Friday, November 2, 2007

It’s the Oil, Stupid

It’s the Oil, Stupid
By Jerome Grossman

While President Bush praises the invasion of Iraq as spreading freedom, while the Democrats in Congress are overcome with admiration for the U.S. troops installing democracy by the barrel of a gun, the rest of the world is saying, “It's the oil, stupid.”

The U.S. is stuck in the Middle East, just where it wants to be, without an exit strategy because it never intended to leave, not as long as the area contains 60% of world oil reserves and 40% of world natural gas reserves.

Do the math. Iraq has 115 billion barrels of known oil reserves, more than five times the total in the United States. In addition, it is the least explored of the world's oil-rich nations. It has been estimated that Iraq has 300 billion, yes billion, barrels of undiscovered oil. U.S. forces are now occupying in Iraq one quarter of the world's oil reserves. And these forces are now in position to protect the oil of Saudi Arabia and to threaten the oil of Iran.

At today's prices, which may be low given that consumer demand is growing in China, India, etc., the value of Iraqi oil would be about $30 trillion. The projected cost of the U.S. invasion and occupation is about $1 trillion. I won't try to evaluate the 4000 U.S. dead soldiers and 90,000 U.S. wounded.

Was the strategy of invading Iraq for its oil reserves developed at the secret meeting of the Energy Task Force in late 2001 organized by Vice-President Cheney? The oil and energy executives attending discussed the world situation at length but the administration refuses to release the details. But they can't fool Alan Greenspan, who was clear on the matter in his new book: “I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraqi War is largely about oil.”

While the immense profits were certainly part of the overall plan together with eliminating a dedicated opponent of Israel, neither the money nor Israel was decisive. Probably more important was control of the oil as a tool, or perhaps a weapon in support of U.S. world hegemony. Modern industrial nations require oil for productivity and consumer satisfaction. Crossing the interests of the U.S. will carry the risk of being shut off from the indispensable liquid. The invasion/occupation of Iraq was more than a defensive measure for oil supplies; it gave the U.S. a potent offensive tool to keep other nations in line with American policies.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Senator Frankenstein goes to Washington

Senator Frankenstein goes to Washington
By Jerome Grossman

The Democrats need to win more seats in the U.S. Senate in the 2008 elections if they are to achieve their agenda. While they have a working margin in the House of Representatives to pass legislation even with the defection of some conservative Democrats, in the Senate, the margin is a narrow 51 to 49. But in practice the margin is closer. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, who calls himself an independent Democrat, votes often with the Republicans on foreign affairs and sometimes on domestic matters, according to which Halloween mask he is wearing.

However, Democratic prospects are excellent for 2008. The GOP must defend 22 Senate seats, while the Democrats play defense on only 12. Republican retirements already number at least five, creating open seat election opportunities for the Democrats as the GOP loses the enormous benefits of incumbency. Of the ten most competitive Senate seats, nine are now held by Republicans, only one by a Democrat. No wonder the Republicans are scared and depressed.

One of the closest Senate races will be in Minnesota, where the incumbent Norm Coleman is running for his first re-election for the seat previously occupied by flaming liberal Paul Wellstone, who died in a plane crash just before his anticipated re-election. Coleman is a supporter of the war in Iraq, and a loyalist to virtually all the policies of President George W. Bush.

This race is sure to attract national attention, because the likely Democratic nominee is a professional comedian and entertainer, Al Franken, running for office for the first time and starting pretty close to the top. It will be fun. Franken is a liberal who has promoted the agenda of the Democratic Party on radio and television while making his living telling jokes, a new way of starting a political career, but reminiscent of Ronald Reagan.

Franken has a national reputation. In comedy style he covered the 1992 presidential conventions on Comedy Central TV and has delivered his unique blend of humor, disrespect and analysis at many universities and corporations. He is never at a loss for words, comments and jokes. Franken keeps the listeners awake.

