Archive for November, 2008

2,700-year-old marijuana stash found

November 28, 2008

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OTTAWA – Researchers say they have located the world’s oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China.

The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly “cultivated for psychoactive purposes,” rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.

The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green though it had lost its distinctive odour.

“To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent,” says the newly published paper, whose lead author was American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.

Remnants of cannabis have been found in ancient Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties.

The 18 researchers, most of them based in China, subjected the cannabis to a battery of tests, including carbon dating and genetic analysis. Scientists also tried to germinate 100 of the seeds found in the cache, without success.

The marijuana was found to have a relatively high content of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, but the sample was too old to determine a precise percentage.

Researchers also could not determine whether the cannabis was smoked or ingested, as there were no pipes or other clues in the tomb of the shaman, who was about 45 years old.

The large cache was contained in a leather basket and in a wooden bowl, and was likely meant to be used by the shaman in the afterlife.

“This materially is unequivocally cannabis, and no material has previously had this degree of analysis possible,” Russo said in an interview from Missoula, Mont.

“It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife. No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied.”

The tomb also contained bridles, archery equipment and a harp, confirming the man’s high social standing.

Russo is a full-time consultant with GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine approved in Canada for pain linked to multiple sclerosis and cancer.

The company operates a cannabis-testing laboratory at a secret location in southern England to monitor crop quality for producing Sativex, and allowed Russo use of the facility for tests on 11 grams of the tomb cannabis.

Researchers needed about 10 months to cut red tape barring the transfer of the cannabis to England from China, Russo said.

The inter-disciplinary study was published this week by the British-based botany journal, which uses independent reviewers to ensure the accuracy and objectivity of all submitted papers.

The substance has been found in two of the 500 Gushi tombs excavated so far in northwestern China, indicating that cannabis was either restricted for use by a few individuals or was administered as a medicine to others through shamans, Russo said.

“It certainly does indicate that cannabis has been used by man for a variety of purposes for thousands of years.”

Russo, who had a neurology practice for 20 years, has previously published studies examining the history of cannabis.

“I hope we can avoid some of the political liabilities of the issue,” he said, referring to his latest paper.

The region of China where the tomb is located, Xinjiang, is considered an original source of many cannabis strains worldwide.

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The Greater Depression

November 27, 2008

ggdub_rainbow_coolby Krassimir Petrov, PhD
Prince Sultan University, Saudi Arabia

he mainstream media and Wall Street have reached the consensus that the current credit crisis is the worst since the post-war period. George Soros’ statement that ”the world faces the worst finance crisis since WWII” epitomizes the collective wisdom. The crisis is currently the ultimate scapegoat for all the economic evils that currently plague the global financial system and the global economy – from collapsing stock markets of the world to food shortages in third world counties. We are repeatedly assured that the ultimate fault lies with the Credit Crisis itself; if there were no Credit Crisis, all of these terrible things would never have happened in the economy and the financial markets.

The most extraordinary thing is that the mainstream media has never attempted to compare the current economic environment to the one preceding the Great Depression. In essence, it is assumed outright that the Great Depression can never possibly happen again, ever, thus obviating the need for such a comparison. I actually believe that the macroeconomic fundamentals today are much worse, so that we are in for a protracted period of economic depression – a depression much worse than the Great Depression, a depression that would likely be remembered in history as “The Second Great Depression” or The Greater Depression, as Doug Casey has called it so aptly. Here is why I believe that this is the case.

Duplicating Mistakes from the Great Depression

At its core, the environment of the 1990s, and the response of the Fed to the tech-telecom bust has created an economic environment that has encouraged the repetition of the very same mistakes that led to the Great Depression. Here is a concise summary of widely recognized mistakes of the 1920s, without going into the details, with obvious parallels in the current environment:
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smoke um if you got em, its gonna be a rough ride – The headline of an article on Bloomberg warns “Food Prices Will Rise, Causing Export Bans, Riots”.

November 27, 2008

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The headline of an article on Bloomberg warns “Food Prices Will Rise, Causing Export Bans, Riots”.

Leading economist Nouriel Roubini warns of possible food riots.

The Financial Times points out that farmers rely on credit, and credit is drying up.

One of the top experts on derivatives, economist Nassim Nicholas Taleb, warns
that supermarkets may not be able to borrow against their inventory, and will thus be forced to shut down.

