Assorted Links (3/16/2012)

Here’s a list of articles (videos) that I have been reading (viewing) lately:

Watch Bernanke’s ‘Little’ Inflation Capsize U.S.: Amity Shlaes

“A little is all right. That’s the message Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has been giving out recently when asked about the evidence of inflation in the U.S. recovery.”

The U.S. Is Number One

“April 1 is a date that every politician and business executive in America should circle on the calendar. That’s when Japan cuts its corporate tax rate to 36.8% from 39.5%. The United States will then hold the title of highest corporate tax rate, with average combined federal and state profit levies of 39.2%.”

How Much Is Apple Worth?

“In The Wall Street Journal, former hedge fund manager Andy Kessler notes that Apple, which touched $600 on Thursday, is still cheap if the company can keep up its torrid growth. If.”

Daniel Yergin: What’s Behind Rising Gas Prices?

Quoting from this article, “…election-year politics aside, the forces driving up prices at the pump are very different today than they were four years ago. In 2008, it was primarily the surge in oil consumption in emerging markets, disruptions, and a belief that the world was running short of oil (the so-called peak oil crisis). In 2012, the reason is mainly geopolitics.”

Can Britain Tolerate Christians?

“In The Wall Street Journal’s Houses of Worship column, Anne Jolis writes that Britain’s nondiscrimination laws have become a morass of claims and counterclaims affecting everyone from British Airways to small bed-and-breakfast owners.”

Life insurance for the wealthy

“Gene Simmons, (former bass player for the 70’s rock band Kiss), discusses his new venture that combines low cost loans with ways to finance life insurance policies for wealthy clients.”  Until now, I didn’t realize that Gene Simmons was into financial engineering… This CNBC video is quite interesting – Gene is all about “arbitraging the system”. Seems like a scam to me…

Book Review: The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars

“Anne Jolis reviews The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines by Michael E. Mann.”

Default and the Nature of Government

I learned a lot from reading this article, which provides an historical perspective on the market for sovereign debt. Especially chilling is Mr. Pollock’s description of European sovereign debt crisis of the 1920s in which “Americans would lend Germany money, so it could pay France and Britain, so they could pay the U.S.” Quoting further, “In addition to promoting their own debt to all possible buyers at all times, governments promoted the World War I loans to the Allies; loans to Germany in the 1920s; loans to developing countries in the 1970s, which defaulted in the 1980s; loans to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac until they failed; and loans to fellow governments in the European Union up to today.”

The Magician

“In The Wall Street Journal, Wonder Land columnist Daniel Henninger writes that in this re-election year, the U.S. president is making the world and all its troubles . . . vanish.”

The Filter Bubble — What the Internet is Hiding From You

Interesting and informative review of Elie Pariser’s new book entitled “The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You” (cf.…

Goldman Rejects Claims Made by Outgoing Executive

This is one heck of a way to quit your job – see the op-ed for the GS executive’s “resignation” letter…

5 common credit card mistakes, and how to avoid them

The 5 most common mistakes are: 1) not paying bills on time (28 percent of Americans); 2) spending above credit limit (15 percent of college students); 3) paying unnecessary fees (25 percent of college students paid late fee); 4) not paying the entire balance (30 to 50 percent of Americans); and 5) overlooking changes to terms of account.

Vanderbilt’s Right to Despise Christianity

“Vanderbilt University has decided that Christian student groups that hold traditional Christian religious views are not welcome on campus. They will no longer be recognized as valid student organizations. Vanderbilt’s reason is that such groups require that their leaders be Christian.”  This article provides an interesting and informative legal exegesis of constitutional principles based upon a case study of Vanderbilt University, with references to various Supreme Court decisions from the past century…

The Bill for ObamaLoans

“The Wall Street Journal reports on a new study that shows 27% of student borrowers have past due balances.”

ObamaCare’s Bogus Cost Savings

“In The Wall Street Journal, Stanford University’s Daniel P. Kessler writes about the mounting evidence that the health law won’t make care more efficient or affordable.”

Romney vs. Obama on Corporate Tax Reform

“In The Wall Street Journal, Kevin Hassett and Glenn Hubbard write that by proposing special breaks for manufacturing, Rick Santorum follows the president’s incorrect lead and introduces a significant economic distortion.”

How Biased Is Your Media?: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

This is a fascinating podcast; apparently newspaper readers tend to be more liberal than non-newspaper readers, which accounts for why newspapers are often perceived as being left leaning. Basically, (profit-maximizing) newspapers are producing the product that their readers are looking for. If in fact the news media has grown more “liberal” over time, perhaps this is more of a demand-side rather than a supply-side phenomenon…

Get your PQ | Tim Groseclose

Tim Groseclose is a political science professor at UCLA; he has devised a very clever quiz for calculating one’s “Political Quotient”…

Obama’s Stimulus Helped Grow Debt, Not Economy

“Last week’s release of the February employment report set off the predictable partisan squabbling, with Democrats emphasizing the positive (227,000 new jobs) and Republicans the negative (the still-shrunken labor force and still-high unemployment rate).”

Why Are Gasoline Prices High (And What Can Be Done About It)?

Quoting from this article, “While U.S. policy cannot affect the world price of oil much in either the short or long term (though policies aimed at reducing instability in oil-producing regions couldn’t hurt), policymakers do have other options that might reduce the cost of gasoline, including: tax holidays at the state and federal level; strong-dollar and inflation-control policies at the Federal Reserve; and relaxation, suspension, or simplification of environmental regulations that fragment markets, increase market fragility, and boost refining costs.”

How Housing Policy Caused the Financial Crisis

In this video from, the AEI’s Peter Wallison “…argues that the meltdown was largely a consequence of government housing policy that underwrote unsustainable economic activity.”

California’s Greek Tragedy

“In The Wall Street Journal, Stanford professors Michael Boskin and John Cogan write that no one should write off the Golden State, but it will take massive reforms to reverse its economic decline.”

Fear Has Vanished From the Stock Market

“The stock market’s so-called fear gauge is fast asleep.”  This article correctly points out that the “price” of volatility as given by the CBOE’s “Implied Volatility” index, or VIX, has become extraordinary cheap. VIX measures investor expectations of future short term stock market (S&P 500) volatility, and in early trading today, VIX is trading at around 14.7. From an historical perspective (going back to the inception of this index in January 1990), this level falls within the lowest quartile, which means that 75% of the time, investors expect future stock market volatility to be higher than it is at current levels. It is as if an “eerie” calm has fallen over the stock market. The fact that expected financial market volatility is so low should give investors everywhere pause for thought; hopefully this is not the proverbial calm before the storm…


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