Thursday, 7 April 2016

Regarding These So-Called "Panama Papers"

The Taipei Times published a house editorial yesterday on the subject of the "panama papers" which were leaked last Sunday. It's noteworthy less for what it says than for what it doesn't say...
"The cache of 11.5 million files dating from 1977 through last year has been dubbed the “Panama Papers,” and represents a treasure chest far more significant than WikiLeaks, former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about global surveillance, or the HSBC files last year."
This sentence occurs as a stand alone paragraph (the second) and is not immediately followed up or supported by any explanation as to why these leaked papers are supposedly "far more significant" than say Snowden's revelations about NSA surveillance. It is not until we get to the fifth paragraph that there is a vague hint of what this significance might be...
"What is known now is that 143 politicians, including 12 current or former heads of state, their relatives and close associates apparently used Mossack Fonseca’s services to help shield vast wealth."
I am all for exposing corruption among politicians, but "shielding vast wealth", although no doubt intended to sound sinister, is vague and may just as likely refer to tax avoidance procedures, which are legal, as to tax evasion procedures, which are illegal. And no, they do not amount to the same thing.
"While other public figures named have also denied any wrongdoing, several governments on Monday said they would be investigating potential wrongdoing, including money laundering, drug trafficking, sanctions busting and tax evasion."
So essentially, nothing illegal has yet been found from the initial readings of these papers, but possibly there may be some money laundering and so on that has taken place since 1977. Yet if a bit of money laundering and tax evasion is what the managing editor of the Taipei Times considers as "far more significant" than Edward Snowden's revelations about the NSA and the extent of its electronic surveillance measures, then he has a rather warped sense of priorities.

And indeed, this warp is confirmed in his eighth paragraph...
"While sheltering assets in offshore tax havens is not illegal in a lot of nations, the very rich — just like many global corporations — have access to options that the average taxpayer or small business owner does not, and there has been growing evidence over the past few years that national treasuries the world over are losing out as a result — as is the global economy."
There seems to be two complaints rolled into one there. The first is that "the rich" are able to pay less in tax than "the average tax payer" or "small business owner", and the second is that government revenues are lower than what they otherwise would be.

Yet obviously, given the scale of the numbers involved, "the rich" will still pay a vastly greater amount in tax than the "average tax payer" even with their legal access to offshore tax havens. And that governments should receive less in revenue than the maximum possible is actually a good thing because it means they will piss less of it up the wall on their demented schemes, pork-barrel politics and useless white elephants.

But consider the bigger picture: the managing editor of the Taipei Times regards the possibility that government revenues are not as high as they could be as "far more significant" than the global electronic insecurity rendered by the NSA's surveillance programs. To be clear on that point: the threat is not simply that the U.S. government may be spying on any one of us, it is that they have damaged the structure of the internet on which the global economy depends by introducing flawed encryption standards and hidden "backdoors". But no, a few quid here or there is "of far greater significance".
"The magazine’s report said that despite all the national security ramifications involved in Chinese capital being invested in Taiwan, the monitoring systems in place barely scrape the surface, especially when Chinese investors use proxies and third-nation shell companies to invest in Taiwan. Chinese investors have made inroads in a multitude of Taiwanese businesses and projects, including wastewater treatment plants, well-known brands and property development in Taipei’s Beitou District (北投), it said."
What exactly are the national security implications of Chinese investment in wastewater plants? What are they going to do? Suddenly flood us all with dirty toilet water if we don't agree to annexation?

What exactly are the national security implications of Chinese investment in "well known brands"? So a woman buys a handbag from a company some of whose shares are owned by Chinese investors, and that affects national security how exactly?

Oh and some Chinese people buy some flats in a popular district of Taipei city. Well I suppose that drives up the already sky high prices a little further. But again, what are the national security implications here?


I've said it before and I'll say it again: the managing editor of the Taipei Times is an abject moron and he should have been fired out of a fucking cannon, straight out of the office window, years ago.

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