Sunday, August 31, 2014

Trash morphing as Treasure

The perils of time-travel fiction. To draw a moral from the past can be pompous; to visit the future to warn about the present can be patronizing... Future of Media Dragons

INK BOTTLE“Pain is always new to the sufferer, but loses its originality for those around him.”

~ Alphonse Daudet, In the Land of Pain(trans. Julian Barnes)
Jeff Koons is an entrepreneur, not an artist. A Wall Street guy who forever changed the art world. His formula for success: size + garishness = big money... Big Stuff

In an age of constant status updates, what becomes of art forms – like literary memoir – that thrive on concealment?... Bohemians of letters

Society, politics, economics, culture; foreign and domestic; corporate and not-for-profit: The old categories are becoming obsolete... It is all about trend setting enablers drivers

In an early poem, John Updikedescribed trash as a “wonderland of discard.” Now we know the wonders contained in his trash... Reverse garbage of garage sales

Who Is Elena Ferrante? The writer has never been interviewed in person, perhaps never even photographed. For her, celebrity is a choice, not an obligation... Story of Elen

Against Transparency, Against InterpretationAgainst Love: Has the popular posture of cranky provocationlost its edge?... Turning Stories

Weimar: Where Goethe and Schiller found a home, Liszt blossomed into a musical genius; Bauhaus became possible, and Nazism took hold... Town of Weimar / so unlike Vrbov

Thursday, August 28, 2014

New Zealand Companies Office’s $612Mn Money-Laundering Snooze

How Social Media Silences Debate Times. That’s not a bug…
big dangers of our millionaire visa

New Zealand Companies Office’s $612Mn Money-Laundering Snooze

The Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project recently (21st August) published one of their periodic investigations, concerning a rather large moneylaundering scheme:
Call it the Laundromat. It’s a complex system for laundering more than $20 billion in Russian money stolen from the government by corrupt politicians or earned through organized crime activity. It was designed to not only move money from Russian shell companies into EU banks through Latvia, it had the added feature of getting corrupt or uncaring judges in Moldova to legitimize the funds. The state-of-the-art system provided exceptionally clean money backed by a court ruling at a fraction of the cost of regular laundering schemes. It made up for the low costs by laundering huge volumes. The system used just one bank in Latvia and one bank in Moldova but 19 banks in Russia, some of them controlled by rich and powerful figures including the cousin of Russian President Vladimir Putin...
 Since there’s plenty more to come from the OCCRP on various UK connections that surface in this scam, let us studiously avert our gaze from that particular aspect, and drag in poor old New Zealand instead, which duly crops up  in one of the OCCRP’s documents, near the bottom of the page, in its exotic Romanian guise, “Noua Zeelandă”.
For good reasons, whenever one sees the words “New Zealand”, “money laundering”, and “Trasta Komercbanka”, two thoughts follow immediately: “GT Group” and “The New Zealand Registrar of Companies has screwed up again”. Those unfortunate prejudices turn out to be accurate this time, too.
Back in May, I wrote, apropos the very dilatory and incomplete official cleanup of companies incorporated by GT Group and associated company agents:
GT Group continues to register companies with that addressin Nayland Road, Stoke, New Zealand. Right now, there are 34 of them.
There are also companies that the New Zealand Registrar of Companies missed, at a GT Group drop-off address, varianthere; that’s another 20 live companies in all.

 A Tale of Two Markets: One for Wealthy Insiders, And Another For the Rest of Us Jesse’s Café Américain. Yikes!

Monday, August 25, 2014

NSW Government Plans To Give Business 2 Votes Each In City Of Sydney Council Elections

Evidence Grows That Online Social Networks Have Insidious Negative Effects MIT Technology Review. Note role of moderation at end.

NSW Government Plans To Give Business 2 Votes Each In City Of Sydney Council Elections Business Insider (Dr. Kevin). Whaaat! The problem is Sydney annexed Bligh, which includes “suburbs,” meaning residential neighborhoods, like East Sydney and Potts Point

Mr Obeid told the Daily Telegraph that the dispute was settled shortly after his lawyers wrote to the council “about certain inadequacies in their case". But the council said the settlement of the case "vindicates the City of Sydney’s defence of its intellectual property and ratepayers’ rights over the design and manufacture of its Smartpoles".
Documents filed in the court dispute revealed the family ran its businesses through a complex web of trusts. Through its reporting on the case,the Herald revealed the Obeid family's secret interest in lucrative harbourside cafe leases at Circular Quay, which triggered an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.
"As well as demonstrating that the City will not let the community’s assets be misused or stolen, the litigation’s disclosures about the ownership of the cafes and lease helped to uncover serious corruption and as such served another important public purpose." Longrunning legal battleObeid book pulped

“Kristina was so close to Eddie. Unequivocally, she wouldn’t have been premier if it wasn’t for Eddie. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t Eddie’s support for her, it was his hatred of Frank [Sartor],”  Dastyari is quoted as saying. 

