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$70 Oil by the end of the Year? It Could Happen.

What a difference three months makes. Three months ago today, Russia and Saudi Arabia had just embarked on a completely irrational effort to flood the global oil markets after Russia had basically blown up the OPEC+ supply limitation agreement when it balked at making an additional few hundred thousand barrels of oil per day (bopd) in cuts.

But on Saturday, those same two big producers cajoled the rest of the countries participating in OPEC+ to extend the deep, 9.7 million bopd May/June supply limits through the end of July. The cuts had been scheduled to scale back to a combined 7.7 million bopd on July 1. Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia has now reduced its daily production by 2.24 million bopd from its market-flooding level in April, while Russia – which could not stomach a reduction of about 200,000 bopd back on March 4, has cut its own daily production by more than 900,000 barrels.

It’s pretty amazing how single digit – and even momentary negative – crude prices will change an oil minister’s perspective on what constitutes an appropriate level of output.

The OPEC+ members also pledged to monitor and reassess appropriate supply levels on a monthly basis, beginning with their next meeting, which is scheduled for June 18.

Combined with dramatic reductions in crude output in the U.S. and Canada and a more-rapid-than-expected recovery in demand, the extension of the OPEC+ May/June quotas sets the stage for a more rapid re-balancing of the global markets. Bjornar Tonhaugen, Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets, said that “Today’s deal is a positive development and, unless a second Covid-19 wave hits the world, it will be the backbone of a quick recovery for the energy industry. That is due to the oil stocks decrease that we will see as a result of the production deficit. Stocks are now what keep prices at relatively low levels and the quicker they fall, the faster we will see prices rise.”

Read the Full Piece Here

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Texas Oil Regulator Poses The Fundamental Question: “How Do We Start?”

After taking more than 10 hours of verbal testimony from more than 50 witnesses at Tuesday’s hearing, the three members of the Texas Railroad Commission tabled any decision on whether to move to limit oil production from Texas wells through its power of prorationing. During the course of the hearing, Commissioner Christi Craddick hit on the fundamental impediment that will likely prevent the RRC from any quick implementation of limits: There is no institutional memory on how to do it.

“We don’t know how to do it at the agency anymore,” Craddick said to one witness who was around during the last time the RRC enforced prorationing back in 1972. “Do we start on Jan. 1? Where do we start? How do we start?”

Exactly. As much as many struggling independent producers would like to think the Commissioners possess some magic bullet power that would boost prices and help them survive the most severe oil industry downturn in modern times, reality tells a different story. No one working at the RRC today was there in 1972, and even if they were, the industry the Commission regulates has fundamentally reinvented itself at least half a dozen times since then. The Commissioners and their current staff can read all the history books on the market about the golden age of prorationing, but that wouldn’t be much help to them in implementing new production limits soon.

Commissioner Craddick’s mention of a possible January 1 date for trying to implement the change is very telling. If professional industry analytical firms like Rystad EnergyIHSMarkit and Wood MacKenzie are accurate, the immediate crisis in global oil over-supply will have been resolved well before then, and oil prices should be well on their way back up to higher levels. It is equally likely that dozens of Texas oil producers will have been forced into bankruptcy in the meantime.

Another potential logical date of implementation would be September 1, which is the start of Fiscal Year 2021 for the Texas government. Even if the RRC currently possessed the budget and staff to meet that quick goal (it possesses neither) it is quite likely that the Texas industry will have already lost upwards of 2 million barrels of daily oil production by that time due to dramatically-lowered drilling activity and voluntary shutting-in of production.

Then there is the other practical limiter that the commissioners must consider: The budget. The Texas government famously operates on a two year budget cycle, with the legislature meeting for 140 days in odd-numbered years to make biennial adjustments. The RRC is currently operating under a budget that does not expire until August 31, 2021. Any upward adjustments to that budget designed to enable the Commissioners to hire in additional staff and build new computer systems to implement and police prorationing would have to be authorized by a special session of the Texas Legislature, subject to a call by Governor Greg Abbott.

Think of how unlikely that is to take place at a time when Texas is currently functioning under an executive order to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Also consider how unlikely Gov. Abbott and the legislature would be to agree to increase any agency’s budget during this time of massive economic destruction.

Read the Rest at Forbes.com

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OPEC+, G20 Produce A Very Dim Light At The End Of A Long, Dark Oil Price Tunnel

After the OPEC+ countries produced an oil supply reduction agreement on Thursday that amounted to a half-measure at best, industry observers had pinned some hope on a firm commitment to further cuts coming from G20 call that took place on Friday. Those hopes were not fulfilled, as the G20 communique included only vague language indicating those nations would work towards “market stability.”

The language in the comminique reads as follows: “We commit to ensure that the energy sector continues to make a full, effective contribution to overcoming COVID-19 and powering the subsequent global recovery. We commit to work together in the spirit of solidarity on immediate, concrete actions to address these issues in a time of unprecedented international emergency. We commit to take all the necessary and immediate measures to ensure energy market stability.”

In this political season in the U.S., that reads like issue-specific talking points from a candidate trying to say something to placate the public and media without really taking either side of the issue.

Leaving matters even more up in the air, Mexico refused to commit to its full share of the OPEC+ cuts, saying it could only reduce its own production by 100,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd). U.S. President Donald Trump intervened to commit to his country to supporting Mexico’s part of the deal by supplying 250,000 bopd in cuts of its own, but left the process of how he would achieve that level of firm supply reduction unclear. This is a key question since the national U.S. government has very limited power to force firm reductions in production by the private companies that operate all wells in the country.

Canada, which has not been a participant in any previous efforts to control supply, also remained non-committal in terms of committing to any firm reductions of its own.

Read the Rest at Forbes.com

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The OPEC++ Deal: Calling it a Half-Measure is an Exaggeration

Let’s be honest: The so-called OPEC++ agreement to cut 10 million barrels of oil per day from global crude oil supply is a half-measure. Really, with Rystad Energy reporting that demand for oil will drop by 27 million bopd from January 1 levels during April, calling it a half-measure is an exaggeration.

