Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Other Items

The nation's top oil executives were called before Congress again yesterday to defend their industry's recent mergers and record profits, in the face of public outrage over high oil and gasoline prices.
It was the second time in four months that the oil industry faced strong criticism from both Republican and Democratic senators. In November, the Senate held similar hearings, which produced a show of indignation but were followed by little legislation.

Most of the companies represented, including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and ConocoPhillips, participated in the wave of mega-mergers of the late 1990's and early 2000 that created today's behemoths. Given the sharp rise in oil prices, the top five of them reaped record earnings of well over $100 billion.

The above is from Jad Mouawad's "A Senate Panel Interrogates Wary Oil Executives" in this morning's New York Times. Brenda e-mailed to note that and the "huge cost" at the gas pumps in her area. She also notes that, "I don't for a minute believe that a Republican controlled Senate will do a thing to address this. It's a show hearing."

Trevor notes David Cay Johnston's "Many Utilities Collect for Taxes They Never Pay:"

Many electric utility companies across the nation are collecting billions of dollars from their customers for corporate income taxes, then keeping the money rather than sending it to the government.
The practice is legal in most states. The companies say it is smart business.
But some representatives of utility customers say that the practice, which involves using losses from other subsidiaries to reduce taxes owed, is not fair. They say that money that utilities are required to collect for federal and state taxes -- typically a nickel on each dollar paid for electricity -- should go for just that, or not be included in electric bills.
Otherwise, they argue, these legal monopolies make more than they are authorized to, and other taxpayers have to make up the difference in higher taxes or reduced services.

Lauren notes Molly Ivin's "Bush, the Statesman" ( via Common Dreams):

In the ultimate "up yours," Bush named John Bolton ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton is a man so undiplomatic, not to mention so anti-U.N., that half the administration was appalled by the idea. These were the days when mental pygmies outside the administration were dismissed as the "reality-based community." The senior Bush adviser famously quoted by Ron Suskind explained, "We are an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality." Gosh, that was an exciting time.
Unfortunately, reality uncharitably refused to conform to the Bush administration's demands--in fact, reality kept blowing up in our faces. In Afghanistan and particularly in Iraq, reality turned out to be downright ugly about not obliging our blithe president.
Several months after our invasion of Iraq, it turned out we had actually invaded in order to bring democracy to that lucky little country. In the odd, dreamlike way that Bush policy morphs, all the conservatives began to pretend we had always gone in to create democracy and anyone who suggested otherwise was misremembering that pesky reality.
Indeed, so dedicated were we to the promotion of democracy around the world that it was the very first principle of our foreign policy. And if we still aren't too keen on nation-building--well, we’ll just outsource it to Halliburton and let them worry about it. And what a fine job they're doing.

Speaking of "fine jobs," Lloyd notes Ruth Conniff on the "fine job" the administration is doing. ("Fine job" is used sarcastically.) From her "Government Flubs War on Terror" (Ruth Conniff's Online Column, The Progressive):

U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema is disgusted with the federal government's handling of the death-penalty case against Al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. If she ends up declaring a mistrial it will be the fault of the prosecution for coaching witnesses by letting transcripts of the court proceedings be leaked. As CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin explains--that's like letting witnesses listen in on the testimony of other witnesses before they give their own account.
Because the government lawyer who leaked the transcripts, Carla Martin, is not on the prosecution team, the prosecution is arguing that it is not to blame. "We cannot control the actions of an attorney from the FAA," Prosecutor Robert Spencer told the judge.
But that doesn't address the problem that the leak hopelessly taints the witnesses' testimony and the notion of a fair trial. Moussaoui already pleaded guilty to conspiring with the 9/11 hijackers. The only question at this phase of his trial is whether he will be sentenced to death or to life without parole. One option is for the judge to take the death penalty off the table. That's probably the best result, since Moussaoui did not directly perpetrate the killings of thousands of Americans on 9-11, and since the government's case is based on the argument that by refusing to help the FBI finger the actual hijackers, he didn't let them stop the crime. The judge has already warned prosecutors that "I don't know of any case where a failure to act is sufficient for the death penalty as a matter of law."
There's no question that Moussaoui is a terrorist--or at least a would-be-terrorist--and that the government should be prosecuting him, and doing all it can to stop Al Qaeda cabals from harming American citizens. But the overstepping and sloppy work in the Moussaoui case is characteristic of this Administration's conduct in its much-proclaimed War on Terror. By violating the basic tenets of due process, using torture and illegal spying, depriving suspects of contact with their lawyers, and other overstepping such as we've seen in the Moussaoui case, the government is undermining its own police and prosecutorial work.

