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July 30, 2011

Amazon prices change

Prices at Amazon change, often.


July 29, 2011

Mike Mayo's Exile on Wall Street

"Look, if you can't compete in the major leagues for over a decade, it's time to go back to the minors," said the always outspoken Mike Mayo, an analyst with CLSA. His chronicle of ruffling bank management feathers, "Exile on Wall Street" (Wiley), will be published in the fall.

JPMorgan Chase is as well managed as any gargantuan bank can be. But if you look at its businesses, it's hard to see any area where it is clearly the best, something even its own executives concede. Not in credit cards, where the premier name is American Express. Not in money management, where you might offer up T. Rowe Price. Investment banking -- Goldman Sachs (the last quarter notwithstanding). Back-office transactions, State Street.

Yet even JPMorgan is merely trading at book value. Put another way, the market regards the value that JPMorgan provides as a financial services conglomerate as zilch. How well do all of JPMorgan's divisions work together? In presentations to investors, JPMorgan executives show how much revenue they gain from existing clients. But these measures are hardly unbiased. Executives have an incentive to defend their empires. Who is to say that a certain division of JPMorgan wouldn't have won that business anyway? And nobody measures how much a bank loses through conflicts of interest.

Making a nuanced argument, John Hempton, a blogger, investor and former regulator in Australia, says that it's better for shareholders -- and societies -- to have large banks with lots of market power. That makes them more profitable and leads them to take less risk, making them safer and more enticing for investors.

July 28, 2011

Medical debt of doctors is symptom of debt as way of life

But while upgraded clinical facilities and spectacular research programs are obvious reasons, another key factor has gone largely unnoticed. It is our society's assumption that individual indebtedness is required to obtain big-ticket items, whether they are cars, houses or higher education.

"It's become normal now to take out loans to get anything of value," said Dr. S. Ryan Greysen, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of a fascinating study published this month on the historical and social factors that have contributed to rising medical student indebtedness. "Getting a medical education has become similar to getting a mortgage on your house."

The acceptance of student indebtedness as the "norm" of medical school has provided a kind of carte blanche for robust tuition increases. Median yearly tuition at public medical schools is $29,000, and at private institutions it is $47,000 -- increases from two decades earlier of over 312 percent and 165 percent, respectively. While some may counter that future doctors can well afford such increases and loans, the rising debt load has had and will have repercussions on patients, particularly those in greatest need.

Paying so much up front has transformed an education that was once a path to public service into a significant financial investment that needs to yield returns. "Because of all the debt, people stop thinking of medicine as an incredible opportunity to do good," Dr. Greysen said. For some young people, looming debts mean eschewing a calling to serve a particularly needy, less lucrative patient population or practice, and instead pursuing a well-compensated subspecialty that caters to the comfortably insured.

For others, such large debts mean forgoing a medical career altogether. Cost remains a key deterrent for pre-medical students and is an important reason there aren't more African-American, Hispanic and Native American doctors. Despite the well-documented benefits of a diverse physician work force, these economic pressures are transforming the socioeconomic makeup of medical school classes; medical students are increasingly from affluent backgrounds. In 1971, almost 30 percent of medical students came from households with incomes in the lowest 40th percentile, but only 10 percent of all medical students now do, and more than half come from families in the top quintile.

July 24, 2011

Credit due in South America

South American countries -- including Chile and Brazil, two of the region's healthiest economies -- are going through growing pains as the use of credit grows. The credit-fueled spending has driven extensive economic growth. But it has also opened the door to abuses, as credit issuers have used predatory techniques to lure customers, particularly young and less affluent ones, in countries where regulation is scant, annual interest charges can top 220 percent and consumers cannot seek bankruptcy protection, economists and consumer defense groups say.

"They are learning every trick that was learned in the United States to make credit cards the most valuable part of the banking business," said Lewis Mandell, a professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Buffalo, who wrote a book on the history of the credit card industry. "And unfortunately, the problems this caused in the United States are likely to repeat themselves in Latin America."

July 20, 2011

Incenting cooperation Piaza Nath

Tested by Rexford.

July 19, 2011

Value of law school

From 1989 to 2009, when college tuition rose by 71 percent, law school tuition shot up 317 percent.

