China and Capitalism’s last freak show

The blog has gone off the boil completely since the last post and that is because access to it is provided via a vpn and an appallingly slow internet connection, which is our lot in China.

There is enough to report here on what might be capitalism’s last freak show as it goes in search of the 3% compound growth needed to ensure its continued existence. However, where does one begin? There are the smart phone addicts, but then you get them everywhere! However, half of the population staring into little screens? Still, to each his and her own, which means we shouldn’t be too critical.

Then there are the manners; however, again, it is easy to forget that while the English were cultivating the concept of the gentleman some of those gentlemen were out enslaving a large chunk of the globe and other Europeans a large chunk of the bit of the planet that was left over. Fast forward and in the land of Donald, Hillary, and the neo-cons it might be worth invoking Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee” and while in the good old US of A freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose” down in the Middle East, over in Afghanistan, in Somalia, and elsewhere, a drone might just wipe out your family courtesy of the Pentagon. “Ooops, sorry for your kith and kin, but we were after a very nasty man.”

Nevertheless, away from the hypocrisy, we still have to get back to that 3% compound growth, the glitzy shopping malls, and the not blue sky, and when we do so the conclusion has to be that capitalism, with its relentless drive for its 3% compound growth, just does not work. There is no “Chinese Way to Socialism”, there is only Socialism or populations staring into little screens on iPhones manufactured by exploited labour and containing materials which have been extracted in the deepest Congo by people who are literally dropping dead at their place of work. There is only Socialism or a world based on fossil fuels and conflict, a dark dystopian world, and the sense of foreboding is there when one looks at the sky above any of China’s mega-cities. Still, if the planet is just about to go over the edge, it would be nice to have my own little panem et circences and my 100 MB internet connection.

 

Ramblings from a small island

The flight was taken a day earlier as the “train” connection from airport the following day is not a train, but a bus. The second train was a train, but the carriages weren’t highlighted which meant a proper crush and scramble and sitting until the first stop before getting off the train and running along to the carriage where the seat was reserved.

Welcome to “Blighty” and the pedestrian tunnels in a particular place in the second largest city are a stinking filthy mess and while we might assume that the tax payers of the area deserve better, someone doesn’t seem to think so and with the local muslim Labour MP probably more concerned about the spectre of anti-Semitism which is supposedly raising its ugly head within the party, there won’t be anyone to look “after working for the minimum wage” Mrs Ali’s interests. Through the piss and vomit filled tunnels she will make her way tomorrow and another day in paradise.

The really big smoke was hit yesterday and the train was on time. Nothing to take note of. Apart, perhaps, from the ‘Evening Standard’ singing the praises of a big blond buffoon who also happens to be the Mayor of London. The news this morning informed me that across the Atlantic another either blond or bald buffoon has been cutting a dash is now the presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Still, no need to fly out west in order to come to the conclusion that Capitalism is madness and that it is in the process of reaching a particularly mad phase.

The homeless are here, there, and everywhere, and oblivion, or brainwashing, is the answer to misery for those who either don’t have access to unacceptable wealth, or to credit. The anger is kept in check through a constant subliminal manipulation and a mind numbing appeal to, what is probably, the majority’s ridiculous exophoric reference. BBC pish, the Queen is ninety and she does so much for everyone, and, just to keep you on your toes, the war on terror and, better safe than sorry, there we all were this morning evacuating the station only to learn that it was a drill.

Erdoğan wants not very funny German comedian to be prosecuted

Originally the news from Germany was that the Turkish government had requested Jan Böhmermann be prosecuted for a piece of satire aimed at Erdoğan.  The latest news, however, is that the Turkish president himself has now made a personal complaint against this not very funny comedian for libel.

On a day when the press reports that this weeks meeting between King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia and our “boss from the Bosporus” “has set new records for opulence and paranoia”, it would appear that the Turkish president has still got more than enough, and more than enough ego, to take this incident personally. So much so in fact that his lawyers are apparently proceeding on the basis of article 103 of Germany’s Criminal Code rather than by invoking article 181 as was suggested elsewhere.

