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Guest Post - Tax Havens

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.04.19

Mossy Character writes: Gold!

in 11 cases, the per-kilo value that the UAE declared importing is significantly higher than that recorded by the exporting country. [...] Trading in gold accounts for nearly one-fifth of UAE's GDP. [...] Reuters contacted 23 mining companies with African operations, the smallest of which produced around 2.5 tonnes in 2018: 21 of them said they did not send metal to Dubai for refining, the other two did not respond. While the big South African miners have local refining capacity, the main reason others gave is that no UAE refineries are accredited by the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), the standard-setter for the industry in Western markets. The LBMA is "not comfortable dealing with the region" because of concerns about weaknesses in customs, cash transactions and hand-carried gold...

Heebie's take: I blame Glenn Beck, probably!


 

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Glass ceilings

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.03.19

Fairly back-to-back, I read two things about high-achieving career women who discovered they were hitting the kind of glass ceiling they thought had been broken long ago. First, the state of sexism at the Salk Institute in California is pretty damning. Second, a blogger I like linked to about five specific comments in this Corporette thread, and also writes about her own experience as a young lawyer in a big firm, and her growing recognition (since 2015) that she was being structurally denied opportunities.

I truly have not personally experienced this kind of thing, largely because I've been so unambitious. (There's a glass ceiling but I'm still lounging on the floor.) But the election of Trump did drive home and keep present for me how aggressively many people dislike women who would acquire power as they age.


 

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Old people, liberalism, and climate change

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.02.19

Nworbie writes: The impact of old people on climate change is generally thought malign. Although there are some striking counterxamples among the XR arrestees, most of their generation is blamed for burning up the planet which their grandchildren must inherit. But this is not, we hope, the last generation of old people. Their grandchildren must in turn grow old, if things go right. Who will look after them then?

Obviously the worst case scenarios, and most of the worse cases, make the question uninteresting. In those cases, there won't be enough old people to constitute an urgent problem. But let's assume instead a fairly successful adjustment to a carbon-neutral world. Medicine survives; antibiotics still work; lots of people still live a long time..

So who is going to look after all these future olds, and why?

This isn't a question to which history in the medium term offers any answer. Feminist liberalism as it developed in the West over the twentieth century involved a general emancipation of women from unpaid work within the home. The work still needed doing, of course, but it was now accomplished partly by machines, and partly by other women who were paid cash or the equivalent for their services. Most of the work that had to be paid for, rather than mechanised away, was child care.

This process was to some extent only an extension to the middle classes, and later the working classes, of the liberty once enjoyed only by the aristocracy. It wasn't quite the same liberty, though. There is a difference between family servants and day care staff. The servants are much more dependent on their masters, and live in a much more intimate relationship with their charges than teachers, day nurses, and other paid professionals. So, although it is not generally a better deal for the servants it is a much better deal for the children lucky enough to have them.

I think this difference is even more marked at the other end of life. No one would tolerate for their children the conditions they must tolerate for their parents in some old people's homes. In parts of Britain the care system has already broken down for poor people. The assumption that the welfare state will look after you is simply false. There are 56,000 unpaid carers -- almost all, of course, women -- in Liverpool alone, and the city council has no money to help them with. The kind of tax rises needed to pay them properly are politically impossible.

Elder care is also a lot more expensive than child care, partly because it goes all the way on to the stage of complete helplessness. My mother's care, over the last ten years of increasing decrepitude, must have cost at least £250,000 and that is without significant medical bills. Had she been in the US, her two broken hips, and recurrent UTIs would have been financially painful as well as everything else.

She was lucky: she married a man who left her substantial pensions which have covered almost all the cost. This seems, in fact, the only way to provide for our old age. Save while you can, and spend it down when you really need it. But there is a snag. That's where the environmental angle comes in.

Pensions are not just the sum of our savings. They are also the fruits of investments made with those savings over time. One reason there is a pension crisis in many industries now is that it's really difficult to find investments that give the sort of income stream that is needed to pay the people you need to look after you.

Elder care, even more than child care, is undervalued by the market. Lots of those doing it are on minimum wage, and have to manage far too many clients in 20 to 30 minute bursts. There isn't much money to be squeezed out from doing it cheaper. It seems to me that climate change is going to make this problem worse. A carbon-neutral economy is not going to expand at the rate that our present arrangements assume. So savings will generate even less income.

