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Comment: Re:When you're using words like "reeducation" (Score 1) 217


Okay, you raging sexist. Let's take it down a notch for a second here ......... [short time later] ....... It still blows my mind that every time this comes up, almost nobody talks about the elephant in the room: Women are smarter and value their time better than men in general.

Plank in your eye before speck in your brothers, etc.

Comment: Re:no power (Score 1) 217

Yeah yeah yeah. It's so tough being a programmer.

Reality check: many, many other jobs are doing worse. You may think that programming is going down hill as a career* but would mothers rather that their daughters study Eng Lit and then become a Starbucks barista when making it as a journalist doesn't quite work out for them?

*though I don't see that, heck on the front page is a story about how much money is flooding into the industry from VC's right now

Comment: Re:How is this tech related? (Score 1) 132

by IamTheRealMike (#49770221) Attached to: EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US

Um, yes.

How exactly do you intend to prove that something is safe? There have been cases in the past where chemicals were thought to be safe, and then found that they cause a higher risk of common disease but only after many decades (smoking is one obvious example of that).

How do you even discover that without large scale usage by humans? How would anything ever get approved? What if the drugs are believed to save lives, but it can't be proved that they're always side effect free? What then?

IMO, this shouldn't be up to governments. They should act as a source of trusted advice, at best. The idea that the FDA might have killed more people than it's saved (by delaying the use of medicines that were later found to be safe and effective) is an interesting one, though I can't remember if it's ever actually been proven or is just some libertarian meme.

Comment: Re:Spin everywhere... (Score 1) 132

by IamTheRealMike (#49768971) Attached to: EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US

How anyone, who is not a subject matter expert, can make a decision in this is just beyond me

You can't easily do so, but you can easily recognise the spin for what it is. As you say, the Guardian wants us to believe that the chemical industry is some cigar-smoking shades-wearing embodiment of corporate evil here, which is unlikely. It seems to be more like a dispute over the costs and benefits of enacting a ban before harm is conclusively established. So ..... just ignore it! My opinions on TTIP have been entirely unmoved by this story as it seems to be a dispute that would have happened anyway, regardless of whether TTIP existed.

Comment: Re:How is this tech related? (Score 4, Interesting) 132

by IamTheRealMike (#49768787) Attached to: EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US

Yes indeed. Whenever I read a story in the press that asks me to believe that a large group of people are utterly, totally evil and get their rocks off by being malicious psychopaths, I go looking for a reality check.

Digging through apparently endless links arrives us at this quote:

Peter Smith, executive director for product stewardship at CEFIC, which represents the European chemical industry, said the Nordic report attribution of health problems to EDCs was “arbitrary”. He said: “The link between exposure to a chemical and an illness has not been shown in many cases. The authors themselves say they have some trouble with causality.”

Smith said the delays to EDC regulation in the EU did not suit the industry. “Nobody is happy with the delays. But we would prefer it to be permanent and right rather than temporary and wrong.” He said case-by-case rigorous assessment was needed and that any precautionary action had to be proportional to the evidence of harm.

However, Professor Andreas Kortenkamp, a human toxicologist at Brunel University London in the UK, said the epidemiological work needed to prove causation is very difficult. For example, he said, analysing links to birth defects would mean having taken tissue samples from mothers before they gave birth. “But there is very good, strong evidence from animal and cell line test systems. The chemical industry only likes to emphasis the first part of that.” He said precaution was the only safe approach and said the Nordic report was good work.

In other words, the EU doesn't actually know these chemicals are dangerous to humans. They have some initial findings from animal studies that should be followed up on, and the chemical industry agrees with that, but heck if every mouse study translated directly to humans we'd all live a thousand years and be totally disease free by now.

So this entire dispute boils down to non-expert bureaucrats wanting to ban some chemicals early without clear evidence that they harm people, based on an abundance of caution, and the chemical industry saying "you should really prove your case first". Not entirely unexpected - EU regulators won't be the people who actually have to find alternatives and then do all the work to transition to them. They'll just issue a regulation, then go home and tell the wife/husband the story of how they fought the Big Chem to save helpless babies. The cost will get passed on the consumer. Skilled manpower and resources will be diverted from other things.

