Felix Salmon

Counterparties

Michelle Vaughan’s Twitter project is live, including my tweet100 Tweets

How the mortgage industry lies with statistics

Yesterday something calling itself the Coalition for Sensible Housing policy put out a dense 13-page white paper entitled “Proposed Qualified Residential Mortgage Definition Harms Creditworthy Borrowers While Frustrating Housing Recovery”.

Debating financial speculation with speculators

On Tuesday I moderated a panel at the New York Forum which featured, inter alia, Duncan Niederauer, the CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, and Richard Robb, the CEO of Christofferson Robb, a money management firm which does its fair share of speculation.

Adventures with debt-ceiling Kabuki, cont.

I’m worried about the brinkmanship going on in the debt-ceiling talks which House majority leader Eric Cantor has just decided to pull out of. Cantor’s point seems to be that he is incapable of talking about tax hikes as part of the deficit-reduction negotiations with Joe Biden; instead, the only way such a conversation can take place is if it’s between Barack Obama and John Boehner.

Counterparties

Price gap: Storage vs Bandwidth — Backblaze

What ‘Inside Job’ got wrong — WaPo

Larry Summers joins Square Board Of Directors — HuffPo

xkcd vs conoisseurship — xkcd (see also)

Pictures of China’s Ai Weiwei after release on bail — Reuters

The US immigration system is horribly broken. Jose Antonio Vargas’s amazing story should change minds — NYT

How to create jobs: bike lanes

We know that infrastructure spending is a good way of creating jobs. But what kind of infrastructure spending? Heidi Gerrett-Peltier looked at pedestrian, bicycle, and road projects in Anchorage, Austin, Baltimore, Bloomington, Concord, Eugene, Houston, Lexington, Madison, Santa Cruz, and Seattle — and came to a pretty clear conclusion:

Chart of the day, auction-house market share edition

Randy Kennedy has a bullish article on Artnet’s nascent art-auction business, which is doing better the second time round than it did the first time round, but which is still tiny. I’m skeptical: value in the art world is very much reliant upon the institutional authority of auction houses and galleries, and Artnet’s auction system is designed to strip out all of that information. It can work for fungible editioned works of relatively modest value, but I do think that most collectors are always going to want a bit more hand-holding before buying art, not to mention the opportunity to actually see the art object before buying it.

Can employment ever catch up with productivity?

I moderated a panel on financial innovation yesterday, about which more when I get the video. But there was a lot of talk of leverage, which is the hidden turbo-charger in a lot of financial innovations, from credit default swaps to structured investment vehicles. And there was a general consensus that if you want to create prosperity and jobs, then leverage is in principle a good thing: more debt means more growth which means more prosperity. For a prime example, see this post from Gregory White, who reckons that whenever household debt is going down rather than up, “the economy will stink.”

How to prevent misguided privatizations

The problem with talking about federal infrastructure expenditures as “investments” is that someone like Dick Durbin is likely to take the term literally. He’s now introduced legislation which says that any time a state or city wants to privatize a transportation asset, it has to repay the federal government first. So if the government sunk a few hundred million dollars into a highway project, for instance, and then the state decided it wanted to sell off the right to collect tolls on that highway, then the toll operator or the state would first have to repay all the money that the feds spent.