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Tuesday, April 25, 2006


I mention 'memetics' in the introduction to this blog. Karl Rove is a practitioner of memetics. His job is to affect the individual perception of susceptible populations by infecting the world-view of the perciever; by 'coloring' the lens through which the viewer percieves events.

Thus a war hero can be made a coward; a thoughtful opinion can be cast as dull; a strong legislative record percieved as wishy-washy. On the other hand, an AWOL air guardsman can be turned into a Commander-in-Chief and a bungled Iraqi occupation into an war on terror.

Insulating the well-groomed minds of Bush supporters from opposing views only requires implanting a viral codec that would 'color' media presenting such points of view as the products of 'liberal' press or 'foreign' media.

See the referenced site for more on memetics, particularly the Dawkins piece:


The White House and the Republican leadership met behind closed doors a couple of days ago to map out a political strategy to respond to high gas prices. This Reuters story outlines what they came up with. Basically, it is a strategy for maximum motion with minimum effect. Reduce "environmental restrictions" on refineries (surely by now a shibbolith, since these 'restrictions' have been eased and reduced over the past 5 years so much that they practically do not exist--and to the extent that they DO exist, they are not enforced); release supplies to from the strategic reserves (as analysis below demonstrates, oil is 'fungible' and an additional supply, unless it is a virtual glut, will merely add discounted oil to the input stream of the already inflated profit margins of the oilgopoly); direct the FTC to 'vigorously investigate' price-gouging (yeah, sure...nothing instills more confidence in me as a consumer than to know that the toothless watchdogs of the Bush Administration are on the job--we recall the excellent job they did with Enron); and to assure the public that the problem falls squarely in our laps (Frist's homily of 'no silver bullet' while encouraging reduced consumption rings as hollow as a pot-metal church bell. This is the same gang who eliminated enforced fuel standards and cut investments in mass transit).


President Bush on Tuesday ordered a temporary suspension of environmental rules for gasoline, making it easier for refiners to meet demand and possibly dampen prices at the pump. He also halted for the summer the purchase of crude oil for the government's emergency reserve.

The moves came as political pressure intensified on Bush to do something about gasoline prices that are expected to stay high throughout the summer.

Bush said the nation's strategic petroleum reserve had enough fuel to guard against any major supply disruption over the next few months.

"So, by deferring deposits until the fall, we'll leave a little more oil on the market. Every little bit helps," he said. Wholesale gasoline futures prices for June delivery dropped 8 cents a gallon to $2.10 on the New York Mercantile Exchange immediately upon Bush's remarks.

Easing the environment rules will allow refiners greater flexibility in providing oil supplies since they will not have to use certain additives such as ethanol to meet clean air standards. The suspension of oil purchases for the federal emergency oil reserve is likely to have only modest impact since relative little extra oil will be involved.

The high cost at the pump has turned into a major political issue, with Democrats and Republicans blaming each other for a problem that is largely out of Congress' control. Republicans are worried that voters paying more than $3 per gallon would punish the party in power. Democrats want to make that happen.

Bush said that high gasoline prices are like a hidden tax on consumers and businesses, although he said the nation's economy was strong. He urged Congress to take back some of the billions of dollars in tax incentives it gave energy companies, saying that with record profits, they don't need the breaks. He urged lawmakers to expand tax breaks for the purchase of fuel-efficient hybrid automobiles.

The president said Democrats in the past have urged higher taxes on fuel and price caps to control fuel expenses, but he said neither approach works. Instead, he called for increased conservation, an expansion of domestic production and increased use of alternative fuels like ethanol.

Bush said high energy prices are disturbing.

"Our addiction to oil is a matter of national security concerns," the president said in a speech to the Renewable Fuels Association, which advocates alternate energy sources. "After all, today we get about 60 percent of our oil from foreign countries. That's up from 20 years ago, where about 25 percent of our oil came from foreign countries."

Bush said gasoline prices are expected to remain high throughout the summer and "that's going to be a continued strain on the American people."

Bush said the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department and the Energy Department were investigating whether the price of gasoline has been unfairly manipulated. The administration also contacted all 50 state attorneys general to offer technical assistance to urge them to investigate possible illegal price manipulation within their jurisdictions.

During the last few days, Bush asked his Energy and Justice departments to open inquiries into whether the price of gasoline has been illegally manipulated. It's unclear what impact, if any, Bush's investigation would have on prices that are near or at $3 a gallon or more. Asked if Bush had any reason to suspect market manipulation, White House press secretary Scott McClellan responded, "Well, gas prices are high right now, and that's why you want to make sure there's not."

The administration sent letters Tuesday to state attorneys general urging them to vigorously enforce state law "against any anticompetitive, anticonsumer conduct in the petroleum industry."

"Consumers around the nation have expressed concerns about what they have perceived as anticompetitive or otherwise unfair conduct by the world's major oil companies," said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras. Their letter said federal agencies had substantially increased efforts to monitor, detect and prevent any violations of the law.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., urged Bush in a letter Monday to order a federal investigation into any gasoline price gouging or market speculation.

"There is no silver bullet," Frist said Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America," but "we need to make sure that any efforts at price-gouging be addressed and addressed aggressively." Meanwhile, Frist said, consumers should take steps to conserve gasoline — drive at slower speeds, tune up car engines for maximum efficiency and carpool.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada dispatched his own letter, calling for a multi-pronged approach to restrain gas prices.


What Did You Do in the War, Grandma?
April 21, 2006

(Photo: Peace activist Cindy Sheehan attends a news conference outside the state court building in New York April 20, 2006. The news conference was held in support of 18 grandmothers arrested recently for protesting against the war in Iraq. REUTERS/Chip East )

NO ageism is intended, but we're willing to lay heavyodds that it has been a long while since the Manhattan district attorney, Robert M. Morgenthau, found someone older than he is to take to court.

Bear in mind that Mr. Morgenthau is 86. He has held his job for so long that it sometimes feels as if he began before they invented Ovaltine. How many 90-year-old drug dealers or mob hit men cross his path? Yesterday, things changed. The district attorney's office pursued a criminal case against a band of women, some of them old enough to call Mr. Morgenthau "sonny."

Not that Marie Runyon, 91, is what you'd call a hardened criminal. Nor is Molly Klopot, 87, nor Lillian Rydell, 86. Nor, for that matter, are any of 15 other women -- a few of them practically kids, no older than 61 or 62 -- who went on trial yesterday in Manhattan Criminal Court, charged with disorderly conduct. The Granny Peace Brigade, they call themselves.

Last October, they descended on the armed forces recruiting station in Times Square. They wanted to enlist, they said. They've been around. Send them to Iraq, they demanded, instead of some 20-year-old who has barely tasted life. When the military, shockingly, showed no interest in signing them up, this Walker and Cane Brigade held a sit-in. The police ordered them to leave. They refused. So officers young enough to be their great-grandchildren handcuffed them gently and put them under arrest. Obviously, theirs was an exercise in street theater, intended to draw cameras and scribblers to record their opposition to the war in Iraq.

The tactic worked. Grandmothers being hauled away in a police wagon is what we in the news business call a story. While the style was somewhat whimsical, the grannies' message could not have been more serious. A similar mixture of soberness and good cheer was evident yesterday at a pretrial pep rally outside the Criminal Court building on Centre Street. Sure, there were denunciations of the war. But there were also photos of grandchildren and great-grandchildren hanging from strings around the women's necks. The mood was a contrast to much of the political dialogue these days -- simultaneous monologues, really, often about as witty as a Pat Robertson fatwa.

The grannies are "positive, upbeat, respectful, lovingAmerica," said their lawyer, Norman Siegel, who added, "But they also recognize that we have some fundamental problems that need to be overcome."The nonjury trial that got under way yesterday, before Judge Neil E. Ross, did not have to be. Mr. Morgenthau's office proposed a plea deal that would have allowed the dismissal of the charges in six months provided the grannies, forgive us, kept their noses clean. But the women insisted on their day in court, hoping for a chance to speak against the war from the witness stand. "We are at a very important point in the history of our country," Ms. Klopot said. "It is our responsibility as patriots not to be silent." Whether Judge Ross will give her a courtroom soapbox remains to be seen.

