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And so this is Christmas

As I write, it’s the fourth day of Christmas in Chiang Mai, Thailand. But it doesn’t feel like Christmas. And having resided in Thailand for eight years now, it’s no surprise to me. Nor should it be. Thailand is a Buddhist country. Over 90% of its people are Buddhist. And so I’ve got used to it.
For several weeks all the crappy trappings of the commercial side of things have been growing and are now to be seen in all their tasteless glory. The great stores and shopping malls of Bangkok and Chiang Mai are filled with plastic Christmas trees, reindeer pulling sleighs with a smiling Santa onboard and fake snow is in abundance. “Merry Christmas” logos are on display. The “Happy New Year” signs are also in there (they never take them down) and, of course, the worst Santa music imaginable fills the air. There are no Bethlehem Nativity scenes of course and no mention of Christ himself. “Jesus who?” she said as she wrapped the Christmas gift.
As always, I did my bit to avoid all that. On Christmas Eve, my lady and I dined out at a local bistro and enjoyed a wonderful supper with excellent wine. A morning man, I awoke early on Christmas Day, went out with my dogs and watched the sun rise over the eastern hills. After breakfast, as a good Catholic lad should, I attended mass at my local church. St. Joseph the Fisherman is a small, humble place of worship. Today it was filled, and chairs were placed outside to accommodate the crowd. The congregation was mostly Thai Christians celebrating this most special day. The rest of the day was spent with family and friends enjoying good food and drink. We ended the day with a small bonfire and a good robust wine. It was good and peaceful. Watching the flames, I reflected on past Christmas times.
Perhaps the most powerful Christmas for me was in 1983 when I celebrated the event with a pilgrimage to Bethlehem. I was working in Israel on a defense contract and had visited many historical and biblical sites: the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem’s Old City, the Western Wall, Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Mount of Olives and the tombs of the prophets. So, visiting the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem at Christmas was a natural event. It was a fascinating and moving experience shared with many others from foreign lands. There was little commercialism. And at 3800 feet above sea level, it was cold. I recommend to anyone contemplating this journey; take warm clothes.
Another great Christmas, 1997, was spent at a Canadian home I had on two secluded acres in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. There was myself, my girl, Aline, two Irish couples who were strangers, but became great friends, my dog, Kitty, and Mimi my cat. It was a winter of heavy snowfall. I’d had lots of dry firewood brought in, lots of good food and drink: beer, wine, and fine liquor. We skied, snow-shoed and tobogganed. And with great music, we partied before roaring fires for a whole week into New Year. My friends still speak of it after all these years.
There have been other memorable Christmas times. However, my most treasured Christmas of all was in 2007 spent in Ste. Adele, Quebec alone with my dog, Whisky, a lovely affectionate Basset Hound, in a log home I’d built. I gathered firewood and stocked up on food and drink. I set up a tree I’d cut in the local woods. I received few Christmas cards, but I put them up and added all the old cards from previous years. I spent Christmas Eve morning cross country skiing. In the afternoon I took Whisky through the local woods for a snowshoe foray. Getting home wet and tired at around four o’clock, I opened a cold white wine lit a cigar and climbed into a deep hot bath; highly recommended. In the evening, after a simple, supper, I sat before a log fire. With Whisky beside me, I listened to music and enjoyed a variety of spirits and Cuban panatelas. Christmas Day was enjoyed in much the same vein. Whisky has long since passed on. But the memory and that wonderful Christmas I shared with her will never leave me.
Christmas is what you make it. You can go with the flow, follow the madding crowd along the insane commercial route, burn your credit cards shopping for presents for the gift exchange frenzy. Then put on a party hat, eat and drink too much, pretend you’re enjoying yourself and fall into bed hoping the madness will end soon. You can then post on your FB page how tired you are and that Christmas is becoming such hard work. Or you can do as I do and make it a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Merry Christmas.

 

A Most Curious Three Years – 1096 Days of Blogging … and Counting – Happy 2559!

Thailand Footprint: Impressions left by the books, people, places and music of Thailand and South East Asia

Hitchcock

Three years ago I had a decision to make. Life often thrusts those upon us. Under cover of Songkran 2013 I had the perfect opportunity to get my Federal income taxes filed in time for the mandated deadline or I could put together a blog that had been rumbling around in my head. Colin Cotterill, the cool as ice author and cartoonist living in the south of Thailand had already honored my request of him, “Could you draw me a picture of a frog reading a book from a coconut shell on the beach? It could be a hot tub, I’ll leave it up to you.” 24 hours later Gop was born. Screw the taxes. How bad could the interest and penalties be?

Gop Gop the Frog in the Coconut Shell

I knew what I wanted the blog not to be about. No food. No travel. No Go Go. Not that…

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Your Book’s Metadata on Amazon

I really appreciate good tips like this

Lit World Interviews

You get to choose two categories for your book on Amazon, and seven keywords. Your book’s title, sub-title, blurb, categories, and keywords all go towards producing its metadata – the stuff that Amazon’s search engine uses to make your book discoverable to buyers searching for something to buy. That’s the fabulous thing about getting your metadata as useful as you can. People who search Amazon are looking to purchase. They’re not wanting information like when they use Google. In fact, Amazon’s search engine is not the same as Google.

