Welcome! I follow American legal issues, international law issues, English language points, and international business and audit concerns. I'm usually responding to news, either with opinion or information, for Americans overseas and those interested in law, audit, or language concerns. These are filtered through my residence, in Norway.
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(Disclaimer: My blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.)
|Posted on January 17, 2021 at 7:35 AM|
Please see my Blogger page at EdvensonConsulting-News-And-Views, at Blogspot.com for this article.
|Posted on November 13, 2019 at 10:55 AM|
Please see my Blogger website: Edvenson Consulting: News & Views, at Blogger.com for more recent blog posts.
|Posted on December 25, 2018 at 9:55 AM|
You’re welcome to. I’m not really interested. Yes, in spite of what happened, but perhaps more accurately, because of what happened.
You see, when Donald Trump won the presidency, it was November of 2016. He quickly took to Twitter and said something mean and stupid about someone else. I quickly took to Twitter and replied that, as President, he should behave in a presidential manner – and that, basically he should “shut up” and not use Twitter as a platform for – whatever he had on his mind. He continued to use Twitter, and I continued to reply that he shouldn’t. I’m pretty sure he never ‘blocked me’ on Twitter: I’m frankly a pretty tiny fish in the sea of Americans who didn’t like him and didn’t want him to be our President. I’m sure he’s gotten, by now, hundreds of thousands of tweet replies that say, basically, what I have said in mine.
What I did do, however, was happen to mention on Twitter in a tweet or tweet reply that if he wouldn’t stop being so stupid, I might have to run for President in 2020 myself, seeing as I was certainly more qualified than he was to be President.
It’s all there if anyone wants to see it. My Twitter handle/name is: @pelicanposts. This was back at the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017, as Trump began his presidency. I know: you’re too busy. And I am too busy - to look back at this material: life and important events rush forward and priorities carry us on to the next day and important issue to address. Like many, I have used links to interesting and important stories and opinions to share my own concerns and requests for action - on Twitter. My focus has been on the environment, responsible budget management, responsible tax policy, responsible public administration, responsible human rights and rule of law participation points. You get the picture.
In the Spring, I often go to Florida these days. There, I visit my sister and my aunt and uncle and generally get my fill of sunshine and warmth, returning to Norway after the birch pollen season ends, with my sinuses thankfully intact and saved from the experience.
That explains why, on May 31, 2017, I was boarding United Airlines Flight 1631 from Tampa to Newark, with a continuation ticket to Oslo that evening on Scandinavian Air. We were scheduled to take off about 2 p.m. I had been seated at a seat of my usual choice, an aisle seat about half-way back on the plane on the right. Before the plane took off, I was approached by one of the airline stewardesses: I was going to have to move – I declined. She said I could not choose not to move, and I would be seated in the back row, right, with a window seat. I told her I did not want a window seat and was fine where I was. She said she was sorry about it, but I could not stay seated there. I was re-seated – against my wishes.
Shortly after the plane took off, the seat next to me, which was empty, was filled by an overly gregarious guy from the front of the plane. He said he was with his wife and just wanted to take a break from sitting up there. She came back a few minutes later, bringing him two bottles of red wine. He asked me if I would like any and I said no. I was not interested in talking to this man, but he was very interested in talking to me. I tried to read and he continually interrupted me. He simply ‘had’ to know where I was from and where I was going, expressing amazement and delight over nothing at all. He also simply ‘had’ to show me all of his Facebook photographs, which oddly were materializing on his cell phone, despite the fact that we were flying through non-internet connected space. He had to talk to me about how he met his soul mate in - why, yes, Bradenton, and how she had a son from a former relationship but they all got along very well. I asked him at one point what he did for a living and he told me he actually spoke to women on the phone - for money – that’s right: they were lonely and he would hear them, ‘console’ them, you know, it was lucrative and they called and he would talk to them. Not get involved, but yes, help them feel better. He said he was spending part years in Florida and part years in Greece. And, oh, by the way, he and his lady friend were on a trip to New York to attend a wedding. So he said. I didn’t ask whose.
Eventually this man who insisted on scrolling through hundreds of photographs of the Greek Islands, all of which looked like every other person’s photos of the Greek Islands, steered the conversation towards politics. Would your antennae not be up at this point, reader?
I asked this man, who said his name was Andreas, (but who could not produce his Facebook front page showing me that the name Andreas appeared there), if he wished to continue to chat, wouldn’t he please send me a friend request on Facebook. I had, as I told him, both a personal page and a business page. He said he would definitely do that.
He then insisted on discussing Donald Trump, not pejoratively, but to question what he was about, so to speak and get me to comment. I declined to engage. He then asked me what I would do – wouldn’t I like to change the Republican party. (I was a Republican candidate for office in the past, in the Chicago-Oak Park, Illinois area during the 1990’s on two occasions.) I did not ‘bite.’ By this time the two bottles of wine were empty and he’d had to let me fall into my own solitude, on and off. But before the crew announced that we would be starting to descend to our Newark destination, he asked me if I’d ever had an interest in running for President. I declined to engage with him on this. Then he turned to me as he stood and said something to the effect of, ‘Well, I think it’s pretty presumptuous to assume that someone can run for President just because they don’t like the way things are going. (I had not mentioned my Twitter comment of months earlier to him.) I said nothing in the form of a reply, although I may have said, ‘Oh, you think so.’ He then said, ‘Yes, you wouldn’t want to do that now, would you?’ I could hardly believe my ears. I believe I may have said, ‘What?’ He repeated himself quite firmly as he stood to leave and return to his seat up front, ‘You wouldn’t want to do that now, would you?’ I answered softly after a brief pause, ‘No.’ His last glance at me held no amusement, and his jolly demeanor was already gone.
The flight landed and that was the last I heard from or saw ‘Andreas.’ By the way, there is no Andreas matching this man’s age and description located in Bradenton, Florida on Facebook. So here are my questions:
• Who was this man?
• How was he able to bump me from my plane seat and re-direct the way in which I would spend the flight?
• On what pretext was he able to secure the cooperation of United Airlines in what basically turned out to be a hazing situation related to my expressed interest in running against Donald Trump as a Republican for President in 2020? A hazing that, given its intent, was undertaken specifically to get me to give up my right to freedom of speech and expression, in part, as well as my right to freedom of association and the free will to be involved in determining what I will do, why and when.
• Who would do this? And why?
• Who paid for it? And why?
I think these are good questions and may lead to discovering that this sort of thing has happened to others, others that expressed disdain with President Trump’s demeanor and direction and were told, by someone at some moment, not to even get serious about it.
Who would that be? I would say, the most refreshing of the dismal possibilities is the Republican Party itself. In that case, who paid for it? Where is the paperwork? Why would they do this? Are they not open-minded about what Republicans think about President Trump? We now know that they are not only not open-minded, but that the Trump organization, only a week ago, enlisted the Republican party in creating a single entity that will go forward towards the 2020 election on Trump’s behalf. And that is plain scary.
The next possibility is that the Trump organization itself was handling this – perhaps through their national security apparatus, which was, as we also now know, ‘compromised’ during the beginning of Trump’s term. Was one of these compromising agents involved in the little escapade to shut me up? In any one of these cases, perhaps the FBI, or even Mr. Mueller himself, is interested in my story.
You see, it’s not alright to treat people like this for speaking their mind in America. That goes for all the people of the United States. We must stand up to this sort of behavior, and we must do it now.
I hope someone is interested in tracing down what occurred to me on that plane, who this man was, who sent him, why, and who paid for it. I will help as much as I can. I think it’s the least we can do for the little man or woman who might, someday, want to run for President of the United States – the one who should NOT be told that they “better not even think about it.”
American attorney, living and working in Norway
|Posted on December 9, 2018 at 11:15 AM|
If you are interested in seeing my latest article, I published it to my Edvenson Consulting Facebook page. This simplifies sharing, for my purposes. Look me up there, at Edvenson Consulting:
Enjoy, if you are interested, in seeing how the incoming Senate, despite having a minority of Democratic members, represents a majority of the U.S. population, even now.
|Posted on July 25, 2018 at 9:50 AM|
It's a dark and cold wintry day in Norway. The sun rises about 9:30 a.m. and we're lucky - we're not up north. The sun goes down about 3:30 pm. It's not dark immediately, but then again, since when we say "The sun is up," we mean we can see it resting on the southern hillsides in the distance at high noon. You get the picture. It's a strange and forbidding routine, the landscape reflecting the quiet and independent spirits of the people, despite the desolation and loneliness,
A dark and cold year has also just passed in the U.S., full of blowing and bombastic egotisism, sociopathic soliloquies delivered in 140 words more, Twitter tweets, threaded together for the sake of emphasizing brutality, discrimination, rage, and designed, it seems, to foster momentum as much as anything.
From Trump's Day 1 as President, I, like millions of other Americans and citizens of the world, watched in horror as he unfolded one discriminatory position and action after another, all designed to foster his 'base' which, to be honest, is not the poor and unemployed he claims to serve, but the rich and well-connected. My own resistance movement began by telling him, surprisingly, to 'Shut Up' when he tweeted something ridiculous after becoming President. Surely, I thought, this man would realize he was driving a hard bargain by lighting up hatred and division via the globe's transparent but emphatically social media paths. Finally, I offered to run for President - in 4 years, not eight. I would run as a Republican or as a Democrat. I've been both in the past. I blamed the Mercer's and their rich and Jewish enclave for inciting more middle-Eastern hatred and division than already exists, while supporting occupiers against the occupied and for funding a madman, Mr. Bannon, to run Trump's campaign rhetoric values into the highly religious realm of right-wing hysteria.
Enough. We've all had enough already.
Now it's time to find out where we are. Where is that?
Why, it's in a state of "liminality". What is that? (Forgive me, I'm heavy-lifting):
"In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold") is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual's liminal stage, participants "stand at the threshold" between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.
The concept of liminality was first developed in the early 20th century by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep and later taken up by Victor Turner. More recently, usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rituals. During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established." (See www.definitions.net and other web resources.)"
And now I'm seeing signs of liminality entering into the American political debate.
I'm impressed with how well CNN, for example, is embracing a broad-based analysis of daily events. The Washington Post and New York Times are also showing continual innovation in covering the multiple strands of the modern political American drama in Washington D.C., federal offices across the land, and American Embassies around the globe.
I'm also blown away by the level of subterfuge infecting the Republican party itself, and the level of sheer shell-game and con-artist activity being conducted shamelessly and abusively in, around and on everyone surrounding Trump, his Department heads, his advisors and his media apologists.
It's time to recognize a new truth: Trump is a Shape-Changer, one that has used the Shape-changer model of behavior all of his life to: get what he wanted, do what he wanted, and say what he wanted.
His mental health is unstable, and his behavior is not only unpresidential, but not that of an enlightened human being in our world today.
He does not embrace the values that would bring him to act in a way that supports his actual Presidential duties, which he alternately glowers over, demanding glory and expressive praise from the pathetically-stationed talents that he's corralled into office, and disgustingly rejects, descending into Trumpian tantrums surrounding small slights - for example, in the ways he think sports stars should stand and when they should stand that way; for example, the way he attacks individuals whom he stings with his ridiculous and relentless nasty verbage - not even making much argument to excuse his obsessive attacks.
His version of a correct relationship is: Him telling you what the truth is, and you believing it, despite all the facts and evidence - despite even the most basic and obvious facts and evidence.
I believe I speak for the majority of our struggling but great nation in saying: We as Americans reject Trump and his ways. We wholeheartedly seek a democratic process and the re-establishment (yes, unfortunately, he's already managed to tear too much down) of accountability for upholding the health and welfare of our citizens. We need to re-embrace securing and assuring the quality of our air, water, lands and their protection. We need a process that re-asserts the significance of oversight of corporate activities, both environmentally and financially, so that the value of our economy's growth is shared with others and used to bring our middle class back into a balance, safe and secure, surrounded in all ways by the social and health safety net that our huge tax base can, in fact, afford when it is doing what it was designed to do.
Instead, we sit with the three monkeys - See no evil, Hear no evil and Do no evil, while the 'Dreamers' work their butts off, working in an America they embrace as their home and love, but in which they cannot vote or participate fully, hiding in plain sight.
Instead, we sit with a tax plan that will benefit the rich and not the poor and middle classes and that will benefit Trump in particular and his friends.
Instead, we sit without a budget and with a relentless attempt to undo the health service policies and procedures that would protect our nation's citizens, families and children, elderly and infirm, from total ruin, death, and the loss of their homes and livelihood.
Instead, we sit with a President whose list of conflicts of interest go on and on, most unresolved and few fully audited to date.
I'm not able to change the world, but I am able to call a Spade a Spade. Trump is a Spade. You don't want him in your court and you don't want him in your camp. He highjacked the Republican president election by bullying the rest of the candidates off the stage. This he considers his talent at being a 'smart' 'genius', and then he literally visibly stalked Hillary Clinton during their public candidates' debate on the stage.
This is the draft I wrote in January 2018. Guess it's about time to publish it - again.
|Posted on January 9, 2017 at 7:05 AM|
It's been a long hard slog to get through 2016 and not fall behind in my work. Actually impossible: as it stands, I'm still working on new catch-up tax return sets for Americans overseas who became aware of their filing obligations to the IRS last year - and those are soon completed!
You are welcome to contact me if you need to file US tax returns and are an American overseas. I continue to do this work and plan to work with another PTIN-registered preparer to take on new clients.
So what is the purpose of this blog post? It's more a short memo on the changing of the year, 2016 to 2017.
- You and I have less time to discuss the grave social and political needs of U.S. citizens, despite needing to do so more than ever, as we look towards Trump soon taking the presidency, a fact that instills fear and desperation in the hearts of millions of Americans.
- Tax news facts and tax return news are of special interest. I will be keeping my listed and accepted clients informed on these in my tax client newsletters.
- Communicative messages are now being relayed with ever-increasing brevity. This removes the value of the essay, the writer's development of a train of thought and argument. The entire capacity of our intelligence and mental capabilities is short-circuited into drops of meaning no larger than, well, a teardrop or a bird's small twitter. Instead of crying, at the moment, I'm doing my best with it - by visiting Twitter and Facebook and using them to share messages and articles I believe are of special interest to my readers.
- I am also working on writing longer works for publication. My writing to publish dream is not over and my determination to continue with my projects is stronger than ever. These will be given their time to ripen during 2017. Perhaps a flower of publication will bloom this year or next.
- You will find me on Facebook at the Facebook page, Edvenson Consulting. Feel free to 'like' this page and you may find yourself receiving weekly updates with an article or two to share and enjoy. You will also find me on Twitter at the Twitter name, pelicanposts. There, I'm making more regular small comments when news of special interest pops up - news or assertions in need of an intelligent reply or remark.
- The status of legal cases and stories I've worked on is dismaying:
- John Kristoffer Larsgard remains in Arizona prison, despite being eligible for transfer out of country to his own nation to finish his term - which has been lengthened repeatedly for supposedly bad behavior, such as attempting to assist a fellow inmate in returning his jacket to his room after a visit. A court case he brought against the system was nearly won when at the very last moment (jury had already deliberated) the judge called for the jury to stand down - thus permitting an out-of-court settlement no one will talk about, a nearly entire travesty of justice just continued and continuing. The bad prison treatment then continues, the isolation continues, the injustice continues. Tell me something different and I'll publish it.
