Is it the beginning of the end of tax avoidance for multi-national corporations?

The Tax Justice Network‘s latest TaxCast is out. Hosted  by Naomi Fowler, each 15 minute podcast follows the latest news relating to tax evasion, tax avoidance and the shadow banking system. The show features discussions with experts in the field to help analyse the top stories each month.

In this month’s show:  is it the beginning of the end of tax avoidance for multi-national corporations? Some countries fight back. And the Finance Curse – why an oversized finance sector’s bad for an economy. A special extended edition.

We are happy to report that Taxcast has been nominated for the European Podcast Award! You can vote for it here.

How Much Is Enough?

Lord Skidelsky, Emeritus professor of political economy and Dr Edward Skidelsky, lecturer in philosophy tackle the questions: What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours merely to acquire greater wealth?

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On Both Sides of the Golan

The picture on the left is doing the rounds on the internet labelled as a Palestinian child  victim of US-backed Zionist bombing in Gaza. In fact, it seems that it depicts a Syrian child injured by Russian and Iranian-backed Asadist barbarism. No matter – the two are interchangeable today. Both are fighting hyper-violent tyrannies rooted in the Sykes-Picot carve-up of bilad ash-Shaam. And while Zionism bombs Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Asad’s forces continue to bomb Palestinian refugees in the Yarmouk camp, Damascus. The film below shows some of the aftermath of this bombing. Below that we reprint an article by novelist Ahdaf Soueif, in which she describes the changed Arab environment meeting the latest aggression on Gaza, and points out that Israel’s action is in part aimed to take “the heat off Bashar al-Assad’s murderous activities in Syria.”

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For Omar Misharawi: Killed by Israeli Airstrikes on 11/14/12

BBC journalist Jihad Masharawi carries his son’s body at a Gaza hospital. (Associated Press)
BBC journalist Jihad Misharawi carries his son’s body at a Gaza hospital. (Associated Press)
Omar Misharawi (Jihad Misharawi, via Paul Danahar)
Omar Misharawi (Jihad Misharawi, via Paul Danahar)

by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

At death you measure
no more than our arms
When we rise
to blow a prayer into your charred lung
we find resplendent
butterflies
milling about — lapidary
punctuations of our time
together
(eleven months in all)

Horror turned honey
and lustrous
as buds of new fruit

Ya Shaheed
You witnessed

Hypocrisy, As Usual

Omar al-Masharawi, son of a BBC cameraman in Gaza, murdered by Zionist bombs.

Israel has launched yet another attack against the Gaza Strip, striking the densely-populated and besieged territory from the air and the sea, and as usual the United States, Canada and Britain have lined up in support of Zionist terrorism.

Speaking from a system poisoned by the Israel lobby, State Department spokesman Mark Toner says: “There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately. We support Israel’s right to defend itself.” Confusing Zionist settlers for ‘the Jewish people’, confusing perpetrator with victim, and then parroting outmoded ‘war on terror’ propaganda, Canadian foreign minister John Baird vomits the following: “Far too often, the Jewish people find themselves on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism, the great struggle of our generation.” Then Britain’s foreign minister William Hague makes the following immoral and illogical comment: “I utterly condemn rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel by Hamas and other armed groups. This creates an intolerable situation for Israeli civilians in southern Israel, who have the right to live without fear of attack from Gaza.”

Two things must be said. First, this round of escalation, like the 2008/2009 slaughter, was started by Israel. It is totally mendacious to pretend otherwise. The Hamas government in Gaza refrained from stopping other groups from firing missiles as a result of Israel’s murder of a disabled man and of a twelve-year-old boy in Gaza. Here is a timeline of events. Second, the settlers of southern Israel do not have the right to live without fear of attack while the original inhabitants of ‘southern Israel’ are herded into refugee camps. Eighty percent of people in Gaza are descendants of refugees ethnically cleansed from their villages and towns by Zionist militias in 1947 and 1948.

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Moaz al-Khatib’s speech translated

Rabi Tawil of the excellent Levantine Dreamhouse blog translates Syrian National Coalition head Shaikh Moaz al-Khatib’s important speech of 11/11/2012, in which he addresses issues of violence, sectarianism, revenge and independence in the Syrian revolution.

The Syrian people are the product of 10,000 years of civilization.  The great people of Syria are facing daily, a programmed war of extermination and savage destruction.  It can be safely said that there is not a citizen that has not been harmed by this regime.  Many parties have exerted effort to pull this regime out of its primitiveness, its savagery and its stupidity but have been put off by its stubbornness and its arrogance.  The regime has destroyed all aspects of normal life and turned Syria into ruins; it has worked for fifty years to negate the will of the people and to play on its contradictions using them to tear apart our people.

