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Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge

Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge.

As was largely expected, the first retaliation by Obama has arrived, courtesy of a just issued Executive Order by the president, in which he has blocked and frozen “all property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person” (i.e. assets) of not only the pre-coup Ukraine president Yanukovich and the Crimean leader Aksyonov, including all Russians that operate in the Russian arms industry, but most notably seven Putin aides. Not Putin himself of course – that would be too “escalatory”…

From the White House:

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, finding that the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine — including the recent deployment of Russian Federation military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine — undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in…

The people impacted:

  • Vladislav Surkov

Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov (born 21 September 1964)[1] is a Russian businessman and politician. He was First Deputy of the Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1999 to 2011, during which time he was widely seen as the main ideologist of the Kremlin. Allegedly he contributed greatly to the electoral victory of President Vladimir Putin in 2004. Surkov is seen as the main architect of the current Russian political system, often described as “sovereign” or “managed” democracy.

From December 2011 until 8 May 2013 he served as the Russian Federation’s Deputy Prime Minister. While his resignation was described as voluntary, presidential spokesman Peskov linked the resignation with the government’s failure to carry out decrees by President Putin., in the late 1980s he started as a businessman as the government lifted the ban against private businesses. He became a head of the advertisement department of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s businesses. During the 1990s he held key managerial positions in advertisement and PR departments of Khodorkovsky’s Bank Menatep (1991 – April 1996) and Rosprom (March 1996 – February 1997) and Fridman’s Alfa-Bank (since February 1997).

In September 2004 Surkov was elected president of the board of directors of the oil products transportation company Transnefteproduct, but was instructed by Russia’s PM Mikhail Fradkov to give up the position in February 2006.

Sergey Yurievich Glazyev is a Russian politician and economist, Full Member of Russian Academy of Science since 2008. He was a minister in 1993, a member of the State Duma in 1993-2007, and ran for President of Russia in 2004. Glazyev was a co-founder of the Rodina party. Glazyev announced his retirement from politics in March 2007, and said that he did not intend to seek a further term in the Duma, arguing that Vladimir Putin’s rule had crowded out all forms of political opposition and debate in the country.

In July 2012, Putin appointed Glazyev as presidential aide for the coordination of the work of federal agencies in developing the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Glazyev has authored more than forty books and hundreds of pamphlets and research papers. One of his books has been published in English translation by the LaRouche movement’s Executive Intelligence Review as Genocide: Russia and the New World Order (ISBN 0-943235-16-2). In 1995 he was awarded with the Gold Kondratieff Medal by the International N. D. Kondratieff Foundation and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RAEN).

In August 2013 Glazyev claimed that stating that all Ukrainians favor Ukraine to integrate in the European Union “is some kind of sick self-delusion”.[3] Because, according to him, “sociological surveys by Ukrainian sociological services say something different: 35% of people prefer the European Union and 40% the Customs Union”. He blamed “numerous political scientists and experts, who have fed on European and American grants for 20 years, and a whole generation of diplomats and bureaucrats that has appeared after the years of the ‘orange’ hysteria, who are carrying out an anti-Russian agenda” and “who are too far from the economy and real life, don’t really know their country’s history and are divorced from its spiritual traditions” for creating “an effect that Ukraine doesn’t want”.[3] Ukrainian opinion polls that polled support in Ukraine for European Union membership did indicate that at the time of Mr Glazyev’s statements Ukrainians preferred joining the European Union rather than the Customs Union.

  • Leonid Slutsky

Leonid Eduardovich Slutskii is a member of the State Duma of Russia, a member of the LDPR party. Currently he is the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the “Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Integration and links with compatriots”. Slutsky as been a First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs. He is dean of the international relations department at the Moscow State University of Economics, Information and Statistics. He has held senior banking positions and was an advisor to the mayor of Moscow. Slutsky also reported to a directorate of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. He holds an economics degree from the Moscow Economic-Statistical Institute

  • Andrei Klishas

Dr. Andrey A. Klishas served as Vice President and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Interros Company since June 2008. Dr. Klishas is a visiting Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law Faculty and an Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Municipal Department (Legal Department) of Russian Peoples Friendship University. Dr. Klishas is an Assistant Professor of constitutional and municipal department of Moscow University for the Russian Ministry of Domestic Affairs. From June 1998 to October 2001, he was the Legal Matters Director and Deputy General Director of Interros Company. From October 2001, Dr. Klishas served as the General Director of Interros and from December 2001, he was the Chairman of the Management Board. From January 2004, Dr. Klishas was a Member of the Board of Directors of the firm. He held different posts at Russian Federal Property Fund from 1995 to 1997 and at UNEXIM Bank, where he was the Deputy Head of Legal Department from August 1997 to June 1998. On July 2007, Dr. Klishas was elected the President of Federation of Hunting Dog Breeding.

Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Polyus Gold since June 26, 2008 and Open Investments company and a Member of the Board of Agros Group and Polyus CJSC. Dr. Klishas serves as a General Director at KM Invest Private Joint Stock Company. He has been Director of MMC Norilsk Nickel since December 2008.

  • Valentina Matviyenko

Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko is the highest-ranking female politician in Russia, the former governor of Saint Petersburg and the current Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. Born in the Ukrainian SSR, Matviyenko started her political career in the 1980s in Saint Petersburg (then called Leningrad) and was the First Secretary of the Krasnogvardeysky District CPSU of the city from 1984 to 1986. In the 1990s she served as Russian ambassador to Malta (1991–1995) and Greece (1997–1998). Between 1998–2003 Matviyenko was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia for Welfare, and briefly the Presidential Envoy to the Northwestern Federal District in 2003. By that time she firmly allied herself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an alliance which secured her a victory in the governor elections in Saint Petersburg, Putin’s native city.

On 19 May 2007, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation announced that on 16 May it had detained several members of an undisclosed youth religious group allegedly preparing an assassination attempt on Valentina Matviyenko’s life using hand grenades and plastic explosive. On 23 May FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev announced that the prevented attempt had been scheduled for June.

Controversial businessman Vitaly Arkhangelsky accused Matviyenko in corporate raiding and corruption. According to him Matvieyenko is the real owner of the bank “Saint Petersburg” that staged a corporate raid on the property of his company, OMG that included Vyborg Port and Western Terminal of Saint Petersburg port using falsified documents with forged signature of Arkhangelsy. The lawyers of bank “Saint Petersburg” insist on exclusion materials of Matviyenko’s involvement from the criminal case in London court.

  • Dmitry Rogozin

Dmitryi Olegovich Rogozin  is a Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in charge of defense industry. In January 2008, he became Russia’s ambassador to NATO, until December 2011. He was a leader of the Rodina (Motherland) party until it merged with other similar Russian parties to form the Fair Russia party.He speaks 4 languages and holds a doctor’s degree.

On 18 February 2011 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Dmitry Rogozin as a Special Representative on anti-missile defence and negotiations with NATO countries on this issue. On 23 December 2011 Dmitry Rogozin was appointed deputy premier of Russian Government in charge of defense and space industry. As responsible for the defense industry he leads the creation of the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry (Russian DARPA).

