Why I’m Leaving

by R J Adams     July 26, 2015 at 9:58pm


exit


This post began life as a response to a comment on the previous post from my good blogging friend, WiseWebWoman. It grew too long, so instead I decided to post it here.

I’ve lived in the US for thirteen years – came here exactly one year after 9/11 – and for a time believed I’d make it my home. But the longer I stay here the more I’ve come to realize I have to get out. This nation hasn’t yet learned to handle its immense power with any degree of dignity and maturity. Frankly, I doubt it ever will.

The opportunity was there in the aftermath of the atrocities of September 11th, 2001. The world stood solidly behind this country in its grief and suffering. America could have won the admiration of every nation on earth at that moment had it responded with any degree of wisdom and maturity. Instead it tossed them to the dogs (remember, “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists!”) by its actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. It never recovered respect after those monumental blunders, and I don’t believe it will ever have that opportunity again.

While the western states burn, water disappears, and Americans suffer and die due to weather extremes never before experienced in such severity and abundance, the frenetic drilling and mining for MORE oil and MORE coal continues unabated.

The crazy national obsession with firearms grows ever stronger, appearing to those beyond US borders as akin to the behavior of a mentally retarded child. Even in the aftermath of a series of appalling gun crimes, recent polls indicate that nearly 60% of Americans are against any form of gun control. Media brainwashing over ‘terrorists’ and ‘terrorism’ ratchets up daily, provoking further insane gun attacks on innocent civilians in cinemas, schools, shopping malls, or wherever there are suitable numbers of people to slaughter.

As for this nation’s politicians, I consider every Republican candidate standing for President could serve his country best if locked away for life in a secure mental institution, rather than allowed within a hundred miles of the White House. The present political ascendancy of Donald Trump must surely prove that the louder the drivel from the political mouth, the more fervent the applause of the sad, demented, folks taken in by it.

I believe there are only two politicians in this country worthy to be President of the United States, and one isn’t even running – Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Even if Warren were running, they’d stand about as much chance of winning as Donald Trump has of ever getting into Heaven. And that says a lot about America and its voting public.

So, I’ve decided to move to pastures new. I’m sure there are many who are happy to say, “Good riddance!” When Americans I meet ask why I’m leaving America to live in France, they look at me like I’ve decided to give up Heaven, in favor of Hell. They don’t realize they’re the ones in Hell, but like Plato’s prisoners in the cave, their view of the ‘outside’ is distorted by a lifetime of false impressions fed by a politco/corporate controlled media that has been selective in its version of the truth for decades.

None of this in any way decries the many fine, caring, people I’ve come to know in this country; they who are fully aware of the way this nation is failing itself and the world, good people with intellect and vision, though sadly, in the minority.

I may be leaving America, but Sparrow Chat will continue. Perhaps from back in Europe, my perspective on America will change somewhat.

I doubt it will be for the better.


R J Adams     July 26, 2015 at 9:58pm     4 Comments

On FATCA, FatCats, And Eritrea – Er, Where?

by R J Adams     July 21, 2015 at 3:59pm


Fatca5


After all the bad things I’ve written about America you’d think they’d be only too glad to see me go.

“Have you heard, Adams is leaving?”

“No! Well, good riddance. He’s hardly been an asset to our fine Capitalist society, now has he?”

I mean, I don’t expect the red carpet, or a marching band at the airport playing, “Will Ye No Come Back Again?” But I never thought they’d make it hard for me to leave. But they have.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going anyway. September 2nd will see me and mine winging our way out of Detroit Airport for the last time bound for Paris, France, and then on to a new life in Brittany.

So, you’re asking, why don’t they want me to leave?

Ah, there’s the rub, as the Bard once proffered. You see, it’s not so much me as my money. It’s easy to bring money into the US, but try and take it out again and all sorts of petty regulations rise up to thwart one. For example, to move the financial proceeds of our house sale out of the US I’ve had to nominate my daughter, who lives in Britain, to handle it for me. The US government doesn’t allow the exchange company to ‘do deals’ on US soil.

Not that I’ve got a lot of money, you understand, and that’s really the problem. Or rather, the problem is FATCA.


Fatca4


Now most Americans have never heard of FATCA, and why should they, it doesn’t affect them in the slightest. Until, that is, they decide to up sticks and live outside the US.