I hope they’re wrong. But when experts like Roubini and Taleb warn of a potential problem, I have to listen.

alternative energy bubble

November 16, 2008

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It took a few decades longer than it should have, but the world has finally figured out that leveraged speculation is not the path to lasting prosperity. Investment banks and hedge funds are dying, and the concepts upon which they were built–derivatives, gullible pension funds, sycophantic financial media–are being shoveled into the landfill of history.

Now the survivors have to come up with ways to feed, clothe, house, and entertain seven billion people without the help of mortgage-backed bonds, CDOs, and black box trading models. The answer (not the correct answer but the inevitable one) is pretty obvious: The governments of the world will run the printing presses in an attempt to stave off Depression until some miracle happens to put us on a sustainable track, or at least until the current crop of leaders retires. This won’t work in the long run; instead it will simply destroy today’s paper currencies. But in the meantime a lot of newly-created dollars, euros, and yen will be flowing somewhere, financing growth and pumping up share prices. The question is, which shares? In a prescient March 2008 Harper’s article, iTulip’s Eric Janszen cast his vote as follows:

“There are a number of plausible candidates for the next bubble, but only a few meet all the criteria. Health care must expand to meet the needs of the aging baby boomers, but there is as yet no enabling government legislation to make way for a health-care bubble; the same holds true of the pharmaceutical industry, which could hyperinflate only if the Food and Drug Administration was gutted of its power. A second technology boom – under the rubric ‘Web 2.0’- is based on improvements to existing technology rather than any new discovery. The capital intensive biotechnology industry will not inflate, as it requires too much specialized intelligence. There is one industry that fits the bill: alternative energy.”

Yep. With the election of Barak Obama, the U.S. will almost certainly come to the above conclusion, because it’s a double winner: A massive clean-tech public works program will simultaneously create jobs and restructure the energy economy along sustainable lines. So in coming years look for a varied and relentless parade of subsidies, tax breaks, public/private partnerships, and mandates designed to bolt solar panels onto rooftops, build power lines connecting wind farms to cities, and replace internal combustion engines with batteries.

Combine this coming tsunami of public cash with the fact that plunging oil prices and the general market decline have crushed even the best clean tech stocks, and the result is an interesting, maybe unique situation. The clean tech crash was a bloodbath for the hot money that piled into solar and wind in the expectation of $200 oil. But it’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity for those who kept their powder dry.

To get you started, here’s a list of clean tech mutual funds and ETFs, all of which are down in the past year. They generally own the strongest companies in their sectors, and offer diversification that is crucial, since there’s no telling where the final bottom will turn out be for any individual stock.

Claymore/MAC Global Solar Energy (TAN)
First Trust ISE Global Wind Energy Index Fund (FAN)
Guinness Atkinson Alternative E (GAAEX)
New Alternatives Fund (NALFX)
PowerShares Cleantech (PZD)
PowerShares WilderHill Clean Energy (PBW)
Power Shares Wind Global Energy Portfolio (PWND)
Winslow Green Growth (WGGFX)
Winslow Green Solutions (WGSLX)
Market Vectors Solar Energy ETF (KWT)

CSIRO warns of climate change doomsday

November 16, 2008

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http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24638655-662,00.html
Peter Jean

THE world may be on track to face economic and ecological collapses by the middle of the century, according to CSIRO research.

The 1972 bestselling scientific report The Limits to Growth warned of possible doomsday scenarios created by unchecked use of resources.

A study by CSIRO physicist Dr Graham Turner found data projections made in The Limits to Growth were correct.

Dr Turner said projections relating to population, food and industrial production, pollution and consumption of non-renewable natural resources between 1970 and 2000 were broadly accurate.

“Unless (The Limits of Growth) is invalidated by other scientific research, the data comparison presented here lends support to the conclusion that the global system is on an unsustainable trajectory,” he said.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers commissioned by environment group The Club of Rome used computer modelling to develop The Limits to Growth study.

The report has been criticised by many economists and scientists over the years.

Under a “business as usual” scenario modelled in the report, the world population and the use of industrial resources would continue to grow.

Pollution would increase, harming agricultural production and human life and more energy and resources would be required to access declining levels of non-renewable natural resources.

“Eventually those pollution effects cause a big decline in the population,” Dr Turner said.

The Limits of Growth said disaster could be averted through technological advances and a reduction in consumption of material goods.

Dr Turner said there was still time to reduce the potential impacts of the looming environmental and economic problems by controlling pollution levels.

“There is still time to avert things, but we may have to consider some environmental degradation and impacts on the economy might still occur,” he said.