Is there anything surprising in this latest intrusion from Ankara? Well, we know that the “want to be” Sultan not only tends to deal with the opposition in a manner not too different from the King of Saudi Arabia, but also has an ego and ambitions at least as great as that particular absolute monarch. Therefore, it should come as no surprise “article 103”, a rather antiquated example of  lèse majesté, which basically states that you can go to prison for three months to five years for insulting a foreign head of state, is  being invoked rather than “article 185”, which is normally the basis for run of the mill libel cases.

Furthermore, while the reaction of Turkey’s president, which once again puts Merkel in a predicament, is no surprise whatsoever, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş saying  Böhmermann’s poem had not only insulted 78 million Turks, but that it was also a crime against humanity” is , especially as it comes from a government which refuses to admit to its own very real crimes against humanity past and present, an affront.

The commentator Nuray Mert may think that Turkey has reached a turning point  regarding its pro-western secular outlook and that if the West doesn’t engage, it could end up being faced with a country that is closed and more repressive. Nevertheless, the fact is that Erdoğan’s Turkey is already repressive, the West has been engaging, and there is evidence to suggest that Ankara only wants to engage on its terms. Whatever else, this latest affront, to western values is sufficient to suggest that it is time for the West to put its foot down. If it doesn’t, the costs in the longer term will be even greater than they might otherwise be.

The “Panama Papers” and Freedom House puts in its tuppence worth

There are no risks, although there might be if there was some real investigative journalism, there are no considerations, apart from ensuring that the master’s brief is adhered to, and the only cost might be damage to the daily drivel’s own credibility, but that is not really worth very much anyway. Therefore, there is no upping the ante and, on terra firma, ‘The Guardian’ today has nothing better to do than rabbit on and wear us down with its continuing corruption and censorship in China narrative. It is, however, when that narrative is given the sort of bottom up attention that it hardly deserves that things become interesting.

The interest doesn’t come from any additional news content in  today’s article, even if the censors in China are apparently no longer content just to ban editors “from covering the Panama Papers leak”, but have also now “stepped up their censorship of websites, ordering all content related to the Panama Papers to be scrubbed as new revelations emerged of how relatives of some of the country’s top leaders had used secretive offshore companies to store their wealth.”

No, this is hack journaism at its worse. However, it is when the article refers to Sarah Cook, a “China specialist” from Freedom House, contending that the disclosures have lead to not only public anger, but also to the possibility of opposition to the Chinese president from within the party itself, that our interest is awakened. However, this interest is not because of the news content per se, but rather because a “specialist” from Freedom House is spouting off her tuppence worth. Or, might there be the beginnings of social unrest and an internal party coup in Beijing? Poppycock, of course!

 

It would appear that Ilya Lozovsky, an assistant editor of ‘Democracy Lab’, handles Freedom House with kid gloves in his article at ‘Foreign Policy’ when he gives his article the heading, “Freedom House’s index of freedom is flawed – but the story it tells is indispensible”. This is the kind of tone to be expected from someone who, after all, worked for the organisation. However, a skimming and scanning is enough to reveal that the author articulates some very strange positions considering some of the conclusions he appears to have reached.

For instance, not only does he seem to agree that Freedom House has a “neo-liberal bias”, but he also questions its methodology and in doing so directs us to Jay Ulfelder, a political scientist and independent consultant, who finds all sorts of flaws in the organisation’s conclusions. Nevertheless, Mr Lozovsky still seems to think that although flawed “Freedom House’s ratings still matter” and that “they are a crucial tool for pro-democracy activists.” 

The organisation has a neo-liberal bias and its findings are flawed, yet they “still matter”, even although Nils D. Steiner from the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz substantiates that there is both bias and flawed methodology in Freedom House’s findings when he writes:

“Differentiating between the period before 1989 and after 1988, I obtain consistent evidence of a substantial bias in the FH ratings for the former period. For the latter period, the estimates are a little less consistent and hint to a smaller, but still existent political bias in the FH scores.”

One might wonder what kind of gobbledygook Orwellian world humanity finds itself in when flawed methods and inaccurate findings from a biased organisation matter?

What kind of world, indeed, and it is a world where newspapers like ‘The Guardian’ discharge their drivel based on sources from. biased organisations which use unscientific methods and flawed findings. Pseudo information which deflects from the real problem, which is in this case is global tax avoidance by the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and which always has an ulterior motive. Therefore, the next time the hacks from the mainstream media give the Anti-defamation League, the Syrian Observatory of Human Rights, the National Endowment for Democracy, or one of thousands of other organisations as the source of its information, look into who exactly is behind that source.

