Wednesday, April 30, 2008

CEO of Starbucks Pushes the "Experience"

Too bad the numbers were kind of crappy. Also they seem to be scaling back their expansion to cut back on costs. That seems reasonable to me.

Yet, last week, Schultz blamed the down economy for having to cut guidance for the quarter and warned investors to expect the blow.

Revenues for the second fiscal quarter totaled $5.3 billion, 15.2% year-over-year. United States revenues were up 5.5% to $1.9 billion. Total costs of sales increased 17.1% to $1.1 billion.

At least revenues were up and I think the founder has a good idea about how to make the brand relevant again. I think most of what Starbucks used to sell was an "experience" and not just overpriced coffee. If you want value coffee you go to Dunkin Donuts or McDonalds and sit at a sticky table next to a screaming baby. If you want "coffee-house coffee" you go to Starbucks.

I think Schultz will bring back the value-added part of the Starbucks experience and get away from trying to compete on price. Things like introducing breakfast sandwiches (which tasted awful) distracted them from their main goal of serving a coffee-house experience with your overprice Latte.

GOP Ignores Clinton Like an "unperson?"

I love how Jonathan Martin of Politico puts this little dig in his article about how the GOP is totally ignoring Hillary to go after Obama.

Clinton, it seems, has been erased from the picture, Soviet-style. Republicans mostly act like she doesn't exist--an unusual turn of events considering her run of big-state victories and the fact that not so long ago Republican campaign plans were predicated on the idea of Clinton as the Democratic nominee.

Yes, he just used the Stalinist era idea of the unperson and all of the baggage that that idea implies to describe a sound GOP strategy. When you are in a race against two people that hate each other you go after the front runner and let the trailing person fight for themselves. If you go after both parties then you allow them to join forces with the common notion that they both dislike you. It is just common sense.

In any case I am pretty sure that the GOP do not want Hillary to be erased from history like Nikolai Yezhov or Leon Trotsky were by Stalin. In fact it seems that liberals are the ones who want Hillary to get the "ice pick treatment" for holding out and damaging the party. I just hate how liberals always go from an repulsive idea like Stalin wiping out hundreds of thousands of people (and erasing them from history) and then lumping it into the same sentence as Republican election tactics. At least they didn't compare the GOP to the Nazis.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Now Mastercard Smashes Numbers

They beat by a full 59 cents a share. It looks like that international growth just like Visa is a major driver as well.

Outside the U.S., card usage grew at an even faster clip. Gross dollar volume abroad grew 30% to $352 billion, led by strong growth in Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. Americans buying abroad led cross-border volumes up 23.6%, and MasterCard saw total processed transactions increase to $453 billion, up 155% on a local currency basis. Overall, the quarter showed the company doing a fantastic job at home and abroad, with strong results all around.

They seem to be executing even better job at revenue growth then the bigger Visa. The stock reflected this as well as Mastercard went up 13% and Visa went up 7%. In any case it seems that the recession and the credit crisis are not crimping the business of either company at all.

Wright Fires Another Salvo at Obama's Ship

I think Reverand Wright wants to see Obama actually lose the Presidency.

On Monday, Wright criticized the U.S. government as imperialist and stood by his suggestion that the United States invented the HIV virus as a means of genocide against minorities. "Based on this Tuskegee experiment and based on what has happened to Africans in this country, I believe our government is capable of doing anything," he said.

And perhaps even worse for Obama, Wright suggested that the church congregant secretly concurs.

"If Senator Obama did not say what he said, he would never get elected," Wright said. "Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls."

He not only repeated his conspiracy theories he also says that Obama deep down agrees with him and is hiding his true feelings to get elected. I'm sure there were lots of anti-Obama people that were feeling that but now his "spiritual mentor" is actually saying it.

Perhaps, Wright is trying to scuttle Obama's campaign just so he could continue to say "America will never elect a black man because we are racist." If Obama does win then his worldview will be shattered. So Wright is trying to hold onto his hate at all costs even if it destroys his parishioner. A black man in the highest job in the world challenges all of Wrights prejudices and deeply held beliefs about America.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Visa Beats by 6 Cents: International Growth Looking Great

It seems that Visa may be hitting on all cylinders.

The company's profit rose 27.6% to $314 million, or 39 cents per share, during its fiscal second quarter from $246 million, or 93 cents per share, in the year-ago period. Revenue climbed 22% to $1.45 billion from $1.19 billion.

Adjusted earnings, which exclude special items, were 52 cents per share, far exceeding the average analyst estimate of 46 cents per share, according to Thomson Financial.

They cited international growth and the increased use of Debit cards as their growth drivers. I wonder if this growth will ramp up as the economy starts to recover?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spending on Social Status Different for Different Races

This is a very interesting article by the Economist on why people spend for status instead of for their own well-being.

Erik Hurst, Kerwin Charles, and Nick Roussanov found many people view their consumption as a signal to others. Further, black and Hispanic Americans are more likely, after controlling for permanent income, to spend a greater share of their wealth on conspicuous forms of consumption such as automobiles, clothes, and jewellery. To fund this spending, they often forgo more beneficial goods such as health care, education, and future consumption, i.e. saving. They found the conspicuous consumption motive can explain as much as 50% of the Black/white wealth gap, after controlling for income.

