Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Philosophical gourmet of spicy ails

We are concerned about a pattern of emails sent by the editor of thePhilosophical Gourmet Report to individuals whom he apparently perceives as critics. We hope that colleagues will report any steps by the author to carry out his threat that “things will get around”.

Philosophical Gourmet report

The Rule of Law is Vastly Under-Priced Cassandra

A cyberfriend writes to remind me that when Charles Dickens visited America for the first time in 1842, he was mobbed wherever he went, an experience that he described in a letter to John Forster, his friend and biographer:
I can do nothing that I want to do, go nowhere where I want to go, and see nothing that I want to see. If I turn into the street, I am followed by a multitude. If I stay at home, the house becomes, with callers, like a fair. If I visit a public institution, with only one friend, the directors come down incontinently, waylay me in the yard, and address me in a long speech. I go to a party in the evening, and am so inclosed and hemmed about by people, stand where I will, that I am exhausted for want of air. I dine out, and have to talk about everything to everybody. I go to church for quiet, and there is a violent rush to the neighbourhood of the pew I sit in, and the clergyman preaches at me. I take my seat in a railroad car, and the very conductor won’t leave me alone. I get out at a station, and can’t drink a glass of water, without having a hundred people looking down my throat when I open my mouth to swallow. Conceive what all this is! Then by every post, letters on letters arrive, all about nothing, and all demanding an immediate answer. This man is offended because I won’t live in his house; and that man is thoroughly disgusted because I won’t go out more than four times in one evening. I have no rest, or peace, and am in a perpetual worry.

Fair Share Demands - Global Story

Monday, September 29, 2014

Crasses of Fragile Wealth

Grasses, leaves, bark, clay, and dirt were once staples of a famine diet. Now they’re served at the world’s most exclusive restaurants... World going gaga

Sydney Push

One Liners

Donald Antrim, chronically underrated, had a year of recognition, which he calls “a very unexpected occurrence.” He didn’t expect to still be alive... Life of Mysteries

Karl Miller, founding editor of the London Review of Books, master of the aperçu and the clever one-liner, is dead at 83...Karl of Wit

In theory, all languages are equal. In practice, chauvinism reigns. Enter the radical linguists... Bohemians Rule

Pirate, hobo, prisoner, prospector, Jack Londonpreferred life to literature. “Every time I sit down to write, it is with great disgust”...Man in a Boat is an island

The making of Jozef Imrich. The master of Bohemian escapes was a heavy-drinking ex-writer, repeatedly unlucky in love... Hard core irony of life

Enter any research library and you’ll find introverted academics with disheveled hair. The modern archetype for genius is Einsteinian... Only inside libraries

Behavioral economics has taught us to be wary of our own cognitive biases. But placing too much faith in our own irrationality is itself irrational... irrational : the act of thinking

Friday, September 26, 2014


“Sixty is not a bad age—unless in perspective, when no doubt it is contemplated by the majority of us with mixed feelings. It is a calm age; the game is practically over by then; and standing aside one begins to remember with a certain vividness what a fine fellow one used to be. I have observed that, by an amiable attention of Providence, most people at sixty begin to take a romantic view of themselves. Their very failures exhale a charm of peculiar potency. And indeed the hopes of the future are a fine company to live with, exquisite forms, fascinating if you like, but—so to speak—naked, stripped for a run. The robes of glamour are luckily the property of the immovable past which, without them, would sit, a shivery sort of thing, under the gathering shadows.”
~ Joseph Conrad, “The Inn of the Two Witches” (courtesy of Lance Mannion)

“Be prepared to see something that you will not like,” Freud told his doctor. He opened his mouth. It was cancer. Freud started to plan how to die... Bohemian Boy Born and Bred on the bank of Morava River who escaped to Vienna

Sting of Betrayal: George Soros and Cristina Kirchner Wolf Street. A tad overwrought but the general point holds

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: Ex-GSA Executive Jeff Neely Indicted for Fraud. “Jeff Neely, the General Services Administration executive viewed as the ringleader of the lavish spending on a 2010 training conference in Las Vegas, was indicted on five counts of fraud on Thursday by a federal grand jury in San Francisco. The 59-year-old former head of region nine of the Public Building Service faces charges of making fraudulent reimbursement claims and false statements, according to an announcement from United States Attorney Melinda Haag of Northern California and GSA Office of Inspector General Special Agent in Charge David House.”

