Monday, April 12, 2021

Giving Everyone a Fair Shot

Deliveroo does not deliver

I was amused to read this in the FT this morning: Deliveroo’s shares tumbled 30 per cent in the company’s London debut on Wednesday, in
Read the full article…

Young Ran (Christine) Kim (Utah; Google Scholar), Blockchain Initiatives for Tax Administration, 69 UCLA L. Rev. ___ (2021):

A thriving body of literature discusses various legal issues related to blockchain, but often it mixes the discussion about blockchain with cryptocurrency. However, blockchain is not the same as cryptocurrency. Defined as a decentralized, immutable, peer-to-leer ledger technology, blockchain is a newly emerging data management system. The private sector—including the financial industry and supply chains—and the public sector—property records, public health, voting, and compliance, have all begun to utilize blockchain. Since more data is processed remotely, and thus digitally, the evolution of blockchain is gaining stronger momentum.

While scholarship on blockchain is growing, none of the scholarship has considered the impact of blockchain on the tax sector. This Article extends the study of blockchain to tax administration, evaluates the feasibility of incorporating blockchain within existing tax administrations, and provides policymakers with criteria to consider and some recommended designs for blockchain.

As Chinese pipeline has become newsworthy again am posting link to the excellent documentary film on it “Across” made 2015 by Myanmar filmmakers Phyo Zayar Kyaw, Pyae Zaw Phyo, Kaung Sint. This is a shortened 60 min version of the 90 minute film. Link


Giving Everyone a Fair Shot International Monetary Fund

Australians are not fools. They understand just how vulnerable we remain. And we all know that waiting until Christmas isn’t good enough. As the actor David Wenham tweetedafter Morrison’s press conference on Friday, “I just rang my local Priceline pharmacy and ordered 100 million doses of Pfizer vaccine. This is great news and puts Australia at the front of the queue again.” And David, as we all know, is a better actor than Scotty from Marketing will ever be.

Australia’s vaccination rollout strategy has been an epic fail. Now Scott Morrison is trying to gaslight us Kevin Rudd

Company producing J&J vaccine had history of violations AP. American manufacturing has problems. Who knew?

Hong Kong’s Avoidable Tragedy Is CompleteBloomberg

China’s Covid-19 QR code surveillance state FT

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Secret of Synchronization



From poet David Whyte’s book Consolations (ebook), a short essay on friendship.

Friendship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.

I heard Whyte read this essay on the Making Sense podcast a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since — it’s a wonderful read but it’s even better to hear a practiced poet recite it aloud. If you’re interested in hearing more, Consolations, which is composed of similarly short essays on topics like anger, beauty, shyness, and gratitude, is available as an audiobook read by Whyte

The Secret of Synchronization

What do swaying bridges, flashing fireflies, clapping audiences, the far side of the Moon, and beating hearts have in common? Their behavior all has something to do with synchronization. In this video, Veritasium explains why and how spontaneous synchronization appears all the time in the physical world.

I was really into the instability of the Millennium Bridge back when it was first opened (and then rapidly closed), so it was great to hear Steven Strogatz’s explanation of the bridge’s failure.

Oh, and do go play with Nicky Case’s firefly visualization to see how synchronization can arise from really simple rules

Ted Chiang: Fears of Technology Are Fears of Capitalism

Writer Ted Chiang (author of the fantastic Exhalation) was recently a guest on the Ezra Klein Show. The conversation ranged widely — I enjoyed his thoughts on superheroes — but his comments on capitalism and technology seem particularly relevant right now. From the transcript:

I tend to think that most fears about A.I. are best understood as fears about capitalism. And I think that this is actually true of most fears of technology, too. Most of our fears or anxieties about technology are best understood as fears or anxiety about how capitalism will use technology against us. And technology and capitalism have been so closely intertwined that it’s hard to distinguish the two.

Let’s think about it this way. How much would we fear any technology, whether A.I. or some other technology, how much would you fear it if we lived in a world that was a lot like Denmark or if the entire world was run sort of on the principles of one of the Scandinavian countries? There’s universal health care. Everyone has child care, free college maybe. And maybe there’s some version of universal basic income there.

