Friday, August 31, 2018

Sons of a preacher man

Almanac: Jozef Conrad on loneliness
“Who knows what true loneliness is—not the conventional word, but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion.” Jozef Conrad,Under Western ... read more

Only those who are capable of silliness can be called truly intelligent.
— Christopher Isherwood, born on this date in 1904

Peter Corris, author of Cliff Hardy novels, dies

A writer for almost 40 years, Corris was an academic, journalist and former literary editor, in addition to being known as the "godfather" of Australian crime fiction.

Vale Ken 'Tubby' Turner, a true force of nature

Turner was generous of frame and loud of mouth but his deeds matched his proclamations.

'Rooted in the black church': Daughter of a preacher - Aretha Franklin's funeral returns to her gospel roots

A Detroit church swells with gospel music for the funeral of Aretha Franklin, driving mourners to their feet to clap and sing ahead of tributes to the queen of soul by former US president Bill Clinton and singer Stevie Wonder.

Washington remembers McCain as one of America's 'bravest souls', while Trump is absent

Washington's bitterly divided leaders come together to praise the late senator John McCain as an embodiment of America's fighting spirit, idealism and sense of humour, but there was one notable absentee: President Donald Trump.

Turnbull, Bishop among possible targets for alleged IS affiliate: police source

Sri Lankan student charged with terror offences in Sydney

Friends of star Sri Lankan student Mohamed Kamer Nilan Nizamdeen are shocked after he was charged with terrorist offences.

ATO boss pushes back on need for a new commissioner

Chris Jordan is not convinced of the need for a new tax commissioner and says disputes are "just a little subset".

NPR does this thing called i where they bring musicians and bands into the office to play behind a desk. Recent guests have included T.I., Erykah Badu, Dave Matthews, and the legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Ma played selections from Bach’s suites for cello, which he’s been playing for almost 60 years, and talked about the value of incremental learning.
Why did Laurence Olivier return so often to Shakespeare’s Othello? Why did Ansel Adams keep photographing the Grand Canyon? Obsessed or awestruck, artists revisit great inspirations because they believe there is yet another story to tell — about life, about themselves. 
Cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his great inspiration, and in turn part of his own life story, to an enthusiastic audience packed around the Tiny Desk on a hot summer day. Ma is returning, yet again, to the Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by Johann Sebastian Bach, a Mount Everest for any cellist. He has just released his third studio recording of the complete set and is taking the music on a two-year, six-continent tour. Ma’s first recording of the Suites, released in 1983, earned him his first Grammy.

Your amusing diagram for the week: what bank robbers, DJs, and preachers all have in common.

Can An Algorithm Really Figure Out How Sad A Song Is? (And If So, What’s The Saddest Number-One Hit?)

The folks at Spotify think so. Their valence scale (higher = happier, lower = sadder) has “been used to develop a ‘gloom index’ of Radiohead songs, to reveal the most depressing Christmas song, [and] to find out which European countries prefer sad songs (Portuguese fado really is a downer).” So data journalist Miriam Quick took the 1,080 songs that have held the top slot on the Billboard Hot 100 and looked at their Spotify valence scores – and she found that what the algorithm identifies as sad doesn’t quite track with what most humans think of as sadness.
Low water levels in the Czech Republic reveal historical “hunger stones” inscribed during droughts.
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The TMN headlines newsletter: a daily batch of the best things we find to sharpen your mind and warm your soul 
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"Bad health care has killed more American artists than I could list here without my fingers falling off."↩︎ TMN

World Record Flight

In 1991, Israel’s secret service, Mossad, pulled off a daring mission that brought thousands of Jewish Ethiopians to Israel. At the same time El Al, Israel’s national airline, set the record for the most passengers transported at once on a commercial jet – 1088! “Operation Solomon” even saw two babies being born on that flight.


New York Times op-ed:  Why Prosperity Has Increased but Happiness Has Not, by Jonathan Rauch (Author,  The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50 (2018)):

In 1990, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain was challenged by a Labour member of Parliament on the subject of growing inequality. “All levels of income are better off than they were in 1979,” she retorted. “The honorable member is saying that he would rather that the poor were poorer, provided the rich were less rich. … What a policy!” 

