Political Economy


I just found this treasure at a local used bookstore: The Petroleum Dictionary, by Lalia Phipps Boone.  Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950.  

The Last BarrelWell, the heyday of Texas-Oklahoma well drilling is over, although you can still drive by and find those workhorse pumps attempting to get that last drop out of the oil sands below the prairie.  Mature oil fields: but back in the day, the oil patch developed its own Americanized language, which took from the world of cowboys and machinists, and then gave the language back again.  It is a language of common sense, sweat, and romance: people in love with their jobs and the way of life it represented.  And you’d have to be in love with it: it was loud, dangerous, and dirty work, in every sense of the word.

One tradition that I think derives from cowboys is the contempt for farmers: farmer’s oil, for instance, is ‘a worthless black substance resembling oil that comes from blue shale’ and farmer’s sand, is “the productive sand which allegedly would have been reached if a dry hole had been drilled further.  No doubt those farmers contemplating oil leases would have preferred those Texas oilmen to drill all the way to China.  Heck, I think today that all of the U.S. would be inclined to agree with the farmers, given that 20/20 hindsight. 

Miss Rita of BeaumontGusherMs. Lalia even mentions one pimp and two madams in her book: the gentleman is named Ben Hogan of Pennsylvania, the “Wickedest Man in the World”; the ladies, “French Kate” (of course, French) but also “Lizzie Toppling”.  So you can just imagine what she left out–in particular, the madams of Texas and Oklahoma.  I wonder who the wickedest man in Texas was?

However, you can find other sources:  for instance, this deathless oil painting decorated the Dixie Hotel in Beaumont–an establishment run by Miss Rita of Beaumont, as a matter of fact.  The painting is by Aaron Arion, and combines the 1880’s with a small nod to the flatness and vistas of Depression era muralists such as Tom Lea and Thomas Hart Benton: Spindletop Viewing Her Gusher

We don’t allow this kind of thing these days: gushers, I mean.  Once the sign of success, we have now decided that it Wastes the Product.  We don’t allow human trafficking either, but somehow that’s been harder to change with advanced technology.

Here are some excerpts from the Foreword:

To spud in, which originally meant to indicate initial drilling operations, has undergone extension to designate the beginning of any activity.  If one is starting a meal, a job, a game, or a drink, he is spudding in.

Now you also have to think that this term was a joke about planting potatoes at one point.  Sort of a way to contrast the Drill and the Shovel in the scale of human enterprise.

The nouns roustabout and bird dog have also undergone generalization.  Originally roustabout was the name applied to the laborer who assisted in the loading and unloading of river craft in the United States.  In the oil field the term is applied to several different kinds of workers.  . . .   In drilling, he may be either an unskilled laborer or a skilled one.   . . .   Needless to say, he aspires to be a tool dresser or a roughneck.  The activity of any roustabout is roustabouting.

A bird dog is a field geologist: the person who can smell out the oil and point those roughnecks in the right direction.  Nowadays, we use technology. 

What I’d love to hear, from others: what’s the slang in other languages and other states?

Fiction about the American Oil Patch:
♦ Honor at Daybreak a Western by Elmer Kelton, about Central Texas, the spudding of wells, the fights, and the human trafficking during the not-so-great Depression
♦ Mean Spirit, by Linda Hogan, about oil, fraud, and the Osage tribe in Oklahoma, set in the Harding Years of the U.S.

Photo: columbia.edu; texasescapes.com

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Well, gotta love this:

Some faction of the Kurds have revealed their own strategic goal by dissassociating themselves from it.  That is, some diaspora groups are protesting in the United States that Turkey wants to invade Kurdistan for Kirkuk.  It doesn’t have anything to do with PKK depredations on their soil, of course–or the incipient threat of destabilization throughout Iraq, spreading north, and compromising Turkey’s security in general.  Oh, no, it’s that oil again.

Let’s go for that conspiracy scenario, just long enough to kill it For Ever:
1. Turkey, with, uh, WAY MORE military capability than the U.S., has decided that they could conduct war with Iraq in a far more efficient fashion than the U.S. ever could. 

Nah.  The paranoids may have a point with that efficiency thing: on the other hand, seeing that the U.S. actually has the capability, and can’t guarantee security, it seems past ridiculous to think that Turkey would go flying, marching, and tanking on in to the same revenue-threatening and life-threatening black hole of Iraq in order to take on a town that is primed for resentment and strife.

2.  One protester stated that Turkey is not afraid of the PKK, but rather afraid of a Kurdish state.  And of course this makes, yes, perfect sense. 

