It’s been a good week. Robert McNamara’s dead and my book, Armed Madhouse, was released in translation in Vietnam.
I don’t blame McNamara for losing the war in Vietnam. After all, the good guys won. I do, however, blame him for losing World War II.
In 1995, in Chicago, veterans of Silver Post No. 282 celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of their victory over Japan, marching around a catering hall wearing their old service caps, pins, ribbons and medals. My father sat at his table, silent. He did not wear his medals.
He had given them to me thirty years earlier. I can figure it exactly: March 8, 1965. That day, like every other, we walked to the newsstand near the dime store to get the LA Times. He was a Times man. Never read the Examiner.
He looked at the headline: U.S. Marines had landed on the beach at Danang, Vietnam. …more
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. …more
It is possible to eradicate hunger. How can we live and sleep comfortably knowing that millions of our sisters and brothers go to bed hungry? -Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Having viewed Greg Palast’s set of short films Palast Investigates, I was, as usual, greatly impressed with his dedication to exposing those elements of our “civilization” we try to forget about. I find it miraculous, given these odious realities, that we survive each day and wake up to the next. Reality reeks, in so many ways, and few have the sang froid that Palast does to chase it down and publicize what we need to know.
In The Vultures, we meet a despicable “Goldfinger” who has no trouble robbing the poor–destitute Africans–to feed the rich-a few of them anyway, and mainly himself, through the usual mechanisms taught in Rove 101. Golden Guy intercepts millions in foreign funds targeted toward AIDS medication. The designer wardrobe the president of Zambia gets out of it is a nice boutique aside–shirts, suits, and high heels in quantities Imelda Marcos would envy. The good news is that somehow much of the material in all three films is innocuous enough to have attracted the mainstream media–Sixty Minutes, that is. Now if only they would listen to the rest. The world is crawling with “Rovism.” …more
Former UK ministers and MPs from all UK parties are set to back a bill later on Wednesday outlawing the activities of vulture funds, hedge funds which divert debt relief from the poorest countries into their own pockets.
Vulture funds have been condemned by governments around the world as perverse and immoral for preying on the world’s poor.
Developed countries including Britain and the US have spent billions of pounds trying to relieve the debts of the world’s poorest nations so that they can spend that money on health and education.
The vulture fund speculators effectively divert that debt relief to themselves by buying debt for pennies in the pound just as it is about to be written off, and then suing in British or US courts for the full value plus interest.
In 2007, Newsnight exposed the activities of Donegal International which bought a tranche of Zambia’s debt for $3m and then sued for $55m – the size of Zambia’s health budget.
Reporter Greg Palast doorstepped Donegal’s boss Michael “Goldfinger” Sheehan who styles himself after the James Bond villain.
“The CBS logo isn’t an eyeball, it’s actually just a pimple on the rectum of Viacom Corporation.”
Hear Greg Palast live with This is Hell radio host Chuck Mertz. In this 90 minute head-to-head, Greg goes in-depth about some of his run-ins with American Mainstream Media, stories about “getting the story,” and the true value of unbiased investigative journalism.
“Talk about hell: I trained with Fox TV News for 2 days… They asked me, ‘So what do I think? and I said, ‘I think I’m leaving the country.’ So I went to England to work for BBC.”
The petite Eskimo-Chugach woman gave me that you-dumb-ass-white-boy look.
“Gail, Gail. STICK YOUR GOODDAMN HAND IN IT!”
She stuck it in, under the gravel of the beach at Sleepy Bay, her village’s fishing ground. Gail’s hand came up dripping with black, sickening goo. It could make you vomit. Oil from the Exxon Valdez.
Native dancers, Nanwalek, Prince William Sound, Alaska, center of spill damage.
It was already two years after the spill and Exxon had crowed that Mother Nature had happily cleaned up their stinking oil mess for them. It was a lie. But the media wouldn’t question the bald-faced bullshit. And who the hell was going to investigate Exxon’s claim way out in some godforsaken Native village in the Prince William Sound?
So I convinced the Natives to fly the lazy-ass reporters out to Sleepy Bay on rented float planes to see the oil that Exxon said wasn’t there.
The reporters looked, but didn’t see it, because it was three inches under their feet, under the shingle rock of the icy beach. Gail pulled out her hand and now the whole place smelled like a gas station. The network crews wanted to puke. And now, with their eyes open, they saw the oil, the vile feces-colored smear across the glaciated ridge faces, the poisonous “bathtub ring” that ran for miles and miles at the high tide level. …more
Lhasa, Tibet – China’s secret police are just terrible at keeping themselves secret.
