Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chuck and Sarah, sittin' in a tree...

In camo, waiting for a moose to trot by:
Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is not known as a rugged outdoorsman type, has won a hunting award that puts him in an odd pairing with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who hunts moose and turns them into stew.

Field and Stream magazine singled out both lawmakers for praise in its Year in Review issue.

.... Schumer was a respectable marksman when he was a teenager, and even won an award, according to his spokesman - who blasted out a press release heralding the Field and Stream award.

...Schumer knows how to sniff out a political issue that plays well statewide.

Schumer joined an effort by North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad to voluntarily encourage landowners to allow private hunting on their land, which opened up many hunting grounds upstate.

As much as 85 percent of New York's land is private and most of it is off-limits to hunters.

The magazine cited the legislation in its award statement, while calling Palin the first "true hunter" since Teddy Roosevelt to run for executive office.

Old Folks Away From Home

Might raise real estate prices in hard hit areas:
[Real] Estate agents in the United States hope a new administration in Washington D.C. will kick start talks for a retirement visa, the so-called “silver card” which would allow foreigners to easily retire in the U.S.

“I’m encouraged,” said Tony Macaluso, the Florida-based agent championing the visa.
The retirement visa is one of those ideas that’s so simple and makes so much sense it’s amazing that it’s never been adopted. While countries like Panama, Costa Rica, Mexico and Belize present a variety of programs to encourage international pensioners to buy homes, the U.S. offers no simple path for a foreign citizen to retire in places like Florida and California.

Although details still need to be hashed out, a retirement visa would allow foreign citizens of a certain age with a steady pension fund income and a few other verifiable requirements to retire in the U.S. without a hassle.

“There are a lot of people around the world who would love to enjoy their golden years in the U.S. and we don’t have a way for them to do it,” said Macaluso, who served as the 2008 international operations chairman for the National Association of Realtors and now fills a similar role with the Florida Association Realtors.

....“This is not an immigration proposal; it’s an economic proposal,” Macaluso said.

A recent study commissioned by NAR found 7.5 percent of foreign citizens polled expressed an interest in retiring in the U.S.—an unassuming number that could translate to millions of potential buyers, Macaluso says. That could provide a much-needed boost for markets like Florida, California and Colorado.

“If this was in place by now, a lot of inventory would be absorbed and prices would be strengthened because we would have an active market,” Macaluso said.


Barack Obama appears to be emulating the old N Y Yankees philosophy of buying up all the good players and have them sit on the bench, rather than let them play for the opposition (which has names like Reid and Pelosi:
Paul Volcker, who helped tame runaway inflation in the 1980s during two terms as chairman of the Federal Reserve, has agreed to lead a new White House economic advisory committee, President-elect Barack Obama said on Wednesday, praising Volcker as "one of the world's foremost economic policy experts."

....Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist who was a leading economic adviser to the Obama presidential campaign, will be the top staff member of the advisory board, the president-elect said, calling him "one of America's most promising economic minds, known for his path-breaking work on tax policy and industrial organization."

Adding them to the first team of Summers, Geithner, Romer and Orzag might make it crowded in the dugout.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Save the Tiger

Or, bail out his sponsor?
General Motors Corp, which has warned that it will run short of cash early next year without support, and popular professional golfer Tiger Woods said on Monday that they would end their endorsement deal at the end of the year.

...."In light of the news coming out of Washington, this decision is the result of discussions that started earlier in the year, and the timing of this agreement with these other activities is purely coincidental," Mark LaNeve, GM's North American vice president of sales, said in a statement.

The Detroit automaker, which spends heavily in golf, has been slashing marketing costs across all venues, previously disclosing reduced spending on motorsports, as well as eliminating television ads next year during such events as the Oscars and Emmy award shows and the National Football League's Super Bowl championship game.

Terms of the arrangement were not disclosed although GM spokesman Pete Ternes said it ends the automaker's five-year deal with Woods a year early. Woods will continue to drive Buick vehicles through 2009.

