The net closes on Trump: either a traitor or a useful idiot

May 11, 2017 at 8:10 pm (Asshole, corruption, fascism, Jim D, nationalism, plutocrats, populism, Putin, reaction, Russia, strange situations, Trump)

It’s pretty obvious that former FBI director James Comey was sacked because the FBI’s investigation of Russian government interference in the 2016 election was closing in on Trump. All other explanations – and in particular, that the cause was Comey’s handing of the Hillary Clinton email affair – are simply preposterous.

Trump has denied any collusion: but he would, wouldn’t he? All the (admittedly, so far largely circumstantial) evidence points to Trump being either a traitor or Putin’s useful idiot.

Putin has always denied attempting to influence the US presidential election: but he would, wouldn’t he? Albeit, with a smirk.

Comey spoke in March at a rare open hearing of the congressional intelligence committee, which is also investigating the links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. He said the investigation was “very complex” and he could not give the committee details that were not already publicly known. He also said he could not give a timetable for its completion. “We will follow the facts wherever they lead,” he said.

Also testifying before the committee was National Security Agency (NSA) chief Admiral Mike Rogers.

He said the NSA stood by an intelligence community report published in January, which said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered a campaign to damage the presidential  prospects of Hillary Clinton.

What are the allegations?

In January, US intelligence agencies said Kremlin-backed hackers had broken into the email accounts of senior Democrats and released embarrassing ones in order to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton.

Since then, Trump has faced well-sourced allegations that his campaign team had links to Russian officials.

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has said he is in no doubt that the Russian government was behind the hacking of the Democratic Party during the election, but that at the time he left his post in January, he’d seen no evidence of collusion.

However, Adam Schiff, the committee’s top Democrat, said the material he had seen offers circumstantial evidence that US citizens collaborated with Russians to influence the vote.

If the Trump campaign were found to have colluded with Russia it would eclipse the Watergate scandal and be the most outrageous act of treason in US history.

Which campaign members have been accused of deception?

Two senior officials in the Trump administration have been caught up in the allegations – former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Attorney-General Jeff Sessions, who was forced to recuse himself from any federal probe of Russian meddling in the presidential election, because of his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US, but now – outrageously – turns out to have been heavily involved in the Comey sacking.

Flynn was fired after he was exposed as having lied about his conversations with the Russian ambassador before he was appointed national security adviser. Flynn has a long history of close and friendly relations with the Putin regime, and has received payments from the regime’s propaganda channel RT.

flynn.jpg Flynn (left) dines with Putin

He lied about having discussed US sanctions with ambassador Sergei Kislyak. It is illegal for private citizens to conduct US diplomacy.

Meanwhile, Sessions was accused by Democrats of lying under oath during his confirmation hearing in January, when he said he had “no communications with the Russians”:  it later emerged that he had met Kislyak during the campaign.

Sessions denied any wrongdoing, but removed (‘recused’) himself from the FBI inquiry into Russia’s interference in the election: now it transpires that he’s played a key role, at Trump’s behest, in getting rid of Comey.

Trump could be heading for impeachment over his corruption and treacherous links to Russia. But, unlike even Nixon, Trump doesn’t play within the rules of bourgeois US politics.

Trump is still very popular with his base. He can argue plausibly that he has tried using Executive Orders to do what he said he would do. Where these orders are being reversed by the courts or bureaucracy he will point to the key idea that the system is broken and dominated by a liberal elite.

The Russian issue doesn’t currently  impinge on his supporters’ admiration for him as they are in general isolationists. He’s on 80% approval ratings with Republican voters.

Trump won’t go quietly and the ace up his sleeve is the movement behind him. It is a  genuine mass movement, plebeian in character (often sole traders, shop keepers, small business owners, lumpen blue collar workers, the unemployed, farmers etc) and radical in the sense they don’t defer to authority. If he wanted he could probably mobilise enough of them to turn up outside the Capitol with guns and set up camp. There is a history of this kind of thing happening in the US at state level.

The impeachment of Trump would in all likelihood enrage his mass base, fuelling ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories and resentment against bourgeois democracy: fertile ground for American fascism.

