Storyville: Inside Lehman Brothers, BB4, BBC IPlayer, Director Jennifer Deschamps.

Lehman Brothers was one of the first dominoes to fall in the 2008 crash which brought down the world’s financial systems. Debts for Lehman Brothers were around $630 billion. Take a little time to think about that. It’s like the idea of infinity. Your mind shies away from how much money that is. Physicists like to simplify things. If your typical hospital, such as the one in Glasgow or Edinburgh cost £100 million, how many hospitals could you build? Boris Johnson proposes 26 new hospital, but he wasn’t very good at sums, someone quietly mentioned that he really meant six, which doesn’t have the same oomph, but he did throw in 20 000 new police officers in a great big tax giveaway before the next election.  Think of the Laurel and Hardy of British politics, Cameron and Osborne, forever telling us there was no money, while quietly shifting money from the poor to the rich. The United Kingdom and London, in particular, the money-laundering capital of the world.  Lehman Brothers isn’t the rogue bank, the cautionary tale that taught us a valuable lesson. As the billions of pounds and dollars levelled in fines show, all the banks were at it. Lehman brothers were offered up to the gods of finance because they were small enough to go under.

Winners and losers. Richard S. Fuld Jr, who was essentially Lehman Brothers, in all but corporate name and whose pitiful salary in 2007 was around $22 million and after appearing before a Congressional Committee and declaring it was a bull market and it ‘wasn’t me’. A common cry from uncommonly wealthy men.  Fuld walks away with $406 million in bonuses and is exonerated.

The sheriff’s department in finance, The Security and Exchange Commission, (SEC) which is meant to step in when financial irregularities occur, in theory, self regulates. What that means in practice is a representative from Morgan Stanley, for example, investigates Lehmann Brothers. Whistle blower at executive level, Matthew Lee, for example, informed the SEC that Lehmann Brothers were running a carousel in which they took around $50 billion off the audited books in America and sent them to Lehmann Brothers in London, then brought the money back, after the audit had taken place, to hide the subprime losses they were making. Trading followed a very basic principle if it wasn’t illegal, do it. If it was illegal still do it, as long as you make money, but don’t get caught. Lee had handed the SEC a smoking gun in a file called ‘Repo 105’.

After six months the SEC hadn’t got back to Matthew Lee but he had been fired by Lehman Brothers.

Self-regulation of the SEC was, in essence, like sending Harvey Weinstein to investigate Jeffrey Epstein.   

In 2018, the moron’s moron, Vietnam dodger, multiple bankrupt and other well-known sex pest, who also happens to be President of the United States, repealed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was set up after the financial crash 2008. Like the Glass-Steagall legislation it was seen as being overly bureaucratic, making the United States less competitive than its counterparts. In other words, let’s fill our boots again and don’t worry about consequences because little people don’t count.

Not only are banks and regulatory bodies for sale, as we’ve seen the position of President of the United States is too. Gearing up for the next election, Mark Zuckerberg, who did so much to get Trump elected has changed Facebook policy to allow politicians to publish alternative truth, ‘deceptive, false, or misleading content’.

Donald Trump was of course elected to ‘drain the swamp’. In 2017 there’s another bull market and bonuses once again reach 2007 level, running around $30 billion for traders. Algorithmic trading follow the crowd meaning a Lehman type crash will happen faster with greater fallout.

When we’re talking about money, put a face to it. There’s not all them here, not all of them are buffoons, but all of them are millionaires, some of them billionaires. Can another Lehman Brother’s crash happen?  Absolutely.

Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, directed by Ursula Macfarlane.

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I watched this with interest. For those of you that don’t know the story, Bob and Harvey Weinstein came from rags to riches, rent-controlled housing, worked hard and lived the American dream. They created a media monster, Miramax, named after their mum and dad, which was gobbled up by an even bigger player, Disney. And they went on to live happily ever after in La La land.

Harvey never really had any friends. What he had a genius for was bullying and marketing. Deterrence did not deter him. No doesn’t mean no.

Paz de la Huerta, ‘You put on a happy face, but inside your dying. I wanted to take back what he stole from me.’

Hope d’Amore, ‘Nobody would have believed anything I said. He used to say he owned the cops in Buffalo.’

Journalist Andrew Goldman was a minor causality when he was put into a headlock and punched in the head by Harvey Weinstein. His girlfriend got a quote that sums up Weinstein (and Donald J Trump). ‘I’m glad I’m the sheriff of this shit ass fucking town’. Partygoers took plenty of pictures of this altercation, but none emerged to support the reporter’s claims.

Untouchable, appeasement is not just between nations but begins at home and is a come-on for the bully boy.  Wars break out not because a country becomes reckless. Countries go to war because they continue to do what they’ve always done. Weinstein’s brute strength wasn’t in his obese frame overwhelming a hundred pounds of female flesh, but in the economic strength he projected.

