Congo forces leaders to pay taxes – ours?

The Democratic Republic of Congo, faced with a fiscal crisis, is now forcing their leaders to pay taxes. Reuters reports

Amid a growing budget shortfall, the government is under pressure to cut costs and boost tax revenues.

Budget Minister Michel Lokola told Reuters that last month’s decision to tax government salaries at source, rather than rely on employees to pay taxes after receiving their salaries, had already raised roughly $1 million.

“They just weren’t paying. The government ministers we replaced, the MPs, the senators, they didn’t pay,” said Lokola, who entered the government last October in a cabinet shake-up that saw his predecessor Adolphe Muzito named prime minister.

Lokola said the move was partly aimed at setting a good example, adding that Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s government salary was also subject to the measure.

“He is aware of this, and he approves of it … I don’t see how we can expect the private sector to pay their taxes if we don’t pay ourselves,” he said.

So even a country we look upon with derision, the Congo, has realized the benefit of taxing the elite of their country. As we have seen, politicians in this country appear to have an aversion to paying their taxes, and can’t even comprehend the tax code that they wrote, as evidenced by Tom Daschle, who didn’t know the limo was taxable.

So will Geithner, considering the fiscal crisis we, ourselves, are facing, implement a program of ferreting out government tax cheats and garnishing their taxpayer-paid wages?

I doubt it.

He’s a tax cheat.

Nothing like the fox guarding the hen house.

Advertisements

It’s the Oil and Gas Stupid

Widely covered in Asia and the Near-East, but not in he United States, was the inauguration of the Ceyhan-Tbilisi-Baku (BTC) oil pipeline, which links the Caspian Sea to the Eastern Mediterranean. This pipeline totally bypasses the territory of the Russian Federation by transiting through the western friendly, former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Georgia.

But the more sinister implications of this pipeline, are seen when the four partners are revealed and the ultimate destination of the pipeline is reviewed.

The partners are Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Israel. The destination the Israeli port of Ashkelon, which bypasses Lebanon and Syria utilizing underwater pipelines. However, the ultimate goal is to have back up land based pipelines, which would require Israel, responsible for the security of the pipelines, to have territorial control over the East Mediterranean coastline.

The day after the deal was signed, the Lebanon bombing began.  Step one?

Well it failed miserably.

Back up now to the November 1999, when British G Group (BG) and Lebanon’s Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC), were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed with the Palestinian Authority, then run by Yassir Arafat.

According to Michael Chossodovsky, researcher for Global Research Canada,

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).
The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The problem though, lies in the sovereignty of the gas. Reserves, estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, are valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger, according to Chossodovsky.

Unfortunately for Gaza, under Article XI, of the 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement,  three Maritime Activity Zones that extended out to sea 20 nautical miles from the coast of Gaza, were established. Two narrow Zones running parallel to the boundaries of Egyptian and Israeli waters were designated No Fishing Areas. Under the terms of the Agreement the larger remaining Zone “will be open for fishing, recreation and economic activities.” The Gazan fishermen operated freely for the next 6 years within this Zone with no major confrontations with the Israelis.

Until gas was discovered 10 to 15 nautical miles from the coast, within those boundaries. In 2002, the UN’s  Bertini proposed the approved location be reduced to an area within 12 nautical miles of the coast. More recently the area available has been reduced to 300 square kilometers.

According to Global Research Canada,

Consequently,since the death of Arafat, the election of the Hamas government and the ruin of the Palestinian Authority, Israel has established de facto control over the gas fields.

With this control, they began negotiating with BG for the gas. They were reportedly close to a deal when Hamas won the elections in 2006. When the newly elected Palestinian government collapsed, and Hamas had control of the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Haniyeh  promptly declared that the natural gas deal would have to be renegotiated.

The Times of India reports that  this prompted the Gaza blockade which resulted in the humanitarian disaster that is Gaza today.

In 2001,

Beginning in late 2000 the Israeli military began a campaign of intimidation and harassment against the fishing boats that ventured near or beyond a 6 nautical mile limit. No formal notice or explanation was ever given to the Palestinians. Instead the regulation was written and enforced by Israeli machine guns and water cannons. At least 14 fishermen have been killed by the Israelis, over 200 injured and numerous boats damaged or impounded.

Initially, BG had negotiated with Egypt to buld an undersea pipeline to import the gas, but under pressure from Tony Blair, were forced to negotiate with Israel instead.

