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Think at your own risk.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
The morning read: welcome to Tehran
Hey, did you hear the one about the government-chartered mortgage giants who spent $200 million to buy influence in Washington? About 20 McCain advisers have...

Forget all that talk about "appeasement" and the "Axis of evil..." The Guardian reports the Bush administration is preparing to establish an "interests section" in Iran, similar to the one we have in Cuba. The move is a half-step away from setting up an embassy, and comes on the heels of news the U.S. will send the third in command at the State Department to silently observe European talks with Tehran. Et tu, Bushie? In other news, the neocons will be wearing black today as a sign of mourning. Dick Cheney will be wearing an ankle monitor.

There are two ways to look at this news. Either GWB has turned his foreign policy over to Condi Rice, taking the portfolio away from Dick Cheney and his band of neocon nutjobs, in order to salvage some semblance of a legacy in the final months of his administration ... or, Bush hopes to undermine Barack Obama's foreign policy stances one by one, by preempting him on engagement with Iran, troop drawdowns in Iraq, etc. Either way, it will be interesting to see whether John McCain is swift enough to pick up the ball, or whether he will keep blustering on about staying in Iraq forever and ever and blowing Iran to hell.

Also in the Guardian, a new report says the U.S. ranks 42nd in life expectancy -- lower than any developed nation and on par with Croatia ... and Canada is taken to task for refusing to seek the repatriation of a 15-year-old kid the Bush administration has locked up in Gitmo, and who is seen pleading for help during a videotaped interrogation released this week. From the story:
Toronto-born Omar Khadr's US military lawyer called on Harper to "stand up and act like a prime minister of Canada" and demand the teenager's return.

... Khadr's military lawyer, Lieutenant Commander Bill Kuebler, along with his criticism of Harper, said yesterday that the military tribunals at Guantánamo "aren't designed to be fair" and designed "to produce convictions".

He said anyone who watched Khadr whimpering for his mother and still believed he had vowed to die fighting with a bunch of hardened al-Qaida terrorists is "crazy".

"The tape shows Omar Khadr not as a hardened terrorist but as a frightened boy."

"It just shows how unreliable anything that they extracted from this kid is would be at trial."

Khadr, who was shown in the video aged 16 and questioned after severe sleep deprivation, will have to remain at Guantánamo until he is prosecuted for war crimes in front of a special US military tribunal, later this year.

The liberal Canadian senator and ex-general Romeo Dallaire told Canada Television's (CTV) Newsnet programme that Khadr is a child solider and should be treated and given the same rehabilitation that Canada devotes to other child soldiers around the world.

"We're getting stabbed in the back," Dallaire told the cable channel. "We have worked for years to assist other nations in eradicating the use of children in conflict. But our own country doesn't even want to recognise that our own citizen (is a child soldier). No matter what his politics are, it's totally irrelevant.

Canada's conservative P.M., Stephen Harper, remains unmoved, and Canadian experts are casting doubt on chances for the boy to return to his home country. [Omar Khadr photo, showing him at age 15, from the Canadian Broadcasting Co.]

Meanwhile in the Middle East, Hezbollah supporters are gleeful at the return of five of their members to Beirut, along with the bodies of some 200 fighters, who were exchanged for the bodies of two Israeli soldiers. In Israel, no celebration, just funerals for the two Israelis, whose capture led to Israel's disastrous 2006 war with Lebanon. In the Independent UK, Robert Fisk writes of Israel's folly, and Hezbollah's hubris. On the exchange, Hezbollah got:

Samir Kuntar – 28 years in an Israeli jail for the 1979 murder of an Israeli, his young daughter and a policeman. He arrived from Israel very much alive, clean shaven but sporting a neat moustache, overawed by the hundreds of Hizbollah supporters, a man used to solitary confinement who suddenly found himself idolised by a people he had not seen in almost three decades. His eyes moved around him, the eyes of a prisoner watching for trouble. He was Israel's longest-held Lebanese prisoner; Hizbollah's leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, had promised his release. And he had kept his word.

