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OPEC: Influential Oil Producing Cartel with “Diplomatic Immunity”

OPEC Cartel Logo

OPEC Cartel Logo

Fun Facts About OPEC

Members of OPEC meet

Members of OPEC meet

 

 

Current Members: Algeria, Angola, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela

Cartel: By definition, OPEC is a cartel — a group of producers which tries to restrict output in an effort to keep prices higher than the competitive level.

It no longer sets crude oil prices: OPEC admits to setting crude oil prices in the ‘70s and’ 80s — they would look ridiculous to try and deny it. However, the oil market underwent a transformation in the 1990s and today, prices for crude oil are established according to three markets: 1) The New York Mercantile Exchange; 2) The International Petroleum Exchange in London; and, 3) The Singapore International Monetary Exchange.

This isn’t to suggest that OPEC has no influence on prices; quite the contrary. Prices established by the exchanges are based on supply and demand; therefore any decision OPEC makes concerning restricting production, for example, will have some effect on prices. These decisions, however, can have a direct consequence on profit margin, so it isn’t always in their best interests.

Its practices are considered to be illegal: Simply put: Cartels are illegal in many countries. In the U.S., for example, OPEC is in direct violation of antitrust laws, such as the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 — the same act that broke up Standard Oil, American Tobacco and Ma Bell. Antitrust laws don’t criminalize monopolies per se, only if the monopoly is used to eliminate its competition through methods of production or price-fixing.

Ordinarily, U.S. antitrust laws explicitly prohibit dealing with cartels. What makes OPEC so special? Simple: Congress grants OPEC diplomatic immunity from prosecution and in essence treats it as though it were a sovereign nation, even though this is not remotely the case. This status was tested in 1978, when the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), a non-profit labor organization in the U.S., filed suit against OPEC under the Sherman Act. In 1981, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the case, claiming OPEC was protected by its sovereign immunity status.

In 2007, a pair of controversial bills were introduced in Congress designed to amend antitrust laws to include OPEC. If the measures are approved in both houses and the president doesn’t veto it, individuals harmed by OPEC in the U.S. can begin to sue the organization. If this were to happen, few expect OPEC to continue doing business with the U.S.

It isn’t the only game in town: If one only paid passing attention to the media, you might get the impression that OPEC is the only oil game in town. Granted, its member countries control anywhere from two-thirds to three-quarters of the world’s proven oil reserves and over 40% of the globe’s oil production; however, there are other sets of somewhat substantial oil-producing groups.

Originally formed as an agent of the Marshall Plan following World War II, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a vast and all-encompassing organization with all sorts of arms and legs. Of its 30 member countries, a minority are oil producers, including the USA, Canada, Mexico, and the UK. Together they account for about 23% of the world’s oil production.

Additionally, the Russian Federation and a handful of former-Soviet states, such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, are responsible for about 15% of global oil production.

OPEC Member Nations

OPEC Member Nations

It was formed to fight the “Seven Sisters”: The world’s wealthy oil barons have not always resided in the Middle East. In fact, for most of the 20th century, the member nations of OPEC were at the mercy of the so-called “Seven Sisters,” a non-organizational set of oil producers and distributors which, perhaps due to that non-organizational status, somehow eluded antitrust prosecution. The Seven Sisters was composed of Standard Oil of New Jersey, Royal Dutch Shell, Anglo-Persian Oil, Standard Oil of New York, Standard Oil of California, Gulf Oil, and Texaco.

By 1960, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela had grown tired of exporting their oil and then having to buy it back at higher prices. They formed OPEC to assert their “legitimate rights in an international oil market,” and by the 1970s, thanks in part to strategic maneuvers such as the Arab oil embargo, began to dominate the market.

It’s “customers” see bigger oil prices than its members: Oil taxes by countries that regularly import oil from OPEC, such as the U.S., the UK, Japan, and Italy, are often as much to blame for high oil prices as OPEC. Such taxes allow some countries to see oil-related revenues that are three or four times higher than some OPEC members see from exports. In addition, the production and development of oil requires huge investments, a fact that further chips away at OPEC-member profit margins.

As gasoline prices soar, more and more attention gets paid to OPEC. In the Western press its easily vilified and is a common ”fall guy“ for every issue related to oil and oil prices — not always unjustifiably so.

