Thursday, December 03, 2015


Gerrymandering is rife  across the country, resulting in artificially drawn districts and council boundaries intended to protect or defeat certain incumbents, maximize one party’s share of power, or achieve other political goals ...

As it is only a year or so to local government elections in NSW, it is worth remembering parties are not only judged on getting things done, but how they respond to inevitable political spot fires ...

For the Labor Party, what is at stake is the weakening of its unbroken stranglehold on state and federal politics in the southeast. The trump card it is playing is Matraville pharmacist Noel D’Souza.
The newly minted Randwick mayor has broken ranks with the strong anti-amalgamation Labor arm on the council. Cr D’Souza has pushed forward the Randwick, Waverley and Botany merger to secure the future of Labor in the east.
However, Randwick Labor leader Tony Bowen said the decision by the Randwick Liberals to back Cr D’Souza over a Liberal councillor was strategic. Mr Bowen said this was a move to pave the way for Wavely Mayor Sally Betts to become mayor of an eastern suburbs Liberal “gerrymander”, taking in Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra.
NSW Council amalgamation frenzy in lead up to IPART report release, Premier Mike Baird doing rounds

 SOMETHING is rotten in the state of NSW. Last month, despite overwhelming community opposition, the NSW Liberal government joined with the Shooters and Fishers Party to pass legislation to manipulate votes in the City of Sydney
Defeated Liberal candidates behind push to gerrymander the City of Sydney Council elections 

Australia has a proud history of high voter turnout and maximum enfranchisement, but a new law in New South Wales is an attack on this democratic legacy
Gerrymandering has no place in Australia 

A man has been stung with two fines in twenty minutes after he was pulled over without his driver's licence and then left his car unlocked to walk home to get it.
Aria, a Byron Bay local originally from Germany, was pulled over for a random breath test on Monday, found to not have his licence with him, and given a $106 fine.

'Has the world gone mad?': Man fined in NSW for leaving his car unlocked  

Monday, November 30, 2015

Whistleblowers for Innovation: “Go For It. But Don’t Give Up the Day Job”

Where do we go nobody knows?
I’ve gotta say I’m on my way down
- Cold Play re Cold River

Clear thinking needed The Economist. “Global warming cannot be dealt with using today’s tools and mindsets. So create some new one

It is a crime to report crime - the sea of silent treatments in Sydney ...
HSBC whistleblower given five years' jail over biggest leak in banking history 

Four top KPMG accountants arrested over alleged tax fraud 

Four KPMG partners in Belfast put on leave as HMRC begin investigation

Germany gives Greece names of 10000 citizens suspected of dodging taxes  

Luxury goods retailers are being used for money laundering

Here are the top 10 countries where British criminals launder their money

 AFP whistle blower’s explosive claims of mass murder, rape and corruption

We reward whistle blowers who help to prosecute people who are defrauding the government by giving them a share of the proceeds. Bradley Birkenfeld, for example, provided evidence to the US government that the Swiss bank UBS was illegally enabling US tax evaders. The case led to a $780 million dollar fine against UBS and Birkenfeld collected a sweet cut, $104 million.
Derek Khanna at the R Street Institute suggests a similar system to reward innovators

Hundreds rally in Paris to protest the banning of protests @Ruptly

As Young observes:
“Offshore jurisdictions are in the business of making life difficult for whistleblowers through formal legislation and through the informal forcement of social codes; the unwritten rules of conduct and the herd mentality that affect those who work in the financial sector. To borrow from hackers’ slang, hostility to whistleblowers is a feature, not a bug; it is an attractive part of the financial secrecy package which offshore jurisdictions peddle to clients.”

Tax Justice Focus – The Whistleblower edition  

Greg Ip presented his new book Foolproof: Why Safety Can Be Dangerous and How Danger Makes Us Safe at Mercatus/GMU, with an emphasis on financial crises and a bit on forest fires too.  I was the moderator, and the commentators were Alex J. Pollock and Jared Bernstein.

Harrison Daily editorial, Why Is No One Held Accountable?: Never ever does anything serious seem to happen to government officials who fail to do their jobs properly, waste massive amounts of taxpayers' money, harm the innocent unfairly or even engage in criminal activities.

Welfare cheats have ­defrauded taxpayers of almost $5 billion, with more than 1.1 million in Centrelink debts now owed to the Commonwealth. The scale of the fraud and abuse of the social security safety net has driven the federal government to create a special Australian Federal Police taskforce to recover some of the debt and pursue criminal charges, reports The Daily Telegraph. 