I can see four possible solutions to this problem. It is unlikely that any will be adopted exclusively but probably one or two will preponderate.

1) Forcing much greater savings on people of working age. Apparently there is such a scheme in Japan already. It is occasionally proposed by conservative politicians in the UK, with immediately disastrous political results (see also the proposal the people pay for their own care by selling their houses, shot down as a "dementia tax")

2) Use immigrants to do the care, on the assumption that they can be paid little and will be grateful for it. This is what's known in fascist circles as the great replacement

3) Use robots for as much possible. This appears to be the Japanese preference to immigrants. I am iunsure of the role of robots in a zero carbon economy (I mean this literally) but I suppose that if medicine sirvives in a recognisable form so will robotics.

4) Dump it all back on adult daughters.. In other words, remove the care system from the money economy. Quite apart from its moral undesirability I don't think this is practical without -- obviously -- a huge social counter-revolution and, even after that, I don't think it would would for dementia care at all. Dementia care, just like child care, needs to have social arrangements for the carers. It's not a one person job. A toddler is harder to manage when they stand as tall as an adult. And I have changed the nappies of both my children and my mother, and I would a million times rather deal with baby shit.

5) There is of course the fifth solution. Most people I talk to about this believe that the tidiest answer is just for useless old people, a burden on themselves as well as on the world, should simply commit a painless, loving suicide. This is also what my interlocutors plan for themselves. But I can't believe they will ever get round to it.



 

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Nature dicks vs nurture dicks

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 05.01.19

Why do some kids grow up to be total dicks? Obviously, parents that are jerks would tend to raise kids that are jerks, but I'm interested more in the Far From the Tree side of things - parents that aren't total dicks, whose kids turn out that way, anyway.

Subtext: Are our kids going to grow up to be terrible human beings?!?

subsubtext: what exactly went wrong in certain situations of our extended families??

I suppose the interesting angle is: how much of an adult's basic temperament should not be blamed on the parents? How much can you say, "Fuck it, they were hatched that way"?

On the question of biological determination in other situations, the conclusion that I've come to is that it varies wildly throughout the population: some people are highly shaped by their environment, and had a wide range of potential outcomes, other people were born with a fixed, narrow range of outcomes and their environment could never have tilted them very far from that course. I suppose the trait Total Dick is probably varied like that as well.

PS: I'm getting grossed out by writing that word so much in this post, so I hope you find it funny. I did it for you, you dick.


 

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Avenger's Endgame

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.30.19

Minivet writes: A spoilers Endgame thread sometime this coming week might not be amiss.

Heebie's take: Spoil away! Is it too soon? I don't know how long it's been out. I have only just recently realized that Endgame is not the same as Ender's Game.


 

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Deranged lunatic in chief

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.29.19

Just to be explicit: we 100% should start impeachment hearings because our president has broken many laws worthy of impeachment. End of story. Not because we're playing π-dimensional chess, but because it is a moral imperative. Impeachment should be reserved for these circumstances and then initiated under them.

I mean, good fucking lord:

"The baby is born, the mother meets with the doctor, they take care of the baby, they wrap the baby beautifully, and then the doctor and the mother determine whether or not they will execute the baby." Trump then put on an incredulous tone. "You hear late term, but this is where the baby is born, it's there, it's wrapped, that's it," Trump said as he made a guillotine motion with his hand, as if he were implying that the baby's head would be sliced off.

This quote isn't impeachable, but I still don't think it's wholly factual.


 

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The Blowhardiest

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 04.29.19

Sent in by a lurker,

Study participants were asked to assess their knowledge of 16 math topics on a five-point scale ranging from "never heard of it" to "know it well, understand the concept." Crucially, three of those topics were complete fabrications: "proper numbers," "subjunctive scaling" and "declarative fractions." Those who said they were knowledgeable about the fictitious topics were categorized as BSers.

And it turns out that humble migrant workers, traumatized kids, and exhausted mothers were the worst offenders when it came to pretending to know about these topics. Haha no, it was rich white guys of course.


 

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