Archive for ‘United States’

July 1, 2011

Chinese imperialism and American technology

In previous posts, I have highlighted the power of Arab oil money in the British and American academy. In this post, we turn to China. The website China Threat has some interesting, if somewhat hysterical, information about some of the ways in which Chinese soft power is exploiting US corporate and academic technology development.

University Tech:

Michigan Professor Questions University’s Ties with China

A professor of aeronautics engineering at the University of Michigan says his university is engaged in transferring sensitive military technologies to China and that the practice is encouraged by the university’s faculty and administrators.
“We are transferring every bit of knowledge and know how that we have to the People’s Republic of China,”   MORE

University of Michigan’s Role in Transferring Anti-Satellite Weapons Technology

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Dr. Daniel Scheeres studies how to rendezvous objects in space such as landing a spacecraft on an asteroid. However, the same technology can be used to shoot down a satellite or rendezvous a hunter killer satellite with a target satellite in orbit. MORE

Corruption

Is China Becoming a Mafia State?

John Garnaut is the China correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age newspapers. He goes into incredible detail about the operations of organized crime in China and the relationship between government officials and organized crime figures.     MORE

Rampant Fraud Threat to China’s Brisk Ascent

 By ANDREW JACOBS Published: October 6, 2010

BEIJING — No one disputes Zhang Wuben’s talents as a salesman. Through television shows, DVDs and a best-selling book, he convinced millions of people that raw eggplant and immense quantities of mung beans could cure lupus, diabetes, depression and cancer.  MORE

Is America at war with China?

WikiLeaks: US vs China in battle of the anti-satellite space weapons

On the night of Feb 20, 2008, Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, was on a plane to Hawaii when his telephone rang. They told him the conditions were “ripe” to launch what can now be disclosed was a secret test of America’s anti-satellite weapons, Washington’s first such strike in space for 23 years. That night, the US navy’s Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Lake Erie, scored a direct hit on an American spy satellite, known as USA 193. The missile used, a highly sophisticated SM-3, took about three minutes to climb 150 miles above the Earth, where it flew past the satellite before turning back and destroying the target at an impact speed of 22,000mph.
The strike came about a year after the Chinese government had launched its own satellite attack, which started a secret “space war”…                       MORE

China Navy Reaches Far,  Unsettling the Region

New York Times By EDWARD WONG Published: June 14, 2011 photo by Andy Wong
QINGDAO, China — The photographs of Chinese warships speeding between Japanese islands in the Pacific for drills circulated quickly last week, raising what Japan’s defense minister called “serious concern.”MORE
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April 14, 2011

Socialism or your money back

A few items from the above-named blog:

China’s ghost cities and the biggest property bubble of all time

A couple of months ago, a lot of people were passing around the news about China’s plan to create a megacity that would be home to 42 million people, the so-called “Turn the Pearl Delta Into One” idea. The reporting was generally favorable, painting a picture of economic growth and opportunity — the narrative of a prosperous China, with a growing middle class, that has become commonplace in recent years.

Unfortunately, the view of China’s urban planning strategies from the ground is less shiny. A riveting report from Dateline, an Australian TV show, reveals a disturbing pattern of development for development’s sake — the construction of gigantic infrastructure projects with no regard for human needs. (Hat tip to WalkableDFW.)

Take the New South China Mall, in Dongguan. The Dateline crew took a tour of the place, which has been 99 percent vacant since it opened in 2005, and the result is one of the most depressing things I have ever watched. Six years after its creation, what is touted as the largest mall in the world sits almost empty. One of the very few stores that’s in business is a toy shop, where the wistful owner spends his days dusting children’s bikes that no child will ever ride. He is lucky if he makes one sale a day. [READ THE REST]

Doom and gloomier

British families are on average £910 worse off than they were two years ago. Rising food, clothing and energy prices mean the average British family will have £910 less to spend this year than they did in 2009.The squeeze – which is considered the worst in peacetime for 90 years – is set to continue with a two per cent fall in household disposable income this year. The fall in disposable income is comparable with the savage post-World War One recession which lasted between 1919 and 1921, as a result of a collapse in manufacturing and international trade.The findings also show the fall in household disposable income is sharper than in the 1930s depression.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research forecasts inflation will average 3.9pc in 2011. At the same time, salaries will rise just 1.9pc as unemployment remains high and the public sector makes cut-backs.

