30 April 2012

Hunting another one

Jeffrey Gettleman has an article in The New York Times about yet another dictator on the run in Africa:
It has got to be one of the oddest matchups in United States military history: one hundred of America’s elite Special Operations troops, aided by night vision scopes and satellite imagery, are helping African forces find a wig-wearing, gibberish-speaking fugitive rebel commander named Joseph Kony, who has been hiding out in the jungle for years with a band of child soldiers and a harem of dozens of child brides.
No one knows exactly where Kony is, but here in Obo, at a remote forward operating post in the Central African Republic, Green Berets pore over maps and interview villagers, hopeful for a clue.
Their biggest challenge, they say, is Kony’s turf, a vast expanse the size of California in the middle of Africa that is so rugged it renders much of the American gadgetry useless. Picture towering trees that blot out the sun, endless miles of elephant grass, and swirling brown rivers that coil like intestines and are infested with crocodiles; one of them recently ate a Ugandan member of the force.
“This is not going to be an easy slog,” said Ken Wright, a Navy SEAL captain (photo) and the commander of the joint American detachment assisting in the Kony hunt.
Still, in the past several months since they arrived, the Americans say Kony’s army of around three hundred fighters is showing cracks. No longer is Kony able to direct the massacres he directed just a few years ago, when his fighters waylaid entire towns and hacked hundreds of people to death. His armed acolytes are breaking up into small, desperate groups, American officials say, and for the first time they are abandoning many of the women and children they had abducted who cannot keep up as they flee deeper into the bush.
The Americans emphasize that they have no interest in participating in actual combat; “This is strictly an advise and assist role,” Captain Wright said, meant to strengthen the capabilities of African troops. Their deployment is emblematic of the Pentagon’s new military strategy for Africa, unfurled earlier this year, in which Pentagon officials say they will develop “innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives on the African continent”.
Already, American-paid contractors and intelligence agents are working quietly in Somalia. And small groups of American advisers have been training African armies for years, though it is not always clear how well this turns out. Just a few weeks ago, Mali’s democratic government was ousted in a coup led by none other than an American-trained army captain.
Yet no other American military project in sub-Saharan Africa has generated the attention and the high expectations like the pursuit of Kony, partly thanks to a wildly popular video on Kony’s notorious elusiveness and brutality, Kony 2012, that set YouTube records with tens of millions of hits in a matter of days.
General Carter F. Ham, the overall commander of American forces in Africa, has a Kony 2012 poster tacked to his office door. As one American official put it: “Let’s be honest, there was some constituent pressure here. Did Kony 2012 have something to do with this? Absolutely.”
Kony started out in a northern Uganda village more than 25 years ago as a Catholic altar boy who spoke in tongues. People said he was a prophet. He went on to form a rebel force, the Lord’s Resistance Army, bent on overthrowing Uganda’s government and ruling the country with the Ten Commandments. Soon enough, though, Kony was breaking every one.
His fighters mowed down impoverished villagers, sawed off lips, and kidnapped thousands of children, brainwashing them for use as tiny killing machines. Kony often donned wigs and costumes, saying he was possessed by spirits including one named Who Are You? In 2006, Ugandan troops pushed Kony out of Uganda into the lawless borderlands where the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and what is now South Sudan meet.
By this point, Uganda had become one of America’s closest African allies, and when the United States was deeply worried about Somalia’s becoming a terrorist sanctuary, Uganda was the first country to step forward with peacekeepers, scoring major Pentagon points.
In December of 2008, the new American military command for Africa, known by the acronym Africom, helped plan an attack on Kony’s camp in the Congo, dispatching a team of military advisers to Uganda. But Kony escaped before the Ugandan helicopter gunships even took off; apparently he had been tipped off. Worse, his army slaughtered hundreds of nearby villagers in revenge, leaving behind scorched huts and crushed skulls.
The American government continued running a semi-covert logistics and intelligence operation to extend the Ugandan army’s reach so it could chase Kony across the region. The United States has also pumped in more than $500 million in development aid to northern Uganda, turning a former battlefield into a vibrant piece of the Ugandan economy with new banks and hotels.
But many Americans, including the advocacy group Invisible Children, which produced the Kony2012 video, wanted more. They pressured Congress to pass the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act in 2010, which paved the way for President Obama to send in the Special Forces late last year.
One Green Beret officer based in OboCaptain Greg, who, under ground rules with visiting reporters, did not give his last name— said that he had spent the bulk of his time reviewing intelligence reports with Ugandan and Central African counterparts in an old brick house called the fusion center. “Different things pop up all the time,” he said. “Everything from people asking us to fix their broken refrigerator, to someone telling us about an attack that ends up not being the LRA, or even an attack.”
American officials believe Kony is hiding in an especially remote corner of the Central African Republic, though some Ugandan officials said he had moved into the Sudan, with the blessing of the Sudanese government. The Central African Republic would be an excellent place to disappear. Its national army is one of the region’s smallest and weakest. Its terrain is primordially thick. And its infrastructure is shambolic.
Because there are so few roads and telephones, it often takes weeks for news of an attack to reach the fusion center. By the time the Green Berets sift the information and help dispatch the Ugandan hunting squads, Kony is gone. The Americans say they never go on patrols themselves.
United Nations officials say Kony’s forces have stepped up their attacks since the Americans arrived, with more than 130 this year, though the attacks tend to be small, often with no one killed.
About a week ago, Kony’s fighters struck a village in the Central African Republic and made off with the very material he needs to sustain his movement: several abducted children. Kony has often said that all he needs to regenerate is ten men.
This past week, Betty Bigombe, a Ugandan minister, revealed that she had nearly worked out a deal in 2006 for Kony, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, to be exiled to Libya, as Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi had agreed to take him. But, in the end, Bigombe said, Kony backed away, saying he did not trust Arabs.
As one American official put it: “There’s only one way this is going to end, and that’s with Kony shot in the back, running for his life, deep in the forest.”
Rico says the guy couldn't have a more fitting end than 'shot in the back, running for his life, deep in the forest'...

Movie review for the day


Safe. A great thing to be, but the little incredibly smart Chinese girl in this movie isn't. Until Jason Statham comes along. Can't tell the players without a scorecard (hey, Chinese mafia, Russian mafia, crooked NYPD, there's a lot going on), but continuous action (a lot of people get shot, some many times, and things blowing up). Worth the money.

Quote for the day

Rico says that sometimes you run across someone else who thinks the same way; in this case, Dr. Watson (yes, he of Sherlock Holmes fame), in The Resident Patient:
For myself, my term of service in India had trained me to stand heat better than cold, and a thermometer of 90 was no hardship.
Rico says he's never been to India, but his injury has left him able to 'stand heat better than cold'...

