The Longer View

The media (social and mainstream) would lead most people to believe that the world has never been so dangerous or that governments have never been so incompetent or evil. Whether its the latest news on Brexit, Trump’s Tweets, Putin’s evil intent or the chaos that is Syria and Yemen. There appears to be a tendency to ignore even recent history.

It seems apt that I take a personal perspective. This year marks the 40th year (in August) since I entered full time employment. I left school at 17 (Much to my parents annoyance) half way through my A Levels. It was unusual then to even take A Levels. University was for less that 20% of the population. I was in the vast majority. The UK was a very different place. A Labour Government was in charge under Jim Callaghan as Prime Minister and his infamous ‘Winter of Discontent’ was to follow that winter.

I had dreams of being a rock star (don’t laugh) instead I became an Electronics Technician earning (via a weekly brown envelope holding the cash) £29 per week equivalent to about £160 in today’s inflation affected money. The inflation rate was 7.8%. It would rise higher along with interest rates.

The UK was known as the sick man of Europe which was the trading block known as the EEC or Common Market as it was commonly known. The UK had joined the EEC with Denmark and Ireland in 1973 – there was no referendum. It did have a referendum to remain in 1975.

The troubles were 10 years old in Northern Ireland and that year 82 deaths were attributed to the conflict. The next year would be worse. The UK was still supporting the new Oman regime but elsewhere was not directly militarily involved, except of course the day to day cold war with the Soviet Union. To give some context to Middle East troubles including Oman this is a handy reference – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_modern_conflicts_in_the_Middle_East

Jimmy Carter was US President having beaten Gerald Ford in 1976. Ford of course had become President after Nixon resigned in August 1974. (pence for Trump?) The Iranian revolution would follow in 1979 with all the troubles that caused Carter. Brezhnev was the leader of the Soviet Union and would be until Nov 1982. He would be in charge when the Soviet Union entered Afghanistan in 1979 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet%E2%80%93Afghan_War.

It took the Soviet Union nearly 10 years to ‘get out’ of Afghanistan. The US supported the Mujahideen including Bin Laden with advisors and weapons. The US Ambassador to Afghanistan was murdered in 1979 initially blamed on a communist group. The US, UK and others still have troops there since the October 2001 invasion and in Iraq since March 2003. How long will it be until we completely leave both countries.

In 1978, Germany was split East and West with Berlin a split city in the East. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, were still joined. Solidarity in Poland was still a couple of years off. The KGB was the security apparatus of the Soviet Union supporting the vassal states in the Warsaw Pact.  A Bulgarian exile Georgi Markov was murdered on a London Street by a poisoned umbrella pellet in Sept 1978. Odd murders by security services are not new.

The World Wide Web would not be invented until 1989 and have little relevance until the late 1990s. There were 16 million users world wide in 1995 when I was a military officer on an Exchange post in the USA. Now there are over 4 Billion. The Internet of course existed in Military and scientific fields before that.

Writing this is has reminded me how much has changed personally and how little has changed world wide. Yes, names have changed and regimes have changed, but global politics is as messy as ever. We still have Middle East conflict. US Presidential politics and rows about Europe. We can add in the mix a rising China and risk of trade wars, climate changes and the risks from population growth. Despite the current issues it still feels a better world than watching uncollected rubbish pile on the streets whilst walking to work because of yet another strike.

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One Morning In The Office Take 7

