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Dear Honorable Members of the US House and Senate,

I write to you in an effort to bring a measure of clarity to the legislation that is drafted and voted upon by both houses of the congress. The matter I wish to address is the matter of authorship of the actual text of bills sponsored by members of the House and Senate.  In the interest of transparency, it seems reasonable for citizens to know exactly who deserves credit for the intellectual content, or the ideas and the language, that is put into law.  We know that the actual legislator is far too busy to do the wordsmithing and idea crafting that goes into the drafting of a bill. In that vein, I believe that the citizens or groups who actually craft the document deserve some credit for the work.

Consider for example, HR 5695.  The header of the document lists all of the sponsors of the bill.

HR 5695 IH

109th CONGRESS2d SessionH. R. 5695

To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to provide for the regulation of certain chemical facilities, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 28, 2006

Mr. DANIEL E. LUNGREN of California (for himself, Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi, Mr. SHAYS, Ms. LORETTA SANCHEZ of California, Mr. LINDER, Ms. HARMAN, Mr. MCCAUL of Texas, Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas, Mr. SIMMONS, Mrs. CHRISTENSEN, and Mr. FOSSELLA) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

But the actual owner of the concepts, the crafter of the ideas is at present unknown. It is hard to believe that the Honorable Representative Lungren spent countless hours in the library of congress researching this bill. How much supervision is given and how close does the language represent the will of the constituents? Somehow, the person or persons who drafted the bill are accorded anonymity in their composition of a bill that affects the entire country.

I believe that the persons and the organizations who draft documents which become public laws should be given some kind of co-authorship or citation. In fact, it should be manditory that they be given co-authorship. Ideas good or bad that wind their way into public law should be traceable to the Author. How else can we find out what they were thinking? Could it be true that major pieces of legislation are being imposed on the people of the United States under the pen of ghostwriters? Who are these ghostwriters?

Kindest regards,

Th’ Gaussling (pseudonym, just for irony)

Something I have learned while working alongside fundamentalist libertarians is this: Libertarianism is a political philosophy that seems to provide a framework for the justification of isolationism and selfishness. It is an economic theory that conveniently validates the inherent stinginess of its adherents. It has an appealing and complex theoretical basis. But like all economic theories, is idealistic and requires universal alignment by the population.

That being said, I agree that the US could use a healthy dose of libertarian pragmatism these days. Government is  far too big and too many resources are being channeled into foreign adventures while the national debt accrues.  Our elected leaders resemble an angry mob with a credit card throwing debt bombs.

But when I hear libertarians talk about their resentment at sharing resources in the form of taxation (or, being forced to share their resources), I can’t help but wonder what is really behind this restrained anger.  All of my libertarian friends have benefited enormously from the infrastructure provided by the pooling of resources. They drive to work on the interstate highways, fly safely in controlled airspace, benefit from the safety provided by the military, learned to read from public school teachers, use the system of currency for their wellbeing, flush their toilets thanks to public sanitary systems, eat safely thanks to the local health department (food safety is a big one), have drugs to treat their illnesses with the help of NIH, and on and on.

Of course there are problems with all of our public institutions, some of them quite serious. But the marketplace is just as prone to corruption as the government. I think that libertarians want to get off the merry-go-round and disconnect from the manditory and expensive socialization that keeps creeping into our lives. I do too sometimes. But it seems painfully obvious that our path to this point has not been all bad and our public institutions have contributed to our stability and well being.

All organizations work better under structural tension- the balance of forces. Libertarianism is a useful counterpoint to liberal socialization and conservative militarism. Like the three legs of a stool, these competing political influences can serve the betterment of our society and keep each other in check.

The US petrochemical industry has had many challenges post WW-II.  The restructuring of Europe and Japan as well as the US after the war lead to an unprecendented network of markets.  Add to the economic map a whole new spread of advanced technologies resulting from the war effort itself.  Advances in piston and jet engines, rocket propulsion, aeronautical engineering, RADAR, and nuclear energy were a direct result of the war or were highly accelerated therein. 

Postwar, the aforementioned technologies were exploited in the private sector and contributed to an unprecedented economic engine driving the growth of cultures and nations. Generous US spending on cold war military hardware added somewhat to the creation of jobs and spending.  The overall explosion of goods and services not only met the demands of consumers, but raised the expectation that technology would provide an endless parade of new things. 

For the present, the range of frontier for paradigm expansion is dramatically different compared to 50 years ago.  In the context of economics, to a large extent we now live in an age of refinement rather than an age of discovery. Most of what we regard as “new” is actually derivative of more fundamental tools. Transistors, penicillin, and fission can only be introduced to the market once as new technology platforms.  Subsequent innovations are derivative. Excited speculation of the future as a place of flying cars and a cure for cancer gives way to the pragmatic adoption of cars that parallel park themselves  and treatment of cancer as a chronic condition.

Today, hucksters promote ethanol or hydrogen as fuels of the future without a syllables worth of consideration for conservation.  The search for the replacement of fossil fuels is really the search for convenient, high energy density combustible fluids that can be mass produced and shipped in the present distribution system for low unit cost. Instead of finding a new fuel stream, why not try to figure out how to get 2x performance (or 1/2 consumption) out of the hydrocarbons we are already using?

