family of secrets

Family of Secrets

by Russ Baker

Bloomsbury Press (2009)

Book Review

Family of Secrets is about the Bush family and the Shadow Government responsible for all major domestic and foreign policy decisions over the last sixty years. For evidence, Baker relies partly on declassified documents and partly on face-to-face interviews of corporate executives, low level politicians and retired intelligence officers who have worked closely with the Bush family.

Two-thirds of the book is about George Herbert Walker Bush and CIA ties that date back to 1948 when he left Yale and went to work for Dresser Industries. Baker lays out strong evidence that Dresser and Zapata Petroleum, the oil services company Bush senior started in 1953, served the primary purpose of front companies for global industrial espionage and CIA intelligence gathering.

In this way Bush senior replicated the role his father Prescott Bush played in the World War II spy service Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Prescott was a friend and colleague of founding CIA Director Allen Dulles at the Wall Street law firm Brown Brothers Harriman. Brown Brothers Harriman bought Dresser in 1928.

According to Baker, Bush senior played a pivotal role in helping Dulles create “off- the-shelf” CIA operations – disguised as front companies – to circumvent federal legislation that prohibited the CIA from spying domestically.

For me, the high points of this book include the background Baker provides on Lee Harvey Oswald’s career as a covert CIA operative, the on-off relationship between Bush senior and Oswald’s Dallas control George de Mohrenschildt and the crucial role Bush senior played in setting up Nixon as the fall guy in the Watergate break-in and cover-up.

Baker, in essence, corroborates earlier research by Mae Brussell that the Watergate scandal was a CIA coup to remove Nixon from office.

A third of the book covers the hidden history of George W Bush, including his early alcohol and cocaine abuse, the abortion he organized for one his girlfriends, his purported Christian conversion and his AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard unit – a notorious scandal that would cost CBS anchor Dan Rather his job.

George W’s brothers Neil, Marvin and Jeb receive only brief mention related to their illegal diversion of savings and loan funds, leaving taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars when the savings and loan associations went bust in the late eighties and had to be bailed out.

Baker maintains a nonprofit investigative news service at


The most recent report from the New Zealand press is that an agreement is expected on TPPA, and there will be a press conference in 15 minutes. I’ll provide an update as soon as we hear.

Originally posted on Counter Information:

Pacific trade deal opponents hope that if Atlanta round fails, pro-corporate TPP could be knocked off track indefinitely

stoptppbanner-400x209Image: A poll released Wednesday by the Coalition for Better Trade shows that a clear majority of voters who can offer an opinion about the proposed TPP say they oppose the deal. (Photo: Citizens Trade Campaign/Twitter)

As trade ministers from around the world continued meeting in Atlanta on Thursday forfinal-stretch negotiations on the corporate-friendly Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), civil society groups demonstrated on the streets in a final salvo against a deal they describe as “a wholesale auction of our rights, our freedoms, and our democracy to multinational corporations who put profits over people.”

High-level officials including Japan’s Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Akira Amari and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key have warned that if the talks do…

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unauthorized biography

The Unauthorized Biography of Barack H Obama

by Webster Tarpley

Progressive Press (2008)

Download free PDF

Book Review

Published in the lead-up to the 2008 election, Tarpley’s unauthorized biography of candidate Obama makes some uncanny predictions about his administration’s pro-corporate and pro-war policies. While some aspects of the book are purely speculative – namely those related to Obama’s psychological make-up – Tarpley raises important concerns about Obama’s background which still haven’t received the public attention they deserve.

Tarpley was one of the very first to publicize the extensive links Obama’s family had with the CIA, as well as his early grooming for the presidency – starting at Columbia University under the tutelage of Carter National Security Advisor Zbigniew Bzrezinski.

Obama’s CIA Career

Following his graduation from Harvard Law School, Obama himself went to work for a CIA front company called Business International Corporation (the New York Times exposed BIC as a CIA front company on 12/27/77). Tarpley cites former Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) leader Carl Oglesby (writing in Ravens in the Storm) that BIC’s main goal was to infiltrate student and leftist groups.

After leaving BIC, Obama became a civil rights lawyer and so-called “community organizer.” In actuality, he served on the board of a number of “progressive” foundations like the Chicago Annenberg Challenge (CAC). Tarpley, who examines the funding and specific activities of these foundations, questions the genuineness of their progressive credentials. All the evidence suggests they actually played a “gatekeeper” or “counterinsurgency” function similar to the programs McGeorge Bundy pioneered as head of the Ford Foundation.

