UK Trade with the EU – The Reality

I’m struggling to find interesting things to write about at the moment and so this is a rant.

I look at the US Presidential soap opera elections and simply cannot comprehend how an entrepreneur, who wants to run his country and the world as a business and a publicly denounced warmonger are the prime candidates for the most powerful job in the world.

The whole situation is exacerbated by a media that is incapable of reporting the truth, or topics that will generate a useful debate that also might help the electorate to feel included . . . if indeed they want to be.

On this side of the pond things are not much better, as Labour tries to re-establish its fundamentals as a socialist party and is being torn apart by its neoliberal past masters who care little about its future, or the damage they are causing.

Then we have our own media dancing around the important stories of the day, with loaded paranoia at every opportunity about the damage Brexit has done to our future. And these negative efforts are further boosted by government and commerce bringing out all of their dirty washing, in the shape of austerity and job losses, which they gratefully blame on our leaving the EU.

The fact that we haven’t actually left yet is not a point of consideration, nor that world trade is falling off a cliff, not because of Brexit but because of debt and greed. Corporate sales are continuing to fall, as are profits, which mean falling tax revenues for governments.

So, having bailed out the banks, government is now bailing out business with cheap loans, which are not being used to invest in business but to buy back shares and buy out the competition, all of which is a short term stab at keeping up share prices. This has been going on for a long time before Brexit and can only end in tears as corporate bankruptcies accelerate through the sheer implausibility of what they are now doing.

Staying in the EU would not have changed by one iota the financial collapse that is now taking place and which only a 180-degree turn in business and government integrity can halt. By breaking free of the political and financial disaster, which is the present Brussels driven EU, we can forge a new future for Britain by becoming masters of our own destiny.

By changing our focus on our trading position to one of global, rather than European trade, there is no limit to what we cannot achieve with the right leadership. And before anyone says this is rubbish, they might not be aware that this has already been the trend over the last 17 years!

Our trading with the EU has been going down as our trading with the rest of the world has been increasing, which this Office of National Statistics chart shows quite clearly:

Exports of goods from the UK to EU and non-EU countries as a percentage of all UK exported goods

Trade Graph

“In 2015 UK goods exports to non-EU countries were valued at £151 billion, compared with exports to the EU, which was £134 billion.

The drop in demand coincides with a dip in the economic fortunes in the euro area in 2012 and highlights weaker demand growth in the EU markets and much stronger demand growth in the non-EU markets.” Source:  UK Balance of Payments: The Pink Book 2016

Our trading rewards for being a member of the EU have been reducing, whilst we remain one of the highest subscribing members of this inefficient club. I am sure this chart has nothing to do with business to business activity but the interference of Brussels, with its endless flood of regulations and red tape.

If, as this chart indicates, we can trade healthily with the rest of the world, then we certainly don’t need to take any stick from Brussels now. Indeed, other European countries still want to trade with us because we are a profitable trading entity and that is all that counts.

I can see the present trend of seeking new trade agreements becoming the norm, as our European friends increasingly seek to trade with us without the interference of Brussels. It will be the making of a new trading base for European countries, who see the original purpose of the EU as commerce and not the political/currency union that has now been foisted upon them and is crippling them.

All of this is something our media do not want to talk about or create public debate on. It would drive a coach and horses through the neoliberal agenda of US foreign policy and global financial consolidation that is now being attempted.

Statistics like these from ONS are the reality of what is going on in the world today and the sooner we become more aware of them the sooner we can justifiably demand change and give ourselves a sense of value and purpose again. The reality is we are trendsetters, not pariahs, and I have no doubt that time will show this to be the case.

Until the next time

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

Capitalism . . . Creator of Poverty

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie — deliberate, contrived and dishonest — but the myth — persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.” – JFK

According to one of my financial heroes, Bill Bonner, money is not wealth. It simply measures wealth like a clock measures time. Wealth is what has been produced, is made available and that which you can buy with money.

When banks print money out of thin air it is like adding an extra hour to a clock. It doesn’t make time any bigger, it simply distorts it and disorients the observer. What counts with money is that it is honestly made available to purchase goods and services. Honest money cannot be separated from the real economy where those goods and services are produced.

Say’s Law offers the wisdom that “You buy products with products . . . not pieces of paper.”

QE in the US, Europe and Japan is following Zimbabwe in separating money from the real economy. Trillions of dollars have been printed that mislead everyone into thinking they are wealthy, until they see the need for a wheelbarrow full of this pseudo wealth to buy real wealth – a carton of milk. We aren’t there yet but that is where we are headed!

Similarly, profit is not wealth but merely a measurement of overall business efficiency. When you combine these two illusions you arrive at the curse of the 21st century . . . debt. Debt offers the most efficient means of producing profit, by producing unreal money with few overheads.

With all of this in mind let me give you my perspective on what is going on and remember I’m no economist, but even to my simple mind we are now heading to an almighty financial catastrophe. I will use the car industry to make my point but the principles can be applied across today’s financial world. Continue reading

Banks & IMF Are Out of Control

As a species we are fallible and we recognise this in our attempts to construct laws and regulations which address human weaknesses and flaws. They are by no means complete and human fallibility continues to wreak havoc, more so when those same laws and regulations are removed or neutered by vested interest.

