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Oil, or What? Life After Capitalism

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I woke in the small hours, as sometimes happens when the coyotes howl like tortured children on the hillside. But it was only the image of Cheney in my head again, pronouncing some doomful phrases calculated to make anyone hearing him experience an icy chill of nameless dread. Not necessarily at what he says, but the being he becomes when speaking.

But I tell myself he's only a man like other men. I got to thinking about what must be going on in that particular man's mind. With only his behavior to go on it's tricky. You want to look past the things he says. With some people words are not meant to inform. And then you have to establish a contex, or it's still like trying to read the newspaper in a stiff breeze. To make any sense of him at all I have to crank my view all the way back to this question of our relationship to that indespensible poison, oil.

Cheney and every other politician have said we are "addicted" to oil. And it all comes down to one question, ultimately, though it is a large one: can we kick the habit? Is it even possible to find a substitute resource and convert our entire industrialized world to it? And if not, what else must happen if we are to avert the transformation of our planet into a facsimile of silent, dusty Mars?

It isn't just driving cars and heating homes that makes us oil-junkies. Look around you, wherever you are right now. What do you see? What is it made of? My desk is a laminate surface on glued-together sawdust: flakes of wood and petroleum products shaped into a flat work surface. My keyboard is petroleum-derived plastic, as is almost everything connected to it. My shirt is cotton, but half my underwear is made of petroleum-derived synthetics. The cotton in my shirt no doubt was harvested, shipped, processed, woven and sewn by oil-driven machines, themselves made from metals produced at a high petroleum-based energy cost, and operated by underpaid and endangered human beings who could not afford to buy their own products in the stores.

The paint on eveything I can see from my plastic chair; the heat in this building and the insulation that keeps it indoors; the electricity, lights, coffeepot, refrigerator and the car I drove to work in, all require fossil-fuels to exist and to function. Even my food could not be grown in sufficient quantities, and brought to my table out of season but still with the dew of some exotic foreign morning on the lucent, glowing, identically-sized skins, without fertilizers derived from oil.

I won't bore you further with lists. The question is this: given that everything we eat, wear, manufacture and use - so much of our embedded infrastructure of life - is oil-based, can we even consider ending our dependence on this magic poison? And if not, then what?

Dick Cheney, an Oil Man down to his pacemaker/defibrillator, has been driving this nation personally for at least eight years, and possibly much longer in his various capacities as CEO of Haliburton, Secretary of Defense, White House Chief of Staff, and Member of Congress and primary Blackwater mercenary army client. His character, which seems obscure, really isn't: we need only look at his curriculum vitae, and his accomplishments on behalf of the various causes he has served with such distinction all these years, revolving through corporate doors and public offices of Washington, collecting more and bigger clout at every turn. It is not farfetched to say he represents the very essence of American power. If anyone is pulling his strings, they are so formidable, so far above the law as to be unapproachable in any effective way, and then only with thick insulation and a hazmat suit.

Cheney is the Vice President in a Vice President's office that has been re-invented by its occupant for his own ends. He is obviously much superior to his titular boss in intellect and in real ability to have things done; said nominal leader is absolutely reliable in smirkingly pronouncing any lie whatsoever to further Cheney's schemes, with a folksy chuckle and a naughty wink off-camera. And Cheney's power, the power that got him there and keeps him there, is not from any Constitutionally-defined electoral process, not from the ordinary citizenry of America, and not from his charisma or his sterling leadership qualities; it is from his long association with the international oil business. The man holds a lot of cards, and knows how to play them. However, when the stack of ill-gotten winnings piles up so high as to obscure everything else, no amount of secrecy and fear-mongering, no just-substantial-enough "narrative" can hide the truth anymore.

So here we have the man who is as close as anybody ever was to being the actual ruler of the world. And the problem, as mentioned, is that we, humanity as a whole, cannot sustain our American lifestyle of gobbling up all the world's oil wealth and spewing out poison and destruction, displacement and death everywhere in return - in other words, we cannot keep doing what made Cheney so powerful - and survive as a species. Something, it is generally agreed, must go. Oil, or human life as we know it, or what?

I must use the term "we" advisedly. Because when Cheney says "we," just whom is he talking about? And in answering a question like "Oil or What?" it is not sufficient to assume "we" means "we" when it comes out of the side of Cheney's mouth that he used to scare us into letting him have his wars, to push through his torture policies and his super-duper secret prisons, the side he used to establish his "Unitary" Executive Branch.