Gretchen Tegeler, Many Iowa public employees are better off in retirement than working (

Paris Attacks to Boost Money Laundering Enforcement 

UK Government Technical consultation on draft regulations for country-by-country reporting  

Laon Ghosts
"A team in Spain recently examined the daily diets of 58 people with celiac disease and found that, in general, they contained more fat and less fibre than those of people who do eat gluten."
The most googled diets by city

Cities as harems

Exploring the Wall Street Journal’s Pulitzer-Winning Medicare Investigation with SQLPublic Affairs Data Journalism at Stanford University (CL). Amazing. 

Policy wonks who opened Snapchat today were greeted by the silky drawl of Frank Underwood, the chief villain (and hero) of the Netflix political tragedy “House of Cards.”
“I’ve always said power is more important than money,” intones Underwood, played by Kevin Spacey. “But when it comes to elections, money gives power — well, a run for its money.”
The clip, which appeared on’s newly launched Discover channel, serves as an entry point for the site’s rapid-fire tutorial on cash-infused political campaigns. Paired with sinister-sounding music and a spate of red, white and blue motion graphics, Underwood’s cameo marks’s first foray into Snapchat Discover., which launched on Snapchat Discover Monday, used its first daily edition to explore the influence of money on politics

Study 329: Big Risk Dr. David Healy 
Watch what you say about Saudi Arabia:
According to a report in pro-government newspaper Al Riyadh, the Saudi justice ministry is planning to sue a Twitter user who suggested that a death sentence recently handed out to a Palestinian artist for apostasy was “ISIS-like.”
…The ministry would not hesitate to sue “any media that slandered the religious judiciary of the Kingdom,” the source added.
The Washington Post adds that “the comparison to the Islamic State appears to be a particular bone of contention for the Saudi kingdom.” A Saudi spokesman explained to NBC News recently that the country’s beheadings and hand-choppings for religiously-based and other offenses differed from Islamic State’s because “the country’s Shariah-based legal system ensures fairness. ‘ISIS has no legitimate way to decide to decide to kill people’.” The target of the contemplated Twitter suit was not named, and it was not immediately apparent whether that person is a Saudi subject. [Washington Post,Reuters] The hashtag #ISISlike was spreading rapidly on Twitter last night.
Laon cobbled together
Exclusive: Three Goldman bankers leave for Uber as tech world raids Wall Street talent Reuters. Lambert: “I’m sure the new atmosphere is congenial.”

“People will not keep voting for politicians who continue to put the priorities of big polluters ahead of the needs of the community..."

One veteran senator said he had "never seen anything like it" before.
Never seen anything like it" before ...

Dr. Robert Taub, a mesothelioma specialist at Columbia University, got sucked into the Albany ethical abyss and in particular the moneymaking schemes of former New York Assembly Speaker and longtime Overlawyered favorite Sheldon Silver [Bill Hammond, Politico/Capital New York, quotes me] The defense proffered by Silver’s lawyers draws heavily on the idea that look, this is the way New York works [New York Post]:
“It’s impossible, absolutely impossible,” argued defense lawyer Steven Molo, “for a member of the Assembly to … do the job that a person in the Assembly does and not have some sort of conflict of interest.
“That may make you uncomfortable,” he added, “but that is the system New York has chosen, and it is not a crime.” 
Presentations on Searching and Using Tools to Find Anything

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Romanesque: Training Roses

“Life is beautiful in spite of everything! … There are many thorns, but the roses are there too.”

Interesting  is this test, as proposed by the British magazine Country Life.  I wonder how many of us can “train a rose ...” 

Speakibg of trauning, obe wobders which companionship doesn’t encompass its share of disagreements and difficulties, but they don’t matter, as long as we also   learn the lesson that Stephen Sondheim taught so well in Company:
Somebody crowd me with love,
Somebody force me to care,
Somebody make me come through,
I’ll always be there
As frightened as you
To help us survive
Being alive.

Graham Foust’s “Poem to My Daughter” in The New Republic “Poem to My Daughter”

“Oh god, how this story emerges from my bones!”

What is it that keeps drawing filmmakers to the fiction of Patricia Highsmith?
The filmable Miss Highsmith

Great writing is like diving: anybody can get from the platform to the pool—or the pavement—but some, with grace and sweat and just a bit of swag, can make that brief passage through the air angelic in its beauty and terror. “We started talking about dying long before the first woman jumped,” writes Jaquira Díaz in her essay “Ordinary Girls” in the new issue of KR. As an opening sentence, that’s like getting a good bounce off the board. We sense that there’s nothing but air below her, but it’s also clear she’ll work some magic on the way down. Diving and Dying
Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz, New World, “An innovative story of love, decapitation, cryogenics, and memory by two of our most creative literary minds.”

