Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dying for your Non-Beliefs

 In thirteen countries, you can be sentenced to death for not having a faith:
1.    Afghanistan
2.    Iran
3.    Malaysia
4.    Maldives
5.    Mauritania
6.    Nigeria
7.    Pakistan
8.    Qatar
9.    Saudi Arabia
10.    Somalia
11.    Sudan
12.    United Arab Emirates
13.    Yemen
Just 30 per cent of people in the UK describe themselves as religious, making Britain one of the least religious countries in the world. 53 per cent of people say they have no faith, while 13 per cent claim they are committed atheists.

World Cup - A poor result

“My life here is like a prison. The work is difficult, we worked for many hours in the hot sun. When I first complained about my situation, soon after arriving in Qatar, the manager said, ‘If you want to complain you can, but there will be consequences. If you want to stay in Qatar, be quiet and keep working.’ Now I am forced to stay in Qatar and continue working.”

In May last year, Amnesty International accused the Qatari government of “promising little, delivering less” and has said the promised reforms to the kafala system do not go far enough. In a new report, it concludes: “The government’s response raises serious questions about Qatar’s willingness to protect the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers living in the country. If abuse on a flagship World Cup project does not merit investigation and action, it is unlikely abuses that do not attract the international spotlight will be dealt with in an effective manner.”

“The abuse of migrant workers is a stain on the conscience of world football. For players and fans, a World Cup stadium is a place of dreams. For some of the workers who spoke to us, it can feel like a living nightmare,” said Amnesty International’s director general, Salil Shetty. “Indebted, living in squalid camps in the desert, paid a pittance, the lot of migrant workers contrasts sharply to that of the top-flight footballers who will play in the stadium. All workers want are their rights: to be paid on time, leave the country if need be and be treated with dignity and respect.”

The number of labourers working directly on Qatari World Cup stadiums increased from 2,000 to 4,000 in the past year and is expected to grow to 36,000 in the next two years. Amnesty International accuses Fifa and Qatari authorities of ongoing indifference to systemic abuse of workers on stadiums that will host the 2022 World Cup. There was evidence that some workers on the stadium contracted to a labour-supply company “appear to have been subjected to forced labour”.

It said that workers refurbishing the Khalifa stadium, scheduled to host one of the World Cup semi-finals in 2022, reported they were forced to live in squalid accommodation, appeared to pay huge recruitment fees, and have had wages withheld and passports confiscated. Qatari law prohibits retention of passports, delayed payment of wages or deceptive recruitment (where workers are promised a certain wage in their country of origin only to be paid less when they arrive). But Amnesty found evidence that all of those practices remained widespread during the period in question. The Amnesty report alleges that while the organising committee has introduced welfare standards there are “significant gaps in application” and its efforts have been undermined by indifference from Fifa and apathy from the Qatari authorities.

Of the men interviewed, there was evidence of workers being threatened with non-payment of wages, being deported or – conversely – not being allowed to leave Qatar because their employer would not provide an exit permit. many reported their wages being paid three or four months in arrears.  All the men interviewed had taken out loans to pay for recruitment-related fees, often to agencies in their home country. The practice is forbidden by Qatari law but remains widespread. Amnesty concluded that the human rights abuses it documented were the result of “multiple failures” and that while there had been a belated focus on the quality of workers’ accommodation by some of the companies involved, they have done little to address other well-documented issues such as deception in the recruitment process. The report is particularly critical of Fifa’s failure to exert pressure on the Qatari authorities and a “lack of meaningful action to address the issue”.

The Amnesty report concludes its “actions and omissions offer little hope that Fifa plans to do all it can to ensure that the 2022 World Cup will leave a positive legacy and not a trail of human misery”.

Shetty said: “Despite five years of promises, Fifa has failed almost completely to stop the World Cup being built on human rights abuses.”

The rising cost of dying

The cost of even the most basic funeral can drive families into debt. The means-tested benefit had been frozen at £700 since 2003, but even "simple" funerals cost over £1,200. The average funeral in the UK now costs about £3,700, with funeral directors' fees rising well above the rate of inflation in recent years.

For the £700 social fund funeral payment (SFFP) some companies offered only "direct cremations or burials", without a service, celebrant, mourners, choice of coffin or flowers. Applicants are required to provide a final bill from the funeral director, meaning the bereaved must commit to the expense before having any clear idea whether they are eligible for help. Nor does it cover co-habiting couples who were not married or in a civil partnership. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Over-population is a fantasy

There are about 7 billion people on the planet today, with just over 9 billion expected by the year 2050. Given that many of the poorest 1-2 billion people on Earth may not even have enough to eat today, can we really expect to adequately feed more than 9 billion people in less than 40 years time? Well, in fact, our agricultural capacity to produce food, clothing, and shelter at the standards of the western world can accommodate nearly 12 billion people if only the food would not be subject to capitalism’s irrational planning and failure to properly distributed. The world has the resources and technology to eradicate hunger and ensure long-term food security for all. 40 million people die from starvation every year; whereas family farmers, herders and rural workers represent more than half of the world population a are the primary victims of hunger.  

The Earth today has about 4,100 million hectares of arable land (land with adequately fertile soil and sufficient rainfall capable of supporting traditional agriculture)–that’s 41 million square kilometers or about 16 million square miles. A little less than 5% of this land is part of protected parks and wildlife preserves. Of the rest, only 15 million square kilometers are presently used for agriculture according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). Arable land in these statistics includes forest land and pasture lands that could possibly be used for traditional agriculture, but might be realistically needed for other purposes. A small amount of actively farmed land in the world (mostly in the Middle East) is actually not arable–think desert land made viable by irrigation and fertilization–so, this is not an absolute limit on agriculture.

We would likely not be content turning all arable land, much of which exists as forest and other semi-wild ecosystems, into high productivity grain farming. The effects on wildlife and aesthetics would be dramatic. So, let’s assume that the world as a whole decides to protect twice the current arable area protected by parks and other reserves, and let’s assume that another 10% of the area would be made up of semi-wild managed forest, managed game lands, and similar uses. That leaves a total of 33 million square kilometers of arable land available for agriculture of which we are currently using 16 million, or about half. One might then assume that we could easily support twice the current population, but this neglects that about a billion people are malnourished today, and many more are poorly clothed and housed (agriculture also produces the fibers for clothing).

