29 February 2008

Post v.24

Even if you follow the law you are of course wrong:

The Guardian's revelation of Tesco's Cayman Islands tax arrangements reminds the world that our tax lawyers are world-beating at "tax-efficiency". When such an emblematic company takes such steps, it speaks volumes about national tax avoidance culture. Check out the recent report The Missing Billions from tax expert Richard Murphy, for the TUC, who identified £25bn of tax lost from the exchequer. He lists major companies whose tax payments don't begin to reflect the size of business and profits they seem to command in Britain. Note the tiny tax paid by BSkyB, Hanson, and Legal & General. It may be legal but that's not the point: profitable companies shouldn't be able to shuffle assets to pay less tax. Where is the public shame at "socially responsible" companies avoiding the spirit of the law? British stamp-duty payers may gnash their teeth over British Land Plc paying little tax, quite legally, when land values soared. What of easyJet's Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who said: "I have no UK income to be taxed in the UK"?

I say three legal and just cheers for Stelios!!

Post v.23

Having seen a variation of this headline for the umpteenth time:

Tax Haven Liechtenstein Set to Enter EU Open-Border Group

One must wonder......

ha·ven, (hā'vən) n.
1 - A harbor or anchorage; a port.
2 - A place of refuge or rest; a sanctuary.

.....where does that leave us in terms of an antonym for the word?

28 February 2008

Post v.22

Quite rich from a newspaper which just this week praised the efforts of a criminal selling personal private information to the highest bidder:

The police have yet to confirm whether the data on the disk was ever accessed; Mr. Bevan’s discovery that it was encrypted suggested that it may not have been. By calling the police, he also offered a reminder that while criminals may lurk out there, ordinary people often do the right thing.

Post v.21

Interesting article from Spiegel Online:

A ruling against government surveillance of personal computers, delivered this week by a German court, has set a precedent: Computer users have the right to trust their IT equipment. What sounds wonkish could affect many aspects of life in the 21st century.

The German Constitutional Court ruled Wednesday that a surveillance law passed in 2007 in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia gave police and state officials too much power to spy on citizens using "trojan horse" software, which can be delivered by e-mail and used to scan the contents of a hard drive.

Not only did the law violate the right to privacy, the court said, but it also violated a basic right for a citizen using a computer with an Internet connection to "a guarantee of confidentiality and integrity in information-technology systems."

The different levels are interesting. From a general stand point the rolling-back of any state-related power over the individual is a positive. Given the unfortunate rarity of that type of event in this day and age makes it a cheerworthy event.

In a more specific interest is the timing of this roll-back of state-related power. Oddly enough, while the German Constitutional Court is officialy limiting (let us not kid ourselves that the state itself will truly honor this lofty judgment/ideal) the power of intrusion on the individual by the German state, the German state is simultaneously trampling the privacy concerns of other citizens by traffiking in the use of stolen banking information (eg. Liechtenstein). While the specifics of both cases differ, it is the rights of the individual which are whip-sawing in Germany. No idea as to the legal relevance of each case to one another, but the general relevance is indeed keen.

Leaving aside the sanctity of personal freedoms and privacy what does Germany today say in the area of privacy for the individual? A cold-eyed realist would say, at the very time this legal ruling disallows the German government from intruding on the personal privacy concerns of individuals seeking to unleash death and the destruction of property by means of terrorist actions, the German government is currently (and happily) intruding on the personal privacy concerns of individuals seeking to preserve and conserve their hard-earned incomes and wealth from the tax-craving machine of statism.

As currently constituted, the German state cannot snoop on the terrorist but can steamroll the capitalist. Unfortunately, those who politically advocate the never-ending 'good' of the state being involved in all aspects of all people's lives rarely discern a difference between the two.

Post v.20


Your greed is not good, say Britain and Germany, pointing accusing fingers at thousands of very wealthy clients of LGT, the Liechtenstein bank at the centre of a row over tax havens. But bend your ear and you might just hear, beneath the cries of moral indignation over alleged tax evasion, a compromise - sotto voce. Greed is not good, say Europe's finance ministers, unless we can have 40 per cent.