What's the matter with the clothes I'm wearing?

There would be something illegal with the car they're driving, but in Saudi Arabia, it's still rock n' roll to the she's:
They cannot perform in public. They cannot pose for album cover photographs. Even their jam sessions are secret, for fear of offending the religious authorities in this ultraconservative kingdom.

But the members of Saudi Arabia's first all-girl rock band, the Accolade, are clearly not afraid of taboos.

The band's first single, "Pinocchio," has become an underground hit here, with hundreds of young Saudis downloading the song from the group's Web site. Now, the pioneering young foursome, all of them college students, want to start playing regular gigs - inside private compounds, of course - and recording an album.

"In Saudi, yes, it's a challenge," said the group's spiky-haired lead singer, Lamia, who has piercings on her left eyebrow and beneath her bottom lip. (Like other band members, she gave only her first name.) "Maybe we're crazy. But we wanted to do something different."

In a country where women are not allowed to drive and rarely appear in public without their faces covered, the band is very different indeed. The prospect of female rockers clutching guitars and belting out angry lyrics about a failed relationship - the theme of "Pinocchio" - would once have been unimaginable here.

But this country's harsh code of public morals has slowly thawed, especially in Jidda, by far the kingdom's most cosmopolitan city. A decade ago the cane-wielding religious police terrorized women who were not dressed according to their standards. Young men with long hair were sometimes bundled off to police stations to have their heads shaved, or worse.

Today, there is a growing rock scene with dozens of bands, some of them even selling tickets to their performances. Hip-hop is also popular. The religious police - strictly speaking, the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice - have largely retreated from the streets of Jidda, and they are somewhat less aggressive even in the kingdom's desert heartland.

The change has been especially noticeable since the terrorist attacks on the United States of Sept. 11, 2001, when the Saudis confronted the effects of extremism both outside and inside the kingdom.

More than 60 percent of Saudi Arabia's population is under 25, and many younger people are pressing for greater freedoms.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Doing violence to the idea...

...of education, in the UK:
Secondary schools are being fined millions of pounds a year for expelling violent and abusive pupils.

....Chris Keates, the general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Clawing back per pupil funding is understandable, as this funding should follow the child.

"What is totally unacceptable is this removal of additional money, without any clear criteria. It undermines the Government's stated view that head teacher and governing bodies should be free to exclude pupils when it is necessary.

"Stopping schools from permanently excluding pupils not only puts the education of that child at risk but puts the education of other pupils at risk.

"More and more teachers are telling us that they are coming under pressure not to exclude pupils. Fining schools distorts the system and should be outlawed.

"The Government needs to launch its own inquiry, as it did with admissions, to look at which authorities are setting these arbitrary penalties."

Cafe Standards

Are making the traditional French cafe a memory:
In 1960, France had 200,000 cafés, said Bernard Quartier, president of the National Federation of Cafés, Brasseries and Discotheques. Now it has fewer than 41,500, with an average of two closing every day.

Not only are the French spending less and drinking less, cutting down on the intensity and quality of the debates, but on Jan. 1, France extended its smoking ban to bars, cafés and restaurants.

Marco Mayeux, 42, the bartender of Le Relais in Paris, said the ban alone had cut his coffee and bar business by 20 percent.

"A place like mine doesn't appeal to everyone; it's very working stiff," he said.

Daniel Perrey, 57, owner of the Café du Crucifix in Crimolois, blamed social change.
People are drinking less, smoking less and spending less, and even those who drink are newly wary of the local police. President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked the police to crack down on drunken drivers.

The café, Perrey said, is a kind of public living room, especially in small towns and cities.

"We have to be very careful," he said. "If we standardize everything in France, and we study everything, and forbid everything, we destroy respect for our culture."

