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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Google's Tax Evasion Policy

Did you know that Google's corporate motto is "Don't Be evil?"  Surprisingly altruistic, isn't it, considering that this is a company that has gone out of it's way to set up a filtering system for their revenue in order to funnel it into countries where it will be taxed at a lower rate.  The process, called 'tax sheltering,' means that in the case of Google, income from business conducted in the UK (and other countries), which are subject to paying the same percentage of business tax as any other company that conducts operations in the UK, is funneled first through a Dutch company which then routes it to a 'taxation address' in Bermuda where the tax rate is far lower.
 "By legally funneling profits from overseas subsidiaries into Bermuda, which doesn’t have a corporate income tax, Google cut its overall tax rate almost in half. The amount moved to Bermuda is equivalent to about 80 percent of Google’s total pretax profit in 2011," comments columnist Jesse Drucker on Bloomberg.com, an online Business, Financial, and Economic News site.  (You can read Drucker's article here )
Doesn't sound tooooooo shady, until you take into account that the Dutch 'company' in question has no actual employees or offices. It's just a loop programmed into their accounting software, and by 'routing' all their sales through it they create a so called company that only exists in cyberspace.  To me, this doesn't give them the right to avoid their obligation to pay the tax in the country where those ad sales took place, but that's exactly what they're doing.
Google's Chairman, Eric Schmidt, had this to say on the subject:  "I am very proud of the structure that we set up. It' called capitalism.  We are proudly capitalistic.  I'm not confused about this." (from The Daily Telegraph, available here ).  As you can see, Schmidt makes no bones about his company's shenanigans, commenting that Google wouldn't be getting away with it if it wasn't for the Governments of Nations having inadequate tax laws and enforcements.  He also points to the fact that in the UK Google employs over two thousand people and has been instrumental in helping to start up tons of new web-based businesses. 
I guess his justification lies in the fact that his two thousand UK employees, who all pay a portion of their income into taxes, contribute to their country's taxation income that way, thus the parent company, Google, doesn't have to.  The problem with that line of reasoning is that by altering their sales records to make it look like their income comes from Holland and Bermuda, Google effectively hamstrings the governments in the countries where they actually conduct the bulk of their business.  By depriving countries like the UK of the taxation income that they are owed, Google depletes that country's ablility to regulate the kind of shady goings-on that Chairman Schmidt himself acknowledges.  So while it's all very well and good for him to say that his company gets away with these maneuvres because governments have inadequate tax laws and enforcements, the reality is that companies like his are contributing to these governments' fiscal shortfalls by avoiding paying the taxes in the countries where they've earned their revenue.  What's more, by avoiding paying taxes they withhold funding to maintain the crumbling infrastructure that their own employees and other workers use to get to work.
In this manner, they are a classic example of what the very rich have always done.  Two thousand UK employees paying 25-30% of their income in taxes on a salary of less than $50,000 per year versus the parent corporation, Google, paying 3.2% of the ten billion that they earned in profit alone because they've routed all their income to Bermuda.
To clarify, that's ten billion in profit, over and above the costs of operating like employee salaries and overheads, just from the UK alone.  That's ten billion sitting in a pot somewhere that they have avoided paying the rightful amount of taxes on, or in other words, a classic example of the hoarding of resources by the super rich.  Good thing they adopted the motto of 'Don't Be Evil,' otherwise we'd really be in trouble!

Sandwiches Update
Total savings this week - $27.35, bringing the year-to-date total up to
$150.57

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Success! (sort of)

Greetings!
Today I'm going to fill you in with a few updates in the areas of the Garden Patch, No More Cosmetics, and Sandwiches all the way.  We'll begin with a makeup update.
I have been researching home-made makeup recipes on the internet and came across one yesterday morning that I knew I had to try.  It was just so simple, and it's made from ingredients that I already had in the house. I couldn't resist!  The recipe is for a Non-toxic, Vegan, tinted creme eyeshadow in brown, a colour I use regularly anyway.  Here's the whole thing:
One drop extra virgin olive oil
One teaspoon cocoa powder
One half teaspoon cornstarch
So you take these ingredients and mix them all together to a paste-like consistency and apply with your fingertip to the lid or with an angle brush below your bottom lash-line and you're all set.  I have been collecting sample size cosmetic and ointment containers to use to store my home-made cosmetics in, so I simply sterilized one by boiling in hot water and put my new shadow in there.  The cost of this venture was get this - 7 cents!  The makeup goes on exactly like a very expensive creme shadow that I purchased last year, and the site I found the recipe on had other recipes for making mauves, reds, blues, and peach shades, and for making lip gloss as well.  Stay tuned! 


