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Lazy Ouzo-Swilling, Olive-Pit Spitting Greeks
Or, How Goldman Sacked Greece

Greg Palast 

by Greg Palast for In These Times

Here’s what we’re told:Greece

Greece’s economy blew apart because a bunch of olive-spitting, ouzo-guzzling, lazy-ass Greeks refuse to put in a full day’s work, retire while they’re still teenagers, pocket pensions fit for a pasha; and they’ve gone on a social-services spending spree using borrowed money. Now that the bill has come due and the Greeks have to pay with higher taxes and cuts in their big fat welfare state, they run riot, screaming in the streets, busting windows and burning banks.

I don’t buy it.  I don’t buy it because of the document in my hand marked, “RESTRICTED DISTRIBUTION.”

I’ll cut to the indictment:  Greece is a crime scene.  The people are victims of a fraud, a scam, a hustle and a flim-flam.   And”“”“cover the children’s ears when I say this”“”“a bank named Goldman Sachs is holding the smoking gun.

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This is an adaptation of an excerpt from Vultures’ Picnic, Greg Palast’s new book, out next week, an investigator’s pursuit of petroleum pigs, power pirates and high-finance fraudsters. Read the first chapter or just get the book here.

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In 2002, Goldman Sachs secretly bought up €2.3 billion in Greek government debt, converted it all into yen and dollars, then immediately sold it back to Greece.

Goldman took a huge loss on the trade.

Is Goldman that stupid?

Goldman is stupid””like a fox. The deal was a con, with Goldman making up a phony-baloney exchange rate for the transaction.   Why?

Goldman had cut a secret deal with the Greek government in power then.  Their game:  to conceal a massive budget deficit.  Goldman’s fake loss was the Greek government’s fake gain.

Goldman would get repayment of its “loss” from the government at loan-shark rates.

The point is, through this crazy and costly legerdemain, Greece’s right-wing free-market government was able to pretend its deficits never exceeded 3 percent of GDP.

Cool. Fraudulent but cool.

But flim-flam isn’t cheap these days: On top of murderous interest payments, Goldman charged the Greeks over a quarter billion dollars in fees.

When the new Socialist government of George Papandreou came into office, they opened up the books and Goldman’s bats flew out.  Investors’ went berserk, demanding monster interest rates to lend more money to roll over this debt.

Greece’s panicked bondholders rushed to buy insurance against the nation going bankrupt.  The price of the bond-bust insurance, called a credit default swap (or CDS), also shot through the roof.  Who made a big pile selling the CDS insurance?  Goldman.

And those rotting bags of CDS’s sold by Goldman and others? Didn’t they know they were handing their customers gold-painted turds?

That’s Goldman’s specialty.  In 2007, at the same time banks were selling suspect CDS’s and CDOs (packaged sub-prime mortgage securities), Goldman held a “net short” position against these securities. That is, Goldman was betting their financial “products” would end up in the toilet. Goldman picked up another half a billion dollars on their “net short” scam.

But, instead of cuffing Goldman’s CEO Lloyd Blankfein and parading him in a cage through the streets of Athens, we have the victims of the frauds, the Greek people, blamed.  Blamed and soaked for the cost of it.  The “spread” on Greek bonds (the term used for the risk premium paid on Greece’s corrupted debt) has now risen to ”” get ready for this”“”“$14,000 per family per year.

Euro-nation, the secret Geithner memo, and the Ecuador connection

Why did the Greek government throw its nation’s fate into Goldman’s greasy hands?  What the heck was in the “RESTRICTED” document? And why did I have to take it to Geneva, to throw it down in front of the Director-General of the WTO for authentication, a creepy French banker I otherwise wouldn’t bother to spit on, and then tear off to Quito to share it with the grateful President of Ecuador?

To give you all the answers would require me to write a book.  I have:  Vultures’ Picnic”“”“in Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Fraudsters.

It’s really quite important to me that you read it, that you get it now.  That’s a funny statement, I suppose, from an author.  But if you’ve been reading my stories in The Guardian or watching my reports on BBC Newsnight, you’ve gotten the facts; but I really want to let you inside the investigations, to cross the continents with me and follow down the leads so that you can get a full picture of The Beasts.  The Beasts and their trophy wives, intelligence agency go-fers, political concubines and bone-breakers.  And besides, it’s enormous fun when it’s not scary as sh*t.

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Here’s a taste of Chapter 12 – The Generalissimo of Globalization – from the film-enhanced eBook edition.  [And more on the 1% Greece-ing us, check out the upcoming issue of In These Times.]

Note:  I will be in Chicago for In These Times on November 29, part of our 15 city tour that begins this coming Sunday, November 13, in Portland, then moves to San Francisco, LA, San Diego, Denver, Boulder, New Mexico, Albuquerque, Chicago, Madison, New York, DC, Houston, Burlington, and Atlanta. Find out more info here.

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Greg Palast is the author of Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores.