That doesn’t mean that the left shouldn’t use the charge of treason and collaboration against Trump, or not campaign for his impeachment. Some on the left (and even the liberal-left) have recoiled against this, on grounds of supposed “McCarthyism” (a claim that Trump himself has raised): but that’s nonsense. The suggestion of collusion with Putin is not comparable to the anti-communist witch-hunts of the 1950s and ’60’s: Putin is behind an ultra right wing international campaign to promote reaction, nationalism and isolationism wherever he can. He’s backed Brexit, Trump, Le Pen and a host of other ultra-right and semi-fascist movements.

It’s not McCarthyism to denounce Trump for his links with Putin, up to and possibly including outright treason. But it’s not enough: the US left must also engage with Trump’s working class base and convince them that this billionaire racist, shyster and charlatan offers nothing worthwhile to American workers.

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Putin’s TV takes the piss out of Farage: that’s the thanks you get for grovelling

March 4, 2017 at 6:47 pm (apologists and collaborators, corruption, Europe, Jim D, populism, Putin, Racism, reactionay "anti-imperialism", Russia, UKIP)

Farage’s grovelling to Putin merely gets him having the piss taken on Putin’s TV channel; Trump beware:

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The Dream may Never Die … but SNP election promises do

October 3, 2016 at 3:26 pm (corruption, crime, MPs, posted by JD, scotland, SNP)

 Chris Law
Above: Chris Law: yet another SNP’er under police inverstigation

By Dale Street

Last week saw Chris Law become the third of the SNP’s 2015 intake of MPs – elected on a promise of a “new politics”, free from traditional Westminster sleaze – to be investigated by the police about their financial dealings.

Law, who owns a £140,000 Aston Martin and has just put in a bid for an “offers over £620,000” castle, spent the 2014 referendum campaign touring Scotland in a 1950s Green Goddess fire engine painted in the colours of the saltire.

It was his own personal “Spirit of Independence” campaign. Allegations of embezzlement concerning donations made to the campaign are reported as the reason for Law being questioning by the police.

Last week also saw Natalie McGarry – elected as an SNP MP but no longer holding the SNP whip – charged with embezzlement of funds from Women for Independence and her local SNP Association. A report has been sent to the Procurator Fiscal.

The third SNP MP under police investigation, Michelle Thomson, who likewise no longer holds the SNP whip, is still awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation into a number of property deals which she and her husband were involved in.

There were plenty of other broken SNP promises in the news last week.

Scottish Government accounts revealed that student loans are the government’s largest financial asset. They had increased by 11% over the past year and now amount to nearly £3 billions.

This was bad news for the SNP because it came to power with a promise to wipe out student debt. So, steady progress backwards on that promise.

A SNP promise of loans to farmers as a way of providing a financial cushion pending the payment of EU financial support collapsed into chaos after the SNP Government admitted that it had miscalculated loans for hundreds of farmers.

This was particularly bad news for the SNP. The loans scheme had been introduced because of an earlier SNP failure to pay out EU support on time – the result of a malfunctioning computer system bought by the SNP Government which has already gone 74% over budget.

So, two broken promises there for the (over-budget) price of one.

Other figures released last week showed an almost ten-fold increase in spending by Scottish MPs on Scotland-to-London business-class flights in 2015/16 compared with the previous year: up from £61,000 to nearly £600,000.

The explanation: Unlike their predecessors, and two of three remaining non-SNP MPs in Scotland, SNP MPs fly business-class. (The one non-SNP MP who keeps the SNP MPs company on their business-class flights is, of course, a Tory.)

In 2015 SNP candidates had promised to “stand up for Scotland” if elected to Westminster. Clearly, what they actually meant was: Sit down for Scotland in the comfiest seats.

The same figures showed that nine of the ten MPs with the highest expenses claims were SNP MPs. Highest claimer of all was Michelle Thomson (£106,000). But SNP MP Steven Paterson, coming in at number five (£99,000), merits particular mention: He claimed £40 to pay for looking after a dog.

Another 2015 election promise from the SNP was: “The SNP will never stop doing our best to make Scotland’s NHS the very best. Under the SNP Scotland’s NHS has been protected and improved.”

Whoops!

Figures released last week revealed: just over 28% of GP posts are currently vacant; the number of posts unfilled for more than six months has nearly doubled over the past year; waiting times for cancer treatment are at their worst level since records began; and over the last five years the number of radiologists has increased by 3% but their workload by 55%.

