The 1% Olympics

I’m over in the UK for the Olympics and to see my family, there is a definite undercurrent about the overbearing regulations and heavy handed implementation and complaints about LOCOG.

The Independent has a great article: Father of Olympic branding: my rules are being abused

DJT1million • 3 days ago • parent −
I’m not sure that the Olympics are widely loathed to be honest. I think that there is, instead, massive indifference with occasional outbreaks of justifiable fury when the G4S scandal came out or when the money lavished on the Games is set against massive and punitive cuts to the lives of ordinary people and their services.

Locog have also been their own worst enemy with their arrogant and patronising attitude along with the heavy handed treatment of anyone daring to refer to The Games without paying the appropriate fee. Even here in the heart of London there’s barely a reference to the Olympics. I did expect people to get the bunting out, have little shop window displays supporting our athletes, schools having Olympic themed summer fetes before they break up for the holidays but there’s nothing. Locog have scared everyone into ignoring the whole party unless they’re a sponsor forgetting (or ignoring) that 95% +++ of the cost has been paid for by UK taxpayers, London council tax payers and National Lottery players. We all have a stake too.

Unintended consequences – these Games highlight just how dysfunctional our society currently is. They’re a perfect illustration that can be understood by everyone of just how far our nation has been handed over to big business at the expense of our wider society and values as a whole. Everything, the control freakery, the needs of the corporate sponsors, the ZIL lanes, the tax avoiding, the lavish (mis)use of public funds to benefit the very few and so on and on and on is the high water mark of 30 years of increasing inequality and the dysfunction inherent in the prevailing economic and political orthodoxy that is currently running out of steam.

No Taxation without representation, July 4th

Today is the 14th July 4th, I’ve worked and paid taxes in the USA. July the 4th is the day the ‘mericans celebrate their freedom from the Evil Empire, no not the one with Darth Vadar, the British Empire. That freedom initially started with a protest over taxation on tea.

I’ve been joking that I’m going to  make my annual pilgrimage down to Congress Bridge to dump my used(tax paid) tea leafs off the bridge in protest of the fact that I, like the original Boston Tea party protesters, get taxed but can’t vote. My mini-jest even made the Danny Baker radio show on BBC Radio London today.

Since Britain has suffered with surfeit of stories about both individual and corporate tax evasion. Here in the US, the recent Vanity Fair article about the tax affairs on US Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, raise the question on why anyone could ever trust him as a defender of the USA.

I’ve been reading Fran Hendys excellent Offshore blog. And to celebrate July 4th, I thought I’d list some excellent US tax avoidance, that no one here would ever raise a question about, Delaware.

While US Regulators and agency’s have been going after secrecy, anonymity and tax havens all over the world in an effort to force them to comply with US Federal tax regulations. Meanwhile, back in Delaware, no one says a word…

  • Google, Apple, Coco-Cola, Bank of America, Ford, General Electric, JP Morgan Chase, Wal-Mart, American Airlines and at least 285,000 others will tell you that this is their legal address.
  • More than 50% of all U.S. publicly traded companies and 63% of the Fortune 500 is incorporated in Delaware. Last year 133,297 businesses set up there.
  • With a population of 907,135, the estimated 897,934 number of businesses in Delaware means that in that state there is almost one corporate entity per person.
  • That most companies are ‘shell’ entities with no assets, no employees and no-real business activity in the state accounts for Delaware’s enviable track record
  • Here in Texas we’ve just started paying sale tax on Amazon.com because it was ruled an Amazon distribution warehouse was a place of commerce. The Delaware loop is an arrangement that allows companies to lower the taxes they pay in the states where the business entities actually conduct substantive activity or where they are head-quartered by shifting royalties and similar remuneration to holding companies in Delaware.
  • In 2011, Delaware collected roughly $800million in taxes and fees from its largely ‘absentee’ corporate residents. Since 1992, Delaware has deprived other states of an estimated $9.5billion in revenue.
  • Mr. Finzer, an American based in Novi Sad, Serbia, advertises his services online. “Tax-Free Havens for Non-U.S. Citizens,” his site, says. It continues: “More than 50 percent of the major corporations in the world are incorporated in Delaware. Why? Because it provides the anonymity that most offshore jurisdictions do not offer.”
So much for the United States of America. At least Britain has Universal Healthcare, and yes, its a tax there too. I wish I was in Dixie…