... But it was also a day of humiliation. Humiliation most of all for the Israelis. After launching their 2006 war to retrieve two of their captured soldiers, they killed more than a thousand Lebanese civilians, devastated Lebanon, lost 160 of their own – most of them soldiers – and ended up yesterday handing over 200 Arab corpses and five prisoners in return for the remains of the two missing soldiers and a box of body parts.

Read the whole thing. Trust me.

Back to the states, where the New York Times' Caucus blog reports Barack Obama raised $52 million in June (though Chuck Todd pooh-poohed the number this morning on "Morning Joe," saying Obama had better raise that amount since he's not taking public financing. Geez, the media is STILL sore about that?)

Meanwhile, the paper proper reports on how much Iraqis seem to like Obama, quoting one Iraqi general as saying the candidate is "very young, very active" and "we would be very happy if he was elected president." Look for the McCain camp to deride Obama as "the candidate of the Iraqi people" today ... before they have to dial back once the candidate remembers that Iraq is no longer in the Axis of Evil. The same story attempts to throw cold water on Obama's withdrawal plans, however, calling them "complicated" for Iraqis:

... mention Mr. Obama’s plan for withdrawing American soldiers, and the general stiffens.

“Very difficult,” he said, shaking his head. “Any army would love to work without any help, but let me be honest: for now, we don’t have that ability.”

... There was, as Mr. Obama prepared to visit here, excitement over a man who is the anti-Bush in almost every way: a Democrat who opposed a war that many Iraqis feel devastated their nation. And many in the political elite recognize that Mr. Obama shares their hope for a more rapid withdrawal of American forces from Iraq.

But his support for troop withdrawal cuts both ways, reflecting a deep internal quandary in Iraq: for many middle-class Iraqis, affection for Mr. Obama is tempered by worry that his proposal could lead to chaos in a nation already devastated by war. Many Iraqis also acknowledge that security gains in recent months were achieved partly by the buildup of American troops, which Mr. Obama opposed and his presumptive Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, supported.

“In no way do I favor the occupation of my country,” said Abu Ibrahim, a Western-educated businessman in Baghdad, “but there is a moral obligation on the Americans at this point.”

Like many Iraqis, Mr. Ibrahim sees Mr. Obama favorably, describing him as “much more humane than Bush or McCain.”

“He seems like a nice guy,” Mr. Ibrahim said. But he hoped that Mr. Obama’s statements about a relatively fast pullout were mere campaign talk.

“It’s a very big assumption that just because he wants to pull troops out, he’ll be able to do it,” he said. “The American strategy in the region requires troops to remain in Iraq for a long time.”

Why do I not quite trust the Times not to put neocon words into Iraqis mouths? Maybe it's just me ... and Judy Miller... Meanwhile, the paper also reports on the phalanx of media stars and actual anchor people who will chase Barack around the Middle East and Europe when he travels there, as opposed to the "in other news" treatment that McCain's overseas trip received.

The WaPo has three interesting stories today: one on the slowing global economy, and how it's helping the little guys outpace the giant economies of rich, Western nations, like ours. Why?

The U.S. economy and financial system are more closely linked to those in other wealthy nations, particularly in Europe, where rising inflation and the weak dollar are adding to growing trouble. The United States and Europe have "similar economies and share the potential problems of industrialized nations in terms of property price fluctuations and financials," said Simon Johnson, chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. "And they find themselves sharing variable degrees of vulnerability."

As global wealth has shifted during the past decade, emerging markets have become not only increasingly stable but they have also been claiming a larger portion of the world's riches than ever before. If Californians are rushing to withdraw money from banks there, the situation in Kenya is just the opposite: People are flocking to banks to open accounts. The Nairobi exchange, which lists mostly Kenyan companies and a handful of multinational firms, posted 10 percent gains in the three months ended in June as local and foreign investors flocked to the initial public offering of the cellphone giant Safaricom.


