Footprints of the Banking Conspiracy

proofIf you need evidence that transnational finance demons use their money power to control the world, read on:

International credit rating agency Standard and Poor has downgraded Turkey’s “sovereign debt rating” from BB/B to BB/B-, sending a loud, clear message to finance moguls of the world to stop lending the country money.

The action is a little surprising given that S&P reviews its ratings at regular intervals, and this is an unscheduled one-off move.  On the other hand, it may not be so surprising, considering the fact that Turkey’s much-criticised president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has chosen to put his own credibility and that of his governing party on the line by calling an early general election on 24 June.

It is no secret that Mr Erdoğan has seriously upset just about everyone in the corridors and hidey holes of global power since his newly-formed AK Party swept into power out of the political blue in 2003. He and his team put a stop to Turkey’s chronic triple-digit inflation almost overnight. They managed to keep their country out of George Dubya Bush’s dishonest and disastrous invasion of Iraq despite strong US pressure to add Muslim credibility to their Christian crusade. Mr Erdoğan has repeatedly called out the United States, Israel and European big-wheels for their shameless aggression and hypocrisy. In spite of all the chaos in neighbouring countries, Mr Erdoğan’s government has transformed Turkey from an economic basket-case to one of the world’s growing power-houses, where, as even nay-sayers have to admit, most of the people are now in the middle-income rather than the dirt-poor bracket.

grasping bankersWhile serving as mayor of Istanbul back in the 1990s, Mr Erdoğan was actually convicted and jailed by Turkey’s financial-military elite, allegedly for his radical Islamist agenda. Since his party became the government they have had fifteen years to drag the country back to a mythical nightmare past of fundamentalist Shariah law – and have not yet done so. On the contrary, alcohol is freely consumed in public parks and street cafes even during the fasting month of Ramazan, and the range of available alcoholic beverages, local and imported, has broadened remarkably. Other Muslim countries and even non-Muslim South America are avid consumers of Turkish TV series showcasing life in contemporary Turkey.

In spite of a record that would see leaders of less fortunate countries lionised, beatified, or even deified, Mr Erdoğan has had to deal with a relentless barrage of criticism and worse from a significant minority of his own fellow citizens. In the early years he was successful in pulling the teeth of Turkey’s virtually omnipotent military which had overthrown four democratically elected governments from 1960 to 1997. In doing so he enlisted the assistance of Fethullah Gülen’s Hizmet organisation, whose tentacles had extended into every area of government. Possibly the Gülenists were disappointed at not being sufficiently rewarded for their cooperation, because subsequently they turned against Erdoğan and threw their weight behind the forces seeking to oust him.

cause of warThe climax of their efforts was an attempted military coup on 15 July 2016, whose success many of AK Party’s vociferously “democratic” opponents would somewhat perversely have welcomed. Not surprisingly, there has been an ongoing state of emergency and a roundup of suspects involved in the failed coup. Call it a witch hunt if you will – but France lived in a state of emergency for two years with much less justification; and security measures within Turkey are remarkably low-key and minimally disruptive of everyday life. I am more nervous at airports in New Zealand, Australia and the USA than on the streets of Istanbul – despite the warnings I regularly receive from my embassy in Ankara to avoid this city.

So why have S&Ps downgraded Turkey’s credit rating to virtual junk status? Well, first of all we should consider just how much credibility Messrs Standard and Poor really have in terms of evaluating risky investments. There is powerful evidence to indicate that they and other “reputable” credit rating agencies played a major role in the global financial crisis of 2007-08.

According to Wikipedia: “Credit ratings of AAA (the highest rating available) were given to large portions of even the riskiest pools of loans in the collateralized debt obligation (CDO) market. When the real estate bubble burst in 2007, many loans went bad due to falling housing prices and the inability of bad creditors to refinance. Investors who had trusted the AAA rating to mean that CDO were low-risk had purchased large amounts that later experienced staggering drops in value or could not be sold at any price. For example, institutional investors lost $125 million on $340.7 million worth of CDOs issued by Credit Suisse Group, despite being rated AAA by S&P.

credit ratersCompanies pay S&P, Moody’s and Fitch to rate their debt issues. As a result, some critics have contended that the credit ratings agencies are beholden to these issuers and that their ratings are not as objective as they ought to be, due to this ‘pay to play’ model.

In 2015, Standard and Poor’s paid $1.5 billion to the U.S. Justice Department, various state governments, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System to settle lawsuits asserting its inaccurate ratings defrauded investors.”

So maybe Mr Erdoğan and his people have fallen behind in the payment of their protection money. Or maybe (more likely, in my opinion) there is something far more sinister going on.