Disclosure: Personally, I have yet to file my US 2011 taxes, they’ve had a bunch of my money, more than an average US yearly wage, I’m too lazy and if I owe, will pay the interest. I promise to get in done by Sept. 1st. Both Corporations I own I registered in Texas.

References:
Fran Hendys My Address is 1209, North Orange Street, Delaware, USA blog
NY Times Article, How Delaware thrives as a Corporate Tax Haven

Pedantry at its finest

I’ve been reading a internal blog entry that is the second in a series from the “Managing Editor of Global Communications” complaining about the use of jargon inside the company. As is almost always the case, the writer is an American employee. In the first in the series I had a couple of comments, but I just gave up reading this one. After a brief sentence outlining the problem, the blog entry says:

I want to make it clear that my beef with all our talk about “wins” is not with the wins themselves, it’s with jargon.

“Wins” is a bit of an outlier, jargon-wise. Typically jargon is the result of turning a noun into a verb (as in, and you didn’t hear it from me, bucketize). Here we’re turning a verb into a noun. A plural noun, even. Yuck.

At this point I had to stop reading and post a comment, which got split into two as I needed to make a minor correction. I wrote:

How do beef and yuck work overseas? Your cow with “wins”? Yuck is what precisely? A taste, a sentiment, a sense of dislike? Interestingly even wikipedia doesn’t have a disintermediation for it.

Coloquilasims are often a greater problem than jargon, at least jargon can be institutional, and thus have some instituional meaning, coloquilasims are mostly not understood outside of their region of origin. The British and Americans can’t agree to “table their differences”, how can we expect everyone else to understand?

and

I take it back, there is indeed a wikipedia entry that shows the potential confusion around yuck. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yuck I’m assuming disgust rather than laughter in this instance.

and then I went back to reading, the author in trying to explain, teach, and coach her son, while at the dinner table, writes:

Your son is struggling with his multiplication tables. You drill him every night at dinner, and it’s as frustrating an exercise as possible.

My 3rd comment was:

Again, I’m struggling with the concept of someone from China who only reads formal English understanding the concept of drilling your son at the dinner table every night, first question electric or battery drill? Next wood or metal drill bits? Finally, in America drilling holes in your son is OK?

They say humor doesn’t travel and Americans have no sense of irony… this proves otherwise 🙂

Mark.

The Brit’ pedant in Round Rock, TX

You can’t make this stuff up…

Why print media is dying

In a world where social media is increasing breaking the news, and seemingly forever in the news, I still enjoy the dead tree versions of some things. Anyone who has been to my place in Austin knows I have a big spread of Triathlon magazines, the have news and reviews, race results, the usual puff pieces and adverts.

What struck me about this issue of Triathlete Europe, which arrived today, was just how dated the news was. Lance far from over, but not news; Hollie Avil, not news and so on. Even some of the adverts are strangely dated, the MAXIFUEL picture of Team GB features will Clarke, who actually never made the Olympics team#.

What sets the printed versions of European mags, and they often use the same pictures as their US counterparts, are the sheer beauty of the pictures of Delly Carr offset by white space. For me, the electronic editions, blogs and other online sources just don’t capture that.

#PS what did they do to the aspect ratio on the Maxifuel ad? They’ve made Vicki Holland look like she should be on the wrestling squad.

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Texas, Life by the drop

It’s hard to imagine here in Austin, where the most obvious sign of the drought was the ban on fireworks, the new islands in Lake Travis, a few of us even made jokes about being able to set mountain bike races up out there.