There are many reasons for this ever-climbing sticker price, but the most bizarre comes courtesy of the highly influential US News rankings. Part of the US News algorithm is a figure called expenditures per student, which is essentially the sum that a school spends on teacher salaries, libraries and other education expenses, divided by the number of students.

Though it accounts for just 9.75 percent of the algorithm, it gives law schools a strong incentive to keep prices high. Forget about looking for cost efficiencies. The more that law schools charge their students, and the more they spend to educate them, the better they fare in the US News rankings.

"I once joked with my dean that there is a certain amount of money that we could drag into the middle of the school's quadrangle and burn," said John F. Duffy, a George Washington School of Law professor, "and when the flames died down, we'd be a Top 10 school. As long as the point of the bonfire was to teach our students. Perhaps what we could teach them is the idiocy in the US News rankings."

For years, it made economic sense for smart, ambitious 22-year-olds to pay the escalating price for a legal diploma. Law schools have had a monopolist's hold on the keys to corporate lawyerdom, which pays graduates six-figure salaries.

But borrowing $150,000 or more is now a vastly riskier proposition given the scarcity of Big Law jobs. Of course, that scarcity hasn't been priced into the cost of law school. How come? In part, it's because schools have managed to convey the impression that those jobs aren't very scarce.

For instance, although N.Y.L.S. is ranked No. 135 out of the roughly 200 schools in the US News survey, it asserts in figures provided to the publisher that nine months after graduation, the median private-sector salary of alums who graduated in 2009 -- which is the class featured in the most recent US News annual law school issue -- was $160,000. That is exactly the same figure cited by Yale and Harvard, the top law schools in the country.

Law School Economics: Ka-Ching !
Published: July 16, 2011
Despite fewer high-paying jobs, students continue to pour into law school. And the schools keep charging higher tuition and admitting more students.

July 17, 2011

New houses look old but offer utility and green features

IVY is creeping up the walls of the stone neo-Georgian Revival-style manor house on the harbor here. Towering old oak and pine trees and a 35-foot blue Atlas cedar punctuate its lushly landscaped lawn. The seven-bedroom residence, with arched dormers, a columned portico with a fluted cornice design, transom windows, a slate roof and a widow's walk with a Chippendale railing, looks as if it has been there for a century. It was finished last summer.

On an island where the traditional is king, most residences can easily be dated -- Capes to the postwar Levittown era; ranches, split levels and then high ranches in the '50s and '60s, cedar-sided contemporaries in the '80s, and during the McMansion boom in the late '90s, "colonials on steroids."

Over the last decade, many architects and builders have veered toward a more ageless, classic approach.

Some of the materials used to achieve that nostalgic charm, however, are increasingly 21st century, more energy efficient and durable. The exterior trim on the stone manor is a resin-based material called AZEK that looks like wood but is rot-proof. Ira Tane, the president of Benchmark Home Builders in Huntington Station, recently completed a gabled Victorian in South Huntington with fake cedar siding, a cultured stone facade on the front porch, authentic-looking but modern windows with "simulated" divided light panes, AZEK-type trim, fiberglass porch columns; composite porch rails and decking, "all of which contribute to a look that will stand the test of time."

Homeowners stick to traditional styling because "there is a real comfort zone in what is very familiar," Mr. Tane said. "It conjures up a warm, fuzzy feeling. For eating, we have comfort food. For homes, we have comfort architecture."

New construction provides the turn-of-the-last century look with 21st century amenities, like large eat-in kitchens, huge closets, computerized systems and energy efficient, green features like spray-in insulation and geothermal heating and air-conditioning to reduce costs.

Pat Trunzo III, a custom builder in Wainscott, is building a four-bedroom stucco Tuscan-style cottage in East Hampton with vintage curb appeal. But it's "a very modern house in terms of construction," and green, Mr. Trunzo said, with geothermal air-conditioning and solar hot water panels recessed on top of a dormer so they are not visible from the ground.

Building New, Looking Older
Published: July 14, 2011
Over the last decade, many architects and builders have veered toward a more ageless, classic approach using materials that are increasingly 21st century.

