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"I’M MELTING! MELTING! OH, WHAT A WORLD, WHAT A WORLD…" - The Wicked Witch of the West

All it took at the end of the story to vanquish the all-powerful witch was a splash of cold water in the face. Interestingly, there is speculation that the original book was a political parable and that the witch represented the evil Standard Oil corporation (now Exxon) which, in 1900 when the book was written, was aligned with the Wall Street crooks of the time and the railroads to force landowners off their property by using the "humbug" of the gold (troy Oz) - backed dollar (emerald) standard to control the money supply in order to force farmers off their land and drive their competitors out of business.

Wicked Witch

The election of 1896 was all about a contest between "goldbugs" and "silverites" (In the book, Dorothy’s all-powerful slippers were silver, not ruby). Silver was a readily available commodity at the time and could be freely coined, providing a liquid and accessible means of exchange that would free the "good people" of the heartland (the North and the South) from they tyranny of the industrial witches of the East and the West. Dorothy, the proxy for the average American, gets her silver shoes early on but doesn’t know what to do with them so she must follow the gold to Washington ("follow the money," whispered Deep Throat to Woodward and Bernstein) where in the end, she discovers that the Wizard is nothing but a fraud, elevated to his office by happenstance and kept alive by deception, literally smoke and mirrors.

Frank Baum was a journalist and newspaper editor, very involved in the politics of the day. Back in 1900 people had ready access to basic commodities and the industrial revolution was just under way. Since most Americans still produced something to make a living, the top 1% of the day gamed the system so services, banking, finance, law, accounting (not medicine) were more valuable than corn, wheat, finished goods etc. This is the opposite of what we have now as the average American now performs services. So the services have been devalued as the top 1% have an iron grip on commodities, which are now levered up so that it takes fewer commodities to be exchanged for more of your service (see eventually, slavery).

U.S.

The Populist party of 1890s wanted to restore power to the people by moving America to the silver standard, which would allow farmers and craftsmen to set their own prices. The party was rooted in Kansas, where they controlled the state assembly under a populist Governor, they even sent a Populist Senator to Washington. Mary Lease, who some claimed was a model for Dorothy, was a Populist activist who advised Kansas farmers to "raise less corn and more hell." She believed that large business would make the people of America slaves, saying, "Wall street owns the country. It is no longer a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, but a government of Wall Street, by Wall Street, and for Wall Street. The great common people of this country are slaves, and monopoly is the master."

The party’s platform, commonly known as the Omaha Platform, called for the abolition of national banks, a graduated income tax, direct election of Senators, civil service reform, a working day of eight hours and Government control of all railroads, telegraphs, and telephones. In the 1892 Presidential election, Populist candidate James B. Weaver received 1,027,329 votes (10%). Weaver carried four states (Colorado, Kansas, Idaho and Nevada) and received electoral votes from Oregon and North Dakota as well.

Needless to say, the Populist party was crushed out of existence by the Democrats and Republicans (who always seem to be able to agree that third parties are bad) and, to this day, the term "populist" has become a generic term in U.S. politics for politics which appeals to the common person in opposition to established interests.

The character attributes of the Wizard of Oz are parallel to the key points of William Jennings Bryan’s famous "Cross of Gold" speech where he told the 1896 Boston Democratic Convention: "

When you come before us and tell us that we (heartland people/munchkins) shall disturb your business interests, we reply that you have disturbed our business interests by your action. We say to you that you have made too limited in its application the definition of a businessman. The man who is employed for wages is as much a businessman as his employer. The attorney in a country town is as much a businessman as the corporation counsel in a great metropolis. The merchant at the crossroads store is as much a businessman as the merchant of New York. The farmer who goes forth in the morning and toils all day, begins in the spring and toils all summer, and by the application of brain (Scarecrow) and muscle (Lion) to the natural resources of this country creates wealth, is as much a businessman as the man who goes upon the Board of Trade and bets upon the price of grain. The miners (Tin Woodsman) who go 1,000 feet into the earth or climb 2,000 feet upon the cliffs and bring forth from their hiding places the precious metals to be poured in the channels of trade are as much businessmen as the few financial magnates (The Wizard) who, in a backroom, corner the money of the world.

