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Iraq sits atop 115 billion barrels of crude, the world's third largest proven reserves of conventional crude oil. But current production of about 2.4 million barrels per day remains well below levels before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
Al-Maliki's government has vowed, based on developers' promises, to raise output to more than 12 million barrels a day within six to seven years. The production increase would translate into hundreds of billions of dollars in sorely needed revenue for a government that relies on crude sales for 95 percent of its revenues.
Backed by armed bodyguards, international oil executives have flocked to this southern Iraqi city to survey their potentially lucrative prizes: the fields that they hope will one day be pumping out dramatically greater amounts of cheap, plentiful crude.
For their companies, the fields that they won the rights to develop in two biddings rounds last year are their first foray into Iraq's oil sector in over three decades.
For Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the executives and their investments are a vital part of his bid to win a second term in March 7 elections. Al-Maliki has billed himself to voters as the leader that can ensure the development of Iraq's dilapidated oil sector and bring in billions of dollars to rebuild the country's struggling economy. Read more.
Iraq Opening to BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell for First Time Since 1972
By Anthony DiPaola and Daniel Williams | Bloomberg
BP Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. took the best deal they could get in Iraq last year when they won the largest oil contracts since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003. Oil companies may wait a long time to get a better one.
Parliamentary elections may produce a weak or unstable government incapable of tendering new oil contracts, said Samuel Ciszuk, a London-based analyst at IHS Global Insight. He said he does expect the 10 technical-services contracts won by Exxon, BP and 20 other companies to be honored.
“One thing that’s fairly certain is there won’t be a strong coalition, so it may take time for the next government to get its act together,” Ciszuk said in a telephone interview. “Bottlenecks could hold up production increases” if no government forms by June.
Western producers haven’t had access to oil fields in southern Iraq since 1972, when the country nationalized production including concessions owned by the companies now known as BP, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Exxon.
The contracts awarded in two auctions, which pay a per- barrel fee for development work rather than granting a share in the production itself, will cost the companies a total of about $100 billion to develop deposits, Oil Minister Hussain al- Shahristani said in December. Iraq, with the world’s third- largest oil reserves, will earn about $200 billion a year. Read more.
Iraq Opens Up to Foreign Oil Majors
Western producers like BP, Exxon Mobil, and Shell are enjoying their best access to Iraq's southern oil fields since 1972, but a weaker government could be on the way
By Anthony DiPaola and Daniel Williams | Business Week
BP Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. took the best deal they could get in Iraq last year when they won the largest oil contracts since addam Hussein was toppled in 2003. Oil companies may wait a long time to get a better one.
Parliamentary elections may produce a weak or unstable government incapable of tendering new oil contracts, said Samuel Ciszuk, a London-based analyst at IHS Global Insight. He said he does expect the 10 technical-services contracts won by Exxon, BP and 20 other companies to be honored.
"One thing that's fairly certain is there won't be a strong coalition, so it may take time for the next government to get its act together," Ciszuk said in a telephone interview....
The contracts awarded in two auctions, which pay a per-barrel fee for development work rather than granting a share in the production itself, will cost the companies a total of about $100 billion to develop deposits, Oil Minister Hussain al-Shahristani said in December. Iraq, with the world's third-largest oil reserves, will earn about $200 billion a year....
U.S. troop levels will fall to 50,000 from the current 97,000 by August of this year, according to a schedule laid out by President Barack Obama in February 2009. All troops will leave by the end of 2011 under an agreement with the Iraqi government reached by President George W. Bush....Read more.
VoteVets' goal is to focus attention to the argument that energy dependence is a pending (if not already occurring) national security crisis. And, in that regard, the spot should be considered a blunt instrument for making the argument - elevating veterans and drawing terrorism into the heart of the energy debate.
The spot will air in the following states: Alaska, Indiana, Maine, Montana, Missouri, North Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia, all of which house critical Senate votes.
PETER WHITE CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION OF BIG OIL AND FOREIGN POLICY | www.peterwhiteindependent4congress.com
Independent candidate for Congress (MA 10th District) Peter White is calling for an independent investigation of the influence that the oil companies have over the Foreign Policy of the United States.
