Category: "culture/news"

Iraq's Oil

When people started saying that the war in Iraq was about oil, I always thought they were paranoid or stupid. After all, it's not as though the US were just going to march in and seize the oil like some colonial-era invaders. I'm still not sure what I think, but there were two articles published on AlterNet.org that do as well a job of explaining the conflicts of interest as I have ever seen.

Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil
Bush's Petro-Cartel Almost Has Iraq's Oil (Part Two)

I really encourage you to read at least the first article. It explains some of the history and what is going to happen to Iraq's oil. I've tried to list the main points of the article.

1. Iraq has a lot of oil.
2. That oil is easy to get to and cheap to process.
3. Because of sanctions, Iraqi oil hasn't been on the market as much as it could be.
4. Oil companies want to get into Iraq and get a share of the profits by providing Iraq with oil services and buying and selling that oil.
5. The oil companies lobbied hard for regime change throughout the 90s, hoping to get more access to Iraq under a more West-friendly government.
6. In 2000, they got two of their own elected to the top two jobs in America.
7. Two weeks after taking office, Cheney held secret meetings with top oil executives while he was drafting the administrations energy policy.
8. The Bush White House had plans was determined to attack Iraq even before they began building a case.
9. As part of debt relief for Iraq, the US and British big four oil companies are negotiating production service agreements (PSAs) for the extraction of Iraq's oil. Under these agreements, the Iraqis technically retain ownership of the oil reserves, but the terms are lucrative for the oil companies and give them much more control than is normal.

The article gives sources and details for these points and greatly expands on number 9. Part two goes into even greater detail and examines Jim Baker's "eye-popping conflict of interest" in his involvement. I would like to hear your thoughts after reading the article. To me, it seems like some pretty damning evidence. I wonder when we'll start to hear more about this in the news.

Peaceableness Toward Enemies

The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy and less wasteful.
--Wendell Berry, "Peaceableness Toward Enemies: Some Notes on the Gulf War, 1991

My friend Heath introduced me to Wendell Berry and for the most part I really like him. He occasionally comes across as a cranky old Luddite, but a lot of his ideas are very hard to disagree with. This essay, written after the Persian Gulf War has some observations that are still relevant today.

Where Exxon gives

Exxon Mobil DonationsBig oil companies had record profits this year while working people found it tougher than ever to afford prices at the pump. We all know that big corporations spend money in Washington to make sure that they'll continue to post big profits. This chart is for anyone who has ever said, "Democrats and Republicans both get that money." Here you have it in stark red and blue. The GOP got between 76% and 91% percent of the money that Exxon donated over the last 14 years. And before you say, "Of course they give to the party that controls Congress, just take a look at the chart again. Even when the Democrats controlled Congress, the Republicans were getting more money from oil companies.

Here are the details for donations from Exxon Mobil, BP and Chevron. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you which party gets most of the money from these companies. Check it out yourself.

Why would these oil companies want Republicans to control our government? What are they getting for this investment?

Bush used Christians

I first heard about this from Kyle, but it's worth repeating. There's a book coming out this week that is written by a conservative Christian who worked in the White House office for faith-based initiatives. He says that the Bush administration doesn't really believe in these causes, only used them for political points and privately referred to Christian leaders as 'nuts.' I know a lot of people have voted for Republican candidates because they think they belong to the party with the better moral values, but I believe it's becoming clear that the Republican moral high ground is just a political invention.

If you still think that you'll vote for the GOP this fall because it's the Christian thing to do, then here's a challenge for you. You make a list of verses where Jesus talks favorably about limiting gay rights, protecting the property of the rich, invading countries on false pretenses and covering up for pedophiles to consolidate power, and I'll make a list of times Jesus talks about taking care of the sick and poor, working for peace and respecting people you don't agree with. We'll compare our lists and see who is doing God's work in American politics.

This is the part of the discussion where my dad generally says, "You think the Democrats don't have problems, too?" I'm not saying they're perfect. God knows they've got their shortcomings, but at this point I would take them over party that's currently in power in a heartbeat.

There are some very important elections coming up in November, and the Senate seat in Missouri is one of the most important in the country. If you vote for Jim Talent, I hope you can do so with a sincere belief that he and his President (they agree 96% of the time) are really working in Washington with your best interests at heart. I hope that you're not a cheap vote that they won by paying lip-service to conservative values.

Contrary to what you may have heard, voting for Claire McCaskill will not lead to mandatory gay marriage and abortions for everyone. If the Democrats take control of Congress, I don't think we'll find the US surrendering to al Qaeda or millions of clones of Richard Simmons roaming the countryside.

Talent on lobbying

I couldn't find anything on Jim Talent's site about lobby reform, so I emailed to ask about it. Here's the reply:

Dear Mr. Ferguson:

Thank you for contacting me to voice your concerns
regarding lobbying and ethics reform. I appreciate the time you
have taken to share your views with me, and I welcome the
opportunity to respond.

