Tag Archives: Mario Monti

Charlie Skelton reports from behind the ring of steel at Watford

Firstly, a few pertinent words from Adam Smith:

People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be consistent with liberty or justice. But though the law cannot hinder people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do nothing to facilitate such assemblies; much less to render them necessary.

Taken from Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) 1

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At one point in the meeting, during a tense exchange about contingency plans for dog-walkers, [police Chief Inspector] Rhodes let slip that Operation Discuss (the codename for the Bilderberg security operation) had been up and running for 18 months. Residents and journalists shared an intake of breath. “Eighteen months?” The reason for all the secrecy? “Terrorism”.

After 59 years of Bilderberg guests scuttling about in the shadows, ducking lenses and dodging the news, that’s the rationale we’re given? The same rationale, presumably, is behind the Great Wall of Watford, a concrete-and-wire security fence encircling the hotel. As ugly as it is unnecessary, it looks like the kind of thing you throw yourself against in a stalag before being machine-gunned from a watchtower. Appropriately fascistic, you might say, if you regard fascism as “the merger of corporate and government power”, as Mussolini put it.

The same threat of “terrorism” was used to justify the no-pedestrian, no-stopping zones near the venue. The police laid out their logic: they had “no specific intelligence” regarding a terror threat. However, in recent incidents, such as Boston and Woolwich, there had been no intelligence prior to the attack. Therefore the lack of any threat of a terror attack fitted exactly the profile of a terror attack. The lack of a threat was a threat. Welcome to 1984.

So writes Charlie Skelton, who is again one of the only mainstream journalists reporting from this year’s Bilderberg meeting which officially opened yesterday. Skelton, who also has a career as comedy script writer, adding with typically understated irony:

The audience was an odd mix. Half were residents from around the venue worried about the possibility of tyre-damage to a strip of lawn; the other half were journalists from around the world worried about the geopolitical implications of a conference at which BAE, Stratfor and General Petraeus will be discussing “Africa’s challenges”.

Both halves were worried about the funding for the gigantic security operation. The police assured sceptical residents that the conference would be “cost-neutral” for Hertfordshire, thanks in part to a “donation” from the conference organisers. This “donation” will have come, in part at least, from the Bilderberg Association, a registered UK charity that takes “donations” from BP and Goldman Sachs.

So, in a sense, the Herts police are doing charity work for Goldman Sachs. Which must be a comfort for the executives of Goldman Sachs attending the conference: the vice-chairman, a director and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International. They’ve got their charity team out patrolling, keeping the lenses at bay.2

Click here to read his full article entitled “Bilderberg 2013: welcome to 1984” published by the Guardian on Wednesday 5th.

Here is Skelton again reporting a few days earlier on his same Bilderblog, and on this occasion delving deeper into Bilderberg’s wonderful and little known works of charity whilst also pointing out how the timing of this year’s get-together happens to coincide with a long overdue scandal about political lobbying:

If you’ve been wondering who picks up the tab for this gigantic conference and security operation, the answer arrived last week, on a pdf file sent round by Anonymous. It showed that the Bilderberg conference is paid for, in the UK, by an officially registered charity: the Bilderberg Association (charity number 272706).

According to its Charity Commission accounts, the association meets the “considerable costs” of the conference when it is held in the UK, which include hospitality costs and the travel costs of some delegates. Presumably the charity is also covering the massive G4S security contract. Fortunately, the charity receives regular five-figure sums from two kindly supporters of its benevolent aims: Goldman Sachs and BP. The most recent documentary proof of this is from 2008 (pdf), since when the charity has omitted its donors’ names (pdf) from its accounts.

The charity’s goal is “public education”.3

Public education! From an organisation that hides its face in shame behind armed guards and steel cordons. Skelton adds:

If you are concerned about transparency or lobbying, Watford is the place to be next weekend. Whether the delegates reach out to the press and public remains to be seen. Don’t forget, they’ve got their hands full carrying out the good works of Bilderberg. The conference is, after all, run as a charity.

A charity which specialises in helping those most in need of a little corporate lobbying:

It’s a remarkable spectacle – one of nature’s wonders – and the most exciting thing to happen to Watford since that roundabout on the A412 got traffic lights. The area round the hotel is in lockdown: locals are having to show their passports to get to their homes. It’s exciting too for the delegates. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell will hop from his limo, delighted to be spending three solid days in policy talks with the head of HSBC, the president of Dow Chemical, his favourite European finance ministers and US intelligence chiefs. The conference is the highlight of every plutocrat’s year and has been since 1954. The only time Bilderberg skipped a year was 1976, after the group’s founding chairman, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, was caught taking bribes from Lockheed Martin.