The Progressive

Bryan (which rhymes with lion) was painted as being "cowardly" by his opponents for failing to support the Spanish-American war in 1898 - another country’s (Cuba) civil war we threw ourselves into following a terrorist attack (the sinking of the Maine). Ironically, it was this war that won the U.S. Guantanamo Bay, where we now toss prisoners from the current war.

The question we face, 100 years later, is: "Who is that man behind the curtain?" and "Should we pay no attention to him?"

Has oil become the new gold standard, falsely propped up in price and controlled by a global cartel that uses it to bleed the economic wealth of the people? When the government repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 they effectively threw the farmers to the wolves of Wall Street who were able to set whatever value they wished for essential grains, produce and cotton while increasing the "value" of manufactured goods that farmers required. Only when the corporations took over the production of these commodities did they become "scarce" and "valuable." Modern global economics has created a way for those same wolves to play that game with something that no modern man can live without - oil!

John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Corporation (est. 1870) through an aggressive policy of merges, acquisitions and "trust" agreements (that led to the Sherman anti-trust act) ruthlessly drove competitors out of the market, first dropping the price of refined kerosene from 58 to 26 cents a gallon from 1865-70, bankrupting the competition. By 1872, Standard Oil controlled most of the refining and 20% of the oil production in the United States, and offered oil producers what Ida Tarbell called "An Unholy Alliance."

Standard Oil Dividends

Standard Oil went to the remaining independent oil producers and offered to buy ALL of their oil for five years at $5 a barrel - the first futures contract! By 1890 they controlled 88% of the refined oil in the U.S., and by 1904 they controlled 91% of refining production and 85% of the retail sales. The company relentlessly drove prices higher under what was know as the "Pittsburgh Plan" in which the member refiners would take turns shutting down capacity, creating both artificial and real shortages in order to keep up the price (sound familiar?). This led to wild price swings, an unstable economy and the country’s first depression, but it did wonders for Standard Oil’s shareholders (our pals in the top 1%).

As you can see from 1890 to 1895 they did not make much money buying oil at $5 per barrel but the minute the contracts expired in 1895, Rockefeller put the squeeze on oil producers, drove them out of business and used this profits to bully and buy the bulk of the U.S. oil production. By 1904, the situation was so out of hand that the government stepped in and broke up Standard Oil (but letting Rockefeller retain stock ownership) into Mobil (NYSE:XOM), Esso, Conoco (NYSE:COP), Phillips, Chevron (NYSE:CVX). Amoco, Arco, Sohio [now (NYSE:BP)], Atlantic Richfield [now (BP)] and
Marathon Oil Corporation (NYSE:MRO). Through subsequent mergers we are now down to XOM, COP, CVX, MRO and BP.

Crude Oil Prices

So the same shareholders, owning the same companies, still control the vast majority of production and refining capacity in this country. U.S. producers pump 9Mbd, at $60 per barrel that’s $200,000,000,000 a year while a $20 "crack spread" allows them to add another $150,000,000,000 (as they make it on the imports too). If we assume that oil is just 20% more expensive than it should be, that’s $90Bn paid by the American consumers for oil over and above what should be a fair price. Since oil is up from its 100-year average of $21.57 to $60, it could be argued that the Standard Oil Cartel is currently bleeding $300,000,000,000 a year from the pockets of the American people and $1.5T PER YEAR in EXCESS payments over a fair barrel price is being charged to the citizens of the world.

Since Bill Clinton handed over the reigns of government in January of 2001 to a Texas oilman whose family co-owned part of the Carlyle Group with the Bin Laden family (who were also a $20M direct investor in George Jr.’s Arbusto Energy AND an indirect investor in Junior’s Harken Energy Corp.) AMERICAN CONSUMERS ALONE have paid an average of $35 x 20M barrels a day x 365 days a year x five years, or $1.3 TRILLION DOLLARS more for oil than they paid in any other (inflation adjusted) five year period in the past 25 years.

