TSA Exposes William Shatner’s Awesomeness

On Craig Ferguson’s “The Late Late Show,” William Shatner recounted his encounter with an inexperienced TSA agent who patted him down roughly enough that his pants fell down in front of everyone at the Los Angeles International Airport. With his awesomeness exposed, no word if the blind could see, the paralytics could walk and airfares dropped in price.


New California Cigarette Tax Fails At The Ballot

Cigarette Tax

I voted for Proposition 29, a new $1.00 USD per pack cigarette tax, which was narrowly defeated after being too close to call for two weeks after the election. Being a non-smoker who grew up in a family of smokers in California, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain if society has fewer smokers. Not surprisingly, the tobacco industry spent $47 million USD to defeat the proposition. (That’s $11 million USD more than what Governor Jerry Brown spent on his campaign in 2010.) Don’t be surprised to see another cigarette tax on the ballot again in the near future.

The first election after I turned 18-years-old had Proposition 88, a $0.25 USD per pack cigarette tax, on the ballot in November 1988. I voted yes because I wanted my father to quit smoking. He started smoking when he was 15-years-old and smoked for the next 30 years. (He and his brothers used to drive from Idaho to buy untaxed cigarettes in Oregon and sell them out of the trunk of their car in Southern California during the 1950’s.) After Proposition 88 passed and the new cigarette tax went into effect, he couldn’t see himself paying $20+ USD per cartoon every other week. (It’s $40 to $50 USD per cartoon today.) So he quit smoking and chewed gum until he kicked the habit, living another 30 years before he died from lung cancer last month.

Perhaps it was good thing that the cigarette tax was defeated. Our enlightened leaders in the legislature borrowed money against the tobacco settlement fund to plug the holes in the state budget in 2003. Higher cigarette taxes mean lower cigarette revenues, which means that the state will have to cover the bond repayments out of the general fund. Another ticking time bomb in the state budget that will hit taxpayers sooner or later. Seems like you can’t improve public health without shooting yourself in the foot at the same time.

British Drunkenness On USA TV Wasn’t A Crime

If you’re plastered at the U.S. Open golf tournament in San Francisco while wearing a British stocking cap and making bird calls before an American TV audience, it helps to be British with a slight resemblance to Simon Pegg. According to SFPD spokesman, public drunkenness wasn’t a crime since Andrew “Jungle Bird” Dudley had a ticket to be there. Only in San Francisco does that kind of wanker logic makes sense.


The California Lottery Black Scratcher Lady Luck Video Revisited

As I waited for the movie trailers and “Prometheus” to start at AMC Mercado 20 in Santa Clara this past weekend, the California Lottery black scratcher video, where Lady Luck slaps some clueless idiot to let him know that he won, came up on the big screen. I sat back to enjoy this video but it wasn’t the video I was expecting. This video had Lady Lucky blowing air on the clueless idiot.

Seriously, W-T-F?!

The original ad was too violent for the moral sensibilities of elected officials in Sacramento that the lottery commission replaced it with a different version. Never mind that the new ad was shown before the showing of an R-rated movie—SPOILER ALERT!—where Noomi Rapace gives herself a violent C-section to abort an unwanted alien fetus.


Tombstone Beach In San Francisco

Ocean Beach, San FranciscoIf you thought finding a paved over pauper’s cemetery at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose was surprising, THE CITY (what my late father called San Francisco during the mid-twentieth century construction boom) topped that with tombstones washing up on the sands at the Ocean Beach seawall, including one that dates back to 1890. Even the dead couldn’t stand in the way of California’s hot real estate market in the 1930’s when the graveyards were moved out of San Francisco and unclaimed tombstones were used for landfill.

The tombstones became visible this week, including bits and pieces of marble and granite that once marked the final resting places of citizens long dead.

One of them is the nearly intact marble tombstone of Delia Presby Oliver, who died at the age of 26 on Apr. 9, 1890.

Her remains were removed and reburied when San Francisco authorities closed nearly all the city cemeteries and moved the bodies to Colma in the early 20th century – part of a move to make space for the growing city. Oliver’s original tombstone and thousands like it were used as landfill or in other ways throughout San Francisco.

The park service has no plans to remove the tombstones, letting the shifting sands cover them up again to be rediscovered by beachcombers every few years.

