WC Varones

Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools

What real estate bubble?

61,500 people pay to hear how to get rich quick at the Real Estate Wealth Expo.

John Kerry

Still flip-flopping.

Thanks AlarmingNews.

What's amusing and informative at the same time?

The Meatrix 2.

Gold on the rampage

Gold breaks $580!

Not that we didn't foresee this. The willful destruction of the dollar by both the Federal Reserve and the spendthrift Republican government made this inevitable.

I've had Newmont Mining stock since 2002, and bought Gold ETFs under $495 last December.

Congratulations to those who joined us in the gold trade. I'm not selling yet.

Meanwhile, bonds are still dropping, as predicted.

Yale hypocrisy

Yale's admissions standards are admirable:
A demonstrated failure of moral sensitivity or regard for the dignity of others cannot be redeemed by allegations that the young man is extremely "interesting."
Well, no one's ever accused the Taliban of a failure of moral sensitivity or regard for the dignity of others.

Let him in!

Thanks OpinionJournal.

SEC attacks freedom of the press

Herb Greenberg is a great reporter, with an incredible record of exposing stock market fraud.

So it's shocking that the SEC is intimidating his sources, threatening them with subpoenas for giving him information on potentially dirty companies:

So now, according to stories by Jesse Eisinger in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal and by Roddy Boyd in Tuesday's New York Post, the SEC has subpoenaed Gradient to get e-mail and phone records of contacts with nearly a dozen journalists, including Jesse, Roddy and me. That's instead of trying to get them directly from the journalists and news organizations.

While the SEC appears to be well within its legal rights to use this backdoor approach, though not necessarily acting in the spirit of the privilege afforded journalists, I echo Jesse's point that it will have a chilling impact on market participants sharing their information with the press.

An SEC spokesman told Jesse that regulators "don't believe the policy chills law abiders from communicating with the press."

Jesse said the comment was naïve. I'll be more blunt: The spokesman is simply wrong.

While I'm as busy as I've ever been, with more ideas to chase than I have time to research, I've already had several good sources say they can no longer communicate with me -- certainly not by e-mail -- on stories that may question a company's fundamentals.

Even on the phone, though, one of these hedge-fund analysts made it clear he's really not supposed to have any contact with me.

That's too bad, because it means the promoters will win, and investors will lose.
It's as if the Federal Elections Commission started threatening people who tipped off reporters about corrupt politicians.

It needs to stop if we are going to have either freedom of the press, or an honest and open investment market.

Now that's perseverance

Teens' perseverance pays off:

These students have gone through everything from extreme poverty to mental and physical abuse to tragic loss.

Wow. I would have stopped at extreme poverty.

Thanks Ang.

A modest proposal

... to resolve the problem of undocumented drivers.

Hiring morons to write headlines

Headline: Fed not likely to change interest rates.

Story: Economists widely believe that Ben Bernanke will take over where his predecessor Alan Greenspan left off -- boosting interest rates at the conclusion of Tuesday's meeting, again by one-quarter of a percentage point.

UPDATE: They fixed it. It was apparently some idiot at the Associated Press, because other news sites had the same headline, not just Yahoo.

Keep on Running!

This is post number 700 on Varones blog of all things topical and interesting in the world today, and to celebrate the unstoppable march towards 1000, let's look at what a real counter should look like here!

Wal-Mart: it's organic; don't panic!

Wal-Mart is going upscale and organic.

The stock is up a couple points and has paid a dividend since I recommended it. I still like it. They dominate the low-to-mid mass market. There's no reason not to use their economies of scale and unparalleled distribution system to attack the next tier. And there's still plenty of room for more international expansion.

Illegal aliens against immigration enforcement

Who would have thought?

Tar Heel Terrorist motive letter

The Tar Heel Terrorist wrote a letter explaining his desire to kill Americans for Allah:

I'm writing this letter to inform you of my reasons for premeditating and attempting to murder citizens and residents of the United States of America on Friday, March 3, 2006 in the city of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by running them over with my automobile and stabbing them with a knife if the opportunities are presented to me by Allah....

Due to the killing of believing men and women under the direction of the United States government, I have decided to take advantage of my presence on United States soil on Friday, March 3, 2006, to take the lives of as many Americans and American sympathizers as i can in order to punish United States for their immoral actions around the world....

