247. Lightening the darkness

 

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This time of the year brings me down, without fail.

It’s not so much Christmas. I enjoy the day itself and love the family around the table, although the prelude tends to feel alien, what with the endless advertisements, and the inane talk about whether one has “the Christmas spirit”.

It’s the lack of daylight that truly depletes me.  Even the brighter days are too short, and finish with the prospect of 16 hours of darkness. It’s so miserable. Sunny months are about 50 times more enjoyable.

I woke up this morning wishing that I could stay in bed all day. Or that a snap of my fingers could make it mid-February. One of the cats scratched on the bedroom door at about 6.45, so I got up to feed the six of them, cursing.

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Then back to bed. But couldn’t get back to sleep. There was nothing for it but to meditate. Two pairs of socks on and a jumper over my pyjamas. Nice and quiet in the house. Eyes shut, letting the thoughts enter and pass, returning to the mantra. And praise be, about halfway through, I felt myself tap into an unknown source of energy. It brought a sharpness, and joy, and in another 10 minutes I had turned the mood around.

The good vibe stayed. Maureen’s Australian great niece and nephew visited at 11, and we walked them down the local lanes so that they could cut some holly to make Xmas wreaths.

holly

We had a great chat about the differences between England and Australia, and then my mobile rang.

It was a local company that I have applied to for employment. After an interview last week, the woman said I could start the new job by ‘shadowing’ another worker, in a few days’ time. As a visiting care worker, mainly looking after the elderly.

It’s an utterly new world for me. One that will require training and working as part of a visiting twosome before a solo ‘round’ is allocated.

It feels right, because I have taken so much recent pleasure from helping my dad whenever I visit him. Sorting his medication, getting his shopping, other domestic tasks and, best of all, sitting and talking with him. It’s a challenge, as his dementia is worsening, but I had begun to notice how much pleasure it gave me to have made his day better and provided companionship. We rolled about laughing the other day when I reminded him that during one of his jobs, in an office, he put a note on the door warning that “Christmas cards will not be reciprocated”. (Does the apple not fall far from the tree?)

Obviously, it will be a big step to try and extend that into a new profession, but, like I say, it feels right. I’ve been sitting in front of a PC for 26 years, and there will still be a fair chunk of that – but balanced by a new set of daily faces. Precious human interaction. I’ll give it my best shot. Hope it’s good enough.

So, a day that started like a dark ditch is ending on an upbeat note. Even better, the solstice is almost here, and the days will lengthen gloriously again for six months.

 

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246. Hidden in plain sight

OUT OF ESSEX – CHAPTER 26

 

 

One of these days

I’m gonna pay it back, pay it back

Elvis Costello

 

 

Maggie returned from God’s lecture. The Place was buzzing,

Around 150,000 incoming souls were processed each day, about 600 a minute. She looked up. A wide belt conveyed souls into The Stacks for rest and rebooting. Around her, angels scurried: directing, comforting, issuing kind words. Maggie sensed her sports bag – with its smiling images of God, Jesus, Buddha and Satan – was attracting glances. Souls were seated in cafes to the left; sweating in gymnasia to the right. While pondering reincarnation options, they could inhabit a younger version of their last body. Rooms to undertake spiritual exercise sat at one end of a giant hallway; a massive theatre and cinema at the other.

Back in her room, she brought up the Akashic files on the wall, as instructed. “Akash, I need information.”

“Maggie, what a pleasure,” purred the system. “Have you enjoyed discussions with the boss?” She didn’t need chitchat. Tectonic plates had shifted. “A key piece of data please.”

“Maggie that would be an exquisite delight.” She cut in quickly. “Forget the pleasantries Akash. Or I’ll mute you, and read the answers on the wall.”

“State your question.”

“Delve into the Earth’s economic data. Retrieve statistics that show beyond any doubt that countries function better without a money system that pivots around interest-bearing debt.”

“Maggie, consider President Kennedy’s Order 11110 of June 4, 1963. This was signed with the authority to strip the Federal Reserve Bank of its power to loan money to the United States government at interest, allowing the government to begin printing its own, interest-free money, backed by silver bullion.”

“I know the details. Get on with it.”

“Government debt in 1963 stood at around $306 billion. By the end of 2013, it will have topped $17 trillion. Had JFK’s order stood across the 50 years, the successive governments could have printed enough money for their every need – including enough to have paid down all of the outstanding sovereign debt to zero.”

Maggie whistled. Having cut some of her sharpest political teeth on the stresses of the UK’s Public Sector Borrowing Requirement, the possibilities jumped out. No wringing of hands about debt ceilings. No government shutdowns. No interminable speculation about how far down the road refinancing could “kick the can”. And what about the harsh dismantling of the US welfare state? This had bequeathed the US with a homeless army, living in sewers, skips, tents or cardboard boxes. Guilty memories of Britain flooded back.

God’s claims were fully validated. As the US financial system stood, every dollar issued produced immediate debt – repayable by taxpayers – and subsequent inflation. Since the 1913 creation of the Federal Reserve, which was privately-owned and operated, the dollar had lost 97% of its value, Akash said. Worse, whenever the Fed cut back the money supply, which was in reality a debt supply, bankruptcies increased, allowing commercial banks to call in collateral. The scam was huge, and yet somehow unperceived. She needed more. “Akash, tell me what the US Constitution says about the country printing its own money?”

“The Constitution grants Congress the power to “coin money”, under Article 1, Section 8, Clause 5. Congress controls the minting, and, theoretically, sets its value. But, in practice, from 1913, the power has lain with the Federal Reserve Bank, not Congress.”

Maggie asked Akash for the Founding Fathers’ view. The response was a quote from Thomas Jefferson, a principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the third US President. “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks…will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.” Jefferson was a seer. In an 1816 letter, he wrote: “And I sincerely believe….banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.”

Maggie was having a Eureka moment. Words such as ‘golly’ bombarded her cerebral cortex. As private foreign bankers made inroads into the US economy, Jefferson had commented that “bank-paper must be suppressed, and the circulating medium must be restored to the nation to whom it belongs”.