The interesting part is that richer people actually stop conspicuous consumption after a certain point because it actually makes them look poor. It also seems that when a minority group as a whole gets richer they move away from conspicuous consumption. The authors of this study also found that Hispanic communities that are affluent spend less on conspicuous consumption then poorer communities.

I wonder if average wealth in a community affects political affiliation of minority groups in that community as well? So would richer blacks and Hispanic communities turn to the GOP because they would be more interested in their capital gains taxes being raised, affording good health care, or the liberalization of colleges that they pay $50K+ a year for rather then being able to afford Gucci sweatpants or a diamond studded watch?

Keith Olbermann wants Hillary Dead!

Now you know this election cycle is getting nasty when a lefty like Olbermann says stuff like this:

"Yeah, somebody who can take her into a room and only he comes out."

I agree with this blog that if someone said this about Obama then it would sould pretty bad. It might even lead that person to lose their on-air job. The hate that Olbermann has knows no boundaries.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Rice Prices up 300%

It seems like it is a self-fulfilling shortage caused by speculators. Just like oil we have slack demand but supply is stopped even by a few 100K barrels for a few days and the price goes to an all-time high. In rice we have panic buying and hoarding by both the individual and governments and that is what is driving the price strait up.

After this week's over five percent jump rice prices stand nearly three times higher than the start of the year. With no sign of the rally relenting, as traders expect more buyers to come into the market, government anxiety about social unrest from the soaring cost of Asia's staple will deepen.

The price goes up due to speculation. Then Asian governments fearing rioting overreact and put curbs on exports and start hoarding their rice. Then we end up having record prices. It is all a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Microsoft Talks Tough on the Yahoo Deal

I guess $31 is now MSFTs final offer.

"As outlined in our recent letter to the Yahoo board, unless we made progress with Yahoo towards an agreement by this weekend, we will reconsider our alternatives," Liddell said.
"These alternatives clearly include taking an offer to Yahoo shareholders or to withdraw our proposal and focus on other opportunities," either from internally generated growth or growth through acquisitions, the Microsoft executive said.

If MSFT pulls their offer we could see Yahoo go back into the $20-$19 range I would think.

It Seems the Israelis Bombed a Syrian Reactor

Ah now we know why Israeli Jets were inside of Syrian Airspace on Sept. 6. I love how the Syrians spun it to make it look like their aircraft caught the wayward Israeli warplanes who dropped their bombs in fear. Too bad the Syrians didn't mention what they dropped their bombs on. I think this will happen again as Iran gets closer to the bomb.

The reactor was destroyed by Israel in a September 6 air strike that was initially shrouded in secrecy out of what the Bush administration said was fear that public discussion could prompt Syria, which has long supported militant Palestinian groups, to retaliate.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hillary Loads up the Truck with Campaign Moolah

After her 10% win in Pennsylvania (Bah, I was off by 2%) the Democratic Money Pipe has opened up for her again. She still trails Obama's in the money race by a large number.

Clinton said donors had contributed more than $3 million to her candidacy in the hours since her Pennsylvania victory, some of it from thousands of new donors. Her campaign said she was on track for raising $10 million in the first 24 hours after her victory.

Financial reports on file with the Federal Election Commission underscored her need. Obama showed more than $40 million in cash on hand as of April 1, while her debts of $10 million exceeded her cash of just over $9 million.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yahoo is Done For!

There is no way they are going to fend off Microsoft now since their numbers were only marginally better.

Net income rose to $542 million, or 37 cents a share, from $1.2 billion, or 10 cents, in the corresponding period a year earlier. On the continuing-operations basis used by analysts, however, earnings for the latest period were 11 cents a share, 2 cents above the consensus estimate reported by Thomson Reuters.

Sales excluding traffic-acquisition costs were $1.4 billion, up 14% from $1.2 billion during the year-ago period. Analysts had expected sales of $1.3 billion.

So basically it was a 2 cent beat and a 14% revenue bump from last year. These are not the earth shattering numbers that they needed to get Microsoft to sweeten their deal. So it looks like it will be a proxy fight for $31 a share and Microsoft will win. I wonder how well a Microhoo (I like Yahoosoft but that won't happen) will actually compete with Google?

My Prediciton for the Penn Primary

I think Hillary wins it by 8%. She will spin it as a great victory and Obama will shrug and go on to the next primary. I also think things get alot dirtier as we approach June and the Clinton people get more desparate.

Hillary Would "Obliterate" Iran if She's Boss

That is after the Iranians launched a first strike on Israel of course.

"I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran (if it attacks Israel)," Clinton said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them," she said.

Hillary would actually lay down the goon hand to bad millions of Jews would already be dead. It seems that detering Iran from getting the bomb, by stick or by carrot, is not something she is going to do if she is President. It seems her policy is detente-by-bombing-into-the-Stone-age just like we had in the Cold War. Well, at least one good thing came out of that sniper fire she took in Kosovo all those years ago. It has made her "born again hard."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Leslie Bennetts is one Hate Filled Woman

I agree with Dr. Helen when she says that Leslie Bennetts is mean bastard and that her husband Jeremy is a Saint to put up with a monster like her.

