Worth a watch.
Website here – or watch it with your Amazon Prime membership.
As the British Empire declined post WW2, London moved to create secrecy laws in 7 of it’s remaining colony remnant regions. With banking secrecy laws in place, a series of trust, shell companies and other offshore entities, there are hundreds of unreported and hidden entities that popped up in the Caymans, Gibralter, Jersey. The goal, tax evasion, looting of countries by their elites and asset hiding.
The Panama Papers involved leaked documents detailing the web offshore banking. The firm at the source of the leak was the 7th largest firm structuring these deals for wealthy individuals, corporations or heads of states.
To Learn More;
Amazon – With eye opening revelations, Treasure Islands exposes the culprits and its victims, and shows how:
*Over half of world trade is routed through tax havens
*The rampant practices that precipitated the latest financial crisis can be traced back to Wall Street’s offshoring practices
*For every dollar of aid we send to developing countries, ten dollars leave again by the backdoor
The offshore system sits much closer to home than the pristine tropical islands of the popular imagination. In fact, it all starts on a tiny island called Manhattan. In this fast paced narrative, TreasureIslands at last explains how the system works and how it’s contributing to our ever deepening economic divide.
(Newsweek 4/6/16) “Numbering just a few million of the world’s 6.5 billion people, they are an incredibly diverse group, from 30-year-old Chinese real estate speculators and Silicon Valley software tycoons to Dubai oil sheiks, Russian presidents, mineral-rich African dictators and Mexican drug lords.”
In 2015, the Financial Secrecy Index named the most secretive states across the world. Due to low tax, tight secrecy laws, corporate transparency legislation and a lack of interest in creating public registries of beneficial ownership, the top five were named as Switzerland, Hong Kong, the U.S., Singapore and the Cayman Islands. Britain was placed at 15, and Panama 13.
Here is a rundown of the top ten big players:
Described by James S. Henry from the Tax Justice Network as “the grandfather of the world’s secretive tax havens,” Switzerland is a massively important player in the secrecy world today.
In September 2015, the Swiss Bankers’ Association reported that banks in Switzerland held the equivalent of $6.5 trillion in assets under management, of which it said 51 percent originated from abroad. This made Switzerland the world leader in global cross-border asset management, with a 28 percent share of the market.
The country has made some concessions recently to its iron-clad secrecy laws, under strong international pressure, but it has been a laggard relative to some other big players, like Luxembourg.
Switzerland’s aggressive and apparently illegal pursuit of secrecy-breaking whistleblowers highlights the strength of the Swiss secrecy lobby.
It has committed to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) global level Common Reporting Standard (CRS) of automatic information exchange, but it will only start implementing it in 2018.
Hong Kong is one of the world’s fastest growing tax havens today. Its fund management industry had $2.1 trillion under management in April 2015 and over $350 billion in private banking assets.
It has the second largest stock exchange in Asia after Tokyo, it ranks third after New York and London in equities and initial public offerings, and hosts a wide range of financial services players.
In 2015, it had the world’s highest density of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals with personal wealth over $100 million, at 15.3 per 100,000 households.
On paper, Hong Kong accounted for just under half of all foreign investment into China at the end of 2012.
It also has not signed the multilateral agreement to initiate automatic information exchange via the CRS. It has a problematic record on corporate transparency and—unlike European countries—it appears to have little appetite for country-by-country reporting or for creating registers of beneficial ownership.
China’s control over Hong Kong has shielded it from global transparency initiatives, and it still allows owners of bearer shares—vehicles for some of the world’s worst criminal activities—to remain unidentified.
The United States is more of a cause for concern than any other individual country, according to the Financial Secrecy Index, because of both the size of its offshore sector, and also its rather wayward attitude to international cooperation and reform.
The U.S. provides a wide array of secrecy and tax-free facilities for non-residents, both at a federal level and at the level of individual states.
Though the U.S. has been a pioneer in defending itself from foreign secrecy jurisdictions, aggressively taking on the Swiss banking establishment and setting up its technically quite strong Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), it provides little information in return to other countries, making it a formidable, harmful and irresponsible secrecy jurisdiction at both the federal and state levels.
This former British colony vies with Hong Kong to be Asia’s leading offshore financial center.
According to the Boston Consulting Group in 2015, Singapore held around one eighth of the global stock of total offshore wealth, and an IMF report in 2014 estimated that over 95 percent of all commercial banks in Singapore are affiliates of foreign banks, a testament to its extreme dependence on foreign—and offshore—money.
The Singapore financial center is the region’s largest center for commodity trading, and in 2014 it overtook Tokyo to become Asia’s largest foreign exchange trading center, and the world’s third largest after London and New York.
It hosts substantial activity in insurance, in debt and equity capital markets, in derivatives, and in offshore companies and trusts. It is a major wealth management center, with $1.4 trillion in assets under management in 2013.
As a country, it poses many of the same threats that Hong Kong does—a lack of serious reforms to its corporate secrecy regime and a lack of interest in creating public registries of beneficial ownership.
With banking assets worth $1.4 trillion in June 2014, and hosting over 11,000 mutual and other funds with a net asset value of $2.1 trillion, the Cayman Islands makes the list.
It has 200 banks, over 140 trust companies and over 95,000 registered companies. It is by far the world’s leading domicile for hedge funds, and the second leading domicile for captive insurance companies. Financial services account for well over half of its gross domestic product.
Cayman retains many secrecy features—not least a law that can put people in jail not just for revealing confidential information, but merely for asking for it.
Luxembourg takes secrecy seriously and breaking professional secrecy can result in a prison sentence.
The whistleblowers who exposed the so-called “Luxleaks” scandal went on trial and while Luxembourg has taken action to improve its previously poor track record on providing offshore secrecy, it has continued to expand its role in helping multinational corporations to avoid paying tax in other countries.
