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He pretends to be a critic of the British Empire but serves up its propaganda.
Murder and subversion as London maneuvered to preserve its power.
Report of American diplomats in Cuba suffering some sort of "sonic assault" in 2016 has surprising backstory.
After several years of billion dollar losses, the fund needs new managers.
20 May 2017: Reading the draft Outcome document of the second High-Level ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development (22-25 May) brings to mind Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Both are essentially tragic but shot through with the dark comedy of cant, myopia and insanity. Commenting on it makes me feel like a Tralfamadorian trying vainly to communicate impending danger to a bar filled with merry drunks. (For those who have forgotten or have never read the book, a Tralfamadorian is a two-foot alien shaped like a toilet brush and able to see the future.) Read More
13 September 2016: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein opened the 33rd session of the UN Human Rights Council by complaining about"an emerging pattern: the growing refusal on the part of an increasing number of Member States to grant OHCHR, or the human rights mechanisms, access" when it "is requested explicitly, or in other instances to engage with us." Read more
13 May 2017: The following list reflects information published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
TOP STATE MILITARY SPENDERS
%GDP Per Capita $ Billion % Increase $ 2007-2016
United States 3.3 1886 611 4.8
China 1.9 156 215 118
Russia 5.3 483 69.2 87
Saudi Arabia 10.0 1978 63.7 20
India 2.5 42 55.9 54
France 2.3 862 55.7 2.8
Britain 1.9 741 48.3 12
Japan 1.0 365 46.1 2.5
Germany 1.2 509 41.1 6.8
South Korea 2.7 729 36.8 35
Italy 1.5 467 27.9 16
Australia 2.0 1013 24.6 29
Brazil 1.3 113 23.7 18
UAE 5.7 2504 22.8 123
Israel 5.8 2194 18.0 19
TOP ARMS MANUFACTURERS
Corporation HQ Arms Sales #Employees
Lockheed Martin USA 36.44* 126,000
Boeing USA 27.96 `61,000
BAE Systems UK 25.51 82,000
Raytheon USA 21.78 61,000
Northrop Grumman USA 20.06 65,000
General Dynamics USA 19.24 99,900
Airbus Group Europe 12.86* 136,500
United Technologies USA 9.50* 197,200
Leonardo** Italy 9.30 47,160
L3 Communications USA 8.77 38,000
Thales France 8.10 62,190
Huntington Ingalls USA 6.74 35,500
Almaz-Antey Russia 6.62 N/A
Safran France 5.02 70,090
Harris USA 4.92 21,000
* They have large non-military revenues ** Formerly Finmeccanica
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22 October 2017: As the United States Congress faces the onerous task of funding massive disaster recovery efforts and a multi-trillion federal budget, taxation is stage center in Washington. The task is further complicated by the need to reform the law apportioning taxes amidst the caterwauling of lobbyists for special interests. We argue here that none of this is necessary: in the Age of the Internet and Worldwide Web Congress can eliminate all income taxes and establish crowdfunding as the means to pay for all government expenses.
The switch could pay off the national debt in short order, get the economy firing on all cylinders, virtually wipe out unemployment and end the homeless problem in America.
How would it work?
There are several ways to institutionalize crowdfunding. My favorites are web-based lotteries offering as prizes travel packages to tourists and housing to Americans.
The Trump administration’s 2017 budget proposal totals $3.65 trillion ($3,650,000,000,000). Revenues from taxes are estimated at $3.21 trillion ($3,210,000,000,000). That leaves a deficit of $443 billion, adding to the national debt now standing at over $20 trillion ($20,382,178,657,059).
To generate revenues on that scale Congress should authorize two new federal agencies, one to run the lottery for tourists, the other offering apartments and houses as prizes. They would sell as many tickets for each prize as needed to pay costs, plus an additional number to replace tax revenues.
Consider the math. Some 75 million tourists visit the United States each year. Say the average prize (travel and hotel package) costs $10,000. The tourism agency would have to sell just 10,000 $1 tickets to generate that amount of revenue, a ridiculously low figure. It could easily sell an additional 100,000 $1 tickets to generate tax revenue. At that rate, it would generate $7,500,000,000,000 annually, more than double the amount needed for the 2017 budget.
The actual packaging of tours would remain in the hands of those who now handle the business; but they would be paid by the lottery rather than by individual tourists. As the odds of winning one of the 75 million prizes on offer would be excellent the lottery can be expected to sell out its tickets in short order.
