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De Blasio Shakes Down Collegiate

March 16, 2015 at 4:39 pm

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The demand by Mayor De Blasio for $50 million — and maybe more — for "affordable housing" as a condition for letting Collegiate School build a new building in Manhattan is the subject of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Bogle's Son

March 13, 2015 at 9:47 am

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John Bogle Jr., the son of Vanguard index fund pioneer John Bogle, runs a long-short hedge fund, BloombergMarkets magazine reports in its April issue:

Bogle Jr., 54, has a sense of humor about the tension that comes from being an active fund manager and the son of the most famous advocate of passive investing. At an event honoring his father in 2012, he joked about some of the rules his dad taught him. "Always wear a wool tie in preference to silk, lest you be thought of as being flamboyant or be mistaken for an active fund manager or, worse, a hedge fund manager," he said.

The most important lessons the younger Bogle says he learned from his father have nothing to do with the market. He remembers visiting Vanguard headquarters on weekends, when the only person they'd encounter was the night security guard. "And my dad would know him by name, and he'd ask him about his kids and wife by name," he recalls.

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Preet's Speeches

March 12, 2015 at 8:53 pm

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Lawyers for New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are seeking to have the charges against him dismissed on the grounds of "improper extrajudicial" comments by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara. (I somehow missed this last week when it was reported by the New York Times.)

The Times doesn't get into this, but if Mr. Silver's lawyers succeed with this angle, it's conceivable that it could have implications for the insider trading cases brought by Mr. Bharara, as well. Recall that even before bringing most of the cases, Mr. Bharara gave a speech to the New York City Bar Association in which he asserted that "illegal insider trading is rampant" and joked that defense lawyers wouldn't oppose his prosecutions because they would make money by billing the defendants targeted by them.

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Congress Eyes Insider Trading Law

March 12, 2015 at 1:07 pm

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Defining and banning insider trading is the goal of two bills introduced in Congress in the past two weeks.

The bills are newsworthy in part because their existence underscores that current law on the matter is nonexistent, vague, and arbitrarily enforced — a patchwork of regulations, inferences, and footnotes (Dirks 14). Such an acknowledgement may be little solace for those who have endured professional purgatory, suffered jail time, had their once-flourishing businesses raided by the FBI and closed, or spent millions on legal fees as a consequence of prosecutions or even mere investigations or fishing expeditions under the current legal framework. But the development is welcome nonetheless. If it were already statutorily crystal-clear what insider trading is and that it is illegal, there'd be no need for the introduction of these laws.

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Managing Your NII and MAGI

March 12, 2015 at 11:01 am

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"What the Medicare surtax means for you" is the headline of an item from the Vanguard mutual fund company that is a great example of the consequences of ObamaCare — inflicting more complexity and punishing people who make more than a government-approved amount of money. Vanguard advises, "Taking a few financial planning steps can help you reduce the possibility of exposure to the Medicare surtax. First, consider how you manage your NII and MAGI."

NII is "net investment income" and MAGI is 'modified adjusted gross income."

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Asness on Climate Change

March 11, 2015 at 11:42 am

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Money manager Clifford Asness and Aaron Brown have a draft of a new paper up about climate change.

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Rich Flee L.A.

March 11, 2015 at 11:37 am

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"Where Have All of Los Angeles's Mega-Rich People Gone?" asks the real estate site Curbed, which reports:

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Citi's Derivatives

March 11, 2015 at 11:26 am

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The New York Times reports:

In 2009, Citibank, Citigroup's main banking subsidiary, had $32 trillion in derivatives, according to regulatory filings. That figure more than doubled, to $70 trillion, in the third quarter of 2014.

"It's a little bit of a head scratcher," Mike Mayo, a bank analyst at the brokerage and investment group CLSA, said. "Why is this the best use of Citi's capital?" Over the same five-year period, derivatives in JPMorgan's main banking unit declined by 17 percent, to $65 trillion. (The derivatives holdings are stated using their notional value, an industry measure that does not reflect the actual amount that the banks could lose.)

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Lisa Schiffren's Right Hook

March 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm

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The New York Observer has made the shrewd move of hiring Lisa Schiffren to write a political column called "Right Hook." The first column assesses the Republican presidential field and says the race to come is between Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. My own tendency is to be a little more cautious about making those pronouncements before a single vote has been cast, but a columnist should get some credit for going out on a limb, too. I'll be looking forward to reading more.

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Scott Walker's Profile in Courage

March 10, 2015 at 12:14 pm

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Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's courage in facing down public employee unions is the topic of my column this week. Please check it out at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Jeb Bush's Avocado

March 9, 2015 at 11:26 am

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From a Politico report on an "agricultural summit" that attracted Republican presidential candidates to Iowa over the weekend:

Bush made an effort to humanize himself. His best moment, in terms of connecting with the crowd, came as he endorsed mandatory country-of-origin labeling.

"When I go to Publix in Coral Gables, which I'll do tomorrow after church, to prepare for Sunday Fun Day in my house," he said, "we'll be cooking Iowa beef and we'll be making guacamole. I will want to know where that avocado comes from."

Maybe Mr. Bush hasn't fully thought this one through. The fact that Mr. Bush wants to know where his avocado comes from should be plenty of incentive for his grocer to provide him the information without a law from Washington forcing the grocer to do that. In fact, businesses do things aimed at pleasing customers, or meeting customer desires, all the time even without laws from Washington forcing the businesses to do that.

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Glassman's Growth Ideas

March 9, 2015 at 10:31 am

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James K. Glassman has a USA Today op-ed piece with three ideas to increase economic growth: cut the corporate tax rate, lift the cap on skilled immigration, and expand free trade.

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Geffen's Gift

March 6, 2015 at 9:19 am

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The front-page New York Times article about David Geffen's $100 million gift to Lincoln Center, which will rename Avery Fisher Hall as David Geffen Hall, touches on Mr. Geffen's New York ties:

Mr. Geffen's gift may signal a renewed commitment to New York, where he has kept an apartment since 1976 and where he started his career at William Morris — though Mr. Geffen said he has always maintained his connection to the city.

"I'm a kid from Brooklyn," he said. "I love New York."

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Petraeus Plea

March 4, 2015 at 12:54 pm

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The New York Times account of David Petraeus's plea deal in connection with a misdemeanor count of mishandling classified information includes the following background:

Mr. Petraeus is far from the first high-ranking official accused of mishandling classified information. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales was admonished but not charged in 2008 for keeping information about the National Security Agency's wiretapping program at his house.
John M. Deutch, the C.I.A. director from May 1995 to December 1996, lost his security clearances but was not charged for keeping government secrets on his home computer. Samuel R. Berger, a former national security adviser, pleaded guilty in 2005 to a misdemeanor and paid a $50,000 fine for removing classified documents from the National Archives.

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Government Email

March 4, 2015 at 12:47 pm

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Amid the furor over Hillary Clinton's reported use of a non-government email account as secretary of State, one issue I haven't seen raised is how much the government spends on running government email systems, and how much money might be saved if all government workers followed Mrs. Clinton's example and used their personal email accounts (or a free Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail account) for intra-governmental communication. Maybe the security vulnerabilities or lack of permanent-record-keeping features would make such an approach untenable, but on the other hand, it would probably save the government some money. Using private email doesn't seem to have adversely affected Mrs. Clinton's performance as secretary of State.

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