Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ashes to Ashes

Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is literally marked on the forehead of observant Christians ...
"Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return"
Ash Wednesday Story 

Slavic Pre Ash Wednesday Doughnut by Marcel Imrich 

Ushering Ashes on MEdia Dragons: Pope Francis to open Lenten pastoral effort on social media  

“I exhort anyone who has not been on the inside of the public service to find an opportunity to do so.
“Public servants are wonderful, caring, intelligent and committed Australians (occasionally, so sadly, so pathetically stigmatised as ‘grey cardigan wearers’) who, to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt from his famous ‘Citizenship in a Republic’ speech, ‘actually strive to do the deeds; who know great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spend themselves in a worthy cause’.”
Lay off ash ‘grey cardigan wearers': ACMA head’s parting shot to critics 

We Want a New World

“She could never rid herself of the sense that unhappiness was a state of disease—of suffering as opposed to doing. To ‘do’—it hardly mattered what—would therefore be an escape, perhaps in some degree a remedy.”
~ Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Last week, the former prime minister Paul Keating said that lifting the GST to 15 per cent would be “fiscal folly” and “tax penury”. Despite his warnings, he accepted a modest increase to the consumption tax, of a couple of percentage points, could be made to help fund hospitals. “A big increase in the rate of the GST will only lead the political system into continuing bad habits,” Mr Keating wrote for Fairfax this week ..

Stubbornness comes with more ease than holiness. I, for one, am tempted to “force the door.” I have always been ambitious and was, at one time, fiercely political. In this vein, I was ideologically inclined. But that was before I learned the dangers of ideologies and their blameworthiness for perpetuating the plight of modern men. I was attracted to politicians and ideologues and their ability to impact the bigger picture. I know now that it is not ideas, but human persons that, in reality, are the bigger pictureAny ideology that sets itself above the logos of the Incarnation will not provide an adequate view of men. Only “Christ…fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes). So, politics must return to its proper place where it derives its importance only from humble service toward human persons and their true end.… Baptizing the Modern World

 Proust was among the first to recognize that the shock of air travel wasn’t technological but intellectual: a new way of processing the world, a new habit of mind The New World 

Have we moved beyond Adam Smith and Jean-Jacques Rousseau? No, and nor should we. Their 18th-century debates are still our debates Old Ideas New Again 

Debates over the federal budget often refer to the level of ‘welfare’ spending. However the term welfare is often poorly defined. This can lead to confusion. The ambiguity of the term ‘welfare’ is a problem across English-speaking countries. For example, in a post on the House of Commons Library Blog, Rod McInnes writes:
The word ‘welfare’ does not have a single universally accepted definition in the context of public expenditure. For some people, the word is associated with cash handouts for working-age people who are workless or on low incomes. Others define the term more broadly to encompass other strands of benefit expenditure, or even services provided as benefits-in-kind by the ‘welfare state’, such as the NHS [National Health Service], social care or free school meals. Te word ‘welfare’ may also be felt by some to carry a certain stigma, whereas others may consider it neutral rather than pejorative.
What counts as welfare spending? 

Mapping homelessness Down Under

The Gerben comedy immigration video that everyone is talking about

Tzu understood the advantage of knowing your opponent when engaging a fight: Randwick councillors call for extra merge meeting
"Thus, it is said that one who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be endangered in a
hundred engagements. One who does not know the enemy but knows himself will sometimes
be victorious, sometimes meet with defeat. One who knows neither the enemy nor himself will invariably be defeated in every engagement ..."
WOOLLAHRA’S mayor has launched a scathing attack on Australia’s most famous beachside suburb, slamming Bondi and its surrounds as a “homogenised mess” in a bid to avert a looming amalgamation with Waverley Council. The comments came in a submission to the Local Government Boundaries Commission of inquiry yesterday from Woollahra Mayor Councillor Toni Zeltzer, who said it would be better for Woollahra to merge with the City of Sydney. "Waverley ... has a high-rise belt in Bondi Junction, Bondi Beach on the coast and everything in between is a homogenised mess,” 
Council wars: Woollahra’s mayor slams Bondi as a ‘homogenised mess’

Botany Historical Trust’s Anne Slattery described the merger as “cultural and historical barbarism”... Cricketer Dave Warner and TV personality Sarah Harris, grew up in social housing. Randwick land values increased by 35 per cent to an average of $1.1 million, close to Woollahra’s $1.5 million average. All Happy Families are Alike in Diversity 

When Peter Shergold was asked to rake over major policy failures under the previous government and draw out lessons in better ways of doing public administration, he seized the opportunity to say what he really thinks. His lively report (with its mouthful title) — Learning from Failure: why government policy initiatives have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be improved — reads like a manifesto for modern public services that attempts to go well above and beyond its terms of reference. Peter Shergold was asked to find lessons for public servants from failures under the previous government

The intention of this paper is to analyze religiosity as a factor that potentially affects tax compliance. Studies in the 90s have shown that the puzzle of tax compliance is "why so many individuals pay their taxes" and not "why people evade taxes".
Current NSW Premier Mike Baird can expect to come under scrutiny in his first appearance since a social media response to what he described as “hysterical” claims around the state’s controversial lockout laws. The premier on Tuesday posted a463-word response on Facebook to recent criticism of the laws, which require central Sydney venues to turn people away from 1.30am, serve last drinks by 3am and have banned the sale of takeaway alcohol after 10pm

How Much Debt Is Too Much? Robert Skidelsky, Project Syndicate 

International Tax Blog, New Expatriate Record for 2015 – Nearly 4,300 Expatriations:
Today the Treasury Department published the names of individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency (“expatriated”) during the fourth quarter of 2015.

