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Tax justice and tax transparency in 2021

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 28/07/2021 - 8:32pm in

In its eighteen or so years in existence, the tax justice movement has always campaigned for tax transparency. So, it has delivered country-by-country reporting for tax, and led the calls for that data to be made public. And it has tackled the opacity of tax havens.

But, building on those successes is essential and tax transparency is a much bigger issue than this focus on multinational corporations and tax havens suggests. It is very much a domestic tax issue as well, permeating the whole way the tax system works and how it delivers fair outcomes. In 2021 I suggest it's time tax justice thinks more widely on tax transparency and in this video I explain why.

For more thinking on this issue see https://www.taxresearch.org.uk/Blog/2021/04/07/making-tax-work/

The other four videos in this series are here, here, here and here.

Tax justice and tax spillovers – a priority for 2021

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/07/2021 - 4:12pm in

This is the fourth in a series of videos on where I think tax justice should be going in 2021 to both build on and move on from the successes it has already enjoyed.

In a previous video I stressed the importance of the tax justice movement both understanding and using tax gap analyses to highlight the priorities it should tackle. In this video I look at tax spillover analyses and how they both explain tax gaps and indicate required actions for campaigning.

We need to ensure that we have effective tax systems that deliver progressive solutions to the problems that we face as a society. Tax spillover analysis can help identify how to do this.

There is more on tax gaps here.

Previous videos in this series are here, here and here.

What are tax havens used for in 2021?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/07/2021 - 3:42pm in

Most people still think tax havens are used for cheating income and corporation taxes, but the truth is that much of that is  easier using companies in places like the UK and USA now than it is offshore and so tax havens have adapted and changed their game.

It's important to know what they're really about in 2021 if the role that they play is to be properly understood. They're still abusive, in my opinion, but in different ways. Tax justice campaigning has to change to allow for that.

PS: I recorded this on Friday afternoon when it was pretty hot. I forgot to close the back door. The result is that the pretty active sparrow and starling population in my back garden get a look in. Apologies!

*A human being aging at ten years per minute

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/07/2021 - 3:50am in

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*A human being aging at ten years per minute

Starmer Is Silent on the Tories’ Privatisation of the NHS

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/07/2021 - 4:06am in

More evidence of the absolute absence of any real, traditional Labour values from the noxious vacuity now taking up space as the leader of the Labour party. Mike put up a piece a day or so ago commenting on a tweet someone sent to Starmer asking him if he was going to vote against the government’s latest legislation opening the NHS up to further privatisation, allowing private healthcare companies to sit on NHS boards and take over GPs’ surgeries. In areas where this has been tried, it’s been a disaster. Those companies can only make profit by cutting staff and services, so you can far worse treatment. This isn’t up for debate, it’s true. It also seems to mark the transition to a two-tier health service: an under-resourced, substandard state sector for the proles while the rich will go to the better private service, which only they can afford. Assuming that it doesn’t result in the NHS being totally privatised and transformed into an American-style healthcare system, which is financed through private healthcare with medicare and medicaid, state-payed healthcare existing only for the poor.

So how did the great leader, who would unify the party and defend the Health Service respond to this vital question? He didn’t. He didn’t reply at all. Major indecision, as Johnson calls him, struck again! Or worse – it’s a tactical silence, because he won’t. The Tories have been privatising the Health Service piecemeal since Thatcher, but Blair when he took power went further than they did. Blair was responding to lobbying by American healthcare companies, including some of the same companies and scumbags who’d been lobbying and drafting policies for the Tories. He created the Community Care Groups of doctors, who were supposed to control the funding for the doctors’ surgeries of which they were in charge. They were also given the ability to raise money privately outside NHS funding and to buy in services from the private sector. It was also Blair’s idea to have the polyclinics or health centres he was building run by private healthcare companies. Alan Milburn, his health secretary, would have liked to have turned the NHS into a kitemark for services provided by private companies.

