How Power Hungry Car Lover Single Highhandedly Destroyed New York

June 5th, 2019

The Power Broker; Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, Robert A. Caro, 1975
This classic Pulitzer Prize work at 1162 pages details the 44 year career from 1924 to 1968 of Robert Moses, the most powerful builder in New York history. Born in 1888, Moses grew up at the birth of the automobile, was educated at Yale and Oxford and earned a PhD degree from Columbia. Starting his career as a reformer helping Governor Al Smith reorganize the government of the state of New York, he asked Smith to be named Commissioner of Parks and Parkways for Long Island and Moses drafted the legislation creating the position from which he could not be removed and in which he had absolute power of property condemnation, which he called “appropriation”. He built a reputation for incorruptibility and non partisanship; a man who got things done. Politicians including FDR in 1932, while disliking Moses and his methods, relied on his accomplishments in their campaigns. Moses took over New York City’s parks consolidating the system into a single commission under his total control. He next took over the stalled Triborough Bridge effort drafting his own Triborough Authority legislation to allow his absolute control including bond issuance. His legislation allowed him to hold simultaneously state and city positions, previously not allowed.

Robert Moses Building Randalls Island in 1936
He completed the Triborough system and the West Side Highway including the Henry Hudson Bridge. When traffic levels assured that the bonds could be repaid in eight years or less Moses redrafted the legislation to extend the Authority to cover any bridge or highway in the New York Area and to allow the bonds to be refinanced which allowed the Authority to live forever. The surpluses from tolls were to give Moses a funding power independent of city, state, or federal influence.

The entrance and exit ramps would have required demolition of historic Castle Clinton and much of Battery Park.

Ole Singstad Rendering of the Battery Park Bridge

Just before WWII, Moses proposed a huge bridge connecting Battery Park in Manhattan to Brooklyn. A tunnel, designed by Ole Singstad who finished the Holland tunnel and designed the midtown and Lincoln tunnels, was already planned for the same route. Conservationists were unable to stop Moses proposed destruction of the historic park and contacted Eleanor Roosevelt who told FDR of the plans. The bridge required War Department approval which was denied. Moses was never able to prove FDR was behind the War department decision. For revenge, Moses moved the hugely popular at 2.5 million visits per year, free, Aquarium out of the CLinton Castle and threatened to destroy the Castle itself. He didn’t and Battery Park was later given to the Federal Government for preservation.
Moses added the East River New York Tunnels to his bridge and highway authority and Singstad, who played a significant role in defeating the bridge never designed or built a tunnel in New York again. His existing tunnel plans were implemented exactly as he had drawn them up.
In the mid 1950’s Moses joined with the separate Port Authority, which operated the George Washington Bridge and the Hudson river tunnels to New Jersey, to take advantage of the new Interstate Highway Federal program. Moses was nominal head because of his long relations with Washington. Under the agreement, the Port Authority would add a second level to the George Washington bridge and build interstate highways in New Jersey and connect Staten Island to New Jersey to handle traffic from Moses Verrazano Narrows bridge which he would build between Long Island and Staten Island as well as connecting highways. Tolls were not allowed under the Interstate Highway program.
The Port Authority had opened, in 1950, a multi level commuter bus station on 8th Ave one block from the Lincoln Tunnel entrance. The buses had their own road connecting the station to the tunnel and dedicated lanes through the tunnel assuring that bus commuters would never be stuck in traffic. Under the station was a subway station. When the Port Authority planned the World Trade Center they made provision for subway stations directly under the Center with high capacity escalators to the mall and offices. They also planned a direct PATH link from Hoboken NJ to the Center. Hoboken NJ was the location of the commuter train and bus station connecting to PATH. Imagine if Moses had this foresight into mass transit when he was building Idlewild and the Expressways.
As if this were not enough power for one man, Moses became head of New York electric power where he built huge hydroelectric dams on the St. Lawrence near Niagara. After WWII he extended his power to include nuclear power generation.
At his peak, Moses held 14 independent power positions simultaneously.
During Moses’ entire 44 year career the city and state of New York never spent a single dime on mass transit development and the city and state even failed to maintain the existing plant. In 1924, when Moses came to government, New York Subways were the envy of the world. By 1968 these subways were perhaps the worst in the world. When building his expressway to Idlewild (now Kennedy) airport Moses refused to consider adding a center median rail system. He did the same for the Long Island Expressway denying requests to add a center rail for mass transit. The long Island railroad was allowed to deteriorate even though large numbers of city commuters were dependent on it. It was around this time that planners discovered that Moses had built his many parkways with bridges and overpasses so low buses were precluded from using them. Moses, who never had a driver’s license and had never experienced a traffic jam doomed the entire New York metropolitan area to perpetual traffic jams. His vision was for scenic drives along the water so he built the West Side Highway right on the Hudson River denying Riverside park users access to the River except for exclusive yachting clubs.

His thinking had been shaped in an era in which a highway was an unqualified boon to the public, in which roads were, like automobiles, sources of relaxation and pleasure. Changing realities could have changed his thinking but he was utterly insulated from reality by the sycophancy of his yes men; by his power, which, independent as it was of official or public opinion – of, in fact, any opinion but his own — made it unnecessary for him to take any opinion but his own into account; by, most of all, his personality, the personality that made it not only unnecessary but impossible for him to conceive that he might have been wrong; the personality that needed applause, thereby reinforcing the tendency to repeat the simplistic formula that had won him applause before; the personality that made it possible for him to relate to the class of people that owned automobiles and were repelled by the dirt and noise, such as the dirt and noise he associated with trains; the personality that made him not only want but need monuments and that saw in highways- and the adjunct suspension bridges (“the most permanent structures built by man”) – the structures that would leave a clean, clear ineradicable mark on history; the personality that, driven by the lust for power, made him anxious to build more revenue- (and power-) producing bridges and parking lots (and highways to encourage their use) and that made him indifferent or antagonistic to subways and railroads which would compete with his toll facilities not only for users but for city construction funds. He was insulated from experience. Most of the millions who used his roads were now using them primarily not for weekend pleasure trips but back and forth to work twice a day, five days a week, and driving was therefore no longer a pleasure but a chore; but for Moses, comfortable in the richly upholstered, air conditioned, soundproofed rear seat of his big limousine, driving was still as pleasurable as it had always been. Robert Moses, who had never had to drive in a single traffic jam, really believed that his transportation policies would work.

This blogger experienced the result of his work in 1977 when a group of us traveled by van from Tarrytown NY, home of Washington Irving, to Kennedy Airport on a Friday afternoon following a week of training. Our driver didn’t use a single highway during the entire trip. When we asked him about the route, he explained that side streets were the only to get us to our flights on time. We traversed the entire city from the north and couldn’t use even one of Moses’ creations.

The press treated Moses uncritically with the New York Times leading the cheers until a couple of young, unintimidated investigative reporters with smaller papers started, in 1959, digging into his Title I Federally subsidized housing and slum clearance programs. Soon the reporters were inundated with tips and material on the corruption and suffering. Targets for slum clearance were often not slums at all but stable well maintained neighborhoods. “Slum” clearance was destroying of lives of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers including hard working respectable families. The resulting deluge of stories of horror and corruption forced even the NYT to assign investigative journalists to the stories.

The Incorruptible, Uncorrupting, Apolitical, Utterly Selfless Public Servant Moses had been a synthetic character, largely puffed up by the press. That character had endured for thirty-five years. But in 1959 the process of deflation by the press-a process that had been going on intermittently for several years-had begun in earnest. In that process there had been a large amount of unfairness. But that process had in the end arrived at the truth. At the beginning of 1959, the Moses image had stood in most of its glory, intact except for a few small chips. At the end of 1959, it lay in unsalvageable ruins. Popularity, Al Smith had warned him, was a slender reed. Now the reed was broken.

Moses resigned his position as head of Title I but his reputation was forever tarnished.

Moses with Nelson
Moses had survived many attempts by governors and mayors to reduce his power and all, including FDR had failed.
Then, in 1959 Nelson Rockefeller became governor of New York. Nelson was 50 and Moses was in his 70’s. Nelson was a Rockefeller, with access to power never before seen by Moses in a mayor or governor. Nelson was tougher than Moses. Rockefeller pressured Moses to give up all his parks posts so Nelson could give them to Nelson’s brother Laurance, a man with impeccable credentials in New York’s conservation movements serving for 27 years on the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The well conceived and run Palisades Interstate Park had been funded heavily by the Rockefellers. Moses made a huge mistake, accusing Nelson of nepotism in the press. All Moses’ park positions were stripped but in compensation Nelson offered Moses Presidency of the 1964 Worlds Fair to be held in Flushing Meadows.

