Monday, October 31, 2011

Should Jon Corzine go to jail? 

Zero Hedge argues more than a little persuasively that the question needs to be asked and, quite possibly, answered in the affirmative.

Yet another prominent Democratic Wall Streeter hopes that the Obama administration will divert its prosecutorial resources elsewhere.

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Tough guy poem of the evening: "Chicago" 

I am in Chicago for around 48 hours, so it is time for one of the great American poems, Carl Sandburg's "Chicago."

HOG Butcher for the World,
Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it
is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to
kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the
faces of women and children I have seen the marks
of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who
sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer
and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing
so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on
job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the
little soft cities;

Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning
as a savage pitted against the wilderness,
Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with
white teeth,
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young
man laughs,
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has
never lost a battle,
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse.
and under his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of
Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog
Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with
Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

They don't make cities like that any more, at least not in this country. Our loss.

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Random pictures from my Blackberry 

Yeah, I know, cell phone pictures. Lame, I agree, but I am without power at home and therefore encamped at Starbucks charging my cell phone before a long week, so this is what I've got.

From this morning, eagles all festooned with "global warming" and green leaves in the background. You don't see that very often.

Snowy eagles and green leaves

Most tasteful Mini I've ever seen...

Now that's a color scheme!

The opossum what recycles my garbage.

The opossum in my back yard

Peacock's Country Store in Amwell, New Jersey, while on a long bike ride last weekend.

Peacock's Country Store, Amwell, NJ

John Hart's Cave on Lindbergh Road in Hopewell, New Jersey, same bike ride.

John Hart's Cave

Your Blogger, at the start of the LiveStrong "Ride for the Roses" in Dripping Springs, Texas, two weeks ago today.

Me, LiveStrong "Ride for the Roses"

Lance, motivating us.

Lance Armstrong

A little band constructed of actual stuffed squirrels -- yes, taxidermy animation -- in a store on South Congress, Austin. "Keep Austin Weird," indeed.

Squirrel band

The 1917 Standing Liberty Quarter, the only example of boobage in the history of American coinage. It lasted about a year in this form, after which the blue noses forced the addition of chain mail over the right breast.

Standing Liberty Quarter


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Saturday, October 29, 2011

The battle for Floyd of Rosedale: A symbol of the civil rights movement! 

Iowa and Minnesota have just concluded their rivalry game, and (sadly for Your Blogger) the bronze trophy pig Floyd of Rosedale is staying with the Gophers. "Floyd of Rosedale", you ask? The story of the trophy says a great deal about the progressive upper Midwest before the war:

The 1934 football game between Iowa and Minnesota had been filled with controversy over the treatment of Iowa star halfback Ozzie Simmons. Simmons was also one of the few black football players of that era, and several rough hits by the Gophers on Simmons forced him to leave the game multiple times in Minnesota’s 48-12 victory. “What it amounted to was that they were piling on – late hits,” Simmons recalled. “I had bruised ribs...they came at me with knees high, and some of it was pretty obvious."

The following year, Coach Bernie Bierman’s Gophers were 5-0, and Coach Ossie Solem’s Hawkeyes were 4-0-1. Before the 1935 Iowa-Minnesota contest in Iowa City, Bierman received a flood of threatening letters from Iowa fans. He requested and received special police protection for the team when it detrained in Iowa a couple days before the contest.

The day before the game, Iowa Governor Clyde Herring told reporters, "If the officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I'm sure the crowd won't." Herring’s message was clear. “What he was saying was, ‘If you treat Ozzie like you treated him last year, we’re coming out of the stands,’” Simmons said.

The news quickly reached Minnesota. Coach Bierman threatened to break off athletic relations. Minnesota Attorney General Harry Peterson practically accused the Iowa governor of thuggery. "Your remark that the crowd at the Iowa-Minnesota game will not stand for any rough tactics is calculated to incite a riot," said Peterson. "It is a breach of your duty as governor, and evidences an unsportsmanlike, cowardly and contemptible frame of mind."