Our hyperconnected lives, saturated with advertising and technological automation, are increasingly disconnected from family. George Scialabba explains the modern dilemmas  »

Frank Sinatra’s character flaw isn’t hard to name. He lived in daily fear of humiliation, and in its (often imagined) presence his temper tipped over in an instant. This was followed, usually, by remorse, once he had sobered up and stopped seeing red. But, in the interim, real damage was done to real people: he threw a telephone at a businessman once at the Beverly Hills Hotel, fracturing his skull and very nearly killing him. The other cause of his rage may be oddly taboo to tell. Sinatra was a bad, mean drunk, and, since he was often drunk, he was often bad and mean. (John Lennon was a bad, mean drunk, too, and when he got loose long enough to show it the author of “Imagine” and “Julia” could do similarly violent things.) Despite everything we ought to have learned, we still make a ballad out of alcohol. It was Jack on the rocks, not crack from a bag, and so we somehow think that it’s not so bad. The other sad truth Kaplan illustrates is that demons rage in the rich and famous as much as they do in the poor and unknown—and maybe rage still more, since, having defeated the usual demons of worldly failure that haunt the rest of us, the famous are left alone with the remaining, inexpungible ones, grinning up evilly at them from inside.

Were it not for Andy Warhol, the current multibillion-dollar market in contemporary art would barely exist. Last year, he broke a record for the highest annual sales of any artist; he is the spiritual godfather to artists such as Richard Prince and Jeff Koons. Yet in 1993, six years after he died, Warhol’s reputation was such that when 16 of his canvases came up for auction, only two sold: The erstwhile king of pop art was scorned by almost all self-respecting collectors. Warhol’s recovery from that slump has no precedent in the history of art or commerce.
“I am finished,” 40-year-old Winston Churchill declared in 1915, after leading one of the most disastrous naval campaigns in Great Britain’s history. Members of his own party declared him a “public danger” and a “maniac.” But 20 years later, his prescient warnings regarding Hitler’s rise led Churchill to 10 Downing Street, despite not being the choice of his king, his cabinet, or even his own party. Once there, Churchill inspired his small island to persevere against a ruthless Nazi war machine that had effortlessly rolled across Europe, and to help save Western civilization.

Research note: Greater tree canopy cover is associated with lower rates of both violent and property crime in New Haven, CT. Landscape and Urban Planning Volume 143, November 2015, Pages 248–253 doi:10.1016/j.landurbplan.2015.08.005.
“Evolving literature suggests that modifiable neighborhood characteristics such as trees and other vegetation are inversely associated with crime. This study examines the relationship between vegetation and crime in New Haven, CT, a midsized city with high crime rates. Spatial lag analyses were used to test the association of tree canopy coverage, measured through high-resolution aerial imagery, with rates of violent (murder, rape, robbery and assault), property (burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and arson) and total (violent + property) crimes.

The Most Famous American Dog on Instagram New Yorker 

“Cante Flamenco, or cante hondo [sic] (deep song, as the purer, less florid form is called) is a unique blending of Eastern and Western modes and as such it often baffles when it most intrigues the Western ear. In our own culture the closest music to it in feeling is the Negro blues, early jazz, and the slave songs (now euphemistically termed ‘spirituals’).”
-Ralph Ellison, “Introduction to Flamenco,”The Saturday Review, December 11, 1954

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Ernst & Young Loses Trial for Not Vetting Madoff

The study examined whether people from different countries were more or less honest and how this related to a country’s economic development. More than 1500 participants from 15 countries took part in an online survey involving two incentivised experiments, designed to measure honest behaviour. The full research paper is Honesty Pays

Justice Department Gets Tougher on Corporate Crime WSJ

Ernst & Young Loses Trial for Not Vetting Madoff-Tied Audits Bloomberg

Let's Enjoy Some Intern Reviews of Various Accounting Firms 
Deloitte Consulting intern who lamented about "unsustainable lifestyle; coworkers are all exhausted and drained."

Woman wins fight to wear spaghetti strainer on her head in driver’s license picture by citing ‘pastafarian’ religion Daily Mail

Walter Frick: are successful CEOs just lucky?

Only In France

KPMG & Deloitte big fans of transparency, they say, but consultation the key, no "unintended consequences" #taxinquiry
3 retweets 0 likes
KPMG: "To quote John Lennon, give voluntary disclosure a chance" (yes, real quote) #taxinquiry

Russ Fox, The Turf Monster Striketh. With a caution against sending tax ID numbers via e-mail.

U.S. Targets RBS, J.P. Morgan Executives in Criminal Probes WSJ. Eight years on, and they’re taking a look…
Federal prosecutors are actively pursuing criminal cases against executives from Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. for allegedly selling flawed mortgage securities, people familiar with the probes said, as the clock ticks down for bringing cases from the 2008 financial crisis.
On the way to Pech MerleFairy Tale Villages
What do we know about ultra high net worth individuals?

