Editor’s Note: In Russia it has been claimed in recent years that several members of the opposition have been aided by the West in an attempt to loosen Putin’s grip or remove him from power. While there are certainly some links with certain groups and individuals, particularly through organisations like the NED (well known for meddling in other countries affairs), some of the accusations can also be put down to a combination of paranoia and propaganda. Chess grandmaster and former world champion Garry Kasparov‘s links to the West have been quite visible however, most notably his attendance at the 2012 Bilderberg conference in Chantilly, Virginia. Kasparov’s attendance is interesting because Russians are almost never invited to the secretive annual meetings so he is someone worth keeping an eye on. You can learn more about Bilderberg here.
The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission said its study of the social background of those “running Britain” was the most detailed of its kind ever undertaken and showed that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering'”.
[...] The commission’s 76-page report mostly focuses on analysis, but it does include recommendations, saying government, schools, universities, employers and even parents all need to play their part in promoting social diversity.
Looking at the background of more than 4,000 people filling jobs at the top of government, the civil service, the judiciary, the media, business and the creative industries, the commission investigated where they went to school, on the grounds that going to a private school is reasonably indicative of a wealthy background.’
Editor’s Note: France’s new economy minister, investment banker Emmanuel Macron, attended this year’s Bilderberg conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. Manuel Valls, the man who selected him, has also attended the elite meetings in 2008 as a Member of the French Parliament. It’s all about connections when it comes to highest levels of business and politics. Jean-Claude Trichet, former head of the ECB and a Bilderberg regular, seems quite happy that Macron is the right man for the job. That job being sticking to the austerity policies that the big bankers who regularly attend Bilderberg want imposed on Europe.
‘French President Francois Hollande has named a new cabinet under PM Manual Valls, dropping ministers who rebelled against austerity cuts. The first government of Mr Valls, who was appointed less than five months ago, fell on Monday after a row with Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg.
Mr Montebourg resigned along with two other ministers from the left. He will be replaced by Emmanuel Macron, a former Rothschild banker and ex-presidential economic adviser.
President Hollande is seeking a coherent line on economic policy after recent criticism from the left wing of his Socialist Party. Many see it as his last chance to make a successful presidency, after his recent poll ratings sunk to 17%.’
- France’s economic woes won’t end anytime soon
- Hollande replaces critic of austerity with Rothschild banker
- Jean-Claude Trichet: French govt now has ‘clear line and course’
- Ten facts about France’s economics whizzkid
- Dissidents out in France reshuffle
- France’s new Socialist cabinet decidedly conservative
- New French government under fire from left and right
The location for the 2015 annual conference of the Bilderberg Group has been confirmed. The yearly transatlantic summit, which is attended by senior politicians, bank bosses and the heads of some of the world’s largest companies, will be held at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol, a luxury hotel and conference centre in Austria.
The Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol is a “five-star hotel conference centre” tucked away in the mountain forests a few kilometres west of the Seefeld ski resort, and conveniently close to Innsbruck airport. The hotel is part of the privately-owned Liebherr Group, a giant Switzerland-based manufacturing conglomeration, owned by the billionaire German Liebherr family.
According to the hotel’s Meetings & Events brochure, “the hotel lies at an altitude of 1,300 metres in an exclusive setting in the Tirolean Alps and offers panoramic views of magnificent mountain peaks.” The isolated, Eagle’s Nest style venue has a 400-capacity conference centre with “a magnificent Alpine backdrop” and state-of-the-art conference facilities.
The location of the 2015 conference has now been confirmed by Austrian police. It will be the third time the Bilderberg summit has been held in Austria, and 27 years since the previous occasion. The 1988 conference was also held at the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol; the 1979 conference was held in Baden, just south of Vienna.
It’s thought that the 2015 conference will be held in early June, although the exact date has yet to be confirmed. The hotel is fully booked on the first two weekends of June (4th-7th and 11th-14th).
Participants at the 2014 conference in Copenhagen included: Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP; Paul Achleitner, the Chairman of Deutsche Bank; Stephen Poloz, the Governor of the Bank of Governor; Robert Dudley, the Group Chief Executive of BP; Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google; Douglas Flint, the Group Chairman of HSBC; Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF; and Peter Sutherland, the Chairman Goldman Sachs International.
