Archive for February, 2012

Daily Glimpse February 29, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Light Blogging Today
    Between the dental work yesterday and a deadline assignment at work today, time’s going to be tight.
  • Energy Meets The Invisible Hand
    Yes, it really does work: This is because gas prices are low, and oil prices are high.  We now have about 3x as many oil-producing rigs as we did at the 2008 peak.
  • Win The Class Warfare Debate On The Specifics
    Daniel J. Mitchell has the specifics: o More than two-to-one support for personal retirement accounts. o Recognition that big government is the greatest danger to America’s future. o An increasingly negative view of the federal government. o More than eight-to-one support for less spending rather than higher taxes. o Strong support for bureaucrat layoffs and/or entitlement reforms instead of higher [...]
  • Senator Schumer Prefers Conflict Oil To Canadian Oil
    Presses Clinton to pressure Saudis: “While Iran plays games with oil production to punish the international community for holding them accountable for their rush to develop nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia has the capacity to blunt Iran’s influence by increasing its production levels to capacity,” said Schumer. “If there is one thing that the United States [...]
  • Non-Territorial Corporate Taxes
    Apples-to-Apples, it’s not any better: Then again, maybe the best rate really is 0: Corporate power is derived only weakly from profits, which is what we tax.  It is much more strongly derived from the role of corporate executives as employers, as buyers of products from other people and firms, and their role as sellers to [...]
  • Buying Your Freedom From You With Your Own Money
    Charticle: How Obama Bought House Votes:  
  • Liberals Decide They Don’t Like Propaganda
    At least, that’s what many left movie reviewers are calling, “Act of Valor“: Ms. Hornaday’s article contains a number of howlers–I love her reference to “the Obama era of surgical warfare”–but she was far from the only one to float the idea that Act of Valor is propaganda. Other liberals have called the movie a poor act of [...]
  • If Microfinance Were Easy, Everyone Would Be Doing It
    SKS finds out lending money to small companies is a hard way to make a living: “Professor Yunus was right,” Mr. Akula said, referring to Muhammad Yunus, the Grameen Bank founder, economist and a frequent critic of Mr. Akula and others who tried to turn microfinance into a for-profit industry. “Bringing private capital into social [...]
  • Santorum Just Trying To Win
    It’s Michigan’s rules, not Santorum’s: If the primaries are open, doesn’t it mean everyone has a right to play the political game any way they want? That’s built into the open primary system, adopted by the people of the state, democratically. You can base your vote on any ground that you like. You don’t have [...]

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Daily Glimpse February 28, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Great Debates: Unlimited Liability Banking
    Bankers then and now: Given the growth of unlimited liability banking in the past and the plethora of Americans living lives of quiet desperation in the present, I suspect that the risks of unlimited liability banking could in fact attract many, many small lenders whose initial capital may be little more than significant equity in [...]
  • World Bank To China: Platforms, Not Products
    From its China 2030 Report: As an economy approaches the technology frontier and exhausts the potential for acquiring and applying technology from abroad, the role of the government and its relationship to markets and the private sector need to change fundamentally. While providing relatively fewer “tangible” public goods and services directly, the government will need [...]
  • Mining Google Book For Cultural Data
    The Noah Effect and the Joseph Effect in what people are writing about.
  • The Problem of Collateral
    From Synthetic Assets: Regulators are failing to distinguish between what is optimal for the individual bank and what is optimal for society.   Liquid assets are supposedly “safe” – but for the problem that liquidity itself is inherently ephemeral.  How precisely do the regulators imagine that collateral posted by a systemically important financial institution (SIFI) is [...]
  • The Innovator’s Blindspot
    Even Your Best Ideas Will Fail If Your Partners Don’t Innovate Too: The companies understood how their success depends on meeting the needs of their end customers, delivering great innovation, and beating the competition. But all three fell victim to the innovator’s blind spot: failing to see how their success also depended on partners who [...]
  • When Policy Failures Gang Up
    Walter Russell Mead: VM thinks that hunkering down is the least bad option. We want the war to end as much as anybody, but you don’t get peace in a situation like this by making everyone think you are desperate for peace and on the brink of psychological if not military defeat. And we think [...]
  • Higher Ed Bubble Dipping
    From the Daily Camera: The University of Colorado filled three key administrative posts — including the Boulder campus’s chief financial officer — with retirees who are limited to working 140 days a year, but who receive nearly a full salary from the university plus pension payments from the state retirement fund. For example, Ric Porreca, [...]
  • The Revolution Always Eats Its Own
    Or at least keeps them from working.  How the fringe Socialist Workers Party sunk a perfectly good job-training and placement program: What went wrong for Tesco was that it fell foul of stipulations surrounding benefit payments which were beyond the company’s control. Tesco were pilloried for not paying a wage, but government rules actually prevent [...]
  • From Hume to Woodford…and Back to Hume?
    How much monetary stimulus is the right amount? Mr. NGDP Targeting himself answers.
  • What Research Says About School Choice
    Charters, Vouchers: Good for the students, good for the public schools affected. Among voucher programs, these studies consistently find that vouchers are associated with improved test scores in the affected public schools. The size of the effect in these studies varies from modest to large. No study has found a negative impact. Fewer studies have examined the competitive effects [...]
  • Paint-By-Numbers Public Key Encryption
    It’s as easy as Red, Green, Blue! Really!
  • The Eternal Triangle: Israel-Iran-India Edition
    India Hiding the Truth?  I think the article underplays the longstanding historical ties between India and Iran, back to when Iran wasn’t a regional and national troublemaker.  Which was pretty much any time before 1979. That said, while the Israeli press will report what it reports, there’s no particular reason for the Israeli government to [...]

