Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia and Robber Baron Retro: The News of the Day

Mass media is replete with the usual fragments of nonsense and sense today. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the viciously reactionary president of the Islamic Republic of Iran (an "Islamic Republican" so to speak) spoke at Columbia University, talked like a reactionary politician talks, and was greeted with mass protests which he and his government richly deserved. But one should remember that his government is the longterm product of
the CIA directed coup against the liberal nationalist government of Mossadegh in 1953 because that government had nationalized Iranian oil, the brutal U.S. supported and armed dictatorship of the Shah which followed for twenty-five years and finally the Reagan administration supported war of the Saddam Hussein Baath dictatorship in Iraq against the clerical regime in Iran- a bloody war which lasted eight years and enabled the most reactionary elements of the clergy led revolution of 1978 to consolidate their power over the Iranian people. Those who are interested in really fighting Ahmadinejad and the reactionary clerical power structure which stands behind him should be looking to Iranian trade unionists, student leaders, the Iranian left and particularly the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran which has struggled to free the Iranian people from both the Shah's brutal regime and the present clerical regime for more than half a century. These are really the only groups which have represented in a serious way "freedom" and "democracy" in Iran's modern history.

There was one aside to Ahmadinejad's political nonsense (he really sounded, if one could close ones eyes and forget the cultural differences, like a Republican presidential candidate trying to win a primary in Mississippi) and that was both outrageous and in its own way hilarious. Not his statement that as a "scholar" one must keep an open mind on the history of the Holocaust. First he is not a scholar in any way in terms of having professional training and degrees that anyone not under his political thumb would recognize. Second, the history of fascist directed genocide against Jewish people, Roma people, various non-Jewish people of Slavic nationalities (of which Serbians are the most important example) during the second world is a serious topic of historical analysis in terms of its causes and consequences, why and how it happened and what might have been done to prevent or at the very least limit it. That it happened is as much a fact as the earth traveling around the sun(which clerical forces sought to suppress centuries ago).

But I have gone off on a tangent, a pretty big one even for me. What I was talking about was Ahmadinejad's statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran.(And his implication, which the media for the most part has not picked up, that the freedom that women enjoy in developed countries, both capitalist, socialist, and "former socialist," is connected to the existence of male homosexuals in those countries). While that statement is an assertion that no one who is not under Ahmadinejad's thumb politically could take seriously (actually, "scholarly research" by serious people suggests that societies which repress sexuality in both males and females and also actively segregate males and females, e.g;. the clerical regime in Iran, have large numbers of people who inhabit a world sexual dysfunction and psychological suffering, both heterosexual and homosexual, both male and female) what is hilarious about it is that the rightwing media which finds its convenient to denounce Ahmadinejad and support potential war preparations against Iran (which would of course be a disaster of monumental proportions for the people of the U.S. and Iran) was denouncing him for his statements, expressing sympathy for the persecution of gays in Iran (which they have never done to my knowledge where gays were concerned in the U.S) that is, showing a little "compassionate conservatism." Not one voice praising Ahmadinejad for his invoking of the deity and stating that "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," the sort of thing the right-wing considers a popular argument in the U.S. and with which Ahmadinejad would certainly agree.

But the big story to me anyway concerns the release of an Interior Department study showing that the Bush administration has "mismanaged" in a massive way the collection of billions of dollars of royalties and other funds due to the federal government from private oil and other companies exploiting public lands. Most Americans don't know that this country of "free enterprise and rugged individualism" was built in the 19th century by "government handouts" of millions of acres of public lands to railroad companies, mining companies, and other corporations. Laws like the Homestead Act (a revolutionary land redistribution act passed during the Civil War when the Southern slaveholders were not around to block it) became the source of great corruption and swindles over the decades as phony land claims were filed to enable corporate groups and speculators to control land and natural resource. The territories of the Native Americans "administered" by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, became the source of spectacular corruption. Rightwing Republican propaganda aimed at "privatizing" public resources became stood behind scandals like the Teapot Dome "leasing" of oil reserves in Wyoming to private oil companies (with huge bribes to the Secretary of the Interior) and the attempted sale of TVA installations to the Dixon-Yates in the 1950s(there the discovery of possible bribes killed the deal).

The report, which is essentially an in house report and a probable serious underestimation, states that there has been a "profound failure" in the monitoring of payments from oil and natural gas companies to the federal government. It "suggests" that the agency in charge of the monitoring, the Minerals Management Service was quite friendly with the companies that it was collecting its bills from (oh, if only ordinary people had such a relationship to the collection agents of utility companies) and that critics were often afraid to raise the issue for fear of inter agency retaliation.

In effect, the agency was way behind in billing the companies (because of "inadequate" computer resources) and its directors concluded that it would be a "hardship" to impose penalties under the law to companies that had systematically underpaid their bills (somehow, other bill collection agencies, not to mention the IRS, are not known for such a generous view of things).

The specific charges concern statements by auditors that senior officials of the agencies blocked their reports concerning companies extensive underpayments, which led the auditors (who actions are heroic under these conditions) to file lawsuits against the companies involved. One senior auditor, Bobby L Maxwell, lost his job with the Department after he filed a suit against Andarko Petroleum, one of the two dozen firms involved. Last January, a federal jury in Denver found that Maxwell had told the truth and that Andarko had "underpaid" by 7.5 million dollars.

Although Maxwell had support form his local supervisor in Denver, the Washington central bureaucracy actively opposed him (anyone with experience in large bureaucratic institutions like public university--I can attest to that--shouldn't be surprised the lower levels of administration knowledgeable about events will often take decent positions that central administrators reverse because it goes against their ideological or economic interests) Their statements, accusing the auditors of either ignorance or simply disagreeing with Washington's decisions are classic expressions of the arrogance of power combined in this case with a sort of pride in what are corrupt practices.

In the past, meaning the 19th century, the 1920s, such actions were often the result of both right-wing ideology(people in power in regulatory agencies who hated regulation and loved the companies they were supposed to regulate, turning a blind eye to all kinds of swindles) and simple bribery. In the case of the Bush administration, it is probably true that there is less overt bribery because, as the historian Richard Hofstadter once wrote about another very right-wing president on domestic economic policy, Grover Cleveland, he gave to the vested interests out of heart-felt conviction what others gave only for a price (meaning you don't have to bribe people in the Bush administration to act as shills for oil companies: they will do it as a matter of principle).

What is needed of course is a government, at the very least like the New Deal government of the 1930s, which will begin to "act and act now" as FDR often said, to undue the damage of decades, to bring leadership into government which will encourage the honest people at the lower echeleons to enforce existing laws, provide them with the resources to do an effective job, and most of all create new legislation that will regulate and tax corporations and the rich in the interests of the working class and the American people as a whole.

Norman Markowitz

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am writing to apologize to our readers(not to him) for failing to spell Ahmadinejad's name correctly. I transposed letters and it came out Ahmadinijead and I was in such a hurry that I didn't catch it in time. Perhaps I have a mental block about the man. He is an easy figure to develop a mental block against.
Norman Markowitz