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Thursday, May 27, 2010

For fascinating insights into Chinese Geopolitical Strategy...

See (1 )the article, 'The Geography of Chinese Power' by Robert Kaplan ( A Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security and Atlantic Correspondent ) in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs ( which can be read by registering at the FA website ) and (2) Kaplan's extensive Question and Answer session on the ame topic, also at FA.

Dr. Duru states the case against High Frequency Traders who precipitated the Flash Crash

HFT's have been exploiting regulatory holes to manipulate the market via strategies such as 'Order Anticipation' and 'Momentum Ignition'. Having automated these strategies, HFT's might argue that that they are not acting 'scienter' -- foreknowledge that such actions constitute wrongdoing--and thus, that these actions are not grounds for tort actions.

Germany's nearly-failed bond auction--plus a strong Spanish Bank's financing problem--says a lot...

about the tightening credit squeeze in Euroland.  Sure it's about fear, but it's also about worrisome governmental and corporate debt exposures.

According to this enlightening Seeking-Alpha article, Germany's state-run Landesbank's are overexposed to ' Spanish and US Property, Greek sovereign debt and US subprime '.

Who knew ?

Hell, who knew that GMAC, General Motors' financing arm,  was overexposed to--and had to write down drastically-- the value of their investment in Spanish Mortgages ?

On Japan's Emerging Security Issues with China...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Why is California paying TBTF fat cats big premiums to finance debt when it could self-finance, on the cheap ???

TBTF='Too big to fail'.  and damned if I know why (hence the '???'.).  But Ellen Brown thinks she knows.

Why are people in the far east NOT buying gold but snapping up U.S. Treasuries ?

You don't believe me ? How about Commodity Online ?

Want to know what a 'swap spread' is ?

Well, on the off chance that you do...

Ricardo's Law of Diminishing Returns is alive and well and is telling us...

...we should be long on oil. Honest.

Profligate U.S. Consumer a Myth, says Stu Staines

In the 1990's only the wealthiest 20% spent like there was no tomorrow. Whoopee !

Finally, We Now Know The Cost of Cool

China's Overtaking U.S. in yet another category...

The New Normal : Pretend to work and get paid


Sunday, May 23, 2010

The New Credibility Gap : Increasing Majority of Government Ceases to Trust the Public

Trust me.

Will a New Social Networking Site [funky name here] Change the World...

in entirely expected and by now not all that extraordinary ways ? People up and down Boston's chic Newbury Street are, in all probability, not asking that question. They're inquiring of the hostess at the sidewalk cafe how long they must wait for a table for five.

Commerce Dept Finding : Really Cool Stuff Will Set You Back $200, Easy

Thanks to Tom Konrad, for pointing me to this note on another Nat Gas environmental gotcha : methane

Trottier on Spec Scripts (vs Shooting Scripts)

Just found this helpful article at The Writer's Store .

David Trottier is author of The Screenwriters Bible.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Buy Oil, Sell Gold ?

That's what the linked article in SEEKING ALPHA argues. Hmm. I wonder whether comparing our situation to that of even twenty years ago makes sense. Twenty years ago, the developed world had a number of strong currencies, whereas today, most of those currencies, including the relatively young EURO, are debased.

'Bad midterms [elections, not exams] not always bad for W.H. [ White House, not Willie Horton ]'

...says Julian Zelizer who runs down the history in THE POLITICO.

But one wonders...

Say  the Dems hold serve and control both houses into 2012 AND the economy is still in the crapper, AND Iran's got nukes AND N. Korea sinks a few more S. Korean ships AND we're paying $6.50 a gallon for gas AND there are still regular flights from Kabul and Baghdad to Dover AFB, whom will the public blame ?

Say 2010 turns out to be a bust for the GOP and the Tea Party.  If, as seems logical, the masters of that disaster are relegated to the dust-bin of history,  in 2012 Obama should be facing fresh Republican challengers and a new and (hopefully) more capable leadership, able to steer the party closer to the center, assuming the T.P. has gone bye-bye.

Why the Turkey-Brazil Deal re: Iranian nukes stinks.

from John Podhoretz in THE WEEKLY STANDARD

CNBC yells "Fire" in a Crowded Theater ! Where's Justice Holmes when you need him ?