The United Kingdom Nearly Died for Margaret Thatcher’s SinsBob Kuttner, American Prospect
Australia’s Prime Minister Gives a Master Class in Exploiting Terrorism Fears to Seize New Powers Glenn Greenwald, Intercept. Really sad to see what is happening in Oz. It was a bastion of (comparative) sanity when I lived there ten years ago. Of course, they did elect Tony Abbot.

Argentina Uses Drones to Root Out Wealthy Tax Evaders

INK BOTTLE“You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you.”
Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind and Other Aphorisms
The Argentine government has used drones to catch out wealthy tax evaders who had not declared mansions and swimming pools.

Freeports: now Luxembourg adds to the sleaze 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Digital Cemeteries

There's Now An Online Will Which Distributes Your Social Media Accounts And Digital Assets When You Die Digital & Media Dragon Assets Undertakers ; Dying at 75

 Then I realized that he had clicked on a phishing email or had his computer somehow compromised. I wish that there was some sort of antibiotic for this sort of situation but, the reality is that security awareness is a constant battle to be waged You are hunted on social media

Spy agency ASIO will be given the power to monitor the entire Australian internet and journalists' ability to write about national security will be curtailed when new legislation Entire internet needed

Originally formed for self-protection, prison gangs have become the unlikely custodians of order behind bars—and of crime on the streets How gangs run prisons

Rooms go quiet when you enter. Your name mysteriously disappears from group reports and email lists or, perhaps a peer routinely criticises your work in boardroom meetings. Watch out. You may be prey to a Corporate Snake

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Imagination: Our greatest skill

Imagination: Our greatest skill New Scientist

More reassuring, I think, would be a candid assessment of what might go wrong with nudging. One of Sunstein’s many books (from before his time in the White House) is entitled Worst-Case Scenarios. Could we please have something like that as a companion to Nudge?
I am afraid there is very little awareness in these books about the problem of trust. Every day we are bombarded with offers whose choice architecture is manipulated, not necessarily in our favor. The latest deal from the phone company is designed to bamboozle us, and we may well want such blandishments regulated. But it is not clear whether the regulators themselves are trustworthy. Governments don’t just make mistakes; they sometimes set out deliberately to mislead us. The mendacity of elected officials is legendary and claims on our trust and credulity have often been squandered. It is against this background that we have to consider how nudging might be abused.
The full piece is here.  

By the way, there is a new Cass Sunstein book out, which I have not yet read, Valuing Life: Humanizing the Regulatory State.

The Economics of Violence Project Syndicate

How Insurers Are Finding Ways to Shift Costs to the Sick New York Times. From midweek. Note we took note of this issue weeks ago, but good to see in-depth reporting.

Water Edge

FBI & Secret Service Files: Aaron Swartz The Black Vault. From FOIA.
Lunch with the FT: Sir John Sawers FT. First on-the-record interview with the Chief of MI6 (!).

Tax Breaks

Academic Fraud and the Ponzi Scheme of “Higher Learning”Counterpunch. Jamie Galbraith anticipated some important related developments in his book The Predator State. While college (at least once upon a time) produced graduates with general skills, advanced degrees produce graduates with much more highly specialized skills. Their employment options are narrower and their economic fall is generally further if they can’t find work that uses those skills (which has been happening to law school grads). Yet as the credentialing of college became more common, more people saw getting a graduate degree as a way to further differentiate themselves. From a societal standpoint, even before you factor in the ridiculous escalation of education costs, producing this many highly specialized graduates is a questionable investment.

House GOP Bill Combines Worst Tax Break Ideas of 2014 for Half-a-Trillion Dollar Giveaway. (Tax Justice Blog). When they know that the Senate will ignore whatever they do, it’s easy to accommodate anyone lobbying for a tax break...