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Barack and the Barbaric Pirates

Will the new CinC take the opportunity to make his place in history alongside Thomas Jefferson:
Last night the Indian Navy Ship Tabar struck a long overdue blow for freedom of the seas by sinking a pirate mother ship in the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden. At last, the pirates will know that the hijacking party has been crashed.

....Pirate hijackings are one of the oldest forms of naval warfare. The more civil term, privateer, was used by the Continental Congress to allow designated ships to attack any British ship during the revolution. The British allowed similar activities and the French attacked both sides. The tables turned after the revolution, as the United States became a world merchant sea power and began to confront the Barbary pirates based in North Africa, specifically Tripoli. These pirates had been terrorizing the Mediterranean basin for centuries and having learned that tribute and ransom could be collected, turned it into a business. Sound familiar?

Young America was drawn into this cyclone because it had no alternative. As resentment grew in Washington, Adams, Jefferson and the Congress, construction of new ships was authorized, which were available when Algiers declared war on the US for not paying tribute. After two wars in 1801-1805 and 1815, the United States obtained freedom of access in that area.

Why this diversion into history? History is starting to repeat itself, but with much higher risk levels. No one seems to know where the ransom money is going. Since Somalia has been a longstanding supporter of Islamic terrorist activity, it seems reasonable to assume that most of this money is going to expand terrorist attacks someplace.

Honeymoon Over

So much for making up with terrorists:
Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader used a racial epithet to insult Barack Obama in a message posted Wednesday, describing the president-elect in demeaning terms that imply he does the bidding of whites.

The message appeared chiefly aimed at persuading Muslims and Arabs that Obama does not represent a change in U.S. policies. Ayman al-Zawahri said in the message, which appeared on militant Web sites, that Obama is "the direct opposite of honorable black Americans" like Malcolm X, the 1960s African-American rights leader.

In al-Qaida's first response to Obama's victory, al-Zawahri also called the president-elect—along with secretaries of state Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice—"house negroes."

Speaking in Arabic, al-Zawahri uses the term "abeed al-beit," which literally translates as "house slaves." But al-Qaida supplied English subtitles of his speech that included the translation as "house negroes."

The message also includes old footage of speeches by Malcolm X in which he explains the term, saying black slaves who worked in their white masters' house were more servile than those who worked in the fields. Malcolm X used the term to criticize black leaders he accused of not standing up to whites.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the latest message was just "more despicable comments from a terrorist."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Long and Winding Road...

That leads to bankruptcy reorganization (or liquidation) for GM?
Detroit's Big Three automakers pleaded with a reluctant Congress Tuesday for a $25 billion lifeline to save the once-proud titans of U.S. industry, pointedly warning of a national economic catastrophe should they collapse. Millions of layoffs would follow their demise, they said, as damaging effects rippled across an already-faltering economy.

T'was a consummation devoutly to be wished in some circles:
The streetcar did not die, as [Van] Wilkins contended, because of demographics or economics or disinvestments or evolution; it died because GM in 1922 made a conscious decision to kill it and, for the next several decades, pursued a strategy designed to accomplish this objective. Yet, by reason of timidity or negligence or ignorance or cowardice, Wilkins simply cannot bring himself to admit that a powerful corporation would seek to maximize profits by eliminating its competition.

That's John Kerry's former Yale debating team partner, Bradford Snell, in full dudgeon mode, expounding his theory--which is the former Nader Raider's career--of GM's evildoing (oh, btw, GM also conspired with the Nazis says Snell).

As the FLUBA explained in 2004 Snell wanted to destroy GM as far back as (at least) 1974:
AMERICAN GROUND TRANSPORT: A Proposal for Restructuring the Automobile, Truck, Bus & Rail Industries

Presented to a Senate Committee in that year, Part III spelled it out:
[We] recommend...reorganization of the automobile and truck industries into smaller, more competitive units. More specifically, it assumes the wisdom of the decentralized method of operations adopted by the automakers. Motor vehicle assembly, engine production, body stamping and dozens of other major automotive functions are currently undertaken in hundreds of physically distinct plants located throughout the country. This proposal would not interfere with this arrangement. It would, however, suggest a change in ownership: Each group of plants now separate in law as well. Reorganization along these general lines, it concludes, would allow for a greater degree of competition and technological flexibility at every level of motor vehicle production. In short, a competitively structured industry would be better able to anticipate and adapt to a changing world.

