Apple’s deep sense of responsibility to give back

“Apple, Capitalizing on New Tax Law, Plans to Bring Billions in Cash Back to U.S.” (nytimes) says that Apple is going to pay $ 38 billion in tax to the U.S. Treasury on money that it has been stuffing overseas. Here’s the confusing part to me:

Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in a statement, “We have a deep sense of responsibility to give back to our country and the people who help make our success possible.”

It makes sense that Apple is bringing the money in before the next Congress comes up with a new tax scheme that is less favorable. But why brag about the company’s “deep sense of responsibility”? It wasn’t quite deep enough to pay taxes at the old rates? But it is deep enough to pay some U.S. taxes at the new lower rates? Apple assumes that nobody will ask these (to me) obvious questions?

Maybe they can use some of the repatriated money to sit down with Honda and create a working version of Apple CarPlay?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Do they still line up kids at school and give them shots?

I have forgotten the state capitals, but one intact memory of elementary school in Bethesda, Maryland is lining up to get shots (vaccines?) from some sort of “gun”. These were administered roughly every 15 seconds either by the school nurse or a county health worker. It went so fast that I wonder if we were all effectively sharing one needle (HIV and hepatitis were not concerns for schoolchildren circa 1970).

The other day I was waiting for a friend at CVS so decided to use the time to get my “free” (i.e., included in my $ 10,000/year Obamacare policy) flu shot. Ten minutes later my friend showed up. It took roughly another ten minutes before the shot was “ready.” It turned out that three health care professionals had to process various forms on a computer screen, get a one-page questionnaire from me, and finally deliver the shot with a simple needle (less than one minute). A licensed pharmacist was required as part of the paperwork pipeline.

Here’s what I got in hardcopy:

  1. Two-page document regarding the vaccine (Flucelvax Quad). It says “This is an OFF-WHITE SYRINGE.”
  2. CVS Health Notice of Privacy Practices, a two-page document in 6 pt type. It is a paper copy that, among other things, says “You have the right to obtain a paper copy of our current Notice at any time.” It also says what will happen if I am or become “an inmate of a correctional institution.”
  3. A five-page “Vaccine Information Statement” that discusses the side effects (overlaps to some extent with Document #1)
  4. A Vaccine Consent and Administration Record
  5. A three-foot-long receipt for $ 0.00 (coupons following)
  6. A $ 5 off any $ 25 purchase special coupon specific to having gotten a “free” flu shot (i.e., for giving CVS the opportunity to bill the health insurer)

Is there now this much paperwork and process attached to what was, in my youth, a 15-second paperwork-free experience?

[I posted a shorter version of the above on Facebook and it generated the predictable encomiums about the wisdom of Obamacare requiring insurance companies to pay for flu shots:

I think the insurance companies cover shots as a preventative measure, hoping we won’t incur more healthcare expenses related to the flu we’d contract if we didn’t take the shot.

It should be free and universal. That will save the most money, and the evidence for that is stone-cold solid.

In other words, the central planners working for the government are smarter than the actuaries who work at insurers, which didn’t previously pay for flu shots. I decided to poke at this assumption a bit with “If it made actuarial sense to do this, why wouldn’t the UK bureaucrats be smart enough to figure it out? They don’t offer free flu shots to everyone. (source) Are the U.S. central planners smarter than the UK ones who’ve been doing it for decades?” That proved to be an impossible conundrum!]

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Give Auto Parts a Try?

In spite of what you’ve heard, shorting stocks in 2017 has not been like shooting yourself in the foot. Don’t believe it. Because at least when you shoot yourself in the foot, it causes some excitement and, later, sympathy. In spite of this, for those foolish enough to give it another whirl, the two big […]
Slope of Hope

Thanksgiving Idea: Give government back to the Native Americans?

I’m thankful for a lot of things this year, but I don’t want to disfigure this blog too much with the maudlin friends-and-family sentiments that are more conventional on Facebook.

Let me try something in the old-style Thanksgiving spirit and just say thank-you to the Native Americans for not insisting that all of the Europeans who landed here return back home. Without Native American hospitality I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the use of this great continent for 54 years.

However, I wonder if we European-Americans haven’t overstayed our welcome. I haven’t kept in touch with the Native American friends whom I made while living in New Mexico, but I can’t imagine that they looked at the 2016 Presidential election and said “It is amazing that these European immigrants managed to find two such fantastic candidates.”