The SNP had a chance at Holyrood last week to deliver on its promise to “protect and improve the NHS”, by voting for a Labour motion demanding that the Scottish Government “call in” for ministerial decision a series of cuts in services being proposed by local NHS Boards.

Instead, the SNP moved a wrecking amendment to the Labour motion. When that was defeated, the SNP abstained on the final vote.

The SNP, being the SNP, didn’t just make election promises to look after the sick. It also promised “security in retirement” and “better support for the most vulnerable in society and protection of pensioner benefits”.

But figures released last week showed that the SNP Holyrood government has cut £500 millions from the social care budget of Scottish local authorities, resulting in 12% of the elderly suffering a cut in the services they receive.

Sturgeon blamed the social care budget cuts on a Tory cut of 5% in funding to Holyrood. She must have attended the same accountancy course as Chris Law and Natalie McGarry: The SNP government’s cut to social care spending (11%) is more than double that.

Another promise which the SNP may come to regret was one made last week by SNP Glasgow councillor Jahangir Hanif. Speaking at a public meeting in his ward, Hanif promised that he would bring Sturgeon to see the appalling housing conditions in the Govanhill district.

But Hanif was then exposed as the landlord of a flat in one of the worst streets. According to the Daily Record:

“Hanif’s flat is at the top of a dilapidated close. It is infested with flies and has a shooting gallery for heroin addicts on the ground floor. The bannister is broken and on the verge of collapse. There is a strong stench of urine throughout the building. The walls are filthy and the stairs are caked in grime.”

Hanif, who lives in a £700,000 house in Newton Mearns, charges a family of five adults £500 a month for his two-bedroomed flat. And why Sturgeon needs an invite from Hanif is a mystery: Sturgeon is the constituency MSP.

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Philip Green: archetypal British capitalist

July 25, 2016 at 2:44 pm (capitalism, corruption, economics, posted by JD, reblogged)

By Phil Burton-Cartledge at All That Is Solid (first published 26 April 2016, and now even more relevant):

Philip GreenOn global capitalism in Lenin’s day, the Bolshevik leader had this to say: “Imperialism is an immense accumulation of money capital in a few countries … hence the extraordinary growth of a class, or rather, of a stratum of rentiers, i.e., people who live by “clipping coupons”, who take no part in any enterprise whatever, whose profession is idleness …” If only the money men of 21st century Britain remained excrescences on the economy, of directing their stooges to invest capital and growing fat off the labour and talent of others. At the risk of being wistful, this ideal-typical view of your average capitalist is long buried and have gone beyond mere uselessness. Drunk on their parasitism, they are oblivious to how their appetites are not just imperiling the health of the enterprises they gorge upon, but threaten to kill them outright.

The latest example is the collapse of British Home Stores (BHS), a venerable department store that has graced the high street for 88 years. Not that I ever went there, which I suppose is a microcosm of the predicament it finds itself in. Lately, not enough of anyone have come through its doors to buy outfits and lampshades. Yet the Darwinist cut and thrust of the retail market can only shoulder so much of the blame. The reason why BHS is looking down a barrel, and its 11,000-strong workforce face uncertain futures is in large measure down to its erstwhile proprietor, the fly-by-knight Sir Philip Green. Acquiring the struggling BHS for £200m in 2000, Green and his family shook the firm down for a billion quid. All the profits, all the wage squeezes, every saving that could be wrung from the business passed through head office en route to Tina Green’s capacious purse in Monaco. And when there was nothing left, Green offloaded BHS on his tax-dodging wife’s behalf for a quid. The new owners, a ragtag-and-bobtail outfit going by the name of Retail Acquisitions, failed to raise the cash BHS needed to start turning itself around.

It goes without saying that Green’s behaviour was grubby and disgusting, and he could face action from the pensions’ watchdog amid suggestions that the firm dodged its obligations (this would be on top of the pensions holidays many large firms took in the late 90s/early 00s, all with a nod from Gordon Brown). Seemingly aware he could be on the hook for something, Green has offered to stump up £80m toward the BHS pension fund’s half-a-billion deficit. I hope the sop is rejected and he gets rinsed.

