Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Price Of Apathy Is Higher Than You Think

I've read some interesting articles recently that, together, tell the story of how we are being treated like sheep for the slaughter.

The first was a commentary called “Why Oil Prices Are So High

The speculation now doing so much damage at America’s gas pumps comes mostly out of hedge funds, those shadowy mutual funds on steroids open only to the deepest of deep-pocket investors. This special status largely frees hedge funds from any federal financial oversight and regulation...

Such trading, as billionaire investor George Soros told a June 3 U.S. Senate hearing, only serves to help inflate commodity price bubbles.”

So, oil prices are overinflated. That probably doesn't surprise anyone. But why now? It is very likely that we have reached effective peak oil. Oil production follows a bell curve. And recently worldwide oil consumption has been growing exponentially. Consumption was bound to outstrip production eventually. We all knew that. We all knew that 30 years ago.

Peak oil would be a pretty good impetus to spark a huge round of speculation and risky futures investments. It might even spark an oil grab. Why else would we still be in Iraq? To inspire some more terrorists?

The New York Times has reported:

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields

If you think $4 a gallon gas is expensive, you haven't considered the hidden costs. Add another trillion dollars in taxes we have to pay to subdue Iraq – to get these no bid contracts – to help those giant oil corporations make more record profits.

And John McCain's idea of fixing things; cut gas taxes in the summer. Gee, won't that stimulate consumption and even further enrich the gas companies? Won't that ultimately result in less oil in the future – and even higher gas prices in the long run?

Oh yeah, John McCain has another “fix;” open up offshore drilling off the coast of the US – though he has admitted the benefits of this would be mostly “psychological.” Meaning the price of gas won't go down. Of course, the benefits for the oil companies won't be psychological. They will be able to sell US oil at overinflated prices.

AP has reported:

Yet energy experts and economists -- and even some of the candidates' own advisers -- say none of their signature proposals will have any impact on $4 gasoline or $130 a barrel oil in the near term, or even the intermediate term.”

So, who's side are these politicians on?

We all know the answer to that. They're on the side of those who will give them the most campaign contributions.

Until we fix the electoral process, everyone in this country who isn't filthy rich and immorally powerful is headed towards poverty.

And don't expect any politician to fix the electoral process for us. They've gotten elected by playing the game. They're not going to quit now – not without overwhelming pressure from us.

Monday, June 23, 2008

No Freedom to Curse? SH!T

This might not seem like a newsworthy story – but this is much more than a story about a local forum. It is also a story about media manipulation, hacking mass media, freedom of speech, privacy (and its abuses), and corporate control of our information – in one of the most remote towns in the United States.

Question: Why would the editor of the Ely Times shut down the popular comments section of their online articles?

The editor's excuse for shutting down the comments section was that disguised cuss words were being used. But that so much sounds like a BS cover story. Most likely, there were many reasons. They probably could be summed up as the headaches weren't worth the profits. But, what were the headaches? That is the critical question.

The Ely Times is a small town newspaper that is owned by a far off corporation. This newspaper is not a big cash cow. So, at first it seems a little strange that some corporation would be interested in owning a weekly newspaper for a town of only 5000 people. If a fourth of the people in Ely buy the paper, that doesn't add up to $1000 a week in sales. On the other hand, the Ely Times is the only source of local news here. Which means that if they own the paper, they control what the people of this town know.

Though their news reporting isn't that bad, even a casual observer can tell that the Ely Times editorials are less objective than even Fox News. They have viciously attacked Nevada's Democratic Senator Harry Reid, but barely even mentioned Nevada's Republican Senator John Ensign. They only publish right wing pundits on their opinion pages. And they obsess on discrediting global warming.

If you don't live in Ely, you might wonder why global warming should be such an issue. But it is – because two corporations are planning to build coal-fired power plants nearby. If all seven units get built, that will mean these corporations will be burning over 15 million tons of coal a year within 35 miles of Ely. That ought to be frightening enough to get any town riled up. But the residents of Ely are passive – and some are even welcoming these massive polluters. Its amazing. How could the people here be so fooled (or intimidated)?

There is one more issue of grave importance to this area. The Las Vegas water grab of Central Great Basin high desert groundwater. Las Vegas intends to take a river of water from a place that has no rivers. This will ultimately destroy the environment, the economy, and culture of Eastern Nevada. Everyone here is against it, but there is no organized local resistance in Ely. Why?

I don't blame the Ely Times for all of Ely's ills. But something is not quite right. Ignorance is not bliss. The locals are ill informed. And I can blame that on the Ely Times. I suspect that the Ely Times reporters and editors aren't all that independent from the paper's corporate owners. And I'm convinced that the corporate owners of this newspaper don't give a damn about Ely. This little town is almost screaming for a second, more independent newspaper.

