Slant: Short opinion pieces and rumor-chasing notes
Stuck on Oil
Michael Ruppert on the messy decline of the oil age
Cohen blames media for war, Bush.
CITY DERAILS BIG JAIL TAX
The Eugene City Council balked May 23 at a radical Lane County proposal to about double county cops and jail spending by drastically increasing property taxes and changing the structure of local government.
The council voted 5-4 against amending the Metropolitan Plan to allow Lane County to set up a countywide taxing district for law enforcement. The district would have allowed the county to circumvent property tax limitation measures and drastically increase property taxes.
Opponents argued that pursuing the district was a waste of staff time and money. The district would have required an eventual countywide vote, and with so many arguments against the controversial district, there appeared to be little chance it would pass. The county has failed eight times to pass tax increases for cops and jails, even when they lacked controversy among elected officials like the district proposal.
Under Measure 5 compression rules, the special district would rob the city of Eugene of revenue from its popular library and school support levies. The county said it would try to make up the lost revenue, but its record on revenue sharing has been controversial. City officials have been arguing for more than a decade that the county doesn't give city residents a fair share of the county's large road fund.
Much of the money for the new county levy would come from city residents who would subsidize rural law enforcement patrols that rural residents have refused to raise their own taxes to pay for.
It's also unclear that the money is actually needed. In the past the county has always had money to prosecute and jail political protesters and marijuana smokers for low level offenses. The county has also always been eager to give away its tax revenue and cash to corporations and developers in the form of subsides and tax breaks. DA Doug Harcleroad has long complained that his office is drastically overworked, but he recently took a six-month vacation. Crime rates have been falling locally for the last decade, even without the big jail and cop taxes the county says it desperately needs.
The special district proposal isn't entirely dead yet. Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy, the swing vote on the issue, said she's willing to continue discussing the district with the county and it could come up for a vote again. — Alan Pittman
COUNCIL OKS FOREST PLEDGE
On May 23, the Eugene City Council passed a symbolic resolution to end the logging of mature and old growth forests on public lands in the McKenzie River Watershed. The Cascadia Wildlands Project (CWP), the Oregon Natural Resources Council and OSPIRG drafted the resolution, which passed 7-1, with only Councilor Jennifer Solomon opposing. Local business owners, former loggers, a university employee and a flyfisherman testified in support of the resolution.
The resolution comes in response to Forest Service plans to log more than 3,000 acres of mature and old-growth trees in the watershed over the next two summers. According to CWP Campaign Coordinator Josh Laughlin, the logging plan would degrade both the quality of McKenzie River, which supplies Eugene's municipal drinking water (ranked best in the country by Organic Style magazine) and the recreational value of the forest (the McKenzie River Trail was voted second-best in the country by Bike magazine). "We want to make sure that the watershed's assets are recognized and not sacrificed for short-term profits," Laughlin says.
The resolution is a non-binding recommendation from the city of Eugene to the McKenzie Ranger District of the Willamette National Forest to protect old trees, end road-building and logging and support restoration projects in mature and old-growth forests on federal lands in the watershed.
"Eugeneans want to see their treasured forest safeguarded and they want to see their historic landscapes restored to generate economic opportunities," Laughlin says. "Future generations will appreciate this recommendation, as these forests will provide solitude, recreational opportunities and clean water for years to come." — Kera Abraham
LRAPA BOARD GETS GREENER
The Eugene City Council voted May 23 to appoint Drew Johnson to a newly created Eugene at-large position on the Lane Regional Air Pollution Authority (LRAPA) Board of Directors. Johnson, an environmental engineer, was a permit writer for LRAPA until last February, when he was laid off due to a budget shortfall. Mayor Piercy nominated Johnson from a field of six candidates. The council approved Johnson with a 7-1 vote, with Councilor Poling opposed.
"Drew was by far the best candidate," says Oregon Toxics Alliance Board President David Monk. "I think the mayor recognized that the LRAPA board needed a person with some knowledge of how the agency operates."
The LRAPA board will select another at-large appointee in June. The two candidates who submitted applications by the deadline are Springfield residents Barbara Allen, a retired special educator, and Marie Richey, a former information technician. Both candidates expressed interest in establishing greater trust in the agency by holding polluters accountable and reducing negative health impacts from pollution. — Kera Abraham
CPA MARKS 10TH YEAR
May marks the 10th anniversary of Citizens for Public Accountability (CPA), an organization of progressive Eugene-area activists who originally came together to fight the siting of the Hyundai computer chip factory in wetlands of west Eugene, and have since gone on to other environmental causes and campaigns. An anniversary party and reunion of all the people who have been associated with the small, but influential group is planned for June 2 at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive St.
