Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pensions and the rich
There has never been a public sector pension fund. It is a 'notional' fund run by a government actuary who is supposed to weigh up the figures and then make recommendations. It was really an extra tax on the public sector when private pension schemes were still well run and not robbed by thieves like Maxwell. For example, the then British rail pension fund paid for itself. So many had contributed for so long and it had been well invested, the workers no longer needed to pay any more into it to get their pension. Now whatever happened to all that lovely money when the railways were privatised......?
Now that many private pensions have been shafted and fallen below the level of some (not all by any means) public schemes there are howls of outrage stoked up by a compliant media who 
a) should say how much they are on before they comment
b) Scumbag tories who love a bit of union bashing - a very easy target. 
c) Scumbag tories and their illiberal chums who seek to divide and rule. It takes the heat off the real villains...........
.............the bankers and financiers who caused the mess - and who should be paying towards the clear up - but have you seen any moves? No? Odd that. It could not have anything to do with who pays the bulk of the Scumbag party’s funds.....could it?  

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Expenses Cheat Gove and Maude the Fraud
Is there no limit to the amount of brass neck these two miscreants display? Millionaire Maude moved his second home 300 yards away his London property so he could claim even more cash from the taxpayer. Gove had to pay back £7.5 k in wrongly claimed expenses. 
They both lecture the poor in our society about how they should behave and can be heard currently urging public sector workers ‘to act responsibly.’ What a wonderful example of responsible behaviour they displayed. Shame our supine media do not prefix any announcement from these two paragons with the above reminder of what they are. 
Before they utter any more hypocritical nonsense, they should take a good look in the mirror. 
Raspberries all round.

Monday, 28 November 2011

A view from Scotland
“It was revealed that more than 50,000 people in Glasgow will struggle to put food on the table this Christmas, having been fleeced by unscrupulous lenders. The banks won't touch these people and so they are driven into the hands of loan sharks or finance companies which our governments allow to charge obscene interest rates.
The banks' values are now solely underpinned by the values of greed and avarice. They sell us a lie that they must continue to pay Luciferean bonuses so that they can attract "the world's best financiers". It is as if the knowledge of working the markets is known only to a few anointed necromancers who have studied at the feet of the Father of Lies to gain aptitude at their fell art. Total pish. It's easy to take risks on the markets with a half-decent economics higher and billions of other people's money, secure in the knowledge that you'll never be penalised or prosecuted when you fail, as fail you must.
In Scotland today, more than 100,000 young people are unemployed, more than ever before. This evil is not even deemed worthy of comment by the Bullingdon Club chancers English voters put in Downing Street. As this was announced, George Osborne, a man you can imagine in a Beefeater's hat and a redcoat demanding tithes and a night with your wife, warns companies to stay away from Scotland over uncertainties about independence. He just added another few thousand to the unemployment figures in Scotland. And another few thousand who will now vote yes in the independence referendum.
Don't kid yourself that all this misery facing the poor is an unfortunate but unavoidable byproduct of the "recession". In large parts of Britain, recessions don't occur. In the past 30 years, which, by my calculations, have witnessed three economic recessions, top executive pay has increased by 4,000%. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of low-paid workers have lost their jobs, not because their firms were in trouble, but because they had only made £5m that year instead of £7m. The "recession" is something "top executives" invent when they want to take your job and increase their pensions.
Wednesday's strike action by public sector workers is long overdue. It will not, as David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Osborne claim, cost the country millions. It will inconvenience some of us for a day or so. We won't lose our jobs and be prevented from putting a turkey on the table because of it. That's already happened because of the greed, corruption and negligence of bankers and the governments which turned a blind eye to it all. The right to strike is a noble and dignified tool that workers can use when bosses and the government have taken the piss once too often. I'll be backing the public sector workers. The government ought to be thankful that they will endure a mere day of peaceful protest and not the violent uprising they probably deserve.” Kevin McKenna Observer 27/11/11

