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BELIZE: MOTHER NATURE’S BEST KEPT SECRET (PART 2)
Reefs, Ruins, Rainforests and Rivers
Philip Hahn looked all around Latin America and decided Belize was his place. He and his partners plan to build a whole new tow, Orchid Bay. Part 1 of the story offered a general overview of Belize – political, economic, etc. Here he narrows his focus to Belize’s natural virtues, which are plentiful. Such coverage has been offered in these pages before by different authors. The fundamental uniformity of their reporting leaves little doubt that the country is one naturally beautiful place.
In this second installment of a three part series I will introduce you to the fabulous “4R’s” of Belize – Reefs, Ruins, Rainforests and Rivers. In the previous installment I wrote about the peaceful diversity of the people. This same peaceful diversity exists in the environment where modern-day pioneers and entrepreneurs make their homes, businesses and playgrounds.
Belize has two Blue Holes. The most famous one is at Lighthouse Reef, part of the Belize Barrier Reef and location of Jacques Cousteau’s famous documentary in the late 1960s. The other is a cenote (a sacred natural well) deep in the rainforest of the Maya Mountains. Legend has it that the two are connected by a deep underground cavern.
Many myths and legends persist from the Maya and other early settlers of Belize. Explorers, scientists and archaeologists have been working to uncover these mysteries for hundreds of years. In the meantime, the rich natural environment, history and culture have inspired many to make Belize their home.
One of those entrepreneurs is my friend Dan Silva. I am writing this article as I sit poolside at his hotel, Cahal Pech Village Resort. We just returned from one of Dan’s favorite places, Carmelita. It is a farm that his family has owned for generations. It sits right at the edge of the rainforest.
“Dad, This Is Better Than Disney World!”
My 9-year old daughter and I took the opportunity to go for a late afternoon horseback ride in the rainforest and watched the sunset as we headed back to the farm. She has always had a way with words and when we were riding under a canopy of tropical palms and majestic hardwoods she said, “Dad, this is better than Disney World!”
She is following in the footsteps of her older brother and sister who have exclaimed the very same words while climbing through Maya ruins, snorkeling on the reef, or paddling a canoe down a river. And as my wife says, “You don’t have to be a kid to explore like one in Belize.” My family is not alone in their love for this natural playground as countless visitors are discovering the joy of genuine ecotourism and incredible natural beauty.
Along with these wonderful adventures, the “4R’s” of Belize are home to a myriad of animals, vast oxygen producing flora and uncommonly known medicinal plants. Nearly half of Belize is in protected reserves allowing many threatened species to live in healthy populations. With this in mind the Belize government, along with the Belize Audubon Society, are cautious about over development and favor resorts, communities and businesses that share their respect for the environment.
Belize has been a popular destination for scuba diving enthusiasts since Cousteau’s documentary. In fact, until about 5 to 10 years ago, unless you were a scuba diver or talking to one it was unlikely that you would have even heard about Belize. It is no wonder that the majority of resorts are located near the reef. Until recently, these resorts, understandably, catered to divers.
As the word got out about Belize and cruise ships began arriving in the 1990s, a whole new tourism and real estate market emerged.
This trend continues and each of the six districts in the country have accommodations for visitors and communities for those that want to live full or part-time in Belize.
Like a strand of emeralds, the Belize Barrier Reef stretches along the entire 175 mile coastline of Belize. It is the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere and second largest in the world. The world’s largest reef is, of course, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef; however, since parts of Australia’s reef are dead, Belize’s reef is now the largest living reef in the world. It has been designated as a World Heritage Site and vast areas have been set aside as marine reserves and sanctuaries. There are only four coral atolls in the Western Hemisphere and Belize is home to three of them.
The most popular destination is San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye. In her song, “La Isla Bonita” (The Beautiful Island), Madonna sang lovingly about this little slice of paradise. This notoriety along with other television coverage has brought an increase in tourism and real estate development and now there are numerous resorts and condominiums on the island. This, of course, is a two-edged sword. I frequently say that most travelers and ex-pats like to get away, just not too far away. Ambergris Caye certainly has the amenities and conveniences tourists expect, however, the once quiet town of San Pedro has been largely taken over by the tourism industry.
To the south of Ambergris Caye is the island of Caye Caulker which, according to the locals, is what San Pedro was like prior to the 1990s when cruise ships began bringing in over 800,000 passengers every year. Caye Caulker is a “barefoot” island where the few streets that exist are sand and the mode of transportation is bicycles, golf carts or bare feet. It is actually two islands, years ago a hurricane created “The Split”, a channel that separates the north and south of the island.
The southern end is where you will find the community of multi-generation Belizeans, eccentric ex-pats and laid-back visitors. It is easy to get to since there are regular flights and water taxis to the island. Of course, this means the impact from tourism is becoming more and more evident.
As the chain of islands continues to the south you will find hundreds of islands along the reef; but aside from Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker most of them are sparsely populated and only accessible by boat. The accommodations are typically geared towards excursions or short stays. Many of the resorts offer all-inclusive vacation packages and run the gamut from modest to luxurious.
On St. George’s Caye you will find St. Georgre’s Caye Resort which is only a couple of miles from Belize City and is historically significant as the site where on September 10, 1798 (celebrated annually as a National Holiday) Belizean and British naval forces, once and for all, defended The Belize Settlement from Spanish attacks.
Other destinations on the reef include Blackbird Caye on the Turneffe Atoll, Lighthouse Reef (the site of the famous Blue Hole) and Long Caye on Glover’s Reef. There are also resorts on the mainland that provide excursions to islands and the reef. For example, in Placencia, Robert’s Grove is a luxury resort that owns its own private island.
If you are looking for that island you see on your screen saver you will find several of them in Belize and the boat ride to them is well worth the trip.
You can still find quaint Mayan villages in the mountains and rainforests of Belize. The ancestors of the Maya built several magnificent cities, towns and villages, many of which are still waiting to be uncovered. At the height of their ancient civilization the population was over one million, which stands in stark contrast to today’s 311,500 Belizeans. Home to a greater concentration of archaeological sites than anywhere else in the Mundo Maya (Mayan World), Belize continues to attract people looking for the same fertile land, freshwater and abundant marine life that sustained the Maya for centuries.
For residents and visitors alike the history of this once great civilization is mysterious and awe-inspiring. As the end of the Mayan calendar approaches (September 21, 2012) numerous scholars and curiosity seekers are coming to Belize to learn more about this enigmatic culture. It is an attractive destination since there are so many options. There are sites that you can drive right up to, ones that you swim to and others that require a hike or a boat ride. Whether you want to enjoy a leisurely slow-paced tour or explore like Indiana Jones, there are several options to choose from.
Cerros Maya sits prominently on the shores of Chetumal Bay and is a rare example of an ancient coastal city. One of the most spectacular adventures in Belize is the tour to Lamanai which includes a riverboat ride on the New River amidst colorful birds, swinging monkeys and lush jungle. You will never think of a trip to the “ATM” in the same way after you visit Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM). The journey to this Belizean “ATM” requires special permission from the Institute of Archaeology, a two mile hike with three creek crossings and a swim into the mouth of the cave which leads to the Mayan underworld.
There are also many archaeological sites on private property. The Director of Archaeology, Dr. Jaime Awe, has worked hard to educate individuals, hoteliers and developers on the value of these national treasures. There are several examples of how this public/private sector cooperation has worked in Belize. For instance, the owner of Cahal Pech Village Resort helped establish a museum and preserved the Cahal Pech archaeological site which sits within 100 feet of his hotel. Other resorts (Chaa Creek and Chan Chich) and developments (Orchid Bay and Carmelita) have incorporated Maya sites into their land plans and business plans.
No matter where you go in Belize, there is a Maya city or sacred cave nearby. Each site is unique and will provide an unforgettable experience. And, that is the best way to describe Belize ... an unforgettable experience, or as the Belize Tourism Board (BTB) calls this extraordinary country – “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.”
Everybody has a green thumb in Belize. The tropical weather, varied topography and soil variety creates an ideal climate for plant life. The vast Belizean forests are the best evidence of this fertility. Natural vegetation covers almost 75% of Belize with nearly half of the country protected in forest reserves, parks or wildlife sanctuaries. This ecology, along with a very small population, makes Belize one of the most unique environments in the world. It is unusual to find so much diversity of flora and fauna in such a small country.
The forest represents many things in Belize. From the ancient Maya to modern ecotourism the jungle is an inextricable part of every Belizean’s life. The nation’s flag is embellished with a coat of arms depicting a mahogany tree and two woodcutters. Below them it reads, “Sub Umbra Floreo” which means “Under the Shade We Flourish.” The images on the flag depict the past, present and future of the country.