Moses at Flushing Meadows Park
The position came with very attractive compensation which could help Moses pay for care for his ill wife. Moses took the job thinking he could turn Flushing Meadows into a huge Park after the fair ended. The Fair, as the earlier one in 1930 was a financial disaster complete with Moses lavish contracts to friends. In the end Moses had less than $8 million to pay off $24 million in loans. He used the $8 million to create a small park on the site and the creditors were given nothing. Nelson stripped Moses of his remaining highways position and Moses was down to one title, the one that counted, head of the Triborough Authority.
Nelson moved slowly in his efforts to create the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to encompass mass transit and bridges and highways. Nelson ambiguously offered Moses a significant role in the new setup which Moses interpreted as head of Triborough and a position on the board of the MTA. Moses believed he held a trump card that the bondholders would have to approve any change to their bond contract which they would never do without Moses’ approval. The bondholders had agreed that any dispute which arose would be handled in litigation by Chase Bank’s lawyer Thomas Dewey. Moses prepared the Triborough Authority to bring suit. Chase was at that time a private bank owned by the Rockefellers and controlled by David Rockefeller who Moses had worked with for decades. The Rockefeller brothers met at Nelson’s apartment and agreed to a plan. Moses held fire believing Nelson would keep him on at Triborough but on March 1 1968 Triborough went out of business merging into the MTA. Moses was stripped of control of Triborough and offered a consultant’s position at $25,000 per year plus his limousine and driver and secretaries. He was never consulted or given meaningful work again. Moses, at age 79, took the job. Moses lived to the age of 92 dying in 1981 on Long Island.

Uncontrollable Corporate Megalomania Google, Facebook, etc.

March 27th, 2019

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism; The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, Shoshana Zuboff, 2018

This is a look at the transformation of Google, Facebook, and others from their initial mission to serve their users to the exploitation of those users by selling their privacy to the highest bidder to achieve enormous personal wealth and power.

In her personal experience Zuboff describes sitting as a nineteen year old in the back of a seminar where Thomas Friedman (founder of the Chicago school of economics) instructs doctoral students who will soon run the economy of Chile after the CIA inspired coup and assassination of elected President Salvador Allende in favor of the Pinochet military dictatorship in 1973.

Thomas Friedman and Friedrich Hayek, economics as ideology and their opposite John Maynard Keynes

Zuboff also briefly alludes to debates she had at Harvard with the aging and discredited behaviorist BF Skinner, author of the novel Walden Two. She spends time in the book discussing Alex Pentland of the MIT media lab who she considers a BF Skinner intellectual successor armed with the tools Skinner could only dream of having and using. She calls Pentland a high priest of Surveillance capitalism. Pentland helps provide the intellectual justification that legitimizes instrumentarian (a new word coined by Zuboff) practices. Pentland never mentions Skinner in his work but his behavior modification goals are the same.
BF Skinner at Harvard and Alex Pentland of MIT Media Lab

Zuboff explains why user consent through opt-in or opt-out has been rendered meaningless under Surveillance Capitalism. To read a single contract agreement in detail might take hours and with third parties almost always involved there may be 1,000 individual contracts to read and digest. If you opt out surveillance capitalists will threaten to downgrade your system and will probably still collect and distribute your information without your permission. You have no way to find out what they are doing. If you ask for the information collected, as a Belgium privacy attorney attempted to do of Google, they are unable to retrieve it for you. It is buried somewhere in a second tier of automatic computation technology. The user has no way of determining what software is currently running on your computers or smart phones or what peripherals like GPS, cameras, microphones, etc. have been usurped for external control. To add insult to injury, you will pay for the transmission bandwidth they secretly steal from you to illegally surveil your activities. If you have installed smart home devices like thermostats or security systems you have no way to know what these smart devices are observing and collecting. Your car driving behavior can be monitored with bad insurance consequences, not only by your new car, but by your smart phone. Your new car can be disabled by the finance company and its GPS location sent to the REPO people to come get your car. Then imagine advances in voice and face recognition and you start to get the terrifying idea. Then imagine all of this surveillance capability in the hands of a non democratic government like China. You can’t do anything at all without the state monitoring (and influencing) your behavior.

What does older capitalistic history teach us?

It (government interventions into free market capitalism) appeared in the trust busting, civil society, and legislative reforms of the Progressive Era. Later it was elaborated in the legislative, judicial, social, and tax initiatives of the New Deal and the institutionalization of Keynesian economic during the post-World War II era; labor market, tax, and social welfare policies that ultimately increased economic and social equality.

In fact the Bretton Woods conference of 1944 created a new world economic order based on a US-centric dollar based fixed exchange rate system, created the IMF and World Bank, and was a complete repudiation of Keynesian economics. This system worked only so long as the US remained the dominant manufacturing power, creating large trade surpluses that the US could recycle as investments. When trade reversed around 1970 and the US became a trade debtor nation, the American economy shifted from manufacture to financialization, convincing trade creditors to invest their surpluses with Wall Street, who kept inventing new and innovative ways to use the mountains of cash suddenly at their disposal. The Neoliberal contribution to all this was the erosion of government regulation of corporations and the use of IMF and Worldbank loans to vulnerable nations and colonies whose defaults resulted in the massive transfers of state owned commons into private hands like Wall Street hedge funds. See Greek Spring by Yanis Varoufakis. None of this history is clear from her book. For an excellent introduction to macro economics from Bretton Woods to the present see Yanis Varoufakis’ minotaur book. The breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s was another opportunity for the Neoliberals who descended on the former Soviet Union members with plans to transfer all public commons into private hands. The result was to create a new class of asset owners in each country that more resembled a mafia than capitalists. We remain in this condition to this day. The massive and fundamental shift of the American economy from manufacture to financialization is not mentioned by Zuboff.

To her credit, Zuboff does site French economist Thomas Piketty’s monumental work on wealth and income distribution in England and America from the eighteenth century to the present.

A market economy…if left to itself…contains powerful forces of divergence, which are potentially threatening to democratic societies and to the values of social justice on which they are based…If we are to regain control of capital, we must bet everything on democracy.

Our present economic system has been accurately described as corporate welfare with massive government subsidies for agriculture, energy, extraction, and other industries. Hayek and Friedman would turn over in their graves if they knew where American capitalism has taken us. This trend reached its pinnacle (we only hope) with the Bush-Obama massive bailouts of the financial institutions and Zuboff’s beloved General Motors after the sub-prime financial scandal-crisis of 2008. Shiela Bair (W appointee to head the FDIC) was fully prepared to break up the big banks starting with Citibank using her FDIC authorization and charter, but was prevented from doing so by Tim Geithner who was shockingly appointed by Obama as his treasury secretary. See more at Scamming a President. No meaningful reforms were enacted to prevent a recurrence of this collapse and we anxiously await the next iteration.

Zuboff mentions Rand Corporation futurist Herman Kahn’s 1967 book The Year 2000, where the author anticipates the future possibilities of computer power intrusions into our lives characterizing this as “a twenty-first century nightmare”. She says Kahn was the model for the character of Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 movie. No!

Herman Kahn wrote an earlier book published in 1960 “On Thermonuclear War” where Kahn speculated that it would be possible to create a “Doomsday Machine“; a vast collection of nuclear weapons connected to an automated trigger mechanism that, upon detection of a threat and without any human intervention, would initiate nuclear holocaust. Most experts at the time believed such a system could not be built. In fact the Soviet Union built just such a secret machine called The Dead Hand whose current status is unknown. See Daniel Ellsberg’s Doomsday Machine book. Kahn’s 1960 book was the inspiration for Kubrick’s movie where the Soviet Union have successfully built a doomsday machine but have kept it secret from the US. The character Dr. Strangelove is a caricature of a former Nazi scientist, not Kahn. Kahn was a consultant on the movie.

Zuboff uses a discussion of totalitarianism to illustrate how slow academics and intellectuals are to understand completely sui generis unprecedented developments. Our understanding of totalitarianism came into focus only in the 1960’s, well after the demise of European Fascism and dramatic changes following Stalin’s reign of terror. She points out that between 1930 and 1953 Stalin appears ten times on the cover of Time magazine. She leaves out any discussion of Mao’s China, but China emerges later in her discussion of State uses of surveillance capitalism.

She introduces and coins Instrumentarian power as a contrast to totalitarian power.

Instumentarian power moves differently and toward an opposite horizon. Totalitarianism operated through the means of violence, but intrumentarian power operates through the means of behavioral modification, and this is where our focus must shift. Intrumentarian power has no interest in our souls or any principal to instruct. There is no training or transformation for spiritual salvation, no ideology against which to judge our actions. It does not demand possession of each person from the inside out. It has no interest in exterminating or disfiguring our bodies and minds in the name of pure devotion. It welcomes data on the behavior of our blood and shit, but it has no interest in soiling itself with our excretions. It has no appetite for our grief, pain, or terror, although it eagerly welcomes the behavioral surplus that leaches from our anguish. It is profoundly and infinitely indifferent to our meanings and motives. Trained on measurable action, it only cares that whatever we do is accessible to its ever-evolving operations of rendition, calculation, modification, monetization, and control.

Deng Xiaoping Architect of Democracy Free Capitalism in China

Instrumentarian power in the hands of non democratic States like China is almost beyond comprehension in its potential power. Yanis Voroufakis describes Singapore under Lee Kuan Yew and his disciple Deng Xiaoping who transformed China’s economy using the Singapore model as democracy free capitalism.

Voroufakis primary point in Voroufakis Ted talk is that Western capitalist corporations are hording massive mountains of profit, investing only in corporate consolidation, and are in direct contradictions of Keynesian economics to recycle surpluses to level the cycles of boom and bust. These uninvested surplus mountains may doom democracy and life as we know it.

Industrial capitalism depended upon the exploitation and control of nature, with catastrophic consequences that we only now recognize. Surveillance capitalism…depends instead upon the exploitation and control of human nature. The market reduces us to our behavior, transformed into another fictional commodity and packaged for others’ consumption.

Surveillance capitalism’s successful claims to freedom and knowledge, its structural independence from people, its collectivist ambitions, and the radical indifference that is necessitated, enable, and sustained by all three now propel us toward a society in which capitalism does not function as a means to inclusive economic or political institutions. Instead, surveillance capitalism must be reckoned as a profoundly antidemocratic social force.