And Starmer and his squalid followers are true Tory blue Blairites. It seems that despite his election videos in which he promised to defend the NHS at the last elections, he has absolute no such intentions. He’ll betray the NHS to get the votes of all those swing Tories Blair lusted after. But Blairism is a spent force. The Tory voters ain’t coming over to the Labour not when Johnson appears to be prepared to spend more to keep Britain at least somewhat above water. Johnson’s getting reviled for it by the extreme right too. There’s an anti-immigrant YouTube channel, We Got A Problem, that put up a video a few days ago denouncing Johnson as a Communist! This showed the Tory flame or tree or whatever against a red background with a hammer and sickle. This shows you how utterly removed from reality the Tory right are. The result of this is that some people are definitely going to vote Tory, while traditional Labour voters will stay home because Starmer is, like Blair, doing absolutely nothing for the working class. But hey, he’s aiming to get more support from corporate donors!

The debate’s on Wednesday. We have to do everything to defend the NHS. And that means getting rid of both the real Tories in parliament and the imitators in the Labour party. Let’s end privatisation and

Get that greedy, profiteering, factionalist disgrace Starmer out!

Nestle, Pinkwashing and the Corporate Enslavement of Black Africans

Apart from the mad internet radio host, Alex Belfield, another right wing YouTube channel I keep an eye on is The Lotus Eaters, with Sargon of Gasbag, alias Carl Benjamin, and his friends. It annoys me with its calm assumption that capitalism is perfect, more privatisation and deregulation will lift the world’s starving billions out of poverty and their casual sneers against the left. I found their review of Ze’ev Sternhell’s latest book on Fascism, Neither Left Nor Right, absolutely unwatchable because of the massive amount of ignorance about the subject, and just intellectual history generally. Sternhell’s an Israeli who grew up in Poland during the Nazi invasion. He’s a very well respected scholar of Fascism, not surprisingly. But Benjamin and his cronies took the book as proving that Fascism is a form of socialism. This idea is rampant on the right. This ignores the Fascist alliance with big business, their promotion of capitalism, and their recruitment of private sector businessmen to run the vast industrial associations through which the Nazis exercised control of industry and society. Mussolini started out as a radical socialist, but moved right to ally with the industrialists and feudal landlords to break up the socialist trade unions, smash workers’ and peasants’ cooperatives, and destroy other dangerous liberal political parties, like the Populists. The Italian Popular party was founded as a Catholic organisation, and stood for a widening of democracy including the radical step of votes for women and further rights for the workers and peasants. But the papacy at the time allied with the Fascists to smash it because it wasn’t under the control of the bishops. Yes, Mussolini’s ideal of the corporative state, in which industries are run by vast industrial associations which combine the trade unions with the employer’s organisations, sort of if someone combined the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress and then gave them a separate parliamentary chamber, was derived from anarcho-syndicalism. But it also incorporated ideas from Nationalists like Alfredo Rocco, who wanted the state to take over the trade unions from a right-wing, pro-business viewpoint. It also ignores Adolf Hitler’s adulation of the big businessman as biologically superior to the proles, his blanket refusal to nationalise anything and a speech he made to the German version of the CBI stating that business needed dictatorship to protect it. Instead you generally get a lot of waffle about how the Nazis were socialists, because they said so, but it and Fascism were different types of socialism to Communism. In fairness, this analysis of Italian Fascism does have more than an element of truth. In the words of Sargon’s matey Callum, Fascism is socialism after it dumps Communism. Which is almost true, but ignores the fact that Communism is only one form of socialism, and was so even at the time. But it excludes the fact that Mussolini and the rest were generally and fanatically pro-capitalist. The statement that it must somehow be a form of socialism rests on the Fascist’s state control of industry. But this state control is contrasted with an idealised form of free market capitalism that has never existed. And Fascist corporativism looks very much like the Blairite Third Way or modern neoliberalism, in which the heads of big corporations form government policy and and are rewarded with government posts.

It looks like Boris Johnson’s crony capitalism, and is, I fear, what we are moving towards with his continued attack on democracy and the right to protest.

