Monday, January 23, 2006

Other Items

At a time when energy prices and industry profits are soaring, the federal government collected little more money last year than it did five years ago from the companies that extracted more than $60 billion in oil and gas from publicly owned lands and coastal waters.
If royalty payments in fiscal 2005 for natural gas had risen in step with market prices, the government would have received about $700 million more than it actually did, a three-month investigation by The New York Times has found.
But an often byzantine set of federal regulations, largely shaped and fiercely defended by the energy industry itself, allowed companies producing natural gas to provide the Interior Department with much lower sale prices - the crucial determinant for calculating government royalties - than they reported to their shareholders.

As a result, the nation's taxpayers, collectively, the biggest owner of American oil and gas reserves, have missed much of the recent energy bonanza.
The disparities in gas prices parallel those uncovered just five years ago in a wave of scandals involving royalty payments for oil. From 1998 to 2001, a dozen major companies, while admitting no wrongdoing, paid a total of $438 million to settle charges that they had fraudulently understated their sale prices for oil.

The above is from Edmund L. Andrews' "As Profits Soar, Companies Pay U.S. Less for Gas Rights" in this morning's New York Times and Tonya notes "I can't imagine the paper reaching this level again in what's left of the month let alone in the rest of the week."

In further news of tolls the Bully Boy imposes and we all pay, Brad notes Felicity Barringer's "United States Ranks 28th on Environment, a New Study Says:"

A pilot nation-by-nation study of environmental performance shows that just six nations - led by New Zealand, followed by five from Northern Europe - have achieved 85 percent or better success in meeting a set of critical environmental goals ranging from clean drinking water and low ozone levels to sustainable fisheries and low greenhouse gas emissions.
The study, jointly produced by Yale and Columbia Universities, ranked the United States 28th over all, behind most of Western Europe, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Costa Rica and Chile, but ahead of Russia and South Korea.
The bottom half of the rankings is largely filled with the countries of Africa and Central and South Asia. Pakistan and India both rank among the 20 lowest-scoring countries, with overall success rates of 41.1 percent and 47.7 percent, respectively.

Still no word on the fate of Jill Carroll, Molly notes Tracy Davis' "Kidnapped reporter wrote of war's toll" (The Ann Arbor News):

The stories of kidnapped reporter and Ann Arbor native Jill Carroll show a knack for details that set a scene and captured the human toll of the war-torn Iraq where she chose to work.
In one of her first reports as a freelancer for The Christian Science Monitor, Carroll sought to show the impact of the war on ordinary Iraqis.
In the April story, Carroll wrote about the fate of a 3-year-old girl injured when a car bomb exploded outside the house she shared with 26 relatives in a poor Baghdad neighborhood.
Carroll wrote that everyone in the home had somehow survived the explosion. "But 17 months later, Zeinab still can't move her legs,'' she wrote. "And the family is still recovering - emotionally, financially and physically - from that instant of devastation.''
The story goes on to mention two victims of a more recent car bombing. "Among the dead were a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old, brothers who were working painting the street curb,'' Carroll wrote. "...Near the site of the first bomb, the back window of a car was blown out and lay on the ground littered with twisted black metal. A yellow decal on the cracked window read in Arabic: 'In the name of God the compassionate, the merciful.' The opening line of the first chapter of the Koran was meant to protect the car's owner.''
That story is among several of Carroll's articles that The Monitor has posted on its Web site. Carroll, a 1995 graduate of Huron High School, was kidnapped in Iraq on Jan. 7 after trying to meet a top Sunni Arab leader for a Monitor story. Her interpreter was killed; the driver escaped.

Intensive efforts continued to secure the release of kidnapped American Jill Carroll, 28, with U.S. and Iraqi authorities conducting joint operations in a bid to free the journalist. Carroll was abducted in Baghdad on Jan. 7.
The suicide bomber targeted a police patrol near the Iranian Embassy, which is close to the checkpoint into the Green Zone known as the "Assassins' Gate," said the top Baghdad police officer, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Razaq al-Samarie.

