Panama sleaze and the ICIJ – who guards the guardians?

Qui custodiet ipsos custodes

Juvenal, in his Satires, made a good point of course – who does guard the guardians? One organization of journos who claim they broke the Panama story had me immediately asking who the ICIJ were themselves.

Such cynicism is born of the current unreliability of polls – YouGov is Tory, MSNBC, CNN, Guardian, Independent, Mirror are leftist and now the Telegraph has gone that left-liberal, elitist way of Cameron, Osborne and cronies.

In short, there is systemic bias towards whoever is the establishment and the establishment is PC left-liberal, narrative driven today. To them, Obama could utter his highly debatable truncated remark; “You didn’t build that,” and hardly an MSM journo batted an eyelid. The blogosphere did though.

Iain Dale, in 2007, opined, when presenting his lists of top bloggers in the UK, that maybe two thirds of them were centre-right leaning.  This merges in a way with libertarianism, although there are left leaning people who’ve come to libertarianism as well.

The CSMonitor wrote during the last campaign, on perceived bias:

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are eagerly attacking the media, portraying reporters as hopelessly biased against them. As Mr. Ryan told Fox News recently, “I think it kind of goes without saying that there is definitely a media bias,” adding that he “expected liberal media bias” to affect their campaign from day one.

The truth is, Ryan has a valid point. Most members of the American media do hold a generally liberal point of view toward public affairs. In fact a UCLA study a few years ago found that “of the 20 major media outlets studied, 18 scored left of center.”

It’s a quite difficult thing to pin down. Pajamas Media, Bishop Hill, The Slog and various sites which are vaguely libertarian do the sort of journalism the ICIJ does but without the resources, i.e. they see sleaze and go after it, no matter where.  In this, it would be difficult to tell the journalistic line apart, though the politics are clearly apart.

It probably comes down to one’s targets and who is funding whom. I have a computer engineer or two and one traditional Christian behind me.

One who made it big in journalism was Bill Kovach and his style was to go after the target and expose, in what you might call the true journalistic tradition.

This article goes into Kovach and his divergence from another editor, useful as a backgrounder on Kovach.  Why interest in him?  Well, he’s the main driver of the ICIJ, who have just come out with the Panama business. They’d previously come out with:

Finance ministers from the European Union’s 28 member states met in Brussels on Tuesday, where they approved a new directive on the exchange of corporate tax-related information. The new rules are aimed at curbing profit shifting and corporate tax avoidance by large multinational companies.

The initiative is driven by a string of recent corporate tax scandals in Europe, including ICIJ’s Luxembourg Leaks investigation which revealed how hundreds of the world’s biggest companies were using secret agreements with Luxembourg to cut their tax bills by billions. The European Commission estimates that Europe’s governments lose 70 billion euros (about $78 million) to corporate tax avoidance each year. 

ICIJ says of itself:

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists is an active global network of 160 reporters in more than 60 countries who collaborate on in-depth investigative stories.

Founded in 1997, ICIJ was launched as a project of the Center for Public Integrity to extend the Center’s style of watchdog journalism, focusing onissues that do not stop at national frontiers: cross-border crime, corruption, and the accountability of power. Backed by the Center and its computer-assisted reporting specialists, public records experts, fact-checkers and lawyers, ICIJ reporters and editors provide real-time resources and state-of-the-art tools and techniques to journalists around the world.

Our advisory committee consists of some of the biggest names in investigative journalism: Bill Kovach, Rosental Calmon Alves, Phillip Knightley, Gwen Lister, Goenawan Mohamad, Reginald Chua and Brant Houston.

The issue is on what basis they go after tax dodging – is it out of pure journalistic integrity, as they would no doubt believe themselves, is it because Soros or Katie Graham’s intergenerational family of the enlightened are behind them?  Who pays?

The socialists themselves charge the other way – that there is institutionalized right-wing bias.

For me, the critical question is – whom would you NOT go after?  That is – who would never be your targets?  Very interesting that the much loved British satirical puppet series Spitting Image went after all sorts of Tories and to be fair, did caricature the other side along the way, claiming that one went after the government of the day.

Fine, so they’ll go after Blair and Brown with the same gusto, yes?

Er, no. It all sort of petered out once they got their socialist in, didn’t it?  The fearless satire just sort of melted away, like globs of molten wax.  This is where true bias is seen.