29 April 2012

The bastards are watching you

Natasha Singer has an article in The New York Times about data mining:
Would you like to donate to the Obama campaign? Sign up for a college course? Or maybe subscribe to Architectural Digest? If you have ever felt inundated by such solicitations, whether by email or by snail mail, you may have wondered what you did to deserve it.
I did. I wondered how all those campaigns, companies, and institutions got my number. And how much money data brokers behind the scenes might make by flipping my name and address.
Turns out there’s no easy way for consumers in the United States to track the data dealers who profile our spending, web browsing, and social media habits, the better to sell us stuff. Although the Federal Trade Commission issued a consumer privacy report last month urging companies that collect and share customer information to give people more notification and control over the proliferation of their personal details, the recommendations don’t have the force of binding regulations.
So, without a right to compel vendors to show me where my data goes, I decided to do some profiling of my own. I subscribed to a half-dozen print magazines last year, signing up for each with a different typo in my name or variation in my address. Then I collected the direct mail that resulted, tracking the solicitations back to the publishers who had shared my erroneous contact information.
Admittedly, it was unscientific. But I figured this little off-line experiment might provide insight into an even more opaque world — online behavioral targeting — where ad networks deliver tailored marketing pitches to people based on their location, search queries, online purchases and the like.
Here are the results:
Natawsha, the name under which I had subscribed to Wired and The New Yorker, got hit up for a donation to Literacy Partners, a tutoring company in Manhattan, and received a bulletin from the New York Historical SocietyNafasha, who signed up for Fast Company, received solicitations from Forbes. The mangled address I had submitted to Foreign Policy received a cascade of mail from, among others, the World Monuments Fund, Barron’s, and the Kiplinger Letter. And a subscription to The New York Review of Books led to solicitations from the Central Park Conservancy, the New York Public Library, and The New York Times, and, on behalf of President Obama’s 2012 campaign, an appeal from Michelle Obama.
“It is revenue-producing for a publisher to collect subscribers’ information and sell it,” said Paul Stephens, the director of policy and advocacy at the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a consumer group in San Diego. “It’s just information that is very valuable to advertisers who want to target individuals based on their interests.”
Indeed, the Direct Marketing Association, a trade group, has estimated that spending on direct marketing in the United States reached $163 billion in 2011.
Still, a report earlier this year from the White House, laying out a privacy bill of rights for consumers, implicates the decades-old practice of list-sharing, among others. The report says consumers have a right to expect that companies will collect, use and share information in ways consistent with the context in which people provided it.
In other words, if you subscribe to a magazine, you might reasonably expect to receive offers from magazines owned by the same publishing house, said Nancy J. King, a privacy law expert who is an associate professor at Oregon State University’s College of Business.“But you probably would not have expected a magazine to share your information with a political campaign” that has inferred your political preferences from your choice of periodicals, Professor King said.
Of course, publishers are hardly the only businesses sharing and selling consumer information. In the United States, with the exception of specific sectors like credit and health care, companies are free to use their customers’ data as they deem appropriate. That means that, every time a person buys a car or a house, takes a trip or stays in a hotel, signs up for a catalog, or shops online or in a mall, his or her name might end up on a list shared with other marketers. That can happen directly, or through middlemen known as list brokers and data brokers.
The ultimate purpose of all this sharing and profiling is to personalize marketing, using analytics to predict the offers most likely to interest consumers based on their past behavior, says Linda A. Woolley, the executive vice president of Washington operations at the Direct Marketing Association. “Sometimes the analytics are right; sometimes they are wrong,” Woolley said. “The industry exists to try to perfect those guesses.” For those who’d rather not receive such offers, she said, the trade group offers a dedicated website, dmachoice.org, where people can opt out of getting all kinds of direct mail or specific categories of it, like credit card offers.
But Christopher Olsen, the assistant director of privacy and identity protection in the Federal Trade Commission’s bureau of consumer protection, said companies ought to notify their customers if they plan to share information about them with third parties rather than simply permitting people to opt out after the fact. Indeed, the agency’s recent report calls on industry to be more transparent with consumers. “If your name is flying around the ether because you have subscribed to a magazine,” Olsen said, “you ought to understand who has got that information and whether you have a choice about its onward distribution.”
Although all of the magazines contacted for this article said their subscribers could opt out, some publishers took a more active approach than others to notifying readers of their practices.
Natalie Raabe, a spokeswoman for The Atlantic, for example, said the magazine occasionally allows companies it has screened to contact subscribers about products or services that may be of interest. But the magazine does not share subscriber addresses directly with these companies, she said; it uses a third party to administer the process.
A spokeswoman for Condé Nast, publisher of The New Yorker, said it adhered to industry best practices, and offered subscribers multiple ways to opt out.
Diane R. Seltzer, list manager at The New York Review of Books, vets all proposals from companies that want to market to subscribers to ensure the offers are appropriate. Those making the cut are charged a rental fee of $105 per 1,000 names for one-time use, she said. The publication runs an ad in every issue, she added, notifying subscribers of this practice and explaining how to opt out. “We are very proactive in trying to keep subscribers happy,” she said.
In light of the new federal privacy reports, however, at least one publisher said it might halt, or at least further limit, the selling of its subscriber list. “I think media companies are going to have to tackle this issue,” said David Rothkopf, the new chief executive of Foreign Policy. Two months into the job, he said, he had hired a new circulation director and intended to review his magazines’ list-sharing policy: “I think there are people out there who don’t want to be part of some giant circulating mailing list.”
Rico says no, the ultimate purpose of all this sharing and profiling is to make money. But asking the publishers to split ten cents a name is hardly worth the effort…

A fair question

Rico says his arch-perv friend Dave asks the obvious question: which one is liable to bring him back to life faster?

Them damned nuns

Maureen Dowd has a right-on (as usual) column in The New York Times about the Catholic Church:
It is an astonishing thing that historians will look back and puzzle over, that in the twenty-first century, American women were such hunted creatures. Even as Republicans try to wrestle women into chastity belts, the Vatican is trying to muzzle American nuns.
Who thinks it’s cool to bully nuns? While continuing to heal and educate, the community of sisters is aging and dying out because few younger women are willing to make such sacrifices for a church determined to bring women to heel. Yet the nuns must be yanked into line by the crepuscular, medieval men who run the Catholic Church.
“It’s not terribly unlike the days of yore, when they singled out people in the rough days of the Inquisition,” said Kenneth Briggs, the author of Double Crossed: Uncovering the Catholic Church’s Betrayal of American Nuns.
How can the church hierarchy be more offended by the nuns’ impassioned advocacy for the poor than by priests’ sordid pedophilia? How do you take spiritual direction from a church that seems to be losing its soul?
It has become a habit for the church to go after women. A Worcester, Massachusetts bishop successfully fought to get a commencement speech invitation taken away from Vicki Kennedy, widow of Teddy Kennedy, because of her positions on some social issues. And an Indiana woman named Emily Herx has filed a lawsuit, saying she was fired from her job teaching in a Catholic school, and denounced as a “grave, immoral sinner” by the parish pastor, after she used fertility treatments to try to get pregnant with her husband.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York recently told The Wall Street Journal that only “a tiny minority” of priests were tainted by the sex abuse scandal. But it’s a global shame spiral. The church leadership never recoiled in horror from pedophilia, yet it recoils in horror from outspoken nuns.
In Philadelphia, William Lynn, 61, is the first church supervisor to go on trial for child endangerment. He is fighting charges that he may have covered up for twenty priests accused of sexual abuse and left in the ministry, often transferred to unwitting parishes. Somehow, the Philadelphia church leaders decided that the Reverend Thomas Smith was not sexually motivated when he made boys strip and be whipped playing Christ in a Passion play. Somehow they decided an altar boy, who said he was raped by two priests and his fifth-grade teacher, was not the one in need of protection.
Instead of looking deep into its own heart and soul, the church is going after the women who are the heart and soul of parishes, schools, and hospitals. The stunned sisters are debating how to respond after the Vatican’s scorching reprimand to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, the main association of American Catholic nuns. The bishops were obviously peeved that some nuns had the temerity to speak out in support of President Obama’s health care plan, including his compromise on contraception for religious hospitals.
The Vatican accused the nuns of pushing “radical feminist themes”, and said they were not vocal enough in parroting church policy against the ordination of women as priests and against abortion, contraception, and homosexual relationships.
In a blatant Shut up and sit down, sisters moment, the Vatican’s doctrinal office, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, noted: “Occasional public statements by the LCWR that disagree with or challenge positions taken by the bishops, who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals, are not compatible with its purpose.”
Pope Benedict, who became known as God’s Rottweiler when he was the cardinal conducting the office’s loyalty tests, assigned Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle to crack down on the climate of “corporate dissent” among the poor nuns. When the nuns push for social justice, they’re put into stocks. Yet Archbishop Sartain has led a campaign in Washington to reverse the state’s newly enacted law allowing same-sex marriage, and he’s a church hero.
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a Catholic lobbying group slapped in the Vatican report, said it scares the church hierarchy to have “educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue.” She told NPR that it was ironic that church leaders were mad at sisters over contraception, when the nuns had committed to a celibate life with no families or babies. Given the damage done by the pedophilia scandals, she said, “the church’s obsession, at times, with the sexual relationships is a serious problem.”
Asked by The Journal if the church had a hard time convincing the flock to follow its strict teachings on sexuality, Cardinal Dolan laughed: “Do we ever!”
Church leaders behave like adolescent boys, blinded by sex. That’s the problem with inquisitors and censors: they become fascinated by what they deplore.
The Pope needs what the rest of us got from nuns: a good rap across the knuckles.
Rico says that, no, what the Pope needs is a good rap in the bollocks...