After years of wrangling over prices and getting nowhere, BG closed their Israeli office and again negotiated with the Egyptians.

But the true intent of the Israelis comes to light when viewing the quotes from Israeli and officials.

AfterAriel Sharon was elected Prime minister in 2001, he said he would never buy gas from the Palestinians.

In June of 2008, Israel began preparing for Operation Cast Lead, its latest incursion into Gaza. In the same month, BG was contacted by Olmert with a request to reopen negotiations. They began anew in October 2008, shortly before the commencement of the Gaza invasion.

This does not bode well for Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, who were bypassed in the latest negotiations, or the peace process in general.

Egypt would do well to be very careful in what it does, lest its actions blow back on them from the Arab street.The Moslem Brotherhood is very much sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.

With Israel’s nuclear capability, their alliance with the Turks, and new found wealth from oil and gas revenues, the west should be very careful in how it sees the balance of power in hte Middle East that would result from this venture.

We should all hope that the Europeans in particular, don’t forget the strength of the Ottoman Empire, the dismantlement of which, after WWI, resulted in the establishment of Iraq, Iran, countries of the Middle East, and the ensuing rise of dictators and radicals alike in subsequent years. Would they like to see a similar rise in power again?

I don’t think so.

It’s past time that this issue of Palestine get settled and we find alternative fuels,  not only for the sake of the innocent civilians caught up in the various conflicts, but for the sake of the rest of the citizens of the world whose children will be the cannon fodder for the inevitable wars to follow and whose money will be squandered funding them.

Sources:

Global Research timeline Lebanon War

Times of India

War and  Natural Gas

Oil and Lebanon

Clinton disappoints but doesn’t surprise

Hillary Clinton attended the donor’s conference for Gaza, today, and announced the United States has pledged $900 million dollars, but warned none would go to Hamas, and only one third is earmarked for Gaza reconstruction. No word about where the other two thirds will be spent. In all, donors pledged $3 billion in aid.

Reuters reports that Kamal Hassouni, a minister in the Palestinian Authority, broke down the aid package as follows:

$348 million of the foreign aid would be used for housing, $119 million for transport services, $266 million for farming and $146 million for industry. About $1.45 billion will support the Palestinian Authority 2009 budget and the rest will fund other government expenses.

The Palestinian Authority plans to judge each Gazan house, individually, and make payments for damage directly to the homeowner.

That’s a great thought, except how is the homeowner supposed to rebuild their home? With the Karni Crossing closed, no construction supplies can reach Gaza, and it wouldn’t matter anyway because the Israelis won’t allow steel beams or cement into Gaza.

Would adobe work there?

Here’s where Clinton has a say, but says nothing meaningful, demonstrating her total lack of understanding of the situation on the ground in Gaza and at the borders. She reiterated that we won’t deal with terrorists, won’t deal with Hamas, but will deal with Abbas who she says “offered a more peaceful future.”

Which is where her lack of understanding completely comes into play.

Abbas, is a member of the Fatah Party, and was Yassir Arafat’s protegee. The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, is

a network of West Bank militias affiliated with former Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat’s Fatah faction and has been one of the driving forces behind the what Palestinians call the “Second” or “Al-Aqsa Intifada” (uprising). While the group initially vowed to target only Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, in early 2002 it joined Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in a spree of terrorist attacks against civilians in Israeli cities. In March 2002, after a deadly al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade suicide bombing in Jerusalem, the State Department added the group to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations, and ceased regarding Arafat as a viable partner in peace negotiations….

In 2004 the brigade engaged in a ceasefire with Israel but resumed attacks when Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, according to the State Department. The 2006 Country Report says that the brigade continues intra-Palestinian violence and adds to the “overall chaotic security environment.” The brigade operates primarily in the West Bank but have also carried out attacks in the Gaza strip and Israel.

Note their affiliation is with Fatah. Hamas, in the run up to the elections, had honored a ceasefire with Israel and contiued to honor it, for 18 months. The Fatah group started the rocket fire, while Hamas was still honoring the ceasefire. I’m not sure how this bodes to be a “more peaceful future.”

The State Department asked ordinary Americans what to do about Gaza. The vast majority said Hamas can’t be ignored, they are a stakeholder. The vast majority said to stop funding Israel and stop providing military aid unless they stop indiscriminately killing Palestinian civilians. The vast majority of those who responded, want us to be honest brokers of the peace and stop choosing sides within Palestine, and stop backing Israel unconditionally.

