Who'll Be the Next in Line?


Column by Tim Hartnett.

Exclusive to STR

“But I don’t like waiting in line,” Ray Barboni tells a competitor before gunning him down in Get Shorty. And after all, who does? You don’t have to be a Hollywood villain to hate your place in the queue. Slowpokes and nitwits get old quick with a crowd in your way. So it’s a rare man that grew up on the teeming island of Manhattan who can say: “Only once in my life was I on the edge of incivility,” as David Rockefeller does in his memoirs.

Gotham isn’t usually thought of as the kindest, gentlest city in the world. A guy calling himself a New Yorker who’s never gone off on anybody is unlikely to make 25 without blowing a major gasket. The patriarchal heir of Standard Oil is 98 and still kicking. So if he’s really as nice as he says, being born at the front of the line probably helped a little.

An applicant with his genealogy needed to read, count and maintain a pulse to get into Harvard in the 1930s, an admissions policy that probably stands to this day. He graduated cum laude in 1936 without ever earning an A but makes the claim that “perfection” was the “norm” for the progeny of his clan. After joining Chase Bank in 1946, he roughed it for a little while commuting downtown on the subway. That may be as close as he ever got to making his own way in the real world. David became president of the bank after 14 years there in 1960 but seems to think it could’ve been done in 13 if his last name hadn’t been Rockefeller.

JD’s last living grandchild has come to define the third generation of the robber baron elite. They are more polished and educated than the founders of their trust funds and in many ways grew up in a different country than the rest of us. The average American boy has generally endured at least half a dozen physical confrontations by the time he graduates from high school. That doesn’t mean he’s a brawler, only that he’s put his position or honor at stake on occasion. People who never had to enjoy a luxury that isolates them from the facts of survival on the streets of New York and beyond the gated community the world over. That civility Nelson’s little brother holds so dear was paid for by gramps. Ford’s VP is the only Nelson he’s ever had to encounter.

It would be one thing to focus on the shielded upbringing and cloistered life of A-list American heirs and heiresses if they chose to live as political equals of Americans with lesser means. Unfortunately, in David’s case at least, all those gushers, train-car loads of masterpieces, acres of urban real estate, millions of shares of blue chip stock, country manors, multi-storied townhouses and beachfront mansions were just never enough for the Standard Oil scion. Like many of his class and generation, the ex-Wall street banker feels entitled to a say so in world policy construction without the inconvenience of running for office. That’s probably too much like standing in line.

The ex-Chase chairman, Trilateral Commission founder and Council on Foreign Relations director joined the clubby set of back room global wheeling and dealing in 1954 on being chosen by the Eisenhower administration to attend the first meeting of the Bilderberg group. At the time, he was a senior vice president at Chase Bank. The most striking thing in his resume then was having served as a US Army private during the war with a Harvard bachelor’s degree and a doctorate in economics. An archly American scenario like that has all the makings of a classic sitcom. We can imagine that the sarge had sense enough to stay on his good side.

The 39 year old Chase VP got his PhD from the University of Chicago. That institution was founded by his grandfather, so it was unlikely to be stingy doling out those three letters. But, in any case, being a buck private in WWII with these credentials is a rap sheet entry that none of his peers can lay claim to. At least Rocky can say he’s seen the serfs close up. He knows first-hand why they need all the supervision his secretive save-the-world-from-itself clubs are perpetually advocating. Lots of others inherited the clout that got them invites to the modern-day equivalent of a medieval court on a planetary scale. Most keep a comfortable chasm between themselves and the great unwashed.

Take the Grahams, Katherine and Donald, as two salient examples. Besides being the daughter of a man who J.P. Morgan said was smart enough “to end up with all the money on Wall Street,” Katie’s greatest accomplishment was joining The New York Times in printing the Pentagon Papers. The publisher never let on to any sense of irony participating in these revelations. The crowd of regulars who came by her house at 2920 “R” Street N.W. during the 1950s must have felt a little betrayed. During the Eisenhower era, those digs were a drunken den of scheming where skullduggery, exactly like the kind Ellsberg revealed, was cooked up on a regular basis. Her best friend was Polly Wisner, whose husband Frank was chief of CIA Special Operations at the time. The place might have remained a Delta house for zany frat boy CIA plots well into the hippie era if Philip Graham hadn’t cracked up in the early '60s. The Post publisher’s increasingly odd behavior got him kicked out of the loop during the Kennedy administration. What do you suppose might have been the Post’s position in the 1970s if Katherine’s husband had retained emotional stability? Ellsberg would have been turned in and the DC daily would have been demanding Sulzberger heads on a platter without a doubt.

So whatever it is that qualifies people to move and shake at the summer meetup now known as “Bilderberg” ideological consistency or honesty is not among them. Katherine Weymouth, granddaughter of the late WP chieftain, even tried to revive the ancestral salon in 2009, this time making lobbyists purchase access to politicians and their reporters outright. If Ms. Weymouth had launched her sleazy plan with a little more discretion and tact, it probably would have succeeded; in DC and NYC, similar shakedowns go on all the time. Getting the ear of powerful people is the most invaluable resource in the world. Calling people concerned with these kinds of arrangements “paranoid” is a shot so cheap it might be beneath Ann Coulter.
In the meantime, a cottage industry has grown up tracking the movements of various secretive conclaves where power brokers can air opinions they don’t think are ready for primetime. Speculations on what goes on at the Council on Foreign Relations, Bilderberg, The Trilateral Commission and sundry other fat-cat assemblages can get a little rich. A hefty percentage of secret society investigators find sketchy circumstances surrounding every death since Abel’s. They tell lurid tales of black masses, satanic orgies, Freemasonic mumbo-jumbo and other rituals in the warlock arsenal aimed at imposing the mark of the beast on us all. Some even throw a bone to their Nazi readership by adding a Judaic cabal to the mix. The true believers, like David Icke, have it that the top echelon of the clique are not even human but really reptilian alien transformers that willingly assume the appearance, of say, Henry Kissinger or Hemann von Rumpuy rather than someone like Paul Newman. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but you have to wonder if somebody down at Bilderberg headquarters isn’t paying them.

