California man denies creating Bitcoin VIDEO
Rich landowners are the REAL welfare scroungers adored by the tory filth
country pile

The welfare dependants the government loves? Rich landowners

Uncapped, almost unconditional, the vast sums of public money we give to farmers buy only destruction

Just as mad cow disease exposed us to horrors – feeding cattle on the carcasses of infected cattle – previously hidden in plain sight, so the recent floods have lifted the lid on the equally irrational treatment of the land. Just as bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) exposed dangerous levels of collusion between government and industry, so the floods have begun to expose similar cases of complicity and corruption. But we've heard so far just a fraction of the story. I hope in this article to lift the lid a little further. The issues I've begun to investigate here – the corrupt practices and the irrationality of current policies – should unite both left and right in a demand for change. They should be as offensive to those who seek to curb public spending as they are to those who seek to defend it.

In July 2013 the British government imposed a £26,000 cap on the total benefits a household can receive. In the same month it was pursuing a different policy in urgent discussions in Brussels: fighting tooth and nail to prevent the imposition of a proposed cap precisely 10 times that size (€300,000, or £260,000). The European commission wanted this to be as much money as a single farmer could receive in subsidies. The British government was having none of it. It won, with the result that this measure is now discretionary – member states can decide whether or not to cap farmers' benefits. Unsurprisingly, the British government has decided not to. The biggest 174 landowners in England take £120m between them. A €300,000 cap would have saved about £70m. If farmers were subject to the benefits cap that applies to everyone else (£26,000), the saving would amount to about £1bn. Why should a cap be imposed on the poor but not the rich?

Last week the MP Simon Danczuk read out a letter in the House of Commons that one of his constituents had received from the Department for Work and Pensions. It told her she was about to "enter the second stage of your intensive job-focused activity". It expressed the hope that "all the activity or training intervention completed so far has not only supported you to achieve your aspirations but has moved you closer to the job market". Lying in a coma since December had not affected her ability to work, or her progress towards achieving her aspirations. She's in a coma because she suffered a heart attack. The heart attack, her father maintains, was brought about by extreme stress, caused by the threat of having her benefits stopped despite a mental illness so severe that she had been unable to work for 27 years.

Two days before this letter was read to the Commons, the farming minister, George Eustice, was speaking at the conference of the National Farmers' Union. He began by paying "tribute to the great work" of its outgoing president: "Thank you for what you've done." Can you picture a minister in this government saying that about the head of any other trade union? The NFU's primary work is lobbying. Yet the critical distance between government and lobbyists you would expect in a functioning democracy is non-existent.

  • Bitcoin exchange MTgox blame bug for 850,000 bitcoins disappearing
    At the start of February 2014, illegal access through the abuse of a bug in the bitcoin system resulted in an increase in incomplete bitcoin transfer transactions and we discovered that there was a possibility that bitcoins had been illicitly moved through the abuse of this bug. As a result of our internal investigation, we found that a large amount of bitcoins had disappeared. Although the complete extent is not yet known, we found that approximately 750,000 bitcoins deposited by users and approximately 100,000 bitcoins belonging to us had disappeared.

    We believe that there is a high probability that these bitcoins were stolen as a result of an abuse of this bug and we have asked an expert to look at the possibility of a criminal complaint and undertake proper procedures. On the same day (24th), we found out large discrepancies between the amount of cash held in financial institutions and the amount deposited from our users.

    The amounts are still under investigation and may vary but they approximate JPY 2.8 billion. We are investigating the causes of these problems. Since there are probably a variety of causes including hacking by third parties, we need to investigate a huge amount of transaction reports in order to establish the truth. As of this date, we cannot confirm the exact amount of missing deposit funds and the total amount of bitcoins which disappeared. Once we discovered that bitcoins had disappeared and the discrepancies between cash funds and deposit balances, we judged that it would be difficult to continue our activities normally and we therefore closed our site at noon on the 25th (Japan time).

