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The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : In Ukraine, EU and US Interventionists Nearing the Civil War They Caused

The Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity : In Ukraine, EU and US Interventionists Nearing the Civil War They Caused.

written by michael scheuer
sunday february 23, 2014
Bbc

“The pretext of propagating liberty can make no difference. Every nation has a right to carve out its own happiness in its own way, and it is the height of presumption in another to attempt to fashion its political creed.”
-Alex. Hamilton to George Washington, 2 May 1793.

It always seems to start with the BBC. Months ago when the Ukrainian president patiently explained that his country’s economic and energy realities — which Vladimir Putin underscored — required that it stay close to Russia and not yet enter into a closer relationship with the EU, the BBC flooded Kiev with correspondents. These “independent” journalists began covering every angle of the crisis, or at least the angles that coincided with the view of pro-EU Ukrainian demonstrators and the BBC’s own, now thoroughly institutionalized, worship of the divinity known as the EU.

As one rule of thumb, any non-EU government that is dealing with domestic unrest ought to immediately close all BBC facilities in its country and issue no visas for BBC correspondents who want to enter the country and “cover” — a word that always means “support” — the demonstrations. The BBC — except for five minutes at the top and bottom of the hour — has long since ceased being a news organization. It is now better seen as a “campaign group,” the name the BBC itself uses for reckless, irresponsible, and violence-and-anarchy causing international groups like Amnesty International and other components of the human-rights mafia.

With the BBC positioned and intending to make Ukrainian matters worse, the European Commission and individual EU states began to send their senior officials to sympathize with and support the anti-government forces in Kiev, as well as to threaten, belittle, and ridicule the Ukrainian president, his government, and their decision about what was economically best for the Ukraine. The prize ass of this herd of incendiary EU officials was without question the Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. On numerous visits to Kiev, Bildt openly supported the demonstrators, damned the Ukrainian president and his government, and threatened EC sanctions if the Ukrainian regime did not surrender to the rabble in the street.

Two points come immediately to mind on this issue. First, why would any Europeans in their right mind listen to anything that a senior Swedish official had to say? Sweden’s 20th century behavior speaks for itself. In two world wars it stayed neutral so that it could make enormous profits by selling nickel ore, iron ore, and other strategic minerals to Imperial Germany and Hitler’s Reich, entities which in turn used the metals to kill millions of other Europeans. This simple fact alone, one would think, should be enough to ensure no Swedish official gets a hearing anywhere in Europe, ever.

The second point is another rule of thumb. Any non-EC government that is dealing with domestic unrest ought never to issue visas for EU or US diplomats to visit their protesting citizens. Such a government also should not allow resident EU and US diplomats to involve themselves with the demonstrators, and should expel those who seek to do so.

These EU and US official visitors and resident diplomats do not intend to negotiate an even-handed end to the government-protestors confrontation. They mean to force the government to surrender, and, if that does not occur, to foment increased resistance among the demonstrators, even if such encouragement leads to violence. No matter. EU and US diplomats will easily get away with recklessly stoking violence because whatever happens in Kiev’s streets will be reported by the BBC as the Ukrainian regime’s fault.

In the past two weeks, a new dimension of the West’s civil war-stimulating intervention in Ukraine has appeared in the form of those self-proclaimed if clearly addled avenging angels of freedom — Joe Biden and Barack Obama. Although late to the intervention party, Biden and Obama have made up for lost time by starting to beat the drums of economic war against Ukraine, a country that probably neither could find on a map. Obama also has threatened that the Ukrainian president would be “held responsible” by Washington for the violence in his country; this from the first US president who is responsible for absolutely nothing that occurs on his watch.

If it was not clear that their words and threats are already getting Ukrainians killed, these two dilettante American diplomatists would be hilarious. Indeed, the Biden-and-Obama team could be the next Laurel and Hardy, except that neither is smart enough to make up for the other’s hopeless arrogance, historical ignorance, and naiveté. In this regard, the death-causing propensities of the Biden-Obama team in conducting US foreign policy mirrors that of the other well-know team of US war-causers, McCain and Graham.

As civil war inches closer in the Ukraine — with an outside chance of an European war — it is clear that its arrival will be the responsibility of the EU and the United States who, through their intervention in Ukraine in the name of democracy, have ensured many dead Ukrainians, much less democracy and a ruined economy there, and greater influence for Russia in Kiev. What Alexander Hamilton called the “height of presumption” is the standing operating procedure for US and EU political leaders and diplomats, men and women who are out to teach the world’s nations how to be behave — as long as they are weak nations — and who absolutely know that no nation can solve its problems without their brilliant assistance and close instruction.

There is nothing Americans can do to stop the EU empire-builders and their BBC cheerleaders from causing war in the Ukraine, but Washington must not help them. For the sake of US security, as the ever-reliable Dr. Ron Paul has said, Americans should just shut up and watch because the United States has no genuine national interest at stake in the Ukraine that would require any involvement whatsoever by our government. “That’s their [the Ukrainians’] business, and it certainly isn’t ours,” Dr. Paul said. “We’ve tried it for too long [to tell others what to do], and the American people are sick and tired of it, and we’re also out of money.”