Maybe we can’t all clear out and leave North America to its rightful inhabitants (unless we start to do better on the PISA test, other countries probably wouldn’t want us), but could we at least clear out politically? Why not let the Native Americans set up a government (presumably they’d pick a British-style parliamentary system, as have most countries) and we non-Native Americans can agree to respect their decisions?


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

We grabbed Hawaii as a coaling station; could we give it back now?

Could we right one of our foreign policy wrongs and give Hawaii back to the natives?

From Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans:

The advent of coal-powered ships in the 1860s changed how the United States interacted with its Pacific domain. Coal ships were faster and more reliable than their sail-powered counterparts, but coal is heavy and exhaustible. Ships could not carry an unlimited amount of coal without sinking into the briny deep. They needed dedicated coaling stations at regular intervals in order to maintain their impressive speed. Fortunately, the Pacific for all of its vastness was dotted with islands perfectly situated to serve as coaling stations. It was this impulse that drove the U.S. annexation of Hawaii in 1898, with the beautiful port of Pearl Harbor serving as the fulcrum for its Pacific presence.

If we grabbed it because it was needed for refueling, why not give it back now? A Chinese container ship doesn’t need to refuel when crossing the Pacific, does it? Certainly the big Airbus and Boeing planes that cross the Pacific need not stop in Hawaii.

Plainly our annexation of Hawaii was expedient at the time, but it is no longer necessary. Is there any way to claim that this annexation was somehow legitimate and should be continued?


Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Time to give up on New Yorker magazine?

I have been a faithful reader of New Yorker for about 40 years, but I am wonder if it is time to let my subscription lapse. They are no longer content to have ideas big enough to justify waiting a week so they email readers every day. Here are some subject lines:

  • Trump’s Sham Populism, Exposed (i.e., Donald Trump is a liar and we need to pay $ 100/year to understand that)
  • Scott Pruitt Rejects Climate-Change Reality, an article on planetary physics by Amy Davidson, who has a bachelor’s degree in “Social Studies”
  • Donald Trump’s Worst Deal (about a hotel in Azerbaijan that is no doubt core to the multi-billionaire’s empire; the only dollar figure mentioned is $ 2.8 million, less than the cost of a D-check (12-year) inspection on King Donald’s personal Boeing 757)
  • Trump Learns That Health Care Is “Complicated” (i.e., Donald Trump is a moron)
  • Can a Free Mind Survive in Trump’s White House?
  • Holding Trump Accountable (for not being Hillary Clinton?)
  • The Deep Denialism of Donald Trump (for not admitting that he is inferior to Hillary Clinton?)
  • We Need the Truth About Trump and Russia (because the Red Scare of the 1950s wasn’t sufficient)
  • Orwell’s “1984” and Trump’s America (Trump is “pure Big Brother”)
  • “Neil Gorsuch Tried to Prove His Independence — During his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Gorsuch attempted to show that he is not a stooge of the Trump machine.” (A guy who gets a guaranteed hyper-technical job for life will be secretly controlled by the layperson who appointed him.)

Even if I could vote for President at some point prior to 2020 and even if I lived in a state in which my vote counted, why would any of this be interesting? The New Yorker used to publish material that people referenced 10 or 20 years later. Statistically Donald Trump will be dead and buried pretty soon. At that point who would care to read, recall, or reference any of the above?

The top story as I wrote this entry was “The G.O.P.’s Lousy Health-Care Bill,” pointing out that if it is no longer illegal to refrain from purchasing health insurance then a lot of young people will shut their checkbooks. The magazine’s bias is apparent in the subhead “Twenty-four million people stand to lose their insurance”. Clicking into the article reveals that what people are “losing” is being compelled to buy something that they don’t want, at least not at the quoted price. Isn’t almost everything regarding Obamacare and its repeal a dog-bites-man story (stop using tax dollars to give people free X and there will be fewer people with X; stop making it illegal to go without X and there will be fewer people with X)?

Presumably this strategy is working for New Yorker’s bottom line. I’m wondering if it is because of Facebook and the fact that the most-shared stories are the ones that generate outrage. So they print stuff that virtuous Trump-haters can feature to their Trump-hating friends and they can all be outraged together about how stupid, racist, and sexist their fellow citizens are. But isn’t this market niche already pretty well filled by traditional news sources such as the New York Times, the Guardian, or CNN? Is the market for Trump-hatred truly unlimited?

