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Comment: Re:Misleading headline (Score 1) 125

by IamTheRealMike (#49762811) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Actually, I think this move has got nothing do with the UK specifically. It's to do with the EU VAT changes that make Luxembourg no longer advantageous to sell from. Those changes came at grievous cost to small businesses but the EU doesn't seem to care.

Anyway. This whole thing is bad news. The UK is currently trying to throw the idea of tax law in the bin by passing stuff like the "General Anti Avoidance Rule", which literally says anything the government doesn't like is illegal (retroactively), i.e. it's not a law at all, but rather a return to the time of kings. The "diverted profits tax" amounts to the same thing - if the government sees something it wants, it'll take it, and there's nothing resembling normal legal processes to stop them e.g. no requirement to specify exactly what they will take and when.

In effect the UK is enacting an equivalent of America's civil asset forfeiture schemes, but for business rather than individuals, and with the justification of balancing budgets rather than the war on drugs. But they amount to the same thing - the law says they can seize money whenever they like, without needing any meaningful justification. And if you don't like it you can appeal to the same people who took the money in the first place.

It took decades of civil asset forfeiture abuse before it became bad enough to trigger real investigations/reforms in America, and the damage inflicted on civil society has been huge. When the laws were passed in the 1980's it's safe to say that the authors didn't really think through what would happen over the long term, even though the outcome was rather predictable.

I think what the Tories are doing will be the same - if these new taxes aren't struck down by the courts then in the long run they will inflict lasting and serious damage. It'll be hard to see at first because the new powers will only be used against very high profile and controversial cases, and then as governments constantly find they're out of cash, they'll go on tax raids ever more frequently with ever more dubious justifications as to why it's OK. And the impact will be that some businesses leave, others simply don't establish bases in the UK at all, and some businesses that would have been good are just never created in the first place.

Comment: Re:just what we all love (Score 1) 125

by IamTheRealMike (#49762787) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

But if you think about it, at the moment transnational businesses have an unfair tax advantage over national ones

Yes, they do. It's called free trade and is generally seen as very desirable, as it reduces paperwork and leads to countries competing to be better places to do business than their neighbours. That's why countries are always trying to sign free trade deals with each other - freer trade means more trade, and in the long run that leads to people being better off.

The problem the UK has is entirely and completely that it has become uncompetitive as a place to do business within in the EU. It's being outcompeted by places like Ireland and Luxembourg - hardly third world backwaters. The UK could regain all those businesses that set up shop in other countries and reap the benefits of the jobs and the income taxes those jobs create, but is unwilling to do so. The Irish people, in contrast, clearly signalled even during the depths of their (bank induced) economic crisis that low corporation taxes were popular and not to be meddled with. They're committed to being one of the best places to set up shop in the EU.

So where do things go from here? Amazon is moving and is now establishing local subsidiaries in places like the UK because the EU has rolled back key parts of the single market via the online VAT changes. If you're incredibly short sighted this might look superficially like a win, because it's eliminated the competitive advantages some EU member states had. If you look a bit closer you discover that to get Luxembourg's assent to this required effectively paying them for the lost tax income over a period of many years, so there's no net savings for a long time, it's pure smoke and mirrors. Worst of all, whilst Amazon can afford the miniature army of lawyers and accountants needed to handle the VAT fiasco, smaller companies generally can't. That was the whole point of the EU in the first place - to eliminate that sort of red tape. So everyone in Europe will suffer in the coming years from lack of services that would otherwise have existed, but don't, because the companies that could have provided them decided not to enter your local market due to compliance costs.

The most insidious effect of all this crap is that it will gravely worsen the problem that the EU tech industry is far behind Silicon Valley. Politicians love to bitch and moan about how dominated Europe is by American internet companies. One big reason is that if you start a company in America you immediately have access to a huge and linguistically unified single market. You can base yourself in California or Seattle and sell to the whole of the USA. Fixing the language issue is hard, but lots of people speak good English these days so it's going away of its own accord. Fixing the single market should have been a lot easier ..... and they were making progress, except that the moment some politicians felt they were missing out on tax revenue they rolled it all back. Perversely it's now easier for a European company to sell things online to the USA than it is to sell online to Europe!