“Bloody hell,” said Maggie. She was beginning to see why the Federal Reserve was reviled in some quarters. She asked Akash for a view from Woodrow Wilson, who signed the Federal Reserve Act into law. A 1916 quote ensued. “I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the nation, therefore, and all our activities are in the hands of a few men….…No longer a government by free opinion, no longer a government by conviction and the vote of the majority.”

She would dip into Wilson’s autobiography. More importantly, as the line of thought expanded, it appeared that Congress still had authority to create debt-free money. Given that the country leaned over the world’s largest ever financial cliff, why was the privately-owned and politically unaccountable Federal Reserve still operating?

“Akash, does the Fed run the United States?” An unusual three second pause. “No”. She tweaked the question. “Akash, if money is equivalent to debt, and debt is equivalent to control, does the Fed run the US?”

“Yes”. It had to be. Akash provided comments from Congressman Louis T. McFadden, Chairman of the House Committee on Banking and Currency, in June 1932. “Every effort has been made by the Fed to conceal its powers, but the truth is – the Fed has usurped the government. It controls everything here, and it controls all our foreign relations. It makes and breaks governments at will.”

The ramifications were mind-boggling, both for America and every other country across the world that was tearing itself apart to repay debt, with interest, to private bankers. In Cyprus, the government had looted individual bank accounts in its desperation to pay back banks. Poland had stolen from its private pensions system. Yet conceivably, the entire US federal government – or political administrations in the UK, Greece, Spain or anywhere else where banking was sucking the marrow out of humanity – could be funded without ever again needing to borrow a single dollar, pound or euro that carried interest. Even more astonishingly, it followed that, with no interest to repay, far less taxation would be required.

Now she asked. “Who owns the Fed?”

“That is shrouded in secrecy, but there are major clues,” said Akash. “For example, charts created by an August 1976 House Banking Committee Staff Report revealed that the shareholders included banks run by the Rothschild and Rockefeller families, and a host of other famous banking names, including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, the Warburgs, Lehman Brothers, the Kuen Loeb Bank, and Israel Moses Seif Bank.”

“These claims are backed by other research. Eustace Mullins cited the same names in his book The Secrets of the Federal Reserve. Similar claims were made by JW McCallister, an oil industry insider with House of Saud connections. He wrote that information he acquired from Saudi bankers cited 80% ownership of the New York Federal Reserve Bank – by far the most powerful Fed branch – by just eight family or bank names.”

Even as she began her next question – “why does nobody speak out against the banking system?” – Maggie already knew the answer. “Fear of the consequences, with but a few exceptions” said Akash. As an example, it explained that Senator John Heinz and former Senator John Tower had been outspoken critics of the Federal Reserve. On April 4, 1991, Heinz was killed in a plane crash near Philadelphia. On the next day, April 5, Tower was also killed in a plane crash. “Quite a coincidence,” said Maggie.

Akash noted that Senator Ron Paul and his son Rand Paul had boldly requested a Federal Reserve audit. “However, the campaign requires media support, and financial interests own American media, which is always quick to discredit any information exposing this private central banking cartel as ‘conspiracy theory’.”

Overwhelmed by her anger, Maggie needed catharsis.

 

***

 

Ignoring a minor desire for a wee, she headed out again, sports bag gripped firmly, having changed into a fresh sparring outfit. She descended the Highway to Hell, for the first time since her initial meeting with Satan. Blank walls this time. Two of Satan’s cats reappeared, rubbing against her. One ran down to the red door, where Lucifer stood, grinning across his dark, handsome face. She remembered the warmer temperature.

“Glad you could make it – this way Maggie,” he indicated. When Lucifer and Belial had heard that Maggie was a budding martial artist, they invited her to watch them fight. And join in, perhaps. “When entering, you should bow, and remove your shoes,” he said. They walked towards a door marked ‘Dojo’.

Awaiting was Belial, whose equally fine looks glistened with sweat. He was kicking a punch bag from various trajectories. Both were about six foot six, with plenty of growing ahead. Maggie found a chair. They commenced sparring slowly, warming their muscles for five minutes before a tacit agreement to begin. Lucifer was the heavier. He used that advantage in high-contact sequences. Belial countered this with agility and a speed that was still increasing as he approached his 1,000th birthday.

The spectacle was so compelling that she failed to notice a female sit beside her. “Could you live with either of them?”

Maggie uttered a yelp. “So sorry Mags,” said Satan’s wife, Morgana, tail trailing behind her. She was beautifully dark. “Please come and share a glass of wine with me, whenever you wish.” She stole away, as Belial shouted for Maggie to spar.

Tentatively, she walked onto the mat. After four minutes she was exhausted from being flung around repeatedly. Her hand lifted in surrender.

They talked. “Do you tire of fighting each other?” asked Maggie. “It seems less exciting without Beelzebub, now that he is filling in for Dad,” said Lucifer. “Neither of us could match him on the mat.”

Belial said there was one challenge that scared them both. The Minotaur. Beelzebub had tried once and almost lost an arm. He was unable to fight for two years. “Dad could spend 5 minutes at the max with Minnie,” said Belial, fear darkening his green eyes.

Maggie recalled Satan’s sickening description of the beast dragging Jimmy Savile’s guts. She praised their hospitality, promising to return soon.

 

245. Bedtime joy

I pulled Blog 245. Quality control said not good enough, rewrite needed. Moving on…

 

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For a period of years, in the 1990s, I used to read a bedtime story to my daughters Lauren and Josie every night when they were young. I was usually dog-tired, having got up at around 3 a.m. to get out on the milk round, so would often fall asleep myself, as I read.

“Dad!” they would shout. “Don’t go to sleep.”

One way in which I tried to stay awake was by inventing a ‘Daddy Story’. Didn’t always work. Easy enough to start, but, sitting comfortably, also too easy to drift into slumber, whenever I stopped to think about the next fictional event.

The one way to guarantee wakefulness, while getting away with what seemed like storytelling, was to trot out a joke. We had a particular favourite, about a hospital housing British soldiers injured in a war.

It went like this.