After extensive contemplation and reflection, I have made the decision to exercise the right of violent retaliation that Allah has given me to the fullest extent to which I am capable at present. I have chosen the particular location on the University campus as my target since I know it well, and there is a high likelihood that I will kill several people before being killed myself or jailed and sent to prison if Allah wills.

Fortunately, this guy did less damage trying to kill people than many college drivers do by accident on a big weekend. The incompetence of college terrorists may now have saved lives in two cases, this one and the Soonabomber.

Mafia stock manipulation

Remember Boiler Room? Or the Sopranos episodes where the Mafia was doing pump-and-dump schemes?

One of the stocks I owned, Rick's Cabaret, was just mentioned in a case like that. Coincidentally, I had just sold half of my position the day before to take profits after the big run-up.

The case doesn't look too bad for Rick's. Just because some Mafia guys allegedly traded the stock doesn't mean there's anything wrong with the company itself. But the valuation was getting pretty rich, so I sold the other half in the after-hours market last night. We'll see if the market spooks more on Monday.

Rick's, which runs a chain of strip clubs, was a good stock for me. I now have a new favorite sin stock, New Frontier (NOOF). It distributes pornography. It's profitable, growing, and reasonably cheap. What's more, it's likely to be added to the Russell 2000 Index in June.

Study: Jim Cramer sucks

Some Northwestern students have done a study on Jim Cramer's stock recommendations on his annoying TV show, Mad Money.

Survey says: Cramer sucks!

Taken together, our results suggest that the aggregate losers in our event study are the Mad Money viewers who decide to buy the recommended securities when the markets open the following day, and that the winners are the market makers and arbitraguers who sell the overpriced recommended stocks on day 1, as well as the traders who sell the recommended stocks on days 2 through 12.

Noam Chomsky, tax shelter millionaire

Kind of disappointing when your idealistic radicals turn out to be just limousine liberals using tax shelters to avoid paying their fair share.

Censure the President

When a President is this out-of-control, blatantly acting against American values and interests, if impeachment is not an option, he should be censured.

What's the opposite of the Grateful Dead?

The Ingrate Living.

Churches gone wild



No, it's neither a real church sign nor a high school prank. It's www.churchsigngenerator.com.

Thanks Ace.

Yale Taliban update

John Fund summarizes the saga of the Taliban spokesman and the Yalies who welcome him.

Father of the Year Award

At least he gets points for creativity:

A man was arrested at a strip club after police say his young son wandered from a car into the club.

Christopher Greg Killion, 31, was arrested Saturday on a complaint of "encouraging a minor child to be in need of supervision." He posted $500 bond and was released from jail.

The boy told police that his father told him to stay in the car, and that if he left it, "monsters would eat him."

How is poker like investing?

The FT writes about a new book that compares poker and investing:
Investing and poker are two forms of gambling that are separated by a thin thread. Individuals who recognise this link – and recognise that both involve taking uncalculated risks and favour those with a keen knowledge of self – will be the most profitable.

Individuals have drawn comparisons between gambling and the stock market for decades but the observations were an attempt to knock the art of investing down a peg. However, in recent years a combination of factors – behavioural finance, the rise of quantitative analyses of investing and gambling, and the collapse of the stock market bubble – and has led to a more serious investigation.
I have often thought about the parallels -- and I can't wait to read the book.

Of course, poker is a negative-sum game (at least when there's a house rake), meaning you have to be better than average to make money. The stock market is a positive-sum game (relative to bonds, cash, and other silly asset classes), meaning everyone should play -- if you're the dumbest investor in the world, you should still be investing in index funds at least.

Wall Street Journal: Condi for VP, now!

At The Wall Street Journal, Fred Barnes proposes what I suggested more than a month ago: Cheney should resign to make room for Condoleezza Rice to be Vice President and presumptive Presidential successor.
The president's most spectacular move would be to anoint a presidential successor. This would require Vice President Cheney to resign. His replacement? Condoleezza Rice, whom Mr. Bush regards highly. Her replacement? Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, whose Bush-like views on Iraq and the war on terror have made him a pariah in the Democratic caucus.

Encore une fois!