To begin, we should assure that we can generate at least 2500 calories per person per year (the average need for an adult man), which is somewhat more than necessary because it does not account for the lower needs of women and children. 2500 calories per person per year for 9.2 billion people is a global need of 23 trillion calories per day in 2050. If every acre of arable land were planted with potatoes (the highest caloric yield per acre of any crop), we could produce 8 times more than we need to support all 9.2 billion individuals’ energy needs, although potatoes alone would not meet people’s nutritional requirements for protein and other nutrients. (interestingly, apples might provide even more calories per acre than potatoes)
Instead, relying on a one-third each mixture of corn, beans, and squash combined with a rotation in similar crops would provide for almost all nutritional needs including protein, vitamins, and minerals (data on yields and caloric content can be found here, here, here, and here, organic farming yields were used where available). This combination produces an average total of 2.7 million calories per acre or enough with all arable land in production to feed 2.5 times the population in 2050. If we were to allow for more variety in our diets and incorporate additional servings of a wider array fruits and vegetables our average yield might fall to 2.4 million calories per acre and reduce the surplus to 2.3 times the population in 2050 (using tomatoes at 80 calories per pound and 20,000 lbs per acre as a proxy for a mix of other vegetables).

Next, however, we should account for the needs of fiber (textiles and paper), and timber (paper and construction materials). Cotton consumption in the US peaked in the 1990’s at about 6.7 kg per person per year, and is currently about half of that. If we use the higher figure as a basis for worldwide needs in a fully developed economy, we would have a need of 62 million metric tons (tonnes), or a little more than twice the estimated cotton production for 2012. At current yields of 0.8 tonnes per hectare, worldwide fiber needs could be met by less than one million square kilometers (0.77 million sq. km). The demand for other fibers like wool and synthetics can be estimated at a value equal to cotton demand, for another 0.8 million sq. km. Total timber consumption in the US in 2005 (including pulp for paper, hardwood, softwood lumber, veneer, and other products) was about 20 billion cubic feet or 67 cubic feet per person. This translates into a global demand of 620 billion cubic feet or 12 billion tonnes. Using sustainable forest management practices, a yield of 6,600 kg per hectare of wood might be possible, while bamboo could yield up to 40,000 kg per hectare. This implies arable land needs of 3 million square kilometers (bamboo) to 18 million square kilometers (mix of hard and soft wood). Assuming bamboo will be able to meet half of the demand for these products, we would have a projected need of 10 million square kilometers for all timber together with the 1.6 million square kilometers for fiber.

So, the food (14 M, timber (10 M, and fiber (1.6 M needs of the projected population in 2050 can be met with only 78% of our available arable land (26 of 33 M In fact, every man, woman, and child on the planet would be able to consume as much of these things as Americans typically do (or more in the case of vegetables), and that level of production would satisfy up to 11.6 billion people. While annual crop rotations are assumed in these calculations, multiple crops in a given year are not even though they are common in many places. What these figures do not include explicitly are animal products, although fish and game harvested in sustainable quantities would be an addition with no impact on the other values as would animals raised on agricultural waste products including wheat and rice straw, winter cover crops such as alfalfa, and discarded produce as well as those raised on pasture lands that do not qualify as arable (hill sides, rocky grasslands, arid grasslands, etc.). Adding animals raised on grain or other primary agricultural produce would reduce the caloric and protein productivity of the land overall, but would still be possible given the 7 million square kilometers of unused arable land revealed in this scenario. Future changes in the amount of arable land due to climate change or sea level rise are not considered here.

So, why don’t we feed everyone sufficiently today given that we have more than enough worldwide agricultural land in production? There are several reasons. One is waste. In the US 20-40% of agricultural produce is wasted for one reason or another. Another is high value but low productivity agricultural activities including grain fed cattle and alcohol production. Another is the combination of adverse incentives created by rich and poor world governments actively involving themselves in the agricultural markets to different ends. We can say then that we are not necessarily heading for an impending disaster, but whether we succeed in sufficiently providing for everyone will remain an open question.

Children at Risk

The Children's Society found almost three in 10 of 16 to 19-year-olds growing up in poverty do not feel optimistic about the future. Children living in poverty are more likely to feel like failures and suffer mental health problems than their wealthier classmates, the report warned.

The charity warned that a projected rise in child poverty could lead to an increased demand for child and adolescent mental health services. The Children’s Society chief executive Matthew Reed said: “Evidence shows that children who live in poverty are exposed to a range of risks that can have a serious impact on their mental health, including debt, poor housing and low income. Government and health trusts are failing to recognise children in poverty as a vulnerable group for mental health problems. By cutting support for low income families the Government risks further entrenching the impact of poverty on the mental health of children across the country and perpetuating the cycle.”

Anti-war protests in Japan

Thousands of anti-war demonstrators held a rally outside the parliament building in Tokyo on Tuesday, protesting against the Japanese government's new so-called security law which reinterprets Article 9 of the country's Constitution, which renounced war as a means to settle international disputes following World War II.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushed for the revisions which "expand the activities of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) overseas, even in situations when Japan is not under direct attack," The laws permits the Japanese military to provide greater support to the militaries of the United States and other nations anywhere in the world.

An estimated 37,000 demonstrated against Japan's expanded militarism. In Tokyo, protesters chanted and held signs saying 'we don't condone war,' . Over the weekend, hundreds of high school students took to the streets in Tokyo's Shibuya district calling for a "peaceful future." Demonstrations were also held in another 35 cities across Japan.

US mining baron to be sentenced

Donald L. Blankenship, former Massey Energy CEO, was found guilty of a misdemeanor conspiracy to violate mine safety laws in December. An explosion at Massey's Upper Big Branch (UBB) Mine in southern West Virginia killed 29 men in 2010. Prosecutors stated that he made a "cold-blooded decision to gamble with the lives of the men and women who worked for him."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Ruby explained:
 “The United States knows of no other case in which a major company's CEO has been convicted of a crime against worker-protection laws. But compare this crime to others seen more regularly. Which is worse: a poor, uneducated young man who sells drugs because he sees no other opportunity, or a multimillionaire executive, at the pinnacle of his power, who decides to subject his workers to a daily game of Russian roulette? Which is worse: that young man carrying a gun during a single drug deal—a crime that will earn him a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence—or a CEO jeopardizing the lives of hundreds, day after day? Which is worse: stealing money or trampling on laws that protect human life? In each case, to ask the question is to answer it. Under any fair assessment, only a sentence of many years in prison could truly reflect the seriousness of Defendant’s crime and provide just punishment, which the law requires the court to do… It shocks the conscience that in the 21st century, knowing all that has been learned from decades of grief in our nation's mines, the CEO of a major coal company would willfully conspire against the laws that protect his workers' lives. One struggles for words to describe the inhumanity required for a mogul like Defendant to send working men and women into needless, mortal jeopardy for no purpose other than to pile up more money.”