Get it now!
For more information about Palast’s brand new book and his book-signing events in your city, go to www.VulturesPicnic.org

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Chapter One of Vultures’ Picnic —
Read it Now

Greg Palast 

 

After some tense discussion (Penguin was partly owned by Gaddafi, so you can imagine…), my publisher has given me the unusual right to give all my readers, for no charge, the entire first chapter of my new book Vultures’ Picnic.
Even if you don’t get the book, I really want you to read the first chapter.

Read it or Download it.

Never before, in my decades as an investigator, have I taken you with me undercover, on the hunt into the lives, secret files, shopping bags and back rooms of the cruel and whacky One Percent.  And, for the first time, I’ve decided to let you in on Greg Palast, to open up my life and the inside of my operation, without censorship or BS.

In Chapter One, you will first encounter …more

Sachs Fiend:
Goldman Attacks Occupy Wall Street’s Non-Profit Bank

When Goldman got huffy at a credit union honouring OWS and pulled its anniversary dinner funding, much more was at stake

Greg Palast 

Exclusive for The Guardian
by Greg Palast, the author of Vultures’ Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.
With Arun Gupta, founding editor of The Occupied Wall Street Journal.

Greg Palast reports from Occupied Wall Street for Democracy Now!

[Zuccotti Park, Wall Street, New York.]

Mega-bank Goldman Sachs (assets $933bn), has declared war on one of the smallest banks in New York (assets $30m), the customer-owned community bank that happens to also be the banker for Friends of Liberty Plaza, Inc, also known as Occupy Wall Street. And you thought Goldman didn’t care.

The trouble began three weeks ago when the occupiers suddenly found their donation buckets filling with thousands of dollars, way more than needed for their pizza dinners. Suddenly, the anti-bank protesters needed a bank. Citibank and Chase certainly wouldn’t fit. So OWS opened an account at the not-for-profit Lower East Side Peoples Federal Credit Union. Peoples has a unique federal charter ”“ designated to open accounts for low-income folk from all over NewYork, available to those families earning less than $38,000 per year. (Disclosure: the CEO of the Peoples bank is my dearly beloved ex. But that’s another story.)

Goldman Sachs had also joined up with the Peoples bank. Goldman partners reportedly earn a bit more than $38k per annum, yet Goldman’s association so far was limited to giving the credit union $5,000 toward the little bank’s 25th anniversary celebration dinner. Goldman’s largesse was acknowledged on the dinner invites ”“ along with the night’s honoree: Occupy Wall Street.

When a Goldman exec saw its gilded name next to Occupy Wall Street, …more

Not Another Ransom Note
from Congressman Boehner

Greg Palast 

 

It was quite upsetting to find our President blindfolded and tied to a chair at the GOP Tea Party headquarters, but I’m sure the $2.2 trillion ransom we paid to the hostage-takers is worth it.

Well, now that the Obama presidency is over, we can move on to more serious matters.

Look out your window.  What you’ll see is that, while the debt-ceiling hostage crisis played out on cable TV, the planet has been burning down.

You haven’t heard a lot from me this year””because the normally-noisy Palast investigations team has chosen to spend these months quietly digging into unreported cases of economic and environmental arson.  It will all hit the presses and TV when we launch a new book and films later this year.

But the investigations continue at full tilt:

#1. Too Far Beyond Petroleum. …more

Strauss-Kahn Screws Africa

Greg Palast 

For The Guardian

Now that I’ve dispensed with the obvious and obnoxious teaser headline, let’s drop the towel and expose Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s history of arrogant abuse. The truth is, the grandee of the IMF has molested Africans for years.

On Wednesday, the New York Times ran five ”“ count’em, FIVE ”“ stories on Strauss-Kahn, Director-General of the International Monetary Fund. According to the Paper of Record, the charges against “DSK,” as he’s known in France, are in “contradiction” to his “charm” and “accomplishments” at the IMF.

Au contraire, mes chers lecteurs.

Director-General DSK’s cruelty, arrogance and impunity toward African and other nations as generalissimo of the IMF is right in line with the story told by the poor, African hotel housekeeper in New York City.

Let’s consider how the housekeeper from Guinea ended up here in New York. In 2002, this single mother was granted asylum. What drove her here?

It began with the IMF rape of Guinea.

…more

Vulture Financier Attacks
Banned in Britain

Greg Palast 

April 8 – London – Update for In These Times

We’ve stuffed the bird and nailed it to the wall: Today, the British Parliament effectively banned financial vulture funds from the British Isles. The law, merely awaits the expected touch of the Queen’s scepter.

“Vulture funds” are international re-po men who buy up old debt of the world’s poorest nations for pennies on the dollar, then sue for ten to a hundred times what they paid for these old loans. The new UK law, passed unanimously, would would bar financiers from using UK courts to collect more than the sums authorized by the International Monetary Fund. In effect, this stops American predators – such as financiers Eric Hermann, Michael Straus, and Michael Francis “Goldfinger” Sheehan, from siphoning tens of millions of dollars of aid money the US and UK treasuries had earmarked for Liberia, Zambia, Congo and other desperately poor countries.

