by Belfast Plebian
‘We shall not shock anyone, we shall merely expose ourselves to good-natured or at any rate harmless ridicule, if we profess ourselves inclined to the old fashioned and simple opinion according to which Machiavelli was a teacher of evil.’ Leo Strauss
The wiseguys are again meeting at a secluded location, not at the Apalachin retreat in upstate New York as depicted in the Godfather movie, they did that one back in 1957, but at a lakeside hotel in Fermanagh. The world’s most feared political gangsters are holding two days of much needed sorting out talks, for their dark mutterings and latent rivalries have reached a point of near breakdown in diplomacy. The quarrels between them have become so heated that they imply in an undeclared war over the future of Syria and beyond that you can see through in the ongoing currency war between them.
It is my contention that there is a strong correspondence between the politics of the G8 and the Mafia politics of the recent past. When I say correspondence I do not mean identity.
The political gangsters of today are therefore obliged to acknowledge a debt to the late great mafia boss Salvatore Luciano, the mobster who dreamt up the idea of a Mafia Commission to settle intense quarrels over criminal opportunities. Lucky Luciano established the Mafia Commission in 1931, a corporate body to mitigate the violent disagreements among the warring crime gangs. Luciano wanted to end the chaos that had led to a bloody and self -destructive gang war in New York and Chicago during the 1920s. In 1925 he was grossing over 12 million dollars a year and had a net income of around 4 million dollars after the cost of bribing the politicians, judges and police was deducted.
But his private fortune was put in jeopardy by the intense gang rivalries, which escalated into a fierce street battle known as the Castellammarese War, that raged from 1928 to 1931 and resulted in the deaths of at least 60 top mobsters. So he looked for a way to lessen the strife and violence and found it in the Commission, a corporate body that has endured for over seventy years.
Lucanio did not want to be an Italian- American Caesar. He realised that the best way for him to stay alive and rich was to let the most powerful crime families run there own internal affairs, but establish an administration to settle their differences and to mobilise enough combined muscle to crush any new rivals. He established a mob board of directors known as the Commission to oversee all criminal and business activities and to mediate strife between the contending families. It was to meet every five years and its decisions were non-negotiable.
The Commission officially comprised seven crime families; the heads of the New York five plus, the Chicago Outfit of Al Capone and the Buffalo based crime family led by Stefano Magaddino. The Commission did not stop all gang warfare, but it did reduce the number and scale of them; when one gang transgressed against another it would often find itself at war with all the rest. There was no single ruler of the Commission, but there was a nominated chairman who was oath honoured to stand for the common good.
The Commission largely succeeded, for what we find is that while the personnel of the ‘FAMILIES’ frequently changed, over time the same crime families stayed on top of the underworld from then until today: The Bonanno crime family, the Colombo crime family, the Gambino crime family, the Genovese crime family, the Lucchese crime family, the Philadelphia crime family and finally Al Capone’s Chicago outfit. They established a better capitalist crime model for themselves than the current rather shaky G8 one and it is the reason why Time Magazine once called Lucky Luciano one of the most influential Americans of the twentieth century.
“I learned too late that you need just a good brain to make a crooked million as an honest million. These days you just apply for a license to steal from the public. If I had my time again I’d make sure I got my license first.” Lucky Luciano.
The G8 – the people who got the licence first.
If you succeed in politics you can usually surpass anything a Crime Family Boss can do in almost every division of life including killing and enriching yourself at the cost of others. Take Tony Blair for example. Everyone knows about his illegal and immoral acts of killing, but what of his wealth? Here is a report just picked up from reading yesterday’s newspaper (Daily Mail Saturday 15, 2013). Depending on how you cut it Blair is now worth £60 million or £80 million. He has set up a Byzantine network of inter-related companies to funnel his vast tribute for being a useful Prime Minister. Useful for whom you might ask, well useful for the Banksters.
His first tribute after leaving office came from the world’s leading investment bank JP Morgan Chase. He has been a senior adviser for the last five years on a £2.5 million salary and his preferred mode of transport these days is a rented Gulf Stream V private jet. He says he was able to facilitate the bank’s clients due to high-level political contacts made with the Rwanda government when he was Prime Minister. The former PM has also done a deal to promote the dodgy government of Kazakhstan, he apparently gives it advice on good governance and this has already netted him £16 million
He has been receiving £1 million a year for advising the Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund where it is safe to invest their oil money. He is said to be as thick as thieves with the super rich Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber al Thani, the PM of Qatar. One of his other rewards for once holding political office came from the Kingdom of Kuwait – this netted him a swell £27million and his think tank was asked to produce a report on the future of the Kingdom called Kuwait Vision 2035.