Whilst we're laying into the French and they're on the floor, it would only be right for the Brits to stand side by side with our US allies. Varones is spot on with his analysis. Likewise, respected business writer Jeff Randall in the UK Telegraph spells out basic economics for France's over coiffured, gel-wearing, gauloise puffing, moped riding, work-avoiding, black and white film watching, shoulder shrugging, moody pouting students. Plus ca change...

Sorbonne needs a lesson in basic A-level economics


Meanwhile, I think Ray Gardner, spokesman for soft drink brand Tango, sums it up nicely with this UK advert from 1999, as he responds to a complaint letter from French exchange student Sebastian.

This could be cool

Film fest ponders buying Kabuki:
Sundance Cinemas, LLC, a spin-off venture from the festival, is the frontrunner to buy the AMC Kabuki 8 in Japantown, according to city and Japantown officials. It has plans to turn the cinema into a miniature version of the annual Sundance event complete with foreign films, movie discussions and, of course, independent offerings.
That's my neighborhood movie theatre. I hope it happens.

BBC: Are you a French rioter? Share your experience!

The BBC wants to know about your French rioting experience.

Go ahead. Make something up. It will be fun.

France: the joke that keeps on going

Ace shares my sympathy for striking French workers:
Boo frickin' hoo.

You know what you can do to avoid this doom, Coralie? Give full value for your employer's money. Make yourself useful for a change.

Maybe if you had to work hard to keep your job you wouldn't have the energy to run around all night with your face painted like a mime-whore, throwing rocks at policemen.


The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler feels the same:
Imagine what the fwench economy would be like if all of that energy spent avoiding actual work at all costs was channeled towards creating new businesses?

San Francisco War Protest

It was a beautiful day in San Francisco, so I took a walk down to the anti-war rally in the Civic Center.



The Communist Workers Organization is against the war? Who would have thought?



The "Freedom Socialist Party"? How's that for an oxymoron?




Now I get it. Bush is just a symptom. Capitalism is the disease!



Just because they are ex-cons with third-grade educations doesn't mean they can't contribute valuable foreign policy insights.



Socialists and communists are a dime a dozen. But you know you're at a real left-wing rally when the teachers' unions show up.



One third-floor resident offers his opinion of the protest.





Religious Leprechauns against the War


Those are a few of my photos -- but I'm an amateur. Take a look at Zombietime's pics -- he's been doing this for a while and it shows!

Jeremy Siegel on stocks and bonds

I've said it before: stocks good, bonds bad.

Legendary professor and author Jeremy Siegel elaborates:

But there is a critical difference between the earnings yield on stocks and the current yield bonds. Bonds, except for a small part of the treasury market called "inflation protected bonds," are promises only to pay dollars. No matter what the growth in the economy or what the rate of inflation, the payment of the principal or the interest will never increase, and could fall if the paying entity has financial problems.

Stock returns are much different. Stocks are claims to real assets -- land, capital, property, ideas, trademarks and patents, among other assets that produce real goods and services. Over long periods of time the evidence is overwhelming that the price of stocks will keep up with rising prices of the goods and services firms produce. As a result, the return on stocks is best described as a "real" return, and not just a nominal or money, such as bonds offer investors.

My kind of riot

The French riot to complain about oppressive work conditions like not getting lifetime tenure the first day on the job.

The Spanish riot for fun!

Road rage kills

...sometimes in unusual ways.

Nothing as funny as a San Francisco protest

I think I'll bring my camera to this.

South Park vs. Scientologists

This is pretty funny:
Tom Cruise has pressured execs at Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, to yank a second showing of the now-famous 'Trapped in the Closet" episode of "South Park" [which lampoons Scientology].

South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker's response:
So, Scientology, you may have won this battle, but the million-year war for earth has just begun!

Temporarily anozinizing our episode will not stop us from keeping Thetans forever trapped in your pitiful man-bodies.

Curses and drat! You have obstructed us now, but your feeble bid to save humanity will fail! Hail Xenu.

--Trey Parker and Matt Stone, servants to the dark lord Xenu
Congratulations, Cruise and Scientologists, you've just brought a lot more attention to how silly your invented-by-a-bad-science-fiction-writer religion is!