It remains a center of lax financial regulation and yet it is one of the world’s most important financial centers.
Luxembourg is the most important private banking and wealth management center in the Eurozone, with 143 banks holding nearly $800 billion in assets, of which over $300 billion is in the secretive private banking sector.
It is the world’s second largest investment fund center after the United States—and fund management, with assets under management worth over $2.5 trillion, is the most important part of the financial center.
The Lebanese scattered population is estimated at anywhere between 5 million and 16 million-strong—larger than Lebanon’s total population of around four million.
Many members of the population are high-net worth individuals and include such world famous names as Carlos Slim, the Lebanese-Mexican telecoms tycoon who is the world’s richest man, Carlos Ghosn, the French-Lebanese-Brazilian boss of carmakers Renault and Nissan, and Nicholas Hayek, a Swiss-Lebanese who runs Swatch, the biggest maker of Swiss watches.
Lebanon’s political and military troubles over recent decades have disrupted the offshore financial sector, but it has proved astonishingly resilient.
Beirut’s offshore financial services sector has been growing at an average of nearly 12 percent per year since 2006, with banking deposits estimated at some $175 billion at the end of 2014.
While other offshore financial sectors have significantly curbed financial secrecy in recent years, Lebanon has sailed against the prevailing winds on global financial transparency.
Germany is a safe haven for dictators’ loot, the assets of organized crime networks, and the proceeds of tax crimes and other illicit financial flows from around the globe.
In his September 2015 book Tax Haven Germany, TJN researcher Markus Meinzer calculated that the amount of tax exempt interest-bearing assets held by non-residents in the German financial system ranged between €2.5 to €3 trillion as of August 2013.
While there has been some recent progress with Germany’s international treaty commitments and anti-money laundering framework, there are still major loopholes and many implementation deficits.
Germany has shown negligent enforcement of anti-money laundering rules, and it offers a worrisome set of secrecy facilities and instruments, such as bearer shares, which were outlawed or severely restricted long ago in many ‘classic’ tax havens.
Like many other OECD countries, Germany does not sufficiently exchange tax-related information, automatically or otherwise, with a multitude of other jurisdictions.
Many foreign-owned assets in Germany are held secretly through elaborate structures spanning secrecy jurisdictions such as Cayman Islands and Switzerland.
Lacking any major remaining oil reserves, Bahrain has made up for this in part by building up an offshore financial center.
Being an island in the Persian Gulf has influenced its history as a trading center, which in turn was a foundation upon which offshore finance has been built.
It is seen as an “island of hospitality” to banks and businesses, as author Geoffrey Jones put it. The financial sector today is the largest employer in Bahrain, contributing to over 25 percent of GDP and employing some 14,000 people.
Bahrain is one of the biggest global centers for Islamic finance, and hosts the largest concentration of Islamic finance institutions in the Middle East. This sector is growing fast, with total assets in the Islamic banking sector rising from $1.9 billion in 2000 to $25.4 billion by November 2014, out of total banking sector assets of $189 billion, according to the Central Bank of Bahrain.
Bahrain was named the world’s fastest growing financial center in 2008 by the City of London Corporation’s Global Financial Centres Index 2008.
There is no corporate income tax, personal income tax or capital gains tax in Bahrain, and Bahrain has quite a wide network of tax treaties with a number of developing countries.
Although the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) describes itself as “an onshore financial center,” Dubai is unquestionably one of the world’s best known tax havens or secrecy jurisdictions.
It is built on a complex array of free trade zones, a low-tax environment and multiple secrecy facilities and lax enforcement. In addition, Dubai has a strong culture of an ask-no-questions, see-no-evil approach to commercial or financial regulation or foreign financial crimes.
It has consequently attracted large financial flows and some of the world’s most high-profile criminals. A significant slice of the inbound money comes in the form of cash or gold.
Like Switzerland, Dubai appears as an island of political and economic stability in a turbulent region.
As The Economist explained in 2013: “This role as a regional hub—and a policy of being open to almost any kind of business—explains why Dubai has been, at least economically, the main beneficiary of the Arab spring.
“Instability in the rest of the region has diverted capital, commerce and people to the emirate. When neighboring Saudi Arabia upped its social spending to pre-empt protests, for instance, much of the cash ended up in Dubai’s shopping malls. More important, the emirate has clearly established itself as the region’s safe haven.”
How long can an empire last? What brings down once mighty civilizations? The idea has intrigued me for years because by studying the historic decline of great civilizations, perhaps we can see patterns in our current world that may or may not exist. I have been working on the Decline of America in 12 arguments and that work has lead me to a deeper dive into historic declines of great civilizations of Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Many had long runs, most were pushed out of existence because of wars but wars were always a part of history. The wars that finally ended civilizations like Greece at the hands of the Romans or the Romans at the hands of the Barbarians were symptoms of a bigger decay. Historically, societies fall when they lose sight of what made them great.
Here are a few of the selected notes I found on the net. For the full spreadsheet – HERE
Decline of A Great Society
When you look at the decline of other great societies there are historic clues that don’t always line up perfectly with the arguments I put forth in this book but there are definitely patterns that should scare you and make you take notice. Alexander Fraser Tytler, a European historian published The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic. In his analysis, Tytler concluded that from his research that the following stages of societal growth and decline are clear guideposts that great societies follow:
“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over a loss of fiscal responsibility, always followed by a dictatorship. The average of the world’s great civilizations before they decline has been 200 years. These nations have progressed in this sequence:
From bondage to spiritual faith,
From spiritual faith to great courage,
From courage to liberty,
From liberty to abundance,
From abundance to selfishness,
From selfishness to complacency,
From complacency to apathy,
From apathy to dependency,
From dependency back again to bondage.”