Friday, 25 November 2011

Colluding with Madness
There are times in a persons life when difficult decisions have to be made - often in a moment. The consequences either way can be devastating. For instance, there is a momentum gathering about a deeply shaming episode from the Iraq invasion. More and more stones are being turned over and the scale of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners continues to grow. The MOD and the Army stand accused at best of being ignorant of what some troops were getting up to - and therefore incompetent. At worst, willfully blind eyes were turned and warnings ignored all the way to the top of Government. This means you, Blair, Hoon and Straw. The mistreatment of prisoners is in breach of the Geneva Convention and the Human Rights Act. Not difficult to comprehend. 
Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer was the army’s chief legal adviser in Iraq. His warnings about the way prisoners were being treated were not only ignored, he was warned that he would be reported to the Law Society by his then boss. Shortly afterwards he was ‘sent into the wilderness.’ 
Whistleblowers from the NHS would recognise this situation as they too are frequently blamed as being ‘not one of us’ and therefore the problem. Patients lives are secondary to the culture. Warning about unsafe practices or dangerous doctors puts the person doing the warning in danger of losing their job. Or they are bought off with a large payment and a ‘confidentiality agreement.’ A most unsatisfactory way to run a public service.
Iraqi prisoners were not protected and the ethical ambivalence at the top of the MOD/Government meant troops operated in a moral vacuum. Now the reckoning has begun and all those who sat on their hands and kept their mouths shut are busily engaged in an arse covering exercise. 
Whether it is Baha Moussa or Stafford General the process is similar. Bad Practice, Collusion, Cover up, Report and....... Lessons Learned. Oh Yeah.  Whistleblowers or warners are ostracised or sacked. Those who establish the culture emerge unscathed and unaccountable. Hundreds of others inhabiting the same culture are demeaned and maligned by implication.
What damage is done to those who knew what was going on was wrong yet did nothing? For every person prepared to put their head above the parapet there are nine others who keep their heads down. How do those silent ones live with themselves? What does it do to their psyche?
Governments of all persuasions mouth platitudes about supporting whistleblowers but do nothing to establish it as a  necessary part of every job. To not report something should be the offence. The emphasis needs shifting. 
Collusion with madness should be unusual, not the norm. 

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Paying for our politics
The news that all three major political parties in England and Wales expressed unhappiness at the Report into Party Funding which came out today will not be a surprise to anyone who has followed their recent activities. 
For Labour we have Mr Blair and his cash for honours, where wealthy men paid the Labour Party vast sums of money so they could sit in the House of Lords. We also have a long record of union bosses toadying up to Labour too. Giving them millions from their unaware members. Odd they continue to do this -  they have achieved so little for all their donations. Bernie Ecclestone gave them a million and they dropped the plan to remove tobacco advertising from Grand Prix cars. So it works - for the rich.
The Liberals used to be reasonably squeaky clean on this issue - but that was in the days before convicted fraudster Michael Brown gave them £2 million. Having squirmed and wriggled and not returned the money, they stand as sheepishly as a shepherd caught en flagrante with a sheep. 
Then there are the Tories.......Who receive vast sums from their chums in the City and who have done bugger all to rein in the Bankers. Who receive enormous amounts from corporate funders who avoid paying their taxes in the UK. Who are fighting the imposition of a Robin Hood tax because their mates don’t like it even though it would help ease our problems significantly. Who have in their cabinet a bunch of millionaires who like to get up close and personal to the wealthy and barking such as the right wingers and arms dealers met by Mr Fox and his chum Werritty. So they get their offices paid for. And staff. And travel. All out of the goodness of their hearts - bless!
Our democracy is broken.
Relying on this present bunch of venal, short-sighted, undemocratic bubble-dwellers to do anything constructive is a non-starter. 
The idea that we should pay for political parties seems wrong. Why should we pay for the likes of Alistair Campbell, Derek McBride and Andy Coulson, to do their dirty work smearing and bullying decent folk, suppressing truth and being an affront to transparency? 
Go back to basics. Parties to rely on the subscriptions of their members to fund party workers etc. No membership to be more than £100 , with the vast majority fixed at £10. To get that money they would have to get out and about and actually meet real people. Go ‘on the knocker‘ as it used to be called, and involve people from the ground up. They would also have to cut their garment according to their cloth. It may even persuade some of the bubble-dwellers that they have better things to do with their time than meeting real people with real issues.
So goodbye Special Advisers, goodbye ‘researchers‘ and ‘interns‘ and hello root, branch and stem democracy. Welcome back a beefed-up civil service who forego the ‘not one of us‘ approach beloved of Thatcher and who put the needs of the country first. 
Pie in the sky? Maybe - but it would be a damn sight better than what we have now.  