Now if the entire world operates according to — is run on those principles, how much do you worry about a new technology then? I think much, much less than we do now. Most of the things that we worry about under the mode of capitalism that the U.S practices, that is going to put people out of work, that is going to make people’s lives harder, because corporations will see it as a way to increase their profits and reduce their costs. It’s not intrinsic to that technology. It’s not that technology fundamentally is about putting people out of work.

It’s capitalism that wants to reduce costs and reduce costs by laying people off. It’s not that like all technology suddenly becomes benign in this world. But it’s like, in a world where we have really strong social safety nets, then you could maybe actually evaluate sort of the pros and cons of technology as a technology, as opposed to seeing it through how capitalism is going to use it against us. How are giant corporations going to use this to increase their profits at our expense?

And so, I feel like that is kind of the unexamined assumption in a lot of discussions about the inevitability of technological change and technologically-induced unemployment. Those are fundamentally about capitalism and the fact that we are sort of unable to question capitalism. We take it as an assumption that it will always exist and that we will never escape it. And that’s sort of the background radiation that we are all having to live with. But yeah, I’d like us to be able to separate an evaluation of the merits and drawbacks of technology from the framework of capitalism.

Echoing some of his other thoughts during the podcast, Chiang also wrote a piece for the New Yorker the other day about how the singularity will probably never come.


Making Tax Work

A significant part of my work over the last year that has not previously featured on this blog is featured in the latest newsletter of
Read the full article…

Fourteen out of fourteen as the government completes its fascist scorecard

On 20 March I wrote this on this blog: In 2003 historian Laurence W. Britt suggested that there were 14 characteristics to fascist regimes. They were: Powerful
Read the full article…

Modern Crime-Solving Methods vs. the Mystery of World War II Deaths NYT

Your ‘smart home’ is watching – and possibly sharing your data with the police Guardian

Almost every public servant who interacts regularly with a minister's office has observed or heard about bad behaviour by minister's office has observed or heard about bad behaviour by ministerial staffers. Some will even have seen unacceptable workplace behaviours by ministers themselves. Instances of bullying, harassment and verbal abuse are commonplace
Public servants are all too aware of staffers' bad behaviour

The inquiry  by the House of Reps Committee on Tax and Revenue into the Commissioner of Taxation Annual Report 2018-19  Public Hearings  held on 19 March 2021. The 2018-19 annual report was tabled in Parliament in October 2019 and an inquiry was launched in March 2020 

CRS In Focus – Biometric Technologies and Global Security March 30, 2021: “Biometric technologies use unique biological or behavioral attributes—such as DNA, fingerprints, cardiac signatures, voice or gait patterns, and facial or ocular measurements—to authenticate an individual’s identity. Although biometric technologies have been in use for decades, recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and Big Data analytics have expanded their application. As these technologies continue to mature and proliferate, largely driven by advances in the commercial sector, they will likely hold growing implications for congressional oversight, civil liberties, U.S. defense authorizations and appropriations, military and intelligence concepts of operations, and the future of war…”

As endangered birds lose their songs, they can’t find mates

The top eighteen libertarian comedians.

The Joy and Privilege of Growing Up in an Indie Bookstore

 The Joy and Privilege of Growing Up in an Indie Bookstore Literary Hub

3 eggs found, 18 lieutenants lost at base Easter egg hunt Duffel Blog. A couple of days late but still amusing.

The Strange Convulsion in Scottish Politics Craig Murray


Japan’s Cherry Blossoms Hit Earliest Peak Bloom in 1,200 Years Treehugger

Why Informal Information Sharing is Holding Your Organization Back, By Mary Ellen Bates: “Regardless of copyright licensing policies within most enterprises, there’s one thing that can’t be denied: there is a lot of informal collaboration going on right now. According to the 2020 Information Seeking and Consumption Study conducted by Outsell Inc., an estimated two-thirds of people surveyed report working at home during the pandemic, and a third of those individuals report sharing and using more content than they did when they were in the office. 