"Welcome back Mr President."
"Good to be back, Air Force One's bed is too small."
"Compared to?"
"All my other beds and the hotels, even the UK Ambassador's residence was bigger."
"Do yo want me to get a bigger bed in Air Force One?"
"I've already told them to do it. The idiots claim they'll have to redesign the 747 or use that big Airbus thing they fly wings in"
"That would please the Europeans but haven't we imposed tariffs on them?"
"Yeah, still if they want me to have it they can pay for it like the wall."
"Sir, the Mexicans aren't paying for the wall. In fact no one is paying for the wall."
"We're getting if for free?"
"No Sir. We have claimed to have built the walls that were put up in 2006 and California has added a few miles to the fences they put up years ago..."
"Zzzzzzz"
"Sir!"
"Sorry I dozed off. Jet lag."
"Sir, what I wanted to ask is, what statement do you want me to put out about your meeting with Vlad."
"Did you check the thes, thees, tess, that dictionary thing?"
"The Thesaurus? Yes Sir.
"And?"
"Sir, Would, Would Not, Could, Could not, Should and Should not all have different meanings."
"You're sure?"
"I have it here if you want to read it?"
"Not fake news?'
"No, Sir."
"What about wouldn't and would?"
"They are opposites Sir."
"Damn, what now?"
"You'll have to apologise Sir or say you made a mistake."
"Out of context?"
"It's recorded Sir."
"Damn.... Still I can re-tweet something else afterwards, get the press running around in circles again."
"Even Fox were concerned."
"Give them another interview like we did with that British paper, that went well."
"You mean directly contradict what you said on audio and video after the event."
Just like with Vlad. Anything from him?"
"Only the note about the extra service in the Helsinki hotel."
"What extra services?"
"The same as the Moscow hotel, it's on your preference list for that chain. The Secret Service would not let them in."
"Who told them to do that. I needed some relaxation these summits are hard."
"Remember Sir it was not a summit just a meeting to improve relations."
"Great success."
"With whom Sir?"
"All my meetings were a success."
"NATO, the UK, Germany, the EU?"
"All went perfectly. They all agreed to do what I told them."
"I'm not sure they think that."
"They don't matter. I've won the war in Syria, kicked out those Irises..."
"ISIS, Sir, Irises are flowers."
"You sure? Anyway, wall is going up, got the tax cuts done my poll ratings are up..."
"Actually they are not up."
"...Economy is great I did it all."
"Of course you did Sir."
"Who says different?"
"No one would dare Sir."
"You been watching that fake news again."
"No Sir. I read the Intelligence service brief and the report from the Federal Reserve. Mr Mueller is still investigating."
"Fake News, Fake News, Fake News. Vlad and Xi are happy."
"Actually Xi is not happy about the new sanctions."
"Why not."
"He wants a bigger cut. So does Kim."
"Nice fella', A bit short. No dice, it's my deal take it or leave it. I got NATO to increase spending by buying American weapons."
"I don't think they actually agreed to that."
"I did. I tweeted that so it must be true."
"Yes Sir. There's another problem with one of your former er... acquaintances."
"Which one?"
"Karen McDougal, she was a Playboy Model."
"Which one?"
"Sir? Cohen had a tape of you and he discussing a payment to her?"
"A tape?"
"Yes Sir and the FBI have it now."
'Check that Thesaurus thing again on would and wouldn't."
"Yes Sir, anything else? I have to go and testify to the Grand Jury again."
"Yeah, more important things, can't Boeing build a bigger bed?"
"Sir????"



 

 

The Modern Dictator?

Human beings seem to have a fascination with the strong man form of government. Sometimes this is masked by the appearance of democratic election but in most cases this gives way to pure dictatorship. We seem to be going through a period of such leaders now.

In the 1930s many of the great powers of the world had dictatorial leaders. In the intervening period the form of government has continued albeit the leaders have tended to be of smaller countries in terms of world power. That is not to underestimate the damage they have caused to their own countries and their neighbours. Although Putin appears below his leadership has changed a virtually collapsed Russia back into a global power

Now we appear to have entered an era of great dictators once more and a worrying trend in the behaviour of others. Turkish democracy on the surface appears robust with a near 90% turnout in the recent election. But the result of the election was to allow President Erdoğan to claim additional powers.

Combine this with further limitations on opposition leaders, the free press and total biased control of the state media and you have the trappings of a one party, one leader state. Throw in the hate for a minority group (the Kurds) that a German citizen in 1938 might recognise. Including direct military intervention across an international border.

At the start of WWII the dictators appeared to support each other Mussolini, Franco, Stalin and Hitler in Europe with Hirohito in Japan.  The USA was isolationist and the Smoot-Hawley Act not only worsened and extended the Great Depression in the USA it also angered its nearest neighbours and allies. Another lesson from history seemingly ignored by the current US President.  I am not claiming that the current 45th President of the United States of America is a fascist dictator he just seems to prefer their company and seems unconcerned with angering his allies.

There seems to be several common traits on the path to dictatorship.

