oil politics

It’s Thanksgiving which means tables decorated with tiny porcelain figures of Native Americans sharing corn with pilgrims. It’s a holiday about being grateful, coming together, and being at peace but while we use caricatures of a great people, mainstream media ignores their cries for help. While we set tables with servings of food that are far too large, the original inhabitants of this great nation struggle to fight for clean drinking water and respect for their ancestors.

I’m not great at words but this issue is very dear to my heart so here’s some art.

Revolt in the Desert
TIME, 5 August 1957

In 1954 the old Imam died. Encouraged and funded by the Saudi Arabian government, who wanted to secure control of oil deposits in the Buraimi oasis, which was partly owned by the Sheik of the Abu Dhabi and partly by the Sultan of Muscat, the new Imam, Ghalib bin Ali, and his energetic and charismatic brother Talib, mounted a rebellion against the Sultan. Said bin Taimur was widely unpopular. Matters came to a head over oil concessions sought by a British oil company. Both the Sultan and the Imam claimed the right to control the concession. In 1956 Talib began to organize Omani exiles living in Saudi Arabia into the Omani Liberation Army. Supported by the Saudis, he demanded independence for the interior of Oman and the withdrawal of all British and Muscat troops from their territory. In 1957 the insurgents returned to Oman and established themselves on the Jebel Akhdar, a limestone plateau which was a huge natural fortress. Measuring 50 miles by 20 miles, its peaks rose to 10,000 feet before descending to a plateau at 6,000 feet where there were villages, cultivated land that could feed the insurgents, as well as caves to shelter them from air attacks. The only approaches to the plateau were up a small number of narrow ravines that were easily defended. By July 1957 the insurgents had occupied Nizwa, a key town in the interior, and ambushed and virtually destroyed the Sultan’s army, at which point the Sultan appealed to the British for military assistance.

– David French, The British Way in Counter-Insurgency, 1945-1967 (2011), 53.

Senators who urged Trump to leave Paris climate accord took millions from oil companies

If anyone is near Kamloops, BC, my university Thompson rivers university is hosting a panel discussion with indigenous land/water defenders in regards to the fight against oil pipelines. There’s some big names presenting (I recognize a few of them).

It’s a free event, and is happening this Monday, February 6th.

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If you’re opposed to this oil pipeline, there is only one major party (NDP) you can support in the BC election this May (or the Greens but their chances of winning seats isn’t great). The election takes place May 9th, 2017.

The BC Liberals have shown they aren’t serious about tackling climate change, respecting indigenous rights or protecting the BC Coast.

nytimes.com
Opinion | Is It Time to Break Up Google?
Let’s face it: The biggest tech companies are monopolies.
By Jonathan Taplin

In just 10 years, the world’s five largest companies by market capitalization have all changed, save for one: Microsoft. Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Citigroup and Shell Oil are out and Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon and Facebook have taken their place. 

They’re all tech companies, and each dominates its corner of the industry: Google has an 88 percent market share in search advertising, Facebook (and its subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) owns 77 percent of mobile social traffic and Amazon has a 74 percent share in the e-book market. in classic economic terms, all three are monopolies.

We have been transported back to the early 20th century, when arguments about the “curse of bigness” were advanced by President Woodrow Wilson’s counselor, Louis Brandeis, before Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court. Brandeis wanted to eliminate monopolies, because (in the words of his biographer Melvin Urofsky) “in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people.” We need to look no further than the conduct of the largest banks in the 2008 financial crisis or the role Facebook and Google play in the “fake news” business to know that Brandeis was right.

While Brandeis generally opposed regulation - which he worried inevitably led to the corruption of the regulator - and instead advocated breaking up “bigness,” he made an exception for “natural” monopolies, like telephone water, and power companies and railroads, where it made sense to have one or a few companies in control of an industry.

Could it be that these companies - and Google in particular - have become natural monopolies by supplying an entire market’s demand for a service, at a price lower than that what would be offered by two competing firms? And if so, is it time to regulate them like public utilities?

Consider a historical analogy: the early days of telecommunications.

In 1895 a photograph of the business district of a large city might have shown 20 phone wires attached to most buildings. Each wire was owned by a different company, and none of them worked with the others. Without network effects, the networks themselves were almost useless.

The solution was for a single company American Telephone and Telegraph, to consolidate the industry by buying up all the small operators and creating a single network - a natural monopoly. the government permitted it, but then regulated this monopoly through the Federal Communications Commission.

AT&T (also known as the bell System) had its rates regulated and was required to spend a fixed percentage of its profits on research and development. In 1925 AT&T set up Bell Labs as a separate subsidiary with the mandate to develop the next generation of communications technology, but also to do basic research in physics and other sciences. Over the next 50 years, the basics of the digital age - the transistor, the microchip, the solar cell, the microwave, the laser, cellular telephony - al came out of Bell Labs along with eight Nobel Prizes.

In a 1956 consent degree in which the Justice Department allowed AT&T to maintain its phone monopoly, the government extracted a huge concession: all future patents were licensed (to any American company) royalty-free, and all future patents were to be licensed for a small fee. These licenses led to the creation of Texas Instruments, Motorola, Fairchild Semiconductor and many other start-ups.

True, the internet never had the same problems of interoperability. And Google’s route to dominance is different from the Bell System’s. Nevertheless, it still has all of the characteristics of a public utility.

(Continue Reading)

I've got an idea! How about Mexico actually pays for the wall and so does Canada. Before you bat an eye, all oversea flights are closed and America can live in its own small polluted world for as long as they can physically enjoy it and everyone's happy :)

I’m not saying that free-market economics is bad or dangerous, I’m saying that it doesn’t even exist.

The mythical butcher-baker-candlestick-maker view of capitalism only existed in the very earliest days of capitalist development, when it was little more than a social experiment embarked upon by adventurous minor nobles and desperate peasants in fast-growing early-modern cities. The whole reason capitalism survived as a way of organising economic activity was because the newly-wealthy capitalist elites were best placed to wield influence over tottering European feudal states as they crumbled under their own weight - taking them over to run them as glorified protection rackets for their profit-making schemes. From its earliest inception within feudal societies, capital has sought the benefits of the state - legal regulation, economic protectionism, military repression - and used them to secure its future.

Even the most dimly-conscious free-market ideologue knows this. What ‘free-market’ ideology really conceals is a civil war between staggeringly wealthy elites, over which faction of capitalists should reap the rewards: those who benefit from the huge resources of states being poured into subsidising the profits of manufacturing, industry and trade, or those who can make a killing from bank bailouts, government-secured property deals and state-backed oil ventures.

Modern states, therefore, are to capitalism both nursemaid and childhood playmate: they are utterly inseparable, bound together in a Faustian bargain written in the blood of workers.