The state is on the march, in search of ever more cash to oil its creaking machinery. It will even buy stolen property - in this case the client details of thousands of LGT customers, hawked by a thieving employee - if it leads to another treasure trove.

27 February 2008

Post v.19

Genuine questions if anyone knows, where has/will all of this booty go?

Europe's top regulator again stuck it to Microsoft--this time it was a $1.3 billion penalty for noncompliance with previous regulatory decisions. So far, Microsoft has paid more than $2 billion in fines to the EU.

For what purposes can the funds be applied? Other??

26 February 2008

Post v.18

More fruit from the poison tree:

BERLIN: A wide-ranging investigation of tax evasion by Germans stashing their money abroad has led to the recovery of €27.8 million and netted 163 people, a prosecutor said Tuesday, as new investigations were spawned around the world.

In brief televised comments from the western city of Bochum, Hans-Ulrich Krück said that so far 91 people targeted in the investigation "have admitted to the facts," and had already made payments totaling €27.8 million, or $42 million.

"At the moment, that sum is rising daily," Krück said. He added that another 72 people have turned themselves in to tax authorities.

It appears the personal financial information obtained by the German government, arguabbly by means of bribery, is making it's way to tax authorities in the UK, the US, Australia, and who knows where else.

If accurate, a nice quote:

Roger Köppel, the editor-in-chief of the Swiss weekly newspaper Die Weltwoche, described it as a "fatwa by the German tax authorities against businesses and employees seeking to withdraw from a fundamentalist taxation system."

Perhaps those "surrendering" to the tax authorities prefer that route vs. a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

25 February 2008

Post v.17

An interesting article to remember when hearing the usual clap-trap about the 'bosses' sticking it to the 'working man':

Ford Motor is applying the hard sell these days as it competes with Asian car makers - piling on incentives, doling out marketing DVDs and brochures, and making offers it hopes are too good to pass up.

But Ford's big new push is not to sell cars. Instead, it is trying to sign up thousands of workers to take buyouts, partly by convincing them that their brightest future lies outside the company that long offered middle-class wages for blue-collar jobs.

So Ford is pitching a buffet of buyout packages that are easily among the richest ever offered to factory workers, including one-time cash payments of $140,000 or college tuition plans for an entire family.


The company is offering a broad range of buyout and early retirement packages.

Employees with as little as one year of seniority can receive $100,000 cash, although they give up all health benefits after a six-month period. For employees at least 55 years old and with at least 10 years on the job, the payout jumps to $140,000.

Ford, which has a younger work force than GM, also included many educational options. One buyout offer provides a worker four years of tuition reimbursement up to $15,000 annually, plus health care coverage over that period and a stipend equal to 50 percent of base wages.

Of course there is a cautionary anecdote:

The company does not track the fortunes of all its former employees, but said it was proud of the "success stories" of people who have taken buyouts.

One such worker, Dale Beck, took a $100,000 buyout in 2006 to open a Little Caesars outlet in St. Louis.

"I went from making cars to making pizzas and it's turned out pretty well for me," Beck said. "I also know some people who took the money and spent it, and now they're struggling."

Dale made an individual choice for personal responsibility, three cheers!

Post v.16

Disturbing e-card of the day:

Post v.15

More Zen:

First DJ: Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooold out there today.
Second DJ: It's coooold out there every day. What is this, Miami Beach?

Which leads one to this gem:

Snow cover over North America and much of Siberia, Mongolia and China is greater than at any time since 1966.

The U.S. National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) reported that many American cities and towns suffered record cold temperatures in January and early February. According to the NCDC, the average temperature in January "was -0.3 F cooler than the 1901-2000 (20th century) average."

China is surviving its most brutal winter in a century. Temperatures in the normally balmy south were so low for so long that some middle-sized cities went days and even weeks without electricity because once power lines had toppled it was too cold or too icy to repair them.

There have been so many snow and ice storms in Ontario and Quebec in the past two months that the real estate market has felt the pinch as home buyers have stayed home rather than venturing out looking for new houses.
In just the first two weeks of February, Toronto received 70 cm of snow, smashing the record of 66.6 cm for the entire month set back in the pre-SUV, pre-Kyoto, pre-carbon footprint days of 1950.