The first vote in the House of Commons to ban vultures took place on February 26, the day after BBC broadcast our investigation of Vulture Eric Hermann (see it here), but maneuvers by a Conservative MP appeared to have de-railed the law.

In the US Congress, Congresswoman Maxine Waters is sponsoring the Stop VULTURE Funds Act H.R. 2932), whose passage may have to wait upon the election of a Democrat to the White House.

For the original story, see Stop Feeding the Vultures in In These Times.

Greg Palast 

Confronting the Globalcrat

This article appears in the December 21 edition of The Nation

Geneva

You could call him the Generalissimo of Globalization. The World Trade Organization’s director general, Pascal Lamy, was a bit defensive, wanting to assure us that the WTO “wasn’t created as a dark club of multinationals secretly cooking plots against the people. We do things in the open. Look at our website.”

It’s been a year since globalized finance brought the planet to its knees, yet here in Geneva, where in late November the WTO opened its grand “seventh ministerial,” the diplomats are in denial. One confidential document from the files of WTO members–definitely not on the WTO website–tells us that despite financial and environmental crises, the globalizers still want to party like it’s 1999.
…more

World Trade Organization Risks Financial ‘China Syndrome’

Greg Palast 

on 10th Anniversary of the Battle in Seattle
Bankers’ scheme to re-open finance casino worldwide

 

GENEVA ”” Apparently, one meltdown isn’t enough for the World Trade Organization. They meet today in Geneva on the tenth anniversary of the “Battle in Seattle,” when tens of thousands of people from around the world protested the organization’s practices.

A special investigation for Air America’s Ring of Fire. Listen to the report here or watch the 9-minute film here.
…more

MPs move to outlaw Vulture Funds

Greg Palast 

By Meirion Jones
BBC Newsnight

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.

goldfingersheehanThe bill singles out Donegal International and its boss Michael “Goldfinger” Sheehan who was exposed by Newsnight reporter Greg Palast for making a fortune out of Zambia’s debt.

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.

US outrage

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.

…more

Bush under the Mistletoe
A kiss-off suggestion

Greg Palast 

Is that George Bush under the mistletoe, waiting for your good-bye kiss?The Bush Goodbye

Well, give'm the kiss-off they won't forget:

For the holidays, give the films that got us busted, censored, threatened. (Oh, what fun!) Make a donation to our investigative reporting foundation ...more

The House I Live In

Greg Palast 

America is a nation of losers. It’s the best thing about us. We’re the dregs, what the rest of the world barfed up and threw on our shores.

John Kennedy said we are “a nation of immigrants.” That’s the sanitized phrase. We are, in fact, a nation of refugees, who, despite the bastards in white sheets and the know-nothings in Congress, have held open the Golden Door to a dark planet. We are not imperialists and that’s why Bush lies and Cheney lies and, yes, the Clintons lied.

Winston Churchill didn’t lie to the Brits about their empire: He said, These lands belong to the Crown, we own’m and we’ll squeeze the value from them. “Imperialism,” as Karl Marx complained, was a good word in Britain, a word that got you elected in Europe until too recently.

Ignore the fey university hideouts of Europe. Go to Vietnam or to Brazil or to Morocco or to Tibet and you’ll find the same thing: America’s music, America’s freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of spirit and the heartfelt friendship of Americans for others have made the USA truly “the light unto the nations.” Americans are not liked worldwide, but loved-sometimes. I find that weird, but it’s true-and that drives Osama to bombs and madness.

We are a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the cause that all men and women are created equal. It’s silly and precious to point out that these ideals have been mangled, abused, ignored and monstered by those with plans to make us an empire. We know that.

America is indeed exceptional. That’s not a boast, that’s a job we have to do. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson burdened us with that exceptionalism in crafting the most important international law signed up until the Geneva Convention: The Alien Torts Act, in which the USA takes onto itself the right to bring civil penalties against any act of torture, political murder and piracy that occurs anywhere in the world. It is now being used in suits brought against Chevron Oil in Ecuador and against IBM for the death of slave laborers in Nazi Germany.

Damn right America is exceptional. It is America that defiantly walked out of the first “world trade organization,” known as the British Empire, announcing, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are ENDOWED BY THE CREATOR with INALIENABLE rights, and AMONG THESE are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Now, think about that. These rights don’t come from Congress or Kings or Soviets, they come from The Creator, that is, we are born free-and “we” are Sri Lankans as much as Minnesotans. Our rights are “INALIENABLE”: no one, NO ONE, may take them away, not the Ayatollahs of Tehran or Generalissimo Negroponte at the Department of Homeland Security or the kill-o-crats in Baghdad pre- or post- Saddam.

Will the snarling closet imperialists try to turn America from its cause and soul? Damn right they will. That’s why two U.S. military lawyers resigned from their posts at the Guantánamo prison camp. They wouldn’t put up with Bush-niks tearing up their Constitution. (“We the people” own it, not “them the Republicans.”) In Iran, these two guys would have been shot, in Britain arrested. In America, Bush fears them-that their story would come out-as it did. Only in America could that happen.

