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Antipode Part II
Puppetry, Brownnosing, and Sweet Sumatran Crude
“We’re burning up. We’re choking up. We’re heating up because of these folks, and people are barely able to pay their bills because of these folks.” - CA Gov. Gavin Newsom
I. Blistered Hand
On August 9th, 2021, in the middle of Recallmania and the Delta variant of the COVID 19 pandemic in CA Governor Gavin Newsom was shown in a video visiting the site of a homeless encampment under a freeway crossing in Berkeley. Jeremy White, a reporter for Politico, reported the phenomenal achievement in a series of tweets. In White’s first tweet, he stated that Gov. Newsom was “cleaning up some trash.”
A video was attached to this tweet of the Noble Hero Governor himself, sporting his stereotypical Patrick Bateman-esque gelled hair, Sanpaku eyes, a black cloth mash, grey v-neck, orange rubber gloves, black designer jeans, and a pair of totally OSHA/biohazard site approved footwear: Hush Puppies. The five second video shows the Governor throwing two pieces of scrap wood and a metal chain.
Mr White then tweeted again, “Aspiring young journalists: work hard and you too can one day interview a governor next to an abandoned port-a-potty. Don’t stop dreaming.” Following that was tweet showing the Governor, looking down at his right hand in what looks to be a mixture amazement and “WTF.”
It seems that since this presumably the first time he’s ever done even the slightest bit of manual labor that his right hand may have gotten torn up a bit.
Perhaps a blister?
Maybe a broken nail?
It was obviously a tough moment for him and Mr. White clearly noticed. In the same tweet, he exclaimed, “The governor is looking tired, sweaty and dirty.”
The time stamp on the video and this photograph showing the governor in a horrific state was apparently thirteen whole minutes.
We closed off Amazonian Antipode with a somewhat snarky and provocative request - that Gov. Gavin Newsom travel on down to ‘ol Ecuador to see the infamous Amazonian oilfields which provide the largest source of imported oil to California.
While the tragedy of Amazonian oil is not new, it’s made even worse by the Misery Industry with Chinese Characteristics deal Ecuador struck with the Chinese. It’s also immensely ironic that the Governor back in 2019 issued a formal apology to the descendants of the indigenous people of California, even referring to the past actions as genocide.
It’s perhaps a good thing that it is actually impossible to dig a hole to the exact opposite side of the world, because Gov. Newsom wouldn’t be equipped to do it anyways. Digging holes is hard work, and the only tool this individual would presumably have to dig anything would only be a silver spoon.
If Newsom were able to dig a hole to Ecuador’s antipode, he’d end up in a particularly interesting area: Indonesia.
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II. Puppet State
Wayang is the Javanese word for shadow and imagination. It’s also a form of puppet theatre famous to Indonesia. The origins are debated among historians. Some say it came from India in the 1st millennium at the same time both Buddhism and Hinduism arrived to this region of the world. Others suggest it’s of Indigenous Javanese origin. Wayang consists of flat leather puppets (although some are three-dimensional wooden puppets) controlled by rods as opposed to strings. The shadows are typically projected onto a translucent screen using bright lighting. Controlled by a single puppet master, the dalang, this person also provides all the voicing of the various puppets. In most shows, musicians, both vocal choirs and a large orchestra are included. These shows traditionally covered both Indonesian myths and cultural origin stories as well as socio and political commentary. Viewers often have the choice to sit on either the side projecting the shadows or the side showing the puppeteer.
Indonesia is no stranger to puppetry of another form either. We’ll come back to that in a bit.
But a brief history of the nation is first in order.
After several hundred years of colonization, the Dutch lost what’s mostly considered today be be Indonesia to the Japanese in 1942, after the retreat and defeat of the Japanese in 1945, Indonesia, seeing the notable power vacuum, declared themselves independent. For several years the Dutch wanted their former colony back and this back and forth even went up to the United Nations along with their own Marshall Plan aid being temporarily suspended by the US. That also didn’t stop the newly-formed International Monetary Fund, a Misery Industry entity, from loaning the Dutch a reconstruction loan even though the Dutch went to full out war against the newly declared independent Indonesia1.
Sukarno, and Hatta are often referred to as the nation’s “founding fathers,” and the former was ultimately elected the country’s first president in 1955, five years after the initial Constitution was written. Sukarno was friendly initially slightly more to the US but didn’t want to antagonize the USSR either.
