Prismatics – so now you know. June 11, 2013Posted by guestposter in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, Terrorism, The Left, US Politics.
Gé Bruite writes in a timely post on the Prism issue…
I don’t know about you, but the past few days has significantly changed my view of the world. We now have a much more concrete picture of what many of us suspected was the case, thanks to Edward Snowden and the journalists who are working with him. We know significantly more about how mass surveillance works in the western Capitalist world as it converges towards Chinese-style authoritarian oligarchic capitalism.
This is my current picture of how mass digital surveillance works:
a) There is a reciprocal trade in data, allowing political state police to get around domestic judicial niceties preventing them from collecting data en mass about their own their own citizens. David Blunkett (in possibly his first useful act since he jumped into bed with the Blairites) has revealed that the Americans offer data to the British Security State to avoid the latter having to ask for it. I’m fairly sure that a similar relationship exists between the NSA and German BND, given the close relationship historical/founding relationship between the two. Israel is certainly there as an outsource possibility, given that it’s economic is based around military and surveillance technology. I’ll leave the political possibilities that these unofficial clientelist relationships offers to your imaginations.
b) All the major online social networks, operating system manufacturers and search engines cooperate in mass surveillance at least whenever they are asked by the NSA and it’s partners. They are compelled by gagging orders and/or concerns about their reputation to deny the existence of this cooperation. According to Snowden this is done at the whim of any agent sitting in a data centre with little oversight. Again, think of the motivation to ‘build a case’ against a chosen target, even in pure career advancement terms. Then think about the possibilities the technology offers in manufacturing digital evidence.
c) The NSA, and probably their partners, have out-sourced at least some of this work to private companies. Again think about the conflicts or interest there, and the possibilities for non-state agents with sufficient resources to enter the game.
d) Taking b) and c) into account there are no visible, transparent or democratic oversights preventing the framing of an arbitrary individuals or groups as ‘terrorist’, and at the very least subjecting them to comprehensive surveillance.
e) If you think that the Irish government is not involved in this in their own small way, I suggest you are being somewhat naive.
What do you think? If you agree with at least some of my analysis, what does this mean for organising in the digital world?
Unleash the Creighton! All will bow before our ‘internationally recognised fair and just corporate tax regime’ (fingers crossed!). May 31, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, US Politics.
Those of us who might have felt a degree of scepticism when presented with the contention by Joanne Richardson, CE of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland (by the way, is that actually American, or US? It makes a difference) that ‘Ireland is not – and has never been – a tax haven’, and whose scepticism was generated by the sense that this was a semantic distinction resting on a definition that included imposition of a single tax rate but variability in terms of what is actually taxed, will hardly have been dissuaded from that stance by the news today that another US based corporation, Boston Scientific paid an effective tax rate of 4% in 2011.
As the IT puts it:
Boston Scientific’s accounts for its main Irish subsidiary note that if corporation tax of 12.5 per cent was levied, it would pay $177 million in Irish tax. However, the actual tax the group was legally obliged to pay was lower for a number of reasons, including “different tax rates on overseas earnings”, according to the accounts.
And it’s not the only one. Not by a long shot. Novell, Symantec and Microsoft, amongst others were able to avail of such arrangements.
In many cases the multinationals also have substantial operations here under the control of fellow Irish subsidiaries, the profits of which are subject to Irish tax, with the links between the two forming part of an increasingly popular global tax structure called the “double Irish”. The net effect of the structure is that multinationals can route tax-free profits through Ireland to offshore havens paying only a small amount of tax here.
Richardson’s thesis while technically correct managed to miss that point entirely:
Ireland’s 12.5 per cent tax rate, while low, is not subject to any arbitrary adjustments and it applies equally to all corporations with a taxable presence in the jurisdiction. Not many countries can say the same.
And it was particularly entertaining to see her attempt to roll that very specific definition of a ‘tax haven’ into view:
They are: having no taxes or only nominal taxes; a lack of transparency; an unwillingness to exchange information with tax administrations of OECD member countries; and the absence of a substantial activity requirement. None of these criteria applies to Ireland.
Furthermore, in December 2012, Ireland became one of the first countries in the world to sign an agreement with the United States to improve international tax compliance and implement Fatca (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). This type of agreement is now being hailed as the emerging international standard for the automatic exchange of tax information.
…while, oddly enough, not engaging with the ‘double Irish’ or the possibility of variability in application in the slightest. That’s quite some omission given the nature of the current debate.