As far as the prosecution is concerned, Iraq is a nonstarter. "It's not about the war," Amy Miller, an assistant district attorney, told the judge. "It's about disorderly conduct."That's not how Mr. Siegel saw it. The purpose of the protest was "to alert an apathetic public," he said to Judge Ross. He also argued that the grannies did not entirely block access to the recruiting center, a point conceded by police officers who testified. And so, Mr. Siegel contended, the order for the women to clear out was not lawful. They had "acted on principle," he said, "in a great American tradition of peaceful, nonviolent protest." Then again, a guiding principle of nonviolent protest is that one must be prepared to suffer the consequences. Age should not matter. If convicted, each of the women could be fined $250 and sent to jail for 15 days. Are they prepared to do the time? Absolutely, said one of the younger defendants, Jenny Heinz, 61. "A number of us have made a decision that we will not accept fines or community service." Of course, a guilty verdict would have to come first. Then Judge Ross, 46, would have to decide if sending some women nearly twice his age to the slammer is really how he wants to be remembered.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

ANWR Development, Negligible Price Impact to Consumers

On April 21, the oil-vested Voice of the Times, Anchorage, Alaska raised the laughable proposition that ANWR production would make a difference in the price of gas at the pump-this despite the fact that the United States has just 3 percent of the world's oil reserves yet consumes 25 percent of oil production.

Let's examine the shibboleth of price impact, nevertheless because it is bound to be repeated by all the ANWR boosters in Alaska.

Price-Impact of ANWR Development Would Be Negligible

I thank Tim Haab and John Whitehead for the following analysis (see their blog: "Environmental Economics" )

A decent estimate of the annual barrels of oil generated from the Artic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), I think, is 100 million/year. Dividing this by, say 333 days, gives a daily estimate of 333 thousand barrels/day (b/d) produced in ANWR.

By how much would this bring the price of oil and gas down?

Given the following info/assumptions:

U.S. consumes about 20 million/b/d (source: EIA)
Long run demand elasticity (e) = about -0.5 (source: Cooper 2003)
ANWR supply increase = 333,000/b/d (and assuming that the U.S. consumes all of the increase)
Next solving for the change in price using the demand elasticity formula (e = %ΔQ ÷ %ΔP):

e = %ΔQ ÷ %ΔP
.5 = .333/20 ÷ %ΔP
%ΔP = .0167 × 2
%ΔP = .0333 = ΔP/P

If the future price of oil is $63/barrel ($$$), then the change in price (ΔP) is equal to $63 × .0333 = $2. The price of a barrel of oil would fall to $61. Since crude oil makes up about 56% of the price of a gallon of gasoline, the price of gasoline would fall by about .56 × .0333 or .019. With gas at $3/gallon, the price might fall by about a nickel and a penny ($3 × .019 = $.057)?

The proponents of ANWR place a higher production estimate in the Environmental Impact Assessment, 400 million barrels per year vs 100 million barrels per year.

The above EIA assessment puts the mean production figure at 400 million barrels per year from to ANWR 10-02 area, which calculates to 1.1 million barrels per day; not 333-thousand bbl/day as you have reasoned. This makes ANWR capable of meeting 5% of U.S. daily oil consumption, which is not insignificant. Substituting into your elasticity equation and solving, I get a percent change in price of $6.93 per bbl, and a gasoline price reduction of 18.5 cents per gallon.

Thus a reduction in price from added supply of ANWR oil ranges from $.06 - $.185--at least temporarily.

Price-Impact of ANWR Development Would Be Short-Lived

Now, assume this to be a reasonable projection, there is no guaranty that any price impact at the pump would be long-lived. In fact there are reasons to believe that price benefits will be short-lived.

First, oil is a fungible commodity. That means that it and the revenues it generates may be a source of replacement or substitution for value at any point along the supply and production chain. In the past two decades, the energy industry has become a web of refiners, distributors & brokers integrated in a chain of price & supply. During the Bush era, this chain has been virtually unrestrained and uninvestigated by the federal government or congress. For short-hand convenience, I will refer to this chain as the oilgopoly.

Second, price savings are quickly absorbed by "the system". Take the case of Sonny Purdue and the State of Georgia. Right after Katrina, the legislature for the State of Georgia and Governor Purdue agreed to temporarily cut the state tax on gasoline and fuel oil in order to mitigate the impact of rising prices of benchmark crude by the oil brokers.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said the tax break in Georgia could cut the cost of gas by about 15 cents a gallon. The month-long break in gas tax collections could cost the state $75 million.

With its 15-cent gas tax suspended, Georgia's average price of gas dropped by two cents immediately — from $2.98 per gallon to $2.96 per gallon, and AAA Auto Club South said the tax moratorium probably was the reason, The Associated Press reported.

There is no indication of further price drops in Georgia during the 30 –day moratorium.

Clearly, any "savings" generated by added supplies, however small, would not impact the pump price, however tiny, as the economic mechanics outlined above suggest. Remember, every penny in price difference represents an additional billion dollars to the oil economy. 6 cents or 18 cents will quickly be sucked up by that insatiable maw.

There are three solutions to the high price of gasoline at the pump and NONE of those solutions are compatible with the agenda of the Republican-controlled congress or the White House--despite election-year rhetoric to the contrary. Certainly these solutions will not find their way into the Voice of the Times.

1. Political solutions. Put regulatory teeth into price-fixing and the 'coordinative supply' environment generated by the oilgopoly. Think of what we now know about Enron and the manipulation of supply and price by the company and Enron's brokers. Is it such a leap to suspect the same behavior only writ larger albeit more subtly in today's socio-political environment of lax regulators and laissez-faire legislators? One must ask, in the context of this solution: where are the regulators, the investigators, the congressional overseers and the politicians elected to protect all of us against such abuse?

2. Demand-side Solutions. Changing behavior. For years the environmental community has been advocating conservation as a more efficient source of energy economic balance than drilling for oil. And for years, the Chambers of Commerce have laughed the greenies out of the room. For years the increasingly conservative and self-indulgent masses moved to the 'burbs, bought SUVs and developers demanded asphalt cloverleaf shunts from the aching backbone of gridlock. We build water-dependent cities in the middle of deserts. We spread our civilization out instead of building it up in an integrated and efficient arcology. America will have to fundamentally change its expectations and behavior. Initially small changes can save equivalent to an ANWR with greater savings to follow as we become a more consciously affective culture and we become more rational in our social and political choices.

3. Supply-side Solutions. Alternative Energy Sources. Here we have to look for solutions that are not embraced by the oil companies themselves and turned into another part of their integrated, price-managed system. In general, any "alternative" like clean coal, that preserves "The Grid" is favored by Republicans and the oil companies. The vision of home-grown, decentralized energy resources is not encouraged by the Bush Department of Energy. Ethanol that is produced by Con-Agra is good, ethanol produced by Farmer Jones is not. Massive Wind Farms that generate energy for the grid are good; small distributed wind farms are not.

Memo To Alaskans: Don't Worry, ConocoPhillips Won't Leave.

Sky high oil prices spell continued record profits for the Multinational Oil Companies that control the American Market. Awash in all of this cash, ConocoPhillips is nevertheless, in full pitch battle with the legislature of the State of Alaska fighting an increase in production taxes ob Alaska's oil field. COP (as it is called by Wall Street) is taking out full page ads whining and writhing in public pain over the few percentage increase in tax revenues from productive wells. Oh the weeping, Oh the wailing, Oh the gnashing of teeth. Prominant Alaskan supplicants are trotted out on the editorial pages of the state newspapers, echoing COP's talking points. Recently, however, the ultimate threat was made before a Fairbanks, Alaska audience by COP representatives. They just might, they said, leave Alaska for other, more profitable opportunities in the world.

My reaction: GO! SCRAM! GET THE HELL OUT! Don't let the screen door hit you in the ass, etc.

There are plenty of partners who would gladly assume a development partnership with Alaska. But...of course...ConocoPhillips has NO intention of leaving Alaska.

I have reviewed the April, 2006 10K filing for ConocoPhillips. There is nothing in the 10K report that indicates departure from Alaska would make any economic sense. Quite the contrary. As of December 31, 2005, the Exploration and Production segment of ConocoPhillips (COP) represents 57 percent of the company's assets and contributes 62 percent of net income. This segment excludes LUKOIL, COP's Russian holdings, which is organized into a separate segment. Alaskan holdings are a significant portion of the E&P segment. E & P is roughly 1.5 Million barrels per day (bpd) divided between Foreign (910,000 bpd) and Domestic (633,000 bpd) with nearly half the Domestic production coming from Alaska.
More interesting, from Alaska's point-of-view, is ConocoPhillip's tolerance for a strong state partnership outside the United States.