More Apple for the day

Apple, the world’s most profitable technology company, doesn’t design iPhones in Reno, Nevada. It doesn’t run AppleCare customer service from this city. And it doesn’t manufacture MacBooks or iPads anywhere nearby. Yet, with a handful of employees in a small office here, Apple has done something central to its corporate strategy: it has avoided millions of dollars in taxes in California and twenty other states.
Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, California. But, by putting an office in Reno, just two hundred miles away, to collect and invest the company’s profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains. California’s corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada’s is Zero.
Setting up an office in Reno is just one of many legal methods Apple uses to reduce its worldwide tax bill by billions of dollars each year. As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the British Virgin Islands— some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office— that help cut the taxes it pays around the world.
Almost every major corporation tries to minimize its taxes, of course. For Apple, the savings are especially alluring because the company’s profits are so high. Wall Street analysts predict Apple could earn up to $45.6 billion in its current fiscal year, which would be a record for any American business.
Apple serves as a window on how technology giants have taken advantage of tax codes written for an industrial age and ill suited to today’s digital economy. Some profits at companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft derive not from physical goods, but from royalties on intellectual property, like the patents on software that makes devices work. Other times, the products themselves are digital, like downloaded songs. It is much easier for businesses with royalties and digital products to move profits to low-tax countries than it is, say, for grocery stores or automakers. A downloaded application, unlike a car, can be sold from anywhere.
The growing digital economy presents a conundrum for lawmakers overseeing corporate taxation: although technology is now one of the nation’s largest and most valued industries, many tech companies are among the least taxed, according to government and corporate data. Over the last two years, the seventy technology companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index— including Apple, Google, Yahoo, and Dell— reported paying worldwide cash taxes at a rate that, on average, was a third less than other S&P companies’. (Cash taxes may include payments for multiple years.)
Even among tech companies, Apple’s rates are low. And, while the company has remade industries, ignited economic growth, and delighted customers, it has also devised corporate strategies that take advantage of gaps in the tax code, according to former executives who helped create those strategies.
Apple, for instance, was among the first tech companies to designate overseas salespeople in high-tax countries in a manner that allowed them to sell on behalf of low-tax subsidiaries on other continents, sidestepping income taxes, according to former executives. Apple was a pioneer of an accounting technique known as the Double Irish With a Dutch Sandwich, which reduces taxes by routing profits through Irish subsidiaries and the Netherlands, and then to the Caribbean. Today, that tactic is used by hundreds of other corporations— some of which directly imitated Apple’s methods, say accountants at those companies.
Without such tactics, Apple’s federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent. (Apple does not disclose what portion of those payments was in the United States, or what portion is assigned to previous or future years.) By comparison, Wal-Mart last year paid worldwide cash taxes of $5.9 billion on its booked profits of $24.4 billion, a tax rate of 24 percent, which is about average for non-tech companies.
Apple’s domestic tax bill has piqued particular curiosity among corporate tax experts because, although the company is based in the United States, its profits, on paper, at least, are largely foreign. While Apple contracts out much of the manufacturing and assembly of its products to other companies overseas, the majority of Apple’s executives, product designers, marketers, employees, research and development, and retail stores are in the United States. Tax experts say it is therefore reasonable to expect that most of Apple’s profits would be American as well. The nation’s tax code is based on the concept that a company “earns” income where value is created, rather than where products are sold.
However, Apple’s accountants have found legal ways to allocate about seventy percent of its profits overseas, where tax rates are often much lower, according to corporate filings.
Neither the government nor corporations make tax returns public, and a company’s taxable income often differs from the profits disclosed in annual reports. Companies report their cash outlays for income taxes in their annual Form 10-K, but it is impossible, from those numbers, to determine precisely how much, in total, corporations pay to governments. In Apple’s last annual disclosure, the company listed its worldwide taxes— which includes cash taxes paid as well as deferred taxes and other charges— at $8.3 billion, an effective tax rate of almost a quarter of profits.
However, tax analysts and scholars said that figure most likely overstated how much the company would hand to governments because it included sums that might never be paid. “The information on 10-Ks is fiction for most companies,” said Kimberly Clausing, an economist at Reed College who specializes in multinational taxation. “But for tech companies it goes from fiction to farcical.”
Apple, in a statement, said it “has conducted all of its business with the highest of ethical standards, complying with applicable laws and accounting rules.” It added: “We are incredibly proud of all of Apple’s contributions.” Apple “pays an enormous amount of taxes, which help our local, state and federal governments,” the statement also said. “In the first half of fiscal year 2012, our US operations have generated almost $5 billion in federal and state income taxes, including income taxes withheld on employee stock gains, making us among the top payers of US income tax.” The statement did not specify how it arrived at $5 billion, nor did it address the issue of deferred taxes, which the company may pay in future years or decide to defer indefinitely. The $5 billion figure appears to include taxes ultimately owed by Apple employees.
The sums paid by Apple and other tech corporations is a point of contention in the company’s backyard. A mile and a half from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters is De Anza College, a community college that Steve Wozniak, one of Apple’s founders, attended from 1969 to 1974. Because of California’s state budget crisis, De Anza has cut more than a thousand courses and eight percent of its faculty since 2008. Now, however, De Anza faces a budget gap so large that it is confronting a “death spiral”, the school’s president, Brian Murphy, wrote to the faculty in January. Apple, of course, is not responsible for the state’s financial shortfall, which has numerous causes. But the company’s tax policies are seen by officials like Murphy as symptomatic of why the crisis exists. “I just don’t understand it,” he said in an interview. “I’ll bet every person at Apple has a connection to De Anza. Their kids swim in our pool. Their cousins take classes here. They drive past it every day, for Pete’s sake. But then they do everything they can to pay as few taxes as possible.”
In 2006, as Apple’s bank accounts and stock price were rising, company executives came to Reno and established a subsidiary named Braeburn Capital (photo) to manage and invest the company’s cash. (Braeburn is a variety of apple that is simultaneously sweet and tart.)
Today, Braeburn’s offices are down a narrow hallway inside a bland building that sits across from an abandoned restaurant. Inside, there are posters of candy-colored iPods and a large Apple insignia, as well as a handful of desks and computer terminals.
When someone in the United States buys an iPhone, iPad, or other Apple product, a portion of the profits from that sale is often deposited into accounts controlled by Braeburn, and then invested in stocks, bonds, or other financial instruments, say company executives. Then, when those investments turn a profit, some of it is shielded from tax authorities in California by virtue of Braeburn’s Nevada address.
Since founding Braeburn, Apple has earned more than $2.5 billion in interest and dividend income on its cash reserves and investments around the globe. If Braeburn were located in Cupertino, where Apple’s top executives work, a portion of the domestic income would be taxed at California’s 8.84 percent corporate income tax rate.
But, in Nevada, there is no state corporate income tax and no capital gains tax. What’s more, Braeburn allows Apple to lower its taxes in other states— including Florida, New Jersey, and New Mexico— because many of those jurisdictions use formulas that reduce what is owed when a company’s financial management occurs elsewhere. Apple does not disclose what portion of cash taxes is paid to states, but the company reported that it owed $762 million in state income taxes nationwide last year. That effective state tax rate is higher than the rate of many other tech companies, but, as Clausing and other tax analysts have noted, such figures are often not reliable guides to what is actually paid.
Dozens of other companies, including Cisco, Harley-Davidson, and Microsoft, have also set up Nevada subsidiaries that bypass taxes in other states. Hundreds of other corporations reap similar savings by locating offices in Delaware.
But some in California are unhappy that Apple and other California-based companies have moved financial operations to tax-free states— particularly since lawmakers have offered them tax breaks to keep them in the state.
In 1996, 1999, and 2000, for instance, the California Legislature increased the state’s research and development tax credit, permitting hundreds of companies, including Apple, to avoid billions in state taxes, according to legislative analysts. Apple has reported tax savings of $412 million from research and development credits of all sorts since 1996.
Then, in 2009, after an intense lobbying campaign led by Apple, Cisco, Oracle, Intel, and other companies, the California Legislature reduced taxes for corporations based in California but operating in other states or nations. Legislative analysts say the change will eventually cost the state government about $1.5 billion a year.
Such lost revenue is one reason California now faces a budget crisis, with a shortfall of more than $9.2 billion in the coming fiscal year alone. The state has cut some health care programs, significantly raised tuition at state universities, cut services to the disabled, and proposed a $4.8 billion reduction in spending on kindergarten and other grades.
Apple declined to comment on its Nevada operations. Privately, some executives said it was unfair to criticize the company for reducing its tax bill when thousands of other companies acted similarly. If Apple volunteered to pay more in taxes, it would put itself at a competitive disadvantage, they argued, and do a disservice to its shareholders.