Even this half-measure has still not been finalized, as Mexico’s government still has not committed to holding up its end of the bargain as of this writing on Friday morning. So, anything could still happen. All of which explains why the oil markets reacted negatively to the OPEC++ announcement, with oil prices dropping by more than 15% in just a few hours.

But here at least are the parameters of the agreement that are being reported Friday morning:

– OPEC++ (the OPEC nations plus Russia, Mexico, Canada, Brazil and several others) agree to cut 10 million barrels per day of exports from April through July;

– The cuts drop to 8 million bopd from August 1 through December 31;

– The cuts further fall to 6 million bopd beginning January 1, to continue for the next 16 months;

– The cuts include no formal contribution from the U.S. oil and gas industry.

President Donald Trump will discuss his views of America’s contribution to a reduction in global supply in a call involving the Group of 20 – or G20 – on Friday.

 

Read the Rest at Shalemag.com

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Russia’s Skepticism Over U.S. Oil Production Cuts Is Well-Grounded

Bloomberg reported Wednesday that Russian oil representatives are expressing skepticism about the potential for the the U.S. oil industry to participate in global deal to cut crude production in a real, sustaining way. That skepticism is well-grounded in reality.

With the Trump Administration thus far offering only what it calls “automatic” cuts that will take place in the U.S. as drilling activity drops and oil wells are shut-in as the result of low demand, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters, “You are comparing the overall demand drop with cuts aimed at stabilizing the global market. These are completely different things.”

He’s right.

The problem is, as I pointed out over the weekend, is that, absent quick and certain action by regulators in Texas and other states or an emergency declaration by the Trump Administration designed to shut down production in the Gulf of Mexico and on federal lands, any U.S. contribution to a global supply reduction deal must by law be market-based, and thus, temporary. Unlike Russia, Saudi Arabia and many of the OPEC nations, the U.S. oil industry consists of thousands of companies competing in a free market, and the national government cannot cause production to rise or fall on a whim. The situation is further complicated by the fact that any such move by the federal or state governments would be politically controversial and opposed by certain segments of the U.S. industry itself.

Today In: Energy

There is little doubt that, should current market dynamics persist into the third and fourth quarters of this year, overall U.S. crude production will drop dramatically, with Citigroup, Inc. projecting it to be down by over 1 million barrels per day by October. Frankly, that seems to be a conservative estimate. The trouble in the context of this envisioned global agreement is that, once demand is to a large extent restored, the U.S. industry would simply come roaring back to fill the void, absent some artificial governor on its activities.

Read the Rest at Forbes.com

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State Regulators Hold The Key To U.S. Participation In A Global Oil Supply Deal

The energy media was filled with speculation on Friday and Saturday about how much higher crude prices might spike on Monday as OPEC and Russia prepared to hold an emergency conference call meeting that day. That speculation has now evaporated as the call has been postponed, now scheduled to take place on Thursday.

As the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, “Saudi Arabia and Russia have said privately they are unlikely to cut oil output unless North American producers join in.” While Canada has signaled its willingness to be a part of a larger, global approach to cutting supply, it is unclear how exactly officials from Russia and Saudi Arabia envision the United States joining the party.

I’ve written about this several times in the past, but it deserves repeating here: America is simply not like these other countries. It is called the “United States” for a reason. The federal government of the United States has no existing authority to just cause oil wells to be turned off and on at the snapping of a president’s fingers.

Yes, as we saw in the wake of the tragic Macondo blowout and spill in April, 2010, a president can declare an environmental emergency and cause all production to be shut in in the Gulf of Mexico. But beyond 3 miles of the coastline (roughly 12 miles offshore Texas) the Gulf of Mexico is a federal province. The order issued on May 27, 2010 by President Barack Obama to shut-in Gulf of Mexico production applied only in waters of 500 feet or more in depth, limiting it to areas safely within the federal province. In this way, he avoided challenges from state governors that would have certainly resulted had he attempted to shut down the entire Gulf, including all state waters.

This is what the United States calls “federalism,” and it is a concept that leaders in many other countries appear to have a very difficult time grasping. Given that the great preponderance of U.S. oil production comes mainly from beneath state and private lands, solving the conundrum of any U.S. participation in any global agreement to limit oil supply will necessarily involve participation from key state regulators.

In states like Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Wyoming and New Mexico, which together are producing the preponderance of U.S. crude oil, regulatory bodies possess various authorities to limit production within their state borders. Those states combined to produce about 68% of the oil produced in the U.S. in January, the latest month for which the U.S. Energy Information has data. Another 15% was produced in federally-owned waters in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Pacific coast.

Thus, at least in theory, roughly 83% of U.S. oil production could be artificially limited by the federal government and state regulators on a coordinated basis. It is important to note that this kind of coordination is the only real way for the U.S. to become a meaningful part of any such deal.

Read The Rest at Forbes.com

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Putin Is Ready To Cut Oil Supply, But Demand Destruction Still Grows

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that, after sending the oil markets into a massive crash a month ago by blowing up the OPEC+ exports limitation agreement, his country is now ready to work with OPEC and other countries to implement far deeper cuts to crude production than OPEC+ had ever envisioned.

Speaking in a televised video conference, Putin proposed an arrangement that would result in removing 10 million barrels of crude oil per day from global supply. As reported by the Khaleej Times, “Putin’s dramatic change of tack from his unyielding stance of non-cooperation with the Opec in further output cuts came in the wake of a truce brokered by US President Donald Trump ahead of the upcoming Opec plus meeting scheduled for April 6.” The price for West Texas Intermediate closed at $28.34 per barrel on Friday, up by 40% since Wednesday, when news of Trump’s engagement with Putin and Saudi leader Mohammed bin Salman became public.