The following comes from COP's current 10-K:
Petrozuata and Hamaca
Petrozuata is a Venezuelan Corporation formed under an Association Agreement between a wholly owned subsidiary of ConocoPhillips that has a 50.1 percent non-controlling equity interest and a subsidiary of Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), the national oil company of Venezuela.

The project is an integrated operation that produces heavy crude oil from reserves in the Orinoco Oil Belt, transports it to the Jose industrial complex on the north coast of Venezuela, and upgrades it into heavy, processed crude oil and light, processed crude oil. Associated products produced are liquefied petroleum gas, sulfur, petroleum coke and heavy gas oil. The processed crude oil produced by Petrozuata is used as a feedstock for our Lake Charles, Louisiana, refinery, as well as the Cardon refinery operated by PDVSA in Venezuela. Our net production was 50,200 barrels of heavy crude oil per day in 2005, compared with 59,600 barrels per day in 2004, and is included in equity affiliate production.

The Hamaca project also involves the development of heavy-oil reserves from the Orinoco Oil Belt. We own a 40 percent interest in the Hamaca project, which is operated by Petrolera Ameriven on behalf of the owners. The other participants in Hamaca are PDVSA and Chevron Corporation, each owning 30 percent. Our interest is held through a joint limited liability company, Hamaca Holding LLC, for which we use the equity method of accounting. Net production averaged 56,100 barrels per day of heavy crude oil in 2005, compared with 32,600 barrels per day in 2004, and is included in equity affiliate production.

Construction of the heavy-oil upgrader, pipelines and associated production facilities for the Hamaca project at the Jose industrial complex began in 2000. In the fourth quarter of 2004, we began producing on-specification medium-grade crude oil for export at the planned ramp-up capacity of the plant.

Gulf of Paria
In March 2005, a development plan addendum for Phase I of the Corocoro field in the Gulf of Paria was approved by the Venezuelan government. This addendum addressed revisions to the original development plan approved in 2003. The wellhead platform was installed in late 2005, and the drilling program is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2006. First production from the central processing facility is targeted for 2008, with the possibility of production from an interim processing facility in 2007. We operate the field with a 32.2 percent interest.

Plataforma Deltana Block 2
We have a 40 percent interest in Plataforma Deltana Block 2. The block is operated by our co-venturer and holds a gas discovery made by PDVSA in 1983. Two appraisal wells were completed in 2004, and a third was completed in January 2005. All appraisal wells indicated that the target zones were natural gas bearing. In addition, a new natural gas/condensate discovery was made in a deeper zone. Development of the field may include a well platform, a 170-mile pipeline to shore, and an LNG plant. PDVSA has the option to enter the project with a 35 percent interest, which would proportionately reduce our interest in the project to 26 percent.

It seems clear to me that ConocoPhillips appears to work well with a significantly reduced equity and the strongly managed regulatory environment of the Chavez regime. I think that is fine. I wish Venezuela well. But I also think that the whining and foot-stamping by COP's Alaska Representatives is both disingenuous and insulting to the owners of "Big Dipper Oil"

On another point:
The Alpine expansion being developed by the field's owners, ConocoPhillips (COP.N) and Anadarko Petroleum (APC.N) is significant. They envision commercialization of five discoveries within a 20-mile radius of Alpine, a field that holds 430 million recoverable barrels.
There is no foreseeable reduction in the average price of oil below $50 a barrel. Given the volatility of supply and global market competition for oil from China and India, the average price of oil could range upward to $75 a barrel by 2010. That means that the value of the Alpine fields over the next 20 years will range from $21.5 Billion to $32.3 Billion to COP-APC.
That is hardly the profile of a company willing to leave Alaska.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Steve Lendman On Venezuela: Coup In The Works

- by Stephen Lendman

This essay has a dual purpose. I began it initially to explain how sophisticated and effective the dominant corporate media is in programming the public mind to believe whatever message they deliver regardless of whether it's true which it rarely is. I chose the title Reeducation 101 - Defogging and Reversing the Corporate Media's Programming of the Public Mind which I'm now using as the heading of my introductory section. Along with that discussion, I then planned a detailed case study example of how they're doing it by demonizing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias with a building and resonating drumbeat of invective in advance of the US government's fourth attempt to oust him. That discussion follows my introductory section.

REEDUCATION 101 - DEFOGGING AND REVERSING THE CORPORATE MEDIA'S PROGRAMMING OF THE PUBLIC MIND Does any reader of online progressive web sites still watch, listen to or read anything from the corporate media? If so, how do you stand it without having a good supply of stomach soothers and strong headache relief handy. I thought most everyone with enough smarts and common sense understood that this collective institutional juggernaut's mission is to sedate and seduce us - a sort of one, two punch. They mostly do it with diverting and distracting entertainment. Is that what it's called? You 'coulda fooled me with what's on all my 300 + cable channels I don't watch except when I go to bed and need something mind numbing to make me sleepy. The only reason I have them all is I live in a building that subscribes to the cable service, and everyone gets them, like it or not. Except for three classical music channels without talk or commercials I love, everything in their lineup is a vast wasteland, especially what passes for so-called "news and information" by the on-air names you know well and I needn't list. They're all an assault on our sensibilities in their all out effort to fog our minds with round the clock propaganda, lies, distortion and sanitizing. What they do isn't journalism, it's stenography. And what they don't report is usually more important than what they do. They know, as does our government, that if all or enough of us understood what's really happening, not the rot and mush they fill our heads with, there'd be a revolution in the streets. How could the public with full knowledge of what our government is up to ever go along since all of it only benefits the rich and powerful and does it at our expense. The mind manipulation and thought control comes at us from all directions in print and on the airwaves. In the US (and really the world) the newspaper known as the "Gray Lady" and referred to as "the newspaper of record" leads the way - the New York Times. I call them a US "Pravda." They're the closest thing we have in this country to an official ministry of information and propaganda. They've been going at it for over 150 years, and nobody does it better or with more influence. Remember Judith Miller and her daily WMD scare reports.....straight from the White House and Pentagon in final copy printable form. The Times calls this "all the news that's fit to print." You don't not want to hear what I call it, but this newspaper has clout around the world. Whatever lead stories they report get picked up and are spread almost everywhere. Especially here on TV where the state of our news, information and trumpeting punditry assault our nerve endings. Those who run it and report on it never met a piece of state propaganda they didn't love and want to tell us about ad nauseam - in between frequent 5 minute long commercial breaks trying to sell us everything we don't need and never knew we wanted until they told us. A noted US media critic once said about them "they have everything to sell and nothing to tell." And I heard noted British journalist Robert Fisk say on air to an interviewer commenting on the dismal state of our corporate media that "you really have a problem in this country." He meant the dominant media is so corrupted and complicit with US policies hostile to the public interest and welfare here and abroad that we have a desperate need for an effective antidote to their poison. Amen. There's even a flood of material on TV called "video news releases" or VNRs. Now get this. These are all government agency produced propaganda releases or corporate commercials disguised as real news - but you're not supposed to know it. What they all are is "fake news." There's a ton of this stuff all over the airwaves. The TV networks and local stations love 'em because they all come pre-packaged and free of charge, saving all that production time and cost. Then combine that with all the rest of TV news, information and punditry and it's enough to drive a teetotaler to drink or worse. You have to get away from this stuff, and I'll tell you how. It's not that hard - just turn off your TV and cancel your corporate owned newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Call a friend instead, visit a neighbor, talk to your wife or husband, spend time with your kids. You'll discover a whole new world. You may even get to love it. Also, spend more time online in the right places, like the web site you're now reading this on, and start to read a little - most important, the right things.