Indeed, Apple’s decisions have yielded benefits. After announcing one of the best quarters in its history last week, the company said it had net profits of $24.7 billion on revenues of $85.5 billion in the first half of the fiscal year, and more than $110 billion in the bank, according to company filings.
Every second of every hour, millions of times each day, in living rooms and at cash registers, consumers click the “Buy” button on iTunes or hand over payment for an Apple product.
And, with that, an international financial engine kicks into gear, moving money across continents in the blink of an eye. While Apple’s Reno office helps the company avoid state taxes, its international subsidiaries— particularly the company’s assignment of sales and patent royalties to other nations— help reduce taxes owed to the American and other governments. For instance, one of Apple’s subsidiaries in Luxembourg, named iTunes S.à r.l., has just a few dozen employees, according to corporate documents filed in that nation and a current executive. The only indication of the subsidiary’s presence outside is a letterbox with a lopsided slip of paper reading ITUNES SARL.
Luxembourg has just half a million residents. But, when customers across Europe, Africa, or the Middle East (and potentially elsewhere) download a song, television show, or app, the sale is recorded in this small country, according to current and former executives. In 2011, iTunes S.à r.l.’s revenue exceeded a billion dollars, according to an Apple executive, representing roughly twenty percent of iTunes’s worldwide sales. The advantages of Luxembourg are simple, say Apple executives. The country has promised to tax the payments collected by Apple and numerous other tech corporations at low rates if they route transactions through Luxembourg. Taxes that would have otherwise gone to the governments of Britain, France, the United States, and dozens of other nations, go instead to Luxembourg, at discounted rates. “We set up in Luxembourg because of the favorable taxes,” said Robert Hatta, who helped oversee Apple’s iTunes retail marketing and sales for European markets until 2007. “Downloads are different from tractors or steel because there’s nothing you can touch, so it doesn’t matter if your computer is in France or England. If you’re buying from Luxembourg, it’s a relationship with Luxembourg.” An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the Luxembourg operations.
Downloadable goods illustrate how modern tax systems have become increasingly ill-equipped for an economy dominated by electronic commerce. Apple, say former executives, has been particularly talented at identifying legal tax loopholes and hiring accountants who, as much as iPhone designers, are known for their innovation. In the 1980s, for instance, Apple was among the first major corporations to designate overseas distributors as “commissionaires”, rather than retailers, said Michael Rashkin, Apple’s first director of tax policy, who helped set up the system before leaving in 1999.
To customers, the designation was virtually unnoticeable. But, because commissionaires never technically take possession of inventory— which would require them to recognize taxes— the structure allowed a salesman in high-tax Germany, for example, to sell computers on behalf of a subsidiary in low-tax Singapore. Hence, most of those profits would be taxed at Singaporean, rather than German, rates.
In the late 1980s, Apple was among the pioneers in creating a tax structure— known as the Double Irish— that allowed the company to move profits into tax havens around the world, said Tim Jenkins, who helped set up the system as an Apple European finance manager until 1994.
Apple created two Irish subsidiaries— today named Apple Operations International and Apple Sales International— and built a glass-encased factory amid the green fields of Cork. The Irish government offered Apple tax breaks in exchange for jobs, according to former executives with knowledge of the relationship.
But the bigger advantage was that the arrangement allowed Apple to send royalties on patents developed in California to Ireland. The transfer was internal, and simply moved funds from one part of the company to a subsidiary overseas. But as a result, some profits were taxed at the Irish rate of approximately 12.5 percent, rather than at the American statutory rate of 35 percent. In 2004, Ireland, a nation of less than five million, was home to more than one-third of Apple’s worldwide revenues, according to company filings. (Apple has not released more recent estimates.)
Moreover, the second Irish subsidiary, the Double, allowed other profits to flow to tax-free companies in the Caribbean. Apple has assigned partial ownership of its Irish subsidiaries to Baldwin Holdings Unlimited in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven, according to documents filed there and in Ireland. Baldwin Holdings has no listed offices or telephone number, and its only listed director is Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, who lives and works in Cupertino. (Baldwin apples are known for their hardiness while traveling.)
Finally, because of Ireland’s treaties with European nations, some of Apple’s profits could travel virtually tax-free through the Netherlands— the Dutch Sandwich— which made them essentially invisible to outside observers and tax authorities. Robert Promm, Apple’s controller in the mid-1990s, called the strategy “the worst-kept secret in Europe.”
It is unclear precisely how Apple’s overseas finances now function. In 2006, the company reorganized its Irish divisions as unlimited corporations, which have few requirements to disclose financial information.
However, tax experts say that strategies like the Double Irish help explain how Apple has managed to keep its international taxes to 3.2 percent of foreign profits last year, to 2.2 percent in 2010, and in the single digits for the last half-decade, according to the company’s corporate filings.
Apple declined to comment on its operations in Ireland, the Netherlands, and the British Virgin Islands. Apple reported in its last annual disclosures that $24 billion, or seventy percent, of its total $34.2 billion in pretax profits were earned abroad, and thirty percent were earned in the United States. But Sullivan, the former Treasury Department economist who today writes for the trade publication Tax Analysts, said that “given that all of the marketing and products are designed here, and the patents were created in California, that number should probably be at least fifty percent”.
If profits were evenly divided between the United States and foreign countries, Apple’s federal tax bill would have increased by about $2.4 billion last year, he said, because a larger amount of its profits would have been subject to the United States’ higher corporate income tax rate. “Apple, like many other multinationals, is using perfectly legal methods to keep a significant portion of their profits out of the hands of the IRS,” Sullivan said. “And when America’s most profitable companies pay less, the general public has to pay more.”
Other tax experts, like Edward D. Kleinbard, former chief of staff of the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, have reached similar conclusions. “This tax avoidance strategy used by Apple and other multinationals doesn’t just minimize the companies’ US taxes,” said Kleinbard, now a professor of tax law at the University of Southern California. “It’s German tax and French tax and tax in the UK and elsewhere.” One downside for companies using such strategies is that when money is sent overseas, it cannot be returned to the United States without incurring a new tax bill. However, that might change. Apple, which holds $74 billion offshore, last year aligned itself with more than four dozen companies and organizations urging Congress for a “repatriation holiday” that would permit American businesses to bring money home without owing large taxes. The coalition, which includes Google, Microsoft, and Pfizer, has hired dozens of lobbyists to push for the measure, which has not yet come up for vote. The tax break would cost the federal government $79 billion over the next decade, according to a Congressional report.
In one of his last public appearances before his death, Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, addressed Cupertino’s City Council last June, seeking approval to build a new headquarters. Most of the Council was effusive in its praise of the proposal. But one councilwoman, Kris Wang, had questions. How will residents benefit? she asked. Perhaps Apple could provide free wireless Internet to Cupertino, she suggested, something Google had done in neighboring Mountain View.
“See, I’m a simpleton; I’ve always had this view that we pay taxes, and the city should do those things,” Jobs replied, according to a video of the meeting. “That’s why we pay taxes. Now, if we can get out of paying taxes, I’ll be glad to put up Wi-Fi.” He suggested that, if the City Council were unhappy, perhaps Apple could move. The company is Cupertino’s largest taxpayer, with more than eight million dollars in property taxes assessed by local officials last year. Wang dropped her suggestion. Cupertino, Wang said in an interview, has real financial problems. “We’re proud to have Apple here,” said Wang, who has since left the Council. “But how do you get them to feel more connected?”
Other residents argue that Apple does enough as Cupertino’s largest employer, and that tech companies, in general, have buoyed California’s economy. Apple’s workers eat in local restaurants, serve on local boards, and donate to local causes. Silicon Valley’s many millionaires pay personal state income taxes. In its statement, Apple said its “international growth is creating jobs domestically, since we oversee most of our operations from California. The vast majority of our global work force remains in the US,” the statement continued, “with more than 47,000 full-time employees in all fifty states.”
Moreover, Apple has given nearby Stanford University more than fifty million dollars in the last two years. The company has also donated fifty million dollars to an African aid organization. In its statement, Apple said: “We have contributed to many charitable causes, but have never sought publicity for doing so. Our focus has been on doing the right thing, not getting credit for it. In 2011, we dramatically expanded the number of deserving organizations we support by initiating a matching gift program for our employees.”
Still, some, including Murphy, the president of De Anza College, say the philanthropy and job creation do not offset Apple’s and other companies’ decisions to circumvent taxes. Within twenty minutes of the financially ailing school are the global headquarters of Google, Facebook, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Cisco. “When it comes time for all these companies— Google and Apple and Facebook and the rest— to pay their fair share, there’s a knee-jerk resistance,” Murphy said. “They’re philosophically antitax, and it’s decimating the state. But I’m not complaining,” he added. “We can’t afford to upset these guys. We need every dollar we can get.”

