Deadly Spin in the oil slicks of New Orleans
Expanded from the 9-4-2005 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 11-19-2006

      "Should Americans begin to hate foreigners wholeheartedly, it will be an indication that they have lost confidence in their own way of life."

The more you disbelieve what you are about to read, the more proof you will have that it's all damnably true.

In his 1995 book "The Next American Nation," Michael Lind asserted that "the American oligarchy (ruling class) spares no pains in promoting the belief that it does not exist."


     Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Seymour Hersh made a chilling prediction two weeks ago on The Daily Show (Comedy Central, 8-16-2005. Click here to view the clip.) Hersh told host Jon Stewart that the insurgents in Iraq are planning a replay of the 1968 Vietcong Tet Offensive, complete with an attempt to take the capital. If a strong attack happens now, it would break the country's already bent resolve about remaining in the crossfire of the Iraqi Civil War — which was exactly the intent and result of Tet.

Lind echoed Australian sociologist Alex Carey, who will go down in history as the Alexis de Tocqueville of the 20th Century.

"It is arguable that the success of business propaganda in persuading us, for so long, that we are free from propaganda is one of the most significant propaganda achievements of the 20th century," Carey wrote in 1978. (For much more, see the 1994 Labor Day edition of this column at

Corporate propaganda infests, infects, corrupts and cross-cuts all the ills of our ailing nation. I defy anyone to show me an aspect of American life not influenced by tax-deductible (yes, you pay for it) business spin.

Follow the bouncing ball.

GASOLINE PRICES — A STREETCORNER SHELL GAME. On Aug. 31, PBS Newshour reporter Jeffrey Brown got hornswaggled by the boss of the American Petroleum Institute. Brown asked why gasoline prices rise instantaneously on any bad news. The non-answer: only about 10 percent of U.S. retail gasoline outlets are owned by refiners. Brown didn't know enough to recognize a serious omission. (I wrote him but expect no response.)

Independent retailers have become an endangered species over the past 23 years. Roughly three of four have disappeared here in the west where Alaskan drilling was promised to result in permanently lower prices. Some independents have gone out of business, but the lion's share have been forced to become major-branded outlets.

They may be independently owned, but almost all operate under strict pricing rules set by refiners. Failure to follow orders can result in penalties or loss of franchise. The industry has been able to avoid most price-fixing illegalities by establishing trade secret "price zones" designed to squeeze lone wolves out of business or force them into becoming branded retailers. They have lost an occasional lawsuit, but for the most part, the strategy has been successful. (The industry can afford the smartest lawyers.)

I have been researching and writing about this for a decade. While the extensive archive has been available to Brown and all others for years, it has proven nearly impossible to get the major news media interested in the oligopolistic pricing of gasoline. It is neither telegenic nor tabloidal.

In a good-natured self-satire, one local anchorman wrote last Friday that "you almost forced me to grab the dictionary with your vocabulary! Me simple TV guy. No understand big words." At least he spent some time reading my material. (FYI: A monopoly means effective control of an industry by a single or "mono" entity. An oligopoly means control by a narrow few, such as the big half-dozen oil companies.)

BigOil's oligopolistic pricing practices provide the answer to reporter Brown's question: Under orders from their suppliers, retailers immediately hike prices on any negative publicity. This is why the major oil companies are today awash in excess profits. Competition has been eliminated by a vertically integrated industry which controls all aspects of production and marketing. Anti-trust enforcement has gone the way of the dinosaurs.

The major oil companies do not need to conspire to fix prices. In the west, competitors let ARCO set the retail mark and price higher or lower from there. As one suffering retailer told Nevada lawmakers back in the 1990s, when gasoline is $5.00 a gallon, the only thing you can count on is that ARCO will sell at $4.98.

But by then, everybody will have no choice but to buy from one of the majors with perhaps only a token number of independents left so that the industry can say it doesn't control 100 percent. Kind of like today.

A price-gouging law introduced during this year's Nevada legislative session was killed by the usual suspects. Hawai'i just imposed wholesale price controls and a bill has just been introduced to do the same in California. The usual "don't impede the sacred private freemarket" outcry has already begun.

American editorial writers and pundits have been hard-wired since birth to decry regulation as the work of the devil and a danger to democracy. But corporate America is the first to ask for government protection when it suits them.

PROPAGANDA IS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU'RE SORRY. Over the past 100 years, American business has conducted a magnificent propaganda campaign to equate business with God, country, patriotism, motherhood and apple pie. Anything government may do for the common good, like Social Security or universal health care, is the communistic work of Satan. Believe it or else, analysis of secret intelligence is now being outsourced to the private sector.

The breakdown of civilized society in New Orleans plays right into corporate propagandist hands. The collapse of the Dept. of Homeland Security again proves government worthless.

Awhile back, American Conservative Union guru Grover Norquist announced his goal of shrinking government to a point where it can be drowned in a bathtub. That comment takes on gruesome new dimensions in the wake of the liquid death of thousands of Americans over the past week.

Ronald Reagan was crowned king for saying "government is not the solution, government is the problem."

PROPHETS OF PROFIT. This neoconservative fascist con job is designed to make profit-driven corporate power supreme. Total control gets closer every time one of these self-fulfilling prophecies comes true. In the name of reducing taxes and leaving money in the hands of mostly rich people, government services get cut to where they can't be effective. Reagan began with his New Federalism, forcing states to administer formerly federal programs, then eliminating their funding. Dubya's vaunted No Child Left Behind Act is simply the latest cheap trick demonstration project designed to "prove" that public schools are bad.

Huge chunks of U.S. military operations have now been outsourced to private contractors at thousands of times the cost of doing things in-house. Halliburton thanks you, but soldiers remain unarmored sitting ducks.

The Dept. of Homeland Security is a paperwork fraud created to de-unionize most of the federal workforce. Because of it, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was demoted and gutted.

People float dead in Louisiana today as a result.

As of Oct. 1, thousands of hurricane victims who will need to declare bankruptcy will find it more difficult or impossible thanks to a new law passed by congress and signed by Dubya at the behest of the Shylockian credit card industry.

   "If voting mattered, they wouldn't let us do it."

Travus T. Hipp, 1982

We should be praying instead of preying.

With the oligopolists and their political stooges in charge, praying is one of the few things we are still allowed to do.

LABOR DAY LABOR OF LOVE: On Monday from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Sparks' Great Basin Brewery, the Trey Stone Band will perform a benefit for New Orleans musicians. Be there.

Be well. Raise hell.


      BARBWIRE: The Nevada Republican Party Becomes Communist, 3-30-97
A prescient Plato on the dangers of oligarchy

      BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey

      Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
I've been telling you so for 10 freakin' years

Review of Alex Carey's "Taking the Risk out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia"

The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Book excerpt

ORDER "Taking the Risk Out of Democracy"
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press

     SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.

     By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)

     Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.

...and more ammo

      Rinfret, Pierre A.; "Peace is Bullish"; Look Magazine, 5-31-1966

      BARBWIRE: Lemming Cliff Notes, 6-5-2005

      BARBWIRE: We have met the enemy and he is us, 5-29-2005

      BARBWIRE: Payback Time, 8-7-2005

      BARBWIRE: Getting Focused, 8-14-2005

      BARBWIRE: Patriot Games, 8-21-2005

      BARBWIRE: Media Howlers, 8-28-2005 | U-News | Bulletins
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Copyright © 1994-2005, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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