Eventually he began a slightly cozier relationship with the Soviets though, accepting both civil and military aid and equipment. The US naturally wasn’t pleased and sought to use the CIA to destabilize the Sukarno administration which they initially tried to agitate in 1958 however the coup failed although the neighboring country of Malaysia was formed. In 1965 though, a second coup resulted in success ending in rise a high-ranking Indonesian Army general named Suharto as dictator. Suharto ruled Indonesia all the way until 1998. As time passes, the details of the CIA’s involvement is further revealed along with the massacres and other human rights violations that occurred in the nation over that long period.
In the autobiography Confessions of an Economic Hitman, author John Perkins describes his adventures in Indonesia. Mr. Perkins’ task was to perform the actions of the Misery Industry on behalf of his employer using funding from sources such as the World Bank and the IMF. This included completing economic studies to support the mass electrification of the country’s main island, Java. With this massive project involving American influence, the country supposedly would be be staved from the ravages of Communism which is seems that Suharto was already supposedly staving off without their help anyways. But there was also another perk for the Americans - with a good relationship with the Indonesian Government, aka Suharto, there was the possibility of the exportation of one of the country’s greatest commodities: oil.
In the book, Perkins describes a story where he befriends a local, Rasy, who also teaches him the Indonesian language. As the two begin to spend time together, Rasy shows Perkins some of the “off the beaten path” locations in the country foreigners such as Perkins typically never experience. Rasy eventually invites Perkins to attend a wayang performance. Perkins is also the only non-Indonesian in attendance, and Rasy provides on the spot interpretation due to Perkins’ limited understanding of the language, let alone the other cultural links. The show begins touching on traditional Indonesian stories and themes but takes an unexpected turn the wayang replaces some of the traditional puppets with ones of Uncle Sam, US President Richard Nixon, and other prominent world leaders of the era. He also places a map of the Middle and Far East and morphs the show to criticize US and Western foreign policy. Perkins is re-assured he’s safe and the fellow Indonesians have no problem with his origin or presence at the show (I can personally relate!) and he’s pleasantly surprised how much the everyday people of Indonesia are aware of international affairs.
Amidst the energy crises that marked the early 1970s, California was in need of oil. And lots of it. But not just for transportation or the long list of other products produced from the substance. Many of the state’s power plants back in the era also were oil burning. The Anti-Nuclear hysterics were just getting their start too.
It just so happened that Indonesia’s dictatorship was also pushing development projects both for their own favor and to favor the various cogs of the Misery Industry.
They also had lots of loans to pay back to the same Misery Industry.
And it just so happened there was someone, or a somefew, on the opposite side of the Ring of Fire who could help.
III What Can Brown(nosing a Dictator) Do For You?
“It’s bad enough that oil companies peddle a product that pollutes the air and heats the planet while using their money and influence to block climate action. They shouldn’t be allowed to fleece Californians while they do it.“
- LA Times Editorial Board in “Big Oil shouldn’t be able to fleece Californians while polluting the planet” Dec. 9, 2022.
Edmund “Pat” Brown served two terms 1959 to 1967 as California’s 32nd governor. His gubernatorial legacy is largely seen as positive within the state, at least it should be for all those bragging about the state’s economy which is boasted as being larger than all but a handful of nations. Alternatively, Brown could largely be seen as super cancelable by the modern political regime in the state, the Malthusians, and likely most of the NIMBY crowd. The New York Times is certainly not terribly nice to him.
Overseeing a state with explosive growth thanks to the American victory in WWII, and one subject to severe droughts, Brown sought to raise taxes to fund what would be later called the California State Water Project (CASWP). The CASWP brought the snowmelt from the northern part of the state and the Sierra Nevada to the water-scarce yet highly populated southern part of the state via a vast network of reservoirs, aqueducts, and pumping stations. Under Brown, the state also saw a massive expansion of it’s infamous highway system coinciding with the national rollout of the Interstate Highway System. Brown even established the state’s now famous higher education system when he signed the CA Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960. Without it, the famous schools of the University of California System, the CA State University System, nor the Community College System would likely exist. The site of the 1960 Winter Olympics Palisades-Tahoe (formerly known as Squaw Valley) was approved by Brown. And Brown was also known for mobilizing the CA National Guard during the Watts Riots of 1965, being easily one of his lower points.