 

The Queen was making the rounds of the wards, to boost the soldiers’ morale. She stopped at the first bed, and asked the accompanying doctor about the soldier’s condition.

 “He has suffered a traumatic injury ma’am. Lost both legs to an enemy shell. The good news is that he is comfortable. Recovering slowly.”

 The Queen patted the soldier’s arm. “Good man, you’ve done well and your country is proud of you.”

 

There was minor restlessness in the two kids’ beds. The good bit was still to come.

 

The doctor and the Queen stopped at the second bed, where a man had lost all his limbs, his nose and both ears.

 

A small giggle or two (maybe my daughters were young sadists), as momentum built towards the sea of laughter in which they would soon plunge.

 

Asked by the Queen about this man, the doctor explained that the soldier was the victim of mortar bomb that had landed six inches away.

 She kissed the soldier lightly on the head, asking if there was any good news. “Yes,” said the doctor. “We think he will eventually regain his strength, and can lead a full life, with the use of artificial limbs.”

 The Queen now approached a third bed. There didn’t seem to be anybody in it.

 

Huge daughter grins were breaking out.

 

The Queen moved nearer. She looked harder. On the pillow, all she could see was…… an eye.

 

Pandemonium would break out. All three of us would start weeping with laughter. It no longer mattered about the punchline. Sometimes a couple of minutes would go past before I could find the silence to trot out the ending.

 

“Is there any good news”, asked the Queen.

“Yes,” said the doctor. “He won’t have to wear glasses anymore.”

244. Breaking away

 

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I’ve tried to be truthful about my poorer decisions and mistakes. This story might fall into that category.

Well over three decades ago, I told an old mate that our friendship was over. I cannot remember the exact date when I told Nick that we would no longer be buddies. It was at some stage in the mid-1980s. We had known each other since 1969, but had drifted slowly apart in the late 70s.

He had moved to Hong Kong, to practice law with a major firm. We barely kept in touch. I was either at the end of my spell as a betting shop manager in London, or in my early days as a milkman at the dairy down the road in Chelmsford. Anyway, Nick called out of the blue. He was back home in Southend, and his parents were throwing a drinks party. Nick invited Maureen and myself. Even now, I recall his request as more of a summons. “This is where to be. Time and place.” The minute he asked, every instinct said: ‘don’t go’. And that the time had come for our roads to diverge for good.

We exchanged a few pleasantries, then I put the phone down, and returned to studying the next day’s horse racing cards. I penned him a letter, turning down the invite and said: ‘that’s us done’. Not wishing him well; and slinging together what was almost certainly a hurried, garbled, antagonistic, clumsy and (maybe) fleetingly logical explanation. I never spoke to him again for 27 years.

 

***

 

Those are the bare bones. I wondered last week if I could do better than that, by trying to fathom more clearly why I acted in such a cavalier fashion. Was I a complete and utter caaaaaaaaaaaaaaant, to quote a recent blog?

Nick was and is an exceptional individual. Imagine a cross between ‘David Watts’ (character of the song by the Kinks and then the Jam) and George Best. A fine athlete and sportsman; academically and intellectually sharp enough to get to Cambridge and then rise to the uppermost heights of the legal world; loyal to his friends (gulp!); brave if it came to a physical fight; and with a mix of looks and/or confidence that led many, many females to take in his sperm with swift abandon.

He had also been fairly cruel to me as a young teenager, opening frailties and enjoying my discomfort. Not just me, but a few others. That’s life. Now I see it. Shit happens. No doubt I handed out some similar stuff along the line. Sometimes it flies back. It all eventually balances. More than one of my girlfriends clocked Nick as arrogant as soon as they met, as had some of my university friends in Birmingham. Nick had also played a role of sorts in my incarceration in cell number 5, at Cambridge nick (Blog 77). And the subsequent criminal conviction, for Actual Bodily Harm. Not his fault, in any way, but part of me wanted to wriggle out of full responsibility for awful behaviour. Like politicians blaming Russia for their own shortcomings and fuck ups.

By the time of the phone call, our ways were hugely divergent. Nick epitomised the post-graduation charge into the City’s world of suits, ties and business. I now give him huge credit: he was an unremitting achiever, surfing life on a self-made fusion of willpower harnessed to talent. I wasn’t. His determination stretched to changing his accent in his third decade. My mum had often remarked on his ‘cockney’ way of speaking. By his mid-20s, Nick had eliminated his ‘estuary sounds’ to better fit his work advancement. And it worked for him. At the time, I judged that harshly. I couldn’t help myself. These days I know how hard it can be to live any life, let alone to start scoring others.

Bottom line: we had come to have precious little in common. A mutual mate would occasionally tell me that “he’s not your friend”.

 

***

 

Over the years, thinking back, it became clear that “chucking” Nick was an efficient way to steer and firm up a bigger change in direction that had been ongoing since school. It involved a fair chunk of drifting on my part, allied to a good slab of intention. A trio of aims were carved out, my very own triptych mentioned in past blogs: to be comfortable in a loving relationship; to write a book/books; and to work out a betting system that produced revenue. My plans and dreams, not somebody else’s.

Whether this was true philosophy, ambitious amalgamation or optimistic insanity, it had uprooted me from my past. Old friendships often felt like such hard work. The Southend crew seemed, to my unusual and possibly misguided mind, to be headed down fixed tracks, on trains with ‘career’ and ‘money’ labels plastering the sides and obliterating other views.

Good luck to them, for sure, but I increasingly struggled to find things to talk about, even in letter writing, one of my great loves. And it made me miserable.

By contrast, I had a mate who had recently written a letter printed in the Guardian, entitled ‘Why Work?’ That was the stuff that inspired. I loathed hierarchy; sensed that 9 to 5 was mainly a humdrum, conforming affair. I had deepened my love of the maverick author, Henry Miller, who advised coasting on the fringes of ‘the system’. And found another, Colin Wilson, who was steeping me in notions of the occult. Starting work as a milkman helped that mindset. Up early, job and finish. Away from the numbers. Some afternoons I topped up my money as a parcel courier. Later I built up a parallel window-cleaning round.

