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Stateside: John Ashcroft for President!

Stateside With Rosalea

John Ashcroft for President!

"We can adjust our way of doing things but we should not adjust the things we do." John Ashcroft, US Attorney General on 'Meet the Press', Sunday October 14, 2001

He was talking about being alert to suspicious-looking mail but those are my sentiments exactly on energy matters. Britain and the US have 25 years before the North Sea oil runs out, and I'm not for a minute suggesting that they should adjust from having strong economies and high living standards, but their focus should be on adjusting how those outcomes are delivered without having to rely on fossil fuels. Then they wouldn't have to be involved in this insane battle over territory that oil and natural gas pipelines can go through.

Here's another quote. "Unocal and its partners" (which include the Saudi Arabian private company Delta Oil) "would like to transport Turkmen natural gas through Afghanistan to Pakistan and beyond to India, but the absence of a strong central authority in Afghanistan makes the securing of project financing almost impossible. Unocal appears close to abandoning this project, at least for the present." Robert E. Ebel speaking at a conference on "The Geopolitics of Oil, Gas and Ecology in the Caucasus and Caspian Basin" at UC Berkeley in May 1998. The biographies section of the report on that conference lists Ebel as the Director of Energy and National Security for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Gosh, what's the difference between 1998 and now? Bush and Cheney in the White House. BCDC. All this talk about installing democracy in Afghanistan sounds to me suspiciously like installing a "strong central authority" sympathetic to US/UK energy interests. It's called "environment shaping" in the foreign affairs world, and grew out of the Cold War tactics of mobilising various elites in nations that were in the Soviet sphere of influence. Hence the trip to Rome to pander to the exiled King of Afghanistan, I suppose.

To be living in the US post-911 is to be witness to non-military environment-shaping on a grand local scale. There are some who say that the events of 911 were also part of the environment-shaping, orchestrated or connived at by the US administration itself to get public support for this very private enterprise of securing a pipeline corridor. That idea was first put to me within a few days of 911, not by some whacko leftie conspiracy theorist but by a very ordinary housewife and mom. Totally without any prompting on my part - in fact I was shocked that anyone would think that. Actually, the pipeline wasn't the reason she gave - she thought that Bush was trying to get his ratings up.

I'm sorry, but when the media of a nation is content to leave its audience in ignorance to the extent that they think their leaders are capable of taking 5000 innocent lives in their own country just to get their poll numbers up, then I have to wonder what exactly the media perceives as their role in a democratic nation. This is a democracy, right?

Well, if Ralph Nader has his way it will be. Yes, he's back on the road again, this time with a non-profit organisation called Democracy Rising, which can be found on the internet at www.democracyrising.org. You can see the video there of the meetings he has so far held in Cleveland, Portland, Phoenix and San Francisco. The Democracy Rising philosophy is to attach itself to a local measure on the ballot for November 6, and hold huge meetings at which that cause can be promoted. Outside the meeting hall other local interest groups have the opportunity to set up tables and promote their own cause.

The measures Democrcay Rising was promoting in San Francisco at the Masonic Auditorium - which held an enthusiastic audience of several thousand - are to do with energy, and they offer ways to "adjust our way of doing things" without adjusting the things we do. Solar energy is one of them. Proposition B is a one-time authorisation for a $100 million revenue bond to build renewable energy and promote conservation for government-owned properties. Proposition H is a charter amendment that allows the Board of Supervisors (city council) to issue revenue bonds specifically for renewable energy projects like solar, wind, and energy conservation. Revenue bonds don't cause increased property taxes.

Two other measures on the ballot are to do with creating a municipal utility district for San Francisco and Brisbane, and a city power agency - companion measures designed to kill the city's dependence on power supplied by Pacific Gas and Electric, and to give its residents power at a price that does not have to allow for paying investor dividends. Residents will also be voting for MUD directors should the municipal utility district be created, and for various other city positions - such as City Attorney, a strong candidate for which is Neil Eisenberg who is the author of proposition I and who fought PG&E to get public power ownership on the ballot.

MUD campaigners have to get out 85,000 voters in favour of those measures in order to have them passed. They are battling against an ad campaign by PG&E that proposition I is too costly. What MUD can't raise in advertising dollars, it hopes to make up for by word of mouth. In voicing his support for I, Nader said that it sets up an enabling district for sustainable, renewable energy, and he urged the audience to get out and talk to their fellow workers, families, neighbours, and to get involved with the campaign - knocking on doors and getting out the vote. "The only place that democracy comes before work," he said, "is in the dictionary."

Just one final quote harking back to the fossil-fool mentality at BCDC. It's from a 1975 interview of Juan Pablo Perez Afonzo by Terry Karl, one of the organisers of the conference I referred to at the beginning. Afonzo is the Venezuelan founder of OPEC. "Oil is the excrement of the devil," he said. I'd love to see John Ashcroft slip that one into the conversation around the Cabinet table!

And a bouquet to make up for an earlier column's brickbat for Bob Scheiffer about his not pressing Ashcroft hard enough on the question of grounding crop dusters. He returned to that same question this morning on 'Face the Nation' and was his good old persistent self again. Apologies if I've spelled his name wrong - it's only because I can't find him in the index of "Breaking the News: how the media undermine American democracy". All the other Sunday morning talkshow hosts are there.

Lea Barker
California
Sunday 14 October 2001


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