Philip Davis justifiably takes CNBC to task for stoking the Market panic yesterday, saying that the cable channel was essentially "shouting FIRE in a crowded theater."

Second Tom Konrad aricle on Nat Gas : in SEEKING ALPHA

First Tom Konrad article on Nat Gas' questionable propsects : in ALT ENERGY

The Truth about Nat Gas

Keith Shaefer argues that investors have been sold a bill re: actual reserves of Natural Gas extractable from Shale and profitablity of same. Also, how long before shale-extraction's wasteful use of fresh water becomes an issue ?

Monday, May 17, 2010

' Beowulf on the Beach' , by Jack Murningham

Want to culture-up but don't have the time to read all 50 of world lit's greatest hits ? Get Beowulf on the Beach

Author Murningham--a self-described 'recovering academic'-- has been there, read that,  and gives you the skinny on each of fifty classics, providing you with an intro, The Buzz ( "your cocktail party Ph.D"), What People Don't Know But Should, Best Line, What's Sexy, Quirky Fact, and last but not least, What To Skip.

One can argue with M's individual assessments--e.g., that Ovid was a perv-- but not with his snappy style or more importantly the originality and practicality of his approach. Which I personally do not find offensive or extreme.

Then again, is extremism in defense of literacy a vice ? I think not. Morever, I'm sure no undergraduate or graduate students were harmed during production of this book, which I find, if not instructive, damned entertaining.

In fact,  I would venture to say that Beowulf on the Beach itself would be a fun beach read...  BUT IT WOULD BE WRONG !!!

Good News for Writers, and you too, Dano.

TV Networks have gone on a pilot-buying binge, and that's not all. CBS is bringing back Hawaii Five-O. Mahalo

Bulletin : Deck chairs being re-arranged on the SS McCain

Senator McCain's firing campaign staff at this juncture is hardly a good sign.

Will the GOP turn to Giulani in 2012 ?

Who can say ? But this article tells us what the former NY Mayor's doing these days to be "part of the game", which includes raising funds for the party and raising issues about the Administration's anti-terror policies.

How could the Euro Crisis deepen the U.S. Mortgage Crisis ?

Because it's affecting LIBOR rates, which in turn affect U.S. "mortgage resets". What's LIBOR ? How  could this happen ? Read on...

David Templeton says, 'Hey, there's positive economic news, too !'

In the interest of fairness...

Sundry indicators suggest the Market's heading south

based on a survey including AAII's weekly poll, Investors Intelligence, and Hurlbert Newletter Sentiment, among others.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Thoughts on the final voyage of the space shuttle Atlantis

With the final voyage of the space shuttle Atlantis, one chapter in the history of manned exploration of space nears its end. What should the next chapter be ? Some say Mars. But  for many reasons Mars is impracticable, especially because of the distance involved. Moreover, we have yet to prove ourselves in deeper space.

We still have much learn, far more than we will merely by maintaining current, limited "space-station"  environments where humans perform a handful of experiments, observe the cosmos, and leave. Deeper forays into the 'High Frontier' -- a term coined by the late Gerard O'Neill-- will require humans to spend protracted periods of time--years--in zero or artificial gravity. They will need habitats which are self-sustaining, i.e., capable of surviving without continual resupply from earth,  and furnished with integral, redundant "lifeboat" capabilities because timely rescue from Earth, in case of  serious problems, will be all but impossible. And these "space-workers" will also need  technologies and resources to mitigate hazards to themselves and to their habitats from constant exposure to cosmic radiation and to potential meteor or micro-meteor bombardment.

Moreover, as we know from the European experience in the New World,  exploration advances at a glacial pace without follow-on commercial exploitation.  And without the intensive investment of time, energy, and money that commercial exploitation typically brings, our forays in space will amount to nothing more than hyper-hyper-expensive tourism.

What,  then, should we aim for, over the next 10 or 20 years ?