  • Bitcoin offline: Top exchange Mt.Gox disappears from web
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  • Bitcoin exchange mtgox shuts down
  • Bitcoin offline: Top exchange Mt.Gox disappears from web
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  • Bitcoin exchange mtgox shuts down
  • How do the rich get richer? Tax rates of the top 1 percent
    rich tax rates

    In the week before we launch our new paper on austerity, Ricardo Fuentes Nieva reveals that the richest in the US and the UK have paid a lower marginal tax rate over the last three decades and that their ability to influence tax rates is growing. How do the rich get richer? The magic formula to wealth and status divides people along ideological lines: some say it's through hard work; others, through luck. Balzac even argued that behind every large fortune without apparent causes there is a crime.

    Ben Bernanke, the current chairman of the Federal Reserve system of the United States, recently gave a speech in which he talked about merit and responsibility. The message was just as important as the audience - he was the key note speaker during the commencement ceremony of Princeton University, one of the most exclusive universities in the world both by cost and difficulty to be admitted.

    Bernanke said:

    "The concept of success leads me to consider so-called meritocracies and their implications. We have been taught that meritocratic institutions and societies are fair. Putting aside the reality that no system, including our own, is really entirely meritocratic, meritocracies may be fairer and more efficient than some alternatives. But fair in an absolute sense? Think about it. A meritocracy is a system in which the people who are the luckiest in their health and genetic endowment; luckiest in terms of family support, encouragement, and, probably, income; luckiest in their educational and career opportunities; and luckiest in so many other ways difficult to enumerate-these are the folks who reap the largest rewards."

    Bernanke's argument is a challenge to the economic and political elite everywhere, not only in the US. He is arguing against two hard held beliefs: that if you're rich it is because you deserve it; and that in a fair society every person is responsible only for him or herself. The speech was very well received. All in all, it was gratifying to see such an influential figure make the case for a more equitable society. Yet the warm, fuzzy feeling stops there.

    Bernanke makes a case for more responsibility by the privileged few. Yet the evidence in many countries shows that, in fact, the tax rate for the rich has been falling. In a new paper (recently published in the latest issue focusing on concentration of income of the Journal of Economic Perspectives), Alvaredo, Atkinson, Picketty and Saez analyze the long term trends of average tax rates for the top 1 percent for the US, UK, Germany and France. Look at the above graph.

    Over the last three decades, the richest members of society in the US and the UK have been paying a lower marginal tax rate. In France, on the other hand, the decline is much smaller. Why has the average marginal tax rate dropped substantially in some countries? There are several factors, according to the authors, who say: "[t]he political factors that led to top tax rate cuts - such as those by Reagan and Thatcher in the 1980s in the United States and the United Kingdom - were accompanied by other legislative changes, such as deregulation, which may have caused top incomes to rise, not least on account of the impetus they gave to the growth of the financial services… and legal services sectors"

    One remarkable development is that the fall in top tax rates is accompanied with a sharp increase in the pre-tax share of income of the top 1 percent (see graph). In other words, in some countries like the US, the UK and Ireland, the rich got a larger share of the economic pie and paid less taxes on it. How did this happen? There are several plausible reasons explored in the paper:

  • Those with high incomes decided to reveal their true income with the lower rates, as they didn't need to avoid paying higher tax rates anymore.
  • Lower tax rates promote economic activity and entrepreneurship and more work.
  • The preferred explanation of the authors: a change in bargaining power by the super rich.
  • As they explain "[w]hen top marginal tax rates were very high, the net reward to a highly paid executive for bargaining for more compensation was modest. When top marginal tax rates fell, high earners started bargaining more aggressively to increase their compensation"

  • World's wealthy are so rich they can afford to buy opulent mansions in London and let them ROT

    London's £3bn ghost mansions: ‘Foreign investors are using capital’s finest homes as real-life Monopoly pieces’

    More than 700 “ghost mansions” — worth a total of £3 billion — lie empty and unused in London, an Evening Standard investigation reveals today. Research commissioned by this newspaper reveals the remarkable scale of the “no lights on” phenomenon as London faces the worst housing crisis in its history, with 800,000 people on waiting lists. Paul Palmer, London’s leading empty homes “detective”, who previously worked for Westminster council, said his analysis showed that there were “at least” 740 uninhabited properties worth £5 million or more. He said: “The scandal of London’s posh empties continues unabated. Offshore investors are still using some of London’s finest homes as real-life Monopoly pieces, hiding behind solicitors and anonymous PO box accounts in places like the British Virgin Islands.”

