Monday, January 31, 2005

A special investigation by The Sunday Telegraph shows small businesses, the building industry and backyard operators are key players in thousands of hidden transactions each year. four years after the introduction of the GST, which promised to stamp out Australia's black economy, undeclared cash payments amount to at least $4.6 billion. The complexity remains, families are paying more tax than ever, and the cash economy thrives

Invisible Hands & Markets: Death and Taxes: Fantasy coffins
Think it's crazy to shell out anywhere between $5,000 and $20,000 for a casket?

Isaac Adjetey Sowah's showroom in a suburb of Accra, has some of the most colourful coffins to be found anywhere.
The Bible coffin is one of his more conventional designs. The snail in the background has been ordered by a snail seller.

• Click through the pictures: you don't want to miss the beer bottle coffin.
The Bible coffin is one of his more conventional designs [Credits: make-up - If every parent in the world has a blog, then maybe it really will be about the child rather than the parent ; manicure - My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. Aliens Cause Global Warming: A lecture by Michael Crichton]
• · 'If you don't take a job as a prostitute, we can stop your benefits'
• · · Amid accusations of animal cruelty and blackmail, the Australian wool industry faces a global animal rights group in court next month. Catharine Munro reports on a billion-dollar battle. Eyebrows were raised when Australia's ambassador to Italy arrived at Benetton's ancient villa-turned-headquarters outside Venice. The clothing giant's senior executives had not expected their letter to wool suppliers in Australia would prompt such a serious response. Pulling the wool
• · · · We paid for jobs, then they left: For years, the company now called JPMorgan Chase & Co. has received millions in public money to help create jobs in Tampa. But many of those jobs are gone. Tax Breaks for Jobs ; [IT recruiter sees staff shortages looming]
• · · · · Sydney family guilty of $15m tax fraud Ida Ronen, 71, and her sons Nitzan and Izhar
• · · · · · List a real rags to riches tale

Thursday, January 27, 2005

The Milton Keynes Partnership in UK, a local development consortium, is set to become the first public body to use a 'blog' - a type of online diary - to engage local people with its work, E-Government Bulletin has learned.
The local Labour MP Brian White has proposed the blog to involve residents in shaping the long-term development of Milton Keynes.
This could set new standards for the way public sector bodies communicate with the public," White told E-Government Bulletin. More traditional methods of citizen consultation, such as publishing press releases and leaflets, have left the public feeling isolated from the decision-making process, he said. "People grow frustrated because they feel powerless without an effective voice. It can seem pointless to get involved. A blog could help reconnect people.
The Milton Keynes Partnership was launched earlier this year, drawing together representatives of local government, the voluntary sector, the business community, and the health service
A blog could also form part of a permanent record of the discussions and decisions that will shape the future of the city, White said. "All public sector organisations need to recognise that that they provide the historical archives of the future. A blog could be a valuable record of what people thought at the time. Plan to Use Blog for Public Consultation, E-Government Bulletin, Issue 176, 13 December 2004

Eye on Politics & Law Lords:
The lives of seven people could have been spared if the NSW Government had heeded earlier warnings that the rail system was unsafe, a coronial inquest has found.

John Raymond Burt, Marie Genevieve Goder, Mark Hudson, Andrew Ludmon, James Ritchie, Yi Zhang and driver Herman Zeides died when a train derailed 2km south of Waterfall railway station, south of Sydney on January 31, 2003.
Handing down his findings today, Justice Peter McInerney said the lives could have been spared if the government had heeded warnings from his earlier inquiry into the 1999 Glenbrook train crash that the rail system was unsafe.
Mr Carr said his government had already responded to recommendations from the Glenbrook report. "We've given a full account of that.

Waterfall [Google: Lives lost through 'government inaction; Mr Roozendaal, who had the support of the Premier, Bob Carr, withdrew his candidacy after it became clear Mr Tripodi had secured more votes in caucus Tripodi to get ministry]
• · Harry Heidelberg on Leadership: Who do you exclude today, who will you include tomorrow? Bob Carr has no kids, he doesn't drink, he doesn't care for sport and he doesn't have a drivers license. Did anyone say these things mattered to his ability to lead? No. We are most interested in how he runs the state. We started caring when the trains stopped working. The same standards should be applied to all. Hell, we have plenty of those be it gender, religion, sexual orientation, race, national origin, marital status, age, and it goes on
• · · Boy's club mentality of the party Gillard: Susan Ryan: Boys' club left back in the '50s; [He acts like an old-time Baptist minister. But his revival meetings feature not hellfire and brimstone but sermons about racism and the horrible failings of American society The intellectual capacity of women ]
• · · · The New Math: 28 + 35 = 43 The only thing we have to fear is fear itself ; [Dependent on the Kindness of Strangers ; A FIVE-month-old baby was patted down by police in front of startled shoppers after a store owner complained a $5 toy gun had been stolen from his shelves Outrage as cops frisk babies]
• · · · · Arnaud de Borchgrave: For three years, we have been reminded we are a country at war — first against al Qaeda and its global affiliates, then against Iraq's bloody tyranny that was an integral part of transnational terrorism. Almost 1,400 American servicemen and women have given their lives in a war President Bush deliberately avoided mentioning in his Inaugural address. It was a classic case of censorship by omission. But why? Revolutionary idea . . . on bridge too far? ; [Fire and freedom captured the headlines of the president's stirring inaugural address, but it was a handful of words toward the end of the speech that are likely to have the most profound impact on the daily lives of millions of Americans. After a nod to landmark legislation like the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the GI Bill of Rights, the president said, "And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time. . . . We will . . . build an ownership society." A 'cure' worse than the cold river ; Tod Lindberg: Bush's complex personality confounds experts ]
• · · · · · Freedom by its nature must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities The New Bush Doctrine, by George Soros ; [A one page tax return, one day: Taxpayers may one day fill in a single-page tax return instead of a book-sized TaxPack, Assistant Treasurer Mal Brough said yesterday. "That is a distinct possibility - that people who have simple tax affairs like PAYG workers will have the opportunity to use a single-page tax return," Mr Brough said. Reforms ; A bank robber has been allowed to claim the cost of a pistol used in a hold-up as a legitimate business expense ]

Some of the sharpest minds on Wall Street are betting that you'll make more money in metals than Microsoft the next few years. The new bull market is in stuff, not stocks, they say. We're talking about land and oil and gold None Dare Call It Conspiracy: Real assets create real riches

Invisible Hands & Markets: Europe vs. America: It is a Marketing Miracle
Consider a mug of American coffee. It is found everywhere. It can be made by anyone.

