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.

US Government over performing

Yesterday I received a letter congratulating me on becoming a permanent resident and telling me I’d receive my “green card” within the next 3-weeks. Much to my surprise, it showed up in the mail today, along with a small envelope that said “We recommend use of this envelope to protect your new card and to prevent wireless communication with it.”

So the first thing I did was to scan it with my NFC enabled Google Android phone, didn’t work. Anyway cheers to the USCIS Texas processing center for getting my card out so quickly. I’ve already printed USCIS Form N-400 and will be tracking all my trips outside the USA for the next 5-years. The plan is then to send it the form… I’m not worth Eduardo is, yet, but as one person leaves, another arrives.

Constraint Relief

I have this whole disatation I’ve been working on about the evils of the “bell curve” as a performance measure for technical people. It’s mostly about constraint relief. Today, one of the biggest constraints in my life has been lifted. I received the following in the mail from the US Government Dept. of Homeland Security.

WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

The key part says “This is to notify you that your application for permanent residence has been approved. It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to permanent resident status in the United States.” – It’s been a long time coming, longer than I’ve known most of my friends in Austin, and it’s the second time it’s been granted, the first time being 1986.

Special thanks go to my sponsor, Dell and my boss Gerry. Also to my references who had to undertake numerous letter writing efforts on my behalf as I switched jobs between IBM and Dell. Thanks to Adrian, Mike, Stephen, Simon, Nigel and Jim.

Fiscal fairness, take the money and run

Early this month I posted this entry on “fiscal fairness” about paying taxes. This week two items have come up that show why the tax avoidance situation has become unsustainable here in the US and in the UK.

First up in the US in the story that Facebook founding backer Eduardo Saverin’s renunciation of his U.S. citizenship. It really doesn’t matter what he says, Eduardo benefit from the system in place here in the US, and now he is about to get billions of US$ from the Facebook IPO, On advice of counsel, he’s established residency in Singapore, where there is no capital-gains tax. Eric Liu has a good piece on time.com

Then there is Vodafone in the UK. In the UK Private Eye, satirical and investigative magazine #1312, the Eye has uncovered evidence of what it says is total collusion between Vodafone and the head of the Tax authorities in the UK. There has been lots of coverage of the let-off of Vodafones tax bill, but this is the first news of a link that shows how they did it. They’ve managed to get of billions of UK pounds in taxes by using an offshore tax haven in Luxembourg, and making billions in interest and paying little or no taxes. The problem with this for the US, is that Vodafone owns 45% stake in Verizon Wireless. Private Eye isn’t online, but here is a summary.

The problem with both these examples is that although they may be legal, although thats questionable, in both cases it is in essence asset stripping the economies that enabled to make the money in the first place. If everyone did the same thing, then the countries that are target of this manipulation prohibit the next generation from benefiting the same infrastructure you did.

Eric includes on his article a saying attributed to Bill Gates sr. You can read it in full here. Eric write this as “Bill Gates Sr., the father of the father of the first great high-tech fortune, often points out that there is no such thing as a self-made man. We need a country where the dream isn’t to escape to a tax-free island but to be like the elder Gates: responsible, reciprocal, and a citizen of the United States”.

Think of it this way, paying tax is buying civilization.

Dip and Enjoy

They’re stocking biscotti again in the cafeteria in the RR5 mau5trap again, its right next to the register where you pay for “We proudly brew Starbucks coffee”. I’m delighted. I got back to my desk and turned it over to open it, really you had to print an extra label that told you what to do with a bisocotti?

The McDonalds case which ended in them now printing “Warning: Contents Hot.” on Coffee was actaully pretty serious but this is surely just stating the bloody obvious, nes pa?

Money too tight to mention, credit no longer matters

I’ve finally had a financial epiphany. Since the summer of 2004 I’ve been totally focused on getting a perfect credit rating after I got turned down by AT&T for a lousy monthly cellphone contract as I had a -3 credit rating, despite owning a big house back in the UK and having a near perfect credit rating there.

