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No institution has invited me to be the speaker at graduation, and none is ever likely to do so.
But I feel compelled to offer this speech to gradates. So in the spirit of Kurt Vonnegut - great American novelist who knew how to give a graduation speech—I'll start by telling you exactly what I want you to learn from this speech: Don't listen to graduation speakers.
An Executive* of a major shale gas development company has conceded what scientists have been saying for years: global shale gas development has the potential to wreak serious climate change havoc.
Best known for his company's hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") activity, Southwestern Energy Executive Vice President* Mark Boling admitted his industry has a methane problem on the May 19 episode of Showtime's "Years of Living Dangerously" in a segment titled, "Chasing Methane."
Over the years, Tim Geithner has come in for a lot of well-deserved criticism: for putting banks before homeowners, for lobbying for Citigroup when it wanted to buy Wachovia, for denying even the possibility of taking over failed banks, and so on. The release of his book, whatever it's called, has revived these various debates. Geithner is certainly not the man I would want making crucial decisions for our country. But it's also important to remember that he was only an upper manager. The man who called the shots was his boss: Barack Obama.
That's the theme of Jesse Eisinger's column this week. I'm on Eisinger's email list, and he described the tendency to focus on Tim Geithner—while ignoring the role of the president—as "If only the Tsar knew what the Cossacks are doing!" I wasn't familiar with the Russian version, but I've always been fond of the seventeenth-century French version. In September 2009, for example, Simon and I wrote this about the financial reform debate:
A wide range of consumer, family farm, environmental, Internet freedom, labor and other organizations held a press event outside the Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) negotiating summit in Arlington, Virginia on May 21, 2014 in order to expose the pact as more about deregulation than "trade" per se.
"Corporations on both sides of the Atlantic view TAFTA as a means to prevent and dismantle safeguards that protect the quality air we breath, the water we drink and the food we feed our children - not to mention online privacy measures, financial reforms and more," said Gynnie Robnett, coordinator of the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. "We can't let this pact become a back-door means of deregulation."
Vatican City - Pope Francis welcomed members of the global Jubilee movement to the Vatican on Wednesday as they were received for high level meetings with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Cardinal Peter Turkson, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. The Catholic Church, various Christian Churches, Jewish groups and trade unions founded the global Jubilee campaign that successfully cancelled more than 130 billion dollars in sovereign debt and has won tax policies to benefit people living in the poorest countries of the world.
"The Catholic Church was a founder of the global Jubilee movement and is a vital partner in joint efforts to build an economy that serves and protects the poor," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the interfaith antipoverty organization known as Jubilee USA Network. "During our meetings we discussed how debt burdens, corporate tax avoidance and destructive trade polices trap hundreds of millions of people in extreme poverty."
Houston - Shareholders of the Willbros Group, a major energy infrastructure company, rejected the board's executive pay proposal at their annual meeting today, representing a rare victory for institutional shareholders seeking better corporate governance.
Unofficial tallies from the meeting indicate about 53 percent of shares voted were in opposition to the board's executive pay proposal. According to executive compensation experts, including Equilar, only about 2 percent of efforts to defeat board pay proposals are successful.
Pakistan is a virtual hell for the free, neutral, bold and intellectually sound media-associated persons and journalists, especially the associates of vernacular Sindhi and Baloch media. Dozens of media-associated persons and opinion makers are victimized or killed by the military, Inter-Service-Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) as well as their supported urban or religious terrorists. Given the exclusive Punjabization of almost every civil and military institution of Pakistan, there has been no single quotable case of the murder and/or brutalization of a Punjabi journalist from 1947 to 2013. Saleem Shahzad and Najam Sethi were exceptions because Shahzad touched the forbidden tree - the evidence of the nexus between Islamist terrorists and the garrison city Rawalpindi, and Najam Sethi held secular views and opposed the Punjabi military establishment of Pakistan. (However, today, he is also closely linked with the military establishment unlike his wonderful past).
It is condemnable that Raza Rumi and Hamid Mir (although both Punjabi journalists well known for their deep roots in the military establishment) were attacked before and after the visit of Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) in Pakistan. CPJ was worried about victimization and murders of journalists in Pakistan since Baloch and Sindhi and to certain extent Pashtun journalists from Sindh and Balochistan have been victims.
World Wars I and II created watershed moments in the lives of Western intellectuals, defined here as those who are guided by their intellect and critical thinking, and those who understand various aspects of the world mainly through ideas and theories which they express through writing, teaching and other forms of public address. Just how were they to respond to the call of patriotic duty that seduced the vast majority of citizens to support acts of mass slaughter? What constituted a proper response is often debated. How most of them did respond is a matter of historical record.
During the world wars most intellectuals on all sides of the conflicts uncritically lent their talents to their government's war efforts. Some did so as propagandists and others as scientists. Some actually led their nations into the fray, as was the case with Woodrow Wilson. Wilson held a doctorate from Johns Hopkins University, had taught at Cornell, Bryn Mawr and Wesleyan, and became president of Princeton University. Eventually he was elected President of the United States and, having taken the nation to war, sanctioned the creation of a massive propaganda machine under the auspices of the "Committee on Public Information." He also supported the passage of the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress all anti-war sentiments. Wilson never experienced combat, but another intellectual, the British poet Siegried Sassoon, did so in the trenches of the Western front. After this experience he wrote, "war is hell and those who initiate it are criminals." No doubt that was his opinion of the intellectual President Woodrow Wilson.
Washington - Pfizer made headlines recently over its attempt to acquire Astra-Zeneca, which would allow it to become a "foreign" company for tax purposes, but the drug maker is not alone. There has been a surge of American companies that have changed the address of their headquarters to a foreign country, a maneuver referred to as an "inversion" that allows them to avoid U.S. taxes. The FACT (Financial Accountability and Corporate Transparency) Coalition hails the introduction of legislation to close the "inversion" loophole.
The Stop Corporate Inversions Act, was introduced in the House by Representative Sander Levin (D-MI), the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, and a similar bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI).
Shareholders are gaining momentum with demands for public companies to disclose their politicalspending, with the most recent advancement coming after a large rally last week outside the Google Inc. annual shareholder meeting at the Googleplex in Mountain View, followed by an acknowledgement by Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt that the company has heard the demands and will respond with ideas on how to address them. Votes representing more than 60 million Google shares were in favor of greater political spending disclosure.
Shareholder proposals seeking politicalspending disclosure were the most frequently filed environmental and social resolution during 2013, with 134 proposals averaging 32 percent support. From 2010 to 2013, the number of resolutions pertaining to politicalspending filed increased from 61 to 134. A shareholder proposal at Duke Energy also requested increased disclosure of the company’s politicalspending and received a 42 percent favorable vote from shareholders earlier this month. The proposal filed at Google by Walden Asset Management received the support of 34 percent of votes by shareholders who are not executive officers or directors.