And remember the Arctic Sea ice? The ice we were told so hysterically last fall had melted to its "lowest levels on record? Never mind that those records only date back as far as 1972 and that there is anthropological and geological evidence of much greater melts in the past.

The ice is back.

Gilles Langis, a senior forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service in Ottawa, says the Arctic winter has been so severe the ice has not only recovered, it is actually 10 to 20 cm thicker in many places than at this time last year.


Post v.14

This type of talk will not win you any friends:

Cases of mothers killing their children occur almost monthly in Germany, and people are starting to ask why. A state governor has caused outrage by suggesting it may be the legacy of East Germany's communist rule, which has given women there what he describes as "a more casual approach to new life."

Wolfgang Böhmer, governor of the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, faces opposition calls to resign after he said women in the east had "a more casual approach to new life" than in the west.


"Some came to us in the hospital and just said with a grin 'get rid of it' because they had booked a vacation on the Black Sea coast. That attitude to life has influenced today's attitude. I have the impression that child killings -- and there always been -- are a means of family planning."

Böhmer said "widespread fixation on the state during GDR times had led to the abandonment of individual responsibility."

Regardless of one's stand on the issue itself, you have to admire any governmental official for bemoaning the abandonment of personal responsibility. Usually government officials are the ones providing the encouragement to do so.

Post v.13

Not a great surprise but always interesting to note. One principle, governmental access of an individual's private financial information. Two completely divergent opinions by the editorial board of the New York Times.

One opinion (delivered with utmost solemnity) if the access is taking place under at least a fig-leaf of legality by the US government:

When government agencies are involved in continuing investigations that might infringe on Americans' privacy, it is important that some outside entity is keeping track of what is going on. That principle is particularly true now, when the United States is trying to learn how to live in a perpetual war on terror.

Investigators will probably need to monitor the flow of money to and from suspected terrorists and listen in on their phone conversations for decades to come. No one wants that to stop, but if America is going to continue to be America, these efforts need to be done under a clear and coherent set of rules, with the oversight of Congress and the courts.

A second opinion (delivered with a care-free wink and nod) if the access is taking place under absolutely no fig-leaf of legality by the German government:

Liechtenstein is one of three tiny states on the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s list of "uncooperative tax havens," along with Andorra and Monaco. That lack of cooperation has been very good for the principality and its 35,000 residents, who have one of Europe’s highest standards of living thanks in great part to what folks there delicately call "wealth management."

Not surprisingly, Liechtenstein’s leaders have focused all of their indignation on the theft of confidential data. "Fiscal interests cannot be placed ahead of the rule of law," fumed Prince Alois. We are not encouraging anyone to steal data. But who is putting fiscal interests ahead of the rule of law here? That’s what providing a secret haven for other countries’ tax evaders is, and Germany is right to crack down.

The joys of consistentcy.

Post v.12

Things appear to be getting desperate in the US if politicians are characterised as "Islamic" (as if that is a negative) based upon a silly photo taken on a junket. Per Matt Drudge:

With a week to go until the Texas and Ohio primaries, stressed Clinton staffers circulated a photo over the weekend of a "dressed" Barack Obama.

The photo, taken in 2006, shows the Democrat frontrunner fitted as a Somali Elder, during his visit to Wajir, a rural area in northeastern Kenya.

The senator was on a five-country tour of Africa. "Wouldn't we be seeing this on the cover of every magazine if it were HRC?" questioned one campaign staffer, in an email obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT.

In December, the campaign asked one of its volunteer county coordinators in Iowa to step down after the person forwarded an e-mail falsely stating that Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe quickly accused the Clinton campaign Monday of 'shameful offensive fear-mongering' for circulating the snap.

Like it has never happened before:

US President Bill Clinton, wearing in traditional Senegalese clothing, and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, listen to ''griot'' or village storytellers of the Dal Diam village about 90 kilometers (56 miles) east of Dakar, during a tour of the area of sustained recovery from drought Wednesday April 1, 1998. Senegal is Clinton's last port of call on his six-nation tour of Africa, and he will return to the US on Thursday. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)

24 February 2008

Post v.11

Quite the good article from Robert Worth in the NYT. Note the one common thread streaming throughout the article:

  • Government subsidies
  • Government grants of monopolies
  • Government corruption
  • Government inefficiencies
  • Government, government, government

Post v.10

Sometimes thoughts occur....

