Tuesday, March 22, 2005

I naively bought into the notion that the wholesale use of journalists and media executives by the CIA, for example, written about by Carl Bernstein in Rolling Stone, was an impediment to a free press. I uncritically accepted the notion that administering chemicals, electric shocks, and prolonged isolation illegally to unwitting victims to test theories of behavior modification suggested that an agency that purportedly existed to "gather intelligence" was coloring a little outside the lines. I Was a Victim of the KGB

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: Policies and participation
Evidence of the disengagement of civil society is everywhere. Members are fleeing the political parties, leaving control in the hands of careerist insiders. Parliaments are losing respect and politicians are cynically regarded. Corporations are run by unrepresentative boards.

Democracy is the compelling ideology of our time. We all have an innate urge for community. As one institution breaks down, resourceful Australians have shown in the past that we can renovate some and build others. I know that many parliamentarians, journalists and ordinary citizens share these concerns.

• John Menadue Helping voice the personal and public disquiet: Stop complaining and do something about it [Yesterday's effort, in which he claimed the Carr Government had blood on its hands over the deaths at the Waterfall and Glenbrook rail disasters and deaths caused by hospital waiting lists, signals the fight is going to get dirty. Brogden rolls up his sleeves for state putsch ; South Australian Liberal director Graham Jaeschke, the former head of the Queensland party, has been be parachuted into the top job in NSW A great career move ; Turnbull calls on Carr to recycle Sydney sewage ]
• · Army allegedly failed to investigate kickback scandal ; Australians implicated in Iraq kick-back scandal Axis of Oil ; If a small proportion of the energy and capital that has been devoted to the dangers following September 11, 2001 had been lavished on the problem of AIDS, I feel sure that the world would be a better and probably a safer, certainly a kinder, place Threat of terrorism overblown, says Kirby ; Activist Legislators: The boundless overreaching behind Congress' new Schiavo bill
• · · Zalman Shoval How the Saudis got to be 'special'; This is either an act of provocation by America, or an act so insensitive as to look like provocation ... Wolfowitz is US deputy defence secretary and widely regarded as the chief intellectual architect of the Iraq war. An arch "neoconservative", he is probably Bush's most hawkish advisor and, in some diplomatic circles, an incendiary figure. The Intelligence Made Me Do It: 'The World Bank will be hated'
• · · · Frank Luntz, Los Angeles Times The Lexicon of Political Clout ; History of floods caused by servants, first the BBC, and now COSTA: The Minister for Economic Reform has triggered alarm for the Carr Government by stating up to 20 per cent of the state's 340,000 public servants might be surplus to requirements. Too many workers in Costa's empire
• · · · · The man who once flaunted the biggest muscles in baseball, Mark McGwire, is now the smallest coward in Washington Home-run heroes come off as zeros before Congress ; Owen Harries, Prospect Magazine Power and Morals
• · · · · · Ignoring the truth about American Communists: Since the end of the Cold War, documents released from American and Soviet archives have convinced most Americans that long-disputed spy charges against Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, Lauchlin Currie, and Harry Dexter White, among others, were accurate, and that hundreds of Americans worked for Soviet intelligence services during the 1930s and 1940s Professors of Denial ; Cab ride cost $312, but return trip was just fine ; Business supports the NSW Government in its attempt to end the significant unnecessary cross-subsidisation of other states with taxation collected from NSW businesses and residents, the business group said. The State Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Margy Osmond, called on the Federal Government to take a lead in reforming the GST carve-up Business firmly behind Carr in tax onslaught against Costello

Monday, March 21, 2005

Intellectual property is important, say executives. So why don't they act as if they mean it? Like the late Rodney Dangerfield, intellectual property (IP) doesn’t get much respect. Yet the reason is still a bit of a mystery. To be sure, executives at both big and small companies acknowledge that it's important to handle IP—the intangible assets most often defined as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets—correctly. Courts and Torts: Touching on Intangibles

Invisible Hands & Markets: Enter the Double Dragon
For the past three months, Chinese police and central bank officials have been mounting a publicity drive to stop a hemorrhage of cash estimated at $US70 billion ($88.3 billion) a year that leaves the country through a network of underground banks, many connected to cross-border casinos.