  1. Limit and ridicule free press
  2. Ridicule then imprison opposition
  3. Appoint cronies to all independent roles
  4. Blame outsiders (Terrorists, immigrants, minorities, trade, stealing jobs)
  5. Take more powers centrally to help control the situation
  6. Appeal to lowest common denominator in electoral support
  7. Rig election
  8. Take more powers centrally
  9. Remove opposition and free press completely (Assassination, imprisonment)
  10. Use military force against outside opponents or threaten such
  11. Award oneself numerous medals and awards

 

One Morning In The Office Take 6

One Morning In The Office

@realdonaldtrump

"Who the hell are you?"
"I'm the cleaner Mr. President."
"Where is everyone?"
"Who, Sir?"
"Sean, Reince, Michael, even that Comey fella?"
"I'm not sure I am the right one to ask?"
"You're part of my staff aren't you, you should know."
"Actually my Great Leader pays for me to be here."
"So I can't fire you."
"You could but Mr. Putin would not be happy."
"Vlad sent you, to be my cleaner?"
"No, it was agreed at the meeting. I'm a Russian orphan you have helped into the country."
"But your nearly 60?"
"Both my parents are dead."
"I think that qualifies then. So where is every one?"
"Who Sir?
"Sean and the rest of them?"
"You fired them Sir."
"I'm good at that had a TV show did you watch it?"
"I preferred the British version."
"There's a British version?"
"Yes a Mr. Sugar runs it."
"You're making it up."
"No Sir it's on the BBC and Cable."
"Not Fox?"
"No. Look, should I get someone for you to talk to? Our Great Leader will want me to report back on something not just our chat."
"Is there anyone else?"
"Your new Communications Director."
"Remind me..."
"Anthony Scaramucci."
"Er..."
"I'll go get him Sir. Your new chief of staff will be over soon too."
"Who's that?"
"John Kelly, he's a general."
"I thought I fired the general."
"This is a different one."
"I have more than one?"
"You have many generals. Mr President, but it's a state secret how many."
"I'm the President you can tell me."
"I mean a Russian State Secret- I would have to ask our other Great Leader."
"Don't bother Vlad."
"I think Xi has the latest count."
"Good man Xi. So where is Anthony Scara, Scar erm..."
"He's sorting out the lot Sir."
"The what?"
"He's offering a special opening day sale, using the White House lawn; nice balloons."
"Selling what?"
"American cars I believe. He's got a latino couple in at the moment trying to get them to take the limo' with all the trimmings."
"Has he checked their immigration status?"
"I'm sure he will, after he has the money."
"Good man."
"Was there anything else Mr. President only I need to see my doctor?"
"No as long as you have finished tidying up. You get health care with this role?"
"No Mr. President but thanks to you I still have ObamaCare."
"What!"

http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-na-pol-trump-firings-resignations/

 

 

 

 

One Morning In The Office Take 5

One Morning In The Office

@realdonaldtrump

"Vlad?"
"Don! How are you? Sacked any more Directors yet?"
"Give me time."
"I've told you time is of the essence don't give them time to think,
change continuously."
"I know, I know... Is that why you sent me the guide?"
"Yes I've updated from last year Kim Sung made some amendments."
"I admire him for one so young."
"He had good training, like Assad, you really should meet up."
"I can't with Assad I just bombed his base."
"I know still nothing damaged and you did warn us first so
I could tell him."
"Shhhh the FBI may be listening?"
"So what you have dealt with them now."
"No, not quite the temporary one is being nasty about me in congress
implying I was wrong."
"Then fire him too, or really terminate - its what the rest of us do."
"That reminds me, on page two of the guide it says
I should assassinate some journalists after I have removed the heads
of police."
"Yes you need to adapt for your own terminology but get rid
of a few journo's and the rest come into line."
"I noticed and Erdogan recommended the same."
"He's following the same programme, we'll soon have it all sorted."
"Shame about Marie."
"Yes and after the Dutch fiasco."
"The hack was too late."
"I've had the head of the team shot for the timing."
"If only I had your control."
"Back to the FBI, send them in armed and have accidental
shooting with terrorism connections always works.
Schools, cinemas, underground stations, all works and adds up."
"I know you are right. What's next on the agenda."
"Germany."
"Is she the short fat one?"
"Yes, but don't worry about her we still have the Stasi files."
"What did she do?"
"Nothing you have to worry about Don. Not as bad as the hotel..."
"You said you would not mention those again."
"Ha Ha just winding you up old friend. Xi says Hi by the way."
"I owe him a call need to coordinate message when
Kim does his next test."
"Will it fail?"
"We have not agreed yet. Now South Korea is coming on line
maybe we should postpone."
"No don't do that we need to keep the tension up.
I wish Kim had agreed to that limited strike idea."
"He needs to learn from Assad too.
Got to keep some world opinion on side."
"You are too soft Don, I'll get Ivanka to give you a rub down."
"Will she?"
"Anything for you Don you know that but
ease off on Twitter it makes you look silly."
"OK Vlad and thanks for the guide."

