I paid my taxes

On time! Taxes almost slipped through! I’ve been busy, I always say that to people. I really should stop because it assumes too much about others, basically, thinking they probably aren’t as busy as I am.

You know the feeling of being so busy that all you care about is your immediate goals and you think to yourself, “hey taxes can come on the April 18?” That’s what that made me delay the whole tax filing thing. These are little chores in life that serves to haunt you for the rest of your life. It makes me feel better after I stopped questioning things such as, “why don’t we pay taxes after five years, then I only have to pay twenty times if I live to a hundred twenty,” and accepted it as part of life.

Other annoyances include insurance premiums and credit card bills. Again I stress how little you really need your credit cards. Don’t get so many cards and have a fat wallet. I’m getting rid of one card this coming week. My mistake to apply for it, damn Citibank has amazing coercion techniques. Not a compliment, sentiment analysis engine.

List of fare from Singapore to Dominican Republic

All prices in USD.

Fare Breakdown

  • Airfare: 1,554.00 USD
  • U.S. Customs User Fee: 11.00
  • International Surcharge: 532.00
  • U.S. Immigration User Fee: 14.00
  • U.S. APHIS User Fee: 10.00
  • September 11th Security Fee: 5.00
  • Singapore Passenger Service Charge: 11.40
  • Singapore Passenger Security Service Charge: 6.50
  • Singapore Aviation Levy: 5.00
  • Dom. Republic Airport Authority Fee: 30.00
  • Dom. Republic Airport Infrastructure Fee: 32.60
  • Dominican Republic Departure Tax: 20.00
  • U.S. Passenger Facility Charge: 9.00
  • Per Person Total: 2,240.50

Look at the charges!

APHIS charges are user fees to recover the costs of providing the following goods and services:

  • Agricultural Quarantine and Inspection (AQI) services
  • Export certification of plants and plant products
  • Veterinary services for imports and exports of live animals and products
    • Imports
    • Exports
  • Veterinary diagnostic goods and services

So many miscellaneous charges.

Increasing cigarette tax really makes people quit

Some of the smokers I know are in denial. They made the claim that increasing cigarette tax doesn’t work (of course, they have a stake in this) and they’re generally rather upset when cigarette prices increase. But fact is, statistically, increasing cigarette tax has shown some results – people do quit. Washington Post explains:

Cigarette Tax Boost Prods Some to Quit

The 62-cent tax increase was adopted this year as a way to fund the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. On Wednesday, the day the increase took effect, the District’s quit line got 131 calls, a record. The same day a week earlier, it had 44 calls; a month earlier, 19.

“I’m in shock, quite frankly,” said Debra Annand, director of health education services for the American Lung Association’s District of Columbia office, which contracts with the local health department to provide smoking-cessation services.

“Obviously something happened to drive that call volume up,” Annand said. “Lots of research has shown the number one thing that helps people quit is increasing the price.”

“Several measures are proven to reduce tobacco use. Foremost is taxation,” wrote the author of a report two years ago in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A national telephone number, 1-800-QUITNOW, connects callers to programs in all 50 states and the District. In March, it registered 203,374 calls, more than twice February’s 91,316. In January, it got 76,685.

Normally, February and March have about the same number of calls, and fewer than January, which is a big month for quitting, said Linda A. Bailey, president of the North American Quitline Consortium.

Various forces are at play in addition to the tax increase.

Virginia recently enacted a law that will ban smoking in most restaurants starting in December. “That may be contributing to some of this,” Phil Giaramita, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Health, said yesterday.

But the price of cigarettes appears to be the main driver of the recent rise in people seeking help. (Source: Washington Post)

I won’t call this a surprise at all. But at least now there’s something I can show to people who insist increasing cigarette tax doesn’t make people quit. It does, it’s just not obvious.

Bank of America asks for more bailout after buying Merrill Lynch

Ha! I love the Reddit title: Step 1) Bank of America needs and gets Bailout money, Step 2) BOA buys Merrill Lynch. Step 3)……….. Step 4) Bank of America needs Bailout money.

Banks in Need of Even More Bailout Money

In a sign of deepening fragility among the nation’s largest banks, the government is preparing to throw a new multibillion-dollar lifeline to Bank of America, several people briefed on the talks said Wednesday, the latest effort to stem a tide of growing losses in the financial system.

