Monday, October 17, 2016

Virtual Vorld: By the time you read this I’ll be dead ...

INK BOTTLE“‘I never understood the theater until last night. Please forgive everything I’ve ever written. By the time you read this I’ll be dead.’—Clive Barnes”
David Mamet (originally published in Mary Ann Madden, “New York Magazine Competition: Competition Number 395,” New York, October 13, 1980)

Bald Eagle Gets Trapped In Car, Becomes Perfect Symbol For the World in 2016 Gizmodo

Via The Register: “GlobalSign has performed a postmortem examination on how, as one of the world’s root certificate authorities, it managed to break a chunk of the web. The New Hampshire, US-based biz has to date sold 2.5 million SSL/TLS certificates to websites around the world. This week, it inadvertently smashed its own chain of trust: it effectively made its customers’ certs appear untrustworthy in the eyes of web browsers and apps globally. This prevented many people from being able to access secure websites and online services large and small, from Wikipedia and the Financial Times to GlobalSign’s own servers.”

It may be hard for the media to resist a big email dump, but there are long-term risks. Regular dumps of classified documents and other internal communications have become a fixture of modern life, thanks in part to stateless—and frequently lawless—entities like WikiLeaks. But is publishing those leaks always the right thing to do? That’s one of the questions raised bythe recent leak of private emails from John Podesta, the campaign chairman for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. The WikiLeaks dump consists of tens of thousands of emails, sent to a wide variety of people, about a range of topics that includes both the Clinton campaign and virtually every other aspect of Podesta’s personal life….The most interesting thing about the leak is that it appears to have been carried out with the assistance of certain elements within the Russian government,according to a statement from the U.S. intelligence department. In that sense, it seems to be the fulfillment of a request from Republican candidate Donald Trump, who publicly asked for the Russian security apparatus to hack his opponent’s emails…”

In one of the biggest administrative shakeups of a generation, Digital Transformation Agency (Paul Shetler) Digital Transformation Minister Angus Taylor is pushing through a new government-wide approach to major systems. Centralising control of technology platforms in PM&C, a new agency takes over from the Digital Transformation Office. Exclusive via Mandarin: Digital agenda's first revamp: welcome to government as a platform

R.I.P., Brock Yates. “Yates told you that the speed limits were bad, and then he broke them in public, and then he wrote about it. He was bold, daring, cool and collected.”

Thinking about your death is not something you really want to dwell on as you get older. But have you ever thought about how the hospital system will deal with the increasing population of older Australians? Older Australians facing death with little support ...

ScholarJessie Daniels (CUNY) & Polly Thistlethwaite (CUNY, Being a Scholar in the Digital Era: Transforming Scholarly Practice for the Public Good (University of Chicago Press 2016):
What opportunities, rather than disruptions, do digital technologies present? How do developments in digital media not only support scholarship and teaching but also further social justice? Written by two experts in the field, this accessible book offers practical guidance, examples, and reflection on this changing foundation of scholarly practice. It is the first to consider how new technologies can connect academics, journalists, and activists in ways that foster transformation on issues of social justice. Discussing digital innovations in higher education as well as what these changes mean in an age of austerity, this book provides both a vision of what scholars can be in the digital era and a road map to how they can enliven the public good.
Inside Higher Ed, The Tech-Enabled Scholar
Now I get it: Snapchat David Pogue We still don’t get it. Even though we love our Nikon 

DISCOVER NEED FOR BICYCLE: The Gray Gender Gap: Older Women Are Likelier to Go It Alone.

Even among men over 85, nearly 60 percent are married. By that point, only 17 percent of women are.
Life expectancy explains only part of this gap, said Deborah Carr, interim director of the Institute for Health at Rutgers University who has studied marriage and widowhood.
Yes, women tend to live longer and to marry men older than themselves, so they’re more likely to be widowed.
The other factor, though, is that “men are much more likely to remarry than women,” Dr. Carr said. With 2.55 women for every man among unmarried people over age 65, and 3.27 unmarried women for every unmarried man over 85, “a man who wants to remarry has a very large pool.”

Hacker Releases Code That Powered Record-Breaking Botnet Attack

Cyber firefighters, Germany needs you! Firms asked to volunteer staff

Yahoo’s Government Email Scanner Was Actually a Secret Hacking Tool

Toilet Paper dollars

Biglaw Firm Tells Lawyers To Bill Clients For Time Spent On Toilet 

Late last week, word began to spread that the world may soon witness another Biglaw mega-merger between international firm Nabarro and London-based firms CMS and Olswang. The combined entity would have more than 3,000 lawyers, and the firm would likely generate more than $1.5 billion in revenue.