With so many people working remotely, looking at materials together or discussing an article at the water cooler have been replaced by virtual collaboration. There’s a common perception, particularly in R&D-intensive companies, that researchers are responsible for most collaboration around published information. The 2020 Outsell data showed that those at the executive level – not just knowledge workers – are sharing content far more than others – an average of 25 times a week and with an average of 12 other people. In addition to the prolific use of content by executive leadership, here are a few other ways published information is being used throughout organizations that you may not have considered..”

 9 Legal Ways to Watch Movies Online for Free - Make Use Of: “There are many illegal options. Want to stay within the law? Here are several legal ways to watch movies online. Gone are the days when Netflix was the sole player in the media streaming space. 

Nowadays, there are plenty of on-demand streaming services available to the average consumer. The only catch is that most of them are paid. To make matters worse, all these platforms try to secure exclusive deals with popular films. It means that you have to subscribe to multiple services in order to enjoy the greatest variety of content. ng.””However, there are some free streaming services that let you watch all the movies you’d ever want, all while remaining on the correct side of the law. Here are the best free legal movie streaming services…”

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Why Animals Don’t Get Lost

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick smash mythologies in 'Hemingway'

Why Animals Don’t Get Lost The New Yorker

Mapping the World’s Key Maritime Choke PointsVisual Capitalist 

Roush Review: Telling Hemingway’s Larger-Than-Life Story

The Suez Grounding Was an Accident. The Next Blocked Chokepoint Might Not Be. Defense One

Global chip supply chain increasingly vulnerable to massive disruption, study finds Reuters 

Banks must act to control fraud epidemic FT

Sydney’s hamlet tragedy: urban sprawl conquers all


Antoinette in the Cévennes is a daffy French farce premised on a lovelorn hike through the picturesque villages of the Massif Central. There’s a man, and a donkey. Turns out the donkey is preferable. But the film’s real enchantment lies in the deceptively casual contrast between the loose leafy hills and tight stone hamlets of rural France. This also makes it a weepy, because such a story – such a walk – couldn’t happen here.

Sure, we have bushwalks and city-walks. We have the occasional pretty village – Sofala or Carcoar. But you can’t walk between, much less include half-a-dozen in a six-day loop, with or without donkey. We don’t do villages. What we do, with so much wealth and choice, is just two things: developer high-rise and developer sprawl. That’s it. Two building-modes and both – in the absence of anything resembling planning – are developer-driven. The latest instance is Lendlease’s egregious despoliation of Mount Gilead – now rebadged Figtree Hill.

He called for reform of the Papacy, for a rethink on clerical celibacy, and for the removal of obstacles to unity with other churches

“Are not the resemblances between the Communist and Catholic systems striking?” he said. “Are not both absolutist, centralist, totalitarian, in short, enemies of human freedom?”

Hans Küng, a Roman Catholic theologian and priest whose brilliantly disputatious, lucidly expressed thoughts in more than 50 books and countless speeches advanced ecumenism and provoked the Vatican to censure him, died on Tuesday at his home in Tübingen, Germany. He was 93.

The death was confirmed by Nadja Dornis, a spokeswoman for the Global Ethic Foundation, which promotes Dr. Küng’s ideas.

Dr. Küng, who as an 11-year-old Swiss boy knew he wanted to be a priest, stood at the center of Christianity’s great upheavals in the latter half of the 20th century. His relentless challenges to the church hierarchy caused his critics to call him the greatest threat to the church since Martin Luther, even the Antichrist.

As a liberal, he criticized church policy on governance, liturgy, papal infallibility, birth control, priestly celibacy, the ordination of women, mixed marriages, homosexuality, abortion, the meaning of hell and much else.

Another lockdown, but this time Parisians demand bookstores stay open


Mulligan? Golfers consult rule book after ball lands on alligator’s back at SC course Fort Worth Star-Telegram

2021 Edelman Trust Barometer

“After a year of unprecedented disaster and turbulence – the Covid-19 pandemic and economic crisis, the global outcry over systemic racism and political instability – the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world.