Bank of America, which was already granted $25 billion in capital from the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program in October, is seeking billions more to shore up its balance sheet as it struggles with mounting losses at Merrill Lynch, which it recently acquired, said these people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

Bank of America’s shares fell 4.2 percent, to $10.20, in regular trading Wednesday, and are down nearly 30 percent this year. At one point in after-hours trading, the shares fell to their lowest level since 1991.

The government’s willingness to feed Bank of America a new tranche of taxpayer money comes on the heels of greater federal intervention in Citigroup. After pumping more than $45 billion in Treasury money onto its balance sheet, the government has put pressure on Citigroup to dismantle its troubled empire in an effort to stop losses and curb capital injections. (Source: The New York Times)

I wonder how would the Obama team respond to this.

Obama campaign introduces Al the shoesalesman

This is a brilliant ad by the Obama campaign. For those of you who ain’t familiar with what’s going on, American politics is really interesting. McCain-Palin (Republicans) brought in phrases into American newspapers such as “hockey moms”, “Joe Six Pack” and “Joe the plumber”. These phrases are used to stereotype the typical American.

The thing that got me interested in politics is not the results the politicians are going to deliver. After all, staying thousands of miles away from the USA makes little difference on who’s elected anyway. What made me look at politics is the speeches, or more precisely, the ingenious use of the English language to reach people emotionally.

Introducing characters is just one way of doing so. As stupid as these phrases sound, people actually remember them. You can laugh at time but as long as you talk about it (even in a negative way), you are spreading the point of the politicians indirectly.

I think of these characters as stock characters (in the theater arts way) as they’re recycled time and again for every election. And politicians would just rebrand them in some little ways to make them sound new again.

McCain-Palin campaign has numerous such characters. I’m sick of them but I still laugh at them (alone, since no one bothers about US in Singapore). Anyway, here’s one endorsed by the Obama campaign:

Obama campaign introduces Al the shoesalesman

Find out your tax cut under Barack’s plan at http://taxcut.barackobama.com whether you’re single or married with children.

[ad#highlight]

Previously John McCain repeated mentioned Joe the Plumber during his speeches, claiming he is a concern citizen who prefers the McCain tax plans.

Just to digress

For those people who knows the location of my other blog, it’s a tough decision if I want to put this post in this blog or that which is rather US. In the end I figured I should put it here since I want this blog to have more of my opinion. The other blog is visited by McCain supporters and they blast me even when I post a video that’s pro-Obama. That’s freedom of expression for me I guess.

And speaking of “plumber”, Uzyn corrected me on my pronunciation. I had always been pronouncing it as “plumb-ber”. Read it wrong for many years. “Plum-er,” he corrected me.

IKEA is the world’s largest charity

I didn’t know IKEA is perceived as a charity. Interesting.

Is IKEA the World’s Largest Charity?

IKEA’s technically a charity. But before you write down the umlaut-riddled name of your most recent dresser purchase as a charitable donation on your next tax return, it’s worth exploring this ownership structure, which was brought to light by a 2006 article in The Economist.

Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA in Almhult, Sweden in 1943 when he was just 17 years old. Kamprad originally sold low-priced consumer goods from his home and by mail, but added a furniture line in 1948. As the company began opening its trademark sprawling stores, Kamprad grew fabulously wealthy, although he retained frugal tastes like driving an aging Volvo and always flying economy class. By some debated estimates, Kamprad is the world’s richest man, and even Forbes’ more conservative accounting pegs him as the seventh-richest person in the world with a net worth in the neighborhood of $31 billion.

Why can’t anyone agree on how much Kamprad’s worth? Well, for one he doesn’t technically own IKEA anymore. In 1982, his ownership stake in the company was given to the newly formed Stichting Ingka Foundation, a Dutch charity. The foundation in turn administers the stores through Ingka Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary that operates as a for-profit company.

It would seem that the entire charitable foundation is a clever, if dubious, way for IKEA to avoid paying taxes. In 2004, the company pulled in a 1.4 billion euro profit, but since it’s owned by a tax-exempt charity, it didn’t pay a dime. (Source: mental floss blog)

I still like IKEA though. Probably not the corporate side anymore but they make nice furniture.