Thursday, June 03, 2004

Ripping Off Grandma
In the weeks after 9/11, it was fashionable to say that "nothing will ever be the same again." This turned out to be untrue, of course--but the date will certainly remain a dividing line in our history, on the order of 1776, 1861, and 1941. Now that it's June, I find myself starting to think about summers past, and when I do, the ones before 9/11 seem positively quaint. For example, who remembers the Chinese spy plane incident? After the last three action-packed years, it seems as distant as the James Watt/Beach Boys controversy or the first outbreak of Legionnaire's Disease.

How about the California energy crisis? It's one of the most misreported stories of the age. Far from being due to an out-of-date power grid or the impersonal forces of the markeplace, the crisis was caused almost entirely by deregulation, and the ensuing manipulations of energy companies seeking to make a profit. Yesterday, CBS News took us back to those lazy days of yesteryear by playing audiotapes of Enron energy traders rejoicing over forest fires in California, and boasting how they had, in essence, stolen money from Californians. In tapes made before the 2000 election, traders openly rooted for the election of George W. Bush, believing that Ken Lay of Enron might end up as secretary of energy. As one trader put it, "When this election comes Bush will fucking whack this shit, man. He won't play this price-cap bullshit." He didn't, and Californians paid for it. Had 9/11 not intervened, it's likely that the rest of us might have, too. And if Bush gets reelected, we might yet.

Recommended Reading: Ray McGovern is a 27-year CIA veteran who first leapt to prominence last year when he spearheaded a group of ex-spooks calling on Bush to fire Dick Cheney over the cooking of intelligence before the Iraq war. Since then, McGovern has been a leading critic of the use of intelligence for political purposes. At Counterpunch this week, he suggests that the recent announcement of "credible intelligence" about imminent Al Qaeda attacks in the United States might be another example. It might even be the first move in what he sees as the Bush Administration's ultimate endgame--finding a pretext to cancel the 2004 election to maintain power, to keep high officials right up to Bush himself from facing war-crimes prosecution. Welcome to the party, Ray. I've been predicting something similar myself for over two years--not that they'll stage a terrorist attack themselves, but that they'll take full advantage if one comes our way. Rather like 9/11.

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