Sunday, September 17, 2017

Tea Pot Dome, Watergate, Trump: Crime, Cover-up and Curious Death Comparisons

This is Robert Paulsen standing outside of Teapot Rock in Wyoming.  Nearby are the Teapot Dome oil fields that are notorious as the focus of the Teapot Dome scandal during the Harding administration in the 1920s.  Though Teapot Dome started as a bribery scandal, like most famous political scandals, it was the cover-up that really made the whole affair explode.

The origins of the Teapot Dome scandal began around 1909 when Navy administrators began converting their fleet from coal powered ships to oil powered ships.  As more ships were converted, Navy officials became concerned about the possibility of oil running out (an occurrence many Peak Oil deniers point to as a means of dismissing the notion it could ever happen).  The Navy asked Congress to set aside federally owned lands where oil deposits existed for protected reserves that would not be used except during a federal emergency.  Two of the three reserves, set aside in 1912, were in Elk Hills and Buena Vista Oil Fields in Kern County, California.  The other oil reserve set aside was Teapot Dome in Natrona County, Wyoming in 1915

The corruption that lead to scandal officially started with newly inaugurated President Warren G. Harding switching responsibility of these oil reserves from Navy to Secretary of Interior through Executive Order 3474 on May 31, 1921.  The Secretary of Interior was Harding's poker-playing buddy Albert Bacon Fall, who was a Senator from New Mexico until President Harding appointed him in March 1921.  It was Fall who actually wrote the Executive Order that Harding signed.  Once these oil fields were under Fall's control, he made secret deals with two powerful oilmen, Harry F. Sinclair of Mammoth Oil, a subsidiary of Sinclair Oil Corporation, and Edward L. Doheny of Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company.  Fall leased oil production rights to Doheny for the Elk Hills reserve and Sinclair for Teapot Dome.  Though both leases were issued without competitive bids, this was not illegal at the time.  What was illegal was the bribes of more than $400,000 that Fall accepted from Doheny and Sinclair for these leases. 
Albert Bacon Fall, Secretary of Interior convicted of bribery  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

When independent oilman and future Democratic Governor of Wyoming Leslie Miller observed Sinclair trucks hauling drilling equipment into Teapot Dome, he was suspicious enough to ask Democratic Senator John B. Kendrick to look into it.  On April 15, 1922, Kendrick introduced a resolution calling for an investigation into the deal.  The leader of the investigation through the Senate Committee on Public Lands was Republican Senator Robert La Follette.  La Follette was a Progressive who would later launch a third party run for President in 1924.  Any suspicions La Follette may have had regarding the corruption involved in this deal would only have intensified after the quarters of his Senate Office Building were ransacked.

Ultimately, leadership of the inquiry fell to the most junior minority member of the committee, Democratic Senator Thomas J. Walsh of Montana, in October 1923.  By then, Fall had resigned from his position in January 1923, after delivering truckloads of documents to bury the investigators in a mass of paper.  At first, it seemed that there was no evidence of wrongdoing.  But Walsh's tenacity in investigating the leads proved that a cover-up was hiding the truth behind Teapot Dome.  Ironically, the cover-up involved the Washington Post.  As Chalmers M. Roberts wrote on June 9, 1977, "One of the oddities of the two scandals - Teapot Dome in the Harding administration and Watergate in the Nixon administration - was the reversed roles played by The Washington Post. In the case of Teapot Dome it was The Post's publisher who at first covered up for Fall until a probing senator caught him in a lie; in the case of Watergate The Post was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for its public service in tracking down and exposing the wrong-doing."

The cover-up concerned a $100,000 "loan" that Fall received in late 1921 while he was the Secretary of the Interior.  Fall denied on the witness stand that the money was for compensation for the oil leases.  It seemed that when Fall's personal friend, Washington Post publisher Edward Beale (Ned) McLean, told Walsh's committee that he had loaned Fall the money, the trail had dried up.  But because McLean had stayed in Palm Beach, Florida, saying that a sinus condition prevented him from traveling to Washington to testify publicly, Walsh was suspicious and came down to Florida to interrogate him directly.  With the possibility of a perjury charge hanging over him, McLean admitted the truth: he hadn't lent Fall the money at all.  It turned out that the money came from Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company head Edward L. Doheny, who had suggested to Fall that he get McLean to say he lent the money. 
Edward L. Doheny  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

At this point, the Teapot Dome scandal exploded.  President Calvin Coolidge, who came into office after the sudden death of President Harding on August 2, 1923, appointed two special prosecutors, Republican lawyer and future Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts and former Democratic Senator Atlee Pomerene, to take over the investigation.  Though Walsh originally thought some of McLean's coded messages implicated Coolidge in Teapot Dome, Roberts and Pomerene were unable to find evidence to confirm a criminal conspiracy went up that high.  They were able to file a total of eight cases, two civil and six criminal.  Two civil cases to cancel the disputed oil leases went to the Supreme Court; in both the Elk Hills and Teapot Dome oil fields both leases were voided in 1927 and production was shut down.  The criminal cases only resulted in one conviction: Albert Fall was convicted of accepting the bribe from Doheny, the first Cabinet member convicted of a crime committed while in office, and sentenced to one year in prison and fined $100,000.  Amazingly, Doheny was never convicted for any crime; in 1930 he was acquitted of offering the same bribe that Fall was convicted for, which lead one reporter to observe, "You can’t convict a million dollars."  The only other person to serve time in the Teapot Dome scandal besides Fall was Harry Sinclair, but not for the bribe: he was sentenced to nine months and served six months in jail for contempt of Congress and for hiring detectives to trail members of the jury in his original bribery trial for which he was acquitted.

While the number of convictions in this scandal pales in comparison to Watergate, Teapot Dome does share a notorious feature with it: a bizarre body count.  It's a popular misconception that nobody died from Watergate.  In addition to Nixon's Watergate operation linking back to his treasonous campaign sabotage of President Johnson's 1968 Paris peace talks that needlessly extended the death toll of the Vietnam War, there is also the curious matter of the plane crash of United Airlines Flight 553 on December 8, 1972.  43 of the 55 people aboard were killed, including Dorothy Hunt, who was carrying $10,000 in $100 bills when the plane crashed.  She was the wife of E. Howard Hunt, who organized the Watergate break-in.  On that date, prior to boarding the doomed flight, Dorothy, who had also been a CIA employee, had a meeting with CBS journalist Michelle Clark, who was working on a Watergate story, along with Chicago Congressman George Collins.  All three were killed in the subsequent plane crash.  FBI agents arrived at the scene of the crash before the Fire Department, which is suspicious considering the Fire Department received a call within one minute of the crash. One FBI agent confiscated a tape from the Midway Airport control tower that reportedly contained information of error or sabotage regarding Flight 553.  The day after the crash, a new Undersecretary of Transportation, who would supervise the two agencies investigating the crash - the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Association (FAA) - was appointed by President Nixon.  This was White House aide Egil Krogh, who would later plead guilty and serve four and a half months in prison for his role in the Watergate conspiracy.
Crash site of doomed Flight 553 which killed Dorothy Hunt  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There were two verifiable murder victims connected with Teapot Dome.  They were Theodore "Hugh" Plunkett and Edward L. Doheny Jr., known to the family as Ned.  Plunkett was a chauffeur for the entire Doheny family and was Ned's personal secretary and great friend, though one associate, Fredrick R. Kellogg said, "their relationship was more than that of friends."  Ned and Hugh's connection with Teapot Dome was very direct: in November 1921, they were the literal bagmen who delivered a small black bag filled with $100,000 to Albert Fall at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington D.C.  In May 1924 during his father's trial for conspiracy, Ned refused to answer questions about his role in delivering the money, but testified he and his father did nothing wrong.  Doheny Sr. was acquitted of that charge in 1926, but was later charged with bribery.  By the fall of 1928, both Ned and Hugh were called to testify in the upcoming bribery trials of Fall and Doheny.  But while Ned would have received immunity for his testimony, Hugh did not receive the same assurance.

