Friday, May 31, 2013

Cranky Friday

These should probably be Tweets but anyway.

1. Do we really want to be celebrating (New York Times) young teens celebrating Daft Punk/Pharrell/Nile Rodgers Get Lucky given what those lyrics are actually about? Or  do we discount that as being only in New York?

2. What's the point of the International Criminal Court*(New York Times)? Bashar al-Assad must be laughing his moustache off at the threat that he might end up there.

3. Washington Post: "Liberal hawks are silent on Syria." Have any liberals, hawks or otherwise, had anything to say on Syria? You wouldn't know it from the liberal blogs.

*In fairness to the ICC, the botched verdicts in this case are from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Intellectual Property

Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by John Bruton and Kevin Murphy --

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development doesn't regard Ireland as a tax haven. The OECD identifies four key indicators of a tax haven and none of them applies to Ireland. The first indicator is having no taxes or only nominal taxes; the second is a lack of transparency; the third is an unwillingness to exchange information with tax administrators of OECD countries; and the fourth is an absence of a substantial activity requirement. None of these criteria describes Ireland ...In December 2012, Ireland became one of the first countries in the world to sign an agreement with the U.S. to improve international tax compliance and to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act. This type of agreement is now being hailed as the emerging international standard for the automatic exchange of tax information between countries.

Irish Times op-ed by Joanne Richardson --

The OECD identifies four key indicators of a tax haven. They are: having no taxes or only nominal taxes; a lack of transparency; an unwillingness to exchange information with tax administrations of OECD member countries; and the absence of a substantial activity requirement. None of these criteria applies to Ireland. Furthermore, in December 2012, Ireland became one of the first countries in the world to sign an agreement with the United States to improve international tax compliance and implement Fatca (Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). This type of agreement is now being hailed as the emerging international standard for the automatic exchange of tax information.

Now in fairness the rest of the articles have fairly different content, and the point about FATCA is a good one given that FATCA faced a well organized media campaign against it in the US and Europe before European governments realized its potential in their own assault on tax evasion by their citizens.

But, the similarities above point to the obvious: there are talking points circulating, prepared by vested interests in the current Irish corporate tax system, and finding their way into opinion pages of newspapers.

Not necessarily good or bad. Something to be aware of.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Where does hype go to die?

This week --

The Manchester City-Yankees partnership, which will no doubt antagonize the Mets, will deepen existing ties because the Yankees’ stadium concessions business, Legends Hospitality, already provides services at Manchester City’s home ground, Etihad Stadium. Manchester City, the recently deposed champion of England’s Premier League, will play an exhibition match against another British powerhouse, Chelsea, on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, and city and M.L.S. officials were eager to announce a deal before that game. “In the Yankees, we have found the absolute best partner for developing a world-class sports organization and a winning team that will carry the New York City Football Club name with pride,” said Ferran Soriano, the chief executive of Manchester City.

February 2001 --

Manchester United have consolidated their position as the richest football club in the world by joining forces with American baseball giants New York Yankees. The biggest joint-marketing deal in the history of sport, potentially worth billions of pounds, was unveiled at a press conference in Manhattan on Wednesday ... Under the deal, David Beckham and Fabien Barthez will be paraded at the Yankee Stadium, with El Duque and outfielder Bernie Williams visiting Old Trafford.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Transnational elites

Quality Woolwich-related trolling from Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian --

On Twitter last night, Michael Moore sardonically summarized western reaction to the London killing this way: I am outraged that we can't kill people in other counties without them trying to kill us!" Basic human nature simply does not allow you to cheer on your government as it carries out massive violence in multiple countries around the world and then have you be completely immune from having that violence returned.

What US military violence in Chechnya or British military violence in Nigeria was being "returned" by US permanent resident Tamerlan Tsarnaev in Boston or the two (apparently) British machete-wielders in London?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Theatre of Screams

New York Times interview with EU Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn --

He roots for Manchester United, his favorite club for decades ...

Enough said.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Arriviste

Paul Krugman takes note of a Wall Street Journal blog post praising a warning from Jaime Caruana, the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements ("the central banks' central bank) about the dangers of keeping interest rates for too long. As Krugman notes, the WSJ sees one credential for this warning being that --

the BIS is one of the few international financial institutions (some say the only one) to see the financial crisis coming and to issue clear warnings ahead of time.

