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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Equatorial Guinea Watch: The New Scramble For Africa

While the press is the western world breathlessly awaits indictments in the Plamegate fiasco, a boon in oil exploration and extraction in West and Central Africa is rapidly rearranging the geopolitical priorities of major economic powers.

The role of western powers and multinationals in Africa follow three patterns of exploitation, historically...

1. The Greased Palm Tactic:
The preferred method is to operate in collusion with the corrupt aristocracy of a ruling clique. In Nigeria, powerful Shell has long partnered with the Nigerian military in the exploitation of oil resources in the homeland of the Ogoni people in the area around Port Harcort. The high water mark of this strategy was the 1995 execution of Ken Saro Wiwa--whose death greatly affected me due to the fact that I knew his children.

2. The Balkanization Tactic:
This method establishes a secure area within a war-torn country with the aid of paramilitaries and security forces. This is the modus operandi in rubber-rich Liberia and Sierra Leone and the Congo--where Colton is mined for use in our cell phones and blackberries.

3. "The Git Saddam Tactic"
The third rail is overthrowing a "corrupt, despotic dictator" and installing a puppet regime friendly to western extractive industries.

It's fair to say that this approach is what the U.S. employs in Afghanistan and attempted to employ via Ahmed Chalabi in Iraq.

It's also, I believe, the indisputable covert strategy of western nations toward Equatorial Guinea.

Equatorial Guinea discovered massive deposits of oil in the 1990s, and currently produces 350,000 barrels a day, second only to Nigeria and Angola in Africa.

For oil-hungry nations, E.G. is a plum ripe for the picking--by any means necessary. The despotic rule of President Teodoro Obiang Nquema--whose government has a human rights abuse rap sheet a mile long, has provided the perfect pretext for a neocolonial takeover, and that's exactly what was attempted in March, 2004.
Mark Thatcher, the son of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, was arrested for his role in an attempted coup in Equatorial Guinea, and pleaded guilty in January.

Western nations aren't the only players fighting for a slice of African oil pie.

A thrilling drama is unfolding pitting the East against the West in a new resource cold war. China and India are agressively pursuing oil contracts throughout Africa, most notably in Chad, the Central African Republic, and yes, Equatorial Guinea.

President Nguema is currently negotiating oil rights with China.

Obiang also spoke highly of the role played by China in international affairs, saying that Equatorial Guinea would increase co-operation with China in economic and scientific fields and natural resources exploration.

Equatorial Guinea hoped to expand trade relations with China in such fields as oil exploration, timber processing and aquatic products, said Obiang.


Currenly oil companies Marathon, ExxonMobil, and Amerada Hess all operate in Equatorial Guinea. South Africa's Creamer Media's Engineering News reports what this means for the people of Equatorial Guinea...

While oil firms have pumped more than $6-billion into the tiny Africa state, the latest United Nation's development index for this year showed Equatorial Guinea slipping down the list of countries fighting poverty - down 12 places to 121 spot.

So let's sum it up...The Equatorial Guinean government currently has a greased palm relationship with western oil powers. Western economic interests apparently prefer a Bushlike Git Saddam solution, and the Nguema regime is courting an Eastern sugar daddy in the form of China to compete for its corrupt affections.

What are the ramifications of this struggle for resources?

The winner in all of this could be the Equatorial Guinean government, which could negotiate a more favorable contract.

At this point, however, they must realize they're playing a dangerous game. If a greased palm relationship is negotiated with the Chinese rather than western multinationals, they risk another coup.

There is an old African saying, popularized by Jomo Kenyatta, that "when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled". Only the most ideologically blinkered freemarketeer would conclude that competition for Equatorial Guinean resources have a chance of improving the lot of the rank and file citizenry.

