Thursday, May 04, 2006

I read the news today (oh boy...)

Taking a glance at some of the news stories today, we've got celebrities, nationalization and human rights as some of today's themes. We'll let Google News sell Tom Cruise above the fold, I want to take a look at some of the stories further down the page.

Does Democracy ensure peace, human rights?

Here's one from the VOA News site headlined, "US Vice-President Criticizes Russia's Human Rights Record". Cheney has taken the now widely recognized idea that Russia is using its energy supplies as a political weapon and used it as the fulcrum for his attack on Russia's turn towards authoritarianism. Quite right, but I'd say that's more than a little ironic coming from a man who has stood behind our country's relentless march to war against enemies real or imagined, helping to ensure the resulting decay in liberty.

Illegal detentions of suspected terrorists or "enemy combatants", secret courts and prisons, a widely publicized disregard for principles of prisoner treatment as set forth by Geneva Conventions, unconstitutional pre-emptive war declarations, programs for spying on American citizens, must I go on? A decent overview of this administration's actions in a piece such as this one, by Robert Parry, should put things into perspective.

Senate passes spending bill

Elsewhere in the news, the U.S. Senate has approved a $109 billion emergency spending measure, largely related to the war and operations spending in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are some notable chunks of money earmarked for other causes - here's a passage from Bloomberg's report on the subject:

The legislation provides $66 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; $28 billion for Hurricane Katrina related- relief; and as much as $4 billion in farm assistance. It would also provide $650 million for port security, $1.1 billion for the Gulf Coast seafood industry and $1.9 billion for border security programs.

The total figure exceeds the $94.5 billion that the Bush administration is willing to spend, but I say, "hey, what's a few billions between friends?". By the way, Iraq & Afghan war costs have totaled $439 billion to date, according to World Peace Herald.

Kind of differs from the official govt. estimates I remember flashing across the news tickers in the run up to the Iraq war. I believe at the time (late 2002), the official estimates had the Iraq war costs pegged at $9-$13 billion and this was counter to an independant organization's estimate of at least $100-$200 billion in total war costs. I've got to retrace those figures.

Bolivia

Bolivia's nationalization of the gas sector has mostly gone according to plan, with "renegotiations" being scheduled between the country and the major foreign oil & gas companies that are invested in its resources. However, Petrobras seems to not want to play a part in this unfolding drama. According to a recent report by Forbes, Petrobras chief Gabrielli is suspending the company's business in Bolivia.

So far Repsol seems to be biding their time and playing the game. We'll see how this plays out. I wonder if some of these companies seem to think it might be worth their while to bite the bullet and wait out the situation. Unfortunately for them, I think the nationalizing countries will want to try and hold on to the resource rights as long as commodity prices remain high. That seems to be the pattern in which these resource grabs/nationalization efforts play out, at least to my limited knowledge. I wonder what an industry insider would say. Perhaps I'll have to try and find one and get an opinion.