    He estimated the combined value of the properties at £3.2 billion, enough to fund the construction of more than 10,000 affordable homes. The Standard’s findings shocked Mayor Boris Johnson, who said it made “little sense” for so much living space to be left unused and called on councils to levy punitive levels of council tax on owners of long unoccupied homes. Mr Johnson said: “I would welcome boroughs following the lead of Camden council, who charge 150 per cent council tax to owners of property that has been empty for over two years. Perhaps even multiples of that could be levied to encourage owners to rent out or live in long-standing unoccupied homes.” Other prominent figures added their voices to demands for a tax on owners of empty homes, including interior designer Kelly Hoppen and architect Lord Rogers, who said “owners of buildings have a social responsibility as well as an economic one”.

    The properties are scattered in a “mansion belt” stretching diagonally across London, from Wimbledon and Richmond in the south-west, to Hampstead and Highgate in the north-east. However, the great clusters are in the most elite enclaves of Mayfair, Belgravia, Knightsbridge and Kensington. The most notorious “ghost mansion” address is The Bishops Avenue, known as north London’s “billionaire’s row”. Fifteen houses on the street, worth a total of £350 million, have been left to rot, in some cases for decades. They are in such bad repair that wildlife experts claim they are an important natural habitat for rare bats and owls and should not be demolished. In theory, local authorities can use compulsory purchase powers to buy homes that have been unused for years. In practice, this is unlikely because of the prohibitive cost of repairing and converting them into useable homes.

    It is also often hard to identify the ultimate ownership of the homes because they are hidden behind layers of complex offshore company structures. David Ireland, chief executive of the Empty Homes charity, said London was bucking the national trend of a fall in the number of unused properties, despite having the most acute shortage. Across the capital, there are 72,457 empty homes, of which 24,226 are classified as long-term empty, according to latest Government figures. On the streets of Mayfair this morning, there was ample evidence of fabulously expensive homes being left to rot.

    On Upper Grosvenor Street — opposite the embassies of the US and Monaco — steps lead down to abandoned basement flats slowly drowning in a sea of rubbish at two run-down properties. One passerby, writer Melissa Brady-Dant, 40, who lives in Shoreditch, said it was a “disgrace” that so many prime properties were being left empty. “They should limit the number of foreign buyers,” she said. “There are so many people who could benefit from living in this neighbourhood. Some of the best schools are round the corner. There are lots of people who commute just to bring their children to those schools. It’s a waste, a travesty and terrible management.”

    But some property experts said relaxations of planning laws and the huge demand for luxury homes in London meant more unused buildings were likely to be converted into family homes over the next few years. Mayfair estate agent Peter Wetherell said: ”With a lot of these empty properties, there’s a lot of a activity going on below the water. There is a huge demand for really big, nice unmodernised homes — not to be left empty, but to be lived in.”

  • Learning to smash the control of the cold, ruthless and greedy 1%
    The 1% are disproportionately made up not of people who are most able, but of those who are most greedy and least concerned about the rights, feelings and welfare of other people

    Is the British education system designed to polarise people?

    Young people need to learn to control the richest 1% who dominate Britain, argues Professor Danny Dorling

    I grew up in Oxford, but left my hometown to study and then worked at universities in Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds and Sheffield. People who read my words but didn't hear my accent often assumed I was from the north. But now I've come full circle, and have taken up a chair in geography at Oxford University. It is geography that reveals just how divided we have become as a society in this country. There are places from which it appears almost impossible to succeed educationally and others where it seems very hard to fail.

    On any given day, a fifth of children in Britain qualify for free school meals. Just one in 100 of those children get to go to either Oxford or Cambridge University. Four private schools and one highly selective state sixth-form college send more children to Oxbridge than do 2,000 other secondary schools. The most prestigious 100 schools secure 30% of all Oxbridge places. And 84 of them are private schools. People often complain that the national debate on higher education is unfairly dominated by interest in entry to these two universities. But it matters. The richest 1% (people with a pre-tax household income of at least £160,000) dominate decision-making in this country. How they behave is a weathervane for social mobility in Britain.

