Monday, 5 September 2016

Entertainment stuff from the week 29/8 - 4/9/16

Hi pomme de terre de ciel de la portes,

It's week two of Applegate in the Big Brother house. The EU and the USA's Treasury are still squabbling, and Tim Cook's sent himself to the Diary Roooom.

Last week i mentioned that, the EU having launched a bid to get multinational companies to pay the tax they owe, the Treasury of the USA had had a little whine at the EU, because the USA's tax law says that USAian individuals have to pay USA-based multinationals' tax bills for them.

And, of course, tax collectors like the Treasury, act on the behalf of non-tax-paying corporations, not the actual tax-paying individuals, without whom they couldn't function. Because, reasons.

Well, the EU instantly repudiated the USA Treasury's claim that fair tax law is unfair, as if USAian companies are some of the biggest offenders, by stating that they're not biased against USAian companies - the USA's companies just happen to be the biggest offenders when it comes to tax-dodging.

This week, the whinges have been knocked up a notch in volume, and Apple & Co have been plugging in the surround sound audio system, so that everyone gets to hear it. They've deliberately sought the limelight, in the hopes of perpetuating their habitauated crime of dodging tax.

Apple is currently, and has been for the last four years, the most expensive company in the world. It's valued at $725 billion - that's twice as much as both Google and Exxon Mobil! Partly because of this, its tax affairs have been subject to particular scrutiny. How is such a huge, and profitable company, permitted to pay basement rates of tax? It's not like it needs the money. At the end of June , Apple reported holding $231.5 billion in cash, cash equivalents and marketable securities. The company held $214.9 billion of that amount in foreign subsidiaries.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has been hasty to claim that Apple has not been engaging in any dodgy tax activities, and that Apple actually pays a lot of tax. Well, Tim Cook, if i had a company worth $725 billion, i would expect to pay a lot of tax - a lot more than Apple does, because the amount of tax it pays is disproportionate to its size.

Cook's even claimed that if Apple's forced to pay tax, then 'job creation' will be negatively affected. But Tim, when big companies are got rid of, they're replaced with many smaller companies, who employ more staff. As i've said before, big companies are not the major employers - the myriad small companies are. Apple stores replace many smaller electricals dealers.

And frankly, if you're going to reiterate the nationalists' bollocks about 'sovereignty' then you can go shove your head up your arse (oh, you already have) because a pretty huge threat to the futures of local people, is a massive three-quarters-of-a-trillion dollar company that dominates international markets, and deliberately makes products that are incompatible with other manufacturers' products, soaking them dry by charging sky-high amounts for those products, and refusing to redistribute the wealth by paying even modest amounts of tax!!

Organisations like the Tax Justice Network have been investigating and documenting the dodgy tax affairs of multinational companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, and others on the tax hotlist, who use money laundering, and an abuse of the 'arms length principle' to avoid both the paying of tax, and the prosecution for tax evasion that should go with it, for years.

'‘Cash machine’ Apple creates poor societies'

{As the whole thing stems from problems with tax law itself, this is not peculiar to Apple, but they've taken centre stage on this, by their own volition, so they're going to get most of the grilling. But two years ago, popular gamer/youtuber Nerd³ paid more tax, on his own, than the entirety of Facebook in the UK! He was not the only individual on YouTube to achieve this tiny feat}

The thing about the USA's Treasury jumping in, and defending companies like the USA's egregious corporations, is both that it's selfish, and that it's performed through misplaced protectionism. Apple is not a USAian company. It's a multinational. Apple's products are not made in the USA. And its taxes are not paid there either. Apple is as American as British cars are British. And as British as Vodafone is.

Vodafone, by the way, has been in hot water for steadfastly refusing to pay more than £16 billion worth of tax. And the sloppiness of tax law in and outside the UK has meant that that quantity will probably never be collected. Like that Italian branch that paid-off the Italian treasury to get out of paying an extra €562 million that they owed. What was the name of that company? Oh yeah - Apple.

But how do they get out of paying tax? It's not just about deferring until the tax-collectors give in. Although it is partly about that. It's also about making tax collection incredibly difficult, so that people who might or might not be called Dave Hartnett decide that it's just easier not to bother doing their job.

Part of this ridiculous con job is to push the money from 'tax area' to 'tax area' so that the tax collectors of each area can't keep track of it, and just give up. This is why companies like Vodafone have completely empty offices in Luxembourg, or wherever they've chosen, that they visit one afternoon per year. I'm not making this up. By renting a room in a tax haven like Luxembourg (or Ireland, or wherever) they can pretend that Luxembourg is where their entire company is.

