Tuesday, June 12, 2012






Starting in the US.  For years and years, CJR (Columbia Journalism Review) was said to be the left-wing journalism site and AJR (American Journalism Review) was said to be the right-wing.  Over the years, they both denied any real tilt, insisting that they covered the media and did so with regard to issues.

Lisa Du observes, "Aside from the fact that Chon probably committed the biggest no-no in the journalism industry by sleeping with her source, McGurk, by the way, was apparently still married when he and Chon had their rendezvous in the summer of 2008, the Washington Free Beacon is reporting."

And she's right. 

But, sadly, Lisa Du is writing for Business Insider and not CJR.  She is writing about the nominee to be US Ambassador to Iraq Brett McGurk and Wall St. Journal reporter Gina Chon who carried on in Baghdad in 2008 with McGurk concealing the relationship from then-US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

As Ryan Chittum's June 8th post makes clear, CJR hasn't developed a sudden aversion to taking on the Wall St. Journal.  And Erika Fry's "The superintendent's racy e-mails" went up today indicating that CJR has no problem covering "racy e-mails."  So why the silence? CJR should be leading on this issue and instead they are silent.  This is the sort of silence that has people suspecting CJR tilts left and allows that tilt to influence their coverage?

(Does AJR tilt right?  I honestly don't know.  I ignored that publication until I started The Common Ills.  Then, if I was asked to highlight something from it, I did.  But I had heard it all my life and assumed it was true.  The truth is that I honestly don't know.  The pieces we've highlighted here have always been strong writing.  CJR?  I always assumed it was left like me.  But I kidded myself that being left didn't influence what it would cover.  I stopped kidding about that around 2008.) 

Nominated for the post in March by President Obama, McGurk's confirmation hearings finally began last Wednesday, but the bipartisan backing he'd enjoyed having served under Bush seemed to be evaporating in the wake of the scandal.
"Overnight, support for him has cratered," a Republican staffer on the Foreign Relations Committee told ABC News.
Nevertheless analysts told ABC they expect him to ultimately succeed in securing the position.
In a statement published on Gawker, the Wall Street Journal said it was "looking into the matter" and that Chon was already scheduled to go on leave this summer in light of McGurk's nomination.

Following the leaked emails Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, who is on the Armed Services Committee, has said that he will not meet with McGurk, as he typically would, the Washington Post reported. 
'Senator Inhofe always prefers to meet with nominees personally before giving his support,' said his spokesman, Jared Young. 'In regards to this nominee, Senator Inhofe has heard some concerning issues, and until those issues are cleared up, he will not meet with Mr. McGurk.'

Cheri Roberts (OpEdNews) weighs in on Brett McGurk's nomination for US Ambassador to Iraq, "Is this the right man to be the new Ambassador to Iraq? I think not. If a man cannot hold up the weight of his zipper, there is no way he should be given the weight of Diplomacy."  Today Peter Van Buren offers:

State claims that McGurk is "uniquely qualified" for the job, and that he was the subject of "rigorous vetting." Yet now-authenticated, salacious emails, which call into question his judgment, maturity, discretion and ethics popped up online, straight out of State's own archives and blew his once certain Senate approval on to a back burner, at best.
As part of any political vetting process, especially in the age of the web, the candidate is asked at some point "Is there anything else? Anything out there that might come up we need to know about? Any skeletons in the closet, old affairs, angry ex', anything?" Because today, if it is out there, it will surface.

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the War for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.  As a result, the State Dept has gone after Peter.  The book should have a sticker proclaiming it, "The book the US State Department doesn't want you to read!"
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is better known as OPEC.  It is run by the Secretary General.  Since 2007, the former Libyan Minister of Oil, Abdalla Salem el-Badri, has served in that position.  A conference president is not in charge of OPEC and serves only a one-year term (and is elected with an Altnerate President who serves that same year).  Calling Abdul Kareem Luaibi "OPEC president" is false.  He's a Conference President and only presides over the conferences.  He is not "President of OPEC" or "OPEC President."   Luaibi is the Oil Minister of Iraq. 

