NU President Carter May Earn $1.5 Million Per Year by 2023

(p. B1) LINCOLN — The University of Nebraska Board of Regents extended President Ted Carter’s contract by three years on Thursday, potentially keeping the university’s top leader in Nebraska through 2027.

Carter’s new contract, approved unanimously, also raises his base salary by 3% this year and adds a second deferred compensation package to incentivize the president to stay at NU.

In all, Carter’s total compensation could top $1.5 million beginning in 2023.

. . .

Regents also awarded Carter, a former superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, a $105,000 performance bonus for the (p. B1) 2021-22 academic year.

That amount is less than the $140,000 he was eligible to receive; Carter hit 89% of the benchmarks set for him by the board last year after first- to second-year retention numbers fell at several NU campuses.

For the full story, see:

CHRIS DUNKER, Lincoln Journal Star. “NU President Given Raise, Extension.” The Omaha World-Herald (Friday, August 12, 2022): B1-B2.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Sept. 18, 2022, and has the title “Regents approve contract extension, pay raise for NU president.”)

Omaha Streetcar Will Look More Like St. Louis Failure Than Kansas City Success

(p. A1) After decades of stops and starts, Omaha is the closest it’s ever been to the development of a modern streetcar line.

But where city officials and local developers see an asset for economic development connecting midtown to the riverfront, one transit professional urges caution.

Tom Rubin knows a few things about public transportation and finance, having worked as the chief financial officer for the large transit system serving Los Angeles. And the Omaha native is skeptical of the plans for a streetcar in his hometown that he fears could financially run off the rails.

He’s concerned that rising inflation and interest rates could raise the cost of building the system and at the same time reduce the private development that’s being counted on to pay for it.

He questions why the city has not thought further about pursuing federal dollars to help defray the construction costs.

(p. A3) And he thinks there needs to be much more independent study of its financial feasibility beyond the lone review to date that was written by an engineering firm in the business of designing streetcars.

. . .

Rubin is not an Omaha taxpayer. But the Omaha native, who has more than four decades of experience in public transit as a senior executive, consultant, auditor and author, has taken an interest in the Omaha proposal.

Rubin founded the transit practice of what is now accounting firm Deloitte, formerly served as CFO of the nation’s third-largest public transit system in Los Angeles and has served as a consultant to numerous federal, state and local transit agencies and planning organizations.

He also has written papers and studies on transit issues for groups as varied as the Environmental Defense Fund and the free-market Reason Institute. He has said he may seek to publish a paper on the Omaha project.

. . .

“What is the magic that will make people decide to put their new office building along the streetcar route?” he said. “I’m far from convinced that putting tracks down generates development.”

Streetcar supporters disagree, often pointing to the Kansas City streetcar as a shining example of the development potential.

. . .

But there are other systems built in recent years that Rubin holds up as less than ideal. He mentioned St. Louis, where a streetcar shut down shortly after going into service. In that city, the line’s developers chose a route that did not have nearly enough ridership to support it.

Rubin said the current economic environment also raises concerns about bonding the Omaha project. Inflation could raise building costs, and higher interest rates figure to raise the cost of borrowing.

“It’s a lot easier to show you can make the debt service with a 2.5% bond than a 5% bond,” he said.

And higher interest rates also could slow development along the streetcar line. Less development would mean fewer TIF dollars to pay the bonds.

Another concern Rubin raises is the high cost of the streetcar system, which he said makes it hard to justify as a mode of transit. It is much more expensive per rider, for example, than Metro’s new ORBT rapid bus transit service.

Rubin said that prior to a major investment in a streetcar, an independent and unbiased analysis of the alternatives is needed. The HDR draft analysis at this point isn’t enough to convince him the streetcar is either a good idea or financially feasible for Omaha.

He noted Omaha-based HDR has long been a heavy hitter in the world of massive transit projects, including streetcars. On the Omaha project, the company did some initial design work on the streetcar route, utility coordination, the location of the streetcar vehicle maintenance facility and vehicle specifications.