    Income inequality has now reached a new maximum and, for the first time in a century, even those just below the richest 1% are beginning to suffer, to see their disposable income drop. When you exclude the top 1%, income inequality within the rest of the population, within the 99%, is now lower than at any time since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister. Or, as put in economist-speak by the Institute for Fiscal Studies last year: "Over the past two decades … inequality among the bottom 99% has fallen: the Gini coefficient for the bottom 99% was 5% lower in 2011–12, at 0.30, than in 1991." We now know that economic inequality changes how we think and is linked to biases in self-perception. When university students from 16 countries around the globe were asked to rate how they individually compared to other students in terms of the big five personality traits (agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, open-mindedness and emotionality) it was those in the more economically unequal countries, such as the US, who were most likely to frequently say that they were superior to their peers. Fortunately, perhaps, the UK was not included in that particular study. When it is, we may find that we are not as self-deprecating when tested in private as we are in public.

    Being more prone to be elitist and trumpet our own talents, both actual and imagined, is not necessarily unwise in a more unequal society. In such a society, to prosper may well require individuals to be more upbeat about their individual abilities, to think they are better than others. How else do you justify your position if you are paid much more than the average in a very inequitable society? However, the tendency to self-aggrandisement has many downsides. As acclaimed author, academic and working-class child Marshall Berman said of his student days: "The experience of studying at Columbia, Oxford and Harvard was intellectually exciting but socially lonely. They all catered to the rich, to the current and wannabe ruling class, and I felt I didn't fit in." When clever upstarts get into the ranks of the super-paid they often find they do not fit in easily there, just as highly paid women often also discover.

    Today in education the thinking and attitudes of a few of our elite have come to be presented as common sense. Some of the members of the 1% like to portray state schools as the problem, and they suggest that those schools are the reason why others are paid so little and why incomes have dropped. To be able to do this they sometimes suggest that there was once a golden age of state schooling when the grammar schools gave working-class children a chance. Some may believe this was true, but grammar schools were a relic of an older, even more unequal age. Some of the new top 1% would prefer to see the privatisation of all schools. It is almost 20 years since Milton Friedman explained to the Washington Post how state education could be privatised in the US. He said: "I believe that the only way to make a major improvement in our educational system is through privatisation … Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are a means to make a transition from a government to a market system." Now in the UK we have vouchers, in the form of the pupil premium, that follow poorer children to whichever school they attend. We have academies that are "managed by trusts, companies limited by guarantee", as my old comprehensive school in Oxford is now tagged. We are currently travelling on Friedman's road map. Geographical comparisons show that it is not a good route to take.

    Stefan Collini, professor of English literature and intellectual history at the University of Cambridge, when commenting on the latest international education statistics last year, explained that "countries committed to high-quality comprehensives, such as Finland, yet again come out on top. A stratified and class-segregated school system is not the answer: it's the problem." There is way too much hierarchy and stratification among UK schools. Across the European mainland, children are far more used to almost all going to local state schools. That may be because almost every other European country is more economically equal than the UK. The UK's education system is beginning to look more like that of the US than other countries in Europe. Many American private universities now spend just a sixth of their fee income on teaching. These private providers take more than a fifth of fees in profit and spend even more on marketing to cover up the poor quality of what they are offering – subprime degrees not worth the paper they are printed on being sold to very young, very gullible consumers.

    Since 2010-11 in Britain the new fully private universities have had access to taxpayers' monies and can make a profit. Pundits now talk of "the subprime student loan" because often what is being bought through borrowing is not worth the initial fee, let alone the interest on that fee. Yet not all privatisation in education is on an upward trend. For four of the last five years the numbers of children enrolled in fee-paying schools in the UK have fallen to just over 500,000. Part of the reason for the fall is that the average annual private school fee is now £14,000, and one of the reasons it is so high is because the numbers are dropping. Average annual fees for boarding schools are £27,612 – but almost £29,000 for boarding sixth-formers. The number of pupils in those schools dropped by 1.4% recently, to 66,605. At the most elite boarding schools, once the price of school trips is factored in, costs can be £50,000 a year, per child.