The WaPo also tries to even out the mortgage crisis exposure of the two presidential candidates, attempting to make former Obama advisers and of all things, Clinton advisers, the equivalent of John McCain's bevy of current lobbyist pals and campaign shot callers who are steeped in Freddie and Fannie lobbying cash. So much for the liberal media.

And the paper reports that the Obama campaign is creating a heavy presence in Virginia, suggesting they are serious about winning the state.

The Los Angeles Times reports on newly minted FBI investigatee Indymac's latest problem: rival banks are refusing to accept its cashier's checks, adding a new headache for depositors who have been lining up to get their money.

And the paper reports that a stunning 1 in 4 California high school students -- and 1 in 3 Los Angeles high schoolers, dropped out of school since the fall of 2006. Wow. The head count was made possible by a new ID system in the state that was meant to track students leaving one school and enrolling at another. Unfortunately, the second part of that equation didn't happen 25-33% of the time.

Soaring oil prices are making Russia, Venezuela and Iran bolder, and more defiant of the U.S. .. surprise, surprise...

The most viewed stories at LAT? Andy Dick's dumb ass arrested on drug and sexual battery charges, ya think??? ... and bargain homes in Cali as prices deflate.

And last but not least ... who had the highest number of job losses this year? Florida! Sorry, Charlie!


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posted by JReid @ 8:45 AM  
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Does Myanmar have oil?

George W. Bush threw the world -- and the media -- a curveball during his U.N. speech this past week when he suddenly developed an interest in Myanmar (formerly Burma) and the violent reaction of the military junta there to pro-democracy demonstrations. The media dutifully has picked up the story, serving its now routine purpose of stenographing the White House's desires.

Of course, my first question upon learning that Myanmar is supposed to be important to me, was whether Myanmar has any oil. They must, otherwise, the Bush administration would have no interest in them, or in their need for "democracy."

But let's back up a bit.

First, here's Wikipedia's rundown on Myanmar, as well as a map. (Short version: Myanmar is in east Asia, east of India, between Bangladesh, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and China.)

And here's CNN's latest update on the violence that's taking place there (short version: Myanmar is ruled by a military junta. Pro-democracy groups, and even monks, have been demonstrating, and the government has been cracking down on them violently.)

And now, here's the low-down on the oil:

Just last Sunday Indian Oil Minister Murli Deora was in Myanmar's capital for the signing of oil and gas exploration contracts between state-controlled ONGC Videsh Ltd. and Myanmar's military rulers.

The signing ceremony, which coincided with marches led by Buddhist monks that drew thousands in Myanmar's biggest cities, was an example of how important Myanmar's oil and gas resources have become in an energy-hungry world. Even as Myanmar's junta intensifies its crackdown on pro-democracy protests, oil companies are jostling for access to the country's largely untapped natural gas and oil fields that activists say are funding a repressive regime.

China -- Myanmar's staunchest diplomatic protector and largest trading partner -- is particularly keen on investing in the country because of its strategic location for pipelines to feed the Chinese economy's growing thirst for oil and gas.

Companies from South Korea, Thailand and elsewhere also are looking to exploit the energy resources of the desperately poor Southeast Asian country.

France's Total SA and Malaysia's Petroliam Nasional Bhd., or Petronas, pump gas from fields off Myanmar's coast through a pipeline to Thailand, which takes 90 percent of Myanmar's gas output, according to Thailand's PTT Exploration & Production PLC.

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posted by JReid @ 11:42 AM  
Thursday, August 02, 2007
Russia to Santa: Dasvidanya!
An interesting take on the new colonialism, and the possible benefits -- to the Russians -- of global warming:
Russia will fire the starting gun on the world’s last colonial scramble today when a submarine plants a flag under the North Pole to symbolize the Kremlin’s claim to the Arctic and its vast energy resources.

In an unprecedented and potentially perilous mission, veteran Arctic explorer Artur Chilingarov will descend 14,000 feet in a deep sea submersible and drop a Russian tricolor cast in titanium onto the seabed.

