Daily Archives: January 22, 2012

China urges restraint in Sudan dispute

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China, the biggest investor in oilfields in the new nation of South Sudan, called for “calm and restraint” as a transit fee dispute threatened to cut off crude exports from the African producer.

News wires  23 January 2012 01:24 GMT

South Sudan said on Friday it planned to halt oil production within two weeks after its northern neighbour Sudan started seizing southern crude to compensate for what Khartoum called unpaid transit fees, Reuters reported.

“The Chinese side hopes that the two governments will fulfil their commitment to protecting the legal rights of Chinese enterprises and those of other partners,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Liu Weimin said in comments posted on the ministry’s website on Saturday.

Sudan and South Sudan together made up 5% of China’s crude oil imports in 2011, or about 13 million barrels, ranking seventh among China’s oil suppliers.

Chinese customs data does not differentiate imports from South Sudan, which seceded in July, taking with it about two-thirds of the formerly united country’s oil output.

“Oil is the economic lifeline shared by Sudan and South Sudan,” Liu said.

“We urge the two sides to remain calm and restrained, avoid taking any extreme action and continue working together with mediation by the African Union and other parties to resolve their dispute through negotiation at an early date and to benefit the two countries and their peoples,” he said.

China’s foreign ministry used nearly the identical wording when the transit fee dispute first surfaced in November, Reuters reported.

It has sought to maintain good relations with Khartoum, a long-time ally, and South Sudan, home to investment by state-owned Chinese oil giants China National Petroleum Corporation and Sinopec.

China’s oil imports from Sudan grew by 3% in 2011, but average monthly volumes dropped to 998,000 tonnes from August onwards, compared with 1.14 million tonnes per months in the first seven months of the year.

Published: 23 January 2012 01:24 GMT  | Last updated: 20 minutes ago

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Brazil Stiffs Obama on Oil Deal, Exposing President’s Incompetence

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By Mark Whittington
Yahoo! Contributor Network – Sat, Jan 21, 2012

COMMENTARY | President Barack Obama has suffered the second embarrassment over oil imports within the space of a week. Brazil, whose offshore deposits of oil were sought by the Obama administration, has signed contracts with China for the product.

According to the Washington Times, Brazilian offshore crude may number about 38 billion barrels. Obama went to Brazil last month to put in a bid for the oil, offering loans and other support to develop the oil in an “environmentally responsible matter,” The Hill reported at the time. Republicans criticized that initiative, pointing out Obama has placed roadblocks in the way of domestic development of oil and gas reserves.

Brazil’s decision comes on the heels of Obama’s refusal to permit the building of the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Canada’s tar sands in Alberta to Texas oil refineries, according to the Los Angeles Times. The decision was criticized by Republicans as well as union officials who point out that 20,000 jobs the pipeline would bring would therefore not be created.

Obama’s policy in regard to oil and gas has been a study in incompetence driven by an ideological mania against hydrocarbon fuel in favor of more politically correct forms of energy production. This has not only led to what amounts to a campaign against oil and gas production in the U.S., but embarrassing scandals such as Solyndra, brought on by unwise federal loan guarantees to dubious green energy companies.

This is occurring at a time when Iran is threatening to close the Strait of Hormuz through which much of the world’s oil passes from Persian Gulf fields. The very threat has led to a spike in the price of oil and of gasoline.

Unfortunately, Obama shows no sign of learning from his mistakes. A responsible president would move quickly to exploit more accessible sources of oil, lifting restrictions on domestic production and quickly signing off on the pipeline deal with Canada, an American ally. Obama, however, is doing neither of these things.

A new energy crisis this summer, brought on by turmoil in the Middle East, is not outside the realm of possibility. The bad news is Americans will suffer, just as they did in 1973 and 1979. The good news is Americans are likely to make their ire known at the polls in the fall. But it months of turmoil and agony lay ahead until then.

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Obama in Fantasy Land

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Derek Hunter

This Tuesday, when President Obama delivers his State of the Union Address, we can count on it to be filled with the same platitudes, anecdotes, false promises, cooked stats and tenuous connection with reality we find in everything the man does. It will be a laundry list of progressive fantasy, couched in populist rhetoric and designed to make middle-class Americans think he has something more than the zero connection and concern for them he has.

President Obama doesn’t give a damn about the middle class, jobs, the economy or much of anything that distracts from his progressive agenda. But what do you expect from someone who shows such contempt for the nation’s pastime as to wear “mom jeans” when throwing out the first pitch at the All-Star game?

I’m kidding about “mom jeans,” of course, though only mostly. But about the contempt…not at all.

Last week President Obama went to Disney World – returning to his home country of Fantasy Land to deliver a speech about the need to boost tourism. Tourism is hurting, there’s no doubt about that. But taking a vacation is hardly a priority when you’re unemployed, and for the unemployed, Mr. Obama smacked them across the face with a dead fish.

The administration announced he would block the Keystone XL pipeline, a plan to move oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. The green left hates it because…well, it’s real energy rather than the “green” energy racket they love to milk for government subsidies. If it’s good for humans, you can count on these people to oppose it unless they’re lining their pockets with tax dollars or preparing to profit from forced customer base through regulation.

The pipeline would have meant jobs, good jobs, lots of them … but it seems, as Vice-President Joe Biden so artfully put it, that three-letter word that is President Obama’s No.1 priority – J-O-B-S – isn’t as much a priority as pleasing the cronies he desperately needs for his reelection.

How many jobs? Conservatives say a lot; progressives say not so many. I’m no engineer, but trenches from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico don’t dig themselves, and that pipe won’t magically appear once it’s dug – nor will it maintain itself. So, more than 100 but less than the millions who have lost jobs since President Obama took office. But creating some jobs beats creating no jobs, which is what President Obama chose when he took the side of his “green” elite friends against normal American workers.