Employment lawyers have predicted that older workers and pregnant women will be hit by a fresh wave of job cuts. Paul Griffin, head of employment at DBS Law, said: “The growth of discrimination claims from older workers and pregnant women suggests that employers are now targeting their more expensive staff, despite them being in protected groups. Obviously mistakes are being made in companies as accounts departments win out against human resources.”

Robert H. Frank, an economics professor at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, invented the toil index, a measure of how many hours the median American must work to pay for an average family home in a school district of average quality.
“During the immediate postwar decades the toil burden for meeting the rent of that median-price home actually declined slightly, from 42.5 hours a month in 1950 to 41.5 in 1970, according to my calculations.… By 2000, the median worker had to work 67.4 hours a month to put his or her family into the median home. “

The Libyan weapons shop-window

To take out Moammar Gadhafi’s air defenses, Western powers such as France and Italy are using the very aircraft and weapons that only months ago they were showing off to the Libyan leader. Times change, allegiances shift, but weapons companies will always find takers for their goods. The Libyan no-fly zone has become a prime showcase for potential weapons customers, underlining the power of western combat jets and smart bombs, or reminding potential buyers of the defensive systems needed to repel them.

Almost every modern conflict from the Spanish Civil War to Kosovo has served as a test of air power. But the Libyan operation coincides with a new arms race — a surge of demand in the $60 billion a year global fighter market and the arrival of a new generation of equipment in the air and at sea. For the countries and companies behind those planes and weapons, there’s no better sales tool than real combat. For air forces facing cuts, it is a strike for the value of air power itself.

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April 8, 2011

The oil lobby and dirty energy

Modernity writes:

There is often talk about “the Lobby”, and those words have a certain resonance and conjure up an unpleasant mental picture for most of us, however, I am going to argue that the real lobby in the world is hardly ever discussed, in any meaningful way.

That is the extent of its power.

Clearly, we hear bits about it, in a broad sense, yet it is rarely analysed for its component parts, wider geopolitical influence and negative effect on human rights.

It spans the globe.

Nevertheless, much of the discussion relating to it comes across in a rather crude materialistic fashion, lacking subtlety and depth

There is seldom any piercing critique of the countries involved, the powerful players, the governments, the vested interests, the paid lobbyists, the various parliamentarians on the payroll, etc and above all, the oil companies.

Yes, that is the Lobby I am talking about, the oil lobby.

Dan Froomkin at HuffPost has a good article, which touches upon some of the issues.

The Froomkin piece, “How The Oil Lobby Greases Washington’s Wheels“, is quite hard-hitting.

Clout in Washington isn’t about winning legislative battles — it’s about making sure that they never happen at all. The oil and gas industry has that kind of clout.

Despite astronomical profits during what have been lean years for most everyone else, the oil and gas industry continues to benefit from massive, multi-billion dollar taxpayer subsidies. Opinion polling shows the American public overwhelmingly wants those subsidies eliminated. Meanwhile, both parties are hunting feverishly for ways to reduce the deficit.

But when President Obama called on Congress to eliminate about $4 billion a year in tax breaks for Big Oil earlier this year, the response on the Hill was little more than a knowing chuckle. Even Obama’s closest congressional allies don’t think the president’s proposal has a shot.

At an angle to this, read Ellen Cantarow on dirty energy. TomDispatch sets the context:

If BP’s Gulf of Mexico disaster was the elephant in the room, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station was a blue whale.  “Now, in light of the ongoing events in Japan, I want to just take a minute to talk about nuclear power,” the president began, before extolling its supposed virtues as a clean energy source.  “So those of us who are concerned about climate change, we’ve got to recognize that nuclear power, if it’s safe, can make a significant contribution to the climate change question.”  By the end, he left no room for debate about the future of atomic power in the United States, telling the audience: “[W]e can’t simply take it off the table.”

Ongoing events.  It was a curious and entirely disingenuous way to describe the ever-worsening disaster at Fukushima when, just the day before, Japan’s prime minister, Naoto Kan, told his Parliament, “The earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear accident may be Japan’s largest-ever crisis.”  He said this, it’s worth reminding ourselves, about a country that, within living memory, saw more than 60 of its cities reduced to ashes through systematic firebombing and two metropolises obliterated by atomic bombs, losing hundreds of thousands of its citizens in one of the most devastating wars of a conflict-filled century.  In fact, the very morning that Obama gave his speech, the New York Times quoted Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University, about a subject that only a few outside observers had dared to previously broach: the prospect of a swath of Japan becoming an irradiated dead zone.  “The worst-case scenario is that a meltdown makes the plant’s site a permanent grave,” Iguchi said.

