Sunday, February 21, 2010


Amazon Gets Up A Creek

Last year I noted in Slate that Amazon's been having it both ways for a while on state sales taxes -- not paying any where they were not due, and not paying any even where they were due: has spent a decade opposing the enforcement of online taxes so that its noncollection of sales tax creates a powerful pricing incentive over bricks-and-mortar competitors. Why buy a MacBook Air in Boston, after all, when online you'll save nearly 90 bucks in Massachusetts sales tax? But there have long been warnings that consumers just might get ruinously addicted to the tax-free ride Amazon and others appeared to be giving them—and that states might just get, well, ruined.

I say the ride appeared tax-free: In fact, there is tax due on some online sales. Amazon and other online retailers have benefited from the lack of an enforcement mechanism. States have started taking notice, and when New York state recently attempted to fix this situation, took them to court—and got shellacked. The company, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Eileen Branstein ruled last month, did "not come close" to showing that the state was wrong to demand that these taxes be collected. With millions in desperately needed uncollected revenue from online retailers at stake for the state, hasn't said yet whether it will appeal.

You wouldn't expect a financially ruined state like California to leave that kind of money laying on the table -- and now they're not. From Friday's Tech Flash:

Things are heating up for on the sales tax front again. The California Senate just passed a bill that would require online retailers like Amazon to collect sales tax on web purchases. According to reports, the measure was part of a $5 billion budget package making its way through the California legislature. Virginia, Colorado and Illinois are also considering sales tax bills targeting online retailers.

Amazon's been able to fight this off for years, but the stakes -- and the state budget gaps -- are getting much higher now.


Twitter Finds Its Destiny

Tweets of... lines from Harry Stephen Keeler!

A recent sample:

Till, of course, Old Man Death accepts him--in the magazine called "The Grave."

(Hat tip to Ed!)


Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh!

The Austin bookstore BookPeople has been hosting "literary day camps" for kids....

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Bad Luck

I find this Wikipedia category weirdly fascinating: List of Las Vegas Casinos That Never Opened.

A sample:

Themed after the doomed luxury liner RMS Titanic, this resort was to have been modeled after the ship and would have been 400 feet (120 m) long with 1,200 rooms, standing across the street from the Sahara Hotel and Casino. The project was rejected by the Las Vegas City Council.

World Trade Center
To have been located at 925 East Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas.

Leonard Shoen, co-founder of U-Haul truck rental, purchased the property of what had been the Chaparral Hotel & Casino in 1996, renovating it into the World Trade Center Hotel. A gaming license was applied for, but when it was discovered that two of Mr. Shoen's closest partners were convicted felons, the application was denied in 1998. He withdrew his application, and later died in a car crash in 1999 that was ruled a suicide. Cards and gaming chips were produced for the World Trade Center Casino, but were never used.[3] The property has since been demolished and is now vacant. The old World Trade Center Casino site is now a parking lot, part of the Sands convention center annex.

World Wrestling Federation
A casino resort themed after the World Wrestling Federation was proposed for a property near Interstate Highway 15 across from Mandalay Bay. The project never went past the proposal stage. WWE also proposed to open on the property best known as the Debbie Reynolds Hotel and Casino, but now known as the Royal Resort Hotel and Casino.


Free Dreadfuls

Terrific news in last Sunday's Times of London:

MORE than 65,000 19th-century works of fiction from the British Library’s collection are to be made available for free downloads by the public from this spring....Many of the downmarket books known as “penny dreadfuls” will also be made available to the public, including Black Bess by Edward Viles and The Dark Woman by J M Rymer. Altogether, 35%-40% of the library’s 19th-century printed books — now all digitised — are inaccessible in other public libraries and are difficult to find in second-hand or internet bookshops.

Penny dreadfuls and dime novels verged were basically disposable literature, so they can be absurdly difficult and sometimes outright impossible to track down -- this is a wonderful development.

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