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Archive for June 20th, 2008

Obama Opts Out of Public Financing

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:47 am by HL

Obama Opts Out of Public Financing
In a video message to supporters, Sen. Barack Obama announced he would opt out of the public financing system for the presidential election, effectively forgoing more than $80 million in public funds.

Wrote Obama: “It’s not an easy decision, and especially because I support a robust system of public financing of elections. But the public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system. John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”


Sympathy for the Devil

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:46 am by HL

Sympathy for the Devil
This story in the New York Times has already been widely noted across the blogiverse this morning: “Four Western oil 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….”

cheneyhakim.thumbnail.jpgThis story in the New York Times has already been widely noted across the blogiverse this morning:

Four Western oil 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.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat.

The deals, expected to be announced on June 30, will lay the foundation for the first commercial work for the major companies in Iraq since the American invasion, and open a new and potentially lucrative country for their operations.

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.

The initial reaction can be summed up as varying shades of “Yep, this is the imperialism we were expecting.” And the response is certainly justifiable; favorable business deals under the shadow of imposing force are how “protection” rackets have functioned since the dawn of time.

An important caveat (noted by Andrew Tilghman at TPM Muckraker), though, appears midway through the NYT article:

The no-bid deals are structured as service contracts. The companies will be paid for their work, rather than offered a license to the oil deposits. As such, they do not require the passage of an oil law setting out terms for competitive bidding. The legislation has been stalled by disputes among Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish parties over revenue sharing and other conditions.

A service contract approach, rather than so-called production sharing agreements (PSAs) that would give foreign companies a share of the oil itself, is exactly how liberals have called for Iraq to handle its resource development.  With no PSAs, and no much-desired (by the Bushites) oil law to support a more rapacious generous approach to Western involvement in Iraq’s fields, these contracts could be seen as a bone thrown by the Shiite government in Baghdad to placate the U.S. for a few months until Barack Obama a new administration comes to Washington, DC.

This may especially be the case when one considers the resistance by the Maliki government to approving a long-term security agreement that would prolong the occupation.  Given the hints of hardball tactics by Bush/Cheney et al. to get their way, a few small oil contracts could be an attempt by Maliki & Co. to ease the pressure.  As the bards sang forty years ago:

If you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I’ll lay your soul to waste…

In other words, a little token favor in the face of unrestrained vice might be excused as a necessary evil.  We’ll have to see what next steps follow these contracts (particularly in terms of the so-called Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA) to determine whether the Iraqi government is in fact trying to buy time from the devils they’re forced to deal with, or whether they’ve joined the latter as full partners in crime.


Mass Mortgage Fraud Indictments

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:45 am by HL

Mass Mortgage Fraud Indictments

The Justice Department has been busy.

Former Bear Stearns Cos. hedge fund managers Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, arrested this morning at their homes in New Jersey and Manhattan, were indicted for mail fraud and conspiracy in the first prosecution stemming from a federal investigation of last year's mortgage-market collapse.

The two men were charged with misleading investors about the health of two Bear Stearns hedge funds whose implosion ignited the subprime mortgage crisis. Cioffi was also charged with insider trading in the indictment, which cites a series of e-mails between the two men. They face as much as 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.

It's part of the Justice Department's Operation Malicious Mortgage. In Chicago, there were 70 arrests. More than 400 have been indicted since March, with many more arrested:

Since March 1,406 people have been arrested in the sting dubbed “Operation Malicious Mortgage” that saw 144 cases across the country. Sixty people were arrested on Wednesday alone, including in Chicago, Miami, Houston and a dozen other regions policed by the FBI.


Kick Their Ass And Take Their Gas

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:44 am by HL

Kick Their Ass And Take Their Gas
As Yglesias suggests, I don’t really think we went to war in Iraq for oil, or at least that wasn’t the primary motive of a lot of the major players, but it is part (though again, not all) of the reason we’ll stay there forever.

So we’ll spend a hell of a lot of money and lose a lot of lives presiding over an occupation and using our military to provide security for the private security which will be guarding the commercial interests involved in oil extraction.

And since it’s against Village etiquette to suggest that we we are engaged in an imperial colonial adventure, it will be almost impossible to debate the merits of our policies in Iraq or even have a vaguely honest discussion about what those policies are. Hiding behind peeance and freeance and a “desire for victory” and fears of the “inevitable” regional war if we leave to obscure just what it’s all about.

Evening Thread
Enjoy.


School Uses Fake Drunk Driving Tragedy to Scare Students

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:43 am by HL

School Uses Fake Drunk Driving Tragedy to Scare Students
A San Diego high school tried a ruse aimed at teaching a lesson about the consequences of drunk driving — but scare tactics just don’t work.


The Politics of Gay Black Men

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:42 am by HL

The Politics of Gay Black Men
AAPP: Talking about issues related to Gay black men may not be an interesting topic for many black political bloggers, but it is for this African American Political Pundit (and let me be very clear “I’m Not Gay).” Yes, I placed it in bold folks. There are many issues in gay communities that are not talked about by the main stream media or for that matter the black blogging community. As an example the issue of blacks gays getting married and if Gay Marriage is Anti Black is not a topic of
—- link

LeftWord: The Best Liberal Blog Posts
All The Best Liberal Blog Posts From Arond The Web.


Knock His Bloch Off

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:41 am by HL

Knock His Bloch Off
Facing a growing staff revolt, Bush’s scandal-plagued head of the Office of Special Counsel (the one who tried to bamboozle investigators by taking his hard drive to Rent-A-Geek) plans a pricey staff retreat. “We’re trying to deal with this by…


The Coastal Drilling Con

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:40 am by HL

The Coastal Drilling Con

Over at the Campaign for America’s Future blog for the last few days, I’ve been blogging about Bush’s and McCain’s proposals to lift the ban on coastal drilling — which will do absolutely nothing to lower gas prices. You can check out the posts here.


Video: Heckler hits McCain speech

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:39 am by HL

Video: Heckler hits McCain speech
Video: Heckler hits McCain speech

Expert: Wiretap deal would destroy 4th Amendment
Expert: Wiretap deal would destroy 4th Amendment


Sessions: ‘We ought to be saying the energy companies are our friends.’

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on June 20th, 2008 4:38 am by HL

Sessions: ‘We ought to be saying the energy companies are our friends.’
Proudly doing Big Oil’s bidding on the House floor today, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) said: What do we hear back from Washington, DC? … “Let’s stick it to Big Oil!” Well, in fact, what we ought to be saying is that energy companies are our friends. … What are the energy companies saying? They’re […]

Proudly doing Big Oil’s bidding on the House floor today, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) said:

What do we hear back from Washington, DC? … “Let’s stick it to Big Oil!” Well, in fact, what we ought to be saying is that energy companies are our friends. … What are the energy companies saying? They’re saying please give us the opportunity to go where there is oil or the perception that there’s oil and go looking for it and provide it to the American public.

Watch it:

The energy companies are certainly friends of Pete Sessions. Since 2004, Sessions has received over $330,000 from the oil and gas industry. In return, Sessions is aggressively promoting greater oil drilling. But as the Energy Information Administration states, increased drilling in the outer continental shelf will have an “insignificant” impact on oil prices.