That slap-down was an iconic formulation of a premise of the Thatcher-Reagan conservative revolution: Poverty is a social problem, but inequality, as such, is not. Governments should aim to increase the incomes and opportunities of all, especially the poor, but to worry about the gap between the rich and the rest is “the politics of envy.”

Morally speaking, Mrs. Thatcher and Ronald Reagan should have been right. As long as I am better off, why should I begrudge your doing better still? Yet something was amiss with this consensus — something that goes far to explain why Reagan-Thatcher conservatism has caved in under pressure from the populisms of President Trump on the right and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the left. 

The first is a whip-crack of an essay by the New York Times’s Wesley Morris that, better than most, taps into Franklin’s own musical energies.

Ms. Franklin’s respect lasts for two minutes and 28 seconds. That’s all — basically a round of boxing. Nothing that’s over so soon should give you that much strength. But that was Aretha Franklin: a quick trip to the emotional gym. Obviously, she was far more than that. We’re never going to have an artist with a career as long, absurdly bountiful, nourishing and constantly surprising as hers. We’re unlikely to see another superstar as abundantly steeped in real self-confidence — at so many different stages of life, in as many musical genres….
The song owned the summer of 1967. It arrived amid what must have seemed like never-ending turmoil — race riots, political assassinations, the Vietnam draft. Muhammad Ali had been stripped of his championship title for refusing to serve in the war. So amid all this upheaval comes a singer from Detroit who’d been around most of the decade doing solid gospel R&B work. But there was something about this black woman’s asserting herself that seemed like a call to national arms. It wasn’t a polite song. It was hard. It was deliberate. It was sure.

The second essay, for NPR by dream hampton, “Black People Will Be Free’: How Aretha Lived The Promise Of Detroit,” is more slowly wound, and less about the music than the time and place that produced Franklin and in which she flourished. It bleeds like a wound, a wound the size of a city, where the Industrial Revolution met the Great Migration and became the Civil Rights Movement.

It’s impossible to talk about Aretha without talking about her father, Reverend C.L. Franklin of Detroit’s New Bethel Baptist Church. Born to Mississippi sharecroppers, Franklin began preaching and soul singing as a teenager. Just after World War II, he, like so many black Southerners who were fleeing racial terror and looking for work, found himself in Detroit. Mayor Coleman Young, Detroit’s first black mayor, called him a “preacher’s preacher.” And when Franklin died from gunshot wounds after being robbed in his home in 1979, Mayor Young said his “leadership of the historic freedom march down Woodward Avenue in Detroit with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by his side in June of 1963 — and involving some 125,000 people — provided the prototype for Dr. King’s successful march in Washington later that summer.”
It is important to understand the tradition of black liberation theology, a term coined by James H. Cone, that sought to use scripture to center black self-determination. In Detroit, pastors like C.L. Franklin and Albert Cleage of the Shrine of the Black Madonna used black liberation theology to help a growing black city to imagine itself powerful. They used their churches to launch the campaign of Detroit’s black political class, bincluding Coleman Young. At the same time, Rev. Franklin’s church remained a touch point for even more radical organizing. He opened New Bethel to black auto workers who were waging a class struggle within a racist United Automobile Workers union. He gave shelter to Black Panthers who were targeted by J. Edgar Hoover’s crusade against them. Later leaders of the fractured Black Power movement like the late Jackson, Miss. mayor (and Detroit native) Chokwe Lumumba gathered at New Bethel to form the Republic of New Afrika.

 A new sound rooted in older sounds; a new politics rooted in older politics; a new, triumphant individualism rooted in the liberation of entire communities. In all these things, Aretha stood at the crossroads of history. Maybe no one else could have done it.

