Tag Archives: Apple

Is It March of 2000? by Karl Denninger

Financial markets are never rational, but sometimes they are especially irrational. From Karl Denninger at theburningplatform.com:

There was a little company called “Micro Strategy” (by the way they still exist.)

In the first week of March the stock had skyrocketed by over 50%.  The next week it “checked back” most of those gains.

The following week the stock collapsed.

A couple of weeks later, the Nazdaq cracked big.  I was house-shopping, in a hotel, woke up to CNBC full of crying babies and chuckled.

I will note that MicroStrategy was a little dogsqueeze company.  In terms of market cap it was a nothing – literally.  Even today, 17 years later, it’s a little $2 billion firm — granted, much smaller today in market cap than it was then.

In the run-up of the previous weeks and months there had been plenty of indications of trouble.  Many companies had reported slashing prices, increasingly-saturated markets were well-understood and of course there was the “burn rate” nonsense of the period.

It’s arguable that it was that MSTR collapse that upset the apple cart.  You see, when people are buying stocks of companies that have nothing but negative free cash flow as far as the eye can see or sky-high P/Es of 60, 80, 100 or more they’re betting with their eyes taped over on exactly one thing: Indefinite exponential growth of the business and, of course down the line, profits.

The problem is that this is an impossible premise.  There is no way for that to ever happen because it is mathematically impossible.

Today we have Amazon, Facebook and Apple all priced in this way.  Of the three only Apple has some argument for its valuation, but even there given the recent run of almost 50% it’s priced for indefinite exponential growth of a saturated product — iPhones.

To continue reading: Is It March of 2000?

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Apple Censors U.S. Drone Strike-Tracking App, by James Holbrocks

The US government does not want the citizenry to know about the real-life, flesh-and-blood victims nor the frequency of its coldly clinical drone strikes. Neither, apparently, does Apple. From James Holbrocks at theantimedia.org:

“At its core was a question: do we want to be as connected to our foreign policy as we are to our smartphones? My hypothesis was no. Americans don’t care about the drone war because it is largely hidden from view.”

That’s how Josh Begley, writing for The Intercept on Tuesday, described the concept behind an app he created five years ago. The app, he says, was a simple one. It merely sent users an alert every time a U.S. drone strike was reported in the news.

Apple rejected the app three times on the grounds that it was “excessively objectionable or crude content,” but Begley didn’t give up on the project.

“Over the years, I would occasionally resubmit the app, changing its name from Drones+ to Metadata+,” he wrote. “I was curious to see if Apple might change its mind. The app didn’t include graphic images or video of any kind — it simply aggregated news about covert war.”

He went on to tell how, after five rejections, Apple finally accepted the app in 2014. It remained in the App Store for a year and was downloaded by over 50,000 people. But then, the following September, Apple removed the app, once again citing “excessively objectionable or crude content.”

Begley persisted. The reason he was writing the post this week, in fact, was because that day — March 28, 2017 — Apple had once again accepted the app. He wasn’t writing to talk about his ordeal with Apple, though. He was writing about the issue that motivated him to create the app in the first place:

As an artist who works with data, I think the story of this app is about more than a petty conflict with Apple. It is about what can be seen — or obscured — about the geography of our covert wars.

He pointed out that over the past 15 years, people have worked tirelessly to document what’s happening on the ground where these drone campaigns are being waged. And that work is certainly praiseworthy. But Begley went further, pointing out what he calls the “difficult truth” of drone warfare — that at the end of the day, we don’t really know who these missiles are killing.

To continue reading: Apple Censors U.S. Drone Strike-Tracking App

EU Launches New Power Grab, to Roaring Public Approval, by Don Quijones

The EU is using Apple’s taxes, or lack thereof, as a backdoor way to set EU nations’ tax policies, or “fiscal union.” Do you think it will set uniformly high or low taxes? From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

A “Back Door” to Fiscal Union

The Apple Tax is about a lot more than just Apple and the billions of euros in backdated corporation tax it purportedly owes to European governments. It even goes far beyond the question of how — and how much — central authorities should tax recalcitrant multinationals that make billions of dollars in profits on their turf but share few or none of the proceeds.