The Limits of Growth called for couples not to have more than two children and for the consumption of goods and resources to be cut to around the levels of the 1950s.

second mysterious security worker wacked in Prince George’s

November 15, 2008

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Looks like they may have stumbled on to the second 911 event or the plan for the release of the influenza virus.

An Oxon Hill man who worked with sensitive national security information was fatally shot Wednesday evening as he sat in his car at a stop light near his home, according to police, family members and coworkers.

Sean Nicholas Green, 31, had stopped at a red light at about 5:31 p.m. when a man approached his car and fired several shots into the driver’s side window of his black Cadillac Deville, police and family members said.

Cpl. Clinton Copeland, a spokesman for Prince George’s County police, said detectives do not have a suspect and are still working to establish a motive for the killing. “It doesn’t appear to be a carjacking, he was sitting at the light, he wasn’t the only car there — it’s weird stuff, a mystery right now,” Copeland said.

Other motorists who were stopped at the intersection of Virginia Lane and Saint Barnabas Road witnessed the shooting but were able to provide only vague descriptions of the gunman, who quickly fled the scene, Copeland said.

Stephen I. Green Jr., the victim’s older brother, said the shooting occurred about the time his brother usually left his apartment in the 2700 block of Alice Avenue to go workout at a nearby gym.
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Sean Green lived alone, had never been married and had passed a security background check to begin working at the National Counterterrorism Center in Northern Virginia about two years, according to his brother and a supervisor at the center. He worked in information technology and handled computers with sensitive national security information, the supervisor said.

“We’re all just in shock right now. This is a great loss, not just to our family but to the whole world,” Stephen I. Green Jr. said last night as he and others gathered at his parents’ home in Capitol Heights. “My brother came from a very loving and supportive family. He was a son, a brother, a nephew, a wonderful uncle — a positive member of society.”

The slaying is the second mysterious killing of a security worker in Prince George’s in recent months. In August, Kanika Powell, a security specialist at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory was gunned down by someone waiting near her doorstep. Five days before she was killed, police said an impostor had knocked on her door claiming to be an FBI agent. Police said there’s no indication the two killings are connected.

Anyone with information about either crime is asked to call the county homicide detectives at 301-772-4925. Anonymous calls can be placed to 866-411-TIPS.

An offer they couldn’t refuse

November 15, 2008

The CIA is often credited with ‘advice’ on Hollywood films, but no one is truly sure about the extent of its shadowy involvement. Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham investigate

* Matthew Alford and Robbie Graham
* guardian.co.uk, Friday November 14 2008 00.01 GMT
* The Guardian, Friday November 14 2008
* larger | smaller
* Article history

Body of Lies

Spies like us … Body of Lies

Everyone who watches films knows about Hollywood’s fascination with spies. From Hitchcock’s postwar espionage thrillers, through cold war tales such as Torn Curtain, into the paranoid 1970s when the CIA came to be seen as an agency out of control in films such as Three Days of the Condor, and right to the present, with the Bourne trilogy and Ridley Scott’s forthcoming Body of Lies, film-makers have always wanted to get in bed with spies. What’s less widely known is how much the spies have wanted to get in bed with the film-makers. In fact, the story of the CIA’s involvement in Hollywood is a tale of deception and subversion that would seem improbable if it were put on screen.

1. Body of Lies
2. Release: 2008
3. Directors: Ridley Scott
4. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Strong, Russell Crowe
5. More on this film

The model for this is the defence department’s “open” but barely publicised relationship with Hollywood. The Pentagon, for decades, has offered film-makers advice, manpower and even hardware – including aircraft carriers and state-of-the-art helicopters. All it asks for in exchange is that the US armed forces are made to look good. So in a previous Scott film, Black Hawk Down, a character based on a real-life soldier who had also been a child rapist lost that part of his backstory when he came to the screen.

No matter how seemingly craven Hollywood’s behaviour towards the US armed forces has seemed, it has at least happened within the public domain. That cannot be said for the CIA’s dealings with the movie business. Not until 1996 did the CIA announce, with little fanfare, that it had established an Entertainment Liaison Office, which would collaborate in a strictly advisory capacity with film-makers. Heading up the office was Chase Brandon, who had served for 25 years in the agency’s elite clandestine services division, as an undercover operations officer. A PR man he isn’t, though he does have Hollywood connections: he’s a cousin of Tommy Lee Jones.

