Friday, March 24, 2017


"What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?"

- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, French philosopher of the Age of Enlightenment

We are our stories, stories that can be both prison and the crowbar to break open the door of that prison

I’ve managed to see Scorsese’s Silence twice in the last couple of weeks. It literally silenced me. It’s a surpassingly beautiful movie—but its genius lies in the complexity of its understanding of what faith really is. For some secular liberals, faith is some kind of easy, simple abdication of reason—a liberation from reality. For Scorsese, it’s a riddle wrapped in a mystery, and often inseparable from crippling, perpetual doubt. You see this in the main protagonist’s evolution: from a certain, absolutist arrogance to a long sacrifice of pride toward a deeper spiritual truth. Faith is a result, in the end, of living, of seeing your previous certainties crumble and be rebuilt, shakily, on new grounds. God is almost always silent, hidden, and sometimes most painfully so in the face of hideous injustice or suffering. A life of faith is therefore not real unless it is riddled with despair.

 Social Leaders series exploring how real life leaders are using social media to connect with their customers, employees and stakeholders and seeking their advice for aspiring social leaders.

You’ll notice that Sullivan calls Silence “surpassingly beautiful.” “But,” he goes on to say, “its genius lies in the complexity of its understanding,” which culminates in the truth that a real life of faith is “riddled with despair.” That sounds right to me.

London councils seek assurance over Capita's India offshoring plans

Researchers prove the five second rule is real Aston University

Secret Gardens are often asked to design the garden and select plants that will attract wildlife. This week Houzz Australia had an article on how to design your garden so it will encourage and attract wildlife that featured a cute bird box created for our Potts Point courtyard garden

Everybody gets excited by seeing wildlife in their garden. However, there are so many species on the decline now that, if you want to see more animals and insects, it makes sense to try to create a biodiverse habitat close to home. Here are a few tips. Read the full article »

This paper examines how management concepts acquire meaning through discursive distinction and embedding. Drawing on Austrian public sector reform, we reconstruct a classification of vocabularies according to their internal integrative capacity and external connectivity in order to study how distinct bundles of management concepts are embedded in broader meaning structures.

Birds of a Feather - Management Knowledge as Interlocking Vocabularies 


ABA TECHSHOW 2017: 60 tips in 60 minutes – Adam Camras, LegalTalkNetwork; Ivan Hemmans, O’Melveny & Myers LLP; Jack Newton, Clio; Deborah Savadra, Legal Office Guru; Rochelle Washington, DC Bar

 DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY: Irish-Americans Still Do Irish-American Jobs.“The great wave of Irish immigration to the U.S. subsided more than a century ago. The days of rampant anti-Irish prejudice are long behind us. Irish-Americans (of whom I am one, or at least 50 percent of one) are now seen as about as American as Americans can get. But Irish-Americans do still have a unique job market profile.”

This suggests that immigrants may change much less over generations than many thought.

Lyft drops $27m on the table to make annoying driver lawsuit go away

Beef up select committees to prevent "disruptive" Whitehall rejigs – IfG

  Information Technology and the U.S. Workforce: Where Are We and Where Do We Go from Here? (2017): “Recent years have yielded significant advances in computing and communication technologies, with profound impacts on society. Technology is transforming the way we work, play, and interact with others. From these technological capabilities, new industries, organizational forms, and business models are emerging. Technological advances can create enormous economic and other benefits, but can also lead to significant changes for workers. 

GDS chief Kevin Cunnington sets out future of Whitehall's tech spend controls


 ‘We are all doing it’: Employees at Canada’s 5 big banks speak out about pressure to dupe customers CBC (Marcello). My nice small bank was bought by TD some years ago…:-(


The CIA’s 60-Year History of Fake News: How the Deep State Corrupted Many American Writers Truthdig. Excellent review of the bidding, despite the clickbait-y headline.
What Russian Hackers Teach About America’s Spies Marcy Wheeler, The Atlantic (DK); see also here. A Yahoo attack, with an actual indictment.