In most other parts of Texas, especially West Texas, its not about fun. 2011 was the driest year on record in Texas, Texas lost between 600,000 and a million head of cattle; people were giving away sound horses rather than see them starve. It’s not a 1-year drought, it’s been going 3-4 years and we are not out of it yet.

I sat in the garage when I got home tonight to listen to the end of this 1-hour documentary on KUT. I’ve not done something like that since, oh I’d guess 1984 when I listened to the Howard Stern show and an interview with a politician over the state of baby polyestors used in suits. It was simply hilariously funny, and it was raining outside.

Life By the Drop is a close look at the state of water and drought in Texas, looking both to the past and the future for answers on how the state can manage a growing population amid a shrinking water supply. I’ve been reading tonight on the StateImpact Texas, with audio slideshows, interviews and more. The show is a great cross between news, history, and documentary.

Listen in, and change your water use.

My name in lights; Morally bankrupt

My name will be on the closing credits for the new film about the destruction of the Menie dune system in Scotland by Donald Trump. The Menie dunes were an amazing and beautiful natural habitat before it was targeted for development. I only visited there the once in 2003.

It’s the first time I’ve been involved in film startup funding, and am excited to finally get to see the film “You’ve Been Trumped” when I go back to the UK next month. Anything that can be done to show the hubris of Donald Trump.

The fact the Trump is an asshat isn’t surprising, but what is disappointing is the arrogance of the golfers and the golf industry. Apparently the course, yet to host it’s first tournament, has made the Top-10 in Gold Worlds top course. As always, these polls can be completely influenced, which is what I guess is going on here, but really this is no more than the modern equivalent of hunting for sport and slaughtering animals for trophies in Africa 100 years ago.

The position of Sir Sean Connery remains mystery and the course heads for its opening. Connery is often qouted as a supporter of the golf course and wanting to attend the opening. However this seems to stem back to a number of statements attributed to Connery back when him and longtime buddy and Scots First Minister Alex Salmond were supporters of Trump. If Connery is indeed still a supporter of the course, he must be not just morally bankrupt, but also now financially a hooker and will do tricks for money[penny].

Executive Communication in an instant

My friend, long time colleague and US Immigration green card referee, not to mention sometime commentor on my blog posts, Nigel Dessau, runs a great blog, podcast, video series called the 3-Minute Mentor. Well worth subscribing.

I get lots of instant messaging interrupts, Lync internally, Chatter for internal social media, Facebook, Twitter, even Yahoo from time to time. Today I had an interrupt from a colleague that wanted to get some information over to our Mergers and Acquisitions team, it sounded like a useful idea but it took quite a few interactions to get to the point of what he was asking, why it was interesting a what it applied to. Then after I agreed a couple of to-do’s, and did mine and told him, I closed the chat only for it to spring back open with some additional info and ended with an apology “Sorry…”

Here are my top 3-tips for communicating with anyone over instant messaging, I didn’t check to see if the 3-Minute mentor covered this…

1. In executive communication be clear and concise about what you want, if you can’t, don’t ask 😉
2. Never apologise unless you are asked to, then think twice unless its obvious you’ve made a mistake
3. Never be afraid to ask… there is no such thing as a dumb question, only a dumb executive 🙂

 

Sun God – Ramsey Lewis

I really didn’t know what to expect from Ramsey Lewis, and having never been to the One World Theatre in Austin, my anicipation was high. I wasn’t disappointed.

The One World Theater is the corollary of many of Austins music venues, its small, intimate and and has great sound. The Ramsey Lewis trio, plus Lewis, barely needed amplification and were all very clear. I was in the isle seat, center left just 3-rows back. I bought my Olympus SLR camera and got it in without trouble, but based on an early experience with a woman shooting video, taking pictures was going to be difficult. Besides, I really wanted to just enjoy the music.