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Rewarding the Rich
Watching Osborne smugly describing his giveaway of Northern Rock as, “A good deal for the taxpayer,” was more than usually annoying. The millionaire chancellor was giving another millionaire many millions of public money. 
According to UK Uncut, Branson and Virgin are serial tax avoiders. 
Which makes the whole thing a lot lot worse.
Smug Osborne must have known this but it didn’t merit consideration because in the strata  they occupy, that is what you do. 
Meanwhile there are over 1 million young people out of work with little or no immediate prospects. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Tory Toerags
It’s the little things. Listening to a friend describe how he could no longer get a cataract fixed on the NHS until his other eye deteriorated was only the beginning. He could of course go private and get it done within a few weeks. Welcome back queue jumping. Many happy returns pennywise pound foolish thinking. What bliss it must be to be a tory at such times. What agony it must be to be a decent Liberal in bed with them knowing they will take the rap. 
Chris Grayling, arch tory toerag, described the figure of 1 million young people being unemployed as “A bit of a distraction.” What from? His other jobs? Sucking up to bankers? 
It is a national disgrace that we condemn our young to penury and a lifetime possibly not knowing anything but the benefit culture and the black economy. Now it wont happen to the Jemimas and the Huberts because they will be supported by Mumsy and Dadsy as they do their internships and wangle their way into lucrative positions in finance or the media. 
Knowing things are getting worse is no comfort. This bunch of ideologically driven incompetents do not inspire confidence. Neither is there any comfort in knowing that the other lot are any better. Today’s news that Northern Rock has been sold off to Virgin tax avoider Branson at a loss typifies the mess we are in.
Our political system is in a mess. No doubt the eviction of the occupy protesters from St Paul’s will reassure the right wing Phil Spaces and Glenda Slags writing in the Daily Hate. It will do nothing for reasonable people and rational debate. 
It might just galvanise people to take more action themselves. It is time for a left-of centre party to emerge who are not in hock to the rich and nasty.
A little bit of civil disobedience could go a long way too.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Corruption in Government
Jack Abramoff was sent to jail in the States for widespread corruption. He served three-and-a-half years of a six year sentence. He was stripped of his status as one of Washington’s best-connected and most powerful lobbyists. He has an insiders view of the way corruption works. He claims it as simple as saying to someone, “You know when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” He said this in an interview on CBS television’s 60 minutes. “The moment I said that to them, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do.” Independent 14/11/11
We do things a bit differently here. We have politicians openly ‘working’ for companies and investment trusts while they are an MP. David Blunkett has so many other engagements he is reputed to make nearly a million a year. William Hague has cut down on his outside activities but he has not stopped them all. Patricia Hewitt walked out of her job as health secretary straight into a series of non-executive directorships with private health care companies. There are many, many more.
Does it matter? You betcha!
Take this little nugget from the letters page of yesterdays Guardian about the privatisation of Hinchinbrooke Hospital. “The company recruited a former aide to health secretary Andrew Lansley as head of communications. Christina Lineen spent two years working for Lansley prior to him becoming health secretary. In addition , Conservative MP for Boston and Skegness Mark Simmonds, who was a minister when the healthcare reforms were drawn up, was paid £50,000 a year to work just 10 hours a month as ‘strategic adviser’ to Circle Healthcare.” Guardian 14/11/11
At the height of the expenses scandal, Lansley featured on Question Time. He did not go down well with the audience, with his claim that the extra £30,000 per year he received for attending 10 meetings a year, was value for money and helped him in his role as an MP. The company turned out to be a private health care concern. Seed corn. 
It is no surprise to see that Lansley is sitting on a report examining the implications of his so-called reforms. Now why would he do that? The Information Commissioner has given him a further 30 days to comply and publish the report. Unfortunately, most of the votes on the bill will have been completed by then.
Our system is rotten through and through. Lansley and his cronies are among the rottenest of a deeply shitty bunch.
As Andrew Robertson, the author of the Guardian letter concluded, “Our democracy is broken.”

Monday, 14 November 2011

EDF (Extremely Dodgy Firm)
“France's state energy firm EDF has been fined €1.5m by a Paris court for spying on Greenpeace. Its head of nuclear production security in 2006, Pascal Durieux, was given a three-year sentence with two years suspended, and a €10,000 fine for commissioning the spying. The Nanterre court also sentenced the security No 2 in 2006, Pierre-Paul François, to three years, 30 months suspended.

EDF has also been ordered to pay €500,000 in damages to Greenpeace.
The judge further handed down a guilty verdict on Thierry Lorho, head of Kargus, a firm employed by EDF to hack into Greenpeace's computers. He got three years in jail, two suspended, and a €4,000 fine.