In 2008 he was appointed a Russian ambassador to NATO. As Russia’s NATO envoy he was heavily opposed to Ukraine and Georgia becoming members of NATO. After the two countries were denied membership of the NATO Membership Action Plan he claimed that: “They will not invite these bankrupt scandalous regimes to join NATO…more so as important partnerships with Russia are at stake.”. For such words he was criticized by some Ukrainian and Georgian officials. Former Ukraine’s envoy to NATO Ihor Sahach said: “In my opinion, he is merely used as one of cogs in the informational war waged against Ukraine. Sooner or later, I think, it should be stopped”. The envoy also expressed a surprise with Rogozin’s slang words. “It was for the first time that I heard such a higher official as envoy using this, I don’t even know how to describe it, whether it was a slang or language of criminal circles… I understand Russian, but, I’m sorry, I don’t know what his words meant”.The Foreign Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Ohryzko stated that he did not regard the statement as serious.

  • Yelena Mizulina

Yelena Mizulina is a Russian politician serving as a member of the Russian Parliament between 1995 and 2003 and again since 2007. Since 2012, she has been the center of attention in regard to a set of controversial laws concerning the rights of the LGBT community in Russia and the adoption of Russian orphan children by foreigners. She is currently Chairman of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs. She has changed her political affiliation several times, having served public office on behalf of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces parties and is currently representing the region of Omsk in the Duma as a representative of the social democratic A Just Russia party.

Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge

Obama Issues Executive Order Freezing Assets Of Seven Putin Aides | Zero Hedge.

As was largely expected, the first retaliation by Obama has arrived, courtesy of a just issued Executive Order by the president, in which he has blocked and frozen “all property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person” (i.e. assets) of not only the pre-coup Ukraine president Yanukovich and the Crimean leader Aksyonov, including all Russians that operate in the Russian arms industry, but most notably seven Putin aides. Not Putin himself of course – that would be too “escalatory”…

From the White House:

I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, hereby expand the scope of the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13660 of March 6, 2014, finding that the actions and policies of the Government of the Russian Federation with respect to Ukraine — including the recent deployment of Russian Federation military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine — undermine democratic processes and institutions in Ukraine; threaten its peace, security, stability, sovereignty, and territorial integrity; and contribute to the misappropriation of its assets, and thereby constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. Accordingly, I hereby order:

Section 1. (a) All property and interests in property that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of any United States person (including any foreign branch) of the following persons are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in…

The people impacted:

  • Vladislav Surkov

Vladislav Yuryevich Surkov (born 21 September 1964)[1] is a Russian businessman and politician. He was First Deputy of the Chief of the Russian Presidential Administration from 1999 to 2011, during which time he was widely seen as the main ideologist of the Kremlin. Allegedly he contributed greatly to the electoral victory of President Vladimir Putin in 2004. Surkov is seen as the main architect of the current Russian political system, often described as “sovereign” or “managed” democracy.

From December 2011 until 8 May 2013 he served as the Russian Federation’s Deputy Prime Minister. While his resignation was described as voluntary, presidential spokesman Peskov linked the resignation with the government’s failure to carry out decrees by President Putin., in the late 1980s he started as a businessman as the government lifted the ban against private businesses. He became a head of the advertisement department of Mikhail Khodorkovsky’s businesses. During the 1990s he held key managerial positions in advertisement and PR departments of Khodorkovsky’s Bank Menatep (1991 – April 1996) and Rosprom (March 1996 – February 1997) and Fridman’s Alfa-Bank (since February 1997).

In September 2004 Surkov was elected president of the board of directors of the oil products transportation company Transnefteproduct, but was instructed by Russia’s PM Mikhail Fradkov to give up the position in February 2006.

Sergey Yurievich Glazyev is a Russian politician and economist, Full Member of Russian Academy of Science since 2008. He was a minister in 1993, a member of the State Duma in 1993-2007, and ran for President of Russia in 2004. Glazyev was a co-founder of the Rodina party. Glazyev announced his retirement from politics in March 2007, and said that he did not intend to seek a further term in the Duma, arguing that Vladimir Putin’s rule had crowded out all forms of political opposition and debate in the country.

In July 2012, Putin appointed Glazyev as presidential aide for the coordination of the work of federal agencies in developing the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia. Glazyev has authored more than forty books and hundreds of pamphlets and research papers. One of his books has been published in English translation by the LaRouche movement’s Executive Intelligence Review as Genocide: Russia and the New World Order (ISBN 0-943235-16-2). In 1995 he was awarded with the Gold Kondratieff Medal by the International N. D. Kondratieff Foundation and the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences (RAEN).

In August 2013 Glazyev claimed that stating that all Ukrainians favor Ukraine to integrate in the European Union “is some kind of sick self-delusion”.[3] Because, according to him, “sociological surveys by Ukrainian sociological services say something different: 35% of people prefer the European Union and 40% the Customs Union”. He blamed “numerous political scientists and experts, who have fed on European and American grants for 20 years, and a whole generation of diplomats and bureaucrats that has appeared after the years of the ‘orange’ hysteria, who are carrying out an anti-Russian agenda” and “who are too far from the economy and real life, don’t really know their country’s history and are divorced from its spiritual traditions” for creating “an effect that Ukraine doesn’t want”.[3] Ukrainian opinion polls that polled support in Ukraine for European Union membership did indicate that at the time of Mr Glazyev’s statements Ukrainians preferred joining the European Union rather than the Customs Union.

  • Leonid Slutsky

Leonid Eduardovich Slutskii is a member of the State Duma of Russia, a member of the LDPR party. Currently he is the Chairman of the State Duma Committee on the “Commonwealth of Independent States, Eurasian Integration and links with compatriots”. Slutsky as been a First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on International Affairs. He is dean of the international relations department at the Moscow State University of Economics, Information and Statistics. He has held senior banking positions and was an advisor to the mayor of Moscow. Slutsky also reported to a directorate of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR. He holds an economics degree from the Moscow Economic-Statistical Institute

  • Andrei Klishas

Dr. Andrey A. Klishas served as Vice President and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Interros Company since June 2008. Dr. Klishas is a visiting Professor of Constitutional and Administrative Law Faculty and an Assistant Professor of Constitutional and Municipal Department (Legal Department) of Russian Peoples Friendship University. Dr. Klishas is an Assistant Professor of constitutional and municipal department of Moscow University for the Russian Ministry of Domestic Affairs. From June 1998 to October 2001, he was the Legal Matters Director and Deputy General Director of Interros Company. From October 2001, Dr. Klishas served as the General Director of Interros and from December 2001, he was the Chairman of the Management Board. From January 2004, Dr. Klishas was a Member of the Board of Directors of the firm. He held different posts at Russian Federal Property Fund from 1995 to 1997 and at UNEXIM Bank, where he was the Deputy Head of Legal Department from August 1997 to June 1998. On July 2007, Dr. Klishas was elected the President of Federation of Hunting Dog Breeding.