The American experience, at just shy of 240 years old, is following Tytler’s stages. From our Countries foundation and the pushback against tyranny at the hands of the British empire to the roaring 20’s, industrial revolution, post WWII economic booms on through to the rise of the counterculture, hippies, free love and into the rise of illicit drug use through the cocaine and crack 80’s and 90’s. The final stages we are now living include lack of trust in our governmental institutions from Congress to your local school district, the rise of the entitlement state and the ‘selfie generation’ who ask ‘what is my government going to do for me?’
A Study of History – Tonybee
Historian Arnold Toynbee wrote a 12 part series in 1961 called A Study of History. Toynbe argued that civilizations travel through many distinct stages;
Toynbee believed that a civilization declines not by external influences brought on by environmental concerns or attacks from invaders. Tonybee’s research showed societies become very focused at problem-solving but are not able to adapt to new, more sophisticated problems caused by advancement. Over time, societies have created too many layers, and empires overdeveloped their problem-solving structures and can’t adapt. The Rise of the Bureaucratic State is one of the chapters that will delve into this theory at greater length.
Tonybee studied the role of the “Dominant Minority” that forces the majority to obey. The “Creative Minority” which once was the source of new ideas, adaptations and the ability of the minority to influence the majority continues to bask in the glory days of the past and loses their ability to challenge and push society into a new direction.
He argues that the ultimate sign of a civilization has broken down is when the dominant minority forms a large centralized ruling system, a central government or a Proletariat, which stifles political creativity. He states:
First the Dominant Minority attempts to hold by force – against all right and reason – a position of inherited privilege which it has ceased to merit; and then the Proletariat repays injustice with resentment, fear with hate, and violence with violence when it executes its acts of secession. Yet the whole movement ends in positive acts of creation – and this on the part of all the actors in the tragedy of disintegration. The Dominant Minority creates a universal state, the Internal Proletariat a universal church, and the External Proletariat a bevy of barbarian war-bands.
Tonybee argues that, as civilizations decay, they form an “Internal Proletariat” and an “External Proletariat.” The Internal proletariat is held in subjugation by the dominant minority inside the civilization, and grows bitter; the external proletariat exists outside the civilization in poverty and chaos and grows envious. He argues that as civilizations decay, there is a “schism in the body social,” where groups are pitted against each other. Instead of virtue and community, the people in the society become jealous and envious.
When short-term gain for the ruling majority is bypassed for the long-term gain of what is best for the society, cracks emerge in the societal fabric. We will dig in deeply to the political structure, bureaucracy and once trusted institutions that are now corrupted or incompetent to deliver on their mission. America is moving towards an ‘every man for themselves’ philosophy and this shift is not only counter to what made this Country great but could spell the end of this great experiment envisioned 240 years ago.
Here’s a few of the once mighty societies that are now gone;
|-Heavy taxes were paid by the provinces to support the luxury of Rome; the conquered people began to resent this.|
|-Conflict and social unrest was created by the wide gap between the rich and the poor.|
|-Slavery eroded the economy by taking work away from the plebeians.|
|-The spread of Christianity divided the Empire and caused many people under Roman rule to reject traditional Roman culture.|
|-The society was weakened by its materialism and focus on luxury, especially in the ruling classes.|
|-Trade was constantly disrupted because of wars; the economy suffered because goods could not be freely bought and sold.|
|-The Empire became too large and the borders were too long to defend.|
|-Rome’s army became too large; the hired soldiers (mercenaries) in Roman armies were not Romans and not loyal to Rome.|
|-Eventually, the Empire became a dictatorship and the people were less involved in government.|
|-The neighboring states were increasing in power and were more unified than the city-states of Greece.|
|-According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 BC by twin brothers Romulus and Remus after escaping the Trojan War. Archeological evidence supports this date as the founding of Rome. This earliest period lasts until 510 BC when the king, Tarquin the Proud was ousted from power. So it lasted roughly 140 years.|
|-The Roman Republic begins in 510 BC with the ouster of King Tarquin the proud and the establishment of a republic based on a constitution. The republic lasted until 44 BC when Julius Caesar was assassinated. It lasted for roughly 450 years.|
|-The Roman Empire begins in 44 BC when Augustus takes absolute power. Romes starts to greatly decline in power around 330 AD when Constantine made Constantinople the new capital of Rome. In 410 AD, the Visigoths successfully destroyed much of Rome. The empire formally ends in 476 AD with the abdication of the last emperor Romulus Augustus to the Germanic chief Odoacer. So, it lasted for roughly 520 years.|
|-Those morals and values that kept together the Roman legions and thus the empire could not be maintained towards the end of the empire. The dramatic increase of divorce undermined the institution of the family. Crimes of violence made the streets of the larger cities unsafe. Even during PaxRomana there were 32,000 prostitutes in Rome. Emperors like Nero and Caligula became infamous for wasting money on lavish parties where guests ate and drank until they became ill.|
|-The most popular amusement was watching the gladiatorial combats in the Coliseum. These were attended by the poor, the rich, and frequently the emperor himself. As gladiators fought, vicious cries and curses were heard from the audience. One contest after another was staged in the course of a single day. Should the ground become too soaked with blood, it was covered over with a fresh layer of sand and the performance went on. The drive for personal pleasure had become very intense, even to the point of obsession. Gibbons noted that, at the very end, sports had become more exciting and brutal.|
|-Gradually, the Praetorian Guard gained complete authority to choose the new emperor, who rewarded the guard who then became more influential, perpetuating the cycle. Then in 186 A. D. the army strangled the new emperor, the practice began of selling the throne to the highest bidder. During the next 100 years, Rome had 37 different emperors – 25 of whom were removed from office by assassination. This contributed to the overall weaknesses of the empire. Hidden conspirators were working within the government to secretly destroy it. They worked quietly, invisibly and deceitfully; during the entire time they were secretly dismantling the government of the Roman Empire, they publicly proclaimed their unswerving support of it. People lost their faith, both religiously and in their government. The efficient Roman Government gave way to chaos and disintegration.|