‘The 1 percent is literally rich beyond measure, depriving nations of billions in tax revenue and obscuring shifts in global inequality. Research conducted separately by European Central Bank economist Philip Vermeulen and London School of Economics’ Gabriel Zucman show the wealth of the super-affluent — hidden by tax shelters and nonresponse to questionnaires — is undercounted. Correcting for similar lapses in income data almost erases progress made from 1988 to 2008 in narrowing the gap between the world’s rich and poor, World Bank research found.
“We always suspected there was some low-balling of the top 1 percent,” said Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel-prize winning economist and author of “The Price of Inequality. “There’s a growing sense that our system is rigged and unfair.” Failure to get a better handle on the actual amount of wealth and income means economists and policy makers don’t have a proper understanding of the degree of disparity, which represents a hurdle in addressing it. For instance, knowing that earnings and assets are more concentrated could spur support for changing the tax structure, Zucman said.’
‘Ricardo Espírito Santo Silva Salgado is known in Portugal as “Dono disto tudo,” or “Owner of everything.’ The oligarch’s family has been calling the shots in Portugal for over a century. It’s the largest shareholder of the country’s biggest stock market listed bank, and controls a string of other financial companies, agricultural, energy, health care and property companies in Portugal and across the globe. But now it looks like the final chapters in the long history of the most renowned members of the country’s elite are about to be written. And perhaps with it a new chapter in Portugal’s and Europe’s financial and economic crisis.
Last week Ricardo Salgado, now aged 70, was arrested. He was detained – later released on bail for €3m – in connection with a long-running investigation into money laundering and tax evasion. Ricardo Salgado’s arrest didn’t come about of nowhere. The Espírito Santo family has been under “intense scrutiny” since earlier this year when an audit ordered by the central bank discovered accounting irregularities at the Luxembourg-registered holding company ESI. With ESI and its 100%-owned Rioforte now preparing for bankruptcy, the country’s President Anibal Cavaco Silva has admitted that the failure could be systemic: “We cannot ignore that there will be some impact on the real economy,” he said, providing a rather darker forecast that most of the experts quoted in the press with soothing words such as “contained” and “priced-in.”’
‘If ever a story deserved to be filed under the heading “irony” it is the one about a “caring capitalism” summit ending in a bitter legal dispute among the organisers over money. Thursday’s Evening Standard reports that Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild – the former financier, director of Estee Lauder and the Economist and member of one of the world’s wealthiest families – is suing the charity that helped stage the Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in May, the Henry Jackson Society, on a catalogue of issues, including intellectual property and residual funds and unpaid invoices totalling £187,000.
The world was abuzz in the 90s with conversations of whether capitalism could indeed be “caring”. Companies such as Ben & Jerry’s were leading the way with new corporate concepts and ethical structures. Some academic articles glumly concluded that such new concepts “will be prone to eventual failure and subsumption by fast capitalism”. Twenty years later, while inequality continues to grow and the world is becoming increasingly volatile, we are still having the same conversation. Meanwhile, Ben & Jerry’s has been bought by Unilever.
Capitalism, in its unadulterated form, is not caring. It is not inclusive, responsible or ethical. It is fast, callous, amoral, decisive, aggressive, self-interested and only cares about one thing: the bottom line. This is not a criticism. It is just how it is built.’
‘Time magazine (7/17/14–subscription required) has some good news for you, courtesy of investment banker and former Clinton Treasury official Roger Altman: “Surprise: The Economy Isn’t as Bad as You Think.”
After noting that “in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent of respondents said the US is on the wrong track,” Altman insists that “despite the pessimistic mood, America is experiencing a profound comeback.”‘
‘It would be difficult to come with a more on-the-nose metaphor for New York City’s income inequality problem than the new high-rise apartment building coming to 40 Riverside Boulevard, which will feature separate doors for regular, wealthy humans and whatever you call the scum that rents affordable housing.
Extell Development Company, the firm behind the new building, announced its intentions to segregate the rich and poor to much outrage last year. Fifty-five of the luxury complex’s 219 units would be marked for low-income renters—netting some valuable tax breaks for Extell—with the caveat that the less fortunate tenants would stick to their own entrance.’
