What caused the housing bubble

The collapse of the housing market a few years ago was caused, reportedly, by predatory lending practices on people who couldn’t really afford to buy a house, coupled with shady investment instruments from the world of high finance.  But a new study is questioning that conventional wisdom.  Most of the people with bad loans turn out to be middle class and high income folks, with very few poor people involved.   The real problem, as Robert Samuelson reports, was unbridled optimism from virtually everyone in the housing industry that home prices would continue to go up forever. [Read more...]

Live-blog the Super Bowl commercials

A curious development in the history of the NFL championship game has been the role of commercials.  Viewership is so huge for the big game that ad agencies have been going all-out to come up with the best commercials they can devise.  So commercials have become themselves a beloved part of the festival.  And for much of America whose teams didn’t make it into the game and for people who don’t care that much about football at all but go to watch parties anyway, the commercials are the best part.

So this is the place to live-blog the commercials.  Which ones work and which ones don’t?  Which is the best?  Which ones are really bad?  Which ones are clever, funny, or mildly amusing?  Do any of them actually make you want to buy their products?  Are any of them as good as this one?

Are Russian oil companies funding environmentalists?

A newspaper is reporting that Russian oil companies connected to Vladimir Putin are funding some American environmentalist groups that are trying to stop the practice of fracking.  Russia is, of course, not particularly interested in saving the American environment, but, like Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich country has an interest in cutting the growth in American oil production due to this kind of technology. [Read more...]

Extended leave

India’s laws are very pro-labor, so that it’s almost impossible for employers to fire someone.  Case in point:

One day in 1990, A.K. Verma went on what you might call “extended” leave from his job as a senior bureaucrat at India’s Central Public Works Department.

He’s been a no-show ever since. And it finally caught up to him: Verma was sacked for his absence — on Jan. 8. [Read more...]

Greeks reject austerity

The economy of Greece has been a basket case, with a national debt that is more than the gross national product, leading to a European Union bailout that has imposed an “austerity” program of slashed government spending, higher taxes, and lower wages.  But now the Greeks have voted to end the austerity, going so far as to elect a communist as Prime Minister who is demanding that Germany forgive its debts. [Read more...]

Consequences of normalized relations with Cuba

The fallout from President Obama’s decision to extend diplomatic relations to Castro’s Cuba is mixed.  As some worry about another cave-in to tyranny, others are excited about the commercial prospects:

Some Republicans think Obama’s move will put Florida in their column for decades, while some Democrats think the anti-Castro sentiment in Florida’s Cuban population is dying out.  See this.

After the jump, see Sen. Marco Rubio’s reaction.

[Read more...]


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