No question, the USA holds itself exempt from the legal standards of this world-which are execrable. Whose standard should we adopt? China’s torture standard? Britain’s Secrecy Act as a standard? Switzerland’s Nazi-money-protection standard?

Only in America would a Lyndon Johnson order federal troops to protect Black school kids’ right to attend class. You don’t have to tell me that Johnson then ordered the slaughter of three million Vietnamese-I know, I went to jail to oppose it. But go to Vietnam today and ask what people they most admire? Mention Russians, they laugh; mention Chinese, they may hit you; mention Americans and they say (to my astonishment, I’ll admit), “We love Americans.”

They don’t love Bush. That’s because George Bush is not an American. Look, I didn’t think much of Bill Clinton, and he dropped into some of the worst quasi-imperial habits of the New World Trade Order. But Clinton was also more popular worldwide than the pope and pizza combined because he represented that American sense of giving- a-shit, empathy and sincere friendship which are hallmarks of America’s Manifest Destiny.

Yes, America does have a Manifest Destiny-to Let Freedom Ring-which the evil and greedy and pernicious would twist into a grab for land and resources and ethnic cleansing. And so the Manifest Destiny of the journalists in our shitty little offices in New York and London is to expose these motherfuckers.

Ronald Reagan said, “America is the shining city on the hill.” And he hated it, doing his best to turn it into a dark Calcutta of the helpless. And when that didn’t work, George II tried to drown us in the Mississippi.

Go back to Taos, New Mexico, Voting Precinct 13. What you’ll find there is Pueblo Native war veterans who raise the flag every day and will fight and die for it knowing full well that the fight must also be taken to the pueblo’s racially biased voting booths.

Howard Zinn, a shining historian on our hill, reminds us, “It should be understood that the children of Iraq, of China, and of Africa, children everywhere in the world, have the same right to life as American children.”

Damn right, they do. That’s what Jefferson meant by “inalienable.”

And they won’t get their rights to life and liberty from Osama’s Caliphate of oil states or China’s money-crazed “Communism” nor half of Africa’s neo-colonial presidential Draculas or the puppet princes installed today in Iraq by George Bush.

Bush is so far away from his refugee loser roots that he just doesn’t get what it is to be American. So he steals the one thing that every American is handed off the boat: a chance. When they take away your Social Security and overtime and tell you sleeper cells are sleeping under your staircase, you don’t take a chance, you lose your chance, and the land of opportunity becomes a landscape of fear and suspicion, an armed madhouse.

You want to say that George Bush is an evil sonovabitch? I’d go further: he’s UN-AMERICAN.

And that’s why he lost the election. TWICE.

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Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans ”“ Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild from which this is excerpted. Sign up for Palast’s investigative reports at http://www.GregPalast.com

 

A reader response –

Greg,

Some of us care. After caring for so many years, I’m tired of the feeling of futility. I watched Grapes of Wrath last night. I was discouraged by the beautiful landscape, devoid of cars and houses, that we no longer
have. And somewhat surprised by the similarity of those thug ranch hands to some of the tactics that still exist today. Although there has been an evolution of caring brought about by presidencies of long ago. They still exist, although conservatives are still trying to turn this nation into a sweatshop.

One thing that keeps coming back to me with regards to almost everything is that we are the final word. The buck stops with the people. Mrs. Joad said that, when she was learning and growing stronger in the end. But what I find so disturbing about this country now. It’s “me”, instead of “we”. We’ve let the comfort that petroleum has brought us turn us into greedy and selfish monsters. Even the kind ones. Kind monsters. Unintended, but nonetheless careless. Too busy to care. Working, breeding, driving,
consuming.

We get what we deserve. And those who don’t deserve it get it whether they fight it or not. Those who are selfish are dragging us all down.

I know it sounds pathetic. But it is. When will we realize that we’re in Iraq because we don’t demand that we leave. Or demand impeachment now. That “table” Pelosi talks about is ours. Not hers. Although I don’t know
the intricate workings of Washington. I do know that impeachment is not off the table. Global warming is because of us. Not George Bush. And we shouldn’t depend on him to do anything about it.

We’re dependent. And I’ve always been offended by Independence Day since I was just a young adult. We’ve been dependent so long we take it for granted. We take democracy for granted. And we don’t participate. So it’s no longer an independent democracy. Lobbyists even paid our representatives to vote a certain way.

I appreciate the work you do. It takes more than that, though. I’m afraid the people don’t realize that until it’s too late. They’re too busy shopping.

Today I have a nervous feeling in my stomach. I’m finally running out of steam. When one studies and discovers what has really gone on, it takes the wind out of one’s sails to see others who deny those truths. Without truth, what do we have. The truth is so scrambled now that it is one reason why apathy is so rampant.

I’m afraid that it’s still Grapes of Wrath. You are Tom Joad. I am Tom Joad. There is optimism in our potential power. But until we use it, it’s just potential.

I’m sorry for rambling. Especially since you know it all. But sometimes one must vent. And sometimes a voice out of the dark gives light.