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Daily Glimpse February 27, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Pals to Egypt, Israel: Let’s You And Him Fight
    Strategy Page: If Egypt went to war with Israel, the Palestinians would benefit. Obviously, these folks have ignored the lessons of history. If the Egyptian army goes after Israel, the Egyptians will be defeated. Gaza, caught in the middle, will be seriously damaged. But all that would be declared another Palestinian victory, and that’s what [...]
  • Safire Channeled Nixon. Ledeen Channels Angleton…
    Spengler channels Richelieu.  With a nice Chelm reference at the end.
  • China Leaves Krugman, Friedman Out On A Limb
    Walter Russell Mead: In particular the report calls for a shift away from large state owned enterprises to private firms if the economy is to continue to grow. This will come as a profound shock to so many in the developing world and even in the US who think that the Chinese have discovered a [...]
  • Extend And Pretend Coming To An End
    Zerohedge.  I think he goes wildly over the top, especially at the end.  And I don’t think Armageddon is nigh.  But the numbers are of concern, and his basic point is worth remembering – a lot of these commercial real estate loans are still heavily-leveraged, and we’re operating with a lot less margin, making a [...]
  • Teller Reveals His Secrets
    The neuroscience of magic: 2. Make the secret a lot more trouble than the trick seems worth. You will be fooled by a trick if it involves more time, money and practice than you (or any other sane onlooker) would be willing to invest. My partner, Penn, and I once produced 500 live cockroaches from [...]
  • AP IMPACT: Lender’s own probe links it to suicides
    I thought this sort of thing only happened in grubby capitalist assembly plants like Apple’s in China.  Who knew that trendy lefty ideas could be infected by it, too? More than 200 poor, debt-ridden residents of Andhra Pradesh killed themselves in late 2010, according to media reports compiled by the government of the south Indian [...]
  • Iraq’s Lesson for Iran
    Hoping we won’t call their bluff.
  • Chief Justice: Iowa Supreme Court Stronger After 2010 Ousters
    Maybe: “It was quite destructive in many ways,” Cady said during a taping of the Iowa Public Television program “Iowa Press.” “We got through it. It has made us much stronger, and our resolve is strong.” Cady said the justices have tried to make their work more visible by hearing cases throughout Iowa, which is [...]
  • India’s Global Image: Overseas Investors Tired Of The Unbridled Corruption
    This is one area where India really is an outlier in the Anglosphere. So, if we leave the foreign investment in markets out of the big picture for now, then the answer is no, no foreign investor of the serious kind is very concerned about India’s macroeconomics at the moment. Cutting deficits and balancing budgets [...]
  • Concerning Those Burned Qu’rans At Bagram Air Base
    Captain’s Journal: A second official said that local religious leaders who came to look at the damaged material as part of an investigation into the incident were “shocked by what they saw.” Pages of the Korans contained many handwritten messages and in some cases printed notes were found inside the books. This official described the [...]
  • Democratic Governors Discuss Bypassing Congress With Obama
    According to The Hill: Gov. Jack Markell, the Democratic governor of Delaware and the vice chairman of the National Governors Association, told The Hill that the meeting was “very good” and said many of the governors were responsive to ideas about bypassing Congress. “There was a sense that none of us should wait, we can’t [...]
  • Invest, Innovate, Educate