Currently, he is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Polyus Gold since June 26, 2008 and Open Investments company and a Member of the Board of Agros Group and Polyus CJSC. Dr. Klishas serves as a General Director at KM Invest Private Joint Stock Company. He has been Director of MMC Norilsk Nickel since December 2008.

  • Valentina Matviyenko

Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko is the highest-ranking female politician in Russia, the former governor of Saint Petersburg and the current Chairman of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. Born in the Ukrainian SSR, Matviyenko started her political career in the 1980s in Saint Petersburg (then called Leningrad) and was the First Secretary of the Krasnogvardeysky District CPSU of the city from 1984 to 1986. In the 1990s she served as Russian ambassador to Malta (1991–1995) and Greece (1997–1998). Between 1998–2003 Matviyenko was Deputy Prime Minister of Russia for Welfare, and briefly the Presidential Envoy to the Northwestern Federal District in 2003. By that time she firmly allied herself with Russian President Vladimir Putin, an alliance which secured her a victory in the governor elections in Saint Petersburg, Putin’s native city.

On 19 May 2007, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation announced that on 16 May it had detained several members of an undisclosed youth religious group allegedly preparing an assassination attempt on Valentina Matviyenko’s life using hand grenades and plastic explosive. On 23 May FSB Director Nikolay Patrushev announced that the prevented attempt had been scheduled for June.

Controversial businessman Vitaly Arkhangelsky accused Matviyenko in corporate raiding and corruption. According to him Matvieyenko is the real owner of the bank “Saint Petersburg” that staged a corporate raid on the property of his company, OMG that included Vyborg Port and Western Terminal of Saint Petersburg port using falsified documents with forged signature of Arkhangelsy. The lawyers of bank “Saint Petersburg” insist on exclusion materials of Matviyenko’s involvement from the criminal case in London court.

  • Dmitry Rogozin

Dmitryi Olegovich Rogozin  is a Russian Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in charge of defense industry. In January 2008, he became Russia’s ambassador to NATO, until December 2011. He was a leader of the Rodina (Motherland) party until it merged with other similar Russian parties to form the Fair Russia party.He speaks 4 languages and holds a doctor’s degree.

On 18 February 2011 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Dmitry Rogozin as a Special Representative on anti-missile defence and negotiations with NATO countries on this issue. On 23 December 2011 Dmitry Rogozin was appointed deputy premier of Russian Government in charge of defense and space industry. As responsible for the defense industry he leads the creation of the Russian Foundation for Advanced Research Projects in the Defense Industry (Russian DARPA).

In 2008 he was appointed a Russian ambassador to NATO. As Russia’s NATO envoy he was heavily opposed to Ukraine and Georgia becoming members of NATO. After the two countries were denied membership of the NATO Membership Action Plan he claimed that: “They will not invite these bankrupt scandalous regimes to join NATO…more so as important partnerships with Russia are at stake.”. For such words he was criticized by some Ukrainian and Georgian officials. Former Ukraine’s envoy to NATO Ihor Sahach said: “In my opinion, he is merely used as one of cogs in the informational war waged against Ukraine. Sooner or later, I think, it should be stopped”. The envoy also expressed a surprise with Rogozin’s slang words. “It was for the first time that I heard such a higher official as envoy using this, I don’t even know how to describe it, whether it was a slang or language of criminal circles… I understand Russian, but, I’m sorry, I don’t know what his words meant”.The Foreign Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Ohryzko stated that he did not regard the statement as serious.

  • Yelena Mizulina

Yelena Mizulina is a Russian politician serving as a member of the Russian Parliament between 1995 and 2003 and again since 2007. Since 2012, she has been the center of attention in regard to a set of controversial laws concerning the rights of the LGBT community in Russia and the adoption of Russian orphan children by foreigners. She is currently Chairman of the Duma Committee on Family, Women and Children Affairs. She has changed her political affiliation several times, having served public office on behalf of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the liberal Yabloko and Union of Right Forces parties and is currently representing the region of Omsk in the Duma as a representative of the social democratic A Just Russia party.

Rome Is On The Verge Of Detroit-Style Bankruptcy | Zero Hedge

Rome Is On The Verge Of Detroit-Style Bankruptcy | Zero Hedge.

With European peripheral bond yields collapsing every single day to new all time lows (primarily driven by Europe’s near-certainty that a US-style QE is imminent as we first showed here in November, despite Mario Draghi’s own words from November 2011 that a QE intervention is virtually impossible), increasingly more of Europe is trading just as safe, if not more, as the United States. And in keeping with the analogies, considering a major US metropolitan center, Detroit, recently went bankrupt, it is only fair that Europe should sacrifice one of its own historic cities to the gods of negative cash flows. The city in question, Rome, which as the WSJ reports, is “teetering on the brink of a Detroit-style bankruptcy.”

Rome, the eternal city, which survived two millennia of abuse from everyone may be preparing to lay its arms at the hands of unprecedented corruption, capital mismanagement and lies

On the first day of his premiership, Matteo Renzi had to withdraw a decree, promulgated by his predecessor, that would have helped the city of Rome fill an €816 million ($1.17 billion) budget gap, after filibustering by opposition lawmakers in the Parliament on Wednesday signaled the bill had little likelihood of passing.

Devising a new decree that provides aid to Rome will now cost Mr. Renzi time and political capital he intended to deploy in promoting sweeping electoral and labor overhauls during his first weeks in office.

For Rome’s city fathers, though, the setback has more dire consequences. They must now face unpalatable choices—such as cutting public services, raising taxes or delaying payments to suppliers—to gain time as they search for ways to close a yawning budget gap. If it fails, the city could be placed under an administrator tasked with selling off city assets, such as its utilities.

“It’s time to stop the accounting tricks and declare Rome’s default,” said Guido Guidesi, a parliamentarian from the Northern League, which opposed the measure.

Alas, if one stops the accounting tricks, not only Rome, but all of Europe, as well as the US and China would all be swept under a global bankruptcy tsunami. So it is safe to assume that the tricks will continue. Especially when one considers that as Mirko Coratti, head of Rome’s city council said on Wednesday, “A default of Italy’s capital city would trigger a chain reaction that could sweep across the national economy.” Well we can’t have that, especially not with everyone in Europe living with their head stuck in the sand of universal denial, assisted by the soothing lies of Mario Draghi and all the other European spin masters.

So what is the catalyst that would push the city into default? Trash.

No really: an appeal for a €485 million transfer from the central government to compensate Rome for the extra costs it incurs in its role as a major tourist destination, the nation’s capital and the seat of the Vatican. “Rome is unique compared with other cities” and deserves state support because of huge numbers of visitors who use services but don’t contribute much to the economy, Mr. Marino said in a recent interview. But even before the government of Enrico Letta fell this month, the proposed transfer had prompted complaints that the aid was unfair, given the dire straits of other cities.

Rome has long struggled to balance its books. Because of its dearth of industry, the city depends heavily on trash-collection levies and the sale of bus and subway tickets. It struggles much more than other European cities to collect either one. About one in four passengers on Rome’s public transit system doesn’t buy tickets, costing around €100 million in lost revenue annually, compared with just 2% of passengers on London’s public transit network.