In the 12 months preceding August 2017 there were over seven million private homes for sale in the United States and 14.39 million housing starts. For the purpose of calculation, let us say the lottery would have approximately 12 million prizes. On the basis of the national median sale price of $300,200 for an American house in August 2017, that would mean selling 300,200 $1 tickets to cover costs, plus whatever level is authorized by Congress for revenue purposes. If that is 100,000 $1 tickets per house, it would generate an annual revenue of $1.2 trillion ($1,200,000,000,000).
In addition to making houses available for the price of a $1 lottery ticket, these arrangements would optimize efficiencies in the housing sector. Builders could sell out entire housing estates in a day and get right back to the next project. Realtors would have the happy prospect of dealing with the secondary market created by those who win houses and want to sell them immediately. Further, if a quota of prizes were made available only to the very poor, it could end the problem of homelessness in America.
There would be many direct and subsidiary benefits from eliminating taxation as a source of revenue. The primary direct benefit would be in the immediate universal raising of incomes. Perhaps as important a benefit would be eliminating the need to maintain the accounting and record-keeping infrastructure necessary to satisfy the taxman.
Also, without personal or corporate income tax to dodge, an entire sector of criminality would be wiped out instantly. American corporations could bring home huge amounts of capital now stashed abroad. Investors all around the world would compete to enter the American market. All the massive infrastructure investments of the country could be easily met. Unemployment would be reduced to minimal levels. And not least, the national debt could be paid off.
Of course, these changes will be hugely disruptive of the banking, accounting and lawyering professions. In fact, we can argue that the change would shift the entire capitalist system into new territory. But that is not a reason for avoiding crowdfunding. Unless we make the shift to a new economic system the galloping advance of Artificial Intelligence will create massive waves of unemployment, opening the world to unrest and possibly revolutionary violence similar to what it witnessed at the onset of the Industrial Age.
The disruptions of transition to crowdfunding should be seen as draining the swamp built up by vested interests in the last five centuries of corporate capitalism. As Adam Smith explained at great length in The Wealth of Nations (1776), corporations unavoidably create corruption and waste because of their inefficiencies in controlling massive amounts of “other people’s money.” Taxation has become part of the swamp, supporting a punitive system of surveillance and exaction that has become the enemy of liberty around the world.
A New Capitalism
The possibilities for crowdfunding coincide with the development of two technologies – 3D printing and off-grid renewable energy – that allow decentralized manufacturing of the finest industrial products on the smallest scale. That shift implies the end of many major trends of the industrial era dominated by mega-corporations, especially the growth of cities based on manufacturing.
In the future now taking shape, the wealth of nations will not come from heavy industry or long distance trade in commodities but from the innovative talents and skills of individuals. More than at any time in the past, societies that nourish liberty will be rich; those who do not will be poor.
29 September 2017: In May 2015 Shashi Tharoor spoke at the Oxford Union for the proposition “Britain owes reparations to her former colonies.” Two months later, when the video of his speech went viral, he claims to have been “pleasantly surprised but also a bit perplexed,” because “I honestly did not think I had said anything terribly new. My analysis of the iniquities of British colonialism was based on what I had read and studied since my childhood, and I thought the arguments I was making were so basic that they constituted what Americans would call ‘Indian Nationalism 101 – the fundamental, foundational arguments that justified the Indian struggle for freedom. Similar things had been said by the likes of Romesh Chunder Dutt and Dadabhai Naoroji in the late 19th Century and by Jawaharlal Nehru and a host of others in the 20th.” The popularity of the speech led to his editor, David Davidar, proposing the book as something easily accessible to the lay reader but also a “valuable source of reference to students and others looking for the basic facts about India’s experience with British colonialism.”
Knowing the author and being familiar with his other writings, I would say that the Beauty Queen stuff about “It all came nachural!” is nonsense. So is the stuff about the book being an afterthought. Tharoor’s semi-official English riposte was predictable after Madhusree Mukerjee published Churchill’s Secret War in 2010 (an excoriating look at how the British precipitated the 1943 Bengal Famine in response to the nationalist “Quit India Movement”). And the book is far from being a basic reference to facts about colonialism: it is shallow, dishonest, meretricious and profoundly anti-Indian. Read More
23 September 2017: • The Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development has long abandoned the pro-development perspectives of its early history but its 2017 Trade and Development Report is probably unique in suggesting a plan that it finds unimplementable itself.
UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisha Kituyi of Kenya in a sobering Foreword to the 169-page report says that "In sharp contrast to the ambitions of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world economy remains unbalanced in ways that are not only exclusionary, but also destabilizing and dangerous for the political, social and environmental health of the planet." Even when economic growth has been possible, he says, "the gains have disproportionately accrued to the privileged few," and "a combination of too much debt and too little demand at the global level has hampered sustained expansion of the world economy."