Amidst all this, the Doheny family was moving into the 55 room mansion built on 429 Beverly Hills acres called Greystone which Hugh Plunkett had overseen the construction of while Ned was supporting his father through the Teapot Dome scandal in Washington.  Supposedly on Christmas Eve, Hugh suffered a "nervous breakdown" and on the afternoon of February 16, 1929, Ned, his wife Lucy, and the family Doctor Ernest Fishbaugh urged Hugh to enter a sanitarium.  We'll never know if this was just to get him mental help, to exempt him from testifying, or both, but Hugh refused.  Later that evening, both Ned and Hugh were found dead in a Greystone bedroom, both with a single shot to the head.  Though the official story was that Hugh murdered Ned, then committed suicide, there was plenty of contradictory evidence, such as false information from witnesses, and forensic investigator Leslie White's observation that Ned was shot at close range, while Hugh was not.  Since there was never an official inquest and District Attorney Buron Fitts declared the investigation closed, what actually happened will remain a mystery.  Greystone mansion still exists today and ironically was used as a filming location for the Paul Thomas Anderson film There Will Be Blood, which was based on the Upton Sinclair novel Oil!, which many say was inspired by the rise to power of Edward L. Doheny Sr.
Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, CA  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So how do these monster political scandals of the 20th century stack up to current events?  There are some striking similarities where crime, cover-up and curious deaths compare to the crazy cacophony surrounding Donald John Trump.  There is certainly much debate, which will continue at least until Special Counsel Robert Mueller wraps up his investigation, about whether Trump and Russia colluded to steal the election, which is the primary charge among many leveled against him.  But even if that treasonous possibility doesn't pan out, the connections between the Trump campaign and Russia could encompass such corruption that crimes such as money laundering, perjury and obstruction of justice were committed by Trump and members of his campaign.

That there has been an active cover-up by Trump and his administration to obfuscate their machinations is fairly irrefutable.  Even if you defer judgment until Mueller completes his investigation on precisely what Trump meant when he told then FBI director James Comey regarding the agency's investigation into ousted national security advisor Michael Flynn that, "I hope you can let this go," that is hardly the only instance where a cover-up attempt backfired with Team Trump.  The most recent example is their reaction to the revelation of a meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner and a Russian lawyer, among others that occurred June 9, 2016.  Originally when the New York Times broke this story on July 8, 2017, their response was coordinated (and dictated by Donald J. Trump Sr.) to only admit that the topic of adoption was discussed.  The following day, when the New York Times revealed five sources confirmed Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting on the basis that dirt on Hillary Clinton would be given to him, their cover story fell apart.
Donald Trump Jr.  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

While the depth, severity and criminality of this scandal should probably be explored more thoroughly once the investigation is complete, there is one curious death tied to the Trump/Russia scandal that deserves closer scrutiny.  Republican operative Peter W. Smith was quite active during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two explosive reports from the Wall Street Journal.  Smith was trying to obtain stolen Hillary Clinton emails from hackers he assumed were affiliated with the Russian government.  He presented himself as working with top Trump adviser Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, both in his solicitations to the Russian hackers and his interview with the Wall Street Journal on May 4, 2017.  Ten days later, but six weeks before the Journal's story went to print, Peter W. Smith was found dead on May 14, 2017.

The Minnesota state death record said 81 year old Smith killed himself and was “found with a bag over his head with a source of helium attached” in a hotel in Rochester, Minnesota.  There was a suicide note recovered by police stating that there was "NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER" and that he took his own life because of a "RECENT BAD TURN IN HEALTH SINCE JANUARY, 2017" and because he had a policy of "LIFE INSURANCE OF $5 MILLION" about to expire.  In my research, I have yet to verify whether his policy would actually pay out for a suicide.  It's hard to believe his wife and three kids (with three grandkids) really needed that money, considering he had spent more than 40 years in the lucrative field of directing private equity firms in corporate acquisitions and venture investments.  More pertinent to my doubt, I have yet to verify if he actually signed the all cap suicide note or not.  The only recent bad turn in health attested to by one of Smith's former employees is a heart condition.  But Smith was getting treated for this condition at the nearby Mayo Clinic, which shows he was interested in getting better.  The Wall Street Journal writer who interviewed him, Shane Harris, says he saw no indication of bad health or suicidal behavior.
Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump  Photo courtesy of Business-Gazeta

What has been the Trump administration's reaction to the curious case of Peter W. Smith?  They told the Wall Street Journal that "if Mr. Flynn coordinated with him in any way, it would have been in his capacity as a private individual."  The problem with this non-denial denial that Smith was working for the Trump campaign is that his relationships with members of Team Trump are not limited to Flynn and his son.  In his efforts to seek out the hacked emails, Smith told potential collaborators that he was working "in coordination to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure" with Sam Clovis, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, as well as Flynn.  Bannon denied hearing of Smith, even though Matt Boyle, the Washington Political Editor of Breitbart, the publication run by Bannon until he left to join the Trump campaign, collaborated with Smith in an effort to force out Paul Ryan as House Speaker, a cause shared by Bannon.  Kellyanne Conway at least admitted to knowing him while claiming she hadn't spoken to him recently.  How did she know him?  Well, one way would have been through her husband, George Conway.  That relationship goes back almost two decades.  George was one of the "elves" working on the Paula Jones lawsuit against Bill Clinton.  Smith funded the lawsuit; he paid Arkansas state troopers to tell stories that they procured women for then-Governor Clinton in what was dubbed Troopergate, which lead to the Paula Jones case.  Smith has one other tie with a Trump campaign adviser going back two decades: Newt Gingrich.  Peter W. Smith donated more than $100,000 to Gingrich's controversial GOPAC political fund from 1989 to 1995, which made him the "No. 1 financial backer of Mr. Gingrich."

Whether all these ties with the tumultuous world of Trump lead to Smith's demise cannot be conclusively determined yet.  What does seem conclusive, looking over this seamy scope of history, is that the more they try to cover up the truth, the more they lose control.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Indivisible March in Los Angeles - August 26, 2017

Ever since the horrific events in Charlottesville two weeks ago, I've been aching to get out and protest.  This weekend, my wife and I attended the Indivisible March in Los Angeles to rally for women's rights and honor Heather Heyer, who was brutally run over and murdered by a Nazi terrorist in Charlottesville while counter-protesting against white supremacy.  It was an extremely hot afternoon, but we enjoyed meeting with friends and seeing so many people stand up against hatred.  I hope you enjoy the video we made of our time there.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

This Changes Everything Should Mean Everything

Several years ago, (six to be precise) I posted a column by Naomi Klein titled Capitalism vs. the Climate.  It is a brilliant piece that was published in The Nation, and it was refreshing to read thoughtful research that explained to a mainstream, albeit left-leaning, audience the environmental and economic correlation between peak oil and global warming, i.e. the Carbon Crisis.  I've been a fan of Klein ever since I read The Shock Doctrine so I was glad to see that in her research she had come to a lot of the same conclusions I had.  She spelled out quite clearly that we cannot have an economy based on infinite growth when we're stuck on one planet with finite resources, that the Carbon Crisis has brought civilization to the point that in order to survive, "it demands a new civilizational paradigm."  Klein even referenced the positive efforts of the Transition Town movement and warned of how Jevon's Paradox could undo the savings from energy efficiency if that savings is "simply plowed back into further exponential expansion of the economy, reduction in total emissions will be thwarted."
Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything  Source: Wikimedia Commons

When I found out Klein was writing a book on climate change and capitalism, I was eager to read her further research.  Not too eager; the hardcover edition of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate was published in 2014 and I waited until last year to read it when the paperback was on sale.  My take on it?  It is extremely well researched and well written.  I would grade it as being a very good book, but for certain reasons I'll elaborate on later, it falls shy of being a great book.  Klein does succeed in elaborating on the immediacy of our predicament and the necessity of the "new civilizational paradigm" mentioned in the initial column.  As she writes on page 347, "We know that we are trapped within an economic system that has it backward; it behaves as if  there is no end to what is actually finite (clean water, fossil fuels, and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions) while insisting that there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually quite flexible: the financial resources that human institutions manufacture, and that, if imagined differently, could build the kind of caring society we need."

