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The Murdoch Subsidy

April 13, 2015 at 10:37 am

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Tucked at the end of a New York Times article about the possibility that Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and other Rupert Murdoch-led properties would move to the World Trade Center site as part of a real estate deal comes this:

it is still unclear what kind of subsidy deal News Corporation and 21st Century Fox would want from the Port Authority, the city and the state. Generous sales tax breaks are available downtown, but there are no more tax-free Liberty Bonds, which were used to finance the other office towers at the trade center.

That will be worth watching. Maybe Mr. Murdoch should make like Buzzfeed and threaten to move to Governor Christie's New Jersey.

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Dershowitz on Menendez

April 13, 2015 at 10:30 am

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Alan Dershowitz has a piece up at the Gatestone Institute website pointing out some issues with the prosecution of Senator Menendez:

Senators should not have to fear that the Executive Branch will unleash prosecutors to go after politicians who are critical of the administration. Equally dangerous are prosecutors who seek to curry favor with the administration by prosecuting its enemies without even being told to do so.

To protect against unchecked power by the executive, the framers included the "speech or debate" clause in our Constitution, protecting Members of Congress from being prosecuted for exercising their legislative power, including oversight. These protections are fundamental to our system of checks and balances. A questionable prosecution against a disfavored legislator, based on campaign contributions from an old friend followed by actions that might benefit that friend, threatens this balance of power.

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Brooks on Obama

April 13, 2015 at 10:13 am

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David Brooks has an interview with the Guardian in connection with the release of his new book The Road to Character. Mr. Brooks on Barack Obama: "I would still say that he is a man of great character. He's more leftwing than I thought he was, so I disagree with him more, but I don't disrespect him more."

I wish the Guardian would have asked Mr. Brooks to expand a bit on this "man of great character" point. But the idea that you can disagree with someone without disrespecting them is Mr. Brooks at his best, and I mean that entirely sincerely. It captures how I sometimes feel about Mr. Brooks.

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Crovitz on Preet

April 12, 2015 at 10:21 pm

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Gordon Crovitz has a characteristically shrewd Wall Street Journal column on how courts are rejecting Preet Bharara's prosecutorial campaign against "insider trading." Mr. Crovitz connects the problem to the SEC's Regulation FD, implemented in 2000. He writes: "As regulations made publicly available information scarce, the unintended consequence was huge incentives for hedge funds to root out company information they use privately for their trades."

There were plenty of misguided insider-trading prosecutions before Reg FD, as Mr. Crovitz knows because he wrote about them for the Journal back in the day. But he's probably correct that Reg FD has made things worse.

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Electricity in Haiti

April 9, 2015 at 12:19 pm

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NPR has a piece suggesting that the profit motive might do more than government or philanthropy to get electricity going in a Haitian village:

Haiti has long been dubbed the Republic of NGOs because of its heavy reliance on foreign donors and international charities. But Ouz says charities come to the village and end up leaving when they run out of volunteers or money.

That's why 38-year-old Duquense Fednard is bringing a for-profit electricity company to Tuffet. He says Haiti can't survive on philanthropy alone...

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Non-Bank Lenders

April 9, 2015 at 12:05 pm

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Two days in a row, the New York Times business section has highlighted non-bank lenders. Wednesday's paper carried an interview with Anthony Hsieh, the CEO of loanDepot, a "nonbank consumer mortgage lender" that says it is funding "well over $2 billion of home loans a month" nationwide. This is another area where regulation is lagging technology. From the Times interview with Mr. Hsieh:

Q. Can borrowers complete the entire mortgage application process from your website?

A. To do a mortgage 100 percent online right now is impossible. The government still wants you to use a paper product.

Today's Times has a story about Fundbox. The Times reports:

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Dolan's Deal

April 8, 2015 at 3:23 pm

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James Dolan, the CEO of Cablevision and the owner of Newsday and the Madison Square Garden, has an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that contains a couple of intriguing passages:

I can understand why there would be a shift to conservatism. The country has probably gone too far to the left and needs to center itself a little.

