Friday, May 29, 2015

Deloitte Australia's inaugural Australian Privacy Index

“The Open Bitcoin Privacy Project (OBPP) – an open-source, international organization whose goal is to improve financial privacy within the Bitcoin ecosystem – has released its Spring 2015 Wallet Privacy Rating Report. In the report, the OBPP rates the 10 most popular Bitcoin wallets by measuring the wallets’ effectiveness at protecting users’ privacy.

Deloitte Australia's inaugural Australian Privacy Index, also launched on Monday to coincide with PAW 2015, revealed that other major sources of breach concern for Australian consumers were passport numbers (46 percent) and driver licence numbers (43 percent).
The study, which was informed by more than 1,000 surveyed individuals, also found that the banking and finance, and government sectors were the top two most trusted industry areas by consumers when it comes to safeguarding personal information.

(Image: Deloitte Australia)

Gompers, Paul A. and Kaplan, Steven N. and Mukharlyamov, Vladimir, What Do Private Equity Firms Say They Do? (April 27, 2015). Harvard Business School Finance Working Paper No. 15-081; Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Working Paper No. 15-081. Available for download at SSRN: or
“Bollen, Nicolas P. B. and Sensoy, Berk A., How Much for a Haircut? Illiquidity, Secondary Markets, and the Value of Private Equity (May 17, 2015). Fisher College of Business Working Paper No. 2015-03-08. Available for download at SSRN:
“Limited partners (LPs) of private equity funds commit to invest with significant uncertainty regarding the timing of capital calls and payoffs and extreme restrictions on liquidity. Secondary markets have emerged which alleviate some of the associated cost. This paper develops a subjective valuation model incorporating these institutional features. Private equity values are sensitive to the discount in secondary market transactions, especially for more risk averse LPs. Model-implied breakeven returns generally exceed empirically observed returns. However, highly risk tolerant LPs may find private equity attractive at portfolio allocations observed in practice, especially if they can access above-average funds and an efficient secondary market.”

Banks Are Now Pleading Guilty to Crimes. So Why Aren’t They Being Punished Like Criminals? Slate. Because the United States is a banana republic, and elites have impunity. This is not hard, guys.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grant Hehir

I intend to recommend to the GovernorGeneral that he appoint Mr Grant Hehir as the next AuditorGeneral for the Commonw. ealth for 10 years, commencing on 11 June 2015.

The NSW Auditor-General and the Audit Office worked very closely with Legislative Assembly Public Accounts Committee in Sydney and I assume the same will apply for the Joint Parliamentary Committee in Canberra….Reviews of NSW AGs Reports

John Menadue: There are many key public issues that we must address such as climate change, growing inequality, tax avoidance, budget repair, an ageing population, lifting our productivity and our treatment of asylum seekers.  But our capacity to address these and other important issues is becoming very difficult because of the power of vested interests with their lobbying power to influence governments in a quite disproportionate way.
Vested interests and the subversion of the public interest?

Jane Alpert, Growing Up Underground  ...One of the best 1960s memoirs, she goes from being a Swarthmore radical to a bomber who tries too hard to please her boyfriend, to a reconstructed peaceful feminist.  This book is notable for how it combines extreme self-awareness and extreme self-delusion, often on the same page

Tracking Federal Funds: and Other Data Sources. Merete F. Gerli, Information Research Specialist. May 13, 2015.
“Finding data on federal grants and contracts awarded to states and congressional districts, local governments, nonprofit organizations, contractors, and other eligible entities may present challenges. The official website,, at, collects data on grants, loans, insurance, assistance, and contracts, and it presents various searching and downloading options to Congress and the public. Because of continued data quality problems identified by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), researchers need to be aware that search results may be incomplete or have inaccuracies. was created under P.L. 109-282, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (FFATA), and is to be enhanced by requirements of P.L. 113-101, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act).”