We could take a page from Gerard O'Neill's book 'The High Frontier',  and begin working on building solar power plants at stable orbital points  (aka 'LaGrange points') . These plants  would then beam that power to Earth.  Abundant power,  generated without fossil fuels, without nukes, producing no pollution, no greenhouse gases. The material to build these plants mined on and transported from the Moon - far more easily than would be the case from Earth - refined, manufactured into parts assembled in space.

Sounds fantastic ? Maybe, but it's worth a try because it will have practical, productive results.  It's less of a pipe dream than going to Mars, at least until (a) we learn how to live and work in space not as tourists or highly-specialized appliance repairmen, but on a permanent basis,  and (b) we develop infinitely faster and efficient methods of propulsion.

At that point, we will have a workable and reliable infrastructure built,  from which to make a practicable, though still formidable, leap toward Mars.

Thanks to Jessica Page Morrell, for her book, 'Thanks, But This Isn't For Us'

Subtitled, " A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected ",  'Thanks, But'  is an insightful, practical, and readable guide to good writing, filled with helpful do's and even more helpful don'ts.

Each chapter contains 'Try This' exercises and 'Quick and Dirty Tips'  related to the given topic. At the close of each chapter, Morrell lists apposite works or websites. In addition,  there are two glossaries, on the "Lingo of Fiction" and "Lingo of Publishing". 

Some of Morrell's hints may seem obvious. And yes, some hints are repeated.  Which just goes to show that no one is perfect.  But overall, I'd say this book is right up there with Michael Lent's 'Breakfast with Sharks : A Screenwriter's Guide' and Brooke Wharton's 'The Writer Got Screwed (but didn't have to)' as must-haves for the writer's library.

PIMCO's World Economic Outlook for the Next Five Years: BLEAK

In Seeking Alpha, Felix Salmon gives us the lowlights from a survey penned by PIMCO's Mohammed El-Erian. Not fun reading. Salmon's advice : Buy emerging market local-currency bond funds. BTW Salmon's article has a link to the PIMCO survey, entitled "Secular Outlook".

Literary Quote of the Day #3

Isabel Allende, on erotica vs. porn : "Erotica is using a feather, pornography is using the whole chicken."

Literary Quote of the Day #2

Red Smith, Sports Columnist :"There's nothing to writing.  All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein."
[ Interesting. Hemingway said much the same thing...]

Literary Quote of the Day #1

Stephen King, from On Writing :  "Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts."

Paul Justice argues that ETF's were not the culprits, but Victims of the 'Flash Crash' of last week.

Are Reflation and a Bear Market Both Imminent ?

One blogger at Seeking Alpha believes so. His advice : among other things, buy Commodity Funds and, of course, Gold.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Ten Best Novels about Money

Usually I don't bite on " best of " lists of any kind,  but this one includes authors such as Flaubert,  Dickens, and Theodore Dreiser...

What to Make of Gold and the Dollar Rising Simultaneously... ?

...when usually the two move in opposite directions ( i.e., they have ' negative correlation ') ? I see extreme risk aversion. But there's more to it than that, for which read Mr. Picerno's article in Seeking Alpha.

More on ETF's role in last Thursday's 'FLASH CRASH'

Second of two articles... Matt Hougan goes into greater detail about Exchange-Traded Funds and their risks to Retail Investors. A sample : "Exchange-traded funds were at the center of the ‘flash crash’ last week, but it wasn’t because ETFs are flawed."

ETF's A Recipe for Market Disaster ?

First of two Seeking Alpha articles...

A Vibrant Economic Recovery Should Mean Higher Tax Revenues, Right ?

Current U.S. Treasury Tax Revenue figures continue to decline, suggesting that we're not in a V-Shaped Recovery yet.

Federal Financial Regulatory Reform Should Support, Not Curtail or Pre-empt Effective State Regulators

The linked Politico piece tells us why.

Possible causes of the Oil Leak emerge from House of Representatives Investigation

There were four defects in the so-called 'blow-out preventer'. The question is who's responsible for them ? BP ? Transocean ? Or the preventer's manufacturer ? All of the above ?

Is it all downhill for Europe, from here on ?