What can work is increased attention to the situation in Africa on the part of NGOs, human rights groups, and concerned citizens.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Charging Saddam Hussein With Tax Evasion

Five indisputable points on the trial of Saddam Hussein:

1. The U.S. Army and Iraqi athorities are unable to safeguard the lives of witnesses, judges, and lawyers involved with the case.
2. Hussein was supported by the CIA, the U.S. military, and U.S. defense contractors during the Reagan and Bush I administration up until the gulf war.
3. If we really wanted a fair trial conducted in a manner the rest of the world could support, we'd hold it at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
4. This trial has a foregone conclusion. Hussein will die prior to any discussion of the role played by the forces mentioned in point number two. Dead men tell no tales.
5. Just as capturing Hussein did nothing to weaken the insurgency, his death will also accomplish nothing other than sating our thirst for vengange, stoking the fires of resistance to the U.S. occupation, and covering the tracks of a misguided U.S. policy in the Middle East over the last two decades.

A fair trial? That's the last thing the Bush Administration wants!

A fair trial conducted in a neutral venue would probably arrive at the same conculsion regarding Hussein's dictatorial rule itself, but it wouldn't stand a chance of absolving Hussein's patrons of their culpability.

Chris Walker on the Hussein Trial...

"...BBC Radio Scotland asked me, on Wednesday, to take part in a discussion on Saddam's trial: would it be fair and should he be executed were the questions. Almost an oxymoron.

Given that the US has picked the judges and determined the terms of reference of the proceedings, it will fall somewhat short of fairness, at least in the sense of allowing the accused to reveal who his accomplices were (the CIA), who brought him to power (the CIA) and who supplied his weaponry (yes, you got it). The Human Rights Watch report on US army torture in Iraq has recently stated that "in a way it was sport". The trial is designed along the same Wayne Rooneyesque lines. Keep the world's attention away from Halabja (and the period 1975-90) by focusing on Dubjail. A bit like charging Al Capone with tax evasion. Meanwhile, justify the illegal war by telling us that Saddam was a bad man.

Ironically, when I lived under Saddam's gentle tutelage for several years in the 1980s I worked closely with two American lawyers, Harvard graduates both – they were developing Iraqi planning laws while I focused on demographics and water resources. Saddam was our friend then, a bulwark against Shia fundamentalism. Millions of Iraqi dead later, Shia fundamentalism is on the cusp of realisation in Iraq amid a civil war. Bring on balkanisation. Funny old thing, war."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Wait and See: The Indictment Gold Standard

Every administration has its scandals. With an administration as large as the executive branch of the United States, even if we elected Jesus Christ, there would be allegations of corruption. St. Peter would've perjured himself, Judas would have been convicted for his thirteen pieces of silver, and St. Thomas would've been accused of perversion for touching Christ's wounds.

The question, for me, isn't "are there scandals in the Bush Administration", but rather, "are there indictments as a result of these scandals"?

The answer to this question is "yes".

Remember when President Bush promised to "restore integrity to the White House"?

Now, it appears that this is the most scandal-plagued administration in modern American history--judging by the number of these scandals that are rapidly transforming into criminal indictments.

Tom DeLay has been indicted, and there are rumours that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is moving forward with as many as 22 indictments in the Plamegate scandal.
Bloomberg reported yesterday that the arrest of David Safavian and the widening investigation of the alleged underhanded dealings of Jack Abramoff are making Republican congressmen nervous.

Run-of-the-mill Repbulicans will probably counter by citing the scandals of the Clinton years, which pale by comparision, both in number and importance. How many of those scandals resulted in indictments of top Clinton Administration officials? How many of them led to our young men and women dying in a foreign country?

Let's compare, shall we?

Here's Will Pitt's list of scandals during the Bush Regime:

Read It:

Here is a list of Clinton scandals A-Z from Rush Limbaugh online:

Read It:

To help put things into perspective, here's the latest political scandal in Canada. Yes, this is front page news:

Ontario's Finance Minister Dwight Duncan came under fire yesterday over a $49,000 European trip with four government officials that charged taxpayers for candy bars and $70 steak dinners.

Opposition Conservatives railed against what they called Liberal hypocrisy and David Dingwall-type chiselling of the taxpayer over the expensing by a bureaucrat of a Twix, a Tutti Fruity, a can of pop, almonds and a magazine.