With Russia’s northern rivals, all eager to extend their own Arctic ambitions, looking on uneasily, two Russian ships reached the North Pole after ploughing their way through deep ice for over a week.

In a nation that, in Soviet times, pioneered Arctic exploration, Mr Chilingarov’s expedition has fired the Russian public’s imagination.

But Mr Chilingarov also caused international concern after declaring that the Arctic and the North Pole were Russian.

Global warming has given renewed impetus to the race for control of the Arctic.

Melting ice sheets could open up the fabled North East passage, the quest for which claimed countless sailors’ lives, for the first time.

The route, which could dramatically cut the length of a journey from Europe to Asia, could become navigable to commercial traffic within eight years.

The more clement conditions make for an equally tantalizing prospect.

According to some estimates, the Arctic is home to a quarter of the world’s untapped energy reserves - now more accessible than they ever have been.

For all Mr Chilingarov’s posturing, his expedition is little more than a public relations stunt designed by the Kremlin to attract public support for Russia’s long held claim to a 463,000 mile chunk of the Arctic - about half the size of Western Europe.

The Kremlin has long believed the territory belonged to Russia - it was marked as such on Soviet maps from the 1920s. ...
Well that's interesting ...

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posted by JReid @ 9:21 AM  
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Di terrorist dem...
Isn't it a shame that the first thing my husband asked me this afternoon when we heard about the four Trinidadian and Guyanese men charged with plotting a terrorist attack on JFK airport in New York, was: "does Guyana have oil?" Damn. Are we that cynical after six years of the Bushes? Actually, yes. And guess what? Guyana does:

From March 27, 2001:

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- While high oil prices spur exploration for new fields around the world, a potentially rich deposit off the marshy northeast coast of South America remains untapped.

The largely unexplored zone is caught in a no-man's-land because Guyana and Suriname can't agree on their maritime boundary. Guyana says the line runs toward the north-northwest; Suriname says it runs more northward.

Last June, the two came close to war when Suriname enforced its line with two gunboats, forcing a Canadian company's oil rig to withdraw from the disputed area before it could drill under a license granted by Guyana.

The disagreement has prompted both countries to strengthen their small militaries. And it is stalling oil exploration off the entire coasts of both nations, which are among the region's poorest.

"This is one of the few areas left in the world that is underexplored and that has perceived potential," said Newell Dennison, manager of the petroleum division of Guyana's Geology and Mines Commission.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the entire coastal area off the two countries -- called the Guyana-Suriname Basin -- could contain as much as 15 billion barrels of oil, or about 1 percent of the estimated world total.
From January 30, 2005:

"So, since offshore oil potential is ruled out for the time being, you can imagine how excited the Guyanese are by the possibility that they may find oil onshore instead and that is where the resumed effort to discover hydrocarbons in one of the region's poorest countries is now to be concentrated.“

One could not blame the Guyanese for thinking that someone up there does not like them when constant rainfall, disastrous flooding and the evacuation of thousands of people all combine to smother what should be the real focus of attention in that luckless Caricom country these days-the resumption of the 89-year-long search for commercial oil deposits.

This was due to kick off any time now and it would not be at all surprising if the unfavourable weather situation had delayed the eagerly-awaited event.

As my three or four readers will know, Guyana, Caricom's headquarters territory, suffered a major setback when it tried to sink an exploratory oil well in June, 2000. This was to target a prospect called Eagle in the Corentyne block, 135 km offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. But before the CE Thornton jack-up rig could go into action, a gunboat from fellow Caricom state Suriname, appeared on the horizon and ordered the rig to depart, on the grounds that the waters in which it was operating were really part of Suriname's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), not Guyana's.

Suriname contended then, and is still contending, that the maritime boundary line between the two countries extends from the Corentyne River at an angle of ten degrees to the east, not 33 degrees, as Georgetown insists. That dispute is now before Unclos, to which it was referred by Guyana after it had apparently reached the limit of its patience with the non-existent pace of bilateral discussions.

