Last month as Hillary Clinton was leaving a town meeting in Manchester, Lee Fang of the Intercept asked her if she would release the transcripts of her paid, and very private speeches to Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street powerhouse historically deep in Washington, D.C., influence-peddling. Mrs. Clinton just laughed.
Before announcing for President in the Democratic Primaries, Bernie Sanders told the people he would not run as an Independent and be like Nader -- invoking the politically-bigoted words "being a spoiler." Well, the spoiled corporate Democrats in Congress and their consultants are mounting a "stop Bernie campaign." They believe...
Corporatized and commercialized elections reach a point where they stand outside and erode our democracy. Every four years the presidential and Congressional elections become more of a marketplace where the wealthy paymasters turn a civic process into a spectacle of vacuous rhetorical contests, distraction and stupefaction.
The civic minds of...
As the New Year gets underway, the highest-paid CEOs of many large corporations have already paid themselves more than the average worker will earn in the entire year! By the end of the first week of January, the highest-paid CEOs had already made as much as their average workers will...
Can one person truly make a difference in the world?
Far too many people think not, and thus they sell themselves far too short. A wave of pessimism leads capable people to underestimate the power of their voice and the strength of their ideals. The truth is this: It is...
If only the people who engage in "road rage" would engage in "corporate rage" when they are harmed by cover-ups or hazardous products and gouging services, aloof CEOs would start getting serious about safety and fair play. With press report after press report documenting how big business stiffs millions of...
The U.S. has some big problems that require bold solutions. Unfortunately, books about solutions to our society's problems are often given short shrift by reviewers or languish on our bookshelves. As I often say, this country has more problems than it deserves and more solutions than it uses. Now comes S. David Freeman.
In 1974 David Freeman, an energy engineer and lawyer, wrote much of and directed all of the research for the book, A Time to Choose: America's Energy Future, a comprehensive early inquiry into America's energy crisis. A Time to Choose offered ideas galore about how our country could use efficiency and conservation to benefit the environment and the economy and ushered in a new era of energy efficiency.
Freeman has also run several giant utilities including the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD), the New York Power Authority (PASNY) and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP). After seven years at the TVA, he spent the next thirty advocating for and implementing environmentally sound and consumer friendly changes in energy policy. Mr. Freeman has been an innovator and leading authority on energy and environmental matters for a long time and knows what he's talking about, so when he speaks up about energy policy we should listen.
In January of 2016, in collaboration with his coauthor, Leah Y. Parks, he will publish a new and important book about our energy future: All-Electric America: A Climate Solution and the Hopeful Future. The book is scathing but optimistic, and manages to be bold while remaining pragmatic. Drawing on their combined years of experience, Freeman and Parks make the case for addressing the dangers of climate change with some concrete steps to counter our current downward spiral. Mr. Freeman argues that we will soon be able to power all of our energy needs with electricity generated completely by renewable energy as well as with increased energy efficiency in heating, cooling, lighting, transportation and our electric grid. The authors point out that:
Transforming our entire energy infrastructure to run on renewable energy by the year 2050 will require a larger effort than solely switching out our current electricity capacity. Investments in coal mining, oil and gas drilling and building new large coal, gas, and nuclear plants will give way to a massive increase in the construction of solar and wind power plants.
It comes as no surprise that this book rejects the indiscriminate "all of the above" approach (coal, oil, gas, nuclear, solar and conservation) to generating energy and argues that we have a leadership gap when it comes to developing a clean, safe and efficient energy policy that can boost our economy:
Rapid progress toward an all-renewables future is being stymied not by lack of technology, or even by cost or market demand, but by lack of vision on the part of our political and business leaders, and lobbying and persuasive advertising by the oil, gas, coal, and nuclear industries.
President Obama, environmentally minded political leaders and most of the major environmental organizations have been promoting both the "green revolution" and the "brown surge," supporting both renewables and the continued use of fossil fuels. They have failed to hammer home the message that a completely renewable future will be lower in cost, as well as necessity if we are to halt global warming, much less propose programs to make it happen. This is despite the fact that a long-sought bipartisan goal of U.S. energy policy has been to achieve energy independence. An all-renewable supply is the best way to do so.
By reducing emissions by 3 percent each year, the authors argue we would be capable of achieving a zero-emissions society in 35 years. The book manages to reconcile its lofty goals with sensible policy prescriptions. Big items on the agenda put forth in this book include:
Outlawing the building of new fossil-fueled electric power plants;
Creating a Federal Green Bank, which provides loan guarantees (not loans) for the financing of railroad electrification and for the construction of renewable electricity power plants;
Requiring that all new homes and buildings be Green House Gas (GHG) -free and existing buildings be retrofitted to zero GHG at time of sale or within fifteen years; and
Requiring all major auto, truck and bus manufacturers to reduce GHG emissions of vehicles by 3 percent each year, through a combination of improvements in mileage and lower GHG emissions.