July 16, 2011

Condo owners are screened, too

In the downturn, many owners stopped paying common charges, and condominiums had little recourse to recoup their money. In case of a default, the city is first in line to recover outstanding real estate taxes or other charges, followed by the mortgage lender. The condominium is third in line, and usually all it can do is file a lien against the property and hope that it will be repaid when the apartment is sold.

Because the condominium's power is limited, it is a matter of fiduciary duty to find strong buyers, said Carl Seligson, the board president of Carnegie Hill Tower, at 40 East 94th Street. In any given month, about three apartments in the 180-unit building have not paid their monthly charges on time; none have defaulted, he said.

Condos Steal a Page (or 20) From Co-ops
Published: July 14, 2011
Once the province of exclusive co-ops, lengthy applications and demands for years of tax returns and bank statements are turning up at condominiums.

July 14, 2011

Screening tenants for credit and income

Most landlords in NYC require a lot of information. They want to see a prospective tenant's tax returns, pay stubs, bank statements, proof of employment, photo identification, and sometimes, reference letters from previous landlords. Everyone will run a credit check (many Manhattan landlords look for a score above 700) and just about all, from big management firms to small-time landlords, want to know that your gross income is somewhere between 40 and 50 times the monthly rent.

Using that formula, someone renting an apartment for $3,000 a month must earn at least $120,000 a year.

"It mirrors the requirements used to qualify you for a mortgage," said Scott Walsh, the director of market research at TF Cornerstone, a property management and construction firm in Manhattan.

Apartment hunters should be ready to produce all of these documents. And, said Steve Maschi, a vice president of Glenwood, a Manhattan property management firm, prospective tenants should be ready to write a check on the spot for the first month's rent, the security deposit (usually a month's rent) and if a broker is involved, that fee (8 to 15 percent of a year's rent).

Those who lack the required income or credit score, or those relocating here from overseas, may be shut out.

One recent apartment hunter, Sara Davar, said she was shocked when she ran into these hurdles. Ms. Davar, 28, an area director for Meltwater Buzz, which provides analytic tools for social media, had lived in her native Stockholm, as well as in London and in Philadelphia, and had not encountered anything like the requirements here. The stumbling block for her was the same as that encountered by most foreigners: no credit history in this country. Without it, no landlord would consider her.

Many people in this situation turn to a guarantor, usually a parent, to co-sign the lease. But that is not always a simple solution. Landlords subject guarantors to the same in-depth scrutiny that they give tenants, a searchlight at which parents often balk. In addition, they want to see income of anywhere from 70 to 100 times the rent, since guarantors are presumably paying for their own homes as well. Some management firms approve only guarantors who live in New York or in the tristate area, said Jeremy Cooper, a founder of Cooper & Cooper, a real estate firm in Manhattan. So, for those arriving from overseas, or even the opposite side of the country, a guarantor will not always help.

When there are credit issues, some landlords will accept an additional security deposit, or several months' rent upfront. Landlords of apartments subject to rent regulation laws are not allowed to accept this extra payment.

Ms. Davar was able to secure a lease, at the new Frank Gehry building on Spruce Street, by using a company called Insurent that insures leases. For a fee (between 75 and 85 percent of a month's rent and up to 110 percent of a month's rent for foreigners) the company will cover your rent if you stop paying it, provided the landlord obtains a judgment against you. The company will then pursue you for reimbursement.

Insurent's standards are much lower than those of most city landlords -- it requires a gross income of only 27.5 times one month's rent and will work with credit scores as low as 630.

But not all of the city's management companies and landlords will accept the insurance.

Ms. Davar moved into the apartment in May. "I really enjoy it," she said, but added that explaining to her company why it had to pay an additional fee took a bit of work.

Rental standards outside of Manhattan and certain hot parts of Brooklyn are more relaxed. Owners of smaller properties in Astoria, Queens, for example, may be more flexible, said Peter Horowitz, a broker at My Astoria Real Estate. Landlords there look for credit scores above 650, he said. Tammy Shaw, the owner of TB Shaw Realty Associates in Park Slope, said apartment hunters with credit issues or trouble with income requirements might look to other Brooklyn neighborhoods, like Ditmas Park or Kensington. She said rents and demand there are lower than in Park Slope, where landlords look for credit scores above 700.

