Section 1504 of the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform Act, which was passed in 2010, would simply require oil, gas and mining multinational corporations who are either American or who do business in the US (thus requiring them to file financial disclosure information with the Securities and Exchange Commission) to disclose, on a project-by-project level, money spent in places like Angola and in other parts of the world suffering from what is called the “resource curse.“ That’s it. Start to finish. It’s just some “line items” on a spreadsheet.
And yet, nothing has been done to implement it. Nothing.
What would a simple change in accounting practices mean to a place like Angola, where the top tier of the government skims BILLIONS of dollars from oil, gas and mineral extraction? It would mean the difference between life and death for millions of people (life expectancy is slightly under 50 years of age). It would mean the difference between having any sort of healthcare system at all vs. having absolutely nothing. It would mean that 1 out of 5 babies wouldn’t die before their fifth birthday (one of the highest rates in the world) from entirely avoidable causes. Not only do they die in insanely high amounts, but they also suffer horribly. And those babies that DO survive often have learning and other developmental deficits due to inadequate food, water and access to healthcare.
Think about this: these innocents just wither and die in agony right before their mother’s eyes. All those horrible pictures that used to be on TV of starving African children? They’re still there, starving and suffering. We’ve just become desensitized to it. And unlike you and me, they had the misfortune of being born where and when they are – under President dos Santos’ corrupt regime. That’s it. Much like a roll of some cosmic dice, they end up there and in horrific misery and you are, well, not there. That’s just how random life is.
So how is this:
possibly related to this?
It’s actually ridiculously simple. As I previously wrote, if multinational gas, oil and mineral extracting companies are forced to itemize who they pay off for extraction rights, and how much they pay to corrupt governments such as Angola’s, then non-governmental organizations around the world will “do the math,” for them. Groups like Oxfam, Publish What You Pay, and the Open Society Foundations will “follow the money” and figure out exactly where the funds have gone. It’s not like Section 1504 requires Rex Tillerson to whip out an abacus and start counting beans. Not at all. All that this tiny subsection of Dodd Frank asks for is ITEMIZED reporting, made public, no more than I’m doing right now.
Many, many billions of dollars from the sell-off of oil, gas, minerals and diamonds (ever heard of Blood Diamonds?) is going directly to crooks like the dos Santos family in Angola, making THEM billionaires many times over, while they treat their own people like less than flies to be swatted off a horse’s face. Dire, desperate poverty. Day in, day out. I’d say, “wash, rinse, repeat,” except that they don’t have running water.
Just how mean, cold-hearted and despicable can people become to allow other humans to just hurt so badly, to be so scared, to live every moment of every single day of their lives in misery, and without any hope? And in the case of these huge multinational companies like ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, etc., to be so crazed for money and someone else’s natural resources that they not only continue to turn a blind eye to the havoc they set into motion, but remain brazenly aggressive in their opposition to any changes to their system. I guarantee you that right now, well-paid lawyers are sitting their lard asses on leather chairs in Washington, D.C., just thinking up new challenges to launch against Section 1504. They make me wish there was such a thing as “hell.”
But let’s back up here a moment and “swoop out,” considering the bigger picture.
Section 1504 was passed into law in 2010. The American Petroleum Institute and the other fossil fuel industry crooks sued the SEC over it, and have kept the pressure on the SEC to prevent Section 1504 from moving beyond a dusty file cabinet in Washington, D.C. It’s not even slated to be discussed again until NEXT YEAR. At that point, no doubt, API, ExxonMobil, the US Chamber of Commerce and their rotted ilk WILL cause more trouble.
I’ve read hundreds of pages written by organizations, large and small, who are literally begging the SEC to please DO SOMETHING. Nope. Nada. And I’ve spoken with several people in offices within the SEC and I can tell you that no one even had a clue what was going on, if they’d even heard of Section 1504. One guy had to “Google” it while he was on the phone with me. I’m not even kidding. He knew SO little (and he was in Public Affairs!) about it that he didn’t even KNOW to be guarded in his comments. If he’d even had it on his professional “radar,” he wouldn’t have been so flip and dismissive, even joking with me about how little he knew.
As I wrote recently, the American Petroleum Institute (with Antonin Scalia’s scumbag son, Eugene at the lead) here in the US, along with the US Chamber of Commerce (lobbyists) and real-life Darth Vadar, Rex Tillerson of ExxonMobil have been suing and fighting the SEC for years, essentially just making stuff up – arguments SO stupid that they defy imagination, just so that the fossil fuel industry can keep bribing and paying off corrupt governments for extraction rights. In this five year span, where nothing has been accomplished, the price of oil has plummeted by more than half on the world market, from roughly $100 a barrel to around $44 dollars a barrel. This is a huge loss in revenue for the people of Angola. A loss of critical funding they will never, ever see, or even know about.
Just recently, Angolan President Eduardo dos Santos decided that his piggy bank was getting scrawny (unlike him) so he’s in the process of selling off a really substantial portion of Angola’s entire crude oil potential. This may be what we in the US call a “golden parachute,” although this one is African-dictator “style.”
Wouldn’t it be just peachy if those sales to Chevron, Eni, Total, and other oil and gas vultures were documented – somewhere? Right now, before it’s too late?
Angola’s crooked leaders are just about to hand out the spoils to the highest (similarly crooked) bidders, exhausting a huge portion of their national oil supply. Then, after the payouts, dos Santos will fade away, I’m guessing and one of his cronies will slither in. Meanwhile, his cold hearted bitch of a daughter, billionaire Isabel dos Santos has been trying to buy up any and all means of communications, such as cell phone companies and publishers, in order to stifle the flow of information back into Angola. And they aren’t as vapid as they look. They see the writing on the wall. You know that writing. It’s just those two terrifying words: Arab Spring.