Meanwhile, employee absenteeism at Rome’s public-transit and trash-collection agencies runs as high as 19%, far above the national average.

But how can Rome’s clean up costs be a surprise? Well, they aren’t. What is however, is the severity of the recession that crushed the national economy.

Just six years ago, some €12 billion in city debts was transferred to a special fund subsidized and guaranteed by the national government in a move aimed at giving Rome a fresh start. But Italy’s economy has shrunk by almost 10% since then, eroding the tax base just as national austerity programs pushed extra costs onto local governments.

Even before the withdrawal of the “Save Rome” decree, Mr. Marino was facing unpalatable choices. He has already raised cremation and cemetery fees and plans to centralize city procurement, which he says will save €300 million a year.

Now, without the transfer from the central government, he may be forced to impose income and property tax surcharge—already among the highest in the country—and to cut salaries to the city’s 20,000 employees or trim city services such as child-care centers or job-training programs—also unpopular moves.

What would happen then is unknown, but hardly pleasant:

The political fallout could be severe. The mayor of Taranto, a southeast city that defaulted on €637 million in debt in 2006, has suffered some of the lowest poll ratings in the country after cutting back services.

Oh well, another government overhaul is imminent then, after all it is Italy. Just as long as it is not elected. Because then there woud be a chance that someone who actually sees behind the facade of lies, like Beppe Grillo for example, may just be elected PM, and then all bets are off.

Howeber, that will never be allowed, and instead Rome will almost surely be bailed out. That however would open a whole new can of worms as every other insolvent city demands the same treatment:

A new appeal for a special transfer to Rome could embolden demands that other cities in distress be helped, even though Italy’s public finances are already strained. Naples is close to having to declare bankruptcy. Reggio Calabria has been run by a special commissioner for the past three years, but may still default on €694 million in debt, according to Italy’s Audit Court.

And if all else fails, there is the nuclear option: “Some politicians say Rome should sell assets such as ACEA, the electric utility that is worth about €1.8 billion and is 51% owned by the city.

True: and Goldman, or some other bank filled to the gills with the Fed’s generous excess reserves, would be happy to swoop in and scoop up hard Roman assets providing it with just the right cover for creeping global encroachment. The benefactors? A select few equity shareholders. Because for every million or so peasants who suffer, a few rich men have to get even richer in the New Feudal Normal.

“House Of Cards”‘ Top 3 Lessons For A Naive Voting Public | Zero Hedge

“House Of Cards”‘ Top 3 Lessons For A Naive Voting Public | Zero Hedge.

Unlike so many television shows, House of Cards shows how politicians use their power to help themselves and their friends – not the people who elected them. The fictional character at the center of the series, Frank Underwood, shows us the pitfalls of bureaucratic democracy. As professor Steve Horwitz explains in this brief clip, the series exposes the truth of public choice theory, rent seeking behavior, psychopathic tendencies, Machiavellian inclinations, corruption, and scandal. House of Cards is not that far from reality theses days and the following 3 lessons should be heeded by every voter.

 

Guest Post: The Merger Of State And Commerce | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: The Merger Of State And Commerce | Zero Hedge.

Submitted by Stephen Merrill, editor of the Alaska Freedom News. He served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps and as a Navy Reserve Intelligence Officer

The Merger of State and Commerce

The Leviathan’s Thumb

Many observers of the US economy have come to the realization there are now few truly free markets left within 21st Century Western capitalism.

It seems all investments today are controlled to unfair advantage in some large way by the governments and financial firms operating the markets, especially the market in money itself.  The newly-invented powers of the central banks to buy anything, to fund any bailout, can reach into any area of the economy, either to grant large favors or to inflict great pain, typically with the cooperation of the too-big-to-jail banks that own the Federal Reserve and its policies.

The precious metals market is a good example of the Fed and its henchmen inflicting pain.  The Western paper gold market has been the long-used tool of Leviathan to bludgeon the world’s only true money.

In one of the Fed’s generous ways the second US housing bubble has been inflated from a river of counterfeit money and a wet-blanket of negative interest rates.  The QE Forever giveaway to the Fed’s banker friends through buying toxic mortgages at full price charges on.

A Swinging Pendulum

It is nothing at all new for a nation to defy the basic economic principle that allows for ever increasing wealth benefiting all layers of society.  In a word it is liberty.

The underlying concepts of capitalism were best set out by British author Adam Smith.  Smith postulated it is the magic of the invisible hand of a free market that best distributes economic resources and best energizes the people and industry and innovation.   Smith’s signature work The Wealth of Nations was written well over two hundred years ago.

The magic of Smith’s free market proved to be the model for the first sustained, rapid economic growth in global history, since at least the early Roman Empire.  It seems, whatever its academic merit in Ivy League halls, general economic liberty has clearly proven to be the best way to serve all society, given how humans themselves are created, as individuals each seeking a good life and secure family.

European medieval economics between the Romans and  the 18th Century Industrial Revolution showed how the vulture practices of monarchs and nobility eliminated even the hope for economic growth or of ever fostering a middle-class, while stifling innovation at every turn.  The private institutions empowered by law in that time were the lesser nobility and the Catholic Church.

With the Enlightenment period led by writers like Adam Smith, John Locke and Edmund Burke, the grip of elitism in commerce in Britain and France and beyond began to be replaced by private enterprise and capital quite completely.   Individual rewards for productivity and innovation and risk-taking became the driving force for economic decision-making, no longer centered on the whim of the lord or his knights as things have largely returned to in today’s fascist economy.   It was the belief in bottom-up capitalism in its rawest form.

The Europeans had suddenly become a juggernaut of innovation and growth after many centuries of stagnation.  The United States later in the cycle became the signal success of free-market capitalism.

In the wake of this revolution in society, the 19th Century saw the fastest economic growth in human history, all fueled by economic liberty.  For the first time a large prosperous middle-class of workers came into existence in many countries, no longer just the rulers lording over the peasants.

The same economic revolution is happening across most of Asia during our 20th and 21st Centuries.  Just one example, tiny city-state Singapore has proven once again the amazing achievements for all citizens from unbridled capitalism.  Singapore has risen from post-WWII devastation to the top of the world economic ladder without ever asking for or accepting foreign aid from any nation.  Singapore is the heir of Ancient Athens, the first free city, the founder of monetary silver.

Adam Smith’s Lassie Faire capitalism has become though the ancient, barbaric relic in our modern fiat money Western world economy, especially in America.  No living American has experienced an economic system that can be fairly described as general capitalism.

The US has now what is called a “mixed economy” involving many “public-private partnerships” and “professional self-regulation” and “social programs”.  These are modern phrases that explain the slow return to feudal ways.

Monopolies of political power or of markets yield huge profits for the few over generations without much having to change a thing.  Monopoly power is a distant mirror of feudal nobility.  It operates in both the public and the private sector and so often in direct combination with each other.  Power not only corrupts: power wins, power stagnates, power destroys.

The Money-Changers Above the Law

Then there are the market traders in a fiat, debt-fueled world.

