War for oil explained

The war-for-oil meme has been around for a long time, since even before the Iraq war. I remember hearing it from my students in the middle east in 2000.

It didn’t make any sense to me then. I mean, you could make an argument for the Europeans’ interest in the middle east back before WWI as an oil issue. It was pretty clear at the time that Germany was becoming more and more militant and that war was in the offing. Whoever won the war would need access to oil. If England had been cut off from strategic oil supplies during World War I, who knows what the world would look like today. But in the context of today’s world, the war-for-oil thing just didn’t make any sense. For one thing, less than 20% of our oil comes from Saudi Arabia. For another thing, most of the Middle East oil sales supposedly go to India and China. So the only real effect of Middle East oil sales is to raise or lower the world price of oil. And the price has been going up mostly because of increased demand from India and China, which are growing both in terms of population and in terms of expectations that go with an increased level of industrialization.

So whenever I heard the “war for oil” thing, I just thought it was another one of those Arab street rumors that are based on manipulation and paranoia. Then when Alan Greenspan repeated the rumor, everyone took notice. Still, no one could explain what it was about. So if Alan Greenspan repeats a silly street rumor isn’t it still just a silly street rumor?

But now the missing piece has been found, and it fits perfectly. According to Bill Moyers and Michael Winship:

Here’s a recent headline in the NEW YORK TIMES: “Deals with Iraq Are Set to Bring Oil Giants Back.” Read on: “Four western companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.”

There you have it. After a long exile, Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP are back in Iraq. And on the wings of no-bid contracts – that’s right, sweetheart deals like those given Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater. The kind of deals you get only if you have friends in high places. And these war profiteers have friends in very high places.

That’s it. No-bid contracts.

And then we find out there were secret meeting in the White House between Dick Cheney and oil companies, lobbyists, and CEO’s soon after Bush took office.

The meetings are secret, conducted under tight security, but as we reported five years ago, among the documents that turned up from some of those meetings were maps of oil fields in Iraq – and a list of companies who wanted access to them. The conservative group Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club filed suit to try to find out who attended the meetings and what was discussed, but the White House fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep the press and public from learning the whole truth. Think about it. These secret meetings took place six months before 9/11, two years before Bush and Cheney invaded Iraq. We still don’t know what they were about. What we know is that this is the oil industry that’s enjoying swollen profits these days.

Right about now, someone is going to point out that Osama bin Laden was once on the CIA payroll, and trot out the conspiracy theory that Bush, and Cheney, et al were behind bin Laden and 9/11.

The war for oil conspiracy theory is looking better and better. Maybe it’s time to look at the 9/11 conspiracy theories again too.

Posted in Middle East. Tags: , , . Comments Off on War for oil explained

Arizona governor Bill Richardson speaks to Operation Push in Chicago

It was a rumor I heard yesterday that Bill Richardson would be the keynote speaker for the annual conference at Operation Push on Chicago’s South Side. This morning I decided I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see a presidential contender in person, so three hours and three buses later I found myself listening as the Rev. Jesse Jackson introduced Gov. Richardson. After a few introductory thanks, some remarks about the election (“I had two problems:Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”), and several remarks about the heat (stage light for the live broadcast on C-Span?), here was the governors speech:

If you look at the agenda of the Rainbow for the future, it’s been right on target. Issues that Rainbow took over in the past are now the staple of the day. What we’re talking about in America was the Rainbow that first said we need a decent wage, we needed increases in the minimum wage, and it was rainbow that first said we have to talk about a living wage, for every It was Rainbow that said we should bring Hispanics and Asians and African Americans together in a strong coalition for progressive causes, you know what it’s happening, slowly but it’s happening. It was Rainbow said we had to have prison reform in this country that you can’t just have incarceration, and today we have every politician in every state talking about rehabilitation and jobs and recognizing we have a hamane society so many resources that unless we take steps to substance abuse treatment. It was Reverend Jackson and the that said it was important for young people to stay in school, to lay off of drugs. It was Rainbow that said we should have early investment in preschool and bilingual education, pay our teachers better, and today that’s what every politician is talking about . It was Rainbow that said also that we should have a foreign policy in this country that cares about Africa and Asia and Latin Amercica and not just about the Midcdle East and Europe, that we should care about genocide and malnutrition and pandemic diseases and renewable energy so when I come, and I come every year to these conferences Rainbow has, every time Reverend Jackson–he doesn’t invite me, he orders me to come (laughter)–like he’s (inaudible)

I am here with profound respect because I’m pleased with the agenda that he has brought forth and like Reverend Jackson I kind of copied one of the things he did. He used to go to countries around the world and recue American prisoners and I started doing the same. He did it in the Middle East, I’ve done it in Africa (inaudible) (laughter) because I know he’s sitting here and you wonder does this make a difference , it does, so when I bring this hundred day agenda, the first hundred days of the new preosident, I know it makes a big difference in what we’re talking about.

