“I’m so bored. I hate my life.” - Britney Spears

Das Langweilige ist interessant geworden, weil das Interessante angefangen hat langweilig zu werden. – Thomas Mann

"Never for money/always for love" - The Talking Heads

Saturday, April 07, 2007

news from the peckerwood apocalypse

As carrion attracts the buzzard, so any story demonstrating the venality, the stupidity, and the general worthlessness of Paul Wolfowitz is a magnet to LI. So we have been in buzzard heaven for the past few days, as John Cassidy’s New Yorker profile of the man has circulated through the media world. Wolfowitz earned his position as head of the World Bank due to the logic of Bozo Bush World, in which the obviously incompetent are raised to positions where they can do the utmost damage by our president, - who, as usual in such cases, displays the acumen of an aging golf pro at a second rate country club.

Cassidy’s article is pretty good, although he could have said something more about the intellectual roots of Wolfowitz’s comic fight against ‘government corruption.” This has been standard boilerplate in conservative development economics since rent seeking was dreamt up in the 70s at the University of Chicago. In neoclass speak, rentseeking has turned into a handy little tool to knock government and seek endless privatization. The economy of favors that is criticized by conservatives never leads to questions about the economy of class – that would certainly be a no no. Rather, the private sector is efficient, don’t you know? So fucking efficient. Thus, the spectacle of the man whose intellectual corruption was a major driver in getting the U.S. involved in a pointless war conducted by an administration that makes Harding’s look clean going to the World Bank with a ‘good governance’ agenda that is your usual Trojan horse for the corporate penetration of national economies in which the real interest is in a very active state role in the economy. Typical mind fucking, American style.

Being the creep that he is, Wolfowitz went into the World Bank and started appointing the usual Bush mafia: for instance, Susan Rich Folsom:

“Folsom is a Washington ethics lawyer with strong ties to the Republican Party. (Her husband, George Folsom, a foreign-policy specialist, worked for the Administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.) Before Wolfowitz’s arrival, the bank had enlisted the help of an executive-search firm, which, out of a large pool of candidates, identified nine finalists. After reviewing these names, Wolfowitz rejected them all and selected Folsom, whom Wolfensohn had hired to help him deal with the Treasury Department and the Republican-controlled Congress, and who had been acting as the department’s interim head. According to one of Wolfowitz’s aides, he regarded Folsom as eminently qualfied for the job, and he was also impressed by her performance at the investigations department. Others at the bank saw things differently. “Paul turned around to the world and said that she was appointed following an international search,” one senior official who has now left the bank said to me. “That was technically true. There was an international search. But she was not part of that search. He shredded the list and then brought in a loyalist from the Republican Party.”

Ah, that Republican double dippin’ habit! Once they reach D.C., they can explore rent seeking in propria persona, as spouses and scion nepotistically scramble up the slope of the public tit, doing their best in the real economy while weaving a rhetorical critic of guv’mint for the suckers. Since the suckers – the deadenders who believe Bush is Jesus Christ’s veritable shit – are often, themselves, engineers and the like who are fattening on Pentagon money, it is a righteous circle of hypocrites, insensibly bringing on the peckerwood apocalypse. Ain’t it cute?

Of course, Wolfowitz brought with him the imperial style that served us so well in CPA Iraq:

“As president of the World Bank, Wolfowitz supervises virtually all of its daily operations. However, the bank’s board of twenty-four executive directors is ultimately responsible for its lending and policy activities. Votes on the board are distributed according to how much money each country has contributed to the bank’s capital. The United States controls about sixteen per cent of the votes, but the four next-biggest shareholders—Japan, Germany, France, and the United Kingdom—can outvote it. This governing structure puts a premium on the bank president’s ability to forge a consensus, but Wolfowitz has often seemed determined simply to ignore the board. “They always give us ninety-eight per cent of what we want, so why should we bother about them?” he said to a senior colleague shortly after arriving at the bank. The colleague explained that the board usually obliged the president because the president usually cultivated its members.”

