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redbigbill (bristol, uk)

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by John Urry
Edition: Paperback
Price: 13.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading for anyone who has the slightest interest in what is happening in the world!, 4 July 2014
This review is from: Offshoring (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Offshoring is the science, the art, the scams practised by rich corporations and wealthy individuals of stashing away their capital, their turnover, their profits in off shore fiscal paradises where national governments cannot follow. The main and basically only reason for this is to avoid paying taxes in the country this wealth was generated in or any other country if it comes to it. A report by Action/Aid published in May 2013 (and not contested) tells us that 98 of the hundred largest, publicly listed UK corporations (FTSE 100) own subsidiaries, or joint ventures offshore in what can politely be described as tax havens! In fact, these huge corporations do not just own one or two offshore ventures - RBS is reported as holding 393, Lloyds 259, HSBC 496, Barclays 471, Royal Dutch Shell 473 and well out in front, advertising giant WPP is reported as holding a massive 618 offshore accounts. Treasure Islands indeed!

So the rich and powerful stash their cash and profits away from the prying eyes of the taxman whilst the rest of us poor muppets on PAYE are told we have to forgo wage rises, suffer drastic cuts to public services, healthcare, social services, mental health care, pay more taxes. cut drastically the pittance paid to the weak and vulnerable in society, slog away on zero hour contracts for a paltry minimum wage whilst these jokers laugh all the way to the offshore bank, Offshore? Should be known as Offstate because that is what it really is!

The big problem is that it is all legal and successive governments only pay lip service to doing anything about it, in fact
tax changes introduced by the Cameron government seem to endorse it and even simplify it - all under the banner of "attracting inbound investment". More like paying off all the lobbyists and big business/big banking political donations that only an idiot would believe are made for anything else other than influencing government fiscal policy. Some boss of a Hedge Fund does not bung the Tory Party a 420 million "donation" unless he wants something? In this country it is known as "lobbying" - in many others it is known simply as corruption. Remember "Lobbying" ? The second great evil after dodgy expenses that Cameron was going to sort? Yeah!

John Urry's book from Cambridge based publishers Polity lays bare capitalism's expanding code of secrecy, what can be described as an economic and social disaster waiting to happen. The wealth gap widens as more and more companies and individuals withdraw from their social and moral responsibilities, this leads to violations of human rights, more hunger, more oppression as democratic governments are undermined, the individual is left to the mercy of zero hour contracts, low wages, rising food and energy prices as domestic tax receipts fall drastically and governmental "austerity" becomes a way of life for the 99% - so that the 1% can sit and boast to each other how much they have ripped their national taxman off for.

Some one on the back cover of this fascinating book has suggested it become "required" reading for all undergraduates.
I would go further and suggest it become "required" reading for every person with an average IQ> To be studied in secondary schools, be serialised into TV programs so that all the outsourced 99% can see exactly how they are getting screwed, shafted, robbed, victimised and ripped off by this unholy system. However, no matter how much I wish, we know that is not going to happen! We will have to wait until capitalist greed finally oversteps the mark and forces the outsourced and the dispossessed to take matters into their own hands and start to push back.
This fine book opens up the whole offshoring exercise to public view, hopefully it will kick off a major public debate about the concealment of capital wealth, income and profits. Trouble is that it is now so rife that it is becoming common place as even comedians, footballers and anybody else with an above average income seems to want to hide it away and not contribute his or her fair share to the services that glue what is supposed to be a civilised society together.
'Offshoring' documents the whole gamut of hiding wealth and profit - the dark, dark side of globalisation, smoke and mirrors, a financial world increasingly dependant on secrecy, deceit and outright untruths. You do not have to be an economist, financial wizard or a lawyer to understand this, it is written in plain English and is a problem much bigger than i certainly had imagined.

