Modern Maccabees

December 20, 2016 at 1:19 pm

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A Jewish Agency for Israel program that has put young Israelis on 71 college campuses in North America was the topic of my Sunday column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Please check the column out here.

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Alphonse Fletcher Jr.

December 14, 2016 at 9:52 am

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The retirement fund of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority — which pays the pensions of unionized bus and subway train drivers — has lost the entire $25 million it invested in a hedge fund operated by Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher Jr., the Boston Globe reports. The Globe doesn't mention Mr. Fletcher's $4.5 million gift to Harvard to endow the university professor chair held by Henry Louis Gates Jr., but the case of Harvard hanging on to its $4.5 million from Mr. Fletcher while the retirees (or the taxpayers who backstop them) settle for a zero is grist for a Harvard Business School case study, or a philosophy course in moral reasoning, or, at the very least, an Alex Beam column, or something.

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Elite Post-Election Pregnancy Panic

December 13, 2016 at 8:54 am

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Harvard professor and New Yorker contributor Atul Gawande worries that pregnancy will be unaffordable if ObamaCare is repealed. I respond in my column this week. Please check out the column at the New York Sun (here), Reason (here), and Newsmax (here).

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Elizabeth Warren, Cyberbully

December 13, 2016 at 8:35 am

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Pretty good column by Andrew Ross Sorkin on Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, posting an online attack on a money manager, Whitney Tilson: "Ms. Warren appears to be suffering from the same affliction that Mr. Trump's critics accuse of him: a knee-jerk, fact-free reaction to something she had read in the news."

The whole situation does not reflect well on Senator Warren at all.

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Trump-Hitler

December 13, 2016 at 8:31 am

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Somehow, even in an article headlined "Donald Trump could be good for the economy," Harvard University economist Kenneth Rogoff manages to reach the Trump-Hitler comparison:

At the risk of hyperbole, it's wise to remember that you don't have to be a nice guy to get the economy going. In many ways, Germany was as successful as America at using stimulus to lift the economy out of the Great Depression.

On the positive side, at least there is some good Krugman-bashing in the article:

beware of pundits who are certain that Trump will bring economic catastrophe. On election eve, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman unequivocally insisted that a Trump victory would lead to a stock market collapse, with no recovery in sight. Investors who relied on his insights lost a lot of money.

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Shopping For ObamaCare Is Torture

December 11, 2016 at 12:17 pm

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More than six years since the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, shopping for health insurance on one of the online "exchanges" created by the law is an exercise in frustration. My column in Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal has details; please check the column out by clicking here.

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Trump and Drug Prices

December 7, 2016 at 10:29 am

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Pharmaceutical stocks were down this morning after President-elect Trump gave an interview to Time magazine in which he said, "I'm going to bring down drug prices. I don't like what's happened with drug prices."

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Salman, Scalia, and Bharara

December 6, 2016 at 2:13 pm

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The Supreme Court this morning handed down a unanimous decision, written by Justice Alito, in the case of Salman v. United States, in which Bassam Salman was sentenced to three years in jail for trading on inside information that originated with a relative who was an investment banker at Citigroup.

A few points are worth initially mentioning in reaction to the decision.

The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, is already claiming vindication.

"The court stood up for common sense and affirmed what we have been arguing from the outset -- that the law absolutely prohibits insiders from advantaging their friends and relatives at the expense of the trading public," Bharara said in an e-mailed statement reported by Bloomberg. "Today's decision is a victory for fair markets and those who believe that the system should not be rigged."

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Pentagon Waste

December 6, 2016 at 8:13 am

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Pretty interesting Bob Woodward story in the Washington Post about how the Defense Department buried a report showing how it wastes about $25 billion a year, and could save $125 billion over five years by becoming more efficient. One eye-grabber: the Pentagon has 30,000 people working just on "health care management," that is, "health-care policy, oversight and administration, excluding medical care."

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Trump-Schumer Bromance Threatens Freedom, Rule of Law

December 6, 2016 at 7:52 am

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President-elect Trump's decision — on Senator Schumer's advice — to reappoint Preet Bharara as the U.S. attorney for the Southern district of New York is a warning sign, I write in my column this week, which also gets into some other issues where Mr. Trump and Mr. Schumer seem aligned. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun (here), Newsmax (here), and Reason (here).

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11 Ways Trump Is Like JFK

December 4, 2016 at 12:22 pm

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"Eleven Ways Trump Is Like JFK" is the headline of my latest column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, which you can read in full by clicking here. A former editor at the New York Times described the column as "extremely clever."

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Hamilton Electors

November 30, 2016 at 9:04 am

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A slickly produced video (embedded below) is promoting the idea that "37 patriots can save this country" — that is, if only 37 Republican members of the 538-person electoral college decline to support Donald Trump, Mr. Trump would lack the majority of electors needed to become president. It seems like a long shot to me, but what really caught my eye were the three images that the video used to go with the phrase "choose an alternative president." They were pictures of Michael Bloomberg, Mitt Romney, and John Kasich. Mr. Bloomberg declined to run and endorsed Hillary Clinton. Mr. Romney declined to run in 2016 and lost the general election when he ran in 2012. Mr. Kasich was roundly defeated by Mr. Trump in the Republican primaries. It seems to me that for the electors to take the presidency away from Mr. Trump and give it to one of these three guys would be not only farfetched, but profoundly unjust and undemocratic.

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Compliance Vehicles

November 30, 2016 at 8:26 am

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General Motors loses $9,000 on each electric Chevrolet Bolt it sells, but it keeps making and selling the cars because of California state laws requiring it to either sell zero-emission vehicles or purchase credits from another company that does so, Bloomberg News reports in a fascinating look at what one expert calls "compliance vehicles."

The more ZEVs a company peddles to the public, the more credits it earns, and those with a surplus can sell them to competitors that are falling behind. As an electric-only manufacturer, Tesla has been able to really tap the program. In the third quarter, it made $139 million selling credits, which helped Tesla hit its second-ever quarterly profit on a GAAP basis.

Nor is GM the only company doing this. Bloomberg reports:

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Non-Bank Lender

November 29, 2016 at 10:48 am

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The rise of non-bank lenders as alternatives to heavily regulated banks is a theme we have been following here (see earlier posts here, here, and here). Now Bloomberg brings news of a firm in Thailand, Muangthai Leasing, whose founders have become billionaires by offering small loans collateralized by cars, land, or motorcycles: "Millions of Thais ...need working capital for small businesses, but lack the credit history required by commercial banks."

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The Trump Panic, Rule of Law, and Presidential Power

November 29, 2016 at 10:26 am

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If some hedge fund exhibited a fraction of the public posture of noncompliance toward, say, insider trading law that Harvard University is exhibiting toward immigration law, Preet Bharara would be frog-marching its founder down Park Avenue faster than Usain Bolt. My column this week looks at the rule of law and executive authority under Presidents Obama and Trump. Please check it out at the New Boston Post (here), New York Sun (here), and Newsmax (here).

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