To lighten the mood, Minnesota Governor Floyd Olson sent a telegram to Governor Herring on game-day morning, which read, "Minnesota folks are excited about your statement about the Iowa crowd lynching the Minnesota football team. I have assured them that you are a law abiding gentleman only trying to get our goat...I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog that Minnesota wins."

The Iowa governor accepted, and word of the bet reached Iowa City as the crowd gathered at the stadium. Things calmed down and the game was untroubled. Minnesota won 13-6, and Iowa star Ozzie Simmons played an injury-free game. Afterwards, the Minnesota players went out of their way to compliment Simmons, and Simmons praised the Gophers for their clean, hard-fought play. Minnesota went on to win their second straight national championship.

Governor Herring obtained an award-winning prize pig which had been donated by Allen Loomis, the owner of Rosedale Farms near Fort Dodge, Iowa. Dubbed Floyd after Minnesota Governor Olson, the pig was the brother of BlueBoy from Will Rogers' movie State Fair. A few days later, Governor Herring collected "Floyd of Rosedale" and personally walked him into Governor Olson’s carpeted office.

Iowa social crusader Virgil Case swore out a criminal warrant in Des Moines against Governor Herring, alleging that the bet violated Iowa gambling laws. Herring jokingly stated that he had retained Governor Olson as his attorney, who argued that it was not a true bet because Herring did not have a chance of winning it. However, an assistant Iowa attorney general convinced a judge to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds because the bet had been made in Minnesota and Iowa City, beyond the local court's jurisdiction. Case also argued that the governors were guilty of violating federal gambling laws because the pig had been placed into interstate commerce when Herring made good on the bet, but the U.S. Attorneys declined to prosecute.

President Franklin Roosevelt's former son-in-law, Curtis Dall, who attended the 1935 game as a guest of the governors, suggested that they name the pig "New Deal." Herring vetoed that proposal.

The early integration, the highly refined sense of justice, the reserved sense of humor, the outrage over gambling, and the ultimate civility: All of these traits define both Iowa and Minnesota even today.

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Kid Gloves comparison #3,583 

Some of you know I work across the street from Zucotti Park, and I take a turn through the park nearly every work day. The sign to the left is not unique - I've seen several copies.

These sorts of signs were featured in so many attempts to discredit Tea Partiers. What do they mean about #OWS? Do intentions trump all?

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The end of American migration, and how the "1%" can help 

There was a big story yesterday, but most of the blogosphere, caught up in shaping the narrative around the Occupy activists, ignored it. Too bad, because it is much more important.

The Census Bureau reported that American mobility -- the condition of people moving around this vast and beautiful land of ours in search of new opportunity -- has stopped like a car door slamming, and is at its lowest level since World War II. The reason given is that Americans are "locked in place," confined by houses they cannot sell -- or will not sell because they do not want to recognize losses that they have already incurred -- and young people are living with their parents.

Any reasonably large employer knows how bad this has become -- we are no longer really a national labor market, because so many otherwise excellent recruits cannot afford to relocate because they cannot sell their houses. The new American immobility is not only bad for our restless national spirit, it is terrible for GDP, and it needs to be fixed.

Separately, Mitt Romney drew rare praise from the Wall Street Journal for speaking the truth about housing and foreclosures.

Campaigning last week in Nevada, the epicenter of the housing bust, Mr. Romney was asked by the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board what he would do about housing and foreclosures. His reply:

"One is, don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up. Let it turn around and come back up. The Obama Administration has slow-walked the foreclosure processes that have long existed, and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang."

Romney is right -- the country will not really recover until housing transactions start to clear at something akin to a natural price. This is easier said than done for many reasons. Many homeowners heard some number for their house's value back in 2006 and thought of their equity as savings, and now feel they have to hang on until they recover their paper profits. Others bought at those levels and will lose most or all of their down payment when they sell. Still others could sell if they could reduce the outstanding debt, but it is no longer a simple matter to negotiate with one's mortgagee.