The woodcutters clearly represent the country’s British Colonial past which included providing mahogany for Buckingham Palace. The mahogany tree can easily be seen as the robust forests of modern-day Belize. Sub Umbra Floreo is the perfect vision for the future as ecotourism and conservation flourish under the shade of the magnificent rainforest.
Belizeans and ex-pats have embraced this vision of the future and have established numerous organizations and businesses that are focused on the rainforest. One of the best examples of this commitment is the Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center which was established in 1983. The zoo is now home to over 125 animals that were orphaned, rehabilitated or born at the zoo.
The Belize Botanic Gardens (BBG) in San Ignacio is another opportunity to see native species from the rainforest. As a member of Botanic Gardens Conservation International, the BBG promotes education and preservation of Caribbean flora. Attractions include the Native Orchid House, The Plants of the Maya and a two mile nature trail. Click Here to see Related Articles
Spending a little time getting to know the native flora and fauna will add immensely to your time in Belize. Venturing to resorts and communities in the rainforest has become one of the country’s biggest attractions. An increasing number of people are recognizing the value of clean air, clean water, medicinal plants and organic foods. Some come for a short visit to rejuvenate and others for a lifetime.
Several hotels, inns and spas provide unique jungle settings with a wide range of accoutrements. Some resorts are rustic and the owners take great pride in treading lightly on the environment and providing one-of-a-kind adventures for their guests. Ian Anderson’s Cave’s Branch Adventure Co. & Jungle Lodge is highly regarded and is one of the best examples of this approach to ecotourism.
Other resorts offer elegant accommodations and refined service with the forest as a backdrop. For instance, in the 1980s Francis Ford Coppola fell in love with Belize and purchased Blancaneux Lodge which he maintained as a retreat for family and friends until opening it to the public in 1993. Located deep in the Maya Mountains next to the waterfalls of the Privassion River the peaceful setting is truly magical.
The conservation ethic in Belize has now extended to new developments. The old approach to development that has devastated vast areas of Florida, Mexico and Central America has not proliferated in Belize. The Government of Belize and the Belize Audubon Society have worked hard to balance the demand for economic development and the need for environmental protection. In order to strike that balance the developers must be committed and creative.
In northern Belize the community of Orchid Bay has been carefully planned to blend into the landscape. The new town was designed to incorporate the history, culture and environment of Belize.
Inspired by the countries national reserves and parks, Orchid Bay has set aside nearly half of its land as green space. This provides a classical complement between the environment and the architecture which references the Mayan, Spanish Colonial and British Colonial history of Belize.
As an international development consultant, I have the opportunity to visit and be involved in many different projects. Currently I am working on the new community of Carmelita in western Belize. The property is approximately 400 acres and half of it is rainforest. This is the place my daughter said was “better than Disney World.” The magnificent rainforest habitat and over a mile of Belize River frontage provide the opportunity to create a truly unique destination.
The owner is a native Belizean who has insisted on developing a community that provides homes and jobs while protecting the environment. He understands that it is important on a global level and as a good neighbor. He has a real diverse set of neighbors around Carmelita. There are the friendly Belizean villagers of Santa Familia, the Mennonite farmers of Spanish Lookout, the Howler Monkeys in the forest and several laid-back expats.
One of the expats from Canada loves to step out on his porch, point to the rainforest as he takes a deep breath and exclaim “that’s my lungs.” His “lungs” are exotic hardwood trees, palms and a variety of other plants which produce a huge surplus of oxygen in Belize. The pristine rainforests of Belize will take your breath away, clean it and back to you.
Mankind has always been in search of arable land. The New World was colonized by Europeans looking for gold. Today we are scouring the planet for oil. However, the one resource we all need is fresh water. Belize is blessed with an abundance of flowing rivers, expansive lagoons and crystal clear springs.
This vast network has always been the countries lifeblood. It provides the nutrients for the reef, rainforest and all its inhabitants. The rivers were once the highways for the Maya and the colonial-era loggers. The lagoons supported ancient Maya cities and early settlements. The springs were sacred sites with mythical healing powers. Belize has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to sweet water. The reef and rainforest continue to thrive; however, man is now using this resource for hydroelectric power and recreation.
Belize has avoided the mass industrialization and overpopulation that drastically degrades the quality of aquifers and riverine environments. The trend towards ecotourism and sustainable development gives this tiny nation the opportunity to maintain a healthy ecosystem and quality of life. Over 60% of the world’s population live in coastal areas and by 2025 that number is expected to be 75%. As humans we are naturally drawn to the water’s edge.
Visitors and residents of Belize are no different. Almost all of the places that I have mentioned in this article are on or near a body of water. In the United States 53% of the people live within 50 miles of the coast. In Belize 100% of the people live within a few miles of a river or lagoon. Since this is where people want to be it is understandable that this is where many of the resorts and communities are located.
Aside from Ian Anderson’s, Blancaneaux and Carmelita there are several other noteworthy destinations. One of the most popular excursions is to Jaguar Paw where knowledgeable tour guides take visitors cave tubing down the Cave’s Branch River and into the Crystal Caves.
Thrill seekers can also go on a zip line tour in the jungle canopy. Another favorite is Banana Bank Lodge on the Belize River. The owner is an expat from Montana and has operated this great example of an ecotourism business since 1973. He has an equestrian center and offers one of the country’s most renowned horseback rides through the rainforest. An unexpected treat is the artwork by his talented wife.
No article about the rivers in Belize would be complete without mentioning La Ruta Maya River Challenge. It is a canoe race named for the “Route of the Maya.” The Belize River becomes the countries center of attention every March as teams compete in a four day 170 mile race from San Ignacio to Belize City.
Other than during La Ruta Maya the rivers are no longer highways. Instead they are serene environments for bird watching, wildlife photography, peaceful canoe rides, or just frolicking on a tropical afternoon.
The 4R’s of Belize are unquestionably better than Disney World. The places and activities I have mentioned in this article is a short list from all of the life changing experiences that await your arrival in Belize. In the next installment, I will introduce you to some of the Belizeans and expats who live an enjoyable tropical lifestyle in “Mother Nature’s Best Kept Secret.”
BARBADOS ECONOMY: FROM SUGAR CROP TO TOURISM
Former British colony and current British Commonwealth member Barbados has a comparatively untroubled history among Caribbean nations. Unoccupied when it was settled by the British in 1627, it stayed under continuous British rule until independence in 1966. A major slave uprising in 1816 was not accompanied by major killings of the overlords, although 264 of the rebels died or were later executed. Barbados’s government and system of law are modeled after those of Britain. It is the easternmost Caribbean island, but has not been directly hit by a hurricane since 1955.
The economic history of Barbados heavily features sugarcane cultivation. Now tourism is the economic mainstay. British institutions and non-radical political parties have resulted in Barbados being among the most prosperous of Caribbean nations. In 2006, it was ranked 3rd in the Americas, behind Canada and the United States, in the “human development index” – which combines normalized measures of life expectancy, literacy, educational attainment, and per capita GDP.
More details follow.
Barbados’s distinction of having remained under British rule from its first settlement in 1627 to its Independence on November 30, 1966, profoundly affected the culture of Barbados. Because of this unbroken dominion, the stoic British influence courses through the everyday life and the infrastructure of the island.
Yet the more flamboyant African sway pervades local life as well, and the blend of the two makes for an unmatched cultural disposition. This fusion ripples through all facets of daily living, from the foods and music to the house styles and street names. Even the language is affected, with Queen’s English being the official “language” while the colorful local dialect remains in common usage.
More than 70% of the island’s 260 000 people are direct descendents from the forced mass Africa migration of the late 1600s and 1700s – the slave trade. The island also has a peaceful blend of European (primarily British) settler blood with the Afro descendents, as well as small but vibrant Hindu (India), Arab (Lebanese and Syrian) and Jewish communities.
African influence is readily seen in the art, craft and literary works produced on the island, as well as many of the foods and figures of speech. Bajans are a quick-witted, fun-loving people and their gift for the double entendre or turn of phrase is most visible through calypso and literature. Local festivals, particularly the island’s biggest national festival, Crop Over, reflect specific elements of Bajan life.
From the beginning and in to its not too long ago past, the primary driving force of the economy and lifestyle was the sugar crop. It was the island’s largest income-earner from the late 1600s until the late 1980s, and remains a powerful influence in both the lifestyle and the economy. Crop Over is a celebration of this agricultural mainstay. The other prime economic influence has been, of course, the fishing industry and festivals hailing this trade are also held.