My regular readers will know that one of my hobby horses is the continued abuse of Greece by the Troika, something that is killing innocent Greek people through deprivation and despair. At the heart of this destruction is the IMF and its policy of ‘austerity’ that obligates countries indebted to it to cut social support programmes and hand over sovereign assets at discounted values.

“The organization’s objectives stated in the Articles of Agreement are to promote international monetary cooperation, international trade, high employment, exchange-rate stability, sustainable economic growth, and making resources available to member countries in financial difficulty.”

Further on from this, the frightening scope of its powers are clearly laid out.

Whilst the Fund can “make contracts, acquire and dispose of immovable and movable property and institute legal proceedings” from which nobody is immune, the Fund and its employees “are immune from every form of judicial process” and its assets “free from restrictions, controls and moratoria of any nature.” This includes freedom from any form of personal taxation for all 2400 employees!

With this unprecedented level of unaccountability, the Fund can do whatever it likes. In the case of Greece, it has done precisely this without seeming care or concern, in what has now been described as the ‘immolation’ of Greece. (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines immolation as “to kill as a sacrificial victim”, which is the stand I have personally taken over the whole violation of this country.)

This lack of accountability has now been firmly placed in the spotlight, (with similar brutality), after its own internal watchdog, the Independent Evaluation Office (IEO) submitted a report  to the board, (to whom they are solely accountable), which has roundly condemned how the Fund is being run.

Its top level staff have misled and misinformed their own board into becoming the champions of the euro project and which has led to catastrophic misjudgements on Greece. They have also failed to grasp the basic concepts of money theory that ensured they completely ignored the warning signs of an impending crisis within the EU, a ‘serious scientific and professional failure’.

EU insiders have used the fund to rescue their own pet project, with an unprecedented 80% of all available funding being used to bail out Greece, Portugal and Ireland. An ethos of misleading seniors was also extended to the IEO, in its investigations of the activities of “ad-hoc task forces”, where decisions and provision of information remained elusive.

Heads have turned to its managing director Christine Lagarde, who is now to stand trial in France over corruption charges and who has responded to this report with a statement that offers ‘qualified’ acceptance of its contents. Something I interpret as “I hear you” and no more.

This arrogance, by the boss and her organisation, has led to an era of negative interest rates that is devastating savings and the future of pension schemes, whilst ruining the banking system in its wake. Their policies continue without any recovery, or hint of recovery in sight. Here lies the true cancer created by the inbuilt lack of accountability written into the Fund’s Articles of Agreement.

It goes to the very heart of why we need regulations and accountability to guard against the horrific abuses that can occur when human fallibility is not held in check. Millions of people’s lives have been ruined by the mismanagement of this powerful organisation and its independence must surely now be put in question.

And all of this at a time when the European Banking Authority has just conducted a ‘stress test’ across the European banking sector and nobody has failed, nor has anyone passed, as there are no criteria for such assessments.

Instead a rescue package has been put together to stop Italy’s Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena collapsing and Deutsche Bank, defined by the IMF as “the world’s most systemically risky bank” is being ‘scrutinised’.

Of the 123 lenders covered in the last stress test in 2014 less than half have been covered this time and none of Portugal or Greek banks have been included. Neither will the results of 56 other banks that have taken the tests be published.

Like the IMF, lack of accountability and secrecy reign and beg two questions. Firstly, what was the point of these tests, other than giving the appearance that some form of regulation is being carried out. Secondly, what is the true extent of the fragility of these banks, given the millions of people are dependent upon them for running their personal and business finances.

This last point is even more significant when you consider that the world banking system is a carefully controlled cartel that is not open to competition. Cartels and monopolies offer the very worst of attributes of human fallibility in the unaccountable power and control they provide and a complete immunisation from healthy regulation and governance.

Thatcher and Reagan opened up the financial markets to unlimited growth and power, which has accelerated exponentially in the last 40 years and is now bringing the world to its knees, with an impending financial collapse that will make 1929 and 2008 seem but hiccups.

Only today the man convicted of the UBS £1.4 billion fraud, the biggest in British history, said that “major banks have done little to tackle the culture which allowed him to carry out his crimes”.

Indeed, the Financial Conduct Authority dropped a long-running enquiry into the culture of banking at the beginning of the year, with suggestions that former chancellor George Osborne had exercised pressure on the industry following last year’s surprise election win.

Never has there been the need for the re-emergence of democratically supported political power to bring these financial monoliths back under control. We need regulations that have teeth and can break the conglomerates up and return us to a banking sector that supports the needs of Society and not the needs of the few.

I worry that we hear nothing about the regulation of the financial sector from those seeking political office, either at home or abroad. It was strong leadership that gave them their power and it is that self-same strong leadership that can take it away again now.

Until the next time

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

An ‘Economic’ Hit Man

Since circa 3000 BC we, as a species, have sought to create empires. Wikipedia offers that “this aspiration to universality resulted in conquest by converting ‘outsiders’ or ‘inferiors’ into the colonized region.”

Whilst in the past, this has been achieved by military might, I would argue that since the last World War we have seen the emergence of a new empire that is being expanded by other than that traditional forces of conquest, (although military might remains in the background).

I speak of the transfer of global power after the last war from the British Empire to America and the latter’s subsequent conquest of a large portion of this globe, achieved by stealth and without undue outrage.

