Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page
When the evening came, she sat down with them all
Holding court in the sparse bedroom
One by one she comforted them
Giving audience from her bed
As her time was at hand
As she had given life in the Rotunda
As she had given comfort to the sick and dying
Are you right there, Ruby, are you right?
As she had given friendship, given compassion, given care
Given, given, given til she ate away at herself
Like the gnawing cancer
But the hollow always filled
A child’s hole at the seaside
No echoing hollow
No resounding gong
She spoke human, she acted angel
She has love
Love one another
As I have loved you
Some people are crazy
Some are just plain good
The crazy Celt was in search of her people
Lost in the wilderness
Wandering through the book
Joining the dots from Bob to Ruby
And the only Jew in the village
Whatever you want
The trail brought her to
The tribe’s pied-a-terre in New York
Spreading loose change behind her
Tokens of love
There weren’t no machine gun big enough
To protect what she loved
But who could protect her
From the black eyed dog at the door?
It shadowed her to the tip of the island
Growling around the cloisters
It hung her head in Bernard Shaw’s village
How to keep yourself clean and bright, GBS
In the rising tide of that NYC disease
The dulling senses of old age, waxy flesh
Boulders of cancer blocking the ducts
Blood, sweat, shit and tears blocking the hospital drains
City grime blackening the hospital panes
I’m the window through which I must see the world
And I’m black as a dog
Sure look pretty now, bitch
My name is Sorrow
And my soul is exceeding sorrowful
Then she bursts through the door
The life and soul
Her skin-tight black catsuit
Draped in the stars and stripes
Wrapped in glory
She plays the numbers game
Adding a second passport
(And secret light blue from the older country)
Soft emerald conjoined with Safad sapphire
North, South, East 14th
East to her former life in Baghdad
Wandering through hollow lands
And the hills of Derry, the black pool of Dublin
Kilburn, a fire in her head
Irish rover and lover
Finally back home in Carlingford
The last Christmas dinner
Bald as Sinead
Nothing compares to her
Rotunda – the circle closing
Bloated as Brando
Full of grace, dressed in white
Take, eat, this is my body
And a drop of my favoured red, I’m no saint
The flesh is weakening
But the spirit is high and willing
Whatever you want
Yes, the sweet tasting good life
The hour is at hand
Sleep on now, and take your rest
Don’t cry for me
I’ll never leave you
She loved Madonna
Holding court in the bottom bunk
Sister of mercy
She comforted us
At the hour of her death
She loved her own
Until the end
Bad stuff is going on – beware, be angry and be active…
To us, it’s an obscure shift of tax law. To the City, it’s the heist of the century
In David Cameron we have a leader whose job is to quietly legitimise a semi-criminal, money-laundering economy
‘I would love to see tax reductions,” David Cameron told the Sunday Telegraph at the weekend, “but when you’re borrowing 11% of your GDP, it’s not possible to make significant net tax cuts. It just isn’t.” Oh no? Then how come he’s planning the biggest and crudest corporate tax cut in living memory?
If you’ve heard nothing of it, you’re in good company. The obscure adjustments the government is planning to the tax acts of 1988 and 2009 have been missed by almost everyone – and are, anyway, almost impossible to understand without expert help. But as soon as you grasp the implications, you realise that a kind of corporate coup d’etat is taking place.
Like the dismantling of the NHS and the sale of public forests, no one voted for this measure, as it wasn’t in the manifestos. While Cameron insists that he occupies the centre ground of British politics, that he shares our burdens and feels our pain, he has quietly been plotting with banks and businesses to engineer the greatest transfer of wealth from the poor and middle to the ultra-rich that this country has seen in a century. The latest heist has been explained to me by the former tax inspector, now a Private Eye journalist, Richard Brooks and current senior tax staff who can’t be named. Here’s how it works.
At the moment tax law ensures that companies based here, with branches in other countries, don’t get taxed twice on the same money. They have to pay only the difference between our rate and that of the other country. If, for example, Dirty Oil plc pays 10% corporation tax on its profits in Oblivia, then shifts the money over here, it should pay a further 18% in the UK, to match our rate of 28%. But under the new proposals, companies will pay nothing at all in this country on money made by their foreign branches.
Foreign means anywhere. If these proposals go ahead, the UK will be only the second country in the world to allow money that has passed through tax havens to remain untaxed when it gets here. The other is Switzerland. The exemption applies solely to “large and medium companies”: it is not available for smaller firms. The government says it expects “large financial services companies to make the greatest use of the exemption regime”. The main beneficiaries, in other words, will be the banks.