Here is the definition of “bribe”: Something, such as money or a favor, offered or given to a person in a position of trust to influence that person’s views or conduct. So surely then, every form of lobbying is a kind of bribery.

Just imagine, for example, if my college discovered that I or any of my colleagues were accepting cash payments (or other ‘gifts’) from students – they would rightly sack us on the spot. Would it make any difference if I told them that the students were only “lobbying me” about their coursework, or would it be deemed more acceptable if I had “registered their interests”? Of course it wouldn’t! So in what way is lobbying not bribery?

That said, some kinds of bribery are more prosecutable than others. So was Prince Bernhard ever criminally charged after accepting a $1.1 million bribe from Lockheed? Of course not, after all he’s Prince Bernhard. Although apparently he was forced “to step down from several public positions and was forbidden to wear his military uniforms again.”4 Rough justice.

Back to Skelton’s comparative analysis of the current goings on at the Grove hotel to the on-going parliamentary scandal:

It may seem odd, as our own lobbying scandal unfolds, amid calls for a statutory register of lobbyists, that a bunch of our senior politicians will be holed up for three days in luxurious privacy with the chairmen and CEOs of hedge funds, tech corporations and vast multinational holding companies, with zero press oversight. “It runs contrary to [George] Osborne’s public commitment in 2010 to ‘the most radical transparency agenda the country has ever seen’,” says Michael Meacher MP. Meacher describes the conference as “an anti-democratic cabal of the leaders of western market capitalism meeting in private to maintain their own power and influence outside the reach of public scrutiny”.

But, to be fair, is “public scrutiny” really necessary when our politicians are tucked safely away with so many responsible members of JP Morgan’s international advisory board? There’s always the group chief executive of BP on hand to make sure they do not get unduly lobbied. And if he is not in the room, keeping an eye out, then at least one of the chairmen of Novartis, Zurich Insurance, Fiat or Goldman Sachs International will be around.

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article.

Charlie Skelton is doing an excellent job again this year, and when, later today, I finally make it down to Watford myself, perhaps I’ll happen to run into him. If not then I’d certainly like to express my gratitude to him here before I leave.

I must also say that it is quite pleasing to see others in the media finally picking up the gauntlet and taking serious note of this most extraordinary annual general meeting for globalisation. There was even a surprisingly balanced report on Channel 4 news broadcast yesterday. You can watch it here:

http://www.channel4.com/news/the-bilderberg-group-a-meeting-of-minds-video

Finally, here is Charlie Skelton talking to Max Keiser on Tuesday’s Keiser Report:

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This year’s official list (which is reliably unreliable) has been released and includes amongst many the following names of particular interest:

George Osborne – Chancellor of the Exchequer

Ed Balls – Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Tim Geithner – Former US Secretary of the Treasury

Christine Lagarde – Head of IMF

Peter Sutherland – Chairman of Goldman Sachs

Mario Monti – Former appointed Prime Minister of Italy

Ken Clarke – who is listed merely as “Member of Parliament”

Peter Mandelson – listed as Chairman of Global Council and also Lazard International

José Barroso – President, European Commission

Richard Perle – neo con, veteran warmonger and well known member of PNAC

Henry Kissinger – listed only as “Chairman of Kissinger Associates”

last, but certainly not least, I notice the recently disgraced Gen David Petraeus – why he, we might wonder?

And so to Watford… I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for Mark Carney who has attended previous meetings at St Moritz (2011) and Chantilly (2012) and is about to replace Mervyn King as the next Governor of the Bank of England.

Various livestream broadcasts of the event can also be found here.

1 From Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Chapter X, Part II, p. 152.

2 From an article entitled “Bilderberg 2013: welcome to 1984” written by Charlie Skelton, published in the Guardian on June 5, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/05/bilderberg-2013-goldman-sachs-watford

3 From an article entitled “The week ahead: Bilderberg 2013 comes to… the Grove hotel, Watford” written by Charlie Skelton, published by the Guardian on June 2, 2013. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/02/week-ahead-bilderberg-2013-watford

4 At least according to wikipedia. Read more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_bribery_scandals#Netherlands

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Filed under Britain, campaigns & events, Charlie Skelton, Max Keiser

25S: the salvaging of democracy

Spanish state. 25S: the salvaging of democracy
Esther Vivas

Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Madrid on Tuesday September 25, 2012 to protest against the sequestration of popular sovereignty by the banks and “markets”. Repression was once again brutal, leaving dozens of people wounded, and there were numerous arrests.

In this article, Esther Vivas reviews the motivations for this mobilisation and the causes of an ever more brutal police repression.

