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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 09/07/2008 - 09/14/2008
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why Raise Taxes??????????

Let's just start collecting the ones due right now. Why should the wealthy corporatists and bankers pay little to no taxes?

The Senate is looking into it. It'll be interesting to see how far it actually goes.

Senate report says dividend taxes being dodged

By Donna Smith

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. financial institutions are using stock swaps and intricate loan transactions to help foreign investors avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes on dividends paid by U.S. companies, according to a Senate report to be released on Thursday.

The report by the U.S. Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on permanent investigations said investment bankers use phrases like "dividend enhancement," "yield enhancement" and "dividend uplift" to market an array of transactions "whose major purpose is to enable non U.S. persons to dodge payment of U.S. taxes on stock dividends."

Committee Chairman Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who along with Minnesota Republican Sen. Norm Coleman led the year-long investigation into these transactions, said the Internal Revenue Service has not done enough to crack down on abusive swap and loan transactions.

"There is no business purpose other than avoiding taxes," Levin told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday. "The IRS ought to go after that, they ought to go after that heavily, they have not."

The committee estimates that using offshore entities to avoid paying U.S. taxes costs the federal treasury about $100 billion annually. The report did not put a specific amount on tax losses due to stock swaps and loans transactions with offshore entities, but said the amount is "substantial."


Levin said transactions aimed at avoiding U.S. dividend taxes have become widespread in the offshore hedge fund industry and that some of the funds function as shell companies controlled by Americans.

"It adds insult to injury when so-called 'offshore' hedge funds turn out to have a shell operation offshore and their real headquarters are in the
United States with U.S. personnel advising them on how to dodge U.S. taxes," said Levin.

...........and they're talkin' 'bout thowin' me in Debtor's Prison, and seizing everything I own, including wife, children, and pets, for owing less than $5,000.

Go figure......................

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Oil Corruption, Who Knew?

More shocking than gov't/coprorate corruption:it cost 5.3 million to prove it.
Imagine what we don't know.

Gov't officials probed about illicit sex, gifts

WASHINGTON -Government officials handling billions of dollars in oil royalties partied, had sex with and accepted golf and ski outings from employees of energy companies they were dealing with, federal investigators said Wednesday.
The alleged transgressions involve 13 former and current Interior Department employees in Denver and Washington. Their alleged improprieties include rigging contracts, working part-time as private oil consultants, and having sexual relationships with — and accepting golf and ski trips and dinners from — oil company employees, according to three reports released Wednesday by the Interior Department's inspector general.

The reports describe a fraternity house atmosphere (emphasis added, for Jolly Roger)inside the Denver Minerals Management Service office responsible for marketing oil and natural gas that energy companies barter to the government in lieu of cash royalty payments for drilling on federal lands. The government received $4.3 billion in such royalty-in-kind payments last year. The oil and gas is then resold to energy companies or put in the nation's emergency stockpile.

Fraternity House Atmosphere. Makes sense if you have an ex-frat boy at the helm.
"During the course of our investigation, we learned that some RIK employees frequently consumed alcohol at industry functions, had used cocaine and marijuana, and had sexual relationships with oil and gas company representatives," the report said. Two government employees who had to spend the night after a daytime industry function because they were too intoxicated to drive home were commonly referred to by energy traders as the "MMS Chicks."
Between 2002 and 2006, nearly a third of the 55-person staff in the Denver office received gifts and gratuities from oil and gas companies, including Chevron Corp., Shell, Hess Corp. and Denver-based Gary-Williams Energy Corp., the investigators found. Two oil marketers received gifts and gratuities on at least 135 occasions. One admitted having a one-night-stand with a Shell employee. That same individual allegedly passed out business cards for her sex toy business at work, bragging that her income from that business exceeded her salary at the Interior Department.
Devaney said the investigations took so long because Chevron refused to cooperate. An Interior Department official said Chevron would not allow investigators to interview its employees.

I haven't posted for a while because of all the election irritation. It's depressing. Both candidates are corporate flunkies, but McCain's record is a rap sheet that certainly is yards longer than Obama.
I still can't bring myself to vote for either of them.
So, I decided to at least contribute to the overall cause of spreading information on the overall corruption of our Federal Constitutional Republic.
This article is just another in a long series of Republican perversion and corruption, while they are actively campaigning to their social conservative base.
It would be funny, if it was unique.
It's not, and it's one reason why I left the Repub. party years ago.
And by the way, my friends overseas really think the gun-toting tart in the flag bikini is not the image you want for a V.P.
I agree, but the picture is hot. I guess I'm still partly a Republican. My apologies.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Argentina - credit where credit is due


'bout time argentina got a little positive recognition...
U.S. drivers look to what's in Argentina's tank: natural gas

More vehicles run on natural gas in Argentina than anywhere else in the world, and that success is attracting a burst of interest from the U.S., where a big push is under way to convert buses, taxis and cars to natural gas.