Between his soft-peddling of ecological and humanitarian catastrophes resulting from dirty energy and his advocacy of a variety of dubious strategies for freeing America from the chains of foreign petroleum, the president admitted that the U.S. would continue to import oil for the foreseeable future. “It will remain an important part of our energy portfolio for quite some time until we’ve gotten alternative energy strategies fully in force,” Obama told the crowd.  “And when it comes to the oil we import from other nations, obviously we’ve got to look at neighbors like Canada and Mexico that are stable and steady and reliable sources.”

Unlike offshore drilling and nuclear power, reliance on neighboring countries for a particularly dirty form of energy didn’t prompt any excuses or handwringing from the president, as if petroleum from Mexico (a place his secretary of state likened to insurgent-embattled Colombia of the 1990s) and Canada posed no problems.  If you believe that, then I’ve got an electric power company in Japan to sell you.

And here’s an extract from Ellen:

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April 3, 2011

The American dream

Two items:

  • Business Is Booming: “This rise in profits, however, has not been accompanied by a rise in employment, wages, or national income. Official unemployment hovers just under 10 percent, and the Federal Reserve is predicting that it will stay at around 9 percent throughout 2011. Gross domestic product increased by just 2.5 percent during the third quarter of 2010. The Wall Street Journal has calculated that as a result of this combination of high profits and stalled prosperity, after-tax second-quarter profits of American companies as a percentage of national income were the third-highest of any quarter since 1947.” Funnily – perhaps not as in funny haha the author of the article points to Germany as an example of a different – yes, the Germany we used to love to laugh at when they muddled about with their outdated factories and unions and such, while we was all soaring into the post-industrial Shangri La of symbol interpretation and fast lanes and virtual this and that.
  • Workers face broad assaults: “He is worried, he says, about a lot: the future of the bankrupt supermarket chain he works for, the midcareer colleagues who feel trapped and hopeless, and anyone, really, who strives for a middle-class life anymore. He’s been stocking shelves and moving groceries through the checkout line for the same Philadelphia-area chain since the Vietnam War. It’s how he put a child through college, bought a $28,000 rowhouse, and pays for the occasional movie when he and his wife go out for a treat.” You see: there was a relatively long period after WWII where the Yankee dollar was so strong and the world was so young that everything was possible: get a job, any job, move to the suburbs, two car garage, maybe a boat – life was good. Then reality came knocking… But, then again, the biggest illusion, the biggest successful sale of them all was to make all those folks genuinely believe that they were now bona fide middle class and had some interests in common with the bosses in the country club over there. Not so. But at least the streets of Madison have shown that something is stirring. Perhaps belatedly, one could fear.

Related Articles

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March 24, 2011

The new arms race in a multipolar world

RIYADH. King of Saudi Arabia Abdullah bin Abdu...

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In the bi-polar world, the two superpowers raced against each other for bigger, more and more deadly weapons. In today’s multipolar world, the race is one which anybody can join. Here are a couple of reports from the side of the track.

  • China has new powerful Dong Feng 16 (DF-16) missiles aimed at Taiwan, according to the island state’s National Security Bureau Director-General, Tsai Der-sheng.
  • Russia has claimed that it will inject USD100 billion into the development of its defence industries during the next decade.
  • General Dynamics Land Systems, a business unit of Ohio, USA-based, General Dynamics, was recently awarded two contracts worth $44 million for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia‘s tank program. The contracts were awarded by the U.S. Army TACOM Lifecycle Management Command on behalf of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. This work is part of a plan by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to upgrade its entire fleet of 314 tanks. The first contract of $37.1 million is to provide materials and labor for the conversion of 42 M1A2 tanks to an M1A2S configuration for the Kingdom. The M1A2S will possess defined capabilities that “increase lethality while limiting obsolescence”. Saudi Arabia is the biggest defence spender in the region, and its tanks are currently being deployed in Bahrain to suppress the pro-democracy movement there.
  • Iran is rapidly and significantly expanding capabilities to accommodate larger missiles and satellite launch vehicles (SLVs), including the Simorgh 3 SLV in construction at Semnan space centre, according to Jane’s analysis of satellite imagery of the site. Tehran spends around $9.3-9.5 billion annually on defence, putting it at no.5 in the region.

