How banks create money out of thin air

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AND loaned out at interest! AND the depositor can still ask for his/her money back!

Let’s not get sidetracked. There’s actually more to the world’s problems than just Donald Trump and Turkey’s RT Erdoğan.

This is clip is from a NZ source – but the same situation exists the world over:

http://tvnz.co.nz/seven-sharp/paying-interest-loan-never-existed-video-5336329

The ending is a bit weak – so you only need to watch the first few minutes.

Same old story, 100 years on – “100 Yıllık Terane”

dscf0497I’ve been cruising past the sign for a week or so now – a huge billboard strikingly designed in red and black and white, located near a busy intersection on Istanbul’s Baghdad Avenue. It’s a long way from Baghdad, Iraq, of course, but once upon a time this road was probably the main route to that legendary city of the Near East. These days, Baghdad Ave, at least around where that billboard is, is the premier shopping district on the Asian side of the city – and a popular strip for young unattached wealthy males to prowl in their Porsches and Lamborghinis searching for an impressionable and willing young lass to whisk off to designer paradise.

The local council is unapologetically CHP – meaning they, and the citizens who elected them, are implacable foes of the AK Party that governs the country and manages the broader Istanbul Metropolitan region. So I suspect there are a few locals gnashing their teeth over this billboard – if they’ve actually noticed it, or managed to work out what it’s all about. I don’t want to undervalue the intelligence of those implacable foes – but sometimes I wonder whether their brains are actually engaged with their mouths.

The huge red and black billboard is advertising a book. That in itself is something of an oddity in a culture not especially given to reading for information or pleasure. I passed it several times myself before deciding to take a closer interest. I checked it out online, and then, my curiosity aroused, dropped into a nearby bookstore and purchased a copy: “100 Yıllık Terane” by Taha Ün – subtitled “This kind of coincidence is only seen in films”.

Well, I’m still a slow reader of Turkish, and the introductory pages are pretty heavy going – but Mr Ün, a journalist and amateur historian, I gather, has found a very interesting thesis. He is revisiting the closing years of the Ottoman Empire, in particular, a period of 33 years from 1876 to 1909 when Sultan Abdulhamid II was on the throne. He wasn’t the last Ottoman Sultan, and by no means a major threat to Europe, but he has possibly the worst reputation among the 36 scions of the House of Osman. Taha Ün has looked back on how that Abdulhamid was depicted in the Western press – and drawn 180 pages of fascinating parallels with the 15-year tenure of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as Prime Minister first, and now President of the modern Republic of Turkey.

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Crusaders conquering CHRISTIAN Constantinople in 1204

It’s a subject that needs airing – and not only to a Turkish audience. In fact I suggest that the determination of Western opinion-leaders to blacken the image of Turkey and earlier Islamic civilisations is centuries-old. For two hundred years after the first Crusade in 1095 CE, Western “Christendom” launched wave after wave of ruinous invasion on sophisticated civilisations in the Near East, with little concern as to whether they were Muslim or Christian.

There was a period of two centuries or so after Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453 when Western powers, not yet in the ascendancy, were obliged to find ways of getting along with their powerful Muslim neighbour. That began to change, however, after a coalition of European forces won a decisive victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683. Thereafter Ottoman power went into slow decline – to the delight of rising Western Empires eager to add its territories and wealth to their own expanding spheres of influence.

Tourists in Istanbul tend to spend much of their time visiting historical sights in the Sultanahmet area. Ahmet I reigned from 1603 to 1617 and was responsible, among other achievements, for commissioning the famous “Blue Mosque”. He is not to be confused with Sultan Ahmet III, who ruled the Empire for twenty-seven years at the beginning of the 18th century until deposed by a military coup.

Ahmet III’s reign is commonly known to historians as the “Tulip Era”, in reference to a craze for the bulbs and flowers among Ottoman court society. The uprising of Janissary soldiers that overthrew Ahmet in 1730 is generally portrayed in Western histories as a popular revolt against “the excessive pomp and costly luxury” of the Sultan and his court. The figurehead of the uprising, Patrona Halil, a Janissary officer of Albanian extraction, apparently found time and leisure from his insurrectionary duties to pose for a romantic portrait by the French artist Jean Baptiste Vanmour.