However, I believe very strongly that the Lotus Eaters are absolutely right about the extremist views promoted by the far left, like Black Lives Matter and Critical Race Theory. So do many left-wing intellectuals, who feel that there is still a lot of racism, sexism and bigotry that needs to be tackled, but despise Critical Race Theory and Queer Theory for their rejection of objective truth and fact in favour of feelings, ideological assumptions and subjective interpretations.

It was the end of Pride Month a few days ago, and the Lotus Eaters marked the occasion by sneering at the corporate nonsense various big companies were putting out to show that they indicated Pride and gay and trans rights. I’m blogging about this not because I wish to attack genuine support for gay rights or promote intolerance towards trans people, but because some of this corporate support does seem a mite excessive. And in some cases it might even be hypocritical. The Lotus Eaters’ video included a promo video from one of the banks telling everyone to watch their pronouns around trans people. Ikea went even so far as to launch gay and trans sofas. The gay sofa has various colour straps running across it, presumably to represent the colours of the rainbow gay flag. The trans sofa has various slogans written on it, one of which is ‘No-one will believe you.’ The sofa is also decorated with prints of multicoloured hands. Various trans people appear in the video saying that they can really express their essential selves on this piece of furniture. Which makes it sound like no trans person was ever comfortable on a normal sofa before. Sargon and Callum then giggle about how the hands and slogan make the sofa creepily rape-y, and unfortunately they do have a point.

But they have a rather more serious point when they report that a legal suit brought against Nestle, one of the companies loudly promoting their support of gay and trans right, was thrown out last week by an American court. The suit was against the company’s use of enslaved Black African labour in the production of the cocoa from which their chocolate is made. The case was thrown out because the people enslaved aren’t under American jurisdiction. Sargon and Callum used it to argue that Nestle, and all the other companies, really don’t care about the various left-wing issues they claim to support, like Black Lives Matter. They just want to be seen as nice, liberal and cuddly to avoid being attacked for racism or any other form of bigotry. And in the case of gay rights, it’s called ‘pinkwashing’.

Israel’s particularly guilty of this, using the state’s official tolerance towards gay culture and the Jerusalem Pride parade to present a false liberalism and appeal to western liberals and radicals against Islam. Israel is pro-gay, even though many of its citizens are extremely conservative in their views and hate gays just like they’re hated by other religions and societies. They contrast this with the persecution of gays in contemporary Islam. But traditionally Islam was far more tolerant of homosexuality. Tele Sur’s Abbie Martin reported that when she went to Palestine, she found the situation the complete opposite of what the Israelis were claiming. Gayness was definitely tolerated, and she saw gay couples who were not persecuted at all.

Nestle’s a nasty corporation. I remember the scandal a few years ago when they were pushing their baby milk, a substance that needed to be bought after the baby was started on it, as against healthy breastfeeding in Africa. And all for corporate profit. It doesn’t surprise me that they source their cocoa from plantations using slave labour. It also bears out a comment by one of the great readers of this blog, who pointed me in the direction of an article about how the various big companies all pledging their support for Black Lives Matter were ruthless exploiters of slave, or starvation level labour in the developing world. This is all lies and corporate hypocrisy, done to impress liberal consumers in the West, while the reality is very different.

I’ve also no doubt that the example he makes of Nestle using Black African slave labour also damages his case for unrestrained capitalism. This is what unrestrained private enterprise looks like. The most horrific example of this was the Belgian Congo, now Zaire, when it was the personal fief of the Belgian king, Leopold. Leopold set up his own private police force, the Force Publique, and demanded that all Congolese produced a set amount of rubber. If they didn’t, they were beaten, mutilated and killed. Eight million Congolese died in what can only justly be described as a holocaust. This is what unrestrained global capitalism is doing today – forcing people into real slavery and poverty. We need more regulation, not less.

And I’m dam’ sure that the case against Nestle was brought by lefties outraged at this corporate enslavement for a western multinational.

Don’t be taken in by this type of false advertising, which only really applies to the West. We needed to see beyond the specious support some companies give to liberal issues like anti-racism and gay rights, and look at what is really going on elsewhere in the world.