The S&P mafia claim: “The downgrade reflects our concerns over a deteriorating inflation outlook and the long-term depreciation and volatility of Turkey’s exchange rate. The rating action also reflects our concerns over Turkey’s deteriorating external position and rising distress in the externally leveraged private sector.”

henry fordThe exchange rate of the Turkish Lira is indeed dropping against the $US, the Euro and £ sterling – none of which feature among the list of growing economies in the world; and what growth they do have is largely attributable to consumer spending and real estate prices. And of course, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: downgrade a country’s credit rating and their currency will lose value in the “money markets”. When a country’s currency loses value against the $US, imports inevitably become more expensive, pushing up the internal inflation rate.

What is surprising is that, despite the plunging exchange rate of the Turkish Lira, the government has managed to keep internal inflation relatively low and continue economic growth.

Well, one of my readers rightly upbraided me recently for seeming to champion unbridled economic growth on a finite planet (thanks Dr Bramhall), and she was absolutely right. Unfortunately, it is the United States of America that set(s) the standard for the rest of the world to follow. They flaunt their lifestyle and inspire others to climb the same dizzying heights of consumer-driven wealth. Does it occur to them that the world’s limited resources will be exhausted long before three billion Chinese and Indians get anywhere near the average US household income?

to big to feelA sad fact of life in today’s world is, if you don’t have a nuclear arsenal (eg Israel, North Korea), the United States will bully you unmercifully. Surely that’s what is behind Zionist Netanyahu’s recent war-mongering publicity stunt against Iran. “There’s only room for one nuclear power in the Middle East – and we’ll obliterate anyone who disagrees.”

I do continue to ride my bicycle to work, recycle our rubbish and take re-usable shopping bags to the supermarket. I fear, however, that I am in a dwindling minority, and I don’t hold out much hope for the long-term future of Planet Earth.

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Soner Cagaptay – Zionist Israeli Puppet?

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits Turkey

Friends again – that’s diplomacy

The headline on Time‘s news feed read: Political Scientist: How President Erdogan Is Turning Turkey into Putin’s Russia”.

Well, that’s a pretty strange claim for a number of reasons, but I live in Turkey, and if anyone is magically turning it into Russia, I want to know about it – so I took a look.

The “political scientist” writer is a Turkish guy, long-term resident in the United States, called Soner Cagaptay. That’s an unfortunate name for a start. He must experience a lot of problems with monolingual, monocultural Americans who struggle to pronounce English words – and have no interest at all in familiarising themselves with the marvellously phonetic Turkish alphabet. For your information, “Soner” doesn’t rhyme with “boner”, and his surname should be pronounced “Charp-tie”.

zionist puppetBut that’s his problem – or one of his problems. Another big problem for Mr Cagaptay must be reconciling his academic integrity with the political agenda of his paymasters. After all, his CV claims a PhD from Yale, and teaching posts at Princeton and other top universities in the USA. I assume you don’t scale those heights by churning out sensationalist propaganda based on unsupported assertions. “Political scientist” may be one of his jobs – but I suspect a good chunk of his income derives from the fat wallets of bankers and industrial tycoons with major interests in controlling the Middle East for their own profit.

So what does this guy have to say about Turkey?

He starts by claiming the country is profoundly polarised, governed by a right-wing regime funded by resources far outweighing those devoted to opposing him.

WRONG.These days, despite the tireless efforts of anti-Erdoğan forces, Turkey is less polarised than it ever was. One of the larger opposition parties has thrown its weight behind Mr Erdoğan’s campaign for re-election. If “left” and “right” have any political meaning, surely “left” means taking a serious interest in the plight of society’s poorer members – in which case Turkey’s AK Party government is more “left” than any in earlier decades. Furthermore, it is clear that significant resources are being channelled by forces outside Turkey to getting rid of the country’s popular president.

Cagaptay goes on to speak of Mr Erdoğan’s “surging authoritarianism”, which he attributes to the president’s desire for “the country’s educated and creative elites to pack their bags and leave.” “Erdogan,“he says, “knows that an opposition led by powerful elites poses a permanent threat to him.”

WRONG AGAIN. What Mr Erdoğan surely knows is that for twenty years well-educated types and liberal urban professionals” have been bleating and complaining about everything he has done for the country, without showing any ability to organise themselves into an opposition capable of achieving victory at the ballot box. Most of them would love to return to the good old days when military coups were staged regularly to overthrow democratically elected governments and restore power to those “elites”.

rich-cat-with-food-scotch3

What a terrible country! I need to get out now!

Many distinguished professors are said to be leaving the country, and their students are flocking away to Oxford University in “alarming”numbers. Among these are “many old-money Turks who espouse liberal values”. According to Cagaptay, in one of the few statistics he actually provides (though no source is given), in 2016 “Turkey was among the top five countries globally to experience the highest outflow of millionaires.”