And yet everyone acts as if Jeremy deserves some kind of medal just for making a run to the supermarket. No one has ever suggested that I’m a heroine for doing the things every mother is expected to do. I admit that my husband helps out more than many men, but here’s another news flash: It isn’t because he’s such a fabulously enlightened being. Left to his own devices, he would doubtless park himself in front of the TV like some sitcom male-chauvinist couch potato while I did all the work. The reason Jeremy “helps” as much as he does (an offensive terminology that itself suggests who’s really being held responsible) is simple: He doesn’t have a choice.

I have never read such a hate filled rant that is directed toward someone she supposedly "loves" enough to marry. Also she really lays into doing everyday chores and parenting tasks (scut work she calls it) like they are far beneath someone like her. Why doesn't she just spring for a house cleaning service and hire a nanny so she doesn't need to engage in a life-or-death power struggle over chores. She then doesn't have to lower herself to holiday cooking and remembering to buy mosquito netting for her hated son. This part takes the cake though:

Unfortunately, all too many women are still teaching their children that “woman is the nigger of the world,” as John Lennon and Yoko Ono put it so memorably in a song lyric years ago. And what too many fathers teach their sons and daughters is that men can get away with dumping the scut work on their wives, and that women will grit their teeth and put up with it.

I was just shocked to see her put a racial epithet (via a quote) into an article about sharing chores. These are the mundane tasks of everyday life and not 1000 years of oppression and misery. If you think she has it bad be a housewife in Taliban-era Afghanistan. That is a *real* slave.

I really think that a hateful shrew like this should not have married at all. She would have been better off lording it over her cleaning staff and berating random men then subjecting some poor man to her venomous presence.

Teens Feeling the Recession Pinch

They seem to be spending less and going for the sales alot more then they did in the past.

But new trends show that teens are going frugal, shopping at thrift stores, and cutting back on spending in general. Not only are they getting less money from their parents, but they're also earning less money, since teen hiring has dropped by 5% since March 2007. Some are saying this could be the worst teen retail slump in 17 years, with high gas and food prices finally triggering teens to go retro and look for sales.

This trend is good for stocks like Aeropostale which is known as the sale priced teen retailer. This article points out that their 2 for $20 sales that seem to be pushing their same-store sale numbers up. They also seem like pretty decent items for the most part and aren't really cheapy looking at all.

Also Buckle seems unaffeced because they sell to higher end teens who don't slow down their shopping patterns due to the high cost of gas and food prices. Looking at their sites it seems that Aeropostale has some pretty decent stuff at very reasonable prices. Also Buckle looks like a more trendy place filled with more hipster styles.

The funny thing is that many of their polo shirts which I use for work are somewhat reasonably priced at $40 while Abercrombie is selling their polo's for about $50 or so. Buckle also has a number of shirts that are from different companies like Quicksilver, Billabong, Hurley etc. that are not the Buckle brand as well. It seems like a good idea to provide floor space to sell a product that another company has to shoulder the costs of creating. I guess the high end and the low end are the only decent growth areas in retailing and teen retailers are no different.

Hillary Looks Strangely Regal in this Picture

Hmm, this is a very interesting picture. It kind of makes her look, dare I say it, presidential. I think that colorful scarf is what does it. Knowing Hillary's propensity for lying it was probably Photo Shopped to take out the Hammer and Sickle in the background.

The 20 Man Battle Royal at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

People went ape at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on Sunday.

It erupted when Armenian clergy kicked out a Greek priest from their midst, pushed him to the ground and kicked him, according to witnesses.

When police intervened, some worshippers hit them with the palm fronds they were holding for the religious holiday. The Eastern Orthodox churches, including the Armenians and Greek Orthodox, follow a different calendar from Western Christians and celebrate Easter next Sunday.

What would Jesus do? He probably wouldn't "stomp a mudhole in a guy" if he got into the wrong part of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Also hammering a police officer with a blessed palm frond also seems like something anti-Christian as well. I think these Armenian Priests should be given some kind of Holy Demerit or something.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Google Blows Out the Numbers: comScore Looks Stupid

Just as I suspected Google is hitting on all cylinders and they strait-up smashed the numbers.

In a conference call for investors, Schmidt said that Google's search, ads, and apps strategy has had a transformative effect on the company's business.
"We're showing fewer but much better ads, ... and that's a key part of the Google success story," Schmidt said.
Schmidt also took a moment to dismiss recent reports that Google's paid click growth was flagging. "Paid click growth is much higher than has been speculated by third parties," he said.

I think comScore "paid-click data" should never again be used in the future to gauge Google's quarterly numbers. comScore said that search was supposedly up only 2% from last year and down 9% from Q4 '07. Google, however, said that their paid-clicks showed a 20% increase from last year and a 4% gain from last quarter. That is a *huge* difference. I could understand how analysts took comScores numbers and tried to make a case that ad spending was off due to a recession. I did not agree with these analysts but they did make a compelling case.

