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Comment: Re:Tax collection for hire (Score 1) 200

by williamhb (#48331929) Attached to: Amazon's Luxembourg Tax Deals

Quite the contrary. It's not a bug it's a feature. The kind of deal Amazon was able to strike with Luxembourg is an important defense against overly greedy countries (like the U.S.) which try to tax more than they should be entitled to. Note that the story says this is only about non-U.S. earning. Why should the U.S. be entitled to taxes on non-U.S. earnings?

"Amazon EU ended up paying 0.5 per cent tax." So by your reckoning a tax rate of any higher than 0.5% is unwarranted government greed? I think you misunderstood what people mean when they talk about "the 1%" - it ain't supposed to be their tax rate!

Comment: Re:What was quote about Internet and censorship? (Score 4, Insightful) 200

by williamhb (#48331913) Attached to: Amazon's Luxembourg Tax Deals

I'm sure you'd complain too if you had to pay $300,000,000 out of $1,000,000,000.

Paying 30 cents for a dollar doesn't seem like a lot... but $300,000,000 is quite a bit.

Tax rates are too high. This is why corporations evade them: so they can stay alive.

No, I think I'd be too busy sipping pina coladas on a beach somewhere to complain about much of anything if had $700 million after tax!

Comment: Re:jury (Score 5, Insightful) 200

by williamhb (#48331905) Attached to: Amazon's Luxembourg Tax Deals

They're just playing the game that's being played, they all do it. For example: Apple's Tax Strategy

No, much of their local competition in book sales etc (not being international companies with multiple subsidiaries in the EU) are not doing this. Apple etc's competitors are generally multinationals who also play these tricks. But in many cases Amazon's are not, and the effects of tax abuse are that much more problematic as they don't only affect tax revenue but also distort the market.

Comment: Re:Nonsense. Again. (Score 1) 432

by williamhb (#48267727) Attached to: Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

Except not even that will happen.

A gene is a protein. As a protein it will be broken down and digested or passed out the other end, and thus poses zero threat.
No genes enter your body when you eat something, GMO or not.

A gene encodes a protein, but there's plenty of occasions where ingestion of particular proteins has very serious consequences (and even in cases we already know about with longer periods before diagnosis is possible than GMOs are tested over before release). For example., http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm...
Secondary effects from things those proteins in turn produce are also problematic. The issue is that whereas with selective breeding we have the capacity to wreck one crop (and then, as noted in the original article with various factors making that less likely over time than GMO even in a single species), with GMO we are in a position to pollute all our food crops at once with something we later discover was harmful after all.

Comment: Re:Why at a place of learning? (Score 1) 1007

by williamhb (#48248699) Attached to: Creationism Conference at Michigan State University Stirs Unease

But the second that you try to set policy based solely on your religious beliefs, you are foisting them on other people who might have different religious beliefs (or no religious beliefs at all).

All public policy is based on a set of beliefs. Even without the words "under God" explicitly following them, "all men are created equal" is nonetheless a bold and essentially anti-empirical statement of faith and philosophy about the condition of mankind. (That person over there may be richer than me, that one stronger, and that other one may well be more talented -- but anti-empirically I happily declare that we are equal.) In this case it happens to have very protestant characteristics, eschewing empirical notions of value (e.g., meritocracy that this one might be better than that, or utilitarianism that so-and-so might be thrown under the bus for the good of the many) as well as other religious views (e.g., karma or that status is somehow earned through piety or betterment) in favour of a view that we are equal regardless of our past, position, or characteristics (a grace not works viewpoint). And yet there it is underpinning our notions of individual liberty, one-person-one-vote, freedom of speech, etc. And consequentially underpinning many of our laws and aspects of our government.

Back to the topic, though, one of the principles of universities is that discourse is unconstrained. Discussion is open and (with the exception of illegal personal abuse) people are free to express views, not just free to express views that we authorise.

Comment: Re:Nonsense. Again. (Score 1) 432

by williamhb (#48247901) Attached to: Black Swan Author: Genetically Modified Organisms Risk Global Ruin

Yes, the modern gene-splicing is much safer. Do you know that wheat lost most of its protein content due to selective breeding? Maize lost most of its fat content due to a genetic error (so its wild predecessors are much healthier).

If the same happened to a GM food then it'd be banned quicker than you can say "paracetomoxyfrusebendroneomycin".

"Excuse me sir, we've just discovered that ingestion of this particular GMO-introduced gene over a twenty year period causes a serious medical condition."

"Well, Jenkins, hop to it, ban foods containing that gene faster than you can say 'paracetomoxyfrusebendroneomycin'!"

"Right-o, sir. It's a popular and useful GMO gene, so we'll be banning the now-dominant varieties of wheat, corn, barley, maize, oats, rice, soy, lentils, tomato, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, alfalfa, spinach, kale, potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, parsnip, turnip, most varieties of squash, citrus, apples, and pears, most stonefruit, and about half the varieties of berries. I'll send out the notice right-away."

"Actually, I feel like some lunch first. Care to join me? Where would you like to head."

"Hmm, thinking about that list. There's a good field opposite. You do like grass, don't you sir?"