And this is where the problem of contradiction between 'American company' and 'multinational' comes in. Apple says it's an American company, to USAians, and to the USAian media companies, implicitly claiming that offshoring jobs is therefore OK, because it's basically still American, while telling the taxman that Apple is actually an Irish company, and so they have to pay tax in Ireland.

"Will you help a poor Irish company out, US Treasury? We really need the money. It's all potatoes and conies and stews out here. Help, it's awful. And Guinness. God, what is this stuff? Don't they have any All-American beer, like Budweiser? Oh, they do. I hope Bud's claiming rebates too"

According to the EU, Apple currently owes €13 billion ($14.5 billion) even on Ireland's low tax rate, because it had been pushing money around the 28 States of the EU in order to prevent any of the tax collectors in those areas from realising that Apple owed them money. And that figure should have interest on it, too.

That's 11 years' worth of tax, unpaid. This is what's so problematic with the 'arms length principle'. It's essentially legislated myopia. Tax collectors don't look beyond their national borders, because that means collaborating with the tax collectors of other countries (tax areas) and that means lots of extra work.

'Ghost HQ and Double Irish: Apple's tax deals'

This is how the EU has caught Apple! It's only because the EU is an international organisation that it can spot this abuse of tax law. Multiple EU States have been persuaded by powerful multinational companies; Amazon,  McDonald's, Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler included, to charge them minuscule tax rates, so that those companies can plunder their economies more cheaply.

Eire's tax collectors took just 1% of Apple's Ireland-registered money in 2003, but this already-tiny proportion had fallen to 0.005% by 2014. Ireland has got poorer and poorer since the recession of ~2008, so it's not like having Apple around is proving to be much of a boon. And yet Eire's government has announced that they don't want Apple's money! They're paranoid that Apple will leave. And why not? Multinationals moving in has bought out huge swathes of their economy. Non-Irish companies now employ 1 in 10 employed people in Eire.

In stark contrast, the industrialised tax evasion of multinationals like Apple, has benefitted them (the companies) on the order of tens of billions of dollars per year.

But it isn't only the multinationals that are to blame. Eire's government is relatively weak, but pollies in more powerful countries, that have the power to change the system for the better, have deliberately foregone such actions. In fact, they've condoned the tax-evading practice.

'Tax, Lies and Videotape: Private Eye’s report on corruption in Accountancy, from issue 1349'

Treasuries, tax collectors, governments, and accountancies, are colluding to perpetuate this problem, and have been for multiple decades. The bigger accountancies, usually UK-based (PwC, KPMG, etc) and some others (Baker Tilly, Blick Rothenberg, for example) are employed by the multinationals to fabricate a framework of tax regulations that are impenetrable only to themselves. This way, they can take five-figure sums from the multinationals, so that the multinationals can save six and seven-figure sums.

This tactic appeals to the pollies, too, because it means they appear to be doing something, and have contributed to a problem that the public couldn't possibly understand, and because it means that the high-up officials have companies they can retire to for years of devoted service... devoted service to the companies they retire to. The officials who are their juniors have to get used to this way of working, because if they whistleblow they lose their careers. The only way is up for them, as long as they kowtow.

No wonder Jack Lew, head of the US Treasury since 2013, has condemned the EU, accusing them of being "retroactive", while merely suggesting that "you (CEOs) need to be more careful when you think about only maximizing tax advantage... I have been very clear on issues like inversion, that it's legal but it's wrong". Remember that it's his job to collect tax from these companies, not from the EU. Why's he being more stern toward the EU than the companies that refuse to pay him the tax they owe?

Lew took $840,339 per year, and thousands in recinded mortgage payments for working at New York University, while claiming to support workers' union rights, having retired there from Bill Clinton's administration. And he left New York University to go to Citibank, in 2006, where he ran a hedge fund, profiting from the collapse of the housing market, and investing through various international branches of the bank. One investment in particular was Ugland House, which is a singular building in the Cayman Islands, where various multinational companies that want to chum up to the US Treasury, claim to base their operations. How many? More than 18,000. In one building.

Oh yeah, and he's with Cook, with the nationalist faux-solidarity: "The largest actions do appear to be aimed squarely at our tax base" ... it's "an attempt to reach in to the U.S. tax base to tax income that ought to be taxed by the United States". I presume you mean "ought to not be taxed by the United States", Jack. Apple doesn't pay tax to the USA. That's part of their deal with you. That's why 215 out of its 232 billion dollars in assets are designated as being outside the USA.

