Felix Salmon

How to buy political access, charitable-donation edition

Eric Lichtblau has a depressing, must-read story today detailing how strong government regulation of the for-profit eduction sector was diluted into toothlessness by effective lobbying. Lobbyists, of course, trade on their access to politicians. And one way that they obtain that access surprised me — although it clearly didn’t surprise Lichtblau, who dropped it into his story in a subordinate clause with nary a raised eyebrow. Here it is with my emphasis:

Chart of the day, NYC biking edition

bikes.jpg

This is a chart of the number of bike commuters in New York. It’s known as the NYC Commuter Cycling Indicator, and it comes from surveys taken ten times per year at predetermined points around the city. It doesn’t give a good count of the number of bike commuters in New York, but it gives an excellent idea of the trends: bike commuting has essentially quadrupled in the past decade, and has doubled over the past four years. Which just happen to be the four years during which Janette Sadik-Khan has run the Department of Transportation.

Counterparties

Europe’s banks need to raise an extra $153 billion — Bloomberg

Warren Buffett is buying a $2 billion solar plant in California — Businessweek

The markets didn’t just vote on the Euro summit

Am I feeling a bit sheepish about my extreme pessimism of last night, in the wake of a healthy stock-market reaction in both Europe and the US? Not really. Markets did rise, but the movement was within what you might consider standard noise for stock indices these days: roughly 2% in Europe, a little lower in the US. A resounding vote of confidence in the EU this was not: instead, it looks more like the bad deal done in Europe was already priced in, and the markets just continued, today, on their normal volatile and noisy path. In fact, it’s not at all clear that the EU treaty was responsible for any of today’s market move at all.

Hedgies vs Obama

Jim Chanos claims not to understand why hedgies are so critical of Barack Obama: after all, they’ve done pretty well for themselves over the past three years. But maybe this chart, from Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, might help him out:

Europe’s disastrous summit

I thought disasters were all meant to happen over the weekend? Somehow, in Brussels, EU leaders have contrived to pull defeat out of the jaws of victory on Thursday night, leaving Friday for finger-pointing and recriminations and wondering whether anybody who signed on to this deal has any chance at all of even getting re-elected, let alone being remembered as one of the leaders who saved the euro.

Counterparties

In this Counterparties, almost every link will have something to do with Europe:

Citigroup reckons Europe’s headed for a six quarter recession — FT Alphaville

Treasury’s promise, one year on

In November 2010, on what was pretty much his last day working for Treasury, I spoke to Michael Barr, an assistant secretary; he was upset about a post of mine which said that Treasury was going to do absolutely nothing with respect to holding banks accountable for the various mortgage scandals.

The density barbell

Virtually everybody I know with Instapaper and/or Read It Later uses it all the time — the ability to read long articles in a clean format, at your leisure, on planes or subways or just when you have a few minutes to kill standing in line at the supermarket, is a great improvement to quality of life. And both of them are now popular enough that they can start extracting interesting patterns from their data.