THE RIGHT PATH TO FOLLOW IS STRAIGHT AHEAD My purpose in writing this column is to provide an antidote to those of you still victimized by and under the spell of the scourge of corporate media mind control (too many I know). You're in their prison of your own mind. I've got the key, and if you want your freedom back, follow me into the light of day and fresh air with an unnamed case study example of one of the victims who wrote to the editor of another noted and superb web site I write commentaries for. The editor asked me to respond, and I did. What follows below is that response reworked to apply to all others with similar views to the letter writer. For those of you who want to come along and happen to be ex-smokers like I am (for the last 31 years), remember how much sweeter life became once you kicked the habit and could go a whole day without coughing and wheezing. And you no longer got short of breath every time you walked up a flight of stairs either. For me it was like being reborn. For the many of you unafflicted by the poison of the media giants, read on just for the fun of it. I'll respond to my case study victim and others like him and try to save them from themselves. I'll also cover what he addressed in his letter response - what the US may be up to in the ongoing very real soap opera pitting this country against Hugo Chavez. A CASE STUDY - I'LL CALL MY SUBJECT MR. X This response is for Mr. X and all the others who think like him. This man wrote a critical letter about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the web site editor I referred to above. In it he claimed he hadn't run across any reports about Chavez and Venezuela for a long time, but then went on to label him with a string of vicious and baseless epithets. In my response to him, I asked where was he getting his information other than from those reports he said he hadn't run across. Of course, there's been a steady drumbeat of anti-Chavez rhetoric in the corporate media that even includes language comparing him to Hitler. When you hear that and lots more, you know things have gotten very serious and likely to be followed by big time mischief against the person named. I've quoted lots of anti-Chavez invective in other articles I've written from various high officials like Donald Rumsfeld. Now there's a credible source. Obviously Mr. X is getting this propaganda message and believes it. How else could he have become so opinionated about the man. But like all other victims of mind control he's got it all disturbingly wrong. The truth based on the facts, not propaganda and lies, is just the opposite of what he believes and is spouting. I suggested he listen up, and that truth really would set him free and all others who think like him. Mr. X then went on to say Venezuela is insignificant to the US. I responded just like Iraq wasn't and Iran isn't? What does he think they do there? Just produce coffee and cocoa, have carnivals and hold parades? I asked him if he couldn't detect some common denominator among these three countries? Not that they're all non-English-speaking, are located on different continents from the US, are defenseless against a large-scale US military assault, and pose no military threat whatever to us or anyone else. All that's true I told him, and everyone with an unfogged mind knows it. I then asked if I really needed to spell out for him why they're important to us - I mean the most obvious reason (not the more complex ones) I literally heard a 10 year old explain right before our illegal aggression against Iraq -- IT'S THE CRUDE DUDE....O-I-L.....BLACK GOLD.....TEXAS "TEA".....THE VITAL OXYGEN THAT KEEPS THE COUNTRY AND WORLD RUNNING. Try driving to the market without it or taking the bus to work. Or growing all the food we eat either. These three countries are floating on an ocean of it, were and are governed by leaders who wouldn't and won't hand it all over to us so voila....... public enemies 1, 2 and 3. I then explained that based on the best available estimates Venezuela ranks number one in the world in total oil reserves even ahead of Saudi Arabia if their extra-heavy reserves are added to their "light sweet" or conventional ones. The latter are easily refined while the former must be substantially upgraded before refining is possible. If both types are counted, the best estimates of total oil reserves in the world are: Venezuela - about 350 billion barrels (by some estimates it's much higher than that), Saudi Arabia - 262 billion, Canada - 179 billion (mostly extra-heavy), Iran - 126 billion (all "light sweet") and Iraq - 115 billion (also all the good stuff). I asked Mr. X if the fog was beginning to lift and if he really thought the US would ever settle for less than total control of those combined reserves and those of every other key oil producing country as well. It's called "resource wars", the stakes are very high, and we're playing for keeps including waging war on the world to get it. It's not about getting all the oil we need (as long as it lasts), it's about controlling it all to decide who else gets it, how much and at what price. Along with rising world tension, a big reason the price is high today (nearing $70 a barrel as I write) is because we want it to be high to enrich our big oil mafia buddies - you know, the Exxon-Mobils of the world. Unless you understand "the way things really are" you'll be victimized like Mr. X and believe everything you hear or read in the corporate media.

MR. X SWALLOWED THE PARTY LINE PROVING AGAIN YOU CAN FOOL SOME OF THE PEOPLE ALL OF THE TIME Mr. X claimed Hugo Chavez is a "fearless, gutless little wimp of a dictator." And paranoid too. I informed him this FGWD paranoid was elected and reelected democratically by significant majorities and did it in the face of considerable US funding and support for the opposition and the fiercest, most vicious and hostile unrelenting dominant corporate media assault against him both times, beforehand, in between and still ongoing now and growing in intensity. It's so extreme in vitriol down there it makes our hostile corporate media almost look like pussy cats. It didn't work.

Venezuelans aren't as uninformed as the somnambulant and mind-fogged US public. They support and voted for a man who promised them a better future and actually delivered it. Why would they ever want to give that up? Ever know a US politician who did that? A couple here or there who try, but NEVER one with any power or who could or did deliver. There's a presidential election coming up in Venezuela at the end of this year. Now get this. A new poll was just conducted and here's how Chavez did against his potential or likely rivals. It was conducted by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD): the score was Chavez 82.7% and closest rival (at present) Julio Borges of the Primero Justicia (Justice First) party 8.9%. I used to do marketing research and some polling right out of graduate school 46 years ago as a newly minted MBA (before they got popular) and know something about it. Unless you do it properly, you can get some awfully unreliable results, so instead of the usual + or - 3 or 4% it could be two or three times that making the numbers worthless. But with these lopsided results, why bother with any poll. Anyone following what's happening in the country knows the people love Chavez and will never democratically elect someone else if he's running. Of course, the rich hate him because he's making them pay their fair share and is using the country's oil wealth to help his people instead of handing it over to the big US oil mafia, other giant US transnationals and the Venezuelan elite. That's why the US hates him too and feels that way even more so for a bigger reason. He represents the greatest of all threats we know - a good example that may spread like a heavenly virus liberating the oppressed people of other countries in the region and beyond whose leaders sold them out to the US and our giant corporations. So with the opposition knowing they haven't a chance in December, they've begun their latest anti-Chavez demonization campaign. They're trying to blame him for the kidnappings and brutal murders of three children of a wealthy Venezuelan/Canadian family and other social disturbances being hyped in the corporate controlled media to stir up the public, scare them and try to make them want a change in government to protect them better. It's just a new version of the same dirty business they've pulled before that failed. It won't work this time either. Chavez supporters (Chavistas) at least must suspect the US is orchestrating this mischief and has no compunction about carrying out kidnappings and brutal murders themselves or finding lots of local takers at the right price to do it for them. This isolated violence on the Venezuelan streets is just a minuscule version of what's going on now in Iraq under the US led and directed "Salvador death squad option" using Iraqi proxies to carry out car bombings, mosque attacks and lots more to foment a civil war, try to divide the country and supposedly make it easier to rule. It won't work there either where the situation is out of control, the war is lost and we know it, and in British journalist Robert Fisk's words (who I quoted earlier above): the US "must leave, can't leave and will leave." Sooner or later, likely the latter after many tens of thousands more innocent Iraqi deaths and lives and families destroyed and the devastating physical and psychological toll on many or most of our demoralized and defeated forces there. I'm writing more about that in another article I'm now working on. US authorities and the go-along corporate media in both countries also claim Chavez is responsible for the recent pelting of US ambassador William Brownfield's car with eggs and tomatoes. I wouldn't have wasted a rotten one of either on him even though the ambassador was provokingly and literally cruising for a bruising in a poor neighborhood he had no business being in. He may or may not have gotten it from US stooges sent in to do it. The poor there certainly had every reason to do it. This is a man who recognizes the opposition and not the legitimate Venezuelan government. Chavez has threatened to expel him from the country and has every right to do it if he keeps pulling these stunts. The ambassador has said he will (meaning deliberate provocation), so look for more fireworks ahead as things heat up more between Washington and Caracas. Of course, this unambassadorial man deserves whatever he gets and more, especially in light of the growing anti-Chavez vitriol coming from high level US officials as well as the current "military exercise" provocation ongoing close by offshore as well. Things are clearly coming to a head with a showdown possible and even likely before the year end election. Let me spell out what's happening now as the US with 100% certainty is heading toward a fourth showdown confrontational attempt to oust Hugo Chavez and possibly try to assassinate him this time. For those of you, like Mr. X, who believe what they read in the (corporate) papers or see on the evening news, let me do a little defogging and lay the truth on you. I know the playbook very well. I should, I've seen it played out enough times before and watch it every day now in Iraq in its most extreme form. It's not Hugo Chavez or his supporters creating social unrest on the streets. This is classic CIA, National Endowment of Democracy (NED), USAID and IRI (International Republican Institute) mischief likely carried out by their complicit anti-Chavez Venezuelan proxies. These are the ones with the most to gain if Chavez is no longer president and one of their own is. I'm talking about the rich and well off, the same ones who tried it before and failed. US attorney and author Eva Golinger closely monitors Bush administration activities to subvert the Chavez government. She uncovered top secret CIA documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests revealing US involvement through CIA, NED and USAID complicity to overthrow Hugo Chavez in the two day aborted 2002 coup. In an interview published by Ultimas Noticias on April 10 she revealed she now has documents proving the US bankrolls the Venezuelan opposition and has tried to work with Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Austria and Spain to form an anti-Chavez alliance. Her information comes from a report published April 5 by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, an agency of the US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. The report details US efforts to fund and build Venezuelan opposition political parties. Golinger noted different strategies being planned to oust Hugo Chavez including by possible US military invasion and mentioned the presence of US military bases in the region where 40,000 troops are now stationed. She also uncovered increased US financial support for "supposed NGOs" and communications with opposition politicians on subjects like assassination and torture. Finally, Golinger explained there's a link between the FBI and police officials in the Caracas municipalities of Chacao and Baruta, both run by mayors opposed to Hugo Chavez. In addition to Golinger's reports, there's credible evidence of Colombian paramilitaries elicitly entering Venezuela in provinces bordering the two countries to promote or commit violence and destabilize the Chavez government. All of this is serious and escalating mischief that's likely to get worse as the US moves ahead in its fourth attempt to forcibly remove Hugo Chavez from office by whatever means planned. At this point, we don't know if it will even get further off the ground, let alone succeed, because of Chavez's strong support among the people, his government allies and the Venezuelan military. We do know the US orchestrated anti-Chavez demonization campaign will likely fail as have other past attempts against him. Why? Because the Venezuelan people overwhelmingly support and will fight to keep him as the president who gave them extraordinary social programs that have improved their lives and given them a direct say through participatory democracy in how the government is run. Why would they ever risk giving that up or not do all in their power to prevent anyone from taking them away. So when the anti-Chavez propaganda campaign fails again, look for the mischief-makers to go back to the drawing board and try "plan two." It may be and there's now talk the main opposition parties will pull out of the election in December and let Chavez run unchallenged - that is, if the fireworks haven't culminated before then. If it happens, it will be a replay of the December, 2005 legislative elections when those same parties quit the race because they knew they'd be embarrassed by the heavy vote against them. If there's a repeat performance this year, they'll blame it on President Chavez as they did last time using whatever concocted reasons they can come up with. But just like last December, it will again be sore looser talk, a weak-kneed effort to demonize the victor and a line of baloney the Venezuelan people won't buy. I'll give them the real reason, but they'll never use it. Chavez will win because the great majority love him and the wonderful social programs and participatory democracy he's brought them. They won't give them or him up and will fight to keep them and him to avoid returning to the past policies of everything for the rich and powerful and nothing for the poor and desperate people. Hugo Chavez is their man, their savior, and they'll keep him as long as he wants the top job.