And, this 2006 sighting seems to support the idea that he (and pal Ralph) are still at it:
On my flight home (the first leg of the flight was into LA) I ended up sitting next to a guy named Bradford Snell. We got to talking and shared a bit of info about what we do. He said that he was a writer and was working on a history of General Motors…..

We talked about GM and China. He said that his friend Ralph Nader had gone to China to try and convince them to invest in mass transit. He said China currently has 100 cities with populations over 10 million (that in itself is pretty scary.) and that they are quickly becoming the biggest market for cars, which will lead to all the associated problems. Nader was told while he was there that GM had been there 6 weeks earlier and had convinced the Chinese government that car manufacturing provides a base for large economic development…..

As we talked, I mentioned the GM Streetcar Conspiracy. Well, apparently he was the government attorney that presented information/evidence to the Senate in 1974 that painted the picture of GM systematically destroying the trolley lines in many American cities. The Senate was conducting hearings because the energy crisis at that time had many people angry. They wanted to know what led up to the current situation. So, it turns out that Bradford Snell is at the heart of the GM Streetcar Conspiracy. How strange is that?

You don't know the half of it, buddy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Thomas Cooley thinks we got complacent:
The last really sharp recession in the United States was from 1981 to 1982, when real output fell by more than 4% below trend, and the unemployment rate rose to over 10%. ....

Following that recession, something remarkable happened. The volatility in the U.S. economy declined sharply. Even though we have had two recessions in the ensuing years--in 1991 and 2002--both were relatively mild and short-lived.

Surprisingly, the U.S. economy remained dramatically more stable in spite of some major disruptions in financial markets in the U.S. and abroad over the same period.

....How calm was it? One measure that people have used is the cyclical volatility of the gross national product--it declined by one-half in the period from 1983 to 2006 compared to the period from 1955 to 1983.

The variability of consumption, investment and employment also fell by roughly similar amounts. The U.S. economy was less volatile and hence seemed less risky. A similar decline in volatility was documented in other countries as well. This widespread decline in volatility was dubbed the Great Moderation.

....There is [a] possible link between the Great Moderation and the financial crisis that is worth thinking about, because it may help to inform the financial regulation of the future. The idea is simply that the decline in volatility led financial institutions to underestimate the amount of risk they faced and overestimate the amount of leverage they could handle, thus essentially (though unintentionally) reintroducing a large measure of volatility into the market.

Financial institutions typically manage their risk using what they call value at risk or VaR. Without getting into the technicalities of VaR (and there is a very long story to be told about the misuse of these methods), it is highly likely that the Great Moderation led many risk managers to drastically underestimate the aggregate risk in the economy. A 50% decline in aggregate risk is huge, and after 20 years, people come to count on things being the same.

Risk managers are supposed to address these problems with stress testing--computing their value at risk assuming extreme events--but they often don't. The result was that firms vastly overestimated the amount of leverage they could assume, and put themselves at great risk.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Vikings leaving the sinking longboat

When the going gets tough in Iceland:
Iceland’s banking system is ruined. GDP is down 65% in euro terms. Many companies face bankruptcy; others think of moving abroad. A third of the population is considering emigration. The British and Dutch governments demand compensation, amounting to over 100% of Icelandic GDP, for their citizens who held high-interest deposits in local branches of Icelandic banks.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Miller Time

The Fly Under the Bridge Academy's Outreach Program to Affable Comedians Whose Jib is Cuttable--polling of the FLUBA's members shows 100% solidarity with Dennis Miller's choice in the recent election for POTUS--but some of whose jiblets are spoiled, has had its candle lit, Hiroshi.