Perhaps Madame Secretary didn’t get a chance to read our recommendations, or perhaps she didn’t care what they were. I hope it’s the former.

I just know that since the Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade is a Fatah organization, and since Mahmoud Abbas was a member of the PLO, whose charter also doesn’t recognize Israel, and since there are many Arab nations that we deal with who refuse to recognize Israel, this whole idea of cutting out Hamas because they don’t recognize Israel is a straw dog argument.

Israel doesn’t recognize Palestine’s right to exist either.

The notion that Abbas is the best hope for peace, is laughable considering his group, based in the West Bank, has been responsible for the following actions, again according to the Council on Foreign Relations:

* In January 2008 the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade joined with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad to shoot rockets into Israel from Gaza. Israel retaliated by blockading the Gaza strip;
* A January 2007 suicide bombing in Eilat that killed three people. The attack was the first suicide bombing in Israel in nine months and both al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for it;
* In June 2006 members of the brigade kidnapped an American college student after mistaking him for an Israeli. Initially they said he would be killed unless Israel released all of its Palestinian prisoners but released him the same day upon discovering his nationality;
* In January 2006, the European Union mission in Gaza was overtaken for a half hour by masked gunmen who demanded that Denmark and Norway apologize for publishing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. There were no shots fired or injuries;
* An October 2005 suicide attack at the Gush Etzion junction that killed three Israelis and wounded three others;
* A March 2004 suicide bombing at a checkpoint at the Port of Ashdod that killed ten people. Hamas also claimed responsibility for the attack;
* A January 2004 attack on a bus in Rehavia, Jerusalem that killed 11 people;
* A pair of January 2003 suicide bombings in downtown Tel Aviv that killed 23 people and injured about 100 more, one of the bloodiest attacks of the current Palestinian uprising;
* A November 2002 shooting spree at a kibbutz in northern Israel that killed five Israelis, including two children, and wounded seven more;
* An April 2002 suicide bombing at a marketplace in Jerusalem that killed six people and injured 104 more;
* A March 2002 suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed three Israelis, prompting Israel to call off ceasefire talks with Arafat’s Palestinian Authority;
* Another March 2002 suicide bombing in a Jerusalem café that killed 11 Israelis and wounded more than 50;
* A March 2002 sniper attack on an Israeli army checkpoint in the West Bank in which the gunman methodically killed 10 Israelis, including seven Israeli soldiers, before escaping;
* A January 2002 suicide attack in Jerusalem by a female terrorist that killed an elderly man and wounded about 40 other people.

If they’re stocking their peace prospects with this crowd, good luck. Even the right wing Israelis don’t trust Abbas. I don’t know why we do. Looks like half the donor money for Gaza is going straight into the pockets of Fatah and its supporters.

And people wonder why the Palestinians elected Hamas….

Secretary of State Clinton asks: What is the best Path Forward for Gaza?

Dipnote, the U.S. State Department blog, has a new question, what should we do about Gaza?

On March 2, Clinton will participate in the donor conference for Gaza reconstruction. Until then, she will be taking suggestions from ordinary Americans.

Here is the link. Lend your voice in our participatory democracy, or shut your piehole and live with their decisions. 🙂

So why are we asking the experts anything?

NABE, the National Association of Business Economists, today released the results of their annual member survey. Reuters reports they predicted “the recession-hit economy would begin to recover in the second half of this year, returning to a potential growth trend in 2010.”

I wondered who these people were, and if they were the same people that missed this economic problem altogether, and were wondering for a year or two if we “might” be in a recession.

I found another survey summary that led to the current question, the topic of this entry. What do you think? Here’s what NABE says of its members:

Substantial percentages of economists report little familiarity with complex instruments and other financial innovations. Despite the prevalence of NABE members holding advanced degrees in economics and other business-related disciplines, substantial percentages admitted to having little or no familiarity with the structure, activities, and risks associated with hedge funds (45%), private equity funds (40%), asset-backed securitization (48%), credit default swaps (CDS, 68%) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs, 51%).

That was in August 2007, when they also thought:

The five-year housing outlook remains largely positive. A slight plurality (42%) of respondents expects U.S. home prices to be flat, on average, over the next five years. But respondents who expect home prices to rise on average over the next five years (41%) far outnumber those who expect prices to fall (16%). NABE members continue to place low odds (1 in 10) on a large drop in U.S. home prices similar to that experienced in Japan during the 1990s.

No comment.