So unsurprising then that one should read in the news today (again from the IT) that:
Minister of State for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton travelled to Washington yesterday to rebut the assertion that Ireland was a tax haven for US multinationals.
The Minister said that Ireland had a statutory corporate tax rate that was “not negotiable” and that the Irish authorities “don’t cut special deals for any company”.
There’s a certain sense of a scrabbling for purchase on the decks as this particular ship tips over in the water. It’s not that I think that matters will change radically in one way or another, but the current mood music in relation to matters tax internationally is one that does not favour this jurisdiction’s approach across the last two or three decades.
In a way this is a perfect inversion of the Irish exceptionalism argument, that somehow Ireland by dint of its small open economy is unable to implement measures that otherwise are normative in economic matters (though notably it’s only the more – shall we say – progressive measures where problems arise).
There ain’t no such thing as exceptionalism in a global economy, particularly when one has friends like Apple who are willing to spill the beans – from their position of pure self-interest – something that should have been factored in from the start, and which only the most naive would ignore. If the broader climate shifts against these sort of tax regimes (to put it at its kindest) well then, so be it, all bets are off and everyone is trying to claw back what they can.
It is this that makes Richardson’s robust apologia so hard to comprehend. Is it really tenable to argue, as she does, that:
…we should not shy away from robustly protecting our competitive tax regime. We can stand firm in the knowledge that our tax regime is internationally recognised as fair and just.
When Ms. Creighton goes to Washington then it might just, could just, possibly be that the reality is anything but that ‘our tax regime [being] internationally recognised as fair and just’.
I raised the point in the last week or two that much of the damage comes not just from our neighbours in Europe (though they will be seething), or the US (and likewise) but from those companies which were not the beneficiaries of such largesse. And that very point is echoed in the assessment here from earlier in the week in the IT.
In politics this sort of thing is sometimes referred to as constructive ambiguity. No one is shown to be lying; everybody is confused and hopefully loses interest. The US and Irish public will probably lose interest. The same can’t be said for the OECD, France, Germany and those chief executives paying 12.5 per cent.
Too clever by half. Now in truth we’ve known about the ‘double Irish’ for quite a while, particularly on the left, but it does make one wonder what other dirty secrets of RoI financial (mis)management are there waiting to emerge as the crisis continues to shine an unflattering light on places that up until now were almost completely hidden from public view? And that’s before we get anywhere close to the other issue as to the supposedly sacrosanct nature – in Irish political debate – of a 12.5 % corporate taxation rate that is anything but…
[Donagh's piece here on ILR addresses another very serious aspect about the supposedly 'high-value' jobs that MNCs are meant to bring...]
Left unity, here and there… May 8, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left, US Politics.
Many thanks to Tomboktu for pointing in the direction of this piece on Jacobin by Bhaskar Sunkara which calls for further left unity in the United States.
It’s finally time to make a call for joint action on the Left with an eye towards the unification of the many socialist organizations with similar political orientations into one larger body. This idea has been trotted out for generations, but new agents and desperate necessity can finally make it a reality.
And Sunkara continues:
If it comes to fruition we’d see the convergence of American socialists committed to non-sectarian organizing under the auspices of an overarching democratic structure. This in itself may not seem like a significant undertaking — we’re only talking about a few groups and a few thousand people — but we shouldn’t let those humble beginnings obscure the potential that a fresh start for the organized left holds.
And while it’s not entirely clear to me, at least at first reading, whether the intention is to work in tandem with ‘liberal allies’ or to supplant them, it remains a genuinely interesting piece because sitting, as we do, on the far side of a left unity project in this state there’s an odd nostalgia to read the outline and reasoning for it as stated even if the terrain being contested is extremely different in the US. And one could add that the reasons haven’t changed for left unity, of one form or another, here or there.
Sunkara lists problems with the left, taking as a starting point what follows:
Last week… on a Euclid Avenue-bound C train, I sat across from someone getting to know himself through his Sunday best. It was jarring, but not nearly jarring enough. In a strange way, years on the radical left had prepared me for such an encounter.
You see, subway masturbators don’t care that everyone else is trying to get away from them; they don’t care about being a nuisance. They care about jacking off. Not unlike a certain variety of American socialist: enthusiasts of sectarian minutia, reenactors of old battles, collectors of decontextualized quotes. Leftists have a lot to say. What they don’t always have is the social literacy to speak to a broader audience, a literacy that comes with a grounding in practical politics. They lack self-awareness about the timing or propriety of their actions, and they don’t see why that’s a problem.