Pat Brown initially stated he wouldn’t seek a third term but later changed his mind resulting in part to his sagging popularity. This emboldened the state’s Republican Party to run a charismatic actor turned politician against him: Ronald Reagan.
With Reagan in Sacramento, Pat Brown went off to do something else.
A 1985 article in the LA Times commemorating both Pat Brown’s political legacy and 80th birthday scrapes the surface of a rather interesting ordeal from these days.
And then there was the time, after leaving office, that counselor Brown was fired from representing the Indonesian oil company. Nixon had just been elected President and the Indonesians didn’t want a lawyer who was a political enemy of the White House, Brown recalled.
But, he continued, the Indonesian government felt bad, and gave him a consolation--a franchise to import 20,000 barrels a day of Indonesian oil to the U.S. market. This contributed substantially to the Brown family fortune over the years until Brown closed down the business a couple of years ago.
And in the same paper memorializing his death in 1996, they wrote:
Brown left the governorship, he confided years later, with savings of only about $40,000. But soon thereafter, in addition to a lucrative Los Angeles law partnership, he became involved in a company marketing Indonesian oil, a venture that was to earn him millions.
What the LA Times conveniently left out to the tune of Orwell’s famous quote, “The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history,” was that Brown had become a bit cozy with the Indonesian dictatorship and in particular with its state-controlled oil and gas firm Pertamina.
Pertamina needed to expand, after all energy is life, and oil powers much of modern society. Oil is also a useful export commodity useful for paying back Misery Industry loans. Indonesia became a noticeable oil power, like its antipode Ecuador, even having been in and out of OPEC. Pat Brown went to banks in the US to raise funds numbering in the range of $13 billion dollars at the time.
In exchange, Brown received half ownership of Pertamina’s office in Hong Hong and using a firm he setup creatively called United States International Investment Corporation the exclusive rights to sell Indonesian oil to the United States. Pat Brown’s $40,000 in savings ballooned substantially. Most of that oil went directly to California. Pertamina later defaulted on many of those loans and some of the people he did business with in that firm were ousted due to corruption.
Indonesia during Suharto indeed did develop under what he called Orde Baru or New Order. His government provided infrastructure, education, and a direction towards a modern economy. Much of this was due to deals such as the one Brown made along with loans from the IMF and development projects from entities such as Perkins' employer. This all of course came at great expense to the environment and to the human rights of dozens of Indonesia’s various ethnic and indigenous groups.
Even today, those human rights abuses still exist2.
Way to be Walter Duranty wannabes, LA Times.
IV. The Tentacles
“Taking significant amounts of carbon out of our economy without harming its vibrancy is exactly the sort of challenge at which California excels.” - Jerry Brown
“It's not viable' for poverty stricken developing world to emulate prosperity of U.S.” - Also Jerry Brown
Pat’s son, Jerry was 34th and 39th Governor of California from 1975 to 1983 and 2011 to 2019.
During Jerry Brown’s first term, with a campaign partially funded by money from Perta, a subsidiary of United States International Investment Corporation. With the help of his father’s business interest, he tried to lobby for the construction of an LNG terminal in Southern California as part of the LNG Terminal Act of 1977 passed by the State Legislature. This terminal would have received LNG from both Alaska34 and Indonesia. Jerry was also buddy-buddy with a prominent Mexican oil magnate, and close friend to PRI party thugs in Mexico. And Jerry Brown’s energy positions were also notorious for being anti-nuclear.
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) during his first stint as governor was headed by a friend of his who pushed the bureaucracy to change the requirements for fuel oil to favor low-sulfur content. Alaska along with its potential to transport LNG to California also had abundant oil - with a higher sulfur content than was permitted by the new CARB rules.
It was none other than Indonesia’s oil that was favored due to its low-sulfur content. Sumatran Light Crude from Riau Province was the star of the show. Riau might sound familiar as it’s antipode of the Lago Agrio region in Ecuador. That’s just a pure coincidence, isn’t it?
But is the following?
Jerry Brown’s sister, Kathleen Brown served as CA State Treasurer from 1991 to 1995. Mrs. Brown had gubernatorial ambitions too but lost in the 1994 election. She “made it” in a stint with Goldman Sachs though and even sat on the Board of Directors for Sempra Energy, the parent company to Southern California Gas as well as San Diego Gas and Electric.