While the adminstration bumbles, other things succeed quite well. On one such topic, Eddie notes Grace Lee Boggs' "Food For Thought" (Michigan Citizen via The Boggs Peace Center):

In her article titled "Eating for Credit" on the
Op-Ed page of the February 24 New York Times, Alice Waters provides an inspiring example of how to engage schools and schoolchildren in solving some of our most challenging problems, including how to change our values.
Waters is the owner of Chez Panisse, a restaurant in Berkeley, California, which uses only fresh ingredients grown in accordance with the principles of sustainable agriculture. Opened in 1971, it has been described by Gourmet Magazine as the "best restaurant in the U.S."
Ten years ago Waters helped establish a gardening and cooking project called the Edible Schoolyard in the local public schools because she believes that "every child in this world needs to have a relationship with the land ... to know how to nourish themselves ... and to know how to connect with the community around them."
The program began at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School with a kitchen classroom and garden full of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Today 1000 King School children are involved in growing, preparing and sharing fresh food, and food-related activities are woven into the entire curriculum. Math classes measure garden beds. Science classes study drainage and soil erosion. History classes learn about pre-Columbian civilizations while grinding corn.

The previous entry took awhile to write, so let me repeat, in case I wasn't clear (not the first time, if so), the gina & krista round-robin is in special edition format. One is already in members' inboxes. It will publish daily through Sunday. In addition to Gina and Krista's editorials, I'll do a daily column, Beth is promising at least three columns (counting this morning's). Three Cool Old Guys will have their regular column Friday and, in addition, they're going to work with Cedric on something for Saturday's round-robin. Pru's got a roundtable with other members from England for tomorrow's round-robin. Tracey (yes, Ruth's granddaughter) will have a photo essay in Saturday's round-robin (photographs from the DC protests in September -- she took a ton of photographs during that -- including a really great one of Joan Baez performing). Erika and Susan are doing an essay on women's historical participation in the peace movements. Susan's e-mail this morning says they need a concluding paragraph and then they're done so hopefully that will go into tomorrow's round-robin. West is attending his first protest Saturday and plans to write that up for Sunday's round-robin. The big question in the e-mails is will there be discussions/roundtables in each edition? Gina and Krista are committed to it. Due to Gina's work schedule, she can't take part in Thursday's but will co-moderate all the other ones. (Krista will moderate Thursday's solo). Mike, Ava, Jess, Eli, Wally, Keesha and myself are committed to participate in each night's discussion. Others will be participating as well. If you'd like to participate, please e-mail Krista. And that's Krista only. She and Gina have designated her as the contact for this. (You can still e-mail Gina about other things, but Krista's organizing the discussions.) Francisco has something special planned that will be a surprise for Friday's round-robin and some of Maria's students will also be contributing on Friday. Martha and Shirley are noting the events that members will be participating in this weekend. You can e-mail them at their own accounts or you can e-mail them at the private account for this site and Ava, Jess or myself will forward it to them. (Martha's also going to be helping out Thursday with the public and private account so you can use either to contact her then. She's doing that to help make sure that we have the indymedia roundup -- to those wondering if we're going to have that, yes, we will. Also Martha contributed the Washington Post highlights for the last entry.)

The Democracy Now! entry will probably go up later than usual today due to my schedule today, just FYI. Be sure to listen, watch or read (transcripts) Democracy Now! today and we'll again note this event coming up Saturday:

* Celebrating 10 Years of Democracy Now! *
Democracy Now! and WBAI cordially invite you to An Evening of
Conversation with Harry Belafonte on President Bush, war, race, and
Hollywood, with Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez and WBAI's Bernard White marking
the 3rd anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and the 10th anniversary of
Democracy Now!
Saturday, March 18, 2006
The Great Hall at Cooper Union
East 7th Street at Third Avenue
New York City
Pre-event reception: 6-7 p.m.
A special gathering with Harry Belafonte and Amy Goodman.
Hors d'oeuvres & Refreshments served
Ticket price (includes admission to main event): $100
Main Event: 7 p.m.
Ticket price: $25
Space is limited. Purchase your tickets today at

Today's Democracy Now! (already broadcasting, the headlines are on right now)? Remember Abbie's question yesterday? Ernest McQueen is either a guest or a topic today. (I'm juggling two phones while also listening and working on this entry.) The spying on peace groups by the government and it's Sunshine Week -- where the media is supposed to act as a tonic to government. The guest is from PBS's NOW for that segment.

"At least 18 different cities" in Iraq have been airbombed by the US. That's what Amy Goodman's noting in the headlines right now. And if you're not remembering Ernest McQueen and in too much of a rush to read yesterday's entry, here's DN!'s headline from January (they also discussed the topic then -- see yesterday's entry):

U.S. Arrests Vietnam War Resister
Here in this country a former Vietnam war resister who has been living in Canada since 1968 has been arrested and jailed on desertion charges. The 56-year-old Allen Abney has lived in Canada since he quit the Marines to protest the Vietnam War. He was arrested on Thursday at the Canadian-Idaho border. Last week USA Today reported the U.S. military has been intensifying its hunt for Vietnam-era war resisters. The paper also reported 8,000 U.S. soldiers have deserted the military since the war in Iraq began.

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