"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated publically that the oil companies RULE Congress, and they have made record high profits because of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan," says White. "Big OIL is now taking almost 3 million barrels of oil a day out of Iraq, and they plan to build a pipeline through Afghanistan to access the fossil fuel deposits in Central Asia - that's why Obama's troop surge is taking place."
White first ran for Congress in 2006, when he called for the impeachment of Bush/Cheney and an end to the War for OIL. He is also a renewable energy advocate who feels that the oil companies and energy monopolies are holding back the development of clean, alternative energy sources that will lead to an end of American oil imports.
"Calvin Coolidge said that the business of America is business, but it's time to change that to peace, jobs, human needs, and environmental wisdom," White said. "The truth will set us free from the dominance of greedy, destructive, murderous oil companies!"
The Environmental Activists of Climate Ground Zero and Mountain Justice Stand Up to Big Coal in West Virginia
In the hills and hollers of southern West Virginia, a protest movement for environmental justice, social justice and human rights has arisen in the recent past that is having tremendous success. Arrayed against this movement is the multi-billion-dollar coal industry that owns the government of the State of West Virginia. Stepping into the breach with calls for an end to mountainop removal coal extraction are two groups that practice civil disobedience on behalf of the environment: Climate Ground Zero (CGZ) and Mountain Justice (MJ). Comprised of volunteers, these organizations have peacefully protested coal company practices that run a real risk of bringing death, dismemberment, horror and mainfold tragedy to thousands of people in southern West Virginia's Coal River Valley.
“Peaceful” doesn't mean “ineffectual,” however, and the actions of CGZ and MJ have, forced the "Coal Mob" to tip its hand by engaging in the same sort of ham-fisted tactics that have always been coal's stock-in-trade. Using the bought-and-paid-for West Virginia justice system, peaceful protesters arrested for trespass and the like have been subjected to merciless cash bails that have literally kept them behind bars while alleged child molesters have walked free on bond. They have been threatened with death, assaulted and terrorized. In the face of it all, they have not flinched.
John Jonik sent the following information:
Here's one link to info on where to send Public Comments to stop the Fracking for Natural Gas in Pennsylvania public and private lands, and the theft of our water, the threats to the Delaware River, the poisoning of our water, the pollution and environmental damage from trucks, and so forth.
Sierra Club isn't exactly the strongest ally in any natural lands defense, but the info is here anyway.
For very thorough coverage of the situation, Google up University City Press Review articles here.
Look up plenty of other articles on the topic there.
By Charlotte Dennett
A driving snowstorm could not keep Vermonters away from the statehouse in Montpelier yesterday as the Vermont Senate convened a historic debate and then voted on the future of the state’s aging nuclear power plant. Some 1300 people – most of them standing before live video coverage outside the small, overcrowded Senate chamber -- listened to several hours of respectful debate that even included the proposition of building a new nuclear power plant in Vermont as per President Obama’s pro-nuclear agenda. But when it was all over, senators from both parties resoundingly voted against a last-minute amendment for a new plant to replace the old one, and similarly defeated re-licensure of Vermont Yankee in 2012 by a vote of 26 to 4. Amidst cheers, clapping and hugs from the victors, it was clearly another Vermont moment for a state that prides itself on being cutting edge on social, political and environmental issues. As the only state in the nation that by statute allows its legislature to decide whether to re-license a nuclear power plant, the vote is likely to have wide-reaching ramifications, including for residents of Massachusetts who live near the Vermont Yankee plant.
Avatar: The Prequel
Will Earth’s Last Stand Sweep the 2013 Oscars?
By Michael T. Klare | Tom Dispatch
From TomDispatch this afternoon: looking beyond Oscar week, Michael Klare, author of Resource Wars, suggests to James Cameron what his next Avatar film should be, a 2144 prequel set on a resource-ravaged planet Earth -- Michael Klare, "Avatar: The Prequel, Will Earth's Last Stand Sweep the 2013 Oscar's"
For his latest post directed toward the upcoming Academy Awards, Michael T. Klare, our premier scholar of "resource wars," offers himself to director James Cameron as a "technical consultant" on the next Avatar film which, he suggests, should be a prequel set on planet Earth in 2144 (a decade before the present Avatar begins). It would be, he writes, "a Pandora-style, sensory-expanding guided tour of our own planet... part of a harrowing tale of environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and perennial conflict in the twilight years of humanity’s decline. Think of it as Avatar: Earth’s Last Stand."