There is, however, a solution that might increase the velocity in the American housing market, restore the geographic mobility that is arguably our greatest cultural patrimony, and appeal to both Democrats and Republicans.

The Official TigerHawk housing proposal is this: Allow housing losses realized between 2011 and 2015 to be deductible against ordinary income with no limits (or some really high limit) in any tax year through 2021. What about sellers who cannot use the tax deduction (perhaps because it overwhelms their income, or they are part of the 47%)? Allow them to sell those losses, for cash, to individuals, to partnerships of individuals (the pooling of purchasers would create a more efficient market for the losses), and any corporation that hires and relocates the seller.

So, for example, if Joe Doakes, who used to earn $120,000 a year and is now unemployed and therefore earning nothing, bought his house for $800,000 in 2006 and sells it in 2011 for $550,000, his loss is the greater of $250,000 or (if the mortgage exceeds the proceeds) the sum of his down payment and any deficiency he pays the mortgagee. Under the Official TigerHawk proposal, Joe would be able to sell his (say) $250,000 loss to some affluent fellow (or, more likely, a pool of affluent fellows). If Richie Rich pays income taxes at, say, a state and federal marginal rate of 40%, Richie is probably willing to pay 35% -- or around $87,000 -- for Joe's loss. That gets Richie a 14% virtually risk-free return if he uses that loss in the next year, which is a pretty investment in any market. Indeed, if other alternatives suck enough and there is enough demand from One Percenters, prices paid for losses might rise to within a couple of points of the typical marginal rate.

Of course, Joe still eats a loss, as he should, but he gets cash now to help with buying his new (and presumably much cheaper) house across the country where he can actually get a job.

The further advantage of this idea is that it moves money around without the need for a single additional federal bureaucrat. Existing IRS form designers could come up with a fairly straightforward "1099-M" that Richie (or the partnership that he has an interest in) would issue to Joe, thereby tracking both the deduction and the payment.

Of course, liberals will hate this idea because it is a "tax cut for the rich" instead of a subsidy that can be handed out to specific voters by Democrats. That may mean that it needs to be paired with tax increases on the "rich" as part of a broader deficit deal. While that would irritate Republicans, the structural beauty of the scheme is that tax rate increases on the One Percenters would increase the value of the tax deduction, and therefore the cash paid to Joe, who really needs it, all while it eases the blow of the tax increase.

Finally, unlike the tax shelters of old, it does not subsidize economically stupid new construction and therefore does not sew the seeds of the next bubble and crash. Rather, it spreads (and, yes, partially socializes) the losses of the current crash organically, without any need for fraught decisions from banks, politicians, or federal agencies.

Release the hounds in the comments, and pass the post along if you like the idea.

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Now *this* is a Halloween costume! 

From my Facebook feed, moments ago:

Marlboro Boy

It has been shared thousands of times in the last few days, so many of you will have seen it, but I could not risk the chance that some of you might have missed it.

Of course, I officially disapprove, but -- just between us, of course -- I am cracking myself up thinking about how irritating this will be to the nanny-staters.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missing Iraq cash: Never mind! 

Remember all those breathless stories about billions of dollars in cash that had supposedly been lost by the Coalition Provisional Authority on account of Bush administration incompetence? Turns out the (Obama administration) inspector general spoke too soon. As did Wolf Blitzer, Congressman Henry Waxman, and any number of other publicity hounds.

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It is a lot harder to be down when Dow futures are up 200 points. We one-percenters enjoy simple pleasures too! But Zero Hedge says that the Greek credit deal that is the source of all the joy is a Trojan Horse (more or less). It does indeed seem like a serious moral hazard -- if I'm a Portuguese or Spanish voter, why don't I sign up for that?