I think that’s true. That there’s a sort of social ineptness about so many on the left, me too – I know over the years – a lack of understanding of how to communicate with people beyond itself. And perhaps a disinterest in doing so. We all know how there is an inclination to see that figures on marches and protests are inflated, how actions however small somehow becomes vastly more important than their objective reality and so on. And how the language itself is one that is weirdly disconnected from that used by those who are not a part of it. A lot of this is inevitable, unfortunately, in a context of general antagonism or indifference to
the left but its also the rssult of a situation where prior paths are held up as valid approaches however difficult they are to map onto contemporary socio-economic contexts. How texts that have tangential – at best – utility or aplicability are overly referenced. And again I suspect we’ve all seen and done that .
Of course, the C train masturbator likely suffered from afflictions more serious than a lack of tact. But the Left is not mentally ill. It’s insular and inconsequential. Thankfully, many do want to see a change in its internal culture, but usually this sentiment takes the form of vague “can’t we all get along and talk about how much we hate drones” platitudes. That attitude isn’t quite right either.
So much of it rings true in an Irish context, not least this:
But it’s impossible to deny that institutionally the socialist left is in disarray, fragmented into a million different groupings, many of them with essentially the same politics. It’s an environment that breeds the narcissism of small differences.
And this in particular:
In a powerless movement, the stakes aren’t high enough to make people work together and the structures aren’t in place to facilitate substantive debate.
Thinking over the history of the ULA I’m reminded of one of its first appearances at one of the big union-backed marches through Dublin where there was a profusion of ULA posters, people in T-shirts if I recall correctly and so on. There was genuine enthusiasm, and one person I was with from a different political background on the left was very surprised at how many numbers the combined forces within the ULA were able to field. Actually, let’s say that was one of its first and last general public appearances. And consider the words above – ‘the stakes aren’t high enough’.
But at that march in late 2010 the stakes were high - even taking the broader crisis into account – because it was but a hop skip and a jump to the 2011 General Election and most everyone involved in the ULA had skin in that particular game. All were aware that even if the broader political outcomes from the new ‘brand’ weren’t perhaps that great they might cull a few more activists, a few more second and third preference votes.
I don’t mean that to sound overly cynical because it was right and proper that energy should be poured into gaining seats at that point in time but is it that institutionally the stakes now aren’t high enough for a left unity project. Individually the parties, formations and others that comprised the ULA may think that they can go it alone into the next set of local elections, though one presumes they are aware of the limitations of CAHWT in the face of the government’s measures in regard to the property tax. That there’s a sense of let’s get to the next hurdle after that, which might be austerity itself, or the water charges or something else as yet too hazy on the political horizon to make out.
Looking at the ruin of the ULA it’s difficult to see what happens next. Further left unity is clearly a non-starter for a considerable time to come, not least because it will be essentially the same faces as were around the table for the ULA who would constitute the basis of any future attempt and it is difficult to see why it would be more successful in three or five or ten years – even if one believes the socio-economic situation will worsen radically from here.
Indeed there’s another argument which is that there was a very specific window of opportunity which opened up in the 2009 to 2012 period where the further left was able to capitalise on a generalised crisis, a grievously weakened FF, an SF still sub-10 per cent of the vote and a broader sentiment towards the left, however vague that might be – a sentiment that some of the subsequent campaigns were able to capitalise upon to some degree.
Can’t see that happening in that way again, not with a renascent FF, a consolidated SF and the example of the ULA for every unhelpful FF and other canvasser to point to in two or three years time. And the crisis? Still there, but even the inability to capitalise on that further points to serious problems in terms of the approaches being used by not just the further left but all oppositional and semi-oppositional forces to the orthodoxy.
None of this is to say that many of the current further left TDs won’t be re-elected. But the limitations on growth are plain to see. And it’s hardly difficult to see seats being lost due to specific local issues.
But left unity?
Same-sex marriage – US polling March 19, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
Polls show public opinion in the US has shifted to a majority in favour of same-sex marriage. Nine out of the 50 states have passed laws making it legal.
It could be that its progress forward will now be much more rapid. But, I was surprised to read that only now has Hillary Clinton affirmed her support for same-sex marriage. I’m a bit amazed it took her so long to go public with this and it does perhaps suggest a continuing nervousness as regards the issue amongst some in the political class when those polls suggest far reaching change on the ground.