You Say You're a Dream Renter? Prove It.
Published: July 15, 2011
New York's landlords are very selective, requiring prospective tenants to provide paperwork including tax returns, proof of income and sometimes even references.

July 13, 2011

Argueing: are true facts enough ?

The Stone is featuring occasional posts by Gary Gutting, a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, that apply critical thinking to information and events that have appeared in the news.

In trying to cut through the passion and rhetoric of political debates, one important move is to focus on the facts relevant to the issue in dispute. This, however, is not as easy as it might seem. To make the issues concrete, consider an example from current discussions of the federal budget.

Even a strong argument from purely factual premises is open to refutation unless it takes into account all relevant facts.
John Taylor, a distinguished economist at Stanford, recently wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal in which he offered a "fact-based" critique of President Obama's budget proposal. The centerpiece of his argument was a chart showing the amount of federal government expenditures from 2000 to the present, along with projections of what Obama proposes to spend from now through 2021. According to the chart, in 2000 spending was 18.2 percent of our gross domestic product and has steadily increased, reaching 19.6 percent in 2007, and averaging 24.4 percent for the last three years. Obama's budget slightly reduces this rate to about 23 percent over its first few years, but then gradually increases it, ending with a rate of over 24 percent in 2021.

The argument could be pursued much further, but this is enough for my purpose, which is not to argue about the budget but to reflect on difficulties involved in arguing from the facts. The key point is that both Taylor's argument and that of his critics were based on established facts. Moreover, in each case, the facts did support the conclusions Taylor and his critics were arguing for. There was no flaw in their logical moves from premises to conclusions. How, then, could there be something wrong with their arguments?

The answer lies in a crucial distinction between deductive and inductive reasoning. In a deduction (e.g., all humans are mortal; Socrates is human; therefore, Socrates is mortal), the truth of the premises logically requires the truth of the conclusion. If the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. Adding further premises that might seem relevant to the conclusion (e.g., Socrates is very young and there will be major medical advances before Socrates reaches old age) will make no difference to the conclusion.

In an inductive argument (e.g., Most humans do not live for 100 years; Socrates is human; therefore, Socrates will not live for 100 years), the premises only make the conclusion probable. As a result, adding further premises can alter the force of the argument. For example, if Socrates is 99 years old and in very good health, it is probable that he will live to be 100.

July 12, 2011

Newsboys got klout

If you have a Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn account, you are already being judged -- or will be soon. Companies with names like Klout, PeerIndex and Twitter Grader are in the process of scoring millions, eventually billions, of people on their level of influence -- or in the lingo, rating "influencers." Yet the companies are not simply looking at the number of followers or friends you've amassed. Rather, they are beginning to measure influence in more nuanced ways, and posting their judgments -- in the form of a score -- online.

To some, it's an inspiring tool -- one that's encouraging the democratization of influence. No longer must you be a celebrity, a politician or a media personality to be considered influential. Social scoring can also help build a personal brand. To critics, social scoring is a brave new technoworld, where your rating could help determine how well you are treated by everyone with whom you interact.

"Now you are being assigned a number in a very public way, whether you want it or not," said Mark W. Schaefer, an adjunct professor of marketing at Rutgers University and the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions. "It's going to be publicly accessible to the people you date, the people you work for. It's fast becoming mainstream."

Influence scores typically range from 1 to 100. On Klout, the dominant player in this space, the average score is in the high teens. A score in the 40s suggests a strong, but niche, following. A 100, on the other hand, means you're Justin Bieber. On PeerIndex, the median score is 19. A perfect 100, the company says, is "god-like."

Don't just be found, by sought.

Got Twitter? You've Been Scored
Published: June 25, 2011
Companies are scouring social networks, looking for the new "influencers."

July 11, 2011

NYC by day, by night, where the people are

Bedroom communities or nightlife ? Map of NY.


[ Via Geojunk ]

July 10, 2011

I'm running to support the walkathon

The easy explanation, of course, is that there would be no giving -- or not nearly so much -- without the walks. Fund-raisers recognize that the nobility of giving is often stimulated by activities that conjoin the selfless with self-interest. For giving, we often offer value received. Raffles and auctions and naming rights are among the inducements used to win support. But that's not what's going on here.

