“Only Now, as i write this, do i realize how i to was fooled by that optical illusion. I went half way around the world in my compulsion to respond to (/11. But the greatest national security threat was not terrorism, it was right here on Wall Street.”
“In the United States, serious and damaging corruption is not getting punished. That means, by default, we deem it to be just fine.”
it was about time. The global police officer is actually the primary offender. Nothing new here, the bodies have long since piled high. But reputation & reality violently skew from the self-congratulating sanctimony that blithers & blares out of America’s global loudspeaker. The volume & severity of poverty & deprivation within the country alone was enough to wipe this claim clean-off its feet, but the still expanding crime against humanity of the countries uniquely repellent Industrial Prison Complex, that sees a nation with one fifth of the worlds population simultaneously possessing twenty-five-percent of its planets prisoners – & turning a profit from their confinement. The Land of the Free & Leader of the Free World, a rich first-world nation, has authenticity issues – hence the need to bellow such platitudes, fraudulence & utter travesty at every given opportunity to drown-out & gloss-over the screams of the dead, dying & wasted from the countries pooling underclass who are fodder for the machine.
& that’s really just the front entrance of it all.
“Corruption is not an isolated scandal or even a whole stack of them. Corruption is better understood as the deliberate mode of function –the operating system,you might say—of sophisticated, and astonishingly successful, networks.”
So who’s Sarah Chayes? On paper it does not look so good – a US policy wonk & security expert with an esteemed career as a reporter for NPR with affiliations to the Pentagon & Carnegie Endowment institution, who specialized in researching international corruption & was a specialist adviser to the US chief of defense in Afghanistan (Admiral Mike Mullen). She is regarded as an expert on corruption.
However, appearances/associations can be misleading, & as much as “the institution” is, quite rightly, identified & amalgamated with corruption, I can tell you that Chayes is a character of extraordinary bravery, knowledge, decency & authenticity.
This is her third publication, the two books she produced previously – Thieves of State & The Punishment of Virtue – are exceptional works of writing, analysis & reasoning.
Outstandingly written, enormously revealing, stupendously researched & genuinely bold – they remain a milestone, & Thieves of State in particular should be read by anybody with a serious interest in corruption as a distinct phenomenon.
“So enfeebled, what do the enforcers still enforce? With limited resources, they go for smaller fry. My neighbors out fishing are more likely to get a citation for a leaky onboard than the insulation factory a few towns over for swilling gallons of formaldehyde into a river.”
Although her two previous books were mostly concentrated on “the developing world” (with a particularly detailed lens on Central Asia, including of course Afghanistan (where Chayes actually lived for ten years), her references, attribution of major responsibilities &, at times, – withering criticism – towards the US & other occidental nations was stark. In fact, using remarkably skilled & diplomatic language & writing, Chayes delivered some of the most gracefully ferocious condemnation for western failures & culpability for creating crisis along with scoring standards & practices that would inspire or solicit global corruption, insecurity & conflict.
This quality, along with the power & excellence of her writing, experience & historical research left me eager & urging for one thing – write a book/concentrate exclusively on your own damn country, as it is quite feasibly the most monstrous of them all.
& then bang! That is exactly what she has finally done.
“For, if this plunge into the history of the Gilded Age delivers one certainty, it is this: there is no way to access infinite wealth without rigging the system. No one becomes a a billionaire honestly.”
“Private-sector members of Gilded Age had secured key posts in government in earlier years. In fact, doing so is central to kleptocratic networks’ operating system.”
Beyond allegiances or political preferences, if we are going to be honest about corruption & harm over the last century, it’s effect, its influence, its promotion, its normalization, its export – the true “Axis of Evil” has to be the USA, the United Kingdom, Israel & Saudi Arabia. For pure murder rate, state terrorism, war, & accumulated casualties (impoverishment, insecurity, conflict, displacement) & the key enablers & actors, these countries legacies are indisputable as the apex offenders who both set & continually “outride” the accepted standards. An increasingly repulsive gang of contenders are now vying in this “depravity contest” (China, Russia, India etc), but the margin & paradigm was pioneered & perfected by the latter more than any others.
“Subjecting a ruler to the rule of law was the first way a coalition of subordinates successfully slapped down its apex alpha dominator in a modern, complex society. It was the first step humans took to reassert their unique egalitarian ethos after centuries of submitting to apelike hierarchy in kingdoms and empires. The second cornerstone of democracy – the vote – came only later. Kleptocratic networks seek to suborn both.”
The invisible plutocracy, stealth extremism, profound dishonesty, hyper hypocrisy & callous corporatocracy that has sequestered & stripped America’s democratic & constitutional political system, construct & core intentions –whilst the veneer remains in place – are now resulting in real-time meltdown, with consequences far beyond America’s disintegrating shores.
