VANCOUVER (Reuters) – The world’s fishing industry is fast running out of new ocean fishing grounds to exploit as it depletes existing areas through unsustainable harvesting practices, according to a study published Thursday.
The story of how George Clooney got my sloppy seconds starts with a faceless couple having sex in a real estate open house.
Four years ago, while a big Broadway agent in New York named Chris was getting his shoes shined, he passed the time reading a GQ article about the hot phenomenon of “house humping.” Remember, the real estate bubble was at its peak, and such a trend would arguably be the prick that burst it (or in TV sitcom terms, when real estate jumped the shark). But that agent was no dummy. He went back to his office, Googled “house humping” and saw a connection to a movie I’d just made: a real estate musical called Open House that the Weinstein Company had just released. It turns out the GQ story — and indeed the whole “trend” of house humping — were the fruits of a viral stealth campaign I’d unleashed to promote the film.
By sheer coincidence, I called Chris that same day and he was eager to talk. There was chatter at the Weinsteins about turning my film into a play, and I was looking for a good playwright to adapt it. But while I had him on the phone, I also asked him if he had any plays that would make good film adaptations. Yes! He had stacks of them.
I came to New York and literally stuffed them into my carry-on bag for the flight back to LA. As The New York Times recently noted, a lot of New York playwrights become TV writers. Why? Because there’s good steady money in it for the playwrights (and their agents). What’s been Broadway’s loss has led to a golden age for TV. But unless a play wins a Tony or a Pulitzer, chances are it won’t get made into a feature film, and even if it does, it’s not a huge payday for the amount of time it takes to develop. So until a guy like me walks along, no one seems to bother.
Out of all the plays I read, though, only two struck me as good candidates for a film adaptation. The first one I considered was “Farragut North” by Beau Willamon. It’s about a young campaign aide working for an idealistic candidate in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses. It’s smartly written and for so many reasons was a perfect fit for me to direct, not least of which is because I had been a speechwriter for Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin just before he launched his presidential campaign in 1992. Beau himself had worked for Howard Dean, and his play captured the right tones, drama and locations of an Iowa campaign very well. My only concern was that while it worked as a play, as a movie it would feel a little too much like one of the flashback episodes from The West Wing where Sam Seaborn goes to work on Jed Bartlett’s campaign. I couldn’t help but wonder if indeed it was, in a sense, designed to get Willamon some TV work. And I say that as a genuine compliment: There’s not a lot of writers who can do what Aaron Sorkin can do, and do it well.
The other play that I gravitated towards was “Between Us” by Joe Hortua — which had been given to me by a different agent. It was a dark comedy exploring the bittersweet friendships between two couples who meet as old friends and discover their lives are tarnished by money, success, sex and children. It had gotten great reviews when it premiered Off-Broadway in 2004 at Manhattan Theatre Club in New York, and the characters struck a very personal chord with me, given where my own life was at the time. More important, I had some interesting ideas for how to adapt it cinematically — sort of a Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf with the tone and scope of Sideways. I met with Hortua, he liked where I was going with it, and we happily collaborated on the adaptation. I helped introduce Joe (the playwright) to Chris (the agent), who wound up negotiating our deal — shined shoes and all. After a few false starts interrupted by the economic downturn (Remember the prick that burst the housing bubble? Could have been me.) and my own foray into political writing (as co-author of a critically-acclaimed novel) — we’re now poised to start shooting in March. Of course, we’re doing it on a micro-budget level, raising our money in part through crowdsourcing on Kickstarter.
As for “Farragut North”? After I passed on it, the play was produced the next year at the Off-Broadway Atlantic Theatre Company before moving to LA’s Geffen theatre, where it starred Chris Pine and Chris Noth. Somewhere along the way, Leonardo DiCaprio jumped on as a producer, with George Clooney set to direct. Ryan Gosling and Philip Seymour Hoffman will star, and the title’s been changed to The Ides of March. They start shooting in February with Sony is releasing the film (and no, I don’t think they had to raise their budget through Kickstarter). Clooney’s a fine director, and I have no doubt the movie will be very good: Look for it at next year’s Oscars.
So in the end, I suppose all’s well. Clooney and I both get our movies made, both playwrights get their films adapted, and the agent still has shiny shoes. See, Hollywood does have happy endings!
