James Ridgeway

James Ridgeway

In 1965, James Ridgeway helped launch the modern muckraking era by revealing that General Motors had hired private eyes to spy on an obscure consumer advocate named Ralph Nader. He worked for many years at the Village Voice, has written 16 books, and has codirected Blood in the Face, a film about the far right. In 2012, he was named a Soros Justice Media Fellow.

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Waxman's Attack on Bush Global Warming Distortions

| Tue Jan. 30, 2007 11:38 AM EST

Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, opened oversight hearings this morning with a sharp attack on Phil Cooney, the former oil lobbyist who headed the Council of Environmental Quality, for tampering with scientific reports on global warming in order downplay its importance. (You can watch the hearings live online here.) Cooney resigned in 2005 after he was publicly criticized for playing politics with global warming. One New York Times report discussing government climate change reports written in 2002 and 2003 said, "In a section on the need for research into how warming might change water availability and flooding, [Cooney] crossed out a paragraph describing the projected reduction of mountain glaciers and snowpack. His note in the margins explained that this was 'straying from research strategy into speculative findings/musings.'"

Waxman says the committee knows the White House is hiding documents that show the Bush administration sought to weaken government reports by emphasizing the "beneficial effects," of global warming, and downplaying its effects on human health.

Witnesses at the hearing are to include Dr. Drew Shindell, of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Rick Piltz, the former senior associate of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, both of whom have protested at the White House meddling.

Mother Jones reporters at the hearing will be reporting as they go on.

Update: A new report from Union of Concerned Scientists uncovers new evidence of the Bush Administration tampering with global warming science.

An investigative report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) has uncovered new evidence of widespread political interference in federal climate science. The report, which includes a survey of hundreds of federal scientists at seven federal agencies and dozens of in-depth interviews, documents a high regard for climate change research but broad interference in communicating scientific results.
"The new evidence shows that political interference in climate science is no longer a series of isolated incidents but a system-wide epidemic," said Dr. Francesca Grifo, Director of the UCS Scientific Integrity Program. "Tailoring scientific fact for political purposes has become a problem across many federal science agencies."

Read more about the report here.

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Washington Marchers Demand Congress Stop the War

| Sat Jan. 27, 2007 5:35 PM EST

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The tens of thousands of antiwar protestors gathered on the National Mall today had their gazes fixed squarely on the U.S. Capitol, in more ways than one. The theme of the day seemed to be that the new Democratic-controlled Congress could—and perhaps would—stop the war, an idea rooted more in sincere wishful thinking than in reality.

Amid the peaceful demonstration, CNN reported, "about 300 protesters tried to rush the Capitol, running up the grassy lawn to the front of the building." Their chant was "Our Congress," while "several dozen shouting 'We want a tour' broke away and tried to get into a side door." In a move that may well turn out to be highly symbolic, police, after scuffling with the protestors, set up a series of barricades on the Capitol steps.

John Conyers, the Detroit Democrat who heads the House Judiciary Committee, spoke to the demonstrators' hopes, promising to defund the war if Bush doesn't stop it. "George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," he said, but "He can't fire you." And, in a reference to Congress, "He can't fire us... The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Not only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."

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While it may be encouraging to see figures like Conyers in positions of power in Congress, the general attitude of the Democrats is less promising. Antiwar public opinion might stiffen the Dems, but cutting off funds is a doubtful prospect. Any such cutoff of funds must begin in the House Appropriations Committee, where John Murtha's subcommittee on military spending holds sway. Murtha has said he is all for defunding the war, but his principal patron, Nancy Pelosi, has never suggested cutting off money for the troops. The Blue Dog Dems, perhaps the most powerful swing bloc in the House, are even less likely to do so.

In fact, a move in Congress to defund Iraq is just what the Republican Right wants. Since Congress has no power to actually pull out troops, they are left with the prospect of cutting off funding for troops still locked in combat. Pro-war Republicans lie in ambush waiting for that fatal political move, which will send their ranks storming out of the trenches screaming that the Dems want to "cut and run," leaving our troops twisting in the wind.

The presence at the antiwar rally of Jane Fonda, who emerged as the major personage of the day, immediately linked the Iraq conflict to Vietnam, and she made that plain in her speech, citing: "Blindness to realities on the ground, hubris... thoughtlessness in our approach to rebuilding a country we've destroyed." The Vietnam parallel in fact presents a history lesson for those depending on Congress to get us out of Iraq: One Democratic Congress after another backed the Vietnam War. The Democratic president, LBJ, went down because he supported the war. Humphrey backed the war. And in the end, it wasn't Congress, but Richard Nixon, who finally, reluctantly, brought the troops home.

--Photos by Caroline Dobuzinskis

Spindletop in Baghdad

| Fri Jan. 19, 2007 4:25 PM EST

If all goes as expected, Iraq will soon put in place a plan for a revamped oil industry that offers big international oil companies a free ride.

Iraq has bigger oil reserves than any country on earth – the reserves of just one Iraqi field oil equal those of ExxonMobil. As an added bonus, in Iraq exploration isn't really necessary. Everyone knows where the oil is, all you've got to do is start drilling. Then, on top of these virgin fields, there are numerous unmapped areas in the western desert which promise to yield billions more barrels.

Under Iraq's nationalized system, Saddam gave numerous contracts to companies from a variety of countries from Brazil to Vietnam, France to Russia. But these deals aren't likely to hold up. Rather, people who have been carefully studying evolving law, expect the existing deals will be subsumed as minor appendages of the agreements with Big Oil.

The probable Big Oil winners are:
*Exxon-Mobil and Chevron of the US
*BP and Shell of the UK
*BHP Billiton of Australia.

The final arrangement ensures continuance of a single but weak state company — so nobody can say we are "privatizing" Iraq's oil industry. But under the new law the state enterprise can cut contracts with private companies. This will be done through production sharing agreements (PSAs), where the nominal control of the oil will remain with the state, but for all practical purposes, it will be under control of the private firms. James Paul, executive director of the Global Policy Forum, a New York-based non-profit public interest group that tracks the Iraq play, told Mother Jones, "These reserves are estimated to cost $1 per barrel to produce and the sale of the crude will yield $50-plus on the world market."

"The law allows for concessions to global oil companies as a way to achieve the highest benefit for Iraqis, taking into consideration fair competition between these companies regardless of their nationalities," Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad told the Financial Times, adding, "This law stresses that all oil revenues will go to a central fund and then will be distributed to all Iraqis in all regions and provinces according their populations."

The details of the law are not known. The law will go first to the cabinet, then to parliament for final approval. Jihad said the government hopes to get the law passed and loose ends tied up within one month.

Hard line conservatives in the U.S. originally wanted to privatize the industry, but, Paul notes, the oil companies didn't like the idea of getting tarred as old fashioned colonists. So they opted for the PSAs.

Iraqi oil profits can be parceled out to the different warring groups according to a formula now being worked out. It's not feasible to just break up the business, handing bits and pieces to the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia, because Bush is talking about strengthening the central state with a workable army, police force, revamped commerce, etc. Since oil provides virtually the only revenues coming in, oil money is going to have to underwrite the economic future of the country.

The new oil law, which will shape the country's future, says Paul, "is grossly undemocratic." But there's no fear oil will get re-nationalized. The International Monetary Fund has negotiated a financial arrangement with post-war Iraq with its usual conditions: Everything has got to be privatized and the free market must rule.

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