But this is what set off the fireworks:

“The incident that prompted the most comment internally involved Shaha Ali Riza. When Wolfowitz was nominated to the bank presidency, he disclosed his relationship with Riza, who was working in the bank’s Middle East and North Africa (MENA) department. Under the bank’s regulations, spouses or partners are prohibited from supervising one another or from working in the same cone of authority. As president, Wolfowitz oversees a cone of authority encompassing nearly all the bank’s employees, including those in MENA. The board of directors’ ethics committee took the view that Riza should be transferred to a position outside his supervision. Wolfowitz asked that she be allowed to maintain her job at MENA and to work with him as necessary, offering to recuse himself from any decisions concerning her pay and work conditions. “It really gave a bad impression, especially for somebody who was making a big issue of good governance,” a former senior official at the bank said. “The president is supposed to set an example to everybody, and yet here he wanted to have his girlfriend working with him, which is flatly prohibited under bank rules.”

Ultimately, Riza was seconded to the State Department. To compensate her for the disruption of her career at the bank, she was promoted to the managerial level, and she has received two pay raises, bringing her salary to a hundred and ninety-three thousand dollars—more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes. “The staff are very upset,” Alison Cave, the chairman of the World Bank Staff Group Association, said, explaining that the raises amounted to special treatment that violated established bank guidelines. Kevin Kellems told me that Wolfowitz had no involvement in Riza’s promotion or pay raises. “All arrangements concerning Shaha Ali Riza were made at the direction of the board of directors,” he said.

Those grafs prompted mention of Cassidy’s piece in Al Kamen’s column in the Washington Post. This, in turn, provoked more commotion. Kamen mentioned this Friday:

“The World Bank rank and file were most upset by our recent column noting that Shaha Riza, linked romantically with bank President Paul Wolfowitz, got some curiously hefty raises upon being detailed to work at the State Department -- but remaining on the bank's payroll.
"Since publication of the . . . column," a bank-wide e-mail Wednesday from the bank's staff association said, the association "has been inundated with messages from staff expressing concern, dismay and outrage."

The association "has looked into those concerns" and concluded that, while it couldn't "determine who drew up and approved" the agreement detailing Riza to State -- which the bank said was necessary to avoid a conflict of interest -- it did find that the terms are "grossly out of line with" bank rules.

Riza, a senior communications officer for the Middle East and North Africa region, was promoted to a higher-paying position on Sept. 19, 2005, the day she left for Foggy Bottom, without any of the required open competition for the job, the association said. She also got a pay raise more than double the amount allowed by the rules, the e-mail said, followed by another allegedly overly large raise.
Before these bumps up, Riza had been earning $132,660. She's now paid $193,590. (Correction: We said last week that this figure was about $7,000 a year more than what is paid to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, for whom Riza now works. That now appears to be very misleading. Riza's reported pay is net, we're told, and Rice's is gross. So Riza takes home a whole lot more than Rice. We regret the error.) The association said that in general it "defends a staff member's right to have" the bank "preserve the confidentiality of certain information -- and we deplore this leak of a staff member's confidential salary information. However, in this case, the information shared with the press reveals a violation of the staff rules and therefore seems to us a clear case of whistleblowing."

The sharply worded e-mail called on the bank's board and top officials to "explain how/why the rules were bent in this case" and noted that "this is not the first instance of such staff rule violations by the current World Bank Group management."
The association e-mail -- and other bank observers -- questioned how this matter squared with Wolfowitz's anti-corruption drive, which demands that recipients of World Bank loans crack down on graft, nepotism and so on.

"It's ironic that Mr. Wolfowitz lectures developing countries about good governance and fighting corruption, while winking at an irregular promotion and overly generous pay increases to a partner," said Bea Edwards, international director of the Government Accountability Project, which first disclosed the pay data.
Foreign Policy magazine's editors opined that "given Wolfowitz's crusade to fight corruption in countries that receive Bank aid, doesn't it seem a little hypocritical to hand your girlfriend inordinate bonuses?"