As you can see, Green went well beyond the “coupon clipping”. His ownership and running of the brand suggests little if any interest in preserving the business for the long-term, of increasing products, introducing new lines, investing in new technology, and battling it out for market share. You know, the things Max Weber told us capitalists are supposed to do. If BHS was in difficulty 16 years ago, self-evidently a business that has a billion pounds sloshing around is a business that was not a basket case. Instead of treating BHS like a bile bear with the tap left on full for the Green durée, the monies could have been used to add value by expanding its range, aggressively marketing itself, and venturing properly into online retail. Instead, Sir Phil was to his host a tax-dodging, celeb-stalking, yacht-bothering tapeworm.

Ah, but he’s a one-off, a bad apple, yes? In the interests of fairness, BHS’s problems can’t all be laid at his door. The so-called death of the high street is the result of policies pursued over the last six years. The cost of living crisis (remember that?) was always more than a soundbite for millions of people. As meagre wage rises/freezes have bitten, people don’t have as much cash to splash, hence middlebrow stores like BHS were always going to face what the experts call a “challenging retail environment”. The second is the brash new competitor, Amazon, have got away with ripping off the Treasury. Without as much of a tax liability, they have built an infrastructure on the back of exhausting, low-paid work, which has given them an unfair competitive advantage. Having got caught dithering over steel, the Tories are not about to invite more scrutiny of their complicity in this situation. Which probably helps explain why Anna Soubry’s been very quick to discuss the issue in the House and dampen speculation about redundancies.

There’s a wider point. Green is the “cultural dominant” of what a capitalist looks like in 21st century Britain, the sort valorised, flattered, and admired by the City and its helpers. The pursuit of profit, of realising returns on investment, comes not from building things but of tearing them down. As David Harvey points out, global capital from the 1980s on snapped up sold off state infrastructure and coined it from the introduction of markets into public services. New markets were conquered, but these were provided by governments as they let capital swoop in and profit from institutions under their stewardship. Capitalism ate the infrastructure that sustained it. As Britain is the epicentre of global finance, we find here these necrotising social relationships have achieved their fullest expression: an economy whose GDP is dependent not on production, but the selling of houses between buy-to-let landlords, a state bent on selling off what’s left of the public domain to politically suitable bidders (one doesn’t have to be the highest, as the Garden Bridge fiasco demonstrates), and a financial industry that sucks in Britain’s best brains to design fiendishly complex but socially useless “products”, “packages”, “vehicles”, and “instruments”. Funny how the intangible has annexed the language of the concrete. In sum, the owners of capital have become dysfunctional and decadent from the standpoint of British capitalism itself.

Green is not a one-off. He’s archetypal.

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Tories’ favourite Academy Trust in near-collapse, after “Superhead” trousered second salary

May 17, 2016 at 3:08 pm (Brum, Champagne Charlie, Conseravative Party, corruption, Education, Tory scum)

Liam Nolan, Headmaster of Perry Beeches school in Birmingham, addresses the Conservative Party conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham

Above: Nolan at the 2012 Tory Conference

The Birmingham academy chain praised by David Cameron, Michael Gove and the present Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, is in serious financial crisis, leaving five schools in a state of uncertainty and 2,400 pupils and their parents, not knowing what the future holds.

Liam Nolan, the “Superhead” of Perry beaches Academy Trust, who has been on sick leave since Easter, when the Education Funding Agency (EFA) reported on serious financial mismanagement, has now resigned.

Mr Nolan was one of three executive headteachers at the Trust, and was also the trust’s Accounting Officer and Chief Executive. He received a salary of £120,000 directly from the Trust.

But the EFA, which oversees education spending for the Government, launched an investigation after it received claims from a whistleblower that “an additional second salary” was paid to Mr Nolan.

It has published a report saying that it discovered the trust had made payments of £1.297 million over two years to a business called Nexus Schools Ltd, which in return provides a range of services to the trust – including the services of its chief executive (CEO), Mr Nolan.

The report said £160,000 had been paid specifically for the work of the chief executive over two years (ie in addition to his £120,000 salary as Executive Head).

It said: “The trust pays Nexus for providing the services of a CEO for Perry Beeches multi-academy trust. Nexus then sub contracts this role to Liam Nolan Ltd, whose sole director is the Accounting Officer (ie Liam Nolan).“The Accounting Officer is also paid for his concurrent role as Executive Headteacher separately through payroll at £120,000 per annum in 2014/15.