Has President Trump, the famous deal-maker, worked a deal that will save the U.S. domestic oil and gas industry? Let’s don’t get ahead of ourselves. While a global deal that would remove 10 millions barrel from daily oil supply would certainly help firm up oil prices, we have to remember that the effort by Russia and Saudi Arabia to flood the market only impacted the supply side of a two-sided equation. Crude prices had already dropped by more than 30% into the low-$40 range in early March before OPEC+ blew up, thanks to massive global demand destruction caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the U.S. intentionally shutting down its own economy during March in a strategy to slow the spread of the virus, that demand destruction has only intensified over the past 30 days, with some projecting as much as 25% of world-wide demand for crude oil having been lost, or about 25 million barrels per day. We should also realize that, with so much anticipation now focused on it, if the upcoming emergency meeting of the OPEC+ countries should somehow fail to bear fruit along the lines proposed by Putin, then the price will come crashing back down.

And even if a new deal does get done, it will only address one side of the equation. There will still be much work to be done to return the domestic oil and gas industry to some level of health.

Read the Rest at Forbes.com

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The Shale Daily Update – 4.3.2020

Here are 10 things you need to know about oil and gas for April 3, 2020:

Trump calls on Russia and Saudi Arabia to cut oil production – Excerpt:

The Trump administration is pressing OPEC to hold an emergency meeting as early as next week to try to end the standoff in the oil market that has threatened to cripple the U.S. oil industry, three industry and government officials familiar with the talks said.

The U.S. pressure is aimed at persuading Saudi Arabia — which has also called for a meeting — and Russia to declare a ceasefire and reverse the export increases that have drowned the global market in crude even as the coronavirus pandemic has decimated international demand.

The White House has not yet decided who, if anyone, it would send to a possible OPEC meeting next week, the industry and government officials said. Candidates included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Department of Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the people said.

Oil Extends Gains As OPEC Leaders Call Emergency Meeting To Discuss Trump Production Cuts – Well, guess the pressure from the President worked, as OPEC called a special meeting overnight. The cartel will hold its meeting next week via “emergency teleconference,” which one supposes must be more urgent than just your ordinary, everyday OPEC teleconference.

OPEC+ Debates Biggest Ever Cut as Virus Destroys Oil Demand – It’s worth noting that Russia’s oil minister denied the narrative told in this New York Times report, but Russia says all sorts of things that end up not being accurate. Let’s hope this is one of them.

 

Read the Rest at Shale Magazine

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WATCH/READ: William Barr’s Disturbing Statement on the NAS Pensacola Atrocity

Today’s Campaign Update, Part II
(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

What’s it been – six weeks since the killings took place? Hey, better late than never. – The U.S. Justice Department finally got around to formally announcing what any thinking person knew from the moment we heard about it: That the December 6 mass murder by a Saudi national at NAS Pensacola was an act of Islamic terrorism.

Attorney General William Barr held a press conference on Monday to announce the results of the crack FBI Dumpster Fire team’s intrepid investigation. Here is a clip from Mr. Barr’s disturbing statement followed by a transcript of his remarks:

 

For those of you who still like to read stuff, here is a full transcript of the Attorney General’s remarks [emphasis added]:

Good afternoon, and thank you for coming.

We are here to discuss the results of the investigation into the shooting that occurred on Dec. 6, 2019 at Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Joining me today are David Bowdich, Deputy Director of the FBI; John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Michael Sherwin, Associate Deputy Attorney General for National Security; Rachel Rojas, FBI Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Field Office in Jacksonville, Florida; and Larry Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida.

I want to thank the FBI and the other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies involved in responding to and investigating the incident for their rapid and excellent work.  Many people worked long hours through the holidays, and I am grateful for their diligence and commitment to seeing this through.  You will be hearing from Deputy Director Bowdich shortly about the details of the FBI investigative work, which was superb.

In considering this case, we have to remember that there are thousands of allied pilots and other military personnel receiving training on military bases throughout the United States.  These military partnerships are critically important to the United States.  The Royal Saudi Air Force, which flies American-made aircraft, is an important military partner, and has long had a training relationship with us.

On Dec. 6, 2nd Lt. Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani, a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force, entered a building on the grounds of Pensacola Naval Air Station and killed three U.S. sailors and severely wounded eight other Americans.  Alshamrani was killed during the attack.

This was an act of terrorism.

The evidence shows that the shooter was motivated by jihadist ideology.  During the course of the investigation, we learned that the shooter posted a message on social media on Sept. 11 of last year that said: “the countdown has begun.”  Over Thanksgiving weekend, he visited the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.  He also posted other anti-American, anti-Israeli, and jihadi messages on social media, and did so two hours before his attack at the naval base.

Early reports indicated that the shooter arrived at the site, accompanied by other Saudi cadets, who took video of the attack as it unfolded.  These reports turned out not to be accurate.  The shooter arrived by himself.  Other Saudi cadets happened to be in the area and, after the attack began, they took some videos of the resulting commotion.  They fully cooperated in the investigation, as did the other Saudi cadets who were interviewed by the FBI at Pensacola and at additional bases across the country.

After Alshamrani entered the building and cased the facility, he proceeded to walk around shooting down his unarmed victims in cold blood.

During and after this heinous attack, there were many specific acts of courage, and I want to draw special attention to two U.S. Marines: Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Maisel and Staff Sgt. Samuel Mullins.

They were outside the building when they heard gunfire and, although unarmed, they ran into the building to confront the shooter.  Their only weapon was a fire extinguisher that they had pulled off the wall as they ran toward the gunfire.  Who but the Marines?

Although they were unable to engage the shooter, they helped save many lives by performing CPR and other medical aid on the victims.

I would also like to mention the heroic acts of Navy Airman Ryan Blackwell.  The shooter shot Airman Blackwell five times, yet Ryan still managed to jump on top of a fellow sailor to keep her from being shot.  He further assisted other students and helped them escape, all while taking additional fire from the shooter.  Airman Blackwell’s heroic acts also saved countless lives that day.

We are grateful as well for the bravery of the base personnel and local law enforcement responders who initially arrived at the scene and engaged the shooter.