-A fan

Poppy Strikes Gold

Greg Palast 

Posted July 9, 2003


This excerpt is taken from Greg Palast’s book The Best Democracy Money Can Buy available from www.gregpalast.com

George W. could not have amassed this pile if his surname were Jones or Smith. While other candidates begged, pleaded and wheedled for donations, the Bushes added a creative, lucrative new twist to the money chase that contenders couldn’t imitate: “Poppy” Bush’s post”“White House work. It laid the foundation for Dubya’s campaign kitty corpulence and, not incidentally, raised the family’s net worth by several hundred percent.

In 1998, for example, the former president and famed Desert Stormtrooper-in-Chief wrote to the oil minister of Kuwait on behalf of Chevron Oil Corporation. Bush says, honestly, that he “had no stake in the Chevron operation.” True, but following this selfless use of his influence, the oil company put $657,000 into the Republican Party coffers.

That year Bush père created a storm in Argentina when he lobbied his close political ally, President Carlos Menem, to grant a gambling license to Mirage Casino Corporation. Once again, the senior Bush wrote that he had no personal interest in the deal. However, Bush fils made out quite nicely: After the casino fiap, Mirage dropped $449,000 into the Republican Party war chest.

Much of Bush’s loot, reports the Center for Responsive Politics, came in the form of “bundled” and “soft” money. That’s the squishy stuff corporations use to ooze around U.S. law, which prohibits any direct donations from corporations.

Not all of the elder Bush’s work is voluntary. His single talk to the board of Global Crossing, the telecom start-up, earned him stock worth $13 million when the company went public. Global Crossing’s employees also kicked in another million for the younger Bush’s run. (We’ll meet Global Crossing again in Chapter 3.)

And while the Bush family steadfastly believes that ex-felons should not have the right to vote for president, they have no objection to ex-cons putting presidents on their payroll. In 1996, despite pleas by U.S. church leaders, Poppy Bush gave several speeches (he charges $100,000 per talk) sponsored by organizations run by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, cult leader, tax cheat””and formerly the guest of the U.S. federal prison system. Some of the loot for the Republican effort in the 1997”“2000 election cycles came from an outfit called Barrick Corporation.

The sum, while over $100,000, is comparatively small change for the GOP, yet it seemed quite a gesture for a corporation based in Canada. Technically, the funds came from those associated with the Canadian’s U.S. unit, Barrick Gold Strike.

They could well afford it. In the final days of the Bush (Senior) administration, the Interior Department made an extraordinary but little noticed change in procedures under the 1872 Mining Law, the gold rush”“era act that permitted those whiskered small-time prospectors with their tin pans and mules to stake claims on their tiny plots. The department initiated an expedited procedure for mining companies that allowed Barrick to swiftly lay claim to the largest gold find in America. In the terminology of the law, Barrick could “perfect its patent” on the estimated $10 billion in ore””for which Barrick paid the U.S. Treasury a little under $10,000. Eureka!

Barrick, of course, had to put up cash for the initial property rights and the cost of digging out the booty (and the cost of donations, in smaller amounts, to support Nevada’s Democratic senator, Harry Reid). Still, the shift in rules paid off big time: According to experts at the Mineral Policy Center of Washington, DC, Barrick saved””and the U.S. taxpayer lost””a cool billion or so. Upon taking office, Bill Clinton’s new interior secretary, Bruce Babbitt, called Barrick’s claim the “biggest gold heist since the days of Butch Cassidy.” Nevertheless, because the company followed the fast-track process laid out for them under Bush, this corporate Goldfinger had Babbitt by the legal nuggets. Clinton had no choice but to give them the gold mine while the public got the shaft.

Barrick says it had no contact whatsoever with the president at the time of the rules change.[1] There was always a place in Barrick’s heart for the older Bush””and a place on its payroll. In 1995, Barrick hired the former president as Honorary Senior Advisor to the Toronto company’s International Advisory Board. Bush joined at the suggestion of former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, who, like Bush, had been ignominiously booted from office. I was a bit surprised that the president had signed on. When Bush was voted out of the White House, he vowed never to lobby or join a corporate board. The chairman of Barrick openly boasts that granting the title “Senior Advisor” was a sly maneuver to help Bush tiptoe around this promise.

I was curious: What does one do with a used president? Barrick vehemently denies that it appointed Bush “in order to procure him to make contact with other world leaders whom he knows, or who could be of considerable assistance” to the company. Yet, in September 1996, Bush wrote a letter to help convince Indonesian dictator Suharto to give Barrick a new, hot gold-mining concession.

Bush’s letter seemed to do the trick. Suharto took away 68 percent of the world’s largest goldfield from the finder of the ore and handed it to Barrick. However, Bush’s lobbying magic isn’t invincible. Jim Bob Moffett, a tough old Louisiana swamp dog who heads Freeport-McMoRan, Barrick’s American rival, met privately with Suharto. When Suharto emerged from their meeting, the kleptocrat announced that Freeport would replace Bush’s Canadians. (Barrick lucked out: The huge ore deposit turned out to be a hoax. When the con was uncovered, Jim Bob’s associates invited geologist Mike de Guzman, who “discovered” the gold, to talk about the error of his ways. Unfortunately, on the way to the meeting, de Guzman fell out of a helicopter.)

