Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, January 2017
“The secret of great fortunes without apparent cause is a crime forgotten, for it was properly done.” H. Balzac
Among the current crop of Wall Street financiers, Laurence “Larry” Fink has received the greatest number of awards and plaudits. He is the CEO and Chairman of Black Rock (BR), the world’s largest multinational investment management corporation. By 2016, BR had over $5 trillion dollars under management with over 12,000 employees in 70 offices in 30 countries serving clients in 100 countries.
Fink has dominated Wall Street. He holds more assets than his biggest established competitors, because he had the political power to direct the enormous Washington bailout of Wall Street in 2009. He helped shape Hillary Clinton’s emerging Treasury Department team and policies, anticipating her presidential victory. Under a President Hillary Clinton, Fink’s political control would have matched his global economic empire. According to the Economist, Aladdin, the BlackRock electronic subsidiary, monitors 7% of the world’s 225 trillion dollar financial assets.
In the mass media and among the economic elite, Fink is a genius, a self-made empire builder, who has succeeded because he picks the winners and dumps the losers. He is a life-long Democratic Party contributor, although he works with and through both parties and a variety of high ranking government officials and financial CEO’s.
As head of the most influential financial institution in the world, with institutional investors comprising over 65% of its assets, Laurence Fink controls the economic lives of many millions of pensioners, workers, employees and managers. Having risen to the pinnacle of financial power, he wields enormous political influence in shaping fundamental economic decisions. Fink’s economic empire is well-known: the financial elite and business publications are awed by his successes.
There is another side of the Rise of Fink. He has consistently cost his employers and clients millions of dollars in losses while never losing his aura of success! His economic empire is less a result of his economic skills and competitiveness and more a result of his political connections and trillion-dollar state contracts. Fink’s most famous financial product, mortgage-based securities led to the biggest collapse in world financial markets since the Great Depression.
Larry Fink is the best example of how an investment loser can become a ‘double’ W (Wall Street – Washington) emperor. Early on Larry Fink demonstrated his flair for incompetence. During his first position with the First Boston Corporation, Fink lost $100 million by betting the wrong way on interest rates.
After a ‘gentleman’s departure’ Fink co-founded BlackRock (BR) in 1988. He proceeded to grow BR by acquiring or merging with lucrative rivals – but not by investing in factories and productive employment. In 2003 Fink merged with Merrill Lynch, doubling BR asset management. The ‘Genius’ Fink, invested $5.4 billion dollars to purchase Peter Cooper Village in Manhattan, the massive residential complex, built by Metropolitan Life in the 1940’s. It was heralded as the largest real estate deal in US housing history. The project ended in default, BR clients lost their money, and the California Pension and Retirement system (CALPERS) was out $500 million dollars under Larry’s stewardship. Undaunted, BR continued to grow by merging with PNC Financial Services Group, Barclay’s Global Investors and numerous other financial specialists in speculative ‘products’.
But the big deal propelling Fink into the ‘Thirteen digits’ (trillions) occurred in 2009 when newly elected Barack Obama awarded BlackRock with the Government contract to direct the ‘three-trillion dollar’ bailout of big financial companies and to manage the bankruptcy of others. Perhaps because of Fink’s deep ties with top senior officials, the contract was awarded without competitive bidding. Equally important, because of Fink’s ties with the biggest bankers, he facilitated the flow of Treasury trillions to the banks to be ‘bailed out’ while allowing other smaller banks and investment houses to go ‘belly up’ in a process dubbed ‘the cleanup after the meltdown’. BR would naturally buyout these assets at ‘fire sale’ prices. Millions and billions led to trillions on the BR ledgers. By 2010, Fink’s genius status grew and so did the number of wealthy pension funds and major institutional investors in his portfolio– despite his major losses in the recent past – (as Balzac would note, memories do not include ‘crimes properly done’.
Thus, Larry Fink became the most prominent former deadhead turned trillion-dollar speculator. Despite the influx of trillions, BR faces a new, bigger and more dangerous ‘mistaken’ decision. Fink has ploughed hundreds of billions in client funds in Exchange Traded Funds (ETF), which are likely to take a dive as they overvalue and are under pressure to deflate.
Black Rock has been extraordinarily profitable because of Fink’s unique political, social and ethnic ‘identity’ ties to the US Treasury Department. In May 2009, the Fink-Treasury connection resulted in BlackRock receiving the ‘contract’ to manage the cleanup of ‘toxic’ mortgage assets amounting to an astronomical trillion-dollar chunk of business. In other words, Fink’s company would analyze, unwind and assign value onto billions of dollars of assets owned by Bear Stearns, AIG, Freddie Mac, Morgan Stanley and other lucrative firms. Fink would ‘unwind’ the assets and rewind them into his mega fund; he could set prices favoring BR’s market position.
Fink’s history of mediocre market performance was no obstacle to his success because the political links more than compensated – they guaranteed a bonanza for BR.
The business press provided a veneer of technological and mathematical competence, which they cited as the basis for Fink’s/BR trillion dollar success story.