In dealing with Macau's Ho dynasty, the Packers may be risking the house for a place at the biggest game in Asia, writes Hamish McDonald.

Frontier Square [Tax warning over bet shops ; When well-lubricated lobbying fuses with prejudice, the release of political energy can be truly frightening; there are few more powerful natural phenomena in the universe. Lobbyists score damaging wins ]
• · HIH founder Ray Williams still doesn't understand his role in the company's collapse Blinded by the light ; Let's keep torch on remuneration abuse
• · · Morgan Stanley and UBS helped Parmalat Finanziaria, Italy's largest food maker, hide the cost of selling €720 million of bonds six months before it collapsed in the country's biggest bankruptcy, according to a report prepared for Milan prosecutors. Duo helped Parmalat hide costs: report ; Black & Decker's court victory over the IRS turned a venerable ''sham'' transaction legal test on its head. Will other corporations be able to capitalize? Tax-Shelter Shocker
• · · · Directors may have to cough up unpaid fines ;
• · · · · Sinners are more interesting than saints. What you get taught about in a course on micro-economics is a model of the way markets are supposed to work, known as "perfect" competition. How to beat the information skew blues ; Clive Crook, National Journal America's Economy: More Fragile Than It Looks
• · · · · · I believe there is now a professional, well-trained elite, supported by large institutions, that is adept and willing to use corrupt practices to accumulate wealth. CEO Predators Tamed?; Paul Krugman: The Ugly American Bank

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Now is the time for all good men & women to come to the aid of their Blogosphere Experiment in Democracy

Invisible Democracy & Markets: Clouds over Democracy Start to lift
We the Bloggers, in order to form a more perfect Blogosphere, hold these truths to be self-evident: Free Thought and Free Speech are the cornerstones of Free Societies and Free People

Why a Blogosphere Democracy? Throughout our history, high-minded tools and actions have often been slandered and oppressed by those who wouldn't benefit from them--to mention a few: Science, Religion, Arts, Philosophy and specifically the study of Rhetoric which has never recovered, the Printing Press, Democracy, etc., etc., etc. To that end, the following proposition is a mere outline to establish an inclusive organized system to benefit the overall Blogosphere; all constitutional decisions should be clarified and ratified by the Foundation Board, Elected Congress Members, and engaged Bloggers (see below). Issues of concern to the Blogosphere can be addressed in this system as determined by the Members of the Board and Congress; likewise, individual Bloggers can appeal to their representative for action. The Blogosphere Democracy, in the hands of the Foundation Board and Congress of Bloggers, can achieve a democratic voice (Congress), support (Foundation), unity (Union), and advances (Guild) for the Blogosphere while finding methods of defending (Bureau) it.

Ach, Out of Many
• · Understanding the Process of Economic Change ; Rafsanjani to Buy Some Good Publicity
• · · In its first four years, the GST has collected $194.58 billion for distribution to the states. A partner at KPMG, LachIan Wolfers, says although that revenue is broadly in line with federal Treasury's expectations, it has grown faster than inflation and gross domestic product. [Hard Copy of Business Review Weekly, 17/03/2005, Page 20] State love their cake, too
• · · · When Hamlet's father was killed, his right to the throne and the fortune of Denmark were usurped by Claudius (his uncle, who married his mother). If only they'd had a family trust, none of the brutality that followed would have happened. [Hard copy of Australian Financial Review, 17/03/2005, Page 20] Face to face with a question of far-reaching implications
• · · · · Information Technology Minister Vladimir Mlynar has denied wrongdoing over the use of state funds to establish a company to operate an Internet portal for the government Minister denies misuse of money ;
• · · · · · The Irish are exporting more than woolens and property funds to the Czech Republic, and the trend is just bound to grow, say figures on both sides of the Irish Sea. It's highly probable that potatoes were planted in the Czech lands for the first time in the garden of their college. The pub is the meeting place for many Czechs, and the social cornerstone of a lot of Irish life is also in the pub Irish investment, culture on the rise ; Prague gets in touch with its Celtic roots