Read more: Harvey Weinstein, Kickstarter, Economic Crisis, Ryan Gosling, Broadway, George Clooney, The Oscars, Real Estate, Leonardo Dicaprio, Happy Endings, Farragut North, Sloppy Seconds, Ides of March, Movies, Hollywood, Weinsteins, Entertainment News
The longer people stay out of work, the more trouble they have finding new work.
That is a fact of life that much of Europe, with its underclass of permanently idle workers, knows all too well. But it is a lesson that the United States seems to be just learning.
‘Tis the season for low expectations on climate change and other global sustainability challenges. Yet there’s no reason to think our stockings will forever be stuffed with coal.
Enormous worldwide business innovation is taking place to build a clean sustainable economy and it’s just a matter of time before it translates into huge financial rewards and a new business paradigm.
The question is whether that moment arrives quickly enough, and that in turn depends as much on Wall Street’s economic pulleys and levers as government policies. The bad news is that today’s Wall Street is simply too short-sighted, rewarding immediate payoffs over forward thinking that deals with long-term environmental, social and business challenges.
Strong carbon-reducing policies are unlikely to emerge from climate negotiations in Cancun and the new Congress in Washington. Yet many businesses and investors understand they must move now to develop products and services with a low carbon footprint that use fewer resources, whether fossil fuels or water.
In just the past few weeks, some of the nation’s largest utilities, automakers and technology firms have announced bold plans to upgrade their offerings with next-generation technologies for electric cars, a smart grid, energy storage and zero-emission renewable energy.
“A clean energy portfolio, based on sound economics, creates compelling value and provides a clear competitive advantage,” says Exelon CEO John Rowe, who recently unveiled a $5 billion plan to decarbonize the utility’s power supplies with energy efficiency, wind energy and the smart grid while shuttering several coal-fired plants.
Major investors are also greening their portfolios. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System recently announced plans to target $500 million at environmentally-friendly companies. “This strategy will allow us to become more directly involved in positive change by top performers that have improved share value and also done good for the environment,” said CalPERS board president Rob Feckner.
In addition, there is a growing evidence that investors using environmental, social and governance (ESG) analysis in their decision-making outperform traditionally managed funds that often ignore these issues. A new RLP Capital analysis of the eight largest traditional mutual funds and the eight largest ESG funds showed that the ESG funds had significantly higher returns over the last three years. ESG is also gaining traction among investors; just over $3 trillion is now invested in funds using ESG analysis, a 13 percent jump from 2007.
These trends are encouraging, but the stark reality is that sustainable capitalism is still a long way from being embedded in the U.S. and global economy. CalPERS’ $500 million green investment sounds impressive, but it’s still only a tiny fraction of the pension fund’s $200 billion in assets. Exelon can now boast of being the nation’s largest wind energy provider, but its clean energy investments pale in comparison to what Exxon and other oil companies are spending – $200 billion! – extracting oil from highly viscous oil sands in Canada – a process with far-reaching adverse environmental impacts.
So what will it take to put the 21st century economy on a more sustainable path?
Of course, government policies that reward clean technologies and discourage high-polluting ones are a big part of the solution. But ending myopic practices on Wall Street and across the rest of the economy are equally critical.
Our financial markets remain far too biased towards short-term returns and far too blind to less obvious long-term risks like climate change, water scarcity and other resource constraints.The subprime mortgage meltdown and financial collapse was an exceedingly painful reminder of such ‘short-termism’ and the deep, systemic failure of long-term risk accountability economy-wide.
Building a sustainable economy means that many below-the-radar rules and practices for dealing with long-term risks like climate change, oil sands production and water scarcity must dramatically change. Some practices I’d like to change today include:
* Incentive structures for investors and corporate executives that reward short-term performance and quarterly returns, while ignoring climate change and other longer-term business risks that threaten shareholder value.
* U.S. and Canadian accounting rules that allow highly damaging environmental impacts and future cleanup costs from oil sands production to be left off oil company balance sheets.
* Credit rating agency practices that pay scant attention to growing water scarcity risks when rating municipal bonds that water utilities use to finance vast infrastructure projects.
* Mainstream investor policies and practices that routinely ignore climate change risks – regulatory, litigation, physical and competitive, along with major opportunities – as part of their due diligence for evaluating companies.
Until these practices change, the all-too-incremental progress we’ve seen to date in building a clean, more sustainable 21st century economy will not be enough to ensure a safe and prosperous future.