“They call it democracy but this isn’t one” was the cry repeated in the squares and on the demonstrations. And as time went by, this slogan took on still more meaning. The stigmatisation and repression against those who struggle in the street for their rights has only intensified in recent times. The worse the crisis gets, the more popular support broadens for those who protest and the more the brutal repression increase. The thirst for liberty is being smothered along with the current “democracy”.

Recent days provide a good illustration of this. On Saturday, September 15, 2012, when activists were detained during the demonstration against austerity in Madrid, what was their crime? Carrying a placard with the slogan: “25S: Encircle Parliament”. The next day, two wagon loads of police carried out identity checks on dozens of people in the park at Retiro. The motive? Participating in a preparatory meeting for the said action. Five days later, several of these activists were charged with offences to the highest institutions of the nation and they could be jailed for up to one year.

What were the objectives of the “25S: Encircle Parliament” action? Its appeal expresses them clearly: “Next September 25, we will encircle Parliament to save it from a kidnapping which has transformed this institution into a superfluous body. A kidnapping of popular sovereignty carried out by the Troika and the financial markets and executed with the consent and collaboration of the majority of the political parties”. What will be the form of this action? Its organisers have said and said again: “non-violent”. What kind of fear is it that dictates all these police measures? Fear of violence, or of freedom of expression?

As I said a few months ago at a social centre: “When those at the bottom move, those at the top tremble”. That is the truth. Fear has begun to change sides, even if only partially. The repressive measures, like those we have mentioned, show the fear of those who exert power. The fear that the people rise up, organise, express themselves freely against injustice. The fear of a handful faced with the multitude.

Coup d’état?

The criminalisation of “25S: Encircle Parliament” practically began a month ago when the government representative in Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, characterised this initiative as a “disguised coup d’état”. The former minister and PSOE deputy José Martínez de Olmos compared the action to the attempted neo-Francoist coup by Tejero in 1981: “Occupying Parliament from the inside as Tejero did or from the outside as some wish on September 25 has the same goal: the sequestration of sovereignty”. Words repeated yesterday by the PP secretary general, Dolores de Cospedal.

Coup d’état? The only putschists here are the financial powers who overthrow governments as they wish and replace them by their trusted henchmen. In Italy they have sidelined Silvio Berlusconi in favour of Mario Monti, a former consultant for the Goldman Sachs bank. In Greece, they have replaced Giorgios Papandreou with Lucas Papadémos, ex-vice president of the European Central Bank. Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos is a former employee of Lehman Brothers. As the journalist Robert Fisk puts it: “The banks and the ratings agencies have become the dictators of the West”. And when the “markets” come in by the door, democracy goes out the window.

It is difficult to believe today that Parliament “represents the popular will”. A good number of ministers and deputies come from private enterprises, others return there as soon as their political careers end. The companies reward them generously for services rendered. Do you remember Eduardo Zaplana? First Minister of Employment, then consultant to Telefonica. Elena Salgado? Vice minister of the Economy, she became a consultant for Abertis. Not to mention Rodrigo Rato, former Economy minister, then director of the International Monetary Fund and finally president of Bankia. His adventures as head of the bank have cost us dear. Without forgetting former prime ministers Felipe Gonzalez and José Maria Aznar, the first becoming a consultant for Gas Natural and the second working for Endesa, News Corporation, Barrick Gold, Doheny Global Group and so on. So it goes.

More democracy

But democracy is, precisely, what the movement of the indignant is demanding, a real democracy in the service of the people and incompatible with the sequestration of politics by the business world or with the Spanish centralism which denies the right of people to self-determination. Paradoxically, it is the protestors who have been deemed to be “anti-democrats”. Anti-democrats for symbolically “besieging” the Catalan parliament on June 15, 2011, during the budget debates which involved austerity measures which had not appeared in any electoral manifesto. Anti-democrats for organising meetings in the squares and stimulating public debate. Anti-democrats for occupying empty housing and putting it to social use. Anti-democrats, definitively, for combating unjust laws and practices.

And when there is more democracy in the street, there is more repression. Fines of 133,000 Euros are demanded by the Ministry of the Interior against 446 activists of 15M in Madrid; 6,000 Euros against 250 students involved in the “Valencia Spring”; hundreds of Euros against activists in Galicia, to mention only a few examples. Along with that, more than a hundred arrests in Catalonia since the general strike on May 29 and a modification of the Criminal Code to criminalise the new forms of protest.

The other face of austerity is the politics of fear and repression. Not so much a social state, as a penal state. Democracy is not on the side of those who claim to exercise it, but rather on the side of those who fight for it. History is full of examples of this, and “25S” will be one of them.