This is a picture of me wearing only my new homemade cocoa eyeshadow for makeup.  I also have no product in my hair, and it's getting softer every day. 

The Garden Patch
Unfortunately I have nothing to report on the strawberry seeds.  I am still keeping their soil moist and hoping everyday to see some shoots, but nothing yet.  I have had some luck with two other types of seeds, however.  The first is asparagras.  My mom has a very nice patch of asparagras at her place, and the best thing about it is it reseeds itself each year so that you have a renewable, perrennial crop with no replanting.  This past september, I picked an asparagras seed from one of her fronds.  I brought it home, dried it out, and then on breaking it open, found nine seeds inside.  These I stored in the freezer for a couple of weeks (to simulate winter) and then I got them out and sowed them in a pot.  I'm pleased to report that five of the nine have sprouted.


Another type of seed I'm having some sucess with is from a flower called day flox, which grows very vibrant fuschia flowers and is a perrennial.  I purchased one this year from a nursery, and at the end of the summer I collected what seeds I could.  Don't ask me how, but one of them seems to have gotten in with my asparagras shoots.  Oops!  Another one, though, is doing very well in my bathroom windowsill.  I have been reading up on the next steps on the internet, and it appears that the thing to do is harden these off by bringing them outdoors in small intervals once all danger of frost has passed, and then transfer them into the garden.  Wish me luck! 




Sandwiches All the Way              

Groceries purchased:                                             2012's lunch purchases
deli meat         6.55                                               Grocery Store lunch counter   10.24
garlic pickles   2.99                                               Grocery Store lunch counter   11.19
cheese              5.97                                               Coffee Shop                              3.59
bread                3.19                                               Pub                                         17.22
Lettuce            1.98                                                Pub                                         21.50
Total               20.68                                               Total                                      63.74

Savings   63.74 - 20.68 = 43.06
So for this week, I was able to track our family's purchases for the items I will be using in my husband's work lunches by adding the total up from the reciept.  (I will also be using margerine and mustard, but since I already had these items I did not have to purchase them).  I have arrived at a total of around twenty bucks to provide him with food for his work week, or in other words, four dollars per  day.  I send him with two sandwiches a day, which translates into $2 each.  As you can see above, last year around this time my husband was spending quite a bit more than that, about $12.75/day.  This results in a savings of $43.06 for our family for this week, and when added to the total savings that  we have been accumulating so far, it makes $123.22  See ya next week!

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The No More Cosmetics Pledge

Jan 15, 2013

Hello, and welcome to this week's post.  Today I'm going to talk about a subject that is near and dear to many women's hearts, my own included - makeup and haircare products.  I was reading an article by Meghan Murphy the other day that discussed the use of cosmetics as being a function of the patriarchy.  In other words, because marketing execs have sold women on the idea that their natural appearance is not good enough, thus the multi-billion dollar business that is cosmetics is born.  You can read Meghan's article here:
http://feministcurrent.com/6995/at-long-last-tom-matlacks-opinion-on-your-face/

It got me thinking about the thousands of dollars I have spent in my life on cosmetics and hair care products without even noticing, a perfect illustration of how the pyramid scheme we call capitalism works:  Virtually every woman on every tier of the pyramid buys beauty products, sending a massive amount of money upwards to the companies that mass produce these oftentimes toxic substances,  who test them on animals, and who as usual, package them in plastic and truck them all over the world.  The owners of these companies then horde all that money they've cashed in those resources for, rendering them useless to anyone but themselves.  Doesn't seem fair, does it?
The world has a finite number of resources, and they are being transformed into products that marketing execs have convinced you that you Absolutely! Must! Buy! to be pretty.  In turn, when you buy them, it turns those resources into a dollar amount which the super-rich sit on and hoard.  And in order to perpetuate this process, these companies saturate society with the message that women in their natural state are not good enough, so that we are ashamed to go out in public without makeup on.
 Could it be that makeup companies deliberately undermine women's self confidence?  Let's think about Loreal's current, "Because you're worth it" slogan.  The message underneath of that one is 'go ahead, buy our hair colourants (dump a ton of chemicals down your sink into the water table too by the way, but we won't get into that one) because we all know your natural hair colour looks like shit.  You don't want to go around looking like shit, do you?  You're worth the twelve dollars! So do us all a favor and spend it on altering your lacklustre appearance!" And none of us even stop to question it.
Shortly after I read Meghan's article I was sitting with my good friend Steph and as usual, admiring her hair because it is the most ridiculously soft-looking, healthy long hair I`ve ever seen, and I`m like, "What do you use to get it to go like that, Steph? and she's like, "Nothing."  I couldn`t believe it.  Acting all nonchalant, I was like, "Yeah, I try not to use my blowdryer or straightener too much either, because it's so damaging.  I just use volumizer and smoothing serum" and she just looked right at me and said "I dont use any of those things because they're all full of alcohol and they dry out your hair."
I tried to keep a neutral face on, but I was inwardly thunderstruck.  Here I am all these years hating my hair, complaining that it's too dry or too damaged, putting in highlights and colourants, buying all these different products trying to find the magical one that will 'fix' it and then I go and ask the one person I know who's hair always looks great and she tells me she just washes it and lets it dry naturally. Well you know what?  I`m trying it. 
 