Comment: Re:1st post (Score 1) 266

That might actually be useful if 1. The person being searched believes it works. 2. The person doing the searching knows how to read the expressions and gestures of the person being searched.

I imagine it's useful to the policeman without either -- the suspect just has to believe they're using it (not that it's effective). In tense areas, people being searched can be very suspicious of why they were chosen to be searched -- whether they were targeted because of their ethnicity, etc. "It's just this device picked up a trace of something; it's probably nothing..." is possibly a very useful answer to the policeman, even if the device itself is garbage. Surely they'd rather the people they searched left cursing the useless device than left cursing the policeman.

Not a particularly noble reason for them to want it, though.

Comment: Re:Crazy (Score 1) 778

by williamhb (#47497227) Attached to: States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

The automation at least gives the benefit of hiring engineers, but far less engineers are hired than the large number of low wage workers who are fired.

You know, we could solve all these problems with unconditional basic income sufficient to live tolerably on.

It doesn't need [on its own] to be sufficient to live tolerably on to have a positive effect. And that's just as well because getting it in-place in one go would a political impossibility. Oddly you're more likely to get there through the right of politics than the left. The first step would need to be something like Universal Credit (replace means-tested benefits with a universal payment), only hopefully without its bugs and teething problems. The right tend to support these policies because they lower the incremental effective tax rate (after loss of means-tested benefits are taken into account) for part-time workers, giving them a stronger incentive to take on more hours. (Increasing workforce participation is a big issue for the right.) But if you extrapolate it over time (fold in more benefits, gradually increase the rate to approximately minimum wage levels), you get a situation that looks fairly attractive -- people's basic needs are heavily subsidised without question (strong enough safety net that the community sector comfortably fills any gap), reduced financial pressure means you can do work you regard as valuable rather than necessarily lucrative (e.g. being a carer becomes viable as a career while making ends meet), nonetheless there is still a strong incentive to work, and the size of the state itself can be reduced (as it is only in the business of enabling you to take services, not of providing those services itself).

The biggest threat is the leftist push to means-test everything, which reduces the incentive to work and means it'd never get over the barrier.

Comment: Re:Local testing works? (Score 1) 778

by williamhb (#47497057) Attached to: States That Raised Minimum Wage See No Slow-Down In Job Growth

Here's the test - can you decline to pay the fee, and therefore to use the service? No? It's a tax.

Can you decline to use the service? Can you decline to use the economic benefits from having interstate highways? Can you decline to benefit from having clean water and safe food?

So you're saying my lunchtime sandwiches should be paid for by taxpayers rather than a user-pays fee (me buying them)? Wowsers. Socialists in America go further than I thought!

[other poster]

Education is critically important, yes, which is exactly why we need a competitive market for it

That's not quite it. The problem with social education is that it usually means "the majority" dictating what your education must be like, and you end up with schools under bloated regulation run at a distance by a lowest-common-denominator bureaucracy (the school has little policy freedom, and often cannot even hire or fire its own staff). The majority-decreed form becomes free while anything else becomes very expensive [either through fees or the housing price of living in catchment]; and then if non-state options do better than the state ones [eg, private and church schools in England] you get social campaigns to try to ban them or bring them under state control too. Voucher systems, academies, or charter systems (the naming varies) whereby education does not compete on price but are driven by the school's community rather than by the state, and where you are free to choose your school, seem to be a neat way of bringing choice and deregulation to the state system, but are still young -- the private and state systems have had about 150 years head start on them getting developed.

Comment: Re:it is the wrong way... (Score 1) 291

by williamhb (#47481561) Attached to: Australia Repeals Carbon Tax

Not true ?

I am pretty sure I paid less tax and Wikipedia thinks I did too : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/...

What is the source of your information ?

You're wrong both times.

If you're looking for the income tax rates, go to the ATO, where you will see they are unchanged from previous years.

But in your previous post you claimed that:

As part of the carbon tax package, income tax was reduced, particularly for low income earners as a kind of compensation for the increase in cost of living caused by the carbon tax. The new government is raising those income taxes again, despite promising not to raise taxes.

In May 2013, The previous government's Climate Change minister, Greg Combet deferred those tax cuts even past 2015 when they were originally scheduled to come in. And it is those tax cuts, which had never been implemented that the current government is repealing.

Comment: Re: No real surprise (Score 1) 710

I believe in science based policy...

I don't understand why people like you are against market solutions: Simply make polluting more expensive than not polluting and the problem will go away.

You say you believe in science based policy, but then you say "simply...". Sadly, so far we have unfortunately little science on how policy impacts on carbon emission. We do know that it can on occasion create false markets for wind and solar (lots of wind and solar installed, lots of people happy to buy the carbon credits awarded for all that solar and wind and everyone cheers, except the output variability means the coal stations aren't turned down significantly and essentially just as much carbon gets pumped out of their chimneys as yesterday). We have very little idea (yet) of whether we can actually make policy genuinely reduce carbon output rather than just enabling ineffectively designed projects to skim money from the incentives.