Angela Merkel seemingly warns of war. War or not, the hard-working Germans, who are the 53% in Europe, are not going to put up with this forever. That said, her claim that if the "Euro fails, Europe fails" is at least a little overwrought. It very much remains to be proved whether one can entirely decouple monetary and fiscal policy, which is the premise behind the Euro. If one cannot, does that mean that "Europe" is doomed?

If Ann were a liberal.

The "Drill Baby Carbon Tax." I think I like it.

We are the 7 billion.

Bloomberg counts business regulations, and concludes that the Bush administration issued more than the Obama administration over the same period of time. When I get a little time, I will explain in detail why this is rank sophistry.

Mitt Romney's finest hour:

A friend of ours quipped recently that Mitt Romney could do his Presidential candidacy a lot of good if he took even a single position that is unpopular in the polls. Well, we can report that he has done that on housing policy, that he's being pummeled for it, and that it may be his finest campaign hour. It also contrasts favorably with the latest temporary, ad hoc and futile housing effort from President Obama.

Campaigning last week in Nevada, the epicenter of the housing bust, Mr. Romney was asked by the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board what he would do about housing and foreclosures. His reply:

"One is, don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up. Let it turn around and come back up. The Obama Administration has slow-walked the foreclosure processes that have long existed, and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang."

Read the whole thing.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Garden State optimism 

A curious finding from the opinion research folks at Fairleigh Dickenson University:

For the first time in a very long time, more New Jersey voters say the state is headed in the right direction than say it’s on the wrong track. According to the most recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind, 46% say that “things in New Jersey are moving in the right direction” compared to 43% who say it’s “off on the wrong track.”

“Statistically speaking we could say that 46-43 is an even split,” said Peter Woolley, director of the poll, “but I think it would be fairer to New Jersey to say it’s a milestone.”

Not since 2004 has the state’s right direction number exceeded the wrong direction number.

Coming as it does in the wake of a broadside attack on public employee unions in an exceedingly Democratic state, that is nothing less than remarkable.

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Been busy -- reporting the quarter, immersing myself in the daily grind of corporate governance, agog at the idiotic way we regulate the preparation and auditing of financial statements, that sort of thing -- but that does not mean I have not been reading. Herewith, my open tabs, which need to be dumped before my browser crashes.

"Never have so few been blamed for so much by so many." Well, except for all the other times that the world blamed the Jews for their own incompetence.

A graphical look at the distribution of wealth, or at least income. Such as it is. Of course, one can never derive "what ought" from "what is." We note that this argument has been going on for some time.

Another example of another institution of "higher learning" standing four square against freedom of speech. This is getting tiresome.

"Occupy Wall Street vs. the Tea Party." Both sides have been filing "comparisons" of the two movements. Lefties emphasize the alleged racism of the Tea Party, with anecdotal videos of alleged encounters they deem offensive, and righties emphasize sheer hair-brained lunacy of the OWS movement's "demands," which are, indeed, hilarious, and available at the link.

And, then, there is the obvious difference in work ethic.

Juan Williams makes a very important point about the current extent of intolerance on both the left and right. As somebody whose positions on abortion, gay marriage, and immigration infuriate both "sides", I completely agree.

The list of Newt Gingrich's various transgressions, many of them against the very ideological purity that Juan Williams decries in the previous link, explained away by another conservative. None of these are reasons not to nominate Newt. Rather, there is not a shred of evidence that he would inspire optimism in Americans who actually produce, which we desperately need right now. He is, however, a creative and out-of-the-box thinker, and I very much hope that the next Republican president makes him Secretary of Health and Human Services so he can wield the vast power vested in that office by Barack Obama's health care reform law. That would be interesting. And hilarious in a schadenfreude way.

Release the hounds.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Even a genius makes mistakes 

Did Steve Jobs die unnecessarily?

When advised so to do, cut out the cancer.

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If You're a Prison Facing Budget Cuts, What Do You Cut Back On? 