More than a few people would be pleased to see OPEC’s influence reduced or even made moribund. However, proven oil reserves are defined in the industry as the amount of oil that can be recovered and produced using today’s technologies, and as of 2006, the world total was 1,195,318 million barrels of crude oil; OPEC’s share of that amount was 922,482 million barrels or 77.2% (if you accept OPEC’s figures; hardly everyone does). Thus, unless a drastic change occurs in the energy-consumption habits of much of the world’s oil-hungry population, interest in OPEC is unlikely to recede for some time.

Special thanks to www.askmen.com

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Doonesbury: Garry Trudeau’s Classic Comic and Mainstay of American Newspapers Since 1970

Gary Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Garry Trudeau, creator of "Doonesbury"

Fun Facts About Garry Trudeau’s “Doonesbury”

Michael James “Mike” Doonesbury is the main character in Garry Trudeau’s comic strip Doonesbury. He started out as a nerdish freshman from Tulsa at the fictional Walden College, and shared a dorm room with B.D. Currently he is married to Kim Rosenthal, and divorced from J.J. Caucus but raising their teenage daughter Alex. He has a widowed mother and a younger brother, Benjamin (who during some time as a punk rocker was known as “Sal Putrid”).

Mike is the everyman of the strip. He is a fairly normal, well-adjusted person who is easy for most readers to relate to, in contrast to the often surreal, crazy and extreme characters that populate the strip. Trudeau based Mike’s personality on his own and for this reason it is usually Mike who speaks the creator’s own viewpoints. Mike’s name was taken from the word “doone”, meaning a person who is not afraid to appear foolish, and Charles Pillsbury, the roommate of Trudeau’s at Yale.

