Feel-Good Headline of the Day

It's the front page of this morning's WSJ: Hedge Funds Make Big Profits Betting Against FTC and Khan.

The efforts by Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to protect Main Street are inadvertently enriching some on Wall Street, generating outsize profits for Pentwater Capital Management and other large hedge funds that bet on merger deals.

For the past two years, Khan has pursued an aggressive strategy as head of President Biden’s antitrust agency, attempting to block proposed deals including Microsoft’s acquisition of videogame maker Activision Blizzard and Amgen’s pursuit of drugmaker Horizon Therapeutics.

In both cases, the FTC’s intervention spooked investors and sent shares of the target companies swinging. This phenomenon complicated the playbook for a group of hedge funds whose main strategy relies on wagering that mergers and acquisitions will succeed or fail.

Yet for a handful of firms willing to stomach the volatility, the FTC’s antitrust efforts have yielded an unexpected windfall.

Their strategy? Betting big against Khan.

It's nice that you can make some money betting in favor of the rule of law, and against a massive anti-consumer change in antitrust regulatory policy.

I really wanted to make a Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan joke about this, but I couldn't make it work. I bet someone else has, though… yeah, Google is your friend. (Lina might fix that, though, so click sooner than later.)

If you're interested, Lina Khan has been an occasional mention here at Pun Salad since 2020: Pun Salad's here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. She's not my friend, and she shouldn't be yours either.

Also of note:

  • When will Lina Khan start regulating these guys? The excellent novelist Kat Rosenfield is also a very good essayist. At the Free Press she looks at the latest instance of The Lies of Trauma Merchants. After listing some egregious examples from the past few decades (!), starting with James Frey:

    Today, the collective horror at Frey’s deception feels like the product of a more innocent time, particularly when compared with the muted response to last week’s unmasking of his contemporary equivalent. Comedian and television personality Hasan Minhaj, an alumnus of The Daily Show, built his career on stories of the persecution he had faced as an Indian, Muslim son of immigrants in a post-9/11 America. But as outlined in a devastating report by New Yorker writer Clare Malone, his most popular material contained key omissions and barefaced lies.

    The FBI informant who infiltrated Minhaj’s Muslim community and then reported his mosque to the authorities? Minhaj never met him. The hospitalization of Minhaj’s daughter after someone mailed him an envelope full of a white mystery powder that could have been anthrax? Never happened. And the high school ex-girlfriend who accepted Minhaj’s invitation to prom, only to jilt him on her doorstep for racist reasons while her new (white) date slipped a corsage on her wrist? She had actually turned down Minhaj several days earlier, and this doorstep moment—upon which Minhaj more or less built his career—was a complete fabrication.

    I note that back in 2014, the publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch cancelled the columns of George Will because he had the audacity to point out that "when [colleges and universities] make victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges, victims proliferate."

    Since then, victimhood status has become coveted in larger arenas than institutions of higher education. And I'd like to think that GFW reads essays like Rosenfield's and thinks: toldya so.

  • When will the St. Louis Post-Dispatch apologize to George Will, anyway? Ed Morrissey also looks at Hasan Minhaj and the rise of the fabricated-trauma porn industry. And he wonders…

    Why? One has to wonder whether this is a sign of cultural decline, or perhaps the end result of the educational rot from decades of emphasizing America’s failings in history without any thought of the overall context of the American experiment. In its way, it seems like the same impulse that climate-change activists have in declaring every hot day and every weather event the Unmistakable Outcome Of Global Warming Denialism. The constant thirst for doom and despair comes from the desire to destroy everything and rebuild it under an Enlightened Despotism of Sciencey Goodness, in which The Experts® will run everything and tell us how to live every aspect of our lives lest we anger the gods of Gaia or racial/ethnic determinism.

    Increasing lost arts: skepticism, accepting complexity, looking for context, …

  • But it's not just comedians. It is (of course) politicians too. Scott Johnson writes that one guy is outstanding in that field: On Biden’s Lying. Quoting from an Michael Moynihan interview with Biden biographer Franklin Foer:

    MM: The other day, Biden said he was at Ground Zero the day after the September 11 attacks. He wasn’t. He said that he was a professor, I think, at the University of Pennsylvania, teaching political theory for four years. He wasn’t. Said something similar about his grandfather dying in the hospital the same day. He falsely claimed to have been arrested during a civil rights protest. He falsely claimed that he, quote, “used to drive an 18-wheeler,” falsely claimed to have visited the Pittsburgh synagogue where worshipers were killed in a 2018 mass shooting, falsely claimed to have visited Iraq and Afghanistan as president, told a false story involving a late relative and a Purple Heart, and falsely described his interactions decades ago with late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. He frequently refers to his son, Beau Biden, who died of cancer, dying in Iraq. At what point is that lying and not a gaffe?

    FF: It’s clearly a tendency that is deeply ingrained in him that these are not straight examples. They’re part of a pattern of the way that he describes himself and his role in events in history. And there is something both disturbing about it on some level and, I think, very reflective of something deep in his psyche, that this desire to be at the center of the narrative and to have a version of events that kind of meshes with some idealized version of those events.

    MM: But you’re reluctant to call it lying.

    FF: On the surface, yes, it is. It is lying. But there are different reasons why people lie. And I think that needs to somehow be wrapped into the way in which we morally judge them. The pattern of lies are really always about himself, not about other people. And they’re self-aggrandizing. And so it’s this tendency towards self-aggrandizement, which is super connected to the way that he exists as a politician and super connected to all of these insecurities that he has.

    On the surface it's lying. But below the surface, it's … yep, still lying.

    Or as someone said about Hollywood: strip away the phony tinsel and you find the real tinsel underneath.

  • Putting two and two together. Lawrence M. Krauss brings us a letter from Alexander Barvinok, a mathematician who is Leaving the American Mathematical Society.

    With grave concern, I see the growing use of DEI statements as a required component for job applications, in particular in mathematical sciences. In my opinion, it has an enormous corrosive effect on the math community and education in this country. Even if one is required to say “I passionately believe that water would certainly wet us, as fire would certainly burn”, the routine affirmation of one’s beliefs as a precondition of making a living constitutes compelled speech and corrupts everyone who participates in the performance.

    I grew up in the Soviet Union, where people had to affirm their fealty to ideals and the leaders embodying those ideals, on a daily basis. As years went by, I observed the remarkable ease with which passionate communists turned first into passionate pro-Western liberals and then into passionate nationalists. This lived experience and also common sense convince me that only true conformists excel in this game. Do we really want our math departments to be populated by conformists?

    Well, do we?