The question is - can we turn it around, bring it back? The answer is I don't know and the laissez fe attitude shown by those who should know better, the politicians and lawmakers, does nothing to encourage the idea that this can be sorted. But I suppose at the end of the day most of them are benefitting from offshoring one way or another. Prof. Urry has his own ideas but I think even he thinks it is going to be a long, hard slog.
As Warren Buffet said not so long ago - class war still exists and the ruling class is winning hands down. I also believe in class war, been fighting it most of my life one way or another as an active trade unionist in the 60's & 70's and later in other ways. I still have some faith in what old Karl said about a hundred and fifty years ago that capitalism will one day run out of steam and implode and then it will be up to the rest of us to create a better and fairer world to live in. The ruling class maybe winning a few battles, Cameron undoing the welfare state in the UK, slowly ending the NHS, things the British working class fought long and hard to achieve. The ruling class are having a good run at the moment, keep us quiet with our i pads, phones and social media but I really believe that we will win the war.

This book is worth every penny of it's cover price, buy it, read it, get angry and start to do something even if only sending it to your MP to read - then write them and ask what they intend to do about it? Get involved, talk to your neighbours, workmates, even discuss it with the wife. A very important book about something that affects us all, like it or not!

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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 3 July 2014
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Fits perfect, lovely material and a good price. washes well but wife says it is a bit of a so & so to iron!

Revolutionary Iran
Revolutionary Iran
by Axworthy Michael
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Impressive volume., 16 May 2014
This review is from: Revolutionary Iran (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The author, Michael Axworthy is Direct0r of the University of Exeter's Institute of Persian and Iranian studies and former head of the Iranian section of the British Foreign Office. What is obviously a lifelong academic interest has led to this very impressive one volume history of the Iranian Islamic Republic. Just short of 500 pages this history takes a detailed look at the 30 plus years of the Islamic Republic from the day in 1979 the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini landed at Mehrabad airport through the early days of an often violent and bloody revolution, to a brutal 8 year war with neighbours in Saddam Hussein's Iraq that cost untold lives and almost broke the economy. Moving on to the consolidation of the revolutionary state to the ongoing race to create nuclear energy and manufacture nuclear weapons( ?). Often written off by Western observers as nothing but a throwback to the stone age, Iran's Islamic revolution has prospered and grown in spite of worldwide financial and trade boycotts, Iran is now recognised as a major player in the region no matter how much the Americans are in denial or refuse to wake up and smell the coffee.

I knew very little about Iran other the Khomeini taking over and kicking the Shah out, the hostage crisis, the war with Iraq and the more recent attempts to install nuclear energy....and more in the country.. Apart from that my only knowledge was as a Persian Rug/Carpet salesman in a posh London store in the 1960's. This volume seems to be establishing itself as the definitive one volume history of the Islamic Republic and I'm sure it will be widely read in academic circles. For the 'ordinary' reader like myself with little prior knowledge of Persian/Iranian history, society and culture then maybe it will be a bit of a struggle as it was for me. My major gripe is the excessive use of Iranian words where the English translation would have been much easier for the uninitiated. Although there is an extensive glossary toward the end of the book i did find it annoying to constantly refer back to the glossary. I partially resolved this by writing down some of the more used Iranian words and keeping it by my side when reading. Helped but not the ideal solution. My other problem and which was totally down to me was some confusion with the Iranian names, many of which are spelt quite similar. As I said no problem for academics who probably have a working or good knowledge of the iranian language but for me it did somewhat spoil my enjoyment.Perhaps I'm getting old!

The book itself reads almost like a novel in some places, if it wasn't true you could not invent it. One thing that struck me right away was that it was a brave man who got involved with internal Iranian politics. Torture was common as was execution often for the slightest transgression. One government minister or leader was calling for the execution of 50 opposition politicians (religious politicians I might add) just because of an imaged insult of the government. Don't just execute the guy who made the supposed insult but string up 49 of his colleagues as well as a "warning".Wonder if that would work with our lot over here? Teach them to keep their snouts. out of the trough.