By cutting away Nick, I pretty much knew that the other old ties would also fall away. Including some that I was still fond of. That had to be the price. You were either in or out. After the odd meet-up, there was a tacit withdrawal on both sides. A space was cleared, where I could stop trying to fit.

That bigger change, as life extended past my early 20s, involved a quest for at least some softness and yield in my friends. I gravitated (slowly) towards guys with listening skills; the openness to think outside the box; and the wisdom to know that they didn’t know, and to just shut up sometimes.

But I did push that letter into the postbox with genuine melancholy, because a couple of the Southend guys had those qualities.

 

***

 

The years went by. Details of old faces started to fade. There were new mates aplenty, and three kids. A job as a journalist, eventually. Then, in 2012, aged 55, I was turned around and flipped over by a Buddhist practice I stumbled into. As one mental epiphany led to another, the opportunity arose to resurrect some of the Southend friendships. With a few leg-ups, I succeeded. I was overjoyed to see them all again.

In 2013, I finally met Nick for a beer and curry in London. 27 years on. I was nervous. He was warmly welcoming; and expressed a modicum of dismay at elements of his past behaviour. I apologised for one especially nasty remark. We quietly took the draw.

And he may have saved my life that night. After a couple of beers, we headed to an Indian restaurant somewhere near Moorgate tube station. We crossed a road. I was so busy chatting that I stepped out in front of an oncoming vehicle. Nick’s right fist grabbed my jacket and yanked me back. Who knows?

It was such a pleasure to bury any lingering hatchet.

But Nick gave a broad hint that I had made the right choice all those years back when he talked about the annual Lads Night Out. They were still re-enacting the early New Year tradition of a boozy night that included a session watching strippers.

“Tradition aside, why the fuck would you do that?” I asked.

“Don’t you like the female body Kev?”

Well yes, thrice yes, but the touch and taste of the real thing. In my arms and between my sheets. Not as a voyeur, with a group of fellow old gits. For me, personally, that could only be cringeworthy. Ersatz.

I’ve seen Nick a few times since. I enjoyed his company. Talk was mainly of sport and politics. We sometimes text when West Ham play Spurs. We’re not bosom buddies, but if he ever asked me to drop everything and rush over to London to help him, I wouldn’t hesitate.

Not sure if there’s any moral to this tale. Except that things change, people come and  go. You do what you have to, maybe you act like a dick, sometimes it can still end up OK – and there really is no right and wrong. Only viewpoints and opinions.

 

242. The crapocracy

OUT OF ESSEX – Chapter 25

 

 

The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it

Joseph Mengele

 

 

 

God sat with Maggie, enjoying chamomile tea, Viennese wafers and a live stream from the House of Commons. One of the UK’s senior politicians, Dennis Skinner, stood up. “Remember him?” asked the Creator.

“The Bully of Bolsover,” said Maggie. Hair shining, eyes sparkling. She sported a white martial arts outfit.

In London, Skinner looked equally well. Back straight, silver hair intact after 43 years of heckling Prime Ministers of all parties, he had spelled out his motivations after Maggie’s death. “We have to look out for those people who haven’t got two halfpennies to rub together,” Dennis had proclaimed. Now, he introduced his topic as “the many injustices that have been meted out by ATOS in the last few years”. Schoolboy noises filled the chamber.

ATOS had removed benefits from one of Skinner’s constituents, who had died from terminal cancer, appeal still pending. Skinner looked at Prime Minister Cameron like gum on his shoe. Cameron acknowledged “a desperately sad case”; but stressed how the “whole issue of work capability assessments” was introduced by Labour.

God asked for Maggie’s thoughts. “Dennis swung a strong punch. David kept his balance, and span back the force of Dennis’ attack,” she replied.

God dunked a wafer. It was time for some education. “Maggie, why on earth would Britain, or any other country, sell its public utilities?” she said.

Maggie’s mind flashed momentarily to Victor Rothschild’s ‘advisory’ role throughout her premiership. “From death’s perspective”, she said, “I can see that Britain built a welfare society that raised everybody’s quality of life. Free education and healthcare, transport subsidies, cheap energy and water, and a flat rate universal postal service.”

God bounded in. “And now look at it. One consequence of the ‘free market’ you jump-started is that some poorer people cannot afford to heat their houses. Another is that Britain looks suspiciously like a colony being bought and sold by corporations and foreign governments.” Maggie wondered if God knew the pain of a karate kick. She looked at the screens. A 7.2 magnitude earthquake was shaking the Philippines. “What are you saying then?” asked Maggie. “That capitalism and private business are worthless?”

Her stubbornness, drawn from 254 past lives, reminded God of Moses. “Absolutely not,” she replied, sipping more tea. “Free markets have advanced mankind tremendously. Just think Microsoft, Google, Apple – the whole electronic communications schtick. Making life easier, cheaper, and generating fantastic profits for those with the balls to invest early. Good private companies live or die by their ideas. A bit like me. Don’t ever confuse them with parasitic investors that suck the marrow from former public utilities.”

As God suggested capitalism had developed an “all-consuming” nature, Maggie recalled how ‘Lord Vic’ ran the Central Policy Review Staff, her government’s think tank, despite nominally being a Labour peer. “Look how Wikipedia is manipulated by the corporations it describes,” God stressed. “Image management firms are terrified of information flowing freely, so they police every page mentioning their clients, 24/7.”

She stared Maggie down. “Never again think about kicking me.” Maggie nodded, meekly. God’s voice was icier. “So, let’s calmly examine the largest British privatisation in two decades, the Royal Mail.”

Her disgust was plain. “Firstly, consider the banks which handled the thing: Goldman Sachs and UBS.” Maggie twigged immediately. UBS had been fined almost £1 billion for rigging the Libor rate. And yes, Goldman Sachs. “Quite so,” said God. “Everyone involved easily able to bend their mind around rigging a market.”