Other New Yorker readers here in Massachusetts, where at least Two Minutes of Trump Hatred are required every day, are pointing out the same thing: we don’t need the New Yorker to remind us that people who live in a city that got crazy fat off the status quo don’t like the candidate voted in by the non-coastal deplorables. There must be something else occurring or being created on Planet Earth that is worth writing about.

Related (some New Yorker stories that I remember liking, none having to do with the moral superior of Democrats):

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Is It Time to Give Up?

Is It Time To Give Up? by Avi Gilburt, First published Sat Dec 17 for members of  When dealing with markets, one must avoid, as much as possible, emotional responses and simply focus on the facts before us.  Last weekend, I presented my “factual” analysis of the market, and explained why I have retained a larger […]
Slope of Hope

When Hertz doesn’t give you the car that you reserved

Here’s a Facebook posting that I made while out in California (I use Facebook for family stuff and throwaway ideas) that I though might be enjoyed by a broader audience:

It sounded okay when Hertz said that they didn’t have the Camry that I reserved but could give me a BMW sedan instead.



Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Give Me a Breaks

It’s all well and good that we’re down a little (although “precious” metals and miners are getting gang-raped by a wild pack of rabid monkeys and, as such, are down a lot), but these are the breaks we really need to happen in the S&P 500 to get some serious Marty action.
Slope of Hope

Massachusetts will take money from Uber and Lyft customers and give it to taxi medallion owners

“Massachusetts to tax ride-hailing apps, give the money to taxis” (Reuters) is an interesting example of why the highest return on investment for American business is lobbying the government:

Massachusetts is preparing to levy a 5-cent fee per trip on ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft and spend the money on the traditional taxi industry, a subsidy that appears to be the first of its kind in the United States.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed the nickel fee into law this month as part of a sweeping package of regulations for the industry.

The law levies a 20-cent fee in all, with 5 cents for taxis, 10 cents going to cities and towns and the final 5 cents designated for a state transportation fund.

Of course, the fee is small right now but federal income tax was originally (1913) at a 1% rate, with the first $ 3,000 exempt ($ 73,000 in today’s mini-dollars; see Wikipedia). Once the mechanisms are all set up and running it should be easy to adjust the fees and extend the law beyond its proposed 2026 sunset.

One question is how to realize the American dream of a river of cash without working. A taxi medallion in New York was $ 1.3 million in 2013 (nytimes) and “more than $ 700,000” in 2014 in Boston (Globe). But most of the suburbs of Boston are small towns in which it may not cost much to register a taxi (Waltham seems to charge $ 25). As this is a statewide law the handouts should be distributed statewide as well, not just in the city of Boston where taxi medallions are expensive. Why not set up a taxi company in Waltham, for example, linked to an Ooma phone number that always goes to voicemail saying “We are busy right now”? Now we are in the Check of the Month Club?

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

Give Me More Boring

Back on October 16th, Dennis “the menace” Gartman – – who inexplicably is on CNBC constantly – – declared that the rest of 2015 would be “boring” for crude oil. Let’s check out the snooze-fest: So, true to form, Gartman’s prediction yielded one of the most exciting, history-making, newsline-grabbing markets in the history of energy […]
Slope of Hope

Give it All to Warren Buffett

Written By: DragonFly Capital

The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF, $ XLF, has had a pretty good year. It started out slow but is now up 13.8% from the low point on February 3rd. Thursday it broke out to new post crisis highs. With the S&P 500 up 15.60% since that date it has lagged but not by very much. There is always debate about whether the broad market can climb without the financials carrying a significant amount of the weight. So this is good news. But the performance chart below shows that both have lagged as investments when compared to the top two holdings in the XLF, Berkshire Hathaway, $ BRK/B, and Wells Fargo, $ WFC.


Over that same period Wells Fargo is up 17.9% and Berkshire Hathaway a whopping 25.5%. What is even more impressive is that Warren Buffett is known to hold a lot of Wells Fargo stock and it is weighing down his return! So as you do your weekend work and prepare for the next great investment. Maybe it is time to consider giving it all to King Warren at Berkshire Hathaway.

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