Whenever free markets can be conned, fixed or disrupted there is a lot of money to be made in the process. There always has been short-term gain for those insiders who manage to fleece the public by harming the secure, uninterrupted flow of goods and services and finance and information.

Most economic transactions, at their base, rely on a large element of trust.  Deceit punishes trust to self-advantage.  Deceit harms the economic market itself, beyond the impact of the con-jobs in play.  A marketplace chocked with deceit is a fraud itself, the absence of the rule of law.  Only the law can fully deal with deceit in order to allow a free marketplace to even exist.

The more hidden processes used by modern bankers and traders to obtain unearned wealth is little different in its societal effects than robbing a convenience store is, or robbing hundreds of thousands of convenience stores actually, given the numbers typically involved in white collar crime at the highest levels.

The counterfeiting of the private-public central banks, that strangles the middle class to further enrich the wealthy, is daily theft on the grandest scale.  Counterfeiting by central banks now affects almost every investment decision.

In the end, it is little different than the peasants always giving a one-third share of their crops to the royal duke just because the King says so.

The Rule of the Cartels on Main Street

This collectivist syndrome in the United States is far from limited to the Congress-buying Wall Street cartel and the subject of finance.  The same general form of corruption permeates an increasing number of professions and businesses.  Even tattoo artists and legal process servers have earned their guild status by law in many states, hoping to, like others do, choke off low-price competition in their field.

The national health-care industry seems to have become almost a single cartel empowered by federal spending.  The Obamacare spending bonanza is designed to pay off every big healthcare interest in sight and the health-insurance industry to boot.

The provision of education in the United States has long been the fiefdom of rigged markets and systems.

The socialism model rules primary and secondary education almost alone.  Even 40-years of abject failure in effectively educating students has failed to dent the nationwide taxpayer spending spree for this state-imposed monopoly rule in the most crucial work there is for society.  Alaskans today pay over $18,000 per student for K-12 education.  Test scores are well below those of students from some third-world countries.

A mix of public and private institutions rule US higher education as a single-minded oligarchy.  This cartel is primarily empowered by federal spending in the form of student loans.  The younger generations are saddled now with a trillion dollar in debt to repay college tuition and fees that no longer deliver a good job.

The lawyer guild has controlled its market for professional services in every state in the union for generations.  Market-fixing remains one of the central goals of bar association rules:  ditto for the physician guild.

Part private business organization, part government institution, part professional guild, part bank regulator, entirely self-interested, the creature from Jekyll Island, the Federal Reserve, has become the go to mechanism for replacing free markets with aristocratic privilege.  He who issues the money controls the nation the phrase goes.

The Unifying Force

But the ultimate overarching rigged system in the US is the effective monopoly by two private political cartels sharing the same basic agenda, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  As a consequence of these two faces of modern fascism, the nation and its liberty has been for sale for more than two generations now.

This welfare-warfare party, one bent on ever expanding centralized power, has owned the Congress and most of the Presidents going back to WWI and the founding of the Federal Reserve.  The success in keeping the “two-party system” in place has had far more to do with the special privileges granted by law to Democratic and Republican candidates than to any good reason for a lack of meaningful political competition.

What is the fundamental error of governance made in all of this modern injustice?

It is the practice of the government surrendering open elections and free markets to officially anointed regulatory systems that then form an unchallengeable oligopoly within their bailiwick.

In the case of public regulation rather than a guild system, the regulated industry invariably become the effective master of the industry regulators, like Democrats and Republicans have for instance in US politics.  Within any regulated business, the temptation of well-heeled collegiality from industry always wins over government regulators eventually or, more often, the people that appoint the regulators.

With professional guilds in power its officials take over entirely for the government in controlling the business and its participants.  Professional guilds as a rule disconnect their own disciplinary code and market-rigging from the courts as much as possible, the place where everyone else is required to go for such matters.

Self-regulation for a profession invariably becomes mostly a program for less competition for guild members.  It freezes the present elite in their power and position, a never ending goal of humanity it seems.

In a wider sense, the officially anointed protector of the public safety, whether it is the state bureaucrat or a private guild official, over time becomes an enabler of reduced accountability for wrongdoing, a way to keep standards low for the industry or service by locking out competition and even the law, to the extent possible.

The US economy has regressed to feudal ways like these in such force that a variety of private guilds, cartels, unions and oligopolies exercise, officially or in practice, many of the powers of government itself, especially those powers assumed by but never granted by a constitution to the government.  It has all become a part of the “the law”.

The Revolution Looms Anew

Today’s economic model was best summed up by dictator Benito Mussolini in one short sentence: “Fascism … is the perfect merger of power between the corporations and the state”.

But tyranny also has its life-cycle within the balance between the past and the future.  Once the past becomes far too much of a millstone for the future generations to carry any longer, governments fall and debt and servitude recede.

Empires can fall largely without violence and allow a new, freer system to emerge, as most of the satellite states of the Soviet Union achieved.   Or the legacy of fallen empire becomes violent chaos followed by renewed oppression, like the French Revolution.

This bottom-up style revolution is happening to nations across our 21st Century.  The future lies in the balance.  The bell tolls for all Western nations, too.

So, in the United States, it seems, liberty will have its chance again before too long.

New TEPCO Report Shows Damage to Unit 3 Fuel Pool MUCH Worse Than That at Unit 4 Washington’s Blog

New TEPCO Report Shows Damage to Unit 3 Fuel Pool MUCH Worse Than That at Unit 4 Washington’s Blog.

New TEPCO Report Shows Damage to Unit 3 Fuel Pool MUCH Worse Than That at Unit 4

Another Conspiracy Theory Becomes Fact: Meet The Men With The Plan Behind Italy’s Bloodless Coup | Zero Hedge

Another Conspiracy Theory Becomes Fact: Meet The Men With The Plan Behind Italy’s Bloodless Coup | Zero Hedge.

The chart below is very familiar to anyone who was observing the hourly turmoil in the European bond market in November of 2011, when Italian bonds crashed, when yields soared to record levels, and every downtick of the Euro could have been its last.

What the chart may not show are the dramatic transformations in Italy’s government that took place just as the Italian bond spread exploded, which saw the resignation of career-politician Sylvio Berlusconi literally days after yields soared, and the instatement of Goldman technocrat Mario Monti as Italy’s next Prime Minister.

In fact as some, and certainly this website, had suggested the blow out in Italian yields was merely a grand plan orchestrated to usher in a new Italian government that would, with the support of yet another Goldman alum, the ECB’s then brand new head Mario Draghi, unleash a new era in Italian life, supposedly one of austerity (ignoring that two years after Berlusconi, Italy’s debt to GDP ratio has never been higher), and which would give the impression that Europe is being fixed all the while preserving the broken European monetary system for at least another year or two. In other words a grand conspiracy theory of a pre-planned bloodless coup. That all this would take place under the auspices and with the blessing of Italy’s president Napolitano, only made things worse since Italy is not a parliamentary republic but a parliamentary democracy, where such cloak and dagger arrangements are certainly not permitted under the constitution.