As Thomas Paine noted in the Eighteenth century; “…a body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody, ought not to be trusted by any body.”

Surveillance capitalism’s antidemocratic and anti egalitarian juggernaut is best described as a market-driven coup from above. It is not a coup d’etat in the classic sense but rather a coup de gens: an overthrow of the people concealed as a technological Trojan horse that is Big Other…It is a form of tyranny that feeds on people but is not of the people.

The young people we have considered…are the spirits of Christmas yet to come. They live on the frontier of a new form of power that declares the end of a human future, with its antique allegiances to individuals, democracy, and the human agency necessary for moral judgment. Should we awaken from distraction, resignation, and psychic numbing…it is a future that we may still avert.

Zuboff starts her book with the assertion that Surveillance capitalism cannot be controlled or contained through the lens of antitrust or privacy. She mentions the EU regulation the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which only went into effect in May 2018 and only within the EU. It is too early to see if this ambitious effort will have any impact as it works its ways through EU regulators and the courts. She appears sceptical. For the Guardian’s take on GDPR. So what do we do?

If democracy is to be replenished in the coming decades, it is up to us to rekindle the sense of outrage and loss over what is being taken from us. In this I do not mean only our “personal information”. What is at stake here is the human expectation of sovereignty over one’s own life and authorship of one’s own experience. What is at stake is the inward experience from which we form the will to will and the public spaces to act on that will…That Surveillance capitalism has usurped so many of our rights in these domains is a scandalous abuse of digital capabilities and their once grand promise to democratize knowledge and meet our thwarted needs for effective life.

For more on the despotic behavior of Facebook and Google

The Deadly Zionists

December 22nd, 2018

Rise and Kill First, The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations, Ronen Bergman, 2018

Yasser Arafat; Israeli target or partner?

This is a 600 page history of Israel’s intelligence and defense communities and their covert operations. In its history Israel has carried out more than 2,300 targeted assassination operations. By comparison, George W Bush authorized 48, and Barack Obama, the assassin in chief, authorized 353.

Ariel Sharon Leads Troops into Lebanon 1982

Israel has been involved in several wars: the 1949 Arab attempts to eliminate Israel; the 1956 war; the 1967 war which resulted in Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, The Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula; The Yom Kipper War of 1973; the invasion and occupation of Lebanon in 1982. Israel won every contest.
So with all this success, is Israel safer and more secure? No. Occupation leads to resentment leads to terror attacks.

Indeed, in many respects, the story of Israel’s intelligence community as recounted in this book has been one of a long string of impressive tactical successes, but also disastrous strategic failures.

The First Palestinian Intifada (suicide terror attacks against Israeli citizens) started in 1987 and was a spontaneous reaction to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. While the PLO claimed to be leading the uprising they were not in fact. It was a new group of fundamental Sunni Palestinians that called themselves Hamas. A second Palestinian Intifada started in 2000 in reaction to a visit by Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount. This time the reaction and acts of suicidal terror were initiated by Hezbollah, a fundamental Shiite Palestinian group. Both groups would receive arms and other assistance from Egypt, Syria, and Iran to support their terror attacks.

The Israelis that made up the intelligence community and the military leadership were selected and advanced because they were ideological Zionists; believers that Jews have a divine right to create a Jewish religious state in the holy land, formerly known as Palestine. They took two lessons from the Holocaust; first, assimilation of Jews into other societies does not work, Jews will always be outsiders; and second, Jews must never be passive again as they were in Europe under the Nazis; they must be tough, aggressive, and always act first; hence the title of this book “Kill First”. Indeed, with the exception of the war of 1949 and the Yom Kipper war, Israel was the first aggressor, gaining enormous advantages from the surprise attacks.

In their attempts to control and suppress their occupied territories, Israel is now losing international support and approval. Will the international community impose boycotts and sanctions like those that brought down the apartheid regime in South Africa?

One theme of the book deals with Israeli efforts to forestall the development of nuclear weapons by neighboring countries. When Egypt started recruiting German scientists to help them develop a bomb, the Israels responded by killing some and threatening others. It worked and Egypt gave up. Iraq under Saddam Hussein was more persistent. Even when Israel bombed an enrichment facility before it went online, Saddam persisted. Only when an international coalition joined to drive him out of Kuwait and impose sanctions and inspections did Saddam give up his efforts. When Syria got ready to bring its enrichment facility online, Israel destroyed it and Syria gave up its efforts. Israel also destroyed facilities in Iran and used a virus to destroy key equipment. There have been no retaliatory strikes as a result of these acts of war by Israel.

Another central story is the rise of Sunni based Hamas and Shiite based Hezbollah both supported extensively be Syria and Iran.

He concludes that Yasser Arafat, the self proclaimed leader of the Palestinian people and founder of the PLO was primarily concerned with maintaining his position as leader of the Palestinians without regard for the people he supposedly was leading. Israeli leaders alternated between attempts to assassinate him and attempt to negotiate peace with him. He escaped assassination numerous time often by seconds or inches. Like Geronimo, Arafat came to believe himself unkillable. No peace deal was ever struck with Arafat. When he became ill and went to France for treatment, he died of unknown causes. Bergman writes:

If I knew the answer to the question of what killed Yasser Arafat, I wouldn’t be able write it here in this book, or even be able to write that I know the answer. The military censor in Israel forbids me from discussing the subject.

The book is a page turner if you like murders. But with this one sentence, Bergman undermines his entire work. What else will the military censors not let him write?

Facebook, Tool for the Despots

October 29th, 2018

Anti-Social Media; How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, Siva Vaidhyanathan, 2018

Even when we post and share demonstrably false stories and claims we do so to declare our affiliation, to assert that our social bonds mean more to us than the question of truth…How do we train billions of people to value truth over their cultural membership when the question of truth holds little at stake for them and the question of social membership holds so much?

The social aspect of social media trumps any effort to build or spread civic responsibility into the system. Facebook is a pleasure machine. The pleasure is light and fleeting. That’s what keeps us coming back. But Facebook is also an anxiety machine, an anger machine, and a resentment machine…but the resentment is deep and durable.

Facebook attracts us, hooks us, encourages us to declare our affiliations, divides us, and tracks every single interaction along the way. Facebook’s surveillance system is part of its pleasure system. They cannot be severed.

The influence of Facebook on the violent attacks in Charlottesville is difficult to trace but important to address. I live in a nation that no longer seems able to filter out of its public sphere the most odious calls for an ethnically pure state, that has a major political party that can no longer resist fringe elements, and has a media ecosystem that rewards the most alarming and spectacular claims and is now willing to take seriously the claims of white supremacists. One man sympathetic to white supremacists even assumed the presidency in 2017 because the established filters all failed. Facebook did not generate these problems. It did amplify and normalize them by scrambling our senses of truth and justice and fracturing a sense of collective national fate. Mostly Facebook makes it hard to think.

Between Google and Facebook, we have witnessed a global concentration of wealth and power not seen since the British and Dutch East India Companies ruled vast territories, millions of people, and the most valuable trade routes. Remarkably, and unlike the East India Companies, Google and Facebook have achieved this feat nonviolently and with only tangential state support…They did all this by inviting us in, tricking us into allowing them to make us their means to wealth and power, distilling our activities and identities into data, and launching a major ideological movement – what Neil Postman described yet only predicted in 1992: technopoly.

Postman: “It (technopoly) consists of the deification of technology, which means that the culture seeks it authorization in technology, finds its satisfaction in technology, and takes its orders from technology.” This ideological domination demands a sacrifice of all previously stable belief systems. So trust in institutions, ancient or modern, erodes. Local identities and traditions are rendered valueless except as raw material for remixes, parody, tourism, tapestries, and games rather than expressions of deep human narratives and connections.

Postman: “Technopoly eliminates alternatives to itself in precisely the way Aldous Huxley outlined in Brave New World. It does not make them illegal. It does not make them immoral. It does not even make them unpopular. It makes them invisible and therefore irrelevant.” If it didn’t happen on Facebook, it didn’t happen.

The problem is, Facebook by 2013 already was so dominant that for may people absence from Facebook meant invisibility

The most fruitful response to the problems that Facebook creates, reveals, or amplifies would be to reinvest and strengthen institutions that generate deep, meaningful knowledge. We must support scientific communities, universities, libraries, and museums around the world. We must foster deliberation through publically funded better journalism, forums for debate, and commissions that could harness expertise to address our most pressing challenges.

Modi Duterte Trump

The book is very good on the exploitation of Facebook by despots such as Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and Narendra Modi in India. He talks about the efforts of the Trump campaign to target potential Hillary voters with negative information, such as highlighting the Bill Clinton record of criminalizing crack cocaine, black incarcerations, and Hilary comments on blacks. These efforts probably further suppressed Hillary’s votes in key states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

In the meantime, Vaidhyanathan continues to use Facebook.