Cheney, as we all know now, is a bald-faced liar. The kind that when finally caught dead to rights in the lies he scarcely bothers to try to conceal anymore, responds with "So?" challenging anyone to do something about it. Anyone who has not accepted millions in corporate gifts to get into political office, anyone who can make something stick in any Court that can snatch Cheney bald-headed up before the Bar of Justice; anyone who can make themselves heard from whatever tiny Free Speech Zones may exist in some obscure corner of our Republic. Know anybody like that? I don't.

If Oil is not made a much smaller and totally harmless source of energy, household products, and perhaps more significantly of politcial power, we will continue the way we've been headed until we reach one of several quite likely logical conclusions, none of which are endurable, much less pleasant. But Big Oil isn't going to budge, certainly not with their man Cheney in charge. So what else can give way? The next candidate in line is the world's population of human beings.

News of whole nations deprived of any reliable food supply by Cheney-crony Wolfowitz' financial policies or environmental damage or both, with winter or uncharactderistically dry months of summer coming on; news of displacements of millions of refugees to nowhere (without that infamous Alaskan bridge to get there) from war zones made uninhabitable by "depleted" unranium and unexploded white phosphorus cluster bomblets, tainted water supplies and mined farmlands; news of thousands of milk-poisoned Chinese babies, news of the Haitian Hurricane Hannah disaster, so much worse than New Orleans - news did I say? Sorry: that one went by without a peep out of "the media." News and news and news of the destruction of our natural world, our critical weather patterns, our cultures, our bodies and our minds, all bodes real and present ill for the ordinary people of the world.

News, but not news: no hint of connected dots, a series of unfortunate, inexplicable, isolated events read blandly by sober-faced sock puppets on TV who can hop from a horrible murder to the weather with appropriate changes in tone of voice and eyebrow position, without a moment's dead air to slow the relentless feed.

It is unquestionably the case that with a severe drop in Earth's human burden, peak oil, climate change and environmental degradation would cease to be a problem almost immediately. Well of course, for the billions of dead; and not just because such massive slaughter would be a bigger problem; but Earth would probably resume her serene equalibrium rapidly once the poison stopped leaking out of the locked vaults of her inner tissues and seeping into her beautiful rivers and eternal winds. The corpses would be absorbed eventually; and presto: Earthly paradise for whoever is left. The meek, as we are told to believe. The meek friends of Cheney.

Cheney runs, personally, the deadliest military force ever seen in history, with the most destructive technologies, and the most comprehensive automated intelligence networks - spy satellites, total and unlimited (legal, schmegal) access to the internet, cellphones and landlines enclosing the world's communications - ever devised by mortal man. This includes the now-famous Blackwater, a private mercenary army that, by the way, provides "personal security" to the general staff, mercenaries answerable only to Cheney himself. As if this were not more than enough, recently a new domestic armed unit was deployed explicitly for control of American "insurgencies" in a blindingly un-Constitutional re-invention of American military function.

Cheney's friends - but such men do not actually have what can be termed friendships; his cronies and business associates? I'm just going to call them his vassals. At any rate they are all totally committed to extraction and exploitation of the world's remaining oil deposits, to the exclusion of any and all alternative energy resources, at the highest "return on investment" possible. Just look at the lengths they've gone to, to stop any serious alternative energy development, anywhere. Compare this to the continuing operations to control the oil resource itself by brute force.

Cheney's not omnipotent, not by a long shot. But he's a mile ahead of whoever's in second place. and there is one other aspect of Mr. Cheney's personality that may put another light on things. This man does not simply execute one underhanded scheme at a time, and his failures, massive as they appear, still serve the greater plan he is still implementing even in the (assumed) last days of his term of office. He's all about "full spectrum dominance." He operates a multi-layered constellation of networked machinations so blindingly complex and prolific as to beggar the ordinary imagination. Cheney-watchers are constantly saying, "Can they DO that!? Wasn't that illegal!?" and similar exclamations of shock and awe, as each new, interlocking, unbelievably worse scam unfolds, pushing the envelope to unheard-of and unsustainable new excesses.

Some complained about how he replaced the comparatively functional intelligence apparatus and career leadership at the Pentagon with dual-passport know-nothing zealots from the neo con thinktanks and lobbyists working for Israel's most militant Zionist wing, resulting in the Iraq invasion and occupation, torture both secret and spectacularly overt, suspension of civilization's bedrock habeas corpus principle, perpetual imprisonment without charge, representation or due process, and so on. Then some waxed indignant about the domestic spying, the takeover of State and municipal law enforcement to suppress of dissent, the covert destabilizations of legitimately elected South American and African democracies, and the anti-Russia and -Iran saber-rattlings that now, on the eve of the "election," seem such clear signs of impending world war.