How Labor wants to win over Coalition business voters 

COSBOA Summit Program2018 

Can't Have a Race With One Horse and instagram

When Caitlin Rosenthal began studying slave-plantation management, she didn't expect to find parallels with modern business practices...   Latitude of Slaves & Aliens  

The latitude idea of using networked technology as a tool of governance in China “goes back to at least the mid-1980s.”
MIT Technology Review

KREMLIN PROPAGANDA: How Putin’s information war seeped into seemingly independent media in Eastern Europe. “The websites presented themselves as independent news outlets, but in fact, editorial lines were dictated directly by Moscow,” Buzzfeed News reported.
 ***Algorithms are replacing middle management, and if you don’t have a job telling computers what to do, sooner or later your job will consist of doing what computers tell you. There are jobs above the API, and there are jobs below the API. Via Less Wrong In Barcelona, Airbnb has an 18 percent market share of all overnight bookings. In Kyoto, Japan, it’s 22 percent.
 The New York Times
Vaccinations aren’t halal. BuzzFeed
Texting can lead to better customer service than calling, but be careful about your privacy.
The Washington Post
The author of The Horse Whisperer has another story of manic family drama and epic landscapes—but it's true.
The Guardian

Inquiry into financial related crime

On Twitter, @InstantSunrise wrote an entertaining thread “in which I drag every single US president in order”. She starts off with The Founding Fathers

In a piece called The Algorithmic Trap, David Perell writes about the difficulty of finding serendipity, diversity, and “real” experiences while traveling. In short, Google, Yelp, Instagram, and the like have made travel destinations and experiences increasingly predictable and homogeneous.

Call me old-fashioned, but the more I travel, the less I depend on algorithms. In a world obsessed with efficiency, I find myself adding friction to my travel experience. I’ve shifted away from digital recommendations, and towards human ones.
For all the buzz about landmarks and sightseeing, I find that immersive, local experiences reveal the surprising, culturally-specific ways of living and thinking that make travel educational. We over-rate the importance of visiting the best-places and under-rate the importance of connecting with the best people. If you want to learn about a culture, nothing beats personalized time with a passionate local who can share the magic of their culture with you.
There’s one problem with this strategy: this kind of travel doesn’t scale. It’s in efficiency and doesn’t conform to the 80/20 rule. It’s unpredictable and things could go wrong.
Travel — when done right — is challenging. Like all face-to-face interaction, it’s inefficient. The fact that an experience can’t be found in a guidebook is precisely what makes it so special. Sure, a little tip helps — go here, go there; eat here, eat there; stay here, stay there — but at the end of the day, the great pleasures of travel are precisely what you can’t find on Yelp.
Algorithms are great at giving you something you like, but terrible at giving you something you love. Worse, by promoting familiarity, algorithms punish culture.

While reading parts of this, I was reminded of both premium mediocre and the randomness of this approach to travel.

I took the photo above in the Beartooth Mountains on my recent roadtrip. This was one of the surprise highlights of my trip…I wouldn’t have known to take the road through those mountains had it not been recommended to me by some enthusiastic locals.

Trump Tax ReturnsPolitico op-ed:  It Would Take Exactly One Senator to Get Trump’s Taxes, by George Yin (Virginia):
For all the attention given to the felonies committed by Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, the Mueller investigation still hasn’t shined a light on the central mystery surrounding Donald Trump's presidency thus far: Just what, if anything, he owes to Russia. If he has no Russian connection, why is the president so deferential to Russian President Vladimir Putin and so intent on silencing Russian accusers like former CIA Director John Brennan? There could be innocent explanations, of course, but many Americans, including some Republicans, are puzzled.
The answer may lie inside documents we’ve been talking about for two years: his tax returns. If Trump does have a clear connection to Russians—if he owes them money, or if he has business partnerships with Putin allies—the returns may provide useful clues and would certainly be a worthwhile place to look.

HMRC makes £343K payments to tax informants

HMRC paid informants more than £343,000 last year for providing information on potential tax evasion, down from a peak of £605,000 in 2015, but still a potential ethical challenge according to City law firm RPC

The three illegal acts that may have helped Trump win the presidency

This weeks cases against Trump become the third allegation of an effort to surreptitiously aid Trump's 2016 campaign that violated the law.