    Walter Russell Mead on why primary and secondary education have been so resistant to innovation, and what to do about it: Unfortunately, venture capitalists are staying out of the K-12 education market in droves. The world’s central bankers are printing money as fast as they can, there is more capital floating around the world system [...]
  • Boko Haram Suicide Bomber Attacks Nigerian Church
    I’m sure we’ll see a lot about the reprisals, though.
  • Israel To Sell Weapons To Azerbaijan
    Via the new online publication, The Times Of Israel: Israel has agreed to sell Azerbaijan military technology, including drone airplanes, in a deal reportedly worth $1.4 billion. The Caucasus nation, which borders Iran, will receive planes, drones and an advanced missile defense system. The country has recently found itself caught between Israel and Iran as [...]
  • “Gain Peace?” Not As Long As CAIR Is Involved
    Abigail Esman has the scoop: In itself, this is fully understandable and would be laudable — were it not for the fact that among the schools of Islam Gain Peace defends is one which stands against American democratic values. Worse, the organization the Times cites (again) on the issue — and who supports the Gain [...]
  • The Spread Of Dependency
    The NY Times has an interactive graph. The unemployment benefits measure is more cyclical, and 2009 happened to correspond to recovery from a recession, which none of the previous years (1969, 1979, 1989, 1999) did.  But the rest of the chart is both illuminating and depressing.  Colorado remains stunningly less dependent than other places, but [...]
  • These Are The PIIGS; These Are The PIIGS On Drugs
    It’s not just banks who can’t collect: This whole story blows me away. I’m not surprised that the bankrupt PIGS are late payers. But three-years? That’s ridiculous. If the PIGS are stiffing drug companies, who else are they stiffing? Are they paying for the oil they use? Food? How big are these trade IOUs?  
  • Buffett 2012 Annual Letter
    Ira Stoll has some questions: Third, Mr. Buffett announces in a backhanded way that the Berkshire board has chosen his successor. But he doesn’t name the successor, only giving clues to trigger a kind of cutesy guessing game: “Your Board is equally enthusiastic about my successor as CEO, an individual to whom they have had [...]
  • Fairness and Freedom
    Tyler Cowen reads David Hackett Fisher’s latest. From his comments, I suppose admirers of each will find their biases confirmed; DHF is one of my favorite serious historical writers, and while he tends towards the left, he rarely picks and chooses freely or unfairly.
  • The Insanity of Health Insurance
    Employers are just the wrong conduit: It is insane that we get our health care from our employers. That happens because we have given a tax advantage to in-kind compensation such as health care. It’s a horrible idea and it leads people to complain about our employers deciding what health care we can receive. Our [...]
  • Spending on Energy in 2011 Was Lowest Since ’98
    People paying less, and also driving less: The downward trend in both series would also suggest that higher gasoline prices in 2012 would have less of an impact on consumers than in past years. Maybe, but I think people are already cutting vacation driving, and seeing that as a cut in their standard of living. [...]
  • The Renaissance of American Manufacturing
    and The New Reallocation of Global Manufacturing Hal Sirkin of the Boston Consulting Group discusses the rebirth of manufacturing that is underway in the U.S., partly because of the erosion of China’s manufacturing cost advantages, especially for wages, which has started bringing manufacturing production and jobs back to the U.S., reversing a decade-long trend of outsourcing [...]
  • Oscar Night II
    Hollywood Cinemetrics, 2007-2011

