Daily Archives: May 26, 2008

Tony Blair used taxpayer funding to build real estate cash machine empire

‘Playing the system to build an empire’

Financial experts were puzzled at how he managed to secure financing on his Prime Ministerial salary.

Daily Mail | May 26, 2008

By Glen Owen

Tony Blair took out a mortgage of almost £300,000 on his constituency house – double its estimated value – to help fund his growing property empire.

The unusually generous arrangement, revealed in a breakdown of MPs’ expenses, was last night condemned by critics who said it highlighted how politicians could use their taxpayer-funded second homes as ‘cash machines’.

Mr Blair bought Myrobella, in Trimdon, County Durham, when he won his Sedgefield seat in the 1983 General Election.

Tony Blair bought Myrobella in Trimdon County, Durham, in 1983. His mortgage arrangement on the property was about 200 per cent of the home’s value

In her recently published memoirs, Cherie Blair said they bought it for £30,000 ‘and then spent the same again doing what was absolutely necessary’.

But documents released this weekend under freedom of information legislation show that in 2004 the pair were claiming back interest payments on a mortgage totalling £90,449.73, indicating they were claiming for a loan in excess of the £60,000 cost of buying and fitting out the property.

The £330.89-a-month mortgage interest payments, recouped from the taxpayer, contributed to a total claim of £59,446 between April 2001 and April 2005 by Mr Blair under the Additional Costs Allowance, which helps MPs with the cost of running a second home.

Other bills claimed back included £10,600 to fit a kitchen and Aga cooker, £515.75 to supply a dishwasher, £112.26 to have rubbish removed from the garage and £933.99 for a gas bill covering just five weeks in 2004.

The same documents show that at about the same time the Blairs remortgaged with the Cheltenham & Gloucester building society to borrow £297,000 against the value of the house.

The property was then estimated to be worth about £150,000. Even before the credit crunch, it was unusual for more than 125 per cent of a home’s value to be lent.

It seems the Blairs secured close to 200 per cent. They continued to claim allowances from the Commons based on payments they would have made on a £90,000 mortgage.

After years of booming prices, the house’s value is now estimated at closer to £250,000 – still £50,000 less than the total mortgage.

At the time of the remortgage, Mr Blair was negotiating the £3.6million purchase of the five-bedroom Georgian house in Connaught Square, Central London, which has become his main base since leaving Downing Street.

Financial experts were puzzled at how he managed to secure financing on his Prime Ministerial salary.

Apart from the Trimdon home, which is still registered in his name, his property portfolio also includes two Bristol flats bought in 2002 for £260,000 each and a stately home in Buckinghamshire that cost him £4million this year.

Throughout her memoirs, Cherie Blair expresses anxiety about the value of the couple’s property holdings. She is furious when they sell their home in Islington, North London, before entering Downing Street in 1997, and then watch as it soars in value.

She also explains why they started looking for a suitable London base in 2003, amid a furore over the Iraq War.

‘Tony felt he might actually get pushed out… the idea of us being cast out in the wilderness with nowhere to live was terrifying… I knew that, somehow or another, we had to buy a house in London,’ she wrote.

‘I needed to be within hitting distance of [her barristers’] chambers and Tony wanted to be near the Heathrow Express. Connaught Square fulfilled all the criteria except one: price.

‘For a middle-aged couple whose total capital couldn’t even buy one flat in Bristol, let alone two, the purchase of a house this size and price represented a major leap of faith… The answer was a mortgage the size of Mount Snowdon.’

Last night, campaigners said the way the Blairs appeared to have navigated the Commons allowances highlighted how the system could be exploited.

‘The fact the Blairs appear to have been playing the system to build their property empire will sum up all of those things that concern the public about MPs’ expenses,’ said Mark Wallace, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance.

‘The taxpaying public provides these allowances for MPs to do their jobs, not to stand as collateral for building up the Blairs’ personal wealth.’

A spokesman for Mr Blair said: ‘It’s a matter for the building society how much money they are prepared to loan.

‘Mr Blair only claimed the value of the old mortgage [£90,000] even though he was entitled to claim for the costs of the new mortgage.’

Now MPs want £175 a day

MPs are expected to provoke a fresh outcry over expenses by scrapping the need to provide receipts for their £24,000 annual housing allowances.

In a controversial move, they are to be offered the chance to switch to a ‘block grant’ or a new daily allowance system of up to £175 a day to cover the cost of maintaining a second home in London.

Crucially, both options would avoid MPs having to present receipts. Many are furious that hundreds of thousands of receipts for individual expenses’ claims are being made public in a triumph for freedom of information campaigner Heather Brooke.