Obama and the Agenda to Privatize Chicago Schools

In fact CAC itself, where Obama was a board member for six years (three years as chair), appears to have replicated Bundy’s 19968 strategy to pit minority boards (in Chicago they were called Local School Councils) against the New York City teachers unions. As Tarpley discovered, the campaign to give LSC’s the power to fire teachers and school principals was championed – not by grassroots minorities – but by business interests headed by Thomas Ayers.

Ayers, by coincidence, happens to be the father of Obama’s pal the former Weather Underground “terrorist” Bill Ayers. Ayers senior has impeccable corporate credentials, which include heading Commonwealth Edison for seven years in the seventies and serving on the board of General Dynamics, Searle, Chico Pacific, Zenith, Northwest Industries, First National Bank of Chicago and the Chicago Tribute.

This may possibly explain his son Bill’s “magical ability” to secure foundation funding. Ayers wrote the grant to secure Annenberg funding for CAC, and he credits himself as one of its co-founders.

By Obama’s own admission, the project on which CAC spent $100 million was unsuccessful in improving the education achievement of black students. What the CAC did accomplish, very successfully, was to drive a wedge between minority parents and the teachers unions, when they could have united to block extensive federal and state education cutbacks. It also threw Chicago schools into such chaos they became ripe for school privatization efforts (ie creation of private Charter schools), championed by the same elite business lobby that pushed through the 1988 School Reform Act. The latter created the LSCs, which ultimately laid the groundwork for former White House staffer Ron Emanuel to close 49 Chicago public schools in favor of private charter schools.

Bill Ayers: the Bomb Making Terrorist

As Tarpley points out, this raises the tricky question of how Bill Ayers transformed himself from a bomb making terrorist to a tenured Professor of education at the University of Illinois-Chicago and a pre-eminent education reformer. Tarpley and others allege the Weather Underground was actually a US intelligence creation, formed with the specific objective of infiltrating and shutting down SDS. This view is substantiated by FBI documents that came to light in 1973 reveling the role of agent provocateurs in instigating much of the violence attributed to the Weathermen – evidence Ayers used to have his own weapons and bomb-making charges dismissed.

Considerable circumstantial evidence supports these allegations. First is the striking “coincidence” that many of the Weather Underground leadership were, like Ayers, the sons and daughters of wealthy members of the corporate elite. Second is the report of former SDS members that the Weathermen, who did no fundraising to speak of, appeared to have unlimited funds to spend on organizing and military-style training. Third are their classic (successful) Cointelpro-style schemes to undermine. And last is the troubling question of how Bill Ayers can openly brag about his terrorist activities in his 2002 book Fugitive Days – and instead of the facing the death penalty for conspiracy to commit murder, enjoy status and privilege as a tenured professor of education.


Teachers all over the US are celebrating the resignation of Charter School/Common Core czar Arne Duncan. A strong proponent of the corporatization of public education, Duncan is best known for using high stakes testing to “punish” under performing schools by closing them and replacing them with private charter schools.

Originally posted on I AM AN EDUCATOR:

Arne Duncan has been one of the most destructive forces to public education in the history of our country.

Duncan was appointed by President Obama as the Secretary of Education, but his real role has been “testocracy tsar”–as his signature policies of Race to the Top and Common Core have been singularly focused on promoting high-stakes, standardized test-and-punish policies in service of the privatization and charterization of the public schools.  One of the most cruel aspects of Duncan’s legacy was his pronouncement that Hurricane Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans”–coupled with his celebration of the fact that because of Katrina, 100 percent of the New Orleans schools were converted to charter schools. Duncan’s initiatives have been designed to reduce the intellectual and emotional process of teaching and learning to a single score that can be used to close schools, fire teachers, stop…

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The Secret of the Seven Sisters

Al Jazeera English (2013)

Film Review

Despite its length, this documentary should be compulsory viewing. Everyone with an IQ over 90 should see it at least once before they die. It was only in viewing this film that I fully grasped the insane, oil-inspired military aggression in the third world and the US fascination with despotic dictators.

The video below is actually an 8-part series shown over successive nights on Al Jazeera-English. I’ve summarized the highlights of each of the eight parts so you can fast forward to specific segments that interest you.

