Monthly Archives: April 2016


The Empire Strikes Back

If you argue a case strongly on the internet you must expect to receive robust argument back. Plus the odd insult. There has been plenty of both in reaction to my posts about corporate media control of access to the data in the Panama Papers. But I believe it is fair to say that the overwhelming public feeling I have picked up through monitoring online discussion worldwide, is that the full data should be made available online in searchable form so that the public can look through it and form their own conclusions.

I wish to address in a little more depth the arguments which have been raised.

Several people have argued with my reference to “corporate media”, as the consortium includes state organisations such as the BBC. My response to that is that the BBC has become in the last few years a mouthpiece for state propaganda with no effective independence of government, and that the politicians are very much in the pocket of the corporations who fund them. The BBC therefore promotes corporate interests just as much as those outlets directly owned by corporate interests. It is simply a question of direct or indirect control.

The key point is that access to the Panama data has been restricted in accordance with a media order which is decades out of date. It ignores citizen journalism. The only online based platforms given access are the billionaire owned Huffington Post and Craigslist. Nowadays people prefer to find things for themselves.

This ostensibly sympathetic article from Richard Smith illustrates the problem rather well. It is one of trust. Do we trust the – let me use a neutral word – established media to filter the information and decide what we are permitted to see? My answer is no, I do not trust them. I know many mainstream journalists and the vast majority of them are interested in pleasing their paymasters and advancing their careers. Very few and vanishingly less are disinterested promoters of truth.

Nor do I accept that revealing a story about David Cameron’s dead father – a story which had been in the public domain for four years – or securing the resignation of the Prime Minister of Iceland, a tiny state which happens to have taken the most radical action of any against bankers, is sign of balance.

It is a sign of a pretence of balance.

But Richard Smith is entitled to his view and perhaps his naïve trust in corporate media indicates a pleasant and trusting nature. I am often called naïve myself for wanting the world to be a better place. Mr Smith evidently believes it already is.

The only thing I actively dislike in Smith’s article is the contention that I criticised the BBC for not pointing out that the British Virgin Islands were implicated in one document flashed on the screen, obscured, during the BBC Panorama. Actually there were three separate documents about separate transactions, all involving the British Virgin Islands. Those transactions were central to the entire first half of the programme, and for the BBC to hide that it was all happening in the British Virgin Islands was disgraceful.

The BBC of course do not like me and I have been banned from appearing for many years. One of the many thousand people who retweeted my original post on the Panama Papers, subsequently tweeted that he had done so by accident. This brought the magisterial rebuke from Jamie Angus, editor of the BBC Radio Today programme, that accident “is the only acceptable reason for retweeting Craig Murray.” I can understand that Mr Angus does not want people to hear opinions not sanctioned by his employers, but I would be interested to know why he feels it is not “acceptable” to read my pieces. He has since challenged me to mention that the British Virgin Islands were criticised on his radio programme. I am happy to do so, because unlike Mr Angus, I do not believe views other than my own should be suppressed.

I shall not trouble you with the large volume of simply abusive tweets I have received, co-ordinated by the usual two groups – British unionist and pro-Israel lobbyists who for some reason like to troll me. Let us just ignore them.

I should now come to the question of privacy. The Guardian newspaper, along with the BBC the main “owner” of the data in the UK, has made no bones about the fact that most of the data will not be published, and that there are “legitimate reasons” why people have offshore accounts and companies. As the Guardian’s owners operated from tax-dodging overseas accounts for years, they have to say that of course.

There has been surprisingly little discussion of this topic. I do not accept that there is any legitimate reason for owning offshore companies and offshore bank accounts, if you do not have a business genuinely located in and operating from the jurisdiction. Ordinary people do not have accounts in tax havens. The only reason people have accounts and fake companies in tax havens is to avoid tax and other legal jurisdiction. This is not morally acceptable, whether or not our rulers make sure it is legal. I therefore do not accept any privacy argument for keeping the vast bulk of the data from the public.

This argument s absolutely at the heart of the corporate media’s interest in hiding 99.9% of the information – which behind the obfuscation is precisely what they intend to do. This argument needs to be met head on.