Klare's suggestion is based on hints already embedded in the global smash hit now in 3-D movie theaters across the planet: according to Avatar, Jake Scully, the renegade Marine who joins the Na'vi, previously served in "the First Marine Reconnaissance unit" on three combat tours in Venezuela (where he evidently got his spinal injury) and his commander on Pandora, Colonel Quaritch, fought in Nigeria. Both, Klare points out, are embattled oil-rich countries which may still have energy reserves deep into the twenty-second century.
Drawing on his "resource wars" expertise -- the phrase "resource wars" was the title of his pathbreaking 2001 book -- Klare paints for Cameron a picture of our energy-starved, ravaged world of 2144, so that you understand just why giant mining companies would set off for Pandora in search of "unobtanium."
Klare's latest post offers an initially light-hearted, but striking way of outlining our environmental and energy dilemmas a century-plus down the line. His piece suggests the next step after Avatar and is a splendid political prequel to the upcoming Academy Awards ceremony. He concludes: "It’s not that hard to imagine just such a future world if we continue on our present course toward ever greater resource consumption, increased carbon emissions, and the militarization of resource dependency. Can you doubt that the movie Cameron and I would make, Avatar: Earth’s Last Stand, would be both gripping and spectacular? It would be an amazing, if tension-producing place to visit in 3-D. Here’s the only catch: you wouldn’t want to live there." Read it!
I’ll have more on Maureen Mahoney’s first response on behalf of Jay Bybee to the OPR report later today. But I wanted to draw attention to a footnote she includes to–apparently–explain that Jay Bybee was a very busy man at the time when he was supposed to be overseeing John Yoo’s attempts to legalize torture in the summer of 2002. (This is on PDF page 19)
Judge Bybee’s role in reviewing the memo began in earnest around mid-July, roughly two weeks before he signed them.5
5 During the summer of 2002, in addition to his work on national security issues, Judge Bybee, as head of OLC, was also heavily involved in a number of other difficult and pressing legal matters. Of particular note, Judge Bybee was engaged in the district court litigation in Walker v. Cheney, No. 02-340 (DD.C.). Read more.
by Marcy Winograd
Imagine if in 2010 we did not spend one more borrowed penny to manufacture new weapons, occupy new lands, or recruit new mercenaries. Going cold turkey on military spending would wipe out nearly $1 trillion of our 1.6 trillion dollar deficit. A year and a half of war & weapons abstinence could erase our debt entirely.
Unfortunately, America is addicted to war and to debt. Fortunately, we can work together to kick the perpetual war and debt habit.
Greens Call President Obama's Resurrection Of Nuclear Power And Handout For Georgia Nuclear Reactors His "Worst Idea Yet"
WASHINGTON, DC -- Green Party leaders and candidates are calling President Obama's resurrection of nuclear power with a multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-funded subsidy for a Georgia plant his "worst idea yet" and warned about serious public health threats posed by mining, waste transportation, and waste storage. The Green Party disputes the myths that nuclear power is 'green energy' or a solution to the advance of climate change.
"The twin nuclear reactors in Burke County, Georgia, would be financed with $5.4 billion in loans from the Federal Financing Bank with money of the US Treasury. According to the GAO, this investment has a 50/50 percent or worse chance of failing. President Obama wants taxpayers to assume 80% of the financial risk to turn the southeast Atlantic states into a big open-pit radioactive barbeque. This investment is a terrible idea -- President Obama's worst yet," said Lisa Green, Green candidate for California Assembly Candidate, 53rd Assembly District.
"If built, the plant will be a financial disaster because of high construction expenses and likely cost overruns, compared with other sources of electrical power. As the first of a new generation of nuclear power plants, it'll carry huge technical risks. Even more ominous is the problem of mining, waste storage, and waste transportation through populated areas, which carry huge public health dangers," added Ms. Green.