Comment: Re:just what we all love (Score 1) 125

by IamTheRealMike (#49762749) Attached to: Amazon Decides To Start Paying Tax In the UK

Uhhhh - yes, there is something immoral about tax avoidance. Virtually all of the schemes used to avoid taxes were lobbied for by corporations

Bullshit.

The "loophole" that Amazon has been using is nothing more than the EU single market, in all its glory, exactly as it was intended to be used. The single market was created specifically so companies could set up a headquarters in the EU once, and then sell to the entire trade region without having to register or pay taxes in every single country. This wasn't some clever loophole or corporate scheme, it was constructed, very deliberately and specifically, by politicians that wanted to bring Europe together to avoid another re-run of the World Wars.

When the EU and its predecessors were being set up, governments were all super keen to establish this sort of single market because they saw it as a way to allow their own home-grown champion companies to expand, by selling to people elsewhere on the continent. Paying tax in a single country is fundamental to having a single market, otherwise the paperwork involved with understanding and filling out dozens of tax returns in langauges you don't speak would just be overwhelming. At the time, presumably those politicians didn't care that this meant one day there would be non home-grown companies selling to their people - creating big new companies takes decades and sure enough this "scandal" has only appeared long after the EU was set up and a new generation of companies started moving in.

Regardless, the idea that these companies are grubby scheming tax evaders is pure, unadulterated propaganda. They're doing exactly what they were intended to do - set up a single HQ and sell to everyone from it. The idea that what was once desirable is now immoral is being pushed by the UK media and government to try and distract people from the core fact that there are going to be way, way more cuts and they will be way deeper than anything that's happened up until now. That's not Amazon's fault - the amounts involved are trivial. The fault rests solely on the British people and their leaders.

Comment: Re:This isn't a question (Score 1) 426

by ultranova (#49762521) Attached to: Ireland Votes Yes To Same-Sex Marriage

Because it is one of the very few institutions found in all human cultures. Any legal system that doesn't deal with marriage in some fashion is profoundly deficient.

That's just not true. Until fairly recently in human history, marriage was largely a religious and private issue.

Until fairly recently in human history, religion was the law, and no issue could be both religious and private.

Comment: Re:Republican Hypocrits (Score 2) 90

It's absolutely disgusting. A total affront to the democratic process. People that pull this should be tried as traitors to their country.

Capitalism has no country, kin nor master. It has only slaves, some pampered and some abused. It has redefined the perceived reality of the entire world in terms of profits and ownership. That has been enough to rule the last quarter millenia and triumph over the old order as well as attempts at rebellion. It is, as the term has been understood for most of human history, a god, and the chief one of the modern world. Any ancient Greek would instantly recognize economic forecasts as exactly similar to the ramblings of the Oracle of Delphi, though less accurate, banks and stock exchanges as the temples they really are, the Cold War as religious warfare between two competing pantheons, and so on.

So no, people like Harper are not traitors. They're simply possessed. They do not deserve to be punished; they should be simply removed from power, both for their countries sake and their own. It's the constant cultlike repetition of their idol's message that leaves them unable to see any option or outcome besides the ones compatible with that message. But of course the average voter is bombarded by that same message as well, which is why they elect people like Harper in the first place.

All that said, Capitalism precedes Industrial Revolution and in fact started it. It is the reason for the relative abundance of modern world, even if the price of getting here was terrible. But it's becoming clear it can't handle that very abundance. Some work themselves to death while armies of unemployed fall to destitution, leading to the enfeebling of the very markets Capitalism depends on. Euro and the apparently endless sacrifices it demands from people threaten to rip apart the EU and thus start again the cycle of European wars. China seems hellbent on developing their very own branch of authoritarian Capitalism while Russia is turning towards a cult of personality to distract its people from its miserable performance. US is quickly degenerating into a third world country, caught between increasingly militant fundamentalist factions of various bents. All in all, it seems like the system is in dire need of a major upgrade.

So what next? Does situation continue to detoriate until people lose faith, thus rendering Capitalism unable to function as a model for organizing the society, like what happened to Communism? Even if something emerged to replace it, we would lose its admittedly impressive benefits, the material abundance and ability to quickly and efficiently put scientific and technological innovations into use. Could it be upgraded, to keep the benefits while mitigating the problems? Mybe, but the very power it wields over its worshippers makes that extremely difficult; the last time required two depressions, two world wars, a wave of Communist revolutions and finally Hitler and the Nazis to force the issue, and even then fundamentalists set to reverting the changes as soon as possible.