The nightmare colostomy confluence of the Trump suppuration was a nadir-like result of thus – like a violent vomit reaction after years of poison absorption. & although it was conduced with critical support from outside entities (Russia, Israel & the United Kingdom through Cambridge Analytica’s surreptitious digital-rigging & mass, targeted psychometric interventionism), it is really America’s own calcified corruption that has permitted this putrescence. During the worst episodes of obscenity in the ensuing Trump abomination, I would often think “Chayes must be having a fucking heart attack over this outlandish lunacy!”.
Trump features here, as a culmination or advanced symptom of a rampaging disease in it’s developed stages. How did it get this bad & how was the way greased & primed for such utter & outright atrocity & abhorrence?
“Was the Anti-corruption Commission actively weaponized – aimed like an artillery piece at threats to the network? Or was it just made ineffectual? Was the Education Ministry primarily a source of revenue – through bribes for grades, consulting positions for professors, accreditations to sub-standard for profit schools? Or did it provide some other service, such as a badge of credibility for unqualified network members or the ideas they were peddling?”
No explanation would be anywhere near accurate without the persecution of the immeasurably insidious Koch brothers, David (now deceased) & Charles, of Koch Industries, the USA’s ultimate homegrown domestic extremists & Libertarian terrorists. This crippling malignant hex – that has blackened & blighted America to the self-immolating absurdity that currently festers, after decades of shadow-based legal, political & policy based sabotage, confiscation & reformation, that has been inflicted almost entirely incognito, behind closed doors & without the public’s knowledge or consent – is given ample column inches in Corruption in America, as is only right.
This is not as obvious as one might expect, as the Koch’s, like so many of the most virulent threats & abusers, have carefully established a personal stronghold of both exemption & impunity to prevent prosecution & even detection.
Despite the Koch ideology & practice being the absolute negative antithesis of the countries publicly asserted values, protections, standards, ambitions & the “quality of life” afforded to its citizens (a very tenuous precept, often AWOL), it is allowed to not just operate but flourish.
I will never understand.
“We reinforce better values by ceasing to assume that if someone is spectacularly rich, he must be smarter and more hardworking than the rest of us. Instead, we should view such people with suspicion. If there is one thing work on this book has taught me, it is this: it is impossible to become a billionaire without bending the rules. Most of the members of that calss run their operations and live their lives in ways that injure our communities. Most are trying to rig the system even further. These are not upstanding citizens. They are parasites and freeloaders – however they try to justify themselves. We do not owe them deference.”
Charles Koch & his minions should have been treated with the same urgency (if not more) as Al-Qaeda, as a real & top priority threat to the nation & it’s “way of life”, & the Marines/Navy Seals or whichever military/intelligence or law enforcement component should have been sent in to neutralize him in the manner they did Osama Bin Laden. In terms of ginormous detriment, harm & impairment to the country, & how many American lives lost, ruined, & living standards destroyed, Charles Koch & his malignant organization far, far exceed that of Al-Qaeda or any other foreign terrorist network or adversary, & by a massive, massive, massive margin.
Chayes actually has the courage to identify the corruption & danger this monstrous organized criminal poses, which I can tell you, is not that common for people in her field for fear of their career.
“The ‘money primary’ – the shocking cost of elections – already blocks anyone who is not part of the dominator coalition, or is not at least comfortable around its members, from entering the race at all.”
Other super pernicious characters that have secured their own immunity such as the excrescent Alan Dershowitz also make appearances in the book. I can only hope that the law is closing in on these open-sewers that consolidate & embolden decay with their graphic displays of accepted public corruption & moral collapse.
“Elections don’t really reflect a clash between voters with different visions for improving American lives. Elections boil down ‘conflicts within the business community’ -or, framed another way, to rivalry among business networks.”
This woman’s work is extraordinary. Her knowledge, expertly gathered, well assessed, ranging from familiar to esoteric, fearless in its gaze & seemingly unhindered by the pervasive restrictives afforded to “special interest” individuals & their organizations that constrain & mute so much in the field.
the heads need to start tumbling. The sprawling casualties, the rank defilement of “founding principles”, the sheer criminality & inhumanity, the lack of consequences for the gravest & most ghastly offenders & their repulsive retinues must not go unpunished. & Charles Koch/Koch Industries has to be one of the first to fall.
“So, to recap. While single-handedly denying aged former coal miners their meager pensions for years, Mitch McConnell steered the money that could have gone for that purpose to a prospective factory whose product – rolled aluminum – is vital in the construction of U.S. Military seagoing vessels and aircraft. That plant would be largely owned by a Russian conglomerate tied in several ways to Vladimir Putin and -like McConnell’s in-laws – to the Chinese politico-military hierarchy, both U.S. Adversaries.”
Sarah Chayes, 2020, Hurst & Company, 306 pages