Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 17, 2005

Peak Open Thread

Will we be running out soon?
What with Deanander's reckless consumption of Open Threads, and blatant desire for more, will we have enough?

Posted by Jérôme à Paris on March 17, 2005 at 7:24 UTC | Permalink

Comments

For one, I believe in the ingenuity of these blogwriters to always find new ways to increase supply and satisfy your demands!

Now let me go take my plane and pollute your skies.

Posted by: Jerome | Mar 17 2005 7:27 utc | 1

The Wolfowitz nomination to head the World Bank reminds me to read Confession of an Economic Hitman.

Here is a Democracy Now interview with the author.

But my real job was deal-making. It was giving loans to other countries, huge loans, much bigger than they could possibly repay. One of the conditions of the loan–let's say a $1 billion to a country like Indonesia or Ecuador–and this country would then have to give ninety percent of that loan back to a U.S. company, or U.S. companies, to build the infrastructure–a Halliburton or a Bechtel. These were big ones. Those companies would then go in and build an electrical system or ports or highways, and these would basically serve just a few of the very wealthiest families in those countries. The poor people in those countries would be stuck ultimately with this amazing debt that they couldn’t possibly repay. A country today like Ecuador owes over fifty percent of its national budget just to pay down its debt. And it really can’t do it. So, we literally have them over a barrel. So, when we want more oil, we go to Ecuador and say, “Look, you're not able to repay your debts, therefore give our oil companies your Amazon rain forest, which are filled with oil.” And today we're going in and destroying Amazonian rain forests, forcing Ecuador to give them to us because they’ve accumulated all this debt. So we make this big loan, most of it comes back to the United States, the country is left with the debt plus lots of interest, and they basically become our servants, our slaves. It's an empire. There's no two ways about it. It’s a huge empire. It's been extremely successful.

Posted by: b | Mar 17 2005 7:50 utc | 2

Roads out of Baghdad become no-go zones

The volley of mortar fire that dropped a few hundred yards short of where the opening session of Iraq's new parliament was held Wednesday rattled the ceremonial gathering and was a reminder that the city remains under siege.

Nearly two years since President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq, Baghdad is still one of the most dangerous cities in the world. It is ringed in peril. Travel in any direction a few miles outside city limits and the risks intensify.

Posted by: Happy anniversary | Mar 17 2005 9:59 utc | 3

The elephant in the room is that the US has become an evil power, as much as Mao's China (as Billmon has just pointedly demonstrated) or Brezhnev's USSR.

What seems an eternity ago, I posted a diary on Kos where I self-labelled myself a "traitor" because I realized I had come to root for the US's "defeat" -- hopefully a soft and merciful humbling (eg: end of Franco's reign and transition to Juan Carlos' in Spain) as opposed to a cruel, brutal one (defeat of Germany in WWII), but still.

Ultimtely, my wife and I lefdt the US because we could no longer reconcile ourselves with thre notion of living in a country whose defeat I aspire. I suspect uin 1933 I would have been among the Germans who left Germany too.

I still revere the American ideals (as I presume one might have loved Germany and the German culture while despising Naziism, ditto with Russia and communism), but not what America has become.

Posted by: | Mar 17 2005 10:07 utc | 4

I forgot to sign the above post. Oops. Too many things going around in the house here.

Posted by: Lupin | Mar 17 2005 10:32 utc | 5

US Army asks for enlistment extension as recruitment numbers fall

WASHINGTON : The US Army asked Congress to allow it to extend enlistment contracts signed by soldiers by two years as top defense officials warned that key recruitment targets for the year could be missed…

… The appeal coincided with the release of a new congressional report that showed that the intensifying anti-American insurgency in Iraq and continued violence in Afghanistan were followed by a distinct drop in the number of volunteers willing to serve in the branches of the military that see the most combat….

U.S. military budget crunch fuels concerns in Congress that child care, services may suffer

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress voiced concerns Tuesday that funding for child care centers, barracks maintenance and other military base programs will be hurt by what they call inadequate money for construction and repair in the proposed 2006 defense budget.

As war costs rise, U.S. Air Force commands are ordered to reduce spending

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The rising cost of the war on terrorism and in Iraq is forcing major Air Force commands, including U.S. bases in Europe, to cut costs and help avoid a “budget crisis.”
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper has ordered the commands to slash spending and delay programs considered a lower priority compared to the war.

The service projects to be $3 billion short in maintenance and operations and have a $733 million shortfall in military personnel funding by the end of the fiscal year, Jumper told commanders in a March 1 message.


Posted by: Crisis? What crisis? | Mar 17 2005 10:34 utc | 6

Australian oil firm, senator deny smuggling Iraq cash

CANBERRA - Australia’s top oil firm, Woodside Petroleum Ltd., and a government senator denied newspaper reports on Thursday that the politician smuggled US$20,000 into Iraq for the oil company to give to Kurdish leaders.

Woodside said it had “properly” donated the $20,000 to a hospital in northern Iraq and Senator Ross Lightfoot said while he witnessed the money being handed over, he was not involved in the transaction.

“There has never been a secret that the money was passed over. It just wasn’t passed over by me,” Lightfoot told the Australian Broadcasting Corp radio.

Posted by: Oily palms | Mar 17 2005 10:54 utc | 7

A bit off topic: but did I hear correctly that Wolfowitz (god help us) has been tapped to run the world Bank?

Posted by: Diogenes | Mar 17 2005 11:08 utc | 8

The rascally Bush Administration has seemingly reclassified rainforest trees as a particularly large species of grass.