Federal law says that willfully violating mine safety and health standards is worth, at most, a year in prison.

Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, agreed in a statement issued Tuesday:
“For decades, coal company executives have ruthlessly endangered the lives of coal miners, disregarding the law and sure they could escape, at worst, with slap-on-the-wrist penalties. It’s long past time for that era to be put to rest; doing so requires putting coal company executives in jail for their crimes. That is why it is so important that the notorious Don Blankenship be given the maximum jail time for his conspiracy conviction”

What SOYMB said at the time

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Class War

A miner is walking home after a long hard day down the pit. Being weary, he takes a short cut across a field.
Soon enough, he is approached by the land-owner. “You are trespassing on private land, this land belongs to me.”
The miner responds, “So, how did you come by all this land?”
“My ancestors won it in battle,” proudly says the land-owner.
“Okay, get your jacket off” replies the miner, “and I’ll fight you for it right now!”

Despite a number of trends indicating improved economic circumstances, poverty remains deeply entrenched and pervasive. If poverty persists in America, it is not for lack of resources. For the large majority of black families, the ghettos of the civil rights era have been passed on from parents to children, with little change. No other advanced nation tolerates the depth of deprivation allowed in the United States. Among too many poor and minority Americans, voting and choosing elected officials just isn't viewed as essential to their lives. Over time, while assistance to the poor has increased, families deemed as "undeserving" have experienced a decrease in assistance. But these crude distinctions between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor are unworthy of true progressives.

1.5 million households, including 3 million children, living on no more than $2 a day in 2011 for seven months or more -- the measure used to determine poverty in the underdeveloped world. This number has increased by almost two and a half times since 1996.

The most recent poverty data for 2014 show that 47 million Americans (14.8 percent of the total population) were living in poverty -- on less than $24,000 for a two-parent family with two children. Even more distressing is that 21 million Americans (6.6 percent of the total population) were living in deep poverty -- less than 50 percent of the official poverty level or $12,000 for a family of four. Since 2007, when the recession began, the number of Americans living in deep poverty has increased by over 5 million people, while over 9 million more people are living in official poverty.

A recent Pew analysis shows that hollowing to be very real: The share of the adult population living in middle-income households (defined as having an annual household income between $42,000 and $126,000 in 2014 dollars for a three-person household) declined from 61 percent in 1971 to slightly less than 50 percent in 2015.

At the lower end of the income scale, the proportion of adults living in households with the lowest incomes grew from 16 percent in 1971 to 20 percent in 2015. (A three-person household in the lowest-income tier had an income of $31,402 or less in 2015.) At the upper end of the income spectrum, the share of adults in the highest-income tier reached 9 percent in 2015, up from 4 percent in 1971. (A three-person household in the highest-income tier had an income of $188,412 or more in 2015.)

Notwithstanding the increase in the percentage of people in the lowest income group, their overall share of aggregate income actually declined slightly over the 44-year period, dropping from 10 percent in 1970 to 9 percent in 2014. By contrast, the share of aggregate income held by high-income households at the upper extreme of the income spectrum escalated from 29 percent in 1970 to 49 percent in 2014! This expansion was at the expense of both the lower class and the middle class. The latter's share of aggregate income dropped precipitously, falling from a 62 percent share in 1970 to just 43 percent in 2014.

The median net worth of families in the lower-income tier has decreased from $11,544 in 1983 to just $9,465 in 2013 (measured in 2014 dollars). The median net worth of the upper-income tier, however, more than doubled during the same period, soaring from $323,402 in 1983 to $650,074 in 2013. The median net worth for the middle-income tier of families has risen slightly, increasing from $95,879 in 1983 to $98,057 in 2013.

The richest, most exceptional country on planet earth cannot admit to have so many poor. "The middle class" is not really a class, it is a demographic. It is a measure of income. It is a self-serving term for politicians because anyone who can identify as middle class in any given year, has an interest is maintaining or enlarging the status quo - which is mission critical for bourgeois servants of Wall Street, as exemplified by Hillary Clinton. What the American 99% need is an understanding of genuine class politics. The vast majority of us are proletarian, working class people, whether or not we are making enough money at the moment to fit into the bourgeois "middle class "demographic - so many of us aren't who once were.

There is a way out: Revolutionary Economics. We must realize that humanity is one family and actually live so as to manifest that oneness. Cooperation, not competition is the way. Become motivated to replace that shameful capitalist economic system with one genuinely under democratic control. When Marx talked about “class dictatorship” so long ago, what people seem to miss, and that needs to be driven home once again, is that there is a ruling class, and this class operates according to certain imperatives. Simply put, and on one level it is just this simple, for pretty much the whole world, capital decides. To bring in a little complexity: 1) In other words, politicians or presidents don’t decide, capital, as a social process rooted in socialized production and reproduction (and, sure, its accumulated wealth and power), decides, the basic social decisions in a capitalist society are made by what is necessary for this process to continue to advance; again, to simplify, the accumulation of profit decides; 2) This is the case unless there is some truly countervailing force such as a vigorous class struggle And at this point in time that is pretty much nothing.

The fact is that the president serves at the pleasure of the U.S. ruling class. Given that no one who has actually studied the question of socialism thinks of Bernie Sanders as a “real socialist,” or perhaps, at best, it might be conceded that he is a “socialist” of the “Swedish” sort where people work in relatively good conditions for good wages, with all kinds of nice perks such as day-care and good health insurance, while building fighter jets that will be used to drop cluster bombs on Palestinians; most people don’t seem to realize that even this sort of “Swedish socialism” hasn’t existed in Sweden for some time now and is now being increasingly eroded even more. If by some almost unimaginable set of circumstances he were to become president, would this actually be good or bad for “real socialism”? Regarding whatever there is of “socialism” in Bernie Sanders’ program, it is interesting that he uses the term “political revolution.” What genuine socialists aspire to create is a “social revolution”, not just redistribution of wealth from the wealthy and super-wealthy by using higher tax-rates. Clearly the inequality in the United States has reached obscene proportions, just as the inequality in the world has been beyond obscene more or less forever, but it becomes a question of global social relations. There can be “[democratic] socialism in one country”. There is a worldwide dimension to a socialist revolution, the working class forms a single, international class that transcends nation-states, that must ultimately transform the world in a liberatory way. So, the question becomes, what good is accomplished by advancing that sort of socialism advocated by Sanders?