 
That's when the idea for the No More Cosmetics pledge came in.  Readers of Self Sufficiency, I hereby pledge that I will not purchase makeup again until all of the stuff that I have is used up.  I also pledge right now to stop using product of any nature on my hair except for shampoo, and that means going back to my natural colour as well.
It's a daunting prospect, but I think I can do it, and whenever I get frustrated, I'll just simply refer to the following table to reaffirm my dedication:
Me minus Thousands of dollars = dry, damaged hair
Steph minus zero dollars = beautiful, healthy hair. 
I estimate that prior to now I spent $30 per month on volumizer and serum alone.  That's a fairly hefty investiture.  Now that I'm not buying it anymore, over the course of a year, it's going to save me $360 if I stick to it, and guess what folks?  Since that's one week's mortgage that I'm stealing back from capitalism, I think I'll be sticking to it.  Yoink!
 

I have been going without volumizer and serum for three days now, actually, and already I'm finding that my hair seems softer.  It doesn't even look that frizzy, surprisingly, and when I wake up in the morning it's not immediately evident that I need to wash it.  I'm starting to wonder if that so called dirty hair look was actually just a build up of products.  Gross!
What's more, it's taking less shampoo to lather my hair, meaning that I'll go through way less of it over the year, another excellent example of how just saying no to the demands of capitalism (and therefore the patriarchy) pulls money back off the escalator. 

No Garden Patch update today, but I'll add my $30 savings on haircare products to the $54.16 that my husband and I have saved by his not buying lunch and arrive at a total of $80.16 as our total year-to-date savings through the initiatives discussed in this blog.  Not a bad total for fifteen days' work.  See you next week!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Further Useless Enterprise: The Proposed Medical Marihuana Amendments

January 8, 2013
With all of the known damage that Carbons are doing to the climate, I'd like to suggest that the time has come for us to limit what I call Further Useless Enterprise, or in other words, manufacturing businesses that serve no productive purpose but the creation of wealth for their owners.  As I alluded to last week, we have enough environmentally damaging transport truck traffic as it is serving our existing commercial businesses, we don't need any more.  What we need, instead, is tougher sanctions on who can open up production businesses and why. 

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That's where limitations on Further Useless Enterprise would come in.  Before being granted a license to open production businesses that manufacture items, companies would have to pass a certain 'usefullness rating' to prove that what they want to produce is actually necessary in terms of Earth's sustainability, because at this point anything that isn't useful merely speeds us up in the race to the end of the resources.
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The Canadian Government's proposed Marihuana for Medical Purposes Regulations (MMPR), open  for public comment until Feb. 28 2013, is a document that details the needless creation of one such enterprise.  I put a link below to the incredibly long and nearly impossible to find page of the Canada Gazette where the MMPR is published in full, but for now, let me give you the highlights:
Under the current legislation, people that have been given approval to use cannabis for medical reasons (predominantly cancer or chronic pain paitients) can apply for licenses to either grow their own plants or designate a person to grow for them.  Until now, this has been a surprisingly self sufficient policy on the Government's part, in that the people who actually need and use the product produce it for themselves with no packaging or shipping involved.  It's no wonder the Government is in such a hurry to amend it.  What the MMPR wants to do is take that system away and have them purchase the substance - at a whopping five times the current price - from companies.  They want to make medical marihuana into a production enterprise, with all the shipping, packaging, facility-building, and resource burning that entails.  The MMPR states that "The analysis assumes a price increase from an estimated $1.80/g to $5.00/g in the status quo to about $7.60 in 2014, rising to about $8.80/g with a corresponding average annualized loss to consumers due to higher prices of approximately $166.1million per year for 10 years."