HOW'D YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY WITH A LEADER AND GOVERNMENT WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE The great majority of the Venezuelan people would and here's why. Any idea what it's like to be impoverished, not know where your next meal is coming from, live in a shack for a home or not even have that much, and have no access to even minimum medical care or education? These people do. Ask them, they'll explain it to you. Hugo Chavez has given them what they never had before. Think they won't fight to keep it and him? Wouldn't you in their place if the alternative was desperate poverty? That's what 80% of them had before, they're still poor and deprived, but everyone gets free: first rate health and dental care and education through as high a level as they can attain. They also get subsidized food, the legal right they never had before to own the land their homes were built on and lots more. The result is a significant improvement in the lives and welfare of the Venezuelan poor that comprise the great majority of the population and Chavez's base of support. The population is healthier, no one need go hungry, and Illiteracy in the country is almost nil. In the US it's around 20%, and millions more can barely read and write at a grammar school level. Also in the US, our land of opportunity and richest country in the world, we have 46 million people with no health insurance, many millions more with too little and by conservative estimates 12 million American families, over 10% of all households, struggle to feed themselves and often go hungry. They can't afford the high price of insurance that keeps becoming more unaffordable or even to buy enough food for their families. They should be getting federal aid, but how can they when our government spends all it has and can borrow on imperial wars of conquest without end to enrich big corporations. The cupboard is bare for anything else, so we're all on our own, like it or not. If the country had a motto or slogan it might be you can have anything you want as long as you can pay for it. If not, you're on your own. It's called "the free market." Ask one of the millions of poor, single black mothers with young children how "free" it is and what it's like trying to figure out how to get the next meal on the table and pay the rent. She could only dream of the way things are in the land of the Bolivarian Revolution and a leader who really cares about all his people - if she knew about it. I told Mr. X above and then reminded him again that the "US boggie man" he made light of has already tried three times and failed to oust President Chavez and is clearly now planning a fourth attempt that may include a military assault with depleted uranium (DU) weapons that would contaminate a vast area with toxic, deadly and irremediable radiation where they're used. They might even decide to up the ante and try out in real time their newest toy - so-called "bunker-buster mini nukes" that aren't mini but sure are nukes - anywhere from one third to two thirds as potent as a Hiroshima bomb. They've planning to test these new weapons in the Nevada desert shortly or are already doing it without telling us. When they do, I wouldn't want to be standing around in the next county or maybe even next state. And that's even without the devastating fallout that will contaminate a vast area beyond the test site. That's the kind of "boogie man" I'd be "paranoid" about. I'm already paranoid about it, and I live in the heart of the beast and am one of the privileged. I also live downwind in both directions - from those bomb test sites and all the horrendous policies coming out of the Capitol. HERE COME THE MARINES AND MAYBE A LITTLE "SHOCK AND AWE" Want more evidence about what may be in the works. It's come to light that the US has plans called "Operation Bilbao" that look like, walk like and make sounds like a plan to forcibly overthrow the Chavez government. Want more? I briefly mentioned an ongoing close by US military exercise above. The US Navy sent an aircraft carrier strike group of four ships, 60 aircraft and 6,500 marines to the Caribbean and South American waters for a "major" training exercise. It's holding it now about 50 kilometers from Venezuelan territory (about 30 miles). All four ships are capable of launching cruise missiles that may be armed with nuclear warheads. I told Mr. X this is a deliberately provocative and hostile act and to imagine the reaction here if China or Russia were doing this 30 miles off the California coast. I added I could include more examples of how the US is stepping up its efforts against Hugo Chavez but hoped what I detailed above was enough. I also explained that I hope I've provided enough documented proof that once again the US government is improperly and illegally acting to subvert a foreign leader and his government and, in this case, doing it to a twice democratically elected leader loved by the great majority of his people. IT ALL GOES BACK TO THE POWER OF THE MESSAGE Now let me bring this full circle and go back to my opening salvo against the dominant US corporate media. I told Mr. X that if he or anyone else relies on them for their news and information, they're guaranteed not to get any. That's not their job. Their job is to set you up, play you for a fool and make you a patsy (and a pretty dumb one at that) to believe even the most outrageous rot they put out. Like those "now you see 'em, now you don't" WMD or Saddam being linked to al Queda (he and bin Laden are mortal enemies and hate each other). I knew there weren't any WMD in the mid-90s. How? It was reported in the news most people didn't listen to or forgot that Saddam's trusted son-in-law who was in charge of all his weapons, including those WMD, defected to the West, was debriefed and spilled the beans that they were all destroyed around the time of the Gulf war. It was a tactical decision since they were useless anyway against the overwhelming US force Saddam was helpless to defend against. What about Saddam knocking over the "twin towers." I like that one even more, but a legion of chumps called the gullible public will believe anything the corporate media feeds 'em - even the need to check under your bed every night 'cause Saddam (or Hugo) may be there ready to pounce as soon as you doze off. People will believe anything.

