Thursday, April 30, 2015

Elements of Trust

Words that used to mean something – ideals, character, self, soul – now mean nothing. The very idea of an inner life is passé at institutions of higher learning... Passe

“You read all those books?” The question occurs only to nonreaders. For bibliophiles, a personal library of unread books is a reminder that they will never be smart enough... Monographs of Wisdom

April 1961 versus April 2015 – David Petraeus and the demise of the “warrior” ethos Sic Semper Tyrannis. A must read. (Gabriel also recommends Passions of the MeritocracyBaffler

Trust increases with age, according to research, and we’re getting older on a population basis, meaning that the older world we live in is also a more trusting world.
Considering there’s a positive link between trust and well-being, this can only be a good thing. It’s the main finding of a study from the University of Buffalo and Northwestern University; that cynicism and distrust tends to decline with age. One of the researchers, Michael Poulin, contemplates this shift in attitude, suggesting that our life experiences ‘soften’ the sometimes cynical society in which we live.
Trust is critical. It helps societies function. It makes us happier as people and it promotes well-being. It’s also another positive thing about getting older Have a little faith

Kay Bell, Virginia dumps tax refund debit cards for paper checks. Fraud is part of the reason.

Russ Fox, No Discount for her Sentence. “Well, Ms. Morin operated Discount Tax Service. Her clients were very happy with her methods, as they received tax credits and itemized deductions on their returns whether or not they qualified for them.”

Robert Wood, IRS Paid $3 Billion In Tax Credit Mistakes Plus $5.8 Billion In Erroneous Refunds. That doesn’t count erroneous earned income tax credits — only corporate returns.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point he describes three types of people: Connectors, Mavens and Salesmen. ‘Connectors’ are people who connect other people together. ‘Mavens’ are people with information. ‘Salesmen’ are people with strong negotiation skills. The book was, and still is, credited with influencing how people think about sales and how ideas catch on.

The Tipping Point was first published in 2000. Since then technology has allowed us to connect in different ways at all times. But just because connections exists doesn’t mean that they are of value. I think most people will agree that it’s what we do with those connections that really matters. This is the thrust behind a new way of thinking about Connectional Intelligence is the book Get Big Things Done: The Power of Connectional Intelligence by Erica Dhawan and Saj-nicole Joni.

In an article in Fast Company, Dhawan describes Connectional Intelligence as “Sift(ing) through the noise of social media and technology to get big things done.” The notion harks back to the old adage ‘quality over quantity’. Dhawan poses three questions as a framework for challenging our traditional concept of networking in this way:

  1. What do you care about most?
  2. What do you already know?
  3. How can one problem solve another?
An article on Nautilus provides a fascinating birds-eye view of how we use language to express ourselves, and in turn, the role it plays in the way we use it to express ourselves. Confused? The article starts by pointing out that the English language is highly egocentric, particularly when you compare it to language used by the Guugu Ymithirr tribe in Australia. English speakers tend to orient themselves in the world according to, well, themselves. We talk about moving forward or backward according to the direction we’re facing. English speakers describe the world from the perspective of the self. Guugu Ymithirr speakers take a different approach, using their internal compass and the cardinal directions of east, west, north and south. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Chernobyl Story – 29th Anniversary: Vladimir Putin’s ‘misinformation’ & cold war propaganda tools

Many families in Eastern Europe are still haunted by the disaster. Three years after the blast the Velvet Revolution took place. However, no one could help my nephew, Tomas, who passed away at a young age in his early 20s, and who never recovered from Chernobyl disaster. He was never able to communicate, read, even walk properly ... Tomas was delightful boy who provided lots of joy to the family, however especially, to his grandmother, Maria, despite his disabilities ...

