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Archive for the ‘Obama’ 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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Now here’s an interesting verdict that doesn’t seem to get much press:

In a ruling that could leave the government open to billions of dollars in claims from Hurricane Katrina victims, a federal judge said late Wednesday that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had displayed “gross negligence” in failing to maintain a navigation channel — resulting in levee breaches that flooded large swaths of greater New Orleans. (more…)

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Short post to follow up on two things that were on Baseline recently.

First of all, take James’ advice and check out this Interfluidity post:

An enduring truth about financial regulation is this: Given the discretion to do so, financial regulators will always do the wrong thing.

Steve touches on several of the themes I tried to articulate here, and he does a better job explaining the motivations of each of the players. (more…)

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I am a huge fan of going for it on fourth down.  The odds are typically on your side, and the main reason coaches don’t do it is that failure is so much more evident than success.  Well, here goes the second-guessing:

All sorts of things went wrong to get the Pats to this position – the offensive and defensive lines had Super Bowl-level fatigue issues down the stretch – but they were still winning by six points.  They had the advantage, and they gave it away trying for the knockout. (more…)

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James Kwak over at Baseline has an post about the accounting treatment of Bank of America and Fannie Mae; quoting John Hempton:

If Bank of America were to provide at the same rate its quarterly losses would be 50-80 billion and it would be completely bereft of capital – it would be totally cactus. It would be – like Fannie Mae – a zombie government property.

Hempton claims that BAC has the right recognition policy and Fannie is being crushed by regulatory conservatism.  I think that’s about as likely as the Easter Bunny, but Hempton deserves credit for thinking outside the box. (more…)

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I find it awfully difficult to care about county elections.  Luckily, Ben Adler seems willing to look at them, and he picked up something interesting:

Unlike the New York City mayoral, or the Virginia governor’s race, there is a really bad sign for Democrats out of the East Coast:… Republicans made inroads in New York’s suburbs.

Why does this matter so much? Because the New York suburbs epitomize the new Blue America. Twenty-some-odd years ago, the economically diverse, but generally affluent, suburbs in Westchester and Long Island represented the success of the Reagan Revolution…But the New York suburbs led the way back to Democratic dominance, arguably presaging the Obama coalition.

I have written often about the strange alliance of very high and very low incomes that defines the modern Democratic party – the working class and the intellectual property class.  It’s my version of “flat earth,” I suppose.  So I’m a bit jealous that someone else spotted this. (more…)

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Not many people like the idea of breaking up financial institutions, but if I have to be part of a tiny minority, I’ll take this one:

“People say I’m old-fashioned and banks can no longer be separated from nonbank activity,” Mr. Volcker said, acknowledging criticism that he is nostalgic for an earlier era. “That argument,” he added ruefully, “brought us to where we are today.”

He may not be alone in his proposal, but he is nearly so…

Still, a handful side with Mr. Volcker, among them Joseph E. Stiglitz…“We would have a cleaner, safer banking system”

Is separating Boring from Exciting finance really that difficult? (more…)

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