by Greg Palast
Friday, June 12, 2009
For Air America Radio’s Ring of Fire
There’s an easy way to find oil. Go to some remote and gorgeous natural sanctuary, say Alaska or the Amazon, find some Indians, then drill down under them.
If the indigenous folk complain, well, just shoo-them away. Shoo-ing methods include: bulldozers, bullets, crooked politicians and fake land sales.
But be aware. Lately the Natives are shoo-ing back. Last week, indigenous Peruvians seized an oil pumping station, grabbed the nine policemen guarding it and, say reports, executed them. This followed the government’s murder of more than a dozen rainforest residents who had protested the seizure of their property for oil drilling.
Again and again I see it in my line of work of investigating fraud. Here are a few pit-stops on the oily trail of tears:
In the 1980s, Charles Koch was found to have pilfered about $3 worth of crude from Stanlee Ann Mattingly’s oil tank in Oklahoma. Here’s the weird part. Koch was (and remains) the 14th richest man on the planet, worth about $14 billion. Stanlee Ann was a dirt-poor Osage Indian.
Stanlee Ann wasn’t Koch’s only victim. According to secret tape recordings of a former top executive of his company, Koch Industries, the billionaire demanded that oil tanker drivers secretly siphon a few bucks worth of oil from every tank attached to a stripper well on the Osage Reservation where Koch had a contract to retrieve crude.
Koch, according to the tape, would, “giggle” with joy over the records of the theft. Koch’s own younger brother Bill ratted him out, complaining that, in effect, brothers Charles and David cheated him out of his fair share of the looting which totaled over three-quarters of a billion dollars from the Native lands.
The FBI filmed the siphoning with hidden cameras, but criminal charges were quashed after quiet objections from Republican senators.
Then there are the Chugach Natives of Alaska. The Port of Valdez, Alaska, is arguably one of the most valuable pieces of real estate on Earth, the only earthquake-safe ice-free port in Alaska that could load oil from the giant North Slope field. In 1969, Exxon and British Petroleum companies took the land from the Chugach paid them one dollar. I kid you not.
Wally Hickel, the former Governor of Alaska, dismissed my suggestion that the Chugach deserved a bit more respect (and cash) for their property. “Land ownership comes in two ways, Mr. Palast.” explained the governor and pipeline magnate, “Purchase or conquest. The fact that your granddaddy chased a caribou across the land doesn’t make it yours.” The Chugach had lived there for 3,000 years.
No oil company would dream of digging on the Bush family properties in Midland, Texas, without paying a royalty. Or drilling near Malibu without the latest in environmental protections. But when Natives are on top of Exxon’s or BP’s glory hole, suddenly, the great defenders of private property rights turn quite Bolshevik: lands can be seized for The Public’s Need for Oil.
Some Natives are “re-located” through legal flim-flam, some at gunpoint. The less lucky are left to wallow, literally, in the gunk left by the drilling process.
Take a look at this photo here, taken in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. It’s from an investigation that I conducted for BBC TV, now in the film “Palast Investigates.” I’m holding up a stinking, black glop of crude oil residue pulled from an abandoned Chevron-Texaco waste pit. A pipe runs from the toxic pit right into the water supply of Cofan Indians.
Chief Emergildo Criollo told me how oil company executives helicoptered into his remote village and, speaking in Spanish – which the Cofan didn’t understand – “purchased” drilling rights with trinkets and cheese. The Natives had never seen cheese. (“The cheese smelled funny, so we threw it in the jungle.”)
After drilling began, Criollo’s son went swimming in his usual watering hole, came up vomiting blood, and died.
I asked Chevron about the wave of poisonings and deaths. According to an independent report, 1,401 deaths, mostly of children, mostly from cancers, can be traced to Chevron’s toxic dumping.
Chevron’s lawyer told me, “And it’s the only case of cancer in the world? How many cases of children with cancer do you have in the States? … They have to prove that it is our crude,” which, he noted with glee, “is absolutely impossible.”
Big Oil treats indigenous blood like a cheap gasoline additive. That’s why the Peruvians are up in arms. The Cofan of Ecuador, unlike their brothers in Peru, have taken no hostages. Rather, they have heavily armed themselves with lawyers.
But Chevron and its Big Oil brethren remain dismissive of the law. This week, Shell Oil, to get rid of a nasty PR problem by paying $15 million to the Ogoni people and the family of Ken Saro-Wiwa for the oil giant’s alleged role in the killing of Wiwa and his associates, activists who had defended these Nigeria Delta people against drilling contamination. Shell pocketed $31 billion last year in profits and hopes the payoff will clear the way for a drilling partnership with Nigeria’s government.
Congratulations, Shell. $15 million: For a license to kill and drill, that’s a quite a bargain.