Andrew Leatherbarrow: “At precisely 01:23:40 on the morning of April 26th, 1986, a control room operator named Alexander Akimov made his fateful decision to press the Emergency Shutdown button at Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power station. The reactor exploded, annihilating its containment building and sending a lethal cloud of radioactive particles across Europe. This unprecedented accident caused the permanent evacuation of the nearby city of Pripyat, a desperature struggle to contain Chernobyl’s exposed reactor core, and ultimately cost thousands of lives. So what happened, who really caused it, and what are Chernobyl and Pripyat like now? I had to find out more, so in 2011 I went to see the area for myself. In this book I aim to provide an accessible, but detailed and comprehensive account of the 1986 accident, plus the story of my own journey into the Chernobyl Zone.”

A Russian biker group, famed for their patriotism, have set off from Moscow to Berlin, hoping to recreate the route taken by the Red Army 70 years ago, visiting the graves of Soviet soldiers killed during the war.
However Poland have called the trip a "provocation" and have said they will ban members of the Night Wolves biker club from entering their country.
Putin's 'Hells Angels' set off from Moscow for Berlin

Russia’s sprawling propaganda network may have failed to persuade much of the world that Ukraine is run by Nazis, that Crimea was annexed in a popular uprising and/or that Germany is a failed state. But the barrage of misinformation has convinced some American politicians that the propaganda network is the greatest threat to US security in Europe since the Soviet Union evaporated.
Vladimir Putin’s ‘misinformation’ offensive prompts US to deploy its cold war propaganda tools 

How Technology is Changing the Future of Espionage

 What do Google and Amazon have in common with arms traffickers, terrorists, and North Korean rulers? The answer: All use the same offshore system to circumvent rules that would otherwise constrain them.
Tax havens for despots, criminals and the Fortune 500

How Putin’s comrades washed their money in Switzerland and the UK

Liberland, which sits on 2.7 square-miles of land along the Danube River between Serbia and Croatia, was founded earlier this month and plans to have only voluntary taxes.

Why Men Fake It

Obviously, social progress is always a stop-start sort of affair. For one thing, the inner lives of the protagonists aren’t always on the advance team, so to speak; social change goes whizzing past your ears, with the backwardish psyche – not always quite so amenable to change – bringing up the rear. It’s sometimes been said that a colonized mentality far outlasted the political conditions of colonialism; Soviet Communism crumbled virtually overnight, but the inner apparatchik lives on. So too with female progress, it appears.

Image: Five Day Forecast 

In a review of Why Men Fake It, Jonathan M. Metzl wrote:
It’s hard to be a man these days. For years, men enjoyed the trappings of hegemony unencumbered by guilt, reproach, or self-loathing. Men smoked like Don Draper, drank like Foster Brooks, and drove like Jimmy Dean. The world was theirs, and they paved American roads as pathways to their enjoyment. Men worked hard and dallied even harder. A plate of meatloaf, Lassie, and a chipper nuclear family waited dutifully at home until they returned.
Now, however, it takes a lot of work to keep things in order. This is not to say that the system is not set up for male privilege—indeed, the system slants in men’s favor like never before. But a growing group of men apparently feel persistent anxiety that things are not as they werethat a golden age is lost. These men are being encroached upon by politics, public health, and a society that wants what they have.
Jonathan M. Metzl, Sequester This!: The Perils of Masculinity and the Truth About Sex | Public Books
It’s always worth it to revisit Tony Porter’s Call to Men.
The Mansplainer could be part of the gender typology mapped by Laura Kipnis. But such a chapter would have probably been redundant considering there’s already Rebecca Solnit’s excellent, often-cited Men Explain Things to Me.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

You CAN Not Make This Stuff Up: Jesus on Tax

Robert D. Flach, YOU CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP. “The IRS was writing to the taxpayer to tell him that he is dead and so they were not going to process his refund.”