. . .

Rubin acknowledged the Kansas City streetcar is working well but questioned whether Omaha could replicate that success. He’s not sure the Omaha route would be as viable as the one in Kansas City, which links the city’s riverfront and downtown with the arena district and Crown Center.

“They have a good route and some things that work well for them,” Rubin said. “I don’t think Omaha, even best case, could be as successful as Kansas City.”

For the full story see:

Jessica Wade and Henry J. Cordes. “Transit Consultant Skeptical of Omaha’s Streetcar Project.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, June 5, 2022): A1 & A3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the article was updated Aug. 5, 2022, and has the title “Public transit consultant skeptical of Omaha’s streetcar project.”

The “Intellect” and “Bravado” Behind the Success of Thiel, Musk, and the “PayPal Mafia”

(p. C7) Next week marks the 20th anniversary of PayPal becoming a publicly traded company. The IPO valued the online payments processor at nearly $1 billion—an eye-opening sum at the time. Back in the day, technology firms marked such occasions with glitzy celebrations. PayPal took a different path. Its youthful employees gathered in the parking lot of their Palo Alto, Calif., office building, where the company’s enigmatic chief executive, Peter Thiel, performed a keg stand and then played 10 simultaneous games of speed chess, winning nine of them.

Jimmy Soni tells that story and many others in “The Founders,” a gripping account of PayPal’s origins and a vivid portrait of the geeks and contrarians who made its meteoric rise possible. His richly reported narrative includes corporate intrigue, workplace hijinks, breakthrough innovation and first-class nerdiness.

. . .

Julie Anderson, one of X.com’s early employees, dropped the company’s California-based telephone customer-service provider and relaunched the service in Nebraska. Why there? Because many of her relatives lived there.

. . .

Confirming a cliché, staffers do spend all night at the office—sometimes sleeping under their desks, though not always. “There’s this massive value that you harness when you’re doing an all-nighter,” says Mr. Levchin, “when you’ve gone for presumably seven or eight hours of work, and you’re really getting up to a point when something’s about to be born—and then you go for eight more hours! And instead of stopping to go to sleep and letting these ideas dissipate, you actually focus on the findings you’ve made in the last few hours, and you just go crazy and do some more of that.”

. . .

Why did PayPal thrive when others—eMoneyMail, PayPlace, c2it—failed? One key was limiting the losses from fraud. If the company had taken a traditional approach, observes a member of the fraud-analytics team, it “would have hired people who had been building logistic regression models for banks for twenty years but never innovated.” Instead it turned to young, open-minded engineers who devised unorthodox methods.

. . .

. . . “The Founders” makes crystal-clear that PayPal’s human capital—a potent cocktail of intellect, bravado and competitiveness, complemented by the occasional keg stand—laid the foundation for success.

For the full review, see:

Matthew Rees. “Making the Future Click.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Feb. 12, 2022): C7.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date February 11, 2022, and has the title “‘The Founders’ Review: Making the Future Click.”)

The book under review is:

Soni, Jimmy. The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2022.

Diamond to Teach Economics of Entrepreneurship Seminar in Fall 2022

Prof. Art Diamond, Economics
College of Business Administration
University of Nebraska Omaha
Seminar Meets in Mammel Hall 116
Fall 2022, Tuesdays, 6:00 – 8:40 PM
First Session: Aug. 23, 2022

ECON 4730-001, ECON 8736-001

Some Questions to Be Discussed:

• How can policies encouraging innovative entrepreneurship help us create a more dynamic growth economy with more and better jobs, more and better innovations, and more choice and opportunity?
• Are innovative entrepreneurs smarter, or more courageous, or less risk-averse, or more intuitive, or more determined, or more frugal, or more arrogant, or more hard-working, or greedier, than the rest of us?
• Can economic historian John Nye defend his claim that successful entrepreneurs are “lucky fools?”
• What is the role of entrepreneurship in the process of economic dynamism, and what is the role of economic dynamism in making our lives longer and better?
• Would labor be better off in an economy in which innovative entrepreneurship is encouraged?
• Why did economist Will Baumol believe that too much higher education can discourage successful innovative entrepreneurship?
• Can unbinding entrepreneurs in medicine bring us more cures and longer lives?