We live in the treshold of two ages. Some people get disillusioned, others become ever more rigidly orthodoxic in their beliefs. Cracks in the foundations of Capitalism could be mended with new ideas, or they could grow until people can see through them and the whole structure falls down. We could reach a new Golden Age or another Ragnarok. Perhaps it's time we stop leaving such matters to chance and extend our control from our physical environment to our cultural one, from the realm of matter to the realm of gods.

Comment: Re: *shrug* (Score 1) 351

by rickb928 (#49759457) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

My first NetWare service call was to upgrade a DCB from 2x40mb drives to 2x80mb drives. That very server went to 4x2gb internal drives and from thinnet to gigabit Ethernet over the years before they finally tried it. 2.15c was a robust OS. Linking nic drivers was a chore. Mapping drive parameters to fit the limits of the OS took me a whole morning once, they would load and then fail creating volumes.

Fun times.

Comment: Re:"WSJ stunt to maximize anti-Clinton engagement" (Score 1) 224

by ultranova (#49759431) Attached to: WSJ Crowdsources Investigation of Hillary Clinton Emails

Why does anyone trust them?

No reason, but also no need - they're simply publishing documents.

This stunt should not be a surprise.

This "stunt" is what the press is supposed to be doing. Judge actions by themselves, not by whether you happen to like whoever's doing them.

Comment: Re: Not the Issue (Score 1) 150

by rickb928 (#49759411) Attached to: 'Prisonized' Neighborhoods Make Recidivism More Likely

Amen. I rent apartments and regularly rent to men who are non-violent felons. They can't find rents in complexes where credit checks and references are expected.

I have had no troubles, save for one out of 12 over 9 years.

Many were found guilty of some form of violating a restraining order, repeat offenders, and in some states that gets you a felony.

They have a hard time finding work, but seem to keep jobs and pay their bills. For these at least, this is better than prison.

Comment: Re: *shrug* (Score 1) 351

by rickb928 (#49758593) Attached to: 25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

The company was called Novell. They certainly proved the network business was real enough for Microsoft and others to fight for it. I made a living installing NetWare 2.15 servers in banks using token-ring with Windows 3.x or DOS and WordPerfect. When NetWare 3 came out we could route to Ethernet and leave the token network with the IBM hardware these banks were stuck with.

But I first used Windows at v1. something to play Balance of Power. Terrible, but I always wanted Windows after that.

+ - Researchers devise a system that looks secure (but is it easy to use?).->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: The article in readwrite says that a team of British and American researchers have developed a hacker resistant process for online voting (http://www.cs.bham.ac.uk/~mdr/research/papers/pdf/15-Du-Vote.pdf) called Du-Vote. It uses a credit card sized device that helps to divide the security sensitive tasks between your computer and the device in a way that neither your computer nor the device learns how you voted. If a hacker managed to control the computer and the Du-Vote token, he still can't change the votes without being detected.
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:Publicly Funded Research (Score 1) 36

by ultranova (#49757503) Attached to: New Class of "Non-Joulian" Magnets Change Volume In Magnetic Field

What I don't get is why I, as one of the millions of taxpayers that funded this research, don't have free access to the paper.

Costs are public, profits are private.

That's a compromise reached after raw capitalism's "costs are someone else's problem" resulted in near-collapse of the entire system. The problem is, it's impossible to calculate the ultimate costs of any action (install automation? That causes layoffs, which causes poverty, which causes crime, which caused the hit-and-run that killed your cousin) so we maintain a public fund - state budget - which pays for them, and which everyone is forced to pay to according to their ability, which we call taxes.

This system has obvious problems with incentivizing destructive behaviour. It's also opposed by many people who apparently think communism and fascism can't happen again, should enough people fare badly enough for long enough. We're currently seeing a crisis caused by these twin factors: financial geniuses had little reason to care if their actions destabilized the entire world economy, and austerity hawks concentrate on cutting support for the poorest, which is screwing over both those poor and everyone who sells consumer goods. Time will tell if what emerges on the other side is still some form of capitalism, or if all the accumulating changes have finally reached the point of phase transition, similar to what caused capitalism to emerge from feudalism in the first place.

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