11/10/2005

Congratulations, Exxon Mobil! (No more need for subsidies, then?)

"Exxon's quarterly revenue equals $45 million an hour" (LA Times) (NYSE: XOM)

Taxpayers have been investing in the future of oil companies for decades. Finally, our investment has paid off. Free enterprise has lifted the petroleum industry out of its financially-strapped startup phase and placed it firmly in the land of bountiful profits.

Now, can we stop subsidizing the oil industry? The energy bill provided over $50 billion in tax subsidies for energy. Only about $29 billion are to be collected in fuel taxes. Of $23 billion in net tax breaks, approximately 60% are for oil, gas, coal energy.

Forget about windfall profit taxes, just take away the tens of billions in tax breaks that are slated for oil companies in the coming decade.

That money could go to help energy technologies that are in their financially-strapped startup phases. Renewable energy and energy efficiency get a tiny slice of the federal subsidy pie today. But now it seems the oil and gas subsidies -- especially new gas refinery subsidies -- could be redirected.

What a difference that would make!

This idea has been suggested in the Senate by Jay Inslee in his Apollo Project. Tell your Congressional representatives you want to see it passed.

11/08/2005

US used chemical weapons against Iraqis

A documentary from Italy, not yet aired in the US, claims to have proof that the US military used white phosphorous bombs in the battle of Fallujah.

SEE THE VIDEO "Fallujah: The Hidden Massacre" via TruthOut.org

The US Faces Fresh Chemical Weapons Claims in Iraq (with video)

"The United States is facing fresh allegations that it used chemical weapons against civilians during the fight for control of the Iraqi town of Fallujah. A documentary screened on Italian state television last night accuses the US military of dropping white phosphorous bombs on the insurgent-held city. It was a year ago today when US troops launched a fierce offensive to take over Fallujah."
US Iraq war veterans are quoted in the above article and one of them was also interviewed on European television today.

"I do know that white phosphorus was used, which is definitely without a shadow of a doubt a chemical weapon," he said.

There are more graphic quotes in the article and in other widespread coverage across Europe, especially Italy, where the documentary was aired in English.

Washington has tried to destroy any filmed evidence of the attack, according to the filmmakers. A medical team captured graphic images of the aftermath. The team was responsible for burying the badly burned bodies of women and children after the attack.

The Geneva Convention bans the use of white phosphorous against civilians. The documentary claims to have proof of widespread, indiscriminate use on neighborhoods from the air.

Hints of Kurdistan under Chemical Ali?

Of the hundreds of dead in Falluja, some still-clothed bodies seemed to be burned from the inside. Specialists say this points to "Willy Pete," or white phosphorous. The US does not consider it a chemical weapon.

Expect a broken-record message like this out of the administration in the coming weeks:
"We did not use chemical weapons. The Geneva Convention does not apply. We did what we had to do to protect Americans and fight terrorism in Iraq. Democracy. Freedom. Brutal Dictator."
Follow this story as it develops across the web.

Corrected 11/9/05: the military slang for white phosphorous is said to be "Willy Pete."

CNN's inaccurate coverage of France riots

CNN's reporters in France are confusing the situation with scant outsider coverage peppered with inaccuracies and demonstrating a lack of understanding of the situation.

In a dramatic tone, CNN's Becky Anderson describes a country in a state of emergency for the first time since 1955. She wonders how the curfews will be enforced. The camera pans across a legion of police officers in riot gear. Cut to the most shocking scenes of burning cars from the past 12 nights of violence. She notes increasing numbers of arrests. Cut to a map of France showing cities where violence has erupted.

Facts: France passed its "state of emergency" law on April 3, 1955, during the Algerian War. It has been used a couple of times since then, as late as 1984, although apparently not during the Paris anti-war riots of May 1968. The state of emergency can be declared for a portion of the country, which is the case with today's invocation of the act.

Curfew violations are punishable by 2 months in prison and a EU3,650 (about $4k) fine. Minors, in particular, are the target of the curfews. They are not allowed out after 10PM in some areas without an adult. The families of curfew-breaking minors will be fined. The government has called in about 8,000 military and reserve police reinforcements (about the same troop levels as were called during the Rodney King riots).

And about that map: Toulouse is not in the east, Strasbourg is not in Germany, Lyon is not in the west. CNN might be placing too much faith in Google's Earth mapping service, credited on-screen for the inaccurate map.

The Aulnay-sous-Bois hotel has become journalist central, surrounded with satellite trucks and its lobby crawling with reporters. It reminded one reporter of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. In Iraq, the reporters seldom leave their hotel for safety concerns. Are CNN's reporters applying that rule in Paris as well?

In other countries, the media is acting on their agendas. I don't watch Al Jazeera but I wouldn't expect balanced or accurate coverage there. The channel set up a branch in France, but was soon shut down for promoting anti-Western extremism.

The Turkish press reportedly is savoring this opportunity to highlight France's weakness. France is among the EU countries who want Turkey to jump through social and economic hoops before being admitted into the European Union.

International CNN correspondent Christiane Ananpour walks through the streets of the project, flanked by French school children of Arab and African descent. In her observation liberte, egalite, fraternite don't apply in the projects. That part might not be far from the truth. In smaller cities like Amiens and Raincy, the whole town is under curfew. In the large cities, the curfew applies to the projects, sometimes called "suburbs." That's adding to the sensation that the projects' residents are outcasts.

11/04/2005

Paris riots, Rodney, Iraq and Ben Barka

Many Americans jumped on the bandwagon to chastise and boycott France preceding the US invasion of Iraq. To correctly interpret France's UN actions requires understanding that Muslims are France's largest minority, and make up a very large proportion of their poor, who live in projects like those where violence is erupting.

To correctly interpret today's Paris unrest requires understanding the cycle of peace and unrest between Muslims and non-Muslims in France. The violence in the projects is blind and senseless, a corollary to the violence in L.A. following the Rodney King beating trial. It's not new. Since the riots of 1990, maintaining the peace has been of utmost importance.

Participating in the invasion of a Muslim nation would have brought much worse consequences. Siding with the US in Iraq would have been political suicide. It was so in Spain; it will likely be so in Italy.

Nicolas Sarkozy has probably dashed his chances at the 2007 presidential elections with one stupid remark. He's always acted like a tough guy toward residents of the projects. He ignited their anger last week in what was a tense but manageable situation. He is being politically isolated in France today, and might find himself once again squeezed out of government.

FYI-- "Banlieues" in French means "suburbs," but it also refers equally to the low-income housing projects that surround Paris. The Muslims who are rioting tonight are mostly not immigrants, but their parents are most likely from Algeria or Morocco. France was brutal toward these immigrants in the 50's and 60's, in some ways similar to segregation and police-backed white-on-black violence in the US. France has a more enlightened and integrated attitude today, but the road is long and memories are longer.

Last week was the 40th anniversary of the disappearance (and assumed assassination) of a prominent Moroccan activist in France, Ben Barka.