Roger Waters, scam artist

 

Roger Waters

Every time we turn around, Roger Waters, the outspoken musician and sometime member of the band Pink Floyd, keeps proving to be worse than we thought he was. On this site, we’ve written at length about his self-righteous efforts to shame other performers into canceling gigs in Israel. In an open letter to Bon Jovi, for instance, he accused the fellow rocker of standing shoulder to shoulder with baby-burners and child killers and, hence, of committing “the greatest crime of all.” In another piece, Waters accused singer Robbie Williams of “showing a chilling indifference” to the welfare of Palestinian children, who, he claimed, are viewed by Israel as nothing more than “grass to be mowed.” In yet another missive, he told chanteuse Dionne Warwick that she was ignorant of Israeli history.

Robbie Williams

Waters has gotten some pushback. In a piece for the Times of Israel, filmmaker Mark Blacknell asked why, if Waters is so concerned about the Palestinians, he doesn’t criticize Arab governments for failing to welcome Palestinians into their countries. He further noted a poll in which seventy percent of Israeli Arabs said they’d rather remain Israelis than become citizens of a fully independent Palestine. Blacknell, who had made a documentary about the Israeli-Palestinian situation, pointed out that while Israelis consistently said they didn’t Arabs, Palestinians made it clear that they despised Israelis. If only the terrorist groups in the Levant dropped their plans to push the Jews into the sea, noted Blacknell, the problem of peace in the Holy Land would be solved. “What is presented to you as innocent victims struggling for freedom,” Blacknell told Waters, “is in reality uncompromising cultural intolerance at a level so antiquated that is difficult for many westerners to comprehend.”

“In Waters’ world,” commented Israeli writer Lilac Sigan, “there is no Hamas, and this terror organization doesn’t live by its sword, doesn’t swear to death and violence, and doesn’t rule the Gaza strip with primitive Shariya law.” As we’ve pointed out, this wasn’t exactly true: Waters knows all about Hamas – and proudly stood up for them in a 2012 U.N. speech. His Jew-hatred is real. He’s a chilling, reprehensible piece of work.

Steven Donziger

And here’s a new wrinkle. During the last few years the media have covered the multiparty effort, fronted by a New York attorney, Steven Donziger, to extort billions of dollars from Chevron. This flimflam, in which several people invested substantial sums in hopes of making millions, has come to be known as the “Chevron Shakedown.” The case is now closed; Donziger has been disbarred. But during the investigators’ mop-up, the names of some of the people who invested in Dongizer’s scheme came to light. One of them was Roger Waters.

Waters, as it happens, has publicly accused Chevron of “greed,” just as he’s charged Israel with child-killing. Consistently, as with his attacks on Israel, he acts as if he’s the voice of morality, occupying the high moral ground. But when you publicly accuse a company of greed even as you privately invest in a sleazy shakedown scheme aimed at fleecing that same firm, there’s nothing remotely high-minded about it. On the contrary, it’s duplicitous and sleazy, period. But knowing what we already knew about Roger Waters, we shouldn’t be surprised by his involvement in this sordid scam.

The chaebol suicides

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

Another week, another stroll down memory lane. Chaebol memory lane, to be specific. In recent weeks we’ve been recounting the stories of various top-level executives of these massive South Korean conglomerates – men who, as is their wont, have ended up in hot water, and often in courtrooms (and, sometimes, at least briefly in prison cells) because of their corruption.

To be sure, chaebol leaders who get caught with their hands in the till don’t always end up arrested or imprisoned or pardoned. The South Korean shame culture leads some of them to take their lives. You might wonder why, if the shame culture is a powerful enough psychological phenomenon to drive these people to suicide, it doesn’t keep them from bribing and embezzling and so on in the first place. But that question is perhaps beyond the scope of this blog.

Chung Mong-hun

Here are a few examples of high-level South Korean self-slaughter. On August 4, 2003, Chung Mong-hun, the chairman of Hyundai and the son of its founder, jumped to his death from his 12th-floor office window. As the New York Times put it, Hyundai was South Korea’s “economic ambassador to the Communist North”; Chung had played a key role in arranging an historic summit in June 2000 between Kim Jong Il and South Korean president Kim Dae Jung. Afterward, however, South Korean auditors looked into the behind-the-scenes dealings relating to the summit and found that Chung had illegally paid a massive bribe to Pyongyang. He was about to be arrested for this crime when he chose to take the leap from his office window.

Roh Moo-hyun

On May 23, 2009, Roh Moo-hyun, who had served as president of South Korea from 2003 to 2008, killed himself by jumping off a cliff near his home. He had been under investigation for accepting $6 million in bribes from the business sector during his presidency. He had already been interrogated, and his wife was scheduled for questioning by investigators on the day of his death. He had already said that he “was losing face and that he was disappointing his supporters”; in a suicide note, he wrote: “nothing is left in my life but to be a burden to others….Don’t be too sad. Aren’t life and death both a piece of nature? Don’t be sorry. Don’t blame anyone. It is fate.”