The “Panama Papers”; a stinking, smelly, scam, and I think I am going to be sick

While it might be hoped that questions such as, “Why aren’t we seeing more Americans in the files?”, are asked more often, it would appear that the leading article on the “Panama Papers” in ‘The Guardian’ is more interested in revealing the offshore secrets of China’s red nobility.” When it comes to worthwhile news this is actually about as worthwhile as the size of Kim Kardashian’s ass to anyone but Kim and her nearest and dearest. Therefore, while not wanting to cover old ground here, it might be useful to discover a couple of reasons why there aren’t more Americans on the list and then to come to a couple of conclusions as to what these “leaks” are really all about.

Firstly, according to Ana Owens, a tax and budget advocate at U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), there are thousands of firms like Mossack Fonseca and there are hundreds or thousands just like it in the U.S.” That is why there is absolutely no need for anyone in America to use a company in Panama when they can achieve the same goals in the United States using an American company and, wait for it, …… it is legal to do so. Or, to quote Shima Baradaran Baughman, a law professor at the University of Utah:

“Americans can form shell companies right in Wyoming, Delaware or Nevada. They have no need to go to Panama to form a shell company to use for illicit activities.”

Therefore, in light of the conclusions made in earlier posts regarding the selective reporting on these files, the absence of American companies and citizens is not because it will take some time for the “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists” (ICIJ) to scour a leak of about “11.5 million” documents, but rather because Americans who want to hide their money have access to an onshore tax havens that are at least as secretive as those anywhere else in the world.

However, while it could be emphasised that there isn’t any inclination anyway on the part of the ICIJ to undertake such a task as part of its selective reporting, it might be pointed out that if they were to do so, the fact that Mossack Fonseca has been operating out of Nevada and Wyoming for at least fifteen years and that it has  registered  “almost 1,100 businesses” would soon be revealed.

Of course, this is not the type of information that interests the ICIJ whose assignment it appears is to facilitate that type of sensationalist journalism which is more concerned with Kim Kardashian’s ass, “the Cellist who holds the key to tracing Putin’s fortune”, and “Li Xiaolin, the daughter of former premier Li Peng, a Communist party hardliner who became known as the “Butcher of Beijing” for his role in ordering the 1989 military crackdown on Tiananmen protesters”, than it is with tackling what really is the unacceptable face of capitalism.

However, there is always method in the madness and, even if it is not always clear what that is when it comes to bums and tits, with Russia and China it is to destabilize those countries, which with Chinese editors being told that “they were forbidden from covering the Panama Papers leak” might not be as far-fetched as it might at first seem.

Indeed, Ernst Wolf goes further when he contends that ultimately Washington is “pursuing a policy of destabilization all over the world”, before adding, that the United States “…is preparing for a big, super-big financial crisis, and they want all that money in their own vaults and not the vaults of other countries.”

Now, while the gullible among us might put that down to the  ranting and raving of some mad marxist it is worth perusing yesterday’s story in the very capitalist ‘Wall Street Journal’ where we can read all about offshore companies and foreign banks being used as “legitimate vehicles for wealth protection and tax planning, but also hideaways for tax dodgers, frauds and worse”.

They certainly are, but, wait, and, once again, there is no mention of US companies, US banks, or US-based tax havens in the article, and while the temptation is to return to Craig Murray’s “the selective reporting is going to stink”, well, it already does, but then it has to as the smell of the scam just makes you want to vomit.

The “Panama Papers”, hypocrisy, and the United States is becoming a laughing-stock

The web news from ‘T-Online’, Germany’s main internet provider, might not always fall under the rubric “Klatsch” (Gossip), but it is certainly not going to win any prizes for investigative journalism.

Therefore, it was somewhat surprising that one of its main articles today implied that the “Panama Papers” might be a western conspiracy, even if it was not wholly surprising that this piece of “marvelous” induction was based solely on Craig Murray’s reaction to the papers two days ago.

Nevertheless, on the whole, the drivel continues and, with one article in ‘The Guardian’ targeting Mugabe and another, in the same paper going for Iran, it would appear that the USA ‘Center for Public Integrity’ funded “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists” is aptly fulfilling its assignment.

