Monday, May 17, 2010

They Game the System: The Secret Permanent Government (A Wolf Versus Gramms (of Heroine)) & The Terrorist Card At the Ready

You can't make this stuff up, you know (and were you even to try, they will drop a few more into the mixture before you could print it - like the bellyflop coming up for the stock market - OUCH!). It always seems so "hinky" (to quote Tommy Lee Jones as he chased blindly after The Fugitive) when you hear another shoe drop, and not in a good way. Those Pakistanis so mysteriously allowed on the airplanes, the terrorist card being played bigtime right after Donald Rumsfeld announced the mysterious disappearance of trillions of dollars of taxpayer dollars (on SEPT. 10, 2001!), and, of course, the continuing "benefits" of terrorism - to some . . . and yet, to even slightly question any of the reality surrounding the 9/11 taxpayer hit, followed closely by the financial mayhem breaking out catastrophically under the careful management of Georgie Porgie and Cheneypie (and then Obama?), with the final payoff coming right before the election . . . none dare say treason? And never will? (Although I believe most of us have a tough time proving any loss reported to any insurance company.) From the Providence Journal we learn that "On May 6, The New York Post" (a Rupert Murdoch paper (just like The Wall Street Journal - come to think of it) "ran the following story on its front page" (emphasis marks added - Ed.):

"'THANKS, FAISAL! Inept terror thug saves 900 cop jobs' That’s how many cops were going to be cut before Faisal’s botched bid at Times Square terror. His effort prompted the city to restore $55 million to the NYPD, saving those jobs and making New York a safer place."

Though The Post didn’t mention it, Faisal wasn’t able to save 6,700 teaching jobs, 75 senior centers, 20 fire companies, nurses in elementary schools, and an unknown number of day-care centers and other programs for children, due to be cut by Mayor Bloomberg this year.

But this still seems like a good time to pause and reflect on all the blessings we have received from Terror and the war thereon.

Here is the short list of “Thank You’s” I’d like to see from other terror beneficiaries who have plenty of reason to be grateful:

• A much-belated "God Bless You!" from former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who on Sept. 10, 2001, announced that the Pentagon had “misplaced” $2.3 trillion.“

Thanks, Osama! Your timing couldn’t have been better if I had planned it myself! In the chaos that followed, no one ever asked about all that money — and they still haven’t!”

• A big high-five from Larry Silverstein, who took possession of the twin towers just two months before the attacks and who collected $4.55 billion in insurance money for World Trade Center’s One and Two and $861 million for the third building to collapse that day, World Trade Center Seven. (For those who may have forgotten or never known, WTC 7 was not hit by a plane, had only minor damage and had just a few small fires burning inside it when it mysteriously collapsed into its own footprint around 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.)

“Thank you so much! I know I’m only a small investor in this Terror thing, but I’m truly grateful for whatever crumbs that fall from the Big Terror table!”

• Here’s a heartfelt salute from the senior officers of our Armed Forces, who had run clean out of enemies by the turn of the millennium:

“Thank you, Terror! When Soviet Communism collapsed, our whole reason for being collapsed with it. This wonderful, permanent war against ‘fear itself’ has a lot more juice than the War on Pinkos ever had! We have the largest military empire the world has ever seen, and we owe at least half of it to you!"

• A hearty handshake from the shareholders and chief executive officers of Raytheon, McDonnell-Douglas, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing and the countless junior members in good standing of the Military-Industrial Complex:

To al-Qaida, Pakistani intelligence, and the CIA: Many thanks! Your inflated threats and geopolitical tinkering have meant inflated profits for us! And thanks, of course, to the taxpayers of America. The buck starts with you!"

• And here’s a special thank you from the National Security State as a whole to the American people: “Thanks for swallowing what is so clearly a fairy tale (spiced up with real death!). It’s been so great for us, and incidentally has kept the public very safe (give or take a few teachers, children’s programs and innocent bystanders).

Thanks, Terror! If you didn’t exist, we’d have to invent you!

And you gotta love Russ Baker, who always has the inside information for those of us not so much on the inside - as Phil and Wendy Gramm were anyway, but there again, UBS certainly knows whom to pay off everywhere(!) - (although they can't stop us from thinking about what's going on in there - yet). (Emphasis marks added - Ed.)

Last August, the presidential press corps followed Barack Obama and his family to Martha's Vineyard for their brief vacation. The coverage focused on summery fare — a visit to an ice cream parlor, the books the president had brought along. Nearly everyone mentioned his few rounds of golf, including his swing, and the enthusiasm of onlookers. What caught my eye, though, was the makeup of his foursome. The president was joined by an old friend from Chicago; a young aide; and Robert Wolf, Chairman and CEO, UBS Group Americas. In a decidedly incurious piece, a New York Times reporter made light of Wolf's presence:

"The president has told friends that to truly relax he prefers golfing with young aides . . . . But he departed from that pattern Monday when he invited a top campaign contributor, Robert Wolf, president of UBS Investment Bank, to join him for 18 holes. Call it donor maintenance."

