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Tuesday, February 2

Haiti's Crisis: Oil, Oligarchs, and The Groundhog Day Manifesto

Brenda, you guessed well. The link you sent, to Ezili Dantò/Marguerite Laurent's website and specifically her post about oil, is the one I was thinking about yesterday when I mentioned a claim that U.S. and other foreign interests were exploiting Haiti's alleged oil/natural gas reserves at the expense of Haiti's poor.

Perhaps you can see why I was reluctant to link to her post. Ms Laurent, Esq. doesn't know whether she wants to channel Hugo Chavez or the Haitian mother goddess Ezili Dantò. She's a depressingly typical American New Age Leftist and fantasist of the Afro-Luddite variety: All was well in the world when Haitians lived in hogans and bartered vegetables. Then white devils and their fungible currencies came along.

As for Ms Laurent's mile-long list of accusations against the white devils, which ranges from charges of sex tourism to ethnic cleansing, whatever nuggets of hard data she provides are scattered through the minefields of her invective.

Given her Haitian ancestry she might be suffering from a variation of Survivor's Syndrome. It can strike children of emigres from poor countries who come to resent their parents having had the good sense to decamp to a better-off nation. Tack a law degree onto that resentment and you have an extremely irritating adult, one whose romance with the history of Haiti is often patronizing of the Haitians.

The only thing I see solidly in her favor is that she's not trying to use the earthquake to push forward her agenda for Haiti. Almost everything she's published on her website was prior to the earthquake.

With that off my chest, it doesn't take a mining operation at Ms Laurent's website to intuit there was something hinky about doings in Haiti prior to the earthquake. Reportedly there were 10,000 foreign NGOs operating in that small country. That's 9,500 NGOs too many to pass for humanitarian intervention -- particularly because the intervention didn't do enough to justify its activities after last year's hurricanes.

Does the hinkiness have any connection with oil and gas in Haiti? It's up to Ms Laurent and her sources to back their accusations with more data than they've given. So while I've provided the link to her oil post to make the Black Helicopter crowd happy, I'm going to run with the Bloomberg report you sent about Haitian oil and gas because I find that informative. But first there is one set of accusations and a bit of Haitian history Ms Laurent brought up that made my ears perk. Scattered through her writings are references to Haiti's 'oligarch families:'
[...] Today's MEGA wealthy, 'subcontractor' families in Haiti, most former asylum seekers from generations back, (Arab Migration. Christian Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian, Germans and Sephardic Jews running from religious persecutions, economic deprivations or political oppression) who found SANCTUARY, ASYLUM and a SAFE-HAVEN in Haiti, but who thank the Haitian nation and peoples' hospitality with a bloody history of hiring paramilitaries, private security/attaches and military to promote their own personal wealth; morally repugnant economic opportunist who thank the Black Haitian nation by using their skin privileges [here she rambles on about the rape of Haiti, neoliberal death projects, etc.]

They are often collectively referred to as Syro-Libano-Haitian or the "Arabs." Their children reside and are educated outside of Haiti. They carry multiple foreign passports and, according to Rudolph Henry Boulos of the right-wing Boulos family, "90% of the (Oligarch) ... class of Haiti reside in the Dominican Republic." [...]
Here I sense an opportunity for fundraising, as I look through the partial list of clan names Ms Laurent provides. You may recall I took Africa's governments to task for their very limited response to Haiti's crisis (several on my hit list have coughed up since then), and I went after Arab governments that were dragging their feet about making a donation. However, I confess that out of a sense of fairness I refrained from asking Haiti's feudal class for donations; I thought I'd give them time to clamber out of the rubble first. So. Most of them live in the Dominican Republic, eh? In the manner of Pakistani feudal lords who reside in Dubai and Mexican feudal lords who hang out in Switzerland. All right then:

Dear Mr and Ms Acra, Nadal, Coles, Baussan, Vital, Vorbes, Madsen, Mevs, Brandt, Kouri, Sada, Loukas, Boulos, and Bigio:

Is it true you stayed in the Dominican Republic rather than pony up to fix Haiti's electricity grid after the hurricanes last year? FYI the Haitians who had no choice but to tough it out in Haiti had only 8 hours a day of electricity. Since the earthquake they've been going without any electricity while what's left of the grid is patched.