Finally, check out this fantastic photo essay from IDEX, the global arms expo in Abu Dhabi.


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March 16, 2011

Arming the dictators: How the west profiteers from anti-democracy actions in the Middle East

In its broadest sense, the arms industry encom...

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Saudi Arabia uses UK-made armoured vehicles in Bahrain crackdown on democracy protesters

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The armoured vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle Upon Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium (Jane’s Armour and Artillery 2009-10 pp. 664)

The Saudi Arabia National Guard (SANG) ordered 261 of the vehicles in 2006 for delivery in 2008. Saudi forces entered Bahrain in a convoy of the Tacticas on 13 March, at the invitation of the Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family. It seems that the Saudi forces are being held in reserve, leaving the front-line repression of protesters by Bahrain’s military and security forces.

Saudi Arabia has been a major market for market for UK arms since the 1960s. The majority of contracts have been through the controversial Al-Yamamah arms deals of the mid-1980s, and their successor, the Salam Project, which involved arms giant BAE Systems (formmerly British Aerospace). However, the Tactica purchase was not part of either package but a separate contract with SANG.

Bahrain is also a market for UK arms. In the first nine months of 2010, the UK approved export licenses for over £5 million worth of arms including tear gas and crowd control ammunition, equipment for the use of aircraft cannons, assault rifles, shotguns, sniper rifles and sub-machine guns. In response to an earlier crackdown on 18 February 2011 the UK government revoked 24 individual licences and 20 open licences to Bahrain.[…]

Arms made in Newcastle used by Saudis to suppress protests

Saudi Arabia has sent scores of UK-made armoured personnel carriers into Bahrain to aid the government’s bloody suppression of pro-democracy protesters. The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has criticised the UK government for allowing the sale of the armoured vehicles, made by BAE Systems.

The vehicles, marketed as Tacticas, were manufactured by BAE Systems Land Systems Division in Newcastle-upon-Tyne with final assembly taking place in Belgium.[…]

Britain reviewing crowd control weapons exports, says Hague

Britain is reviewing its arms exports to the Middle East and north Africa, which have included crowd control weapons and small arms to Bahrain and Libya, the foreign secretary, William Hague, said on Wednesday.

Exports recently cleared for export to Bahrain include more than 100 assault rifles, over 50 sub-machine guns, stun grenades, tear gas ammunition, riot control agents, and components for “military devices for initiating explosives”, according to the latest official figures.

The Guardian reported last month that the British government had approved the sale to Libya of a wide range of equipment for use against civilians, including teargas and “crowd control ammunition”, as well as sniper rifles.

Export licences increased significantly and were valued at more than £200m over the first nine months of last year, according to figures compiled by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills for the Foreign Office.[…]

Bahrain Crisis: Is U.S. Military Assistance Hindering Democracy?

The increasingly violent crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bahrain has rekindled debate over whether U.S. military aid is being used to crush popular uprisings.

The Obama administration launched an investigation last week into the possibility that U.S. arms and training money were used by Bahraini security forces in violent crackdowns on protesters. The outcome of that probe is not yet known, but the Bahrain situation is stirring up uncomfortable questions about the effectiveness of military aid and to what extent U.S. assistance undermines emerging democracies, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Christopher L. Naler, a federal executive fellow at The Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C….

His own research revealed some troubling numbers. Between 2006 and 2011, annual U.S. assistance to Bahrain ranged from $5 million to $18 million. And even though the U.S. government can choose to allocate the aid to non-military programs, in this case it earmarked every penny to the security sector, Naler said. “This is one that caught me by surprise.” […]

Britain under fire for selling arms to Bahrain

The British Government has been heavily criticised for allowing arms sales to a number of Arab governments that have cracked down on pro-democracy protests in recent weeks, killing scores of people and injuring thousands more in demonstrations across the region….

David Cameron and other leading Conservative cabinet ministers have long standing ties to Bahrain. A year before last May’s General Election, the then Leader of the Opposition received a “gift of a fountain pen and half suite cufflinks and studs, provided by His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa,” the King of Bahrain. The present is listed in the Register of MPs’ interests. Defence Secretary Liam Fox registered travel expenses worth £1,400 paid for by the Bahrain government….

Denis MacShane said that the idea of civilians dying because of British manufactured arms made him feel “physically sick”. “With the protests spreading across the Middle East, I am very concerned that once Britain is going to be caught on the wrong side of history again, defending the indefensible,” he said.