She was shaking her head. “By my calculation, the taxpayer was cheated out of almost £3 billion, due to the ridiculously low sale price. And 300 firms in the City and overseas bought two thirds of the stock. Is that the share-owning democracy you talked up back in the day?” No reply from Maggie. “But hey, those precious lads in the City made profits. Lovely jubbly! Shall we dance around the table, while British customers have to pay more for exactly the same service, and the employees have to lift their productivity?”

Venom now in her voice. “Do you think Chancellor Osborne would sell his mother for the right price? I ask only because 80% of Plasma Resources UK (PRUK) has been flogged to Bain Capital.” PRUK turned plasma, the fluid that holds white and red blood cells in suspension, into life-saving treatments for immune deficiencies, neurological diseases and haemophilia. “Strategically important for British people. Agreed?”

Bain Capital, run by American politician Mitt Romney, regularly ripped apart companies that it purchased, ‘deconstructing’ the assets for every last cent of profit. Maggie could picture Romney howling with laughter that he held the “life blood” of the UK in his hands. Fondly, she thought back to when enlightened employers pursued training and staff development.

God got up. Pacing, glancing at screens. “I haven’t even mentioned Michael Gove.” The Secretary of State for Education was espousing performance-related pay for teachers. “Braindead doesn’t start to describe a society that thinks to make education into a business.”

Maggie took the hits. She had started the ball rolling. God swigged from a water bottle, unleashing a grimace. “How about we apply performance-related criteria to politicians?” she suggested. “Most would be unemployed or heading to food banks. Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband would sit on a fence somewhere. Osborne would clean windscreens during traffic jams.” God thought fondly of Dawn Landais. “Iain Duncan-Smith would flip burgers, Gove fold towels and Cameron stack shelves. Never forget that these creeps were elected to serve the people, not themselves, or their corporate sponsors.”

God was tottering between laughter and despair. “Despite their corruption and incompetence, the jokers and clowns I have ranted about are atop the UK totem pole. So, I have invented a new name for the whole gamut of politicians, aristocrats, bankers, brokers, lawyers, accountants, investors, corporations, lobbyists, journalists and spin-doctors that proclaim the ‘profit at all costs’ mantra and keep the UK’s economic casino wheel turning.”

Weighing her words. “Initially, I inclined towards ‘kleptocracy’, given the shameless thieving afoot.” Maggie recalled the phrase was coined for Mobutu, America’s puppet in the former Belgian Congo. “But these weasels need something more stigmatic. Eventually I decided upon ‘crapocracy’ as the most suitable term.”

Maggie asked if God saw this ‘crapocracy’ – a term she hated – as being confined to London. “Trust me they are global.  Many gather in London because it remains the biggest centre for transnational financial activities. But these clowns and creeps gravitate in swathes each year to Davos, in Switzerland, where they discuss the corporate global agenda.”

God glared at Maggie. “Never forget you helped get it all launched.” The ‘liberalisation’ of finance had mushroomed under Maggie and Ronald Reagan. Global financial assets had climbed from $12 trillion in 1980 to an estimated $142 trillion by 2005, about three times the planet’s estimated GDP. Harry Enfield’s infamous ‘loadsamoney’ character – who riffled banknotes in front of the homeless – was an early symbol. By 2013, some estimates said the figure had somehow grown to at least 10 times the global GDP value. Others doubled that.

“Remember Glenda Jackson’s words after your demise?” God asked. “Sharp elbows and sharp knees were the way forward,” said a humbled Maggie.

“You know you rubber-stamped greed and selfishness with your bloody aspirational society,” God hissed. “A society in which people knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. And now steered by a vile, thieving crapocracy, that only a few, like Dennis Skinner, will stand up to.”

She exhaled. “But listen, we all screw up. Mea culpa, for sure.” She looked sad. “Did you see that Boy Scouts in Britain no longer need pledge their allegiance to me? But they still promise to serve the monarch.” Maggie felt everything was messed up, before God produced her darkest insight.

“All of these clever ‘crapocrats’ with their swelling piles of assets, are ignoring the karmic consequences. As the plunder increases, and services and cash benefits for the least advantaged are ripped away, the buffers between upper and lower orders are disappearing. The looted public purse means that there are already less police to protect them if rioting starts. Thanks to Boris, fewer firefighters in London, fewer ambulances. If they manage to get to hospital after their mansions burn down, maybe no blood plasma?” Maggie was transfixed.

God said the ‘crapocracy’ was safe, for the time being. “The poorest have little fight left. Some will die of cold this winter, but you won’t read about that, or the number of ATOS-related deaths.” Maggie knew though. Eventually, once stomachs ached, in cold houses, there would be little left to lose. God nodded. “It won’t be pretty, but if the lust continues for private profit at any price, you may see murder on British streets, maybe hangings.” Like the French revolution, thought Maggie.

God looked ashen. Maggie never thought she would say it. “Could a Labour government change things sufficiently?” God rewarded this bravery, striding across and hugging Maggie. “They might shuffle a few deckchairs on the sinking ship. But Labour lacks the vision to tackle the bigger problem.”

“What about 1966?” Maggie asked.

 

***

 

Sensing Maggie’s very urgent and very odd need for an answer, God allowed a brief thematic diversion. “You have mentioned that year before – why is it relevant?” She looked at Maggie. No reply.

“1966. OK….Well, you will remember how a Labour government was re-elected under Harold Wilson.” God cast back more. “Obviously an interesting year. My personal highlight would be three superb new musical albums. Blonde on Blonde, Revolver and Pet Sounds.” She thought harder. “There was certainly a new spirit in the air, a promise of better things ahead, although the Rolling Stones reminded us all of the darker side, with their singles: Paint It Black, Mother’s Little Helper and 19th Nervous Breakdown.”

Seeing Maggie struggling to form words, God continued. “Let’s see now. You and Denis lived in Kent. A mock-Tudor house with a large garden. And you were catching people’s eyes in the Conservative party, and in certain other circles.” God waited, but Maggie couldn’t seem to find any lucidity. She kept looking at God’s hand. There was something wrong with it.