0.00 – 23.26

Part 1 takes viewers from the founding of the secret Seven Sisters oil cartel in 1928 to the creation of the competing Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in 1960. The latter is made up of oil producing countries that have nationalized their oil industries.*

The film begins by describing the secret (illegal) cartel formed in 1928 by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company (which became British Petroleum), Standard Oil (which became Exxon) and Royal Dutch Shell. The goal was to end the cutthroat competition that was eating into profits. At a secret meeting in Scotland the three companies agreed to an orderly division of global production zones, as well as a process for fixing oil prices.

Later Mobil, Gulf, Texico and Chevron would join these three oil giants. The existence of the cartel remained secret until the 1950s, when it became known as the Seven Sisters.

This segment describes the totalitarian control BP exercised over Iran until 1951. A strike for higher wages led to a national uprising that overthrew the Shah and resulted in the democratic election of Mohammad Mosadegh as president. When the latter threatened to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, the British government requested CIA assistance to overthrow Mosadegh and restore the Shah to the throne. In return, the US government won the right for American oil companies to join BP in exploiting Iran’s oil resources.

In July 1956 after Egyptian president Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal (the main route for transporting Middle East oil to Europe), Britain, France and Israel declared war on Egypt. Nasser responded to an aerial bombing campaign by using concrete bunkers to blockade all Suez traffic. For once, the US and USSR collaborated to pressure the three aggressors to withdraw their forces and restore the transit of oil tankers through the canal.

23.26 – 46.00

Part 2 traces how the rise of OPEC worked to gradually erode the dominance of the Seven sisters – with violent repercussions.

In 1972 Saddam Hussein nationalized Iraq’s oil industry, with technical and military support from the Soviets and the French.

By October 1973, when Israel’s Arab neighbors launched the Yum Kippur War, OPEC members controlled 60% of the global oil supply. This enabled them to launch an oil embargo against the US in retaliation for their support of Israel in the 1973 conflict.

In 1978 Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, living in exile in Paris, called for a workers strike in the Iranian oil industry that caused a total shutdown of oil production. This, in turn, led the US to abandon their longtime support of the Shah and his secret police. The result was a national uprising, the forced exile of the Shah, the return of Ayatollah and the nationalization of Iran’s oil industry.

Determined to regain American corporate control of Iran’s oil industry, the US government backed Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iraq in 1980. The sudden onset of peace in 1988 led to a period of “overproduction” and a dangerous drop in oil prices. In response, George Bush senior, whose Zapata oil company had made a fortune via offshore drilling in Kuwait, openly encouraged Saddam Hussein (through ambassador April Glaspie) to invade Kuwait. This would create a pretext for the first US invasion of Iraq in 1991.

In May 2001 (20 months before the US invasion), a secret energy task force headed by former oil executives Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice, drew up a plan whereby Exxon, Shell and BP would divide up US occupied Iraq into eight oil extraction zones.

48.00 – 61.00

Part 3 describes the decision by the Seven Sisters to open up Africa to increasing oil exploitation due to their gradual loss of control over Middle East oil.

In 1970, Colonel Omar Gaddafi led a coup against a corrupt Libyan monarchy that was allowing the Seven Sisters to pay 12 cents a barrel in royalties to extract high quality Libyan oil. Gaddafi immediately nationalized the oil industry, raised oil prices 33% and used the funds to finance generous public services for the Libyan world and to fund freedom fighters all over the world (including the Palestinians).

This section also traces the history of the French oil companies ELF and Total in Nigeria. After Algeria won independence from France in 1971, they nationalized their oil industry, and ELF began exploiting oil resources in Nigeria, Chad, Congo, Cameroon, and Angola, where they financed guerrillas and despotic regimes and participated in bribery and embezzlement schemes that massively increased the international indebtedness of these countries. In 2003 the CEO of ELF was sentenced to prison and the company was bought out by Total.

61.00 – 95.00

Part 4 covers the role of the Seven Sisters in stoking Sudan’s civil war (most of Sudan’s oil comes from South Sudan) and the role of Shell Oil Company in Nigeria’s trial and execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa.

95.00 – 118.00

Part 5 traces the longstanding battle between Russia and the US oil industry over control of the Baku oilfields on the Caspian Sea. It begins with Lenin’s capture of the oilfields in 1920. Hitler’s primary reason for attacking the USSR in 1941 was to gain control over Baku.

This section also details how a US-Saudi conspiracy to flood the market with oil in the late eighties (dropping the global oil price to $13) ultimately led to the Soviet collapse in 1989. At the time revenue from oil sales was the Soviet’s sole source of foreign currency.

118.00 – 142.00

Part 6 concerns the role of the color revolutions in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan in keeping Caspian Sea oil out of Russian hands and under the control of US oil companies.