A perfect example of US colonisation at work can be evidenced in an innocent news report of only a few days ago, which carried the story that the World Bank is ‘supporting’ a new coal plant in Kosovo that will modernise the country’s creaking energy infrastructure. It will also condemn this young nation to a future powered by climate destroying fossil fuels. So what is the World Bank up to in what appears a grossly irresponsible action?

In his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man  (one of many he has now written and which everyone interested in how the world works today should read), John Perkins describes his former life as a financial strategist, specialising in making countries subservient to US foreign policy through debt . . . an ‘Economic’ Hit  Man.

His book defines such people as:

“highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organisations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex and murder.”

It is a well written and gripping read about the life of a man who constantly wrestled with his conscience over his work. Finally, for the sake of his daughter’s future, he became a whistleblower for the same reasons as Edward Snowden. What he was being asked to do was simply immoral and WRONG!

His work saw him travelling the world, going into countries (many in Latin America) and making an economic analysis of their complete structure, from political to environmental and resource wealth. He would then compile a report on how that country could be transformed with new energy plants to support industry, road and natural resources infrastructures, finishing with a 25 year forecast of an economic bonanza.

The reports were always exaggerated in what could be achieved because the whole object of the exercise was to weigh that country down with the debt needed to fund this expansion, provided by the World Bank and others. The repayments, the country was promised, would be paid out of the expanded economy.

Indeed, his reports would not be accepted by his employers unless they were hugely exaggerated in economic outcomes, to give credence to the vast debt the country would be taking on, in the certain knowledge that they would have great difficulty in repaying, or even unable to repay.

By his own admission it is fraud on a global scale, designed to provide lucrative contracts no only to his employers, Chas. T. Main Inc., an international low profile consulting firm used by the World Bank to spread its global lending strategy but also US global conglomerates. It was and still is a win/win situation for US government, corporations and banking institutes (the ‘corporatocracy’ as he describes them – the 1% as we know them).

Once the loan is in place, lucrative contracts are passed out to the likes of Bechtel, Brown & Root, Halliburton, Sone & Webster and many other huge US engineers and contractors, who profit handsomely for decades into the future from installation and maintenance contracts worth billions.

Government wins from the leveraged power that comes with debt. When a country begins struggling with debt repayments, as all have done, they become targets for US favours. These will include US military bases, UN votes, or access to the country’s valuable oil and other natural resources and sovereign assets, as an ‘obligated member’ of the growing US empire.

Sometimes there would be resistance, as in the cases of Ecuador and Panama. In the former, in 1981 President Roldos administration introduced new hydrocarbons laws to reform the country’s relationship with the oil companies. Unless they adhered to these laws, designed to help the people of Ecuador, they would be forced to leave the country.

This resistance was a beacon to other Latin American countries who were also under debt oppression. Shortly after delivering a major speech to his countrymen and women he died in fiery airplane crash on May 24 1981. “CIA Assassination” (Jackals as Perkins knew them) was a cry difficult to refute, as he had challenged the might of the corporatocracy and had to be made a lesson of.

In Panama, in 1967, President Omar Torrijos had concluded three treaties with President Jimmy Carter to preserve the sovereignty of the Panama Canal, a vital waterway that conferred huge power on the country. When ‘empire building’ Ronald Reagan superseded Carter as President his policies completely reversed those of Carter.

Reagan became the servant of those who supposedly served him but actually ran government for the benefit of the corporatocracy. People like George H W Bush, Casper Weinberger, Dick Cheney and Robert McNamara, people in government with powerful backgrounds, connections and influence with global corporations.

They were incensed by the deal Carter had done over the rights for the Panama Canal and wanted Omar Torrijos and his administration consigned to history, with its anti-corporatocracy campaigns for an independent Panama. On July 31st 1981, just two months after Roldos death, Omar Torrijos died in a similar plane crash.

Latin America and the world reeled at these events but worse was to follow. In 1986 the US empire called upon its military might and invaded Panama to deter the then President Noriega, who had superseded Torrijos, from concluding a potential deal with Japan to rebuild the canal.

US corporatocracy was not going to allow this vital link to come under the control of a foreign power and so President Noriega was extracted from the country he ruled over and carried back to the US where he stood trial and imprisonment for violations of American law, committed on that rulers own turf!

American propaganda dealt with world outrage at this abusive use of power by branding Noriega as a despot and tyrant and sentencing him 40 years in prison. Many attempts have been made to uncover the truth but the media are a powerful tool in either shaping people’s minds or keeping the truth buried.

1973 saw a turning point for the empire when President Nixon sought $2.2 billion aid from congress to support Israel. It resulted in a Saudi oil embargo on shipments to the US and brought America to its knees. It was this trauma that welded together big corporations, international banks and government and birthed the global corporatocracy we have today.

To ensure this would not happen again the US proffered the Saudi’s the knowhow and corporate might to build a modern day kingdom out of a barren desert. In addition, American military might would always be available to the kingdom. All of this in exchange for petrodollars and the vital undertaking that there would never be another oil embargo.

To further underwrite this security, we now have the present turmoil in the Middle East that has been nurtured by the CIA and their version of ‘foreign policy’, as the empire seeks to preserve its hold on the world and divert any consolidation of power in this oil rich area.

Whilst I have only skimmed the surface of this man’s experiences and their vast impact upon our modern world, it can be seen why Kosovo is flying in the face of global climate agreements with its coal fired power plant, as well as the recent barbaric treatment of Greece. Power and profit are at stake in the growth of this modern empire, neither of which will be compromised at any cost.