Cogent and ardently patriotic as always, Dr. Paul is a too-long under-appreciated national treasure, except among some citizens and most U.S. military personnel, men and women who know that he would defend America but not waste their lives in unnecessary wars fought for unsavory allies. Indeed, Dr. Paul stands forthrightly in the tradition of America’s greatest citizen, whose birthday happens to be today.

Always the deadly foe of US interventionism, General Washington fathered the non-interventionist path that Dr. Paul and his admirers and supporters follow. “I have always given it as my decided opinion that no nation has the right to inter-meddle in the internal affairs of another …,” Washington told James Monroe, who wanted US intervention to aid French revolutionaries who would cause a world war, in July 1794, “and that, if this country could, consistent with its engagements, maintain a strict neutrality and thereby preserve peace, it was bound to do so by motives of policy, interest, and every other consideration.” That is the path of sanity and security for the United States, and it mandates no US involvement in the Ukraine.

Finally, a Well Done to Dr. Paul, a great American, and a Happy Birthday to General Washington, the greatest American.

A Bog of Corruption |

A Bog of Corruption |.

February 10, 2014 | Author 

‘Breathtaking’ Corruption in the EU

recent article at the BBC discusses the findings of a report by EU Home Affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem on corruption in the EU. According to the report, the cost of corruption in the EU amounts to €120 billion annually. We would submit that it is likely far more than that (in fact, even Ms. Malmstroem herself concurs with this assessment). This is of course what one gets when one installs vast, byzantine bureaucracies and issues a veritable flood of rules and regulations every year. More and more people are needed to administer this unwieldy nightmare of red tape, and naturally the quality of the hires declines over time due to the sheer numbers required.

Moreover, many small to medium sized businesses would probably not be able to survive if they didn’t occasionally bribe officials. Big business considers bribes a perfectly normal cost of business anyway, especially when the business concerned involves milking tax cows. As you will see further below, the defense business – or better the war racket – is especially prone to corruption. Tax payers of course end up paying every cent. Another sector that is apparently subject to widespread corruption is health care – which should be no surprise, since health care provision is an almost fully socialistic enterprise in Europe. Bribes may well mean the difference between life and death in some instances. You will probably also not be overly surprised to learn that there was VAT fraud amounting to €5 billion in the bizarre and totally ineffective and useless ‘carbon credits’ market, which has turned into a boondoggle of amazing proportions. There’s simply no other way of making a mint in that market we suppose. From the BBC:

“The extent of corruption in Europe is “breathtaking” and it costs the EU economy at least 120bn euros (£99bn) annually, the European Commission says. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem has presented a full report on the problem.

She said the true cost of corruption was “probably much higher” than 120bn. Three-quarters of Europeans surveyed for the Commission study said that corruption was widespread, and more than half said the level had increased.

“The extent of the problem in Europe is breathtaking, although Sweden is among the countries with the least problems,” Ms Malmstroem wrote in Sweden’s Goeteborgs-Posten daily. The cost to the EU economy is equivalent to the bloc’s annual budget. For the report the Commission studied corruption in all 28 EU member states. The Commission says it is the first time it has done such a survey.

National governments, rather than EU institutions, are chiefly responsible for fighting corruption in the EU.

[…]

In some countries there was a relatively high number reporting personal experience of bribery. In Croatia, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Greece, between 6% and 29% of respondents said they had been asked for a bribe, or had been expected to pay one, in the past 12 months. There were also high levels of bribery in Poland (15%), Slovakia (14%) and Hungary (13%), where the most prevalent instances were in healthcare.

[..]

Last year Europol director Rob Wainwright said VAT fraud in the carbon credits market had cost the EU about 5bn euros.”

(emphasis added)

And that is merely what they actually know about. Remember, there are know unknowns and unknown unknowns here as well, and they probably dwarf what is actually known. One gets an inkling of how big the problem may really be when considering the case of Greece.


_72724992_eu_corruption_labels_624map(3)The EU corruption map according to the official report – via BBC.


Bribes Exceeding Greek Official’s Memory Storage Capacity

Greece is of course a special case in terms of official corruption. If you ever wondered how the country could go bankrupt in such short order after joining the euro zone, wonder no longer. Here are a few excerpts from a recent article in the NYTabout a lower level official in the defense ministry who received so many bribes that he cannot even remember them all anymore. The amounts involved are astonishing:

“When Antonis Kantas, a deputy in the Defense Ministry here, spoke up against the purchase of expensive German-made tanks in 2001, a representative of the tank’s manufacturer stopped by his office to leave a satchel on his sofa. It contained 600,000 euros ($814,000).

Other arms manufacturers eager to make deals came by, too, some guiding him through the ins and outs of international banking and then paying him off with deposits to his overseas accounts.

