Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 2 Num. 25

("Quid coniuratio est?")


L.J. Davis, author of an article offering a good look beneath the surface of Arkansas politics ("The Name of Rose", The New Republic, April 4, 1994), was interviewed by phone by David Inge of the local PBS-connected radio station on August 4, 1994. What follows is my transcription of that interview.

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And that's... It's interesting also, because it [Worthen Bank] very narrowly went under. And...

Very nearly. And if the Stephenses hadn't written a rather large check, it would've gone under.

And so you also wonder why it is that no one... It seems that no one was ever really called to account for this, for that happening. And you know, there was sort of a similar event in Ohio that resulted in federal intervention and a serious run on the banks. In fact, the Governor had to declare a bank holiday, and it was the first time that that had happened in, I don't know, "x hundred" number of years?

-+- The Great Non Reaction -+-

And uh... Since the Great Depression.

And furthermore, Jimmy Carter's former ambassador to Switzerland, Marvin Warner, who was deeply involved in it, went to the "pokey" [i.e., prison]. Lengthy prison sentences were doled out in Ohio to the people that had caused this. No such thing occurred in Arkansas, as a matter of fact. In part, well, as somebody said when I was asking that question about "Why wasn't there any reaction?" (and Arkansas is the place of "the great non reaction" to a bunch of stuff, as I documented in my article). And the answer was, "Well, maybe there was no reaction because the Stephens family wrote that check." In other words, Worthen [Bank] didn't go down.

I suppose, you know, someone might say... particularly, not so much about that particular matter: the loss of $52 million in state, Arkansas state tax receipts. But the formation of Worthen in the first place: I guess one might say, in any state, the people who are in power, the influential people in politics and in banking and in business, know each other very well, there are close associations. Now Arkansas, being a small state, this is a small group of people. They all know each other. They all live in Little Rock. So maybe it's a smaller circle than in other states. But in any state, this kind of activity is going to go on. And further, I suppose people might say, "Well, you know, the appearance of conflict of interest and impropriety is not necessarily the genuine article." I mean, we can infer a lot of things, but is this really any worse than what we can see in probably any other state, including this one?
Well, as I pointed out earlier, a certain amount of back scratching goes on in any state. And certainly, a lot of very interesting things happen in Illinois! But I mentioned "the great non reaction" to events in Arkansas.

What would happen, locally, in Champaign-Urbana, if Pakistanis and Indonesians with a lot of money began getting off of the planes at the local airport? Wouldn't somebody notice?

I would like to think so.

-+- A Teeny Bit Unusual -+-

I mean, wouldn't Champaign-Urbana be a rather odd place for a bunch of Pakistanis and Indonesians to suddenly start showing up?

And similarly, Illinois is a sophisticated, large and populous state. And you're quite right: everybody in Little Rock knows everybody else. Why wasn't there a heck of a lot of commentary on the fact that they were getting off the plane at Little Rock? As a matter of fact, one standing joke in Arkansas is, "Just who would have to get off a plane at Adams Field before the attorney general and long-time Governor would notice that something a teeny bit unusual was going on?"

Particularly if they seemed to be interested in buying into the local banks. Not just that they showed up, but that obviously they were interested in, having an interest in, some of the state's most important financial institutions.

-+- Yet Another Strange Person Shows Up -+-

Well I... BCCI [Bank of Credit and Commerce International]: possibly the largest banking scandal in modern world history, if not world history, was materially abetted in Little Rock. At the same time, of course, the Riady family had an idea that they could turn Worthen into a major international banking presence. Well this is a really good idea and seems like kind of an odd place to do it.

But yet again, another strange person shows up, effecting the introductions between the Riady's and the Stephenses -- and that's Robert Anderson, President Eisenhower's former secretary of the treasury.

Well nobody seems to have done a thing called "due diligence", that is to say, find out just who everybody is now, not who they were or who they say they are. Mr. Anderson was later sentenced by a compassionate judge to not very long in prison for running an illegal offshore bank in the Caribbean, that catered to money launderers and tax evaders, that he nonetheless managed to crater. And he also had some interesting, if not highly questionable (the judge seemed to feel that they were highly questionable), relations with Reverend Moon's Unification Church. Is this really the guy you want introducing an Indonesian of doubtful provenance to the largest investment bank in the state? And then allowing him to begin to use it as a major investment vehicle?

I mean, forgive me, but I think this is a rather strange sequence of events. And I find the lack of investigation on the part of the Arkansas banking authorities to be yet another one of those omissions that characterizes the state.

Well we have several callers here. We want to bring them into the conversation. We will do that in a moment: continue to talk with our guest, L.J. Davis. He is a contributing editor to Harpers magazine. And if you're interested in reading the article that we have been talking about, you'll have to seek it out. But certainly you can find it. It was published in The New Republic in April of this year.

And questions are welcome, and we'll get to them in just a moment.

[...tape break...]

[ be continued...]

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Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9

Brian Francis Redman "The Big C"

"Justice" = "Just us" = "History is written by the assassins."