To rephrase that paragraph in layman's terms, users of medical marihuana are generally on the 'bottom rung' of financial status.  Many are too ill to work.  They are living on the income from their benefits, and the government proposes to take ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX MILLION dollars from them over the next ten years and give it to commercial businesses.

The MMPR claims three so-called reasons for doing this: indoor grow ops are fire hazards, they are mould producers, and the threat of violent home invasion to steal the goods exists to users.  Because of these risks, the MMPR states that patients are better off purchasing their supply from companies.
The report also comments that if medical marihuana continues to be grown on residential properties, lawmakers are concerned that it will make it's way into the illicit market.  I argue that if companies grow the product, that risk still exists.  If I was a criminal intent on stealing someone's medical marihuana, I think the onerous nature of waiting until their crop is ready, breaking in, stealing X number of large and heavy plants, bringing them home, cutting and drying the bud and disposing of the evidence would be a far greater deterrent to my crime than merely waiting around their front porch until the neatly dried and portioned package shows up from the growing company and running off with it.  Yoink! 

In December, the CBC published a statistic that in 2011 in the province of B.C. alone, around 3000 people were convicted of marihuana possession offences, which in turn cost the Canadian taxpayer God knows how much to patrol for, arrest, process through the court system, and incarcerate these people.  If the government would just simply release the ban on marihuana, (apart from the stipulation of growing it inside if that's so important to them), since after all even they  have acknowledged it to have medical benefit, all of that expense to the taxpayer would be eliminated.  They could take all of that taxpayer money and release it back into the incessantly cut public services like health care and education, institutions that are actually important to Canadians. Doing so would eliminate the need for indoor grow ops, since if everyone could grow it, the price would fall so that indoor grow ops would not be worth the effort.
 
For the purposes of Self Sufficiency, if there is a plant that I can grow myself that produces a pain-relieving effect, I would like the option to grow it.  It might just eliminate the need to purchase plastic encapsulated, chemically derived OTC pain medications, and think of all the little money bags THAT would take off of the up escalator of capitalism, not to mention how many transport trucks it would take off the roads.
One final thought: Canada is still technically a democracy, although the Harper government often makes that difficult to notice.  If you're going to open up a substance to be grown for profit by commercial businesses, then why continue to keep it illegal for the individual?  Doesn't seem fair to me.

If you would like to read the proposed MMPR regulations, you'll find them here:
http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2012/2012-12-15/html/reg4-eng.html

and here:
http://hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/marihuana/future-avenir/index-eng.php

If you would like to give the government your opinion on the subject, you can do so before February 28, 2013 by email at:        consultations-marihuana@hc-sc.gc.ca



Vegetable Patch Update
WP_002064.jpgThe Strawberry seeds had a kind of disappointing performance as far as germination goes.  I only got one tiny sprout.  It's tough to see in the picture, but it's there.  However, I took it, and the remainder of the moistened seeds as well, and sowed them in a repurposed yogurt container with holes punched in the bottom and set it in the window sill.  I don't know if this is the appropriate method or not, all I can do is hope for the best. 


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Sandwiches All the Way
Thanks Jackie, for your comment, and yes, you're right, I do intend to cost out the price of the lunches that I send from home and subtract them from the total spent last year.  Last week's lunches, however, were leftovers from the turkey dinner that I made on New Year's Day, so as far as a cost figure that I could reasonably arrive at, it's hard to do in that I would have spent the money on the turkey, etc. regardless.  For fairness's sake, I'll cost each meal of leftovers at $2.50, and since he only worked two days, that makes for a total of $19. 77 that we saved over the course of week one.  For week two, his total spent was $34.16.  Stay tuned next week fo the results of the savings once we cost out what he's had.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Week 1 - January 1, 2013