IT REALLY HAPPENED ONCE - A REAL LIFE CASE STUDY Real life case in point. In 1938 a now famous science fiction radio program was broadcast in the US called War of the Worlds starring Orson Welles. There was no TV then so the effect it had was amazing even without the visuals the corporate media now know are so essential. It was about a Martian invasion of the earth that included a fake news bulletin that a "huge flaming object" landed on a farm near Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Orson Welles was a terrific actor and so weren't the others apparently. They were so good it created a mass panic among those listening who really believed the Martians had come and would do them in. People actually packed the roads, hid in cellars, got out their guns if they had any and even wrapped their heads in wet towels to protect themselves against "Martian poison gas." This now famous broadcast that also created a national scandal proved an important point. The very sophisticated folks who run the dominant media can even make a lot of seemingly intelligent people believe almost anything made up out of whole cloth. That media and its PR cousins have honed their craft and are now so expert at it that if the best of their past counterparts were still alive, like Nazi Joseph Goebbels, he and they would be aghast to see how amateurish they were compared to the "geniuses" now doing it -- to Mr. X and all the others like him out there with their minds thoroughly fogged and programmed. He and they are all victims of sinister mind control, and I've been trying to remove the spell, bring you all into the light and deliver you into the glorious world of knowing the truth and being free at last from the poisonous and hypnotic power of the dominant and complicit corporate media. Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at Also visit his blog address at
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Tuesday, April 18, 2006


It happened again.

I was in my car listening to Air America and I heard progressive radio's favorite Republican, Bob Barr, chatting with Ed Schultz about the plight of the poor Democratic Party. "...There's no leader to unite and rally the forces...the Democrats have no Reagan..."

I recently heard the same thing from neo-pundit Newt Gingrich on C-Span. And I have heard the same declaration of dispair echo among my friends..."but who do the Democrats have?"

Let me say this outside my car and not shouting at the radio: LEADERSHIP?-WE DON'T NEED NO STINKING LEADERSHIP!

I sense that my colleagues on the left (seemingly in keeping with the cult-mentality of the Bush era) are looking for a political messiah to lead them out of the political desert. Call me an agnostic but, ...quit looking. It isn't going to happen. The Democrats have something better than a cult of personality anyway. It's called "The People". Yeah, I know. It's a scary notion for a democracy.

The so-called "leadership" of the national Democratic Party is playing catch-up with the "People". The problem with the analysis of the Barrs, the Shultz's and the old school politicos is that it is out-of-date. They go back to the days of direct mail campaigns and campaign rallies. This is the age of the internet and flash mobs. The Great Commisserators of the left think the national party means something. Well, It does...sort of. The national party is like the person who hosts the 'party'--he provide the space, everyone else brings the 'party'. It is to the credit of Howard Dean that he recognizes this and is attempting to change the party playbook over the protests of the so-called party "leadership" in congress.

Moreover, comparing the Republican Plan of Organization with the Democrats' is like comparing lederhosen to sweat pants...sure they have similar functions but they serve entirely different purposes. The Republicans have a tidy network of churches and (now) 'Faith-Based' organizations to spread the word, raise money and manage their wards; Democrats are much looser, far more heterogenous and coalesce differently than the Republikanskaya.

Can I make my message any clearer?

Organizations like Move On and True Majority and the hundreds of loosely knitted cellular change agents on the left are NOT waiting for a "leader" to emerge and bring them together. They ARE together. We ARE together.

There is plenty of evidence that the Republican Party did not win the last two presidential elections because of more effective "grassroots organization" as Bob Barr contends, but they won because of vote suppression efforts in Florida and Ohio. It is now clear that Senator Sununu won his close race in New Hampshire NOT because the Republicans were better organized than the Democrats, but because Republicans are sleazier. In June 2004, former Republican consultant Allen Raymond pleaded guilty to jamming Democratic Party lines set up to get New Hampshire Democrats to the polls in 2002, an action that some say may have contributed to Shaheen's narrow loss. A judge sentenced him to five months in jail in February 2005. Chuck McGee, the former state GOP chair, also was sentenced to seven months for his role.
Raymond alleged that James Tobin, Northeast field director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, masterminded the plot. Tobin is currently on trial. (Wikipedia)

Here is the point to Ed Schultz and all the "fifth columnists" on the Left: Quit berating the Democrats. Quit pretending that "the problem" of progressive disempowerment is the "lack of leadership" in the party or the lack of grassroots organization. There is a movement out there, there is organization, and there is a massive and motivated vote ready to move the earth out from under the feet of the Republicans. No one is waiting for "Leadership" from the Democrats...we're just waiting for the Democrats to get their house "Ready to Rock".


WASHINGTON - President Bush on Tuesday nominated actress and Harvard Graduate Natalie Portman as the White House budget director, turning outside of Washington for a fresh perspective, moving outside his pool of longtime friends in an effort to "shake up" his policy leadership. This is seen as an effort to re-energize the administration and boost the president's record-low approval ratings.


Call me cynical, but the Reuter's story below made me laugh. It reminded me of another laughing moment, President Bush's comment, during his State of the Union speech, declaring that "America is Addicted to Oil".

What is the Bush Administration going to do? Impose price controls? Jawbone the industry? Deploy an army of regulators to monitor price spikes?

Here IS one thing the President and his political party CAN do: investigate the oil price marketing system. They can require the pegging of wholesale price of existing stocks to something other than the speculative cost of oil based on nervousness generated by the political blather out of the White House. Hmmmm...come to think of it...THAT is something the White House can do--quit grandstanding on the international stage about Iran and Venezuela for the benefit of Rush Limbaugh the GOP's xenophobic domestic base.

US to watch for gas price-gouging: Bush
By Chris Baltimore
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
President George W. Bush said on Tuesday he is "concerned" about high gasoline prices, and pledged that the U.S. government will keep a close watch out for profiteering.

"I'm concerned about higher gasoline prices," Bush said at a Rose Garden news conference to name new staff appointments.
"The government has the responsibility to make sure that we watch very carefully and investigate possible price-gouging, and we will do just that," Bush said in unprompted remarks about energy prices.

U.S. crude oil futures hit a record of $70.88 a barrel on Tuesday on fears of supply disruptions in Iran stemming from its nuclear standoff with the West, as well as lingering outages in Nigeria.

U.S. retail gasoline prices rose 10 cents last week to average $2.78 a gallon, up 29 cents over the last three weeks and 55 cents higher than a year ago, the government said on Monday.
Bush said high crude oil prices, rising summer driving demand and a switch to new motor gasoline standards is keeping gasoline prices high.

"It's tight supply worldwide and we've got increasing demand from countries like India and China, which means that any disruption of supply ... (is) going to cause the price of crude to go up," Bush said.

More drivers will take to the road this summer, which will also boost demand, he said.
"At this time of year people are beginning to drive more, getting out on the highways, taking a little time off," Bush said. "That increasing demand is also part of the reason the price of gasoline is going up."

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Here are a couple of questions for any candidate for president, Republican OR Democrat: Would you pardon George Bush or Richard Cheney if you became president? Would you support congressional legislation that gave amnesty to Bush-Cheney or limited the scope of the judiciary in reviewing lawsuits naming Bush-Cheney as defendants?

Suppose that a future congressional investigation proves that there was deliberate and material misrepresentation of intelligence, and that the demonstrable intent of that misrepresentation was to secure war powers for the president. With the Democrats in charge of one house of Congress, the fallout would be enormous!

For one thing, Bush and Company would be subject to the provenance of the congress. That means that, at minimum, Feingold's censure Resolution will look better and better to the president's lawyers--they might work with congressional Republicans to support censure in exchange for some legislative amnesty. If congress becomes hostile, Bush & Cheney's lawyers will run to the Judicial Branch. They will argue that congress has a conflict of interest since it is allegedly a party of interest in the theory that they were mislead by the executive. They will plead that the doctrine of separation of powers reserves the arbitration between the legislative and the executive to the judicial branch of government. The conservative judicial plutocrats on the high court, like Antonin Scalia will love the utility of such an argument as it would support primacy to their institution.

Meanwhile, individual citizens will sue Bush and Company in the provenance of both the criminal and the civil courts. The material misrepresentation is a fiduciary violation of presidential and Vice-Presidential trust, and the damages arising from that criminal enterprise, will be immense. Both punative and material damages from loss of life, limb and treasure will be in the billions of dollars. If the courts become hostile to their clients, Bush & Cheney's lawyers will run to the legislative branch. Republicans and a few Democratic toadys will sponsore legilation to limit liability and the scope of judicial review.