|-During the latter years of the empire farming was done on large estates called latifundia that were owned by wealthy men who used slave labor. A farmer who had to pay workmen could not produce goods as cheaply. Many farmers could not compete with these low prices and lost or sold their farms. This not only undermined the citizen farmer who passed his values to his family, but also filled the cities with unemployed people. At one time, the emperor was importing grain to feed more than 100,000 people in Rome alone. These people were not only a burden but also had little to do but cause trouble and contribute to an ever-increasing crime rate|
|-The imposition of higher taxes undermined the economic stability and vitality of the Empire. Taxes were raised to pay for deficit government spending, to pay for food for all in society and to pay for government-sponsored activities of diversion, such as circuses and sports. Interestingly, as the time of the final collapse drew closer, greater emphasis was placed on sports, to divert the attention of the public from the distressing news of massive trouble within the Empire.|
|-The Roman economy suffered from inflation (an increase in prices) beginning after the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Once the Romans stopped conquering new lands, the flow of gold into the Roman economy decreased. Yet much gold was being spent by the Romans to pay for luxury items. This meant that there was less gold to use in coins. As the amount of gold used in coins decreased, the coins became less valuable. To make up for this loss in value, merchants raised the prices on the goods they sold. Many people stopped using coins and began to barter to get what they needed.|
|-But since the Romans relied so much on human and animal labor, they failed to invent many new machines or find new technology to produce goods more efficiently. They could not provide enough goods for their growing population. They were no longer conquering other civilizations and adapting their technology, they were actually losing territory they could not longer maintain with their legions.|
|-Maintaining an army to defend the border of the Empire from barbarian attacks was a constant drain on the government. Military spending left few resources for other vital activities, such as providing public housing and maintaining quality roads and aqueducts. Frustrated Romans lost their desire to defend the Empire. The empire had to begin hiring soldiers recruited from the unemployed city mobs or worse from foreign counties. Such an army was not only unreliable but very expensive. The emperors were forced to raise taxes frequently which in turn led again to increased inflation.|
|-An important factor in the decline was the increasing lack of ability and power of the sultans themselves. Süleyman tired of the campaigns and arduous duties of administration and withdrew more and more from public affairs to devote himself to the pleasures of his harem.|
|-corruption and nepotism took hold at all levels of administration. In addition, with the challenge of the notables gone, the devşirme class itself broke into countless factions and parties, each working for its own advantage by supporting the candidacy of a particular imperial prince and forming close alliances with corresponding palace factions led by the mothers, sisters, and wives of each prince.|
|-Holders of the timars and tax farms started using them as sources of revenue to be exploited as rapidly as possible, rather than as long-term holdings whose prosperity had to be maintained to provide for the future.|
|-Political influence and corruption also enabled them to transform those holdings into private property, either as life holdings (malikâne) or religious endowments (vakif), without any further obligations to the state.|
|-Inflation also weakened the traditional industries and trades. Functioning under strict price regulations, the guilds were unable to provide quality goods at prices low enough to compete with the cheap European manufactured goods that entered the empire without restriction because of the Capitulations agreements|
|-Landless and jobless peasants fled off the land, as did cultivators subjected to confiscatory taxation at the hands of timariots and tax farmers, thus reducing food supplies even more|
|-The central government became weaker, and as more peasants joined rebel bands they were able to take over large parts of the empire, keeping all the remaining tax revenues for themselves and often cutting off the regular food supplies to the cities and the Ottoman armies still guarding the frontiers.|
|-Many peasants fled to the cities, exacerbating the food shortage, and reacted against their troubles by rising against the established order|
|-It was a post World War 2 act of peaceful implosion, the world had changed and the Imperial era had less and less relevance, Britain began the slide towards Europe and a continental future.|
|-India, ‘The Jewel in the Crown’, was Britain’s most famous and most fruitful possession. Winston Churchill never tired of saying that giving up India would be fatal to the Empire. They ruled India for 200 years and when that rule ended in 1947 the empire soon followed.|
|-After the war it became clear to the British that ruling India and the colonies will not be acceptable to world opinion. Moreover India was becoming ungovernable and they could not expect much profit from ruling India. Britain thought it wise to leave and they did so with dignity.|
|-The main cause for the dissolution of colonialism after World War II was the change in people’s attitude to ruling over other people against their wishes. Even the people of countries that ruled the colonies thought so. Mahatma Gandhi was largely responsible for that change of attitude and Adolf Hitler for causing the upheaval that allowed world order to be reset.|
|-The Old Assyrian Empire begins with the founding of Ashur. The Old Assyrian Empire lasted from 2000 BC to 1759 BC. The Old Empire fell to Hammurabi’s forces. The Old Assyrian Empire lasted roughly 340 years.|
|-The Middle Assyrian Empire begins with the rise of Ashur-uballit to the thrown of Assyria around 1360 BC and ends around 1047 BC. The main cities were Ashur, Ninevah, and Nimrud with Ashur still the capital. The empire declined around 1047 BC after the reign by Tiglath-Pileser I. So, the middle period lasted rougly 315 years.|
|-The Neo-Assyrian Empire lasted from 934-609 BC. Some historians have claimed that the Neo-Assyrian Empire was the first “real” empire in human history. The Neo-Assyrian empire ended in 612 BC with the fall of its capital city Ninevah to invasions by the Chaldean Dynasty. The empire lasted roughly 330 years.|
|-The Zhou Dynasty began in 1122 BC with the suicide of Shang Zhou. The Zhou Dynasty begins with Ji. Its capital city is Hao. This is the time of Confucius, Lao Tzi, the founder of Daoism. The dynasty changes significantly in 771 BC when King You decides to leave his queen and marry a concubine. This first period is called the Western Zhou period.|