It is essential that all market players – companies, investors, accounting firms, rating agencies, policymakers and more – start acknowledging the colossal long-term risks we face and get to work on comprehensive solutions that will mitigate such global threats.
We can seize a great opportunity now – aggressive energy efficiency measures alone could create up to 750,000 jobs in the U.S. in the next decade – or pay a big price later. Seems like a clear choice, no?
A new film on the financial debacle of 2008 has arrived to great acclaim. Inside Job, directed by Charles Ferguson, presents the corporate version of what went wrong. I spent two years coordinating research for Michael Moore’s documentary film, Capitalism: A Love Story, that investigated the systemic roots of the Great Recession. One of these two films presents a truncated analysis, limited by the filmmaker’s ideological preferences, and the other faces reality, painful as it is. If you want to believe that a few good men (and, maybe, a woman) can make everything all right, go see Inside Job and have your faith confirmed — with a healthy dash of righteous anger at the crooks and spoilers. If you dare to look in the eye of a repulsive, festering monster, one that must be put down before it consumes all of us, see Michael’s film.
Inside Job has been lauded by the New York Times as “meticulous and infuriating,” portraying “a betrayal of public trust and collective values,” and documenting “crime without punishment.” Another Times reviewer writing from Cannes, gushed that the film tells “a complex story exceedingly well and with a great deal of unalloyed anger…. [It] lays out its essential argument, cogently and convincingly, that the 2008 meltdown was avoidable.” Times columnist Frank Rich says, Inside Job, “has it right.”
Inside Job does not have it right. Yes, Ferguson presents some facts; yes, his anger and outrage are palpable; yes, he would like someone to do something about it. But Ferguson’s failing is critical. He doesn’t even name, much less discuss, our economic system. The result is his film diverts the viewers’ attention in the wrong direction.
Over the past 156 years for which the National Bureau of Economic Research provides numbers, the United States has suffered 33 official economic collapses, 22 since 1900, an average of one every 5 years. The economic euphemism for this is “the business cycle.” There can be no doubt that recurring cycles of boom and bust, inflation and recession, are built into our economic system. If they are avoidable, then why haven’t we avoided them? Ferguson’s film attempts to finesse the business cycle problem by stating at the beginning of “Part I — How We Got Here” that there was not a single “financial” crisis in the 40 years after the Great Depression. This sleight of hand allows Ferguson to focus on his theme that the financial industry simply got out of hand in the 1980s and needs to be reined in. We just time travel back to the 1930s, grab their financial regulations, and everything will be fine.
While there may have been no financial panics between 1938 and the savings and loan crisis of the mid-1980s, there were nine official economic collapses (recessions). Two of these collapses (1973-1975 and 1981-1982) were among the seven longest lasting recessions of the 20th century, with official annual unemployment rates reaching 8.5 percent and 9.7 percent. The only way to avoid this roller coaster of suffering is to build a new economic system, and this is the last thing Charles Ferguson would desire.
It is no secret why Ferguson might not want to examine the United States’ long and horrific pattern of economic crises. Simply take a look at the Inside Job film website where it proudly announces Charles Ferguson’s allegiance to the corporate economy that brings us “the business cycle.” He has served as a consultant to major corporations like Apple, Xerox, Motorola, Intel, and Texas Instruments. He founded his own software development company, Vermeer Technologies, which he sold to Microsoft in 1996. Ferguson has also devoted time “frequently consulting to U.S. government agencies including the White House staff, the Defense Department, and the U.S. Trade Representative.” Having devoted his life to the corporate states of America, Ferguson has every reason to overlook the capitalist forest in his “meticulous and infuriating” search for excessively greedy, corrupt, and incompetent individual players.
Ferguson’s film presents a now familiar litany of bad moves: financial deregulation, S&L crisis, Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, Commodity Futures Modernization Act; and bad guys: Charles Keating, Alan Greenspan, Phil Gramm, Hank Paulson (Goldman Sachs), Dick Fuld (Lehman Bros.), Angelo Mozilo (Countrywide), Robert Rubin (Citigroup), and Larry Summers, to name just a few. Also, the economics profession as a whole comes in for severe criticism for selling out to the financial industry. The solution Ferguson offers is, next time, just listen to the good folks who warned us; people like regulator Brooksley Born, IMF chief economist Raghuram Rajan, Professor Nouriel Roubini, billionaire George Soros, former New York State Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, and author Charles Morris.