What is most at stake is the question of who gets to set the fiscal rules in Europe’s foreseeable future. One thing is clear: if Brussels gets its way, it’s not going to be the national government of each member state. And that could be very bad news, at a very bad time, for a number of European economies, in particular Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

“Total Political Crap”

The EU’s Competition Commission slapped Apple with a €13 billion retroactive tax bill. That money is apparently owed to the government of Ireland, its decades-long partner in one of the biggest tax-avoidance schemes of living memory. The Commission argues that the arrangement cooked up between Irish authorities and Apple’s tax lawyers and accountants represented illegal state aid, enabling the U.S. company to get away with paying an effective taxation rate on its European profits as low as 0.005%.

Naturally, Apple does not want to pay the money. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, even went so far as to call the EU ruling as “total political crap”:

They just picked a number from I don’t know where. In the year that the commission says we paid that tax figure, we actually paid $400 million. We believe that makes us the highest taxpayer in Ireland that year.

The government of Ireland doesn’t want the money either, despite the fact that it could certainly do with it: at 128% of GDP, it boasts one of the highest levels of public debt in Europe, which is no mean feat these days. The EU ruling comes at a time of growing concern about the potential fallout from the decision by Ireland’s closest neighbor and second biggest single trading partner, Britain, to leave the EU, which according to some reports is hurting the Irish economy even more than the UK’s.

A “Back Door” to Fiscal Union

Irish Finance Minister Michael Noonan told Irish broadcaster RTE on Monday that: “As far as I am concerned there is no economic basis for this decision.” He added: “They [the European Commission] don’t have responsibility for taxes and they are opening a back door through state aid to influence tax policy in European countries when the European treaties say tax policy is a matter for sovereign governments.”

As a Member State of both the EU and the Eurozone with a “business-friendly” environment that is brimming with local, English-speaking talent, Ireland is an enticing base for global multinationals. Or at least was.

To continue reading: EU Launches New Power Grab, to Roaring Public Approval

Apple travesty is a reminder why Britain must leave the lawless EU, by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition chief, exercises powers that would not be tolerated in a democracy

Europe’s Competition Directorate commands the shock troops of the EU power structure. Ensconced in its fortress at Place Madou, it can dispatch swat teams on corporate dawn raids across Europe without a search warrant.

It operates outside the normal judicial control that we take for granted in a developed democracy. The US Justice Department could never dream of acting in such a fashion.

Known as ‘DG Comp’, it acts as judge, jury, and executioner, and can in effect impose fines large enough to constitute criminal sanctions, but without the due process protection of criminal law. It misused evidence so badly in pursuit of the US chipmaker Intel that the company alleged a violation of human rights.

Apple is just the latest of the great US digital companies to face this Star Chamber. It has vowed to appeal the monster €13bn fine handed down from Brussels this week for violation of EU state aid rules, but the only recourse is the European Court of Justice. This is usually a forlorn ritual. The ECJ is a political body, the enforcer of the EU’s teleological doctrines. It ratifies executive power.

We can mostly agree that Apple, Google, Starbucks, and others have gamed the international system, finding legal loopholes to whittle down their tax liabilities and enrich shareholders at the expense of society. It is such moral conduct that has driven wealth inequality to alarming levels, and provoked a potent backlash against globalisation.

But the ‘Double Irish’ or the ‘Dutch Sandwich’ and other such tax avoidance schemes are being phased out systematically by the G20 and by a series of tightening rules from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The global machinery of “profit shifting” will face a new regime by 2018.