"All Liberals seem to read from the same book: the David Dingwall ratcheting up of expenses," said Tory energy critic John Yakabuski, referring to the former head of Canada's Mint whose $747,000 in expenses reportedly included a pack of gum.

Duncan admitted the trip was expensive, but said he had nothing to do with the claims for pop and candy.

"It was neither myself nor a member of my political staff that expensed it, nor did we authorize it, nor was I aware of it," said Duncan. "I don't condone it."

Read It:

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lying liars and the reporter that protects them.

You don't have to be a lawyer to know when someone is lying under oath.

Just listen for the following phrase: "I can't recall". Defendants say this when they're pretty sure a prosecutor has the goods on 'em and could prove that an outright denial is a lie. They can't, however, prove beyond reasonable doubt that someone hasn't forgotten something.

Here is coverage of Steno Judy's testimony from the now completely disreputable New York Times:

Ms. Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify and reveal her confidential source, then relented. On Sept. 30, she told the grand jury that her source was I. Lewis Libby, the vice president's chief of staff. But she said he did not reveal Ms. Plame's name.

And when the prosecutor in the case asked her to explain how "Valerie Flame" appeared in the same notebook she used in interviewing Mr. Libby, Ms. Miller said she "didn't think" she heard it from him. "I said I believed the information came from another source, whom I could not recall," she wrote on Friday, recounting her testimony for an article that appears today.

Sure, Judy. It wasn't Scooter Libby, but rather, someone else, and you forgot who it was.

So let me get this straight. You spent 85 days in jail protecting someone, and you claim you don't even know who that person is. That's pretty convincing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Why Canada is Kicking Your Ass

The big news in Detroit this week was that auto parts supply giant Delphi is bankrupt.

Delphi Corp.'s bankruptcy filing sent its shares -- along with those of General Motors Corp. and most of the auto sector -- down Monday as investors worried about the industry's financial stability.

Delphi's bankruptcy is a high-profile signal of the U.S. auto industry's continuing problem of rising costs and declining profits, said David Sowerby, whose company, Loomis Sayles & Co., manages $70 billion in investments for clients.

A string of smaller auto suppliers -- Collins & Aikman Corp., Meridian Automotive Systems Inc. and Tower Automotive Systems Inc. -- filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Delphi adds a big name to the list.

Read It:

The big news in Toronto, Ontario was the new Toyota plant in Woodstock:

Toyota Motor Corp. is already preparing to double output at its new plant in Woodstock, Ont., to 200,000 vehicles a year and boost employment to 2,000 from the originally planned 1,300 positions, industry sources say, just as its North American rivals are in turmoil.

Read It:

When citing the rationale for locating their plant in Canada, Toyota officials cite lower labour costs, the educational level of Canadian workers, and lower health care costs. It's also not just Toyota. Honda is also planning to expand their operations in Canada:

Read It:

Why is the United States, the free market, business-friendly, low tax paradise losing out to Canada?

Because their neighbor to the north has invested in public education, vocational education, and a national health care system.

Don't take my word for it. Ask a Japanese auto industry executive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blogs for Bush: The Secret To The President's Success

Here's what we're up against:

Who but President Bush would have pressed for the 2001 tax cuts after losing the popular vote in 2000? Who but President Bush would have ordered the liberation of Afghanistan when everyone was saying it would be a disaster? Who but President Bush would have ordered the liberation of Iraq when nearly the whole world advised against it? Who but President Bush would have campaigned on reforming the "third rail" of American politics, Social Security? Who but President Bush would have re-nominated 7 judicial nominees previously filibustered by the Democrats? It doesn't matter - it was time in each case to do the right thing, and the right thing would be done...if it couldn't be done, it wouldn't reflect badly upon President Bush.

Blogs for Bush:

As I said in my last post, I agree with Mark Noonan. President Bush has been tremendously successful at accomplishing the objectives of his political base. Unfortunately that means he has successfully gutted the clean air act, clean water act, and a host of other environmental protections. He has lowered taxes on his wealthiest, most corrupt cronies, and he's laid the groundwork for perpetual war and corresponding military contractor fortunes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Manchurian President

These are well-deserved dark days for conservatives.