|-In 771 BC, a war is fought between King You and the family of his former queen. The queen’s son Ji Yijiu becomes king and the capital is moved to Luoyang. This period is called the Eastern Zhou period. It ends around 441 BC when the feudal lords rise in power and are able to eclipse the power of the Zhou family. This first half of the Eastern Zhou period is called the Spring and Autumn Period.|
|-The last half of the Eastern Zhou period is called the Warring States Period. It lasts from 771 BC until around 260 BC. In this period, the Zhou ruling family are primarily figureheads. This is the time when Sun Tzu wrote the Art of War. The state of Qin becomes very powerful and in 316 BC, it takes over the Shu area. In 260 BC at the battle of Changping, the Qin win a decisive victory.|
|-The first building of the Teotihuacans was built around 200 BC. The Pyramid of the Sun was finished in 100 AD. It is believed that their culture came to an end around 535 AD as the result of climatic changes including droughts and internal unrest.|
|-This dynasty lasted from 230 BC to around 220 AD. The Satavahanas took power after the death of Ashoka. Around 200 AD, the central state was losing power to local authorities. The end of Satavahana Dynasty occurs as small dynasties divide up the territory. The dynasty lasted roughly 450 years.|
Young, good-looking, small kids, Navy Seal, out of the blue Governor of a solid midwestern state….what’s not to love about Eric Greitens? I learned about Greitens from a podcast I listen to, The Art of Manliness. Episode #355, Leadership and Public Service with Gov. Eric Greitens had me hooked. Greitens was Classically educated, studied history and had a new book out on perseverance. I enjoyed the interview so much that I sent it over to my friend with the comment that there is hope for our country as long as we have people like Greitens rising up the ranks.
I guess infidelity happens.
When it takes someone down from the heights of a rising political star like Greiten it’s just sad. Like a Shakespeare tragedy, the story is rife with irony, sadness. More than anything proves my argument that the 7 Deadly Sins are in all of us. Right when we think we have it all figured out, Pride, or Lust or Wrath, or Slot, or Greed is there to derail you.
Michigan State University has settled hundreds of lawsuits filed against it by the survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual assaults, according to multiple sources with knowledge.
The settlement will cost the school at least $500 million. Attorney Jamie White, who represented dozens of women who sued the university, confirmed the settlement. He said $425 million is to be paid now and $75 million will be held in reserve. White said this is a chance for the women to begin to move forward.
“I don’t think they can ever be made whole, but this is a step in the right direction,” he said.
The settlement will be formally announced Wednesday following two days of closed-door mediation sessions between lawyers for the university and the survivors. MSU is facing roughly 300 victims, according to figures in court records. Penn State University paid out $109 million to 35 victims in the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
With a $3b endowment, I guess it’s a cost of doing business. The taxpayers of Michigan and currently enrolled students will end up paying.
WaPo – The impact of the scandal on the university, which has about 39,000 undergraduate students, has been substantial, including the resignations of president Lou Anna Simon and athletic director Mark Hollis in January, and may extend beyond the financial. The settlement surpasses the more than $109 million paid by Penn State University to settle claims by at least 35 people who accused assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky of sexual abuse.
The money will have to come from some combination of insurance, state funding and student tuition revenue, said Thomas L. Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
“They’ll likely have to use reserve funds and borrow money,” Harnisch said.
State funding covers about $280 million a year of the school’s overall budget of about $1.4 billion, according to Robert Kelchen, assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, who also speculated Michigan State will need to take out loans to cover the settlement, as state lawmakers will likely balk at permitting public funds to be used, and the state limits how much colleges can raise tuition. Michigan State also could draw from its endowment, although much of that money is typically restricted.
“They may have to borrow some of the money, at a higher interest rate than before the scandal because their credit rating got lowered,” Kelchen said.
Higher-Education Enrollment Is On the Decline National Review
Students complaining of official inaction in the face of racial bigotry joined forces with a graduate student on a hunger strike. Within weeks, with the aid of the football team, they had forced the university system president and the campus chancellor to resign.
It was a moment of triumph for the protesting students. But it has been a disaster for the university.
Freshman enrollment at the Columbia campus, the system’s flagship, has fallen by more than 35 percent in the two years since.
The university administration acknowledges that the main reason is a backlash from the events of 2015, as the campus has been shunned by students and families put off by, depending on their viewpoint, a culture of racism or one where protesters run amok.
Before the protests, the university, fondly known as Mizzou, was experiencing steady growth and building new dormitories. Now, with budget cuts due to lost tuition and a decline in state funding, the university is temporarily closing seven dormitories and cutting more than 400 positions, including those of some nontenured faculty members, through layoffs and by leaving open jobs unfilled.
What’s The Cost-Benefit Of A College Degree Today?
A friend of mine, Frank Antenori weighs in;
Elitists, crybabies and junky degrees
Antenori said many young people would be better off attending more affordable two-year community colleges that teach useful skills and turn out firefighters, electricians and others. Obama promoted that same idea, launching new efforts to boost community college and workplace training. But Antenori said he believes Obama pushed young people too hard toward four-year degrees.
“The establishment has created this thing that if you don’t go to college, you’re somehow not equal to someone else who did,” Antenori said, sitting with his wife, Lesley, at the dining room table in their modest one-story ranch house.
Antenori said when he was in high school in the 1980s, students were directed toward college or vocational training depending on their abilities.
“The mind-set now is that everybody is going to be a doctor,” he said. “Instead of telling a kid whose art sucks, ‘You’re a crappy artist,’ they say, ‘Go follow your dream.’ ”
The Antenoris did not steer their two sons, 23 and 22, toward college, and neither went. One helps at home on the ranch, and the other is enlisted in the Army.