Sun Goddess revisitedThe whole evening was more souful than I could have imagined; given the clarity of the music, the proximity of the stage and the small audience. Lewis played a number of his well known tracks including the 60’s classics Wade in the Water and the In Crowd, he also did a fantastic solo piano of Betcha By Golly Wow, a Stylistics song and a Beatles classic, which now, almost a month later, I’ve forgotten. The theater was hushed, Lewis was in fine, lively form, and the piano sounded perfect.

Ultimately, as a true Lewis fanboy, Lewis and some of his older tracks live was the high point of my concert going experiences. Lewis’s 1970 album the Piano Player would have been fantastic to watch them record. Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire was the drummer for that album, and the tracks were arranged by Charles Stepney who also arranged those key influential early Earth, Wind and Fire albums. [I even added Lewis version of Golden Slumbers to the wikipedia page since it was missing!]. The other member of the Ramsey Lewis trio on the Piano Player was Cleveland Eaton, one time Count Basie Orchestra leader, who went on to record this seminal jazz/funk/disco classic, Bama Boogie Woogie.

The circle of musical life was complete for me when Lewis later came back on for an encore to play the title track from the album Sun Goddess. I’d heard this back in 1974, the harmonies, the beat, the sound changed my outlook on music and to a degree, my life. A few years after that I got a tattoo, and was a massive Earth, Wind & Fire fan.

After the concert was over I waited quietly outside hoping to get a picture with Ramsey Lewis, he came out about 30-minutes later. A woman appeared from nowhere with a stack of vinyl albums for him to sign, he seemed slightly testy. Then some other guy with an old school 35mm film camera stopped him and asked for a picture; I walked alongside him, thanked him for his great music, told him sun goddess had changed my life; after 2-complete sets, instead of the vibrant guy on stage, Lewis had taken on the demeanor of a 76 year old man, late at night. I didn’t ask for a picture, afterall I’ve got the tattoo.

Lewis did an interview and played piano with the KUT folks while in town. You can hear that here, or download the MP3 here.

How to clean up your grill

I sat around for 6-hours yesterday while waiting, with my attorney, David Hartman, to oppose a planning and zoning application(C22, C23) by the owner of the Polvos Mexican restaurant here in Austin.

While speaking, I mentioned that the restaurant regularly washed their commercial grills in the back yard of the residential house and that the dirty water and fat was washed out, down the driveway and into the gutter, and drains, which empty directly into Town Lake, unfiltered.

The owners representative denied he knew anything about this, or how it could happen. Well here are a series of pictures which show the grill tables being cleaned. They are washed in the large aluminum tub, which is never emptied. After that they scrub them clean with the use of some form of chemicals, they they hose them down.

I’ve no idea what laws, rules are being broken here, but I assume that the act of cleaning the commercial equipment in a residential lot, is as they say on University Challenge, your starter for 10.

The the record, the Planning Commission voted to reject the application, 9-0.

 

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TED and Job Creators

Over the past couple of years I’ve watched a few TED videos, they are often educational, always informative and sometimes even entertaining as well. This one showed up in a Yahoo most watched/recommended list on a sidebar on a web search… I’d never heard of Nick Hanauer, but wikipedia and google search have, and he is is an American entrepreneur and venture capitalist and author of the book, The True Patriot.

Nick adds a great link to the chain in so much as I’m able to explain why the current argument over tax in the US positions the 1% incorrectly, but it also adds to my position about the UKs ongoing problem with its’ service economy and my analogy that it is like “eating your own children”. Nick makes the point that the 1% aka the super-rich are not job creators, the middle class are job creators. “Jobs are a result of an ecosystemic feedback loop between customers and businesses”. If the middle class collapses, then there is no one to buy goods; if there is no one to buy goods then the super-rich can’t create businesses to make, sell goods.

Nick also makes a good point that the super-rich really only add jobs as a last ditch effort, not as a first choice. Watch the whole video, it is only 5:50 and well worth your time.