Some truth here, perhaps. Certainly the biggest complainers I meet in Turkey are people living in nice houses, driving late-model cars, with well-paying jobs or private incomes – in short, people who you would think would be grateful for a government that has, Cagaptay admits, “made strides towards that goal [of making Turkey great again],by delivering economic growth. When he came to power in 2003, Turkey was country of mostly poor people. Now it is a country of mostly middle-income citizens.”In 2001, before the AK Party came to power, Turkey was, in fact, a country of millionaires, because it cost a million Turkish Lira to buy a newspaper or get on a city bus.

turkey economyBut those, I’m sure, are the real reasons Cagaptay and his money-masters oppose Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government so rabidly. They don’t want to see genuinely populist governments succeeding in their aim of creating a more egalitarian society. Why did the United States government oppose Fidel Castro’s Cuba for 50 years with such determined ferocity? Why have they repeatedly used military and economic power to overthrow elected socialist governments in Central and South America? Why did they use the CIA to overthrow Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister in 1952? Why did they support the dictatorship of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak for 30 years? Then support the ousting of Mohammed Morsi, elected democratically after Egypt’s Arab Spring?

The real goal of Cagaptay’s financial backers becomes clear in his closing paragraphs: “They want to transform Turkey from an economy that exports cars [and other real things] into one that is a hub for software, IT, finance, and services — in other words an information-based economy and a star power.” There you have it. An economy like the USA, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and other “First World” states where money rules, the country is governed by a wealthy elite with no patriotic loyalty, who have exported offshore their manufacturing sector, created systemic unemployment and keep most of their fellow citizens struggling to survive in a condition little removed from slavery.

How do I know this? Soner Cagaptay’s ubiquitous CV proudly boasts that he is the Beyer Family fellow and director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. ”So I took a look at their website. Now I want you to know that I am as liberalminded as the next guy. I have very few prejudices and I have never been anti-Semitic. I know, and have known some very nice members of the international Jewish community. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help noticing a striking feature of the WINEP’s Directors. Check the surnames: Kassen, Berkowwitz, Weinberg, Leventhal, Adler, Bernstein, Freidman . . . to cite just a few.

Well, that’s no big deal, you say – and maybe not. But I checked out some of the owners of those names:

President Shelly Kassen– chaired the religious school committee at The Conservative Synagogue, very active in the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, recipient of the United Jewish Appeal/Federation Community Service Award in 2007.

Her husband of 30 years, Michael Kassen, former president of the American Israel Public affairs Committee, America’s pro-Israel lobby; has always been involved in the Jewish community, since his childhood in Cleveland, where his parents were active in the local Jewish federation. The couple has always been involved in a Jewish federation, first in Boston and currently in New York and Westport. Check out this speech if you want to know his politics.

Chairman Martin Gross– president of Sandalwood Securities, Inc. of Roseland, New Jersey, which he founded in 1990. Gross began in fund management in 1983. Previously, Gross “practiced tax and corporate law in New York City, and worked in the corporate finance department of L.F. Rothschild, Unterberg, Towbin[1]. A member of the New Jersey and New York Bars, he has written numerous articles for The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and other financial publications and often lectures at industry (what industry?)conferences.

Chairman Emeritus Howard P. Berkowitz – Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director at HPB Management LLC. Mr. Berkowitz was the Managing General Partner at Hpb Associates Lp since 1980 which he also founded. He has managed investment funds since 1967, when he was a Founding Partner at Steinhardt, Fine, Berkowitz & Company. He served as Managing Director of BlackRock, Inc. BlackRock, Inc. is an American global investment management corporation based in New York City. Founded in 1988, initially as a risk management and fixed income institutional asset manager.

Founding President and Chairman Emeritus Barbi Weinberg – Past vice-president of AIPAC, major contributor to the World Alliance for Israel Political Action Committee and the Women’s Pro-Israel National Political Action Committee.

Well, maybe Mr Cagaptay believe all the stuff he spouts about Turkey – but I have my doubts. Four short years ago, he was saying this about Turkey’s attitude towards a possible Kurdistan on its southern border: “The takeover of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has cemented the rapprochement between Turkey and the region’s Kurds, casting them as best friends in the increasingly unstable Middle East. The relationship has improved so much that if the Kurds in Iraq were to declare independence, Turkey would be the first country to recognize Kurdistan.” I wonder what he is saying now, after Turkey criticised the US government for supplying weapons to its Kurdish “allies” in Syria, and has been carrying out a military operation to drive them out of the area.

democracyOur learned “political scientist” also boasts that he has provided private briefings about Turkey to such champions of democracy and world peace as US Vice President Joe Biden, Presidential Envoy in Syria, Brett McGurk, former US Ambassador to Ankara, John Bass (currently, I believe, in exile in Afghanistan), former Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton . . .

President Erdoğan is “turning Turkey into Putin’s Russia”? What does that even mean? One thing Mr Erdoğan does have in common with the Russian President is a total belief in the sovereign right of his own people to govern themselves free from outside interference. I only wish the leaders of my own country, New Zealand, had as much strength of character.

To end this piece, I want to share with you a delightful little clip I came across on Youtube: Vladimir Putin performing in public his own interpretation of Fats Domino’s great song, Blueberry Hill.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV4IjHz2yIo

That guy went way up in my estimation!