The only subject of any interest now in the Panama Papers is whether the data will be fully released on the internet and available to everybody, and not hidden by the corporate media.

We must all campaign to release the data.

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The Wacko Right Nexus

Ted Cruz has not really registered much with the public in the UK. But anybody feeling comforted by his apparently making ground against Donald Trump is in for a shock. Cruz is on the right wing fringes even in the United States – so much so that John McCain called him a “wacko”. He is an avid climate change denier, wishes to increase US military interventions abroad, wants to criminalise abortion and supports control of the internet – he described net neutrality as “Obamacare for the internet”.

It is therefore interesting that the Chairman of Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign is one Chad Sweet, who is also a Director of the Quilliam Foundation USA, established by its British counterpart.

The Quilliam Foundation is a group led by people who claim to be former Islamic jihadists who have now reformed. It is the go-to organisation for the BBC and Murdoch’s Sky News whenever Islamic matters, and particularly terrorism, are aired on the media. It is presented, quite falsely, as a neutral and technocratic organisation.

It is in fact deeply sinister. While it has provided a lifestyle of champagne and well-cut silk suits for its “ex-jihadist” directors, it has pandered to right wing Islamophobia in every statement it has ever made. It received millions of pounds of UK government funding, not very well accounted for, and employs “ex” members of MI6. I have it from a very good security source that funding comes from the CIA, and there is certainly an open stream of funding from far right American bodies.

Quilliam were involved by the government as “experts” in drawing up the government’s Prevent strategy, which directly seeks to curtail expression of “radical” opinion in British universities and seeks to place a spy in every classroom. It has led, among scores of such incidents, to the arrest and detention of a Muslim student of security studies for reading a book on terrorism in Nottinghamshire University Library, and the police being sent to an eight year old Muslim child’s home because the teacher heard him use the word terrorism. Only last week the National Union of Teachers took a definitive stand against the Prevent strategy.

There is no doubt the air of anti-Muslim paranoia Prevent inculcates will increase resentment and alienation among young Muslims, which is the opposite of what is sensible. But the corporate media can always call up the “experts” of the Quilliam Foundation when they want the government line to be supported.

The link between Quilliam and Cruz does not surprise me in the least, but is completely contrary to the official image of Quilliam as presented by the media.

Their support for Prevent is of a piece with their contempt for freedom of speech. After I first criticised Quilliam, I received a telephone call from one of their staff attempting to get my personal financial details, including account numbers, by pretending to be making a donation. They also tried to get this blog closed down by attempting legal action against its hosts.

The nexus of far right interests, and their reach, is ever fascinating. I guess we all pray for Bernie Sanders.

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A Chink of Aussie Light

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation shamed the BBC by putting out a Four Corners documentary on the Panama leak that had real balls.

In stark contrast to the BBC, the Australians named and shamed Australia’s biggest company and Australia’s biggest foreign investor. BBC Panorama by contrast found a guy who sold one house in Islington. The Australians also, unlike the BBC who deliberately and knowing hid it, pointed out that the corruption centred on the British Virgin Islands, and even went there. All in all an excellent job.

Four Corners of course has a history of this. Their absolutely excellent documentary Sex, Lies and Julian Assange told vital truths about the concoction of the allegations against Julian Assange, which to this day have been hidden by the BBC and entire British corporate media. I implore anybody who has not yet seen it, to watch it now.

In this dreadful situation where the corporate media have monopoly access to the Mossack Fonseca database, there is going to be a little chink of light here and there, where old fashioned notions of journalistic integrity still cling to life in isolated pockets. But those chinks of light only serve to highlight the abject servitude of outlets like the BBC and Guardian to the official neo-con narrative.

It is absolutely imperative that the entire database is made available to the people, rather than the people being drip-fed by journalistic Gods who make decisions in the interests of their employers, not of the public.

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Disgraceful BBC Panorama Propaganda Hides Grim Truth About Britain

Richard Bilton of the BBC today exposed himself as the most corrupt and bankrupt of state media shills – while pretending to be fronting an expose of corruption. There could not be a more perfect example of the western state and corporate media pretending to reveal the Panama leak data while actually engaging in pure misdirection.