All empires eventually decline and today we have China waiting in the not too distant wings. Where it will all end I have no idea but again we are indebted to a brave man with a conscience who is prepared to stand up against US imperial might and tell the world what is happening.

Like Snowden and so many others, we can only applaud their courage and moral integrity, at a time when these essential values have completely left those who rule us.

Until the next time.

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

Our NHS: Death by 1000 Cuts!

Since 21st July, with the announcement that student nurses will now be charged fees for their education, my anger has simply escalated. I have said for a long time that Parliament is no longer fit for purpose and I just wonder how many nails it will take to bury it? New Premier ‘More of the same’ May is following in the steps of her predecessors, despite what she says and our country can only fall to ever lower levels of Social inequality.

On the last day of government, before the MP’s took off with their buckets and spades (more popularly known as ‘Take out the Trash Day’), her government smugly dumped 300 documents and 30 written statements (usually between 2 and 10 a day), in the form of bad news which they hope will be forgotten about by the time they return in September.

This political connivance is one of many insults to an electorate who are not stupid. Delaying the bad news, with a view to sneaking it in later, when we have all forgotten about it, is yet another betrayal of the trust people place in those they elect to power and lacks any professionalism whatsoever. That it is done so regularly is doubly insulting, as demonstrated in recent talks with Brussels where ‘Mos’ May is negotiating delaying allowing immigrants into our country for 7 years.

Above all else, it is the fees announcement that incenses me. At a time when our country has just broken loose (supposedly) from one authoritarian state, we are now finding our own is just as uncaring. The previous Chancellor declared that scrapping nursing bursaries would pay for 10,000 new training places. What a valueless statement, (with figures probably coming out of thin air), as the introduction of training fees will decimate the number of people attracted to entering this vital profession.

It is suggested that, like university students, their nursing counterparts will be saddled with at least £51,600 of debt. The truly insidious aspect of this is that, like all political connivance, a precedent has been created, with the introduction of these fees, that will see them regularly rise as government needs to replace falling tax revenues. I say this at a time when university fees have just been increased to £9,250 a year from next year, a figure that is projected to further increase to £11,697 by 2025.

Let’s be under no illusion here, this vogue for charging ‘fees’ is taxation by any other name and a most odious form of taxation at that. No matter which educational channel has inflicted them, these debts hang around the necks of our young people into their 40’s and 50’s, reducing their chances of achieving sufficient financial support to buy their own homes, something the government seems equally non-plussed about.

What adds insult to injury is that the income from these fees will not be re-invested back into the NHS, as far as I am aware. The costs of recruiting nurses from overseas, currently £20.19 million for 3,365, is set to increase to a staggering £178.5 million for 29,755 by 2020. Surely this not only demotivates our own people but helps fuel the political call to render our NHS as only fit for privatisation.

Nursing and any care work is a vocation, a word not used by politicians or the media these days. It is a perfect description of the dedication these special people feel towards our community and their scant concern for massive financial reward, something that is a complete anathema to Neoliberalism.

In my total of 14 days in hospital last year, what was abundantly clear to me was the glaring gap between the dedication and incomes of the full time staff to that of the agency staff. That may offend some but it was my experience and saw one such person walk away from a patient who had fallen out of bed one night, which then led to a serious enquiry the following day.

The whole concept of agency staff is beyond me. If my experiences are anything to go by we should be paying the full time staff the extra cost of agency people as a reward for their commitment and dedication. Adequate reward for the support they provide to Society would be a sign of that Society and its government’s respect for this dedication and its true worth.

We should be investing in all of our young, with comprehensive education and training that will motivate them to become positive contributors to our future Society. After all . . . they are our future Society and the mind-set we shape now will be the mind-set that shapes that Society, its values and how it behaves. At present many of them train and then go abroad to try and escape the fee burden, something neither they nor Society should be proud of.

One cut at a time this Tory government is causing the death of our NHS to meet the demands of its corporate lords and masters for its privatisation. Is it any wonder ‘Mos’ May did not seek an election after her appointment by the party? She would not have got back into No 10 and she knows it.

As a tax paying electorate we are being robbed at every level, from the financial to the democratic and it has to stop if we are to receive value for taxes paid, preserve our dignity and quality of life and give our children any sort of future.

Again I cry . . . We need new leaders, with caring values and a new vision . . . NOW!

Until the next time

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

‘Brexit’ . . . The Third Option

BREXIT photo

As the 24th June recedes into memory there is no doubt the establishment machinery has been working overtime to undermine the voice of the British majority decision to exit the EU, even suggesting many are having a change of heart.

The stock markets were beautifully manipulated to make small fortunes for those who already have large fortunes as they bounced back after the chaos of the vote. The IMF  reckon Britain will outstrip Germany, France and Italy’s growth forecasts and our own Bank of England report our economy has not slowed since the Brexit vote . . . So much for the end of the world!

Whilst the ‘presstitutes’ now focus on the triggering of Article 50, our new government is preparing for the supposed two years of negotiations to enable our extraction from Brussels influence.

The question nobody seems to be asking, in all of this hype and scaremongering, is the very real possibility that those negotiations won’t actually go the distance, because the EU has collapsed.

As time passes the problems for Brussels seem to be escalating, as the technocrats lurch from one regulated disaster to the next. With the benefit of hindsight, we should have read the warning signs of over regulation in the 70’s, with the famous beef and butter ‘mountains’ and wine ‘lakes’.