But the past 12 years of semi-acknowledged collaboration were preceded by decades in which the CIA maintained a deep-rooted but invisible influence of Hollywood. How could it be otherwise? As the former CIA man Bob Baer – whose books on his time with the agency were the basis for Syriana – told us: “All these people that run studios – they go to Washington, they hang around with senators, they hang around with CIA directors, and everybody’s on board.”

There is documentary evidence for his claims. Luigi Luraschi was the head of foreign and domestic censorship for Paramount in the early 1950s. And, it was recently discovered, he was also working for the CIA, sending in reports about how film censorship was being employed to boost the image of the US in movies that would be seen abroad. Luraschi’s reports also revealed that he had persuaded several film-makers to plant “negroes” who were “well-dressed” in their movies, to counter Soviet propaganda about poor race relations in the States. The Soviet version was rather nearer the truth.

Luraschi’s activities were merely the tip of the iceberg. Graham Greene, for example, disowned the 1958 adapatation of his Vietnam-set novel The Quiet American, describing it as a “propaganda film for America”. In the title role, Audie Murphy played not Greene’s dangerously ambiguous figure – whose belief in the justice of American foreign policy allows him to ignore the appalling consequences of his actions – but a simple hero. The cynical British journalist, played by Michael Redgrave, is instead the man whose moral compass has gone awry. Greene’s American had been based in part on the legendary CIA operative in Vietnam, Colonel Edward Lansdale. How apt, then, that it should have been Lansdale who persuaded director Joseph Mankewiecz to change the script to suit his own ends.

The CIA didn’t just offer guidance to film-makers, however. It even offered money. In 1950, the agency bought the rights to George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and then funded the 1954 British animated version of the film. Its involvement had long been rumoured, but only in the past decade have those rumours been substantiated, and the tale of the CIA’s role told in Daniel Leab’s book Orwell Subverted.

The most common way for the CIA to exert influence in Hollywood nowadays is not through anything as direct as funding, or rewriting scripts, but offering to help with matters of verisimilitude. That is done by having serving or former CIA agents acting as advisers on the film, though some might wonder whether there is ever really such a thing a “former agent”. As ex-CIA agent Lindsay Moran, the author of Blowing My Cover, has noted, the CIA often calls on former officers to perform tasks for their old employer.

So it was no problem for CBS to secure official help when making its 2001 TV series The Agency (it was even written by a former agent). Langley was equally helpful to the novelist Tom Clancy, who was invited to CIA headquarters after the publication of The Hunt for Red October, an invitation that was regularly repeated. Consequently, when Clancy’s The Sum of All Fears was filmed in 2002, the agency was happy to bring its makers to Langley for a personal tour of headquarters, and to offer access to agency analysts for star Ben Affleck. When filming began, Brandon was on set to advise – a role he repeated during the filming of glamorous television series Alias.

The former agent Milt Beardon took the advisory role on two less action-packed attempts at espionage stories: Robert De Niro’s The Good Shepherd from 2006, which told an approximate version of the story of the famed CIA head of counter-espionage, James Jesus Angleton; and Charlie Wilson’s War, the story of US covert efforts to supply the Afghan mujahideen with weaponry during the Soviet occupation of the 80s. In reality, this was a story that ended badly, as the Afghan freedom fighters helped give birth to the terrorists of al-Qaida. In the movie, however, that was not the case. As Beardon – who had been the CIA man responsible for the weapons reaching the Afghans – observed shortly before the movie came out, the film would “put aside the notion that because we did that [supply arms], we had 9/11”.

Beardon’s remark provides a clue to the real reason the CIA likes to offer advice to Hollywood, a clue that was expanded on by Paul Kelbaugh, the former associate general counsel to the CIA – a very senior figure in Langley. In 2007, Kelbaugh spoke at Lynchburg College of Law in Virginia – where he had become an associate professor – about the CIA’s relationship with Hollywood. A journalist present at the lecture (who now wishes to be anonymous) reported that Kelbaugh spoke about the 2003 Al Pacino/Colin Farrell vehicle The Recruit. A CIA agent had been on set as a “consultant” throughout the shoot, he said; his real job, however, was to misdirect the film-makers. “We didn’t want Hollywood getting too close to the truth,” the journalist quoted Kelbaugh as saying.

Peculiarly, though, in a strongly worded email to us, Kelbaugh emphatically denied having said such a thing, and said he remembered “very specific discussions with senior [CIA] management that no one was ever to misrepresent to affect [film] content – EVER.” The journalist stands by the original report, and Kelbaugh has refused to discuss the matter further.