Instead of austerity measures that "some political elites have been adamant" about (read Germany), he urges "significant, sustainable and coordinated efforts to revive global demand by increasing wages and government spending" (a policy much preferred by Britain).
The report argues that "with the appropriate combination of resources, policies and reforms, the international community has the tools available to galvanize the requisite investment push needed to achieve the ambitions of the SDGs and promote sustainable and inclusive outcomes at both global and national levels."
The optimism about the availability of all tools is questioned, however, on page 13 of the 14-page Overview. It says apropos of nothing much in the main body of the report (3 paragraphs on page 157), that "Establishing a new global financial register – Clamping down on the use of tax havens by firms and high-wealth individuals will require legislative action at both national and international levels. Interim efforts in this direction could include a global financial register, recording the owners of financial assets throughout the world."
The point is, of course, well taken, for the huge global black market estimated to be multiple $trillions (30?) is completely unaccounted except in the black books of The City of London. But will such a major transparency move be palatable to those behind Brexit, who are, after all, on their current course only to get away from the European Union's busybody Banking Inspectors?
21 August 2017: The renewed effort being announced today in the long and heroic American war against terrorism in Afghanistan is the result of much expert deliberation but it cannot succeed without incorporating a strategy legend says Hercules used to defeat the giant wrestler Antaeus.
Antaeus was invincible as a wrestler because he was the son of the Earth and every fall increased his strength. Hercules won by holding him up in the air, away from his source of strength.
The Antaeus Strategy
In Afghanistan, the Antaeus strategy involves cutting off the Taliban's capacity to finance its depredations endlessly through drug trafficking. Without drug money the terrorists have no strength. They will not be able to pay their fighters and supporters in Pakistan will quickly lose interest in providing them with guns, ammunition, supplies and safe havens.
So how can the United States cut off Taliban access to drug money?
With a tactic the United States used in 1933 to end the lawless terror of organized crime marketing bootleg liquor: by repealing alcohol prohibition. Without prohibition, there was no profit for criminals in alcohol, and all over the country bootleggers and their mafia networks went broke.
The same thing will happen with drugs, most of which are cheap and easily made vegetable derivatives. Without prohibition, no criminal will find it profitable to make or sell them, especially if government clinics provide them free.
Implementing the Strategy
Implementing the strategy will involve pulling out of the prohibitionist drug treaty the League of Nations began enforcing nearly a century ago and the United Nations has strengthened and strengthened into the current hugely destructive platform for crime. The global war on drugs waged to impose drug prohibitions has not had a single success in the last seven decades; on the contrary, it has caused a steady increase in corruption and violence, and promoted the biggest assault on freedom and individual liberties in human history.
To end the madness the United States can begin by pulling out of the existing prohibitionist drug treaties and taking the lead at the United Nations to repeal them altogether.
Latin American nations have already done much of the groundwork necessary for that to happen at a special session of the General Assembly next year. Only the determined opposition of the United Kingdom, which profits enormously from the $500 billion annual drug trade, stands in the way of action.
Multiple, Wide Ranging Benefits
The beauty of the Antaeus strategy is that it will put out of business not only the Taliban in Afghanistan but the Mexican drug cartels and the local drug runners responsible for the opioid crisis in America.
Without pushers to spread the drug habit to new victims the crisis will become manageable and can be brought to an end at a small fraction of the current cost of the "war on drugs." An added benefit will be the easing of a heavy burden on health insurers.
10 August 2017: The orotund 5,117-word Declaration issued by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) at its high-level political forum in July has now been published, and is notable for not containing a single word about action against drug trafficking, money laundering or organized crime.
Those are the most important factors fueling conflict and humanitarian crises around the world, and are thus primary obstacles to sustainable development (covered under Goal 16 of Agenda 2030). The Secretary-General's report presented to ECOSOC did not mention them, and the Ministerial failure to rectify that in the Declaration is significant.
Fortunately, in taking note of the Secretary-General's report, the ministers "Reiterate that, while our review in 2017 emphasizes Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9 and 14, as well as Goal 17, the integrated, indivisible and universal nature of the Goals makes it essential that we pay particular attention to leveraging synergies and co-benefits, while avoiding or minimizing trade-offs."
That can be taken as a shot across the Secretariat's bow that Goal 16 better feature in its next report.
Why is the UN Silent?