Now being drawn up by a powerful internal Commons committee, they would also not require MPs to ‘sign in’ each day, unlike a similar system in the House of Lords.

MPs will vote on the options in July. A source confirmed that the detailed receipts now causing acute embarrassment would be done away with.

. . .

Related

Cherie milks ‘Brand Blair’ for all it’s worth on vacation with Bono

Blair paid $500,000 for 20-minute talk

Blair’s legacy: 10 years that ruined Britain

Lady Rothschild invites billionaire elites to exclusive headhunting party for Tony Blair

Blair’s money man arrested

‘Wickedest Man in the World’ coming to a theater near you

chemweddingposter

Chemical Wedding

UK Release Date: 30-05-2008
Starring: Simon Callow
Director: Julian Doyle
Country: UK

Fortean Times | May 2008

Review: The Great Beast at a cinema near you

By David Sutton

Most cinematic approaches to Aleister Crowley have been indirect, presenting ‘Black Magician’ figures inspired by the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’ in a number of horror movies. The new British film Chemical Wedding, by contrast, engages directly with the man and the myth, asking what might happen if the ‘Great Beast’ were to be reborn and unleashed on the unsuspecting 21st century.

The film begins with a flashback to 1947 and Crowley’s death in Hastings, seemingly brought about by rocket scientist and Thelemite Jack Parsons’s attempt to perform the Babalon Working in far-off Pasadena – a plot point that not only resonates later in the film but also provides a springboard for its theme of the confluence of science and magick.

Fast-forward to Cambridge in the year 2000, where scientists are experimenting with a state-of-the-art Virtual Reality suit brought over from Cal Tech and a super-computer called Z93, whose programmer is an obsess ive Crowleyite. When his friend Professor Haddo (Simon Callow; the name is pinched from Somerset Maugham’s Crowley-inspired novel The Magician), an eccentric English professor with a speech impediment and a secret life as a Mason, tries on the VR suit, things go badly wrong. At the next morning’s Shakespeare lecture, Haddo appears with a shaven head, declares that the bard was an occultist and urinates over his students. It’s clear that the professor is not quite himself – in fact, he’s been ‘possessed’ by Crowley, who plans to stay in this new body.

chemical_wedding

And it’s really from this point that things go downhill fast, with the film jettisoning its sense of humour and turning into a standard contest between good and evil in which a student journalist and a visiting American scientist try to prevent the Beast from completing the occult ritual that will allow him to remain on Earth and continue doing bad things.

Co-written by Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson and director Julian Doyle, the film lurches from black comedy to po-faced, heavy metal absurdity: at times it’s rather as if Spinal Tap had decide to make their own version of The Devil Rides Out. The script is the main problem – confusing, repetitive and unforgivably silly, its dialogue larded with indigestible chunks of Shakespeare (as if this would make us take the whole thing seriously) and its situations becoming ever more hackneyed.

Despite its shortcomings – and they are legion – the film does have a lot of fun with the whole Crowley mythos, and playing ‘spot the reference’ (characters have names like ‘Victor’, ‘Leah’, ‘Mathers’ and ‘Symonds’) may keep viewers amused. In the end, it’s a sporadically interesting, fatally flawed addition to cinematic Crowleyana, and one that will probably appeal to quite a few of the Great Beast’s fans – at least those of them who revel in stories of his legendary bad behaviour; modern-day Thelemites who actually take this stuff seriously will no doubt be deeply offended.

Germans give former SS doctor accused of killing 900 children a medal

hans-joachim-sewering

Hans-Joachim Sewering: Accused of mass-murder

Daily Mail | May 26, 2008

By Allan Hall

A former SS doctor accused of sending 900 sick children to their deaths under the Nazi euthanasia programme has been awarded a German medical association’s highest honour.

The decision comes as Jewish organisations continue to press Germany to put 92-year-old Hans-Joachim Sewering on trial for mass murder.

He was given the Guenther-Budelmann medal by the German Federation of Internal Medicine for “unequalled services in the cause of freedom of the practice and the independence of the medical profession and to the nation’s health system”.

Sewering was a doctor at a tuberculosis clinic near Munich before World War II.

He allegedly signed orders sending 900 German Catholic children from the clinic to a “healing centre”.

In fact, it was a killing centre carrying out a secret Nazi policy of murdering the handicapped who were declared “useless eaters” by the Nazis before the war.

Many of the Nazi participants in the programme went on to become death camp commandants and high-ranking officials of the Holocaust.

Four nuns who broke their vow of silence on the recommendation of the Archbishop of Munich in 1993 claim to have witnessed Sewering ordering the transfer of the children and signing documents to that effect.

