May 27th, 2004

fashionable

As the lights flicker out across Iraq.

There are indications that despite U.S. military assurances, Iraq might be suffering from serious electricity generation problems, and that the power supply for Iraq may be considerably more vulnerable than previously suspected.

The CPA website hasn't released new electricity production reports for several weeks, but the last set of statistics released for the week of May 1st-7th indicates an average production of 3,766 megawatts, a decrease of 7.5% from the previous week. This makes the longstanding goal of generating 6,000 megawatts by June 1st an unattainable goal. In fact, that goal was since moved to June 31st, and now, according to General Kimmitt, is scheduled for "sometime this summer".

To further complicate matters, the Russian company Interenergoservis is withdrawing all of their electrical specialists from Iraq -- several hundred in number -- due to yet another serious attack on its employees. Their workers oversaw the operation and reconstruction of the primary power plant for the Baghdad region, and their loss will be a considerable setback to the nation's electrical production.

Interenergoservis' general director, Alexander Abramov, said that after the first attack on its workers in April, the Iraqi authorities had asked the company to stay, saying that otherwise the country's electricity supplies could face collapse this summer. Work at four power plants that the company was contracted to restore was previously scheduled for completion in mid-June.

When asked about meeting the 6,000 megawatt goal, Anmar al Hassani, an Iraqi engineer working with British, German, Russian and American contractors at a Baghdad powerplant, was skeptical.

"By June 1? Wait, what year are you talking about? June 1 of this year? No way."

Iraq appears to be entering its hot summer months -- the time of year with the greatest demand for power -- with only marginally higher energy production than Iraq had at the end of last summer. Ironically, the fall of Saddam has increased ownership of consumer electronics items amongst Iraq, further exacerbating the problem. It remains to be seen whether electricity production can go up -- or even be maintained at current levels -- under current circumstances.

Mohsen Hassan, head of Iraq's power generation, has already warned of 14-hour power cuts during the summer, when temperatures can exceed 120 degrees fahrenheit/50 degrees celsius. If widespread power cuts materialize, the resulting hardship to the Iraqi people could contribute to more attacks on coalition forces.
fashionable

How the Bush campaign evades campaign finance laws.

They use a network of a few hundred individuals to organize fundraisers and solicit donations at or near the maximum legal level, usually from within their own corporations or from those who support a particular political lobbyist organization. These individuals are primarily comprised of corporate executives, lobbyists, or longtime business or political associates of the Bush administration.

In 2000, about 40% of these individuals were rewarded with a job or appointment, granted ambassadorships, cabinet-level positions, or regulatory board positions that effected their industry. Many of these individuals were consulted in forming government policy for departments such as Energy and Defense, and all of them were given access to leaders within the White House.

This has led to the CEOs of major companies asking for "voluntary" donations from top executives within their business. While it is illegal to force employees to donate to a given political party, it appears that in many cases, there is an unspoken network of kickbacks in exchange for donations -- in other words, the company gives executive special "bonuses", and then asks the same executives to contribute to a given candidate.

In one recent article, a Wall Street executive was approached by the chairman of his firm, who wanted him to write a $2,000 check to George Bush's re-election campaign. This was requested shortly before the issuance of his Christmas bonus. "I was so shocked and appalled because I'd never been hit with something like this, but from what I hear, this is business as usual."

The checks were not to be sent to the Bush campaign, he explained. Instead, they were to be sent to the chairman's office. That way, the chairman could give all the checks to the Bush campaign himself and get credit for his fund-raising efforts. "The thing that galled me, though, was not that the chairman was pushing his political views on me, but rather that I was expected to enhance the reputation and status and power, the personal power, of the chairman in the Bush arena with my contribution."

In many cases, these $2000 donations were made not only by corporate executives, but also by their families, children, etc. It is claimed that in such cases, direct compensation from these donations are made by either the corporation or the requesting party, prior to the contribution. These requests for political donations by CEOs are even made in companies where it is corporate policy that employees are forbidden from soliciting political donations.

Hopefully, something will be done if Kerry gets into office to modify the campaign finance laws to put an end to these unregulated corporate "individual" donations.