They see social unrest brewing and they know they can’t choke off ALL the ways that information is now shared. They have cracked down on political opposition, but let’s face it: the jig WILL, indeed, be up.
If you look at this 2014 article by David Malone which appeared on his blog, Golem XIV, you can see that Angola, and other resource-rich African countries, may be increasingly caught in a proxy war “cross fire.” One thing is certain: America is scared shitless about China’s economic growth. TPP and TTIP (the European version) are trade deals which are often referred to as deals about “everyone but China,” meaning that they are MEANT to constrain, oppose, or fence in, China.
When referring once again to David Malone’s article, you can see that China appears to be trying to change a very, very strategic (to American leadership, at least) part of the world economy: the petroDollar. As Malone says, a lot of international business is conducted using the American dollar as currency simply because much of the world revolves around a fossil fuel-based global economy. If China is trying to, and succeeding at, inherently altering the way international business is DONE by creating a groundswell movement away from the petroDollar, towards the petroYuan, then there’s no way the SEC is going to be allowed to stifle one of America’s non-military “means” of opposing China in places like Africa.
Put another way, if starving, desperate Africans stand in the way of Western hegemony via some well-meaning transparency rule (Section 1504) which would stifle payoffs to corrupt African governments, helping the West secure access to resources (which, more importantly, excludes China), then I fear that Africans will continue to be the ones to lose.
Here’s where I need to take the Section 1504 “off ramp” and merge onto the TPP “highway” because I’m seeing linkage. And I’m seeing it in many sources. Too many to ignore.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, aka TPP (and in Europe, the TTIP) defies ANY logic or nod to a common good. It is SO bad (corrupt) that it’s top secret. In other words, immense, multinational corporations WROTE IT (or more accurately, their lawyers did) but YOU cannot see it. Members of the US Congress CAN see it, in a special room in a basement, without paper or pen for note taking (WTF?), without electronic devices, and without their Congressional aides. They can’t talk about it outside that little room, and can’t give out specifics. So, you know, it’s like we’re in North Korea or something.
In Europe, it just got a lot worse. Now, if you are a member of Parliament (in the UK), you have to FLY TO BRUSSELS to even see what your leadership is signing your country up to for their version of trade deal hell, TTIP. And, when you get there, you cannot, of course a) take notes, b) talk about what you’ve seen, c) definitely NOT have a copy of it to take ALL THE WAY back home with you. Does this seem like an alternate reality? It should.
And considering that TPP and the European version, TTIP, are going to literally make voting, democracy, our court system, any form of environmental regulation, and access to cheap medicine obsolete, one would THINK that the public should know about it before it goes into effect, right? But there is a mainstream media blackout here in the US. If there weren’t, I guarantee you that every one around you would go completely nuts and oppose it. And what is mentioned is so watered down that it doesn’t even set off an alarm bell on a Labrador retriever.
Okay, so let’s wrap this up and put a bow on it, in some sort of linear sense:
There is an “oil and resource rush” in Angola and in Africa. The West, Russia, and especially China are duking it out, scrambling to secure access to the “means of production.’ China is ravenous in its attempt to acquire such resources, marching, lock-step towards (real or perceived) world domination. There is no way that the US can, or will, engage China in any real military opposition. At least not directly. Can’t be done. Solution? Whip out the old “Proxy War Book” from the Cold War era. Line up chess pieces on game board called Earth. Push colorful pins into places (I’ll call them Push Pin Areas) that China “cares about” or needs, in order to continue to build its evil empire. Now, contain, oppose, outmaneuver, buy off, buy out, and create any artifice necessary to stop China.
Wait…what’s that? Some pesky Congressmen try to insert a line item or two (Section 1504) into the game, which would then shine a light on how we do business in Push Pin Areas. Dispatch henchmen (fossil fuel lawyers) to stop that action from taking place. Result: the US, via our kissing cousins, the fossil fuel industry, can keep bribing, cajoling, and buying off corrupt governments at the expense of Angolans and other poor people so that the game can continue.
Meanwhile, on another game board, the US is trying to nail down alliances (Qatar?) and any other stragglers to shut out growing Chinese power. Call it the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), or the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), or the Transatlantic Trade Investment Program (TTIP) or the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), if you want – or just call it what it is: EVERYONE But China (EBC?).
So NAFTA, TPP, TTIP, TiSA = Not at all democratic, they’re top secret, meant to contain China and preserve US hegemony. Gonna happen, whether you like it, or even know about it.
Section 1504 of Dodd Frank = Created to make corrupt governments account for the billions of petroDollars they receive for their carbon and mineral resources, however, this is going to cramp the style of those directly or indirectly carrying out proxy wars in those very same regions. Keep in mind that the Chinese and Russians don’t have to report any such line item expenditures when stuffing the pockets of dos Santos or the other despots. Also keep in mind that one of the absolute strongest thugs opposing Section 1504 is ExxonMobil (Rex “Darth Vadar” Tillerson) who is deeply in cahoots with Russian oil gangsters (Rosneft, Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil). I suspect there are dumpsters worth of skeletons in THAT closet which Tillerson can’t, and won’t, expose.
This is really, really complicated. It makes my brain hurt. And it’s not so much the general thuggery and shenanigans that bogs me down, as much as trying to figure out how to convey this information to you, the reader. All I know is that, in regards to Section 1504, there’s the biggest damn straw in the world sucking the resources out of Africa, getting to the very bottom of the glass, and after that, when there’s nothing for the parched and desperate innocents left to scavenge about for, only the vultures will be left to do the clean up.