Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sovereign-debt relief and its aftermath: The 1930s & the 1990s

Sovereign-debt relief and its aftermath: The 1930s, the 1990s, the future? Carmen Reinhart, Christoph Trebesch, VoxEU. Aieee, throws gold standard regimes together with fiat regimes.

Wake Up, Europe George Soros, New York Review of Books

Suppression of debate in NZ – Rod Oram’s Sunday Star-Times column for October 19th, 2014 Facebook (RS). Odger cull! Let’s not forget that NZ is one of the “Five Eyes,” and so may be more central than may appear at first sight…

New Zealand’s GT Group in Romania, Moldova and the UK

I have never worked for and have no idea what the “Maharal Network” is until I read the rubbish you wrote on your blog post. This is absolute dreamy nonsense you have been pedalling for a long time including to some media.
- Cathy Odgers
Shady NZ shell company merchant GT Group’s global footprint just keeps growing, as do its links to the dreamy nonsense that is the “Maharal Network”.  In our latest global tour, let’s visit Romania and Moldova first, via Ukraine and New Zealand.
As we saw in a previous post, Angelique Elizabeth Lilley, housewife and improbable media mogul of Nelson, New Zealand, and also, minion of Ian Taylor of the notorious GT Group, briefly owned a piece of a dissident Ukrainian TV station. That transient ownership was part of the murky process by which apparent henchmen of the corrupt despot Yanukovych seized the TV station and turfed out the dissidents; not that it did Yanukovych much good, as we see now. The apparent henchman. Alexander Altman, didn’t do very well out of it either: in January 2014 the UK courts breached GT Group’s wall of secrecy and determined that Altman was the controlling mind behind the company skulduggery. He landed, in absentia, an 18 month sentence for contempt of court.

Death By a Thousand Cuts: The Silent Assassination of European Democracy

Pro Big Corporate IRS: Agency Guts Whistleblower Program

It’s widely known among tax professionals that the US does little in the way of tax enforcement, and the little that it does do is directed against individuals and small businesses. What is not so widely known is how deep the institutional bias is in the IRS in favor of letting big corporate tax cheats get away with it.
Conventional wisdom is similar to the rationalization of weak enforcement at the SEC: that the agency is afraid that if they go after big companies, they’ll have the penalties and fines challenged in court, and they’ll often lose by virtue of being outgunned by better lawyer (yes, Virginia, even if you have a solid case, that doesn’t mean you’ll win at trial). And top tax litigators are among the most highly paid legal talent. I’m not up on current rates, but in the mid 1980s, Sumitomo Bank fought the IRS on a $100 million assessment and won. Their attorney was a solo practitioner who charged $1000 an hour.
It turns out that the picture is vastly worse than that...

Why the SEC’s $30M Whistleblower Award Should Make Banks Nervous American Banker. Nah, one award won’t do it. But a few more might, provided the SEC is also tough about cracking down on wrongful terminations of whistleblowers (which they have the power to do; the SEC is investigating a whistleblower complaint at CalPERS, and it may have more to do with the possible wrongful termination than the underlying conduct).
China’s Rising Wages and the ‘Made in USA’ Revival Business Week

Passive Resistance

Passive Resistance

The active voice isn’t always the best

Voters Like Democrats But Think They Are Incompetent Jon Walker, Firedoglake. Translation: Voters buy Democratic party excuses for selling out to the rich.
Anti-Facebook’ investors dig deep BBC (David L)

Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems Newsweek

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Terror at Parliamentary Doorsteps

Kevin Vickers the Sergeant-at-Arms of Canada's Parliament is being hailed as a hero after shooting dead a gunman who burst into the Parliament building during a spree that claimed the life of a Canadian soldier Parliament locked down after gunman opens fire in ottawa

Justice Minister Michael Keenan on Thursday flagged an "enhanced AFP presence" (Terror suspect mohamed elomar) around Parliament House but stressed there was no specific threat to the Canberra building. Parliament house security ramped up
Politicians talk about evil as if it could be eradicated. But the only effective strategy begins with accepting that evil will never go away... The truth about heaven earth and hell

Incapacitating Chemical Agents: Coming Soon To Local Law Enforcement? Slashdot

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Media Dragons Behaving Badly

There is a new paper by Papageorge, Ronda, and Zheng, with a very interesting thesis, namely that preparing rowdies for better schooling results may not help their long-term prospects in life...

It's been said – that the history of philosophy is a “series of footnotes to Plato.” Funny. And completely wrong... Slavic Sayings in Latin

Babylonians, shamans, monks, farmers, patriots, industrialists: Brewers are an ancient and odd bunch. Every beer tells a story... Plzenske

Fotografer of real note ...