Who is this “Barrick” to whom our former president would lease out the reflected prestige of the Oval Office? I could not find a Joe Barrick in the Canadian phone book. Rather, the company as it operates today was founded by one Peter Munk. The entrepreneur first came to public notice in Canada in the 1960s as a central figure in an insider trading scandal. Munk had dumped his stock in a stereo-making factory he controlled just before it went belly up, leaving other investors and government holding the bag. He was never charged, but, notes Canada’s Maclean’s magazine, the venture and stock sale “cost Munk his business and his reputation.” Yet today, Munk’s net worth is estimated at $350 million, including homes on two continents and his own island.

How did he go from busted stereo maker to demi-billionaire goldbug? The answer: Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi arms dealer, the “bag man” in the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostage scandals. The man who sent guns to the ayatolla teamed up with Munk on hotel ventures and, ultimately, put up the cash to buy Barrick in 1983, then a tiny company with an “unperfected” claim on the Nevada mine. You may recall that Bush pardoned the coconspirators who helped Khashoggi arm the Axis of Evil, making charges against the sheik all but impossible. (Bush pardoned the conspirators not as a favor to Khashoggi, but to himself.)

Khashoggi got out of Barrick just after the Iran-Contra scandal broke, long before 1995, when Bush was invited in. By that time, Munk’s reputation was restored, at least in his own mind, in part by massive donations to the University of Toronto. Following this act of philanthropy, the university awarded Munk”“adviser Bush an honorary degree. Several students were arrested protesting what appeared to them as a cash-for-honors deal.

Mr. Munk’s president-for-hire did not pay the cost of his rental in Indonesia. The return on Barrick’s investment in politicians would have to come from Africa.

Mobutu Sese Seko, the late dictator of the Congo (Zaire), was one of the undisputed master criminals of the last century having looted hundreds of millions of dollars from his national treasury”” and a golfing buddy of the senior Bush. That old link from the links probably did not hurt Barrick in successfully seeking an eighty-thousand-acre gold-mining concession from the Congolese cutthroat. Bush himself did not lobby the deal for Barrick. It wasn’t that the former president was squeamish about using the authority of his former posts to cut deals with a despot. Rather, at the time Bush was reportedly helping Adolf Lundin, Barrick’s sometime industry rival. Africa specialist Patrick Smith of London disclosed that Bush called Mobutu in 1996 to help cinch a deal for Lundin for a mine distant from Barrick’s.

Rebellion against Mobutu made the mine site unusable, though not for the company’s lack of trying. In testimony in hearings convened by the minority leader of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights, expert Wayne Madsen alleged that Barrick, to curry favor with both sides, indirectly funded both and thereby inadvertently helped continue the bloody conflict. The allegation, by respected journalist Wayne Madsen, has not been substantiated: The truth is lost somewhere in the jungle, where congressional investigators will never tread.

Though Barrick struck out in Indonesia and the Congo, the big payoff came from the other side of the continent. The company’s president bragged to shareholders that the prestige of the Mulroney-Bush advisory board was instrumental in obtaining one of the biggest goldfields in East Africa at Bulyanhulu, Tanzania. Barrick, according to its president, had hungered for that concession””holding an estimated $3 billion in bullion””since the mid-1990s, when it first developed its contacts with managers at Sutton Resources, another Canadian company, which held digging rights from the government. (See footnote 1.) Enriched by the Nevada venture, Barrick could, and eventually would, buy up Sutton. But in 1996, there was a problem with any takeover of Sutton: Tens of thousands of small-time prospectors, “jewelry miners,” so called because of their minuscule finds, already lived and worked on the land. These poor African diggers held legal claim stakes to their tiny mine shafts on the property. If they stayed, the concession was worthless.

In August 1996, Sutton’s bulldozers, backed by military police firing weapons, rolled across the goldfield, smashing down worker housing, crushing their mining equipment and filling in their pits. Several thousand miners and their families were chased off the property. But not all of them. About fifty miners were still in their mine shafts, buried alive.

Buried alive. It’s not on Bush’s resume, nor on Barrick’s Web site. You wouldn’t expect it to be. But then, you haven’t found it in America’s newspapers either.

There are two plausible explanations for this silence. First, it never happened; the tale of the live burials is a complete fabrication of a bunch of greedy, lying Black Africans trying to shake down Sutton Resources (since 1999, a Barrick subsidiary). That’s what Barrick says after conducting its own diligence investigation and relying on local and national investigations by the Tanzanian government. And the company’s view is backed by the World Bank. See Chapter 8 of my book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” for more on this.[2]

There’s another explanation: Barrick threatens and sues newspapers and human rights organizations that dare to breathe a word of the allegations””even if Barrick’s denials are expressed. I know: They sued my papers, the Observer and Guardian. Barrick even sent a letter to the internationally respected human rights lawyer Tundu Lissu, a fellow at the World Resources Institute in Washington, DC, outlining its suit against the Observer and warning that it would take “all necessary steps” to protect its reputation should the Institute repeat any of the allegations. Barrick’s threats are the least of Lissu’s problems. For supplying me with evidence””photos of a corpse of a man allegedly killed by police during the clearance of the mine site, notarized witness statements, even a police video of workers seeking bodies from the mine pits””and for Lissu’s demanding investigation of the killings, his law partners in Dar es Salaam have been arrested and Lissu charged by the Tanzanian government with sedition.