Antenori is just as happy his sons aren’t hanging out with the “weirdos” he reads about on Campus Reform, a conservative website with a network of college reporters whose stated mission is to expose “liberal bias and abuse on America’s campuses.”
In a sign of the intensely partisan climate on campus, its recent headlines include: “Prof wants ‘body size’ added to diversity curricula,” “Students cover free speech wall with vulgar anti-Trump graffiti” and “College Dems leader resigns after declaring hatred of white men.”
The federal government spends $30 billion a year on Pell grants, which help lower-income students, including a large number of minorities, attend college. But studies show that half of Pell grant recipients drop out before earning a degree.
The overall college dropout rate is also high. Only 59 percent of students who start at four-year institutions graduate within six years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That leaves millions with debt but no degree.
More than 44 million Americans are paying off student loans, including a growing number of people over 60, according to the Federal Reserve. The average student loan debt of a 2016 college graduate was $37,000. At $1.4 trillion, U.S. student loan debt is now larger than credit card debt.
Antenori said taxpayers should help pay only for degrees, such as those in engineering, medicine or law, that lead directly to jobs. If a student wants to study art or get a “junky” degree in “diversity studies or culture studies,” they should go to a private school, he said.
And he said dropouts who have received government aid should pay it back: “That would be awesome,” he said, flashing a big smile.
“You want to create someone who’s going to be a contributor, not a moocher,” Antenori said. “Go out and generate revenue; that’s what it’s all about.”
‘Americans are Being Held Hostage and Terrorized by the Fringes’
An exit interview with the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks.
……PM: But isn’t the problem more that the fringe used to be called “the fringe” for a reason—and today the fringe represents a broader chunk of both politicians and voters?
Brooks: They always do in this cycle. It’s always the case that when you get into a time of really big political polarization, that people are manipulated by people who are at the fringe. It’s only in retrospect that people go, “Whoa, man, I can’t believe it. I can’t believe that we were putting up with that.” We need a kind of an ethical populism. What basically happened is that political establishment was a little bit too reticent. It was not paying attention, and the result was that the fringe picked up the football and ran off with it. But there’s going to be a backlash. If I have anything to say about it, there’s going to be a backlash of people who say that your radical, hateful views, and I’m no liberal, but I don’t hate liberals. I refuse to hate liberals. Refuse. I think there’s a lot of Americans that want to join me in that.
PM: How do you think we got to this point?
Brooks: The two things to read are Reinhart and Rogoff’s book, This Time Is Different. It came out in 2010—the single best book ever on financial cycles and financial crisis. The second is an article that was written in the European Economic Review in early 2017 by three German economists that looks at the knock-on political effect of financial crises—not a regular recession, but a big overhang of assets that becomes a bubble and then pops, which typically happens a couple times a century. So it’s silver and the railroads in 1894 and 1896, or it’s the stock market in 1929, or it’s the real estate market in ’08. The most interesting thing for me is that in the decade after a financial crisis, the knock-on effect over 10 years is not low growth, it’s uneven growth. The big thing that happens for 10 years is that you have asymmetric economic growth where 80 percent of the income distribution gets none of the rewards of the growth after the recession. Of course you get populism after that. It’s natural. It’s just the way it works.
PM: But populism is not inherently a bad thing.
Brooks: Bernie Sanders is a populist. Bernie Sanders’ populism is all about scapegoating. It’s rich people, it’s bankers, it’s Republicans—it’s all these people who got your stuff. That’s the kind of populism that we frequently see as opposed to a kind of ethical populism, which basically says we have good values, let’s go share. Let’s make sure that our values are ascendant to save our country. Right? Wouldn’t that be great? But it turns out it’s easier in the political process when people are suffering a lot to say somebody came and got your stuff. Whether it’s immigrants or whether it’s trading partners or whether it’s bankers or whatever.
What did he know and when did he know it?
In a March 5, 2018, letter to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, Adm. Rogers informed the committee that a two-page summary of the dossier — described as “the Christopher Steele information” — was “added” as an “appendix to the ICA draft,” and that consideration of that appendix was “part of the overall ICA review/approval process.”
His skepticism of the dossier may explain why the NSA parted company with other intelligence agencies and cast doubt on one of its crucial conclusions: that Vladimir Putin personally ordered a cyberattack on Hillary Clinton’s campaign to help Donald Trump win the White House.
Rogers has testified that while he was sure the Russians wanted to hurt Clinton, he wasn’t as confident as CIA and FBI officials that their actions were designed to help Trump, explaining that such as assessment “didn’t have the same level of sourcing and the same level of multiple sources.”
…..Except that the ICA did not reflect the consensus of the intelligence community. Clapper broke with tradition and decided not to put the assessment out to all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies for review. Instead, he limited input to a couple dozen chosen analysts from just three agencies — the CIA, NSA and FBI. Agencies with relevant expertise on Russia, such as the Department of Homeland Security, Defense Intelligence Agency and the State Department’s intelligence bureau, were excluded from the process.
…… Less than a month after Trump won the election, Obama directed Brennan to conduct a review of all intelligence relating to Russian involvement in the 2016 election and produce a single, comprehensive assessment. Obama was briefed on the findings, along with President-elect Trump, in early January.
“Brennan put some of the dossier material into the PDB [presidential daily briefing] for Obama and described it as coming from a ‘credible source,’ which is how they viewed Steele,” said the source familiar with the House investigation. “But they never corroborated his sources.”
“To be a philosopher,” said Thoreau, “is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live, according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust.”
“Seek ye first the good things of the mind,” Bacon admonishes us, “and the rest will either be supplied or its loss will not be felt.”
Truth will not make us rich, but it will make us free.
