Thursday, April 17, 2014

Photojournalism by Pernilla Holmes

 “There’s a famous saying that goes something like, ‘If an image doesn’t need a caption to be understood, then it’s art’. That works for me; it’s about a work’s universality
Valley of Light

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vision 2100: Confidence Games

This Article examines the successes and failures of current tax whistleblower regimes, with particular emphasis on the states. It considers and then refutes several popular arguments against permitting whistleblowers to submit tax claims, under either a state’s False Claims Act (FCA) or standalone statute, including: (i) whistleblower statutes have historically been used to uncover and prosecute fraudulent behavior, not mere noncompliance with the law; (ii) the “knowing” standard of liability under FCAs creates new liability on taxpayers in jurisdictions permitting false claims pertaining to tax; and (iii) tax law is more complex and uncertain than other areas of the law and therefore off limits to whistleblower actions.
Tanina Rostain (Georgetown) presents Confidence Games: Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Crisis (MIT Press, 2014) (with Milton C. Regan, Jr. (Georgetown)) at Duke today as part of its Tax Policy Seminar hosted by Lawrence Zelenak:

Daily coffee habit linked to lower risk of liver cancer, study says.

Futurology is alive and well, though futurologists are almost always wrong. Still we listen, yearning for salvation from our human condition. From predicting AI within 20 years to mass-starvation in the 1970s, those who foretell the future often come close to doomsday preachers Glass must be Half Full...

Sad Sad Week Vale Ashni

May His Soul Rest in Peace ... In his death we have lost a trusted friend.

 दिवंगत आत्मा को शांति

One of the best-described of all charismatic leaders is Jesus. About 90 face-to-face encounters with Jesus are described in the four gospels of the New Testament.
Interaction with Kindness

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

NSW Australia Premier Barry O'Farrell Resigns

It's been an extraordinary day in NSW politics this week / even a night is too long in politics as  on Tuesday was to mark the last day of ICAC's inquiry into Obeid-linked company Australian Water Holdings, which is now in its fifth week Barry O'Farrell in witness box

PS: Sydney, once home to the Rum Corps, is now apparently home to the Penfold Grange Corps, writes Tony Wright in a sketch piece surrounding today's events.
Barry O'Farrell Resigns

Bear Pit and it's secrets in the sunlight

Former NSW premier, Australian foreign minister and diarist Bob Carr has given an interview in Brisbane where he's spruiking his new book.
Mr Carr has said Mr O'Farrell had no alternative to resign, but would not be drawn on whether Mr O’Farrell’s “significant memory fail” about being gifted a $3000 bottle of 1959 Grange wine was plausible.
“Given that the Premier’s resigned, I don’t think there’s any more in argument, the point is he’s accepted the case and that’s really all that matters at this point,” he said.
"...As the evidence was emerging I think even his closest friends and supporters would saythere was going to be no alternative to this. It was decisive of him to get to the point quickly rather than to fight on.
Having attracted ridicule about the parts of his diary that focus on diet and exercise, Mr Carr - who gave up drinking three years ago - said he wouldn’t know how many calories were in a bottle of ’59 Grange.
“Too many... wine is full of sugar, and after wasting too much of my life savouring good wine, I reached a decision that the disadvantages outweigh the joy of the stuff,” he said.
“As tempted as I am by a wonderful pinot noir from time to time, I think being clear-headed is the better course.”

Pulitzer Vox etc

The Pulitzer Prizes Just Demolished The Idea That Edward Snowden Is A Traitor  to-the-snowden-story-system-a-pulitzer-might-have-gone

Ezra Klein on Vox’s Launch, Media Condescension, and Competing With Wikipedia


Monday, April 14, 2014

Centuries of Iron Curtains

To paraphrase Freud, sometimes a border crisis is just a border crisis. 
History of European border changes (short video).  Many lessons in that one  Border changes

Chapter one of Cass Sunstein’s On Rumours

Instructions for Lovers: teaching them, how to demean themselves towards their Sweet-hearts How to sweet talk your lady circa 1656 ; How to compliment lady circa 1663

Winner -take all

The New Brave Slav(e)s - Winnetous of the Old World

The author who has captured most aptly young people’s experience of life in foreign countries nowadays is Zuska Kepplová. In her prose debut Buchty švabachom/Sweet Buns with Gothic Script (2011) she articulated the fictive nature of the conflict between home and the world: “(...) none of us left. We did not pack our cases in the middle of the night; we did not swim across the Danube and climb over barbed wire. We simply did what everyone was talking about: Today you can travel, go to good schools, get to know people and speak to them in foreign languages... We wanted to join in, take part in the world. Scoop it up with a large spoon. Break our teeth on it. We did not leave anyone or anything. And if so, only symbolically.”  First Death in the family and Morava River in Australia

Pilgrim, remember these words, whenever you wade into water.
(Inscription in the sands.)