I am pleased to report that with my support the Senate
overwhelmingly passed the bipartisan Legislative Transparency
and Accountability Act of 2006, on March 29, 2006. It is the first
lobbying reform bill considered by Congress in over a decade. The
legislation was strongly supported by Republicans and Democrats
alike, passing by a vote of 90-8.

Among its many provisions, the bill will enhance public
disclosure of lobbyist activities and campaign contributions, ban
gifts and meals from registered lobbyists to Senators and staff, and
require enhanced scrutiny and Ethics Committee pre-approval for
privately funded travel. There were some provisions that I
supported that were not included in the final bill, but I think the
Senate has taken a big step forward toward changing the system.

Again, thank you for contacting me. If you would like to
continue this discussion, please don't hesitate to call or write.

If you would like to contact me via e-mail, please visit
http://talent.senate.gov/Contact/default.cfm

Sincerely,

Senator Jim Talent

I was glad to hear Talent respond to this issue. Unfortunately, when this bill went to the House it was weakened even further. The Washington Post called the house version diluted snake oil peddled as bold reform. I haven't been able to learn what became of this legislation. Did they go into conference? Did it ever get signed into law?

Senate debate

We spent Thursday through Saturday at the Missouri Press Association convention. On Friday morning the MPA hosted a debate for the candidates running for Missouri State Auditor and for the US Senate. C-Span will be airing the senate debate next week. I took the opportunity to ask a question of the candidates. I'll try to post video of that when I can. The debate confirmed my original inclination that we really need Claire McCaskill to win this race.

Jim Talent is a former lobbyist who took money from convicted felon Jack Abramoff (and later returned it) and Tom DeLay, the K Street Project founder, former House Majority Leader and suspected money launderer. Talent has yet to return the money from DeLay. Despite his efforts to distance himself from the President, Talent votes as Bush wants him to 94% of the time.

Claire McCaskill, on the other hand, plans to use her experience as State Auditor to crack down on government waste, no-bid contracts, special interest influence and deficit spending. You can read her positions on her web site. McCaskill has plans for lobbying reform and a raise in the federal minimum wage.

McCaskill and Talent will appear on Meet the Press for a debate on Sunday morning, October 8. If you're a Missouri citizen then do your homework on the candidates' websites and watch the debate, then be sure to vote in this important election in November. I'll try to have some more information here between now and then.

TMBG Month

I hereby declare that August is They Might Be Giants month. Let the lyrics of the day commence.

Good advice

Saddam Hussein is a terrible person, he is a threat to his own people. I think his people would be better off with a different leader, but there is this sort of romantic notion that if Saddam Hussein got hit by a bus tomorrow, some Jeffersonian democrat is waiting in the wings to hold popular elections. You're going to get -- guess what -- probably another Saddam Hussein. It will take a little while for them to paint the pictures all over the walls again, but there should be no illusions about the nature of that country or its society. And the American people and all of the people who second-guess us now would have been outraged if we had gone on to Baghdad and we found ourselves in Baghdad with American soldiers patrolling the streets two years later still looking for Jefferson.

-- Colin Powell, 1992

Trying to eliminate Saddam, extending the ground war into an occupation of Iraq, would have violated our guideline about not changing objectives in midstream, engaging in ‘mission creep,’ and would have incurred incalculable human and political costs,” Bush and Scowcroft wrote. “We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Under those circumstances, furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-cold war world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the U.N.'s mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land. It would have been a dramatically different--and perhaps barren--outcome.

-- George H.W. Bush, 1998

The emphasis above is mine.

"Mission creep" is exactly what happened in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The original rationale was that Saddam was an imminent threat because of his nuclear program and WMD. When those didn't turn up, the mission was changed to liberating Iraqis and establishing a democracy.

If only George Bush had paid more attention to what his father and his Secretary of State had said on this issue, then maybe the world and the US would be better prepared to handle the scary situations we're facing in the Middle East and North Korea right now.

Open mouth, insert foot

[youtube]MbekHONrJ-U[/youtube]

I felt bad for George Bush when I saw this clip. It could have happened to anyone. Yet, somehow I can't help posting it. Bush did apologize later that day and Peter Wallsten, the reporter, was very gracious. His only complaint about the whole matter was that the President didn't give a straight answer to his question in the press conference.

Bush reportedly waved at Stevie Wonder a few years ago (though Snopes says it didn't happen).

W's Island

Plot Synopses for Episodes of a Gilligan's Island Remake Starring Members of the Bush Administration.

Gilligan invades a neighboring island of cannibals. He mistakenly believes that Mary Ann and Ginger would be a sufficient force to secure the island, and Skipper erroneously claims they would be welcome as liberators.

A hurricane hits the island. Gilligan does nothing to help, but tells Mrs. Howell, "Lovey, you're doing a heck of a job."

Skipper goes hunting for fowl on the island and accidentally shoots Mr. Howell in the face, then waits a day before telling Gilligan.

The professor's experiments conclusively show that climate change is causing the island to sink into the sea. Gilligan erases his papers and tries to stop him from talking, thinking that will make the problem go away.

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