Incognito Eddie caps it all

You just have to ask the likes of Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe how difficult it is to get about this town incognito. But Eddie Obeid almost pulled it off on Monday ... almost. Wearing a baseball cap and dark sunglassesObeid and a mystery blonde woman were spotted inside the disgraced former NSW minister's favourite cafe, the Bakehouse, in Leichhardt, on Monday. Apparently he is a regular there, arriving on Monday in a shiny prestige Mercedes-Benz. Obeid is clearly a man who (still) likes to travel in style

It’s the nature of modern fame and infamy that you’re nobody until the internet starts sending you up. By that criteria, a disgraced former NSW government minister and ALP powerbroker has finally come of age, with a droll satirical Twitter account@HonEddieObeid, roaring to life as disturbing revelations of political corruption continue to emerge at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Joshua Foa Dienstag (UCLA) on pessimism in True Detective.A piece on Machiavelli, Plato, and Socrates ng.
Feds: Red light camera firm paid for Chicago official’s car, condo ars technica 

Blame Employers, Not Workers, for Any Skill Gaps WSJ Real Time Economics. Someone notices the unreasonable expectation that companies need not train workers.
The Mitzvah Factory Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation. Impressive reporting.

Pilkington: Economists – An Anthropological View

While Pilkington is a bit leisurely in setting the stage for his anthropological take on the economics tribe, rest assured that the post is both amusing and instructive.
By Philip Pilkington, a London-based economist and member of the Political Economy Research Group at Kingston University. Originally published at his website, Fixing the Economists
Life Among The Econ‘ is a satirical paper written by the economist Axel Leijonhufvud and published in 1973. In the paper Leijonhufvud refers directly the great work of cultural anthropology The Savage Mind by the French Structuralist anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss. Before moving on to the paper it is probably best to understand something about Levi-Strauss’ work as I think that the content of the paper would otherwise be lost on many economics-oriented readers.

Our Bloomberg Op-Ed: “How Your Pension Fund Became a Casino”

We have an op-ed just published at Bloomberg, “How Your Pension Fund Became a Casino.” The article discusses changes to ERISA, the law that governs how retirement investments passed 40 years ago to professionalize the management of pension funds. Unfortunately, the Labor Department, which administers the law, reinterpreted some of its provisions in 1978 in responses to pressure from the financial services industry to allow pension funds to take greater risks. The piece explains how naive adoption of newer principles of investment, particularly modern portfolio theory, has blinded pension trustees to risks of entire types of complex investment, such as subprime securitizations and private equity, leading to losses and oversight failures.

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, the Whale Oil Blog, and International Organized Crime

A new book is causing a stir in New Zealand. It’s called “Dirty Politics“. From the blurb:
Early in 2014 Nicky Hager was leaked a large number of email and online conversations from Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Many of these were between Slater and his personal allies on the hard right, revealing an ugly and destructive style of politics. But there were also many communications with the prime minister’s office and other Cabinet ministers in the National Government. They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware.
The Maharal network is an important part of the so-called Russian Laundering Machine,
The money allegedly stolen by Russian authorities through Hermitage Capital passed through a series of front companies including Nomirex Trading Ltd. Nomirex is part of an international money laundering platform identified by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and used by several major criminals.

 Google removes 12 BBC News links in ‘right to be forgotten’BBC (furzy mouse)

Robots could murder us out of KINDNESS unless they are taught the value of human life

Bessie  of Memories:

How Can We Measure Media Power?

We guess our cunning plan to get people to stop watching TV isn’t working

Power index, 15 major US media companies, based on the 2012 Pew Institute Media Consumption Survey
By Andrea Prat, Richard Paul Richman Professor of Business and Professor of Economics, Columbia University; and CEPR Research Fellow. Originally published at VoxEU.