Fraud has a long prehistory that can be traced back to the swindles of wily Odysseus and the Old Testament ruse in which Jacob tricks his twin brother out of his birthright, but I’ll pick up the story in the Middle Ages. Dante Alighieri, the poet laureate of fraudulence, devotes a full thirteen cantos in hisInferno to its many varieties—pandering, flattery, office-selling, fortune-telling, strife-stirring, hypocrisy, thievery, false counsel, sowing discord, lying, and betrayal, to name a few—and to the merciless but deserved punishments visited upon its perpetrators. His successor in fourteenth-century England was a brilliant but less-recognized chronicler of fraudulent practice, the poet John Gower
History of Fraud

Farewell, Margaret Hodge

 “The tax profession, by and large, will be delighted to see the back of her. . . . Nevertheless, I struggle to see any other serious claimant to the title of most influential Opposition MP of the last Parliamentary term.”
Margaret Hodge stands aside as head of spending watchdog  
Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge

I am sorry that Margaret Hodge has announced that she has no plan to seek the chair’s role on the Public Accounts Committee during the course of this parliament. Equally I am unsurprised; she had made it pretty clear to me how unlikely it was that she would do so several months ago.
This is hardly the time for a political obituary – because I suspect Margaret has at least one big role left to surprise us with – but I do think it fair to acknowledge her extraordinary contribution to the tax abuse debate during the last few years.
As I was noted as saying in the Guardian not long ago:
“Margaret is not an expert and she does muddle things up sometimes, but her strength has been to ask the questions that any reasonable person might do without being intimidated.”
“She sees over and beyond that,” Murphy says. “That is where she has been amazingly effective. Companies and HMRC rely on the detail to say they have stayed within the letter of the law. But Margaret points out that the outcome is not what parliament intended and therefore something must be wrong. She has upset the cosy relationship between HMRC and big business.”
“Yes, she does a bit of grandstanding,” says Murphy, “but there is an innate sense of justice and outrage to her questioning that strikes a chord with the public watching.”
And people have been watching across the world. There is a story that she was asked for a selfie by a director of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at a conference in Paris on the grounds that she is now a “tax rockstar”. That’s true, says Murphy: she has literally rocked the world of tax.
Richard Murphy on Margaret Hodge

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Margaret Hodge, the fiery head of the UK’s Public Accounts Committee, has been hauling the bosses of large multinational corporations over the coals for their egregious abuses of the UK tax system. Now, post-election, she is stepping down.
Many tax professionals in the UK dislike, hate, or even loathe her. That is essentially because she has fought against their interests, in the public interest.
We won’t do a detailed dissection of her time in the hot seat. If you want that, you might read this, from UK tax barrister Jolyon Maugham. As he says:
“The tax profession, by and large, will be delighted to see the back of her. . . . Nevertheless, I struggle to see any other serious claimant to the title of most influential Opposition MP of the last Parliamentary term.”
Farewell, Margaret Hodge 

EU parliament cracks down on shell firms

Alan Rusbridger: press can't afford to cover corruption and tax avoidance 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Psychology of the Searcher

Via Twitter Blog – “We’re excited to team up with Google to bring Twitter’s unique, real-time content to Google’s search results. Starting today, U.S. users searching in English will see relevant Tweets in their search results within the Google app (iOS and Android) and mobile web. The desktop web version is coming shortly, and we have plans to bring this feature to more countries in the coming months.” The Mandarin has an Aussie aspect

Marketers see visitors from a wide variety of search queries coming to their site.  This data is valuable in guiding a search strategy, but it has existed in a vacuum, with little known about how searchers make decisions about how to phrase their search that lead up to the visit.  New research from Blue Nile Research surveys searchers about how they choose to form their searches in a variety of different scenarios, and helps Marketers see the patterns in how searchers formulate their queries. Blue Nile’s research shows an exact 50-50 split between users who search in fragments (e.g. ‘swollen ankle’) and those who search in more fully formed terms (e.g. ‘causes of swollen ankle during sleep’).  When it came to questions vs. statements, 27% of respondents phrased their query in the form of a question, with ‘How’ being the most commonly used prefix. With the research showing no clear clustering in how users phrase their searches, Marketers who wish to be well prepared to reach their target audience must be thorough in first understanding how their audience chooses to search before developing a strategy and by crafting content that closely maps to their pain points.” Psychology of the Searcher – Patterns on How Searchers Formulate Queries by Blue Nile Research

The Library of Babel is a place for scholars to do research, for artists and writers to seek inspiration, for anyone with curiosity or a sense of humor to reflect on the weirdness of existence – in short, it’s just like any other library. If completed, it would contain every possible combination of 1,312,000 characters, including lower case letters, space, comma, and period.