- The state of mixed American-Norwegian children in Norway whose Norwegian mothers continue to mis-behave and violate Norwegian and international rights law and get away with it - refusing visitations, making up stories to ward off American fathers out of country, are sick and sad. They are examples of the very worst in human behavior - the behavior that looks away from "the best interests of the child" to the "the best interests of me" but gets it wrong: they are wrong and their arguments are wrong. The attorneys they hire in Norway are wrong and should be embarrassed to evade the law so brazenly in their representations. Their antics are effective without using much money and the Norwegain courts should do more to put a stop to it: they should permit out-of-country parents the right to sue in Norwegian courts and have court fees paid by the state during the court process. The state should then recoup those fees from the violater - yes, the little mother and her nasty attorney. This is the sad status of not one, but two stories I have worked with for years. It suits Norway to behave as if their system is perfectly in tune with international treaties and requirements when, in practice, it sucks. Yes, I did say that, sorry.
And that's just the 'tip of the iceberg' for me related to my work, Americans in America and Americans overseas.
So, with that, let's say: Happy New Year, 2017: may all injustices be righted in this year, and may those who have brought them about be punished and their influences removed. May those who follow the law live long and well, and may those who do not cooperate, abuse their position, and villify rightness - and, as well, place their personal goals above those of the public's health, safety and welfare - fail miserably.
|Posted on October 9, 2016 at 9:05 AM|
Congress: Give Republicans What They Deserve
The NPR commentator says, “Why?” Why have Republicans suddenly decided to abandon their support of Trump? Especially noting that those in ‘battleground states’ who are running for Congress as Republicans are taking a very active role in that abandonment.
Journalist 2 replies, saying, “That’s a real good question!”
Really? You think so?
And Paul Ryan - showing up at a rally to say that, despite the fact that he is not there to talk about Trump’s sexist comments, frankly he is really disgusted personally – and he really wonders what the heck is not right with a certain candidate for, you know, President.
Gee, I’m feeling a little clairvoyant then: I think I know why. And Paul, I’m really disgusted with, well, your disingenuous disgust. Because what is going on here is precision-driven. This party has had to – and has been planning for a long while to derail or split their support at the last minute if Trump turned out to be the crazy candidate he always promised to be – because, well, actual Republican Senators and real Republican House members, are trying to be re-elected. Or elected.
So let’s GLOAT OVER the PEOPLE’S POWER to change the course of Congress!
Who’s on the ballot? How many Senators are affected? How many Representatives are involved? Standing Republicans seeking re-election themselves or seeking to get another Republican elected to their already-Republican state or district?
I have been saying (for years) that we must get rid of the current Congress and get a new Congress, one that will actually do something. I could say, instead, do something good.
So, just to be clear, these are the people who spent THE LAST YEARS FAILING to coordinate politically with both the other side and our President, Barack Obama, and did nothing (except for themselves, the NRA and their own favorite pork projects) while holding high office.
These are the Republican Senators to VOTE AGAINST:
Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire)
Roy Blunt (Missouri)
John Boozman (Arkansas)
Richard Burr (North Carolina)
Dan Coat’s seat (Indiana) retiring in 2016
Mike Crapo (Idaho)
Chuck Grassley (Iowa)
John Hoeven (North Dakota)
Johnny Isakson (Georgia)
Ron Johnson (Wisconsin)
Mark Kirk (Illinois)
James Lankford (Oklahoma)
Mike Lee (Utah)
John McCain (Arizona)
Jerry Moran (Kansas)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Rand Paul (Kentucky)
Rob Portman (Ohio)
Marco Rubio (Florida)
Tim Scott (South Carolina)
Richard Shelby (Alabama)
John Thune (South Dakota)
Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania)
David Vitter’s seat (Louisiana) retiring in 2016
Again, in every one of these cases, vote for the Democratic candidates.
For those of you who are foreigners or did not have Government in high school, there are two houses to Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House, the figures are even more dramatic: Yes, it is hard to believe, but according to www.ballotpedia.org, there are 19 Republicans who are actually retiring rather than run again. Luckily, there are only 9 do-nothing Democrats retiring in this election.
Currently, 24 of the 435 House seats, of those that are up for election this November, are expected to be competitive. (Many go always to the party-in-power.) And the general feeling of those reporting on such things is that there is doubt that the Democrats could become a majority in the House.
The current make-up of the Congress is: 187 Democrats and 247 Republicans. This totals 434 and there are 435 seats (one is empty pending a special election).
If ALL 24 seats classified as ‘truly competitive’ were to go to the Democrats, the House would have 211 Democrats and 223 Republicans. THAT WOULD BE AN EXCELLENT RESULT! Vote for the Democrats and DO YOUR PART to balance the powers of the two dominant parties in the House of Representatives.
In fact, in a long list of districts, the House winner is expected to win by less than 5 percent! So be SURE to VOTE AGAINST any Republicans in these Congressional races. If the Democrat is an incumbent, hard questions must be answered to gain your vote. IF the Democrat is brand-new to the race, great – go for it.
Representative races for 18 districts are already called a “toss up.” Decide to change that now – in a positive, Democratic direction. Then there are those that are leaning Democratic, which already total more than those districts that are leaning Republican. Hurray!
Should things get even closer, an additional 8 districts’ Representatives will be in danger. (www.ballotpedia.org)
As well, it’s going to be a very exciting general election for Congress – an ‘open season’ in a way – since not many ‘incumbents’ were defeated in their own party primary races. So the boring old Congress members are still carrying most of their ticket places on the ballots.
Back to the question that the national journalist is asking: “Why?” are the Republicans playing a self-destructive take-back, play-back dodge - and so near the touchdown line? Because they want to do nothing to create a consistent public policy while, at the same time, protect with evasive excuses their abuses of their positions of public service. They want to NOT be sucked down with the dross flowing from Trump’s campaign mouth, but also manage to evade losing their privileges. The problem is that their privilege is, actually, to act - positively and together - to take positions that HELP the health, safety and welfare of the people in their states and districts. Along with guiding foreign policy in positive and effective directions, this is the ONLY thing they are asked to do while in Congress. And, for the most part, they have not been doing it.
So, welcome to the insanity! But be sure to toss most of the Republicans’ back-pedaling bull into the garbage where it belongs, by voting Democratic. And DO try to vote for someone with the public’s good at heart when you make your choice for your Congressional Senators and Representatives. You know what result I would like. I actually care about the people of the United States of America. Make me happy.
- June Edvenson is an American attorney and former candidate for Judge in Cook County, Illinois, for the Republican party. As such, she could say what she believed and thought should be changed, while knowing that the Democratic machine was sufficiently entrenched and corrupt to assure the delivery of the victory to all Democrats in the general elections. She is now an American living and working overseas and has already cast her ballot for President and members of Congress by absentee ballot from her last permanent residency in the U.S. She encourages all Americans in the U.S. and overseas to vote in all elections in which they qualify to vote.
|Posted on April 16, 2016 at 7:20 AM|
Greetings from Norway: Follow the Money, Panama Papers
The Panama Papers are a real hit in the Norwegian newspaper, Aftenposten. Each day, new revelations follow, along with the obfuscations and changing explanations of DNB Bank’s President, Rune Bjerke. I have to admit I found him a jerk when I called him accidentally some years ago. (There is another Rune Bjerke in the Oslo area who should not be confused with this man.) DNB’s president kept me on the phone, mocking me in a continuing spiral of chatter meant to make me feel timid, small and apologetic for simply having reached the wrong phone number. But now I am already digressing.
What should a bank do with its money? And what should the Norwegian bank (that would be: DNB) do when the State of Norway is an owner? Not just banks – there are several companies with important global operations – in oil, technology, minerals, manufacturing – that are partially or majority owned by the State of Norway.
Beate Sjafjell has written a critique in the Aftenposten that I found interesting. I’d like to share it with you. This article appeared in the Aftenposten, Norway’s leading newspaper, the only Norwegian paper involved in the Panama Papers research activity. Beate Sjåfjell is a Norwegian attorney and Law School Faculty at the Norwegian Law School of the University of Oslo.
Her article, translated by me below, was published only in Norwegian. I am translating it here into what I call ‘transparent English’ so that others will see it and read it. . . . And ask related questions.
It’s key to raising not only questions about how the Norwegian state manages the mega-billions it holds in its ‘Oil Fund’, now called the ‘Pension Fund’, but it also begs the question I’m trying to see the answer to – even in the Panama Papers revelations: Where is the money going? Follow the money? Where does the money lead it? Not just to Panama . . .
After all, when the money gets to Panama, someone wants it there for a price. The price they’ll pay for that means they are interested in borrowing it or using it while it is ‘parked there’ - for some other, further purpose. That purpose could be economic activity involving drugs, illegal trade in arms, even legal trade in arms, trade in humans, body parts, medicines, drugs, any commodity for which is sought a market underneath the ‘white market’s radar system and into the (non-taxed, or lower-taxed black market, any objective that makes someone else a lot of money at less expense and means more profits in more secret private pockets related to more secret goals and, well, nasty, unfair or unethical activities.
As my favorite audit manager supervisor, Kevin Carhill, always said, “Follow the money.” I’m trying, but I don’t see the end of the Panama Papers trail yet. I really hope we do!
It’s hard to prove a negative, but you tell me: can I be positive that not one single Norwegian crown (kroner) has gone to buy one single gun in Syria? One single bomb in the Middle East?
Then there is a habit, apparent in Norway’s State company ownership interests, of not asking hard questions in the right forum. From where I come from (Illinois), at least we had The Open Meetings Act, even if politicians and cronies were busy hustling around avoiding it when they wanted to break, in particular, the labor laws. And we had the Corporations Act, which told owners of companies how to behave when they made decisions. Norway should take a lesson in this.
Here is Beate’s article I enjoyed so much. The sub-titles and cut-out quotes are scattered around, unfortunately, making it a bit harder to follow. Still, fantastic work. Thank you, Professor Sjafjell, for your insights and suggestions:
“Government failed shareholdings
The Norwegian State’s Ownership Report provides no indications that the government will deal with the extremely harmful and short-term pressure for maximum profit. This comes at the expense of social responsibility.
What do Yara, Statoil, Telenor, Hydro, Kongsberg,, DNB Bank, and Kvaerner have in common? They all have the State as a shareholder (indirectly on Kvaerner’s part), and all have, during recent times, been accused of being involved in crimes or unethical conduct. How can this happen with a government shareholder who claims to have clear expectations of social responsibility?
Profit before corporate social responsibility
The Norwegian Minister of Business argues that the state is clear that profit should not be at the expense of legal and corporate governance (White Paper 27 (2013-2014, "A diverse and value-creating ownership - "Ownership Report"). The Ownership Report shows the opposite. It states emphatically repeatedly that the main objective is the maximization of profits/returns.
The state has no legal obligation to always do what maximizes profits.
Government expectations for corporate social responsibility are, in content, praiseworthy. But they are coming long after the message, sandwiched in between the expectations of the highest possible returns and guidelines on executive pay.
Neither returns nor executive pay are explicitly related to social responsibility. The main point is profitability. Working with social responsibility should help to "protect shareholder value." One fourth of the pages in the 122-page message are devoted to adhering and expectations concerning social responsibility.
Missing the will to lead
The Ownership Report points out the problem as companies with many small shareholders, who can be seen to be without strong shareholder control – i.e. "ownerless" companies. The state obviously does not consider that the same applies to a company with a state majority shareholder - who dares not run it.
The bottom line is profitability. Work with social responsibility should help to "protect shareholder value.
The state is in a double role as a public shareholder, whether passive or active. The state seems to want to manage its dual role by giving the impression of being aloof and not exerting direct influence on these companies.
The government can exercise authority at the AGM (the Annual General Meeting)
The state claims that it cannot do more than choose a competent board. That is wrong. At the AGM, shareholders exercise the highest authority in the company. Here, the State has, as majority shareholder (in Telenor, Statoil, and Kongsberg) control; and as a large minority shareholder (in Yara, Hydro, DNB Bank, Kvaerner Aker Holding) significant influence.
The state has no legal obligation to always do what maximizes profit. The State could ,through selected, strategic decisions at the AGM meetings, show that, for example, zero tolerance for corruption means “saying ‘No, thanks” to some projects. The State’s capacity and opportunity for influence, both nationally and internationally, is formidable.
Missing Transparency in Company Shareholder meetings (AGMs)
Instead, the state uses the AGM to elect the board and to “sprinkle sand” (slow down progress) on their proposals. The state argues that it addresses important questions in the so-called ownership meetings between State department staff and company leaders.
The state is breaking with its own principles of good corporate governance: There should be transparency knitted into the ownership activity, and decisions and resolutions should be conducted at the AGM meeting. The ‘ownership dialogue’ should be tied, in addition, to the AGM, not be replaced by other meetings.
The state should be an active and socially responsible shareholder
The state is afraid to scare off other investors. Consideration of other shareholders and the market means that the government’s representatives should refrain from partisan political power activity and other arbitrariness.
There is little that separates the state from a private profit-maximizing shareholder.
This does not mean that the state should refrain from being an active and socially responsible shareholder and only try to influence decisions in closed meetings. Active and socially responsible share ownership activities can be conducted in a predictable and orderly manner within the framework of company law and ethical principles and in line with the government's own overall objectives and international obligations.
The hunt for current profit maximization
Short-term profit maximization pressures make it difficult for companies to propose tough enough requirements when they enter into corrupt countries. The Ownership Report itself notes that leaders are feeling the pressure for short-term profit maximization as a growing problem.
Public shareholding company direction could propose greater long-term focus and a willingness to put social responsibility before profit, also in the form of proposing an ultimatum for transparency in business dealings with all corrupt regimes.
Long-term focus is mentioned - with exception
Instead, we see that the message emphasizes, time after time, that the main consideration is maximization of invested capital, and when long-term focus is mentioned, the need for continued short-term returns at the same time is emphasized.
The consultant network, such as PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) is a part of, and among those whose facilitation has given us the Panama Papers scandals.
The signal is that profit is the goal and all else should be managed as well as one can, with the exception that it must support the goal of maximizing profits. There is little that separates the state from a private profit-maximizing shareholder. There is nothing that suggests that the state should have settled and agreed to something of extreme damage, or short-term pressure for maximum profit.
What is the Department of Business doing?
The Norwegian Department of Business, which has the overarching responsibility for the state’s shareholder ownership management, has asked the Attorney firm within Price Waterhouse Coopers for help. PWC should discuss and report on the companies and the Department follow up messages concerning owner’s expectations to work against corruption and towards transparency in economic transactions well enough.
Secretiveness is just a symptom.
The consultant network sits on all sides of the table
These consulting networks, such as PWC is a part of, are among those additional agents who have given us the Panama Papers scandal. These consultant communities are sitting on all sides of the table, alongside, preparing the ground for the owners’ reports, facilitating services of the companies, and then evaluating whether the companies and the state government’s ownership activities work well enough.