‘How rich is Tony Blair? What are the needs of an ex-prime minister with grown-up children, a working wife, £25m in property and bodyguards costing the state £1m a year? Blair protested yesterday that he is not worth £100m, “not half of that, a third of that, a quarter of that, a fifth of that, and I could go on.” That gets us down to below £20m. In addition, he pleaded that, “I spend two-thirds of my time on unpaid work,” such as bringing peace to the Middle East. How dare anyone suggest he was motivated by money?’
‘[...] Although the Obama years have been boom times for America’s super-rich—recent work by the economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty showed that ninety-five per cent of income gains in the first three years of the recovery went to the top one per cent—a lot of them believe that they’re a persecuted minority. As Mark Mizruchi, a sociologist at the University of Michigan and the author of a book called “The Fracturing of the American Corporate Elite,” told me, “These guys think, We’re the job creators, we keep the markets running, and yet the public doesn’t like us. How can that be?” Business leaders were upset at the criticism that followed the financial crisis and, for many of them, it’s an article of faith that people succeed or fail because that’s what they deserve. Schwarzman recently said that Americans “always like to blame somebody other than themselves for a failure.” If you believe that net worth is a reflection of merit, then any attempt to curb inequality looks unfair.
That’s not how it’s always been. A century ago, industrial magnates played a central role in the Progressive movement, working with unions, supporting workmen’s compensation laws and laws against child labor, and often pushing for more government regulation. This wasn’t altruism; as a classic analysis by the historian James Weinstein showed, the reforms were intended to co-opt public pressure and avert more radical measures. Still, they materially improved the lives of ordinary workers. And they sprang from a pragmatic belief that the robustness of capitalism as a whole depended on wide distribution of the fruits of the system.’
‘The government on Monday faced a call to impose legal caps on executive salaries after a study found top pay in Britain has reached 180 times average wages. The High Pay Centre said that since the late 1990s executive pay has grown from 60 times that of the average British worker to nearly 180 times.
It wants the government to consider requiring companies to cap executive pay at a fixed multiple of their lowest-paid employee. Last year the government gave shareholders the power to vote down executive pay policy at company AGMs if they thought the proposed pay package was too large.
So far, however, every vote at a FTSE 100 company has seen a majority of shareholders support the company policy on top pay, the Centre said. Last year pay received by the average FTSE 100 chief executive increased to £4.7 million, up from £4.1 million in 2012, it said.’
Editor’s Note: Jacob Wallenberg, along with his cousin Marcus, are key members of the elite and influential Bilderberg meetings. For more on these meetings, go here.
‘Jacob Wallenberg is used to fighting against misapprehensions. Perhaps the biggest is that Sweden’s leading industrialist and his family personally own their stakes in the likes of telecoms group Ericsson, home appliance maker Electrolux and drugs multinational AstraZeneca. Instead the shares are held by family foundations, with the largest giving SKr1.3bn ($190m) to Swedish research last year. This is healthy for two reasons, says Mr Wallenberg, who together with his cousin Marcus and brother Peter are the fifth generation of the family to be active in business.
First, he says, they look to develop companies for the benefit of the foundations rather than “squabbling about my money, your money, who gets what and so on”. He adds that while “in a Swedish context we’re well-off”, they do not have immense wealth by global standards, an assertion supported by the absence of Wallenbergs from a recent list of 136 Swedes worth more than SKr1bn ($150m), led by Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad. The second advantage of having the money tied up in foundations is personal motivation, he maintains: “When I wake up in the morning, like everyone else I need to go work, I need to earn a good, sound living.” Nonetheless, the 58-year-old is at the heart of the largest Nordic country’s business elite, with the Wallenbergs controlling companies representing 40 per cent of the total market capitalisation of Stockholm’s stock exchange.’
‘I see pitchforks.
At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country—the 99.99 percent—is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last. If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.’
‘Robert David Steele, former Marine, CIA case officer, and US co-founder of the US Marine Corps intelligence activity, is a man on a mission. But it’s a mission that frightens the US intelligence establishment to its core. With 18 years experience working across the US intelligence community, followed by 20 more years in commercial intelligence and training, Steele’s exemplary career has spanned almost all areas of both the clandestine world. Steele started off as a Marine Corps infantry and intelligence officer. After four years on active duty, he joined the CIA for about a decade before co-founding the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, where he was deputy director. Widely recognised as the leader of the Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) paradigm, Steele went on to write the handbooks on OSINT for NATO, the US Defense Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Special Operations Forces. In passing, he personally trained 7,500 officers from over 66 countries.