And so, as lately so often happens, courtesy of the narrative by Alan Friedman of what really happened that summer, this too conspiracy theory has just become conspiracy fact. Thanks to the FT’s “Monti’s secret summer“, we learn with painful detail (especially for those of our readers who may be Italian), just how the grand conspiracy to out Berlusconi took shape, and how it was deviously executed with the assistance of none other than the European Central Bank.

It all started on In the summer of 2011 when Carlo De Benedetti, the Italian industrial tycoon, hosted Mario Monti, Italy’s then former prime minister and an old friend of De Benedetti’s in the St Moritz-based alpine retreat of the industrialist for dinner, and a private chat to discuss “a development that was to have profound public consequences.” We go to the FT for the full details:

“Mario asked if we could get together, and I chose a typical little Swiss trattoria for dinner, just outside of St Moritz. But at the last minute he said he wanted to talk in private and so I said ‘Sure, stop by my house before dinner’ and so he came by,” Mr De Benedetti says. “And it was then he told me that it was possible that the president of the republic, Napolitano, would ask him to become prime minister, and he asked my advice.

Mr De Benedetti says the two men “discussed whether he should accept the offer, and when would be the right moment to do so. This happened at my house in August, so in fact he had already spoken with President Napolitano.”

The offer from Giorgio Napolitano, the Italian president, to Mr Monti of the job of prime minister – a post that was still very much occupied by Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire centre-right politician – is at the core of serious questions of legitimacy in Italy. What happened in Italy that summer and autumn as policy makers battled the crisis gripping the eurozone is still a subject of intense debate.

Here, the story takes a detour to a glimpse of the denouement, by advising readers that the president’s “planning the replacement of the elected Mr Berlusconi by the unelected technocrat Mr Monti – months ahead of the eventual transfer of power in November – reinforces concerns about Mr Napolitano’s repeated and forceful interventions in politics. His outsized role since the crisis has led many to question whether he stretched his constitutional powers to their limits – or even beyond.” Of course, he did – and so did all other European bankers and business tycoons who knew they had to perpetuate the legacy status quo as long as possible or else their fortunes would come crumbling down before their eyes. But we already knew that. What we did not know were the explicit details of how the immaculate plan to wrest control of Italy from the playboy billionaire and hand it over to what essentially were Goldman’s key European tentacles, were conceived. So we read on:

Outside the calm of St Moritz that summer, the eurozone crisis was raging. Market speculation against Italian and Spanish sovereign debt was rampant and the spread between Italian Treasury bonds and German Bunds was rocketing. As its borrowing costs rose there was talk that Italy could default. Italy was in crisis – politically as well as economically.

In Rome, Mr Berlusconi was presiding over a rancorous, unstable coalition and increasingly distracted by allegations over sexual relations with Karim el-Mahroug, a Moroccan nightclub dancer. All of Europe seemed to be lambasting him.

Yet despite the controversy engulfing Mr Berlusconi, he was still the sitting prime minister and his government was legitimate under the rules of Italy’s parliamentary democracy.

How long that might last was a subject of conversation between Mr De Benedetti and Mr Monti that August.

“I told Mario that he should take the job but that it was all a question of timing. If Napolitano formalised the offer in September then that was fine, but if he left it until December then it would be too late,” recounts Mr De Benedetti.

So now we know the timeframe for the upcoming coup: ideally sometime, in October or November of 2011. But before that, it was the turn of another element – this time the European connection Romano Prodi – to give his blessing and to explain to Monti why he would soon be the “happiest man alive:”

Romano Prodi, a former president of the European Commission and another old friend of Mr Monti’s, recalls a similar conversation, but even earlier, towards the end of June 2011. “We had a long and friendly conversation,” Mr Prodi says, “and he asked for my thoughts, and I told him, ‘look here Mario, there is nothing you can do to become prime minister but if the job is offered to you then you cannot say no. So you should be the happiest man alive’.”

Finally, the only missing link was the codification of the “reforms” that Italy would undergo the second Berlusconi was booted out.

Corrado Passera, a leading banker who was to become Mr Monti’s minister for economic development, infrastructure and transport, was meanwhile given the green light that summer by Mr Napolitano to prepare a confidential 196-page document containing his own proposals for a wide-ranging “shock therapy” for the Italian economy. It was a programme of proposed government policies and reforms that went through four successive drafts as Mr Napolitano and Mr Passera discussed it back and forth that summer and into the autumn.

With all that in place, it was time to put the plan into effect.

Italy’s crisis intensified throughout the autumn of 2011. All Italians still remember the smirk of scepticism on the faces of Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, when they were asked at a press conference in October if they had confidence in Mr Berlusconi’s ability to cut the deficit or reduce the debt, which was then at 120 per cent of gross domestic product. (The latest figure is 133 per cent.)

So yes, for anyone still confused – since total debt/GDP has risen by 13% in the past two years, the last thing Italy engaged in was austerity designed to moderate its out of control public spending. What it did engage in, was epic capital misallocation, even greater corruption, and gross incompetence. All of these, however, were conveniently scapegoated on the only well-known traditional fallback.

At this point, we should remind readers of a concurrent story, one involving Italy’s then-member of the ECB executive council, Lorenzo Bini-Smaghi, who revealed in a recent book that at just around this time Berlusconi was realizing that the trap was closing. Bini-Smaghi revealed that Berlusconi had “discussed (threatened?) Italian withdrawal from the euro in private meetings with other EMU governments, presumably with Chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, since he does not negotiate with underlings.”

And so the ECB went to task, and under its new boss, yet another Italian, former Goldmanite Mario Draghi, allowed Italian bond yields to crater and take the country, and the Eurozone, and thus the entire developed world, to the edge of collapse. Just so Italy’s president had a pretext to accelerate the demise of Berlusconi and catalyze his replacement with a technocrat crony of the financial establishment. Once again, as a reminder, here is the dynamic of bond yields soaring just as Berlusconi was threatening to end the European dream in which “so much political capital is invested”:

What happened after that moment is part of the public record:

On November 9 2011 Mr Napolitano appointed Mr Monti a senator for life, thus making him a member of parliament. On November 12, at a meeting with the president, Mr Berlusconi resigned, ending his third stint as prime minister. Within 24 hours – rather than call for fresh elections – Mr Napolitano named Mr Monti, the economics professor and former European commissioner who had never held elected office, as prime minister. The full cabinet was sworn in three days later.

Mr Berlusconi’s supporters cried foul and made noisy claims that there had been a “coup”.

They were right, and now – from the horse’s mouth – we know the facts.

In a lengthy videotaped interview with Mr Monti, he confirmed the conversation with Mr De Benedetti in St Moritz. He also acknowledged the conversation with Mr Prodi in June 2011, though at first he played down these talks, saying that the idea of him becoming prime minister “was sort of in the air”.

He recalled with a giggle that “Yes, Prodi came to see me at the end of June and the spread [between Italian and German government bond yields] was then about 220 or 250 basis points, and he told me: ‘Get ready, because when the spread hits 300 you will be called in’. And then the spread hit 550!”