It briefly discusses the US role in Boris Yeltsin’s coup against the Russian parliament and his privatization of the Russian oil industry on behalf of the Seven sisters and a handful of Russian oligarchs (Putin has subsequently re-nationalized Russia’s oil industry).

142.00 -165.00

Part 7 discusses the concept of Peak Oil and the current dispute between the Iraqi Kurds and the Iraqi government over the control of the Bakr oil terminal near Bazra. At present it’s illegal for the Kurds to export their own oil. Eighty-five percent of Iraqi oil is processed at the Bakr oil terminal and Iraqi Kurdistan on receives 17% of this revenue.

165.00 – 190.00

Part 8 is about the Seven Sisters exploitation of Mexican and Venezuelan oil prior to the election of Hugo Chavez as president. It also summarizes that status of the countries (Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Brazil, and Malaysia) that have nationalized their oil industry. At present these countries control one-third of oil and gas production, and more than one-third of oil reserves. Despite their role in instigating western military aggression, the influence of the Seven Sisters continues to declines.

At present they control 10% of oil production and only 3% of oil reserves. Their monopoly on exploration, drilling and refining technology gives them disproportionate control over the industry.

*Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela

Guest Post

My friend Sajjad Shaukat has given me permission to re-publish an excerpt of his recent article in Veterans Today  about predictions he made in his 2005 book US vs Islamic Militants: Invisible Balance of Power. The book, which I reviewed last year, lays out Sajjad’s theory that the rise of stateless terrorist groups has created an “invisible balance of power.” The latter performs the same function in curbing US state terrorism as the Soviet Union did prior to its collapse.

The Veterans Today article calls attention to numerous predictions his book made which have come true. Among other predictions, Sajjad forecast the Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq, increasing sectarian violence in other Muslim countries, US/NATO attacks on new Muslim countries, increasing state terrorism by western countries and increasing global economic instability.

He raises a good point in his first paragraph. The US clearly isn’t winning the war on terror. All the evidence would suggest the “terrorists” are winning.

Global War on Terror: Pakistani Author’s Future Assessments Proved True

By Sajjad Shaukat

Given the prolonged US-led global war on terror, some media analysts are forecasting the defeat of the United States and its allies, pointing to the acceleration of terror-attacks in volatile countries, financial crises and the heavy cost of endless American war. But no one talks about the future assessments Pakistani author Sajjad Shaukat made in his book, US vs Islamic, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations, which was published in 2005.

In his research-based book, while taking this new style conflict as an interaction between the “group terrorism” led by Al-Qaeda or Islamic militants and state terrorism by the US, Shaukat points out that Muslim militants have been checking the hegemony of the sole super power.

Read more here:  Veterans Today


Sajjad Shaukat is a journalist/author from Lahore Pakistan with a master’s degree from Punjab University in journalism, English and international relations.

The Botany of Desire

Directed by Michael Schwarz and Edward Gray (2009)

Film Review

The Botany of Desire is a 2009 PBS documentary based on Michael Pollan’s 2001 book The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the Word. Both concern the co-evolution of plants and human beings and the vital symbiotic relationships they form.  Pollan focuses specifically on the apple, the tulip, the cannabis plant and the potato, detailing how each has evolved to deliberately appeal to human desire. In addition to tracing each plant to its region of origin, he highlights specific biological adaptations it has made to make it appealing to human beings.

The film is full of fascinating factual tidbits, eg that apple trees still grow wild in Kazakhstan and poke up through sidewalk cracks and that potatoes were essential in fueling the development of northern Europe (which is prone to erratic grain harvests) and the industrial revolution.

In addition to providing lavish detail about the art and science of indoor cannabis cultivation, Pollan also examines research into specific cannabis receptors in the human brain. The latter play an important role in helping us forget painful and/or irrelevant memories.

The video concludes by focusing on some of the drawbacks of industrial agriculture, especially our over-reliance on monoculture crops. The loss of diversity in our corporatized foods system makes our food crops far more susceptible to pests. This, in turn, makes us over reliant on toxic pesticides, herbicides and GMOs.

As Pollan stresses at the end of the film, the solution to problems caused by monoculture isn’t more technology. The solution is to end monoculture by diversifying food production.

My only point of disagreement was Pollan’s statement (in 2009) that plants lack consciousness. More recent research suggests that they’re more aware of their environment than we are. See Are Plants Smarter than We Are?

YouTube has taken the film down for copyrights reasons but it can be viewed free at PBS videos