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Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

This is it for me, at least for this chapter.  I am off to join some people who don’t much appreciate voices singing out of key, and while they might be able to get over my public disdain for coaches who punt in opposing territory, it would be rather awkward to continue to point out the incompetence of the administration.  So for now, it’s probably best to hang it up.

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For the first seventeen years of the Peloponnesian War, Athens and Sparta fought to something of a draw.  Sparta dominated the land, but could not breach Athens’ walls.  Athens dominated the sea, but could not march inland with enough force to defeat Sparta.

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Still trying to process all of my objections to the current Afghan strategy into something moderately coherent, so I’ll start with a very different story: Fritz Henderson was rather suddenly and unceremoniously dismissed as CEO of GM.

General Motors Co. Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson resigned after eight months on the job as directors concluded he hadn’t done enough to fix GM’s finances and culture, people familiar with the matter said…Henderson’s exit caps a tenure that included aborted deals to sell the Saturn, Saab and Opel units, a struggle to replace top managers such as Chief Financial Officer Ray Young, and U.S. market-share losses. (more…)

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I am enjoying the goings-on in Dubai tremendously.  It’s like the field mouse of an economics drug trial: take every extreme symptom, jam it into one place of absolutely no global consequence, and then try to figure out the cure.

Suppose you had a tiny country that decided it wanted to be important.  Playing on confusion with its oil-rich neighbors, it goes out and borrows a lot of money to build buildings.  Taking the Paris Hilton strategy that if you insist on your caricature long enough others will eventually believe it, the country makes a big show of people piling into the buildings.  Real estate developers, the ultimate momentum players, pile in.  The country goes the offshore tax haven route – no income taxes – and throws in absolutely no labor standards to ensure that construction can proceed on whatever blistering pace can be achieved by malnourished Thais and Pakistanis welding in 115F heat.  Eventually it hits the wall – for reasons completely beyond its control, at some point people look around and realize they have the world’s largest Potemkin village.  There is no market.  The locals are preposterously corrupt.  Islam is not compatible with the hedge fund lifestyle.  What then? (more…)

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The First World War ended ninety-one years ago.

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Once upon a time, there was a hedge fund named Hermitage Capital.  Its head was Bill Browder, and it had the clever idea, back during the Yeltsin Administration, of investing Western capital in Russia.  It worked spectacularly well, until it didn’t:

Browder is a smart guy.  He made a lot of money and managed to get his money and his life out of the country, which would be reason enough for me to refrain from paying for Youtube videos naming the Russian government agents who defrauded me. (more…)

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David Brooks’ silly season seems to have found an Indian Summer, as he goes on about his imaginary friends Mr. Bentham and Mr. Hume:

If you put Mr. Bentham in charge of the government, he’d proceed with confidence. If you told him to solve a complicated issue like the global-warming problem, he’d gather the smartest people in the country and he’d figure out how to expand wind, biomass, solar and geothermal sources to reduce CO2 emissions.

“I don’t know the best way to generate clean energy,” [Hume]’d whine, “and I don’t know how technology will advance in the next 20 years. Why don’t we just raise the price on carbon and let everybody else figure out how to innovate our way toward a solution?

Brilliant…except the mechanism to achieve Bentham’s goal is Hume’s tax.  Way to find a distinction without a difference. (more…)

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