Of course, the charade is lent some authenticity through the appearance on the list of a potpourri of western public figures, which ranges from sportsmen, such as formula one’s Nico Rosberg and football’s Lionel Messi, to David Cameron’s dad. Indeed, there is even a motley array of royals and politicians who are deemed to be close to the USA.

However, when you have Obama referring to global tax avoidance as a huge problem”, while calling for international tax reform, a healthy skepticism is advisable and all the more so when we read elsewhere:

“After years of lambasting other countries for helping rich Americans hide their money offshore, the U.S. is emerging as a leading tax and secrecy haven for rich foreigners. By resisting new global disclosure standards, the U.S. is creating a hot new market, becoming the go-to place to stash foreign wealth. Everyone from London lawyers to Swiss trust companies is getting in on the act, helping the world’s rich move accounts from places like the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands to Nevada, Wyoming, and South Dakota.”

The so-called “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists” might be fulfilling its assignment as best it can, but only a half-wit could be fooled by the selective reporting that is accompanying the “Panama Papers”. Furthermore, with China seeing a “powerful force” behind the leaks and Russia interpreting the attacks on Putin as an attempt to destabilize the country before elections this year, it might be the level of hypocrisy has just about reached a point where the United States in particular is in the process of becoming a laughing-stock.

 

The Panama Papers and selective reporting

One headline from ‘The Guardian’ states that the “Kremlin dismisses revelations in Panama papers as “Putinphobia””, another informs us that it is “Sergei Roldugin, the cellist who holds the key to tracing Putin’s missing fortune” ,  and Natalie Nougayrède in the same newspaper tells us of the $2 billion trail that leads to Putin, while stating “kill it, spin it – Putin will do anything to stifle the Panama Papers story.”

No doubt he will, but it is left to Craig Murray to hit the nail on the head when, while agreeing that Putin is without a doubt corrupt and the story is probably true, he points out that “Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca” and that it is all too “obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.” Indeed, this becomes all the more obvious when it is considered that neither the even smaller $2 billion sum attributed specifically to Putin, nor the fact that the Russian president is not  mentioned by name in the documents, is taken into account.

After all, the leak, according to the same blog post, is being managed by a body known as “The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists” which, despite its lofty sounding name,  is supported by entities such as “the Ford Foundation, the Carnegie Endowment, the Rockefeller Family Fund, the W K Kellogg Foundation,The Sigrid Rausing Trust (the Tetrapak empire) and the Addesium Foundation (George Soros).”

Are things becoming clearer? Well, if not, it is back to Craig once more and “expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland. A superannuated UK peer or two will be sacrificed – someone already with dementia.”

Still, our “free press” wouldn’t be what it is, if it didn’t throw the real story into the mix and in ‘The Guardian’, although it seems to get lost in the stories about the boogeyman in  Moscow, we can still read:

“Mossack Fonseca is the world’s fourth biggest provider of offshore services. It has acted for more than 300,000 companies. There is a strong UK connection. More than half of the companies are registered in British-administered tax havens, as well as in the UK itself.”

Now,we are getting closer to what should really be concerning us. After all, only an imbecile would contend that there is no corruption in China or Russia. However, at least at the time of writing this post, it is the ‘Independent’ that brings the right sort of focus on the real story with its main article stating:

“…critics say the government still soft-pedals reform of an international system in which wealth can be relatively easily shielded from tax and they point out that major centres of evasion such as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands and Bermuda (many of which feature prominently in the cache of 11 million documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Foneseca) are British protectorates.”

Furthermore, it is not only British protectorates that are the major centres of tax evasion, but it is also, as the ‘Evening Standard’ stated earlier this evening, a fact that British-owned and London-based banks have been providing companies like the Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca with, at times, most of its business. Of course, this is the real story and, as “revealing” as these leaks might appear, Nicholas Shaxon’s ‘Treasure Islands’ does a good enough job in telling that story.

Most interestingly, however, is that the story, or various stories, are hitting the headlines now and, as Craig Murray rightly predicted, “the selective reporting”  is already beginning to stink. Expect “The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists” to use a thoroughly corrupt system made in the West to concentrate on undermining the West’s adversaries.