After years of study and debate, the ninth-largest Protestant denomination, the Presbyterian Church USA, has come out with a detailed report that ties the religious duty of believers and government tax policy [Tax Justice: A Christian Response to a Second Gilded Age].
[W]ho can organize people to push for changes in government policy that will reduce poverty and extreme inequality?
The University of Chicago Divinity School’s Myriam Renaud provided an answer recently:

The only remaining, major, organized institutions in the U.S. with enough scope and moral authority to launch efforts to reverse this country’s growing income and wealth inequality are the religions. Other institutions have waned; today’s labor unions represent only 7 percent of private sector employees. Delays matter: As income inequality increases, more children are going to bed hungry

 Using the 'Smart Return' to Reduce Tax Evasion, by Joseph Bankman(Stanford), Clifford Nass (Stanford) & Joel Slemrod (Michigan)

Diane M. Ring (Boston College) presents Can Sharing Be Taxed?, 93 Wash. U. L. Rev. ___ (2016) (with Shu-Yi Oei(Tulane)), at Fordham today as part of its conference onSharing Economy, Sharing City: Urban Law and the New Economy

Jonathan Barry Forman (Oklahoma) & Roberta F. Mann(Oregon), Making the Internal Revenue Service Work, 17 Fla. Tax Rev. ___ (2015):
This is an Article about how to redesign the federal tax system so that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can administer it more effectively given that Congress is only willing to let the IRS have around 82,000 employees and a $12 billion budget.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a government or collection of governments lacking a good fortune or facing mounting deficits must be in want of quick revenues by blocking off tax dodging, avoidance, evasion and the like.” Truths

Lifters and Leaners Down Under

Top Gears: How negative gearing and the capital gains tax discount benefit the top 10 per cent and drive up house prices – The Australia Institute

Michael Reddell blogger

They tried to bury Media Dragons. They did not know we were seeds.

….As Hayek emphasized, the market does not require perfect knowledge to function, rather it is the means by which imperfect knowledge is made to function in the social interest

Michael Reddell, New Zealand economist, is blogging


What Is the Internet of Things?, Mike Loukides and Jon Bruner, O’Reilly Media:  “The Internet of Things (IoT) is a blending of software and hardware, introducing intelligence and connectedness to objects and adding physical endpoints to software. Radical changes in the hardware development process have made the IoT—and its vast possibility—accessible to anyone. This report provides a high-level overview of the foundational changes that have enabled the IoT and examines how it’s revolutionizing not just consumer goods and gadgets, but manufacturing, design, engineering, medicine, government, business models, and the way we live our lives.”
Economists have discovered how bad the economy really is WaPo. Labor force participation. NC readers have known for years.

I am a cook in the US Senate but I still need food stamps to feed my children The Guardian

6 Tricks Banks Use to Drive Homeowners Into Foreclosure Newswire. Notice that this is a 2015 article, not 2008 or 2010 or 2012, when this was supposed to be all over.

Monday, April 27, 2015

From Propertius to Imrich

The superior man blames himself. The inferior man blames others.

Paul Auster visited Yale at the end of March for the Schlesinger Visiting Writer Series. They asked him a few questions.

Q: Yale is teeming with aspiring writers. Is there any golden advice that you would like to give them?

A: Don’t do it. You are asking for a life of penury, solitude, and a kind of invisibility in the world. It’s almost like taking orders in a religious sect. Writing is a disease, it’s not anything more than that. If a young person says, “You are right, it would be a stupid thing to do,” then that person shouldn’t be a writer. If a young person says, “I don’t agree with you, I will do it anyway,” alright, good luck! But you’ll have to figure it out on your own, because everyone’s path is different.

Author Jonathan Rogers was passed up by Senior Ms. America in last April's Music City Half-Marathon. It proved transformative.
Here in my forties I have gained wisdom from running that I never gained from books. To wit: I have learned never to ask, “Can I run 13.1 miles?” (the answer is probably no) but only to ask “Can I run to the next telephone pole” (the answer is probably yes). To apply this principle to my line of work, people don’t write books: they write sentences.
Mark Bertrand writes about a new favorite author and the novel, Scandal, in which a Catholic novelist and public intellectual discovers he has an identical, evil double of himself. This other man is encouraging the community to believe the moral novelist is a flaming hypocrite. "The hunt for his doppelgänger," Bertrand explains, "draws him into an underworld — actually, that’s not quite right: the quest has more to do with realizing that this world is the underworld."