In 1997, while Bush was on the board (he quit in 1999), Mother Jones magazine named Barrick’s chairman Munk one of America’s “10 Little Piggies”””quite an honor for a Canadian””for allegedly poisoning the West’s water supply with the tons of cyanide Barrick uses to melt mountains of ore.

Notably, one of the first acts of the junior Bush’s Interior Department in 2001 was to indicate it would reverse Clinton administration rules requiring gold extractors to limit the size of waste dumps and to permit new mines even if they were likely to cause “substantial, irreparable harm.” The New York Times ran a long, front-page story on this rule-relaxing windfall for Nevada goldmining companies, but nowhere did the Times mention the name of the owner of the largest gold mine in Nevada, Barrick, nor its recent payroller, the president’s father.

[1] Barrick has responded to every allegation reported in my first report on the company in a manner certain to get my attention: The company and its chairman sued my papers, Guardian and the Observer. While I have a distaste for retort by tort, I have incorporated their legitimate concerns to ensure their views are acknowledged in Chapter 8 of my book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy”

[2] A bit of confusion here: Barrick swore to my paper that the alleged killings “related to a time years before [Barrick] had any connection whatsoever with the company to which the report referred.” Yet Barrick’s president and CEO, Randall Oliphant, told Barrick’s shareholders that prior to their acquisition of Sutton, “we followed the progress at Bully (i.e., Bulyanhulu) for five years, remaining in close contact with the senior management team.” That would connect them to the mine in 1994. The mining company wants me to report their version of events. Okay, here’s both of them.


Greg Palast is an investigative reporter for BBC television and author of the
New York Times bestseller, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (Penguin/Plume 2003). You can read more of Greg’s writings and order the book at www.gregpalast.com.

From Ecuador: Good and Evil
at the Center of the Earth

Greg Palast 

A Conversation with Ecuador’s New President
[Quito] I don’t know what the hell seized me. In the middle of an hour-long interview with the President of Ecuador, I asked him about his father.

I’m not Barbara Walters. It’s not the kind of question I ask.Correa reading his daughters letter

He hesitated. Then said, “My father was unemployed.”

He paused. Then added, “He took a little drugs to the States… This is called in Spanish a mula [mule]. He passed four years in the states- in a jail.”

He continued. “I’d never talked about my father before.”

Apparently he hadn’t. His staff stood stone silent, eyes widened.

Correa’s dad took that frightening chance in the 1960s, a time when his family, like almost all families in Ecuador, was destitute. Ecuador was the original “banana republic” – and the price of bananas had hit the floor. A million desperate Ecuadorans, probably a tenth of the entire adult population, fled to the USA anyway they could.

“My mother told us he was working in the States.”

His father, released from prison, was deported back to Ecuador. Humiliated, poor, broken, his father, I learned later, committed suicide.

At the end of our formal interview, through a doorway surrounded by paintings of the pale plutocrats who once ruled this difficult land, he took me into his own Oval Office. I asked him about an odd-looking framed note he had on the wall. It was, he said, from his daughter and her grade school class at Christmas time. He translated for me.

“We are writing to remind you that in Ecuador there are a lot of very poor children in the streets and we ask you please to help these children who are cold almost every night.”

It was kind of corny. And kind of sweet. A smart display for a politician.

Or maybe there was something else to it.

Correa is one of the first dark-skinned men to win election to this Quechua and mixed-race nation. Certainly, one of the first from the streets. He’d won a surprise victory over the richest man in Ecuador, the owner of the biggest banana plantation.

Doctor Correa, I should say, with a Ph.D in economics earned in Europe. …more

Brown’s Fixer Explains How It’s Done:
Jon Mendelsohn and the Secret Tape

Greg Palast 

Boasted £11 million donated by Tesco cut tax bill by £20 million

It was a stunning admission. Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s crony explained to the U.S. businessman, in evil detail, exactly how the fix is done in Britain.

Unfortunately, for Jon Mendelsohn and his partners, the “businessman” was, in fact, an undercover reporter for The Observer of London. …more

John Perkins: Jerk, Con Man, Shill

Greg Palast 

5 July 2007

I remember John Perkins. He was a real jerk. A gold-plated, super-slick lying little butthole shill for corporate gangsters; a snake-oil salesman with a movie-star grin, shiny loafers, a crooked calculator and a tooled leather briefcase full ofSeabrook Protestors high-blown bullshit.

