Privatizing Iraqi oil? Iraq Study Group Co-Chair Lee Hamilton questioned


Sam Husseini: Mr. Hamilton, can you clarify one of your recommendations, number 63, which called on the US to “assist the Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise and to encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies. Are you calling for some sort of privitization?

Lee Hamilton: Oil of course is the critical asset in Iraq. It furnishes a very large percentage of the GDP of Iraq. It furnishes a huge percentage of the total revenues of the government. We recommend many things with regard to the oil industry. I think there are as many recommendations on oil as any other feature of it, and you have to look at them as a package. Okay, thank you.

[originally published on Washington Stakeout on Dec. 10, 2006; posted on posthaven Nov. 11, 2015]

Song Sellout: Free, Love

More memories gone to hell: As I watch Pulp Fiction and Butch wakes from a nightmare -- as he should from his memories of killing a man the night before -- a commercial for Chase credit cards groves to "I'm Free" by the Stones and one for Macy's bops to the Beatles' "[With Love] From Me To You."

A notable piece on song sellouts is "Riders on the Storm" by John Densmore. I could hardly believe it when Janis Joplin's "Mercedes Benz" was commercialized by Mercedes-Benz several years ago. Even as a child I was worried that "Who Will Buy" from Oliver would end up being commercialized, especially by some pharmaceutical -- perhaps the one that makes propranolol.

But maybe it's all for the best. If you don't want songs that are meaningful to you to be commercialized, write your own.

[originally published at on Nov. 26, 2006]

New Meaning to "United States of Amnesia"

"60 Minutes" aired a segment tonight about propranolol, a drug that some claim can erode memories of traumatic events. At the end of the segment Leslie Stahl noted that the military will be funding further research. The great thing about something like this is that even if it doesn't work, the "promise" of it working helps facilitate All the War Crimes, None of the Guilt.

[originally published at on Nov. 26, 2006]

The Week in Review Pseudo-Haikus on Kerry, Borat -- and Haikus

He says he calls him dumb

but claims he tricked him to war
If so, who's dumb?

Bush repents?
some finally ask as stunt
No, Kerry for wrong reason

We can pretend
we have global dialogue
More like global blackface

But it's funny
says my friend
Maybe that's the problem with us

Haiku says much with little
There are few real thoughts
and too many words

Really it's more than
just seventeen syllables
I will try to learn

[originally published at on Nov. 4, 2006]

How Third Parties Can Solve the "Spoiler" Problem -- And Win Elections

The Problem:

Most voters don't vote for -- often don't even consider voting for -- third parties because they view voting for a third party as helping the establishment party they most dislike. Disenchanted Democrats continue to vote for Democrats because they don't want Republicans; disenchanted Republicans continue to vote for Republicans because they don't want Democrats. This continues despite the relative bankruptcy of both establishment parties as reflected in polls and general disillusionment.

VotePact - The Solution:
Disenchanted Republicans and disenchanted Democrats should join together and both vote for the third party of their choice. They can each vote for the same party or they can each vote for different parties. This way they siphon off votes by twos from each of the establishment parties and give them both to third parties. This liberates the voters to vote their actual preference from among parties on the ballot, rather than to just pick the "least bad" of the two majors. It offers an enterprising third party a path to major electoral success.

What it's not:
This is not "vote swapping" -- in which voters in "swing" states who want to vote for third parties "swap" votes with committed Democrats and Republicans in "safe" states. Unlike "swapping," VotePact does not depend on the electoral college to work. It does not result in people voting for candidates they don't want, it frees people to vote for candidates they do want, but are held back by fear. It does not link people up from different states; it compels people to join with people they know in a new way. And unlike "swapping," VotePact is not an attempt to "minimize the damage" of a third party run -- it is designed to actually shake up the political spectrum and open the door to actual electoral victory for third parties.

Reconfiguring the Political Spectrum:
The dominant political alignment can be described as the "Cheney-Lieberman" axis. Progressives, libertarians, and authentic conservatives, as well as others, have been unrelentingly manipulated by the establishments of the two major parties. They should wake up to the fact that they can join together, rather than be kept apart by the establishment party apparatchiks who exploit them to maintain the duopoly.

Achieving Dialogue:
This would facilitate and would be propelled by meaningful dialogue on the issues by citizens. This would likely emphasize issues in which the establishment parties have most colluded: constitutional powers, issues of war, corporate transnational-dominated trade, infringement on civil liberties and big money in politics to name a few. The creative powers of the citizens will likely produce "pair ups" that no political consultant could possibly have predicted. This could achieve a steady stream of novel news stories that could continue to draw attention to VotePact and the relevant third party candidate(s).