EDF is the world's biggest nuclear energy supplier; it owns the UK nuclear power operator, British Energy, and is a major sponsor of the London Olympics. It was charged with complicity in concealing stolen documents and complicity to intrude on a computer network.” Guardian 10/11/11
Those of us with a cynical disposition will wonder at the lack of comment at this disreputable activity by a company who are earmarked to build a new set of nuclear reactors in the UK. There will be those who wonder too, why the behaviour of News International makes the headlines and this bunch of criminals does not. It cannot be dismissed as the ‘one rogue operative’ line so successfully parroted by News Corp for so long, until thanks to the Guardian, the wheels whizzed off. (Today we were told that 28 reporters at the Screws utilised the services of Glenn Mulcaire.) 
How high up did it go in News International?
How high up did it go in EDF? Remember, this is a state energy firm, so one would expect the state to be more ethical.........or maybe not! Just remembered Rainbow Warrior sunk by French secret Agents in New Zealand.
Should colossal public money be going anywhere near such a bunch of crooks?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

'Stuffers' and 'Stuffed'
“ When you look at the average Conservative cabinet, you see two kinds of people: those who spent their schooldays stuffing other boys’ heads down the toilet, and those who spent their schooldays having their head stuffed down the toilet.” 
So says George Monbiot in a profile in this month’s Word magazine. 
Does this novel idea have any juice? What do you think?
Cameron: aka ‘Flashman’, recently revealed that stuffing is in his DNA with his ‘calm down dear’ comment to Angela Eagle and his double-entendre to Nadine Dorries at PMQ’s.
Osborne: Can swing both ways. Has Flashman qualities in spades yet was alleged to have been the butt of the Bullingdon Club.
Maude: would make an excellent lieutenant for a Dark Lord....if he isn’t one already.
Clarke: would do it with a smile
Fox -  although recently defenestrated, had all the ‘qualities.’
Hunt: an acolyte of the really nasty.
Lansley: ditto
Huhne*: would he do it quicker?
Gove: no doubt about it. Form an orderly queue!
Letwin: probably would not notice it happening.
Hague: explains the jokes.
Pickles: he is getting his own back by punishing us, the public.
Duncan-Smith: ‘beware the quiet man’......hmmm.
Willetts: having two brains would not go down well.
Clegg* wants to be with the stuffers.
* Liberals who fit the bill.
The jury is out on several who have too low a profile as yet to assess their stuffingness: Moore, Mitchell, Hammond and McLoughlin. Anyone with suggestions to add to the above or to amend them are welcome to email them to me so they can be added (if appropriate).
Among the handful of women, May and Warsi stand out. The obsession with May’s shoes reflects tory-boys love of a good dominatrix. (Is a ‘good dominatrix’ an oxymoron?) Warsi, on the other hand, is regarded as ‘too gobby,’ again reflecting tory-boys dislike of assertive women.
Monbiot goes on to lay the blame for most of our present ills at the door of boarding schools where this stuffing took place.
“The system which the dominant class has created - sending small children away at a very tender age, into somewhere where they cannot be properly loved - is a catastrophic system. Not just for them, but for everybody else. It creates a dominant class of people who have something missing and who will find ways of trying to fill that gap.That arises, I think, from a sense of rejection, from being sent away to what is basically an orphanage when you still have two living parents. That is a terrible blow to a child’s sense of self; you’ll always need to prove something to yourself from that point onwards. Unfortunately, what a lot of people appear to require is domination, and yes, it’s the domination of other people.” (ibid)