Al Franken's best friend and his partner in show business is Ben Stein, a mirror image, a hard-line conservative paired with a flaming liberal. Stein is an actor who was a speechwriter for President Richard Nixon, and believe it or not, writes a column for the New York Times business section every Sunday.

In their acts, the pair is presented as Stein/Franken, because, as Al jokes, Stein is older and thus more deserving. However, others tell them that a more descriptive name would be Franken/Stein, after the horror of the same name.

Of course, Ben Stein will not be a partner in the ascendancy, but the usually humorless Republicans may choose to play with the Franken name, making mistakes on purpose. The title of the novel “Frankenstein” refers to a scientist who creates a being in the likeness of man but people have tended to refer to the horrible creature, composed of body parts taken from the dead, as “Frankenstein.”

Will the new Senator use his formidable nickname to intimidate his political opponents? Or at least get Senator Lieberman to behave? If Senator Al begins to strut around the Senate floor in imitation of the strung-together monster, will he be censured for disrespect? Or will the Republicans bring Vice President Cheney to shoot this caricature of a manufactured Senator? In any case, there will be no love interest in this movie on C-SPAN and the tedium of the Senate will have been eased by a comic routine. A new day may be dawning in the U.S. Senate. And where is Senator Groucho Marx now that we need him?

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Perils of Running for President

The Perils of Running for President
By Jerome Grossman

The last stage of the campaigns for the Democratic and Republican nominations for President has begun. The candidates have started to attack each other. No more nice guy - the gloves have come off - and as history shows - just about anything goes in American politics.

In the 2000 campaign, John McCain was probably the most popular politician in America, among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. His maverick positions, straight talk no nonsense style, combined with his war record as a wounded prisoner in the Vietnam War gave him cachet much more attractive than the establishment background of Texas Governor George W. Bush, who had the big money and the party apparatus behind him.

In a stunning upset, McCain defeated Bush in the New Hampshire primary by a massive 18 percentage points, becoming a serious threat for the nomination. But he had to confirm the victory in the next primary in South Carolina, to prove that the New Hampshire election was not a freak. People of unknown origin, perhaps associated with Bush, perhaps Bush supporters working on their own, organized a whispering campaign to destroy McCain’s reputation - and they succeeded.

Examples: Push telephone polls asked questions like, “If you knew that John McCain fathered a child out of wedlock, would you vote for him?” Whispering campaigns spread rumors that McCain had fathered an illegitimate black child, that he was homosexual, that his wife was a drug addict, that he had committed treason as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, that he scorned the Confederate flag, etc..

Will there be similar dirty tricks or appeals to secret prejudices in the current elections?
Against Barack Obama on account of his color?
Against Hillary Clinton on account of her sex?
Against Mitt Romney on account of his Mormon religion?
These prejudices may not show up in the polls but they certainly exist in some people to some degree, influencing their conduct and their votes.

Keep in mind that the United States has had 45 presidents and all but one has been male, white, Protestant. Some Americans have a built-in idea of what a president should look like, his background, his voice, his personality. The only president to vary from the expected mold was John F. Kennedy, who fulfilled the built-in idea in every way except that he was a Roman Catholic.

Can another Roman Catholic be elected, for example Rudolph Giuliani, the GOP front runner? And if that factor is overcome, how about his ethnic Italian-American name? In the 1988 election, by far the most talented Democratic politician was the Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, successful executive, recognized intellectual, powerful speaker, effective politician. Surprising the entire political world, Cuomo did not seek the Democratic nomination, opening the door for Governor Michael Dukakis. Cuomo told his intimates that he thought the country would never elect a person whose name ended in a vowel.

Another hurdle for Giuliani: at least one of his three marriages violated the marital rules of the Catholic Church. Will he be granted communion when he seeks to worship or will he be denied that right as was John Kerry in the 2004 campaign, denied in such a public manner that it became a political issue that probably cost Kerry votes.

The dangers are great, some obvious, some hidden like roadside bombs. It is impossible to prepare for all of them. But, then again, the reward is enormous - President of the U.S.A. - right now the equivalent of President of the World.


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