And from last week (May 26):

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) _ Officials from the U.N.'s maritime body will travel to Guyana and Suriname next week to determine the boundaries of a potentially oil- and gas-rich basin off the two small South American nations' coasts, a government statement said Friday.

Using a survey vessel to scan the sea bottom, researchers from the Hamburg,
Germany-based International Law of the Sea Tribunal will examine the maritime border as the U.N. body prepares to make its final ruling on a long-running dispute between the two neighbors, according to a statement from Guyana's foreign ministry.

The dispute once brought Guyana and Suriname close to war and has blocked fuel exploration in the area.

The two South American nations have been locked in the disagreement over ownership of hundreds of square miles (square kilometers) of untapped territory running from the nations' land border at the coast out to the limit of their territorial waters.

Industry experts have estimated that the Guyana-Suriname Basin may hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil along with huge deposits of natural gas.

In 2000, Suriname sent two gunboats to the region and expelled Toronto-based CGX Energy Inc., halting its oil exploration there under a Guyanese license.
In recent months, Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF and CGX Energy have met with Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo to discuss exploring parts of the basin.
Jagdeo has said he is eager to launch surveys after a ruling is issued under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which local officials expect to be announced in August.

The U.S. military operates in Guyana, mainly doing training and humanitarian work. Not that that's something these four, with the exception of one, would know. The four suspects in the JFK are:

-Russell Defreitas, a Guyananese-born American citizen and former JFK cargo worker who is said to have made damning statements to an FBI informant about hitting JFK in order to shake the American public by, in effect, killing John F. Kennedy a second time...

- Abdul Kadir, said to be a former guyanese parliament member and onetime mayor of Linden, in Guyana, who is said to have passed crucial information on to the plotters.

- Kareem Ibrahim, a native of Trinidad.


- Abdel Nur, of Guyana, who is still on the lam, possibly in Trinidad.

So who are these guys?

Apparently, the group is linked to the Trinidad-based group Jaamat Al Muslimeen, a militant group that in 1990 was accused of an attempted coup against the Trinidadian government including the kidnapping of the prime minister. More about the group:

The Jamaat al Muslimeen is a Muslim organisation within the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with a membership of predominantly Afro-Trinidadians. The appeal of its doctrines to the poor and displaced classes of society have seen its membership and popularity increase.
More about them from Wikipedia:

It was the organisation's leader, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, who led members of the Jamaat in an attempted coup d'état against the elected Government of Trinidad and Tobago in July 1990. Over a six-day period members of the government including then-Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson were held hostage at gun point while chaos and looting broke out in the streets of the capital Port of Spain.

A court ruling, questioned by many as patently absurd on the facts, upheld an amnesty agreement obtained during the incarceration of parliament by the group. This led to the non-prosecution of its members for this crime despite the contention that the fact that guns and force were used to obtain said amnesty constituted duress. Subsequent to the attempted coup, it aligned itself publicly first with the United National Congress (in the run-up to the 1995 General Elections) and later with the People's National Movement (PNM), the party which forms the current Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Before and since those elections, however, present and past members have been connected or prosecuted for serious violent crimes. These crimes include drug and gang related killings, rape and a current spree of kidnappings for ransom of members of the local upper and middle class. The organization and its leader have the reputation of antagonism to Trinidadians of Indian origin, that many consider racist. The Jamaat's alleged crimes of kidnapping have mainly targeted Indian-Trinidadians. The organisation's leader is currently being prosecuted with conspiracy to murder several of the group's former members who had spoken out publicly against the Jamaat al Muslimeen and its practices, and who were suspected of becoming witnesses in legal proceedings against its members.

As of March 2007, three members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen have confessed to their role in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of an Indo-Trinidadian businesswoman; Vindra Naipaul-Coolman.