Frenchies protest unemployment

French riots turn violent.

Maybe they should protest the decades of socialism that created unemployment.

Bush = Hitler ? You make the call!

From The Right Place.

Sore loser blames ignorant voters for Brokeback loss

Brokeback Mountain author Annie Proulx whines about the loss and rips "out-of-touch" voters and Crash, which, unlike Brokeback Mountain, was actually a great movie.

I've got news for you, Annie. Brokeback wasn't the best picture. The film industry isn't homophobic. And you suck. I am still bitter about the several hours of my life I wasted reading your boring-as-hell and totally pointless Shipping News. You are the Woody Allen of the book world.

Truth in advertising


Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow.

Thanks to Human Events Online.

Save a seal

Evil Canadians are once again about to start the brutal slaughter of baby seals. Here's what you can do to stop them.

I'd like to add a sixth suggestion: boycott Canada. Don't buy Canadian Club whiskey, which they sadistically named after the clubs that they use to bludgeon baby seals. Don't buy any Canadian bacon. And the next time some Canadian comes up to you and says "G'day, mate," punch him in the face.

Yale official: Taliban opponents are "retarded"

Some Yale alumni are disturbed by the university's recruiting of, and enrollment of, a leader of the Taliban. The Taliban were, and hope to be again, one of the most brutal, backward, anti-human rights, and anti-women's rights regimes in the world. Yale refuses to discuss the matter.

The alumni are encouraging others to withhold donations to Yale and instead send a painted press-on fingernail, to represent the Taliban's practice of pulling out the fingernails of women who wore nail polish.

Yale assistant director of giving Alexis Surovov shows more tolerance for the torturing Taliban than for those who oppose them. In an e-mail to the alumni, he wrote:

"What is wrong with you? Are you retarded? This is the most disgraceful alumni article that I have ever read in my life. You failed to mention that you've never contributed to the Yale Alumni Fund in your life. But to suggest that others follow your negative example is disgusting."
I hope Yale alumni will follow the suggestion of these dissidents and withhold donations until Yale comes clean and stops treating its critics so condescendingly.

Milosevic poisoned?

And if so, who did it?

Report: drug traces found in Milosevic.

Free speech trumps school principal

So this smart-ass teenager tries to get his "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner on TV during coverage of the Olympic torch run in Alaska. Funny enough.

Then dim-witted high school principal Deborah Morse thought she could control students' speech even off-campus and outside of school hours. So she steals his banner and suspends him from school.

Federal court says: WRONG!!!! High school principals do not have magic powers that outweigh the free speech rights of others.

Now he can sue her. Good. I would have liked to see her arrested for theft.

Thanks Ang.

How low can a Bush Administration official sink?

Pretty low.

[Claude] Allen, 45, was arrested Thursday by police in Montgomery County, Md., for allegedly claiming refunds for more than $5,000 worth of merchandise he did not buy, according to county and federal authorities. He had been under investigation since at least January for alleged thefts on 25 occasions at Target and Hecht's stores.

"If the allegations are true, Claude Allen did not tell my chief of staff and legal counsel the truth, and that's deeply disappointing" the president said at the White House following an event on Iraq. "If the allegations are true, something went wrong in Claude Allen's life, and that is really sad."

Allen, who had been the No. 2 official at the Health and Human Services Department, was named as domestic policy adviser at the White House in early 2005. He resigned abruptly on Feb. 9, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

The night of Jan. 2, after an alleged incident at the Target in Gaithersburg, Md., presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Allen called White House chief of staff Andy Card to tell him what had happened. The next morning, Allen spoke in person with Card and White House counsel Harriet Miers.

McClellan said Allen told Card and Miers that it was all a misunderstanding and cited confusion with his credit card because he had moved several times. "He assured them that he had done nothing wrong and the matter would be cleared up," McClellan said.

Jeez... phony refunds at Target? That's a welfare-queen stunt. What a low-rent White House!

Schwarzenegger's drunken-sailor spending plan thwarted by Republicans

Due to gerrymandering, Republicans make up a tiny minority of the California legislature. Fortunately, some actions require more than a simple majority.

Governor Schwarzenegger's massive debt-and-spending plan won't make the ballot
, because Republicans stuck together and rejected it.