A criminal conspiracy by any other name…

I stumbled today, on the stock broker fraud blog which apparently keeps track of all the dirt on Wall Street. After reading an article about former UBS Securities LLC Executive Director Mitchell Guttenberg, who was ordered to “forfeit $15.81 million in alleged illegal profits, as well as serve 78 months in prison” for an insider trading scheme, which also involved UBS stock analysts, a trader, a hedge fund manager, and other individuals, I wondered, why does the RICO Act not apply here?

According to this article, Guttenberg and the 12 other individuals, “mostly former employees at Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Corp, and Bear Stearns Co., Inc., were criminally charged for their involvement in the insider trading ring. Investigators say the participants tried to conceal their illegal actions by conducting meetings at restaurants, using disposable cellular phones, and coming up with coded text messages.”

Are they drug dealers or traders? To some people, money is a drug. In this case, it should be treated as such.

Were they throwaway phones, or were they stupid enough to use their own?

But it gets better.

Another article, concerning Auction-Rate- Securities, involved 12 states which banded together to form a “multi-state Task Force dedicated to finding out whether Wall Street investment firms had misled investors when persuading them to invest in the ARS market.”

I anxiously read on to see how much jail time these people would do, and discovered the answer was zero.

The punishment for this crime that involved 12 states? “11 major Wall Street investment banks have said they will buy back over $51 billion in ARS from charities, retail investors, and small companies.”

And the list of these companies, with their ARS hotlines?

Bank of America 1-866-638-4183
Deutsche Bank 1-866-926-1437
Citi 1-866-720-4802
JP Morgan 1-866-450-8470
Goldman Sachs 1-888-350-2857
Merrill Lynch 1-888-706-1381
UBS 1-800-253-1974
Morgan Stanley 1-800-566-2273
Wachovia 1-866-283-794

That was in November 2008. When did they get the first of the TARP money, and their bonuses, and their huge salaries?

Are they on the UBS list of unnamed offshore accounts?

And on the same site:

UBS Financial Services, Inc., UBS Securities, LLC, and Citigroup have reached finalized settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission to pay tens of thousands of ARS investors almost $30 billion. The settlements will resolve SEC charges that the companies misled investors about the risks involved with auction rate securities.

The SEC’s complaint accused UBS and Citigroup of misleading customers by telling them ARS were liquid, safe investments and failing to warn them of the growing dangers when the market started to fail. When the ARS market froze in February, the SEC says both firms left tens of thousands of clients holding billions of dollars in illiquid ARS.

These finalized settlements will restore about $22.7 billion in liquidity to UBS clients who invested in ARS and some $7 billion to Citigroup investors. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox says investors will get back “100 cents on the dollar on their ARS investments.” Both firms will buy ARS from affected customers at PAR. Customers that sold their ARS under the par difference will be paid between par and the ARS sale price. This is the largest settlement in SEC history.

That was December 22, 2008……and the TARP money?

We as taxpayers, should demand equal protection under the law. They should be charged with the criminal conspiracy that this truly is and sent to prison – 20 years to life, with their assets seized and put into the TARP Rebate Fund.

No wonder they needed that TARP money to be spent so rapidly and with no accounting for where it went. No, it wasn’t spent on bonuses, IT WAS SPENT TO PAY BACK THE THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE THEY DEFRAUDED!!

And Geithner, the tax cheat, was in on that deal.

He should resign. They should all be investigated for criminal conspiracies, the whole financial sector, but most especially, the members of the Too-Big-to-Fail-Club.

They seem to be the worst offenders.

Addendum. I don’t know that this is where the money was spent, but if they didn’t loan it out, and they didn’t spend it on bonuses….well, it’s a good bet.

Follow the yellow gold road…..

What a couple of days it’s been in the financial world. Allen Stanford, scammer extraordinaire, whereabouts still unknown, is now known to have contributed large sums of money to congressional recipients, to vote against a financial services antifraud bill that would have linked the databases of state and federal banking, securities and insurance regulators. The bill died in the Senate.

Biggest recipients of his cash?

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. ($45,900); Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. ($28,150); Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. ($27,500); and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas ($19,700). Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, also received $41,375.

The full list is here and here.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign fund received only $4600 and it was immediately donated, yesterday, to a Chicago charity, according to the Chicago Tribune.

But the other big story is the deal Swiss UBS Bank made with the feds. Accused of assisting U.S. citizens avoid income taxes, UBS Bank has agreed to lift the veil of secrecy and identify “certain” clients. This could be 17,000 of their 20,000 clients whose combined deposits are worth $20 billion dollars.