The above link has a bunch of back-peddling and ass-covering by comScore but I am going to side with Google on this matter. Google knows exactly which clicks get turned into cash. They also seemed to pull another head fake on Wall Street. ComScore, however, strait-up blew it when they didn't clarify their numbers at the same time as when they released them. From the look of things they were just dead wrong and should lose any further "tea-leaf status" when it comes to their Google so-called "paid-click" predictions.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

United Airlines Kicks an Orthodox Jew off the Plane for Praying

I guess it is time to boycott United Airlines because this has to be one of the more egregious acts of intolerance I have seen in a while.

When flight attendants urged the man, who was carrying a religious book, to take his seat, he ignored them, Brafman said. Two friends, who were seated, tried to tell the attendants that the man couldn't stop until his prayers were over in about 2 minutes, he said.

"He doesn't respond to them, but his friends explain that once you start praying you can't stop," said Brafman, who was seated three rows away.

When the man finally stopped praying, he explained that he couldn't interrupt his religious ritual and wasn't trying to be rude. But the attendants summoned a guard to remove him, said Brafman, a writer who had been visiting New York to talk to publishers.

He had to ignore them because an Orthodox Jew that starts praying is not supposed to stop until he is done. He even explained the situation after he was done but the stiff-necked flight attendants had a guard remove him anyway. They couldn't show the guy even a little bit of tolerance and compassion and had to lay the smack-down. I think they should make these flight attendants take a "religions of the world" class or something so they can recognize what is happening.

No Recession in Video Game Sales

They are still selling like crazy.

The video games industry showed no signs of a slowdown as the industry grew a whopping 57% in March from the same period a year ago to reach $1.7 billion in sales of game devices, software and accessories.

It seems that Nintendo still leades the pack in game systems sold. They seem to be trouncing the PS3 and the 360 by a factor of almost 3 to 1 now.

Nintendo sold 698,000 Wiis in March (up from 432,000 in Feb.), compared to Sony's 257,000 PS3s (down from 280,800 PS3s), while Microsoft sold 262,000 Xbox 360s (better than 254,600 in Feb.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dell Makes a Comeback

It seems that things are looking up for Dell now that they are dropping the extra bucks for shipping model and are selling in retail stores. I think many computer buyers don't care too much about customizing their PCs. They instead buy based on what they will use it for. So a person buying a "Media Center PC" would expect it to come with a bigger hard drive, DVD,
Media Center Edition of Windows, Remote Control etc. One interesting thing that came from this article is this:

Overall, PC shipments in the first quarter increased 12.3% compared with the first quarter of 2007, according to Gartner, despite fears that souring economic conditions might pinch PC sales.

"Home mobile PC growth continued to drive U.S. PC growth," said Gartner analyst Mika Kitagawa. "Despite declining consumer confidence, U.S. consumers did not put off mobile PC purchases as evidenced by solid mobile growth during the first quarter."

That sales growth was stimulated in party by aggressive price cuts, Kitagawa added.

Strong demand for laptop PCs resulted in strong than expected growth in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region as well as in the Asia Pacific region.

I thought growth would slow but 12.3% is pretty impressive. In fact this growth has surpassed last years 8.9% Worldwide PC shipments in the first quarter of 2007. The so-called worst recession since WWII seems to have not crimped PC demand just yet.

Crude Hits New High but API and EIA Numbers are Way Off

Now this is an interesting thing to ponder about crude oil supplies.

In a report released Wednesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said crude inventories fell unexpectedly, down 2.3 million barrels to 313.7 million barrels in the week ended April 11. Analysts surveyed by energy information provider Platts expected an increase of 1.5 million barrels.

That seems all well and good for a bullish case for oil but this tidbit of knowledge has got me thinking.

Separately, the American Petroleum Institute reported U.S. crude inventories rose by 2.5 million barrels to 317.9 million barrels in the week ending April 11. Distillate stocks fell by 939,000 barrels to 111.9 million barrels in the same period, while gasoline stocks dropped by 2.4 million barrels to 216.8 million barrels. The API, an association of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry, calculates inventories based on different criteria

That is a 4.8 million barrel discrepancy! How can one report say that inventories fell and the other report said they rose? The API report says that demand fell 1.4% and it was the third year of a decline in demand for oil from the US. Also that 85.2% gasoline utilization has been part of the high gas prices problem. Refineries seem to always have problems and it keeps driving up the gas prices.

Also looking at the EIA numbers you can see that the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) increased by 641,000 barrels. Why this amount doesn't stay the same or drop with $115 a barrel oil I have no idea. You figure they should keep this amount the same when oil prices are high or sell off some barrels to make a little cash. After looking at the numbers I'm still not sure why the API and the EIA numbers are so far off. All I know is demand has fallen so there is not as much oil imported. That should make the case for lower prices and not higher ones.

New X-Files Movie a stand alone

It seems the new X-Files movie which will be called The X-Files: I Want to Believe will be coming out July 25. It looks like they are going to make it a one-off story and it will have nothing to do with the Alien Hybrids, Black Oil, Smoking Man etc. They also seem to have pulled an X-Files to keep the script a secret as well.

"We went to almost comical lengths to keep the story a secret," Carter said. "That included allowing only the key crew members to read the script, and they had to read it in a room that had video cameras trained on them. It was a new experience."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ars Technica Likes the Blockbuster/Circuit City Buyout

Hmm, it seems that they are on board this strangest of buyouts.

