Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why the oldest person in the world keeps on dying?

In a string of whitewashed villages in the mountains of the Italian island of Sardinia, there are 21 centenarians in a population of 10,000. Only about four in 10,000 Americans reach the 100-year mark. So what do the Sardinians know that our own diet-and-health obsessed country doesn’t? Want Great Longevity and Health? It Takes a Village WSJ. Also exercise. And beans.

The author is Michael North, and this new and excellent book, when it comes to the earlier centuries, emphasizes the role of Swedes and Germans in shaping a region of prosperity and trade.  The most interesting section (starts p.239) is about the 1920s, when the Baltic nations underwent a radical deindustrialization, due to their severing from the Russian empire.  That is when they deviated from the Nordic economies, which for the most part continued their industrialization.
I also recommend Sverre Bagge, Cross & Scepter: The Rise of the Scandinavian Kingdoms from the Vikings to the Reformation.  If nothing else, this book will make you wonder if the recent success of the Nordic nations are in fact so deeply historically rooted after all.  As North (p.205) points out: “Industrialization arrived in all of these countries relatively late.”  Tom Buk-Swienty’s 1864: The Forgotten War That Shaped Modern Europe is a good book on how and why Denmark lost so much territory to Prussia/Germany.

Why the oldest person in the world keeps on dying?

Is China launching the world’s biggest fiscal stimulus (Again)

Ellen Chisa on what she learned from Harvard Business School

Good Wine Tastes More Like Koala Urine Than You’d Think io9

HSBC fears world recession with no lifeboats left Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Uber Kernel etc

The Wall Street Journal had a surprising story over the weekend, How Everyone Gets the ‘Sharing’ Economy Wrong, with the subtitle, “Uber isn’t the Uber for rides—it’s the Uber for low-wage jobs.” While the Journal maintains separation of church and state between its rabidly right wing editorial section and its news sections, I’ve been close enough to some stories to know on good authority that the Journal has refused to publish some stories (and reported sections of stories) because they were deemed to be too business-unfriendly. So what does one make of the Journal giving prominent placement (first page above the fold in the digital version) that depicts Uber and its ilk i the manner you’d expect to see at Salon or Huffington Post, as mainly in the business of crushing wages? Is it that the Journal is skeptical of new economy hype? Or is it that the rental extraction aspects of the “sharing” economy are so bloomin’ obvious that the editors didn’t see it as controversial to depict them in an unvarnished manner? 

The Sharing Economy Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

Mexico cab drivers snarl traffic in anti-Uber demo Agence France-Presse

There is uber for everything now

Adam Thierer on how the sharing economy overcomes lemons problems

Do innovators find it easier to justify bad behavior?

Ev Williams’ Obvious Ventures closes $123,456,789 fund Venturebeat. 

amur leopard links
Sleeping Beauty papers: “The longest sleeper in the top 15 is a statistics paper from Karl Pearson, entitled, ‘On lines and planes of closest fit to systems of points in space’. Published in Philosophical Magazine in 1901, this paper awoke only in 2002.”

What should you study to stay ahead of the computers?  That is by Robert Shiller.

The uber property boom is on borrowed time Business Spectator. Re Australia.

Fit for the Future Amalgamations: Council Maneuverings

NSW future is filled with flexibility and choice ...
It is cheaper to run communities in India

Congratulations to those who will be involved in the parliamentary inquiry into the Baird government's "Fit for the Future" council amalgamation program ("Speed bumps for the amalgamation plans", May 27). There is no empirical evidence to suggest larger councils are better and more fiscally advantageous to the public interest. In fact, as Greens MP David Shoebridge (pictured) has cited, our councils are already larger than their European counterparts.
There is no doubt in my mind that Woollahra Council is right to be fighting the amalgamation with Waverley and Randwick; the Waverley mayor is strongly supporting the three-way merger. It would suit her own political aspirations and power base. A greater merger with Botany and City of Sydney would substantially dilute the power of the Waverley mayor, who also works for Malcolm Turnbull. It is hard to have confidence in the proposals when such political maneuverings are displayed.
Danielle Ecuyer Bondi Junction (SMH Letters 28 May 2015)

Plans to almost halve the number of local government authorities in Perth have been put on hold for the foreseeable future Experience from the Conservative, but Democratic, Western Australia 

Contemporary Australian public policy has come to rely increasingly on technical reports produced by commercial consultants in contrast to the traditional approach, which employed disinterested public servants to generate the specialist information required to inform decision makers. This approach is fraught with problems, not least the fact that ‘hired guns’ have strong incentives to create the ‘answers’ sought by their employers
A cautionary tale: council amalgamation in Tasmania and the deloitte access economics report

"We encourage people to make their views regarding Fit for the Future proposals known to their councils. The public can also make submissions to IPART via our website from 1 to 31 July on council proposals, after we have received proposals from councils. " Fit for the Future

Save Our Suburbs (NSW) Inc is a non-profit & non-aligned group of residents, opposing forced rezoning and over-development of Sydney’s suburbs. We promote sustainable living to protect our planet.
Save Our Suburbs 

Community Action Groups

Overseas examples of tragic political manouvers
Cheltenham's Former Mayor, Barbara Driver, Slammed For Saying 'When Rape Is Inevitable, Lie Back And Enjoy It

"They abolished the Human Rights Act” sounds like the first sentence of an Aldous Huxley novel. The Conservatives actually campaigned on a manifesto pledge to get rid of human rights and people voted for it. As electoral choices go, it’s not far off choosing to be ruled by a dry, whispering voice taunting you from an antique mirror.
Radical political behaviour