The evening begins at 6 pm with food and socializing, followed by a program at 7 including testimonials on CPA's role in Eugene over the last decade; a slide show of major events of the times; visual displays; music by Emily Fox; and a presentation of CPA "lifetime activist" awards to Eve McConnaughey and Ray Wolfe.
"When you think about it, it's amazing what CPA has accomplished over the last decade," says Bob O'Brien of the group. He offers a partial list:
CPA took on one of the world's biggest industrial conglomerates (Hyundai), and won major changes in the siting, environmental, tax subsidy, and other aspects of the project. CPA and the Sierra Club sued Hyundai for violations of the Clean Water Act and won a settlement of $250,000.
CPA won enactment of one of the country's most innovative local toxics right-to-know programs, and has defended it ever since. And the group helped keep the Willamette riverfront from being over-developed with a "poorly planned" Riverfront Research Park.
CPA and its members have helped organize and train local activists and contributed expertise to local struggles to preserve Eugene's environment, such as lobbying to prevent overdevelopment on Moon Mountain and in the Amazon Creek headwaters, helping save small farms from gravel pit development, fighting the West Eugene Parkway, helping elect progressive city councilors, mayors and commissioners, and weighing in on the re-design of Eugene's land-use and planning policies.
For more information, e-mail email@example.com
CITY TO SNUFF LOOPHOLE?
The Eugene City Council voted May 23 to prepare revisions to standards on outdoor smoking areas.
In 2000, the city banned smoking inside places of employment including bars and restaurants to protect public health. But the council continued to allow smoking in outdoor areas of establishments and left it to city staff to set up administrative rules. The rules required that only 25 percent of the walls of an "outside" smoking area be actually open to the air, a huge loophole that at least 40 bars have taken advantage of in constructing nearly enclosed smoking areas, many complete with lighting and heating. Non-smokers who want to sit outside often can't do so without being forced to inhale second-hand smoke.
Other cities have much tighter rules for their outdoor smoking areas, according to city staff research. New York State, which has one of the most thriving restaurant and bar industries in the nation, allows smoking in only outside areas with no roof or ceiling enclosure and then only in a separate part of the outdoor area not to exceed 25 percent of the outdoor seating.
Arlington, Ohio, requires separate smoking patios to either have no roof or only two walls. Massachusetts bans any walls or side coverings from outdoor smoking areas.
A public hearing on the proposed new Eugene rules is expected in the next four months. — Alan Pittman
Eugene Weekly offices will be closed Monday, May 30, for Memorial Day. Editorial deadlines for our June 2 issue will not change, but advertising will have early deadlines. To reserve space for display ads, please call by Thursday noon, May 26. For classified ads, please call by 5 pm Friday, May 27. Questions? Call 484-0519.
Will McKenzie-Willamette/Triad ever build at the EWEB site? It's becoming a puzzling mess with so many unanswered questions regarding access, whether EWEB will stay or not, the wisdom of building a hospital between a river bank and railroad tracks, delays, etc., that we're beginning to wonder if will ever happen. Meanwhile, both hospitals are investing heavily in their existing facilities. Triad appears loathe to talk about Plan B, but maybe it's time.
In our downtown story last week we referred to an "ugly façade of a medical supply store at Broadway and Willamette" that was once an indoor farmers market. George Carlson of the family owned SHAWMED Inc. called to tell us the store is actually at Broadway and Charnelton. But more importantly, he says, his family has spent more than $100,000 remodeling the building and $5,000 painting and repainting the outside, which is a constant target of graffiti taggers. He objected to the "ugly" reference, particularly in light of what the building looked like 10 years ago. "It was a train wreck before," he said. "We're trying to make things better for downtown."
Robert Redford's Sundance Group is going to open a chain of theaters for independent, documentary and foreign-language films, as well as some studio projects, according to a short in The New York Times. How about one in downtown Eugene? Anybody have a direct line to Redford? Speaking of film, if you can spare 110 minutes out of the nice weather, catch Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room at the Bijou. A great lesson in how the country runs these days, it's also a remarkable documentary, so well done that it is not even a downer.