Now at the institutional level, that's true. But Jaime Caruana wasn't at the BIS prior the financial crisis. He was head of the capital markets department at the IMF. And did he then see the financial crisis coming and issue clear warnings ahead of time? Here he is summarizing the IMF's Global Financial Stability Report in April 2007 --

Overall, then, we note that the structural transformations occurring in global financial markets are likely to have a positive impact on financial stability. However, the increased complexity of instruments and linkages and the very benign circumstances associated with the rapid rise in the types of institutions investing abroad and increasing global reach of financial institution suggests there may be pockets of vulnerability, and that we must continue to analyze all these trends in greater depth ... We think that over the last years the improvements in risk management techniques and processes in many financial institutions has been really very important, very relevant, and very positive, and this has contributed to strengthen the resilience of the financial system. We see these developments positively. There is liquidity in the financial system, and I would like to say that part of this liquidity comes from the innovation of the financial systems, so it is the very financial system that also is helping to create additional liquidity in the system.

If you read the whole thing and indeed his other pronouncements from that era, there are indeed enough CYA paragraphs about risks where he can say he did mention some possibility in advance. But clear warnings about an impending crisis? No way.

One side note to this is that the international financial policy elite has been a very nice landing spot for Spanish bankers whose record at home and their institutional prognostications prior to the crisis leave a lot to be desired. Now they're heralded as the people who saw it coming.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Confidence-inspiring

European Council 14 May post-meeting statement --

In summarising the discussion, the presidency noted convergence along the following points: 
[...]
- agreement amongst most member states that deposits under EUR 100,000 must be fully guaranteed;

Which member states didn't want to fully guarantee such deposits?

Friday, May 10, 2013

Transnational conservative elites

Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley will not attend the graduation ceremony at Boston College because the guest is Taoiseach Enda Kenny and O'Malley says that Kenny is "aggressively promoting abortion legislation." This prompts two questions.

First, which set of Irish or Irish American pro-life activists got to the Cardinal to inspire this course of action? Second, does the answer to question 1 form his only news source on the topic?

The answer to question 2 is most likely Yes, since it will come as news to any actual pro-choice campaigners that Enda Kenny or the relevant legislation is pro-abortion. Here's the outline text (the bill is still being drafted). One hint to his eminence that he might have been misinformed should come from the bill's title: The Protection of Life During Pregnancy.

The bill legislates for abortion in highly restrictive circumstances, and the necessity to legislate for those circumstances was created by a Church-backed constitutional amendment, subsequent Supreme Court legislation, and the likelihood of further Savita-type cases which exposed the gaps in the current framework. The Cardinal needs some more diverse information sources. 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Half hidden agenda

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso in another of his Big Think speeches about the future of the EU --

One of Europe's most important and respected philosophers, J├╝rgen Habermas, recently referred to our Blueprint as "the first more detailed document in which the European Union develops a perspective for reforms in the medium and long term that go beyond the present".

Relevant section of the address by Habermas --

The Commission, the Presidency of the Council, and the European Central Bank — known in Brussels parlance as “the institutions” - are least subject to legitimation pressures because of their relative distance from the national public spheres. So it was up them to present in December 2012 the first more detailed document in which the European Union develops a perspective for reforms in the medium and long term that go beyond the present, more or less dilatory reactions to critical symptoms.

Which is a little less of an endorsement of the document in general and the Commission in particular than Barroso implies. Habermas goes on to discuss how the only logical solution to the EU's problems is a political union, which will be reached by German-led treaty changes. Somehow that part wasn't in Barroso's speech.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

It's background all the way the down

The White House has given the New York Times the privileged deep background anonymous quote filled pull-back from Barack Obama's now infamous "red line" to Bashar al-Assad on chemical weapons use, which turns out to have been an invitation to the al-Assad clan to test the line both in terms of massacres and atrocities but ultimately in the use of chemical weapons itself. Anyway, there's one obvious problem with the New York Times article. If all the president's men were so uneasy about the whole concept of a red line, why were they still freely discussing it in those terms less than 2 weeks ago -- in a on-the-record background interview? --

We go on to reaffirm that the President has set a clear red line as it relates to the United States that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups is a red line that is not acceptable to us, nor should it be to the international community. It's precisely because we take this red line so seriously that we believe there is an obligation to fully investigate any and all evidence of chemical weapons use within Syria ... On your red line question, it is absolutely the case that the President's red line is the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups ... So again, it’s precisely because we take the red line seriously that we feel like there needs to be clear, factual, evidentiary basis for our decisions ... But I think nobody should have any mistake about what our red line is. It is when we firmly establish that there has been chemical weapons use within Syria, that is not acceptable to the United States, nor is the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist organizations. And the people in Syria and the Assad regime should know that the President means what he says when he set that red line.