Lee In-won


Two years ago it was Lee In-won’s turn. Lee, the #2 man at the Lotte Group, which at the time was South Korea’s fifth largest conglomerate, when he was
found dead in August 2016 beside a walking and cycling path near Seoul; he had hanged himself from a tree with his necktie. Lee, age 69, had spent 43 years at Lotte, where he was the highest ranking official not belonging to the conglomerate’s ruling Shin family. His suicide took place two months after police – tipped off about crooked deals among Lotte subsidiaries that led to the formation of a slush fund – raided the firm’s offices in search of evidence of those crooked deals. At the time of Lee’s suicide, he was scheduled to be grilled by prosecutors about these irregularities.

Lotte has less of an international profile than other major chaebols such as Samsung and Hyundai because its wealth is derived not from high-tech products exported around the world but primarily from apartment buildings, hotels, malls, cinemas, fast-food restaurants, and other such busineses in South Korea. It has about 80 subsidiaries and over 300,000 employees. The New York Times reported that Lee “was one of the professional executives commonly known in South Korea as vassals, for their loyalty to the families that control the business empires. These executives rarely betray their bosses during corruption investigations.”

Ben & Jerry….& Linda Sarsour?

Jerry Greenfield, left, and Ben Cohen

Who doesn’t know about Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream company founded in Burlington, Vermont – that’s right, Bernie Sanders country – in 1978? Who doesn’t know that Ben & Jerry’s is not just political – goodness knows that plenty of companies nowadays wear their politics on their sleeves – but in-your-face political, aggressively political, Vermont political?

The company was founded by two old hippies, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who have given politically tinged names to their ice cream flavors for years. They’ve waded into the British-Irish conflict, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a struggle in Australia over dangers purported posed by government policies to the Great Barrier Reef. In 2016, they created a flavor in support of Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. That same year, both Ben and Jerry were arrested at protests in front of the U.S. Capitol. Earlier this year, they announced support for Afghan asylum seekers in Sweden.

Resist ice cream

Their latest treat is something called Pecan Resist. As in “We can resist.” It is meant to be part of “a campaign to lick injustice and champion those fighting to create a more just and equitable nation for us all.” Get it? You can lick injustice just like you lick an ice-cream cone. If it seems to you that Ben & Jerry have a somewhat overly simplistic idea of politics, and an inflated idea of the importance of ice cream, well, you’re not alone – and you’re way late to the game.

Then again, it could be argued that Pecan Resist – “chocolate ice cream with white and dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts, and fudge-covered almonds (formerly known as New York Super Fudge Chunk in a previous incarnation)” – is a step further than Ben & Jerry have ever gone before. In their view, they are defending their progressive values against Donald Trump, and celebrating “the activists who are continuing to resist oppression, harmful environmental practices and injustice.”

To this end, in connection with the launch of Pecan Resist, they’ve donated $25,000 to four “progressive community groups”: Color Of Change (which tackles racism), Honor The Earth (environmentalism), Neta (which is “led by people of color along the Texas-Mexico border”), and, last but not least, the Women’s March.

Ben, Jerry, and (in hijab) Sarsour, celebrating the kickoff of the new flavor

Fine, you may say. Let them spend their profits as they wish. But the launch of Pecan Resist involved something more than just handing out cash to lefty groups. At an event held the day after the massacre of Jews in a Pittsburgh synagogue, Ben & Jerry, who are themselves of Jewish background, held an event at which the most celebrated guest was Linda Sarsour, head of Women’s March.

We’ve written about Linda. Who hasn’t? She became famous on January 21, 2017, the day after President Trump’s inauguration. She gave a fiery speech at that day’s Women’s March on Washington. She always wears hijab. She’s friends with Louis Farrakhan. She loves sharia. She’s the face of the radical Islamic Society of North America. She has said that Trump won the presidency “on the backs of Muslims.” She has routinely dismissed the impact of 9/11 and other jihadist acts on their victims and has just as routinely complained that Muslims are the victims of Islamophobia. She has demonized Brigitte Gabriel and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for daring to fret about the Islamic subjugation of women. And she has constantly made clear her contempt for Jews.

But none of this bothered Ben & Jerry. Confronted with her history, they’ve said they were cool with Sarsour. Okay, that’s their choice. But should we be cool with Ben and Jerry’s?

Another chaebol tale

In what country do the heads of the top half dozen or so corporations get arrested for corruption, found guilty, sent to prison, and then pardoned more often than in South Korea? The answer must be: none.