Another Trump loyalist granted immunity as prosecutors close in on Trump business

A key Trump Organisation employee, Allan Weisselberg, has been granted immunity, suggesting that prosecutors are circling

Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime (May 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: or“This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using Facebook data. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) 

Glassblowers Stuck By A Severe Shortage Of Glass

The shortage seems to be the culmination of stricter environmental laws, which led to a cutback in suppliers, compounded most recently by heavy demands on an overseas supplier. … Read More

The CIA funded a culture war against communism. It should do so again. WaPo (UserFriendly)

The rise and rise of digital nomads

For more than 35 years, Dennis Hope has been selling land on the Moon. Hope registered a claim for the Moon in 1980 and, since the US government & the UN didn’t object, he figures he owns it (along with the other planets and moons in the solar system).

The end of the oceans The Monthly

Bolt attracts big crowd in Maitland ... to watch him sit on the bench

Usain Bolt is a big deal. Even if he is just sitting in a club tracksuit on the bench watching an A-League trial match.

Beyond the brick wall of policy implementation
"Why implementation will remain the missing link to the practice of public administration." (Power to Persuade)

Govt leaves prime Adelaide CBD space vacant
"Almost three floors of government-leased office space in the city’s tallest building have been left vacant since June – at taxpayers’ expense." (InDaily)

The problem with ‘Hey Guys’
"A broad coalition of English speakers ‒ teachers, retail workers, ice-cream scoopers and others ‒ is grasping for a more inclusive greeting." (The Atlantic)

Productivity Commission tackles the inequality Rorschach
SOCIAL DISADVANTAGE: Concerned that partisans are cherrypicking the data on inequality, the Productivity Commission has waded into the debate.

Making sense of Scott Morrison's new portfolio arrangements
VERONA BURGESS: The new Morrison government's administrative arrangements order is out, and despite the brevity there's a bit to explain. What's the good news from a very awkward week for public servants?

A-G tells ACLEI to start counting cost of trying to catch crooked cops
AUDIT: The Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity has not paid enough attention to its fiscal responsibilities, according to its first-ever performance audit.

Life is messy, sometimes you won't have a bloody clue, so be courageous
LEADERSHIP: Ann Sherry is one of Australia's most successful women in leadership. Throughout a sterling career spanning the public and private sectors, she has always found that fortune really does favour the bold.

Why become a ministerial staffer
REVISIT: Public servants come back from working in a minister’s office with a variety of new skills, says Victoria Draudins.

APS gets another ‘innovation hub’ for cross-agency projects
CO-LAB: The Digital Transformation Agency has opened a new work space dedicated to collaboration, according to the minister, Michael Keenan.

Build stronger communities through evidence-based policies
Many government departments lack the baseline evidence essential for evaluation. The Evidence Based Policy Summit will discuss how evidence and objective analysis creates stronger policy and programs.  

What can #selfie culture teach us about innovation? 

Even if we can agree that people should be put above technology and tools, perhaps this dichotomy isn't useful when it comes to understanding how innovation can best flourish. Read the latest blog on why technology matters and what Instagram culture can teach us about innovation... 

Estonia is making public transport free
“Estonia’s capital Tallinn is an interesting case study on free public transport.” (World Economic Forum)

Nine passive-aggressive email phrases that must end now
"A poll has uncovered the most irksome phrases colleagues write in emails." (The Guardian)

The GFC completely changed what majors students choose
"Ten years have passed since the 2008 financial crisis, and the effects linger in the US." (Quartz)

Müller, Karsten and Schwarz, Carlo, Fanning the Flames of Hate: Social Media and Hate Crime (May 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: or “This paper investigates the link between social media and hate crime using Facebook data. We study the case of Germany, where the recently emerged right-wing party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) has […]

What is the point of the public service?
MARTIN STEWART-WEEKS: The APS needs a new 'theory of the business' that more effectively explains and validates the role, purpose, work and impact of a public service for the digital age.