We can agree too that Apple’s cosy EU arrangements should never have been permitted. It paid the standard 12.5pc corporate tax on its Irish earnings – and is the country biggest taxpayers – but the Commission alleges that its effective rate of tax on broader earnings in 2014 was 0.005pc, achieved by shuffling profits into a special ‘stateless company’ with its headquarters in Ireland.

“The profits did not have any factual or economic justification. The “head office” had no employees, no premises and no real activities,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU competition chief.

This may be true but that does not empower the Commission to act arbitrarily, retroactively, and beyond the rule of law. What is really going on – as often in EU affairs – is a complex political attack on multiple fronts. It is a reminder of why Britain must remove itself entirely and forever from the clutches of this Caesaropapist construction.

Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, has a €13bn axe to grind, but he is almost certainly right in arguing that Mrs Vestager is making up state aid rules as she goes along, and has yet to produce evidence that Dublin granted Apple a sweetheart deal on taxes. “This claim has no basis in fact or in law,” he said.

To continue reading: Apple travesty is a reminder why Britain must leave the lawless EU

The Terrorist iPhone Snow Job, by Adam Dick

It has been said before, but it bears repeating: the shredding of the Bill of Rights has nothing at all to do with combatting terror and everything to do with shredding the Bill of Rights. From Adam Dick at The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Propserity via antiwar.com:

It all started so “harmless.” The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wanted to access the information of a person being investigated for mass murder so, the FBI said, it could try to prevent more terrorist attacks.

A couple months later this has morphed into a situation where the FBI is offering to help police departments across America access secured information of any electronic device connected to criminal investigations and where members of the United States Senate are moving forward with legislation to force technology companies to give the government access to secured, including via encryption, electronic devices information.

First, the FBI’s bumbled handling of an iPhone connected to a mass killing in San Bernardino provided an opening for the FBI to seek a precedent-setting court order to require Apple to assist the government in overcoming the phone’s security. Rather convenient, one might say, for a government agency determined to search and seize with the minimum possible constraint. Then, when Apple resisted the court’s order that was obtained ex parte (without Apple being afforded an opportunity to present its opposing arguments), the FBI dropped the case, claiming it found people who helped it bypass the iPhone’s security. This is after the FBI had told the magistrate judge that the FBI needed Apple’s help to accomplish the task.

Now, a “law enforcement source” has told CBS News that “so far nothing of real significance has been found” on the San Bernardino iPhone. This latest development should come as no surprise. There were plenty of indications early on that the San Bernardino iPhone likely had very little to no information that would be helpful for pursuing the mass murder investigation or for protecting people from any potential terrorist attack.

Jenna McLaughin summed up in a February 26 The Intercept article what seemed to be the FBI’s real motivation in seeking the court order: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that law enforcement doesn’t really think there’s any important data on San Bernardino killer Syed Rizwan Farook’s iPhone and that it has more precedent-setting value than investigative value.” McLaughlin then proceeds in her article to detail several reasons to believe there would be little to no investigative benefit gained from overcoming the iPhone’s security. Among other reasons, McLaughlin notes that the FBI already had “plenty of phone data, none of which indicated any overseas terror connection;” that the local police chief had said there was “a reasonably good chance that there is nothing of any value on the phone;” and that the iPhone was Farook’s employer-owned work phone that — unlike his laptop computer and two personal phones — he had not bothered to demolish.

The FBI’s effort to force Apple to overcome the San Bernardino iPhone’s security was never about one phone of one terrorist. Instead, it was about expanding the ability to overcome privacy protections of electronic devices via the courts after the executive branch had tried and failed in its effort to help bring through Congress legislation that would force companies to provide the government with “backdoor” access to electronic information.

To continue reading: The Terrorist iPhone Snow Job,

Tech Civil Disobedience – Will Apple Engineers Refuse to Follow Unethical Government Orders? by Michael Krieger

Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.