Chey Tae-won

Case in point: Chey Tae-won, chairman of SK Group, one of the half dozen largest of South Korea’s chaebols, the family-run conglomerates that dominate that country’s economy and whose leaders are part of an intricate network of power that ties them inextricably to the people at the very highest levels of government. In 1988, as if to demonstrate this high-level intimacy, Chey, who was the nephew of SK’s founder, married Soh Yeong Roh, the daughter of South Korea’s then president, Roh Tae-woo. The wedding took place at the Blue House, Seoul’s answer to the White House.

Five years later, in 1993, Chey was found guilty in a California court of breaking U.S. money laundering laws and of “smurfing,” which means “breaking up deposits into smaller amounts to avoid reporting cash transactions of $10,000 or more as required by law.”

Roh Moo-hyun

That was just the start. Ten years later, on February 23, 2003, Chey was arrested in South Korea on charges of insider trading. The arrest came only days before the inauguration of President Roh Moo Hyun, who, like many other South Korean presidents before and after, had declared his intention to reform the chaebols – which, while being credited with turning South Korea from a Third World country to a leading economic powerhouse, are also cesspools of high-level corruption. Among the 2003 charges against Chey was that he had plotted to increase his ownership share in SK by nefarious means and thereby to solidify his control of the conglomerate, which at the time consisted of no fewer than 58 separate firms. That June, after prosecutors uncovered $1.3 billion in accounting irregularities, Chey was sentenced to three years in prison.

Soh Yeong Roh


Once a crook, always a crook. In January 2012, Chey was indicted for embezzling over $40 million, which he sunk into personal investments. A year later, having meanwhile resigned as chairman of SK Group (while remaining chairman of the conglomerate’s holding company, SK Holdings), he was found guilty and sentenced to four years in prison. “The ruling,”
reported Yahoo News, “comes as South Koreans demand a tougher stance on crimes committed by bosses of chaebol.” The Seoul court that sent him to jail described his case as an example of how chaebol bosses “treat company assets as personal property.”

Park Geun-hye

In any event, that “tougher stance” against the chaebols didn’t last long. It never does. President Park Geun-hye – who had passionately vowed to crack down on chaebol corruption, but who is now in prison herself for involvement in chaebol corruption – pardoned him in August 2015. In March of last year, prosecutors questioned Chey, who in the interim had resumed chairmanship of the SK Group, as part of their investigation into President Park.

“To many investors,” the Seoul Herald commented a couple of years ago, Chey “seems to embody what’s wrong with Korea’s chaebol-controlling families.” Well, South Koreans are very big on two things: family and continuity. It could be argued that Chey, by retaining the respect of his clan and hanging on to control of SK no matter how many terms he serves behind bars, embodies those values, too.

Juan Cole, jihad apologist

Juan Cole

How can it be that, in all the time Useful Stooges has been around, we’ve never written about Juan Cole? How could we have managed all this time to overlook one of America’s most credentialed “experts” on – which is to say, one of its most shameless apologists for – Islam?

This is a man who, after the Boston bombings, denied that the Tsarnaev brothers could be Muslims because “[b]eing a fanatic is, contrary to the impression both of Fox Cable News and some Muslim radicals, not actually the same as being a good Muslim; in fact, the Qur’an urges the use of reason and moderation.” To get away with writing such things, of course, you have to assume that most of your readers have never so much as glanced at the Qur’an.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev: not a real Muslim!

“If the motive for terrorism is religious,” Cole added, “it is impermissible in Islamic law. It is forbidden to attempt to impose Islam on other people.” On the contrary, it could be argued that the main point of the Qur’an is to explain to believers that their primary obligation as Muslims is to spread Islam to the infidels. “Islamic law forbids aggressive warfare,” Cole insisted. Oh, is this why the Qur’an refers to the non-Muslim part of the world, which the faithful are urged to conquer by the sword, as the “House of War”?

Cole was equally quick to try to de-Islamize Omar Mateen’s massacre of 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. “I don’t think it probably was terrorism in any useful sense of the term,” Cole said. “To put all this on Muslims and Islam in general is frankly absurd.”

Omar Mateen: Not a real terrorist!

This is a man who has routinely blamed Islamic terrorism on America – and, secondarily, Israel. If terrorists attack the U.S. it’s because “the United States is a superpower and is always sticking its nose in other people’s business.” But why, then, do terrorists attack pretty much every country in Western Europe? Why do they attack targets in Thailand and India and even in the Muslim world? He relies on ad hominem nonsense to discredit his opponents: in one lecture, he “insinuated that [Rudy] Giuliani had no standing to use the term ‘Islamic fascists’ because he was an Italian-American” and that Charles Krauthammer “probably doesn’t even know a Muslim and therefore is not credible on Middle East issues.”

