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Saturday, April 25, 2015

On the Southwest American Drought: Looking to China

Lake Mead, a reservoir outside Las Vegas serving 40 million people in Nevada, Arizona, Southern California, and Northern Mexico, was at its lowest level (i.e., below 1,080 feet) in April 2015 since it was formed with the Hoover Dam.[1] Particularly for California, whose snow-melt would again be minimal, the continued draught was quickly turning dire. With a surplus of rain-water coming down on western Washington and Oregon, the U.S. Government could have dusted off FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to activate the long-term unemployed (and the imprisoned) to assist the Army’s Corps of Engineers in constructing aqueducts and digging canals that would hook up with the extant canals running from the delta area north of Sacramento to southern California. It is not as though the Oregonians and Washingtonians would miss the water, and the Californian farmers could see to it that their best produce finds itself up north. Yet as easy as such a large-scale governmental project seems, the devil is in the details, which can actually be rather huge in themselves. China provides a useful case study that the Americans could, conceivably at least, benefit from—should they endeavor on a truly large-scale governmental project.

The full essay is at “The Southwest Drought and China.”



[1] Reuters, “Lake Mead on Track for Record Low Water Level Amid Drought,” The Huffington Post, April 24, 2015.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Democracy as an Anti-Trust Criterion: The Comcast Time-Warner Merger

As the U.S. Department of Justice and the SEC were reviewing the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner in April 2015, six U.S. senators signed a joint letter opposing the $45 billion deal. Comcast would control about 30 percent of the pay-television subscribers in the U.S. and an estimated 35 to 50 percent of the American broadband internet service.[1] That more senators had not signed on is telling with respect to how business-oriented American society had become.

The full essay is at “Democracy and Anti-Trust Law.”



[1] Emily Steel, “6 Senators Urge Rejection of Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal,” The New York Times, April 21, 2015.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Anti-trust Enforcement in the E.U. and U.S.: Business, Government and Society

In 2014, the E.U. depended on Gazprom, a state-controlled Russian gas company, for one-third of the natural gas used in Europe. Meanwhile, Russia depended on the company for export-earnings. Moreover, both the E.U. and Russia view Gazprom from not only commercial vantage-points, but geopolitical ones as well. Both dimensions were in the mix as the European Commission weighed bringing anti-trust charges against the company in April 2015. At the time, the E.U.’s executive branch was already formally pursuing Google on anti-trust grounds. Relative to anti-trust enforcement in the U.S., the E.U.’s own represents a formidable attempt to open up competitive markets. We can generalize, in fact, to posit a more balanced “check and balance” between business and government in Europe.


Sunday, April 19, 2015

BuzzFeed’s Internal Firewall Falls to a Conflict of Interest

In spite of the fact that public-accounting firms rely on their respective audit clients’ decisions to be retained to perform the next year’s audit, society deems an unqualified audit-opinion to be independent. The assumption is that the audit firms can police themselves, keeping their financial pressures from influencing the audit opinions. The ongoing temptation is of course to produce a clean opinion so as to be retained as the client’s public accountants. Unfortunately, someone at a given CPA firm must have authority requiring attention both to audit opinions and the firm’s own financial performance; internal policies separating pressure from the latter from reaching the former can thus be easily overcome from the vantage point of that authority. This vulnerability was on display in 2015 in the “dot-com” industry in BuzzFeed.


The full essay is at “BuzzFeed’s Internal Firewalls.”

Electric Utilities Thwart Solar Applications: A Conflict of Interest Rewarding the Status Quo

Considering the contribution of coal-burning power-plants to atmospheric carbon-emissions and thus global warming, governments around the world should be encouraging rather than discouraging home-owners to install solar panels. That is to say, we ought not privilege the status quo when it has contributed so much already to an uncomfortable or even uninhabitable Earth for mankind. So it is unfortunate that energy officials in Hawaii’s government had to step in to pressure—no, order—the Hawaiian Electric Company to approve its “lengthy backlog” of solar applications.[1] I submit that the officials should have gone further in correcting for the conflict of interest in the utility. Put in the vernacular, electric companies tended at the time to screw customers who could sell back “home-grown” solar power. The root problem here is in the utilities’s dual roles of seller and consumer of power.

The full essay is at “Electric Utilities and Solar Power.”



[1] Diane Cardwell, “Utilities See Solar Panels as Threat to Bottom Line,” The New York Times, April 19, 2015.