At the time, Mr. Kantas, a wiry former military officer, did not actually have the authority to decide much of anything on his own. But corruption was so rampant inside the Greek equivalent of the Pentagon that even a man of his relatively modest rank, he testified recently, was able to amass nearly $19 million in just five years on the job.”

One certainly wonders what more powerful officials were able to skim off. Unfortunately, corruption is so widespread and reportedly involves the highest echelons of the bureaucracy and the body politic in Greece, so that one must expect that we will never find out. No wonder there is a lot of tax evasion in Greece: who wants to hand over his hard earned money to such a gang of thieves? It is like paying off the mafia.

Meanwhile, the companies paying the bribes are of course just as guilty, and many of them come from countries that are themselves ranked relatively low on the corruption scale – e.g. Germany and Sweden. It seems to be an ‘opportunity makes thieves’ type situation.

“Never before has an official opened such a wide window on the eye-popping system of payoffs at work inside a Greek government ministry. At various points, Mr. Kantas, who returned to testify again last week, told prosecutors he had taken so many bribes he could not possibly remember the details.

[…]

Mr. Kantas’s testimony, if accurate, illustrates how arms makers from Germany, France, Sweden and Russia passed out bribes liberally, often through Greek representatives, to sell the government weaponry that it could ill afford and that experts say was in many cases overpriced and subpar.

The 600,000 euros, for instance, bought Mr. Kantas’s silence on the tanks, which were deemed of little value in any wars Greece might fight, according to Constantinos P. Fraggos, an expert on the Greek military who has written several books on the subject. Greece went ahead and bought 170 of the tanks for about $2.3 billion.

Adding to the absurdity of the purchase (almost all of it on credit), the ministry bought virtually no ammunition for them, Mr. Fraggos said. It also bought fighter planes without electronic guidance systems and paid more than $4 billion for troubled, noisy submarines that are not yet finished and sit today virtually abandoned in a shipyard outside Athens. At the height of the crisis, when it was unclear whether Greece would be thrown out of the euro zone and long before the submarines were finished, the Greek Parliament approved a final $407 million payment for the German submarines.”

[…]

The Defense Ministry is hardly the only ministry suspected of being a hotbed of corruption. But the Defense Ministry makes a particularly rich target for investigators because Greece went on a huge spending spree after 1996 when it got into a low-level skirmish with Turkey over the Imia islets in the Aegean Sea.

One former director general of the Defense Ministry, Evangelos Vasilakos, calculated that Greece spent as much as $68 billion on weaponry over the next 10 years, much of it borrowed money. To win these deals, which involved the approval of military and Defense Ministry officials, as well as Parliament, arms dealers probably spent more than $2.7 billion on bribes, according to Tasos Telloglou, an investigative reporter for the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini, who has written extensively on the subject.”

(emphasis added)

Buying $68 billion worth of largely useless weaponry is certainly quite a feat for a country of slightly over 11 million inhabitants. The Saudis may well be able to top that on a per capita basis, but they have a lot of oil money and haven’t required a bailout from anyone. Greece was not able to actually afford these expensive toys.

Even if the weapons were in perfect working order, this buying spree wouldn’t make any sense. Is Greece really going to fight a war with Turkey, a NATO partner? The very idea is absurd. Since we can rule this possibility out, what on earth are the weapons good for?

We can hereby amend Randolph Bourne’s famous saying: ‘War is the health of the State – and its minions and suppliers‘.

Greek tank

Say hello to a white elephant in the Greek shrubbery.

(Image author unknown)

Alan Rusbridger: Westminster is hoping Snowden revelations go away | Media | theguardian.com

Alan Rusbridger: Westminster is hoping Snowden revelations go away | Media | theguardian.com.

Alan Rusbridger

Alan Rusbridger told the BBC both the main political parties felt compromised by the surveillance revelations. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s political class has been closing its eyes and hoping the revelations from Edward Snowden go away rather than tackle important issues over mass surveillance that have provoked such heated debate in America, the editor in chief of the Guardian has said.

Alan Rusbridger accused Westminster of “complacency” about the revelations from Snowden, which have been published in the Guardianover the past six months.

Speaking to the BBC hours before the US president, Barack Obama, was due to give details about reforms to the US spy headquarters, the National Security Agency (NSA), Rusbridger said: “I think one of the problems is that both of the main political parties feel compromised about this. Labour is not keen to get involved because a lot of this stuff was done on their watch.”

He added: “I think there is a degree of complacency here. There has been barely a whisper from Westminster. I think they are closing their eyes and hoping that it goes away. But it won’t go away because it’s impossible to reform the NSA without having a deep knock-on effect on what our own intelligence services do.”

Interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Rusbridger said the oversight mechanisms that were supposed to review the work of Britain’s intelligence agencies had proved to be “laughable”. He said the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, even with the extra money it had received recently, was not up to the job. “I just don’t think they have the technical expertise or the resources,” he said.

Rusbridger added: “What is unprecedented in the last 15 years is the advance of technology. It is completely different from anything that has existed in humankind before.”