Greens noted that, in the US, more people have died from contamination from uranium mining, from causes such as water sources polluted by mine tailings, and from uranium transportation than from all the causes after materials reach the first processing plant (see here and here). Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently told a Senate committee that, for the foreseeable future, the plants will probably store spent fuel rods on site. No long-term plan exists anywhere for storing commercial radioactive waste.
They will also support numerous treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the proposed treaty to ban the production of nuclear materials for weapons.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 19, 2010) — The American Physical Society (APS), the world's leading organization of physicists, has released a report identifying technical steps that will help the U.S. achieve its goals to downsize the nuclear arsenal, prevent the spread of atomic bombs and keep the stockpile safe and secure.
Vice President Joe Biden outlined those objectives during a speech in Washington, D.C., and the APS report, Technical Steps to Support Nuclear Downsizing, provides concrete steps -- including the use of nuclear archaeology to validate nations' production of atomic material -- that will help the nation accomplish its goals.
By David Rovics
In a country with the kind of tumultuous history that Ireland has it's not surprising that a man being arrested and jailed for seven months would escape the notice of the media, at least outside of Ireland. What should hopefully pique some interest is that this is a man with a long history of being bullied, intimidated, arrested and treated roughly by the authorities for his nonviolent resistance against Shell Oil's construction of a gas pipeline, and now the judge is calling him a bully and jailing him for seven months on the extremely dubious charge of intimidating an officer.
To be sure, this is not Nigeria, where Shell regularly massacres those opposed to the oil drilling which is destroying the environment and the livelihoods of so much of the population. Shell doesn't run Ireland in the way it controls Nigeria. But at the same time, much like my own country, the Irish government has proven itself to be far from free of corruption.
Haiti Is Open for Business
By Stephen Lendman
In December 1984, Canada's conservative prime minister, Brian Mulroney, told the New York Economic Club that "Canada is open for business," meaning US companies were welcome, the two countries would work for greater economic integration, America's sovereignty took precedence of his own, and corporate interests from both countries could operate freely at the expense of most Canadians.
That's always been Haiti's curse, now more than ever. Under American militarized control, Haiti is occupied for profit, its pseudo government largely invisible, and predators aim to cash in to the fullest. On January 21, in his article titled, "Securing disaster in Haiti," Peter Hallward explained, saying:
"....the US-led relief operation has conformed to the three fundamental tendencies that have shaped the more general course of the island's recent history. It has adopted military priorities and strategies. It has sidelined Haiti's own leaders and government, and ignored the needs of the majority of its people. And it has proceeded in ways that reinforce the already harrowing gap between rich and poor. All three tendencies aren't just connected, they are mutually reinforcing. (They'll also) govern the imminent reconstruction effort as well, unless determined political action is taken to counteract them."
ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2010) — Despite good intentions, the push to privatize government functions and insistence upon "free trade" that is too often unfair has caused declining food production, increased poverty and a hunger crisis for millions of people in many African nations, researchers conclude in a new study.
Market reforms that began in the mid-1980s and were supposed to aid economic growth have actually backfired in some of the poorest nations in the world, and just in recent years led to multiple food riots, scientists report Feb 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
ScienceDaily (Feb. 15, 2010) — RTI International has developed a revolutionary lighting technology that is more energy efficient than the common incandescent light bulb and does not contain mercury, making it environmentally safer than the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb.
Sanders Introduces Major Solar Energy Initiative | Press Release
WASHINGTON, February 4 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chairman of the Senate’s green jobs subcommittee, today introduced legislation with nine cosponsors to encourage the installation of 10 million solar systems on the rooftops of homes and businesses over the next decade.
“At a time when we spend $350 billion importing oil from Saudi Arabia and other countries every year, the United States must move away from foreign oil to energy independence,” Sanders said. “A dramatic expansion of solar power is a clean and economical way to help break our dependence on foreign oil, reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, improve our geopolitical position, and create good-paying green jobs.”
At a Senate committee hearing today, Sanders questioned Energy Secretary Steven Chu about President Obama’s budget for next year. The White House requested $2.4 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs. The requested 5 percent boost overall included a 22 percent increase for solar power.