Considering the current economic climate, how would this Biglaw behemoth be able to produce so much money during the transitional phase that typically follows a merger? Perhaps the combined firm will adopt Nabarro’s time-recording policy, which instructs attorneys to bill clients for any break of up to six minutes (bathroom breaks, etc.), as they’ll likely continue to be thinking about the matter they were working on.

The Daily Mail picked up the story today, which made waves across the pond sometime this summer thanks to RollOnFriday’s excellent reporting. Here’s Nabarro’s policy:

Nabarro Time Recording Policy

When asked to explain this billing policy, a spokesperson from Nabarro said:

This approach to time recording is not unusual. Most businesses build natural breaks into the cost of their services. Indeed, some of our best legal minds have their best legal insights when they get up for a short break. Lunch is a different matter.

If you ever receive crappy advice from this mega-firm, you know who to blame.

Twenty years after Arundhati Roy won the 1997 Booker prize for her debut novel The God of Small Things, the Indian novelist’s second, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, is set to be published in 2017, her publisher has announced. Roy has published a wide range of nonfiction, covering topics from the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan to a condemnation of India’s nuclear tests, since she won the Booker in 1997 for her story of twins Rahel and Estha growing up in Kerala. But The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which publisher Hamish Hamilton announced on Monday, will be only her second novel  Second Novel ...
Dershowitz – Anyone who votes for Stein has to be certifiable. She is the worst imaginable candidate. In terms of her views and experience she’s a disaster. Johnson is another story. He and his running mate Bill Weld were governors of their states (Massachusetts & New Mexico). It’s like voting for Ralph Nader in the state of Florida in the 2000 election which turned victory into defeat for Gore and Bush won it in the Supreme Court. I don’t want to see young people on Wednesday morning complaining because Trump won. If they vote for Johnson/Weld to appear pure, purity has no place in an election of two major candidates where one will win most certainly. You can say the lesser of two evils, but vote for Hillary or Trump and make your vote count Millenium Elections

Apple Says 1,000 Fraudulent Reviews Were Detected Across Two Accounts Owned by 'Dash' Developer [Update: Developer Responds] 

“I get outa that bed every day, see? I make a good salary and my horn still sounds good. 
And I feel good. So I don’t think nobody in the world any richer than I am. Musicians don’t retire. They stop when there’s no more work. We never thought about that in New Orleans. Like we say there, ‘That our hustle,’ you know, a day’s work. But anybody sit down with their money and look at the four walls, they don’t live long; they die. There’s nothin’ I can say other than I’ve set myself up to be a happy man. And—I made it.”
 ~ Louis Armstrong (quoted in Ricky Riccardi, What a Wonderful World: The Magic of Louis 
Armstrong’s Later Years)

This Robot Will Rake Your Leaves, Cut The Grass & Shovel Snow ...

Little if anything is beyond the reach of cybercriminals, US admiral says

Two charged in Chicago with operating cyber-attack-for-hire websites 

EssentialSurgeon General sends warning to own staff: Your personal information may have been stolen  

German MEdia Dragon, philosopher, poet, composer, and writer Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844–August 25, 1900) is among humanity’s most enduring, influential, and oft-cited minds — and he seemed remarkably confident that he would end up that way. Nietzsche famously called the populace of philosophers “cabbage-heads,” lamenting: “It is my fate to have to be the first decent human being. I have a terrible fear that I shall one day be pronounced holy.” In one letter, he considered the prospect of posterity enjoying his work: “It seems to me that to take a book of mine into his hands is one of the rarest 
distinctions that anyone can confer upon himself. I even assume that he removes his shoes when he does so — not to speak of boots. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write...

Sklansky, David Alan, Autonomy and Agency in American Criminal Process (October 6, 2016). Available for download at SSRN:

“This is an essay about the interaction of two assumptions that shape the way fairness is pursued in American criminal procedure. The first assumption is that fairness is best advanced through a series of procedural rights that defendants can invoke or waive at their discretion. The second assumption is that the choices made by defense attorneys can fairly be attributed to their clients. The first of these assumptions reflects a strong national commitment to individualism; the second reflects a heavy reliance on lawyers to safeguard defendants’ interests. Both reflect a deeply rooted distrust of government. Each of these two assumptions is defensible, and each relates to fundamental aspects of the national political culture. Taken together, though, they have narrowed what fairness means in American criminal adjudication; they combine with a kind of negative synergy, making each harder to defend than it might be without the other.”