Nope: The PKK wants to bomb Turkish towns and resorts, killing innocent people and being sneaky about it, disrupt the economy and create conflict and strife.  The Kurdish state wants to ship oil through Turkey and get on with making money.  Uh, I know Turkey is completely unfavorable to the idea of generating income, preferring instead to foment domestic instability and gleefully hailing each incident of lost infrastructure.  It’s just this attitude that makes Turkey a force for good in the international system–

Personally, I believe that Kurdish-Americans would go a lot further by deprecating the PKK and trying to help Turkey provide goods and services for its own ethnic Kurdish residents.  Oh, and building partnerships to keep those pipelines in northern Iraq in good order: for the good of Iraq, Kurdistan, and Turkey–heck, the world at large.  Hope you’ll think about it–and then do something constructive. 

Kirkuk is a mess, but not Turkey’s mess:
Consider the machinations, forced importations and deportations that have been occurring in Kirkuk: the blame doesn’t rest with Turkey: a history of forced Kurdish deportations from the Kirkuk area has been rectified with new human rights violations–forced non-Kurdish deportations from Kirkuk. 

The stratagems may be based upon history, but history has not taught compassion.  Right now, the paranoia of the non-Kurdish Kirkuk residents is the justifiable paranoia: because they’ve been had.  It’s a bad business, and Turkey’s got nothing to do with it.

On Sunday, October 7, Costa Rica’s voters approved the entry of the state into the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with their first-in-history vote by referendum.  In Costa Rica, the agreement was known as TLC, or, Tratado Libre Commercio (Free Trade Treaty) and was hotly contested, publicly fought, and barely passed.   

The dramatic enactment of democracy in Costa Rica barely made a stir in United States news agencies.  For instance, the Washington Post published one short article on October 8, page A-11, dateline: Mexico City, with the results of the vote.  Other local news in states with large textile concerns were a little more interested–many in the U.S. believe that CAFTA will continue to take manufacturing jobs away from U.S. labor.  But I was there and can write a little about the conduct of the controversy.  The photos below (not the map, which is from NPR) I took this month.

CAFTA/TLC
PBS-CAFTA MapThe Central American Free Trade Agreement is a burgeoning economic community in the Western Hemisphere.  Its member countries are: the United States, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic–and now, Costa Rica.  Because the Dominican Republic is considered Caribbean rather than Central American, the agreement is sometimes called by the acronym DR-CAFTA or CAFTA-DR.  It is a counterpart of sorts to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.   Belize and Panama are not signatories to the agreement. 

The Caribbean states also have their own trade agreement (in which the U.S. is not a signatory), but (as stated earlier) only the Caribbean’s Dominican Republic is a signatory to CAFTA.

The case for Free Trade
TLC SiA free trade agreement allows states to lower tariffs between each other and can be bilateral or multilateral.  Currently, a network of free trade treaties, both bilateral and multilateral, link states of the Western Hemisphere to each other, but they differ in membership and content.  Increasing numbers of multilateral ties both reflect and facilitate the rise of global markets.  Under these agreements, states are given better access to each other’s markets and can export and import more easily.  For Costa Rica, this may enable an influx of engineering and technical assistance, serve to modernize its business management, and streamline its markets for agricultural products–both crops and value-added agricultural merchandise.  It may also add to the job pool for labor, both skilled trades and unskilled.  

Costa Rica is in urgent need of new engineering and better infrastructure, both governmental and non-governmental.  Costa Ricans that I talked to working in business look forward to the development of new kinds of management and new opportunities for their talents.  Costa Rica’s hospitality industry also stands to gain significantly from the agreement.

China
With the EU as a prime example, the global economy appears to be settling into trading blocs which are able to command greater portions of economic power.  This trend has not always aided the Western Hemisphere in gaining economic power for itself–for instance, the U.S. and Central America are further threatened in the textile/soft goods market by the economic power of China.  It should be noted also that China is developing economic power in the Western Hemisphere as well.   Recently, China opened a new consulate in Costa Rica and President Arias will be visiting the state later this month.

The case against Free Trade
Tratado Libre CommercialWhile I was in Costa Rica, it was quite obvious that U.S. commercial presence was already quite strong within the state.  Perhaps the most interesting aspect to me was that many of the arguments mirror arguments in the U.S. over the Farm Bill–large agriculture, particularly that of U.S. grain producers, might threaten the local agriculture in Costa Rica.  This argument was fought mostly over rice–with the rights of Costa Rican domestic rice producers versus the rights of householders to cheaper rice imports.  As always, agriculture hires the most workers and accounts for significant portions of Costa Rica’s GDP–yet it is not as efficient  (or as subsidized) as U.S. grain crops.  Other crops, such as coffee, are currently administered in very small farms utilizing micro-climates and small confederations of farms.  Any unification of coffee markets, for instance, are going to change the nature of local power structures within Costa Rica. 