Earlier in the programme, William Hague, the foreign secretary, reaffirmed his belief that Britain’s eavesdropping headquarters, GCHQ, had acted within the law when it looked at the content of intercepted messages.

He refused to comment on the Guardian’s latest story from the Snowden files – which shows GCHQ has access to “unwarranted” text messagescollected by the NSA in a programme codenamed Dishfire.

“I am not going to comment on allegations or leaks. I can’t possibly do that,” said Hague.

“But I can say [we have] a very strong system of checks and balances of warrants being required from me or the home secretary to intercept the content of the communications.

“That system is not breached. I have not seen anything to suggest that system has been breached. We have probably the strongest system in the world. Not only do I and the home secretary oversee these things, but we have commissioners who oversee our work and report to the prime minister. No country has a stronger system than that.”

But Rusbridger said Hague had sidestepped the main issue.

Dishfire collects so-called “metadata”, which can be analysed with fewer legal restraints. Yet expert after expert had admitted metadata was as valuable as content to intelligence analysts, said Rusbridger, because it allows analysts to build up a picture of your whereabouts and your relationships.

“There is not much distinction between metadata and content,” he said.

“[Hague] talked about being within the law on content. This isn’t content. This is metadata, which politicians make out as very harmless. This is not just billing data. The world has moved on. What people can tell through metadata is almost everything about you.

“Contrary to what William Hague said the documents say, the NSA likes working here because of the light legal regime here.”

Rusbridger also questioned the claims of Britain’s security chiefs that the Guardian’s revelations had undermined national security and – in the words of the head of MI6, Sir John Sawers – left al-Qaida rubbing its hands in glee.

Rusbridger said the claim was “theatrical … but there was no evidence attached”.

U.K. to Pay Up To $3M a Well to Councils Allowing Shale Gas – Bloomberg

U.K. to Pay Up To $3M a Well to Councils Allowing Shale Gas – Bloomberg.

Prime Minister David Cameron will give millions of pounds to local authorities that allow shale gas developments to go ahead, part of a drive to create more jobs and encourage investment in the U.K.

Councils will be allowed to keep 100 percent of the business rates they collect from shale gas sites, double the current 50 percent figure, in a move that may be worth 1.7 million pounds ($2.8 million) per site in central government funding per year, according to figures released by Cameron’s office. Business rates are taxes to help pay for local services, charged on most non-domestic properties.

“That’s going to be quite a significant boost for that local council’s coffers,” Business MinisterMichael Fallon told the BBC. “We want local councils and local people to benefit from this exploration. We expect 20-40 wells to be drilled in exploration over the next couple of years.”

Research by business lobby group The Institute of Directors showed investment could reach 3.7 billion pounds a year and support 74,000 jobs in the oil, gas, construction, engineering and chemicals industries, Cameron’s office said. It also said the industry will make proposals today on how best to secure a role for British companies in the supply chain as shale gas production develops in the U.K.

“A key part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future is to back businesses with better infrastructure,” Cameron said in an e-mailed statement. “That’s why we’re going all out for shale. It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people and economic security for our country.”

Total SA (FP) today became the largest oil company to invest in U.K. shale gas through a $47 million deal to take stakes in two exploration areas in eastern England.

Europe’s third-biggest oil producer will acquire a 40 percent stake in licenses held by Dart Energy Ltd. (DTE) and operated by IGas Energy Plc (IGAS), the Paris-based company said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London atkdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

George Osborne warns of more cuts and austerity in ‘year of hard truths’ | Politics | theguardian.com

George Osborne warns of more cuts and austerity in ‘year of hard truths’ | Politics | theguardian.com.

George Osborne is making a speech today saying more cuts worth £2bn are needed.

George Osborne warns of more cuts to the welfare budget. Photograph: Reuters

George Osborne has warned of another £25bn of cuts after the next election, targeting housing benefit for the better-off and under-25s.

In a grim message to start the new year, the chancellor said Britain was facing a year of hard truths in 2014 as there were more cuts to make and the economy still had big underlying problems. He said he expected the bulk of the savings to come from welfare, as it would be an “odd choice” to leave this “enormous budget” untouched.

Benefits for the young and people of working age would be considered before any cuts to pensioner benefits such as free bus passes and television licences, he said.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “If you were going to be looking for savings in welfare, pensioner benefits is not the place that I would first turn to. I would look at housing benefit for the under-25s, when there are many people listening to this programme who can’t afford to move out of their home but if you’re on benefits you can get housing benefit under the age of 25. There are people, for example, on incomes of £60,000 or £70,000 living in council homes – I’d look at that.”

Justifying his choice to target welfare again after around £83bn of previous cuts, the chancellor said: “I think we do have to look at the welfare budget because I think it would be an odd choice as a country to say, look we’ve got a high deficit and we’re going to deal with that by just cutting the schools budget or the science budget or something like that … and to leave untouched this enormous welfare budget. That ultimately is where you can find substantial savings.”