All of us citizens are supposed to take positive action to make the American press more responsible. Organize citizen groups to watchdog the press. Don't dare settle into a state of "alienated self-absorption." That's the advise of Jay Harris who gave the prestigious Ruhl lecture on the UO campus last week. He's director of the Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy at USC in L.A. Our first action is to urge owners of the American press to go for less profit and more depth. Our second action is to urge editors to beware of Carl Rove in his scapegoating of the press as a diversion from actions of the Bushies.
SLANT includes short opinion pieces, observations and rumor-chasing notes compiled by the EW staff. Heard any good rumors lately? Contact Ted Taylor at 484-0519, firstname.lastname@example.org
Stuck on Oil
Michael Ruppert on the messy decline of the oil age
BY KERA ABRAHAM
Michael Ruppert is a leading proponent of the theory that the Bush administration was complicit in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, part of a scheme to control the world's dwindling oil supply. He publishes a newsletter called "From the Wilderness" from his base in L.A., and he explores the connections between oil and the military in his 2004 bestseller, Crossing the Rubicon: The decline of the American Empire at the end of the Age of Oil. Ruppert will speak at McDonald Theater at 7 pm May 31 about the politics of peak oil. For more information, visit www.fromthewilderness.com
What is peak oil?
All oil production follows a bell curve. Peak oil is the moment in time when you are at the apex of the bell curve. No matter how much money, technology or effort you throw at it, you will never be able to increase oil production after that point. It will be in a steady, permanent decline.
How does peak oil relate to our military?
The United States has been aware of peak oil for quite a long time, and peak oil is on us now. The attacks of 9/11, which I have shown were facilitated by the U.S. government, and all subsequent U.S. military deployments have been engineered with one specific goal: to control the last remaining oil reserves on the planet.
Tell me what you think happened on 9/11.
It's very clear that the U.S. government, under the control of Vice President Richard Cheney, had scheduled five conflicting war games for the morning of Sept. 11, which moved a substantial number of the U.S. fighter response forces out of the region so that they could not respond. The so-called hijackers were, in effect, agents working for the U.S. government. Al Qaeda had been co-opted to perpetrate the attack, which then gave the U.S. government the pretext for all the military adventurism and occupation that has taken place since.
Why do you think the mainstream media parroted the Bush administration's version of events?
In some cases, the mainstream media did not, because there were many stories coming out of the mainstream media that flatly contradicted the Bush administration's line of events on 9-11. But the mainstream media failed to acknowledge, recognize, address or even pursue these glaring inconsistencies, and the same holds true for the so-called 9-11 Independent Commission report, which was nothing more than a cover-up, a fabrication, a packet full of very demonstrable lies.
Why does this administration cling so desperately to oil when alternative energy sources are available?
There is no replacement for what hydrocarbon energy does for human life on this planet. Until you change the way money works, you cannot change the way energy is used. We live in an economic paradigm that requires infinite economic growth, and all economic growth requires energy. So there are no solutions. And rather than address the problem sanely, the United States government has just taken a position of, 'We will take whatever we need to take, wherever we need to take it — damn the world, full speed ahead — to protect our way of life.' The U.S. has committed to a bitter, bloody war to the end to control oil. All over the planet, the world is in full revolt because where the U.S. takes oil, other economies suffer.
What would it take to shift this country toward more sustainable energy sources?
Again, nothing is going to change this country's path. We have passed the point of no return. It takes 30 years to change energy infrastructure. Even SAIC, Science Applied International Corporations, which does huge government intelligence contracts — they're the heart of the military-industrial complex — has a report that was leaked out that says very clearly, 'Listen, guys, we need to start something right now, but it may be too late to save everything.
Is the federal government interested in 'saving' anything?
No. I believe that the policies of the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve and the Bush administration — especially in regard to the foreign trade deficit, the U.S. budget deficit, the pricing of the dollar and the exportation of American manufacturing jobs — show one intent and one intent only, which is bankrupting the United States. I predict major economic collapse in this country.
Why would the U.S. government want to do that?
First of all, these people are not tied to the United States. Their money has all been moved offshore. People in the United States are saddled with mountains and mountains of debt. We have the highest per-capita debt level ever in U.S. history. We can't buy any more stuff on credit. The market here is saturated. The deal is to collapse this market and come back and foreclose on everything. China, however, is a vastly untapped market where the demands are very high. The rich elites in this country will be happy to shut this economy down. That serves two purposes. It allows them to foreclose on real estate property and jobs, but it also reduces demand for hydrocarbon energy.
How much time do we have before this major economic collapse?