The Patient Investigative Journalist

September 4th, 2018

Reporter; A Memoir, Seymour M. Hersh, 2018
This is Hersh’s eleventh book. His Henry Kissinger book was first published in 1983, long after Kissinger left the government. We are still awaiting his Dick Cheney book. Hersh explains that writing always came easy to him:

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> Sy Hersh

I grew up in a world where the incentive to learn came from within me, as did a sense of whom to trust and whom to believe. I was guided as a confused and uncertain eighteen year old by a professor who saw potential in me, as did Carroll Arimond at the Associated Press, William Shawn at The New Yorker, and Abe Rosenthal at The New York Times. They published what I wrote without censorship and reaffirmed my faith in trusting those in the military and intelligence world whose information and friendship, I valued but whose names I could never utter. I found my way when it came to issues of life and death in war to those special people who had the integrity and intelligence to carefully distinguish between what they knew — from firsthand observation at the center — from what they believed. The trust went two ways; I often obtained documents I could not use for fear of inadvertently exposing the sources, and there were stories I dared not write for the same reason.
I never did an interview without learning all I could about the person with whom I was meeting, and I did all I could to let those I was criticizing or putting in professional jeopardy just what I was planning to publish about them.
I will return to the Cheney book when the time is right, and when those who helped me learn what I did after 9/11 will not be in peril.

Kissinger Cheney Bush

Cardinal O’Conner Archbishop of New York told Hersh:

“My son, God has put you on earth for a reason, and that is to do the kind of work you do, no matter how much it upsets others. It is your calling.”

<> <> <> <> <> Abe Rosenthal

Some of the more interesting parts of this book deal with the relationship of Hersh with Abe Rosenthal, Executive Editor of The New York Times. Their first interaction was a phone call while Hersh was working on the Meadlo (a soldier at the My Lai massacre) story. A copy of the story had been sent to the Times and Rosenthal wanted to send a Times reporter to interview Meadlo. Hersh grabbed the phone:

“Mr. Rosenthal, it’s Sy Hersh. Listen, you want an interview with Paul Meadlo? Well he’s somewhere in New York. Find him.”

Hersh slammed the phone down. Seconds later the phone rings again. Hersh grabs it:

“Mr. Hersh”, Abe Rosenthal yelled, ” Do you know who I am?”. “Yes”, replied Hersh and hung up on him again.

CBS Evening News aired Mike Wallace’s interview with Paul Meadlo that same evening. Hersh later regretted his temper tantrum but Rosenthal hired him anyway.
William Calley, the only soldier court martialed for My Lai served three months in prison. Stories continue to break about the attempted cover up and the role of higher officers. My Lai was not an isolated event. On the same day as the My Lai 4 massacre, at My Khe 4, another massacre occurred with more than a hundred civilian deaths.
The Times hired Hersh on the basis of his My Lai reporting. Hersh wanted to pursue three other stories at the Times; the secret bombing of Cambodia and military falsification of documents; Nixon, Kisssinger, and the CIA’s interference with the Allende government in Chili; and the several hundred million dollar effort by the military to recover a Soviet Nuclear submarine sunk in the Pacific. Rosenthal, however, was tired of reading the daily Washington Post reporting by Berstein and Woodward on the Watergate break in and reassigned Hersh to this story. Hersh uncovered the existence of the Nixon plumbers operation and the break in of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychoanalyst’s office in California. Nixon was paranoid that Ellsberg might have other documents beyond the Pentagon papers that might be damaging to him. Ellsberg and Hersh became friends and saw Oliver Stone’s movie Platoon together. Ellsberg did have additional documents about nuclear war planning which he hid in a trash dump. A mud slide destroyed those files and Ellsberg spent almost 50 years reconstructing them for his latest doomsday machine book.
When the Nixon white house tapes were found, the Watergate story exploded and Bob Woodward and Hersh started sharing information to save duplication and time. They often met over tennis and Woodward quipped that Hersh never paid for the tennis time. Hersh clarifies here that Katharine Graham, publisher of the Washington Post was paying for the court time.

William Calley 3 months Reality Winter 5 years

This book doesn’t deal with whistle-blowers other than to note how tough Obama was on them. Virtually all NSA whistle-blowers have had their careers ruined. The latest, Reality Winter, has been sentenced to at least five years for telling the public that the Russians attempted to hack electoral systems and voter lists during the 2016 elections. Calley, convicted of killing 21 innocent Vietnamese, served three months.

<> <> <> <> <> <> Mob Fixer Korshak

Hersh briefly dipped into an investigation of organized crime with a series of articles on the Chicago Jewish fixer attorney for the mob Sidney Korshak. Korshak’s influence with the Teamsters in New York prevented delivery of part 1 of the Times Korshak story.

When Hersh undertook to investigate the New York based corporation Gulf and Western, he hired a graduate school knowledgeable about securities issues to help him. Unfortunately, Punch Sulzberger, publisher of the Times did not want to offend his club buddies from Gulf and Western and the articles were mercilessly edited and all anonymous quotations removed. Rosentenhal was unable to defend Hersh and this was the start of the end of Hersh’s career at the Times. Nonetheless, John Kenneth Galbraith, Harvard economist wrote Hersh:

“The pieces on Gulf and Western are excellent — better than most readers will know. Extracting usable information from these characters, as I can attest from slight experience, is more difficult by a factor of ten than from the CIA. Thanks again.”

<> <> <> <> <> <> John Kenneth Galbraith

Hersh wondered why there was still so little cooperation between the intelligence community even after 9/11. He asked a long time CIA operative:

Don’t you get it Sy? The FBI catches bank robbers. We rob banks. And the NSA? Do you really expect me to talk to dweebs with protractors in their pockets who are always looking down at their brown shoes?”

When Hersh had a story about the killing of Osama Bin Laden that contradicted much of the Obama administration account, neither the Times nor the New Yorker (under David Remnick) would touch the story and Hersh published the story with the London Review of Books. He then published the book about the killing. Steve Cole in his recent book about Afghanistan and Pakistan entitled Directorate S does not mention Hersh’s killing account but seems to endorse the Obama version of events. Hersh comments:

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The possibility that two dozen navy SEALs could escape observation and get to bin Laden without some help from the Pakistani military and intelligence community was nil.

Hersh says the focus of the coverage should have been the double cross of Pakistan, not the refusal of the Times and The New Yorker to publish the story. During his long career he has often been challenged sometimes very bitterly. Hersh replies;

I will happily permit history to be the judge of my recent work.

Hersh discovered that James Jesus Angleton oversaw CIA domestic spying on Vietnam war protestors from 1967. Hersh’s story led to Angleton’s resignation in 1974.

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Hersh disclosed that in 1968 6,000 sheep died in a nerve gas experiment gone wrong at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. A different wind could have carried the gas to Salt Lake City.

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Also featured in this book is Harrison Salisbury who covered the Soviet Union for the Times from 1949 to 1954. He returned to New York where he covered the civil rights movement, the assassination of JFK and other stories until he retired from the Times as associate editor in 1973. He wrote his book on the Times, Without Fear or Favor in 1980. In this book, Salisbury wrote about the Watergate investigation:

“It was as though Sy Hersh had been born for this moment.”

In all Salisbury wrote 29 books including the 1969 Siege of Leningrad. He witnessed the Tienanmen demonstrations and massacre in 1989 and wrote The New Emperors: China in the era of Mao and Deng in 1992, portraying Mao and much of the leadership as Opium addled. Salisbury was from the beginning against the Vietnam War and was the first American journalist to be given a visa to visit Hanoi in 1966. He wrote extensively about the US bombing of Hanoi at this time. Hersh was the second American reporter to be given a visa to Hanoi. There he met Defense Minister Vo Ngyuyen Giap and the Paris negotiator Le Duc Tho .

Nuclear Insanity, Cloaked in Secrecy, Threatens all life on Earth

March 22nd, 2018

The Doomsday Machine, Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, Daniel Ellsberg,2017

Daniel Ellsberg Ellsberg

Daniel Ellsberg, whistle blower of the Pentagon Papers here reveals that the 7000 pages of the Pentagon Papers were the smaller part of the material Ellsberg copied. The larger portion were documents relating to the threat of nuclear annihilation due to insane policy planning. The nuclear papers were lost during a Hurricane. Ellsberg has spend almost 50 years reassembling documents and material in preparation for this book.

Ellsbergs major revelations here:

•First: our nuclear plans are and have always been based on launching a first strike, not reacting to a nuclear attack.
•Second: the US nuclear first strike will launch our entire arsenal (presently about 25,000 nuclear weapons) many 1000 times the power of the first Hiroshima bomb) with nothing held in reserve.
•Third: authority to initiate the first strike has been delegated to the military (even low level personnel) to prevent the enemy from decapitating US civilian and government decision making. The decision making may have even been automated like the Soviet Dead Hand.
•Forth: Nuclear plans must be kept secret from the public and from the civilian government (with rare exceptions) including the US President. In fact the public and congress are deliberately misled and systematically lied to about nuclear plans.
•Fifth: All of the above are the product of total insanity.

The bottom line, once again: This is not a species to be trusted with nuclear weapons. Above all, not to be trusted with a full or partial Doomsday Machine. And that doesn’t just apply to “crazy” third world leaders.

The title of the book, The Doomsday Machine, is based on RAND corporation physicist Herman Kahn’s 1960 book On Thermonuclear War and further described in some popular articles written by Kahn in 1961. Kahn proposed that within 10 years and at low cost a “Doomsday Machine” could be created by placing enough nuclear weapons on US territory and in the oceans to destroy all life on earth. The machine would be triggered automatically upon detection of threat. The term “omnicide” was coined to describe this event. Neither Kahn nor nuclear father Edward Teller believed at the time that such a machine was possible. They were wrong. In 1983, climate scientists weighed in, announcing that as few as 1,000 nuclear weapons would unleash firestorms releasing enough smoke and soot into the atmosphere to send the earth into nuclear winter. The winter would last at least a decade killing and starving virtually all life on earth. There is now scientific consensus that this conclusion is sound. Ellsberg believes all nuclear armed nations today possess a virtual Doomsday Machine because of the size of their arsenal.