Most of the agricultural labor, for coffee at least, is migrant labor from Nicaragua–already a member of CAFTA–which seemed to prove to many Costariccenses that CAFTA was not providing jobs for agriculture for their neighbor state.  

Other arguments focused upon a dread of change to various government monopolies such as energy, telecoms, social security, and utilities.  The arguments against change for telecoms, for example, centered upon the state’s mandate to provide service to all against a competitive influx of multinational corporations which might improve efficiency but not provide service to all.  This argument was largely theoretical — TLC did not abolish the national telecommunications monopoly– but serves as an example of the conflict between old and new that Costa Rica will now confront. 

A third aspect of change is that Costa Rica’s environmental importance to the world (cloud forests, rain forests) may well be under assault from continued development.  As usual, this argument seemed to originate more from the international community than from Costa Rica itself.  Nevertheless, coffee growers, for instance, have marked environmental damage due to climate change on their own ability to provide coffee on the market.  Increasing development from the tourist industry and the development of resort/retirement real estate threaten the environmental benefit that Costa Rica’s undeveloped regions bring to the world.   

Further Reading:
PINR, May, 2005: The fight against CAFTA in the U.S. and U.S. reasons for backing CAFTA
U.S. Trade Representative site: CAFTA page, including links to the text of the Treaty

  

Everything but Iraq, since this troubled state got its own post earlier.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ Almost like sports scores with the trade wars: China is now finding small nematodes in U.S. wooden crating.  Something undisclosed was wrong with some U.S.-origin frozen potatoes (no French fries today), and some vitamins and fish oil were guilty of false advertising.  As far as the ick factor in the product du jour goes, we’ve had melamine, lead, fugitive weeds, dirt, worms, and steroids.  Things to look out for next: spit, arachnids, cockroaches, slime molds, and stem cells, depending upon which side of the Pacific you’re on.
♦ Talks between U.S. Ambassador Christopher Hill and DPRK Ambassador Kim Kye-gan went well in Geneva.  This coming Wednesday, Mongolia hosts the next chapter in the Six-Party Talks with diplomats from North Korea and Japan attending.
♦ The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum is in Sydney this week, with tons of security and a kick-off on climate change issuesAllan Gyngell at The Australian Age has a great backgrounder on the history of the organization, its sometimes sagging progress, and real achievements.
Australia’s contribution to Pacific stability at The Strategist.

Former Soviet Union:
♦ At NewEurasia.net, Ben Paarman looks at possible changes in Central Asia’s relations to great powers via the tired metaphor of the Great Game.  A great read  for Central Asia watchers.
♦ Get up-to-date on the new problems in the Caspian/Kazakhstan oil at the Kashagan field, at FPA Central Asia.
♦ Russia is going to put missiles in Belarus, if NATO is going to put them in Poland.
♦ Anna Politovskaya, the brave, committed, and murdered Russian journalist, would have been 49 this past week.  Robert Amsterdam documents the investigation as driven by political agendas rather than a desire for justice.

Latin America:
♦ Mr. Obama, U.S. Presidential candidate, said during his campaign that the U.S. should consider diplomacy with Cuba and opening up remittance payments, and the LA Times explains why.  H/T: Boz.   Then Professor Weeks sums up the anti-Castro backlash as diplomatic amateur hour in two paragraphs. 
♦ In a move to be imitated by world leaders everywhere, Lula declines a third presidential term.
Grief and destruction from Peru’s earthquake.

Middle East: and North Africa:
A call for unity within Islam, and the adoption of a social agenda, with a look at what makes Hizb ut-Tahrir compelling, at Tabsir.net.
Aquoul has a three part series on Moroccan elections, which is a very interesting beginning on learning the politics of the state.  Part 1 discusses the role of the King in Morocco’s democracy; Part 2, the situation for a free media; and Part 3, on interior security and political parties.  It’s referenced and the comments are good, too.