I predict it will start this year, and we're certainly seeing some signs of that. GM and Ford bonds have been downgraded to junk status. United Airlines has just taken away all of its employees' pensions. There's a whole litany of things that are showing just how weak the U.S. economy is right now. As happened during the Great Depression, we will have large-scale domestic and economic upheavals. Now, this is not gonna happen overnight. It will happen progressively along with blackouts. By 2007, these blackouts are going to start becoming permanent simply because there's not enough oil.
Did you always have this worldview?
No, I most certainly did not. I'm an only child who was born into a conservative Republican family. My grandfather and my father were both veterans of the U.S. Army, and my mother was a senior cryptanalyst for the Army Security Agency during World War II. I was a Republican through college at UCLA for four years, a true believer. But when I was a police officer on the streets of South Central, around 1977, the CIA tried to recruit me. I discovered that the CIA was dealing drugs, laundering $600 billion a year in drug profits through the U.S. financial markets. I said, "I won't get involved in dealing drugs. I became a cop to stop drugs." Which resulted, ultimately, in the end of my career. People were trying to kill me.
Do you still feel threatened by the government?
The threats on me are not now so much physical, because that would cause too many problems. There have been severe and sustained efforts by the government to put me out of business. They've sabotaged records, things like that. That kind of pressure on me has been very intense, especially since the book came out.
Is the war on drugs connected to the war on terror?
Well, yes. It's primarily an economic connection. One of the most important things that happened after 9-11 — and boy, we predicted this — is that the Taliban had destroyed roughly 96 percent of all the opium grown in Afghanistan right before 9-11. That move took an estimated $200 billion in liquid cash, laundered money, out of Western banks. Since the U.S. occupied Afghanistan, which it did right after 9-11, Afghan opium production has exponentially grown. Afghanistan, under CIA control, now supplies more than 75 percent of all the heroin grown on the planet. That's to keep the drug money flowing through Western banks to keep the U.S. economy sustained.
If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be?
I would change the way money works. We are seeing in the human paradigm a collision between the requirement for infinite growth and finite energy. The economy paradigm places incentives on destruction and death. The energy companies and the banks are going to make more money by killing people on the way down the peak oil slope. That's how profits are made. Until you change the way money works, you can't change anything else.
Do we have to change capitalism before we can shift to a more sustainable society?
It is now a futile effort to try to change the government or the economy. Governments and economies move too slowly. My philosophy is to educate people on ways that they can save themselves, their communities and their neighbors. All we can do now is empower people, and that's what I see happening in the Pacific Northwest. All throughout the region, people are waking up. They're working local currencies, permaculture, everything else that needs to happen to help people survive. I happen to love the state of Oregon deeply, and I'm trying like heck to move there. I will be a resident of Oregon someday.
I've heard talk of the Pacific Northwest, from San Francisco to B.C., potentially breaking into a separate state. Do you see that happening?
Yes. I think that at some point, the U.S. government plans to divide the country into 10 regions. As the economy collapses and as the world situation grows tenser, the U.S. government won't be able to police the entire country. A civil war, at some point, is not out of the question, if for no other reason than because the draft is coming, and because the U.S. military is so over-extended right now that military families are being horribly abused. We can't sustain that. I'm aware of maybe 15 or 20 very great thinkers on the subject of peak oil and war who, if not already there, are moving into the Pacific Northwest region, and dammit, I'm doing it too.
You're describing an increasingly isolationist world that seems to contradict globalization.
Globalization is dead. Why are we flying strawberries from Chile to markets in Los Angeles? You know how much energy that takes? You cannot ship goods around the world anymore. Seventy percent of world's transportation is powered by oil. Fuel costs are rising; they're going through the roof. So globalization is totally dead.
The economy is killing globalization?
Exactly. Geography will determine everything. Korea and ultimately Japan will have to fold into China's sphere of influence. Britain will have to join Europe whether it wants to or not because the only natural gas it can get is from Russia, and it will come through the European Union. Latin America is unifying so rapidly from an economic standpoint you can't believe it. Even from a survival standpoint locally, it's gonna be what's in your neighborhood that's gonna save your life, not the government.
Does biology also play a factor?
If I were to sum up the problem facing mankind right now, I would use one word: overpopulation. Planet Earth before the oil age had a carrying capacity of roughly 2 billion people. There are 10 calories of hydrocarbon energy in every calorie of food consumed on the planet. You take away the oil and natural gas, you take away the food. When we hit our peak, we run into a situation called population overshoot. We see the mathematical shortfalls, and now the population cannot sustain itself and we reach a point of collapse. I do not have any plan, myself, to depopulate the planet. But what terrifies me is that I'm certain that Dick Cheney, the Rockefellers, the Bushes, the economic elite, do have a plan to depopulate the planet.