It is cheap—and refills are free. Being largely without flavor it can be diluted to taste. What it lacks in allure it makes up in size. It is the most democratic method ever devised for introducing caffeine into human beings. Now take a cup of Italian espresso. It requires expensive equipment. Price-to-volume ratio is outrageous, suggesting indifference to the consumer and ignorance of the market. The aesthetic satisfaction accessory to the beverage far outweighs its metabolic impact. It is not a drink; it is an artifact

To a growing number of Europeans it is America that is in trouble and the "American way of life" that cannot be sustained
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy [Credits: John Quiggin ; manicure - The centrality of coffee ]
• · The Connected Get More Connected Seeking buzz, companies will funnel free new products to Silicon Valley’s elite; Gillmor Gang
• · · Hot on the heels of recent Herald discussions regarding the recycling of Soviet-era insignia in fashion, at Manuka on the weekend I spotted two hammer-and-sickle T-shirts at a cafe. No doubt the Manuka chapter of the Communist Party of Australia was discussing the merits of materialism and empirio-criticism versus dialectical and historical materialism. I did not feel the faintest whiff of irony emanating from these blokes as they advertised the dictatorship of the proletariat while quaffing $7 imported beers. Letter SHM 24 January by Chris Killick-Moran, Scullin (ACT) Capitalism tastes better: Ross Turnbull's excesses were his undoing
• · · · You cannot be a sweeter cucumber in a vinegar barrel: It's not the bad apples, it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people; [All told, our politicos have done just the right things to put Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh at the top of the pile in red tape and taxation and at the bottom of the pile in economic growth and job creation. Dishwasher economics ]
• · · · · Throwing myself to the wolve: Climate change: report warns point of no return may be reached in 10 years, leading to droughts, agricultural failure and water shortages Countdown to global catastrophe
• · · · · · Bank official tells us what we already knew Taxes draining us ; $5K for a new transporter?

Monday, January 24, 2005

Earlier this month, according to Iraqi officials, $300 million in American bills was taken out of Iraq's Central Bank, put into boxes and quietly put on a charter jet bound for Lebanon. Dirty Tricks

Invisible Hands & Markets: Business love affair with crooks and fleas continues
Danding Cojuangco is closing in on National Foods. But in his homeland a corruption buster has moved onto his board and is after his shares

In Mudgee, the locals don't routinely refer to Cojuangco as Danding - unlike in his bustling hometown of Quezon City, in the north of greater Manila with its 11 million people. But then in Mudgee for the past 2 decades he's mostly been recognised as a genial thoroughbred racehorse breeder with sheep, cattle and vineyard interests rather than the fifth most powerful - and arguably the richest - man in the Philippines.
But a window into Cojuangco's private existence opened on December 30, when the one-time Philippine presidential candidate and crony of the late Ferdinand Marcos waved $1.78 billion under the nose of the board of the big Australian dairy company, National Foods - which handles such household brands as Yoplait, Pura milk and King Island cheeses.
At the local Mudgee pub, he may be seen as just one of the boys when he leaves his plush homestead for a steak, but life is not necessarily as simple on his home soil.
In the oligarchic Philippines, where, as one long-time Australian businessman in Manila puts it, "the top 10 talk to each other", politics and business are cross-hatched. Cojuangco has played both astutely.
He became extraordinarily wealthy during the Marcos regime, then fled on the same private jet as Marcos to Hawaii in 1986 amid the People Power Revolution and the new-broom attitude taken by Marcos's successor, Corazon Aquino. In his absence, the Soriano family took over the management of the company.
Unlike Marcos, Cojuangco wound his way back to the top when the time was right. After returning from exile in 1989, he ran in the 1992 presidential elections with former actor Joseph Estrada. Fidel Ramos beat Cojuangco resoundingly to the presidency, taking over from Aquino, but Estrada won the vice-presidency. In 1998, Estrada went the whole way, taking Cojuangco with him.

Barbarian Behind the Gate [James Cumes shares with blogosphere correspondence of note: It is strange that we can be so wrong about so many things for so long We seem to be guilty of recurrent economic idiocy. Not just a small idiocy, but idiocy on a grand scale]
• · Martha Stewart is in prison. Richard Scrushy, former chief executive of HealthSouth, is sitting through jury selection at his fraud trial. This week, lawyers for and against Bernard Ebbers, former head of WorldCom, were in a Manhattan court pending jury selection. And former Tyco chief Dennis Kozlowski is being retried on grand larceny charges. US yearns for old ways as frauds come to court
• · · Investors, regulators, legislators - and even companies - are demanding that those who commit financial misdeeds, or fail to stop them, pay significant penalties, often with their own money. People were jumping out of windows ; Don't Buy American Why Europeans hate American Express and Wal-Mart, but like MasterCard and Colgate
• · · · $1 million treasure hunt hidden in pages of fairy tale
• · · · · Juraj Janosik was a Gural a Robin Hood character: Bush’s guralation: Lifestyles of the Rich and Heartless
• · · · · · Female bank employees in Nigeria are being forced to prostitute themselves to potential customers to meet demands put on their banks by recent economic reforms

Friday, January 21, 2005

[Professional politicians] don't mind if price controls cause shortages of health care. In fact, they welcome the prospect, because then they can impose rationing; they can impose priorities, and tell everyone how much of what kind of medical care they can have. And besides, ... there's that deeply satisfying rush of power.
- Murray N. Rothbard
Taxman can no longer give artists the brush-off; ATO rules on business and pleasure

Invisible Hands & Markets: The Chastened Hopes of the Economic and Civil Rights Movement
On Doing Kindnesses - De Beneficiis ... Men are, one and all, actors, some of kindness, the more so the more civilized they are. They put on a show of affection, respect for others, modesty and disinterest without deceiving anyone, since it is generally understood that they are not sincere about it.

Forty years after the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and decades after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made strides in racial equality, America remains split along racial lines - divided by the color green.
Economic equality has become the paramount civil rights issue of the 21st century, civil rights advocates said as they prepared to celebrate King's birthday on Monday.
Fewer blacks than whites own their houses, get fair loans, invest in the stock market or sit on corporate boards, or have any real control over much of the trillions of dollars flowing in mutual funds, pension plans and the financial markets, they said.
Very real gains have been made on some parts of the economic front and the education front and most particularly on the job front. (But) those gains are being reversed through widening racial wealth gaps.

The anchor of Economic dream [Credits: make-up - Why should the State finance a football ground, a library, a theatre or a nursery and not pay a centime towards society’s religious needs ]
• · Sydney leads the way as job market booms
• · · As the re-trial of L. Dennis Kozlowski, former Tyco chief executive, and Mark H. Swartz, Tyco's former chief financial officer, is about to begin (18 January 2005) the New York Times reports that Kozlowski says "'I firmly believe that I never did or intended to do anything wrong.'" The NYTimes reports that "Kozlowski wants to be clear: the $6,000 shower curtain wasn't his idea Kozlowski: What Will the Jury Say? ; there was "overwhelming evidence" that the two, Anthony Elgindy and Jeffrey A. Royer, were working together to commit securities fraud and not to expose corporate crime: Trial Say Profit Was True Motive Elgindy Securities Fraud Trial Coming to a Close; [ via White Collar Crime in a Nutshell]
• · · · Some people have suggested that our tax laws should be simplified so that the taxpayers could actually understand them. How could this be done? My friend John Dorschner proposes this system: Every year, on April 15, all members of Congress would be placed in individual prison cells with the necessary tax forms and a copy of the Tax Code. They would remain locked in the cells, without food or water, until they had completed their tax returns and successfully undergone a full IRS audit. Of course this system would probably result in a severe shortage of congresspersons. But there might also be some drawbacks. -Dave Barry
Battle Plans for the Tax Shelter Wars: Dealing with Government Losses What are the cures?
• · · · · Stealth tax increases always fascinate me. There are at least two types of stealth tax increases. One is the increase that is hidden so deeply in the fine print, masked by assertions of tax neutrality, that it takes a while before taxpayers realized they've been had. The other type is of particular interest at the moment. It occurs when a legislature raises a tax, and makes it obvious in the legislation that it is doing so. Stealth Tax, Type Two; [courtesy John Maul ]
• · · · · · Ringtones drown out CD singles Ringtones drown out CD singles

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.
-Pericles (430 B.C.)