"We've got to mow the rainforest down," Scott McClellan didn't note in a recent White House press conference, "because if don't, China will."

When pressed about whether scientists were in agreement with the administration, McClellan didn't say that "The scientific community is badly divided on this grass question. Until this issue is resolved, we side with free markets."

It all seems plausible to me.

http://peake.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Greco | Mar 17 2005 11:20 utc | 9

new culture of greed, cleverly disguised as "Christian"

Posted by: Lupin | Mar 17 2005 11:30 utc | 10

Oil Rises to Record $57 on Concern Demand Will Outpace Supply

March 17 (Bloomberg) -- Crude oil rose to a record, surpassing $57 a barrel in New York, on concern OPEC can't pump enough oil to meet demand this year.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries raised its output target by 500,000 barrels a day yesterday to 27.5 million a day, a record for the 10 members restrained by quotas. The increase marks a change in OPEC strategy, according to Paul Horsnell, the head of energy research at Barclays Capital in London, because it will let inventories accumulate in the second quarter in preparation for surging use in the second half.

``It's an admission that they don't have any spare capacity left,'' said Simon Wardell, an analyst at Global Insight Inc. in London. ``To make sure that this isn't exposed, you need a big buffer. If they don't let stockpiles rise, they won't be able to cope with demand this year.''

Crude oil for April delivery rose to a record $57.05 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest price in more than two decades of futures trading. It gained 54 cents, or 1 percent, to $57 at 9:54 a.m. London time, up 49 percent in the past year. Brent crude for May settlement reached a record $55.56 on London's International Petroleum Exchange and was up 54 cents at $55.42, up 37 percent this year.

``There is a lack of spare production, and this brings nervousness to the market,'' Rafael Ramirez, the oil minister for Venezuela, OPEC's third-largest crude producer, said in an interview today in Isfahan, Iran, where the group met yesterday. ``We cannot do much more, only take this kind of decision. OPEC can help influence prices, but there are other strong factors'' at work in the market.

Posted by: Greco | Mar 17 2005 12:22 utc | 11

Not really relevant, but extremely interesting:

Dark Clouds Over Detroit

GM plunged today to a 10 year low when it finally confessed just how bad its operations really are. The world's largest automaker said it now expects a loss of about $1.50 per share in the first quarter, well below its prior target calling for breakeven results or better. For 2005 as a whole, GM scaled back expectations and now anticipates earnings of $1 to $2 per share, not the $4 to $5 in expected previously. This is a company headed for bankruptcy but the Wall Street pimps will not admit it until the bitter end. According to the S&P, GM and their finance arm General Motors Acceptance Corp. had about $300 billion in outstanding debt at the end of 2004. That will be one heck of a lot of write offs when they happen.

The S&P affirmed its long-term "BBB-" ratings and its short-term "A-3" ratings on GM and GMAC, but the outlook was changed to "negative" from "stable." The change reflects S&P's "heightened concerns regarding the profit potential of GM's core North American automotive business in the wake of the company's dramatically revised earnings and cash flow guidance," analyst Scott Sprinzen wrote in a research note. "Confidence that performance will be bolstered by the eventual introduction of new products is diminished because sales of major new products it has introduced recently have generally not met expectations," he said. Moody's said it may cut ratings on GM and GMAC. The ratings agency currently rates GM's long-term debt as "Baa2," two notches above junk.

The real story in today's fiasco is NOT the GM implosion but the fact that Fitch, Moody's and the S&P have not and will not cut GM's rating to junk. I am openly calling for the SEC to crack down on the relationship with rating companies and their clients. No one wants to be the first to upset a relationship or to spook the equity markets with a downgrade on a company as large as GM. At the current pace they will put this off for as long as they can, just as they did with Worldcom and Enron. Ratings companies are now totally useless. The problem here is clear, ratings companies should NOT be allowed to have relationships with the companies they rate.

How many times do Moody's, Fitch, and the S&P have to prove they can not police themselves. The only hope for accurate rating is if the companies are totally independent.

Posted by: Greco | Mar 17 2005 13:09 utc | 12

@Greco - General Motors is only the first of the credit bubble industry to fall. Many of these companies did not make profits through their products, but through financing the buyers of their products. With rising interest rates and higher consumer debt that business has no future. Expect more bad news from GM and more failures of companies like them.

Posted by: b | Mar 17 2005 13:44 utc | 13

Herold analysts: World's major oil companies are almost tapped out

Today, the analysts at Herold -a research-only firm that issues valuations on
several hundred publicly traded energy companies- are making predictions even
bolder than their call on Enron. They have begun estimating when each of the
world's biggest energy companies will peak in its ability to produce oil and
gas. Herold's work shows that the best minds in the energy industry are
accepting the reality that the globe is reaching (or has already reached)
the limit of its own ability to produce ever increasing amounts of oil.
Many analysts have estimated when the earth will reach its peak oil
production. Others have done estimates on when individual countries will hit
their peaks. Herold is the first Wall Street firm to predict when specific
energy companies will hit their peaks.

Since last fall, Herold has done peak estimates on about two dozen oil
companies. Herold believes that the French oil company, Total S.A., will
reach its peak production in 2007. Herold expects 2008 to be critical, with
Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., BP, Royal Dutch/Shell Group, and the
Italian producer, Eni S.p.A., all hitting their peaks. In 2009, Herold
expects ChevronTexaco Corp. to peak. In Herold's view, each of the world's
seven largest publicly traded oil companies will begin seeing production
declines within the next 48 months or so.

Posted by: Greco | Mar 17 2005 14:51 utc | 14

Berlusconi accused of bowing to U.S. over Iraq.