Multiply that by 4.5 (about $6T) and that’s how much the citizens of the World have paid to the oil producers in excess profits (which we are not allowed to tax them on). Since the rising tide of commodity pricing has lifted all ships, our labor has been devalued (along with the dollar by 60%) so that it takes $650, rather than $250 to buy an ounce of gold, 4x more for copper, 2x more for housing, 2x more for corn. The same market manipulations that were polarizing the working farmers back in 1890 may coalesce into a storm of change in 2008. Like Standard oil of 1907, the oil cartel of 2007 has simply pushed too far and taken too much, outraging the people.

Now this is going to catch me a lot of flack but the first group of global citizens smart enough to become outraged by the abuses of the oil cartel were the Iranian people, who overthrew their U.S.-backed government back in the 1980s as they were sickened by the raping of their land and natural resources for the benefit of their top 1%, who had the backing of the American oil companies.

In many ways we have reaped what we have sown in the Middle East as nation after impoverished nation has turned their anger outward towards the easy, imperialist target. In the Wizard of Oz book the winged monkeys represented the Plains Indians, who would swoop in and
cause havoc at the bidding of the Witch (Standard Oil) to frighten people off their land, interfere with trade and commerce and instill a general feeling of terror amongst the populace, consolidating her power base. Sound like any terrorists we know?

Much like Oz, our own government initially ignores the plight of the people outsside the Emerald City but that is secretly because the "benevolent" power of the governement is a no real match compared to the ruthless, immoral, selfish machinations of the powerful witch (oil interests). Oz says to Dorothy, go out and slay the Witch of the West and THEN I shall grant all your wishes.

Interestingly, in the book, Dorothy’s journey to the witch takes her through the land of the Winkies, who live over "the Great Wall" and are enslaved to the witch. It is the freeing of the Winkies that proves the witch’s undoing just as the energy conservation programs being enacted by China and Europe may break the back of our modern oil cartel DESPITE a complete lack of cooperation from the US. In the end, a simple splash of cold water (reality) exposes the witch as nothing more than an easily toppled house of cards.

As Al Gore and Glenda the Good Witch tell us all the time, " you have had the power within you all along" to break the back of this cartel - all the American people (and the people of the world) need is the will to overcome their fears and face down the manipulators. As William Bryan said about the commodity cartel of his time:

If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

Imagine the economic might of the nations that could be unleashed if we could, not even recover, but simply not continue to pay another $6T of excess oil profits over the next five years. That’s $1,000 for every single person on the planet. Of course most of that money is being paid out by the 1Bn of us who live in "industrialized nations." 25% of that money, $1.5T represents $3,000 a year for every single American family to put back into other, more productive parts of the economy. That $1.5T is more money than was earned by ALL U.S. corporations (including oil companies) in 2006.

If we manage to topple the entire house of cards that is commodity pricing, perhaps we won’t need sub-prime mortgages to buy ourselves affordable housing at realistic interest rates. There is certainly a storm brewing as a vacuum of money has been left in our heartland as the Broker/Commodity/Financial triumvirate has funneled $6T away from you and the things you enjoy (consumer goods) to force you to spend it to maintain the things you need (cars, tractors, appliances). They’ve created a storm that threatens to tear the global economy apart.

Even the Scarecrow (who had no brains) quickly figured out what the Tin Woodsman’s problem was - Oil Can!

Sometimes late when things are real
And people share the gift of gab between themselves
Some are quick to take the bait
And catch the perfect prize that waits among the shelves

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But Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man
That he didnt, didnt already have

- Tin Man (by America)

As an aside, here’s a fun way to watch the whole movie in seven minutes. Here’s a much sicker ending.

Source: No Place Like Home: A Tornado Swells on the Horizon of the Global Economy