The thrust of Richard Haass' Op-Ed piece in today's Financial Times : " Even before it began, Europe’s moment as a major world power in the 21st century looks to be over. "

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Euro Crisis slows film production, reports Variety, from Cannes

Among the factoids in this Variety piece : remakes of 'Three Musketeers' , 'Escape from new York' and 'Judge Dredd'  [ audible gasp, here ] are slated.

Who says the film industry lacks originality ? Well...

What can Henry Clay, the Great Compromiser, teach Washington/Obama ?

Plenty, according to Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard,  who points out several issues where Republicans and Democrats could fashion workable compromises... if only President Obama were interested ! 

Even more on the Euro Crisis... and how the U.S. Taxpayer could end up footing the bill

David White tells us what the Euro Crisis means... to China

Among the interesting facts White supplies in his article, entitled 'Time to Sell China ?' is that the EU imports more from China than the U.S.... 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sign of the Imminent Apocalypse #1026 : the new A-TEAM movie

Yes,  Hollywood's gone beyond mining comic books and graphic novels, and increasingly resuscitates the mediocre premises of TV action-series's from the 70's and 80's. Weren't The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, and two Charlie's Angels movies enough ?  Apparently not.

Ridley Scott's ROBIN HOOD : Karl Marx in green tights ?

Director Ridley Scott's ROBIN HOOD opens the Cannes Festival tonight.  The Times of London reviewer gives it four stars, while summarizing the film as 'Errol Flynn Meets the Communist Manifesto'. Based on this review, it appears that  Scott slams the Crusades, as he did previously in the ponderous Kingdom of Heaven.

Makes me wax nostalgic for the clear-cut morality of Alien.

Sadly,  I know not nearly enough about the Crusaders -- other than their sack of Constantinople in AD 1204 (when it was still a Christian city),  at the instigation of the Venetians (nominally Christians at the time) -- to venture their defense.

Who DIDN'T know about the Pakistani Intelligence Agency's double game ?

What made the Secretary of State's recent allegation on 60 Minutes --that the Pak Intelligence Agency (ISI) is riddled with Al Qaeda sympathizers--was not its substance. That much has been known for years.

What business is Wall Street really in ?

It's a deceptively simple question. Mark Cuban answers that Wall Street is increasingly a casino where traders game the odds and win bigtime at others' expense, rather than a place whose primary task is to give business access to capital.

The "China Bubble " : When it bursts, whither the U.S. ?

When the China Real-Estate / Manufacturing Bubble bursts,  it will not take the U.S. down with it, according to this Gold Report article.

It's Déjà Vu All Over Again for U.S. Energy Security, says Bob van der Valk

Van der Valk's article is chock full of fascinating info about U.S. Oil Consumption and development of the Baaken Oil Field, which extends to parts of Montana, N Dakota and Saskatchewan. His basic thesis : further exploiting this and other ( e.g. offshore) oil fields won't result in energy independence.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

On the Stock Market's crazed gyrations of last week and the continuing sovereign debt crisis.

Want to know what 'legal fiction' the author Scott Turow reads ?

Movie attendance has been flat, but theater revenues are up. What gives ? 3D !

While January through April theater attendance has been flat, surcharges for 3D films have pumped up revenues 9%, explains the LA TImes.

According to LA Times, Federal Regulators can't keep up with the Oil Industry

My two cents.
Laissez-faire doesn't work when the industry involved will not or simply cannot  implement safeguards to minimize the risk of fatalities and/or widespread, costly and long-term environmental damage, and/or severe damage to other unrelated industries, in this case, commercial fishing and tourism.
Yes, regulation may impose additional expenses and some delays, but if it heads off disasters such as this oil spill,  isn't it worth it  ?

Monday, May 3, 2010

A few words about Grub Street's MUSE AND THE MARKETPLACE Conference, May 1-2

Great conference. Good range and variety of activities over the two days, with 500 participating.

Very well organized and run by Grub Street.  Park Plaza hotel facilities were more than adequate, and the hotel staff more than equal to the challenges posed by MWRA water emergency.

Keynote address on Sunday by Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, was... interesting.

'Literary Idol' sessions were the highlight for me,  even though neither of my submissions was read and critiqued by the panel of editors and agents.

On the more mundane side, both Saturday and Sunday lunches were plated,  and the food and service excellent.