ROME (Reuters) - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was accused on Thursday of bowing to pressure from the United States after he apparently backtracked on an announcement that Italian troops would start withdrawing from Iraq this September.

"It's a world record. The withdrawal of an announced withdrawal in half a day," said center-left leader Francesco Rutelli.

Posted by: Reverse gear | Mar 17 2005 15:15 utc | 15

You had better stop and think before you think, think!!

RIP, Lyn Collins. A wonderful voice, part of a wonderful generation of musicians.

Posted by: Ineluctable | Mar 17 2005 16:24 utc | 16

Secret U.S. plans for Iraq's oil

Posted by: Nugget | Mar 17 2005 16:47 utc | 18

Jerome, go "green"! Some Brazilian company has just commercialized a small plane that runs on ethanol. http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200503/s1324610.htm>ABC. Alan Cocconi (see http://www.solar-flight.com/teamlink.html>SolarFlight) is coming close to his life long dream - solar powered flight, with a human passenger in the plane! (without is no prob.)

Great ingenuity, dedication, hard work. Carried out in a stable world...

I also read that Herold's analysis in Salon. It contains a sort of leap in logic, stipulating that if big-oil-companies production peaks, there is somehow 'not enough' or 'less' of the stuff available. Pragmatically, and/or economically (investor concerns, etc.) that is pertinent. The piece avoids geology (which Herold doesn't do) and politics; that is, both the nitty-gritty, or slippery, reality, and the actions based on particular readings of that reality.

Interesting though, bound to have a big impact. Shows that corporations, as intermediaries between the real world and money, and thus people confort, are credible and vital actors in our f*** up world.

Posted by: Blackie | Mar 17 2005 17:03 utc | 19

Grazie lei, Reverse Gear, for those great links to Berlusconi. I'm beginning to see Il Cavaliere as the Huey Long of our moment, perhaps rather menacing in a number of ways, but a truly gifted performer nonetheless, always and unfailingly entertaining. (When Prohibition was lifted, Long celebrated by putting out a promotional short feature--somewhat in the manner of Julia Childs--on the art of preparing a "New Orleans Gin Fizz". He mixed the Gin Fizz with loving care, paused for a moment, winked at the camera, then knocked back the Gin Fizz in a single, glorious swallow,smiling as the film dissolved.)

Posted by: alabama | Mar 17 2005 17:55 utc | 20

in "thread open", i queried
any mention in this speculation on the WB nomination of wolfowitz's close ties/allegiance to israel?

this in yesterday's jerusalem post:

Israel pleased with choice of Wolfowitz
Wolfowitz's appointment to head the World Bank will have significance for Israel since the World Bank is expected to play a key economic role in Gaza after Israel's withdrawal.
...
The World Bank is expected to supervise the implementation of hundreds of million of dollars worth of projects to rebuild Gaza. One official said that Wolfowitz would likely ensure that the Palestinians fulfill strict conditions regarding reform and democratization in order to get the money.
...
The World Bank is also the body that will oversee the channeling of millions of dollars into the Galilee and Negev for development of these regions as well.

Posted by: b real | Mar 17 2005 19:31 utc | 22

International humiliation, that’s what friends are for: Italy forced to backtrack on Iraq

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was forced by Washington and London to backtrack on his surprise announcement that Italian troops would start leaving Iraq in September, the Italian press said today.

"George W Bush and Tony Blair say 'Stop Berlusconi'," read the headline in the centre-left opposition daily La Repubblica....

Posted by: Reverse gear | Mar 17 2005 20:53 utc | 23

Asia Times

Although Pakistani forces conducted their customary vigorous anti-terrorism operations near the Afghanistan border prior to visits by US officials, the real interest in Wednesday's meeting between President General Pervez Musharraf and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice centered on Iran.

Before Rice's whirlwind visit to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan (she also goes to Japan, South Korea and China) Washington was abuzz with talk that the Bush administration had convinced Musharraf to lend support to American action against Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program.

This reinforces a number of reports by Asia Times Online's Syed Saleem Shahzad over the past months that Pakistan had agreed to host American troops and intelligence assets near its long border with Iran in Balochistan province in preparation for a possible attack on Iran, including the training of special US forces in Karachi - see, for example, US keeps Iran in its sights
of January 28.

In return, the US seems to be more receptive to Pakistan's long-term request for F-16 fighter aircraft. On Wednesday, Rice thanked Musharraf for "superb support in the war on terror", according to State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. The possible sale of F-16 fighter planes came up, Boucher said, but he gave no details.

There are further contours of the deal - Pakistan has provided material evidence to the US and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) of the items and scientific information that Pakistani scientists provided to support the Iranian nuclear weapons program.

Again, ATol's Syed Saleem Shahzad was the first to break the news that Pakistan was ready to surrender detailed material evidence of proliferation to Iran - see US goes back to the nuclear source of December 15 of last year.

Since September, Musharraf had been resistant to US demands to provide material evidence of Pakistani proliferation, especially if it was intended to give the US causus belli to act militarily against another Islamic country. However, Musharraf was the first to officially signal a Pakistani change of heart when in late February he made an acknowledgement that his country's scientists may have transferred some centrifuge parts to Iran.

Last week, Sheik Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan's information minister, said that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the mastermind of Pakistan's nuclear program, had given centrifuges - rather than just blueprints - to Iran as part of a package of materials that could be used to make a nuclear bomb. Centrifuges are used to enrich uranium, either to produce energy or nuclear weapons. The minister added, "He [Khan] helped Iran in his personal capacity, and the Pakistan government had nothing to do with it."