Bloomberg – Faye Flam – “For all its apparent simplicity, a new experimental study showing that mouse-like rodents can be nice to each other now stands at the vanguard of a scientific revolution

Now the mystery behind the big bird's extinction may have been solved, after burnt eggshells revealed people may have been the culprits.
 - Genyornis giant bird extinction mystery

A woman hides her face in shame as she puts her kids up for sale during the depression.

The Potential of Data and Analytics in Higher Education, January 2016: “Higher Education is at a point of unprecedented uncertainty and change, with fiscal changes that are leading to increasing focus upon a more student (and customer) focused model. FTC releases online tools to cope with identity theft 
There are funny imams and dour priests, and vice versa  And when did caste kick in?

How Stan Grant delivered Australia’s ‘greatest anti-racism speech’ off-the-cuff Sydney Morning Herald  

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Terry Teaches Us Many Ways of Appreciating Arty Last Nights

The wordsmith and preserver of priceless storytelling and so much more ...

Many Happy returns to Terry Teachout who  turned sixty on Saturday. "Mrs. T and I didn’t throw a party, though. That might have been fun, but we were staying at Florida’s Biltmore Hotel, which is surely enough of a celebration for any reasonable person, and we don’t know anybody who lives in Coral Gables."

Sufficient unto the birthday

“Memory is a great artist, we are told; she selects and rejects and shapes and so on. No doubt. Elderly persons would be utterly intolerable if they rememberedeverything. Everything, nevertheless, is just what they themselves would like to remember, and just what they would like to tell to everybody.
~ Max Beerbohm, “No. 2, The Pines” (courtesy of Levi Stahl)

Drummers gather in the woods

“It was bad enough when our capacity to produce and read great stories collapsed. Now it seems we’ve turned around and loved magazine writing to death Atavist 

Hostages to fortune

Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of human life ...

War and Peace helped establish historical fiction but left open the genre's quandary: What's the right balance between history and fictionCertainty of non-fiction of fiction 

How does digital media dragons really affect us? 

While there are many literary giants who drank as well as they wrote, Ernest Hemingway may be the all-time champ. (Sorry Charles Bukowski and Sea of Lattituders (sic)) Hemingway's poison 

Art or farce? 

Leaders Deny Strife Caused Departures From Politico New York Times. Schadenfraude alert. Politico is a big recipient of Wall Street advertising, and its coverage reflects that. Huffington Post broke the story, and the details are juicy.

  Town haul: Developers eye richesSYDNEY’S council mergers have sparked a multi-million dollar land grab as developers eye grand old town halls, prime harbourside land and other valuable real estate gems that could become surplus to requirements Town haul: Developers eye riches

Tic-tac-toe fell in 1952, checkers in 1994, chess in 1997 and it now looks like Go, the ancient Chinese game that has a search space many, many times greater than chess, has fallen to a new AI from Google.

The shadow chancellor insisted the scandal over Google's tax affairs demonstrated a need for greater scrutiny.  He told the Sunday Mirror: 'After this week it has only confirmed a belief I have long held. The Chancellor, the politician with sole responsibility for setting taxation, should be open and transparent about their own income. 'That is why in the spirit of the 'new politics' I have taken the decision to publish my personal tax returns. 'And I will do so every year while I seek to be and hopefully one day become Chancellor. 'I think it is only fair that politicians set a good example. Especially those charged with or those who aspire to oversee the nations finances.'

I had to laugh at what Richard Brooks, author of The Great Tax Robbery, had to say about HMRC: “The reports of their success are a sort of exercise in fiddling the figures themselves – just like the tax dodgers.”  HMRC tax avoidance dispatches greg wise Channel 4

Baby cages used to ensure that children get enough sunlight and fresh air when living in an apartment building, ca. 1937

In his opening statement, Robert Stefanic said he was impressed with the dedication and professionalism of “most of” his staff and intended to build on the department’s capacity based on his experience running the equivalent agency in New South Wales.

To understand Modern hostages of fortune, pay less attention to poems and paintings than to faceless bureaucrats, agency acronyms, and legalese Holistic Kafka 

When Peter Shergold was asked to rake over major policy failures under the previous government and draw out lessons in better ways of doing public administration, he seized the opportunity to say what he really thinks. His lively report (with its mouthful title) — Learning from Failure: why government policy initiatives have gone so badly wrong in the past and how the chances of success in the future can be improved — reads like a manifesto for modern public services that attempts to go well above and beyond its terms of reference Adapt or die: Peter Shergold's manifesto for transformation