If they're right and the effects reproduce in humans - great, we got a few fewer years in which the chemicals were interfering with fertility. If they're wrong, well, the cost of that would be huge.

I don't see any clearly right or wrong side on this, which probably means the government should stay out of it. Mandate labelling at most, so consumers themselves can decide, at least until the scientific evidence of harm is stronger.

Comment: Re:Will this happen elsewhere? (Score 1) 238

by IamTheRealMike (#49767451) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

I don't recall anyone promising tax cuts during the last UK general election


Yes, the Tories won despite promising more austerity and that's the big difference between the UK and Greece. Regardless, if they thought it was affordable they would definitely not hesitate to use windfalls from taxing foreigners to buy off pensioner votes, for example. That's a very clear pattern in how governments do things.

And we spend 8% of government spending on interest not 25%.

You're right. I looked it up and it's 8%. I'm not sure why I thought it was 25%, perhaps I'm getting confused with some other country.

But the main point is, if a company wants to do business in the UK it should pay UK taxes on it's profits.

We're talking about a company that delivers things through the mail, here. What does "doing business in the UK" even mean? If Amazon were to have no offices or presence in the UK at all and just deliver everything via third party companies, would they be "doing business" there or not?

The problem with this sort of thinking is it ignores the consequences. Imagine a small company in the USA gets an order for its new widget from the UK. The company wants to sell, but ...... wait! The UK has screwed up laws. A single sale to a British person means the UK Gov will classify the company as "doing business" in the UK and suddenly all the companies profits are taxed twice. No can do, therefore, no sale.

So in practice that's not how the system works.

What about first employee in the country? Well, same problem. Google looks at the UK and says, hey, we'd like to hire people in Britain to do engineering and sales. But ..... it makes no sense, because hiring the receptionist for the new office will cost us a billion dollars in new tax, as suddenly our profits all get taxed twice.

So the scheme you outlined is not workable. It'd just mean nobody does business with the UK.

The usual variant people demand is "tax only the profits made in the UK" but this is also so vague and poorly thought out as to be unworkable. Where are profits made, exactly? This is easier to see with a company like Google or Facebook. The physical location where profits are made is unknowable because many countries contribute to the whole. For Amazon people tend to say, it's the sales to people in the UK, but then you're asking for a sales tax not a profits tax, and the EU VAT changes have now put this in place (at massive bureaucratic cost).

Comment: Re:To be more precise, Amazon will collect on taxe (Score 1) 238

by IamTheRealMike (#49765639) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

"and therefore corporate taxes are evil, and should be abolished, not raised." - if you do that then the people will have to pay more to make up the shortfall.

swillden's point is that it would be neutral. There is no shortfall, exactly. Tax reallocates resources that would have been used for other things, it's not like a mine that you actually dig gold out of.

Whilst governments might feel the need to raise personal tax rates if they no longer received corporation tax, as corporations are no longer being taxed that money will end up doing something else instead. It might lower prices, in which case paying more personal tax to government wouldn't change your standard of living. Or it might get paid out to shareholders, i.e. you or your pension fund. Or it might get re-invested into developing new products, which again would improve your standard of living to offset the fact that you have less money than before. Remember money is just a proxy, what ultimately matters is wealth not money. (or happyness)

At the moment personal taxes are high because not everyone pays their fair share of tax, that includes businesses and personal, if everyone did the right thing and paid what was owed, we'd all be taxed less.

A common misconception spread by propaganda in the press. Tax evasion rates in western societies are very low. Almost everyone already pays what they owe. The UK is not Greece - there's no blood to squeeze from that stone. The entire tax avoidance argument is that some people should owe more than the rules say they do.

Personal taxes in Anglo countries are high for a bunch of reasons, including but not limited to: extremely expensive and pointless foreign wars, increasing life expectancies that cause spiralling healthcare and pension costs as governements are loathe to adjust the retirement age, hangover from the banking bailouts, the general decline in labour force participation over time meaning more people on benefits, unaffordable tax cuts (USA), the massive interest payments on debt incurred by previous governments (UK), etc etc.

They are not high because immoral people are somehow dodging the tax man.