After a long struggle, numerous patriotic groups have now united as one to stop the massacre to which our people are being subjected daily as the rest of world passively listens and watches.  Our primary task is to provide emergent humanitarian relief to our people and to stop the torrent of blood that runs day and night, as we unite our ranks to remove this tyrannical regime with all its symbols and build a righteous society based on justice and the dignity that is bestowed by God on every human being.

I would like to alert you to certain issues, even if I deviate a little from the norms of diplomatic protocol.  The first issue is that our revolution is a peaceful revolution from its beginning to its end and it is the regime alone that bears the moral and legal responsibility; for it is the regime that forced our people to resort to armed resistance to defend themselves, their families, their property and their religion.  In dozens of cities flowers were carried during demonstrations by thousands of young men and women. They carried flowers and cold water to give to members of the security forces to ask for their right, to simply express themselves. This monstrous regime responded with arrests, jail and torture and then proceeded to destroy the physical, social and economic structure of the country after destroying its intellectual and moral fabric for the past fifty years.

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Finally, Leadership

l-r: Saif, Atassi, Khatib (Reuters photo)

Following my previous comment on the astounding failures of Syrian political elites, I must report some optimism. The Syrian National Council has accepted its place within the new Syrian National Coalition (it makes up a third of the new body), and the Coalition has won recognition by the Arab League, France, Japan and others.

The Coalition’s choice of leaders is the most inspiring sign, one which suggests both that the Coalition is no foreign front, and that another, much more positive aspect of Syria is finally coming to the fore.

President Ahmad Muaz al-Khatib is a mosque imam, an engineer and a public intellectual. He is Islamist enough for the Islamists and less extreme Salafists of the armed resistance to give him a hearing, but not Islamist enough to scare secularists and minority groups. He has written books on the importance of minority religious rights and women’s rights in a just Islamic society. His speeches since assuming his position have reached out to minorities and to the soldiers in Asad’s army, who he described as victims of the regime.

Vice President Riyadh Saif is a businessman, former MP, and a liberal democrat.

And Vice President Suheir al-Atassi, daughter of foundational Ba’athist Jamal al-Atassi, is a human rights activist, a secular feminist, a founder of the Syrian Revolution General Commission, and a key activist of the grassroots Local Coordination Committees. She is the sort of person who should have been representing the Revolution at the highest level from the very start.

All three leaders have been active participants in the revolution inside Syria, and all three have suffered imprisonment. All three are known and respected by Syrians inside the country.

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Syrian National Mess

George Sabra has been elected new head of the Syrian National Council. He seems like a good man and his first interviews suggest he’s an effective talker. But his election comes as the SNC loses the last of its relevance. Despite the gravity of its historic responsibility, the Council failed to connect properly with revolutionaries on the ground, it failed to do enough to reassure minorities, or to aid refugees, it put all its eggs in the basket of a foreign military intervention which was never going to happen, it overrepresented the Muslim Brotherhood, it was bedevilled by factional and ego-based conflict, and its self-renewal process ended up with no women in the leadership. Foreign governments have lost interest in it. Crucially the grassroots Local Coordination Committes say the SNC no longer represents them. Other opposition bodies and individuals outside the SNC (some of them doubtless secretly backed by the regime) have added to the sniping and backstabbing.

Today the news is that a new, broader body has been formed to coordinate the fight against Asad, to implement law in liberated areas, and to oversee the post-Asad transition. It’s called the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary Forces and the Opposition, or the Syrian National Coalition. Perhaps this initiative will be more successful than others; we’ll see. Very sadly, it took Qatari and American badgering and perhaps promises of better weaponry (at this late stage with the country in flames and the resistance finally capturing heavy weaponry for itself) to force the ‘opposition’ to coalesce. You’d think Syria’s elite politicians would have been self-motivated to compromise and act by the destruction and mass slaughter in their homeland, by the urgency of the tragedy, by the vacuum allowing nihilists and potential warlords to call shots. But no. While Syria’s grassroots revolutionaries are unparalleled heroes, seemingly capable of endless self-sacrifice, Syrian political elites have failed their people massively.

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Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome

Michael Parenti giving a talk on his, Pulitzer Prize nominated, book Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome. For an excellent Booknotes interview see here and for an audio lecture click here.