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Rattner Versus Pethokoukis

January 30, 2015 at 11:51 am

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In the New York Times Book Review over the weekend, the American Enterprise Institute's James Pethokoukis wrote a negative review of James Grant's book The Forgotten Depression. Mr. Pethokoukis wrote:

A better natural experiment for Grant's depression-fighting formula is what's happening in the eurozone right now. With a jobless rate over 11 percent, a combination of fiscal austerity and tight money is on the verge of sending the region into its third recession since 2007.

Steven Rattner, of all people, has a very shrewd response to Mr. Pethokoukis's point (though neither Mr. Pethokoukis nor Jim Grant is mentioned in Mr Rattner's article). Mr. Rattner rejects the stimulus versus austerity debate as overly simplistic. He writes:

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Kerry Fined for Not Shoveling Snow

January 30, 2015 at 9:46 am

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The City of Boston has reportedly slapped John Kerry with a $50 fine for failing to clear the snow off the sidewalks in front of his Beacon Hill mansion.

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Shake Shack IPO

January 30, 2015 at 9:41 am

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In honor of today's Shake Shack initial public offering, here is a link to my 2006 New York Sun story about the Shake Shack. It holds up pretty well nine years later, if not perfectly. The hamburger that cost $3.23 then is now up to $5.19, a 61% price increase (or decline in the value of the dollar, as measured in ShackBurgers) over nine years.

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Taxing Tennis

January 27, 2015 at 11:06 pm

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The Wall Street Journal's Allysia Finley has a piece pointing out that tennis players move to where they are well-treated tax-wise:

The top five French players on the men's circuit— Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils, Gilles Simon, Julien Benneteau and Richard Gasquet, as well as Germany's Philipp Kohlschreiber, all claim residence in Switzerland, ostensibly to avoid paying their home countries' punitive 45% top personal income-tax rates (not including surcharges or social-security contributions)....T

Today, Monaco is the putative home of many of the world's top-ranked men and women players. They include Serbia's Novak Djokovic (1), the Czech Republic's Petra Kvitova (4), Tomas Berdych (7) and Lucie Safarova (16); Canada's Milos Raonic (8); Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki (8); Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov (11); and Ukraine's Alexandr Dolgopolov (23). Players who hail from former communist countries are especially keen, it seems, on keeping their hard-earned money.

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Nine Takeaways From Today's Storm

January 27, 2015 at 12:48 pm

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Time magazine's Ideas section has posted a piece I wrote drawing some conclusions from the blizzard, or non-blizzard, of 2015. Please check it out here.

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The Left's War on Family

January 27, 2015 at 10:42 am

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The idea that the American left is engaged in a war against the family has always struck me as an exaggeration. The claim might be good for direct-mail fundraising and talk-radio ratings. But I have enough friends with left-wing politics and lovely families to find the accusation of a war on family to be, frankly, at least a touch paranoid.

Alas, the events of the past week have caused me to reconsider.

So begins my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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A Perfectly Timed Storm

January 26, 2015 at 7:01 pm

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New York City's mayor, Bill de Blasio, and New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, are seizing the opportunity to make what may yet be a large but not terribly exceptional winter snowstorm into a major emergency. For the mayor, it has the advantage of getting the public's mind off his mismanagement of his relations with the police. For the governor, it gets the public's mind, and the press's attention, off of his failure to "clean up" Albany, as exemplified by the recent federal corruption case filed against the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver. For both Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio, the storm is well timed, and they seem all geared up to take full advantage of it. That's not to say that they are not genuinely concerned about public safety and motivated in part by that. But it is to say that, from their political perspective, the storm comes at a good moment, and they are going to make the most of it.

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The Clinton Coronation

January 26, 2015 at 9:48 am

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Politico's Mike Allen reports that Hillary Clinton is definitely running for president:

The potential opposition is so weak that Clinton might wind up not even debating during the primaries, which many Democrats view as a mixed blessing.

The Clinton team knows it can't campaign with the swagger of presumed nominee, because the air of inevitability was so damaging last time around. That said, some advisers are already privately talking up potential running mates, with Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia dominating the early speculation.

Some advisers expect a push for diversity on the ticket. So the short list also is expected to include HUD Secretary Julián Castro, Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, and perhaps California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is running for U.S. Senate.

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How the GOP Wins in the Northeast

January 26, 2015 at 9:19 am

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Cato Institute's Walter Olson has an article in the Washington Examiner jumping off from recent Republican wins in the Massachusetts and Maryland governor's races and headlined "How the GOP wins in the Northeast." I always thought Maryland was the South, not the Northeast, but I guess it all depends on where you're sitting. The whole thing is worth a read if you are interested in politics, but my favorite sentence was this one:

Northwestern law professor and Federalist Society member John McGinnis says Pataki's "most impressive act" was one that was hardly noticed at the time and yielded no electoral benefits, namely his appointment to the state's highest court of Robert Smith, who "became one of the great state court jurists of his time."

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Keystone Eminent Domain

January 23, 2015 at 9:25 am

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The New York Times has a news article about the eminent domain seizures involved in the Keystone XL pipeline, which is something that congressional Republicans, if they were principled about property rights, might want to pay some attention to:

This week, TransCanada, the company proposing the pipeline, began eminent domain proceedings in Nebraska county courts, seeking to gain access to almost 90 properties where the owners have not agreed to terms. Many of those landowners have said they have no intention of allowing construction.

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Further on Silver

January 22, 2015 at 12:32 pm

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A reader sent an irate response to point 4 below, suggesting that, in essence, it is ridiculous to suggest on the basis of two cases, Silver and Rapfogel, that there might be anything about Modern Orthodox Judaism worth scrutinizing. Maybe the reader is correct.

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Sheldon Silver Criminal Complaint

January 22, 2015 at 11:49 am

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There's so much to say about the federal criminal complaint just filed against the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, that it is hard to know exactly where to start, but here are a few preliminary observations:

1. Part of the case is built on the slim reed of "honest services" fraud, the same statute that prosecutors tried to use against Conrad Black and Jeffrey Skilling but that the Supreme Court rebuffed them on.

2. It's the arbitrary regulatory power of the state over business that creates the opportunity for corruption and that makes one of the best cases for modest government with limited power and limited discretion. From the criminal complaint:

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Insider Trading History

January 21, 2015 at 12:26 pm

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The New York Times has an update on the state of insider trading law. A professor at Wayne State University Law School, Peter Henning, writes:

Figuring out exactly what is required to prove a violation reflects the fact that insider trading law is a product of judicial decisions that are not always clear or consistent. Judges sometimes throw in a general statement about the law that is at best peripheral to the issues in a case but can become the basis for a controlling precedent. The courts are finally confronting the issue of what must be shown for a tipping case. So we are seeing the law develop, albeit in fits and starts.

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The Annotated State of the Union

January 21, 2015 at 12:33 am

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Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans:

We are fifteen years into this new century. Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.

But tonight, we turn the page. [Well there's some wishful thinking, about turning the page on the war with the terrorists, just as ISIS releases video of Japanese hostages and Islamic militants murder Jews and cartoonists at Paris.]

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The Club for Growth Letter

January 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

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The president of the Club for Growth, David McIntosh, has sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell laying down some markers for the economic policy agenda in the Congress ahead. The key points:

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