Afghanistan:
Taken in part from The Afghanistan Aggregator at FPA Central Asia, which has more:
♦ David Rohde on the Taliban v. Afghanistan’s police: the new tactics of the Taliban, including 102 suicide bombings, IEDs–against a police force which is rife with corruption and under-trained, under-equipped, etc, at the NYT.
♦ The last 19 South Korean hostages were freed over the past two days, in small groups at various collection points.  Of 23 hostages from the ROK kidnapped July 17th, two male hostages had been killed, and two previously released.  The South Korean goverment had to agree to withdraw their troops (as previously planned) by the end of the year.  They also had to agree to respect Taliban isolationism, including no missionaries (no surprise) but no visitors of any kind.  An undisclosed ransom has also likely been paid.
♦ Now that the hostages are freed, a backlash against the alleged reckless endangerment of missionaries by Church societies will begin.
♦ A Taliban spokesman has reportedly vowed that the Taliban will continue their kidnapping activities.  And so it seems: the Taliban possibly captured as many as 100 Pakistani soldiers this week.  And Mayor Shah is still missing from last week.  German hostages are still missing. 

Iran:
♦ Mr. Ahmadinejad says Iran has met its centrifuge goal: 3,000 in 164 cascades.  However, this is disputed by analysts in Europe, who say that Iran’s activity has actually lessened, which is disputed by Iran.
♦ So is this deterrence?  The U.S.-planned 1200 military targets in a three-day swipe over Iran, if necessary.
♦ After the U.S. was threatening to list the Quds force as a terrorist organization, Iran replaced its leader.  The new leader is: Brigadier General Mohammed Ali Jafari, replacing General Yahya Rahim Safavi, who has been its leader for the past decade. 
♦ Iran plans to build two new refineries in its southern region/Bandar Abbas.  Also, a new oil dock is being designed for incipient construction.

Energy Issues:
Prices as per August 31, 2007: Brent crude, USD 72.38 per barrel; West Texas Intermediate, USD 73.87.
See also Kashagan field in FSU above, and Iran’s refineries, in Iran above.

Happy Labor Day Norteamericanos, doing no labor–unless, of course, you are in a service industry.  For those of you in the service field, I hope your next day off is very nice.

 

Vintage Cover, Ugly AmericanThe best book on effective diplomacy ever.  The best book on how to read a report promugated by a government agency, a politician, or a newspaper.  The best book on why it is important to be culturally and historically aware.  Et cetera:

Is a work of fiction.

William J. Lederer’s and Eugene Burdick’s The Ugly American is an easy, entertaining, fast read–and a frame story, where each chapter can be read alone and picked up later.  This novel details the fortunes of U.S. diplomats in a exemplar state, “Sarkhan”, in Southeast Asia.  The novel looks in at the embassy, the battlefield, and in reconstruction and Track II diplomacy.  “Track II” is where non-diplomats interact with the people of a host state–agricultural experts, for instance. 

When this book came out in 1958, it created an instant dialogue and outcry for a new diplomacy from the U.S.   President Kennedy used the ideas from this book to develop the Peace Corps. 

Once read, it makes a non-foreign service public almost instantly literate in foreign affairs.  One thing to note: the word “ugly” covers a lot of ground, starting with an overweight & oily political appointee as diplomat to Sarkhan and ending with an engineer who’s physically unattractive but a man of techniques and skills.

Anyway, below the jump, there’s one phrase per chapter showing the lessons given in the book.  The main thing is to read it, laugh, weep, and get mad–and let it get you thinking. (more…)

Africa:
♦ I don’t usually cover Africa in the RI, but this article about Darfur cannot be passed by.  As usual, Dan Graeber hits the essentials in this brutal, piteous world.

Asia-Pacific:
♦ The China-U.S. trade quality war Escalates again: now it is U.S. soybeans, with considerable dirt, pesticide, and weeds.  The latter conditions would allow for perhaps large changes in Chinese biomes–sort of like the kudzu vine that took over the South.  Also U.S. oil-seed.  Best-case scenario? All of this ends up increasing quality in the long term.  In the short term: heck, no.  In the meantime, the toy-and-dog-biscuit inspections in the U.S. proceed apace.
♦ The increasing importance of relations between India and Japan.  India’s maritime might, now and in the future.
♦ Australia’s military defense strategies and the debate over economic v. military security at The Strategist.
♦ In India’s Hyderabad, 34 people die because of bombing. 

Former Soviet Union:
♦ Italy’s ENI is re-negotiating in Kazakhstan over delayed extraction and environmental issues.
♦ Little beef-kiev-cake for ya.  Holy Samovar!!
♦ Mr. Saakashvili of Georgia on living next to Russia at Robert Amsterdam.  Russia denies all.
♦ Russia’s LUKoil cuts supplies to Germany by 30% over the last two months.