Anyone that reads my rambling will know that until recently I was still anal retentive about this. Especially since I paid off my mortgage and much to my horror, my credit rating dropped. It dropped last month as well and is down from a high of 780, to 764. 764 is still in the top 5% but I was really hoping this would be one way I could make the top 1%.

The epiphany? Well, actually, just like I don’t much need AT&T anymore, I don’t need a credit rating. While there are a few things a credit check remains important for, the rating itself no longer matters, hopefully for me it will stay that way.

Tax, Apple, Buffet, and doing the right thing

image from mainstreet.com
A number of people on my facebook stream have been posting and commenting on the ruckus over Apples tax avoidance, especially as it relates to iTunes, which even a Luxembourg Government official has jumped in to defend the iTunes tax evasion scheme. The other thread that has been running is commentry on the so called “Buffet Rule”, a proposed tax code change to force millionaires and up, to pay a tax rate that is  comparable to the average middle income family, or some such.

I think this is all losing perspective though, although both cases are dissimilar in practice, at their core, the complaints are about the same thing. While Apple is a worldwide corporation, with many share holders, to whom it owes a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profit, how it does it is the same as Buffett.

Changes in laws, it shouldn’t be needed. The billionaires and big companies are master of their own empires, they are not beholden to their accountants and tax advisors. They should move their investments on shore, make sure they are paying a fair wage to all their employees, provide decent health care etc. thats all everone else expects of them. Forcing the goverment to try to inact a law/rule change that is divisive purely because of the polarizing because of what it is trying to do, is just BS. when said billionaires and companies should know that they’d never had made their money in the first place in a weak, unhealthy country that was racked with division, decaying infrastructure, pollution, poorly educated children. JUST PAY YOUR TAXES, don’t avoid them.

Companies recently have spent a lot of time and effort dressing up their annual reports to show their environment and ethical efforts, it is time they did the same for fiscal fairness.

Opportunity and the G Spot

I had a bunch of other cuttings from the newspapers on my Bangalore trip, they didn’t really define or represent the trip, they just showed the big discontinuity between the modern, progressive India, and the pace at which the people are evolving to meet those demands. On the way back I flew via London, one of the few remaining options now American Airlines has cancelled their Delhi flight.

In the terminal I picked up a copy of the Independent newspaper from Friday. It had some great coverage and content on the Murdoch/News International phone tapping scandal, including this troubling commentary from Hayley Barlow on Murdoch and her time and since at News International; there a thoughtful piece by Philip Henscher on the “Spy in a bag”.

But for the defining commentary on Britain, look no further than the letters column, aserbic, sharp, witty, and intelligent it was all there. Here are the last two letters from the column, brilliant.

Traffic, Health and Death in Bangalore

clip from the Times of India

So, this article in the Times of India goes to some length to describe why Bangalores drivers are the worst. But the real problem is the way that life interacts with traffic in Bangalore. The narrow streets, the unfinished roads, the volume of traffic, especially motorcycles and mopeds is just stunning. There is almost no perceivable traffic order and priority everyone just heads in every direction at once and cuts in and out honking all the time.

There are a number of things that make it worse, much worse. You need to understand that cows are sacred and deemed to be a good luck charm. Even in the city they are easily found wandering freely, helping eat the trash and what ever else they can find that can be swallowed, not I didn’t say digestible, cause I don’t want to look. I did see a cow one day eating, chewing what looked like the remnents of a brown paper bag.

Wednesday though there was a massive traffic jam on the way to the hotel, eventually we pulled alongside a man pulling a cow in the road by a piece of rope, tethered to the cow by what looed like a steel bridal through his nose. The guy was far enough from the kerb to cause the traffic jam. Just before we got to him, I could see a massive stream of urine and the cow defacting as the man struggled to move the cow. The guy wasn’t looking at the cow, he was too busy talking on his cellphone. Surreal, when worlds collide.

It wasn’t surpising when this small van passed us the next day, on the side of the van it said Coffin Box, Funeral Box, Embalming or some such. My first reaction was wow, given it was something like 37c/98f I hope the body is properly embalmed, but on closer inspection, there seem to be wheels on the bottom, maybe it isn’t a coffin afterall. Yep, Bangalore traffic is pretty unusual.