“The academy paid Nexus £72,000, including VAT in 2013/14 and £88,800 plus VAT in 2014/15 for the CEO role.”

The payments were not transparent, the report said.

It said: “The payments made to the Accounting Officer, through Nexus and then Liam Nolan Ltd, for CEO services were not disclosed in the 2013/14 financial statements.”

And it also warned that there was no written contract with Nexus.

It said: “The trust spent £1.297m with Nexus over 2 years, without a written contract or a formal procurement exercise to demonstrate value for money.”

Mr Nolan’s niece and nephew were both employed by the Trust in the 12 months up to August 31 2015.

Debts at the trust are estimated to be in excess of £1.8 million, and rising each month, making it difficult to attract new private sponsors.

The Trust was also accused of claiming up to £2.8 million for children on free school meals, “where no evidence of eligibility exists” and has been ordered to repay £118,291.

Prime minister David Cameron meets pupils at the opening of Perry Beeches III Free School in Birmingham in 2013

David Cameron meets pupils at the opening of Perry Beeches III Free School in Birmingham in 2013

David Cameron praised the Trust when he visited Perry Beeches III in 2013.

He said at the time: “Here in Birmingham it is particularly exciting because we have Perry Beaches. The original school was the most improved school ever, which went from 20 per cent to 80 per cent A-star to C grades in six or seven years, so we have got a brilliant team here which is embracing this.”

A statement from the trust obtained by the Guardian newspaper reads:

Liam Nolan has presented his resignation from the post of CEO/executive headteacher at the Perry Beeches academy trust. He has made this decision to allow the necessary changes required to move the trust forward.

The decision by Mr Nolan and the governors to stand down leaves the management of the trust’s five schools in the hands of the Department for Education, while a search begins for new sponsors.

In 2013, Cameron described Mr Nolan and Perry Beeches as “a brilliant team” running “one of the most successful comprehensive schools ever in Britain”.

As well as being a prominent supporter of the Tories’ academies and Free Schools programme, Nolan was also careful to keep on good terms with local Labour MPs:

Last month Birmingham website The Chamberlain Files reported that three Birmingham Labour MPs each received £5,000 from the trust towards the cost of running their offices. The MPs – Gisela Stuart (Edgbaston), Jack Dromey (Erdington) and Shabanah Mahmood (Ladywood) agreed to repay the money.

Perry Beeches Academy Trust runs Perry Beeches Academy and four other schools, named Perry Beeches II, III, IV and V. Plans for two new free schools had been given approval by the DfE but will not now go ahead.

Perry Beeches Academy Trust joins Cuckoo Hall Academies Trust, Durand Academy Trust and Barnfield Federation as trusts highly praised by the Tories, but which have been criticised for their financial arrangements.

Mr Nolan has said “I’m not a businessman, I’m a Headmaster”. 

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Panama: the way capitalism works

April 8, 2016 at 7:32 pm (banks, capitalism, corruption, posted by JD, Tory scum)


A squirming Cameron finally admits to having profited from his late father’s offshore investment fund

By Martin Thomas (edited by JD: the full article appears in the current issue of Solidarity)

Each week the capitalist economic system pumps new wealth, created by the labour of workers across the whole economy, into the pockets of owners and shareholders and their associates, advisers, bankers, lawyers, and so on.

No-one denies that. Those who defend capitalism as the best system available reply only that it is a manageable problem.

The greed for riches (so they say) motivates the capitalist class to innovate and improve efficiency. And the rich pay taxes. And they put their wealth into new investments which create new jobs. The Panama Papers show that in fact the rich hide their money in offshore tax havens and often pay little tax. They invest productively only when they feel fairly sure of large private gains, and much of their loot is spent on luxury and on swindling.

The papers, revealed on 3 April, are a stash of documents from just one law firm, Mossack Fonseca, based in Panama, which specialises in helping the rich by setting up for them obscure companies in which to hide their wealth, based in low-tax areas.

Many of these companies are in the British Virgin Islands, a tiny group of Caribbean islands which is a British Overseas Territory, but outside British tax laws. The islands are home to just 28,000 inhabitants, but to 950,000 companies.