Wolf, however, is hardly — as the Times suggested — just another donor. For one thing, he is a leading figure in an industry that almost brought down the entire financial system — and then was the recipient of astonishing government largesse.

UBS, along with other banks, benefited directly from the backdoor bailout of the insurance giant AIG. But UBS stands alone in one rather formidable respect — it was the defendant in the largest offshore tax evasion case in U.S. history, accused of helping wealthy Americans hide their income in secret offshore accounts. To settle a massive investigation, UBS forked over $780 million to the US treasury. This settlement came shortly before Wolf rounded out Obama’s golfing party.

Given this rather problematical situation, why then would the President choose UBS’s Wolf of all people for this honor? Wolf declined a request for an interview about his relationship with the President, so it was not possible to pose that question to him. This hardly matters, though, for the story goes far beyond Wolf and UBS. It involves Republicans as well as Democrats, the Bush Administration as well as Obama’s.

More importantly, behind the trivialized golf outing on Martha’s Vineyard, lie the interests that increasingly set the course for every administration. And that now game the system so well that the rest of us — wherever we live in the world — are kept fighting for the scraps.

BOTH SIDES NOW (with apologies to Joni Mitchell - "Sorry! Not my fault!")

When most people criticize those aspects of government that seem most impervious to the democratic process, they cite the permanency and perceived self-interest of the mandarins of the Washington bureaucracy. But when it comes to real power, an ability to come out ahead no matter which party is in power, it’s hard to top certain financial institutions.

UBS is very much a part of that permanent government. Though not a household name in the United States, UBS is a major player in the Beltway game. During the 2008 campaign, while Robert Wolf was courting Democratic hopeful Obama, his UBS cohort, former Senator Phil Gramm, was working the other side of the street. As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee in the 1990s, Gramm, a corporate-friendly Texas Republican, played a key role in the deregulation of the banking industry, an act so central to the nation’s financial collapse. Since 2002, Gramm has been UBS Americas’ vice chairman. In 2008, he was the leading economics adviser for Obama’s opponent, John McCain—and even touted as a possible treasury secretary in a McCain administration.

The bottom line: UBS hedged its bets, and so had an inside track no matter which party took the White House. Thus, when Obama won, it was Wolf who ascended. The new president named the banker-donor to his White House Economic Advisory Board.

The important machinations behind this accrual of influence rarely get attention in the frenzied hustle of the news cycle. One reason is that they do not seem like news at all, since they are essentially woven deeply into the fabric of politics and government, thus hidden in plain sight. Another is that they are dauntingly complex.

Some things are simple, though. Like the fact that a UBS executive is a dubious candidate to serve as an Economic Advisor to the President. For one thing, the company’s track record at the time of the election was distinctly underwhelming. UBS suffered major losses on subprime lending, and had to raise money from the Singapore government and other entities. As Slate’s money columnist Daniel Gross quipped back in 2008, “UBS used to stand for Union Bank of Switzerland. But perhaps it should stand for Untold Billions Squandered. Or Underwater Bi-Lingual Schleppers.”

Furthermore, UBS’ stock lost nearly 70 percent of its value even before the recession really kicked in — making it the worst performing foreign bank operating here.

Given this damning set of facts, Wolf made both an odd choice as a presidential adviser and a peculiar pick for that intimate round of golf.


Despite being the world’s biggest manager of private assets, UBS has stayed pretty much below the domestic radar. The Alpine quiet surrounding its activities was, however, quietly shattered in mid-2007, when an IRS audit of a US citizen led to a UBS banker who then revealed certain UBS practices that encouraged wealthy Americans to hide taxable income. UBS bankers had apparently used every trick in the book — including giving customers code names and assisting them with or providing them with untraceable pay phones, encrypted computers, fake trusts, document-shredding and even counter-surveillance training.

And much, much more, my friends.

For those insiders.

But there will be no prosecutions because . . . well, it's sooooooo hard to prove malice, or malfeasance, or corruption, or venality or even the slightest criminal behavior . . . because . . . the laws were changed beforehand - and nobody knew.

Suzan ____________


Short Short Stories said...

Like you said, you can't make this stuff up!!!

I am afraid that as the economy gets tighter for many Americans, the fear and anger, and anxiety felt will usher in more dangerous regressive candidates into office.

They will walk blindly into that good night.

Suzan said...


You can't go any deeper than that, can you?

And willingly, blindly.

Did you read the Salon article on Breitbart's millions of idiot nation readers?


Thanks for your comment and all you do for us at your blog.

I've highlighted your stellar(!) prose in today's essay, friend.

Good stuff!


They will walk blindly into that good night.