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Exactly Whom Is Our Secretary of State Representing?

From the Washington Examiner’s Joel Gehrke, a report on Attempted Public Diplomacy by our Secretary of State the other day in Tunisia:

QUESTION: My name is Ivan. After the electoral campaign starts in the United States – it started some time ago – we noticed here in Tunisia that most of the candidates from the both sides run towards the Zionist lobbies to get their support in the States. And afterwards, once they are elected, they come to show their support for countries like Tunisia and Egypt for a common Tunisian or a common Arab citizen. How would you reassure and gain his trust again once given the fact that you are supporting his enemy as well at the same time?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, let me say you will learn as your democracy develops that a lot of things are said in political campaigns that should not bear a lot of attention. There are comments made that certainly don’t reflect the United States, don’t reflect our foreign policy, don’t reflect who we are as a people. I mean, if you go to the United States, you see mosques everywhere, you see Muslim Americans everywhere. That’s the fact. So I would not pay attention to the rhetoric.

Secondly, I would say watch what President Obama says and does. He’s our President. He represents all of the United States, and he will be reelected President, so I think that that will be a very clear signal to the entire world as to what our values are and what our President believes. So I think it’s a fair question because I know that – I sometimes am a little surprised that people around the world pay more attention to what is said in our political campaigns than most Americans, say, are paying attention. So I think you have to shut out some of the rhetoric and just focus on what we’re doing and what we stand for, and particularly what our President represents.

The first problem, the one where she acts as a partisan advocate for the President, she’s already admitted was a mistake: “My enthusiasm for the President got a little out of hand.”  I’ll say.  I realize the days of politics stopping at the shoreline are long gone, and have been at least since Ted Kennedy tried to cut a deal with the Soviets to defeat Ronald Reagan in the Presidential elections, and Jimmy Carter circulated a letter begging UN Security Council members to vote against President George H.W. Bush’s efforts to liberate Kuwait.  Nevertheless, I was operating under the quaint assumption that the Secretary of State represented the country, not her political party, when she traveled overseas.

The second problem is much more substantive.  Tunisians might well understand a personal loyalty from the Secretary of State, they’re more likely to attach significance to foreign policy pronouncements.  Her answer, roughly translated into English, is, “Don’t worry about what gets said in the campaign.  There’s a lot of pandering to small, specific lobbies.  We’re not really all that supportive of Israel.”

If she felt the need to be non-committal, there are about 100 ways she could have done that.  But what about an answer that defends not only the interests of the United States, but the good sense of the American people, and the interests of our allies, as well?  Something like:

Well, you have to understand that the American people as a whole, not just particular lobbies, feel a sympathy towards Israel, for its democracy, and its success in defending itself against enemies.  Naturally, we hope that that era is coming to an end, and Israel and her neighbors can live in peace.  but

Rather than defining your interests in opposition to Israel, perhaps you should look to them as a model in some ways.  It, too, is a small country, whose primary resource is the creativity of its own diverse population.  After all, your question implies an interest in our own democratic process for how we select leaders and how that affects policy, so it’s clear that Tunisians would like to develop a stable, lasting free system of their own.  And I think the Arab Spring could learn a lot from a close neighbor who also wants close relations.

I realize it’s much more fun to engage in “Smart Diplomacy,” but how about mastering actual, basic diplomacy first.  That starts with not accepting all the premises of a hostile question.