There is plenty more of that sort of stuff in the newspaper article. Tony Blair is an example of a political mobster of the very successful type. The thing that makes these ‘democrats’ different is that they have to wait to leave political office before collecting the readies rather than taking it while they are in office, say like ‘oligarchs’ like President Putin, another of the G8 stars.
President Putin officially lists his salary at 5.8 million rubles, about $190,000 a good deal less than Obama’s official salary of $400,000. He also claims that he has very little personal wealth. During his election campaign he claimed he had $180.000 in his bank account, owned three Russian made cars and a small apartment in Moscow, so a lot less than Obama’s personal wealth estimate of $12million.
Here is an independent assessment of his personal wealth made by a celebrity magazine:
‘So what evidence is there of Putin’s secret obscene fortune? Let’s start with the small stuff. Putin is known to sport a $150,000 Patek Philippe watch on most occasions and his total collection has been valued at at $700,000. He also has full access to a $40 million ultra luxury yacht that features a wine cellar, Jacuzzi, helipad and outdoor barbecue area In terms of living accommodations, Putin has access to 20 mansions throughout the world including a lavish ski lodge and Medieval castle. The crown jewel of his property portfolio is a $1 billion palace overlooking the Black Sea that he allegedly owns through an anonymous trust. Furthermore, Putin makes frequent use of 15 Presidential helicopters and more than 40 private jets, many of which feature gold plated interiors . If Vladimir Putin’s net worth truly sits at $70 billion, that would be enough to make him the second richest person on the planet right behind Carlos Slim Helu. It would likely also represent one of the largest personal fortunes ever accumulated by a sitting President. The only other world leader who possibly looted more cash from his country was Muammar Gaddafi who after 40 years of power stashed away a reported $200 billion in ill-gotten oil money.’
It might of course be argued that Tony Blair is a rogue politician, that the Heads of States of our Democracies are usually very different from him and therefore different from the Bosses of the Mafia Families. Yet ex-President Clinton has trousered a lot more tribute than Tony Blair and Obama will certainly get filthy rich when he finally hangs his coat up on the White House door.
Some of our more notorious mobsters believe they have a good handle on the entire thing. Here are a few quotes from Al Capone about living in the world’s purest democracy. Al didn’t ever get too caught up in the whole democracy thing ‘capitalism is just the legitimate racket of the ruling class’. . . ‘This American system ofours, call it what you will, gives each and every one of us a great opportunity if only we seize it withboth hands and make the most it’. The mobsters can never fathom how they are doing anything different from the politicians and that often is their weakness, the bankers and lawyers of the democracies get the law on their side before they commit the crimes, or if they do the crime without the assistance of the law they get the politicians to amend the law to make sure they avoid the normal consequences of the law.
In every episode of the Max Keiser show on Russia Today evidence is produced to demonstrate how the law is broken and amended to help the financial criminal elite of Wall Street and the City of London. In March of this year a US Senate committee compiled a 300 page report documenting the fraudulent and criminal practices sanctioned by Mr Blair’s favourite bank and the largest dealer in derivatives trading in the world. Despite all the evidence, no legal action was deemed appropriate, and the CEO Jamie Dimon remains a Consigliere to the President concerning the financial markets.
The late John Gotti was once the Boss of the powerful Gambino family. is advice to the young included the following: ‘be nice to the bankers. Always be nice to the pension fund managers. Always be nice to the media. In that particular order.’ The Mafia ‘philosophy of self enrichment without conscience’ is perfectly suited to the present condition of finance-dominated capitalism. It is certainly difficult to spot the difference between what the law calls loan sharking and current legal lending.
The loan shark figures a lot in Mafia books and films, the person or business that offers loans at extremely high interest rates and the smaller the loan the more onerous the repayments. In the early days of Mafia loan sharking it was confined to payday lending on potential wages with most of the customers being office clerks and factory workers. The 1952 film ‘Loan Shark’, featuring mobster favourite George Raft, depicts the whole payday loan racket.