That a consultancy environment that is so well integrated into this system, which obviously does not work, should be the one to give systemic, thoroughly persuasive assessments of what is the problem and what should be changed should be unthinkable. Unless the government takes a completely different grip, we ought to expect new scandals.”
-June Edvenson is a former Illinois State Senior Auditor. She worked as an auditor for the State of Illinois for 7 years in Springfield and Chicago. She is an American attorney now living and working in Norway.
|Posted on January 29, 2016 at 5:40 PM|
John Kristoffer Larsgard – Consistent Sabotage
At the risk of putting this Norwegian citizen at greater risk of harm than he already is exposed to in Arizona state prison, let us look more closely at what we know since his prison sentence began. I would like to tie this to what is happening now, however, in part due to its urgency. See, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” as Paul Newman put it in the film, Cool Hand Luke. Kris has sought to argue, since he was first placed in the Navajo County Jail, that he required medical attention – care, treatment and medicines he did not receive. He has, since, also sought to argue that his sentence was excessive. He has tried to study the law and has written his own motions (in English) to achieve re-hearing. Meanwhile, both prison administrators and medical care authorities have consistently sabotaged both his physical and mental well-being for no other purpose than to disrupt and ‘route’ his efforts, causing them to come to nothing. You can try to draw another conclusion from what I write here, but it is hard to argue that every prisoner is treated in this way. Sure, no one is perfect, but no one deserves to be treated as Kris has been in the time between September 24, 2011 and today.
Let’s start with this month, January, 2016. Kris was seen by a medical professional who confirmed on January 12th that Kris should be kept on the pain and anti-seizure medications he has been taking, including methadone. You know methadone is habit-forming, similar to heroin and is used to treat heroin addicts? Apparently, methadone helps Kris with the constant pain he has experienced since the “spinal cord injury of 2013” which occurred in Arizona prison. The professional also recommends updated imaging of the cervical and thoracic spine and recommends he see a neurologist. Other suggestions for possible spinal cord care were encouraged in the letter report.
Yet, on January 19th, he is brought from the detention unit he was in to an observation room where he is confronted by the nurse who earlier sabotaged his care in April of 2015 at another prison, Florence prison. The prison had discontinued two of his medications and he had complained, which was why she was seeing him. She indicated she had discontinued the two medications because she ‘did not believe they were appropriate treatment’ for him. She also said she was discontinuing methadone because “you just want drugs.” (Note the Catch-22.) Kris states that he tried calmly to tell her that the drugs were actually helping him function and without them he was in excruciating pain. The nurse then tells him that this is “decided” and that Kris will have to learn to ‘function without drugs for pain.’ She indicates they will (again) send him to a pain management specialist. Kris says he just saw a pain management specialist who suggested the medications be continued. The nurse indicates that that appointment was irrelevant – because she had not been the one who requested it.
The nurse emphasizes again that she will not give him any medications for pain and adds, “But you can grieve my decision because I know you like to file grievances and lawsuits.” The nurse then continues, stating that she will be removing Kris’s wheelchair. Reader, his walker was already removed from him on December 1, 2015 – why? Because he was being sent into a detention unit, similar to solitary, which has nothing to do with a person’s need to, well, actually walk around their room, if at all possible. The nurse then suggests he ‘learn to walk’ and insinuates that Kris did not have a spinal cord injury when, in actual fact, all the professionals involved in his surgery in 2013, as well as the one who wrote the letter one week earlier, recognize that he does. Kris then realizes that the nurse has had no intention of treating him by arranging this ‘appointment.’
Kris tells her that when he has a walker, he uses it, and he also needs a wheelchair – so he can go more than a few yards at a time. He mentions that he knows he will need that because he has a court appearance within about a month, a case he has managed to get some assistance with to file. The nurse insists that (despite the fact that Kris will continue to be in the custody of the state at all times), he cannot keep his wheelchair, and will have to figure out how to manage to get to court and appear there without it. As she tells him, to the following effect, ‘I’m just not going to allow you to believe and portray that you have an injury to people when it’s not true and hurts my colleagues.’ Kris begins to check out – I mean, he begins to lose control, is crying, is having flashbacks of being on the floor for three weeks at Yuma prison, and finally some other prison administrators arrive. Kris in the wheelchair has been slammed back against the wall, you see. He is worried about his neck as a result. Another medical nurse arrives, who presses on his neck, supposedly to prove that no new injury has just occurred. Kris is then seen by a psychology associate and returned to his cell.
What you have just read makes as much sense as Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky: “’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves and the mome raths outgrabe. ‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.’” Well, reader, should we go on? Into the heart of going crazy?
What would drive you crazy – or anger you to the point of being made crazy? Having an extremely serious injury, caused and exacerbated by those in control of you, people who not only decided intentionally to permit you to suffer with it, but also made it impossible for you to get well or get better – and who would also make it impossible for you to make your case, that you did not belong there or, at the least, required consistent medical care and pain management? And what if you thought you were in a new ‘home’ but they kept moving you around? What if, every time they moved you, you were not permitted to keep almost anything you had managed to acquire? This would include things such as paper, notes, books, research, your own writing? What if you were moved sometimes in the middle of the night, awoken and told to prepare to be taken to a new location, a new cell? What if you were told you could bring nothing with you? And everything you were working on in order to make your case was, as a result consistently taken from you? What if, when you asked for those items, you were told they were “lost”?
Let us descend to another level of the hell that Kris has managed, to date, to survive in the Arizona prison system – how, you say? By reviewing his transfer record of course. It’s in black and white. Granted, some of those transfers are related to his need for medical attention, but, as his mother puts it, “I know that many of the moves were because he had such torturing pain. Then they would move him to isolation and say it was psychiatric. At one point, he got psychiatric medications from a psychiatrist, but these were not for Kris – they gave him terrible nightmares.” Liv continues, “And in one case a health worker took Kris for a talk. He said to Kris, ‘But how do you feel’. Kris said the pain and spasms were so bad that it would be better to die. The worker said ‘You are not allowed to say anything like that. I will have to start a disciplinary case again you for saying that.’ And they did – they made a disciplinary case out of that, put Kris in isolation – of course in pain without medications. This is just an example of how they operate.”
So what does the Arizona prison system think is the reasonable care of a human being, a Norwegian who drove wrongly down the wrong street, tried to turn around and leave and instead, scared some kids and got his nose broken by a local bully? The following year, the local prosecutor got a special award for his efforts to enhance community safety and security.* (*See earlier blog posts in this series for more information.)
With his nose broken, Kris was jailed in Navajo County jail, beginning on the afternoon of September 24, 2011 in Winslow. His bail was set to $1 million dollars for that alleged crime so he was effectively trapped. Seven months later he was transferred to the Arizona state prison ‘reception’ facility at Alhambra. And here begins the dramatic, incredible and heart-breaking list of his transfers to date.
Transferred May 10, May 21, June 20, July 16, July 20, October 28, 2012
On May 10th, 2012, Kris was transferred to Lewis-Stiner prison, then on May 21 to Lewis-Bachman, on June 20 to Yuma-Cibola, on July 16 to Yuma, CMU, on the 20th back to Yuma Cibola, and on October 28, 2012 to Yuma CMU, the isolation unit.
This October 28th transfer to the Yuma CMU unit was because, as Liv puts it, he was, on October 25th suddenly attacked from the back by an unknown person who kicked his head causing him to fall down. He was in such pain, but the doctors would not prescribe pain medication. He was therefore sent to isolation without medications. Liv believes this attack was arranged for by the health care provider at the time, who was miffed at Kris’s repeated ‘Health Need Requests,’ written and submitted by Kris.
It was at this point that Kris had the seizure that resulted in his falling backwards in his cell on December 3, 2012. One deputy warden told Liv they could see how much pain he was in after this and told the medical administration – who did nothing.
Transferred December 19 & 26, 2012
Finally, on December 19th he was transferred to Tucson – Rincon unit, a medical unit where they claimed he was faking being ill. This month he was in ‘mental health watch,’ which meant Kris could not possess any writing instrument, and therefore could not write complaints and requests for care he wished to write.
Finally, on December 26th he was transferred to Tucson – Winchester. On December 30th 2012, Liv got her first phone call from Kris in which he told her he was very ill. While at Winchester, he was unable to walk and had little feeling in his left hand and side. As a result, some inmates there borrowed a wheelchair and helped take care of him themselves.
Transferred January 1, February 6, 2013
Finally, on January 1st, 2013 he was – literally - dragged to medical care. He was given a CT scan and sent immediately to the University of Arizona Medical Center for emergency surgery. After surgery he was guarded in the hospital during post-operative recovery. There he was threatened with violence by one guard monitoring him after Kris, while trying to re-adjust himself in bed, bumped the TV remote control the guard had left there, causing the channel to change while the guard watched TV.
On February 6, 2013, he was released from the hospital and transferred to Tucson prison’s health unit.
Transferred May 9, May 10, May 14, 2013
Then, in May, 2013, he was transferred 3 times, from Tucson prison’s Whetstone unit to the Rincon health unit and then to the Rincon psychiatric unit, a unit reserved for the seriously ill psychiatric prisoners, also not Kris and not a medical unit.
Transferred June 22, June 25, August 6, 2013
Kris’s next transfer occurred a bit over a month later, on June 22nd, 2013, to Rincon SNU Unit M. There he was, according to his mother, ‘disappeared’ for three days. Later, he told his mother how they came in the evening, stripped him naked and put him in an isolation cell. The walls and floor had excrement and blood all over them. Kris asked for a blanket and was given a rug covered with blood. The guard then said, “You are not worthy to have anything else.” This was done, he was led to believe, according to Liv, as a retaliation for his having spoken to the Norwegian reporter from VG, the Norwegian newspaper, for a short interview on June 14, 2013.
On June 25th, 2013, Kris was transferred back to the Tucson Rincon psychiatric unit, not an appropriate placement for him, where he spent most of the summer. He was then transferred to Tucson’s Manzanita Unit on August 6th, a medium-security prison designed to “help inmates prepare themselves to rejoin the wider community.” There, he was kept for the next 7 months, during which time he was to wear a large neck-body brace-girdle he had gotten after his surgery. He was also supposed to be seen by a neurologist and a pain specialist.
Transferred March 12, March 12, March 12, March 12 & March 13 2014
After an assisting attorney filed a motion to secure Kris’s re-examination, which was not happening, he was transferred on March 10, 2014 for a CT scan at the University of Arizona Medical Center. After that exam, Corizon health personnel stated they had decided that Kris was now completely well and did not need any medical care. They wished to send him to Yuma prison, where his neck was broken in the first place. During one single day, while Kris contemplated being returned to his former place of torturous ill treatment (the three weeks on the floor place with no medical assistance or examination – see Blog post 6), he was transferred to 4 different units in a period of 24 hours. That was March 12, 2014. First, he was sent to Tucson’s Whetstone prison, then to Tucson’s Complex Detention Unit, then back to Whetstone and then to the Rincon psychiatric unit (which was inappropriate for him). These transfers were effected in what is called in Norwegian a ‘glattcelle’ – a cage designed to protect persons from hurting themselves or others - such as those which, in February, 2014, were judged by the state of Norway to violate human rights. The day after the 4 transfers, March 13, 2014, Kris was sent to the Tucson Manzanita Detention Unit, a solitary style holding cell. Here he was kept for 5 days.
Transfers and attempted transfer March 18, March 27, March 28, March 29, March 30, March 31, 2014
On March 18, 2014, the Arizona prison system tried to transfer Kris to Yuma prison. Kris was chained onto a bus headed for Yuma. On the bus, Kris had a seizure, in part due to having been taken off of his medications. “Fortunately,” writes Liv, his mother, “the bus had rubber mats on the floor.” The bus returned Kris to Manzanita where an ambulance was called. Kris was then taken to the hospital in Tucson where he received necessary medications and was then sent back to the detention unit at Manzanita prison.
It was just a few days later on March 27th that they again came, early in the morning, to Kris and told him they were taking him to a neurology appointment. Kris was then taken directly to Yuma prison without any appointment.
As Liv says, “Yuma prison is like a death sentence for Kris. They have just a small hospital and no medical unit. But since Corizon reported him completely well and in no need of medications, he was being sent into a no-treatment situation.”
Of course, things could not go well for Kris here, who needed both medications and regular medical care. One day after arrival, he was transferred to Yuma’s Dakota C unit, the next day to Yuma’s Dakota CLOS unit, the next day, March 30th, 2014, to Yuma’s Dakota Isolation unit and the next day to Yuma’s La Paz unit. Here, he managed to live in one room for 17 days in a row.
Transferred April 17, May 2, October 18, November 3, December 25, December 26, 2014
On April 14, he was moved to Yuma’s Dakota unit again. Here, he managed to live for 14 days in a row before being moved again to Yuma’s La Paz unit. Here he managed to survive another 5 ½ months before being moved to Yuma’s Dakota unit again, where he stayed until November 3, 2014 when he was finally transferred away from Yuma, to Florence prison East unit.
But, sadly, it was at the Florence prison that the local health providers (Corizon health) began their determined efforts to remove him – again - from necessary pain medications and treatment, using persistent efforts to sabotage his health, both physically and mentally. From Florence’s East unit on November 3, he was transferred on December 25th to Florence’s Kasson M unit. Then, back again on December 26to the Florence East unit.
Transferred April 27, 2015
January, 2015 lead on to February, March and April. On April 27, 2015, Kris was transferred to the Eyman prison’s detention unit. This transfer was brought about by Corizon health staff after stopping Kris’s pain medications on April 21st. But why was he transferred? He had an appointment with a pastor of the Norwegian Sjømannskirke (Seamen’s Church, with worldwide locations, this pastor from the church in San Francisco), a meeting that was approved and set up for the morning of April 27, 2015. When the pastor arrived, Kris was not there – because he had been transferred away in the early morning hours – in other words, in the middle of the night. This visit from a representative of a Norwegian state organization, whose primary duty is to lend comfort and support to Norwegians around the world, was intentionally sabotaged by Arizona prison authorities.
Transferred May 20, May 25, June 4, June 26, June 29 & July 6, 2015
From Eyman prison, he was transferred about one month later to Lewis prison’s detention unit, and 5 days later to Lewis’s Stiner unit, then 11 days later to Lewis’s Buckley unit. This was on June 4, 2015. There, he was able to call Liv, and told her he was warned by some prisoners that Corizon staff had told lies about him – in order to make some prisoners take him and hurt him. Liv felt lucky that Kris had just recently been given the right to call her, which right had been denied for about 5 months. Liv reported what Kris said to an attorney who assisted him and contacted the prison, where Kris was sent into detention, which they felt was an effort to save his life.
On June 26, he was sent to Lewis’s Bachman unit and 3 days later back to Lewis prison’s Stiner unit C. Making it 4 transfers in about 4 weeks, he was transferred to Lewis prison’s Morey unit on July 6, 2015.
