Review of Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth by Rachel Maddow
If you’ve been looking for a book to explain the current crisis in Ukraine, look no further. Rachel walks the reader through every angle of the current situation, even though the book came out before the invasion. It’s all here: Putin’s control of the media, Putin’s tendency to imprison or murder anyone who opposes him, calling the leaders of Ukraine Nazis, Crimea, sanctions, Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, etc.
What drives Putin? It’s greed and unlimited power. While many media outlets talk about their dismay over Russia’s incompetence, this book shows how Putin, along with a select handful of equally incompetent sycophants, robbed their country blind and curtailed technological and economic advancement. If invading another country solely as a land grab seems like something from the 1930s and 40s, you would be right. Putin’s reign has set the country back forty years or more.
Russia and its dependence on oil and gas revenues take up a good portion of the book, but there’s also a lot about how our own country has fallen victim to some of the same greed and malfeasance that pervades the fossil fuel industry. From the environmental damage resulting from fracking, oil spills, and carbon emissions to how elected officials have bent over backward to reward energy companies and their CEOs.
Then there is the corruption and thievery of foreign leaders who sell rights to oil and gas companies and pocket the money. As a result, their people live in poverty, have poor healthcare, lack education, and suffer from broken infrastructure—all for the profit and benefit of a chosen few. Example one is the case of Exon Mobile, which paid a bribe of twenty million dollars to the leader of Equatorial Guinea and called it the price of doing business.
There are countless stories of fortunes gained and lost. There are stories of those who have tried to do the right thing, like the Oklahoma Geologist who was ultimately forced out of his job because he connected Oklahoma’s exponential rise in earthquakes to the fracking industry. And there are stories of individuals who spent decades in prison solely because they crossed paths with Putin or some other corrupt politician.
This book could not be more timely.