Archive | August, 2016

Rotten Apples

31 Aug

In a landmark decision the EU has decided that Apple should pay 14 billion euros in tax in the Republic of Ireland.

Apple nominally have their headquarters in Ireland and pay corporation tax at 0.005%. This is the mother of all sweetheart deals. In reality there is a modest building, but almost no-one works there.  The arrangements between Apple and the Irish government are a means whereby Apple avoid paying tax. This is the most profitable corporation on the globe, and they pay almost no tax.

Multi-national corporations who avoid paying tax in this manner are freeloaders. They expect to be provided with infrastructure, services such as electricity and water, police and fire brigade. They expect their employees to be educated and provided with healthcare. Yet they pay nothing towards these costs. They must be made to pay, or they will beggar us all.

A combination of the unresisted rise of multinationalism and the dominance of neo-liberal economic theory has led to this injustice. In fact any other economic theory is rubbished by all the media, which are all owned by tax-dodgers! The rich corporations rake the money in and the poor go to the wall. It is time to make a change.

I have always suggested that complex problems have no simple answers. This is not a complex problem. The answer is for these corporations to pay tax in the countries where they make their profits in a point of sale tax.

The fight-back has begun. Now it needs to be continued. The president of the EU is Jean-Claude Juncker. As Prime Minister of Luxembourg he was responsible for setting up schemes very like the arrangements Apple have in Ireland, for Amazon and other multi-national tax-dodgers. If there are actions against Luxembourg I will give three cheers instead of the one I have so far given.  In the meantime there is some light at the end of the tunnel.Apple_gray_logo

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Conspiracy theories

24 Aug

It occurred to me recently that much of what I hear from Brexiteers about the EU is complete fantasy. More than that, they have developed some ludicrous conspiracy theory that the EU is the work of the devil; that all foreigners are out to get us true blue Brits. They probably also believe in alien abduction, Atlantis, the Loch Ness Monster and the Easter Bunny. What I am not saying is that their beliefs are not sincerely held. Sincerity is a poor substitute for reasoned arguments supported by evidence, but it is probably the best they can do.

Of course the pro-exit press is whistling in the wind about will-o-the-wisp trade deals and chimeras of opportunity. Such mythical beasts may comfort die-hard believers, but will be seen to be the cruellest kind of joke if Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is ever set in motion. Until it is, there exists a kind of limbo in which all the economic factors are bad. Yet the die-hards will never admit that the idea of leaving was a very bad idea, based on distortion, downright lies and the fantasies of conspiracy theorists.

Divide and conquer

22 Aug

Much has been made of the similarities of the Leave campaign in the UK and that of Donald Trump in the US. There are strong parallels. This is from Ernest W. Adams, Writer in Politics of the United States of America, about the success of the Republican tactics:

“The Republican party’s extremely effective divide-and-conquer strategy. They adopt an anti-immigrant, anti-minority platform. Then they persuade white working class people that the real source of their problems is minorities and immigrants, rather than the plutocrats who actually get all the profit of their labor. They swear that they’ll solve working people’s problems by being tough on immigration. Of course, this doesn’t actually work because immigrants are not the source of the trouble in the first place, but it feels good for people to think that the Republicans are on their side.”

To me that sounds very familiar, very similar to the tactics of the Leave campaign, almost all of the popular press and the Conservative Party as well as UKIP.

The success of their campaign is such that in many areas what they say has become the truth, and no other opinion is allowed to be considered. In some pubs you risk life and limb for daring to suggest that it is not the whole truth, and I do not exaggerate.

If you feel brave enough, stick your head above the parapet when you hear anti-immigrant rants and just say, as firmly but politely as possible that you do not believe what is being said. Not only is it better to light a single candle in the darkness, but, to quote Herman Liu, It is better to walk alone than with a crowd going in the wrong direction. That direction will change if enough good people stick up for the truth.

Similarities

19 Aug

There are a great many similarities between the British referendum vote to leave the EU and the campaign of Donald Trump. Trump himself claimed to be the face of Brexit!

One thing both campaigns have in common is the desire to marginalise the views of those who have knowledge or education.

When the Brexit vote was announced one of the first things that happened was that the winners immediately announced that none of their promises could be fulfilled, admitting that they had at best seriously misrepresented their claims. They also had absolutely no idea what to do next. Which is not surprizing if refuse to listen to people who actually know what they are talking about. There were calls for us all to work together. Tough, I will go on opposing the leaving. The one-time vote is not legally binding. Stop this madness now.

So, to you in the US who might consider voting for Donald Trump, please read this:

 

“Educated people generally appreciate the value of ideas, plans and solutions. They see value in process, experience and competency. They generally work in situations where groups of people share ideas, develop processes, and utilize experience and competency to produce complex plans to solve problems.

Uneducated people, and I’m talking about much of my family and people I grew up with, instead tend to appreciate strong leaders who satisfy their emotional needs, such as union bosses, dominant athletes and strongman dictators. They find processes, policy and complexity too detailed for their liking. They just want someone to fix it now.