But let’s give the Arizona prison system a break here. They were after all attempting, on July 1st, 2015, to respond to a major prison riot uprising at the Kingman prison complex, where the prisoners were not fighting each other but against inhuman prison conditions. As a result of this uprising, a total of 2,404 inmates had to be moved quickly to some other prison, so there was a lot of shuffling.
Transferred August 25, 2015
Kris managed to live in one place at Lewis prison for 6 weeks before being moved back to Tucson’s Manzanita unit on August 25, 2015.
Since November 28, 2015, Kris has been refused calls to his mother. Since December 1, 2015, he has been held in Tucson’s Manzanita Detention unit, similar to an isolation unit. On that day, his walker was from taken from him by prison authorities.
And now, reader, we’ve come full circle. Would you like to remind yourself where we are? Go to the top of this blog and start reading it again. That’s where we are. Nowhere. Disappeared. Denied his medications and the equipment he requires for physical exercise and mobility.
So why go through this listing of all of his transfers? It’s all just facts, so what. There is nothing special about it. Yes, some transfers occurred in order to provide better care for Kris, but many seem pointless or cruel for someone with physical handicaps, handicaps brought on by and within the prison system itself. The reason, from my perspective, to dwell on these is, in part, to recall that, at almost all times, Kris was attempting to write and challenge both his sentence and the condition of his treatment, care and medication. At all times, these transfers removed all materials he had managed to assemble while attempting to make these efforts and did not return them nor let him keep them, regardless of how harmless those pieces of paper were, regardless of how harmless those law books were that his mother bought for him, regardless of how his notes were written by him and he had a right to keep them. At no time was this permitted to occur, and the system of sabotage of Kris’s efforts was effected easily enough – by walking around his human rights, by transferring him repeatedly and consistently. By sabotage.
According to a general dictionary, sabotage is any willful underhanded interference with a cause, an intentional undermining of a cause. It’s usually found in the law of war, but perhaps we are in a war here. After all, synonym verbs include: disable, vandalize and cripple, all things Kris has experienced under the detention and at the very direction of Arizona prison authorities – repeatedly and repeatedly.
Kris was, as a result of these conditions, unable to be effective in reviewing and contributing to his own appeal, already taken and denied despite serious problems in the district court’s record. We are also talking about transcripts from that court disappeared, the denial of access to transcripts, and files disappearing. We are possibly talking about serious corruption here. Anyone interested?
In my next installment, I hope to discuss more fully the Arizona prison system’s prisoner population, release possibilities and update you on the new hell he will surely face as he prepares, hopefully, to go to court on his own behalf to discuss his treatment and care, as well as his sentence. In the meantime, I am requesting that more attorneys in prominent criminal law practice and immigration practice in the federal district of Arizona and/or 9th Circuit Court of Appeals consider assisting Kris in his efforts. These should include efforts to achieve early release under Arizona’s own statute, “Release to deportation at one-half of sentence imposed,” ARS sec. 41-1601.14, designed to release inmates who are foreign born into the custody of their native country. This should bring U.S. federal authorities and the state of Norway into a discussion – and a capacity for action on Kris’s behalf - due to the coordination needs for such a release to be effected.
|Posted on January 22, 2016 at 4:35 AM|
John Kristoffer Larsgard – Part 6
I decided recently to discover, if I could, the general life status of John Kristoffer Larsgard, the Norwegian who was imprisoned in the state of Arizona after having been caught in Winslow after a car accident with his mother. If you are not familiar with this story, you will find details of that online at various news articles in Norwegian and English, and also at my five previous blog posts entitled with his name. These are posted at my website as well as at my Google blog, “Edvenson Consulting: News and Views.” Folks call him Kristoffer or Kris. I last wrote about Kris’s situation in the early Spring of 2012. And finally, attention is once again turning to him and his current predicament. None too soon, since he is now disabled – by and due to being in Arizona state prisons – and should probably have already been released to custodial care – paid for by the taxpayers of Arizona.
John’s prison time in Arizona began on Sept. 24, 2011. He was later sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison which, under normal procedures, would include ‘time served.’ He has thus now been in Arizona’s prison system’s custody for over half of that sentence – a period that many prisoners expect might result in release for good behavior – especially when prisons are overcrowded and understaffed, which Arizona’s are (see the State Auditor General’s recent report to the Arizona Legislature).
I was talking to his mother, Liv Larsgard, in Oslo. “Well, why hasn’t he been released yet?” I ask. “Because he’s had disciplinary cases against him, I imagine,” she replies. “Like what?” I say. “They said he was in a yard in his wheelchair and he wasn’t supposed to be there then, so they made a case of it. He said he had not been there and they could check their videotapes to see, but they just said ‘No.’ They don’t care.” “You’re kidding,” I say, “Well, do they add time for something like that?” “I’m not sure,” Liv answers, “but these disciplinary cases add up and then they put him into confinement. Like someone left their jacket in his room while visiting, so he took it back to their room in his wheelchair and tossed it in there, and they said that was forbidden so he also got in trouble for that.” Liv continues, “They said he could not make phone calls after November 28th last year because of these disciplinary behaviors.” As a result, Liv cannot talk to her son and he cannot keep her informed of his situation. I think she’s done, but she’s only getting started. “And they started returning my mail. You see, I was using pre-printed labels for his address and my address, and now no mail can go into the prison with any attachment so that’s not allowed.”
“Liv, why have they stopped your letters to him?” “They haven’t just stopped my letters to him – they keep them for some weeks un-opened and then they send them back. They say they cannot contain labels.” I say, “You mean they can’t include the ‘Documents only” label that the Norwegian post office wants to put on the envelopes – because the U.S. would like them to?” “Yes,” she bemoans. They think of anything to keep us from having communications.”
I’m feeling more and more like I’m the one who is drowning. So I try to do some basic arithmetic. “Okay, Liv, if he’s been in prison since Sept 24, 2011, he’s now been in prison over 4 years.” Liv pauses but it’s hard to say what she has to say. “I think they’re trying to kill him.” This sounds preposterous, so I have to ask how. “Well, he has been transferred 11 or 12 times just in 2015. He keeps trying to keep copies of the court documents he wants to use to file papers to try to have the case re-examined, but every time they move him, they take away all the documents he has in his possession and they never give them back. So he has to start all over again with his documents and his writing.” “Liv,” I say, “this can’t be permissible.” “That’s not all,” she continues, “The folks in Corizon Health told some other prisoners at his prison that he was an informant against them, and they hoped this would incite them to hurt him. And this happened more than once – at least twice. But some other prisoners heard the people involved talking about it, and told Kris, so he was able to go to the guards at the prison and tell them – so he could be put into the detention unit.” “What’s that?” I ask. “That’s solitary, or nearly so” says Liv. “Why?” “For his own protection,” she replies. So he’s now at Manzanita – Detention Unit.”
Liv says she’ll send me some documents that well-wishers, both attorneys and non-attorneys, have helped Kris put together just recently. He is currently bringing some cases in the courts, representing himself. He has had the kind assistance of a couple of attorneys, helping with the legal references and contexts. His mother, Liv, also keeps documents and notes, and receives a bit of help from friends and concerned persons in the Oslo area.
I am going to take one of those documents here in this blog episode, and simply take what are listed as the “allegations” and turn them into a story. I mean, why not? Let’s assume this is true, why don’t we? Why would someone make this stuff up? How could they imagine this? And before I begin, let’s recall that Kris was a relatively normal guy - but with a specialized neck injury and major neck surgery, on ordinary prescription medications for neck pain, and walking and talking when a Winslow native busted his nose, the cops arrested him, threw him into Navajo County Jail, and someone in the jail then managed to scuffle him to the floor and step on his neck, where he had previously had specialized surgery on his vertebrae in Iran.
After over five years in Arizona state prisons, Kris is now having to use a wheelchair and walker due to partial and probably permanent paralysis of part of his body.
Kris is preparing to argue that continuing to imprison him is unconstitutional and, as well, is completely disproportionate to his crime, which was, in effect, the crime of having unknowingly become a threat to the safety of persons who experienced no serious injury as a result.
So I’m turning to the contents of his story, as found in “Defendant’s Pro Per Petition for Post-Conviction Relief, No. CR2011-0767/CR2011-0780, Division III, (Evidentiary Hearing Requested)(Oral Argument Requested).
As background, Kris attended medical school in Australia, but began to have severe neck and hand pain. He had treatment for that in Norway and specialized surgery in Iran, where a surgeon specializing in such delicate surgeries was stationed at the time. His mother accompanied him on that surgery trip, having therefore gotten a visa page with her photo in her Norwegian passport, in which she, in deference to their culture, wore a head scarf for the visa photo. (This page was photocopied and kept as part of the Navajo County case documents as evidence of Kris’s and his mother’s link to terrorists.) So Winslow, with its population’s average age of 35, finally had their own terrorist.
Kris had also attended North Park University in Chicago, one of my alma maters, graduating Summa Cum Laude. He was living in California and studying to take the U.S. MCAT medical school entrance exam. His student visa renewal papers were in the process of being handled and, after he was jailed in Arizona, it became impossible for him to send the one fingerprint that application still required in order to go forward to processing. He did not therefore ‘let his student visa expire’ as some have suggested: it expired because his liberty was removed from him before he could finish the process, which was being handled in a timely manner.
Blame the navigation system: Well, I certainly could do that – on more than one occasion, it has oddly told me to do what I thought surely could not be correct – and was not correct. Kris was following a new rental car navigation system to try to get to an auto shop address in Winslow where his and his mother’s luggage were being held for them to pick up so they could continue their trip to Chicago – when he ended up entering an area in which a special community celebration was occurring. When he backed up to turn around, he did not see persons put into danger. Of course, he would not wish to endanger anyone when the car hit the curb. It was at the point when the father of some children on the sidewalk got enraged and ran after Kris’s and his mother’s car that thing began to disintegrate.
But let me leave the events of that fateful day behind us for a minute and talk more about what has happened since Kris entered incarceration. I won’t even get that far: I’ll have to write more soon.
Since Kris was sentenced he has brought a federal case claiming the state’s deliberate indifference to his medical needs while he has been in custody. The District Court denied summary judgment, meaning that they did not permit the case to be dismissed out-of-hand. Specifically, Kris has suffered such serious injuries while in the custody of the Arizona state prison system that he had to undergo emergency neurological surgery at the University of Arizona Medical Center. This occurred after he was (1) left on the floor of his cell for nearly one month with life threatening injuries (he could not sit or stand up): (2) he had what they knew was a history of seizures, and (3) he was eventually taken to a hospital in Tucson where the surgery was performed.
Problems were apparent even at Navajo County Jail when Kris was unable to receive the prescription medicines he was used to having. Staff were told and nothing was done about it. Without these and with the addition of intentional inmate injuries to Kris, he was experiencing severe pain most of the time. Kris described this pain as so extreme that death would have been more humane.
The medication he has received has varied greatly, and the most effective medicines have often not been prescribed nor provided consistently - a primary concern being that some of the medicines which work best for his situation are classified as narcotics, medicines freely prescribed in Norway, but for some reason considered a ‘security concern’ in Arizona. While Kris could usually get Ibuprofen for his pain, he also received no physical therapy after his degrading condition persisted. He was able to live a relatively normal life out of prison, with mild pain and medication. He told the prison staff about what he needed, and they stated that it was a controlled substance and was generally unavailable no matter what the inmate’s medical history. They did continue another medication that was designed to prevent seizures and muscle spasms. Still, his pain persisted.
When he was first sent into the state prison system, he was sent to the antique, dirty and dangerous Alhambra “Reception Facility.” From there, he was sent to Lewis prison in May, 2012. Here he requested a visit with a pain specialist for pain treatment for cervical spinal pain but was given only one of the two medicines he needed to successfully live with the pain. As a result, he had a seizure in his cell and awoke in pain on his cell room floor.
He was then seen by a doctor at Lewis prison who informed him that “chronic severe pain” was not “a chronic condition recognized” by the Arizona Department of Corrections. That’s news to me, reader. One learns something new every day. They did, however, state that seizures could be treated. The doctor prescribed the anti-seizure drug while Kris, familiar with it, tried to discuss with him the fact that this drug had significant adverse side effects. The doctor refused to prescribe medicine for Kris’s severe and chronic pain and, instead, suggested he submit another application for a health review and ‘restart the process.’ Because Kris could not get the medication he was used to having for pain, he began to suffer incontrollable muscle spasms in his neck and upper back.
In June, 2012 Kris was transferred to Yuma prison, but his medications and medical files were not sent there also. As a result, Kris was without his pain medication and suffering extreme pain at Yuma. He pleaded with Yuma prison staff to receive medical attention, but was advised that since he had been transferred to a new facility, he would be ‘at the end of the line’ of inmates to be seen. He was also told to expect considerable delay since there was only one medical doctor for Yuma, which houses about 5,000 inmates at any one time.
Kris became desperate and sent numerous letters of appeal to correction facility health service administrators and others whose concerns included inmate health services, and despite getting some answers, none resulted in any immediate help. Eventually, Kris got medicine that reduced the pain to moderate to severe. Then, in July, 2012 he was told his medical provider would be switched to a privately owned and operated company. Kris’s health condition began deterioration when, in late July, one person said she would attempt to get him the pain medication he needed as well as the seizure medicine he had used previously. While he did get some medications, in August he was told that his pain issues were now resolved when, in fact, his pain was still occasionally severe and was resulting in progressive deterioration of his physical condition. As early as 2012, he was having difficulty writing as a result of the effect of this pain, which he called “akin to torture.”
While Kris was at Yuma and while his condition worsened, his mother managed to put together the medical history files that illustrated Kris’s medical condition and history and deliver them to the doctor at Yuma. This doctor then saw Kris in September, 2012 and decided that Kris was not in any significant pain and “had to learn to live with some pain.” The doctor stated that the previous doctor opinions and prior treatment of Kris had no meaning within the Arizona Department of Corrections and that they would not be requesting stronger pain medication for him. In another visit to this doctor, the doctor emphasized that prison was supposed to be punishment and not comfortable.
As a result, in December, 2012, Kris had another serious seizure and was left in a state of partial paralysis. Kris woke up on the floor of his cell and could not move the left side of his body. Despite this status, Kris was left on the floor of his cell for the next three weeks. He was laid on a mat and given an empty shampoo bottle to urinate into. He managed to use the toilet about once each day, which was one foot away and took him 30 minutes to maneuver himself onto. He was also refused medical care treatment at Yuma because he had filed papers complaining of the lapses in his medical care and treatment. Staff at Yuma began to call him a “faker” and a “phony,” suggesting he was having “psychiatric issues” and no tangible physical injuries. He was eventually transferred to Tucson prison for psychiatric evaluation.
Once at Tucson prison, Kris was taken to the emergency department of University Physicians Hospital in Tucson where the staff determined that he had sustained serious neck and spinal cord injuries, and he was ordered into immediate spinal immobilization. Kris’s blood pressure at this point was so low that staff initiated a trauma procedure and he was transferred to the University of Arizona Trauma Center for immediate surgery. He remained hospitalized until February of 2013.