The authors also note that big energy companies and their campaign contributions from the fossil fuel and nuclear industries have stifled sound, sustainable energy policies but how, with a little focused "civic energy" we can motivate industry and utility companies to adopt cleaner practices and policies that can make 3 percent annual emissions reductions not only feasible, but profitable.
The authors also challenge the notion that nuclear power and natural gas will eliminate our climate change woes and argue that renewables are a better financial bet for the consumer than oil, coal, natural gas or nuclear power for several reasons:
Nuclear power is a poor economic risk, requiring full government (taxpayer) loan guarantees, and also because no private insurance is available for an accident that causes billions of dollars of damage.
There are no fuel costs for solar and wind maintenance and it is thus virtually inflation-proof.
Renewable costs are going down while the price of oil fluctuates with an upward trend. The future price of natural gas is most likely to go up.
The savings in the indirect cost of renewables over coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power are profound. Some indirect costs include damages from environmental contamination, climate change, health expenses, managing the risks of nuclear power and military commitments--including deployments and even wars to safeguard oil from the Middle East.
When All-Electric America comes out in January of 2016 you will have a chance to make yourself knowledgeable about the real avenues available to us to transform our energy infrastructure for present and future generations by moving toward a new renewable energy economy with far more jobs, health, efficiency and security benefits than there are in relying on hydrocarbons and radioactive atoms..
To listen to my interview with David Freeman, visit
In my book, The Seventeen Traditions, I wrote about the ideals my parents passed along to my siblings and me. The chapter on "the tradition of charity" contains the following story, which I hope will inspire some reflection and contemplation this holiday season:
One bright summer afternoon, Dad took me for a ride around town. I suspected there was a purpose to this trip beyond catching the breezes by the lake or watching the teenagers playing sandlot baseball near the high school, and I was right.
First, we drove past the Beardsley and Memorial Library. Ellen Rockwell Beardsley had started this institution in 1901, he told me, with a donation of ten thousand dollars -- a princely sum at that time. He then drove up Spencer Street until we got to the Litchfield Country Hospital -- the first such institution in the county in 1902, when it was built, and also a product of private charity. Down a few more roads to the other end of town, and we were at the Gilbert School, a high school that for years was regarded as among the best in the nation. The Gilbert School was launched by a local industrialist, William Gilbert, who built the world-renowned Gilbert Clock Company in Winsted. His original gift established Gilbert as a private secondary school, the Gilbert School, but it gradually became more public over the years as more tax dollars were used to supplement a declining endowment.
Turning left, my father drove up a hill to Highland Lake. Nearby there was a small, inviting park with some seats and tables for having outdoor lunches -- a park established by another local philanthropist. Then we made a 180-degree turn and drove down toward the long Main Street -- passing the Winchester Historical Society, founded and nurtured with charitable contributions. He drove past some other charities, including the imposing Gilbert Home for orphans and other needy children, and arrived at the beautiful Soldiers' Monument, so central to my childhood imagination. The town had paid a dear price in casualties during the Civil War, and after the war ended a volunteer veteran and local philanthropist promoted the idea of such a memorial; it was finally dedicated in 1890. With several donated acres of hilltop land, the structure and its grounds soon became a haven for the townspeople, who still conduct summer theater there, and whose children frolic on its grounds or run around the perimeter.
When we'd finished our tour of the area, my father pulled up to our house and turned the ignition off. "See all those fine establishments in our little town?" he said to me. "Think about how important they are to our community. Then ask yourself this question: Since 1900, there were and are at least a hundred townspeople as wealthy as those philanthropists were. What kind of town would this be if those people put some of their wealth back into the community the same way?" We sat there together in silence, a light wind breezing through the open windows. While I've since traveled many miles to many places, I've never forgotten the lesson I learned on that one...
It is not often that Democratic and Republican insurgent candidates for President achieve such prominence and maintain staying power against the establishment "pols" of the two-party duopoly that manages elections for the plutocracy that finances campaigns. The media are taking the insurgents seriously, which means that the polls are being...
The 50th anniversary of my book, Unsafe at Any Speed, which analysts associate with the launch of the modern consumer movement, prompts comparisons between 1965 and 2015.
The life-saving impact of the book through the highway and auto safety laws Congress passed in 1966, creating an auto safety enforcement agency...
