Tag: David Cameron

Banking Racketeers Set For Another Windfall

A sign is displayed outside of a branch of The Royal Bank of Scotland in central London, Britain May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall

The UK Chancellor’s announcement that he plans to sell-off £2 billion worth of the 79 per cent stake the government has in RBS over the coming fortnight is, according to Unite national officer for finance Rob MacGregor, “recklessly irresponsible”(1). RBS shares that stood at £6.88 in 2007, are now valued at £3.30 (2). It should be noted that the shares have not been offered to the people who bailed out RBS, that is us, the taxpayers but to the Tories’ city friends.

The decision by Aristocrat Gideon Osborne, who seems set to be next in line to take the reins of PM from his friend David Cameron (3), and who promised action on tax avoidance (4), despite the fact that his family business has avoided tax (5), is defended by Treasury minister, Harriet Baldwin. Why would she defend the sell-off which will result in a £1bn loss to taxpayers, you may ask?

Well, it could have something to do with her connections within in the banking racket. Having joined investment bank JP Morgan Chase in 1986, she then became managing director and Head of Currency Management at their London office in 1998. She left the bank in 2008, after more than two decades with the bank (6). Maybe she has advised Cameron to get shot of the RBS millstone before his transition to PM.

The chief architects of the RBS collapse, Fred Goodwin and Sir Tom McKillop seemed to have disappeared into the ether.

To sell these shares when business is slow, many are on holiday and the stock market depressed, means its the opportune time for these scoundrels to defraud us for the second time round, which of course is really what this latest scandal is all about.

If, after this latest act by the page boy to his dads banker friends in order to further the interests of the banking racketeers, won’t have awaken the masses from their slumber, then I fear nothing will. There is no clearer illustration we are being taken for a ride than the governments collusion with the bankers as highlighted by this sell-off.  Austerity amounts to the raiding of the public coffers to bolster the pockets of the super-rich (7).

As economist Andrew Fisher alludes, this is clearly an ideological and dogmatic move by Osborne, not a financially pragmatic one:

“Banks that owe their continuing existence to public funds should be acting in the public interest — investing in the productive economy, reducing the margins between their lending rates and savers’ rates, and ending the fat-cat bonus culture at the top, while underpaying and laying off cashiers at the other end.”(8).

The Financial Times reported yesterday (August 3) that Osborne wants to flog off £32bn worth of public assets by the end of the financial year, as part of a strategy to reduce the role of the state that will do nothing to stimulate growth (9). The £32bn worth of public asset stripping that is to include the Met Office, Ordnance Survey and air traffic controller Nats, breaks even Thatcher’s record (10).

We are not in this mess because politicians are stupid but because of the cozy relationship that exists between them and the bankers who the latter lobby on behalf of (11). The Guardian outlines how it all works. A commentator on Craig Murray’s blog argued that:

“The entire RBS saga is a scam from start to finish:

• All banks make huge profits by lending prodigiously.
• Concentrate bad debts in a few banks.
• Instill ‘too big to fail’ meme.
• Order politicians to ‘nationalise’ compromised banks at huge cost to tax-payers.
• Continue injecting billions until ‘nationalised’ banks have paid off the lion’s share of bad debt.
• Sell bank back to bankers at knock-down price” (12).

Another commentator from the same blog makes another apt point:

“Note the bastards didn’t buy voting shares in RBS: the taxpaying sucker didn’t even have the opportunity to reform the bank. Lovely little restructure: the retail arm goes to another retail bank for a knockdown price (W&G may not have been too wise buying it even then), while the crooked division ends up divvied up between hedge funds. And lives to cheat another day” (13).

Don’t forget dear readers, we are all in it with the aim of getting the deficit down.

Bee Killers

Bee

When I was young it used to be a common sight to see cars splattered with insects and numerous species of bees collecting nectar from plants. Bees and insects are wonderful and part of the connectivity of living processes in our world. Nothing human beings do, and nothing that takes place in the natural world, occurs in isolation. And yet we are using pesticides that kill pollinators whose role is essential to the human food chain.

Neurotoxins that kill much of life on earth on both land and in water, and degrade entire foodchains, are resulting in the ‘colony collapse disorder’ (ie the sudden disappearance) of honeybees (1). In the United States, half the colonies of bees exposed to neonicotinoids disappeared in the course of one winter. The findings of an analysis of 800 scientific papers show that worldwide contamination is indiscriminately wiping out wild animals, including those on which farming depends (2).

The use of pesticides that impact negatively on bees and soil animals seriously threaten the food supplies of humans. So why is Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Elizabeth Truss, seemingly subservient to chemical companies like Bayer and Syngenta to the detriment of the science?

The UK government appears to want to throw everything it has against an EU proposal to suspend their use on flowering crops. Last year the Department of the Environment commissioned a study claiming to show that bees were not being harmed (3). It was so flawed that no journal would take it. The lead author soon left to work for Syngenta (4).