Rebel from my folkloric childhooooood Karel Plicka

Sex and scandal in 18th-century Dublin. Laetitia Pilkington’s path to literary fame ran through debtor’s prison and a minefield of vicious gossip... Irish Slaves

This is a fascinating Scott Alexander take on tribalism and how political issues are framed, starting with Ebola.  As Robin  and NGOs should be lauded for highlighting. Global warming shows that Republicans are science denialists and probably all creationists. 

We don't mourn Gough Whitlam, we mourn ourselves

Gough Whitlam dies at age 98 Guardian (EmilianoZ)
We don't mourn Gough Whitlam, we mourn ourselves
The tributes for Gough Whitlam flooding mainstream and social media ...

Stories from AFR today by Mark Latham who liked to invade with Gough the risque level six of the NSW Parliamentary Library:

 As a university student, Gough’s chosen sport was rowing – an activity he later described as the perfect preparation for politics: “You can face one way while moving in the opposite direction”.

I worked for Gough during his time as Australia’s Ambassador to UNESCO in the 1980s. Paris was his sort of city, with its imposing vistas, uniform streetscapes and ornate legacy from the Bourbon and Napoleonic eras. He loved telling me (a young man with his hormones racing) about the legend of Louis XVI. One day, when asked by his doctor if he needed any form of aphrodisiac, the King replied,

“A different woman every night is my aphrodisiac.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Faucet of Catholic Book Jackets

“Talent is like a faucet; while it is open, you have to write. Inspiration?—a hoax fabricated by poets for their self-importance.”
~ Jean Anouilh (quoted in the New York Times, Oct. 2, 1960)

Dead Authors Get The Best Book Covers (Wait – Why?)

“Reading takes place in this nebulous kind of realm, and in a way, the jacket is part of the thing that you bring back from that experience. It’s the thing that you hold on to.”

Now There’s Even A Prize For Roman Catholic Lit ($25,000, No Less)

catholic books
The George W. Hunt Prize, sponsored by the Jesuit magazine America and Yale’s St. Thomas More Chapel, stipulates that nominees “should be familiar with the Roman Catholic tradition … [and] be a person of sound moral character and reputation and must not have published works that are manifestly atheistic or morally offensive.” (Good luck to the jurors on hashing that out.)

“Too much depression will not result in a work of art because a work of art is an affirmative gesture. To compose, you have to feel that you are accomplishing something. If you feel you are accomplishing something, you won’t feel so depressed. You may feel depressed, but it can’t be so depressing that you can’t move. No, I would say that people create in moments when they are elated about expressing their depression!”
~ Aaron Copland (quoted in The Creative Experience: How and Why Do We Create?, courtesy of Maria Popova)

Monday, October 20, 2014

Market for Tax Compliance

W. Edward Afield III (Ave Maria),A Market for Tax Compliance, 62 Clev. St. L. Rev. 315 (2014):
It is becoming increasingly clear that, due to political realities and budgetary constraints, the IRS is going to have to attempt to enforce the tax laws by doing more with less. Current enforcement efforts have yielded a tax gap (i.e., the difference between the amount of taxes that should be paid and the amount that are collected) of roughly $450 billion annually. Faced with this task, one of the steps that the IRS has recently taken is to try to improve the quality in services performed by paid tax preparers, a group that historically has been subject to little IRS regulation or monitoring but that continues to play an increasingly important role in the tax system.

Bloomberg, How to Audit the President, by Richard Rubin:
Obama 2013
The presidency is laden with perks: the jet, the mansion, the personal chef. 

But there's some nastiness, too, awaiting the winner of the 2016 election, namely: mandatory audits from the Internal Revenue Service. The tax returns of the commander-in-chief and the vice president get automatic annual scrutiny from the IRS. Compare that to the 1 in 49 audit rate for everyone else in the $200,000 to $500,000 income bracket. 
We Are Better Than This (2014)The left sees me as a Wall Street Journal Satanist, and the right as a stealth Marxian bent on destroying free enterprise," Edward D. Kleinbard was saying.
The USC law professor was referring to the reactions elicited by his recent op-ed in the New York Times, in which he asserted that the solution to economic inequality in the U.S. was not to make the tax system more progressive — it's already "the most progressive in the developed world," he wrote — but to make it bigger.

Trying Times 2014: Important Lessons to Be Learned from Recent Federal Tax Cases, by Nancy A. McLaughlin (Utah) & Steven J. Small ( Law Office of Stephen J. Small, Newton, MA)

Majestic Altruisms

Risking Your Life without a Second Thought: Intuitive Decision-Making and Extreme Altruism PLOS One

Too often we feel when talking with an environmentalist that we are talking to religious zealots with little real knowledge and only an agenda rather than having facts and a willingness to problem solve.  There are so many areas good folks would be willing to consider if people would not preach at you and demonize you before the conversation even begins. Thanks for the even-handed discussion.  We have to get past in this country right and left and be more about problem solvers who respect differing cultures and then we can discuss what works best for us all.
Pictures: Birds Flaunt Majestic Tails and Dramatic Collars National Geographic

From public intellectual to public personality. Cornel Westseems more interested in name-dropping and ego-stroking than original thought... Media dragons love irony and we are related to everyone by two degree od separation ;-)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Dark Market for Personal Data

 One take on the economics of the mafia ...