Another thing that stopped me in my tracks when I read it was concerning the release of the American hostages. Was there collusion between Reagan's staffers and the Iranian leadership to delay the release of the hostages until after the Presidential elections in the U.S.? Obviously the American hostages still being in captivity did not help the Carter campaign at all. The gain for the Iranians would be that the newly elected President Reagan would turn a blind eye to the renewed sale of weaponry, something that erupted later with the Iran contras scandal. Many Iranian assets were unfrozen after the hostages were released. No concrete proof that Reagan's people ever discussed this with the Iranians but it is food for though, especially for the conspiracy buffs..

The chapters on the eight year war are interesting, must be one of the major post WW2 conflicts that has not been written about to the extent of other wars and Mr Axworthy goes someway to remedying .this in his extended chapters on the war.Not just the military reasoning but the political also. As I said earlier, for me not an easy read, to be honest I was reading something else at the same time and coming back to this mainly during the day when I was wider awake than of a night time.. A strong interest as opposed to a casual interest is probably needed but the book is extremely well written and does destroy a few myths about modern day Iran.

Diamonds (PRS - Polity Resources series)
Diamonds (PRS - Polity Resources series)
by Ian Smillie
Edition: Paperback
Price: 11.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Looks like they are forever - at a high price for some?, 6 May 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The latest title in Cambridge based Polity Press's series on the world's resources with titles that include Oil, Land, Fish, Food,Timber etc. and all written by experts in the title's given field.

I have to start from zero, before reading this book I knew zilch about diamonds, never owned one, never purchased one and apart from my late grand mother's wedding ring I don't think i've ever looked at one remotely closely. Diamonds were not part of my world being raised in post WW2 working class Britain, a world of hard, often physical graft to put food on the table for my family and a wife who also had no interest in diamonds or fancy jewelry. That was strictly for the rich folks, not us, as we struggled to raise and educate three kids in Brazil, Spain and the UK - going wherever I could find a half decent job.

Having said that and having read this book I can further state I have no interest at all in ever in buying, owning or in any other way being involved with these pieces of over priced, over valued rock - extracted at such a high price in human misery, blood, sweat and tears and in most cases the sheer, brutal economic exploitation of human labour. something touched on but only superficially by the author who is a former U.N. Investigator and a leading light in campaigns to clean up the 'blood' diamond market that was, and to a lesser extent, is still rife in parts of Africa.

Diamonds seem to bring out the worst in society, although craved and seen as status symbols by those whose lives are dedicated to the accumulation of capital and the ostentatious display of such gains the unregulated diamond market has been the source of finance for wars via the infamous 'blood' diamonds used by rebel groups to create violence, genocide and mayhem in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Congo to name but three. Diamonds are smuggled, used to avoid taxation, used in money laundering and for financing weapons and drug running. On the formal economic market side the history is not much better, a tale of monopolies, corruption, the ignoring of the demands of justice and until not so many years ago, run by a cabal of a few rich and powerful families.

Ian Smillie's book was an eye opener for me as he takes us in a clear and well written journey through the geology, history, supply and demand, meeting the characters who created the market continuing to the evil of the blood diamond, and a look at present regulation or the lack of it? We read about the all consuming power and politics that are always involved with any resource that has added value, let alone a resource so physically small yet so desired and expensive as diamonds! The author finishes up on the subject of how diamonds could be constructively used for the social and economic development of some of the poorer producer countries. Although well meaning I rather think that whilst we have personal greed, corporate greed and political corruption on such a grand scale that maybe this is somewhat wishful thinking or am I but a cynic?. Purely a personal opinion.

Interesting how many countries now actually mine these minute chips of rock, Canada has come from nowhere to a major producer in a few short years, digging out over US$ 2 billion's worth in 2012 but with Botswana heading up the league table with just short of US$3 billion for the same year. Production is basically divided into 2 types of stone - the Kimberlite which is the jewel quality stone and Alluvial stones which are the lesser quality 'industrial' use stones, widely used in cutting and drilling applications. The Kimberlite is graded according to the 4 'C' s - Cut, Clarity, Colour and Carats. Carats are the weight of a stone, not to be confused with the Karat grading system of gold purity. One diamond carat weighs in at 200 milligrams (0.2 grams).

