Not Important! Think Again: Money Laundry Special
Not Important! Think Again
Money Laundry Special
17 July 2002
Sanders Research Associates
The United States is in the process of creating a national network of informers. Thus, in imitation of some of the nastier regimes around the world, including those against which the US waged the Cold War, the Bush regime is in the process of recruiting people to spy on their fellow citizens. If you doubt this read the following. Only an ostrich could fail to see what this means.
Financial Laundromat International Plc. (FLIP)
It is not just in the United States that odd things have been and are going on. Take the United Kingdom, for instance. Here a firm called Mapeley Plc has been awarded a Private Finance Initiative Contract that in effect transfers to it fixed assets belonging to the government on a sale leaseback basis. The taxpayer loses equity and gets to pay an annuity to the new owners, who happen to be offshore companies. Hmmm… Mapeley’s web site was curiously uninformative about all this. The rationale given repeatedly by contractors is that they offer a way to get over the “hassle” of real estate ownership. And who owns Mapeley? Soros Real Estate Partners, which speaks for itself, we think. Other investors are Fortress Investment Group and Delancey Estates. It is telling that this activity is financed through the issuance of debt, something that would have been far more difficult if not impossible in an environment other than the heady and speculative binge of the late 90s and early noughts. Note that none of these firms are publicly traded.
The Private Finance Initiative: Cui bono?
The indispensable George Monbiot sets out several of the problems associated with PFI. Our favourite is the risk “comparator” that sounds like a senior male body servant but is in fact a dodge that makes it impossible for the public sector to compete with the private sector for the operation of PFI projects. Average public sector hospital cost overruns are on the order of 7% but private bidders are allowed to claim a 12.5% risk adjustment, while the NHS is not allowed to claim one at all. One is reminded of American accounting practice: Halliburton, Vice President Cheney’s firm, recognised anticipated (i.e. hypothetical future) cost overruns as current income. Are PFI private contractors in Britain doing the same? Britain’s experience with the national railway privatisation is sad, demonstrating as it does the hollowness of the claims for PFI. It also demonstrates where real power in Britain lies, and that it is more interested in speculation than in running a railway. As Monbiot points out, some of the best-informed and trenchant criticism of PFI came from Labour in opposition. Indeed, it was Alastair Darling, now transport minister, who delivered it. Now he is about to deliver the London Underground to the private sector.
Indeed, that is precisely the problem. This is so transparently a transfer of public assets to private hands that it is embarrassing.
If the royals can do it, why not the private sector?
Really, if the Monarchy is able to tap the taxpayers year in and year out for expenses when it has piled up a surplus of £35 million of taxpayer money thanks to the fall in interest rates over the last twenty years, then why shouldn’t private industry be allowed a place at the trough? I know, these things are completely unrelated, are they not?
Doug is not so Daft
Coca Cola (KO NYSE) has announced that heretofore it will treat the cost of employee stock options as a current expense. Unfortunately named CEO Douglas Daft, in doing so, breaks ranks with the rest of corporate American in a move that is sure to increase the pressure on the rest of industry to do the same. This is a move that is at least twenty years overdue and a sign of the times. Quite apart from the increased transparency that this will give to corporate profit forecasts, it will be interesting to see how Coke trades versus the rest of the market. Intriguingly, on the first day of trading after the news broke, it closed up and the market closed down. Our bet is that transparency and honesty will trump fraud.
Bush Administration Disintegration Watch
Now Vice President Cheney and officials of Halliburton and Arthur Andersen are being sued by Judicial Watch and shareholders of Halliburton in a suit alleging massive fraud. Ari Fleischer, Bush administration press secretary, and noted legal expert (his note, not ours) has dismissed the suit as “without merit.” Although we would be the first to admit that the people at Judicial Watch sometimes come across as a bunch of Nancies, Fleischer is an unapologetic master of the US government tradition of accusing others of one’s own faults. One suspects that it is Fleischer who is “without merit.” The odds that Bush will only last one term, and that Cheney won’t last even that long are rising.
British Fiscal Discipline Disintegration Watch
Last but not least, the Labour Government is in the enviable position of doing Washington’s bidding and spending a lot of money at the same time. Since the Tories, and for that matter the Liberal Democrats do not challenge the basic premise of British politics, there is little likelihood of serious debate. That basic premise is the American alliance and the floating fiat reserve currency system that it is based on. Since the US is inflating, Britain will inflate. Tough luck for the Tories, they aren’t in Downing Street. Tough luck for the rest of us, we have to pay for it.
Just a little extortion between friends?
After reading the following article from the Jerusalem post, you may well wonder why the United States would want to have a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. We aren’t the only ones to read this and think that it represents extortion on the part of the Israelis. Bringing Israel under the US nuclear umbrella? Giving them legal access to the most advanced US military technologies? All to get them to do something that is in their long-term interests anyway? As one discerning analyst points out, the deal described in the JP article implies that Arafat was thinking in terms of an eastern border along the Jordan River, which in turn implies rights to water from the upper Jordan and Galilee, now pre-empted by Israel. Did Israel agree to this? Water, so important to the whole issue, continues to be off the table for public discussion.
Something to think about, isn’t it?
And finally, more money laundering
They make money on the way up and they make money on the way down, all thanks to your 401-K.