The Friends of California Libre...

16 April 2005

Oil and Holy Water Don't Mix

Greetings, friends,
The last week has seen the real end of winter, as we go into a familiar spring pattern of warm afternoons and morning haze. It's anyone's guess what kind of summer we have to look forward to...just as the winter rain nearly broke our all time record, we might have a very mild summer, or a raging hot one, with huge amounts of tinder-dry brush and thirsty animals rushing down from the hills. Already the green hills are drying out, and plenty of baby snakes will soon be hatching to consume the many rats. It's just another ecological experiment here in greenhouse-gas spewing LA.

I mentioned to some of you, and encourage the rest, to take a look at a short movie of Barrington Hall digitized by Mahlen Morris, shot by his brother Clark in 1988. If you don't know what I'm talking about, well, those who know...but seriously, this is where I lived from the tender age of 18 to 21 (1984 to 1987) in Berkeley, a rather deranged experiment where a large student co-op (the oldest in the US) had essentially 100% of the commons (suite doors, hallways, stairwells and three large open spaces) covered by murals and "other" kinds of art. It may be shocking to those of us who lived there, but this film is probably the largest visual record of this art project, which continued from 1967 until the early 1990s. Note: you may need broadband to easily download this movie.

It amuses me to think that at least four of you are thinking, "eccch, my parents lived THERE?" or "eccch, my spouse lived THERE?" Deal with it. There is a richness hidden in three places in the world, in the past, the future, and right in front of you this very moment. Just like there are three kinds of passion in the world, in the head, in the heart, and...well...

In the stomach, of course (you people have filthy minds):
Italian delicacies spice up space mission menu

If any of you get this message in time (and live in LA, natch), have a cup of coffee and try to schmooze your way into this soiree:
April 17, 2005
The Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life presents its Seventh Distinguished Lecture with an appearance by California Senator Barbara Boxer. Boxer has been in the Senate since 1993, and has been a strong voice for progressive politics in the federal government.
Davidson Conference Center
Time: 1 - 2 p.m.
Price: Free with reservation; parking $6
More info: or

Especially after she tried (in her frosty Marin County matron way) to tear John Bolton a new one, I'd be curious to see what Senator Number Two has to say.

Starting Monday, I won't know except for the radio (and the ever-present Internet), because I'm going to join this experiment in regional static clearing:
TV -Turnoff Network
This site promotes the annual April TV turn-off, explains television-proofing your house, offers suggestions for other activities, and provides a message board for ideas and encouragement in trading TV for reading. Also find statistics, research on the effects of too much television, essays, and quotes (one child said, "I really didn't like TV-Turnoff Week except I did notice that my grades went up and I was in a good mood all week").

PS In case you didn't know, this is "TV Turnoff Week" coming up. We've also got "Earth Day" (22 April), so who says there aren't any holidays in April? Just no Fed holidays, or pseudo-religious ones.

And so, let me open the SCREED on a down note, saying that, with the TVs turned off, there will be no slowing down the unilateral American imperialists, who suddenly seem to be sinking their slimy tendrils into every institution of our lives:
The neocon revolution
US unilateralism was a means of breaking the old order. Now it is building new alliances
Martin Jacques
The Guardian
With any new political phenomenon, there is always a tendency to underestimate its novelty and treat it as some kind of short-term aberration. I vividly recall how long it took commentators and analysts, on the right and left, to recognise that Thatcherism was something quite new and here to stay. Similar doubts greeted the Bush administration and the neocon revolution: its novelty would be short-lived, it would not last and it was just not viable. It is always hard to imagine a new kind of world, easier to think of the future as an extension of the past, and difficult to comprehend a paradigm shift and grasp a new kind of logic.,3604,1448651,00.html

Like many primitive new forms of life, these bacteria masquerading as human beings find their sustenance in the slow death of higher life forms:
Scott Ritter: Neocons as Parasites
By Larisa Alexandrovna
Raw Story

