The frequency of exposures and the political impact of corruption scandals appear to be increasing all over the world, says Gideon Rachman in the Financial Times.
Despite their holier-than-thou aura, he notes that bankers, lawyers, real estate agents and PR firms in the US, UK and EU often share in the proceeds of corruption.
As former US vice-president Joe Biden was reported to have said, at a Defend Democracy conference in Copenhagen, globalisation has deepened rifts, divorced productivity from labour and created less demand for low-skilled labour:
“When people see a system dominated by elites and rigged in favour of the powerful they are much less likely to trust democracy can deliver”.
The most recent example of corruption highlighted on this website follows:
After an initial denial (left, Financial Times), Economia confirmed that in an official response to the French government dated 30 March 2017, a HMRC official noted that Lycamobile is “a large multinational company” with “vast assets at their disposal” and would be “extremely unlikely to agree to having their premises searched”, said the report.
The letter from HMRC to the French government added, “It is of note that they are the biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party led by Prime Minister Theresa May and donated 1.25m Euros to the Prince Charles Trust in 2012”.
This is an ongoing saga: in 2016 Economia noted: “The Tories have come under fire for continuing to accept donations of more than £870,000 from Lycamobile since December, while it was being investigated for tax fraud and money laundering”.
Many senior British politicians have taken bribes and many ministers and civil servants move to lucrative positions with companies who have benefitted from legislation supported by these new colleagues – through the revolving door.
The unspoken ethic:
- In South Africa president Jacob Zuma was compelled to resign because of corruption scandals.
- Dilma Rousseff, the President, was impeached in Brazil in 2016.
- The Atlantic Council, whose largest funders include the United Arab Emirates, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Airbus Group SE, Crescent Petroleum & the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom describes the ruling United Russia party as the “party of crooks and thieves”.
- Narendra Modi came to power in India with a pledge to crack down on corruption among the elites. He has since abolished about 80% of the country’s currency, in an effort to ruin the black economy.
- In China, President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive has seen more than 100,000 officials arrested.
- Mariano Rajoy has been forced to resign as prime minister of Spain after seven years in office, following a scandal in his political party.
- Malaysia’s ruling party lost power after allegations that the prime minister, Najib Razak, had embezzled vast sums.
Rachman believes that corruption has become more common and also easier to expose:
“The globalisation of business and finance opened up opportunities to make corrupt profits in fast-growing emerging economies.
“Industries that often need official involvement, such as natural resources and infrastructure, are particularly lucrative targets. There are contracts to be awarded and development projects that need official approval. And the money for bribes can always be deposited offshore.
“But such malpractice can be exposed. Strong, independent prosecutors and judges such as Brazil’s Sérgio Moro and South Africa’s Thulisile Madonsela have done heroic work in driving forward anti-corruption investigations. Press freedom in Brazil and South Africa has also been critical in keeping up the pressure on corrupt politicians. Even when the national media are muzzled, the internet provides an alternative medium for airing corruption allegations. The “Panama Papers”, which detailed the offshore financial affairs of many prominent politicians, was the result of an international journalistic project and based on hacked documents”.
He adds that new forms of international co-operation and transparency have also made would-be crooks more vulnerable to exposure. Changes in the Swiss laws on banking secrecy — made under pressure from the US — were crucial to allowing Brazilian prosecutors to uncover the proceeds of corruption. International investigations by the Swiss and Americans also kept up the pressure on Malaysia’s Mr Razak.
Lasting progress, Rachman writes, requires strong institutions that can survive changes in the political climate:
- independent courts and prosecutors with training and resources;
- a press that cannot easily be bought off, jailed or killed;
- efficient civil servants who cannot be fired at the whim of a corrupt boss.
He points out that if any of those elements are removed, corruption seeps back into the system.
The “clean hands” investigations in Italy in the early 1990s swept away many powerful figures — and were seen as a watershed. But Rachman cites the case of Silvio Berlusconi, tried 22 times on charges ranging from tax evasion and bribery to corruption and association with the Cosa Nostra. He was convicted of tax fraud in an Italian court and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment – served as community service – but has now been cleared to stand for election as prime minister once again.#
As Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press and Political Concern, generations of an elite have ruled this nation (with a few intermissions) for as long as anyone can remember, due to a rigged electoral system.
