The Really Creepy People Behind the Libertarian-Inspired Billionaire Sea Castles
By Mark Ames, AlterNet
Posted on June 2, 2010http://www.alternet.org/story/147058/
What happens when Americans plunder America and leave it broken, destitute and seething mad? Where do these fabulously wealthy Americans go with their loot, if America isn't a safe, secure, or even desirable place to spend their riches? What if they lose faith in their gated communities, because those plush gated communities are surrounded by millions of pissed-off Americans stripped of their entitlements, and who now want in?
We finally have the answer, and you're not going to like it: a new fleet of castles that float in the oceans. The super-wealthy are already building their first floating castle, a billion-dollar-plus luxury liner that offers permanent multimillion-dollar housing with the best protection of all: moats made of oceans, keeping the land-based Americans they've plundered at a safe distance.
The first such floating castle has been christened the "Utopia"--the South Korean firm Samsung has been contracted to build the $1.1 billion ship, due to be launched in 2013. Already orders are coming in to buy one of the Utopia's 200 or so mansions for sale--which range in price from about $4 million for the smallest condos to over $26 million for 6,600 square-foot "estates." The largest mansion is a whopping 40,000 square feet, and sells for $160 million.
It's the first of its kind to offer permanent housing units to buyers, and there'll be plenty on board the Utopia for the global elite inhabitants to keep themselves entertained: an outdoor movie theater, casino, miniature golf course, nightclubs, restaurants, shops, and a water park for the elites' heirs (featuring a "Lazy River," rock-climbing wall and water slides). At nearly 1,000 feet, the Utopia is almost as long as a nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
The floating castle is a longtime dream of libertarian oligarchs -- a place where they can live their lives in peace free from the teeming masses of starving losers and indebted parasites and their tax demands. Since they’ve grown so rich off of America, they have enough spare change to fund projects like the Seasteading Institute, run by Milton Friedman's grandson, Patri Friedman, and financed by the bizarre right-wing PayPal founder, Peter Thiel. It couldn't have come a moment sooner for Milton Friedman's grandson, who was best known until recently for running a grotesque advice blog for married swingers, PUA4LTR (Pick Up Advice For Long-Term Relationships). Actually, Patri Friedman ran that pick-up advice blog with his wife--the two of them are apparent big-time cyber-swingers, apparently--posting blog entries saying things like "Why Should Husbands Become PUAs? Because otherwise, your wife will talk like those wives on the blog My Husband Is Annoying."
Both Thiel and Milton Friedman's grandson see democracy as the enemy--last year, Thiel wrote "I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible" at about the same time that Milton Friedman's grandson proclaimed, "Democracy is not the answer." Both published their anti-democracy proclamations in the same billionaire-Koch-family-funded outlet, Cato Unbound, one of the oldest billionaire-fed libertarian welfare dispensaries. Friedman's answer for Thiel's democracy problem is to build offshore libertarian pod-fortresses where the libertarian way rules. It's probably better for everyone if Milton Friedman's grandson and Peter Thiel leave us forever for their libertarian ocean lair--Thiel believes that America went down the tubes ever since it gave women the right to vote, and he was outed as the sponsor of accused felon James O'Keefe's smear videos that brought ACORN to ruin.
While Thiel and Friedman are busy cooking up their libertarian dystopia, the Frontier Group investment firm -- an offshoot of the Carlyle Group -- has already entered the realization phase with the Utopia floating castle. Frontier Group, was founded by some of the same big names from the notorious Carlyle Group--the private equity firm that brought together right-wing oligarchs like George H. W. Bush and other top American officials with their billionaire pals in Saudi Arabia like the Bin Laden family, who together raked in enormous profits thanks to the War on Terror that their kids Dubya and Osama launched.
