Hoovervilles and Bush Camps

Richard Duncan
Saturday, September 22, 2001



I presented the forecast, "The Road Ahead" -- i.e., SCENARIO #1, below -- as a thought experiment in my paper, "Crude Oil Production and Prices: A  Look Ahead at OPEC's Decision  Making Process," (p. 13, section 12), at the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council (PTTC) in Bakersfield, California on September 22, 2000 -- exactly six (6) days before the latest wave of violence erupted in Jerusalem on September 28, 2000. The "Jerusalem Jihad" (JJ) I call it.

While recently reviewing SCENARIO #1 with a colleague, I was amazed at its accuracy and precision.

The Road Ahead, based on the information in sections 2-11 [i.e., of my PTTC paper], IMO, leads directly to war in the Middle East ‹ in a matter of months, not years. Oil prices will skyrocket. Chaos will spread far and wide. Desperate leaders will take desperate measures. The following scenario, of course, is 100% fiction ‹ but it does convey the magnitude of the problems we face [i.e., as of September, 2000].

Scenario #1: Early 2001. War breaks out in the Middle East when an agreement for the sovereignty of Al Quds (East Jerusalem) fails for the umpteenth time. Terror strikes Jerusalem. The police are overwhelmed. The conflagration jumps to Tel Aviv and Amman ‹ then sweeps westward. Athens and Rome erupt. Moscow too. Explosions rip Berlin, Madrid, Paris and London. Dublin is not spared. Then it leaps across the Atlantic to New York and Washington DC. Even Seattle forgets the WTO riots. Meanwhile oil prices go ballistic ‹ $100 plus per barrel. Gas stations, supermarkets and stores are looted. World leaders panic. "UN" stealth bombers strike "suspected terrorist sites" in Tripoli and Baghdad. It's stealth bombers versus "stealth bombers", but the latter quickly gain the upper hand. The Sixth and Seventh Fleets join the Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf. "UN" paratroopers occupy all of the oil fields and refineries in the Middle East. Banks of Patriot missiles ring Jerusalem. Helicopter gunships hit Gaza and Jericho. Israeli "peacekeepers" secure Palestine. Wall Street plummets 70% in one day. CUT

Complete speculation, but it could happen.

The great tragedy on September 11, 2001 occurred exactly 11 months and 19 days after my "Jerusalem Jihad" scenario ("JJ", quoted above) was presented to the  PTTC conference at Bakersfield, California on  September 22, 2000.

In my PTTC
paper I emphasized: "The conflaguration will spread worldwide." On September 29, 2000 I sent a copy of my paper to President Clinton. The President responded with a letter dated November 9, 2000, signed "Sincerely, Bill Clinton". Yet he made no mention of either the JJ scenario or the escalating violence in the Middle East.

NB: I really didn't expect that my PTTC paper would change the course of human events.  I sent it, as it were, to prove that I'd made an effort to inform the Administration.


Scenario #2 is proffered on the One Year Anniversary of the presentation of my "JJ" scenario at the PTTC meeting, September 22, 2000, Riverside, California (see previous).

It is likely that most readers will not remember first-hand the ubiquitous shanty towns that sprang up immediately after the Wall Street Crash in 1929. They were dubbed "Hoovervilles" in the vernacular of the time. President Hoover was voted out of office in 1932 in the landslide victory by Franklin Roosevelt who touted his visionary "New Deal."

Thus in 1933, President Roosevelt could (and did) immediately established many Federal "make-work" programs such as the Civilian Conservation Corps ("CCC", for rural projects) and the Works Progress Administration ("WPA", for urban projects).

In 1933 the US had 'only' about
100 million people and vast untapped renewable and non-renewable resources. For example, the US then led the world in both oil production and oil exports. Thus in 1933 Roosevelt was also able to (and did) establish many gigantic "real-work" projects to tap our (then!) vast storehouse of natural resources. The Grand Coulee Dam project and the Hoover Dam project, to name just two, put tens of thousands of people to work (living in hastily built Federal "company towns" near the projects) in providing vast amounts of water for irrigated agriculture and electric power for industry and commerce. Such "real-work" projects promptly lifted the nation "by-its-own-bootstraps" out the Great Depression.

But (despite its eventual success) the New Deal came too late for the hundreds of thousands of men and women that remained homeless, jobless, and hungry from 1929 onward. Thus it was that Hoovervilles sprung up all over the USA. For example, along the waterfront of Seattle
I observed acres-and-acres of small rickety shacks made out of e.g., scrap lumber, corrugated tin, cardboard, ... whatever.  The unkempt men (I don't remember seeing women) sat outside cooking goulash in rusty tin cans on open fires. Scraggy dogs milled about. Ramshackle outhouses were everywhere, but no trees.  It was dust in summer and mud in winter. Trash was piled high, but then the wind blew it about. Occasionally somebody built a rickety fence and planted (yes) a flower garden.

No doubt there was some touching kindness during these trying times, but violence, crime, and aimless migration dominated -- always topped off with desperation -- as vividly depicted by John Steinbeck in "The Grapes of Wrath."

Scenario #2 is based on my education and industrial experience in electrical engineering, what I've observed in some 50 nations around the world, my hobby of archaeology and anthropology, a lifetime of reading in various fields, and what I (b. 1932) remember about the Great Depression. Scenario #2 depicts myriad desperate people -- unemployed, homeless, hungry -- living in "Bush Camps" (i.e., clusters of squalid shelters) that spring up around the nation. All this happens in a matter of months -- not years.

The following scenario, of course, is 100% fiction ‹ but it does convey the magnitude of the problems that we now face -- in September 2001.

Scenario #2: Early 2002. Unemployment soars as the US economy collapses. Desperate people do whatever it takes to survive. "Bush Camps" -- the new vernacular for "Hoovervilles" -- sprout up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. America, now crushed with some 300 million people -- and bulging still more. Our "Limitless Resources" -- withering away. Our once "Invincible Industry" -- moribund. No "New Deal" a la 1932. "You can't eat info-burgers." No options left -- except _ _ _ !!! The government panics. "Every man for himself." By December 2002 tens of millions of jobless Americans suffer in the "Abominable Bush Camps". Simple as "ABC". CUT

Complete speculation, but it could happen.

Note 1: I presented an earlier version of the "JJ" scenario (i.e., Scenario #1, see above), then called the "AMPEC" scenario, at Princeton  University on May 9, 1997 -- a full 4 years and 4 months before the great tragedy of September 11, 2001. President Clinton and selected members of the Cabinet and Senate were advised. Only Senator Jesse Helms responded.

Note 2: I know full well that it's theoretically possible to transition from our present predicament to e.g., Ernest Callenbach's "Ecotopia," but we're talking about humans on earth, not angels in heaven.

Rich Duncan