_______________________________________________________

[1] known for its merchant banking investments, particularly in high-technology companies. In the early 1980s, the firm emerged as the leading underwriter of initial public offerings, surpassing the elite investment banks (at the time, including Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley).

World War Three?

I came across a curious article the other day while skimming through various news sources. The headline was:

The Queen has a SECRET speech prepared and ready for WORLD WAR 3

royal family

World War 3, anyone? A show of knees, please. The royals’ll be right there, of course – fighting them on the beaches etc.

Dear old Elizabeth, I thought. Well, she’s been sitting on that throne for a long time now, so you’d have to think she’s got pretty much every possible event covered. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt, as we used to say.

The UK Express published this little piece as accusations against Russia were surfacing over the alleged poisoning of Sergei Skripal, former spy and double agent. Now talk of a Third World War seems to have become the latest buzz topic in the salons of the well-off.

“The Queen”, readers would no doubt have been comforted to hear, “has a speech prepared in case this terrible event does happen. It may have been written nearly forty years ago and is of its time, but it is still relevant today.”

‘Now,” says Lilibet, “this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.’”

But, hang on – forty years ago? Yep. Apparently, this “incredibly prescient” speech was written on 4 March 1983, a year after the much-faded British Empire had launched an attack by land, sea and air on that major threat to world peace, Argentina, over a tiny archipelago 1,800 km from Buenos Aires, and 12,686 km from London. Great Britain, it seems, had claimed sovereignty over the Falkland Islands in 1690. There was some debate, however, in international circles over this claim, with Spain, France, Argentina and later the United States all expressing interest. The Brits, nevertheless, World Number One at the time, backed up their own argument in 1833 with the time-honoured strategy of gunboat diplomacy – and has exercised “de facto sovereignty” ever since.

soviet-union-is-the-focus-of-evil-in-the-modern-world-ronald-reagan-67-54-70

OK, they’ve gone – so who is it now?

1983: Geriatric former Hollywood actor, Ronald Reagan, was in his first term as President of the USA. He was much-mocked at the time – but his tenure has since come to be viewed with wistful affection in the light of subsequent horrors. Those were the days when Soviet Russia was, allegedly, still the main threat to world peace – and Reagan “The Gipper” was planning to locate missile bases in outer space to get a better coverage of earth-bound targets.

thetcher-1

There wasn’t much sadness when Maggie went on her last journey

Maggie Thatcher, a one-term wonder if ever there was one, had ensured her re-election to the UK premiership by waging that outrageous little war against a third-world South American dictatorship, swept back in on a wave of nostalgic jingoistic patriotism. “The Witch” then proceeded to destroy the unions, create widespread unemployment and poverty, and hand the UK economy over to the financial leeches of London City. The retributive hand of Divine Justice sentenced her to spend her declining years in demented insanity – before casting her into the fires of perpetual damnation. But of course, I don’t really believe in that stuff 😉

The really important question, however, is, whose mortal hand is working behind the scenes of these exemplary democracies to ensure that these looney ideologues are “elected” as leaders of the so-called “Free World”?

lawrence

Apparently he was quite keen on a spot of flagellation

I recently read a history of the First World War by John Keegan – lauded by some as one of the world’s great military historians. I have to say I found it pretty heavy-going, and I mostly skipped over detailed accounts of pointless battles of attrition on the Western and Eastern Fronts. I was really interested in the “theatres” that received little attention in the “history” I was brought up with – especially British attacks on Ottoman territory in Palestine and “Mesopotamia”. With the exception of TE Lawrence’s romanticised, self-aggrandising tales of sado-masochistic adventures in “Arabia”, we knew little of the British government’s plans to establish a Zionist state in Palestine, and seize the Middle Eastern oil-fields for themselves.

But empire-building was what that war was really all about – overcoming rivals to control the world’s resources and enslaving the poorer people in one’s own and other countries. State propaganda was widely used to persuade the public that war was necessary to preserve freedom and defeat an evil enemy. Thinking citizens who refused to believe the lies were ruthlessly punished.

A second more terrible war broke out a mere twenty years after that one ended. The propaganda was more sophisticated, but the Second World War was really a continuation of the First – a continuing struggle for world dominance by competing empires. And a conflict manufactured by financial-industrial oligarchs to establish a new world economic order after the disastrous depression they themselves had created.

With Germany and Japan defeated and laid waste, and the British Empire disintegrating, the United States emerged from that second war as the world’s number one military and economic power. “United” however, it certainly wasn’t. The North-South divide had never gone away. Racial tensions seethed below the glamorous surface illusion created by Hollywood and Madison Avenue. Extremes of obscene wealth and abject poverty were preserved by armed force when necessary. Relaxed open societies flourished in coastal cities contrasting with the religious conservatism of inland states. An existential danger posed by an outside threat was needed to unite a divided people – and for forty years Soviet Russia’s “evil empire” provided that unifying service.