Their dual achievements:
- comfortable tax arrangements for the few, a political/corporate nexus which ensures highly paid and nominal duties for all in the inner circle
- vast military expenditure bestowed on the arms industry, as rising numbers of the population survive in relative poverty, wait in hospital corridors, receive a sub-standard education and depend on handouts to eke out their existence.
Direction of travel
Beauchampé: “(The) economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China . . . The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows . . . “He notes that surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and even microphones installed in many public places -describing the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations as ‘frightening’. . .
The elite stranglehold could be broken
OB’s editor agrees with many that electoral reform is a priority for beneficial change – but even under the rigged ‘first past the post’ system, if the weary mass of people (Brenda of Bristol) saw the true situation they would vote for the candidate with a credible track record who would be most likely to work for the common good.
As tensions rise over North Korea, Steve Beauchampé writes in the Birmingham Press about the parallels between Britain and North Korea.
Generations of an elite have ruled this nation for as long as anyone can remember. Such is their power that if there is dissent it is effectively hidden from us, denied the oxygen of publicity. The Dear Leader and ministers live in numerous large, extravagantly furnished, decorative palaces, enjoying the trappings of vast wealth. Walk the streets of the capital and you will soon see monuments, statues and other references to the Dear Leader, their family and the country’s most heroic military endeavours adorning public squares, streets and buildings.
In recent years the country has taken an increasingly bellicose and belligerent tone, threatening to launch unprovoked attacks on other sovereign states, driving them back into the middle ages and forcing their governments from power in the process. it has been busy developing increasingly sophisticated long range missiles and a nuclear weapons capability designed to strike fear into its enemies and anyone else whom it perceives as a threat, vast military expenditure whilst rising numbers of the population survive in poverty, dependent on daily food handouts to eek out an existence
Its economy is increasingly kept afloat by the economic support of China. The modern high-rise residential blocks that have sprung up throughout the capital may give the impression of a modern, flourishing economy, but look closely and you will see that many are all but empty, whilst homelessness and a reliance on subsistence level housing grows.
Surveillance is at an historic high with spy cameras, and increasingly even microphones, installed in nearly all public places and with the state’s ability to track the population and follow their activities and conversations now at frighteningly sophisticated levels.
Tensions are rising across the border, where the neighbouring government has been pursuing a much more internationalist direction. Indeed, heightened divisions have been evident with most neighbouring countries since last summer, and talk of war with one of them over a territorial dispute briefly surfaced as recently as a fortnight ago.
Yes, welcome to Britain.
Received from Steve Beauchampé today:
“Don’t do stupid stuff.” was Barack Obama’s foreign policy advice. The British Government clearly wasn’t listening.
It is highly probable that in the coming days the House of Commons will vote decisively in favour of the UK extending air strikes against Islamic State into Syria.
Within hours of the vote Prime Minister David Cameron will likely appear, standing behind his big lectern, solemnly informing the nation that military action has begun. And yet another futile British middle-eastern military gesture will be underway.
Cameron’s case for Britain joining air strikes against Syria is based on emotion and hubris, not rationale.
- We must go to war because France wants us to,
- because Cameron remains bitter and frustrated at losing the vote to bomb the sovereign government of Syria in 2013,
- because without bombing Britain might have a lesser voice in international talks to resolve the Syrian civil war,
- and because Cameron can’t quite play at being Churchill if we’re not a fully paid up member of the fight club.
Speaking in the Commons last week Cameron claimed that British air strikes would help pave the way for a coalition of around 70,000 ground troops, consisting of Kurds, Sunnis, tribal groups and militias opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to defeat Islamic State.