So, altering scripts, financing films, suppressing the truth – it’s worrying enough. But there are cases where some believe the CIA’s activities in Hollywood have gone further – far enough, in fact, to be the stuff of movies. In June 1997, the screenwriter Gary DeVore was working on the screenplay for his directorial debut. It was to be an action movie set against the backdrop of the US invasion of Panama in 1989, which led to the overthrow of dictator Manuel Noriega. According to his wife, Wendy, DeVore had been talking to an old friend – the CIA’s Chase Brandon – about Noriega’s regime and US counternarcotic programmes in Latin America. Wendy told CNN: “He had been very disturbed over some of the things that he had been finding in his research. He was researching the United States invasion of Panama, because he was setting the actual story that he was writing against this; and the overthrow of Noriega and the enormous amounts of money laundering in the Panamanian banks, also our own government’s money laundering.”

At the end of that month, DeVore had been in Santa Fe, New Mexico, working on another project. He was travelling back to California when, at 1.15am on June 28, he called Wendy, a call she says has been excised from phone records. She told CNN she was “terribly alarmed” because he was speaking as though he were under duress. She was sure “someone was in the car with him”. That was the last time Wendy DeVore heard from her husband.

A year passed, but the case refused to die and speculation mounted. Even the Los Angeles Times began contemplating CIA involvement. DeVore was presumed dead, but there was no body, and no end to the questions. Lo and behold, just nine days after the LA Times reported the case, DeVore’s body was found, decomposing in his Ford Explorer, in 12 feet of water in the California Aqueduct below the Antelope Valley Freeway, south of Palmdale – a city located in “aerospace valley”, so dubbed by locals for its reputation as a US military-industrial-complex stronghold – fuel to the fire for conspiracy theorists.

The coroner went on to declare the cause and manner of DeVore’s death to be “unknown”, but police eventually reached the tentative conclusion that the screenwriter’s death was an accident: he had fallen asleep at the wheel, they said, before careening off the highway and into the water, where he drowned. But loose ends remain: DeVore’s laptop computer containing his unfinished script was missing from his vehicle, as was the gun he customarily carried on long trips; after his disappearance, a CIA representative allegedly showed up at DeVore’s house to request access to his computer; Hollywood private investigator Don Crutchfield noted that previous drafts of DeVore’s script were inexplicably wiped from said computer during the same timeframe; police claimed that DeVore’s vehicle careened off the highway, yet DeVore’s widow was troubled by the absence of visible damage to the guardrail at the scene of the alleged accident; and how come no one noticed an SUV sitting in the water beneath a busy highway for a whole year? Perhaps the whole incident is too like a conspiracy movie to be a real conspiracy – but many remain troubled by De Vore’s death.

Despite the CIA’s professed desire to be more open about the role it plays in Holly-wood, it’s hard to take its newfound transparency too seriously. After all, what use is a covert agency that does not act covertly, even if some of its activities are public? And if it is still not open about the truth of events decades ago, many of which have spilled into the public domain accidently, how can we be sure it is telling the truth about its activities now? The spy may have come in from the cold, but he still finds shelter in the dark of the cinema.

Keeping Iraq’s Oil In the Ground

November 12, 2008

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By Greg Palast

Did the U.S. invade Iraq to tap its oil reserves or to make sure they stayed under the sand?

World oil production today stands at more than twice the 15-billion a-year maximum projected by Shell Oil in 1956 — and reserves are climbing at a faster clip yet. That leaves the question, Why this war?

Did Dick Cheney send us in to seize the last dwindling supplies? Unlikely. Our world’s petroleum reserves have doubled in just twenty-five years — and it is in Shell’s and the rest of the industry’s interest that this doubling doesn’t happen again. The neo-cons were hell-bent on raising Iraq’s oil production. Big Oil’s interest was in suppressing production, that is, keeping Iraq to its OPEC quota or less. This raises the question, did the petroleum industry, which had a direct, if hidden, hand, in promoting invasion, cheerlead for a takeover of Iraq to prevent overproduction?

It wouldn’t be the first time. If oil is what we’re looking for, there are, indeed, extra helpings in Iraq. On paper, Iraq, at 112 billion proven barrels, has the second largest reserves in OPEC after Saudi Arabia. That does not make Saudi Arabia happy. Even more important is that Iraq has fewer than three thousand operating wells… compared to one million in Texas.