Comment: Re:just what we all love (Score 1) 238

by IamTheRealMike (#49765601) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Free trade is only desirable to the stronger economy/ies in the bloc

Maybe you didn't notice all the little countries with tiny economies that bent over backwards to join the EU in recent years. Obviously a whole lot of countries came to the same conclusion independently - they wanted in, because they wanted access to the single market. If you're a specialist company in Bulgaria making a particular type of ball bearing and joining the EU means you can suddenly easily sell to a market of several hundred million people, that's a win. Yes, your lone local Bulgarian customer might decide to jump ship to a Spanish supplier once it gets easier to do so, but that's offset by the sudden ease of replacing them.

I don't think you can argue with this reality - if the EU only benefited large economies, then all the smaller Balkan and eastern European countries would have simply formed their own trading blocs. But they didn't. Your position assumes they are all stupid.

Comment: Re:just what we all love (Score 1) 238

by IamTheRealMike (#49765589) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Amazon doesn't make profit in any country. But hey, would you prefer they sent the money from the UK immediately to Seattle? If the USA and EU were in a single trade bloc then they could certainly do that and cut Luxembourg out of the equation, but it wouldn't make any difference to the UK's tax take.

Comment: Re:Will this happen elsewhere? (Score 1) 238

by IamTheRealMike (#49765575) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Uh, Amazon aren't taking billions out of economies. That's not how economics works. Amazon CREATE billions by the act of doing useful things, like selling people products at prices they want and managing complicated global supply chains. That's not exploiting helpless countries, and it's insanely dangerous to start thinking that it is. We do like Amazon selling us things, right?

I'm not an economist so correct me if I'm wrong here

You don't have to be an economist to understand this stuff. Governments will always be perpetually broke because they expand to fill whatever funding is available. Very few governments actually hold savings accounts (petrostates being a rare exception) - if they get new tax revenues, they immediately spend it or waste it and then go back to being broke again.

So it doesn't matter how much money the UK or Australia raise from taxing companies. It will never make any difference. Look at the recent UK election - despite that the country is drowning in interest payments (25% of the budget!!), politicians simply could not resist promising to lower taxes and spend more money. The SNP is flat out attempting to sabotage the Tories spending cuts as their main political strategy and even the Tories kept throwing in tax drops they can't afford as part of trying to get elected.

The UK could drain Amazon, Apple and Google dry and the UK would still be utterly, utterly skint. The UK will always be skint. In the unlikely event that it stops being skint for a moment, politicians will award pensioners more free bus passes or something and then it'll be skint again.

Meanwhile, those evil corporations everyone loves to think of as their personal ATM don't roll their dollar bills into cigars and smoke them, you know. Amazon is notorious for reinvesting ALL their revenue into the business, such that they never make a profit. It's because of that sort of behaviour that we have the Kindle, we have Amazon Web Services, we have (soon) flying drones that drop parcels at our door, etc. This stuff is to some extent zero sum - the money can either be spent by Amazon on improving Amazon stuff (which mostly benefits the global population), or it can be taken by governments and spent on giveaways to Brits or Ozzies or the French or whoever. But the money can't do both things at once.

Comment: Re:Misleading headline (Score 1) 238

by IamTheRealMike (#49765527) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Why should companies like Amazon get all the benefits of our country - working roads, efficient transport systems, a stable legal system, health facilities and crime prevention while paying nothing towards it

This is a really messed up way of looking at things. Amazon doesn't get the benefits of the UK - the people living there do! Amazon is just a convenient legal handle for a large group of people around the world working towards a common goal, with collectively owned assets. So let me turn that question around - why should that group of people, many of them not living in the UK, collectively pay for British roads that they may never drive on? Surely it's up to British people to pay for that?

And incidentally, the entire point of my post was that the UK no longer has a stable legal system as far as large corporations are concerned. A stable legal system would be one in which you can read the law and then know what you can or cannot do. The UK GAAR breaks that: you really have no idea whether your companies financial arrangements might be OK today and retroactively "unreasonable" tomorrow. It depends mostly on political winds, some arbitrary judgement by an HMRC bureaucrat, how in debt the country is etc.