It was as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders as he worked the room at half-time in the premiere of the light Prokofiev opera. NSW Premier, Bob Carr had a big smile on his face at the Sydney Opera House Tuesday night: The Love of Three Oranges

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: The Battle for Political Headlines: Latham v Beazley v Egan
Looking for Webdiarists' choice for Labor leader
I’m certainly not the first to notice the fact that some amazing political battle for media attention and primary real front page story space is being staged in Sydney and its media satelites Down Under Who is trying to drown whom ... and why?

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd has a chance to win the federal Labor leadership over Kim Beazley, says NSW ALP president Senator Ursula Stephens.
Senator Stephens said Mr Beazley, the former leader who yesterday became the first caucus member to throw their hat in the ring to replace Mark Latham, was not necessarily a shoe-in.
"At this stage I think the situation is still very uncertain, because although Kim has indicated his intention to run for the leadership ... I know there are others who actually are considering their options," Senator Stephens told ABC radio.

Daily Terror rightly points out that NSW Treasurer Michael Egan is the state's longest serving in 150 years. After delivering 10 Budgets and seeing out 27 years in Parliament, he said he had tired of combative politics.
Rudd in with chance to beat Beazley: senator [Chances of Beazley; Mercy Buckets Costa off the rails as Carr reshuffles ]
• · Like potholes after a southerly storm in Sydney spin doctors will surface to explain the sound bites Spinmeisters and Power
• · · Eleven government bodies massively misspent public funds, breaching the Constitution, an audit has found "The closer one gets to elections or wars, the further one gets from the truth." -- Tony Blankley
• · · · In the Courier Mail, 19/01/2005, Letters section Grace du Prie writes: The think tank members who thought up the idea of different fines for different income earners compare this to the tax system. It's fair, they say, people who earn more will pay more. Aren't the wealthy earners those who evade taxes more successfully? A proposal to punish people based on income is flawed "The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a bit longer." -- Henry Kissinger
• · · · · Artists accuse city of biased grant system, politician says his venue deserves the cash Prague: it's a fight over money. It's a fight over financial transparency. It's a fight over art "[Politicians] -- they'll give you everything you want to your face -- and then, as you walk away, they'll shoot you in the back because it's fun to watch you die." -- Bob Crandall, former president, American Airlines
• · · · · · Nobody else conveys so much through the slightest angling of eyebrows, the merest twitch of face muscles, the faintest curl of lip, the millimetre-perfect positioning of shoulders. His qualities are often debated. What is certain is that he would be a very bad poker player. Why we need a strong state more than ever "Politicians and bureaucrats are hopelessly addicted to running other people's lives." -- Geoffrey Neale

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

In 2004, readers voted with their clicks on what stories mattered most--whether for hard news on viruses or lighter fare on unexpected uses of everyday technology
Never underestimate RSS and Atoms. Surfers go online to do two things. Pick up email or surf for specific information. Booming Blogs!

Tracking Trends Great & Small: Wrapping Up 2004; Looking Forward
Young people are feeling overworked, overstimulated and ready to get away from it all, and they're heading for the figurative hills and taking design inspiration from mountaintop lodges. Though they might not be able to climb a mountain or hike through a forest in their backyard, they're living out their yearnings for nature through fashion, home decor and blog trends

It’s a contemplative time of the year. If you send out one of those traditional Christmas or New Year’s letters to family and friends, you’ve reviewed the good and bad occurrences in your life and decided what you wanted to include. It’s generally time to take stock of what we’ve achieved and to look forward to goals for the new year. The media outlets tell us what have been the hot stories, topics, and trends of the year, while the search engines report on the most popular search terms. In case you’re interested, Google’s annual Year-End Zeitgeist can be found at [ ]; Yahoo!’s Top Searches 2004 is at []

The Hot Stories of 2004 [As a marketing consultant in London, I get a lot of blank, glazed looks when I talk about blogs, blogging, the blogosphere or even the much more respectable sounding Citizen's Media or the 5th estate A Growing Voice: Citizen's Media is one term, and the 5th Estate is another ]
• · Unlike earlier promises of self-publishing revolutions, the blog movement seems to be the real thing. A big reason for that is a tiny innovation called the permalink: a unique web address for each posting on every blog. Ezine Trends For 2005 - Email Publishing Predictions
• · · No Gadget Safe From Home-Style Hacks; [Check out John Battelle's predictions for what's coming up for us next year A Look Ahead ]
• · · · Born Again Christian No Barrier to Divorce ; [With the new year a new national defense law came into effect in the Czech Republic - one that marks a change from most such regimes in the Western world in that it no longer discriminates between the obligations of men and women On the War Path ; Bohemian Women Warriers ]
• · · · · Can you blog something that doesn't exist?
• · · · · · New Link: Christmas Traditions Around the World

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

We Interrupt Our Usual Broadcast... ask you to visit Google entries about the latest labor leadership changes as this is the kind of political event that one doesn't soon forget.
But, first things first, the politician who encouraged me to write more about politics after reading my Prague's Second Spring is also taking radical steps after his Second Coming to Parliament. Johno Johnson, the former father of the Upper House, used to humouresly describe MPs elected in the lower House as peasants. This particular MP entered Parliament the second time as the lord. (smile) The ageless lord and commander from Cronulla with the egar smile of Michael Egan is diving off Carr's Ship; Waving not drowning: Profile by Sir Humphries (sic)
Kim Beazley has announced he will stand to take back the Labor leadership, vowing he has the "energy and commitment" to unite the party in the wake of Mr Latham's retirement. Politics of one long Weekend cut short

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: Claiming the leadership : I’m a Third Time Lucky Here Myself?
Kim Beazley launched his third bid to reclaim the Labor leadership. The timing of the return of the Webdiary is almost surreal and so are some of this week's headlines or observations inside the commentariat ...

About an hour after Latham announced his resignation, Kim Beazley, predictably, announced that he wanted another shot at the top job . I guess he'll probably get in now, as well. Which, as I said in my previous journal entry, I really don't like the idea of. I'd much have preferred that Mark Latham as leader, with Rudd my preferred second choice.