Valery Yarynich, Soviet Whistle blower Valery Yaynich

In fact, the Soviet Union actually built a real world Doomsday Machine called the Soviet Perimeter System designed by Valery Yarynich who until his death in 2012 believed the system safer than its alternative. He ultimately became a whistle blower, being interviewed by David Hoffman who wrote the book The Dead Hand. Upon Yarynich’s death Hoffman wrote:

In later years, Yarynich expressed grave doubts about the very systems of annihilation he had devoted his career to perfecting. He once told me it was utter stupidity to the keep the Dead Hand secret; such a retaliatory system was useful as a deterrent only if your adversary knew about it. (This is exactly the scenario in Dr. Strangelove) More broadly, he came to doubt the wisdom of maintaining the cocked-pistols approach to nuclear deterrence, the so-called hair-trigger alert, especially after the Cold War ended. He feared it could lead to an accidental or mistaken launch.

Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove wrestles with his NAZI saluting gloved hand FILM, STANLEY, KUBRICK, KINO, FILMSTILL, FILMSZENE Wernher von Braun?

Ellsberg describes going to see Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 masterpiece Dr. Strangelove. Ellsberg, then a RAND consultant at the White House, thought he was watching a documentary with accurate details like the inability of the military to recall the rogue bomber pilot heading for the Soviet Union and thereby triggering the Doomsday Machine. Dr. Strangelove recurs throughout Ellsberg’s book.

Ellsberg describes the US system of classification and security clearance which keeps these secrets from the public and from our own government. What he describes is a many tiered classification scheme far more complex than is publicly understood. Those holding clearance form what amount to a religious order where its acolytes aspire to ever higher levels where more secrets will be revealed. The cost of membership in the order is silence. Revealing a single secret gets you thrown out of the order ending your career. Ellsberg’s father designed the Detroit B24 factory and the Detroit B29 engine factory during WWII. Ellsberg didn’t know what his father did after this until his father decided Daniel had high enough security clearance to discuss his own career. His father designed the Plutonium production facility at Hanford Washington. When they asked his father to help build the 1,000 times more powerful Hydrogen bomb he quit as a matter of conscience; the only instance Daniel has found of a high level insider doing so. His father was not a whistle blower and was not thrown out of the order. He finished a successful career doing other work.

An excellant work on CIA secrets is the book Legacy of Ashes, the History of the CIA. Another excellent work on CIA secrets is the book Ghost Wars.

Ellsberg was a RAND consultant to the White House during the Cuban missile crisis and gives a detailed account here. He reveals that the Soviet submarines in the Caribbean were nuclear armed but that the submarine crews only knew they were carrying “special weapons”. When the US dropped small depth charges not intended to destroy a submarine but damaging nonetheless the decision on the submarine to launch its “Special Weapons” was averted by the presence of a third officer on board who voted not to launch. The nuclear weapon would have destroyed every US naval vessel in the area (and probably the submarine itself). The US would likely have believed the nuclear weapon blast was from a missile that had been launched from Cuba and would have responded with a massive retaliatory strike. Ellsberg has made extensive (classified) studies of near nuclear accidents of which there are many. Given the actual deployment of real world “Doomsday Machines”, it is a miracle we are still here.

Ellsberg also gives an excellent history of how civilian populations have become acceptable targets during wartime, starting with Gen. Sherman’s march through Atlanta to the sea during the American Civil War. When airplanes made aerial bombing possible legitimate bombing targets because a subject for military discussion. Ellsberg largely blames the British, not Hitler, for the decision to start bombing non military or production targets; to start deliberately targeting civilians living in cities. The US quickly joined in. The firestorm started by the bombing of Dresden led to a new level of civilian destruction and death. Dresden became the model for the bombing of cities in Japan.

Does LeMay resemble George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove? lemay

Curtis LeMay became a US master tactician during German bombing runs leading to lower loss of bombers and higher production of devastation. LeMay insisted on personally leading his German raids. LeMay was given command of Japanese city bombing once the US got within range toward the end of the war. In the last five months of the war before Aug 1945, official war policy was to kill as many Japanese as possible. Large scale use of incendiaries in a deliberate attempt to start firestorms was standard procedure. Hundreds of Japanese cities were destroyed excluding Hiroshima and Nagasaki which were reserved for later atomic testing. After the war LeMay was promoted to head the newly created SAC in 1948. LeMay was central to developing plans for aerially bomb the Soviet Union and was a strong lifelong advocate of first strike. He was also fiercely protective of the primacy of the Air Force against the other branches of the armed forces. Eisenhower supported the Air Force as the more cost effective way to conduct modern warfare. LeMay tried to get Ellsberg fired when he found Ellsberg was behind John F. Kennedy’s questions about the number of deaths expected in a first strike attack.

Greek Spring: My 160 Days as Finance Minister

January 30th, 2018

Adults in the Room; My Battle with the European and American Deep Establishment, Yanis Varoufakis 2017.

This political memoir is best read as a companion to Varoufakis’ 2016 And the Weak Suffer What they Must? Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future. Both were written after Varoufakis’ short term as the Greek Syriza government’s Finance Minister in 2015.

The 2016 book is a macroeconomic primer describing how we got from the 1920 gold standard to Bretton Woods to financialization and the Great Moderation to the worldwide economic and banking collapse of 2006. It explains how the European Union was set up without a political union, with a currency like the 1920’s gold standard and without a central bank like the US Federal Reserve capable of recycling surpluses. What can possibly go wrong? The 2008 global financial meltdown. Yanis estimates a Greek bankrupsy in 2010 would have required a European wide bailout costing each European citizen €10,000. A similar market turn against Wall Street would have cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $258. That is why the 2010 Greek bailout was so important to the EU.

Finance Minister Limousine Yanis limo2

The 2017 book is a page turner describing Varoufakis’ attempts to deal with the European troika made up of the European Commission the European Central Bank and the IMF to restructure Greece’s debts and to put the Greek economy on a path to recovery. The troika were only interested in a third bailout with even harsher austerity to punish Greece for having elected a left leaning government and to serve as an example to other weak EU members not to defy the troika.

Yanis describes an early meeting with the formidable Larry Summers who Yanis had previously called “the prince of darkness”. Summers:

There are two kinds of politicians, he said, insiders and outsiders. The outsiders prioritize their freedom to speak their version of the truth. The price of their freedom is that they are ignored by the insiders, who make the important decisions. The insiders, for their part, follow a sacrosanct rule: never turn against other insiders and never talk to outsiders about what insiders say or do. Their reward? Access to inside information and a chance though not a guarantee, of influencing powerful people and outcomes… So, Yanis, he said, which of the two are you?

In 2009 Germany’s Angela Merkel had requested a €406 Billion bank bailout from her Bundestag. It was barely enough to cover losses from German bank investments in US toxic derivatives. By 2010, losses from German bank loans to the governments of Italy, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Greece totaled €477 Billion of which €102 Billion had gone to Greece. Merkel knew it would be suicide to return to the Bundestag to request a second bailout. This was the birth of “Bailoutistan”; a complex and deceptive way to get the banks their bailout without the voters knowing how it was done. Corrupt Greek politicians and tax dodging oligarchs were complicit in the deception which pretended to put weak European countries on the road to recovery via extreme austerity measures.

Strauss-Kahn and wife at his NY Trial Strauss-Kahn

The EU charter prohibits financing of government debt. To get around this the EU persuaded the notorious Dominic Strauss-Kahn, who was desperate to save the French banks, to have the IMF make the loans. The beauty for Germany and France was that more than half the loans were guaranteed by the citizens of other poorer countries, many of whom are not in the EU. The other countries all believed they were lending money to the troubled countries. They were unaware the money went directly to the German and French banks. Bailoutistan ultimately became a more than €1 Trillion scam.

James Galbraith James Galbraith

In 2012, James Galbraith arranged for Yanis to teach at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin Texas where he taught courses, including one on the European financial crisis. Yanis was able to organize lectures by Syriza’s leaders that he hoped would reassure Washington, should Syriza became the government of Greece. When Syriza came to power in 2015, Jamie joined Yanis in the finance ministry where he worked tirelessly on plans to restructure the EU debt and economy of Greece. Jamie was nearby during most of Yanis’ meetings with troika leaders, continually revising plans for reform and writing presentations.

Economist William Black who exposed the frauds at the heart of the US Savings and Loan scandal and wrote the book The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One, wrote in support of Yanis after a BBC profile labeled Yanis Greece’s Cassandra:

So why does the BBC treat Varoufakis as a sexy leftist and Dijsselbloem (president of the Eurogroup) as the respected spokeperson for the troika even though Dijsselbloem is a fanatic ideologue who has caused massive human misery because of the intersection of his inflexible ideology and economic incompetence? Varoufakis’ views on the self destructive nature of austerity as a response to the Great Recession are mainstream economic views. He certainly is a leftist, but his policy view arise from different ideological traditions most people would find antagonistic (to left wing thinking). That makes him a non ideologue as the term is defined. The troika, by contrast, is led entirely by ideologues. The primary difference is that they are exceptionally bad economists and exceptionally indifferent to the human misery they inflict on the workers of the periphery that they despise and ridicule. The BBC, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal will never write a profile of the troika’s leadership that makes any of these points. The BBC profile is another of what I and call revealed biases. Journalists and media organs routinely reveal and betray their biases — biases that they hotly deny but rarely escape.