According to accounts by descendants of the aboriginal Arawak tribes on other local islands, the original name for Barbados was Ichirouganaim.
The origin of the name “Barbados” is controversial. The Portuguese, en route to Brazil are credited as the first European nation to discover and name the island. They dubbed the island Los Barbados, which was Portuguese for the Bearded Ones. It is a matter of conjecture whether the word “bearded” refers to the long, hanging roots of the bearded fig-tree (Ficus citrifolia), indigenous to the island, to bearded Caribs inhabiting the island, or to the foam spraying over the outlying reefs giving the impression of a beard. In 1519, a map produced by the Genoese mapmaker Vesconte de Maggiola showed and named Barbados in its correct position north of the island of Tobago. On some historic maps the island has also been spelled as Barbadoes.
New archaeological discoveries confirm that Barbados may have been inhabited as early as some time in the 1600s B.C. Better known is the migration of the Amerindians who traveled across this part of the Atlantic Ocean by canoe from the Orinoco River region of Venezuela.
This was followed by the Arawak Indians who first arrived in the island around 350-400 BC. A few historical remains of their settlement have been found in areas of Silver Sands, Stroud Point, Chancery Lane, Pie Corner, Saint Luke’s Gully and Mapp’s Cave. They were then conquered by the Caribs, as evidenced by a dramatic decline in their population around 1200 AD. The Caribs later disappeared from the island. While no direct cause has been determined, a possible combination of famine, disease, abduction and enslavement in larger islands by the Spanish or Portuguese have all been suggested as probable causes.
Portuguese explorer Pedro a Campos discovered Barbados in 1536 en route to Brazil. It was Campos who named the island “Los Barbados” (“the bearded ones”), presumably after the island’s fig trees, whose long, hanging aerial roots have a beard-like resemblance.
On May 14th 1625 Captain John Powell landed on Barbados and claimed the uninhabited island for King James of England. Two years later, on February 17th 1627, his brother Captain Henry Powell landed with a party of 80 settlers and 10 slaves. The group established the island’s first European settlement, Jamestown, on the western coast at what is now Holetown. They were welcomed only by a herd of Portuguese Hogs thought to be left there by Campos whose intention was to use them as a food source on return voyages.
This settlement was funded by Sir William Courteen, a London merchant who owned the title to Barbados and several other unclaimed islands. Thus, the first colonists were actually tenants and the profits of their labor returned to Courteen and his company.
Courteen would later lose this title to James Hay, 1st Earl of Carlisle in what was called the “Great Barbados Robbery.” Carlisle then chose as Governor Henry Hawley. It was he who established the House of Assembly in 1639, in an effort to appease the planters who might otherwise oppose his controversial appointment.
In the very early years, the majority of the population was white and male, with African slaves providing little of the workforce. Cultivation of tobacco, cotton, ginger and indigo was handled primarily by European indentured labor until the start of the sugar cane industry.
Sugar Cane and Slavery
The settlers, in order to survive, needed a cash crop, which at that time was tobacco followed by cotton. This proved not to be profitable and so sugar cane was selected as an alternative. Sugar production, because of its financial outlay was not viable for the small farmer and soon he was forced out giving way to the large plantation owners.
Sugar cane cultivation began in the 1640s, after its introduction in 1637 by Pieter Blower. Initially, rum was produced but by 1642, sugar was the focus of the industry. As it developed into the main commercial enterprise, Barbados was divided into large plantation estates which replaced the small holdings of the early British settlers as the wealthy planters pushed out the poorer.
Some of the displaced farmers relocated to British colonies in North America, most notably South Carolina. To work the plantations, tribal peoples of Africa were imported as slaves in such numbers that there were three for every one planter. The slave trade ceased a few years before the abolition of slavery throughout the British empire in 1834. Persecuted Catholics from Ireland also worked the plantations.
Sugar cane dominated Barbados’s economic growth, and the island’s cash crop was at the top of the sugar industry until 1720. Gypsies purged from Europe and other captured nomads were also brought to Barbados as slaves. The Europeans mixed these groups in with the existing groups to form servants for export to the Americas, particularly to the plantations owned by U.S. President Thomas Jefferson.
This switch to sugar cane is probably the single most important event in the history of Barbados.
This switch to sugar cane is probably the single most important event in the history of Barbados, for it brought with it many significant changes. Barbados became a veritable gold mine for the British as the island’s sugar industry grew and prospered.
The “landed gentry” came in their numbers from England, all eager to make their fortunes off sugar. Lifestyle was lavish and extravagant, and the residue of this is evident in the many “great houses” peppered across the island, several of which are open for public viewing by the Barbados National Trust. It also saw the end of the indentured European laborers, bringing the drastic reduction of the white population and the large scale importation of slaves from Africa who provided plantation labor.
The slave trade peaked in the 1700s and continued until 1834 when the Emancipation Act launched an apprenticeship system leading to freedom. Sunday April 14th, 1816 saw the first slave uprising in this island for 124 years. The Bussa Rebellion as it later became known was lead by Bussa, a slave, at Bayley’s Plantation. Bussa later became another of Barbados’s National heroes and over 169 years later the Emancipation Statue was unveiled in his memory. In 1838 slavery was abolished completely.
It is not surprising the next events of historical significance involved mass labor, poor working conditions and the advent of labor unions. Clement Payne, one of the country’s National Heroes, who is best remembered for his struggle to help the poor working population of Barbados, was deported and this triggered 4 days of violence later known as the infamous 1937 riots. This kicked off a period of democratic growth and within a year the first labor union was launched.
In 1954 the leader of the trade union movement Sir Grantley Adams, became the islands first Premier and in 1961, the man known to Barbadians as the “Father of Independence,” Errol Barrow was elected to lead the country and ultimately pave the way to the island’s Independence in 1966. Unlike the majority of other territories Barbados remained in the hands of the British until the island’s Independence on November 30th 1966.
Barbados had now achieved Independence from Britain, but maintained ties to the British monarch, represented in Barbados by the Governor General. Barbados became an independent state within the Commonwealth Nations and continues to have major role in regional cooperation.
Barbados has the third oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere.
Barbados has enjoyed more than 350 years of unbroken parliamentary rule and is a democratic society, with a Prime Minister as head of the country. The House of Assembly began meeting in 1639 and Barbados has the third oldest legislative body in the Western Hemisphere.
On that Proud day of Independence, now a National Holiday, the ceremony included the first playing of the National Anthem, the first raising of the National Flag and an elaborate parade.
Since Independence, Barbados has been a member of Caricom (previously the Caribbean Free Trade Area), as well as gaining close ties with Third World countries. Barbados now enjoys one of the most stable political and economic environments in the English speaking countries.
Barbados’s Independence is now celebrated with a month of events and activities in the month of November. Celebrations start with a Lighting Ceremony in the city Bridgetown and ends with a beautiful Parade Ceremony at the Garrison Savannah on the actual Independence Day (Nov 30th), where you can see from Cub Scouts to Soldiers and Girl Guides to the Landship, all turned out in their uniforms.
The Mainstay of Current Economy
Although tourism dates back to the 1700s when such visitors as George Washington came to the island for its healthful environment, it was not until the 1950s it became truly popular as a long-stay destination for the wealthy, whose lavish lifestyle is still visible primarily along the west coast.
Barbados is considered one of the main jewels in the Caribbean’s tourism crown.
By the 1970s Barbados was gaining wider popularity and by the early 1990s visitors not only came in their numbers during the traditional “high” or winter season, but also during the summer period, July through August, for the island’s biggest national festival Crop Over.
Today, over a million visitors come to Barbados each year, half of which are cruise ship visitors. Barbados is considered one of the main jewels in the Caribbean’s tourism crown and accounts for the majority of the island’s economy.
EXPERIENCE THE SOUTH AFRICAN COUNTRYSIDE
South Africa does not usually show up on the “A List” of expatriate destinations. Is that due to narrow-mindedness, lack of information, or an actual lack of certain amenities? The case is made here that the countryside of the province of Gauteng, home of the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria, is worth considering.
The cost of living in the Gauteng countryside is reasonable, the obstacles to obtaining residency few, and the lifestyle may be a decent fit for those looking to make a change. There is the matter of crime, which South Africa has a certain reputation for. We are informed it is much lower in the countryside than in the cities. As always, it would seem to be a matter of look closely before you buy.
Gauteng, the smallest and most densely populated province in South Africa, hosts a multitude of attractions for tourists and expats. At the heart of the province is Johannesburg, Africa’s economic center, and Pretoria, the country’s capital, is situated in the north of the province. However, if you travel in the opposite direction towards the south of the province you’ll find yourself in the Southern Country. 35 kilometers from the hustle and bustle of the city is Walkerville, a countryside rich in agriculture and adventure and home to a friendly and culturally diverse community.