The potential for solar power also was the subject of testimony last week before Sanders’ green jobs subcommittee by Jeff Wolfe, chief executive officer of groSolar in White River Junction, Vt. Wolfe said Sanders’ bill “would help homeowners and small businesses stabilize their energy costs.”
Sanders’ bill would authorize rebates which, along with other incentives, would cover up to half the cost of the 10 million solar power systems and 200,000 water heating systems. Non-profit groups and state and local governments also would be eligible. The legislation would ensure that participating homeowners and businesses also receive information on incentives to improve energy efficiency.
Sanders said a recent report shows that solar power could help make every state more energy independent if solar units were installed on available rooftop space, because every state can meet 10 percent or more of its electricity needs just through rooftop solar. Moreover, because solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than other energy sources. Sanders’ bill could create hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next ten years in the solar industry.
The legislation’s cosponsors include Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.).
Sanders’ measure is patterned after successful state programs promoting solar energy in New Jersey and California, where prices have fallen as the number of solar units increased.
To read a copy of the bill, click here.
Tom of TomDispatch.com wrote:
Remember the good old days? As TomDispatch regular and author of War Without End Michael Schwartz recalls them: "How the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, an overconfident Bush administration expected to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, pacify the country, install a compliant client government, privatize the economy, and establish Iraq as the political and military headquarters for a dominating U.S. presence in the Middle East." And that was only to be the beginning: The dream in those now seemingly distant days was to strip OPEC -- the cartel consisting of the planet’s main petroleum exporters -- of the power to control the oil supply and its price on the world market, and to do so by putting Iraq's vast oil reserves in the hands of the major international oil companies. (In the process, so the Bush administration dream went, some part of the vast increase in Iraq's oil output could even be used to pay for the American invasion and occupation.)
Of course, none of this happened and, at a moment when American eyes are off Iraq (despite the 110,000 American troops still in the country), Schwartz offers, in his latest TomDispatch post, a riveting account of what actually happened -- and why, despite every effort on the part of the Bush administration, Iraqi oil output, to this day, has not been significantly raised.
This is a classic tale, wonderfully told, of imperial hubris, remarkable blundering, Iraqi resistance, and energy politics. And it is ongoing. Schwartz's account takes you from the invasion of 2003 to late tomorrow night. He concludes: "The end is not in sight and the outcome still unclear. Will the vast Iraqi oil reserves be developed and sent into the hungry world market any time soon? If they are, who will determine the rate of flow, and so wield the power this decision-making confers? And once this ocean of oil is sold, who will receive the potentially incredible revenues? As with so much else, when it comes to Iraqi oil, the American war has generated so many problems and catastrophes -- and so few answers."
The Iraqi Oil Conundrum
Energy and Power in the Middle East
By Michael Schwartz
How the mighty have fallen. Just a few years ago, an overconfident Bush administration expected to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, pacify the country, install a compliant client government, privatize the economy, and establish Iraq as the political and military headquarters for a dominating U.S. presence in the Middle East. These successes were, in turn, expected to pave the way for ambitious goals, enshrined in the 2001 report of Vice President Dick Cheney’s secretive task force on energy. That report focused on exploiting Iraq’s monstrous, largely untapped energy reserves -- more than any country other than Saudi Arabia and Iran -- including the quadrupling of Iraq’s capacity to pump oil and the privatization of the production process.
The dream in those distant days was to strip OPEC -- the cartel consisting of the planet’s main petroleum exporters -- of the power to control the oil supply and its price on the world market. As a reward for vastly expanding Iraqi production and freeing its distribution from OPEC’s control, key figures in the Bush administration imagined that the U.S. could skim off a small proportion of that increased oil production to offset the projected $40 billion cost of the invasion and occupation of the country.
All in a year or two. Read more.
CO2 abatement: Exploring options for oil and natural gas companies
Oil and natural gas companies play a central role in CO2 emissions. How can the industry meet the challenge from climate change regulations?
