Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Revolting Doors and Cabinets: The Dark Side of the “World’s Most Admired” Companies

Let’s face it: Anybody can be an actor. There are no qualifications. The only other profession like that is politics.” James Garner and Jon Winokur, The Garner Files: A Memoir ... read more

The conspiracy theories about cabinet leaks can end. The ABC found them in locked drawers that the government sold. Cabinet Files

Cabinet documents discovered in filing cabinets sold at auction

Automation to take 1 in 3 MEdia Dragon jobs, report finds Guardian Robotcommedy as predicted by Capek

US defies Moscow with list of Russian elite Financial Times. Lambert: “These people have lost their minds. That’s like saying the US ‘defies’ Spain, since that’s the size of the Russian economy.”

Fallout from Carillion Collapse Hits KPMG

Carillion collapse demonstrates Big Four auditing firms are not only too big to fail, they’re too tall and big to replace. 

Labor signalling 'much more aggressive approach to raising the minimum wage'

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet will visit the US to learn about regulatory and tax reforms. (AAP). The NSW treasurer will visit the United States to learn about regulatory and tax reforms.

The Federal Treasurer is in the US meeting with business leaders and tech companies. Scott Morrison joins me now from Silicon Valley in California, Treasurer thanks for joining us. Last month the US passed the most significant reform to their tax system in decades Interview with David Koch, Sunrise 

Mnuchin says Russia sanctions are coming after 'oligarchs' list

  "A man who never graduated from school might steal from a freight car. But a man who attends college and graduates as a lawyer might steal the whole railroad." 

~ Theodore Roosevelt

The Tax Justice Network published its financial secrecy index today, and you may be surprised who's at the top of the list. Switzerland and the United States have been singled out by the organization. 

Switzerland – which was at the center of our 2015 Swiss Leaks project – has delayed implementing the automatic exchange of information. Meanwhile, the United States has risen from third on last year’s list for refusing to take part in international efforts to curb secrecy.

(You may remember the EU commissioner for tax, Pierre Moscovici, alluded to this when we asked him about the impact of the Trump Administration on the EU's relationship with America.)

We also started a new series to highlight the challenges our partners and members, face while reporting on our investigative projects. This week we’re featuring Polish reporter Vadim Makarenko, from Gazeta Wyborcza, who talks about the extra political pressures facing the industry. 
 Why do we let greedy financiers profit from the pain of foster children? | Aditya Chakrabortty
Literature often pretends to transcend the material conditions of life, but let’s talk cash: having it, not having it, owing it, wanting it, needing it, fear of losing it, the things we do for it, and the ways it changes us

Transparency campaigners say the departure of Adrian Dwyer from his role as Infrastructure Australia's executive director of policy and research to head up Infrastructure Partnerships Australia showed the need for new rules around lobbying and advocacy. 

A senior bureaucrat's new role has sparked 'revolving door' concerns

SMH Letters - So the NSW government is giving tax breaks to wealthy companies and trusts ("Secrecy on state's corporate tax breaks", January 29)

Inquiry could kick big four consultants off the federal government gravy ...


Government departments fattening pockets of former public servants

Big Pharma Greets Hundreds Of Ex-Federal Workers At The ‘Revolving Door’

An update on one of the biggest users of DC revolving doors: health care industry executives.

Corporation tax breaks kept secret to avoid 'harsh criticism': FOI documents

Cold River Analogy: 'Swimming between the flags for professional service entities' 

New Dept of Justice Guidelines Will Stymie Whistleblowers

DoJ policy will give staff attorneys discretion to thwart legit claims by whistleblowers, thus allowing corporate wrongdoers to skate.

Eric D. Chason (William & Mary), Taxing Systemic Risk, 16 U.N.H. L. Rev. 1 (2017):

A tax on the harmful elements of finance—a tax on systemic risk—would raise revenue and also lower the likelihood of future crisis. Financial institutions, which pay the tax, would try to minimize its cost by lowering their systemic risk. In theory, a tax on systemic risk is perfect policy. In practice, however, this perfect policy is unattainable. Tax laws need clear definitions to be administrable. Our current understanding of systemic risk is too abstract and too metaphorical to serve as a target for taxation.

Sam Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Private IRS Debt Collection: A Surly Taxsplainer:

You may have heard that the IRS spent $20 million last year on private debt collection, and managed to raise … almost $7 million. So what’s up with that? A number of things.

What’s the old line about “fool me once?” When it comes to privatizing debt collections for the IRS, Congress has now tried to fool American taxpayers for the third time. According to a new report by the agency’s Taxpayer Advocate Service, the outcome is roughly the same as the last two episodes—the agency is spending far more on the program than the firms are collecting and remitting to the Treasury. This time, according to the TAS, the agency spent $20 million in fiscal years 2016-2017 on a program that generated $6.7 million in payments through last October.

 Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse Eudaimonia and Co. Resilc flagged this paragraph:

But that is America’s task, not the world’s. The world’s task is this. Should the world follow the American model — extreme capitalism, no public investment, cruelty as a way of life, the perversion of everyday virtue — then these new social pathologies will follow, too. They are new diseases of the body social that have emerged from the diet of junk food — junk media, junk science, junk culture, junk punditry, junk economics, people treating one another and their society like junk — that America has fed upon for too long.

 PAGING WINSTON SMITHNOWICKI: “Polish Parliament Votes to Criminalize Any Mention of Polish Crimes During the Holocaust.” Not that I believe any enforcement of this law would succeed in the ECHR under Article 10, but speech bullies rarely care about a law’s infirmity as long as they can bring the pain for speaking up.
According to the law, which was approved on Friday by the country’s lower parliament, anyone who publicly attributes guilt or complicity to the Polish state for crimes committed by Nazi Germany, war crimes or other crimes against humanity, will be liable to criminal proceedings. Punishment will also be imposed on those who are seen to “deliberately reduce the responsibility of the ‘true culprits’ of these crimes.”
The European Court of Human Rights has spanked Poland’s judiciary before for enforcing judgments against political speech. Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression Center (where I serve pro bono as one of their experts) details Ziembinski v. Poland where a writer was punished for calling a local politician “a “numbskull”, “poser” and “dim-witted official.” That sounds like most local officials I know.
As to the new law, it’s doomed on extraterritorial reach as well: “The new law will apply both to Polish citizens and to foreigners regardless which country the statement is supposed to have been made in.”
Good luck enforcing a judgment enforcing that law in a US Court:
The SPEECH Act provides that a domestic court “shall not recognize or enforce a foreign judgment for defamation” unless it satisfies both First Amendment and due process considerations.
The law also forbids use of the term “Polish death camp” to describe the death camps where Jews and others were murdered in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War.

It's not every day that I'm impressed -- I mean truly impressed -- by a collection of short stories. But that was most certainly the case with The Encyclopedia of the Dead, Danilo Kis's mesmerizing tales of European history, philosophy, and religion. 

I'd read Kis's A Tomb for Boris Davidovich -- which was good; Encyclopedia, though, is in a league of its own. The collection really is a triumph. These are just my sort of stories: subtle, erudite, and focused on the past. 

In the title story -- "The Encyclopedia of the Dead" -- Kis wrestles with the nature of history and historical writing: which events, he wonders, are worthy of narration, and which can be set aside? How many details are necessary before a history becomes overloaded with the mundane? I found these questions to be relevant to our own lives: which details, for instance, do we include when describing our days and which do we knowingly ignore? That decision is part of the historical process, but it is equally part of our own. 

"To Die for One's Country is Glorious" makes a similar attempt to probe historical analysis: who writes history and after how long -- how many years -- does their narrative assume a sense of truth? Further, asks Kis, how do we know when we've properly identified motivation in history? How many revisions will it take for us to get this right? Profound questions lurk at every turn. 

Finally, there's "The Book of Kings and Fools" which must be the most successful story of the collection. Here, Kis imagines the history of a book (one similar in content and consequence to the Elders of Zion). This story is as good as it gets: Kis focuses on the transformation of texts over time. Its a testament to Kis's success that the story he weaves sounds and feels plausible: the names Kis invents, the tales he develops are endowed with a sense not only of the plausible, but of the real. For those interested in the evolution of texts -- and the abuses committed in their name -- let me strongly suggest "The Book of Kings and Fools." This was something of a revelation. 

Out of respect, the last word is reserved for Kis:

"The corrupt cannot imagine people different from themselves; they can only imagine people who have succeeded in hiding their true natures." 

A ‘marine motorhome for microbes’: Oceanic plastic trash conveys disease to coral reefs PhysOrg

‘Jackpotting’: new hack attack makes ATMs spit out cash like slot machines SCMP

The Dark Side of the “World’s Most Admired” Companies
POGO: “Fortune magazine recently released its 2018 list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. From a pool of roughly 1,500 candidates, Fortune picked the 50 “best-regarded companies in 52 industries.” Apple topped the list for the eleventh year straight. General Electric plummeted in the last year from number 7 to number 30. Lockheed Martin and Adidas both cracked the top 50 for the first time. Of course, Fortune’s ranking is somewhat skewed and self-serving. It is based on a survey of corporate executives and financial analysts. “Admiration” is measured according to criteria that emphasize companies’ financial shape over their track record of integrity and business ethics. So, we took it upon ourselves to document the dark side of the world’s 50 most admired companies. Ten of the companies are in our Federal Contractor Misconduct Database (FCMD), which includes civil, criminal, and administrative misconduct instances dating back to 1995 for 220 of the federal government’s largest contractors. All but 3 of the top 50 are in Good Jobs First’s Violation Tracker corporate misconduct database, which includes enforcement data from the federal regulatory agencies and the Justice Department dating back to 2000 for over 2,800 companies. Both databases show that most of the companies have multiple instances of misconduct for which they paid millions of dollars in fines, penalties, judgments, and settlements…”