Interestingly, though, you can see some of these parasites latching onto each other instead of their intended hosts. For example, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Negroponte, old-line mass murderers from the Nixon and Reagan era, are stomping each other's tootsies:
Rumsfeld Sends Cambone to Oversee Negroponte

Rummy's got his work cut out for him; Negroponte is a first-class snake and natural-born killer, who's been dealing knives into backs for a long time now:
Negroponte Used CIA Back Channels to Defy Congress
By Michael Dobbs
The Washington Post
Papers illustrate Negroponte's Contra role - show intelligence nominee was active in US effort.

And they've got an open field with George W. Bush. Reagan, contrary to what some people thought, was not stupid but just a not-very-good actor tackling the role of President, and he was running the US Government his way. Bush, on the other hand, is a born-again lightweight who would nuke Texas on the advice of his real masters. And compared to Reagan, he's a zero on the charisma scale; even the important political journal Esquire has it in for him:
Bush gets low marks for sex appeal

Nope, the time to make fun of these dangerous men is at an end. The time for joking is at an end.
Wake Up!
By Chalmers Johnson
In These Times
Washington's alarming foreign policy.

A strategy of economic subtlety has destroyed the financial power of the left in the US:
American Thermidor
By Stirling Newberry
t r u t h o u t Perspective
How the cycle of deficits has kept the right in power in America.
American Thermidor Part II
By Stirling Newberry
t r u t h o u t Perspective

But all of you in the world, from Antarctica to Andorra, are going to pay the piper:
US Takes the Lead in Trashing Planet
By Derrick Z. Jackson
The Boston Globe
The State of the World? It Is on the Brink of Disaster
The Independent UK
An authoritative study of the biological relationships vital to maintaining life has found disturbing evidence of man-made degradation. Steve Connor reports.

Why the neo-cons would support such environment destruction, which will affect them equally, defies logic. Perhaps they see the Earth as a zero-sum game (in fact, I'm sure they do) where whatever short-time good they can squeeze out of the ground will make up for the pain somewhere else.

The fundamentalist Christians, however, have a whole other world view. For them, like in the Middle Ages in Europe, this mortal coil is just something to be shed on the ascent into heaven, and if they can bring on the End Times even faster than Jesus planned, so much the better for they who want to live to see the Rapture and the end of all life, these ice-hearted scum:
GodAssault: Morality as the Ultimate Game
By Lisa Lambert
The Vultures of Life
By Brian Cook
It's apparently not enough for George W. Bush to have taken the words "freedom", "liberty", and "democracy", and perverted their meanings beyond any recognizable definition. His latest lexical transformation targets nothing less than "life" itself. The president has been on the stump touting the "culture of life" and we can cheerily look forward to being saturated by the term for the indefinite future.
In Theocracy They Trust
By Michelle Goldberg
Christian right leaders denounced separation of church and state and prayed for a judge's deliverance to Satan. And their Capitol Hill allies were right there with them.

The judges are standing in their way, so to hell, literally, with the judges:
Bringing the Case against Judges
By Jane Lampman
The Christian Science Monitor
Are 'activist judges' ruining America? That's the fear of a newly formed coalition of religious conservatives who are urging Congress to push back.

It makes one afraid to get up in the morning, but we can fight back, with whatever we have at hand:
Grandma Stops Intruder With Garden Gnome

But as longtime readers of the SCREED can attest, I've never been much interested in the gyrations of the Federal Government, a bloated bureaucratic monster that can only swing so much in any direction, whatever the Christians may demand of it. We are, I hope, reaching the extent of one swing after six years of this madness, just as Bill Clinton started to run out of gas in 1998 (when he engaged Serbia while getting a blow-job under his desk).

The continuing worry for us should be the melting of glaciers and polar ice sheets, our dependence on fossil fuels, the disappearance of biomes and the change in weather patterns, which could disrupt our food and water supplies. Like the nuclear war we all dreaded back in the 1980s, this environmental "war" could just as surely end this civilization.