He said he did not know when people would start to feel the effects of recovery. “There’s a hard truth, which is this country is much poorer because of the economic collapse six or seven years ago, and families feel that. What is the answer? I can’t wave a magic wand and make the country richer. The way the country gets richer and families get richer is by being a competitive country that attracts jobs and investment.”

In a speech in the Midlands on Monday morning, Osborne said there was still a long way to go before recovery as he set out a five-point plan to help the economy. “We’ve got to make more cuts – £17bn this coming year, £20bn next year, and over £25bn further across the two years after. That’s more than £60bn in total.”

Osborne built on previous warnings about the need to intensify austerity, on top of billions of pounds of existing cuts, even though the economy appears to be turning a corner. In the speech, he said the job of fixing the economy was “not even half done”. “That’s why 2014 is the year of hard truths,” he said.

The chancellor’s negative outlook forms part of his argument that people should vote Conservative to let the party “finish the job”, rather than handing control back to Labour. However, Labour said more cuts were needed after 2015 because Osborne’s “failure on growth and living standards since 2010 has led to his failure to balance the books”.

“What we need is Labour’s plan to earn our way to higher living standards for all, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and get the deficit down in a fairer way,” said Chris Leslie, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury.

It comes after David Cameron on Sunday suggested that more cuts to housing benefit were on the way and refused to rule out reducing handouts for the elderly, which include free television licences, bus passes and winter fuel allowances.

With just 16 months to go before the next election, the prime minister gave his clearest hints yet about the Conservatives’ priorities for the 2015 manifesto, including more welfare cuts and higher state pensions every year for the rest of the decade. Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Cameron promised the Conservatives would keep the so-called triple lock on pensions until at least 2020 if in power – which means increasing it annually by inflation, average earnings or 2.5%, whichever is highest.

He said this decision to protect the income of pensioners above other age groups at a time of austerity was “a choice based on values, based on my values”. He denied it was a move to woo the grey vote, even though eight in 10 over-60s vote, compared with just four in 10 in the 18-24 age group.

But Cameron did not rule out cuts to universal benefits for the elderly, stressing that his previous promise to keep these handouts only extended as far as the end of this parliament in 2015. He also criticised the level of housing benefit for being “frankly far too high”. “We’ve put a cap on housing benefit, but I still think there’s more we can do to reform our benefits system,” he added.

Cameron also signalled that he wants to cut taxes for the lowest paid before taxes for the rich. He did not rule out reducing the 45p top rate of tax further to 40p, saying such decisions had to be made on the basis of whether they would raise more revenue, but suggested it was not top of his priorities. His remarks are potentially a hint that the Tories could pledge to increase the level at which workers start paying income tax above £10,000 – even though 5 million of the lowest paid earn even less than that and would see no benefit.

“I want taxes that mean the rich pay not just a fair share, as it were, in taxes, but I actually want the rich to pay more in taxes,” he said. “So you ought to set tax rates that encourage people to earn, to set up businesses, to make money, and then to pay taxes. And actually what we’re finding with the 45p rate is I think it’s going to bring in a better percentage of money than the 50p rate is. So you should always look at how you set taxes in that way.

“But my priority if you like – the priority of this government and the Conservative party – the priority is to target tax reductions on the poorest people in our country … If I had money in the coffers I would target that money at the lowest paid.”

Labour said the prime minister’s words suggested he was still “paving the way for yet another cut to the top rate of tax, a further tax giveaway for millionaires and the top Tory donors who bankroll Cameron’s Conservative party”.

During the interview, Cameron also insisted a Conservative victory at the next election was achievable and that he would go all out for it even though the party is far behind Labour in the opinion polls and a new survey suggests a third of Tory voters have deserted the party since 2010.

“We’ve got 16 months to the next election. This year for me is a year about governing, it’s about delivering, it’s about putting in place the elements of that long-term plan. I’m content that the public will judge me and the government I run and the party I run in 2015,” he said.

Euro-enthusiasts can’t quite hide their contempt for the masses – Telegraph Blogs

Euro-enthusiasts can’t quite hide their contempt for the masses – Telegraph Blogs.

Anti-slavery campaigners were also written off as cranks and gadflies

How do you get a poll to register a large majority in favour of EU membership? Easy. Confine your survey to quangocrats, charity heads, civil servants, CEOs of multi-national corporations and the like. The pro-EU lobby group, British Influence, has been trying to get people excited about its poll of “leading figures” – that is, 700 bien pensantmetropolitans of whom, sure enough, 69 per cent want to stay in the EU. Indeed, the only surprise is that, of a demographic specifically selected for pro-Brussels bias, 31 per cent don’t agree.

Not that I blame British Influence: when every poll of the general population shows an anti-EU majority, you have to clutch at whatever support you can find. Nor am I saying that all, or even most, of the people surveyed are beneficiaries of the Brussels racket. They don’t have to be. When enough NGOs get money from the Commission, even those that don’t tend to be inflected by the Euro-enthusiasm of their peers. When a large number multinationals and megabanks have invested in lobbying to get rules that suit them, other corporates get carried along by the groupthink.