From a consumer's point of view, we'd get movies and video games for sale or rent right next to a wide selection of the gadgets we'd need for playing them, followed by snacks and finger foods by the checkout counter. It's all about convenience and one-stop shopping, and I really think the concept could work. Convenience is still king, right?

I still have to disagree though. Most of the gadgets you need for playing the rented and bought DVDs/games are not quick one-off purchases. A Blue-Ray player is a good $400 and a HDTV is like $1000 or more. These aren't quicky impulse purchases like finger food or DVDs. They are something that a consumer puts a decent amount of thought into buying.

I could see a person perhaps buying a Blue-Ray player and then renting a few movies to watch on it at the same time. But would it be worth the mammoth amount of expense it would take to meld their two inventory systems together? It would give Blockbuster an excuse to close hundreds of stores by moving them into existing Circuit City's. That could save some money in the short term.

I'm also not sure about all this talk of the media convergence where the content and the device are connected somehow. I can only see something like this happening if Blockbuster sells DVRs or DVD players out of their Circuit City's preloaded with a video on demand service built into the device. It would kind of be like a TiVo preloaded with a connection to the Blockbuster Video on Demand Store.

A Blockbuster branded DVR would indeed be game changer if they could deliver HD movies quickly and easily to the home in some other way then via snail mail or by picking them up at the physical store. Maybe BlockBuster could create a version of BitTorrent optimized for downloading HD content which works by storing pieces of those giant files on 1000s of individual DVR devices installed into peoples homes.

So the service would work by having you pay a monthly fee of like $19.95 and then you buy the hardware for like $300 and hook it up to your broadband connection and away you go. You then would have all the HD content that you could watch on an HD-TV that you bought at Circuit City. This TV would be connected to a Blockbuster branded DVR that uses this BlockBuster BitTorrent Service. If they pull that off then you might be looking at the next Apple. Or the merged companies could fail miserably and go bankrupt. Which would make Netflix the last service standing.

Oil at $114: Time to Short Again?

I love it when oil jumps to record highs on flimsy "supply disruptions."

The oil report from the IEA — the Paris-based energy watchdog for industrialized countries — said Russia, the world's biggest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia, averaged 10 million barrels per day from January through March, down 1 percent from 2007. That is the first time production has failed to exceed previous-year figures since 1998.

Artyom Konchin, an analyst with Russian investment bank Aton Capital, attributed Russia's oil supply lull to high taxes and insufficient reinvestment into infrastructure.

"It's not that we don't have enough oil," he said. "We just don't have enough capital going into developing the fields."

This news is great for oil infrastructure companies that the Russians will approach to spend some of their vast oil wealth to fix up their fields. So National Oilwell, Rowan, Schlumberger etc. its time to line up with your hand out for some of that Russian wealth.

It is true that the Russians are not running out of oil anytime soon. The price action can only be sustained if the Russians took another look at their oil supply and said that it was lower then what it had been previously. Since they didn't do that we have price raises backed with flimsy support again.

McCain Tax Relief Idea

This seems like some interesting stuff that he is proposing. He is also thinking about creating a gas tax holiday and stopping purchases into the strategic oil reserve as well.

Raise the tax exemption for each dependent child from $3,500 to $7,000. Aides estimated it would cost $65 billion over one year to double the tax exemption, but argued that McCain would offset such expenses by cutting federal spending.
_Require more affluent people — couples making more than $164,000 — enrolled in Medicare to pay a higher premium for their prescription drugs than less-wealthy people.
_Offer people the option of choosing a simpler tax system with two tax rates and a standard deduction instead of sticking with the current system.
_Suspend for one year all increases in discretionary spending for agencies other than those that cover the military and veterans while launching an expansive review of the effectiveness of federal programs. Aides estimated a one-year freeze would save $15 billion.

I guess the tax exemption for children is a good idea since it puts more money in the pocket of parents. I like the Medicare premium raises for wealthy people. The simpler tax system proposal is light-years better then the Obama "give us your personal documents and we'll do your taxes for you" crappy idea. I also like the spending freeze and effectiveness review idea as well. You have to see the pork before you can cut it.

Of course the Democratic camp is like a parrot that squakes the same thing over and over:

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said McCain's proposals offer "no change from George Bush's failed policies by going full speed ahead with fiscally irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans." Clinton policy director Neera Tanden called it "a George Bush-redux of corporate windfalls and tax cuts for the wealthy that will bankrupt our government and leave working families with the bill."

Braaak! Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, Braaak! Tax Cuts for the Wealthy. Giving Americans who are hurting financially some of their money back is not something the Dems should snub.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Blockbuster Tried to Buyout Circuit City?

Now this would be an interesting but crazy sounding fit.

That brings me to Monday's rather stunning news that Blockbuster, the giant video chain that's seen better days, is trying to buy Circuit City, the giant consumer electronics retail chain that's also seen better days. The offer, which was made in February and is just now becoming public, is worth $6 to $8 per share--between $1 billion and $1.3 billion total. It's about a 54 percent premium above Circuit City's value before the news broke.

When I first read the news I thought it was Best Buy trying to buy Circuit City and dominate the electronics retailing landscape. Then I read closer and saw that it was Blockbuster instead and I could hardly believe it. It would be just like if Merck freaked out and bought out Continental Airlines just to "try something new."