In 1992, despite opposition from the CIA, he obtained Marine Corps permission to organise a landmark international conference on open source intelligence – the paradigm of deriving information to support policy decisions not through secret activities, but from open public sources available to all. The conference was such a success it brought in over 620 attendees from the intelligence world. But the CIA wasn’t happy, and ensured that Steele was prohibited from running a second conference. The clash prompted him to resign from his position as second-ranking civilian in Marine Corps intelligence, and pursue the open source paradigm elsewhere. He went on to found and head up the Open Source Solutions Network Inc. and later the non-profit Earth Intelligence Network which runs the Public Intelligence Blog.’
- Robert Steele at LIBTECHNYC: The Open Source Everything Manifesto
- The Open-Source Everything Manifesto: Transparency, Truth and Trust by Robert David Steele
- A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change
- The Crisis of Civilizatiion (Documentary)
- Robert David Steele’s Book Reviews
‘More than 1.76 million people joined the ranks of the global super-rich last year as stock-market gains and soaring property prices swelled personal fortunes worldwide. A record 13.7 million people are now classed as “high net worth individuals” (HNWI), according to a survey of the planet’s most well-off citizens.
The collective wealth of HNWIs – defined as those with investable assets of at least $1m (£590,000) not including their main home, their art collection or vintage sports cars – rose by 13.8% to $52.6tn. The latest wealth report by consultancy firm Capgemini and the wealth management arm of banking group RBC found that almost 40% of those fortunes were created in the last five years. In Britain, more than 62,000 people became HNWIs last year, bringing their numbers to a record high of 527,000 – or one in every 121 of the population.’
‘There are now more millionaires in China than in Japan, as the wealthiest Chinese reaped huge returns from shadow-banking-related financial products, a new study revealed. China had 2,378,000 millionaire households in 2013, a rise of 82% from the previous year and almost double the 1,240,000 millionaire households in Japan, according to the Boston Consulting Group Global Wealth 2014 report. China’s millionaire population is now the world’s second-largest, trailing only the U.S., which boasted 7,135,000 millionaire households in 2013. BCG defines a millionaire household as those with $1 million in total liquid wealth, including stocks, cash and other financial investments but not real estate, collectibles or luxury items.’
Capitalists seem uninterested in capitalism—in supporting the development of market-creating innovations.- Clayton M. Christensen and Derek van Bever, The Capitalist’s Dilemma, Harvard Business Review, June, 2014
‘Fourteen years ago, the 1% got the tax breaks and regulatory rollbacks which they had repeatedly assured us would usher in an era of boundless prosperity. What was ushered in instead was the worst economic disaster since the Great Depression – an ongoing disaster that is exacerbated by the austerity-mongering neoliberal vampires who still control our economy.
Now, even the Harvard Business Review is calling out the neoliberal nonsense about “entreprenuers”, pointing out that the short-term view of the financial markets values “disruptive innovation” less than “efficiency innovation” (i.e., cutting jobs). When the man who invented the term “disruptive innovation” (Clayton Christensen) says captialism does not value his brainchild, you know that Wall St. has jumped the shark.’
- The Capitalist’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen and Derek van Bever
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business by Clayton M. Christensen
- World’s Super Rich Have Stashed $20 Trillion In Tax Havens
- Innovation isn’t profitable enough for the plutocrats
- The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs
- Cities and the Wealth of Nations by Jane Jacobs
- Plantation ownership – it’s not just for Southerners anymore
‘They are the richest family in the US, with a combined wealth greater than that of the entire bottom 40 per cent of Americans. Yet a new report has found that the Waltons – heirs to the Walmart megastore fortune – have donated a vanishing proportion of their riches to charity. The report by the activist group Walmart 1 Per Cent, entitled The Phony Philanthropy of the Walmart Heirs, found that the company’s four heirs have given only 0.04 per cent of their $140bn (£83bn) fortune to the Walton Family Foundation. The report compares the Waltons’ donations to those of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, who have given away 36.2 and 26.9 per cent of their fortunes respectively, and cites data suggesting that the average US middle-class earner with a salary of between $50,000 and $99,000 contributes 6 per cent of their discretionary income to charity.’