Representatives of American companies are flocking to Argentina to buy natural-gas compressors, conversion kits and fuel tanks to sell in the U.S., said Alessandro Carlo, president of Tomasetto Achille, a major Argentine maker of these products, based in Buenos Aires.


Argentina's success began with a decision by the government in the early 1980s to keep natural-gas prices artificially low — something the U.S. is unlikely to try.

The Argentine government also made it easier for service stations to install the equipment needed to fuel vehicles and created a special program for several hundred taxis in Buenos Aires to convert to natural gas.

The U.S. seems to be moving in this direction, albeit slowly. Bills in Congress would create incentives to encourage consumers to buy more natural gas-driven cars, for service-station owners to install natural-gas pumps and for manufacturers to build more natural-gas cars.


Today, about 1.7 million vehicles run on natural gas in Argentina, or about 15 percent of all Argentine vehicles.

By contrast, less than 1 percent of vehicles in the U.S. run on natural gas.

i observed the widespread use of cng (gnc as it's called in spanish) in argentina when i first visited there in 2004... currently, regular gas is selling for roughly $2.89AR (that's 2 pesos, 89 centavos) per liter (3.89 liters = 1 U.S. gallon) while gnc is selling for 89 centavos per liter, no small saving... you can also go online in argentina, Ruta 0, a site which will not only show you the exact routes to take when traveling from point to point but will also display the routes best taken if you're fueled by gasoline, diesel or gnc, will show the location of the stations, compute the cost of the fuel you use for the distance you will be driving, AND show any applicable tolls...

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Sunday photoblogging: early morning ridge-walking in the high desert

i haven't been getting any exercise since i got back from argentina and it's been gnawing at me... most of the places i like to walk here, i have to drive to get to and that's just plain annoying... for sure, i don't like walking up and down suburban streets lined with houses that are all desperately trying NOT to look alike... i can head up to the high desert ridges that surround the neighborhood and i've done that quite a number of times, altho', on a still-summer weekend, unless you get out about the time the sun comes up, the heat and the omnipresent wind kind of take the fun out of it... what takes the fun out of it even more is the #%$^&*@#$ 4-wheelers and dirt bikers that zoom all over the place, tearing up the vegetation, throwing up clouds of dust, belching fumes, and generating ear-shattering engine noise...

this morning, however, i decided to get out early and, as i was enjoying the cool and the quiet, i realized that this was the first time i had done this walk in the summer... all the other times, it's been late fall, winter or early spring... anyway, it was a real pleasure, and i must be sure to do it again soon...

here's some photos to soak up on a late summer afternoon...


high desert vegetation, while plentiful, tends to be on the scrubby, understated side, and you have to get up close to appreciate just how lovely it is... the early morning light sets off these two quite nicely, don't you think...?


this is the 'burb where i live with my son his family when i'm in the u.s... yes, folks, it's definitely a suburb...


nevada and the great basin are full of dry lake beds... there's one not too far from the house that we have to drive by on our way to and from town... in the photo on the left, you can also see how the off-roaders tear up the trails and, when it rains, the water creates gullies... the photo on the right is a close-up from the photo on the left showing vehicles lined up on the bed of the dry lake, preparing, i would assume, for some sort of rally...


unfortunately, besides generating a lot of environmental destruction and noise pollution, the off-roaders are also very heedless about their trash... the collection of garbage in this photo just so happens to lie at the bottom of the winter sledding hill... sigh...


this is a nasty, spiny, prickly little plant that, when the cold weather comes, will dry out and become a tumbleweed... however, if you look close, you can see that it's completely covered with the tiniest little purple blossoms... just goes to show ya, huh...?

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Jerome a Paris 'splains what we taxpayers just won in the latest Bush flim-flam

as good an explanation as i've seen...

As expected, as the government takes over, the normal shareholders are wiped out, something that will allow the Bush administration to claim that they are being tough and not bailing out investors, but we'll see that this claim is fundamentally false.

This whole side of the package will allow the government to claim that the bailout has a minimal cost: $1 billion only for now, a highly disingenuous claim (the warrants will most likely need to be exercised - but only next year, and there is the rest...)