Last November, California's retarded voters voted to continue the gerrymandering system. It does result in fewer Republicans in the legislature, but it also results in safe, conservative districts for the Republicans that remain. That means you tend to get real conservatives rather than moderate RINOs in those seats. And a minority of true conservatives who stick to their principles is enough to block some of Schwarzenegger's dumber ideas.

Iraqi terrorists kill their #1 fan

Silly terrorists, he was on your side:

An American who was among four Christian activists kidnapped last year in Iraq has been killed, a State Department spokesman said Friday.

The FBI verified that a body found in Iraq Friday morning was that of Tom Fox, 54, of Clear Brook, Va., spokesman Noel Clay said. He said he had no information on the other three hostages.


Tom Fox was a member of the "Christian Peacemaker Teams," a group opposed to America's actions in Iraq and supportive of insurgents.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Anyone who's been to a restaurant, rented an apartment, hired a plumber or mechanic, paid for health insurance, etc., probably realizes that prices are going up a lot faster than the government's official inflation rate of 2-3%.

The reason for the discrepancy? Blatant statistical manipulation. We live in a period of inflation. Bill Fleckenstein explains. He takes on the unemployment statistics as well. Fleck's column is based on this interview with economist John Williams from a Wall Street firm Weeden's web site:
For those not familiar with "substitution," [Williams] explains the practice's evolution in the CPI calculations. The concept of substitution was a concoction of Alan Greenspan and Michael Boskin, who basically argued that if one item were too expensive, consumers would substitute that with a cheaper one. Williams' response: "The problem is that if you allow substitutions, you aren't measuring a constant standard of living. You're measuring the cost of survival. You can keep substituting down and have people buy dog food instead of hamburger. It happens. But that's not the original concept behind the CPI."

Williams says that the government's motive in all of this, if there is a motive (of the government collectively; don't picture a group of men cooking up something in a back room), is its desire to put a favorable spin on all the data.

Another motive? Transfer payments like Social Security are indexed to the CPI, and they would be far higher if the CPI were accurate. In fact, says Williams, if the "same CPI were used today as was used when Jimmy Carter was president, Social Security checks would be 70% higher." That's seven-zero.

Though Williams doesn't get much into hedonics, he does talk about the inflation-understating impact of geometric weighting versus arithmetic weighting in the CPI statistics: "Geometric weighting ... has the 'benefit' that if something goes up in price, it automatically gets a lower weight, and if it goes down in price, it automatically gets a higher weight."

Don't buy bonds. With a 4.7% yield before taxes, you're barely keeping up with the government's phony inflation statistics, and you're actually losing money using more reasonable inflation measures.

Thought for the day

If I have seen little, it is because I stood on the shoulders of midgets.

Revenge of the Robert

The conqueror has been conquered. Last night I managed to get into a $4000 pot with our old friend Robert again, and this time he got the dough.

For Omaha fans: On a flop of 10-8-6 unsuited, I flopped the nut straight; Robert hit a set of 10s. On the turn (King, a safe card for me), all our money went in. He made an surprisingly bad call (no doubt vendetta-driven), putting in the final $1300 as a 3-to-1 dog. But dang if he didn't catch his full house...

Match Point

I hate Woody Allen, but this isn't really a Woody Allen movie. He doesn't appear in it, and it's not a boring drama about neurotic losers. It's a suspense film, and it's good.

W.C. Varones, Wal-Mart stooge

The New York Times is bitter about Wal-Mart's blogger outreach effort:
Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.

But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.

What's the big deal? Is the old media jealous that it is no longer the sole focus of companies' PR efforts? Does the New York Times disclose every contact its reporters have with PR hacks working for politicians, companies, or interest groups?

Oh, no, it's the authorship of the content that they are whining about:

But some bloggers have posted information from Wal-Mart, at times word for word, without revealing where it came from.

Glenn Reynolds, the founder of Instapundit.com, one of the oldest blogs on the Web, said that even in the blogosphere, which is renowned for its lack of rules, a basic tenet applies: "If I reprint something, I say where it came from. A blog is about your voice, it seems to me, not somebody else's."


The entire PR industry is based around writing press releases that read like news stories. Newswires run them verbatim, and old media often lift significant content from them. So the Times' indignant rant about some teenage amateurs posting Wal-Mart's content is a bit overdone.