So, what’s changed? Let’s list the changes:

rust belt

Rust Belt, USA

  • The United States’ economic engine has long-since stalled. Its manufacturing sector has been exported to poor countries where the labour force can be exploited to generate greater profits for owners and “shareholders”.
  • Once-great cities have been turned into deserts of poverty, crime and systemic unemployment, with enclaves of super-wealthy guarded by private police, high walls and razor-wire.
  • Real economic growth has ceased. An unsustainable illusion of growth has been maintained by media-driven consumption and shopping.
  • The USA has been transformed from the world’s banker into its greatest debtor.
  • The country’s pristine natural environment has been increasingly ravaged and sacrificed to the greed of industrialists and commercial interests.
  • The anarchy of the internet has brought into the open the dirty secrets of governments that had previously portrayed themselves as representatives of freedom, democracy, justice and equality. More and more people all over the world are discovering the real truth about how the US has used its military and economic power to overthrow democratically elected governments, install puppet dictators and condone their use of torture and murder.
  • The USSR fizzled out of existence, removing the long-standing danger that had prevented the “United” States from disintegrating into its multitude of component parts.

No credible external enemy has been found to replace the evil Soviets. They’ve tried Muslims, but Islam is just about as divided as Christianity – although retaining perhaps a little more faith and sincerity. No one can really believe in a unified Islamic monster opening its jaws to swallow Western civilisation.

trump-kin jong un

Who would you say poses the bigger danger to world peace?

North Korea? With a population of 25 million, and economy ranked 125th in the world, it’s hard to see Kim Jong-Un as a major threat, no matter how hard you try.

Russia again? It may be the largest country by land area, but according to Forbes, its economy is smaller than that of Texas. You may not like Vladimir Putin, but Russians seem to – and he has given them some self-belief back after the shame of the Soviet collapse. Nevertheless, Mr Putin’s probably got enough problems in his own backyard without challenging for world domination.

bankers-warsSo, are we on the brink of a Third World War? In whose interests would it be? Certainly not the tens or hundreds of millions of human beings who can expect to die quickly or slowly if it does break out. As in all other wars, it is the power elite who will do none of the actual fighting, suffer few of the hardships, but expect to reap major financial benefits. Who will start it? As in the past, it is that elite and their minions who will instigate provocations until some other government decides enough is enough and begins to fight back. Then they will be blamed for the ensuing conflagration.

God save us!

Do as you’re told, or we’ll destroy your economy!

The Turkish Lira has been taking a battering in the “money markets” recently. Could there be a connection between that and Turkey’s defiance of US plans in Syria? (That’s a rhetorical question) And , surprise, surprise, the only currency doing worse is the Russian ruble! The sooner the world escapes from the hegemony of the Yankee dollar, the better for all of us!

Erdoğan blasts investors amid tumbling Turkish Lira

shadow bankers[Turkey’s] President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hit out at international investors on April 12, saying “no one could bring Turkey to heel using exchange rates,” casting the recent sharp drop in the value of the Turkish Lira as a conspiracy by outside powers. 

“Don’t worry, Turkey is continuing on its path with determined steps. Nobody can bring us to heel using exchange rates,” Erdoğan said in a speech in Ankara.

“The rise in exchange rates has no reasonable, logical or regular explanation,” he added.

His comments came as the lira took a breather after plumbing record lows for five straight trading days. 

Jacob RothschildThe lira, which has been highly sensitive to developments in neighboring Syria, recovered slightly to trade at 4.1010 per dollar after hitting a record low of 4.1920 on April 11, with investors’ anxiety over a threatened clash between Western powers and Russia in Syria easing.

The lira is down 2 percent so far this week, also hit by concern about high inflation and the country’s current account deficit.

The lira was the second worst performing emergency currency over the last month after Russian ruble with a nearly 7 percent loss in its value.

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/erdogan-blasts-investors-amid-tumbling-turkish-lira-130212

Jeremy Corbyn threatens to make bankers ‘servants of industry’ in fresh attack on the City

I don’t like Labour’s chances of winning power in the UK – and even if they do, they have a history of changing their tune once they take the reins of power – but this guy’s analysis of the problem is accurate, as far as it goes:

jeremy corbyn

But, has he got the guts and the backing to do anything about it?

“[UK Labour Party leader] Jeremy Corbyn has launched a fresh attack on the City of London by promising to make financiers “the servants of industry” if he becomes prime minister. 

[He] claimed in a speech to manufacturing leaders in London that the finance sector’s “destructive” dominance over “the real economy” and “undemocratic” control over politics needed to be tackled so that the economy can be rebalanced. 

Mr Corbyn told the EEF conference: “We will take decisive action to make finance the servant of industry not the masters of us all.

“For a generation, instead of finance serving industry, politicians have served finance. We’ve seen where that ends.”

robber barons

Cartoon published in “Puck” in 1889

[In fact, the problem goes back far beyond the current generation!]