It's more about the bully than the star, as columnist Richard Cohen explains.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Global Laundromat

"The legend of Steve Jobs is immortal. There have been countless articles, books and movies made about him and the way he founded and ran Apple. He was such a hard ass, he got fired from his own company in 1985. The establishment people he personally hired and surrounded himself with said they wanted him out. These were not strangers he inherited. How bad did it have to be for that to happen? In 1997 , on the verge of bankruptcy, Apple acquired the company Jobs created and made him CEO once again. Shortly after, products like the iPod, and iPhone started to hit the market. Apple even created a phenomenal customer centric experience through its Apple Stores unlike any consumers had experienced before (and some say since). Jobs certainly goes down as one of the great disruptors of our time, but going through it during its formative years was considered "hell on earth."

~ Bathroom LinkedIn by Bob Lyons

rump Honeymoon Is Over: Markets Are Now Scared His Promises Won’t Come True NBC

CNN just dropped a bombshell report about President Donald Trump’s potential ties to Russia:
The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton's campaign, US officials told CNN.

Report: FBI evidence suggests Trump associates and Russians may have coordinated to sink Clinton

A lawyer representing the family of a whistle blower who died in a Russian prison after uncovering a multi-million-pound fraud was in hospital on Wednesday after falling from a high window.  
How Tax Drives Mergers  

UBS faces French trial in long-running tax case

New tax measure takes aim at Offshore Trusts  

British banks handled vast sums of laundered Russian money  

Russian money and the 'Global Laundromat': what banks said   

Russia accused of hindering UK money laundering investigations   

Dutch banks accused of aiding Russian money laundering scheme   

The Global Laundromat: how did it work and who benefited?   

British banks including HSBC, RBS, Barclays and Coutts 'processed £600million in multi-billion pound Russian money-laundering scam'  

Stolen Russian billions ended up in EU states  

Towards an Understanding of the Finance Curse: Marx.s Theory of Productive and Unproductive Labour   

Panama Papers have helped fuel 'a more aggressive CRA'

Royal Bank closes 40 accounts following internal Panama Papers ...

Canada: The Panama Papers: Canadian Bank Begins Closing ..

Real estate agents warn of property money laundering

Article on Filings in Coinbase John Doe Summons Case 

I recently reported on the IRS John Doe Summons for bitcoin records of Coinbase.  IRS seeks John Doe Summons to Bitcoin Firm (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 11/23/16; 11/30/16), here.  That matter is still churning as the parties spar over whether and how Coinbase should comply.  Part of the sparring undoubtedly involves negotiations between the IRS and Coinbase, but some of the sparring is on the public record in court.  Fortune has this article about a recent filing:  Jeff John Roberts, Only 802 People Told the IRS About Bitcoin - Lawsuit (Fortune 8/19/17), here.

The principal feature of the Fortune article is a new filing of an IRS affidavit in the court case.  
The filing is styled:  Declaration of David Utzke in Support of Petition to Enforce Internal 
Revenue Summons.  The article links the affidavit on the Scribd website here.

Reuters has this report:  Joshua Franklin and Maya Nikolaeva, UBS faces French trial in long-running tax case (Reuters 3/20/17), here.  Excerpts:

UBS (UBSG.S) and its French subsidiary face trial in France after a long-running investigation into allegations that the Swiss bank helped wealthy clients avoid taxes. 

 French magistrates have ordered that UBS stand trial on charges of aggravated tax fraud and money laundering as well as illegally offering related services, a judicial source said. 
Magistrates were expected this week to order a trial after negotiations failed to produce a settlement in the long-running probe into allegations UBS helped clients avoid taxes, Reuters reported on Sunday. 
French newspaper JDD said UBS had rejected a 1.1 billion euro ($1.18 billion) settlement proposed by prosecutors. 

The JDD quoted Markus Diethelm, UBS's group general counsel, as saying a 1.1 billion euro payment was "unthinkable" and out of line with similar settlements reached in other countries.
The report also offers UBS's response, the the standard one for the guilty and the innocent to this type development:
"We will now have the possibility to respond in detail in a court of law," UBS said in an emailed statement on Monday. "UBS has made clear that the bank disagrees with 
the allegations, assumptions and legal interpretations being made."
The report offers the following related development:French authorities are also investigating HSBC Holdings (HSBA.L) and last year a source familiar with the matter said the country's financial prosecutor asked for a trial of Europe's biggest bank and its Swiss private banking unit over allegations it helped customers dodge taxes in 2006-2007.