On one recent talk radio program, the aforementioned Mr. Miller mentioned that he was reading Ida Tarbell's history of Standard Oil, and asked if anyone in his audience knew anything about it. Subsequently, the FLUBA's Head of Debunking Emotional Monopoly Arguments Nationwide--hereinafter, HeDEMAN--found himself speaking on the telephone with the comedian.

HeDEMAN, trained to teach by industry specific example, opened by saying that the Tarbell diatribe is probably as accurate as one could expect from the daughter of a man who lost his Pennsylvania oil refining business due to his inability to compete with John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler; say, like a book written by a child of Joan Rivers (or, David Bremmer) purporting to excuse her mother's late night talk show career failure to a conspiracy led by Fred DeCordova (Northwestern, 1931), to keep advertisers from buying time on competing shows.

HeDEMAN has been advised not to quit his day job.

However, the point is valid. Tarbell was not an economist, but a gifted polemicist. Facts do not matter to such. Only what they can get their readership to believe are the facts, matters. And, she convinced many people that her version of the story was factual.

Including, it appears, Dennis Miller. Fortunately--and from a surprising source, there are antidotes available on Al Gore's invention. From which we summarize:

John D. Rockfeller began his business career at the age of 16, in the 1850's, as a clerk in a firm that sold agricultural commodities, in Cleveland, Ohio, after studying at a business college to learn bookkeeping and other basic skills.

He quickly impressed his employers, and gained more and more responsibilities. One of which was what today would be called logistics; the efficient movement of products from production to consumers. That skill would one day be used to build the greatest corporation of the 19th century: Standard Oil.

In 1859, oil was discovered in nearby Titusville, PA. Soon Rockefeller realized the opportunity available to him. During the Civil War Rockefeller became a refiner of oil, producing kerosene that allowed homeowners to light their homes.

By 1868 Rockefeller--and his partners, including the indispensable Henry Flagler--was the largest refiner in the world. He'd realized that Cleveland had an advantage over other locations where refineries operated; midway between New York and Chicago, on Lake Erie, he not only had water transportation via the Erie Canal, there were two railroads available to transport his kerosene to northeastern markets. As opposed to the Pittsburgh area which had only Tom Scott's Pennsylvania RR.

Which eventually proved decisive, allowing what became Standard Oil of Ohio, to dominate 90% of the kerosene market in the 1870's. Standard was able to ship huge quantities at regular schedules, which allowed it to negotiate favorable freight rates from the railroads, and thus deliver its products to consumers at lower prices than the smaller, independent refineries in northwestern Pennsylvania.

Rockefeller tried to bring those small refineries into the Standard Oil organization, and allow them to profit along with him. But, many--including the Tarbells--resisted doggedly, and eventually were driven out of business, because consumers had the lower cost option of Standard Oil products.

That didn't sit well with romantics such as the Tarbells, and Ida later wrote a series of magazine articles, eventually made into a book, attacking Rockefeller for the sin of economic efficiency. Consider, from chapter three of that book:

[The small refiners of northwestern Pennsylvania] believed in independent effort-every man for himself and fair play for all. They wanted competition, loved open fight. They considered that all business should be done openly; that the railways were bound as public carriers to give equal rates; that any combination which favoured one firm or one locality at the expense of another was unjust and illegal. This belief long held by many of the oil men had been crystallised by the uprising into a common sentiment. It had become the moral code of the region.

Mr. Rockefeller's point of view was different....he knew that the railroads ... had regularly granted special rates and rebates to those who had large amounts of freight. That is, you were able to bargain with the railroads as you did with a man carrying on a strictly private business depending in no way on a public franchise. Moreover, Mr. Rockefeller probably believed that, in spite of the agreements, if he did not get-rebates somebody else would; that they were for the wariest, the shrewdest, the most persistent. If somebody was to get rebates, why not he? This point of view was no uncommon one. Many men held It and felt a sort of scorn, as practical men always do for theorists, when it was contended that the shipper was as wrong in taking rates as the railroads in granting them.

