The phone hacking drama is currently on every single newspaper cover, and with the arrest of Rebeckah Brooks this week, it won’t be going away any time soon. I know a bit what it feels like to feel somebody might be listening. – I’m not entirely sure if we were ever bugged but it sometimes felt that way.
My father Johnathon Aitken was finance minister and defense minister in the UK, during John Major’s term as Prime Minister, and the press were hounding us for all kinds of reasons, looking for gossip. From looking for my father’s affairs, to why he was successful, our lives were put under a microscope.
We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace: business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. And we know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob.
Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me and I welcome their hatred.
The e-mail came from Patrick Madigan, a top lawyer in the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, on August 23. “Effective immediately,” it announced, “the New York Attorney General’s Office has been removed from the Executive Committee of the Robosigning multistate.” And just like that, Eric Schneiderman, the top law enforcement official in New York– the state where Wall Street is situated–was kicked off the nationwide committee of state law enforcement officials investigating Wall Street fraud.
In a sane society, Attorneys General would show themselves unfit for such a committee by exhibiting too close a relationship to the subjects of the inquiry. In this one, the opposite was true: Schneiderman has too upstanding a record as a corruption-gadfly for the establishment’s comfort. In the New York State Senate, Schneiderman took on the culture of corruption in Albany, passing tough ethics reform measures while campaigning for even tougher ones. This led him to do some kicking out of his own, when he chaired the committee to eject a crooked senator for the first time in modern history, and won unanimous support, at a time when political divides between Democrats and Republicans had essentially thrust Albany into gridlock, for a measure adding tax fraud to New York’s whistle-blower law, hailed as America’s strongest law to root out fraud against taxpayers (and Schneiderman, now Attorney General, at last finds himself in a position to use that law).
Shock! Horror! The Truth Is Revealed! Rich business people pay money to politicians in exchange for favourable decisions and politicians comply. Headline news it ain’t. If you live in Ireland then not only do you know how corrupt politics is but also how cheaply government ministers can be bought.
After a mammoth fourteen years, the Tribunal of Inquiry into certain Payments to Politicians and Related Matters (the Moriarty Tribunal) has just concluded and not before time either. Fourteen years of evasion, lies, legalities, misrepresentations and rumour. Fourteen years of barristers fees, investigators fees, salaries and miscellany. To date, the whole affair has cost in the region of €40 million but that does not include the final costs. Those will be revealed in time.
Moriarty was set up by the Irish Government to investigate the awarding of a mobile phone licence to Esat Digifone by Michael Lowry; to probe the financial affairs of politicians Charles Haughey and Michael Lowry; and to establish who had paid, how much, to whom, for what and into which offshore bank account it was lodged. A single high court judge, Michael Moriarty, was appointed to shift through the evasions, lies, half-truths and known unknowns and find the nugget of truth in the dross of public relations.
Transparency International’s annual ranking of corruption around the globe hit the news on November 17. It was not a happy occasion in Mexico. America’s southern neighbor landed at 89 out of a total 180 governments measured this year (17 spots lower than in 2008), tied with such nations as Malawi, Moldova, and Rwanda.
This places Mexico well below many of its peers; among Latin American nations, ten governments were ranked cleaner than Mexico’s (including Guatemala’s, where the president has been implicated in the murder of a political enemy and the United Nations recently warned of a possible state capture at the federal level by drug gangs). Among the BRIC nations, the group of emerging economic giants with whom Mexico perennially aspires to be included, only Russia wound up worse than 89th place. Continue reading →