I would also like to address the cooperation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia gave complete and total support for our counter-terrorism investigation, and ordered all Saudi trainees to fully cooperate.  This assistance was critical to helping the FBI determine whether anyone assisted the shooter in the attack.

While there was no evidence of assistance or pre-knowledge of the attack by other members of the Saudi military (or any other foreign nationals) who are training in the United States, we did learn of derogatory material possessed by 21 members of the Saudi military who are training here in the United States.

Seventeen had social media containing some jihadi or anti-American content.  However, there was no evidence of any affiliation or involvement with any terrorist activity or group.  Fifteen individuals (including some of the 17 just mentioned) had had some kind of contact with child pornography.  While one of these individuals had a significant number of such images, all the rest had one or two images, in most cases posted in a chat room by someone else or received over social media.

The relevant U.S. Attorneys offices independently reviewed each of the 21 cases involving derogatory information and determined that none of them would, in the normal course, result in federal prosecution.

However, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia determined that this material demonstrated conduct unbecoming an officer in the Saudi Royal Air Force and Royal Navy and the 21 cadets have been dis-enrolled from their training curriculum in the U.S. military and will be returning to Saudi Arabia (later today).

The Kingdom has assured me that it will review each of these cases under their code of military justice and criminal code.  The Kingdom has also agreed that we will have full access to anyone we want to interview in Saudi Arabia and any documents relevant to our investigation.  Indeed, it has already been providing documents.  Further, the Kingdom has assured us that, if we later decide to charge any of those being sent back to Saudi Arabia in connection with this counterterrorism investigation, it will return them for trial.

We appreciate Saudi Arabia’s cooperation in this case.

Finally, I want to address an issue regarding the shooter’s phones.

The shooter possessed two Apple iPhones, seen on posters here.

Within one day of the shooting, the FBI sought and received court authorization based on probable cause to search both phones in an effort to run down all leads and figure out with whom the shooter was communicating. 

During the gunfight with first responders, the shooter disengaged long enough to place one of the phones on the floor and shoot a single round into the device.  It also appears the other phone was damaged.

Our experts at the FBI crime lab were able to fix both damaged phones so they are operational.

However, both phones are engineered to make it virtually impossible to unlock them without the password.  It is very important to know with whom and about what the shooter was communicating before he died.

We have asked Apple for their help in unlocking the shooter’s iPhones.  So far Apple has not given us any substantive assistance.  This situation perfectly illustrates why it is critical that investigators be able to get access to digital evidence once they have obtained a court order based on probable cause.  We call on Apple and other technology companies to help us find a solution so that we can better protect the lives of Americans and prevent future attacks.

With that, I will turn things over to Deputy Director Bowdich.

[End]

Several aspects of Barr’s remarks are highly disturbing:

  • How likely do you really think it is that several fellow Saudi training pilots with no affiliation with the shooter just happened to be right there, ready and able to film the killings while making zero effort to intervene, later posting their video on social media? Quite the coincidence there.
  • Of the 21 Saudi trainees being tossed out of the program, were these filmers among them?
  • So we had 15 Saudi trainees at NAS Pensacola alone trafficking in kiddie porn? That seems like a bit of an epidemic, doesn’t it?
  • Seventeen of these trainees were jihadis? At a single base? This screams out for major reforms to the pre-screening process.
  • The people who run Apple are scum, plain and simple. Refusing to assist this investigation despite the existence of a court order is indefensible.

At any rate, it’s wonderful that Mr. Barr and his plodding DOJ finally got around to telling us what we knew from the beginning: that this atrocity, like so many others, was motivated by Islam. But the rest of this statement raises more questions than it provides satisfactory answers.

Just another day at the D.O.J.

That is all.

 

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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READ: the U.S. Army Letter Notifying Iraq of Coalition Withdrawal – UPDATED

Today’s Campaign Update, Part III
(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

Today, President Donald Trump called the Iraqi government’s bluff, authorizing the commanding general of joint coalition forces in Iraq to send a formal letter to the Iraqi commanding officer notifying him of pending operations for coalition forces to depart from Iraq. This comes in the wake of the vote of the Iraqi parliament over the weekend to demand U.S. forces leave the region.

Here is a photo of the letter that is circulating on social media:

Image

Text:

sLTG Abu Amir
Deputy Director, Combined Joint Operations,Baghdad
Iraq-Ministry of Defense

 

Sir: In due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi parliament and Prime Minister, CTJF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.

In order to conduct this task, Coalition Forces are required to take certain measures to ensure that the movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner.

During this time, there will be an increase in helicopter travel in and around the International Zone (IZ) of Baghdad. This increased traffic will include CH-47, UH-60 and AH-64 security escort helicopters.

Coalition forces will take appropriate measures to minimize and mitigate the disturbance to the public. In addition, we will conduct these operations during hours of darkness to help alleviate any perception that we may be bringing more coalition forces into the IZ.

As we begin implementing this next phase of operations, I want to reiterate the value of our friendship and partnership. We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.

Very respectfully,

 

WILLIAM H. SEELY, III
Brigadier General, U.S. Marine Corps
Commanding General, TF-Iraq

[End]

As we have repeatedly pointed out here at the Campaign Update, one of the main reasons why Donald J. Trump was elected to the presidency in 2016 was his promise to get U.S. armed forces personnel out of the myriad interminable Middle East conflicts into which his predecessors in office had gotten our country entangled.

Trump’s basic message during the campaign was that these wars between various Islamic countries and factions have been going on for eons, and nothing the U.S. can do – no amount of treasure or lives sacrificed – will end that reality. So, let the Islamic states in the region fight it out amongst themselves, and focus U.S. military efforts in the Middle East on protecting our assets and few real allies there – Israel and Saudi Arabia, mainly.

The Iraqi parliament’s demand over the weekend, whether serious or not, plays directly into the President’s hands in this regard.