They need to remember though, that we are the 99%.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Poppy
What should be  a straightforward matter of showing respect and support for servicemen who fought and died for our country has become more complex. 
Poppies thrive on disturbed ground. No ground was more disturbed than the narrow slice of land over which most of the battles on the Western Front in World War 1 were fought. In several places land was captured and retaken several times. Conditions were grim. There is a story of a regiment arriving at such a place and being ordered to dig trenches, only to find that as they dug, they exposed the decomposing bodies of former casualties. Grim indeed. And out of this carnage the poppies bloomed.
Every village, town and city in the UK has war memorials from that war. 760,000 men from a population of 46million were killed. Many, many more were wounded and damaged. The dead were aged between 18 and 41. Within that age group the effect was shattering. 
In the immediate aftermath of the war and as comprehension grew, there was a need to honour the fallen. The Unknown Soldier was given a state funeral and laid to rest among the great and the good from our history. Huge memorials to the missing such as Tyne Cot, Thiepval and the Menin Gate, were designed and built throughout the twenties. 
The first Poppy Appeal was launched by the British Legion in November 1921. It was based on the poem written by John McCrae in 1915. 
                                                          In Flanders' fields the poppies blow
                                                          Between the crosses, row on row,
          That mark our place: and in the sky
                                                          The larks, still bravely singing, fly
                                                           Scarce heard amid the guns below.
                                                           We are the dead. Short days ago
                                                           We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
                                                           Loved and were loved, and now we lie
                                                           In Flanders' fields.
                                                           Take up our quarrel with the foe;
                                                           To you from failing hands we throw
                                                           The torch; be yours to hold it high,
                                                           If ye break faith with us who die
                                                           We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
                                                                     In Flanders' Fields.
Armistice Day and remembrance services, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day in the eleventh month, were rigorously followed for many years. Everything stopped. Everything. Everywhere fell silent. Everywhere. And then over the years came the erosion until the day was held on the Sunday nearest to the 11th. Not the same. It gave an insight into the way governments pay lip-service to their troops. It also gave pause for thought about what exactly should a country do for its wounded and damaged veterans. Having been prepared to pay the ultimate price, why should these brave men and women rely on public handouts. Being prepared to risk other peoples lives should be a fiendishly difficult decision. It should also involve accepting the consequence of looking after what comes back - if necessary for the rest of their lives. 
Harold Wilson upset the Americans by not getting involved in Vietnam. In his cabinet there were many who had seen combat at first hand and understood the implications. Compare that with Blair’s supine cabinet who seemingly were marginalised over the Iraq decision. None of them had war experience.
And as our wars have become more unpopular and illegal there are extra complications. Many people support the troops but not the war, particularly Iraq and less so Afghanistan. 
Our recent actions have stirred up hostility, particularly in the middle east. Not surprisingly certain groups want to let us know. The decision to ban a group who included burning poppies among their tactics is worrying. Troops gave their lives so we have the freedom to cause offence. 
This mornings leaked memo suggests that this current crop of politicians are following in Blair’s footsteps. While they publicly laud the bravery, quality and integrity of our troops, they secretly plan to make them redundant, including the wounded. 
Last week had a report of an ex-veteran and his wife committing suicide together because they could not face life on a meagre pension.
“Wear your poppy with pride?” Maybe.

Friday, 11 November 2011

How 1% screwed the world
George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian assembles a strong case for a re-think of how the world regards the mega-wealthy.
“The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves. He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. "The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill." Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.
Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out, they blanked him. "The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture."
“In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses's scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.” Guardian 7/11/11
This could explain why so many of these movers and shakers just ‘don’t get it.’ Without empathy why should they? Their culture values wealth and strength above compassion and care. 
Unfortunately these heartless bastards have been helped enormously by their friends Thatcher and Reagan. Monbiot points out some telling facts and figures.
“What has happened over the past 30 years is the capture of the world's common treasury by a handful of people, assisted by neoliberal policies which were first imposed on rich nations by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. ...Between 1947 and 1979, productivity in the US rose by 119%, while the income of the bottom fifth of the population rose by 122%. But from 1979 to 2009, productivity rose by 80%, while the income of the bottom fifth fell by 4%. In roughly the same period, the income of the top 1% rose by 270%.” (ibid)
The de-regulation of the stock exchange commemorated recently happened 25 years ago when Thatcher was PM. This was alongside the de-mutualisation of Building Societies and ‘selling off the family silver.’ 
And there are still many Tory numbskulls who look back at those times with admiration. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