Mad Scientist Gets Prison Time for Using His Dog and Cat in a Tax Avoidance Scheme (Going Concern). Creative PETA .,.

Congress Cries Wolf Over Internet Access Taxes (TaxVox). “Unable to do anything important before its election season recess, Congress is about to knock down a favorite digital straw man—It will extend for a few months the about-to-expire federal ban on state taxation of Internet access.”

60 Minutes: The Tax Refund Scam

(Click here to view video directly on CBS to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

Flach has fresh link on  Buzz, including links on the cost of tax compliance and “7 deadly tax sins.”

A Hail Mary or Two on the Hill.  The TaxVox tax headline roundup covers inflation adjustments and beating up on the NFL with the tax code, among other things.

Will Software Really Replace Accountants?  I suppose it’s possible, but not with a tax system anything like we have.

Norton Street filled with Italian Flemish Stories

“Why should we expect the young to show us any consideration? Seeing us can only remind them of death. And old people’s diseases. I’m not surprised to see them stay away.”
~ Terence Rattigan, Separate Tables(courtesy of D.G. Myers)
This year’s Opening Night Selection is a gloriously entertaining biopic that tells the true story of beloved singer, songwriter and accordionist, Rocco Granata, from his early life as an immigrant in Belgium to his emergence as a worldwide musical phenomenon with his 1959 song Marina, one of the biggest international hits of that era Norton Street was rather hungry at this year's opening night

The movie Marina, Marina, Marina highlighted some of the occupational health & safety issues circa 148 ... Nothing much changed in 2014
 Noam Chomsky: Why Americans Know So Much About Sports But So Little About World Affairs Alternet (RR)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Youth has no age - Pablo Picasso: So Hope your day is simply terrific! Happy Birthday Ruby

  • 50 years
  • 600 months
  • 2,609 weeks
  • 18,263 days
  • 438,312 hours
  • 26,298,720 minutes
  • 1,577,923,200 seconds
  • Age in Dog Years: 213.0
  • Age in Galapagos Turtle Years: 23.8
- Zippy and Pasha would have said Awooooouuu.... [Keep your friends close, but your birthday cake closer. (The Godfather)]

Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. MA

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even...

You lose nothing when fighting for a cause ... In my mind the losers are those who don't have a cause they care about.
( Muhammad  Ali)

May your birthday and every day be filled with the warmth of sunshine, the happiness of smiles, the sounds of laughter, the feeling of love and the sharing of good cheer. May the kindness you always give come back to you doubled ... What we all need is more people who specialize in the impossible such as those outlaw brothers!

May you stay Forever Young - Bob Dylan (Sydney Opera House September 2014)

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts. - William Shakespeare

You were born an original. Don't die a copy. - George Burns

“Above all, cultivate easy and sincere friendships with kindred spirits and enter into them with generous sympathy.” – W. V. O. Quine gives some life advice.

 It takes a long time to become as young as you are. May the Force be with you on your birthday. (Star Wars)

I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination. - Jimmy Dean

CODA: Nice to be here? At my age it's nice to be anywhere. - brother-out-law Jozef

Sto lat! Sto lat!
Niech zyje, zyje nam.
Sto lat! Sto lat!
Niech zyje, zyje nam.
Jeszcze raz! Jeszcze raz! Niech zyje, zyje nam.
Niech zyje nam.

Niech ci? gwiazdka pomyslnosci nigdy nie zagasnie,
nigdy nie zagasnie! 
A kto z nami nie wypije,
niech go piorun trzasnie.
A kto z nami nie wypije,
niech go piorun trzasnie.

Sto lat! Sto lat! Sto lat!
Sto lat! Niechaj zyje nam.
Sto lat! Sto lat! Sto lat!
Sto lat! Niechaj zyje nam.
Niech zyje nam! Niech zyje nam!
Zdrowia, szczescia, pomyslnosci!
Niechaj zyj

100 years! 100 years!
They live, live (among) us!
100 years! 100 years!
They live, live (among) us!
Again, again! They live, live (among) us!
Live (among) us!
That for him the star of happiness never goes out, never goes out!
And those who do not drink with us, as lightning strikes!
And those who do not drink with us, as lightning strikes!