It is also key to note that this strategic gambit would not be possible were it not for the fact that the U.S. today enjoys a much higher level of energy security than it did during past presidencies, thanks mainly to the shale oil and gas revolution that has taken place here over the past decade. The U.S. is not completely energy “independent” and probably never will be, but our country today has very little compelling national interest in risking American lives and treasure to keep the oil spigots in countries like Iran and Iraq open.

So, this letter from Brig. General Seely now puts the ball squarely back in the Iraqi government’s court. President Trump has basically said, hey, if you want to become a client state of the mullahs in Iran, go for it.

It will be interesting to see how Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi responds.

UPDATE: Well, maybe it’s not quite goodbye after all. Here is an official Pentagon statement on the matter:

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Dilley earlier stated that the letter is real, but the version released on social media is a “draft” that should not have gotten out. Prior to that Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the letter was not real.

Did someone just get caught in a mole hunt?

I will update this story if the official version keeps changing.

 

That is all. For now.

 

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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What Really Happened at NAS Pensacola, Part 2: “It’s a Complex World”

[Note: The piece we posted here on December 9 from from a former instructor at NAS Pensacola (What Really Happened at NAS Pensacola, and Why) has gone viral across the Internet and generated an array of compelling responses. Some are so compelling that I feel they deserve high profile posts of their own. Below is the first of those, from a former Air Force instructor who also trained foreign nationals during his military service. I found his information especially interesting as it provides insight about the personal interrelationships that become formed between U.S. military personnel and their international colleagues and students.]

From: Earl H. Tilford, PhD

I spent a good portion of my military life teaching in the Air Force and Army “Professional Military Education” systems at the Air Command and Staff College, Air War College and the Army War College.  I also have a doctorate in “American and European Military History, Soviet and East European Politics and History.”

The fact that Saudi officers assigned to Naval flight training are being afforded an opportunity to avail themselves of the finest military flying program in the world aside, since Saudi Arabia does not have nor probably ever will have an aircraft carrier, what are they doing in Pensacola?

That aside…

While I was at Maxwell I became friends with a fantastic human being from Saudi Arabia.  I never knew his real name because he preferred to be called simply “Bleuie.”  When Bleuie was a major at Air Command and Staff College he signed up for an optional M.A. in Military History offered by Air University in conjunction with the University of Alabama.  I taught several courses in that program, including “American Military History,” “Air Power History,” and “The Vietnam War.”

Bleuie’s English was not exceptional so he came to me for advice about hiring a tutor. I recommended a retired USAF officer with a PhD from Duke who had taught at the Air Force Academy.

When Bleuie finished the course successfully, he offered to fly me and his tutor to Washington to meet the Saudi Ambassador and stay there as guests of the his country.  We politely declined stating our official affiliation with the Air Force forbade accepting such generous gifts.   During his stay, Major Bleuie often broke bread with us.  He became a personal friend.

In 1990 I was elated to hear he’d made brigadier general and was returning to Air University as a student at the Air War College.  Then the Iraqis invaded Kuwait and Bleuie’s orders were cancelled.  I heard he was in charge of the Saudi Air Force’s Airborne Command and Control program.

The following year, I was gratified to see Bleuie back at Air University.  We hugged, and I noted, “You’re wearing Saudi colonel’s insignia.  I heard you were promoted to brigadier general.”  He answered that he was now a major general but he did not want to were his rank insignia noting that “too many foreign officers do that to lord it over their classmates.  I won’t do it.”

“Colonel Bleuie” showed up this time with his entire family to include several wives, a crew of servants, chefs, and bodyguards.  He rented an entire block of townhouses in a local apartment complex.

In those days I daily ran the six-mile course around the Maxwell Air Force Base runway which also included park and recreation areas.  On Sundays I’d see Bleuie playing soccer with his children and possibly other Saudi officers.  He acquired a mini-bus to haul his kids around.

At Christmas I received a nice invitation to the clubhouse at the townhouse complex where he rented.  It was an “Invitation to all my Christian and Jewish Friends to a Middle Eastern Feast.” Faculty, students to include a contingent from Israel, and their wives were treated to a fantastic evening of food, drink, and music.

Bleuie was a gentleman.  A kind and compassionate man.  I made several trips to the United Arab Emirates and to Israel in the years since.  I always hoped to run into him there since the trips I made to the region were connected to international security concerns, but I never did.  I also experienced Arab hospitality, which is lavish but also comes with certain strings attached.  From Tel Aviv to Dubai there are a myriad of cultures that clash with one another and with the Judeo-Christian West.

On my first trip to Abu Dhabi in 1998, I gave a presentation titled, “The Future of War.”  At that time I was Director of Research for the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute and we were tasked with looking out to 2015 to determine the strategic paradigm and what strategies might be appropriate for meeting future challenges.  We got it right, frighteningly so since we predicted massive unrest throughout the region and that Russia would not return to the global fray before 2015 and that by then China would be moving from regional to global hegemonic behavior.

During the question and answer period a Saudi colonel asked, “Do you think a war between the Christian West and the Islamic world is inevitable?”

I was caught off guard.  It was my first visit to the United Arab Emirates and the hospitality had been overwhelming.  I stammered a foolish answer. “Why no!” I exclaimed, then stupidly elaborated.  “Why we share so very much.  We love our families, we cherish freedom, we worship the same God.”

The Saudi colonel lept to his feet and yelled, “We do not worship the same god!  You are a polytheist infidel and not a worshiper of Allah!”  He continued until several robbed ushers intervened.  I stated something like, “I apologize for offending you.”  There were no more questions but I was invited back to speak a few more times over the years.

It’s a complex world.  We make alliances and not necessarily friendships.  Right now it is in our interest to ally ourselves with the Saudis against a common threat from Iran.  That will change as the world changes. But what we must do is harken to our own culture and, perhaps, take a cue from Shakespeare.  “To thine own self be true and it will follow at the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.”

Earl Tilford

[Note: The additional information below came to me in an email from Prof. Tilford.]