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FYI: The new politics of protest

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Matthew Sowemimo worked at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation, which trains emerging campaigners

The unprecedented scale of the government’s deficit reduction programme was always going to generated social protest. In this article I will also identify the features of some of 2011’s most effective political campaigns against the austerity programme and what they say about the wider state of our politics. The new wave of social activism will generate both challenges and opportunities for the labour movement.

Traditionally people with the lowest incomes have lacked a political voice equivalent to the stake they have in policies designed to redistribute wealth and to provide them with services like housing that they could not secure from their own resources.

Many would argue that people on low incomes are bearing the brunt of the government’s austerity programme. So have those with most at stake been at the forefront of popular protest against the government’s policies?

The student protestors dominated protest at the early stage of the spending cuts and conform to the established pattern of those with the greatest levels of social capital and educational levels being the most assertive in representing their views.

Conversely, the initial overspill of protest from the student movement to the arguably more important issue of the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance (EMA) was not sustained. The demographic of EMA beneficiaries was notably poorer and more drawn from ethnic minorities that the student protestors.

The one social group adversely affected by the welfare cuts who took part in popular protests in some numbers were disabled people. However as in many past occasions significant numbers of disabled people are part of national networks of large charities, like Scope and Radar.

Many of these charities have invested considerable resources in mobilising disabled people and supporting their political advocacy. However individuals affected by the housing benefit reforms and the household cap on benefits have lacked any national visibility.

By contrast, the National Trust-led campaign against the government’s forestry proposals was powered by thousands of affluent voters writing protest letters.

The fact that policies like the housing benefit reforms have not led to direct mobilisation of the communities directly affected by them is aggravated by the fact that these groups are far less likely to turnout in general elections.

Barack Obama’s community activism in Chicago was based on the belief that policymakers would become more responsive to poor peoples issues if those voters were brought into the political process. Obama’s own election as a United States senator was an ‘aftershock’ of long term political and electoral re-engagement of poor communities.

The protests that have been most effective are those that have focused on wider systemic political and economic issues rather than defensive campaigns reacting to specific cuts.

UKUncut and the Occupy campaigns effectiveness can be seen in the way they featured high up news schedules; how they sustained their media impact and that they shifted the terms of debate. UKUncut’s campaign challenged the central tenet of the government’s argument that there is no alternative to its spending cuts.

Both campaigns demonstrate the ability of online campaigning to reach out to large numbers of unaffiliated people around a clear focus and to do so in short time frames. Prior to the cuts, grassroots campaigns like Plane Stupid, have used the agility that comes with not having large formalised decision making structures to sometimes steal a march on large campaigning charities.

In the 1990s Adam Lent and I argued that national protest movements formed in areas like gay rights and foreign policy in part as a result of political disaffection with the conservatism and caution of the Labour Party leadership.

The Occupy campaign’s challenge to the City of London about its past and ongoing role in the financial crisis has taken place at a time when Labour is undergoing an agonising reassessment of its record in office, including its policies towards the banking sector. Occupy’s stance on the City of London was clear and urgent and quickly generated quite significant levels public approval.

As a result, Ed Miliband and Vince Cable found themselves acknowledging the force of Occupy’s core political case. Occupy’s experience shows that social movements can expand the political space for progressive politics.

However, the vibrant new social movements pose a challenge for Labour.

The youthful face and energy of groups like UKUncut serve as a sharp contrast to the ageing profile and falling membership of the trade unions and Labour Party. The more social movements are seen to set the agenda on fundamental questions about the economic and political system, the less relevant Labour may seem.

However social movements, by going where mainstream political leaders initially fear to tread, can prepare the ground for stronger progressive commitments.

Occupy Wall Street’s messaging, ‘we are the 99 per cent’, provided a countervailing force to the reactionary Tea Party by channelling popular discontent over the banking bailouts through progressive politics. Within weeks President Obama realigned his political message to argue for a greater contribution from wealthy Americans to pay down the deficit.

Labour needs bold and vibrant social movements not only to help prepare its path to power but also to govern effectively.

This year will see new potential policy conflicts that could rally protest and there will be a further test of whether those who are most socially marginalised absorb more pain without protest.

2012 is likely to see renewed pressure from within the Conservatives part of the coalition to abandon or water down climate change commitments, particularly as growth continues to stagnate. This year will see a new wave of benefit cuts come into force just at a time when unemployment is rising.

Will the newly established internet-driven loose and informal campaign groups become more structured mass movements with memberships that systematically take part in ongoing actions, or are the days of the mass mobilisation of groups like the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament now a thing of the past?

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Obama Ordered To Appear Before Atlanta Judge

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President Obama has been ordered to appear before a judge in Atlanta in a case challenging whether he is qualified to be president of the United States, according to the Associated Press.

by Keith Koffler on January 21, 2012, 11:39 am

The judge set the hearing for this Thursday after denying on Friday a motion by Obama’s lawyer to quash a subpoena that requires Obama to personally show up.

Obama, however, will be nowhere near Atlanta on Thursday. According to the White House, he will be out West promoting the agenda he plans to lay out in Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Obama Thursday plans to make appearances in Las Vegas and Denver areas before traveling on to Detroit to spend the night.

Litigants in the case say he is not eligible to run in Georgia’s March Democratic primary because they claim he is not a “natural born citizen” as required by the Constitution, since his father was not a citizen. But they clearly hope a ruling against Obama will make the issue a national cause and raise questions about his eligibility to run in the general election.

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