**Villages on Note in France ...

Friday, November 27, 2015

Being Sarcastic May Make You More Creative

INK BOTTLE“Melancholy is at the bottom of everything, just as at the end of all rivers is the sea.”

 ~ Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Journal intime(trans. Mrs. Humphry Ward)

An international team of researchers is agreeing with Oscar Wilde, who once called sarcasm "the highest form of intelligence," and for good reason,

It turns out that being a sarcastic smart aleck not only requires social intelligence, but also may help you -- and those around you -- to be more creative, according to researchers. Being Sarcastic May Make You More Creative

Meet Some of Our Top Commenters NYT. NC is not the only online site that values its commentariat!

“Just how dificult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs.” 
~Rebecca West, “The Art of Skepticism”
In America, booze is a necessary balm and tippling an essential liberty. Indeed,drink fueled democracy — and almost destroyed democracy as we know it ... »

EMBATTLED inner Sydney Mayor Ben Keneally has announced he will step down from his role leading Botany Bay Council, in a move he denies is a back down to pressure from the NSW Government for local government mergers.
Botany Bay Council Mayor Ben Keneally steps down in advance of Baird Government’s decision on local government mergers 

Australian politics may seem “bloody” at times (John Newman's assassination), but the recent murder of a Venezuelan opposition leader which has been labelled by the country’s president as gang related, puts our country’s political squabbling into perspective. Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said Thursday the shooting dead of an opposition leader appeared to be a gangland score-settling, dismissing claims it was politically motivated ahead of key elections. Maduro said authorities were investigating the “regrettable” death of Luis Manuel Diaz and “the interior ministry has evidence that suggests it was a contract killing carried out to settle a score between rival gangs.” Diaz was murdered at a campaign event on Wednesday just days ahead of a legislative vote that could weaken the major oil producer’s socialist government.

What Is Disruptive Innovation? HBR. Authors: “Uber’s financial and strategic achievements do not qualify the company as genuinely disruptive.” Meaning that the use of the term in academia is now totally disconnected from its use in the press, let alone in Silicon Valley decks and the world of venture capital.

A Harvard Professor Doesn’t Have a Monopoly on ‘Disruption’ Bloomberg. “A Cambridge Professor Doesn’t Have a Monopoly on ‘Universal Gravitation.'”
As you do during burning of midnight oil and going to bed with the ABC's Phillip Adams I came across an article at The Guardian about how the internet is an ideal home for the essay.  Some essays tend to say so much more than books these days to MEdia Dragons ...
“Heavy bidding for first timers is ratcheting up the size of some advances, agents say, since the competition offers some reassurance that other houses see big potential in a book as well.” The Wall Street Journal
There is something about Neruda  and Imrich ;-) — about the way he glorifies experience, about the spontaneity and directness of his passion — that sets him apart from other poets ...
Social media offers neuroscientists a treasure trove of research material

A video posted to YouTube yesterday has left people online with so many questions.
A video titled: “Is that...... is that a kangaroo on my roof??” was posted to reddit with the caption, “Meanwhile in Australia.” (Youtube it) 

In their review, Meshi, Diana Tamir, and Hauke Keekeren note that neuroscientists can take advantage of similarities between online and offline behavior--essentially using measures from online social media use as a proxy for real-world social behaviors.

*Paper - The Emerging Neuroscience of Social Media

Villages by the Lake

Who bears the cost of taxing the rich? An empirical study on CEO pay
 An increase in the effective top marginal tax rate by 10 percentage points raises gross CEO pay at the firm level by 12.0 %. CEOs use their bargaining power to shift their tax load partly to the employer. Less powerful members of the executive board - measured in terms of their function or level of pay - are less successful in doing so.

Foggy Morning

Digital Intelligence Today, 9/11/15.  Big Picture. How do we use digital technology to help make people happy? We can use ‘PPIs’ – positive psychology interventions – that are clinically proven to promote happiness and wellbeing (positive psychologists research the psychology of happiness and wellbeing).

For those who think reportage might be a tough sell in the U.S., let me point you to a more recent example of the genre: Gottland by Mariusz Szczygiel (tr. Antonia Lloyd-Jones), published in 2013 by Melville House. Despite being about the (some might say) obscure subject of “the Czech half of the former Czechoslovakia”, Gottland received to raves from the likes of The New York Times, NPR, and Julian Barnes. Apparently it sold out quick, as it is no longer available and copies now go on Amazon for $60.00 (I hope Melville House reprints it soon).

Oh snowflake, how I wish to caress you. But every time you melt...

The benefit of having alienated God, having offended him, driven him away so that the two of you are no longer speaking is that at least he’s not telling you what to do all the time.

It’s also been said, however, that I am not flammable. In general this is true, except for my hair. My hair burns readily. In fact, once alight it is quite difficult to put out again.