iraq

oil auction in iraq

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Here’s a little more about the recent auction of oil development contracts in Iraq. People are putting a happy face on it, but it doesn’t sound like it went too well.

Critics said the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq said was driven by oil, but United States oil majors were largely absent from an Iraqi auction of oil deals snapped up instead by Russian, Chinese and other firms.

Iraqi officials said this proved their independence from U.S. influence and that their two bidding rounds this year for deals to tap Iraq’s vast oil reserves, the world’s third largest, were free of foreign political interference.

Maybe it proves their independence, although I doubt it. Maybe it proves the war wasn’t about oil, but yeah, right. To me, this whole episode simply proves that the Iraq war was just as botched as we said it was from the beginning. After seven years, oil production is still crawling along, it’s hard to find investors, and we didn’t even manage to deliver a few plums to American oil companies. Bad enough we fought this war at all, but we made an even worse disaster than we had to. Good going, Bushies. Way to secure your legacy.

friday night roundup

Here’s a simple strategy to win in Afghanistan. What could possibly go wrong?

afghanistan-1300

More about Blackwater:

Notice how carefully phrased the denial is:

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Blackwater, said Thursday that it was never under contract to participate in clandestine raids with the C.I.A. or with Special Operations personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else.

So did they do it without a contract? Or under contract to someone else?

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Here’s a new stealth drone operating out of Afghanistan. The Wikipedia article points out the most salient question: what’s it doing there?

The fact that the UAV is deployed to Afghanistan, in spite of the Taliban not possessing radar, has led to speculation that the aircraft is being used to spy on Pakistan or Iran.

And finally tonight, this:

special mayhem edition

I know you’ve seen this already, but isn’t it worth watching again?

What a perfect exit. Meanwhile, in further mayhem, we have bank bombings and celebrity church burnings:

Also, a governor and a Wall Street baron have gone down in disgrace over the last few days, and no one seems to have much idea what to do about this whole economy thing. Ever get the feeling things are running off the rails?

Which reminds me, as an aside, that you should check out what’s been happening to our supply lines to Afghanistan:

Pakistani authorities closed the Khyber Pass route nine days ago after militants carried out their biggest attack yet on the supply line, torching around 260 vehicles on two consecutive nights in the northwestern city of Peshawar….

…Pakistan’s Government re-opened the route yesterday, hoping to restore a lifeline that accounts for about 70 per cent of all supplies to the 67,000 Nato, US and other foreign troops in Afghanistan.

But the Khyber Transport Association, which claims to represent the owners of 3,500 trucks, tankers and other vehicles, said that its members would no longer ply the route because of the recent security problems.

Somali pirates are actually going to court in Kenya. On the other hand, Somalia’s “government” apparently had room to collapse even further.

Greece shows no signs of settling down, and the rest of Europe is starting to get nervous:

Today’s show has been brought to you by the number strife and the letter discord.

metal, drugs, bikes and treehuggers

Nothing else matters: Iraqi heavy metal returns

“I’ll see you die at my feet! Eternally I smash your face! Facial bones collapse as I crack your skull in half!” he roared.

Two years ago, these kinds of threats in Iraq typically came from members of al-Qaeda, or violent sectarian militias. Saturday night, they were directed at 250 Iraqi fans of heavy metal music who fearlessly donned eye shadow, anarchist pendants and black T-shirts and came out of hiding to attend Iraq’s first metal concert in five years.

Traces of hallucinogens found in mummy hair

Portland bike traffic up 28% over last year
Data Confirms Cycling On the Rise in New York City
Urban Cyclists: Stick Together, Don’t Inhale?

Michigan State arsonist sentenced to 9 years
Eau Claire man pleads to reduced federal charge
Eight months after arson, Street of Dreams is a ghost town

Bureau Proposes Opening Up Utah Wilderness to Drilling

One of the areas set to be auctioned off is Upper Desolation Canyon, which was named by explorer John Wesley Powell in 1869 while he traveled down the Green River, which traverses the canyon, to the Grand Canyon.

