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For The Record  

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

Lis­ten: One Seg­ment

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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