+info: http://esthervivas.com/english/

I would like to thank Esther Vivas for allowing me to reproduce this article.

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On Wednesday [Sept 26th], Democracy Now! also reported on the 25S “Occupy Congress” protests which they say led to at least 60 people being injured after police in riot gear had charged against demonstrators with batons and fired rubber bullets.

They spoke with independent journalist Maria Carrion who told them:

Well, as you, as your viewers and listeners have been able to see, it’s a very serious situation here in Spain. This is just the latest of many, many protests that we have been having here in Spain, in the last year, especially, and there will be many more coming. People have lost faith in government. People have lost faith in the main institutions. And we are facing 27 billion euros in social spending cuts.

Every week, the government unveils a series of new measures that affect primarily education and health and salaries and the welfare of Spanish people. And as we saw at the top of the hour, Greece is really an example of what’s coming our way, and that’s why I think people are so enraged and so worried, because they see that none of the measures imposed on Greece on in Portugal or in Ireland are having any sort of effect on the economy, on people’s welfare, on employment. And so, I think people are saying we do not want to head in that same direction.

Well, the PP, the conservative government in power, even before the protests took place, they were already equating them to the 1981 coup d’état here, the military coup d’état that tried to return Spain to a dictatorship. And they, you know, posted 1,400 police in riot gear and even sharpshooters around Congress. So, the disposition—disposition was already there to criminalize protesters. And now what has happened is that those who have been arrested are being charged with crimes against the nation for trying to, what they say, occupy Parliament while in session, which is a crime. They—the, you know, protesters always said, “We’re not occupying. We’re just surrounding Parliament.” But in any case, they are being charged with crimes against the nation, and they will go before a judge, a justice, at Spain’s National Court, which is the court that’s reserved for trying high crimes such as terrorism.

Click here to watch the report or read a full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

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Filed under austerity measures, campaigns & events, Esther Vivas, Greece, police state, Spain

a depression by any other name: so what is anyone doing about it?

News that the British economy has now entered a dreaded “double-dip recession” is being greeted with surprise from the government, when it ought really to have surprised no-one. That the government’s own dismal failure is immediately reworked into the justification for imposing more ‘austerity measures’ and more quickly, is, again, something we might all have expected.

David Cameron apparently said that the figures were “very, very disappointing”, whilst adding only that the government would stick with its plans and do “everything we can” to generate growth.1 Everything, that is, aside from tackling the real cause of what is actually a worldwide economic depression, by, for instance, re-regulating our own financial markets and also criminally investigating the banks that are responsible for the crisis. And everything except for making significant investments in infrastructure projects and government services that would actually generate useful jobs at union wages.

Austerity isn’t simply cruel, from a national perspective it is suicidal. Just ask the Greeks… or the Italians, or the Irish, or the Spanish, or for that matter, the Argentinians and the Chileans.

Labour leader Ed Miliband said the figures were “catastrophic” and asked Mr Cameron what his excuse was.

“This is a recession made by him and the chancellor in Downing Street. It is his catastrophic economic policy that has landed us back in recession,” Mr Miliband said.

From the same BBC news article.

Fair enough, but where are Labour’s alternatives? During the last general election, the choice was between hardcore austerity meted out by the Torys, or softcore austerity from New Labour. How about no austerity! How about closing down the offshore tax-havens and thereby forcing the major corporations to stump up for the deficit. I don’t hear you, Mr Miliband.

The people are very slowly getting wind of what is really going on here. They increasingly see that the bankers have far too much power and influence over our elected representatives. Indeed, Goldman Sacks have blown their cover completely with the dictatorial appointments of Lucas Papademos and Mario Monti in Greece and Italy respectively, not to mention the more recent appointment of Mario Draghi as President of the European Central Bank (ECB). Yet there remains an almost total political vacuum in this country, with no mainstream party prepared even to question, let alone challenge, the steady ‘technocratic’ takeover of our societies.

So I see every reason to repeat an earlier plea for the urgent formation of a new political party. The party I envisage stands for human rights and social justice. It stands for the people and against the established elite. It says defiantly that enough is enough.

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Economist Michael Hudson spoke about the reasons for the deepening financial crisis on yesterday’s Keiser Report on Russia Today.

In the interview with Max Keiser [part 2 of the show: 13 mins], he explains why the bailouts have failed and, in their current form, must continue to fail. He also points out how there are plenty of alternatives for solving this crisis other than the deathly hammer of ‘austerity’.

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Here is a previous post, written last summer, which breaks down why ‘austerity measures’ will fail to rescue the economy, whilst presenting a few ideas for alternative measures that would genuinely help to turn the country around.