The U.S. Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre and an independent committee seeking Sewering’s prosecution claim he was an enthusiastic supporter of the euthanasia programme.

He has admitted to membership of the SS, an elite Nazi group, claiming he joined for “social reasons”, but has always denied being responsible for euthanasia.

Sewering, former head of the German doctors’ association, was designated in 1992 as chairman of the World Medical Association but had to withdraw the following year under international pressure because of the accusations against him.

Wolfgang Wesiack, president of the German Federation of Internal Medicine, said Sewering was honoured because “he deserved it”.

He refused to talk about the Nazi allegations.

The case illustrates Germany’s reluctance to pursue alleged Nazi war criminals.

Despite a flurry of trials after the war and a few in the early 1950s, Germany largely forgot about former Nazis, many of whom thrived in politics, the judiciary and the police.

A spokesman for the Committee to Bring Dr Hans-Joachim Sewering to Justice said he “symbolises the lingering legacy of Nazi medicine and the failure of a large part of the German medical community to take responsibility for their acts in the Third Reich”.

Related

Dr. Sewering and the “Wild Euthanasia” Program

Dr. Sewering, in press releases following his forced resignation, denied any knowledge of the atrocities that took place between 1942 and 1945 at Schönbrunn Sanitorium. He even attempted to shift the blame to the Franciscan nuns who had cared for the children throughout the dark period of 1933 to 1945. Dr. Sewering’s statements so outraged the nuns that they broke a 50 year period of silence to refute Dr. Sewering and, in their own press release, indicated that over 900 children had been taken away from them to be murdered as part of the T-4 and “Wild Euthanasia” programs conducted by physicians in every part of the Third Reich. The nuns stated that everyone at Schönbrunn, including the children themselves, knew that transfer to Eglfing-Haar “Healing Center” was a ticket to death.

Libertarians pick former Rep. Bob Barr as presidential nominee

Jeri Dobbin, left, looks on as her husband former Republican congressman Bob Barr accepts the Libertarian Presidential nomination at the Libertarian National Convention, Sunday, May 25, 2008 in Denver. The Libertarian Party picked former Republican congressman from Georgia to be its presidential candidate after six rounds of balloting.

McCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS | May 25, 2008

DENVER – The Libertarian Party Sunday picked former Republican Congressman Bob Barr of Georgia as its presidential candidate, a move that could attract some conservatives turned off by the Republican Party.

“My approach is to reach every single voter we can,” Barr said after winning the nomination.

He said his message would be to “get the government out of their pocketbook, out of their homes, out of their schools.” He also proposes to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq and from around the world.

Barr was the best known of 14 candidates for the nomination, his fame earned during three terms in Congress when he helped lead the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton for lying to conceal an affair. Supporters hoped that fame would help him draw more news media attention and increase the party’s fall vote.

In recent years, he soured on the Republican Party, shifting course to oppose the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act and suspension of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, and the rapid rise in domestic government spending.

Barr insisted he’s not a spoiler just hoping to hurt Republican John McCain in close contests, as critics accuse Ralph Nader of doing to Democrat Al Gore in Florida in 2000. “I’m in this to win,” he said.

Yet the party now is on the ballot only in 28 states and gathering petitions in another 20. Party insiders concede that they’re unlikely to get on the ballot in Oklahoma and West Virginia because the laws there are so restrictive.

The Libertarian Party, founded in 1971, yearns to break the million vote mark. The closest it’s come was in 1980, when nominee Ed Clark was on the ballot in all 50 states and won 921,000 votes.

Libertarians lost what might have been their best shot at cracking the million vote level when Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, declined their invitation to seek the nomination.

Paul, who was the Libertarian presidential candidate in 1988, instead ran for the Republican nomination this year. He tapped into a deep reservoir of support in the Republican Party, raised millions of dollars, and continues to turn out committed supporters.

Though he failed to win a primary, he opted to remain in the party and will try to make a strong statement at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota.

Barr was challenged by many longtime Libertarians as an outsider who only quit the Republican Party and joined theirs two years ago.

It took him six ballots to win the nomination against an eclectic group that included former Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska as well as a Las Vegas oddsmaker and a California cancer patient who credits his survival to marijuana.

His primary opposition came from Mary Ruwart, a longtime Libertarian activist and candidate from Texas who so opposes government that she once wrote that the government should not even regulate child pornography.

“Children who willingly participate in sexual acts have the right to make that decision as well, even if it’s distasteful to us personally,” she wrote in a book on her Libertarian philosophy.

“Some children will make poor choices just as some adults do in smoking and drinking to excess.” When we outlaw child pornography, the prices paid for child performers rise, increasing the incentives for parents to use children against their will.”