Those who oversee such fund-raising spectacles argue that there is more to these events than meets the eyes -- mine included. These walks and runs are incubators for future volunteers and donors. They constitute a public proclamation that others matter. They make the invisible visible. More to the point, it is easier to get relatives, friends and colleagues to open their pocketbooks than it is to win over the largess of strangers.

That is the genius of such events. Where abstract appeals on behalf of the faceless needy may fall on deaf ears, appeals from family and neighbors do not. Ultimately, it is not the mass of walkers that moves us to give, but the knowledge that a familiar face -- a nephew or friend -- is among them. It personalizes the issue, quite literally turning the abstract into the concrete, converting perspiration into philanthropy. There is an exquisite -- albeit attenuated -- logic to it all.

The Weirdness of Walking to Raise Money
Published: June 18, 2011
Charity walks raise money for good causes, but all that energy could be better expended in doing actual community service

July 9, 2011

Typical of the state of _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _.

Correction: June 26, 2011

Which state could this be ?

The In the Region article in some copies last Sunday, about the new preference among developers of low-income housing in - - - - - - ., for building rental units rather than condominiums, misidentified the location of the Stafford Park development. It is in Stafford Township, not Barnegat. The article also misstated the land's previous use. It was a landfill, not the site of a former strip club. Because of an editing error, the article misstated the type of housing units in the development's luxury component. They are rentals, not condos.

Correction: June 26, 2011

The In the Region article in some copies last Sunday, about the new preference among developers of low-income housing in Elizabeth, N.J., for building rental units rather than condominiums, misidentified the location of the Stafford Park development. It is in Stafford Township, not Barnegat. The article also misstated the land's previous use. It was a landfill, not the site of a former strip club. Because of an editing error, the article misstated the type of housing units in the development's luxury component. They are rentals, not condos.

July 8, 2011

Placebo effectivess impresses

When testing Abilify, how was it determined that is a placebo is no better than Abilify ?


The box would quantify the benefits and side effects of Abilify used in combination with other antidepressants, drawing on the larger of the two six-week trials that formed the basis of its approval by the F.D.A. First, it would show how the drug scored versus a placebo (in Abilify's case, not much: only three points lower on a 60-point scale, and it resolved depression for only 10 percent of patients -- that is, 25 percent with Abilify versus 15 percent with just the placebo).

Steven Woloshin and Lisa M. Schwartz are professors of medicine at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice and the authors of "Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics."

Think Inside the Box
Published: July 4, 2011
We list vital facts on food packages. Why not do the same for drugs?

July 7, 2011

Sunscreen SPF update for summer, 2011

Skin cancer and skin damage: summer health alert.


The F.D.A. announced that it was re-examining the safety of the roughly 17 sunscreen agents approved for use in the United States, although it has no information to suggest that they are not safe. Tuesday's announcement will do nothing to speed the approval of more sunscreen agents. There are roughly 28 such agents approved in Europe and 40 in Japan, and some in the industry complain that the best ingredients have yet to reach American shores.

Claims that sunscreen is sweatproof or waterproof are universally false and not allowed.

Dr. Warwick L. Morison, a professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins University and chairman of the photobiology committee for the Skin Cancer Foundation, said he was disappointed that the F.D.A. failed to ban SPF numbers higher than 50 because such products expose people to more irritating sunscreen ingredients without meaningful added protection.

"It's pointless," Dr. Morison said.

Instead, just re-apply SPF 50 sunscreen every 30 minutes.


sunscreen spf update
mexoryl sunscreen

F.D.A. Unveils New Rules About Sunscreen Claims
Published: June 14, 2011
Terms like "sunblock," "waterproof" and "sweatproof" will be banned since they imply a false level of protection.

July 6, 2011

Similarities in health insurance stances

Another edition of

Thank you,
but no thank you
I'd rather listen to N Gregory Mankiw.