The greater Walkerville area is comprised of 11 communities. It offers the benefits of rural society within a close proximity to the active and fast-paced metropolis so that one can enjoy its quietness and tranquillity but also have the option of escaping into the city now and again. It may take a 15 to 45 minute drive to reach the city, depending on where you are situated.
Owning or renting your own car is the preferred mode of transport as the current public transport system is unreliable and sometimes even dangerous. Older model cars may be rented from R50 ($5.80) per day and newer cars from R350 ($42) per day. However, a large majority of the lower classes depend on the local “taxi” system to get around. It comprises of minibuses which normally transport up to twelve passengers at a time. Taxi’s are often spotted in the cities but only operate on the main public roads in the country. A taxi fare to the city is around R10 ($1.20) and there is no formal schedule for departures and arrivals.
In light of the FIFA World Cup to be held in South Africa next year, the government is working to improve the transport system and infrastructure. New and safer minibuses have been introduced and the planning and construction of a new train and bus system is underway.
As the cost of living is lower than in most countries in Europe as well as the United States and Canada, accommodation is priced relatively low. The national currency, the Rand, has been a little unstable lately due to the world economic crisis and political and economic changes in the country so one U.S. dollar may buy you anything between 8 to 10 Rands. ... It is a good idea to follow the market for some time before purchasing a property or planning to relocate. The price of real estate in the area underwent a boom in late 2004 and early 2005 and has dropped slightly since then. When considering good quality accommodation, cottages may be rented from R4,000 ($471) and houses from R6,000 ($706) per month, excluding utilities. Lovely homes on 4 to 10 acre plots of land are available for purchase from R1 million ($118,000). However, properties can range from half of that price, depending on the condition they are in and the location. Vacant land is priced at about R200,000 ($23,600).
With regards to the cost of living, petrol (or gas) and diesel are both priced below R8 ($0.95) and a loaf of brown bread costs R8.
Although some believe that county life is better suited for senior citizens and farmers, many of the inhabitants are middle-class families supported by corporate jobs in the city. People with international qualifications and experience are welcomed into the market. There are also jobs available in Walkerville from the local employers. It is common for people to start their own small businesses at their homes, since they have the space and due to the fewer restrictions on starting a business from your home in the country. Agricultural businesses are indeed the most common, but there is a variety of printing, botanical, animal welfare, educational, community services, auto repair, retail and charity businesses as well as others.
School, pre-school and tertiary education facilities are available in and close to the area. Parents may choose from public, semi-private (schools which are partly funded by the government and partly funded by additional school fees) and private schools for their primary and high school children. The Vaal University of Technology is situated south of the area and the University of South Africa has facilities located both to the north and south for distance-education learners.
There are many churches for the different faiths, book clubs, pony clubs and other organisations. There are also local clinics, nearby hospitals and other services provided by the local municipality and government. You will also find shopping corners, restaurants, pubs, hotels and cafe’s. Two rivers are also situated nearby. Namely, Kliprivier and the Vaal. So, it is definitely not a deserted country town. Tedderfield Air Park is situated in Tedderfield, Eikenhof in the north. ...
Saturday mornings mark the beginning of numerous family activities. Every Saturday people pay a visit to the De Deur Flea Market, where they can buy locally produced goods, second hand items and food, or just browse for something interesting and meet with friends. At least once a month, on either a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, Speedway races are held at the local raceway where motorcyclists come to compete and young riders learn the trait.
Another flea market has recently opened on Sundays and there are show grounds for horses with occasional events held there. For the past thirteen years, the Annual Tour de Walkerville has taken place. Residents and tourists take part in a walk throughout the countryside, sponsored by the local businesses. Participants buy tickets in order to take part in the day’s events, including raffles and competitions.
Some of the major concerns of the community include the welfare of its residents, animal welfare and nature conservation. From this has sprung the various charities for impoverished and orphaned children, care for elderly citizens and feeding schemes, as well as animal rescue centres and veterinary clinics. These charities are supported by the Annual Tour de Walkerville which helps to raise funds for them.
Furthermore, Walkerville is not immune to the high rate of crime in South Africa and it is a factor that is continually raised by residents and the police. Measures that have been implemented to tackle this problem include the hiring of private security services, the installing of alarms into private homes and police patrolling. In some neighborhoods the residents have come together to ensure that the area is patrolled every night and to help in keeping each other safe. Severe incidents of crime are not often heard of. The usual and widespread crimes include the theft of telephone cables and livestock. Most thieves resort to crime as a result of poverty and are inexperienced, therefore thefts normally occur when homeowners leave their houses uninhabited to go on holiday, or cars and other property is stolen at night in garages, carports and gardens whilst people are sleeping inside the house. However, with time these robbers gain experience and there are others who are already masters in the art of crime. They then progress to crimes like armed robbery.
This is a national crisis that is being dealt with and no place can be undoubtedly labeled as “safe”, however, the rate of overall crime as well as serious crimes such as rape and murder is much lower in the countryside than it is in the cities. Although this should not be a reason for somebody to compromise their plans or stay, it is always a good idea to take all of the safety precautions available to you.
There are few visa restraints for South Africa, especially when immigrants come from developing and first world countries. Along with the usual documents, proof of income, employment or enrolment at a South African educational facility and proof of residence may be required. Persons who later qualify as permanent residents may also apply for citizenship, which may also be achieved by proving birth or decent.
When in South Africa, people will want to take advantage and see all its other attractions. The southern tip of Africa has many experiences to offer like natural African landscapes, wildlife, amusement parks, world class shopping malls and golden beaches. It has become the home of visitors from all over the world, who fall in love with the tropical climate, diverse culture, history, lifestyle and friendly smiles they receive from the locals. For these reasons and others it is often referred to as the Rainbow Nation.
WHY I’M LEAVING NEW YORK
One long-time resident says “enough,” heads for Florida.
Tom Golisano, Chairman of the Board of the very successful public accounting services company Paychex, has had enough. He loves New York, and it pains him to move away from family and friends. But “I am not going to pay New York more for the waste, corruption and inefficiency that is New York state government.” So he is expatriating, so to speak, to Florida, which will save him $13,800 per day in taxes.
Obviously Mr. Golisano’s pure monetary incentive to make the move is higher than is the case for most of us. The marginal calculus, nevertheless, is the same; it is only a matter of what trigger point results in action. And in explaining how New York’s taxes became so out of hand Golisano also supplies a very clear case study of a government being captured by special interests and effectively acting as an organized extortion racket.
Now having joined Kurt Russell in escaping from New York, Mr. Golisano would be well advised to apply the same decision methodology with regard to staying within the no-longer-so-guilded cage that is the U.S.A.
I love New York. But how much should it cost to call New York home? Decades of out-of-control budgets, spending increases and relentless borrowing have made New York simply too expensive.
Politicians like to talk about incentives – incentives for businesses to relocate, incentives to buy local and incentives to make smart decisions. After reviewing the 2009 budget, I have identified the most compelling incentive of all: A major tax break immediately available to all New Yorkers. To be eligible, you need only do one thing: Move out of New York state.
Last week I spent 90 minutes doing a couple simple things: Registering to vote, changing my driver’s license, filling out a domicile certificate and signing a homestead certificate – in Florida. Combined with spending 184 days a year outside New York, these simple procedures will save me over $5 million in New York taxes annually.
That savings does not include that Florida has a 6% sales tax, compared to New York’s 8% or more. Florida has lower utility taxes and lower gasoline taxes. The Florida homestead certificate guarantees my property taxes will not grow more than 3%.
By moving to Florida, I can spend that money on worthy causes, like better hospitals and improving education, and on worthy projects like the Clinton Global Initiative. Or maybe I will continue to invest that money in fighting the status quo in Albany. One thing is certain: That money will not continue to fund Albany’s bloated bureaucracy, corrupt politicians or regular handouts to the special interests.
How did we get here in the first place? It all starts with spending, spending and more spending.
New York’s budget was $72.7 billion in 1999. Ten years later, it has ballooned to $131.8 billion. That growth is astounding, but it continues to get worse. Each year, New York’s budget has had 6% compounded growth, double the average rate of inflation (2.8%). Florida’s budget, on the other hand, went down 8% this year.
Health Care Spending
New York spends $2,283 per person on Medicaid. That is the highest per capita spending in the nation and twice the national average. In the last decade, the Medicaid budget has grown by 50% ($30 billion in 1999 and $45 billion in 2009). In almost every sector (hospitals, nursing homes, medicine, clinics, and home and community care), spending per recipient regularly exceeds the national average.
