to the gay bullying presumptive candidate, the 2012 campaign has been dominated by slander and juvenile name-calling at a time when a meaningful discourse is needed to redirect the country and reform its endemic woes. How convenient.

The defamations hurled back and forth by the caterwauling campaigns have relegated the Democratic and Republican parties to childish squabblers more concerned with settling scores than addressing the deep structural problems that make America terminally ill. Both parties, by continuously descending into the unbecoming world of incendiary polemics have successfully made the 2012 campaign a spectacle of entertainment akin to a WWF match or a he-said-she-said-let’s-fight-about-it episode of the Jersey Shore.

The tone of this campaign has been made possible by mainstream media and supported by social media as both information mediums have provided the staging required to carry out this tasteless pop drama until November. Television networks, radio broadcasters, magazines and websites have already received generous remunerations from the super-pacs for airtime, ad-space and generating online traffic. Strategic use of these communications channels by both parties illustrates the extremes our political establishment is willing to go to win an election or rather the information war it has been reduced to.. But in dominating the most popular information resources, the news channels, radio stations and printed materials voters regularly turn to, Obama and Romney have inundated the very resources that democracies need to thrive with kitsch, an effective means of evading real questions about how to fix America.

The conversation democrats have been trying to shape throughout this campaign has revolved around Romney’s secrecy about his taxes, off shore bank accounts and involvement with venture capitalist firm Bain Capital with occasional allusions to marginal social issues like animal rights. Interestingly enough, warmongering, corporate welfare, expanding the surveillance state-the perennial pastimes of the GOP haven’t even been touched upon. Republicans have engineered an equally distracting national discussion about Obama’s iron fisted expansion of the federal government, wayward deficits-the consequence of overzealous spending on social programs and the White House’s gross overstepping of our freedom to choose or not choose to have health insurance. Yet Republican public relations specialists have done little to cast Obama as Bush in sheep’s clothing despite his undeniable continuity of Bush II’s national security agenda. Drawing attention to Obama’s similarities to Bush II seems an obvious weapon for the GOP to undermine support for Obama in the same way drawing attention Romney’s relationship with Bibi Netanyahu could evoke skepticism towards Romney’s international ambitions. Discussing the implications national security has on privacy or American foreign policy are apparently off limits in this political ring, below the belt punches that would call into question the President and the presumptive nominees commitment to the rules of the game. Instead inflammatory monologues are thrown to knock each candidate off his feet. fail to engage the public in a debate about America’s future. By reducing the national discussion to a feverous exchange of diatribes the leaders of both parties have masterfully diverted attention away from the most pressing issues they refuse to confront moving towards the 45th presidency.

Maybe one of the reasons why neither 2012 hopeful has asked how American foreign policy creates terrorists that threaten national security in place of proposing how we are going to keep America safe from terrorists relates to the way they busy themselves planning for the next smear.  Perhaps a conversation about the gross inefficiencies of private insurance in delivering quality affordable health care to millions of ailing Americans has been trumped by the question: is imposing an individual health insurance mandate constitutional because the campaign has been intentionally centered upon empty rhetoric to avoid responding to such questions. Or perhaps a reason why the financiers who high jacked the American political system for corporate gain, receiving billions in tax payer dollars when their projects brought the economy to its knees go unpunished while the United States incarcerates more people than any other country on earth, has to do with our leaders inability to admit that white collar criminals, the worst among, them are virtually exempt from punishment. Meanwhile law enforcers vigilantly apply the rules of law to apprehend those found in parks past curfew and those protesting peacefully for justice on restricted public grounds.

Although this small sampling of issues, all of which impact people across the country, barely skims the surface of the problems America confronts heading towards November’s election neither Obama nor Romney has attempted to address a single one of them. Their tendency to favor endless ad Hominin melees over substantial policy debates shields them from being disclosed as the minions of private interests that they are. Neither Obama nor Romney is willing to jeopardize the funding they receive from defense, private health insurance, surveillance and financial industries to mention a few. Speaking against these powerful institutions would result in disapproval by private financiers who control governmental policy at all levels . By detracting from a meaningful dialogue about the direction American is heading towards President Obama and Mr. Romney are condemning America to another term of global American policing, a decrepit health care system made no better by the Affordable Care Act, and the continued abuses of a wayward financial system. America’s taste for acrimonious quarrels is satisfied by the ongoing spectacle of two politicians jabbing their way to the white house, a cage match our political and corporate power brokers have so cunningly designed to maintain the status quo.

-your inquirer profoundly

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

September 23, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Welcome Inquirers

leave a comment »

Because the flicker of the flame seldom casts enough light for the eyes to see into the depths of the abyss, I hope to use this blog space to illuminate the depths into which we gaze. Your Inquirer Profoundly will pose questions about the social, cultural and political developments of our times. Some posts will investigate these questions while others will serve as space for commentary. I hope to include you, my inquirers, in the discourse that unfolds. Respond to Inquire is your chance to contibute your thoughts, ideas and sentiments to our blog space. Feel free to tear with force the stiches of the social straight-jacket and comment as you feel on the posts before you. If words are actions our dialogue is a collective action. Together we inquire!

Your Inquirer Profoundly,

Written by yourinquirerprofoundly

September 22, 2012 at 12:30 am