… as if by magic. Supposedly Draghi wasn’t quite willing to do “whatever it takes” just yet.

Mr Monti confirmed that he knew all about the Passera document being prepared for the president. “Corrado Passera told me he was working on this and he said he would show it to me, and he did, and he told me he had given it to Napolitano and would give it to me,” Mr Monti said. “And on one occasion I discussed the Passera document with Napolitano, and then later on, months later, when I was named prime minister, I immediately asked Passera to join the Cabinet.”

But when asked if it was made clear to him in the summer of 2011 in his talks with Mr Napolitano that the president was asking him to be ready to take over from Mr Berlusconi, Mr Monti hesitated. “Well, President Napolitano and I had been talking for a long time, for years, not about this, but then things sort of came to a head.”

When pressed further to explain if Mr Napolitano had explicitly asked him to be on standby during their talks back in June and July 2011 – four to five months before he replaced Mr Berlusconi as prime minister – Mr Monti demurred: “Look here: I will not reveal details of conversations that I had with the president of the republic.”

Pressed again, and asked if he wished to deny on the record that in June and July of 2011 President Napolitano had either asked him explicitly or had made it clear that he wanted him to be available to become the new prime minister, Mr Monti replied falteringly, in a voice that became almost a whisper: “Yes. He, uh, he gave me a signal in that direction.” After this revelation a look of extreme discomfort spread across Mr Monti’s face and he stared off to one side.

Perhaps because Monti had just realized he admitted that Italy had undergone presidentially-blessed government coup – one whose execution stretched far beyond any constitutional powers awarded to the president, and one which involved numerous foreign (and financial) interests (and conflicts thereof).

At this point attention turns to Italy’s president, 89-year old Giorgio Napolitan0, whose direct intervention was instrumental in allowing this carefully laid “bloodless coup” plan of bankers and technocrats to proceed:

Mr Napolitano did not agree to an interview despite repeated requests. His spokesman had no comment on a series of written questions, including one about which month in 2011 Mr Napolitano had first sounded out Mr Monti to become prime minister.

But last week Mr Napolitano commented for the first time on the controversy over his naming of Mr Monti. During a visit to the European parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Napolitano said that while some had described his naming of Mr Monti “as almost invented by me as a personal whim”, in fact he had done so on the basis of indications given to him by parliamentary and political leaders “in the course of consultations as is required”.

This explanation could raise further questions in Italy, where such “consultations as is required” would typically have begun only upon the resignation of the prime minister. In Mr Berlusconi’s case, these would have begun upon his November 12 resignation.

We now know that all such consultations took place well before said resignation. But where it gets better is just how grand the chess game truly was:

The Monti government acted swiftly to introduce harsh austerity measures, spending cuts, a value added tax rise and new property duties as well as reform of the pensions system. Praise was duly heaped on him by the European Commission, the International Monetary Fund and financial markets.

Many Italians still despise Mr Monti for the austerity programme and see him as a pawn of the European Commission or of Ms Merkel. In retrospect he lacked a political touch but was a useful transition figure at a time of crisis.

Mr Monti says his greatest achievement was to jump into electoral politics during the election of February 2013 at the expense of Berlusconi’s party. “Had it not been for my taking votes away from the centre-right,” Mr Monti said in the interview, “Berlusconi today would be either the president of the republic or the prime minister, so I did achieve a concrete result in blocking that.”

Of course, Berlusconi’s star has now faded, and with it the danger that the supposedly irrational politician, who once had threatened to dissolve the Eurozone and thus saddle Germany with a TARGET2 bill amounting to almost $1 trillion. Which meant that the status quo of the “equity tranche” (read – the global banker aristocracy) had been preserved. In this way, Napolitano, Prodi and Monti, assisted by their fourth Italian friend – ECB’s Mario Draghi – effectively subjugated the Italian population to call it austerity, call it gross and premeditated capital misallocation, but certainly call it the will of the bankers. And all without firing a shot.

Which brings up the question of just how constitutional, if at all, was the overthrow of Berlusconi.

Adopted in 1948 after more than 20 years of chaos and brutal fascist rule, Italy’s constitution is one of the few documents universally respected by Italians. It guarantees their most basic rights. It is sacrosanct.

Planning in secret, even as a contingency measure, to appoint a new prime minister when a parliamentary majority is in place may be a prudent and responsible action for a president but it is not an explicit power assigned by the constitution, even if there is a financial crisis under way in half of Europe as was the case in the summer of 2011.

Most ironic, however, is that the only person who seems to care about the trampling of the constitution is…  a former comedian.

Whatever one thinks of Mr Berlusconi, serious constitutional questions are raised by the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring that resulted in the appointment of his successor. Perhaps the loudest voice to raise these questions is that of Beppe Grillo, the comedian-turned-politician who garnered 25 per cent of the national vote last year.

Mr Napolitano, an 89-year-old former communist, has reacted with anger at Mr Grillo’s incessant accusations of the subversion of democracy. Mr Grillo has frequently called for Mr Napolitano’s impeachment.

Today, Italy is emerging from recession slowly, with an exceedingly weak and uneven economic recovery. This year is expected to bring less than 1 per cent growth in GDP. 

Italy remains sharply divided over the events of 2011 and Mr Napolitano’s role in them. The issue of whether Mr Napolitano went beyond his constitutional powers during the summer and autumn of 2011 can be left to future historians. But what is clear now – thanks to Mr Monti’s own admission – is that he and the president had been discussing the prospect of his taking over from Mr Berlusconi long before his official appointment in November of 2011. For Mario Monti it had been a long and secret summer.

Indeed it had. And now we know that in order to effectuate the banker plan of preserving Europe’s “political capital” which is simply another name of trillions in wealth on paper (and on funny-colored pieces of European currency) that would evaporate if and when the Eurozone inevitably dissolves, it took just four Italians – Monti, Prodi, Napolitano and, of course, Draghi – willing to trample their constitution in order to achieve the goal of perpetuating the status quo no matter the cost.

As for the fallout, namely “youth unemployment is at a record high of 41.6 per cent, nationwide joblessness is 12.7 per cent and almost a third of families are near the poverty line. Productivity and competitiveness have dropped sharply in recent years. Mr Monti’s successor, Enrico Letta, another leader championed by Mr Napolitano, is under fire for his handling of the economy”… well, all those are problems of the “99%”. And as everyone knows by know, the 99% is the last thing on the mind of the global ruling class.

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)

Guest Post: Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia And U.S. On Diverging Societal Paths | Zero Hedge

Guest Post: Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia And U.S. On Diverging Societal Paths | Zero Hedge.

Submitted by L. Todd Wood, a former special operations helicopter pilot and bond trader.  


Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia and U.S. on Diverging Societal Paths

As the State of the Union address highlighted, both the Russia Federation and the United States have leaders that lean toward various degrees of autocratic government to achieve their agendas.  President Putin rules with an iron fist and treats the legislative branch as an afterthought to use as needed but otherwise ignores.  President Obama declares he will use executive action to get what he wants and quietly uses government agencies to intimidate and stifle his opposition in flagrant abuses of power.  Putin has dismantled the Russian free press and imprisoned vocal opponents.  The majority of the American press does Obama’s bidding for him while the administration puts movie makers in jail.