 The media industry is different The media industry is undergoing a consolidation process. After the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Rupert Murdoch’s Century Fox reportedly offered to buy Time Warner. The offer was rejected, but the prospect of a merger between two media groups of such size has reignited a public debate on the dangers of excessive media concentration.1 Unlike milk production, news production is central to the democratic process. Citizens receive political information from mass media and they use it to decide how to vote. By choosing what to report and how to report it, a media company can affect the views of its users and hence their voting decisions. This is not just a theoretical possibility. DellaVigna and Kaplan (2007) found that the entry of Fox News increased the national vote share of Republicans by 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points. The potential for political influence is what most people think of when they talk about the power of the media. Leveson Report (a comprehensive inquiry into the practices of the British Press following the News of the World scandal) concluded: “It is only through this plurality, specifically in relation to news and current affairs, that we can ensure that the public is able to be well informed on matters of local, national and international news and policy and able to play their full part in a democratic society”.2 Is CNN more or less influential than Yahoo News?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Travelling Film Festival: On the road

Australia's running travelling film festival bringing world cinema to regional Australia. The Travelling Film Festival (TFF) showcases Australian and international features, documentaries and short films screening in areas which have limited theatrical screening opportunities. The TFF currently tours to 20 locations annually, screening in the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales. 

The newest film from director Rolf de Heer and the third collaboration with David Gulpilil (The TrackerTen CanoesCharlie's Country stars Gulpilil at his mesmerising best, as Blackfella Charlie. At odds with the Government Intervention, Charlie takes off to live the old way, but in doing so, sets off a chain of events that has him return to his community chastened and somewhat wiser ...

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Local Noise: Sleepless in Botany Bay

After more than a year of residents around Port Botany being told the night time noises they were complaining about did not exceed "sleep disturbance criteria", the Environment Protection Authority has admitted they were right. The NSW Liberal Government fast-tracked the removal of the cap in August 2012 to sweeten the 99-year lease deal that was awarded to the NSW Ports consortium, comprised mostly of super funds and international investors, for $507 billion, in April last year.EPA Mistake

Social Media Curation Tool Storyful Helps Separate News From Noise: “Storyful is a social media news tool created by journalists that finds the most relevant, real and interesting video, tweets and posts coming from people in the middle of events around the world. A team of journalists work with Storyful’s “behind-the-scenes” software to find, verify and curate all of this into playlists on YouTube, on their website and for Storyful Pro, a paid service for news organizations.”


Inside the Dark Lucrative Deals

 It’s always possible to make things worse…. Look at inaction  on Malabar headlands or Ebola.
It has been revealed that the “project delivery and strategic consulting firm” Nation Partners is working with the Commonwealth Government on the Malabar Headland site in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney.
Development adverse residents report that up until recently the company’s web site stated that it “has led a strategic assessment of the site’s potential”. Greens Councillor Lindsay Shurey has called on the Commonwealth to clarify whether Nation Partners is being used to explore options for selling sections of the headland for residential development.
 New Study Finds Humans Shouldn’t Spend More Than 5 Consecutive Hours Together Onion (David L) (not even at a branch meetings)

 Commonwealth Bank chief Ian Narev rejects housing market warning Sydney Morning Herald. EM: “Right … it’s not Australia’s but rather China’s housing market which is a systemic risk to the Australian economy."

 The Great Chinese Exodus WSJ

How High Up Did the Madoff Fraud Go at JPMorgan? Wall Street on Parade. Note the players.

The tax haven in the heart of Britain New Statesman (Eric). If you have not read Nicholas Shaxson’s Treasure Islands, you must read this...
Here are the job descriptions for Gannett’s ‘Newsroom of the Future JimRomensko. I regard this heavy use of corporate-speak and rigidity as a form of class warfare.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Metaphor is more than language; it’s a way of thought. Why say that something is something else? Because sometimes ordinary words won’t do... Like ...

At first glance, the only visible connection between these two lively books is a bridge between Rio de Janeiro and Rocinha, the South American city’s biggest favela, shaped in the guise of a woman’s G-stringed bottom Erotic great buildings

A reminder. A distinct jacket mapped to a distinct text helps index that text, identify and remind you of it. If you are looking for it, it is easier to find. If you need a mnemonic device for it, simply picture the jacket in your mind’s eye. Book Covers and Jackets

Vintage Metafor

Graffiti clad mitchell road gallery

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Was Shakespeare a conservative?