“the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
The Prime Minister, and the Tory hawks that bray support for his arguments, has either forgotten, or chooses to ignore, that this is precisely the strategy that failed so calamitously in Libya in 2011. Then Cameron assured us that ousting the Gadaffi regime from Benghazi and eastern Libya would result in pro-democracy groups taking power. It never happened; overrun by jihadi militias, Libya is now a failed state and home to a flourishing Islamic State franchise and those democracy campaigners that have not been killed or joined the exodus of refugees are either in hiding or lying very low indeed. As Albert Einstein said: “the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Despite such a sage warning from history, and the repeated advice from respected military strategists that his plan is unlikely to work, the Prime Minister persists, blindly ignoring the fact that the supposed 70,000 troops he is relying on to do the fighting for him are drawn from around 80 different religious and tribal factions, often divided in their objectives, and in some instances already fighting each other. They include organisations which themselves are accused of committing atrocities and other human rights violations. And Cameron expects these disparate groups to put aside their differences and come to the aid of the west just as a $500m US programme to train and arm moderate opponents of Islamic State and Assad has been closed down after failing spectacularly.
“England expects” poorly trained, equipped and battle weary locals to undertake the combat, be captured, tortured and executed
Yet for all his blarney about the evils of Islamic State and their threat to Britain, the Prime Minister’s commitment to defeating the group is at best half-hearted. Cameron argued last week that Britain could not outsource its national security countries such as France and the United States, yet terrified of the consequences on public opinion and morale of British casualties, he is unwilling to deploy British troops to fight Islamic State, preferring instead to outsource the fighting, capture and deaths to others. So Britain sends in unmanned drones and RAF fighter planes flying at a safe height out of reach of Islamic State, whilst expecting sometimes poorly trained, equipped and battle weary locals to undertake the combat, be captured, tortured and executed. This when the very existence of Islamic State is partially due to the calamitous mess created by Britain’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 (something Cameron fully supported and continues to defend) and our subsequent backing of Nouri al-Maliki’s fatally divisive Iraqi Presidency (2006-2014). How very colonial, how very imperialistic.
Further, David Cameron omits from his equation President Assad’s army and the considerable military support it receives from both Russia and Iran. Because if Islamic State is defeated in Syria then Assad’s forces will probably have proved pivotal and will expect to fill the subsequent power vacuum. What will the Prime Minister do then, as Assad’s forces retake Aleppo and Raqqa, buoyed by Russian air power?
Yet defeating Islamic State may be wishful thinking. Britain has been bombing them in Iraq for fifteen months during which time they’ve taken and held the country’s second largest city, Mosul and relinquished precious little territory elsewhere in the country. Talk of relentless attacks on the group by successive governments, from Jordan, Japan and now France have proved to be largely bluster, and transferring some of Britain’s limited military capability from Iraq to Syria is unlikely make any discernable difference there. Islamic State’s leaders long ago developed strategies to limit the impact of missile strikes, not least on themselves.
Add to this the strong possibility that attacking Islamic State substantially increases the likelihood of radicalising a small core of British and European-based Muslims and fuelling support for a group that has proved itself immensely skilful at propaganda. With this comes an increased likelihood of a successful large-scale terror attack in the UK. Given that the Prime Minister’s argument for attacking Islamic State in Syria is to protect British citizens it is incongruous of him to dismiss the increased likelihood of an IS inspired United Kingdom terror attack as a result. Were he to be honest he’d say that the loss of innocent British lives is a sacrifice that he’s prepared to make for the greater good… and sorry if it’s you or yours.
If we had listened less to Blair and Cameron, and more to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and the wise heads of the SNP . ..
Since Tony Blair signed Britain up to join what became the war on terror in 2001 the threat from Islamic extremism has increased enormously. The Middle East is now a considerably more dangerous place than it was, with several failed states and lawless regions, whilst the scale and regularity of planned terror attacks in Europe and the western world has risen exponentially. If we had listened less to Blair and Cameron, and more to Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn and the wise heads of the SNP, things might not have got so bad.
The grand coalition of Arab nations that were to play a leading rôle soon melted away
When the bombing campaign against Islamic State began, the promise was of a grand coalition of Arab nations that would play a leading rôle. They soon melted away, perhaps knowing that it would not be long before the usual western allies would step in, allowing their collective ambivalence to Islamic State to continue. Canada has recently withdrawn from the coalition whilst savvier states such as Germany, Spain, China and India recognise the folly and the depressingly predictable pointlessness of constant military intervention in other region’s wars and so keep well away. In contrast Britain’s Prime Minister and those politicians who so readily support him can be sure only that yet again they will be proved wrong, even though most will deny against all evidence that this is so.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that there are much more effective measures that Britain could take to combat the horrendous ideology and effectiveness of Islamic State.