1 According to a BBC news article entitled “UK economy in double-dip recession”, published on April 25, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17836624

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Berlusconi was just for starters, it’s time for the full Monti

With the sudden departure of Silvio Berlusconi you might have supposed that almost any change in Italy must be for the better, however given the background of his replacement Mario Monti, it’s time to think again. Certainly, the years of Berlusconi have been an especially unsightly boil on the face of Western European democracy, and there’s really nothing to be said in his favour except that by being such a high-class buffoon – a burlesque parody… of a plastic imitation… of Danny DeVito playing Mussolini – no-one outside of Italy has ever taken him remotely seriously. Of course, Berlusconi does have a serious side, and when he’s not busy getting it on with somebody’s great-granddaughter, you’d probably be most likely to find him “helping police with their inquiries”: the courtroom having nicely substituted for Berlusconi’s second home.

And faced with endless charges of crimes ranging from false accounting and mere bribery, to collusion with the Mafia, whenever Berlusconi really started to feel the heat, he always had the perfect answer – yes, it was time to rewrite the country’s statute of limitations. Yet it seems that almost nothing could dent the Italian public’s twisted love affair with Berlusconi. No amount of hanky-panky with barely post-pubescent girls, and no amount of financial sleaze. Not even the disclosure of his membership to the notorious Propaganda Due (or P2) masonic lodge, with its neofascist agenda and documented involvement in the clandestine “strategy of tension”; the “Years of Lead” (Anni di piombo), a period of destabilisation lasting from the late 1960s to early 1980s, which involved assassinations and a wave of terrorist attacks, having been in part orchestrated by P2 under a CIA led programme known as Operation Gladio. And though Berlusconi is not directly implicated in the crimes of Gladio and the P2 lodge, he was most decidedly in with the in-crowd.

Here is what Licio Gelli, the Venerable Master of P2, told La Repubblica in 2003 with regards to Berlusconi’s implementation of the P2 “democratic rebirth plan”:

Every morning I speak to my conscience and the dialogue calms me down. I look at the country, read the newspaper, and think: “All is becoming a reality little by little, piece by piece. To be truthful, I should have had the copyright to it. Justice, TV, public order. I wrote about this thirty years ago… Berlusconi is an extraordinary man, a man of action. This is what Italy needs: not a man of words, but a man of action.1

The Italians have had plenty of opportunity to give Berlusconi the boot, but for whatever reason, they preferred the devil they knew, and elected him to office three times – and the fact that he owned most of the nation’s TV channels through Gruppo Mediaset, not to mention the biggest football club in a nation of football obsessives, must to some extent account for his longevity. With the fall of Berlusconi, however, democracy itself is now being undone, since Berlusconi was, at least to some extent, accountable to the Italian people, whereas his replacement, the unelected economist and former EU commissioner (first appointed to EU by Berlusconi, back in 1995), Mario Monti, and his newly gathered cabinet of ‘technocrats’, are accountable only to ‘the markets’. There is not a single elected representative in sight:

Mr Monti took on the economy and finance portfolio himself.

Corrado Passera, CEO of the Intesa Sanpaolo banking group, was named to head the new ministry of development, infrastructure and transport.

Another key appointment was that of Antonio Catricala, head of the anti-trust authority, who was made under-secretary to the prime minister’s office.

Despite reports that Mr Monti had sought to include politicians in his cabinet, there are none.

“The absence of political personalities in the government will help rather than hinder a solid base of support for the government in parliament and in the political parties because it will remove one ground for disagreement,” he said.2

Click here to read the full BBC news report.

Some in the mainstream media have already started bigging up Mr Monti, calling him ‘Super’ Mario, which is ironic given that looney-toon Silvio failed to receive any such cartoonish moniker. In any case, so far as I can discern there is really just one outstanding thing about Monti – one reason for such premature acclamation – which is that ‘Super’ Mario Monti is super connected. This comes from Reuters:

A convinced free marketeer with close connections to the European and global policy-making elite, Monti has always backed a more closely integrated euro zone and has written a series of articles in recent months lambasting the Berlusconi government’s policy failures.

He is chairman of the European branch of the Trilateral Commission, a body that brings together the power elites of the United States, Europe and Japan and is also a member of the secretive Bilderberg Group of business leaders and other “leading citizens”.3

I have already posted articles about the murky goings on at Bilderberg meetings, and the Trilateral Commission for those who’ve never heard of it, is simply another branch of the same secretive globalist network.

Founded in 1973 by none other than David Rockefeller, apparently for reasons of dissatisfaction with Bilderberg (which he’d also helped to found two decades earlier), and wishing to expand its influence beyond Europe and North America, he along with the then National Security Advisor (under Carter), Zbigniew Brzezinski, jointly held the reins at the Trilateral Commission.

