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Eleanor Roosevelt Ponders the Oil Crisis

Wednesday, 06 Aug 2008 09:01 AM

By Jerry Zeifman

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On Feb. 22, 2008, I published an article on www.zeifman.com about a dream I had in which Eleanor Roosevelt decried the pandering by a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus to white political leaders. Recently, Congresswoman Waters, a member of the caucus, advocated a federal takeover of the oil companies.

On the night the House recessed for a month in a stalemate over high oil prices, Mrs. Roosevelt came again to me in a dream.

Our conversation follows.

Zeifman: What are your thoughts on Maxine Waters and her proposal?

Roosevelt: I have the highest regard for her commitment to enhancing the lives of African-Americans, for which she has a 100 percent approval rating in Harlem's New Amsterdam News, unlike Barack Obama who, for pandering to white political leaders, was graded as among their "lowest achievers."

Much as I disagree with her opposition to the Iraq war, I support her recommendation. It is the same measure relied on by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during two world wars.

Zeifman: Please elaborate.

Roosevelt: At the beginning of World War I, as first lord of the admiralty, Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, as assistant secretary of our Navy, considered the nationalization of the Anglo Iranian Oil company as essential to ensure oil supplies for our warships. To obviate the need to put its executives and employees on government payrolls this was done simply by Britain's acquisition of more than 50 percent of the company's stock.

The company's name was eventually changed to British Petroleum and its nationalization continued through and past World War II. It was not until after we won the Cold War that the Thatcher government inadvertently permitted foreign investors to acquire a majority of its stock.

Since then British Petroleum acquired some 1,500 worldwide subsidiaries and now operates out of the control of any single nation as well as NATO, the European Union and the United Nations.

Zeifman: What about its operations in the United States?

Roosevelt: In 1969, British Petroleum discovered oil on the Alaskan north slope. Soon thereafter it acquired Standard Oil of Ohio (Sohio) and operates in Alaska under that company's name. By 1982 Sohio's American operations provided almost 80 percent of the BP world wide profits.

BP now enjoys the advantages of OPEC's price fixing, which under our anti-trust laws would be a felonious conspiracy if carried out in the United States. American companies would be illegal under our anti-trust laws.

Also by closing down its American refineries and pursuing OPEC's more profitable price-fixed end of the oil market, BP has now become the world's biggest speculator and "spot" trader in oil futures.

Zeifman: Are you suggesting that Maxine Waters has no partisan motives in advocating the take over of oil companies?

Roosevelt: I am not unaware that she, like Barack Obama and most Black Caucus members, are partisan demonizers of the Bush presidency. But she should have a right, like everyone else in government, to have her recommendations considered on their merits. I am also dismayed that her detractors are assailing her with such epithets as "marxist" and "commie" — which were also used by opponents of both Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Roosevelt to disparage their anti-monopoly policies.

Zeifman: If she were to seek your advice, what would you suggest she do to get her proposal enacted?

Roosevelt: I would urge her to win the co-sponsorship of Congressman John Conyers who was one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus and now chairs the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over anti-monopoly legislation. With his help and that of the Black Caucus they could then form a non-partisan coalition of middle and low income oil consumers who agree to allow domestic drilling, but only by independent American companies that are totally free of foreign control.

Zeifman: Do you believe that she and John Conyers would do that?

Roosevelt: It seems to me that since the Carter presidency British Petroleum and other international cartels have used their enormous wealth power to become sacred cash cows to both Democrats and Republicans by contributing millions to their campaigns.

As a result, unlike former Democratic Judiciary Chairmen Rodino and Celler, John Conyers has no record as a "trust buster." If he were his Subcommittee on Monopolies would be investigating the contributions of international cartels to campaign financing.

In that regard , BP is a leading purveyor of a propaganda to convince unwary envonmentalists that the international oil cartels are on the side of Nancy Pelosi and the planet saviors. For example, on its Web site http://conservation.bp.com, BP shows a map of each of their worldwide subsidiaries and characterize each of them as part of a "Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP)" which contributes millions of dollars in support of conservation.

I also doubt that John Conyers, who is currently preoccupied with considering the possibility of impeaching President Bush, would defy Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who imposes what Jefferson denounced as "tyranny of the majority," by not even allowing the drilling question to be debated in the House chamber.

Zeifman: Do you foresee any possibility of nationalizing oil companies in the future?

Roosevelt: It has been my experience that in time of crisis, divine providence has always managed to save our democracy through the kind of nonpartisan foreign policies that in 1940 caused the Republican presidential candidate Wendell Wilkie, known as "the barefoot boy from Wall Street," to defy the anti-war America First movement and declare, "Politics ends at the waters edge."

Although the current media regards anti-trust enforcement as a left-wing Democratic policy the truth is that the greatest opponent of monopolies in our history was Theodore Roosevelt. Known as the "trust-buster," he was the first president to successfully invoke the Sherman Antitrust Act against international cartels. He was also responsible for indicting 45 corporations for violation of anti-trust laws.

I am confident that, as president, John McCain, who proudly describes himself as a "progressive Theodore Roosevelt Republican," will have the spine to enter into a nonpartisan coalition to nationalize domestic oil production as a means of preserving our national security and environment.

Jerry Zeifman is a former chief counsel of the House Judiciary Committee and its Subcommittee on Monopolies. For his books and articles on law and politics see his Web site, www.jzeifman.com.

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