One Morning In The Office Take 4

One Morning In The Office

@realdonaldtrump

"Morning Mr. President"
"Morning Sean"
"Here's the list Rex sent"
"What list?"
"The one you asked for with the countries you haven't insulted or accused yet."
"But there's only one sheet of paper and there's only two countries listed that's if Burkina Faso is a country?"
"I'm told it is Sir."
"Who by?"
"The State Department."
"And you believed them, you sure their not making it up?"
"I checked with Andrew Napolitano at Fox, he say's he's heard of it. South America he thinks."
"We didn't campaign there."
"No Mr. President, South America the continent not south of the USA even though it is, south of the USA I mean."
"Are you trying to hoodwink me?"
"No Sir, I do need to check because I thought it was in Africa."
"You mean we don't know where the country is, what sort of state did Obama let this country get into.
Find it out immediately we can't just lose the location of a country!"
"I don't think it's moved at all."
"Why not? It can move if I want it too. I'm President, Vlad moves bits of countries all the time."
"He does not move them Sir he just annexes bits of territory. In Georgia and the Ukraine."
"He can't have Georgia we have the Masters there."
"The nation Sir not the US State."
"There's a difference?"
"Sir?"
"Never mind, so what do we do with this Faso?"
"We can accuse them of harbouring a GCHQ listening post that was used to bug Trump Tower, maybe expel some diplomats."
"Sounds good, get to it."
"I can't I mean we can't Sir."
"Why not?"
"We promised the Brits we would not mention GCHQ again or accuse them of spying on you, you told Theresa May you would not nor the NSA."
"Remind me, is Theresa the one I met this week the short dumpy one who spoke a foreign language?"
"No Sir, that was Angela Merkel the German Chancellor, she wanted to hold your hand like Theresa did."
"But she was foreign and somehow she got in the country despite my Immigration order."
"Germany is not on the order Sir."
"But she is foreign?"
"Most people are Sir."
"Not Americans."
"We best not get into that."
"Now Sir I have your daily security briefing, do you want the one from the NSA or your usual one from Fox News."
"Can't believe the NSA one its all fake news and tell them I'm upset by them failing to confirm Andrew's story."
"I have Sir."
"Good, I'll look at it after Sesame Street, who is left on the list? What's the USSR?"
"Oh that's just Vlad, he suggested he bring back the old name, a traditional branding opportunity his marketing folk have said."
"Clever, I like it so we don't have to insult the USSR."
"No Sir, we do not Russia but the USSR that justifies us increasing defence spending."
"BUt if the USSR doesn't exist we're insulting no one?"
"Exactly Sir."
"How are we gonna pay for it all, I mean we don't get enough in tax."
"No Sir some people have not paid tax in decades."
"It's the American way Sean, I'm not stupid."
"No Sir, very clever. I may have a way out."
"What?"
"Well according to the State Department Briefing Burkina Faso get some US Aid, we can withdraw it."
"Great and we have an excuse as they have been spying on us, we can call it unnamed agencies used the
place to coordinate spying activity. That won't upset the Angela."
"That's Theresa and very good Sir."
"What can we spend the money on instead."
"A missile."
"How many?"
"Just one Sir a Hellfire I think. we only gave them a couple of million last year."
"Too much, I paid more than that in tax."
"No you didn't Sir."
"That's because I'm clever."
"Yes you are Sir."

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/mar/17/white-house-will-not-be-repeat-claims-gchq-spied-trump-

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/video/2017/mar/17/donald-trump-angela-merkel-no-handshake-video

http://us-foreign-aid.insidegov.com/q/26/1590/How-much-money-does-the-U-S-give-to-Burkina-Faso

Panama and Voting

Hot news, apparently, dictators, the super rich, corrupt politicians and criminals try to hide their ill gotten gains. Add to this list the moderately rich and various investments funds try to to avoid paying as much tax as possible. This is news?

In the spirit of openness I too have investments in offshore funds. It’s called my pension. I can’t confirm that I don’t own shares in Panama registered companies. Don’t look shocked, I have heard lots of people say that recently. Why can’t I confirm? Investment funds.

The pension company offers multiple funds in which I can buy units. Some of these funds trade in oversea shares. Frankly I have no idea if any of these units are linked to operations in Panama, The Cayman Islands, Belize and many other tax efficient locations. Just because I am several steps removed from the investment and income does not mean I do not want a good return on the deal. I want interest and investment gain too.