Jeffrey Sachs jeffrey Sachs

Among Yanis’ strongest supporters was American Jeffrey Sachs who was involved in the attempts to restructure the economies of Eastern Europe after the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s and who came to understand the destruction caused by austerity. Sachs accompanied Yanis at many meetings and worked behind the scenes on developing plans:

Yanis and Christine Laguarde IMF headChristine Yanis“We need adults in the room”

At the end of a busy but arid day punctuated only by Wolfgang Schauble’s (German Finance Minister) statement that Grexit (Greece leaving the EU) was inevitable, Jeff (Sachs) rewarded me with what I took to be a massive compliment. “Having sat in your meetings with Thomasen (European IMF Director), Draghi (ECU president), Schauble, and Regling (head of the ESM), I must tell you that I have never seem anything like this in my decades of experience with meetings between debtor governments and creditors such as the IMF the US government, the World Bank…In every meeting you were positive, bristling with ideas regarding practical solutions. And they kept knocking your ideas down, even though they were good ideas, without proposing a single one of their own. Unbelievable.”

Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Strategist, Whistleblower, and economist) emailed Yanis:

Keep in mind that the ruling class can be self-destructively mad, not just pretending:

Yanis and Alexis Yanis Alexis Merkel and Alexis Merkel Alexis

On June 26, after the troika issued an ultimatum, Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s Prime Minister, called a cabinet meeting to announce a referendum on the third bailout to take place in one month. During the wait, the troika closed all Greek banks. The Greek oligarchs, the Greek media, previous political leaders and even Syriza leaders all advocated voting yes to a third bailout. Vanis attended a huge rally for “no” where he was cheered for standing up to the troika. It was one of the happiest moments of his time as finance minister. The Greek people voted 61.3% no to the troika. When Yanis went to get his government’s instructions to proceed with plans for a counter offensive he realized that Alexis was capitulating to troika demands. He commented to Danae that evening: “Tonight we had the curious phenomenon of a government overthrowing its people.” Because Yanis would never sign a third bailout he was replaced as finance minister.

Inside Edge

April 17th, 2017

Black Edge, Inside Information, Dirty Money, and the Quest to bring down the Most Wanted Man on Wall Street,Sheelah Kolhatkar, 2017
We previously looked at high frequency traders and how they get their edge to make massive questionable money on the market using High Frequency Extortion. This book is a look at hedge fund traders who rely on illegal inside information to make massive profits on Wall Street.
Stephen A. Cohen steve cohen
At the center of this story is Steve Cohen and his solely owned hedge fund SAC Capital, a $15 Billion hedge fund of which $10 Billion is Cohen’s own money. It is the story of the FBI, using RICO (organized crime) laws to go after hedge funds, the SEC, and the New York Attorney General’s office.
The US Justice Department was unable or unwilling to bring criminal charges against any senior Wall Street executive for their role in the financial collapse of 2008. Instead they levied “slap on the wrist” fines. There is a widespread believe in government that Billionaires are untouchable.
Raj Rajaratnam Rajatnam
The biggest success in the book is the arrest and conviction of Raj Rajaratnam and the closure of his Galleon Group fund. They found $55 million trade profits from 11 trades involving inside information. By comparison, a single pharmaceutical deal netted SAC Capital more than $250 million in profits, yet Steve Cohen got a small fine, closed his fund for two years and went on trading, presumably relying on inside information he calls Black Edge. Cohen was free to continue to invest his own $10 Billion and in less than a year he recovered the amount of his “slap on the wrist” fine. He is expected to open a new fund to outside investors.
sac money

Two of Cohen’s fund portfolio managers were tried, convicted and sentenced to long jail terms but one of those convictions was overturned on appeal. The overturn greatly increased the government’s difficulty in bringing insider trading cases and the New York Attorney general had to drop a number of pending cases. The government expected one or both of the managers to enter a plea bargain and implicate Cohen but neither did. Maybe Cohen promised some future reward or the fact that SAC Capital paid for the defense explains why neither entered a plea bargain. Mathew Martoma is the only successful criminal conviction of SAC Capital.

One reason for the difficulty to bring a case against Cohen is the way he organized SAC Capital, like a spider web with Cohen the spider at the center. It is well understood by anyone working for Cohen that he expects them to collect “black edge” exclusive inside information but Cohen has never explicitly stated this. The inside information reaches him in the form of simple buy or sell recommendation with a level of confidence index from 1 to 10. The higher the number the more certainty Cohen has that the recommendation is based on illegal inside information. Cohen never sees the information or knows where the information came from, at least in theory. Cohen also has instant feedback on any trade entered into by any of his portfolio managers. He uses these trades to confirm the confidence level numbers and can then enter his own trades based on all this information. In the case of the pharmaceutical deal, an email containing the phase II drug trial results was sent to Cohen before the official announcement but the government was unable to find this email. They also have phone records of calls during the key periods of the big trades but these are all but useless without the actual phone conversations. The FBI got phone tap orders for Cohen but on the wrong house at the key times. Once Cohen was tipped on the Pharmaceutical trial results he was able to sell a $1 billion position in the two Pharmaceutical companies and to take massive short positions in both companies all without alerting anyone else on Wall Street what he was doing. For this level of activity to go unnoticed is really remarkable.
Like the subprime financial meltdown and the lack of government corrective action, so there is little hope that trading on inside information is likely to end soon. In fact marketing inside information is now its own big industry with organizations like Primary Global Research (PGR) matching those having access to inside information with investors willing to buy that information.
Cohen has a rule that you never enter into a trade if Goldman Sachs is on the other end. For any ordinary trader trying to manage his own personal portfolio the presence of illegal “edge” in the markets makes almost any trade too risky to enter. To inside traders the rest of the trade world are suckers waiting to be fleeced.

Macro Economics 101 From Bretton Woods to the Wall Street Minotaur to the Shock of 2008

July 7th, 2016

And the Weak Suffer What they Must? Europe’s Crisis and America’s Economic Future, Yanis Varoufakis, 2016

White and Keynes at Bretton Woods keynes white battle bretton woods

Shortly after D day in 1944, the allies met at Bretton Woods to hammer out a post war global economic order. The American delegation was led by New Deal economist Harry Dexter White:

Bretton Woods offered White an opportunity to project the New Deal onto a global canvas. His brief for the Bretton Woods conference was nothing less than to design from scratch a stable, viable worldwide financial system for the postwar era.

But the New Deal stabilized capitalism in the US by instituting a broad range of political recycling mechanisms; among them the Federal Reserve, the FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance with the power to restructure failed banks, social security, even the military budget.

John Maynard Keynes attended the conference armed with a plan that would stabilize global capitalism for the long run by creating just such political recycling structures on a global scale. But White, who as a student had been heavily influence by Keynes, was charged to push through a very different and flawed system, totally dependent on America maintaining a global trade surplus and recycling that surplus to deficit nations at the will and whim of the American government. Thus was born the system wherein all other currencies would be tied to the dollar at fixed rates of exchange and the dollar would in turn be tied to gold at $35 an ounce.

By the late 1960’s, America’s trade surplus evaporated as Europe, led by Germany, and Japan started exporting more manufactured goods to the US than the US was exporting to them. This could not continue and in 1971 the Nixon administration, led by Paul Volcker, announced the Nixon Shock, dumping the gold standard and cutting all other currencies loose from the dollar.

volcker nixon shock

The moment men like Paul Volcker saw that political surplus recycling was beyond the American economy’s capacity, they brought the whole damned (Bretton Woods) system down- with the 1971 Nixon shock. For they understood the fallacy that Europe refuses to grasp: if you set up a free trade, free capital and single currency system without a political surplus recycling mechanism, you will end up with something like the 1920’s gold standard.

From the moment that Europe was discarded form America’s comforting postwar dollar zone, European elites struggled to re create the defunct dollar zone within Europe. Never having grasped the lessons that the New Dealers learned during the 1930s and 1940s, European officialdom repeated the same mistakes made during the 1920s, creating an ill designed gold standard like currency in the heart of Europe

It is dangerous error to believe that monetary and economic union can precede a political union or that it will act (in the words of the Werner report) “as a leaven for the evolvement of a political union which in the long run it will in any case be unable to do without. Cambridge economist Nicholas Kaldor 1971

France’s Francois Mitterrand and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher believed that the next big economic shock in Europe would force Europe into a political federation with the creation of political institutions capable of recycling surpluses just as the US has done in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Francois Mitterrand and Margaret Thatcher mitterrand thatcher

Thatcher’s mistake was to assume that Mitterrand’s scheme would succeed. She failed to recognize, as Mitterrand had also failed, that is was not in the European Union’s DNA to carve a federation out of its monetary union’s troubles…Only inefficient, sweeping authoritarianism could emerge from its wooden underbelly.

So, unable to learn from history and unwilling to forget their petty agendas, Europe’s ruling class set out to re-create the gold standard, demonstrating a grandiose failure of perception of what they were doing. Keynes had described the gold standard as a “a dangerous and barbarous relic of a bygone era.” Little did he know that Europe would re-create it in the late 1990’s, thus replicating circumstances ripe for another Great Depression in the 2010’s; and economic crisis that ended up…preventing the very political union that was to have been its antidote.