The problem is not the “billionaire class,” but instead the ownership of the means of production by the capitalist ruling class. And the problem is not “greed,” but instead the way the capitalist system works, to channel all productive efforts into the creation of surplus value, called “profit” by capitalists. One of Marx’s great discoveries is that this process is guided by the social relations (including the property relations) that are the heart of capital, and not by the subjective desires, avaricious or otherwise, of individual capitalists. In other words, the problem is capitalism, not greed. The solution is to create a real break with capitalism. Marx demonstrated that the subjectivities of capitalists–and everyone else–are rooted in social processes, though nothing deterministic can be said about this. Perhaps some capitalists are “nice, caring people,” or whatever. On the other hand, in what they participate in, capitalists are indeed bad people to a one, so let it not go without saying. They need to be dealt with, as part of breaking with capitalism.

Even if Sanders is sincere he is not just up against “greedy billionaires,” he is up against the compulsion of the U.S. capitalist ruling class to compete in a vast global market with no ethical concerns whatsoever, other than profit accumulation “by any means necessary.” In attempting to extend the welfare state with relatively mild reforms, or in the case of at least trying to make corporations and capitalists simply pay taxes at the low rate they are already charged, the odds are stacked against Sanders. America is divided into two distinct and opposing camps, the one side having little to say for itself other than that it owns everything and that it will use every means in its disposal to hold on to the ownership of everything. On the other side we can only hope that people will begin to question and challenge this “ownership,” and how it could conceivably be that a relative handful of people own everything and exert tremendous control over the lives of billions. The job of socialists is to provide such critical tools and terms necessary for dissecting this situation.

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”- Martin Luther King, Jr

Alright for some

Aviva chief Mark Wilson's take home pay doubles to £5.67m Chief executive receives £1.78m bonus (182% of his basic salary)

 Legal & General’s chief executive, Nigel Wilson, earned £4.7m in 2015

 RSA Insurance Group chief executive, Stephen Hester, earned £2.47m.

BEND IT LIKE BORIS! (weekly poem)


23/3/16. Boris Johnson was accused by the Tory Chairman of
the Treasury Select Committee of misrepresenting E.U. policy.

“What is truth”? asked Pontius P.,
Reluctant to offend;
Replied the artful Boris J.,
(Who’s always keen to have his say)
“It’s something that you bend”!
Now many politicians tell,
‘A minor fib or two’; (Sic!)
But Boris seems to come alive,
When dishing out that bullshit jive,
On matters that aren’t true.

Chums being kind, say he’s inclined,
To just exaggerate; (1)
But when it comes to the half-truth,
His record since a Tory youth,
Suggests an inborn trait.
He seems to take great pleasure in,
‘Sandpapering’ each fact; (2)
But then, when all the chips are down,
He’ll wriggle and then play the clown,
With his known bumbling act. 

He’ll huff and puff and waffle on,
And claim he’s been traduced;
The sad thing is so many folk,
Can’t see that he’s a foolish joke,
And thus have been seduced.
With all these childish escapades,
It’s time he took a hike;
But just before he’s too far gone,
He should put stabilisers on,
His Barclays kiddies bike! (3)

(1) Boris claimed the E.U. had banned young children blowing up balloons &
the re-use of tea bags. Andrew Tyrie, Chairman, Treasury Select  Committee,
said, “This is all very interesting, Boris, except none of it is really true, is it”?

(2) In a 2013 BBC TV interview with Eddie Mair, Boris Johnson admitted to
“sandpapering” quotes in the Times, lying to his leader about an extramarital
affair and giving a friend the phone number of another friend who the friend
wanted to beat up. Mair told him, “You’re a nasty piece of work, aren’t you”?

(3) The London cycle hire scheme between Boris Johnson and Bob Diamond
of Barclays was terminated by the latter after paying half the contract price.

© Richard Layton

Neglected Victims

The Paris and Brussels attacks have rightly caused outrage across the globe. However, while millions in the West took to social media to share their grief, there are numerous attacks across the world that go largely unreported in the mainstream media.

NIGERIA – Over 80 killed, children burned to death
On January 30, Boko Haram terrorists killed 86 people after they attacked a village in northeast Nigeria. The assault took place on the outskirts of the city of Maiduguri, which is the birthplace of the Islamist militant group. Citing an eyewitness who managed to survive the attack, AP reported that Boko Haram extremists firebombed huts. A survivor said that he had heard the screams of children burning to death.
There is a real bias against media coverage of terrorist attacks in Africa, and especially in Nigeria,” explained Max Abrahms, assistant professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston,. “I think many people would be surprised to know how much killing power the main terrorist group Boko Haram has,” he said, adding that if such attacks were carried out against people in European or North American countries, “there would be much more media coverage.”

IRAQ – 29 dead after ISIS suicide bomber strikes football match
Iraq is doing its best to try and return to some semblance of normality following the violence that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has brought to parts of the country. However, just three days after the Brussels attacks, at least 29 people were killed at a football match south of the capital, Baghdad. Earlier in March, an IS attack killed 60 people when a truck rigged with explosives slammed into a security checkpoint near the southern Iraqi city of Hilla.

PAKISTAN – Easter suicide bomb kills 70
Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for Sunday’s suicide blast outside a public park in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore that killed at least 70 people and injured more than 280, many of whom were women and children.  “The targets were Christians,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for the faction, said, threatening that more attacks in the region would follow. This was Pakistan's deadliest attack since the December 2014 massacre of 134 school children at a military-run academy in the city of Peshawar

SYRIA – ISIS massacres dozens in morning rush hour
On February 21, a series of explosions rocked a district of the Syrian capital, Damascus, killing at least 83 people. Two suicide bombers, who were linked to Islamic State, carried out the attack. The first explosion was a car bomb that targeted a busy school street in the Sayeda Zeinab district during rush hour. The blast was followed by two explosions allegedly carried out by suicide bombers wearing explosive belts, and targeted the crowds gathered at the site of the tragedy. he attacks claimed the lives of at least 83 people.