Thus, on one hand there was an exaggerated sense of personal independence, on the other a firm belief in combination ; on one hand a determination to root out the vicious system of rebates practised by the railway, on the other a determination to keep it alive and profit by it. Those theories which the body of oil men held as vital and fundamental Mr. Rockefeller and his associates either did not comprehend or were deaf to.

Or, simply, recognized the fundamental economic reality that it is less costly for a railroad to show up at one location, on a regular schedule to pick up sixty tanker cars of kerosene and haul them to New York, than it is to send a locomotive to numerous small refineries in Pennsylvania picking up a tanker here, two or three there, until a trainload is assembled, perhaps 20 stops (and days) later.

And Tarbell knew, because she quotes a railroad executive saying so, that anyone who would ship the same quantities on the same schedule as Rockefeller, would get the same rates as Rockefeller. And, Rockefeller was offering to help those refiners do just that. But, their pride went beforeth their fall.

And, the recognition of this simple economics lesson didn't stop serving well the country with oil. Henry Flagler retired from management of Standard Oil in the early 1880's and took his expertise to northern Florida. There he bought a small railroad and extended it south, along the eastern coast to serve the luxury hotels he built in St. Augustine, Daytona Beach, Palm Beach and Miami--even building track over the water to Key West's deepwater port.

The same laws of economics that produced Standard Oil's near monopoly of the kerosene business transformed the backwater state of Florida into what it is today.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Wedding Bell Blues

Left your heart in San Francisco?
A week before Election Day, Christopher Burnett's floral shop filled an order for one of the many same-sex weddings he has worked in the last five months: eight corsages, a dozen boutonnieres and two bouquets for the two brides, each with three dozen roses.

Now, Burnett said, since voter approval Tuesday of Proposition 8, which amended the state's Constitution to recognize marriages only between men and women, that type of business is gone.

"I have done a gay wedding every week," he said. "And so it's very disheartening, because other business is very slow."

Even as opponents of the measure officially conceded defeat on Thursday, California business owners - particularly those in the marriage business - were trying to determine how many wedding cakes would go unsold and how many tuxedos unrented.

....In Palm Springs, another gay-friendly city, Mayor Steve Pougnet said he had performed 115 same-sex weddings since June, when such ceremonies began, some of which had as many as 180 guests. By contrast, this week the city has canceled eight planned ceremonies.

"That's a huge economic impact, which is gone in these difficult economic times," said Pougnet, who is openly gay and married his partner in September.

Another mayor, Gavin Newsom of San Francisco, was blunt.

"It's a great day for Massachusetts," Newsom said, referring to one of only two remaining states to allow same-sex marriage. The other, Connecticut, legalized such unions in October.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Call to prayer

In the brave new world:
A new software programme for BlackBerries combines Hebrew prayers and technology.

The programme, which provides texts of daily prayers instead of the traditional, printed book, has been dubbed "the JewBerry".

The upgrade costs $30 (£19) and more than 10,000 customers have already purchased the programme, which is not linked to Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry.

It has been created by two entrepreneurs who attended New York's Yeshiva University - which combines academic learning with the teachings of the Torah.

Jonathan Bennett, the co-creator, said: "Throughout the day, Jews gather in office-building stairwells and conference rooms to pray, and while sometimes you might not remember your prayer book, no one goes anywhere without their BlackBerry."

New Life in Old Model

Ray Fair, after overpredicting George W. Bush's two-party vote share in 2004, hits it (after correcting for the deterioration in the economy in October) in 2008:
...the predicted Republican vote share (of the two-party vote) is 48.09 percent. So the prediction is 51.91 for the Democrats and 48.09 for the Republicans, for a spread of 3.82.

