10 September 2012

Louis Vuitton, a Belgian Brand?

I am being facetious, of course.

But when it became known that Bernard Arnault, the owner of LVMH and the richest man in France with a fortune of 41 billion euros, applied for Belgian citizenship the French media went crazy.

The headline used by Liberation "Casse-toi riche con" is a reference to a derogatory phrase Sarkozy uttered (the meaning in English is here) while responding to a protester.

The French media predicted that it was because of the silly 75 percent tax rate promised by Fran├žois Hollande for people who earn more than a million euros a year.

I doubt that it was the case, as he would not be able to divest himself of his holdings in France. Moreover, the 75 percent tax rate is likely to be applied to salaried income (no one knows what the tax entails yet). In France, for 90 percent of the population, salaried income represents 80 percent of their revenue. Whereas for the super rich, such income is less than 20 percent of their annual revenue.
Credit Reuters

In other words, Arnault's 41 billion euros fortune is not under a socialist threat.  

I suspect it was partly a stunt to bring this silly tax to the agenda. Partly, as his press people noted, he has investment plans in Belgium, where he has had residency permit for more than ten years.

Incidentally, the reason I call it a silly tax is the fact that in the best case scenario this tax will only bring €250 million to the French treasury. But symbolically, it is used to paint Hollande like a traditional tax-and-spend socialist.

For my way of thinking, €250 million is not worth the opportunity it gives to people like Arnault to pull stunts like these.

Soros on Eurozone: Inflation or Bust

It is not everyday that you discover that George Soros is making the same argument as you.  And on something as complex as the Eurozone crisis.
Credit Bloomberg

According to the BBC, Soros will give a speech today in Germany and he will recommend that Eurozone countries should have a new growth target of 5 percent. In an article published two days ago in the New York Times Review of Books he contends that to do this, they should give up the austerity idea (what I called, after Krugman, internal devaluation) and should accept a higher inflation rate.

Since Germany is the biggest stumbling bloc in that respect, apparently, Soros is planning to suggest hat Germany should either accept this solution or exit the Euro. Or as he puts it,
In my judgment the best course of action is to persuade Germany to choose between becoming a more benevolent hegemon, or leading nation, or leaving the euro. In other words, Germany must lead or leave.
Indeed, Europe has a German problem.

Incidentally, Soros believes, as I do, that a German (or Finnish, as predicted by Roubini) exit would be less problematical than a Greek exit, as this latter would almost certainly trigger a domino effect.

It would be interesting to see if anyone would pay attention to Soros' recommendations. In the past, many institutions paid a heavy price for ignoring him. He has an exceptionally sharp understanding of major trends (he sensed the 2008 crisis and took control of his Quantum fund just in time to post a series of very high returns when everyone else was losing substantial sums) and if I were Merkel, I would listen to him carefully.

08 September 2012

Big Brother Is Watching

Last, week a group known as AntiSec posted one million UDID or Unique Device Identifiers used by Apple to put together each IOS device (iPhone, iPad or iPods) and its owner's private data.
Credit wikipedia

Basically, we are talking about my iPhone ID along with my address, my numbers, applications I downloaded and a bunch of other personal information.

AntiSec stands for Operation Anti Security and refers to a number of hactivist attacks by members of a group known as LulzSec (Lulz Security). They are associated with the hacker group Anonymous. You might have seen them on TV news wearing Guy Fawkes masks supporting Occupy Wall Street movement.

They hackers released a long statement (worth reading if you want to understand their motivations) to explain that the information came from the laptop of an FBI Special Agent by the name of Christopher Stangl. And the file contained 12 million UDIDs.

In other words, FBI had a large database of personal information of IOS device users (iPhone users to you and me).

They said that, before releasing these one million IDs, they scrubbed the attached personal information.

FBI was not pleased. They first sent out a tweet denying the fact that they had people's private information on an FBI laptop. It is a cute one.