1 THE VALUE OF COMPETITION Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, has attracted much attention with his plan to reform Medicare. He proposes replacing the current fee-for-service program, in which the government picks up the bill for medical expenses, with a "premium-support" system in which seniors use federal dollars to choose among competing private insurance plans.

Democratic critics of the plan suggest that enacting it would be akin to pushing Grandma over a cliff. But they rarely point out that the premium-support model is in some ways similar to the system set up under President Obama's health care law. If choosing among competing private plans on a government-regulated exchange is a good idea for someone at age 50, why is it so horrific for someone who is 70?

2 THE INSURANCE MANDATE those without insurance will be fined. A mandate is just a financial incentive to have insurance.

What is the Republican alternative for having more people insured? It is unclear what the Republicans would do if they ever succeeded in repealing the health care reform law. However, their last presidential nominee -- Senator John McCain -- proposed a tax credit for buying health insurance. That may seem more palatable than a mandate, because it uses a carrot rather than a stick.

3 TAXING THE RICH Democrats want to increase taxes on the rich to fund the looming fiscal gap, which is driven largely by soaring health costs. Republicans object, saying higher taxes create economic distortions, discourage work and impede growth. Last month, John A. Boehner, the House speaker, said that we should instead consider means-testing Medicare

4 BLINKERED OPTIMISM Democrats and Republicans generally have different approaches to controlling the growth of health care spending. Democrats often favor a top-down approach: a panel of experts set up by the recent health care law will decide which medical procedures are cost-effective and which are wasteful. Republicans tend to prefer a bottom-up approach: empower consumers to make their own choices, they say, and the power of competition among private providers will keep costs down.

One thing that the two parties share, however, is the belief that controlling health care costs is possible.


Gingrich lead

Once again America faced a crossroads, though the word itself wasn't used. "There is virtually no middle ground," Gingrich wrote. He later concluded: "To renew or to decay. At no time in the history of our great nation has the choice been clearer." To avert disaster, Gingrich had no choice but to present many numbered lists. In addition to the Six Challenges Facing America -- similar to the challenges we faced 11 years before -- and the "five basic principles that I believe form the heart of our civilization," there were the five forces moving us toward worldwide medicine, a seven-step program to reduce drug use, the nine steps we can take immediately to advance the three revolutions in health care and more. The futurism was still there, too: "Honeymoons in space will be the vogue by 2020."

Meanwhile, his polemics had hardened. "For some psychological reason, liberals are antigun but not anti-violent criminal," was a typically dubious example. As a former professor (an unpublished one, at West Georgia College), Gingrich wrote about university leftism with all the bitterness of an ex-academic: "Most successful [alumni] get an annual letter saying, in effect, 'Please give us money so we can hire someone who despises your occupation and will teach your children to have contempt for you.' What is amazing is the overwhelming meekness of the alumni in accepting this hijacking of their alma mater."

This is sharp and funny and nearly true, but it's not a formulation designed to coax the undecided into agreement. "To Renew America" marks the moment that persuasion faded as a primary purpose of political talk and preaching to the choir took over. Having won at last, and confident that the future was safely in his pocket, Gingrich by 1995 no longer saw a reason to persuade anyone and didn't try. It's the victor's prerogative, but it doesn't give you practice in constructing arguments. And it's catching. Hence talk radio, and in a few years the blogs; hence Fox News and MSNBC.

Liberals may not have liked this new aggressive tone from conservatives, but they had it coming. At least since the Red Scare of the 1950s, mainstream institutions had viewed ideological conservatism with condescension or contempt, as either a joke or a personality disorder -- a series of "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas," in Lionel Trilling's excellent summary. Gingrich's rhetoric had the ferocity of a backlash. The liberal revulsion toward him obscured how unorthodox -- occasionally, how liberal -- his conservatism was. The books then and now are full of heresy. He showed a willingness to criticize other Republicans, even Reagan at the height of his popularity. He advocated a health tax on alcohol to discourage drinking -- social engineering, it's called -- and imagined government-issued credit cards that would allow citizens to order goods and services directly from the feds. He thought the government should run nutritional programs at grocery stores and give away some foodstuffs free. He was pushing cuts in the defense budget in 1984 and a prototype of President Obama's cash-for-clunkers program in 1995.