I have been contacted by Wal-Mart's blogger outreach effort. In fact, they tipped me off to this New York Times story. I think Wal-Mart found me initially because of a pro-Wal-Mart post I'd written. I'm still waiting for the envelope of unmarked bills under my doormat.

Club for Growth 1, Angry Left 0

The Club for Growth has triumphed in their first-ever endorsement of a Democrat. Moderate Henry Cuellar beat leftist Ciro Rodriguez in a Texas primary.

“A united coalition of the biggest mouths and money on the tax-hiking Far Left couldn’t defeat Henry Cuellar and his commitment to pro-growth principles.

“With aggressive support from the Club for Growth PAC that included a series of phone calls to turn out pro-growth voters, along with Club members who donated more than $165,000 to his campaign, Rep. Cuellar was able to run on his agenda of pro-growth tax relief and increased economic opportunity through free trade and the voters responded by giving him a strong victory."

Malmuth said there'd be days like this...

Life as a gambler can test a man's constitution, and this last week has put Old Zeke through the wringer. More troubling than the simple losses is that when you need a big game to break out of your rut, Albuquerque sometimes just plain doesn't have one. On Sunday, the biggest poker room in town couldn't spread a game bigger than $1/$2-blinds for no-limit hold 'em, and I was stuck trying to make up for a week of profitless play on this dinky table.

Tonight, however (last night your time), there was no such problem. A pro named Robert, who spends most of his time in Vegas, was in town and brought the action along with him. When I showed up at around 9 p.m., they had spread a pot-limit game with $10-$20 blinds, and perhaps $20k on the table. Not bad by New Mexico standards. [Poker agnostics/atheists will probably want to quit reading now.]

I bought in for $600 and was fortunate enough to bust a guy for another $500 on the first hand I was dealt. I built my stack until I had about $2100, and then found myself looking at the first hole card of a new hand: the ace of diamonds. As the cards went around, a regular named Anthony said, "I've never beat Charlie--ever." (Charlie is the name I go by in the cardroom.) To this, Robert responds, "Well let's see if we can't beat him right now." I then look down at my second card: ace of clubs. Nice timing.

I raise to $120 after several people limp in, and lose everybody except Robert, who has me outstacked. He calls. Flop comes K 8 3, nothing suited. Looking good. Not wanting to betray the strength of my hand, I bet a fairly weak $100 into the $300 pot. He quickly comes over the top for $400. I think, think, and think. These are the situations where you lose a lot of money.

Nonetheless, I decide Robert is trying to do just as he said: beat me out of the pot. If he has a hand that can beat me (pocket 8-8 seems the only candidate), so be it. If not, I need to coax as many chips as I can into the pot. I call.

Fourth Street brings the 4 of diamonds. Can't possibly have helped him, and yet he bets out $600. The moment of truth. I say, "I'm going to stick all my chips in," and count out the $600, and then the remaining $890. He thinks for a brief time and then calls, to which Anthony says with a hint of satisfaction, "You're f---ed, Charlie." All I can manage is, "I agree"...and I most certainly did agree.

The river brings an apparent blank, but I can't imagine I have the best of it now. "One pair," I mutter. "Are they aces?" asks Robert. A glimmer of hope. I flip over my aces; he purses his lips, checks his cards, and says, "They're good." Kaboom: better than $4k in the pot.

Poker players compliment each other in the strangest of ways, and near the end of the night I received one of the kindest compliments I've ever heard at a table. "You're like a sore d--k, Charlie," said Robert. "I just can't beat you."

Today's finance lesson: countercyclicals

Countercyclical stocks are those that do well when the economy is doing poorly.

Advance America is an example. They lend money at brutal rates to poor people in hard times. More poor people, more hard times, more money for Advance America.

So imagine what it means today when the only stocks on my screen that are up today are Diageo and New Frontier, purveyors of Guinness and pornography. It means the market thinks that there will be enough layoffs for lots of people to be sitting around drinking beer and watching porn all day.