“There are two things which a democratic people will always find very difficult – to begin a war and to end it.”
– Alexis de Tocqueville

Exposed teeth, bunched cheeks, crinkled eyes: A smile is a peculiar thing, not least because of the spooky similarity between laughter and crying...Two faced

Shakespeare’s history plays are largely concerned with “legitimacy.” He had to walk a creative line politically since Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather, Henry Tudor, had come to power in a rebellion against King Richard III, so Richard had to be demonized. But unsuccessful rebels had to be bad or at least misguided (e.g., the rebel Hotspur in Henry IV Pt. 1 is charismatic and brave, but in the wrong).

After E.M. Forster began A Passage to India, he was blocked for nine years. Who can say why? He was so timid and repressed... Cold river a decade of inaction

In the writing world, editors rule and writers are second-class citizens. The problem: Editors go about editing whether it is necessary or not... Preditors

Monday, August 11, 2014

Science of Harakiki

Sd Laika, That’s Harakiri, a new sound world, best on vinyl.

Of course, there’s an obvious answer why women develop relationship with fashion brands :  society expects women to look a certain way. Put into economics terms, there’s a higher return on investment for beauty for women. Beauty products are becoming more popular among men, it’s true, but expensive skin cream is still optional. For women, all those trappings are more necessary Realising Potentials

The Economist ran a long feature story, full of data on the world’s oldest profession. 

A degree appears to raise earnings in the sex industry just as it does in the wider labour market. A study by Scott Cunningham of Baylor University and Todd Kendall of Compass Lexecon, a consultancy, shows that among prostitutes who worked during a given week, graduates earned on average 31% more than non-graduates. More lucrative working patterns rather than higher hourly rates explained the difference. Although sex workers with degrees are less likely to work than others in any given week (suggesting that they are more likely to regard prostitution as a sideline), when they do work they see more clients and for longer. Their clients tend to be older men who seek longer sessions and intimacy, rather than a brief encounter.
Are there general lessons here for the rate of return to education?  Here is another bit, when it comes to disintermediation one sex worker complains:
Moving online means prostitutes need no longer rely on the usual intermediaries—brothels and agencies; pimps and madams—to drum up business or provide a venue. Some will decide to go it alone. That means more independence, says Ana, a Spanish-American erotic masseuse who works in America and Britain. It also means more time, effort and expertise put into marketing. “You need a good website, lots of great pictures, you need to learn search-engine optimisation…it’s exhausting at times,” she says.
The axe is hanging over the jobs of another 8000 public servants at the Australian Taxation Office as the agency subjects their workplaces to a round of "corporate reviews".
Unions are predicting that more than 2000 tax officials will be facing the dole queue before the restructure is over, but taxation bosses are pledging they will try to find work for those displaced in the reviews. Less pain no gain

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Drivers & Quotes

By the time we’re done with Heidegger, (or media dragon) you’ll all be dead. 
~  Metaphysics professor

“Beer and Trembling” and other bars philosophy professors opened after being denied tenure
Interesting philosophical sayings someone collected for joy ~ what we might have said in the classroom or in office hours or wherever, when, perhaps, we weren’t being as careful with your words. Czech out Philosophy Professor Quotes and have a laugh, perhaps at media dragon's expense.

 The only meaningful way to motivate people to do anything is to deprive them of something. 

Political Philosophy Professor


Fairfax Media has also obtained new departmental data that suggests weaknesses in the skilled worker visa programs are increasingly being exploited, with thousands of foreign cooks and accountants being given visas despite an excess of local candidates.
 ''The investigation network is now in a far worse condition than at any time in its history.''Major organisers of fraud on Australia's immigration and citizenship programs realistically need have little fear of detection, arrest and prosecution.'' When the dam bursts

With improved tactics and technology, the US IRS stopped six million suspicious returns last year and prevented $18 billion in fraudulent refunds. In addition, he said the IRS has improved its handling of refund claims by victims of fraud, reducing the time it takes to resolve a problem from one year to four months.
But Koskinen lamented that the IRS has lost $850 million in funds and nearly 10,000 employees over the past four years as a result of budget cuts by Congress. And those reductions have hobbled the agency’s ability to attack ID theft and tax fraud more aggressively.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Why we need writers

Chris Graham said yesterday real journalism was about weighing up privacy against public interests New Matilda

Why write? When people ask me this, as happens surprisingly often, I am forced to say, don't. Really. Why we need Writers  / 