In the 1960s the Mob shifted their loansharking to small businesses as they had assets that could be confiscated if payment was overdue. The irony is that the Mafia historians tell us that payday lending to workers largely disappeared by the 1970s. Now of course they are back with the sanction of the law and the backing of the politicians. In Britain the Campaign group Debt on our Doorstep campaigns against the practice, if you are interested go to their web site for some horrific stories.
One of the big players in the payday loan racket is Wonga, the sponsor of Blackpool football club. Last year it declared £45million in profit, by advancing over 4million loans. The annual interest rate on its payday loan is 4,214 percent. One of Wonga’s main stockholders is Dawn Capital, whose chairman is called Adrian Beecroft who is a donor to the Conservative party. The Prime Minister David Cameron asked his friend Mr Beecroft to prepare a report on the future of employment law and he recommended that employers be given the right under the law to sack workers at will and without explanation. The oily rag PM liked the idea but the Liberals thought it was a bit strong for now so it did not become law. Once again the immoral activities of the Mafia mobsters have been superseded by the legal activities of the political gangsters.
Lets move on to tax. The Mafia bosses never like to pay tax, they are very much in the low tax political camp. This brings us to Al Capone; in 1927 it is estimated he made about $100 million, the equivalent of about $1.2 BILLION today. Despite his profession the authorities could never pin a serious crime on him with the Treasury Department attributing this to his ‘natural Italian secretiveness.’ He was maybe helped by the fact that no witnesses would testify against him, but the main reason was he was generous with his money. It is estimated he spent over $30 million in 1927 on gifts to politicians, judges and police chiefs.
Al Capone was eventually convicted and sent down because he was a tax evader, yet how was this conviction lawful? Capone had this to say: ‘the income tax law is a load of bunk. Thegovernment can’t collect legal taxes from illegal money.’ When he was sent down it was the toughest sentence ever imposed on a tax evader. Capone told the newspaper guys: ‘I’ve been made an issue, I guess I’m not complaining. But why don’t they go after all of those bankers who stole the savings of thousands of poor people and lost them in bank failures? How about that? Isn’t it a lot worse to take the last few dollars some family has saved-perhaps to live on while the head of the family is out of a job-than to sell a little beer.’
This of course is an example of trying to get the victims of the capitalist system on to your side when you have just become undone and disgraced politicians frequently play this populist card, nevertheless we appreciate the point. Many respectable people got rich during the prohibition era by selling alcohol as a legal medicine. The fine novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a fictional account of a legal medicinal bootlegger. The father of the Kennedy political dynasty held such a licence and he used it to stock his warehouses in the period just before the end of prohibition.
But what about tax evasion and tax avoidance? Davis Cameron says this is to be one of the big-ticket items on the agenda of the G8 summit. He claims he wants to see companies pay their fair share in tax but he doesn’t try to define fair. One can just imagine him raising the matter at the G8 to the annoyance of the French President. Here is what he had to say one year ago to the very day: “If the French go ahead with a 75% top rate of tax we will roll out the red carpet and welcome more French businesses to Britain and they will pay taxes in Britain and that will pay for our health service, and our schools and everything else.”
Let’s now add a little bit more beef to his speech from the G20 meeting in Mexico 2012: “Every country sets its own tax rates, but I think in a world of global capital, in a world where we’re competing with each other, in a world where we want to send a message that we want you to build businesses, grow businesses and invest, I think it’s wrong to have completely uncompetitive top rates of tax.” The oily rag PM is just playing with the public over tax.
Consider this snippet from a recent white paper covering the status of the UK oversees territories: the UK’s parliament has “unlimited power to legislate for all its overseas territories and crown dependencies”. He is putting on a show as if to say all he can do is try to persuade Bermuda, Cayman Islands and the Channel Islands etc to play fair on tax, when he could command them to do so. They will of course carry on as before and Cameron will stand back and shrug his shoulders. You should not be fooled into thinking that the British government is responding to the campaigns of the NGO’s to make tax on companies into a social issue. What he is defending Britain from is criticism from the other G8 political leaders, especially that coming out of the Congress in Washington who think the political class in Britain have effectively turned the country into one big Tax Haven to the detriment of Uncle Sam and others.