Unlike the Bilderberg Group, it may be said of the Trilateral Commission that they have only ever been semi-secretive, and that once in a blue moon they even released a publication. Indeed, their first major report, which was entitled “The Crisis of Democracy”, gives a fair warning of how the Trilateralists would prefer to be running our lives (and in the second part of this post I include a brief overview and analysis of the report – the recommendations it makes being timely ones).

Back to Monti, and we see one more outstanding part to his CV. Perhaps you’ve already heard, or perhaps you can guess. Well, here’s an article from yesterday’s the Independent that makes it clear; it’s entitled “What price the new democracy? Goldman Sachs conquers Europe”4:

[And] By putting a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs in charge of a Western nation, it has taken to new heights the political power of an investment bank that you might have thought was prohibitively politically toxic.

This is the most remarkable thing of all: a giant leap forward for, or perhaps even the successful culmination of, the Goldman Sachs Project.

The Goldman Sachs what…?!!!

This is The Goldman Sachs Project. Put simply, it is to hug governments close. Every business wants to advance its interests with the regulators that can stymie them and the politicians who can give them a tax break, but this is no mere lobbying effort. Goldman is there to provide advice for governments and to provide financing, to send its people into public service and to dangle lucrative jobs in front of people coming out of government. The Project is to create such a deep exchange of people and ideas and money that it is impossible to tell the difference between the public interest and the Goldman Sachs interest.

Apparently, and as if we didn’t know it already, tentacles of “the Vampire Squid” (I’m just quoting from Foley’s article!) have already penetrated into every political nook and cranny:

It is not just Mr Monti. The European Central Bank, another crucial player in the sovereign debt drama, is under ex-Goldman management, and the investment bank’s alumni hold sway in the corridors of power in almost every European nation, as they have done in the US throughout the financial crisis. Until Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund’s European division was also run by a Goldman man, Antonio Borges, who just resigned for personal reasons.

So here’s an intriguing article, although one that fails to do “the Vampire Squid” full justice. The problem being that Foley seems to believe not only that the vampire might somehow be resurrected, but that this would be a good thing:

The grave danger [no pun intended presumably] is that, if Italy stops paying its debts, creditor banks could be made insolvent. Goldman Sachs, which has written over $2trn of insurance, including an undisclosed amount on eurozone countries’ debt, would not escape unharmed, especially if some of the $2trn of insurance it has purchased on that insurance turns out to be with a bank that has gone under.

In reality, however, Goldman Sachs is irredeemably vampiric. It maintains its life only by feasting upon the life-blood of others, because it is already undead – or ‘insolvent’, if you prefer.

This is the rationale for the bailouts and the austerity, the reason we are getting more Goldman, not less.

says Foley, and here he is half right again. It is indeed ‘the rationale’ for sucking us dry, but it certainly not the reason ‘we are getting more Goldman’. Goldman Sachs would already be burned by now, if it weren’t for the fact that their tentacles have been allowed to extend so far. Foley simply turns the blatant truth on its head.

So let’s be clear, the appointment of Monti, and other cronies like him, is not ‘the alternative’ to ‘a second financial collapse’, as Foley also seems to believe – the ‘second collapse’ is already here, and it’s cause is no different from the first – no, if we are to rescue ourselves then Goldman Sachs must be properly dispatched. There’s no use negotiating with vampires: it’s us or them.

According to tradition, of course, just bringing vampires into the light can sometimes be enough to destroy them, and so perhaps Foley’s article helps a little in that way. Ultimately, however, the way to rid any really bad infestation of vampires is not by ‘recapitalisation’, but by decapitation. Mario Monti needs to get the chop. Let’s pray that the Italians are up to the task.

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The Crisis of Democracy5 (1975) was the first major report published by the Trilateral Commission. Like most reports, it’s hardly an interesting read, but turgid and soporific from its beginning, through to its middle and end. Unfortunately, however, such rambling tediousness doesn’t undo its significance.