European analyst: Europe is a bunch of spineless wusses

Leon de Winter on Europeans' refusal to threaten, or even consider, military options under any conditions:
Europe could have suppressed the Iranian threat if it had convinced the mullahs two years ago that it was willing to contemplate military options. Only Europe lacks core values that it holds sacrosanct and that it's willing to defend at the highest cost. It will continue to operate on the diplomatic field and cling to soft power even though this is the path of certain defeat when confronted with power players burning with geopolitical and religious ambitions.
Leon de Winter. As an aficionado of pen names, I like that one. Only I think it's his real name.

Insert joke here

Yanni arrested for domestic violence.

UPDATE: OK, I figured out the punchline: John Tesh was treated for minor injuries and released from a local hospital.

Defining Terrorism

I'd usually be the first to use the word "terrorist" to describe a Muslim who tries to kill people while talking about the "will of Allah."

But this background story on the "Tar Heel Terrorist" is pretty persuasive. He's a loser who went postal because he was rejected socially. He's more like the Columbine kids or other high-school shooters than an Islamic terrorist.

Not that we shouldn't be concerned about individual acts of terrorism from Islamists. I am surprised we haven't seen suicide bombers at malls in America yet. Who can doubt that there are still at least a handful, if not hundreds, of dangerously radical fanatics among the 300 million people in the U.S.? And how difficult would it be to build a crude but effective explosive device? Hint: not very. That we haven't seen multiple incidents of individual terrorist attacks speaks volumes about the improved intelligence and security measures over the past few years.

Anyone got any Hollywood contacts?

I've got an idea for a movie that I think would do really well at the box office.

It's a sequel, actually. A sequel to Brokeback Mountain. It's called Brokeback Valley. It will star Jessica Alba and Angelina Jolie as two lonesome cowgirls who find solace in each others' arms. I guarantee it doubles the box office of the original.

Schadenfreude


What's this? The yield on the ten-year bond.

What's that mean? It means you wouldn't want to be a jackass with a variable rate mortgage right now!

And rates are only going higher!

MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

Fifteen years of wisdom

NPR today held an interview with Rodney King and his lawyer, fifteen years after the taping of his freeway fandango. As well as I could transcribe it:

Host: "Mr. King, let me start with you. As we've heard, you've not had an easy time since this incident. How are you?"

Rodney King: "Uh, I'm in the recovery phase. You know, I'm healing."

Host: "Having gone through this ordeal, what surprised you the most?"

Rodney King: "What surprised me the most was, uh...being beat up by the cops."

Score one for the little guy

Continuing in the vein of shady business practices, let me recount a recent duel I had with online fraudsters Classmates.com. This site promotes itself as a way to keep in contact with high school and college friends, and doles out completely useless free memberships to build its customer base.

But just how useless isn't clear until you try to use the site's functions...for example, sending an email to a friend. I tried just this very thing, using the built-in email function and clicking "Send." I then got an email of my own from the site, saying, "If you want to guarantee that Jason can read your email, upgrade to a Gold membership..."

It turns out that all Jason gets, after I'd spent 15 minutes crafting an email to my old friend, is a message from Classmates saying, "Your friend has sent you an email. If you want to read it, upgrade to a Gold membership..."

Bastards, I thought. Rather than forcing Jason to pay $15 to be able to read my email, I decided to bite the bullet myself and buy the stupid membership. Thus I got in touch with an old chum.

What I didn't realize was that in the signup process, Classmates forces upon you an automatic renewal agreement. If you neglect to read the legalese as you click through it, you miss the fact that your card will be charged indefinitely at 3-month intervals. Is this an option? A checkbox? No. If you wish to change it, you have to maneuver through the "My Account" section after you've signed up.

So, I find myself on the phone this morning, asking the chipper representative why the hell I'd been charged again for their stupid service. She explains that I'd been fully warned upfront, and of course I couldn't have a refund. I say, "Well, that's that, but I think you work for a dirty business."

Apparently this triggered the "dirty business" route on her flowchart, and she says, "Well, I can give you a fifty percent discount." They would credit back $15, and then charge me again for $7.50. Would I agree to that? Sort of circuitous, I thought, but fine. So I get put on hold.

The minutes tick by...until finally she comes back on and says, "You took your credit card authorization off your account."

"You're damn right I did." In fact, I had done this first thing after learning of the charges.