Food, apparently.

I have a great idea of how to spend less money on prison. Throw less dudes in there. We spend way too much on prisons and the War on Drugs in this country. If you have to cut back on prisons, let some of the users and nonviolent people go. Keep the gang members and distribution people in.

On a separate note, I'd be a lot more impressed with Rick Perry's execution record if he ACTUALLY executed them. In the words of Eddard Stark, "the one who passes the sentence should swing the sword." It takes quite a bit less moral fortitude to sign a piece of paper.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Morning Prog: LTE - Acid Rain 

Liquid Tension Experiment [aka Dream Theater without a singer (and a different bassist.)]

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Rapture 2.0 

Apparently, today is the day we get destroyed by fire, and the 200 million people (who have ever lived) that can fit in Heaven are there by now. In the event that doesn't happen, I'm pretty sure it will one year and two months from now, so don't be too disappointed.

Edit: To commemorate this momentous day, here is a quote from one of the best video games of the decade, Bioshock, a first-person RPG marinated in Ayn Rand:

"Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow? 'No!' says the man in Washington, 'It belongs to the poor.' 'No!' says the man in the Vatican, 'It belongs to God.' 'No!' says the man in Moscow, 'It belongs to everyone.' I rejected those answers; instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose... Rapture, a city where the artist would not fear the censor, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality, Where the great would not be constrained by the small! And with the sweat of your brow, Rapture can become your city as well."

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seventh Avenue 

I popped out of Penn Station a little after six this evening, and decided that Seventh Avenue looked a lot like October.

Seventh Avenue

And, no, I saw no whores.

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After having forgotten many weeks, I remembered to check out this week's O'Quiz. Oops. I scored a pathetic 4 out of 10, below even the then average score for the week of 4.71. I am obviously spending too much time adding to GDP instead of cruising the internets.

Post your no doubt superior scores in the comments below.

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Occupy this: President Obama's Wall Street fundraising 

Interesting fact of the day:

Despite frosty relations with the titans of Wall Street, President Obama has still managed to raise far more money this year from the financial and banking sector than Mitt Romney or any other Republican presidential candidate, according to new fundraising data...

Obama has brought in more money from employees of banks, hedge funds and other financial service companies than all of the GOP candidates combined, according to a Washington Post analysis of contribution data. (bold emphasis added)


At this point, Wall Streeters really do not like Barack Obama. It has been a long time since I have met one who still actually supports him. But the extent of the pain of Dodd-Frank depends on regulations that have yet to be written by executive branch agencies that report to the White House. The big financial firms know that their future profitability requires that President Obama influence those regulations, and he is exploiting that for all it is worth.

This, loyal readers, is "regulatory capture" in action.

Not that anybody from the "Occupy" movement or the New York Times will look at it that way.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Various Videos of Occupy Wall Street 

Since I think that it'd probably clutter up the blog too much to embed them, here are the links.





Honestly, #Occupy has made me angrier at the police than it has at Wall Street.

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General Motors pisses off the liberals 

Government General Motors has apparently irritated the liberals -- its most important constituency -- with an ad aimed at college students, "Stop Pedaling, Start Driving"! The quotation from the outraged UCLA professor is good comic fun.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Criminalizing fun, in California 

When serving fois gras is a crime, only criminals will serve fois gras.

With its many fiscal and social problems, you might imagine that California legislators have more important things to do than to ban one of the world's most awesome foods. Alas, the WPCE* continues to lower the bar.
*Worst Political Class Ever.

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I suppose John Edwards would say this is symptomatic of "two Americas," but when somebody can make money teaching people how to kayak with their dogs, can things really be all that bad?

Dog kayaking

Looks pretty damned flamboyant to me.

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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Manufacturing factoids 

You would think that the United States no longer manufactures anything, what with all the bleating of politicians and talking heads, most of whom would not know a factory from a country music festival. The facts, however, are quite to the contrary. The United States is the largest manufacturer in the world by some margin. Click here for a ginormous fact-ridden graphic.