We know the story of how he worked. Like Michael Jackson it’s told here again and again. Pattern recognition: An invitation of a lift home. The offer of a part in movies. The sore neck that needed massaged. The locked door. The penetration. It wasn’t a secret. It wasn’t a lie. People knew, but most weren’t talking.

One of his victims summed it up by saying she was a nothing, he was a ten. But Weinstein was no longer a ten when he voluntarily placed himself in custody. He was no longer, like the pussy-grabber and moron’s moron in the Whitehouse, king of the hill. Disney had let Miramax go, and after spectacular early success, Bob and Harvey had blown $1.2 billion of other people’s money on film flops. They were vulnerable. Harvey was especially vulnerable. Sure they still had millions of dollars to throw around intimidating victim with smear campaigns, litigation and phone calls in the middle of the night, but he was no longer ‘the sheriff’, in the way that the moron’s moron is still President.

Those of us that stood around whistling and waiting with foreboding for the latter’s impeachment are gloomy. The floppy haired grabbers just keep going on grabbing to fill their oversized egos. Women are fair game, the weaker sex.

Benito Mussolini and his fascist troops occupied Ethiopia and a bit of France. There’s a sense of national histrionics and entitlement recognisable in that other caricature of humanity this side of the Atlantic in Boris Johnston. No ideology but self. The strong man. No coherent plan. Waiting to see what way the wind blows and humanity be damned. Women be fucked.

Weinstein is the lesser monster of our imagination. One that is behind bars is never that threatening. If he was up for re-election, we’d have something to fear. Stupidity is contagious, appeasement continues and it’s not too early to say the future of the world is at stake. If I’m still alive in ten years I hope and pray there’s an outbreak of common sense and a documentary about the women the moron’s moron has raped and his ever-growing, multiple, abuses of power. Trump’s still at ten in his power base, eleven even. Few sitting Presidents up for re-election lose. We need to wait for the fall.  Weinstein be damned. Weinstein is history.


Japan’s Secret Shame, BBC 2 9pm, BBC iPlayer, director and producer Erica Jenkins.

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In May 2017, twenty-nine year old Shiori Ito, claimed she had been raped by a television journalist, Noriyuki Yamaguchi. They had met in a Tokyo sushi bar. Ito hoped Yamaguchi would help her break into journalism and was willing to work as an intern. He was well connected to Japan’s elite, having written an authorised biography of the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Yamaguchi drugged her drink (shades of Bill Cosby here) and said she was drunk and couldn’t allow her to travel home by public transport. He took her to a hotel and repeatedly raped her. I’m meant to say, allegedly, here.

One of the online messages she received when she went public with the truth was ‘go back to Korea’. Comfort girls. An innocuous sounding term. You won’t find mention of them in Japanese school text books.  They have been written out of history. The damages paid by Japan to South Korea for that dishonour and reparation payments for a brutal occupation (1910-1945) in a chapter in  Ha-Joong Chang’s book 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, was enough to kick-start the South Korean shipbuilding industry.  The Nanking Massacre also involved mass rape and mutilation. The Japanese have previous here.

And the law relating to consent, until Ito’s challenge to the quiet way things are done in Japan, dates from 1907, before Japan’s imperial conquests had taken root. It took a Gaijin, an outsider, to explain it to the viewer. You can buy any sexual service you want in Japan. Popular sex dolls, for example, are designed to look like women and children.

#Me Too and the Harvey Weinstein scandal was met by puzzlement.  As one female student explained from a young age they attend school in little sailor’s uniforms. Their cuteness is iconic as the Japanese flag. They take it for granted that they will be sexually assaulted while travelling on public transport, men and boys rubbing up against them. They will be raped and abused. Nobody much reports it, because the victim is seen as being at fault. And the facilities for reporting sexual assault are feeble.

Rape kits, which could provide forensic evidence, are held by the police. When Ito tried to press criminal charges against Yamaguchi and asked to speak to a female officer, her statement was taken by a traffic warden. Her statement was invalid and she was referred back to male police officers.

When Ito tried to contact a Rape Crisis Centre she found the nearest one was two hours away by public transport. And they weren’t willing to meet Ito anywhere else.

Perhaps the strangest event was a liberal politician in the government appearing in the programme as a critic of Ito. After all, Ito had drunken alcohol. A straw poll by contemporary female students on their smartphones, after Ito had given a workshop about rape, showed that ten-percent of these contemporary students thought drinking alcohol with her assailant was akin to giving consent to having sex.

Before Silicon Valley, Japan was the poster-boy capitalist and technological leader of the late seventies and early eighties. An aging population and the birth rate falling off a cliff, it seems too many males are wanking themselves to death, which makes a change from working themselves to death. Females remain part of a feudal mind-set that seems to offer equality, but when they reach for it, moves further away.

But listen, the Americans have the serial groper and rapist in the White House. It’s a bit of light relief that Russian prostitutes peed on him. And here at good old blighty, we have the rape clause for would-be benefit claimants. Our secret shame is not so secret.