If you want to have a look at their video, it’s entitled ‘Social Justice Is Going Over the Top’ and it’s at (2) Social Justice is Going Over the Top – YouTube. I’m not going to post it, just link to it, because, well, this is Sargon of Gasbag, the man who broke UKIP, and the Lotus Eaters are annoying, even when they make some decent points people on the left can also get behind.

Cartoon Kayfabe Reviews Book on the Art of Jack Kirby

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/07/2021 - 8:27pm in

This is one for all the comics fans. Jack Kirby is one of the truly great figures in American comics. With Stan Lee he created some of Marvel’s best known and most beloved comics characters, like Captain America. Kirby grew up when the immigrant Jewish community in New York was still poor and rough, and like many other similar communities, riddled with gangs. Kirby said he came from the type of background where the best job a man could aspire to was being a mechanic, and I think he was seen as being a bit odd for wanting to be an artist. Nevertheless, he managed to realise his ambition and get away from the gangs, although he also said that part of him enjoyed running with them. 5′ 2” and pugnacious, he wasn’t averse to stepping up to the challenge if someone threatened him. The famous cover of Captain America beating up Hitler was published before America entered the War and upset the American Nazi party. One of the Hitlerites came into the hotel where Kirby was staying at the time, demanding a word with him. To the consternation of his workmates, Kirby got up and went down ready to sort the man. But by the time he got down to the lobby, the Nazi had departed. Probably luckily for the Nazi. Nevertheless, the fear of Nazi reprisal was so strong that Stan Lee and Kirby were both given FBI protection for a time.

One of the book’s editors/producers is Eastman, of Mutant Ninja Turtles fame, and the book is an overview of Kirby’s long artistic career, from when he was just starting out as an aspiring artist to his retirement. I was never a great fan of Kirby, as although he could do cosmic like no one else could, drawing huge, awesome machines and men and women like gods, I didn’t think he could draw the ordinary human form very well. But the book shows that he was actually a very good naturalistic artists with fine sketches of the major figures and celebrities of his time. One of whom was Adolf Hitler.

Kirby seems to have worked at anything and everything to pay the rent. At one time he was an artist on the Disney cartoons, drawing the figures for the moments between the main action. But he was learning all the time and ambitious, looking for new and better jobs and taking with him the skills he learnt. During his comics career he not only worked on superheroes, but also cowboy, commando and romance comics, turning to these parts of the industry when the superhero genre was decimated by the moral panic of the 1950s. He also did his patriotic duty and served in the army during the Second World War, and this fed into the war strips he drew afterwards. The self-portraits Kirby drew of himself before and during his army years show the immense change armed combat had wrought on him. Before he enters the army he’s clean cut, but afterwards he becomes more lined and grizzled. He shows the same effect on soldiers on the cover of one of his war comics. This features a man writing a letter home to his mother, saying that the invasion of Europe was just like a day at the beach. The man’s face betrays otherwise, and Kayfabe and his companion note the 1,000 yard stare. Apparently when the servicemen wrote home, they really did describe the War in those terms as they obviously really didn’t want to cause their families to worry about them.

Kirby’s final years were overshadowed by a quarrel with Stan Lee over who created the Marvel characters, with Kirby claiming that he was the real creator of some. He left Marvel and carried on working long after he should have retired on strips like Devil Dinosaur. Towards the end of his career it looks like this amazing artist was being helped by others in the studio. But in his prime Kirby was extremely prolific. At his height in the 40s-50s he was producing a hundred pages a month. I think that’s why his human forms are so sketchy – he was churning them out and an incredible rate, too fast for very naturalistic art, simply to put food on the table for himself and his family. He also incorporated many of the latest developments in popular art into his comics, like pop art and black light, in order to connect with readers and appeal to their changing tastes.

One of the most remarkable episodes in his career was the use of his concept art for an abandoned film project as cover for a CIA operation to rescue the hostages in Iran. Kirby had been hired to work on a film version of Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. Although the film wasn’t made, the CIA used the art as part of the cover for their operation, which was that they were film makers seeking to make an SF film in the country.