Faced with escalating costs and diminishing returns, Albany and their allies, the health care unions (SEIU has over 300,000 politically active members), had only one answer: Increase taxes.
New York spends the most per pupil in America on education, spending 63% above the national average. Costs went up about 60% in the last decade ($12.7 billion in 1999 and $20.7 billion in 2009). Like health care, education is something worth spending on and worth investing in, but we are spending more and getting less. New York City schools graduated 54% of high school students in 2007, Buffalo 47% and Rochester 45%.
Why? Perhaps it is because the New York state teachers union, with its $114 million budget, is always trying to convince Albany to spend more. Maybe it is because it is mandatory that all teachers pay union dues. Whatever the cause, when faced with potential cuts, the union and their allies have one response: Increase taxes.
Local Government Spending
It is not just the state. It is the range and breadth of New York layers of governments and special taxing districts. In New York, the average state and local tax burden is $5,260 for every man, woman and child. That is by far the highest in the country. Like Albany, when faced with a difficult problem, these municipalities have one answer: Increase taxes.
Upstate New York has been particularly hard hit. Add unreasonable real estate taxes to the uncontrolled state spending, and you have whole communities decimated. The assessment process is unfair, unworkable and unreasonable, and the result is that 15 of the 20 highest taxed counties in America are right here in Upstate New York. While homeowners in other areas build equity, we just pay more taxes.
No One Is Home
This problem did not begin with the current recession. New York faced a $6 billion shortfall before the economic downturn. However, in the face of economic turmoil Gov. Paterson, Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Smith looked to the unions and special interests, who answered with one voice: Raise taxes.
Among other taxes and fees, they raised the marginal tax rate on the most successful (and most mobile) New Yorkers to 8.97%, the second highest rate in the nation.
It was irresponsible and it may just prove to be counterproductive, since the top 1% of earners account for about 50% of state revenue. We are the ones who can – and will – leave.
It is not an easy decision, but I am being forced away from my family and friends, a pain shared by too many parents and grandparents in this state.
I am leaving. And by domiciling in Florida, I will personally save $13,800 every single day. That is a pretty strong incentive.
Like I said, I love New York, but I am not going to pay New York more for the waste, corruption and inefficiency that is New York state government.
Tom Golisano is the Chairman of the Board of Paychex, Inc. and the founder of the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation. He created Responsible New York so the voices of ordinary New Yorkers can be heard over the special interests, to hold elected officials accountable and to advocate for government reform.
IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE DON’T KNOW IT, SAYS GERALD CELENTE
The “Greater Depression” will hit after 2010’s recovery fails and the final bubble pops.
Gloom and doom is in plentiful supply right now, except for from government talking heads who have a vested interest in convincing us otherwise. After a major market decline that is practically guaranteed. Gerald Celente has some standing among the gloom & doomers – we place ourselves among their number – because he was predicting today’s mess before the fact. And with a large number of customers for his services he had something to lose if we were wrong.
Celente accurately forecast the unraveling of the dot-com bubble and in 2002 he predicted, hyperbolically but presciently, that “the collapse of the American empire would fall like the World Trade Center in a thunderous crash – in slow motion before our eyes.”
Now what? Prepare for the “Greater Depression” he now says. A worst case outcome deriving from that scenario is that a war is arranged to divert the populace from the economic problems. If that war involves the use of weapons of mass destruction, well, you can figure out the rest.
Human Events had the opportunity to interview forecaster extraordinaire Gerald Celente, President of Trends Research Institute, several days ago – and the future he predicts looks bleak indeed. In fact, as Mr. Celente sees it, the Great Depression will seem like a mild recession as what waits for us in 2011 hits with the force of a Katrina financial hurricane.
In case you are wondering who Mr. Celente is (if this is still possible), he has appeared – along with his predictions – on Oprah, CNBC, Reuters, NBC, PBS, BBC, the Glenn Beck Show – the list goes on an on. His Trends Report has been successfully predicting the major future trends impacting our lives for 3 decades, including calling the dot-com crash back in the 1990s.
Mr. Celente’s forecast on our impending future is based on his study of history. He says we are bent on destroying our currency, bankrupting our government, and unleashing a violent citizen-against-citizen eruption as the economy collapses into chaos and martial law fascism.
Quite a claim. And God help us if he is right – again.
“We are sounding the alarm about the ongoing downward economic cycle,” Gerald told Human Events. “In 2002, we predicted that the collapse of the American empire would fall like the World Trade Center in a thunderous crash – in slow motion before our eyes. And now it is happening.”
Mr. Celente follows over 300 trends: family, crime, war, education, consumer and business patterns which TRI synthesizes to predict the future.
“The U.S. is becoming a shadow of what it used to be. Take education for example. The OECD group of developed countries ranks quality of life, education, health care of its member nations. The U.S. is now falling down the table as one piece of data after another shows America is in decline. We are no longer Win, Place or Show in quality of life, education, longevity ... all the essentials where we used to be #1. And our economic underpinnings are failing.”
Mr. Celente puts part of the blame squarely on the federal government, and especially FED Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Geithner, and warns us not to believe a word they say “They are the same people who did not see it coming – are now telling us the worst is over, that ‘green shoots are spouting upwards.’ But they were wrong before. They are wrong on this too.”
“When you pump out tons of money manure into this system based on nothing – printing press paper, it is like giving a patient with a chronic disease a pain killer – it will not cure the patient.”
“But let’s go beyond the economics. Our whole Constitution has been abrogated. The president simply writes an Executive Order to do whatever he wants. Nationalize the banks, take over the insurance industry, automobile industry, health care industry ... None of it is constitutional.”
When did the problem begin?
“After Dwight Eisenhower – our last great president – the Allied Supreme Commander in WWII – who warned us of the dangers of the military-industrial complex. We have become completely corrupted.”
“We became enmeshed in foreign entanglements. We forgot the lesson of England – and how their global imperial overreach destroyed their empire.”
Of course, the average American does not think that we are an empire. We are not like the classical empires of old – raping, pillaging and stealing the wealth of invaded peoples. What does Mr. Celente have to say about this?
“What we are doing is squandering our wealth, our resources, the genius of our scientists and the future of our children. We are over-consuming in every way – but under-consuming our education and focusing on the quantity, not the quality, of what we have built. So much of today’s culture is counter-productive to what American built its foundation on – a high-quality producing nation building things, not pushing paper.
“And we have become not only a consumer society but a low-quality consumer, as well as the most obese society in the world, eating low-quality high-carb, high-fat processed foods.”
“We a;re now focused on the lowest cost, the lowest common denominator. Not the best and highest quality. We advertise buying cheapest as the most important thing.”
Mr. Celente argues that we have socially destroyed our productivity and have abandoned it to other countries.
“And we have fallen into a moral vacuum. Look at how people used to dress. Smartly. Not like the cheap hoods of today. Fashion now copies the lowest common denominator. Our children wear clothes without belts, and shoes without shoelaces, to copy the styles of the violent criminals – who have these items removed by the police in prison so they cannot be used as weapons. That is become the fashion statement of today’s youth. Like rap music from the ghetto. We have become an underdeveloped nation.”
Mr. Celente observes that “people used to think of America as that shining beacon on the hill with ‘liberty and justice for all ...”.” So what happened?
“Morality is missing from our American public consciousness. Start with Wall Street. It is run by a criminal gang. The only question is ‘how much can you make, how much can you steal?’ At the bottom, the welfare recipient says ‘how much can I take?’ And the government is in on the take.”
“Morality is absolutely the issue. We had a government where we were taught all our lives that we are a free enterprise system – so we depend on our own strength, our entrepreneurial ideas. The world used to look to us for our innovative spirit.”
“This is being destroyed before our eyes. And our government has become more interventionist than any of the old empires could imagine.”
“Our society is now based on consumption – 70% of the GDP. This is more than we produce. So to pay our bills, we use funny money invented in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve and the fiat dollar based on credit (debt) – the fractional reserve system. In 1930s you bought what you could afford. You saved up to buy your home. The easy credit of the ‘90s has destroyed the country. Now you borrow what you cannot afford – and the nation has done the same.”
Mr. Celente predicts the use of printing press money will cause the “Greater Depression.”
“I predict continuing deflation of real estate, followed by extreme currency inflation – ultimately becoming worthless. This is why gold is the only honest money – the government cannot counterfeit it. Look for it to top at least $2000 an ounce.”
“Our unemployment numbers are also bogus. For example, the construction industry is really above 20%, and the government is creating low-level jobs, not real jobs. The U.S. total real unemployment is more like 16%. Before the crisis is over, it will reach 25% – Great Depression numbers.”