If a group of activist civilians working under the guise of Anonymous can quickly disrupt Islamic State’s internet and social media presence then one wonders just what our own national security services could achieve with their resources. Or what Britain could contribute if its fully used its expertise and leverage as a global financial centre to collaborate with others in tracing Islamic State funding and heavily sanctioning those who knowingly assist in its financing. Or most crucially the progress Britain could make by applying diplomatic pressure on those whose ambivalent attitude (or worse) towards Islamic State has helped keep the war going, countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey.
But then none of these measures would make for good newspaper headlines or compelling television. Much better to watch British warplanes blowing stuff to smithereens on the 10 O’clock, sit back, puff your jowls out and feel Churchillian.
Zhang Junmian reports that Cui Yongyuan, a political advisor, writer, director, sound designer and former CCTV host, has called on the government to strengthen supervision of GM crops.
GM food is described as a controversial issue for the Chinese public, who are sceptical about its safety and question the lack of labelling of GM ingredients in consumer goods.
Yongkuan challenged by Chinese-born US scientist who promotes GM corn
In January US resident Fang Shimin, a vocal supporter of GM technology, who graduated in China and obtained a Ph.D. in biochemistry in Michigan State University “engaged in a fierce war of words on a microblog with Cui” after he had questioned Fang’s promotion of GM corn last year. Fang has charged Cui with defamation in a Beijing district court.
In March, before the opening of the second session of the 12th National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China’s national advisory body, Cui Yongyuan said the government should strengthen its supervision of the commercialization of GM crops, especially the practice of illegally growing GM crops:
“According to our surveys over the past six months, GM crops, including GM corn and rice, are illegally grown on a large scale in some Chinese provinces, including Jilin, Guangxi, Hunan and Hubei. The reality is that many GM crops have entered our food chain.”
Cui said that any foods that contain GM ingredients should be explicitly labeled to allow consumers to decide whether they want to buy them. On March 1, Cui uploaded online a 68-minute-long documentary based on his surveys on the status quo of GM food production and consumption in the United States in December 2013. He announced on his micro blog that the video was being made available for free, with the aim of presenting the controversies on GM crops overseas and arousing the public’s awareness of health.
So far, China has approved only the production of GM cotton, and only on an experimental basis, according to Cui, but Niu Dun, China’s vice minister of agriculture, later said that the country currently permits production of GM cotton and papaya. No GM staple foods, such as meat, eggs, milk or seafood, are allowed in commercial production.
Should the British government stand aside from the United States if it had planned to destabilise Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran?
Dr Nafeez Ahmed writes about the geopolitics of interconnected environmental, energy and economic crises in the Guardian.In 2001 he founded and directs the Institute for Policy Research & Development, based in London, which includes on its advisory board Dr. Johan Galtung. His special report on Syria, summarised in the Guardian, opens with the subject of chemical weapons and moves on to ask:
So what is this unfolding strategy to undermine Syria, Iran and so on, all about?
First scroll down and listen to the video of the (admittedly volatile) retired NATO Secretary General Wesley Clark, speaking in 2007 about plans for the ‘former Soviet client states’ :
Glenn Greenwald summarises Clark’s allegation that a memo from the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense just a few weeks after 9/11 revealed plans to attack and destroy the governments in 7 countries in five years. No link was given but he might well be referring to this Wikileaks file.
Clark said that a Pentagon officer familiar with the memo told him, “we’re going to start with Iraq, and then we’re going to move to Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.”
In a subsequent interview, Clark argues that this strategy is fundamentally about control of the region’s vast oil and gas resources”.
“The economies of the industrialized states will continue to rely heavily on oil, thus making it a strategically important resource . . . The geographic area of proven oil reserves coincides with the power base of much of the Salafi-jihadist network. This creates a linkage between oil supplies and the long war that is not easily broken or simply characterized… For the foreseeable future, world oil production growth and total output will be dominated by Persian Gulf resources… The region will therefore remain a strategic priority, and this priority will interact strongly with that of prosecuting the long war.”