One wonders whether the heat of speculations and backstabing, will be transformed into an oasis of strong alternative government ... are leaders born or created?
Google with Hundred Leaders [Web links to leadership Changes; Gough Whitlam said today it was a tragedy Mark Latham's "agonising ailment" had cut short his public career Labor leader's early exit 'a tragedy']
• · FBI surveillance experts have put their once-controversial Carnivore Internet surveillance tool out to pasture, preferring instead to use commercial products to eavesdrop on network traffic Spy Games; [Politics of Spying How Top Spies in Ukraine Changed the Nation's Path]
• · · This is light looking at the ghost graffiti of Gustav Husak at the Svit chemical factory First signs of protest in world's top secret state: Kim Jong-il, defaced with graffiti demanding freedom and democracy; [The problem is that slower trains don't necessarily equal safer trains Ghost of Glenbrook Puts Carr off Track ]
• · · · The significant point is that it has placed a clause in the Accenture contract insisting that the company promise to be a "good tax citizen". This clause will not just be used for Accenture, but in all multi-million dollar procurement deals at the ATO. The "Good Tax Citizenship" clause will be standard in such contracts. Accenture for software and development services related to its upgrade project known as the Change Program
• · · · · Tax Compliance Costs
• · · · · · The new brave federal sentencing world: In the course of linking here to all of last week's newspaper stories about, Illiterary, Booker, I suggested it would be interesting to assemble in one place all the quotes from judges that appear in the articles. One of my terrific students (crawler :-) did me two better: she assembled quotes not only from judges, but also from prosecutors and defense attorneys, addressing last week's remarkable developments. ; [via Professor Douglas A. Berman ]

Monday, January 17, 2005

There is only one way to achieve happiness on this terrestrial ball,
And that is to have either a clear conscience, or none at all.
-A thought from the poet Ogden Nash (from “Interoffice Memorandum in I’m a Stranger Here Myself).
When Did James Cumes write this article on Investment: three years after my escape? or 25 years after the escape?
James wrote it three years after the altenative party was born: Green Party the visible quarter of the century

Invisible Hands & Markets: Open minds lead to open doors
The expansion of the traditional recruiter's role is drawing people from a wider variety of fields

Competition has been fierce in the recruitment game over the past few years and firms have been trying various strategies to lift their profile and win new business.
Many firms have branched into - or expanded - HR consulting, outplacement and career development arms so that they offer "talent management" rather than simply the sourcing and matching of candidates to vacancies.
As a result, many recruitment consultants are now doing more consulting and less recruitment.

drive, determination, discipline, dedication and passion [Starving the Beast: The Psychology of Budget Deficits]
• · There is an on-going debate about tax competition or tax harmonization. The high-tax welfare states want to keep tax rates high so that they can continue to fund their social welfare programs. But they are losing business and investments to lower tax jurisdictions Is Tax Competition Harmful? ; Treasury, OECD Officials Discuss International Tax Developments (via Tax Professor)
• · · Conscience is the inner voice that tells us that someone is looking. H.L. Mencken: Bunk. For one thing, that statement suggests that there is less disparity with mandatory guidelines. That's simply not true. There are huge disparities under the present system. When Congress plays judge
• · · · Savvy Tax Policy Advisors Needed: APS6 and EL1 several jobs in Canberra - call Paul McCullough on 02 6263 3820 apply by close of business 27 January 2005
• · · · · Nicholas Confessore, NY Times Magazine Bush's Breaking of the Tax Code ; [John Nance Garner is best remembered for his assessment of the vice presidency. The office, he reportedly sneered in 1932, isn't worth a pitcher of warm spit. The quote may be apocryphal, and even credulous historians think he referenced a different bodily fluid. History of Life’s 100% Certainty ]
• · · · · · If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to. Dorothy Parker Penguin loses the plot

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Money is the opposite of the weather. Nobody talks about it, but everybody does something about it.
-Rebecca Johnson, in 'Vogue'
Great background information for people doing business in a country John Azarias and his Deloitte Country Guides and World Bank Doing Business Database

Invisible Hands & Markets: The Many are Harder to Diddle--or to Bribe--than the Few
Is more information always better for decision-making? There's a famous study that was done of expert racetrack bettors that illustrates this point. The bettors were first given five pieces of information about the horses in a race and asked to predict the outcome. They were also asked how confident they were in their predictions. Then they were given, successively, 10, 20, and 40 pieces of information and asked to make predictions. The additional information didn't make their forecasts any more accurate. But it did make them (falsely) more confident in their forecasts. When it comes to data, frugality is often a virtue.

Tomorrow's Workforce is a partnership of major news corporations, more than 50 national journa-lism professional and mid-career teaching organizations, and one of the nation's most prestigious schools of journalism.

Stra-tegic investments in newsroom training [The overarching goal of learning about how people can feel love for other people is new and could have great implications for society Is being selfless as much a part of being human as selfishness? ]
• · Swiss banks published on the Internet Thursday the names of 3,100 World War II-era account holders who might have been victims of Nazi persecution and are entitled to millions of dollars in deposits Swiss banks publish Holocaust era accounts
• · · I wasn't going to write about the iPod today, but since the whole wide world seems so impressed with Apple Computer's iPod-fueled earnings--and they were impressive--I had to When IPod Sales Run Out Of Steam ;
• · · · Prague's mayor has had the chance to see for himself whether the many accounts of city taxi drivers ripping off unsuspecting tourists are true. Prague cab takes mayor for a ride: Reality of 500% ; [The principal of a Palo Alto middle school may not invite a popular speaker back to an annual career day after he told girls they could earn a good living as strippers. Stripping and exotic dancing can pay $250,000 or more per year, depending on their bust size]
• · · · · A US man auctioning advert space on his forehead has received more than 100 bids and an offer of $30,000. I wouldn't go around with 666, the mark of the beast. Foreplay in future ad auction hits $30,000 ; [Up a mountain in a snowy corner of France, arguably the densest area of conspicuous consumption this side of the Urals, 20,000 Russians gathered last week to luxuriate, eat, drink and shop merrily. Where former Soviet communist elite go out to play ]
• · · · · · Why is it that some institutions endure for decades or even for centuries while others disappear into history? Booz Allen Hamilton Lists the World's Most Enduring Institutions

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Life is a great mystery. Is everybody a different person when they are with somebody else?
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy

The Moment of Escape: Just One Single Moment Can Change Everything
Everything we see and our brains themselves would just be parts of this simulation.’ Oxford University philosopher Dr Nick Bostrom echoes the thoughts of sci-fi writers and scientists alike. The simulation hypothesis is not sci-fi, it’s serious academic thought. Ach, Are We Real?
Despite various reservations, the following question seems to be in order: How likely are you to read Cold River, based on a real story, this year? Will you be a different person after you read it? If in fact by the end of the year, you find yourself ordering the story of Iron Curtain crossing, you might be able to shift some of the blame onto us. It seems that the simple and apparently mundane act of asking a question can lead to a very intentional response by the respondents or consumers.