One of my very first screeds (now long lost, from my AOL account in the early 1990s) concerned Ken Saro-Wiwa, a writer and activist in Nigeria, who supported the activities of tribes in the Niger Delta against oil companies (particularly Royal Dutch Shell) drilling in that region. Along with many others, Mr. Saro-Wiwa was executed by the Nigerian dictator, Mr. Abacha (another client of the recently deceased Johnnie Cochran) for his efforts. The strife appears to continue:
Energy Special: Oil in Troubled Waters
By Michael Peel
Financial Times
In the mangrove swamps of Nigeria's oil-producing Rivers State, the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force was in restless repose. A fighter worked out with dumbbells while others lounged on mattresses in front of a large outbuilding. One young man was reading, aloud in English, from a copy of Macbeth.

Recently I read two books by Mr. Saro-Wiwa, and was surprised to find what a popular writer he was. I was expecting politics, but indeed, I discovered that Mr. Saro-Wiwa's most famous book was not a polemic, but a collection of stories he later turned into "Basi and Company", one of the most popular television shows in Nigeria during the early 1980s. The stories are about Basi and his friends, a group of grifters constantly on the make for a million, in the capital of Lagos, then booming as a result of oil discoveries in the Niger Delta. While the schemes seem common to those of us raised on bad 1960s sit-coms in America, they show a humourous side to Nigeria that is only hinted at by Chinua Achebe, the most famous Nigerian author, or Amos Tutuola (who wrote the surreal My Life in the Bush of Ghosts). I realized that, in perspective, the government of Nigeria executing Ken Saro-Wiwa was akin to the American government executing Norman Lear, who first injected comedy with politics in "All in the Family", or George Schlatter, who produced "Laugh-In". It was an amazingly brazen act.

That's what oil money will drive you to: brazen acts of unspeakable cruelty. It's driven us to commit atrocities unheard of since Vietnam or the occupation of the Philippines.
General Approved Extreme Interrogation Methods
By James Sturcke
The Guardian UK
The highest-ranking US general in Iraq authorised the use of interrogation techniques that included sleep manipulation, stress positions and the use of dogs to "exploit Arab fears" of them, it emerged today.

It's a cultural brutality that will sink deeper and deeper into American culture as oil becomes scarcer and scarcer. Like any civilization suffering from a collapse in resources (and the list is very, very long, from Anasazi to Zimbabwe), we will tolerate less and less dissent as poverty grows, wealth disappears into the hands of the few, and the middle class erodes from the top down.
Teachers and Classmates Express Outrage at Arrest of Girl, 16, as a Terrorist Threat
By Nina Bernstein

And ironically, by seizing the oil supplies in Iraq, we may have precipitated a holy war across the Middle East, ending the reliable supply of oil from everyone else. This is no joke, my friends, and I encourage you to new acts of bravery and intelligence as you chart the next thirty or forty years:
The Energy Crunch to Come
By Michael T. Klare
Soaring oil profits, declining discoveries and danger signs.
Mapping the Oil Motive
By Michael T. Klare
Iraq Invasion May Be Remembered as Start of the Age of Oil Scarcity
By Robert Collier
San Francisco Chronicle

This particular article in Rolling Stone essentially charts the course of these real "end times" as far as oil is concerned; it will bother you but I have never denied you a shot at the "truth", eh? (thanks, Mark):

The oil companies, of course, know exactly what's going on. They're starting to consolidate the limited holdings they have left:
ChevronTexaco's CEO Banking on Peak Oil Situation
By David Lazarus
The San Francisco Chronicle

They're looking to squeeze every last drop of this precious black ooze out of the Earth, especially now that it's worth their while (and when the price hits $80 a barrel, it will really be worth it. Expect to see the uneasy truce between California, Florida and the Feds expire as oil rigs are planned up and down both our coasts:
US Oil Drillers' Strategy: Today ANWR, Tomorrow the Coastlines?
By Brad Foss
The Associated Press

The same fight is going on up in Canada:
Battle for Canada's Underground Resources
By Robert Collier
The San Francisco Chronicle
Some tribes oppose pipeline to tap land rich in oil reserves.