But the historic and contemporary reality of the political-economic success of the big financial houses depends on their political control over the US Treasury. Their ability to trade and get rich depends on a system of favorable state and federal rules (deregulation, taxes, etc.), which establish the necessary framework for the paper economy. This system is light years away from the ‘real’ economy of factories and stable, well-paying jobs for the citizenry.
Fink has turned BR into an empire by spending his time and energy in the politics of controlling and milking the US Treasury. Controlling this activity is more influential than the President of the United States or Pentagon in deciding who among the elite wins and who loses!
Once at the top, legions of journalists and academic courtesans will busily polish the stars in the financial firmament, covering up their failures and turning their political connections into hymns of praise for the ‘hard work and commitment’ of the self-made genius. This spectacle indeed will dazzle the eyes and judgment of lesser speculators. While the same pundits write extensively about the political leaders and lesser economic titans, the more the Larry Finks of Wall Street remain invisible to the citizenry, the greater their political control over the trillion dollar Treasury!
The Coup against Trump and His Military – Wall Street Defense
A coup has been underway to prevent President-Elect Donald Trump from taking office and fulfilling his campaign promise to improve US-Russia relations. This ‘palace coup’ is not a secret conspiracy, but an open, loud attack on the election. The coup involves important US elites, who openly intervene on many levels from the street to the current President, from sectors of the intelligence community, billionaire financiers out to the more marginal ‘leftist’ shills of the Democratic Party.
The build-up for the coup is gaining momentum, threatening to eliminate normal constitutional and democratic constraints. This essay describes the brazen, overt coup and the public operatives, mostly members of the outgoing Obama regime.
The second section describes the Trump’s cabinet appointments and the political measures that the President-Elect has adopted to counter the coup. We conclude with an evaluation of the potential political consequences of the attempted coup and Trump’s moves to defend his electoral victory and legitimacy.
The Coup as ‘Process’
In the past few years Latin America has experienced several examples of the seizure of Presidential power by unconstitutional means, which may help illustrate some of the current moves underway in Washington. These are especially interesting since the Obama Administration served as the ‘midwife’ for these ‘regime changes’.
Brazil, Paraguay, Honduras and Haiti experienced coups, in which the elected Presidents were ousted through a series of political interventions orchestrated by economic elites and their political allies in Congress and the Judiciary.
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton were deeply involved in these operations as part of their established foreign policy of ‘regime change’. Indeed, the ‘success’ of the Latin American coups has encouraged sectors of the US elite to attempt to prevent President-elect Trump from taking office in January.
While similarities abound, the on-going coup against Trump in the United States occurs within a very different power configuration of proponents and antagonists.
Firstly, this coup is not against a standing President, but targets an elected president set to take office on January 20, 2017. Secondly, the attempted coup has polarized leading sectors of the political and economic elite. It even exposes a seamy rivalry within the intelligence-security apparatus, with the political appointees heading the CIA involved in the coup and the FBI supporting the incoming President Trump and the constitutional process. Thirdly, the evolving coup is a sequential process, which will build momentum and then escalate very rapidly.
Coup-makers depend on the ‘Big Lie’ as their point of departure – accusing President-Elect Trump of 1) being a Kremlin stooge, attributing his electoral victory to Russian intervention against his Democratic Party opponent, Hillary Clinton and 2) blatant voter fraud in which the Republican Party prevented minority voters from casting their ballot for Secretary Clinton.
The first operatives to emerge in the early stages of the coup included the marginal-left Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein, who won less than 1% of the vote, as well as the mass media.
In the wake of her resounding defeat, Candidate Stein usurped authority from the national Green Party and rapidly raked in $8 million dollars in donations from Democratic Party operatives and George Soros-linked NGO’s (many times the amount raised during her Presidential campaign). This dodgy money financed her demand for ballot recounts in selective states in order to challenge Trump’s victory. The recounts failed to change the outcome, but it was a ‘first shot across the bow’, to stop Trump. It became a propaganda focus for the neo-conservative mass media to mobilize several thousand Clintonite and liberal activists.
The purpose was to undermine the legitimacy of Trump’s electoral victory. However, Jill Stein’s $8 million dollar shilling for Secretary Clinton paled before the oncoming avalanche of mass media and NGO propaganda against Trump. Their main claim was that anonymous ‘Russian hackers’ and not the American voters had decided the US Presidential election of November 2016!
The ‘Big Lie’ was repeated and embellished at every opportunity by the print and broadcast media. The ‘experts’ were trotted out voicing vitriolic accusations, but they never presented any facts and documentation of a ‘rigged election’. Everyday, every hour, the ‘Russian Plot’ was breathlessly described in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Financial Times, CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, BBC, NPR and their overseas followers in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Oceana and Africa. The great American Empire looked increasingly like a ‘banana republic’.
Like the Billionaire Soros-funded ‘Color Revolutions’, from Ukraine, to Georgia and Yugoslavia, the ‘Rainbow Revolt’ against Trump, featured grass-roots NGO activists and ‘serious leftists’, like Jill Stein.