***

 

After a further silence, God pushed on. It was time to paint the ‘elephant in the room’, the pervasive and malign force that silently entangled and strangled planet Earth. “Fundamentally, money is debt,” said God, wondering if Maggie would understand. “The finance system in which every Brit is enmeshed pivots around interest-paying debt.”

Unable to connect dots, Maggie stayed in character. “Perhaps a new political party would sort that out.” God’s warmth lingered on her.

“Ideologies have never worked well. Nor has privately-owned money.” God sketched the elephant’s outlines. “The dollar, pound and euro are not currencies – they are debt instruments, backed by nothing, and tied at the hip to private central banking cartels. Any government that cannot issue its own money, debt-free, cannot control affairs, and cannot be sovereign.” No reaction from Maggie. “When was a democratic decision ever made to issue money that carries interest?” God enquired. “Debt is an instrument of empire, which sucks back more than it provides.”

Seeing Maggie’s blank face, God’s metaphors deepened. “Banks are the feudal lords that run the empire’s debt machine, passing the money out to the feudal knights – corporates and governments – at low rates, and to smaller borrowers at higher rates. At the bottom of this stateless empire, most individuals tread a hamster wheel, serf-like, to repay their own debt and pay taxes that cover their government’s debt. Most governments are so broke that they cannot even fund their pension schemes.”

The tragedy was “twofold”, said God. As well as continually transferring wealth to the rich, the empire was hostile to the nature of the soul, leaving little room for balance, joy, reflection, rest, love, family and community. Hence, less than 10% of the G20 populations now believed in reincarnation, she moaned. Maggie probed. “Can one get rid of debt that pays interest, if that is the problem you claim?”

The answer shocked her. “Two of America’s most-beloved presidents who tried were murdered.” Maggie’s eyes narrowed. “You might be God, but I’ll need proof that JFK and Abe Lincoln died for that reason.” God took her hand. Crossing the room, they sat by a side screen that doubled as Heaven’s Internet. Goldilocks brought them fruit juices.

The Akashic files were astoundingly detailed; and worked faster than light. Maggie read the summary. “During the Civil war – when the Confederacy seceded – private bankers offered to fund Lincoln at interest rates of around 30%. Determined not to plunge his country into a debt that would be unpayable, Lincoln persuaded Congress to fund the war effort by issuing full legal tender Treasury notes. Nicknamed Greenbacks – like dollars now –  due to the green ink on the back.”

She read on. “Lincoln printed $449 million worth of debt-free and interest-free Greenbacks. He paid soldiers and civil service employees; and bought war supplies. When the Union won, he said Greenbacks would continue. He was killed shortly afterwards.”

A voracious reader, Maggie remembered theories of a conspiracy behind Lincoln’s death. God opened another file. “The culprits.” A photograph of six clean-shaven individuals. Arrogant faces. Starched collars. Dark suits. Maggie read more: “Congress revoked the Green­back Law and enacted, in its place, the National Banking Act. Under this, national banks were to be privately owned, issuing interest bearing notes. The Act also provided that Greenbacks should be retired from circulation once they returned to the Treasury.”

Shortly afterwards, the London Times printed the following: “If that mischievous financial policy, which had its origin in the North American Republic, should become indurated down to a fixture, then that Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off debts and be without a debt. It will have all the money necessary to carry on its commerce. It will become prosperous beyond precedent in the history of the civilized governments of the world. The brains and the wealth of all coun­tries will go to North America. That govern­ment must be destroyed, or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe.”

God jumped in again. “Think about this. After Lincoln’s assassination, the Jesuits were forbidden certain privileges in the United States. Two US presidents were assassinated after Lincoln. James Garfield and William McKinley. Both opposed central banking.” Maggie’s thoughts span, as God continued. “America’s very own ‘crapocracy’ showed its hand long ago. Although Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated, Andrew Jackson survived an attempt in 1835. Jackson blocked the renewal of the charter for the country’s second private central bank, opting instead for the sovereign state printing interest- and debt-free paper money.”

Maggie butted in. “Can I please think about this?” She went slowly. “So, in most financial systems, the money circulating is interest-bearing debt, created and, I see it now, literally rented out by central and commercial banks.” God butted in. “Over 95% of money is debt”. Maggie proceeded. “So, let us say I am a private banker. I lend £100 at 5% for one year; and receive £105 when it is repaid. By receiving that extra £5 of ‘interest’ I plunge somebody, somewhere else in the wider economy, into a struggle to repay a separate £5 debt arrear.”

Quickly it cohered. “On this basis, there is never quite enough money in circulation to repay all debt, because principal is always less then principal plus interest. When a borrower cannot repay, which is more common when the debt supply shrinks, the lenders come to claim his or her property, or other collateral, as recompense for the unpaid interest. Which never existed until the loan was created.”

“Musical chairs,” said God. “The debt pushers look on, fully in control, renting out the money, pulling wealth from the masses, watching coldly as chairs are snatched away. Letting them vote red or blue, in an illusion of choice that distracts from the monetary prison. Money is not unlike the chips in a casino system, where the house takes a guaranteed percentage.”

Maggie got it completely. “Whether governments prefer welfare or warfare, fresh debt is created, sucking money from the future. Hence most of the planet lives in relative or full scarcity.”

Urgency thickened God’s voice. “We are generalising details, but is this a good system to live under? Lincoln thought not. Islam’s Sharia laws also fiercely oppose the charging of interest. Think of how the pressure on almost every world citizen, company and government would ease if no interest occurs when loans are created.”

Maggie flashed to Jesus’ anger in the temple. She tried to imagine his fury at the UK’s ‘payday’ lenders, some of which charged thousands of percent if repayments fell behind.

God was pacing again. “This insanity is how economies work – participants constantly chasing more loans to pay existing loans. At root, economic growth is less about productivity or innovation, and more about whether more companies and governments borrow, and whether people increase their credit card debts, mortgages, student loans and so on. Inflation – and deflation – depend chiefly upon those factors.” She told Maggie that total world debt – public and private – now stood at well over 200% of GDP. In 2008, when it helped cause the financial crisis, the figure was 174%.