That makes the Saudis even unhappier. It would take a decade or more, but start drilling in Iraq and its reserves will about double, bringing it within gallons of Saudi Arabia’s own gargantuan pool. Should Iraq drill on that scale, the total, when combined with the Saudis’, will drown the oil market. That wouldn’t make the Texans too happy either. So Fadhil Chalabi’s plan for Iraq to pump 12 million barrels a day, a million more than Saudi Arabia, is not, to use Bob Ebel’s (Center fro Strategic and International Studies) terminology, “ridiculous” from a raw resource view, it is ridiculous politically. It would never be permitted. An international industry policy of suppressing Iraqi oil production has been in place since 1927. We need again to visit that imp called “history.”

It began with a character known as “Mr. 5%”– Calouste Gulbenkian — who, in 1925, slicked King Faisal, neophyte ruler of the country recently created by Churchill, into giving Gulbenkian’s “Iraq Petroleum Company” (IPC) exclusive rights to all of Iraq’s oil. Gulbenkian flipped 95% of his concession to a combine of western oil giants: Anglo-Persian, Royal Dutch Shell, CFP of France, and the Standard Oil trust companies (now ExxonMobil and its “sisters.”) The remaining slice Calouste kept for himself — hence, “Mr. 5%.”

The oil majors had a better use for Iraq’s oil than drilling it — not drilling it. The oil bigs had bought Iraq’s concession to seal it up and keep it off the market. To please his buyers’ wishes, Mr. 5% spread out a big map of the Middle East on the floor of a hotel room in Belgium and drew a thick red line around the gulf oil fields, centered on Iraq. All the oil company executives, gathered in the hotel room, signed their name on the red line — vowing not to drill, except as a group, within the red-lined zone. No one, therefore, had an incentive to cheat and take red-lined oil. All of Iraq’s oil, sequestered by all, was locked in, and all signers would enjoy a lift in worldwide prices. Anglo-Persian Company, now British Petroleum (BP), would pump almost all its oil, reasonably, from Persia (Iran). Later, the Standard Oil combine, renamed the Arabian-American Oil Company (Aramco), would limit almost all its drilling to Saudi Arabia. Anglo-Persian (BP) had begun pulling oil from Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1927 and, in accordance with the Red-Line Agreement, shared its Kirkuk and Basra fields with its IPC group — and drilled no more.

The following was written three decades ago:

Although its original concession of March 14, 1925, cove- red all of Iraq, the Iraq Petroleum Co., under the owner- ship of BP (23.75%), Shell (23.75%), CFP [of France] (23.75%), Exxon (11.85%), Mobil (11.85%), and [Calouste] Gulbenkian (5.0%), limited its production to fields constituting only one-half of 1 percent of the country’s total area. During the Great Depression, the world was awash with oil and greater output from Iraq would simply have driven the price down to even lower levels.

Plus ça change…

When the British Foreign Office fretted that locking up oil would stoke local nationalist anger, BP-IPC agreed privately to pretend to drill lots of wells, but make them absurdly shallow and place them where, wrote a company manager, “there was no danger of striking oil.” This systematic suppression of Iraq’s production, begun in 1927, has never ceased. In the early 1960s, Iraq’s frustration with the British-led oil consortium’s failure to pump pushed the nation to cancel the BP-Shell-Exxon concession and seize the oil fields. Britain was ready to strangle Baghdad, but a cooler, wiser man in the White House, John F. Kennedy, told the Brits to back off. President Kennedy refused to call Iraq’s seizure an “expropriation” akin to Castro’s seizure of U.S.-owned banana plantations. Kennedy’s view was that Anglo-American companies had it coming to them because they had refused to honor their legal commitment to drill.

But the freedom Kennedy offered the Iraqis to drill their own oil to the maximum was swiftly taken away from them by their Arab brethren.

The OPEC cartel, controlled by Saudi Arabia, capped Iraq’s production at a sum equal to Iran’s, though the Iranian reserves are far smaller than Iraq’s. The excuse for this quota equality between Iraq and Iran was to prevent war between them. It didn’t. To keep Iraq’s Ba’athists from complaining about the limits, Saudi Arabia simply bought off the leaders by funding Saddam’s war against Iran and giving the dictator $7 billion for his “Islamic bomb” program.

In 1974, a U.S. politician broke the omerta over the suppression of Iraq’s oil production. It was during the Arab oil embargo that Senator Edmund Muskie revealed a secret intelligence report of “fantastic” reserves of oil in Iraq undeveloped because U.S. oil companies refused to add pipeline capacity. Muskie, who’d just lost a bid for the Presidency, was dubbed a “loser” and ignored. The Iranian bombing of the Basra fields (1980-88) put a new kink in Iraq’s oil production. Iraq’s frustration under production limits explodes periodically.