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

It is not often I am asked to compile links for a particular book. Well today I was asked by one of the colourful characters at Ville of Hurst who has reread Da Vinci Code three times and is familiar with the issue of the Catholic Weekly. How many people around us are being treated like non-people or like they do not exist? In this book there are no surprises for me - I know how incompetent and unkind most managers are towards their charges. Media might be peppered with massive skill shortages yet most workers travel to work in the red rattler train style afraid of being sacked at the end of the day. Is this smart practice? Whether you work on the ground floor or the underground it seems that Only inconspicuous cleaner is a good one. Ach, in hard-core irony style one wonders how many suspicious and caprious bosses are only after perks rather than the responsibilities that comes with a true leadership. Like Orwellean pigs inside those fat barns they fail to acknowledge real or virtual lesser human beings ;-)
There aren't many authors or journalists being sought for interviews by both the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, but The Australian's Elisabeth Wynhausen is a little unusual. Her new book Dirt Cheap is an expose of life "at the wrong end of the job market" and involved the author working in a string of low-paid jobs incognito. Wynhausen has now been interviewed by both Boss magazine and the Socialist Alternative. Surely a first? Everyone keen on dirty deeds

Art of Living & Literature Across Frontiers: Art of Surviving
Over a period of ten months Elisabeth Wynhausen went undercover and worked as a factory hand, an office cleaner, a retail worker and a kitchen hand, moving from state to state and attempting to live on her meagre earnings.

Dirt Cheap - Life at the wrong end of the job market is the inside story of what it is like to work twelve-hour days on a factory line sorting eggs at a battery hen farm; of working a split shift of thirteen hours cleaning a nursing home for just over ten dollars an hour.
As Elisabeth discovers that many so-called 'unskilled' jobs actually require an incredible amount of skill, so too does she learn that exposing the conditions of low-wage work can be sheer hell for your lower back, not to mention your morale.
Caustic, courageous and often funny, this is a unique view of class, power and middle management seen from the other side of the serving counter, and a very personal experience of what it is like to be under-paid, under-appreciated and part of Australia's emerging underclass.

His Greed and Heart and Mind of Ston(e) [I came to Dirt Cheap, Elisabeth Wynhausen's account of a year working for minimum wages, fully expecting to hate it. An Australian knock-off of Barbara Ehrenreich's best-selling Nickle and Dimed seemed eminently cringe-worthy ; ISBN: 1405036443; Pages: 240; Price: A$30.00; Imprint: Macmillan Australia: Dirt Cheap: Life at the wrong end of the job market]
• · Dirt Cheap: Life at the Wrong End of the Job Market Julie McCrossin: Life Matters ; by Edmund Campion in Online Catholic: God under Howard
• · · Life at the wrong end of the job market ; The class system is alive and well ; Underclass expose just doesn't work
• · · · In her new book, Elizabeth Wynhausen learns how hard it is to live on the minimum wage Masters & Slaves ; Life at the Bottom; A slippery slope to inequality
• · · · · The final of Lit Idol took place on March 14 at this year's London Book Fair, the world's leading publishing business event Lit Idol 2005 UK ; Bruce Elder, who "agrees", and Susan Wyndham, who "disagrees" Writers' festivals are a waste of time ; Increasing sex frequency from once a month to at least once a week provides as much happiness as a $US50,000 ($63,000) a year rise Sex better than cash in the happiness stakes

Sunday, March 13, 2005

First, we were the world's hardest workers. Now a survey has identified Australians as the world's longest sleepers, suggesting that when we are not working, we're exhausted Slaving Sleepers

Invisible Hands & Markets: Test Your Tort Knowledge
How much did that spilled hot cup of coffee really cost McDonald's? The final result of that and other such cases might surprise you

There's no end to attention-grabbing lawsuit stories. It seems people will sue over anything -- and win. But these stories often entail more than what gets told. For example, much hue and cry erupted in 1994 when a woman was awarded $2.9 million after she spilled McDonald's (MCD ) coffee on her lap. But case's details (McDonald's had had some 700 complaints about the temperature of its coffe