– Henry David Thoreau in Civil Disobedience (1849)

Yesterday, the New York Times published an extremely important article examining whether Apple engineers are prepared to potentially refuse government orders they deem unethical. If so, it would represent a historical and courageous moment of civil disobedience in the spirt of Edward Snowden, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Henry David Thoreau and countless others forgotten by the fog of history. Indeed, if we are to regain any semblance of freedom and liberty, we must rediscover our proud heritage of civil disobedience.

In the modern world, with so much government surveillance being done behind the scenes and via technology, we’ve become increasingly dependent on individuals within the tech sector to stand up and do the right thing. This puts us in a precarious situation, which is why we must be prepared to stand by and support any and all Apple employees who defend our civil liberties against the unconstitutional surveillance leviathan.

We learn from the New York Times:

SAN FRANCISCO — If the F.B.I. wins its court fight to force Apple’s help in unlocking an iPhone, the agency may run into yet another roadblock: Apple’s engineers.

Apple employees are already discussing what they will do if ordered to help law enforcement authorities. Some say they may balk at the work, while others may even quit their high-paying jobs rather than undermine the security of the software they have already created, according to more than a half-dozen current and former Apple employees.

To continue reading: Tech Civil Disobedience – Will Apple Engineers Refuse to Follow Unethical Government Orders

First They Came for the iPhones… by Ron Paul

SLL WILL BE ON A BUSINESS TRIP FROM 3/2 TO 3/6 AND WILL BE UNABLE TO POST. POSTING WILL RESUME 3/7.

From Ron Paul at antiwar.org:

The FBI tells us that its demand for a back door into the iPhone is all about fighting terrorism, and that it is essential to break in just this one time to find out more about the San Bernardino attack last December. But the truth is they had long sought a way to break Apple’s iPhone encryption and, like 9/11 and the PATRIOT Act, a mass murder provided just the pretext needed. After all, they say, if we are going to be protected from terrorism we have to give up a little of our privacy and liberty. Never mind that government spying on us has not prevented one terrorist attack.

Apple has so far stood up to a federal government’s demand that it force its employees to write a computer program to break into its own product. No doubt Apple CEO Tim Cook understands the damage it would do to his company for the world to know that the US government has a key to supposedly secure iPhones. But the principles at stake are even higher. We have a fundamental right to privacy. We have a fundamental right to go about our daily life without the threat of government surveillance of our activities. We are not East Germany.

Let’s not forget that this new, more secure iPhone was developed partly in response to Ed Snowden’s revelations that the federal government was illegally spying on us. The federal government was caught breaking the law but instead of ending its illegal spying is demanding that private companies make it easier for it to continue.

Last week we also learned that Congress is planning to join the fight against Apple – and us. Members are rushing to set up yet another governmental commission to study how our privacy can be violated for false promises of security. Of course they won’t put it that way, but we can be sure that will be the result. Some in Congress are seeking to pass legislation regulating how companies can or cannot encrypt their products. This will suppress the development of new technology and will have a chilling effect on our right to be protected from an intrusive government. Any legislation Congress writes limiting encryption will likely be unconstitutional, but unfortunately Congress seldom heeds the Constitution anyway.

When FBI Director James Comey demanded a back door into the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone, he promised that it was only for this one, extraordinary situation. “The San Bernardino litigation isn’t about trying to set a precedent or send any kind of message,” he said in a statement last week. Testifying before Congress just days later, however, he quickly changed course, telling the Members of the House Intelligence Committee that the court order and Apple’s appeals, “will be instructive for other courts.” Does anyone really believe this will not be considered a precedent-setting case? Does anyone really believe the government will not use this technology again and again, with lower and lower thresholds?

According to press reports, Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. has 175 iPhones with passcodes that the City of New York wants to access. We can be sure that is only the beginning.

We should support Apple’s refusal to bow to the FBI’s dangerous demands, and we should join forces to defend of our precious liberties without compromise. If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

http://original.antiwar.com/paul/2016/02/28/first-they-came-for-the-iphones/