One objection might be that we have already squeezed maximum fuel performance out of the internal combustion engine. Further technological improvements to the Otto Cycle engine going forward are going to be hard to capture.

Another objection is that higher material efficiences are always being sought by the marketplace. A 2x jump in efficiency probably is generally not possible across the board, though isolated exceptions do exist.

But the easy fix, the one that no one mentions is to simply burn less hydrocarbons/ethanol by driving fewer miles. The answer is in the hand that holds the car keys. Consolidate trips. Avoid hopping in your Hummer and driving to 7-11 for cigarettes. Car pool. Demand less cheap-plastic-crap from Big Box Mart.

The main stumbling block is this:  how does a market embrace reduced consumption? I think the answer is that it cannot. But it seems clear that our US consumption trajectory cannot continue indefinitely.

The insatiable demand for hydrocarbons has brought out the worst in us. Our oilman White House has lead us into a thicket of foreign entanglements that may well get much worse before there is any relief.

Anymore, criticizing the Bush administration is like having an unproductive cough- the stuff is so deep in there that you can’t hack up the obstructing mass. And so it is with the current president and appointees, who are insinuated into the deep recesses of power like a resistant strain of waxy mycobacterium. 

Serial government haters all, the Bush II krewe has privatized large chunks of gov’t service work and handed it on a no-bid platter to loyal backers like Halliburton who are largely registered in tax haven countries.

Unwilling to make the ultimate commitment to the USA (or wanting cover its tracks), Halliburton moved its headquarters to the United Arab Emirates. Presumably to take advantage of the tax-free business environment and the lack of a troublesome extradition treaty with the USA.  The status of Halliburton as a foreign contractor needs to be examined in public. 

Yes, this is old news, but Americans should not forget this outrage.  According to HalliburtonWatch, Cheney himself increased the number of foreign tax haven subsidiaries from 9 to 44 during his time there as CEO. 

There is nothing illegal about taking advantage of tax law.  But at some point a company has to decide what country they support and what side of history they want to be on. That which is possible is not necessarily manditory. When money is the only scorecard, ethics fly out the window. Stockholders bear as much responsibility for this craven behaviour as do the officers. [*crunching* noise as I step off the soapbox]

Halliburton became a successful company in part through it’s use of resources provided by the US taxpayer.  Halliburton used US government funded highways to get its goods and services moved around the US. Their security was provided by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Marines.  Halliburton staff and stockholders are protected from epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control. Sewage from Halliburton office buildings goes into local municipal  waste treatment plants. Physicians trained in publically subsidized medical institutions lance their boils and treat their childrens ear infections. The list of benefits from public infrastructure is substantial.

Now these greedy corporate ex-patriots want to shelter their earnings from tax liability. They don’t want to contribute to the upkeep of the very system that facilitated their ascent to wealth.

This entire thing is so dirty and so extensive, it will take a generation to understand it and legislate corrective action. The whole fetid, reeking mess is offensive.

In a previous posting, I daydreamed about an American system that more resembled a parliamentary system. The motivation for this is that our executive branch has apparently gone astray with the presidents military ambitions in nation building under the guise of the war against terrorism. The ability to dissolve a government off the election cycle and repopulate it with different characters seems like a desirable attribute.

Viet Nam and GW-II are examples of ideological pageantry lead by stubborn presidents. Like the fighter pilot who is so target fixated on his opponent that he follows him into the ground, we cannot allow our presidents to drag the country into self-inflicted disaster.

As suggested by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the noises now coming from the White House concerning Iran resemble the noises made by the same White House about Iraq.  What is strange about this distressing circumstance is this: The checks and balances that are provided by the constitution seem to be inadequate to restrain the executive.  The congress seems to be genuinely flummoxed.

Despite popular sentiment and wise counsel by very well regarded citizens, the president continues to press for ideological conquest in the middle east.  Despite the floundering dollar, no-child-left-behind-except-for-4-million-uninsured-kids, and tera-dollars of debt accumulated in the “War Against ______”, our executive continues to press on within the bounds of the constitution.

The question is this: Does the US Constitution provide adequate checks and balances against the abuse of power?

I suppose it is inevitable that a president would be elected who didn’t have both oars in the water. Who knows if this guy really is disturbed. But the executive retains substantial control of the military.  The president is able to amass a vast force of civilian security contractors who seem to be beyond the audit of the congress.  Does your view change when they pack weapons and answer only to the executive branch? Did the framers miss this possibility?

The US has a president that is hell-bent on performing a script that is neither transparent nor mandated by anything other than the enchanting voices of a few dark characters who are temporarily burrowed in the White House. We’ve had 2 terms of a war president. It’s enough.

If you don’t read Jim Kunstlers blog, Cluster***k Nation, you’re really missing out on some juicy stuff. Thanks to the all-seeing eye of Uncle Al for this particular post.  Kunstler writes with a manic urgency rather like Hunter S. Thompson (and … Uncle Al).  I’m not calibrated for the negative spin on the mortgage disaster that he makes.  Perhaps others can comment.

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