Amazon’s search engine actually has its own moniker – A9. Not a very romantic name, but it is individual nevertheless. Amazon wants to get a specific sale rather than direct searchers to information as Google does. So A9 works a little differently. You may have noticed a sharp zooming up the rankings when you have a couple of sales of your…

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IN PRAISE OF TAX AVOIDANCE. Thoughts on the Panama Papers.

     “It’s terrible and shocking. To evade his taxes he set

      up a tax avoidance shelter to protect his wealth and took up

      residence on a Caribbean island.”

      “Smart fellow.”

      “You don’t mean that.”

      “Sure. He worked hard, made his pile and now wants to protect

       It. I’d do the same in a heartbeat. Good luck to him.”

The reader should note the simultaneous use of “evasion” and “avoidance” in the same sentence. The world’s governments, ably assisted by a compliant media have blurred the line between these two different concepts.

That unshaven twit, the one in the train spotter’s duffel coat, the British Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, did the same the other day: “As the leaked documents show, tax havens have become honey pots of international corruption, tax avoidance and evasion.”

And on that front, UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s late father has been “exposed” as having created an offshore tax shelter to protect his funds. Eminently sensible in my view. It no doubt enabled him to send David to Eton. But not so long ago, for political reasons, David Cameron incited the mob by denouncing tax avoidance as “legal but immoral.” Now he’s on the defensive claiming his and his father’s business affairs are a “private matter.” It’s nice to see him squirm.

And here’s that other hypocrite, Barak Obama on the subject:

     “A lot of these loopholes come at the expense of these middle-class families because that lost revenue has to be made up somewhere. Alternatively, it means that we’re not investing as much as we should in schools, in making college more affordable, putting people back to work, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our infrastructure, creating more opportunities for our children.”

   Yeah, right! Have ever heard such shite as that? You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh. Who writes this crap for him? He should have said:

“Tax avoidance is wrong and should be criminalized. It denies our IRS from aggressively looting money wherever they can find it. How else can we fight endless and stupid wars against small defenseless countries, build cruise missiles and other weapons and kick ass big time.”

In my view, there is only one fair and just tax and that is VAT, or value added tax. All other forms are unfair, discriminatory and open to abuse. Offshore tax havens practice this. The only tax in the Bahamas for example is VAT. And that’s how it should be.

   The US built a monster in the IRS. All are afraid of it. Even the President is scared of them. It would take a man a lifetime to read its tax code. It keeps Americans poor. Many leave because of it. No other country has as much punishing direct and indirect taxation. But despite this they are the world’s biggest debtor; debt they can’t service much less pay it off. Their country is in reality bankrupt.

And Britain and the EU are no better. People are taxed to death by governments who shamelessly waste it all. And the politicians who impose these tax laws go right ahead and fiddle their government expenses.

    Tax Evasion: It is usually illegal and even criminal. And it should be whether pursued by individuals or business corporations. Tax evasion is the deliberate misrepresentation of the state of affairs, personal or corporate by any means  available. It is commonly used in the “alternative’ or black economy and by organized crime.

    Tax Avoidance: It is legal, and sensible. It is the legal usage of a tax regime to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law. IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN CONSIDERED AN INDIVIDUALS DUTY TO DO THIS IN ORDER TO PROTECT HIS PERSONAL AND BUSINESS EARNINGS FROM RAPACIOUS GOVERNMENTS.

“While tax avoidance may be considered legal, it is almost never considered moral in the court of public opinion. Many corporations and businesses which take part in the practice experience a backlash, either from their active customers or online.” (Wikipedia)

And what is the “court of public opinion?” At one time it was called the “common herd.” Easily riled and manipulated, they’re jealous of talented, successful people, who’ve worked hard, made it, and who now want to protect their wealth from government tax grabbers.

While it is true that many dictators and criminals hide stolen money in offshore jurisdictions, the majority are perfectly normal honest people. Many of the world’s top athletes go offshore and reside in tax friendly countries. Use a search engine and check them out. Tennis star, Novak Djokovic, for example, is resident in Monaco. It’s called tax avoidance and it makes sense.

If your Aunt Sally left you her fortune or you won a large amount on a lottery would you deposit in the local bank and let the government get into it? Not if you’re smart. Your first move should be to protect the money – from the government, by shifting it offshore.

Arthur Hailey, the British novelist, struggled for years writing and getting nowhere. Then he hit the jackpot, his books sold in the millions, films were made, and Hailey became rich.  He was living in California at the time and happy with his good fortune until his financial advisor told him that American tax laws were “punitive.” Unless Hailey wanted to donate most of his money to the IRS, he would need to move to a more sensible jurisdiction. He didn’t want to leave, but they gave him no choice. He moved to the Bahamas. That’s tax avoidance. Let’s have more of it.

As a struggling writer working away on two novels I have to say that if I got the opportunity to grab the brass ring I’d do so; vigorously. If I got lucky and my books sold and movies got made, would I move my funds into a tax shelter? Would I shift my butt into a delightful offshore island paradise with sensible tax laws and no standing army? Would I avoid taxes?

You betcha. In a heartbeat.

 

 

…ever wondered where fact and fiction merge in a novel?… Author Martin Roy Hill knows…

Source: …ever wondered where fact and fiction merge in a novel?… Author Martin Roy Hill knows…

Great stories and imagery … enhanced with reality. Down and Out in the Big Mango. @Deepcaster

Source: Great stories and imagery … enhanced with reality. Down and Out in the Big Mango. @Deepcaster

THE GOLDEN RULE

Source: THE GOLDEN RULE