Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Need for a National Energy Contingency Plan

If the crisis in Israel escalates into a major regional issue involving Iran and other countries in that region, this can have serious implications on the national security and economy of our nation.

Currently, we are dependent on over 66.5% of our oil from the mid-east, about 70% of our oil from foreign imports around the world. If terrorist organizations block the Strait of Hormuz by destroying or sinking tankers headed for this country, this can virtually shut off more than 30% of our oil supply for a very long time.

In the 70's we were able to withstand an oil embargo by these oil producing nations by the mere fact that at the time, China and India were not major oil consuming countries. Today, however, the picture is much different. The outcome can be much more catastrophic. Also, back in the 70’s, former President Nixon initiated bold steps to implement gasoline price caps when prices were rising during the embargo. Unfortunately for this country in the last 8 years, the out-going administration did nothing to control the price and spikes of gasoline prices. And, the citizens of the nation paid dearly for their inactions.

If oil were to be cut off today, we would only have a 6-8 week supply to keep the nation running. I understand that states, like California, have an emergency plan just in case. But this plan is really inadequate and only will replenish emergency service vehicles. And, in a really serious case, the state will provide for only farm vehicles -- not the general public.

This will again lead to gasoline rationing and long lines at the gas pump -- on a short-term basis. On a longer term -- if the emergency crisis were to continue -- this would disrupt the workforce in the country. Every industry would be forced to shut down since employees will no longer be able to get to work. Especially here in Los Angeles, people will not be able to drive their vehicles and, people are dependent on automobiles in a region where the availability and accessibility of mass transit is very poor.

If the crisis continues even more, this will lead to chaos within communities. Neighbors will turn against neighbors, people will not be able to go to the markets to buy their food, and food will not be available -- people will starve. Crime can and probably will rise uncontrollably.

The Administration and Congress must quickly develop and adopt a plan for this country to migrate its dependency from foreign oil in the next five years without delay, rhetoric, or debate. Convert heavy transportation vehicles from diesel to natural gas as a bridge to alternative energy. It is known that natural gas is the only energy source available right now that can power the big vehicles. Some states, municipalities, and educational school districts are already converting their large vehicles to natural gas. Commercial vehicles should do the same even if it requires that they be subsidized by government assistance.

By weaning ourselves off of foreign oil, we can save $15 billion by not sending this money to foreign nations. The money can better be used for our educational institutions and educate and instruct students in new and more energy efficient technology.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Has Capitalism Run its Course? – Trying to Fix an Antiquated Machine

The meltdown of the U.S. economy has obviously had a ripple effect on the international world’s economy as well. That just goes to prove how interconnected everything is. In an article appearing in the English version of, the website questioned if this was the end of U.S. capitalism. In the September 19, 2008 article, they interviewed three American economists. Essentially, they (the economists) concluded that this was not the end of capitalism in the United States, but that the system was only broken.

There has been much talk about an economic recovery. President-elect Obama is talking to Congressional leaders about creating a bill that will deliver an economic recovery package ready to be signed the day he is sworn in as President. Congress is talking about trying to solve the nation’s economic problems as well. Are these measures too little and too late? If the citizens were to receive another stimulus package, would it be just another paltry $600 per person or $1,200 per couple? Come on! The government gave away billions to corporations and millions went to only a few individuals. The right thing that Congress should do is give us a real stimulus package in the five to six-figure range so that we too can pay our bills and stimulate the economy.