The Foreign Office policy to date chimes with a determination at the top of government to put commercial interests at the heart of British foreign policy. Within weeks of entering Downing Street last year, David Cameron embarked on one of Britain’s biggest ever trade delegations, to India, during which the two governments announced a deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Indian aerospace group Hindustan Aeronautics to supply 57 Hawk trainer jets….

Britain’s ingrained position in the Middle Eastern arms market is further underlined by the expected presence of at least 92 British companies at a pan-Middle East arms fair, scheduled to be opened in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The chairman of the IDEX event, Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi ruling family, and the chairman Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, says on its website: “Over the recent years significant investment in resources and facilities at our host venue… have enabled IDEX to sustain its reputation as the largest defence exhibition in the Middle East and North Africa region.”[…]

German arms used to crush protests in Bahrain: MP

German weapons are being used to suppress peaceful protests in Bahrain, said a senior legislator of the opposition party The Left (Die Linke) here Wednesday.

Addressing the German parliament during a live debate on the upheavals in the Arab world, Wolfgang Gehrcke pointed out that part of the weapons deployed by Bahrain’s security forces against anti-government protesters were supplied by Germany.

The foreign policy spokesman of The Left party called for an ‘immediate end’ to the delivery of German arms to the Bahraini regime. Germany’s overall arms export to the Near-and Middle East hovers around 1.1 billion euros and includes other recipient countries like Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. In 2009, the United Arab Emirates was among the three leading recipients of German weapons, according to the latest report released by the German government.

The tiny Persian Gulf sheikdom was ranked second after the US in terms of total German arms exports last year which stood at 5.04 billion euros. Germany sold around 540.7 million euros worth of military hardware to the UAE, among them radar and steering systems, torpedoes, simulators, missiles, hand grenades, armored vehicles, tank spare parts, automatic cannons. amphibious vehicles and trucks.

Meanwhile, another Persian Gulf country, Saudi Arabia, was listed sixth in the overall export of German weaponry with 167.9 million euros.[…]

March 4, 2011

Who owns the US?

Federal_Debt-VS-Taxes

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By Greg Bocquet, here:

Regardless of how much closer Obama’s budget brings our economy into a balance of payments not seen since 2001, we will continue to run deficits for the next decade, and the national debt will keep growing every year that happens.

While most of the country’s $14 trillion debt is held by private banks in the U.S., the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve Board estimate that, as of December, about $4.4 trillion of it was held by foreign governments that purchase our treasury securities much as an investor buys shares in a company and comes to own his or her little chunk of the organization.

Looking at the list of our top international creditors, a few overall characteristics show some interesting trends: Three of the top 10 spots are held by China and its constituent parts, and while two of our biggest creditors are fellow English-speaking democracies, a considerable share of our debt is held by oil exporters that tend to be decidedly less friendly in other areas of international relations.

Here we break down the top 10 foreign holders of U.S. debt, comparing each creditor’s holdings with the equivalent chunk of the United States they “own,” represented by the latest (2009) state gross domestic product data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Obviously, these creditors won’t actually take states from us as payment on our debts, but it’s fun to imagine what states and national monuments they could assert a claim to.

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©Radar Communication

1. Mainland China

Amount of U.S. debt: $891.6 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 20.4%

Building on the holdings of its associated territories, China is the undisputed largest holder of U.S. foreign debt in the world. Accounting for 20.4% of the total, mainland China’s $891.6 billion in U.S. treasury securities is almost equal to the combined 2009 GDP of Illinois ($630.4 billion) and Indiana ($262.6 billion) in 2009, a shade higher at a combined $893 billion. As President Obama — who is from Chicago — wrangles over his proposed budget with Congress he may be wise to remember that his home city may be at stake in the deal.

[…]

4. Oil Exporters

Amount of U.S. debt: $218 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 5%

Another grouped entry, the oil exporters form another international bloc with money to burn. The group includes 15 countries as diverse as the regions they represent: Ecuador, Venezuela, Indonesia, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Gabon, Libya, and Nigeria. As a group they hold 5% of all American foreign debt, with a combined $218 billion of U.S. treasury securities in their own treasuries. That’s roughly equivalent to the combined 2009 GDP of Nebraska ($86.4 billion) and Kansas ($124.9 billion), which seems to be an equal trade: The two states produce a bunch of grain for export, which many of the arid oil producers tend to trade for oil.