‘An heir to the Rockefeller fortune has been killed in a plane crash in New York, the billionaire family has announced. Richard Rockefeller died when his plane, a single-engine Piper Meridian turboprop, crashed in foggy weather just minutes after taking off from an airport near White Plains in Westchester county, New York.
Richard Rockefeller was the son of philanthropist David Rockefeller Sr and the great-grandson of oil tycoon and philanthropst John D Rockefeller. He had been returning from New York where he had been celebrating his father’s 99th birthday on Thursday. The aircraft came down less than a mile away from the airport, striking trees and missing a house in Harrison by only a few feet, according to police and airport officials. US safety agencies have launched an investigation.’
D-Day Set the Stage for the Rebirth and Reorganization of Global Capitalism: Interview with Leo Panitch
Editor’s Note: If you would like to learn more about the formation of the Atlantic capitalist elite after World War Two I would highly recommend two books. The first by Leo Panitch himself is “The Making of Global Capitalism: The Political Economy of American Empire“, and the other is by Kees van der Pijl, “The Making of an Atlantic Ruling Class“. You can also download another of van der Pijl’s books for free here.
‘On the weekend, this year’s Bilderberg meeting took place in Copenhagen. The Bilderberg Group is an elite circle that brings together since 1954 Top elites from Europe and the USA – business leaders and strategists meet handpicked politicians and journalists.
This year, almost 140 participants to discuss topics including the future of the EU, the situation in Ukraine, the stability of the economic recovery, data protection (“Does privacy exist?”) And the exchange of intelligence. Other topics can be found in the official press release – the transatlantic free trade agreement TTIP is not available as a separate item on the list, but may have been an issue.
2013 was the question on the list, “Can the U.S. and Europe grow faster and create jobs?” – As it will be gone by TTIP in the core (in the presence of a mixture of lobbyists for TTIP, political negotiators and decision makers).’
‘Not many European countries punch above their weight in foreign affairs like Sweden does. Much of this is down to Carl Bildt, foreign minister for the past eight years in this country of 10m people, and his bulging contacts book.
That is likely to end soon as polls ahead of Sweden’s parliamentary elections in September show the centre-left opposition way ahead of the governing coalition. But Mr Bildt, a former conservative prime minister in the 1990s, is showing no signs of slowing down.’
‘For a notoriously camera-shy conference, a city-centre location was always going to be a challenge. Of course, some of the delegates relished the attention, like the catwalk king of Bilderberg, Björn Wahlroos.
Björn is chairman of the huge Finnish finance company the Sampo Group, and Bilderberg’s best dressed man by a country mile. Those butterscotch slacks are nothing short of a triumph, and he knows it. A stickler for detail, Björn had his personal assistant spend the entire night getting the crimping right in that hanky. Worth every minute.
The only person at this year’s Bilderberg who came close to Björn in the style stakes was Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF.’
‘The night in 2002 when Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won his landslide victory in Brazil’s presidential elections, he warned supporters: “So far, it has been easy. The hard part begins now.” He wasn’t wrong. As head of the leftwing Workers’ party he was elected on a platform of fighting poverty and redistributing wealth. A year earlier, the party had produced a document, Another Brazil is Possible, laying out its electoral programme. In a section entitled “The Necessary Rupture”, it argued: “Regarding the foreign debt, now predominantly private, it will be necessary to denounce the agreement with the IMF, in order to free the economic policy from the restrictions imposed on growth and on the defence of Brazilian commercial interests.”
But on the way to Lula’s inauguration the invisible hand of the market tore up his electoral promises and boxed the country around the ears for its reckless democratic choice. In the three months between his winning and being sworn in, the currency plummeted by 30%, $6bn in hot money left the country, and some agencies gave Brazil the highest debt-risk ratings in the world. “We are in government but not in power,” said Lula’s close aide, Dominican friar Frei Betto. “Power today is global power, the power of the big companies, the power of financial capital.”‘
‘Spain’s King Juan Carlos, who led Spain’s transition from dictatorship to democracy but faced royal scandals amid the nation’s near financial meltdown, will abdicate so his son can become the country’s next monarch, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the country Monday in an announcement broadcast nationwide. Rajoy did not say when the handover would happen because the government must now craft a law creating a legal mechanism for the abdication and for 46-year-old Crown Prince Felipe’s assumption of power.’