I knew we trained Saudi pilots in the USAF, I was unaware the Navy did.  But knowing a number of Naval Aviators, including two of my brothers in law one of whom, Gerard Finnegan, trained the first female Naval Aviator, I think the training is awesome.  When I was looking around for a commissioning program as a college sophomore who wanted to serve as an officer and not a draftee, I inquired about USMC Platoon Leaders Course.  I opted for the Air Force because I could not fathom finding a vessel at sea from the air much less landing on one!

Much of my experience with foreign officers was in the PME programs, not pilot training.  They are not called “students” in the PME system because the command and staff and war colleges all grant some kind of M.A. in “strategic studies” or some such.  These degrees are not academic but they are accredited.  That being the case, many of these foreign officers come from places without certifiably good academic backgrounds.  This is, of course, unfair to Oxford-educated, or US-educated foreign officers who may possess legitimate undergraduate degrees.

This was brought to my attention when I was teaching a Vietnam War seminar at the Army War College.  I assigned a two-page, double-spaced writing task and offered as possible topics,

“My Lai Massacre, “ “Tet Offensive,” “First Battle of the Ia Drang,” and “Operation Rolling Thunder.”  A Greek colonel picked Rolling Thunder.  His paper was brilliant.  I was thrilled with its insights.  I also had written it for a Vietnam War encyclopedia.  He simply copied it and attached his name to it.

Furious, I went to the dean at the Army War College, telling him I intended to “throw the book” at the offender.  He said that would not happen, then pointed out had it been a US officer, he or she would be out with an Article 15.  But these were “Army War College Fellows” and not “Army War College Students.”

In the mid-1990s the first Russian officers came into the system.  The first Russian colonel assigned to the Air War College brought his wife, daughter and his son-in-law.  He was a jolly fellow who got himself named “co-chairman of the Combined Federal Campaign” along with the mayor of Montgomery, Emory Folmar.  His wife, daughter and son in law were artists who got active with the local art museum.  He spoke on life in Russia and the former Soviet Union to all the civic clubs.

When the day came for him and his family to return to Russia, they showed up at the Montgomery Airport with a lawyer to claim “political asylum.”  His claim was based on his wife, daughter and son-in-law being Jewish and historic anti-Semitism of the Russian system whether under czars, commissars, or whatever the former Soviet thugs now running the place claim to be.  The USAF nearly went nuts claiming he had “no job” in the US.  Judson College claimed they had just hired the colonel as an associate professor of Russian Language and History.  So he stayed.

The Army War College hosted two years worth of Russian officers.  After we got involved in Bosnia, the two students at AWC immediately went home.  The AWC runs followups on all its former “fellows” since in many cases they return home to become senior officers and occasionally take over their respective countries.  Every Russian officer we tracked was out of the Russian Army within a year of returning.

I teach at the University of Alabama and we are loaded with foreign students.  The Chinese are majoring in engineering and computer science, the Middle Easterners in computer science and business administration, and the Vietnamese in whatever but they will be good at it.

The best student I had at Grove City College was a young woman from Vietnam.  Her father, a former ARVN captain, was the chief engineer on the Saigon Electrical grid. Her mother, a former Viet Cong doctor, practiced medicine in Ho Chi Minh City.  They met when she was camp doctor at his reeducation camp.  This young lady graduated Magna Cum Laude and went to medical school.  She runs a clinic in Vung Tau.

[End]

As Prof. Tilford notes, “It’s a complex world. We make alliances and not necessarily friendships.”

Our current ‘alliance’ with Saudi Arabia needlessly cost three innocent lives last week in Pensacola. Those lives were lost due to idiotic policies put in place by political and military leaders over the last 40 years. It remains to be seen whether this latest in a string of unnecessary fatal incidents will result in any changes to the stupidity.

That is all.

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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Is America Too Stupid To Survive?

Today’s Campaign Update
(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

Did we learn literally no lessons at all from 9/11? – Mark Steyn often rhetorically asks whether America is too stupid to survive. It’s a valid question after this week’s terrorist attack in Pensacola, Florida by a Saudi Arabian pilot who was receiving training at the U.S. Naval station there. It is frankly stunning to many that a pilot from Saudi Arabia, of all places, was actually being trained by the U.S. Navy 18 years after the events of 9/11/2001.

Let’s all remember that 15 of the 19 Al Qaeda terrorists who, according to the official government story, perpetrated the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 people, were from Saudi Arabia. Let’s also remember that the terrorists who supposedly flew the planes that day had received their pilot training not in their home countries, but right here in the United States. And not just anywhere in the United States, but in Florida, at the Boeing 727 simulator at SimCenter in Opa-Locka, the FlightSafety Academy in Vero Beach, and the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.

So now, here we sit 18 years later, and our own Navy personnel are still training members of the Saudi air force at NAS Pensacola. It’s as if the U.S. decided to train Japanese pilots 18 years after Pearl Harbor.

Here’s the result: Three people dead, eight others wounded, and six more Saudi nationals detained for questioning after three of them were seen filming the shootings.

Pathetically, despite the fact that the terrorist had tweeted out an anti-America screed the day prior to the attacks and had hosted a dinner party earlier in the week where he and three others watched videos of mass shootings, the Pentagon yesterday said it just can’t find it within itself to say that this was an act of terrorism.

But Congressman Matt Gaetz, whose district includes Pensacola, was not so shy, saying that “This was not an act of workplace violence, this was not a random murder, this was an act of premeditated terrorism against our country and military on our soil.”

Former Florida Governor and current Senator Rick Scott expressed his deep concerns about the existence of this training program that includes Saudi military personnel, demanding that the Pentagon conduct a formal review:

“We shouldn’t be providing military training to people who wish us harm.” Oh, do tell. But the Navy told Fox News that most of the participants in this training program are from Saudi Arabia:

The majority of the hundreds of foreign aviation students who have participated in the program are from Saudi Arabia, the Navy said. The Naval training program has about 1,500 pilots in total.