Comment: Re:Manager (Score 1) 204

by williamhb (#47441683) Attached to: New Microsoft CEO Vows To Shake Up Corporate Culture

Microsoft pretends to reinvent itself regularly, but one thing remains constant through the decades: Their goal has unswervingly been lock-in from top to bottom

Essentially every for-profit company has the "unswerving" goal of lock-in. Google wrote Gmail to make search "stickier" (your data tunes their search responses to you, not their competitors), the Play Store is to make Android stickier (both to you and the handset makers) because you'd have to re-buy your apps and videos if you switched, and the handset makers would lose easy access to the Play store if they didn't also preinstall Gmail, Google Now, and the Google branded apps on their phones. Your printer only works with cartridges from its manufacturer. iTunes and Apple's unique connector make using their devices stickier (as you'd need to re-purchase everything from your iPod alarm clock to your song library to easily move to a competitor). GitHub uses their own pull request mechanism, rather than the mechanism Linus Torvalds built into git, making it easier to work with other GitHub repos rather than git repos on any competing site (lock in the forks, and make the GitHub network stickier).

It is a simple fact of life that every company you do business with tries to come up with a way to defend their customer-base against competitors (or gets crushed by someone with deeper pockets outspending them until they've taken over the market as soon as they start to be successful).

Comment: Re:CAGW is a trojan horse (Score 2) 725

by williamhb (#47396525) Attached to: When Beliefs and Facts Collide

They aren't "fudging" numbers. This is climate data, it's HARD to deal with. You're talking about millions, even billions of measurements over periods of centuries. There are more moving parts to this data than you can possible conceive of.

Indeed, and this is a problem when science tangles up with politics. Here we ware saying it's hard to deal with and requires quite a lot of corrections and processing, while the left of politics runs a coercive campaign that you should be called a pariah if you are not convinced by our data and therefore their policies. In science, our credibility is dragged under far more by agreeing politicians trying to co-opt us than by political opponents disagreeing with us. (Disagreement is part of the process; but being dragged into a sharp tongued campaign about why you must vote for higher taxes on big business or otherwise you're a horrible person is not a part of science, and makes us look like a bunch of corrupt fudgers trying to raise our grant funding by cosying up to the left). To a great deal of the public, environmental movement is not the rebel alliance, but Moff Tarkin trying to tighten his grip.

And companies that make profits off of fossil fuels have armies of people scouring their data for the tiniest errors. Surprise surprise they find some on occasion.

This is essentially irrelevant. I work in a less controversial discipline, but if someone finds a flaw in one of my papers, "but you were paid by someone to look for it" would not remove the flaw or change how I should address it. Fossil fuel companies are paying people to scour science for errors -- excellent, good on them, it will help us improve the quality of our publications. So far as the public discussion is concerned, however, it is not the fossil fuel companies whose reputations are in questioned (everyone already thinks Big Oil is a bunch of rotters) so pointing accusing fingers at them does us much more harm than good.

when they can explain historical data that contradicts the theory...

It doesn't. It's dead on.

That's a rhetorical dodge. The models are based on historical data, and are a moving target, so just stating that the historical data concurs with our latest models is hardly surprising. The question, which is not answered so simplistically, is whether our computer models are overfitted or properly predictive. (Hopefully the latter, but we seem never to make that clear in these sorts of discussions.)

As it is, he fudging is so blatant that "climate science" is nothing of the sort...it's a Trojan horse for the same lod tired leftist government takeoff of economies. That trick never works.

Plenty of scientists are republicans or even further right. Yet, less than 10 (that's ten0 out of hundreds of thousands, disagree with the simple finding that humans are altering the average global temperature of the planet.

You're misreporting that rather badly. A small proportion of climate scientists disagree, but plenty of other scientists do. Vastly more than 10 (no I'm not going to "out" my colleagues, but yes I do personally know plenty). It's very important not to misrepresent the views of the field as being the views of everyone in every other field too. Otherwise it seems like we're dishonestly trying to gloss over the selection factor (if you've taken up a career in that part of science over any other, you probably think it's important).

Either all the wind turbine makers and solar panel manufacturers have a hell of a lot more money than we thought and are using it to bribe the scientific community on a scale unprecedented in human history, or we really do have a problem.

The problem we have, particularly as scientists, is that the political left has tried to co-opt us. Academics are naturally a little left-leaning (more of the free marketeers among us go into industry labs than universities), so too many of us have let them get away with this. The right of politics is centred on individual freedom from the state; the left is centred on collective action and solidarity (more publicly funded services and redistribution). The left is politically dependent on applying social pressure that you as an individual ought to be a part of collective action. "For the sake of the planet" is an emotive and strong argument from that angle, so the left side of politics has taken it up, all guns blazing. "For the sake of the planet" we must raise taxes on the industries we collectively disagree with and subsidise those we approve of. "For the sake of the planet" individual transportation (cars) must be economically discouraged and collective transportation (public transportation) subsidies must increase. "For the sake of the planet" the state (collective action) must spend more to employ people in science and environmental management, while private investment (for-profit corporate labs and private land ownership) must be distrusted and discouraged... We have become the tool of choice for the left to argue for greater control of the economy by the state. And it has been at the cost of science's credibility as an apolitical endeavour.

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan

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