However it would be an interesting example of a content provider trying to buy out a company that sells the gear to watch the content on. Like trying to form a cheapy Apple. Maybe Circuit Cities would turn into a hybrid store where you can rent videos on one floor and buy computer stuff, TVs, and DVDs on another. The article above throws water on this hybrid-thing competing with the Apple Stores.

I guess selling the Blue-Ray Player and renting out the the Blue-Ray DVDs at the same place is what Blockbuster was going for. Hmm, maybe Blockbuster was thinking about going into the Rent-To-Own type of Business where they would rent DVDs, video games, and even the DVD player and HD-TV at a high margin interest rates. In any case I think Blockbuster management should stick to turning the company around and ignore any further crazy merger mania.

Obama "Clings" To Liberal Condescention

At least it seems so in his latest gaffe.

“You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them,” Obama said.
“And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

I think rural Pennsylvanians "cling" to religion and guns because they enjoy going to church and going hunting. 25 years of economic distress is not pushing them into churches and making them rush to Wal-Mart to buy rifles. It is just what this particular group of Americans like to do with their spare time.

I guess Obama's San Fransisco liberal big-wig audience needs to be be given a reason why these people go and "worship invisible men the sky" and "love their guns." After all these things are bad to the "enlightened" liberal establishment. These gurus know what is actually good for these gun-toting, Bible-thumpin, Mexican-hating, globalization-fearing rubes.

Obama doesn't understand that a rural Pennsylvanian will still go to church and will still hunt with or without a huge government that taxes them to death and takes care of them cradle to grave. They vote GOP because the liberal elite challenges their way of life with their anti-gun laws, "death to Christmas" attacks, and support for an anti-religious lifestyle. This "look-down on the rubes" attitude is exactly why more people do not embrace liberal values. How can a person support someone that holds them in such contempt?

Carl Bernstein Lets Hillary Have it

Now this is one venom filled anti-Clinton rant from a lefty reporter.

It is exactly under such circumstances that she usually resorts to the worst excesses that mark her in full warrior-mode — and all its scorched-earth, truth-be-damned manifestations. Bosnia, anyone? Smearing the women involved (or even thought to be involved) sexually with her husband. Responding to Barack Obama with the same mindset, disdain, and arsenal as she did Karl Rove and Lee Atwater, as if Obama’s politics and methodologies were as mendacious and vicious as theirs–and her own. Tax information kept secret (in 1992 to hide her profits from trading in cattle futures; in 2008 to shield the identities of Bill’s foreign clients.) A campaign that openly boasts of throwing “the kitchen sink” at her opponent.

Yeah some of the stuff that she hits Obama with you might think he is a Republican and not a member of her own party. I guess she wants to be President even it is over the smoking ruin of her own party.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hot Girls should go for Ugly Guys: It's Science!

According to this study if a woman is looking for a lifelong mate then she should go for a man who is not as good looking as them. I don't need a study to say that ugly guys will treat a hot woman FAR better then a handsome guy would. Greatfulness is a powerful motivator. So I can see ugly guys wanting to support their hot wife in any way that they could just to keep her.

McNulty's team assessed 82 couples who had married within the previous six months and had been together for nearly three years prior to tying the knot. Participants were on average in their early to mid-20s.

Researchers videotaped as each spouse discussed with their partner a personal problem for 10 minutes. The tapes were analyzed for whether partners were supportive of spouses' issues, which included goals to eat healthier, to land a new job and to exercise more often.
"A negative husband would've said, 'This is your problem, you deal with it,'" McNulty said, "versus 'Hey, I'm here for you; what do you want me to do?; how can I help you?'"

A group of trained "coders" rated the facial attractiveness of each spouse on a scale from 1 to 10, with the perfect 10 representing the ultimate babe. About a third of the couples had a more attractive wife, a third a more attractive husband and the remaining partners showed matching looks.

Overall, wives and husbands behaved more positively when the woman was better looking.

McCain and Obama Tied Head-to-Head

It seems that all of this controversy from the Obama camp has cost him his 10 point lead against McCain.

An AP-Ipsos poll taken in late February had Obama leading McCain 51-41 percent. The current survey, conducted April 7-9, had them at 45 percent each. McCain leads Obama among men, whites, Southerners, married women and independents.

Clinton led McCain, 48-43 percent, in February. The latest survey showed the New York senator with 48 percent support to McCain's 45 percent. Factoring in the poll's margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, Clinton and McCain are statistically tied.

Hillary is now ahead of McCain in a head-to-head poll and Obama is tied. I wonder if her campaign will run with these numbers to prove that she is more electable then Obama? The more I think about it the more I think the Reverend Wright mess and the "big race debate" that followed is going to cost Obama this election.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Why We Can't Trust Socialized Medicine

It seems Hillary was caught passing on some lies about an pregnant Ohio woman that died because she couldn't afford a $100 copay but actually had insurance and could have been taken to emergency care instead. This article is case in point on what could go wrong if Obama/Hillary got their Health Care plans passed.