The reticence of the UN Secretariat in dealing with drug trafficking, organized crime and money laundering is not difficult to explain: they are fiercely protected interests of the United Kingdom, carried over from the days of Empire when it fought two major "Opium Wars."
As its colonies dwindled in the 1960s and 1970s, Britain built up a global system of "tax havens" to launder the proceeds of its extensive drug trafficking network. That system developed into the central element of global organized crime networks, serving gun runners, human traffickers, garden variety smugglers and a wide variety of tax dodgers as revealed in the 2016 dump of 11.5 million "Panama Papers."
Britain can manipulate the UN to protect its interests because it has a superb diplomatic service that is miles ahead of any other in jockeying for bureaucratic advantage. It also has a vulture-like range in detecting corruptible talent. Officials who do its bidding are rewarded with easy promotions and plum assignments; those with integrity find themselves sidelined.
The Segue of Amina Mohammad
The most prominent example of that phenomenon recently has been the segue of Amina Mohammad from coordinating the negotiation of Agenda 2030 to the office of Deputy Secretary-General. As coordinator she ensured that the issues of drug trafficking, money laundering and terrorism were contained to one sub-paragraph of Goal 16. Now, as the official overseeing reports of the Secretary-General on the implementation of Agenda 2030 Ms. Mohammad is in a position to omit all mention of the inconvenient issues.
That has happened at a time when the African Group repeatedly underlined the need to deal with the illicit drain of resources from developing countries, and the Latin American Group mounted a multi-year effort to change the prohibitionist international approach to drugs.
The Potential of Agenda 2030
Agenda 2030 has the potential to present money laundering and drug trafficking as interdependent issues. If governments approach them as legal issues, abolishing "tax havens" (which should be more appropriately called "criminal havens") and decriminalizing drugs, it would pull the rug out from under the entire international economy of crime, violence and war.
Without the current prohibitionist approach, drug trafficking would not be profitable to organized crime for most psychotropic substances are cheap vegetable derivatives not worth pushing. The decriminalization of drugs would thus quickly render the problem of abuse a manageable mental health issue.
As drug trafficking is a major source of income for terrorist groups and all crime is heavily dependent on money laundering, a comprehensive approach to those issues would also quickly make arms trafficking and supporting conflict very difficult.
28 July 2017: One of China's richest men, Ng Lap Seng, was convicted yesterday in a New York federal court on six counts of bribery, conspiracy and money laundering. Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said that Ng had corrupted United Nations officials at the "highest levels" to become his "private band of profiteers."
The prosecution charged that Ng had tried between 2010 and 2015 to hijack to China the role of the UN Office of South-South Cooperation (SSC) in New York. He was accused of paying millions of dollars to the President of the General Assembly, John Ashe, and Dominican Republic Ambassador Francis Lorenzo, in a bid to have the General Assembly endorse his plan to build a South-South conference center in Macau, where he owned a hotel, a marina, a condominium complex, a heliport and a shopping center.
Ashe and Lorenzo were arrested in October 2015; both were released on bail, the former pleading not guilty and the latter pleading guilty. Ng was also arrested and has been under house arrest in his luxury Manhattan apartment. After the conviction, Ng's lawyer announced that it would be appealed.
Meanwhile: Another Deal that Needs Attention
While the Ng case been in the courts, the UN Development Program (UNDP) has signed a "Partnership Agreement" on South-South Cooperation with a Chinese law firm (sic). On 21 November 2016, UNDP and the Beijing Yingke Law Firm, which describes itself as "the biggest own-operated law firm in Asia Pacific," agreed "to support the global coalition of think tank networks to expand research and knowledge production and sharing for South-South Cooperation underpinning the implementation of the 2030 Agenda."
"The partnership will also support deepening the understanding of legal environment and policy coordination related to South-South and Triangular Cooperation." At a signing ceremony in New York, Sarah Poole, Deputy Director of UNDP’s Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, emphasized the "importance of strengthening the legal environment and policy coordination for effective South-South and Triangular Cooperation, saying “In South-South Cooperation, it is often the public-private partnership at play that implements strategic programmes across developing countries.”
China's Disrespect of Law
Ms Poole did not address the issue of China's disrespect for law in its domestic governance and in its relations with other developing countries in South-East Asia, the Tibetan plateau and South Asia.
According to a UNDP Press release, "policy coordination and the legal environment for South-South cooperation is one of the priority research pillars of the South-South Global Thinkers Initiative -- the Global Coalition of Think Tank Networks for South-South Cooperation supported by UNDP and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC)."