I learnt a lot from reading this book and although I did not like a lot of what I read in a moral sense, I did find it extremely interesting and easy to read, very insightful and importantly (for me anyways) idiot proof, written for the average joe not just the academic. My personal viewpoint is that diamonds are not particularly nice objects, given the murder, bloodshed, human rights violations, the former apartheid system,(has that really gone away - or just socially but not economically?) the corruption, tax avoidance and criminal activities that seem to go hand in hand with these fiercely desired and treasured bits of rock. Each of us will look at it from our own perspectives, even though the trade might employ upwards of two and a half million people worldwide I am still uneasy about it as it operates today.

What I do find astonishing from the whole diamond story, especially today as more and more kimberlite quality diamonds enter the market from more and more sources, is why the diamond has managed to retain such high value? Market logic says that when there is an abundance of high quality supply then the ;price should fall. OK, so some years ago when one company - the Cecil Rhodes's founded De Beers Mining Corp pretty effectively controlled both production and distribution worldwide, the market could be manipulated but that doesn't really apply today. There is not exactly a glut but the quantity of highly graded (ie flawless or almost so with good colour ratings) is way above what was the norm even 40 years ago - yet the price remains high and shows little sign of dropping even as supply increases steadily. The author does have an attempt at explaining this market anomaly but struggles a little in the couple of pages he devotes to this theme, Adam Smith could not suss it out, Karl Marx unfortunately never tried except in general terms so what chance have I got other than to suggest a conspiracy theory that cartels have been formed and are operating with impunity? However, i have no proof of this other than my general mistrust of the 'market' as fair and equitable mechanism.

All in all a very readable, informative and interesting book that separates myth from reality and possibly for the first time lays bare this previously rather closed and secretive business.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2014 1:02 PM BST

Case Logic Griffith Park Backpack for 15 inch Laptop - Black
Case Logic Griffith Park Backpack for 15 inch Laptop - Black
Price: 50.36

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well made and very usefull, 21 April 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
First I have to agree with the lady reviewer who says this backpack is not designed for most females. I am male, six foot three, have more than my share of late middle age spread and it fits me OK. As I have mobility problems I love backpacks as they leave me hands free for walking sticks or sometimes crutches. When I'm in my wheelchair I can wear it at the front for quick access to phones, wallets, medicines and all the other junk I seem to carry around with me. However the beauty of this pack is the ability to stash your laptop and other electronic gadgets in what are pretty well made to measure protective pockets. Even with all my electronic gear on board there is still a fair bit of cargo space for other stuff, clothes, books or whatever.Total capacity is 1282 cubic inches or 21 liters.

The product is strongly made out of premium materials, is fairly light (although my daughter , a dedicated follower and user of fashion thought it was a bit heavy) so lets say it would be fairly light for a bloke, the technical gear will be well cushioned and protected against the elements. In fact Case Logic are so sure of their workmanship and materials they offer a 25 year quality guarantee (see the tags attached to pack when it arrives.) Most of the material is recyclable and the ink used for the colours is soy ink.

All in all I'm more than happy with it as being hands free for me is essential when lurching around with my walking sticks. The only reason for not giving five stars is because although it is an excellently manufactured piece of kit it is basically not much good for the average female form or for I guess, thin short men or children. Pity the designers stepped on the ball and blew out half their potential market
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2014 2:10 PM BST

London's Port and River Heritage - City of Ships [DVD]
London's Port and River Heritage - City of Ships [DVD]
Dvd ~ London's Port and River Heritage
Price: 12.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Nostalgia in bucketloads, 5 Mar 2014
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As a former Merchant Seaman who spent many years sailing out of London's ports on both coastal and deep sea vessels I found this DVD a real blast from the past. All gone now, the docks turned into flash apartments where dockers and seamen could never afford to live and fancy restaurants and wine bars where we could never afford to eat and drink. All full of mostly foreign bankers plotting the next financial crash and wondering how to spend their obscene bonuses paid out of the misery of others!