Everyone’s biased and nowt wrong wi’it – as long as you’re honest and admit your bias. Therefore, claims by people like the ICIJ of non-partisan non-bias is a canard in my book. Of course there’s institutional bias in any organization – in this case, a global organization of journos – who funds them?

Tell you what started this, shall I? It was the assumption that the very situation of holding money and property is somehow criminal in itself.  The very act of raising oneself above the common herd by dint of one’s acumen and effort, which then does find itself largesse and patronage, is somehow inherently wrong in the first place.

And much of the language of the ICIJ makes those sorts of assumptions.  The Panamanian firm itself said it had abided by protocols and laws, insofar as they extended. Is it the fault of money men that they exploit the rules in Europe, in Luxembourg, even in Panama?

Sure, if they broke any rules, sure, if they actually made those rules in collusion with govt, as the Feds do, particularly the FOMC – then there is cause for going after them. And a bit of scrutiny is anyone’s cross to bear.

But sorting our wrong from right – whose job is that?  Journos? The judiciary? Obama’s or Cameron’s? Juncker’s?  Lagarde’s? Yours? Mine?  It’s right and proper to go after sleaze, for sure, but to go after someone exploiting the rules, still marginally within the rules?  Do not the winning football teams do that?  Does not Djokovic do that?

Sure go after the second home fiddlers, the sleazebuckets in parliament but is it actually illegal or wrong to have those second homes?  This is where I feel we need to step back and think what we should really be stamping out and what is just someone’s astuteness and entrepreneurialism.

Is entrepreneurialism in itself an evil thing?  What does the libertarian principle say about this?

Too many people, in my book, cast envious eyes at those who have and say – I want that. I cast eyes at those who have and ask – was it come by legally and without trampling on people?  The two positions are not the same.

An example – why should someone pay double tax on money made overseas? One should pay once – in the country one makes the money. That’s it. Govt has some right to restrict how much flows out, as it was made using another nation’s resources – not quite the Obama position – but what that has to do with the govt of the nationality of the maker – I fail to see. To me, that’s just institutionalized greed and theft.

Donations to political parties – what’s the issue, as long as it’s a known-known?

Coming back to journos and the left bias – how many of them have actually constructed anything making money? Yet they pontificate on those who do. If you have an ISA – are you money laundering? If you take advantage of certain pension provisions from time to time, even though it might come back to bite you later – have you done wrong?

Is it more pure to not take advantage of any chances or offers?  Do journos try to apply the most bizarrely heavenly levels of purity on others whilst not applying the same to themselves? And I include bloggers here.

You see, we do have a most fundamental divide here, no? One side says there’s nowt wrong with making profit, as long as it doesn’t directly oppress anyone else and the other side says ah, wealth – they have it, we want it. Let’s construct a case whereby making any money at all must have been on the backs of the poor oppressed worker.

Then we can steal it from them. This is the USSR principle – no free enterprise is possible without payola and protection.

3 comments for “Panama sleaze and the ICIJ – who guards the guardians?

  1. Lord T
    April 4, 2016 at 11:20 am

    All these rules and regulations. They should scrap most of them and treat everyone the same.

    I have no issue with MPs and second homes while working away but HMRC won’t allow you or me to do it. That is wrong. I have no issue with money being taken abroad, after all nobody objects when funding from abroad funds it and then they want to recover the profits.

    It is all because a bunch of greedy politicians want their cake, your cake and eat what they want and sell off the rest for their own ends.

    • April 4, 2016 at 11:30 am

      It is all because a bunch of greedy politicians want their cake, your cake and eat what they want and sell off the rest for their own ends.

      Bit complicated for me, that. Keep it simple for us in the NW here.

  2. Errol
    April 4, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    The frustration here is that we have the Left, whining on about people paying their ‘fair share’ (more tax) and Cameron wiffling about ‘morality’ and behind it all their basic characters are sewage, all making maximum use of the law all to avoid it applying to them.

    These people are hypocrites, liars and thieves.

    As far as tax goes, they are obviously too high. We all know this. It’s too high because people go to great lengths avoid it. Taxes should be low, but unavoidable. The state taxes every single thing that moves. As it is, the Talbot steel will now likely receive massive tax payer subsidy in the form of tax payers paying the energy bill – actually scrapping taxes on energy to resolve the fundamental problem is beyond them so we get socialism by the back door.

    Taxes are too high. The state too invasive. Government unaccountable. All this comes down to one thing: a complete lack of democracy.

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