The reputation business is exploding. Having eroded privacy for decades, shady, poorly regulated data miners, brokers and resellers have now taken creepy classification to a whole new level. They have created lists of victims of sexual assault, and lists of people with sexually transmitted diseases. Lists of people who have Alzheimer’s, dementia and AIDS. Lists of the impotent and the depressed 

The Dark Market for Personal Data New York Times 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

In a nutshell of innovation

Must the champions of innovation, those who purport to tell us how creativity works, insist on speaking in koan-like platitudes?... Creativity

Most of us have poured out our hearts in angry, accusatory, plaintive, or sad letters after people have betrayed or abandoned us. Doing so almost always makes us feel better, even if we never send them Lettering

Unhappy families, Tolstoy tells us, are all unhappy in different ways. But unhappy brand names commit a few of the same sins over and over. Alexandra Watkins, the founder of a branding agency called Eat My Words, distills seven deadly sins in an infectious little book called “Hello, My Name is Awesome Brand names

1959 Isaac Asimov short essay on how to stimulate creativity
Note how, if you believe Asimov, our business/cultural preference for narrow specialists and extroverts (extroversion has been rising over time) is anti-creativity...

Professors in Poverty

“Falling is one of the ways of moving.”
~ Merce Cunningham (quoted in The Creative Experience: How and Why Do We Create?, courtesy of Maria Popova)
Meek assertions, copious footnotes, weasel words like “perhaps”: Behold the intellectual cowardice of academics... Educating Guess

Professors in Poverty

A few weeks ago Salon published “Professors on Food Stamps: The Shocking True Story of Academia in 2014.” The article shares the plight of adjunct instructors, a lot of whom teach many courses at multiple institutions for minimal compensation.
“The most shocking thing is that many of us don’t even earn the federal minimum wage,” said Miranda Merklein, an adjunct professor from Santa Fe who started teaching in 2008. “Our students didn’t know that professors with PhDs aren’t even earning as much as an entry-level fast food worker. We’re not calling for the $15 minimum wage. We don’t even make minimum wage. And we have no benefits and no job security.”… Academic argument

Risks of seeing too many tales

The economic value of misbehavior Tyler Cowen. Is this rationalizing the status quo?

Traumatic and painful events burnish their effect upon our brains. This happens profoundly in childhood, as well as in relationships, and most definitely as readers will know,  in the financial markets.  The Risk That Will Bite You Next Is NOT The One That Bit You Last Cassandra

Severed heads on tables, severed heads below headless bodies, severed heads of accomplices grouped together:Photographing the guillotine

A Tale Of Two Silicon Valleys: Wage theft, billionaires, and the rest of us Pando

Daniel Shaviro, Frontiers of quasi-tax fraud. “Because (a) partnership tax rules are so complex that only a handful of people really understand them – perhaps a thousand across the entire country? – and (b) people at the IRS generally don’t understand them, and (c) the audit rate for partnership tax returns is below 1%, compliance with partnership tax rules that are meant to block abusive tax planning that contradicts the actual tenor of the rules has pretty much completely collapsed.”

A summary of tax cases involving prostitutes in the wake of the Cartagena Hooker scandal from Robert Wood.
News from the Profession. Which Accounting Firm Fired an Employee for His Dispute with Comcast? A: PwC (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

Peter Reilly, Teresa Giudice’s Surprise Sentence And Possible Better Ways To Motivate Compliance. “What I found interesting in this piece by Kelly Phillips Erb was that Ms. Giudice was surprised when she was sentenced to some prison time.”  Me too.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Klokans: Meaning of Life

The ancestors of modern-day kangaroos, giant marsupials with rabbitlike faces, may have walked upright on two feet, sans any hopping, a new study finds.
These enormous creatures, part of the extinct family of sthenurine kangaroos, once roamed the Australian outback from about 100,000 to 30,000 years ago. But they were likely bad hoppers, said lead researcher Christine Janis, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University in Rhode Island Huge prehistoric kangaroo aka Klokan

Your Data or Your Life Project Syndicate (David L)
This Headline Is One of Many Experiments on You MIT Technology Review (David L)

The Meaning of Life New York Times (David L). A three-year-old’s answer to that question was “Laughter and chocolate”.