This appears to be the kind of thing The Shadow claimed to know: the evil that lurks in every man's heart.

“With a single poem, which says that her beloved Anactoria is more valuable than the splendor of any cavalry, infantry, or fleet, she created a tradition of ‘love-not-war’ lyrics whose future stretches from Propertius to Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and Bruce Springsteen. As the definitive ur-voice of lyric ecstasy, she is so consequential that poets of every generation, from Catullus to Sylvia Plath and Anne Carson, have used her to define their aesthetic manifestos: among the ancients, only Homer can claim an instrumental role in literary history equivalent to Sappho’s.” New York Review of Books

“No writer wants to own the label ‘confessional’ anymore. It’s an epithet, with the same tenor as ‘hipster’ or ‘artisanal': something for privileged narcissists who can’t see any of their own silliness. … And yet, the practice has deeply ancient, religious roots. Bruenig notes that it was designed not just to let the person who is confessing spill his or her guts, but also a sort of collective anecdote.” Pacific Standard 

“For centuries, if what you had written was going to be shown to others, it would have to be placed in a library, usually a church library. And since the only way anyone would know that a new piece of literature had been written was if the writer personally put the word around, there would usually be some kind of social connection between writer and readers.” New York Review of Books

For the Bard's birthday, "ten plays, quickly resolved through texts."

We know about his science, his politics, his philosophy – what else is there to know about Albert Einstein? Not least: his sense of humor... Joking Albert

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Parliamentary Theatre of the Absurd

By their very nature parliamentary buildings are meant to attract notice; the grander the structure, the stronger the public and national interest and reaction to them. Parliamentary buildings represent tradition, stability and authority; they embody an image, or the commanding presence, of the state. They often evoke ideals of national identity, pride and what Ivor Indyk calls ‘the discourse of power’. In notable cases they may also come to incorporate aspects of national memory. Consequently, the destruction of a parliamentary building has an impact going beyond the destruction of most other public buildings. The burning of the Reichstag building in 1933 is an historical instance, with ominous consequences for the German State
~ Dr Russell Cope   Parliamentary Architecture and Management ( via Berkelow Berrima) ;  The Art and Craft of  Parliamentary Management

The Department of Parliamentary Services' sacked boss, Carol Mills, says she is leaving Parliament in a better shape than she found it. Ms Mills, who oversaw much of the running of Canberra's Parliament House before she lost her job, told her colleagues on Friday that the benefit of changes she made would become apparent in the months and years ahead Carol Mills and her Story

  • Inspirational sports quotes
The Parliamentary Services Department and its embattled secretary, Carol Mills, have been in the spotlight again. The latest trigger was a swingeing report by the Australian National Audit Office,Managing Assets and Contracts at Parliament House (February 2015). The report arose out of earlier concerns from members of the Senate finance and public administration legislation committee over the department's disposal of heritage assets and its contract management practices. The ANAO report can be added to the earlier findings of the Senate privileges committee, which had examined Mills' questionable conduct over the use of CCTV. Combined with the adverse publicity surrounding Mills' nomination for the position of clerk of the British House of Commons, which was vigorously attacked by clerk of the Senate Rosemary Laing, evidence is mounting that the department's leadership is in serious trouble. This continuing crisis in turn reflects poorly on Parliament's own accountability structures.
As well as bearing major responsibility for the department's performance, Mills has been further exposed to criticism by a number of personal actions that brought her into conflict with senators. One concerned the use of Parliament's CCTV to identify a whistleblower who gave information to Faulkner
Chaos on Capita Hill