It may have escaped your notice but FATCA is only a ‘T’ away from being ‘FATCAT’, and FatCats are exactly the people the IRS say FATCA is designed to trap.


FatCat


Sadly, that’s far from being the case.

Anyone with even half an eye on the Republican skirmishings over who’s going to be the next President will have noticed that the richest of them all, Donald Trump, is hardly losing sleep over FATCA, or dealings with the IRS. People like him can always find ways to circumvent tax laws, or pay experts to do it for them.

What, then, is FATCA?

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act was signed into law by President Obama in 2010, and is now having a serious impact on 7.6 million US expats. It basically allows the US government in general, and the IRS in particular, to blackmail all the world’s financial institutions into declaring the held assets of any American expat (citizen or PRA) with an account in a foreign country containing in excess of $50,000.


Fatca3


The refusal to do so by any bank or financial institution anywhere in the world will mean the IRS will impose a 30% taxation demand on all that institution’s financial dealings within the United States. Given the global economy, that would result in a colossal loss of revenue to most financial institutions, and the US government knows it.

The original reason for FATCA was to prevent tax evasion, by the very wealthy, or high-powered corporates, stashing monies away in foreign bank accounts. And, why not, you might ask? It doesn’t seem unreasonable, given the wealthy in the US hardly pay their share anyway, even on declared income.

Unfortunately, FATCA isn’t just causing problems for the FatCats. Supplying all this information to the IRS is not just a major headache for foreign banks, it’s also a costly exercise. They’ve decided it’s much easier, and makes more economic sense, just to close the accounts of US expats, to save on all the extra time and paperwork.


Fatca2


Thousands of ordinary working, or retired, American expats have suddenly found themselves unable to obtain a bank account in Europe, or almost anywhere outside America, entirely due to FATCA. It’s caused huge hardship and distress for many, but the US government couldn’t care less. After all, most expats don’t bother to vote in US elections.

All this has been possible because the United States is the ONLY NATION ON EARTH that legally requires its expatriate citizens (and PRAs) to submit annual tax returns to the IRS, wherever in the world they happen to be living.

Yes, that’s right. Not only do they make it financially difficult to leave America, but if you do manage to get out the IRS keeps a tight line on you, demanding their pound of flesh every year in the form of US tax returns.


Fatca1


Sure, there’s tax agreements with many nations to avoid ‘double taxation’, but having to declare income to the United States AND the tax authority of the country you’ve chosen to live in, is complex and costly as it almost certainly requires the services of an international tax accountant.

Despite all this hassle, or perhaps because of it, I’d rather live somewhere where the words ‘fairness’ and ‘justice’ still mean something; where I can walk into a supermarket or shopping mall without wondering if the guy in front of me is toting a firearm; where the police don’t routinely kill people for the fun of it; where distorted religious ideals aren’t allowed to influence the politics of the land (and I’m NOT talking ISIS or al Qaeda!); where the media reports actual news, rather than national propaganda; where politics hasn’t yet become controlled by big corporations; where the highest judiciary in the land isn’t regularly swayed by political influence or corporate money, or where one nation, just because it’s sufficiently powerful, doesn’t blackmail the rest of humanity in order to grasp its pound of financial flesh from those of its citizens who dare to leave its shores.

But, oh dear, after all that it appears I owe America an apology. I stated that the US was the only country in the world demanding tax returns from its expats.

I was wrong. There is actually one other.

To quote Bloomberg…

…[it’s] a small and vicious African dictatorship..”


eritrea


Eritrea – you may, or may not – have heard of it.[2]

[1] “End the American Expat Tax” Bloomberg View, April 24th 2015

[2] “World Report 2014: Eritrea” Human Rights Watch, 2014.

R J Adams     July 21, 2015 at 3:59pm     6 Comments

Hey! Did I Mention Money?

by R J Adams     June 28, 2015 at 10:30pm

In the previous post mention was made of how the Senate changed its mind, almost overnight, and decided to assist the US President by voting to fast-track the TPP through Congress.

There was even a vague suggestion that money may have assisted certain of our representatives to ‘alter their opinions’ with regard to the “Trans Pacific Partnership”, despite the obvious and well-publicized shortcomings of that particular “trade treaty”.