You know, starting out with ending this war, we must end this war because (applause) (inaudible). Universal health care so that every American no matter who you are, whether you’re rich, poor, old, young, every American has the right to universal health care, to making sure the justice system , why is it that over 80% of those in jail are minorities after America (inaudible) . Why is it that we don’t have rehabilitation and treatment programs in our jails? What is the imortant priortiy to recognize tha twe must change our policy on energy. And I can see today that this great facility, this Rainbow facility, is making a contribution to global change because it’s awfully hot in here. (Voice behind me: “is it hot?” Response “No.”) But the point is we are saving energy, the point is it’s important that we shift from fossil fuels, to solar, wind and biomass and every American, everybody here has to play a part to be more energy efficient in a way we drive and our applicances in the way we get to work, making sure that we (inaudible ) drive in to work but we take the train (inaudible) that we recognize that this planet (inaudible) is preserved and that we should care about the environment not just breathe energy, but also about our national parks and what is precious in the future generations have that protection. Putting America to work, this is probably the most important issue facing our country. Wages have not stayed up. And it’s important that we recognize it, rebuilding our own country and rebuilding roads, highways, our electricity grid, that’s going to bring thousands of new jobs. That what we’re doing also (inaudible) the young men and women that are in our cities that have lost hope that somehow save the government doesn’t care about us, we don’t have jobs and (inaudible) and we’re proud (inaudible ) the key to the new America is creating jobs and it was Reverend Jackson at Rainbow that said it’s good to for American to increase the number of people in unions because unions get the protection, unions give you health care, unions protect against those employers who take advantage of workers and there’s going to be a major push I believe in the new administration to increase the number of our men and women that are in unions and percent of our workforce despite we have the past legislation that penalizes those states that don’t allow collective bargaining organizing. My last point is you all have a large agenda, a broad agenda.

I just bumped into to John Conyers. You know Conyers became a father I think he was 85. Don’t tell him I said that. You know he used to be my–we were in congress together, and he used to be my chairman, he always treated me like a rookie, now that I’m a governor, don’t tell him I said that, but you know Congressman Conyers he reminds me of what Reverend Jackson said about (inaudible) in our country, (inaudible) way before other politicians, and all the members of this stage here, every body and (inaudible) and my brother (inaudible) saw those issues years ago and declared that America had to give them priority. But sometimes there are a lot of people and a lot of progressives that don’t say thanks, that don’t say thanks to the visionaries, that don’t say thanks to those that went out and went out and ran for president and went all over the country and got thousands of votes (inaudible) but people don’t remember it was Jesse Jackson (inaudible) and he stayed all the way (inaudible) . (applause) And he did well in the states like New Mexico and he did well all around America because he was giving voice those who have been left behind.

So I know that unfortunately I have to be heading back, but I wanted just to pay my respects, to say thank you for making it easier for Hispanics like me to make (inaudible) to make it as ambassadors to make (applause) (inaudible) to allow me to speak this coalition the Rainbow is trying it’s Hispanics it’s Americans uniting for a common purpose a common goal that Asian Americans and those who have been left behind and those that have been dispossessed to have a voice in their government. So the best parts of this resolution is we the people.

Is it just me, or was this a disappointing speech? The program was supposed to be about “black and brown disparities”, but it seemed the governor just said, Jesse ordered me to be here and here I am and he’s a great guy. Or perhaps it was the PA system that made it hard to understand, or perhaps it was the spectator in the back who was repeating everything the governor said, and keeping up a running commentary throughout that made it too distracting to concentrate on the message. In typing the transcript there seems to be a little more to it–some lists of policies, but no real insights. I guess he was saying now that there are minority men in high government positions and minority men running for top offices, Rainbow has pretty much done its job.

When the speech was over, all nine minutes of it, I felt a little let down, plus the weather had turned cold and drizzly and I didn’t have a jacket. For a consolation prize, I decided to hit the bookstores on 57th street before tackling the three buses. I now have used copies of Craig Unger’s House of Bush, House of Saud, that has been on my reading list for a while, and Foiud Ajami’s The Foreigner’s Gift, about Americans in Iraq–oh, dear, I see Ajami has spent a lot of time advising the White House and traveling with that Ahmad Chalibi that the Jordanians are so eager to talk to.