But, up until now, that hasn't been necessary. There has been a forum for independent input. There has been a forum for locals to post comments about the Ely Times articles online. And in the past few months, I have made prodigious use of these comment posts. You might go so far as to say that I have hacked into their system. Whenever an editorial came out claiming that global warming was in doubt, I would have a definitive reply posted within a day. Whenever a political attack or propaganda sounding statement was made, I would step in and clear the air. This must have been extraordinarily frustrating for the powers that be.

You could tell I was making a difference. The paper reduced their attacks on Harry Reid. They toned down their attacks on environmentalists. And they stopped printing my letters to the editor.

I wasn't the only one hacking into the Ely Times comment sections, however. There was at least one rep from the coal industry. His job was simple; denigrate anyone who spoke out against the coal-fired power plants. This had a multi-faceted effect. It gave the appearance that there were violent people who would hurt anyone who spoke out against the coal-burners. It gave the appearance that the coal-burners were popular. It put doubts in the minds of casual observers that those against the coal-fired power plants knew what they were talking about. And it made the posting experience painful for anyone who spoke out against coal pollution. In other words, this hacker had succeeded in shutting down any resistance online.

But I figured him out. I realized that the more I posted, the more he would attack me, and the more he would look like a raving jerk. After a time, I was able to show, within a reasonable doubt, that he somehow was associated with the coal industry and that his “friends” were likely just other aliases of his.

His slanderous attacks were likely part of the reason the editor of the Ely Times lost faith in the comments sections. But I dealt with them, and in the end; anyone who paid attention knew I was the more likable, honest, and informed person.

I knew that I was accomplishing something when I was away for a week. When I came back and checked the comments sections, I saw that others had taken the responsibility to confront this jerk – and they had done a great job. The community was starting to speak out against what we all know is a dangerous situation. It was beautiful!

But it wasn't beautiful for my online nemesis. With no real arguments to defend his position, and only rude comments to belittle his opposition; he, and the coal industry that was paying him, were losing the battle of minds. The tide was starting to turn against the coal-fired power plants and towards truly clean energy generation.

I can only guess what coal industry people must have been thinking. But I wouldn't be surprised if they put pressure on the parent company of the Ely Times to do something (to keep us ignorant and disorganized).

During this time, I kept sending letters to the editor; hoping that they would print them. By the fourth letter, it became obvious that they had stopped publishing my letters. I sent it three times anyway, with no luck.

I felt it was time for somewhat drastic action. We were running out of time to do something about the water grab. And I needed a video clip to show that Ely really was against the water grab. So, I posted my letter to the Editor in the comments section of all of the opinion pages.

I plead with the citizens of Ely to declare independence from Southern Nevada Water Authority. The perfect time would be the upcoming Independence Day parade. Even if all the people of Ely did was wear an armband, it would look impressive on press releases.

To my surprise; the pro-coal character assassins went crazy with hate. Up until then, they didn't seem to care about the water grab. But when it started to look like I might convince the people of Ely to organize, they came after me like I'd said something about coal.

And within a couple of days, the Editor of the Ely Times announced that they would be shutting down the comments sections.

Question: Who benefits from the shutting down of the comments sections?

The coal industry will still be able to get their articles published.

SNWA won't have as active a resistance from Ely.

Local politicians won't have things said about them online (that people would be afraid to say in public).

Do some people really want to keep us ignorant and weak? Absolutely. You'd be a fool to think otherwise. Some people will make millions (at our expense) if we do nothing to stop them. Is the Ely Times in on it? Possibly, but it's likely more complicated than that.

I think the Editor of the Ely Times was chosen for his radical political opinions. He may not feel pressured by higher ups. I also suspect he has the best of intentions. But there is only so much he is willing to put up with – from influential people, from us, and from zealots for clean speech.

People can be rude when they are anonymous. They have said rude things about local politicians and the powers that be. (click the picture above for an example)

When you combine that with minority opinion being aired, people really speaking their minds, and efforts to organize against powerful corporations; all of the cards are stacked against a free and anonymous forum.

Speak up if you're not happy about this.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Secession to Combat Corruption

From Nevada State Senator Bob Beers' website:

"My idea is to amend federal law to allow the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) to buy ranches downstream from us on the Colorado River, fallow them, and draw into Nevada their water allotments, through our Lake Mead water intakes, whose capacity is double today’s requirements. This plan harms no one, solves Clark County’s water shortage, and costs very little compared to the costs already incurred in the earliest stages of sucking Northeastern Nevada’s water table dry - much less the costs yet to come. My plan avoids the sure environmental ruin of the current plan, is much cheaper and faster, and is a market solution.... It’s almost as if there are some politically powerful entities out there who SNWA is catering to who would profit from building the pipeline to Northeasten Nevada, and who don’t care if the whole idea is stupid, expensive and environmentally damaging."