I’m reading and collecting the Will Durant series on history. Durant and his wife built out a series of books on the history of Western Civilization. From 1926 with, The Story of Philosophy (where these quotes are from), to his series on the Story of Civilization which ran up to the mid 1960’s the Durants attempted to capture all of history.
Literally, all of history. I stumbled on one volume, the Fall of Rome in a used book store. As if by fate, more volumes appeared in my life until I found them all. The hunt was half the fun.
In my spare time, I’m hoping to dig into all of them. Mark them up, leave notes in the edges and help make sense of where we’ve been….so I can understand…..where we are going.
With regards to the 7 Deadly Sins and my ongoing series of identifying the manifestation of the sins in the news, nothing is more intriguing to me (for the moment) than the Denny Hastert story.
Hastert started out as a high school teacher and wrestling coach and rose to become one of the longest serving speakers of the House of Representatives. He also has the historical place of being the highest-ranking member of US government to go to prison. As a teacher and coach, he was coach of the year in 1976 and lead Boy Scout troops. All the while, we find out almost 30 years later that Hastert was abusing boys. At least three boys came forward and what actually got him in trouble was he was withdrawing structured cash transactions from a bank to pay bribes to one of his accusers.
He hailed from Illinois, who is known for their shifty politicians. (HERE)
How does someone go from teacher to multi-millionaire? Politics. Lobbying contracts, land purchases that coincided with highway contracts and more. The irony in it all is, a man let’s lust overtake him and he abuses his position of authority as a teacher/coach and abuses kids. He then rises to the heights of power, enriches himself on the position he is given by the voters of Illinois and is then arrested for taking his own money out of his own bank in increments that he thought went undetected by federal banking laws.
National Review – It wasn’t long after that the Sunlight Foundation reported on just how much Hastert thought himself qualified to steer earmarks back home. The foundation found that Hastert had used a secret trust to join with others and invest in farm land near the proposed route of a new road called the Prairie Parkway. He then helped secure a $207 million earmark for the road. The land, approximately 138 acres, was bought for about $2.1 million in 2004 and later sold for almost $5 million, or a profit of 140 percent. Local land records and congressional disclosure forms never identified Hastert as the co-owner of any of the land in the trust. Hastert turned a $1.3 million investment (his portion of the land holdings) into a $1.8 million profit in less than two years.
Hastert claimed at the time that the land deals had nothing to do with the federal earmark he had secured. “I owned land and I sold it, like millions of people do every day,” he told the Washington Post. Or, as George Washington Plunkitt, the former Tammany Hall leader in New York, once said of someone who made a killing in local land that later became part of a lucrative subway development: “He saw his opportunities and he took ’em.” Plunkitt called such “opportunities” a form of “honest graft.”
The structured payments
On May 29, 2015, after Hastert had been indicted for illicitly “structuring” financial transactions (see below), two people briefed on the evidence from the case stated that “Individual A”—the man to whom Hastert was making payments—had been sexually abused by Hastert during Hastert’s time as a teacher and coach at Yorkville High School, and that Hastert had paid $1.7 million out of the total $3.5 million in promised payment. On the same day, the Los Angeles Times reported that investigators had spoken with a second former student (not the person who was receiving payments from Hastert), who made similar allegations that corroborated what the first student said. He admitted to sexual abuse during sentencing on unrelated crimes.
On June 5, 2015, ABC News‘ Good Morning America aired an interview with Jolene Reinboldt Burdge, the sister of Steve Reinboldt, who was the student equipment manager of the wrestling team at Yorkville High School when Hastert was the wrestling coach.
Hastert also ran an Explorers group of which Steve Reinboldt was a member, and led the group on a diving trip to the Bahamas. In the interview, Burdge stated that in 1979 (eight years after Reinboldt’s high school graduation in 1971), her brother had told her that he had been sexually abused by Hastert throughout his four years of high school. Burdge said that she was “stunned” by this news and that her brother said that he had never told anyone before, because he did not think he would be believed. A message from Hastert appears in Steve Reinboldt’s 1970 high school yearbook. In the interview, Burdge said that she believes the abuse stopped when her brother moved away after graduation. Jolene said that Hastert “damaged Steve I think more than any of us will ever know.”
Mr. Hastert, 75, the longest-serving Republican House speaker in history and once one of the country’s most powerful politicians, pleaded guilty in 2015 to withdrawing $952,000 from his accounts at four banks in at least 106 separate transactions that were small enough to allow him to evade reporting requirements.
Government for sale. Trading power and influence for money is one a sign of a rotting system. It’s commonplace. It’s happening on both sides of the aisle and we aren’t better off because of it.
Forbes – The media’s focus on Trump’s Russian connections ignores the much more extensive and lucrative business relationships of top Democrats with Kremlin-associated oligarchs and companies. Thanks to the Panama Papers, we know that the Podesta Group (founded by John Podesta’s brother, Tony) lobbied for Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank. “Sberbank is the Kremlin, they don’t do anything major without Putin’s go-ahead, and they don’t tell him ‘no’ either,” explained a retired senior U.S. intelligence official. According to a Reuters report, Tony Podesta was “among the high-profile lobbyists registered to represent organizations backing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich.” Among these was the European Center, which paid Podesta $900,000 for his lobbying.
That’s not all: The busy Podesta Group also represented Uranium One, a uranium company acquired by the Russian government which received approval from Hillary Clinton’s State Department to mine for uranium in the U.S. and gave Russia twenty percent control of US uranium. The New York Times reported Uranium One’s chairman, Frank Guistra, made significant donations to the Clinton Foundation, and Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for one speech from a Russian investment bank that has “links to the Kremlin that was promoting Uranium One stock.” Notably, Frank Giustra, the Clinton Foundation’s largest and most controversial donor, does not appear anywhere in Clinton’s “non-private” emails. It is possible that the emails of such key donors were automatically scrubbed to protect the Clinton Foundation.