When he was discharged from the hospital, he was taken to the state’s Tucson prison medical unit. He was required, by his health providers at the hospital, to wear a body brace and pads, and was supposed to receive magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) to monitor his progress. But that didn’t happen.
At about the same time, the state of Arizona terminated the contract they had with Wexford, the private contracted health care provider, and Wexford was replaced with another for-profit correctional medical and health service provider, Corizon. Which brings us to the folks who are more interested in planting rumors that he’s an informant when he is not – so that someone in his prison can kill him, an accident of course that could not be prevented – than they are in actually providing health services to prisoners.
What Kris is trying to do, instead, is argue his case for adequate medical care and treatment. He has filed more than 30 applications for health services to date, pleading for adequate medical attention. His pleas are joined by those of former Wexford staff whose professional opinions are ignored by the folks at Corizon. As a result, as he says himself, he sometimes wishes he would go to sleep and never wake up.
But Kris is also a fighter. Oh, you say? He’s not allowed to be a fighter. Well, when the fight is one for justice, it is hard not to be moved, in my opinion. Surely, as Kris wants to argue, the seriousness of his health issues were part of the factual evidence that was never given sufficient weight in his first trial. Had it been, do you think that the jury would have convicted him of attempting to endanger life and limb using a murderous tool? (The car that he was driving while trying to get away from people running after him, get his luggage and leave town?). As Kris can, I believe, reliably argue, (since I have read the Plaintiff state’s closing argument transcript), Kris’s pre-existing physical condition at the time of the incident as well as his medical history were clearly at issue already when the charges were filed, should have been the subject of discovery and should have resulted in facts produced at trial with even the least amount of professional diligence an attorney could muster: it must therefore have been intentionally ignored.
This has to have been the case since the visa page from Liv Larsgard’s Norwegian passport showing her wearing a scarf over her hair was not ignored – and the reason, as she explained, was that she was in Iran with her son for specialized spinal neck surgery, the cause of their earlier trip to Iran.
Would Kris’s neck difficulties have caused him to have an accident? No, his mother was driving when they had the accident that landed them in Winslow. But would it cause him to have difficulty making a three-point turn in a new rental car in a town on a street where he had never been? Of course it would. Would that ‘go toward intent’ (causing a reasonable doubt in Kris’s intent to intentionally harm others)? Of course it would. And would having your nose broken by someone running up alongside your car and punching you in the face through your open driver’s side window cause you to have difficulty deciding what was best to do next? And drive sporadically? All of which was NOT ignored but repeatedly and repeatedly drilled into the jury’s minds.
I’m done here. I’m back talking to Liv in Oslo. “So, what happened next?” Liv says, “He fell backward on December 3, 2012 – at Yuma prison - and broke his neck due to falling back. They left him in his cell to die. He was left for nearly a month. Now he is using a wheelchair and a walker.”
“And when did you see him last?” Liv replies, ”That was in 2013. It was all set up: the permissions were obtained and I had come all the way – from Norway. Everything was arranged beforehand – everything. Then, when I got there, they told me I could not get on the bus: that I could not see him, they had changed their mind. This was at Tucson prison.” So what happened? She continues, ”They said a CO3 had decided it.” (Corrections Officer 3) “So I decided to ask someone else – so I started to walk toward two guards with dogs. They kept telling me to stop, or they’d let the dogs loose, and I hollered back that I was not going to stop and I didn’t care what they did to me, because I was supposed to see my son and I had come from Norway and it was all arranged. Then, they got two ladies who were very nice and they re-considered and said I might see Kris. Then they checked me for metal and said I had to be more covered up than my V-neck shirt, so I went back to my car and put on more clothes, and then they let me in.
“Doesn’t anyone else see him or speak out?” “Well,” says Liv, “The Norwegian consulate – they want to be informed but they don’t want to help. They say, ‘He’s in prison? Then it’s up to the prison.’ But I think it is a violation of his human rights. They could do something, couldn’t they?”
I agree that they could. I have had International Human Rights law and I have sufficient knowledge of the facts to suggest that they could. As a matter of the practicality of international human rights law (i.e. why have it if it won’t work?), as well as simply an effort to bring it into effect, it is the obligation of general governmental institutions – at all levels and in all respects - to involve themselves – precisely because it cannot simply be the case that procedurally ordinary avenues could or would result in addressing these types of wrongs: the wrongdoers are often the very bureaucratic culprits, and are not necessarily in a position, individually or as a group, to change their ‘sick culture’ into one that can secure the very specific international human rights the nation itself pledged to uphold in its treaty signature.
But what about the rest of 2013? All of 2014? All of 2015? And now it is 2016. I think I’m missing some of the story and we’ve already been talking for an hour. Liv continues chatting, time out of context, “He was kept in a cellar for 3 weeks, in solitary, from a March into June.” I then learn that a pastor from the Norwegian Seaman’s Church in San Francisco went to see him during this time. He was chilled, apparently, in more ways than one. Liv says, “He’s not allowed to talk about it - by the Norwegian authorities. . . . because it’s torture: to keep one in pain in the dark. His eyes, you know . . . He was in chains – his hands, his feet.”
She then pauses, “But it was nice they let him see Kris.”
|Posted on May 29, 2015 at 1:05 AM|
Police behavior on the lovely Gulf Coast: May, 2015
While Americans were cursing the grand jury’s announcement not to prosecute police officers from Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown’s police-caused death – and then exploding in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s police-caused death, I was, I thought, basking in the sunshine of the Gulf coast. I was also working, but in any case, I felt removed from the violence, despite the strong notion that the neighborhood I was in was distinctly white because of the many condominium projects in the area, whose private rules control entry to ownership.
I dutifully picked up my neighbor’s paper every morning since they were out of town, enjoying the local “Gulf” news, police blotter hilarities, and the Florida governor’s shell game excuses for not permitting the state to expand Medicaid.
So it was a soft surprise to read that police in Sarasota County to the south had managed to land someone they were picking up in the hospital where he quite promptly died. Let’s not say he was black, but he wasn’t white either. Off the radar, they probably thought. Let’s say he appeared disturbed when stopped in a car by police, along with another relative deadbeat. Drugs were found. Good reason to die today? He was handcuffed and put into the police cruiser. End of story? He was really upset and emotionally distraught – word was that he was afraid of losing custody of his children – or visitation, something like this. They lived in the area. He was a local - with a history of minor problems on his chart. Good reason to die? He claimed he couldn’t breathe and felt sick, police say, so they called for medical support. When he looked like he felt more stable, they cancelled the call. Is that a police ‘call’ to make? He managed somehow to climb out the window of the police car when it was stopped somewhere en route, while also being handcuffed, and police ‘apprehended him’ again taking him into custody within a half minute or so. Reason to then taser him three times? What is a taser doing out when he is already apprehended? Time to teach him not to climb out the window of the police car when he actually wants to get away? Even if he is mentally challenged, a good reason he should die? Over a traffic stop with drugs in the car? Reason to taser someone? He was also beaten on the head with the officer’s large flashlight. Reason to be beaten on the head with a virtual club? While in custody with hands bound? Reason to die today? Or tomorrow, as he generously lived longer than that day, I think. And his kids are where? How old? Reason to leave them fatherless? When he loved them? Reason a taser is to be used? When? Only when? The police flashlight? When? Only when you need to see something you can’t see – right? And the paper is acting like this is all just ho-hum news. The next day the same – more details, more ho hum news? Then a glimmer of the word, investigation – by whom? By when? A review of police procedures not mentioned. But, as the paper notes, “Just four minutes after he was stopped by Sarasota Police, John Paul Kaafi was Tasered three times and beaten with a flashlight.”
A couple days pass, and news arrives on the neighbor’s doorstep that a young man has died of police gunshots near a pier in St. Petersburg, just a hop skip jump north. He was apparently distressed, was on medication that he felt was not addressing his needs, was brandishing a gun. He managed to shoot a man in the arm, then shoot a police officer in the leg. When challenged by police to drop the gun, he acted like well, hey, shouldn’t he use it? Weren’t they scared? He reportedly said, “Go ahead and kill me.” So they shot him: dead. Reason to die? Fear of police and highly reactionary mental instability? When asked, a friend tellingly told radio reporters, to the effect, ‘I really hope he will not be remembered as someone who wanted to hurt police: that wasn’t who he was at all. He was just confused and afraid.’ Fear and confusion apparently is a real good reason in police circles for police to kill an unstable and beautiful young man. Story over – end of story – end of history.
What is the reason to kill an unstable and unattractive man whose car is not perfect and has drugs in the car? What is the reason?
What is the reason to kill an unstable and attractive young man who was brandishing a gun and was said to say, “Go ahead and kill me” before police shot him? Are police allowed to kill a young man who is obviously deranged and distressed if he gives them permission to do so, supposedly? Isn’t there a way to take down a person in this circumstance without killing them? Have we forgotten how to disable danger? Yes apparently. Have we forgotten how to prioritize the preservation of human life? Yes, absolutely.
Now the demilitarization of the police in the US is already called for – decades after it should have begun. What is also needed is a complete overhaul of how police intercept public persons at all levels of incident. What must happen is that life must be respected and preserved, despite a man – or woman’s – criminal behavior, stupidity, meanness, filmic brandishing, or the usual subterfuges. And as for those who are mentally unstable, ill and fear police, they are certainly more sane these days than those that club them, taser them and shoot them.
The level of disgust these stories generate should be multiplied a thousand-fold if even one life would be saved. A flashlight is for seeing things. A Taser is for stopping ongoing criminal misconduct that cannot be otherwise controlled, not punishing those caught in today’s terrible stranglehold of a police ‘pull-over’ and detention. A man’s call for medical assistant should be respected. And a young man with a gun is to be disarmed - not killed, then helped to find stability in his health and life.
-June Edvenson is an American attorney who lives and works in Norway, where police do not generally carry guns but are considering distribution of Tasers. She writes for publication, consults on international legal issues and teaches part-time.
|Posted on September 7, 2014 at 10:50 AM|
Many real experts and political ploy-boys have been weighing in on suggested plans for a Winter Olympics in Norway. It's been going on for over a year already and the suggested date of execution was to be 2022. Now, instead of experts being ignored, we are seeing movement at the top. Norway's main newspaper is taking on the hot potato. Here are some comments on my part, and a translation of the editorial, published Sept. 6, 2014. First my remarks.
The Olympics are run by a non-transparent pomp-and-puff assemblage of royalty, sheiks, barons and famous, a Swiss corporation without banking transparency whose top activity is to assemble media dollars and pass them on to sports organizations it independently selects for encouragement. Within its global monopoly, it alone decides how much money is enough money to run an Olympics, and refuses to contribute more than a very small portion to the actual costs of producing the games. It uses the argument that a host country will, as a result of bearing most of the costs of creating the facilities and running the games, experience a surplus of value that is readily put to uses which make the initial investments worth it . . . when, in fact, Olympics facilities are not appropriate or continually useful for most countries who have hosted them, and cause their losses in infrastructure to simply create un-sustainable and worldwide facility junk. The IOC is also not involved in de-structuring a games venue, nor in re-applying previous game venues in order to save future country host funds. It’s a continuous, ever-spiraling-upward display of mythic show that is not appropriate for a shrinking world in which even host countries struggle to balance their budgets for the health, welfare and the education of their citizenry. It utilizes, as now constituted, an unsustainable business model, and scorns suggestions that it should be re-organized. Better yet, it needs to be placed into global non-profit administration, and it shields itself from change in part through posturing poorly-detailed ‘finessing’ financial reports. What I’d like to see is more of an audit report, not a financial report – a management audit report.
But then that’s about my preferences. Don’t get me wrong. I have enjoyed my share of televised Olympic game moments of enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean that the business of putting on an Olympics doesn’t deserve a major overhaul – and now! Norway’s primary newspaper has now weighed in on the possibility that Norway would host the 2022 Winter games at Oslo. Since this paper dropped their English translation/version services, I’ve made a fair translation of it, below. Here’s to those interested in reading what the Aftenposten editorial has to say, which is succinct and, as well, a fair and proud display of what Norway’s egalitarian business culture values look like in practice. Enjoy!
Aftenposten newspaper, Friday, September 5, 2014, Oslo, Norway
“No to the Oslo OL.
THESE DAYS, the Norwegian government is handling Oslo's application for a governmental 'State's guarantee' for hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022. The subsequent parliamentary proceedings will conclude whether Oslo shall next year submit a final application to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
We believe that Parliament should say no. The Olympics has become an event with a desperate need for fundamental changes and renewal. The best signal Norway can give about this is to join the long list of countries that have withdrawn their applications. RIGHT BEFORE the referendum in Oslo a year ago, Aftenposten expressed support for an Oslo Olympics. However, our 'Yes' was conditional. We have made it clear that the Olympics cannot be arranged at any price.
The IOC that turned up during the Sochi Olympics strengthened our skepticism concerning an organization that still clings to special rules and privileges.
We have seen that the IOC expects that the sponsoring country is giving the organization special treatment regarding taxes and fees. Or, as it says in the requirement specifications to applicant cities: "It is important to minimize tax exposures." What may be the upshot of this remains unclear, but this attitude witnesses, alone, global remoteness and pathetic arrogance which can cost Norway dearly.
Culture Minister, Torhild Widwey (Right party) tried to get exemptions from parts of the IOC rules when the provisional application was submitted in March, precisely to secure more national control over the event. That move caused the IOC to set its foot down very decidedly.
The Government therefore accepted the Olympic Charter without modifications. That doesn't mean that Norway is without influence in a further process concerning framing conditions and the events program, for it seems like, also, the IOC can see the need for something more modest. However, the regulatory framework provides an unacceptable level of uncertainty regarding cost responsibility for an event which, according to the most cautious estimates, will cost approximately 25 billion Norwegian crowns.
Under intense pressure from the negative public polls and hesitant national politicians, the Oslo 2022 planning group proposed this past week cuts that will save the public about 4.3 billion Norwegian crowns.
The proposal is understandable, but it is getting an undeniable and desperate tone when an arranger is pointing to the cultural opportunities that they themselves are rejecting. More importantly, several of the cuts undermine some of the arguments for the Olympics, namely the re-use of new sports facilities and apartments. Neither will an Olympics consistent with the proposed savings be a desirable option.
The OL is a national effort. The state pays almost the entire bill. Therefore we have throughout this entire process been concerned with the fact that the games must have broad support from the entire country. Today, one year after the referendum in Oslo, we must note that this is not the case. On the contrary, polls show that resistance has increased. Opposition in northern Norway is formidable and in no part of the country is there a 'yes' majority.
We think this attitude is based on healthy skepticism. The re-use' argument is not strong enough to justify the costs, and the Olympics will not in any way give Oslo the sports facilities the city has most need for.
Norway's remaining competitors are China and Kazakhstan, countries we generally find no reason to compare ourselves with, and regimes that do not tend to ask their populations about what they would like to spend money on. This also gives ominous signals that the Olympics have become a 'prestige project' and a money sink-hole Norway should not support.”
|Posted on July 22, 2014 at 9:40 AM|
Get out. Get the hell out:
Musings on the Summer News
Nice to be globalized, isn’t it? Didn’t we look forward to this for like, well, perhaps the last 10 or 20 years? After all, we are most of what we know exists in the universe that is alive. (By ‘we,’ I mean everything on the Earth that can think and that is alive including whales.) Most of what we know is happening on this planet. But, what? Have to live together in the same space? Forget it. We know we have to, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it. And we don’t do that very well all the time because, well, our moods vary.