Victorian MP expenses scandal final report released


London attack: Police officer Keith Palmer among five dead as terror strikes in the heart of Westminster
Malcolm Turnbull pays tribute to 'mother of parliaments' after terrorist attack – politics live

Company 'digitally transforming' Centrelink also led $800 million Tax Office Bungle



Political Will: Where Are the Modern Havels

May few lone wolves do not make us afraid  ... May we be alert but not armed or frightened ... May we be blessed with wise politicians and community leaders ...

What German unification teaches the doomsayers of Brexit FT. “One of the lessons from German unification is that if the political will is there you can make anything happen ...

Václav Havel on the temptations of political power

On May 28, 1991 President Václav Havel of Czechoslovakia accepted the Sonning Prize for his contribution to European civilization. The biennial prize has been awarded by the University of Copenhagen since 1950. This is the text of Havel's acceptance speech.

The prize I've been honored with today is usually given to intellectuals, not to politicians. I am obviously what can be called an intellectual, but at the same time, fate has determined that I find myself -- literally overnight -- in what is called the world of high politics.
With your permission, I would like to take advantage of my unusual experience and try to cast a critical eye of an intellectual on the phenomenon of power as I have been able to observe it so far from the inside, and especially on the nature of the temptation that power represents.
Why is it that people long for political power, and why, when they have achieved it, are they so reluctant to give it up?
In the first place, people are driven into politics by ideas about a better way to organize society, by faith in certain values or ideals, be they impeccable or dubious, and the irresistible desire to fight for those ideas and turn them into reality.
In the second place, they are probably motivated by the natural longing every human being has for self-affirmation. Is it possible to imagine a more attractive way to affirm your own existence and its importance than that offered by political power? In essence, it gives you a tremendous opportunity to leave your mark, in the broadest sense, on your surroundings, to shape the world around you in your own image, to enjoy the respect that every political office almost automatically bestows upon the one who holds it.
In the third place, many people long for political power and are so reluctant to part with it because of the wide range of perks that are a necessary part of political life -- even under the most democratic of conditions.
These three categories are always, I have observed, intertwined in complicated ways, and at times it is almost impossible to determine which of them predominates. The second and third categories, for instance, are usually subsumed under the first category. I have never met a politician who could admit to the world, or even to himself, that he was running for office only because he wanted to affirm his own importance, or because he wanted to enjoy the perks that come with political power. On the contrary, we all repeat over and over that we care not about power as such but about certain general values. We say it is only our sense of responsibility to the community that compels us to take upon ourselves the burden of public office. At times, only God Himself knows whether that is true, or simply a more palatable way of justifying to the world and ourselves our longing for power, and our need to affirm, through our power and its reach, that we exist in a truly valid and respectable way.
The situation is made more complicated because the need for self-affirmation is not essentially reprehensible. It is intrinsically human, and I can hardly imagine a human being who does not long for recognition, affirmation, and a visible manifestation of his own being.
I am one of those people who consider their term in political office as an expression of responsibility and duty toward the whole community, and even as a sort of sacrifice. But, observing other politicians whom I know very well and who make the same claim, I feel compelled again and again to examine my own motives and ask whether I am not beginning to deceive myself. Might I not be more concerned with satisfying an unacknowledged longing for self-affirmation -- a desire to prove that I mean something and that therefore I exist -- than I am with pure public service? In short, I am beginning to have suspicions about myself. More precisely, my experience so far with politics and politicians compels me to have these suspicions. In fact, every new prize I receive compels me to be a degree more suspicious.
The third category of reasons for desiring political power -- longing for the advantages power brings, or simply getting used to those advantages -- deserves special attention. It is interesting to observe how diabolical the temptations of power are, precisely in this sphere. This is best observed among those of us who have never held power of any kind before. Bravely, we used to condemn the powerful for enjoying advantages that deepened the gulf between them and the rest. Now we ourselves are in power.
We are beginning, inadvertently but dangerously, to resemble in some ways our contemptible precursors. It bothers us, it upsets us, but we are discovering that we simply can't, or don't know how to, put a stop to it.
I will give you several examples.
It would make no sense whatever for a government minister to miss an important cabinet discussion of a law that will influence the country for decades to come simply because he has a toothache and has to wait all afternoon at the dentist's until his turn comes. So -- in the interests of his country -- he arranges to be treated by a special dentist, someone he doesn't have to wait for.
It would certainly not make sense for a politician to miss an important state meeting with a foreign colleague simply because he has been held up by the vagaries of public transport. So -- he has a government car and a chauffeur.