Rudy Giuliani: no right to speak about Islamofascism

A writer who attended another Cole lecture noted that if one didn’t know any better, “one would have departed the lecture believing that Iran justifiably protects its own interests; that America is a malignant and aggressive force and Israel its trigger-happy satellite; that Turkey’s Islamist Freedom and Development Party (AKP) is headed by a practical and liberal Prime Minister Erdogan who promotes ‘Middle Eastern multiculturalism’; and that a moderate Islamist party in Tunisia called Ennahda does the same.” While arguing that the term “Islamic terrorism” is offensive, and “Islamo-fascist” even worse, Cole regularly uses the phrase “Zionofascism.”

The Ivy League colleges have hired a great many anti-Americans, anti-Semites, apologists for Islam and Communism, you name it – and we’ve written about several of them on this site. But Cole was a bridge too far even for Yale. When Cole – who has spent most of his career at the University of Michigan – was considered for a teaching job at New Haven, the appointment committee found him too “divisive.”

Cheney-Lippold: fellow Israel-hater

Given all this (and much more), it’s hardly any surprise that, after his UM colleague John Cheney-Lippold was disciplined for refusing to write a recommendation letter for a student who planned to spend a summer term at Tel Aviv University – a case we covered in October – Cole wrote a letter supporting Cheney-Lippold. In defense of Cheney-Lippold’s hard-line support of the BDS movement, Cole noted that that position has been “adopted by the Democratic Socialists of America, an increasingly significant caucus in the Democratic Party.” He proceeded to pile on to Israel, cataloging the ways in which it has supposedly violated UN rules, calling its occupation of conquered territories “criminal,” likening the Israeli system to apartheid, and comparing Palestinians to “slaves.” In other words, more of the usual. Juan Cole may be many things, but he’s certainly not unpredictable.

A chaebol tale

Recently, we’ve been spending a lot of time here covering the chaebols, those economy-driving but corruption-ridden conglomerates that pulled South Korea out of the Third World but are now keeping its economy from shifting into even higher gear. Regular readers of this site will know that the current government in Seoul claims to be making serious efforts to reform the chaebols – but that so far there has been more big talk on this front than productive action.

Daddy Chung

As part of our attempt to educate our readers about this topic, we thought it might be advisable to take a look at some highlights of chaebol history. Today we’ll be harkening back to 2006, when Chung Mong Koo, the head of Hyundai Motor, the second largest chaebol in South Korea and (at the time) the seventh-largest carmaker in the world, and son of the man who had founded it in 1947, was arrested on charges of embezzlement and other forms of corruption.

The sum he had purportedly stolen from Hyundai was no less than 100 billion won, or $106 million. He was also accused of breach of trust for supposedly having incurred over 300 billion won, or $318 billion, in damages to the conglomerate. Moreover, government investigators had apparently uncovered evidence of “slush funds, compliant corporate boards and questionable arrangements involving affiliates that were set up to help Mr. Chung turn over the conglomerate to his son, Chung Eui Sun.”

Sonny Chung

Chung was the most powerful businessman in the country to have been arrested in a long time, and if found guilty of all charges he faced a possible life sentence. Except, of course, that he didn’t really face any such thing. The story of Chung’s brush with the law – he was sixty-eight at the time – ended up falling into the usual South Korean pattern, which can be represented by the formula A-I-R. A: arrest. I: imprisonment. R: release. Sometimes there’s a trial, and sometimes even a sentencing; sometimes these guys are pardoned before a trial can even be arranged or before a sentence can be handed down.

Chung had a trial. In February 2007, he was sentenced to three years in jail. (By this time, interestingly enough, Hyundai was being identified as the world’s sixth-largest carmaker.) The prison term came as a surprise: prosecutors had asked for six months, and it had been expected that Chung would get a suspended sentence. Certainly Chung seemed to expect that. In court, he “appeared shaken after the verdict.” He was, however, allowed to go home, prepared his appeal, and keep running Hyundai.

Hyundai headquarters, Seoul

Sure enough, as it happened, Chung stayed home. In September 2007, a three-judge panel of the Seoul High Court suspended Chung’s three-year sentence. The court’s explanation for this suspension was surprisingly frank. Presiding Judge Lee Jae-hong said that he had struggled with the decision, and had “sought the views of various people, including other judges, prosecutors, lawyers, journalists and ‘even taxi drivers and restaurant employees.’” In the end, he claimed, national interest had won the day: Chung was simply too important to South Korea’s economy not to have to go to jail. “I am also a citizen of the Republic of Korea,” he told the courtroom. “I was unwilling to engage in a gamble that would put the nation’s economy at risk.”

In a way, it was a refreshing admission. There was not the slightest pretense that the South Korean judiciary offers anything resembling equal justice for the rich and poor. No, Lee’s statement amounted to a candid acknowledgment that in South Korea, the chaebols do indeed rule.