In August 1990, Kuwait’s craven siphoning of borderland oil fields jointly owned with Iraq gave Saddam the excuse to take Kuwait’s share. Here was Saddam’s opportunity to increase Iraq’s OPEC quota by taking Kuwait’s (most assuredly not approved by the U.S.). Saddam’s plan backfired. The Basra oil fields not crippled by Iran were demolished in 1991 by American B-52s. Saddam’s petro-military overreach into Kuwait gave the West the authority for a more direct oil suppression method called the “Sanctions” program, later changed to “Oil for Food.” Now we get to the real reason for the U.N. embargo on Iraqi oil exports. According to the official U.S. position:

Sanctions were critical to preventing Iraq from acquiring equipment that could be used to reconstitute banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.

How odd. If cutting Saddam’s allowance was the purpose, then sanctions, limiting oil exports, was a very suspect method indeed. The nature of the oil market (a cartel) is such that the elimination of two million barrels a day increased Saddam’s revenue. One might conclude that sanctions were less about WMD and more about EPS (earnings per share) of oil sellers.

In other words, there is nothing new under the desert sun. Today’s fight over how much of Iraq’s oil to produce (or suppress) simply extends into this century the last century’s pump-or-control battles. In sum, Big Oil, whether in European or Arab-OPEC dress, has done its damned best to keep Iraq’s oil buried deep in the ground to keep prices high in the air. Iraq has 74 known fields and only 15 in production; 526 known “structures” (oil-speak for “pools of oil”), only 125 drilled.

And they won’t be drilled, not unless Iraq says, “Mother, may I?” to Saudi Arabia, or, as the James Baker/Council on Foreign Relations paper says, “Saudi Arabia may punish Iraq.” And believe me, Iraq wouldn’t want that. The decision to expand production has, for now, been kept out of Iraqi’s hands by the latest method of suppressing Iraq’s oil flow — the 2003 invasion and resistance to invasion. And it has been darn effective. Iraq’s output in 2003, 2004 and 2005 was less than produced under the restrictive Oil-for-Food Program. Whether by design or happenstance, this decline in output has resulted in tripling the profits of the five U.S. oil majors to $89 billion for a single year, 2005, compared to pre-invasion 2002. That suggests an interesting arithmetic equation. Big Oil’s profits are up $89 billion a year in the same period the oil industry boosted contributions to Mr. Bush’s reelection campaign to roughly $40 million.

That would make our president “Mr. 0.05%.”

A History of Oil in Iraq

Suppressing It, Not Pumping It

* 1925-28 “Mr. 5%” sells his monopoly on Iraq’s oil to British Petroleum and Exxon, who sign a “Red-Line Agreement” vowing not to compete by drilling independently in Iraq.

* 1948 Red-Line Agreement ended, replaced by oil combines’ “dog in the manger” strategy — taking control of fields, then capping production–drilling shallow holes where “there was no danger of striking oil.”

* 1961 OPEC, founded the year before, places quotas on Iraq’s exports equal to Iran’s, locking in suppression policy.

* 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War. Iran destroys Basra fields. Iraq cannot meet OPEC quota. 1991 Desert Storm. Anglo-American bombings cut production.

* 1991-2003 United Nations Oil embargo (zero legal exports) followed by Oil-for-Food Program limiting Iraqi sales to 2 million barrels a day.

* 2003-? “Insurgents” sabotage Iraq’s pipelines and infrastructure.

* 2004 Options for Iraqi OilThe secret plan adopted by U.S. State Department overturns Pentagon proposal to massively in crease oil production. State Department plan, adopted by government of occupied Iraq, limits state oil company to OPEC quotas.

This article is excerpted from Greg Palast’s new book, “Armed Madhouse” (Dutton Adult, 2006).

thank the gods that Obama was elected

November 8, 2008

This is great, this guy sums it up, but his conclusion is wrong. We do NOT want any more judges like these (Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Kenneth Starr)! No one with any connection with the Federalist society has any place in gov’t. from wsj http://sec.online.wsj.com/article/SB122515067227674187.html

One of the great unappreciated stories of the past eight years is how thoroughly Senate Democrats thwarted efforts by President Bush to appoint judges to the lower federal courts.
[Commentary] Chad Crowe

Consider the most important lower federal court in the country: the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In his two terms as president, Ronald Reagan appointed eight judges, an average of one a year, to this court. They included Robert Bork, Antonin Scalia, Kenneth Starr, Larry Silberman, Stephen Williams, James Buckley, Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle. In his two terms, George W. Bush was able to name only four: John Roberts, Janice Rogers Brown, Thomas Griffith and Brett Kavanaugh.