Currently they are under surveillance by the local National Security Agency as well as the United States Central Intelligence Agency for suspected terrorist relations with the Middle East, as are two other Muslim factions.
So we combined disgruntled, angry Afro-Caribbeans from countries with increasing Muslim populations and new discoveries of oil that, once exploited, will likely benefit the East Indian population (Suriname is mostly East Indian, Guyana is increasingly controlled by same), leaving the Afro-Carib population even more angry, disgruntled and displaced. And here these guys are, in the U.S., under the surveillance of the NSA and FBI.

What's worrisome about these developments (this is the third time Guyanese nationals have been linked to terrorist plots inside the U.S. -- would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid of Jamaica being the first and Adnan Shukrijuma being the second,) is that it fits a narrative that U.S. officials are trying to build, not about al-Qaida plots against the U.S. (as Bill Richardson prematurely tossed out on CNN this afternoon in response to the arrests) but about supposed Hezbollah-linked plots that trace back to Iran, the country Dick Cheney and his neocon friends would desperately like to bomb (one major neocon is even praying about it.) Of course, there are those analysts who see almost a competitive growth, between Shiite-type terrorist groups in Latin America, and more al-Qaida style Sunni groups in the Caribbean:

The region’s small Muslim population is comprised mostly of South and Southeast Asians with deep roots stemming back to the Colonial period, as well as Arabs. The region has also experienced an increase of migrants from the Middle East in recent decades. Some of the largest Muslim communities are found in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Adherence to Islam varies dramatically from country to country. In general, it reflects the diverse ethnic and cultural traditions that comprise the region and is often infused with distinctly “Caribbean” features. This is best evidenced by the Shi’a Muharram rituals known locally as Hosay, (derived from the regional transliteration of Husayn) performed by East Indian Shi’a Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica, that commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.

Recent Arab migrants from the Middle East tend to be more pious and traditional relative to their second and third generation Arab and Muslim counterparts. Moreover, there are a growing number of locals converting to Islam, especially among impoverished minorities such as the indigenous peoples of the Mexican state of Chiapas and marginalized populations of African descent in the Caribbean islands.

So increasingly, in this hemisphere, the face that will be stamped onto the "threat of terrorism" will be a black, Caribbean one.

Go figure.

However, as the Jamestown Foundation analysis points out:
The Caribbean Basin will remain a region of concern in the war on terrorism. Despite a lack of hard evidence to date, international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda in theory can potentially feed off of the institutional weakness, political and economic instability, poverty, and lawlessness that characterize the Caribbean Basin to further their aims. But as the case of Trinidad and Tobago demonstrates, the mere presence of Islamist activist groups (or Muslims in general) does not necessarily equate to links to al-Qaeda. Therefore, in addressing the threat (or perceived threat) of radical Islam in the region effectively, it is imperative that policymakers consider the nexus between deep-seated social, political, and economic grievances and international terrorism, and not simply settle for shortsighted solutions.
Yeah, tell it to the Bushies. And there's oil involved? Oy, vey. At the end of the day, groups like Jamaat Al Muslimeen have more to do with inter-ethnic conflict and economic displacement than with al-Qaida, and this group hasn't been linked in any way to either Sunni Qaida or Shiite Hezbollah. But I'll bet that won't stop the U.S. government and their friends in the media from making that case, the better to intervene in the affairs of a country with burgeoning supplies of black gold.

Update: Read the official complaint against the suspects here.

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
The Caracas kiss-off
Oh the things you can do with oil money...
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez announced Monday he would formally pull Venezuela out of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a largely symbolic move because the nation has already paid off its debts to the lending institutions.
"We will no longer have to go to Washington nor to the IMF nor to the World Bank, not to anyone," said the leftist leader, who has long railed against the Washington-based lending institutions.

Chavez said he wanted to formalize Venezuela's exit from the two bodies "tonight and ask them to return what they owe us."

Venezuela recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule, saving $8 million. It paid off all its debts to the IMF shortly after Chavez first took office in 1999. The IMF closed its offices in Venezuela late last year.

Chavez made the announcement a day after telling a meeting of allied leaders that Latin America overall would be better off without the U.S.-backed World Bank or IMF. He has often blamed their lending policies for perpetuating poverty.

The leftist president also has repeatedly criticized past Venezuelan governments for signing structural adjustment agreements with the IMF that were blamed for contributing to racing inflation.

Under former Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez in 1989, violent protests broke out in Caracas in response to IMF austerity measures that brought a hike in subsidized gasoline prices and public transport fares.
This comes as Chavez also moved to yank foreign oil contracts and complete the nationalization of his country's oil sector, which he then plans to redirect away from the United States and toward his shiny new customer, China.
Newly bought Russian-made fighter jets streaked through the sky as Chavez shouted "Down with the U.S. empire!" to thousands of red-clad oil workers, calling the state takeover a historic victory for Venezuela after years of U.S.-backed corporate exploitation.

Chavez accused foreign oil companies of bad drilling practices due to their hunger for quick profits and said Venezuela could sue them for causing lasting damage to oil fields.

BP PLC, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA remain locked in a struggle with the Chavez government over the terms and conditions under which they will be allowed to stay on as minority partners.

All but ConocoPhillips signed agreements last week agreeing in principle to state control, and ConocoPhillips said Tuesday that it, too, was cooperating.
How lovely for them.

Is it clear yet that the Bush administration hasn't just failed in its hemispheric foreign policy, but that the administration actually has no hemispheric foreign policy?

Still, before you start building that bomb shelter in the basement waiting for the new cold war to begin, consider this:
... the truth — one that both Chavez and his archfoe, the Bush Administration, would prefer you not know — is that when it comes to oil nationalization, Hugo is hardly the most radical of his global peers. In fact, even after today's petro-theatrics, Chavez is just catching up with the rest of the pack.

From Mexico to China, more than 75% of the world's oil reserves are controlled by national oil companies today. Of the world's top 20 oil-producing firms, 14 are state-run. And even though Chavez has now stripped foreign oil companies like Exxon Mobil of any majority stakes they had in Venezuelan oil production projects — mandating that his state-run company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), have at least 60% ownership from here on out — he's at least allowing those private multinationals to continue taking part in the drilling. Not so, for example, in Mexico or the world's largest oil producer, Saudi Arabia. Washington touts those two countries as model energy allies, despite the fact that for more than half a century their national oil companies have barred U.S. and other foreign oil businesses from production ventures.

Apart from his fiery rhetoric, what makes Chavez's move seem more jarring is the fact that, until he came to power in 1999, Venezuela had been a trend-bucking oasis for Big Oil. Venezuela did nationalize its oil industry in 1976, but in the 1990s it had steadily re-opened its fields to foreign investment — in some cases handing the multinationals deals that even conservative Venezuelans considered too sweet. Chavez has just as steadily, and stridently, reversed that policy, paring down the multinationals' ownership while ratcheting up their taxes and royalties. And because Venezuela is America's fourth-largest foreign crude supplier — providing the U.S. with almost 15% of its oil imports — each turn of his nationalization screw tends to provoke outsized alarm.

That, perhaps, is the real cause for concern — how deeply the nationalization trend affects the quantity of oil that not only Venezuela but other countries can export, and hence the price we pay for it.
Suddenly it all makes sense. Clearly, China is a much more effective partner for the Socialist Revolution than the old Soviet Union. Mainly because they have just enough capitalism to make it interesting.

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posted by JReid @ 7:31 AM  
Monday, March 12, 2007
Where's a war profiteering mega-defense contractor tied to the sitting vice president to go in order to do business free of nettlesome taxes and snooping into its serving spoiled food and befouled water to U.S. troops, overcharging Iraqis for their own oil and U.S. taxpayers for everything else, not to mention its illicit business dealings with Iran? Dubai, baby! And Halliburton's relocating its headquarters there. And why not! That way, they can be closer to their money.

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posted by JReid @ 8:21 PM  
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