When the banks cried out for help, the government stepped in with a bailout “plan.” They gave these institutions billions of dollars with the notion that this money was going to stem the tide of rising foreclosures and families being displaced by job losses and unable to pay their mortgages (largely because of the issuance of bad loans to begin with). However, the money never “trickled down” to the people where it would serve the most. No, a lot of the money went straight into the pockets of corporate executives through bonuses and stock options. They also used up the money to buy up other banks. There never was an accounting for the money. Yet, while families continue to lose their homes, the rich continue to get richer and the disadvantaged are screwed even more. To add insult to injury, not only are they not helped by these financial institutions (which were helped by the federal government), but their homes are placed in foreclosure auctions. Just look at the increasing number of infomercials on television and ads in the newspapers for foreclosure auctions in your community. If you have a little money, the more power to you. But society, being as cruel as it can be, never helps out people with very little or no money at all. In fact, when you’re down, you’re down. And, they like to keep you down for as long as possible. In this country, there is no mercy. Yet, the irony is that we cry out loud when human atrocities are committed in other countries, but we’re totally oblivious as to what we do to our own here in this country.

The car manufacturers, too, are asking the government for billions of dollars to bail themselves out so that they can continue to produce environmentally unfriendly automobiles. A lot of the money will probably end up in the pockets of the corporate executives, who should have been escorted out of their positions by the government before the money was given to them. Are they going to live up to their promises? Probably not.

If GM survives, they are going to come out with their new Chevrolet Volt – an all-electric car. Something that’s probably too little, too late. Furthermore, when it does come out, the only people that probably will be able to afford it will be the rich. In today’s world of high volatile gas prices, they should have put this technology on the market ten years ago and improved upon the technology. Take American Honda for another example. Honda should be commended for designing fuel-efficient automobiles, and having the foresight to design alternative fuel cars using hybrid technology, natural gas, and hydrogen. However the FCX Hydrogen Clarity (pace car of the 2009 Rose Parade) is so expensive that only a few can lease the car at a mere $600 a month. In California, we need more cars like this, but they also have to be much more affordable – not just for the rich.

Ever since the beginning of time, there has been the existence of a societal or communal “pecking order.” That is, whoever was “top dog” ate first. If you were royalty, you got treated better than the peasants and the working families. If you had more money, you had more influence over matters (such as in government and policy) than those making less money. Even today, this ancient structure of living remains prominent around the world. Because we have not learned how to progress from this archaic way of living, there have been societal clashes within and among nations. In many countries including our own, homelessness, poverty, and starvation are on the rise leading to civil wars. In more serious cases, this has led to international conflict including two world wars. We continue to think that we live in a civilized world, yet our behavior often brings out the animal in us. Somehow, our intelligence has yet to mature – especially if we are to progress into this new century.

As long as we have a government that continues to support the affluent and the very elite of this nation, we will continue to live in the past. We will never be a progressive nation. And, the government continues to favor business over the people that elected them into office. Take the bailout for example. Where did the money go? Whom did it benefit? Follow the money trail! Are our lives any better because of the bailout? No!

When the world’s economy was in trouble, they had a summit of the G7. But did they come up with any new solutions? Why? Because these are the same people who basically got the world into this mess in the first place. Can they get us out of it? Probably not. We’re trying to fix a broken system with broken tools and missing parts.

When corporations began laying off millions of people in the United States, there were no plans of putting these people back to work. Like the saying goes, “this is an ‘ownership’ society.” You are literally on your own. Where’s the government? They’ve taken a hands off approach and left a lot of the problems in the hands of the states who are going broke. The educational system is doing very little to rehabilitate displaced people by offering many courses and subjects that are irrelevant in today’s world. Oh sure, they offer basic computer skills, but a lot of those jobs were shipped overseas to India. Again, who does this favor? The rich executives in America for they seek cheap, inexpensive labor that will give them a bigger profit.

The Federal Government really has no plan at all. And if it really matters, they’ve pretty much let Corporate America run the country – at least for the last 8 years -- ran it right into the ground. If change is going to come to America, then the people should demand and expect the Federal Government to take back control of the nation. It has missed several opportunities, and if it is not careful, it will miss several more prime opportunities.

If this government is going to be truly a government by the people and for the people, then it should establish a citizens task force to work closely with the new administration to draft a strategic plan for the country. Not something based on a political party’s platform, but an unbiased, non-political strategic plan for this country that will be accepted by the people and implemented by Congress, and managed by the administration.