This Changes Everything is really good when it takes on the shortcomings of politicians and activists on both sides of the issue.  It's pretty easy to tear apart the mindset of deniers, which Naomi Klein does with aplomb.  But she is even more incisive in her critiques of so-called environmentalists that have grown cozy with Big Business, green billionaires like Richard Branson that talk a good game to the press, but don't always put their money where their mouth is, and anyone who thinks that carbon offsets constitutes a sound policy to stop global warming.  To quote her on page 223: "The problem is that by adopting this model of financing, even the very best green projects are being made ineffective as climate responses because for every ton of carbon dioxide the developers keep out of the atmosphere, a corporation in the industrialized world is able to pump a ton into the air, using offsets to claim the pollution has been neutralized.  One step forward, one step back.  At best, we are running in place."

There are a couple of issues that prevent This Changes Everything from being truly great.  First, I thought that some of the scarier probabilities of the effects of global warming were somewhat soft-pedaled.  The only time that methane emissions were mentioned was in relation to fracked natural gas.  While Klein correctly mentions on page 143 that methane is "thirty-four times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide", at no point in the book does she mention how much methane is encased in clathrates in the Arctic Circle.  I have written about this issue in multiple entries on this blog and was surprised that the only time she mentioned methane releases due to global warming in connection with the Arctic was on page 15 where she states that 6 degrees of warming could set off a tipping point "like massive releases of methane from Arctic permafrost."  As I have written before, while methane releases from Arctic permafrost is a serious future tipping point, a massive release from methane clathrates in the Arctic is the more immediate threat with the melting of the Arctic ice cap set to happen any summer between now and 2018.  Klein overlooks this threat completely.

Second, while I felt that Klein boiled down the general philosophical points of the necessity to build "an alternative worldview," as she puts it on page 482, I was hoping for greater specificity of what that view entails.  I suppose this is more of nit-picky critique; the book doesn't set out to be a manifesto, and Klein does hit one point strong on page 179 that we need to avoid to succeed: centralizing.  "Authoritarian socialism and capitalism share strong tendencies toward centralizing (one in the hands of the state, the other in the hands of corporations).  They also both keep their respective systems going through ruthless expansion - whether through production for production's sake, in the case of Soviet-era socialism, or consumption for consumption's sake, in the case of consumer capitalism."  This is an excellent point I wish she could have expanded upon more in the context of our dependence on finite energy resources.  She never mentions peak oil by name in the book, though she does mention on page 147 that "global conventional oil production from "existing fields" will drop from 68 million barrels per day in 2012 to an expected 27 million in 2035."

Overall, Klein ends the book on a more positive note than she might had she completed the book, say, sometime after November 2016.   These words from page 481 really have a hopeful outlook for the future of humanity:

"So how do you change a worldview, an unquestioned ideology?  Part of it involves choosing the right early policy battles - game-changing ones that don't merely aim to change laws but change patterns of thought."

"Because if we are to have any hope of making the kind of civilizational leap required of this fateful decade, we will need to start believing, once again, that humanity is not hopelessly selfish and greedy - the image ceaselessly sold to us by everything from reality shows to neoclassical economics."

And from page 482:

"Fundamentally, the task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis - embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy."

Klein gets it.  Beyond changing laws, changing our environment, our economy or the essential way that money works, we have to change our minds; how we think.  No doubt she has been trying to effect that change, particularly through her work with  But what kind of backlash can we expect from those who find this paradigm shift a threat?  Klein addressed this on a slightly darker note in her column in The Nation six years ago:

"We know the answers already. The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations. Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. “Free-market climate solutions,” as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets. And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks."

Sounds an awful lot like the present day, doesn't it?  I'm not just talking about the recent decision by Herr Drumpf to declare the departure from the 2015 Paris climate accord by the USA.  While I find that policy change disgusting, there was certainly nothing shocking about it.  It's not like he was ambiguous about his opinion of the Paris climate treaty during his campaign for the presidency.  But what I do find surprising is that in the midst of tweeting that he thinks global warming is a hoax invented by the Chinese and employing lame humor about how we need global warming to counter snow in New York, the Trump administration is exploring real policy options to deal with the reality of global warming.  It's the option they want to employ that scares the hell out of me.

Team Trump Ponders Climate ‘Engineering’

Exclusive: Rather than take prudent steps to reduce the release of global-warming gases, some Trump advisers are pondering risky gambles to re-engineer the Earth’s climate, as Jonathan Marshall explains.

By Jonathan Marshall

While President Trump floors the accelerator to speed up global warming through executive orders and appointments of notorious climate deniers to his administration, more and more scientists are pinning their hopes on “Plan B”: planetary-wide interventions to engineer ways to avoid global climate disruption. But critics warn that such a prescription, however alluring, may be as bad as the disease.

President Donald Trump giving his weekly address on Feb. 25, 2017. (Screen shot from

Now, to compound the irony, members of Trump’s inner circle are touting climate engineering as a cheap way to insure the planet against harm without any need to change lifestyles or curb the oil and coal industries. They resemble compulsive eaters who count on frequent liposuction rather than maintaining strict diets to keep their body fat in check and stay healthy.

Evidence of climate disruption is all around us, including record-high temperatures, record-low sea ice, the die-off of major coral reefs, acidification of the oceans, drought-induced famines, and more extreme storm damage.

At the same time, climate scientists warn that barring breakthroughs in energy technology and adoption of cleaner transportation, industrial and agricultural processes, the world faces severe risks of economic and social disruption over the next half century from potentially irreversible warming.

Such considerations helped motivate more than 100 scientists and policy makers to meet in Washington, D.C., late last month to discuss some largely untested ways to prevent runaway warming by limiting the Earth’s absorption of solar radiation. These measures could include using aircraft to release tiny particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight, or using fleets of boats to spray the air with saline mist to promote the formation of reflective clouds.

Several prominent Trump supporters are big boosters of such climate engineering. For example, Newt Gingrich, the President’s close adviser and former House Speaker, gushed that it “holds forth the promise of addressing global warming concerns for just a few billion dollars a year. Instead of penalizing ordinary Americans, we would have an option to address global warming by rewarding scientific innovation.”

And Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told investors in 2015, when he was still CEO of Exxon Mobil, “Our plan B has always been grounded in our beliefs around the continued evolution of technology and engineered solutions to address and react to whatever the climate system and its outcomes present to us.”