It would certainly not make sense for a president or a prime minister to miss such a meeting simply because his car is caught in a traffic jam, so he has the special right to pass cars that are ahead of him or to go through red lights, and in his case the traffic police tolerate it.
It would certainly make no sense for a politician to waste valuable time sweating over a stove and cooking an official meal for a counterpart from abroad. So he has a personal cook and waiters to do it for him.
It would certainly make no sense for the president's cook to go from butcher shop to butcher shop like a normal homemaker in a postsocialist country in search of meat good enough to offer without shame to an important guest. So special deliveries of supplies are arranged for prominent people and their cooks.
It would certainly make no sense if a president or a premier had to look up numbers in the telephone book himself and then keep trying again and again until he reached the person or until the line became free. Quite logically, then, this is done by an assistant.
To sum up: I go to a special doctor, I don't have to drive a car, and my driver need not lose his temper going through Prague at a snail's pace. I needn't cook or shop for myself, and I needn't even dial my own telephone when I want to talk to someone.
In other words, I find myself in the world of privileges, exceptions, perks; in the world of VIPs who gradually lose track of how much butter or a streetcar ticket costs, how to make a cup of coffee, how to drive a car, and how to place a telephone call. I find myself on the very threshold of the world of the communist fat cats whom I have criticized all my life.
And worst of all, everything has its own unassailable logic. It would be laughable and contemptible for me to miss a meeting that served the interests of my country because I had spent my presidential time in a dentist's waiting room, or lining up for meat, or nervously battling the decrepit Prague telephone system, or engaging in the hopeless task of finding a taxi in Prague when I am obviously not from the West and therefore not in possession of dollars.
But where do logic and objective necessity stop and excuses begin? Where does the interest of the country stop and the love of privileges begin? Do we know, and are we at all capable of recognizing, the moment when we cease to be concerned with the interests of the country for whose sake we tolerate these priviliges, and start to be concerned with the advantages themselves, which we excuse by appealing to the interests of the country?
Regardless of how pure his intentions may originally have been, it takes a high degree of self-awareness and critical distance for someone in power -- however well-meaning at the start -- to recognize that moment. I myself wage a constant and rather unsuccessful struggle with the advantages I enjoy, and I would not dare say that I can always identify that moment clearly. You get used to things, and gradually, without being aware of it, you may lose your sense of judgement.
Again, being in power makes me permanently suspicious of myself. What is more, I suddenly have a greater understanding of those who are starting to lose their battle with the temptations of power. In attempting to persuade themselves that they are still merely serving their country, they increasingly persuade themselves of nothing more than their own excellence, and begin to take their privileges for granted.
There is something treacherous, delusive, and ambiguous in the temptation of power. On the one hand, political power gives you the wonderful opportunity to confirm, day in and day out, that you really exist, that you have your own undeniable identity, that with every word and deed you a leaving a highly visible mark on the world around you. Yet within that same political power and in everything that logically belongs to it lies a terrible danger: that, while pretending to confirm our existence and our identity, political power will in fact rob us of them.
Someone who forgets how to drive a car, do the shopping, make himself coffee, and place a telephone call is not the same person who had known how to do those things all his life. A person who had never before had to look into the lens of a television camera and now has to submit his every movement to its watchful eye is not the same person he once was.
He becomes a captive of his position, his perks, his office. What apparently confirms his identity and thus his existence in fact subtly takes that identity and existence away from him. He is no longer in control of himself, because he is controlled by something else: by his position and its exigencies, its consequences, its aspects, and its privileges.
There is something deadening about this temptation. Under the mantle of existential self-affirmation, existence is confiscated, alienated, deadened. A person is transformed into a stone bust of himself. The bust may accentuate his undying importance and fame, but at the same time it is no more than a piece of dead stone.
Kierkegaard wrote Sickness unto Death. Allow me to paraphrase your excellent countryman and coin the phrase "power unto death."
What may we conclude from this?
Certainly not that it is improper to devote oneself to politics because politics is, in principle, immoral.
What follows is something else. Politics is an area of human endeavor that places greater stress on moral sensitivity, on the ability to reflect critically on oneself, on genuine responsibility, on taste and tact, on the capacity to empathize with others, on a sense of moderation, on humility. It is a job for modest people, for people who cannot be deceived.
Those who claim that politics is a dirty business are lying to us. Politics is work of a kind that requires especially pure people, because it is especially easy to become morally tainted.
So easy, in fact, that a less vigilant spirit may not notice happening it at all.
Politics, therefore, ought to be carried on by people who are vigilant, sensitive to the ambiguous promise of self-affirmation that comes with it.
I have no idea whether I am such a person. I only know that I ought to be, because I have accepted this office.