Water is the strongest.
How many have waded into water before you?
Ask the days, when you return.
Follow the flight of heaven’s birds and the heavenly

bodies, the counter-currents, the shine and the
dulled fury of the surface that hungers.
Share your food with water, with the fishy smell and

the ducks.
Don’t disturb them while feeding.
You step barefoot into water and you carry your life in

your hands.
The cormorants’ shriek is more intelligible to water

than human words.
The shrilling of the kingfishers, whose nest the

fishermen knocked over, will forever be repeated by
the reeds as their most cryptic song.
Murmur accompanies every movement, but there are

more silent surfaces too.
Water journeys onwards.
Traverses the bodies of pilgrims.
Splashes over them.
Have you praised that language?
Have you heard that tongue?
Where were you, if you were not by water?
Carry water in vessels, whenever the opportunity

Give water to flowers and the slender arboreal kinds.

Water is the strongest.
Speech that is uttered by water will remain in the land,

and above the surface it shall be borne afar. The riverbank, fortified by the alders’ roots, is
a rendezvous of the land’s defensive powers.
The secret of the soil’s fertility is guarded by the trees,

to which the rivers tune their flow.
The sough of the willow leaves is an echo of the mother

Whether you have a brother or none, along the

waterline you are blood brother of the savage who understands all important things, even though he understands no others. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Happy Vaisakhi to Sikhs in rainbow turbans & saris

 Fifteen years of the Complete Review Posted by: M.A.Orthofer

       The first reviews -- a batch of forty-five -- were posted at the complete review fifteen years ago today, on 5 April 1999. 

       Which is pretty much all I have to say -- I don't really know how to mark these (non-)occasions. 

Shortlist: NSW Premier's Literary Awards 

       They've announced the shortlists for the (Australian) NSW Premier's Literary Awards. 
       Among the categories: there's a: 'Community Relations Commission Award for a Multicultural NSW'.   The winners will be announced 19 May Three days after few hangovers ...

The Czech Magnesia Litera awards have been handed out, and as Jan Richter reports at Radio Praha, Guide to wartime Prague wins top literary award, as the non-fiction category winner, the unusual Průvodce protektorátní Prahou by Jiří Padevět also took book of the year honors. 
       The fiction category winner was Skutečná událost, by Of Kids & Parents-author Emil Hakl; see also the (Czech) Argopublicity page. 
       The translation category winner was Robert Svoboda's translation of Esterházy Péter's Celestial Harmonies (get your copy of the English translation at 

       I'm already won over by an article that reveals that the chief rabbi (of both Prague and the Czech Republic), Karol Sidon, admits:
I couldn't read anything but what is considered lowbrow sci fi literature which I really love
       But how great to hear that he went on to write his own (and publish it under a pseudonym) -- and that, as Jan Velinger reports at Radio Praha, Prague rabbi pens literary hit of season, as the first volume of his planned tetralogy, Altschulova metoda (see the (Czech) Torst publicity page), has become a big hit 
       Sounds pretty wild -- I'd love to hear more about this. 

New data on tax havens

Here is the new paper (pdf):
This article shows that official statistics substantially underestimate the net foreign asset positions of rich countries because they fail to capture most of the assets held by households in offshore tax havens. Drawing on a unique Swiss data set and exploiting systematic anomalies in countries’ portfolio investment positions, I find that around 8% of the global financial wealth of households is held in tax havens, three-quarters of which goes unrecorded. On the basis of plausible assumptions, accounting for unrecorded assets turns the eurozone, officially the world’s second largest net debtor, into a net creditor. It also reduces the U.S. net debt significantly. The results shed new light on global imbalances and challenge the widespread view that after a decade of poor-to-rich capital flows, external assets are now in poor countries and debts in rich countries. I provide concrete proposals to improve international statistics.
The original pointer was from Paul Krugman.  Yesterday I was at an IMF forum with Jeff Sachs and he too was placing great stress on this issue.

Proof by watercolor painting: “The Lamington, Australia’s famed dessert, was actually invented in New Zealand and originally named a “Wellington”, according to new research published by the University of Auckland.” Nude Ziland

Vulpes Libris – Shiny New Books

"There is no I in team,
but there's one in bitterness,
one in failure." 

Making a book magazine

SNB logo“Do you mind if my post this week is shamelessly self-promoting?” said I to the foxes, and they politely averted their eyes and commented on the weather.  Which I took as a sign that, yes, I could.  (Admittedly, one of them cheekily sent me a link to this post on plugging books.)  Well, I am not plugging a book, but rather a whole other website – Shiny New Books.  And I’m not so much plugging as taking you behind the scenes of a very bookish venture…
But first things first – Shiny New Books, as you will find out if you click that link up above (or this identical one), is a quarterly recommendations magazine set up by me and four other bloggers, whose names I will mention soon.  With the same literary enthusiasm and friendliness as the foxes, we will be reviewing the best books of the past three months (hardback and paperback), covering fiction, non-fiction, and (my section) reprints – along with features by and interviews with authors, publishers, translators etc.  There, that’s the grubby, self-promoting bit out the way.  Now, I thought you might find it interesting to come with me behind the scenes and discover how the whole thing happened…

Michael Stein is a writer and journalist in the Czech Republic and runs a blog on Central European writing called literalab. He is an editor at B O D Y.
Reading The Devil’s Workshop you come up against a remarkable and frightening historical reality: that the memory of the mass killings of World War II is most flawed, faded and even purposefully obscured precisely in those places where it was the most severe. At one point a western visitor to the commune that pops up around the site of the former concentration camp of Terezín makes a recriminatory speech to the Czechs how Western Europe has carefully tended cemeteries for its war dead, whereas here everyday life takes place on the very spots where people were killed or sent on to Auschwitz and no one seems to care. Of course, you could read about this imbalance in a history book or article, but the way Jáchym Topol is able to dramatize this amnesia and ignorance has the kind of effect no dispassionate recounting of figures could ever hope to achieve.

Vanishing Olde World

"Eventually it comes to you: the thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably that which must also make you lonely."
~ Lorraine Hansberry, journal entry, (16 May 1958)

NYC Before & After

James and Karla Murray, the photographers who brought us the wonderful book Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York, have been quietly working on an exciting new project.
Vanishing Cultures & Sydneyrellas

:U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor talks about her memoir at Seton Hall": The Record of Hackensack - There were so many people I wanted to touch and I couldn’t
Once upon a time, gazing at ruins was considered one of life’s most exquisite pleasures. Ruins can evoke a pleasurable melancholy as well a nightmarish dread. They are about decay, oblivion, but also hope. Maybe that's why we can’t get enough...Mittleurope

"When I started to see the analyst, I had a powerful feeling of guilt about my whole situation, and could not believe it was right to eliminate this feeling. My talks with him put it into perspective, until I was nearer to accepting it. 'In this life you pay for everything, for every happiness,' he said."

~ The Tongs and the Bones: The Memoirs of Lord Harewood

Saturday, April 12, 2014

All is Lost

"All will be lost. Everything we do, everything we make, everything we love." --T.C. Boyle, whose most recent book is "T.C. Boyle: Stories II"
~All will be lost

All Kafka’s stark stories and stark parables are informed by his years as a successful functionary in an insurance firm. His deeply felt and widely read story, “The Metamorphosis”, can be interpreted as the tragedy of the man who can no longer get out of bed and go to work. The Castle is essentially the same: a punctilious land surveyor is prevented from executing his professional duties, and for that feels his entire existence indicted.
“Computers had brought the blues to the white collar workplace. The green characters of the visual display terminal . . . suggest some kind of menace.” 