The couple won their case, just like that lady with the coffee in her lap [How responsible is socially responsible investing? Ethical investment funds ; Tax bill has silver lining for richest Statesman Tax bill called best for richest ]
• · Growing Older is Mandatory, Growing Up is Optional Taking Care of Business ; via Bill Ives
• · · In theory it was interesting, but we never thought we could do it in practice," says Mr. Bruncko, recalling class discussions at the Kennedy School of Government. "So it was fun to see that you actually can do it Flat-tax movement stirs Europe ; Keen to work, a million lost in the system
• · · · Sometimes it seems that shoddy products and atrocious customer service go together like peanut butter and chocolate Top Corporate Hate Web Sites ; Government steered into a tight spot
• · · · · Writing headlines for the finance pages can be a dry and boring business, so when a story like that of Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher comes up, it's an opportunity not to be misse Boeing, Boeing, bonk: exit the boss ; What a romantic. BHP Billiton's chief executive is spending $9.2 billion on WMC partly because of its 'tier one' asset The bigger Australian
• · · · · · Bullying is not just the preserve of schools, the ABC and parts of the private sector. Even Federal treasurers and their departments practice this disgraceful activity. Why do I say that? Well, read on Ross Gittins on economic bullying ; Dollar drifts on cross currents

Monday, March 07, 2005

A $33,000 food order in Mosul was billed to the U.S.-led interim government of Iraq at $432,000. Electricity that cost $74,000 was invoiced at $400,000. Even $10 kettles got a 400 percent markup How a Contractor Cashed In on Iraq

Invisible Hands & Markets: Taxing For Success
It's pretty obvious why Wellesley, Mass. has better public schools than Washington, D.C.: a higher property tax base. Our system for funding public schools skews things in favor of kids lucky enough to live in affluent districts with high property taxes. And unless the playing field is leveled, all the achievement testing in the world isn't going to help kids in poor districts succeed. Here, Robert Reich lays out his simple tax plan for change

Every few years, the nation's governors come together to proclaim that America’s high schools are failing. Many of our nation’s school districts can’t afford small classes and skilled teachers. That’s because, increasingly, Americans have been segregating by income into different communities. Roughly half of school revenues come from local property taxes. So it shouldn’t be surprising that rich communities with high tax bases can afford good schools while poor communities with low tax bases cannot—and middle-class communities whose budgets are coming under increasing strain are finding they can’t, either.
What’s the answer? Not more conferences where governors solemnly talk about how bad high schools are and then administer more tests to prove it. At the very least, we need a way to finance public education that’s saner and fairer than relying on local property taxes.

Trouble [Rate rise hurts but there may be worse to come ; Sugar aid package a failure: minister ]
• · What is going on? The answer is the Australian economy has passed a turning point, and turning points are always marked by contradictory and confusing signals. Whatever their flaws, this week's economic growth figures confirm Australia's days of easy prosperity are over Good times grounded ; Ken Parish Wallerstein - more thoughts and a bibliography
• · · Banana realities. The depression we had to face ... Paul Keating and Peter Costello last spoke to each other nine years ago. An embarrassment of glitches
• · · · Severed kangaroo heads were used in a threat to a Multiplex consultant last year with police now investigating possible links to this week's extortion threat The Godfather: Severed head link to crane extortion
• · · · · Peter Costello's fairytale economy was hit with a triple whammy this week Goldilocks and the three scares
• · · · · · As many as one in five people on welfare are fleecing taxpayers while working in cash jobs One in five a dole cheat: minister

Friday, March 04, 2005

All the Way with the USA: Australia, the US and Free Trade and How to Kill a Country: Australia’s Devastating Trade Deal with the United States ... A review of books on Australia’s trade deal with the US One deal, two fatalities? The AUSFTA

Invisible Hands & Markets: The U.S. and China — The Global Economy's Odd Couple
The United States and China are united in some strange ways, including that they are both experiencing greater income inequality. They also engage in some other risky economic policies. Guy Pfeffermann and Bernard Wasow explore the reasons behind the U.S.-Chinese cycle of mutual dependence.

