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Comment: Oversimplification ... (Score 5, Insightful) 241

by golodh (#49762411) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

I agree to the extent that lots of taxes are simply passed through to customers. If you didn't, you wouldn't be in business for long. And yes, many of those taxes apply irrespective of company size.

But certainly not all of them. As is: different locations have different cost structures. They apply to different aspects of your business. Given the amount of goods that are transported throughout the country, it should be clear that capital costs (cost of setting up production facilities), labour costs, material costs, energy costs, insurance costs, labour productivity, production efficiency, spillage, waste and theft etc. ensure that you get different cost structures in different places.

As soon as you have that, you get a mix of suppliers in one market with different cost structures. As a result you get different profit margins and different tax burdens for different suppliers, and with it different returns on capital. Transaction costs, various constraints, and uncertainty about future costs limit how easily businesses can set up shop elsewhere.

Having a mix of suppliers with different cost structures and different tax burdens wouldn't be possible if taxes were just another cost.

Yes, yes, you think that if I made $1 million in profit last year and the government wants 30% of that, that it shouldn't raise prices. You'd be wrong.

No. The situation you describe is where you total all costs your business incurs, decide how much profit you'd like to make and add that too, factor in any profit taxes, and then charge whatever results to your customers.

That only works if your customers want whatever it is you're selling at that price and there's no-one around to compete with you.

In other words: a niche business.

What you're saying is that all taxes are, in the end, paid by society as a whole (including businesses), which is correct. And yes, if society wouldn't be paying taxes, it would quite simply pay for everything taxes are spent on in other ways, so ultimately all taxes are an expense.

But the fact remains that taxes on products weigh more heavily on individual consumers and taxes on profits weigh more heavily on "capital".

This is simply because an increase in profits will certainly not result in an increase in wealth for individuals that make up the "labour" part of society. They are very unevenly distributed and tend to go towards those individuals who contributed the "capital" part of the equation. Contrarywise, a decrease in profits will not *immediately and automatically* lead to a decrease in wages (and wealth for the "labour" part of society). In both cases "entrepreneurship" is in the way.

To the extent you're saying there's no difference between taxes on products and taxes on profits, that's an oversimplification.

Comment: I really wonder (Score 1) 103

by golodh (#49709737) Attached to: House Science Committee Approves Changes To Space Law
I'd like to believe you but I'm not sure.

As to new law superseding old law, true, but wouldn't a change in law the way you mean open up the government to a wave of liability claims? If companies appealed to an ISDS (Investor State Dispute Settlement) tribunal? For example the one provided by article 11 of NAFTA (see )

After all, the government did represent to industry that they would not face new regulations for the next 10 years. Going back on that promise clearly affects the profitability of the industry. Therefore damages may exist and a demand for compensation is well within the scope of existing law.

Of course I don't know how exactly the law works in this case, but intuitively I'd say that a company that was promised a regulation-free period would stand a decent chance to sue for damages if new legislation were enacted that proves restrictive or even inconvenient. And that could prove quite expensive.

Any thoughts?

Comment: Deeply irresponsible (Score 1) 103

by golodh (#49704161) Attached to: House Science Committee Approves Changes To Space Law
In the finest traditions of lobbyist-written laws, congress has declared anything to do with space-launches the be a exempt from any new regulations by the FAA for the next 10 years. That's called the SPACE act ... .

In other words: it has tied its own hands for the next 10 years.

It is, to quote the article, to allow the industry to "build up experience" which can inform regulations. In other words ... do whatever you like but don't forget to keep a record if anything goes boom. To "inform regulation" ten years later you know.

Oh, and did you read that part about joint state-enterprise responsibility in case of accidents?

Nice one ... private companies can skimp on safety measures as much as they like (a great competitive advantage, that) and the taxpayer will foot (at least) half the bill if anything untoward happens. The other half of the bill will be vainly trying to penetrate the legal insulation provided by launch-companies.

Comment: Re:Scientifically driven politics (Score 2) 347


It's ironic that Slashdot is objecting to these hearings yet at the same time seemingly against legislation that would mandate that public policy be based on publicly available Science.

I don't think so. Mandating public policy to be based on publicly available science would for example end all and any teachings of "creationism" in schools.

It would also end faith-based politics like "trickle-down tax exemptions", facilities that allow companies to use overseas subsidiaries as tax shelters, H-1B visa (there's no evidence that these jobs can't be adequately filled by natives), spurious copyright extensions (like the one enacted to save mickey mouse from entering the public domain), viewing corporations as "persons" in a number of ways, allowing employers to curtail medical expenses (like abortions) based on "faith-based considerations", and all attempts to loosen or reverse a complete separation between church and state, and it would prevent e.g. the US military from preparing for effects conflicts that (demonstrably and indisputably) have their roots in global climate change.

In other words ... it would run into widespread and ferocious opposition from corporations, religionists, and conservatives as soon as those good people realised what it actually entailed.

Of course I understand that. What those congregationists actually *meant* is that people going on about environmental damage due to conventional drilling, fracking, unrestricted logging, GMO's, bans on insane amounts of antibiotics being used in hog-farming and chicken farming, and other man-made catastrophes should be held to much much higher levels of proof than are needed for scientific consensus.