The Baird government's plans to create larger councils through its "Fit for the Future" amalgamation program is headed for a parliamentary inquiry which could delay or even derail the  ambitious plans to merge  41 Sydney councils into about 18 by the end of the year.
Christian Democrat Paul Green has won support from the Greens and the Shooters for an upper house inquiry, which would not report until August 17.
Parliamentary inquiry into fit for the future 

May 13 Sydney, New South Wales

May 29
This week we decided to merge to form a new eastern suburbs council. It's the only way to avoid global city:

May 29
A new eastern suburbs council will save $143M, protect local identity, stave off global city and help residents
The politically explosive issue of council amalgamations is haunting Eastern Surburbs.
Rattled Randwick Residents

At a recent forum there was a resident from Randwick who asked about submissions to IPART in relation to this survey and the answer is that public will be able to provide submissions from the 1st of July 2015 to the 31st of July 2015.
"I'm a Randwick Resident, at a Precinct meeting late last year we asked how we could not
possibly be meeting the capacity with all the new development currently under
construction and in the pipe line for future construction for the next 10 years or more. We
were told that future projects and sites that have yet to have approval but will be
developed are not being included in the capacity. We have many thousands of new
properties that are in this category which will make our local area over congested
already if this is not considered this area will be more like the city and Bondi and we
don't want this. I moved away from Bondi and Waverley for a better life style now we
find that Randwick is being forced to grow beyond what residents want. I feel that the
survey we were provided was bias and didn't give residents a clear option to not merge.
Everyone I spoke with did not know that they could choose not to merge and thought
that they had to choose a merger option leading to a distortion."

Botany Bay Mayor Ben Keneally has declared his council will not be stampeded into voluntary amalgamations, hitting out at the “fear mongering” surrounding the Fit for the Future reform push.
Randwick Council bended the knee to the State Government’s contentious Fit for the Future reforms at a meeting on Tuesday night, voting in favour of merge bid with Botany Bay and Waverley.
Botany Bay hits out at fit for the future fear mongering

Fears are growing rapidly among NSW Councils that a new $1 billion State government package deal tied to reforms is a Trojan horse for council amalgamations in the lead up to the March 2015 State election.
This week NSW Liberal Premier Mike Baird dangled a swag of incentives in front of councils, including the holy grail of more rate-setting flexibility, alongside cheaper loan finance; greater planning powers; priority access to state funding and grants and a wedge of cash to help any councils that want to merge but there is a catch: local governments must first prove they are ‘Fit for the Future
Forced Amalgamation Spectre Returns

Beautiful streetscapes and family services could be at risk if Leichhardt Council is forced to amalgamate with councils that do not provide services such as lawnmowing and council childcare, says the Mayor Rochelle Porteous.
Cr Porteous said she would not be bullied and manipulated by the state government into forced council amalgamations, despite increasing Liberal and Labor support on the council for a back-up merger option if Leichhardt cannot stand alone. Leichhardt Council

Moves to fast-track council amalgamations in NSW have hit a snag with two separate calls for an inquiry into the Baird Government's Fit for the Future plan.

Labor's Shadow Minister for Local Government Peter Primrose has called for an investigation into the plan that aims to merge 41 Sydney councils into about 18 by the year's end.

Regional councils are also being considered for amalgamation, including several on the North Coast that are likely to be deemed unprofitable under scrutiny from the program.
Mr Primrose said he does not believe the Baird Government's pre-election promise there would be no forced amalgamations.

"Mike Baird is hell bent on forcing councils to amalgamate, regardless of whether it's the best option for communities across NSW," he said.

The inquiry might also learn a lot about residents’ fears for a lost community and what actually eventuated in Evans and ask how IPART could adequately assess that impact elsewhere. It will be a hugely difficult task but the IPART fitness test should be better for it.
Our say chance to test the fitness of council amalgamation

It was great to catch up with Rosemary MacKenzie, secretary of Randwick City Council Kensington West Kingsford Precinct Committee today who was protesting outside New South Wales State Parliament against the forced amalgamation of Councils. Ms MacKenzie rightfully asserts amalgamations will not be in the interests of Randwick residents and should not proceed without a referendum.

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

Canberra and Husky

Husky offered many stunning sight

Doble's Winged Victory sculpture 
now on display at the Australian War Memorial

First world war galleries 

Conservation recognition and the Gilbert Doble story

I blogged a few weeks ago about the Marrickville Winged Victory conservation project and I am delighted to report that our work won a National Trust Heritage Award at last Wednesday’s Award presentations.

George Evans Memorial, Bathurst

Bertie Doble

Seated in the sun outside Marrickville Town Hall in Sydney on Sunday morning to witness the unveiling of the Marrickville War Memorial I was thinking back 93 years to the same ceremony. The great difference of course was that the audience then included mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and even children of the 458 local lads who had so recently given their lives.
Marrickville Sculpture

Anzac biscuit used as inspiration for new craft beer

Grant Hehir: Making a Difference

The auditors-general: unsung heroes of administrative reform

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 ANAO has a rare history of achievement.

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

 The ANAO has a rare history of achievement. The office is best understood in an older public officer tradition: a person holding appointment under the Crown, not subject to direction by ministers nor, indeed, anyone else, and reporting directly to Parliament. The misleading nature of the "officer of the Parliament" idea is illustrated by other provisions of the auditor-general legislation concerning, for example, the staffing of the Australian National Audit Office under the Public Service Act, not the parliamentary staff legislation. When considering Westminster governance, it is also generally unwise to talk about independence except in relation to the judiciary. In the end, pace Montesquieu, everything, to some degree, comes within the pale of Parliament.  (by J. R. Nethercote is an adjunct professor at the Australian Catholic University's Canberra campus)
The auditors-general: unsung heroes of administrative reform

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