I and lots of people in the UK are frankly sick of your attitude. If they are making billions from selling to UK consumers, they should damn well pay their fair share of tax on it. We're not asking for taxation of other countries to be paid to us, just our fair share from these heartless global behemoths. They're not working on your behalf buddy.

Frankly, I and many other people are sick of the UK attitude too. Yes you are asking for the taxation of other countries to be paid to you. Every time a company is whacked because they chose to pay Irish taxes or Luxembourg taxes instead of British taxes, you are demand that money be spent on YOUR needs instead of the needs of the people of Ireland or Luxembourg. Hey, guess what? That's a double edged sword.

Maybe tomorrow, France will decide that companies headquartered in London are all engaged in dirty tax evasion because the British corporation taxes are by no means the highest in Europe. They will argue that there's no real reason to be in London other than to avoid French taxes. Then maybe it'll decide to just slap a nice fat 75% tax rate on those companies, I heard Hollande likes that sort of tax level. And if that leads to job losses in Britain, well, they were heartless tax avoiders who just wanted to wriggle out of paying French pensions so fuck them, right?

Or what ...... do you think companies are bottomless money pits that every country can just pump without end?

By the way, I'm British myself. And the debate over tax avoidance there makes me embarrassed for my country. The UK is marching towards authoritarianism so fast it makes my head spin. Tearing up the rulebook in frustration and beating up on whoever is unpopular is certainly not the first step down that road, but it's an important one.

Comment: Re: just what we all love (Score 1) 238

by IamTheRealMike (#49765461) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

But somehow marketing in all these different languages isn't overwhelming enough to stop them from selling their goods in these countries.

Eh, yes, it is actually. Many online services aren't universally available throughout the EU because they aren't translated into the local languages, and it wasn't so long ago that we were reading here on Slashdot about how the EU Commission is annoyed by geo-blocking of services. These rules aren't just about Amazon and Google you know. They also apply to a huge long tail of smaller companies who given a choice between "having to respond to letters from the Bulgarian government, written in Bulgarian" and "spending the time on other things" will choose the latter.

And if you're worried about efficiency, let's remember that it would be FAR more efficient to only tax corporations, than to tax EVERY SINGLE CITIZEN.

No, it really wouldn't. This whole fiasco is demonstrating that very clearly.

Taxing people makes sense. People cannot be in multiple countries at once: figuring out if someone should be a taxpayer can be as simple as adding up how many days they spent in the country. People are what use government services. Companies don't use them anywhere near as much - companies don't get sick and go to hospital, they don't drive down roads, they don't draw pensions etc. Companies get the services of the legal system, although sometimes those "services" may involve being sued by a competitor and other times they have to pay fees to use the courts anyway.

What's more, the moral justification for taxation fails when applied to companies - they suffer taxation without representation. Companies cannot vote. Heck, they get demonised even for talking to governments, so voting is entirely out of the question.

The biggest problem with taxing companies though, is figuring out how to slice the pie between different governments. Unlike people, companies can be in many places at once. So suddenly every cash-starved government feels like they're entitled to a bigger piece of pie. It turns into a crazy tug of war with the company being torn apart in the middle.

In the old days this problem didn't matter much because large scale free trade is a relatively recent thing, so previous generations of companies were mostly based in one or two places. But sometimes, especially with modern companies, there's no really good way to divide the spoils up. Where does Google make its profit? Is it in California where the search engine is developed? Is it in Ireland where the advertising contracts were signed? Is it in Germany where the datacenter handled the request, or Oregon where the data the datacenter served was generated? Is it where the customer who clicked the ad is located, or the customer who paid for it? If it's the latter, what if the customer is itself a transnational company?

These questions are enough to feed an army of lawyers and accountants for all eternity, and the end result will still seem unfair to big groups of people. Accusations of "avoidance" (whatever that means) will still fly. There is just NO WAY to do this well.

The logical conclusion to all these problems is to simply zero out corporation taxes entirely, and raise revenue from the individuals who live there. Of course this is deeply unpopular because corporation taxes feel "free" .... it's harder to understand the impact they have, whereas it's easy to understand the impact that less money in your wallet has. So I think we will continue to see a never-ending stream of asshattery and countries finger-pointing at each other over tax, especially tax of perceived foreign companies, because taxing them looks to politicians suspiciously like free money.

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.