People in the democratic world are disaffected, the book explains at great length, disillusioned by political institutions, disinterested in ideology, they are also now turning their collective backs to the various religious institutions.6 In consequence, there has arisen a widespread and growing distrust of authority, with all forms of authority now under scrutiny:

“In the past, institutions which have played the major role in the indoctrination of the young in their rights and obligations as members of society have been the family, the church, the school, and the army. The effectiveness of all these institutions as a means of socialization has declined severely.”7

Indoctrination still has its uses, but stress is nowadays placed all too heavily on the rights, interests and needs of individuals, often at the expense of community, and so on and so forth:

“The success of the existing structures of authority in incorporating large elements of the population into the middle class, paradoxically strengthens precisely those groups which are disposed to challenge the existing structures of authority.”8

It follows that (rather obviously), a more docile and wholly apathetic population would be preferable, especially within the ranks of trouble-making educated middle-classes. Japan serving as a most excellent example of how a more servile society can function, with its “reservoir of traditional acquiescence among the people to support its [government] authority.” Although even in Japan, we learn that: “the reservoir of acquiescence is more and more draining down.”9

Noam Chomsky said of the report: “The Trilateral recommendations for the capitalist democracies are an application at home of the theories of “order” developed for subject societies of the Third World.”10 Chomsky points out that the report is rather openly advocating a systematic campaign of demoralisation for any of us lucky enough to be living in a Western democracy. Nurturing our apathy to avoid what might otherwise become our “excess of democracy”:

“The report argues that what is needed in the industrial democracies “is a greater degree of moderation in democracy” to overcome the “excess of democracy” of the past decade. “The effective operation of a democratic political system usually requires some measure of apathy and noninvolvement on the part of some individuals and groups.”11

One solution then, and perhaps the best solution, would be the complete and total eradication of the intellectual middle class… no, no, calm down, I was just seeing if you are still paying attention… the actual recommended solution is merely to re-establish a sense of “common purpose” amongst us:

“In this situation, the machinery of democracy continues to operate, but the ability of the individuals operating that machinery to make decisions tends to deteriorate. Without common purpose, there is no basis for common priorities, and without priorities, there are no grounds for distinguishing among competing private interests and claims. Conflicting goals and specialized interests crowd in upon one another, with executives, cabinets, parliaments, and bureaucrats lacking the criteria to discriminate among them. The system becomes one of anomic democracy, in which democratic politics becomes more an arena for the assertion of conflicting interests than a process for the building of common purposes.”12

Which is precisely on the button, for any aspiring oligarchs, whilst long-winded enough for most of the rest of us to ignore. Allow me rephrase it and put it more succinctly: we need our democracies to be reconstructed in order to avoid such unnecessary hindrance as “conflicting goals” and “competing private interests”… which means less, ahhh… what’s the word… oh, yes, that’s it: less democracy.

Now if any of that sounded like it might become the least little bit tyrannical then please be assured that it is quite diametrically the reverse. It is in fact a protection against an otherwise near unstoppable descent into tyranny. Here’s a few lines drawn from the introduction of the report to make the agenda clearer:

“At the present time, a significant challenge comes from the intellectuals and related groups who assert their disgust with the corruption, materialism, and inefficiency of democracy and with the subservience of democratic government to “monopoly capitalism.” The development of an “adversary culture” among intellectuals has affected students, scholars, and the media. Intellectuals are, as Schumpeter put it, “people who wield the power of the spoken and the written word, and one of the touches that distinguish them from other people who do the same is the absence of direct responsibility for practical affairs,” In some measure, the advanced industrial societies have spawned a stratum of value-oriented intellectuals who often devote themselves to the derogation of leadership, the challenging of authority, and the unmasking and delegitimation of established institutions, their behavior contrasting with that of the also increasing numbers of technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals. In an age of widespread secondary school and university education, the pervasiveness of the mass media, and the displacement of manual labor by clerical and professional employees, this development constitutes a challenge to democratic government which is, potentially at least, as serious as those posed in the past by the aristocratic cliques, fascist movements, and communist parties.”

Yes, dissent against authority, whether amongst intellectuals or the media challenges not only the status quo, but “democratic government” as such. “Serious” dangers that are in some way comparable to the rise of fascism. But this is only the beginning:

“In addition to the emergence of the adversary intellectuals and their culture, a parallel and possibly related trend affecting the viability of democracy concerns broader changes in social values. In all three Trilateral regions, a shift in values is taking place away from the materialistic work-oriented, public-spirited values toward those which stress private satisfaction, leisure, and the need for “belonging and intellectual and esthetic self-fulfillment.” These values are, of course, most notable in the younger generation. They often coexist with greater skepticism towards political leaders and institutions and with greater alienation from the political processes. They tend to be privatistic in their impact and import. The rise of this syndrome of values, is presumably related to the relative affluence in which most groups in the Trilateral societies came to share during the economic expansion of the 1960s. The new values may not survive recession and resource shortages. But if they do, they pose an additional new problem for democratic government in terms of its ability to mobilize its citizens for the achievement of social and political goals and to impose discipline and sacrifice upon its citizens in order to achieve those goals.”13

So it’s the fault of the sixties, basically, and those bloody baby-boomers, transmitting skepticism, nay cynicism, to our later generations. As a result, a rising tide of individualism is posing a threat, especially should any “democratic government” attempt “to mobilize its citizens for the achievement of social and political goals and to impose discipline and sacrifice upon its citizens in order to achieve those goals.”