Let’s run over some of the other things that all these “leading figures” have favoured over the years, shall we? State planning, prices and incomes policies, the SDP, the ERM. Almost without exception, the “leading figures” trotted out by British Influence to argue for the EU were, a decade ago, making precisely the same arguments about joining the euro: we’ll lose influence, overseas investment will dry up, blah blah fishcakes. If they were forecasters in the private sector, they’d have been sacked long ago. But because they represent the goody-goody consensus, they can always be sure of a sympathetic hearing from the BBC.

For as long as I can remember, the European debate has involved an element of snobbery. Supporters of the project are not so much pro-EU as anti-Eurosceptic, seeing themselves as defenders of moderate, decent, civilised values against Blimps, oiks and football hooligans. I’ve lost count of how many people in Brussels have said to me, “You know, Hannan, you’re very broadminded for a Eurosceptic”. They mean to be nice, but they reveal their narcissism.

Well, let me be broadminded now. It may be true that the Eurosceptic movement has more than its share of eccentrics. You know what? The same is true of every movement that takes on the orthodoxy. You can’t read history without being struck by how many oddballs and misfits were attracted, in the early stages, to the campaign against slavery, say, or the campaign for a universal franchise. Any movement that challenges the status quo will attract, as well as principled reformers, people who are simply grumpy about life in general. But this doesn’t make them wrong.

The Chartists and the Suffragettes were attacked by their opponents in exactly the same terms as Ukip today: as a bunch of mavericks and obsessives. When the vote was extended to all adults, the moderate men, the sensible men, the men of bottom and judgment, suddenly remembered that they had favoured the idea all along. The same will happen with Brexit. Just watch.

 

Shots Fired At German Ambassador’s Home In Athens | Zero Hedge

Shots Fired At German Ambassador’s Home In Athens | Zero Hedge.

This morning we were treated to the usual stupifying comments from Greek leadership that “Greece won’t need more loans,” and will “start becoming a normal country,” because the Greek ‘recovery’ is “built on solid foundations.” However, it appears the public-at-large is not so happy as the BBC reports shots were fired at the German ambassador’s residence in Athens. Samaras said Greeks “have gone through hard times.” With over 60 bullets fired, it seems the someone is upset that their union overlords won’t lift those hard times anytime soon…

Via The BBC,

Shots were fired at the German ambassador’s residence in Athens early on Monday, without causing injury.

Bullets were found embedded in the steel gate, Greece’s Kathimerini news website reports.

Ambassador Wolfgang Dold’s residence is in the Greek capital’s Halandri district. The raid took place at around 03:30 local time (01:30 GMT).

It is not clear who the attackers were. Germany’s insistence on budget cuts has caused much resentment in Greece.

At least 60 spent bullet casings were found at the scene of the attack. Police say the bullets came from two Kalashnikov assault rifles.

So far no-one has admitted carrying out the attack.

In a message to the unidentified perpetrators, Mr Dold said “whoever is responsible for this act: you will not succeed in disrupting the close and friendly relations of our two countries”.

He was in the residence when the shots were fired.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Berlin took the attack “very seriously” and “nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify such an attack”.

The Greek government called it a “cowardly terrorist action” aimed at undermining Greece’s six-month presidency of the EU, which begins on 1 January.

Germany is the biggest lender involved in the Greek bailout – a 240bn-euro (£200bn; $331bn) rescue for the debt-laden country that started in 2010.

The bailout conditions require Greece to rein in public spending, and that has meant hardship for Greeks who have lost their jobs or who now pay more for essential services.

In 1999 the ambassador’s residence was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, in an attack claimed by the now defunct radical left-wing group November 17.

 

French Constituional Court Approves 75% Tax On High Earners | Zero Hedge

French Constituional Court Approves 75% Tax On High Earners | Zero Hedge.

Almost a year ago, the French constitutional court ruled against Francois Hollande’s triumphal blast into socialist wealth redistribution, with his proposed 75% tax rate on high earners, and so indefinitely delayed the exodus of the bulk of French high earners (even if some, like Obelix, aka Gerard Depardieu, promptly made their way to the country that has become the land of solace for all oppressed people everywhere, Russia) into more tax-hospitable  climes. That delay is now over, when earlier today the same court approved a 75% tax on all those earning over €1 million. The proposal passed after the government modified it to make employers liable for the 75% tax. As BBC reports, the levy will last two years, affecting income earned this year and in 2014.

And with the tax passage, the preparations for an exodus by all high earnings begin, first among the local football teams. BBC reports:

Football clubs in France went on strike earlier this year over the issue, saying many of France’s clubs are financially fragile and say the plans could spark an exodus of top players who are paid huge salaries.

 

The Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain has more than 10 players whose pay exceeds 1m euros, including the Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

 

There has also been a chorus of protest from businesses and wealthy individuals who have condemned the tax – including film star Gerard Depardieu, who left the country in protest.

 

Polls suggest a large majority in France back the temporary tax.