But that’s not the end of it. While big business will be exempt from tax on its foreign branch earnings, it will, amazingly, still be able to claim the expense of funding its foreign branches against tax it pays in the UK. No other country does this. The new measures will, as we already know, accompany a rapid reduction in the official rate of corporation tax: from 28% to 24% by 2014. This, a Treasury minister has boasted, will be the lowest rate “of any major western economy”. By the time this government is done, we’ll be lucky if the banks and corporations pay anything at all. In the Sunday Telegraph, David Cameron said: “What I want is tax revenue from the banks into the exchequer, so we can help rebuild this economy.” He’s doing just the opposite.
These measures will drain not only wealth but also jobs from the UK. The new legislation will create a powerful incentive to shift business out of this country and into nations with lower corporate tax rates. Any UK business that doesn’t outsource its staff or funnel its earnings through a tax haven will find itself with an extra competitive disadvantage. The new rules also threaten to degrade the tax base everywhere, as companies with headquarters in other countries will demand similar measures from their own governments.
So how did this happen? You don’t have to look far to find out. Almost all the members of the seven committees the government set up “to provide strategic oversight of the development of corporate tax policy” are corporate executives. Among them are representatives of Vodafone, Tesco, BP, British American Tobacco and several of the major banks: HSBC, Santander, Standard Chartered, Citigroup, Schroders, RBS and Barclays.
I used to think of such processes as regulatory capture: government agencies being taken over by the companies they were supposed to restrain. But I’ve just read Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Islands – perhaps the most important book published in the UK so far this year – and now I’m not so sure. Shaxson shows how the world’s tax havens have not, as the OECD claims, been eliminated, but legitimised; how the City of London is itself a giant tax haven, which passes much of its business through its subsidiary havens in British dependencies, overseas territories and former colonies; how its operations mesh with and are often indistinguishable from the laundering of the proceeds of crime; and how the Corporation of the City of London in effect dictates to the government, while remaining exempt from democratic control. If Hosni Mubarak has passed his alleged $70bn through British banks, the Egyptians won’t see a piastre of it.
Reading Treasure Islands, I have realised that injustice of the kind described in this column is no perversion of the system; it is the system. Tony Blair came to power after assuring the City of his benign intentions. He then deregulated it and cut its taxes. Cameron didn’t have to assure it of anything: his party exists to turn its demands into public policy. Our ministers are not public servants. They work for the people who fund their parties, run the banks and own the newspapers, shielding them from their obligations to society, insulating them from democratic challenge.
Our political system protects and enriches a fantastically wealthy elite, much of whose money is, as a result of their interesting tax and transfer arrangements, in effect stolen from poorer countries, and poorer citizens of their own countries. Ours is a semi-criminal money-laundering economy, legitimised by the pomp of the lord mayor’s show and multiple layers of defence in government. Politically irrelevant, economically invisible, the rest of us inhabit the margins of the system. Governments ensure that we are thrown enough scraps to keep us quiet, while the ultra-rich get on with the serious business of looting the global economy and crushing attempts to hold them to account.
And this government? It has learned the lesson that Thatcher never grasped. If you want to turn this country into another Mexico, where the ruling elite wallows in unimaginable, state-facilitated wealth while the rest can go to hell, you don’t declare war on society, you don’t lambast single mothers or refuse to apologise for Bloody Sunday. You assuage, reassure, conciliate, emote. Then you shaft us.
One of my sons made this map the other day (with Photoshop and patience) and said I should put it on my blog as ‘it would help get extra visitors’ since there are hardly any maps of the NFL teams on the web and the few that are to be found are not much good. Having attended an interesting session at Mint Digital the other evening with SEO specialist Will Critchlow of Distilled, it was interesting to see what a strong sense of SEO said son has developed himself just from his usage of the web. With the Superbowl kicking off as I write now seems as good a time as any to publish the gift and try out his experiment.
His interest in NFL came about through playing the game Madden (10 and 11) which happily has translated itself into the real world – we’ve just got back from a weekend in Ireland where he, his brother and their cousin have been running around the lanes of my wife’s village launching an American football at one another. Interactive media is never better than when it translates into real world action. At the airport leaving on Friday I found out that the EU Fisheries Minister, Maria Damanaki, has pledged to end the horrendous and wasteful practice of fish discarding highlighted in Channel 4’s recent Big Fish Fight campaign, in particular on www.fishfight.net
Update 23.i.12: It’s a year on and my son’s team, the New England Patriots, just made it to the Superbowl last night. He’s delighted people have picked up on his map (like Boltbeat) and is currently working on a follow-up for college teams. As a lover of New York, my second favourite city after my native London, I’ll be donning my Giants cap.