Apple for the day


"Apple, like many other multinationals, is using perfectly legal methods to keep a significant portion of their profits out of the hands of the IRS. And when America's most profitable companies pay less, the general public has to pay more."
Martin Sullivan, a former Treasury Department economist, on Apple's tax strategies.

Scam for the day

From: "Mary Eddy" <meddy@beloitmemorialhospital.org>

 

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3. Phone/fax Numbers:
4. Age:
5. Occupation:
6. Company Name:

Do get back with the above information for quick delivery of payments.

Thanks

Randy Lee
Director of Payments

28 April 2012

History for the day

On 28 April 1947, a six-man expedition, aboard a balsa-wood raft (photo) named the Kon-Tiki, sailed from Peru on a 101-day journey across the Pacific Ocean to Polynesia.

Quote for the day

"There's only one way to keep a secret in Washington: don't tell anybody."
Tom Donilon, advisor to President Obama

Amazing

Rico says a friend sends these photos, of Ed Brown's garage, near Leechburg, Pennsylvania, a private collection that (alas) is not open to the public at this time:

27 April 2012

An eagle, swimming (no, really)

Rico says his friend Dave sends this:

Not the show, the band

Rico says that Time has an obituary:
Greg Ham, 58, played saxophone and flute for the Australian band Men at Work; he helped produce the 1980s hits Who Can It Be Now? and Down Under.

The Apple way

Time's Techland has an article about Apple:
We’ve all been there. You’re eating a Waldorf salad with your coworkers, talking about last night’s Seinfeld and sharing proprietary secrets, when all of a sudden you notice a guy from Microsoft behind you, quietly taking notes. Well, it looks like Apple has decided to protect its employees from such scenarios by building its own off-campus restaurant.
According to the San Jose Mercury News, Apple got permission at a recent planning commission meeting to start building a 21,468-square-foot restaurant in Cupertino. Sadly, tourists and locals who don’t work for Apple won’t get to dine there:
“We like to provide a level of security so that people and employees can feel comfortable talking about their business, their research and whatever project they’re engineering without fear of competition overhearing their conversations,” said Dan Whisenhunt, Apple’s director of real estate facilities, said at the meeting. “That is a real issue today in Cupertino, because we’ve got other companies here in our same business.”
The two-story facility will mainly service Apple employees who work in satellite buildings of Apple’s main campus and should expect around 228 visits per hour during its mid-day lunch peak. The gauntlet has been thrown, Google and Facebook; let the battle of Internet company lunches begin.
Rico says that it's good to be the prince...

Jarheads, raus!

Ankita Rao has a Slate article about Okinawa:
American and Japanese officials have announced that the United States will relocate a little less than half of the nineteen thousand Marines currently stationed in Okinawa to other bases in the surrounding region, in a bid to ease tensions with locals, who see the base as too noisy and the soldiers as potentially violent, the Washington Post reports.
The Marines will be moved to bases in Hawai'i, the US territory of Guam, and other locations in the Pacific. The Associated Press explains that roughly ten thousand Marines will remain stationed in Okinawa, which is seen as crucial to the American military strategy in the region. The estimated cost of relocation is $8.6 billion, of which Japan will pay $3.1 billion. No time table has been announced for the move. The New York Times notes that the American presence in the Asia-Pacific region will not decrease because of the agreement.
The Japanese foreign minister, Koichiro Genba, called the agreement a "forward-looking and concrete one that prioritizes reducing the burden on Okinawa, including the return of land." Japan is also pushing the United States to shift their military base in Okinawa from its current location in an urban area to a less populated one.
Rico says we should've annexed Okinawa in 1945, when we had the chance...

Angel flight

Rico says his friend Tex sends this one, for all the vets out there:

New comment

Rico says that's what the damned internet is for:
Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "North Korea's missiles are fake":
I am am excited, too, with this question. Tell to me, please - where I can find more information on this question?

Scam for the day

CHEVRON EMAIL DRAW 2012

Your E-mail ID Has Won You £1,000,000.00
Reply with
Full Name:
Address:
Country:
Phone Number:
Regards,
Name: Dr Mike Morgan
Tel : +44-701-005-9671