Lacking a political surplus recycling mechanism, Europe’s monetary union meant that the weakest nations and their frailest citizens had to suffer a sharp contraction the moment Europe’s capitalism went into a spasm in response to financialization’s inescapable seizures. Mitterrand’s original hope (that a future global financial would force upon the euro zone a federal solution) offered any respite from the pitiless reality. By 2010, two years after the type of crisis Mitterrand had in mind, that hope had died out too.

Paul Volcker, now President of the New York Federal Reserve next brilliant move came during the Carter Administration with his little known Warwick speech in which he declared: “A controlled disintegration in the world economy is a legitimate objective for the 1980’s.” Here is what Volcker, about to become Federal Reserve Chairman had in mind:

Volcker’s Controlled Disintegration Paulvolcker warwick Prime Lending Rate

If America cannot recycle its surplus, having slipped into a deficit position back in the mid-1960’s, it must now recycle other people’s surpluses!
The trick for America to gain the power to recycle other countries’ surpluses in the 1980’s, Volcker believed, was to persuade foreign capitalists to voluntarily send their capital to Wall Street…The trick was to hit two usually contradictory targets at once: on the one hand push American interest rates through the roof while on the other, ensuring that Wall Street offered a more lucrative market for investors than its equivalent in London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Paris, or anywhere else.

What do bankers do when such a tsunami of capital comes their way daily? When billions of dollars, net, run through their fingers every morning of each week? They find ways to make it breed on their behalf. Throughout the 1980’s the 1990’s and all the way to 2008, Wall Street took in the daily influx of foreign capital and, on its back, built mountains of derivative trades which, in time, acquired the property of private money.
Financialization, as we now call this process, was the critical byproduct of maintaining and enhancing US dominance on the back of increasing trade imbalances and in the interest of financing America’s ever-expanding twin deficits. It began as froth on top of the stream of profits flowing from Germany and Japan to Wall Street, once Volcker’s “controlled disintegration” of the world economy was taking effect. But soon the froth took over, usurping the underlying stream of actual values, turning finance into the driver and industry into the servant.

Reagan’s Massive Government Spending Program star wars

But things began to go awry after 1986 when American authorities decided to wind back their vacuum cleaner, limiting the rate at which US deficits grew. The recession in the early 1980’s, caused by Volcker’s sky high interest rates and Ronald Reagan’s early budget cuts, frightened the Reagan administration into action. Using the US military budget as its main instrument, Washington effected the most Keynesian macroeconomic expansion in America’s history… The president,who had won the 1980 election by preaching against public spending and in favor of shrinking the state, won reelection in 1984…on the basis of a massive public spending spree.

Undermining New Deal Regulations rubin summers

Enter Bill Clinton in 1993:

The Clinton administration, and especially Robert Rubin and Larry Summers in the National Economic Council and the US Treasury Department respectively, were busily working toward maintaining the Minotaur’s feeding frenzy. America’s deficits kept global capitalism effervescent, creating the illusion of a Great Moderation when underneath the surface, markets were increasingly addicted to America’s growing imbalances. If the American Minotaur’s frantic consumption of other people’s products and money were to end, markets take a hit, banks would go under, and the global economy might keel over. Precisely as it did in 2008.

Global Minotaur global minotaurwall street bull

As we have seen, the birth of America’s global Minotaur needed finance to be liberated so that the beast could do its work (supplying German, Japanese, Swedish, and later Chinese factories with sufficient demand) while also being nourished (by the profit of the German, Japanese, Swedish, and later Chinese factory owners), who sent them streaming into Wall Street.

The banker’s emancipation from their New Deal fetters was both a symptom and prerequisite for the new phase of American dominance. Who else but the bankers could facilitate the vast capital transfers, the perpetual tsunami of capital necessary to satiate American deficits that had to keep growing in order to maintain the illusion of what Ben Bernanke, one of Volcker’s successors, named the Great Moderation? Fair-weather recycling writ large, had taken over globally from the planned, political recycling that was the essence of the Bretton Woods system. Though this was never going to end well, it had the capacity to put the global economy on a spending spree that lasted three decades before crashing down in 2008.

During the same period, from the 1990s onward, Europe’s banks were copying the practices of the Anglo-sphere’s all-singing all-dancing financial sector, without having the safety net of a Federal Reserve, or a Bank of England, or even a Bank of Japan to catch them when the inevitable fall from grace occurred. The combination of the euro zone’s flimsy monetary architecture and the imperatives of Anglo-Saxon financialization, which infect the Parisian and Frankfurt banks under the noses of Brussels and Frankfurt, produced a reliance on money markets that Europe’s monetary union could not withstand.

Of American Officials views, Varoufakis notes:

They know America no longer has the power to stabilize the world economy by itself. They understand that Europe’s policies are detrimental to America’s future. And they are frustrated that their European interlocutors are not only ignorant of simple macroeconomic laws, but, curiously that they are not even ashamed of their ignorance.

Ponzi Austerity austerity

The European monetary union’s reaction to the 2008 crisis was to create the mother of all Ponzi schemes Ponzi austerity:

These toxic transfers (of bank debt into taxpayer debt), effected in the name of European solidarity, led to a death dance of insolvent banks and bankrupt states, and couples that were sequentially marched off the cliff of competitive austerity. Deflation, ultra-low investment, social fragmentation and rising poverty ensured that large sections of proud European nations, most the weakest of their citizenry, were dragged into the contemporary equivalent of the Victorian poorhouse.

Allen Dulles, Pioneer to the dark side and faithful servant to the Ruling Class

February 27th, 2016

The Devil’s Chessboard, Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Rise of America’s Secret Government, David Talbot, 2015

This book is a reminder that our government’s journey to the dark side did not begin with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and W, or even with Henry Kissinger and Nixon. No its real roots go back to the OSS in WWII and to one man in particular, Allen Dulles.

kennedy duless

Any book dealing with Allen Dulles must also include his older brother John Foster Dulles. We will take Talbot’s nomenclature and use “Dulles” when referring to Allen, and “Foster” when referring to John Foster. There was also a brilliant younger sister Eleanor Dulles who was a lifelong diplomat and ambassador to Bonn Germany under Eisenhower. The Dulles clan were the children of a Presbyterian minister and Dulles sometimes referred to himself as the Calvinist.

Eleanor recalled a childhood incident summering on lake Ontario when Dulles was ten, Eleanor eight, and Nataline five. Nataline was playing with a rock when she fell into the lake. Eleanor screamed but Dulles, a strong swimmer, stood passively on the dock observing the struggling sister. He never moved but the mother, hearing Eleanor, ran from the house to rescue Nataline.

oss 55 and Carl Jung Agent 488 carl-jung

Dulles joined the OSS in WWII and assigned himself to serve in Bern Switzerland. His own wife Clover called Dulles the “shark” and she and Dulles’ long time mistress Mary Bancroft (they became close friends) sought counseling from Carl Jung in Switzerland. Jung observed in Dulles the disturbing mix of magnetism and ruthlessness common to dictators but Dulles had an impenetrable blankness making him hard to read. Other people, for Dulles, were either useful or nonexistent. Dulles was not capable of experiencing love. Only power was real to him. Dulles met Jung in 1943 and gave Jung an OSS spy number, Agent 488.

When Dulles’s brilliant only son Allen Jr., an Oxford graduate, failed to win affection or even attention from his father, he volunteered for the Korean War and was seriously brain damaged. Dulles subjected his son to CIA brain control researchers first with the notorious Dr. Wolff at Cornell and later with the equally notorious McGill University psychiatric facility. Clover finally intervened, moving Allen Jr. to a private institution in Switzerland where he remained until Dulles death. Allen Jr. was terrified of his father. Was Dulles a sociopath or a psychopath? Talbot never uses either term.

The Dulles brothers both worked at the Sullivan and Cromwell Wall Street Law Firm where Foster was the top executive. After WWI the firm developed a deep understanding of Swiss banking and played a central role in arranging German reparation contracts for leading German industrial firms like the cartels IG Farbin and Krupp steel. The brothers knew the key players in both Switzerland and Germany. It was no accident that Dulles positioned himself in Switzerland during WWII. For their entire lives, the Dulles brothers put their Sullivan and Cromwell clients and other American elite families like the Rockefellers, the Fords, the Carnegies, the Morgans ahead of the interests of their government. They remained throughout their lives faithful and trustworthy servants and stewards to those C Wright Mills referred to in his 1956 masterpiece as The Power Elite. Their class were almost exclusively ivy league educated WASPS belonging to the proper clubs.

C Wright Mills c wright mills

The men of the highest circles are not representative men; their high position is not a result of moral virtue; their fabulous success is not firmly connected with meritorious ability…They are not men shaped by nationally responsible parties that debate openly and clearly the issues this nation now so unintelligently confronts. They are not men held in responsible check by a plurality of volunteer associations which connect debating publics with the pinnacles of decision. Commanders of power unequaled in human history, they have succeeded within the American system of organized irresponsibility.

from The Power Elite

FDR was considered a traitor to their class because of his “radical New Deal” policies and they worked actively to ignore or undermine his policies. When FDR announced that only unconditional surrender would end WWII, Dulles acted treasonously to negotiate a truce with the fascists in Italy and attempted the same with the Nazis in Germany. He felt only existing right wing leaders in Italy and Germany would be able to withstand the encroachment of hated communism in both countries.