It is just that we no longer need very many workers to produce that giant pile of stuff. Same as on farms, where productivity soared in the middle fifty years of the 20th century. (And as on Star Trek, where "synthesizers" produce more or less anything out of energy, but that is beside the point.)

Farm workers once accounted for around 20% of the work force, now they are less than 2%. We absorbed them, eventually. But where will all the displaced factory workers go?

One gets the sense that our sclerotic system of education is not adjusting nearly quickly enough.

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Friday, October 14, 2011

Good captions, eh? 

The Toronto Globe and Mail has a slideshow of celebrity photos with captions that you, our Loyal Readers, are well-advised to read.

CWCID: Mindles.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Caption this: Bumbershoots! 

Of course, the official White House caption reads:

President Barack Obama and President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea participate in the State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House, Oct. 13, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Fortunately, you can do better.


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News from the Garden State: We love Governor Awesome! 

Chris Christie's approval rating has soared among likely voters since he announced he would not run for president, up to 58% in a Quinnipiac University poll, and 55% in a Monthmouth University poll. Also, his longstanding "gender gap" is closing, with larger percentages of women approving of him.

Friendly reminder for those of you who do not stay on top of such things, President Obama's most recent approval rating in New Jersey is 44% (September 29, Fairleigh Dickinson University).

So, in other words, the fat frumpy Republican is running ten points ahead of the thin stylish Democrat in one of the darkest "blue" states in the country. Is there anybody who would have predicted that a couple of years ago?

Regardless, it certainly appears as though Garden Staters are glad that Christie decided to finish the job in Trenton. Perhaps because we are deathly afraid of his successor, pretty much whoever he or she may be.

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More on Chelsea Clinton, celebrity corporate tool 

A nice email in response to the Chelsea Clinton post from earlier in the week:

Your point about Chelsea Clinton becoming a board member was-- as has become your custom-- strong and light-shedding on principles. Just as egregious if not more so are two other examples (one from your alma mater-- sorry!): Peter Orzag and Gene Sperling. Regarding the first, how is it that someone who does not have one iota of banking experience land a job as Vice Chairman of Citibank? Surely the answer has to do with governmental connections, no? At the same time he is a commentator for Bloomberg Business Week. Do you think he has incentives to write objectively about banking or governmental matters in his columnist role?

Regarding the second, the rumor is that Gene Sperling has been paid a substantial amount of money for advising Goldman Sachs on making charitable contributions. If the latter is true, is it not eye-brow raising that in a philanthropy sector full of people who know a lot about charities Goldman would choose Gene Sperling?

Oligarchy does not appeared to be confined to Russia or Latin American countries.

One thing is very clear: Goldman Sachs has a helluva P.R. problem. Rather astonishing, considering how fundamentally successful the firm has been over generations. George Bailey notwithstanding, we usually vilify the incompetent banks, rather than the successful ones.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A question for the Occupiers 

Background: "Strategic" mortgage delinquencies are soaring.

Strategic delinquencies, or mortgages that turn 60 days late after home-price drops wipe out the equity of homeowners who are remaining current on other debt, totaled between about 12,000 and 14,000 a month over the past year among the loans, JPMorgan analysts led by John Sim wrote in a Sept. 30 report.

“The more sophisticated prime and Alt-A borrowers are significantly more likely to choose to go delinquent, even when they appear to have the means to continue paying,” the New York-based analysts said.

The share of strategic delinquencies among the total has risen to about 26 percent to 27 percent from 20 percent a year ago, according to the report.

In my opinion, mortgagors who deliberately do not repay loans they freely entered in to are not "strategic," they are immoral. But that is a long argument for another time. My question for the Occupiers is this: Are rising "strategic" delinquencies just, consistent with your objectives, and perhaps a measure of your success, or are they evidence that at least some of the time borrowers are defrauding banks rather than the other way around?