Let the figures speak for themselves. Between January and March this year, the period when the Senate was discussing the TPP:

  • Out of the total $1,148,971 given, an average of $17,676.48 was donated to each of the 65 “yea” votes.
  • The average Republican member received $19,673.28 from corporate TPP supporters.
  • The average Democrat received $9,689.23 from those same donors.

The amounts given rise dramatically when looking at how much each senator running for re-election received.

Two days before the fast-track vote, Obama was a few votes shy of having the filibuster-proof majority he needed. Ron Wyden and seven other Senate Democrats announced they were on the fence on 12 May, distinguishing themselves from the Senate’s 54 Republicans and handful of Democrats as the votes to sway.

  • In just 24 hours, Wyden and five of those Democratic holdouts — Michael Bennet of Colorado, Dianne Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, and Bill Nelson of Florida — caved and voted for fast-track.
  • Bennet, Murray, and Wyden – all running for re-election in 2016 – received $105,900 between the three of them. Bennet, who comes from the more purple state of Colorado, got $53,700 in corporate campaign donations between January and March 2015, according to Channing’s research.
  • Almost 100% of the Republicans in the US Senate voted for fast-track – the only two non-votes on TPA were a Republican from Louisiana and a Republican from Alaska.
  • Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, who is the former US trade representative, has been one of the loudest proponents of the TPP. (In a comment to the Guardian Portman’s office said: “Senator Portman is not a vocal proponent of TPP – he has said it’s still being negotiated and if and when an agreement is reached he will review it carefully.”) He received $119,700 from 14 different corporations between January and March, most of which comes from donations from Goldman Sachs ($70,600), Pfizer ($15,700), and Procter & Gamble ($12,900). Portman is expected to run against former Ohio governor Ted Strickland in 2016 in one of the most politically competitive states in the country.
  • Seven Republicans who voted “yea” to fast-track and are also running for re-election next year cleaned up between January and March. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia received $102,500 in corporate contributions. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, best known for proposing a Monsanto-written bill in 2013 that became known as the Monsanto Protection Act, received $77,900 – $13,500 of which came from Monsanto.
  • Arizona senator and former presidential candidate John McCain received $51,700 in the first quarter of 2015. Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina received $60,000 in corporate donations. Eighty-one-year-old senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, who is running for his seventh Senate term, received $35,000. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, who will be running for his first full six-year term in 2016, received $67,500 from pro-TPP corporations.

“It’s a rare thing for members of Congress to go against the money these days,” said Mansur Gidfar, spokesman for the anti-corruption group Represent.Us. “They know exactly which special interests they need to keep happy if they want to fund their reelection campaigns or secure a future job as a lobbyist.

“How can we expect politicians who routinely receive campaign money, lucrative job offers, and lavish gifts from special interests to make impartial decisions that directly affect those same special interests?” Gidfar said. “As long as this kind of transparently corrupt behavior remains legal, we won’t have a government that truly represents the people.” {my bold}[1]

Legal Corruption? Isn’t that surely an oxymoron?

[1] “Here’s how much corporations paid the Senate to fast-track passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership” RawStory, June 24th 2015

R J Adams     June 28, 2015 at 10:30pm     No Comments

Back In The Madhouse!

by R J Adams     June 24, 2015 at 10:36pm


We’ve landed back in the asylum, though hopefully not for long. After three peaceful weeks in Brittany, France, disembarking at Detroit airport was truly like returning to a madhouse. Whoever designed that tunnel between concourses at Detroit must have been out of their minds. Garishly-colored sheets of ever-shifting light covering the walls and ceiling…


mqdefault


…coupled with a cacophony of discordant noise emanating from all directions, blew my mind long before I reached Concourse B.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone. The airport website sees fit to carry this warning:

While the Light Tunnel is an extremely popular feature, the Airport Authority recognizes that the combination of light and sound may be uncomfortable for some travelers. Customers may suspend the program for a five minute period by pressing the button marked by signage at each end of the tunnel (to the right at the bottom of the escalators). For more details, just ask any member of airport staff inside the terminal.”[1]