May, Balls and due process.
For someone with responsibility for Laura Norder in the Yew Kay, Mrs ‘look at my shoes’ May sets a very poor example. Castigating her head of the Borders Agency without giving the chap any right of reply harks back to star chamber justice. ‘Due process’ is a vital defence against the overmighty acting on a whim or creating a fall guy for their mistakes. It might be slower but it is fairer and it works.
Before Labour get all uppity about the matter they should scroll back through their mental filing system and recall how Balls ‘dealt with’ Sharon Shoesmith. Balls, like all good bullies, quickly bowed to tabloid pressure over the death of Baby P. He ignored a large file of evidence which pointed the finger at (among others) Guys Hospital and the Police
A scapegoat was needed so with much huffing and puffing one was provided. Shoesmith won her appeal mainly because due process was not followed. A large financial settlement is on the cards. 
If the May/Balls school of management had to pay for their errors themselves, they may, just may, be a little bit more circumspect. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Global Arms Trade: Making a Killing
Andrew Feinstein is an ex South African MP who was appalled to see at first hand the way BAE ‘persuaded’ the ANC to spend £6bn on weapons they did not need when millions were dying of HIV/AIDS. He has written a book exposing the way the arms dealers do their sordid business, ‘The Shadow World - Inside The Global Arms Trade.’ The Sunday Herald published a very positive review today.
“There’s a memorable sequence at the start of the 2005 Hollywood blockbuster Lord Of War which shows a bullet’s-eye view of a bullet’s life cycle, from a manufacturing plant through various intermediaries until it ends up in the head of an African civilian via the chamber of a Kalashnikov.
The message is clear: arms don’t come from nowhere. From factory to gun, there is a path that is easy to trace for anyone with the will so to do. The fact is, as Andrew Feinstein explains in this remarkable and courageous book, that governments are so heavily involved in the deeply corrupt world of arms dealing that they turn a blind eye to the human cost and the damage they do to their own economic and moral integrity.”
Feinstein follows the careers of several leading dealers and exposes the way they are protected by security services and intelligence agencies. He also details the nefarious activities of the tories favourite, Margaret Thatcher. 
“....the Al Yamamah arms deal, the biggest in the world, negotiated personally by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher with the Saudi Royal family in 1985. It was an arms-for-oil deal worth £40 billion, benefiting the UK defence conglomerate BAE systems and, according to documents submitted to parliament by Tam Dalyell in 1994, the Iron Lady’s son, Mark Thatcher. Huge sums were paid in “commissions” and other kickbacks to Saudi Princes and shady intermediaries. More than £6bn was paid out, and some of it, according to Feinstein, even flowed through the accounts of the Saudi fixer, Prince Bandar, into the pockets of two of the terrorists responsible for 9/11.
Feinstein’s account of how the Serious Fraud Office was nobbled in its attempt to bring BAE to justice is deeply disturbing because of the insight it gives into the way that the entire British establishment has been subborned by decades-long complicity in the arms firm’s illegal activities.” 
And who was that pillar of the establishment who ‘nobbled’ the SFO? 
Step forward Reverend Tony Blair and take the opprobrium your seedy, disgusting, hypocritical actions merit. 
The Herald review concludes, “We knew the arms business was corrupt, but only a book as exhaustively researched as this one is able to reveal just how serious and extensive this corruption really is, and how democracy itself is threatened. “The tragic reality,” Feinstein says, “is that arms companies, large and small, and arms dealers and agents, get away with corruption and bribery on a massive scale, complicity in crimes against humanity and even murder. They operate in a shadow world, taking advantage of gaps in the international legal system and hiding behind the protective cover of powerful politicians and intelligence agencies.”
“The Shadow World is a heroic book by an author who, in writing it, has placed himself in the firing line.” Sunday Herald 6/11/11
Remember the name: Andrew Feinstein.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The City of London stinks
Many people will be totally unaware of just how rotten the City of London really is and how pervasive are its powers. A timely article by George Monbiot sets out the shocking facts. Here it is in its entirety.
“It's the dark heart of Britain, the place where democracy goes to die, immensely powerful, equally unaccountable. But I doubt that one in 10 British people has any idea of what the Corporation of the City of London is and how it works. This could be about to change. Alongside the Church of England, the Corporation is seeking to evict the protesters camped outside St Paul's cathedral. The protesters, in turn, have demanded that it submit to national oversight and control.
What is this thing? Ostensibly it's the equivalent of a local council, responsible for a small area of London known as the Square Mile. But, as its website boasts, "among local authorities the City of London is unique". You bet it is. There are 25 electoral wards in the Square Mile. In four of them, the 9,000 people who live within its boundaries are permitted to vote. In the remaining 21, the votes are controlled by corporations, mostly banks and other financial companies. The bigger the business, the bigger the vote: a company with 10 workers gets two votes, the biggest employers, 79. It's not the workers who decide how the votes are cast, but the bosses, who "appoint" the voters. Plutocracy, pure and simple.