    At exactly the same time that fewer children at or near the top of British society are able to aspire to what the children of the top 1% can afford, millions of children at the bottom of the 99% are falling into poverty or seeing their poverty deepen. In 2013 the Children's Commissioner explained what is happening in the UK due to the nature of cuts and austerity: "Families with children will lose more of their income than families without children. However, lone parents will lose the most out of everyone." Within the 99% there is still rising inequality for the children. Social mobility is lowest where local "choice" in education superficially appears to be highest. Another study last year named Trafford in Greater Manchester as having the highest level of educational social segregation. This is due to secondary moderns and grammar schools being retained there as well as private school provision being high. When confronted with the evidence that government education policy was reducing social mobility in such areas, a spokesman for the education department said it did not wish to comment on the report.

    For schooling, the country to which utopians look is Finland, where 99.2% of school education is state-funded. In Finland, there is no inspection of teachers, no league tables; pupils are not set or streamed, and, as Diane Reay, professor of education at Cambridge, explains: "In four international surveys, all since 2000, Finnish comprehensive school students have scored above students in all the other participating countries in science and problem-solving skills, and came either first or second in reading and mathematics. These results were achieved despite the amount of homework assigned in Finnish schools being relatively low, and an absence of private tuition." We have an educational system that is designed to polarise people, one that creates an elite who can easily come to have little respect for the majority of the population, who think that they should earn extraordinarily more than everyone else, and defines the jobs of others as so low-skilled that it apparently justifies many living in relative poverty.

    The elite is shrinking. It really is now only 1% of the population who are maintaining their very high standard of living. The majority of graduates, even from a university like Oxford, cannot expect to fit within that 1% even if they all wished to only do the kinds of jobs that pay so much. The majority of all our young people should expect to see their standard of living fall in future, or they need to learn how to better control the richest people in our society. The 1% are disproportionately made up not of people who are most able, but of those who are most greedy and least concerned about the rights, feelings and welfare of other people. Recently released findings from psychology suggest that many of them may be naturally inclined to be more selfish. It is not so much their fault that they find it hard to understand others' feelings. It is our fault for not controlling the greed of a few and for so long swallowing their shallow arguments as to why they deserve so much.

    • Danny Dorling is Halford Mackinder professor of human geography at Oxford University. This article is an extract from his inaugural lecture, given this week.

  • Scientific Proof that Having Money Makes People More Evil? VIDEO

    Research published a while ago shows that people who have lots of money behave less ethically — and are less generous — than people who have less. This video from the PBS Newshour makes a pretty alarming case that money actually erodes your morals. Among other things, drivers of luxury cars are way less likely to stop for pedestrians at a crosswalk. And they're four times more likely to cheat in a card game if there's a $50 voucher at stake. And richer people took twice as much candy from poor children than regular people.

    But the kicker comes when the experimenters test out a "rigged" Monopoly game in which one person starts out with way more money — that person invariably wins the game, of course, but the surprise is that they insist they won fair and square. As though even a temporary advantage in Monopoly money turns you into an elitist.
    Wealth and the rise of arrogance and greed

    It is the rarest of qualities to see an ordinary man with a sudden change of fortune not himself changing. For anyone who has never experienced having come into a substantial amount of money it has maybe the most profound influence in how that person's views are warped in their perspective of life itself. Some of the most vile traits associated with the uber rich come into play and someone who finds themselves wealthy begins to act arrogantly towards their fellow men and those who are less fortunate.

    Many lottery winners think they themselves haven't changed but ask any of their close friends and family and they will see changes that in time show an aloofness that ONLY comes from wealth especially those who inherit vast fortunes from families who already have an enormous step up the ladder. The same lot presently running Britain as some sort of TOFF state and who with a breed of arrogant scum playing a vile and nasty game with the population smearing the ordinary Joe's as not worthy and deserving of their menial place in society and especially if they are jobless, ill or are homeless and penniless. Inequality that has flourished in Britain over centuries has provided a platform for some of the most evil of traits to multiple and raised in the gutter press as worthy of promotion and some sort of force for good. One read of Harmsworth's Daily Rat shows the very bastards influencing society with these traits are held up as the moral guardians for the peasantry and hero's for the greedy bastard's cause.