 

Unlike many other countries in Europe, France aims to bring down its huge public deficit by raising taxes as well as some spending cuts. The highest tax rate in the UK is 45% and is applied to individuals.

While the numerous unintended consequences of this shock and awe tax hike will be amusing to watch in real time as this move will almost certainly be the long-awaited catalyst to push France into its long-predicted recession (to the benefit of countries like Belgium where the French uber-rich are already relocating to), one wonders if the drop in the value of French ultra-high end real estate will be offset by the soaring valuations of London’s already “beyond housing bubble” home prices, and just what the local response will be now that domestic real estate is even more inaccessible to anyone but the wealthiest global oligarchs and billionaires (aside from the capital gains tax of course, which as we wrote previously, is about to be launched first in London, and then everywhere else).

 

Washington’s Blog | Business, Investing, Economy, Politics, World News, Energy, Environment, Science, Technology Washington’s Blog

Washington’s Blog | Business, Investing, Economy, Politics, World News, Energy, Environment, Science, Technology Washington’s Blog.

Veteran Journalists Reveal that – Contrary to It’s Claims of “Openness” and “Transparency” – This Administration Is the Most Closed Ever

Long-time CNN political reporter Bob Franken (now with MSNBC) said last week:

FRANKEN: Well, let’s use the “P” word here. This is propaganda when it comes from the White House: government covering the government. It’s not what you’re supposed to do in the United States of America. But we have an administration, every president gets to the point where he dislikes the press. It’s that simple. And every administration tries to manipulate the press. But this is the most hostile to the media that has been in United States history. Not only do we have this thing where they’re…

[Interviewer]: Wait, you would go that far?

FRANKEN: I would go that far.

[Interviewer]: The most hostile in history?

FRANKEN: The most hostile because first of all, we have the situation where they are in fact shutting out the press. And by the way, when they say you can’t have every photographer in, they know full-well that there’s a thing called a pool, which is to say you have one representative from each of the media that represents all of them and shares the pictures and the sound and all that kind of thing. So that’s totally disingenuous, which is a polite word.

But the reason I say most hostile is because of the Justice Department moves that they’ve made against the press. Obviously they have a contempt for the journalistic process. Those of us who are in journalism, of course, believe that it is vital if you’re going to have informed electorate as opposed to one that’s been propagandized.

 

 

Many other veteran reporters agree.  For example, the Washington Post reported recently:

With the passage of the Patriot Act after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a vast expansion of intelligence agencies and their powers, the aggressive exploitation of intrusive digital surveillance capabilities, the excessive classification of public documents and officials’ sophisticated control of the news media’s access to the workings of government, journalists who cover national security are facing vast and unprecedented challenges in their efforts to hold the government accountable to its citizens. They find that government officials are increasingly fearful of talking to them, and they worry that their communications with sources can be monitored at any time.So what are they doing? Many reporters covering national security and government policy in Washington these days are taking precautions to keep their sources from becoming casualties in the Obama administration’s war on leaks. They and their remaining government sources often avoid telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges, arranging furtive one-on-one meetings instead. A few news organizations have even set up separate computer networks and safe rooms for journalists trained in encryption and other ways to thwart surveillance.

“I worry now about calling somebody because the contact can be found out through a check of phone records or e-mails,” said veteran national security journalist R. Jeffrey Smith of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit accountability news organization. “It leaves a digital trail that makes it easier for government to monitor those contacts.”

“We have to think more about when we use cellphones, when we use e-mail and when we need to meet sources in person,” said Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor of the Associated Press. “We need to be more and more aware that government can track our work without talking to our reporters, without letting us know.”

These concerns, expressed by numerous journalists I interviewed, are well-founded. Relying on the 1917 Espionage Act, which was rarely invoked before President Obama took office, this administration has secretly used the phone and e-mail records of government officials and reporters to identify and prosecute government sources for national security stories.

***

In addition to ongoing leak investigations, six government employees and two contractors, including fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden, have been prosecuted since 2009 under the Espionage Act for providing information to reporters about, among other subjects, the NSA’s communications surveillance, the CIA’s aggressive interrogation of terrorism suspects and, in the case of Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, diplomatic cables and Iraq and Afghanistan war documents.

***

The Obama administration has drawn a dubious distinction between whistleblowing that reveals bureaucratic waste or fraud, and leaks to the news media about unexamined secret government policies and activities; it punishes the latter as espionage.

***

Every disclosure to the press of classified information now triggers a leak investigation, said Washington Post national news editor Cameron Barr. “Investigations can be done electronically. They don’t need to compel journalists to reveal sources.”

The Post’s Justice Department reporter, Sari Horwitz, said a Justice official told her that “access to e-mail, phone records and cellphones make it easier to do now.”

After the New York Times published a 2012 story by David E. Sanger about covert cyberattacks by the United States and Israel against Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities, federal prosecutors and the FBI questioned scores of officials throughout the government who were identified in computer analyses of phone, text and e-mail records as having contact with Sanger.