100 years, 100 years,
100 years, 100 years live (among) us!
100 years, 100 years,
100 years, 100 years live (among) us!
Live (among) us! Live (among) us!
In health, happiness, and the happiness he lives (among) us.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

If Books Can Change Your Life, Can They Also Make It Far Worse?

If Books Can Change Your Life, Can They Also Make It Far Worse?

“Novels might not make us worse, but they can unlock parts of us that were already there, already dark, already violent or ruthless or self-destructive.”

Friday, September 19, 2014

Pray For Media Dradons: Why study paradoxes?

“A lot of the reason why societies don’t become fairer is that those who benefit from current injustice are spared the need to think too hard about what it would have been like to be born in different circumstances. They resist change from ingrained bias and prejudice, from a failure of the imagination.” – John Rawls’s life and ideas are briefly surveyed at The Philosopher’s Mail.

In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy, Volume 1, by Eugene Thacker, is, according to Radiolab, “an academic treatise about the horror humanity feels as we realize that we are nothing but a speck in the universe.” Who knows, but apparently it is kind of a big deal in some entertainment circles.

“In a new study, researchers used a smartphone app to track moral and immoral acts committed or witnessed by more than 1,200 people as they went about their days,” reports Wired and the New York Times.

Why study paradoxes? Roy Cook (Minnesota) answers.
Paul Bloomfield (Connecticut) lists 10 reasons why it is good to be good at the OUP Blog.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Story of Surveillance

Charles Ives only fitfully found an audience. His was a life of rejection, struggle, redemption. His big break: being weaponized in the Cold War... Velvet Tevolutions

The Transparency Trap

Why trying to make government more accountable has backfired

As time runs out. Rarely does a writer knowingly record his last words. And yet writing does tend to focus the mind on posterity... Scholars

Kim Dotcom, Glenn Greenwald, and New Zealand’s Intelligence Service, GCSB

As New Zealanders will know, Kim Dotcom, a resident of New Zealand, is a very, very imposing German tech entrepreneur with a shady past, who has lately been the subject of much official attention from the US and NZ authorities (including jail time), for his facilitation of large scale worldwide copyright breaches via the file sharing service, “megaupload”, now expropriated and closed down.
Here’s the sort of place one saw megaupload in its heyday; along with many other file sharers, it provided a great way to knock off bloggers’ e-books, such as Econned, by one Yves Smith:
Megaupload CaptureYou may assume that “Naked Capitalism” is not a massive fan of Kim Dotcom.
Dotcom, who now has a major bone to pick with the New Zealand authorities, has been promising election-influencing revelations about John Key, to be released on the 15th September. Just now, the pre-publicity went up many, many notches, with a huge assist from the redoubtable Glenn Greenwald, who is attending the Dotcom shindig on the 15th:
The Prime Minister has admitted for the first time that New Zealand spies did look into a form of mass surveillance on Kiwis, but never actually went through with it.
John Key was responding to the arrival of journalist Glenn Greenwald, with thousands of documents taken by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden that he says prove New Zealanders have been subjected to wholesale spying by the Government.
Mr Key has always said that he would resign if that was proven, but tonight he’s launched a counterattack.
Mr Greenwald claims he will produce evidence that could take down the Prime Minister, but just a short while ago Mr Key hit back and upped the ante big time, promising to get ahead of Mr Greenwald and declassify top-secret documents that will prove him wrong.
Key is on the record with the resignation promise here. I suppose it’s not terribly surprising how suddenly the national security rationale for having those documents classified in the first place can evaporate, when a Prime Ministerial career might be at stake. Realistically, though, if there’s anyone left in New Zealand who thought national security issues ranked way ahead of party politics, they probably have funny ideas about Santa Claus too.
We now have a handy equivalent for the verb “leak”, as well: “declassify”.
In a day or two, New Zealanders will get to see whether they think John Key’s hasty declassification trumps Greenwald’s leak, and whether it matters. Greenwald, in this interview, sounds very confident, but then, that’s his style:
United States journalist Glenn Greenwald says there are serious questions about whether the New Zealand Government was truthful about the GCSB law change.
“What I can tell you is that the statement that the GCSB made to New Zealand citizens last year — ‘We do not engage in mass surveillance of New Zealanders’ — is one that is not truthful.”
The Government engages in “extraordinary amounts of analysis of metadata – meaning who’s talking to whom for how long, where they are when they speak – on a massive, indiscriminate scale, not just internationally but of New Zealanders as well”.
He says New Zealand is an active member of the Five Eyes Alliance and spends an extraordinary amount of resources on electronic surveillance.
“…Every single thing that the NSA does that we have been reporting on over the last year and a couple of months involves New Zealand directly.”
Eyes down for the 15th, then.
Updates: Clever interview with Greenwald in New Zealand.  TVbarnstorming about the Internet, the TPP, NZ democracy and Kim Dotcom, by Dotcom’s lawyer.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