A cartoon re-enactment of the most insane courtroom exchange ever. Now in color. [io9]

Vested interest. Accountants of a certain age know well the name H.D. Vest. Back in the early 1990s every little accounting firm, including ours, regularly got letters from HD Vest telling us of the wonderful opportunities awaiting us as little stockbrokers. I was never sold, but lots of small practitioners signed up. Wikipedia tells the story:

HD Vest was founded by Herbie Darwin Vest in 1983.[2] Herb Vest, a Certified Public Accountant, had started his own public accounting firm in 1973. He started offering investment planning services and selling of securities on a commission basis in 1979. In 1983, he established the SEC-registered securities broker-dealer firm H.D. Vest Investment Securities, Inc. He established a network of accountant and brokers. H.D. Vest successfully challenged the AICPA code, which prohibited accountants from accepting commissions.[3]
In December 1986, Herb Vest established “H.D. Vest, Inc.”, which acquired the H.D. Vest Investment Securities, Inc.” in 1987. The company went publicin July 1988.
So fame and fortune found this pioneer in expanding CPA business into investment advising. But amidst the success, a cloud of tragedy lurked. This story was told yesterday in Tax Court by Judge Lauber (“Petitioner” is Mr. Vest):

In 1946, when petitioner was two years old, his father was found hanging by the neck in the bathroom of his shop in Gainesville, Texas. The death was originally ruled a suicide. In 2003 petitioner received an anonymous letter asserting that unidentified residents of Gainesville had murdered his father and staged it to look like a suicide. Having realized a large gain on the sale of his business, petitioner had the means to devote significant time and resources to investigating the circumstances of his father’s death.
So how does this get to Tax Court?

Beginning in 2003 petitioner caused partnerships he controlled to pay at least $6.4 million to private investigators, forensic experts, morticians, and writers to assist him in solving this mystery and reporting the results.
20150608-1Mr. Vest’s creativity didn’t end with his vision of turning CPAs into full-service financial professionals. He deducted the investigations as business expenses. Considering that the expenses helped lead him to bankruptcy court, according to the Tax Court, you can see why he’d give it a try to at least get a tax break out of it.
Long-time readers will see the problem that the IRS saw: you can only deduct business expenses if you are trying to make money. As the Tax Court explains (my emphasis, citations omitted):

To be entitled to deductions under this section, the taxpayer must show that he engaged in the activity with an actual and honest objective of making a profit.  If an activity is not engaged in for profit, no deduction attributable to it is allowed except to the extent of gross income derived therefrom (reduced by deductions that would be allowable regardless of whether the activity was engaged in for profit). Thus, losses are not allowable for an activity that a taxpayer carries on primarily for sport, as a hobby, or for recreation.
Mr. Vest failed to convince the judge that this process had a profit motive:

Petitioner has never earned an annual profit from his homicide-related investigative activity. Indeed, petitioner did not generate a single dollar of revenue from this activity in any year from 2003 through 2010. Over that time, petitioner’s reported losses were continuous and substantial. This strongly suggests that he did not engage in this activity to make a profit.
…Before 2008 he engaged public relations professionals and hired a writer to produce a manuscript, but no further work on that manuscript was ever done. Although he devoted many hours to this project, he showed little interest in actually making it profitable. Rather, he pursued his investigation with no apparent concern about the magnitude of his losses or the future revenues he would have to generate in order to recoup those losses.
In considering whether there is a profit motive, the courts consider whether there are non-business motivations, and they found them here:

Petitioner had strong personal motives for conducting his activity, and the circumstances suggest that it was essentially a pastime…We conclude that petitioner’s investigative efforts were the product of a personal desire to uncover the cause of his father’s death, not an attempt to engage in a profitable business.
Decision for IRS. But how did the investigation come out?

In January 2006 one of his investigators wrote a report concluding that his father’s death had in fact been a homicide. The report found, however, that no plausible suspects among Gainesville residents could be identified; that no further leads existed; and that additional time spent investigating the homicide would not prove fruitful.
The moral? Few murders are solved four or five decades after they happen. And if you spend millions of dollars without coming close to generating revenue or making something to sell, convincing the IRS that you are trying to make money may be difficult.
Cite: Vest, T.C. Memo. 2016-187 via  Joe Kristan

In a background paper written for the Work and Pensions Committee, Professor Prem Sikka of the University of Essex has broken down the constituent parts of the pre-pack administration arrangement that acts against the interests of pensioners.

Pre-pack arrangement figure breakdown

Examining the pre-pack arrangements for Bernard Matthews Ltd, Professor Sikka notes that the business is in administration and the sale proceeds of the company will be used to make a full payment of £46.4 million to lenders Wells Fargo Capital Finance (UK) and PNC Financial Services UK Ltd. Rutland Partners, which has already received £34 million, is likely to receive a total of £39 million.
In contrast, the Bernard Matthews Pension Fund, recording a published deficit of £17.5 million, which is likely to have grown to £20 million, is likely to receive 1p in the pound at best.
The administrators have already billed £790.000 and legal fees are likely to amount to £668.000.