This declaration is significant because until now Pakistan has insisted that no nuclear material was ever sent from Pakistan and that the illegal trade was restricted to intellectual property, such as plans and blueprints.

Subsequently, a Reuters report from Vienna, where the IAEA is headquartered, said that Pakistan would submit to the long-term IAEA demand that it hand over its centrifuges similar to the ones its supplied to Iran, so that the agency could identify if Iran has been secretly enriching uranium or not. Uranium from various sources still maintains its radioactive "fingerprint" that experts can use to trace its origin. Even though the Pakistan Foreign Office denied the Reuters report, many don't find the denial credible, given that Pakistan has made angry denials in the past of nuclear-related allegations that eventually proved to be true.

Interestingly, as the December ATol piece noted, former Pakistan army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg has been linked closely to Pakistan's nuclear dealings with Iran. Beg has on many occasions openly endorsed nuclear cooperation with Iran and even called for a Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan military alliance against the US. Some observers wonder if Musharraf would "sacrifice" Beg to both appease the US, as well as fend off those who are skeptical of Pakistan's blaming of the entire proliferation saga on one individual - Khan.

In this context, Beg has been recently writing op-eds published in the Pakistani and US media trying to justify Pakistan's proliferation acts. Strangely, Beg also called for an India-Pakistan tie-up to provide a nuclear shield to Iran. However, one Western analyst who recently visited Pakistan expressed skepticism that the Pakistani establishment would ever sacrifice one of their own (Beg), even if he is currently out of favor.

For the Americans, this Pakistani admission is vital since it gets the US off the hook from the task of proving that Iran is cheating on its promise not to develop nuclear weapons. Even though many people (especially in Washington) believe that Iran is working on enriching uranium for weapons purposes, material evidence carries enormous weight in the diplomatic world. Until now, Iran had been stalling the IAEA by arguing that Western intelligence sources are wrong about its nuclear program, a claim that is strengthened by the Iraq weapons of mass destruction fiasco.

But a centrifuge sample handover by Pakistan changes the playing field, making it hard for Iran to wriggle out of its dealings with the IAEA, should they contain incriminating material. As a result, should Iran's nuclear weapons program be found out publicly, the matter can theoretically be referred to the United Nations Security Council, leading to sanctions or even military action, although China may have something to say about that.

A few weeks ago, Richard Sale, the intelligence correspondent for United Press International, wrote that Musharraf had allowed Iranian anti-regime fighters to operate from Pakistan's Balochistan province that abuts Iran. Sale claimed that the fighters included those from the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), which is officially listed as a terrorist organization by the US State Department. This report once again tallies with ATol's January 28 story, which said that the US was using the MEK to work against Iran from southern Iraq, "... [the MEK] will attempt to play the role of a catalyst to organize an insurgency against the rule of Islamic hardliners in Tehran."

Anti-Iranian Kurdish groups could be based in Balochistan because the Kurds are ethnically similar to the Balochis. One factor complicating this alleged ploy is the Pakistani Baloch uprising against Islamabad, which has picked up steam after an alleged rape of a woman doctor by a Pakistani military officer. (See ATol's Tribals looking down a barrel in Balochistan of January 15.)

Despite that, Balochistan's geography (long porous border with Iran) and sparse population make it too attractive for the US to pass up as a potential staging area as it weighs its options over Iran.

Meanwhile, for Musharraf and Pakistan, supporting the US against Iran fits into the pattern of behavior of acquiescing to one demand in order to deflect pressure off another. In this case, Pakistan has come under renewed pressure from the IAEA and the US to hand over Khan - he is currently under "informal" house arrest - and disclose more about the Pakistani nuclear network. Reuters reported this week that many European and American experts now have solid evidence of Pakistan trying to revive the nuclear underworld. In this context, one South Asia expert said that it makes sense for Musharraf to "give up" Iran in order to stave of the concerted pressure over Khan.

For the Pakistani establishment, this would also be a way to payback Iran for what Pakistani officials felt was Iran's betrayal when it secretly revealed details of Pakistani nuclear support to the IAEA. That, along with Libya's secret deal with the US directly provided enough evidence of Pakistani proliferation and led to the February 2004 televised confession by Khan. In a press conference following Khan's TV appearance, Musharraf was visibly angry at Iran and Libya for "caving in", and even mocked them for being weak-kneed in the face of international pressure.

In addition, the largely Sunni Pakistani establishment, despite the presence of mavericks like Beg, is generally suspicious of Shi'ite Iran. Pakistan-Iran ties hit rock bottom during the 1990s when Pakistan was sponsoring the Sunni extremist Taliban movement in Afghanistan, which took part in large scale massacres of Afghan Shi'ites, who were supported by Iran. The Taliban and allied Pakistani militants also killed nine Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e-Sharif, exacerbating the tensions.

Post-Taliban, Iran-Pakistan ties seem to have improved. Iran's concerns with regard to Pakistan's backing of the Taliban seem to have been allayed somewhat with the Pakistani government reversing its earlier policy of support to the Taliban. Tehran and Islamabad have taken big strides with regard to a proposed US$4.5 billion natural gas pipeline from Iran's oilfields through Pakistan to India, and the two have recently agreed to conduct joint naval exercises.

These, however, seem to be incidents of tactical cooperation between Iran and Pakistan. Mutual suspicion persists. Tehran blames Pakistan for the American presence in Afghanistan and Central Asia. It suspects Pakistan of cooperating with the US against Iran. Pakistan suspects an Iranian hand in the turmoil in Balochistan.