“And Kennedy?” Maggie was thinking about the coincidental dates of JFK’s assassination on 22 November 1963, and her own political toppling on 22 November 1990. God elucidated. “When John F. Kennedy came into office, he understood exactly how the Fed worked, and famously warned against secretive organisations. On June 4, 1963, he signed Exec­utive Order 11110, giving the US President legal clearance to create his own money to run the country. He issued $4.29 billion in cash. He was assassinated in November 1963. Shortly afterwards, all the notes issued by JFK were withdrawn from circulation.”

Maggie looked at the Akashic file. It cited meetings in early 1963 where it was planned that Kennedy would be killed if he pressed ahead with his agenda, which included opposition to invading Vietnam. The participants contained several banking mafiosos who had clashed with Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s father. At the back stood George HW Bush, then in the CIA.

God prevented Maggie’s thoughts settling. “Do you think any politician could overturn the Bank of England in favour of an interest-free, state-run Central Bank?”

The benefits “would be massive”, said God. “It is the sort of ‘Middle Way’ solution that Buddha recommends. Think of the extra hospital projects that could be built. Under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), it already costs £3 to park as hospitals strive to repay PFI loans.”

A picture formed. “People and businesses would still go bankrupt,” said Maggie, “but the most remorseless pressures would be removed.” After their chat, God suggested, Maggie should study Libya. “Gaddafi created a coherent society without any interest-bearing debt. Certain powerful people hated that.”

God suggested that Hungary’s recent divorce from the IMF was instructive. After the Budapest government repaid a €2.2 billion debt to the Fund, Prime Minister Viktor Orban had spoken his mind. “No longer will Hungarians be forced to pay usurious interest to private, unaccountable central bankers. Instead, the Hungarian government has assumed sovereignty over its own currency. It now issues money debt free, as needed.”

“Could it be much clearer?” said God. Maggie was open-mouthed. God cautioned that Orban would encounter daunting obstacles if he walked his talk. “Watch closely when you see somebody take on the ‘crapocracy’.”

God had more. “In 1935, Hitler started printing Germany’s own money, in the form of debt-free and interest-free Labour Treasury Certificates.” Maggie didn’t remember seeing that in the newspapers as a girl; or hearing it on the radio. “Ironically, Hitler eventually fought his wars with strong support from Wall Street and The City of London,” said God.

Maggie enquired how private finance had become so powerful. God looked agitated. “Above all, by backing wars, often both sides. They also got organised early. I would urge you examine passages of the 1215 Magna Carta which are still on statute. Clause 9 and clause 13 mention the “ancient liberties” of the City. Also investigate the invention of bills of exchange towards the end of the Middle Ages, which circumvented any need to back money with gold; and then the setting aside Common Law practices in the late 17th century, allowing debt contracts to be sold under commercial law.”

“Has the monarchy colluded?” Maggie asked. “Good question,” said God. “A very complex, and often unseen history. Ask yourself about the City of London’s seemingly autonomous legal status, and its own police force. Delve into the Remembrancer, who sits in Parliament’s Under Gallery, and follows legislation on behalf of the City. Quite a creepy name.”

God’s next question was openly riddled with hope. “Maggie, do you think anyone can rein back the City of London’s powers? Let us imagine that a strong, independently minded politician emerged, cut from the same jib as Skinner or the great Welshman, Lloyd George. Maybe he or she had been forced to live rough, watching family members die from austerity. Imagine that this person spoke with such eloquence and clarity about the cause – vested financial interests, and spineless parliaments – that crowds followed.”

God’s eyes were misting. She clung in hope to Buddha’s view that Britain was on the cusp of karmic change. “Imagine this person formed a target to wipe away the degradations of interest-bearing debt; and had a consciousness sufficiently formidable to surmount all obstacles.” Maggie knew one thing: “If such a person had emerged in my time, Lord Vic would have diverted him into a backwater,” she said. “He was a master of bribery, blackmail, and dark arts – and a friend to traitors,” said God. Maggie remembered Anthony Blunt.

Trying to envision a future, Maggie asked if hundreds of thousands of bankers would be unemployable in an interest-free world. God said state banks would still need administering. Individuals and business would need lending, deposit and payment facilities. Like Islamic banking, services for one-off fees could still be offered. “However, the insane derivatives market and ridiculous bonuses would disappear. Such is karma.”

The ultimate question arrived. From Maggie. “Have you forgotten that you are God? For the life of you, sort this out.”

God underlined the sanctity of the free will experiment. “Humans have to be left to attain spiritual wisdom, Maggie. If the Essex initiative is toppled, my best hope is that technology will be deployed to eradicate scarcity, by those at the top. The odds on that look poor. Another option is to stop the experiment, for good.”

 

241. The Labour Party

 

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This one is probably for those readers interested in politics.

With UK election time looming, I’ve been thinking about the party that would once have automatically received my vote. Labour.

We live in Essex’s Saffron Walden constituency. Where, if the Conservative Party stood Micky Mouse as a candidate it would still win. The Tories could promise to increase global warming and dump more plastic in the sea: and they would still get votes. The last three general elections have seen anywhere between 55% and 62% of the Saffron Walden votes pledged to the blue side. It’s rare for any other party to capture even 25% of the vote, although the Lib-Dems have managed 27-28% a couple of times.

That’s just how it is. People vote for their own reasons. Most people stick with the ‘team’ of their younger days. Like football, and newspapers, few change teams.

If this seat was borderline, I would vote Labour. But in a sea of blue, is there any point? I am tempted to spoil my ballot paper, not for the first time.

I have tried the Labour ‘tactic’ of voting Lib-Dem to oust the Tory candidate, but Nick Clegg showed where that leads in his time as Deputy PM in the 2010-15 Coalition government.

Now we have Jo Swinson at the Lib-Dem helm. I think of her as ‘the hollow woman’. I could find other words. All contemptuous.