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Daily Glimpse February 26, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • About That Pennsylvania Assault Case
    Volokh has been all over the story. It turns out the judge wasn’t a Muslim convert, and Volokh doesn’t think anti-Sharia legislation would have helped in this case.  Which still doesn’t mean the disposition was correct (it wasn’t) or that the judge had any business berating the victim (he didn’t).  Assault is still assault, and [...]
  • Dr. Edgerton, Call Your Office
    Jet streams, under the microscope.
  • Fixing America’s Freeways
    The private sector is reinventing our expressways, one lane at a time: Why does congestion keep getting worse, and what can be done about it? While there is no single answer to either question, a principal reason for ever worse congestion is that the demand for road space (especially on urban freeways) greatly exceeds the [...]
  • Planetary Similarity Scores
    Gallery: The Six Places On Earth That Most Resemble Other Planets
  • The State Of The Anglosphere
    If anything, I think they authors understate the percentage of world GDP the Anglosphere has, but that’s really quibbling: It’s indisputable that the Anglosphere no longer enjoys the overwhelming global dominance that it once had. What was once a globe-spanning empire is now best understood as a union of language, culture, and shared values. Yet [...]
  • European Democracy is On The Edge Of The Abyss
    Well, it’s not like the EU itself is all that democratic: “Opinion polls suggest that the two parties in the coalition, which currently dominate parliament, are facing huge losses at the next election, scheduled for April. Parties on the far left and far right, which are set to make big gains, are opposed to the [...]
  • From The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    “Evidence that the states’ efforts [via expanding CHIP eligibility] reduced the number of uninsured children was somewhat ambiguous.” We already knew that fewer than the expected number of people were using the health exchanges.
  • Nanotherapy for Some Nasty Cancers?
    Study magnetizes carbon nanoparticles for cancer therapy: “Because these nanoparticles are magnetic, we can use an external magnetic field to focus them on the cancer cells. Then, we use a low-power laser to heat them and destroy the cells beneath,” Koymen said. “Since only the carbon nanoparticles are affected by the laser, the method leaves [...]
  • Might Styles of Fighting Over MMA
    Business tries to fight one kind of battle, the unions are playing a completely different game: So why do unions continue to attack the UFC and MMA’s legalization in New York?  The clear message:  ‘If you own a company whose employees elect not to unionize (e.g., Station Casinos), we will come after you, your management, [...]
  • But Can We Keep Donald Pleasance On Board?
    Video: Wireless Devices Swim Through Your Bloodstream and Fix You Up, ‘Fantastic Voyage’ Style
  • Pinball Pioneer Steve Kordek…
    …Dies At 100
  • US Pensions Begin To Get Foreign Attention
    Walter Russell Mead notices: Americans should avoid any feelings of smug superiority about the problems in Europe’s periphery. It’s time for the U.S. to be worried about its own peripheries, according to the Financial Times…, [in a] report about underfunded pensions and state and local debt in the same terms it has used for Greece [...]
  • Britain’s Quiet Revolution
    From Prospect magazine: But a huge majority has lost faith, as Peter Kellner, president of YouGov, puts it, that politicians are giving the right money to the right people for the right reasons. People are suspicious of illegal immigrants, of single parents, and in a cascade of pejoratives, of “scroungers,” the “feckless” and the “workshy.” [...]
  • Housing Recovery?
    Zero-Hedge argues that we’re really just pouring money into a sinkhole right now: However, back on earth, where things really matter, housing is a major contributing component to long term economic recovery.  Each dollar sunk into new housing construction has a large multiplier effect back on the overall economy.  No economic recovery in history has [...]
  • Oscar Night!
    Hollywood Star Map – Golden Age Celebrities (1937)          
  • Miracle 1981
    How Reagan stopped America’s decline: That acceleration relative to the rest of the field looks like Big Brown coming out of the turn at the Preakness.  Go find it on YouTube, and you’ll see what I mean.
  • The Laffer Curve, Over The Pond
    Tax more, get less. Speaking of higher taxes (and President Obama always does), there’s news from once fair Britannia. Preliminary figures out this week show that Britain’s 50% top marginal income-tax rate may have reduced tax revenue from top earners by as much as 5%, compared to the old 40% top rate. Tax revenue from [...]
  • Service On Government Panels Pays Off
    Maybe Jeff Immelt knew what he was doing when he let Obama ignore all his job recommendations, after all: By the way, the Obama Administration has criticized oil companies like Exxon-Mobil for earning excessive profits and getting overly large tax breaks.  In 2010, Exxon paid a whopping 40.7% of its income in taxes ($21.6 billion [...]
  • More On Wage Stagnation
    Other ways in which real wage increases have been understated: Ken grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and worked 7 days a week from a fairly early age: milking cows, etc. This was in all types of weather: cold, heat, rain, snow, etc. But now, he pointed out, so many jobs are so much [...]
  • Free Enterprise Is A Right, Not A Privilege
    Someone might want to remind our Treasury Secretary of that: All Americans are blessed to live in a country with the freedom to dream big and the opportunity to achieve those dreams. Our free enterprise system isn’t a “privilege,” it’s a right, as much of a right as freedom of speech and freedom of association. [...]
  • Inequalities in the Corporate Tax Code
    Some industries are more equal than others: I am at a loss to understand why the tax system should favor utilities, mining (which includes energy extraction), and leasing, while hitting services, construction, and wholesale and retail trade so hard. Why should the average retailer pay 31%, while the average utility pays only 14%? These disparities [...]
  • Manufacturing Renaissance Spreads To…Bulgaria?
    The Chinese are building cars now in the former Warsaw Pact: Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov on Tuesday attended the opening of Great Wall’s new factory in the northern Bulgarian village of Bahovitsa. The plant is to be operated jointly by Great Wall and the Bulgarian firm Litex Motors. It pays to be where your [...]
  • Trucking Rules Caught in Pincer Movement
    Hey, the whole, “enemy of my enemy is my friend” isn’t just about Iran.  The ATA has been trying to fight these rules for months.  While the safety groups think they don’t go far enough, there’s really a lot of evidence they’re unnecessary, unless you’re trying to get the trucker to unionize…
  • Obama’s Campaign Opens Fire–on the Kochs
    The magnificent obsession continues: I know it’s customary to whine about the permanent election, but I confess, I’m excited to see this one unfold. Sure, it was historic to have our first black president–not to mention the first president who was a professor at my alma mater–and I don’t mean to take anything away from [...]