Asked which New York newspaper has run the worst photo of him, his answer:

The Daily News. They've been horrible. Mort Zuckerman wanted to do a deal where his new printing plant would print Newsday. He [said,] "If you do this deal with me, then you don't have to worry about anything. We won't write anything bad about you in the paper." And I was like, "Write whatever you want." And he did.

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Lew's Meeting With Steyer

April 8, 2015 at 2:09 pm

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Climate-change activist and major Democratic campaign donor Tom Steyer apparently had a meeting with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and White House aides Valerie Jarrett, John Podesta, and Jason Furman. The Washington Free Beacon has published Lew's briefing memo for the meeting, which the Treasury Department had to be sued to disclose.

To me one interesting aspect was the involvement at the meeting of "Trevor Houser, Partner at the Rhodium Group (RHG) and Visiting Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics" and of Henry Cisneros, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development who is now founder and chairman of CityView Capital.

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An April 9 National Holiday

April 8, 2015 at 10:23 am

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Support is building on the left for the idea of making April 9, the anniversary of Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox, a national holiday.

I tend to think we have enough national holidays already, with Lincoln's birthday lumped in to Presidents Day and Martin Luther King Day commemorating the Civil Rights struggle that came after the Civil War. If there is to be a Civil War holiday, make it Juneteenth, celebrating the emancipation rather than the end of the war.

And if the point is public remembrance, better to focus on improved history education in schools rather than adding another day off from school whose point will inevitably be lost.

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Regulation Lags Technology, Again

April 7, 2015 at 10:01 am

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A recent post here flagged two areas — self-driving cars and package delivery by drone aircraft — where regulation is moving slower than technology. A recent Manhattan Institute report flags another one: precision medicine, in which drug treatments are tailored to the biomarkers or genes of individual patients. The FDA, the report says, "has been very slow to act," instead insisting on the old model of large clinical trials that "assume broad areas of biochemical uniformity among patients, where we now know that there is significant variation."

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What I Learned From My 16-Year-Old Car

April 7, 2015 at 9:48 am

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My 1999 Toyota Camry, which just hit 100,000 miles, is the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at Reason (here) and Newsmax (here).

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Corporate Free Speech

April 2, 2015 at 8:35 am

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As big companies like Walmart and Apple weigh in against religious freedom legislation in Arkansas and Indiana, one voice strangely silent is that of the "Citizens United liberals," by which I mean those on the left, like President Obama and the New York Times editorial page, who after the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision warned that corporate money and involvement in politics would be a terrible evil.

The conclusion I draw is that the objection by the left to corporate involvement in politics has nothing to do with the principle that politics shouldn't be bought or that companies should be neutral. It has to do with the substance. So if it is Koch Industries advocating for lower taxes or less regulation, the left is against it. But if it's Apple and Walmart advocating for gay rights, the left is for it. It's almost enough to make one wonder whether the left's concern about corporate money in politics isn't based on principle at all, but whether it's merely tactical or situational.

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Price Competition in College Education

March 31, 2015 at 2:07 pm

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Newbury College, a private, non-profit school in Brookline, Mass., today announced a three-year, $45,000 bachelor's degree. Colleges are competing on price already with financial aid offers, but the innovations here are the pricing transparency, the predictability, and, so far as I can see, at least, that the price is available no matter how much your family income or assets are. In a sense, the more interesting question is why there hasn't been more such competition already.

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How To Help

March 31, 2015 at 1:24 pm

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Renewal reminder emails went out on Sunday to those FutureOfCapitalism subscribers who are up for renewal this quarter. Thank you to those who have already re-upped; to those who have not, please do so. As for the rest of you, this site is a for-profit enterprise — an example of capitalism in action. Your editor is not ensconced in some think tank or university. So if you value the content you get from FutureOfCapitalism, the best way to encourage it and make sure it continues is to become a paying subscriber. We've avoiding constantly asking for support, but today is the last day of the quarter, so here it is — the link is here. Thank you!

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Buzzfeed's Tax Credits

March 31, 2015 at 12:15 pm

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Capital New York used public records law to get a copy of Buzzfeed's application for $4 million in New York State tax credits. The Buzzfeed website had threatened to move 200 employees to New Jersey if it didn't get the tax breaks. Buzzfeed wrote in its application:

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