Socialist Mayor’s Environmental Bicycles Turn Paris Streets into Risky Chaos

(p. 4) PARIS — On a recent afternoon, the Rue de Rivoli looked like this: Cyclists blowing through red lights in two directions. Delivery bike riders fixating on their cellphones. Electric scooters careening across lanes. Jaywalkers and nervous pedestrians scrambling as if in a video game.

Sarah Famery, a 20-year resident of the Marais neighborhood, braced for the tumult. She looked left, then right, then left and right again before venturing into a crosswalk, only to break into a rant-laden sprint as two cyclists came within inches of grazing her.

“It’s chaos!” exclaimed Ms. Famery, shaking a fist at the swarm of bikes that have displaced cars on the Rue de Rivoli ever since it was remade into a multilane highway for cyclists last year. “Politicians want to make Paris a cycling city, but no one is following any rules,” she said. “It’s becoming risky just to cross the street!”

The mayhem on Rue de Rivoli — a major traffic artery stretching from the Bastille past the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde — is playing out on streets across Paris as the authorities pursue an ambitious goal of making the city a European cycling capital by 2024.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who is campaigning for the French presidency, has been burnishing her credentials as an ecologically minded Socialist candidate. She has earned admirers and enemies alike with a bold program to transform greater Paris into the world’s leading environmentally sustainable metropolis, reclaiming vast swaths of the city from cars for parks, pedestrians and a Copenhagen-style cycling revolution.

For the full story, see:

Liz Alderman. “PARIS DISPATCH; Europe’s New Cycling Capital, or a Pedestrian’s Nightmare?” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021): 4.

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Oct. 4, 2021, and has the title “PARIS DISPATCH; As Bikers Throng the Streets, ‘It’s Like Paris Is in Anarchy’.”)

UNO Center Study Finds “Vast Majority” of Jan. 6th Rioters “Were Not Affiliated with Organized Groups”

Nice photo of Gina Ligon, director of NCITE, in Mammel Hall blocking our view of Jun Kaneko’s “Mr. Papercliphead” sculpture (my name for it, not Kaneko’s). (Source of photo: Omaha World-Herald article quoted below.)

(p. A3) UNO’s National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology, and Education Center (known by the acronym NCITE) was less than a year old when rioters bearing banners of then-President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol as Congress certified Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. But it has given new focus to the work of NCITE, which was established in 2020 with a 10-year, $36.5 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to be the agency’s research hub.

“I’ve never seen so many resources and such consistent energy toward understanding the domestic terror threat,” said Gina Ligon, the center’s director. “(The Jan. 6 attack) has made what we’re doing more urgent.”

. . .

“My first thought was that it was this organized, top-down militia that got everyone spun up,” Ligon said.

That’s not the way it turned out.

A study released last week by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism — part of the NCITE consortium — showed that just 11% of those arrested so far were members of known extremist organizations.

“The vast majority were not affiliated with organized groups,” said Seamus Hughes, the program’s deputy director.

The study also dismissed any notion that large numbers of rioters were down-and-out “skinheads” associated with past far-right groups.

Instead, the analysts found a diverse group ranging in age from 18 to 80, representing 350 counties in 45 states. Most (87%) are male, and most had jobs. There were business owners, real estate agents, a yoga instructor, a state legislator and even a musical theater actor.

Although some press attention has focused on the arrest of current or former military service members, only 11% had ties to the military.