Bercow loses his-battle-to-appoint Carol Mills as commons Clerk

Monthly story entitled "Hard stomach"

Letting nature do the work

“The world owes all its onward impulse to men ill at ease. The happy man inevitably confines himself within ancient limits.”
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of Seven Gables

What if after you die God asks you - "So how was heaven?" • /r/Showerthoughts


In a world first, Chinese scientists have reported editing the genomes of human embryos. The results are published1 in the online journal Protein & Cell and confirm widespread rumours that such experiments had been conducted—rumours that sparked a high-profile debate last month about the ethical implications of such work Chinese genetically modifying human embryos and media dragons
The bonsai principle of letting nature do the work holds true in Full Grown line of furniture Living Room Furnishings Made of Bound Trees

Uncomfortable truths are stifled in science, but ideology alone isn’t to blame. It’s money that rules the day in the academy... Truth about Money ...

Extinction is not a helpful way to think about conservation. It’s alarmist, simplistic, and inaccurate. Nature is as robust as it ever was – maybe more so, says Stewart Brand... Nature

Saturday, April 25, 2015

At the Going Down of the Sun


“There was not much need for retribution in the life hereafter. You usually paid for the party while you were still on earth.”
~ John P. Marquand, Melville Goodwin, USA
We will remember them: Services commemorating ANZAC Day will take place across Sydney.
We will remember them: Services commemorating ANZAC Day will take place across Sydney

Indigenous soldiers

Up to 15,000 Indians fought with allied troops at Gallipoli, but their contribution remains relatively unknown and unrecognised in Australia and their homeland, research has found.
"The average Indian is almost ignorant about Gallipoli as a campaign in World War I," retired Indian Air Force wing commander Rana Chhina said.
Historians believe almost 1,400 Indians died at Gallipoli and up to 3,500 were wounded.
India's Forgotten Soldiers  
Australian and Indian troops together at Gallipoli  

First world war centenary

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sydney Swells after Storms ;-)

A surfer takes on the break in this edited footage from 2012, which re-surfaced during the Sydney storm.
A surfer takes on the break during the Sydney storms on 1 April 2015 ;-)

Sharks and crocodiles

Wild Weather Thousands still without power

Largest pod of killer whales

Insider Trading: The Truth About Lies

Knowledge always desires increase; it is like fire, which must first be kindled by some external agent, but which will afterwards propagate itself.

When Congress “guts” the IRS like it has over the recent past, what is the likely result?  A most foreseeable one.  The IRS cannot continue to enforce the tax laws and collect taxes as efficiently as they should.  In the U.S. we have a voluntary tax system which means that taxpayers voluntarily decide to file tax returns and, in many instances, pay those taxes. If you owe under $ 1million you may not be audited

The Mansions Owned by White-Collar Criminals Wall Street Journal

This documentary is for everyone who has ever lied or been lied to. So, everyone. In "(Dis)Honesty - The Truth About Lies," behavioral economist Dan Ariely takes a look at the complex ways lies both big and small influence our lives and shape the world around us.
Watch: Insider Trading, Cheating and Fixing in Exclusive Trailer For '(Dis)Honesty - The Truth About Lies'

….As Hayek emphasized, the market does not require perfect knowledge to function, rather it is the means by which imperfect knowledge is made to function in the social interest

In an advice paper, Learning the hard way: managing corruption risks associated with international students at universities in NSW, the Commission identifies several corruption risks created by universities’ international student businesses, and puts forward 12 key corruption initiatives to help the universities manage them.
The executive director of ICAC's corruption prevention division, Robert Waldersee, who oversaw the ICAC report, told Four Corners that every university his staff had interviewed – 10 in NSW plus two in other states – had reported problems with false documents provided by education agents, often in collusion with students.