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The Kochs Respond

As President Obama’s campaign sees fit to attack private citizens for voicing their opinions, those private citizens have seen fit to respond.  Please read the whole thing.

Mr. Jim Messina
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

Dear Mr. Messina:

Because every American has the right to take part in the public discourse on matters that affect the future of our country, I feel compelled to respond directly about a fundraising letter you sent out on February 24 denouncing Koch. It is both surprising and disappointing that the President would allow his re-election team to send such an irresponsible and misleading letter to his supporters.

For example, it is false that our “business model is to make millions by jacking up prices at the pump.” Our business vision begins and ends with value creation — real, long-term value for customers and for society. We own no gasoline stations and the part of our business you allude to, oil and gas refining, actually lowers the price of gasoline by increasing supply. Either you simply misunderstand the way commodities markets work or you are misleading your supporters and the rest of the American people.

Contrary to your assertion that we have “committed $200 million to try to destroy President Obama,” we have stated publicly and repeatedly since last November that we have never made any such claim or pledge. It is hard to imagine that the campaign is unaware of our publicly stated position on that point. Similarly, Americans for Prosperity is not simply “funded by the Koch brothers,” as you state — rather it has tens of thousands of members and contributors from across the country and from all walks of life. Further, our opposition to this President’s policies is not based on partisan politics but on principles. Charles Koch and David Koch have been outspoken advocates of the free-market for over 50 years and they have consistently opposed policies that frustrate or subvert free markets, regardless of whether a Democrat or a Republican was President.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Daily Glimpse February 25, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • ACC Basketball Playing To Less-Than-Full Houses?
    Seems so: Across the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference this season, the story is much the same. Average home attendance at men’s games, which has fallen in each of the past four seasons, is (as of Monday) tracking 13.5% below the final average from 2006. At Duke, the famously raucous student fans known as “Cameron Crazies” [...]
  • A library has a personality, a temperament…
    Leon Wieseltier: …even those books that I have not yet opened—unread books are an essential element of a library—were acquired for the further cultivation of a particular admixture of interests and beliefs, and every one of them will have its hour. The knowledge that qualifies one to be one’s own librarian is partly self-knowledge. The [...]
  • Return Of The Credibility Gap
    Via Washington Examiner: “Just pouring sugar on the thing to create a few temporary jobs is going to get us no place,” one Democratic-leaning focus group participant told Democracy Corps. A Republican-leaning particpant was even harsher: “I don’t see the kind of jobs numbers that I hear about from him.” If inflation starts to show [...]
  • Syria, From The Man On Whom Nothing Was Lost
    Ambassador Charles Hill: Third, most importantly and urgently, to recognize that the Iranian quasi-empire must be deconstructed and its regime changed.  Syria is the linchpin, for if Assad’s regime can be taken down and replaced by a democratizing process along the current Tunisian mode, then Iran’s imperial archipelago can be broken, with Hezbollah next in [...]
  • Platforms, Not Products
    In Land, Straight Lines Make For Square Deals: To carry out this policy required hiring thousands of land surveyors over the next 100 years to mark off ranges and townships and 640-acre plots, along with 320-acre half sections, and 160-acre quarter sections. It was a huge and costly undertaking, but the rectangular survey had dramatic [...]
  • Why Can’t the MSM Connect the Economic Dots?
    More a set of examples than an explanation, but it’s still a good question: Politicians and journalists sure seem to believe that voters have the attention span and reasoning ability of a two-year old. Convinced that we are unable to hold multiple concepts in our minds long enough to judge how they fit together, you [...]