In a BBC Panorama documentary entitled Tax Havens of the Rich and Powerful Exposed, they actually did precisely the opposite. The BBC related at length the stories of the money laundering companies of the Icelandic PM and Putin’s alleged cellist. The impression was definitely given and reinforced that these companies were in Panama.

Richard Bilton deliberately suppressed the information that all the companies involved were in fact not Panamanian but in the corrupt British colony of the British Virgin Islands. At no stage did Bilton even mention the British Virgin Islands.

Company documents were flashed momentarily on screen, in some cases for a split second, and against deliberately unclear backgrounds. There is no chance that 99.9% of viewers would notice they referred to British Virgin Islands companies. But instantly reading a glimpsed document is an essential skill for a career diplomat, and of course I happen to know immediately what BVI or Tortola mean on a document. So I have been back and got screenshots of those brief flashes.

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Is it not truly, truly, astonishing the British Virgin Islands were not even mentioned when the BBC broadcast their “investigation” of these documents?

In deliberately obscuring the key role of the British money-laundering base of British Virgin Islands in these transactions, the BBC have demonstrated precisely why the entire database has to be released to the scrutiny of the people, rather than being filtered by the dubious honesty of state and corporate journalists. The BBC targeting of two very low level British minions at the end of their programme does not alter this.

The BBC could also address why their Pacific Quay HQ in Glasgow is leased for £100 million from a hidden ownership company in the Cayman Islands.

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Corporate Media Gatekeepers Protect Western 1% From Panama Leak

Whoever leaked the Mossack Fonseca papers appears motivated by a genuine desire to expose the system that enables the ultra wealthy to hide their massive stashes, often corruptly obtained and all involved in tax avoidance. These Panamanian lawyers hide the wealth of a significant proportion of the 1%, and the massive leak of their documents ought to be a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately the leaker has made the dreadful mistake of turning to the western corporate media to publicise the results. In consequence the first major story, published today by the Guardian, is all about Vladimir Putin and a cellist on the fiddle. As it happens I believe the story and have no doubt Putin is bent.

But why focus on Russia? Russian wealth is only a tiny minority of the money hidden away with the aid of Mossack Fonseca. In fact, it soon becomes obvious that the selective reporting is going to stink.

The Suddeutsche Zeitung, which received the leak, gives a detailed explanation of the methodology the corporate media used to search the files. The main search they have done is for names associated with breaking UN sanctions regimes. The Guardian reports this too and helpfully lists those countries as Zimbabwe, North Korea, Russia and Syria. The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

among many others. Do not expect a genuine expose of western capitalism. The dirty secrets of western corporations will remain unpublished.

Expect hits at Russia, Iran and Syria and some tiny “balancing” western country like Iceland. A superannuated UK peer or two will be sacrificed – someone already with dementia.

The corporate media – the Guardian and BBC in the UK – have exclusive access to the database which you and I cannot see. They are protecting themselves from even seeing western corporations’ sensitive information by only looking at those documents which are brought up by specific searches such as UN sanctions busters. Never forget the Guardian smashed its copies of the Snowden files on the instruction of MI6.

What if they did Mossack Fonseca database searches on the owners of all the corporate media and their companies, and all the editors and senior corporate media journalists? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on all the most senior people at the BBC? What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every donor to the Center for Public Integrity and their companies?

What if they did Mossack Fonseca searches on every listed company in the western stock exchanges, and on every western millionaire they could trace?

That would be much more interesting. I know Russia and China are corrupt, you don’t have to tell me that. What if you look at things that we might, here in the west, be able to rise up and do something about?

And what if you corporate lapdogs let the people see the actual data?

UPDATE

Hundreds of thousands of people have read this post in the 11 hours since it was published – despite it being overnight here in the UK. There are 235,918 “impressions” on twitter (as twitter calls them) and over 3,700 people have “shared” so far on Facebook, bringing scores of new readers each.

I would remind you that this blog is produced free for the public good and you are welcome to republish or re-use this article or any other material freely anywhere without requesting further permission.