Tinkler attacking reporter

"The risk is they're going to put applicants through to the university with fake qualifications, or who they know have cheated on tests, or who are trying to undertake some sort of visa fraud," Dr Waldersee said Unis fraud investigation by ICAC international sector

A company linked to the Obeid family has agreed to pay up to $1.7 million to settle a court case brought by the state-owned Sydney Water to recover lavish expenses that were allegedly wrongfully billed to the utility.
Sydney Water launched Federal Court action against Australian Water Holdings last year to claw back the costs after the Independent Commission Against Corruption heard allegations it footed the bill for suspect expenses.

IRS Should Crack Down on Private Equity’s Abusive Tax Alchemy Eileen Appelbaum, Huffington Post

Unemployment makes you sick Bill Mitchell. Lambert: “That’s not a bug…”
Bye Bye Labour London Review of Books
The Retro Future Archdruid

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Most designers and consumers prefer pieces with a history and a story

Most designers and consumers prefer pieces with a history and a story

Read more here:
Home and garden

In the future, your insurance company will know when you’re having sex Fusion. Only if you’re wearing an Apple Watch.

This week, the IKEA Foundation announced the results of its ongoing collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): a plan to provide the UNHCR with 10,000 flat-pack Better Shelter units for refugee and disaster aid through IKEA’s Housing for All Foundation.

If you've been wanting a Van Gogh or Dali on your wall, Meural can make your dreams come true

One bold new supermarket chain in Berlin, called Original Unverpackt, is cutting through this misleading practice by going green the old-fashioned, and sometimes difficult, way: selling everything in bulk and allowing customers to bring their own containers.
Village shopping

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Google Scholar’s database

Big decisions with heart; little ones with head ...

“The scenes in All the President’s Men that show Woodward and Bernstein crisscrossing Washington on foot and ringing doorbells at night are shoe leather mythology in its most concentrated form. Making calls is good, but one stepped removed from what is most holy…”

The coming digital anarchy Telegraph. Note this is Silicon Valley sales talk.

AUSSIES rule the world when it comes to our interest in booze, drugs, junk food and clothing, an international study into emoji use has revealed.
SwiftKey, the makers of a popular third-party app for smartphones, has analysed the way people in countries around the world use emoji in a report that looked at more than 1 billion pieces of data sent by speakers of 16 different languages in a four-month period. Some of the report’s findings support common ethnic stereotypes.
The Potter of the World
Orin Kerr (George Washington), New (and Free) Legal Research Tool:
If you use the Google Chrome browser, and you do legal research online, you should add the new Google Scholar Button to your browser. It’s really easy to do. Just click here and add the button. At that point you can use the button to research academic articles using Google Scholar’s database.

Etsy provides a different sort of help in the form of a virtual store, and crowd-funding platforms such as Kickstarter provide a platform to generate revenue, enabling people to make things happen for themselves. 
Good Ideas Gaining Traction Media Dragon

Sophie Maxwell: A Future Living Will That is Very Much 'Alive

Wall Street Journal, Airbnb Income May Be Tax-Free–But There’s a Catch:
It is one of the tax code’s best freebies: a provision allowing people to rent out their homes for fewer than 15 days a year and pocket the income-tax-free. This break is often called the Masters exemption because of its popularity in Augusta, Ga., during the famous April golf tournament.
Now services such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Onefinestay and FlipKey are making it easier for people to take advantage of the Masters exemption by offering short-term rentals of their homes. Airbnb alone had more than one million listings at the end of 2014, more than triple the number it had at the end of 2012.
But this boon also is putting some so-called hosts on a collision course with the Internal Revenue Service, tax experts say.

Diversity is a wonderful thing. On that note, I enjoyed Siobhan Thompson’s delightful linguistic tour of 17 accents of the British Isles - and the celebrities who speak with them. Celebrity references points of Lancashire (where I hail from) are “Christopher Eccleston or most of the cast of the Downstairs and Downton Abbey.” Revolution begins with language, one million YouTube hits and counting.
Decisions made by Accents

KIND Snacks Founder: Business Must Be a Force for Good [PSFK 2015]