"Well now I need the credit card number again, so I can charge the $7.50."

"You know what?" I say, "For $7.50 I'd rather not deal with it. Just forget about it."

Now she's sounding a little less chipper. "I already credited back the $15, and now I can't enter a new charge without your authorization."

God knows why she could credit my account but not charge it. Sounded good to me, though. "Wonderful," I said. "Have a nice day."

How to get rid of a bad CFO

Shoot him when he breaks into your home dressed as a ninja.

It´s a good thing the homeowner didn´t live in San Francisco. He wouldn´t be allowed to have the .357 to defend himself. From the gear the ninja was carrying, it sounds like he may have been intending to go medieval on somebody´s ass.

A new angle on marketing

In a copy of Card Player magazine recently, I found an ad for an online poker room whose tagline was: "Where the fish are."

It's tough to think of any other business whose message would be, "Our customers are complete suckers..."

Walmart Blows

I picked up a Sony-published Johnny Cash compilation in Walmart the other day, only to hear the following:

" ...'cause I'm the [BEEEEEEEEEEP] who named you Sue."

Nowhere on the CD jacket did [BEEEEEP] Walmart or [BEEEEEP] Sony warn that they were going censor my [BEEEEEP] music. [BEEP] Walmart.

Craputantes' Ball

Whilst looking for a photo of the much derided Kevin Warsh, I came across this link of Washington's great and good hobnobbing at the Bloomberg Party in 2004.

http://www.washingtonlife.com/issues/2004-06/bloomberg/

I'm well aware of the phenomenon of a debutantes' ball, and likewise, anyone who hasn't noticed socialite Paris Hilton and her ilk the last few years must have been living in a cave on the Pakistani border, but I had never come across the term 'Celebutante' before. Apparently this relates to rich young things, typically women, who will become famous for simply showing up to champagne infused parties or filming themselves partaking in drug fuelled sexual activity.

This Bloomberg party lot are a fine example of the type of people that no court in the world would convict you if you were charged with assaulting them. Prince Wenceslas and Adriana Lima appear to have had an operation to turn them into toothy siamese twins, and David Lauren and his date Karolina Kurkova are proof of the old adage that "there's no such thing as an ugly rich bloke". Poor Vanessa Kerry seems to have inherited her father's jaw and ever resourceful, has fashioned an outfit out of one of his old uniforms. Meanwhile, Chloe Malle has the look of a teenager who can't believe that she's out in public with her mother, Candace Bergen. Anyhow, enough bitching...as they say, "Like, whatever."

That old Bush magic

Congratulations go to Professor Randall Kroszner, recently sworn in Governor of the Federal Reserve Board, which is responsible for setting interest rates in the US, and by proxy, impacting the rest of the planet (except maybe some remote fishing villages in North Korea). A first rate economist and expert on prevailing models of monetary supervision and central bank governance around the world, keep an eye on this guy for future success. Having sat in his class at Chicago and knowing his strong belief in Central Bank independence, I am confident that he will be no Bush administration poodle.

Kevin Warsh, 35, has also been approved by the Senate to sit on the Fed Board. This is another one of those strange Bush appointees of someone whose cv just doesn't meet the basic requirements for the job, as Lotterman describes here.

If you're looking to play spot the political nominee, I'll give you a clue. Imagine how ridiculous it would be to nominate a trained economist to the Supreme Court. It gets better...post-Harvard law school, this guy worked for Morgan Stanley for 7 years as an M&A lawyer providing advice to technology companies. So, to sum up, a trained lawyer, 7 years banking experience looking after his wallet during the tech wreck and 4 years in a White House admin role. In another life he'd be lucky to get a job helping George Bailey run your local Savings and Loan. Those of you that think you might be cut out for a similar career can apply here.

Meanwhile, more moves are afoot at the Fed. Vice-Chairman Roger Ferguson has resigned, presumably because he's not a big fan of the sort of transparent, inflation targeting regime that Chairman Bernanke will now look to establish. It's a little known fact that he was in charge on 9/11 and his prompt action prevented the markets and economy from descending into general chaos and freefall. It is understood that the short list to replace him includes experienced lawyers Harry Whittington, Lionel Hutz and Bush's good friend Tweetie Pie.
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