Meanwhile back in the US… March 18, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
1 comment so far
…hard to take the reports about Rand Paul topping Republican polls for 2016 Presidential candidate entirely seriously. It’s simply too fluid – and it’s a point people have been making about this polity too, in regard to polls – there’s too much time to go and one need only cast back to 2008/9 to see how events can move with furious speed to overturn all expectations.
And even then, Paul’s apparent dominance isn’t that strong:
Mr Paul, a favourite of the far-right Tea Party movement, has been buoyed by his recent 13-hour filibuster of CIA director nominee John Brennan. He took 25 per cent of the votes in the poll published at the end of the three-day Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.
After all, was it not one S. Palin who was the favoured daughter of the Republican party during that latter period, and where is she now?
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, John McCain’s Republican running mate in the 2008 presidential election, caused a stir with a lively speech on Saturday in which she sharply criticised Mr Obama, at one point comparing him with convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff.
Mrs Palin came 11th in the poll with just 3 per cent of voters believing her to be presidential candidate material.
25 per cent eh? Far from a commanding lead there.
And actually electable candidates?
New Jersey governor Chris Christie followed closely with 7 per cent of the vote despite being snubbed by the conference’s organisers.
He was not invited to speak despite his popularity following his high-profile response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy last year.
And Christie could take some satisfaction in the following:
Congressman Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney ’s running mate last year, polled 6 per cent.
In a way that shows both the detachment from reality of the polls, and the process, when a serious conservative like Christie who has a chance of a nation-wide appeal is in single figures as against Paul who is unlikely have the sort of broad appeal necessary to knit together the essential combination of campaign finance, heavy-weight political support and a sniff of victory.
A view from the US February 20, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left, US Politics.
Thanks to EMC for forwarding this…
Larry Hagman, the Peace and Freedom Party, and… er… Murray Rothbard… November 24, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
Reading about the passing of Larry Hagman at the age of 81 the obituaries reminded me that he had been involved in a number of political themed films, from Primary Colors to Nixon (though he was also at an early stage in Beware! The Blob, so make of that what one will. Indeed I was unsurprised to read the following:
In his later years, Hagman became an advocate for organ transplants and an anti-smoking campaigner. He also was devoted to solar energy, telling the New York Times he had a $750,000 solar panel system at his Ojai estate, and made a commercial in which he portrayed a JR Ewing who had forsaken oil for solar power. He was a longtime member of the Peace and Freedom Party, a minor leftist organisation in California.
Hagman was famously radical and outspoken on political matters – and socially liberal too. And given that he is said to have been a member of P&F since the late 1960s that makes sense too. Peace and Freedom is a most interesting and admirable organisation in and of itself having a genesis in the New Left and 1960s and fought the good fight subsequently. As its wiki page notes it is nationally organised but appears strongest in California and only this year nominated Roseanne Barr and Cindy Sheehan as its Presidential ticket.
Anyhow, on a tangent of sorts, reading up again this morning on P&F what was this that I discovered but that Murray Rothbard joined the New York section of the organisation with a group of right libertarians in the late 1960s. Now I’d long been aware that Rothbard, and others, had as part of efforts between the New Left and libertarians to find some sort of accommodation on the back of common activism over and against the Vietnam War and on campus sought to foster close links, but this close?
The idea of Rothbard and his libertarians and various and sundry Marxists co-habiting in a single formation is a fantastic one – quite literally fantastic – but it happened, at least for a while, before it failed.
As to Hagman, it’s remarkable how his career stretched across television, ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ and ‘Dallas’ and then onto film. At some points one could argue he became a pervasive presence, particularly during the Dallas years, perhaps indicative of how hegemonic television could be at a time of a restricted number of channels and in a pre-internet period.
It is wrong to mock… November 9, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
…but really, what was John Waters thinking of when he apparently entirely seriously wrote the following in today’s Irish Times.
As president, untested by any significant crisis or event, he managed to convey the impression of the elasticity of these ideas in the modern world, whereas the evidence all around is of their terminal failure.
So let’s get this straight… he and the US have faced no significant crisis or event in the period 2008 to 2012?
One tends to hope… November 6, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in US Politics.
…tomorrow morning’s photos won’t feature something like this with a grinning Mitt Romney – whatever the failings of Barack Obama.
Funny how in retrospect Truman appears remarkably progressive (on some issues I must stress) compared to some who came after him on the Democratic ticket.
Meanwhile, there’s already been one parody of this featuring Obama, this one over the health care mandate decision at the US Supreme Court.