Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Other really important stuff

I forgot one link to add to the list I had yesterday: It is maybe my favorite piece of reporting on the Mayor’s ethical problems. It is ostensibly about the trip on Ron Burkle’s jets, but it is really about the Mayor’s attitude, in March 2007, towards disclosing items given to him. I mention the date because Matt Hogue likes to say the Mayor has matured; I say he has discovered that if the gifts are campaign contributions he can spend the money during trips to Europe and on paying for a trip to the Super Bowl for himself, two (I believe) brothers and a couple of bodyguards.

But all that may not be the most important story right now. Pat Dowd spent last weekend reading a couple of thousand pages of a debt package that the Water and Sewer Authority entered into last summer. He called the thing "one of the most opaque and complicated things I have ever tried to understand." (the PG mentions that Dowd has a doctorate and taught at high school level, they do not mention that the doctorate is in history; still more than I have). As I understand it, the debt package involved making continuous swaps to keep the interest rate low. It’s hard to see how this would not involve transaction costs that would not eat up any savings, but in any event apparently the stock market drop and bank issues have caused problems and we are in fact paying more than we were supposed to. To further complicate things, the insurance firm that is guaranteeing this package wants out at their earliest opportunity, which is next June, which would adversely affect our situation (anyone see sixty minutes on Sunday?). Two Political Junkies and the The Pittsburgh Comet have already commented on this, I can only echo that this appears to be an important issue, one that is worthy of our attention. The Mayor, of course, criticizes Dowd for releasing sensitive information, and also says that no one could have known there was a problem with the banks last summer.

Because Bear Sterns hadn’t collapsed last spring. Oh wait …

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