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Daily Glimpse February 24, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • Parkitecture
    Mission 66 and the Everglades National Park.
  • “Plan B” Pharmacy Mandate Religious Exemption
    Becket Fund wins a significant victory: The Board of Pharmacy’s 2007 rules are not neutral, and they are not generally applicable. They were designed instead to force religious objectors to dispense Plan B, and they sought to do so despite the fact that refusals to deliver for all sorts of secular reasons were permitted. The [...]
  • Frivolous Friday: Inner Loop, Outer Loop
    Very cool animated graphic of DC Beltway traffic flow, hour by hour.
  • Frivolous Friday: Trying to Bring Back the Pocket Watch
    Beautiful, but Ergonomically Challenging. I have my grandfather’s old pocket watch, and it takes about 1/10 the effort to understand. Talk about (almost literally!) reinventing the wheel.
  • Gas Prices Are Like A Box Of Chocolates
    From the WSJ: It’s true enough that oil prices can’t be commanded from the Oval Office, so in that sense Mr. Obama’s disavowal of blame is a rare show of humility in the face of market forces. Would that he showed similar modesty in trying to command the tides of home prices, car sales (“cash [...]
  • Mandarin Space Warfare
    The surprise won’t be that they want to, it will be that they can: For example, China’s Beidou global positioning system satellites will be available for regional users this year and globally by 2020, he said. The satellites will provide foreign militaries with precision targeting capabilities through purchases of Chinese Beidou receivers and services. The [...]
  • Rick Santorum, Fiscal Conservative
    No, really: NTU’s ratings, however, are different. They’re based entirely on the perceived effects of members’ votes on both the immediate and future size of the federal budget. Not surprisingly, Paul’s career GPA from NTU reflects his unsurpassed reputation for fiscal conservatism — it’s a perfect 4.00. Yet Santorum’s 3.66 GPA from NTU isn’t too far behind, [...]
  • Nanoantennas Create Tunable Color Filter
    Metal nanoparticles shine with customizable color Kenneth Crozier, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and colleagues have engineered the size and shape of metal nanoparticles so that the color they appear strongly depends on the polarization of the light illuminating them. The nanoparticles can be regarded [...]
  • Koran Burning
    This wasn’t smart, but it wasn’t done maliciously or capriciously: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said it was “deeply unfortunate” that the U.S. military had burned several copies of the Koran with a batch of garbage in Afghanistan. The military burned the Korans unintentionally; they’d been taken out of military library after the military [...]
  • IRS Harassing the Tea Party?
    Coyote Blog: Sure seems like it.   Here is the list of questions the Ohio Tea Party has asked as part of their application, which should be routine, for 501(c)4 status.  The Virginia Tea Party had similar requests, including apparently a demand for donor lists and confidential materials which the IRS says will be made [...]

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Daily Glimpse February 23, 2012