By chance or good fortune, Cold River's 15 Minutes @ Digital Palm Reading keeps on Ticking
[ Number of people, mostly in their twenties, who attempt suicide in the world each year: 10 to 20 million; number who actually succeed: about 1 million --- Number of people who attempt to get published in the world each year: 100 to 200 million; number who actually succeed: about 10 million ...
-Source John Croucher, Professor of Statistics; and Media Dragon, Professor of Number Crunching]
Believe it or not - our other book - Sex at the Gate is selling like hot cakes: There is No Discount Like Double Dragon Discount: Dirty Thirty %

Friday, January 14, 2005

Monopolies are monoliths, simply because they can be. They don't have to move and flex, so they don't.
-Tony Steidler-Dennison
The big ideas of 2005 - #57 Jan/Feb 2005

Invisible Hands & Markets: Stiff Upper Lip
The huge American undertakings that fed millions of people during and after the World War I rescued not sections of populations but whole peoples.
Today they have been largely forgotten.

It does not detract from the relief operation in Asia to question the title almost routinely given to it as the "world's largest relief operation ever"

History's other great relief effort [What your boss means when he talks like that The CEO-English Phrase Book]
• · Every day millions of professionals work for free - notching up hundreds of hours of unpaid overtime. It's not written into contracts, often it's not even spoken of. It's just part of the 21st Century workplace The new face of slave labour; Pat Barrett has uncovered systemic assessment and collection problems and questioned whether the Tax Office could reliably estimate the extent of lost revenue since 1996. Tax Collection; In reaching this conclusion, the authors argue that Oprah should have reimbursed contestants based on the highest marginal rate. But taxpayers need to have a taxable income of at least $319,101 to be taxed at that rate. How many teachers will have taxable income over $319,101? And if they do, then I really don’t have any sympathy for the huge tax bill. Let them refuse the prize, or pay the tax. Taxation Article Overstates Tax Problems of Oprah's Studio Audience
• · · The founder of Pathways to Housing says the best way to deal with homelessness is to provide people with housing. And the success of his program is proving him right. Give Me a Home ; [ Unemployment would fall below 5 per cent without pushing up interest Rates ]
• · · · A brooch, a cedar chest, an armoire, a set of china, or a crystal vase. Every family has them: family heirlooms ... How has Britain’s privatization scheme worked out? Well, today, they’re looking enviably upon Social Security A Bloody Mess
• · · · · William Powers on how Liberia's development failures have paradoxically led to a success Liberia has something that the world values now more than ever: a vast rain forest ; [The struggle of the champions China wants to build world-class companies. Can it succeed? ]
• · · · · · Database titans fight in courts: Hank Asher, who has repeatedly been linked in media reports to a Bahamas drug smuggling ring in the mid-1980s, also accuses Langone and several officers of Georgia-based ChoicePoint (NYSE: CPS), of conducting a "malicious scheme" that interfered with Asher's business relationships and destroyed his reputation. Kenneth Langone, a co-founder of Home Depot, was an investor and board member in Asher's first data company, DBT Online. I'm a frontrunner; this guy is a Wall Street bully ; An irony of life in the Beehive State is that a place built on pioneer principles of self-reliance and hard work also consistently leads the nation in banruptcy filings Why We're Going Broke ; [Via Scoop ]

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Communism is a cow of many; well milked and badly fed...
Oh, and I’ve got a joke for you Jozef.
A Czechoslovakian midget, on the run from the secret police, frantically pounds on a stranger’s door. It opens a crack and a suspicious eye peers out.
“What do you want?”
“Please, I’m desperate. Can you cache a small Czech?”
Thank you, thank you. Don’t forget to tip yer waitress. She’s taking me out after the show.
Comment by Nabakov — 11/1/2005 @ 8:57 pm
God and money vie for people's affections

Invisible Hands & Markets: World On Brink Of Ruin
Dan Ackman describes anatomy of the forthcoming economy:

Alan Greenspan, that Matador of the Money Supply, the esteemed Impresario of Interest Rates, has suffered precious few slings or arrows over his many years as chairman of the Federal Reserve. Even the White House has had to offer its critiques off the record for fear of roiling the markets or upsetting the chairman's Elvis-in-Vegas-like following. So when the chief economist of one of the world's most prestigious banks calls Greenspan a bum, that's a big deal

Money Supply ; [One morning, Gregor Samsa awoke to find that he was working for the federal government. The agency's job is to safeguard the merit system, prevent the intrusion of partisan politics into the federal workplace and protect federal employees from prohibited personnel practices, Notably retaliation for whistle-blowing ] (A wise man changes his mind, a fool never will. -Proverb)
• · Mark Steyn: Coalition of the Giving
• · · Inveterate readers of this blog know that we ran several posts on the tax problems associated with Oprah Winfrey's giveaway of 276 new Pontiac G6 sedans to members of the audience Partial Indian Giver ; [With all due respect to the group, whose members generally deserve a great deal of respect, the membership of the commission tells me that we are not likely to get anywhere significant, be it good or bad, on tax reform. By the way, no tax practitioners only preachers ... ] (He who goes to law for a sheep loses his cow. -Proverb)
• · · · The helicopters are taking off and landing now in the tsunami-shattered villages and towns. The sick are being taken for treatment. Clean water is being delivered. Food is arriving. Soon the work of reconstruction will begin Tsunami tragedy exposes the myth of the UN's moral authority
• · · · · An expert on the economic side of transition offers his observations on some of the lessons learned in Central Europe for the rest of the region. (Paid Subscription required) Reform: Speed Doesn’t Pay: by Jeremy Druker [The foolish sayings of a rich man pass for wise ones. Proverb, Spanish]
• · · · · · The Problems of the Super Rich: As Mark Twain said in Tom Sawyer: "Being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be. It's just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead all the time. However, Pejmanesque weeps for them: I'm sorry, but when push comes to shove, who wouldn't want these problems? The Trouble of Refering to Yourself as Imrich (A rich man is either a scoundrel or the heir of a scoundrel. -Proverb)

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

In democratic politics, sometimes opposition comes from unexpected quarters. There is a view that Australia's democracy may be diminished after July 1 when the Coalition parties achieve a majority in the Senate. This is an exaggeration in that it overlooks the extent to which federal governments (whether or not they have a Senate majority) are constrained by the states and the legal system. I think everybody is in favour of lower taxation. But you have got to pay for certain things. It's a question of striking a right balance and we always do that

Invisible Hands & Markets: He Pulls The Strings
The most significant trend is going to be a heightened emphasis on ethics and reputation risk. Ironically, the biggest risk is the insularity of directors and senior managers, who are constantly ambushed because they don't know enough about what's going in with ordinary people in the real world

Corporate ethics, increasingly rebellious consumers, an advertising boom and a possible relaxation in rules governing cross-media ownership are just some of the issues predicted to dominate marketers' attention this year.
Number one on the list, especially in light of corporate Australia's response to the Indian Ocean tsunami, is increased scrutiny of the behaviour of the business world, according to marketing experts.

