The Incomprehensible David Cameron

David Cameron must have actually lost his mind. In the middle of all the sanctions, he just loaned one of the Elgin Marbles to Russia, further infuriating Greece (from whom they were originally, famously stolen) after Greece loyally backed up the rest of the European Union (and NATO) on anti-Russia policies this year.

It’s one thing to petulantly insist on keeping the British Museum’s stolen artifacts from the Parthenon. It’s quite another to loan them out to an active enemy country in a taunt to one’s ally.

Surviving figures from the East Pediment of the Parthenon, exhibited as part of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum. (Credit: Andrew Dunn)

Surviving figures from the East Pediment of the Parthenon, exhibited as part of the Elgin Marbles in the British Museum. (Credit: Andrew Dunn)

November 19, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 107

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Topics: Catalonia referendum, Soccer politics (FIFA, German hooligans, FC Chelsea, and more), and Illinois corruption. People: Bill, Nate, Persephone. Produced: November 17th, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– What does the unofficial Catalonia referendum really mean for the region and Spain?
– Soccer Politics:

  • What’s next for FIFA after a bogus inquiry report summary?
  • Why are German soccer hooligans rallying against Muslims?
  • From Chelsea to Man City and beyond: Is big foreign money tainting the game?

– US midterms: Will Illinois Governor-elect Bruce Rauner survive a brewing corruption scandal?

Episode 107 (52 min)
AFD 107

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: Just 3 in 10 back Catalonia independence in ridiculous referendum
AFD: Against Independence for Catalonia

Segment 2

NYT: FIFA Inquiry Clears Qatar and Russia in World Cup Bids
France24: German football hooligans join far-right protests
The Globalist: Chelsea and Beyond: How the Rich Will Destroy Soccer

Segment 3

AFD: Who wants to be … a millionaire Illinois ex-governor?

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Transatlantic regulators lay fines for foreign exchange cheats

Big fines Wednesday morning on five big investment banks from US and UK financial regulators for transatlantic currency trading collusion:

It’s another dark day for the banking sector, with several of the world’s biggest financial institutions being fined for their role in rigging the global foreign exchange market.

…regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have announced fines totalling around £2bn, or $3.1bn, against HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS, JP Morgan and Citigroup.

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority [FCA] has imposed fines totalling £1.1bn, and America’s [Commodity Futures Trading Commission] CFTC has imposed fines of an additional $1.4bn, (£900m).

All five banks have been penalised because their staff colluded to fix the official rates at which currencies were trading against each other in the international markets.

 
I’m sure they still probably made a lot more money off the collusion and manipulations than they’re being fined, but at least there’s a bit of justice.

But the real takeaway? Good lord, even Britain’s financial regulators at the FCA produce better videos (watch below) than Americans do. It’s like a dry BBC comedy but for white collar crime. Somehow they manage to make an incredibly dull description of illegal transaction activities into a gripping and funny set of infographics and deadpan reading of curse-filled chat transcripts by bankers.


 
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The Israeli Military-Industrial-State Complex

On our last radio episode, Persephone made a case that countries that sell weapons around the world as a big revenue source have a conflict of interest on fostering peace, in that it might affect their export revenues.

In many of the British examples we discussed, the sales are generally from private firms. In the United States, it’s a mix of private sales versus government discounted arms transfers and surplus equipment sales to allied armed forces, for strategic and fiscal reasons. A country’s government has an especially strong incentive to sell weapons to other countries when it devotes significant expenditures to research and development of the weapons. It’s a way to make some of it back.

Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper, published an article today on the Israeli defense industry’s ramped-up production and foreign sales efforts during the recent bombardment, shielding, and ground operations against the Gaza Strip. Although there have been some major privatizations in recent years, much of the country’s defense industry is still composed of wholly-government-owned state enterprises. They have long been burdened with debt and were facing budget cuts. That means that if the companies — and by extension their government owners — were going to turn things around financially, they had a strong incentive to sell a lot of weapons to other countries. And as the article explores, through repeated examples, nothing sells a new weapons technology like real-life combat tests.

Some of the companies were even rushing brand new products off the assembly lines and into the field. And even as they were being deployed in the Gaza Strip, purchasers were flocking to Israel for explicit sales pitches, Haaretz reported:

“For the defense industries this campaign is like drinking a very strong energy drink — it simply gives them tremendous forward momentum,” says Barbara Opall-Rome, Israel bureau chief for the U.S. magazine Defense News. “Combat is like the highest seal of approval when it comes to the international markets. What has proven itself in battle is much easier to sell. Immediately after the operation, and perhaps even during, all kinds of delegations arrive here from countries that appreciate Israel’s technological capabilities and are interested in testing the new products.”

 
From new light arms ammunition to new tank shells and tank defenses, Israel’s private defense firms (which have excellent lobbyists and ties to the government) and public state defense companies (which are expected to minimize balance sheet losses and turn a profit for the government if possible), there’s a lot of really warped policy incentives in favor of pursuing a very aggressive, even hair-trigger “defense policy” in the Palestinian Territories.

Similarly, with highly experimental, very expensive, and very re-sellable technologies like a missile defense system co-designed by a state defense company, it could be suggested that goading an entity into firing daily barrages of missiles at a shield that will catch virtually all of them is an excellent way to prove to buyer countries that they should purchase the system for their own defense needs.

A country with big, financially struggling, government-owned defense firms puts itself under a lot of pressure to enable situations that will allow for combat demonstrations to foreign observers who can buy products and put money back in the government coffers (or at least reduce the need for direct budget expenditures). It’s possible to resist that pressure, but it’s there.