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Official Avengers Trailer 

Watch it before it's taken down for copyright infringement!

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

We are the 53% 

Photographic messages from those who do the work to those who do not.

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From tonight's debate about the economy, Newt Gringrich proves why he is the most entertaining person in politics and too intemperate to be president:

"If you want to throw people in jail, start with Barney Frank and Chris Dodd."


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In preparation for the GOP debate on the economy... 

I predict there will be a lot of talk about Wall Street. Toward that end, I commend four items from this afternoon.


If the so-called "Volcker Rule" is implemented unchanged from a draft that was leaked last week, it would be negative for bondholders of Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., JPMorgan Chase, and Morgan Stanley, Moody's Investors Service Inc. said Monday.

All these banks have substantial market making operations, and the compliance and reporting burdens that the rule, part of the Dodd-Frank Act, would impose, and uncertainties in how it would be applied "are likely to diminish the flexibility and profitability of banks' valuable market-making operations and place them at a competitive disadvantage," Moody's said.

While the Volcker Rule's restrictions on true proprietary trading, hedge fund and private equity investing by banks are positive for bondholders, its "complex restrictions on market-making and hedging" are "credit negative," Moody's analyst Peter Nerby said a note published Monday.

U.S. regulators are seeking comment on proposed rules that would bar deposit-taking banks from engaging in proprietary trading for their own accounts and from owning or sponsoring hedge funds or private-equity funds.

The New York state comptroller expects Wall Street to lose 10,000 jobs by the end of 2012.

The job losses are projected to occur in New York City's securities industry from now through December, 2012, according to Eric Sumberg, press spokesman for state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.

"It now seems likely that profits will fall sharply, job losses will continue, and bonuses will be smaller than last year," DiNapoli said in a press release. "These developments will have a rippling effect through the economy and adversely impact state and city tax collections."

Goldman Layoffs May Be Only Path to Profit

Not saying the regulation isn't necessary. Only that it comes at a cost.

Release the hounds.

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Chelsea Clinton, corporate tool 

The Board Blog notices that public company IAC/Interactive Corp has named 31 year-old Chelsea Clinton to its board. The blog delicately asks whether Ms. Clinton is a qualified "independent" director or a "celebrity". The answer seems obvious to me.

My question: Where are the governance ninnies that normally emerge to torture actually experienced directors over their qualifications to assert genuine oversight of management?

More to the point, Clinton's attractiveness as a director is a function of the political clout of her parents, suggesting precisely the unholy alliance between corporate America and government that both the Tea Party and the "Occupy" mob claim they oppose. Where is the outrage?

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Regulation watch 

I offer without comment -- you think I'm stupid? -- a widely-circulated op-ed by Scott Gottlieb, former deputy commissioner of the United States Food and Drug Administration. Nut graffs:

This is an all too familiar story, the FDA impeding useful innovations in the U.S. Entrepreneurs here are forced to test promising medical devices in costly animal studies for years before they can advance their products into clinical trials. When clinical studies get started, the FDA is asking for longer and larger trials that increasingly mirror hurdles proposed for new drugs.

In response, American device makers are moving their business overseas. Between 2004 and 2010, more than half of all innovative devices were first approved in Europe. Because more devices now launch in Europe, companies increasingly study the products there. In 2004, 86.9% of all medical-device studies listed in www.clinicaltrials.gov were being carried out in the U.S. By 2009, only 45% of clinical trials were run here.


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Balls you have to push around in a wheel barrow 

OK, I stole that line from Bill Hicks. Get over it.

But it applies in this case: "Al-Qaeda joins those questioning legality of U.S. killing of citizen Anwar al-Awlaki."

Chutz. Pah.

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According to at least one account, "Occupy Wall Street" has become something of a lesson in collectivism. Although not the sort intended by the protesters.