Perhaps the most accurate way to ask this question is,
For that is an easier question to answer. A cursory look at Universal Healthcare in Wikipedia has a very blunt answer:
Universal health care is implemented in all but one of the wealthy, industrialized countries, with the exception being the United States. It is also provided in many developing countries and is the trend worldwide.
The very healthcare system enjoyed by EVERY wealthy, industrialized nation EXCEPT the United States.
Please let that sink in. Let the fact that the “greatest country in the world” is the ONLY ONE that doesn’t make Universal healthcare the system of choice. How can it be that we have allowed ourselves to be last in anything? We are America, right?
My buddy Kelso replied to a comment and had this single sentence that touched off this rant and rationale for a series of posts showing the extremes of hypocrisy that the American people have been duped into believing:
Alan Garcia, Far Right Wing President Of Peru and former Reagan era death squad leader, has Single Payer Health Care.
I admit my ignorance to many things on the world stage, especially the politics involved with countries like Peru. It is simply a case of where I, too, have fallen for the screaming meme of “America is the greatest country”, even in light of the horrific and dubious roles we play in South Americans lives (not to mentioned everywhere else in the world we don’t belong). Why care about those “little brown people” if I live in the “greatest country in America”? I mean, surely those backwoods little brown people don’t know shit from shinola, right?
I have to admit that while studying President Garcia’s history, it did cause me to question just how intelligent these people may be if they re-elect a man who’s policies help usher in a devestating financial breakdown. But politics are truly local and when you review how the election was set up, you see how it could be made possible.
From a BBC News Profile on Alan Garcia:
Under his rule, inflation multiplied, reaching four figures; the Shining Path guerrilla insurgency had surged unchecked; corruption was rampant.
Mr Garcia fled the country in 1992, facing corruption charges and with troops despatched to arrest him.
Nine years later he returned to Peru to stand in presidential elections.
He lost to Alejandro Toledo – but only by a slender margin. Mr Garcia had signalled that he was back.
And in 2006, to the astonishment of many onlookers, Mr Garcia triumphantly regained the presidency.
But, again, I digress. Peruvians elected the man and they get what they pay for and when he said the following, it must have changed their minds somehow:
Do you think I want my tombstone to read: ‘He was so stupid that he made the same mistakes twice’?
And believe me, all us big fat white people are no smarter than those little brown people… we DID re-elect W, didn’t we? As a matter of fact, it just proves a point that any electorate can be fooled with fear and almost any shiny little object to sway our attention from prescient matters to those of nothingness and fear.
Now back to my point. This year, as Kelso points out, President Garcia helped usher in a Universal, single payer healthcare system in Peru. From wiki:
On April 9, 2009 the Government of Peru published the Law on Health Insurance to enable all Peruvians to access quality health services, and contribute to regulate the financing and supervision of these services. The law enables all population to access diverse health services to prevent illnesses, and promote and rehabilitate people, under a Health Basic Plan (PEAS). 
Not only that, but yesterday, they actually took it a step farther by implementing this (from LivinginPeru):
The Peruvian government has extended public health insurance coverage to laid-off workers for an additional period of six months, according to a decree published today in El Peruano official gazette.
This decision is intended to help families to overcome the effects of the global financial crisis.
The ones who can make use of this benefits are those who get laid off between January 1st, 2009 and July 31st, 2010.
The decree sets up a temporary special regime of coverage for the unemployed and their families, which will allow them to access to Essalud (the National Social Security System) complete health services, provided they had already been included in the Essalud system during at least five months.
Think about that and then consider your Blue Cross Blue Shield Cobra plan since you lost your job.
Is there any “real” American in this country that can stand against healthcare for all? How can you be “Christian” and do so? How can you have a moral bone in your body and deny others? How can you mimic Christ in any realistic way when supporting large scale murder and carnage (via our military), yet deny the very basic healthcare to any person alive? How do you live with yourself and the blatant hypocrisy?
As an American, are you embarrased that we are the ONLY freaking industrialized country that won’t do it? The “Greatest Country?”
As Bro’ kelso stated (and Brother Jeremiah Wright once said):
GOD BLESS AMERICA? NO, GOD DAMN AMERICA
Let me just say to all you faux Christians out there, running around immersed in hate and reproach for others, when the Christ was noted saying:
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy
Do you think he had your merciless ass in mind? Do you think that when He healed someone, he asked if they were “covered” or needed their “co-pay”? Do you think you should be “happy” or be “shown favor” by God (that is what “blessed” means) if you believe that people should not be healed if they can’t pay for it?
American people: It is high time you stop your idiotic head burying and begin to force these medical and insurance company backed politicians into doing what the REST OF THE WORLD is doing and get rid of the profit in healthcare and make sure our people are cared for and well-treated.
If you don’t, don’t call yourself a Christian. Just call yourself a uncaring scumbag.
The hypocrisy is making me puke.