If the concept was seen as a mistake from the start, why did the advisers dig themselves in 2 weeks ago before rushing to brief the New York Times that really they didn't like it at all?

The phrase should have been dumped once the problem was realized. Right now it's on the way to being the equivalent of the State Department's "no opinion on your border dispute with Kuwait" communication to Saddam Hussein.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The General Theory of the Future


Wading into the Niall Ferguson controversy (with Ferguson himself already having conceded defeat), Jonah Goldberg finds an old Gertrude Himmelfarb quote --

There is a discernible affinity between the Bloomsbury ethos, which put a premium on immediate and present satisfactions, and Keynesian economics, which is based entirely on the short run and precludes any long-term judgments. (Keynes’s famous remark. “In the long run we are all dead,” also has an obvious connection with his homosexuality — what Schumpeter delicately referred to as his “childless vision.”)

Above, part of the table of contents of Keynes 1930 book, Essays in Persuasion.

Big Gay is going to have to be bigger

Niall Ferguson's bizarre remarks about John Maynard Keynes -- that his philosophy discounted the future since he was gay -- makes for an interesting juxtaposition with Ferguson's other views about what happens when there are too many men, as appears to be happening in China and India:

It may be that the coming generation of Asian men without women will find harmless outlets for their inevitable frustrations, like team sports or videogames. But I doubt it. Either this bachelor generation will be a source of domestic instability, whether Brazilian-style crime or Arab-style revolution—or, as happened in Europe, they and their testosterone will be exported. There’s already enough shrill nationalism in Asia as it is. Don’t be surprised if, in the next generation, it takes the form of macho militarism and even imperialism. Lock up your daughters.

The solution is clear. We just need to divert these hundreds of millions of excess males to that Keynesian form of effete selfish liberalism.

UPDATE: Ferguson has retracted his original remarks.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Daily Mail in "made up story" shock

Let's start this episode at the end. The Daily Mail story alleging a Saudi angle to the information on the Tsarnaev brothers has the following credit --

Richard Miniter contributed the American Media Institute’s reporting for this story.

If you're wondering why a 501(c)(3) organization is getting a journalism credit on a Daily Mail story, read on. Or read on anyway.

Statement via Saudi Press Agency --

Riyadh, Jumada II 21, 1434, May 1, 2013, SPA -- The Security Spokesman at the Ministry of Interior, dismissed here today, the British Daily Mail claims that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia had rejected to give an entry visa to (Tamerlan Tsarnaev), one of the culprits behind Boston Marathon bombings. He also denied the London-based newspaper claim that the competent authorities in Saudi Arabia had any information, related to the culprit's intentions to carry out a terrorist act in the United States of America or that it had warned the U.S. authorities, in this regard. The Ministry of Interior Security Spokesman also asserted that no official within the ministry of interior, had been interviewed by this paper or made statements to it, in this regard or otherwise, and that the ministry has the right to take appropriate action against such baseless and unfounded news. --SPA

Now you might ask whether you have to choose between believing the Daily Mail or the Saudi Ministry of Interior. Except that the Saudi Ministry of Interior has surely calculated that at least two intelligence services (the FBI and the FSB) know an awful lot about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, so why would they risk denying an easily provable fact? Signs therefore indicate that the Daily Mail story is false, and it is being updated during the day to reflect the denials while keeping its original claims in the text.

So what's going on? What's going on is that the Mail went deep into the Obama-hating cesspit for "news" (which is what happens when you're chasing the same audience as Matt Drudge) when about two seconds Googling would have warned any editor to be careful. Unless appealing to the audience that he brings was part of the plan.

There is progress of a sort. In the Clinton-hating days, the trick was to give the dubious material to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at the Sunday Telegraph, and then use the line "London's Sunday Telegraph is reporting that ..." to launder it back into the American news cycle. Now the haters are just given the explicit credit for the story. It's the other media outlets that run with the Mail story who need to validate the material.

UPDATE: There's something about Saudi Arabia that seems to attract journalistic fiction.