The more polished political operatives from the upscale media used their editorial pages to question Trump’s illegitimacy. This established the ground work for even higher level political intervention: The current US Administration, including President Obama, members of the US Congress from both parties, and current and former heads of the CIA jumped into the fray. As the vote recount ploy flopped, they all decided that ‘Vladimir Putin swung the US election!’ It wasn’t just lunatic neo-conservative warmongers who sought to oust Trump and impose Hillary Clinton on the American people, liberals and social democrats were screaming ‘Russian Plot!’ They demanded a formal Congressional investigation of the ‘Russian cyber hacking’ of Hillary’s personal e-mails (where she plotted to cheat her rival ‘Bernie Sanders’ in the primaries). They demanded even tighter economic sanctions against Russia and increased military provocations. The outgoing Democratic Senator and Minority Leader ‘Harry’ Reid wildly accused the FBI of acting as ‘Russian agents’ and hinted at a purge.
The coup intensified as Trump-Putin became synonymous for “betrayal” and “election fraud”.
As this approached a crescendo of media hysteria, President Barack Obama stepped in and called on the CIA to seize domestic control of the investigation of Russian manipulation of the US election – essentially accusing President-Elect Trump of conspiring with the Russian government. Obama refused to reveal any proof of such a broad plot, citing ‘national security’.
President Obama solemnly declared the Trump-Putin conspiracy was a grave threat to American democracy and Western security and freedom. He darkly promised to retaliate against Russia, “...at a time and place of our choosing”.
Obama also pledged to send more US troops to the Middle East and increase arms shipments to the jihadi terrorists in Syria, as well as the Gulf State and Saudi ‘allies’. Coincidentally, the Syrian Government and their Russian allies were poised to drive the US-backed terrorists out of Aleppo – and defeat Obama’s campaign of ‘regime change’ in Syria.
Trump Strikes Back: The Wall Street- Military Alliance
Meanwhile, President-Elect Donald Trump did not crumple under the Clintonite-coup in progress. He prepared a diverse counter-attack to defend his election, relying on elite allies and mass supporters.
Trump denounced the political elements in the CIA, pointing out their previous role in manufacturing the justifications (he used the term ‘lies’) for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. He appointed three retired generals to key Defense and Security positions – indicating a power struggle between the highly politicized CIA and the military. Active and retired members of the US Armed Forces have been key Trump supporters. He announced that he would bring his own security teams and integrate them with the Presidential Secret Service during his administration.
Although Clinton-Obama had the major mass media and a sector of the financial elite who supported the coup, Trump countered by appointing several key Wall Street and corporate billionaires into his cabinet who had their own allied business associations.
One propaganda line for the coup, which relied on certain Zionist organizations and leaders (ADL, George Soros et al), was the bizarre claim that Trump and his supporters were ‘anti-Semites’. This was were countered by Trump’s appointment of powerful Wall Street Zionists like Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary and Gary Cohn (both of Goldman Sachs) to head the National Economic Council. Faced with the Obama-CIA plot to paint Trump as a Russian agent for Vladimir Putin, the President-Elect named security hardliners including past and present military leaders and FBI officials, to key security and intelligence positions.
The Coup: Can it succeed?
In early December, President Obama issued an order for the CIA to ‘complete its investigation’ on the Russian plot and manipulation of the US Presidential election in six weeks – right up to the very day of Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017! A concoction of pre-cooked ‘findings’ is already oozing out of secret clandestine CIA archives with the President’s approval. Obama’s last-ditch effort will not change the outcome of the election. Clearly this is designed to poison the diplomatic well and present Trump’s incoming administration as dangerous. Trump’s promise to improve relations with Russia will face enormous resistance in this frothy, breathless hysteria of Russophobia.
Ultimately, President Obama is desperate to secure his legacy, which has consisted of disastrous and criminal imperial wars and military confrontations. He wants to force a continuation of his grotesque policies onto the incoming Trump Administration. Will Trump succumb? The legitimacy of his election and his freedom to make policy will depend on overcoming the Clinton-Obama-neo-con-leftist coup with his own bloc of US military and the powerful Wall Street allies, as well as his mass support among the ‘angry’ American electorate. Trump’s success at thwarting the current ‘Russian ploy’ requires his forming counter alliances with Washington plutocrats, many of whom will oppose any diplomatic agreement with Putin. Trump’s appointment of hardline economic plutocrats who are deeply committed to shredding social programs (public education, Medicare, Social Security) could ignite the anger of his mass supporters by savaging their jobs, health care, pensions and their children’s future.
If Trump defeats the avalanching media, CIA and elite-instigated coup (which interestingly lack support from the military and judiciary), he will have to thank, not only his generals and billionaire-buddies, but also his downwardly mobile mass supporters (Hillary Clinton’s detested ‘basket of deplorables’). He embarked on a major series of ‘victory tours’ around the country to thank his supporters among the military, workers, women and small business people and call on them to defend his election to the presidency. He will have to fulfill some of his promises to the masses or face ‘the real fire’, not from Clintonite shills and war-mongers, but from the very people who voted for him.***
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