The Day The Golden Gate Bridge Got Flatten

This Memorial Day weekend was the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Seems like the celebration was a ho-hum affair as the fog kept away for the fireworks show that was shot off the bridge. If you remember the 50th anniversary from 25 years ago, where 300,000 people walked across the bridge on foot at the same time, the bridge flattened out from the overwhelming weight.

Picture this: Hundreds of thousands of people are crammed shoulder to shoulder on the Golden Gate Bridge when suddenly the bridge’s gentle arch begins to flatten out. A metal groan then echoes across San Francisco Bay as the majestic towers begin tilting toward each other.

As the towers hit their breaking point, the 3-foot-thick main suspension cables slacken and the roadway splits open, dropping waves of pedestrians more than 200 feet to their deaths.

That almost happened 25 years ago today, at least according to urban legend.

On May 24, 1987, 300,000 people were stuck in human gridlock for hours while getting a rare chance to cross the 1.7-mile bridge en masse on foot to celebrate the bridge’s golden anniversary. Officials quickly closed the bridge, so a half-million other people waiting to cross never got the chance. Still, the enormous, unprecedented weight caused the middle of the bridge to sag 7 feet.

Engineers were kicking themselves that day for not anticipating this historic event  and putting sensors on the bridge to measure the flattening out effect. The current generation of engineers have a hard enough time maintaining the bridge throughout the years.

As my father liked to tell me when I was growing up, the Golden Gate Bridge could never be built today. A worker died for every one-million-dollar spent was the norm back in the 1930’s. Although today’s safety and environmental laws could prevent a worker’s death, a barrage of lawsuits that could delay a project indefinitely could come about before the project even gets off the drawing board.  The California high speed rail is a good example of that.

What the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge means today is that America has become a nation of small ideas, where the big ideas like a building a bridge across the treacherous Golden State Strait is a monument to our past.


Facebook IPO, Taxes And American Citizenship

http://kmacphail.blogspot.com/2010/12/not-so-much-blog-post.htmlGiven the choice of being an American citizen or paying significantly less in taxes on a multi-billion-dollar IPO, Facebook co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, renounced his American citizenship to avoid paying millions in taxes and live in Singapore because it doesn’t have a capital gains tax. This particular tax maneuver is similar to Apple stamping “Design in California” on its products while funneling profits through a Neveda corporation to avoid paying corporate taxes to California. Perfectly legal but distasteful.

If you seen “The Social Network,” Saverin provided the funding for the early days of Facebook before being screwed over by the other co-founders because he didn’t read the fine print of the legal paperwork that gave away his ownership in the company. Now that the big payday is around the corner to turn his 4% ownership into a multi-billion-dollar fortune, he’s screwing over the taxpayers in California and the United States by leaving the country. In short, he’s a schmuck.

If you become rich enough to join the 1% club in the United States, you now have the option to become a member of the stateless rich to live wherever in the world without being beholden to any particular community that requires your “hard earned” money for services, infrastructure and schools. Maybe the price for renouncing your American citizenship should be leaving your fortune at the border. If you came into the world penniless, you can leave the country the same way.

Apple Tax Strategy Cheats California Communities

Apple Mouse

I didn’t pay much attention to how Apple avoids paying billions of dollars in taxes through perfectly legal tax strategies all over the world. Not a big deal. Many Fortune 500 companies do whatever they can to avoid paying corporate taxes. Then I heard that Apple had set up a small office in Reno, Nevada, to funnel their profits through to avoid paying Califronia’s 8.84 percent corporate tax as Nevada doesn’t have a corporate tax. I started seeing red—and it wasn’t an apple.

Apple’s headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 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? 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.

If you ever considered incorporating your business in California, the Nevada corporate tax avoidance strategy is frequently mentioned in business incorporation books. Given the choice between paying 8.84 percent versus zero percent for a corporate tax rate, most individual business owners will go for zero percent. That particular tax strategy is useful if you can easily cross the state line from living in California to working in Nevada (i.e., the Lake Tahoe area). For many California businesses located far from the Nevada state line, this isn’t a viable tax strategy.

For many multinational corporations like Apple, skipping state and international lines to avoid paying corporate taxes that deprive communities of much needed tax revenues for services, infrastructure and schools is a matter of routine business.

You will often see this line on many Apple products: “Designed by Apple in California.”

I think Apple needs to decide to whether or not if they—the business managers that run the corporation as I don’t consider corporations to be people—are a California company. If so, they should pay California corporate taxes. If they want to avoid paying California corporate taxes, they should relocate their headquarters to Nevada—or Texas.