Pakistan's Iran suspicions only heightened when a string of reports came out stating that Iran had signed a secret defense agreement with India that included a provision for India to deploy "troops, armored personnel carriers, tanks and surveillance platforms in Iran" during any crisis with Pakistan. Though lower-level Iranian officials eventually denied such a provision, top Iranian figures did not deny that there was an agreement with India.

The reports also mentioned that India would develop the new Iranian port of Chahbahar. Separately, India also signed a deal with Iran to develop a road link connecting Chahbahar to Central Asian points of trade, through Afghanistan. For Pakistan, Chahbahar is a direct competitor to the port of Gwadar in Balochistan that Pakistan is developing with Chinese assistance. Pakistan's leaders have long marketed Gwadar as a destination point of choice for Central Asian commerce. Pakistan's establishment has also been historically sensitive about any Indian access to its western flank, especially in Afghanistan, and news of Iran-India cooperation started ringing alarm bells in Islamabad.

In any event, the idea that Musharraf has made a decision to allow access to US forces in Balochistan was strengthened when the general recently spoke at a conference in Islamabad, "We hope the US doesn't attack Iran. In the event of an attack, Pakistan will remain neutral." One Washington-based analyst contrasted this statement with Musharraf's past explicit denunciations of US actions against Iraq, as well as his opposition to military action against Islamic countries, and observed that this is about as close to an anti-Iranian statement as one could hope to get out of Musharraf publicly.

But the analyst also cautioned that while Musharraf may have agreed to allow the US forces to use Balochistan for now, he might be hedging by hoping that the US does not actually attack Iran. "Musharraf thrives by making carefully worded commitments that leave enough room for him to wriggle out should things change," quipped the expert. The expert also raised the point that this could also be a short-term move by Musharraf to get the Bush administration to approve the sale of long-sought F-16 fighters to Pakistan. India is after the same hardware.

Many Pakistani and Western experts have noted that Pakistan has followed the development paradigm of a "rent-seeking state", meaning that Pakistani leaders have always tried to parlay their country's strategic geographical location to greater powers in return for aid and diplomatic recognition. The US, obviously, has been the biggest partaker of the services provided by the Pakistani elite, from the days of the Cold War to the current "war on terror".

However, such acts of renting their country out have not always worked out well for Pakistan in the long term. It would be interesting to see how this latest move by Pakistan against Iran turns out, especially if the Iranian leaders are able to come out of the current nuclear crisis unscathed.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Mar 17 2005 21:10 utc | 24

Click homepage for above story

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Mar 17 2005 21:12 utc | 25

Russian energy official survives ambush.

MOSCOW - Anatoly Chubais, the powerful head of Russia's state-controlled electricity monopoly and architect of its much-maligned 1990s privatization push, survived a roadside ambush Thursday when an armored limousine carrying him to work was raked by gunfire following an explosion.

The attack on one of the most controversial figures in Russia's post-Soviet history raised questions about whether the motive was rooted in politics or an ambitious plan to divvy up the world's largest power grid, creating a new constellation of winners and losers.

Posted by: Resource wars | Mar 17 2005 21:16 utc | 26

Vote for me! As my good friend Ozymandios might have said; "I'm a teapot!"

Posted by: Hardened artery | Mar 17 2005 21:41 utc | 27

Hardened Artery:

Teapot diplomacy?

Arthur Morgan, Davy Hyland, and Pat McGinn are my kind of elected officials. Arthur and Davy did time in prison as part of the republican struggle. All three represent Sinn Féin, Arthur in the south, Davy and Pat in the north. All were influenced by Bobby Sands and the other hunger strikers who ran for and won seats in the British Parliament or local offices. Arthur says he was struck by the irony of Irish leader Charles Haughey bringing a teapot to Margaret Thatcher while the hunger strikers starved. Davy, who counts James Connolly as his inspiration, was convicted by the testimony of a "supergrass," one of the anonymous informers used the British government to target activists against whom there was no real evidence.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Mar 17 2005 22:04 utc | 28

The Wolfowitzz nomination is ludicrous and expensive to the U.S.' reputation, but you gotta' break some eggs...

The Bank’s reticence to finance projects in Iraq may have pushed Cheney and gang over the edge, ushering the embodiment of U.S. unilateralism into his anointed role. With Wolfowitz in charge, the World Bank may be able to complete what the Iraq invasion started two years ago: U.S. corporate control over the world’s second-largest oil reserves.

Jim Vallette, research director for the Sustainable Energy & Economy Network at the Institute for Policy Studies.

...otherwise the wrong people might start making omelettes

CSM on the World Bank ignoring its own commission's advice to get out of oil loans

After spending millions of dollars having an independent team of experts evaluate the effects of its energy lending, the bank brushed off most of the final report's conclusions - one of which was to pull out of oil and coal projects by 2008.

By doing this, the lender has failed to distinguish its goals and standards from the likes of Halliburton, ExxonMobil, Shell, and other profit-driven institutions. US taxpayers' contributions to the World Bank are supposed to constitute international development assistance, not corporate handouts.

Posted by: Citizen | Mar 17 2005 22:26 utc | 29

Wolfowitz, yesterday:

"Nothing is more gratifying than being able to help people in need,"

So many already he has helped.

It would be interesting to know if he and others like him believe this. My hunch is they don't, and rather enjoy hoodwinking or outraging us all.

Posted by: slothrop | Mar 17 2005 22:41 utc | 30

Citizen - being indirectly involved in the WB review (called the "Extractive industries Review") I can tell you that it would be a terrible mistake for the World Bank to leave that sector.

Google "Equator Principles". I will write about them one of these days...

Posted by: Jérôme | Mar 17 2005 23:34 utc | 32

Nature and the usual suspects abhor a vacuum, Captain.

I hope the bandwith canna take it.

Posted by: Lt. Cmdr Scott | Mar 18 2005 4:08 utc | 33

Most of the comment I've seen about the Wolfowitz nomination, understandably, focuses on his apparent lack of any real experience or interest in international development. This assumes that he is being placed at the World Bank to continue its nominal policies. In that case, it is an odd fit.

But it seems to me that he is being put there as a true believer to effectuate institutional change no matter how many kneecaps have to be broken – which I gather was his charge at Defense. The institutional change I suspect is to convert the World Bank into a truly ruthless instrument. New motto: "You're pre-approved for a new homeland equity loan. Or the Marines. Take your pick".

The World Bank can also play some very useful new roles at this moment. First, with the demise of Riggs, we need a new BCCI. With the right kind of management, unconcerned about pesky externalities such as money laundering laws, many useful payments can be facilitated. Second, with the neocons having been frustrated in their plans to raffle off the Iraqui oil fields, mega-loans to the current pseudo-government there can be arranged with the oil fields pledged as security, if not on the face of the agreements then as a private codicil. The neocons are nothing if not persistent, and I'm sure Mr. Chalabi would play the honest broker for a reasonable fee. Third, as nations acting in their own self-interest lose stop buying American debt, strong-arm loans (especially ones earmarked to buy U.S. products) could be used to try to float the deficit and forestall the inevitable interest rates hikes.

Of course, doing such things requires running roughshod over international convention and consensus and purging or bypassing dissenters and namby-pamby traditionalists. In which case, Wolfowitz seems just the guy for the job.

I see before sending this that Krugman is questioning whether this makes it the Ugly American Bank. That's a good one. But not nearly shrill enough I fear.

Posted by: Alvin | Mar 18 2005 4:22 utc | 34

perhaps wolfie's nomination to the world bank is an altruistic gesture on cheney's behalf so that saliva-boy can be closer to his sweetie?

Posted by: b real | Mar 18 2005 4:48 utc | 35

Jerome,
I'm very interested in what you have to say about the Extractive Industries Review. I have not studied up on this, but had the impression the review's recommendation was to put more effort into renewable resource investments.

Posted by: Citizen | Mar 18 2005 5:10 utc | 36

(previous comment continued)
The review seemed concerned that traditional carbon projects were not enriching the general populace, but only small elites. Renewable energy investments were supposed to promise more wealth generation in general. Does this sound relevant and accurate to you (Jerome)?

Posted by: Citizen | Mar 18 2005 5:14 utc | 37

Lupin, I sooo understand you. That's exactly how I felt when I left Serbia...I still love a memory of the country I used to love. I never liked communism or any government for that matter but after Milosevic came in power and all those wars began I felt just like you feel now. I couldn't even "properly HATE” NATO and Americans for bombardment at the time...I felt really terrible...
I've lost my intimate contact deep in my heart with my country and I don't even like visiting that much even today after Milosevic has gone. It's not the same country, everything fundamentally has changed for worse thanks to those wars and as I feel very very sorry for what happened to my country and my people I am deeply SAD and heartbroken for them and even us who escaped same destiny by becoming emigrants...for all of us...so sad... after 11 years in emigration…

Posted by: vbo | Mar 18 2005 5:29 utc | 38

George Kennan loses war with cold

Posted by: The Grim Reaper | Mar 18 2005 5:44 utc | 39

Leftist blog wars: On ethics versus ego, linking and loopiness and anything but unity

It's a jungle out there!

Posted by: I said it first, no I did, no, I did | Mar 18 2005 5:56 utc | 40

Cool reaction to Wolfowitz move

This is crap!!!

But diplomats said it was unlikely that Europe, which holds about 30% of the seats on the bank's board, would seek to strain
transatlantic relations by blocking him.

What the heck - if Europeans don't strain the transatlantic relations Bush strains them, therefors, the transatlantic relations will be strained. So the Europeans might just as well show some back bone and strain them themselves as they will be strained anyway, or what ever. Damn! ;-)

Gosh, must be my eloquent morning!

Posted by: Fran | Mar 18 2005 6:15 utc | 41

Mr. Magoo goes to the World Bank

The problem with Paul Wolfowitz isn't that he's an evil genius. It's that he has been consistently, astonishingly, unswervingly wrong about foreign policy for 30 years.

Posted by: Fran | Mar 18 2005 6:27 utc | 42

Frank Rich in the NYT:

Enron: Patron Saint of Bush's Fake News

The Bush administration, eager to sell the country on "personal" Social Security accounts, cannot be all that pleased to see Kenny Boy again. He's the poster boy for how big guys can rip off suckers in the stock market. He also dredges up some inconvenient pre-9/11 memories of Bush family business. Enron was the biggest Bush-Cheney campaign contributor in the 2000 election. Kenny Boy and his lovely wife Linda flew the first President Bush and Barbara Bush to the ensuing Inauguration on the Enron jet. Even as Enron was presiding over rolling blackouts in California, Dick Cheney or his aides had at least six meetings with the company's executives to carve up government energy policy in 2001. Even now what exactly transpired at those meetings remains a secret.

But never mind. The president himself gave his word when the Enron scandal broke that Kenny Boy was really more of a supporter of Ann Richards anyway. Feeling our pain, Mr. Bush told us of his own personal tragedy: his mother-in-law lost $8,000 she had invested in Enron. Soon stuff was happening in Iraq, and the case was closed, or at least forgotten.