But these criticisms tend to assign some blame to Wolfowitz, even though his spokesman has assured us that matters involving Riza's "arrangements" were made "at the direction of the bank's board of directors."

And Riza's successor for the Middle East and North Africa region, Karem Elsharkawy, in an e-mail yesterday to his colleagues, implored them to "maintain a balanced position and be rational and fair." No wrongdoing has been proven, he said, and until then "we must give our colleague the benefit of all reasonable doubt."

Guardian today has a bit more about Wolfowitz’s girlfriend. It is another one of those stories of this era of grift that just makes my heart swell with the poetry of it all. So often, reality disappoints us. Bad guys turn out to be not so bad, or bad only when they are truly on. Dillinger was mostly a schmoe. Saints turn out to be chiselers. But the Bush administration has always gone the extra mile, always delivered. Nothing bad that they do doesn’t turn out to be, on examination, worse. Worse than you’d ever expect. Shameless. A true orgy of the unfit, the most unqualified people pursuing the most lamebrained political agendas while quoting the silliest pieties ever cooked up by a pedophile Sunday school teacher for the deacons.

“Ms Riza was eventually given a job at the state department under Liz Cheney, the daughter of the vice-president, promoting democracy in the Middle East. She was also moved up to a managerial pay grade in compensation for the disruption to her career. The staff association claims that the pay rise was more than double the amount allowed under employee guidelines.”

Ah, the department of nepotism – so nice to see that the Bushies have been innovators! Surely the promotion of democracy involves Karl Rove’s girlfriend too! We want all these people to be happy. This is the same Liz Cheney, by the way, who wrote the astonishing Washington Post op ed piece a couple of months ago. Astonishing that the meritocracy, in its wisdom, promoted a woman whose prose style seemed copped from that of a particularly dim sixth grader. It was a defense of the war in Iraq that only a father – a bloated, cancerous father made out of synthetic radioactive materials – could love. Plus, of course, Fred Hiatt.


Brian said...

It makes one's mouth fly open. The sheer shamelessness of it.

I really wonder if our political system can even begin to deal with this degree of criminality and corruption? It seems systematic. Maybe Ioz is right, Destroy the State! Humongous and The Thuderdome were not as bad as this :)

roger said...

Now now, Brian - I don't think Wolfowitz's nepotism will ever give rise to a song as good as 'We don't Need Another Hero"! The D.C. crowd has long had this incredible combination of isolation and superiority going for it. But I have a feeling Wolfie's girlfriend won't be at the State much longer. The World Bank employees have already been rumbling about this.

I am also a bit envious. Lyn Cheney's Middle Eastern division at the State Department sounds like slacker heaven! All you have to do is copy down this weeks's lunkhead screed from the Weekly Standard, send it off as a memo, then the week is free for drinkin' and shoppin'. As well as excellent YouTube viewing. An office paradise, in short.

roger said...

Brian, via tpm, I got a link to a great article that would darken your views even more! It is about Regent Law school, Pat Robertson's law school, which has a magical key to the White House's heart. I loved this passage:

"In a recent Regent law school newsletter, a 2004 graduate described being interviewed for a job as a trial attorney at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division in October 2003. Asked to name the Supreme Court decision from the past 20 years with which he most disagreed, he cited Lawrence v. Texas, the ruling striking down a law against sodomy because it violated gay people's civil rights.

"When one of the interviewers agreed and said that decision in Lawrence was 'maddening,' I knew I correctly answered the question," wrote the Regent graduate . The administration hired him for the Civil Rights Division's housing section -- the only employment offer he received after graduation, he said.

The graduate from Regent -- which is ranked a "tier four" school by US News & World Report, the lowest score and essentially a tie for 136th place -- was not the only lawyer with modest credentials to be hired by the Civil Rights Division..."

You might not be able to work the cash register at the 7/11, but you will be able to get a high rankin' job in the Justice department - as long as you qualify on the all important "I hate sodomites" part of the test!