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Romantic French portrayal of Patrona Halil

Perhaps surprisingly, then, Ahmet III had actually been doing his best to cultivate good relations with France – incidentally at a time when that nation was not notable for democratic treatment of its own citizens. Apart from growing tulips, and living in the lap of luxury – a lifestyle not altogether shunned by his French contemporary, Louis XIV – the Ottoman Sultan “left the finances of the Ottoman Empire in a flourishing condition . . . without excessive taxation or extortion procedures”. He was probably the first of his line to look Westward with an eye to emulating European progress. He was a patron of literature, architecture and the arts in general, promoted commerce and industry, and authorised the introduction of printing presses for producing books in the Ottoman language. During Ahmet’s reign the Ottomans came close to destroying the power of the emerging Russian Empire – and it is perhaps here that we may seek the reason for his negative portrayal in the West.

Apparently King Charles XII of Sweden was given sanctuary by the Ottomans after his army had been defeated by the Russians in 1709. Refusing to hand over the Swedish monarch brought Ahmet into a war with his northern neighbour, which was going badly for the Russians until the Safavid Persians attacked the Ottomans in the east. At least one historian has argued that the resulting peace treaty possibly turned the course of history, in that it saved Tsar Peter, who subsequently went on to become the Great Emperor of Russia, from possible capture and imprisonment.

That looks like quite an impressive list of achievements for a guy who ascended the throne at the age of 13; and it might seem a trifle unfair to write him off with a belittling reference to tulips and luxurious decadence. Russia had had close diplomatic relations with Persia since at least the middle of the 16th century. As their power increased, it is likely that they saw benefits accruing from stirring up conflict between the two Muslim empires to the south – and not impossible that the Shi’ite Persians hoped to win favour with Russia and territorial gains for themselves by striking the Sunni Ottomans while they were otherwise engaged. It is also possible that Western interests were served by fomenting internal strife against Sultan Ahmet when he looked as though he might be turning the tide of Ottoman decline. But it’s just a theory, you understand.

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Selimiye Barracks – still an Istanbul landmark

Anyway, let’s move forward another hundred years. By the beginning of the 19th century the Ottoman Empire was really struggling. Western Europe was well into its industrial revolution; the Big Three, Britain, France and Russia, were expanding on all fronts; and military defeats by their troublesome eastern neighbour had become a thing of the past. Selim III ascended the throne in 1789, the year of the French Revolution, with reform on his mind, particularly in the fields of education and the military. The landmark four-towered army barracks on the Asian shore of the Bosporus near Kadıköy stands as a symbol of his efforts. They were cut short, however, by forces of conservatism within the Empire, the Janissary army, religious leaders and the hereditary elite, who, fearing the loss of their traditional power, joined forces to overthrow and murder him. Selim’s two successors both had brief reigns and came to nasty ends, before his great-nephew Mahmud II took over in 1808.

Bucking the trend of recent years, the 30th Sultan managed 31 years on the throne and died of natural causes. He carried out far-reaching reforms in administrative, fiscal and military matters. One of his major achievements was abolishing the Janissary corps, once-feared symbol of Ottoman military might, that had long since become more active as a force of reaction, overthrowing and sometimes assassinating reform-minded Sultans. Mahmud went on to set up a more equitable taxation system; curb the power of local governors; establish a modern army and navy; and institute clothing reforms that brought his subjects more into line with Western conventions. Interestingly, it was he who introduced the fez in place of the traditional turban – though that headgear itself later came to be seen as a symbol of Ottoman backwardness.

Once again, however, the machinations of European powers worked against Mahmud’s positive moves. “The Eastern Question” assumed increasing importance as a motive behind the foreign policies of Western governments. The essence of the question was: “When will the Ottoman Empire finally collapse and disintegrate – and which of us will get what parts of it when it does?” British, French and Russian governments might, of course, have different answers to this question, with the result that sometimes they worked together against the Ottomans; and sometimes supported the Ottomans against each other, bolstering them up to suit their own interests while doing their best to undermine them and assist the break-up of the Empire from within.

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Prince Otto of Bavaria – King of “independent” Greece, 1830

The Greek War of Independence that began in 1821 illustrated the complexities of the Eastern Question. Russia, always keen to get access to the warm waters of the Mediterranean, saw advantage in championing the Sultan’s Eastern Orthodox Christian subjects to rebel, and bring the Bosporus Straits and the Aegean Sea under Russian control. Britain and France wanted to keep Russia bottled up in its frozen wastes. A compromise was brought about when the navies of the three Great Powers combined to smash the Ottoman and Egyptian navies, and create an “independent Greek” state. Just how “independent” became clear when a Roman Catholic Prince from Bavaria was installed on the throne of the new kingdom, whose finances were supported by loans from Britain and the Rothschild bank.

The very name “Greece” in fact carried little or no significance for the “Greeks” themselves, who preferred (and still prefer) variations on the theme of “Hellas”. British aristocrats supporting the “Greek” struggle had confused ideas about returning modern-day locals to the pagan glories of mythological ancient times they remembered hazily from their Etonian school days. Modern Hellenes laboured under the misconception that they would be permitted to re-establish a Christian Byzantine Empire centred on Constantinople. Dream on!

