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FTR #280 “A Nation of Sheep Will Beget a Government of Wolves” The Bush Administration and the Destabilization of California

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Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow once noted that “a nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” Coincident with George W. Bush’s ascent to the White House, California found itself in the throes of “an energy crisis.” This broadcast examines that crisis, and critically examines some of the factors contributing to that crisis.

1. Beginning with the role played in the Bush administration by Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, the program details a set of circumstances suggesting that the crisis is being exacerbated by Lay and others close to the President. Enron is the largest supplier of natural gas in the world, and Lay’s firm is a major player in the California power supply infrastructure. He is also one of Bush’s closes advisers on the subject of energy, and was a major contributor to Bush’s campaign. (“Bush Adviser’s Role in Deciding Crisis Questioned” by Jim Puzzanghera; San Jose Mercury News; 1/20/2001; pp. 1A-21A.)

2. As the price of natural gas has risen and driven up both the cost of generating electricity and consumers’ bills, Enron has reported record profits. (“Enron Reports 34% Increase in its Profits” by David Lazarus; San Francisco Chronicle; 1/23/2001; p. A8.)

3. Significantly, the rise in the price of natural gas has been exponentially greater for California than for the rest of the nation. (“Fuel Costs Heat Bay Area Inflation Further Above U.S. Average” by Kathleen Pender; San Francisco Chronicle; 2/23/2001; p. B1.)

4. On-line journalist Larry Chin has written an eloquent and thought-provoking article suggesting that the California energy crisis has been deliberately orchestrated to punish California, destabilizing the Democratically-controlled political infrastructure, mandating the erosion of environmental regulations and (not incidentally) maximizing profits for the energy industry interests represented by the Bush administration. (“The Extortion of California: The Wrath of Bush and the Texas Power Cabal” by Larry Chin; 2/11/2001.)

5. Chin notes that this orchestrated crisis could rightly be viewed as a war against California. “War is force designed to compel an adversary to submit to one’s will. In wars of attrition, isolation (political, geographic and economic), and the choking off of supplies (including electricity, light, gas and heat) are standard techniques designed to inflict maximum suffering. Over an extended period, frustrated populaces (be they Iraqi, Nicaraguan or Californian, are softened to the point that they will accept whatever ends the torture. With California, Bush/Cheney pursue a number of ‘divide and smash’ end games. They are attacking on three fronts: 1) Open doors to power companies to pillage California itself. By selling the severity of the crisis, and the myths of the benefits of deregulation and the free market, Bush and the Texans seek to rip apart environmental laws, and open up markets. 2) Use corporate media to promote, exploit and exaggerate the ‘power crisis’ to justify other parts of the Bush corporate/right-wing agendas, including drilling in Alaska (‘it will help relieve California’s supply problem’) and even the tax cut plan (‘a tax cut will help pay higher energy bills’). 3) Inflict maximum political damage to Democrats and other opposition, and fuel outrage among voters.” (Ibid.; p. 2.)

6. Syndicated columnist Molly Ivins notes that California gets less than 1% of its electricity from oil. (“Bushthink Is a Fuzzy Thing” by Molly Ivins; San Francisco Chronicle; 2/3/2001; p. A18.)

7. Chin points out that a tax cut plan implemented over a ten-year period would do nothing to help Californians pay their utility bills. (“The Extortion of California: The Wrath of Bush and the Texas Power Cabal” by Larry Chin; p. 4.)

8. Predictably, the political damage to California governor Gray Davis (seen as a potential challenger to Bush in 2004) has revitalized GOP political fortunes in the state. (“GOP Sees Power Crisis as Davis’ Achilles’ Heel” by John Wildermuth; San Francisco Chronicle; 2/23/2001; p. A6.)

9. Chin also notes that the California energy crisis may well damage influential Democratic representatives such as Senators Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein and Representative Maxine Waters. (“The Extortion of California: The Wrath of Bush and the Texas Power Cabal” by Larry Chin; p. 4.)

10. Despite pleas from 8 Western governors (4 Republican and 4 Democratic), the Bush administration has refused to impose price limits on energy supplies. (“U.S. Refuses to Put Cap on Energy Prices” by John Wildermuth; San Francisco Chronicle; 2/3/2001; p. A3.)

11. The program notes that the apparent use of energy prices to politically destabilize California is similar to the deliberate manufacture of the “oil crisis” of 1979-80, as well as the apparent replay of this gambit to boost the political fortunes of the Republicans in 2000. These two “oil shortages” and the resulting economic and political instability benefited the Georges Bush, while each was running for national office. Both (not incidentally) are oil industry professionals.

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