Friday, November 21, 2014

NYPD Rookie Kills Unarmed Innocent Who Took Stairs

In a continuation of earlier coverage, The Jaded Consumer notes that NYPD rookie Peter Liang killed Akai Gurley with one shot to the chest when he and his girlfriend decided not to wait for an elevator but to use the stairs.  There, he was shot by the uniformed officer while doing nothing but trying to walk down the stairs.  Although many of the news accounts do not discuss the race of the participants, New York Daily News published a photo that makes clear that Akai Gurley was African American.

The witness Melissa Butler, who entered the stairway with Gurley, reported that officers never identified themselves, never gave any warning, fired without provocation, and called for no medical assistance.  Butler and Gurley fled the gunshot until Gurley collapsed, dead, three floors below.  No ambulance was summoned until Butler called one after pounding on a neighbor's door.

When asked about killing Gurley with a single gunshot to the chest, Officer Liang said, "I shot him accidentally."


In other news, crime in New York is down.  Mayor Bill de Blasio was elected last year on a platform that included reigning in the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practice that in 2011 targeted minorities so heavily that 87% of frisk subjects were African American or Latino.  Contrary to assertions that reforming the NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices would "end in buckets of blood on city streets[,]" a 75% drop in police stops – from about 700,000 in 2011 to 50,000 this year – has not prevented New York's murder count to drop by 20 deaths compared to the same period last year.  New York City's crime rate hit a 20-year low.  The NYPD's stop-and-frisk practices were ruled unconstitutional last year.

Maybe the way to reduce crime isn't to escalate oppression.  Who knew?

Friday, November 7, 2014

American Capital's Pre-Split Value Per Share

Seeking Alpha posted my article ("American Capital Ltd.: What A Share Is Worth") outlining the company's post-dilution NAV in the event all outstanding options were exercised.  What's not yet clear is how the impending split effects the options.  If they're not repriced, then any options not exercised before the dividends are paid will be worth quite a lot less.  It'll be something to watch as the transaction unfolds.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"Islamic State" Sex Slavery, Personalized

Putting a human face on the sexual slavery practiced by the "Islamic State" declared in Syria and parts of Iraq, CNN is running a story about a 19-year old aspiring physician abducted at gunpoint.  Apparently, the "Islamic State" offers a compensation package to fighters that goes beyond $2,000 cash and drugs to stave off flight from battle:  they offer the opportunity to rape captive women.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rite-Aid's Payment Processor Prejudice: Unlawful Tying?

Rite-Aid, which supported both Google Wallet and Apple Pay until just recently, halted its use of both payment processors – apparently in favor of a payment processor it will co-own.  Is Rite-Aid alone in this, or is it a boycott?  Even if it's not a boycott, isn't tying the purchase of a service to the purchase of some other good or service an indication that a market participant is using market power to create a monopoly?

More news as the payment processor competition heats up.

Friday, October 17, 2014

FBI Director Worried 1st, 4th Amendments Might Mean Something

The Director of the FBI expressed concern recently that technological advances might render practically meaningful the First Amendment's right to free assembly and the Fourth Amendment's right to freedom from unreasonable search.  Instead, it might be necessary to get a court order to snoop on U.S. citizens.  Poor G-man.

Incidentally, nothing in the tech interferes with government collection of metadata, only with the encrypted message contents.  Mapping networks of connected individuals is apparently still fair game for government agencies interested in snooping warrentlessly into the relationships of those presumed innocent.

UPDATE: The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking Congress to create federal law that would interfere with genuine privacy of the sort already required by federal law in areas like credit card transactions and health care privacy.  Apparently those technologies are too dangerous for Americans, after all.

On Fuel Prices, Taxes, and Profits

ExxonMobil's fuel tax map of the United States shows regional variation in tax policy:

The page's author presents a defense to the charge that oil companies are scamming government out of tax money: the government earns in taxes an order of magnitude more on each gallon refined, shipped, and sold in the United States than ExxonMobil earns in profit on the same gallons.

The defense is interesting, but I think it dodges the charge.  Those who accuse multinational oil companies of running a tax scam aren't focused on sales taxes imposed on locally-sold products, but the international business of companies that historically paid U.S. income taxes on income earned in foreign jurisdictions.  From the point of view of ExxonMobil, of course, the government collects not only 40 to 60 cents per gallon refined, shipped, and sold in the U.S. – but also 35% income tax on ExxonMobil's 5.5¢ profit per gallon.  From the perspective of ExxonMobil's detractors, what has that to do with ExxonMobil's 'right' to use U.S. resources to build and defend a global business empire from which it gathers income free of U.S. taxes?

It's an interesting situation that invites inquiry into local competitive conditions globally and examination of the practical effects of tax policy.  With the elimination of the double-Irish scheme, international tax planning will take another wave of innovation (and consultants in the area will make another fortune).  Is there a tax policy that will result in more tax collected and less resources wasted avoiding taxation?

Monday, October 13, 2014

American Capital: Profit From Hated Shares

In a new article at Seeking Alpha, I outline why American Capital Ltd.'s shares are in the crapper (compared to peers), what management plans to do about it, and what impact this will have on the company's resulting value.  Upshot: while ACAS remains hated, there's an opportunity.

The article is American Capital Ltd.: Loving The Hate.