    The greed of the ruling establishment is trying to return to a state where the few control the many to satisfy their insatiable appetite for wealth. Once these bastards get their first million they cannot lie back and enjoy the trappings of wealth as that appetite can only be satisfied by ever more twisted machinations that inevitably lead to the poorest paying a heavy price to prop up the psychopathic madmen that wealth turns them into and most especially the young rich kids (Eton groomed) who not only are inheriting the wealth of their forefathers but all the major platforms that can retain, increase and keep them in that opulent state by ensuring policies are created that preserve the status quo.

    Thanks to the internet it is time to stamp out these traits, the only way they have been able to keep the peasantry at bay is to ensure their propaganda merchants oppress their machinations by creating the illusion that somehow they are sharing the wealth and have the peasants best interests at heart. We are presently being ruled over by a bunch of deranged psychopaths who themselves need a short, sharp, shock and the removal of the platforms they and their forefathers have used to control the peasantry for way to long. That we can absolutely guarantee is slowly but surely coming to an end.

  • Britain's property racketeers VIDEO
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    Capitalist system depends on property theft to advance an agenda

    When are home OWNERS going to waken up to that fact they actually own bugger all? When are the dreamers who arrogantly think they are better than the common herd because they THINK they own land or property going to waken up? London more than anywhere else shows the massive disparity between the peasants forced to live on sink estates and those living in mansions who assume they OWN those palatial homes?

    Banks, who once used precious metals as the means to print money, have found a better way of coining it in using house theft and the manipulation of the housing market to ensure property sky rockets and gives crooked banks, judges and lawyers a means to line their pockets. Properties that are sold under the guise of ownership are nothing more than a fancy way of garnering vast sums for putting a roof over the heads of dupes and at some later point dragging them into their dens of iniquity courts to thieve them back. For any man who has seen the ease with which the system can take control of the house you thought you once OWNED they are in no doubt this is the biggest money spinning racket on the planet.

    Men globally are paying $/£ trillions towards dodgy mortgage scams only to find at some point down the line some excuse , mostly divorce, is all these evil bastards need to take back possession. After all who is it that holds the deeds for the house you thought you owned?

    Who writes the legislation to give them the excuses to steal back your most expensive purchase? Why do you need a LAWYER to buy a home? Why does the global law society hold the total monopoly over the buying and selling of property?

    Capitalism is a master plan of the elite who have carved up the world's land then sell small pockets of that land to the unsuspecting public along with a house to enslave the lower orders who will struggle for 25 years + to fund the massive repayments on mortgages orchestrated to syphon maximum capital from the wealth men create through a lifetime of graft. Despite repeated warnings on this matter their continue to be dupes who like lemmings are being led to the edge of the property cliff and there will continue to be men who will throw themselves off that cliff when they find ALL of their investments in property goes up in a puff of smoke.

    Until the madness that is associated with house purchase is resolved men will continue to be victims of the fraud and corruption that always transpires from abuse of monopoly powers. The law society is by far the biggest terrorist threat anywhere on the planet.

  • The rampant capitalism that has brought the market into every corner of society needs to be reined in
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    Brainwashed by the cult of the super-rich

    Last week, Tory MP Esther McVey, Iain Duncan Smith's deputy, insisted it was "right" that half a million Britons be dependent on food banks in "tough times". Around the same time, the motor racing heiress Tamara Ecclestone totted up a champagne bill of £30,000 in one evening. A rich teenager in Texas has just got away with probation for drunkenly running over and killing four people because his lawyers argued successfully that he suffered from "affluenza", which rendered him unable to handle a car responsibly. What we've been realising for some time now is that, for all the team sport rhetoric, only two sides are really at play in Britain and beyond: Team Super-Rich and Team Everyone Else.