Just this morning, our President was spouting off about the need to finance more coal and nuclear (ahem, "nucular") power, and that's not the strangest source of energy these fools, who seem allergic to windmills and solar panels, have come up with:
US in Race to Unlock New Energy Source
By David Adam
The Guardian
Green groups warn against moving methane hydrates from beneath seabed.

Again, my friends up in Canada are trying to walk a more circumspect path:
Wintry Canada to Use Solar Power to Heat Homes

Makes you think, eh? In Los Angeles we've hardly tapped our solar energy potential, but Canadians are shoveling snow off their panels. OH WELL.

Another resource being hesitantly used in California and many other places is the wind. Right now there are unfortunate battles (which delight oil company flacks and neo-cons) between pro-wind environmentalists and pro-bird environmentalists. I would think there must be simple ways of alerting birds to the presence of the windmills, as this (again Canadian!) author speculates:
The Beauty of Wind Farms
By David Suzuki

And here's a novel solution....windmills to tap the inexhaustable energy of the jet streams, high above birds (or mountains, for that matter), although I have doubts about the technology necessary to suspend a windmill at 10000 metres, but here it is (thanks, Miles):
No, not the band...

Of course, no Fed money will be spent exploring these options. They'll be expending our research dollars looking for new ways to secure to old energy supply of oil:
If You Build It, They Will Kill
By Nick Turse
US military weaponry of the near future.

After all, the history of American invention and innovation (and most other countries too, let's be fair) is military in nature. In a militaristic society, it would be expected. Trouble is, our military is on the ropes right now, if you believe the manpower reports:
Draft May Be Needed in a Year, Military Analysts Warn
By Bob Dart
Cox News Service
Washington - If American forces aren't pulling out of Iraq in a year, a draft will be needed to meet manpower requirements, military analysts warned Wednesday.

More and more American treasure will be spent securing future supplies of energy, and securing places like Afghanistan where we can spy on and intimidate other oil-rich countries:
'One Huge US Jail'
By Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark
The Guardian UK
Afghanistan is the hub of a global network of detention centres, the frontline in America's 'war on terror', where arrest can be random and allegations of torture commonplace. Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark investigate on the ground and talk to former prisoners.

That would be the country sandwiched between our force in Afghanistan and our force in Iran:
Oil, Geopolitics and the Coming War with Iran
By Michael T. Klare

I would be surprised if, with a draft imminent, the Army nearly out of fresh troops and the public in no mood for another war, the Feds could seriously plan one with a country much better prepared than Iraq. But then again, I was surprised when they nominate an asshole like Paul Wolfowitz to run the World Bank, or an asshole like John Bolton to represent us in the United Nations. Still, even the clowns in the top slots of the corporation (Rumsfeld, Cheney, etc.) had very different opinions of Iran and their nuclear ambitions back in the 1970s, when our friend the Shah was in power:
Past Arguments Don't Square with Current Iran Policy
By Dafna Linzer
The Washington Post

Not that they have much choice; if a shitty little bankrupt famine-wracked fiefdom like North Korea can build an atomic bomb (and a long-range missile), how would the Feds stop the Persians, who have hundreds of job-hungry Russians building a top-notch (well, hopefully not Chernobyl class) nuclear plant in their country?
Nuclear Iran I: The principle is set, now what's the price?
International Herald Tribune
Washington has admitted that its no carrots, all sticks policy with Iran has failed, but is there a leader who they can negotiate with in Tehran?

And with that, my friends, I'll let you chew over this Earth Day...with the TV turned off, I hope!
Vive le screed!

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