Kirby was indeed one of the giants of the comics industry, and Kayfabe’s review of the book, which I think came out in the ’80s or 90s, is an excellent review of his long and amazing productive career. The characters he and Lee created still continue to enthral readers across the world, and, I hope, to inspire future generations of comics artists and creators.

The Casual Criminalist Tackles the Weird Deaths of Brazilian Ufologists

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/07/2021 - 4:47am in

Here’s a bit of high weirdness which sounds like something straight from The X-Files. In this video, host Simon Whistler discusses the strange events surrounding the deaths of two Brazilian men c. 1967. The two men were electronics technicians and were found dead on a mountain, their eyes covered by lead masks. Although described as masks, these were eye protectors or sunglasses, but made of solid lead. What killed them, and why were they wearing these weird face coverings? One suggestion is that the men had been smuggling electronics equipment into Brazil. They had gone to the mountain to meet the smugglers, who had killed them. Another explanation is that they were smuggling plutonium and had been killed by the smugglers. The problem with that is that although they had the equivalent of $10,000 in today’s money, it still wouldn’t be enough to buy a bit of plutonium.

The real explanation seems to be that they were members of a secret society, the Scientific Spiritualists, many of whose members were electronics technicians. The Scientific Spiritualists were dedicated to making contact with extraterrestrial and astral beings using electronics and drugs. The lead glasses were supposedly to protect their eyes from the brilliance given off by the angel they expected to call down. It has been suggested that they were killed by extraterrestrials after one of their jury-rigged gadgets destroyed an alien spaceship. This seems extremely unlikely, not least because it seems impossible that an alien race capable of sending a spacecraft across countless light years to Earth would make it so flimsy that a home-made device built by a couple of humans could destroy it.

Another explanation is that they were murdered by a hitman on behalf of the medium running the men’s spiritualist church. A prisoner already in jail for one crime confessed to killing them, saying that the medium was aware of the cash the two had on them and wanted the money for herself. However, the likeliest explanation, as put forward by Charles Bowen of Flying Saucer Review, and you know you’re in trouble, according to Whistler, when the most rational explanation comes from that magazine, is that the two went to the mountain seeking a UFO encounter and overdosed on the drugs they’d taken.

The case is one of the great, unsolved cases of ufology and a genuinely intriguing mystery, although it looks like Bowen had solved it. I think Whistler and his team have been behind a number of YouTube channels, mainly about science and engineering, if I recall correctly, and have now turned to crime. Whistler clearly struggles with the Brazilian names and bits of Portuguese, and finds the weird milieu of which they were a part hysterically funny. Which it is, although some people who take ufology more seriously might find this annoying.

Trailer for Film of Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 03/07/2021 - 7:04pm in

I found this trailer for a forthcoming film of Asimov’s Foundation on the Moviegasm channel on YouTube. Foundation is, like Dune, one of the great classics of Science Fiction. It’s the story of the decline and fall of a sprawling galactic empire against the rise of chaos and barbarism, and of one scientist’s attempt to prepare for the return of civilisation and hold back this new dark age. It’s the story of Hari Seldon, the inventor of the science of psychohistory, which allows him to predict the fall of what seems a stable and prosperous interstellar society. Seldon therefore sets up two Foundations, one secret, to preserve the empire’s science and culture. There were originally two novels, Foundation, published in 1955 under the title, The 1,000 Year Plan, and its sequel, Foundation and Empire, published that same decade as The Man Who Upset the Universe. It was clearly an influence on Star Wars and Dune, which similarly tell epic tales of intrigue and warfare in sprawling galactic empires. I don’t think it’s ever been filmed, possibly due to the expense and difficulty of bringing such a complex novel spanning centuries to life. I do remember, however, that there was an LP of it read by William Shatner.