One Elaib Harvey at "England Expects" seems to be having a bit of a hard time in procuring a rather secretive report at the European Parliament. This report seems to detail some rather not so nice goings-on by members of said parliament in the financial chicanery department.

Open suggestion to Mr. Harvey, find the appropriate person at the EP to which a bribe can be paid and the report handed over.

Seems to be all the rage these days. If you need any assistance just contact the German government, they seem to have this kind of thing down pat.

Post v.9

Recalling the flap when the New York Times ran the story on "BushCo" surveilling the financial records without judicial writs, one wonders where Peter Schaar, Chairman of the EU's Working Party on Data Protection, is today and what he might be saying about Liechtenstein:

A European Union panel has serious doubts about the legality of a Bush administration program that monitors international financial transactions, the group’s leader said Monday, and plans to recommend tighter controls to prevent privacy abuses.

"We don’t see the legal basis under the European law, and we see the need for some changes," said Peter Schaar, a German official who leads the panel, in a telephone interview. The group is to deliver a final report this week in Brussels, and Mr. Schaar said he expected it to conclude that the program might violate European law restricting government access to confidential banking records.

(Nosferateux note, please recall this article pertains to survelliance of banking records since 2001 by the Bush administration.)

But legal experts say banking privacy restrictions imposed by the European Union and others in Europe impose tight restrictions on how private banking data can be shared, even in the course of law enforcement and intelligence-gathering investigations.

"The main item from my point of view is that the fundamental civil rights of the European citizens have to be safeguarded," said Mr. Schaar, who also serves as the federal data protection commissioner for Germany. "There are doubts about the legality of this program."

Herr Schaar, where are you? Surely you have an opinion on Germany's current use of governmental powers to "obtain" personal financial information by the use of bribery. Something about safeguarding the fundamental civil rights of European citizens per chance?

23 February 2008

Post v.8

One element of the Liechtenstein tax "evasion" kerfuffle confounds; that of the German BND's acquistion of the personal financial information for hundreds of German citizens.

Depending on one's outlook about the entire situation: the BND either innocently "purchased" the information, or "bribed" a bank official to provide the information. What do the facts conclude?

A) The Liechtenstein bank involved in the story, Liechtenstein Global Trust (LGT), is a private financial institution owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation.

B) The Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation is a collection of companies owned by the Princely House of Liechtenstein.

C) The Princely House of Liechtenstein is currently headed by Hans-Adam, II. Accordingly the Reigning Prince:

The Reigning Prince is the Head of State. He may only exercise his right to state authority in accordance with the provisions of the constitution and of other laws.

He represents the state vis-à-vis foreign states. He signs international treaties either in person or delegates this function to a plenipotentiary. Some treaties under international law only become valid when they have been ratified by parliament.

The Reigning Prince's involvement in legislation consists in a right to take initiatives in the form of government bills and in the right to sanction the laws on which their validity depends.

The Reigning Prince has the power to enact princely decrees. With one such decree, for instance, he convenes parliament. Emergency decrees come within the scope of princely decrees and through these the Reigning Prince may, in compelling cases, take measures for the security and welfare of the state without parliament’s involvement, but with the countersignature of the Head of Government.

The Reigning Prince has the right to convene and to prorogue parliament and, for serious reasons, to adjourn it for three months or to dissolve it.

On the basis of names put forward by parliament the Reigning Prince nominates the government and the district judges, the high court judges, the judges of the Supreme Court, and the presidents and their deputies of the Constitutional Court and of the Administrative Court of Appeal.

The Reigning Prince's other authorities include exercising the right of reprieve and the rights to mitigate and commute punishments that have been imposed with legal force, and the abolition - i.e. the dismissal - of investigations that have been initiated. Jurisdiction in its entirety is exercised on behalf of the Reigning Prince by sworn judges. All judgements are issued in the name of the Reigning Prince.

