GADFLY: September Surprise 

Many, including me, have been predicting an "October Surprise" in advance of the mid-term elections in November. Bin Laden suddenly turning up, dead or alive, a terrorist attack somewhere in the U.S. (or the announcement of  another bogus "cell" of terrorist wannabes, like the hapless group in Miami who couldn't even afford to buy their own combat boots, much less blow anything up ), or some other dramatic development that will help the Republicans, now apparently doomed to losing control of the House, turn that seemingly inexorable tide.

But while we've all been waiting for something dramatic in the way of poll-influencing Republican-engineered news developments (other than the inevitable Rove slime attacks ),  the GOP's biggest booster, the oil industry, has been quietly coming to the aid of their biggest butt kissers. Have you noticed that gasoline prices have dropped dramatically in the last several weeks, 42 cents in just the last three weeks? In fact, just in the last week, they've  dropped 11 cents per gallon. Sure, gasoline prices normally decline after Labor Day, but not this fast, and not so quickly after the rather dramatic spike we saw in the last several months, when oil prices reached an all-time high, along with oil company profits. In fact, this is the steepest decline in prices in 10 years.

Now call me a cynic, but everything I've read and seen (that wasn't  propaganda bought and paid for by the oil companies ) indicates that the oil industry has been  manipulating the price of gasoline for years. I'm not alone in that belief.   If they can manipulate them up, there's no reason why they can't manipulate them down as well,  especially to avoid the threat that a Democrat-controlled House may be less receptive to their influence.

It should come as no surprise that polls show that   a large majority of the American electorate blames the Republicans for the prices they're paying at the pump, and consider this issue important in deciding how to vote in the upcoming elections. So, what better defense against that perception (and outcome at the ballot box) than a vigorous offense, orchestrated by the oil companies operating hand in glove with the GOP.

What makes the recent price fall all the more suspicious is that it comes on the heels of the announcement that BP, one of the top three oil giants, had "discovered" that its oil pipeline in Alaska's Prudhoe Bay had sprung a leak due to the company's failure to adequately maintain that pipeline. The predictions were that the shutdown, which provided a significant percentage of the US's consumption, would seriously affect the price of oil, which it did, but only, as it turned out, in the short run. BP, obviously concerned about the outrage its "discovery" caused, apparently figured out a way to mitigate the loss of all that oil, though it hasn't yet figured out a way to mitigate the investigations which have ensued as a result.

Don't get me wrong: I'm as glad to be paying less at the pump as anyone, but what really chaps me is the ease with which the oil industry twists our gonads when it wants to, and then, when it suits them, releases the pressure with the same ease. All for the favor of an administration/political party that has been nothing if not the handmaiden of the oil industry. Just as annoying is how the oil companies successfully recruit the credulous media to persuade the public that the price of oil is strictly market driven, when we all know otherwise.

But remember, when it comes to gasoline (and unlike gravity), what comes down inevitably goes up, so don't be surprised if, shortly after the November elections, we see "market forces" at play again when the price at the pump goes soaring again, only this time it will either be because the Republicans have been safely re-ensconced in Congress, or because the Democrats have taken the House, and the oil companies want them to take the blame for another episode of price gouging.

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