Yet it turns out there were still other, even more unimaginably diabolical operations still to unfold before our benumbed eyes, orchestrated behind and in front of the scenes with Imperial disregard for law or even rudimentary human feeling for our beloved world and its people. The hollowing-out of most Federal agencies, for example, leaving them pathetic shells staffed by hand-picked cronies from ideological backwaters that replaced disgusted and insulted but competent career professionals, and the systematic un-building and disconnection of all the actual functionality designed to keep us all safe, has resulted in one catastrophe after another, across the board. Katrina of course, but also food safety, drug effectiveness and safety, the hopelessly politicized "Justice" Department, health, education, welfare; in short, every government service and function has been stripped and privatized, subbed out to incompetent but well-connected profiteers, the most critical functions a government can provide its citizen-masters relentlessly dismantled and replaced with cardboard cutouts.

Seemingly unnoticed amid this opaque cloud of blatant abuse of the public trust, the steady undermining and dissolution of even the barest minimum of public oversight in our banking system opened the way to the present crisis: the looting of the US Treasury by the same people who destroyed all of its protections in the name of the "free" market. The "subprime meltdown," was engineered so thoroughly that the only hope of rescue is to throw more money at the perpetrators, possibly more than they stole in the first place, a trillion dollars at last estimate (and nobody knows the true number), with no oversight or regulatory control, perhaps in hopes that the robbers will be so sated with loot that they'll let us alone for a little while.

As I write this Congress is puffing itself up in righteous indignation, but is certain to cave in to the scare tactics and campaign contributions of the profiteers in time for the markets to open on Monday, if the various stars can position themselves sufficiently as having fought against the robbery so that their share of the proceeds might go unnoticed by constituents.

Two things stand out as the dust of our once-proud nation, redolent like everything else Cheney touches of "nine-eleven," falls once again around our ears. First, there is a Presidential election coming down the home stretch that we hear very little actual news about in the flurry of insults to our intelligence passing for coverage; and second, the economic collapse has only just gotten started. What will happen to the election if the supermarket shelves start to run out of food? My guess is we'll get martial law, indefinitely, under the Unitary Executive. This is unlikely to result in all of us having enough to eat, or a warm bed this winter.

Cheney has the power to pull any number of "October Surprises," such as (a) Israel invading Iran, (b) with nuclear missiles. He can (c) cause the election itself to either grind to a screetching halt, or (d) rig the tallies using the upgraded computer hacks that allow any outcome he might find plausible enough in "battleground states." He can simply turn the chessboard upside down and implement martial law, for that matter. And as we know, the camps have been built and the dissidents identified. All, of course, by no-bid contractors from KBR and Haliburton and Blackwater.

Go through the alphabet yourself. Cheney can put McCain (Palin, actually, in this New Vice Presidency) in office, he can stop Obama from being President, or stop the election altogether. He can make Bush an actual Emperor if he wants to; the legal framework for this is already an accomplished fact. Although this may seem farfetched it is all quite verifiably true. You can "Google" it.

But what is likely? That's the trouble: what is likely is much, much worse than the fascist takeover of the United States of America by a megalomaniacal dictator with a personal defibrillator.

Let's go back to the premise: Oil or What? Cheney is leading that faction of world power that represents oil interests, and nothing else. It is his sole support, despite his innovative and far-reaching, even visionary application of its power. Without oil Cheney is just a broken down old guy with a bad heart condition and shifty eyes. But his agenda, the agenda of Big Oil, is not complete, and Big Oil has but one way out of this present bind, other than its own decline into well-deserved obsolescence and obscurity: a severe and sudden drop in the population of Earth.

Cheney's the real "Decider." Whatever he decides next, be sure it won't be an actual handing over of power to the Democrats. With Palin in his old job, he can be the Veep behind the Veep behind the Prez. Then he can just keep on destroying the world as we know it, convinced, as have been all great genocidal world leaders, that he is Saving Humanity.
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I'm an old Pogo fan. For some unknown reason I persist in outrage at Feudalism, as if human beings can do much better than this. Our old ways of life are obsolete and are killing us. Will the human race wake up in time? Stay (more...)

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