The Hightower Report

What Hath George Wrought in Iraq?; and Cheating on Oil Royalties


CHEATING ON OIL ROYALTIES

What's that roaring sound I hear? Why it's a gusher – a multibillion-dollar blowout in our public treasury caused by the oil industry cheating on the royalty payments they owe on crude they pump from our public lands and waters.

It's a little-known fact that the U.S. remains the world's third-largest oil producer – and one-third of this petroleum is pumped from federal property. By law, the oil giants must pay royalties on the nationally owned crude they take, just as they must pay private landowners for oil they take from their property. But, thanks largely to the industry's coziness with the oil-soaked Bush regime, the corporations are cheating on paying billions in royalties, even as they are reaping record levels of windfall profits.

A report by Bush's own interior department finds that since George has been in office, he has cut the number of auditors in charge of monitoring these payments by nearly 16%. In fact, only 20% of oil companies' royalty reports are even being examined – so, basically, the Bushites are relying on the corporations to tell the government what they owe.

Even though this damning report was finished in 2005, Bush appointees kept it from being released until last November – after the elections. But not to worry, say the Bushites, for they've appointed an "independent" advisory panel to review complaints about the missing royalty payments. Who heads this "watchdog" panel? Bush appointed David Deal, who for nearly 30 years was the top lawyer for the American Petroleum Institute, which is the industry's chief lobbying group in Washington.

Meanwhile, recognizing Big Oil's bad image, the lobbying group says it "will spend what's necessary" to spiff up the image. To do the job, they've hired the same PR firm that developed the "Got Milk?" campaign. Maybe the theme could be, "Got Royalties?"


WHAT HATH GEORGE WROUGHT IN IRAQ?

Behold, King George the W. hath looked upon his work in Iraq, and it pleaseth him much. Just before Christmas, the occupier-in-chief spoketh these words: "You take a step back and look at progress in Iraq, you say, well, it's amazing – constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, which is a remarkable development in itself."

What's amazing, of course, is that anyone (much less a president) could be so obtuse, so isolated in his own cocoon, so trapped by his own arrogance and ignorance that he could publicly utter such nonsense, much less try to pass it off as an insight. Bush says that Iraq's democracy is "remarkable," and indeed it is, so let's remark.

When this so-called democratic government was first being formed, the Bushites were appalled that Iraq's newly elected leaders were about to choose as prime minister a guy the White House did not like. So the occupying power asserted itself to reject the democratic choice, leading to the selection of the present prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.

But lo, al-Maliki has not pleased the Bushites, so our government has been plotting for weeks behind the scenes in Baghdad to dispose of the Iraqi government's current ruling coalition, form a new one, and dismiss al-Maliki. Now that's a truly remarkable "democratic" development.

However, Bush and his gang have been foiled in this ploy by an even less-democratic development. They were all set to impose their new coalition of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds when – whoops! – the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's top Shiite cleric, abruptly said no to the scheme. One man, not elected to any office, ensconced in his religious headquarters far from Baghdad, is widely considered the law by the Shiite majority in Iraq. So he – not the constitution, not the elected officials, not even the Bushites – has the last word.

Hello, George … that's a theocracy, not a democracy.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit www.jimhightower.com. You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

George W. Bush, Iraq war, Nouri al-Maliki, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, David Deal, American Petroleum Institute, Big Oil

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