In other Iraq news, Brandon notes Sinan Salaheddin's "Suicide Car Bomber Kills Three in Baghdad" (Associated Press):

A suicide car bomber killed at least three Iraqis Monday near the Green Zone housing the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government, and the U.S. military said two American airmen died in a roadside bomb blast north of the capital.
[. . .]
The two U.S. airmen were killed and a third was wounded in an attack on a convoy Sunday near Taji, where a U.S. air base is located 12 miles north of Baghdad, the military said.

notes Jesse Jackson Jr.'s "The Right to Vote" (The Nation):

"The vote" is a human right. It is seen as an American right. In a democracy there is nothing more fundamental than having the right to vote.
And yet the right to vote is not a fundamental right in our Constitution. Some liberals argue that the fundamental right to vote for every American citizen is implied in the Constitution, based on Supreme Court precedent. Yet when I ask them about the denial of voting representation in Congress to District of Columbia citizens, or about the denial of ex-felons' voting rights in most states, many liberals concede that the current structure of our Constitution limits the ability of the courts and Congress to adequately address important voting-rights issues.
It is amazing to me that many Democrats failed to grasp the most fundamental finding in Bush v. Gore: "The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States."

KeShawn: Failed to grasp it, failed to fight against it. Where are the fighters?

Inside the party, we pretty much know whom we can count on but Mia notes a Molly Ivins' latest ( Syndicate) and she's ready to fight:

I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.
Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.
The recent death of Gene McCarthy reminded me of a lesson I spent a long, long time unlearning, so now I have to re-learn it. It's about political courage and heroes, and when a country is desperate for leadership. There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times.
There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief. If no one in conventional-wisdom politics has the courage to speak up and say what needs to be said, then you go out and find some obscure junior senator from Minnesota with the guts to do it. In 1968, Gene McCarthy was the little boy who said out loud, "Look, the emperor isn't wearing any clothes." Bobby Kennedy -- rough, tough Bobby Kennedy -- didn't do it. Just this quiet man trained by Benedictines who liked to quote poetry. What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake?
The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes. The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE

"WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?" should end up a rallying cry. They seem afraid of something at present. Yes, we're on the topic of Alito and Kyle forwarded this from PEN (The People's Email Network):

When we suggested the other day that we all mentally repeat "Alito is NOT a done deal," we had no idea so many of our participants were affirmation experts. We got so many wonderful suggestions we decided to have contest to find the best affirmation that there will in fact BE an filibuster of the evasive and dangerous Alito. At the page below you can enter our own proposed affirmation, or vote on the ones which have already been entered!
By now we all understand that the entire corporate media has conspired to sell us yet another lie, this one about our power to stop a stealth candidate with a lifelong agenda as a record from completing a reactionary takeover of our Supreme Court. We CAN stop Alito. Oh, yes we can. All we have to do is keep speaking out to our senators. Yesterday, Senator Durbin made it very clear, a filibuster is NOT off the table. They are just waiting for us to show them that we the people are ready to back them up and all the representatives we need will stand up WITH us.
Remember that at the main site above you can instantly look up all the phone and fax numbers of both your senators, right down to their local district offices. And all the toll free numbers are still working too, 888-355-3588, 888-818-6641 and 800-426-8073. Thousands and thousands of you were calling all day for the Filibuster Friday action. So let's make it a Filibuster Saturday, and Sunday and every day until we prevail as it is now clear we must and will.
Stay positive. Encourage everyone you know not only to call and email their senators through the action site, but with every word that passes our lips, with every word that is entered on a keyboard, let us affirm that we WILL win. It is that belief which will inspire the additional people to make it a reality. Enter and vote on your affirmations today!
Please take action NOW, so we can win all victories that are supposed to be ours, and forward this message to everyone else you know.
If you would like to get alerts like these, you can do so at

The latest gina & krista round-robin goes out this morning. Stay active. Let your senators hear from you. Hopefully, everyone's eager to open the latest round-robin but there's a special feature today. Noted with Gina, Krista and Pru's permission, Pru concludes her six month series of "Ask Alan." Some of your favorite pictures of the Times Alan Cowell will be rerun and you'll find out, one more time, how little British members feel he knows about England. (Which would be the country he's supposed to be reporting on.) Pru feels like the months she and her friends have been "bumping into" him to pose a simple question have well documented her point that Cowell and England "do not make for an easy mix." So it's the final "Ask Alan" column but she has a new subject and to find out who, you'll need to open that round-robin. Pru's column would normally run this Friday but she's turned it in early to make sure Gina and Krista (who are so tired but keep fighting) had something special from a member to run. Consider it a gift from Pru. She says you can give back by fighting Alito and that "we're pulling for you."

Don't let yourself down, don't let down Pru. Open the round-robin and get active today.

And remember to check out Democracy Now! today.

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