Of course I will have to pay tax on the income just like I already do on my salary, savings’ interest and directly invested share dividends. By the way every single person in this country that has an ISA is trying to avoid tax. Every investment in a personal pension avoids more tax. Every claim of business expenses is another bit of tax avoidance, why do you think your employer wants a VAT receipt? A little less hypocrisy please.

I think we all knew that bad people do bad things. The 11 million Panama sourced documents just confirmed this knowledge. It used to be the notorious Swiss bank account. The use of shell companies and hidden investment funds should also be no surprise. If anyone has watched The Big Short or read any of the extensive reviews of the financial crash, the rich bankers were peddling AAA rated investment funds as if they were solid gold. In reality they were derivatives bundled with other derivatives sold into other funds. Your pension fund may well have invested in these funds.

This was probably criminal behaviour, although precious few have gone to jail, whereas avoiding tax may be morally questionable but it is not illegal. Those few of you who have been kind enough to buy my book, The Persuasive Man, know that I have included a lot of financial wheeling and dealing in that fictional account. Fictional yes, but based on several financial stories and some personal experience.

Avoiding tax is a national pastime. Ask a tradesman if he’ll do the job for cash and you contribute to tax evasion which is illegal. Of course morally we are happy to have got a deal. We, the purchaser, have not done anything wrong. It is not our responsibility to declare the income, but are we a co-conspirator?

Directly in the UK, the Prime Minister has been dragged into the mess as the documents showed that David Cameron and his spouse had shares in an investment fund set up by his father. As usual with political scandals it’s not the actual thing that’s the problem, it is the cover up or the failure to come clean. Then of course we have the reporters dramatically trying to turn a drama into a crisis

The BBC were interviewing voters in Bedfordshire about whether they have changed their opinion of the Prime Minister, then came the most ridiculous question. Will you vote for him? Last time I checked, Cameron’s constituency was Whitney in Oxfordshire not Dunstable in South Bedfordshire; so how exactly were these voter going to vote for him? He has also said he will not stand at the next election. Therefore, no one is going to be able to vote for him.

You can vote in May local elections. In June you can vote for the EU referendum. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their respective Parliament and Assembly elections, (English Democratic deficit anyone?) but except for by-elections no UK MP will get elected until 2020. It’s like asking the vox pop interviewee, the archetypical man on the street if they would vote for Trump – had to get him in somewhere – irrelevant and just bad journalism.

With 11 million documents to sift through who knows which name will turn up next. Of course Cameron has got himself in this mess for not being open and forthright at the start of the week, not for what he has actually done with a relatively small amount. Yes, I know £30,000 is a lot of money to most of us, but compared to the billions hiding in Panama shell companies, it’s not really.  By the way as the shares were co-owned by him and his spouse that’s £15k each. Capital gains are only due on the element above the yearly allowance depending on how long the investment had been held. Income from the fund should have been declared each year on the individual tax return. So a £30k fund on a very good year may have paid out 10 percent per annum so £1.5k per year each at 40 percent tax is £600. Not exactly a new duck pond. The selling story is already 6 years old.

Jeremy Corbyn the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition is making political hay out of the alleged scandal but is it just me? Not many Labour MPs are making a song and dance about this nor Liberals. Even the Scottish Nationalists are being relatively quiet. Have I missed something?

We can add UEFA and FIFA to the list of those being embedded in the scandal, Iceland has already lost its Prime Minister. It seems this leak even makes other news disappear although the press are desperately trying to link the revelations to the EU in/out referendum. After all we need something to make that more interesting.

Meanwhile 1.5 million migrants/asylum seekers/immigrants/terrorists (delete as applicable) have tried to enter the EU and the new deal with Turkey has allowed 200 to be returned to Turkey. Perhaps we are missing the scale of the problem and not addressing the priorities. Mr Putin (be respectful) seems to be connected to Panama via some friends who seem to have a lot of state money. What about EU funds are there no documents connecting EU officials. Of course we have the overseas aid budget from the EU and the UK which have often been suspected of ending up in odd bank accounts. No news there then.

Back to the scale of the financial misconduct, what efforts are actually being made to get the money. Has the Panamanian Ambassador been called in, have any executives of the legal company been arrested, is anyone going to be charged with anything? Is any money going to be returned? More likely it will all disappear, the money and the story.

Perhaps a sequel is needed but would anybody buy it? Perhaps I should set it up as an offshore investment fund opportunity?