26 April 2012

North Korea's missiles are fake

Rico says that, given their behavior, one shouldn't have been surprised, but Daniel Politi and Abby Ohlheiser have a Slate story about North Korea:
It isn't going to help North Korea's attempts to force the international community to take its military might seriously, but the Associated Press reports that analysts have concluded that a half-dozen new missiles that the reclusive nation showcased at a parade which followed its embarrassing failed rocket launch earlier this month were actually fakes. And pretty bad ones at that. Experts noted that photos show that the rockets didn't fit in the launchers, were made of flimsy metal that would not be able to withstand flight, and mixed liquid and solid fuel parts that can't fly together. Many observers have long believed that North Korea is trying to build a long-range missile capable of reaching the United States, but the nation's ability to do so remains very much in question.
New North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gave his first public speech on Sunday, 15 April, making it clear that despite the failed rocket launch, the country would continue prioritizing the military ahead of the economy, according to the Wall Street Journal. The military should be the country’s “first, second, and third” priority, Kim said during a twenty-minute speech in which he never mentioned the failed launch. The speech itself was perhaps more important than what he said, as it marked a stark contrast from late leader Kim Jong Il, whose voice was only publicly heard once by the North Korean public, according to the Washington Post. It wasn’t just the speech itself that marked Kim’s different style, noted the BBC. The dictator, who is believed to be in his late twenties, remained in full public view during a huge military parade as cameras focused on him laughing and clapping with the senior officials who surrounded him. In an illustration of his message that military strength would take priority over everything else, the huge military parade ended with the unveiling of a new long-range missile. Yet the Associated Press pointed out it’s not clear how significant it is, as some analysts seem to think it could be a dummy designed to fool outsiders.
The United States and its allies are keeping a close eye on the situation in North Korea, making it clear that the country’s humiliating failure to launch a rocket could lead to more provocation from the reclusive state. The White House has suspended a deal that would have provided a significant amount of food aid to North Korea, reports Reuters.
Analysts say the failure could be the first test of whether anyone will challenge young leader Kim Jong-un for power, and has led to speculation he would launch a third underground nuclear test to try to recover, reports The New York Times.
Despite international warnings, North Korea went ahead on Friday, 13 April, with its much-hyped satellite launch, only to watch as the rocket broke up over the Yellow Sea and the satellite failed to reach orbit.
The Associated Press reported that North Korea usually denies failure in similar situations but, this time, perhaps because of the international media presence invited to watch the launch, Pyongyang admitted that the satellite the rocket had been carrying did not make it into orbit. The country is nonetheless pushing ahead with the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung's birth.
The United States condemned the launch, along with countries in the region, CNN reported. The UN Security Council will meet to discuss the failed launch.
On Wednesday, 11 April, North Korea began fueling the rocket that it plans to launch into space in the next week, despite international condemnation of the effort. The Associated Press reported that Pyongyang said it plans to use the rocket to put a satellite into orbit some time in a five-day window. The launch is part of a hundredth anniversary celebration of North Korean founder Kil Il Sung's birth.
South Korea and its western allies, however, say that the launch is simply a way for the reclusive nation to test a long-range missile, and the United States has warned that, if it follows through with the launch, it will jeopardize a food aid deal between the two countries.
Western journalists, meanwhile, have been invited to the country, and the rocket launch site, as "part of a concerted effort by North Korea to convince its critics that the rocket program is for perfectly legitimate and peaceful purposes," according to the BBC’s Charles Scanlon.
The centennial will also mark Kim Jong-un's official ascension as the ruler of the country after the December death of his father Kim Jong-il. Kim Jong-un was named the first secretary of the Workers' Party, which makes him the country's top political official.
North Korea invited foreign journalists to watch as it finished moving all three stages of a long-range rocket into position, making it clear that it’s going ahead with the planned launch despite international condemnation, reported the Associated Press. Pyongyang has said it plans to launch a rocket to put a satellite into orbit between the 12th and 16th of April to mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung.
Inviting Western journalists to the launch site is “part of a concerted effort by North Korea to convince its critics that the rocket program is for perfectly legitimate and peaceful purposes”, according to the BBC’s Charles Scanlon. There’s widespread speculation the launch is an excuse to test a long-range missile.
Meanwhile, the South Korean news agency Yonhap heard word from an intelligence official that North Korea is getting ready to conduct its third nuclear test. Satellite images allegedly show the regime building a new underground tunnel in the same location where nuclear tests were carried out in 2006 and 2009. The New York Times pointed out that some in South Korea believe the government is leaking the news ahead of the parliamentary elections in order to help the governing conservative party by emphasizing the threat from the North.

Tits for the day

Rico says his arch-perv friend Dave sent a series of photos, with the notation that "one of the things I've decided to do lately is to keep my buddies abreast of things", leading Rico to ask: "What is it about variously-sized sacs of mammalian fatty tissue that causes us to spend all this time, effort, and money to look at them?"

Sex for the day

Rico says his mother (of all people) sends this:
Research shows that there are seven kinds of sex.
The first kind is called Smurf Sex. This kind of sex happens when you first meet someone, and you both have sex until you are blue in the face.
The second kind is called Kitchen Sex. This is when you have been with your partner for a short time, and you are so needy you will have sex anywhere, even in the kitchen.
The third kind is called Bedroom Sex. This is when you have been with your partner for a long time, your sex has gotten routine, and you usually have sex only in your bedroom.
The fourth kind is called Hallway Sex. This is when you have been with your partner for too long. When you pass each other in the hallway, you both say "Screw you".
The fifth kind is called Religious Sex. This means you get Nun in the morning, Nun in the afternoon, and Nun at night. (This is very popular.)
The sixth kind is called Courtroom Sex. This is when you cannot stand your wife any more. She takes you to court and screws you in front of everyone.
And, last, but not least, the seventh kind of sex is called Social Security Sex. You get a little each month, but not enough to enjoy yourself.

Gubs for the day

Rico says his friend Doug sends this, originally published in Guns & Ammo in October of 1995:
On 1 and 2 August 1946, some Americans, brutalized by their county government, used armed force as a last resort to overturn it. These Americans wanted honest open elections. For years they had asked for state or federal election monitors to prevent vote fraud (forged ballots, secret ballot counts, and intimidation by armed sheriff's deputies) by the local political boss. They got no help.
Their absolute refusal to knuckle under had been hardened by service in World War Two. Having fought to free other countries from murderous regimes, they rejected vicious abuse by their county government. These Americans had a choice. Their state's Constitution— Article 1, Section 26— recorded their right to keep and bear arms for the common defense. Few "gun control" laws had been enacted.
These Americans were residents of McMinn County, which is located between Chattanooga and Knoxville in Eastern Tennessee. The two main towns were Athens and Etowah. McMinn County residents had long been independent political thinkers. For a long time they also had accepted bribe-taking by politicians and/or the sheriff to overlook illicit whiskey-making and gambling; financed the sheriff's department from fines-usually for speeding or public drunkenness which promoted false arrests; and put up with voting fraud by both Democrats and Republicans.
The wealthy Cantrell family, of Etowah, backed Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1932 election, hoping New Deal programs would revive the local economy and help Democrats to replace Republicans in the county government. So it proved.
Paul Cantrell was elected sheriff in the 1936,1938 and 1940 elections, but by slim margins. The sheriff was the key county official. Cantrell was elected to the state senate in 1942 and 1944; his chief deputy, Pat Mansfield, was elected sheriff. In 1946 Paul Cantrell again sought the sheriff's office.
At the end of 1945, some three thousand battle-hardened veterans returned to McMinn County; the GIs held Cantrell politically responsible for Mansfield's doings. Early in 1946, some newly returned ex-GIs decided to challenge Cantrell politically by offering an all-ex-GI, non-partisan ticket. They promised a fraud-free election, stating in ads and speeches that there would be an honest ballot count and reform of county government.
At a rally, a GI speaker said: "The principles that we fought for in this past war do not exist in McMinn County. We fought for democracy, because we believe in democracy, but not the form we live under in this county" (Daily Post-Athenian, 17 June 1946). At the end of July of 1946, 159 McMinn County GIs petitioned the FBI to send election monitors. There was no response. The Department of Justice had not responded to McMinn County residents' complaints of election fraud in 1940, 1942 and 1944.
The primary election was held on 1 August 1946. To intimidate voters, Mansfield brought in some two hundred armed "deputies". GI poll-watchers were beaten almost at once. At about 3 p.m., Tom Gillespie, an African- American voter, was told by a sheriff's deputy that he could not vote. Despite being beaten, Gillespie persisted. The enraged deputy shot him. The gunshot drew a crowd. Rumors spread that Gillespie had been shot in the back; he later recovered.
Other deputies detained ex-GI poll-watchers in a polling place, as that made the ballot counting "public". A crowd gathered. Sheriff Mansfield told his deputies to disperse the crowd. When the two ex-GIs smashed a big window and escaped, the crowd surged forward. The deputies, with guns drawn, formed a tight half-circle around the front of the polling place. One deputy, his gun raised high, shouted: "If you sons of bitches cross this street I'll kill you!"
Mansfield took the ballot boxes to the jail for counting. The deputies seemed to fear immediate attack by the "people who had just liberated Europe and the Pacific from two of the most powerful war machines in human history".
Short of firearms and ammunition, the GIs scoured the county to find them. By borrowing keys to the National Guard and State Guard armories, they got three M-1 rifles, five .45 semi-automatic pistols, and 24 British Enfield rifles, as the armories were nearly empty after the war's end. By 8 p.m., a group of GIs and "local boys" headed for the jail, but left the back door unguarded to give the jail's defenders an easy way out. Three GIs alerting passersby to danger were fired on from the jail. Two GIs were wounded. Other GIs returned fire.
Firing subsided after thirty minutes; ammunition ran low and night had fallen. Thick brick walls shielded those inside the jail. Absent radios, the GIs' rifle fire was uncoordinated. "From the hillside fire rose and fell in disorganized cascades. More than anything else, people were simply shooting at the jail."
Several who ventured into the street in front of the jail were wounded. One man inside the jail was badly hurt; he recovered. Most sheriff's deputies wanted to hunker down and await rescue. Governor McCord mobilized the State Guard, perhaps to try and scare the GIs into withdrawing. The State Guard never went to Athens, as McCord may have feared that Guard units filled with ex-GIs might not fire on other ex-GIs.
At about 2 a.m. on 2 August, the GIs forced the issue. Men from Meigs County threw dynamite sticks and damaged the jail's porch. The panicked deputies surrendered. GIs quickly secured the building. Paul Cantrell faded into the night, having almost been shot by a GI who knew him, but whose .45 pistol had jammed. Mansfield's deputies were kept overnight in jail for their own safety. Calm soon returned. The GIs posted guards. The rifles borrowed from the armory were cleaned and returned before sunup.
In five precincts free of vote fraud, the GI candidate for sheriff, Knox Henry, won 1,168 votes to Cantrell's 789. Other GI candidates won by similar margins.
The GIs did not hate Cantrell. They only wanted honest government. On 2 August, a town meeting set up a three-man governing committee. The regular police having fled, six men were chosen to police Etowah. In addition, "individual citizens were called upon to form patrols or guard groups, often led by a GI. To their credit, however, there is not a single mention of an abuse of power on their behalf."
Once the GI candidates' victory had been certified, they cleaned up county government, the jail was fixed, newly elected officials accepted a $5,000 pay limit and Mansfield supporters who resigned were replaced.
The general election on 5 November passed quietly. McMinn County residents, having restored the rule of law, returned to their daily lives. Pat Mansfield moved back to Georgia. Paul Cantrell set up an auto dealership in Etowah. "Almost everyone who knew Cantrell in the years after the Battle agree that he was not bitter about what had happened" (The New York Times, 9 August 1946).
The 79th Congress adjourned on 2 August 1946, when the Battle of Athens ended. However, Representative John Jennings Jr. from Tennessee decried McMinn County's sorry situation under Cantrell and Mansfield and the Justice Department's repeated failures to help the McMinn County residents. Jennings was delighted that "at long last, decency and honesty, liberty and law have returned to the fine county of McMinn" (Congressional Record, House; U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1946; Appendix, Volume 92, Part 13, p. A4870).
Those who took up arms in Athens, Tennessee, wanted honest elections, a cornerstone of our constitutional order. They had repeatedly tried to get federal or state election monitors and had used armed force so as to minimize harm to the law-breakers, showing little malice to the defeated law-breakers. They restored lawful government.
The Battle of Athens clearly shows how Americans can and should lawfully use armed force, and also shows why the rule of law requires unrestricted access to firearms and how civilians with military-type firearms can beat the forces of government gone bad.
Dictators believe that public order is more important than the rule of law. However, Americans reject this idea. Brutal political repression is lethal to many. An individual criminal can harm a handful of people. Governments alone can brutalize thousands, or millions.
Law-abiding McMinn County residents won the Battle of Athens because they were not hamstrung by "gun control " They showed us when citizens can and should use armed force to support the rule of law.