After FDR’s death in 1945, the Dulles brothers and their power elite set out to purge the government of all New Deal supporters. One of those recruited by Dulles for this purpose was Richard Nixon. Nixon was a Californian with Quaker roots and educated at Whittier College and Duke Law School. He applied to top law firms in New York in 1937 including Sullivan and Cromwell and received no offers (wrong class) an experience that left him bitter for the rest of his life. In 1945, naval officer Nixon was sorting through Nazi papers in an old torpedo factory in Alexandria when he found documents showing how the Dulles brothers laundered Nazi funds during the war. Nixon did what any patriotic military officer would do, he blackmailed Dulles. In return for his silence about the documents, Dulles would sponsor Nixon in the 1946 congressional race run against Jerry Voorhis, leader the the progressive caucus and one the the most powerful New Dealers in Congress. Dulles corporate friends supported Nixon lavishly and he won the election taking significant cash and a new car to Washington.

Alger Hiss hearings alger hiss

Nixon then went after New Dealer and FDR high ranking State Dept official Alger Hiss. Foster had just appointed Hiss to head the Carnegie endowment but Hiss had embarrassed Nixon in front of the HUAC and Nixon wanted revenge. Nixon discovered incriminating documents hidden in a pumpkin and Hiss career was finished. President Nixon later bragged to his staff how he had forged the documents.

truman dewey

The Dulles brothers expected to take over the State Department and CIA with the election of Dewey in 1948. When Truman won a surprising victory, Dulles had to look elsewhere. In 1949 Dulles founded an obscure intelligence outpost in the State Department meaninglessly named the Office of Policy Coordination. Dulles maneuvered Frank Wisner into position as OPC Chief and by 1952 OPC was operating 47 overseas stations and employed 3000 people. It specialized in the black arts of espionage sabotage, subversion, and assassination. Money for its operations came from Nazi loot that Dulles had access to. Many of its recruits were ex-Nazis. The OPC operated with no oversight or supervision. Few even knew it existed.

dulles eisenhower

In 1952 Foster went to London to convince Eisenhower, then head of NATO, to run for President. Foster simply bored Eisenhower and Churchill wickedly quipped, Dull, Duller, Dulles. Nevertheless Eisenhower ran and won and the Dulles era was launched in 1953. Dulles thought the HUAC was useful in the effort to purge New Deal government employee and he counted on Nixon to hold McCarthy in check. But no one could control McCarthy and he immediately attacked the Eisenhower administration starting with Foster’s State Department. Foster also felt cleaning New Dealers from his State Department was important and cooperated with the HUAC, even initiating purges of his own. State Department morale dropped to an all time low as countless careers were crushed. The US Information Service (USIS) was almost totally decimated and its libraries around the globe badly censored of material. Even the music of Aaron Copland (Appalachian Spring, Billie the Kid, etc.) was banned. When McCarthy turned to the tougher Dulles CIA the story was a little different. Dulles initially ignored or misplaced the HUAC subpoenas and when McCarthy refused to take the hint, Dulles went to McCarthy’s capital hill office to confront McCarthy with the extensive intimate dossier the CIA had assembled on McCarthy’s homosexual activities. McCarthy backed off the CIA and his ultimate downfall and Senate censure followed. McCarthy drank himself to death soon after.

The Dulles brothers sabotaged the government’s antitrust case against big oil’s Seven Sisters by having the case moved to Foster’s state department where it languished. Dulles organized the overthrow of the democratically elected Mossadegh’s government in Iran because they nationalized British oil production and cancelled a $650 million contract with Sullivan and Cromwell client Overseas Consultants. Eisenhower resisted efforts to overthrow the Iran government until the brothers convinced him that Iran’s oil was at risk of falling into communist hands. This new tactic worked magic with administrations for decades. Teddy’s grandson Kermit Roosevelt headed the coup efforts for the CIA and when the Shah ran away to Rome, Dulles went personally to escort him back to Iran and put him back on his Peacock throne. In 1954, CIAs Howard Hunt (of Bay of Pigs and Watergate fame) was sent to Guatemala to overthrow the legitimate Arbenz government because he had promised to redistribute unused United Fruit (another Sullivan and Cromwell client) lands to the people of Guatemala. United Fruit would have been compensated under the plan. Again Eisenhower bought into the fallacious threat of communist takeover argument. Then in 1956, CIA contractors picked up Columbia professor Jesus de Galindez who had written a 750 page dissertation critical of Dominican Republic dictator Trujillo, from the streets of Manhatten and flew him to the Dominican Republic where he was handed over to Trujillo who tortured and murdered the scholar. This is the first documented case of CIA Extraordinary Rendition.

This was the era of two revealing movies The Manchurian Candidate about mind control, and Dr. Strangelove.

CIA no match for Castro castro bay of pigs

After 8 years of continuous black ops, Dulles planned the ill fated Bay of Pigs invasion to overthrow Castro in Cuba that internal CIA assessments knew was doomed to failure. The CIA could never have successfully conducted an operation of this scale and against combat hardened well armed troops. Eisenhower amazingly approved the shoddy third rate plan scheduled to take place shortly after the inauguration of the new President JFK. Talbot says it was as if Eisenhower intentionally handed Kennedy a live grenade with the pin pulled. JFK, against the best advise of his team, kept Dulles and Hoover in their jobs upon assuming office but after the Bay of Pigs, for which Kennedy had to take full responsibility, Dulles career at the CIA was finished. Dulles, to the end of his life acted and was received by top CIA officials as if he still ran the agency. The CIA ran a black ops site near Williamsburg nicknamed the farm where Dulles kept an office til near his death in 1969.

Eisenhower had changed while in office. He no longer kept contact with his long time military friends but spent his spare time in the company of the power elite, most famously at Augusta National Golf Club. He embraced coups, assassinations, and other black ops as an inexpensive alternative to costly military action and also embraced massive nuclear retaliation as a reasonable response to soviet aggression. Kennedy promised a different future in this 1957 speech.

The most powerful single force in the world today is neither communism nor capitalism, neither the H-bomb nor the guided missile–it is man’s eternal desire to be free and independent. The great enemy of that tremendous force of freedom is called, for want of a more precise term, imperialism–and today that means Soviet imperisam and, whether we like it or not, and though they are not to be equated, Western imperialism…If we fail to meet the challenge of either Soviet or Western imperialism, then no amount of foreign aid, no aggrandizement of armaments, no new pacts or doctrines, or high-level conferences can prevent further setbacks to our course and to our security.

Congo President Patrice Lumumba lumumba lumumba stamp

Kennedy was a supporter of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first democratically elected leader following Belgium’s brutal colonial rule. In an act of incredible insubordination, Dulles went ahead with a CIA plan to kidnap Lumumba and hand him over to his enemies. Dulles was again acting on the wishes of Sullivan and Cromwell client firms with interests in the Congo. Lumumba was horribly tortured and killed but it was more than a month before Kennedy was told of his death.

Warren Commission Controlled by Dulles – Report Widely Discredited warren_report

Almost a third of this more than 600 page work is given to the assassination of the Kennedy brothers. This reader does not follow the research or theories of these events so is uncomfortable commenting on Talbot’s discussion. Talbot clearly believes JFK’s murder was a CIA, FBI, Secret Service conspiracy and a coup d’etat. He thinks RFK, an avid follower of all the research and writing on the JFK assassination did not support reopening the investigation because of the power of those responsible. RFK thought only if he were to occupy the white house would he be able to bring those responsible to justice. Talbot discusses the Jim Garrison New Orleans research which was the subject of Oliver Stone’s movie JFK . Federal agencies in Washington refused to provide documents to Garrison and others who were interested in further investigation like RFK were afraid to join Garrison’s efforts.

RFK’s assassination was eerily similar to that of his brother – problems with facts and evidence, fouled up investigations, and cover-ups. According to Talbot’s research both assassins had to be CIA patsies neither capable of executing anyone. Sirhan Sirhan may have even been drugged and pushed into place because he was totally incoherent at the time and later had no recall of events. During RFK’s assassination, fifteen shots were fired and the fatal shot came from the wrong direction, etc., etc. Dulles very cynically kept up a friendly exchange of letters with Teddy Kennedy after the RFK assassination, no doubt to assure himself that Teddy would not turn into the next big threat to investigate the assassinations.

De Gaulle at JFK’s funeral JFK funeral 1963

Talbot found an interesting quote published in France only in 2002 from Charles de Gaulle, who survived an attempted assassination in 1961 as dramatized in the movie Day of the Jackal.

America is in danger of upheavals. But you’ll see. All of them together will observe the law of silence. They will close ranks. They’ll do everything to stifle any scandal. They will throw Noah’s cloak over these shameful deeds. In order to not lose face in front of the whole world. In order not risk unleashing riots in the United States. In order to preserve the union and to avoid a new civil war. In order not to ask themselves questions. They don’t want to know. They don’t want to find out. They won’t allow themselves to find out.

The CIA’s Gray Ghost angelton
A minor character in the book is OSS spy James Jesus Angleton who met Dulles in Rome in WWII and remained Dulles life long acolyte. On his deathbed in 1987:

Fundamentally, the founding fathers of U.S. intelligence were liars. The better you lied and more you betrayed, the more likely you were to be promoted…Outside their duplicity, the only thing they had in common was a desire for absolute power. I did things that, in looking back on my life, I regret. But I was a part of it and loved being in it…Dulles, Helms, Wisner–these men were the “grand masters”. If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell. I guess I will see them soon.