This was two decades ago. The early 1980s. I wore sandals, uncombed hair down to my cheap collar and carried a busted ring-binder filled with honest calculations and sincere analysis. It was Economic Hit Man Perkins vs. Economic Long-Hair Palast. I didn’t stand a chance. The EHM was about to put a political bullet hole through me wider than a silver dollar.

Hit Men have “clients.” Perkins’ was a giant power company, Public Service of New Hampshire. PSNH was trying to sell New England lobstermen and potato farmers on the idea that they desperately needed a multi-billion dollar nuclear plant. The fact that this bloated atomic water kettle, called “Seabrook,” would produce enough electricity for everyone in the Granite State to smelt iron didn’t matter. That the beast could add a surcharge to electric bills equal to home mortgages was simply smiled over by Perkins and his team of economic con artists.

To steal millions, you need a top team of armed robbers. But to steal billions, you need PhD’s with color charts and economic projections made of fairy dust and eye of newt. Perkins had it all – including a magical thing called a computer-generated spreadsheet (this was well before Excel).

I was an expert witness for some consumer groups, trying to explain to state officials that Perkins’ numbers were bogus as a bubble-gum bagel and his financial projections were from some New Hampshire on another planet.

But this was the key point: Perkins slept in a suite at the Omni. I had truck-rumble insomnia at the motel off exit 68. He glared and grinned and glad-handed. I tried to keep my eyes open.

Here’s how it ended. The local Joe’s jumped head-first into the Perkins fantasy and bought his client’s power plant boondoggle. Within a couple years, the local electric companies had all gone bankrupt, the state treasury was drained, electric bills went from lowest to highest in the nation causing factories to close and dump, I figure, about 11,000 jobs.

Perkins’ clients walked away with barrelfuls of billions.

And Dr. Perkins pocketed plenty for his mortal soul.

But, as in every moral tale, Perkins, the modern Dr. Faust, found redemption in confession.

And we’re lucky he did. Because, in Perkins’ confessionals, “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” and his latest, the just-released “Secret History of the American Empire,” we find out what makes these guys tick. By “these guys” I mean the vultures who suck up development aide, the sharks who use the World Bank as their enforcers, the corporate marauders, power pirates and hedge fund hogs with their snouts in the economic trough.

In “Secret History,” Perkins, from the inside, gives the details of the weird moral emptiness and pitilessness of men who waylay the riches of the planet from the people to whom it rightly belongs.

In New England, the pain imposed by the clients of the economic hit men were financial; but, as Perkins wants us never to forget, in much of the planet, the slick sales pitch of the economic hit man is enforced by squads of hit men with less subtle weaponry. Perkins writes:

“Three men toting AK-47s stood at attention outside. They saluted as we drove past. One of the three opened the front door opposite the driver. Leather Jacket and I climbed in. He spoke into a walkie talkie. Tinted windows made it impossible to see inside.”

In lines heavy with Hemingway, Perkins takes us to Indonesia, Bolivia, even tiny Diego Garcia and other victim-states where doctorate-armed “consultants” put an academic gloss on militarized plunder.

In the story of the guys with the AKs, Perkins is on assignment in Guatemala for an outfit called SWEC, a Bechtel twin trying to foist another mad power plant horror show on the natives of Guatemala. (About the same time, I convinced the state of New York to bring racketeering charges against SWEC and its partners in a massive power plant building fraud. SWEC and co-defendants settled the civil charges for a payment of nearly half a billion dollars.)

Unlike the yokels of New Hampshire who fell for the smooth Perkins line, the Guatemalans were no pushovers. Skeptical locals, suspicious indigenous shamans and a couple of improbably courageous politicians simply wouldn’t roll over to the corporate conquistadores.

The resisters, we are led to presume, will be dealt with accordingly. As Perkins explains it, if his pie-charts don’t make the sale, the little men in his darkened car know a little explosive wired to an ignition could be persuasive.

However, by time he got to Central America on the corporate assignment, Perkins was already ill at heart with the SWECs of this world. Ultimately, he refused to back their destructive scheme.

Perkins had switched sides – and, in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” gets his soul back from Satan only a little soiled. In Secret History, the personal confession turns into an illuminating, world-spanning jeremiad. From Latin America to Africa to the Middle East, Perkins leaps from his own story to the widespread misery caused by the greed armies sent marching from the boardrooms of New York and London.

Today, Perkins is my confrere and colleague. He wears his hair longish and I wear mine . . . well, I’ve stopped wearing hair altogether.

And in his writings today, Perkins heart goes out to the Third World targets of this new empire ruled by shock troops and spread sheets. His empathy extends to those in the occupied territory known as the USA. Because, says Perkins, when the wretchedly ripped-off of the Earth rise in rebellion, the lash of the backlash is felt by the children of the lobstermen of New Hampshire, shivering under Humvees in Falluja, and never the EHM’s clients’ fortunate sons, frolicking in their Ferraris.

***********
Greg Palast is the author of Armed Madhouse: From Baghdad to New Orleans – Sordid Secrets and Strange Tales of a White House Gone Wild.

To read an except from Perkins’ latest book, The Secret History of the American Empire, go here.