“When people have lost everything they have nothing to lose. Violence and crime will explode. Look at the OECD figures. The number of people not graduating from high school is exploding – they are wacked out on drugs. New York City will look like Mexico City in a few years. The collapse of morality from top down – and especially in the government – makes it inevitable.”
“What can we expect in the coming future,” we asked.
“Washington has declared ‘Economic Martial Law.’ Wall Street is putting Main Street out of business. The key to watch is Christmas sales. They will fail. Christmas will be when reality sets in.”
“Another trend we wrote about over 2 years ago was the tax revolt. What has happened? Tax revenues have collapsed by 33%. And the wealthy people are leaving.“
“We predict state secessionist movements will rival the breakup of the Soviet Union.”
“The only way we can ever recover is to return to individual community, personal responsibility, local government. Next, average will disappear, quality will return. Look at GM. Junk cars financed by junk bonds. Now owned by a junk government. As a consumer, do not consume quantity – consume quality.”
“How will it all end?,” we queried. Will the dollar survive?
“The dot com bubble should have burst and gone away in a short sharp recession. But the boys at the Fed re-inflated the economy by lowering interest rates to a 46 year low – and in turn created the real estate bubble – much bigger than the dot com bubble.”
“Now they are creating the bailout bubble – which will ultimately dwarf the real estate bubble. It will cause the implosion of the global economy world wide – which will not be able to be repaired by creating yet another bubble. Every time the government fails, it tells a bigger lie and then a still bigger lie.”
“These previous bubbles were not allowed to pop – but they did not destroy the infrastructure of the country. This bailout bubble will.”
“But this bubble will be the last one. After the final blowout of the bailout bubble, we are concerned that the government will take the nation into war. This is a historical precedent that has been done over and over again.”
“So, it is not that the dollar that will survive. We may not even survive. Look at the German mess after WWI. It gave rise to Fascism and WWII. The next war will be fought with weapons of mass destruction.”
American “Liberal Fascism”? Is it possible? Jonah Goldberg’s bestseller raised the alarm two years ago.
SCHEME ALLEGEDLY GENERATED $1.3 BILLION IN PHONY LOSSES FOR PROMINENT CLIENTS
“One of the largest tax fraud schemes ever uncovered in this country,” says U.S. attorney.
The essentials of this case are similar to hundreds of other U.S. “tax fraud” cases which we are made aware of – phony losses, complex areas of the tax code, and people who think that by running the operation offshore they will avoid being found out. The size of the scheme stands out, of course, as do the complexity of the operation itself and the efforts that were required to uncover the scheme.
The two principals running the scheme created a paper trail of phony capital losses which they used to offset the capital gains of the clients. The idea is legitimate, and there was no apparent problem in procuring opinions from prominent law firms that this was the case. That the losses never actually occurred was well hidden from the clients and opinion givers, who are not being charged with any crime.
Of particular interest is that the fictitious trading losses allegedly happened within an Austrian brokerage firm. Austria has had strong financial secrecy laws, so it took a long time for U.S. investigators to obtain the records ... records which then failed to reveal the claimed losing trades. Details are not given, but we can only guess that when presented with evidence relating to a specific case of a suspected genuine crime – reporting phony losses – that Austria eventually handed over the records. The process took years, and the effort was made because the amounts in question were so huge.
Client privacy protection did not provide ultimate protection, but it obviously made things much harder for the pursuers. The U.S. and its fellow would-be pursuers from the OECD et al would of course like to eliminate this little difficulty.
Two principals of defunct Seattle investment management firm Quellos Group and a Los Angeles lawyer were indicted in a tax shelter scheme that allegedly created more than $1.3 billion in fraudulent losses for prominent clients, including media mogul and billionaire investor Haim Saban.
The operation was “one of the largest tax fraud schemes ever uncovered in this country,” U.S. Atty. Jeffrey C. Sullivan in Seattle said [June 4].
Saban and four other clients were apparently unaware of the alleged fraud, having been offered written legal opinions from well-known law firms and assurances from their own tax attorneys that the tax shelter was legal. They paid about $400 million in back taxes, plus penalties, and were not accused of any wrongdoing.
The indictment names as defendants Los Angeles lawyer Matthew G. Krane, Quellos founder and Chief Executive Jeffrey Greenstein and Quellos principal Charles Wilk, also a lawyer. It charges the two former Quellos principals with conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, tax evasion and money laundering, among other charges.
Krane, charged with money laundering, is accused of secretly receiving a $36-million kickback for enticing Saban, one of his long-standing Los Angeles clients, to funnel the bulk of more than $1 billion in proceeds from the sale of Fox Family Worldwide Inc. into money-losing investment vehicles, which Saban had been repeatedly assured were legal as a tax shelter.
Greenstein and Wilk are accused of setting up a complex series of sham transactions through a shell company on the Isle of Man to blend wealthy investors’ earnings with an equal number of stock losses to avoid owing capital gains taxes. But, the indictment alleges, the losing stocks did not exist, the company that supposedly acquired the stocks had neither employees nor earnings and the blended investment vehicles were a fraud. The two men “misled some of this country’s wealthiest citizens to commit tax fraud,” Sullivan said.
Quellos was once one of the world’s largest managers of mutual funds made up of hedge funds. The company sold its fund of funds business to New York asset manager BlackRock for $1.7 billion in 2007, and the remainder of the company closed. Prosecutors said the portion of the business sold to BlackRock had no connection to the transactions outlined in the indictment.
Greenstein, who co-founded Quellos in 1994, has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and his lawyers, in a joint statement, pointed to government investigators’ acknowledgment that the transactions were a “discrete and minor area” of Quellos’s business.
“The government has unfortunately chosen to bring these charges based on complex transactions that were executed approximately nine years ago,” the statement said. “These transactions were vetted by world-class professionals, including numerous tax experts upon whom Mr. Greenstein – who is not a tax professional – relied in his role as CEO of Quellos.”
Another prominent investor caught up in the scheme, according to Senate investigators, was Robert Wood Johnson IV, owner of the New York Jets and heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune.
The 2006 tax return filed by Bill and Hillary Clinton showed that the couple had an interest in Quellos Alpha Engine, an investment fund headquartered in the Cayman Islands and run by Quellos Group. But that investment was not alleged to be part of the tax shelter included in the indictment. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s campaign spokesman told reporters that the investment was made through the Clintons’ blind trust and that the couple was not aware of it.
Mark Bartlett, Sullivan’s top assistant prosecutor, said Greenstein and Wilk created a portfolio of technology stocks demonstrating $9.6 billion in losses and provided documentation to investors and the IRS to make it appear that the losses were genuine.
“It would be impossible to show that any of the taxpayers had knowledge that this was a criminal scheme,” Bartlett said. “What the evidence has shown is the lies that were told to the IRS were also told to the taxpayer, and also told to attorneys for the taxpayers.”
The assurances included written tax opinions from prominent law firms, including Cravath, Swaine & Moore of New York, the second-oldest law firm in the U.S., and Bryan Cave, an international firm that specializes in corporate transactions. The documents affirmed it was “more likely than not” that the Quellos plan would produce favorable tax consequences, according to a 2006 investigation by the U.S. Senate’s permanent subcommittee on investigations, which turned the case over to federal criminal authorities.
The committee said Bryan Cave made more than $1 million in fees but disavowed knowledge of how the paper portfolio was formed. The Cravath Swaine partner who endorsed the Quellos transactions made $125,000 in fees and also said he was unaware of any fake trades.
Federal tax authorities have faced an increasingly difficult paper trail in recent years tracking earnings and potential tax liability in a global economy in which multinational companies have the opportunity to earn money and pay taxes in various jurisdictions – many of them with tight bank secrecy laws, little or no income tax and strict asset protection laws.
Federal investigators in 2006 estimated that tax havens cost the U.S. Treasury about $40 billion to $70 billion a year.
Although most of the capital gains covered in the Quellos case occurred in 2000 and 2001, prosecutors said the investigation took years to document, in part, because of difficulty penetrating Austria’s strong bank secrecy laws to gain access to Krane’s banking records.
“You are dealing with foreign governments, foreign jurisdictions, all the records that the two agents have to pile through. ... It could take years, because everything has to come through official channels,” said Kenneth Hines, special agent in charge of the IRS in Seattle.
The indictment accuses the two former Quellos principals of conspiracy to defraud the IRS, tax evasion and money laundering, among other charges.
Krane is in custody in Los Angeles on separate federal passport fraud charges.