Yet the larger shadows linger. Revisiting the Enron story as it re-emerges in 2005 is to be reminded of just how much the Enron culture has continued to shape the Bush administration long after the company itself imploded and the Lays were eighty-sixed from the White House Christmas card list.


Posted by: Fran | Mar 18 2005 13:07 utc | 43

Journalists">http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/6890A8DA-AF79-45AD-BB4F-42C060978A07.htm">Journalists tell of U.S. Fallujah killings

Posted by: While you were sleeping | Mar 18 2005 13:16 utc | 44

'Outsourcing' torture is cool by me - Porter Goss

Posted by: Torquemada | Mar 18 2005 14:45 utc | 45

What's great about bartcop.com is that he really does, as he claims, "speak stupid." (you know, the language) Ladies and gentlemen, I think we have a rhetorical prize here:

The whole world is talking about Bush's gay sex scandal - everyone but the pro-Bush American media. They spend years on Clinton's girlfriend, but they refuse to print stories about Bush's boyfriend?

I know I should not laugh at this, but I do, and I just did again.

The "liberal press" won't mention the facts (gigolo Gannon's White House access) that they witnessed with their own eyes.

Less funny. Less dynamite. More important.

Posted by: Citizen | Mar 18 2005 14:51 utc | 46

Looks like my birthday was a "Tipping Point"

Roach

Tipping points are a great concept, but virtually impossible to identify ahead of time -- let alone when they are occurring. It is only with the great luxury of hindsight that we can look back and know that the proverbial bell has rung. In my view, March 16, 2005 could end up in the running as a possible tipping point for America. Suddenly, the US has taken on a very different aura in an increasingly unbalanced world: The confluence of a record current account deficit, a disaster from General Motors, and yet another new high for oil prices all speak of an increasingly precarious role for the global hegemon. World financial markets have barely begun to sniff that out.
...
“What’s good for General Motors is good for America.” I realize that dates me, but I’m old enough to remember when that was the battle cry of a once mighty Smokestack America. So when GM throws in the towel on earnings (again) and its bonds trade at near-junk status, maybe there’s more to this story than a quick flicker on the screen.
...
It may well be that the accelerated erosion of America’s manufacturing base in recent years is the most painful outgrowth of a record US saving shortfall. Washington, of course, wants to pin the blame on unfair foreign competition. Instead, it ought to take a look in the mirror: It is the budget deficit, of course, that has been crucial in pushing national saving to record lows in recent years.
...
As I noted recently, history is replete with examples of leadership tests that pit a nation’s military prowess against its economic base (see my 28 February dispatch, “The Pendulum of Global Leadership”). Yale historian Paul Kennedy has long argued that great powers typically fail when military reach outstrips a nation’s economic strength. In that vein, there’s little doubt that America is extending its reach in this post-9/11 world. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the opening salvos. The Bush Administration’s recent nomination of two leading neocons to key global positions -- John Bolton as America’s ambassador to the UN and Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank (also announced on March 16) -- are more recent examples of a White House that is upping the ante on its “transformational” projection of global power. In Paul Kennedy’s historical framework, America is extending its reach at precisely the moment when its economic power base is weakening -- a classic warning sign of the fall of a Great Power.

Roach is Chief Economist of Morgan Stanley - I wonder when they will fire him for being right.

Posted by: b | Mar 18 2005 17:07 utc | 47

Tipping point: only war makes it possible to mobilize all of today's technological resources while maintaining property relations. Don't want to improve the lives of workers, oh no. Better to go off and find someone to murder.

Pretty simple.

Posted by: slothrop | Mar 18 2005 17:40 utc | 48

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/18/politics/18budget.html?ei=5094&en=f0605f4f364eb4f6&hp=&ex=1111122000&partner=homepage&pagewanted=all&position=>Profile in Courage:

In a surprise move, the Senate also voted to approve a total of $134 billion in tax cuts, $34 billion more than President Bush requested and $64 billion more than the Senate Republican leadership had initially proposed.

Posted by: slothrop | Mar 18 2005 19:21 utc | 49

Well, happy belated, b. You were born on the ides of March?

Posted by: beq | Mar 18 2005 19:40 utc | 50

@beq Thanks!, yep born at a "tipping point" - smells like spring, except in the financial markets, they are in deep fall mood.

Posted by: b | Mar 18 2005 19:52 utc | 51

Smells like spring here too. I was born in April, the "cruelest" month. :-(

Posted by: beq | Mar 18 2005 20:02 utc | 52

slothrop posted:

"Nothing is more gratifying than being able to help people in need" ... It would be interesting to know if he ((wolfowitz)) and others like him believe this. My hunch is they don't, and rather enjoy hoodwinking or outraging us all.

They alternate between compassion, pity; disdain and hate.

To them, poor people are useless eaters, guzzling resources for no good purpose, and humans worthy or respect

idiot druggies and sexual deviants, lazy workers, poor citizens because the state is not doing its job with proper law enforcement

the misguided who need to be weaned away from peculiar ideas, doing so is for their own good, they cannot rise up and be noble otherwise.

Fascim (wide meaning), anyone?

They need the peace and quiet of an unprotesting populace, and the pool of cannon fodder. And they have to legitimise their sadism somehow to themselves.

Posted by: Blackie | Mar 18 2005 20:25 utc | 53

http://www.commondreams.org/news2005/0318-01.htm> and the pool of cannon fodder

Posted by: DeAnander | Mar 18 2005 20:45 utc | 54

Blackie,
well said.