LEBANON – ISIS strike Shiite stronghold a day before Paris attacks
A day before the Paris attacks, two suicide bombers struck in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, killing at least 43 people, with a further 240 people injured. Islamic State claimed responsibility, with members of the militant group blowing up a motorbike with explosives in the middle of a street. The first blast took place outside a Shiite Mosque, while a second blast, also in the early evening, occurred near a bakery. A second bomb reportedly went off seven minutes later as passers-by tried to help those injured in the initial blast.

Falklands or Malvinas again?

The Falkland Islands (Malvinas) lie in Argentinian waters, rules UN commission. A UN commission accepts Argentine’s claim to expand its maritime territory in the South Atlantic Ocean by 35% to include the disputed Falkland Islands and beyond. The UN commission on the limits of the continental shelf sided with Argentina, ratifying the country’s 2009 report fixing the limit of its territory at 200 to 350 miles from its coast. The UN commission’s finding included the caveat that there is an unresolved diplomatic dispute between Argentina and Britain over the islands.

What we said at the time of the war:

In face of the imminent threat of war over the potential wealth of the Falkland Islands the Socialist Party of Great Britain affirms:
1 That despite the wave of jingoistic hysteria in the press and its endorsement by Labour and Tory politicians alike, no working class interests in Britain, Argentina or the Falklands themselves can be served by war.
2 That neither the military junta in Buenos Aires nor the elected representatives of British capitalism, least of all the business interests of Coalite-Charringtons, can justify the shedding of a single drop of working class blood.
3 That the new-found outrage at the undemocratic and oppressive nature of the Argentine regime rings false coming from a government which was arming that regime until the eve of hostilities.
4 That the crucial role of Argentine capitalism in profitably making-up the notorious shortfall of agricultural production within the Russian Empire goes far to explain the support given to the junta by the local "Communist Party" and the muted criticism of it by the same circles who so vociferously denounce the similar dictatorship in Chile and its parallel suppression of trade unionism anc free speech.
We therefore reiterate that having no quarrel with the working class of any country, we extend to our fellow-workers of all lands the expression of goodwill and socialist fraternity and pledge ourselves to work for the overthrow of capitalism in all its guises and the establishment of socialism throughout the world, the only way to end war.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Y Bobl yn Union—y Byd yn Un!

Y Bobl yn Union—y Byd yn Un!

One World, One People!

The Socialist Party stands for socialism; a social system in which the things which man uses to make and to distribute his wealth are owned by the whole of humanity, in which the barriers of race and colour are recognised for the falsities which they are and in which mankind is truly free.

In 1925 Plaid Cymru was formed. The Socialist Party and nationalists see society from different perspectives. For a socialist society is divided into two classes: a capitalist class who own the means of production, and a working class who, having no property and are obliged to work for the capitalists. The interests of these two classes are opposed and between them there is a class struggle. This transcends national boundaries. The socialist argues that the working class have no country. A nationalist, on the other hand, sees the inhabitants of one particular area as having a common interest, ignoring the class division of society and the class struggle. For the nationalist the nation is all-important and encourages the worker to believe he or she has a country. Thus socialism and nationalism are opposed. Plaid Cymru sees the cause of Welsh social problems in English domination not in the economic system of capitalism and its production for profit. Independence will merely mean that the capitalists of Wales will pay their taxes to a government in Cardiff instead of to a government in London—a change of no interest to the workers of Wales. As a mere constitutional change the setting up of a sovereign government will contribute nothing towards helping to solve the problems facing workers. An independent Wales would inevitably be a capitalist Wales where the means of production would continue to be governed by the laws of capitalism. And where the problems facing its citizens would therefore continue to exist, as the eloquent example of Irish Republic where unemployment and emigration have continued despite nearly decades of political independence, clearly shows.

The Welsh nationalists claim to stand in the interest of the workers in Wales. It is not concerned with the fact that because of the international nature of capitalism, workers are exploited everywhere and therefore the attack against exploitation must be on a broad front recognising no national barriers. The romantic nationalist conveniently forget (at least they never mention) that Wales was as much oppressed (i.e. the people) when she was governed by the Princes of Wales of “Welsh blood” as she has been ever since the statute of Ruddlian: that she has been oppressed in common with the workers of other parts of the British Isles from the inception of capitalism is not so much history but a tale of yesterday and today. In early mediaeval Welsh there were two classes—the Free and the Unfree, the Princes (Tycoysogion) knights and gentry (Boneddwyr) and the slaves (Caethion). The Nationalists completely ignore the progression of history commencing with the gens and developing into the nation, and the fact that the development of world capitalism tends eventually to break down national barriers.  If the Nationalists get their way it will be the tale for tomorrow as well. Being enthusiastic about the fostering of the Welsh language and literature has little to do with combating capitalism.

The question that socialists in Wales will put to the nationalists is—if Wales succeeds in obtaining national sovereignty what will be the political outlook of the Welsh Government? Will industry be carried on for profit? Will monetary considerations rule the field of planning and production? The answer is clear—all the machinery of capitalism will be in operation; nothing will have changed basically. The Socialist Party is not concerned with making capitalism continue more palatable but with its eradication. The Socialist Party is not interested in national liberation movements. We in the Socialist Party strive for the elimination of capitalism and its replacement by a nation-less world devoid of frontiers, caste systems and religious barriers.  Workers know that Welsh bosses are no different from English bosses – a capitalist has to exploit his workers in order to survive as a capitalist. In Wales, the bosses work together with English bosses to rule the country. It doesn’t matter the nationality of the bosses. It is absurd for a worker to have any patriotic commitment to boss-ruled Wales.

Since these problems arise from the way in which society is at present organised they can only be solved by a change in the social system: by the social revolution involved in replacing class monopoly and production for profit by the common ownership and production solely for use of socialism. For this reason the Socialist Party is opposed to Welsh nationalism and does not support the demand for Welsh independence. From the point of view of the Welsh workers, the position would remain broadly the same – he or she would remain the vehicle creating surplus value for the wealthy to appropriate. The male-voice choirs of Wales should raise its voice in a mighty chorus which would reverberate through the hills and valleys and beyond. “Workers of all lands, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains, you have a world to gain.” This is the real message of freedom: these words spell freedom in any language. Our message to Welsh fellow workers is the same as that to the world working class: join the "Liberation Movement," which really counts—the struggle for socialism."

Fact of the Day (US Inequality)

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the top 20% of U.S. households own more than 84% of the wealth, and the bottom 40% combine for just 0.3%. The median CEO-to-worker pay-ratio in the U.S. is 354 to 1.