And yes, I repeat this final section again, so that you, the reader, might reflect on it a moment. Such an unintentional yet refreshingly candid admission from our would-be rulers. Notice how it talks of the state “mobilizing its citizens” and of “impos[ing] discipline and sacrifice upon its citizens” to achieve “social and political goals”.

The citizens evidently have no role to play in deciding what these goals might be. Rather they are owned by their “democratic government” and expected merely to obey regardless to policy decisions taken. But in any case, and with luck, some kind of recession or resource shortages will straighten us out, and make it easier “to impose discipline and sacrifice upon its citizens.” Yes, I’ve repeated it again. It needs repeating, especially given the justifications, about the dangers of fascism and so on. Fascism may of course return under many guises, but one thing that it will most definitely impose is “discipline and sacrifice upon its citizens”. This is always at the heart of fascism. Impositions of this sort are in no ways democratic, they are fascistic.

1“Tutte le mattine parlo con le voci della mia coscienza, ed è un dialogo che mi quieta. Guardo il Paese, leggo i giornali e penso: ecco qua che tutto si realizza poco a poco, pezzo a pezzo. Forse sì, dovrei avere i diritti d’autore. La giustizia, la tv, l’ordine pubblico. Ho scritto tutto trent’anni fa.” […]

“Può darsi. Berlusconi è un uomo fuori dal comune. Ricordo bene che già allora, ai tempi dei nostri primi incontri, aveva questa caratteristica: sapeva realizzare i suoi progetti. Un uomo del fare. Di questo c’è bisogno in Italia: non di parole, di azioni.”

Taken from “Giustizia, tv, ordine pubblico è finita proprio come dicevo io” (“Justice, TV, public order it’s over just like I said”, written by Concita De Gregorio, published in la Repubblica on September 28, 2003. http://www.repubblica.it/2003/i/sezioni/politica/gelli/gelli/gelli.html

2From an article entitled “Monti unveils technocratic cabinet for Italy”, published by BBC news on November 16, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15751179

3From an article entitled “’Italian Prussian’ Monti enters political storm” written by James Mackenzie, published by Reuters on November 13, 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/11/14/italy-monti-idUSL5E7MD0DO20111114

4 From an article entitled “What price the new democracy? Goldman Sachs conquers Europe”, written by Stephen Foley, published in the Independent on November 18, 2011. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/what-price-the-new-democracy-goldman-sachs-conquers-europe-6264091.html

5 “The Crisis of Democracy”, Task Force Report #8 published by Trilateral Commission © 1975, New York University Press, written by Michel Crozier, Samuel P. Huntington and Joji Watanuki. ISBN: 0-8147-1305-3

6“The lack of confidence in democratic institutions is clearly exceeded by the lack of enthusiasm for any alternative set of institutions. What is in short supply in democratic societies today is thus not consensus on the rules of the game. In the past, people have found their purposes in religion, in nationalism, and in ideology. But neither church, nor state, nor class now command’s people’s loyalties… In a nondemocratic political system, the top leadership can select a single purpose or closely related set of goals and, in some measure, induce or coerce political and social forces to shape their behavior in terms of priorities dictated by these goals… World war, economic reconstruction, and the cold war gave coherence to public purposes and imposed a set of priorities for ordering government policies and programs. Now, however, these purposes have lost their salience and even come under challenge; the imperatives of national security are no longer obvious, the desirability of economic growth is no longer unquestioned.” Ibid. Chapter V pp 159-160.

7Ibid. [Crisis of demo] p.162

8Ibid [Crisis of demo] p. 162

9Ibid. [Crisis of demo] p.170

10 “The Carter Administration: Myth and Reality” by Noam Chomsky, from “Radical Priorities”, 1981 http://www.chomsky.info/books/priorities01.htm

11“This recommendation recalls the analysis of Third World problems put forth by other political thinkers of the same persuasion, for example, Ithiel Pool (then chairman of the Department of Political Science at MIT), who explained some years ago that in Vietnam, the Congo, and the Dominican Republic, “order depends on somehow compelling newly mobilized strata to return to a measure of passivity and defeatism… At least temporarily the maintenance of order requires a lowering of newly acquired aspirations and levels of political activity.”” taken from “The Carter Administration: Myth and Reality” by Noam Chomsky, from “Radical Priorities”, 1981

12Ibid [Crisis of demo] p. 161

13Ibid [Crisis of demo] p.6-7

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