Let’s not leave out fugitive Ukrainian oligarch, Dymtro Firtash. He is represented by Democratic heavyweight lawyer, Lanny Davis, who accused Trump of “inviting Putin to commit espionage” (Trump’s quip: If Putin has Hillary’s emails, release them) but denies all wrongdoing by Hillary….
Lobbying for Russia is a bi-partisan activity. Gazprombank GPB, a subsidiary of Russia’s third largest bank, Gazprombank, is represented by former Sen. John Breaux, (D., La.), and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R., Miss.), as main lobbyists on “banking laws and regulations, including applicable sanctions.” The Breaux-Lott client is currently in the Treasury Department list of Russian firms prohibited from debt financing with U.S. banks.
In his February 16 press conference, President Trump declared in response to the intensifying media drumbeat on his Russian connections: “I haven’t done anything for Russia.” K-Street lobbyists, on the other hand, have done a lot to help Russia. They greased the skids for a strategic deal (that required the Secretary of State’s approval) that multiplied the Kremlin’s command of world uranium supplies. They likely prevented the shipment of strategic weapons needed by Ukraine to repulse well-armed pro-Russian forces. A fugitive billionaire who robbed the Ukrainian people of billions is represented by one of the establishment’s most connected lawyers.
Gazprombank GPB hired Breux and Lott to gain repeal of sanctions. That’s perfectly fine in Washington; they are playing according established “swamp rules” in their tailored suits and fine D.C. restaurants. General Flynn lost his job when the subject of sanctions was mentioned by the Russian ambassador in their telephone conversation, but that’s the way the media and Washington play.
No wonder that Trump’s’ “drain the swamp” and anti-media messages resonate so well with mainstream America.
I covered this story as it rolled out while I was on the air. I remember drawing parallels to the Watergate scandal that took down the Nixon Presidency. Here were the parallels I drew:
- Nixon hired ex-government ‘plumbers’ to spy on his Democratic opponent – The FBI/NSA tapped into Trump headquarters communications prior to the election of 2016
- Nixon got caught – Trump caught the NSA – FBI early, declared it, took heat for it as a conspiracy nut and was proven correct. (HERE)
- “What did the President know and when did he know it?’ Nixon’s guilt hinged on this question – Did the Obama administration and possibly the President himself know? (HERE)
- The FBI weaponized the NSA to eavesdrop on a political opponent of the part in power based on weak spy intelligence from a former British spy. The Christopher Steele, the source of the Russian/Trump connection, shopped the intelligence to opposition research teams first in the Republican party than to the Clinton campaign. Eventually, the dossier made it to the FBI and strategic leaks prior to the 2016 elections started to occur. The foundation for the FISA authorization apparently hinges on the dossier from Steele. (HERE)
- A deep dive into how the got started is HERE.
WSJ – The bureau already has some explaining to do. Thanks to the Washington Post’s unnamed law-enforcement leakers, we know Mr. Nunes’s request deals with a “top secret intelligence source” of the FBI and CIA, who is a U.S. citizen and who was involved in the Russia collusion probe. When government agencies refer to sources, they mean people who appear to be average citizens but use their profession or contacts to spy for the agency. Ergo, we might take this to mean that the FBI secretly had a person on the payroll who used his or her non-FBI credentials to interact in some capacity with the Trump campaign.
This would amount to spying, and it is hugely disconcerting. It would also be a major escalation from the electronic surveillance we already knew about, which was bad enough. Obama political appointees rampantly “unmasked” Trump campaign officials to monitor their conversations, while the FBI played dirty with its surveillance warrant against Carter Page, failing to tell the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that its supporting information came from the Hillary Clinton campaign. Now we find it may have also been rolling out human intelligence, John Le Carré style, to infiltrate the Trump campaign.
Which would lead to another big question for the FBI: When? The bureau has been doggedly sticking with its story that a tip in July 2016 about the drunken ramblings of George Papadopoulos launched its counterintelligence probe. Still, the players in this affair—the FBI, former Director Jim Comey, the Steele dossier authors—have been suspiciously vague on the key moments leading up to that launch date. When precisely was the Steele dossier delivered to the FBI? When precisely did the Papadopoulos information come in?
And to the point, when precisely was this human source operating? Because if it was prior to that infamous Papadopoulos tip, then the FBI isn’t being straight. It would mean the bureau was spying on the Trump campaign prior to that moment. And that in turn would mean that the FBI had been spurred to act on the basis of something other than a junior campaign aide’s loose lips.
We also know that among the Justice Department’s stated reasons for not complying with the Nunes subpoena was its worry that to do so might damage international relationships. This suggests the “source” may be overseas, have ties to foreign intelligence, or both. That’s notable, given the highly suspicious role foreigners have played in this escapade. It was an Australian diplomat who reported the Papadopoulos conversation. Dossier author Christopher Steele is British, used to work for MI6, and retains ties to that spy agency as well as to a network of former spooks. It was a former British diplomat who tipped off Sen. John McCain to the dossier. How this “top secret” source fits into this puzzle could matter deeply.
Reminds me of a quote:
“In the end, more than freedom, they wanted security.
They wanted a comfortable life, and they lost it all – security, comfort, and freedom.
When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society but for society to give to them, when the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility,
then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.”
– Edward Gibbon, Epitaph for the People of Ancient Athens
I believe I know the name of the informant, but my intelligence sources did not provide it to me and refuse to confirm it. It would therefore be irresponsible to publish it. But what is clear is that we’ve barely scratched the surface of the FBI’s 2016 behavior, and the country will never get the straight story until President Trump moves to declassify everything possible. It’s time to rip off the Band-Aid.