    The rich are not merely different: they've become a cult which drafts us as members. We are invited to deceive ourselves into believing we are playing for the same stakes while worshipping the same ideals, a process labelled "aspiration". Reaching its zenith at this time of year, our participation in cult rituals – buy, consume, accumulate beyond need – helps mute our criticism and diffuse anger at systemic exploitation. That's why we buy into the notion that a £20 Zara necklace worn by the Duchess of Cambridge on a designer gown costing thousands of pounds is evidence that she is like us. We hear that the monarch begrudges police officers who guard her family and her palaces a handful of cashew nuts and interpret it as eccentricity rather than an apt metaphor for the Dickensian meanness of spirit that underlies the selective concentration of wealth. The adulation of royalty is not a harmless anachronism; it is calculated totem worship that only entrenches the bizarre notion that some people are rich simply because they are more deserving but somehow they are still just like us.

    Cults rely on spectacles of opulence intended to stoke an obsessive veneration for riches. The Rich Kids of Instagram who showed us what the "unapologetically uber-rich" can do because they have "more money than you" will find further fame in a novel and a reality show. Beyond the sumptuous lifestyle spreads in glossies or the gift-strewn shop windows at Harrods and Selfridges, and Gwyneth Paltrow's Goop website, shows like Downton Abbey keep us in thrall to the idea of moolah, mansions and autocratic power. They help us forget that wealthy British landowners, including the Queen, get millions of pounds in farming subsidies while the rest of us take back to the modest homes, which we probably don't own, lower salaries and slashed pensions. Transfixed by courtroom dramas involving people who can spend a small family's living income on flower arrangements, we don't ask why inherited wealth is rewarded by more revenue but tough manual labour or care work by low wages.

    Cue the predictable charge of "class envy" or what Boris Johnson dismisses as "bashing or moaning or preaching or bitching". Issued by its high priests, this brand of condemnation is integral to the cult of the rich. We must repeat the mantra that the greed of a few means prosperity for all. Those who stick to writ and offer humble thanks to the acquisitive are contradictorily assured by mansion-dwellers that money does not buy happiness and that electric blankets can replace central heating. Enter "austerity chic" wherein celebrity footballers are hailed for the odd Poundland foray, millionaire property pundits teach us how to "make do" with handmade home projects and celebrity chefs demonstrate how to "save" on ingredients – after we've purchased their money-spinning books, of course.

    Cultish thinking means that the stupendously rich who throw small slivers of their fortunes at charity, or merely grace lavish fundraisers – like Prince William's Winter Whites gala for the homeless at his taxpayer-funded Kensington Palace home – with their presence, become instant saints. The poor and the less well-off, subject to austerity and exploitation, their "excesses" constantly policed and criminalised, are turned into objects of patronage, grateful canvasses against which the generosity of wealth can be stirringly displayed. The cult of the rich propounds the idea that vast economic inequalities are both natural and just: the winner who takes most is, like any cult hero, just more intelligent and deserving, even when inherited affluence gives them a head start.

    We are mildly baffled rather than galvanised into righteous indignation when told that the rich are being persecuted – bullied for taxes and lynched for bonuses. The demonising of the poor is the flip side of the cult of the rich or, as a friend puts it, together they comprise the yin and yang of maintaining a dismal status quo. It is time to change it through reality checks, not reality shows.

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    Homosexual druggie ex Coop bank chief Paul Flowers and the 'sweet shop for paedo's'
    paul flowers Shamed Co-op Bank boss Paul Flowers was linked to a special school at the centre of one of Britain’s worst child sex abuse scandals.

    Methodist minister Flowers was vice-chairman of Rochdale Council’s social services committee which oversaw Knowl View School, during a time when it was described as a ‘sweet shop for paedophiles’. Yet a series of damning reports – at least one sent to Flowers – about the crimes at Knowl View were hidden from the public. The residential unit for boys aged seven to 16 with learning and behavioural problems is now subject to a police investigation into the sexual and physical abuse of former pupils.

    Meanwhile Rochdale Council is conducting its own inquiry into Flowers’s years as a councillor in the light of his drug-taking, exposed by The Mail on Sunday last month. The Knowl View scandal broke last year after the Crown Prosecution Service accepted that the school’s founder, the late Liberal MP Cyril Smith, who knew Flowers through the council, should have been prosecuted for child abuse. The school, founded in 1969, eventually closed in 1995, after a member of staff alerted council bosses to ongoing problems.