In a speech that will send shivers through the banking industry, Mr Corbyn vowed that the next Labour government would be “the first in 40 years to stand up for the real economy” and combat the “financial wizardry” running through the City.

Mr Corbyn said: “When private debt is twice the size of the real economy, when traders no longer understand the products they’re trading, and banks are funding their own speculation rather than productive investment, something has gone grossly and badly wrong.” 

We need a fundamental rethink of whom finance should serve and how it should be regulated,” he said. “There can be no rebalancing of our distorted, sluggish and unequal economy without taking on the unfettered power of finance.”

[Actually, we need “a fundamental rethink” of how new money enters the economy – and I’m not convinced that Labour party leaders anywhere know how to implement that!]

Response from the Money marketeers – totally predictable, of course:

city bankers

City parasites making hay while the sun shines

Brexiteer Tory MP and former hedge fund manager Jacob Rees-Mogg hit back at the “ill-informed” comments that he said would hit industry.

Nicky Morgan, the Remain-backing chair of the Treasury select committee, told The Daily Telegraph that Mr Corbyn’s comments were “barmy” and displayed a lack of understanding. 

The business community spoke out in defence of British bankers on Tuesday. The Institute of Directors said that while it was true that the hangover of the financial crisis still loomed large, the City contributed huge amounts to the UK’s growth through jobs and taxes.

Meanwhile the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) added that the [finance] sector was the “lifeblood of Britain’s economy, enabling all other sectors to deliver jobs, develop, innovate and grow”.

Stephen Jones, the chief executive of industry trade association UK Finance, said the sector has “undertaken significant reform in the last 10 years to ensure that the taxpayer should never need to bail out a bank again”.

Source: The Telegraph

More thoughts about transparency and corruption

transparency

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

Once again, I have cause to be proud of my homeland. New Zealand has finally overtaken Denmark to win the title of least corrupt country in the world, according to the organisation Transparency International.

Of course, I was keen to check out the full list of 180, and I have to tell you, I found some surprises. There was a certain predictability about the bottom placings: Iraq and Venezuela tied at 169, North Korea and Libya at 171, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria ranking 175th, 177th and 178th respectively – which may be a true reflection of life in those countries, or a clear message that it doesn’t pay to rile up Uncle Sam. But I’m not here to debate that point.

Zimbabwe has risen to 157th=, after its armed forces staged a coup to overthrow dictator of 37 years, Robert Mugabe last year. Despite the country’s vast mineral wealth, including gold, diamonds and chromite, 80% of the population falls below the poverty line. Zimbabwe holds the world record for annual inflation, achieving the staggering rate of 89.7 sextillion percent in 2008 (I didn’t know there was such a number – but I learned that it’s 1 followed by 21 zeroes!), although the economic wizards in the military junta have reportedly reduced that to a relatively respectable 348%. So they must be pleased to find themselves climbing up the rankings.

Russia, on the other hand, won’t be proud of their placing at 135, especially since that puts them five spots behind Myanmar, currently making headlines around the world for ethnically cleansing their Muslim Rohingya citizens.

myanmar genocide

At least they’re open about it

“The U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar said Thursday that the Myanmar military’s violent operations against Rohingya Muslims bear “the hallmarks of a genocide.” Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled their villages into Bangladesh since the Myanmar military’s crackdown following Aug. 25 attacks by Rohingya insurgents.” But I guess they’re being quite open about what they’re doing, so it doesn’t really count as corruption.

It’s not surprising, then, that the Maldive Islands, playground of the world’s glitterati, managed a ranking of 112, despite the ongoing state of emergency imposed by President Abdulla Yameen

“Yameen had cited threats to national security after the Supreme Court overturned criminal convictions against nine of his opponents and ordered their release.

He sent the army to storm the Supreme Court building and arrest the island nation’s chief justice and another judge on the top court’s bench. His estranged half-brother, former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who has sided with the opposition, was also arrested. The three remaining judges on the Supreme Court then reversed part of their verdict on the release of Yameen’s opponents.”

At least Turkey managed to beat that lot – though President Erdoğan may feel his country deserves to be a little higher than 81st on the list; especially since China slotted in at 77, and South Africa at 71. Cape Town, as you may know, is currently getting unfavourable publicity, poised to become the first major world city to run out of water – although the crisis seems to be less of a problem for citizens with money.

Cuba was a surprise for me, coming in at 62, and Cyprus managed a commendable 42, my favourite number – though of course that’s “Greek” Cyprus, and needless to say, the Turkish enclave didn’t get a mention.

tax havens 2

And check their TI rankings!

By the time I’d got up to the 30s, my cynicism was starting to really kick in . . . so when I saw Costa Rica, tax-haven for the world’s mega-rich at No. 38, I wasn’t too surprised. Still, who’d have expected to see Botswana up there at 34, just behind Israel at 32, whose government has for years been ignoring UN requests to stop massacring Palestinians and invading their lands? Still, they’re pretty up-front about that too.

