I did laugh at this NYT piece about the former president of the Republic of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili.
Saakashvili, in his time, was a favorite of both the NYT and the Bush Whitehouse. Now we know that he fortified his backbone with “bite massage” while he was standing tall for democracy and against the current incarnation of Satan, Hitler and Stalin – Putin is who I’m obviously talking about, for those of you who are behind on today’s fave devils. Of course, being in power and challenging the enemy of all mankind is a tiring job, and we shouldn’t question the perks of office, like the state paying to fly out the masseuse that gave him the said bite massage, Dorothy Stein. In fact, we shouldn’t question any of the money that disappeared during his time in office.
“Since leaving office last November, this George W. Bush favorite — whose confrontation with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia led to a disastrous war in 2008 — has commandeered his uncle’s apartment in a toweron the Williamsburg waterfront, where he luxuriates in the neighborhood’stime-honored tradition of mysteriously sourced wealth.”
It is a funny thing about mysteriously sourced wealth. When it flies out of a country by way of dictators or funny presidents, the U.S. and Western european media people and scholars and governments tut tut about the corruption of these backwaters. They are so corrupt! And yet, apparently there is no taint in taking that mysteriously sourced wealth. Nicholas Shaxson, in Treasure Island, tells the story of the Corruption Index – a way of mapping the peculation of countries that receives a lot of press attention, and that lets us know just how filthy Nigeria or Iraq or Georgia is when it comes to bribe taking and the lot. This index, concentrating on that kind of dirty money, usually makes the US, the UK, Switzerland France and all the others seem like wholesome and uncorrupted paradises. But a lesser known index was established by the Tax Justice Network in 2009, to rank countries according to how much secrecy they provide to global finance. In other words, how many hidey holes they have for just that dark money. And on this index, the US is no. 1. The UK is number 5. And so on.
If, as some estimate, trillions of dollars have been taken out of the poorest countries over the last three decades, we know where it went. Miami. Houston. London. Paris. Geneva. Mysteriously funded Williamsberg.
And this is, somehow, not as funny.
It is not bite massage, but the vampire’s kiss.