The article goes on to detail the possible problems associated with geoengineering, including regional famine and floods under some proposals or the depletion of the Earth's ozone layer under others.  None of these problems were news to me because Naomi Klein had already addressed them and many others in This Changes Everything.  From page 259:

"The cons are that, depending on which sun-blocking method is used and how intensively, a permanent haze could appear over the earth, potentially making clear blue skies a thing of the past.2  The haze could prevent astronomers from seeing the stars and planets clearly and weaker sunlight could reduce the capacity of solar power generators to produce energy (irony alert).

But the biggest problem with the Pinatubo Option is that it does nothing to change the underlying cause of climate change, the buildup of heat-trapping gases, and instead treats only the most obvious symptom - warmer temperatures.  That might help control something like glacial melt, but would do nothing about the increased atmospheric carbon that the ocean continues to soak up, causing rapid acidification that is already taking a heavy toll on hard-shelled marine life from coral to oysters, and may have cascading impacts through the entire aquatic food chain."

And from page 260:

"Oh, and another con: once you start spraying material into the stratosphere to block the sun, it would basically be impossible to stop because if you did, all the warming that you had artificially suppressed by putting up that virtual sunshade would hit the planet's surface in one single tidal wave of heat, with no time for gradual adaptation.  Think of the wicked witches of fairy tales, staying young by drinking ill-gotten magical elixirs, only  to decay and wither all at once when the supply is abruptly cut off."

What I appreciated the most to Klein's approach to this matter, beyond just detailing facts and spelling out how geoengineering would effect us on a physical level, was that she also explored historically and philosophically why this approach to dealing with global warming is so wrong.  Attending a conference on geoengineering in 2011 being held in the Buckinghamshire countryside about an hour and a half northwest of London at an estate called Chicheley Hall (which was once a set in a BBC production of Pride and Prejudice), Klein gained a unique perspective.  From page 266 and 267:

This is the strange paradox of geoengineering.  Yes, it is exponentially more ambitious and more dangerous than any engineering project humans have ever attempted before.  But it is also very familiar, nearly a cliché, as if the past five hundred years of human history have been leading us, ineluctably, to precisely this place.  Unlike cutting our emissions in line with scientific consensus, succumbing to the logic of geoengineering does not require any change from us; it just requires that we keep doing what we have done for centuries, only much more so.

Wandering the perfectly manicured gardens at Chicheley Hall - through the trees sculpted into lollipops, through the hedges chiseled into daggers - I realize  that what scares me most is not the prospect of living on a "designer planet," to use a phrase I heard at an earlier geoengineering conference.  My fear is that the real-world results will be nothing like this garden, or even like anything we saw in that technical briefing, but rather something far, far worse.  If we respond to a global crisis caused by our pollution with more pollution - by trying to fix the crud in our lower atmosphere by pumping a different kind of crud into the stratosphere - then geoengineering might do something far more dangerous than tame the last vestiges of "wild" nature.  It may cause the earth to go wild in ways we cannot imagine, making geoengineering not the final engineering frontier, another triumph to commemorate on the walls of the Royal Society, but the last tragic act in this centuries-long fairy tale of control.

This is the crossroads that humanity faces.  Whether we face it with Trump in charge, or Pence, or whoever, Klein's book is an important guide for navigating the terrain we must pass through to ensure our survival.  That's no understatement; barring some fantastic breakthrough that enables humans to travel faster than the speed of light (or clean up Mars with the same speed), this is the only planet we have to survive on.  Klein sums it up best on page 279, "We did not create it; it created - and sustains - us.  The earth is not our prisoner, our patient, our machine, or, indeed, our monster.  It is our entire world.  And the solution to global warming is not to fix the world, it is to fix ourselves."

Monday, April 10, 2017

How Standard Oil and GM Stymied Los Angeles Public Transportation

Editorial note from Robert Paulsen:  This post is a synthesis of two earlier posts, Los Angeles and the Great Interstate Highway Conspiracy and Los Angeles and the Great Interstate Highway Conspiracy Part Two, for the purposes of creating a vlog pertaining to the subject.  Below is a link to the video and the transcript.

This is the Seattle Center Monorail, built for the Seattle World's Fair in 1962 and still operating today.  I've always wondered why this form of mass transit never caught on in Los Angeles where I'm from.  The truth is the Alweg Monorail Company, responsible for the Seattle and Disneyland's Monorail offered to build this sort of thing for Los Angeles in 1963.  What happened?

In the aftermath of gaining international recognition for their monorail at the 1962 Seattle Century 21 Exposition, the Alweg Monorail Company wanted to establish a major presence in the world of urban rail transit.  On June 4, 1963, the President of the Alweg Rapid Transit Systems, Sixten Holmquist wrote a letter to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) of Los Angeles with an official proposal.  It stated, "We are pleased to submit this day a proposal to finance and construct an Alweg Monorail rapid transit system 43 miles in length, serving the San Fernando Valley, the Wilshire corridor, the San Bernardino corridor and downtown Los Angeles."  In specifying the financial details, in which the complete system amounted to $105,275,000, the proposal, which was also presented to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, stated, "this is a turn-key proposal in which a group will share risk, finance the construction, and turn over to MTA a completed and operating system to be repaid from MTA revenues."

So why didn't the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approve this proposal?  It was opposed by Standard Oil.  According to Kim Pedersen, a former Alweg engineer explained that there was initially a lot of excitement for the proposal.  But then political pressure from Standard Oil dampened their enthusiasm.  According to page 170 of American Society of Civil Engineers - Los Angeles Section, political pressure may also have come from General Motors against the project.  Famed author Ray Bradbury rallied against this pressure by stating, "A single transit line will not answer our problems; we must lay plans for a series of transportation systems that would allow us to move freely, once more, within our city.  The answer to all this is the monorail."  For all his objections, Bradbury was thrown out of the Board of Supervisors meeting.  Walt Disney also supported the monorail, but unfortunately their influence was unable to match Standard Oil and GM.
Standard Oil "Octopus"  Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

But this wasn't the first time that Standard Oil and GM stymied public transportation in Los Angeles.  Their most infamous collusion is known as the Great American Streetcar Scandal.  Between 1938 and 1950, the transit systems in more than 25 cities were bought out by National City Lines (NCL) and replaced by GM buses.  Who controlled National City Lines?  Well, their list of investors included Firestone Tires, Phillips Petroleum, Mack Truck Company, Standard Oil and, at least since 1946 when American City Lines merged with NCL, General Motors.  Despite public opinion polls that, in Los Angeles for example, showed 88 percent of the public favoring expansion of the rail lines after World War II, NCL systematically shut down its streetcar systems until, by 1955, only a few remained.  L.A. had two popular trolley systems; the Pacific Electric "Red Cars" and the Los Angeles Railway "Yellow Cars."  While National City Lines owned only the Yellow Cars, because both systems were often used in conjunction by travelers and cutting service on one line made the other less convenient than automobiles, both systems failed and were dismantled.  While General Motors, Standard Oil and Firestone Tires may not have bought the Red Car just to destroy it, like the Judge Doom character played by Christopher Lloyd did in the final act of the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the result was identical.