    Crystal Methodist

    Yet alarm bells were being rung constantly by health professionals from 1988 to 1992 when Flowers held key council posts. Whistleblower Martin Digan, whose appointment as the school’s head of care heralded its closure, said: ‘Flowers was one of many people in power in Rochdale who knew what was happening and yet did not act to close the school down. He was vice-chair of the social services committee in 1991 when the first of three reports was circulated internally about the risk to pupils in terms of sexual and physical abuse.

    He knew what the parents of pupils were never told – that the school was basically a sweet shop for paedophiles.’ The current storm surrounding 63-year-old Flowers’s shocking drugs habit prompted his arrest by police on suspicion of supplying Class A drugs, including cocaine and crystal meth. The Treasury is holding an inquiry into the Co-op Bank, where he was chairman until his resignation in June, and the bank has launched its own internal review.

    Flowers was suspended by the Labour Party and the Methodist Church for which he was a minister in Bradford. By the time Flowers moved to Rochdale in September 1986 to take over the Methodist church at Champness Hall in Drake Street, he was already a controversial figure. In 1981 while ministering in Southampton, he was fined £75 for ‘gross indecency’ in a public toilet with a trucker and was moved to West Bromwich by the church.

    Four years later, he was chosen as a Labour prospective parliamentary candidate for Meriden, in the West Midlands, but he resigned three months later when his criminal record surfaced. Former Co-op bank chief caught on camera in 'crystal meth deal'

    Once in Rochdale, Flowers, an ardent Labour supporter, was elected to the council in 1988 and joined its education and social services committees. In 1988 Dr Alison Frazer, a child psychiatrist at the town’s Birch Hill Hospital, first alerted the council to possible sexual abuse at Knowl View. Three years later, Phil Shepherd, of the Rochdale Health Authority Aids Unit, was asked to go to the school to carry out a ‘sexuality’ training day with staff. His discoveries, penned in a report to council bosses, were shocking: ‘One boy who is homosexual has contact with an adult outside the school. Several of the senior boys indulge in oral sex with one another.

    ‘Reputedly five of the junior boys have been or are involved in “cottaging” in and around public toilets. Men as far away as Sheffield are believed to be aware of this activity and travel to Rochdale to take part. One eight year old is thought to have been involved . . . some boys have been “forced” to have sex with each other.’ He concluded: ‘We are committed to preventing the spread of HIV. The boys in this school look to us to be increasingly at risk.’ One former pupil, Chris Marshall, now 41 but aged seven when at the school, told the MoS: ‘Our lives were a living hell. Teachers would take pupils to a public toilet in Manchester where the boys would have sex with men who had travelled from all over the North.

    Men would come to the school and we were made to have sex with them. I was forced to perform a sex act on the late MP Cyril Smith who we called the Fat Man. ‘It had such an effect on us that some of the boys have either committed suicide or are in prison.

    ‘I feel let down by the council because we were vulnerable children and they were supposed to be taking care of us but instead we were exposed to the most horrible acts of depravity.’ A letter, dated April 16, 1991, concerning this report from the Director of Social Services to the local health authority, was copied to Flowers among others. By then, Flowers and his colleagues on Rochdale social services committee were already facing calls to resign over the Satanic abuse scandal when 16 children were wrongly taken from their parents and rehomed, some in Knowl View.

    Last week, Rochdale Council announced an inquiry into his time at the authority. A spokesman said: ‘We have nothing to hide and want to move on from the past. It was a dreadful period and unfortunately Rev Flowers was around at the time, although whether he was calling any shots is another matter.’ There is no suggestion that Flowers was in any way involved in criminal activity at Knowl View. However, Flowers had been going through a turbulent time.

    In October 1990, he suffered a suspected heart attack a day after his car was stolen and his house burgled. The following month, he was forced to come out as gay after his gross indecency conviction came to light. Last night, the MoS put the Rev Flowers’s link to Knowl View School as well as the latest text message revelations to his lawyer. Solicitor Andy Hollas said: ‘I can make no comment whatsoever. It would be in everybody’s interests if the spotlight was turned off to let the police make their inquiries.’

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