Plus, why not kill whales when we know we can, like Norway does, despite the global ban? Isn’t that part of the ongoing discussion related to the ‘civilization of the species?’ By that, I here mean just homo sapiens – which, by the way, means, rather pathetically, ‘wise man.’ Don’t talk to us about killing whales, Norway says: talk to us about global climate change.
Back to the summer news. To wit, “Berlin expels American spy chief as strains grow,” headlines the International New York Times on July 11th. Apparently, the CIA’s “station chief, who has not been identified” “has been asked to leave Germany.” Well, if he hasn’t been identified, couldn’t he just disappear instead? So they asked another CIA officer, who said “It’s one thing to kick lower-level officers out; it’s another thing to kick the chief of station out,” which, frankly, seems like a no-brainer to me, because, well, they are different.
Then there’s the latest row over the Obama administration’s choice for Norway’s next Ambassador to Norway from the United States, a Mr. George J. Tsunis. I try not to weigh in on such arguments – primarily because I worked in the Illinois state’s bureaucracy for enough years to know that no boss runs the show; the people who work there as civil servants do. Occasionally, a political appointee can claim to have improved matters more than they detracted from the generally tortoise pace of things of State, although that’s also rather rare.
But the fuss continues: The opinion page headline reads: “Fabian Stang har rett til å fortelle presidenten hva han mener,” meaning that Fabian Stang, the Mayor of Oslo, has the right to tell the President what he thinks, with the tag line, “Skiv til Obama!” or Write to Obama! According to the Aftenposten newspaper of July 20, quite a few people have gotten on the ‘No to Tsunis for Ambassador to Norway’ bandwagon. They claim he shouldn’t even get in, let alone be told to ‘Get out.’ They want him gone before he arrives. He’s unqualified and the whole appointment smacks of political pork. I do something for you (like give Obama lots of money for his campaign), and you do something for me (like send me to Norway as Ambassador from the U.S.). I don’t know; I think the pork scales don’t really ‘add up’ on this one. If I had something to say to Mr. Tsunis, it would be, “Listen, you don’t really want to move here, you know? You think you know how it would be to live in Norway, but frankly, it’s not all a bowl of cherries – there are lots of problems – most of which you can’t influence no matter who you are, and if you try to argue any sense into the government, you’d surely fail since they are not interested in listening to anyone who is not, well, them.
But no, in this latest article, it is noted that the Mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang (who I really really like, besides the fact that his name is Fabian and I still have my Fabian tear pillow which I actually cried real crocodile tears into when I was a teenager), would like to send President Obama a letter regarding Mr. Tsunis’s appointment – to express several points of opinion on this. The main one is, the Aftenposten confides, that never has the U.S. planned to send an Ambassador who is so thoroughly unqualified for the position, and Oslo is intrinsically engaged at all levels because that’s where he would live and where the Embassy is. Tsunis may be unqualified but I could have told him that. But should a Mayor of a city send a letter to the U.S. President? Well, if I can, Fabian, you can too. We have more democracy in the U.S. than you do here in Norway, anyway. Go for it.
Why, Fabian, I once sent a letter to Norway’s Secretary of State, Kjell Magne Bondevik. He was to host a conference sponsored by Norway against terrorism in New York City associated with the United Nations. I felt I could assist in that work. I also needed a job and was seeking appropriate connections desperately. He did not even write back. No one did. But once you move to Norway, you find out that no one ever does. It’s like we well-qualified foreigners are invisible, which is how Norwegians like us best.
While we’re on the subject of banishing people, let’s include the needy and unemployed, who are banished from Svalbard, the island Norway calls its own, located within the Arctic Circle. According to the New York Times of July 11, a remarkably good issue, “Arctic archipelago banishes the needy.” Svalbard’s Governor, Odd Olsen Ingero, has a police staff of 6, one detention cell, no one has been locked up since last summer, and that was only for two days. Why, you ask? Because you aren’t allowed to be unemployed, for one thing. As the article notes, Ayn Rand would love this place. If you aren’t employed, you are deported. “If you don’t have a job,” says Ingero,” you can’t live here.” Great. I love it.
Tell this (again) to the Norwegian government, whose most recent manifestation as a Høyre–FrP mix is less like a conservative government, and more like a quiz on Conservative Politics 101. Summer’s agenda was to legalize Segways, so parliamentarians had a chance to try them around town. Let’s see – shall we pass a law against begging? Sure. Send them back to Romania, too. Shall we deport the homeless? Yes, let’s – just don’t use more money on doing it. Some time ago, the Norwegian Supreme Court said no: one cannot let families micro-manage their immigration acceptance based purely on disadvantaging their own children in order to create their ultimate case for approval (a good decision). No, scream all the bleeding heart Save-The-Children brigades across the land, full of pity for kids that managed to learn a language they should never have been given a chance to learn in the first place, kids who are the pawns in their own parents’ games. And because the budget for getting rid of people is so high, cut the budget – so what if the applicants have to live in prison-style living quarters until we tell them they can’t stay . . . in 2 or 3 years. Because we’re backlogged!
The ‘cucumber news’ of summer streams on. Yes, they call it that here: “agurk nytt,” which news is doubly funny when it has to do with cucumbers, which Norwegians love and eat in great quantities, especially in summer.
Still, the prize for best ‘Get Out’ stories of summer come from Russia and Israel. As for Russia, they just want what they can’t have – without taking it, so everyone who doesn’t agree in the Ukraine should just get out. Which some are doing. As for Israel, the situation is a little different. From the perspective of most Norwegians, who have plenty of Palestinian refugees among their numbers, these are the folks who got permission to live on specific tracts of land, and then began wholescale takeovers of all the land around that they could manage to grab, fight for, wall off, and defend by tooth and bloody nail. Note I am not speaking for myself. Not only do they want the Palestinians to be gone – off the Palestinians’ own land, but to get out of sight. Out of sight is, after all, out of mind – when it’s on the other side of an apartheid Wall, completed in 2005 which runs for 422 miles and costs Israel $260 million dollars annually to maintain – and which helps to separate Israel from its nearest neighbors, with whom it should make peace and trade for the good of all. Therefore, as Israel’s Prime Minister told CNN yesterday, he is saddened when he hears of innocent civilian Palestinians being killed. After all, he would not be able to see it so he has to just hear about it. And is he really? I don’t know. I’ve been watching Israeli troops murder Palestinians since I could watch TV. I won’t say how many years that is, but now that you know I’ve got a Fabian pillow, the cat’s out of the bag. What I can’t understand is where the people who keep killing each other and getting killed come from. Wouldn’t they eventually run out of people in this area? They certainly won’t run of out of guns and weapons. Now that’s important. Call the arms traders today. They don’t have to get out.
Nice to be globalized, isn’t it? Privacy used to be a protected right, and now it’s just a checked box and an unwanted toolbar. Ask Ask.
Kids used to hang out at Utøya solving the world’s pressing problems, and today it’s a memorial to a stupid killing spree that happened three years ago, today. At least this year they’re making plans to get back to business next summer out there, not a moment too soon, in my opinion.
Ambassadors used to intervene for the good of their citizens in their countries of assignment, and now it’s either a spying mission or a pork job.
So go one’s thoughts as the fjord glimmers in the afternoon sun during one of Norway’s warmest and most beautiful summers on record.
I guess the upside is: Transparency is also improved. More people at all levels and in all places are going to be held more accountable. Maybe whale killing in Norway and by Norway will also someday stop. There’s always hope in the air that we will eventually discover ways to create sustainable biodiversity and save the planet’s species before it’s too late.
So look up. We can at least hope you won’t see a drone. Me, I’ll be collecting cherries for the jam that will help us survive the dark winter. Meanwhile, get out into the fjord and jump in today – it’s cold and feels wonderful.
“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
― Henry James
|Posted on March 21, 2014 at 5:50 AM|
E-filing your FBAR
Well, it's easy - you just go online and fill in the form and file it.
I decided it was time to get graphically clear about this 'online filing' of the FBAR form - after hearing from a client today that he was having great luck with it, but it was rather odd that it did not ask for the bank names or account numbers. Well, who knows where he was, but he was not doing the work of e-filing his FBAR form.
Since I went through this process just the other day, myself, I can tell you that it is also not as lovingly transparent as the standard even-claiming-to-be-averagely smart adult can manage.
I clicked and clicked before realizing it was trying to prevent me from opening the form online. And the point of that would be? That it does not want you to open up the form online!
First, you download it, then you fill it out, then you submit it - and e-sign it also.
Therefore, I am adding Part 2 of this blog post, which goes like this:
As to your FBAR of course it will have to list the bank names and account numbers. Also the names of any joint account holders. Also lots of addresses - real street addresses ideally. And even the names of persons whose accounts you have access to - all of them that you have access to. All the foreign bank accounts, securities accounts, this type of thing.
Have you used the correct link? This is currently the link: http://bsaefiling.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFBARFiler.html
Now you are going to download the form to your computer.
You SHOULD download the form to your PC.
Then close your browser and internet connection.
Then go find the form you just downloaded onto your PC.
(This is a test: is the form on your PC where you told it to store it - or in what is now often called the "Downloads" folder?) By the way, the form wants to call itself NFFBAR. Go look for it on your computer. Offlne, that is.
Then open it and fill it out (without going online) and give it your own name and the year, for example, and put it in a folder you’ll recall. (Don't keep it named NFFBAR!)
Then you go back online and upload it by clicking through at the 'file FBAR box' (same link as above) and follow the instructions - and that includes 'signing it' by having to go back and forth to 1-2 screens.
Then you sign it online with a click on a box and screen.
Then you see a confirmation you should print.
You have to give a good e-mail address so the IRS can send you a confirmation of the filing by e-post. That e-mail arrives soon enough, and will include a tracking number of some sort (government style, really long) which you should keep in case they want to look at it later and ask you for that number.
Okay? Hope that helps,
|Posted on January 26, 2014 at 12:30 PM|
E-file your FBAR Forms
Too many topics, too little time. Sorry for the long blog-silence.
I may not be writing here as much, but I am 'sharing' - at my Facebook company page. If you’re interested, you’ll find some of my shared news clippings on Facebook at “EdvensonConsulting.” Welcome to my Facebook page! And please, if you visit, ‘Like’ me! Follow me! You’ll enjoy it! And if you don’t, you can always unlike me . . . or unfollow me . . . or however that works.
Today’s topic is: the new e-filed FBAR form. This is the Foreign Bank Accounts Report form (FBAR for short). And it is now January, 2014.
Yes, you too can manage to file this form. Just say it: “I can do this!” Yes, you, American abroad who has not told the U.S. government about your foreign bank accounts, which basically make it possible for you to live the modern life in whatever country you live in. But also yes, you, American surfer dude who lives in Miami and keeps what he thinks are his own secret bank accounts in the Cayman Islands, or Antigua or another of the world’s thankfully but slowly disappearing tax havens, where he sends his profits from whatever he does for money, and therefore tries to hide it from U.S. taxation, which frankly makes all Americans the poorer. And this is not to mention all the other types of Americans who think they’re getting away with something, which makes us all the poorer.
The IRS and U.S. Department of Treasury have, as you may know, gone from permitting FBAR filings on paper to ONLY permitting FBAR filings ONLINE. This is a challenge for the online-challenged. First, then, you should plan to map out all your entries on paper – why not? The details needed are your accounts, the highest amounts in them during any particular year, and the currency type, bank name, address, etc.
This form is no longer called the TDF 90-22.1 but is called the FinCEN Form 114. This stands for: Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Form 114. . . . even though the form itself is still entitled, “Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.” Therefore, do NOT be scared off by this: it is obviously a reflection of the fact that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network would like to take credit for Form 114, and NOT that you are in some kind of trouble!
Just do the form!
At this page, they tell you to first (1) fill out the form, and then second (2) file the form online.
When you click through to see the form, you will see the usual-looking FBAR form.
Save this form to your computer. Then you can open it up and fill it out by typing onto it. Save your typed-on draft(s) with new names - to your computer in a folder – (don’t keep typing onto the form online without saving it) so you always save your work - until you are finished listing your accounts. Then save your final ‘hard file’ version on your PC.
Then you can go back online, to this address: https://bsaefiling1.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFilerUpload" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">https://bsaefiling1.fincen.treas.gov/NoRegFilerUpload , and file the FBAR Form.
Generally, all the same requirements apply to the online form as to the offline form of the past. Any American with values equivalent to $10,000 in any combination of bank and financial accounts in any given year – during the current or prior 6 years, must file, going back (for each applicable year) 6 prior years. The forms are due to be filed by June 30th of the year after the year of the report, so 2013 FBAR reports are due to be filed by June 30, 2014.
And here, if you want your hand held, go see some videos:
Or go watch Rod Lundquist’s IRS Powerpoint presentation that reviews some of the context for the report: http://www.irsvideos.gov/ReportingForeignFinancialAccountsOnTheFBAR/player/frame-wm.htm
If you want further assistance, you can contact the IRS directly at their FBAR help line, which, if the information online is still correct is at the phone number: (800)800-2877. I have heard good reports from clients who spoke to agency staff by phone.
As I always tell my clients, try to ‘enjoy’ doing the FBAR reports – think of it as a secretarial job, which is what it is. Also, it’s not just part of enjoying being in compliance with the law, but part of contributing to the infrastructure and services that a civil society can provide.
If you need assistance with your out-of-country U.S. IRS individual personal income tax return (also known as 'the 1040'), feel free to call or write me – that’s one of my consultancy’s services.
|Posted on June 30, 2013 at 8:30 AM|
It was time to come up with a topic for my next blog, but as summer crept into our lives here, in Norway, it was easier to wish the rain would go away, and wistfully recall good times with old friends. That must explain why I woke up this morning humming the words of Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair, and not the Stars & Stripes Forever.
The sense of loss brought on by living in what is still, ultimately, a foreign culture, combined with both the isolation many experience when at their sometimes remote ‘summer cabins’ and the simultaneous need to find solace in old and strong American friendships, with friends who are no longer anywhere near, is only raised another notch on the day on which the American Coordinating Council of Norway (ACCN) holds its Frogner Park, Oslo celebration of American ‘Independence Day,’ known more commonly in the U.S. simply as ‘the 4th of July.’ So . . .
Are you goin’ to Scarborough Fair?
(Parsley, sage, rosemary & thyme)
Remember me to one who lives there –
He once was a true love of mine.
Now that we’ve gotten our priorities in order, it is time to note – to all Americans overseas – the imminent change in the FBAR reporting procedure. This is the reporting requirement for Americans overseas who have any combination of foreign (non-U.S.) accounts (bank and/or securities)(even one) with, a total of the equivalent of $10,000 at any time during the year. In that case, one is obliged to file what is called the FBAR report – Foreign Bank Account Report. The form itself has the innocuous title, TD F 90-22.1, which only reminds us of how pathetically out-of-tune bureaucracies can be when it comes to assuaging natural human fears of numbers, and people’s related reporting obligations. We leave that essay for another time.