These kinds of far-out diversions taint anyone curious about the potential connection between unofficial brainstorming sessions of the elite and very real developments in the way government is conducted. The idea that organizations with philanthropic and philosophical pretensions can be used as ruses to get around public scrutiny as well as consent of the governed is far from far-fetched. Hundreds of such lobbying entities dressed up as think-tanks exist in Washington D.C. that operate on a smaller scale. Every now and then, even the major media gets “paranoid” enough to suspect the altruism of the magnanimous thinkers who get paid by the people who stand to make a killing by what is advocated. Federal agencies come up with weird stuff all the time that we never heard about in any election.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is one such colossal deal that Wall Street is fully in on while the rest of us remain in the dark. Is anyone naïve enough to suppose that the Grahams and Rockefellers of this world have any difficulty getting their paws on a working copy of the treaty? Or chiming in if they see something objectionable or unduly omitted? The supremacy clause in Article Six of the US Constitution makes any treaty ratified by the Senate the law of the land. You don’t have to be seeing black helicopters on the horizon to be wary of a guy in a perfectly cut suit looking over the shoulder of a US negotiator.

How much imagination does it take to come up with a reasonably accurate conception of what is being talked about by people with too much self-perceived gravitas to share their thoughts with the rabble? Simply comparing the list of corporate sponsors of the Council on Foreign Relations to who got what in the bailout and TARP swindles is ample evidence they are in league against Joe Six-pack. It is impossible to defend one’s interests in a political contest as the media, incumbents, academics and plutocrats meet secretly while common people’s communications are rifled hourly by the national insecurity industry. Snowden, so far, hasn’t told us who all gets a peep at data mined by the NSA, so it’s too early to rule the board rooms of South Manhattan out of the lot.

Standard Oil's market share rose to over 80% by the late 19th Century. Housing this much of an industry under one roof had the inevitable effect of putting more bosses over the heads of the masses working in it. Once JD Rockefeller accomplished centralization in oil, he charitably began attempting a similar feat in religion, education and other human endeavors. People opposed to the idea they need experts making choices for them have been getting pushed further toward the fringes ever since.

Petroleum products would have been brought to market on a massive scale with or without the existence of Standard Oil, so it is certainly debatable what effect, if any, the Rockefeller family has had on overall prosperity in the United States. They’ve never been brilliant inventors or innovators, and David’s doctoral thesis, Unused Resources and Economic Waste, is rarely, if ever, perused by students delving into that subject matter. The name of the author is the most remarkable thing about it. The perception of family aptitude from the descendants of that old snake oil salesman, William Avery Rockefeller, is strictly an elitist one. There’s no evidence that David Rockefeller or any of Eugene Meyer’s offspring are anything besides mediocrities that had pots of money dropped on them. It might be petty to begrudge them their fortunes but acceding special political rights to this undeserving class is a definitive species of treason.

Whenever David Rockefeller talks about his detractors, he is right there on the edge of incivility again. His family is probably the most generous in history, so he must find suspicions about their motives and agenda ungrateful. He doesn’t seem to comprehend trepidation about that “more integrated world” that all those lofty thinking clubs are shooting for. The predicament of being a peon at a corporation with 50,000 employees while getting propagandized like an imbecile daily is beneath his concerns. We never hear about Mom and Pop enterprises clamoring for new treaties, regulations, government handouts and political intrusions in foreign lands. And if they go out of business, it is not at all unlikely that Wall Street will absorb their old clientele. So what we don’t know that is said in places too good for our plebeian ears can hurt us.

WWI began 100 years ago this summer, bringing a raft of new fears, loyalties and loathings into American culture. England had a system already in place where the swell-headed and connected could tinker with public perception and government policies behind the scenes. The idea caught on immediately with the American Smugocracy. They put it right to work bringing Americans into the war, claiming it would “make the world safe for democracy.” This is how the Council on Foreign Relations originated according to its own website. CFR official PR skips right over any details about those “democracies” we were supposedly allied with. Someone within the legion of experts and geniuses in their employ might have even noticed there weren’t any. Britain, France and Russia were all colonial empires that denied political rights to countless millions of people at that time. England was engaged in suppressing Irish self-determination, using torture, massacre and starvation, simultaneous to The Great War on the continent. The holy martyr of 1914, Belgium, was still reeling from the worldwide publicity generated by its holocaust in the Congo.

An organization that still brags 100 years later about lying the country into a war is best defined as a double-think-tank rather than the singular variety that is already dubious enough. The only way to conclude we have nothing to fear from them is by ignoring the carnage of the 20th Century. How many people do you know that have opinions they’d share with over 100 people at a time but not the public at large? Only an association with avowedly different interests and intentions than American citizens can sustain such a principle. They are allied against us and democracy just as they were in April 1917.

There is only one indisputable accomplishment that clandestine world improvement societies have pulled off in the last century. Their corporate sponsors, like Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, are at the front of the line for special consideration in Washington, D.C. And as long as this is the status quo, David Rockefeller and his acolytes will remain civil.

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