Hmmm... I've heard that KBR (Kellogg, Brown, and Root) is the contractor SNWA intends to pay billions to build the pipeline network

From Rolling Stone magazine:

“The undisputed master of milking the system is KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary ... The company has been exposed by whistle-blowers in numerous Senate hearings for everything from double-charging taxpayers for $617,000 worth of sodas to overcharging the government 600 percent for fuel shipments. When things went wrong, KBR simply scrapped expensive gear: The company dumped 50,000 pounds of nails in the desert because they were too short, and left the Army no choice but to set fire to a supply truck that had a flat tire...

In perhaps the ultimate example of military capitalism, KBR reportedly ran convoys of empty trucks back and forth across the insurgent-laden desert, pointlessly risking the lives of soldiers and drivers so the company could charge the taxpayer for its phantom deliveries. Truckers for KBR, knowing full well that the trips were bullshit, derisively referred to their cargo as "sailboat fuel."

How can anyone believe for one minute that KBR won't milk Las Vegas (and the State of Nevada) for everything they can get?

This water grab will ruin the Central Great Basin - environmentally, economically, and culturally.

There may come a day when White Pine and Lincoln Counties have no choice but secession from Nevada.

If White Pine and Lincoln Counties are a part of Utah, Nevada water law will not apply - and there won't be a water grab pipeline.

I love Nevada. I've lived in Nevada all of my life. But, the state wants to take far more from here than it will ever give.

Good ideas are getting ignored for the sake of corporate profits. Someday soon, Eastern Nevada may have to consider secession – to save both the Central Great Basin and Las Vegas from environmental and financial ruin.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Protest is Illegal in Ohio

You may recall my post about the Longest Walk 2 passing through Nevada. They were treated like hero's here – and throughout most of the country. I met and walked with these people. They are good people with high ideals. Their cause is not only legitimate, but worthy. So why were they roughed up, and almost mass arrested, by Columbus, Ohio police?

You can get a full account of the story at:

Earthcycles.net – (go to 2008-06-03) “The local police live up to the reputation of Columbus, as they tried to arrest the walkers yesterday, 40 plus police and several patty-wagons as they initiated the confrontation and only later with calls from the supporters and organizers did they stand down ...”

Longestwalk.org – “Unprovoked Columbus, Ohio police attacked Long Walkers, by first pointing a taser at the head of Michael Lane and then forcing Luv the Mezenger to the ground and handcuffing him.”

Narcosphere.com – “The harassment by Ohio police continued, Tuesday, June 3, when police ordered Longest Walk drummers off an area at the Ohio State Capitol.”


Why Ohio?

Since the Columbus police didn't end up arresting anyone, it doesn't appear this police action was premeditated. Since no one I met in the group was an agitator, I believe them when they say nothing was said to instigate a mass arrest. So, most likely, the decision to arrest everybody was made on the spot – with precedent set some time ago.

Does Columbus Ohio have a no protest policy?

It would seem so.

If so, this is something you would only expect in communist China.

At worst, all the Longest Walkers were doing is jaywalking and singing. And no community from California to Ohio had been bothered by that up until now.

So, why would Ohio want to oppress protest?

Could it have something to do with the Election?

Ohio stole the election for Bush in 2004. And it looks like there will be a fraud factor in the 2008 election also. Could it be that Ohio knows something about the future, and has prepared their police for it? Could it be that Ohio is preparing their police force to crack down on any sign of protest after the election?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A Prison For Your Mind

There is a line from the movie The Matrix that has resonated with millions of viewers – for a very good reason. The allegory reminds us of our own predicament – in a world where the truth is hard to come by. Laurence Fishburne delivers the line of his career when he says, as the character Morpheus:

... it's everywhere. It's all around us. Even now, in this very room.

You can see it when you look out your window, when you turn on your television, feel it when you go to work, when you go to church, when you pay your taxes.

The world that has been pulled over our eyes,

to blind us from the truth;

that we are all slaves...

like everyone else, born into bondage, born into a prison you can't even smell, taste, or touch...

a prison for your mind.”

Two authors have recently published books that explain “how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism


Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army

Naomi Klein points out how “around the world, in Britain, the United States, Asia and the Middle East, there are people with power who are cashing in on chaos; exploiting bloodshed and catastrophe to brutally remake our world in their image... Raking in billions out of the tsunami, plundering Russia, exploiting Iraq - this is the chilling tale of how a few are making a killing ... while more are getting killed. ”

For a Democracy Now! interview of Naomi Klein click here.

Jeremy Scahill points out how a private contractor, Blackwater, has assembled not only the most powerful mercenary army (that is essentially above the law), but also a privatized CIA. “called Total Intelligence Solutions... In fact, it’s run by three former very senior US intelligence officials... Those three men are joined by people from the Defense Intelligence Agency, from the FBI and others, and they’ve built this, what they call a “global fusion center” ... which is modeled after the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center ... they’re marketing what they say in their literature are CIA-type services ... to Fortune 1000 corporations and foreign governments, and the United States government, as well... services that were once the realm of sovereign governments are now on the open market for bidding... now available for private hire.”

For a Democracy Now! interview of Jeremy Scahill click here.