There has been a previous trailer for the film, released a few months or so ago. It looks fascinating and visually extremely impressive, but fans of the book are concerned if the film will do justice to Asimov’s views on history and politics, which are at the core of the book. There’s been the same problem with the adaptations of Frank Herbert’s Dune to the large and small screens. Dune is similarly a book of ideas, containing Herbert’s speculations and views on ecology, politics and the dangers of charismatic leaders. Film and TV are, however, visual mediums, and so the intellectual depth of the book has largely been left behind as the screen adaptations concentrate on visual spectacle. Whether this will happen with Foundation remains to be seen. Looking through the comments about the trailer on YouTube, people are also concerned that it’s produced by Steve Jobs’ old outfit, Apple, and so may be pushing computers and AI as the salvation of humanity. It also seems to contain cloning, which apparently isn’t in the book and suggests that certain liberties have been taken with Asimov’s classic text.

Still, like the trailers for Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, it looks awesome and I certainly want to see it, always assuming it’s going to be on at the cinemas rather than streamed online. But there doesn’t seem to be any date for its release. Dune’s release has been postponed yet again in order to avoid clashes with other big budget movies, so I wonder if we’ll ever see it. Let’s hope so, as it promises to be a true SF epic. It remains to be seen whether it can live up to it.

Karen Davis on the Woman Challenging a Spa over Biological Male in Women’s Area

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 29/06/2021 - 7:20pm in

This is going to be another controversial post, as it’s about women’s right to protest against the inclusion of biological men in women’s spaces on the grounds that they are transwomen, and identify as female. Davis is a Black American feminist, a teacher and musician with a degree in psychology and an absolutely razor sharp mind. She is one of the many voices criticising trans activism and transwomen on the Net, and does so not with prejudice, but with facts, statistics and logic.

Now to make it clear, I do not hate transpeople. I am sure there are some wonderful transmen and -women around, and I recognise that some people genuinely identify as members of the opposite sex and treatment and transitioning has worked for them. I do not wish to see anyone, including transpeople, bullied, abused, denied jobs, assaulted or otherwise persecuted simply for being what they are. As the author of Harry Potter, J.K Rowling said, they should be able to dress how they want, sleep with whoever will have them and live the best life they can. But their rights should not supersede women’s rights to safe, single sex spaces.

This is essentially a practical, real-life enactment of the Staniland Question. Helen Staniland is a Welsh lady, and one of Graham Linehan’s interlocutors with Canadian Arty Morty on his The Mess We’re In YouTube channel. She used to go around asking people if they would be happy, if their mother or daughter went to a women only space, like sports changing rooms, and saw a penis. Of course, most severely normal people privately wouldn’t, and say so privately to her. But the trans rights activists demand complete acceptance as women, and scream and holler prejudice and ‘transphobia’ if this supposed right is questioned. But the TRAs really don’t have an answer to her question, and so have been reduced to misrepresenting her as some kind of pervert or prurient woman obsessed with male genitals.

In this case, Karen Davis looks at a video of an angry woman, unseen, who challenges the staff at a spa because she has seen a naked, biological male in the women’s changing area. She saw a penis. And the staff are unsympathetic, at one point replying to her statement ‘It was a dick!’ with ‘Yes, and you’re being one.’ But this is a real problem with women’s right to their own, single-sex spaces allowing them to feel safe and comfortable.

The transgender individual didn’t have to use the women’s area. The spa contained men’s, women’s and coed spaces. If that person understandably didn’t want to use the men’s, then he could have used the coed, mixed space instead. But his demand to be seen as a woman overrode women’s desire and need not to have a biological male in their space.

Davis is also against transwomen being accepted as women, even if they have transitioned. It’s not a view I fully support, but I can appreciate her reasons for holding such a view. Especially as the medical literature shows that transexuals and transvestites have a higher incidence of other fetishes, including paedophilia and exhibitionism. There have been instances where transwomen, who have undergone gender reassignment, have committed acts of gross exhibitionism in women’s space, such as toilets, for example, and then posted it on the Net.

While Davis is particularly ferocious in her opposition to trans rights and denies that transwomen can ever be women, she and Helen Staniland have a point.

Biological men should have no place in women only spaces, like toilets and changing rooms. To allow them in contradicts the very reason we have them – to protect women from embarrassment and potential sexual harassment.

And women have every right to complain.

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