Monday, March 18, 2019

CRS addresses whether Congress will have access to Mueller’s report

Zealotry is when the letter of religion is mistaken for its spirit.” Immanuel Kant,Lectures on Ethics (trans. Peter Heath) ... [read more]

Facebook outage drives millions to look for something to do -

Labor will spend more than Coalition, but save more too, independent costings show

NSW Labor will spend more on its election promises than the Berejiklian Government, which will need to borrow $7 billion more to pay for its commitments.

Michael Daley claims foreigners taking young people's jobs

Labor leader Michael Daley says on a video that a 'transformation' is underway and foreigners are "moving in and taking the jobs" of young Sydneysiders.

Michael Daley says NSW Government has closed more schools than it has opened. Is he correct?

Michael Daley says he'll quit before watering down gun laws as John Howards ads hit

Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party Twitter post compares Nationals .. Nationals MP to Kim Jong-un.

Italy investigates mysterious death of 'bunga bunga' modelImane Fadil died a month after being admitted to a Milan hospital with severe stomach pains. At the time she said she had been poisoned

DISPATCHES FROM THE EDUCATION APOCALYPSE: The Tragedy Behind the College Admissions Scandal, as explored by Lenore Skenazy of the Free Range Kids movement:

Today’s parents are stalked by the twin fears that their kids will be kidnapped, raped and eaten — or not get into Harvard… And now we have learned of the 30 or so families who were so afraid of their kids not getting into the “right” school that they got them into the wrong schools — schools where their kids most likely did not belong. To do this, they cheated for them. There is no excuse for this…except that we are in a culture that has made childhood into a landscape barren of almost everything except college prep. To many parents, schools, and districts, admission to a “good” school is the be-all and end-all.

Wealthy parents ensnared in a massive college admissions scheme may have another worry on the horizon: the IRS.

Two famous actresses and a group of executives are among the 50 people facing charges in a massive cheating conspiracy to help their children get into elite colleges, according to law enforcement officials.

The scheme allegedly involved parents paying William "Rick" Singer of Newport Beach, California, so that he could facilitate cheating on the SAT and ACT entrance exams, according to the 204-page affidavit.

These payments, which ran from $15,000 to $75,000 per test, were allegedly structured as donations to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a non-profit that Singer established as a charity, according to law enforcement officials.

Parents also allegedly paid Singer a purported $25 million to bribe coaches and college administrators to designate the children as athletic recruits, according to the complaint.

The parents also made these payments under the guise of charitable donations to the foundation, law enforcement officials allege.

"Many clients then filed personal tax returns that falsely reported the payment to the KWF as charitable donations," federal authorities said.
Under normal circumstances, charitable donations are deductible if you itemize on your income tax return.
However if those payments were fraudulent, the IRS could claw back those breaks and hit the "donors" with penalties, tax professors said.

For the optimist, government use of “Big Data” involves the careful collection of information from numerous sources and expert analysis of those data to reveal previously undiscovered patterns and so revolutionize the regulation of criminal behavior, education, health care, and many other areas. For the pessimist, such use involves the haphazard seizure of information to generate massive databases that render privacy an illusion and result in arbitrary and discriminatory computer-generated decisions. The reality is of course more complicated, with government use of Big Data presenting on one hand the promises of greater efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency, and on the other hand the perils of inaccurate conclusions, invasion of privacy, unintended discrimination, increased government power, and violations of other legal limits on government action.

Edward G. Fox (Michigan) & Jacob Goldin (Stanford), Sharp Lines and Sliding Scales in Tax Law:

The law is full of sharp lines, where small changes in one’s circumstances lead to significant changes in legal treatment. In many cases, a sharp line can be smoothed out by replacing it with a sliding scale. Under a sliding scale, small changes in one’s circumstances lead to small changes in legal treatment. In this paper, we study the policy choice between sharp lines and sliding scales in tax law, focusing particularly on concerns related to efficiency, complexity, and administration. Sharp lines are dominant in tax law, especially for classifications that depend on factors other income. We argue that this dominance is unwarranted; sliding scales are often feasible in practice and better serve a variety of tax policy goals. We illustrate our claims with examples drawn from diverse areas of tax law.

CRS addresses whether Congress will have access to Mueller’s report Via FAS – The Special Counsel’s Report: Can Congress Get It? Michael A. Foster, Legislative Attorney; Todd Garvey, Legislative Attorney. March 8, 2019.
“Recent media reports suggest that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III is close to concluding his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. As discussed in this separate Sidebar, Department of Justice (DOJ) regulations require the Special Counsel to deliver a confidential report (Special Counsel report) to Attorney General William Barr at the conclusion of the investigation, and the Attorney General must then notify Congress with “an explanation” for the investigation’s termination. But there appears to be no requirement in statute or regulation obligating the Attorney General to share the full Special Counsel report with Congress, and Mr. Barr has indicated that legal considerations might require him to withhold some or all of it. In response, some Members of Congress have suggested that a subpoena may be issued to compel disclosure of the full report…”
See also via FAS – The Special Counsel’s Report: What Do Current DOJ Regulations Require? Cynthia Brown, Legislative Attorney, March 7, 2019. “This Sidebar examines the current legal obligations of the Special Counsel and Attorney General to report information relating to the investigation to Congress and the public. It also provides historical examples of reports issued for other such investigations…”


The House That Spied on Me Gizmodo (PD). Moi: Today’s must read. Who would want such a set-up? Then again, I suppose, I’m not the target market. I’ve yet to acquire a smartphone.

Scientific American – The traces we leave on the Web and on our digital devices can give advertisers and others surprising, and sometimes disturbing, insights into our psychology

  • Users’ digital footprints disclose certain preferences and characteristics, such as their personality or mood. 
  • Companies are very interested in such data. Automated language analysis is already being used in the hiring of personnel. And advertising seems to be more successful when its message is adapted to the personality or mood of the customer.

  •  Apollo 13 3
    Kathleen Elliott Vinson (Suffolk) & Sabrina DeFabritiis (Suffolk), 

    Apollo 13 And The Importance Of Time-Pressured Performance Tests

      Under Pressure: How Incorporating Time-Pressured Performance Tests Prepares Students for the Bar Exam and Practice, 122 W. Va. L. Rev. ___ (2019):
    “Houston, we have a problem.” In 1970, an explosion on board the Apollo 13 spacecraft’s flight to the moon damaged the air filtration system, causing carbon monoxide to build up in the cabin. The astronauts on board would be dead in mere hours if the system could not be fixed or replaced. NASA’s Mission Control in Houston, Texas called for engineers, scientists, and technicians to work with a set of materials identical to those on the spacecraft to build a filtration system under extreme time pressure. The result may have been ugly, inelegant, and far from perfect, but it saved the astronauts’ life. The Apollo 13 situation may be a dramatic example of problem solving, creativity, and completing a task under extreme time pressure with life or death consequences; however, lawyers also work in stressful environments, under time pressure, while juggling multiple tasks involving life, liberty, or millions of dollars. How do recent law school graduates perform when facing a time-sensitive task when the stakes are high, when they are accustomed from law school of having several weeks or more, with feedback along the way, to complete that type of assignment?

  • But the technology poses risks. Unless it is managed carefully and ethically, it can invade privacy…”