 Adding to this is a failing trust ecosystem unable to confront the rampant infodemic, leaving the four institutions – business, government, NGOs and media – in an environment of information bankruptcy and a mandate to rebuild trust and chart a new path forward. The Covid-19 pandemic, with more than 1.9 million lives lost and joblessness equivalent to the Great Depression, has accelerated the erosion of trust around the world. This is evident in the significant drop in trust in the two largest economies: the U.S. and China. The U.S. (40 percent) and Chinese (30 percent) governments are deeply distrusted by respondents from the 26 other markets surveyed. And most notable is the drop in trust among their own citizens, with the U.S., already in the bottom quartile for trust, experiencing an additional 5-point drop since its presidential election in November 2020 and China seeing an 18-point drop since May 2020…” 

Another lockdown, but this time Parisians demand bookstores stay open - Boston Globe: “In France, the price of a baguette is protected by French law, and so is the price of a book. This says a lot about the place of reading in French life. In 1981, the loi Lang, named for then-president François Mitterand’s flamboyant minister of culture, Jack Lang, mandated that all booksellers, whether chains or independent (the law now also applies to online retailers), charge the same price as their competitors. The maximum discount allowed for books is 5 percent. The law not only protects independent bookshops from larger chain outlets, it ensures cultural diversity, guaranteeing that a wide range of titles can be published, including books that have cultural value but won’t become bestsellers. (Thirteen other European countries also have fixed prices for books.)…A poll conducted during the second lockdown found that 52 percent of the population considered bookshops essential businesses. Many shops created a “click and collect” workaround to sell books in spite of the closures — the way restaurants sold takeout. And when that lockdown was lifted in December, bibliophiles showed their love for their booksellers, buying 35 percent more booksthan they did during the same time the previous year…”

Friday, April 09, 2021

Prince Philip Almost 100 ....Veteran Hong Kong democrats found guilty in landmark unlawful assembly case

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen has announced the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. 

His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle.

My Day With Prince Philip Craig Murray

Prince Philip: Boris Johnson will not attend Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral and will give up seat for a family member Sky News

Too much? BBC gets complaints over Prince Philip coverage AP


China Wants a ‘Rules-Based International Order,’ Too Foreign Policy


China manoeuvres near Taiwan fuel concerns of potential attack FT


U.S. in Talks With Australia on Responses to War Over Taiwan, Diplomat Says Bloomberg


Veteran Hong Kong democrats found guilty in landmark unlawful assembly case Reuters


Blinken reaffirms Trump-era ruling on Hong Kong autonomy ABC


‘Xinjiang cotton is my love’: Patriots on show at China Fashion Week Reuters


Chinese ships remain in Julian Felipe Reef, disperse to other West Philippine Sea areasPhilippine Star


WHO report; Hong Kong election system fixed; Taiwan; Useful foreigners Sinocism. Fixed, indeed!


US, China consulted on safety as their craft headed to Mars ABC

Analysis: Quiet Singapore turns up volume on Myanmar as regional fears grow Reuters. “Singapore is the largest foreign investor in Myanmar.”


Ousted Myanmar Parliament Plans National Unity Government Bloomberg


What on Earth Is Amazon Doing? The Atlantic

The Dilemma Over How to Reproduce the EliteBenjamin Studebaker. I think Studebaker is onto something here


Why we can’t stop talking about billionairesRecode

Return of the city-state Aeon

‘I’ll probably get fired’: Amazon drivers in Henrietta walk out to protest working conditionsDemocrat & Chronicle

Labor board says Amazon illegally fired outspoken workers AP

The zombie economy and digital arm-breakersCory Doctorow, Pluralistic

The costs of a secretive ‘wealth defense industry’ of shell companies, offshore tax havens, and empty luxury condos Boston Globed

America Has a Ruling Class Samuel Goldman, NYT

‘The rich shouldn’t feel like the enemy’: Is New York turning on the wealthy? FT

This Again Eschaton

Why millions of students are missing out on food-assistance benefits Popular Science (Re Silc).