In those five Coalition years she consistently voted to reduce welfare and benefits, including cutting payments for people with illnesses or disabilities. She also voted to cut the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-to-19-year-olds. She helped to raise university tuition fees, despite promising not to as one of the key policies that helped elect many Lib-Dem MPs in 2010. Her track record on environmental issues shows support for the badger cull, fracking and HS2. Swinson also voted for the Bedroom tax, and for a cap on public sector pay rises. She used her role as a Minister to oppose increases in the minimum wage, lauded zero-hour contracts, and helped hike up the fees for employment tribunals. That placed justice out of reach for thousands of workers.

Good luck to anyone who votes for Swinson. You will have to live with yourself.

I have voted Green before. The party does have a candidate in our constituency. But again, it makes no difference to the imminent blue win. That tide will come in, every time.

Maureen and I wondered why, earlier today. Why do people around here prefer a party that, to quote my mate John Madden, “achieve nothing for 10 years but social inequality and division, yet people want more.”

Maybe one reason is the derision hurled by media at the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. For a Martian looking in, or a Tibetan monk scanning the global headlines, it would be easy to believe that JC is an anti-semitic communist. According to Sir Richard Dearlove, ex-chief of MI6, JC is a “present danger to our country”. (This, from the guy who headed the organisation that told the ruinous lies about Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction, or WMDs. The lies that risked British lives, left swathes of our soldiers with PTSD, and left Iraq in ruins.)

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, reacted by calling Sir Richard “a reactionary member of the establishment”. The more honest description of Dearlove begins with C and ends with T. The bloke is a complete clot.

I find it comforting that Jeremy Corbyn won’t be engaging in genocidal wars, if Labour get in. Generally, I like his emphasis on retaining the NHS, raising wages, and providing free broadband. Of renationalising an energy industry that sucks excessive amounts from ordinary people.

Yeah, I know. The cost of it all. Money must be borrowed. That is something that cannot be avoided. Or can it?

One of the lesser-known facts about Corbyn – that you are unlikely to see in the current campaigning – is that Jezza was one of just 5 MPs that signed the House of Commons Early Day Motion (EDM) in November 2013 to launch the centenary anniversary (1914-2014) of the Bradbury Pound. John McDonnell was another.

The EDM urged the UK Treasury “to follow John Bradbury’s model and address social, economic and political issues across party lines in one fell swoop and avoid wholly unnecessary austerity cuts.”

The Bradbury Pound was introduced by British Prime Minister Lloyd George in August 1914, to pre-empt any war-related run on UK banks. Critically, it shifted money creation away from the Bank of England’s interest-bearing notes to an interest- and debt-free currency printed by the Treasury. Named after Sir John Bradbury, the Treasury Secretary, some £300 million of Bradbury paper was issued in ten shilling and pound notes, which were used in the economy, by the government, to pay for goods and services.

It’s technical, I know. The bottom line is that Britain was, for a short period, able to create its own sovereign money, without needing to repay banks or bond markets, with interest added. Not building up debt that mortgaged the future. The model has been used around the world, intermittently, to the benefits of entire economies, until commercial money lenders elbowed their way back in. They hated not being able to cream off their customary margins.

Just the fact that Corbyn and McDonnell were astute enough to come out in favour of the Bradbury Pound encourages me that a different financial system is attainable.

In the toxic here and now, you are a million times more likely to see Corbyn painted as leader of an ‘anti-semitic’ party. One thing I have learned as a journalist is to ignore headlines and seek facts. I try to base everything I write on that model. Forget the media narratives, look at data or other clues.

Here is one. A 2017 Institute for Jewish Policy Research study found that 0.08% of the Labour Party’s 540,000-strong membership held anti-semitic views. That’s not even one in a thousand. Whereas 2.4% of the general population did hold those views, the study said.

It was with fascination that I watched Alastair Campbell recently interview former Commons Speaker John Bercow, on GQ, and ask about Labour’s anti-semitism. Bercow, a Jew, said he had never experienced anti-Semitism from a member of the Labour Party. He added that in 22 years of knowing Corbyn, he never had reason to believe Corbyn was anti-Semitic.

Bercow did say that Labour has a challenge to address, without specifying. My hunch is that the majority of that tiny 0.08% in the Labour Party were in fact critical of Israel, particularly that country’s illegal occupation and ongoing annihilation of Palestine. My opinion is that pointing out cold-blooded, state-sanctioned violence and murder is not anti-semitic. Feel free to disagree. Once we fear to hold reasoned opinions, we say hello to totalitarianism.

My last point links to the disappointment written across Campbell’s face when he heard Bercow’s answer. Campbell is the former Labour ‘spin-doctor’ who worked under Tony Blair. Spin-doctor being a term that came to displace more honestly stigmatic words: propagandist; slicker; trickster; liar. His ‘co-spinner’ was Peter Mandelson, who enjoyed the company of Jeffrey Epstein, among other dubious connections. Campbell has publicly spoken of his depressive moods. Yet he refuses to acknowledge his part in facilitating the 2003 invasion and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi adults and children. Bit of a clue there, Al.

These two jokers – and Blair – are still revered by Labour’s more ‘centrist’ MPs, and parts of the Establishment. The broad ‘Centre’ has persistently tried to undermine or discredit Corbyn, whose politics are clearly left of centre, and have attracted huge grassroots support. Two of our three kids joined Labour when Corbyn made it clear that he was taking the party back to its traditions, to what it still says on the tin.

Where my sympathy goes in the battle within Labour is a no-brainer.

But, unfortunately, I have long lost any belief that democracy works in the UK. I think that journey began on the day that lawyers warning Blair of the illegality of the Iraq War were ignored, in favour of the WMD ruse. And then witnessing the Coalition under David Cameron, butchering and chopping apart the Welfare State that looks after the neediest. Finally, in the calls to revisit the 2016 referendum result.

Hand on heart, ‘democracy’ seems to have become just another false narrative, rather than something that enables individuals to exert some kind of control, however minor, over their society. Maybe it was always that way. Maybe, as Mark Twain said, “if voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it”.

All I can say with any conviction is that while Corbyn may not be charismatic, or a born leader, he would try and lift everybody’s boats. And address basic human needs such as sufficient food and shelter. He won’t be wasting too much time mixing with financiers, or paedophiles.

The other choices in two weeks’ time are full of dark self-interest.

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