Corporate citizens placed on notice [It's a pleasure, of the schadenfreude variety, to sit back and watch the credibility peel off our principal institutions with no help from their usual critics. Our corporate CEOs, for example, have gone from rocking to reeking in a mere two years. The Collapse of Credibility ]
• · Gates calls Free Culture fans commies
• · · Joseph Nye, the Harvard academic who coined the phrase "soft power" to describe indirect US influence in the world, likes to recall the dining deliberations of a family in India to explain what he means Is the World Falling Out of Love with US Brands?
• · · · Amway's income trickles Down Under as $53m bonus
• · · · · The tax break for employer-provided health insurance—worth about $140 billion per year—is larger than several welfare programs combined. But it doesn't work very well Free-Lunch Health Insurance: A simple idea for insuring some of the poor
• · · · · · France remains a highly stratified society in both the social and economic sense. The wealthiest 10% of the French income ladder are 50% richer than their Swedish counterparts and the upper quarter of the French income ladder is not brought down by the tax system the way it is in Denmark, Sweden, and many of France's wealthy citizens occupy privileged spots at the core of the "welfare state." This is one of the key reasons they tend to support it. Is French taxation progressive?; [Tax reform an old game--and tricky ; Tax Time Again: Any Linux Solutions? ]

Friday, January 07, 2005

In recent years, the word "underprivileged" has fallen out of use The Poor Haven't Changed — We Have

Invisible Hands & Markets: The Tsunami and the Economics of Catastrophic Risk
Proverbial flips of a coin ...

The Indian Ocean tsunami illustrates a type of disaster to which policymakers pay too little attention—a disaster that has a very low or unknown probability of occurring, but that if it does occur creates enormous losses

Man can move High Tatra Mountains [- S. Schwartz, TCS Saudi Arabia and al-Qaida: Understanding the Double Game]
• · Boris Johnson: It is outrageous that this bra tax should be going to Gordon Brown, and if you start to feel virtuous about the amount of aid we are giving, set that against the quantity we are taking in tariffs. Scrap the Tariffs on textiles from Sri Lanka, Thailand and other flood-hit areas
• · · Gates' digital message to the world: Let me entertain you
• · · · Doctors and nurses must be given more of a say in the running of the health system The sickness in our public hospitals
• · · · · From shelf psychology to 'triangular balance', shoppers need to be wise to the Tricks used to manipulate them during the sales
• · · · · · On crossing rivers: Thick clothing increases your weight when wet, and this makes it difficult to swim or float The Guide for the Mexican Migrant

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Sydney’s inevitable pastime ... Homeowners around the world effectively gamble on home prices. Their risks today are often big due to real estate bubbles in such glamour cities as London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Istanbul, Moscow, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Sydney, Melbourne, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., and Miami. Those bubbles may keep expanding, or may burst, leaving many homeowners mired in debt. Most homeowners are not gambling for pleasure. They are just buying real estate because they need it

Invisible Hands & Markets: Plastic Bananas
So far, none of the world's major economic powers—the United States, the European Union, and Japan—have made the switch from paper to plastic.

Considering it's the root of all evil, the sinew of love as well as war, money is surprisingly fragile. At least the paper variety is. The average $5 bill lasts only 16 months. Notes circulating in tropical climates wear even more quickly. I lived in India for several years and had more than one rupee bill literally disintegrate in my hands.

Mon(k)ey: Mexico and Australia have ditched paper money for plastic bills [From the moment, I was born / I opened my eyes / I reached out / For my plastic card / Oh no! I left it in my other suit Shut up and shop! Thinking politically about consumption ]
• · If the laws of economics are on the same plane as the laws of nature, what's so bad about answering the call from victims of economic storms? The Persistence of Altruism
• · · Dominicans take their place as an American success story
• · · · Curious? Who is Terry Peabody?; [Although the show purports to be about business, it has about as much to do with running an enterprise as “The Sopranos” has to do with family relationships. The show is really about individualism and winning no matter what it takes. Competitors on “The Apprentice” will say and do just about anything to win and seem to care very little about who they may have to step on to do it. Lessons From The Donald Trump You can learn a lot by watching Trump’s weekly fire-a-thon. But what you won’t see is how to lead, support or motivate people. Antiques Lessons ]
• · · · · When one door closes, another opens. But for some that door hits them right on the kisser... 2004 was another windfall year in the mistakes, failure, and foul-ups market. In some of those instances people understood the benefits of disasters and turned them into positives and success Great Failures of 2004 and their benefits for 2005
• · · · · · Poverty at home: the Academic Left and the Christian Right

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Mark Steyn This bulletin is for all areas of the Pacific basin except Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California. ... This earthquake is located outside the Pacific. No destructive tsunami threat exists. At that point, the tsunami was still an hour away from Thailand, and several hours away from Somalia. But whoever issued that bulletin either never thought to call anyone in the Indian Ocean, or had no one in his Rolodex to call.
On Tsunami's Shore
Catastrophes unleash great human energies, Michael Gove reports from the shores A land already drowning

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: We Are The World: Is Nothing Sacred...?
We are the world and Tsunami help is coming with no strings attached.
The UN continues to send its best product, bureaucrats.

Well, dear friends, we're now into the tenth day of the tsunami crisis and in this battered corner of Asia, the UN is nowhere to be seen -- unless you count at meetings, in five-star hotels, and holding press conferences.
Aussies and Yanks continue to carry the overwhelming bulk of the burden, but some other fine folks also have jumped in: e.g., the New Zealanders have provided C-130 lift and an excellent and much-needed potable water distribution system; the Singaporeans have provided great helo support; the Indians have a hospital ship taking position off Sumatra. Spain and Netherlands have sent aircraft with supplies.
The UN continues to send its best product, bureaucrats. Just today the city's Embassies got a letter from the local UN representative requesting a meeting for "Ms. Margareeta Wahlstrom, United Nations Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and the Secretary-General's Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance in Tsunami-afected countries." Wow! Put that on a business card! And she must be really, really special because she has the word "coordinator" twice in her title!

More UNreality . . . But the Dutch Get It [Act of God; Bill Picked up By UN? ]
• · Ed Brenegar I'd say the United Nations has failed, and has failed for a long, long time
• · · Bill Gates and Bono Demand A Better Deal for the Poor in 2005
• · · · William Pfaff On all sides, the fanatics had a good year ; [Celebrating Political Metaphor ; ]
• · · · · Mr. Obama may indeed be destined for political stardom, but before Obama fever fully takes hold it's worth noting how little national attention has been given to the senator he's replacing: Peter Fitzgerald. The Unsung Maverick: Sen. Peter Fitzgerald took a stand against corruption and pork. ; [Briton Ian Colledge, 29, is a keen diver who has traveled widely in southeast Asia. He was on a diving trip to Thailand with his Czech girlfriend, Petra Vesela, when the tsunami struck the island of Surin Neua. Since then he has been keeping a Web log for He lives in Prague and is writing his first novel ]
• · · · · · MI6 double agent was 'betrayed by a journalist' - What’s new! The games adults play

Is more "freedom of choice" for workers good or bad for unions? A midlife `divorce' for labor?
Over the past 50 years, we've been having a big debate over two rival economic systems. Conservatives have tended to favor the American model, with smaller government and lower taxes, but less social support. Liberals have supported programs that lead to the European model, with bigger government, more generous support and less inequality A Tale of 2 Orwellian Systems

Invisible Hands & Markets: Buy Asian: Intimate outsiders with Invisible Hands
As a Starbucks-aholic, I must admit that when I think "Sumatra" I think coffee. But I honestly have no idea if Starbucks' Sumatra blend actually does come from Sumatra, and if much (or any) of the money I give them each morning ends up there. N.Z. Bear has a good idea: let's help the tsunami victims by bolstering their economy...