As lawyer Geoffrey Robertson says: “Britain is at the heart… of international tax avoidance by allowing these little remnants of empire to have tax secrecy laws and enable offshore trusts and offshore companies to operate without transparency”.

Not all “shadow banking” (banking-type operations by non-banks) is offshored, but a lot is.
Still booming in fact, according to a recent Financial Times report, doubled in numbers in London since the 2008 crash, are family offices, firms of lawyers and financiers employed by wealthy families to manage their loot and save it from taxes.

The working class, which produces that wealth, should keep it in common ownership and under democratic control.

As the socialist Jean Jaures said in the French parliament when a great financial scandal of the 19th century, also called Panama, broke: “It isn’t enough to brand and denounce the scandals… It would be a sad contradiction not to take up the struggle against that power that holds the railroads, the banks, and all the large enterprises…It’s the beginning of the trial of the dying social order, and we are here to substitute for it a more just social order”.

The 19th century scandal has another lesson. To go beyond indignation to propose socialist solutions, taking the loot back into common ownership may also be necessary to stop the scandal being exploited by right-wing demagogues who are in fact the looters’ friends.

Frederick Engels wrote about the 19th century Panama: “This business brings the moment considerably nearer when our people will become the only possible leaders of the state in France. Only, things ought not to move too quickly; our people in France are not ripe for power by a long way…In the meantime, that ass Boulanger [a proto-fascist anti-semitic demagogue who had come close to seizing power in 1889] had not shot himself [which he did, literally, in 1891, first having fled to exile], he would now be master of the situation… If only some general or other does not swing himself to the top during the interval of clarification and start war, that is the one danger”.

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The Guardian and the Panama Papers

April 4, 2016 at 5:17 pm (capitalism, corruption, crime, Guardian, Jim D, media, Russia, tax)

Capture of the Guardian's totally accidentally misleading headline.

Above: from the Guardian’s  front page today

The ‘Panama Papers’ is without doubt the biggest and most important story (so far) of the century, and Shiraz will be keeping a sharp eye, in particular, on how Putin’s fans and apologists on the supposed “left” deal with it. The Mossack Fonseca documents were initially passed to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The fact is that the Guardian is just one among 109 media organisations in 76 countries that have helped break the story – which makes this message from Deputy Editor Paul Johnson a bit of a damn cheek. I don’t think I’ll be sending them any money just yet:

Hello,

The “Panama Papers” is the biggest leak in history: 11.5m documents – which would take one person 27 years to read – describing in the finest detail, for the first time, how rivers of money are moved around the world, hidden from sight by secret offshore banking operations.

The scale of the story is staggering: inside those papers 113,000 shell companies were discovered – helping hundreds of national leaders, politicians, celebrities and business people hide their money.

If the scale of the leak was enormous, the journalistic effort to bring it to full exposure was just as big: 370 journalists from 70 different countries worked in an unprecedented scale of co-operation. At the Guardian, we had five journalists dedicated to the investigation for six months, in conditions of tight secrecy, working through the dozens of stories and an exhaustive legal process.

Readers can support such journalism by making a financial contribution to the Guardian. Make a contribution here.

Today’s investigation has created a much-needed worldwide debate about tax and fairness. There are another four days of stories to come. We think they are of vital public importance. We hope you agree.

Thank you for your support and for reading the Guardian.

Paul Johnson
Deputy Editor, Guardian News and Media

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Osborne’s shameful sweetheart deal with Google

January 26, 2016 at 4:36 pm (capitalism, corruption, internet, Jim D, London, profiteers, tax, Tory scum)

George Osborne’s claim that Google’s £130 million over ten years tax settlement with HMRC is a “major success” now looks like a pretty sick joke.

Tax campaigners like Richard Murphy of Tax Research UK have exposed the deal as involving a tiny proportion of Google’s $5.6 billion (£5.6 billion) annual UK revenues. Google spends about $12 million a year on chicken for its staff canteens.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell has aptly described the settlement as a “sweetheart deal” , making the point that tax experts (including Murphy, Prof Prem Sikka and  Labour tax barrister Jolyn Maugham) all think that the likely tax rate paid by Google on its likely UK profits may, even after this settlement, not exceed 5%. Google has paid an effective tax rate of around 3% over the past decade, despite a UK corporation tax rate of more than 20%.

