Hamas—No Mas?

As the Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear program grab the headlines, there is an interesting sidebar occurring in the Middle East.  It seems that the sanctions imposed
by the United States-led coalition have taken a toll on the financial support that Iran provides to some of its proxies, most notably Hamas.

Just as there are two sides to the major conflict in the region—Israel versus the Palestinians and two sides in the Palestinian camp—Hamas versus the Palestinian Authority, so there are two sides within Hamas itself—the external leadership versus the internal leadership. Continue reading

Conventional Wisdom

Last weekend we attended the American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington, D.C.  Appearing were President Obama, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, various Senators and Representatives of both parties as well as the three major Republican presidential candidates (Santorum in person, Romney and Gingrich by satellite). Continue reading

The Hypocritic Oath

In his excellent weekly post Economic Principals (http://www.economicprincipals.com/issues/2012.01.08/1328.html)
David Warsh wrote last week about the American Economic Association’s decision
to require that all publications come with disclosures.  Specifically, the executive committee has recommended that all those wanting to publish in any of the seven journals ofthe association must disclose;

  1. “Interested parties from whom they have received over $10,000 during the past three years, including consulting fees, retainers, grants, as well as in-kind support, such as access to data.”
  2. Unpaid positions, both non-profit and for-profit.
  3. The same information for authors’ partners and close relatives.
  4. Parties with the right of prior review.

These guys (and gal) mean business.  Noting the increase in papers produced with
something less than pure motives, and data, the committee is seeking to restore some credibility to the dismal science.  For this they are to be commended.

Would that a similar action could find its way into other areas.  Warsh’s column triggered in my all too leaky memory an article from last summer’s The American Scholar by Harriet Washington, Flacking for Big Pharma (http://theamericanscholar.org/flacking-for-big-pharma/). Continue reading

Through a Frosted Glass, Darkly

In an article published just before Christmas, Lisa Pollack, writing for FT Alphaville
(http://ftalphaville.ft.com/blog/2011/12/23/814381/abstractions-and-morality-in-modern-finance/), posed the question, Why is finance so complex?  She concludes that it may
be due to the “Flynn Effect,” which credits an increase in intelligence, i.e. finance gets more complex because people in finance get smarter and can make it more complex. Continue reading

Running on Empty

A recent post by Walter Russell Mead (http://blogs.the-american-interest.com/wrm/2011/12/05/another-one-bites-the-dust/)  “Another One Bites The Dust” uses Herman Cain’s recent campaign suspension to bemoan the dearth of capable and viable candidates for the Republican nomination for President.  Why can’t we find anyone up to the task?  Mead’s short answer is that “our economy and our society have outrun our political ideas.”  He further posits that “The reason no such candidate has appeared is that our national discussion about life after blue remains thin.” Continue reading

Bah! Humbug

The recent passing of Andy Rooney made me realize that what we need is a good curmudgeon.  Look around and no one really comes to mind.   I believe this is partly due to the (admittedly alliterative) proliferation of political partisanship in our society.  No one is against everything.  The conservative talkers like Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh, even Glenn Beck are primarily against things because those things are against what they are for,  The talkers on the left are…well there really aren’t any talkers on the left. I know there are Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but they have way too much fun doing what they do to even be considered.  Besides, complaining just to get laughs is disingenuous at best, which is why Bill Maher and Dennis Miller are out too.
Continue reading

Going Green–Nudgingly

I spent this past Thanksgiving away from home, staying in a hotel for a few days.  Not being a name-dropper, let’s just leave it that this hotel was one of a well-known national chain.  I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in my life, stayed in many hotels and know enough to refuse the room that is next to or behind the elevator.  I’ve also seen many changes in hotel service over the years, some for the better, some not.

Continue reading

Hide and SEC

I can’t help but be amused as I watch the politicians, regulators and Wall Street do that voodoo they do do so well.  First the traders and bankers hide while new rules and regs are proposed, and then the pols hide while the lobbyists eviscerate these same proposals.  Further fun is trying to figure out what side of the issue academics will take, but I digress. Continue reading