Reuters reported this morning the OPEC is concerned that a "glut of oil" is depressing the price per barrel of crude and Iraq's Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi is noted in the report, "Luaibi said his own country, Iraq, would export 2.9 million bpd next year -- up from 2.4 million bpd now.  That implies total Iraqi output of 3.4 million bpd, which would allow it to overtake Iran as OPEc's second biggest producer.  Iraq has ambitious plans to expand production held back by decades of war and sanctions."  Peg Mackey and Daniel Fineren (Reuters) report that Saudia Arabia Minister of Oil, Ali al-Naimi, states, "Our analysis suggests that we will need a higher ceiling than current exists." They then state, "Iraq and Iran are expected to argue that Saudi Arabia should reduce supplies to help support prices." The three are apparently also divided on prices with Saudia Arabia feeling $100 per barrel of oil is fine but Iraq and Iran wanting $125 per barrel.

The disagreement comes ahead of the 5th OPEC International Seminar to be held in Vienna's Hofburg Palace starting June 13th.   KUNA notes that the meeting will also see the issue of Secretary General raised and that this will "overshadow on the meeting's deliberations after Iran and Iraq have officially nominated their candidates for this position against a contester from Saudi Arabia."  Who's proposed so far? 

Middle East Economic Survey notes that Iraq's pushing for Thamir Ghadhban (close ties to Nouri), Iran's pushing for one of their former Ministers of Oil, Gholamhossein Nozari, Equador's putting up Minister of Oil Wilson Pastor-Morris and Saudi Arabia is backing their OPEC Governor Majid al-Munif.  IOGN notes, "The selection of OPEC secretary generals is traditionally a fraught task, typically with unexpected compromise candidates eventually being selected."   There have been 22 secretary generals so far, that covers the period from 1961 to the present (el-Badri's term runs out at the end of 2012).  A citizen of Equador last served as Secretary General from 1979 to 1981.  Iran can claim the first Secretary General and it's never held the post since.  The Islamic Revolution of 1979 has made additional terms heading OPEC especially problematic with Arab member-states of OPEC.  Iraq has held the post only once, from 1964 to 1965 when Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Bazzaz was Secretary General.  Unlike Nouri's proposed candidate, al-Bazzaz was a pan-Arab nationalist. (He was also a Sunni.)  RIA Novisti offers a series of photos of then-Iraqi Prime Minister al-Bazzaz arriving July 27, 1966 in the USSR for an official visit and speaking with Premier Alexei Kosygin who headed the Council of Ministers from 1964 to 1980.  And here's one of then-Prime Minister Abd ar-Rahman al-Baazaz in Red Square.

In terms of prices, this year we have generally seen moving in an upward direction. However, current prices are not due to market fundamentals. Speculation is pushing prices higher. Trading is being made on the perception of a suppy shortage, rather than evidence of any actual or impending shortfall. It is related to geopolitics. In many respects it can be described as a 'fear factor'.
As we are all aware, oil is increasingly being treated as an individual asset class by finanical investors. Since 2005, the total open interest of the NYMEX and ICE Brent crude oil futures and options have increased sharply.

Una Galani and Christopher Swann (Reuters) note that Iraq's increase has thrown OPEC off balance, "If Iraq's rising output isn't calibrated with the market's ability to absorb it, oversupply could become chronic and prices could fall further. Iraq has said that it would like to rejoin OPEC's quota system in 2014. Rivals may now want that to happen sooner even though Iraq will seek a large quota to reflect its high level of reserves." In some western countries, it all comes down to what's the price at the pump but in the oil-rich Middle East, this is a very serious issue. Ahmed al-Jarallah (Arab Times) reports that "Iran's representative Mohammed Ali Khatibi" is accusing Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia of flooding the market and al-Jarallah compares that accusation to the one which led Saddam Hussein to attack Kuwait, "I think the leaders of Iran think they can repeat the same stupidity like Saddam Hussein or even more stupidity because on one hand the world at the moment cannot entertain such kinds of adventures and on the other the world will never allow it to happen under current economical hardships witnessed by several countries."