It’s hard to make peace when your finances are aligned in favor of making war. That’s true to some extent with the United States and many of the other countries we mentioned on our radio segment. But it’s particularly worrying with regard to Israel, where government and the defense industry are even more intertwined.
iron-dome-interceptor

July 30, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 94

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Topics: Big Ideas in U.S. Reform – Measuring government performance; Arms control; Libya crisis. People: Bill and Persephone. Produced: July 27, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Big Idea: Can government programs’ performance be measured objectively — or is it inherently political?
– Should the U.S. and its NATO allies completely stop selling and giving weapons to other governments, especially repressive ones?
– Is a general from Virginia about to become the next dictator of Libya? Should the U.S. pick a side?

Part 1 – Measurement:
Part 1 – Measurement – AFD 94
Part 2 – Arms Sales:
Part 2 – Arms Sales – AFD 94
Part 3 – Libya Crisis:
Part 3 – Libya Crisis – AFD 94

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links
Segment 1

– AFD: Should government programs be funded Moneyball-style?
– NYT: The Quiet Movement to Make Government Fail Less Often
– AFD: In Mass., Goldman wants in on prison profit stream
– AFD: United State of Unemployment

Segment 2

– AFD: UK has a real arms sales problem on its hands
– Middle East Monitor: Kerry says US will deliver Apache helicopters to Egypt soon

Segment 3

– AFD: US embassy staff moved out of Libya
– AFD: Meanwhile in Libya
– Previously on the show: July 2013 debate on types of U.S. involvement in Syria

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iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

UK has a real arms sales problem on its hands

No. 10 Downing St (Credit: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC - Ministry of Defense via Wikimedia)

No. 10 Downing St (Credit: Sergeant Tom Robinson RLC – Ministry of Defense via Wikimedia)

A parliamentary report has found that the British government has not revoked arms sale licenses to Russia in compliance with sanctions against the country following its annexation of Crimea, despite bold claims by the Cameron government.

This comes on the heels of detailed allegations that UK firms sold dual-use (military or police) weapons to Turkey immediately following the vicious 2013 crackdown by Turkish police in several cities, and it echoes revelations that, in 2012, the UK government knowingly approved exports of a key ingredient in Sarin gas to the sanctioned regime in Syria during the Civil War (which were only blocked by the EU).

Details on the new Russia report, according to The Guardian:

More than 200 licences to sell British weapons to Russia, including missile-launching equipment, are still in place despite David Cameron’s claim in the Commons on Monday that the government had imposed an absolute arms embargo against the country, according to a report by a cross-party group of MPs released on Wednesday.

A large number of British weapons and military components which the MPs say are still approved for Russia are contained in a hard-hitting report by four Commons committees scrutinising arms export controls.

Existing arms export licences for Russia cover equipment for launching and controlling missiles, components for military helicopters and surface-launched rockets, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles, body armour, and military communications equipment, the committee says. They also include licences for night sights for weapons, components for operating military aircraft in confined spaces, and surface-to-surface missiles.
[…]
Sir John Stanley, former Conservative defence secretary and chairman of the Commons arms control committees, said there was evidence that appeared to directly contradict the prime minister’s claim that he had already stopped all arms exports to Russia.
[…]
Stanley had already written to Philip Hammond, the new foreign secretary, asking him to explain why, according to official figures given to the MPs, of 285 current licences for Russia, only 34 had been suspended or revoked.

 
Why can’t David Cameron’s government get it together to halt British companies from selling weapons to governments they shouldn’t be doing business with, by law? Is it intentional negligence to keep the arms and money flowing?

On Syria, the laughable line from the government was that the system had worked. This time:

“We will not a grant a licence where there is a clear risk the equipment might be used for internal repression.”

 
So when exactly does it become clear that Russia or Syria might use weapons for internal repression? Or what about Turkey, literally right after it engaged in internal repression?

And what do we make of this accusation in the Russia report?

It says the most significant change in the government’s policy on arms exports over the past year is the dropping of the wording in the arms sales criteria that: “An export licence will not be issued if the arguments for doing so are outweighed … by concern that the goods might be used for internal repression”.

You know, in the sense, that that action is exactly the opposite of the supposed policy stated by the government spokesperson.

The United Kingdom is the 7th largest arms exporting country in the world by dollar value annually, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

June 9, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 87

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Extended Episode. Topics: Right-wing extremism in the US & Europe, FIFA is terrible. People: Bill, Nate, guest expert Etienne Borocco.

Discussion Points:

– Should right-wing violence in America be considered terrorism? Should terrorism be treated differently from other crimes?
– Just how awful is FIFA? Is the World Cup a net harm to host countries and cities?
– How should Europe respond to the rise of neo-Nazi parties such as Golden Dawn?
– Who are the Front National and why are they winning in France?
– Who are the UKIP and why are the winning in Britain?

Part 1 – Nevada Attack:
Part 1 – Nevada Attack – AFD 87
Part 2 – FIFA/World Cup:
Part 2 – FIFA World Cup – AFD 87
Part 3 – Golden Dawn:
Part 3 – Golden Dawn – AFD 87
Part 4 – Etienne Borocco on French and UK Populism:
Part 4 – European Elections – AFD 87

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links

– AFD Guest: “EU Elections, the Rising Populists, and Why Europe is Worried” by Etienne Borocco
– AFD: “Cameron making louder “Brexit” noises after UKIP win
– Guardian: “SS songs and antisemitism: the week Golden Dawn turned openly Nazi
– AFD: “Vegas attack was domestic terrorism, tied to Bundy standoff
– AFD: “Alt-history novelists have got nothing on Cliven Bundy
– AFD: “No shock there: Bundy a raging racist
– AFD Radio: “April 21, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 81
– Last Week Tonight: John Oliver explains the mess that is FIFA
– AFD: “2022: Slavery World Cup

Subscribe

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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.