Onward, Americans – to the challenge at hand: reporting your foreign bank accounts – but no longer ‘on paper.’ The imminent news is: you are now (well, starting in a few hours) supposed to only file those forms ONLINE. Yes, paper production has been officially squelched, and hundreds of trees are, on the day you are reading this, being saved as a consequence. On the other hand, hundreds of Americans overseas are trying to figure out how to e-file the online form. We’ll all see how it works out.
I’ve had quite a few inquiries about this form in the past few months, as more Americans in Norway and Europe get ‘on-board’ with their ‘filing obligations,' shall we say nicely. I therefore created a ‘form e-mail’ reply, which takes the desperate and clueless and leads them softly by the hand through the current FBAR form. I’ll copy that here, under the philosophical title, ‘How to Approach the FBAR Form.’
How to Approach the FBAR Form
Here's some FBAR information I usually send folks when they express their concerns. Since it is mostly a secretarial job for me, I don't do it - it's really quite easy for you to do. Read this note below when you open up the form.
As you will see when you open it, each page or section is for a different type of circumstance.
The first page is for starting to list any accounts you actually own yourself. First, you enter your personal information, which will include your Social Security number (called ID number) at the top. Then, there is room in the middle of that page to list your first foreign account (a non-U.S. account)(one you own).
Page 2 is a continuation page. You just put some ID information in the top boxes and then can continue to list any other accounts you own yourself. You put the bank name, address, account number and highest balance during the year for each of the accounts you own yourself.
You use page 3 to start any list of accounts you own jointly with someone else. This can include any joint accounts owned with non-Americans (ex: your Norwegian wife or husband), and highest balance during the year you are filling it out for. (These are joint accounts – therefore, don’t forget to show their name and address, as required.)
You can see that page 4 is where you would list any accounts where all the money is someone else's and is in their account, but you can access it (example: you use that account, which only includes your husband's money, to buy groceries with your debit card). (Don’t forget to show all the requested information for each of those accounts including the name of the other person.)
You can see that page 5 is the page where you would list any account that you have in a company name, not your personal name. You show the company name on that page and the other information as requested, which is similar to that requested on the other pages.
You only use the page types that you need.
The rest of the pages are instructions to read if you need to do that.
At this time, you should report back to 2006. Also note, the year reported is just for you to enter at the top of the pages. Therefore, you are doing the same forms for each year, for each account that was foreign during that year. If you are catching up, you’ve got at least 6 pages involved for one account (1 page x 6 years), and multiples of that if you have more accounts to show.
If you have questions, you can call the IRS – they are the only experts in this matter.
They threaten grave actions against persons who have the obligation to file and don’t. If you had the equivalent of $10,000 in any given year in any combination of foreign accounts, you must file these forms annually. They are due to be received by June 30 of each year. This means not posted-by June 30th but received by them.
Don’t delay in doing these forms.
The address to post them to is in the middle of page 1 . . . .
End of my form e-mail message!
And - oops! No more mailing the form to Detroit!
“Imminent” means: almost immediately. Is tomorrow soon enough? FBAR filings will be electronic starting tomorrow, July 1st, 2013.
The notice was not received by this tax preparer until yesterday, so they’re really giving us a lot of notice on this. Ah, well, it’s probably part of the pared-down ‘American way.’ Still, if Congress wants to save money, I recommend they stop cutting the IRS’s budget, and start cutting their own salaries, redirecting lobbying outlays to public services for the needy, and increasing corporate tax coverage and tax rates. To start. It certainly makes more sense than crippling America’s tax administration.
To help them out a bit, here’s the latest link to information listed at the IRS website. It includes internal links to the form, the FBAR question and answer folks, and other information needed to get started with e-filing of the FBAR form: http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Report-of-Foreign-Bank-and-Financial-Accounts-%28FBAR%29
And now, how can we Americans overseas respond when, for example, the ‘Independence Party’ takes place on June 30th, is bound to be rained out, and is half in Norwegian? Answer: With at least serious pride, if not outright glee. Therefore,
Hurrah for the flag of the free!
May it wave as our standard forever,
The gem of the land and the sea,
The banner of the right.
Let despots remember the day
When our fathers with mighty endeavor
Proclaimed as they marched to the fray
That by their might and by their right
It waves forever.
|Posted on March 25, 2013 at 5:55 AM|
Norwegians are out in force this year over Easter break, pounding and skiing the mountain trails, and so, as usual, the media are warning everyone to be careful on their hikes and trips and come home safely.
Norway has rules for how to do that. The Norwegian Touring Association, DNT (Det Norsk Turistforening) publishes the ‘Mountain Rules’ you should know at their website, in Norwegian at: http://www.turistforeningen.no/fjellvettreglene/ .
I don’t know the origin of these rules, but they are grilled into Norwegians at a young age, as well as into most immigrants’ brains. They are common knowledge, a part of Norwegian culture, and can be recited from memory by many, with ready recall.
Let’s call them, in English, the Norwegian Rules for Hiking in the Mountains, although they are equally useful for most nature hikes. Frankly, since perhaps 99% of Norway is pure Nature, they are pretty useful most anywhere.
Here’s an English version I’ve created - for your enjoyment and education, based on the DNT’s ‘real McCoy’:
1. Do not set out on a long hike without training.
This applies to both physical, psychological and intellectual readiness, as well as to equipment. By extension, it is also suggested that ‘practice makes perfect.’ If you have any opportunity to conduct a thorough analysis of your plan, you should do it – and exercise your planning skills by identifying solutions to situations that are both similar and dissimilar to those you have encountered in the past. It is also suggested that if you are going to be out for over a week, you take at least one day’s rest from travelling.
2. Tell somebody where you are going.
The extension here is that at least one other person who is not with you knows where you plan to be when and can and will track you, has your contact information and you carry theirs, and in a way that suggests you plan to be contactable at a specific time and place and way (ex: phone that works). When travelling to places where you can register, such as mountain cabins, then do so.
3. Show respect for the weather.
This means not just carrying your umbrella, but knowing what the entire pattern is that is expected, as well as the chances of changes in the weather, given the season, and conditions such as wind-strength, wind-chill, avalanche-chance, mudslide chance, etc.
4. Be prepared against bad weather and cold, even on short tours.
This has to do with preparing yourself by carrying the proper equipment and selecting that on a conservative basis. People suggest you should always take a backpack of some sort and proper mountain gear, even if you are on what you think will be a short trip, due to the fact that things can develop in ways you did not plan. Getting lost, twisting an ankle, falling unexpectedly – all of these suggest that you foresee the possibility and carry a bit more than you would otherwise think was needed.
5. Listen to experienced mountain experts.
Those who have gone where you are going before you should be a resource you use. This has to do with being instructable and instructed by those who have gone to where you are going – before you went there. Look it up! Find it out! Know the specific risks and the challenges.
6. Use a map and compass.
A map and a compass (and knowing how to use both) are of course essential. Always use the latest editions of maps. Be familiar with how to use the map with a compass. Trust the compass. Nowadays, tools are available to improve your chances of keeping track of your location, with GPS available in hand-carries with good trail maps to boot.
7. Do not go alone.
Besides the fact that it’s generally a happier result when two go instead of one, it’s also giving you an edge if either of you need assistance. It’s not that you don’t think well enough to go alone; it’s just that it is much easier for two people to think smartly about an unexpected situation they find themselves in than, yes, one person.
8. Turn back in time: there is no disgrace in turning around. (Ingen skam å snu!)
As the Norwegians say, “Forsøk ikke å trosse været.” This means, to be direct: Attempt NOT to DEFY the weather. We know – you’re bold, you’re brave, and maybe you’re even very masculine and, of course, you are able to go forward. But are you strong enough to turn around and go back? That’s the question that kills too many would-be mountain-conquerors.
9. Conserve your energy and dig yourself down into the snow if necessary.
This is the ‘igloo’ approach to saving your life – where you create an insulated place to hold up if you get caught out in a snowstorm – or look for that type of shelter where you can survive while things are going bad and before you are rescued. They key here is to do the right thing in time to be prepared for difficult conditions.
Well, I hope these fjellvetreglene, that is ‘mountain rules you should know,’ are enjoyed by many. Perhaps they will even save you, dear Reader. Save you? From who? From - yourself, of course! That is, when you are out in the wild mountains of beautiful nature, wherever you are in the world. Enjoy!
|Posted on March 6, 2013 at 11:50 AM|
In Norway, the old snow is starting to lay on the hills like wrinkles in a white sheet. My husband and I are sitting at our kitchen table, reading news and, well, we’re sequestered. We’re sick. The kids can’t visit and we can’t visit. It’s a little like sequestration, actually. It feels like a punishment, for what, maybe living the good life, which we also do.
As everyone who knows English knows, sequestration is what happens when you put something or someone in a room by themselves or with others that also don’t want to be there, a place where they can’t get out or do anything interesting. They also are not allowed to holler to those who are on the other sides of the walls. They’re like invisible. They do that to Norwegians who can’t turn their necks very well when driving in Arizona. Really, they get sequestration - in Arizona jails and prison, like John Kristoffer Larsgard.
As an American, a culture watcher and an English professional, I have to keep an eye on words. I therefore had to note the weekend edition of the International Herald Tribune, page 5, column 1, which sounds like most of the other thousands of sound bites heard through the fog in the last few days, “Mr. Obama summoned the four top congressional leaders to the Oval Office in an effort to discuss how to move forward after the failure to avoid the cuts, known as sequestration, White House aides said.“
First, it was the fiscal cliff which, if we went over it, who knew what might happen and since we did not, most folks now think we really should have given it a try and seen what happened. Now it is sequestration, which has, somehow, happened. I was ready to blame White House aides for causing this problem with the definition of sequestration, until I discovered it emanates from a much more dangerous source, the Congressional Research Service. This appears to be a real office, located in Washington, D.C., which means they are completely in the dark on these English points. Besides, anyone who is defining sequestration and is also concerned with hiring a geospatial information systems analyst has their net spread too widely, let’s say.
Norwegians know how to focus on things. So I read the sentence to my Norwegian husband and asked him if he knew what sequestration meant. He said, “Er, sequencing?” and I said, “No, sequestration.” “Isn’t that when someone is frustrated when they are at sea?,” he replied. “Why, yes,” I replied. Like the clever Norwegian he is, he has captured the new and modernized core concept completely. I then corrected his understanding with my base-English knowledge. “No, actually, I think it has to do with being stuck somewhere and not being able to get out.” “Well, the congressional leaders were not trapped in the Oval office, were they? They went there of their own accord,” he ventures. Let’s give him that one, I thought. “No, they’re not trapped,” I agree. “No, they’re not trapped,” he continues, gaining ground, “They spent millions to get there, and now that they’re there, they find out the job is not so funny.” My husband means “fun.” He also means the job of being a member of Congress, not the job of going to visit the President.
After a few minutes, it became clear that someone needed to set the record straight – and tell the world what sequestration is and what it has to – or should have to - do with the current mess in Congress. I will try to do that in simple English, since, as everyone knows, sequestration is one of the those special words we don’t use very often – because it sounds very complex.
English has a wonderful way of building up the usages of words in specific areas, such that we can attempt to get at the core meaning and accepted usages of this word by studying its historical usage. Linguists, in addition, feed words into computers to see how often we use them, when, where and why. Since I am not a linguist, I’ll explicate in the old fashioned way – by reference.
The Oxford English Dictionary shows the word, sequestration, was first recorded as being used in the year 1450, with appearances in 1475 and 1581. By then, it referred to offenders who were excluded from the Sacraments. By 1854, it had to do with “delinquents” (yes, delinquents) who were punished by being kept from the Christian service (not that hard to take probably), the food table (very harder to take, probably) and common meetings (easy to take, probably).
Fast forward to now. The Congressional Research Service is reported to define sequestration as “a term used to describe the practice of using mandatory spending cuts in the federal budget if the cost of running the government exceeds either an arbitrary amount or the the gross revenue it brings during the fiscal year.”
Excuse me, but this is counter-intuitive to the actual meaning of the word. Since sequestration has to do with someone or something being kept from someone or something, it relies upon the premise that there is something or someone to be kept away from. And that the something or someone is kept away. Implementing spending cuts when there is no money in the money pot does not qualify as doing something to something. It does qualify as doing something to nothing, but that then does not satisfy the initial premise upon which the word was created and used down through the centuries. It also then does not carry any of its own emotional weight, as the word is supposed to do.
UspoliticsAbout.com (an oxymoron) continues, “Simply put, sequestration is the employment of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts in the face of annual budget deficits.” Again, this statement simply confirms my point.
The Congressional Research Service defines sequestration:
"In general, sequestration entails the permanent cancellation of budgetary resources by a uniform percentage. Moreover, this uniform percentage reduction is applied to all programs, projects, and activities within a budget account.
However, the current sequestration procedures, as in previous iterations of such procedures, provide for exemptions and special rules. That is, certain programs and activities are exempt from sequestration, and certain other programs are governed by special rules regarding the application of a sequester.”
This makes sequestration a two-faced taker, what the Norwegians would call ‘double-moral,’ something they are sure the U.S. does a lot of. Besides, to be exempt from sequestration should mean that one is free to move about. Most public programs in the U.S. these days barely have enough flexibility to wag their social tails, let alone try to move about.
We know. It’s a big laugh contest, a giant drama. Why else would David Falcheck and hundreds of other journalists write stuff like this:
“Days away, sequestration - the dramatic federal spending cuts - may seem like the crisis du jour for the gridlocked U.S. Congress, but the impact would be far-reaching, impacting everything from food inspection, to air traffic control, to defense.” -David Falcheck for newsitem.com
It’s quite scary, but that French touch really helps the medicine go down. Still, why are they holding the lack of money in a room and not letting it out?
I suggest the following alternative definitions be applied, despite the green-eyeshade crowd at CRS:
Option 1. Sequestration is “a legal writ authorizing a sheriff or commissioner to take into custody the property of a defendant who is in contempt until the orders of a court are complied with.” In this sense of the word, Congressional leaders are in contempt of their public duty, and the Sheriff has the right to lock up their mansions and fancy cars until they come up with a decent budgetary arrangement, which, by the way, IS one of their duties. (Thanks to Merriam-Webster online for these.)
Option 2: Sequestration is “a deposit whereby a neutral depositary agrees to hold property in litigation and to restore it to the party to whom it is adjudged to belong.” Now, at least, we are working with a fiscal-related definition. In this case, the money that isn’t there, which is the taxpayers’ money, should be held by a neutral party, say, the President, until the fighting in Congress is over, at which time it should be given to the public. Well, after all, it is theirs. I trust the President to do that.
A third sense is worth noting for its effect on quelling bad-talking, as noted in the following classic example usage: “During their sequestration, jurors were not allowed to speak to reporters.” That’s right. Congress should be sequestered and not be allowed to speak to anyone – until they come to some important decisions on the budget, agreed and common decisions.