Thanksgiving is a time for family, food and joy, but unfortunately it can also be a source of health-impacting stress and anxiety for many. Between the influx of visitors, football games on the television and the necessary shopping, cooking and cleaning up, there can be far too little time devoted to reflective conversation with friends and family. And once the feast is finished and the guests have left, there is precious little time for quiet contemplation when all forms of mass media are rabidly encouraging Americans to participate in the obscene corporate-driven "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" sales craze. Go go go! Buy buy buy!
Perhaps we should be taking a different approach to the holidays.
In my book, The Seventeen Traditions about the wisdom my parents passed along to my siblings and me, I wrote a chapter about "the tradition of solitude."
Here's a relevant excerpt for the season:
Some years ago, we invited a family with two small children over for Thanksgiving dinner. The four-year-old boy spent the whole day running wild, jumping off the table, knocking over glasses of water, screeching at the top of his lungs, and generally making every effort possible to ruin the conversation and the meal. Today, most parents might ask: Was he suffering from attention deficit disorder? No, the parents were suffering--from an unwillingness to control their son's behavior and lay down some markers. It's a symptom of today's sprawled economy that many children spend less time with adults, including their parents, than any previous generation in history. When they do have a few precious moments with adults, they often act out as if they're desperately trying to make up for prolonged inattention.
Does any of this sound familiar? I expect many millions of Americans will be dealing with similar household chaos on Thanksgiving Day.
My mother believed that children should be able to exercise their minds, to think independently and be self-reliant. Critical to this development is acknowledging the importance of solitude. Devoting time to oneself and one's thoughts isn't just important for developing youngsters, however. Many grown adults could benefit from a little "quiet space" to get to know themselves and the world better.
The tradition of solitude isn't about sitting in a room and contemplating one's navel. It's about allowing one's mind to rejuvenate, imagine and explore―and hopefully relieve itself from the stress and anxiety that inevitably come with the burdens of everyday life. It's an engine of renewal. This is particularly true around the holidays when expectations and obligations can mount.
True solitude can involve an infinite variety of experience: being alone with one's imagination, one's thoughts, dreams, one's puzzles and books, one's knitting or hobbies, from carving wood blocks, to building little radios or model airplanes or collecting colorful stamps from all over the world. Being alone can mean following the flight of a butterfly or a hummingbird or an industrious pollinating bee. It can mean gazing at the nighttime sky, full of those familiar constellations, and trying to identify them.
I recently filmed a video in my hometown of Winsted, Connecticut where I discussed my relationship with nature and the comforting solitude it provides. Watch it above. The holiday season seems like an appropriate time to share this video in the hopes that it inspires others to reflect on the quiet, memorable moments and places that matter most. Consider turning off the television, putting away the smartphone, avoiding the marketplace invitations to shop and spend on "Black Friday" and seeking comfort in solitude.
Perhaps the joys of solitude can become a tradition that eclipses the crazy call to spend the day after Thanksgiving shopping instead of thinking.
I welcome others to share the quiet places where they experience the joys of solitude. Maybe by telling others about how we retreat to find our better humanity, we can encourage those among us still searching for this intrinsic...
Candidates for public office, especially at the state and national levels, are never asked this central question of politics: "Since the people are sovereign under our Constitution, how do you specifically propose to restore power to the people in their various roles as voters, taxpayers, workers and consumers?"
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Dear Chairwoman Janet Yellen:
We are a group of humble savers in traditional bank savings and money market accounts who are frustrated because, like millions of other Americans over the past six years, we are getting near zero interest. We want to know why the Federal Reserve, funded and heavily...
Over the past year, there have been significant advances in wages for working-class Americans. Many cities and states have increased their minimum wages providing millions of Americans with a long overdue raise. In Congress, however, progress is nonexistent. Between party infighting, futile "Obamacare" repeal efforts and corporate lobbying, there has...
Who thought this up - Giving a private corporation (CNN) control of a presidential debate? In the most recent Democratic presidential debate, CNN controlled which candidates were invited, who asked what questions, and the location, Las Vegas - the glittering, gambling center of America. This is a mirror image of...
The photographs in the New York Times told contrasting stories last week. One showed two Taliban soldiers in civilian clothes and sandals, with their rifles, standing in front of a captured U.N. vehicle. The Taliban forces had taken the northern provincial capital of Kunduz. The other photograph showed Afghan army...
Next year, the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary as one of the finest laws our Congress has ever passed. It is a vital investigative tool for exposing government and corporate wrongdoing.
The FOIA was championed by Congressman John E. Moss (D-CA), who strove to...
The mass media, with usual exceptions, have allowed themselves to be pulled down to the level of the political circus. If the Republican Party's early primary campaigns for the presidential nomination had an elephant and a clown car, Ringling Brothers would be in trouble. It is hard for the Republican...