Early in the book, he offers an account of the drafting of the Interstate Transportation Bill of 1997. Most readers, he admits, might think such a story uninteresting. "But in this case most readers would be wrong." In fact, in this case most readers would be right. The point of the story, though, is that Gingrich handled the transportation bill pretty damn well. Indeed, he handled nearly all his duties pretty well -- except for when he worked too hard or cared too deeply or thought too much or trusted too many of the wrong people.

Democrats, for instance. One lesson Gingrich claimed to learn the hard way was, as a chapter title has it, "Don't Underestimate the Liberals." As speaker, Gingrich discovered that Republicans are too good for their own -- um, good. "The difference between the well-thought-out, unending and no-holds-barred hostility of the left," he wrote, "and the acquiescent, friendship-seeking nature of many of my Republican colleagues never ceases to amaze me." Democrats flatter themselves with the mirror image of this fantasy, of course, pretending to be envious of the robotic efficiency of Republicans and the freedom of action allowed them by their utter lack of conscience or shame. Self-awareness is not listed in the catalog of traits required for faithful partisanship. About the true nature of their enemies, however, if about nothing else, professional Republicans and Democrats are both exactly right.

What Does Newt Gingrich Know?
Published: June 29, 2011
Let's consult the literature -- all 21 books by the self-proclaimed ideas man of politics.

July 5, 2011

Justice for professional class includes a home in the Hamptons

Is the judiciary a middle class vocation ?

Indeed, in a series of interviews, judges acknowledged that it could be difficult to make the case for a judicial pay raise in hard economic times. Justices of New York's highest-level trial court, the State Supreme Court, make $136,700. The chief judge of the state makes $156,000. Across the country, "there is a devaluing of the job that judges do," so there is little pressure to pay them well, said Seth S. Andersen, the executive director of the American Judicature Society in Des Moines, which studies and evaluates judicial systems.

Current and former judges described the pressures they felt in fending off offers and trying to pay for mortgages and tuition bills. Mr. Spolzino, 52, said he had expected that he would remain until retirement, as judges did in the past. "It's very heady when you walk into a room and everybody rises, people laugh at your jokes," he said.

Emily Jane Goodman, a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan, said the practical effect of her stalled pay was that she had to sell a summer home in the Hamptons and was having trouble paying for increasing fees on her two-bedroom apartment in the city.

"Here I am," Appellate Division on Madison Avenue, Justice McGuire said, "in a position where I'm working to achieve justice for other people and I don't feel that I'm experiencing justice."

"I tormented myself for the longest period of time about whether I should go, because I love the work," he said. "And then I realized, 'I've got no choice. The only responsible thing for my family is to go.' " Justice McGuire, 57, has two children, ages 5 and 3.

Pay Frozen, More New York Judges Leave Bench
Published: July 4, 2011
The state's judges, who have not had a raise in 12 years, are resigning in relatively large numbers, not to retire but to return to practicing law.

July 4, 2011

Hollywood realism over regression models ?

The summer before her senior year, though, she took an internship at Goldman. If anything, it left her disillusioned. "I started to feel like it was all a bit of a fraud, all these charts and regressions and models." She turned down the subsequent job offer and took a year to travel to Cuba to shoot a documentary with Cahill. "Living in Cuba made me unafraid of whatever could happen to me. Nothing seemed as scary as waking up at 40 and realizing that I had not lived a very courageous life."


¶ So she moved to Hollywood. The three friends wrote some scripts together but decided they worked better in pairs. "Zal actually had a dream that he was bound and blindfolded and walking down to a basement. And I was like: 'Who was there? Maybe a woman who never leaves!' And we ended up with 'Sound of My Voice.' " Their other film, "Another Earth," which hinges on the discovery of a duplicate planet, came in part from a piece of video art Cahill made in which he interviewed himself in a split screen. "We were like, what if you could confront yourself? What if there was a duplicate you?"