Daily Links From Glimpse From a Height

  • US Corporations Actually Do Pay Too Much
    It’s not just the statutory rate that’s too high, it’s also the effective rate. @JimPethokoukis
  • Vehicle Miles Up In December
    But Calculated Risk is more optimistic about the effect of high gas prices than I am.  Sudden increases don’t really leave time for gradual or even moderate increases in efficiency.
  • Businessmen Who Don’t Understand Economics
    ICS Chairman Polemis Calls For Shipbuilding Moratorium: In the current global climate of “massive uncertainty,” with rates in all key segments highly volatile and barely economic for operators, he called for restraint from owners and intervention from governments. The global container fleet is set to grow 8.3 percent, or 1.28 million 20-foot equivalent unit, this [...]
  • Redefining the Kilogram
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  • Richelieu, World Series of Poker Champion
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  • Iran May Need To Dig Deeper
    The New Israeli Bunker Buster: February 21, 2012: Israel has developed a new 500 pound (227 kg) penetrator bomb, the MPR-500. The MPR-500 can smash through more than a meter (39 inches) of concrete, or four 200mm (8 inch) concrete barriers (floors or bunker walls) and then detonate. When the MPR-500 explodes, it releases 26,000 [...]
  • Who Dat?
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  • KXL, Win-Win-Win
    From Walter Russell Mead: By forcing American refineries in the Gulf to import more expensive Brent crude rather than the cheaper West Texas Intermediate variety, the status quo is frittering away national wealth and GDP. I guess that makes that natural gas divorce even more expensive for the rest of us.  I wonder how many [...]
  • Remember When ‘Progressives” Were Against Machine Politics?
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Chronicles of Crony Capitalism

So far, the LightSquared story has mostly been written as one of the FCC favoring a politically-connected company at the expense of its competition, and that favoritism having resulted in nothing but waste.  See, for example, today’s Coffee and Markets podcast on the subject. Their related links (Documents: LightSquared shaping up as the FCC’s Solyndra and Documents show Obama’s FCC used regulatory muscle to destroy LightSquared’s competition) pretty much give the outline.  It’s a simple story, and one that fits in neatly with an overarching narrative, as they like to say, of political money buying regulatory help.

As usual, the story is more complicated than that.  And as usual, the full story makes things look even worse.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story discussing just how badly the FCC had tied itself up in knots over this.  First, they declared a looming bandwidth shortage, and then quickly auctioned off additional spectrum, spectrum that happened to lie near to that used for GPS.  This was done years ago, and Falcone and his people no doubt assumed that the FCC wouldn’t be selling spectrum that couldn’t be developed.  Having gotten the favor, they then were surprised when the FCC didn’t turn around and tell the GPS people that this was coming, and that they should shield their equipment – technically well within their capability.  Having failed to do that, they now have to argue that there’s no spectrum shortage, after all.

Even assuming that the FCC wasn’t out to clear the field for LightSquared, they failed badly in their regulatory duty here.  The FCC has complete control over this stuff.  They can decide how, where, and when spectrum gets exploited, and by whom.  Either there is or isn’t, was or wasn’t, a spectrum shortage that will imperil future growth.  Either the spectrum neighboring the GPS wavelengths is or isn’t usable.  Either the burden of preventing interference lies with LightSquared (or whoever buys this tainted real estate from them), or it lies with the GPS companies.

Either the FCC didn’t know how it was planning to resolve this issues, or didn’t care.  Or else, it knuckled under to a multi-million dollar lobbying campaign, in which case, what’s the point of claiming “independent” regulatory agencies are any good at all?  If the FCC was throwing around its weight to help LightSquared, all these regulatory conflicts become even worse, leading other investors to throw their money after an investment the FCC must have known was headed for an iceberg.

The other example comes from the Department of Transportation:

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a $54.6 million loan to Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR) for the purchase of 30 new General Electric ES44AC locomotives. These diesel-electric locomotives, built in Erie, Pennsylvania, will help KCSR meet increasing economic demand, and are more energy-efficient and produce significantly less carbon emissions than the locomotives they are replacing.

That’s nice.  Railroads have had a very nice couple of years, and with the absence of KeystoneXL, are likely to have even more business, at least in the short term. Kansas Southern has a $7.8 billion market cap.  It’s already carrying $1.6 billion in debt.  Its quarterly depreciation expense is almost $50 million, or just about the size of the loan.  Its operating cash flow was $170 million last quarter, and it showed a net income of $300 million.  And it’s not as though GE is going to file for bankruptcy protection if it doesn’t get a $50 million order.

This from the same administration who reflexively defends a perfectly reasonable accounting change (see The Death of LIFO) by attacking oil companies, rather than by defending the change on its own merits.

The problem with both of these stories is that the finance is bound up inextricably with the politics.  Analysts work by examining the underlying economic return, and to the extent that there are regulatory issues, they ought at least to be predictable or bounded.  Companies getting regulatory benefits they can’t use, or subsidies they don’t need, don’t do anything to help create real wealth.

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