Office life is weird, inefficient and dysfunctional. We turn up first thing in the morning at gigantic glass and steel boxes, where we pass the day being nice to people we don’t necessarily like. We speak an opaque language full of “going forwards” and “key deliverables”; we spend hours around conference tables in meeting rooms and at our desks composing emails that may never get read. And then, having failed to get much done in the glass box, we go home and continue to work on our laptops and smartphones at home.Weird Office Lives

That Self-Published Book is a Bestseller
Author Robin O'Bryant writes, "I self-published my first book in shame. I was disappointed that after two years of work with my top tier literary agent in New York, editors still didn’t think I had a platform large enough to sell a book."

That book lived for about two years before hitting multiple bestseller lists, due in part to her tireless promotion. Now,Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves, is re-released, and Mrs. O'Bryant has a two-book deal with St. Martin's Press.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread

Naively, I still keep leaving death Till the last moment... -Cold River musings

I told my girls, I told them, if somebody interesting talks to you, you say a few things too. You might as well breathe at the same time & let the words out in the air. Don’t just ask questions, I told them. Give things away. Give yourself away.”

"In spite of the fact that TLS readers know at least three lines from this poem (some knowing without knowing they know) – “To err is human, to forgive divine”, “A little learning is a dang’rous thing” and “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” – the poem sold poorly. " Donald W. Nichol • TLS

"Perhaps I’ll disavow the word “confession.” Perhaps the true word would be “admission.”" Lucie Brock Broido • Guernica

And financial trading is not the only ecosystem that is highly complex and aggressive. “I would ask the question, ‘On the savannah, are the hyenas and the vultures the bad guys?’ ” says one of Katsuyama’s more dispassionate colleagues. “We have a boom in carcasses on the savannah. So what? It’s not their fault. The opportunity is there.” Flash Boys of high-frequency computerised trading

Protecting Taxpayers from Incompetent and Unethical Return Preparer

Senate Finance Committee, Protecting Taxpayers from Incompetent and Unethical Return Preparer: (detailed coverage here):

      In search of an honest accountancy
      Were Napoleon Bonaparte alive today, he would surely call Britain a “nation of accountants” rather than a “nation of shopkeepers”. With around 330,000 professionally qualified accountants, the United Kingdom has more accountants than the combined total of lawyers, doctors, surgeons, engineers and architects. This vast social investment has failed to deliver good corporate governance, meaningful company accounts, or worthwhile audits. But it has produced a tide of sleaze and the destruction of tax revenues. Accountancy firms are a ripe case  for Ed Miliband’s quest for responsible capitalism.

      Newsweek:  How to Cheat on Your Taxes, by David Cay Johnston (Syracuse):
      There's never been a better time to cheat on your taxes. Or a better way.
      As millions of Americans rush to file their tax returns on time, trying to be ever-so-careful in hopes of avoiding an audit or, far worse, prosecution, they will find it instructive, and infuriating, to learn about Jerry Curnutt.
      Curnutt can show people how to cheat on their taxes and not get caught. His trick won't work if you are a wage earner, but those rich enough to invest in real estate partnerships have escaped paying billions of dollars in the past decade by using this technique.
      Now Curnutt's mission in life, at age 76, is to get states and the IRS to go after these cheats. ...
      [T]he tax-cheat ploy Curnutt uncovered is remarkably easy. On Form 1065, the one partnerships file, just leave Line 10 on Schedule K blank, or report a smaller figure than the real one.
      Why does that one line go unnoticed when the IRS selects tax returns for audit? IRS software scans only for what it is told to look for. (Think of those Star Trek episodes in which the Enterprise scans a planet for life, detects none and then discovers life forms the scanners were not tuned to notice.)
      This week, news broke that the IRS effectively fails to audit massive partnerships, like hedge funds and private equity funds, even though corporations of the same size are under constant IRS audit. A short video, "Tax Analysts Video Examines Audit-Proof Businesses," explains how partnerships escape audits.
      Curnutt knows this because he is a tax detective. He retired from the Internal Revenue Service in 2000 as one of its top snoops, overseeing all investment partnerships. Using his desktop computer, Curnutt discovered a simple way to cheat that no one at the IRS had noticed. Call it Curnutt cheating.
      For his brilliant sleuthing, the IRS gave Curnutt commendations and multiple cash awards, each for about $1,000. It sent him around the country to conduct 64 training sessions so IRS auditors could learn how to efficiently spot these cheats. He also trained state tax auditors from California, Indiana, New Jersey and New York.

      Washington Post:  A Week Before Tax Day, IRS Misses Crucial Windows XP Deadline