Then we saw the introduction of the disastrous single currency, designed to bring about financial control over the EU. Time has now shown that it is beyond possibility to try and manage the individual financial environments of many different countries in such a manner.

This one piece of mismanagement has led to building a toxic financial environment that is no longer sustainable without blatant subterfuge. Negative interest rates are not only killing the traditional business of banks but also crucifying pensions investment and the future incomes of hundreds of millions who have paid in with utmost good faith.

Moving from the financial to the political, we now have the political pantomime that has seen France, Germany and Italy declare a summit in Italy next month following the aftermath of the UK exit. We have G20 and G7, is this E3? I can only see it as another very expensive taxpayer funded ‘bun fight’, as I question the credibility that will give substance to these three getting together?

Let’s start with Germany, where Merkel is just about hanging on to power, with her country overrun with refugees she has invited in without reference to the other members and who are frightening off tourists as fast as the immigrants appear.

Her posturing and dictates also give no clue to the fact that her country is about to financially implode. Hers is the first Eurozone country to issue negative interest debt, something the ECB will not (currently) redeem in event of problems.

For over a year now the financial pundits have been saying the country’s largest bank by far, Deutsche Bank, is in serious trouble. Its share price has dropped 48% since last July, motivating finance minister Wolfgang Schauble to declare in February he has “no concerns about Deutsche Bank”, something finance ministers don’t say about ‘healthy’ banks!

The bank has been selling more of its shares and issuing ‘contingent convertible bonds’ to raise desperately needed capital, all of which have gone to further depressing it share price and credibility!

Such is global concern that Deutsche Bank will become the next Lehman Brothers that the IMF, no less, have publicly branded it the riskiest globally significant bank, at a time when its US businesses also failed a Federal Reserve stress test. If/when this bank collapses, the reverberations will make 2008 look like a walk in the park.

Then we have Italy, where the IMF have also declared the country’s banks, who have seen their share price plummet by more than 50% this year alone, pose a particular threat to the economic outlook. “Unless asset quality and profitability problems are addressed in a timely manner, lingering problems of weaker banks can eventually weigh on the rest of the system” came their warning.

Monte Dei Paschi is Italy’s third largest publicly traded bank and its particular distinction is that no bank in Europe has fallen so low so fast without completely crashing. Two years ago their shares were worth between €5 and €9 and today they are worth €0.33. What keeps it on life support is constant taxpayer bailouts, something a Merkel bullied Brussels has now pulled the carpet on.

Here lies the embarrassment for premier Renzi before his summit with France and Germany, rumour has it he is contemplating going head to head with Brussels and enacting a unilateral sovereign rescue of the Italian banking system.

How will he face Merkel, who insisted upon ‘bail ins’ over ‘bail outs’ and has gone on record as saying “We wrote the rules for the credit system, we cannot change them every two years”. If Merkel gives in it will make a mockery of her ‘bail in’ rules before they have been properly used, to say nothing of the political fallout if, once again, there is a raid upon taxpayer’s money to save a bankrupt financial system.

Whether she maintains her position or waivers, neither is an endorsement of her direction of EU policy, or the credibility of Brussels regulations.

What cannot also be overlooked is that Italy is the EU’s third largest economy, with €2.23 trillion of public debt, €400 billion of which is stagnating in Italian banks as bad loans, making them not only ‘too big to fail’ but also ‘too big to save’!

Finally, we have France’s contribution to the ‘toxic trio’ and their pompous little president, who is now traveling around the EU to secure unity in the face of these pending financial disasters, the Greek fiasco and Brexit and being publicly booed for his troubles. (Or perhaps it’s because of the $14,500 of taxpayer money he spends each month on haircuts!  Where is his credibility, when his popularity rating at home is now reported at below 10%?

As Philippe Le Corre noted in the Financial Times, opinion polls show that 61% of French people “hold unfavourable views of the EU”. Two-thirds feel that ”the EU has failed them economically”. By contrast to the UK, it’s the young who have been among the hardest hit, with massively high unemployment. “It is likely that they would vote for “Frexit” in a referendum”, says Le Corre.

This seems to be lost on Martin Schultz, President of the EU Parliament, who stated quite clearly: “It is not the EU philosophy that the crowd can decide its fate”. (So what is the point of the elected members of this parliament, or indeed this parliament?!!!) And this pearl of wisdom comes only weeks after the people of one of the EU’s largest contributors demanded a return of democracy following their Referendum on membership on 23rd June.

The European Commission’s attempts to drive through the trade deal with Canada (CETA) is pouring more petrol on the glowing embers of discontent, as it is now close to collapse after a German political party sued Brussels over its implementation. “it reveals once more the cavernous differences opening up between different member states which have effectively rendered the European project unworkable”, according to one recent report.

The only logic appears to be that this undemocratic move by Brussels creates a precedent for the equally undemocratic TTIP trade deal with the US, which is running in the face of huge public protest.

It will only take the effects of one of these trade deals, or the collapse of a bank, on top of the mounting problems of immigration, to trigger revolt in an already unstable union, which it is not that far off if Brussels pursues its present political stance.

Two years of exit negotiations . . . we shall see.

Until the next time.