There are four layers of elected representatives in the Corporation: common councilmen, aldermen, sheriffs and the Lord Mayor. To qualify for any of these offices, you must be a freeman of the City of London. To become a freeman you must be approved by the aldermen. You're most likely to qualify if you belong to one of the City livery companies: medieval guilds such as the worshipful company of costermongers, cutpurses and safecrackers. To become a sheriff, you must be elected from among the aldermen by the Livery. How do you join a livery company? Don't even ask.
To become Lord Mayor you must first have served as an alderman and sheriff, and you "must command the support of, and have the endorsement of, the Court of Aldermen and the Livery". You should also be stinking rich, as the Lord Mayor is expected to make a "contribution from his/her private resources towards the costs of the mayoral year." This is, in other words, an official old boys' network. Think of all that Tory huffing and puffing about democratic failings within the trade unions. Then think of their resounding silence about democracy within the City of London.
The current Lord Mayor, Michael Bear, came to prominence within the City as chief executive of the Spitalfields development group, which oversaw a controversial business venture in which the Corporation had a major stake, even though the project lies outside the boundaries of its authority. This illustrates another of the Corporation's unique features. It possesses a vast pool of cash, which it can spend as it wishes, without democratic oversight. As well as expanding its enormous property portfolio, it uses this money to lobby on behalf of the banks.
The Lord Mayor's role, the Corporation's website tells us, is to "open doors at the highest levels" for business, in the course of which he "expounds the values of liberalisation". Liberalisation is what bankers call deregulation: the process that caused the financial crash. The Corporation boasts that it "handle[s] issues in Parliament of specific interest to the City", such as banking reform and financial services regulation. It also conducts "extensive partnership work with think tanks … vigorously promoting the views and needs of financial services." But this isn't the half of it.
As Nicholas Shaxson explains in his fascinating book Treasure Islands, the Corporation exists outside many of the laws and democratic controls which govern the rest of the United Kingdom. The City of London is the only part of Britain over which parliament has no authority. In one respect at least the Corporation acts as the superior body: it imposes on the House of Commons a figure called the remembrancer: an official lobbyist who sits behind the Speaker's chair and ensures that, whatever our elected representatives might think, the City's rights and privileges are protected. The mayor of London's mandate stops at the boundaries of the Square Mile. There are, as if in a novel by China Miéville, two cities, one of which must unsee the other.
Several governments have tried to democratise the City of London but all, threatened by its financial might, have failed. As Clement Attlee lamented, "over and over again we have seen that there is in this country another power than that which has its seat at Westminster." The City has exploited this remarkable position to establish itself as a kind of offshore state, a secrecy jurisdiction which controls the network of tax havens housed in the UK's crown dependencies and overseas territories. This autonomous state within our borders is in a position to launder the ill-gotten cash of oligarchs, kleptocrats, gangsters and drug barons. As the French investigating magistrate Eva Joly remarked, it "has never transmitted even the smallest piece of usable evidence to a foreign magistrate". It deprives the United Kingdom and other nations of their rightful tax receipts.
It has also made the effective regulation of global finance almost impossible. Shaxson shows how the absence of proper regulation in London allowed American banks to evade the rules set by their own government. AIG's wild trading might have taken place in the US, but the unit responsible was regulated in the City. Lehman Brothers couldn't get legal approval for its off-balance sheet transactions in Wall Street, so it used a London law firm instead. No wonder priests are resigning over the plans to evict the campers. The Church of England is not just working with Mammon; it's colluding with Babylon. (my emphases)
If you've ever dithered over the question of whether the UK needs a written constitution, dither no longer. Imagine the clauses required to preserve the status of the Corporation. "The City of London will remain outside the authority of parliament. Domestic and foreign banks will be permitted to vote as if they were human beings, and their votes will outnumber those cast by real people. Its elected officials will be chosen from people deemed acceptable by a group of medieval guilds …".
The Corporation's privileges could not withstand such public scrutiny. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons why a written constitution in the United Kingdom remains a distant dream. Its power also helps to explain why regulation of the banks is scarcely better than it was before the crash, why there are no effective curbs on executive pay and bonuses and why successive governments fail to act against the UK's dependent tax havens.
But now at last we begin to see it. It happens that the Lord Mayor's Show, in which the Corporation flaunts its ancient wealth and power, takes place on 12 November. If ever there were a pageant that cries out for peaceful protest and dissent, here it is. Expect fireworks – and not just those laid on by the Lord Mayor.” George Monbiot, Guardian 1/11/11