Last week, the UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland caused a mini-storm by saying that Western governments are stingy when it comes to foreign aid.
Broadly speaking, foreign aid can be divided into two categories: emergency relief similar to the aid being rushed to the Asian tsunami victims, and longer-term development projects.
Aid is only a part of the development picture...
The true insignificance of aid is revealed by the fact that trade contributes almost $US1.7 trillion to the developing world, making free trade an imperative – hence the emergence of the slogan "trade, not aid".

• Don D'Cruz: Free trade more precious than foreign aid [Buy South Asian! ]
• · It is Official: Women don't like to work; [Do Tourists Come to Us Mainly for the Cheap Beer?" Stags and Hens in Prague]
• · · What's really amazing about the Long Tail is the sheer size of it. Combine enough nonhits on the Long Tail and you've got a market bigger than the hits. Take books: The average Barnes & Noble carries 130,000 titles. Yet more than half of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 130,000 titles. Consider the implication: If the Amazon statistics are any guide, the market for books that are not even sold in the average bookstore is larger than the market for those that are. Capitalism without Capital ; [Death and Taxes: A Visual Look at Where Your (U.S.) Tax Dollars Go ]
• · · · In America, we rarely declare "victory" over a problem. Once an issue becomes a target of collective concern, it stays on the political landscape, even if substantial progress occurs. Congressional committees, interest groups, government agencies and journalists all acquire a stake in "attacking" the problem... Millions of young Americans are too footloose to want a home. Some old Americans are too feeble to handle a home All this serves as useful background to the controversy surrounding Fannie Mae, the nation's largest mortgage company; [ Why tougher laws won't make corporates more responsible]
• · · · · This is an edited version of a paper published by Observatory Pascal in May 2004 Social capital: Do we understand it?
• · · · · · I do not believe that people are capable of rational thought when it comes to making decisions in their own lives

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Google Ranking while Helping Tsunami Victims
International aid organizations:
UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund)
United Nations' World Food Programme
Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors without Borders (donate!)
CARE International
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Disasters Emergency Comittee (DEC) - comprises a raft of aid agencies, including the below and others
British Red Cross
Save the Children UK

North America:
American Red Cross
Canadian Red Cross
Save The Children

Anders Jacobsen: Webloggers: Give to tsunami victims and I'll give too!

It snowed in Dubai recently. Antarctica is at its warmest in 10,000 years. The tsunami has changed the atlas. The world as we knew it is becoming history. Geography is being redefined. As are climatology, anthropology and even space. World lost, world gained

Invisible Hands & Markets: Monstrous Irony
Daniel Bell reminded us of a basic truth: The battle over culture is far more complex than most conservatives acknowledge and far more enduring than most liberals admit. The modern hubris is the refusal to accept limits. The modern world proposes a destiny that is always beyond: beyond morality, beyond tragedy, beyond culture.

It was Karl Marx who made the observation that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. What, one wonders, would old Karl have made of the obscenity that is now the North of Ireland in this, the 10th year of the ceasefires as the media and the three governments struggle and squirm not to say what everyone suspects and knows within their hearts: which is that the Provisional IRA was behind the pre-Christmas robbery at the Northern Bank in Belfast.

And Karl Marx might also say to himself, S***, I have been here before! [It's hard to imagine that just 200 years ago, the vast majority of human beings -- more than three-quarters of all people alive -- lived under some form of slavery. Bury the Chains ]
• · We aim for a touch of realism in our editorial page wishes this time around ... So we won't wish for an end to all poverty and all wars ... Bye bye Amazon, hello Barnes and Noble
• · · The Bush administration has made some promising noises about reducing domestic spending in the last couple of months In Plan to Reduce Deficit, White House Turns to Old Projections
• · · · High prices on raw materials Anita Campbell has written several posts on 2005 trend predictions ; [After a long career in the liquor business, Sidney Frank has turned to giving away his fortune, making a $100 million gift to Brown University, the largest in its history Absinthe to Vodka: The Seller of the Goose That Laid a Golden Egg ]
• · · · · Are we allowing life to be the sum of tasks, the short term always the priority? Are we so connected that we're actually disconnected? Are humans designed to cope with the always-on, just-in-time, emailus interruptus 21st century?
• · · · · · It will surely go down as a monstrous irony that it took what is very possibly the worst tsunami in modern recorded history to truly conjure up a global media village that banners Asia What possible good could come out of this terrible tsunami?

Monday, January 03, 2005

How many pairs of ribs do you have? Go on, count them. Most of you will be able to count twelve pairs but one in ten of you will have an extra pair. It's the result of a mutation in the genetic coding when, as embryos, our vertebrae are formed. Similar mutations might've caused you to have been born without thymus or thyroid glands or missing parts of your hindbrains or cranial nerves or with abnormal heart or facial stuctures. Equally, it is thanks to such mutations that we have evolved into who we are. Indeed, without such genetic mutations we would still be a thin film of slime covering the surface of a pond somewhere. Freak show...? If I was a woman I would have four breasts

Invisible Hands & Markets: How To Inspire Your Freak Team
Charlie Feld talks about trust, hope, enjoyment, and opportunity. As a leader, you have the power to influence people and therefore their performance. If you believe in creating an environment where trust, optimism, enjoyment and personal growth are encouraged, then you will build a sustainable, high-performing team—and, in the process, create many new leaders.

In the Ring of Gyges fable from Plato's The Republic, the philosopher poses this question: If a ring could make you invisible, would you steal, cheat or even murder? Or would you always do the right thing even though no one would know? Those who answer yes to the first question believe that people are inherently corrupt or lazy, and the only thing that keeps civilizations together are laws, rewards and punishments. Then there are people who believe in the basic goodness and industriousness of individuals; to them, people will always do the right thing when given a choice. From that dichotomy springs different management systems and environments in the workplace. One is full of rules; the other isn't...

A high-performance staff needs your trust, optimism and encouragement [Honestly, in the blogosphere, responding to criticism quickly with honesty turns any criticism into a positive. Do you really lose your creativity at the age of four?]
• · The living room, once the most technologically simple part of the average home, is a high-tech battleground today as the consumer electronics industry seeks to digitize home entertainment and make it available anywhere, anytime 2005: Living Room Battles ; [If lots of foreigners continue to exit the dollar, and leave the market, we'll have chaos as they won't get through the door. Grimacing our way ]
• · · Tax returns suspected as strange illness hits workers; [This self-parody would be easy to laugh off if it did not represent the apotheosis of free market idolatry, idolatry that is worshipped at the highest levels of our government. The folks at Ayn Rand don’t believe in taxation ]
• · · · Why you can eat a tasty 'roo burger at the Strangers Dining Room @ NSW Parliament: Unlike sheep kangaroos are not herd animals that will docilely obey one shepherd and a dog
• · · · · Where Saudi oil money goes — The New York Times admits there's an international problem: The Saudi government, itself The Saudi Syndrome
• · · · · · IMac Rumor May Accelerate Apple's 'Halo Effect' ; [For the first time, Americans' use of credit cards, debit cards and other electronic bill paying has eclipsed paper checks. Digital payments surpass paper czechs ]

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Look, blog: we (royal noun) don’t want to sound big headed here, but the past 12 months has pretty much been the best internet year of our lives. Judging by Blogstreet, top 100 political blogs or flyaway simulation top 3200 Reads, we consider 2004 to be a year of pretty big waves in the sea of digital blogging as well as digging of useful links. We know most of you like MEdia Dragon best when we are broken and crippled with self doubt or facing disasters so as a result 2005 is unlikely to reverse our misfortunes (smile).
Among other things, we believe that fogged memory and slowed wit are not the inevitable consequences of, say, becoming a parent and/or acquiring more and more salty hair. So help MEdia Dragon each day to find that extra thoughtful story, play River Crossing, solve the Sydney Morning Herald crossword puzzle, learn how to make the perfect coffee.