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T20 World Cup

A wonderful final. Terribly sorry for Ben Stokes, but it was still headless bowling of the last over. Many congratulations to Windies, deserved.

I have always been pretty snooty about T20, which lacks the subtlety and complexity that makes cricket such a deeply satisfying sport. But I have come to enjoy T20 for its energy and vibrancy, and the final today was a fitting climax to what has been a riveting tournament. Scotland in the early stages, and the surprising competitiveness of their spin bowling in particular. The Dutch falling improbably short in a run chase then getting knocked out by rain. Shahzad of Afghanistan and their joyful cricket.

It just got better. New Zealand’s spinners defending an improbable total against India. Bangladesh failing astonishingly to score one run off the last three balls against India. Kohli and Root’s classicism. Those are just memories which stand out.

For a time it looked like the depth of England’s batting might have dug them out of their deep hole against Windies in today’s final sufficiently to win. Joe Root’s two wickets in his surprise over were astonishing. But you have to query Morgan’s decision not to bowl Moeen Ali at all in the final, after his two overs against the New Zealand run chase were key to England’s semi final win. And frankly if there was one bowler likely to go for 19 in the last over, it was Ben Stokes. He got two wickets against New Zealand at the death from rank full tosses. After Jordan’s penultimate over I was shouting at the TV “not Ben Stokes, please.” Perhaps my TV does not work, because it seems Ollie Morgan could not hear me.

But still – Brathwaite!

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Read Peter Hitchens, Repentant Thatcherite, Today

Excellent article by Peter Hitchens. Admitting fundamental error takes great courage and is always to be admired.

I have commended Peter Hitchens before. This upsets some of my readers, but I don’t care, which I suppose is what I have in common with Peter Hitchens.

I replied this morning to a comment on my last posting from a gentleman named Andrew, who said we should ditch loss making heavy industry and could live on highly profitable financial services. I am happy to say what struck me immediately was how old-fashioned this sounded. The zeitgeist has moved. We just have to be rid of a legacy government.

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Why a 250% Steel Tariff is Fair

My recent post on Sajid Javid’s deliberate collapse of British Steel was shared on Facebook by over 1,300 people. Tweets far exceed that.

There might therefore be interest in a little more explanation on tariffs and subsidies, and particularly why the United States has slapped an anti-dumping tariff of 256% on Chinese steel.

As I reported, the Chinese state subsidises steel exports up to 72%. That means that steel that cost 100 yuan to make, is sold abroad for 28 yuan. If you apply a 256% tariff to 28 yuan, the resulting cost of that steel is 99 yuan.

Which proves both that the 72% figure my British diplomatic contact gave me is also about what the US authorities are working on, and that 256% is a fair tariff, massive though it may sound.

A 256% tariff is needed to counteract a 72% subsidy.

By contrast, the 13% tariff which is the maximum Sajid Javid instructed UK diplomats in Brussels to accept, would increase the price of 100 yuan worth of steel from 28 yuan to 31.6 yuan, still leaving a 68.4% effective subsidy.

Sajid Javid took the view, and stated it directly, that getting the cheap dumped steel from China was better for the economy than having a British steel industry. Javid told MPs:

“If duties get disproportionate it would have an impact in Britain and elsewhere on consumers of steel. Those businesses tell us it will cost jobs and exports if duties got out of control…

“To go further might in the short term look the right way to go to protect industry but you have to remember in Britain there are also companies that consume steel as part of the production process.”

In my view it is a ridiculously short term view to rely on dumped steel effectively to subsidise British steel consumers. But Javid was at least honestly setting out his Thatcherite doctrine.

What is the rankest hypocrisy is for Javid now to pretend to care about the British steel industry when he has been ordering officials for a year to pursue a policy on tariffs he knew would lead its closure.

There are two strands of immediate action which the British government should now take. The first is to bring Tata Steel immediately into public ownership. The second is to consult urgently with the EU Commission and other states on a realistic tariff against dumped Chinese steel. As the UK had been the main opponents to this move, early progress should be possible. The better answer would be to secure a reduction in subsidy by the Chinese government, but an emergency tariff might be needed as an initial move.

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