LIFE IN VICHY AMERICA
Your choice is collaboration with a regime that seeks to control your every behavior and rob your children of their inheritance or to stand athwart history and say enough is enough.
This rambling but interesting discourse from LewRockwell.com’s Bill Buppert includes an informative glimpse of French history. His thesis is that the U.S. is now under occupational government similar to World War II’s Vichy France.
Occupied France was riven by those who resisted the Germans and their collaborators and those who resisted. The conflict turned out to be a good opportunity to settle old scores dating back to the French Revolution. History is written by the winners, so those who collaborated have been duly shamed, although the collaboration with one of history’s most heinous regimes was so extensive that a full investigation and accounting has never been given.
The dividing line may not be quite so black and white in America today as it is in retrospect in occupied France, but Buppert asks the question anyway: Are you going to “hold your nose and do what you know is the wrong thing.” Will you be a party to the destruction of your and your fellow citizens’ future ... or not?
In our view, resistance does not necessarily entail anything more than a Ghandi-esque refusal to go along with the gag that the occupying army/gang in D.C. is in any way legitimate. By any objective assessment it is assuredly not. And if you waste a lot of time actually watching the machinations of those clowns, get a life. Big Brother may be watching you, but there is no need for you to watch Big Brother.
“You can only have power over people so long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything he’s no longer in your power – he’s free again.” ~~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Collaboration in a negative connotation is an active or passive surrender to an overarching regime which removes freedom and liberty and replaces it with an ordered command mechanism to modify or influence your behavior. One can consider the British Loyalists in the American colonies to be collaborators and their fates on occasion were quite ghastly. This can happen as a result of foreign occupation or a replacement of statist forces over time through elections, coups and administrative fiat in an increasingly tyrannical government. The state is a remora that needs a host to survive, and convincing the host that the relationship is beneficial to both parties is the key to the remora’s survival. If Obamunism provides one salutary service to the nation, it is a televised demonstration project on how gangster government (is that redundant?) thrives in an environment where the rule of force trumps the rule of law. On your own counsel, is your acceptance and compliance voluntary or a submission to staying one step ahead of the jailer?
When the Germans rolled into France in June 1940, the French Third Republic toppled to be replaced by État Français or the French State. Vichy France was established after France surrendered to Germany on 22 June 1940 and Marshall Phillipe Pétain removed the administrative center of France from Paris to Vichy. Southern France remained relatively autonomous from direct German control until 11 March 1942 when the Allies landed in North Africa in 1942. The Vichy government ruled over France until the Allied repatriation of the Free French under de Gaulle in June 1945. This government was acknowledged and legitimized by the U.S. and Canada, among others, until 23 October 1944.
During this entire time a guerilla war raged between the French Resistance and the maquis and the Vichy/German government in France and some of its colonial holdings. The Vichy government was simply the latest installment to provide a stage for the adversaries to engage in real and rhetorical combat. This civil war had its origins in the 1789 Revolution when the people who did not agree to the destruction of the Ancien Régime continued to sow division resulting in tremendous dissent and disruption throughout French history in the 19th century. During WWII, the behavior and resistance of these anti-Vichy forces was used as an opportunity to expand the state and was responsible for the post-WWII socialist government.
“Historians distinguish between a state collaboration followed by the regime of Vichy, and ‘collaborationists,’ which usually refer to the French citizens eager to collaborate with Nazi Germany and who pushed towards a radicalization of the regime.”
The French started taking measures against undesirables such as communists, socialists, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and other unfortunates who became subject to harassment, imprisonment and death. The French then reactivated and reflagged various existing concentration camps for the government’s latest victims. Stanley Hoffman avers that “an ideologically-motivated cooperation with a Nazi Germany [was] seen as the only bulwark against the spread of Bolshevism in Europe.” Of course, one can note that the opposite is happening in America today.
What is fascinating are the dynamics that animated the relatively easy slide of the republican French into a fascist dictatorship channeling the National Socialist agenda into a French variant that had its moments of viciousness that would do the Nazis proud. This brought to the surface centuries-old conflicts that had been brewing and finally spasmed violently in resistance organizations against the Vichy regime’s predations against urban undesirables and rural pockets of refusal, among others.
These sentiments are now starting to manifest themselves in America. There are people for whom desperate economic times are forcing their ideological hand to reexamine support for a state that seems to work against the wealthy and self-employed, among others. We have collectivists versus individualists; rural versus urban; wise users versus green fascists and an entire panoply of opposition forces starting to coalesce and bringing their fights to the surface.
So what does WWII occupied France have to do with modern America? I would suggest we have labored under a Vichy-style occupation since 1865 when a virulent form of government supremacism extinguished states rights in the original Federal system and then the Progressivist virus metastasized under Theodore Roosevelt and the rest is history as the republican vision of a decentralized, localized and minimal government became as anachronistic as the notion of natural rights.
Collaboration is the willful ability to hold your nose and do what you know is the wrong thing.
We are all Vichy French in America today. Your decision is to choose Free American or Vichy French. Your choice is collaboration with a regime that seeks to control your every behavior and rob your children of their inheritance or to stand athwart history and say enough is enough. Collaboration is the willful ability to hold your nose and do what you know is the wrong thing. Collaboration is the desire to look the other way as a large coercive system robs your neighbors’ against their will and you take advantage of the spoils. Pushkin said “[w]hy should cattle have the gifts of freedom? Their heritage from generation to generation is the belled yoke and the lash.”
How many folks do you know (especially collectivists) who would voluntarily pay the taxes they do right here and right now if not compelled by the threat of violence? How many folks do full stops instead of rolling stops at stop signs? How many corporations would willingly staff the accountancy and regulatory requirements imposed on them? From the local to the federal level, how many Americans would enforce or comply with the millions of idiotic regulations forced on them?
What if tens of millions of American workers simply followed Gandhi’s teaching and crossed their arms and said no more taxes, jail me instead? Imagine if state governors stood up and said all the Federal Law enforcement elements within their borders had 24 hours to resign or leave the state?
There was no foreign vector that caused this to happen as it did in WWII France, yet the amount of discontent, disenfranchisement and disgust on the part of Americans matches much of what inspired the resistance organizations. Depressingly, one of the reasons the French Resistance was such a tough nut to crack throughout the war was that before the Nazi occupation, they had been hunted as Communists by the pre-1940 French regime and had a very robust cellular organization structure. Many Americans today increasingly look at the machinations in D.C. and view it as occupation behavior. Yet why did so many Frenchmen collaborate with the Nazi and Vichy regimes? They did it because any other behavior demanded a moral stand or courage they did not possess. We all have to take a measure of the degree of moral cowardice we are willing to live with.
Of course, this is the story of humanity. How did the Bolsheviks maintain their stranglehold over tens of millions? How do we maintain the fascinating fiction just celebrated on Memorial Day that American foreign wars since 1898 have secured our freedom? Was Spain that strong a threat? Did WWI stop the Bolshevik victory in Russia? Did WWII guarantee a free and democratic Russia? All of these can be argued into the wee hours but one observation remains unassailable: war abroad robs and strangles freedom and liberty at home. Case in point: The United Kingdom now is the most visible and truest testament to Orwell’s vision in 1984.
I think the desire to collaborate takes on many guises to include state education systems, mass media and war. For example, I just had the misfortune of visiting the National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. It is truly a memorial to liberty to note its passing and death but the authors of the title probably did not see the irony. I have a tremendous interest in military history but age and further research has proved to me that most wars not fought on your own soil tend to rob the invading nations of their own freedoms and liberties at home over time. Woodrow Wilson’s campaign slogan in 1916 was “He Kept Us Out of War.” That appears to have been less than true.
Look at the fate of empires in WWI. Millions of deaths to include one out of three French lads under 30 slaughtered during a four year stalemate and tens of millions of maimed and killed for ... more war in WWII. It was sickening to wander through the facility to witness a gallery glorifying the savaging of young lives and the enslavement of the world afterwards as the communist experiment found its footing and raced to see how many citizens could be robbed, jailed, maimed and killed while America raced to make the world safe for big government and soft socialism. Wilson managed to strangle whatever remnant of American independence and freedom remained which Lincoln may have accidentally overlooked. We see the ravages of Wilson’s brownshirts in the American Protective League and the germination of the slow but accelerating crawl to define Americans by national identity instead of the localist roots of village, state and region. This, of course, paved the way for the patriotic gore we see today of American flags emblazoned on every conceivable surface to celebrate war on the world and our own enslavement.