If only there were some truth to what the conservative editorial staff of The Business Report (UK)has concluded:

...There is no pleasure in recording this. This newspaper is second to none in its pro-American sentiments; in the early Bush years it devoted much ink to defending the President against the often malevolent and ignorant attacks of a congenitally anti-American European media. But we know a lost cause when we see one: the longer President Bush occupies the White House the more it becomes clear that his big-government domestic policies, his preference for Republican and business cronies over talented administrators, his lack of a clear intellectual compass and his superficial and often wrong-headed grasp of international affairs – all have done more to destroy the legacy of Ronald Reagan, a President who halted then reversed America’s post-Vietnam decline, than any left-liberal Democrat or European America-hater could ever have dreamed of. As one astute American conservative commentator has already observed, President Bush has morphed into the Manchurian Candidate, behaving as if placed among Americans by their enemies to do them damage.

Read It:

To suggest, even for a moment, that the Inspector Clouseaus who constitute the Democratic congressional leadership could be capable of such a thing is absolutely ludicrous. They can't even muster a hint of opposition to the war, fight against the repeal of the estate tax, or pour piss out of a boot. I doubt Patrick Leahy could find the cheese at the end of the maze much less hatch a plot of any magnitude.

President Bush isn't a Manchurian Candidate, in fact, I would even argue that he's arguably the most successful president in modern American history. With the help of an aquescent media, a Republican congress, and a stacked judiciary, he's been able accomplish most of the objectives of his ideological, theocratic, and corporate constituency. Cronyism, a wrong-headed grasp of international affairs, defecit spending, and big-government policies (at least when it comes to the military), make Bush the perfect heir to St. Reagan.

If the country is going to hell in a headbasket, (and I think it is), it won't be due to the failure of President Bush, but rather, due to his success; his success at giving the right wing of this country exactly what they've asked for.

What conservatives are witness to is the detrimental, deliterious nature of their own policies. They've gotten everything they wanted, the country is the worse for it, and

Saturday, October 08, 2005


In today's right wing news,
the Drudge Report headline screams,


The NYT article Drudge links to explains the Bush Administration's concern about the predicted pandemic to come, and highlights the Bush Administration's attempts to prepare for the calamity.

Does this article give us any context?

Does it mention that Bush propsed to cut the Center for Disease Control's budget by 6.6 percent in 2006?

Do it remind us of the botched flu vaccine scandal last fall?

Did you ever think you'd see the day when the American Enterprise Institute took Bush to task for not supporting spending on social programs?

It's here...

Norman Ornstein: "Operation Offset," a proposal by the Republican Study Committee to help address the recovery costs of the hurricanes, "includes the one big-ticket item that could make a substantial difference in the short term: delaying the Medicare prescription drug program for a year," Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, writes. In the proposal, conservative House Republicans "take on Medicare, although mostly by making retirees pay more," Ornstein writes, adding that "the kudos have to be diluted once one examines other offsets RSC recommends." According to Ornstein, the proposal calls for the elimination of the National Science Foundation's math and science education program, federal grants for wastewater infrastructure and reducing funds for waste disposal grants. In addition, the proposal calls for reducing funds for CDC, an "interesting idea to pursue" amid fears of avian flu and biological and biochemical attacks, Ornstein writes, adding that "CDC is our front line to help track their advance, ameliorate their impact and find vaccines to prevent their spread." He writes, "There is zero political will to take on the biggest of big-ticket items -- Social Security and Medicare" (Ornstein, Roll Call, 9/28).

Read It:

There are decent people on both edges of the political spectrum. When Nixon crossed a line, it took investigative journalists and people from his own party to bring him down.

Now, due to the spinelessness of the democratic leadership, it seems republicans are our only defense against the predations of republicans.

I'd love to join a party that actually fought for the people it claims to represent.


Friday, October 07, 2005

God Made Me Do It

President Bush told two high-ranking Palestinian officials that he had been told by God to invade Afghanistan and Iraq and then create a Palestinian state to bring peace to the Middle East, they recall during a documentary on Middle East peace that airs next week in Britain.