¶ She, too, is haunted by the idea of a duplicate -- another Brit Marling, perhaps one who took the job at Goldman. "If I hadn't met Mike or Zal, I really wonder what I would be doing right now. I wonder if I would even be acting. I can't imagine what it would have been like to do it alone." There may be a duplicate Marling looming in the future as well -- one who perhaps succumbs to all this post-Sundance Hollywood attention and finds herself, say, starring in a romantic comedy opposite Ashton Kutcher. (She just finished filming her first big-budget thriller, "Arbitrage," directed by Nicholas Jarecki and starring Richard Gere.)

How to Succeed in Hollywood Despite Being Really Beautiful
Published: June 24, 2011
Brit Marling might have been just another starlet. Then she decided to write the roles she wanted to play.

July 3, 2011

Upper class rent starts at $10,000 per month

Do middle class apartments cost up to $10,000 per year ?

On the Upper East and West Sides, he said, there is strong interest from families for apartments with several bedrooms. His downtown clients, who typically work in the creative industries, tend to value location and design over space and even amenities, he said, and expect Sub-Zero or Viking appliances and remote-controlled sound systems and window coverings.

Other five-figure rentals offer a number of amenities. At 15 Broad Street in the financial district, James Cox of Prudential Douglas Elliman is marketing an apartment he described as being at the "low end of the high-end rental." At $12,000 a month, the two-bedroom apartment has almost 1,900 square feet of interior space, but its real draw is the 1,200-square-foot terrace with sweeping views of Lower Manhattan, Midtown and beyond. That, and the building's extras, like a single-lane bowling alley, basketball court, gym and pool in the basement and a billiards room, party space and parklike common terrace on the seventh floor that offers a full-frontal view of the frieze over the New York Stock Exchange.

As prices rise, so do the expectations, said Dennis R. Hughes, a senior vice president at Corcoran Group Real Estate. For about $20,000, he said, he was able to find one client, a divorced businesswoman moving from a town house, a 2,300-square-foot, three-bedroom apartment in TriBeCa with outdoor space and views of the Hudson River. For $45,000, a renter could have a 4,500-square-foot, five-bedroom apartment in a prewar doorman building on Fifth Avenue with a spa in the basement.

And for $85,000, Prudential Douglas Elliman is marketing a full-floor loft at 25 Bond Street with 7,326 square feet inside, five bedrooms, six and a half baths, fireplaces and terraces. It even comes with a movie star, Will Smith, staying just below.

Five-Figure Rentals? In City, the Demand Is Growing
Published: June 6, 2011
Data show that more apartments priced at $10,000 and above per month were rented this May than in the same time period last year and the year before.

July 2, 2011

Cars are 38 times bigger than people

Zurich's 's chief traffic planner, Andy Fellmann calculated that a person using a car took up 115 cubic meters (roughly 4,000 cubic feet) of urban space in Zurich while a pedestrian took three. "So it's not really fair to everyone else if you take the car," he said.

July 1, 2011

Sidewalks cost $100 per square foot

"It is an oxymoron," Adrian Benepe, the parks commissioner, conceded in an interview last year when the pilot project was being considered. "But boardwalk has become eponymous, in the way Kleenex is for paper tissue. It is a generic term for an elevated oceanfront walkway, and other communities use concrete."

About three weeks ago, the community board voted 21 to 7 against the latest compromise: running a 12-foot-wide concrete lane down the middle of the 50-foot-wide boardwalk to accommodate the wear and tear of garbage trucks and police cars. The remaining sides would be built out of planks made of recycled plastic that cost about $110 a square foot and last for years.

He also remembered that the Coney Island Boardwalk -- officially known as the Riegelmann Boardwalk for the borough president who built it as a way of offering the public greater access to the beach -- withstood storms like Hurricane Donna in 1960 relatively unscathed, while a concrete esplanade in nearby Manhattan Beach was mangled.

But concrete had its advocates, like Mila Ivanova. Ms. Ivanova, a Ukrainian immigrant to Brooklyn from Odessa on the Black Sea who also walks the Boardwalk every day, said: "It's very good -- wood -- but it's old. It is shaking. Sometimes nails come up and you fall. Personally, I like everything new."

A Fight Over Keeping Boards in the Boardwalk
Published: July 1, 2011
The city's efforts to stop using endangered tropical hardwoods as it replaces the Coney Island Boardwalk's planks raise aesthetic, pragmatic and linguistic issues.