Scott Nyquist and Jurriaan Ruys | McKinsey Quarterly
The oil and natural gas industry is directly responsible for just 6 percent of global CO2 emissions, but the debate over how to reduce the global greenhouse gases (GHG) commonly associated with climate change focuses primarily on oil and natural gas companies. These companies are under constant regulatory and reputational pressure to reduce both upstream and downstream CO2 emissions, and in the coming years they will increasingly be expected to provide solutions and make investments. The reason for this emphasis on the industry is that when you add the CO2 emitted in the end uses (transportation, power and heat generation), the petroleum and gas sectors account for almost half of all global emissions.
It is important to understand the position of the oil and gas industry in the context of the larger debate over climate change. By exploring some of the options that the sector has for reducing GHG emissions, oil and natural gas companies can not only stay ahead of regulatory and economic developments but also potentially profit from them. Read more, requires site registration.
Must be somebody's idea of a joke.
ScienceDaily (Jan. 26, 2010) — The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has announced that it recently completed the installation and successful startup of a new surveillance diagnostic tool that is capable of detecting aging defects on critical components in the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.
A Global Push for Renewable Energy
With 142 member nations already signed on, the new International Renewable Energy Agency is promoting a fast, global transition to clean, safe, and renewable energy.
by Alice Slater | Yes!
Since 1995, when more than 170 nations voted to extend the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, civil society has been calling for the establishment of an international agency to promote renewable energy sources to take the place of fossil fuels without resorting to nuclear power.
Recognizing the “inextricable link” between nuclear weapons and nuclear power, Abolition 2000, a global network for the elimination of nuclear weapons, drafted a model statute for the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) and lobbied nations around the world to institute it.  Joining with other grassroots networks working to avoid catastrophic climate change through a transition to sustainable energy, activists spoke up at numerous international meetings and conferences and conferred with national environmental departments, seeking support for an energy agency focused solely on clean, safe, renewable energy.
In January 2009, one year ago, Germany, Denmark, and Spain launched the founding meeting for IRENA in Bonn, Germany.  A year later, 142 of the 192 member states of the United Nations, as well as the European Union, have signed the IRENA statute. The agency has opened headquarters in Abu Dhabi and branch offices in Bonn and Vienna, and its interim-director general, Helene Pelosse, a former French environmental minister who held positions in trade and finance as well, is determined to hire a staff comprised of at least 50 percent women.
IRENA is committed to becoming a principal driving force in promoting a rapid transition toward the sustainable use of a renewable energy on a global scale. It has a mandate to promote all forms of renewable energy produced in a sustainable manner, including solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, ocean, and appropriate bio energy. It will provide practical advice and support for both industrialized and developing countries, helping them to build capacity and improve their regulatory frameworks. Read more.
Oil giant Shell and Malaysia's state-run Petronas oil company finalised a contract on Sunday to develop Iraq's giant Majnoon oil field.
In December Shell and Petronas beat a rival bid from France's Total and China's CNPC to develop the 12.6bn barrel field in southern Iraq.
The field currently produces just 46,000 barrels per day.
Shell and Petronas have pledged to increase that output to 1.8 million barrels per day. Read more.
Stop the Chamber; I Want to Get Off! Group to Expose Candidates Accepting Funds From Commerce Lobbyists
It's 2010. Do you know which corporate pocket your representative is in?
There is no better analogy for the outsize influence of corporations upon government than the behavior of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of late. The "world's largest business federation" has transformed itself into a lobbying machine for some of the nation's dirtiest corporate crooks in a series of misleading campaigns against climate change legislation, affordable healthcare, the employee free choice act, campaign spending reform, corporate responsibility, consumer protection, and keeping social security private.
All the more reason to know who they've been wining and dining on the Hill.Velvet Revolution, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to clean and honest government," issued a statement today announcing they plan to target political candidates who accept contributions from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"If a candidate gets support from the Chamber, we are going to call him or her out for accepting tainted money -- money from big business that is not going into creating jobs, providing health care, and cleaning up Wall Street. We will demand that candidates renounce the Chamber's support, return any funding, and condemn the Chamber’s advertisements and policies. If they do not, we will expose them," said Kevin Zeese, spokesman and attorney for Velvet Revolution in a statement.