For the full story, see:

Steve Liewer. “UNO Experts Find Surprises in Capitol Riot Arrest Data.” Omaha World-Herald (Monday, Jan. 10, 2022): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Jan. 13, 2022, and has the title “UNO Counterterrorism Experts Find Surprises in Capitol Riot Arrest Data.”)

Nebraska Bumblebee Outlook Is “Rosier”

(p. A1) The dismal outlook for the American bumblebee across the United States is much rosier in Nebraska, and experts aren’t exactly sure why.

They’re just happy to report that the Bombus pensylvanicus appears to be holding its own here, compared with eight states where the American bumblebee has reportedly disappeared completely.

. . .

(p. A5) “While there is clear decline in parts of this bee’s range, the American bumblebee appears relatively stable in Nebraska based on our recent work,” Lamke said.  . . .

She speculates that one reason numbers are higher in Nebraska than elsewhere is that this is near the center of the once-abundant bee’s territory.

For the full story, see:

Marjie Ducey. “Beleaguered Bumblebee Still Seems to Be Thriving in Nebraska.” Omaha World-Herald (Monday, January 22, 2022): A1 & A5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 11, 2021, and has the title “Threatened American Bumblebee Still Seems to Be Thriving in Nebraska.”)

UNL Ph.D. Studies Cow Manure and Burps “to Help Save the Planet”

(p. A1) ITHACA, Neb. — In what’s been dubbed the “methane barn” at a University of Nebraska-Lincoln agricultural research center near here, sensitive electronic equipment monitors and logs the amount of gas belched out by a herd of yearling steers.

Yes, Andrea Watson and her fellow UNL scientists are studying cow burps. She has already heard all the jokes.

“My brother especially thinks it’s funny I had to get a Ph.D. to study cow manure and cow burps,” she said.

But this work is really quite serious. If it can help reduce the beef industry’s global environmental hoofprint, it could one day help save the planet.

. . .

Consider that in a year, the average cow belches out 220 pounds of greenhouse gas. According to United Nations figures, if the world’s beef and dairy cattle were their own country, they would be the third-largest emitter, after only China and the United States.

. . .

(p. A9) “Trying to blame the cow industry for any of this is BS,” said Jay Wolf, an Albion, Nebraska, cattle rancher who definitely is familiar with real BS. “We have reduced the herd by one-third. When other sources reduce by one-third, come talk to me.”

. . .

Climate experts are increasingly recognizing that in the decades-long battle ahead, reducing methane emissions from all sources is crucial to helping the planet buy time and avoid catastrophe. Cattle can play a big role in that, said Joe Rudek, lead senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.

. . .

(p. A11) In North America, livestock are responsible for 28% of all methane emissions, with an additional 41% from the oil and gas industry (mostly through leaks) and 21% from landfills. In all, a hefty 25% of today’s warming globally is driven by methane.

Rudek said if methane emissions across all industries worldwide can be cut by 30% by 2050, it would be enough to avoid a half degree of warming.

For the full story, see:

Henry J. Cordes. “Much-maligned cattle now have chance to be part of climate solution.” Omaha World-Herald (Sunday, October 24, 2021): A1 & A9-A11.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated November 4, 2021, and has the title “The State of Beef: Much-maligned cattle now have chance to be part of climate solution.”)

Union Pacific Buying More Chassis to Carry More Containers

(p. B6) Union Pacific is buying more chassis that can carry shipping containers, and opening facilities outside of Los Angeles and in Minnesota to handle the increased volume.

Mr. Foote of CSX said that while supply chains are strained globally, the railroads are handling their role of moving goods between destinations well. A bigger problem of late has been what happens after the cargo gets to its destination.

He said containers carrying finished goods often sit idle because of a lack of truck drivers, equipment to put shipping containers on trucks and warehouse workers to unload them.

For the full story, see:

Paul Ziobro. “Railroads Shun Some Business Amid Congestion.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, October 22, 2021): B6.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date October 21, 2021, and has the title “Rail-Yard Congestion Holds Down Shipping Volumes,’ CEO Says.”)