Sunday, June 22, 2008

Oil and America

While people suffer the effects of flooding and the increase in fuel and food costs, the oil industry continues to post record profits. In the past week, the oil industry has seen its fortunes improve further, owing to a couple of new developments. First, the oilmen have gained a toehold in Iraq, as the "government" there just approved service contracts for multinational energy firms. Second, the industry just made a big push to expand its drilling operations to the outer continental shelf.

Regarding Iraq, it seems that the Bush administration's goals are finally being realized. That is, its goals other than furnishing democracy (i.e. puppet governments) to the Middle East and ridding the world of the deadly threat of Hussein's famous (and ephemeral) weapons of mass destruction. The protesters who, amid the calls for war in early 2003, protested with signs reading "No blood for oil" and were ignored or derided at the time by the corporate media propaganda machine, now seem rather prescient. The general public, spoon-fed lies by the administration and its enablers in the media, perhaps should not be blamed for its ill-founded faith in government. After all, Colin Powell, always feted in the media, said that the intelligence showed that there were WMDs. Who were we to mistrust such a man of integrity? Now, however, the lack of anything resembling material improvements in the lives of Iraqis belies the supposedly good intentions that motivated the invasion. Democracy, in Iraq, looks a lot like a Hobbesian state of nature, and the WMDs were somehow spirited away to Syria or a backyard in middle America. For our amnesiac media, Al Qaeda in Iraq becomes the ex postfacto reason for the invasion, instead of its consequence. The public no longer has an excuse. Lied to repeatedly by the media and government, it has the obligation to be skeptical about everything. The public must realize that the oil laws being drafted in Iraq represent a step towards realizing the Bush administration's true goal: to denationalize the Iraqi economy and open up its natural resources to multinational corporations like the oil companies and Halliburton, which has profited greatly by the war. These are the true victors of the Iraq war, raping and pillaging at the expense of Iraqis, American soldiers, and the public, including future generations who must foot the bill.

Likewise, the oil companies have announced, through their spokespuppet George W. Bush, their intention to drill the hell out of the ocean floor by lifting the ban on platforms on the outer continental shelf (OCS). This is necessary, it is said, to combat rising oil prices. In this way, the oil corporations present themselves as the solution to problems to which they themselves contributed: high fuel costs, global warming, national security, etc. In this twisted logic, drilling on the OCS will lower the price of gasoline (even though it would take years for platforms to begin producing), and lower our dependence on foreign oil, which in turn improves national security. However, this makes less sense when one considers that our oil comes largely from countries that we control directly or by proxy. Gone are the days when OPEC could dictate fuel prices by manipulating production: now Saudi Arabia bows to demands to increase daily yield. What is causing the increased prices? Fingers point to India and China, whose accelerating economies demand more fuel, and whose emerging spending class aspires to Americans' ultra-consumerism and car-driven lifestyles (promoted, you guessed it, by the oil industry). There are signs of congressional resistance to OCS drilling, but the K Street gang will soon whip those pesky Senators into line. If not, the Bush administration can always find some intelligence reports that show that the OCS is sponsoring terror or is insurrectionary. The New York Times will print a series of editorials detailing the threat, the major networks will gravely express concern (Fox News will openly advocate the use of tactical nukes), and invasion will ensue. In the aftermath, once "reconstruction" begins, benchmarks will be established, one of which details that drilling must occur on the OCS before troop withdrawal can commence. This will address the need for oil in the long term, since it will take years for the platforms to come on-line. In the short term, Iran.

In November, the corporations will hold free and democratic elections to determine whether Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama will become the next overseer. Get out and vote, slaves.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Reading Capital with David Harvey

David Harvey, renowned geographer and professor at CUNY, has begun posting videos of his class on Marx's Capital. These are definitely worth checking out. Harvey has been reading Capital for about 40 years and, unlike some other professors, is capable of giving a clear lecture. I invite you to dust off that copy of Capital, vol. 1 that has been sitting, unread, on your shelf. If you don't have a copy, obtain one by a method that doesn't involve value-producing labor, and begin your life of resistance to social domination.

The first two lectures are already online, so start reading! I've listened to the first and, while Harvey says some things I don't quite agree with, I can't think of a better (free) introduction to Marx's magnum opus. Besides, Harvey has read Capital a few more times than I have, so I'll prudently withhold my criticisms. Go read!