Last but not least, the word, sequestration, holds a strong sense of being alone. I’m inclined to think of the poor sod who landed in a dirty locked room, circa 1550, with no bread or water, for stealing an apple from the rich farmer’s garden. Of course, Congress would like you to think of it this way, too. After all, haven’t they done everything they could do? And now, sequestration has come to them anyway. And yet, Merriam-Webster shows the following (questionable) example in the ‘lonely’ category: “What would you bring for sequestration on a desert island?” This is easily modified to read, “What would you bring to a Congressional party?” Answer: Your money, of course, so you could buy some votes.
My husband has long ago lost interest in this, deciding to walk the dog on the ice instead. My balance is not as good. As for me, it’s time to consider today’s dinner menu, and the work waiting for me in my office. What I won’t be doing is holding my breath when some smartie-pants in Washington suddenly realize that sequestration, as they define it, is hurting real people who desperately need the social safety net that our modern tax, budgetary and social service systems were meant to and should provide - on an efficient and ongoing basis.
|Posted on February 9, 2013 at 12:20 PM|
The U.S. Embassy in Oslo - Norway recently held a tax information seminar for American citizens here on January 31, 2013. The special guest was tax attaché at the Internal Revenue Service’s London office, who answered questions as well as presenting key points of interest at this time.
I was glad to have been able to attend. I was also glad to see our American Ambassador to Norway, Barry White, in attendance. Ambassador White expressed his interest and thanks to those who attended, and his attention and presence gave the meeting a necessary gravitas, demonstrating his concern for both the reporting obligations of Americans overseas, and the importance of listening to those in attendance and to the IRS’s representative.
Most attendees were Americans expressing a level of alarm and concern about their tax reporting obligations to the U.S. This is understandable only up to a point: the point at which people realize that their obligations to report their worldwide income to the IRS would rarely result in owing taxes to the U.S. – if they are paying taxes on their foreign income to Norway, as their tax home. Since I began this work, I have rarely seen the anomalous case – that is, the case of an American hiding or trying to hide income from the IRS. What I have seen is a standard scenario: the American works in the foreign country, and for a foreign entity. They pay tax to that foreign country, and that satisfies their obligations. Of course, it is also true that income whose source is the U.S. is, depending on the category, taxed by the U.S. In almost all cases, there is no ‘double-taxation,’ which is the point of the tax treaties.
I thought I would be the ‘fly on the wall’ in this blog – do a bit of journalistic reporting and drop the opinions (well mostly). So here it is: a recent tax seminar, which should be of interest to all Americans overseas, which means millions of people who have the obligation to report their worldwide income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.
What are the consequences of not filing? Well, that’s something you can look up. Thousands of dollars in fines and penalties are a possibility, although if you have unintentionally not filed and begin to do so – by filing the current year’s return and the 3 prior years’ returns, you can take advantage of what the IRS calls the Voluntary Disclosure Program, which has certain rules and conditions that can permit a person to simply start filing and not suffer terrible consequences (i.e. if they don’t owe much or any tax).
What about the FBAR bank reports? Well, those should be filed for the last 6 years, not three years – and every year thereafter, and are due in Detroit to be received by June 30th of each year (for persons with a total equivalent of $10,000 US dollars in foreign accounts of a wide variety). So, 2012 FBAR forms are due in the U.S. by June 30, 2013. By the way, the FBAR has been mandatory since 1979! Many millions are now filing this form , in part due to high profile cases, such as the UBS cases.
What about FACTA, the upcoming foreign bank reporting requirement that will affect foreign banks with American citizen accounts? Yes, the banks are already actively working on determining how they will comply. Some will do as the law states and report only Americans’ accounts if they are over $50,000 US dollars equivalent. However, other banks will find that cumbersome and simply report all Americans’ accounts – the banks can decide themselves. By the way, the regulations for this were just published last week, all +200 pages of them.
What about the Form 8938? That form reports bank information and must now accompany the IRS tax return – but only if the person has the total equivalent values indicated in all types of accounts, which are rather high – over $200,000 it was last year for one person.
Will there ever be an exclusion for Americans who simply live and work overseas, with a foreign tax home as permanent? The IRS has probably considered about every type of exclusion they can, but it seems you probably won’t get closer to this than the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, (which lets you pretty much write down up to +$92,900 of foreign earned income (in 2011)(as against a formula based on how many days you were in the U.S. and whether your tax home is a foreign country.)
The U.S. and Norway have a good working relationship with the tax treaty. “Every dollar will get taxed once and no dollar will be taxed twice.” (Ah, well, they may be close . . . -June ) In addition, Americans in Norway won’t pay more than 15% tax on dividends, even when living in Norway as their tax home.
I have children but they don’t have social security numbers, can I claim them? Well, the IRS made huge gains when they discounted exemptions for children without social security numbers, since many people were cheating on the number of children they claimed. You have to look into it, and find out if your children are eligible to get social security numbers. (This is a good idea anyway since, if they are eligible, they can qualify to do other things later in life, such as invest in the U.S., open a bank account with ease, etc.)
What about revoking citizenship? We call this expatriation: this is someone who is relinquishing their citizenship or their green card, and their passport. There are certain filing requirements for these persons. In any case, filing must be updated before a citizen can be considered for revocation. Additional reports are also required.
Are you in compliance? Well, did you know that when you submit your American passport to enter the U.S., you are assuring that you are updated on all of your tax filing requirements? It’s in the fine print!
If I voluntarily file my updating tax forms to the IRS, can I be sure I won’t be penalized? Hard to know, without knowing your facts. The statute of limitations, though, is 3 years if you are filing, and if you are not? In that case, there is no statute of limitations: the IRS could demand that you present data and information all the way back to when you first moved abroad /had unreported foreign income.
On Recordkeeping: Keep good records! Use the ‘shoebox method’ if you cannot do more: If it is related to your tax report, put it in that shoebox and put it in the attic. Don’t throw anything away for at least 4 years and, even then, don’t throw away anything related to the price you pay for a house, or stocks, etcetera, as that can be related later to taxable income classification. Also: Keep your records in a format which is up-to-date! If you have old floppy discs that are essential to your tax information, you must get them into a format which can be used - as you go forward in time.
On Identity Theft: The IRS is seeing a remarkable increase in the amount of identity theft. One key suggestion is that you always shred documents which have important numbers and information on them, not just throw them away. Protect all materials of this nature from outside discovery.
On E-mail: The IRS never sends e-mail. The most profitable crime in the world today must surely be internet fraud, as it is nearly cost-free and involves making huge sums.
The IRS has information on all forms, including a publication on overseas filing, Publication 54, which you can see online. The IRS also has materials on how to protect yourself from identity theft and scams of various types, which you will find at their website, www.irs.gov. The website has also been reorganized so that it is easier to find materials using the search box function.
Well, a cold, dark and icy night was made a little less cold, dark and icy by the concerted efforts of the Embassy and IRS staff. And that’s all from the fly on the wall.
Of course, if you’re still confused, just write me, and I’ll do your individual personal income tax forms for you. That’s a part of my business!
With best regards,
|Posted on September 30, 2012 at 3:55 AM|
This article is about context. First, we always look at things from where we stand. In my case, that is as an American living and working overseas and doing U.S. tax forms for Americans overseas. As a consequence of that work, I am regularly completing the foreign tax credit forms for Americans overseas. Why? Because their income is overseas, they are taxed in their ‘tax home’ country which is overseas, and that credit demonstrates to the IRS that they do not also owe taxes to the United States on the same income. This is the first and best use of the foreign tax credit.
Then there are the abuses of the foreign tax credit, and since I find little ‘plain English’ on the issue, I thought I would make an effort to provide some. First, Romney claims he does not have to reveal his tax returns. For Americans in Norway, this is laughable: our taxable income is emblazoned online for all to see, compliments of the Norwegian tax authority, and one’s income is public knowledge for anyone interested in looking you up -for at least a while each year. While this would seem to be inconsistent with Europe’s move toward favoring the protection of personal privacy, it is apparently an ingrained element of the Jante Law in Norway – that is, the unwritten law which states that no one is allowed to be any better than anyone else, and if you think so, you better not think so. Ja vel, moving on.
Yahoo News reports an interesting discussion with tax attorney, Alvin Brown in late August: http://news.yahoo.com/irs-concerns-foreign-tax-credit-abuses-raise-questions-071009421.html . In this, the weaknesses of the foreign tax credit are noted, and the IRS’s efforts to re-consider it and reign in abuses are also discussed briefly. The foreign tax credit is available to write down taxability in the U.S., as we saw with the American overseas example above. It is also available for Americans living in the U.S., which would mean, basically, that they don’t have to pay some taxes to the U.S. because they have paid them, yes, to a foreign country. A rather uncomfortable fact, don’t you think? For someone who is walking the streets of America and who supposedly supports U.S. efforts to do the many things public funds need to help do – build roads, open schools, create clean drinking water, clean air, and manage all of the costs of maintaining a civil society.
Then, there is the added notice mentioned by Mr. Brown in the Yahoo news article: “IRS Notice 2004-20, IRB 2004-11, March 15, 2004, identifying certain foreign tax credit issues as" tax avoidance transactions" for purposes of the tax shelter disclosure, registration, and list maintenance regulations a purported stock acquisition that is intended to generate credits for foreign taxes paid on gain that is not subject to tax in the United States.” These can be administered in such a way as to raise questions for the IRS, but remain ‘legal’ avenues for not paying U.S. taxes to the U.S.
Now, let’s run an example using MR. MR lives in the U.S. and makes a LOT of money. He could put it into stocks in the U.S. and invest in the U.S.. He could, actually, decide, on purpose, that he would help the U.S. out of its debt and economic slowdown. He could help America, in other words, by using his money to help America and Americans. The problem is that he has options. To remind, whatever option MR takes, he has to sign the tax forms sent to the IRS. Irregardless of how much he may contest later that he has no idea what those forms say and do, he is, in fact, legally liable for anything he sends to the IRS. After all, as we all know, lack of knowledge of the law is not a defense to the breaking of it.
But no, MR sends his money to another country – and hey, he pays tax on it there. Foreign income tax. Why not? In the non-sleezy version of the story, MR pays tax on it in the foreign country, and then is able to use that tax as a credit against paying tax to the U.S. . This means he uses it as a credit so that he does not help America by paying taxes to America – he helps himself. The foreign tax credit also allows what is called “carry-over”. This means he could pay foreign tax and even carry it over from year to year, using it as a tax credit so as not to pay tax to the U.S. - from one year to another – continually reducing his taxes to the U.S. over more than one year at a time.
That’s only one aspect of it. He’s also able to get whatever he is actually getting on his money whereever that money is. And it’s not in the U.S. – that’s the point: it’s somewhere else. MR’s money is, presumably, somewhere where it is not used for U.S. purposes, does not help put people back to work, does not help people who are sick keep their homes, does not help people who must be hospitalized pay their health care bills. No, that money is somewhere, of course, where it is making more money for MR. This is Romney economics in a nutshell.
MR has this money and it’s not in the U.S. Why? This is MR’s crime. As a result, he gets to walk American streets, breath clean American air, drive its albeit crumbling highways and roads, drink its cleaned water, use its nice toilets, eat at its restaurants, and all this time, he is not paying for the air, the water, the roads, the infrastructure. Of course, none of those things come for free – it’s all paid for with tax dollars. But MR is not paying those tax dollars – to the U.S. that is. No, he is paying it to some foreign country that promises to make more money out of his money than the U.S. economy can make.
Charity is charity – good to give a big chunk just before running for president. But charity is something you can give to whomever you like – it doesn’t have to cover health care for the poor, food for the starving, housing assistance programs, infrastructure improvements. It sounds so self-less, but it’s a completely managed giving-track. It’s MR’s own giving track, whatever it was. You could truly say that MR’s charity gifts reveal a contempt for the American tax system’s most burdensome and needy recipients – society at large.
This is MR’s apparent priority number one: make money out of my money so MR will have more of it – so what if it is not in the United States? MR at least is in control of it if he can use that foreign tax credit, and in doing so, he’s undermining the very foundations on which the U.S. was built: shared responsibility for certain expenses for the health and welfare of the population at large.
According to Alvin Brown, tax attorney, Romney’s revealed 2010 and 2011 foreign tax credits “are obviously large and complex as a consequence of their substantial disclosed foreign source income.”
In a later Yahoo news release, late September, it’s confirmed that “The majority of Mr Romney's income comes in the form of dividends and capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income.” Additionally, PWC, his accounting firm, has come forward with a letter confirming that he never paid less than 13% tax annually. Still, the question I have is this: If you are going to have to pay tax, and the tax on dividends and capital gains is going to be your type of tax – because you don’t, for example, work, but have lots of investments, then why would you not invest in U.S. companies and U.S. businesses? The only reason I can think of is that he was more interested in seeing the amount of money he could make anywhere else that might be more economically profitable at this point in time – to himself. He would prefer to make money than save America. He would prefer to line his pockets than line the pockets of the unemployed.
We all make choices, and the most basic are for our self-preservation. Still, the whole idea that Romney is sitting in America, driving its streets, flying its skies, breathing its clean air, and drinking its clean water, then it only makes ethical sense that he should not be able to take the foreign tax credit, and that if he does, he should have to tell us what he thought was so important to invest in in a foreign country. For example, if he had invested in Hyundai in Korea, I would say, well, maybe that is alright. After all, Hyundai is building plants in the U.S. and uses American employees, parts and factories to build their cars. My husband has a Hyundai in Norway. It was built in the U.S.A. Nice going, Hyundai.
But News 4 reported on Sept. 25th that Romney’s 2011 tax return revealed he had invested in ’a Chinese oil company with links to Iran.’ Chinese oil companies are drilling oil in various places, among them Africa, where they are helping to build roads and infrastructure, but American? Iran? Unfortunately, we're hardly even on speaking terms. And no, it’s not a U.S.-enhancing investment - unless you think we should give China all our money instead of just most of it.
In the same article, an Obama campaign strategist claims Romney is invested in “ a fund that hedges against American Treasuries.” Well, who can believe a campaign strategist. But hedge funds? To put it simply, this is one of the ‘funny money’ types of investing that is not producing real jobs for real people, but does take money out of the economy for what could arguable be described as gambling or betting on what markets will do - for self-enrichment goals. http://www.channel4.com/news/romneys-tax-return-reveals-china-investment
Frankly, I don’t think I want to hear more from Romney on what he decided to invest in. If the above are any indication, ethics has not been one of his considerations in the matter. I think I already know his approach: everyone take care of themselves, since I’m going to take care of me - and also close the public purse. That, in my opinion, is counter to the model for creating a civil society and embracing rule of law, for sharing the burdens of modern development, while sharing the risks of investing in future progress together at home. Let Romney take his millions and go retire where? Somewhere foreign, perhaps. Then let the IRS audit his accounts and foreign tax credit usage and close the ability of Americans living in the U.S. to use this as a tax credit against their obligations to pay taxes at home to the U.S.
Sign me an American attorney, living and working overseas, paying foreign taxes and reporting annually to the IRS