And help us to write that second volume of stories covering 1980-2002 period in Sydney, the city of exiles, of course. Sydney does not get celebrated enough in the written word yet it is the city peppered with wild men and women ....

Tracking Trends Great & Small: 'People flung into the air like confetti': 'Tsunami' born out of disaster
All of us live at the mercy of pitiless political and natural forces beyond our control. Not unlike tsunami, specter of political powerlessness is haunting us everywhere. Internet instills a major shift in mindsets so that egalitarianism is no more merely conceptual. Winner takes its all mentality has successfully spread its tentacles deep into our societal fabric and has infiltrated our institutions. Bloggers stand out as the particularly liberated group of the egalitarian "success" story. [To a certain extend, anyone, anywhere, anytime can be a blogger.] It looks like the entire world is keen to make a creative leap into a new desirable action. Any idea that one and all unites in mercy tends to be saturated in hope.
Why weren't these problems obvious to the Maya kings, who could surely see their forests vanishing and their hills becoming eroded? Part of the reason was that the kings were able to insulate themselves from problems afflicting the rest of society. By extracting wealth from commoners, they could remain well fed while everyone else was slowly starving. What's more, the kings were preoccupied with their own power struggles. They had to concentrate on fighting one another and keeping up their images through ostentatious displays of wealth. By insulating themselves in the short run from the problems of society, the elite merely bought themselves the privilege of being among the last to starve. Ach, sound like feudalism and communism and out of control capitalism lessons in the nutshell! The Ends of the World as We Know Them
It is clear that a true democratization of our society starts by chipping away at the deeply encrusted institutional practices, which reproduce systemic inequalities of power on the basis of race, gender, caste or communal creed. Dissidents, like a number of soulful bloggers, know that alternatives exist, but their inclusion requires a context of diversity. Shifting to diversity as a mode of thought, a context of action, allows multiple choices to emerge. We need dissent and diversity in the public service, the media, the legislatures as well as at schools and universities.
Vaclav Havel heralded a new era in 1970s when he sang about a wake up call:
The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin -- and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.
Apparently, it is now an act of treason to laugh at politicians who have three cars yet cannot drive one of them. It is also a treason to offer an opinion on the self interest prevail metality among the union structure that goes against the conventional egalitarian wisdom.
There are a few bloggers that defy classification more than the Samizdat Underground. While blogging is global language, traditional storytelling and colourful vocals mixed with photography are often difficult to place in a frame of reference. Part politics, part celebration of life, part risk taking so click on the links on your left for an uncompromising blogging experience which we can all take something from. I like to enter the world of David, Giana , Tim, John and the list goes on and on. The bloggers I enjoy do not suggest in any way that have a monopoly on truth and trust. They are survivors with human face and action not just rhetorical words to back it up ... I hope they will touch you in a special way, a different way, a risk taking way ...

"Tsunami" has touched the hearts of hundreds of people who survived last Sunday's earthquake and towering wave

A woman who gave birth prematurely in the forests of a remote Indian island sheltering from killer tidal waves named the girl Tsunam [10 miracles of survival in the wake of catastrophe; Google compiles Tsunami sites ]
• · Australia's eastern seaboard bears the scars of tsunami
• · · Donations at ‘unprecedented’ levels Relief Groups Hail Level of Donations by Individuals
• · · · Angel at 10 There was about 10 minutes from the moment the ocean draws out before the tsunami strikes
• · · · · Standing on the shoulders of giants Don't forget, the people of the United States are the most generous people in the world. We don't expect our Government to spend our money for us. We take care of that ourselves
• · · · · · Philippe Van Parijs A Basic Income for All

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime,
Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;
Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone.
Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite a virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own;
Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness
-Reinhold Niebuhr
New Year begins as world mourns with knots in our stomach ... Satellite photo showing the tsunami

Eye on Politics & Law Lords: Titov Tremors of Doubt and Science: Second wave of horror in diseases
The political and ideological exploitation of perhaps the worst natural disaster in all our lifetimes is almost beyond belief , were it not for the fact that nothing these days is beyond belief.

It was a catastrophe that reminded us of our fragile existence, and of our humanity.
The most immediate danger is of water-borne disease, particularly the forms of gastroenteritis that strike when water supplies are corrupted. These include bacterial, viral and parasitic diseases, from cholera and shigellosis to E.coli infections and giardiasis.
Most of the bugs were already in the areas and likely to spread like wildfire...

People worldwide have jammed phone lines and websites today to give millions of dollars to the victims of Asia's tsunamis, outpacing their own governments in their generosity. Huge response to tsunami appeal Charity that begins at home does not have to end there. The horror of the tsunami drowns optimistic new year thoughts. Images of human flotsam and jetsam prompt nihilistic thoughts of meaninglessness. (If only there was a God to blame ...) Tsunamis may be inevitable; human failure to minimise suffering is not
Race against time as toll nears 150,000 [ The earth shook, the sea rose up ]
• · Boris Johnson: on when it is time to admit gracefully that our number is up The forces of nature are upredicable
• · · A new age of barbarism is upon us ... Administration's legal counsels have been turned into the sort of cynical corporate lawyers who figure out how to make something illegal seem kosher - or at least how to minimize the danger of being held to account. Geneva Conventions and Abu Ghraib
• · · · Onlookers spread word that a senior official had abused a helpless porter. China's 'Haves' Stir the 'Have Nots' to Violence [How many different ways have I been warned not to rock the boat ... Let me count the ways]
William Gladstone observed: We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace...
• · · · · I tried to persuade him ... after the Darwin cyclone not to resume his interupted overseas visit. He looked at me in the eye and said: Comrade if I am going to put up with the f***wits in the Labour Party, I have got to have my trips by John Menadue on his former boss, Gough Whitlam. Treasury enlisted the help of Scotland Yard to try to torpedo secret negotiations by the Whitlam government for a $4 billion loan
Do? Do! All these people who say we have to do this and do that. What we have to do is make sure the trains are working for people, make sure there's a hospital bed when they're sick and there's a school desk for their kids. What you do in NSW isn't visionary, it's necessary.
- Graham Richardson, former ALP senator, March 2000
Just the time to show some resolution By Paola Totaro