To ensure that there are no special influences, all special interest groups and lobbyists should be banned from Washington and limitations placed on political election spending and campaigning. Donations from corporations should be banned.

The people should demand that Congress and the Administration create an oil crisis contingency plan in case the nation’s oil supplies were to be cut off. Concurrently, The Federal Government should establish goals and objectives for the nation to become independent from foreign oil by creating a plan to produce alternative energy in the next five years and mandate that auto manufacturers produce affordable alternate fuel consuming automobiles in five years or less. Raise miles-per-gallon requirements to equal or exceed those of Japanese manufacturers.

The people should demand that the Federal Government do all it can to become more environmentally friendly and to work with the world in doing so. This will be a prime opportunity to change the monetary system to a more equitable one that favors all of mankind rather than just the world’s elite.

Discontinue supplying and selling arms and military equipment to Israel and other warring nations and provide support and funding only to those nations that will promote peace and diplomacy. In fact, discontinue the manufacturing of military equipment to foreign countries all together and just build equipment only for the defense of this nation.

If we rid ourselves of the different monetary systems in the world, we wouldn’t have to worry about money exchanges when we travel abroad. By going paperless, we can save the trees and our natural resources. The governments will not have to print paper money or coins. Issue everyone an environmentally friendly debit card. This way, people will not have to carry cash.

Since many financial institutions are going under already, establish a new world bank that will manage the world’s money system. Each person in every nation will be issued an annual life credit of $5,000,000. One credit equals one dollar or euro (whichever currency has the highest value). That is to say, at the beginning of each year, each account will start with a balance of $5,000,000 for life. This will eliminate the need for credit cards, applying for loans, etc. Everyone will have the same balance regardless of their position (president/CEO of a company, or custodian of the company). The company will not have to pay salaries or benefits. This amount will be sufficient to cover for medical care so it will eliminate the need for insurance. Everyone will be guaranteed medical and dental care and will be able to attend college without taking out a student loan. Yet, there will be credits left to invest in other miscellaneous matters. Companies will therefore have to find other incentives for people to work in their organizations since work will be for pleasure and not just for the sake of working to make a living.

So, by adapting to just one card for all of our financial needs, we can get rid of the other extra frivolous credit cards which, in turn, will lessen our dependence on oil. Also, by not printing paper money, we can not only save the trees, but also save on ink, which is oil-based.

Not only this, but it’s shifting the value from gold, silver and oil to people and placing a value on people. If each person is worth $5,000,000, it is going to be awfully costly to send people off to war. Nation’s leaders are going to have to think awfully hard about going to war with this price tag. Could this really make wars obsolete?

Finally, if every person can have an annual balance of $5,000,000, this will eliminate homelessness, poverty and starvation. People will be paid to be citizens of one world and not slaves to a company and expendable to its owners.

If we are going to take this opportunity to make changes, then we must begin to shed the ways we have been living in the past. If we are to work towards globalization, then we must work towards edifying the world as humans – not just for the benefit and profits of the rich in the world. We cannot adapt a world class structure similar to those in ancient times in many countries where there was a separation from upper and lower class. Or like farm owners (corporate executives) ruled over slaves (employees) – only now on a global level. We cannot permit this to continue – not if we are to progress into the future. Everything we do must be for the good of all of mankind and the environment. The archaic ways of living and doing business must change. We are all interconnected.

Let the strategic plan reflect, that the nations goals and objectives will include:

· Equality and justice for All (worldwide)

· Making wars obsolete

· Adapting a National Energy Plan

So to answer my question, has capitalism run its course? It depends on who you talk to. Naturally, the economists are not going to admit it. But then, many of them claim that the system has worked for ages, so why change it. The Buddha talked about impermanence – everything, including capitalism, is not permanent. I say, why try to reconstruct a sunken ship. Let’s learn from the past and move towards a better millennium.