“Recently, the focus of many novel search applications shifted from short keyword queries to verbose natural language queries. Examples include question answering systems and dialogue systems, voice search on mobile devices and entity search engines like Facebook’s Graph Search or Google’s Knowledge Graph Information Retrieval with Verbose Queries

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Carlson, Keith and Livermore, Michael A. and Rockmore, Daniel, A Quantitative Analysis of Writing Style on the U.S. Supreme Court (March 11, 2015). Washington University Law Review, Vol. 93, No. 6, 2016; Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 3. Available for download at SSRN:
“This paper presents the results of a quantitative analysis of writing style for the entire corpus of U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The basis for this analysis is frequency of function words, which has been found to be a useful “stylistic fingerprint” and which we use as a general proxy for the stylistic features of a text or group of texts. Based on this stylistic fingerprint measure, we examine temporal trends on the Court, verifying that there is a “style of the time” and that contemporaneous Justices are more stylistically similar to their peers than to temporally remote Justices. We examine potential “internal” causes of stylistic changes, and conduct an in-depth analysis of the role of the modern institution of the judicial clerk in influencing writing style on the Court. Using two different measures of stylistic consistency, one measuring intra-year consistency on the Court and the other examining inter-year consistency for individual Justices, we find evidence that clerks have increased the institutional consistency of the Court, but have reduced the individual consistency of the Justices.”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tools of Then and Now: Kenyan Born and Bred Malchkeon and Those Stone Tools

The importance of the Enlightenment has not been its triumph, but its creation of a culture of criticism – a culture now endangered by apathy...As Vaclav Havel  observed the more we know the less and less we care »

Here's my list of three reasons why we fear new technologies: Fear of Dissonance, Fear of Losing Your Job, Fear of Perception. 3 Reasons Why We Fear Technology
Tools of Yesterday:
“Human evolutionary scholars have long supposed that the earliest stone tools were made by the genus Homo and that this technological development was directly linked to climate change and the spread of savannah grasslands. New fieldwork in West Turkana, Kenya, has identified evidence of much earlier hominin technological behaviour. We report the discovery of Lomekwi 3, a 3.3-million-year-old archaeological site where in situ stone artefacts occur in spatiotemporal association with Pliocene hominin fossils in a wooded palaeoenvironment. The Lomekwi 3 knappers, with a developing understanding of stone’s fracture properties, combined core reduction with battering activities.
  • Supplementary Information – This file contains Supplementary Text, Supplementary Tables 1-3 and Supplementary References.
Bronze Age Danish woman wore garment from outside of Denmark

Asteroid impacts 3.3 billion years ago may have boiled the oceans Ars Technica. Always something new to worry about!

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Tools of Now:
News release: “When you see the driver next to you looking at their phone, it’s no longer safe to assume they’re texting. New research from AT&T shows nearly 4-in-10 smartphone users tap into social media while driving. Almost 3-in-10 surf the net. And surprisingly, 1-in-10 video chat. 7-in-10 people engage in smartphone activities while driving. Texting and emailing are still the most prevalent. But other smartphone activity use behind the wheel is now common. Among social platforms, Facebook tops the list, with more than a quarter of those polled using the app while driving. About 1-in-7 said they’re on Twitter behind the wheel. AT&T will expand the It Can Wait® campaign from a focus on texting while driving to include other smartphone driving distractions that have emerged as our relationships with our devices have changed. “When we launched It Can Wait five years ago, we pleaded with people to realize that no text is worth a life,” said Lori Lee, AT&T’s global marketing officer. “The same applies to other smartphone activities that people are doing while driving. For the sake of you and those around you, please keep your eyes on the road, not on your phone…”Smartphone activities people say they do while driving include:
  • Text (61%)
  • Email (33%)
  • Surf the net (28%)
  • Facebook (27%)
  • Snap a selfie/photo (17%)
  • Twitter (14%)
  • Instagram (14%)
  • Shoot a video (12%)
  • Snapchat (11%)
  • Video chat (10%)”