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

Trident . . . Hmmm

submarines photo

In memory of Alan

So, Trident is to go ahead at a cost of £31 billion (until we are told different) by an overwhelming Commons verdict of 472 in favour and 117 against. I have to admit to mixed reactions, caused by personal experience of having stayed at our nuclear submarine base at Faslane in Scotland on several occasions.

My cousin, who was my best man and my best mate worked in maintaining the power plant on the nuclear submarines and after 15 years of hard work it eventually killed him when he was exposed to a nuclear leak. He left behind a wonderful wife and two kids and I still miss him 30 years on.

He was content with the life he led because naval families are a close community on this and every other base, supporting each other in a way that didn’t seem to happen in civvie street, in his opinion and he had tried both.

Of course the work was dangerous but he took pride in knowing that British nuclear submarines were the best in the world on any and every NATO exercise. Silence is the critical thing with submarine warfare and we ran rings around the opposition.

There were embarrassments, like in the age before nuclear and when the navy still issued its daily tot of rum to sailors.

A diesel driven sub had just returned to its base in Devonport after exercises and had to be refuelled. The unlucky sailor who drew the short straw to stay and oversee the refuelling was compensated by the remainder of the crew donating their tot to him.

The trick to refuelling a diesel sub was to make sure the weight of fuel being pumped in at the rear was compensated for by releasing sea water from the ballast tanks at the front.

On this occasion the sailor was not up to the job and the rear half of the sub sank and had to be transferred to dry dock for a complete overhaul. The press received a government D notice not to publish the story.

The second story he told me was of two nuclear subs returning from NATO exercises and one commander challenged the other to a race around the Isle of Wight. The upshot was that one submarine took a shortcut and beached. A cub reporter from the local press got down to the scene and captured a picture of this monster, beached by a ‘No Waiting’ sign with a dog cocking his leg against it. That got a D notice as well!

Happy memories of a time in my life that I really enjoyed, now tempered by yesterday’s vote that again signifies how barbaric we remain as a species. Human ingenuity has created a monstrous weapon that hangs over us like the sword of Damocles. It’s terrifying power available to the call of human fallibility.

I look around an ever more unstable world and particularly the candidates now running for the White House, one of whom is lacking in any forms of diplomacy and the other who is openly labelled as a ‘warmonger’, with a hideous track record that lacks any integrity whatsoever.

As I see it we have a choice. On the one hand we should not allow these people anywhere near the ‘red button’ and on the other hand there is a certain reassurance in knowing we have the best deterrent force on the planet.

We left the EU to become masters of our own destiny and as long as there is leadership who pose any threat whatsoever to world peace and God knows the US is pushing Russia and China to the limit these days, I want to know that my country will not have to lay belly up and exposed without the ability to effectively defend itself.

It is not a satisfactory situation by any stretch of the imagination but until we have a new breed of global leadership, who are not in the pockets of financiers and corporations and who accept and admit to the mess we are in, from environmental disaster to religious manipulation and constant warfare, we must be able to stand our ground and Trident fits this bill.

Whilst global banking sprint from one form of financial abuse to another, wrecking the lives of millions in the process and without any form of remorse or change of direction, the same cannot be said of our submarine programme.

Apart from the amusing stories above and the tragic experience of my cousin, which illustrate mistakes and human error, our Trident force act with utmost integrity and without the slightest hint of abuse or threat to world peace.

With what is now unfolding in Turkey we should feel confident we live in a Society where the silent professionals have not distressed the innocent and certainly have not cost the taxpayer anywhere remotely near what the toxic banking system has and still is costing us.

We do not live in a perfect world but to act responsibly with this devastating capability is something Britain can hold its head up high to and pray we find new leadership who also reflects that level of integrity and will work to its eventual abolition.

Until the next time.

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

Theresa ‘more of the same’ May

And so the Tory power machine roles relentlessly onward, as it schemes, maligns and back stabs its hold on government. The lust for power by career politicians is becoming increasingly immoral, as they sound bite to the tune of constant research of public mood and attitude.

To endorse this, I am indebted to T J Green @greentak for making me aware of this insight from Jo Maugham QC on the electoral procedure from the 1922 committee. It suggests that a second candidate should have been found to replace Leadstrom. His interpretation of this issue has stimulated more debate than that which surrounded the leadership election!

Further controversy comes from the media highlighting the morality of our next Prime Minister and her stand over the Hillsborough cover up, support of gay marriage and confrontations with the police. Something strangely at odds with her condemnation of the handover of power in 2007, by Blair to Brown, without an election.

Gordon Brown “doesn’t have the mandate (and) wasn’t elected prime minister” rang the battle cry, with May contributing that he was “running scared of the people’s verdict.” How ironic that she now finds herself in an identical position and with an opposition in disarray, yet has vetoed going to the country.

For me, this repeat of 2007 takes politics to new depths. It sneers at the democratic process and involvement of the people, which was one of the reasons for our recent referendum and to which the people made their feelings known.

We are facing the most challenging time since the last world war, as we stand alone against overwhelming odds. To have a leader taking on this awesome situation with only the backing of 200 ‘friends’ smacks of arrogance and renewed contempt for the majority. We need to unite behind our government more so now than at any other time in decades. Surely she would be in a much stronger position with Brussels if she had the backing of the whole country?

Whilst seen as a tough operator she is, apparently, also a control freak, a luxury that cannot be indulged if her leadership is to be in anyway effective over such mighty challenges. There is no doubt she is charismatic in a way Corbyn could never be but so was Tony Blair and his single mindedness was his undoing.