Greetings, fellow citizens of Earth, and congratulations on surviving the recently forecasted apocalypse.  It's wonderful to be here, and now that the world hasn't ended we can all breathe a sigh of relief and move forwards.  While the doomsday predictions proved inaccurate this time, we can take them as a wake-up call and realize that the time to live our best life is now.  For me, that means turning my back on the Rat Race, a way of life that was exhausting for me, and for our planet's resources as well. 
Each item we buy as consumers represents a dollar value that as soon as it leaves our hands, embarks on a long, uphill journey to those at the top of the food chain.  Take that coffee and sandwich you buy for lunch while at work.  You hand over your meal's total, in this case, ten dollars.  Imagine that sum as a burlap money bag with ten loonies inside it.  Has kind of a nice weight to it, doesn't it, those ten shiny coins sliding around in that sack?  Kind of too bad you had to part with it: in comparison, doesn't your paper bag of starchy bread and foamy processed chicken seem like the far less desireable thing to have?
Yet because you have purchased it, that small bundle of cash has begun it's ascent up the escalator. Now I don't know who's up there, waiting to collect it, but whoever they are, the chain of events they've set in motion in order to position themselves at the recieving end of the money bags all of us down here send up to them involves some pretty damaging procedures: the carbon-emitting transport trucks that bring goods from supply plants, for example, and the chemical processes that convert raw materials into cups in the first place.  Now I know that those processes provide people with jobs, and I used to be one of them.  It's not for me to say whether the system is right or wrong, I'm just doing whatever I can to get out of it.  Our whole way of life is built on the principle that anything goes as long as there's money to be made, but that isn't sustainable.  It's a race to the end of the resources, and nobody's really talking about what happens when we get there.
If you are, like me, concerned about these things, I strongly encourage you to become as self sufficient as possible.  I'm talking about financial self-sufficiency, as you will see below, but I am also talking about taking active steps to produce your own food to reverse some of the upward flow of money.  In the event of a devastating recession or natural disaster that interrupts our food supply, wouldn't it be nice to have a nice little cushion of self-sufficiency to fall back on?  Follow me over the next 52 weeks as I update you weekly on how successful my attempts at self- sufficiency become in the following categories:


The Vegetable Patch:
In this section, I will update you with photos and progress reports of food bearing or perrennial plants, a variety of which I am starting from seed in the first few weeks of the year.  I hope to chart the success of the different varieties and different growing spots inside my house.  Because electricity is a commodity and using it to aid in growing would send some of my money back up the escalator, I am only using the natural light that exists .  To grow the seeds, I will be re-purposing yoghurt containers which I have been washing and saving over the past few months.  This project begins with my strawberry seeds.  In the spring of 2012, for $1.27, I purchased a small strawberry plant from a local nursery.  The variety was 'everbearing,' and I took it home and stuck it in a pot on my deck in direct sunlight.  I watered it a little, and to my surprise, it produced delicious and tasty strawberries from July until November.  I was quite impressed by the yield of this one little plant.  Every few days I would get a handful of berries from it.  I wish I had weighed each yield, because I'm sure that a tally would have showed that I harvested at least two pounds of berries.  At the end of the summer, I took the plant out of the pot and split it into two, which I then planted directly in my garden.
 I also kept the last ripe strawberry.  I let it dry in a saucer on the windowsill, then I broke it apart and put it in a container in the freezer.  On Jan. 1, 2013, I took it out and scraped the seeds off onto a wet paper towel. 

This picture shows several loose seeds, plus the remnants of the berry which I then folded into a sandwich bag and placed on top of my microwave.  Stay tuned next week to find out if any have germinated, and follow them as I plant them in my garden and track how much fruit they produce.




Sandwiches All the Way:
To give people a little background, my family is able to get by (barely) on what my husband's job brings in.  Now that I have given up my 'day job,' I only bring in what I earn as a freelance writer.  I don't have a regular income any longer, but I do have the luxury (now) of devoting much of my own time to becoming self sufficient.  In other words, I'll be managing my own time, and I plan to use it to save as much money as I can.  In 2012, when my husband and I were both working full time, he bought his lunch every day, five times a week.  These amounts varied from around $6 to around $20 depending on where he ate.  Since I have time now to see to these things, this year I will be sending his lunch with him to work.  Thanks to the wonders of internet banking, I can go back and track how much he spent in the corresponding week of 2012, then tally up the total cost of the lunches I send with him in 2013.  I should arrive at a weekly total, which I plan to track in this section.  I have other money-saving projects in mind, which I plan to implement over the year, and when the savings from those things come in I will record those totals as well so that by the end of the year I will have a lump sum amount of the total money I have funneled back down into my family's pockets.  In other words, it will be the amount of money I've taken off the up escalator of the capitalist system. 
So.  In his first week back to work in Jan. 2012, my husband spent $24.77 on restaurant lunches, and he only worked three days.  This year, he's only working two days this week, so stay tuned next week for the total dollar value we've saved by my sending his lunches from home.