The government’s lifting of the ban on neonicotinoid pesticides and their seemingly appeasing of the chemical corporations who are clearly in their pocket, would suggest that Cameron and Truss are prioritizing the interests of these corporations over and above the sustainability of the eco-system.

This is the take of the BBC who imply that the National Farmers Union (NFU) are complicit:

The government has temporarily lifted a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides in certain parts of the country.

An EU-wide moratorium was put in place after some studies showed the pesticide caused significant harm to bees.

But following a second emergency application by the National Farmers Union, two neonicotinoid pesticides can now be used for 120 days on about 5% of England’s oilseed rape crop.

Environmental and wildlife groups have called the decision “scandalous”.

‘We have fully applied the precautionary ban on the use of neonicotinoids introduced by the EU’
Defra spokesperson

The areas where farmers will be allowed to use neonicotinoids has not yet been decided. According to the NFU, it will be those areas where there are records over the last season or so that the pests – primarily the cabbage stem flea beetle – have inflicted most damage on oilseed rape crops.

Farming Minister George Eustace MP told BBC’s Farming Today that it was “predominantly farmers in Suffolk” who would now be able to use neonicotinoids. He said that the government was approaching the issue “with an open mind” and that there was “a lot of ambiguity” about the evidence (4).

Meanwhile on 23 July 2015, the independent British not-for-profit political-activism organisation 38 Degrees issued an emergency petition:

“Fresh batches of bee-killing pesticides are on their way to British farms right now. Prime Minister David Cameron could stop these toxic chemicals before they are spread across our fields and wreak havoc on bees. But he’ll only do it if enough of us pile on the pressure.

Environment minister Liz Truss has just approved this fresh use of bee-killing pesticides. It’s no surprise – she’s been exposed holding cosy meetings with chemical industry lobbyists. If our environment minister won’t protect bees, we need to turn the pressure onto David Cameron. He’s her boss – and that means he has the power to overturn her decision.

Please can you sign the emergency petition to Cameron now, asking him to overrule his minister and act to protect the bees? It will only take a few seconds.(5).

People Socially Cleansed As ‘Dirty Money’ Floods Into London

“There is no place for dirty money in Britain”, so says UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, who has promised to crack down on dodgy offshore companies that buy up luxury properties in the UK. Cameron says he will introduce a public land registry of properties owned by foreign investors. Channel 4 News has access to the data which highlights the problem is particularly acute in London.

“London must not become a safe have for corrupt money from around the world”, says Cameron. “We need to stop corrupt officials or organized criminals using anonymous shadow companies to invest their ill-gotten gains in London property without being tracked down.”

The figures are staggering. Some £122 billion worth of property in England and Wales is owned by foreign companies. Around 100,000 UK property titles are registered to them. Most are in Greater London where almost 43,000 properties are owned by overseas firms. “There is no place for dirty money in Britain. Indeed, there should be no place for dirty money anywhere. That is my message to foreign forces. London is not a place to stash your dodgy cash”, he said.

Undercover reporters’ working as part of the Dispatches documentary, From Russia With Cash, discovered just how easy it is to buy property in London with no questions asked. Chido Dunn from Global Witness says that “the presence of corrupt money in the London property market props up corrupt regimes overseas and means that a lot of people are stuck in poverty and violence and don’t have access to education.

So concretely, how is Cameron proposing to deal with the problem?

In the Autumn, data will be released that will highlight which foreign companies are buying up property in England and Wales. Although the data already exists within the public domain, Downing Street says it will now be more easily available.

In Westminster, where one in ten homes are owned by foreign investors, Channel 4 asked  Transparency International about the changes that are being consulted on.  A TI spokesman said that if enacted, the proposals would require foreign owners to declare their interests at the same standard as UK companies. The unanswered question is why the discrepancy in the first place?

That aside, over last 10 years a suspected £180 million of laundered money has been investigated by the authorities. However, according to Global Witness, that’s merely the tip of a very large ice berg. What these new measures will do if enacted will be to identify where the corrupt money is and prevent it from coming in to the country in the future. Currently the government is able to identify who owns a property on an individual and company basis but crucially not who the real people are who hide behind these companies.

People can still use offshore companies to structure their investments in order to benefit from things like inheritance tax and capital gains tax. But, if the consultation process succeeds, people hiding money for a criminal reason will no longer be able to hide it in property.

This appears on the surface to be an important first step. The question is, should the proposals go through, will law enforcement be empowered to properly investigate the practice of money laundering in the UK?

In a speech to Muslims in Birmingham on July 20, Cameron said “that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths”.

But money laundering is a major contributory factor (as is the failure to tax property effectively) in house price rises which in turn results in the kind of social cleansing I discussed here. Any failure by Cameron to get to grips with the problem will increase the problem of social exclusion he claims he wants to redress.

As with much else in the area of social and economic policy, the UK government appear to be tugging at the coat tails of the United States. What applies across the Atlantic is of as much relevance in New York as it is London. But at least in the former, rent controls to some degree ameliorate the problem. That said, UK government policy is geared towards increasing the disconnect between the rich and poor in much the same way the United States is.