The detective, dressed in her business suit and pumps appropriate to urban Lhasa, did not expect to be trailing my wife and me up the steep hillside to a monastery 15,000 feet up an ice-crusted ridge. Even at 200 yards behind us, I could see her shivering in the thin, frozen air, trying, absurdly, to look like just another hiker on the barren slope.
But then, she really wasn’t trying to hide. Her presence was meant to send a message of fear and intimidation.
I got the point earlier when a photographer we’d helped sneak into Tibet was arrested, her film of protesting Tibetans seized and her camera smashed as she was hustled onto the first plane leaving the country.
When my police shadow looked away, I snapped a photo of the long boxes below me, roofs of the prison complex. It housed more Buddhist monks than any monastery.
At a hermitage carved into the summit rock I found my host sitting cross-legged under an ancient tapestry depicting a monster ready to devour quiet souls.
The holy man had questions for us:
Does Christianity have a god? (Answer: “Sometimes.”)
What is a ‘President‘?
It was 1993. I told the monk the new President, …more
Barbie’s not the only one celebrating 50 years this month – Tibet’s uprising against their Chinese occupiers began 5o years ago.
I thought I’d share with you one of the weirdest memos I’ve unearthed in my years of investigating corporate maledictions. Passed to me from inside Mattel, the toy company, with an August 12, 1997 time stamp. “TAR” stands for Tibet Autonomous Region.
Damn that Abe Lincoln. When Louisiana and Mississippi seceded from the Union, a sensible president would have sent them a box of chocolates with a note, “Goodbye and good riddance.”
Tonight, following Barack Obama’s budget presentation to Congress, effectively the president’s first State of the Union Address, the Republicans chose to give their party’s response, the governor of the state that wanted to leave the Union, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal.
Jindal told us that Barack Obama is a terrible President who passed a stimulus bill “larded with wasteful spending.” Where’s the lard? All week, Jindal has been screeching that Obama wants to require states like Louisiana to extend unemployment insurance to – get this – the unemployed! (Technically, the federal government would pay 100% of the cost of reforming Louisiana’s and Mississippi’s Scrooge-sized benefit requirements.)
Jindal, and some other Republican governors, notably Haley Barbour of Mississippi, are actually turning down millions in federal funds for their own state’s unemployed out of fear that, four years from now, they may have to maintain full unemployment insurance like the rest of America.
Barbour’s excuse, parroted by Jindal, is that the Obama payments to the unemployed of their states would mean, when the economy returns to expansion, that their state would have to increase unemployment insurance taxes and payments to the US average, scaring away new employers. “I mean, we want more jobs,” says Barbour. Um, this is the Governor of MISSISSIPPI talking. Exactly what new “jobs” is he talking about? Is Microsoft is based in Gulfport? Is Genentech opening its new headquarters in Moss Point?
As an economist, I can tell you that the only industry Mississippi leads in is deep-fried chicken-dog manufacturing. I will admit that Louisiana and Mississippi can boast of growing employment at several …more
Republicans are right. President Barack Obama treated them like dirt, didn’t give a damn what they thought about his stimulus package, loaded it with a bunch of programs that will last for years and will never leave the budget, is giving away money disguised as “tax refunds,” and is sneaking in huge changes in policy, from schools to health care, using the pretext of an economic emergency.
Way to go, Mr. O! Mr. Down-and-Dirty Chicago pol. Street-fightin’ man. Covering over his break-you-face power play with a “we’re all post-partisan friends” BS.
And it’s about time.
Frankly, I was worried about this guy. Obama’s appointing Clinton-droids to the Cabinet, bloated incompetents like Larry Summers as “Economics Czar,” made me fear for my country, that we’d gotten another Democrat who wished he were a Republican.
Then came Obama’s money bomb. The House bill included $125 billion for schools (TRIPLING federal spending on education – yes!), expanding insurance coverage to the unemployed, making the most progressive change in the tax code in four decades by creating a $500 credit against social security payroll deductions, and so on. …more
John Thain is the guy that looks like a Clark Kent doll you saw grinning from page one of your paper Friday morning. Thain was just fired by Bank of America because the square-jawed executive demanded a $30 million bonus after losing $5 billion in just three months at the bank’s Merrill Lynch unit. In addition, Thain spent over a million dollars redecorating his office while, at the same time, the U.S. Treasury was bailing out his company with billions in aid. Thain’s office re-do included the installation of a $35,000 toilet bowl.
Thain was robbed. He shouldn’t have been fired; he should have gotten a $60 million bonus — and Obama should immediately hire him as Secretary of the Treasury in place of that tax-dodging lightweight that’s been nominated, Timothy Geithner.