The organization Consumer Watchdog, while lacking in the Economics 101 department, did a phenomenal job at tracking the political donations from BiG OiL to Gov. Jerry Brown’s gubernatorial campaigns.
Oops. ‘Ol Moonbeam’s blabbering about climate change might not be all made in good faith.
And who just happened to be Jerry’s Lieutenant Governor during his modern terms?
Let’s turn to a nearly twenty year old article published in SF Weekly.
Savvy Irish-American operator that he is, the judge continues to answer a reporter's questions suavely and smoothly over lunch. His back goes up only when he discusses the San Francisco Chronicle's recent story detailing Getty loans to his 35-year-old son and Getty investments in Gavin's "PlumpJack" businesses, including five restaurants, a Napa winery, a Squaw Valley hotel, and two retail clothing stores.
The newspaper concluded that of the self-described entrepreneur's 11 enterprises, Gordon Getty was the lead investor in 10. The article helped reinforce the view of some that the younger Newsom is a silver spooner who has grown wealthy not as a result of his own business moxie, but because of his connection to the ultrarich Gettys.
"The piece enraged me," the judge complains, a steely look coming into his eyes. "It's a delusion that the Gettys rain money on Gavin."
The judge is at least partly right. To some extent, it's him raining Getty money on his son. (Gavin Newsom did not return multiple calls for comment for this story.)
-Excerpt from “Bringing Up Baby Gavin” by Peter Byrne
The individual quoted in that piece was none other than Jerry Brown appointed State Superior Court Judge, William A. Newsom III - father of a certain someone.
William A. Newsom III, donated money back then to Pat Brown’s Gubernatorial Campaign and later Pat, as Governor, approved the previously mentioned Squaw Valley Ski Resort (now known as Palisades-Tahoe). The concession to operate the facility was granted to William Newsom and John Pelosi - father-in-law to soon to be former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nanci Pelosi.
The Getty discussed in the Byrne article is Gordon Getty, son of J. Paul Getty, one of the most well-known oil barons of all time. Among his sizzling deals just in the oil sector alone involve deals with the Saudis and the Kuwaitis. The Getty name no longer exists in the oil sector as what remained of it was sold to Lukoil, a Russian multinational energy firm. (Take that, Putin.)
It’s indeed strange for us to have to tip the hat to the LA Times who back in the fall of 2018, indeed did a little bit of journalism.
But we suppose at the time, they didn’t like the competition for their guy, who was also trying to snag the nomination from the CA-PRI for Governor and had lost. Of course the tables have changed and now they spend a great deal of time simping for Newsom.
To quote late comedian George Carlin, “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”
Indeed he’s right.
At least the puppet-masters duping us all have a cute slogan.
Modern day Indonesia also splits the island of New Guinea with the nation of Papua New Guinea which in these days were under control of Australia who also received Misery Industry loans from the IMF. More on New Guinea in a future piece!
Especially in West Papua. Alex Gladstein of the Human Rights Foundation elaborates in his piece, “Structural Adjustment: How the IMF and the World Bank Repress Poor Countries and Funnel their Resources to Rich Ones”
Any resistance was met with brutality. Especially under Suharto — who held as many as 100,000 political prisoners — but even today in 2022, West Papua is a police state almost without rival. Foreign journalists are virtually banned; free speech does not exist; the military operates without any accountability. NGOs like Tapol document a legion of human rights violations ranging from mass surveillance of personal devices, restrictions on when and for what reason people can leave their homes and even rules on how Papuans can wear their hair.
Between 1979 and 1984, some 59,700 transmigrants were taken to West Papua, with “large scale” support from the World Bank. More than 20,000 Papuans fled the violence into neighboring Papua New Guinea. Refugees reported to international media that “their villages were bombed, their settlements burned, women raped, livestock killed, and numbers of people indiscriminately shot while others were imprisoned and tortured.”
Alaskan LNG proved to be a difficult endeavor anyways as in the late 1960s the US Federal Government imposed price controls for interstate natural gas transmission via pipeline. Converting natural gas to LNG, shipping it across a body of water, and re-gasifying it, would get around these controls.
Something we learned later after writing Fossil Fool Part II was that certain parts of the US also experienced natural gas shortages in part due to these price controls. The passage of the Natural Gas Policy Act in 1978 ended the price controls allowing domestic production to be more economical which nearly killed off the demand for LNG from abroad.