Idiot shoots girlfriend

Rico says his friend Dave sends this sad story of stupidity:
A Florida man probably wishes he had taken his girlfriend bowling instead of hog hunting, after he accidentally mistook her for a hog and shot her. Steven Egan thought he had just nailed one of the creatures and headed off to locate it. When he heard a rustle, he fired into the woods, thinking it was the fallen animal. Unfortunately, it was his girlfriend, Lisa Simmons, who was collecting oranges that had fallen from the trees. The 52-year-old Egan is a pretty good shot, hitting Simmons with a .30-caliber bullet in both legs. Simmons was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she remains in serious condition. We think Egan's next hunt may be for a new girlfriend.
Rico says that, besides the obvious error, the idiot committed the worst hunting sin: shooting at something you can't see...

Politics for the day

"An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory." Millard Fillmore

Rico says that, if we can survive a Whig named Millard, we can probably survive a Republican named Willard...

25 April 2012

Huh?

Rico says sometimes they should stay Anonymous...

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Ancient history for the day

Time had a squib awhile back about an amazing discovery:
Discovered: A tropical rain forest in Inner Mongolia that was preserved in volcanic ash almost three hundred million years ago; the Chinese Pompeii contains several species of extinct plants.
Rico says we bitch about global warming now, but a rain forest in Inner Mongolia? Now that's some climate change...

Another one gone, again

Rico says his oldest friend went through another series of phone calls and voicemails (all unanswered by Rico), and even descended to pleading emails, also not responded to. It's like listening to your dog howling to be let in, and ignoring it; hard to do but, alas, necessary. This one has the tendency to sucker Rico into thinking things are fine, then turning on him, savagely, and Rico is not going to give him the opportunity to do it again...

Awww...

Rico says his friend Tex sends this amazing video:

24 April 2012

And the first one's free...

Rico says that of course it's not free, but the damn Girl Scouts only sell their cocaine-clone Thin Mint cookies for a month or so per year (or, as they call it, 'cookie season': "Girl Scout cookies are produced just once a year and for a limited time"), leaving those of us addicted to them to huddle, shivering and twitching, until next year... (And if they had them on their website, as they should, we could all go broke buying them, but there's hope: "Girl Scouts of the USA does not currently allow online sales of Girl Scout Cookies, though we are presently researching a future state where it will be possible for girls to engage consumers in online sales, developing critical and relevant entrepreneurship skills in the process.")

Scam for the day

Rico says that he's seen enough of these to recognize them for what they are:

...but it's nice that someone's watching out for the ignorant:

A man walks into a bar ....

Rico says his friend Tex sends another one:
A guy was meeting a friend at a bar. When he walked in, he saw two pretty girls checking him out, and heard one girl say to the other: "Nine."
He swaggered over to his friend and told him he'd been rated a nine out of ten by the pretty girls at the bar. "Sorry to ruin your night," his friend said, "but when I walked in, they were speaking German."

Misunderstanding

Rico says his friend Tex sends this one:
A bus stops and two Italian men get on. They sit down and engage in an animated conversation. The lady sitting next to them ignores them at first, but her attention is galvanized when she hears one of them say:
Emma come first.
Den I come.
Den two asses come together.
I come once-a-more.
Two asses, they come together again.
I come again and pee twice.
Then I come one lasta time.'
The lady can't take this any more."You foul-mouthed sex-obsessed pig!" she retorted indignantly. "In this country, we don't speak aloud in public places about our sex lives!"
"Hey, coola down, lady," said the man, "Whooza talk about sex? I'm justa tellin' my frien' how to spell Mississippi..."

Just what we didn't need

Nicole Perlroth has an article in The New York Times about the latest in malware (and, no, that's not a type of ugly fashion, though the previous post might've used it):
Earlier this month, security researchers discovered a new piece of malware had infected more than half a million Apple computers in what was the largest-scale attack on Apple’s Mac OS X operating system to date. The malware spread through a security hole in Java software that let its creators download a malicious program onto victims’ machines without prompting. Users did not even have to click a malicious link for their computers to be infected. The program simply downloaded itself.
Apple released two security patches for the vulnerability and encouraged Mac users to run their software updates as soon as possible. Within two weeks, the number of infected computers dropped from 600,000 to 140,000, according to Symantec.
However, researchers at Intego, another computer security firm, have discovered that a new variant of the malware, called Flashback.S, continued to spread through the same Java vulnerability. Security researchers said the variant was “actively being distributed in the wild” and noted that the malware deletes traces of itself on victims’ machines to avoid detection.
The original Flashback variant used infected computers for click fraud, in which clicks on a web advertisement are manipulated in exchange for kickbacks. Intego researchers did not say what the new variant of Flashback is being used for. But, as with all malware, its creators can choose to use infected computers however they like.
This is not the first time that Mac users have been hit by a Windows-style computer virus. Last year, security researchers discovered that a piece of malware, called Mac Defender, was aimed at Macs until Apple released a patch at the end of May in 2011.
Several cautioned that it signaled a new era, in which Mac users become the new target for Windows-style malware attacks. Windows computers were a frequent target for attacks because there had always been more of them. Now, security researchers say, Apple’s growing share of the PC market has put a target on its back.
In 2008, Adam J. O’Donnell, a security architect at Sourcefire, a computer security firm, predicted that digital criminals would take aim at Mac users with Windows-style malware attacks once Apple’s share of the PC market reached sixteen percent, assuming that Windows’ antivirus solutions were at least eighty percent effective.
Apple currently holds twelve percent of the PC market in the United States, according to Gartner, a research company.
Rico says that, as ever, yes, it's only twelve percent, but it's the smartest twelve percent. Now we just have to have find some of these guys and hack their hands off...