Based on the facts so far one can rightfully conclude the Reigning Prince of Liechtenstein has considerable influence over the government (he is the head of state among other things) and LGT via the Prince of Liechtenstein Foundation.

What is a bribe? According to the OECD's Glossary of International Criminal Standards, a bribe is:

Article 1.1: It is an offence to offer, promise or give "any undue pecuniary or other advantage" in order that the official act or refrain from acting in relation to the performance of official duties, in order to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business. (OECD Convention)

What about the German/BND actions?

Article 1.1: It is an offence to offer, promise or give any undue pecuniary or other advantage to a foreign public official "in order that the official act or refrain from acting in relation to the performance of official duties, in order to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage in the conduct of international business."

Article 1.4.c: For the purpose of this Convention "act or refrain from acting in relation to the performance of official duties" includes any use of the public official’s position, whether or not within the official’s authorised competence. (OECD Convention)

Who are these "public officials" ? The OECD Glossary does not define "public official", but the Glossary does note:

The definition of a national public official is very broad and should include any person who:

Performs a public function for a public enterprise. A public enterprise should include any enterprise in which the government holds a majority stake, as well as those over which a government may exercise a dominant influence directly or indirectly. It should also include an enterprise that performs a public function and which does not operate on a normal commercial basis in the relevant market, i.e., not on a basis which is substantially equivalent to that of a private enterprise, without preferential subsidies or other privileges. The definition should also include executives, managers and employees;

Does an official arm of a foreign government paying an employee (arguably a "public official" given the circumstances) of a privately held bank (arguably a "public enterprise" in which a powerful head of state holds a majority stake and/or may excercise dominant influence in a direct or indirect manner) to act in a manner contrary to the employee's duties and obligations constitute bribery?

Do the means justify the ends? If so; good-bye to due process, hello to anything goes...

An easy test, would you as an individual be comfortable with any government being able to "obtain" any of your personal financial information by any means necessary?

Update: Fabulous, the British government is now on board with the Germans as well. If/when similar types of information shows up in the hands of the Russians, Chinese, no squirming if you approve of these sorts of tactics.

A really easy test for those who approve of the British and German governmental tactics in "obtaining" this type of personal financial information on individuals: Would your reaction of "stick it to the man" and "right on brothers/sisters" be the same if "BushCo" was the one paying the tab for the very same information?

21 February 2008

Post v.7

Professional journalism has reached it's climax:

Forget those bombastic glossy magazine headlines which swear to teach women how to "come like a train!" (what, late or never?) - the majority of us have enough trouble coming at all, without worrying about how or when. It takes time and effort, and it really helps if you're looking in the right place. So now we know that G stands for "gross exaggeration", let's broadcast this fact across the nation, through shopping centres, churches and Women's Institute meetings, and give both women and men a break.

Post v.6

Others on the internet have noted this jewel regarding the quenchless thirst for more and more taxes (not to mention national champion protectionism) by governments coupled with the beautiful hatred of wealth creation by the evangelical environmentalist 'movement':

Christine Lagarde told LCI television that Sarkozy had asked the new IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a Frenchman, to consider a tax that would affect oil companies worldwide.

Environmentalists and others in France have long floated the idea of taxing French oil giant Total, whose record-breaking profits they regard as reprehensible. The company, France's biggest by market value, reported Wednesday that net profit was up by 62 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 3.6 billion euros ($5.23 billion).

Lagarde said the French government was pushing for a global tax so that not only Total -- the world's fourth-largest oil and gas company -- would be penalized.

At what point is enough enough? The dreaded Exxon-Mobil posted record profits in 2007 (40bn, USD), no doubt the evangelical environmentalists overlooked the 'footnote' of Exxon-Mobile paying almost 30bn USD in taxes last year, a minor detail of course.....

A question, who do we ask to fleece the evangelical environmental movement of their 'donations' when we find their activities to be reprehensible?