Today’s Times reports that French officials have pursued Google far more aggressively, and are in the process of negotiating a settlement worth three times the amount agreed with Britain, despite Google doing more business and employing thousands more staff (2,500) in the UK. Referring to the company’s practice of registering all European sales in Dublin (to benefit from a lower tax rate), a French official (quoted in The Times) said, “We have a hard time believing that 150 well-paid salespeople with advanced degrees employed by one particular company in France are nothing more than busboys for Ireland.”

Anyone who heard the wretched performance of Jim Harra (HMRC’s ‘Director General Business Tax’) attempting to defend the deal on Radio4’s World At One today, will be aware that when all else fails, HMRC falls back on the plea of ” taxpayer confidentiality” to avoid discussion of the principles it has applied when reaching its deal with Google. Nils Pratley, in today’s Guardian, gives the “taxpayer confidentiality” argument short shrift:

“Google and Osborne were happy to publish selected highlights of HMRC’s settlement – the former to appear a good corporate citizen, the latter to try to appear a muscular chancellor. If limited disclosure is OK, both parties should be able to agree full disclosure for the sake of wider understanding.”

But perhaps the most astonishing and outrageous aspect of this whole sordid business is the claim (in todays Times) that:

“HMRC officials never challenged the company’s central and most controversial claim — that it has no ‘permanent establishment’ in Britain — even after they were given whistleblower evidence challenging its account

“The claim is critical to a complex structure used by Google to avoid hundreds of millions of pounds in UK corporation tax. By arguing that it has no fixed place of business in Britain, the company is able to book all its sales to UK customers through an Irish subsidiary, from where profits are again diverted to the tax haven of Bermuda.”

Never mind “whistleblower evidence”: you’d have thought this building, the Google offices in central London, might just have given the game away:

 

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Unison: Prentice re-elected as vote collapses and corruption is exposed

December 19, 2015 at 12:50 pm (corruption, elections, UNISON)

Dave PrentisDave Prentis has been re-elected as leader of UNISON, the UK’s largest public sector union, amidst allegations of ballot rigging, in face of a call by one-third of the union’s national executive committee for his suspension and with a public petition calling for an independent enquiry and a re-run of the election.

Ed Whitby writes:

So Prentis has been elected on less than 50% of the vote, and less than 10% of the membership voting.

In the last 10 years Dave Prentis has gone from 185,000 votes to 66,000 votes losing 119,000 or two thirds of his vote.

This in an election where:

* There is known corruption in the important London region, with staff members recorded organising support for Prentis against all the rules

* No hustings or debates to raise profile of alternate candidates

* No information in the unions two membership publications on the other candidates

* Meanwhile Prentis appeared in almost every article on the unions magazines and in weekly emails sent to all members.

So while there is no great news for the left coming a poor third and fourth, this is no mandate for Prentis and surely must create the opportunity for a debate about the direction of this important public sector trade union.

Overall votes and turn out in last 3 elections:
2005: 244,000 votes (16% of membership), 2010: 216,000 (14% of membership), 2015: 134,000 (9% of the membership)

Results 2015
Roger Bannister 16,853 (12.6 per cent)
John Burgess 15,573 (11.6 per cent)
Dave Prentis 66,155 (49.4 per cent)
Heather Wakefield 35,433 (26.4 per cent)

Previous results

2010
Dave Prentis
145,351
(67.3%)
Roger Bannister
42,651
(19.7%)
Paul Holmes
28,114
(13.0%)
216,116

2005
Dave Prentis
184,769
(75.6%)
Roger Bannister
41,406
(16.9%)
Jon Rogers
18,306
(7.5%)
244,481

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SWP grovel to Scottish nationalism

October 23, 2015 at 11:38 pm (corruption, scotland, Sheridan, SWP, thuggery)

Above: the liar, sexist and bully Sheridan

By Ann Field

“The left in Scotland can’t look to the Labour Party for a way forward,” proclaimed Socialist Worker, paper of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), in one of a flurry of articles about Scotland published immediately after last year’s referendum.

Instead, the focus had to be on maintaining the momentum of the “Yes” campaign. As the SWP modestly put it in another article:

“The SWP in Scotland has fought magnificently in the Yes campaign. It has been imaginative, involved, determined and hardworking. We have sold thousands of copies of Socialist Worker and recruited dozens of people.”