"The Global Coalition was established to foster engagement of the think tank networks of the South on harnessing knowledge and innovative solutions to advance frontier thinking and policy advocacy in South-South Cooperation for sustainable development."
Mr. Xiangrong Mei, Chairman of Yingke Global Board speaking at the signing ceremony, expressed gratitude at "the opportunity to partner with the South-South Global Thinkers initiative., and said his firm would continue contributing "support, knowledge, and expertise to South-South Cooperation" for sustainable development goals ."
Also present at the ceremony was Mr. Jorge Chediek, Envoy of the UN Secretary General and Director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation.
No one present expressed an opinion on whether the United Nations should be opening the door to a critically important international development process for a "law firm" from a brutally lawless country. Given Mr. Ng's criminal conviction and the clear effort by the Chinese government to gain a potentially deeply negative strategic role in South-South Cooperation, the matter deserves focused attention at the next meeting of the General Assembly's High-Level Committee on SSC.
The Next United Nations
The United Nations is now in the same situation as the League of Nations in the period before World War II. Read our proposal for radical change:
19 September 2017: The dangers the world faces are "all too clear. Yet for each if we act as truly united nations, we can find answers," Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in opening the 72nd session of the General Assembly. But his speech left in doubt whether such unity would be possible.
"People are hurting and angry." he noted. "They see insecurity rising, inequality growing, conflict spreading and climate changing. The global economy is increasingly integrated, but our sense of global community may be disintegrating. Societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide. We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace." Read Full text
13 September 2017: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a Press conference preceding the 72nd session of the General Assembly focused attention on UN reform and highlighted two political crises, the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya community from Myanmar and the nuclear tests conducted by North Korea. He also answered questions on numerous other issues. The full text of the Press conference follows.
Guterres: We have a very busy week ahead. Global leaders will gather here next week at a time when our world faces major threats – from the nuclear peril to global terrorism, from inequality to cybercrime. Hurricanes and floods around the world remind us that extreme weather events are expected to become more frequent and severe, due to climate change.
No country can meet these tests alone. But if we work together, we can chart a safer, more stable course. And that is why the General Assembly meeting is so important.
Today I want to mention two issues at the top of global concerns – and two reform initiatives. First, the situation in Myanmar. Grievances that have been left to fester for decades have now escalated beyond Myanmar’s borders, destabilizing the region. The humanitarian situation is catastrophic. When we met last week, there were 125,000 Rohingya refugees who had fled into Bangladesh. That number has now tripled to nearly 380,000. Many are staying in makeshift settlements or with host communities who are generously sharing what they have. Women and children are arriving hungry and malnourished. I urge all countries to do what they can for humanitarian assistance to be provided.
As you know, I wrote an official letter to the Security Council to express my concern. I welcome the Council’s decision to discuss this crisis today. I have condemned the attacks made by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine State, but there have been disturbing reports of attacks by security forces against civilians, which are completely unacceptable. Aid activities by UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations have been severely disrupted. I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country. I urge them to ensure the delivery of vital humanitarian aid by United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and others.
I repeat my call for an effective action plan to address the root causes of the crisis. The Muslims of Rakhine State must be granted nationality or, at least for now, a legal status that allows them to lead a normal life, including freedom of movement and access to labour markets, education and health services.
President of 72nd Session
Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, was elected President of the 72nd session of the General Assembly on 31 May 2017. For details see here.
The first Information document of the 71st session of the General Assembly lists the dates of annual 9-day opening debates until 2026. A/INf/71/1 of 12 January 2017 provides the following information:
72nd session opens 12 September 2017; General Debate begins 19 September
73rd session opens 18 September 2018; General Debate begins 25 September
73rd session opens 17 September 2019; General Debate begins 30 September
74th session opens 15 September 2020; General Debate begins 22 September
76th session opens 14 September 2021; General Debate begins 21 September
77th session opens 13 September 2022; General Debate begins 20 September
78th session opens 12 September 2023; General Debate begins 25 September
79th session begins 17 September 2024; General Debate begins 24 September
80th session opens 16 September 2025; General Debate begins 23 September
81st session opens 15 September 2026; General Debate begins 22 September
If you read our coverage of the high-level UN proceedings in 2016, it will be clear that they do not add much value to the consideration of various issues. The story on the Outcome document of the 2017 (above) indicates that will be true also of proceedings in 2017.
Many millions have wondered over the millennia how a universe run by a compassionate God could be so filled with pain and angst. We provide a startling answer in an essay that takes Intelligent Design a long step forward.