Saturday, December 17, 2016

We Have Dealt with Worse

… Interview: Peter Hitchens |
Despite a seemingly bottomless store of invective for the political establishment, Hitchens tells me his political activism died in 2010. “I have no further interest in directive politics,” he declares solemnly. “I write the obituary of the country.” I laugh at this. “I’m not joking!” he insists. Is he a pessimist? I ask flippantly. “Of course I am”, he gives a well rehearsed line: “any intelligent person is a pessimist. It’s what keeps them so cheerful.” Part of his dislike of government seems explained by the shoddy caliber of politicians working today: ephemeral detritus passing through a world becoming ever more vulgar and ever more trivial. “Denis Healey was Beach-master at Anzio, for goodness sake, and had seen people die at his left hand and his right hand… Now you get children, emerging from university like baby koalas, going straight into jobs where they actually attain power. It’s shocking.”

EUROPE: Geert Wilders to PJ Media: ‘They Will Have to Kill Me First if They Want to Silence Me.’

The damming problem of reconnecting Europe’s rivers The Conversation

Will we start seeing more Rolls-Royce in Washington?

Taking life is easy, anyone can do that. They do it every day all over the world. Just read the newspaper and you’ll see. Even you could do it, take someone’s life I mean, obviously, you’d have to improve your aim a little (and then he did smile teasingly, the corners of his lively grey eyes etched with a web of delicate lines). Mankind may have constructed vast buildings, destroyed whole mountains, built canals and bridges, but we’ve never yet succeeded in opening the eyes of a child who has just died. Sometimes it’s the biggest, heaviest things that are easiest to move. Huge stones in the back of a truck, vans laden with heavy metals. And yet everything that’s inside you—what you think, what you want—all of which apparently weighs nothing—no strong man can life that onto his shoulder and move it somewhere else. No truck can transport it. Loving someone you despise or don’t really care for is a lot harder than flooring him with a punch. Men hit each other out of a sense of powerlessness. They think that by using force they can get what they can’t get by using tenderness or intelligence. Instagram Has Fast Become Musicians’ Social Media Platform Of Choice

We were the target of a special hacker attack on Tuesday – not your usual DOS type. This time it was a surgical strike at the internal programming of the site. No way of telling who paid for it, except that they started work at about 9 am Moscow time. My bet is that it was Mordashov in his attempt to obliterate this.
The widely-reported sale of a 19.5% stake in Rosneft to Glencore and Qatar looks like a sham transaction The Story That Russia Does Not Want You to See: The Rosneft Share “Sale” as a Sham Transaction

Every year, the secretive BAI Communications books hundreds of millions in revenue straight from the government, from the ABC and SBS to be precise. It is one of Australia’s great corporate welfare stories. Michael West: Towering cheek II: billion dollar squatters

Testimony of Scott Amey, General Counsel Project On Government Oversight (POGO) before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform “Examining the Costs of Overclassification on Transparency and Security” December 7, 2016

Follow up to posting series captioned Unreleased CIA assessment concludes Russia aided Trump – seeThe Perfect Weapon: How Russian Cyberpower Invaded the U.S. By Eric Lipton, David E. Sanger and Scott Shane – Dec. 13, 2016: “It was the cryptic first sign of a cyberespionage and information-warfare campaign devised to disrupt the 2016 presidential election, the first such attempt by a foreign power in American history. What started as an information-gathering operation, intelligence officials believe, ultimately morphed into an effort to harm one candidate, Hillary Clinton, and tip the election to her opponent, Donald J. Trump. Like another famous American election scandal, it started with a break-in at the D.N.C. The first time, 44 years ago at the committee’s old offices in the Watergate complex, the burglars planted listening devices and jimmied a filing cabinet. This time, the burglary was conducted from afar, directed by the Kremlin, with spear-phishing emails and zeros and ones. An examination by The Times of the Russian operation — based on interviews with dozens of players targeted in the attack, intelligence officials who investigated it and Obama administration officials who deliberated over the best response — reveals a series of missed signals, slow responses and a continuing underestimation of the seriousness of the cyberattack. The D.N.C.’s fumbling encounter with the F.B.I. meant the best chance to halt the Russian intrusion was lost. The failure to grasp the scope of the attacks undercut efforts to minimize their impact. And the White House’s reluctance to respond forcefully meant the Russians have not paid a heavy price for their actions, a decision that could prove critical in deterring future cyberattacks…”

It’s the oldest story ever told. The story of belief — of the basic, irresistible, universal human need to believe in something that gives life meaning, something that reaffirms our view of ourselves, the world, and our place in it… For our minds are built for stories. We crave them, and, when there aren’t ready ones available, we create them. Stories about our origins. Our purpose. The reasons the world is the way it is. Human beings don’t like to exist in a state of uncertainty or ambiguity. When something doesn’t make sense, we want to supply the missing link. When we don’t understand what or why or how something happened, we want to find the explanation. A confidence artist is only too happy to comply — and the well-crafted narrative is his absolute forte Meaning of Life

Dan Amiram (Columbia) presents Tax Avoidance at Public Corporations Driven by Shareholder Taxes: Evidence from Changes in Dividend Tax Policy (with Andrew M. Bauer(Illinois) & Mary Margaret Frank (Virginia)) at Columbia today as part of its Davis Polk & Wardwell Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Alex Raskolnikov and Wojciech Kopczuk:
We exploit exogenous changes in country-level corporate-shareholder tax integration systems to identify the effect of investor-level taxes on corporate tax avoidance. Specifically, we rely on the elimination of imputation systems by European countries in different years, in response to supranational judicial rulings. Under an imputation system, lowering corporate tax payments does not increase the cash flows available to shareholders after dividend taxes, but it does so after their elimination. Using a difference-in-difference model with fixed effects, we find that the average firm affected by the change reduces its cash effective tax rate by 17% relative to the eliminating group’s average statutory tax rate. Additional placebo tests provide evidence that supports this effect is present only in the countries and years in which the elimination occurs. Our results are partially driven by shifting income to foreign countries. Lastly, as expected, our results are more pronounced in closely held firms, firms with lower foreign income and firms with higher dividend payout.

Death by Water

Death by Water by Kenzaburo Oe
Reviewed by Will Eells
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English,Death by Water is narrated in. . .

“Instagram has taken a series of small steps to turn its once photo-driven service into a creative haven where artists tease new music, reveal album artwork, announce tour dates, and offer intimate behind-the-scenes glimpses.”

With an eye to the various brokennesses of the world, past and present, Toni Morrison writes:

"This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.

I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. 'Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom.' Like art.

You may know Watson as IBM’s Jeopardy-winning, cookbook-writing, dress-designing, weather-predicting supercomputer-of-all trades. Now it’s embarking on its biggest challenge yet: Preventing cybercrime in finance, healthcare, and other fields. Starting today, 40 organizations will rely upon the clever computers cognitive power to help spot cybercrime. The Watson for Cybersecurity beta program helps IBM too, because Watson’s real-world experience will help it hone its skills and work within specific industries.