(Isn’t it interesting how the Labour Party are looking to unseat their leader because of his limited support of the ‘Remain’ campaign, whilst the Tories have just elected their new leader and our Prime Minister, with the same credentials!)

In making her pitch, she said: “We need a government that will deliver serious social reform – and make ours a country that truly works for everyone. Because right now, if you’re born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white.

“If you’re a white working-class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman, you still earn less than a man.”

Hard hitting words that somehow seem at odds with the world of Tory reality. All political parties have need of their corporate sponsors to attain and retain their power. Her attacks on these vested interests may ring a bell with voters but are they ‘soundbite electioneering’ that will lose momentum with the passing of time? How much will the manipulated fears around Brexit control the degree of reform of existing corporate abuse and vast pay packets?

It also has to be said that she is not afraid of confrontation, as the police know full well. However, her vile immigrant campaign, with “Go Home” posters, places her somewhat at odds with the very serious challenges now facing us, with the growing resentment and persecution of immigrants.

Her words on education and the working class are obviously seeking to further disturb Labours current problems but very much at odds with the growing stranglehold of student debt and AI induced loss of jobs at all levels of employment.

These are soundbites we could do without. The situation is now far too serious for the can to be once again kicked down the road. What she lacks in vision will have to be more than made up for in tough negotiating. Apparently, she is admirably gifted to achieve these ends and like Cameron with his inauguration, she is making all the right noises.

However, we need leadership now more than ever before. Will an unelected transfer of power, which is only supported by a minority of the country, lead to more of the same at No 10 and the furtherance of ‘Austerity’, Privatisation, Fracking and TTIP? Only time will tell.

Until the next time

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

Chilcot and Accountability

With its publication, it now becomes understandable why the results of this Inquiry have taken so long to come into the public domain.

First commissioned by Gordon Brown in 2009, its findings were then vetoed by the then government, along with a successful appeal by the Foreign Office to block it because it would present a ‘significant danger’ to UK/US relations (some ‘Special Relationship’!). The fact that there was an impending election in 2015 further delayed its publication, which had already been put back to 2014.

In spite of the hope by parliament that it ‘would go away’, Sir John Chilcot has now finally presented his detailed findings to the public with all their sordid content. I don’t think there is a person in this country who is not shocked and its aftermath will remain with us for some time to come.

In amongst everything else, what was particularly abhorrent to me was the final confirmation of sending British troops into war without adequate protection. War is designed to kill people, both combatants and civilians and those who join up do so in the certain knowledge of this risk. They commit to the understanding of that risk when swearing the oath of loyalty:

I… swear by Almighty God that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors, and that I will, as in duty bound, honestly and faithfully defend Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, in Person, Crown and Dignity against all enemies, and will observe and obey all orders of Her Majesty, Her Heirs and Successors, and of the generals and officers set over me.

They are “duty bound, honestly and faithfully to defend us against all enemies”. HONESTLY AND FAITHFULLY! Where was that same “honesty and faithful dedication” by our government and armed forces, to fully equip those men and women before they put their lives in danger whenever their services are called upon?

Of the 179 servicemen and women who lost their lives in Iraq, how many were ‘murdered’ by our government because they were not properly equipped to go into battle? Even more odious are the photo ops by Blair, at which combatants who did not have full kit were replaced by those who did and with whom he is seen smiling and shoulder hugging?

Yesterday the nation watched as this man read from a carefully and legally vetted paper how he “believed we made the right decision”. How can it possibly be a right decision that sends ill prepared men and women to face potential death? How much does lack of equipment reduce the chances of winning, or is this what Blair meant in his undertaking to Bush that “I will be with you, whatever”?

His attempts at emotion and near tears whilst delivering his version of the truth simply added insult to injury and as one father, who had lost a son, commented “He was acting”.

In the cold light of day Blair went into politics with ambitions to be a major player on the world stage. He sought the support of not only the world’s most powerful political leader but also the world’s most powerful religious leader, when he very publicly converted to the Catholic church in 2007.

When he handed power over to Gordon Brown, also in 2007, he did not remain committed to the country, as so many ex PM’s have done but left parliament and with the initial help of G W Bush pursued his business interests, amassing a reported £60 million fortune to date.

Whilst he has been quoted as “Labours most successful leader” it has been at a price that questions the validity of such a statement. I do not seek to judge him, we are all fallible but rather thank him for giving British Society the opportunity to search our collective souls and focus upon power and its effect upon that fallibility.

Blair’s government, it now becomes increasingly clear, was run by an ‘armchair cabinet’ who seemed to only inform the full cabinet after events, thereby eliminating proper and thorough debate. Its strategic activities were carefully managed by twice disgraced Peter Mandelson. How the media reported those activities was even more carefully managed by a very adept Alistair Campbell.

Accountability was also carefully removed from the democratic equation by these people, as Chilcot has now shown. Not only is our political establishment’s current ability to govern limited, by corporate lords and masters who dictate what that limited government policy is but accountability is also only applied up the line to those corporate sponsors and not to the people who elected them to power.

Our whole democratic and political environment is now rotten to the core, with the exception of Jeremy Corbyn, who is the only beacon in this horrendous wilderness. He needs all the support he can get if we are to stand any chance of bringing the governing of this wonderful country and its people back from an abyss that Neoliberal values and politics are now taking us.