The Voting Precursors:
The VotePact idea is not dissimilar from how politicians actually act towards one another -- one votes for the other's project in return for a favor. The politicians manipulate the voting system all the time for their narrow interests; the people should be able to vote in a manner which maximizes the public interest. Note that VotePact would be largely irrelevant if instant runoff voting were adopted. VotePact can be seen as "do it yourself" instant runoff voting. But VotePact has one peculiar advantage even over even that system: it can help force meaningful dialogue between unlikely protagonists, potentially leading to a healthier political culture.

The Campaign Strategy:
Get endorsements in pairs -- a former union official with a small business owner for example. They would each give their reasons for voting for the candidate at a news conference, which would end with the candidate bringing them together, both shaking hands with the candidate in the middle. Thus the candidate is seen as bringing people together, ending the partisan bickering and moving people forward together in positive direction. This will be an example for other people, giving them ideas for how they can creatively "pair up" with someone else.

The creative powers of the citizenry could then be set free in a novel manner. No political consultant could possibly predict the vibrant ways people could "pair up." Groups like "Democrats for Candidate C" and "Republicans for Candidate C" could be brought together and pair people up.

This would work especially well for candidates (such as Kevin Zeese, running for the Senate seat in Maryland) who have gotten multiple party nominations and who are in the debates with the Democratic and Republican candidates.

Turing the "Spoiler" Question Around:
VotePact is in a sense self-promoting; that is, it answers the perennial "aren't you a spoiler" question in a direct manner. It does so in part by putting the onus on the questioner -- by finding their "political mirror image" -- to find a way out for themselves. The question is answered thus: "I understand your concern: you don't want A to win, so you'd rather vote for B even though you really want to vote for me. There's a way out for you: Join with someone in your life, someone you know and trust, a relative, a friend, a coworker, who prefers A to B and both agree to vote for me (or your friend can vote for some other third party candidate). This solution requires work, but it gets you political freedom. There's a way out of your dilemma, I hope you'll take it."

People all over the world and throughout history have risked their lives and fortunes for political freedom. People in the U.S. today should be able to exert the emotional and mental strength to join with someone they disagree with to emancipate themselves from the two party duopoly.

The Issue of Trust:
There is the issue of how the people can trust one another to actually vote for who they say they'll vote for; this is similar to the classic "prisoner's dilemma." The major answer to this fear is dialogue, dialogue and more dialogue -- for the people to really talk through what they want and to develop trust in the political realm that they have in other areas of life, as friends, co-workers or neighbors. This interweaves the personal and political. Another alternative is to both get absentee ballots, fill them out together and mail them together.

Creating a Three-Way Race:
However, if VotePact has a substantial impact, it will affect the polling results and therefore its major consequence would be to let people see the viability of third parties. That is, VotePact helps the scales to drop from the peoples' eyes so they can judge candidates on their merits rather than being confined to the Democratic-Republican horse race. Once this happens, trust in effect becomes less of an issue as the illusion of inevitability of Republican-Democratic dominance is shattered. Think of the success of Ventura; or that the Greens in Germany were fond of saying that they are not from the left or right, but out in front.

This idea was written about several times, but was never been seriously pursued. It was raised in Ralph Nader's opening press conference in the 2004 campaign, but the Nader campaign did not adopt it until in the last few days of the campaign; though it was featured prominently on their web page at that point. But by its very nature, this is not a last minute maneuver -- it should be central at the height of the campaign. To take effect, it requires the voters to have a serious dialogue with people who they have typically disagreed with, build trust, take political effect and spread. See: "A New Way To Vote -- As A Duet" (Common Dreams) also, for related repercussions on polling, see: "Why Public Opinion Polls Aren't."

[originally published at on Oct. 19, 2006]

Global Non-Dialogue, Chapter XXII

Most of the broadcast outlets -- or atleast their affiliates in DC -- I noticed ABC and Fox -- as well as CNN of course -- carried Bush's speech but not the speeches before.

So although Bush had to endure Annan, the head of the General Assembly and Lula (who proposed an international conference on the Mideast) air some very mild criticism of US policy, the US public -- thanks to the networks (obvious exception of C-Span) -- were spared it.

As I recall, this is exactly what happened each time Powell addressed the UN in 2003.

[originally published at on Sep. 19, 2006]

John Negroponte Questioned

John Negroponte, Director of National Intelligence questioned outside Fox studios in Washington, Sunday, September 17, by Sam Husseini.

Husseini: Ambassador, why did your office approve the Fleitz Report on Iran's nuclear program, even though according to the IAEA, the report contained 'erroneous, misleading, and unsubstantiated information' about Iran's nuclear program?

Negroponte: We did not -- of course, as you know, that report was written by a staff member of the House Intelligence Committee, we did not originate it, and we weren't commenting so much on the content, as we were -- we dealt with it from a declassification point of view, what could be published in an unclassified format, so I wouldn't associate us one way or another, we didn't comment one way or another on the conclusions that were drawn by that report.

Husseini: Ambassador, do you know that Israel has nuclear weapons?