They didn't go down without a fight, however.  On April 9, 1947, nine corporations and seven individuals (comprising officers and directors of certain of the corporate defendants) were indicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California on two counts under the U.S. Sherman Antitrust Act. The charges were conspiracy to acquire control of a number of transit companies to form a transportation monopoly, and conspiring to monopolize sales of buses and supplies to companies owned by the City Lines.  In 1948, the Supreme Court of the United States reversed lower court rulings and allowed the venue to be changed from Southern California to Northern Illinois.  In 1949, the defendants were acquitted on the first count of conspiring to monopolize transportation services, but they were found guilty on the second count of conspiring to monopolize the provision of parts and supplies to their subsidiary companies.  What was their penalty for this criminal conspiracy?  The companies were each fined $5,000, and the directors were each fined one dollar!  Amazingly, they had the audacity to appeal this slap on the wrist, but the verdicts were upheld in 1951. Pacific Electric "Red Cars" lined up for destruction  Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Destroying the trolley system and replacing it with buses was only the first step. In order for private cars to become the dominant American transportation, they needed new roads to drive on.  GM helped create the  National Highway Users Conference, which became a powerful DC lobby group for interstate highways.  When GM President Charles Wilson became Secretary of Defense in 1953, he used his position to claim that a new road system was vital to U.S. security needs.  Backing him up in this regard was Federal Highway Administrator Francis DuPont, whose family was then the largest GM shareholder.  In 1956, Congress approved a bill introduced by Senator Albert Gore, Sr., the $25 billion Federal-Aid Highway Act.  Secretary of Commerce Sinclair Weeks called it, "the greatest public works program in the history of the world."  That may or may not be true, but in Los Angeles, we call it "gridlock."

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Breaking Butterflies: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the Paranoia of J. Edgar Hoover

There is no doubt that later this summer, all forms of media print, TV, radio etc., will be awash with the memory, however hazy, of the 50th anniversary of the similarly media-driven Summer of Love.  Never mind that if you ask the residents of the epicenter of this event, the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, a great many of them will tell you that the real Summer of Love was 1965 and 1966, before Flower Children culture was appropriated and commercialized for consumption by mainstream America to become those dreaded dirty hippies.  The media got their kill for the establishment, and they won't pass up the opportunity to bask in the fifty year old glow of that victory when the chill of winter subsides.

But there is a different 50th anniversary I want to talk about.  Like the Summer of Love, this is filled with just as much drugs, sex and phenomenal rock music, but with enough paranoia, treachery and overkill in this drama to describe the event as a Winter of Discontent.  That would be the arrest and trial of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones for drug possession that began in February of 1967.  Part of what initiated this incident was the response of Mick Jagger to a News of the World story from February 5 that reported him consuming Benzedrine and sharing hash at Blaises, a London club.  Jagger was not even at the club when News of the World visited it (according to page 223 of Mick Jagger by Philip Norman, the Rolling Stone they most likely interviewed was Brian Jones), so he denounced the story as lies on a TV show broadcast that evening, then had a writ for libel served to the offending paper.  Mick and Keith decided to spend the following weekend with some friends at Keith's recently purchased cottage in the Sussex countryside to escape the London spotlight.  That might sound like a smart move, except for the fact that one of the "friends" they brought with them was a drug dealer with an attaché case full of LSD.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards  Photo courtesy of Flickr

The weekend began the evening of Friday, February 10, at Abbey Road studios where Mick Jagger, his girlfriend Marianne Faithfull and Keith Richards attended the Beatles recording the orchestral parts of the track "A Day in the Life," a Lennon/McCartney song that would be released later that year as the final track on their album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The taping lasted until early Saturday morning, after which Keith and his guests for the weekend drove in convoy fifty miles away to his West Sussex cottage called Redlands.  After arriving, some enjoyed tripping on "Sunshine," a California-made variety of acid known to provide a more relaxing and tranquil trip than usual.  On Sunday morning, they enjoyed genuine sunshine with a brisk country walk through the woods.  When they returned they found two surprise guests, George Harrison and his wife, Pattie.  They left soon after though, as George found the atmosphere too low-key for him.

How ironic that at that time, around 5pm, a call was made to the West Sussex Regional Police Headquarters that a "riotous party" was going on at Redlands, including drug use.  The eighteen raiding police officers were surprised to find a rather mellow gathering settling down to watch a film on television.  They then searched each individual guest methodically for drugs.  Mick Jagger had four white amphetamine tablets in his jacket pocket confiscated.  Another guest, Robert Fraser, had confiscated what he told the police were insulin tablets, but were later tested to be heroin.  They also confiscated marijuana from a guest named David Snyderman, known as Acid King David.  Before leaving, they formally cautioned Keith Richards that if any of the items they confiscated proved to be illegal, he would face prosecution for letting them be used in his home.

The Rolling Stones  Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

There are a couple of myths associated with this infamous drug bust, likely perpetrated by the equally infamous News of the World.  One is that the police busted an orgy in progress.  This is false, spread mostly by innuendo surrounding the fact that Marianne Faithfull, after showering from the long country walk that afternoon, had wrapped herself in a fur rug from a bed that she was wearing when the police arrived.  When approached by a policewoman to be searched, she let the rug fall and shouted theatrically, "Search me!"  This made Mick Jagger beside himself with laughter.  The other related rumor is that Mick was discovered licking a Mars bar inserted into Marianne's holiest of holies.  A salacious rumor at the time, but one without a shred of evidence, aside from Keith admitting he probably had Mars bars in his home for guests with the munchies.

When the confiscated items were confirmed as illegal, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards received court summonses alleging offenses against the Dangerous Drugs Act on March 20, 1967.  Along with their art dealer friend Robert Fraser, they plead not guilty at a preliminary hearing on May 10.  The trial lasted three days.  The first day, June 27, the sole witness for the defense, Dr. Raymond Dixon Firth, stated he gave Mick verbal permission to take the amphetamine tablets and in his view, it was a legitimate prescription.  The judge, Leslie Block, who told fellow Sussex landowners in a speech a few months later that, "We did our best, your countrymen, my fellow magistrates and I, to cut these Stones down to size," instructed the jury not to regard his words as a prescription.  While they found him guilty in six minutes, Block deferred the sentence until after the trials of Robert Fraser and Keith Richards.  Then Fraser changed his plea to guilty in the hope of reducing his sentence.  Keith's trial took place over the next two days.  Judge Block then amplified the circus environment of the trial by allowing lurid details of the behavior of Marianne Faithfull (not so convincingly camouflaged as "Miss X") to be presented, then in summing-up instructed the jury to disregard it and pretend they never heard it.  They retired for an hour, then pronounced Keith guilty.  The judge sentenced Fraser to six months, Mick to three months and Keith to one year in prison.
Marianne Faithfull  Photo courtesy of Rate Your Music

The reaction to this obvious attempt to make an example of the Stones as a scapegoat for generation gap disdain was outrage.  The severity of the sentences for crimes which an ordinary first time offender might be expected to pay only a modest fine upset many fellow Brits sense of fair play.  This sense not only occurred among the Rolling Stones contemporaries such as the Who, who released cover versions of two Jagger-Richard songs, "The Last Time" and "Under My Thumb," as a protest during the trial with all proceeds going to charity, but also among older establishment voices.  On June 30, an appeals process began where with a 7,000 pound per person bail, Mick and Keith were released provided they surrendered their passports and agree not to leave the country before their full appeal was heard.