While neither Bush nor the Bin Ladens are principals in the Frontier Group, its founding director, Frank Carlucci, is a name they know well, and you should too. Carlucci ran the Carlyle Group as its chairman from 1989 through 2005, right around the time that the wars started going undeniably bad, and floating castles started to look like a viable plan. But Carlucci's past is much weirder and scarier than most of us care to know: whether it's his strangely timed appearances in some of the ugliest assassinations and coups in modern history, or serving as Carter's number two man in the CIA, and Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Defense, if Frank Carlucci (nicknamed "Creepy Carlucci" and "Spooky Frank") is the founding director of a firm that's building floating castles, it's a bad sign for those of us left behind.
I'll get into Carlucci's partners in the Frontier Group in a moment, but first, let's reacquaint ourselves with Frank Carlucci. From an early age, Carlucci learned the importance of getting to know the right people in the right places. He studied at Princeton in the mid-1950s, where as luck should have it, Carlucci roomed with Donald Rumsfeld. Both Carlucci and Rumsfeld shared a passion for Greco-Roman wrestling at Princeton, and both went on to serve in the Navy after Princeton. Their paths would split and merge several times over the next few decades, even as they remained close personal friends throughout their lives. In the late 1950s, Carlucci briefly served as an executive at a lingerie manufacturer, Jantzen (the Victoria's Secret of its day), but quickly left to join the State Department.
At age 30 Carlucci was named vice consul of the U.S. embassy in the Congo--just in time for the colony's independence from Belgium. Of all the European colonies in Africa, Congo suffered perhaps the worst, at least that we know about: the Belgians exterminated up to 10 million Congolese between 1885 and 1908, and introduced the now-widespread punishment of hacking off Africans' forearms to scare everyone into submission. All of this was done in order to strip the Congo of its lucrative rubber, ivory, and later, precious metals, as quickly as possible, and send the riches back to Belgium.
Naturally the Belgians didn't want to let go of their colony, so they held out until 1960, when the Congo finally was granted independence and democratic elections. Unfortunately for the Congo, America didn't like way they voted--so two months after Patrice Lumumba was elected president, he was overthrown in a CIA-backed coup, taken out into the jungle, murdered, chopped into little pieces with a hacksaw, and then dissolved in sulfuric acid. Carlucci has been accused of green-lighting Lumumba's assassination by multiple investigative reporters.
The dictator who replaced Lumumba was a CIA asset named Joseph Mobutu--the notorious dictator who brought the Congo to ruin after embezzling more than any dictator in Africa. Mobutu was finally deposed in 1997, but the wars since then have claimed roughly six million lives, the bloodiest conflicts since World War II.
After his success in Congo, it was all uphill for Carlucci: he moved to the Brazil embassy just in time for the military coup in 1964, then went to Washington to serve as deputy to his buddy Donald Rumsfeld in Nixon's Office of Economic Opportunity, where the young Dick Cheney was making his name. The first thing they did upon taking control of the OEO was conduct a purge of "subversives" firing up to a quarter of the staff. In 1974, Carlucci was named ambassador to Portugal just in time for the overthrow of the dictatorship--Carlucci saw to it that the communists who led the overthrow were themselves overthrown by IMF-friendly "moderate" socialists, and a few years later, he was back in Washington serving as the number two man in the CIA under Carter.
Once that agency was sufficiently gutted, he moved on to other forms of destruction: In 1974, Carlucci was named ambassador to Portugal just in time for the overthrow of the dictatorship--Carlucci saw to it that the Communists who led the overthrow were themselves overthrown by IMF-friendly "moderate" socialists, and a few years later, he was back in Washington DC serving as the number two man in the CIA under Carter. In 1981, Reagan named him deputy Defense Secretary; Carlucci left in 1983 to head up Sears World Trade, a trading company involved in shady arms deals that was once described by Fortune magazine as a front for US intelligence ops. Once that collapsed, Carlucci moved back to the Reagan Administration as National Security Advisor and then Defense Secretary.
In 1989, Carlucci left to become chairman of the fledging Carlyle Group, which subsequently morphed into the monster we remember it by: using its highly paid A-list of public officials to lobby big government for lucrative contracts, profiting off of privatized rest stops and unnecessary arms contracts, leaving the public to foot the bill while guys like Carlucci run around preaching the benefits of private enterprise.