The Search For Retribution and Accountability Will Not Stop At U.S. Borders.

Suppose the Bush-Cheney Lawyers keep the Courts and Congress fighting amongst themselves and successfully fend off review for, perhaps, years; the threat to Bush-Cheney is not abated. Determined Plaintiffs--and be assured that they will be very determined--will seek to sue in International Court. The International Criminal Court (ICC), established in 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands, is the first ever permanent, treaty based, international criminal court established to promote the rule of law and ensure that the gravest international crimes do not go unpunished.

The Lawyers for Bush-Cheney and the talking heads at Fox, CNN and MSNBC will remind everyone that the International Courts don't have jurisdiction, since Bush-Cheney withdrew from their jurisdiction. So, with a patriotic flourish, the Bush-Cheney legal team will tell their sympathetic masses that they only answer to American Courts.

But the game will be far from over for the determined Plaintiffs. They will pursue surrogate suites-signing on as co-plaintiffs under a multinational class of plaintiffs entering under the jurisdiction of a signatory nation to to the Internation Criminal Court including, for example, Venezuela, which signed on in 2000, and several European countries moving leftward, including France and Italy. U.S. Conservatives will get lots of domestic applause by beating their chests and refusing to recognize a "foreign jurisdiction". This will, in turn, precipitate potential sanctions against the United States by the EU and S.A.

ALL OF THIS was to explain my concern that democratic presidential and congressional condidates need to be thinking about how they will vote in such a scenario because something close to what I wrote the above will occur.

Nevertheless...I want to be assured that the next president does not plan to interfere with the working of domestic courts by providing a blanket pardon or support a statuatory "amnesty" for Bush, White House Staff, cabinet and sub-cabinet officials current or past.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


John MacCartney and Anika Grubbs
Harvard Political Review Online
With thousands of protestors causing chaos and destruction, the leaders of the western hemisphere met in Mar de Plata, Argentina, for the Summit of the Americas last November, attempting to advance the stalemated negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Both political and popular resistance in Latin America has impeded the plan of the United States and its supporters to come to a consensus and establish a free trade zone stretching from Canada to Chile . The riots and demonstrations against the FTAA sent a clear message that, in Latin America , the process would be harder than many had imagined.

Benjamin Dangl
Within the last six years in Latin America numerous social movements have gained momentum in the fight for human rights, better living and working conditions and an end to corporate exploitation and military violence. Recently, left of center leaders have been elected in Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela.

Noam Chomsky interviewed by Bernie Dwyer
Bernie Dwyer: I am reminded of a great Irish song called "The West's Awake" written by Thomas Davis in remembrance of the Fenian Uprising of 1798. It is about the west of Ireland asleep under British rule for hundreds of years and how it awoke from its slumbers and rose up against the oppressor. Could we begin to hope now that the South is awake?
Noam Chomsky: What's happening is something completely new in the history of the hemisphere. Since the Spanish conquest the countries of Latin America have been pretty much separated from one another and oriented toward the imperial power. There are also very sharp splits between the tiny wealthy elite and the huge suffering population. The elites sent their capital; took their trips; had their second homes; sent their children to study in whatever European country their country was closely connected with. [commas better than semi-colons in the preceding sentence.] I mean, even their transportation systems were oriented toward the outside for export of resources and so on.

Wachovia Economic Commentary
It might be tempting to write off the Bolivian election as an outlier. After all, Bolivia isSouth America’s poorest economy, an environment in which populist rhetoric can haveappeal. However, the election of a leftist politician in Bolivia is only the latest example ofthe region’s drift to the left side of the political spectrum. Venezuelan President Chavez,a perennial thorn in the side of the Bush administration, also has rejected orthodoxeconomic policies. Moreover, some of the region’s larger economies appear to be drifting leftward politically,,2863,00.pdf

Nick Miroff, San Francisco Chronicle
Has Latin America ever had such a unifying figure?
At political rallies, his visage is held aloft as a beacon to regional independence and self-determination.
He's helped forge new trade partnerships to spur economic growth and alleviate poverty. And his leadership has fanned a gale-force electoral trend that's sweeping the hemisphere to topple one pro-Washington government after the next.
Who is this grand inductor of Latin American leftism? Venezuelan fireball Hugo Chavez? Blue-collar Brazilian Lula Ignacio da Silva? Bolivia's coca-farmer president Evo Morales?
¡Epa! It's George W. Bush, the accidental revolutionary.

URUGUAY COMPLETES THE LEFTWARD REALIGNMENT OF THE SOUTHERN CONE ... the left has been taking place in South America during the past several years. ...

Al-Ahram Weekly On-Line
Anouar Abdel-Malek
Having grounded their democracies in national unity, Latin American nations are redressing -- peacefully -- global imbalances. New horizons are opening and it is time we take our cue from South America and join it in formulating frameworks for the revival of the civilisations of the south.

ISN Security Watch
The election of Tabare Vazquez as Uruguay’s president completes the hold of the democratic left over the continent’s “southern cone” and represents the loss of Washington’s last willing partner in the projected Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA).

Saturday, April 08, 2006


I'm grateful to a commentor named "El" Verdad for the following post today. No gusta las policias economicas de "La" Arbusto...

Claro, hombre...claro...

...manufacturing jobs and high tech are down--lost jobs...service sector & contruction is up. 211,000 "new" crappy jobs. How do we know that the jobs created are "crappy"?

For the first time the employment gain of migrant workers is greater than the domestic workforce

BUSH COMMENT TODAY (April 7): "Under our leadership, the economy continues to improve..."

REALITY: Under the Bush economy, workers’ paychecks have shrunk over the last five years. Their healthcare and gasoline costs have gone up. And they are paying more for their kids’ college tuition. But companies are profitable and CEOs are still making millions, so President Bush thinks that everything is just fine.

BUSH COMMENT TODAY: "The economy added 211,000 jobs last month..."

REALITY: ...But what KIND of jobs? Average hourly earnings for production and non-supervisory workers – about 80 per cent of the labour force – rose by just 0.2 per cent in March. Compared with a year earlier they were up 3.4 per cent. That is a rise from about 2.6 per cent six months ago but below the 3.5 per cent registered in the year to February. Wages have struggled to keep pace with the rising cost of ­living. As families are still waiting for wages to rise faster than inflation, two threats to the labor market appear on the horizon. Higher interest rates and the end of the construction boom may slow consumption, economic, and job growth.

BUSH COMMENT TODAY: “Real after-tax income has grown by more than 8 percent per person since I took office. That means, on average, Americans have an income that is $2,100 higher this year than it was in 2001, after adjusting for inflation.”

REALITY: As The New York Times’ Paul Krugman has pointed out: “Say 10 middle-class guys are sitting in a bar. Then the richest guy leaves, and Bill Gates walks in. Because the richest guy in the bar is now much richer than before, the average income in the bar soars. But the income of the nine men who aren't Bill Gates hasn't increased, and no amount of repeating ‘But average income is up!’ will convince them that they’re better off.” Consider this much more reliable indicator: median family income – the point at which half of all American households earn less income, and half earn more – is stuck at $44,389, according to the most recent Census Bureau data. Median family income is $1,740 less, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was worth in 1999.

BUSH COMMENT TODAY: “On the day that Republicans in the House and Senate were finalizing the 2003 tax cuts, one Democratic leader said these cuts would ‘do nothing to create jobs.’ Facts have proven the critics wrong 5.1 million times over.”

REALITY: From March 1996 to March 2001, the economy created an average of 227,000 new jobs per month. From March 2001 to March 2006, the economy created an average of just 41,000 new jobs per month, according to economist Christian Weller of the Center for American Progress. The 211,000 new jobs in this month’s job’s report are welcome news. But the President’s track record on job creation is dismal; the job creation numbers of the last several years have more to do with simple population growth than his tax policy. Yet now the President is pushing more billion-dollar tax breaks for the wealthy. The President’s reckless budget policies and failed economic policies are hurting America.

El Verdad
08 April, 2006

Friday, April 07, 2006


Plummeting poll numbers, the president fingered by Libby, congress in disarray...the "situation team" springs into action.