The next day, July 1, William Rees-Mogg, the editor of The Times, wrote a scathing indictment of the trial titled, "Who Breaks a Butterfly on a Wheel?"  The meaning of the phrase, originally coined by satirist Alexander Pope in 1735, is that subjecting a defenseless target to a brutal attack is as pointless as strapping a butterfly to a medieval torture rack.  The butterfly in this case was Jagger and Rees-Mogg made such an articulate case for why his treatment was an injustice that it helped accelerate the appeals process with Lord Chief Justice Parker intervening to hear Mick and Keith's appeal on July 31.  The result was that while Mick's conviction was upheld because the amphetamine found in his pocket, Stenamina, was illegal in England, his sentence was erased.  Keith did even better, having both his sentence and his conviction overturned.  The appeals court even censured Judge Block for allowing the titillating testimony about Marianne Faithfull to be presented in court when she wasn't even on trial.
Keith Richards with Acid King David   Photo courtesy of

Yet even with this near-full vindication, there was still the nagging question of who tipped off the police in the first place and why.  There were only two guests at Redlands who were under suspicion, Nicky Cramer and Acid King David.  After "Jagger's pet gangster" David Litvinoff and fellow London thug John Bindon declared Cramer innocent (after beating him to a pulp) that left the possible pool of informants at one with Acid King David, who fled England the day after the bust.  At the time, the party thought to have the greatest motive to see the Stones busted was the News of the World after Jagger had sued them for libel, which Keith had suggested in court that they used Acid King David as an agent provocateur.  But according to the real Acid King David, who dropped the last name Snyderman upon returning to the USA and was known as David Jove until he died in 2004, his real employer was much higher up the food chain.  As told in pages 264-265 of Mick Jagger by Philip Norman:

In fact, at Redlands just before the raid, he had come close to giving himself away when - his guard possibly lowered by drugs - he'd started talking enigmatically to Michael Cooper about spying and espionage, "the James Bond thing ... the whole CIA bit."  Three decades later in L.A., he confessed to Maggie Abbott that he'd been recruited by MI5 on behalf of America's Federal Bureau of Investigation, specifically an offshoot known as COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) set up by the FBI's director, J. Edgar Hoover, in the 1920s, to protect national security and maintain the existing social and political order.  For almost forty years, COINTELPRO operated against so-called subversive elements, from Communists and socialists and Soviet spies to the civil rights movement, black radicals, the campaign against the Vietnam War, and feminists, unhindered by any normal restraints of democracy or morality.  Its methods, for which it would finally be wound up by a horrified Senate investigation in 1971, included illegal surveillance, black propaganda, burglary, forgery, conspiracy, and harassment.

By 1967, COINTELPRO had switched its focus to the subversive effects of rock music on America's young, particularly the kind coming from Britain, most particularly the kind played by the Rolling Stones.  Getting two Stones busted for drug possession would ensure they were denied visas for any further U.S. tours in the foreseeable future.  Britain's security services had been more than happy to assist in the thwarting of these public menaces.  And once they were nailed - so Snyderman had been led to understand - the next ones on the hit list would be the Beatles.

On page 435, Norman quotes a former FBI operative saying, "J. Edgar Hoover hated Jagger probably more than any other pop-cultural figure of his generation."  There certainly are numerous incidents throughout history where Hoover's legendary paranoia drove him to great lengths to nail the perceived offender of his own warped sense of justice.  But what happened fifty years ago certainly qualifies as one of the most colorful and bizarre examples.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Countdown to Trumpstag: Entering the Endgame, Swelling the Shock Doctrine

"With the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, both of which have become costly guerilla conflicts, and with the exposure of the Bush administration's deceptions about 9/11 and the threats posed by Saddam Hussein, we have seen the seeds for new conflicts being planted in West Africa, Venezuela, and Columbia, as well as in the Far East, Indonesia and Korea.  In each of these places, there are reserves of oil and gas or strategic transit routes that can help to meet supply needs for whoever controls them.

The Endgame for all this struggle is China, whose oil imports were recently predicted by the Japan Times to increase by 500% before the year 2030."

-Michael C. Ruppert from The Truth and Lies of 9-11 Introduction filmed in 2004

The interregnum of infamy is coming to a close.  With the presidential election of 2016 now officially stolen, there have been numerous pieces written about the numerous ways this transition clearly delineates the end of Obamanation and the start of Abomination.  Pieces about the repeal of Obamacare, the building of "The Wall" and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants.  Pieces about the ban on Muslim immigration to the US and registry for Muslims in the US.  Pieces about domestic policy that try to demonize Trump as something 'other' than a conservative Republican, as the ill-fated Clinton campaign tried to do, but which inevitably, from my perspective, illustrate him as just the inevitable hypocritical Tea Party poster child for government mismanagement at the highest level in the name of a political temper tantrum summed up in a two word mantra: "no compromise."
Donald J. Trump  Photo credit: Flickr

This is not going to be one of those pieces.  My focus will be on foreign policy.  Sure, there's plenty of columns out there on Trump's foreign policy, covering the upcoming 'tearing up' of the Iran nuclear deal, making nice with Russia and "bomb the shit out of ISIS."  But not many cover the situation from the American Judas perspective: documenting the Deep State and other conspiracies through consciousness of the Carbon Crisis.  I've already presented a hypothesis prior to the general election that the overworld might consider President Trump a useful tool to facilitate a transition of Operation Gladio B under NATO control to an Operation Gladio C that decentralizes NATO responsibility (as recently as January 15 he called them "obsolete")and privatizes wherever possible to obscure accountability.  Anyone familiar with history knows that wherever Operation Gladio goes, false flag attacks follow.  And there have certainly been no shortage of columns exploring the possibility of a 'Reichstag fire' event during Trump's time in office.  Where I hope to be different in my exploration of a 'Trumpstag' event requires revisiting an old subject the overworld pimping privatization would prefer we all forget about: Peak Oil.

Michael C. Ruppert, author of Crossing the Rubicon  Photo credit: Wikipedia

I happen to concur with the late Michael Ruppert, whom I quoted earlier, that one of the motives for the Gladio B attacks on September 11, 2001 was Peak Oil.  Contrary to what pundits have proclaimed, Peak Oil is not "dead"; it never was a question of if, but when it would occur.  "Maestro" Dick Cheney certainly didn't have a crystal ball to foresee how technological improvements in hydraulic fracking could forestall its imminence when, as CEO of Halliburton in 1999, he demonstrated his knowledge of Peak Oil in a speech at the London Institute of Petroleum.  I don't claim to have a crystal ball either as to whether a peak in total liquid fuel global production (the real Peak Oil, not just light sweet crude) will happen before the end of the decade, or in the 20s or 30s.  But it is axiomatic that unless there is massive global deindustrialization (highly unlikely) or massive global depopulation (scarily likely), it will happen before the end of the century.  No other liquid fuel on the planet comes close to the energy density or energy return on energy invested as oil.  So control of these resources is paramount; not just in securing supplies where they are produced but securing access to transport them for consumption.  More on that later.

I think if we want to try to understand why a new 9/11 could occur, it also helps to look back and understand the economic motives behind the original 9/11.  Not September 11, 2001, but September 11, 1973.  That was the day that General Augusto Pinochet overthrew the elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile in a violent coup.  He rolled out firing tanks into the streets and had fighter jets assault government buildings.  Allende was killed and his cabinet rounded and locked up.  About 13,500 civilians were arrested in the days that followed and imprisoned, many sent to the two main football stadiums in Chile where hundreds were tortured and murdered, including popular folk singer Victor Jara.  In all, more than 3,200 were disappeared or executed, 80,000 imprisoned and 200,000 fled Chile to avoid political persecution.  While much has been written about the assistance that Pinochet received from the CIA, ITT and Henry Kissinger, there is a deeper economic examination by Naomi Klein in her well-researched and compelling book The Shock Doctrine which shows collaboration between the military and a small group of neo-liberal privatization extremists called the Chicago Boys, who were disciples of laissez-faire economist Milton Friedman at the University of Chicago.  From page 86:

For a time, the coup planning proceeded on two distinct tracks: the military plotted the extermination of Allende and his supporters while the economists plotted the extermination of their ideas.  As momentum built for a violent solution, a dialogue was opened between the two camps, with Roberto Kelly, a businessman associated with the CIA-financed newspaper El Mercurio, acting as the go-between.  Through Kelly, the Chicago Boys sent a five-page summary of their economic program to the navy admiral in charge.  The navy gave the nod, and from then on the Chicago Boys worked frantically to have their program ready by the time of the coup.