The current situation is unusual in that the economy since the end of the third quarter appears to have gotten much worse. People may perceive the economy to be worse than the economic values through the third quarter indicate, which, other things being equal, suggests that the vote equation may overpredict the Republican share.

But only slightly, McCain appears to have gotten 47%

Monday, November 03, 2008

It's the economy, stupid

Larry Bartels explains why John McCain is unlikely to win in this climate:
Voters often misperceive what life has been like during the incumbent's administration. They are inordinately focused on the here and now, mostly ignoring how things have gone earlier in the incumbent's term. And they have great difficulty judging which aspects of their own and the country's well-being are the responsibility of elected leaders and which are not.

This election year, an economic downturn turned into an economic crisis with the dramatic meltdown of major financial institutions. John McCain will be punished at the polls as a result. Whether the current economic distress is really President Bush's fault, much less McCain's, is largely beside the point.

Does all of this make voters stupid? No, just human. And thus -- to borrow the title of another popular book by behavioral economist Dan Ariely -- "predictably irrational."

That may be bad enough.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Ya think?

David Broder is being very coy:
After his performance in 2004, some Democratic activists had marked him [Obama] as the best convention speaker since Ted Kennedy, Ann Richards or Mario Cuomo. Others had read his book, "Dreams from My Father," and had declared him their finest literary talent since Ted Sorensen was ghostwriting for John F. Kennedy.

Which conceals that the author and Pulitzer Prize winner of 1955's Profiles in Courage was officially Senator John F Kennedy. Until earlier this year when Sorensen finally admitted what he'd been denying for half a century:
In 1957, newspaper columnist Drew Pearson appeared on ABC News' The Mike Wallace Show and claimed that the book had been ghostwritten and later named Kennedy’s "research associate" Theodore C. Sorensen as the ghost writer. Both Kennedy and Sorensen denied this claim. ABC News, under pressure from Kennedy and his lawyer Clark Clifford[citation needed], retracted the story. However years later historian Herbert Parmet analyzed the text of Profiles in Courage and wrote in his book The Struggles of John F. Kennedy that although Kennedy did oversee the production and provided for the direction and message of the book, it was clearly Sorensen who provided most of the work that went into the end product.

In May 2008, Sorensen in his autobiography, Counselor, largely confirmed allegations that he had done much, if not most, of the writing. Sorensen wrote that he "did a first draft of most chapters," "helped choose the words of many of its sentences," and "privately boasted or indirectly hinted that [he] had written much of the book." Sorensen claimed that in May 1957, Kennedy "unexpectedly and generously offered, and I happily accepted, a sum" for his work on the book. The sum Kennedy paid to Sorensen exceeded half the book's royalties from its first five years of sales and led Sorensen to inform Kennedy that he was disinclined to push for recognition of his participation.

So, is Broder hinting at something too dangerous to say out loud?
[Chris] Yavelow, an award-winning composer and author, had worked for years developing what he believes is the most comprehensive linguistics tool for authorship detection, a software product trademarked as FictionFixer.

....Yavelow compared Obama’s Dreams with Bill Ayers’ memoir, Fugitive Days, he found the similarity of the two books “striking.” He then quickly corrects himself: “’Striking’ is an understatement for the relationship FictionFixer uncovered between Fugitive Days and Dreams From My Father.”

For instance, Dreams averages 17.61 words and 26.48 syllables for non-dialogue sentences. Fugitive Days averages 17.62 words and 26.27 syllables.

Another example is what Yavelow calls “attributions”—e.g., he “asked,” she “said,” they “wondered.” Some authors use as few as three. Many use fewer than twenty. Dreams, however, uses 36; Fugitive Days 34, and with only four exceptions—three of these used only once—the two books use the very same attributions.

Yavelow compares the two books on any number of other characteristics and concludes, “There is a strong likelihood that the author of Fugitive Days ghost-wrote Dreams From My Father using recordings of dialog (either tape recorded or notes). Alternatively, another scenario could be possible: Ayers might have served as a ‘book doctor’.”