Sir John Chilcot points the direction forward through his diligence and perseverance, together with a choice of words that leave no ambiguity as to what aberrations our political class are capable of, if not properly supervised. It is that supervision we must now focus upon and the British people are better placed than any to do this.

We are now only accountable to ourselves and as such the job becomes more manageable without distant interference. We must begin by insisting upon another general election, to either support or not the intentions of the new Tory leader and not repeat the undemocratic handover of power that occurred with Labour.

Let us work together to get our own house back in order and then we can address the problems of the outside world, setting an example of what people driven democracy is all about in this 21st century.

Until the next time

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes

‘Remain’ . . . ‘Leave’ . . . And?

Banking photo

As I survey the aftermath of our historic referendum I feel a huge sadness at the state of a country I love and have now lived in for the proverbial three score years and ten. Never before in my life have I felt I am in a helpless and rudderless ship as I do now.

Our political system is in total disarray, with back stabbing, political connivance and a complete lacking in any vision of the future by all concerned. As I see it the ‘Leave’ campaign made the right decision but for the wrong reasons and the ‘Remain’ campaign made the wrong decision for the right reasons.

After the vote, when I heard that Boris Johnson was working on his manifesto I was appalled but suspect all the other contestants were doing the same thing. That all concerned had taken us into a fight, arguing with lies and very dubious statistics, about something so critical to our future and with not the slightest vision of what that future might be, speaks of only of the agenda of debt and profit driven Neoliberalism.

We are bereft of serious leadership because our politicians no longer have any power to direct our Society. There has been much talk about the ‘1%’ and the ‘corporate masters of political power’ and now we are witnessing the stark reality of this abomination.

We hear of Theresa May making her play for the top power job, without any idea of her thinking as to a direction forward, other than the bog standard and vague rhetoric about “Strong Proven Leadership” “No reneging on Brexit” and “No activating Article 50 until the end of the year”.

OK, that’s the short term but what’s her vision of the future. Surely to God she must have one, or is she just ‘more of the same’ with austerity and democratic erosion, now that Cameron has been kicked out by the financiers for messing up their plans for a more controllable ‘one state Europe’.

If we look at her political style on surveillance, for example, she certainly supports it but in a rather worrying way, with an again vague Internet Spying Powers Bill that has left parliament very confused. To quote from a recent piece in the Spectator:

The new bill makes pitifully little effort to define when heavy surveillance powers may or may not be used. It merely stipulates that they can be used in the investigation of ‘serious crimes’, without attempting to define what that means. The bill specifically allows surveillance to be undertaken in order to safeguard the ‘economic wellbeing’ of the country — a power which could all too easily be interpreted by tax authorities as justifying the use of heavy-handed surveillance of people who pay their cleaner in cash or involve themselves in other trivial forms of tax-dodging.

Labour are in an even worse mess, as Blair’s ‘team disgrace’ are actually given media space to mount their attack on the only honest and decent political leader parliament has seen in years. That twice disgraced cabinet minister Mandelson is still given media space shows just how corrupt the establishment have now become:

“Peter Mandelson: Corbyn’s leadership could turn U.K. into a one-party state”

Wasn’t he part of the team that sought Murdoch’s support in 1997, at a cost of taking Labour so far to the centre that it became indistinguishable from the Tories. If ever there was a ‘one party state’ it was that which emerged under his strategic supervision and something Corbyn is now trying to repair.

Whether it is May or the Blairites, we are suffering the consequences of the takeover of our state by stealth from the Neoliberal forces that have crept up on all of us. The financiers have taken control and their threats are still ringing in our ears from their bullyboy tactics to protect dominant financial agendas during the referendum. They have become even more confident in exerting their will over political power and the democratic process by the strategic application of debt and monetary control.

The unrest in the world is because people sense their loss of power, of which the current Brussels run EU is very much a part. The President, Jean Paul Juncker, has said quite emphatically that “There can be no democratic choice against European Treaties”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that and in the end it leaves me in no uncertain terms I will have little or no say over how my life is run in future. Do the clowns in Brussels honestly believe that they, for the first time in our history as a species, can institute a framework of rules and regulations that meet the needs of 27 different countries and 500 million people without changes or adaptation?

Their arrogance suggests this is the case. I suspect however, that what is closer to the truth is that they are blindly implementing the dictates of their corporate lords and masters. That agenda includes not only political and financial control over Europe but also the introduction of military might that will then mirror the military/industrial complex money making machine that dominates America.

The Euro is a disaster, failing hopelessly to meet the needs of the differing financial requirements of those member states who opted in and is now crippling them one by one. Greece was the first victim of this incompetence and all the warning signs now point to Italy to bring the whole financial edifice to its knees.

‘Remain’ were right in their claims for closer ties with Europe but they cannot be achieved by trying to change Brussels. Renegotiation is not in their vocabulary. ‘Leave’ are wrong to distance themselves from Europe but the only way to change Brussels and its Neoliberal agenda, including TTIP, is to totally discredit the whole political establishment and rebuild a more democratic structure out of the ashes.

We must now re-empower Society by re-empowering political leaders who care about the people and will get their full support in bringing about meaningful change of the sort I outlined in my last piece, which sadly went down like a lead balloon but won’t shut me up!

Indira Ghandi best summed it up: “You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.”

Until the next time

 

Thinking from his Book: Global Magna Carta. Returning Power to the 99% . . . If They Want It! By J T Coombes