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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Congress on 9/11

| Tue Jan. 9, 2007 1:19 PM EST

Pelosi's proposals for increased secruity by implimenting the remaining 911 Commission proposals are beside the point. The Commission itself avoided asking any really hard questions, like, for instance, putting Bush under oath and getting him to tell what happened that day. It even contributed to the administration's overall obfuscation by hiding its own staff study of the inadequate FAA response to numerous pre-attack warnings, then finally releasing them -- after the presidential election. The Congress never has exercised any oversight to speak of over the FAA, and that includes under both Democratic and Republican leadership. For more than a decade the FAA ignored warnings by its own staff and the Congress could have cared less -- quite possibly because of close ties to the industry by former members such as George Mitchell. Tom Daschle's wife was an airline lobbyist when he was Majority leader of the Senate.

The Members of the Family Steering Committee for the 911 Independent Commission issued a set of ratings and questions after the commission shut down. They remain unanswered. Compiled by Jersey Girls Mindy Kleinberg and Lorie Van Auken, they include such things as how come after Bush was told by the White House situation room a commercial airliner had hit the World Trade Towers, he continued with his classroom visit to the Florida elementary school? And after Bush got warnings of an attack from 11 different nations, what did he do to defend this country? There are more than 20 pages of questions from the families. You can read them here [pdf].

The clear action here is for Congress to reopen the investigation into 911 that had been begun by former Florida Senator Bob Graham's joint intelligence inquiry. The report of that investigation raised questions about -- among other things -- the disastrous role played by the FBI in all this.The Congress formed the commission to carry on the inquiries launched by Graham. Instead of doing so, the commission conducted sets of hearings in which each member got to compliment people like Donald Rumsfeld, who appears to have been absent or out of the loop on 911, Robert Mueler of the FBI, whose San Diego office oversaw an informant who rented rooms to two hijackers and never told anybody about it, and Condi Rice, who had been presented with various warnings but claimed she knew nothing. And then there was Dick Cheney, who in flagrant vioilation of the Constitution was running the country on 911 because Bush was out of contact. What did he do and why did he do it? The Congress doesn't know and to date has been unwilling to find out.

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Big Oil Wins Iraq's Petroleum Resources

| Mon Jan. 8, 2007 5:02 PM EST

The long discussed plan to hand over most of Iraq's oil assets to big foreign oil companies is about to happen. When people can't figure out what Bush means when he claims victory in Iraq, this is what he is talking about.

According to the Independent, the companies are looking at terrific profit potentials. "The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalized in 1972."

The plan envisions production sharing agreements among the oil companies and the Iraqi government. Such agreements are unusual in the Mideast. The production sharing agreements would run for 30 years with companies taking an initial 75 percent of all profits to cover costs and then 20 percent of all profits. According to the Independent that's twice the industry average.

The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group recommended American involvement in devising a scheme for future oil exploration. That plan differed in certain respects from earlier schemes in that Baker-Hamilton wants the oil business to be dealt with as a centralized entity, not divided up into three sections to be handed out to the three prominent players in the country -- Kurds, Sunni and Shia. If that happened, the country would doubtless break up since oil is the only real economic base. Divided three ways, the Kurds and Shia would stand to get the larger share.

The large Iraqi unions of oil workers are protesting the deal: "This law has a lot of problems. It was prepared without consulting Iraqi experts, Iraqi civil society or trade unions. We reject this draft and demand more time to debate the law," according to Hasan Jum'a, President of the Federation of Oil Unions.

Adnan Saffar, member of the Executive Committee of the General Federation of Iraqi Workers, said "The Iraqi national interest is surrendered in this law which allows foreign companies investment terms that exploit Iraq's oil wealth. They benefit the foreign investors more than they benefit Iraqi workers, through long term oil contracts that negatively impact Iraq's sovereignty and national independence."

When the war started, virtually all American officials and politicians denied oil was a primary interest. As the Independent points out, in arguing for the war in 2003, Tony Blair denied the "false claim" that "we want to seize" Iraq's oil revenues. About the same time, Colin Powell, then Secretary of State, said: "It cost a great deal of money to prosecute this war. But the oil of the Iraqi people belongs to the Iraqi people; it is their wealth, it will be used for their benefit. So we did not do it for oil."

Of course, the modern oil industry was launched by the British Navy with a takeover of Mesopotamia's oil resources at the turn of the last century. The British then were eager to establish secure resources to the new fuel for its battle ships in the upcoming world war.

Iraq Diary

| Fri Jan. 5, 2007 1:20 PM EST

Juan Cole this morning links to a very upsetting document he found at the British Library. It is the diary of Saad Eskander, director of the Iraq National Library and Archive.

An entry:

It is another bad week for the NLA.

On Sunday, I learnt that Ahmed Salih, who was on leave, was murdered by a Death Squad in his own house. Ahmed came from a poor family. After his father's death, he raised his younger brothers and sisters. He worked very hard to educate them. I also learnt that Ahmed was engaged to a girl two weeks before his death.

On Monday, I received more bad news. The older brother of Maiadah, who works in the Periodical Department, was murdered by a group of terrorists.

I learnt that some sniper fired at a car in the Republican Street, killing the driver and all the passengers.

It was a Christmas period and the security situation was as bad as ever. We have four Christians in our institution. The first two, 'A' and 'B', work in the Archive, the third, 'C', in the Library, and the fourth, 'D', in my office. I gave them 5 day-break to celebrate Christmas. 'D' took just one day off. She continued to show up, even when the main roads were blocked. I advised her to cover her hair, when passing through dangerous areas (i.e. under the control of the militias and armed gangs). She said that she was wearing Hijab for some time to hide her identity (i.e. being Christian).

Ten Step Pelosi Reform Program for New Dems

| Fri Jan. 5, 2007 11:32 AM EST

It's too soon to tell just how far the Dems are willing to go with their reforms. If they want to be taken seriously, however, they will need to take the following 10 steps.

1) Put Vice President Cheney under oath and get his secret energy meeting documents. They may show how the oil companies colluded in the war and what Bush got from them.

2) Find out who initiated the torturing of prisoners in the Iraq and Afghan wars and see to it that they are prosecuted and put in jail. That includes officials — civilian and military — in the White House, Justice Department, Pentagon, and on the battlefields.

3) Fire the military commanders and civilian officials who turned Saddam over to a death squad for execution.

4) Put Al Gore in charge of a new Congressional office to implement measures to reduce global warming.

5) Place former FBI chief Louis Freeh and current FBI head Robert Mueller under oath and order them to explain why they obstructed Congress in refusing to turn over to former Senator Bob Graham's intelligence investigation their key San Diego informant who was renting rooms to 9/11 hijackers.

6) Summon the outgoing Saudi ambassador, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, and get the straight scoop on the Saudi spy network in the U.S. and its ties with Al Qaeda.

7) Subpoena former FAA chief Jane Garvey and order her to explain how come her agency got numerous warnings about an impending attack on 9/11 and did nothing about it.

8) Investigate and move to indict top FDA officials who approve drugs for one use and then go to work and allow Big Pharma to sell them untested for other uses.

9) Place a moratorium on all oil and gas leases on the public domain until an impartial investigation revises the crooked Interior Department leasing program and recovers the billions owed by the oil industry to the government.

10) Deny federal funds to any state or locality engaged in "privatizing," i.e selling off this country's public highway system.

And, finally, stop fooling around: Instead of "reforming" the earmark system, end it.

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