Misunderstanding

…by Howard Kurtz in his recent Fox News piece.

Sony’s unforgivable blunder was in making this misbegotten movie in the first place. I mean, an assassination “comedy” that includes Kim Jong Un’s head being blown up, with an internal debate over how much his hair should be on fire? As Greta Van Susteren tweeted, “Anyone who has been to NK knows how dangerous it is and would not have been so stupid to make that movie.” Sony Pictures and Seth Rogen didn’t even have the wit to make it about a fictional regime with a short leader.

Is Sony Dissembling?

President Barack Obama said Sony “made a mistake” when they decided not to release their movie in surrender to northern Korea’s hacker threats.

Sony had this in response to Obama’s recognition:

Let us be clear: the only decision that we have made with respect to release of the film was not to release it on Christmas Day in theaters, after the theater owners declined to show it. Without theaters, we could not release it in the theaters on Christmas Day. We had no choice.

On Trade with Cuba

Doug Erwin, an Economics Professor at Dartmouth, writing in The Wall Street Journal, had a thought.

Restoring trade ties and expanding commerce would revolutionize the Cuban economy and transform Cuban society. It would spur the growth of a business class, creating competing pockets of power and new, wealthy groups that would challenge the ruling Communist Party. It would give Cuban citizens access to more information, and information about the outside world destabilizes any repressive regime. What would happen if every Cuban citizen had access to a smartphone, could organize protests via Twitter, and spread the word about government outrages?

Obama’s Cuba Normalization Move

It’s certainly true that 50 years of trade embargo and absence of formal—normalized—relations between the US and Cuba have not brought about increased freedom or prosperity for the Cuban people. Neither had 45 or more years of Cold War containment succeeded in giving the Russian people, or the other peoples trapped behind the USSR’s iron curtain, a chance at improving their lot. Until it did.

Normalization isn’t the necessary change in policy here.

Technology, Oil, and Government

Falling oil prices are a good thing. Except when they’re not. Or….

The irony in the falling prices is that the success of US producers using hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies is partly responsible, along with slowing demand by struggling Asian and European markets. Now that success could come back to bite the so-called fracking industry and other drillers in America.

[Wyoming Governor Matt, R] Mead acknowledged that in the short term, lower gas prices will benefit businesses and residents in his sparsely populated state, where distances between towns are often calculated in hours instead of minutes.

Taxes and Congress

The 113th Congress, in its last days, has passed and sent to President Barack Obama for signature (or veto) a bill extending expired tax breaks through the end of this year. It’s retroactive because the expiration occurred at the end of last year. And the extension is good only for a couple more weeks. The breaks are an amalgam of exemptions that

benefit big corporations and small businesses, as well as struggling homeowners and people who live in states without a state income tax.

Why Would Anyone Want To Do Business with the Illinois Government?

A bit less polemic (but only a bit); however, the Illinois government is being openly dishonest in its business dealings.

The Land of Lincoln has accrued a $111 billion unfunded liability for government workers’ pensions—up 75% from five years ago. There is an additional $56 billion of unfunded debt to cover health benefits for the state’s retirees. Illinois today is already spending more of its general fund on pensions than on K-12 education. One in four tax dollars pays for its retired workers’ benefits. Last year the state had to defer paying $7 billion owed to contractors. All this after Democrats in 2011 raised income taxes and corporate taxes by 67% and 30%, respectively.

“Green” Energy, Competition, and Consumers

Technologies that can’t compete in the market place aren’t ready for market, nor are they ready for our consumption. Subsidizing these not-ready techs is one way of plusing them up. Another way is to penalize their competition for being too successful.

The New York Times tells this tale, albeit carefully buried in the nether regions of Katharine Seelye’s article. Overarching all of this is this:

New England [Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont] already pays the highest electricity rates of any region in the 48 contiguous states because it has no fossil fuels of its own and has to import all of its oil, gas, and coal.

Good for Amazon

‘Way last July, amazon asked the FAA for expanded outdoor testing permits (Amazon Petition for Exemption – Docket No. FAA-2014-0474) so the company could engage in serious testing of its planned drone-based delivery system. To date, the FAA has chosen not to respond. Amazon has renewed its request and advised the agency that continued unresponsiveness will force amazon to take its development out of the country [emphasis added].

Another Argument for Disbanding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on Monday announced details of a controversial plan to allow some first-time homeowners to obtain a mortgage while putting down just 3% of the price of the home.

We’ve not finished recovering from the Panic of 2008, and these entities want to resume an underlying component of the last housing bubble and burst that contributed so heavily to that.

But wait:

Fannie Mae said the loans that allow for 3% down payments will be held to the same eligibility requirements as other Fannie loans, including underwriting, income documentation and risk management standards.