If there was an ambush it was the next morning and it was not Watson’s. The exhausted barrister was looking to hand off to his junior the final day of hearings before an Easter break but, at about 9.15am, he received an email. Di Girolamo’s lawyers had found a very polite thank-you note in O’Farrell’s handwriting that confirmed O’Farrell had taken delivery of the wine. Watson says his reaction was one of “total shock”. O’Farrell had failed to declare the gift in his register of pecuniary interests and, wittingly or unwittingly, misled ICAC about it. It was clear that as “an honourable man” he would have to consider resigning. “I screamed at the top of my lungs “f---ing hell” . . . I then got in the lift, went up and saw the Commissioner [Megan Latham].” Watson then told O’Farrell’s lawyer, who asked Watson to delay the start of the hearing so that the premier could resign in his own time Dr Watson

There’s nothing better than the feeling of finally being proved right, and so it was that the two happiest ex-premiers of New South Wales, Morris Iemma and Nathan Rees, yesterday launched a ground-breaking book about corrupt former NSW politician Eddie Obeid. Obeid Book launch

Stoliar, 64, is a long-time friend and business associate of former Labor powerbroker Eddie ObeidNati Stoliar pleads guilty to money laundering

Think Progress

Common Pool Resources

Local people preserve the environment better than governments New Scientist. That is, common pool resources

Five years ago, they started a company called Addepar, with the aim of providing clear and reliable information about the increasingly complex assets inside pensions, investment funds and family fortunes. In much the way spies diagram a communications network, Addepar filters and weighs the relationships among billions of dollars of holdings to figure out whether a portfolio is about to crash Wealth managersenlist spy tools to map portfolio

Friday, August 01, 2014

Most Wanted Link ;-)

The last film to feature Philip Seymour Hoffman in a leading role is A MOST WANTED MAN, an adaptation of John Le Carre's 2008 novel. John le Carre has seen many changes in the political climate since his books were first published, adapted for television and filmed, yet the nature of secrecy and betrayal remains constant.
A Most Wanted Man, adapted from his 2008 novel and directed by Anton Corbijn, clearly establishes place, time, context in its opening titles. It is set entirely in the port city of Hamburg, where Mohammed Atta planned the September 11, 2001, attacks under the intelligence radar. This fact, we are told, still has ramifications a decade on... A most wanted man Le Carre tale affirms Philip Seymour Hoffmann talent
The hidden hands behind East-West tug of war in Ukraine Al Jazeera

It’s About the Lying Dan Froomkin, The Intercept. It’s not the crime, but the cover-up? Nevertheless, good to see Froomkin, a forgotten hero of Bush-era blogging
CIA improperly accessed Senate computers, agency findsMcClatchy. But don’t worry, John Brennan called up his best man to get to the bottom of it: lobbyist and conservaDem Evan Bayh.
Gloomy Pageant LRB. Don’t say “privatization.” Say “marketization.”
Something light: Alternet: The idea that men are naturally more interested in sex than women is [so] ubiquitous that it’s difficult to imagine that people ever believed differently. And yet for most of Western history, from ancient Greece to beginning of the nineteenth century, women were assumed to be the sex-crazed porn fiends of their day. In one ancient Greek myth, Zeus and Hera argue about whether men or women enjoy sex more. They ask the prophet Tiresias, whom Hera had once transformed into a woman, to settle the debate. He answers, “if sexual pleasure were divided into ten parts, only one part would go to the man, and and nine parts to the woman.” Later, women were considered to be temptresses who inherited their treachery from Eve. Their sexual passion was seen as a sign of their inferior morality, reason and intellect, and justified tight control by husbands and fathers. Men, who were not so consumed with lust and who had superior abilities of self-control, were the gender more naturally suited to holding positions of power and influence.
Early twentieth-century physician and psychologist Havelock Ellis may have been the first to document the ideological change that had recently taken place. In his 1903 work Studies in the Psychology of Sex, he cites a laundry list of ancient and modern historical sources ranging from Europe to Greece, the Middle East to China, all of nearly the same mind about women’s greater sexual desire.
The ancient belief is consistent with the well known fact that in ancient times when a man went to a bordello the women would line up and bid for the right to sleep with him.
In other words, the ancients believed a lot of strange things at variance with the facts (which isn’t to say that the switch in belief and its timing isn’t of interest or that these kinds of beliefs no longer sway with the times). More at the link.