In July 2008,Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mi) was calling for them to clean up their act. According to The Consumerist Levin told ABC News “UBS’s banking license should be revoked until the bank “cleans up its act.”” He listed the following as what the bank does to conceal its clients names and assets.

* Code Names for Clients
* Pay Phones, not Business Phones
* Foreign Area Codes
* Undeclared Accounts
* Encrypted Computers
* Transfer Companies to Cover Tracks
* Foreign Shell Companies
* Fake Charitable Trusts
* Straw Man Settlors
* Captive Trustees
* Anonymous Wire Transfers
* Disguised Business Trips
* Counter-Surveillance Training
* Foreign Credit Cards
* Hold Mail
* Shred Files

Prepared by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, July 2008.

For the record, Levin took no money from Stanford or his PAC. I’ll bet he even pays his taxes – all of them. Can he be Treasury Secretary?

Reuters reports the deal with UBS goes like this:

Swiss bank UBS AG has agreed to a deal with the U.S. Justice Department that would let the bank avoid tax-violation charges in exchange for identifying some of its U.S. account holders and paying $780 million in fines.

Here are the key terms of the deal:

– UBS, under orders by Swiss market regulators, is to give the United States identities and account information of “certain” U.S. customers. Details are to be filed under seal with U.S. federal court and turned over as soon as the court accepts the agreement.

– UBS agrees to pay $780 million in fines, interest and penalties. This includes $200 million to be paid to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The remainder is to be paid to the Justice Department over 18 months, with options to pay early or extend the terms up to four years.

– UBS acknowledges that it helped U.S. taxpayers open accounts that concealed their identities from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. About 17,000 of 20,000 U.S. cross-border clients concealed their identities and the existence of their accounts, with $20 billion in assets, from the IRS, the Justice Department said.

Some of these clients are unindicted co-conspirators.

The business generated about $200 million a year in revenue for UBS from 2002 to 2007, it said.

– UBS agrees to quit providing cross-border banking services to U.S. clients with undeclared accounts.

– After 18 months, the U.S. government will recommend dismissal of charges against UBS providing it honors the terms of the agreement.

The Stanford saga, in the meantime, continues to rock the world of the wealthy.

Venezuela seized a local bank affiliated with the Stanford Group, after there was a rush to withdraw funds through online banking. According to Reuters,

Depositors withdrew cash using Internet banking services. The bank takes deposits and makes loans only in the OPEC nation’s local currency.

“Most depositors of Stanford Bank Venezuela are from the (highest) income classes. They move their funds on the Internet, and this allowed for a massive withdrawal that pushed the bank into a precarious state,” Finance Minister Ali Rodriguez told reporters.

“The authorities were forced to take the decision to intervene and there will be an immediate sale,” he added.

And in Antigua, the Associated Press reports that customers were turned away from the Stanford bank there, because its assets were frozen. Depositors were arriving by private jet to withdraw their cash and were panicking when they discovered they couldn’t. One man, who owned a software firm, complained that his life savings was in that bank.

Let me guess. There is no F.D.I.C. insurance in Antigua.

It would seem this is just the beginning (of the end?).

Wonder how many of our congresspeople have offshore accounts? We already know they have an aversion to paying taxes.

Wonder if Geithner has one?

But most of all, I wonder if anyone who is caught will go to jail, go directly to jail, not pass go, and not collect $200.

And second I would like to know, will their assets be seized?

If the answer to the second question is yes, I would recommend to the Treasury Department and President Obama, that the assets seized from anyone in the financial industry caught up in these, or any future messes uncovered by the IRS and the FBI, be dumped into an account called the TARP Rebate Fund, which recoups the cash for the taxpayers, from the cheats and thieves who bought us this mess in the first place. (Oh, did I say bought, I meant brought – Freudian slip). And any congresspeople who return campaign contributions from any of these cheats, should also be dumped into this fund.

As a matter of fact, start with Geithner‘s payments, Daschle‘s Kellefer‘s and Solis‘. It would be a good start.

And any congress person who is found to have an offshore account in the UBS debacle, should be bounced from their office, forbidden from holding any public office anywhere in the U.S. or its territories, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

These people all need to do serious jail time. Nothing like seized assets and jail time to straighten up a class of people.

Is there a law against “betraying the public trust?” Because if there isn’t there should be.

Sentence: 20 to life in a Supermax prison. Enjoy. You built it.

%d bloggers like this: