Politics & economics - June 1
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Lugar: energy more important than Al Qaeda - and lots more anti-Bush goodies
Jerome a Paris, Daily Kos
Richard Lugar, chairman of the Senate's powerful foreign relations committee, suggested that "there are a good many who would feel that the possibilities for devastation of countries, including our own, may come much more from our myopia in terms of energy policy than our ability to track down the last of the al-Qaeda cells".
This comes from a pretty scathing article in the Financial Times, with a pretty explicit title: US right questions wisdom of Bush's democracy policy
Lots more goodies below
But as the US struggles to assert itself on the international stage, the president's most radical supporters now dismiss this as mere rhetoric, and traditional conservatives are questioning the wisdom of a democratisation strategy that has brought unpleasant consequences in the Middle East.
Administration officials speak privately of a sense of fatigue over the worsening crisis in Iraq that has drained energy from other important policy issues. Senior officials are leaving - not so unusual in a second term, but still giving the sense of a sinking ship run in some quarters by relatively inexperienced crew.
Graham Fuller, former diplomat and intelligence officer, suggests the US is suffering from "strategic fatigue" brought on by "imperial over-reach".
Short-term economic costs of the empire have been bearable, says Mr Fuller, but long-term indicators show it is not sustainable - massive domestic debt, growing trade imbalances, an extraordinary gap in wealth between rich and poor Americans, the growing outsourcing of jobs.
(30 May 2006)
Why It's Over For America
Noam Chomsky, The Independent
...US intelligence has projected that the United States, while controlling Middle East oil for the traditional reasons, will itself rely mainly on more stable Atlantic Basin resources (West Africa, western hemisphere). Control of Middle East oil is now far from a sure thing, and these expectations are also threatened by developments in the western hemisphere, accelerated by Bush administration policies that have left the United States remarkably isolated in the global arena. The Bush administration has even succeeded in alienating Canada, an impressive feat.
Canada's minister of natural resources said that within a few years one quarter of the oil that Canada now sends to the United States may go to China instead. In a further blow to Washington's energy policies, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, Venezuela, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the openly hostile US government. Latin America as a whole is increasing trade and other relations with China, with some setbacks, but likely expansion, in particular for raw materials exporters like Brazil and Chile.
Meanwhile, Cuba-Venezuela relations are becoming very close, each relying on its comparative advantage. Venezuela is providing low-cost oil while in return Cuba organizes literacy and health programs, sending thousands of highly skilled professionals, teachers, and doctors, who work in the poorest and most neglected areas, as they do elsewhere in the Third World. Cuba-Venezuela projects are extending to the Caribbean countries, where Cuban doctors are providing healthcare to thousands of people with Venezuelan funding. Operation Miracle, as it is called, is described by Jamaica's ambassador to Cuba as "an example of integration and south-south cooperation", and is generating great enthusiasm among the poor majority.
...The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, both major energy producers, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies, and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in SUVs in traffic gridlock. Some are even calling for an "Indian nation" in South America.
(30 May 2006)
An extract from Chomsky's new book, ""Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy." The original is much longer and presents Chomsky's usual leftist analysis of U.S. foreign policy. Notable is the prominence of energy issues.
Also, Chomsky talks about "imperial overstretch" as do the conservatives quoted in Jerome a Paris's entry above.
Africa battles ‘oil curse’
Alain Bommenel, AFP via Dawn
PARIS: Experts call it the ‘oil curse’. In Africa’s oil exporting countries, only a tiny fraction of revenues is used to fight poverty, and in many cases black gold has actually become a hurdle to development.
Oil in Africa — from the Gulf of Guinea to northwestern Sudan — lies at the heart of questions of good governance and development, as oil prices and revenues soar but fail to bring better living standards for millions of poor.
Across the continent, ‘oil money evaporates into the savannah’, Jean-Marie Chevalier, a professor at Paris-Dauphine University and director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), told a conference in Paris last week.
Not only does oil wealth fail to translate into economic development, but in many cases it distorts the country’s economy and holds back the development of other export industries, he said.
(29 May 2006)
Greenspan to testify June 7 on oil and the economy
WASHINGTON - Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan will testify to U.S. lawmakers on June 7 on the topic of oil dependence and economic risk, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on Tuesday.
(30 May 2006)
Tinseltown's rainbow warrior
John Harris, The Guardian
Matthew Modine may be famous for his roles in Birdy and Full Metal Jacket, but, he tells , he'd rather be known as the man who slashed Hollywood's paper consumption
...Tomorrow, Modine will preview his just-about-finished environmental documentary, 1,000 Suns, a "global story" in which the camera wanders across the planet, seeing the ecological crisis through the eyes of children, and Modine eventually implores the corporations making money out of the problem to take stock, reinvent themselves and find ways of profiting from the possible solutions.
"If George Bush or Tony Blair is Pinocchio," he considers, "then who the hell is Geppetto? Geppetto [the woodcarver who creates the puppet-boy] has to be Big Oil, the automobile industry, Wal-Mart - the big corporations that are making huge financial choices. I splash the heads of those corporations over the film and say, 'What do you want to inherit? What do you want your legacy to be? What do you hope to gain by having all these billions of dollars? You've proven to the world that you're the most successful businessmen in the history of the world; now, here's an opportunity to take all that money, influence and intelligence, and do something with it.' "
This, to cynical British ears, might sound ever so slightly David Cameronesque. Perhaps, I suggest, he might be trying to make saints of the terminally evil.
"Oh, I don't agree," Modine says. "Effectively, I'm saying, 'You're in love with money, and this is an opportunity to make more of it.' It's like, 'Mr General Motors: stop making Hummers, and work on light railways instead.' "
...Time and again, however, he returns to his treasured theme: the ethos of thinking globally and acting locally, and the flak you get for trying.
(30 May 2006)
Robert Redford: Kicking the oil habit
Robert Redford, CNN
SUNDANCE, Utah (CNN) -- Today the American people are way out in front of our leaders. We're ready to face our toughest national challenges, and we deserve new and forward-looking solutions and leadership.
The recent surge in gas prices has touched a raw nerve for many around the country, reminding us of an economy that is increasingly uncertain for the middle-class, a growing addiction to oil that draws us ever closer to dictators and despots, and a fragile global position with a climate that is increasingly out of balance. I believe America is ready to kick the oil habit and launch a new movement for real solutions and a better future.
Something is happening all across the country. People are coming together and demanding new answers. A grassroots movement is gathering today to promote solutions, like renewable fuels, clean electricity, more efficient cars, and green buildings that use less energy -- all of which are exciting alternatives that rebuild our communities even as they cut pollution and create good jobs.
...Recently, a dynamic new campaign launched to seize and grow these opportunities and break our energy dependence. It's called KickTheOilHabit.org, and it has the backing of a diverse coalition of organizations. Its first action was to challenge oil companies to double the number of renewable fuel pumps at their stations within the year and pledge to offer E85 ethanol fuel at half of all gas stations within the decade.
(31 May 2006)
It's too bad that Redford and the "Kick the Oil Habit" campaign are fixated on biofuels -- one of the most questionable strategies for dealing with the energy crisis. -BA
Iran's Territorial Disputes with its Caspian Sea Neighbors
Andrew Katen, Power and Interest News Report (PINR)
Vice President Dick Cheney's May visit to Kazakhstan and his subsequent criticism of Russia spotlight the rebirth of a centuries-old "Great Game" of geopolitical maneuvering by outside powers for control of Central Asia. Rather than campaigns waged between Russia and Britain for trade routes to India, however, the current struggle is for access to Caspian Sea hydrocarbon resources...
The United States' entry into Central Asia has equally important -- and potentially more dangerous -- implications for another veteran player of the Great Game: Iran. Piled on top of 25 years of hostile diplomatic relations, economic sanctions, recent U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and threats over a developing nuclear research program, U.S. involvement in the Caspian Sea region must be interpreted by Tehran as an attempt by Washington to further isolate Iran from the international community. Contributing to Iran's worries over U.S. encroachment in its backyard are the unresolved issues it shares with the other four Caspian littoral states regarding the sea's legal status and how best to divide its territory.
...As the world demand for oil increases and U.S. influence in the Middle East remains shaky, Iran will continue to nurture relationships with emerging outside powers such as China and India -- and, in light of U.S. policy of containment against it, Venezuela -- as alternatives to the U.S.-led international system of market democracy. Non-Western based organizations, such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, may offer Tehran the political, security, and economic cooperation it recognizes as necessary for achieving the regional great power status that it covets.
Nevertheless, the uncertainty over south Caspian territorial disputes and Iran's perception that its "back is against the wall" will continue to make military action by Iran a real possibility. As U.S. threats over Iran's nuclear program and moves by Russia to reconsolidate its Central Asian interests increase, the frustration of Iran's traditionally xenophobic leadership will likely continue the country's involvement in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, as well as gunboat diplomacy on the Caspian Sea.
(31 May 2006)
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