That should keep me out of mischief for a while.

Posted in Election 2008. Comments Off on Arizona governor Bill Richardson speaks to Operation Push in Chicago

Text of Barack Obama’s constituent Email response letter for FISA HR 6304

That was quick. Just yesterday I was bemoaning the busy signals emanating from the telephone lines of my U.S. senators, and decided to write some emails while I was waiting to get through to ask them to support the Dodd/Feingold filibuster against FISA HR 6304. Now today already I have a response from one of them–Sen. Barack Obama.

Any diehard groupthink Obama koolaid drinkers should be sitting down before they attempt to read this.

Dear Nijma: (no, he didn’t really say “Nijma” but he did use my first name)

Thank you for contacting me concerning the President’s domestic surveillance program. I appreciate hearing from you.

Providing any President with the flexibility necessary to fight terrorism without compromising our constitutional rights can be a delicate balance. I agree that technological advances and changes in the nature of the threat our nation faces may require that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), enacted in 1978, be updated to reflect the reality of the post 9/11 world. But that does not absolve the President of the responsibility to fully brief Congress on the new security challenge and to work cooperatively with Congress to address it.

As you know, Congress has been considering the issue of domestic surveillance since last year. Just before the August recess in 2007, Congress passed hastily crafted legislation to expand the authority of the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence to conduct surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists without a warrant or real oversight, even if the targets are communicating with someone in the United States. This legislation was signed into law by the President on August 5, 2007.

As you are aware, Congress has been working on reforms to FISA. On November 15, 2007, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 3773, the “Responsible Electronic Surveillance That is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective Act of 2007” (RESTORE Act) by a vote of 227-189. The House bill did not provide retroactive immunity for private companies that may have participated in the illegal collection of personal information, nor does it provide immunity for Administration officials who may have acted illegally.

On February 12, 2008, the Senate passed S. 2248, making its own reforms to FISA. During consideration of this bill, I was proud to cosponsor several amendments, including the Dodd-Feingold amendment to strike the immunity provision, which would have enhanced privacy protections while maintaining the tools to fight terrorism. However, with the defeat of this amendment, the bill did not provide for a mechanism that would allow the American people to learn exactly what the Bush Administration did with its warrantless wiretapping program and provided for no accountability.

The House and Senate worked out a compromise, reconciling differences between the two versions of the bill before it can be signed into law. While I recognize that this compromise is imperfect, I will support this legislation, which provides an important tool to fight the war on terrorism and provides for an Inspectors General report so that we can finally get to the bottom of the warrantless wiretapping program and how it undermined our civil liberties. However, I am disappointed that this bill, if signed into law, will grant an unprecedented level of immunity for telecommunications companies that cooperated with the President’s warrantless wiretapping program, and I will work with my colleagues to remove this provision.

The American people understand that new threats require flexible responses to keep them safe, and that our intelligence gathering capability needs to be improved. What they do not want is for the President or the Congress to use these imperatives as a pretext for promoting policies that not only go further than necessary to meet a real threat, but also violate some of the most basic tenets of our democracy. Like most members of Congress, I continue to believe that the essential objective of conducting effective domestic surveillance in the War on Terror can be achieved without discarding our constitutionally protected civil liberties.

Thank you again for writing. Please stay in touch as this debate continues.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator

P.S. Our system does not allow direct response to this email. However, if you would like to contact me again, please use the form on the website: http://obama.senate.gov/contact/

Hey pssst, Obamabots. If you have read this far, let me just say that Obama is not the change you are looking for. YOU are the change you are looking for.

Get on the phone and call your senators.

Angry women: Another offensive campaign stereotype

So there was this guy who went fishing and he liked strawberries, so he baited his hook with strawberries and threw it in the water. He didn’t catch any fish. Why ? Because fish are angry. Angry about, …about,… well, because, you know, fish are emotional and they’re just always angry about something.

Anyone have a hard time believing that?

Now let me tell you about the 40% of Clinton supporters who say they won’t vote for Obama. Angry. You know how women are. Just angry. Emotional. Not capable of rational thought process…. Will that make headlines a little faster? You bet. You will have people writing articles about angry, angry, angry (and old, old, old) women. Then you will have other people writing other articles that say the real reason is because of concerns about Obama’s job qualifications and refer to actual polls and stuff and point out that no one actually asked the fish..er, women, what they were thinking.

In the meantime all this woman/irrational/angry stuff is repeated and repeated all over the internet. People who aren’t really paying attention will have yet another anti-female stereotype circulating just under their level of consciousness.