If we’d anticipated any degree of sanity settling over this nation while we’d been away, our disappointment would have been palpable. Not that we did. The madness continues, seemingly unabated. The US government continues to stockpile arms in Poland, then expresses self-righteous outrage when Putin counters by announcing an increase in Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

We now learn from the BBC that “The world ‘largely likes’ the US”[2], but the opinion poll that delivered this verdict was run by an American think-tank, so perhaps the result wasn’t entirely surprising. The Pew Research Center is respected by media organizations throughout the world, but it may not be as non-partisan, non-advocacy, and non-policy forming as it declares on its website. The center relies for its funding on the Pew Charitable Trusts (well, it would, wouldn’t it?) and heading that organization is Rebecca Rimel, described by Philadelphia Magazine back in 2004 as:

…one of the most powerful women in
America.[3]

It was she who, according to SourceWatch:

…was instrumental in the legal maneuvering for the takeover of the Barnes art collection — a large prime collection of artwork with an estimated value of $25 – $30 bn[4]

The film documenting the events surrounding this ‘legal heist’ caused the late Roger Ebert to write:

“It is perfectly clear exactly what Barnes specified in his will. It was drawn up by the best legal minds. It is clear that what happened to his collection was against his wishes. It is clear that the [Philadelphia] city fathers acted in obviation of those wishes, and were upheld in a court of appeals. What is finally clear: It doesn’t matter a damn what your will says if you have $25 billion, and politicians and the establishment want it.”[5]

For “establishment” read “Rebecca Rimel”?

It’s general knowledge that Pew, in its entirety, is still owned by oil magnates viz: the Pew family of Sunoco (Sun Oil Co), and given the vast sums of money involved, and Rimel’s cozy relationship with the corporations and Congress, one has to wonder just how “non-partisan, non-advocacy, and non-policy forming” the Pew Research Center can really be.[5]


Only in an insane asylum could the actions of a 21-year-old mentally unhinged youth gunning down nine worshipers in a church result in three hundred million people coming to blows over a flag.



A hearty “Well done!” to the US media and the NRA. It sure took the heat off gun control. (You surely don’t need a link to this one!)


I’ve always considered circuses to be somewhat scary, probably because they’re full of weird clowns. None more so, however, than the political circus presently in full swing throughout the US, as ten (or, is it eleven…twelve..?) Republican escapees from the institution vie to become the next president of the United States.

The Pope recently spoke out strongly about climate change. Every Republican candidate, bar one, basically agreed the Pope should stick to the Bible and keep his nose out of politics. They all believe climate change is a ‘political issue’, which speaks volumes for their lack of mental acumen. Perhaps, it well qualifies them for the post they’re hoping to attain.

If all this weren’t evidence enough that we’re three hundred million living in a madhouse of a country, then the latest news from Congress must surely clinch it. Today it was announced that our beloved and respected representatives in the Senate have voted to “fast-track” that infamous “trade deal” known as the Trans Pacific Partnership, or TPP, through Congress, despite almost all of them being opposed to it last week.[6]

I wonder what changed their minds?


money


[1] “DTW-Tunnel”

[2] “The world ‘largely likes’ the US, says global survey” BBC, June 26th 2015

[3] “Philadelphia Magazine” August 2004

[4] “Rebecca Rimel” SourceWatch

[5] “Rebecca Rimel’s Millions in Compensation at Pew Charitable Trusts and Elsewhere” NPQ, March 12th 2015

[6] “Obama’s ‘fast-track’ trade bill clears key Senate hurdle”BBC, June 23rd 2015

R J Adams     June 24, 2015 at 10:36pm     5 Comments

Fleeing The Asylum

by R J Adams     April 30, 2015 at 4:28pm


Jail


I have escaped.

Well, in truth, not quite. I’m hopeful of winging my way out of this madhouse they call America in a matter of hours. We’ve made it to Detroit airport without being apprehended. Our flight leaves for London, England at 2218 hours. From there, a car to France – and sanity!

Sadly, it’ll only be for three weeks, but even that short duration will be heaven, and there’s hope we may one day return there for good. This trip is a recce of the housing market and the delights Brittany has to offer. I hope to convince my good lady that life can be better elsewhere than America.

Until later…

Au revoir et bonne journee!


R J Adams     April 30, 2015 at 4:28pm     2 Comments