Nevertheless, a precedent was set for the Great Powers to support downtrodden Christian minorities in the Ottoman Empire, encouraging them to rebel and bring down the wrath of the Ottoman government on their heads – whereupon said great Powers would be justified in getting involved with a nationalist struggle on humanitarian grounds.

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So, which empire showed more humanity?

This new strategy of the Western powers proved a major nightmare for Mahmud’s son, Abdulmejid (Abdülmecid), Sultan from 1839 to 1861. The new monarch is remembered in Turkish history as the initiator of Tanzimat (Reorganisation), an ambitious programme of reforms encompassing finance, the civil and criminal law, the establishment of modern universities, equal treatment for religious minorities in the Empire, and the abolition of slavery. According to Wikipedia, he had “plans to send humanitarian aid of £10,000 to Ireland during its Great Famine, but later agreed to reduce it to £1,000 at the insistence of British diplomats wishing to avoid embarrassing Queen Victoria, who had made a donation of £5,000.”

His attempts to combat the rise of separatist nationalist movements, however, by legislating for equal rights, and promoting “Ottomanism” as a unifying doctrine were undone by Great Power support for Christian minorities. While Britain and France were lending support in the Crimean War to contain Russian expansion, the Russians themselves were driving out the Muslim inhabitants of the Caucasus, and, following the example of “Greek independence”, inciting Armenian Christians in eastern Anatolia to rise up against their lawful government.

Abdulmejid died of tuberculosis at the age of 38 and was succeeded by his brother, Abdülaziz. Despite his continued attempts to modernise the Empire, Ottoman travails continued. He attempted to cultivate ties with France – which was undermined by France’s crushing defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1871. Britain, as always, proved an untrustworthy ally, by this time more interested in acquiring Ottoman territories after the construction of the Suez Canal. The British Government originally opposed the French project but, later took over the canal, and extended its influence into Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean. Increasingly desperate, the Ottoman government turned to Russia for assistance, but Russian support for nationalist independence movements in the Balkans meant there was little hope to be gained from that quarter. Abdulaziz struggled on for fifteen years before mounting crises at home and abroad led to his deposition in 1876. There is some disagreement over his subsequent death – did he top himself, or was he “offed”?

Whatever the case, the once mighty empire was in an almighty mess. Abdulaziz’s nephew lasted 93 days on the throne before being ousted on the grounds of insanity. His younger brother was crowned Abdulhamid II on 31 August 1876. Within fifteen months the Ottomans had fought and lost a disastrous war with Russia, whose forces were massed at the very gates of Istanbul/ Constantinople. Only last minute interference by the British Navy averted total defeat – but most of Ottoman territory in the Balkans was lost, and the Brits made off with the island of Cyprus.

Which brings us back to that book. There seems to be some revision of history under way in Turkey these days. Of necessity, the founders of the Republic dissociated themselves from the Ottoman Empire, on whose ashes they hoped to build a new nation. In looking to the West for inspiration and guidance, they took on board Western perceptions of Ottoman history depicting its rulers as corrupt, decadent and brutal. An unfortunate side effect of this process was a loss of identity, a feeling of inferiority that manifested itself in attempts to leapfrog 900 years of history and establish a semi-mythological connection to Turkic forebears in Central Asia. All of which bolstered Western stereotypes of swarthy, camel-riding barbarians not fit to be granted entry into Europe.

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Sultan Abdulhamid II

An important new industry in Turkey is producing television drama series that have been finding surprisingly enthusiastic audiences, not only at home, but in the Middle East and as far away as South America. Yesterday the first episode of a new historical drama was screened: “Payitaht: Abdülhamid”. The title is somewhat cryptic – possibly implying that, for better or worse, this guy WAS the sole governing power of the Empire at that time. Apparently the series deals with the last thirteen years of that controversial Sultan’s reign, from 1896 to his deposition in 1909. Another sign, perhaps, that Turkey is no longer satisfied to be defined by Western stereotypes.

Douglas Adams -Prophet and seer, visionary of the post-modern world

Republican 2016 U.S. presidential candidate businessman Donald Trump listens to a question at the first official Republican presidential candidates debate of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign in ClevelandFor all those well-intentioned Americans  going into paroxysms of fury over their new President, here are some words of wisdom from Douglas Adams – one of the great geniuses of the late 20th century. Adams, as I’m sure you are aware, was the author of that “increasingly inaccurately named trilogy”, the five-volume “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

Adams penned his master work in the days when it was still possible to satirise Western governments and their leaders. These days they have gone far beyond the wildest imaginings of the most hallucinatory satirist. Adams saw the writing on the wall. Way back in 1978, he foresaw the election of the big DT!

79b489450d3f20ddffb5041c3f8a42ef“It was not in any way a coincidence that today, the day of culmination of the project, the great day of unveiling, the day that the Heart of Gold was finally to be introduced to a marvelling Galaxy, was also a day of culmination for Zaphod Beeblebrox. It was for the sake of this day that he had first decided to run for the Presidency, a decision which had sent waves of astonishment throughout the Imperial Galaxy – Zaphod Beeblebrox? President? Not the The Zaphod Beeblebrox? Not the President? Many had seen it as clinching proof that the whole of known creation had finally gone bananas.

Zaphod Beeblebrox, adventurer, ex-hippy, good timer, crook? (Quite possibly), manic self-publicist, terribly bad at personal relationships, often thought to be completely out to lunch.

President?

No one had gone bananas. Not in that way, at least.

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Big Arnie leading the way in California

Only six people in the entire galaxy understood the principle on which the Galaxy was governed, and they knew that once Zaphod Beeblebrox had announced his intention to run as President it was more or less a fait accompli: he was the ideal Presidency fodder.

It might not have made much difference if people had known exactly how much power the President of the Galaxy actually wielded: none at all.

Only six people in the Galaxy knew that the job of Galactic President was not to wield power but to attract attention away from it.”

Bonkers for BUNKERS: Doomsday Prep for the Super-Rich | Paraguay Compounds?

Look out, New Zealand. Your years of quiet, isolated complacency are coming to an end. I’m reblogging this from Lara Trace Hentz.

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The swimming pool at Larry Hall’s Survival Condo Project. These days, when North Korea tests a bomb, Hall can expect an uptick in phone inquiries about space in the complex.

(New Yorker excerpt) …On a cool evening in early November, I rented a car in Wichita, Kansas, and drove north from the city through slanting sunlight, across the suburbs and out beyond the last shopping center, where the horizon settles into farmland. After a couple of hours, just before the town of Concordia, I headed west, down a dirt track flanked by corn and soybean fields, winding through darkness until my lights settled on a large steel gate. A guard, dressed in camouflage, held a semiautomatic rifle.

He ushered me through, and, in the darkness, I could see the outline of a vast concrete dome, with a metal blast door partly ajar. I was greeted by Larry Hall, the C.E.O…

View original post 1,003 more words

“NZ at the Crossroads” – A somewhat overdue book review

Well first up, I want to apologise for the lateness of this review. In mitigation, I will offer the excuse that my birth was still some years in the future when the book itself was published in 1936. I managed to get hold of a copy recently after a search on the Internet turned up a signed first edition at a bookshop in Symonds Street, Auckland.

nz-xroadsWhy was I searching? I’m a long-standing proponent of monetary reform – a firm believer that most of the world’s ills stem from the fact that ninety per cent of the money governing every aspect of human life on planet Earth is created as interest-bearing debt by private bankers. And not until the power to create money is removed from private interests and vested in the state, the government and the people who elect them, will true social justice ever become an achievable goal.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s in New Zealand I was actively involved with a political party/pressure group arguing for monetary reform. I stood twice (unsuccessfully) as a candidate for parliament in 1981 and 1984. I saw close up the dirty tricks the forces of reaction would stoop to ensure the Social Credit Political League was wiped out as a voice of reason in a system designed to maintain a corrupt and unjust financial structure.

Recently I have been heartened to see a re-emergence online of individuals and organisations arguing for Positive Money. It’s long overdue. The case is irrefutable. The main stumbling block is public ignorance about how money actually works. The Money Power Elite use this ignorance to maintain a grotesque system that keeps most of the world’s population in poverty and slavery.

The author of “New Zealand at the Crossroads” was Henry J Kelliher, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1963 for his “services to Philanthropy”. It may have helped that he was one of the country’s richest men as a result of being owner/founder of Dominion Breweries, one of the two companies that produced most of NZ’s beer. Nevertheless, the case for Sir Henry’s philanthropy may have a better foundation than other mega-rich claimants to the title in our days.

In 1956 he set up a trust to administer an annual award for promising painters, and some of the NZ art world’s biggest names were early recipients. The award was discontinued in 1977, but a second foundation continues to present annual prizes for essays written by young students of economics.

I’ve searched online and I’ve been unable to turn up any of the subjects these young economists have written about. It also possibly detracts a little from Sir Henry’s reputation for philanthropy that his knighthood was put forward by a National (conservative) government at the time. “New Zealand at the Crossroads”, however, provides firm evidence that its author had a strong social conscience, and was at the forefront of the contemporary movement for monetary reform.

In fifteen chapters and 184 pages, Kelliher covered such topics as:

  • The nature and function of money
  • The social and economic disaster of unemployment
  • The importance for all of economic security
  • The urgent need for monetary reform
  • The influence of the press in resisting reform
  • The hypocrisy of the church in failing to fight for social justice

His first sentence announced that his book was “intended for those men and women who prefer to do their own thinking,” and he made a clear statement of intent in his introduction:

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Arresting “Communists” in Auckland, 1932

“It must be evident that a government which does not recognise as a fundamental duty the function of issuing all new money, and of controlling and regulating all money in circulation does not control the affairs of the country, nor is it safeguarding the welfare of the people. Such a government may govern but does not rule, because the real control of the country is in the hands of the ‘Invisible Government’ – the Money Power.”

In November 1935, in the depths of a global economic depression, and suffering more than most its socially destructive effects, New Zealand voters overwhelmingly elected the country’s first Labour Government. The main reason for Labour’s broad appeal, to farmers and owners of small businesses as well as wage-earners and the unemployed, was its “pledge to the people of New Zealand to take control of its own money and credit.” And they were not alone. According to Kelliher, “In Italy, Germany, Russia and Japan money [had] recently been put completely, or almost completely, under control of the governments of those countries.” Such a claim might cause one to wonder whether there was a more sinister agenda behind the demonisation of those countries in years to come. Whatever the case, Sir Henry argued that “There [was] ample evidence of a deliberate and well-planned conspiracy to keep this truth and knowledge from the people by those who hold this all-powerful monopoly to manufacture money and to conceal or disguise the unsoundness and iniquity of the existing system.”

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Mickey Sav – The portrait that hung on many a domestic wall in NZ for years afterwards

That New Zealand Government after 1935 did indeed attempt to implement its pledge first and foremost by converting the NZ Reserve Bank into an entirely State institution, then using credit provided thereby to carry out a programme of house building that provided a stimulus to industry, jobs for citizens, and low-cost, high quality housing for the needy. The results of the programme saw that Labour Government beloved by the people, and its Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, elevated to a status bordering on, or possibly exceeding, sainthood.

Sad to say, that programme was a one-off. Kelliher wrote prophetically in his conclusion, “The great privilege, and the still greater responsibility to carry out the wishes of the people, and to bring to full fruition the possibilities and potential effects of this momentous piece of financial legislation [the Reserve Bank Act] rests entirely with the Government. The machinery has been provided, and the future will depend on the full and effective use and wise direction of this machinery in the service of the people.”

The Government reneged on its pledge. Some argue, and it is indeed highly probable, that the supra-national “Money Power” cajoled and threatened Labour’s leading politicians into dropping their programme. Those in the government who argued for its retention were sidelined or driven out. Within a couple of years, the British Empire had launched itself into a horrendous global war, financed by traditional private sector-created debt. New Zealand took the wrong turning at those crossroads, an epochal chance was lost – and the world settled comfortably (for some) back into hands of the blood-sucking money monopolists.

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The dedication in my copy of the book

As a footnote, my copy of this little book, signed by HJ Kelliher himself, 27 years before his knighthood, is dedicated to CG Scrimgeour Esq. Colin Graham Scrimgeour, popularly known as “Uncle Scrim”, was a hugely influential personality in New Zealand in the Golden Age of radio broadcasting. Under the guise of religion, “Scrim” broadcast regular weekly programmes during the Depression years giving voice to the concerns of the common people and “pushed the rigorous censorship of broadcasting to the limit”. He was a strong supporter of the Labour Party in the lead up to the 1935 election, and some say, an important contributor to its electoral success.

In spite of that, however, he was not given the commercial licence he was expecting to operate his own radio station. Savage’s Government in fact nationalised broadcasting – before later re-privatising the creation of money. As the Labour Government moved away from its financial reform pledge, Scrim became an increasingly outspoken voice of conscience. After Savage died, he was succeeded by the newly conservativised Peter Fraser, who led New Zealand enthusiastically into the Second World War, and reintroduced military conscription, against all his one-time principles. Fraser did not conceal his hatred for Scrim, had him called up for military service at the age of 40, and dismissed from his position as Controller of the National Commercial [sic] Broadcasting service.

I’m sorry to say, you are unlikely to find a copy of Kelliher’s book. I consider myself inordinately fortunate to have found this one. Call it fate or coincidence. HJK was once upon a time my grandfather-in-law – though I only met him once when he had long-since given up his reforming zeal. I do encourage you, though, to click on this link to Positive Money, and do your best to draw aside the veil of ignorance covering this all-important of subjects. Eighty years on, it’s more important than ever!

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Postscript: You may wonder why I’m posting this seemingly irrelevant book review on my blog site about Turkey. It occurred to me that these ideas on financial reform were very prevalent in the 1920s and 30s, around the time Mustafa Kemal Atatürk was trying to build a modern viable republic from the economic and social ruins of the Ottoman Empire. I can’t help wondering if he managed to finance some of his rebuilding projects by intelligent use of the new nation’s credit.

I haven’t yet turned up any corroboratory evidence – but neither have I found any serious discussion of where the money actually did come from. It’s equally true that you will search hard through any histories of New Zealand in those days before you find even the most oblique reference to how Labour financed its state housing project. So I’m not ruling it out.

For Trump, the enemy within is US intelligence

Here’s an interesting piece from the Bangkok Post. Not a source I read regularly, I have to tell you. Maybe I’ll check it out more often. Thanks to my old friend Rob in New Zealand for the link.

cia-loves-u-760208“If you look at the fireworks between President-elect Donald Trump and the American intelligence community under Barack Obama — about whether the Russians hacked the US election in favour of Mr Trump — it’s helpful to research history for clues that may explain how a president-elect could have become so hostile to America’s own spy agency.

“In 1950, President Truman appointed a soldier, Gen Walter Bedell Smith as director of the CIA shortly after the invasion of South Korea. The CIA had been created with the National Security Act of 1947, in part because of American unpreparedness for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.

“A crucial turning point came with the Vietnam War, when the well-trained and often idealistic CIA spies were practising real-life social engineering and counter-insurgency tactics in the dangerous environments of South Vietnam — risking being shot every day — when the anti-war movement in the US took serious hold and began to reach its full bloom.

“It became impossible for American politicians to continue to support that war. The victory for the peaceniks meant defeat for those government employees who served as instruments of US policy and who bore the gritty, tragic hardships and sorrows of the war — the effects of which resonate to this day (including in my own family).

“That was the moment when the true rulers of the United States — the one per cent of super wealthy families and the military-industrial corporations they own and control — grasped who their real enemy was — the domestic US population, the only group of people in the world with the means to foil their plans.”

Intrigued? Read more here

And furthermore . . .

CIA chief Mike Pompeo visits Turkey to discuss policy on Syria and Isis

You can read The Guardian’s take on that here.

Thoughts on Transparency and Corruption – and who’s telling the story

I want to preface what follows with a clear statement that I love my country. New Zealand is the land of my birth, the land where my children grew up, and I am always proud to acknowledge it as my homeland. I also love my adopted country, Turkey, for other reasons entirely. However, in neither case does that love blind me to the fact that both countries have their weaknesses and problems.

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Martial law in Paris? Over one guy with a machete?

One thing I find difficult to understand, though, is how those two countries are depicted in international media. Turkey is unrelentingly portrayed as a land torn by internal divisions, corruption and violence. New Zealand, on the other hand, despite much evidence to the contrary, still manages to retain a reputation for squeaky cleanliness in nature and government, a South Sea paradise of equality and opportunity.

Well, let’s start with Turkey. An article in Time Magazine in January trumpeted, A Relentless Cycle of Terror Threatens to Tear Turkey Apart”. “The bloodshed,” we read, “has become endemic over the past year and a half, as Kurdish separatist militants and Islamic State jihadists have slaughtered hundreds, and an abortive military coup attempt left more than 200 people dead and sparked a wave of repression by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”

Another source maintained that “martial law” is in force in Turkey, and the country is under threat of “military intervention” by NATO.

The recently released Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Turkey 75th out of 176 countries, equal with Bulgaria, Kuwait and Tunisia, behind the Solomon Islands and Burkina Faso, but marginally ahead of Brazil, China and India. On that list, New Zealand is ranked 2nd in the world for “perceived” lack of corruption (more on that later); the United States is 18th, and Estonia, 22nd. Well, I don’t want to single out Estonia for unfair attention, but I can’t help observing that, according to the CIA World Factbook, that tiny Baltic state is a growing producer of synthetic drugs; increasingly important transshipment zone for cannabis, cocaine, opiates, and synthetic drugs since joining the European Union and the Schengen Accord; potential money laundering related to organized crime and drug trafficking is a concern, as is possible use of the gambling sector to launder funds; major use of opiates and ecstasy.”

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From Freedom House. Apparently the green countries are free

An organization calling itself Freedom House has also just released a report entitled Freedom in the World 2017. Ranking all countries from 100 (Blissfully free) to 0 (Miserably enslaved), New Zealand again scores at the top end (98). The USA registers a creditable 89, while Turkey’s rating of 38 places it in the seventh group out of ten, in descending order.

OK, I’m not going to spend a lot of time here defending Turkey. Merely, I will observe that, if your intentions are bad, you can blacken pretty much anyone’s name. Paris, I understand, remains on “a high state of terrorist alert” fifteen months after 130 people were killed (slaughtered?) in a series of attacks by ISIL operatives. The state of alert continues and was justified, apparently, when a guy with a machete attempted to “storm” the Louvre Museum, and was shot by police before he could actually harm anyone. Turkey’s state of alert, on the other hand, is labelled “martial law”, and its government is accused of carrying out a “wave of repression”, despite having narrowly avoided overthrow by a military coup in July that left hundreds of civilians dead. I’m not making light of the tragedy in Paris, but come on, people!

When I first came to Istanbul in 1995, platoons of soldiers jogging around the streets carrying automatic weapons were a common feature of urban life. Martial law, high state of alert or whatever, I haven’t seen such sights here for years.

What about New Zealand, then? Well, despite scare-mongering implications by senior government spokespersons, the last hint of terrorism,” according to a recent Bloomberg article, “came a generation ago, when French spies bombed a Greenpeace campaigning ship docked in Auckland harbor in 1985.The focus of that article was New Zealand’s emergence as a popular bolthole for the mega wealthy.” The reason, they suggest, is the country’s location about as distant as you can get from normal terrorist targets without actually leaving planet Earth.

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NZ’s former Prime Minister dining with China’s richest man

 

Maybe those Bloomberg people are right – though if the world is indeed “going to hell in a handbasket”, as Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom reckons, the greed of those “mega wealthy” parasites would be one of the main reasons. But New Zealand may hold an additional attraction besides its isolation and natural beauty. The notorious Panama Papers, leaked to the world’s media in April 2016, brought to light documents hacked from the Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca. Among the revelations:

  • Details from the Panama Papers show how a stream of foreign cash became a torrent flooding into New Zealand trusts in order to avoid tax offshore.
  • Tens of thousands of Panama Papers documents reveal how New Zealand, Niue, The Cook Islands and Samoa have become prime destinations for the rich to hide their financial secrets.
  • Wealthy Latin Americans are using secretive, tax-free New Zealand shelf companies and trusts to help channel funds around the world.
  • Mossack Fonseca actively promoted New Zealand as a good place to do business due to its tax-free status, high levels of confidentiality and legal security.
  • The number of foreign trusts in New Zealand has surged to almost 10,700 this year from less than 2,000 ten years ago, according to Inland Revenue figures.
  • At the centre of the New Zealand operation is Roger Thompson, a former Inland Revenue employee. His accountancy firm – Bentleys, in the heart of Auckland’s business district – is the New Zealand agent for Mossack Fonseca.

Well, I don’t know about Mexican or other Latin American tycoons, but I do know that a controversy has arisen recently over the granting of New Zealand citizenship to “technology billionaire and Donald Trump supporter Peter Thiel”. The story broke when it was learned that Thiel had bought a 193-hectare waterfront estate on Lake Wanaka, near Queenstown – playground for the wealthy in NZ’s South Island. Apparently Mr Thiel was made a citizen at a private ceremony at the New Zealand consulate in Santa Monica, USA, in August 2011. It seems he failed to meet the usual requirements for citizenship, even admitting he had no intention of living in the country, but allegedly donated $NZ1 million to the relief effort after the devastating 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, and got fast-tracked.

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Countries said to be implicated in the Panama papers in red. What colour is Turkey?

It’s a worthy cause, of course, and you can’t criticise the guy for that – but there does seem to have been a certain amount of shady stuff surrounding the rebuild of NZ’s third largest city. The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) was established in 2011 to oversee reconstruction, but seems to have been plagued by suggestions of mismanagement until it was disestablished in April 2016, with the city still far from recovered. Panel members for instance, were reportedly being paid $1,000 a day for their services, and staff numbers at one stage ballooned to 357. I don’t know if there’s any connection to Peter Thiel’s generous donation, but three former high-level CERA employees are currently under investigation for having abused their positions as public servants to carry out lucrative private property deals.

Another interesting foreign national awarded NZ citizenship under highly questionable circumstances is a gentleman known variously as Yong Ming Yan, Liu Yang, William Yan and Bill Liu. Despite warnings from the Department of Internal Affairs, evidence that the guy was using fraudulent documents, the vast sums he loses gambling in Auckland’s Skycity casino and his Number 5 ranking on the Chinese Government’s list of most-wanted criminals, the NZ Government is in no hurry to hand him over, and he is said to have recently cut a secret deal with the NZ police after $40 million of his assets had been frozen on suspicion of money-laundering – the charge he is wanted for in China.

In view of the above, you may be surprised to learn that Peter Thiel’s name does not appear on National Business Review’s Rich List for New Zealand. Nor is there a single Chinese name, in spite of the fact that Wang, Lee, Chen and Liu have overtaken Smith as the top four surnames in Auckland. The Neo-con National Government frequently reassures local citizens that the remarkable influx of immigrants from China is totally unrelated to the explosion of prices that has seen Auckland become the 20th most expensive city in the world to buy a house, with an average selling price of $911,800. According to that source, you can buy cheaper in Berlin, Madrid or Dubai!

Those people compiling the Corruptions Perceptions Index made some interesting observations in their report, one of which was “This year’s results highlight the connection between corruption and inequality, which feed off each other to create a vicious circle between corruption, unequal distribution of power in society, and unequal distribution of wealth.” Well, no surprises there, but in the light of that, let’s consider a recent UNICEF report stating that “As many as 28 per cent of New Zealand children – about 295,000 – currently live in poverty.” An article in the New Zealand Herald quoted the mayor of a region in the North Island as saying, “subcultures of poverty” persisted in the area despite years of central Government programmes.

“Our failure to deal with entrenched poverty means we are turning our young people into unskilled dependants and, in some cases, drug addicts, gang members and criminals,” he said.

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Auckland, with the population of Philadelphia, PA, and Phoenix, Arizona

In the mean time, guys like Yong Ming Yan, or whatever his real name is, can steal money from China (at least $129 million, they claim), launder it in New Zealand, lose $300 million in Auckland’s Skycity casino without jumping off the harbour bridge – and be rewarded with citizenship. What’s next? A knighthood in the Queen’s Birthday honours? For sure the Skycity owners will be pretty happy with the guy who made such a generous contribution to their $1 billion revenue last year. I can’t see the obvious benefits to New Zealand, though, given that those owners apparently live in Australia, and most of the profits go offshore.

All of which led me to ask, who is compiling the statistics and writing those reports about freedom and corruption in the world? So I checked out Freedom House. According to its own website:

Freedom House was established in 1941 in New York City . . . with the quiet encouragement of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to encourage popular support for American involvement in World War II at a time when isolationist sentiments were running high in the United States.

Having been created in response to the threat of one great totalitarian evil, Nazism, Freedom House took up the struggle against the other great twentieth century totalitarian threat, Communism, after the end of World War II. The organization’s leadership rightly believed that the spread of democracy was the best weapon against totalitarian ideologies. Freedom House embraced as its mission the expansion of freedom around the world and the strengthening of human rights and civil liberties here at home. As a result, Freedom House strongly endorsed the post-war Atlantic Alliance, as well as such key policies and institutions as the Marshall Plan and NATO.”

Wikipedia provides further insights. I didn’t check out all the board members, but four names caught my eye: Kenneth Adelman, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Donald Rumsfield and Paul Wolfowitz. Mr Adelman was a long-term member of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, a “lifelong neo-con activist” who was a big supporter of the US destruction of Iraq, and outspoken proponent of the discredited claim that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction. Brzezinski, clearly of good Protestant Anglo-Saxon stock, is known, among other achievements, for cosying up to Communist China, overseeing the transition of Iran from an important US ally to a major terrorist threat, and arming the Taliban in Afghanistan to oppose the Soviet Union. Rumsfeld was US Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford, and again under George Dubya Bush. He was a major organiser of US invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and supporter of using “enhanced interrogation techniques” on unconvicted prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Wolfowitz is another neo-conservative, former president of the World Bank and once considered by the George Dubya administration as possible head of the CIA.

FREEDOM House? Phooey to them, say I! What value would you place on any report of theirs?

As a conclusion that may or may not be relevant to the present discussion, I read reports of an interview with President Donald Trump the other day. Apparently he had appeared on the Fox News channel where the interviewer was giving him a hard time about his refusal to criticise Russia’s Vladimir Putin, demanding to know how he could lend support to “a killer”. Trump’s quoted response?

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That’s Him saying it, up there on The Mount

“There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”

I have to tell you, the big DT went up considerably in my estimation. The USA has had a few presidents in recent years making political capital out of their Christian faith. This, however, is the first time I have heard one echo the words of that religion’s eponymous founder quoted in Matthew 7:5.

“You hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of your own eye; and then shall you see clearly to cast out the speck out of your brother’s eye.”