In other words, we are basically training Saudi Arabia’s entire air force. And a spokesman for the Navy had this to say about the program back in 2017:

That program is aimed at “immersing international students in our U.S. Navy training and culture” to help “build partnership capacity for both the present and for the years ahead,” Cmdr. Bill Gibson, the center’s officer in charge, said in 2017. “These relationships are truly a win-win for everyone involved.”

So, the Navy leadership is all proud of the fact that it has a program set up to train pilots from the country that was mainly responsible for the 9/11 attacks just 18 years ago. And the story gets even worse: This program has been in effect for 40 years, since 1979.

That means that no one in the Bush Administration, including his military leadership, had the presence of mind to question its advisability in the days following 9/11. It also means that all that lovely “capacity” and “relationship” building Cmdr. Gibson talks about had been going on for 22 years before the Saudi terrorists attacked our country on 9/11/2001.

This is madness. National insanity, plain and simple.

Maybe we are just too stupid to survive as a country.

That is all.

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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What You Need to Know About the Attacks on Saudi Arabia

Today’s Energy Update
(Because Energy Fuels Our Lives)

Crude oil prices closed today up about 15%. They escalated throughout the day as it became increasingly obvious that the production outages in Saudi Arabia will likely continue for weeks, and as rhetoric between the U.S., Iran and Saudi continued to become more heated. How many weeks the Saudi outages will last is anyone’s guess.

You should expect prices to continue to rise until – and if – the situation calms down and we have hard information indicating Saudi production is being restored.

In case you missed my story at Forbes.com linked and excerpted below, this is the largest sudden outage of crude production in world history, even larger than the Arab Oil embargoes of the 1970s.

It’s a big deal.

Excerpt:

Here are a dozen things everyone should know about the past weekend’s strikes on a major Saudi oil refinery, and the likely fallout from them:

  • The Houthis, a rebel army fighting against Saudi-led interests in Yemen, claimed credit for launching the attacks on Saturday. However, the U.S. government now says it believes the assault was launched from Iran, and that it may have involved cruise missiles rather than drones.
  • The strikes centered on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq refinery. Abqaiq is the world’s largest oil refinery, processing about two-thirds of the total Saudi supply each day. Saudi Arabia is the world’s second-largest producer of crude oil behind the United States.
  • Several large Saudi oil fields were also attacked. Those attacks, along with the disruption of the Abqaiq refinery required the Saudi government to shut-in about half of its current production, or about 5.7 million barrels of oil per day.
  • According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), that amounts to the single biggest sudden disruption on record, more than the loss of Kuwaiti and Iraqi supply during the Gulf War in August 1990, and the 1979 decrease in Iranian output following the Islamic Revolution.

Read the Rest Here

 

That is all.

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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Good Idea for Sunday: Fill up Your Gas Tanks

Today’s Campaign Update
(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

Everyone should go to the gas station and fill your tanks today. – There’s no need for panic, but you might save a little money by doing that.

The attack on Saudi Arabian refining and other oilfield infrastructure by Huthi rebels supported by Iran Saturday has forced the Saudi government to shut-in half of its daily crude production. That amounts to about 5.7 million barrels of oil per day (bopd) suddenly disappearing from the global, 100 million bopd market.

Unlike the series of previous Iranian attacks on crude tankers, drones and other facilities that have taken place since April, this one is a big deal. Because none of those previous acts disrupted a significant amount of oil production or movement, crude markets had no measurable reaction to them.

But 5.7 million bopd is a huge quantity of crude, a volume that far out-strips the ability of the few countries with idle capacity to offset. Although the Saudi government attempted to assure markets that it would be able to return to normal production levels by Monday, Reuters quotes a “source close to the matter” as saying that recovery from Saturday’s drone attack will take “weeks, not days.”

Regardless of which case is accurate, it is likely that oil prices will spike to some degree when Asian markets open for Monday trading late this afternoon simply based on the uncertainty of the situation. How high it will spike is anyone’s guess, but a supply disruption of this magnitude could lead to something very significant.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. fluctuate with the global price of crude, so any spike in the oil price is going to quickly feed down to higher prices at the pump. Don’t complain to me – that’s just how the market works.

The rhetoric flying following Saturday’s attacks is also significantly harsher than what we saw following Iran’s previous hostile actions. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued the following pair of tweets Saturday afternoon:

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told Iranian state television that the U.S. accusations were “pointless” and that his country stands ready to conduct “full-fledged war,” according to Reuters.  Reuters also quotes an Iranian military official as saying, “Everybody should know that all American bases and their aircraft carriers in a distance of up to 2,000 kilometers around Iran are within the range of our missiles.”

President Donald Trump has rejected counsel from some advisors to mount military retaliations after previous Iranian provocations. After these latest attacks, the President called Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Saturday evening to pledge U.S. “readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom, by all means conducive to maintain its security and stability.”

All of this back-and-forth between the involved countries, combined with the Reuters report serve to increase uncertainty. And if markets hate anything, it is uncertainty.

Again, there is no call for panic here, but the best thing for readers to do when they get up and dressed this morning is to drive over to the nearest gas station and top off the tank. If you wait to do it tomorrow, you might be sadly surprised at the price you’ll have to pay.

That is all.

 

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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The Week in Review: Broward County Circus Clowns Dominate the News

The Campaign Update Week in Review

(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

In Broward County, the Circus Big Top never comes down. –  It will no doubt come as a shock to all of you to find out this morning that Democrat Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes and her gang of vote-stealing circus clowns now claim to have “lost” 2,040 ballots during the course of their hand recount on Saturday.

But don’t worry – Ms. Snipes assures us that these ballots did not just get up and walk out of the building, which is oh, so helpful, right?

“The ballots are in the building. The ballots are in the building. Someone must have put a stack in a tray where they didn’t belong. And we didn’t pick that up. So we continue to count… The ballots are in this building. There would be no other place for them to be.”

Oh. Well, then, no harm no foul.  I mean, since it is Democrats we’re talking about here, they must be given special dispensation and held to far lower standards of behavior than normal human beings. We mustn’t “judge” Brenda Snipes because Brenda Snipes is a symbol. Of what, no one has ever quite explained adequately.