Donald Trump has put forth no plans. He views expertise and experience as negative traits. He has exhibited strongman tendencies with his critiques of Mexicans, Muslims and disabled people. He says that only he can fix it. Of course he’s going to be favored by uneducated folks and criticized by educated ones.”

 

Bloody Foreigners

16 Aug

It seems to me that the major area of concern amongst the Leave campaigners was the fear of foreigners. This varied from mild concern about immigration to all out racism. It was no good to tell the Leavers that there was no way that the desire to curb all immigration could ever be fulfilled. They were not listening. What is more, we need immigration.

It is difficult to know where most of the anti-immigrant stories come from, but it is easy to understand that it is an intellectually lazy position to lay the blame for all problems on the other, on foreigners. And it is easy to use the lever of nationalism to move the arguments from reason to racism.

It has become the perceived truth that foreigners are taking our jobs and our houses, (and our women). All the problems could be solved if we just stop the bloody foreigners from coming over here, claiming benefits and sponging off the state. Years of sniping stories from the racist press, notably the Daily Mail, has moved the lies from neo-Nazi propaganda leaflets to the breakfast table.

In reality very few immigrants claim benefits, except asylum seekers who are legally NOT allowed to work. So let’s have a few home truths here.

There are problems in this country with housing, Health services and, to a lesser extent, schooling. These are OUR problems, and bugger all to do with immigration, except very indirectly.

For decades we have failed to build enough houses or to plan properly for the future. We have sold off stocks of social housing in order to broaden the property owning classes as a form of social engineering. And we keep electing governments who pursue these policies. The current targets for house building will not be met, will fail miserably as they have done for many years. A properly funded building programme could provide great benefits to the economy, employing builders, manufacturers and boosting the fortunes of all kinds of auxiliary businesses like local shops.

Of course we have not trained enough people to become builders. I mean, why train them when there will be little work for them? If we do start a big building programme we will have to rely on a percentage of skilled immigrant labour. If we want houses we need immigrants.

And then we have an increasingly ageing native population which puts extra strain on health and care services. The vast majority of immigrants are young and healthy and make little use of health services. We have failed to train enough doctors and nurses and are highly dependent on immigrant labour already in these jobs. There are 130,000 EU immigrants working in the health and care sectors. Do you want to get rid of these people?

So, if you fall ill or need the services of a carer you are very likely to meet immigrants, to be cared for by immigrants. And there are millions of UK citizens living in the EU, such as pensioners in Spain. Imagine what would happen to health care if they were all forced to return!

I was a school governor when new schools were built, small schools closed and academies and free schools opened. The Department of Education put out figures about the birth rate which were a severe underestimate even at the time, and that was bloody obvious to all those working at the chalk face. That is why there are problems getting your child into the first choice school.

This from Ben Goldacre:-

“Immigration is just going to happen.

In or out of the EU, there will be lots, and lots of immigration: bad luck if you don’t like that. We’re perfectly able to control non-EU immigration, right now, and yet no government ever does. They never will. This is not the fault of the EU, it’s more complicated than that. Deal with it. Immigration will never stop.”

In Purgatory

3 Aug

On the 23rd of June the UK voted by a narrow margin to leave the EU in a plebiscite with a simple majority. On that day, under those conditions, the Leave faction won the day.

The immediate result was to see the end of the careers of David Cameron and Nigel Farage. I suppose the result had to have an up-side. I have a nasty suspicion that Farage will be back, after all, he resigned once before. I just wonder what racist issue he will pick to hang his sign on to.

Cameron’s only job was in Public Relations. The man did not just encourage spin, he was spin.  The much quoted figures of new jobs are a chimera, as most were just part jobs, incapable of supporting a single person, let alone a family. That is why the tax revenues fell so much over the last six years. People were not earning enough to pay tax. He gave sound-bites like a one nation Tory, but acted like a total git. The gap between the mega rich and the poor increased hugely during his time in office, and it did not go unnoticed.

It is understandable that those at the bottom end of society were very angry. When presented with such visible targets to blame many accepted that the black propaganda against the EU and immigration was true. When the case to remain was presented by Cameron, the man no-one believed, they chose to vote the other way, even where it appears to be a case of turkeys voting for Christmas, as in the Welsh town that had benefitted a great deal from EU funds, but voted to leave.

Currently we are in a position whereby our beloved new Prime Minister has given the Tory Leave campaigners the chance to work out how to exit the EU without totally destroying the economy. When they fail, as they will, she can sack them and have the entire leave element in the party discredited. Then is the time to hold either another referendum or a General Election, and not leave and never invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

Until that happens we are in a kind of limbo, with falling production and investment, and a falling pound. We are looking at a prolonged recession and financial uncertainty. It is more of a purgatory, where the sins of the leave campaign, the lies and the racism, the jingoism and total lack of foresight, the refusal to listen to advice and the naivety, is burned out of us all.