I'm told it is progress.

If you remember a little of how it used to be pre Thatcher or you want to find out then these five old films will give you a good idea, maybe you had a relative or a friend's dad or grand dad who worked the docks or went to sea when we still had a Merchant Navy worthy of the name then give it a try, not expensive for a good slice of 20th century London history.

Red Travellers: Jeanne Corbin and Her Comrades
Red Travellers: Jeanne Corbin and Her Comrades
by Andree Levesque
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 21.09

4.0 out of 5 stars Flying the Red Flag in inter war years Canada, 5 Mar 2014
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Very well written and fairly sympathetic study of the pre WW2 Communist movement in Canada woven around the life of a dedicated activist, Jeanne Corbin, who joined the Canadian Young Communist League in Edmonton in the early 1920's and spent the rest of her life promoting red politics until her untimely death from TB in an Ontario sanatorium in 1944. In between she was a full time Party official involved with the Party newspaper 'The Worker' in Toronto, a French communist paper in Montreal, Quebec, participating in many workingman's movements and strikes along the way. She was jailed for leading a protest during a lumberman's dispute in Atitibi where it is believed she contracted TB in the cold, damp prison.

Corbin was unusual in that there were few women politically active among the lumber and mining industries/communities in the interior backwoods of this huge country. Most of the workers were recent immigrants, many from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. The great depression decimated many industries in Canada and Corbin was again active in the unemployed movements struggling for some type of social help. Hunger and abject poverty were the norm rather the exception in many communities. The author, a professor of history at McGill University interweaves Ms Corbin's life with a graphic picture of Canadian Labour history and left wing politics between the two world wars.

Although the Communist movement in Canada was never a mass movement it seems the Canadian Federal and State Governments were almost paranoid with fear of a mass red tide arising and carrying all before them in a people's revolution and were more than inclined to use police and military violence, the passing and implementation of repressive and regressive laws with vicious penalties for any perceived threat to their power. Seems vast amounts of money and RCMP time was spent on documenting and recording the movements of a few socialist leaders at a time the CP of Canada only had some six thousand or so members. Even at the height of it's influence the CPC probably only had twenty thousand card holders but like many Communist movements including the UK, it punched well above it's weight.

This book awakened an interest for more knowledge about Canadian Labour History and since I have gone on to read other volumes including Mark Zuehike's 'The Gallant Cause' which gives potted biographies and backgrounds of volunteers from Canada who went to fight Franco's fascist hordes in Spain in 1936 and 37, many of whom were labour organisers and union militants,including those who had experienced the work camps of the depression era and the almost slave labour conditions of some of the worst lumber and mining company towns in the vast interior of that country.

Thoroughly enjoyed Ms Levesque's book, well researched and written with an eye to the female participation in the inter war Communist movement showing the role played by the female comrades in what was an almost exclusively male domain. Working Class history and you should be able to find it at a decent discount, worth the investment for serious students and fellow travellers alike!

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5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic, 25 Jan 2014
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Great value and lovely looking studs that really look the business. Wife loves them and is looking for a matching ring.

The Master Spy: Story of Kim Philby
The Master Spy: Story of Kim Philby
by Phillip Knightley
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A true British Establishment anti hero!, 25 Jan 2014
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Probably more has been written about Kim Philby than any other spy in living memory. This is his version as told to former Sunday Times 'Insight' journalist and writer Philip Knightley in his own words not long before he died in Moscow.Personally I loved reading his story of how Philby pulled the wool over the eyes of the so called "Intelligence" community and fed top secret information to the Soviet Union for years - not for money or personal gain, not because of blackmail or honeypot traps but for straight forward ideological belief! To put it bluntly - he really stuck it to them. Philby was a committed Communist and had no lingering doubts as to what he was doing was morally correct and helping level the playing field both before and during WW2 and the cold war.

This is the definitive Philby book as recounted by the man himself, not inventions and speculations by writers who had never even met the man let alone knew him!

Loved every word and cannot recommend it highly enough for anyone remotely interested in the genre,

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