The plan, outlined jointly by the Treasury Department and Federal Housing Finance Agency, also includes a plan for the Treasury to purchase mortgage-backed securities from the firms in the open market, and a lending facility through the Treasury from its general fund held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

This is huge. This is the federal government taking over the "toxic waste" in a way that will have an impact not just on Freddie and Fannie, but on the whole market. By "buying" mortgage-backed securities instrad of taking them as collateral, the Treasury does two things at the same time:

  • it takes off the assets and liabilities off the balance sheet of the two companies in a definitive way (rather than temporarily) and assumes, for sure, the associated risk;

  • it sets a price on these securities. This has been the biggest problem to solve the credit crisis: nobody has been willing to set a price on these assets, because of the uncertainty on the real value of the underlying assets (or because everybody could see that they were falling by the day). By setting such a price, thegovernment creates a highly significant precedent - and, in all likelihood, provides a floor to these prices, ie an implicit commitment (or at least the expectation of a commitment) to buy more such securities.

In doing this, the government is boldly trying to call the end of the financial crisis, set a total price to it, and agree to pay the difference if the cost is higher in the end. This, to me, looks like a full governmental guarantee to the whole banking sector. Of course, a lot will depend on where the price is set to purchase these mortgage-backed assets, but this is still a take-over of the toxic waste by taxpayers, at aprice that may or may not (and, frankly, is highly unlikely to) be right.

But it's even worse than that: by providing an additional lending facility on top of that, the government is saying: we're putting our money (well, yours) where our mouth is - providing further liquidity to the companies and, I presume, expecting them, once the toxic waste has been cleared from their books (which can happen now that there is a floor price), to lend to the mortagage markets again.

It's the usual solution of the Greenspan bubble: as soon as one bursts, we blow another one to cover it up and keep the party going a little longer.

Of course, the goal here is simply to create a boost that lasts until November, and given the kind of weaons used, it's likely to succeed in that short term goal. Saving the US economy is another thing, given that its fundamental problem is spending beyond incomes - more debt does not cure that, rather the opposite. The twin movements of growing spending and stagnant incomes have to be brought back together. Boosting spending via debt cannot work this time; incomes have to be raised - and for the right people.

This plan is not about this, it's about bailing out the financiers that played and lost with other people's money, and give them a chance to try again. Par for the course, of course.

well, she-e-e-e-e-it, vern, we KNEW this deal wasn't crafted to benefit us, the poor slobs who have our pockets picked on a daily basis to keep the stretch limos and private jets of the bigshots topped off with ever-more-expensive fossil fuel... but it's always nice when someone who has just a bit of a CLUE explains it to those like me who can very quickly recognize the smell of fresh manure even if we don't know its chemical composition...

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Fannie and Freddie now belong to US and WE will "provide as much capital as they need"

hold on to your wallets... here it comes... oh, and btw, check out where the new ceo of freddie hails from - the carlyle group... ain't THAT an interestin' coincidence...?!?!
The Treasury Department seized control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the nation’s giant quasi-public mortgage finance companies, and announced a four-part rescue plan that includes an open-ended guarantee from the Treasury Department to provide as much capital as they need to stave off insolvency.

At a news conference on Sunday morning, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. also announced that he had dismissed the chief executives of both companies and replaced them with two long-time financial executives. Herbert M. Allison, currently chairman of TIAA-CREF, the huge pension fund for teachers, will take over Fannie Mae and replace the chief executive, Daniel Mudd. David M. Moffett, currently a senior adviser at the Carlyle Group, one of the country’s biggest private equity firms, will replace Richard Syron as chief executive of Freddie Mac.

“Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so large and so interwoven in our financial system that a failure of either of them would cause great turmoil in our financial markets here at home and around the globe,” Mr. Paulson said. “This turmoil would directly and negatively impact household wealth: from family budgets, to home values, to savings for college and retirement. A failure would affect the ability of Americans to get home loans, auto loans and other consumer credit and business finance. And a failure would be harmful to economic growth and job creation.”

Mr. Paulson refused to say how much capital the government might eventually have to provide, or what the ultimate cost to taxpayers might be.

The companies are likely to need tens of billions of dollars over the next year, but the utlimate cost to taxpayers will largely depend on how and how fast the housing and mortgage markets recover from their current crisis.

of COURSE paulson refused to say how much the ultimate cost to the taxpayers might be... if he even hazarded an extremely conservative, low-end guess, american citizens would be out marching in the streets (which is what we SHOULD have been doing for the past two years)...

oh, yeah, and as of 10:30 a.m. pacific time this morning, fannie's website was still touting all the good stuff being worked on by the now-axed dan mudd...


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