Post v.5

True Zen:

Stan (Chotchkie's Manager): "We need to talk about your flair."
Joanna: "Really? I-I have 15 pieces on. I also--"
Stan: "Well, 15 is the minimum, okay?"
Joanna: "Oh, okay."
Stan: "Now, you know, it's up to you whether or not you wanna just do the bare minimum or, uh-- Well, like Brian, for example, has 37 pieces of flair on today. And a terrific smile."
Joanna: "Okay, so you want me to wear more?"
Stan: "Look, Joanna--"
Joanna: "Yeah?"
Stan: "People can get a cheeseburger anywhere, okay? They come to Chotchkie's for the atmosphere and the attitude. Okay? That's what the flair's about. It's about fun."
Joanna: "Yeah. Okay, so more then, yeah?"
Stan: "Look, we want you to express yourself. Okay? Now, if you feel that the bare minumum is enough, then okay. But some people choose to wear more and we encourage that. Okay? You do wanna express yourself, don't you?"
Joanna: "Y-Yeah."
Stan: "Okay, great, great. That's all I ask."
Joanna: "Okay."

19 February 2008

Post v.4

Whenever any of the "free" health-care fetishists are droning on and on about the subject the mind wanders back to the hilarious spoof of the first Gore v. Bush debate of 2000 (the Sigh/Lockbox debate).

Even without the video, the transcript still leaves one ROTF and even possibly LMAO:

Jim Lehrer: Which beings us to our final question. Governor Bush, both you and the Vice-President have offered plans to provide prescription drugs for the elderly. What makes your plan superior?

Al Gore: Jim, I'd like to interrupt here and answer that question as if it were my turn to speak. Jim, let me tell about a friend of mine. Her name is Etta Munsen. She's 94, she's a widow living on Social Security in Sparta, Tennessee. Etta was born with only one kidney. She also suffers from poilo, spinal menengitis, lung, liver, and pancreatic cancer, an enlarged heart, diabetes, and a rare form of styctic acne. Now, several recent strokes, along with an unfortunate shark attack, have left her paralyzed and missing her right leg under the knee. Just last week she woke from a coma to find that, due to a hospital mix-up, her left arm had been amputated, infected with syphillis, and then reattached.

Jim Lehrer: Mr. Vice-President, we are short of time..

Al Gore: As you can imagine, Jim.. Etta's prescription drug bills are staggering. They run to nearly $113 million a day! And she tells me that some weeks she has to choose between eating and treating her Lyme Disease. Now, under my plan, Etta's prescription drugs would be covered. Under my opponent's plan, her house would be burned to the ground. And that is wrong. That is just wrong!

Post v.3

Waiting for the Onion or one of the less reliable news outlets to come out with the headline/lede combo of:

Hillary Clinton Loses 50th Straight Primary, Vows to Fight On

17 February 2008

Post v.2

Reaction to Northern Rock's nationalisation depends on one's particular political bent. Rejoicing amonst those saturated in class warfare; Despair amongst those who champion free markets and free people.

There is never a shortage of calls for governmental involvement in every aspect of every individual's life choices. Why not look upon this Northern Rock event as an opportunity?

For those calling for the governmentalisation of everything, here is your chance to prove that state ownership of the free-market can actually work:

  • Will there be redundancies at the state-owned Northern Rock? If so, why and is that 'fair'?
  • Will there be an immediate combing of the pay rolls to ensure all Northern Rock employees receive a 'living wage'?
  • Will account-holders be in line for a large increase of interest rates paid upon their deposits? If not, why not?
  • Will mortgage-holders in default be removed from their homes? If so, is this 'fair'?
  • Will mortgage-holders be in line for a large reduction of interest rates paid on their loans? If not, why not?

These are just a few questions. The statists among us need to step up to the plate and implement their economic 'ideas' in this wonderful opportunity which has presented itself.

Put your money where your mouth is. Well, since this is the Left we are speaking of, put someone else's money where your mouth is.

Post v.1

One cannot help but notice the new new new catch-phrase being beta-tested amongst the Left. Take your pick: plutocrat -or- plutocracy. Either used as a denigration of those in society who actually create wealth rather than consume wealth -or- a catch-all cudgel against capitalism.

But then again who can blame those on the Left for passing up such a wonderful opportunity to reprise one of their most tried and true mantras.

Wouldn't you agree?

Post v.0

As if the internet needed more noise...