Rating the securities issued by U.S. banks is one thing, but can you imagine the United States government downgrading the sovereign debt of friendly countries? I can't. And if they did, can you imagine the reaction? I can. Oh yes, I surely can.
The ratings process, obviously, has big problems. But although putting ratings under the thumb of the U.S. government might solve one of those problems, it would also create a whole set of new ones. This remains a very difficult problem.
Tom Haberstroh is an NBA statistical analyst who I’ve been reading a fair bit of recently, and he has two good ones: the problems with offensive rebound rate as currently measured and why the Celtics will struggle to score inside on the Cavs (insider).
A good look at Rory Stewart, who's running as a Conservative for an MP position; he wrote a really good book on Iraq a few years ago.
On the continuing struggle of the Green Movement in Iran:
Beyond the leadership of the Green Movement, there are additional signs of fissures within Iran’s governing elite. On Ahmadinejad’s trip to the city of Qom earlier this month, according to one report, virtually every major ayatollah refused to meet with him—despite direct pressure from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself. The Qom ayatollahs provide the theological legitimacy for the regime and their support is essential for any president’s success. While none publicly explained their reasons for refusing to meet Ahmadinejad, the symbolism was hard to miss.This is a critical move, of course. Recall that the revolution was able to throw out the Shah only after the Ayatollah Khomenei and the clerics of Qom decisively intervened—before that, the movement was merely one of intellectuals and Communists, mostly in Tehran.
The culture of violence in Ciudad Juarez.
Excellent question—should we be restarting the consumer debt machine?:
Even though America is one of the world's richest countries, the American consumer has spent more than a decade living outside his means. As panelists discussing the problem of the "Frugal Consumer" pointed out, Americans hold debt equal to about 130 percent of their income. The average American household spends only about 14 percent of its income actually paying off any part of that debt. With a 17 percent real unemployment rate, household incomes are naturally continuing to fall; PIMCO chief Mohammed El-Erian warned that unemployment is now a "structural" problem, an eroding pillar of our economy. Real-estate magnate Richard LeFrak noted that so many homeowners are now underwater on their mortgages—owing more than the houses are worth—that they feel poor, and said that consumers won't spend as long as they feel poor.
The weakness of India’s Hindu nationalist party.
More problems with the California high speed rail project.
The carbon emissions of cloud commuting.
An interesting breakdown of the Tory Party in the UK ahead of their accession to power.
The pictures in this comparing L.A.’s smog in the 50s to Beijing’s smog now are really quite good.
Health care efficiency follies, payment edition. NYT version:
Last year, a study published in the health policy journal Health Affairs found that physicians in private practice on average spent nearly three weeks in time and $68,000 in staffing per year dealing with the particular administrative constraints of third-party payers. Doctors who were specialists could better afford to support these costs; but primary care physicians devoted as much as a third of their average yearly income (including benefits) to these interactions with the various health plans.And this Slate article goes with an overheated headline but gives a nice overview of bundled payments and their general wonderfulness.
Matt Taibbi’s latest on Goldman.