Although two seats on this court are vacant, Bush nominee Peter Keisler has been denied even a committee vote for two years. If Barack Obama wins the presidency, he will almost certainly fill those two vacant seats, the seats of two older Clinton appointees who will retire, and most likely the seats of four older Reagan and George H.W. Bush appointees who may retire as well.

The net result is that the legal left will once again have a majority on the nation’s most important regulatory court of appeals.

The balance will shift as well on almost all of the 12 other federal appeals courts. Nine of the 13 will probably swing to the left if Mr. Obama is elected (not counting the Ninth Circuit, which the left solidly controls today). Circuit majorities are likely at stake in this presidential election for the First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal. That includes the federal appeals courts for New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and virtually every other major center of finance in the country.

On the Supreme Court, six of the current nine justices will be 70 years old or older on January 20, 2009. There is a widespread expectation that the next president could make four appointments in just his first term, with maybe two more in a second term. Here too we are poised for heavy change.

These numbers ought to raise serious concern because of Mr. Obama’s extreme left-wing views about the role of judges. He believes — and he is quite open about this — that judges ought to decide cases in light of the empathy they ought to feel for the little guy in any lawsuit.

Speaking in July 2007 at a conference of Planned Parenthood, he said: “[W]e need somebody who’s got the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old. And that’s the criteria by which I’m going to be selecting my judges.”

On this view, plaintiffs should usually win against defendants in civil cases; criminals in cases against the police; consumers, employees and stockholders in suits brought against corporations; and citizens in suits brought against the government. Empathy, not justice, ought to be the mission of the federal courts, and the redistribution of wealth should be their mantra.

In a Sept. 6, 2001, interview with Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ-FM, Mr. Obama noted that the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren “never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society,” and “to that extent as radical as I think people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical.”

He also noted that the Court “didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it has been interpreted.” That is to say, he noted that the U.S. Constitution as written is only a guarantee of negative liberties from government — and not an entitlement to a right to welfare or economic justice.

This raises the question of whether Mr. Obama can in good faith take the presidential oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution” as he must do if he is to take office. Does Mr. Obama support the Constitution as it is written, or does he support amendments to guarantee welfare? Is his provision of a “tax cut” to millions of Americans who currently pay no taxes merely a foreshadowing of constitutional rights to welfare, health care, Social Security, vacation time and the redistribution of wealth? Perhaps the candidate ought to be asked to answer these questions before the election rather than after.

Every new federal judge has been required by federal law to take an oath of office in which he swears that he will “administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich.” Mr. Obama’s emphasis on empathy in essence requires the appointment of judges committed in advance to violating this oath. To the traditional view of justice as a blindfolded person weighing legal claims fairly on a scale, he wants to tear the blindfold off, so the judge can rule for the party he empathizes with most.

The legal left wants Americans to imagine that the federal courts are very right-wing now, and that Mr. Obama will merely stem some great right-wing federal judicial tide. The reality is completely different. The federal courts hang in the balance, and it is the left which is poised to capture them.

A whole generation of Americans has come of age since the nation experienced the bad judicial appointments and foolish economic and regulatory policy of the Johnson and Carter administrations. If Mr. Obama wins we could possibly see any or all of the following: a federal constitutional right to welfare; a federal constitutional mandate of affirmative action wherever there are racial disparities, without regard to proof of discriminatory intent; a right for government-financed abortions through the third trimester of pregnancy; the abolition of capital punishment and the mass freeing of criminal defendants; ruinous shareholder suits against corporate officers and directors; and approval of huge punitive damage awards, like those imposed against tobacco companies, against many legitimate businesses such as those selling fattening food.

Nothing less than the very idea of liberty and the rule of law are at stake in this election. We should not let Mr. Obama replace justice with empathy in our nation’s courtrooms.

Mr. Calabresi is a co-founder of the Federalist Society and a professor of law at Northwestern University.

thanks for hanging in there for the last 8 years

November 8, 2008

stevens

Bush v Gore (2000) Dissenting Opinion On Stolen Election

“Time will one day heal the wound to that confidence that will be inflicted by today’s decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year’s Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law.”