Who played ‘uptight end’ for the Walden College football team when B.D. was the quarterback?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker’s habit of smoking marijuana in the huddle did not endear him to the straightlaced B.D. Zonker later turned up as a war correspondent in Vietnam while B.D. was there.
What is the name of the Justice Department attorney who was romantically involved (unsuccessfully) with a priest and a gay man?
    Joanie Caucus. Joannie got married to investigative reporter Rick Redfern and is the mother of Jeff.
What is the first name of “Uncle” Duke’s long-time assistant? She was a 1974 graduate of Peking University.
    Honey. Among other things, Honey Huan has been the translator for the U.S. Ambassador to China, the Dean and President of the Baby Doc College of Physicians, and the Social Director aboard Donald Trump’s yacht.
The first time Mike Doonesbury met his lab partner Bernie, what did Bernie do?
    Turned himself into a werewolf. Bernie later confided to Mike that he ate an outboard motor at the age of four. Years later he hired Mike’s future wife, Kim, to work for him at Bernie’s Byte Shack of Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character once staged a nine hour performance art piece titled ‘Welcome to Artville’?
    J.J. Doonesbury. J.J. married and divorced Mike Doonesbury. She became a sculptor living in Seattle.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character developed a monthly contribution program, complete with buttons to signify whether or not the person had already given?
    Alice Schwartzman. Alice, a one-time New York debutante,was homeless for many years until Congresswoman Lacey Davenport left her estate to her. She and her husband Elmont had to get used to living indoors.
Who was Sid Kibbitz?
    Boopsie’s agent. Sid was Boopsie’s agent. He also tried to package Ronald Reagan and Tom Cruise together in a ‘buddy’ movie.
Who was the first gay character to appear in ‘Doonesbury’?
    Andy Lippincott. Lippincott first appeared in the strip in the 1970’s. He eventually died from the AIDS virus.
Which ‘Doonesbury’ character revealed that he was gay on the radio?
    Mark Slackmeyer. Slackmeyer, along with his life-partner Chase Talbot III, began to host a radio show on National Public Radio called ‘All Things Being Equal’.
In 1973, one of the Watergate conspirators resigned from office, causing Garry Trudeau to withdraw a weeks worth of ‘Doonesbury’ strips. Which Watergate figure was it?
    John Ehrlichman. Ehrlichman later wrote Trudeau, “I hear that my resignation fouled up your series. Sorry. Next time let me know what you are planning and I’ll try to cooperate”.
Which character in ‘Doonesbury’ won $23 million in a lottery?
    Zonker Harris. Zonker won the lottery, but it didn’t change him one bit. He began working as a nanny, helping raise B.D. and Boopsie’s daughter Sam.
Has ‘Doonesbury’ creator Garry Trudeau ever won a Pulitzer Prize?
    Yes. in 1975 Trudeau became the first comic strip artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning. The Editorial Cartoonist’s Society promptly passed a resolution condemning the Pulitzer Prize committee. Trudeau supported the resolution.
One of the first characters to appear in the strip was B.D. On whom was the character based?
    Brian Dowling, Yale’s starting quarterback. B.D. was a star quarterback just like the inspiration for his character, Brian Dowling. B.D. became the football coach at his alma mater, Walden College.
When ‘Bull Tales’ became ‘Doonesbury’, in how many newspapers did it first appear?
    28. ‘Doonesbury’ appeared in 28 newspapers when it debuted on October 26, 1970.
‘Doonesbury’ was originally called ‘Bull Tales’ when it appeared in a college newspaper. What college was that?
    Yale. Garry Trudeau is a graduate of Yale University and ‘Bull Tales’ was first seen in the Yale ‘Daily News’ on September 30, 1968.
In the early 90s, Mark came out as being gay. Who is his partner?
    Chase. He’s a Republican, surprisingly.
Who is the embodiement of the tobacco industry?
    Mr. Butts. Mr. Butts, a giant walking cigarette. His friend, Mr. Jay, is a giant joint.
Who did Mike campaign for during the 1980 election?
    John Anderson. Anyone remember him?
Zonker was one of those people who never grew up. Who where his imaginary friends that he always talked to?
    His plants. His plants had names and distinct personalities.
Who was B.D.’s buddy during both Iraq wars?
    Ray Hightower. Ray was wounded in the first war.
Several characters have died in the strip. Who died of a heart attack?
    Dick. Dick died of a heart attack while birdwatching. His wife, Lacey, died about ten years later, of Alzheimers. Andy died of AIDS, Phil of old age.
Joanie once fell for a fellow legal student named Andy. Why didn’t it work out?
    He was gay. Joanie: “Are they sure?” Andy: “Joanie, I’m sure.”
What celebrity neighbor did Duke always fight with near his house in Colorado?
    John Denver. He went after Denver with a gun on more than one occasion.
Everyone’s favorite character is Duke. What football team was he the assistant manager for?
    The Redskins. After a little problem with his liberal distribution of pills to the players, he was forced to look for work elsewhere.
After a serious injury in 2004, we got to see B.D. without his helmet for the first time. Which kind of helmet had he never worn?
    batting. He never played baseball. He played football, both in college and professionally, was a veteran of Vietnam and both Iraqi wars, and was a motorcycle cop for a bit.
Comics can have an effect on real life. The so-called ‘Doonesbury Amendment’ of Palm Springs dealt with what unfair practice?
    The requirement of domestic employees to carry passcards. In the 1980s, domestic employees of Palm Springs were required to carry a passcard. Since many of them were black or Hispanic, it essentially became a crime to be an undocumented minority. After the comic spoofed this law, it was quickly changed.
One trademark of the strip is the use of icons to represent famous people. How was Bill Clinton shown?
    A waffle. Reagan was Max Headroom, Bush, Sr. was a point of light, Bush Junior an asterisks in a cowboy hat, Dan Quayle a feather, Newt Gingrich a bomb, and David Duke a swastika.
Barbara Ann Boopstein, aka Boopsie, sometimes channels the spirit of an ancient warrior. What’s his name?
    Hunk Ra. Boopsie grows fangs and a pointed tongue when she channels the Hunk.
J.J. once created a large mural for Donald Trump. Where was it?
    His big, obnoxious boat. She felt she was selling out, painting a mural in a billionaire’s boat (in the bathroom, no less).
Duke was almost executed by firing squad at the hands of which organization?
    The Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Duke parachuted into revolutionary Iran on behalf of American oil interests, and was captured by Khomeini’s supporters, who tried him and found him guilty of crimes against God. He escaped a roof-top execution by bribing his tormentors, but it was, perhaps, his closest call yet. Right-winger though he is, Duke has historically enjoyed fairly good relations with the communist world, and has never fallen foul of the Stasi or any comparable organization. The Sandinistas, I imagine, would have loved to kill Duke, but they never got the chance. Duke never tangled with the Khmer Rouge, either – if he had, I doubt they would have arranged anything as civilized as a firing squad.
Which political figure did star reporter Roland Hedley eagerly question about his beard?

Yasser Arafat. Roland scored his first interview with Arafat in Beirut, as the PLO Chairman faced Israeli attack. Roland asked Arafat to explain how he managed to grow a beard which always looked like three-day stubble.

Special thanks to  www.absoluteastronomy.com and www.funtrivia.com

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