The next 10 years in America will be pivotal and I believe the country will dissolve into independent nation states in what is now these united States. Take the scales from your eyes and read the real history of America. This is not a country that progresses through government but in spite of it. The change starts at the bottom with the individual. The 3% who will resist and work for liberty and freedom changed the prospects of liberty in America during the last half of the 18th century. Ask yourself: What is the price of my refusal to obey? More importantly, how dear will the price be for your children if you simply stand by and watch?
This is Bill Buppert. If you are reading this, you are the Resistance.
FLYING HIGH WITH HOOVER AND ROOSEVELT
The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal reviewed.
One of the biggest statist myths that floats around the U.S. is that former president Hoover was a “do-nothing” president who fiddled while America’s economy started to burn, while his successor, FDR, “got us out of the Depression” and “saved capitalism” ... whatever. The current day policy makers apparently believe the myth, as they seem determined to repeat with great precision the mistakes made back then.
Enter Austrian economist Bob Murphy and his latest book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal, to set the record straight. An earlier book from the Politically Incorrect Guide series, Thomas E. Woods’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, addresses the same subject in one chapter. Murphy obvious gives the subject a fuller threshing out. A sympathetic description of Murphy’s book starts out:
Myths about the Great Depression were once a mere annoyance. Now they have become a source for tyranny. The Bush-Obama response to the meltdown proves that one thing is certain: until we get the history of the 1930s right, liberty will be under threat of those trying to repeat the drama.
Thank goodness Robert Murphy has come along to straighten out the mess in a way that everyone can understand. In this hard-hitting book, we find the most accessible and most truth-telling book about the Great Depression and the New Deal that has ever been written.
Free-market economists have been working for decades to make the record of the calamity clear. This book may just be the magic bullet we’ve been looking for to kill off the myths before they kill us.
Part of the process of ceasing collaboration with an occupying regime (see post immediately above) is to stop buying into its myths and other fabrications which support its legitimacy and actions. Even to consider whether the stories are actually true is a subversive act. And it expands one’s mind in the bargain – never a bad thing.
By the time I set foot on an airport I usually already have all my entertainment for the flight. However, on recent weekend stint to New Orleans for a wedding, I realized I had nothing to read. So imagine my surprise when I went to one of those (usually very small) airport bookstores and found not one but five or six copies of Bob Murphy’s Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal. As an amateur-hobbyist Austrian economist, how could I pass up that opportunity?
As with the other books in the Politically Incorrect series, Murphy’s Guide is aimed for the common man. Aside from the main body of the text, every other page features various quirky and fun text boxes that provide additional information to the reader: from book recommendations to quick facts.
So OK – I said that the book was aimed for the common man. However, the content is not at all common. Indeed, far from it. In under 200 easy-to-read pages, Murphy has managed to turn the mainstream view of Hoover and FDR on its head. Hoover was not at all a “do nothing” president. Nor was he much of a defender of the market. Indeed, it was Hoover, as Murphy shows, who sets the tone for Roosevelt’s devastating attack on the economy and on the property rights of millions of Americans.
I was aware of a good deal of the shenanigans that Hoover and FDR imposed. Others, on the other hand, took me by surprise. When Roosevelt abolished the gold standard and began to manipulate its price in dollars, he would, according to stories, set the price of gold fairly randomly, picking numbers he though were “lucky.”*
Murphy builds the case against Hoover by showing that he was in fact quite active, especially in his love for government/public work programs. FDR’s Sovietesque policies had a running start. And, of course, far from getting us out of the depression, FDR’s policies lengthened and deepened it.
Though the book analyzes policies enacted during Hoover and FDR’s regimes, special attention is given to that mysterious and supposedly independent entity: the Federal Reserve. This is the core of Murphy’s Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal. The Fed’s relentless control of the money supply and of credit was central to the crash and the depression. Murphy devotes dozens of pages to address the arguments raised over the years by various groups, especially the Keynesians and Friedmanites, convincingly rebutting them (or at least, it convinced me – I am an amateur after all: YMMV).
Imagine an average person reading this book. What would the reaction be? I read the entirety of the book on the flight. As I flipped the pages I would turn my head to the person sitting next to me and think “this book is for you.” And no, I do not consider myself an elitist. On the contrary, I wished more people were aware of these accurate, though revisionist, views. Grab a copy of this for yourself or for your family and friends. Be an intellectual troublemaker once in a while. Because if George W. Bush is our Hoover, and Obama the next FDR, then hold on. The Newest Deal won’t be pretty.
* Even if the story above were false, I would remind the reader that when there is not a market to set prices, any price set by the state bears no resemblance to economic reality and though we might say that a government price of $2.49 per gallon of milk is reasonable or “correct” and a price of $19.99 is not, even here, the former amount feels right because there is more or less a freeish market/reference price for milk. Central planning could be seen as randomly selecting prices.
Another book debunking the status quo statist history of the Great Depression is The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression, by Amity Shlaes. Pat Buchanan takes on the whole mythology surrounding “Good War” World War II, which is also given credit for ending the Great Depression, in Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World.
Supermarket Magnate Wins Panama’s Presidential Vote
Conservative supermarket magnate Ricardo Martinelli won Panama’s presidential election in a landslide while promising to guide the country through the world economic crisis and an ambitious expansion of the Panama Canal.
The win by Martinelli, of the opposition Alliance for Change, marked a rare center-right election triumph in a region that has seen a wave of leftist leaders. The U.S.-educated, pro-business Martinelli, 57, who owns Panama’s largest supermarket chain, said he would work for a national unity government because “that is what the country is counting on. ... Tomorrow we will all be Panamanians and we will change this country so that it has a good health system, good education, good transportation and good security,” he said.
Thousands of Martinelli’s supporters carrying the green flag of his party filled the streets of Panama City to celebrate. The victor, whose 5-year term starts July 1, will have to guide this poor Central American country through the global economic crisis and the $5.25 billion project to increase the Panama Canal’s capacity and allow it to accommodate larger ships.
The canal is Panama’s economic motor and both Martinelli and Herrera supported its expansion, but the world’s economic woes have generated uncertainty over the project, which is receiving $2.3 billion in international financing. Approved in a 2006 referendum, the project is expected to create about 5,000 direct jobs between 2010 and 2011, when construction is at its peak, authorities says.
Panama’s economy had grown at an average annual rate of 8.7% over the past 5 years and unemployment fell from 12% to 5.6%, improvements fueled by foreign and state investment by the Torrijos government. But growth has slowed, with economists predicting growth of just 3% to 4% for the year.
Amid the growing economic gloom, Martinelli played up his business experience as owner of the Super 99 supermarket chain. He vowed to attract foreign investment and promote free trade, particularly with Panama’s main trading partner, the United States. Panama has agreed on a free trade accord with the U.S., but the pact has been held up in the U.S. Congress by concerns over Panamanian labor rights and banking rules that could help tax evaders.
Feds Arrest the Liberty Dollar Competition
The FBI has arrested Bernard von Nothaus and three associates for minting and selling one-ounce silver medallions called the Liberty Dollar, and describing them as money. This operation was first disrupted during the Ron Paul presidential campaign, and that was no coincidence, since they were minting Ron Paul copper, silver, and gold medallions, and that was the subject of much MSM publicity. But here is the DoJ press release about the current arrests, and the 13-page indictment.
As the press release puts it, all four defendants are charged with “conspiracy and other charges in connection with an alleged unlawful operation to publish, possess and sell for profit, coins in resemblance and similitude to U.S. coins. All four defendants are also charged in the alleged conspiracy with uttering and passing, and attempting to utter and pass, a coin of silver in resemblance of genuine coins of the United States in the denominations of five dollars and greater, and intended for use as current money.”
Oh sure, we are likely to mistake an ounce of silver for the tin junk uttered and passed by the U.S. Mint. The actual charge the feds care about is at the end, that the Liberty Dollar is “intended for use as current money,” in direct competition with the state. Should someone be allowed to mint whatever he wants, charge whatever he wants, and try to pass it as money? Of course, so long as no fraud is involved (fraud being a government monopoly). So it is an outrage that these four people have been arrested for non-crimes, and will be tried in a federal kangaroo court, where they will not be allowed to mention the Constitution or many other things, and perhaps be put in cages for years when they are pronounced “guilty.”
HM Revenue & Customes Gets Tough on QROPS Abuse
For many [U.K.] expatriates and those planning to become non-UK resident, the introduction of Qualifying Recognized Overseas Pensions (QROPS) has brought with it unexpected benefits for their deferred pensions and pensions in drawdown ... a veritable golden goose. ...
The five year point of non-UK residency is pivotal to the tax and flexibility advantages of QROPS, in that HMRC have stipulated that they do not want to be advised about any events that would otherwise be outside of the UK rules after that point.
Unfortunately, this is where the abuse of QROPS commences. ...
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