“And out of the river, the mist,
and deep in the forest, the devil;
where the world’s just an eagle’s wing in the dusk, or
a cloud
or the moon growing pale. 

The devil entices the good man
who ventures too far.
The river’s too dark. You’ll lose your way, you’ll drown it is
even under the stars.” 
~ Cold River in Mittleurope

What is college for? To learn about history, science, culture. If students want to build a self, says Steven Pinker, they can do it on their own... Do it yourself Tools

Judge above the Law and it’s not looking good. Here’s the source. And here’s a follow up to this story

Teenager offers creative solution to California drought ABC7 
For more than 100,000 years, humanity has survived every natural disaster. Now the existential risk comes from our own creation:supersmart machines...Careful what we wish for ;-)

A philosophy of body art. A tattoo can be many things – testimonial, adornment, poignant reminder – but they all share a subtext: “Look at me”... Look look at

Silicon Valley Has Officially Run Out of Ideas Slate. A positive development. Time for funding for new ventures to move into other arenas besides that related to computers and communications technology ...

A Porpoise Ensnared by Criminals and Nets New York Times 
Letting the Rich Take All The Money masaccio, Firedoglake

100 Best Novels, in Translation, Since 1900 CounterPunch of Cold River
‘Sorry about the bomb’: Aussie police apologize for ‘training device’ left in Sydney airport RT 

The new chasm is not between science and art but between those who speak the language of money and those who don’t. John Lanchester explains... Abba of money

Bohemian Kobra

The Czech special police squad Kobra revealed tax evasion estimated at at least 25 million Kč in business involving toilet paper and tissues, representatives of the police and customs officers has told journalists.
The police seized 3.7 million toilet paper rolls from a businessman.
Czech Financial General Directorate Deputy Director Jiří Zezulka said the toilet paper circulated among firms in the European Union while only serving as “the carrier of tax fraud” and was not produced for any final customer.
No word on whether it had special absorbency to carry tax fraud.  I love that the toilet paper caper was uncovered by “Kobra.” Kobra was his name ;-)

A robot (coined by Karel Capek as robota means work in Czech) unveiled today at the British Science Festival will be loading dishwashers next year, its developers claim.
“Boris” is one of the first robots in the world capable of intelligently manipulating unfamiliar objects with a humanlike grasp.
It was developed by scientists at the University of Birmingham.
The team also work with “Bob”, an autonomous robot who recently completed work experience at security firm G4S.
“This is Boris’ first public outing,” announced Professor Jeremy Wyatt of the School of Computer Science. The robot took five years to develop at a cost of £350,000.
Boris “sees” objects with depth sensors on its face and wrists. In 10 seconds it calculates up to a thousand possible ways to grasp a novel object with its five robotic fingers and plans a path of arm movements to reach its target, avoiding obstructions.
“It’s not been programmed to pick it up – it’s been programmed to learn how to pick it up,” explained Professor Wyatt.  There is more here, including a video