Latin America:
♦ Hurricane Dean in Mexico: at least 26 have died from the storm.
♦ Peru’s earthquake: at least 510 are dead, with more casualties being found.  Quisiera expresar mis condolencias al gente de las dos paises.
♦ The FEALAC symposium met this week this week in Brasilia, as reported by Boz. According to AFP, the Forum for East Asian-Latin American Cooperation includes: Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, and from Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
♦ Venezuela–now cutting bus fares for the indigent in London.  Now buying 98 Ilyushin aircraft from Russia, for cargo or passengers . . . or, not.
♦ According to an extract provided from this post, Castro is in no way dead.  So there you are.
♦ Pollution from blue jeans in Mexico.

Middle East:
♦ Afghanistan:  Just three out of many from FPA Central Asia’s Afghanistan Aggregator, plus one update:
◊ Afghanistanica has a great post on Afghanistan scholars to watch, read, and study.
◊ Another article on the mystery of not-enough translators for Afghanistan, also at Afghanistanica.
◊ Mr. Foust at Registan.net on basic flaws in reconstruction aid .  A good start on the issue, with links for more.
◊ Friendly fire (what a term) from U.S. aerial bombardment kills 3 British soldiers and injures two more in Helmand Province. 
Iran:
◊ New in-the-works U.S. intelligence report is pessimistic about Iran, as reported by AP.  More nukes, no overthrow of Ahmadinejad, more weapons traffic. . .
◊ Iran plans to continue developing a 2,000 pound ‘smart bomb’.  Great.
♦ Iraq:
◊ Iraq’s elites are still leaving as fast as possible. 
◊ A Berlin study says Iraq will disintegrate soon.  The new U.S. NIE  on Iraq is not hopeful. 
◊ The Brits are leaving Basra any day now.

Iraq / U.S. Politics:  I tried to cover this in the op-ed war posts that I wrote yesterday.  Here is one post on Mr. Allawi, and here is one on a must-read editorial from staff officer veterans of Iraq.

Energy:
♦ Storm damage notwithstanding, Pemex is back in business, bringing oil to the U.S.
♦ Storm damages notwithstanding, Energy Prices a little more stable overall.  As of August 23rd: Brent crude, USD 69.58; West Texas intermediate, USD 69.68. 
♦ Rounding out the North American picture on U.S. energy imports, The Oil Drum has started a series on oil sands extraction, which does not look attractive. 

Overall, the message this week to me is two-fold: we need to plan international endeavours so carefully, in terms of both physical and energy security. 

Have a great week, everyone!

That word would be corruption:

Over at FPA Central Asia, I’ve been tweaking noses concerning the way that Western media reports upon emerging country politics.  The clear, transparent, and honest standard should apply everywhere as a matter of principle, and of course it’s right to take emerging states to task over this significant barrier to safety, progress, and prosperity.  But it would be nice if “the emerged” could also own up to their problems when they start shaking their heads and pointing their fingers.   

Recent news items in the U.S. press appear to confirm that there is no monopoly on corrupt or misleading practices in emerging markets.   

A. In this story by the Washington Post, Karl Rove, soon-to-be-former White House strategist, marshalled adminstration officials, their national visits, and  government projects to aid Republican legislative incumbents, particularly in districts that did not have clear-cut Congressional races.  This would be in contrast to a system that awarded projects according to need, or ease of distribution, or economy of cost.

B.The NYT reports that Wikipedia entries concerning major corporations have been edited by those self-same corporations to either remove blemishes on their record or change the wording to something more favorable.  This link also has examples of corporate edits.  Along the same lines, Mr. Mikkelson at Reuters preceded the NYT by giving examples of edited CIA and FBI edits of Wikipedia entries.  BBC is reporting on Australian edits to Wikipedia entries on Australian issues, and Vatican edits to Wikipedia entries of Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein.

C. And in the U.S., land of the free press, the following: On July 10, Richard Carmona, former Surgeon-General of the United States, testified to Congress that he has been warned to suppress knowledge in the public interest on public health concerning mental health, stem cells, and emergency contraception.  The Federation of American Scientists notes that “political pressure on scientists is not new” but decried the scope and degree of this new pressure from the Bush II Administration.  This also fits in with a story about NOAA, the Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which suppresses  study results on global warming, first in the Washington Post in February of 2006.

D. Former U.S. Senators are allowed to use their campaign chest to further legislation on behalf of their business interests.

Quite frankly, it’s C. the suppression of scientific information/information in the public domain that I consider to be the most pernicious.  Because knowledge is power, and when you can’t access it, or can’t trust what you access, it causes one to operate in a pre-determined ignorance.  I’m just so appalled by it, and by extension, the hypocrisy that determines that “the other” needs to clean house while the self-righteous self sits in the sty.

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