In a 1999 assessment, bureau officials wrote that Desolation Canyon “is a place where a visitor can experience true solitude — where the forces of nature continue to shape the colorful, rugged landscape,” and heralded the area’s “cultural, scenic, geologic, botanical, and wildlife values.”

“What makes this action by the Interior Department so deplorable is that BLM itself determined these areas to be wilderness-quality lands,” said Stephen Bloch, conservation director for the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, an advocacy group, in a statement. “Nonetheless, BLM is condemning these lands to a future of oil rigs and gas pipelines and almost certain disqualification from future wilderness designation.”

the news- blackwater privateers and the middle east

Pirates Ahoy!
It’s got pirates and Blackwater in one story:

Tom Ridenour, director of maritime operations at the private security firm Blackwater, thinks protection against pirates is a growth market.  New offerings from the firm will include a ship capable of deploying small rigid-inflatable boats, helicopters and a 30-man security team.

This headline may be a little on the optimistic side:
Somali authorities to defeat piracy after UN lifts arms sale ban

Secret U.S. operation kills Iraqi, strains relations
Not just any Iraqi, mind you:

Senior Iraqi government officials said Saturday that a U.S. Special Forces counterterrorism unit conducted the raid that reportedly killed a relative of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki , touching off a high-stakes diplomatic crisis between the United States and Iraq .

Seymour Hersh should be published everywhere:
Preparing the Battlefield: The Bush Administration steps up its secret moves against Iran.

I got that last one from Abu Muqawama, which I’m still checking out but seems pretty good so far. Here’s some related stories.

And finally, UFOs:
UFOs invade NT town

Notice the recent uptick in UFO reports? Brace yourself- X-Day is almost upon us.

news stories- iranian pwnage, spies and bigfoot

Did Iranian agents dupe Pentagon officials?
Did the Bushies get pwned? (hint: yes)

Two new military commands: AFRICOM and AFCYBER
Africa: U.S. Military Set for a Long Campaign
To fight future cyberbattles, Air Force recruiting part-time geeks

Serbia expects key powers in north Kosovo
Sounds like a step towards partition

Minn. city sets reward for legendary creature
Bigfoot Bounty: Reward Offered for Mysterious Monsters

Comcast Is Hiring an Internet Snoop for the Feds
Study secretly tracks cell phone users outside US
The Comcast story is just bad all around. It’s not like the feds are going to be funding this position, so I guess that means consumers pay for the spies who watch them. The cell phone story is interesting for its method, but also for what it discovered. Guy Debord wrote (in Theory of the Derive) about the student who in an entire year goes mostly three places- home, school and her piano teacher. This study finds something similar, but on a much larger scale. On the other hand, a twenty mile radius covers a lot of ground, and in a dense urban area, it could contain an entire universe.

And a space story, of course:
Virgin Galactic Spaceline: Mega-Mothership Set for Rollout Debut

news stories- building our eastern empire, sex in space

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control
Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors
Also: New agreement lets US strike any country from inside Iraq

D.C. Police to Check Drivers In Violence-Plagued Trinidad
D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier announced a military-style checkpoint yesterday to stop cars this weekend in a Northeast Washington neighborhood inundated by gun violence, saying it will help keep criminals out of the area.

The toxic ‘wonder plant’ that split world food summit

RAND study finds increase in piracy and terrorism at sea
Little evidence supports fear the 2 crimes are merging

The objectives of the two crimes remain different — piracy is aimed at financial gain while the goal of terrorism is political. Although both events are increasing, piracy is growing much faster and remains far more common than seaborne terrorism, according to the report.

Chalk said the study’s findings suggest U.S. policymakers focus too much on responding to worse-case terrorist scenarios rather than crafting policies to combat lower consequence (but more probable) attacks that could strike cruise ships or passenger ferries. Just as seriously, the U.S. government has paid comparatively little attention to combating piracy, despite its proven cost in terms of human lives, political stability and economic disruption.

Sex in space would be ‘a flailing exercise’
Proving that you should never ask the experts if you’re looking for a good time.