What the Scottish left needed after the referendum was “its own political party – and urgently. Days and hours matter at such a time.” Tommy Sheridan – perjurer, misogynist, demagogue, ultra-nationalist populist and all-round charlatan (but not in the eyes of the SWP) – had a central role to play in this:

“Tommy Sheridan played an astonishing role in the [Yes] campaign, speaking to over 25,000 people at meetings and inspiring many more. He ought to play a leading role in building the left.”

The delicate matter of the SWP’s role in splitting the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) – which the SWP helped destroy in 2006 by backing Sheridan’s demand that members of the SSP Executive Committee lie on behalf of his ego – was imperiously dismissed:

“This [new] party cannot be defined by the splits in the SSP a decade ago. Imagine you are talking to one of those thousands of 16 and 17 year-olds who voted yes. What would make sense to them now? Surely radicalism, activity, bold left politics – and unity.”

But a conference held in October by “Solidarity” – the Sheridan-cult set up by the SWP and the Socialist Party after their departure from the SSP – produced a split rather than unity. The SWP walked out after the conference backed a vote for the SNP in the 2015 General Election.

(Sheridan’s questioning of female witnesses about their sex lives in his very public perjury trial of 2006 had not been a reason for the SWP to break with him. But for Sheridan to advocate openly what the SWP would subsequently advocate implicitly was the SWP’s line in the sand.)

Unabashed by the debacle of the “Solidarity” conference, the SWP now declared: “Everyone should come to the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) conference on 22nd November. Let’s not see this opportunity wasted.”

RIC had been initiated by members of the International Socialist Group (ISG), a 39-strong Scottish breakaway from the SWP in 2011. Given its origins in a breakaway from the SWP, RIC was unlikely to extend the hand of “unity” to their former comrades.

And so it proved to be.

The SWP hyper-ventilated about the numbers at the RIC conference. Over 3,000 in attendance! People had travelled from all over Scotland to be there!! “A phenomenal turnout!!!”

But it was downbeat about the outcome: “For all the talk of alternatives, there was no official call for a new organisation coming from RIC as many [read: the SWP] had hoped. Sadly, the prospect of a unified left seems as distant as it was directly after the referendum.”

In early 2015 the SWP began to enter general election mode. It was at least capable of reading opinion polls:

“Old political certainties are crumbling across Britain. In Scotland they barely exist any more. Many believe they are witnessing the death of Labour in Scotland. The latest poll of polls this week puts the SNP on 50% of the vote – a landslide. But the left could do well too.”

Although Labour in Scotland was standing in the same election, on the basis of the same manifesto, and with the backing of the same unions, as the Labour Party south of the border, the SWP made a point of not calling for a vote for Labour in Scotland:

“Where there isn’t a left alternative candidate, Socialist Worker is calling for a vote for Labour in England and Wales. Many working-class people still see it as the party with trade union roots. …

In Scotland this picture no longer fits. Labour’s role in blocking with the Tories to defend the union with Britain in the independence referendum has lost it the mass support of millions of workers.”

In a leaflet distributed in Scotland in the run-up to election day, the SWP implicitly called for a vote for the SNP.

The leaflet was unqualified in its hostility to Labour. By contrast, it praised the “many positive policies in the SNP manifesto”. Given the “mood to punish Labour”, it was “understandable” that so many people would be voting SNP.

But, the leaflet explained, “the SWP is not calling for a blanket vote for the SNP on 7th May.” This was because the SWP was standing a handful of its own candidates as part of the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

Not calling for “a blanket vote for the SNP” because you are standing some candidates of your own can only be read as: vote SNP where there is no TUSC candidate.

In its coverage of the election campaign in Scotland Socialist Worker was certainly enthusiastic about the SNP campaign, and Sheridan’s parallel campaign for a vote for the SNP:

“Hope filled the streets of Glasgow last Saturday. At two separate events a combined total of up to 10,000 people pursued a common purpose – building the SNP vote.” While SNP leader Sturgeon addressed 2,000 in Glasgow city centre, “socialist politician Tommy Sheridan was addressing a mass Hope Over Fear rally.” Read the rest of this entry »

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