Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Culture of Corruption is a Well-Oiled Machine

Is America a democracy or a corporatocracy?

The fate of the Climate Bill will answer that question.

...Of course, recent fossil fuel political history could already tell us. (And yes, the facts are here.)

On previous posts I have pointed out that the fossil fuel industries have not only manipulated our nation's energy consumption for decades; they have also lied to us for decades, are lying to us now, and will continue to lie as long as they can throw some doubt in our minds.

They want more money.

It doesn't matter if every government on the planet is being corrupted. It doesn't matter if everyone on Earth is being slowly poisoned. It doesn't even matter if our world's climate is becoming unstable – which could result in the deaths of millions, if not billions.

They will always want more money.

How big is the lie? America's oil, gas, and coal industries are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on industry front groups, lobbying firms, and television, print, and radio advertising. They may end up spending a billion dollars in the US this year – to lie to us.

That's a lot of money. But look what's at risk. Just Chevron had revenues of $263 billion last year.

The US Climate Bill is a threat to their exorbitant profits. Worse, for them, at least some of these cap and trade fees will go to support their business model competition – renewables. (That's right, despite all the ads you've seen, the fossil fuel industries are still in the fossil fuel business.)

Should we trust them? Let's consider some examples of fossil fuel corporate behavior:

This March marked the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill – that contaminated 1,200 miles of Alaska's coastline. The spill could have been avoided, and it could have been contained. The Exxon Valdez's radar had gone unrepaired since it's maiden voyage. And oil spill containment equipment, required by law, didn't exist.

The Alyeska Consortium of oil companies had cut every corner. The spill was all but inevitable. But since the Exxon Valdez ran aground, it was Exxon that got sued. And they lost a huge settlement – but they only had to pay pennies on the dollar – almost 20 years later. The effect on the local Natives has been catastrophic. The effect on Exxon has been minimal.

Lee Raymond, President of Exxon at the time of the spill – and its President when the company made the secret decision to do without the oil spill equipment, retired in April 2006. The company awarded him a $400 million retirement bonus, more than double the bonuses received by all the AIG executives combined.”

For the rest of the Greg Palast story on the Exxon Valdez, please click here.

And then there's what Texaco did in the Amazon:

Our teachers taught us that Indian massacres ended in the 1800s. But I guess that depends upon how you define a massacre.

This isn't the worst of it though. 363 million gallons of oil drain into the oceans every year from municipal and industrial waste. Moreover, “every year oily road runoff from a city of 5 million could contain as much oil as one large tanker spill.” The awful truth is; just humanity's use of oil leads to the equivalent of numerous huge oil spills every year.

The use of products made from oil has consequences also. The oil used in making polycarbonate bottles is poisoning us with bisphenol A (BPA). That's right, you can't drink out of the spring because its been contaminated with oil, and you can't drink bottled water because its been contaminated with oil too. (We could have used bioplastics, made from plants – they were first invented in Henry Ford's time. But that will be another story.)

...Isn't our government protecting us? Aren't there laws? Sure, but they haven't been enforced. Or they have been so watered down they don't matter.

This whole oil industry/pollution/corruption thing is far bigger than most of us realize. In a way, they want to rule the world. In a way, they already have for decades. But they have competition. has published a very revealing article about the proposed oil pipelines through Afghanistan and Pakistan. Not only the US, but also Russia, China, India, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran are involved. Of course, a number of big oil companies are involved to. And of course, the United States has “coincidentally” stationed tens of thousands of troops there.

You may recall that Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan (once part of the Soviet Union) have been found to be rich in oil. You may also recall that when Gorbachev asked for help to move his country away from communism, America wouldn't help (even though we had spent trillions fighting communism). I guess America's “leaders” would rather watch the Soviet Union fail, the people of the former Soviet Union suffer, and Russia eventually return to totalitarianism. It all makes sense now that American oil companies want to profit off of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan oil. Apparently, freedom didn't really matter. Democracy didn't matter. Only profiting off of another country's resources mattered. It was all about the spoils of war.

If you haven't been living under a rock for the past six years, you've heard of Halliburton, their questionable practices and their extraordinary profits. If you get a chance, read Halliburton's Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized The Way America Makes War. Publishers Weekly has written that the author, Pratap Chatterjee, “marshals his extensive evidence to reveal... Haliburton's record of corruption, political manipulation, and human rights abuses.” (Let me know what you think.)

I find the title of this book very revealing. It reminds us that Halliburton was once only an oil company – and Dick Cheney was only it's CEO.

But then something happened – on 9/11/2001.

9/11 was the spark that set us in an endless war with an undefined enemy. For some people, it was a damn good excuse to go “medieval” on the Middle East. For others, it was a great excuse to get no bid, cost plus contracts. For Bush Jr.; he got his highest approval ratings ever (for not protecting America on 9/11). And for a while, he ruled this country with more power than any President.

There's just something about the response to the 9/11 tragedy (you know, the total lack of air defense on the entire North East Coast - and the instant subversion of the US Constitution) that was just all too prepared...

  • None of the accused 9/11 terrorists were Iraqi.
  • Torture is a lousy way to get good information. But it was the only way to get Iraqis to lie that there was a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda.

  • A New York Times reporter, David Barstow, has received a Pulizter Prize for exposing a Pentagon pro-war propaganda media campaign.

  • The only people to benefit from the unnecessary invasion of Iraq were military contractors, a small group of big oil companies, and a small group of big banks.

  • We have stumbled into what is essentially a never-ending World War over oil. No declarations. No explanations. No exit strategy.

  • Defense Secretary and Pentagon Chief Robert Gates has said that the Obama White House has not ruled out the possibility of a military strike on Iran.

  • Northern nations (and their respective oil companies) are already posturing for oil reserves in the Arctic – when the ice cap melts from global warming.

This is bigger than Chevron. This is bigger than Exxon. This is bigger than Halliburton. This is world wide. Just Google the words oil and corruption. The number of articles is overwhelming.

Actually, this corruption is even bigger than the oil industry. This is systematic. For well over a hundred years now, our dominant world economic system has been based upon the exploitation of Earth's natural resources – with little regard for the consequences. Humanity has gotten away with this because we weren't that good at it. But we can screw it all up now, and we seem to be hell-bent on doing just that.

This is worse than crazy. This is criminally, psychopathicly, even sinfully self-destructive and suicidal!!! We have created the machines that will destroy us all. And they're not Terminator robots, they're unbridled corporations.

Capitalism is crushing our democracy.

Corporatism is destroying our environment.

Oil is corrupting our souls.

If you are under 50 years old, it is quite likely that there won't be anything left to fight over – in your lifetime.

The absolute horror of this tragic travesty is that it doesn't have to be this way.

We still might be able to fix this.

It would be crazy not to try.

In fact, it is (life-or-death) imperative that we invent better ways of doing things.

We have to get away from a system that runs on a limited and vanishing resource that has to be delivered by a few big companies. These companies will systematically exploit scarcity to drain us and our planet of everything. The irony is that the people who “manage” these companies seem unable to stop the undermining of their very own future.

Humanity has created a system that rewards irresponsible behavior. And at the moment, we are committed to that system. It doesn't have to be that way.

I don't want a violent revolution.

...I just don't want humanity to win the Darwin Award.

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