Today's news release is part of Velvet Revolution's larger "Stop the Chamber" campaign (to which BuzzFlash has signed on), which seeks to expose the Chamber's lobbying efforts against all kinds of reform, as well as to precipitate an investigation into allegations of the organization's illegal activities:
Polluters like Big Coal, Big Asbestos, and Big Oil only need call the Chamber to stop any accountability for their toxic destruction. Wall Street banks and CEOs need only make sure that they have paid their Chamber dues to ensure that they can continue to rip off the taxpayers. And killers like Big Tobacco need only form a partnership with the Chamber to ensure that they will be given immunity from lawsuits that seek accountability for the death and sickness of millions of Americans...
Not only is the Chamber lobbying and advertising against the interests of Americans, it is also committing fraud and violating campaign finance laws by creating fake astroturfing front groups, with patriotic names like Citizens for a Strong Ohio, and then illegally funneling millions of anonymous dollars into those groups to attack candidates and judges who won't do their bidding.
This announcement doesn't come a moment too soon. Not only are primary elections coming up, but the Chamber of Commerce just recently signaled its plans to spend record amounts of money in the 2010 elections. Read more.
A wave of American companies have been arriving in Iraq in recent months to pursue what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar bonanza of projects to revive the country’s stagnant petroleum industry, as Iraq seeks to establish itself as a rival to Saudi Arabia as the world’s top oil producer.
Since the 2003 American-led invasion, nearly all of the biggest reconstruction projects in Iraq have been controlled by the United States. But many rebuilding contracts are expected to be awarded as soon as this month for drilling hundreds of new wells, repairing thousands of miles of pipeline and building several giant floating oil terminals in the Persian Gulf, and possibly a new port.
The contracts will be administered either directly by the Iraqi government or as part of Baghdad’s oversight of international oil companies that have signed agreements during the past few months to develop the country’s most promising oil fields.
There are misgivings, however, about Iraq’s ability to adequately monitor contracts that could total $10 billion over the next five years. The concerns have been heightened by the prominent role expected to be played by American companies that have been criticized in the past by United States government auditors and inspectors for overcharging by hundreds of millions of dollars, performing shoddy work and failing to finish hundreds of crucial projects while under contract in Iraq. Read more.
As Schell has, in recent months, been traveling the world mentally comparing Europe's high-speed trains to our own clunky railroads, and China's gleaming airlines and airports to our own down-at-the-mouth equivalents, he's "taken to keeping a double-entry list of what works and what doesn’t, country by country. Unfortunately, it’s largely a list of what works “there” and doesn’t work here. It’s in places like China, South Korea, Sweden, Holland, Switzerland, and (until recently) the United Arab Emirates -- some not even open societies -- that you find people hard at work on the challenges of education, transport, energy, and the environment. It’s there that one feels the sense of possibility, of hopefulness, of can-do optimism so long associated with the U.S."
This beautifully written piece is, then, his list of what works and (mostly) what doesn't in this country, one man's portrait of how a can-do nation turned into a can't-do one. He concludes: "That list of can-do’s remains so unbearably short and the cant-do’s grows by the trip. I’d love to be convinced otherwise, but like the ice fields of the Greater Himalaya melting before our eyes, American prowess and promise, once seemingly as much a permanent part of the global landscape as glaciers, mountains, and oceans, seems to be melting away by the day."
The Melting of America
The Story of a Can’t-Do Nation
By Orville Schell
Lately, I’ve been studying the climate-change induced melting of glaciers in the Greater Himalaya. Understanding the cascading effects of the slow-motion downsizing of one of the planet’s most magnificent landforms has, to put it politely, left me dispirited. Spending time considering the deleterious downstream effects on the two billion people (from the North China Plain to Afghanistan) who depend on the river systems -- the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Irrawaddy, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Amu Darya and Tarim -- that arise in these mountains isn’t much of an antidote to malaise either.
If you focus on those Himalayan highlands, a deep sense of loss creeps over you -- the kind that comes from contemplating the possible end of something once imagined as immovable, immutable, eternal, something that has unexpectedly become vulnerable and perishable as it has slipped into irreversible decline. Those magnificent glaciers, known as the Third Pole because they contain the most ice in the world short of the two polar regions, are now wasting away on an overheated planet and no one knows what to do about it. Read more.