I don't know what it costs to build a modern grid, one that would be adequate to serve Haiti's population. But shall we start the bidding for your collective donations at $3 billion?

With regard to the accusation that was flung around in a June 13, 2008 Nouvelliste article, which Marguerite Laurent mentions:
... in these last months, more than 40 to 50% of the imported rice that is subsidized by the Haitian State is CONSUMED in the DOMINICAN REPUBLIC?...And that even Haitian clandestinely subsidized petroleum products, cheaper Haiti oil products, are also being consumed by wealthy foreign ships passing through Haitian waters, instead of the impoverished and starving Haitians these food and gas subsidies were intended to benefit" [...]
I'm sure this is all a misunderstanding that can be easily set right, but I think what American taxpayers would want to know is whether U.S. food handouts to Haiti's government are being skimmed off and sold in the Dominican Republic.

On second thought maybe we should start the bidding at $5 billion for your generous donations to the construction of a new electricity grid.

In closing, understand this: Americans are not made of money. We're reaching our gag limit with the downtrodden of the world always having their hands out.

For decades the feudal classes of the world have been protected by the Left-Right political debates in this country, which have acted as a smokescreen for what's really going on in many countries. Frankly these debates are Eurocentric and grounded in Marxist ideas. Karl Marx was a city boy protesting the worst aspects of the industrial revolution in Europe. He had no understanding of agrarian-based feudalism in the old worlds of Asia and Africa, and its roots in ancient dynastic societies and tribal chieftain-worship; i.e., totemism.

Neither do his intellectual descendents and opponents understand. The most they get is the part about European colonialism propping up the worst aspects of ancient societies but it gets fuzzy beyond that point.

Here's how I can make things clear without tedious forays into anthropology: The American north fought a war that was partly to break up the land holdings of what was in essence a feudal class in the south. Now watch carefully, don't blink: Despite that history no American has ever accused Abraham Lincoln and William Tecumseh Sherman of being communists.

Americans are a very strange people, in case you haven't noticed. We're frighteningly comfortable with being a mass of contradictions. I myself can eat a meal of pizza, Moo Goo Gai Pan, and grits without giving it a thought. So I offer this friendly advice: Clean up your act before Americans wise up to matters Haitian; if you have to do it afterward it might have the fig-leaf term 'land reform' attached to it -- just so nobody calls us commies.

If you chortle that Americans will never wise up, I wouldn't put money on that. Are you familiar with the film "Groundhog Day?" It's about a man who's condemned to re-live the same day until he notices and corrects an error in his ways. Americans wouldn't put up for 15 minutes with living under a feudal class. But guided by that contradictory streak that so characterizes us, we've found nothing odd about U.S. policies that prop up feudal classes in a host of countries. We've done this with the vague idea that it has something to do with our national defense and warding off communism.

And yet, as the post-WW2 decades have progressed, we've asked with increasing interest, 'How is it that the more we give to the poor in other parts of the world, the more their lot worsens or stays the same?'

The sharp economic downturn in the USA has given urgency to the question because, as I noted earlier, Americans aren't made of money. Sooner or later and I predict sooner Americans are finally going to notice that if you continue giving to a government that's kept in power by a feudal class, this provides no incentive for the government to collect taxes from the class and no incentive for the society to reform.


All right; I've done my Girl Scout deed for the year. I've given Ms. Laurent a little platform without making Ezili Dantò and myself look like complete idiots. I did this for Haiti's earthquake survivors, not for Ms. Laurent. I don't like it that she frequently lapses into portraying the Haitian as babies. I seriously doubt this can be blamed on a mother goddess.

For example she mentions that Haitians are "forced" to eat dirt. That's not true. The Haitians pay to eat dirt; they purchase the dirt patties from Haitian female entrepreneurs who are probably descendents of African traders that could sell anything to anyone.