Perhaps Hillary should start telling the tale of Debbie Hirst, a British breast cancer patient whose cancer had metastasized. Her oncologist suggested a drug, Avastin, which is widely used in the U.S. and other European nations to prolong the life of cancer patients like her. But bureaucrats had decided that at $120,000 a year, prolonging Debbie Hirst's life would cost just too much money to be worth it. That's bad enough, but because the government is committed to "equal care" for all its patients, the bureaucrats went even further: They told Debbie Hirst that she had to choose between buying Avastin on her own, and receiving any health care from the government at all. She could not, in other words, mortgage her own home to buy a drug to save her own life without being penalized by the loss of all her other cancer care and drugs.

So it would then be up to some American beancounter to okay your life saving surgery or medicine or condemn you to death even if you had the $120K a year to keep you alive. So this spirit of "equal care" could actually strait up kill you no matter what you wanted to do with your own money. It would be a matter of everything being free and you have to wait and die or you get to pay for everything. That sounds like something America doesn't need.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

YouTube Beatings: ABC Quick to Show It

So these girls wanted to beat this other girl just to get famous on YouTube and then ABC goes ahead and shows the video thus making them famous.

The eight face felony battery and false imprisonment charges tied to the attack caught on tape and posted online for the world — and law enforcement — to see. The three teens accused of dumping the victim after the beating also face an additional felony kidnapping charge. Judd said he will urge the state prosecutor's office to charge all of the teens except the 14-year-old as adults.

So they are taking the story from the possible few thousand views of YouTube to a much larger audience for pretty much no reason at all. ABC News could have reported the thing with still photos or just showed the house where it took place. Instead they showed part of the actual video and then a mug shot gallery of the minor girls involved.

So the fame that the girls wanted from YouTube was immediately granted to them by ABC News instead. So the Main Stream Media gets yet another chance to make stars out of villains. I think the ABC News editor needs to use better judgement when it comes to this kind of thing.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Wyeth and Elan may have a $10 billion Alzheimer Blockbuster

At least if leaving the conflict-of-interest off of the test that they paid for doesn't come back to haunt them. The sciene however may be good and people are saying that this is the most advanced form of thereapy yet devised.

AAB-001 is probably the most advanced product for Alzheimer’s, Jenner explains. And we’re going to get information over the next two months that will tell us about the probability of its success in Phase 3 trials.
The market is excited because there are approximately 7 million Alzheimer’s patients in the US and Western Europe. If only 1 million of those individuals get on this therapy at $10,000/ year that’s a 10 billion dollar drug!

Wyeth is down in the dumps with only about 6 points above its 52 week low and trading at a 13 P/E. If the Phase 3 data is good and they get this testing matter turns out to be just an oversight and nothing outright shady then the stock should be at a new high before too long. Elan may have even more upside since they are still a pretty small player and seem to still be in that go-go growth phase.

An Interesting Story on Schering-Plough's Damage Control

It seems like they had a Worst Case Scenerio file ready to implement if something like this happens. Too bad implementing it ended up costing people 5000 jobs. I think as soon as that Vytorin news dropped quite a few people at SGP had to update their resumes.

"We were building on each other's ideas, and I started to say we have to be more forceful in our response and more speedy," recalled Hassan, who said he spent Tuesday night back in New Jersey on the telephone with Robert Bertolini, the company's chief financial officer. Together they hashed out the broad outlines of spending cuts based on emergency plans the company keeps at the ready.

Elan and Wyeth Shady Dealings on Bapineuzumab Study

It seems that they paid the guy to develop this study and had it published as an "independent" study without disclosing his potential conflicts of interest. It seems like a case of moving the goalposts exactly where you want them to be.

To help make their point, Elan and Wyeth have cited the Archives of Neurology paper, titled "A Neuropsychological Test Battery for Use in Alzheimer Disease Clinical Trials," as independent, scientific proof that validates the NTB.
Harrison is the lead author of that NTB paper, but his role as a consultant paid by Elan and Wyeth to create the test is not disclosed in it. Harrison is the only author of six listed in the paper's conflict-of-interest statement as having no financial conflicts with Elan and Wyeth. Harrison's five co-authors are all employed by Elan or Wyeth.

Dick Vitale in the Hall of Fame Baby!

I guess Dicky V finally got his due. Some people dislike his style but he is one of the reasons why ESPN college basketball telecasts have become so popular.
Vitale was 78-30 coaching U-D from 1973-77, taking the Titans to the 1977 NCAA tournament. "If my career ended today, this would be the ultimate," said Vitale, who returned in February after a few months off to take care of growths on his vocal cords.After a year as U-D's athletic director he coached the Pistons during the entire 1978-79 season and the beginning of the following season.

Friday, April 04, 2008

We may have 80,000 troops in Iraq until 2010 if Obama is boss

At least that is the figure put out there by one of his key advisers.

Adviser Colin Kahl wrote in a policy paper for the Center for a New American Security that the United States should transition to an “over-watch” force of between 60,000 and 80,000 troops by the end of 2010, according to an article Friday in the New York Sun.

I guess Obama can just ignore the guy and start pulling people out by the end of 2008 no matter what the situation is on the ground. Maybe, someone in his camp is finally coming to the realization that you can't pull everyone out in 16 months and not have Iraq fall apart. Also these two things would be in such quick succession that they would be seen as a "cause and effect" type of thing.

