Tuesday, May 25, 2010


The Awl has been dominating coverage of Ciudad Juarez.

Speaking of unfortunate drug war stories. This hasn’t gotten a lot of play—understandably, given the number of consequential stories out there these days—but the U.S. recently asked for a Jamaican drug lord named Christopher “Dudus” Coke to be extradited to the U.S; the Jamaicans complied and tried to raid his house in the Tivoli Gardens section of Kingston. As it turns out, Coke is the type of generous beneficent gangster, who, by spreading the wealth around, arouses a lot of good feeling among the people: so there’s been quite a bit of resistance as the police raid, and they’ve had to declare a state of emergency. Twelve Jamaican military police are dead, as of the most recent report. (Credit to The Guardian for dominating coverage.)

This thought on the ending of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is right on target:
Don’t get me wrong, this is a huge and needed victory. It adds to the large and growing list of ridiculously impressive accomplishments of this Congress and this Administration. But if this is the best they can do, the quickest they can act, in the face of support from eighty percent of Americans, how can we possibly expect financial reform with teeth, or climate change legislation, to have a prayer?

Speaking of poll numbers—this time in the depressing division: Rand Paul is considered too liberal (17%) by more Kentuckians than too conservative (12%). Sigh.

On rating agency reform.

Was airline deregulation really all that and a bag of chips (now charged for in a snack pack for $5, along with a baggage fee of $20 for the first bag and $30 for the second bag)?

A helpful summary of the areas that financial reform conferees will deliberate over. Oh hey? Large banks have banded together to protect interchange fees using awful arguments? How unexpected. By the way, fun fact about what interchange fees do to retailers:
“Credit cards are the lifeline of my business as customers use plastic for everything from; a cup of coffee, to a pack of gum, to a tank of gasoline. Credit cards and debit cards are easy to use, but what customers don’t know is that every time they use a credit card, I pay a fee. For example, a customer purchases a local newspaper (75 cents retail), my profit is 9 cents. If the customer is using a debit card I would pay 25 cents for the transaction fee plus .08% interchange fee. If the customer puts down a Visa credit card the transaction fee would be 19 cents plus 1.68% interchange fee. Regardless of the payment option I lose money on the sale.”

Is Europe turning Japanese? (No, you dirty minds out there thinking of the song this references: Europeans aren’t masturbating to take the pain out of their economic crisis.)

An interesting interview about the virtues of suburbia.

On congestion fees and the price of traffic:
Now 95 years old, Kheel has been trying to improve New York’s traffic for more than half a century. He is obsessed with the economic damage that cars do to cities—damage that’s much greater than most people realize. In 1958, as the New York City Transit Authority was preparing to raise subway fares, Kheel wrote a paper citing a survey that found that traffic congestion cost more than $2 billion a year. “This vast sum,” Kheel wrote, “equal to $1 a working day for every man, woman, and child in the city, has to be paid by someone, and it is. It is assessed against all of us in the form of higher prices, inflated delivery costs, and increased taxes.” It would be cheaper, he argued, to subsidize public transportation and save the hidden costs associated with driving.

Kheel made the same point a decade later, in a New York magazine cover story arguing against another fare increase: “Any balanced analysis will surely prove that the taxpayer actually pays, for every person who chooses to drive to and from work in his own car, an indirect subsidy at least 10 times as great as the indirect subsidy now paid the mass-transit rider.”

The trouble with research universities—the research?

Andrew Sorkin talks sense about prepaying a resolution fund in a financial regulation bill. 

A nice review in the New Yorker of Globish by Isaac Chotiner.

(two late notes. One: this was the 500th post here at Various Provocations. Seems pretty cool though, yes, it's a meaningless milestone--is this blog that much different between posts 499 and 501? Nay, I say. In the more consequential matters: Stanford women's tennis captured its first national championship since 2006, which is Stanford's 99th national championship. Sadly, we are behind My Favorite Nemesis UCLA Bruins, who have 105 national championships. All in due time, all in due time.) 

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