Which brought me to the 20s – and there was/were the United Arab Emirates, up with the elite of the world’s squeaky-clean at No 21!

“The UAE is the most densely migrant-populated country in the world. About 90 percent of the UAE’s 9 million people are foreign-born, most working on temporary employment contracts in a range of white-collar, blue-collar and service industry jobs. Only a handful of migrants have been granted citizenship since the country gained independence in 1971. Amnesty International and other humanitarian agencies have put a spotlight on the hardships migrant workers have faced, including exploitation of construction workers and unequal protection of women and domestic workers.”

Soooo . . . What do you make of all that? At the very least, you’d want to take a closer look at the criteria those “Transparency” people are using to make their assessments.

New Zealand was awarded No 1 spot, in spite of the following well-publicised facts:

  • * “Hundreds of drivers have had their licenses cancelled after a fraudulent licensing scam was uncovered; revealing [Ministry of Transport] staff had accepted bribes of up to $600 in exchange for a licence.”
  • A new plan has been put forward for the America’s Cup bases in Auckland by a company owned by some of the country’s richest businessmen who own 20 hectares of land at Wynyard Quarter and the Viaduct Harbour.” Some less wealthy citizens believe the plan will further develop Auckland’s downtown as an exclusive playground for the super-rich. I’ll be following that one with interest.
  • “Immigration NZ has completed an investigation [but not releasing their findings] into whether Kim Dotcom can be deported from New Zealand for failing to declare a dangerous driving conviction – but it’s refusing to say what the outcome is.

[Dotcom] entered the country on a special scheme intended to attract wealthy foreigners, giving three-years residency and a fast-track to citizenship to those who invested $10 million or more in New Zealand.

Documents obtained by the Herald through the Official Information Act showed NZSIS staff tried to block the residency application but dropped its objection after being told there was “political pressure” to let the tycoon into New Zealand.

At the time, the new residency scheme was having little success and – documents show – [Immigration Minister] Coleman was eager to get “high rollers” into the country.”

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ex-mayor Banks, Kim Dotcom and former PM John Key

Dotcom, as you may know, made wagonloads of money from various online businesses including his file-sharing website, Megaupload, arousing the ire of powerful figures in the United States. The US government then pressured their NZ counterparts to have him extradited, despite the fact that he is a citizen of Germany. Although known to have criminal convictions in Hong Kong and Germany, and to have served prison time in his own country, Dotcom was granted fast track residence in New Zealand in 2010. At the time of his application, he made several substantial “charitable” donations, one of which was a $50,000 contribution to the election campaign of former Auckland Mayor and Member of Parliament, John Banks.

Mr Banks faced criminal charges as a result, but claimed not to remember Dotcom’s financial assistance. Nevertheless, he was convicted in 2014 of filing a false electoral return. The conviction was subsequently overturned after Banks brought a witness from the USA to support his story (of amnesia?). However, it seems his righteous indignation went a little too far when he sought to get $190,000 legal costs awarded against Dotcom. In a recent Court of Appeal decision, the judge ruled that, although the original conviction had been reversed on a legal technicality, the court had stopped short of declaring Banks innocent – so no payment of costs was justifiable. Incidentally, after arriving in New Zealand, Dotcom had taken out a lease on one of the country’s most expensive houses, by coincidence no doubt, in the electorate of John Key, NZ’s Prime Minister at the time, and leader of the government which included John Banks.

  • The latest scandal rocking New Zealand’s ruling elite involves the venerable law firm, Russell McVeagh, among the country’s largest and most reputable. After some prevaricating, the partners have admitted that there had been shenanigans in the past involving some of their colleagues and young summer interns from the University of Auckland Law Faculty. There has been talk of interns selected for their physical attributes, required to sign confidentiality agreements, and engaging in sex acts on the boardroom table.

Complaints had apparently been laid by Auckland University on behalf of some of the students concerned, none of whom, however, want their names to be known for fear of retribution from their powerful assailants. Nothing corrupt about all that, of course. The interns were, after all, willing participants, I guess.

Nevertheless, it does make you wonder about Transparency International, and how they go about comparing and assessing levels of transparency and corruption in those 180 countries.

The TI organisation was apparently founded in Germany in 1993 by an interesting coterie of high-flyers including a former director of the World Bank, a lawyer for General Electric, a member of the US military intelligence establishment, and several high-ups in corporate banking and industry (Source: Wikipedia).

In spite of being clearly dependent on information from whistle-blowers, TI recently specifically refused support for Edward Snowden, one of the key informants for WikiLeaks. There has also been some discomfort expressed over how TI can maintain objectivity when it accepts large donations from large corporations (such as the $3 million paid over by Siemens Corp in 2008). The American chapter of Transparency International, TI-USA, was censured by its parent body after presenting Hilary Clinton with its Integrity Award in 2012. There has also apparently been some conflict with the TI people in New Zealand, though I haven’t been able to learn the exact details.