In spite of Ferguson’s deep connection to the corporate habitat, a reviewer from Examiner.com Detroit, praised his film for “leaving you at least with a sense that the filmmaker set out to paint a full picture of the crisis, and not some loon trying to make a radical political statement.” A Macleans reviewer called Ferguson “the best teacher you never had” in contrast to that “blue-collar class clown” Michael Moore. This is like calling a stump preacher the best teacher capable of presenting the full picture of the failings of fundamentalist Christianity.
Yet, in the same way that Inside Job never uses the word “capitalism,” most reviews of Ferguson’s movie never mention Capitalism: A Love Story. Moore’s 2009 film not only dissects the current crisis but reveals the endless round of human suffering caused by “the business cycle” and explains what Ferguson hides: the systemic origin of economic crises. Ferguson directs his viewers’ wrath at a few bad apples, not at removing the diseased tree that keeps putting bad apples out there, decade after decade. All we need to do, according to Ferguson, is prosecute the criminals and reenact reasonable financial regulations. But somehow Ferguson and naïve movie reviewers all fail to consider not so much that we’ve been there and done that but what it means that we’ve been there and done that. No one asks the obvious question, how many more times do we have to go through this? Maybe, just maybe, you don’t save the hens by letting them run loose and locking up one or two foxes — then acting surprised when a few more foxes show up. You’ve got to build a new, fox-proof henhouse.
The United States government has had 156 years to get the regulations just right and put an end to the cycle of economic breakdown, and nearly 75 years since John Maynard Keynes definitively showed how to do it, yet recessions continue to occur — and they are getting worse. Show trials of a few corporate criminals do nothing to stop an economic system that breeds corporate crime. At the conclusion of his film, Ferguson mentions that it seems like the huge financial corporations have taken over the government. We should fight back, he says, and then the movie just ends. But what are we fighting against and what are we fighting for? All you can deduce from Ferguson’s movie is we need to get back to our 1930s regulatory framework. Let’s say, somehow, we accomplish that feat. Based on the past record, we can be sure that forty years later we will have experienced eight or nine additional, and increasingly severe, economic collapses, not to mention at least one new and improved version of financial panic.
As Americans, our lives now depend upon the understanding that our “collective values” were not betrayed by Wall Street. The values that the rulers of the corporate states of America share are what got us into this mess: free markets, maximum profits, economic inequality, individual wealth over social/environmental costs, endless consumerism, and bigger is better. Anyone who dares criticize those values is quickly termed a “loon” or “clown.” If real change is to happen, it’s not enough to be “mad as hell”; the anger must be directed at the root of the problem and only Capitalism: A Love Story shows what that is.
Forty million people benefited from extended unemployment benefits programs put in place to fight the recession that started in December 2007, according to a White House report released Thursday.
Fourteen million people laid off through no fault of their own received benefits under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits programs that Congress allowed to lapse this week, and the White House Council of Economic Advisors estimates that “an additional 26 million people living in their households benefited indirectly.”
The programs provide up to 73 weeks of federally-funded benefits for layoff victims who exhaust the standard 26 weeks provided by states. The average benefit is roughly $300.
About 42 percent of people receiving EUC or EB have or live with children, according to the Council. That means that as of October, more than 10 million children benefited from the programs, and three million children lived in households where the benefits recipient was the sole wage-earner.
Additionally, the Council reported that the economy had 800,000 more jobs and had grown 0.8 percent faster in September than would have been the case without the programs.
The report puts additional pressure on Congress to reauthorize the benefits. The Labor Department estimates that two million people who’ve been out of work for longer than six months will lose their benefits by the end of December. Within a week, 800,000 jobless workers face a “hard cutoff” from EB.
With a yearlong reauthorization of the programs facing nearly insurmountable opposition in the Senate, it’s likely that a deal attaching the programs to a reauthorization of also-expiring tax cuts for the rich is the only way to prevent what the Council estimates would be a 0.6 percent drop in economic growth in December 2011.
Even with a reauthorization, the Council estimates that roughly four million people will run out of benefits by next December — about 6.7 million fewer than without an extension. There is legislation in both chambers of Congress to give exhaustees in the hardest-hit states additional weeks of benefits, but those bills have little chance of becoming law, especially given the difficulty of reauthorizing just the existing benefits.
Click HERE to download a PDF of the report.