Welcome to a World Less Safe Everywhere You Look: Opening Line

After the long weekend, we return to a number of moving parts, all of which appear to be gathering steam toward denouements sooner rather than later.

The Greeks and their European creditors broke off talks abruptly yesterday, and as one of our colleagues said -- before the talks ended -- we could be a few weeks from Greece tumbling out of the euro.

What would happen, exactly, in that scenario? Nikos Chrysoloras, Marcus Bensasson and Christos Ziotis spell it out. As for the confidence Greeks have in their three-week-old firebrand government, let’s just say there are some fingernails getting awfully close to the cuticles. Maria Petrakis reports hope and anxiety are neck and neck in the results of the latest poll of Greeks, and given that the leftist press in Greece is resorting to Nazi symbolism to tell the story, it’s no wonder.

In Ukraine, if you were expecting last week’s ballyhooed cease-fire announcement following the summit in Minsk to hold any water, it looks like you were overly optimistic. More have died in fighting over the weekend as neither side wants to be the first to withdraw, and amid the standoff in Mariupol and at a rail junction in Debaltseve, which has emerged as a new strategic flashpoint. Down in Crimea, the ramifications of Putin’s annexation is being measured in the size of the roll of rubles a person has to carry to get anything done and the chaos arising in the simplest issues, like what time it is, really.

It’s of little consolation in Copenhagen that the man who killed two there on Sunday was supposedly acting alone and wasn’t part of any broader terrorist organization operating within Denmark because, unlike in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, there was no possibility of a coincidence that those targeted were parking in the wrong spot. Copenhagen has had its Charlie Hebdo moment, and Scandinavia as a whole is girding for more.

The discomfort that ensued was amplified the same day by the indiscriminate desecration of hundreds of Jewish graves in Alsace, France. Even though the deed was done by a bunch of teenage cretins who probably didn’t grasp the symbolism of their acts, Israel has seized upon the events to renew its calls for Jews to turn their backs on Europe just as Islamic State is setting its sights on it.

Back home in Washington, Congress is in recess until next week, which ought to give the House and the Senate plenty of free time to point fingers at each other and at the Democrats for yet another run-up to a government funding crisis, this time for the Department of Homeland Security, and probably not enough time to arrive at a compromise once they return.

The Atlantic observes that this is evidence that even when the Republicans have the power, they don’t know how use it, and note some Schadenfreude among Democrats, who seem to be laughing off John Boehner’s attempts to lay the blame on them, as if the Republicans’ brand of strong-arm negotiation has been successful before.

But at least, at least, you’re not in New England. Unless you are.

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U.S. economic indicators today include Empire Manufacturing at 8:30 a.m. EST, the NAHB’s housing market index at 10 a.m. and TIC flows at 4 p.m.

Goodyear, MGM Resorts and Waste Management Verizon report earnings before markets open, and Agilent, Cimarex, Devon Energy, Vornado, Fossil and Flowserve report after the bell.

Overnight, China said new-home prices rose in only one of 70 cities tracked.

A short time ago, the ZEW Center for European Economic Research said German investor confidence rose to the highest level in a year in February. In the U.K., the Office for National Statistics said Britain’s inflation rate fell more than economists forecast in January.

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- Putin visits Orban in Budapest. - EU Finance ministers began meeting in Brussels a couple hours ago. - Treasury’s Nathan Sheets speaks at 8:45 a.m. EST at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. - Brazilian-American Chamber of Commerce holds a conference in New York at 8 a.m. EST. - Is this what’s meant by legislating from the bench? - Now it’s Washington’s turn for a little snow. - Hackers up the ante with theft approaching $1 billion from as many as 100 banks. - The Russian cybersecurity firm that uncovered the bank theft finds spying software buried inside PCs used in countries targeted by U.S. intelligence. - Liberian schools open following Ebola crisis. - Five of six plaintiffs in DSK trial have dropped their claims. - German charged with the murder of more than 170,000 at Auschwitz. - Technical failure delays trading at Eurex. - Hadi loyalists fight back in Yemen. - Markets are closed in Brazil for Carnival and in India for Maha Shivratri. - It’s getting worse at the West Coast ports. - Charges against nine of 10 Spanish priests accused of sexually abusing the same altar boy dropped on a technicality. - Oil train derails in West Virginia. - It’s bad when even Hezbollah thinks you’re a terrorist. - Lance Armstrong ordered to repay $10 million. - Did even Martha Stewart do this while in prison? - Outdated literary reference recuperating in Spanish hospital. - Washington Monument has shrunk over time, but then haven’t we all? - Patty Hearst’s shih tzu wins toy group at Westminster Kennel Club dog show, which concludes tonight. - Jim Cantore goes nuts over thundersnow. - Happy 90th to The New Yorker. - Laissez les bon temps rouler.

***

As one of our colleagues put it in a memo, U.S. regulators chose the Sunday of a three-day weekend to release their long-awaited rules on operating small drones in U.S. airspace, as if they thought, what -- that they might sneak it past Amazon.com?

No, it turns out notions in the FAA’s proposed regulations were included in an economic analysis that leaked and got picked up by Forbes, which, presumably, forced the FAA’s hand.

There has been a fair amount of dissection since, which you can read here, here and here, but for our purposes, the limitations on businesses like Amazon are the most noteworthy. The regulations require an operator to keep the thing in sight at all times (and no, you can’t use binoculars), which pretty much, for now, prevents Amazon or your local pizza parlor (parlor?) from loading up your order, punching in the coordinates and sending the thing on its way.

Amazon issued a statement in which it sounded rather indignant, as if the FAA works for Amazon.