[…]

6. Caribbean Banking Centers

Amount of U.S. debt: $155.6 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 3.6%

You have to have cash on hand to buy up U.S. government debt, and offshore banking has given six countries the combined capital needed to make the Caribbean Banking Centers our sixth-largest foreign creditor. The Treasury Department counts the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, the Netherlands Antilles, Panama and the British Virgin Islands in this designation, which as a group holds $155.6 billion in U.S. treasury securities. That’s equivalent to the GDP of landlocked Kentucky ($156.6 billion), whose residents may not actually mind if they were ever to become an extension of some Caribbean island paradise.

7. Hong Kong

Amount of U.S. debt: $138.2 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 3.2%

At No. 7 on the list of our foreign creditors is Hong Kong, a formerly British part of China that maintains a separate government and economic ties than the communist mainland. With $138.2 billion in U.S. treasury securities, the capitalist enclave could lay claim to Yellowstone Park and our nation’s capital: The combined GDP of Wyoming ($37.5 billion) and Washington D.C. ($99.1 billion) totaled $136.6 billion in 2009.

[…]

10. Russia

Amount of U.S. debt: $106.2 billion

Share of total foreign debt: 2.4%

Starting off the list of our major foreign creditors is Russia, which holds about 2.4% of the U.S. debt pie that sits on the international dinner table. Its $106.2 billion in treasury securities is equivalent to the 2009 GDP of our sparsely populated North: The combined output of North Dakota ($31.9 billion), South Dakota ($38.3 billion) and Montana ($36 billion) matches up nicely with the Russian holdings, at $106.2 billion.

Let’s hope Russian president Dmitry Medvedev doesn’t come to collect.

October 27, 2010

Big oil, the Arab lobby and the American right

0620covdcAmerican politics has always been dominated by special interest groups, including foreign interests. It is in the nature of its checks and balances democratic system and its deregulated economy.

A recent report by the Climate Action Network [pdf] shows how “BP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favourites who deny the existence of global warming or oppose Barack Obama’s energy agenda.” According to the Guardian, “80% of campaign donations from a number of major European firms were directed towards senators who blocked action on climate change. These included incumbents who have been embraced by the Tea Party such as Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, and the notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma.”

The report claims that

the companies, including BP, BASF, Bayer and Solvay, which are some of Europe’s biggest emitters, had collectively donated $240,200 to senators who blocked action on global warming – more even than the $217,000 the oil billionaires and Tea Party bankrollers, David and Charles Koch, have donated to Senate campaigns.

The biggest single donor was the German pharmaceutical company Bayer, which gave $108,100 to senators. BP made $25,000 in campaign donations, of which $18,000 went to senators who opposed action on climate change. Recipients of the European campaign donations included some of the biggest climate deniers in the Senate, such as Inhofe of Oklahoma, who has called global warming a hoax.

The foreign corporate interest in America’s midterms is not restricted to Europe. A report by ThinkProgress, operated by the Centre for American Progress, tracked donations to the Chamber of Commerce from a number of Indian and Middle Eastern oil coal and electricity companies.

Foreign interest does not stop with the elections. The Guardian reported earlier this year that a Belgian-based chemical company, Solvay, was behind a front group that is suing to strip the Obama administration of its powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Here are some of the foreign corporations funding the anti-climate change Chamber of Commerce, a major route of corporate donations to right-wing political candidates:

– Avantha Group, India (at least $7,500 in annual member dues): power plants

– The Bahrain Petroleum Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil campany

– Gulf Petrochemical Industries Company, Kingdom of Bahrain ($5,000): state-owned oil company

– Essar Group, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas, coal power

– GMR, Bangalore, India ($15,000): coal power, mining

– Hinduja Group, London, UK ($15,000): the Gulf Oil group

– Jindal Power, New Delhi, India ($15,000): coal power

– Lahmeyer International, Frankfurt, Germany ($7,500): power plant engineering

– Punj Lloyd, Gurgaon, India ($15,000): offshore pipelines

– Reliance Industries, Mumbai, India ($15,000): oil and gas, petrochemicals

– SNC Lavalin, Montreal, Canada ($7,500): mining, power plant, and oil & gas engineering

– Tata Group, Mumbai, India ($15,000): power plants, oil & gas

– Walchandnagar Industries, Mumbai, India ($7,500): power plant, oil & gas engineering