“They want to take showers, want to wash up and use the toilet paper to dry up. It becomes … you gotta have one person assigned just to clean the bathrooms,” said Steve Zamfotis, manager of “Charley’s” restaurant.

Zamfotis, who runs a pizza shop directly across the street from Zuccotti Park, said he has to stand guard at the door — just to keep protesters out.

“They expect everything, everything for free, nothing to pay,” Zamfotis said.

Meanwhile, the protesters are starting to notice folks taking advantage of the demonstration by grabbing some of the free food and clothes that have been made available in Zuccotti Park.

“The tourists take all the food, and the hipsters take all the clothes,” said one demonstrator.

Sheesh. Haven't any of these people heard of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need"?

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"Jobs": More employment data than your limited brains can possibly comprehend 

At The Big Picture, a massive round-up of interesting charts about employment and wage trends going back decades. Yes, Virginia and, er, Washington, this time it is different.

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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Edward Jay Epstein and Hollywood's demonization of business 

In tomorrow's WSJ, Edward Jay Epstein discusses Hollywood's attitude toward business, the default villain in its ongoing morality play. All part of a long piece.

It is time for that proportion of "the 1%" that is not self-hating -- as most Hollywood players are -- to respond.

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Steve Jobs and the abortion argument 

Some of the conservatives on my Facebook feed are passing around this article, which notes that the biological mother of Steve Jobs chose to give him up for adoption, rather than to abort her pregnancy. The assertion, or at least implication, is that we cannot know what greatness we lose when we abort a fetus.

Of course, there is the usual back and forth about whether or not it is in good taste to make this point so soon after Jobs' death (the original article was written before he died, but the people who are posting it are certainly open to the criticism). For my part, if the last decade has taught us anything, it is that we are well beyond worrying about whether it is ever "too soon" to make a political point about somebody's death.

I do, however, think that it is extremely unwise for opponents of lawful abortion to make utilitarian arguments against the practice, and that, after all, is what this is. First, the utilitarian arguments in favor of lawful abortion might well prevail over those against. What if it is true (at least at the margin) that abortion has led to a lower crime rate? Perhaps that is worth the risk that we will occasionally lose the Steve Jobs. Second (and more troubling), the utilitarian argument against abortion essentially admits that the rightness or wrongness of abortion is merely a function of our preferences -- do we want more people who might do great things, or not? -- rather than objective right and wrong. When the pro-life movement goes utilitarian, it is playing on the pro-choice home field. That is not smart.

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Accountability, then and now 

'Nuf said.

Accountability, then and now

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Eric Holder's Rich tradition of lying 

Andy McCarthy reviews Eric Holder's longstanding problems with memory and truth.

The country's in the very best of hands.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Hollywood Republicans 

A list, with pictures, of the small but happy band of "Hollywood Republicans." Many are not surprising, but I'm going to admit that I had no clue that Adam Sandler swings to the right.

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Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Texas drought in comparative pictures 

By accident, I ended up with virtually identical pictures of Barton Creek, which -- in theory -- flows through Austin, one set taken almost exactly on the anniversary of the first.

Here is Barton Creek, from a spot on the Greenbelt, in October 2010:

Barton Creek, October 2010

Barton Creek, October 2010

Here are the same views, respectively, in October 2011:

Barton Creek, October 2011

Barton Creek, October 2011

Central Texas need a helluva lot of rain just to get back to normal.

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Occupy Wall Street 

I wanted to see what you guys thought of this thing. I'm not sure what exactly my opinion of their grievances are, but I admire the act of activism, which is just so much better than apathy. I've been checking a few newspaper websites about this thing, but they only really describe the number of people who have been arrested (around 800 so far? 700 got arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday) and not the size of the protest itself.

While I think that the protests are vague, and they don't list any real demands, maybe it'll be enough to shift public opinion, or at least get them off the couch on Election Day.

Anyway, Release The Hounds!

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