Back to Havelites

Sad Tragedy at The Mother of Parliaments

“While it's true that, as Tolstoy observed, every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, and everyone on planet Earth, vale of tears that it is, is certainly entitled to the specificity of his or her suffering, one nonetheless likes to think that literature has the power to render comprehensible different kinds of unhappiness. If it can't do that, what's it good for?”
Elif Batuman, The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them

“If I were forced to compare Tolstoy with Dickens, I should say that Tolstoy’s appeal will probably be wider in the long run, because Dickens is scarcely intelligible outside the English-speaking culture; on the other hand, Dickens is able to reach simple people, which Tolstoy is not. Tolstoy's characters can cross a frontier, Dickens's can be portrayed on a cigarette-card. But one is no more obliged to choose between them than between a sausage and a rose.”
George Orwell, George Orwell: Selected Writings   

Terror in London: It's about containment and not curtailment
Live updates: Australian PM condemns attack on 'democracy everywhere' after deadly London terror attack

London terror attack: Four dead after Westminster targeted

We live in an age of seemingly continuous disruption. With the immense growth of technology, what is new technology today will be old technology next week. And this applies to …

Staffbase is built on a firm belief that everyone has the right to love their job and the company they work for, and that communication is what cultivates the shared …

When communicating with business owners - in particular when advertising or promoting to them - there are particular words and phrases that just have to be avoided if you want to engage them
Words to avoid in SME comms 

Mama and Daddy have been gone many years now. I miss them every day. They grew up during America's "Great Depression" of the 1930's and were part of what we now call "the Greatest Generation." Daddy was born in 1924 near Birmingham, Ala. Mama was born in 1928 in Greenville, Miss. From the time I could remember, I knew they were "Depression babies" (as Mama called herself). They didn't tell me their stories to nag me or to exalt themselves. They just wanted to teach me valuable lessons that books could never tell. And they wanted me to pass these lessons on to my family in due time. JEFF SANDERS: Six Immortal Lessons My Depression-Era Parents Taught Me.

So Much Of What We Know About How We Learn Seems To Be WrongSo Much Of What We Know About How We Learn Seems To Be Wrong

Mobile operator Three has admitted that some customers were able to view the mobile account details of other Three users via their accounts yesterday.
The incident emerged as customers complained to Three via social media.
One customer Mark Thompson, wrote on Three's Facebook page: “Care to explain just how my details have been shared, how many people have had access to my personal information, for how long, and how many of your other customers have had their details leaked by yourselves to other members of the public as well?”
A Three spokesman told The Guardian the firm is investigating the incident. “We are aware of a small number of customers who may have been able to view the mobile account details of other Three users using My3.
“No financial details were viewable during this time and we are investigating the matter.”

"NY court asked to determine if chimp is legally a person": Verena Dobnik of The Associated Press has this reportKarin Brulliard of The Washington Post has an article headlined "Corporations can be people. A river was just made a person. What about chimpanzees?" (The article is also available here directly from The WaPo bearing a much less interesting headline.)

And Andrew Denney of The New York Law Journal reports that "Chimp Advocate Doggedly Pursues Animal Rights."

"Blaming judges is 'corrosive,' says a judge who ruled against Trump": Dan Levine of Reuters has this report

"The Revolt of the Judges: What Happens When the Judiciary Doesn't Trust the President's Oath." Benjamin Wittes and Quinta Jurecic have this post at "Lawfare."