Gubs for the day

Matt Richtel has an article in The New York Times about a specialized set of clothing:
Woolrich, a 182-year-old clothing company, describes its new chino pants (photo) as an elegant and sturdy fashion statement, with a clean profile and fabric that provides comfort and flexibility.
And they are great for hiding a handgun.
The company has added a second pocket behind the traditional front pocket for a weapon. Or, for those who prefer to pack their gun in a holster, it can be tucked inside the stretchable waistband. The back pockets are also designed to help hide accessories, like a knife and a flashlight.
The chinos, which cost $65, are not for commandos, but rather, the company says, for the fashion-aware gun owner. And Woolrich has competition. Several clothing companies are following suit, building businesses around the sharp rise in people with permits to carry concealed weapons. Their ranks swelled to around seven million last year from five million in 2008, partly because of changes to state laws on concealed handguns.
Shawn Thompson, 35, who works at an auto dealership in eastern Kentucky, bought two shirts last month from the Woolrich Elite Concealed Carry line. Both, he wrote on his blog, are a step up from more rugged gear. “Most of the clothes I used in the past to hide my sidearm looked pretty sloppy and had my girlfriend complaining about my looks,” he wrote, adding in an interview, “I’m not James Bond, but these look pretty nice.” The shirt has a barely discernible side slit with Velcro through which, he said, he can yank his Colt 1911 from his waistband holster. Depending on circumstances and mood, he might also carry a folding knife and, at night, a flashlight in a pair of Woolrich chinos his girlfriend bought for him.
Carriers of concealed guns say the new options are a departure from the law enforcement and military look, known as “tactical”, long favored by gun owners. The latest styles, by contrast, are called “concealed carry” or “covert fashion”.
“What we’ve tried to do is create a collection of garments that allows the end user to have stylish lifestyle apparel but have features in the garment that enable them to carry a weapon and draw the weapon quickly,” said David Hagler, a vice president at 5.11 Tactical, who was lured from Nike to work at 5.11, one of the biggest makers of clothing for soldiers and police officers. The company’s growing concealed-carry line includes a lightweight water-resistant vest coming this fall— the sort of vest that is standard and trendy at any mainstream outdoor shop, but has strategic pockets for guns. It also includes a stealth compartment in front, so the wearer can appear to be warming his hands while actually gripping a pistol in a waistband holster.
Other companies are rushing to meet the demand for concealed-carry clothing. Under Armour, best known for its sports and action gear, will be adding a jacket and a plaid shirt with Velcro pockets for easy gun access. Kevin Eskridge, senior director for outdoor product and design at the company, said the company had seen demand double in the last year for such clothing from traditional outdoor and sporting goods stores, like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Cabela’sEskridge said the Under Armour apparel was catching on because of fashion but also because of its features, including moisture-wicking fabric. “Others are making shirts with gun access but using regular cotton,” he said. With his company’s fabrics, “there’s no stink factor,” he said. And if gun owners do not use fabrics that wick away moisture, “You’ll literally rust out,” he added.
Gun experts suggest that there are many reasons for the growth in the number of people with concealed-carry permits. They say it is partly due to a changing political and economic climate— gun owners are professing to want a feeling of control— and state laws certainly have made a difference. After a campaign by gun rights advocates, 37 states now have “shall issue” statutes that require them to provide concealed-carry permits if an applicant meets legal requirements, like not being a felon. (A handful of other states allow the concealed carrying of handguns without a permit). By contrast, in 1984 only eight states had such statutes, and fifteen did not allow handgun carrying at all, said John Lott, a researcher of gun culture who has held teaching or research posts at a number of universities, including the University of Chicago. Only one state, Illinois, now forbids handgun carrying in any form, but the legislature is considering a change. A majority of states have long allowed the open carrying of handguns, said Lott, who also provided the data on gun permits. But the reality, said Lott and other gun experts, is that people do not want to show others that they are carrying a weapon or invite sharp questioning from the police.
The clothing lines address a perceived need in the concealed-carry subculture. Gun owners say they want to practice “maximum uncertainty”, meaning that, if a gun is sufficiently concealed, a potential criminal will be unsure whether to attack. Gun experts say the research is inconclusive about whether such tactics reduce crime. Regardless, the clothing makers are jumping on the line of thinking.
“When someone walks down the street in a button-down and khakis, the bad guy gets a glimmer of fear, wondering: are they packing or not?” said Allen Forkner, a spokesman for Woolrich, which started its concealed-carry line in 2010 with three shirts. The company has since added new patterns for shirts, pants and the Elite Discreet Carry Twill jacket, in dark shale gray and dark wheat tan. In addition to its gun-friendly pockets, the jacket has a channel cut through the back that the company says can be used to store plastic handcuffs.
Not everyone who carries a concealed gun is a fan of the new fashion. Howard Walter, 61, a salesman at Wade’s Eastside Guns in Bellevue, Washington, said he preferred to carry his Colt— and a couple of knives and two extra magazines— in a durable pair of work pants. “They don’t shout ‘gun,’ they shout ‘average guy in the street,’ ” said Walter, who years ago worked in sales at Nordstrom. But really, he said, the most important thing in picking clothing is to choose something that works for the weapon. “They should dress for the gun,” he said he advised his customers. “Not for the fashion.”
Rico says he has a permit, but the ladyfriend's law supercedes it... (But "a couple of knives and two extra magazines"? Rico's kinda guy.)

History for the day

On 24 April 1898, Spain declared war on the United States, after rejecting an ultimatum for it to withdraw from Cuba.

It's a go, finally

Rico says that would be the long-anticipated trip to New Orleans with his father, now scheduled for May. We will see his father's friend (and Rico's, via the internet) John, and eat and drink well. (It is Nawlins, after all.) Other excursions and events will surely be laid on, once we arrive.

23 April 2012

Recycling at its finest

Rico says his friend Kelley sends a Yahoo article by Mike Wehner about an unusual luxury home:
We've seen some truly unique homes in the past — from private islands designed for the super rich to massive castles with more rooms than you'd know what to do with — but an antiquated war monument turned luxury home? Now we've seen everything.
On the outskirts of a village named Steenokkerzeel in Belgium stands a World War Two-era water tower (photo) that is more than meets the eye. Its brick and mortar shell hides a secret: the seventy-year-old structure has been converted into a six-floor mansion fit for a king.
In 2008 a plan was hatched to turn the then-useless tower into something much more interesting. The complex was gutted of much of its interior, leaving just the concrete skeleton in place. The tower was then split into six very distinct floors, with an elevator installed for access to all of them.
The fourth floor is the master bedroom, complete with a pair of spiral staircases that lead to the fifth floor living and dining areas. The top floor features a large terrace with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and nearby airport. It also includes a shower and other amenities, which make it perfect for renters who use part of the facility on a monthly basis to entertain clients.
The tower was used from its building— believed to be sometime between 1938 and 1941— up until the early 1990s. During the Second World War, the Nazis used the structure as a watch tower and, in 2004, it was declared a war monument to prevent it from being destroyed.
At ground level is the main entrance and a spacious two-car garage. The first floor acts as a storage unit and access to utilities. The second floor features an office and guest quarters, complete with bedroom and separate bathroom. The entire third floor acts as the home's main bathroom, featuring a large central shower head and tinted glass dividers for privacy.
The renovation of the one-time war antique is now complete, and judging by the look of it, the tower will be a great place to call home for many decades to come.
 

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