Their five-hundred-page bible - a detailed economic program that would guide the junta from its earliest days - came to be known in Chile as "The Brick."  According to a later U.S. Senate Committee, "CIA collaborators were involved in preparing an initial overall economic plan which has served as the basis for the Junta's most important economic decisions.64  Eight of the ten principal authors of "The Brick" had studied economics at the University of Chicago.65

While I used the word 'neo-liberal' above to describe this economic approach, I think it's important to point out, considering how often the words 'liberal' and 'conservative' are used as labels to describe political polar opposites, that neo-liberals and neo-conservatives are really the same team in terms of the expansion of the Military-Industrial Complex into what Klein terms the "disaster capitalism complex."  Whether it's the Friedmanite Chicago Boys sweeping across the governments of the Southern Cone in the 70s in which 100,000 to 150,000 were tortured and tens of thousands killed to protect the "free" market, or the IMF and World Bank offering aid with major strings attached to Poland and South Africa in the 90s, it all turns out the same in each country: a crisis is used (or manufactured) as a pretext for economic restructuring predicated on massive privatization and eradicating the public sector, resulting in a permanent underclass of anywhere from 25 to 60 percent of the population and the rich becoming super-rich.  Exacerbating this Dickensian disconnect in the 21st century are the multi-national corporations profiting off this arrangement: heavy construction, high-tech security, arms dealers, private health care companies treating wounded soldiers, the oil and gas sector, and defense contractors.  This paradigm is designed to avoid being voted out of existence.  Designating it neo-con or neo-lib obfuscates its real nature: corporatist.  As Klein writes on page 105:

Corporatism, or "corporativism," originally referred to Mussolini's model of a police state run as an alliance of the three major power sources in society - government, businesses and trade unions - all collaborating to guarantee order in the name of nationalism.  What Chile pioneered under Pinochet was an evolution of corporatism: a mutually supporting alliance between a police state and large corporations, joining forces to wage all-out war on the third power sector - the workers - thereby drastically increasing the alliance's share of the national wealth.

While I can certainly visualize Trumpstag being used as a pretext for just this sort of war on workers in the USA, I can also see the gaping hole in the analogy: Trump won't be starting a violent coup to seize power, he's already got it.  But there's another country that underwent the "Pinochet option" in a reverse manner.  I'm talking about what happened to Russia under Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s.  As the Russian president, he first gained international attention in August 1991 when, in response to a group from the Communist old guard in tanks threatening to bomb the Russian parliament building called the White House in a bid to stop democratization, Yeltsin stood on one of the tanks amid a crowd of pro-democracy protestors denouncing them.  When the tanks retreated, Yeltsin was a hero for democracy.  Four months later, Yeltsin formed an alliance with two other Soviet republics to dissolve the Soviet Union.  Yeltsin then tried to institute a 'Chicago School' economic program lifting price controls.  The average Russian consumed 40% less in 1992 than in 1991 and a third of the population fell below the poverty line.  When parliament brought forth a budget bill in 1993 to try to slow down the Shock Doctrine, the IMF leaked to the press that it would rescind a $1.5 billion loan.
Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine  Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The day after the IMF leak, Yeltsin initiated the first step of the "Pinochet option" by issuing decree 1400, which abolished the constitution and dissolved parliament.  Two days later, a special session of parliament voted 636-2 to impeach Yeltsin for this decree, which would be the equivalent of the U.S. president unilaterally dissolving Congress.  Though Russia's Constitutional Court ruled Yeltsin's behavior unconstitutional, President Clinton backed Yeltsin and Congress voted to give Yeltsin $2.5 billion in aid.  Pro-democracy protesters demonstrated for two weeks, once again surrounding the White House parliament building.  Only this time, instead of defending the building as he did two years earlier, Yeltsin did the opposite: on October 4, 1993, Yeltsin ordered a reluctant army to storm the Russian White House and set it on fire!  Approximately 500 people were killed and almost 1,000 wounded in the worst violence Moscow had seen since 1917.  As Klein summed it up on page 289 of The Shock Doctrine:

But Russia wasn't a repeat of Chile - it was Chile in reverse order: Pinochet staged a coup, dissolved the institutions of democracy and then imposed shock therapy; Yeltsin imposed shock therapy in a democracy, then could defend it only by dissolving democracy and staging a coup.  Both scenarios earned enthusiastic support from the West.

The postscript to this tyranny was a law-making binge that entrenched a corrupt casino capitalism in Russia during the 90s.  It made their market highly speculative and thus highly vulnerable: when the Asian financial crisis of 1998 hit, the Russian economy tanked.  Yeltsin's approval rating dropped to six percent and his alcoholism made him increasingly dysfunctional.  What turned this disastrous situation around?  Another shock, this time in the form of a false flag attack on Russian soil.  In September 1999, four apartment buildings were blown up in the middle of the night, killing almost three hundred people.  Newly appointed prime minister Vladimir Putin placed the blame on Chechen rebels trained by Osama bin Laden and launched air strikes on Chechnya later that month.  While Putin has never allowed a formal investigation into the apartment bombings, independent research into these attacks, as well as a flimsy excuse for a "training exercise" that implicated the FSB that Putin previously headed, prove the attacks were an inside job.  Sadly, the job worked as Russians rallied around the KGB veteran Putin to protect them from terror.  On December 31, 1999, several oligarchs engineered a quiet handover of the presidency from Yeltsin to Putin, no elections necessary.
Vladimir Putin  Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

On the subject of Putin, let's explore him a little more deeply in the context of recent events, the first event being the US presidential election of 2016.  I have already published pieces with multiple sources to back up my claims that the DNC stole the primaries for Clinton and the GOP stole the general election for Trump.  It was a slick trick that put Hillary in the same position that Robert Shaw's character Doyle Lonnegan in The Sting was in when Paul Newman beat him at poker with a deck switch: "What was I supposed to do - call him for cheating better than me, in front of the others?"  Of course, it's too much to ask our Justice Department (there's a glaring misnomer) to investigate to what extent software corruption stole the general election for Trump or for Clinton in the primaries to verify that the management of our fake democracy is a perennial shell game. So instead we got a feel-good donation-driven request for a hand recount - but even that paltry bread crumb posed too much of a threat to the Deep State. Rather than having the headline across the media be that the recount was stopped, that story was buried with bipartisan approval so that we could, yet again, demonize Russia. That's not to say there is absolutely no truth in this bipartisan-approved, REM-friendly story - just that it is a convenient distraction so the sheeple will stop focusing on how elections are actually stolen in this country and look at how it might possibly have been stolen but which, upon closer, time-wasting examination, will at best prove an attempt to influence the election as opposed to direct theft. It's not that Putin didn't have the motive - he certainly preferred Trump to Clinton. It's not that he didn't have the means - Russian computer hackers do exist whether you believe they hacked the DNC (and RNC) or not. But how could Putin have had the opportunity to steal the general election when it was already being stolen by the GOP and the machinery they've had in place for over a decade now? Say what you will about Putin - he's not dumb enough to try to steal something if he saw it was already being stolen for him by someone else!