Read more here about the document’s thinking on:
- ‘Divide and Rule’ policies, turning Salafi-jihadist groups against each other so as to dissipate their energy on internal conflicts.
- U.S. capitalizing on the ‘Sustained Shia-Sunni Conflict’ by taking the side of the conservative Sunni regimes against Shiite empowerment movements in the Muslim world….
- and so empowering al-Qaeda jihadists, focusing their activity on internal sectarian rivalry rather than targeting the U.S.
- The U.S.’s key allies and enemies increasing vulnerability to the converging crises of rapidly rising populations, a ‘youth bulge’, internal economic inequalities, political frustrations, sectarian tensions and water shortages.
Ahmed outlines Syrian ‘offences’ – pipeline politics
Assad refused to sign a proposed agreement with Qatar that would run a pipeline from the latter’s North field . . . and pursued negotiations for an alternative $10 billion pipeline plan with Iran, across Iraq to Syria . . . read more here.
Israel also has a direct interest . . .
“In 2003, just a month after the commencement of the Iraq War, U.S. and Israeli government sources told The Guardian of plans to “build a pipeline to siphon oil from newly conquered Iraq to Israel” bypassing Syria . . .”
Surprise, surprise . . .
“All the parties intervening in Syria’s escalating conflict – the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel on one side providing limited support to opposition forces, with Russia, China and Iran on the other shoring up Assad’s regime – are doing so for their own narrow, competing geopolitical interests”.
Ahmed’s position: “What is beyond doubt is that Assad is a war criminal whose government deserves to be overthrown. The question is by whom, and for what interests?”
Dr Ahmed has advised the British Foreign Office, the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the UK Defence Academy, the Metropolitan Police Service on delivery of the Home Office’s Channel Project, and the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into UK counter-terrorism strategy. He has also been a consultant for projects funded by the US State Department and the UK Department for Communities & Local Government. In 2005, he testified in US Congress on Western security policy toward al-Qaeda.
Richard Bruce has drawn our attention to this week’s article in Global Research by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal.
Dr Roberts opened by noting that polls demonstrate that 65% of the US population opposes US intervention in Syria; he later comments, “This is good news. It means more Americans are developing the ability to think independently”.
Despite these findings, he continues, the Obama regime is ‘ramping up’ the case for more arms to the Syrian opposition and for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Syria.
President Obama has announced that Assad has used sarin gas and that between 100 and 150 “of his own people,” – which Roberts translates as “a euphemism for the US supplied foreign mercenaries” – have been killed by the weapon of mass destruction.
Describing 100-150 deaths as “mass destruction” as “double-speak”, Roberts points out that according to the lowest estimates, the “US-sponsored foreign mercenary invasion of Syria” has cost 93,000 lives.
He asserts that Washington’s “red line” expression has been used repeatedly to convince the “distracted American public” that there is a valid reason for attacking Syria, asking rhetorically:
‘Why would Assad use the proscribed weapons of mass destruction in order to kill a measly 100-150 mercenaries when his army is mopping up the US mercenaries without the use of gas and when Assad knows that the use of gas brings in the US military against him?
‘ . . . Aleksey Pushkov, the chairman of the Russian Duma’s Foreign Affairs Committee, cut to the chase. “The data about Assad’s use of chemical weapons is fabricated by the same facility that made up the lies about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. Obama is walking George W. Bush’s path”.’
World War III?
Roberts believes that Washington will push “its agenda of world hegemony” to the point of starting World War III, which, of course, he adds, means the end of life on earth:
“Both Russia and China are now preparing for the war that they see as inevitable. Washington’s crazed, demented drive for world hegemony is bringing unsuspecting Americans up against two countries with hydrogen bombs whose combined population is five times the US population. In such a conflict everyone dies”.
He concludes: “If human life exists in 2020, it will be a miracle. All the worry about future Medicare and Social Security deficits is meaningless. There will be no one here to collect the benefits”.