But yeah, 2,040 “missing” ballots, which very conveniently gives Democrat Senate candidate Bill Nelson grounds for filing yet anther lawsuit demanding some Florida judge to prolong the circus even further.  Because of course it does.

Oh, and the net result of Broward County’s 2,040-vote short “recount”?  Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott actually gained more than 700 votes.  *sigh*

Let’s go to the Week in Review:

It was the week that MSNBC’s veteran news faker Andrea Mitchell repeatedly told her tiny audience that Brenda Snipes is a Republican, and never did issue an on-air apology for her fakery. Because being a Democrat activist with a press pass means never having to say you’re sorry.

It was the week that Georgia’s Democrat looooooooser in the gubernatorial race, Stacey Abrams, refused to concede her loss to Republican Brian Kemp, claiming she had lost due to “voter suppression” that was racially-motivated.  Her main complaint was a substantial purging of the voter roles that took place under Georgia’s election laws prior to the campaign. She failed to note that Georgia’s current election laws were enacted in the late 1990s by a state legislature dominated by…wait for it…you know what’s coming, don’t you?….sure you do…DEMOCRATS.  Whew.

Ocasio Cortez Watch.:  It was the week that Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, after watching her fellow socialist Irish Bob O’Rourke raise $80 million in mostly non-Texas money in his losing effort to Ted Cruz, was quoted as saying that “All Americans know money in politics is a huge problem, but unfortunately the way that we fix it is by demanding that our incumbents give it up or by running fierce campaigns ourselves.” I don’t really even know what that means, but I swear I did not make it up.  Who could?

It was the week that the CIA produced a report claiming that the murder of radical Islamist reporter Jamal Khashoggi was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sent it to President Donald Trump and then leaked it to the New York Times.  Because of course they did.

It was just another week in which no American outside of our fake news media cared who ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

It was the week that portions of the fake “migrant caravan” began arriving at the border between Texas and Mexico, and officials in Tijuana loudly complained about the migrants’ presence in their community. Heads exploded all over CNN headquarters as fake journalists engaged in a frenzied search for a way of characterizing these Mexican officials as “racists.”

It was the week that French boy President Emmanuel Macron lectured President Trump and America on the evils of “nationalism,” and his public approval rating fell to 25%. There is a lesson in there somewhere, but don’t expect Macron to grasp it.

It was the week that “miniature kidneys” grown by mad scientists in a lab in St. Louis “went rogue”, suddenly sprouting brain and muscle cells, according to officials at the Washington University School of Medicine. No word if the lab director’s last name is Frankenstein, but it seems likely.

It was the week that California Democrat congressman Eric Swalwell announced his support for legislation that would force gun owners to give up any weapon the government classified as an “assault weapon,” and then let it be known that he’d be willing to have the government use nuclear weapons to enforce his desire to disarm the public.  So, just another typical liberal there.

Finally, it was the week that a federal judge issued an injunction ordering the White House to temporarily restore the press badge for CNN performance artist Jim Acosta. In preparation for Acosta’s return, the White House made some minor renovations to the White House Briefing Room:

That isn’t really a thing, but it should be.

That is all.

 

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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Trump Tweets, OPEC Blinks

The Evening Campaign Update

(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

Tired of all this Winning yet? – If you’ve been irritated by how much it’s cost you lately to fill your car with gasoline, well, cheer up.  President Trump is on the case.

In fact, if you believe the folks at Bloomberg, he’s already caused the Saudis to blink and start working to get up to another 800,000 barrels of oil per day onto the global market in an effort to stabilize the price for crude oil at current or slightly lower levels.  Given that crude is the raw material from which gasoline is refined, a halt to the rapid rise in that commodity’s prices that has taken place in the last year will also stop the rise of the price at the pump.  Crude prices dropped more than $3.00/barrel (roughly 5%) on Friday in response to the Saudi/OPEC announcement of their intention.

So, how did President Trump accomplish all of this?  Optically at least, he did it with a single tweet.  On April 20, the POTUS took to his famous Twitter feed to slam OPEC for the rapidly rising price of gasoline as Americans headed into the summer driving season:

As Bloomberg reports, the Trump tweet produced an immediate reaction among the various OPEC ministers:

OPEC officials were in a meeting at the opulent Ritz-Carlton hotel in Jeddah on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast when Trump tweeted his views and they immediately saw it as a significant intervention.

“We were in the meeting in Jeddah, when we read the tweet,” OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo said on Friday. “I think I was prodded by his excellency Khalid Al-Falih that probably there was a need for us to respond,” he said. “We in OPEC always pride ourselves as friends of the United States.”

Given that, unlike his immediate four predecessors in office, President Trump does not hesitate to lever negotiations over seemingly unrelated matters into one another, using all of the influence of the United States to obtain positive results, these OPEC countries also have developed a new-found sense of respect – likely bordering on fear – for expressions of concern coming from the U.S., even when they come from a Presidential tweet.  Perhaps even especially when they come from a Presidential tweet, come to think of it.

Now, probably there was more to this new attitude suddenly being expressed by OPEC countries.  The Bloomberg story cites a recent congressional hearing covering proposed legislation that would attempt to make OPEC and other commodity cartels subject to the U.S. Sherman Anti-Trust Act, and there have likely been negotiations between U.S. and officials from Saudi Arabia and other OPEC nations taking place behind the scenes since April 20.   But there is no doubt at all the President’s tweet got this ball rolling.

So, when you next go to fill up your car and notice that the price of unleaded has dropped a dime a gallon in response to Friday’s 5% drop in the price for crude oil, you know who to thank.

Isn’t it nice to have a President who’s looking out for our interests instead of the interests of some nebulous “international community?”

That is all.

Follow me on Twitter at @GDBlackmon

Today’s news moves at a faster pace than ever. Whatfinger.com is my go-to source for keeping up with all the latest events in real time.

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