Not to be outdone in the quotes department, Tim Cook's heights of intellectual perspicacity have been "It's total political crap" which apparently passes for a witticism where he comes from. Add to that: "It's maddening; it's disappointing; it comes from a political place — it has no basis in fact or law". But then, it's your accounts journal, so what are you gonna do? :-P

Apple is one of many USA-orbiting companies to contribute to the multiple trillions of US dollars held offshore, supposedly 'waiting' to be 'repatriated' when the USA's corporation tax rate goes down. Imagine if you said you weren't going to pay income tax, this year, because you were waiting for another year when the tax rate were lower! You would be arrested for tax evasion, no doubt. So how are multinational companies allowed to get away with it? Corruption. The excuse is that the money is intended for 'investment' and 'job creation' but in the past, decreases in tax rate have only presented evidence of benefits to shareholders and investors.

{Note: some mad people insist that the term 'incorporated' should be taken literally and that companies should be treated like people. So, doesn't that mean they should be paying income tax? No? I wonder why - it might be because income tax is much higher than corporation tax}

{Second note: if there really is evidence that low tax rates lead to higher 'investment' and 'job creation' then that evidence should be abundant. Research is cheap, and the multinationals who claim it should easily be able to afford it. The only conclusion, given that the evidence is not forthcoming, despite how easy it should be to find, is that the corps are bullshitting us}

So what's the solution to all of this? The answer is here: scrap the current method of tax allocation (by vacuous location 'registration') and abolish the arms length principle. Location of activity is what is real, and what matters. The technology to do this exists, and can be done now. The only problem, is that it means powerful tax-evaders like Apple will find it a lot, lot harder to dodge their tax bills.

'Taxcast Extra: What is Unitary Tax?'


The 5th of September marks the 70th anniversary of Freddie Mercury's birth. Perhaps to commemorate this, a blue plaque has recently been put on his former home, in []. Of course, Brian May did a little speech at the unveiling.

'Freddie Mercury - Remembered With A Blue Plaque'

And if you're in time, here's the link to the live 70th birthday gig, raising funds for the Mercury Phoenix trust: 'The Queen Extravaganza Live at Freddie Mercury's 70th Birthday Party in Montreux'

The 6th of September marks the 350th anniversary of the end of the Great Fire Of London, in which more than thirteen thousand of the buildings of London were razed to the ground. A newish website has been made for those who wish to explore the event, linked here.

In other news:

An international team of biologists has discovered that two regions in the genome of the Tasmanian devil are changing in response to the rapid spread of devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), which is a nearly-100% fatal cancer first detected in 1996, that is caused by a pathogen transmitted in the Devils' saliva. This means they spread it as part of their fighting displays. Five of seven genes in the two regions were related to cancer or immune function in other mammals, suggesting that Tasmanian devils are indeed evolving resistance to DFTD. By picking out specific genes, researchers can find out how to accelerate the Devils' evolution, and hopefully save them from extinction.

A member of the Norwegian Environment Agency is claiming that 323 caribou have been killed by a lightning strike. They do tend to huddle very closely together, so a lightning strike could have hurt them all simultaneously, but i'm still doubtful. A cause like lightning is probably high on the suspect list, considering the environmental conditions, and the spacing and physical appearance of the victims. Details of internal burns would provide confirmatory evidence, in the case of a lightning strike.

Sticking with the electrical theme, the ampere - the SI unit of current strength - is due a revamp. Past definitions have been difficult to validate in practice, or entirely hypothetical. Under the name 'abampere' the original definition was "the amount of current that generates a force of two dynes per centimetre of length between two wires one centimetre apart"; the 'international ampere' was later declared to be "the current that would deposit 0.001118 grams of silver per second from a silver nitrate solution" but this was later found to be 0.99985 A, not 1 A. Since 70 years ago, the theoretical definition has been: "that constant current which, if maintained in two straight parallel conductors of infinite length, of negligible circular cross-section, and placed 1 meter apart in vacuum, would produce between these conductors a force equal to 2 x 10–7 newton per meter of length". But the amp is due a revamp, and by 2018 it should be adequately defined, with a good degree of (un)certainty, by the flow of charge carriers, instead of by the force between two adjacent wires. This certainly makes much more sense to me. You can use the equation for drift velocity to see that this nicely interprets the meaning of current. If this is approved, the new definition of an ampere will be: "one ampere is approximately equivalent to 6.2415093*10^18 elementary charges moving past a boundary in one second".