In dangerous terrain, mountain climbers routinely rope themselves together. That way, if one falls, the other can catch her before she plunges into a crevasse. Or, if the accident comes at the wrong moment, both climbers may fall together.

Today, China and the United States are traversing an exceptionally treacherous financial glacier
High Tatra Mountains Scenario: The odd couple [Beyond the Age of Innocence and Cold River China, U.S., Europe — Whose Century? ; A U.S. policy of preemption and a push for new nuclear weapon designs could be a recipe for disaster that makes proliferation more likely, not less Dangerous doctrine ]
• · Loose nukes, nanobots, smallpox, oh my! In this age of endless imagining, and some very real risks, which terrorist threats should be taken most seriously? "The Dew of Death," Rethinking doomsday
• · · Kofi Annan backed the United States in its quest for a travel and assets freeze against those violating a cease-fire in Sudan's western Darfur region. Annan calls Darfur "short of hell on earth"
• · · · Stung by two days of defeat for their bids to revise a bill overhauling the bankruptcy laws, Senate Democrats are portraying the measure as making it harder for low-income, elderly and sick people to dissolve their debts while allowing the wealthy to shelter assets Bankruptcy bill unfair ; I feel so much better now that I know the wealthy will be protected from adverse effects of the bankruptcy bill! As long as only middle class and poor people can be hurt, and banks, credit card companies, and the rich are protected, I guess it's a good thing. Yeesh
• · · · · Kazza: asset stripping
• · · · · · When taming volatile currencies, policymakers are trying to rein in forces they can’t control—much less understand Let It Ride

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Some economists say the president of Harvard talks just like them. High-powered job hypothesis

Invisible Hands & Markets: TAXING MATTERS

Recently we found that being a professional value-added tax (VAT) adviser in the Czech Republic is a little like being a Suricata suricatta, or South African mongoose, on our feet, nose in the air, looking out for potential changes to the law.
Here is a good example: An amendment to the VAT Act with potentially serious implications for some of Prague's international schools has snuck back into Parliament.

Keeping up with VAT law [In the United States alone, 95 percent of the country's original forest cover is gone, excluding Alaska A Few Facts That Will Change Your Life ]
• · Secret History of the Credit Card" uncovers the array of psychological techniques used by the credit card industry to earn those super-profits and get consumers to take on more debt Love to Debt;
• · · Arts organisations, museums, theatres and galleries, mostly run by not-for-profit bodies, have become the target of a crackdown by the Australian Taxation Office Tax Office crackdown on gifts to the arts ; Geoffrey Kingston. Geoffrey Kingston is an associate professor at the School of Economics, University of NSW. AFR (sub required) Date: 28/02/2005: Australia can take a leaf out of Ireland's book on taxation, writes Geoffrey Kingston. According to Winston Churchill, not one man in a million understands the currency question, and you meet him every day. The same might be said of the tax-reform question. Charlie McCreevy, Ireland's minister for finance from 1997 to 2004, is truly a man in a million. He not only had a plan, but actually oversaw its implementation.
The distinctive feature of the Irish model of tax reform is low taxes on businesses without correspondingly low taxes on individuals. The Irish company tax rate stands at 12.5 per cent for domestic and foreign-owned companies alike. The top rate of tax on individuals, by contrast, is 42 per cent. As recently as 1995, Ireland was in 17th place on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development league table of gross domestic product per head, adjusted for differences in purchasing power. By 2002, Ireland was in second place. The Aussie kangaroo could learn from the Celtic tiger. Tax reform demands courage
• · · · Jack Hurst isn't famous and doesn't run a big fund. But he's truly an amazing money manager.
The soul of an investor
• · · · · Even in the loser-loving bits of popular culture, the American obsession with success has a habit of winning through An ode to failure
• · · · · · n classifying a whole host of occupations as "creative," our leading pop economist overstates the influence of urban professionals. Why I Don't Love Richard Florida