Chaos in Iraq due to an early US pullout would be just in time for the midterm elections as well. The GOP tactic of saying that the "Dems lost the Iraq War" would be almost impossible to fight back against. I think Obama needs to tread lightly on Iraq unless the Dems want only 2 years to get any sort of "progressive agenda" passed.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Christopher Dodd is an Idiot

Again the FED chairman and a whole bunch of CEOs have to waste their time before Congress to explain the Bear Stearns Buyout to them.

Was this a justified rescue to prevent a systemic collapse of financial markets or a $30 billion taxpayer bailout, as some have called it, for a Wall Street firm while people on Main Street struggle to pay their mortgages?" asked Sen. Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat who chairs the committee.

I think those Main Street people would really be hurting if Bear went bankrupt and the Stock Market fell by 1000+ points and took their IRAs with it. I'm sorry Mr. Mainstreet the FED sat on its hands and Bear went bankrupt so you won't be able to retire anytime soon.

The head of the banking committee should be aware of things like contra-party risks and what a capital crisis to a broker means. He makes it sound like the FED is bailing out "Wall Street fat cats" at the detriment of nebulous middle class folks instead of heading off what could have been a world financial crisis. You just can't trust a Democrat when it comes to money matters.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sprints Hopes Rest on Crappy IPhone-like Item

It kind of sucks that a company that is so damaged that it can't roll out a game-changing technology like WiMax without begging for funds is pinning all their hopes on such an ugly device.
The Samsung Instinct will be available in June for a yet undetermined price, Sprint announced at CTIA Wireless, a cell-phone industry trade show in Las Vegas. Executives hinted that the price would be substantially lower than the $399 charged for the cheapest iPhone.

I mean it looks like an IPhone designed by a guy that makes plastic flanges for a living. Also those icons have to be some of the most boring ever created for an electronic device. Even the happy face above the word "Fun" makes me want to take a nap.

I figure after they pump $150 million into advertising this thing will probably sell about 1/3 of the amount that the IPhone does and be a big disaster for Sprint. It just looks like such a 2nd rate knock-off when you directly compare the two devices. I mean it looks crappy even if it was the first touch-phone produced instead of coming a year late to the party.

Schering-Plough Cutting Costs

Well, it didn't take SGP long to get out the Ax and start chopping.

The cuts will disproportionately hit the United States and will include everything from plant consolidations and streamlining of management to trimming overhead and spending on research and development, Chief Executive Officer Fred Hassan said in a conference call Wednesday evening.

He said the plan calls to reduce headcount by 10 percent worldwide and the goal is to make 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in total cuts by the end of 2010, with the rest by 2012. Schering-Plough currently has 55,000 employees, including 8,000 in New Jersey.

These cuts cannot come too soon but I think the company might be wounded severely unless they can come though on their pipeline. Most of the good stuff is only in phase II and only the anti-rhumatoid arthritus (golimumab) sounds like something that might hit the bottom line in the near future. I wonder if we will be seeing some single digits in this stock before too long?

RIMM Blows Away the numbers

I guess the slowdown does not affect the amount of Blackberrys sold by RIMM. I think this is the reason why they are up 5 points in the after hours:

In the first quarter RIM expects revenue to range from $2.23 billion to $2.3 billion and earnings to range of to 82 cents to 86 cents a share.
Analysts expect revenue of $2 billion and EPS of 75 cents in the quarter.

The classic blow the numbers out then guide way higher one-two punch. I think you might see a rally in tech tomorrow since Best Buy also did pretty well. I thought consumer spending was dead? I guess all of those Blueray DVDs, video games, and digital gadgets are more recession proof then you might think.

The company says it expects a solid second half to pull fiscal 2009 same-store sales up 1% to 3%, with overall revenue, including new stores, rising as much as 10% to $44 billion.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Again Congress Wantes to Rob the Oil Companies

I wonder why they don't get King Abdullah, Almadinajoke, and Hugo Chavez on the stand and grill them as well? Of course the oil companies are a nice soft target since they are making "record profits" and should be punished for some unknown reason. This must by Congresses idea of "doing something about the high price of oil." Grandstanding.

Executives from the largest U.S oil companies have been frequent targets of lawmakers, frustrated at not being able to do much to counter soaring oil and gasoline costs.

In November, 2005, Hofmeister and the top executives of the same companies represented Tuesday sat in a Senate hearing room to explain high prices and their huge profits.

About six months later, when the cost of the same barrel reached $75, the executives were grilled again on Capitol Hill on their spending and investment priorities.

Hillary Finds her Funny Bone

I guess it was buried under a thick layer of humourless robotic parts. But I have to admit that this was a pretty funny April Fools Joke. After trundling to the podium with a tense look on her face she made with the funny.
"A bowling night. Right here in Pennsylvania. The winner take all," she went on. "I'll even spot him two frames."

"It is time for his campaign to get out of the gutter and allow all the pins to be counted. I'm prepared to play this game all the way to the tenth frame. When this game is over, the American people will know that when that phone rings at 3 a.m., they'll have a president ready to bowl on day one."

"Let's strike a deal and go bowling for delegates. We don't have a moment to spare, because it's already April Fool's Day. Happy April Fool's Day."