Dylan Matthews summarizes the The Case for Open Borders drawing on an excellent interview with Bryan Caplan. Here is one bit from the interview:
Letting someone get a job is not a kind of charity. It’s not a welfare program. It’s just the government leaving people alone to go and make something out of their lives. When most people are on earth are dealt such a bad hand, to try to stop them from bettering their condition seems a very cruel thing to do to someone.
My elevator pitch has no economics in it, because the economics is actually too subtle to really explain in an elevator pitch. If I had a little bit more time, I would say, “What do you think the effects for men have been of more women in the workforce?”
Are there some men who are worse off? Sure. But would we really be a richer society if we kept half the population stuck at home? Isn’t it better to take people who have useful skills and let them do something with it, than to just keep them locked up someplace where their skills go to waste?

On the economics, David Roodman has a characteristically careful and comprehensive review written for Givewell of the evidence on the effect of immigration on native wages. He writes, “the available evidence paints a fairly consistent and plausible picture”: - See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/#sthash.QCZLgiih.dpuf

Monday, September 15, 2014

*The Shifts and the Shocks* A politician can influence voters even by opposing opinion

INK BOTTLE“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.” 
~ Steve Jobs, Stanford University commencement address (2005)

“Tell me something I don’t know” is looking for participants

*The Shifts and the Shocks*

That is by Martin Wolf and the subtitle is What We’ve Learned — And Still Have to Learn — From the Financial Crisis.  You can buy it here.
- See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/page/2#sthash.EgtFBpA7.dpuf

A politician can influence voters just by stating an opinion, even an opposing opinion

There is a new research paper by David E. Broockman and Daniel M. Butler (pdf), the abstract is this:
Politicians have been depicted as, alternatively, strongly constrained by public opinion, able to shape public opinion if they persuasively appeal to citizens’ values, or relatively unconstrained by public opinion and able to shape it merely by announcing their positions. We conduct unique field experiments in cooperation with legislators to explore how constituents react when legislators take positions they oppose. For the experiments, state legislators sent their constituents official communications with randomly assigned content. In some letters, the representatives took positions on salient issues these constituents opposed, sometimes supported by extensive arguments but sometimes minimally justified. Results from an ostensibly unrelated telephone survey show that citizens often adopted their representatives’ issue positions even when representatives offered little justification. Moreover, citizens did not evaluate their representatives more negatively when representatives took positions citizens opposed. These findings suggest politicians can enjoy broad latitude to shape public opinion.
I suppose Alex Salmond is one current leader who understands this, Putin is another.
For the pointer I thank the excellent Samir Varma, who also cites coverage from Wonkblog.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Price We Pay — Harold Crooks

From Cold River to Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics Michael Ignatieff, Fire and Ashes: Success and Failure in Politics.  A genuinely interesting book about why someone with tenure at Harvard might be crazy enough to run for high public office, and then what it is like to lose somewhat ignominiously.
Kofis  “They’re manipulating all of us.”

Under the federal Equitable Sharing Program, police have seized $2.5 billion since 2001 from people who were not charged with a crime and without a warrant being issued. Police reasoned that the money was crime-related. About $1.7 billion was sent back to law enforcement agencies for their use.
Often the cash is seized from motorists (carrying costs now exceed liquidity premium, I suppose).  There is this too:
  • Only a sixth of the seizures were legally challenged, in part because of the costs of legal action against the government. But in 41 percent of cases — 4,455 — where there was a challenge, the government agreed to return money. The appeals process took more than a year in 40 percent of those cases and often required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures.
  • Hundreds of state and local departments and drug task forces appear to rely on seized cash, despite a federal ban on the money to pay salaries or otherwise support budgets. The Post found that 298 departments and 210 task forces have seized the equivalent of 20 percent or more of their annual budgets since 2008.
There is much more here, by Michael Sallah, Robert O’Harrow Jr., and Steven Rich at The Washington Post, give them a Pulitzer.