They should instead be held to the level of proof that you'd get from exhaustive 50-year contrast studies to deal with all industry-sponsored "studies" casting doubt on anything from basic statistics, data-collection, modeling, personal motivation of the personnel involved, representativity, and explanation of any number of far-fetched and shady counter-examples to the general conclusions being reached. By which time the issues have become moot anyway, and profits from irresponsible behaviour have been safely pocketed and are protected by they occurred before there was any law against whatever abuse they were derived from.

Since Slashdot is at least somewhat representative of the US population, consequences like this are going to find few takers. So there's your answer: it isn't ironic, it's a fact of life.

Comment: Magic ... (Score 1) 533

by golodh (#49514161) Attached to: Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power
The magic is called "public money", and it comes from something known as "policy".

For various reasons Germany decided they wanted to be less dependent on nuclear and not more dependent on fossil. So they massively subsidised solar panels.

People noticed that and bought them in numbers. Now it turns out that adapting the grid to massive amounts of PV-generated power is expensive too. So they have a special tax to generate the money, and they're currently spending lavish subsidies on ... improving batteries and other energy-storage schemes, smart meters, adapting the grid (more (230 KV + long-distance lines, more robust grids at the 10 KV end of the line, researching how to work around the need for heavier grids through storage at city-block level, putting sophisticated control mechanisms in place in solar farms and wind-farms, etc.

And of course organising all participants so that they can do something useful with weather forecasts, and building up robustness to deal with e.g. a solar eclipse.

It's concentrated effort rather than magic, and it doesn't come cheap. See e.g.

Certainly not a bad idea, but it's a choice. Meaning there are other possible choices.

Comment: Re:in my opinion this guy is like Jenny McCarthy (Score 2) 320

by golodh (#49500445) Attached to: Columbia University Doctors Ask For Dr. Mehmet Oz's Dismissal
Funny how many people creep out of the woodwork to condemn someone for being "populist" when he takes a stance that sits ill with commercial interests. Why is it so un-scientific to speak out for labeling GMO foods so that they are recognizable?

People on the other hand who pander to scientifically illiterate conservative underbelly feelings by insisting that evolution be treated as "just a theory" and be treated on par with wild flights of fancy like "intelligent design" on the other hand are known as "devoutly christian", "understandable in their quest for impartiality", and "very American".

Is it just me or do we see a clear division along partisan lines here?

Comment: So you want to abolish anti-trust laws? (Score 1) 247

by golodh (#49476459) Attached to: EU To Hit Google With Antitrust Charges

Your point of view essentially says: "All and any anti-trust laws should be abolished because 'It's their product and they can do with it whatever they want'".

That bit about "backdoor deals" is just an ad-hoc argument not to apply anti-trust law in this case. Right? Abuse is abuse, back-door or front-door.

I'm curious what other laws you'd want to see abolished for reasons like that. Sarbanes-Oxley? FDA regulation of new drugs? Wildlife preserves? A lot of legislation is there for a very good reason: society at large is worse off without it. Don't cherry-pick just because you like the company.

Comment: Roger. We have full FOC on all underbelly systems (Score 2) 84

by golodh (#49456443) Attached to: First Alpha of Public Sector Linux Deployment System
Thanks for that. This "mandatory" post shows FOC (Full Operational Capability) on all US intellectual underbelly feelings.

Apart from that, this seems the sort of project you didn't know you needed until you've seen it done.

How much time do admins, consultants, and contractors waste by re-inventing the wheel when planning, building, and rolling out the umpteeth networked computing infrastructure ?

What's there in the public domain is a jumble of howto's, forums, bits of disjunct knowledge and learning opportunities that one may (over the course of a few years) learn one's way in to become an admin who's able to design an roll out a decent piece of infrastructure.

This is one of the reasons why companies may decide to go with e.g. Microsoft. Less uncertainty in terms of price and ability to meet delivery deadlines. Simply because the people who design and implement the stuff have had time to learn from their wost mistakes, as opposed to the average Linux enthusiast (a definite no-go) or even contractors that set up Linux-based infrastructures (you can bet they use non-standard setups, non-standard tooling, and leave you with a system you probably need them for to maintain efficiently).

This project on the other hand seems to give admins a head-start in implementation and it can serve as a repository of practical know-how.

Comment: Perhaps a change in law is needed ... (Score 5, Insightful) 207

by golodh (#49100587) Attached to: Wired On 3-D Printers As Fraud Enablers
one that protects non-commercial printing of spare parts or widgets for home use as "fair use".

I mean ... I've experienced a few times when a $50 - $200 appliance didn't work anymore because a $0.005 piece of plastic broke.

If the appliance is still under warranty, you can take up the cudgels and have it repaired or replaced. If it's out of warranty, you *might* be able to have it repaired, only to find that repairs typically cost between 50% and 150% of the purchase price.

What could be more reasonable to suspend legal restrictions barring you from 3D-printing that widget (if at all possible)?