All of this is pretty disheartening.
[Laughs.] I know. I'm sorry to do that. But I and many others are very gratified to see that tens of thousands of people are making changes in their own personal lifestyles as a result of the information we're putting out. They are preparing themselves to survive. That's gratifying.
So it's not necessarily the end of humanity, just life as we know it?
One of the best quotes I've ever heard was from one of the premier spokesmen for peak oil, Colin Campbell, an eminently credible retired petroleum geologist who was the head of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil. He said, "The species Homo Sapiens may not become extinct, but the sub-species of Petroleum Man most certainly will."
Cohen blames media for war, Bush.
BY ALAN PITTMAN
Media watchdog and progressive activist Jeff Cohen blasted the "half a dozen giant media conglomerates that are sitting on the windpipe of the First Amendment" at a May 19 speech at the UO.
Cohen founded FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) and has co-written a book, Wizards of Media Oz, nationally syndicated opinion columns, and worked as a TV commentator and communications director of the Kucinich for President campaign.
Cohen said the mainstream media has become "weapons of mass distraction" focused primarily on "entertainment nonsense."
Most Americans can't identify their local congressperson, "but they're experts on Laci Peterson, they can give you chapter and verse on Michael Jackson." Before 9/11 the news was dominated for months by what proved to be unfounded speculation that California Congressman Gary Condit was involved in the murder of a congressional intern.
Even when the mainstream media does report on an important issue, they mislead, Cohen said. "There's no story that the mainstream media has covered more than Sept. 11, and polls show that half of Americans [wrongly] think Saddam Hussein was behind it. ... The proof is in the pudding. The proof is in what the American people know."
The problem of such misinformation makes the anti-war and media reform movements "inextricably linked," Cohen said.
Cohen said polls show that a majority of President Bush supporters still think Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was linked to al Qaeda. The country isn't divided between red and blue states, but rather the information-rich minority and the information-poor majority, he said. We have "faith-based voters as opposed to fact-based voters."
Cohen said it is a "myth" that the mainstream media is liberal and provides a counterbalance to Fox News and other conservative media. The owners of big media companies are "Republican-endorsing media moguls."
TV news will show accident victims but not war victims, Cohen said. CNN executives warned staff not to show civilians killed in the U.S. invasion without blaming terrorists and The New York Times publisher called focusing on U.S. killings after 9/11 "perverse," according to Cohen. Cohen quoted Dan Rather on Letterman as saying that he would do whatever his president ordered.
Cohen described his own experience in working for MSNBC and being pulled from a show because conservative activist Ann Coulter objected to debating him. He said the Phil Donahue show was canceled because it was offering time for anti-war voices at a time the network and its competitors were "waiving the flag at every opportunity." He said network executives demanded that they book two pro-war guests for every anti-war guest, three for filmmaker Michael Moore.
"If there was a fair fight in the media, I don't think the working class would be voting for Bush against their own interests," Cohen said.
Cohen did offer some hope. Progressive media critics have organized over the Internet and educated themselves with websites like commondreams.org, he said. With cheap and easy new Internet and video recording and editing technology, "we can all be journalists," he said.
Recently, public outcry defeated plans by Sinclair Broadcasting to air free "Bush infomercials" during the presidential campaign and defeated an effort by the Bush administration to allow even greater media consolidation.
Cohen said progressives are also exploring the possibility of raising money to fund a left alternative to the conservative Fox News.
But Cohen had harsh criticism for the Democratic Party's efforts. "The Republicans are a 90 percent wholly owned subsidiary of big business. The Democrats are a 50 percent subsidiary of big business." The current national debate is between the right wing of the Democratic party and the right wing of the Republican party, he said. "We don't have an opposition party."
"I've yet to meet anyone that actually liked [John] Kerry. I think that includes his wife, too," Cohen said.
Instead of creating a third party, Cohen said progressives should take back the Democratic Party.
Part of that would be pushing the Democratic campaign group MoveOn.org to take a firm stand to get the troops out of Iraq now. Cohen called on local activists to press Rep. Peter DeFazio to do the same.
Cohen described the Democratic leadership's strategy of voting for war and then defeating the Republicans on Social Security as laughable. The anti-war issue is a winning one for Democrats and matches the beliefs of the majority of the party and the nation, Cohen said.