As George Monbiot astutely puts it:

“The rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot. Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it.” We suffer the same curse: a ruling class whose wealth lies offshore, and which identifies more readily with a transnational elite than with the other people of this nation. On behalf of this elite, the government now gives away £93bn a year in corporate welfare: a sum bigger than the deficit. It champions the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership; a graver threat to the interests of this nation than Islamic extremism presents.”

The failure to tax property effectively has fuelled a rise in house prices so severe that entire English regions are becoming almost uninhabitable to the poor. The situation is made all the worse by the announcement from the head of the National Crime Agency who said there is a direct link between money laundering in property and the massive rise in London house prices.

Is It Time To Say That Religion Is The Problem?

Low on substance and high on rhetoric, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech in Birmingham today (July 20) unveiled what could loosely be termed as a less than coherent strategy to tackle Islamist extremism that would have likely gone down well with many of his core Friends of Israel Tory MPS some of whose constituents have left the UK to fight against the occupied and oppressed Palestinian’s, whilst others have gone to fight alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga.

Are we ever likely to have the likes of Cameron talking condescendingly to the Jewish community in the Golder’s Green district of North London about strategies to tackle Jewish-Zionist extremism? Moreover, is Cameron likely to debate in leafy Surrey, the Christian-Zionist fundamentalism of Blair and Bush which resulted in the death of at least half a million Iraqi’s on the basis of a pack of lies.

The questions of course are rhetorical since we know the answer. Unlike the Tory voting wealthy middle classes and Friends of Israel, likely anti-Tory Muslims within a de–industrialized urban landscapes like Birmingham are regarded as political fair game for Cameron’s shananagans.

Ignoring many of the causal factors that drive a small minority of mainly young Muslims to ISIS such as our endless wars in Muslim lands, Cameron outlined his government’s five-year plan to defeat home-grown extremism. Cameron set out four major areas that needed attention: countering the “warped” extremist ideology, the process of radicalisation, the “drowning out” of moderate Muslim voices, and the “identity crisis” among some British-born Muslims.

He spoke about the need to enforce British values without specifying what these ‘values’ are. He went on to conflate what British values were not by referencing forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The implication being that these manifestations of un-Britishness are unique to Muslim culture which of course they are not. “No more turning a blind eye on the basis of cultural sensitivities,” he said. Fine. I’ll now wait in eager anticipation for a similar speech by Cameron to the Jewish community in Stamford Hill.

“I want to work with you to defeat this poison [of Islamist extremism]”, he said. Presumably, ‘defeating’ ISIS doesn’t involve the counterproductive action of bombing to smithereens yet more innocent civilians as the justification for mission creep.

The one (unintended) positive that emerged from his speech was when he talked about the differentiation between Islamist extremism on the one hand, and Islam the religion, on the other. As such he brought into focus the wider questions regarding the differing interpretations seemingly inherent to religious doctrine.

Jon Snow of Channel 4 News quoted the Muslim Council of Great Britain saying: “We need to define tightly and closely what extremism is rather than perpetuate a deep misunderstanding of Islam and rhetoric which inevitably facilitates extremists to thrive.

Do we know what Islamic extremism is exactly? Is there a distinction between Islam and extremism peddled in the name of Islam? Can a distinction be made between the Wahabbi version of Islam in Saudi Arabia and extremism? Surely the former is indistinguishable from the latter.

In order to tackle the problem associated with certain extremist interpretations of Islam it makes sense to want to tackle the problem at source. But crucially, this was the aspect missing from Cameron’s speech. For if he was to highlight it, he would have been cutting off his nose to spite his face.That’s because Britain has a an extremely cozy relationship with the oppressive totalitarian states’ of the Arab Gulf Peninsula, all of who without exception, adhere to the extremist theocratic Islamic ideologies.described but nevertheless represent extremely good business for Great Britain PLC.

Is it the duty of Muslims living, in say, Birmingham to defend other Muslims living, in say, Baghdad? Conversely, can the killing of innocent people in Western liberal democracies’ ever be considered as justifiable on the basis that theoretically the populations’ within these nations’ often elect governments’ who initiate wars of aggression against Muslims in their name? Can violent acts in these circumstances ever be justified? Does this, in the minds of extremists, justify Jihad against Westerners by Muslims irrespective of where either reside in the world?

Some moderate Muslims like Baroness Warsi insist that Jihad is about self-improvement, self-evaluation, questioning injustice and being prepared to raise your voice when you see injustice. This contrasts with the more extreme interpretation of Jihad in which external factors like the taking of arms are seen as the precursor to the kind of self-evaluation outlined by Warsi.

One of the main problems that needs to be addressed, but tends to be constantly evaded, relates to the contradictory aspect of religion itself. Irrespective of whether one is a follower of ISIS, or whether one is a part of the vast majority of the wider Muslim community of Sunni or Shia, all groups and sects will self-identify with, and hence, claim they are the true representatives of Islam and all will justify their opposing positions with recourse to the Koran.