Russia, one of the world's most fascinating nations with some of the most amazing and courageous people, is also one of the most dangerous due to the reign of organized crime. One friend of mine in the US was involved in a business that had two Russian partners. One came from a wealthy family and was able to invest with family funds. The other was not so lucky and had to get a loan inside of Russia - a loan from the local Big Boyz. When the returns from this potentially promising business did not meet expectations, the Boyz viewed this as a financial crisis that required direct intervention. The guy who was behind in his loan had an unfortunate automobile accident that left him decapitated. Then the mafia visited the surviving partner and explained what he needed to do. They handed him a document that signed over the entire business to them and agreed that he would not compete. No chance to negotiate - accept the terms or suffer the consequences. He signed, lost his business, and fled to Canada. Chilling.
When Gadiantons rule, they dictate the terms and take what they want. No negotiation. It's the system, a powerful and proven system, one you don't mess with unless you want to get hurt. You gotta have confidence in the system - or else.
What always amazes me in the Book of Mormon is the audacity of the organized robbers and their compatriots such as the Kingmen, who dare to speak as if they are the good guys just fighting for the rights and welfare of the people, as if the System (the Gadianton ways) is good and noble, something the people should be glad to succumb to. After all, giving in is for their own good. This is the criminally insane mentality that could rob someone in broad daylight and say that he was doing it for the good of the victim, just trying to help. And when they do something blatant, like seizing a whole industry or burning down a village, they often publicly "regret" their actions, but explain that they were "forced" to do whatever crime they committed for the sake of the people, or for the good of the "system." Very scary - and the more power they get, the scarier and bloodier they become.
The rise of powerful "secret combinations" of greedy and elite gangsters in the Book of Mormon is what ultimately brought down two great civilizations. Chaos and bloodshed resulted from their insane appetites for power and wealth. The Book of Mormon warns us, in our day, to watch out for these things, and boldly states that they are had among all nations and will be operating here, seeking to overthrow freedom. We ought to care. They are difficult to detect in their early stages, but eventually the mask of compassion comes off and we get a glimpse of brutal reality - about the time it is almost too late to resist.
When I heard the Russian story about one year ago, I shook my head and said, "Thank goodness I'm in America, a free country."
So, uh, speaking of America, did you catch the news yesterday? No, not the Madonna news, but something perhaps even more interesting - especially for people who take the Book of Mormon seriously and understand its prophetic warnings for our time (e.g., in Helaman, Third Nephi, Ether, and a touch of Alma).
Here is the opening section of the Associated Press story by Martin Crutsinger, Oct. 14, 2008:
Government moves again to unclog credit lines
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Bush on Tuesday announced a $250 billion plan by the government to directly buy shares in the nation's leading banks, saying the drastic steps were "not intended to take over the free market but to preserve it."
Nine major banks will participate initially including all of the country's largest institutions, he announced, in a move that sent stocks soaring on Wall Street.
Some of the nation's largest banks had to be pressured to participate by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who wanted healthy institutions that did not necessarily need capital from the government to go first as a way of removing any stigma that might be associated with banks getting bailouts.
"We regret having to take these actions," Paulson said. "Today's actions are not what we ever wanted to do — but today's actions are what we must do to restore confidence to our financial system." . . .
Under the new multifaceted stabilization program described Tuesday, the government will initially buy stocks in nine major U.S. banks. When financial markets stabilize and recover, the banks are expected to buy the stock back from the government, Bush said in brief remarks from the White House Rose Garden.
"These efforts are designed to directly benefit the American people by stabilizing the financial system and helping the economy recover," he said.
Paulson told a Treasury Department news conference that the aggressive government intervention was "what we must do to restore confidence in our financial system."
A related perspective comes from the following excerpt from the Wall Street Journal's story, "At Moment of Truth, U.S. Forced Big Bankers to Blink" (but I think "truth" and "blink" aren't the right words).
WASHINGTON -- On one side of the table sat Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, flanked by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Sheila Bair.Hey, it's for the good of the system. Surrender, and nobody gets hurt.
On the other side sat the nation's top bank executives, who had flown in from around the country, lined up in alphabetical order by bank, with Bank of America Corp. at one end of the table and Wells Fargo & Co. at another.
It was Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Treasury headquarters. Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke had called one of the most important gatherings of bankers in American history. For an hour, the nine executives drank coffee and water and listened to the two men paint a dire portrait of the U.S. economy and the unfolding financial crisis. As the meeting neared a close, each banker was handed a term sheet detailing how the government would take stakes valued at a combined $125 billion in their banks, and impose new restrictions on executive pay and dividend policies.
The participants, among the nation's best deal makers, were in a peculiar position. They weren't allowed to negotiate. Mr. Paulson requested that each of them sign. It was for their own good and the good of the country, he said, according to a person in the room.
During the discussion, the most animated response came from Wells Fargo Chairman Richard Kovacevich, say people present. Why was this necessary? he asked. Why did the government need to buy stakes in these banks? . . .
Mr. Paulson said the public had lost confidence in the banking system. "The system needs more money, and all of you will be better off if there's more capital in the system," Mr. Paulson told the bankers.
After Mr. Kovacevich voiced his concerns, Mr. Paulson described the deal starkly. He told the Wells Fargo chairman he could accept the government's money or risk going without the infusion. If the company found it needed capital later and Mr. Kovacevich couldn't raise money privately, Mr. Paulson promised the government wouldn't be so generous the second time around.
Did you catch what happened? A shakedown. Executives were forced to sell shares to the government - a step toward the ongoing nationalization of industry - and after selling at rock-bottom prices, they will be "expected" to buy them back later when the price goes up. "An offer you can't refuse." No one dared to - but the relatively healthy Wells Fargo CEO was justifiably shocked that he was being forced to sell when they didn't need government help and, of course, government control. Your money has been seized -- hundreds of billions of dollars -- allowing the Boyz in charge to shake down other businesses, call the shots, and get even more power and ultimately more money. Nationalization of industries, massive expansion of powers - this is no longer creeping socialism. It's a race toward virulent socialism with a vengeance, and done under the leadership of an alleged conservative President, who wants us to think that it's necessary and for our own good. Most of us are just sitting back and taking it, no squawking.
Now, more than ever, it's time for us to dig into the messages of the Book of Mormon meant to help us in our time of crisis. This is more than just a financial crisis we face.