But there is another recent event concerning Putin that I think provides even deeper insight into the machinations of the Deep State and how geopolitical imperatives look to shape up in the future.  That event is the Syrian Civil War.  I think it should be clear by now what happened there in light of the recent ceasefire: Putin checkmated the West.  Despite all attempts to outmaneuver those supporting the Assad government, including assisting rebels aligned with ISIS, Putin's intervention put the Deep State in a bind where the only way to undermine him would be through direct armed conflict, nuclear power vs. nuclear power.  Is that avenue a legitimate consideration by the Deep State?  It's important to point out, especially because they are so powerful, that the CIA is not a monolith, the FBI is not a monolith, NATO is not a monolith and our military is not a monolith.  By extension, I think it's safe to say the Deep State is not a monolith either; there are factions competing for direction in all of these powerful groups.  Some of those factions are still hanging on to the confrontation with Russia; those factions by and large supported Clinton for president.  The other factions, many of which supported Trump, saw the writing on the wall that change was in the wind, that a more economically inviting challenger for global primacy was waiting in the wings.  The prospect of World War III to the overworld exists only as a method of last resort in their Shock Doctrine, when all other avenues for commanding control of resources have been exhausted and profits can no longer be maximized.

Fiery Cross Reef, Spratly Islands, South China Sea  Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

That more economically inviting challenger is China.  Is the Endgame that Michael Ruppert warned us about over a decade ago approaching?  There are a couple of highly indicative factors that we might be entering the initial phase.  One factor is the dispute over islands in the South China Sea.  Foreign Policy had a excellent examination of why this geographical area is so important.  These paragraphs are particularly informative:

The South China Sea joins the Southeast Asian states with the Western Pacific, functioning as the throat of global sea routes. Here is the center of maritime Eurasia, punctuated by the straits of Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar. More than half the world’s annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic. The oil transported through the Strait of Malacca from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is more than six times the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and 17 times the amount that transits the Panama Canal. Roughly two-thirds of South Korea’s energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan’s and Taiwan’s energy supplies, and about 80 percent of China’s crude-oil imports come through the South China Sea. What’s more, the South China Sea has proven oil reserves of 7 billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a potentially huge bounty. 

It is not only location and energy reserves that promise to give the South China Sea critical geostrategic importance, but also the coldblooded territorial disputes that have long surrounded these waters. Several disputes concern the Spratly Islands, a mini-archipelago in the South China Sea’s southeastern part. Vietnam, Taiwan, and China each claim all or most of the South China Sea, as well as all of the Spratly and Paracel island groups. In particular, Beijing asserts a historical line: It lays claim to the heart of the South China Sea in a grand loop (widely known as the "cow’s tongue") from China’s Hainan Island at the South China Sea’s northern end all the way south 1,200 miles to near Singapore and Malaysia. 

The result is that all nine states that touch the South China Sea are more or less arrayed against China and therefore dependent on the United States for diplomatic and military support. These conflicting claims are likely to become even more acute as Asia’s spiraling energy demands — energy consumption is expected to double by 2030, with China accounting for half that growth — make the South China Sea the ever more central guarantor of the region’s economic strength. Already, the South China Sea has increasingly become an armed camp, as the claimants build up and modernize their navies, even as the scramble for islands and reefs in recent decades is mostly over. China has so far confiscated 12 geographical features, Taiwan one, Vietnam 25, the Philippines eight, and Malaysia five.

While Trump made a number of statements during the presidential campaign indicating that under his administration there might be a trade war with China, his actions during the interregnum have only increased the tension of that prospect.  Most prominent, of course, was the controversial call from Trump to the president of Taiwan in December.  But the inflammation of tension comes not just from Trump himself, but from his cabinet picks.  During his confirmation hearing before Congress, Trump's pick for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (the former CEO of ExxonMobil whose selection is probably the best evidence Putin has dirt on Trump, considering Tillerson received the Order of Friendship, one of the highest awards Russia gives to foreign citizens, from Putin in 2013 for negotiating an offshore oil exploration partnership with Exxon and Rosneft that would be worth half a trillion dollars if not for Obama's sanctions on Russia) declared that China's activity in the South China Sea islands is "extremely worrisome" and that "we're going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also not going to be allowed."

Another factor that we might be entering the initial phase of the Endgame is terrorism.  The connection with China is through the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), a group also called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and is predominately comprised of ethnic Uyghurs from China's Xinjiang province.  Like most Islamic jihadist movements, they have roots in Operation Gladio Plan B.  I stumbled upon these roots four years ago in Synopsizing Sibel Edmonds: The Evolution of Operation Gladio Part One:

Edmonds also lists another big player in the Gladio B network, Yusuf Turani.  Turani was actually given US citizenship in 1997 and called the President of Turkestan in absentia.  Again, Turkestan is an area of West China known as the Xinjiang province.

It should be noted that Yusuf Turani's picture is prominently displayed in the "Sibel Edmonds' State Secrets Privilege Gallery" related to her case.  Given this connection, it should not be surprising that TIP joined the global jihadist movement of the Caliphate in 2013 and have been fighting in the northwest part of Syria.  One of their biggest allies in aid and training has been Turkey, or more specifically, the NATO-sponsored Grey Wolves of Turkey.  In the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Grey Wolves set up training camps for youths from Turkic language groups in Central Asia, including Uyghur.  They provided material support and commando training for the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM).

But while the ostensible purpose for such a terror group within the auspices of Gladio might be to encourage separatism to create a buffer region to isolate China from Central Asia, such a precarious arrangement might also be used, in the hands of a skilled propagandist, to place the blame for their actions on the government of China.  This might explain why the government of Turkey was quick to spread the story that the prime suspect in the New Year's Eve attack on the Reina nightclub in Istanbul is a Uyghur.  More indicative of the propagandistic sleight-of-hand needed to pull off this sort of switcheroo on par with the Saddam/al-Qaeda alignment that the neo-cons alleged in the buildup to war with Iraq is the recent statement by Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Trump's pick for National Security Adviser, that China is allied with "radical Islamists."  While I certainly am wary of the influence such bellicose rhetoric can have coming from the cabinet, I don't consider Flynn to be the skilled propagandist.  That designation would go to the co-writer of the book Flynn wrote in July titled “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies.”  That propagandist is Michael Ledeen.
Michael Ledeen, author of Universal Fascism  Photo credit:

Ledeen's lifetime career of propaganda has been explored in numerous posts on this blog.  The most comprehensive one is American Judas 2nd Edition: INVESTIGATE CHENEY & UNRAVEL THE CABAL.  Highlights: Ledeen is the conduit of the Niger yellowcake forgery the Bush administration used to buttress their case to go to war against Iraq in 2003.  He was involved in the early stages of the Iran/Contra scandal.  Finally, but most important in light of the subject of this post, he was allegedly tied to the Italian P2 Masonic Lodge, a violent right wing group that was involved in a number of terrorists attacks in Italy in the 1970s and the 1980s.  P2 was involved with Operation Gladio in those attacks known as the Strategy of Tension, a false-flag campaign where P2 organized terror attacks to blame on left-wing groups.  As Josh Marshall said in a recent column on the Ledeen-Flynn partnership, "Basically, if you see an idea and it looks sensible but find out Ledeen is involved, it's definitely not sensible and is in fact probably some harebrained plan half crazy, half evil that you want nothing to do with. When Ledeen's involved, there's always trouble...Seriously, if Flynn's in with Ledeen, he's trouble."

As I said before, I don't claim to have a crystal ball.  I don't know if Trumpstag will happen this year or next, or what exact form it will take.   The only certainty I have that the event is coming is that the motives of the principal actors who stand to profit the most are all too clear.