"President Bush said to all of us: 'I'm driven with a mission from God,' " said Nabil Shaath, who was the Palestinian foreign minister at the time of a top-level meeting with Bush in June 2003. Mahmoud Abbas, then Palestinian prime minister and now the Palestinian Authority president, was also present for the conversation with Bush.

"God would tell me, 'George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did, and then God would tell me, 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq ...' And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, 'Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.' And by God I'm gonna do it," Shaath quotes the president as saying in the three-part series.

Read It:

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Blame Game: A Primer

Sweet Bejeebus, I love a good rant now and then. Thanks, ChrisSal:

"John McCain whuppin' yer ass in the primaries? Organize a push poll in South Carolina saying he's insane and has a black baby. Not good enough? Go after his wife, too, for her painkiller addiction.

Hans Blix and UNSCOM getting in the way of your war? Declare UNSCOM irrelevant and claim Blix is tainted and senile. Not good enough? Claim they were paid off by Saddam Hussein.

Get the answers you don't want from a fact finding mission? Call the Ambassador a 'partisan hack' and 'inexperienced' despite being the last Ambassador to Iraq, being hailed as a hero by Bush the Smarter, and working the Africa desk in the State Dept. for almost a decade. Not good enough? Go after his wife, too, and destroy a CIA front company that was tracking WMD proliferation among rogue states.

Army General tell you that your war plan sucks? Ask for her resignation (Shinseki) and then surround yourself with 'yes men'.

Your opponent in the election giving you fits? Slander his service record and mock his purple hearts by distributing 'band-aids' at the RNC. When people point out you avoided service...go after his wife, saying she's crazy.

The anti-terrorism czar testify that you didn't care about al Qaeda before 9/11? Call him a partisan hack and distort his words beyond recognition.

Need to pick up a couple House Seats? Launder money through the RNC, compare your opponent (a triple-amputee veteran) to Osama bin Laden, and manipulate the vote in critical counties.

Memos surface questioning your TANG service? Claim they are forgeries and nit-pick the typeface. Again, claim the author is a partisan hack.

Again these claims of 'partisan hack' and 'Democratic operative' are being dragged out of the Bushies closet to discredit another bearer of bad news, Ronnie Earle".

Read it all here:

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Played for Chumps: Pat Tillman and Lynndie England

There was a time in the United States when there wasn't consensus in the scientific community that smoking causes cancer. Those who began to smoke before the truth became known have my sympathies. To a lesser degree, I sympathize with those who fall prey to slick advertising,peer pressure, etc. If you start smoking in 2005, you're a chump. If you get a big old nasty tumour,(and I hope you don't), you can't say everyone from the American Lung Association to Frank Zappa didn't warn you.

A few years ago, Ted Rall became America's most hated columnist/cartoonist by referring to the then recently-deceased Pat Tillman as a chump. As you may recall, Tillman was a linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals who forsook his lucrative career in order to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.

At the time, I felt Rall's words were incredibly insensitive, inappropriate, and probably hurtful to Tillman's family. I still do.

Now, three years later, we find that Tillman wasn't the man the Pentagon made him out to be. In fact, he was a better man--more brain than brainstem. In their attempt to make him a posterboy for their cause, the Pentagon dishonored his memory.

I have to wonder what would upset Pat Tillman more: being called a chump by a provocateur columnist, or being played for a chump by the very government he vowed to serve?

Editor and Publisher
has the goods:

The Chronicle also revealed that interviews “show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known -- a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought, and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author...

Read It:

Over the weekend, Lynndie England was sentenced to three years for her role in the Abu Ghraib scandal. The same Pentagon that created the gung-ho Audie Murphy Pat Tillman Bush Cheerleader Doll created the product known as the "Rogue Soldier"--the official scapegoat for torture directives that came from higher up.

Once again, I have to ask, what do you think is more objectionable to the soldier involved? Being called a chump by a provocateur columnist, or being played for a chump by the government you've vowed to serve?

The message I get from what happened to Tillman and England is this: If you want to be played for a chump, join the military.

Read Here:
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