Each dirt patty maker has her own recipe and makes enough profit to buy the dirt that goes into the patty. Western aid agencies have tried their damndest to talk the women into another line of baking but as of last year, when I saw a news report on the situation, the women refused to give up their lucrative business.

Anderson Cooper and other reporters who were on the ground in the hours after the earthquake remarked on the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of Haitian earthquake survivors who had the right to sit in the road and wail. Instead, they got busy rigging car batteries to recharge cell phones and charging for the service, and setting up kiosks in the tent camps to sell overseas phone calls.

Everyone who knows the history of Haiti's slave rebellion knows their fledgling country got a raw deal from the Dominican Republic and every country, including America, that supported the use of slave labor. Yet between then and now are many mysteries about why the society kept floundering despite the energy, ingenuity, and resourcefulness of the people. The mysteries surely have as much to do with Haitian society as with the foreign governments that have machinated in the country.

The world outside Haiti's door is today engaged in helping the Haitians but before real change can happen it will take Haitians confronting aspects of their society that have been their Achilles Heel. Until then, Haitians are caught up in their own Groundhog Day. Ms Laurent is not willing to admit that. Yet every society facing severe, entrenched problems has to go through the same process of self-examination, as Americans are doing these days about their society.

Now where was I?:
Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- The earthquake that killed more than 150,000 people in Haiti this month may have left clues to petroleum reservoirs [...] The Jan. 12 earthquake was on a fault line that passes near potential gas reserves, said Stephen Pierce, a geologist who worked in the region for 30 years for companies including the former Mobil Corp. The quake may have cracked rock formations along the fault, allowing gas or oil to temporarily seep toward the surface, he said yesterday in a telephone interview.

“A geologist, callous as it may seem, tracing that fault zone from Port-au-Prince to the border looking for gas and oil seeps, may find a structure that hasn’t been drilled,” said Pierce, exploration manager at Zion Oil & Gas Inc., a Dallas- based company that’s drilling in Israel.

“A discovery could significantly improve the country’s economy and stimulate further exploration.”

[...] “Haiti, from the standpoint of oil and gas exploration, is a lot less developed than the Dominican Republic,” Pierce said. “One could do a lot more work there.”
I think the rest of the report will be interesting to anyone who's looking for ways to help Haiti attract investors. And I note it stands in contradiction to accusations about a secret oil drilling program or suppression of Haitian oil finds by American interests. That Haiti has oil has been noticed since Abraham Lincoln's day but, at least according to the Bloomberg report, it hasn't been considered sufficient to inspire serious oil exploration, drilling and reclamation projects. That could change in post-earthquake Haiti.

One passage from the Bloomberg report caused me to raise an eyebrow:
Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive met yesterday in Montreal with diplomats, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to discuss redevelopment initiatives. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said wind power may play a role in rebuilding the Caribbean nation, where forests have been denuded for lack of fuel, the Canadian Press reported.
So, are T. Boone Pickins, and the Leftists who planned to turn the Mojave desert into a wind farm until Lefty environmentalists threw a fit, now going to fob a zillion windmills he can't use onto the Haitian government, and for a steep discount price? A price to be paid with donation money earmarked for Haiti's earthquake survivors?

Just asking.

The World Bank has known for decades about ingenious, cheap, and efficient portable cooking stoves that don't need wood fuel, and which don't require turning Haiti into a laboratory for every wacko Green Energy experiment that comes down the pike.

If I remember correctly the stoves burn dried cow dung patties. Don't make a face; actually they don't smell bad at all. Kind of a pungent woodsy smell. And they are sterilized in the drying process. So I see an opportunity here, a stopgap one until a new electricity grid is built. Maybe the Haitian dirt patty-makers could learn from Indian village ladies how to make cow dung patties for fuel; i think their profit margin would be considerably greater if they sold the fuel rather than the dirt patties.

The cow dug patty-making classes could be done via internet hookup. Say, I wonder if T. Boone Pickins would like to donate to the cause?

Happy Groundhog Day, everyone.
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