Well, ok, maybe the central powers at TI do seek to supervise the moral integrity of their branches abroad – but I read of another case involving a TI employee, Anna Buzzoni, having to leave the organisation after blowing the whistle on “questionable financial dealings” at TI’s Water Integrity Network.

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Settled out of court in a case accusing them of deceiving investors and contributing to the 2008 world financial crisis

Who can you trust these days?

Certainly not the rankings provided by the world’s major credit rating agencies. The latest list published by Standard and Poors assesses New Zealand, with no manufacturing industry to speak of, and a tiny population, as AA,  a “High Grade” investment; and Turkey, with its booming economy and large manufacturing sector, as BB, “non-investment grade, speculative”. Still, maybe you’re better off not getting a good grade from those crooks:

In the spring of 2013, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s settled two “long-running” lawsuits “seeking to hold them responsible for misleading investors about the safety of risky debt vehicles that they had rated”. The suits were filed in 2008 and had sought more than $700 million of damages. Settlement terms were not disclosed in both cases, and the lawsuits were dismissed “with prejudice”, meaning they cannot be brought again.

In the end, S&P settled for $1.5 billion – possibly feeling it was worth the money to avoid further negative publicity. Now it seems they are back dispensing credit ratings, and investors are happy to trust them again. Really?

Where did the money go?

There will always be prophets of doom, I guess, forecasting the end of the world. The care-taker at the school where I work insists that the Koran tells of a war-to-end-all -wars in the Middle East, followed by the final Day of Judgment. Who knows? Turkey and the United States look to be on a collision course right now. Who’ll blink first, I wonder? Or will they actually come to blows?

But getting back to the economy, that is no doubt the biggest danger. Wars are generally a side effect of the uber-rich seeking new ways of grasping more of the world’s wealth to themselves and ensuring that the rest of us are kept in our place.

Dropped wallet

Bill Gates lost $2.25 billion!

Last Monday the US Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 1,500 points, and I read that the fortunes of the world’s 500 richest people, including Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, fell by $114 billion.

“Berkshire Hathaway Inc. chairman Warren Buffett, the world’s third-richest person, was hardest hit, losing $5.1 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.

“Facebook Inc. Chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune tumbled by $3.6 billion, the second-biggest decline.

“Even Amazon.com Inc. chief executive officer Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, wasn’t immune to the carnage. His fortune slipped $3.3 billion to $116.4 billion. Alphabet Inc.’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin each took hits of about $2.3 billion.”

pickpocket-barcelona

Sheldon Adelson lost $1.21 billion!

Time Magazine reported that nineteen people in the world managed to lose $1 billion or more each. See the list here.

Since, then, things seem to have settled down, and economist lackeys of the capitalist world are reassuring us that “what happened to the markets amounts to a correction rather than a crash.”

On the other hand, an aristocratic-sounding fellow writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, says “The Fed and fellow central banks have stimulated a titanic expansion of debt over the last quarter century: an asymmetric policy of letting booms run their course while always intervening to prevent busts, culminating in the final throw of QE.

This has driven down the natural Wicksellian rate of interest and led to grievous intertemporal distortions. It has lifted the world debt ratio by 51 per cent of GDP to 327 per cent since the pre-Lehman peak, and led to a synchronised “everything bubble”, from bonds, equities, property, to art and Bitcoin.”

I confess I got lost with some of the jargon. The “natural Wicksellian rate of interest” and “intertemporal distortions” sound like things Douglas Adams might have invented, but Mr E-P does sound a little worried, doesn’t he! In fact, he began his analysis with the words, “Say your prayers”.

Well, I guess if you have $120 billion to start with, losing a paltry $3 billion is not going to worry you unduly. I’m wondering, however, if there weren’t a few people in the USA, outside the billionaire bracket, who took losses they couldn’t afford. I haven’t read anything about them, however, so I’m purely speculating.

But the real issue that concerns me here is not the small change of a few filthy rich planet-rapers, nor even ma and pa investor in homeland USA.

The question I want an answer to is: Where did that money go? It’s not as though young Mr Bezos left his wallet on the bus with $3.3 billion in it, and some lucky guy found it; or Warren B had an envelope stuffed with $5.1 billion in his back pocket, and someone snatched it. That I can understand. I lose money, you find it, lucky you.

Funny-Disney-Dollars-Picture

Just have faith, people, and everything will be fine!

But this money, as far as I understand, actually disappeared into thin air. No one is any better off as a result. How can this be? What does that say about what money actually is if it can just vanish without trace? And that, of course, begs the question, where did it come from in the first place?

Until we all start to focus on demanding answers to these questions, or maybe seeing the answer that is under our nose, instead of allowing ourselves to be distracted by red herring minority interest social issues, our world is surely on the road to Armageddon – and those uber-wealthy zillionaires and their lapdog economist experts are running out of Band-Aid solutions.