The Shattered American Dream

The American Dream basically depend on the myth that as a nation we are moving together toward greater prosperity, greater equality, which any hard worker can achieve without any discrimination. Minorities are attracted to the American Dream to benefit in their lives. Because they strongly believed that any hard working American can achieve the American Dream without racial discrimination. Economist Paul Krugman concluded that the American Dream was now simply dead and the American economy didn’t provide any incentives and encouragements for upward mobility. Krugman explained, “The myth of income mobility has always exceeded the reality: As a general rule, once they've reached their 30s, people don't move up and down the income ladder very much.” Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers, showed that highly unequal countries have low mobility; the more unequal a society is, the greater the extent to which an individual’s economic status is determined by his or her parents’ status. According to Krueger projections, the America will have even less mobility in the year 2035. He predicted that children, who will be born to lower economic segment, would stick to the same group in their life.

The Occupy Wall Street movement’s “WE ARE THE 99%” slogan perfectly matched with the ground realties of the economic inequalities in the US

During the post Second World War period, 1945 to 1973, the US achieved its greatest economic success. During this time period, median family income doubled and the poorest American’s national income share increased by 0.7 percent and the income of the wealthiest 5% decreased by nearly 3 percent. During this economic boom, productivity grew by 3.3 percent annually, inflation-adjusted wages increased by 2.5 to 3 percent per year and real wages grew by 75 percent. During this period American workers worked few hours per year compared to European countries.

The four decades that followed recorded the worst economic inequality in the US history. While the wealthiest five percent of Americans doubled their income between 1979 to 2009, the poorest 20 percent saw their income drastically decline. In 2003 two French economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez disclosed, the top one percent of super-rich Americans grabbed nearly 25 percent share of national income in 2007, compared to 10 percent in 1980. They also revealed that even among the richest 10 percent of Americans, top one percent accounted for half of their group’s income. The US economy recorded the worst annual rate of productivity average less than half a percent during 1973 to 1988. During the last four decades, productivity stagnated and wage growth deteriorated for low income workers. From 1979 to 2001 the poorest 10 percent of workers’ wages declined by four cents per hour and ten top 10 percent of wage earners increased their earning more than 23 percent. However during this period CEO- to- worker compensation skyrocketed.

In year 2000, CEO earned 310 times the pay of an average worker. Hudson argued that rising income inequalities during last four decades were related to productivity stagnation and the decline in wage growth. During the last four decades, low income and middle class workers’ earnings reduced significantly. In these circumstances female partners were forced to join the work force to meet their family needs and one partner had to do more than one job. Even with this kind of hard work and sacrifices, they could not get into the success ladder.

Beside the unequal income distribution, inequality in wealth also rapidly increased, during the last few decades. The New York Times columnist Nicholas D Kristof disclosed in his article “America’s Primal Scream” that, the top one percent of super-rich Americans had a net worth of 225 times the worth of median households and this was a record wealth inequality in US history

Compared to European countries, the US recorded worst wealth inequality, where top one percent of super-rich acquired 40 percent of the country’s total wealth. In recent years, rich got richer and poor got poorer, and the recent economic recessions also hit bad on low-income groups. In 2010, 46.2 million Americans were recorded as poor and this was a 52-year record high. Hudson described impact of unequal income distribution. He writes as “the rich families wealth have significant advantage over poor, when their children try to climb the social ladder and existing grave wealth disparity in the society, has shattered the American Dream”.

David I Levine, a Berkeley economist and mobility researcher indicated that income inequality is greater in the US compared to European countries and there is a wider disparity between rich and poor parents who can invest in their children. A recent study found that children’s economic backgrounds are a major factor on their school performances in the US rather than in Denmark, the Netherlands or France. He further describes unequal income distribution crisis in the US, “Being born in the elite in the U.S gives you a constellation of privileges that very few people in the world have ever experienced and being born poor in the U.S gives you disadvantages unlike anything in Western Europe and Japan and Canada”.

If we consider minority groups in the US, during the last four decades, racial income and wealth inequality also have significantly increased. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2009 median Black family income was recorded as 57 percent of median white family income and Hispanic Americans earned 64 percent of median white family income. Today, minorities like Blacks and Hispanics are more than four times likely to be poor as whites. During the 1960s it was widely assumed that ending the discrimination would improve the economic as well as legal status of minority groups. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s substantial numbers of black families moved into the middle class, and even into the upper middle class; the percentage of black households in the top 20 percent of the income distribution nearly doubled. Around 1980 the relative economic position of blacks in America stopped improving because income disparities in the United States began to widen dramatically, turning America into a society more unequal than at any time since the 1920s. Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman described adversely affecting black economic progress in two ways: “First, because many blacks were still on the lower rungs, they were left behind as income at the top of the ladder soared while income near the bottom stagnated and second, as the rungs moved farther apart, the ladder became harder to climb”. As a minority, Black families have faced the upward mobility hurdle.

During the pre-1973 period, America was the world’s largest manufacturer and the world’s number one economic powerhouse. This global position has been increasingly changing during the last four decades. China, Japan, South Korea, India and other new manufacturing powers have posed competition on the US. As a result US manufactures started the “deindustrialization” process, which led to the closing of thousands of US plants and moving the production to countries with a lower labour cost. From 1973 to 1986, 1.7 million US manufacturing jobs were lost to “deindustrialization”. Globalization and technological innovations also pressured the US manufactures to downsize their plants, outsource services and to lay off thousands of US workers. In addition “skill-based technical change”, which demanded new technical skills for manufacturing sectors, also caused job losses and led to higher economic inequalities in the US society. But the US is not only the country faced this “deindustrialization” challenge. While European governments took drastically bold decision to protect their work force but the US right wing policy makers encouraged the job killer “deindustrialization” process without concerning their workforce.

Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels, who authored Unequal Democracy, pointed out, economic inequality grew more rapidly during Republican controlled White Houses because of their pro-business public policies. Bartels further argued that the introduction of business influenced public policies of right-wing political groups, which helped create rapid inequalities in 1970’s. The policy makers encouraged deindustrialization, downsizing and other economic restructuring tools without being concerned about the impact on workers’ wages; they supported anti-union policies, which destroyed worker rights and economic justice. They have been campaigning for “reducing the size of government” policy for the last four decades and tax cuts for rich people. These policies threaten the social safety net and dismantle the institutions, supporting low-income people. Hudson argued that the US education system failed to invest in new technological changes. In spite of investing in public education, they drastically cut funds for public education and raised college tuition during the past few decades. This policy had the dramatic impact on minorities and low-income groups where they lost equal opportunity to climb up the social economic ladder. The author argues that a policy of progressive taxation needs to be implemented to reduce inequality in the US society. But the right wing government’s policies gave tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and put more tax burden on the middle class and low-income groups. Past Republican governments reduced tax rates both on corporate profits and on unearned income such as dividends and capital gains, so that those with large accumulated or inherited wealth could more easily accumulate even more. The Bush expansion from 2002 to 2007, 65 percent of economic gains went to the richest one percent.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Fight for your world, not your country

As early as September 1907 The Socialist Standard, stated that
“. . .  it is our duty to warn our fellow-workers in Ireland of the futility of the Sinn Fein policy as far as they are concerned There can be no relief for the oppressed Irishman in changing an English robber for an Irish one. The person of the robber does not matter — it is the fact of the robbery that spells misery. National divisions are a hindrance to working-class unity, and national jealousies and differences are fostered by the capitalists for their own ends.
The crowd of hungry "intellectuals" clamouring for jobs both within and without the Irish parliamentary group do not represent the interests of the working class in Ireland. . . .  The national sentiment and perennial enthusiasm of the Irishmen are being exploited by the so-called leaders in the interests of Irish capitalism, and the workers are being used to fight the battles of their oppressors. . . . Let the thieves fight their own battles! For the worker in Ireland there is but one hope. It is to join the Irish wing of the international Socialist working class and to make common cause with the Socialist workers of all countries for the end of all forms of exploitation: saying to both English and Irish capitalists: “A plague on both your houses." For the true battle-cry of the working class is broader, more significant and more inspiring than mere nationalism, and that rallying cry is:

If the creation of an Irish state had led to a vast improvement in the condition of the workers living under that state, or if it had led to increased class-consciousness on the part of those workers, then socialists might have to concede that we were shortsighted back in 1907 and that nationalism had been in the interest of the working-class. But this is not the case. Workers in the Irish Republic are no less robbed than workers in the North. Nor are they any less bullied by the state police, whose thuggish defence of property is notorious. They are no less the victims of religious indoctrination and oppression — indeed, an Irish worker would have reason to wonder how much national independence has chained them to a new dependence upon the medieval bigotry of the Fool of Rome. The reality is that life for the wage slaves in the twenty-six counties is no more free than for those in the occupied six. In opposing Irish nationalism, socialists make it absolutely clear that we stand in bitter hostility to the arrogant nationalism of the so-called Loyalists and Unionists whose pathetic submission to a Queen who would not let her horses live in some of the conditions enjoyed by the loyal wage slaves of the Shankhill Road shows that they are enemies of socialism. There is no essential difference between the capitalists of England and Ireland. Both are characterised by the same greed for wealth, the same ambition for power.

It is a false notion of Sinn Fein and nationalists that the Irish workers must struggle for national independence before they can tackle the problem of poverty. But the working class everywhere is under one capitalist government or another. To split territories, set up new governments, or to re-establish old ones will not help them nor even simplify the problem. Their only hope lies in the speedy establishment of socialism. They must join hands with the workers of the world, and make common cause against the ruling class. They must make ready for the last war—the war of classes, in which classes must be abolished and a real equality established on the basis of “common ownership and democratic control of all the means of life”.

We are not concerned here as to whether those who sympathise with the Easter Rising are sincere or not. Nor if the participants in the Rising were brave and courageous. We are endeavouring to show Irish working people the plain, bald facts of the position, regardless of whether these facts are palatable or not. We, who are workers should concern ourselves with the bonds that bind us to the cogs of capital—that doom us forever to the toil and sweat of slavery. The continuance of the private property system was always the central idea in the Irish nationalists, and so long as private property remains, the miseries that necessarily flow from it will remain also and continue to afflict the workers under the Irish Republic. Irish workers should turn a deaf ear to the empty phrases of nationalism, and look forward with hopeful gaze to the day when Ireland shall be a land of peace and prosperity—its wealth owned and controlled by its workers—and a harmonious member of the great international co-operative commonwealth. This object, we claim, is far more worthy of the attention and support of Irish workers than the empty phrases and chimeras of Sinn Fein.

The Irish Republican leaders blamed the dreadful social conditions in Ireland on British rule when in fact these conditions are part and parcel of the capitalist system of society all over the world. To end them, calls not for a national revolution, but rather for the organising of the working- class all over the world, to replace capitalism with socialism. What the Easter Rising did was to lead to the establishment of a new capitalist state and the emergence of a new native ruling class, holding sway over the lives of the Irish working-class.

Poverty Testing Teachers

Increasing numbers of pupils are coming to school hungry, anxious and unable to concentrate because of family financial pressures, a teachers' union has said. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: "It is clear that teachers and schools are being left to pick up the pieces of callous fiscal and social policies…poverty and homelessness take an enormous physical and emotional toll on children. They often cannot concentrate when they are in school because they are tired, hungry and anxious. Children living in poverty are more likely to suffer from low confidence and behavioural issues."

A survey found:
1. Almost three-quarters of the teachers had seen pupils coming to school hungry
2. Over a quarter had given food to hungry pupils
3. Most said their school had given food to hungry pupils
4. Most had seen pupils unable to afford uniform
5. 15% had given pupils clothing
6. 59% said their school had given pupils clothing
7. Almost two-thirds had lent or given pupils school equipment
8. Most said their school had lent or given pupils school equipment
9. Over a third had seen pupils leave school mid-term because they had lost their homes
10. Over a third were aware of pupils living in temporary accommodation
11. 41% had given advice to families on issues related to financial pressures
12. Most said financial pressures meant rising levels of anxiety among pupils
13. Nearly three-quarters reported pupils being absent from school
14. Nearly two-thirds said pupils had exhibited behaviour problems

Teachers in the survey commented:
"Many are parents working multiple low-pay jobs to make ends meet and then being unhappy at not being able to give the support of being there for their children.
"More children telling me that there is no-one at home morning or evening or both (due to work shifts), and I have had to give out and purchase resources like pens et cetera for more students who, in tears, are admitting that they just have nothing to get these basics."
"Some families have been so poor, staff have donated food and toiletries to help them out.”
"We have a number of children whose families have become homeless or at risk of losing their homes.
"Due to the huge cost of housing in our area, it means that the catchment area has become unaffordable for a number of medium- and low-income families.
"This means they are forced out of the immediate area, so children have to travel further."
"The community I work in is economically deprived, so many students have uniform that is way past its best.”

