The Globe and Mail’s Doug Saunders writes this on Twitter:
What Charles Murray had for lunch while telling the FT that the working class had become culturally irresponsible
The FT’s Edward Luce did the lunch interview:
Our black truffle has arrived. Murray’s martini glass is empty. The waiter pours him a taster from the bottle of Gavi di Gavi, an Italian white wine. “Mmmm, it’s like a good Montrachet,” Murray says. “I think it’s an excellent choice.” Every minute or so for the next few, Murray declares how excellent the pasta is. “Oh, this is lovely,” he observes mid-mastication. “Yes, really delicious.” I ask him what kind of wine a Gavi di Gavi is. Murray discloses that it is a “varietal”. I nod as though I know what that means. It certainly tastes nice. “Varietal means expensive,” he adds. I take a full glass.
Meantime, hedge-fund impresario Ken Griffin talks to the Chicago Tribune about the political influence of billionaires like himself:
I think they actually have an insufficient influence.
Griffin then goes on to compare Obama policies (implicitly) to those of the Soviet Union and Communist China, and says he should be able to give unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.
No wonder he rarely gives interviews.
— Gretchen Morgenson has a very interesting column on taxes at Fairfax Financial, which is embroiled in bitter litigation with hedge funds, one of whom complained about the company to the IRS.
Fairfax got $400 million in tax breaks from 2003 to 2006 for a complex deal it made with Odyssey RE and Bank of America. Long story short, whether Fairfax qualifies for the tax break hinges on whether it actually owned $78 million worth of shares it borrowed from Bank of America or whether that transaction was a “sham.” Unfortunately for Fairfax:
One of the more interesting documents in the public domain, though, is an internal April 2003 e-mail from Robert Giammarco, then a Bank of America executive who managed the bank’s relationship with Fairfax. The e-mail outlined the pros and cons of the deal; one disadvantage, the e-mail warned, was that the deal “Does not provide true economic ownership of the ORH shares to Fairfax.” Marketing materials used by Bank of America to pitch a similar deal to another insurer, the St. Paul Companies, noted the same problem. (St. Paul did not do the deal.)
Fairfax said that Mr. Giammarco was mistaken and that he subsequently changed his mind. Its lawyers produced several pages of a 2011 deposition in which he backed away from his initial view on the ownership issue. “I think I just got it wrong,” he said.
Notable, however, is the fact that Mr. Giammarco’s shifting perspective came after he had worked at Odyssey from March 2005 to October 2006 as executive vice president and, for much of that time, as chief financial officer. When he left Odyssey, he got $2 million in severance and other pay. He is now a Merrill Lynch banker.
— The Washington Post has a good piece on how the newspaper industry invented the iPad (or conceptualized it, anyway) more than fifteen years before Apple did and then didn’t patent it.
While McClatchy (Knight-Ridder’s owner now) surely rues this decision, Roger Fidler, who dreamed up the tablet, says he doesn’t:
Knight-Ridder lawyers visited the lab in 1993 and discussed whether they should patent Fidler’s tablet design. But design patents are difficult to protect. Also, Fidler argued the best way to build tablets was to not stifle development by cornering the market on the idea with patents. The technology industry eventually went the other direction, with companies seizing patents as innovation land grabs.