And maybe enough of them are starting to believe that the oil and even the coal really will eventually run out, and that they'll want a plan (or a few principles, perhaps) for how to manage the great "contraction".

Posted by: Citizen | Mar 18 2005 20:50 utc | 55

more cannon fodder

Posted by: b real | Mar 18 2005 21:12 utc | 56

might as well throw this one there too

Posted by: b real | Mar 18 2005 21:16 utc | 57

DERRICK DEPLEDGE, HONOLULU ADVERTISER - A Native Hawaiian federal recognition bill would give Hawaiians the same right to self-government as American Indians and Native Alaskans, but would not create new race-based preferences, Hawai'i lawmakers said yesterday. The Hawai'i congressional delegation introduced the legislation for the third time since 2000, and began the difficult political groundwork to overcome skeptical Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration.

"Extending the federal policy of self-determination and self-governance to Native Hawaiians is indispensable to further the process of reconciliation between Native Hawaiians and the United States,'" said Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i.

The bill, identical to a version that stalled last session, would recognize Native Hawaiians as an indigenous people with an inherent right to form a government that could have government-to-government relations with the United States. The bill also would establish a Native Hawaiian office in the Department of Interior and an interagency coordinating group to follow Hawaiian issues and programs in the federal government.

what's this got to do with anything, you ask?

When the Senate voted on the Alaskan pillage bill two deserters from the Democratic opposition stood out: Senators Akaka and Inouye, both from Hawaii. What was the deal? A bridge from San Francisco?

Nothing so dramatic. Here's the bill that Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska has co-sponsored to win the backing the Hawaiian senators...

Divide et Impera!

or "we'll throw a bone to you indigenes in our southernmost imperial possession, if you agree to help us screw the indigenes in our northernmost imperial possession." and it works. it works and it goes on working.

Posted by: DeAnander | Mar 18 2005 22:02 utc | 58

sorry, forgot hat tip to Sam Smith of prorev.com

Posted by: DeAnander | Mar 18 2005 22:07 utc | 59

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/4354269.stm>one more snack -- Palast has broken another big story, but of course it will not be big in the tame US media.

Two years ago today - when President George Bush announced US, British and Allied forces would begin to bomb Baghdad - protesters claimed the US had a secret plan for Iraq's oil once Saddam had been conquered.

In fact there were two conflicting plans, setting off a hidden policy war between neo-conservatives at the Pentagon, on one side, versus a combination of "Big Oil" executives and US State Department "pragmatists".

"Big Oil" appears to have won. The latest plan, obtained by Newsnight from the US State Department was, we learned, drafted with the help of American oil industry consultants.

Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

well we all kinda knew that... still, it is nice to see the staid Beeb admitting it at last.

Posted by: DeAnander | Mar 18 2005 23:43 utc | 60

@DeAnander

I've got a feeling that everything will be admitted in the fullness of time. But by that time, who will care. "History? We'll all be dead".

Posted by: DM | Mar 19 2005 0:33 utc | 61

@DM, yes, it will be little comfort to wheeze, from the confines of my death bed, that "I knew it all along" -- as the exposes and glasnost-history books are finally published a generation after our time.

always assuming there are still books by then. or comfortable death beds for anyone but the truly wealthy. argh.

Posted by: DeAnander | Mar 19 2005 0:49 utc | 62

DeAnander, your posts will live on.

Posted by: beq | Mar 19 2005 1:45 utc | 63

Why Bush really went to war on Iraq: Mapping the oil motive

Posted by: Michael Klare | Mar 19 2005 16:45 utc | 64

An excellent discussion on media bias by WaPo's Dana Milbank:
My Bias for Mainstream News

To judge from the e-mails I received during the four years I spent on the White House beat, Post readers of all political ideologies agree: I am biased.
...
Two decades ago, the late senator-scholar Daniel Patrick Moynihan remarked that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." Now, ideologues are claiming their own facts as well.

According to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, the proportion of people regularly reading newspapers has fallen to 42 percent from 58 percent in a decade, while viewership of network evening news has fallen to 34 percent from 60 percent. And with that decline comes a loss of the mainstream media's role as referee, helping to sort out fact from fiction in the nation's affairs.
...
In a presidential debate last year, after Kerry cited a news report, Bush retorted: "In all due respect, I'm not so sure it's credible to quote leading news organizations."

This is no coincidence. Look at Page 77 of the Defense Science Board's 2004 study titled "Transition to and from Hostilities." The Pentagon advisory board writes: "Today, political struggles are about the creation and destruction of credibility." The board was writing about foreign propaganda, but the lesson applies at home, too. In the past, the key to winning in politics was to control the information. Now, when information has no controls, the key is making your information credible and casting doubt on other information -- such as that found in the mainstream press.
...
Stephen Hayes of the conservative Weekly Standard protested in a November article that during the campaign, "journalists at the New York Times and the Washington Post and the television networks saw themselves not as conveyors of facts but as truth-squadders, toiling away on the gray margins of the political debate." These journalists, he continued, "fancy themselves thinkers, not mere scribes. They go to work every day to tell us not what the Bush administration has said, but what it has left unsaid."

Imagine that! An independent press looking for the truth rather than serving as stenographers for the powerful. It's a quaint tradition Americans would be wise not to abandon.

Posted by: b | Mar 19 2005 19:33 utc | 65

IMF chief: Oil prices high for 2 years

Posted by: IMF on oil | Mar 19 2005 21:59 utc | 66

TARGET PRACTICE


Unfortunately, I can't find anything redeeming with this one.

Posted by: Groucho | Mar 20 2005 0:59 utc | 67

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