Friday, March 28, 2008

Again...You Heard It Here First

May 2007, Donny Baseball declares the Obama bandwagon will be a short, unsatisfying joyride. America's weird thirst for a nationally successful black politician is more likely to be slaked out of Newark, NJ than Chicago, IL. A blogger that actaully gets some traffic is feelin' this vibe too, although, as is usual, much later than Now Batting for Pedro Borbon.

UPDATE: Heavens, I'm doubly prescient today. A diesel Beemer trumps a Prius. Who is in the market for a luxury diesel?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Not Robbing Larry Ellison Hurts Kids!

Instead of doing a story on how the authorities in Woodside, CA have been robbing Larry Ellison for years by claiming that his house is $100 million dollars more valuable than the most valuable house in America based on market value, the WSJ does a story on how a tax cut for Ellison is hurting kids and putting people out of work. Jeez. Why don't we trust the media anymore?

CNN Bemoans Inevitable Higher Prices for Cleaner Fuels

CNN does a man-on-the-street report on how the high price of diesel fuel is crimping the well-being of truckers. What goes totally unmentioned is that the federal government mandated a new, cleaner diesel formulation, called ULSD, that recently went into effect. ULSD is a cleaner burning fuel, but it turns out, is more expensive to produce. And since the mandate is new, the supply base hasn't caught up with demand - you don't just snap your fingers and produce the new fuel, you have to invest millions of dollars and do months worth of retrofitting. Undeniably, this is a major factor in the rise of the price of deisel, but CNN doesn't want to tell you that higher prices are brought you courtesy of the US government. You want cleaner fuels, great, but they don't come cheap, certainly not in the short run. It is called a trade-off. Cleaner burning fuel is great, but don't bitch when you have to pay more for gas. This is an object lesson too, the more intemperate among us want fossil fuels abandoned yesterday. What do you think it will cost to get around if they got their wish?

Disclosure, I have advocated ULSD on this site before, because I think it represents the best approach - making existing fuels incrementally cleaner, rather than gambling on pie in the sky replacements - given that we as a society have irreversibly bought into the speculative theory of anthropogenic global warming.

Did Harvard Make a Diversity Hire to Run Its Money?

I know I'll get branded a sexist pig, even though I truly hate to say it, but it looks an awful lot like Harvard made a diversity hire for the job of running its endowment. This Bloomberg article says that Jane Mendillo, who ran Wellesley's endowment, chalked up annualized returns of 13.5%. That is nice but not spectacular. More importantly though is that she did this with $1 billion. One all-but-immutable law of asset management is that it gets harder to deliver higher returns as the asset base grows larger, much harder. If Ms. Mendillo can deliver only slightly respectable returns on a modest asset base, how can she be expected to deliver the exceptional returns that Harvard is used to enjoying on an asset base 20 times larger? Generally, in the money management world, it would be unheard of to promote someone into a job managing 20 times the assets, so this hire strikes a discordant note if Harvard's goal is indeed to continue enjoying extraordinary returns on its endowment funds.

There are a couple plausible explanations. The first, of course, is that I am totally off-base and Ms. Mendillo is the exact, perfect candidate for the job. Second, we all know that Harvard has a radical group of stakeholders that demand an ever increasing amount of "diversity" (meaning anybody who is non-white or non-male, preferably both) in important positions across the university. Perhaps the same pressure that led to the downfall of Larry Summers could have affected the endowment job hiring process. Third, another small but vocal group of Harvard stakeholders vehemently protested (former endowment chief) Jack Meyer's compensation as being excessive. If Harvard addressed this concern by restricting the pay levels of the job, it is likely that they would be unable to attract candidates from the private sector who would be more accustomed to managing similarly large sums of money. I hope the first explanation is the correct one, but if it is either of the other two and returns do suffer as a result, then Harvard has placed an unnecessary burden on future stakeholders as the shortfall in resources will demand higher tuition or more donations to meet the university's resource requirements. For what? In the name of the false gods of Diversity and/or Income Equality. Time will tell, but the amount laid at the feet of these gods in sacrifice could amount to billions of dollars.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rockefeller Center and MOMA Must've Grown Out of the Soil

I pretty much agree with Megan McArdle on all fronts regarding this silly NYT piece (btw, when did the NYT become essentially the publicity arm of Franknomics, the odd-ball economics of envy spouted by Cornell professor Robert Frank?)

I say great. You want to shield New York City from the ravages of wealth? Then let's send every dollar with a Rockefeller lineage off the island of Manhattan; let's banish any remnant of Carnegie's fortune; let's strip the Met of all taint bestowed by Kravis and Annenberg. Purify Gotham! Morgan, Whitney, Guggenheim, Sloan, Tisch, Frick, Greenberg, Lauder, Vanderbilt and Astor. Return all the money from whence it came! And then let's see how much these noble urbanites of modest means like Manhattan then.

Progressive Conundrum

What to do? What is the sophisticated progressive to do with today's SCOTUS decision? On the one hand, it is a rebuke to the imperious Chimpy Hitler, but on the other hand it lets those hunched racist rubes in Texas execute brown people. And, it doesn't let those noble, international, multi-lateral bodies tell us what to do. Oh, the mind reels!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Twofer: Good News for Energy Diversity and Bad News for the Mullahs

Awhile back I wondered why we weren't jumping on SASOL's coal to liquids technology. Not just jumping on it actually, but why weren't we seeking to quasi-monopsonize it given the fact that Iran is very interested in this technology - because they need refined gasoline and the human rights give-a-shit Chinese have tons of coal to trade for oil and natgas.

Today, I read this via Instapundit. Very encouraging. Hopefully the terms are good enough to the technology's providers that they will choose to forgo sales to Iran, an offer they can't refuse so to speak.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Meet the New Boss...?

Good God, isn't anyone in politics not cheating on their spouse?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Give Thanks for Tuesday's Lack of Veto-Proof Majority

This guy may be a font of valuable information, possibly even info that could help us capture Osama bin Laden and roll up some other al Qaeda bigwigs. So for God's sake let's not make him uncomfortable by pouring a little water on his face.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Unintended Consequences Is Too Nice A Phrase

Let me sum up this story: "Venal legislators enact dumb solution to speculative problem and put real people out of work." All I can picture is Chuck Grassley doing the Irish jig at Bush's 2006 SOTU address. How many billions will be wasted and how many will be put out of work before this sham is ended? The only good news in this story is that some of the job losses are in Grassley's home state of Iowa, which should be cause for embarassment, and that an analyst actually got quoted in the press saying "choke chicken supply".

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Family Is First, My Friends Are Second, and I Am Third

Sounds to me like Michelle Obama was riffing on Gale Sayers here in talking about men. Although if she was, ignoring the point of the very man whom she draws on for rhetorical inspiration, makes her look dishonest and shameless. If she wasn't, I don't know excactly how it makes her look (stupid?, mean?) just that it is not good, and I guess there is a chance that an educated, black woman from Chicago has never heard of Gale Sayers.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pajamas Media on Bloomberg

You could have read it here first (here, here, and here), Michael Bloomberg is a big 'ole nanny that doesn't trust you to make your own decisions.