As far as I know, it's very very rare that such a widget is of such clever design that you freeload on someone's hard work. What I think is the case (on basis of a thoroughly non-scientific survey, sample-size 6, personal observation) is that any ingenuity in the design is spent in making sure the widget in question can't be second-sourced without infringing on some sort of patent. E.g. by adding a special notch, a special hole, or simply making the dimensions so that the widget is unlike any other on the planet (and any other widgets won't fit).

Comment: Watch for a huge increase in random surveillance (Score 1) 343

Just look at the gem of prose posted by New Ginrich (see [ ]) in which mr. Ginrich demonstrates great form in a piece of emotional hyperbole that simultaneously waves the flag, beats the war-drum, disses the current government, advocates piracy, and slyly suggests that national control over the internet is the way to go.

Mr. Gingrich obviously never read Schneier's informative and professional response. Doing things like that would only slow mr. Ginrich down.

No. Mr. Ginrich has made up his mind already and frames as war what is basically a combination of poor security (both protection and response were found to be sub-par), unprofessional conduct (mean-spirited, abusive, and racist comments), user stupidity (entrusting highly personal information to a company email system), and bad luck (being targeted by a persistent and capable attacker).

The only way Mr. Ginrich can achieve his national cyberspace defense "Defending America against foreign enemies is the duty of the United States government." is to monitor all traffic entering and leaving the US plus all internal traffic, and being able to selectively cut any of it off on basis of suspicion alone. To use mr. Ginrich's words: "No one should kid themselves.". This is the only possible outcome if his ideas are adopted.

It's like the NSA's dream come true. Not only will they be allowed to tap into everything, Mr. Ginrich's ideas (if adopted) mean that they will now actually be tasked to do that. Plus they get to design and implement some fine-grained kill-switch. Oh, can encrypted communications by private individuals be tolerated? Risky, that. Any non-government or non-whitelisted corporate entity that uses encryption could be a hostile nation in disguise, eh? best to put a stop to that right now. Or err risk "loosing the cyber war".

Comment: How about electronic drugs? (Score 1) 88

by golodh (#48613631) Attached to: Brain Stimulation For Entertainment?
What happens if it turns out to be possible to simulate the effect of drugs use through transcranial stimulation?

Or an experience akin to sexual stimulation?

I have no idea is this is possible, but if it is, will there be any realistic prospect of keeping people from indiscriminate use? And will we see significant groups of people become addicts to such stimulation? Students? Schoolchildren? The jobless?

We already have drug addicts and porn addicts. The former seem to have difficulties (depending on the drug) to keep themselves from overdosing on it if provided access to unlimited quantities of their drug. The latter don't seem to be much of a health risk to themselves though, even if people do get fired for watching porn on the job.

So there really do seem to be public health issues at stake here, and I'd like to know more about the whole thing before taking a position. But it looks potentially scary.

Comment: Re:PRIVATE encryption of everything just became... (Score 1) 379

a red herring and a dead end.


Because when everyone starts encrypting everything, law-enforcement officials may just get the authority to demand your encryption keys from you, or alternatively, to oblige you to decrypt the stuff for them. Otherwise they'd be stymied. Australia and the UK already have legislation in place to compel people to decrypt their stuff on demand.

And because it's not practical to encrypt everything on every gadget you own with backdoor-free encryption. It's just too bothersome for a normal person.

And because if you don't "cooperate", police may actively search for anything they might conceivably pin on you, so that you can later be offered a plea-bargain in which you reveal your keys in return for the DA dropping twenty-odd far-fetched charges you'd rather not risk having to defend against (even if you could afford a competent lawyer).

And because once you're registered as someone they have encrypted data on, what's easier than to monitor traffic from and to you for (a) patterns (b) weak encryption and (c) passwords.

And because it is probably only a matter of time (a decade or so) for special-purpose quantum computers to become available that can crack your encryption.

And because we're spending a few billion a year making sure that commercially available encryption has weaknesses or even backdoors that are known to the NSA.

So I don't think it's a good idea to tell yourself you're safe from surveillance behind simple technological measures. If anything, it will only mark you as suspicious thereby warranting more effort.

Your main protection was the law, and that just got moved out of the way.

Comment: Bad news, good news (Score 2) 528

by golodh (#48528875) Attached to: The Sony Pictures Hack Was Even Worse Than Everyone Thought
This computer burglary (I refuse to call it a hack) is unfortunate for Sony and its employees.

My condoleances.

On the other hand, it's very beneficial for our society that this sort of data now becomes a matter of public record simply because I'm pretty sure that the extent of data that is collected on employees hasn't been documented quite so clearly and unequivocally before.

Besides which, it's well-documented that law-makers and public opinion generally aren't pro-active on basis of insight, intelligence, or commonsense. No, it always requires one or two actual cases of things going totally wrong to get people's attention. And even then it takes a couple of repeats before the shoot-the-messenger reflex can be bypassed and the underlying issues addressed.

In addition, the release of business information gives a valuable historical reference on how the corporate world works in a way that transcends books and even court records (which are usually sealed anyway where commercial interests are concerned).

So, in this respect, society as a whole benefits from this example of computer-burglary. Now if we could only make the data available in its entirety, or at least in coherent chunks ...

Always draw your curves, then plot your reading.