Underneath the tyrannical policies of the two Presidents, American and Russian society are diverging.  First let’s look at welfare – it really doesn’t exist in Russia.  If you’re a single mother raising your child alone, the state will pay you less than $50 a month.  Unemployment insurance is also miniscule.  The minimum wage is around $200 a month.  I recently asked a Russian friend what they would receive if they lost their job.  Her answer was, “It’s my problem, why should the government pay?”  Health care is free but of very low quality.  Russians with money typically choose private care and buy their own private health insurance.

In the United States, we are seeing an obscene explosion of the nanny-state.  Obamacare has been exposed as a huge wealth redistribution scheme.  The CBO states that the ACA is a disincentive to work.  Disability payments are skyrocketing.  The number of Americans receiving food stamps has doubled and is spiraling out of control.  Welfare work requirements have been weakened.  The left continuously pushes to add more immigrants to the government dole and refuses to enforce current immigration law.

The difference in the tax code between the two countries is also striking.  If you live in New York, the combined government tax bite is above sixty percent.  It is a safe bet that any Democratic state government will continue to try and raise taxes.  Obama raised rates on the top earners in America and would boost them across the board if he could.  In Russia, the individual tax rate is a flat thirteen percent.  There is an eighteen percent VAT and the corporate rate is twenty-four percent.  If Russia could remove her corrupt barriers to entry, her economy would explode higher.

The difference between the two nations when approaching geopolitical challenges cannot be more extreme.  The United States has shown a willingness to abandon long standing allies time and time again on the global chessboard.  Whether it be Israel, Poland, or Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration has shrank from global leadership and left a gigantic vacuum for President Putin to happily fill.  Russia has shown a willingness to ignore Western political correctness and stand up for Russian long-term interests.  One only has to look to the Iranian nuclear issue, the Syrian situation, or the Snowden embarrassment to see evidence of Putin schooling the American government.  The American position seems to consist of avoiding conflict and appeasing adversaries rather than standing up for historical American values, our allies, and our way of life.

One of the most interesting differences that has been inconveniently obvious in the international press is the Russian refusal to embrace the religion of global warming.  While the American government strives to shut down energy economic engines of power, Russia uses energy to achieve its national goals.  Putin has been quoted as describing the climate change alarmist agenda as a marketing scheme.  Putin has not bought into the madness of crowds to the benefit of Russia.

Perhaps the most curious cavern between the United States and Russia is their approach to religion.  The church was effectively shut down during the Soviet experiment.  However, in the last few decades, the Russian Orthodox Church has roared back to favor in Russian government opinion.  President Putin has even felt emboldened enough to accuse the West of being morally decadent.  The Democratic Party in the United States has largely morphed into an atheistic, anything goes, hedonist entity.  One only has to look at the refusal of the Obama administration to enforce marijuana laws in America to find evidence of this fact.

I recently had a conversation with a young urban professional in Moscow.  Their comment to me was that most young Russians were embarrassed of the communist revolution in Russia.  “They killed our best people,” this person commented.  I find it curious that the Rolling Stone recently published an article extolling the benefits of the teachings of Karl Marx and echoing the mindset of many of the current millennial generation in America.  When the youth of American are yearning for communism, I fear America must relearn the very harsh lessons of the past.  If Russia can ever deal with the specter of corruption, her society may leap to the future.

Presidential Palace In Bosnia Set On Fire As Riots Break Out Protesting 40% Unemployment | Zero Hedge

Presidential Palace In Bosnia Set On Fire As Riots Break Out Protesting 40% Unemployment | Zero Hedge.

Another day, another European nation is hit by violent riots as protests over the economy and corruption spilled over violently into the street, this time Bosnia where more than 150 people were wounded on Friday in the worst civil unrest in the country since the 1992-95 war. The reason: anger over the dire state of domestic politics, the economic collapse and especially the country’s 40% unemployment rate. The Telegraph reports that angry protesters set fire to part of the presidential palace in Sarajevo, as well as government buildings in the capital Sarajevo, Tuzla and Zenica. At least 80 people were injured in Sarajevo and 10 in Zenica, authorities said. There were no immediate casualty figures from Tuzla, where the worst of the fighting was.

Bosnia is a relatively new entrant to the current iteration of mass protests, however judging by the severity of public anger, the country is doing its best to catch up with the rest of Europe. More:

Demonstrators also clashed with riot police for a third consecutive day in the protests, which have remained largely contained to the Croat-Muslim Bosniak half of Bosnia.

Anti-government protests began on Wednesday in the northern city of Tuzla, before spreading as thousands took to the streets of a dozen cities to express their discontent over the almost 40 per cent unemployment rate.

Local media said police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse protesters in Sarajevo, where demonstrators stormed two government buildings including a presidential office, setting them ablaze and smashing furniture. The palace fires were promptly put out but almost all the windows were broken.

By 7pm local time, protesters had dispersed in the three main flashpoint towns, but police remained out in force. All shops were closed and streets were littered with glass and debris. On Saturday morning, the streets of Sarajevo were calm after firemen spent the night dousing the flames which almost gutted one regional government building, consuming cars and newsstands nearby.

However the city was bracing itself for further protests.

In Tuzla, the crowd stormed the local government building, throwing furniture, files and papers out of the windows and then setting the building on fire.

The protests in Tuzla may be calming following the resignation of Sead ?ausevi?, the Prime Minister of Tuzla Canton – one of 10 cantons in the Croat-Muslim Bosniak half of Bosnia – but other cities are only just getting beginning. In an unprecedented move, hundreds gathered in the capital of the Bosnian Serb part of the country, Banja Luka, to express support for protesters in the country’s other mini-state, which is shared by Bosniaks and Croats.

“We gathered to support the protests in Tuzla where people are fighting for their rights,” said Aleksandar Zolja, an activist from Banja Luka. The protests began on Wednesday with a clash between police and unpaid workers of four former state-owned companies, which left some 130 hurt, mostly from tear gas.

Said otherwise, wealth transfer, crony capitalism, corruption and an economic collapse have managed to unite the same people that just two decades ago were killing each other during the Yugoslavian civil war over such typical Eastern European lines of tension as religion and ethnicity. Congratulations.

Four companies employed most of the population of Tuzla. When they were privatised, contracts obliged the new owners to invest in them and make them profitable but they sold the assets, stopped paying workers and filed for bankruptcy.

Ironically, the very same is happening in the US and the rest of the world, as the productive assets are being confiscated, the middle class is being exterminated, and an increasingly smaller number of entities control the bulk of the wealth.

Summarizing the Bosnian situation in a nutshell:

Beside the high unemployment rate, the privatisation that followed the end of communism and the 1992-95 war produced a handful of tycoons, almost wiped out the middle class and sent the working class into poverty. Corruption is widespread and high taxes to fund a bloated public sector eat away at paychecks.

Or yet another teaser of what is coming to every other insolvent, crony capitalist, corrupt country in the world.

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