Negroponte: I don't want to get into a discussion about Israel's nuclear powers.

Husseini: You can't comment on whether Israel has nuclear powers?

Negroponte takes questions from other journalists and then turns to leave.

Husseini: How can you expect to have any credibility on the Middle East if you can't say whether or not Israel has nuclear weapons?

Negroponte continues walking away.

Husseini: Mr. Ambassador, you are head of national intelligence and you can't say whether Israel has nuclear weapons?

Negroponte's Handler: He answered the question.

Husseini (following Negroponte): No, he didn't answer the question. If he'd answered the question I'd go away. Mr. Ambassador, I just want a simple answer to a simple question. Does, do you know that Israel has nuclear weapons? You've made all these statements about Iran and Iraq and so on. Everybody knows that Israel has nuclear weapons. You're director of national intelligence and you can't say whether Israel has nuclear weapons? It's ridiculous. How can you have any credibility on the Middle East? How can you have any credibility Mr. Ambassador?

Negroponte gets in his car and is driven away.

[originally published at on Sep. 19, 2006]

Questioning McCain and Graham on Habeas Corpus and FISA

John McCain was outside ABC studios Sunday morning, September 17, 2006.

Sam Husseini: People have also criticized the Warner plan. For example, The Center for Constitutional Rights says that it, as well as the Bush plan, have provisions that would "prevent anyone taken into US custody anywhere in the world, past or present, innocent or not, from ever having their case heard in a court of law." Are you familiar with that provision of the Warner legislation?

Sen. John McCain: No, I'm not, I'm not familiar with that. I'm not familiar with that.

Sen. Lindsey Graham was outside CBS studios on Sunday, September 17, 2006.

Sam Husseini: There's been some speculation that the White House is going to try to tie the, addressing the FISA statute, to this type of legislation. What's your view on the FISA statute's being basically done away with -- I mean -- Wouldn't that be a case -- I'm sorry, just the substance of it, if you could address the substance as well as that speculation. Wouldn't that be basically rewriting the law to make legal the President's violations of the FISA statutes?

Sen. Lindsey Graham: The war on terror presents unique legal challenges, and we need to look at all of our laws to make sure they give us the tools we need to be safe. But in doing that, in redefining the law, my biggest fear is that we're going to redefine America. That if you have the torture statute defined in an absurd way, it no longer means anything. That if you have a trial where someone can go to jail and never see the evidence against them, you've redefined America, not protected the country against terrorism.

When it comes to the FISA statute, I think it has a role in the war on terror. I do not want to destroy the FISA statute. What does the FISA statute do that's necessary? It requires the government to get a warrant if it, the government believes an American is collaborating with the enemy. I want to follow the enemy and listen to the enemy, and if the enemy is talking to an American, I want to know what they are talking about. But if we believe that this American is helping the enemy, then I think we should have to get a warrant, because if we're wrong, we've destroyed people's personal freedom. If you can't and won't make it easy to get a warrant in terms of time periods, we're not going to have a three day, get a warrant or let 'em go. We'll have a statute that allows the government to pursue the evidence and go to court and get a warrant on reasonable terms.

But the day you say that an American suspected of collaborating with the nation's enemies can be followed without a warrant, then we've lost more than we've gained. It is not a burden on this government to get a warrant if they suspect an American of collaborating with the enemy. There is no requirement to get a warrant to surveil the enemy in a time of war.There must be a requirement to check the government when the government believes someone is committing treason.

Husseini: The Center for Constitutional Rights, on the facts, put out a statement criticizing both the Bush proposal as well as the Warner proposal. They said, "If either bill passes as currently written, it will prevent anyone taken into US custody, anywhere in the world, past, present, or future, innocent or not, from ever having their case heard in a court of law." Is that your understanding?

Graham: That is a complete false statement. That is a representation of the bill just as inaccurate as saying that we put the CIA at risk. In the legislation, there is a procedure for every detainee at Guantanamo Bay held as an enemy combatant, to appeal that decision to the US Circuit Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia. Every person tried as a war criminal will now be able to appeal their conviction if there is one through our federal court system. We have created legal rights of review for every person at Guantanamo Bay that is historic in terms of law of armed conflict. So, those who say that people in Guantanamo Bay are being held with legal review, or being tried without legal review, are flat wrong.

Husseini: Does this apply to anybody detained, I mean can't they detain people --

Graham: Anybody detained. Every person held down there as a enemy combatant,

Husseini: Anywhere. I'm not just saying Guantanamo.

Graham: Guantemo Bay. They're all held at Guan -- In Iraq, there are people held in Iraq that have their own procedures to appeal their status. Everywhere we hold someone there are rules in place to appeal their status as enemy combatants. People held in Afghanistan and Iraq are turned over to those countries. The people we have at Guantanamo Bay, we don't have a country to turn them over to, so we're taking care of them.

[originally published at on Sep. 17, 2006]