From the Yahoo News Chats

by: meantoannoyuh2k
04/07/06 03:11 amMsg: 920 of 962
12 recommendations

CHENEY: "...Gentlemen, what we have here is a SITUATION..."
CHENEY: (LOOKING AROUND THE ROOM) "...Yes...the 5th Plane..."
GENERAL: "INTELLIGENT DRONE, 747 w/ commercial ID...we're ready...What's The Target, Sir?"
CHENEY: (Looking Around The Room) THE EAGLE'S NEST.
MAN WITH BACK TO CAMERA (To Cheney And The General): "We'll Send Chopper Alpha Foxtrot One to evacuate Cowboy...
CHENEY & GENERAL LOOK AT MAN: "...Negative On Evac of Cowboy..."
MAN WITH BACK TO CAMERA (To Cheney And The General)"...Sir...I...Uh...Don't Understand..."
CHENEY: “Repeat…Drone at Zero Three Hundred...We have arranged for everyone else to be out of the Nest....Except Cowboy...Do You Read...?"

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Recently, Ted Stevens stood in the well of the Alaskan Legislature and announced that federal appropriations were going to be more difficult because of the federal deficit, competing interests, and the feeling among other states that Alaska can fund it's own needs...

Stevens failed to acknowledge that his own heavy-handedness and arrogance has also generated massive ill-will toward Alaska in congress. The article below is typical of the kind of publicity that Stevens' penumbra attracts. I think the Arctic Winter Games is a wonderful use of taxpayer funds because it strengthens international circumpolar relations among indigenous cultures. It is certainly a better use of taxpayer funds than giving bonuses to Halliburton in the face of mismanagement.

Nevertheless, the ill-will toward Alaska's congressional delegation paints all funded projects, even ones as worthy as the Alaska Winter Games, as excessive.


WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Lobbying scandals and a staggering federal budget deficit haven't dampened Congress' appetite for questionable pet projects, as lawmakers will spend a record $29 billion on "pork" this year, a watchdog group said on Wednesday.
At a press conference featuring real pigs, Citizens Against Government Waste highlighted projects it said were especially egregious: $1 million for water-free urinals, $500,000 for a North Carolina teapot museum and $100,000 for a boxing club in Nevada.
Others included $550,000 for the Museum of Glass in Washington state, $250,000 for the National Cattle Congress in Iowa and $500,000 for the Arctic Winter Games in Alaska.
The group's annual report, known as the "Pig Book," covers the fiscal year ending September 30, during which the U.S. government could rack up a deficit of around $400 billion.
Lawmakers seeking to boost their re-election prospects include spending measures for their home districts in the massive spending bills that keep the government running.
Such "earmarks" are often added at the last stages of the legislative process to bypass the normal scrutiny applied to federal spending.
"We're not saying all these projects are bad. We are saying they haven't gone through a legitimate process," said Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), a longtime critic of Congress' free-spending ways.

The watchdog group said the total number of pork-barrel earmarks in the 2006 budget declined 29 percent to 9,963, but their total cost increased 6 percent to $29 billion.
However, the House Appropriations Committee says spending on these special projects declined to about $17 billion this fiscal year, down $2.8 billion from the previous year.
The group's figures could be higher because it includes as "pork barrel" spending any projects passed by Congress that have not been requested by the president.
The money is not distributed evenly across the country. While Alaska took home $490 per capita in pork spending, lawmakers from Georgia only wrangled $12 per citizen, according to the group's report. Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens (news, bio, voting record) was for the fifth year in a row responsible for the most amount of pork -- a total of $325 million last year, the group said.

A Stevens spokeswoman declined comment. Stevens was at the center of a nasty Senate fight last year when some senators publicly ridiculed his "bridge to nowhere" that connected the port town of Ketchikan to a neighboring island populated by 50 people. The $223 million for the quarter-mile (0.5-km) bridge was removed from a spending bill.

Citizens Against Government Waste touts itself as "America's number one taxpayer watchdog." But it accepts corporate contributions, and an offshoot of the group has lobbied on behalf of special interests including the tobacco industry.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


T. Boone Pickens: Performance Artist and Tax Dodger.

Most of you may be surprised to learn that T. Boone Pickens is a Performance Artist. You probably thought he was only a billionaire. He is much more than that. Thaddeus B. Pickens is a performance artist who has a walk-on part in a modern Morality Play called "The Age of Bush".
But first a word about Charity for reasons that will soon be clear.

WHAT IS CHARITY? Judeo-Christian society consider Charity a cardinal virtue. It was a principal that arose from the better instincts of all tribal ancestors. When city-states created merchant social classes, Charity became institutionalized. In the Middle Ages the Tribune became the Vassal and the Church was paid by the State to care for the poor through feudal taxation. By the Renaissance, Charity became a class notion of nobelis oblige by which the money class does good deeds such as fund things like orphages and pest houses for the poor. The Age of Reason was damaging to the Church as the rise of the Universities secularized and made charity a social rather than ecclesiatical responsibility. Then came the emergence of the bourgeoisie, the rise of the Industrial Age, literacy, democratic revolution and the concept of the social economy in which care for the poor became a function of the social Weal.

When income tax was instituted in 1913 in the United States, it was established as a form of redistribution when, after the Age of Reform, it became clear to policy-makers that the social need, particularly among poor children of the exploited immigrant populations was outpacing private charity. The establishment of the income tax set up a tension between public welfare and private, charitable giving. In the crucible of this tension, the tax-deductible charitable donation was created as a substitution of in-kind service for wealth transfer.

Back to T. Boone Pickens. Well...I will let a blog from Oklahoma University pick it up from here. The puts it well:

STILLWATER Touted as the largest single gift to college athletics in the U.S., only weeks ago, aging Texas oilman Boone Pickens, appeared to hand over a check for $165 million to a breathless gathering of Oklahoma State University officials. But some wonder today if any money really did change hands.
The magnitude of such a donation stunned those in attendance and around the country as news spread of the huge gift. That so much money was earmarked for an athletic village of Olympian proportion made it even more remarkable. But as the shock and giddy hometown excitement has worn off; some are starting to ask questions. And those most in the know are saying little.
In making the historic gesture, Pickens, 77, laughed and told those in attendance that he had not had much sleep – worrying how he was going to get his hands on that much cash.
When this newspaper asked for copies of the check or wire transfer to prove Pickens had indeed found the money to complete the gift, the answers were interesting.
Under OSU administrative procedures and Oklahoma state statute, any gift of money to the university must be deposited the same day by an officer or employee of Oklahoma State University and shall be deposited with the Oklahoma State University Office of the Bursar into a properly designated account on the same banking day as received. But that apparently didn’t happen in this case.
“It’s a secret,” OSU Foundation marketing director Becky Endicott said in describing the Pickens’ gift and where the money had been initially deposited.
Endicott did go on say that the money went right back to Dallas, to BP Capital Investment – a Pickens’ controlled, high-flying firm that specializes in betting on the price of oil, natural gas and other commodities. According to the company’s website, the minimum investment to play the market with Boone Pickens is $1 million dollars.

IN ANOTHER ACCOUNT of the "Charitable" Giving of T. Boone Pickens, The New York Times writes:
At the end of the year, he gave $165 million to a tiny charity set up to benefit the golf program at Oklahoma State University, reaping Mr. Pickens a tax deduction. Records show that the money spent less than an hour on Dec. 30 in the account of the university's charity, O.S.U. Cowboy Golf Inc., before it was invested in a hedge fund controlled by Mr. Pickens, BP Capital Management.
"It's all his money, and he's on the investment committee" of Cowboy Golf, said Mike Holder, the university's athletic director and former golf coach, who is on the board. "If a person's making a gift of that size, he can stipulate what he wants it invested in."
Asked whether investing in BP Capital had been a condition of Mr. Pickens's gift, Mr. Holder said no. "That was my decision," he said.
So, at a time when 40% of the poor in America are children and the Elderly cannot afford prescription medicines, and access to education is being restricted by declining public investment in our schools, T. Boone Pickens just can't resist a money-making opportunity wrapped in a giant middle-finger called Cowboy Golf. He is truly a paragon of the Age of Bush.
Clothe the naked? Heal the sick? Feed the hungry? Awwww, Hell Naw...give "Cowboy Golf" $165 Million for 30 minutes and keep $30 Million in taxes that would otherwise go to Uncle Sam.
Like Dire Straits, T Boone Pickens gets "Money for Nothin' and the Chicks for Free..." Well, at least the "Money for Nothin'" part.

Yep, Ol' T. Boone is a Performance Artist.

And this critic give the creep two thumbs down...