South Korea's 1%

The average net assets of South Korea’s 405 highest-ranking government officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches stood at around 2.85 billion won ($2.43 million) at the end of last year, according to reports submitted to the Government Public Ethics Committee recently. These officials are in the top 1 percent of the rich in Korea, whose net worth averaged 2.43 billion won, according to an analysis made last year by Professor Kim Nak-nyun of Dongkuk University.

The average asset was 1.33 billion won for 1,813 ranking officials at central and provincial governments, university and college presidents, and regional educational chiefs.  That of 300 lawmakers stood at 3.22 billion won. Excluding the three richest parliamentarians whose net worth ranged between 50 billion won to 100 billion won each, the average wealth of legislators was 1.95 billion won.

The average net worth of 160 high-ranking judges was 2.04 billion won. Korea's per capita gross national income fell last year for the first time in six years and the nation's economic growth rate also dropped to the 2-percent range. Seven or eight out of 10 ranking officials increased their net worth, however. Many of these officials saw their assets grow because of increases in stock and property prices, in what people refer to as the "rich-get-richer, poor-get-poorer" phenomenon. A total of 631 officials, or 27 percent of the total of 2,328 officials who reported changes in their assets, saw their net worth increase by more than 100 million won.

The ranking officials' "real" assets could be larger than the amounts they reported, critics said, because 30 to 40 percent of these officials refused to disclose the assets of their parents, children and grandchildren. The percentage of officials in the administrative branch who refused to give full disclosure of their assets rose to 30.2 percent last year, the highest in five years. The corresponding percentage was even higher among lawmakers, with 39.7 percent refusing to fully reveal their assets. The share of Saenuri Party lawmakers who refused to do so was highest with 45.5 percent.

The USA - the new Switzerland.

Tax havens are bad for the countries they hide money from. They reduce the money those governments can spend on vital social and economic development programs like education, healthcare and infrastructure. Deprived of resources by corrupt officials, governments can’t meet their people’s basic needs. No one expects offshore havens to disappear anytime soon. Swiss banks still hold about $1.9 trillion in assets not reported by account holders in their home countries, according to Gabriel Zucman, an economics professor at the University of California at Berkeley. For decades, Switzerland has been the global capital of secret bank accounts. That may be changing. Fear and regulatory pressure is pushing the globalised rich to bring tens or even hundreds of billions of portfolio investments out of Europe and into the US, and to do so within the next year and a half.

Shifting money from offshore secrecy havens to the U.S. has become a brisk business for Rothschild & Co. One Turkish client is moving assets from the Bahamas to Nevada. Another Rothschild client, a family from Asia, is moving assets from Bermuda into Nevada. Andrew Penney, a managing director at Rothschild & Co., gave a talk on how the world’s wealthy elite can avoid paying taxes. His message was clear: You can help your clients move their fortunes to the United States, free of taxes and hidden from their governments. Rothschild, the centuries-old financial institution, has opened a trust company in Reno, Nevada. It is now moving the fortunes of wealthy foreign clients out of offshore havens such as Bermuda, subject to the new international disclosure requirements, and into Rothschild-run trusts in Nevada, which are exempt.

After years of lambasting other countries for helping rich Americans hide their money offshore, the U.S. is emerging as a leading tax and secrecy haven for rich foreigners. By resisting new global disclosure standards, the U.S. is creating a hot new market, becoming the go-to place to stash foreign wealth. Everyone from London lawyers to Swiss trust companies is getting in on the act, helping the world’s rich move accounts from places like the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands to Nevada, Wyoming, and South Dakota.

“How ironic—no, how perverse—that the USA, which has been so sanctimonious in its condemnation of Swiss banks, has become the banking secrecy jurisdiction du jour,” wrote Peter A. Cotorceanu, a lawyer at Anaford AG, a Zurich law firm, in a recent legal journal. “That ‘giant sucking sound’ you hear? It is the sound of money rushing to the USA.”

Geneva-based Cisa Trust Co. SA, which advises wealthy Latin Americans, is applying to open in Pierre, South Dakota, to “serve the needs of our foreign clients,” said John J. Ryan Jr., Cisa’s president.
Trident Trust Co., one of the world’s biggest providers of offshore trusts, moved dozens of accounts out of Switzerland, Grand Cayman, and other locales and into Sioux Falls, S.D., in December, ahead of a Jan. 1 disclosure deadline.
“Cayman was slammed in December, closing things that people were withdrawing,” said Alice Rokahr, the president of Trident in South Dakota, one of several states promoting low taxes and confidentiality in their trust laws. “I was surprised at how many were coming across that were formerly Swiss bank accounts, but they want out of Switzerland.”

The OECD drew up stiff standards to help other countries ferret out tax dodgers. Since 2014, 97 jurisdictions have agreed to impose new disclosure requirements for bank accounts, trusts, and some other investments held by international customers. Of the nations the OECD asked to sign on, only a handful have declined: Bahrain, Nauru, Vanuatu—and the United States. The U.S. Treasury proposals for standards similar to the OECD’s for foreign-held accounts in the U.S. have stalled in the face of opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress and the banking industry.

For financial advisers, the current state of play is simply a good business opportunity. In a draft of his San Francisco presentation, Rothschild’s Penney wrote that the U.S. “is effectively the biggest tax haven in the world.” The U.S., he added, lacks “the resources to enforce foreign tax laws and has little appetite to do so.”

Christian Kalin, chairman of Henley & Partners, an ultra-multinational residency and citizenship advisory firm, says: “The US is a black hole of information for other countries now. Financial information goes in to the US, but does not come out.”

Bolton Global Capital, a Boston-area financial advisory firm, recently circulated this hypothetical example in an e-mail: A wealthy Mexican opens a U.S. bank account using a company in the British Virgin Islands. As a result, only the company’s name would be sent to the BVI government, while the identity of the person owning the account would not be shared with Mexican authorities. The U.S. failure to sign onto the OECD information-sharing standard is “proving to be a strong driver of growth for our business,” wrote Bolton’s chief executive officer, Ray Grenier, in a marketing e-mail to bankers. His firm is seeing a spike in accounts moved out of European banks—“Switzerland in particular”.