Let’s face it, the B-word just isn’t politically correct anymore, but it was so successful in trying to dismiss women from the political spectrum that it just can’t be allowed to disappear quite so quickly. What oh what can replace it. Anger! Maybe you can even get those nasty PUMA women to buy off on the notion that the real reason they don’t want to vote for Obama is just because it’s that time of the month. If you can get a woman to write the article, that might give it even more credibility.

That’s how these hate campaigns are done. You just get enough surrogates to repeat something over and over again until people start believing it.

That reminds me: I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any longer.

Posted in Gender. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Angry women: Another offensive campaign stereotype

Consideraton of FISA bill HR 6304 delayed: Hey senators, how about reading the bill?

In one furious blog after another, this week bloggers have ranted, fumed, and waxed eloquent over the perfidy of Obama in reversing his opposition to FISA and over the shortcomings of the FISA bill itself. But if you read far enough into the comments you will see frequently repeated the phrase: “I haven’t had a chance to read the FISA bill yet, but…..”

Judging by the remarks of some of the senators, (did I say Senator Obama????) it doesn’t look like they have read it either.

Well, it looks like the consideration of the bill has been delayed until after the fourth of July weekend, so kiddies, this is your chance to put FISA on your summer reading list. You can find the official version of HR 6304 on Thomas right |here| or at the unofficial GovTrack site |here|.

As for myself, I haven’t had a chance to read the FISA bill yet, but……

Chicago Arabesque festival starts today: look for “Amal” vendor to support women survivors of war

Oh, goody, Arabs again. Last year’s Arabesque festival in Chicago’s Daly Plaza was perfect. The weather was gorgeous, there was plenty of Arab music, calligraphy, henna hand painting, flavored tobacco for your hooka pipe and a line of graceful guys with those gorgeous Arab eyes getting up on the empty stage to dance a little impromptu Dubka arm in arm.

This year one of the vendors is Amal which is promoted as a supplier of unique jewelry which gives ten percent of its proceeds to Women for Women, a highly rated not-for-profit organization for women survivors of war. Highly appropriate, as this week the U.N. finally declared rape as a weapon of warfare. Says the Amal “about” page:

We believe in honor, respect and love.
We are a company designed to help women by combining the modern techniques of jewelry with the historical evil eye protection to provide everyone an item to wear with pride.

Ah, the evil eye protection. There’s something to that, you know. A friend of mine in the middle east had an evil eye on her kitchen wall that faced anyone entering her apartment. A week before she was assaulted, the eye, and nothing else, disappeared from her apartment.

If you go into the right shops, away from the tourist section, you can even find blue plastic eyes about the right size for sheep and cows.

I just happen to have two eyes that guard me as I sleep. Are they just nice to look at, or are they something else?

Posted in Arabs. Tags: , . Comments Off on Chicago Arabesque festival starts today: look for “Amal” vendor to support women survivors of war

Phone busy? Email your senator.

The reality is that legislative votes can happen very quickly, and if you really want to weigh in before they’re already decided, you have to either call or fax. But if you can’t get through to your senators’ offices, while you’re waiting you might want to try writing an email. The senate contact info is |here|–you can submit an email right on the senators’ websites.

Senator’s must get a huge volume of mail. Do the Legislative aides who do the email shove them into piles of “for” and “against” or do they just make a count?

If I am against FISA, I don’t want my email to go into the “for” pile by mistake. Then, I want it clear that I don’t care about the telecoms and the partisan who-can-get-nailed-for-wrongdoing stuff, I care about the illegal invasion of privacy and stopping it. So how do I get my point across quickly to the multitasking aide who is putting stuff in piles while answering the phone and greeting walk-ins?

Here is the email I finally settled on to send my senator:

Please support the filibuster of FISA compromise bill H.R. 6304.

No warrantless wiretaps.
No warrantless search of homes and offices.
No retroactive immunity.

I would appreciate receiving any position statement you have on the topic.

Thanks.

That email was for the senator who writes polite responses that start with “Mr.” or “Dr.” or “Ms.” and are responded to promptly.

My other senator addresses email to me by my first name…really now, would I be able to address him by first name?… and the response from his office can take several weeks. For him I change the “support” to “join” and delete the “thanks”–this isn’t a guy who understands or values courtesy.

Emails sent. Now I can go back to researching a good cellphone provider who isn’t going to listen in on my phone calls. U.S Cellular? Trakfone? T-Mobile?

Posted in Government. Tags: . Comments Off on Phone busy? Email your senator.