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy for Amazon, said in an e-mailed statement.

No, dude, the FAA doesn’t need to anything to address the needs of your business before it addresses the needs of the rest of us. Go back to extorting book publishers for now.

One of the other proposed limitations would prevent flights “over any persons not directly involved in the operation,” and this is where it gets interesting. As one commenter at Gizmodo.com said, “Not enforceable.”

“It would be like making a rule that a photographer may only photograph people responsible for the operation of the camera,” the commenter wrote.

Does this mean they can’t fly over the Opening Line bureau, and that we can shoot them down if they do? We need more in the regulations about the intersection with the castle doctrine.

***

The Koch brothers, Charles and David, and their followers certainly have had a profound effect on politics in this country in the time since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. For the 2016 presidential election, they’re planning to raise almost $900 million to exert even more influence.

That’s fine. It’s legal and it’s politics, and those who say that it’s unfair can always go out and raise their own $900 million to fight back. It’s like criticism of the press: Those on the right who perceive the press to be of the left stopped crying about it and went out and founded their own press. As long as you know who you’re squaring off against -- like in a court of law, where a defendant has the right to face his accuser -- it’s a fair fight, right?

Yeah, well about that. Before we proceed, remember this issue transcends the notion of which party is which.

The brothers are suing California to block the state attorney general from requiring the identities and addresses of donors to the brothers’ Americans for Prosperity Foundation. They argue that the blowback against their political efforts have been pretty harsh, “ranging from threats to kill or maim to threats to firebomb buildings,” according to reporting today by Edvard Pettersson.

If a democracy, heck, society in general, is supposed to rest on its powers of self-correction, of self-governing -- as no doubt the brothers would suggest -- isn’t condemnation part of the cost? Except the firebombing, of course.

***

How are you with ladders -- like, really tall extension ladders?

Working at considerable heights is OK as long as you’re on something that’s not going anywhere, like a catwalk. But when the thing supporting you has the potential to shift or give way, sometimes feet get leaden, as if making the slightest move was all it would take.

The analogy came to mind reading today’s story by Lu Wang and Oliver Renick, who report folks are getting a little woozy at these heights in technology stocks. The Nasdaq 100 is within view of its all-time high from 2000, and their feet are getting cold and heavy.

But why? The strong dollar is the reason that draws the most notice -- start chipping away at sales in tech companies and you’re messing with one of the few things these folks can point to, but in terms of valuations in comparison to 15 years ago, the ground is a lot more solid.

“The Nasdaq gauge trades at three times sales, less than half where it was during Internet mania,” the reporters observe. “Computer and software companies in the S&P 500 are forecast to increase earnings by 16 percent this year, more than any other group.”

Still, volatility in some stocks, like Micron and SanDisk, has investors like Federated’s Matt Kaufler looking down.

***

Remember “Hot or Not"? The website, circa 2000, was at the forefront of objectification that eventually became Tinder, which is why its return as an app feels a little late. But it is back.

The question is whether it has made the cut at Product Hunt, a Hot or Not-esque startup website/app that looks like the Hot or Not for the tech-startup community. As Adam Satariano and Eric Newcomer report, ‘‘startups are so hot in Silicon Valley that the industry needs a startup to curate them.’’

The service, founded by Ryan Hoover, 28, is a bulletin board of new products and technological innovation, and its readers vote up or down on each listing, rendering Hoover a kingmaker of sorts. Because when approval comes to an idea listed on Product Hunt, money often follows. As for Product Hunt itself, it’s got Google Ventures and Andreesen Horowitz as backers.

A crazy idea is no obstacle. Hoover tells Satariano and Newcomer that he doesn’t take things too seriously, like the Mindie app, which helps users create 10-second music videos, and which, if history is any guide, Facebook will buy for about $20 billion.

***

It was about 20 years ago that we commuted to work via the Hudson River.

A coworker owned a Zodiac, an inflatable rubber dinghy with a little outboard motor that he named the Legionnaire, and he docked it at the 79th Street Boat Basin. With his membership to the South Street Seaport Museum, he was given access to one of their waterfront slips, which was about a block from the office on Water Street.

This sure beat the subway. It was almost impossible not to walk into the office with a whistle after getting doused with spray while taking in the sites of the West Side and the looming New York Harbor.

It used to be the norm to travel around New York City over water, until progress came along, and while ferry transit is still a critical link between Manhattan and Staten Island or the bank of New Jersey, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s betting that it’s got a lot of room to grown, Martin Braun reports.

With the Kids These Days thinking outside the tube when it comes to how and where to live, youthful communities are springing up in waterside locales. Why commute to your commute when there’s a morning and evening on the water waiting to wash away your hassles?

It’s probably especially refreshing on a morning like today.

***

You may have seen that singer-songwriter Leslie Gore died yesterday at age 68, which is just three years older than this writer. A little too close for comfort.

It has become apparent to those of us born before 1950 that the people who were meaningful in our adolescent years are dropping like flies. Ernie Banks, Joe Franklin, Anita Ekberg, Rod Taylor (can anyone forget his tour de force in The Time Machine?), just to name a recent few. It’s disconcerting.

Leslie Gore, though, is particularly poignant as she provided the soundtrack for the early 1960s when driving in your car with the radio on was a blissful exercise. You could not go 15 minutes back then without hearing her ‘‘It’s My Party” anthem at least once. Try getting it out of your head.

This was when John F. Kennedy was just elected president and the idea that you could achieve almost anything you put your mind to was rampant in the land. That a Jewish girl born in Brooklyn, raised in New Jersey, and graduated from Sarah Lawrence could define a time in America shows that this is absolutely so.

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