Paul Ryan's Farewell Address

December 19, 2018 at 2:53 pm

Text is here and worth a read if you are interested in that sort of thing.

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How Regulation Breeds Corruption

December 19, 2018 at 12:16 pm

A federal corruption trial with charges involving two New York businessmen and the city's police, a private jet, a prostitute, Super Bowl weekend is the topic of a lively dispatch in the New York Times. One passage particularly grabbed my attention:

In 2014, Mr. Reichberg and Mr. Rechnitz decided they wanted firearms. So Mr. Grant, who went by the nickname Jimmy, got some help from a connection in the police department's licensing division — David Villanueva, one of the unit's supervisors. Mr. Villanueva pleaded guilty to bribery last year and is now a cooperating witness.

"I always did favors for Jimmy; he did favors for me," Mr. Villanueva testified.

Mr. Villanueva testified he helped Mr. Reichberg get a full-carry gun license in only two months, rather than in the year it usually takes to get one.

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Lloyd Blankfein

December 18, 2018 at 2:57 pm

The Goldman Sachs "Briefings" email newsletter has an interview with the outgoing Goldman Sachs chairman, Lloyd Blankfein, that includes this passage:

Next year, Goldman Sachs will turn 150 years old. Very few institutions make it that long, let alone under the same name. Why do you think Goldman Sachs has maintained itself as a successful firm over that period across so many different generations and circumstances?

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What If G-Men Had Gone After the Washington Post?

December 18, 2018 at 2:33 pm

The "nonprosecution deal" between federal prosecutors and the parent company of the National Enquirer is the topic of my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New York Sun here.

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Money In Your Mattress?

December 17, 2018 at 5:30 am

"The Best Place To Put Money? Your Mattress" is the irresponsible headline the New York Times ran over the weekend above a front-page news article about how "For the first time in decades, every major type of investment has fared poorly."

The Times article went on:

In a typical year there's going to be some winners and losers," said Ed Clissold, chief United States strategist at the equity market research firm Ned Davis Research. "It's very rare that you get nothing working."

His firm recently looked at eight types of investments going back to 1972. In every year, at least one of these categories generated a return of 5 percent or more. A separate study by JPMorgan Chase analysts found that "2018 has delivered losses on almost every asset class and investing style."

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How Zoning Hurts The Poor

December 16, 2018 at 10:57 am

The lead article in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times looks at what can be done to improve the lives of those who live in rural or small town America and concludes: "The most helpful policy for people in small towns could be to relax zoning rules in dense cities like New York and San Francisco, so that more affordable housing could be built to receive newcomers from rural Wisconsin or Kentucky, and they wouldn't need the income of an investment banker or a computer scientist to afford to live there."

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RBG to the Defense of Flynn

December 14, 2018 at 8:03 am

As the plea agreement of President Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, attracts renewed attention this week because of Judge Emmet G. Sullivan's skepticism (Emmet means "truth" in Hebrew), it's worth mentioning that the federal crime to which Flynn pleaded guilty, Title 18 of the United States Code, Section 1001, is one that has been on our radar screen since the February 24, 2004, New York Sun editorial Martha Stewart and the Law.

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For Trump's Troubles, Blame McCain, Nixon, and George W. Bush

December 12, 2018 at 2:34 pm

"The campaign-finance mindset encapsulates the way Republicans all too often adopt themselves many of the most misguided beliefs of the left," I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at the New Boston Post (here), Newsmax (here), the New York Sun (here), and Reason (here).

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Amazon Eminent Domain

December 12, 2018 at 10:03 am

New York State officials offered to use the power of eminent domain to seize private property for Amazon's "HQ2" project, according to documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

It's not clear whether, in the end, that power will be needed to amass the office space needed. But Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is literally the richest person in the world, at least by Bloomberg's reckoning, so it seems odd that, rather than paying a market-clearing price for some property in Queens, he'd need to enlist the power of the state to take it for him, even under the Fifth Amendment's provision that private property shall not be taken for public use "without just compensation." Whether a private company's project counted as a "public use" was one of the issues in the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo v. New London.

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Amazon Scoops Up Hill Democrats

December 6, 2018 at 1:22 pm

In the past month, Amazon has hired three aides to congressional Democrats, the Washington Examiner reports. Among them: "House chiefs of staff LaDavia Drane and Tony Clair to handle the company's ties to the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus." Who even knew this was a job in corporate America? Imagine how much less your Prime membership might cost if this wasn't a necessary cost of doing business in 2018 Washington. These caucuses all have allied nonprofit organizations that are happy to accept corporate contributions in what some critics have characterized as a kind of shakedown.

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Is The Gym Replacing Church?

December 5, 2018 at 3:34 pm

"Organized exercise is challenging the humanities and traditional religion as a place where people seek community, meaning, and discipline," I write in my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here) or Newsmax (here). Thank you to community member-watchdog-participant-content co-creator Noam Neusner for calling my attention to the article that provided the inspiration on this one.

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George H.W. Bush

December 5, 2018 at 11:06 am

George H.W. Bush raised taxes in violation of his campaign promise, clashed publicly with Israel, and then lost a presidential election to a Democrat. The mainstream press coverage of him in connection with his death has been remarkably adulatory. As Michael Goodwin puts it in the New York Post, observing that a similar phenomenon applied to Senator McCain: "It all just goes to prove that Democrats and their media handmaidens really do love Republicans — when they're dead."

I do give George H.W. Bush and Barbara credit for raising, in George W. Bush, a president who, while certainly imperfect, arguably exceeded his father's accomplishments. And for raising, in Jeb Bush, a pretty good governor of Florida. If all George H.W. Bush had done in his life had been to be the father of a two-term president and of the governor of Florida, it would have been an impressive achievement.

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Exit, Voice, and Loyalty

December 2, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Albert Hirschman's framework of "Exit, Voice, and Loyalty" has been a topic of discussion here for years (see, for example, "Buzzfeed's Tax Credits" (2015), "AllianceBernstein Moves To Nashville" (2018), "Thoughts On The Brexit" (2016), "Amazon Tests Drones In Canada" (2015), and "De Blasio Shakes Down Collegiate" (2015)).

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Back To Work

November 27, 2018 at 6:18 am

A new book by Oren Cass, The Once And Future Worker, and a new report by an Opportunity America-American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Institution study group on the working class are the subjects of my column this week. Please check out the full column at Reason (here) and Newsmax (here). I didn't get to mention it in the column, but the Opportunity America-American Enterprise Institute-Brookings Institution effort was convened by Tamar Jacoby, who is worth a mention in part because she has such good taste in problems, as Larry Bacow might put it.

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Term Limits in China

November 27, 2018 at 5:37 am

One amusing aspect of the long New York Times newspaper project about the rise of China is the way it credits term limits. From the introductory essay by the Times Asia editor, Phil Pan, a former Crimson colleague of mine:

Analysts sometimes say that China embraced economic reform while resisting political reform. But in reality, the party made changes after Mao's death that fell short of free elections or independent courts yet were nevertheless significant.

The party introduced term limits and mandatory retirement ages, for example, making it easier to flush out incompetent officials. And it revamped the internal report cards it used to evaluate local leaders for promotions and bonuses, focusing them almost exclusively on concrete economic targets.

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