An individual has been given 4 years 4 months in prison, for releasing private emails, medical data and financial information. The same acts committed by a company receive no penalty at all, except the occasional three month suspension, and no criminal record.

Do you remember the wet-fish of a climate deal that was first signed in December, last year? The Paris Climate Agreement. Well, the USA and China have finally officially signed it. So that's a thing.

Diversification and homogenization - that's what we've seen with big companies operating on the internet. YouTube does chat (Google+) Facebook does photos and videos, Instagram does lunch and videos, and Twitter does photos and now videos. They've developed a function for users to upload them, and most importantly, choose whether to monetize them or not! Because what everyone wants on Twitter right now, is yet more advertising making you think "I didn't know Sarah shopped at Tesco. Oh, oh right. It's an ad". But by diversifying into all the areas that the other companies do, they're homogenizing the internet market, and [coughs cynically] diluting their brand. Who knows, in two years' time we might not even think of Twitter as being a tweet-site at all. The idea of a 140-character limit will be as old-hat as Myspace.

The University of Washington and The Nature Conservancy have come together to create an animated map of the directions of migration that species are likely to take, as climatic change in the anthropocene (the current geological era) advances. The map is based on observations of, and extrapolations from, the migrations of nearly 3,000 species assayed in a study. Some of the routes are unsurprising, as species are expected to move away from drying regions, to more bearable environments; but some are less intuitive. Perhaps they will prove to be wrong, or maybe the data reflects judgments on the species' parts, that are difficult to recreate in our ignorant heuristics. The map is currently only available for the North and South American continents, and can be seen here.

It's a new galactic record. Galaxy cluster CL J1001+0220 lies 11.1 billion light years from Earth - the farthest any galaxy has ever been seen, to date. The observation of the eleven-galaxy cluster pushes back the start date of such structures' formation in the universe, by another 700 million years.

A lot closer to home, ESA has release before-and-after images of a solar array on one of their satellites - Copernicus Sentinel-1A. The images show the hole left in the array by the impact of a millimetre-scale particle. Using onboard cameras, engineers have determined that the damage zone is about 40 centimetres in diameter, but ESA has stated that less than 5% of power has been lost due to the impact. Such damage is expected of a body orbiting above the atmosphere, as dusty particulates are constantly flying through intra-stellar space, as well as debris left as a result of damage to orbiting equipment. ESA's debris office head estimated that the observed impact had a 1:35 and 1:130 chance of happening during the satellite's projected 5-year lifetime. The ~1 gram particle could have been travelling at ~40,000 kilometers an hour when it hit. This website maps all of the known objects that orbit Earth, including many of the known fragments of debris. It's worth a look.

------------------------------------------------------ of the weeks

Word Of The Week: inextricable -- incapable of being extricated, disentangled, undone, loosed, solved, or removed from, something; describing a problem that is beyond solution, hopelessly intricate

Quote Of The Week: “The depressing thing about tennis, is that no matter how good i get, i’ll never be as good as a wall” – Mitch Hedberg

Fact Of The Week: There should be no such thing as Women's Kayaking in sporting events, because the word 'kayak' is Western Canadian Inuktitut for 'man's boat'. Therefore, the ladies' event should have a different name

------------------------------------------------------ contemporary stuff

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'The Quack Miranda and Weasel Words'

'Electrified Pickle - Periodic Table of Videos'

'Micropatterns with Sasha! | Lab Next Door'

'Light Matches with Acid'

'Image: Land shifts in Italy'

'Image: Sentinel-2A captures Upsala Glacier'

''Ring of fire' eclipse for African stargazers'

'Juno Makes 1st Flyby of Jupiter; OSIRIS-REx Still On After SpaceX Explosion | SFN #176'

'NASA's Juno successfully completes Jupiter flyby'

'Jupiter's north pole unlike anything encountered in solar system'

'SDO witnesses a double eclipse (w/ video)'

'Gamma-rays and Comet Dust'

'Perseid Night at Yosemite'

'Perseid Fireball at Sunset Crater'

'Five Planets and the Moon over Australia'

'Gigantic Jet Lightning over China'

'Curiosity at Murray Buttes on Mars'
Beware: squished from 27MB in size :-D

'Complete Package: Graphic Design | The Checkout'

'The Adventures of Dad³ - British Jackass'

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