Search Engine Land: “Google is undertaking a new effort to better identify content that is potentially upsetting or offensive to searchers. It hopes this will prevent such content from crowding out factual, accurate and trustworthy information in the top search results. “We’re explicitly avoiding the term ‘fake news,’ because we think it is too vague,” said Paul Haahr, one of Google’s senior engineers who is involved with search quality. “Demonstrably inaccurate information, however, we want to target.”…Quality raters use a set of guidelines that are nearly 200 pages long, instructing them on how to assess website quality and whether the results they review meet the needs of those who might search for particular queries"

“Saratoga Springs was the Coney Island of the underworld until the Kefauvers put their show on the television. It frightened the hicks and chased the hoodlums to Las Vegas. But the mobs exercised dominion over Saratoga for a long time. It was a colony of the national gangs and they ran it with pistols and baseball bats.”
The piece is also about a thoroughbred horse trainer by the name of H. James Bond.
Creator of James Bond 

When failure to get the story was the story. The trope pervaded the New Journalism. Now Joan Didion shares her journalistic defeat:  failure ... 

Jennifer Bird-Pollan (Kentucky), Utilitarianism and Wealth Transfer Taxation, 69 Ark. L. Rev. 695 (2016):

This article is the third in a series examining the continued relevance and philosophical legitimacy of the United States wealth transfer tax system from within a particular philosophical perspective [Death, Taxes, and Property (Rights): Nozick, Libertarianism, and the Estate Tax, 66 Maine L. Rev. 1 (2013); Unseating Privilege: Rawls, Equality of Opportunity, and Wealth Transfer Taxation, 59 Wayne L. Rev. 713 (2014);]. The article examines the utilitarianism of John Stuart Mill and his philosophical progeny and distinguishes the philosophical approach of utilitarianism from contemporary welfare economics, primarily on the basis of the concept of “utility” in each approach.

"Sex between lawyer and client: State Bar sets narrow limits." Bob Egelko of The San Francisco Chronicle has this report.And Sudhin Thanawala of The Associated Press reports that "California State Bar bans sex between attorneys and clients."

Germany's Justice Minister is proposing a law that would fine social networks up to 50 million euros if they do not promptly eliminate defamatory content, hate speech or fake news

Qantas asks start-ups to help it innovate

An unconfirmed change in how Google ranks web pages is freaking some people out Washington Post. We only do the bare minimum in search engine optimization (as in putting up keywords) precisely because Google keeps changing its algos to keep ahead of SEO firms. But separately, since Google has been optimized for shopping and recency, it’s tended to work against smaller independent blogs and academic sites for some time. As I’ve repeatedly said, there is no way I could have written ECONNED in six months, in which I relied heavily on Google for fact checking and re-finding of stuff I’d read earlier, if it worked then (2009) the way it does now.

Article on Filings in Coinbase John Doe Summons Case

The Entrepreneur with the $100 Million Plan to Link Brains to Computers MIT Technology Review

Why transaction laundering is turning into a huge financial blindspot FT  

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Leaked Return Shows Why We Need an AMT (Tax Analysts Blog). “A very wealthy taxpayer had deductions that offset most of his income, so to ensure that some tax was paid, the AMT kicked in.”
Why is this is nonsense on stilts?
The Trump AMT probably the result of AMT loss carryforwards being used up before regular tax loss carryforwards. This probably generated an AMT credit carryforward that offset subsequent regular tax.
The point of an income tax is to measure and tax income — not just to beat up on wealthy people. If deductions allowed in the income tax distort income, get rid of the deductions. Don’t make people compute income different ways until they come up with a result you like.
If Trump really had operating losses – and that isn’t seriously disputed – he shouldn’t pay income taxes until the losses are used up. After all, the point of the income tax is to tax income, not losses.
AMT, which requires taxpayers to compute taxable income at least twice, is expensive for taxpayers and foolish tax policy. If you prefer the results that AMT generates, then go with real tax reform with a broad base, a lower rate, and fewer deductions.
News from the Profession. Talent Worries and Opposing Auditor Rotation (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “Nothing says accounting news quite like a corgi on a beach.”