“A memo went out from the chief of staff a year ago to White House employees and the intelligence agencies that told people to freeze and retain any e-mail, and presumably phone logs, of communications with me,” Sanger said. As a result, longtime sources no longer talk to him. “They tell me: ‘David, I love you, but don’t e-mail me. Let’s don’t chat until this blows over.’ ”

Sanger, who has worked for the Times in Washington for two decades, said, “This is most closed, control-freak administration I’ve ever covered.”

***

A survey of government departments and agencies this summer by the Washington bureau of McClatchy newspapers found that they had wide latitude in defining what kinds of behavior constitute a threat. “Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material,” it reported in June. “They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for ‘high-risk persons or behaviors’ among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.”

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, told me that the Insider Threat Program has already “created internal surveillance, heightened a degree of paranoia in government and made people conscious of contacts with the public, advocates and the press.”

***

“People think they’re looking at reporters’ records,” Post national security reporter Dana Priest told me. “I’m writing fewer things in e-mail. I’m even afraid to tell officials what I want to talk about because it’s all going into one giant computer.”

***

“Whenever I’m asked what is the most manipulative and secretive administration I’ve covered, I always say it’s the one in office now,” Bob Schieffer, CBS News anchor and chief Washington correspondent, told me.“Every administration learns from the previous administration. They become more secretive and put tighter clamps on information. This administration exercises more control than George W. Bush’s did, and his before that.”

While Obama says he’s running the most transparent administration ever, he’s actually running themost secretive administration ever (background).

The government has taken to protecting criminal wrongdoing by attacking whistleblowers … and any journalists who have the nerve to report on the beans spilled by the whistleblowers.  (The government has also repealed long-standing laws against using propaganda against Americans on U.S. soil, and the government is manipulating social media – more proof here and here).

The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers than all other presidents combined.

And it goes out of its way to smear whistleblowersthreaten reporters who discuss whistleblower information and harass honest analysts.

Journalism is not only being criminalized in America, but investigative reporting is actually treated liketerrorism.

The government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws (and here). For example, after Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Chris Hedges, journalist Naomi Wolf, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and others sued the government to enjoin the NDAA’s allowance of the indefinite detention of Americans – the judge asked the government attorneys 5 times whether journalists like Hedges could be indefinitely detained simply for interviewing and then writing aboutbad guys. The government refused to promise that journalists like Hedges won’t be thrown in a dungeon for the rest of their lives without any right to talk to a judge

After the government’s spying on the Associated Press made it clear to everyone that the government is trying to put a chill journalism, the senior national-security correspondent for Newsweek tweeted:

Serious idea. Instead of calling it Obama’s war on whistleblowers, let’s just call it what it is: Obama’s war on journalism.

Moreover:

  • The Bush White House worked hard to smear CIA officersbloggers and anyone else who criticized the Iraq war

And the American government has been instrumental in locking up journalists in America (and here),Yemen and elsewhere for the crime of … embarrassing the U.S. government.

 

George Osborne distances himself from Boris Johnson’s IQ comments | Politics | theguardian.com

George Osborne distances himself from Boris Johnson’s IQ comments | Politics | theguardian.com.

George Osborne on The Andrew Marr show

George Osborne on The Andrew Marr show Photograph: BBC

The chancellor, George Osborne, has distanced himself from Boris Johnson‘s suggestion that some people cannot do well in life because of their low IQ, but agreed with the idea that economic equality is impossible.

Osborne is the first senior Conservative to reject the controversial remarks made last week by the London mayor, who said it was futile to try to end inequality when “16% of our species have an IQ below 85 while about 2% have an IQ above 130”.

The chancellor dismissed the language of Johnson, a fellow rival to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader, but suggested there was an element of truth to what he was saying about inequality.

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, he said: “I wouldn’t have put it like that and I don’t agree with everything he said. Where I think there is increasingly common agreement about across the political spectrum is that you can’t achieve equality of outcome but you should be able to achieve equality of opportunity. You should give everyone wherever they come from the best chance and actually education is the absolute key to this.”

Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, told the same programme that Johnson’s remarks were not uncommon in Westminster.

“That idea that greed is good and the poor are poor because they are stupid is pretty outdated set of views and there’s rather too much of those attitudes around in politics,” he said.

Johnson’s highly provocative comments were made during a speech in memory of Margaret Thatcher last week, in which he appeared to mock the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 as he called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130.

“Whatever you may think of the value of IQ tests it is surely relevant to a conversation about equality that as many as 16% of our species have an IQ below 85 while about 2% …” he said as he departed from the text of his speech to ask whether anyone in his City audience had a low IQ. To muted laughter he asked: “Over 16% anyone? Put up your hands.” He then resumed his speech to talk about the 2% who have an IQ above 130.

Johnson then told the Centre for Policy Studies thinktank, which helped lay the basis for Thatcherism in the 1970s: “The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top.”

Johnson moved to associate himself with what were seen as the excesses of 1980s Thatcherism as he said: “I stress – I don’t believe that economic equality is possible; indeed some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”

The deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that Johnson’s comment revealed an “unpleasant, careless elitism”.

 

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