Carlucci may be the scariest of the Frontier Group bunch building the floating castles, but he's among his kind. Other Carlyle Group directors who joined Carlucci at Frontier include David Robb, who headed up Carlyle's investments in defense and aerospace; Sanford McDonnell, the former CEO of McDonnell Douglass and onetime head of the Boy Scouts of America; and Norman Augustine, another ex-president of the Boy Scouts, another Princeton alum, and former board director at the scandal-plagued Riggs bank.
Riggs bank became one of those dark unsolved mysteries of the Bush-Cheney War on Terror. After the attacks on 9/11, the FBI discovered that Saudi government officials used accounts at Riggs bank to wire funds to at least two known associates of the Saudi hijackers who crashed Flight 77 into the Pentagon. Riggs was also implicated in the Britain-Saudi $3 billion bribery scandal, in which British Aerospace bribes were wired through Riggs accounts to Saudi officials in return for lucrative contracts. One of Riggs bank's top executives was Jonathan Bush, the brother of George H. W. Bush, after Riggs bought out Jonathan Bush's bank in 1997, and appointed him as a director. In 2005, with Riggs embroiled in investigations and scandals--Riggs pled guilty to money laundering Augusto Pinochet's stolen funds, and the funds of various Equatorial Guinea officials-- it was taken over by PNC bank, with the approval of Fed Chair Alan Greenspan. Even after the Washington Post revealed that Riggs' billionaire chairman flew Greenspan's wife, MSNBC anchor Andrea Mitchell, on the company jet.
But the weirdest of all the Frontier Group directors has to be founding director Danny Pang. Last year, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pang embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars from his private equity firm PEMGroup. Pang claimed he was investing money in "Dead Peasants Insurance" (life insurance policies for people considered likely to die), but in secret, Pang confided to PEMGroup's ex-president that he ran it as a Ponzi scheme. That sparked a fresh FBI investigation into Danny Pang's crimes--which led back to the unsolved murder of his wife, Janie Louise Pang, a 33-year-old ex-stripper who was shot to death execution style in their Irvine, California home in 1997, the same year Pang was accused of embezzling three million dollars from another fund he worked at. There was plenty of reason to suspect Danny Pang of murdering his wife: he beat her so often (breaking her nose on one occasion) that police were called in on at least four occasions before her murder. She'd had him tailed by a private detective who discovered Danny holding hands with another woman shortly before she was murdered. Danny had known ties to the Taiwanese Triad mob, he took the fifth and refused to cooperate in the murder trial, and reportedly threatened Janie's friends after her murder, demanding to know what Janie told them about his business activities.
Here is a description of the actual murder, from the L.A. Times:
According to the family maid and two of Pang's children, a clean-cut man with a pencil-thin mustache arrived at the door asking for her husband. The pair talked casually for a couple of minutes, until the man drew a semiautomatic pistol. Pang began running and the maid, terrified, spirited Pang's children out the back door. Within minutes, the killer caught up with Pang, who tried to hide in her bedroom closet. The killer fired several .380-caliber rounds and left her to bleed to death as she lay in a fetal position.
Somehow, the trial ended with a hung jury, and Danny Pang went on to join Frank Carlucci and the Boy Scouts presidents to start building the world's first billion-dollar floating castle to spirit away all that stolen money in luxury. But Pang was apparently too careless for them. He was outted last spring in the Wall Street Journal, and in September 2009, Danny Pang was found dead of unknown causes in his Newport Beach home.
After a three-month investigation, Pang's death was ruled a suicide:John C. Hiserodt, a private forensic pathologist in Cypress, Calif., reviewed the toxicology report released by the coroner. He said it showed that Mr. Pang had roughly five times the typical fatal levels of both oxycodone and hydrocodone in his blood, plus the equivalent still in his stomach of about 30 oxycodone pills of 10 milligrams apiece. "You don't get this level of drug accidentally," he said. "It's pretty clearly a suicide
Meanwhile, plans to launch the Utopia are moving ahead on schedule.