– Welspun, Mumbai, India ($7,500): oil & gas exploration

Meanwhile, California is a key battle ground in the fight between Big Oil and American democracy. There, Proposition 23, to be voted on on November 2, will reverse 2006’s Proposition 32, the law that attempts to reverse global climate change. Writes Rebecca Solnit:

“According to data from the California Secretary of State’s office,” Kate Sheppard recently reported in Mother Jonesmagazine, “more than 98% of contributions to the pro-Prop. 23 campaign are from oil companies. Eighty-nine percent of the contributions come from out of state… Valero contributed $4 million, Tesoro gave $1.5 million, and a refinery owned by the notorious Kansas-based billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, of Koch Industries, kicked in another $1 million. Just last week, Houston-based Marathon oil contributed $500,000.”

Actually, Tesoro and Valero are headquartered out of state, but their refineries in California gave us 2.4 million pounds of toxic chemicals in our air and water last year, and they’d like to continue offering the citizens of my state these gifts that keep giving illness, death, and long-term environmental devastation without interference. The coming vote is not about protecting fancy places for upscale hikers — the stereotype used to portray environmentalism as a white-person’s luxury movement — it’s about air quality for inner-city people, especially those who live near refineries and harbors. This is the kind of environmental degradation that’s about childhood asthma and increased deaths from respiratory illness. In other words, Prop. 23 is part of a corporate war on the poor. A vote for Prop. 23 is a vote to turn the lungs of poor children into a snack for dinosaurs, to put it in bluntly Hollywood-ish terms.

October 8, 2010

More quick links

Net international investment Position of the U...

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The BRICS: On the richest in China, on the Chinese dragon versus the Indian tiger.

Financial crisis: On the international currency war, on the lessons of the 1980s trade deficit, on US banks faking documents to rush foreclosures, and on jobs in America’s economy.

The UK cuts: On money, class and power.

October 4, 2010

Blog round up

Lady Poverty: Poverty and abundance

Large-scale commodity production gives us a sense of material abundance. So much stuff! We call ourselves “developed” because we have advanced so much further than the “developing” or “underdeveloped” world in terms of the things we can buy. In other parts of the world, and at other times in history, consumer options have been much more limited. Nevertheless, individuals in any society are vulnerable anytime things like food, shelter and medicine are treated as commodities, not rights.

Poverty in an advanced consumer society can look a lot different than poverty in an early- or semi-capitalist one. [READ THE REST]

Harry’s Place: The Islamic Republic’s corporate enablers

The Guardian reports:

Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, paid the state-owned Iranian oil company at least $1.5bn (£0.94bn) for crude oil this summer, increasing its business with Tehran as the international community implemented some of the toughest sanctions yet aimed at constricting the Islamic republic’s economy and its lifeline oil business.[…]

Now I realize there is some dispute among opponents of the regime over the effectiveness of economic sanctions on Iran. But it’s hard for me to grasp how pouring one-and-a-half billion dollars into the coffers of the Iranian government does anything other than strengthen the regime– not only in its nuclear program but also in its ability to brutalize and repress its political opponents, to keep a lid on wider opposition through state subsidies and to supply weapons to the likes of Hezbollah.

Shell Oil’s reputation for responsible and ethical behavior is already pretty lousy, and they may figure that doing business with Iran won’t make it much worse. But I have to believe that they– like other companies– would be susceptible to worldwide pressure to stop funding the Iranian regime.

Earlier this year the telecom giant Nokia-Siemens Networks got around to admitting a “share of the blame for Iran’s brutal crackdown on anti-government demonstrators last year after selling mobile phone surveillance to the authoritarian regime.”[…]

Arguing the World: Partial Readings: The World Has Changed

Poverty Rising

The 2009 census data unveiled a few weeks ago revealed a troubling, if unsurprising, fact: one in seven Americans is now below the poverty line—and when the number of those now sharing homes is included, the figures are even starker. There is one glimmer of hope amid the grim news: senior citizens have actually seen a rise in income—a testament to the effectiveness of Social Security as an anti-poverty program. The safety net for families with children, especially those with single mothers, has proved far less effective; and a new Pew study illuminates the dire economic straits in which former prison inmates and their families find themselves. The effects have been exacerbated by rising incarceration rates: “1 in every 28 children (3.6 percent) has a parent incarcerated, up from 1 in 125 just 25 years ago. Two-thirds of these children’s parents were incarcerated for non-violent offenses.”